Easy Herbed Ricotta Fettuccine

Easy Herbed Ricotta Fettuccine

Is there anything more comforting than creamy pasta? Enjoy a bowl of comforting goodness in less than 15 minutes with this recipe for easy herbed ricotta fettuccine, made with a simple no-cook sauce of ricotta blended with garlic, herbs and olive oil. Add your favorite seasonal vegetables to make it a meal!

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Noodle Bowl with Lemongrass Chicken and Peanut Sauce

Noodle Bowl with Lemongrass Chicken and Peanut Sauce

This noodle bowl with lemongrass chicken and peanut sauce can be prepped in less than 30 minutes! Perfect make ahead lunch for the weekend! Serve lemongrass marinated chicken over a bed of brown rice noodles, chopped fresh veggies, tons of herbs and a store bought peanut sauce!

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Tomato Basil Risotto with Prosciutto

Make this recipe for tomato basil risotto with prosciutto and get tips for making a creamy, dreamy Italian risotto! 

I couldn’t be more thrilled for this month’s Recipe Redux theme, recreating a favorite recipe from our travels.

When I went to Italy for the first time with my family back when I was in high school, each of us had a very specific dish that we were determined to discover the best possible version of. If we saw it on the menu, we would always get it, even if was a shared dish for the table, ordered solely for taste testing purposes. For my stepmom, it was spaghetti carbonara, lactose intolerance be damned! For my brother and dad, it was basically anything pork, including suckling pig, which was somewhat traumatic for me as I had just gotten out of my vegetarian phase. And for me, it was risotto.

The winner turned out to be a seafood risotto from Harry’s Bar in Venice. It was creamy and savory and rich and perfect. I must also give honorary mention to a squid ink risotto, also from a restaurant in Venice. It was so tasty the only thing that kept me from spending the rest of the night with a satisfied grin on my face was the fact that my mouth was turned jet black by the squid ink.

I used to make risotto pretty regularly at home until I started watching Top Chef. I feel like every time a chef makes an attempt at risotto, it turns into a miserable fail that gets them sent home! And if the nations top chefs can’t make a decent risotto, I know I sure as heck am failing at it.

So while this risotto may not please the judges on Top Chef, I personally was quite happy with how it turned out. To flavor the dish, I used prosciutto and halved heirloom cherry tomatoes briefly sautéed with fresh basil leaves and extra virgin olive oil. Here’s a few notes on how to make a maybe not Top Chef worthy, but totally passable and tasty risotto:

  • Use Arborio rice or some other type of short grain white rice, which is starchier and creates a creamier risotto. You may be tempted to swap in brown rice or another whole grain, like farro or barley. With the delicate flavors like tomato and basil, I think a whole grain would be overpowering, but for more “fall” or “winter” flavor risottos, brown rice is really tasty! Think chicken and wild mushroom risotto with peas. You’ll just want to double or triple the cooking time and have more stock on hand.
  • Use warm stock. If you add cold stock to the dish, it will cool everything down and slow the cooking process.
  • Don’t over, or under-stir your risotto. Stirring the risotto is necessary – the rice grains rub against each other which creates more starch and a creamy consistency. It also evenly distributes the liquid and prevents the bottom from burning. But there’s no need to stir constantly. You’ll be left with sore biceps and a gluey risotto. I give it a good stir when I add broth, let it simmer for a bit, and then give it another good stir before adding in more broth.
  • Add the vegetables after cooking the risotto. Other than the garlic and onions that flavor the dish, you’ll want to cook your vegetables in a separate pan and stir them into the fully cooked risotto, otherwise the veggies will get mushy and disintegrate.

Tomato Basil Risotto with Prosciutto

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces prosciutto, sliced
  • ½ yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 ½ cups Arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 10 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup lightly packed basil leaves plus extra for serving
  • ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat broth to a simmer in a pot on medium heat. Let it continue to simmer, turning down the heat if it starts to boil.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large, pot on medium heat. Add prosciutto and cook until crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in rice and cook until rice smells slightly nutty, about 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in white wine and stir until wine is mostly evaporated. Pour a ladle of hot broth into the rice, stir for a few seconds and let simmer until broth is mostly absorbed. When the risotto starts to look dry, repeat with more broth. Continue with remaining broth until risotto is creamy and tender with a bite (al dente).
  4. As the risotto is cooking, heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add tomatoes and basil with a pinch of salt. Cook until tomatoes are tender, but not falling apart, about 5 minutes.
  5. When risotto is creamy and done, stir in tomatoes and parmesan cheese. Season with salt and black pepper. Serve garnished with more parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

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 Vietnamese Brown Rice Noodle Salad with Sesame Tempeh

Vegan Vietnamese brown rice noodle salad is packed with bright, fresh flavors from crunchy raw vegetables, fresh herbs, spicy sesame tempeh and a tangy sesame vinaigrette.

Happy Monday! Sending this post out from the airport on my way to Lodi, California, where I'm spending the next three days traveling with California Almonds. Very excited for this amazing experience, and to learn about my favorite nut along with some incredible RD bloggers. Follow me on instagram for updates!

This trip is the start to a season packed to the brim with travel. Next week I'm headed to Chicago, where I'll be spending a few days exploring the city with my mom before my cousins wedding. The week after that, we're headed up to Philadelphia a dear friends wedding. Then I'll have a few weeks at home before I head to Nashville for FNCE, the national conference for dietitians. From there (and I mean literally from there, like, the day after FNCE ends) I'm headed off for the two week trip of a lifetime with my hubs to....

VIETNAM!!

Hence this Vietnamese rice noodle salad, which I'm sure after eating authentic Vietnamese rice noodle salads I will look back on and cringe.

I won't lie, looking at my calendar, rapidly filling appointment slots and wondering when I will have time to keep up with this little blog of mine, it's a bit exhausting. But I mean, getting a free trip to California, having mother-daughter time in an awesome city, seeing lifelong friends and making new ones, going to freaking Vietnam...I really can't complain!

Right after my husband, travel is the love of my life. Nothing makes me feel more alive than exploring a new place and soaking up every last drop. Even if it's in our own state, it brings a joy to my life that I can't quite describe.

There's a saying attributed to the Dalai Lama to "once a year, go someplace you've never been before." I love this advice. Traveling, more than taking a vacation, expands your life in so many ways. It builds confidence, makes you a more compassionate person, opens your mind, makes you less materialistic, and (I think) sexier.

Travel can make you healthier. Looking back at my life, I truly believe traveling as a child was the single greatest factor in me becoming a dietitian and making my wellness a priority. Really. If you think travel is all about indulgent restaurants and skipping workouts, well, you're right, but there are other ways travel can make you a healthier person.

It's helps you see past the insanity of fad diets. When you travel around the world, you see a wide range of traditional diets. You also see how the people eating these different diets are generally pretty healthy, much healthier than we are here in the States. For example, in Peru, potatoes were a major part of every meal. At the farmers market, there was an entire potato section which consisted of two 30-foot long tables overflowing with dozens of different types of potatoes. I also saw native Peruvians absolutely whooping fit Americans on the Incan trail. Our guide said Peruvian guides hiked to Machu Picchu and back in one day. It takes other travelers three days, one way. It's kind of hard to give in to the low carb propoganda after seeing that.

Travel expands your taste buds. Picky eaters...not exactly the healthiest. Travel exposes you to new foods and flavors. When you're a more adventurous eater, eating healthy food is less about dieting and more about trying new and delicious foods.

Travel makes you appreciate what you have. In many countries, poverty is much more visible than we're used to. Seeing how people not only live, but in many ways thrive, with much less material possessions than we're used to, makes you truly appreciate what you have. When  you truly feel grateful for the food in front of you, it seems wasteful not to enjoy and savor it mindfully.

Travel motives me to be healthy later in life. Scott and I are planning our lives to ensure we're able to travel as much as possible, as late into life as possible. I am fully prepared to be that little old lady, cane in one hand, Scott's hand in the other, navigating the streets of some small European town.

You don't even have to travel to exotic places to get these benefits. Exploring new places in your own backyard can be just as beneficial, and fun! Some of my favorite trips have been less than a couple hours drive - camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains, hiking with friends in the upstate, and exploring historic sites in South Carolina. You can even learn a lot from exploring your own town with fresh eyes!

Do you love to travel? If so, how has it enriched your life and made you a healthier person? 

Vegan Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Sesame Tempeh

Serves 6

Adapted from Thug Kitchen

Ingredients

Ginger-Sesame Tempeh:

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-2 teaspoons coconut oil

Salad:

  • 8 ounce package thin brown rice noodles
  • 1 head of butter lettuce, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled into ribbons using a vegetable peeler
  • 1 large cucumber, julienned
  • 1 cup mint leaves
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1 cup sliced green onion
  • 1/2 cup cashews, toasted
  • Lime wedges, for serving

Toasted Sesame Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Instructions

  1. First, make the tempeh. Cut the tempeh into 16 slices width-wise. In a medium bowl, whisk together the rest of the tempeh ingredients. Pour over the tempeh in a shallot bowl, flip to coat evenly with marinade. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

  2. When ready to cook, warm 1-2 teaspoons in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add tempeh slices and cook 3-4 minutes, flip, then cook 3-4 minutes on the other side. Remove and set aside while you prepare the rest of the salad.
  3. To make the salad, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the rice noodles and cook according to package directions. When they are done, drain, rinse under cold water until cool, then set aside.
  4. While the noodles are cooking, whisk together the dressing ingredients.
  5. Divide the salad greens between four plates or large bowls. Top with a scoop of rice noodles in the center. Place the carrot, cucumber, herbs and green onion in piles around the noodles. Drizzle with dressing, top with cashews and serve.

More recipes inspired by my travels:

Chermoula Roasted Eggplant with Bulgur Salad
Chermoula Roasted Eggplant with Bulgur Salad
Crispy Potatoes with Spicy Red Pepper Sauce
Crispy Potatoes with Spicy Red Pepper Sauce
Spanish Chickpeas and Greens
Spanish Chickpeas and Greens

Dark Cherry and Crispy Prosciutto Salad with Balsamic

Enjoy antioxidant rich cherries in this gorgeous seasonal salad of dark cherries and crispy prosciutto with balsamic vinaigrette.

I used to think I wasn't a fruit person. After each grocery trip, I would ambitiously fill my fruit basket...and a week later I hadn't made a dent. That was until I learned the gloriousness that is seasonal produce.

Living in South Carolina, of course I have to say peaches are my favorite. But I suppose if I'm being completely honest, it's cherries.

Clients often ask my choice for healthiest fruit and I always reply berries. However antioxidant rich cherries should be right up there with them! To learn more about the health benefits of cherries and get the recipe for this salad, head over to the Healthy Aperture blog!

How To Make A Mason Jar Salad

Learn how to make a mason jar salad that will stay fresh for five days. Plus recipes for watermelon feta salad, spring quinoa salad with lemon-mint dressing and peach and arugula salad! 

I’m a sucker for cute food packaging. Maybe that’s subconsciously why I married a packaging engineer. Yes, that’s a real job. No, he is not responsible for those impossible plastic containers you need a chainsaw to hack into (a rigid plastic clamshell in case you were wondering).

He’s invented some pretty neat packages. But to me, I think they’re significantly lacking in the cute department. So I’m constantly sending him pictures and ideas, to which he reminds me that a food package should not only be adorable, but also functional. What fun is that?

Enter the mason jar. Now, I can’t claim that I invented it, but it is cute and it is also functional, especially when it comes to packing salads.

The mason jar’s tall, narrow build allows you to build an entire composed salad, dressing and all, without the dreaded wilt. By using a layer of sturdy vegetables to separate delicate greens and dressing, you can create a salad that will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 5 days. As long as you don’t accidentally tip it over, the greens will be fresh and crisp. Sunday food prep anyone?

It's not rocket science, but there are a few things to know. Here's how to compose the perfect mason jar salad, one that's filling, tasty and will last!

STEP 1 // Get your hands on a clean, wide mouthed mason jar. For a main dish salad, look for a quart jar. For a side salad, use a pint jar.

STEP 2 // Spoon 1-3 tablespoons of salad dressing in the bottom of the jar.

STEP 3 // Add any hard, chopped vegetables to the jar. This will act as a barrier for the dressing and greens or other soft, absorbable ingredients. Carrots, radishes, whole cherry tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, snap peas, celery, and cucumbers are all good choices. If I’m using an ingredient that tends to brown, like avocados or sliced apples, I also like to add this to the bottom with an acidic dressing, which prevents it from browning.

STEP 4 // Add any softer, more absorbable vegetables and fruit, like berries, peaches, chopped tomatoes or roasted vegetables. You could also add any salty ingredients, like pickled vegetables or olives here.

STEP 5 // To make a more substantial salad, be sure to include a high fiber, unprocessed carb. Cooked quinoa, whole grain pasta, peas, beans, roasted sweet potato cubes, and brown rice are all nice choices. Layered on top of the vegetables, this will complete the barrier.

STEP 6 // If using nuts or seeds, add them now.

STEP 7 // Top with greens, like chopped kale, arugula, spring greens or romaine. Make sure the greens are tightly packed, which helps keep it fresh by minimizing the circulating air and keeping everything secure.

STEP 8 // Add proteins like cheese, diced cooked chicken, hard boiled egg or cubed tofu/tempeh on top. I add these no more than a day or two in advance.

STEP 9 // Enjoy! To eat your salad, pour out the ingredients on to a plate or bowl. This generally mixes the ingredients pretty well. You could try to eat it out of the mason jar, but it’ll be tricky to get a bite with everything on it.

One other tip: If you’re not using any sturdy vegetables, like in my peach and arugula salad, just pack the dressing separately in a condiment cup or in a snack sized zip top bag on top of your salad.

To get you started on mason jar salads, here are three of my favorite seasonal mason jar salads. The peach and arugula salad isn’t new - I shared it last year so head over to that post for the recipe. With our recent heat wave, all I've been craving are salads topped with chilled seasonal fruit! This peach salad is probably my favorite way to enjoy perfect South Carolina peaches!

Spring Quinoa Salad with Mint-Lemon Dressing

Makes 4

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Salad:

  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup peas, blanched from fresh or defrosted from frozen
  • 2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa, from 2/3 cup dry
  • Spring greens
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta

Instructions

  1. To make the dressing, blend the ingredients together in a blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Divide the dressing between four quart-sized mason jars. Add radishes, peas then quinoa, pressing down to pack lightly. Top with spring greens to the top of the jar. Sprinkle feta over the top and seal.

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Makes 6

This mason jar salad is perfect as a snack!

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Salad: 

  • 1 seedless cucumber, chopped
  • Watermelon, cubed
  • Basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta

Instructions

  1. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the dressing between six pint-sized mason jars. Top with cucumber, watermelon, basil leaves and feta. Seal and refrigerate until ready to eat.

These salads are perfect for packing in a mason jar: 

Kale Tortilla with Jalapeno-Lime Dressing
Kale Tortilla with Jalapeno-Lime Dressing
Tropical Salad with Spicy Mango Dressing
Tropical Salad with Spicy Mango Dressing
Brussels Sprouts Salad with Ambrosia Apples & Tempeh Bacon
Brussels Sprouts Salad with Ambrosia Apples & Tempeh Bacon

Green Panzanzella

Try this hearty summer salad, green panzanella with cucumber, zucchini, feta and basil. 

Have you ever caught yourself eating a nice, light vegetable salad and thought to yourself, "Tasty, but you know would make this salad better? Big 'ole hunks of toasty, crusty, olive oily bread!"

If so, I think you'll like panzanella. Also, you're my kind of person.

Panzanella is a Tuscan salad, traditionally made with stale bread, tomatoes, onions, and lots of oil and vinegar dressing. It's the second most delicious thing you can make with fresh, heirloom tomatoes (the first most delicious is my chopped Caprese salad).

But as you can tell from the photos, there are no tomatoes in this panzanella. Our tomatoes are still green on the vine (who else started singing Strawberry Wine?), we've got a refrigerator full of zucchini and probably will for the next four months. That is, unless someone (ahem, Scott) forgets to weed the garden yet again.

So, as you can tell from my most recent postings, we've been eating a lotta zucchini around here. When you eat a lot of the same thing, it's easy to get bored. Keep things interesting by changing how you chop them. Instead of cutting cauliflower into florets, try cutting it into steaks. Rather than slicing cucumbers and peppers into slices for your salad, cut them into teeny tiny cubes, Israeli salad style. And for zucchini, try shredding, noodling or as in this salad, slicing paper thin with a mandolin. It completely changes the flavors and textures.

On a related note, have you seen the new vegetable butcher column on The Kitchn? I have learned SO much from it.

Anyway, back to this salad. Being a bread salad and all, as you can imagine it's an important ingredient. No, sandwich bread won't work here. Just don't. You'll definitely want to splurge on a nice, whole grain loaf with a good crust and chew. If you don't have a local bakery, I am a huge fan of Trader Joes whole wheat pane. If you're getting bread from the bakery, check the ingredients list. Most grocery store "multigrain" loaves are just white bread with a sprinkle of seeds and grains on the crust.

Green Panzanella

Serves 4-5

To help stale your bread, cut it into cubes and leave it out overnight. If making in advance, store bread and dressing separate from the salad and mix before serving.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb day old crusty whole grain bread, cut into bite sized cubes
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 small Persian cucumbers
  • 1/2 large red onion
  • 1 can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Instructions

  1. Set oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Spray bread with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Toast for 10 minutes until lightly toasted and warm. Set aside to cool.
  3. While bread is toasting, using a mandoline, slice zucchini, cucumbers and red onion into paper thin rounds. Combine in a large bowl with cannelini beans and basil. Mix in the bread cubes.
  4. Mix olive oil and vinegar in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and toss to combine. Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving and up to an hour. Toss in feta right before serving.

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.