Tuscan Kale Salad

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I had originally planned on posting a delicious and summery cucumber caprese salad, which you may have seen if you follow me on instagram. But, then, I realized that I’d been eating the same side all week, and I decided that I should post this kale salad instead. It’s very rare that I eat the same thing every single day, but this salad is just so darn easy and so flavorful that I’ve had with my pulled pork, with my tuna cakes, and with whatever cold cuts I could find in the fridge.

Now, I have to admit something: I’ve only had kale once before. Yes, it’s this hugely popular superfood in the health world in general and in the paleo world in particular. Yes, it’s loaded with a ton of great nutrients for very little calories. And, yes, it seems like really no one can get enough of it. But, sometimes, when something is all over the place at all times, I get a little hipster. I don’t participate on principle. And when/if I do, I don’t tell anybody about it. Weird, I know.

And what do you know, the one time I tried kale (and nobody knew) was Snap Kitchen‘s version of this salad. They ‘re where I got the idea to make this at home when I saw organic chopped kale at HEB earlier this week. While I initially just picked up the salad as a perfect, low-risk way to try this supposedly amazing green, it really blew me away: it was beautiful in its simplicity. So, when I brought my very own bag of kale home with me, I knew I would try to mimic the flavors. With only six ingredients, I figured it couldn’t be that hard to get it right.

And I nailed it! Spicy, citrusy, and salty. The best part is that this takes all of 5 minutes to make. Then, because kale is such a sturdy green, it can stay good for 2-3 days without wilting and getting gross (in fact, I thought the salad was even better the next day!). So, with summer around and everyone trying to spend more time outdoors rather than in, I decided I couldn’t keep this from you!

Tuscan Kale Salad
Serves 1

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Ingredients:

3 cups chopped kale, thick stems removed
2 tbsps olive oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of one lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Directions:

1. In a small bowl with a lid, add the kale and squeeze the lemon:
sthe garlic:
IMG_7695The red pepper flakes:
IMG_7698And the olive oil, salt, and few grinds of pepper:
IMG_77012. Cover the bowl with the lid, and shake vigorously for 1-2 minutes, until the kale leaves are well-coated.
3. Stick the bowl in the fridge, and let the salad rest for at least 10 minutes, and up to 2 days.
4. Serve, and enjoy!
IMG_7717

 

Tuscan Kale Salad
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 3 cups chopped kale, thick stems removed
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Directions
  1. In a small bowl with a lid, add all the ingredients.
  2. Cover the bowl with the lid, and shake vigorously for 1-2 minutes, until the kale leaves are well-coated.
  3. Stick the bowl in the fridge, and let the salad rest for at least 10 minutes, and up to 2 days.
  4. Serve, and enjoy!

Zoodles with Meat Sauce

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Fun fact: I haven’t cooked pasta at home for myself in over a year. And, I’ve eaten it at a friend’s or out maybe once or twice in that same time. Which means that, basically, I don’t really eat pasta anymore.

It seems crazy when I think about that, because I remember just how hard it was in the beginning to transition from. Aside from really just loving all carbs at all times, it was also one of the first things that I “cooked” myself at home. Pasta dishes are easy and versatile and don’t really require a lot of thought. I ate it so frequently that I would do things like be snobby about spaghetti noodles (angel hair all the way!) and experiment with which noodles made for the best pasta salads (I personally liked farfalle). And oh man could I put away some mac and cheese like it was my job.

But then, I did the diet that was essentially paleo but even more restrictive and pasta was a definite no-no. And aside from the initial carb withdrawals, I didn’t really notice that it was gone. So, although it was never really a conscious decision to take pasta, specifically, out of my diet, it just happened, and in the end, I’m glad it did because it’s led me to learn how to make and eat more well-rounded meals where everything on my plate contributes something to my health. Plus, you’d be surprised at how much whole food you can eat for the same caloric content of pasta (or breads or grains).

But sometimes I remember with nostalgia the ease of making pasta-based dishes, and I kind of miss having it around (although when I do have it, I’m always underwhelmed these days). So, two weeks ago I got a spiralizer, and the easy world of pasta has opened up to me again. I’ve made a creamy, lemony zucchini pasta dish, a pesto cucumber caprese salad, and, getting back to the basics, these noodles for a classic spaghetti and meat sauce recipe, which is a favorite of Mr. Little Fish’s. We used to eat it, with noodles, regularly, but since I’ve taken over the cooking, it hasn’t been in the rotation as much. I’ve lightened and freshened up the original recipe from Allrecipes to take advantage of the abundance of fresh basil during the summer. And for an even lighter sauce, we’ve used ground turkey with equally delicious results. It’s great to have Italian food back on the table!

Zoodles with Meat Sauce
Adapted from Allrecipes
Serves 6

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Ingredients
:

Showerthoughts: Maybe Italian food is full of tomato, onion, and basil because it looks like the Italian flag.

Showerthoughts: Maybe Italian food is full of tomato, onion, and basil because it looks like the Italian flag.

1 pound ground beef or other meat
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 14-oz can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes (I like the Muir Glen brand)
2 8-oz cans of tomato sauce
1 6-oz can of tomato paste
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 tsps dried oregano
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 tsp salt+1/2 tsp, divided
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 medium zucchinis (NOTE: if you do not have a spiralizer, a julienne peeler will work just fine. And of course, if you aren’t worried about carbs, then normal pasta will do too!)
1/2 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

1. In a large pot over medium high heat, combine the ground beef, onion, garlic, and green pepper. Cook until the meat is brown and the vegetables are tender, about 7-10 minutes.

2. Add in the diced tomatoes (both canned and fresh), tomato sauce, tomato paste, and mushrooms. Stir to combine.
IMG_76583. Stir in the oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Then, lower the heat to medium low and simmer for 40-50 minutes, stirring frequently so nothing gets stuck on the bottom.
IMG_76594. Meanwhile, prepare your zucchinis for the spiralizer by cutting off the ends and then cutting each zucchini into thirds. Place a third into the spiralizer and, using the smallest blade, spiralize the chunk until only the bottom remains. Do this for all the rest of the zucchini. Then, use kitchen shears to cut the zucchini strands into manageable strands.

5. Put your spiralized zucchini into a colander over a bowl, and sprinkle liberally with salt (about 1/2 tsp). Use your hands to massage the salt into the noodles. Then leave the zucchini alone for about 20-30 minutes so that some of the water from the zucchini drips out.
IMG_76726. About 10 minutes before the meat sauce is done, put a large skillet over medium heat and add about 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. Add your zucchini noodles to the pan when its hot, and saute quickly for 3-4 minutes. You want the noodles to be just a little wilted/pliable, but not over cooked. The heat from the sauce will do more to wilt them!
IMG_76767. Once the sauce is ready, add the noodles a plate and top with sauce! |
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Zoodles with Meat Sauce
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground beef or other meat
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 14-oz can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes (I like the Muir Glen brand)
  • 2 8-oz cans of tomato sauce
  • 1 6-oz can of tomato paste
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • ½ cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tsps dried oregano
  • ½ cup tightly packed fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp salt+1/2 tsp, divided
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 4 medium zucchinis (NOTE: if you do not have a spiralizer, a julienne peeler will work just fine. And of course, if you aren't worried about carbs, then normal pasta will do too!)
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
Directions
  1. In a large pot over medium high heat, combine the ground beef, onion, garlic, and green pepper. Cook until the meat is brown and the vegetables are tender, about 7-10 minutes.
  2. Add in the diced tomatoes (both canned and fresh), tomato sauce, tomato paste, and mushrooms. Stir to combine.
  3. Stir in the oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Then, lower the heat to medium low and simmer for 40-50 minutes, stirring frequently so nothing gets stuck on the bottom.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare your zucchinis for the spiralizer by cutting off the ends and then cutting each zucchini into thirds. Place a third into the spiralizer and, using the smallest blade, spiralize the chunk until only the bottom remains. Do this for all the rest of the zucchini.
  5. Put your spiralized zucchini into a colander over a bowl, and sprinkle liberally with salt (about ½ tsp). Use your hands to massage the salt into the noodles. Then leave the zucchini alone for about 20-30 minutes so that some of the water from the zucchini drips out.
  6. About 10 minutes before the meat sauce is done, put a large skillet over medium heat and add about ½ tbsp of olive oil. Add your zucchini noodles to the pan when its hot, and saute quickly for 3-4 minutes. You want the noodles to be just a little wilted/pliable, but not over cooked. The heat from the sauce will do more to wilt them!
  7. Once the sauce is ready, add the noodles a plate and top with sauce!

Workday Halibut Ceviche

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Growing up in a place where I was 20 minutes away from the beach at all times, ceviche has pretty much always been around in my life. I remember going home during college one time and going to our favorite place for ceviche and being eager to down a whole ceviche appetizer by myself. I couldn’t do it, but getting to eat that wonderfully fresh, light, and simple dish was worth the effort.

It’s a pretty versatile dish. When we took a trip to Fiji about a year ago, one of my favorite dishes there was, unsurprisingly,  kokoda, which is essentially just ceviche with coconut milk. The recipe below makes enough for 2 servings, so when I wanted to spice up the second serving a little, I just added some coconut milk to completely change the flavor profile (and take me back to paradise!).  Also, while it’s traditionally eaten with tortilla chips, a Colombian restaurant we went to last week (which we went to solely because I was craving ceviche!), served theirs with fried green plantains, otherwise known as tostones, and I really, really liked the pairing.

The best part of making this is seeing how the lime juice literally cooks the fish. It’s almost unbelievable that it cooks right before your eyes, all while doing nothing more than sitting in some fluids. I remember taking this to a lunch with friends once and them remarking how “fancy” it was. I had to convince them that this is the easiest thing in the world!

In fact, the version I give you below is made so that it cooks while you’re at work! How’s that for a fancy workday lunch? Essentially, you prep all of the ingredients the night before, pour the lime juice over the fish in the morning, and then let it cook in your work refrigerator while you do, I dunno, work things (or watch the World Cup and dream wistfully of being in Brazil, anybody?). Come lunch time, which I imagine is about 3-4 hours later for most of you, you mix it with the baggie of pre-cut veggies and–voila–ceviche at your desk. Perfect for summer! Enjoy!

Workday Halibut Ceviche
Serves 2

 

Ingredients:

10-oz of halibut filet, skinned and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2-3 large lemons)
1/4 cup fresh limit juice (from about 2-3 large limes)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
3 green onions, diced
3 tomatoes, seeded and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large avocado, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 small jalapeno, finely diced
2 tbsps chopped cilantro
1/2 cup red cabbage, sliced

Directions:

The night before:

1. Divide the halibut cubes evenly between two medium-sized glass tupperware bowls, like the ones below (mine are Pyrex). Cover the dishes and place in the refrigerator.
IMG_70602. In another small dish with a lid or in a small jar, mix together the lemon juice, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate.
3. Gather together two small plastic sandwich bags and evenly distribute the cabbage, tomato, cilantro, jalapeno, and green onion. Keep the avocado in its skin with the seed in (after dicing) a small glass container with a lid or wrapped in saran wrap (unless you don’t mind it getting brown, then add it to the baggy!).
IMG_7062The morning of:

4. Pour half of the lime and lemon juice mixture in each bowl (do this if you are planning on eating ceviche for both lunch and dinner, or two of you will be eating it for lunch. If, however, you plan on eating ceviche for lunch the next day as well, don’t pour the juice in one of the bowls. Keep the remaining half of juice covered in the fridge, and put both it  and the halibut back in the fridge. Repeat all these steps the next morning).
IMG_70633. Distribute the diced avocado in both bowls (so each bowl has half an avocado). Since lime juice prevents browning, you are safe to put the avocado in there. Mix well, cover the dishes, and take one to work with you, along with one of the prepared veggies baggies. Refrigerate until lunch time (about 3 hours), making sure to stir about halfway so that the marinade is evenly distributed. You’ll know the fish is done when it’s opaque and flaky, like in the picture above.
IMG_70744. When you are ready to eat, pour the veggies into the glass bowls, mix well, and then enjoy with crackers, plantains, or tortilla chips (I didn’t have my camera at work, but just imagine that the wine glass is the pyrex bowl!)!
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Workday Halibut Ceviche
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Light
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 10-oz of halibut filet, skinned and cut into ½ inch cubes
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2-3 large lemons)
  • ¼ cup fresh limit juice (from about 2-3 large limes)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • 3 green onions, diced
  • 3 tomatoes, seeded and diced into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 large avocado, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 small jalapeno, finely diced
  • 2 tbsps chopped cilantro
  • ½ cup red cabbage, sliced
Directions
  1. The night before:
  2. Divide the halibut cubes evenly between two medium-sized glass tupperware bowls (I use Pyrex). Cover the dishes and place in the refrigerator.
  3. In another small dish with a lid or in a small jar, mix together the lemon juice, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate.
  4. Gather together two small plastic sandwich bags and evenly distribute the cabbage, tomato, cilantro, jalapeno, and green onion. Keep the avocado in its skin with the seed in (after dicing) a small glass container with a lid or wrapped in seran wrap (unless you don't mind it getting brown, then add it to the baggy!).
  5. The morning of:
  6. Pour half of the lime and lemon juice mixture in each bowl (do this if you are planning on eating ceviche for both lunch and dinner, or two of you will be eating it for lunch. If, however, you plan on eating ceviche for lunch the
  7. next
  8. day as well, don't pour the juice in one of the bowls. Keep the remaining half of juice covered in the fridge, and put both it  and the halibut back in the fridge. Repeat all these steps the next morning).
  9. Distribute the diced avocado in both bowls (so each bowl has half an avocado). Since lime juice prevents browning, you are safe to put the avocado in there. Mix well, cover the dishes, and take one to work along with one of the prepared veggies baggies. Refrigerate until lunch time (about 3 hours), making sure to stir about halfway so that the marinade is evenly distributed.
  10. When you are ready to eat, pour the veggies into the glass bowls, mix well, and then enjoy with crackers, plantains, or tortilla chips!

Homemade 3-ingredient Energy Bars

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When I first decided to start losing weight, I thought exercising was the way to go. I have not-so-fond memories of waking up before work in the middle of the DC summer to do Insanity workouts in the 1 bedroom apartment I shared with three people. Two of us shared what would normally have been a living room, but instead had two little twin beds on opposite sides of the room. I used my little corner to do workouts so intense that I would continue sweating through my shower and all the way until I got into my air-conditioned office.

The problem with all the intense workouts , though, was that they were making me hungrier, which, when you’re trying to lose weight and restrict calories, didn’t end up working out too well. So, when I decided to get serious with the losing weight almost a year later, I switched gears and mostly focused on food. I worked out here and there, but I figured exercising would come more into play when I got to the maintenance phase. And now, after 7 months of maintaining my weight loss, I figured right.  Here I am now in week 4 of P90X3, and not only is it helping me maintain the weight loss, but I feel no signs of slowing down. As expected though, that hunger is returning.

Enter: these energy bars. I’m sure more than a few of you buy  the energy bars found at your grocery store. Not all energy bars are created equal though, and most of them contain a lot of preservatives, sugar, or other unrecognizable ingredients. For awhile, on the recommendation of a friend, I was eating these Thunderbird Energetica bars, which unlike many other bars, used all whole-food ingredients, natural sugars, and no grains.  They weren’t cheap though.

So, I decided to simplify things and make my own, using the same concept. It’s a pretty foolproof recipe: 1 cup nuts, 1 cup dried fruit, and 3/4 cup dates. The dates act as both a binder and a sweetener. The berries and dates give you the complex carbs you need before an intense workout, and the nuts give you some lasting protein and fat. No grains, no added sugar, no unpronounceable ingredients. Win-win if you ask me.

Homemade Energy Bars
Serves 9

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Ingredients:

1 cup dried cherries (or any other dried fruit), unsweetened if you can find them
1 cup almonds
3/4 cup pitted Medjool dates, halved
Parchment paper, for lining
Plastic wrap, for molding
NOTE: you can use literally any combination of nuts and fruit that you would like. I have also made a blueberry and walnut version that I really liked. Other possible combinations: blueberry-almond, cherry-walnut, cranberry-pecan. Be creative!

Directions:

1.  If your dates are a bit harder or drier, soak them in water for 20 minutes to soften them a little bit. Add all three ingredients into your food processor.
IMG_71492. Pulse for a minute or so to break up the nuts and other bits. Your mixture will go from this:
IMG_7150To this:
IMG_7151And eventually get here:
IMG_7152Scrap down the sides of the food processor if things seem to start getting stuck. Stop when you get to the ball shape above, about 10 minutes.
3. Scoop the ball out onto a cutting board lined with cellophane wrap.
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4. Cut off another piece of cellophane and place it on top of the ball.  Use this to mold the ball into a roughly 8×8 square, or however thick you would like your bars to be.
IMG_71544. Wrap the square up with the cellophane, and freeze the whole thing for 2-3 hours.
IMG_71565. Once pretty solid, take it out and cut into 9 squares (or more if you would like smaller portions).
IMG_71576. Use parchment paper squares (I just cut my regular roll) to separate the bars as you stack them into a container.
IMG_71587. Store in the fridge or freezer! I prefer them frozen, which gives them a pleasantly chewy texture and not as paste-like.

 

 

Homemade 3-ingredient Energy Bars
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Snacks
Cuisine: American
Serves: 9
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried cherries (or any other dried fruit), unsweetened if you can find them
  • 1 cup almonds
  • ¾ cup pitted Medjool dates, halved
  • Parchment paper, for lining
  • Plastic wrap, for molding
  • NOTE: you can use literally any combination of nuts and fruit that you would like. I have also made a blueberry and walnut version that I really liked. Other possible combinations: blueberry-almond, cherry-walnut, cranberry-pecan. Be creative!
Directions
  1. If your dates are a bit harder or drier, soak them in water for 20 minutes to soften them a little bit. Add all three ingredients into your food processor.
  2. Pulse for a minute or so to break up the nuts and other bits. Your mixture will start with small bits and pieces of nuts and fruit, to more paste-like and, finally, to a big ball. Scrap down the sides of the food processor if things seem to start getting stuck.
  3. Scoop the ball out onto a cutting board lined with cellophane wrap.
  4. Cut off another piece of cellophane and place it on top of the ball. Use this to mold the ball into a roughly 8x8 square, or however thick you would like your bars to be.
  5. Wrap the square up with the cellophane, and freeze the whole thing for 2-3 hours.
  6. Once pretty solid, take it out and cut into 9 squares (or more if you would like smaller portions).
  7. Use parchment paper squares (I just cut my regular roll) to separate the bars as you stack them into a container.
  8. Store in the fridge or freezer! I prefer them frozen, which gives them a pleasantly chewy texture and not as paste-like.

If the wildflowers on the side of the road are any indication, spring is finally upon us here in Austin. Since spring makes me think of Easter and Easter makes me think of eggs, I thought I’d share with you my newest, favorite method for making eggs: Tong Zi Dan (aka Virgin Boy Eggs). The method is a little unorthodox, but the results are amazing! Check it out at Nom Nom Paleo!