Sunshine Smoothie Recipe

smoothie recipe

The other day was the first in quite some time where the temperatures climbed into the low 70s. There’s nothing quite like feeling the warm sunshine on your face as you’re working in the dirt.

I spent the day outside after teaching some yoga classes, digging things up, cleaning up the yard, starting seedlings (I know I’m a little late), and really just enjoying the outside with my two dogs (who also got a little spring fever).

smoothie recipe
Picture Courtesy of The Juice Theory

Of course, hard work, especially when you’re using your hands, requires some sort of food to keep you going. I mean, how else are you supposed to get that garden soil ready? For lunch I had an amazing salad from The Juice Theory, an amazing little store that makes some of the freshest and tastiest salads around. I went for the salad special of the day with some avocado. It held me over until my mid afternoon slump when I just had to have something else (especially after having some vines kick some dirt into my mouth). So I made this smoothie with ingredients that I had in the fridge and it’s so good I have to share it with you.

Sometimes creative genius happens when you least expect it!


smoothie recipe

Sunshine Smoothie
(makes 1 serving)

1/2 cup cooked oats (with some extra water)
1 mango, diced and peeled
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 cup organic Kefir or yogurt
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

Blend all the ingredients together and you’ve got yourself sunshine in a smoothie!!

Now go take a nap!
Now go take a nap!

A Fast Italian Sandwich As Easy (and Tasty) As Pie

easy italian sandwich

I’m going to be honest here… sometimes I’m super motivated to cook and look for recipes that challenge my culinary skills, maybe use a new ingredient, or an old ingredient in a new way. But then there are other times where I really want something tasty and homemade, but have absolutely no desire to spend more than 10 minutes in the kitchen. Enter this recipe.

easy italian sandwichWith a little help from the store… well, actually a lot of help from the store, this delicious Italian inspired sandwich is super easy, super delicious, super affordable, super pretty, and super quick! Hands on time is about 10 minutes. You can do that. If I could last night, you can tonight.

I usually have about 90% of these ingredients already in my pantry and fridge pretty much all the time. The only time really spent doing actually work is when you’re making the focaccia (using store bought dough and an awesome recipe from The Kitchn) and slicing the cheese (or you can buy it already sliced).

So enough of me blabbering, after all you’re hungry and want your sandwich now.

easy italian sandwich
A Work of Art in Under 10 minutes!

Tasty Italian Sandwich

Makes 4 sandwiches
1 Store bought pizza dough
1 tablespoon of flour
4 Slices of fresh mozzarella cheese
4 Roasted Red Peppers (from a jar)
4 Slices eggplant, uncooked
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning or 1 tablespoon fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar
1 cup fresh baby arugula (or spinach)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. While it’s preheating, take the room temperature dough and spread it out over a sheet pan. You can use some flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands (and the sheet pan) and make it a little easier to work with. Basically just use your fingertips to spread it out. “Finger holes” are encouraged. Once it’s spread out across the sheet pan, drizzle with olive, Italian seasoning or fresh Rosemary (I actually used both), red pepper flakes, sea salt, and pepper. Then use those hands and have some fun with your food, spreading it out to every inch of the focaccia.

Once that’s all set, lower the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F and cook the Focaccia for about 15-20 minutes. Take a peak at 15 minutes because you want it crispy but still a little fluffy on top.

While the focaccia is cooking, take the sliced eggplant (about 1/2 inch thick) and fry in some olive oil on the stove until golden brown on both sides.

Once the focaccia is golden brown, remove from the oven, and cut it into equal size squares.

Now it’s time to assemble the sandwich. One layer focaccia, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, layer with mozzarella, arugula, eggplant, roasted red pepper, top with some flaky sea salt, then finish with the focaccia bread.

Now bite in.

See I told you it wasn’t hard, but it’s so delicious!!!! Worth every 10 minutes!

As always “Bee” Well,


Recipe: A Summer Grain Salad in the Middle of Winter

quinoa salad recipe

It may be winter, but that doesn’t mean that my taste buds are craving bright, fresh, and bold flavors – basically summer flavors. As much as I love the soups, stews, and pastas of winter, I’m also in love with grain salads that are the perfect meal, side dish, or snack.

quinoa salad recipeMy obsession with citrus continues with this salad that is packed with summer ingredients. Normally, I wouldn’t advocate eating outside of the season – we all know that things tend to taste better when they actually grow relatively around the same time that you’re consuming it – however, sometimes you have to make an exception!

My Summer Grain Salad is the perfect antidote to those winter blues (and pounds!) And be prepared to make extra! The last few times I’ve made this recipe, I just threw it all together in a tupperware container so I could grab a bite (or two) or a bowl in a flash.

This recipe is also super, super, super simple. I mean, you can basically put this together in your sleep!

quinoa salad recipeSummer Grain Salad in the Middle of Winter

2 cups Quinoa, rinsed
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 cucumber, diced
1 Avocado, diced
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 limes, with zest removed
2 tablespoons jalapeno olive oil (or plain, then just add chopped jalapenos!)
1 tablespoon jalapeno infused white vinegar (or white vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium pan, add the 1 tablespoon olive oil, cayenne pepper, cumin, and rinsed quinoa. Toast until fragrant on medium heat. Then add 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 15 minutes until quinoa is fluffy.

In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients. Add in the quinoa when finished (no need to let cool, it will help wilt the spinach ever so slightly) and then dig in.

Seriously simple… Simply delicious… Enjoy!

Vegetarian Recipe: Quinoa Stew

vegetarian quinoa stew

I’m a sucker for stews, especially when it’s chilly outside and all I want is a big pot of delicious vegetables without going crazy cooking all day long. Hence… the stew. The perfect one-pot-wonder that is the answer to those days when you want something hearty, delicious, good for you, but super easy to make.

vegetarian quinoa stewOne of my favorite dishes to make is a stew that’s packed with sweet potatoes, black beans, tomatoes, and quinoa. I love the combination that they bring together. Similar to southwestern flavors, this stew also packs a punch in heat and tartness that helps cut the thickness of the stew.

If I haven’t sold you on the flavor profile already, let me give you a little urging on the nutrition front:

quinoa stewSweet Potatoes – Packed with Vitamin A and C (gotta love that bright orange color, think beta-carotene in carrots) as well as some great dietary fiber, sweet potatoes good for every part of your body, even your heart thanks to B6 that helps keep your heart walls flexible and healthy.

quinoa stewBlack Beans – You know the song, Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart, the more you eat, the more you fart, the more you fart, the better you feel, so eat your beans at every meal! There’s a reason why that song is so popular. Now, if beans tend to be a little difficult on your digestive system, just make sure they’re cooked properly.

quinoa stewQuinoa– Oh quinoa, the ancient Peruvian grain that has successfully won over millions in their quest to get healthy. This little powerhouse is  one of the only non-animal based foods that considered “complete protein.” What does that mean? It contains all of the essential amino acids, which means it’s packed with protein, fiber, iron, and magnesium (one of my favorite vitamins, especially for those suffering from headaches.)

quinoa stewTomatoes – Ok, even though we know that Gisele and Tom don’t eat them (tomatoes are a part of the nightshade family), these plump, red and juicy bites of summer are also packed with Vitamin C (this soup is a great idea to eat during the flu and cold season) and a host of other antioxidants that combat the formation of free radicals in your body.

Now that I have (hopefully) convinced you to jump on the healthy eating train, let’s get to the good stuff. Make an extra helping of this as the soup only plumps up more as you reheat it later in the week. It’s definitely a dish that both meat lovers and vegetarians will love to eat.

vegetarian quinoa stewQuinoa Stew with Sweet Potatoes – Hacienda Style

1 cup Quinoa, rinsed
1/2 onion, diced
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1-2 tablespoons chiles in adobo sauce
3 sweet potatoes, scrubbed, and diced into bite size pieces
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
1-2 cups water
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 handful of chopped cilantro
2-3 limes, zest first, then quartered
crumbled tortilla chips to garnish (optional)
Mexican crema to garnish (optional)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sized pot, put one tablespoon of olive oil, cumin, and cayenne pepper in the pan. Place the rinsed quinoa in the pan and let toast in the spices until fragrant. Then add 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until cooked – about 15 minutes.

vegetarian quinoa stewMeanwhile, heat a large dutch oven under medium heat. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon olive oil, then add the chopped onions. Saute till translucent. Add the garlic and rest of the cumin and the chiles in adobo sauce. Add salt and pepper. Once fragrant, add the sweet potatoes. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the sweet potatoes are slightly cooked. Then add the can of fire roasted tomatoes. Add enough water to almost cover the potatoes.

Bring to a boil, then let simmer until the potatoes are fork tender. Add the lime zest, quinoa, black beans, and a 1/2 of the cilantro. Cook together for at least 5 minutes to let the flavors combine. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve in a bowl garnished with a squeeze (or two) of lime, chopped cilantro, crumbled tortilla chips, and Mexican crema… maybe even some diced jalapenos.


A Snowy Night Recipe: Healthy Butternut Squash Lasagna Recipe

healthy butternut squash lasagna recipe

Sometimes you just want something that’s warm and comforting, yet healthy and healing. Popular belief may have you believing that this is a paradox. There’s no way you can enjoy comfort food without the unhealthy factor.

But why not? Why does it have to be all or nothing? Can’t we find that balance of creating and enjoying a dish that’s worth every single bite because it’s not only delicious, but our bodies are absorbing countless nutritional benefits?

healthy lasagna recipeI think so. Actually, let me rephrase that into a ABSOLUTELY! If you know me, you know that I’m not one for that dreaded “d-word” (diet… ugh, it even sounds horrible!) I prefer “living a healthy lifestyle.” It’s about enjoying your life in a way that also supports your life. What does that mean?

Well, if you want to enjoy a radiant glow that makeup just can’t provide, you want to feed your insides a daily dose of healthy nutrients. Or if you want to keep your energy up in the afternoon, you need to provide your body with long lasting, healthy carbohydrates that will provide energy long after you’ve eaten.

Get my drift?

With that thinking in mind, I also don’t deprive myself. Instead, I turn my favorite dishes into healthier versions of themselves that often times taste better because my body feels better after eating them.

healthy butternut squash lasagna recipe
A little picture to show you the easiest way to chop that butternut squash!

Ok, enough talk… on to the food. I love lasagna… I love butternut squash… when you put them together it’s poetic. I used less cheese and subbed out ricotta for some low fat Greek yogurt and then loaded up on the veggies. The result is an even creamier sauce that you could imagine that’s layered with spinach. I hope you enjoy it!

healthy butternut squash lasagna
I’m sorry this picture stinks, but we ate it so fast I didn’t remember to take a picture till the last piece!

Healthy Butternut Squash Lasagna Recipe
Serves 4-6 (depending on how hungry you are!)

1 lb Butternut Squash (cubed and peeled)
1 Onion
2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped sage
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
4-6 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
1 tablespoon hot pepper
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 package lasagna noodles (I did no cook because I was lazy that evening, but you can do what you’re heart desires)
Freshly Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Bake the butternut squash in the oven at 375F until fork tender, about 45-60 minutes.

Meanwhile saute the spinach and finely chopped onion in a pan until the onions are translucent. Grate some fresh nutmeg right into that beautiful mixture. Let cool, then add salt and pepper to taste, a sprinkle of hot pepper, and the mozzarella cheese.

When the butternut squash is cooked, place in a food processor with a drizzle of olive oil (enough to start making a paste). Let cool for a few minutes then add the yogurt, sage, salt, pepper, red pepper, and more olive oil until it becomes a little thinner than a hummus like consistency. Once blended smooth, add about a 1/2 cup vegetable stock (enough to make the consistency like that of a thicker sauce).

In a lasagna pan, place some of the butternut squash sauce on the bottom of the pan, enough to cover it. (Note: If you’re using the no boil lasagna sheets, you may need to loosen your sauce even more because they need the water in the sauce to cook in the oven). Layer on the lasagna sheets. Then layer on the spinach and mozzarella cheese mixture and lasagna sheets. Continue layering until the top layer and cover with the remaining butternut squash mixture. Sprinkle with some mozzarella cheese and cover the pan with foil.

Bake at 375F for 40 minutes, then uncover, bake for another 15 minutes, and let rest outside the oven for another 10 minutes. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and you’ve got a winner!


Not Your “Plain Jane” Veggie Burger (It’s Gluten Free Too!)

veggie burgerI’m not a vegetarian, nor am I a vegan, however I try not to consume meat unless I’m craving it. However, sometimes I just want a hamburger – no meat included. And to be honest, it’s a little difficult to get that meaty texture that’s packed with vegetables instead of those soy based substitutes because seriously, trading meat for GMO soy might not be the best thing in the world for you.

veggie burgerAfter bowing to my craving of a meat hamburger, I still felt a little unsatisfied. As I continue to grow, my love of animals also grows and it’s getting harder and harder to eat meat. So maybe that was it. But, I’m not bashing omnivores or vegetarians – basically what I’m doing is saying that sometimes you just want the meat, surrounded by a potato bun (an absolute must), without having to feel bad about it. It’s not soy based… it’s not meat based… it’s just plain awesome.

Actually, it’s not really plain at all! What’s not plain you ask? My Plain Jane Burger that hits all of the notes you’re looking for in a burger – taste, texture, and quality. My husband, a big omnivore (he loves both meat and vegetables) told me it was the best veggie burger he’s had. “It’s really good, Melissa!” (His reactions have become interesting as I cook almost every night and sometimes receive no comment at all… so I cling onto these comments when they come!)

My secret ingredient? Maybe the millet? It’s an underused grain that I discovered a few years back. Made the wrong way, it becomes a little mushy, but made the right way, it’s perfection. Similar to quinoa, but reminiscent of whole grain wheat varieties. Packed with B-complex vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. And guess what, just like quinoa, they’re gluten-free.

So, with some key pantry ingredients, an unused grain, and lots of flavor, I introduce to you my version of the vegetarian burger and it’s pretty damn good (if I don’t say so myself).

Plain Jane Burger
Makes 6 Burgers

1 can black beans, rinsed
1 cup millet (cooked)
2 ½ cups water or vegetable broth (I like using a 50/50 mixture)
1 egg
¼ cup bread crumbs (you can use panko or gluten free)
1 clove garlic
1 small onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup corn kernels
Choice of cheese (I used Iberico)
¼ cup mayo
1 tablespoon Harissa paste
1 cup chopped and massaged kale
6 potato buns
Salt and pepper to taste

veggie burgerIn a medium pot, combine the millet with the water or broth. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the millet is fluffy, around 12 -15 minutes. Drain the millet in a strainer and let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, take half of the black beans and blend in a food processor. Combine with other half of beans in a large bowl. Cook the onions until translucent and the garlic until fragrant.

Combine all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Form six patties and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow them to set.

Once set, heat a skillet to medium low. Add olive oil and cook each burger 7 minutes on one side, then flip over, top with cheese. Cover the pan and cook for another 7 minutes.

Mix the mayo with the Harissa paste, smear onto both sides of the potato bun, add the burger, top with the kale, and then be prepared for a little bite of food heaven.


A Leek and Greens Recipe Just For You!

Last week my amazing neighbor went clamming, which means he brought us back 16 very beautiful and very large clams from the Barnegat Bay. Now, when he handed these precious bay gems over to my husband, he told him they would be great in a stew. The first thing that came to mind was the tasty French seafood stew, Bouillabaisse. I quickly decided to jet to the store and pick up the ingredients. Only when I got there, I forgot to purchase additional seafood (well, we were making a trip to the local brewery and it was 90 degrees in the car – so maybe it was on purpose).

leek recipeLeft to my devices, I landed up making a Seafood Stew that was a little on the lighter side, however I was left with a decent amount of leeks… which sat in my fridge for a couple of days until I just couldn’t take their presence anymore. I had to do something with them, but what?

After looking around in my cookbooks I found a recipe for leeks, greens, and coconut milk – yes… coconut milk. It sounded delicious and easy so I figured what the heck. I have tons of greens in my garden and I actually had coconut cream in my pantry. It was meant to be. Combined with some Japanese Buckwheat Soba Noodles that I received from my monthly Try the World box, I was set for a very fantastic lunch.

Note that this dish is definitely better when warm. The coconut milk makes a light and creamy coating on the warm noodles. If you’re heating up leftovers, I would recommend adding a little bit of coconut milk (or coconut cream and water) to a pan with the noodles, leeks, and greens. Enjoy!

leek recipeLeeks and Greens with Coconut Milk Over Soba Noodles
(Adapted from River Cottage Veg cookbook)

4 leeks
1 cup of your favorite greens (I used a combination of collards and kale)
1-tablespoon coconut oil
2 garlic cloves
1-teaspoon curry powder
1-cup coconut milk or ½ cup coconut cream with ½ cup water
Red pepper flakes (or red pepper paste) to taste
1 handful roasted peanuts or cashews
1 tablespoon sliced scallions for garnish

Trim the leeks of the roots and fibrous tops, then cut in half, and cut each half into ½ inch ribbons. Place in a bowl of water and loosen up the pieces so that they’re not connected to each other. This will help get all of the grit out. Let sit for an hour then take the leeks out of the water (don’t drain because the grit and sand will be on the bottom of the bowl).

Sauté the garlic cloves, leeks, and greens in the coconut oil. Add the curry powder and red pepper flakes (if using). Sauté for a few minutes than add the coconut milk or cream and water mixture. Let cook until tender, but still slightly crunchy.

Meanwhile bring water to a boil and cook the soba noodles according to package directions. When cooked, combine with the leek mixture and serve with additional red pepper flakes, nuts, and scallions.

Super easy, super delicious, and super healthy!