Preparing a summer salad is a creative outlet that allows me to experiment and play with my food. Colorful and fresh ingredients are readily available in the stores, farmer’s markets, CSA boxes and, if you are lucky, your own garden. Magic happens in a salad bowl when fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruits combine with a light dressing. A mix of crunchy and soft textures with sweet and tangy flavors delight the taste buds.
Inspiration for this summer salad came from a nectarine, my first of the season. This nectarine was surprisingly sweet and juicy. Resisting a nectarine with its gorgeous red-orange skin and luring sweet smell is nearly impossible. They just might be my favorite fruit. Hence, my decision to use the nectarine in my newest summer salad creation.
A Palette of Vegetables
Creating a brilliant summer salad isn’t difficult. There are so many tasty, fresh ingredients to inspire a multitude of delicious results. With my guys out-of-town for the weekend, I only had my own taste buds to please. As a result, I could experiment with whatever I had on hand. The refrigerator yielded fresh ginger, lacinato kale, red cabbage, a red pepper and the remaining quinoa from a previous meal. From my pantry came an avocado, orange cherry tomatoes, a lemon, olive oil, and almonds. Pink Himalayan salt and toasted sesame seeds were in my spice drawer. Finally, the pièce de resistance, that gorgeous nectarine was waiting in the fruit bowl just for me.
Simple Steps to a Summer Salad Masterpiece
Whisk the juice from half a lemon, ginger, olive oil and salt together in the salad bowl.
2. Rip the dark green kale leaves from their center stem and slice them up into thin ribbons. Toss them with the lemon juice mixture.
3. Chop some red cabbage and add it into the bowl with the kale.
4. Make thin slices from the red pepper, cut them into bite sized pieces and toss them in with the kale and cabbage.
5. Add quinoa to the bowl and mix it all together. I had some radish slices mixed in with my leftover quinoa (just in case you are wondering about the little white circles). They could be added, but aren’t necessary for this salad.
6. Chop up the nectarine, tomatoes, avocado and almonds.
7. Toss everything together in the bowl and top with the almonds and sesame seeds.
8. Serve it up on a plate and enjoy. Alternatively, you can it eat it straight from the bowl. It’s so good you’ll devour the entire salad. At least I did.
9. Finally, enjoy outside with a beautiful view.
What are your favorite summer salad combinations?
Thérèse Buckingham for Vitality in Focus
Summer Salad: A Palette of Colorful, Fresh Ingredients
As we go into the biggest traveling time of the year, the question for many is, how can I eat healthy while traveling. Perhaps the most trying part of traveling is finding a healthy meal? It isn’t always easy and it can be stressful when you are traveling with others who are hungry and just want to eat NOW! I’ve found 4 steps to help me succeed.
If you have read my About page you’ll know that I don’t tolerate soy. It’s an intolerance not an allergy, but nonetheless eating something with a soy based ingredient will make my stomach cramped, bloated, and gassy. It is uncomfortable at any time, but when traveling it is even worse. Along with soy there are some food additives that can trigger a headache or create stomach discomfort. Nitrates in processed meats and artificial sweeteners are two of those additives. In addition I have a goal, for myself and my family, to eat for optimal health. When you take into consideration convenience, time constraints and sticking to a budget you can see how the goal to eat healthy while traveling can be illusive.
There are two major roadblocks to eating well on the road or in the air. Number one is time. Taking time out to sit down and order a meal when you are on a long drive, and you just want to get to your destination isn’t ideal. Most of the time when we are on a long road trip, we want to refuel our stomachs and gas tanks in one stop. For the most part fast food restaurants and gas stations will have little to no soy-free options and don’t meet the goal of eating for optimal health. Number two is the lack of availability of healthy real foods. If you struggle with similar issues when you travel I hope that my 4 steps on how to eat healthy while traveling is helpful.
4 Steps on how to Eat Healthy While Traveling
Below are the steps that I use to find a healthy meal or snack when traveling.
1. Be Committed
Make sure you are clear on your eating goals before you embark on your trip. It could be to not eat any fried foods, include a fresh vegetable with each meal, or drink only water until you reach your destination. You might have, like me, certain ingredients that wreak havoc on your digestive system. In that case, your goal will be to avoid foods containing the culprit ingredients. It is also important that your travel partners are aware of your goals and willing to make some accommodations so that you are successful.
Last spring Rob, Keaton and I were on a ski/college visitation road trip to Utah and Montana. We arrived in Eden, Utah, hungry and tired after a long day on the road, and found a family owned Mexican restaurant. As is typical in Mexican restaurants, they set chips and salsa on the table as soon as we sat down. I always ask what oil is used for frying the tortilla chips. If I’m lucky it’s corn or canola. However, soybean oil is cheap and is often the oil of choice for frying.
I wasn’t lucky this time because as I was questioning the waiter he let me know that soybean oil is added to their salsa and every dish on the menu. There was one exception; guacamole. Now, I love guacamole, and they let me bring in the bag of tortilla chips we had in the car, but the hot meals that Rob and Keaton ate looked and smelled delicious. Then again, who wouldn’t want free liberty to eat an entire order of guacamole by themselves?
the Wasatch Mountains in Utah
2. Be Prepared
Prepare ahead of time if you want to eat healthy while traveling and avoid feeling poorly. I always carry raw nuts and seeds, dried sulfate-free fruits and a couple limited ingredient protein bars like RxBars and Lara Bars. These bars can always replace a meal when I can’t find something suitable. They are great on an airplane in place of the salty & oily snack packs of nuts, pretzels etc… the flight attendants give out. They are also more favorable than the expensive pre-packed “meals” you can purchase.
You will have greater options when traveling by car especially if you will be staying in a hotel with a small refrigerator. I like to pack an insulated bag with some hummus, carrot & celery sticks, hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit, my Pre-Run Energy Cookies, or homemade muffins like the Super Hero Muffins from Run Fast Eat Slow. In addition to the cooler bag, I’ll have a bag with an assortment of the same food items that I take on flights along with a bag of granola as a breakfast option. I love this particular granolabecause it is gluten and soy-free, and it doesn’t have added sugar. I can only find it in store at our local Market of Choice, but it is available to order on Amazon. Being prepared means I won’t starve, and I can supplement a meal if necessary.
Finally, I also prepare for the just in case situation where I inadvertently eat something that causes stomach pains. I have found that Traditional Medicinals makes a line of organic digestive teas. The Belly Comfort (formerly Eater’s Digest), Gas Relief and Ginger Aid teas are all in my arsenal. They are soothing and helpful. I feel much better sipping on tea than I do about popping an OTC medication like Tums, Rolaids or Prilosec into my mouth. Those come with side effects that I don’t want to deal with. I prefer to first follow the Hippocrates quote, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
3. Know How to Hunt
When we have time to sit down and order at the table we have learned to search Google for “healthy restaurants in(city name)” or “vegetarian restaurants in (city name).” Both of these searches will usually generate a top 10 list through Yelp or TripAdvisor. We have had a lot of luck with this method. This is how we were able to enjoy fabulous meals at:
Market on Front in Missoula, MT
Mizuna in Spokane, WA
a vegetarian meal of field roast and chipotle tomato sauce on top of Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes
Simple Food Group in Lake Geneva, WI
beautiful seasonal frittata, the perfect meal for a post 7-mile lake side run
Shine in Boulder, CO
slaw made with kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots and quinoa topped with wild smoked salmon
I just discovered eatwellguide.org. This is a website where you can input a city and it will generate a list of recommended restaurants. “The Eat Well Guide® is a curated directory of over 25,000 hand-picked restaurants, farms, markets and other sources of local, sustainable food throughout the US”. The next time we are looking for a restaurant, grocery store or farmer’s market in an unfamiliar place I will remember to use this website. It could even help find new options in your home town.
Grocery stores can offer a hunting ground when nothing else works. There have been times when my guys will grab a fast burger with fries, and I’ll walk through a grocery store and come out with a tub of hummus, a box of acceptable crackers and some fresh fruit.
Sometimes you have to be patient and hunt a little harder. One night, intent on a pizza dinner, four of us went into three Italian restaurants before finding one that made their pizza crust and sauce without soybean oil.
It’s exciting to discover a gem. My idea of a gem is a restaurant that is allergen savvy. It will use fresh locally sourced ingredients when possible and have a menu full of healthy options. These are safe havens for me. Bushel & Peck’s in Beloit, Wisconsin is such a place. With Rikley attending College in Beloit we visited 1-2 times a year to watch him play soccer and lacrosse. Bushel & Pecks’ was the place I knew I could get a breakfast, lunch or dinner and not only would it be soy-free, but it also checked the box next to “eat healthy while traveling”. We would eat here two times a day if needed. This is what I will miss most about Beloit now that Rikley has graduated and we won’t be visiting again.
4. Stay Calm and Make the Best of It
Occasionally things just don’t workout the way you hope. While traveling across country last September with my sister, we stopped at an Amish restaurant in rural Minnesota. We were hungry and ready for a break, however the choices were slim. I ordered a grilled tomato-basil and cheese sandwich. I waited in hungry anticipation for a golden-grilled sandwich, cheese melting out from the sides and a stack of tomatoes and basil in-between. Imagine my disappointment when a slightly browned sandwich with two square pieces of Kraft cheese, that hadn’t melted, a slice of tomato and a basil leaf was set down in front of me. This was one of those times when my stash of nuts and a protein bar came in handy.
One stop on our road-trip from Portland, Oregon to Beloit, Wisconsin. I had lots of creative meals along the way.
A couple of weeks ago we had time to get dinner in Chicago before our flight home. We chose an Italian restaurant where we hoped to get a deep dish pizza. Unfortunately for me, the pizza dough had soybean oil in it. I opted for a dinner size salad with olive oil and vinegar on the side. My salad didn’t smell or look as good as the deep dish pizza my sister and husband were eating. However, it was a healthier choice and I didn’t have a belly ache on the flight home!
the Buckinghams in front of the Buckingham Fountain in Chicago
Let your waiter know your food or diet restrictions. Most of the time they are very accommodating and can help you find something on the menu you can eat. Look for options that aren’t fried, are made without creamy sauces and come with fresh vegetables. Thank them for their help. Last Friday with the help of my server at Immersion Brewery I had a delicious roasted sweet potato and beet salad with quinoa. They switched out the dressing for me and left off the cheese.
Food For Thought
It is possible to eat healthy while traveling. However it takes some forethought, dedication, patience and sometimes a sense of humor. Finally, there’s the time when we arrived in Chicago well past our dinner time. There was a TGIF’s at our hotel. The menu had icons to indicate the allergens in each dish. While this was very helpful, after searching the extensive menu, I found only two options; clam chowder and steamed broccoli. I ordered both, put the broccoli in the chowder, and had a meal that filled me.
As more and more of you follow these steps and ask for more real food options, I hope companies will make it easier to live a healthful lifestyle while we travel. I love the mission statement from Bushel & Peck’s and would like to see more places like this.
Do you try to eat healthy while traveling? What experiences have you had trying to eat healthy while traveling?
When I hear fritter I think of some morsel of food that’s been covered in a batter and deep fried. Think of corn fritters, hush puppies or apple fritters and the word healthy doesn’t come to mind. However, fritters can also be pan fried with a little healthy fat and made up of any number of vegetables. My aim is to find recipes that are good for you, taste great and are simple to make. This recipe fits the bill. It has just 9 ingredients that should be readily available at most stores or could be substituted. These vegetable fitters are versatile and are even good cold the next day for lunch, so double the recipe and have plenty left over. Pair them with a kale salad and you have a nutritious complete meal.
Potential Health Benefits
There’s lots of healthy goodness in this meal. The ingredients contain antioxidants, nutrients, essential fatty acids, and minerals that boast numerous health benefits. As a result your brain, skin, eyes, joints, gut and heart will thank you. In addition, a dinner like this can speed up your metabolism, increase your energy and improve your memory.
Zucchini is low in calories and high in anti-inflammatory properties. Essential nutrients like potassium and manganese are high in zucchini. In addition, it has a high water content that makes you feel full.
I grew up watching commercials for Chia Pets, and was surprised when chia seeds became a popular superfood. There are a number of reported health benefits to adding nutrient dense chia seeds into your diet. Studies have shown that they can improve heart and digestive health, boost your energy and metabolism, help you build muscle and lose weight, and prevent premature aging of the skin. They are versatile and can be added to many recipes. I’ve use them in our morning smoothies, breads and pancakes, on yogurt with granola and in these fritters. There is some evidence that soaking them in water for 30 minutes makes them easier to digest and makes the nutrients more readily available.
The list of health benefits for coconut oil goes on and on. From reducing inflammation to improving memory in addition to boosting the immune system and increasing energy and endurance it has an impressive line-up of benefits when used both orally and topically. It is important to buy cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil and avoid the refined or processed oil to ensure that you get the greatest health benefits.
These vegetable fritters are so easy to make especially if you have a food processor. My Cuisinart is about 25 years old and still running strong. It makes quick work of prepping vegetables, making hummus, chopping nuts and making smooth salad dressings. I keep mine readily available on a shelf in my pantry so that deciding to use it is a no brainer. If your useful kitchen tools and small appliances are buried in a cupboard behind other things you won’t use them. At least that is my experience, because a knife or grater is easier to grab than getting down on your knees and pulling things out to get to the food processor. Alternatively, you can use a box grater if you don’t have a food processor.
Carrots & Zucchini
You’ll want about 2 cups of grated vegetables for this recipe. You can see that I have a heaping 2 cups from 1 large zucchini and 2 large carrots. I had extra grated carrots that I then used in the kale salad. The zucchini has a high water content, so it helps to squeeze or press some of the moisture out of it before adding it to the other ingredients. After grating the zucchini put it into a colander with small holes or a mesh sieve, sprinkle a little salt on it and let it sit while you prepare the carrots and onion. Then just push the zucchini down and let the excess water drain out. Alternatively you can squeeze it with your hands. You could also use sweet potatoes, parsnips, rutabaga, or butternut squash.
Dice half an onion to equal about 1/2 cup. Onions add immense flavor to savory recipes.
Add Flax & Chia
Put the carrots, zucchini, and onion into a bowl and add 1/3 cup of flax meal and 3 teaspoons of chia seeds.
Break two eggs into a smaller bowl and give them a quick whisk with a fork.
You can make this a vegan meal by replacing the eggs with chia seeds.
Next add a 1/2 teaspoon of Himalayan pink, sea or kosher salt and 3 grinds of pepper from a pepper mill. Mix it all together.
Kale Salad to Complete the Meal
This is a simple kale salad to serve along with the fritters. Plus the ingredients add to the nutritional bang of this meal. I like to use Lacinato (dinosaur) kale in salads, but I had curly kale, so I used it. There are just 7 ingredients in this salad. Wash, de-stem and chop the kale. Put the kale, the extra grated carrots, and 2 tablespoons each of pepitas and goji berries into a bowl. Drizzle the juice of a lemon and a tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil on top with a pinch or two of salt and toss to combine. When I make a kale or cabbage salad I like to make it first and let it sit while I prepare the rest of the meal. This helps to soften the kale and the flavors have time to mingle and create a more flavorful salad.
After the salad sits for 10 minutes give it a taste test and add more lemon juice or salt if you think it needs it. If you don’t have any more lemon juice then apple cider vinegar works as well.
Cooking the Fritters
Heat a griddle pan or skillet on medium heat and melt 1/2 a tsp of coconut oil on the hot surface. I love this griddle pan from Al Clad. It covers two burners and allows me to fry more fritters at a time. Measure about a 1/4 -1/3 cup of fritter batter onto the hot skillet and let them cook until browned, about 4 minutes. Flip the fritters and brown on the other side. Make sure you keep mixing the eggs back into the batter. They tend to puddle in the bottom of the bowl and you want them to cook with the fritters.
These fritters smell delicious as they are cooking and get a nice golden brown crunch on them. You’ll want to sneak bites as they come hot off the griddle.
Dinner is Ready
Plate 2-3 fritters along side the kale salad and get ready to enjoy. Save any leftover fritters for tomorrow’s lunch. One of the nice things about using kale in a salad instead of lettuce is that the leftovers don’t get limp or slimy by the next day. You can enjoy leftover salad tomorrow as well.
Remember to subscribe to my blog so you will be among the first to know when I have a new post. As a bonus, I will send you my menu planner.
2 cups grated carrots and zucchini (about two large carrots and one large zucchini)
2 eggs; whisked (organic and/or free-range if possible)
1/3 cup flax meal
3 tsp chia seeds
1/2 tsp Himalayan or sea salt
3 grinds on a pepper mill
1-2 tsp coconut oil
THE KALE SALAD:
2 cups of chopped kale
1 cup of grated carrots (you can use what is left from the carrots grated for the fritters)
2 TBS pepitas
2TBS goji berries (could replace with raisins, dried cherries, or dried blueberries)
Juice from 1 lemon
1-2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Add all of the salad ingredients to a bowl and toss to combine. Let the salad sit while you make the fritters. This will give the kale time to soften.
To make the fritters combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
Heat the coconut oil in a hot skillet.
Spoon about 1/3 cup of the fritter batter onto skillet and flatten out like little pancakes. Fit as many as you can onto the cooking surface.
Let the fritters fry for about 4 minutes until brown underneath.
Turn them and let them brown on the other side.
Serve the fritters with the kale salad and enjoy!
Zucchini has a high water content and it is best to drain some out before adding it to the other ingredients. After grating the zucchini put it into a colander with small holes or a mesh sieve, sprinkle a little salt on it and let it sit while you prepare the carrots and onion. Then just push the zucchini down and let the excess water drain out. Alternatively you can squeeze it with your hands.
You can make this a vegan meal by substituting the eggs for more chia seeds, 1 TBS/egg) that have been soaked in water for about 30 minutes or so. You can used ground chia or flax seeds as an egg substitute as well.
March is National Nutrition Month! I have had an acute interest in nutrition for nearly 16 years, and as a result I’ve devoured books, magazines, shows, and websites to gain more information. This month I’m sharing my knowledge and enthusiasm with my husband and my sister. Since we had a few weeks before our move to Bend, I offered to be a health coach to my sister who wants to get healthier before an incredible European vacation planned for September. My goal is to make a big enough impact on how my sister feels while eating whole, real foods that she will want to continue eating after I leave. Follow me (Vitality in Focus) on Instagram or my Facebook page to see what we have been eating for dinner.
Vegetable fritters are amazingly flavorful. I paired these with a green salad.
Respite or Reprieve
With my husband in tow, I am spending the month of March in Henderson, Nevada with my sister. She is the middle girl in our family and older than me by 17 years. While that may not matter, I think it helps paint a picture if you don’t already know us.
The drive to Nevada started off very snowy. We couldn’t wait to find sunshine and dry roads.
It’s an incredible opportunity to get warm and dry and a chance to focus on our health and our work with fewer distractions. Especially since February was a huge distraction that, as a result, put this blog on a back burner. Read Moving and Mounds of Memorabilia to find out why.
This picture was taken on a day hike at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area near Las Vegas. The weather here is unseasonable warm. We are getting our wish for warmer, dryer weather.
3 Weeks to Build New Habits
One of my goals while we are staying with my sister is to help her cultivate healthier eating habits. You may know that research supports the philosophy that it takes 3 weeks to build a new habit. As luck would have it, that’s exactly how much time we have here.
I think that Romanesco is quite possibly the most beautiful vegetable. I chopped it up with zucchini, lightly steamed it and served it on top of quinoa with a dollop of satay sauce.
The fact that March is National Nutrition Month is serendipitous. Whether you call it “clean eating” or “real foods” or “whole foods” the idea is the same. Cut out the crap! Eliminate all of the processed foods with additives, artificial anything, preservatives and ingredients you don’t recognize or wouldn’t stock in your pantry. This is the foundation for our healthy adventure.
A really good chicken soup starts with homemade bone broth.
We are implementing the menus and recipes from the 21 Day Food Matters Program. The meal plan is based on gluten-free, highly nutritious recipes with a balance of alkalizing greens, proteins and healthy fats. In general, it’s a guide for those who want improved health. We each have our own goals. I’d like to experience better focus and clarity, increased energy and reduce the headaches I get almost every day. My sister wants to improve her fitness, focus and resiliency. We are both looking to be joyfully alive. Rob’s goals are to be fit, focused and energized. Focus appears to be on all of our lists. Did you know that what you eat has a correlation to how well you can focus? Eating a diet full of additives, preservatives and artificial ingredients can cause brain fog.
A lovely lunch with homemade gluten free bread and homemade hummus. We topped it with watercress and cilantro with carrots and celery on the side to dip into the extra hummus.
Half Way Point
We are half way through our 21 day eating journey.
The meal plan, recipes and shopping lists provided in the 21 Day Food Matters Programmake the planning easy. I’ve made a couple adjustments to fit our schedules, but we have kept to the recipes given in the program. We start every morning with a tall glass of water enhanced with the juice of half a lemon. I send my sister off to work each day with a lunch box packed with a green smoothie for breakfast, lunch, snacks, four bottles of water and a couple of detox tea bags. Dinner is nearly ready in the evening when she comes home. This morning as she left she said to me, “I’m down another pound and I’m happy!” While she has a weight loss goal, I hope she discovers that eating a diet of foods as close to their natural state as possible makes her feel better. I know it works for me. While not knowing that he was going to have a health coach, Rob has fully committed to the program. His body fat percentage has dropped 1.5% in just nine days.
For easy to-go lunches pack your salad in a Mason jar.
Quinoa Tabouleh is one of our favorite lunches on the Food Matters 21 Day Program.
Essential Kitchen Tools
My sister has a well equipped kitchen with many of the necessary tools of the trade. However, when I started cooking in her kitchen there were a few items missing that I couldn’t cook for a month without.
A good sharp chef’s knife. This essential for all the chopping required when cooking with fresh ingredients.
A fine mesh sieve for rinsing beans, rice, quinoa.
Ball mason jars. I’m using a 32oz wide-mouth jar to pack salads for her lunch. I also like these small jars to portion nuts & seeds, hummus and snacks.
My Vitamix blender came with me. I couldn’t get through three servings of smoothies every morning without it. It is the best blender I’ve ever owned. It can be used for salad dressings, soups and more. I like this one (6500) because it has the automatic “smoothie” option.
The other tools that I use daily when cooking are ones she had.
A sharp pairing knife
A small cutting board
A set of measuring cups and spoons
A set of nesting prep bowls
A citrus juicer The one pictured is her’s, however, I really like the handheld squeezers. This particular one is stainless steel so there isn’t any paint to chip off like the yellow one I have at home.
Ingredients Not Calories
In honor of National Nutrition Month I challenge you to take the rest of March to focus on your nutrition. The easiest place to start is in the produce section of your grocery store. Increase the amount of fresh vegetables you eat. Make them a larger portion on your plate than any other item. In addition, read labels and eliminate my list of deal breakers. If a product has any of these ingredients listed on its label it will not make it into my shopping cart.
Trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils
High fructose corn syrup
Artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners
Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate
Dried fruit with sulfites
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Soy (because I have a sensitivity to soy)
Those are my deal breakers and a good list to start with. Of course when eating out I can’t control this, but I can control what I buy. In general, I look for ingredients I recognize. You know, the ones you might have in your pantry and would use in your own cooking when starting from scratch. As a result, when you focus on eating real foods there’s no need to focus on calories. Finally, my attention has recently been drawn to a few others that should be eliminated. These include, Potassium Bromate, Propyl Paraben, Aluminum Additives, BHT & BHA.
National Nutrition Month
I’ll come back with a report on how we did at the end of the month. Happy National Nutrition Month!
What can you do to up your nutrition game? What are your health goals? Are you a label reader? Do you have any “deal breakers” when you are shopping for food?
Another favorite lunchtime meal is this Waldorf salad. The dressing uses yogurt instead of mayonnaise. Perfect for National Nutrition Month.
Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli is Hit Dinner #10 in my recipe journal. I started keeping a journal in my kitchen three years ago. Whenever I “wing” a meal that everyone likes I write it down in my journal. I wish I had started doing this many years ago because my journal would be filled by now. Before starting the journal I’d throw something together for dinner, all of my guys would like it, but I didn’t write it down. I thought at the time that I would remember what I had created, but unfortunately I never did. Even with my journal I’ve missed recording some great meals because I got busy and thought, “I’ll write it down later.” Needless to say, “later” never comes. I am learning that I have to do it in the moment or else it doesn’t happen.
Why Dinner Menus?
There is a reason why I want to record the entire meal. I experiment with recipes all the time, but then I also have to come up with an idea for the side dish. We get bored with steamed broccoli, or I fall into a salad rut. When I make a dinner where every part comes together, I want to remember what I made so I can do it again. My dream is to write a cookbook based entirely on seasonal dinner menus that are simple, fresh and easy to prepare. Of course they have to taste good as well.
Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli
This Paprika-Lemon Chicken was our dinner Sunday night. I already had the buckwheat soaking in a Mason jar because I had planned to use it in a salad. However, I had forgotten to thaw the salmon and as a result didn’t have a complete dinner plan. When Rob called me from the market to see if there was anything I needed, I thought for a moment, and then asked him to get a couple boneless chicken breasts. While waiting for him, I cooked the grains and pulled a bunch of veggies out of the refrigerator. I do my grocery shopping on Mondays, so by Sunday it’s time to use up whatever is left. We had a red pepper, red onion, cucumber, parsley and garlic to make a tabouli style salad with quinoa and buckwheat. I also found a bunch of kale that needed to be eaten. Bingo! I had my dinner plan.
I should probably call it Quinoa-Buckwheat Tabouli, but that was too long. You could do this with any grain. I wanted to try buckwheat, which is naturally gluten-free, and I like using quinoa. Quinoa is actually not a grain even though we prepare it like a grain. It’s a pseudo-cereal loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals, and it’s high in protein.
Cook the buckwheat and quinoa each for about 15 minutes. It’s best to soak the buckwheat prior to cooking to make it easier to digest and allow you to absorb more of its vital vitamins and minerals. Put the buckwheat in a glass bowl or jar in the morning, add warm water and then cover the container with a clean kitchen towel. It can sit on the counter until you are ready to use it. Rinse the quinoa and soaked buckwheat before cooking. I cooked mine separately, but you could try cooking them together. Use enough water in the pot to cover buckwheat and/or quinoa by about two inches, bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes. The buckwheat should be tender but not mushy, and the quinoa should have little white halos around them. Quinoa comes in different colors. The kind I used was a mix. When done, rinse under cold water and combine in a bowl. I used about a cup of each of the cooked quinoa and buckwheat and the rest I stored to use in a soup later in the week.
Traditional tabouli is more parsley than anything else. I’m not a huge fan of the flavor of parsley but it is a great herb for digestion and detox. Use the amount that suits you. Sweet peppers and cucumbers are among the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables that you should absolutely buy and eat organic. This is because they have some of the highest pesticide loads even after peeling and washing. Just to be clear, I don’t peel red peppers, but I will peel and remove the seeds from cucumbers in salads. They aren’t as bitter that way however, you lose some of their nutritional value.
Chop the vegetables and combine them with the quinoa and buckwheat. Stir in 2 TBS of extra virgin olive oil, a TBS of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar and a TBS of fresh lemon juice. Taste and adjust the oil and acids to your taste. Finish it off with a pinch or two of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper.
This is going to sit while you cook the chicken and kale. The flavors will have time to settle in and get all happy together. Taste again before serving and adjust the seasonings to your taste.
I used two boneless, skinless chicken breasts for the two of us and we had some left over. Put the chicken breasts between some plastic wrap on top of a non-wood cutting board.
Before you start pounding the chicken with a meat mallet smash three cloves of garlic on the cutting board you used for the veggies. You could do it with the flat side of a chopping knife but, since the mallet is out I like to give the garlic a good bang with it. The garlic will be used with the kale so peel off the thin papery skin and set it aside.
Pound the chicken until it is about a 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Peel off the top layer of plastic wrap. Season the tops of the chicken breasts with a pinch of sea salt, a tsp of smoked paprika, a couple turns on the pepper mill and a 2 tsp of fresh lemon juice. Turn them over and do the same on the back side.
Heat the avocado oil over medium heat until it will move easily around in your grill pan. Add the chicken breasts and let them cook for 4 minutes.
Start the Kale
While the chicken cooks wash and de-stem one bunch of leafy green kale. Heat another TBS of avocado oil in a separate pan over medium heat. When you can swirl the oil around to coat the pan add the smashed garlic cloves.
It should be time to turn the chicken.
Doesn’t that look good? It will be a nice golden-red color. Set the timer for another 4 minutes for the chicken and start cooking the kale. After cooking the second side, remove the chicken and let it sit for 5 minutes before slicing into strips.
When the garlic starts to brown swirl it around in the oil and then add the kale. Be careful, if your kale is still wet from washing it the oil will spit at you. I try to add the kale all at once to cover the pan surface. Turn the kale over as it cooks so that it wilts evenly and doesn’t burn on the bottom.
The kale will be nicely wilted. Before serving sprinkle it with a pinch of sea salt and a drizzle of lemon juice. I’m amazed at how little there is once it’s wilted. Rob and I will eat the entire bunch in one meal. I could eat kale like this every day. I love it! Adjust the salt and lemon to your taste buds.
Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli
There’s your Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli dinner. Plate it all up and enjoy!. I happened to have some pomegranate seeds that needed to be used, so I topped the tabouli with those and chopped raw almonds for added crunch. These are optional additions.
Yields 2 servings
Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli
1/2 a chopped Cucumber, peeled and de-seeded if desired
1 cup chopped parsley
2-3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 TBS Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar
1 TBS fresh Lemon Juice; or more to taste
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste; a pinch or two
8 raw almonds, chopped
Pomegranate Seeds; optional
FOR THE CHICKEN
2 skinless, boneless Chicken Breasts; pound to 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick
1 tsp Sea Salt
2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/2 - 1 tsp Ground Pepper
4 tsp lemon juice
1 TBS Avocado Oil
FOR THE KALE
1 bunch of Leafy Green Kale; washed and de-stemmed
3 Garlic Cloves; smashed and peeled
1 TBS Avocado Oil
1-2 tsp fresh Lemon Juice
a pinch or two of Sea Salt
For the Tabouli, put the buckwheat in a pot and cover it with 2 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil, turn heat down to low and simmer for 15 minutes. The buckwheat should be tender but not soggy. Rinse it under cold water in a fine mesh sieve and add to a medium sized salad bowl. Rinse the Quinoa well and then cook in the same way as the buckwheat. Rinse it under cold water and add to the bowl with the buckwheat. Mix in all of the chopped vegetables. Add the oil, vinegar and lemon juice and stir. Taste to see if you want more lemon juice or vinegar or if you need to add more olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and a few grinds from a pepper mill. Stir and set aside so the flavors can blend while you prepare the rest of the meal.
For the Chicken, mix the salt, paprika, and pepper together. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with the mixture. Then drizzle the lemon juice over the chicken using about 1/2 a tsp per side on each breast. Heat the oil in a grill pan over medium-high heat. When you can swirl the oil around to coat the pan add the chicken. Cook the chicken for 4 minutes on each side. Let it sit for 5 minutes before slicing into strips.
For the Kale, heat the avocado oil in a pan over medium-high heat. When the oil swirls easily in the pan add the garlic. Stir the garlic, flipping it over until it is lightly browned. Add all of the kale to the pan. Be careful because the hot oil will spit at you as the water from the kale hits it. I like to use tongs to turn the kale as it cooks so that it wilts evenly and doesn't burn. It should take only about 5 minutes to wilt down. Drizzle with the lemon juice and sprinkle with a pinch or two of sea salt.