Creamy Tahini Dressing with Lemon, Garlic, and Sriracha

They are very few ways in which I enjoy raw kale. This dressing is the reason behind one of those ways. I was sure to include lemon because citrus does a great job of neutralizing the bitter taste inherent to raw kale. I also decided to add garlic and sriracha because, well, who doesn’t love garlic and sriracha? The hint of spiciness from several dashes of sriracha always adds that extra something, something.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup EVOO
  • 2/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Sriracha to taste
  • Himalayan salt to taste
  • Cracked black pepper to taste

What you’ll do:

  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor; blend until smooth
  • Pour into a dressing container or mason jar

This dressing is seriously delicious and is a really nice deviation from my go-to, balsamic vinaigrette. My friend and soon-to-be roomie, Domenica, and I prepared a healthy, gluten-free dinner after our workout last night. For the salad, I tossed raw kale in this dressing and topped it with thinly sliced radishes. We agreed that something about the creaminess from the tahini and the crunch from the radishes (croutons?) reminded us of caesar salad, albeit a healthier version with a twist. Keep in mind that this dressing is certainly not limited to being paired with kale, as it will work beautifully with any Mediterranean-inspired salad or sandwich.

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Caprese Skewers with a Balsamic Glaze and a Basil, Garlic, and Olive Oil Drizzle

This dish is a really fun twist on a classic. Plus, it is light, attractive, and super easy to prepare. Prep time should take no longer than 15 minutes, making it the perfect dish to throw together before any summer gathering.

What you’ll need:

  • 6 kabob skewers
  • 12 yellow cherry tomatoes
  • 18 red grape tomatoes
  • 12 bite-sized mozzarella balls
  • 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup EVOO
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh basil
  • 2 cloves garlic

What you’ll do:

  • Combine the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup in a small sauce pan; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil; turn the heat down to its lowest setting and allow the mixture to simmer for approximately 10 minutes, or until thickened; remove from heat and set aside
  • Meanwhile, place the tomatoes and mozzarella balls onto the skewers in an attractive pattern; then, arrange the skewers on a serving plate
  • Combine the olive oil, basil, and garlic in a food processor; blend until smooth; drizzle a moderate amount over the skewers and spoon the rest into its own serving bowl
  • Once the balsamic glaze has had about 5 minutes to cool, drizzle it over the skewers and spoon the rest into its own serving bowl as you did with the olive oil mixture
  • Serve the extra accompaniments with the skewers so that guests can add either as desired

The simplicity of this recipe allows it to easily be doubled or tripled depending on how many people will be present. Also, there are so many great varieties of grape and cherry tomatoes this time of year that, really, any combination can be incorporated into this dish; I just happened to have red grape tomatoes and yellow cherry tomatoes available to me at the time.

I hope you enjoy this tasty app and its fresh, summer flavors!

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Himalayan Salt

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I’ve used sea salt in my cooking for as long as I can remember. However, as of late, I’ve been hearing more and more about Himalayan salt. Thus, I decided to look into what this health craze is all about.

Most markedly, it is the purest form of salt that money can buy. As the name indicates, it’s hand-mined from ancient sea salt deposits deep within the Himalayan Mountains. These ancient deposits have been untouched by environmental pollutants, as they were formed over 250 million years ago.

The benefits of Himalayan salt are incredible, as it:

  • Provides the body with 84 minerals and trace elements, including calcium, magnesium, phosphate
  • Regulates fluid balance, pH balance, and electrolyte balance
  • Strengthens bones
  • Improves absorption of nutrients and removal of toxins
  • Maintains blood glucose levels and and vascular health, thereby normalizing blood pressure
  • Promotes sleep
  • Supports libido

Why not sea salt? Sea salt, although pure in theory, is not nearly as pure as it used to be thanks to environmental pollutants. As we all know, chemical dumping and oil spills are occurring at an alarming rate… and those are just the disclosed incidences.

Why not typical table salt? When pure salt is “chemically cleaned,” sodium chloride is formed, creating a product that is no longer pure. As such, the body recognizes it as foreign and expends a great deal of energy in order to break it down. The sad truth about sodium chloride is that it is mostly used for industrial and preservation purposes, with iodine, fluoride, calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate, and aluminum hydroxide used as artificial additives. Most of the aforementioned additives are potentially toxic to the body.

As mentioned previously in my post about grape seed oil, I’m all for incorporating health foods into my diet, but I always prefer to do some research of my own before I allow said items to be the end-all, be-all of their class. However, now that I understand the craze behind Himalayan salt, I plan on incorporating it into my diet whenever possible. In addition to its purity and health benefits being unsurpassed compared to all other salt products on the market, it is also beautiful in color and has unique taste that is salty with subtle sweetness. And, if both the health benefits and aesthetics of a food are in line, you can count me in.

I’d also love to mention that while catching up with my friend, Jill, the other day, she mentioned Himalayan salt lamps. Although I’d never heard of these specifically, I had to laugh considering that I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now. Intrigued, I asked her to tell me more. She told me that they aid in air purification, but prompted me to do a Google search to see for myself. (She knows me so well.) In addition to improving the air quality in the spaces in which they are housed, they are seriously cool-looking. They’re vibrant, conversation pieces that will add uniqueness to any home. Himalayan salt strikes again.

Full-Body in Forty

For the most part, I have a love-hate relationship with the gym. However, as of late, it’s been more of a hate-hate relationship. I’m a self-proclaimed “class girl,” meaning that A) I hate creating my own workouts, and B) trudging along on the same cardio machine for 45 minutes bores the hell out of me. Whether it’s Pilates, spinning, or the most grueling bootcamp class you can imagine, I’m all in. I love the variety and the fact that my workouts are pre-dertermined by trained professionals. However, being that Studio 1 – the room that houses most classes at my gym – was being renovated over the past week, I had no choice but to do my own thing.

As it turns out, I ended up creating one of the better workouts I’ve had in a while using only cardio equipment and an iPhone app called Sworkit. I absolutely love this app. It allows you to create your own workouts by selecting your target area(s) and how long you’d like your workout to be. A different exercise pops up every 30 seconds, giving you the option to skip over exercises that are, for lack of a better word, lame. (Luckily, these “lame” exercises are few and far between.) I typically use it for core strength and lower body workouts only, as it forces me to switch up my usual routine for my problem areas. Anyway, my beloved new workout went a little something like this:

  • 5 minutes running on the treadmill
  • 5 minutes rowing machine
  • 5 minutes StairMaster
  • 5 minutes core strength training on Sworkit
  • Repeat the above x 1

As the title of this post indicates, following these steps will ensure a full-body workout in just 40 minutes. The best part is that moving from station to station leaves no time for boredom. Also, can we say muscle confusion?

Aside from this workout simply giving me something to do while attending a fitness class was out of the question, it was also an eye-opener on a much grander scale. When I work, it’s for twelve hours, meaning that the earliest class of the day begins when I’m leaving for work and the last class of the day begins before I wrap up my shift. Moral of the story: I can’t attend classes on the days that I work, meaning that I’ve been using my “class girl” excuse to skip the gym all together on work days. While the workout I’ve provided isn’t Earth-shattering by any means, it’s got me excited to go to the gym for a non-class workout, and that says something.

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup with Summer Vegetables

Dan is super sick, so when I decided that I’d make him a home-cooked meal to cheer him up, slow cooker chicken noodle soup seemed like the obvious choice. However, because chicken noodle soup (and soup in general) reminds me of cooler weather, I pondered what I could do to make this dish warm-weather-friendly. Ultimately, I determined that I would add some of my favorite summer vegetables, yellow squash and zucchini, in addition to the usual onion, carrots, and celery (technically known as mirepoix, pronounced “mir-pwah”). Then, as I was chopping away and sipping on some sauvignon blanc, I laughed to myself as I remembered this sign outside of my local Wine & Spirits store several weeks ago. It read: “I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.” As such, it only felt right that I add some wine to the chicken broth. Plus, as sauvignon blanc is hands down one of my favorite varietals to drink during the spring and summer, I figured it would add to that warm-weather flair I was working towards. The last thing I did to summer-fy this soup was finish it off with some fresh lemon juice in addition to the parsley. The acidity of the citrus really lightened up an otherwise hearty soup. What you’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 sweet Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow squash, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 48 fl. oz. of chicken broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 stalk of rosemary
  • 8 sprigs of thyme
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 6 cups extra wide egg noodles (or pasta of your choice)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil

What you’ll do:

  • Place the chicken breasts on the bottom of a slow cooker, followed by all other ingredients (minus the fresh parsley, lemon juice, egg noodles, and olive oil); cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for 3-4 hours
  • With about 20 minutes left, remove the bay leaves, stalk of rosemary, sprigs of thyme, and chicken breasts; discard the herbs and set aside the meat; before reapplying the lid, stir in the fresh parsley and lemon juice
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; meanwhile, shred the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and stir back into the soup
  • Cook the egg noodles until al dente, strain, transfer to a large serving bowl, and toss with olive oil
  • Spoon the noodles into individual serving bowls; then, ladle the soup over the noodles, garnish with fresh parsley as pictured, and serve with crackers

The only thing I might change about this soup when I make it again is substituting fusilli for the egg noodles. Because egg noodles have a tendency to become mushy, especially if sitting in broth or cooking on high heat, it is crucial that they are cooked separately and leftovers are stored in separate containers. However, the firmness of fusilli will allow the noodles to be cooked directly in the broth in the last 10 or so minutes of cook time. Obviously, the less work to do and the less to clean up, the better. After all, that’s what slow cooker meals are all about. Well, that and providing some of the best, home-cooked comfort food around.

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