Halloumi Salad with Grilled Tomato Scallion Salsa

Heat up the grill to make this halloumi salad with grilled tomato-scallion salsa and lemony pesto dressing!

Hope you guys had a lovely weekend and that if you're in my neck of the woods, that you found some respite from the 100 degree weather! I spent Friday night in Greenville celebrating one of my dear friend's 31st birthday. She had her second baby a couple months ago, so we enjoyed a laid back night at her house with low country boil, wine, and of course, birthday cake.

The next day a few of us hit up the downtown farmers market and snagged brunch at Nose Dive (avocado toast for me, obviously) before heading back to Columbia and spending the rest of the afternoon vegging out on the couch with The Mindy Project.

Being around my friends kids really made me think a lot about how children eat. Her oldest, Grayson, is three and he's a total trip. Like all three-year-olds, and well, humans in general, he likes sugary foods. We caught him sneaking his fingers into the birthday cake to get little bites of frosting, which totally cracked me up. And at the farmers market, there was a minor "I want a popsicle and I want it NOW" related tantrum.

But also, there was no guilt involved in his choices. He didn't feel guilty for eating frosting off the cake and end up eating half of it before promising to "start his diet next week." Actually, after having his few bites of frosting, I don't think he ended up even eating cake with us afterwards, satiated by dinner and his finger-fulls of frosting. And at brunch, he wasn't overstuffing himself on food simply because it was a splurge meal. He stopped when he was full, leaving half his meal on the plate rather than pushing past the point to stuffed.

We all start off as intuitive eaters. As children, we eat what we enjoy while paying mind to hunger and fullness signals. There's even evidence that children will choose food that supports their health when left alone. And most importantly, children eat with joy. The smile on Grayson's face as he sucked the frosting off his fingers was priceless.

But through the years, the intuitive eater is chipped away by dieting messages, well meaning parents and a food industry that pushes us to eat more and more. One of our goals in Joyful Eating, Nourished Life is to reconnect you with that childlike joy in eating. To be able to eat the foods you love and not feel bad about it. To be able to make decisions on what to eat based on what you enjoy and how it makes you feel. To stop eating when satiated, not stuffed to the point of sickness. To be able to stick your fingers in frosting and only feel guilty for messing up the decoration :)

Our first group starting June 20th is technically full, but we decided to open up 20 extra spots because we love you and so you can take advantage of our special price for the first group! Head to the website for more details and be sure to sign up soon since it'll be closed for new signups after Wednesday.

Now, on to todays recipe. In the summer, which lasts from April-October here in Columbia, I'm determined to make as much use of my grill as possible. So even salads get the grill treatment!

Have you ever tried halloumi cheese? It's also called squeaky cheese. When you bite into it, you'll know why - it makes a squeaky noise on your teeth! Halloumi is a Greek brined cheese with a high melting point, so it's great to use for grilling and frying, like in one of my favorite Greek dishes, saganaki.

The scallions and tomatoes get the grill treatment too, where they take on a smokier, more intense flavor. And no salad is complete without carbs. If you've been making yours sans carbs, that's probably a big reason why you're hangry by 3 pm. Trust me on this one. For this salad, I used sorghum, but feel free to use anything you have on hand - brown rice, barley, farro or couscous would all be tasty! To give it a flavor boost, I tossed the sorghum with a little homemade pesto I had stored in the freezer. I was a random blend I made to use my dill, parsley, mint and basil before going out of town a few weeks ago. Feel free to substitute storebought or make your own.

Halloumi Salad with Grilled Tomato Scallion Salsa

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 roma tomatoes
  • 4 large scallions
  • 10 ounces halloumi cheese
  • 2 cups cooked whole grain (sorghum, couscous, farro or brown rice work great)
  • 1/2 cup pesto, following recipe or store bought
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 8 cups arugula

Pesto:

  • 4 cups any herb (basil, parsley, cilantro, dill, chives, mint, etc)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. If making pesto, blend herbs, garlic and olive oil in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat grill on medium-high heat. When hot, place tomatoes and scallions on the grill. Grill the scallions about 1 minute per side until grill marks form. Grill tomatoes about 1-2 minutes on all four sides until lightly charred. Remove scallions and tomatoes from grill and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, chop tomatoes into large chunks and slice scallions. Toss together and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cut the halloumi in half lengthwise. Place on the grill and cook 1-2 minutes per side until grill marks form. Remove from heat, set aside to cool, then cut into 1 inch cubes.
  4. Mix pesto with juice of 1 lemon. Toss 1/4 cup of the mixture with the cooked whole grain.
  5. Divide arugula between 4 plates. Top with scoop of whole grains, halloumi, tomato-scallion salsa and dollops of pesto for dressing.

More vegetarian recipes for the grill: 

Grilled Peach and Vidalia Onion Salsa
Grilled Peach and Vidalia Onion Salsa
Grilled Vegetable Platter with Red Wine Tomato Jam and Caramelized Onion Buttermilk Dip
Grilled Vegetable Platter with Red Wine Tomato Jam and Caramelized Onion Buttermilk Dip
Grilled Corn, Four Ways
Grilled Corn, Four Ways

Zoodles with Creamy Vegan Pesto and Roasted Tomatoes

Zoodles with creamy vegan pesto and roasted tomatoes make the perfect light lunch or side dish! Add white beans or diced chicken for protein, or mix with regular noodles for carbs to make it a filling main!

Zoodles with a creamy vegan pesto sauce made from cashews and roasted tomatoes

It's official guys. I am the last person on the planet to get a spiralizer. I held out for a long time, since our kitchen storage has now expanded to include the living room. The last thing I needed was another piece of equipment collecting dust next to my fondue pot. I even politely declined when my little brother said he was going to get me a spiralizer for my birthday last April (the rest of the spiralizer owning world is screaming "Whaaaat?! Are you insane??" right about now).

Creamy Vegan Pesto with Cashews

After slicing my finger open on my mandolin for the 347th time, I finally gave in. It was right before Christmas so I put in on my list and was gifted it for real from my very sweet little brother. Life has not been the same ever since.

Okay, it's been exactly the same, but with more zoodles.

Vegan Sprialized Zucchini Noodles with Pesto and Roasted Tomatoes

In case I am incorrect and am not the last person on the planet to get a spiralizer, and you in fact are, let me sell you on it. The spiralizer easily cuts your fruits and vegetables into long, curly, ribbons of "noodles." I don't know why, but they actually taste different, and better, when you cut them this way. The possibilities are endless. You can spiralize a cucumber and toss with an Asian style dressing and tofu cubes. You can spiralize sweet potatoes and use them as a base for a creamy pasta sauce. You can spiralize red onions, peppers and cabbage to make an extra pretty slaw. Seriously, just go ahead and google spiralizer recipes and loose the next 2 hours of your life on pinterest.

Creamy Gluten Free Pesto Zoodles with Roasted Tomatoes

This dish is a pretty classic zoodle recipe. I decided to go for an extra creamy pesto sauce by adding soaked cashews. I love that it adds a little protein to the dish too! If you're not eating it right away, be sure to pack your noodles and sauce separately, otherwise the salt from the dish will turn your beautiful zoodles into a watery mess.

Although the cashews do add some protein, these zoodles with vegan pesto are pretty low in protein and carbs! If, like me, you're not a fan of feeling super hangry an hour after eating, try adding some white beans or diced chicken for extra protein and mixing the zoodles with some normal noodles for some carbs to keep this a balanced meal!

Zoodles with Creamy Vegan Pesto and Roasted Tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium zucchini, spiralized or julienned
  • 4 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Hemp seeds, optional for garnish

Creamy Vegan Pesto:

  • 1 shallot, peeled
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked in water overnight or in hot water for an hour
  • 2 cups basil, packed
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive
  • 1/2 cup water

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Toss tomatoes with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and spread evenly on a large baking sheet. Roast 40 minutes until slightly shriveled and some of the juices are released. Remove and set aside.
  2. While tomatoes are roasting, make the pesto. Place the shallot and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely minced. Add cashews, basil, nutritional yeast and olive oil. Blend until very finely chopped, scraping down sides as needed. Add water, season with salt and pepper and blend until creamy.
  3. Toss raw zucchini noodles with tomatoes and pesto and serve garnished with hemp seeds if desired.

More sauces that would be fabulous with zoodles: 

Tempeh Sausage Marinara with Artichokes
Tempeh Sausage Marinara with Artichokes
Spicy Jalapeno and Serrano Pesto Pasta

Spicy Jalapeno and Serrano Pesto Pasta

Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Sauce with Mushrooms and Leeks
Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Sauce with Mushrooms and Leeks
Zoodles with Creamy Pesto

Vegan Roasted Fall Vegetable Pesto Pasta

Roasted fall vegetable pesto pasta is an easy and comforting weeknight dinner. Use any seasonal vegetable you like, but this combination of carrots, delicata squash and brussels sprouts is especially tasty! 

Happy Monday! About the time this gets posted, my flight is set to land in the US after an incredible trip to Vietnam. I hope you've been keeping up with our adventures on instagram. If so, you know we've been doing our fair share of eating, especially street food. Planning to do a couple recaps of our trip so I can self-indulgently share pictures and all the delicious food we ate, but until then, I'm trying to focus on spitting out this post before we hop on our plane. Unfortunately, my brain feels somewhat like the rice noodles we've been living off the last week and a half!

Trying so hard to muster up some enthusiasm for this post, because truly, this is one of my favorite go to dishes for fall. Almost every other week when I don't feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen, I roast up a big batch of seasonal vegetables and toss it with cooked whole grain pasta and pesto sauce. It's so tasty and I never get bored of it! But right now, after 2 weeks of indulgence (and so, so many rice noodles), all my body wants is a big green smoothie and a massaged kale salad. Basically anything fresh!

So, let's skip the gushing and go straight to the recipe. Use any type of seasonal vegetable you like - mushrooms, cauliflower, turnips and broccoli all work well, but I love the sweet and bitter combination of winter squash and carrots with slightly bitter Brussels sprouts. Plus, there's that whole carb on carb thing. Any type of winter squash will work, but if you see delicata squash, snatch it up! It's thin skin is edible, saving you time and fingers.

I whipped up this quick vegan pesto since we had a ton of basil in our garden (the only thing still living), but feel free to use any store bought pesto. To add more protein, toss in a can of white beans.


Roasted Fall Vegetable Pesto Pasta

Serves: About 4ish but depends on how hungry you are

Ingredients

  • 1 delicata squash, halved, seeds scooped out and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3 carrots, in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 12 ounce brussels sprouts, halved
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounce 100% whole grain penne or fusilli
  • [b]Vegan Pesto:[/b]
  • 2 cups basil, packed
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons nutrition yeast
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss squash and carrots with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and spread evenly on a large baking dish. Place in the oven and roast for 35 minutes until browned and tender.
  3. Toss brussels sprouts with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly on a large baking sheet, place in the oven and roast 25 minutes.
  4. While vegetables are roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions.
  5. While pasta and vegetables are cooking, place basil, lemon juice, walnuts, nutritional yeast, and garlic in a food processor. Blend until finely chopped, then stream in olive oil and continue to blend until pureed. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add roasted vegetables and pesto. Toss to combine and serve.

More easy pasta dishes: 

Spaghetti with Tempeh Sausage Marinara and Artichokes
Spaghetti with Tempeh Sausage Marinara and Artichokes
Pasta with Tempeh Sausage,Broccolini and Creminis
Pasta with Tempeh Sausage,Broccolini and Creminis
Gazpacho Pasta Salad
Gazpacho Pasta Salad

Roasted Tomato and Cannellini Bean Salad

With the addition of roasted tomatoes, pesto and olives, this simple white bean salad tastes anything but basic. Perfect for batch cooking as a grab and go lunch or snack!

My heart always breaks a little when I meet a picky eater. If only they knew all the amazing eating experiences they're missing out on! When I meet a picky eater, I can't help but inquire into where their picky eating stems from. Being a dietitian, I want to understand so I can better help my clients. Also, I'm nosy.

Usually it stems from parents. I hate to add to the parent guilt, but it's true. Either parents forced them to eat something against their will, never exposed them to it, or prepared it regularly and horribly. Or, in a case of familial food phobia, they themselves were fearful of the food and their children picked up on that fear.

Luckily for me, my parents were pretty adventurous eaters and passed only one food phobia down to me. Tomatoes. For the longest time, I refused to touch tomatoes because growning up, my mom refused to touch raw tomatoes. To this day, she will panic as if there was a bloody fingernail or used needle on her salad if a poor chef unknowingly missed the "NO TOMATOES" message from her server. I thought we had made some progress last week when she sent me a picture of beautiful hued tomatoes from Union Sqare Farmer's Market, but when I asked if she was tempted to try them, she replied matter of factly, "no." Well, okay then.

As a child, I'd eat tomato sauce and even sun dried tomatoes, but if it still looked anythihng like it's raw tomato source, NOPE. That included roasted or sauteed tomatoes, because you could still see the seeds, or as I called it, the snot.

If you read my blog now, you now I proudly eat raw tomatoes and actively seek the best farmer's market tomatoes each summer. My gateway tomato? Roasted cherry tomatoes, introduced to me by a Mediterreanean bean salad, similar to the one I'm sharing today. These tomatoes were sweet, juicy, caramelized and bursting with flavor, not bland, mealy and...snotty. I liked them. A lot.

Now that I am a dietitian and know all the nutritional fabulousness of tomatoes, I'm incredibly happy that I was able to work past my food fear and make tomatoes a regular on my plate.

Head on over to the Healthy Aperture blog to learn what those tomato-haters are missing out on and get the recipe for my roasted tomato and cannelini bean salad!

Tomatoes Stuffed with Pesto Brown Rice

Y'all. I am exhausted.

I hate to complain, but also, I'm so tired right now, I honestly can't think of anything else to talk about. Not even these incredible stuffed tomatoes that essentially taste like summer in a casserole dish. Well, except for that last sentence. After that, I'm out.

I haven't been staying up late, feeling stressed or working more hours than usual. I just for the life of me can't get a good, restful night of sleep!

Do any of you have a jawbone? I use it to track my workouts and steps, but mostly, I'm fascinated to see how long and how deep I sleep. Every morning, as soon as my alarm goes off, I plug it in so I can see how long and how deep I slept. I call it my sleep porn, because whenever I have an especially good night, I'd let out an deep "ohhhh yeaaaah." These things are exciting when you're 30+.

My husband thinks I'm ridiculous, judging my tiredness off my jawbone and not how I feel. His theory is that I'm getting enough sleep, but moving more at night, causing my jawbone to interpret it as light sleep. He thinks my tiredness is all psychosomatic. Is this kind of the sleep equivalent of when you focus on the scale versus how you feel?

That said, it's probably a good idea that I turn off the computer, do some light yoga, and snuggle up in bed.

Oh, and these stuffed tomatoes are awesome! Do it! Feel free to swap any whole grain you like - quinoa, millet, couscous or farro would all be great! I threw a few pattypan squash in there as well since we had some from our CSA. You could do this with zucchini too, although it might take a little bit longer to bake. Just check it with doneness after 45 minutes by poking it with a fork.

Brown Rice and Pesto Stuffed Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 cup brown rice

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 12 tomatoes

  • 1/4 cup pesto

  • 1/4 cup basil, slivered

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

  • 2 cups jarred tomato sauce

  • 3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Instructions

  1. In a medium pot with a tight fitting lid, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stir, then pour in 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook 40-50 minutes until tender.

  2. While rice is cooking, cut the tops off the tomatoes. Scoop out the insides. Cut a sliver of tomato off the bottom so they stand up straight in the casserole dish.

  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  4. When the water has absorbed and the rice is tender, let sit covered in the pot, off heat, 5 minutes. Remove the lid and let cool slightly, about 5-10 minutes. Stir in the pesto, basil and chickpeas. Season with salt and black pepper if needed.

  5. Spread 2 cups tomato sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish. Place tomatoes evenly over the sauce. Divide the rice mixture between the tomatoes, stuffing down into each one. Crumble the goat cheese over each tomato. Bake 35-45 minutes until tomatoes are tender.


You might also like: 

Quinoa Crusted Eggplant and Zucchini
Quinoa Crusted Eggplant and Zucchini
Vegan Eggplant Involtini
Vegan Eggplant Involtini
Chermoula Roasted Eggplant with Bulgur Salad
Chermoula Roasted Eggplant with Bulgur Salad

Millet and Quinoa Crust Pizza with Pesto, Spinach and Grilled Squash

This gluten free millet and quinoa crust pizza is made with soaked whole grains and topped with pesto, spinach, grilled squash and scallions. 

For me, cooking is more than a chore or the means to produce something yummy to eat - it's a creative expression. Food is art, and not just for experienced restaurant chefs. Combining and layering different flavors, creating new dishes, and reinventing old are all expressions of creativity for the home cook as well. And for me, as someone who has pretty much zero artistic skill, it's my main creative outlet.

It's well established that art affects the brain in positive ways. It improves memory, resilience and mood. Children who engage in arts have been shown to do better in school and have better social skills.

Although the research has been done for more typical forms of art, like music, art and dance, I think cooking would demonstrate similar results. Really, it's such a similar mental process. And it's much more approachable than picking up a paintbrush or signing up for a glassblowing class :) 

I once read the average family has only seven recipes they recycle each week. This makes me sad. I know many people don't get the same kick out of trying new things as I do, but I won't accept eating the same seven dishes over and over again. .

When I try to get clients to step out of the box, we usually start by remaking a favorite dish. They're excited to create something they love in a healthier, but equally satisfying way. 

This pizza is a perfect example. With a crust made from soaked quinoa and millet blended with water, it couldn't be further from a traditional yeast and wheat dough. The crust is thin and crispy around the edges with a tender middle. The grains start to ferment an even sprout a bit, which adds a complex, fermented taste to the dough - kinda like traditional wheat dough!

Millet and Quinoa Crust Pizza with Pesto, Spinach and Grilled Squash

Makes 2 small-medium pizzas, serves 2-4

Adapted from The First Mess

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 3/4 cup quinoa, soaked 24 hours in water
  • 3/4 cup millet, soaked 24 hours in water
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed basil

Topping:

  • Heaping 1/4 cup pesto , homemade or store bought
  • 1 summer squash or zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/2-in slices
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch small leeks or green onions
  • 1 bunch spinach, chopped
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • Fresh basil to garnish

Instructions

  1. First, prepare the toppings. Heat a grill to medium-high. Spray the squash and leeks/green onions with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill about 3-5 minutes per side until lightly charred and tender.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add spinach and red pepper flakes and cook until wilted. Season lightly with salt and set aside in a bowl.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  4. Rinse grains in a fine-mesh sieve then scrape into food processor. Add water, 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt. Blend until you get a thick, pancake batter-like consistency. Add basil and another 2-4 tablespoons water if needed to thin (I added another 3 tablespoons water).
  5. Put two (oiled if not nonstick) cake pans in the oven for 4 minutes to heat. Remove from oven and divide remaining tablespoon of olive oil between the two pans. Place back in the oven to heat the oil 1 minute, without letting it hit it's smoke point. Remove from oven and divide the batter between the two pans, quickly spreading it even with a spatula. Return to the oven and bake 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, carefully flip the crust, and return to oven to bake another 6-8 minutes. Remove crusts from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
  6. When cool enough to handle, spread pesto evenly on the crust. Top with spinach, squash, feta cheese. Place back in the oven to reheat the ingredients if needed, just for a minute or two.

Grilled Zucchini and Gruyere Panini with Smoky Pesto

This grilled zucchini and gruyere panini with smoky pesto makes an ultra satisfying vegetarian sandwich! 

When I was in high school, my friends and I used to sneak out at lunch and go to Bagel Bakery, a bagel and sandwich shop just down the road. My friends would usually order a plain bagel, since at the time, they were following 'the bagel diet.' Yes really. Even in the height of the low carb craze. In hindsight, that was probably the worst diet ever. Me, I always ordered a panini. At the time, it made me feel fancy and sophisticated next to my friends with their boring, plain bagel.

I still have a soft spot for paninis. It's probably the melty cheese. Actually, it's definitely the melty cheese. But I can't forget the crunchy, toasty, buttery bread, which I love almost as much. I love this cheesy vegetarian panini, filled with grilled zucchini, melty gruyere and smoky pesto spiked with hot smoked paprika.

Grilled Zucchini and Gruyere Panini with Smoky Pesto

Makes 4

Adapted from Food & WIne Magazine

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick lengthwise slices
  • 1/3 cup pesto
  • 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • 4 slices gruyere cheese
  • 8 slices sprouted whole grain bread

Instructions

  1. Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Spray zucchini with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until charred on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.
  2. Mix pesto and smoked paprika.
  3. Divide pesto between four bread slices. Top with grilled zucchini and gruyere then other slice of bread.
  4. Place paninis back on the grill or in a cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. Press down with a spatula to flatten. Grill about 2 minutes per side until crispy and cheese is melted.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Couscous Kale Salad

 A whole roasted head of cauliflower makes a gorgeous presentation, especially when served over a whole grain couscous and kale salad with sun dried tomato pesto. 

You heard it here first - cauliflower is the new kale.  Yup, that mushy white vegetable you pushed off your plate as a child is poised to make a comeback.  Just like kale can move seamlessly from chip, to smoothie, to sturdy salad green, cauliflower can go from a low calorie stand in for mashed potatoes, to spicy pureed soup, to a creamy yet crispy fritter.  You can even make them taste as good as French fries.  

Not only does cauliflower rival kale on versatility, but it rocks in the nutrition department too. It's hard to compete with kale’s perfect score on the ANDI scale, but cauliflower is no iceberg lettuce.  If you've been avoiding cauliflower, following the flawed "if it's white, don't bite" rule (which is a kinda dumb rule imo), you'll be pleased to know cauliflower is a nutrition powerhouse, right up there with it's cousins broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and (hey!) kale!

Vitamin C

Citrus fruits may be known for vitamin C, but one cup of cauliflower actually contains 85% daily value for the powerful antioxidant nutrient.As most of you already know, vitamin C also plays a role in immune function.Vitamin C is also associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, joint disease and cataracts.

Antioxidants

Cauliflower contains a wide range of antioxidant nutrients other than vitamin C. Other nutrients with an antioxidant effect include beta-carotene, caffenic acid, cinnamic acid, quercetin and kaempferol.

Cancer Protection

Cruciferious vegetables, like cauliflower, seem to play a special role in cancer prevention, especially for cancers of the stomach and lung. These vegetables are rich sources of glucosinolates, a sulfur containing compound that is transformed into indoles and isothiocyanates. These compounds reduce the risk of cancer by helping our body detox dietary and environmental carcinogens after turning them into a less toxic and more easily excreted compound.

Vitamin K

Cauliflower is a good source of vitamin K, a group of vitamins usually associated with green leafy vegetables.  Vitamin K is an important nutrient for blood coagulation.  It helps our body get the balance between too sticky (heart attack) and too thin (bleed out from a paper cut).  Adequate vitamin K intake is also associated with a lower risk of fractures, as it helps stop the activity of osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone, and promote the activity of osteocalcin, which is associated with bone density. Studies have also indicated a link between serum levels of vitamin K and a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.

Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

The glucosinolates in cauliflower also seem to play a role in modulating our inflammatory response, which decreases the risk of many chronic diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. One specific type of glucosinolate, called glucoraphanin, seems to specifically trigger anti-inflammatory activity in the cardiovascular system, which can help prevent and possibly reverse blood vessel damage.

Over the past couple years, I've racked up quite a few recipes for whole roasted cauliflower.  Now that I've made it, I'm not sure what took me so long to finally make it. It makes for such a stunning presentation! And if you're still not convinced cauliflower is the new kale, it's served over a kale and couscous salad.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Couscous Kale Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

Cauliflower:

  • 1 head cauliflower, trimmed of leaves and core removed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pesto:

  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in hot water if needed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Salad:

  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous
  • 10 ounces kale, stems removed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, mincedSalt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Drizzle the head of cauliflower with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking dish and roast for about an hour to an hour fifteen until well browned on the outside and tender on the inside.
  3. Meanwhile, blend all pesto ingredients together in a food processor and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Heat 1 cup of water (or broth) in a small pot. Add couscous, cover and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes then fluff with a fork.
  5. Place kale in a large serving bowl. Top with warm couscous to wilt slightly. If you like it more wilty, just pop it in the microwave for a minute or two. Add olives and walnuts, toss to combine. Whisk together oil, lemon juice and garlic, season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour over salad and toss to combine.
  6. Make a layer of salad on a large serving dish. Top with cauliflower and drizzle pesto over the top of the cauliflower. Slice into chunks and serve with salad and extra pesto.

Spaghetti with Jalapeno and Serrano Pesto

Jalapeno and serrano pesto is a spicy take on traditional pesto! Perfect for tossing with spaghetti, or save the leftovers as a sandwich spread or to drizzle over eggs. 

Spicy jalapeno and serrano pesto pasta has a kick!

We're back from Yellowstone! I'm not sure why that statement necessitated an exclamation mark, because it was one of the hardest vacations to return to the real world from. Even though we spent 12 hours (!!) exploring the park each day, I wish we had another week to see more of the backcountry.  It was one of the most incredible places I've ever visited.

So, today's recipe, which is not at all Yellowstone related.

When scanning a menu, there are a few ingredients where if I see them listed in a dish, there's no way I can resist. One is avocado (duh), another is sun-dried tomato (mmm), and of course cheese has to make the list (specifically brie, Roquefort, or feta - gah, I love cheese!). And last but not least, pesto. 

Pesto is a perfect blend of the most flavorful ingredients - fresh herbs, toasted nuts, parmesan cheese, extra-virgin olive oil and garlic. There's no way it won't turn out delicious!

I've made my own pesto since college, and in the last 5 (or is it 6?) years, I think I've tried every possible combination. Many times I'll simply throw together leftover herbs with a handful of whatever nuts I have on hand, oil, and garlic. 

Spicy jalapeno and serrano pesto! Perfect with pasta or dolloped over tacos!

I thought I had tried all the pesto the world had to offer. Then I saw this recipe from Mario Batalli. Toss with whole grain pasta and top with crispy breadcrumbs for this dish, then use leftovers to dress tacos, dollop over eggs, or in a sandwich to add kick. This recipe calls for a ridiculous amount of chilies. Don’t be afraid. The seeds contain most of the heat, so it’s not as spicy as you might expect.


Fettuccine with Jalapeno and Serrano Pesto

Adapted from Mario Batali Simple Family Meals.

Ingredients

  • 6 fresh jalapeno peppers, cored and seeded
  • 5 fresh serrano chiles, cored and seeded
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup blanched, sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus 1 tablespoon
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb 100% whole grain fettuccine
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs, toasted

Instructions

  1. Place the jalapenos, serranos, red onion, almonds and 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil in the food processor. Process to a smooth puree then season with salt to taste.
  2. Cook the pasta in salted water according to package instructions until al dente and drain, reserving 1/2 cup starchy cooking water.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 3 minutes. Add pesto and stir to combine with the garlic. Reduce heat to medium and simmer.
  4. Return drained pasta to the pot. Add 1 1/2 cups pesto and starchy cooking water and toss to combine. Pour into a serving dish and garnish with panko.

Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Roulades

Bored of the usual bland chicken breast for dinner? Try my elegant and easy pesto and sun-dried tomato chicken roulades, made with only four ingredients! 

What's a more ubiquitous healthy weeknight dinner than chicken? It's simple to prepare, lean, and family friendly. Too bad it's usually bland and totally boring.

When I ask new patients about prior attempts at changing their eating habits, they often reply that they tried to eat healthy, but found it boring. When I dig deeper, it's because they went on what I unaffectionately call the "Baked Chicken Diet." Basically they can't think of anything healthy to make, so they default to baked chicken and vegetables, night after night.

Hopefully through reading this blog you've already seen that eating healthy is more than baked chicken and steamed vegetables. But that doesn't mean you have to ditch the chicken. It's super versatile as a protein, taking on many different flavors and cooking methods. There's a reason you get 190,000,000 results when you google "chicken recipes."

Break out of the baked chicken rut and try my tips for making a chicken recipe you'll actually get excited about:

  • Keep the skin on.  We all know it's the best part, but did you know it only contributes a measly gram of saturated fat to each serving? If you've been passing over the much more juicy and flavorful dark meat in favor of lean and virtuous white meat, you'll be pleased to know this chicken thigh only contains an additional 1.5 grams saturated fat compared to an equal sized serving of chicken breast.
  • Try big, spicy flavors with your chicken, like harissa marinated chicken or jerk chicken.
  • I prefer chicken thighs, but if I'm going to use chicken breast, I often stew it, which keeps it from drying out. For a weeknight braise, make sure the sauce has plenty of flavorful ingredients, since it won't be cooking quite as long.
  • On Sunday, roast a whole chicken and use the leftovers for dishes like tacos, chicken salad or to stuff baked potatoes.  And don't forget to save the bones to make chicken soup!
  • Ground chicken breast can be terribly dry, but there is a simple (and healthy!) remedy. Mix in diced or shredded vegetables, such as onion, zucchini and carrot, which release moisture as they cook.
  • If preparing a simple chicken dish, spend a few minutes whipping up a standout sauce. Chimichurri, Asian dipping sauce, and tzatziki all come together in minutes.
  • Invest in a few interesting, high quality spice mixes or try making your own blends.

The chicken recipe I'm sharing today looks incredibly fancy, but it takes no time at all, and only four ingredients. It's actually one of the first chicken recipes I remember preparing in college, so you know it's simple! I've switched up this recipe in so many ways, swapping out the filling for whatever combination of ingredients I have on hand. I've done a version stuffed with dried figs and blue cheese and another with proscuitto and goat cheese - yum! This recipe hasn't failed me yet!

Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Roulades

Serves 4

In keeping with the theme of simplicity, I served this with spinach sauteed with garlic and onions and 100% whole grain orzo tossed with fresh herbs and parmesan.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken thighs, boneless and skinless.
  • Pesto
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & freshly cracked black pepper
  • Your choice of seasoning (I used lemon pepper)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. If the chicken thighs are thick, place them in a large ziptop back and pound lightly with a meat mallet to about 1/4 inch thickness. Lay flat on a cutting board, Add a thin layer of pesto over the meat, about 1/2 tablespoon each and top with a few sun-dried tomatoes. Wrap each piece of chicken up, as if you were wrapping sushi. Place, seam-side down in a baking dish, holding together with a toothpick if needed. Brush each chicken thigh lightly with olive oil. Season the outside with salt, pepper and seasoning.
  3. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 20-25 minutes until browned and cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Slice each chicken thigh into 1-inch rounds and serve.

Heirloom Chopped Caprese Salad

Heirloom Chopped Caprese Salad

Make the most of summer's best tomatoes with this heirloom chopped caprese salad. Feel free to use this recipe as a template. Add toasted bread cubes to make a panzanella salad. Add white beans or tofu cubes to increase the protein content. Serve over arugula or mixed greens or chopped cucumber to add more veggies. It's a perfect make ahead for picnics! 

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