Summer Fruit Salad with Minty Lime Dressing

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Whew! It’s been a crazy couple months! Summer is normally a bit overloaded, but this summer is even crazier than usual. We went on a trip to Indonesia and that trip was bookended by weddings, friends in town, and several important meetings for Matthew. We’re off again this weekend to a wedding in Austin and are excited to see Texas family.

In the midst of the craziness, I’ve still been cooking and especially enjoying summer fruit! Have you had any peaches yet? They are to die for! I haven’t been able to get enough peaches or blueberries and I’m hoping to visit a blueberry farm to pick my own in the next couple weeks. Growing up, every summer we would drive to Tyler, Texas to pick blueberries. After picking pounds and pounds in the hot summer sun, we’d go to a nearby state park for a picnic and swimming. When we got home, my mom would make blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes, and freeze lots of the fresh blueberries for later use. I love those summer memories!

Today, I’m sharing an easy summer fruit salad that is refreshing and a little out of the ordinary. It’s great on it’s own or paired with Greek yogurt for breakfast or with ice cream for dessert. I definitely recommend eating this the day you make it as berries don’t like to be wet for long and this salad had a sweet dressing with a little extra zing.

Happy cooking and happy summer!

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Summer Fruit Salad with Minty Lime Dressing

ingredients

4 small, ripe peaches or 2 large, ripe peaches, slice
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 cup sliced raspberries
1 cup blueberries
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
2 Tablespoons water
1 Teaspoon honey
1 Teaspoon lime zest
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
12 mint leaves, finely chopped

to make

Wash your fruit and slice peaches and strawberries. Place all fruit in a bowl.
In a small jar or bowl, combine water, honey, lime zest and juice, and finely chopped mint leaves. Pour over fruit and stir gently. The dressing will mostly fall to the bottom, but that’s ok. Allow fruit to refrigerate for 30 minutes to soak up the dressing. Before serving, give a stir and top with toasted walnuts. (Don’t add the walnuts too soon or they’ll get soggy)

Enjoy!

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Mixed Green Salad with Figs, Candied Pistachios, Red Onion, Feta Cheese & Lemony Dressing

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One of the books on my Book List for 2014 is Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. I’m not sure why I haven’t read it until now as it’s been recommended to me countless times and I gave it to both my mom and mom-in-law for Mother’s Day. But now I’m halfway through and totally in love. Her thoughts on food and community are rich and real, blanketed with recipes and with stories invoking laughter and tears. I’ve already tried her enchiladas, which are incredible, and I can’t wait to try everything else!

One of my favorite things she shares is her philosophy on feasting and fasting. The idea that in life there are times of feasting, indulging mostly around holidays and vacations, which can be followed by times of fasting, eating a stricter more careful diet, with some treats in moderation. I love this idea. We don’t have to feel guilty about eating that extra sugar cookie or drinking a huge mug of hot cocoa when we balance it with a season of grilled salmon and mixed greens and spinach upon spinach.

This really encouraged me as today I’ve started the 21 Day Sugar Detox. After a hearty time of holiday feasting, I’ve felt the need to freshen up our meals. Inspired by my friend Alexa who has a wonderful blog, aptly named, Kitchenspired, I’m jumping in! Find out more here or follow Alexa’s journey.

Today’s salad is a lovely combination of flavors that can be enjoyed in a season of feasting or fasting. (Although it’s off limits for the detox.) Over the holidays, we went to a delicious little restaurant in Rockwall, Texas called Zanatas. Upon fist bite of their house salad, I knew I’d want it again, so here’s my recreation, which I think is pretty similar. I hope you try it!

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Mixed Green Salad with Figs, Red Onion, Candied Pistachios, Feta Cheese & Lemony Dressing
serves 4

Ingredients:
4 handfuls of mixed greens
6 dried figs, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup of crumbled feta
1/4 cup pistachios, shelled
1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/4 tablespoon salt

for the dressing
Adapted from Power Foods
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 large shallot, minced
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
(You’ll have extra, use on other salads or sandwiches!)

To make
:
For the candied pistachios: preheat oven to 350. In a small bowl, combine sugar, salt and water. Add pistachios, stir to combine. Place a piece of parchment paper on a small baking sheet. Spoon pistachios onto parchment paper. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Mix together lemon juice, Dijon, olive oil minced shallot, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

In a salad bowl, place mixed greens, diced red onions, feta, chopped figs and candied pistachios. Drizzle with 1/4 cup of dressing, combine and add more if needed.

Enjoy!


Cous Cous, Corn & Black Bean Salad with Chipotle Dressing

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As much as I absolutely love the fall months, I’m not quite ready for summer to end. I’m holding on to every fresh berry and ripe tomato I can get my hands on and I’m especially not ready for Hobby Lobby to be filled with scarecrows and pumpkins. Don’t get me wrong, fall is probably my favorite time of year, but I don’t want to skip the end of summer. Given the fact that it won’t get even slightly chilly here in Louisiana until maybe mid-October, I guess I have a bit more time.

For me, salads are the best thing to eat in the summer. And even though I could certainly make this salad in the fall or winter, there’s something summery about it. The tangy feta and spicy chipotle make this easy dish flavor packed.

This recipe comes from one of my all time favorite cookbooks, Power Foods. I’ve shared the quinoa salad here before, it’s incredible!

For a heartier salad, add some chopped rotisserie chicken or mixed greens and avocado. But without any of those things, this is still a hearty and delicious salad.

Happy end of summer!

For the salad:

2 cups of plain cous cous
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 can (15oz) black beans, drained & rinsed
1 cup crumbled feta
Chopped cilantro
A handful of blue corn tortilla chips

optional: chopped rotisserie chicken, sliced avocado, a handful of mixed greens

Dressing:

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 Tablespoon chopped chipotle chile in adobo (found in a small can on the Mexican foods aisle)
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup of water

To make:

Cook cous cous according to package directions, fluff and scoop 2 cups into a large bowl. Add drained & rinsed black beans, corn. Add chicken if using.

In a blender combine dressing ingredients. Add to cous cous mixture and stir to combine.

Place salad ingredients in a bowl on top of a handful of mixed greens if using. Top with a sprinkling of feta, cilantro and avocado. Serve with tortilla chips.
Enjoy!

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Easy Tomato Burst Pasta + Summer Reads

Easy summer pasta and good books to read, really, what’s better?

We’ve been on the road quite a bit the last couple of weeks with only a day or so in between trips, making it difficult to grocery shop. But with an abundance of cherry tomatoes & basil in my garden, I’ve been making this easy, flavor packed pasta on the days we’re home. Even if you don’t have a garden, tomatoes & basil are in season so you can pick them up at your farmer’s market or grocery.
As you cook the whole cherry tomatoes over low heat in a covered pan, they burst open creating a spectacular sauce. The real star of the show here is actually the cloves of garlic which sweeten up as they’re sautéed whole in olive oil before being chopped and added to the sauce.
Great as a side, light lunch, or dinner entree with the addition of grilled chicken, I hope you try this recipe and love it!

Ingredients:

1 cup whole cherry tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
8 fresh basil leaves, whole or chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups of spiral pasta

To Make:

Cook pasta according to package directions.
Drizzle 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil into a sauté pan over medium low heat. Using a chopping knife, lightly smash the garlic cloves with the side of the knife so as to remove the peel. Add whole cloves to the pan and sauté for 3 minutes until lightly browned.
Remove garlic cloves and add whole tomatoes. Turn heat to low and cover. Allow to sauté for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes burst open.
Roughly chop the garlic and add it to the pan. Add fresh basil leaves and salt and pepper to taste.
Drain pasta and drizzle 1/2 Tablespoon olive, stirring to get it all covered. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Put pasta into a bowl and pour sauce on top. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top and enjoy!!

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At the beach, on the plane, by the pool, and before bed at night, here are some great reads I’ve enjoyed this summer!

Love Does by Bob Goff

With hilarious stories of adventure and kindness, Bob Goff brings readers into the journey of learning how to love extravagantly.

Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist

Real talk on life. Through thoughtful essays sharing stories of life and God, Shauna Niequist reveals her experiences of celebrating each day.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Both through provoking and heart rending, this novel is a geniusly creative weaving together of stories that reveal human nature and the complexities of modern life.

Prophet by Frank Peretti

Probably my favorite novel of the summer. A fictional but truly apt critique of modern society. I wasn’t able to put this book down as the story is both mysterious and compelling!

Leading From the Second Chair by Mike Bonem & Roger Patterson

This is an incredible book for anyone who is in a place of subordinate leadership. The authors share from their experience, providing wise and insightful understanding into the complexities of leadership.

What books are you enjoying this summer?


Eating with the Armstrongs

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Summer has provided some good eats for us with out-of-town guests, birthday celebrations, and the use of my favorite cooking method: the grill. We have greatly enjoyed all of the following recipes and will be making them again!

Key Lime Meringue Pie

Summer in a dessert. The airy meringue topping made this pie an over-the-top treat! My only change is that I made a graham cracker crust rather than the shortbread crust the recipe calls for. I just can’t get away from the fact that graham cracker crumbs + sugar + butter is the best thing on earth. Find the recipe for it on the back of any graham cracker box.

Dark Chocolate Pie with Almond Crust and Raspberry Compote (Vegan & Gluten Free)

In all honesty, when I hear “vegan and gluten free” for a dessert, the I think: “dry and tasteless” because it’s just hard to believe that the omission of flour, butter, and cream can be a good thing. But much to my delight (and health to my body) that’s actually not true and I’m happy to say that I’ve enjoyed several gluten free desserts lately. This pie is absolutely incredibly rich, smooth, and perfect. I made it for a birthday party and everyone raved. The recipe calls for strawberries, but I used raspberries because they are my favorite thing to pair with dark chocolate. Also, I didn’t have any vanilla, and really didn’t miss it, however, I will include it next time as I know it would only add another layer of flavor. The dark chocolate chips are melted with coconut milk and maple syrup for a creamy pie filling and the toasted almond pie crust is divine. My one other note is that I used the whole can of coconut milk rather than just the cream as the recipe calls for because I didn’t have time to chill it overnight, but the consistency was perfectly creamy. Please make this!

Zesty Lime, Shrimp & Avocado Salad

We made this for the Fourth of July and it is truly all things summery, flavor packed, and tasty. How can you go wrong with lime and avocado? I grilled my shrimp to add an extra note and also added black beans which made the salad less pretty but more filling.

Pineapple Cashew Fried Rice

Definitely a different flavor profile from the typical fried rice and one I gladly welcomed. Cooking the rice in pineapple juice and coconut milk provided a scrumptious sweetness that paired wonderfully with salty soy sauce sprinkled on top.

Greek Meatballs

We really enjoyed this version of meatballs. Rather than using lamb like the recipe calls for, I substituted ground beef. The inclusion of Bulgar wheat adds a nice crunch. I served this with my homemade hummus and a little salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh basil & feta topped with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, minced garlic, salt and pepper. Yum!

Yukon Gold & Sweet Mashed Potatoes

My friend Abigail introduced us to these a few months ago, and I’ve made them a couple times since as they are absolutely incredible! The sweet potatoes add a whole new element to the traditional mashed potatoes. They are great as the original recipe goes but I have also substituted sour cream instead of cream cheese with great success as well.

Happy July and Happy Eating!


Eating with the Armstrongs

Summer life promises to be a little bit slower for us, and we’ll welcome that wholeheartedly! But with settling into our new home and adding a puppy to the fam (pictures coming soon!) who knows what the pace will really look like.
In the coming weeks, look for a post on gardening! My parents helped us plant flower beds this weekend as well as an herb and vegetable garden. Here’s to hoping everything will remain alive throughout the summer. Taking on a green thumb promises to be a good workout and a chance to get some intense tan lines.

Recently we have enjoyed the following recipes:

Cilantro Garlic Chicken

This grilled chicken is ideal for summertime and FULL of flavor. I served it alongside of some roasted broccoli.

Pop Rock Truffles

A friend made these whimsical treats for a baby shower recently, and they are truly phenomenal! Pretty simple and a really creative idea for the plethora of summer showers and parties.

Springtime Portobello & Asparagus Pizza

Another recipe from one of my favorite blogs, this pizza is incredible. I substituted bacon as a cheaper alternative to prosciutto.

Raspberry Sorbet

Raspberries & sugar, how can you go wrong? This cold, tart summer sweet is delicious. Instead of fresh raspberries, I actually used thawed frozen ones and the flavor was still full and bright!

Crock Pot Short Rib Tacos

The flavor in this recipe is unbelievable! And I definitely love crock pot recipes on busy days.

Hope you try and enjoy these!


Roasted Broccoli & Cheddar Soup {lightened up}

When I have a sore throat, headache, fever & cold, I want to eat something warm, something comforting, something not too heavy, something flavorful. Something like this roasted broccoli & cheddar soup. I made it last week, but should’ve saved some for today as I’m lying in bed with the above symptoms and just ate tomato bisque out of a can. Oh well.

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Roasted broccoli is one of my all time favorite foods because of it’s nutty, crisp, & rich flavor. Roasting broccoli with just a little olive oil plus salt and pepper, mmm, just can’t go wrong. Adding in some extra sharp cheddar cheese and making a delicious wintertime soup is the best next step. Most broccoli cheese soups I’ve tasted are richly creamy, meaning super heavy. I tried to lighten it up a bit! So while three cups of cheese may seem like a lot, its a big down size from cheese+half & half+whole milk-whew! This soup focuses mostly on the broccoli rather than being overly cream filled. In fact, the only dairy item is cheddar. A hot slice of honey beer bread is the perfect side, which I told you that we’ve been making a lot because it is SO quick, easy and absolutely delicious.

Ingredients:

Serves 4

2 pounds of broccoli

4 cups  vegetable broth

3 cups sharp cheddar cheese

2 Tablespoons flour

4 Tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt + more to taste

1 teaspoon pepper + more to taste

2 teaspoons garlic powder

To Make:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse and chop broccoli and spread out on a baking sheet. Cover with two tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper & garlic powder. Roast for 20 minutes until crisp.

Add two tablespoons of olive oil to soup pot over medium heat, let warm then add flour. Whisk together to remove any lumps, for about 2 minutes. Add vegetable broth slowly, allowing to bubble. Add cheddar cheese and stir together to melt.

When the broccoli is finish roasting, add it to the broth-cheese mixture. If you have a hand blender (highly recommend!) put it in the soup and blend until smooth. Taste soup and add more salt and pepper if necessary. If you do not have a hand blender, allow soup to cool, then pour it into your blender and blend until smooth, then return it to the soup pot and allow to warm.

Serve warm with honey beer bread! Enjoy!

*note: the soup will thicken up if you allow it to simmer for a bit. However, if you want it to be even thicker, add a Tablespoon of flour and blend, the flour will smooth out and thicken the soup.

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Now, who wants to bring me some?