Avocado Pasta Salad

Mick handed me a stone last night and asked me to sit with him on the back deck.  I was reluctant at first as I was immersed in a number of projects. . . One thing I’ve learned this year however, is just exactly how rare it is for my middle schooler to actually request time together!  These sacred moments are few and far between.  “Come on mom, just for a few minutes.”  So, stone in hand I grabbed my jacket and followed him out the door.  We sat at the edge of the deck, under the stars.  He told me the stone I was holding was a Jasper, a nurturing stone, good for grounding.  “I just feel like you need some grounding mom.”  I chuckled, kinda like r i g h t,  but mostly, in amazement that my kid is so in touch.

Anne Lamott (one of my very favorite writers) wrote a book called; Help Thanks Wow, The Three Essential Prayers.  I thought a lot about Anne’s book last night, and how spot-on Mick was.  I did need some grounding.  It seems I’m praying ‘Help’ a lot these days . . . . so many people in my life need things . . . . hope, healing, courage, joy . . . . prayers.  Food.

Food grounds me.  The rhythm of three meals a day . . . .  coming back to the table for nourishment.  Right now our table is messy.  The other day at supper we were all eating something different and we were squeezed in between the laptop, spelling book, mail and PK’s golf magazine!  There are days, this would absolutely make me crazy, but that night I just smiled, as I reminded myself that we had all made it to the table.  Grounding.

We’ve entered our growing season!!  Mick’s been busy with seedlings and greens (see picture below) and the Farmer’s Market opens in just 15 days!    I’m looking forward to checking back in with all the farmers, picking out herbs for my pots and week by week, the flavors of the season . . . . Grounding.

I found this dish towel at a spice shop in Wisconsin a few weeks ago and it seems to capture best what’s been going on  lately.  We’re bringing people food, lots of salads . . . . sometimes a meatloaf.  I asked Mick if I could hold onto the Jasper for awhile.  He just smiled.  When life gets messy and everything seems upside down, when people are waiting for answers, hope and healing . . . . I do what I know to do.  I pray, I cook and I bring the food . . . . nourishment.  And I too find hope, healing, courage and joy . . . .    DSCN4310


DSCN4304We made this salad in cooking class a few weeks back!  It’s delicious!  Be sure to work the vinaigrette to your own flavor preference (we used additional honey to balance the dijon) – and drizzle lightly!   Enjoy!

Avocado Pasta Salad
1 Pound Penne Pasta, cooked and cooled (we used Gluten Free)
1 Cup Sugar Snap Peas, cut in half (or Snow Peas)
3 green onions, chopped
1 Red Pepper, diced into larger bites
1 Yellow Pepper, diced into larger bites
2 Ripe Avocados, cut into cubes
1/4 Cup Parsley, chopped

1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Dijon Mustard
1/4 Cup Honey (+ more to taste)
1/4 Cup, Fresh Lemon Juice
1 tsp Fresh Tarragon, Chopped
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a small jar and shake to combine.

Combine the pasta, sugar snap peas, green onions, red and yellow peppers, avocado and parsley in a bowl and toss lightly with the vinaigrette.
Season to taste. Enjoy!

Recipe Gently Adapted From:
California Avocado Commission
Author, Gerry S.


Wheat Berries and Brussels Sprouts

I’m always so excited when I find a new favorite . . . . a new go-to dish.  I’ve made this recipe a number of times these past few weeks, and have enjoyed it for breakfast (best leftovers ever!), lunch and supper!  The recipe from Erin Alderson’s blog, naturallyella.com, is fresh and bright and super simple to put together.  Though asparagus seems to be front and center this week in the produce department (Yes! Sign of Spring!), I’m still finding these delicious small cabbages in abundance!

Here’s a picture of the Brussels Sprouts, recipe doubled for a small gathering!


If you’re looking for a great St. Patrick’s Day treat, here’s an Irish Soda Bread Recipe from an old post . . . . I’ll be making a few loaves myself this weekend!   https://freshandsimple.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/meatless-thursdays-irish-soda-bread-and-spring/

A short one today . . . . Bright Blessings!

Wheat Berries and Brussels Sprouts
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 cups Brussels Sprouts, thinly sliced
1/3 cup shallot or green onions, thinly sliced
2 cups Wheat Berries, cooked
1/4 cup Low Sodium Soy sauce (or Bragg’s Liquid Amino’s)
2 tsp Honey
1 tsp Ginger, minced
1 Tbsp Sesame Seeds
Hard Boiled Eggs

1.   Combine the soy sauce (or Bragg’s), honey and ginger in a small jar and shake to bring flavors together.  Set aside.
2.  In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium to medium-low heat and add the Brussels Sprouts and shallots (or green onions).  Stir occasionally and cook for approximately 8 – 10 minutes until the Brussels sprouts become tender.
3.   Add the wheat berries (or other preferred grain) and the soy sauce mixture and toss lightly.  Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
4.   Serve in bowls and top with sesame seeds and hard boiled eggs.

Prep Notes:
Erin’s recipe calls for toasted sesame seeds.  It’s easy to toast sesame seeds over medium heat in a non-stick pan for 1-2 minutes, but I’m finding the raw sesame seeds are equally as good if you don’t have the time.  She also suggests, couscous or quinoa or other grain of preference.  Ive been using wheat berries as I love the chewy texture together with the Brussels sprouts!  I also prefer a lower sodium soy sauce.

Recipe Very Gently Adapted From:
Erin Alderson


Roasted Sweet Potato, Apple and Kale Salad

I met someone recently who shared she was going to be taking a tight-rope walking class this Winter.  “Cool”, I said, “what’s the inspiration?”  She explained that she’s not really a Winter person.  Planning a few unique event’s and outings gives her something to look forward to as the colder  months settle in.  I like that idea.  It’s easy to get a bit stir crazy this time of year when we find ourselves indoors so much!  OK, I just broke a promise I made to myself this morning and mentioned the weather….. I wasn’t going to do that.  I was going to stay focused on Heart Month . . . but my bones are still cold from walking the dog because it’s 5 degrees today!!  Without wind chills.

So in keeping with that thought of finding our way, joyfully, through Winter, my friend Lisa and I were talking just this morning – about holding onto the vision of Spring on days like today.  We laughed out loud as we discussed the endless tubes of lip balm and jars of body lotions we’re using in an attempt to keep everything from cracking!  Lisa remembers a few years ago when it snowed like crazy end of February and by mid March she was looking for her lawnmower!

One of the things that keeps me in a Spring-state-of-mind is greens.  All kinds of them!  I frequently visit greenhouses this time of year, hug up close to the plants and breathe deeply.  The smell of dirt takes me right to my flower garden and pots of herbs . . . . it fills me up.   Sometimes I pick up tulips or a hyacinth plant for our kitchen table, greens for the center of our home.  Mick and I visited Starved Rock State Park a few weeks ago to watch the eagles fish.  Gracefully they soared between the evergreen trees as they readied themselves to dive into the water for a catch!  Breathtaking . . . .

February is Heart Month.  In cooking class last week we focused on heart healthy recipes and we included, as you might imagine, plenty of greens!  We also wove in lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables and beans . . . potassium, fiber and antioxidant rich foods for keeping our hearts healthy!  The salad we put together was clearly a favorite.  Everyone gave it a thumbs up!  It’s loaded with all good stuff – whole grain millet, creamy sweet potatoes, crunchy apples and greens.

So, as I hung up the phone with Lisa, it occurred to me that when I can’t get out-of-town, a simple out-of-the-ordinary dish works great too!  Tinkering in the kitchen with a few new recipes has equally the power to transport me to a place of joy, when I need a diversion from the cold (or pretty much anything really).  It’s a mini get-a-way for me!  I plant myself at the kitchen counter, chop and dice, whisk and toss and dive into total deliciousness!  I remind myself how many weeks until the Farmer’s Market opens . . . . only 10 . . . . and I’m good to go!   Enjoy!

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Roasted Sweet Potato, Apple and Kale Salad
1 cup Millet, cooked
2 Sweet Potatoes, peeled, diced and roasted
2 Apples, diced (braeburn or fugi)
5 cups Kale, packed and gently chopped (or half kale and half spinach)
1 cup Golden Raisins (or cranberries)
1 cup Walnuts, chopped

2-3 tsp Dijon Mustard, to taste
1 small Shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup fat-free Yogurt, plain
1- 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup, to taste
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Prepare millet per package instructions and set aside. This can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.
2. Wash and peel the sweet potatoes and dice into small pieces. Place on a foil lined pan and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Roast in 400 degree oven for approximately 20-25 minutes. These can also be prepared in advance and refrigerated.
3. While the sweet potatoes are roasting, combine vinaigrette ingredients in a small jar and shake to combine. Season to taste and set aside.
4. Remove sweet potatoes from the oven and allow to cool.
5. Combine the millet, sweet potatoes, apples, kale, raisins and walnuts in a large bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Season to taste. This salad can be served either warm or cold.

Recipe Adapted From:
Andrew and Muriel’s Healthy Happy Holidays Cookbook,
Muriel Angot with Andrew Lessman,
Copyright 2013 the Andrew Lessman Foundation

Arugula and Spring Green Salad

It was a pastel morning yesterday . . . . baby blue, pink and lavender sky.  Amazing!  The sun slowly made it’s way up through the gentle fog and into the break in the clouds to shine, perfectly, on the frost that covered every branch of every tree.  I watched it unfold as we moved through our morning routine – rising, breakfast, drive to school.  I enjoyed fully, two hours of this magical winter landscape.  It seemed to match my rhythm,  or at any rate, exactly what I needed . . .  to gently step into the day.

Winter makes me feel this way, a bit slow.  The cold sinks deep into my bones and mostly, I just want to curl up with a warm blanket and not emerge until March!  But the sunrise and the sunsets are different this time of year.  They’re breathtaking and one of my favorite things about Winter!  Truly, I hear the sky shouting, there’s beautiful things going on out here, wake up and join us!  Maybe it’s the way the light reflects off the snow or that there’s less leaves on the trees so we can see things in a new way.  Winter forces us to find the beauty and inspiration in unexpected places, I think . . .  I’m always grateful for the brilliant colors that keep me looking up and out!

As the Winter winds have kept us inside a little more than usual we’ve found ourselves with a bit more kitchen time.  We’ve made soups and stir-frys and lots of salads . . .  Mick has been helping.  I think it’s inspired him to want to learn more about creating in the kitchen (funny how that works)!  Mostly, it’s been a time of setting the Christmas cookies (and other treats) aside and getting back to plenty of fresh produce.  And what I’m noticing so clearly is how much better I feel . . . lighter, more vibrant and healthy.  THAT’S inspiration for me!
Here’s a few things we’ve been weaving into our days and a couple of our favorites:

  • Plain non-fat Greek Yogurt with a few teaspoons of Lemon Curd and Pomegranate Seeds – bright and sweet
  • Simple Black Bean Tacos (see November Post) with fresh lime juice – citrus so wonderful this time of year
  • Avocados – EVERY way, in salads, on bean tacos, sliced with fresh lime juice, as guacamole, even for breakfast or mid-morning snack – very satiating!
  • Roasted Vegetables – mostly Brussels Sprouts & Broccoli – roasting brings out awesome caramelized flavor
  • Greens – LOTS of them – A large salad most days, combining spinach, arugula, spring mix and kale in a variety of different ways.  Mostly, with avocados, nuts and citrus (see new recipe below)
  • Bowls of Grapefruits, Oranges and Clementines – also great sliced up with plain or vanilla yogurt and a drizzle of honey!  So good for breakfast or snack!

So speaking of all those greens, last week I found a salad at Naturally Ella that I made for my mom and sister.  It was amazing with arugula, feta cheese and a bright lemon vinaigrette.  With permission, I’m sharing it along with a link to Erin Alderson’s fabulous food blog!  She has been an inspiration to  me for some time and most especially since Mick has been eating vegetarian.  Her photography and recipe ideas are delightful and I’m grateful and excited to share her salad!  You’ll find Erin here, http://www.naturallyella.com.

Happy New Year Everyone – I wish you beautiful sunsets, good food, good health and an inspired New Year!!  Enjoy!

DSCN4257 DSCN4261Arugula and Spring Green Salad

  • Salad
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 2 cups spring mix
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced thin (4-5)
  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked and cooled
  • ¼ cup pistachios, chopped
  • 1 – 2 ounces feta
  • Dressing
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced dill
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  1. Wash and spin dry the arugula and spring greens. Place in a large bowl and add the scallions, quinoa, pistachios and feta cheese.
  2. In a jar with a tight fitting lid, combine the ingredients for the dressing and shake vigorously. Pour over the salad and toss until everything is well coated.

Prep Notes:
Erin’s original recipe called for watermelon radishes, sunflower seeds and arugula as the lettuce.  I was unable to find the radishes so I left them out and mixed up the greens a bit by adding spring mix.  Also, I had pistachios on hand so I substituted these for sunflower seeds.  I’m sure the sunflower seeds are amazing too!

Recipe used with permission by:
Erin Alderson, http://www.naturallyella.com



Sun Dried Tomato, Goat Cheese and Spinach Frittata

Happy Holidays!  I hope you’re enjoying this season of light and joy and finding opportunities to pause and take in the beauty . . . .

Last week I made a couple of Egg Bakes for Mick’s school Christmas Party.  I chose to work with what I knew most kids would enjoy – cheddar cheese, ham etc (and a vegetarian version for Mick) . . . Thanks to my girlfriend Jinny for the recipe!

So the following morning when all I needed to do was pull it out of the refrigerator and place it in the oven I got to thinking how nice it is to have a few extra dishes on hand during the holidays – the kind that are easily warmed or equally good served cold.

There’s a beauty to Frittata’s!  They’re easy to assemble (think 10.5 minutes), can be eaten hot or cold, and can include leftovers or ingredients you’ve got on hand!  They come out of the oven golden brown and only look difficult!  I shared a Spring Green Frittata some time ago, you can find it here,  https://freshandsimple.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/spring-green-and-feta-frittata/  – It was the first one I had ever made . . . . when I finally broke through my fear of frittata’s!

So I had some leftover sun dried tomatoes and goat cheese on hand and had just picked up spinach for Moe (our bearded dragon) when I was inspired to put together an egg dish for myself!  The sun dried tomatoes and warm goat cheese brought me right back to July!  I’ve been enjoying it for days.  Perhaps in the upcoming week you’ll be looking for something warm and simple for breakfast or some way to use those Christmas extras . . . .

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!  XOXO


Sun Dried Tomato, Goat Cheese and Spinach Frittata
6 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
sweet onion slices, approx. 3 very thin swipes across the onion
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, sliced into strips
1 cup spinach, gently torn and densely packed down
1/2 cup goat cheese chunks
freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. In a medium bowl beat the eggs, milk, salt and freshly ground pepper (according to taste). Set aside. Turn oven on to broil.
2. In a 10 inch cast iron (or oven-safe) skillet heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and sauté the onions for 1 minute.
3. Add the sun dried tomatoes and continue to sauté for about 2 more minutes, until the tomatoes begin to soften.  Next, add the spinach and gently toss with the tomatoes and onions for about 30 seconds, until it just begins to wilt.
4. Next, add the beaten egg mixture and the goat cheese chunks. Gently stir a time or two to combine and then leave it to allow the eggs to set-up, approximately 3 minutes.
5. Transfer the frittata to the oven and place under the broiler to finish setting, approximately 2-4 minutes. Remove once the eggs have fully set and the frittata turns golden brown.

Recipe Originally Inspired By, Veggie Frittata
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – A Year Of Food Life, Barbara Kingsolver






Holiday Salad

My beautiful friend Vicki was in town last week from Colorado.  What an absolute joy to laugh and catch-up on each others lives, and eat awesome root vegetables together . . . which I know seems perhaps an odd thing to say, but I don’t know anyone else who gets goosebumps of joy like I do while eating parsnips and turnips!

She posed a question to mom and I . . .  “What is your favorite time of day?”  Not, time as in 10am.  Rather, time when you are doing something.  Perhaps supper time, for instance, when you’re gathered around the table with family.  Hmmm . . . . I kind of forgot.  NOT totally forgot.  More like forgot because things can become so routine forgot.  My days are filled with moments that really mean a lot to me . . .  but oh-my-gosh it’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of life.  I loved the opportunity that Vicki’s question offered to pause and say them out loud.  It made them all special again.  Like taking Mick to school every morning . . . . sacred time for sure, and sharing soup with PK after a long day, and early morning walks with my dog Koda.  Not sure, but I think I broke the rules . . . . I have many favorites!

I was going to call this recipe Christmas Salad because it’s so Christmas-y looking, all red and green and full of texture!  But that sounded limiting and a salad this simple and delicious needs to be shared ALL season long!  The original recipe called for arugula only, though in cooking class we discovered that due to it’s spicy flavor, many preferred the salad with a mix of greens.  We used mixed spring greens and arugula – pretty much a 50/50 mix.

Overall, this salad is a wonderful combination of earthy/spicy flavors and sweetness – and honestly could easily be tossed with feta (original recipe) or goat cheese in place of the blue cheese.  The Brussels Sprouts and Vinaigrette can both be prepared in advance leaving only a few minutes of dicing and tossing!

Happy Thanksgiving!

DSCN4219Holiday Salad
1 pound Brussels Sprouts, cleaned and quartered
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
6 cups Soft Mixed Greens (Arugula, Spinach, Spring Mix)
1 Apple (Fugi, Braeburn, Gala), diced
1 cup Red Seedless Grapes, halved
1/2 cup Blue Cheese Crumbles
Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper

1.   Prepare Vinaigrette and set aside.  See recipe below. 
2.   Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Clean and quarter the Brussels Sprouts and place them on a foil lined pan.  Drizzle with the olive oil and season gently with kosher salt and pepper.  Toss lightly.  Roast the Brussels Sprouts until they are tender – about 25-30 minutes.  Set aside to cool or refrigerate until ready to assemble salad.
3.   Combine mixed greens, apple, grapes and blue cheese in a large bowl.  Add the Brussels Sprouts  and toss with vinaigrette.

Recipe Adapted From:
foodnetwork.com, Brussels Sprouts Salad, Jamie Deen

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp finely chopped shallot
11/2 tsp Dijon-style mustard
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Combine vinegar & shallot and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk in mustard. Slowly add the oil, whisking constantly until combined. Stir in kosher salt and pepper.

Dressing Adapted From:
The Sonoma Diet, Dr. Connie Guttersen, RD., PH.D.




Black Bean Taco’s

I’m always excited to find a recipe with minimal ingredients and big flavor.  Something that weaves a few of the basics (items already in my pantry/refrigerator) together in a fun and tasty way!  I found this recipe on the way home from Pittsburgh this weekend and couldn’t wait to try it.  And, I had a hunch Mick might enjoy it too – lots of beans and no meat!  For those of you looking for something for meatless Monday (or meatless any day) these taco’s are sure to hit the spot and they’re quick!

So this weekend in Pittsburgh, at a cancer survivor celebration event, I was reminded how beautiful things often come from some of our darkest journey’s.  Kindness, compassion, hope, friendship . . .  the miraculous that comes from the mess.  Surrounded by ribbons of all colors, smiling faces and people shouting “victory”, my heart was filled with gratitude . . .  and I got to thinking about Thanksgiving and the gathering season we are entering . . .  and how important it is for us to come together around our tables and share stories and life (and nourishing food).  And mostly, how all moments, are treasured moments.  Stepping out of one busy week and into another, I’m holding on to the treasured moments . . . . like the sunset Saturday night from my window seat in the airplane.  Breathtaking.  Like God sending the Closing Ceremonies to a perfect day!

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Black Bean Taco’s
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
2 TBSP olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 (15oz) can black beans, with liquid
avocado slices
1 carrot shredded (or shredded cabbage)
1 lime
cheddar cheese, shredded
whole grain tortilla’s (or corn per preference)

1.   Over medium heat, saute onion in the olive oil until translucent (about 3-5 minutes).
2.   Stir in the garlic and saute for one more minute – then add the chili powder, cumin and the black beans (with liquid) and simmer for approximately 5 minutes.
3.   Spoon into tortilla’s and top with avocado slices, shredded carrot (or cabbage) and fresh lime juice.  Top with a sprinkle of shredded cheese.

Prep Notes:
The original recipe called for topping taco’s off with guacamole and cabbage.  I didn’t have cabbage so I used shredded carrots.  I also changed it up a bit with the avocado “slices” and added a sprinkle of English White Cheddar!

Recipe Inspired By:
Nutrition Action Health Letter
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Recipe of the Month, November 2014