The BEST Spring Lemon-Herb Orzo Salad

The BEST Spring Lemon-Herb Orzo Salad

The BEST spring lemon-herb orzo salad! It’s so easy to make and packed with fresh flavors from tons of herbs, lemon juice, feta cheese and crunchy peppery radish! I love to make this for potlucks, tailgating and make ahead lunches. It’s a vegetarian pasta salad everyone will love!

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Coconut Almond Macaroons, Three Ways

Easter is less than a week away so I’m excited to be partnering with one of my favorite brands, Bob’s Red Mill, for a sweet treat that’s perfect for sharing this Sunday!

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Easter. It all started off great because, you know, being a kid...candy…what could go wrong? Oh, only MY MOST TRAUMATIC CHILDHOOD MEMORY. Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, and considering I did wear big purple glasses through elementary school, you know I had many traumatic memories.

The Great Easter Outfit Fail of 1991 began when my grandpa and his lady friend came to visit for the holiday and decided to gift me a new Easter outfit. By early 90s nostalgia standards, it was glorious. Matching floral print pants and shirt, but instead of normal pants, it was a pair of long stretchy shorts with a thick floral ruffle at the end, and instead of a normal shirt, it was a crop top, off the shoulder three-quarter sleeve top with, obviously, more floral ruffle on the sleeves. Being a gift, I was forced to wear it. Although in my parent’s defense, I had zero sense of style and there’s a strong possibility I thought I looked fabulous.

It was until I arrived at our neighborhood clubhouse for their annual Easter egg hunt and saw my friends, in their cute and very normal Easter dresses I realized I looked like a huge dork. The other clue was when they burst into laughter at the sight of me. My memories after that are pretty fuzzy, probably buried in my subconscious, but I’m pretty sure there were tears involved. And I know there’s at least one picture of me holding my Easter basket with a huge pout, which is probably floating somewhere around the internet in meme form.

Now that I know how to dress myself as an adult (#winning!), I haven’t had any outfit related disasters. But being born on April 4th and getting married on March 31st, Easter always has a way of interfering with birthday or anniversary celebrations. And when it comes to birthday/anniversary vs. Easter, Jesus wins.

Hopefully I don’t sound like too much of a Debbie Downer on Easter, because we really do have wonderful celebrations every year at my mother-in-law’s house. We still get Easter baskets because we are 30 going on 9. Except mine is always full of dark chocolate and cooking gadgets, as it should be. That Easter bunny knows me well! Then we all sit down to a delicious Southern meal, followed by a dessert we are way too stuffed to eat more than a few bites of!

I made these Easter macaroons for that exact reason. After a day of candy and Easter ham and biscuits, no one is in the mood for a heavy dessert, but Easter without a cute spring inspired dessert would be a crime! These pastel macaroons will look so pretty as part of your Easter spread, and they have just a hint of sweet that’s perfect after a heavy meal. The whole batch has only ¼ cup sugar, relying on the natural sweetness of coconut.

So here’s a macaroon question for you all. Why are there two very different types of cookies, both called macaroons? There’s the pure shredded coconut cookies then those very pretty and dainty filled macaroon cookies (which always disappoint me because they look much better than they taste). These obviously are a take on the former.

I made these with a mixture of shredded coconut and Bob’s Red Mill almond flour to make them a bit lighter and more cookie-like. Bob’s Red Mill almond flour is my favorite brand of my favorite gluten free flour to bake with. It’s made with blanched, whole almonds so there’s no dark bits of skin then extra finely milled so it’s super soft. You can use it for lighter baked goods like cakes, pancakes and biscuits and it won’t have that grainy consistency you get with other almond flours/meals. Plus, being made with almonds, it's a rich source of vitamin E, manganese and monounsaturated fats. Grab a coupon for Bob's Red Mill here so you can try it yourself!

Feel free to experiment with different types of zest and freeze dried fruit to create a rainbow of colors. I think it would be cute to make a batch of all pastel macaroons with freeze dried blueberries, strawberries and mango! Just be careful not to let them overbrown or they’ll lose that pretty color – keep a close eye on them in the oven and you may want to check on them a few minutes before the end of baking.

Coconut Almond Macaroons, Three Ways

Makes about 40

Ingredients

Lemon Macaroons:

  • Zest of 2 lemons

Chocolate:

  • 1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk

Strawberry:

  • 2 cups freeze-dried strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with a little coconut oil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix coconut, almond flour and sugar. Add eggs and stir to combine. Divide dough evenly between four bowls.
  3. To make the lemon macaroons, stir in the lemon zest.
  4. To make the chocolate macaroons, stir in the dark chocolate, cocoa powder and almond milk. Add a little more almond milk if needed to combine.
  5. To make strawberry macaroons, place freeze fried fruit in a plastic bag. Crush with something heavy (I used a meat mallet) until it's a flour consistency. Add to dough with almond milk, adding more almond milk if needed.
  6. Scoop tablespoon sized dollops of dough evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake 20 minutes, checking a few minutes before it's supposed to be done to make sure it's not browning too much. Let cool on the baking sheet a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling. Store covered at room temperature a few days, then transfer to the refrigerator.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Good Mood Food: Homemade Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons add a bright, citrus flavor to Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes. Save money by making them at home! 

Yellow is the happiest color. There’s a reason the smiley face, the best cartoon characters, and the sun are all yellow. Okay, maybe that last one has more to do with wavelength frequency, but you get my point. Science has even confirmed it.

Plus, it's my favorite color :)

For appearance alone, I'd call lemons a good mood food. If I was on top of my interior decorating game, I'd always have a big bowl of lemons in an olive wood bowl on the counter. Lemons brighten your food and your mood!

In the case of lemons, the outside gives us a clue to what's on the inside, because lemons are packed with mood boosting nutrients. Vitamin C is most associated with lemons and other citrus fruit. Important for immune function and healthy skin, researchers are starting to untangle important functions vitamin C has in the brain. One study found people felt less stressed when subjected to a stressor after receiving vitamin C supplements. Also, animal studies found vitamin C lowers levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

Lemons are also a rich source of a group of flavonoids that can cross the blood-brain barrier, where they reduce inflammation, repair damage and promote the formation of new connections between neurons. One of those flavonoids, hesperetin, binds to opioid receptors in the brain, the same receptors affected by drugs like heroin, which is responsible for the feelings of euphoria.

Of course, lemon juice is a great way to add a hit of acid and fresh flavor to dishes, but I love to use the zest too - that's where most of the phytonutrients hang out! With preserved lemons, you get the benefits of the whole fruit. Brining lemons in salt removes the bitter flavor so they taste less tart and more citrusy.

You can buy preserved lemons at most well stocked grocery stores or order online, but it's so much more fun and cheaper to make your own! Plus, these jars look so pretty on your counter and just as happy inducing as that olive wood bowl full of lemons!

Preserved lemons are most commonly used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food, but once you've tasted them, you'll want to throw them in everything! Here's some of my favorite uses:

Would love to hear how you end up using them in the comments below!

Preserved Lemons

Adapted from Jamie Oliver's Food Escapes

Ingredients

  • 10 small, unwaxed lemons
  • 3/4 cup sea salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 sprig rosemary

Instructions

  1. Sterilize 1 large quart mason jar (I used two smaller mason jars) by placing them in a 225 degree oven for 20 minutes. Carefully remove from the oven using tongs and set aside until ready to use.
  2. Squeeze the juice from 5 of the lemons, discard the peels and set the juice aside. In the other 5 lemons, cut a deep cross in the top of each lemon about 3/4's of the way down, so they still stay joint at the base. Pack a teaspoon of salt in the middle of each lemon and place in the mason jar, layering with the salt, bay leaves, peppercorns, cinnamon and rosemary. Pour the lemon juice over the top of the lemons. Fill the jar the rest of the way with water. Place the lid on and seal.
  3. Give the jar a shake and place in a cool, dark place, shaking every few days to distribute the salt.
  4. After a month, the lemons will be ready. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Easy Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

Easy Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

Cure a cold with this easy lemon chicken orzo soup, packed with arugula, basil, carrots and whole grain orzo. The bold yet gentle flavors in this recipe are the perfect combination to soothe a scratchy throat. The recipe takes less than 30 minutes to whip up a richly flavored soup on a weeknight!

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