Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

Thanks to a friend recommending beets and goat cheese to me, I ended up eating a salad with both ingredients for every meal.  That’s right.  I made this salad and ate it for both lunch and supper on the same day.  The combination of flavors and textures was so good.  I am so in love with this very simple vinaigrette that I can’t wait to try it on other salads.  In fact, tomorrow I am going to try it with some locally grown massaged kale!  

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

Mixed organic greens

1 roasted beet, petite diced

1 pear or apple, diced

Approximately 2 Tbsp Goat cheese (or 1/2 diced avocado for vegan and paleo options)

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp honey

salt and pepper, to taste 

To roast beets, cover in tin foil and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45-60 minutes.  I usually roast my beets while I am baking another meal, like a lasagna, casserole, or baked chicken dish.  Refrigerate the beets, so they are cool when you add them to the salad.

Combine mixed greens, prepared beets, pears or apples, and goat cheese (or avocado) in a bowl.

In a small bowl, mix oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, salt and pepper.  Pour vinaigrette over salad ingredients.

If you have some extra time, this salad would be great with toasted or sugar glazed nuts on top to add crunch.  To make the nuts, I usually melt a tablespoon of butter in a skillet with or without some sugar, and add the nuts when the butter is melted.  After adding the nuts, keep stirring and watch for browning because once the nuts brown, they go quickly and can burn easily. 


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Fruit Salad with Jicama

Instead of what I planned for our Monday night meal, my kids wanted breakfast for supper, so I pulled some of my pancakes out of the freezer (saved from last Wednesday), made some chicken breakfast sausage links, and pulled together a fruit salad with a jicama that I had in the pantry waiting to be used. I saw this recipe and decided to make something similar.

I used what fruit I had available, and it came together really easily. If I hadn’t been in a rush to eat, I would have let the salad rest for 30 minutes to an hour so that the flavors could blend. Jicama absorbs the flavors of everything you put in with it, so it helps to let the salad rest. The jicama adds a nice crunch to the salad. Next time I make this salad I plan to candy some nuts (pecans or almonds) to add more texture and crunch to the salad.

Fruit Salad with Jicama

For salad:

1 pint raspberries
1 mango, peeled and diced
2 clementine oranges, peeled, sliced cut in half
1 Asian pear, dice
1/2 jicama, petite diced

For dressing:

Juice from 1 lime
2 Tbsps honey
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Combine prepared fruit and jicama in a bowl (approximately and 11 cup size). In a separate small bowl, whisk together lime juice, honey, and cinnamon. Pour dressing over salad. Stir until the produce is coated. Chill salad in the fridge for one hour before serving.

Note: I did a lot of research about whether I could label this recipe Paleo or not. I ended up adding the label for those who follow the Paleo diet and do eat tubers.

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The Best Banana Bread Muffins

My husband usually eats up all of our overripe bananas because he loves them very spotted.  This week we had three very ripe bananas waiting to be eaten, but because he was gone on business, I had to make other arrangements for them – banana bread muffins! I have to admit that I didn’t eat these because they are not gluten free, but my kids devoured them.  I love baking muffins just for my kids.  I’ve recently discovered that I can’t handle a lot of the gluten free flours I’ve been using, and I’ve backed off making gluten free baked goods and have just been making baked goods that the rest of  my family can eat.  I adapted these Banana Crumb Muffins to meet my family’s needs.  I took out the crumb topping because with kids I find crumb topping to be way too much of a mess.  I used less sugar and replaced the oil with organic butter.  My favorite change is that I added cardamom which I love paired bananas.

Banana Bread Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour (unbleached all-purpose or a gluten free mix)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp cardamom

3 ripe bananas, mashed

1 large egg

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a mini-muffin pan by greasing with butter or using mini-muffin liners. Mash bananas in a small bowl.  Add egg, melted butter, and vanilla.  Mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Add wet ingredients to the bowl and stir until just combined.  (Do not over mix!) Spoon batter into muffin tin.  Bake for 10-13 minutes, until tops start to brown.  Allow to cool before serving.

I always make these and freeze some for snacks later in the week.  If you will not eat these within a day or so, freeze them in a plastic bag once they have cooled.  Homemade muffins tend to spoil quickly, especially if you live in a warm and sunny climate like we do.

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Favorite Summer Salad

It’s almost fall, so I guess I better post my favorite summer recipe experiments before I start working on fall ones. While staying at my in-laws, we had a salad that I fell in love with and have been eating weekly since. If I let myself, I could eat this salad for every meal. It has the perfect combination of flavor (tart and sweet) and texture (crunchy and creamy). I’ve also used the same dressing on other salads with a lot of success. This is my “go to” dressing recipe now.

Greens, Apple, and Poppy Seed Salad

For salad:

1 head romaine, chopped or torn

1 bundle spinach or baby spinach

2 apples (any variety), chopped

8 ounces cashew halves

4 ounces shredded Swiss cheese (omit for vegan and paleo options)

Green onions, chopped (use as many as you like)

For dressing:

1 1/2 tsp poppy seeds

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 – 2/3 cup oil *

1 tsp dry mustard

1 tsp salt

2 Tbsps local honey (use sugar or agave nectar for vegan option)

Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl or container. Wisk together dressing ingredients in a separate bowl or shake in a glass jar. The dressing recipe makes more than you will need for one salad, so use enough to coat the salad ingredients and store the rest in your fridge for later use.

* The amount of oil you use really depends on taste. Some people prefer a higher ratio of oil to vinegar in dressings. I prefer a 1:1 ratio. Experiment with it and find out what ratio you prefer. You can use up to 1 cup oil.

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Turmeric in Green Smoothies

I finally took the plunge and purchased a Vitamix blender. Now I am able to run in to make green smoothies before my kids wake up and after they go to sleep.  (Unfortunately, two of my kids hate loud noises, so I try to do my blending when they are sleeping.)  I’ve been having some autoimmune issues.  I knew that I should be getting a good breakfast that has a lot of anti-inflammatory properties, so this morning I started using some different herbs and spices in my smoothie.  One that I had read tasted great in green smoothies is turmeric.  This morning I made a smoothie with peaches, frozen banana, almond butter, cinnamon, turmeric, and a handful of spinach.  It was very good.  I was so surprised by how the turmeric complimented the cinnamon in the smoothie.  I don’t know why this was so surprising – considering that I often make savory dishes with cinnamon and turmeric. Maybe it was all in my head, but I felt a lot better today after my smoothie.  It didn’t weigh me down, and my joints felt less rigid. 

One of the reasons I am trying to eat smoothies for breakfast is that I am trying out a new meal plan for myself.  My decision to try something new came from my desire to get away from animal products as much as possible for personal reasons, and yet allow myself the indulgence because being gluten-free, oat-free is already such a huge restriction.  I was inspired by Vegan Before Six (VB6), and this post by No Meat Athlete.  I will be eating vegan/vegetarian and gluten-free, oat-free before 6pm. I considered saying that I will eat 100% vegan before 6pm, but I want to be able to put some goat cheese on my salads once in a while.  After 6pm, I’ll be following a modified paleo plan.  The main meal will be paleo, but I will have grains on the side for my family.   While I plan to avoid the grains, there may be times that I have a little.  I consider this somewhat of a 80/20 approach except that I don’t want to say I will always do 80/20 because most of the time I will be 100% paleo. 

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More Pancakes!

Most kids like pancakes, but my kids go crazy for pancakes.  Whenever we have pancakes, we have a steady “More pancakes!” chorus singing in our kitchen.  The issue for us has been finding the perfect pancake recipe for our needs.  We have three criteria for pancakes: (1) The kids must like them. (2) They should be gluten free, so I can eat them. (3) They need to be higher in protein and have a fairly low glycemic index for my husband.  Honestly, I gave up searching for the perfect pancake recipe.  That is until last night when I decided to try a new recipe.

It was phenomenal!  The kids ate so many of these pancakes that I had to whip up a second batch.  I have never had to do that before.  This recipe is definitely a keeper in our house, and we may even make pancake night a weekly event. 

Gluten Free Greek Yogurt Pancakes (adapted from Cookie + kate)

1 1/4 cup plain 0% Greek Yogurt

2 Tbsp pure honey

2 Tbsp melted butter or oil

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup milk

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup oat flour*

1/2 cup sorghum flour*

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

*You can use 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour if you don’t eat gluten free.

Heat a nonstick pan or griddle and once heated reduce to low heat.  Use oil or butter to coat the pan before pouring batter onto the pan.

Combine all wet ingredients and stir until the mixture is smooth.  Add dry ingredients starting with salt, baking soda, and spices.  Add the flour last and mix only until the flour is fully incorporated.  (There will be small lumps.)

Spoon the batter onto your pan or griddle. The batter will be thick, so you may need to spread each pancake out with your spoon. I made three pancakes at a time.  These are slow cook pancakes, so each side will take about 2-3 minutes.  (To know the best time to flip the pancake, watch the top of the batter – it will bubble over the entire surface, puff up, and start browning slightly on the edges.)  The batch made about 16 pancakes. 

I want to make pancakes again tonight, but I’ll refrain myself.  These were so good!

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The End of Summer

We are finally back from our long vacation and are getting settled into a routine again.  I am excited for our fall CSA to start up in a few weeks, so I can start cooking some fall recipes.  

We tried to purchase local ingredients on our trip this summer, and for the most part, we did well.  We frequented farmers’ markets and local co-op stores.  Before leaving, I had researched local food that would be available at these venues. The main food I missed having at home was the local meats that we have here. I was able to buy a really good grass fed beef jerky (also gluten free and no additives) at a local co-op store.  It was the best jerky I’ve ever eaten.  We ate a lot of sugar snap peas for snacks too. 

I have a few recipes from our summer that I will be sharing over the next week.  I also have news about my dissertation research.  

In other news, I am loving peach season.  We especially have enjoyed white peaches. 

Traveling & Eating Local

This summer our family will be traveling for five weeks.  I am using this opportunity to write some posts about how to find local food.  I am really excited to check out local food markets while we are traveling.  We leave this next week, so I hope to have some posts coming up that cover how to find local food.

For now, I’ll leave you with this food for thought on why you should eat local.

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Salad Inspiration

Over Memorial Day weekend, we went to Charleston, SC for a short family trip.  We loved it there.  We were able to experience so much local flavor.  Because of my diet restrictions, we have to stay away from most chains and eat at local small businesses.  (If you know me at all, you know that I love eating local anyway!)

We had an amazing lunch at Five Loaves Cafe.  The service was spectacular, and the food was astounding (I used the thesaurus to find another word like “spectacular.”)  Needless to say, we loved this restaurant.


Here is a picture of the amazing salad I had  at Five Loaves Cafe (sorry for the bad quality phone picture).

The salad was made with spinach and a warm component over the top which contained local yellow squash.  I chose an oil-free roasted red pepper dressing, and it was amazing. Ever since tasting this salad, I have wanted to make my own version.  This week we happened to have an abundance of yellow squash in our CSA basket, so I came up with my own recipe.  It turned out great!

Bibb Lettuce Salad with Warm Yellow Squash and Toasted Pine Nuts

1 head bibb lettuce, torn into pieces

1-2 yellow summer squash, chopped

1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 bay leaf

1 sprig thyme

1/2 cup pine nuts

For prep, I always wash and tear my lettuce first.  Then, I use my salad spinner to get rid of excess moisture.  After it’s done spinning, I open it and let the lettuce air dry while I prep the other ingredients.  (Dressing coats dry lettuce better than wet lettuce!)

After you’ve finished prepping the vegetables, place a skillet or frying pan on medium-high heat with about 1 tablespoon of oil.  When the pan is hot, pour the onions and garlic into the pan, cooking for 2-3 minutes and deglazing the pan with stock or water.  Then, add the squash and tomatoes with a generous pinch of salt.

Cook for about 2 minutes before adding the balsamic vinegar, thyme sprig, and bay leaf.  Add stock or water as needed to deglaze the pan and keep the vegetables from sticking.  Continue cooking this mixture for 5-7 minutes or until it reaches your desired consistently.  (5-7 minutes will yield a chunkier vegetable mixture.  More time will give it more of a silky texture.)  Remove bay leaf and thyme sprig and pour the mixture in a small serving bowl.

For the pine nuts, place a small nonstick pan on medium-high heat and add about 1 Tbsp of butter.  (You really want to use the real deal here if you can.)  When the butter is melted, add pine nuts and a pinch of salt.  Cook the pine nuts stirring continuously until golden to dark brown, turning down the heat as needed to prevent burning.  (Watch the nuts like a hawk!  Once they go brown, they go fast.) Remove the nuts from heat and allow them to cool.

When the nuts have cooled, combine with prepared lettuce in a large serving bowl.  You can either add the cooled vegetables to the lettuce and pine nuts or let each person do that themselves.  I let my family prepare their own salad and just told them how to put it together with the bibb lettuce and pine nut mixture on the bottom and the vegetable mixture over the top.

We served this with Newman’s Own Family Italian dressing, but to be honest, it doesn’t really need it.  I hope to make my own recipe for a similar dressing soon.  We really love the flavor of the dressing, and we prefer to make dressings at home.

Tip:  When creating your own salad inspiration, always combine different textures.  We almost always add a toasted nut to our salads for crunch unless the salad already has a particularly crunchy vegetable.  Pine nuts are one of my favorites to use in dairy free salads because they add both crunch and a smooth texture similar to cheese.

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Learning to Cook Salmon

I received some great news this week – My dissertation topic has been approved!  Now the real work begins.  So far, I haven’t talked about my work very much, but I will be now that I can really dig into the work.  Now let’s talk about fish.

Fish have become a huge part of our family’s diet because we don’t eat much red meat.  We have joined a CSA here and buy local beef from Farmer Todd.  Personally, I think it’s amazing to know the farmer who raises the food that we eat and to know that we can actually talk to him about the meat we get.  (It’s also really good meat!)

While I’ve  known that eating salmon is really good for you for a long time, I’ve never liked it when I’ve cooked it at home.  I only enjoyed eating salmon when I would order it at a local restaurant my husband and I loved on our date nights.  When I developed an allergy to red dye, I started to realize that maybe my fish wasn’t good because I didn’t buy quality fish.  (Interesting fact: Most farm-raised salmon is dyed the beautiful color you see in the supermarket.)

Today we buy fresh wild caught fish from a local supermarket.  I can buy either a whole fish or a fillet.  As of yet, I have not been brave enough to tackle a whole fish, but I hope to learn some fillet skills.  We will be doing some fishing this summer with family, so I’m hoping my dad and my brother can teach me.

I’ve been experimenting with the way to cook my salmon too.  This week I made what I would call my first really successful salmon, and I was really proud.

Here are my tips:

  • Buy fresh wild caught salmon with the skin
  • Cook the fish within two days of purchase
  • Start with a hot pan adequately oiled
  • Season the fillet well least salt and pepper or marinade for one hour before cooking
  • A covered skillet is really helpful
  • Get a hard sear on the fish
  • Don’t overcook but use steam to finish off the fish if you don’t like a “pink” center

Lemon Pepper Salmon

1/4 cup tamari

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

lemon juice from half of a lemon

2 wild caught salmon fillets

approximately 2 Tbsp of oil

Lay salmon fillets in a small glass pan for marinade.  Salt and pepper the fillets.  Then pour tamari and squeeze the lemon juice over the top.  Cover the pan and refrigerate for approximately 1 hour.

Heat a frying pan or skillet with 2 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat until just smoking and reduce heat slightly.  Place fillets in the pan skin side up (reserve the marinade liquid for later).  Reduce the heat as needed to prevent the oil from splashing or use a cover.  When the salmon has a nice browning on it (3-5 minutes), flip it over so the skin side is down.  Cook again for 3-5 minutes until the skin has browned.  Deglaze the pan with some broth or water.

At this time, you can check the middle of your fish.  If it is too pink for you, pour some of the reserved marinade liquid over the fish and quickly cover, reducing heat to low.  Let the fish steam for an additional 3-5 minutes.  Remove fish from pan and let rest.  (At this point, you can remove the salmon skin if you like.  I removed it and then dipped that portion of the fillet back in the liquid from the pan to give it some color.)

Using the same pan, fry up any stir fry vegetables that you have on hand.  This week I used snap peas, tomatoes, celery, and onions.  After a couple minutes of frying, add the reserved marinade to the vegetables and let them cook until tender.  Serve immediately with the salmon.  Enjoy!

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