Perfect Spring Pasta with Lemon, Feta and Arugula

 

It’s warming up on the East Coast, which means Spring is right around the corner. While cozy comfort foods have kept me warm and energized through the winter, I’ve recently been craving lighter dishes with vegetables and zippy, bright flavors. This bow tie pasta dish with lemon, feta and arugula is the perfect marriage of all that I want.

Bonus – It took less than 30 minutes to make from start to finish, and there was very little work involved. Perfect for those on-the-go weekday meals!

Bow Tie Pasta with Lemon, Feta and Arugula

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound bow tie pasta (or other short pasta)

4 Tbsp olive oil

¼ c lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

2 Tbsp lemon zest (about 2 lemons)

Salt & pepper to taste

6 oz feta cheese, cubed

3 – 4 c baby arugula

Instructions:

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil, and add pasta. Cook to al dente, according to the package instructions.
  2. Reserve 1 c pasta cooking water, then drain pasta into a colander.
  3. Add the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and feta cheese into the warm pot, and warm on low – medium heat.
  4. Return pasta to pot, add arugula and toss gently to coat. (If you need, add a little of the reserved pasta water here.)
  5. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
  6. Serve immediately.

Play around with the flavors & ingredients to suit your taste. Here are just a couple of ideas.

  • Change out the arugula for asparagus or fresh peas
  • Swap out the feta for ricotta cheese for a creamier flavor

Happy Eating!

xo,

Dianne


A Word to Shape 2017

 

Every New Year’s Eve, I pick a word to help guide me through the year. This word serves as both a business and a personal beacon. Last year, my word was Joyful, the year before, it was Savor, and before that it was Bold. You get the picture.

 

Now, many good things happened in 2016, but the end of the year left me feeling disappointed and less than Joyful. It really took a while. I thought about a lot of words. And, after much thought and soul searching, I found my word for 2017… It’s Connected.

 

Connected resonates with me because my goal is to create or deepen connections with people in both my personal and professional life, and in my relationship to the environment, which nourishes and sustains all of us.

 

Okay, now it’s your turn! I invite each of you to choose a word to guide your year. Keep in mind that there’s no right or wrong word, just something meaningful to you, and it can only be one word (not a phrase). Share your word here, and a little bit about why you chose it.

 

Looking forward to hearing what you chose!

xo,

Dianne

 


Easy, Peasy Summer Gazpacho

Easy, Peasy Summer Gazpacho

gazpacho soup & corn chips

I don’t know about you, but my summer has been hot & sticky! The kinda hot that melts your ice cubes 10 minutes in to your drink! With record temperatures this year, the last thing you want to do is stand at the stove, or even the grill and cook hot food! But, so much of healthy eating is preparing food at home with quality ingredients.

The remedy? For me it’s dinner outside, preferably on my patio under the pergola covered with grapevines and twinkly lights, where you can occasionally catch a cool breeze.

And, the perfect meal for this time of year? Chilled gazpacho. It’s quick and easy to make, and there’s no heating up the oven or stove top. Use the plethora of local tomatoes, onions, zucchini, garlic, peppers and more that you can find at the farmers market, grocery or if you’re really lucky, in your own garden.

Gazpacho simply requires some food prep. However, if you play your cards right, you can make most of it in a blender or serving bowl, and have very little clean up to do! Woo hoo! Compliment it with some tortilla chips and guacamole, or a black bean salad, and you have my kind of summer meal!

Don’t believe it’s that simple to make? Here’s a quick video to show you just how fast and easy it is!

 

Easy, Peasy Summer Gazpacho

Ingredients

  • 1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 zucchini, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 quart sized jar home-canned tomatoes, chopped, or 4 fresh plum tomatoes, chopped into bite sized pieces and 3 c. tomato juice
  • ½ c. fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • ½ c. fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 -1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste

Directions

Chop the cucumber, bell pepper, tomatoes, cilantro and red onion into 1/4 inch pieces. Combine ingredients in a large bowl and add the garlic, jalapeno, tomato juice, lime juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.  Will keep in your refrigerator for up to 3 days.

 

 


I chose Joyful

Rainbow

Rainbow

Every January I pick a theme word to guide me through my year. This year, I considered some great words. But, like clothes, words have to fit well to make you feel comfortable. While there were many fabulous words, none resonated with me until I found Joyful. It’s perfect!! Joyful makes me think of blue skies, kisses and rainbows. It’s exactly how I want this year to develop.

Joyful has been an auspicious choice. Building a business can be challenging and lonely, so choices matter. Whether it’s spending time with family, trying out a new skill or paying bills, approaching the activity with joy colors how I feel about it. Instead of being pissed that I have to pay bills, I’m happy to have them! Bills to pay mean I acquired something. Just like employing new skills mean I’m continuing to learn… you get it!

Wanna play? We’re only one quarter into 2016. It’s not too late to pick a theme word for this year. If you already have a word, how it’s going? Did you choose Abundance and get more love, money or time? Maybe you picked Savor, and are now enjoying dancing, family dinners, or dog walks! And what if your word is not working for you? It’s not too late to pick a better word! How about Determination? Laughter? Creative?

Post your word to the blog! Share how it’s impacted you, and let us cheer you on!

 

 

 

 

 

 


7 Tips to Thrive Through Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I hear a lot of women say they are dreading the day. They say they already feel overwhelmed by the volume of cooking (and cleaning up) and at the mercy of the calories and temptations they know they’ll be facing.  Okay, a huge piece of Thanksgiving is about the meal… but the holiday is about so much more!

There are ways to not only “survive” Thanksgiving, but to actually thrive through it! Thriving happens when you take advantage and slow down, “to give thanks” and be mindful of all you have, like family, friends and an abundance of food. Here are a few tricks that I use to enjoy the holiday along with my family and guests:

  • Delegate. If you’re having family or friends over, it does mean cooking larger quantities than usual, which can feel daunting. We are sharing the holiday with another family, so we’ll make larger quantities of food but split the responsibilities… I make a tasty turkey, but my friend is a way better baker. That way, we play to each other’s strengths AND get to enjoy each other’s company!
  • Don’t stress about overeating. The food will be delicious, but keep in mind that you don’t need to stuff yourself. There will be leftovers, so that same great food will be around later to enjoy again.
  • Chew. Take a little of everything, about half of what you normally would and chew it thoroughly. Chewing reduces choking incidents, aids in digestion, and allows your body to register satiety (feeling full) so that you don’t eat too much.
  • Take a time out. If you’re feeling stressed by lots of people, close quarters, and things to do, remind yourself that it’s just food. Your company is there to be with you and that Thanksgiving is only one day out of the year. Take a moment to go into a quiet room, close your eyes and breathe deeply. Even if it’s only for 5 minutes, you’ll feel more refreshed and ready to tackle the scene again.
  • Focus on the people you’re spending your day with, even if it’s the same folks you see everyday. Try to discover something new (a hobby, your ancestry, etc.) to talk about with them.
  • If you need something to remind you of all that you have, volunteer some time for those in need. Whether you serve meals at a homeless shelter, foster a dog, or knit clothes and blankets for refugees, there’s a way to show appreciation for all that you have.
  • And lastly, get moving! Don’t just watch sports on tv, get outside and play a game, rake leaves or go for a walk! You’ll be thankful that you did!

This list is what works for me, but if you have a tip for thriving through Thanksgiving, I’d love you to share it in the comment section.

I hope you all have a relaxing and joyful Thanksgiving!

Dianne


No-guilt Frozen Summer Treat

Summer time in the Mid-Atlantic means heat & humidity. So when I want a treat, it’s got to be creamy and cold. I do love ice cream and sorbet, but lately my “go-to” snack is frozen banana chunks drizzled with chocolate syrup. Why do I adore it so much? Not only is it easy to make, but most people usually have all the ingredients (bananas, vanilla, cocoa powder, sugar and salt) in their kitchen already. No need to run out to a store!

frozen bananas with chocolate sauce

Here’s how I make it.

For the bananas:

Use bananas that are ripened to the point of being covered in brown spots & soft to the touch, but not mushy. Peel each banana, and break it into bite-sized chunks about 1 inch long. There will be 5-6 chunks per banana. Figure a serving size will be about 1 – 1 ½ bananas per person.

Place the chunks into a storage container. (I like glass, but you can also use a plastic freezer bag.) Place in the freezer for a minimum of 2 hours (but longer is better.) Bananas are naturally sweet and freeze well. They’re fat and cholesterol free, are high in potassium and have about 3 grams of fiber (per medium banana), all of which help protect against heart disease and cancer.

When it’s snack time, just put 5 or 6 banana chunks into a bowl. You can eat them plain, but they’re incredible drizzled with the following chocolate sauce!

For the chocolate sauce:

This recipe comes from epicurious. It’s super fast, easy and delicious!! Here’s the link, and my additions to the recipe. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/chocolate-syrup-107781

1 c filtered water

½ c regular sugar or coconut sugar

2/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ tsp salt (I used sea salt)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, bring the water & sugar to a boil, whisking until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in cocoa and salt, and simmer, whisking, until slightly thickened (about 3 min.) Remove from heat and add vanilla. Cool. (Syrup continues to thicken as it cools.) You can make this in about 5 minutes time, but it’s best if you make it and cool it ahead of time. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

And there you have it, a guilt-free frozen treat that satisfies any sweet craving! What’s your favorite summer treat? Post a comment and share your favorite guilt-free snack!

 

 

 


Simple green smoothie

Normally breakfast at our house is hot oatmeal. It’s especially perfect on cold winter mornings before the furnace really kicks in. But this morning, as I was preparing to make breakfast, I noticed the end of a bag of spinach in the fridge. It had been bugging me for a couple of days because it wasn’t fresh enough to make a salad, but I hated for it to go to waste.

Making a green smoothie seemed like a no-brainer. Since it was a chilly morning, the only ingredients used were odds & ends from the refrigerator and pantry. Everything blended together in less than 5 minutes, and Voila! My husband and I had tasty, healthy and satisfying smoothies. This recipe made enough for each of us to have a tall glass (about 1.5 cups). I felt so good all day that I’m going to try to include green smoothies a few times each week. What about you?  Leave a reply in the comment section and let me know what your favorite smoothie combinations are.

 

Green Smoothie                            Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients:

1 – 2 dates, pitted

1 banana

1 cup unsweetened almond milk*

½ cup cold water

1 Persian cucumber

½ bunch parsley

1- 1.5 cups spinach

 

Instructions:

Add one to two dates and the almond milk in the blender, and blend on low for 2 minutes or until dates are broken down well. I actually use the ice crush setting to start, because dates can be tough to break up. Add the spinach, banana (broken into 3-4 pieces), the Persian cucumber (cut into 4 or so pieces), and parsley, stems and all (roughly cut in half). Blend adding just enough cold water to come to a smooth consistency. Serve & enjoy!

*Substitute other non-dairy or dairy milks here depending on preference.

 


5 Practical Tips to Understanding & Managing Your Sugar Cravings

Kick-your-cravings-butt1Confession time. I used to be a junk-food junkie. As a kid, I lived on chocolate chip cookies. My mom was a great baker so I had access to fabulous homemade goodies all day long.

For a time, I got away with it. But after two kids, poor snacking habits left me 20 pounds heavier than I should be. I might just as well have applied those desserts straight to my hips!

Conventional nutrition information tells us to employ will power, eat more protein, drink water to feel fuller, choose fruit over pastries and candy and just say “No” to white (flour, sugar, rice, and potatoes). While all these are true, why don’t we do it? Why do we crave sweet snacks? Read More


Beyond Peanut Butter & Jelly

Every autumn parents face the challenge of packing nutritious, safe school lunches. The concern is how to create lunches that are quick and easy to make, taste good and will stay safe until lunchtime. In other words, kid-friendly is more than just peanut butter & jelly.

There are three things to keep in mind when considering how to produce a safer lunch – Containers, temperature and foods items.

Start with an insulated lunch bag. There are many economical choices that are also free of harmful chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Phthalates, and Microban and are either lead-free or meet the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) testing standard for lead. Check out SafeMama for a list of safer choices http://safemama.com/cheatsheets/safer-lunch-gear/

Step number two is managing temperature control. Bacteria thrive between 40 -140 degrees, so the trick is to keep hot food hot, and cold food cold. Thermal containers will keep noodle soup hot or gazpacho cold for hours. Choose reusable stainless steel containers to avoid break down and harmful chemicals from mixing with your child’s food. They’re economical and reduce waste. Here are a few to choose from

Klean Kanteen www.kleankanteen.com

Mr. Bento Stainless Lunch Jar www.thinkgeek.com

LunchBots www.lunchbots.com

Thermos www.shopthermos.com

To keep cold foods cold, use a cold pack or ice bags wrapped to avoid leakage or consider freezing food items like yogurt, milk or juice boxes the night before, and use them as your cold pack. Surprisingly, you can also freeze some sandwiches to thaw by the time lunch rolls around.

Last but not least, safety includes food choices. According to the Food Allergy Research & Education research group, one in every 13 children under the age of 18 years in the U.S. suffers from a potentially severe food allergy. That’s about 2 kids per classroom! With food allergies on the rise, lunches have to go beyond peanut butter & jelly. There are many delicious, easy to prepare items that also fit your budget. Hummus & veggies, wrap sandwiches, salad with separate dressing, granola bars, soups, leftovers, and more. For some tasty ideas check out these options http://www.momables.com/10-non-sandwich-lunch-ideas-by-momables/


Image

 

My alarm went off at 6:15 AM.  Not only was it early, but it was a rainy Saturday in January.  Not the kind of weather that inspires me to spring out of bed, full of vitality.  But, I’d set my alarm to get up for an 8 AM Pilates class and I knew that if I went back to bed I’d regret it the rest of the day.

 

Getting up early on a Saturday reminds me of all the 8 AM introductory classes my freshman year at college.  Those classes are designed to weed out students who are not serious about studying.  As I was preparing for college my mom advised me that if I did nothing else, I should just show up for class.  Showing up meant that I would hear the lecture and be able to recall the material in context for tests.

 

We all know better, so why is cutting class, skipping your exercise program or cheating on your diet such a temptation?  Often it has to do with lack of support and unrealistic expectations.  Not reaching your goal as quickly as you’d thought, saying yes to a friend when you really mean maybe, or making a New Year’s Resolution without a game plan of how to accomplish it practically.  The important component here is that playing hooky often isn’t the escape we imagine; it feels more like you’re letting yourself down.

 

How do you get past the feeling of wanting to skip?  The first step is to be aware of it and think about why you might be afraid of moving forward.  What would losing those extra pounds, quitting cigarettes or saying no to an obligation really mean?  What would you lose?  What could you gain?  Dig deep so that the pull of a warm cozy bed is less than your desire to follow through with your intention.  Reframe your goal and create practical steps.  Get support from a friend or health coach. However you make it happen, do yourself the favor and Just Show Up.

 

Back to Saturday morning, 6:15 AM.  I decided to heed my internal “mom voice” and I got my butt to Pilates.  I showed up.  Was it worth it?  Oh yeah!  Instead of regretting a missed class, I started my day with an amazing work out and I felt the benefits all day long.  My muscles hummed with energy.  I felt strong physically and mentally, and I made better choices throughout the day.  The next time you’re tempted to skip, remember this… everyone feels it, but you’ll feel better about yourself and get more out of life if you just show up.

 

Just show up