Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spicy Arugula Salad with Candied Fennel Seeds

arugula, beets, fennel seeds, detox, healthy, spring, salad, easy, lemon, vinaigrette

Spring has sprung! Although the last month we have already been experiencing record high sunny days, we have now officially made it through the winter months. It feels like the calendar is behind this year, as my apple and pear trees are already in full bloom, and the frogs in the pond have already croaked me to sleep the last 6 weeks. Spring in Seattle started February 1st, not March 20th.

Whether or not you are here on the West coast in a light spring jacket, or on the East coast bundled up from head to toe, I have decided it is time to bring the spring into the kitchen, highlighting spicy arugula, bright and tangy lemon zest, sweet and soothing fennel seeds, and the beautiful golden beet. Now you too can experience spring for lunch or dinner, even if you are wrapped in a parka. 

So what’s so great about arugula? Fennel? And the golden beet? Besides the fact that they all taste amazing, especially when tossed together in a lemon zest vinaigrette, these spring delicacies have so many wonderful benefits. Craving a spring detox, then this salad is for you!

beets, raw, health, detox, anti-inflammatory
arugula, beets, fennel seeds, detox, healthy, spring, salad, easy, lemon, vinaigrettebeets, raw, health, detox, anti-inflammatory

Firstly, did you know that arugula is considered a cruciferous vegetable? It is in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale, and therefore has a lot of the same wonderful benefits as these powerhouses do. One unique thing about arugula, compared to many other leafy greens, is that when chewed it releases a spicy flavor. This spicy compound is a phytonutrient called glucosinolate, which has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities. Plus it is great at supporting detoxification in our liver. Researchers have studied this phytonutrient extensively, especially in regards to its potential in cancer prevention. However, often times we cook cruciferous vegetables, which reduces the amount of this powerful phytonutrient. Therefore, eating raw arugula is a great way to get an abundance of this spicy and uber healthy plant compound.

TIP: Throw your salad greens into a bowl and top with fresh cold water. Let them soak while you prepare the rest of the recipe. This way the leaves plump up with water and are nice and crisp.

Instead of using the fennel bulb, I decided to use the fennel seed, for an extra somethin’ somethin’. Inspired by my favorite restaurant The Temple Bar in Bellingham, WA, I decided to make candied fennel seeds for added flavor and texture. Fennel seeds have been used for a long time to support digestive health, ease bloating, and also freshen ones breath. Have you ever tried candied fennel seeds after eating Indian food? These sweet treats are there for a reason; to aid in digestion after a meal and sweeten the breath after enjoying all the spicy and garlicky dishes. However, making your own at home is the best option. When using quality ingredients, candied fennel seeds add a delicious sprinkle of anise flavor, whether on a salad, dessert, or breakfast yogurt bowl.

fennel, seeds, digestive support, health, breath

Finally, lets drop the beet, with the golden star. Bright and sunny, like a warm spring day, this root vegetable adds a little weight to the otherwise light salad. Steam it, roast it, grate it, or slice it. Use it, how you best enjoy it. However, to reap the most of its benefits, including detoxification support, anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as potent antioxidant abilities, try to eat the beet raw or lightly steamed, as the powerful phytonutrient betalain steadily decreases with heat.

TIP: When purchasing beets, by those with greens. That way you know they are super fresh. Plus, you can use the greens in a quick sauté or even thrown them into a salad.

Wow, so much goodness in just one salad! It’s surely the way to bring spring into your kitchen and the spring back into your step. I know I will be eating this for some added detox support throughout the week!

Candied Fennel Seeds
Makes about 3-4 T

2 T organic sugar
2 T water
2-3 T fennel seeds 


In a small saucepan add the sugar and the water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir continuously until the mixture becomes syrupy. Usually at this point it will produce a lot more bubbles. About 2-3 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and add in the fennel seeds. Continue to stir until the mixture crystalizes. This will happen from one second to the next and the fennel seeds will look almost dry. Quickly remove from heat and continue to stir a few more seconds until the fennel seeds are dry and separated. Pour into a sealable air-tight container.

Sprinkle on salads, desserts, oatmeal, etc. Or use to freshen breath after a spicy meal :)

Note: I tried using coconut sugar and it doesn’t work well. It becomes a solid mass. You have to use cane sugar for the best results.

Quick Lemon Vinaigrette
Makes about ¾ cup

¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons honey or sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Zest from one lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
¼ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste


Whisk together all the ingredients in a bowl. Pour into a glass container and store in the refrigerator.

Spicy Arugula Salad
Makes as much as you want

1 medium golden beet
Fresh arugula
Candied fennel seeds
Quick lemon vinaigrette


Thinly slice the beet into rounds (I used a mandolin) and then cut the slices into thin matchsticks (you can also steam or roast the beet for added sweetness).

Toss with as much fresh arugula, fennel seeds, and vinaigrette as you want. Serve with goat cheese toasts and grilled salmon for a balanced meal.  

Note: toss all the ingredients right before serving to keep the fennel seeds crisp.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Decadent Chocolate Avocado Mousse

chocolate, mousse, pudding, avocado, chili, ginger, mint, healthy, vegan, gluten-free, easy, quick, holistic, nourishing

Oh AVOCADO….how much I love the. Especially when you are whipped with chocolate to a creamy perfection. So decadent, so rich, and so full of flavor!

Who knew that this combination really is all that it can be! I have been making this decadent chocolate avocado mousse weekly this past month. I change up the flavor every week; one week its chocolate mint, the next week its spiced Thai ginger, and sometimes its just plain ol’ vanilla. Either way, it never gets old. My husband loves it just the same. And trust me, a little goes a long way. I try to slowly savor each and every bite, just like I savor gelato. Yummmmmmm…its soooo gooooood!

Now its time for you to go to the grocery store and pick out two large perfect avocados, ready to be whizzed to creamy chocolate perfection. You don't want one too ripe, nor one too hard. If you can find one right in the middle, your golden. Here are my grocery store tips to help you find the perfect avocado:

  • Firstly, when pressed it should give only slightly. If the avocado gives too much this indicates that it is overripe. And if it does not give at all, it still needs to ripen.  

  • Secondly, if you flick off the top nipple, the flesh should be completely green without brown fibers inside. If you see brown spots, this indicates that there could be brown spots inside the avocado.

  • Thirdly, try to find the avocado with a neck. This indicates it was ripened on the tree. If it is oval, and does not have a neck, it did not have the time to mature on the tree.  

chocolate, mousse, pudding, avocado, chili, ginger, mint, healthy, vegan, gluten-free, easy, quick, holistic, nourishing


The avocado is simply amazing. It is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, healthy fats, antioxidants, and many phytochemicals. Did you know that the dark green part of the avocado contains the most phytochemicals? Therefore when you scrape out the avocado, don't leave behind the stuff on the edges. Makes sure to get it all!

Also, what you may not know is that 1 cup of avocado (about 1 large) contains 10g of fiber, about 40% of your daily recommended intake. Therefore in combination with all the wonderful monounsaturated fats, avocados can be really satiating. The fats also help the body absorb all the wonderful fat-soluble vitamins A, E, and K that are abundant in the avocado and have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. There is so much goodness inside this single fruit it should not be overlooked!

Now when you mix avocado with rich dark cacao you will be feeling happy and satisfied in no time. Dark chocolate and cayenne naturally increase serotonin production. Serotonin is our feel good neurotransmitter, which is produced in the brain as well as in the gut. Therefore, the combination of dark chocolate and cayenne can be a potent feel good therapy. However, as always, moderation is key. A little goes a long way and eating too much chocolate can negate the positive benefits.

chocolate, mousse, pudding, avocado, chili, ginger, mint, healthy, vegan, gluten-free, easy, quick, holistic, nourishing 

So not only will you be treating your senses with this decadent chocolate avocado mousse, you will be nourishing yourself with a nutrient dense delectable treat that is vegan and gluten-free. Trust me nobody can tell.

I will share with you the three versions I have made so far. A chocolate mint, a spiced Thai ginger, and the simple base vanilla. My husband likes the mint best and I like the spiced Thai. But let me assure you, all three are darn delicious!

Decadent Chocolate Avocado Mousse (3 ways)
Makes 5-6 servings

¼ cup dark chocolate chips (I get mine in the bulk section)
2 ripe large avocados
¼ cup dark cocoa powder (you want to make sure to get the dark)
5 tablespoons maple syrup
2 pinches sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons soymilk (any other milk will do too)

*Mint: Add 1 teaspoon organic peppermint extract
**Spiced Thai Ginger: Add 1 ½ teaspoon ground ginger and ¼ - ½ teaspoon cayenne  (depending on your preference)
***Vanilla: Add an additional teaspoon vanilla extract


Set up a small double boiler by filling a small saucepan with a little water and placing a small ceramic bowl inside. Put the chocolate chips inside the bowl and heat the saucepan over medium to melt the chocolate.

Meanwhile add the avocados, cocoa powder, maple syrup, sea salt, vanilla, soymilk, and additional spices to your food processor. Blend until smooth. Add the chocolate when melted and continue to process until smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.

Spoon the creamy smooth mousse into a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight to allow the flavors to develop and the mousse to set. Garnish each serving with chocolate shavings and a strawberry. You can even go an extra step and serve the mousse with a dollop of whipped coconut cream (or regular whipped cream).

Adapted from the Food and Nutrition Magazine, November/December 2013

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tuscan Bean and Pasta Salad

 garbanzo beans, pasta, salad, easy, quick, Italian, Tuscan, sundried tomato, parsley, healthy, vegan, vegetarian, zesty, picnic, potluck

Creating workday wellness is a learned skill.
Today we spend most of our working hours sitting and typing. In addition, work environments can greatly impede the ability to make easy healthy choices. Therefore it is important to become an advocate for your own health. This perspective alone can greatly enhance wellness throughout the workday. See the infographic below for some great lunch tips.

Make Every Meal Count
Planning in advance can be the biggest first step towards an enhanced daily work routine. Many people may get breakfast on the go, eat lunch out, and snack on processed goodies between meals. These eating habits can quickly be reduced or eliminated by following the four food tips towards workday wellness:

1. Always, always take time to eat a balanced breakfast.
Eating breakfast in the morning can help your mind and body stay fit and fueled throughout the day. Skipping breakfast or grabbing a coffee and a muffin, can cause your blood sugar to drop and your energy to wean. Adding protein to your morning meal can balance blood sugar and stabilize appetite. Some meal ideas include:
  • Veggie scramble with corn tortillas and refried beans.
  • Apple and peanut butter.
  • Oatmeal with chopped almonds, ground flaxseed, berries, and plain yogurt.
  • Chia seed pudding with coconut milk and bananas.
  • Whole-wheat toast with avocado, sliced tomato, salt and pepper.

2. Arm yourself with healthy snacks.
When hunger strikes between meals, it is best to be prepared. Stocking healthy snacks at work, whether in the staff refrigerator or in your drawer, can set you up for success. Bring a bag of fresh cut veggies and hummus, whole fruit, nuts and seeds for easy eating.  

3. Know all your ingredients.
Although the best option is to bring lunch from home, it can be difficult to always be prepared. Therefore, create a list of restaurants or grocery stores nearby that offer whole food choices. If you can identify every ingredient in your meal, then you are in the clear! Plus you get the benefit of walking back and forth.

4. Bring a water bottle and put it in plain sight.
Staying adequately hydrated is key in monitoring appetite and staying focused. Keeping a water bottle on your desk can be a great gentle reminder to drink throughout the day. Aim for 9-13 cups of fluid per day.

garbanzo beans, pasta, salad, easy, quick, Italian, Tuscan, sundried tomato, parsley, healthy, vegan, vegetarian, zesty, picnic, potluck

Keep Moving
Adding 5-15 minute movement breaks into your day can help support circulation, reduce stress, and help regain focus. Try to break every one to two hours to stretch and move your legs. Great ways to add movement into your day include:
  •  Cut your lunch in half: eat the first half and walk the second.
  • Walk to your favorite lunch location.
  • Walk up and down a few flight of stairs.
  • Stretch at your desk.

Create a Spirit of Wellness
Sometimes the work environment is the most difficult aspect to change. Being an advocate for workday wellness can be challenging but may also inspire others to join along. Even making simple changes in your day-to-day work routine can positively impact those around you.

In the spirit of making lunches easy, quick, and tasty, I have a delicious recipe for you. It meets the guidelines for building the perfect work lunch, and it is vegan and gluten-free to boot. You can even bring this on a picnic or to potluck because it keeps fresh like a charm. 

Tuscan Bean & Pasta Salad
 Serves 4

For the marinade:
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T apple cider vinegar
3/4 tsp Italian seasoning
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp honey
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper

For the salad:
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked whole-wheat rotini pasta (substitute with gluten-free pasta if needed)
3 T sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 cup finely diced zucchini (1 medium)
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
¼ cup red onion, finely diced
**Baby spinach 


Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, Italian seasoning, minced garlic, honey, sea salt, and pepper in a large bowl and set aside.

Cook the pasta according to the package for 9 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again.

Add the garbanzo beans, pasta, sundried tomatoes, diced zucchini, parsley, and red onion and mix to combine. For best flavor allow the bean/pasta mixture to marinate 3 hours or over night.

Toss with fresh baby spinach prior to serving.

**Note: For the perfect work lunch, place 1 1/2 cups fresh baby spinach in the bottom of your food container and top with the bean and pasta mixture. Then shake the container to combine prior to eating. 

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