Lemon Salmon and Artichoke Pasta

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As you know, Valentine’s Day is coming up, and many of you will be making plans for a romantic evening. Sometimes that means going out on a date, and for others that means cooking dinner together at home. Before James and I were married, our dating anniversary was actually February 12th, so we have never celebrated Valentine’s Day and instead just celebrated our anniversary.

This year marks 8 years since our first date, so even though we have a new anniversary now, our wedding anniversary, I think we might stick with tradition and have our date night meal on the 12th and stay in the 14th. Plus I am turning 30 this year, so I am making sure to plan the most festive/fun times for my birthday MONTH of March! In the Ruiz family, we always enjoy a birthday month, and luckily James has embraced this tradition wholeheartedly.

Since salmon is pink, rose wine is pink, and this adorable plate I just got is also pink, I thought why not theme this meal for a fun Valentine’s dinner option! It is really light, so you don’t risk feeling overly full after dinner, and it is super easy to make. You can impress your date with this dish without even breaking a sweat!

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What you need:

  • 2 salmon filets
  • 3 lemons, zest and juice
  • 1 can of artichoke quarters, drained
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 1/4 cup of parmesan
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil (good quality)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • penne pasta, or any other pasta of your choice

Start by heating your oven to 350F and setting a pot of salted water to boil on the stovetop.

Season your salmon with salt and pepper, and some lemon zest. Squirt the juice of half of a lemon on the salmon as well and bake in the oven for 10-15min.

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Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, but usually around 10-12min to have it al dente.

Meanwhile, mix together your artichokes, capers, parmesan, olive oil and the juice and zest from two lemons. Season with salt and pepper.

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Let the mixture sit and marinate while your fish and pasta finish cooking.

Once the salmon is done, remove it from the oven and use two forks to shred it off of the skin.

Drain your pasta, but reserve about 1/4 cup of pasta water.

Add the pasta and shredded salmon to the bowl with the artichoke mixture and toss.  Pour in about half the pasta water and toss again.

Serve warm fresh from cooking, and enjoy with a nice glass of rose.

This is so delicious cold as well, and could be a fun thing to make in advance for a romantic picnic instead of your typical date.

You’ve got to love the two for one!

Xoxo

Bison and Chicken Fajitas – Taco Tuesday

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Taco Tuesday is a time honored tradition rooted in history from many years ago…. At least it should be! In reality it is not necessarily a centuries old tradition, but for most Mexican American families, there was at least one night a week when we ate tacos. Not always on a Tuesday, in our family we still have Mexican food every Friday, and it is always a day to look forward to.

This week I had the pleasure of going over to a place called Mike’s Organic Delivery in Stamford, CT.  They open to the public every Friday and I went pretty crazy stocking up on meat and veggies. As it says in the name, they deliver locally, but I wanted to check it out myself first before exploring the delivery piece. I even had the pleasure of meeting Mike himself, and he is one great guy!

Getting fresh produce from mostly local farms and other organic farms really makes a difference in flavor. Not all are featured here, but we got avocados, turnips, spinach, a mango and a few other tasty veg, and all have been pretty spectacular. As for the meat, well bison is one of those unique game meats that is insanely lean and full of flavor.  It’s a great alternative to beef when you can find it, and it took to my marinade beautifully!

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What you need:

  • 1/2 lb Bison
  • 1/2 lb chicken breast
  • 1 yellow onion, halved and sliced
  • 2 jalapeños
  • 2-3 limes
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup of water
  • salt and pepper to taste

Marinate your chicken and bison in a bag or baking dish.  Mix the Worcestershire, juice of two to three limes, water, and salt and pepper to make the marinade and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour.

Meanwhile, I made a quick salsa following my usual recipe, but without roasting the tomato and jalapeños first.  I do prefer the roasted version, but this was a great solution for a weeknight dinner.

Chop your tomato, one jalapeño, and one garlic clove, and put into a food processor. Add in salt and pepper and pulse until mostly smooth.

You can also make your guacamole now by mashing your avocados, and adding salt, pepper, juice from 1/2 lime, and a tablespoon or two of your fresh salsa. To keep it green keep the pit in the guacamole and using plastic wrap, push the wrap up against the mixture and seal it off, leaving no room for air and refrigerate.

Finally you are ready to cook your fajitas and onion.  Using a cast-iron pan or griddle, start with the onions and cook until translucent, about 8 mins.

Then add on your bison and chicken slicing them up to cook more evenly.

If you are using an outdoor grill, you can keep the chicken and bison whole and slice after, but on a griddle, its a little easier to work with the smaller pieces.

Cook through for about 10min, removing your beef or bison sooner depending on how well you like your meat.

Finally warm your tortillas either in the microwave or over the open flame on your stove and enjoy!

Since you can multi-task while the meat marinates, this dish really is so simple to make for a weeknight family dinner.

Buen provecho!

 

Raspberry/Pineapple Breakfast Smoothie

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Sometimes you are just really in the mood for a smoothie! I love smoothies because they feel a little naughty, but they are good for you! I load mine with lots of frozen fruit and usually a scoop of protein powder so it can be a proper snack. I usually sneak in some kale or spinach also, but I eat plenty of veggies anyway.

Coconut water is a great alternative for making a smoothie versus juice because it doesn’t have all of the sugar that fruit juices tend to have.  It also has tons of potassium and electrolytes to keep you hydrated, so all around its a great option!

This is the best snack or breakfast when you’ve got a lot going on, but you want to make sure you are getting a complete meal. You can ensure that your smoothie has a full serving of fruit and veggies, plus some bonus things like fiber, omega 3s, and of course a little protein. This blend is admittedly a funky color, but this smoothie was super delicious!

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What you need:

  • 1/2 cup of raspberries, frozen
  • 1/2 cup of pineapple, frozen
  • 1/2 banana
  • 8 oz coconut water
  • 3 stalks of kale, removed from the stem
  • 1 scoop of protein, I chose vanilla flavor
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds (fiber and omega 3s)

Throw it all in a blender and blend until smooth.  You won’t need to add any ice because of the frozen fruit, and it should be a really nice consistency.

It makes a pretty good amount, so I recommend enjoying it slowly.

 

Arroz con Pollo

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On cold wintery nights, sometimes you just want a little comfort food.  One of my favorite things growing up was arroz con pollo, which literally means chicken with rice. It is hearty and so full of flavor. This doesn’t fall into the super healthy dinner options, but its not that bad!

I had a sour stomach the other day, and I was attempting to heed the “B.R.A.T.” diet (Bananas, Rice, Apple Sauce, and Toast). Now being a private chef, eating just plain boiled rice is definitely NOT an option – give me some flavor please! Plus eating only the B.R.A.T. ingredients, you don’t get any protein and are thus hungry. Enter a childhood favorite: Arroz con Pollo.  It is predominantly rice based, but it does have chicken as well and some very nice flavor.

This was James first time to have it, and he enjoyed it a lot. It is kind of a Mexican version of a risotto or paella – what is not to love?

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What you need:

  • 1 1/2 lb chicken thighs (boneless/skinless)
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced in strips
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced in strips
  • 1 tomato, thinly sliced in strips
  • 1 small can tomato sauce + 1 can of water
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups of long grain rice
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt +more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp pepper +more to taste

In a large dutch oven, warm about a tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium/high heat.

Chop your chicken thighs into 1″ cubes and season with salt and pepper.

Cook in the dutch oven until about halfway done, 5 min or so, and add in your onion and bell pepper.

Cook a further 7-8min until onion is translucent and the chicken is cooked through.

Add in your rice and diced tomato and cook without any liquid for about 3-4min to get the raw flavor out of the rice.

Add in your garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper.

Add in the tomato sauce, water, and stock, and season with salt and pepper and stir around.

Once liquid starts to boil, cover the pot and reduce heat to low.  Cook for about 25min, but double check the rice package for timing instructions.

When you are done the onion and bell pepper float to the top, you can either leave them in or pick some of them out to keep the flavor but not bite into large pieces of onion and pepper.

Finally enjoy! This is an easy one to prepare for a lot of people and please a crowd!

Cashew Butter Banana Toast

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I have been working on being a bit more inventive with my breakfasts.  When I was still working in fashion, I ate yogurt and granola every day! It was delicious, but when I quit, I was very eager to switch things up a bit.  That breakfast became a routine because it was easy to eat at my desk, and served a purpose. It had protein and a little carb, and because I used plain Greek yogurt, not too much sugar.

Since working from home and cooking for families locally, I have the luxury of eating breakfast at home every day at a nice pace. Depending on the day I might eat an egg on toast, a protein smoothie, yogurt, eggs in other forms, and all kinds of other things. The main thing I seek out in a breakfast is protein.  If I don’t get some protein in the morning, I am basically hungry for the rest of the day – no matter what I eat!

Now I am going to say something controversial… I don’t like peanut butter. I know that makes me crazy, but I find the smell too strong and the fact that it gets stuck to the roof of your mouth so annoying! It is a great source of protein though so I have found great substitutes like cashew butter and almond butter that I prefer in flavor.  They also tend to be a little creamier so the texture is less thick.

Anyway, this is a great breakfast option when you are in a little more of a hurry. As eating this I accidentally dropped the toast in my own lap, and OH MAN it was a mess! So a word to the wise, take care when eating this as cashew butter somehow manages to get all over EVERYTHING when accidents happen!

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What you need:

  • 1-2 slices of whole wheat toast
  • 1-2 tbsp cashew butter
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds

Toast your bread to your desired level of doneness.

Spread with cashew butter, layer on sliced banana, and sprinkle with chia seeds.

The flavor balance is amazing, and the cashew butter has a richness that makes this feel very decadent!

 

Coffee Protein Shake

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Earlier in the week I showed you a delicious protein smoothie, but if you are really on the go, and don’t have time to deal with then blender and too many ingredients, a more traditional protein shake may be in order. I’ve even reduced your time spent on breakfast even more by adding in a shot of espresso to this smoothie.

This is an all in one breakfast drink including coffee and protein! You really can’t lose here, and it’s really tasty! This is also not as cold, which during the winter can be really nice.  You could serve it over ice, but I left it at room temperature.

I usually prefer to have my coffee separately and enjoy it in the morning, but if I am ever really on the go, this is the way forward! I don’t even know if this counts as a recipe since it is so easy, but I figured I would share it with you anyway.

I am largely dairy free because of lactose intolerance, so the important thing for me is using a lactose free protein and a dairy free milk. If you prefer regular milk, almond milk or soy that is fine, but I love the richness that coconut milk gives to a smoothie or shake.

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What you need:

  • Chocolate protein powder (1-2 scoops)
  • 6 oz of coconut milk
  • 2 oz shot of espresso

Using a shaker, made for mixing protein shakes, put all of your ingredients into it and shake away.

The result is a really smooth and creamy mocha type drink, but with the added benefit of 25g of protein!

This is great for the super busy people out there, and any body looking for a little time saver in the morning.

Winter Salad with Farro and Acorn Squash

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One of the only redeeming qualities of winter is some of the yummy veggies you get in season.  Acorn Squash is so delicious, but it isn’t really available all year round. Butternut squash gets all the use in the winter as it seems to be a favorite for many people, but I think acorn squash is a little over looked.

It is a little more of a mild flavor than butternut squash, and a bit less sweet.  I like butternut squash, but my complaint about it is the sweetness. I have an amazing butternut squash risotto recipe that I will share with you before winter is over, but for now, with New Years resolutions in mind, I have instead made an acorn squash salad.

They say in winter to not eat too much cold food as it can upset your digestion, but getting a good balance is still ok. Plus as I have mentioned, I have a very tall, hungry husband, so I added warm farro to this salad and we ate the squash fresh out of the oven.

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  • 1 bunch of lacinato kale
  • 1 romaine heart
  • cherry tomatoes (cause I love tomatoes)
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese
  • caesar dressing
  • 1 tsp of fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup cooked farro (optional)

Pre-Heat your oven to 375F.

Cut your acorn squash in half and dig out the seeds in the middle. Drizzle the cut side with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Roast your acorn squash in a 375F oven, cut side facing up for 30-45min until soft.

While this roasts, make your caesar dressing and chop up all of your lettuce.

Julienne the apple into thin matchstick sized pieces, and slice your tomatoes in half.

If you are including farro, cook this to the packages instructions.  You only need about 1/2 cup of dried farro for this whole salad to have a little extra heartiness to it.

Toss together your veggies and dressing and lemon juice and season your salad.

Once the squash is done, slice it into 1/2 inch thick pieces and enjoy.  The skin should come right off, but it makes for a more clean presentation to leave it on when plating it.

Feel free to add chicken to this or a salmon filet if you don’t want a meatless option, but for a nice meatless Monday option, why not!

 

Shakshuka

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On Saturday this past weekend, we had a full on snow day.  We got around 7 inches of snow and leaving the house really wasn’t an option.  They wait to plow the streets until after the snow has stopped, and being a good South Texas girl, I have NO idea how to drive in snow! Our puppy Kuda (as you can see above) absolutely loves running around in the snow, so on Sunday when the weather improved, we had lots of fun in the winter wonderland of the woods!

Shakshuka is a really delicious middle easter breakfast of baked eggs in a chopped tomato sauce. Usually it has some spice to it and its often cook with onion and bell pepper. This was the perfect dish to have on Saturday morning when we were stuck at home. We built a fire for the day and just binged on movies and shows and had an all around lazy day.

As I said Shakshuka is traditionally made with onion and bell pepper, but I didn’t have either of those, I did however have fresh garlic, which is another requirement for Shakshuka, and chives to give it some onion flavor.  A key flavor component is cumin, cayenne, and other chili powders.  I used Za’atar and red chili flakes as well, and they really gave it a great flavor.

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What you need:

  • 2 14oz cans of chopped tomato or one large can
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tbsp Harissa
  • chives, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp Za’atar
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

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Pre-Heat your oven to 375F.

If you do have onions and bell pepper, use about half of each and sauté in your cast iron pan for 20min or so until they are soft.

After those cook, add in your minced garlic and cook for a min or two.

Add in the chives, tomatoes, harissa, and all of your spices. Simmer for 10 min.

Crack the eggs into the tomato mixture and put in the oven.

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Bake for 7-10min and remove from the oven.

Sprinkle some more chives on top for garnish and serve with plenty of the tomato mixture under each egg.

This breakfast is so delicious, and is even better with some fresh grilled bread to dip in the tomato.  Not being able to leave the house, we didn’t get to do this with fresh bread, but it was still really delicious!

It’s so easy to make and would really impress your guests if you hosted a brunch!

Buen Provecho, and for my fellow northern folk, stay warm!!

 

 

Breakfast Smoothie

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We all know that this time of year everyone has renewed energy to follow a diet, exercise more, and live an all around healthier lifestyle. More often than not we renig on our promises of New Years Resolutions.  Rightfully so, as setting a goal for a full year is not an easy task.  I recommend setting shorter term goals that you can achieve and see results faster.

For example, for the month of January I resolve to exercise at least twice a week, not including walking my dog in the woods, which I do for about an hour 5 times a week. My goal is to gain more tone in my arms in the next 3 months. This weekend I will get my husband to take a before photo so I can track it for you guys!

The idea behind the shorter term goals is that we can get satisfaction a little sooner, and actually start seeing results sooner.  If your goal is weight loss and you want to loose 50lbs this year, set a monthly goal to get there so that every month you get rewarded with the feeling of success.  A year is a long way away and a lot can happen.  By setting monthly goals, if you have an off month, you can push yourself the next one to make up for it.

The most important part about setting goals is to set REALISTIC goals! Don’t tell yourself you want to exercise 5 times a week, when you currently don’t even do it once! Don’t assume you will go from eating poorly 90% of the time to a completely healthy diet! That is why so many people fail in their resolutions.  They bite off more than they can chew. If your goal is to eat better in 2017, start by subbing in healthy snacks, or healthy breakfasts. Then as your body adapts, you can eat healthier dinners, and then lunches. Change is not immediate, and you need to give your mind and body time to adapt to a new routine.

One of my favorite breakfast options, and admittedly I have more of these when its warm out, are breakfast smoothies.  I need protein for breakfast or I get hungry immediately! If I eat donuts or pancakes, or anything too carby without a protein, I get hungry within an hour or so and then end up eating too many calories because I am not balancing my meals.

I will post a few different recipes over this month, but to start, this one tastes like dessert! Its a chocolate banana smoothie packed with protein and flavor! You will feel like you’re eating a milk shake instead of breakfast!

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What you need:

  • 10 oz coconut milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder (I use Isopure because it has no lactose)
  • 1-2 tbsp nut butter (I chose cashew butter because of its richness)
  • 1 tsp of cacao nibs
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds (not pictured)

Put everything into good blender with some ice and blend.

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This smoothie is so delicious and has about 25 grams of protein to get you started for the day! The chia seeds are packed with omega 3s and cacao nibs are a super food! Bananas are great sources of potassium and other vitamins and the nut butter and coconut milk give you a little needed fat and carb for a really balanced and delicious breakfast!

Feel free to add in a handful of kale or spinach to this as the chocolate flavor will mask the greens, but you will get even more added vitamins!

 

 

Seasonal Cocktails

Getting back to reality is proving to be harder than expected. I love what I do, but this holiday break has been pretty great! We’ve enjoyed amazing times with family and friends, and have enjoyed a lot of really good food and drinks.

People always talk about the weight they gain over the holidays because its a time of excess. Excess love, excess food, excess drinks, excessive fun! It isn’t often that you get to see so many of the people you love all at once, and returning home really is bittersweet.

My friends can tell you, I make a mean cocktail, and what better way to combat those back to reality blues than with a fun zany cocktail! I made two great options that I will share in this post that are perfect combinations using seasonal ingredients!

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The first cocktail, I call the Spicy Mexican. Between the ginger and the jalapeño, you will really feel alive!

What you need:

  • 2 oz añejo tequila
  • 2 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz ginger liquore
  • sliced fresh ginger
  • sliced fresh jalapeño
  • agave syrup to taste

I recommend making this drink early to let all the flavors mingle together. It’s an ideal option if you’re having a party to make in big batches and let marinate for a few hours.

Mix together all of your ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until well blended.

Serve in a martini glass or glass of your choice with a few slices of fresh ginger and jalapeño in the glass, and a wedge of lime of the edge.

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Now this next drink, I call the Hot Johnny.  It’s the Hot Johnny because you use apple cider (Johnny Appleseed), and its best served warm!

What you need:

  • 8 oz of apple cider
  • sliced fresh lemon
  • cinnamon sticks
  • star anise
  • 2-4 oz of bourbon whisky

Warm up your cider on the stove top or in the microwave.

Add in the bourbon (amount is up to you, depending on how strong you want it), one cinnamon stick, one star anise, and a slice of lemon.

This is another great one to make in big batches for a party.  It will truly warm you from the inside out, and make you feel perfectly in season with your cocktail choice!