4 Snacks to Celebrate 4 Weeks!

I have shown many lunch recipes lately and I thought it would be a great idea to share some snack recipes. I have for you today 4 quick and healthy snack recipes to celebrate the four weeks that I have been writing this food blog!

I am OBSESSED with these snacks that I created. They are filling and uber tasty. You won’t want to just eat 1 serving size, I guarantee you. Step aside packaged granola bars, greasy potato chips, and sugar-filled pop-tarts and say hello to apricot-almond energy bites, roasted red pepper hummus, rosemary-lemon-parmesan popcorn, and salmon-cucumber bites!

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All the lovely flavors of a lox bagel are in my cucumber bites but without the heavy carbs from the bagel! The energy bites are portable and deliciously sweet. The hummus is great with veggies, pita chips, or crackers.  The popcorn recipe is addictive I tell you; such an interesting flavor combination and so fancy sounding too!

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We all know too well that mid-day slump around 3pm when we’re just pooped and need a little energy boost. Well these snacks are the perfect solution to help you tackle the rest of your day without having to rely on artificial sugars to give you a tiny sugar buzz. That tiny sugar high very quickly turns into an ultimate drop of energy. I know it’s sometimes hard to resist a candy bar as a snack, I have quite a sweet tooth myself, but trust me when I say that your body will thank you for eating wholesome nutritious snacks like the ones I have for you today. Our bodies are like a car. They need the right kind of fuel so the engine can run properly.

You’re always taught as a kid to look at the nutritional values like the number of calories, fat, sugar, etc. to determine whether something is healthy or not. That’s a very one-dimensional way to analyze food. It’s almost like saying, “That girl held the door open for me, she must be the nicest human being ever.” We all know that’s normally not the case. That same girl could go spread rumors about someone else and talk behind people’s backs all the time but you just didn’t see it in that one instance when she held the door open for you. Food can similarly sneak up on you and bite you in the butt with a bunch of added sugar or sodium that you didn’t even know about before because it said on the front of the package that it’s “low fat”. However, you can’t just look at one nutritional value when comparing two products. A bag of potato chips may appear to have less fat than a handful of almonds, but it may have twice the amount of added sodium, making it the not-so-healthy option between the two. You have to look at all of the nutritional values, serving size, AND the ingredient list when comparing. Less is better when looking at ingredient lists. If you see words on an ingredient list that you can’t even pronounce, that means there’s a bunch of artificial chemicals added that you probably don’t want in your body.

You also have to keep in mind that some fat and sugar can be good for us, unless it’s not natural. For example, my energy bite recipe has almond butter in it, which has a lot of fat in it. However, those are the good kind of Omega- 3 fatty acids that our bodies jump up and down for (I remember briefly talking about this in a previous post). Our bodies need fat to live.

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Recap: Nutrition can be very complicated. Do the best you can to eat wholesome and natural food as much as you can. Just be aware and be educated on nutrition. It’s important to give our bodies the right kind of fuel!

Alright, I’m done with my nutrition rant…

I wanted to take the time to thank everyone who has been reading my blog posts for the past four weeks. I hope you’ve learned something new about nutrition, gotten some inspiration for lunch/snack ideas, or just enjoyed reading my sappy rants about life. I also want to thank my mentor, Laura Bednarski, who has taught me so much about food blogging and photography. (She helped me take these amazing photographs for my blog!) Also thank you to my parents for constantly going to the grocery store to get ingredients I needed and for letting me make the kitchen a complete mess after testing recipes. (At least I cleaned up afterwards…for the most part!)

Now that my senior project is officially over, I won’t be blogging as often. Being a camp counselor keeps me pretty busy over the summer. However, I’ll try to blog a bit and share a few recipes over the summer if I can because I enjoy doing this so much!

Now for the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The 4 snack recipes!!!!!!!

 

Apricot Almond Energy Bites:

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Yields 14 balls

Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 10 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup medjool dates* (around 6 dates)

1/2 cup dried apricots (around 12 apricots)

1/2 cup almond butter

2 Tbsp. honey

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup roughly chopped raw almonds

1 Tbsp. chia seeds

1 Tbsp. hemp seeds

1 tsp. cinnamon

small pinch of salt

 

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, add in dates (make sure you take the pits out of them!), dried apricots, almond butter, and honey. Pulse until the mixture becomes a thick paste.
  2. Add in rolled oats, almonds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Blitz together until it forms one pureed clump.
  3. With the mixture, roll out 1-inch balls (or layer out on to a lined baking sheet and cut later to create bars.)
  4. Keep energy bites in an airtight container in the fridge.

 

*Notes:

-To make your dates extra sticky, soak them in hot water for 20 minutes. (Optional)

-There are many different variations of this energy bite recipe. You can make some with dried cranberries & pistachios, peanut butter and chocolate chips, or cashew & dried blueberries. The possibilities are endless! To make these nut-free you can use pumpkin or sunflower seeds. To make this recipe vegan, you can replace the honey with agave.

 

 

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus:

(Derived from an epicurious recipe)

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Serving size for hummus: 2 Tablespoons

16 servings in hummus recipe. Makes around 2 cups of hummus

Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 10 minutes

 

Ingredients:

2 large garlic cloves

1 (15 oz.) can of chickpeas

1/3 cup of tahini

1/3 cup of lemon juice

1/2 cup of roasted red peppers*

pinch of cayenne

salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, pulse garlic clove until finely minced.
  2. Add in chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, roasted red peppers, cumin, and a pinch of cayenne. Blitz together until fully incorporated.

 

Notes*

-I used roasted red peppers from a jar so I don’t have to roast them myself.

 

 

Smoked Salmon Cucumber Bites:

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Serves: 1

Prep time: 5 minutes

Total time: 5 minutes

 

Ingredients:

6 cucumber slices (cut around 1/2 inch thick)

6 small slices of smoked salmon (add however much you want)

3 Tbsp. herb cream cheese (store-bought or you can make my homemade one!)

 

For cream cheese spread:

3 Tbsp. cream cheese

1 Tbsp. fresh chives finely chopped

1/2 tsp. lemon zest (around 1/4 of a small lemon)

1 tsp. lemon juice

generous pinch of dried dill (or if you have fresh use about 1 tsp.)

 

Directions:

  1. Make herb cream cheese: mix together all of the ingredients in a bowl. (Make sure to zest lemon before juicing it.)
  2. Add on a dollop of cream cheese on to cucumber slice. Add on a slice of smoked salmon on top.

 

 

Rosemary, Lemon, Parmesan Flavored Popcorn:

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Serves: 2 (large serving sizes)

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 3 minutes

Total time: around 8-10 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1/3 cup popcorn kernels

1  1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

zest of 1 small lemon (or half of large lemon)

2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary (2 sprigs of rosemary)

salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

  1. Place popcorn kernels in a brown paper bag. Fold the paper bag over. Make sure you leave enough room for the kernels to pop in the bag. Microwave on high for 3 minutes or until you don’t hear kernels popping anymore (timing will depend on the wattage of your microwave. You don’t have to use a microwave to make the popcorn, you can make it any way you like!)
  2. Add in olive oil, Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper into the brown paper bag full of popped popcorn.
  3. Shake the bag so ingredients are distributed evenly.

 

I hope you enjoy these snacks if you make them yourself!!!! I hope you have a great rest of your weekend. Go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather we have been having!

Sophisticated Turkey, Apple, and Brie Sandwich

I know I said in my recent post that I try to avoid just the plain turkey sandwich everyday, but this turkey sandwich is something special. Tastes super sophisticated (hence the title) and gourmet, yet is incredibly easy to put together. There’s almost no point in even including a recipe.

This recipe has sweet & salty elements that harmoniously come together to make a flipping amazing sandwich. Sweet fig jam along with salty turkey and a peppery bite from the arugula- YUM. The sandwich also has an interesting combination of textures from the crunch of the arugula and the creamy gooey-ness from the brie cheese. I feel so fancy when I eat this sandwich.

While we’re on the topic of sweet/salty things, this week has been bittersweet for me. I had my last choir opera concert and swing choir concert. They both went extremely well and I’m so proud of all of the hard work that we (my fellow choir kids) put into these performances. It was a memorable way to end high school.

Choir and theatre have been my life for the past four years. I’ve dedicated so much time, learned so much, made so many incredible friends, and have been given so many amazing opportunities through the performing arts department. For every show or concert I’m a part of, it’s a different experience each time. However, one thing is the same. You put in a crazy amount of hard work and develop a special kind of bond with the people you’re performing with that no one else understands. You can feel that bond between the performers on stage and it’s why any form of art can be so moving. As a performer, you have the ability to tell a story and send a powerful message to audiences that can be life changing for them. It’s why I find such enjoyment and fulfillment with every performance I am a part of. Acting and singing are more than just activities I do in my free time, they are passions that I’ll keep in my life always.

Some people wonder why I am not majoring in theatre for college and pursuing it as a career since I seem so passionate about it. I initially thought about it and wondered if I was even good enough to make it. However, after fully thinking about what it would entail I realized that just because you love something doesn’t mean you want to do it everyday of your life. I don’t think theatre and singing would be as special for me if I were forced to do it everyday. I realized that being an actor wasn’t what I was aspiring to be anymore. Just like how people change as life goes on, their dreams change as well.

There are other things, like food, that I am extremely passionate about (obviously), that I can see myself loving as a career (something business related in the food industry). I still want to keep theatre and singing a part of my life, but I don’t think I would ultimately be happy  if I were to pursue it as a full-time career. For me, it’s all about being happy in the end. As I get older, I can be involved in community theatre, take acting classes, or even be a director for a local children’s production.

Going back to the sandwich, because this is a food blog where I am supposed to be mostly talking about food… I hope you try out this sandwich and like it!

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I used this brand of fig preserves and it was delicious!

You can certainly make it at home for a weekend lunch or you can also bring it to school! Whenever I bring this sandwich to school for lunch, it always keeps well and maintains its flavor and good texture. If you do decide to bring the sandwich for lunch, don’t toast the bread otherwise the sandwich will get soggy.

Turkey, Apple, and Brie Sandwich

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Total time: 5 minutes

Serves 1

Ingredients:

2 slices of bread of your choosing (I used a nice multi-grain bread from Three Tarts in Northfield, but you can also use just plain whole wheat sandwich bread)

1 granny smith apple cut into thin slices (I used only half of the apple)

1 Tbsp. fig preserves or jam (quantity depends on your preference)

A few slices of Brie cheese

A few slices of turkey breast (fresh from the deli counter)

Handful of arugula

 

Directions:

  1. Toast your slices of bread (optional)
  2. Cut 1/2 of apple into thin slices and set aside
  3. To assemble sandwich: spread an even layer of fig preserves on one side of the bread. Next add on slices of Brie, apples, turkey, arugula, and top slice of bread.
  4. Prepare yourself to taste the best sandwich you have ever made before.

 

Make sure to check out my next blog post later on this week where I’ll be sharing 4 healthy, easy, homemade snack recipes!

Deconstructed Farro Sushi Bowl With Tofu

Throughout the four weeks that I’ve been working on this blog for my senior project, I’ve tried to create recipes that cover different ethnicities. I showed you a southwestern kale salad, a mediterranean quinoa tabbouleh, an Italian pasta salad, and now I have for you a deconstructed sushi bowl!

 I LOVE SUSHI. Love love love it. Whenever my family goes out for sushi, we inhale about three rolls of sushi in a matter of minutes. In my opinion, all of the sushi ends up tasting the same once you eat enough pieces, but hey, it’s delicious so it doesn’t matter to me.
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I don’t go out for sushi that often because my family cooks dinner most nights. My younger brother also isn’t a fan of sushi, so when we decide to go out for dinner, he’ll proceed to whine and ask if we can go to a place that has his favorite foods a.k.a hamburgers, pizza, hot dogs, and basically anything American.

 Because I don’t go out for sushi that often, I find myself craving it constantly. So now instead of trying to make my own sushi at home, which looks like a real pain in the butt, you can create this sushi bowl instead at home!

 It’s nutritious, filling, and full of flavor! Spicy and crispy tofu, creamy avocado, a fresh crunch of cucumber and carrot, sweet mango, nutritious farro, and a nice sprinkle of sesame seeds for good measure. The bowl has interesting textures and flavors and will make you want to stand up and do a little happy dance.

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Feel free to add fresh tuna or salmon if you want instead of the tofu if you aren’t a big tofu lover. Make sure that if you are using raw tuna or salmon, that it’s good quality. You also can replace the farro with rice or quinoa instead. I just like the texture of farro in this recipe, it’s nice to switch it up a little from the normal quinoa or rice. Farro tastes like a chewier more tender rice, almost like farfel. It’s super nutritious as well. Quinoa and farro are essentially the same when it comes to protein, fiber, and carb values, but farro has more calcium. Both are healthy and are used in plenty of delicious recipes. I’ll put a link below to some of my favorite farro/quinoa recipes!

 Farro recipes:

http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2015/01/winter-salad-roasted-grapes-farro.html

http://pinchofyum.com/garlic-butter-mushroom-risotto

Quinoa recipes:

http://www.cookingclassy.com/2013/12/slow-cooker-quinoa-chicken-kale-soup/

http://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/2013/04/crunchy-cashew-thai-quinoa-salad-with-ginger-peanut-dressing/#comment-5123

Every week, my mom and I make a batch of quinoa or farro and then throughout the week we incorporate it into our salads for lunch. We also sometimes grill up a few chicken breasts in the beginning of the week so that we can use it in our lunches. You may have heard about Sunday meal-prep, it has been trending in the food blogging/Youtube community recently. There are some people who’re crazy with their meal prep on Sunday. They have every meal planned out, they pre-wash and cut all of their fruits/vegetables for the week, and they make all of their grains/pasta that they need for the week. My family does not do that. That just seems like over-kill. My mom and I particularly just try to think ahead about what we want for lunch so that we’re in control of what we are eating and we aren’t forced to just make a turkey sandwich each day. That can get really boring. All it takes is a little planing ahead and effort on Sunday when you’re trying to avoid doing homework anyways.

I hope you decide to try out this super easy and delicious sushi bowl! I am so excited for next week’s recipes, I think you’ll really enjoy them. A sophisticated sandwich and some great, homemade, healthy snacks are coming soon!

Deconstructed Farro Sushi Bowl with Tofu

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Serves 2

Prep time: 10 minute

Cook time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

1 cup farro (may only use a portion of this depending on how much you want in your bowl. Use the rest for another recipe!)

6 oz. extra-firm tofu

1/2 cup english cucumber

1 mango sliced

1 Tbsp. scallions

1/2 cup shaved carrot

1/2 avocado

1/2 cup cooked edamame

sprinkle of black sesame seeds

a few nori sheets on the side (optional)

Sauce for tofu:

1 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. sesame oil

1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1/2 tsp. fresh ginger

2 tsp. chili-garlic sauce

1 1/2 Tbsp. honey

Directions:

  1. To cook farro: follow directions on package.
  2. While farro is cooking, drain the tofu of the excess water and cut into 2-inch cubes.
  3. Make the sauce for the tofu. Whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, fresh ginger, chili-garlic sauce, and honey.
  4. Turn pan on the stove to medium-high heat. Dip pieces of tofu into the sauce and place on hot pan. Let tofu cook for about 2 minutes on either side. The tofu should have a nice crisp dark brown color to it.
  5. Cut slices of cucumbers, mango, carrots (I used the carrot peeler and made shaved strips), and scallions. Cut cubes of avocado and cook edamame (I used pre-cooked frozen Trader Joe’s edamame and just had to defrost them with hot water.)
  6. Assemble bowl by placing farro in bowl and lay on tofu, cucumber, carrot, edamame, mango, and avocado on top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions. Enjoy!

Roasted Summer Vegetable and Goat Cheese Pasta Salad

Hi there!

Man, this blogging thing is really fun. After working on a few blog posts, I’m starting to get the hang of it. Lots of work, I can certainly say that. However, it’s all worth it. I hope you’re having as much fun reading the posts as I am creating them!

With this recent warm weather we have been getting, I’ve realized that a part of me is happy that the cold weather is coming to an end, and a part of me still wants to be curled up by the fire with a big blanket wrapped around me like a burrito. I don’t know about all of you, but there’s something that I just love about waking up and seeing bright white all over from the fresh snow that’s just fallen the night before. The hot chocolate, the sweaters, ice-skating. All of it sounds so great when you say it out loud, but in the dead of the bitter cold winter, there are times when I wish I didn’t have to wear a thousand layers…I guess I don’t like everything about winter, but I certainly enjoy it more than most. I sort of have to be okay with the cold weather since I am going to Syracuse next year for college and Syracuse is supposed to be one of the coldest, snowiest cities in the country.

I wish I started my food blog in the wintertime. I could have shared tons of recipes for homemade soups and all of the yummy comfort food we all know and love. Certainly when I’m at college next year there is no way I’m going to be able to keep this blog up. Who knows if I’ll continue it after college, I would certainly like to though.

Going back to the whole weather topic again, don’t think for a second that I am upset about the warm weather. I love summer as well. Not a big fan of all the bug-bites, sunburn, and constant sweating, but hey, I can handle that if it means I can avoid looking like a pale, white ghost for a brief period of time. I also love summer because I work as a camp counselor. It’s a BLAST. You wouldn’t believe how many great stories I have in my back pocket about camp. My campers say the silliest things. I’m even chuckling now as I think about them.

I also can’t forget to talk about all of the wonderful produce that’s going to be in season soon for summer! Cherries, raspberries, bell peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes galore!!!!! This is why I have created a scrumptious pasta salad recipe with vegetables that are in season soon! I realized that my first post had roasted vegetables in it too…I just love the flavor that it brings out in the veggies. Vegetables don’t have to be boring if you season and prepare them right!

imageThis pasta salad has zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, red onion, and grape tomatoes with a sprinkle of goat cheese on top, so delish. This pasta salad is perfect to take to Ravinia Music Festival, a picnic, or a family BBQ. The dish tastes great hot or cold!

This recipe seems really complex and challenging but it’s actually super easy and comes together pretty quickly. You can roast the vegetables while you’re cooking the pasta to save time. When that’s all done, you mix everything together and you have yourself an awesome pasta salad. If you want your goat cheese to just be crumbled on top like I do, wait for the vegetables to cool down a bit before you add the cheese. Also a trick to make the goat cheese easier to crumble: put it in the freezer for a few minutes to let it harden before you put it on top of the pasta. If you want the cheese to be more incorporated into the dish like a sauce, feel free to add it in while the pasta and vegetables are still warm. I hope you enjoy it if you try it out!

Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Pasta Salad:

imagePrep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. (8 oz.) of bowtie pasta

1 zucchini, sliced

1 yellow squash, sliced

1 whole medium red pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup of red onion, cut into 1-inch wedges

1 cup of whole grape tomatoes (yellow or red work)

2 Tbsp. olive oil (plus 1 Tbs. at the end)

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 large garlic clove, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

3/4 cup (3 oz.) of crumbled goat cheese

1/4 cup of pine nuts

1 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped

 

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.
  3. In a bowl mix together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, and a 1/4 tsp. of salt and pepper.
  4. Toss vegetables with mixture in a bowl.image
  5. Place on baking tray and roast for 20 minutes, turning vegetables over in the pan halfway through cooking.
  6. While vegetables are roasting, make pasta according to the instructions on the box. (You can make the whole pound of pasta and save the rest for another recipe.)
  7.  Add 1 Tbs. of olive oil into the cooked pasta. Mix roasted vegetables, crumbled goat cheese, pine nuts, and chopped basil into the pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Have a great rest of your week!!!

Happy Earth Day!

I sadly don’t have a recipe for you today, but fear not, I will be posting one in the beginning of next week.

I thought it would be a great time, since it is Earth Day today, to talk about my favorite re-usable products! Even though I wouldn’t say I am a big outdoorsy kind of kid, I still thought it would be fun and festive to celebrate Earth Day on my blog. As I was walking home from school today I realized just how beautiful this planet is. The bright sun, the vibrant green grass, the colorful flowers. All of it was stunning and I would hate to see it disappear soon. So take the opportunity on Earth Day to take a vow: to do your best to help save the environment. It can be something as simple as taking a quicker shower so you don’t waste water. Or you can buy any of these reusable products (I’ll share the links with you). Any small effort goes a long way!

I also will be sharing with you some of my favorite store-bought snack products for when I’m not in the mood to make something homemade. We’re all busy people and it’s nice to know a few snack options that are portable as well as healthy and nutritious.I’m sort of making this post all about my favorite products!

Some of you may not know this about me, but I love all kinds of plastic storage containers. So much so, that I even put them on my Hanukkah gift list last year. Yeah you read that correctly, I wanted my gifts to be plastic containers and various kitchen items. You could say I am not your typical teenager, but hey the kitchen gadgets makes me happy, so what’s the harm?

You have no idea how pumped I was when I got these colorful, reusable spoon/fork/knifes. Before, I had to use plastic utensils. Those aren’t as fun and they also are wasteful. Don’t hurt our planet!!

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B014R3G6XA/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_dp_ss_1?pf_rd_p=1944687522&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B001EXOA3K&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=1KFBYDPDZY9AVTWGKHAA

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Going back to plastic storage containers…this container that I use is epic. It has TWO LEVELS. The upper level has these two compartments for your side dishes. Then you can remove the upper level and put your sandwich in the bottom layer. It sort of reminds me of a little bento box, so cute!

http://novohousewares.com/lunch-box-clic-tite-double-decker.htmlIMG_1270FullSizeRender 12

Get ready for these. These are stackable mini containers for all of your favorite snacks!! 4 different sized containers. 4 different snacking options. You can take them apart and use them individually if you’d like. I have put lots of different types of snacks in these containers such as: trail mix, hummus & carrots, apples & peanut butter, guacamole and chips, celery & almond butter, pretzels, or fruit!

http://www.amazon.com/BlenderBottle-GoStak-Storage-4-Piece-Starter/dp/B00CZAQIZ4

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To answer your question, yes I do have four lunch boxes. Why, you may ask? Because I am an extremely forgetful person who has lost a total of five lunch boxes in my lifetime. I also like having multiple different ones because they’re so pretty and fun!! Not many people can say that they enjoy making their lunch for school everyday, I sure do. Do yourself a favor and get a bright, fun lunchbox. You deserve it and the Earth does too. Say adios to boring paper bag lunches!

http://www.amazon.com/BYO-Rambler-Neoprene-Lunch-Moroccan/dp/B00TWJ31R4/ref=sr_1_1?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1461358441&sr=1-1&refinements=p_4%3ABYO

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Ok so this next product really isn’t related to making lunch at all, I just really enjoy it! It’s a popsicle mold so that you can make your own homemade popsicles for the summer! Let me know if you’d like me to do a blog post with some homemade popsicle recipes in the future! I have a few that are delightful and way healthier than your store-bought popsicles with a bunch of added artificial sugars. You just make your mixture in a blender, pour it into the mold, wait overnight and the next night you have yourself a homemade Popsicle!

http://www.surlatable.com/product/PRO-1257526/?affsrcid=AFF0005&utm_term=88939497941product_type_l1appliances%26product_type_l2ice_cream_makers&adpos=1o5&creative=45300904061&device=t&matchtype=&network=g&gclid=COOlr6uSo8wCFYsCaQod9YsB_w

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Now onto talking about my favorite packaged snacks!!

First we have this frozen fully cooked edamame from Trader Joes. This product is amazing. All you have to do is put the frozen edamame in your lunchbox either the night before school or the morning of, and then when you are ready to eat them at lunch they will be fully defrosted! They’re already fully cooked so need to turn on that stove or anything! Edamame is a great snack that’s full of protein!
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Next we have these organic granola bars. Some granola bars say that they are healthy but read the label and try pronouncing all of the ingredients and preservatives in there, I dare you. These granola bars are just made with dried fruit and nuts. So chewy and delicious! I guess it’s why they’re called Pure granola bars. They come in a variety of flavors; my favorite is the blueberry flavor. You can find these bars at Fresh Thyme.

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This is probably my favorite cereal of all time. Kashi GOLEAN Crunch Honey Almond Flax. They’re not lying about the crunch, I put milk in this cereal and five minutes later it’s still crunchy. This cereal is also great on its own without milk! High in protein and fiber and has a nice sweet honey taste to it.
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Mary’s Gone Crackers. Good stuff man. You might as well change the name of the crackers to “Alyson’s Gone Mad for these Crackers.” They’re crispy, organic, gluten free, non-GMO, and vegan. They have chia seeds, flax seeds, whole grain brown rice, quinoa, and black sesame seeds. However, these aren’t just for hardcore health-nuts, they really are quite tasty and you should all give them a go. I especially enjoy these crackers with cheese and turkey slices. You can find these crackers at Jewel or I also have a link below so you can find them if you don’t live near a Jewel. P.S. sorry that the box is ripped in the photo.

http://www.marysgonecrackers.com/store-locator

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I hope you buy some of my favorite products and try them out! I highly recommend them all! Have a great rest of your Earth day and a wonderful weekend!!!

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Hello there! I hope you’re all psyched for Passover next week, because I know I am!!

Ok, I realize that not all of you know what the holiday Passover is so let me do a quick summary:

A long time ago Jews were slaves. Then we were free. Let’s celebrate and eat food together.

That’s basically the gist of all Jewish holidays to be honest.

I know I skipped over the whole middle part of the story but I didn’t want to bore you all with the details.

 

Passover is next week (starts this Friday night) and some of you may know that during the week of Passover, you aren’t allowed to eat leavened bread for the whole week. Reason being, when the Jews were escaping from slavery, they were like “Oh no, we don’t have time to bake the bread entirely. Let’s just take this flat, cardboard tasting bread and eat that!” That flat cardboard bread is now called matzah and you eat it during the week of Passover instead of normal bread as you cry and think about how much you miss pizza, pasta, and sandwiches.

I mean, even though I’m Jewish I don’t really follow this rule; I still eat all the carbs. I just eat matzah a few times during the week to channel my Jew-ness.

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That’s what matzah looks like, it’s in the basket

 

But for people out there who follow the rule and don’t eat bread the whole week, kudos to you. Here is a recipe to help you out! Quinoa is kosher for Passover! For all of you non-Jewish people, you totally can eat this salad too. It’s super fresh and tastes great.

 

Also, just as a little explanation of the dish for some of you who read the title and were like:

  1. What the heck is quinoa?
  2. What the heck is tabbouleh?

 

Quinoa (keen-wah) is a grain that’s high in protein, fiber, several vitamins and minerals, and is low in calories! It’s sort of like couscous, but a different texture. You should definitely start incorporating quinoa into your diet. It’s healthy and honestly tastes really good if you have the right kind of dressing and ingredients to put in it.

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Tabbouleh (pronounced: tah-boo-lay) is a Mediterranean salad traditionally made with tomatoes, parsley, mint, bulgur, onion, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. In my version that I have for you today, I replaced the bulgur with quinoa and added in cucumbers, feta, and lemon zest!

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I know this is a strange, posed photograph of herbs and vegetables, but I thought it looked festive and colorful

 

Random Thought Time: I don’t know about all of you, but at this point in the year it feels like there are so many things going on: my final choir concerts, senior project, prom, graduation. AHHHH!!! It’s sometimes a bit overwhelming. So much so, that I forget to take a second and actually enjoy how great all of those things that I listed are! At times, my stress has a mind of its own and completely takes over (I’m sure many of you can relate to this). I especially have been thinking a lot about this after discussing the story of Passover in my Sunday school class. Jews were once slaves in Egypt, and here I am complaining that the Wi-Fi on my iPad isn’t working. Believe it or not, Passover has actually become one of my favorite holidays, and let me tell you why. I don’t connect with this holiday by cutting bread out of my diet for a week. But rather by taking a little extra time out of my day to appreciate things that I tend to take for granted everyday like my freedom, the ability to vote, access to clean water, etc. (I suggest you all do the same) Call me a sappy, overly-enthusiastic optimist if you want, but I find that life is more fulfilling when you remember to be grateful for everything that you have every once in a while. For me, Passover is the perfect time to do that.  Alright I’m done with my philosophical rant…until my next post.

Anyways, I present to you the recipe! I recommend making this salad the Sunday night before school starts and you’ll have your lunch all set and ready to go for the next week! The salad keeps really well in a Tupperware container.

Quinoa Tabbouleh:

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Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Serves: 5

 

Ingredients:

1 cup of uncooked quinoa

3 cups of chopped cucumber (into tiny pieces)

2 cups of cherry tomatoes

1 1/2 cups of feta

3 Tbsp. of green onion

1/2 cup of parsley

1/4 cup of chopped mint

1 lemon

1/3 cup of olive oil

 

Directions:

  1. Add 2 cups of water to 1 cup of quinoa. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Then let simmer for approximately 15 minutes. It’s done when all of the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is nice and fluffy.
  2. While the quinoa is cooling, chop up cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, green onion, parsley, and mint into tiny pieces. Add in all of the chopped ingredients into quinoa. Zest 1 whole lemon and add in the juice (around 3 Tbs. of juice) and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix all together and enjoy!

 

I hope you enjoy this tasty and nutritious recipe!

Chunky Monkey PB & Banana Sandwich

Hello again!

You know how you’ll just be going about your day and then for some random reason you start craving some kind of food?

We all know that feeling when we’re just taking a math test and BOOM out of nowhere you’re like wow a taco sounds really good right now. Or dang, cheesy nachos are what my taste buds want at this very second, bring on the cheese pronto.

Well today I was craving what I normally crave probably 99% of the time and that is peanut butter. Some people may know this about me, but I am obsessed with peanut butter. I seriously contemplate applying for a spot on the TV show “My Strange Addiction” and talking about my obsession because sometimes I think it is a legitimate problem. When I see a recipe that has peanut butter in it, it’s like I’m a little puppy whose ears perk up if it sees a squirrel outside the front window.

Of course we know the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We’ve all had one probably hundreds of times in our lifetime. According to New York Daily News, a survey revealed that an average American would eat nearly 3,000 PB&J sandwiches in their lifetime. Wowza.

It seems like one would get pretty bored of that same gosh darn sandwich. So I have a solution for you. I present to you a sandwich that is simple, easy, and yet incredibly delicious. If you are a fan of that sweet and salty combination like I am, than this is the sandwich for you. All of you fellow peanut butter lovers out there, don’t worry I got you covered.

I have for you all a Chunky Monkey Peanut Butter Banana Sandwich.

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Yeah you read that right.

 

This is epic, I tell you sheer joy in between two slices of sourdough bread.

Having bananas on a sandwich sounds apeeling, right?! Hahaha….okay that was pretty bad, I’ll admit that

 

Anyways, I went out to get some good quality bread and my mom suggested this bakery in downtown Highland Park called The Breadsmith. I highly recommend the place. Let me tell you, the sourdough that I got for the sandwich was top-notch.

Speaking of recommendations, I find that this sandwich is best when it’s grilled on a Panini maker or on top of the stove on a pan. The peanut butter will be all ooey-gooey and will make you regret that you weren’t introduced to this monstrosity of a sandwich before. So I would make this kind of sandwich on the weekend if I were you. You can have this sandwich cold by all means for a school night, it’s just better warm.

This sandwich is great because you probably have all of these ingredients in the house anyways (except for the chia seeds if you aren’t a crazy health nut like I am) so you can just whip this up on moment’s notice and make it in only a few minutes.

I know I said that most of my recipes would be super duper healthy, but hey this is a special treat that is certainly worth making. It’s honestly not all that bad for you, there are banana slices and chia seeds on there to make it sort of healthy-ish…

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Sprinkle of cinnamon always does the trick

Also I forgot to mention, peanut butter is pretty good for you too. It has a lot of protein to keep you full for long periods of time so you won’t be temped to snack on some junk food later on in the day. Peanut butter has fiber, magnesium, and Vitamin E! People assume that because peanut butter has a lot of fat in it that it’s automatically unhealthy. However, sometimes fat is a good thing. Peanut butter contains unsaturated fat (as do avocados, olive oil, and other various nuts) that help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and can help prevent against heart disease. Score! The key is balance and portion sizes. You can’t just eat a cup of peanut butter from the jar with a spoon even though I have definitely been tempted to do that. If you have about 2 tablespoons for your portion size, you’ll be all set.

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Me trying to swirl the peanut butter 

I loved being able to take these photos with my community sponsor, Laura Bednarski, who is a professional food stylist. She showed me all of these great techniques for photographing food and her food styling kit that has all of these tiny little tools to help move the food around precisely. Pretty cool stuff. It was really fun to play around with the different angles and exposure settings on the camera. Hope you enjoy the sandwich as much as the photos!

Chunky Monkey Peanut Butter Banana Sandwich

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Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes

Total time: around 7-10 minutes

 

Ingredients:

2 slices of Sourdough bread

Butter

Peanut butter

Half of a banana-sliced

A drizzle of honey

A sprinkle of cinnamon

A sprinkle of chia seeds

 

Directions:

  1. Butter one side of each slice of sourdough bread and place on panini maker or pan on the stove to toast up for a bit. Watch it to make sure it doesn’t burn!
  2. Thinly slice up your banana.
  3. Spread a generous amount of peanut butter on your slice of bread and place your banana slices on top. Drizzle on a bit of honey. Sprinkle on some cinnamon and chia seeds.
  4. Put your other slice of bread on top and cook on each side for a few minutes. It should have a nice golden brown color on each side. Enjoy!

 

Notes:

There are TONS of variations for this sandwich. The possibilities are endless. You can use brioche, leftover banana bread, french toast, waffles, or any kind of bread base that you choose. You also can use any kind of nut butter (or Nutella sounds good too) that you want; I used an all-natural peanut butter. You obviously don’t have to use chia seeds for this sandwich. I think they just give a nice crunch and texture to the sandwich along with an added health kick. You also could put thinly sliced apple on the sandwich instead of banana. If you wanted to have the classic Elvis sandwich, you could add bacon to the original recipe. There are so many different options. Go with what you like!

Hope you guys try this sandwich out! Have a wonderful rest of your day!

Welcome to Lunch Out Loud!

The day has finally come. The day when I share my first post on my food blog. AHHHH!!!

Welcome to my food blog! I chose this particular name, Lunch Out Loud, because as you can see from my logo at the top of the page it stands for LOL! Some people see cooking as this daunting and exhausting task, but let me tell you, it doesn’t have to be! Cooking can be really fun, especially if you’re making food you like and sharing it with people you like…or in some cases not sharing it because it’s so good. Will there be times that you’re frustrated because you mess up a recipe and accidentally put in the wrong amount of something? Yes. Will there be times when you burn something because you completely forget about it in the oven? YES- certainly guilty of this. But those are the times where you just have to laugh it off (LOL!) and try to enjoy the learning process.

I know, this post is sounding pretty cheesy so far. Well you might as well get used to that sort of sappiness now (and get used to food puns, I love a good pun) if you’re going to continue to follow my blog. While we’re on the subject about cheese, you might as well get used to lots of cheese as well, because let’s be honest, cheese is amazing and there will certainly be some cheesy recipes coming your way soon. Hopefully my food puns will get cheddar, but in the meantime try to brie patient with me 🙂

You may be wondering right now, why am I starting a food blog when I’m in high school? A.k.a. You’re thinking, man this girl has no life and really doesn’t know anything about cooking. Well I decided to start this food blog for my senior project. Senior project is this opportunity given to seniors where they’re able to explore some kind of passion or pursue a potential career interest for the last four weeks of school before graduation instead of going to their academic classes. So basically, I am exempt from school to make food and manage this blog all day. Pretty sweet deal, right?

Cooking and food has always been a passion of mine. I always wanted to start a food blog, and maybe someday open a restaurant of my own, who knows? My current knowledge of cooking mainly comes from helping my parents cook dinner, watching endless episodes of Chopped on Food Network, and reading countless recipes from other bloggers. Hopefully, I can impart some useful knowledge and cooking tips along the way, and if nothing else, get a chuckle from my lame food puns.

I want to gear my blog towards students and really busy people, like myself, who are just trying to find inspiration for what seems to be the most repetitive meal of the day: lunch. I find that there are many people out there who need new ideas for lunch to stray away from their typical Pb&J. Well look no further; I’m here to provide that inspiration for you and also to show you how much fun cooking can be!

 

On with the recipe already!

 

Ok, so as I was thinking about what my first recipe should be on this blog, a bunch of ideas were spinning around in my head. I decided to go for something resembling a fiesta because hey, launching my first blog post is certainly something to celebrate.

 

….I present to you my FIESTA POWER BOWL!!

 

For all of you salad haters out there, fear not. This salad is DELISH and packs a health punch that’ll make you avoid falling into that mid-day slump. The avocado in the salad has got your essential heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and potassium, which helps support healthy blood pressure levels. The kale is high in fiber and is loaded with tons of nutrients and vitamins, hence why it’s known as a super-food. The sweet potato is a great source of vitamin A and the black beans provide lots of protein for you. (For all of you suspicious meat-lovers who wonder how you get protein in your diet without eating meat)

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I love this salad and let me tell you why. It has the right amount of spice and seasoning from the sweet potatoes, a creamy element from the avocado and feta, protein from the black beans, crunch from the pumpkin seeds (pepitas), and a zesty cilantro lime dressing that has a certain zing to it which I love. The interesting combination of flavors and textures along with the nutritional punch that it packs culminates into one great salad. You can add however much of a certain ingredient you like to it. You don’t have to follow the recipe exactly the way it was written, it’s just a suggestion.

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Cilantro lime vinaigrette

Fun fact! Kale, and other leafy greens, are in season during the month of April! Also stock up on strawberries, asparagus, and broccoli at the store this month because produce that’s in season is

A. Cheaper

B. Way more delicious and fresh.

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If you are a big fan of brunch like I am, I recommend making a double batch of the roasted sweet potatoes and then the next day use the leftover sweet potatoes, black beans, and avocado and put together a breakfast hash! I’ll put a link to a sweet potato hash recipe that I really like for you guys down below!

http://www.cookincanuck.com/2013/09/sweet-potato-hash-recipe-with-creamy-california-avocado-sauce/

This recipe I have for you today isn’t as quick and easy as I said most of my recipes would be, but I just wanted to kick off my first post with something fun. I would suggest making the salad the night before (without adding the avocado. Cut it up in the morning and squeeze some lime or lemon juice over the avocado before putting it in the salad to prevent it from browning. Also take the dressing in a separate container. It will make the kale soggy if you put it in the night before). Many parts of the salad can be made in advance and then you don’t have to do anything in the morning!

 

Fiesta Power Bowl with Roasted Sweet Potato, Kale, and Avocado:

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.57.45 PMServes: 2 (big servings)

Prep time: 20 minutes      Cook time: 20 minutes      Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

Roasted Sweet Potatoes-

2 medium sweet potatoes

1 Tbsp. of olive oil

1 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. salt (add more to taste)

 

Kale-

5 cups of kale

1 Tbsp. 0live oil

Juice from 1/4 of lime (about 1/2 Tbsp. of juice)

1/8 tsp. salt

 

Everything Else-

1/2 large avocado (or 1 smaller avocado)

1 (14 oz. can) can of black beans, rinsed and drained. (I used about a 1/3 cup of the black beans in the salad)

1/3 cup of crumbled feta

2 Tbsp. of pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)

 

Dressing-

1/4 cup of packed cilantro

1/4 medium jalapeño, deseeded, membrane removed

Juice from 1 lime (around 2 Tbsp. of juice)

5 Tbsp. of olive oil

Salt, to taste

 

Directions:

  1. To roast the sweet potatoes: Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a tray with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Peel and slice the sweet potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes, making sure they are all around the same size so they roast evenly. In a medium sized bowl, toss and coat sweet potatoes with olive oil, cumin, paprika, and salt to taste (around 1/2 tsp.) Place sweet potatoes on tray and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Flipping halfway.
  2. While the sweet potatoes are roasting, prepare the kale and make the dressing. To prepare the kale: Transfer kale to a large bowl. Mix in salt, olive oil, and lime juice. Use your hands to “massage” the mixture into the kale to enhance the flavor.
  3. To make the dressing: In a small food processor or blender, combine all of the ingredients listed for the dressing. Blend well and season with salt to taste (there will be bits of cilantro don’t worry, that’s how the dressing is supposed to be!)
  4. Once the sweet potatoes have cooled down a bit, place as many sweet potatoes as you’d like, the avocado, black beans, feta, and pepitas into the bowl with the kale and mix in a bit of dressing. Save the rest of the dressing in a container for another time!

Notes:

  • When you rinse and drain the black beans, make sure to keep the liquid that is in the can and put the leftover beans that you don’t use in the container with the liquid, this will help them from going bad.
  • I used Trader Joe’s Roasted & Salted Pumpkin Seeds for this recipe and they worked really well! If you aren’t a fan of pumpkin seeds or can’t find the type that is called for, you can use pistachios if you’d like, that would be delicious as well!

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I hope you enjoy the recipe and will continue to read my future blog posts! Send me pictures of the salad if you make it, I’d love to see them! Go out there and make today a fiesta just like the salad!