Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring Feta Salad

Living in Nebraska, we cherish our warm spring weather. A lot of people really just don't know about Nebraska weather, or Nebraska in general for that matter. Actually, I take that back - they know we play football and we grow corn. Ha! But I am quite alright with being known for those 2 things because I love football and I am very proud of our agricultural production in the state. We are leading the world in many agricultural-related fields, including water sustainability and soil and seed enhancement.

Back to weather - when it's not scorching hot 100 and humid in the summer or below freezing and snowy in the winter, Nebraska has gorgeous fall and spring weather. We have been so lucky this year with a mild winter and beautiful spring weather. Average temps right now usually range from 40's to 50's. We have had some days hit 80! And today was absolutely beautiful! Last night my parents were in town and they me and a friend out to dinner at our fave Mexican restaurant, yum, and then we went to the Husker baseball game. It was such a perfect evening, except for the baseball loss (but they won today!) we were in sandals and capris and there was a fireworks display after the game. Can't ask for much better of an evening on March 23rd!

So today, when I woke up to the bright warm sun and cool breeze, I knew it was going to be another day that was going to be spent pretty much outside :) I hurt my knee earlier this week (sliced it open on a slate staircase - ouch!) so I have been taking it easy. I went for a walk and worked my upper body out until the knee was pretty sore. I grabbed a Juice Stop for lunch and headed out to fun some errands. Windows down, music blaring, loving life!

I just knew that tonight was a night for a fresh spring salad. I picked up lots of fresh veggies at Trader Joe's and came home to get them all chopped up and ready to get in my belly! I topped my salad with a quinoa/salsa mix and Garlic Italian Caesar dressing by Kalo's. Everything Kalo's makes is natural and gluten free and it's made right here in Nebraska! Big, full and fresh salads are one of my favorite things - but I do find that I always need a little something extra to fill up. Tonight, that was a fried egg. Just enough protein to give me energy for a night out with the girls!

Chopped Romaine salad
Shredded carrots
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Cucumber, diced
Feta Cheese
Cooked Quinoa mixed with salsa
Kalo's Garlic Italian Caesar Dressing

1. Add salad to the bowl first, then add veggies of your choice
2. Top with quinoa/salsa mix and feta
3. Drizzle dressing on top

What are your favorite things to put in a salad?

Sweet Potato Wedges

How I love this orange beta carotene-filled potato, let me count the ways. I'll be honest with you, I used to turn my nose up at this potato that I thought only came in a can and the only thing you did with it was cover it with brown sugar and marshmallows. Gross. That is one dish that was ALWAYS left out at our Thanksgiving, and boy was I thankful for that! I have since grown in my adventurousness with this delightful orange super food and absolutely love them! Sweet Potatoes are seriously so versatile. I have used them in cupcake and soup recipes and I know you all have your favorite SP dishes, too. Whenever I am in need of a quick and filling side to go with my salad or my protein I know I can always turn to my sweet orange friend to fill the gap. Check out this easy recipe for Sweet Potato Fries. (You will have extra if you're eating for one, so be sure and save them for your next meal!)

2 medium sweet potatoes
2 tsp EVOO
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and add parchment paper to a baking sheet
2. Wash and peel sweet potatoes
3. Slice sweet potatoes in long fries. It helps if you cut it lengthwise, then each half in half and slice into wedges from there.
4. Cover the wedges with EVOO and salt and pepper
5. Pop in the oven for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until the fries are golden brown

Note: sweet potato fries aren't quite as cripsy as normal potato fries, especially since we were healthy and didn't fry them!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kale and Quinoa Saute

I made a big batch of quinoa this weekend and have been using it in almost every meal this week. It's amazing how incredibly versatile quinoa is. You can seriously use it when making breakfast, like pancakes; lunch, like this salad or a protein and veggie rich dinner like this Kale and Quinoa Saute. Kale is a veggie that we are seeing everywhere right now, and I suggest you jump on the bandwagon and head to your nearest grocer and grab yo'self some kale! It is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K and vitamin C. Combine all of that goodness with a complete protein like quinoa and an egg and dang - you've got a great healthy and filling dinner.

2/3 cup quinoa (uncooked)
1 1/3 cup water
2 cups Kale - or a big bunch, the more the better!
1/2 tablespoon EVOO
1 large egg
salt and pepper

1. In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa and water and a pinch of salt to boiling. Cover, lower heat and simmer for 12 minutes.
2. Heat a large skillet to medium and add kale, EVOO and 2 tablespoons of water
3. Once kale has begun to wilt, add cooked quinoa, salt and pepper
4. In another skillet coated in cooking spray, fry egg. I like mine over easy, your choice :)
5. Transfer quinoa and kale saute to a plate and plop that delicious egg on top.


Banana Nut Quinoa Pancakes

I have been making a concentrated effort to go to bed early and wake up to make it down to the gym in the morning. You can ask any of my friends and family and they will all tell you the same story, Sarah, although friendly, outgoing and known for being "Little Miss Sunshine" is not a morning person. She needs her sleep, doesn't like getting up early and must have coffee. My parents nicknamed me "The Bear" because they were afraid to enter my lair when I was younger out of fear for the oncoming Bear Attack! I was like a wild animal, you never knew what was going to happen.

Well, not a whole lot has changed since those days. I still require coffee in the morning - thank goodness I invested in an espresso maker, I couldn't go back to regular coffee after drinking such rich and strong espresso in Sweden. I still don't like being woken up in the morning and I still require a lot of sleep. But, I have learned to adjust and if I get to bed at a decent time, I am usually able to get up and squeeze in a 45 minute workout.

Yesterday was just such a day and although I sliced my knee open at work the day before and can't really bend it very well, I needed to get it working a little bit. Just walking for 10 minutes on the treadmill was enough for the old knee before it started aching and I definitely didn't want to over do it. But...I was able to read my Self mag, which I don't always get done, so I didn't mind the slow pace! I was getting pretty hungry while walking my little booty off and what luck, I found a breakfast recipe and I had all of the ingredients! One thing with becoming gluten-free that I have been pining after is pancakes. Oh, pancakes. I used to love experimenting with my favorite base pancake recipe and adding all kinds of things - ricotta, berries, marmalades, jams and spices.

On that fine morning, Self gave me pancake hope! Although they were delicious and totally hit the spot after my treadmill walk followed by core and arm strength training workout, I think I will adjust a few things next time. Until then, may I present to you, Quinoa Banana-Nut Pancakes!

Ingredients: (as adapted from Self magazine)
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
2 egg whites
1/4 cup milk ( I used vanilla rice milk)
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon (my addition!)
sliced banana

1. Whisk the quinoa, egg whites, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and 1/4 of the sliced banana together.
2. Coat a medium skillet with cooking spray and pour the batter - should make 1 large pancake or 3 small pancakes.
3. Cook over medium-high, flipping once, until firm. About 3 minutes on each side.
4. I topped my pancake with more sliced bananas and maple syrup. Hmmmmm hmmmmm yum.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Quinoa Chocolate Cupcakes

Here is a special treat for all of you gluten-free goddesses out there....chocolate cupcakes! These treats are something that I really missed after going gluten-free and I am so excited to have found this delicious recipe from an awesome blog you should all check out, Muffin Tin Mania

I was surprised at the texture of these cupcakes and how moist and chocolatey they were. I honestly think they taste just as good as normal chocolate cupcakes. I plan on using this base recipe to make other flavors of cupcakes. I made a mean pineapple coconut a couple of weeks ago and I think the quinoa base would be perfect for those. Another plus of these GF cupcakes is that the base is quinoa, which is one of few complete proteins. So....even though there is sugar, butter and oil on the ingredient list, these are basically a health food, right? Ha! Well, maybe not quite, but I also did go ahead and add some ground golden flax to up your Omega 3, protein and fiber intake! Next time I make these, I am planning on subbing the oil for applesauce and I think that should keep them just as moist as before, but cut some of the cals!

And because I couldn't resist, I added my standard frosting that I get requests by the bag full from friends...Bailey's Cream Cheese Frosting. Oh yeah, get it.

Ingredients: (as adapted from Muffin Tin Mania)

2/3 cup beige quinoa (uncooked)
1/3 cup low-fat milk (I used rice milk)
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coffee extract (I brewed 1/2 cup of dark roast espresso)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted and cooled
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup palm or other raw style sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground golden flax

1. In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa and 1 1/3 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 12 minutes, or until water has absorbed. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine milk, eggs, vanilla, peanut butter and coffee extract in a blender and process until mixed. Add cooked quinoa, oil and butter and blend until smooth.
3. Whisk together sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and flax in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients to bowl and mix until everything is moist. Divide batter in a 12 piece muffin tin that you have coated with cooking spray.
4. Bake for 22 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool before taking out of the tin.

Bailey's Cream Cheese Frosting
1. 8 oz cream cheese
2. 4 cups powdered sugar
3. 4 oz unsalted butter, softened
4. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5. 1/3 cup Bailey's or another Irish Cream Liquer

Mix it up until smooth!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Arnold Palmer with a Kick

Well, my friends, what better way to jump start this here little blog than with a post centered around an event that is highly anticipated by yours truly all year long....The Masters. In a little less than 2 weeks, eyes will be glued to the TV as we watch the world's best golfers compete for the elusive Green Jacket. Will Rory be able to hold it together? Will he recapture the #1 position after it was just stolen this weekend after Luke Donald's win? Or will reliable old Phil get another green piece to add to his wardrobe?

I, for one, am hopeful for Rory, but I can't deny my underlying loyalty to my fave, Adam Scott. It's your time to shine, Mr. Scott. I propose a toast your future win with this delish drink.


Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka
Crystal Light Lemonade packet

1. Mix up one packet of Crystal Light Lemonade (makes 1 quart)
2. Add 2 parts Firefly and 1 part lemonade
3. Add ice

Voila. Arnold, we thank you for your enthusiasm, your talent and excitement that you brought to the greatest game every played.