winter salad with apple and pomegranate

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It's the day after Christmas. I woke in the middle of a dream which left my head spinning. Mouth dry, limbs numb, I try to compose myself. I could sleep for another 2 days straight. Exhausted from festivities, I'm feeling somewhat relieved but also sad. There is such buildup to Christmas that I often feel inadequate in keeping up with its demands so in some respect I'm glad it's over. But with its ending comes the end of my children's euphoric anticipation.

Growing up we did Christmas differently. There was no month long buildup from Thanksgiving to the actual day. There was a tree at some point and presents to be had on Christmas morning. Trees are often decorated on the 24th in a ceremonious fashion and the celebration also includes the day after Christmas. Whether it was customary everywhere or just with my family and friends, the day after was also a big deal. It was mostly a day of feasting. A large meal that spanned for hours took up the majority of the day. It was a nice transition. 

So the day 26th. I try to compose myself, reluctantly kicking off the covers but feeling a strong need to get back in the kitchen and cooking. Taking even a few days off makes me feel a tad antsy. Whenever I'm faced with the end of something, such as the Christmas season, I feel the need to quickly shift focus. Perhaps it's to lessen the feeling of sadness I inevitably experience every time the excitement vanishes. 

A remedy for this saddness is making food. It's no surprise that cooking brings me joy. It's a reliable source of contentment. I'm itching to get back to some sort of routine. I find it grounding. Whether an escape or not, it doesn't much matter. It's makes me pretty damn happy. And so does the salad I had planned for the day. I've talked about the absurd pleasure that cooking with vegetables brings me. I find peeling and cutting soporific - a meditative act rather than an annoyance. So vegetables and a fruit! Parsnips, carrots, beets and apple are roasted until golden brown and sweet. They're combined with greens, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, and a simple pomegranate dressing that takes minutes to whip up. 

I'm ready for some greens, something a little on the lighter side. I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful roast from the day before but my body aches for simple fresh food. 

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winter salad with apple and pomegranate

  • prep time: 10 minutes

  • cooking time: 25-30 minutes

  • makes: 4 servings

Ingredients: 

  • 1 apple peeled and thinly sliced

  • 3 parsnips peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces

  • 4 carrots peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces

  • 2 beets peeled and thinly sliced

  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped thyme

  • 2 tbsp olive oil divided

  • 3/4 tsp salt divided

  • 1/2 tsp pepper divided

  • 2 tbsp fresh pomegranate seeds (see tip below)

  • 2 tbsp chopped toasted walnuts

  • 4 cups greens or spinach (or as much as you want)

*Tip - the easiest way to remove pomegranate seeds is to cut the fruit into 4 pieces. Fill a large bowl with water and submerge each individual piece and remove the seeds under water. The seeds will sink and the white part will float to the top and can be easily removed with a strainer. Then strain seeds and voila! 

Dressing:

  • 2 tsp pomegranate juice (you can squeeze your own juice out of seeds for strict paleo and whole30)

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 tsp dijon mustard

  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar

  • pinch salt

  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Equipment:

  • mixing bowl

  • 2 baking sheets

  • parchment paper or foil

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Add cut beets to one baking sheet and toss with 1 tbsp oil, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper (or as much as you'd like). Add to middle rack of oven.

Add carrots, apple, parsnip and thyme to other baking sheet and combine with the remaining tbsp oil, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and mix well. Add to lower rack of oven. Roast both vegetable trays until soft - about 25-30 minutes, giving a toss half way through. 

Meanwhile in mixing bowl, combine all ingredients for dressing, whisk well and set aside. 

When vegetables are done set aside to cool for a few minutes. 

To assemble salad: Add one cup of greens to plate, roasted vegetables, walnuts, pomegranate seeds and pour dressing over top. 


Here is a delicious salad with all the flavors of the season. Pomegranate apple and roasted vegetables make this a hearty meal anytime of year. It’s also vegan, paleo and whole 30.#salad #paleo #vegan #wintersalad #calmeats #whole30 #paleosalad #whole30salad #realfood #wholefood #glutenfree #dairyfree #grainfree

zoodles with avocado pesto and egg

zoodles with avocado pesto and egg
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The good thing about eating a mostly paleo diet is that I feel pretty great these days. The trouble with eating a mostly paleo diet is the planning. I like to delude myself into believing I'm a relatively organized person. I try for the most part. But since there are so many moving parts in my day, from time to time I slip. (Okay often).

Onion. This among several other ingredients is what I had to get to make my vegan chili on this snowy Friday night. Daughter in tow, I picked up all that I needed and came home with a bunch of random items only to find myself standing in my kitchen yelling the word: "Oniooooon!" Yes, I had forgotten a vital ingredient. 

The snow was coming down hard and I was in no way going back to the store. Pizza sounded like a good idea for everyone but then I'd be starving. What to do? 

I've been here before. Standing in my kitchen, panic setting in as the clock draws nearer to dinner time, desperately searching the fridge for something I could assemble and call it dinner. And there they were! Eggs - so obvious. They always come through for me. I cannot imagine a day without them. I used to think avocado was the one food I couldn't live without but I'm thinking it may have just slipped into second place. 

For a moment I toyed around with perhaps making breakfast for dinner, which can be fun and all but it just didn't quite do it for me. And all of a sudden it all became clear, zucchini noodles with avocado sauce and an egg on top. Problem solved! 

Here's the thing about this dish. You can use regular pasta, though I find it works remarkably better when made with zoodles. It's better on your gut health, but since zoodles tend to be a bit on the wet side, which is not always a good thing, this sauce absorbs some of the moisture balancing them perfectly. Oh and did I mention it takes about 10 minutes to make this whole thing? Yeah, it's a win in my book. 

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zoodles with avocado pesto and egg

  • prep time: 5 minutes

  • cooking time: 5 minutes

  • makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado

  • 4 tbsp olive oil divided

  • 2 tbsp chopped raw walnuts

  • 1 garlic clove

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp pepper

  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro

  • 3 tbsp water

  • 2 large zucchini

  • 4 eggs

Equipment

  • food processor

  • 2 frying pans

Directions

For pesto, combine 2 tbsp olive oil and all ingredients aside from zucchini and eggs in food processor and puree until fully incorporated. Set aside. 

Use spiralizer to spiral zoodles. Preheat pan over medium heat and add 1 tbsp olive oil along with zucchini noodles and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 2 minutes stirring continuously until softened a little. 

Meanwhile in a separate pan over medium heat, add remaining 1 tbsp olive oil and fry eggs. I like my eggs slightly on the runny side but this is up to you. 

Once zoodles are cooked, add pesto to pan and combine well. 

To plate, add zoodles with pesto and top with fried egg. You can add extra olive oil if you wish. 


If you have 10 minutes, you can have dinner on the table! This paleo, whole 30 and vegetarian quick zoodles with avocado pesto and egg, is a great option for when you haven’t gotten a lot in the house and are still looking to eat a nutritious meal. #egg, #paleo, #whole30, #vegetarian, #zoodles, #zucchininoodles, #avocadopesto, #calmeats, #pesto, #quickmeals, #10minuterecipe

chocolate thumbprint cookies

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It was December. It had been nearly 2 months since I first stepped foot in the US. The house smelled sweet...of chocolate, no cookies. Both. Curious to see what it was, I walked downstairs, timidly passing several members of my new family.

It was odd being in that space. A large, red brick house in a tiny town that held no memories and felt nothing like home. Yes, it's true, I had my own room, which I never envisioned could be possible, but it was foreign. The whole thing felt like a strange dream from which I was sure to wake up any minute. By that point, I had 2 months to process the fact that I wasn't in Romania anymore. I had experience leaving home the first time we moved to Germany but it was nothing like this. My father still in Europe, my mom, brother and me living with my new step-family. 

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By this point I'd acquired a very basic vocabulary and could say the typical pleasantries such as "hi, how are you today?" and "school was good". I hadn't the courage or words available to ask what the smell was. I had to patiently wait until they came out of the oven. Round, chocolatey with a shiny red center. Unusual cookies to my foreign eyes. Then I tried one...

I'd learned that day that that it was customary to make cookies around Christmas time. Though I have few pleasant memories from that first Christmas, that one stuck with me. Those cookies were one of the best things I'd ever eaten. The taste confused me. Chocolate and raspberry together? It was a peculiar combination to me at the time. 

For years I had no idea what they were called. I craved them and wanted them but there is just no way to find out what something is when you don't even have a name for it. However sometime around the 2000s when Google was born, I was able to slowly piece together that which I thought I'd never find. The name of these cookies. 

To this day I wonder, is it the name? The strange memories associated with them or is it the fact that they were this elusive mystery which I couldn't solve for years that drew me to them. 

As I no longer eat the majority of ingredients that go into making traditional thumbprint cookies, I've had to come up with alternatives. So I give you my version of grain free, gluten free and dairy free thumbprint cookies. 

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  • prep time: 10 minutes

  • baking time: 10 minutes

  • makes: 25-30 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut flour

  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil

  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 1/4 cup dutched cocoa

  • 4 room temperature eggs

  • 2-3 tbsp raspberry preserves

Equipment

  • 2 baking sheets

  • parchment paper

  • large mixing bowl

  • small mixing bowl

  • whisk

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl. Whisk until everything is fully incorporated. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Next take a small amount of dough and form into a 1" ball. Place on parchment paper lined sheet and press your thumb in the center to create a little indent. Repeat until all the dough is gone. 

Place roughly 1/4 tsp of raspberry jam into thumb print. Bake the first tray on middle rack for 10 minutes. Repeat with the second batch. 

Cool completely and store in an air-tight container. 

* I highly recommend using dutched chocolate otherwise your cookies will end up with a cake like consistency. 

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chocolate thumbprint cookies
Ingredients
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup choclate chips (melted in micro for 1 minute)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup dutched cocoa
  • 4 room temperature eggs
  • 2-3 tbsp raspberry preserves
Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl. Whisk until everything is fully incorporated. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  2. Next take a small amount of dough and form into a 1" ball. Place on parchment paper lined sheet and press your thumb in the center to create a little indent. Repeat until all the dough is gone. 3. Place roughly 1/4 tsp of raspberry jam into thumb print. Bake the first tray on middle rack for 10 minutes. Repeat with the second batch. 4. Cool completely and store in an air-tight container. 
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 25-30

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basil pineapple ginger smoothie

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I was kind of a late comer to the whole smoothie movement. I found them intimidating. I know, I know, what's there to be intimidated about? You take a bunch of ingredients and put them in a blender and go. But I found the myriad smoothie options bewildering. So many different possibilities. What if I get it wrong? And I don't even own a decent blender. Those were my feelings towards smoothies before January 1st, 2013. 

I was nearly 4 months pregnant. The night before, I'd spend New Year's Eve in the bedroom binge watching Netflix. My husband mid making the newly purchased house livable was busy tearing sheet after sheet of wallpaper off the living room wall. It felt like living in a bit of a war zone and the safest place was as far away from the chaos taking place downstairs. 

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After spending a good 14 weeks of my pregnancy consuming cereal, mozzarella cheese and marshmallow fluff as the only sustainable fuel I could stomach, I felt a returning to myself. I was craving vegetables, fruit. I wanted all of it. Bring on the greens!

While I find new years resolutions to be absurd and most of the time a big fat lie people tell themselves for a temporary respite from their usual behavior, here I was making one. I decided on January 1st, I'd get up and get myself a good blender and would eat more fruits and vegetables in the form of smoothies. I came home with my shiny new machine and about $50 worth of produce. 

I played it safe with the first. Banana - check, spinach - check, blueberries - check, water + ice - check. Two weeks later and I was blending expert. No holds barred. 

As the months wore on and my enthusiasm diminished, I scaled down on the ingredient list I had initially worked up to. Several types of greens, multiple fruit and nuts - it was overkill. So I stuck to some basic recipes I actually enjoyed making with only a few ingredients. I wanted the benefit, liked the taste but didn't want to go broke in the process. 

So here is a recipe that dates back to my smoothie obsession. For it, I use basil, pineapple, ginger, frozen banana, cashew milk, collagen and coconut oil. It's invigorating and fresh and a fantastic way to get your vitamins and fiber.

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basil pineapple ginger smoothie

  • prep time: 5 minutes

  • blending time: 1 minutes

  • makes: 1 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pineapple

  • handful of fresh basil

  • 1 frozen banana

  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

  • 1.5 cup cashew milk

  • 1 tbsp collagen (omit if vegan)

Equipment

  • blender

Directions

Blend all ingredients, pour and enjoy. 


This is a refreshing and super speedy basil smoothie you can whip up anytime you want a burst of energy. It's paleo, whole 30 approved with a vegan option. #greensmoothie, #vegan, #whole30, #paleo #calmeats #smoothie #realfood #greendrink #collagen #basismoothie

sausage kale and carrot soup

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Yesterday I got this pang in my chest...a need to go to the ocean, which I think about more times than I care to admit. I don't know what it is that draws me to it. I suppose it's the thing that draws so many to the shoreline. For me, it's an obsession, which can't be silenced. Most like going to the beach in the summer. It's obvious. I do too but I like the beach in the winter, fall and spring. 

My husband and I have taken several trips in the winter. Something we used to do more frequently pre-children. He reluctantly agrees to go even though he doesn't have the same fondness for the beach in the winter as I do. To me, perhaps one of loveliest things is waking up early, layering up with anything available in my suitcase and walking on the beach until my lips remind me that they're going to split if I don't immediately give them warmth. 

The feeling of walking on an empty beach with nothing but the wind, sand and crashing waves feels a bit like: "shhhhh....relax". There isn't much room for thoughts because the experience itself is overwhelming. I don't know how to take it in more. I want to create extra space in my body, in my mind to preserve this feeling that can't be preserved. It's hard to put into words something visceral but the ocean does something to me. It transforms me. However, that feeling quickly fades once I'm frozen to the core. 

Such cold, blistery beach strolls call for warm food - mainly soup. One of the most delicious soups I've had after such a walk was at a local restaurant in the beach town we frequently visit. It was a sausage, bean and greens soup, which inspired me to make my own version of it. While I do eat legumes now and then, they're not a regular part of my diet anymore so I decided to skip them for this recipe. However, the soup does need some creaminess so I opted for potato instead. The combination of sausage, kale and potato is glorious. If you want a bit of a kick, feel free to use spicy sausage, which is my favorite, but in order for my kids to eat it, I try to stick to mild. Also, if you're strictly paleo, feel free to skip the potato all together. 

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sausage kale and carrot soup

  • prep time: 10 minutes

  • cooking time: 40-45 minutes

  • makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 6 medium carrots chopped into 1" pieces

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 lb Italian mild or spicy sausage, casings removed

  • 1 russet potato, cut into bite size pieces (skip if strictly paleo)

  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

  • 1/2 tsp dry thyme

  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp pepper

  • 4 cups chicken broth

  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed, torn into bite size pieces

Equipment

  • large soup pot

  • wooden slotted spoon

Directions

Preheat soup pan on medium heat. Add olive oil, onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until onion is translucent - about 8 minutes.

Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add sausage to pan, breaking it up with wooden spoon into bite size pieces. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently until browned.

Next, add carrots and potatoes and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Add rest of ingredients aside from kale and cook for 25 minutes. Add kale in the last 10 minutes of cooking. Serve right away or store in the refrigerator in an air tight container. 

* Soup always tastes better the second day


Soup is amazing anytime of the year but I find it to be particularly so when the weather gets cooler and the body just needs that extra warmth. This sausage, kale, potato and carrot soup is the perfect solution for when you want a little something hearty and warming. It's whole30 with paleo option and 100% delicious. #soup, #whole30, #paleo, #paleosoup, #whole30soup, #calmeats, #glutenfree, #dairyfree, #realfood, #fall, #kale, #sausage