Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Quinoa Salad with Pears, Baby Spinach, and Chickpeas

The power of a Healthy Day never ceases to amaze me. I had an epic weekend in the ICU, one of the most challenging of the year with the acuity level of our patients. I used yesterday as a recovery day, but today I had to get back on track. I woke up with the goal of getting a great workout, drinking lots of water, eating clean, doing a face mask and my nails, and watching a feel good disney movie. No pizza, no ice cream, no wine. Just good clean living for this aging body of mine! Let me tell you, in this moment I feel amazing. Energetic, refreshed, calm, and happy. A good dose of exercise is a powerful drug.  
It's been awhile since I posted a quinoa recipe, and this one is just too delicious not to share. I've added chicken to this salad for extra protein. I like to add the dressing to the warm quinoa, let it cool, and then add the remaining ingredients. If you are making it in advance, it's good to add the pear and pecans right before serving so they don't get too soggy. This salad is meant for spring! 

Here are great instructions on how to make quinoa in a rice cooker.
Quinoa Salad with Pears, Baby Spinach, and Chickpeas
from gluten free goddess
serves 4

1 cup organic quinoa
Sea salt
2 good handfuls of organic baby spinach leaves, washed, drained
1 large ripe pear, washed, stemmed and cored, cut into pieces
1/2 cup chilled chickpeas, rinsed, drained
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
A handful of pecans, pan toasted and salted to taste

Maple Vinaigrette Dressing:
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons golden balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly in a fine sieve. Place the quinoa in a saucepan or a rice cooker. Add 2 cups fresh water, and a pinch of sea salt. Cover and cook on a low simmer until all the water is evaporated and the quinoa is tender- roughly 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and dump it into a large salad bowl.

Add the baby spinach, pear, chick peas, and chopped parsley to the quinoa and fluff.

Whisk together the vinaigrette, pour it over the quinoa salad and toss gently to coat. Season to taste with sea salt and ground pepper.

Just before serving, add the toasted pecans and lightly combine. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Salsa Verde Chicken Enchiladas

This pan of enchiladas has 4 ingredients (plus cilantro for garnish) and can be assembled and in the oven in 1o minutes if you buy a rotisserie chicken. There are some nights when you just don't want to fuss in the kitchen. 
I mostly didn't want to stand up, be it in the kitchen or anywhere. I took my first pure barre class this morning and my thighs are still shaking. When I entered the Roanoke studio, I saw a tank top that said "embrace the shake" and was a little confused. If you've taken the class, you too understand this shake they are proclaiming. I comforted my sore legs with these creamy delicious enchiladas, and am heading to bed exhausted! 
Salsa Verde Chicken Enchiladas
from Kevin and Amanda

1 (16 oz) jar Salsa Verde
2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
3 cups (12 oz) cooked, chopped chicken - I used a rotisserie chicken
8 medium (soft taco size) flour tortillas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon a thin layer of salsa verde into the bottom of the dish. 

Combine chicken, 1 cup salsa verde, and 1 cup cheese in a bowl. Spoon about 1/3 cup mixture down the middle of a tortilla. Fold sides over and place seam side down in prepared baking dish. It’s okay if they overlap a bit. 

Top with remaining salsa and 1 cup shredded cheese. Bake uncovered for 20-30 minutes until bubbly. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014


When I discover new beauty products I love, I want to buy one for all of my friends and family. Just like Oprah and Ellen. However, considering my (limited) budget, I will just have to settle for sharing them on my little blog. My already lifelong favorites include Philosophy Amazing Grace, Nars blush (in Orgasm), and Essie ballet slippers nail polish.
My new obsession is L'Anza hair products. I recently scheduled an appointment with my friend's amazing hair stylist at Le Cheveux salon who swears by a few of these products (the kerratin healing oil, trauma treatment, and thermal defense spray).  I've been using them for a week, and my hair is shiny, soft and healthy, with NO frizz. I started talking about them at work, and it turns out the girls I know with the most gorgeous hair (Kim and Shayna) swear by this brand. I'm sold.
If you are in the market for products or shampoo, I think you would love these! My hair literally soaks up the keratin oil, without feeling oily or greasy. All of the products smell incredible, so good that I will actually keep using them every day. The trauma treatment and thermal defense spray are game changers, and believe me I have tried LOTS of hair products.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Crockpot Pinto Beans & Cornbread

The ultimate comfort food for each of us is different. For some it's mac and cheese, others favor chicken noodle soup or mom's homemade spaghetti. My husband is a beans and cornbread kind of guy. For about five dollars I made his day, which in turn made my day because who doesn't love to make someone smile!
I trusted Ree for a good cornbread recipe, and once again she delivered. There are some women who make the world a better place, and she is one of them!

Crock Pot Pinto Beans 
from The Apron Gal

1/2 onion, diced
1.5 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
1/2 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 tablespoons minced garlic
2.5 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin, optional
5 cups water

Rinse pinto beans and place in crock pot with all remaining ingredients. 

Turn crock pot to high and let cook for around 3.5 hours. If possible, stir occasionally. Beans should  be soft and a lot of the water should have evaporated but you don't want them to turn to mush, so I would check them around 3 hours, then 3.5 hours and if they aren't done let them go up to 4 hours. You want them to be soft so they melt in your mouth!  

Skillet Cornbread

Last night, as I doused slice after slice of warm cornbread with butter and honey, I realized that while most consider the bread a dinner side item, for me last night it was the most simple and delicious dessert. This recipe gives the cornbread the perfect crispy crust, yet the inside remains moist and soft. 
Since breaking "The Rules" is fun from time to time, I believe I'll have a few pieces for breakfast as well, with my favorite Tupelo Honey on the side. 

Skillet Cornbread

1 cup Yellow Cornmeal 
1/2 cup All-purpose Flour 
1 teaspoon Salt 
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder 
1 cup Buttermilk 
1/2 cup Milk 
1 whole Egg 
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda 
1/4 cup Shortening 
2 Tablespoons Shortening
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Stir together.
Measure the buttermilk and milk in a measuring cup and add the egg. Stir together with a fork. Add the baking soda and stir.

Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until combined.
In a small bowl, melt 1/4 shortening. Slowly add melted shortening to the batter, stirring until just combined. In an iron skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons shortening over medium heat. Pour the batter into the hot skillet. Spread to even out the surface. (Batter should sizzle.)

Cook on stovetop for 1 minute, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Monday, March 17, 2014

say cheese!

I've taken on a new endeavor, which is to study one of my longtime favorite foods. My mom was in town this weekend, and she packed along a book called Joie De Vivre by Robert Arbor where he talks about the little daily traditions of the French, like making good french press coffee in the morning, buying from the local bakery and butcher, and growing a small vegetable garden. 
My mom and I have always been smitten by French culture and Paris, so we pass books like this back and forth and chat about how we can adopt the French mentality to slow down and enjoy the little things. This visit, we decided to make good pressed coffee at home, boycott fast food and stop eating in the car, and not feel guilty about enjoying a chunk of good baguette when magazines are hollering that carbs are deadly. 
The author talked a little about cheese, how there are eight hundred local cheeses in France and that they often serve a cheese and salad course after the main course and before dessert. Of course that got the wheels turning, which led to a one-click amazon purchase with my birthday money on a beautiful book called the World of Cheese.
The next day we ventured out to The Fresh Market, where I spent the remainder of my birthday money on building my first cheese platter. I picked five cheeses, along with dried apricots, good baguette and crackers, and a selection of olives. We came home, assembled our platter, and went around tasting each new cheese slowly while sipping on wine and chatting in front of the fire. It was the perfect afternoon. Our favorite vehicle was the thinly sliced baguette. For the platter, I chose the following cheeses: 

1  Henri Hutin Belletoile triple cream (France) *pure heaven for the Brie lover
2  Port Salut (France) *we LOVED this one, a new favorite! 
3  Tallegio (Italy)
4  Dubliner - a house favorite, in honor of St Patty's Day (Ireland)
5  Yorkshire Wensleydale with Cranberries (England) *a sweeter dessert cheese

I think a cheese platter is the perfect easy appetizer, and if you have a little knowledge about the cheese you are serving it's a fun conversation topic to have with your friends. Here's to trying new cheese! On my next platter, I will try a blue cheese and a goat cheese. What are your favorites? 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

saying hello to my 30's!

I think the craziest thing about turning thirty is the realization that time is flying by so fast, the days turn into years turn into decades and suddenly you are ten years older! 

For me, this has been a wake up call to live each day fully, love my family and friends, and travel, see, do, and live 100% in the moment. 
The silver lining of turning thirty is the feeling of being comfortable in your own skin, the knowledge of who you are, what you believe, and what you like. What an absolute JOY. 

I've come up with a list (I love lists!) of the things I want to highlight in this new chapter of my life.

Keep trying new things and keep learning.

Enjoy every possible moment with family and friends.

Get rid of clutter and live simply. 

Stay healthy and active. 

Wear lipstick every day.

Find joy in the little things.

Spend more time in the real world and less time in the iWorld.

In the blogosphere, I have found a few amazing women that have inspired me so very much, bringing me new recipes, photography tips, and insight into living a beautiful life.

Kelle Hampton - enjoying the small things

Not only is Kelle raising incredibly creative children, her photography is just stunning. She is teaching me to stop taking pictures of people smiling at the camera, and instead capture them doing something they love. 

Janet - the gardener's cottage

Janet is serious about living a simple yet beautiful life. She is the queen of no clutter, spending less, and living more. Her cottage is stunning and only houses things that she absolutely loves or uses regularly.

Ree - the pioneer woman

Living on an enormous cattle ranch, Ree is raising a beautiful family, cooking the kind of recipes dreams are made of, and not skimping on butter.  When I'm looking for a holiday or special occasion meal, she never disappoints.

Kalyn - kalyn's kitchen

My go to site for healthy low-glycemic index meals that taste amazing and are also high in nutrients and low in calories. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Cajun Crawfish and Shrimp Étouffée

In honor of Mardi Gras, I wanted to make a festive Cajun dinner tonight. This is another recipe that totally hooked my husband. He LOVES spicy Cajun food, so I bought a cast iron skillet and learned how to make etouffee with this recipe. 
You can make it more spicy by adding cayenne pepper and extra hot sauce, or less spicy by omitting those. Take time to make the roux and don't stop stirring, otherwise you will have to start all over! 
Cajun Crawfish and Shrimp Etouffee
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 small green bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped (or 1 can diced tomatoes)
1 to 2 Tbsp Louisiana hot sauce
2 Tbsp old bay seasoning or Paul Prudhommes seafood magic blend
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/3 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup chicken stock
1 pound crawfish tails
1 pound medium shrimp

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Gradually stir in flour, and stir constantly until the mixture turns peanut butter brown or darker, at least 15 minutes. This is your base sauce or roux. If the roux burns, discard and start over. I use a large fork with the flat side to the bottom of the pan in a side to side motion.

Once the roux is browned, add the onions, garlic, celery and bell pepper and saute for 5 minutes to soften. Stir in the tomatoes and chicken stock and season with the seafood seasoning or Old Bay. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

Season the sauce with Louisiana hot sauce and cayenne pepper (optional) and add the crawfish and shrimp. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the shrimp are opaque.

Serve with french bread or saffron rice.