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
Next Level Burgerwas a neweating experience that surprised us with its concept and the taste of its burgers.
Last Saturday my husband, two sons and I, made a spontaneous trip to Portland to watch the State Championship lacrosse game. We knew that we would need to grab a quick dinner before the game. Therefore, before we left home I did a Google search for healthy restaurants close to the game venue (West Linn High School). In my last post, 4STEPS ON HOW TO EAT HEALTHY WHILETRAVELING, I explained how doing a little research ahead of time saves us a lot of angst and frustration when it comes time to find a healthy place to eat. Although there were several options, Next Level Burger best fit our time and location constraints. Additionally, it is a burger joint and my guys were all over that!
Next Level Burger
Next Level Burger has the philosophy that food should be sustainably sourced, organic, non-GMO and delicious and that spoke to me. Looking at a photo of their menu board online we saw traditional to unique burger choices. Descriptive words like “savory meaty patty” and “juicy sausage style patty” appealed to my guys. A place concerned with the quality of their ingredients surely could tell me what has or doesn’t have soy in its ingredients. So, we left Bend with our dinnerdestination agreed upon.
With stomachs growling we pulled into the parking lot. The guys were looking forward to the burgers ( I think they were starting to salivate) and I just wanted a soy, gluten, and dairy free meal.
Expectations Shot Down With a Single Word
The cheerful woman behind the counter greeted us with a lively “hello” and asked, “Are you familiar with Next Level Burger?” We must have looked like deer in headlights as we were scanning the menu board above the counter. We shook our heads, “No, this is our first time.” She jumped all over that and quickly said, “We are 100% vegan. Let me tell you about our burgers…” Wait, What? Vegan? This was not what my guys had their taste buds set on.
Describing their burgers with words like “meaty and “juicy” made it harder to comprehend the vegan part. Her enthusiasm was evident in how she deciphered the entire menu for us. Although, I think she lost Rikley and Keaton at “vegan”.
Try Something New
Without time to come up with a plan B, we were willing to try something new even if it wasn’t at all what we had envisioned. Besides, we have cut our meat consumption at home considerably and have been enjoying many vegan meals. Rob and the boys placed their orders for burgers with sweet potato fries.
I consulted with the woman helping us, explaining my dietary restrictions, and chose a quinoa-black chia seed patty on a bed of lettuce. No bun, no tempeh smokey bacon and no egg-free mayo. She asked if I wanted NL-cheese on my burger. I quickly said, “No dairy, thank you.” She immediately reminded me of the whole vegan thing. Was it the three plus hour drive we made to get there or my grumbling stomach that was making it so hard for me to understand that the ENTIRE menu, even the shakes, is vegan?
Long Story Short
Here is the quick synopsis:
We were traveling (again).
A Google search led us to a healthy, organic, burger joint called Next Level Burger.
To our surprise it turned out to be a vegan restaurant.
We ate our vegan burgers in the car before the lacrosse game.
Filling and flavorful the burgers were completely devoured without a single complaint. Not a single crumb was left in the compostable take out boxes.
I was much happier without a greasy burger. In retrospect, my only regret is that I was pressed for time and couldn’t savor it while I ate.
The sweet potato fries were some of the best I’ve ever had.
I am eager and the guys are willing to try again.
Next Level Burger wants to redefine the classic American burger experience. Therefore, if you are looking to increase your intake of plant-based foods then Next Level Burger is the place to go. This particular NLB is inside the 365 by Whole Foods concept store in Lake Oswego, Oregon. In addition, you can also find them on SE Hawthorne Street in Portland, and opening in August at Roosevelt Square in Seattle. Lucky for us, their flagship store opened almost three years ago in Bend. So, we may have another opportunity to try Next Level Burger in the near future.
My meal was very satisfying, and I will definitely go again. Maybe I’ll try one of their beautiful salads or a different kind of patty. Committed to “good food, good people and good for the planet” this place speaks to me. My guys liked their meals and would try it again knowing ahead of time that they won’t be eating a beef burger.
Don’t Judge A Burger By Its Vegetables
There is a moral to this story. Veering out of your food comfort zone can lead you to a new experience with a tasty outcome and a healthy alternative to a familiar food.
*Full disclosure: I didn’t take any pictures of our burgers or experience. All of the photos in this post were curated from Instagram.
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.
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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.