Thursday, May 31, 2012

Apricot, Goat Cheese and Pecan Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

Hi y'all!  So, I just had to post this yummy weeknight salad, but I also wanted to update you on my recovery.  

It has been about 6 weeks since my surgery and I am almost completely back to normal.  I let my steri strips fall off (or rather I trimmed them mm by mm until eventually they were all gone) which took a full 5 weeks to happen, as opposed to ripping them off after the second week which is what I was told to do at the hospital.  I would recommend letting them come off naturally on their own timing and am glad that I chose to do so :)  The only other things I still can't do is lift heavy objects or do intense workouts.  I want to thank everyone for not only praying for my health in the beginning, but also praying for a swift recovery because once again... it worked!  

Okay, now onto this tasty salad.
Place all ingredients below on your plate and dig in...

fresh sliced apricots 
(they are one of the only fruits in season right now and are out of this world delicious)
sliced red onion
raw pecan pieces
crumbled honey goat cheese (from Trader Joe's, if possible)
sliced honey or smoked turkey or chicken meat (optional)
all natural or low fat poppyseed dressing drizzled on top

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Berry Mascarpone Tart from Ventura Beach's Fruit Stand

This past weekend Prescott and I went on a lovely day trip to Ventura Beach, which is by far, hands down, my favorite beach in California.  It is not flashy, there are no street entertainers and no ferris wheels, but there are real sand dunes, lots of kids and open space to build sand castles :)  Not to mention, the biggest outlet shopping center on the West coast just 10 minutes away in Camarillo and an awesome breakfast spot called Waypoint Cafe where you can watch the planes land while you enjoy the best biscuits this side of North Carolina.  Perfect for kids!  

I guess, the main reason I love Ventura Beach so much is because it reminds me of back home.  The beaches out here can be awfully intimidating, scary and weird (no offense to all those who love them and live here!) but Ventura Beach is so down to earth, normal and family oriented.  It is the only California beach that I have witnessed actual sand dunes, which makes me feel all giddy inside!  

Lastly, for all those who live in the SCV it is only a hour and a half drive and a scenic one at that.  You take the 126 the whole way, passing strawberry fields, fruit stands and even wine tasting rooms.  It is a gorgeous drive and worth every gallon of it :)  We made this delicious berry mascarpone tart from the local berries and honey that we bought on our way home from our favorite little fruit stand.  It might be the best thing I have made thus far!

The California Sand Dunes

The Local Berries

The Local Honey (great for preventing seasonal allergies!)

Step 1
grind 25 reduced fat oreos in a food processor
pour in 1/2 a stick of melted Smart Balance Butter and combine until crumbs are wet
pour into pie dish and push down until it forms a crust

Step 2
whip 16 oz. organic heavy whipping cream, 1/4 cup of pure cane sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla extrac and the zest of 1 lemon tin a stand mixer with the whip attachment until stiff peaks form 
(do not over beat or it will become grainy)
gently fold in an 8 oz. container of room temperature mascarpone cheese until fully incorporated.
spread evenly over crust.

Step 3
in a separate bowl combine fresh raspberries, blackberries and diced strawberries (about an 8 oz container or less of each berry) with enough honey and blackberry jam to coat them (about 1/8 cup of each) and pour over your mascarpone mixture.

Step 4 
microwave equal parts skim milk and semi sweet or dark chocolate chips in a heat resistant bowl for 30 seconds at a time, stirring intermediately, until melted.  Do not overheat or chocolate will burn. Place it in a plastic baggie and cut the end off of one corner to drizzle your ganache over the top.

Gorgeous.  Delicious.
Refrigerate for a couple hours and serve with a fruity red wine!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Fun Summer Drinks, Sides & Desserts

Well, The Nuggets didn't beat the Lakers, but we still had a great time BBQing with friends :)  We started the evening off with Spiked Arnold Palmers, with equal parts sweetened ice tea and sparkling lemonade with a splash of Honey Jack Daniels (using my signature sweet tea recipe listed below!) 

 Then with our hot dogs and hamburgers, I made a fun fruit salad and the hubby grilled up some fresh corn and asparagus, charred to perfection.  We ended the night on a sweet and tangy note with raspberry lemon bars and they were definitely the hit of the whole meal... sooo good (and easy!)

My Healthy Sweet Tea Recipe:
4 decaf iced tea bags
4 decaf green tea bags
1/2 cup pure cane sugar
1/4 cup natural local honey
2 quarts purified water

*Microwave 1/2 quart of water in a microwave safe bowl for 4 minutes.  Carefully take out and pour honey and sugar into it, stir until dissolved.  Then steep all tea bags in it for 5 minutes.  Pour into a pitcher and fill with the other 1 1/2 quarts of water.  Stir and enjoy over a glass full of ice and a lemon wedge.  Mint leaf optional.

This was a fun fruit salad full of watermelon, cucumber, mozzarella, proscuitto, grapes and peaches, all tossed in poppyseed dressing with a splash of fresh lemon juice and torn mint leaves.

grilled corn (best served with butter, lime juice and zest, paprika and grated parmesan)

grilled asparagus with salt, pepper and lemon juice


Combine and press into 8X8 pan:
1 1/2 cups reduced fat graham cracker crumbs (grind them yourself or use the regular pregound)
8 Tbsp. melted butter or smart balance
1/4 cup sugar and zest of 1 lemon

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes and let cool.

Stir together until thick:
2 free range egg yolks
1 14 ounce can fat free sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest

GENTLY fold in a 6 once container of fresh raspberries

Pour into graham cracker crust and bake for 15-18 minutes.  Chill for at least an hour and serve!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lightened Up Southern Strawberry Shortcake

So, with my mama in town, we couldn't resist baking together and of course we decided on a Southern favorite - strawberry shortcake.  This is my Grandkay's famous pound cake recipe, but y'all know me, I couldn't help lightening it up a bit.  So mom and I decided to use real butter (mom's idea), but to substitute some of it with yogurt (my idea)... YUM!  It was sooo good.  I highly recommend making this recipe now while the strawberries are coming into season :)  Oh and PS this is a super easy dessert to make this summer!

1 1/2 cup butter or smart balance sticks
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
3 eggs
2 egg whites
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract (this is essential in my opinion!)

In a mixer with the paddle attachment, whip together softened butter and sugar.

Add yogurt.

Add eggs, one at a time.

Add flours. Add extracts.

Grease bunt pan with shortening and flour.

Pour batter into a shortening greased and floured bunt pan. 

Bake at 325 for 45-55 minutes. 

Once cooled flip over onto a cooling rack.  
Later slice it and top with fresh whipped cream and strawberries (soaked in honey if possible).


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Nespresso Citiz - The Best Espresso Machine EVER

After traveling many a time around Europe and enjoying countless authentic cappuccinos, coming back to an american cup o' joe was extremely depressing.  So, I knew the first thing I wanted to put on our wedding registry was a legit espresso machine.  Well, after MUCH research I finally decided on the Nespresso Citiz and boy am I glad that I did because every morning I wake up with excitement to go downstairs and make myself a delicious skinny vanilla latte that Starbuck's couldn't even come close to achieving!

I have to say the one thing I missed most the first week of my recovery was my morning latte from my beloved Nespresso Citiz espresso machine with the frother attachment. Today was my first latte in over a week and it just reminded me of how amazing this machine is and how I NEEDED to share this with y'all.  Hopefully it will help any of you looking into purchasing an espresso machine.

Things I love about this machine:
- the crema on top of the espresso shot is divine!
- they come in capsule form of different strengths and flavors of FRESH espresso grinds
- the milk frother attachment (an absolute must!) quickly creates pure whipped goodness
- it is compact and aesthetically pleasing
- the price is way lower than the larger machines without sacrificing taste
- there is no grinder that can break like most of the other larger machines

* the ONLY con is that you have to buy the capsules, BUT you saved a ton on the machine itself and they are a lot less than a Starbuck's latte at only .60/capsule that are way worth every cent!!!  Plus you can just buy them in bulk online at and they ship within 2 days :)


the two creamers to put in your frother (half and half of each - no pun intended)