When in Rome…and then home

A special thanks Mary Margaret for sharing gardening ideas and delicious recipes while we traveled to Italy.


While in Italy, we embraced the 10% of 90%/10% philosophy of real food eating. This was especially true when it came to gelato. I’m talking twice a day, most days.  How could we pass on opportunities to experience flavors like basil, nutello, and limoncello gelato? When in Rome, right?

When our “holiday” ended [insert heavy sigh and sad, teary face], we returned to real life and real food eating resumed. To help our systems quickly adjust to better eating habits, our sweets primarily consisted of fruit. A non baked snack for us was Roasted Beet Chips. [I can already hear the groaning and moaning.] I’m generally not a beet person either; however, when they are roasted something fantastic occurs. They become sweet, crunchy, a bit salty, and down right addictive. They taste nothing like pickled beets that I despise. My only complaint … they are a wee bit messy to work with as nearly anything they come in contact with turns pinkish.

The first thing my little one asked for when we returned from Italy was biscuits. (Baking on my part in Tuscany was nonexistent). We love Olive Oil Drop Biscuits. They have 5 ingredients and are ready in no time. Top them with a bit of local honey … buon appetito.  Breakfast is served.

When summer is in full swing and veggies are in abundance, I crave  Fresh Summer Veggies for dinner. That craving was answered this week with roasted tomatoes and broccoli as well as sautéed corn and zucchini.  Everything was finished with some olive oil and Parmesan cheese and a maybe a squeeze of lemon.  In my opinion, nearly everything is improved with olive oil and Parmesan cheese. It doesn’t take a trip to Italy to figure that out 😉

Summer salads are another way to get a handle on all of the summer veggies. The Greek Chicken With Kalamata Olives & Feta is ready in no time, and it is made better with fresh basil, mint, and summer tomatoes. Take the flavor to another level by marinating the chicken the night before. No time for that? No worries. It’s delicious either way!

Two other dishes that made the meal plan cut were Eggs & Avocados Toast With Bacon and Hard Shell Tacos with Avocado Tomato & Corn Salad.  Who doesn’t love “Taco Tuesday?” It’s even better when the taco seasoning isn’t full of preservatives and ingredients you can’t pronounce and the taco shells don’t come from GMO corn?  Easily transform soft tortillas into hard shell tacos, and make a batch of your own taco seasoning for now and later. No time for a slow food dinner one night during the week resulted in Eggs & Avocados Toast for us. These items are staples in our pantry and make for dinner in a flash!

Hope something makes your belly smile…

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Olive Oil Drop Biscuits  

1 c. whole white wheat flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 c. organic milk (alternative: almond milk)
1/4 c. olive oil
1 T. local honey (alternative: 6 drops of organic stevia), optional

Directions: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder.  In another small bowl, whisk together the milk and olive oil (add the honey now, if using it).  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir just until combined.  Use large serving spoons or a large scooper to “drop” the biscuits on a baking sheet.  Bake for approximately 10 minutes and slightly golden.


Roasted Beet Chips

beets, sliced paper thin
1-2 T. olive oil
1/2 T. sea salt

Tips/Notes: Prepare your mind as things are about to get pink! You may want to use gloves and/or protect your counter top. Use a cutting board and/or work surface that you don’t mind having a semi-permanent pinkish color.

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Cut the beets near the stems, leaving .5” remaining (so you have something to hold while slicing). Wash the beets in warm water and pat dry. Slice the beets using a mandolin (or by hand). Dry them with paper towels or a towel you don’t mind getting “pinked.” Toss them with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Lay them in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes and then flip and bake another 15-20 minutes until they are crisp. Enjoy warm or cooled.

Warning: Trips to the loo will become exciting in the near future. #thinkpink

Ooops!! I forgot to take a picture of these guys. They were gobbled up!


Fresh Summer Veggies

(Oven Roasted Herb TomatoesSautéed Corn and Zucchini, & Oven Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan Cheese)

Oven Roasted Herb Tomatoes

Adapted from Jeanettes Healthy Living

3 organic tomatoes
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt/black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 t. dried basil and/or oregano
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
Handful of basil leaves, finely chopped
Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.  Slice each tomato into three (.5 inch) rings.  Remove the seeds around core areas to get rid of excess juices.  Place the tomatoes on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt/pepper and the dried herbs.  Top them with a drizzling of olive oil.  Roast for 20-30 minutes.  Finish with a sprinkling of fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.  Up the ante with a final drizzle of olive oil.

Sauteed Corn and Zucchini With Lemon and Parmesan Cheese

Adapted from Damn Delicious

1 ½ T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large organic zucchinis, diced (alternative: organic yellow summer squash, or both)
2-3 ears of organic corn, kernels freshly sliced from the cob (alternative: frozen)
Sea salt/black pepper, freshly ground
¼ t. dried oregano, optional
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro leaves, halved
2 T. chopped fresh basil leaves, halved
Juice of 1 lemon (alternative: lime)
2 T. grated Parmesan

Directions: Warm a large skillet to medium heat adding olive oil to coat the pan. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about a minute) before adding the corn, zucchini, salt/pepper, oregano, and ½ of the fresh herbs. Continue to cook until the zucchini is soft (about 5 minutes). Technically, at this point you can finish the dish by squeezing the lemon juice atop and stirring in the remaining fresh herbs and cheese.

Or, you could reduce the heat to low and add the finishing ingredients (fresh herbs, lemon, and cheese) immediately before you are ready to serve. This can remain on low for quite some time. As long as you don’t mind that the zucchini will continue to soften as it cooks, the flavor is not at all compromised.

Oven Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan Cheese

1 head of broccoli separated into florets
2 T. olive oil salt/pepper to taste
1-2 garlic cloves, minced grated Parmesan cheese (topping)
½ lemon, juiced (topping)

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 (bake, NOT convection). In large bowl, toss the florets, olive oil, salt/pepper, & garlic. Arrange in a single layer on parchment or foil lined baking sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes (flipping them at about 10 minutes in). Finish this dish with a squeeze the lemon atop and a sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately!


Greek Chicken With Kalamata Olives & Feta

(optional overnight chicken marinade)  

Adapted from Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice

1 + 1/4 lb. organic chicken breasts or cutlets
1 pint organic cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 c. pitted olives
3/4 c. feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
1/3 c. fresh mint and basil leaves, chopped
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Remove marinated chicken from the liquid. Do not rinse. Season the chicken with sea salt/pepper. Pan sear the chicken in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until cooked. Remove from the skillet and allow to rest (do not cut the chicken). In a large bowl, add the remaining ingredients (tomatoes, olives, feta, mint and basil leaves, olive oil, salt/pepper) and stir. Slice the chicken into bite size pieces and add it to the salad. Season with salt/pepper to taste.

Optional Chicken Marinade
1/3 c. olive oil
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. Dijon mustard

Directions: Add all ingredients to a lidded container and refrigerate overnight.


Hard Shell Tacos with Avocado Tomato & Corn Salad Avocado Tomato Corn Salad


Adapted from Martha Stewart

1 T. olive oil
1.5 c. organic, non-GMO corn (fresh or frozen)
1 pint organic cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, halved and diced
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 lime, juiced
1 T. olive oil
Sea salt and ground pepper

Directions: Heat medium skillet to medium. Add olive oil and corn. Saute 4-5 minutes until done. Remove from heat. In a medium bowl, add all ingredients except the avocado and stir. Add the avocado and gently stir to combine. Give one last squeeze from the lime to help coat the avocado to keep from browning. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Hard Shell Tacos

1 package of soft whole wheat tortilla shells

Directions: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Hang tortilla shells over two oven rack bars (like a pair of pants hanging on a clothes hanger). If you hand them over 1 rack, they will harden nearly closed and you won’t be able to “stuff” it with taco fillings. Bake for 5-7 minutes until slightly browned and stiff. Remove from oven and set aside until ready for use.

Taco Meat

1 T. olive oil
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1 organic bell pepper (any color)
1 lb. ground turkey
1.5 T. homemade taco seasoning (see recipe below)
1 can organic fired roasted diced tomatoes, drained

Directions: Heat the same skillet you used to sauté the corn to medium heat. Add olive oil to coat bottom of the skillet. Next, add the turkey and taco seasoning. Cook until no longer pink (about 5-7 minutes). Add the onion and bell pepper. Cook another 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in the tomatoes and allow to simmer until excess liquids have reduced. Remove from heat. Make tacos!

Taco Filling Ideas: shredded cheese, irganic Greek yogurt, shredded organic greens, organic salsa…

Homemade Taco Seasoning

1 T. chili powder
1 T. ground cumin
1 T. garlic powder
1 T. onion powder
1/4 T. crushed red pepper


Greek Turkey Burgers with Tzatkiki Sauce


Adapted from Tablespoon

Burgers

4 T. jarred olive tapenade
1 lb. ground turkey ½ c. crumbled feta cheese, halved
sea salt/pepper

100% whole wheat pita pockets or whole wheat burger buns
Mint leaves, whole (optional sandwich topping)
Organic kale or other greens (optional sandwich topping)
Red onion, thinly slice (optional sandwich topping)

Directions: In a small bowl, use your hands to mix together the olive tapenade, ground turkey, ¼ c. feta cheese, and salt/pepper. Form into four patties. Pan sear on medium heat (approximately 6 minutes per side). After flipping, top with the remaining feta cheese. Allow to rest a few minutes after cooking to seal in the juices. Serve with any or all of the above sandwich toppings.

Tip: Push a thumb print into one side of each patty before pan searing. This will prevent them from rising too high

Tzatziki Sauce (optional)

1 (6-ounce container) organic plain Greek yogurt
1/2 c. organic cucumber, finely diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 T. fresh lemon juice
sea salt, freshly ground pepper

Directions: In a small bowl, add all ingredients and stir. Refrigerate until ready to use.


Eggs & Avocados Toast With Bacon   

Adapted from A La Graham

6 organic eggs, beaten
2 avocados, mashed
Lemon juice
Sea salt/pepper, really not optional
6 slices whole wheat bread, toasted
Dash of hot sauce (optional)
Organic tomato, sliced (optional)

Serve with preservative free, uncured bacon (optional)

Directions: If cooking the bacon in a skillet, begin this process first since it takes the longest.

While the bacon is cooking, halve the avocados, remove the seed, and scoop the goodness into a small bowl. With a fork, mash the avocado. Season with salt/pepper and add a squeeze of lemon (note: lemon keeps the avocado from browning). Stir once more. In a medium skillet, scramble the eggs. While the eggs are cooking, toast the bread and slice the tomatoes.

Assemble the open faced sandwiches (toast, bacon slices, even layer of avocado, eggs). I finish mine with a layer of tomatoes. The rest of the family passes on the tomatoes. Finish with a dash or two of Tobasco style hot sauce, if you’re feeling daring.

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Strawberries rock & Greek Burgers with Creamy Coleslaw roll!

Strawberry heaven is what we’ve been living in the past two weeks with our CSA (Lazy Eight Stock Farm).  We’ve eaten them straight from the containers, in smoothies, mixed into Greek yogurt, in oatmeal, etc.  Strawberry Banana Muffins were a hit too.  Not a lot of time to bake this week? No worries.  Make the No Bake Oatmeal Raisin Nut Butter Bites. Good luck getting them to last much longer than a few days!

My favorite dinner this week…Greek Turkey Burgers With Coleslaw.  An excellent alternative to regular ol’ burgers.  The mint leaves, while they may seem a bit odd, really do create another layer of deliciousness.  We use whole wheat pita pockets because we can load them up with toppings.  If you’re feeling daring, add some coleslaw to the pita pocket for some extra creaminess and crunch.  One Skillet Fajitas is an easy weekday meal that is ready in 30 minutes or less (with a few simple ingredients).  If you’ve been wanting to do something new with avocados, tryBaked Avocados with Baked Broccoli Bites. The avocados are stuffed with cheesy, garlicky, lemony goodness, and the broccoli bites are a fun, finger food option that might help convince a picky eater that broccoli is truly yummy.  If you didn’t try Quick Buttermilk Oat Soaked Pancakes last week, give them a try this week!  Breakfast for dinner is always a winner.

Hope something makes your belly smile!

Snacks

Strawberry Banana Muffins


Adapted from Amy’s Healthy Baking

Dry Ingredients:
1 ¼ c. whole white wheat flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. ground cinnamon
¼ t. ground nutmeg
¼ t. salt

Wet Ingredients:
1 T. coconut oil, melted (alternative: melted organic butter)
1 large organic egg
2 t. organic vanilla extract
1 banana, mashed
2 T. honey
¼ c. plain organic Greek yogurt
¾ c. organic strawberries, diced (about 10-11)

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a muffin (I like coconut oil) or use silicone muffin cups (no need to grease).  In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients (except the strawberries).  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  Stir just until combined.  Gently fold in the strawberries.  Fill muffin holders 3/4 full.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes.  Enjoy!


Oatmeal Raisin Nut Butter Bites


Adapted from A Kitchen Addiction

½ c. creamy raw almond butter or peanut butter
¼ c. raw honey or maple syrup
1 t. vanilla extract
¼ c. coconut flour
3 T. quick oats
2 T. ground flax seed
¼ t. cinnamon
¼ t. sea salt
¼ c. organic raisins

Directions:  In a small bowl, whisk the nut butter, honey, and vanilla.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir.  Use a heaping tablespoon to create individual servings. Roll in your hands to form balls.  Optional:  Create an oat coating by rolling individual balls in some loose oats.  Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes to firm them up a bit.  Enjoy!

Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.


Dinners

One Skillet Chicken Fajitas

Fajitas:
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 medium onion, sliced
2-3 large organic bell pepper, seeded/sliced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 (15 ounce) can organic fire roasted diced tomatoes OR (3-4 chopped medium, fresh tomatoes)
Note: if using fresh tomatoes, add ¼ c. of salsa
2 t. cumin
1 t. paprika
sea salt/pepper
whole wheat tortillas (idea: Ezekiel brand tortillas)
Optional Fajita Fillers:
canned organic black beans, drained & rinsed
organic shredded cheese
organic Greek yogurt or sour cream
salsa
avocado, sliced

Directions: Warm a non-stick skillet to medium heat. Season all sides of the chicken with salt, pepper, and paprika. To the skillet, add the olive oil and chicken. Cook until the chicken is browned on all slides (about 5-6 minutes). Add onions and green peers, cooking until the peppers are softened. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about a minute).  Immediately add all remaining ingredients. The tomatoes will sizzle in the skillet. Reduce heat to a simmer. Allow some liquid to cook out (about 10 minutes). Season with salt/pepper to taste. Serve fajita mixture with whole wheat tortillas and your favorite fajita fillers. Enjoy!


Baked Avocados with Broccoli Bites

adapted from Mele Cotte and Food Renegade

Tip: To time this meal just right, prepare the Broccoli Bites and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare the Avocados.  Bake both at the same time.  While they are baking, make the honey mustard sauce.  Viola – a perfectly timed dinner.

Baked Avocados
4-5 ripe avocados
1 c. whole wheat bread crumbs or almond meal
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 T. grated Parmesan cheese
1 T. feta cheese, grated
2 T. fresh herbs, chopped (ideas: basil, cilantro, parsley)
2 T. lemon juice
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
½ c.  salsa (check labels – some have added sugar)

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a small bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, garlic, cheeses, herbs, lemon juice, and salt/pepper.  Halve the avocado and remove the seed with spoon.  Fill the avocado seed holes with the mixture.

Baked Broccoli Bites
adapted from Food Renegade
1 bunch. fresh broccoli, chopped (florets only)
1 c. organic cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
3 organic eggs
½ c. almond flour
½ c. whole wheat bread crumbs
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried garlic powder
Sea salt/pepper to taste

Directions: I used my Vitamix* to roughly chop the broccoli.  This method required me readjust it in the container every few seconds to chop, rather than puree.  Hand chopping works, but the Vitamix is faster than me.  In a large bowl add all ingredients and combine with your hands.  Use an ice cream scooper to measure out individual servings.  Use your hands to gently, but firmly, compact the balls.

Bake the avocado and broccoli at the same time for 20-25 minutes.  The broccoli is done when the edges are slightly golden.  Enjoy!

Serve the Broccoli Bites with a few dashes of hot sauce or homemade honey mustard.

Quick and Easy Honey Mustard
honey
mustard

Directions: To a small bowl, combine equal parts of honey and a mustard of your choosing. I like to use a spicy or Dijon mustard.  It gives things a slightly sweet kick.  Regular ol’ yellow mustard will make for a more traditional honey mustard.

*Tip: If you are in the market for a blender, I highly encourage you to consider a Vitamix.  I know, I know they aren’t cheap. However, a cheap blender is worthless.  Vitamix even offers refurbished blenders that still come with warranties.  Can your blender pulverize ice in seconds, create the smoothest smoothies (who wants a chunky smoothie?), make hot soup, turn nuts into nut butters or whole grains into flours, or chop an entire head of cabbage in seconds? Need I go on?  Trust me, a Vitamix will change your kitchen life.


 Greek Turkey Burgers with Creamy Coleslaw

 Adapted from Tablespoon

Burger:
4 T. jarred olive tapenade
1 lb. ground turkey
½ c. crumbled feta cheese, halved
sea salt/pepper, for seasoning

Tzatziki Sauce (optional):
1 (6-ounce container) organic plain Greek yogurt
1/2 c. organic cucumber, finely diced & divided
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 pinch each (coarse sea salt, freshly ground pepper)

Clean Eating Creamy Coleslaw
Adapted from Eat Clean Diet
4 c. shredded cabbage
1/2 c. shredded organic carrot
1/4 c. organic mayonnaise
1/4 c. organic plain Greek yogurt
1 T. honey
1 T. white vinegar (alternatives: red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
1 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 t. sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
100% whole wheat pita pockets
mint leaves, whole (optional, sandwich topping)
organic kale or other green (optional sandwich topping)
red onion, thinly slice (optional sandwich topping)

Directions:  In a small bowl, use your hands to mix the olive tapenade, ground turkey, ¼ c. feta cheese, and salt/pepper.  Form into four patties.  Pan sear on medium heat (approximately 6 minutes on each side).  After flipping the patties, top with the remaining feta cheese.  Allow to rest a few minutes after cooking to seal in the juices.  Serve with any or all of the above sandwich toppings. Remember, don’t forget to give the mint a shot.

Tip: Push a thumb print into one side of each patty before pan searing.  This will prevent them from rising too high.


Quick Buttermilk Oat Soaked Pancakes


2 c. homemade buttermilk (Mix 2 T. of white vinegar or lemon juice with organic milk. Allow mixture to sit 5 minutes.)
2 c. organic rolled oats
organic eggs (alternatives: 1 whole egg + 1 egg white OR flax eggs*)
1 t. organic vanilla extract
1 T. local honey, preferably raw
½ c. white whole wheat flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
½ t. sea salt
½ t. cinnamon (optional)

Directions: In a large bowl, add the homemade buttermilk.  Stir in the oats, eggs, vanilla, and honey.  Allow the batter sit at least 5 minutes to soften to oats.  In a smaller bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  Gently stir to combine (do not over stir).  Lightly grease the skillet with a clean eating approved oil or organic butter (we like coconut oil).  Top with pure maple syrup or a thin layer of creamy almond butter.

Serve with uncured bacon or preservative free turkey bacon.

Note: Makes 10 pancakes using a 1/3 c. measuring scoop.

*Flax eggs are great substitutes to eggs if you’re vegan or you just prefer not to use eggs.  To make flax eggs, stir together 3 T. of water and 1 T. ground flax seed.  Allow to rest 5 minutes.  (When baking, I’ve found that substituting up to 3 flax eggs works great.  Using more than 3 flax eggs can result in disaster).