Israeli Cous Cous Mediterranean Salad. PS, I leave for Europe in 9 days

In 9 days, I’ll be boarding a plane that will initially drop me off in Stockholm. From there I’ll go to 14 more countries/23 more cities in two months (!!!!!!!!). Trying to contain my excitement. This has been in the making since my trip to Europe last summer.

When I was there last summer, I studied abroad in Italy, learned how to make authentic Italian dishes from a little Italian lady and did some minor weekend traveling.

Last years trip to the Grana Padano Cheese factory, one of my cooking classes with my Italian instructor and the Olive Oil factory:

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That was enough to get me saving and planning for this trip I’m about to embark on. I won’t be doing as much cooking as I did my previous time (only a few simple dishes cooked in hostels), but I’ll be going to a ton more countries. My goal for this trip is to not only see new things, places and people, but also to taste new cuisines to inspire a few new dishes to add to my upcoming cookbook!

Once I get back, official recipe testing and cook book creating will be on the way! Lots of work to be done, so before the madness and as a graduation gift to myself… Europe it is.

Here’s probably the last recipe I’ll be posting in a while. But don’t worry! This isn’t the last for two months. I’ll be posting about my experience abroad, the food I eat and the workouts/hikes/classes I do.

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Israeli Cous Cous Mediterranean Salad

serves 2

Ingredients

1 pre-cooked chicken breast, torn into bite sized pieces

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/3 cup dry israeli cous cous

1/2 cucumber, chopped into bite sized pieces

1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half

1 green bell pepper, chopped into bite sized pieces

1/4 cup thinly chopped red onion

1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles

1 handful italian flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

7 large basil leaves, thinly sliced (julienned)

2 small garlic cloves, sliced

1 small chunk of either grana padano or parmigiano reggiano cheese (you’ll need a micro grater to grate this)

2 tablespoons pine nuts

salt

1. Make the Israeli cous cous. In a small pan, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil on medium heat. Add the Israeli Cous Cous and stir around, toasting the cous cous for about five minutes. Add 2/3 cup water, raise to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 5-6 minutes and then drain excess liquid. Put this to the side to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2. Make the pesto. You can either use a mortar and pestle or a food processor. I think the pesto tastes 1000000x better when made with a mortar and pestle, but it’s up to you. Combine the pine nuts and garlic in the mortar. Crush until the ingredients almost form a paste. Add the olive oil and basil and crush/grind. This process takes a few minutes. Lastly, stir in about 2 tablespoons of micro grated parmigiano reggiano or grana padano cheese and a pinch of salt.

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3. In a large bowl, combine the cooked chicken, bell pepper, cucumber, parsley, tomatoes and onions. Pour the pesto on top and toss to combine. Separate the mixture into two bowls or plates and top with the israeli cous cous and goat cheese crumbles.

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The perfect little avocado toast

On Tuesday morning, I went to the farmers market in Torrance with my mom. We got there around 7:30 am even though it doesn’t open until 8, partly because we love farmers markets so much… But mostly because my mom wants to beat the crowds. 

We piled up our little cloth bags with fresh herbs, tomatoes, various sprouted beans, avocados, lettuces, fruit, potatoes… Everything. We loaded up the car with all of our goodies and drove home. There are three smells that are my absolute favorite smells.. 

1. The smell of what I deem “fake water”. You can usually smell it during the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Weird. I know. But I like it.

2. Lavender oil rubbed on the back of the wrists.

3. The smell of my car freshly filled with farmers market finds.

The compilation of herbs, fresh fruit and veggies is so aromatic and always makes me feel clean and healthy.

Anyway, fast forward to today when I’m walking home from work. Starved. I decided to pop into an organic bakery that I know uses their own sourdough starter (instead of active dry yeast) and buy a whole wheat loaf of sourdough bread. Using the compilation of goodies I got from thee market the other day… I came up with this!!

  
Avocado and sprouted mung bean toast

Serves 1

Ingredients

2 slices of whole wheat sourdough bread

1/2 an avocado

1 small handful of sprouted mung beans (or any other sprouted bean)

A tablespoon olive oil

1 cup mixed greens 

1. Preheat your oven to 350.

2. Put the bread in the oven for 2-4 minutes. Just until warm, but not toasted.

3. Spread the avocado equally over the two slices. Distribute the mung beans between the two toasts. Drizzle the olive oil on top of it all. Serve with the mixed greens.

Easy. Now go eat! 

Falling in love with fall… quinoa and pine nut stuffed acorn squash

Fall is by far my favorite season. A little biased? Maybe. But some of the tastiest and most complex food comes from this season. The squashes, root veggies and cruciferous plants!! All some of my faves. The common theme between all of these is that they taste absolutely incredible when roasted. Each different veggie has such a unique flavor that develops during the roasting process. Yams become sweeter, cauliflower becomes earthy-er and spaghetti squash becomes.. spaghetti (another post on that later this month)!

Roasting these veggies on their own is good… but stuffing them with some other awesome ingredients… even better!!

Acorn squash has a super ridiculously low glycemic load (4 on a scale that goes up to 250) which is good because it won’t give you high insulin spikes that cause a crash later on. It’s also known to be packed with magnesium, vitamin A, folate, vitamin B6, manganese, potassium and vitamin C. Plus, only 56 calories for a cup of the stuff.

Quinoa, as we know, is a complete protein which will help make you fuller faster.

This is a great side dish to meat, or a main meal if you pair it with some cooked veggies. Try it out!

 

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Baked quinoa and pine nut stuffed acorn squash

ingredients

1 small acorn squash
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 teaspoons butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

 

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Cut the acorn squash in half. Once you’ve cut it in half, take each part and cut about 1/2 inch off of the end so that it can stand up.

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3. Scoop the seeds out of the squash and drizzle the inside of both halves with olive oil. Then sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt into both halves as well. Put this into the oven for 25-35 minutes, depending on how big your squash is. Mine was really small so it only took 25 minutes.

4. While the squash cooks, put your quinoa into a pot with 1 cup water. Cover and turn the heat to medium high until it starts to boil. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 20 minutes.

5. When the quinoa is done cooking, sprinkle the garlic powder, remaining salt and butter into the pot with the heat off. Stir to combine.

6. Next, toast the pine nuts. Take a small, dry sauce pan and put it over medium high heat. Pour the pine nuts into the pan and constantly stir the nuts by shaking the pan. These burn VERY quickly so you can’t walk away from them. It should only take about 45 seconds to get properly toasted (if the pan is hot enough when you put them in).

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This is how the pine nuts will look when they are done.

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A shot of how the pine nuts and the acorn squash look when they are both done cooking.

7. Stir the toasted pine nuts into the quinoa.

8. Flip the acorn squash over so that the cut side is now facing up and put it onto your serving plate. Scoop the quinoa out of the pan and equally fill each half of the squash with the quinoa and you are ready to eat!

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**This also tastes great with some finely chopped and sauteed veggies mixed in with the quinoa, like broccoli, zucchini or cauliflower.

**Feel free to add a meat into the quinoa mixture as well. Just make sure it’s already cooked when you add it in and that it is chopped into small pieces!

 

 

The oh-so-Paleo butter in coffee thing. What, Why and how it tastes

My friend, Christine, actually was the first one to tell me about butter in coffee. We were laying out on the beach one day over the summer when she told me about it. It sounded so bizarre and disgusting that I disregarded it as a rumor and we went on with my day. It wasn’t until last week when I was reading The Skimm (awesome daily emails about world news) and it mentioned “bulletproof coffee” being a thing.

1 cup coffee+2 tablespoons (or more) grass-fed butter+1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil=Bulletproof Coffee (of course, blended up in a blender… or else it’s just a goopy mess of butter sitting on top of your coffee)

This drink is supposed to replace your breakfast… just saying.

After I saw it mentioned by a pretty reputable site, I looked more into it. I found a bunch of videos about how to make it and the benefits of it. I also found other websites saying it was a terrible idea and no one should be doing this. Basically, the whole idea behind it is to create a drink that contains the essential fatty acids your body needs from the grass-fed butter and coconut oil in order to have lasting energy as well as caffeine to give you a little boost without a crash. Here’s a little summary of both sides from my research:

The Butter Lovers Argument:

With “Bullet Proof Coffee” you’re using grass-fed butter which has the “best” ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids. Having an optimal omega 6 to 3 ratio can decrease your risk of many lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Butter also contains Butyrate, a short chain fatty acid, which used to be considered bad for you. Now, this fatty acid has been found to be anti-inflammatory and reduce your risk of CVD. Because of the addition of fats from the grass-fed butter and coconut oil, bullet proof coffee provides lasting energy (about 6 hours worth) without the crash often associated with regular coffee.

(If you want to read more about this argument, check out Women’s Health Magazine’s article on Bulletproof coffee)

The Anti-Greasy Coffee Proponents Argument:

Replacing your meal with this coffee means your missing out on a lot of essential nutrients. In fact, 1/3 of your essential nutrients if you’re used to eating 3 meals a day. You don’t get any fiber, only 1 gram of protein and the rest is fat. Yeah, eating this much fat will satiate you (it IS about 400 calories per cup of this stuff…), but it won’t satisfy your daily nutrient needs. Another point is that even though saturated fat has been found to not be linked with heart disease, it doesn’t mean you should be drinking a liquid concoction of it in place of your regular meal. No studies have been done on eating excessive amounts of saturated fat so no one really knows what could happen at such mega-doses. For example, just because you find out that broccoli decreases your risk of cancer, it doesn’t mean you should be consuming it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The body requires many nutrients from a variety of foods and when you don’t supply it of that, you’ll find yourself in a diseased state.

(if you want to read more about this argument, check out Authority Nutrition’s article about Bulletproof Coffee)

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After reading up about it, I had an idea of how I felt about the health benefits, but I wanted to taste it first before I set my mind to my opinion on the whole matter.

So I brewed up some organic coffee beans (freshly ground minutes before I made it), I pulled out my Vitamix and blended all that fat and coffee together. It looked just like a regular latte, minus the foamy top. Then the moment of truth came… and I tasted it.

At first, it didn’t taste that bad. It definitely was rich and “buttery”, but it mostly just tasted like coffee with excessive amounts of cream. But then I kept drinking it. My mouth had such a gross, coating all over it halfway through drinking the coffee that I couldn’t even finish it. I’m used to eating a higher fat diet with butter and coconut oil, but this was just too much. My stomach felt… icky. I mean, I did have energy but I also felt like I wanted to vomit.

I gave it a fair shot, but it wasn’t for me. Personally, I don’t believe that eating excessive amounts of anything in a normal diet is a good idea. I’ve learned way too much from all my nutrition research classes about how high amounts of almost anything, even the really “healthy” stuff, can cause your body to enter into a diseased state of some sort for me to believe that this drink is good for you. Your body needs a variety of nutrients in order to function and when you replace a healthy meal (not a bowl of coco puffs with milk… an actual healthy MEAL) with a drink that has only a few types of nutrients, your missing out on a lot. But who knows? Maybe if you make up for it throughout the day by eating really well all across the board, you’ll be fine. I personally would rather give myself a high fat, high protein smoothie with a clean latte. I mean, it doesn’t leave that coating inside your mouth and still gives you the high quality fat your body needs as well as that caffeine boost that you sometimes require.

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And it just looks prettier..but I might be biased 🙂

My dad creates recipes too: dads paleo granola

My dad rarely gets involved with the kitchen. If he does, he’s making crazy weird experimental smoothies that he thinks are delicious but the rest of my family semi gags over. But today, while visiting me at school for my last family weekend ever (side note-I graduate in December–yayayayay!!), he comes up with this little gem. I’m not a huge paleo advocate, but my dad really digs it. This recipe is uber paleo friendly and it’s really tasty too with minimal sugar. The only real sugar involved is in the dates. But you guys have got to try this one out.

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I don’t know if you guys have heard of the whole butter in coffee thing… but I think it’s strange. It just sounds unappetizing. Paleo peeps love their butter, so this recipe has a little butter involved. Not as much as my dad wanted, but I made him compromise with me over the amount.
This recipe is great for a little pick me up to help hold you over between meals. Packed with healthy fats and protein! And make sure to use grass fed organic butter- we don’t want any nasty hormones in our recipe!

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Dads paleo granola
ingredients
1/2 cup almond butter
3 tablespoons butter (weird, I know)
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons of the following:
-macadamia nuts
-walnuts
-pumpkin seeds
-pecans
-pistachios
-cacao nibs
1/2 cup coconut flakes
5 dates, pitted and chopped
1 tablespoon cinnamon
A pinch of salt

1. Finely chop the nuts and seeds.
2. Combine EVERYTHING into a large mixing bowl.
3. Cover a pie pan with parchment paper and pour the mixture into the pan.
4. Put into the freezer for at least an hour then transfer to the fridge and enjoy!!

Quinoa for breakfast?!?!

When I was at the Tone It Up Retreat last week, I ate a lot of quinoa. I mean a LOT of quinoa. I’ve always been a fan of quinoa because it’s a complete protein and a good grain alternative (because it’s actually a seed, not a grain). I have quite a few recipes on my blog already that use quinoa as a staple but I’ve never really used quinoa for breakfast before until this morning.

Well, actually, technically I tried it for the first time at the retreat. I was definitely skeptical when I saw “oatmeal” made of quinoa. It seemed like an odd pairing, quinoa and breakfast. But I gave it a whirl and I’m glad I did! Having quinoa for breakfast really helps fill you up and keep you satisfied throughout the day (probably because it’s high in protein). Plus, it doesn’t really taste like anything, so it’s extremely versatile and you can add whatever you want to it.

I pre-made the quinoa last night so that it wouldn’t take as long to prepare. I suggest everyone do it that way too since most people don’t have ample time in the morning to leisurely cook quinoa for breakfast.

Try it out and let me know how you like it!

**OH and by the way… along with this quinoa oatmeal dish this morning, I made a “clean” latte. And holy mother of all delicious food… it was incredible. Don’t you worry though, I’ll be posting THAT recipe soon enough!**

Don’t forget to follow me on instagram at @healthyfoodylifestyle for more recipes, fitness and health updates. And be sure to post your creation and tag me in it so that I can see how yours turned out!

So what are you waiting for… go eat some quinoa for breakfast!

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Superfoods and Strawberries Quinoa Oatmeal

serves 3

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked quinoa

1.5 cups almond milk

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped strawberries

3 tablespoons cacao nibs

3 tablespoons goji berries

3 teaspoons honey

1. Pour the quinoa, almond milk and cinnamon into a pan. Raise the heat to medium high until it starts to boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and cover. Let this cook for 20 minutes. If the quinoa dries up before it is cooked all the way through, just add 1/4 cup more almond milk to moisten it again.

*This step can be done the night before. Once the quinoa is cooked, just wait for it to cool off and put it into tupperware and into the fridge. When you are ready to reheat it, take out the desired amount, put it into a pot, add 1/4 cup almond milk and put it over medium low heat while you prepare the other ingredients*

2. Separate the quinoa out into three bowls. Sprinkle the strawberries, goji berries, cacao, and honey on top of each bowl. Serve hot!

Protein packed banana strawberry smoothie

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I created this smoothie 100% on accident. I’m going to quote my friend, Hattie, here: “I get really creative when I have limited groceries left”. Sometimes great things can happen when you have to get a little creative. I made this smoothie to help me last through my lunch time classes all the way to dinner. It did the trick! It’s loaded with protein from the chia, hemp and flax seeds. Plus, there’s tons of fiber from all the seeds, banana and strawberries to keep you full for hours. It’s got the great flavor of a strawberry banana smoothie that you’re used to with the extra benefits of keeping you full longer.

Bottom line: Make it. Your taste buds will be happy and your belly will be pleasantly full.

Protein packed banana strawberry smoothie

serves 1

Ingredients:

10 oz coconut water

1 banana

4 strawberries (can be frozen or fresh)

2 dates, pitted

1 teaspoon chia seeds

1 teaspoon cacao nibs

1 tablespoon flax seeds

1 1/2 tablespoons hemp seeds

2 teaspoons coconut butter

1. Add 2 teaspoons hot water to a small container holding the chia seeds. Allow this to gelatinize while you put together the rest of the smoothie.

2. In a coffee grinder, combine the cacao nibs and flax seeds. Blend until it forms a fine powder.

3. Combine all of the ingredients (including the powder created in step 2 and the gelatinized chia seeds) and blend for 2 minutes or until there are no more chunks.

Enjoy!