a very simple salmon

 Bulb by bulb, candy cane by candy cane.  The Christmas tree was deconstructed and taken down today.

I very easily become attached to things.  Mr. Jingles, my beta fish for 4 years.  Frenchie, my car. 

Carol, the Christmas tree.  I think I would keep it (her?) up all year if I had the choice. 

To avoid getting the Christmas time blues, I threw on my apron and set out to make a bright, flavorful lunch for the family.  Which, by the way, started with two very simple ingredients: Soy sauce and brown sugar.

And two pieces of wild caught salmon.

 Fast Forward 10 minutes.

Simple and perfect.  And that, my friends, is just one of the things that I love so much about salmon.  It doesn’t like to be messed around with too, too much, making things easier on the busy cook.

I still don’t like saying goodbye to things.  Dogs, fish, cars, or Christmas trees. 

I will say, however, that it’s kind of nice not crashing into Carol every time I do a downward dog or a sun salutation.

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Sweet ‘n’ Salty Grilled Salmon
Serves about 3

Although this recipe calls for the salmon to be grilled, you could easily cook it in your oven.  I normally use a temperature around 350 to cook my fish, testing so often to make sure that I don’t overcook it.  The fish is ready when it flakes easily. 😀

To keep the sides simple and easy, I roasted a few potatoes with garlic and olive oil; the broccoli was also roasted with a bit of olive oil.

  • 1 lb. wild caught salmon fillets
  • 1/2 T. lite soy sauce
  • 1/2 T. brown sugar
  • lemon pepper
  • garlic powder
  1. Preheat grill.
  2. Sprinkle salmon fillets with lemon pepper and garlic powder.  In a separate bowl, combine brown sugar and soy sauce.  Spoon over salmon fillets.
  3. When grill is ready, place salmon skin side down and cook for 4-6 minutes.  Flip.  Continue cooking for another 4-6 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
  4. Serve and ENJOY! 😀

Question: Have you taken down the holiday decorations yet?

a simple dish

Reason why my sister is my best friend, number one million and three

cat not included.

 Nicole makes a different pancake flavor for each new month of the year.  And while banana chocolate chip, maple walnut, and pumpkin rank high on my list of favorites, I don’t think any can compare with the gingerbread pancake.  It’s a little like eating a spicy gingerbread cookie for dinner.   :mrgreen:

Last night, Nicole had me over for dinner and a movie.  We plopped ourselves on the floor, watched Home Alone 2, and ate our fill of gingerbread pancakes, scrambled eggs and fresh fruit for dinner.  It feels a lot like Christmas. 😀

(If you’re dying for a batch of gingerbread pancakes too, she posted this recipe on today’s blog post: click here.)

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 Over the weekend, my dad grilled a couple of  ‘beer can chickens,’ and we’ve had heeps of leftover meat sitting in the fridge ever since.  Aside from using it for salad toppings—or just picking at it here and there—I really wanted to make a meal of it.  A simple, nutritious meal that I could get on the table quickly, after a long day of battling it out at the supermarket.

This meal *screams* simple.

(1) Diced chicken and halved pea pods sitting—waiting—in a colander.

(2) A simple sauce simmering.  Whisk, whisk, whisk.

(3) Hot (cooked) fettucine poured over chicken and pea pods.

(4) Everything poured back into pan, along with sauce and pineapple.

(5) Stirred gently.  Meal served.

 

Simple, simple, simple.  I love it when meals are fast, healthy and tasty to boot.  This is especially important during the holidays, wouldn’t you say?

Turkey and Pasta with Peanut Sauce—as seen in Better Homes and Gardens.

This meal could easily be made vegetarian, if you take out the meat and maybe add in some baked tofu.  If you do decide to go vegetarian, I recommend doubling the sauce and letting the tofu sit in some of the liquid before tossing it all together.  You could also double up on the veggies as well.  Sauteed red or green bell peppers would be a lovely addition. 

And while this simple dish is best served immediately, it reheats decently well for lunch the following day.  Enjoy! 

  • 6-oz. dried fettuccine or linguine
  • 2 c. fresh pea pods, cut in half
  • 1 c. cooked turkey or chicken, chopped
  • 1 c. chopped fresh pineapple OR one 8-oz. can pineapple chunks, drained
  • 1/4 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 T. all natural peanut butter
  • 1 T. reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 T. lime or lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, place pea pods and turkey or chicken in a colander.  Pour hot cooking liquid from pasta over pea pods and turkey or chicken in colander; drain well.  Return pasta, pea pods and turkey/chicken to the hot pan.  Add pineapple.
  2. Meanwhile, for sauce, in a small saucepan, stir chicken broth into peanut butter.  Heat and stir with a whisk until peanut butter melts.  Stir in soy sauce, lime juice, red pepper and garlic.  Heat thorough.
  3. Add sauce to pasta mixture.  Gently stir and toss to coat.  ENJOY! 😀

Question: Are you doing any traveling for Christmas or are you the one putting on the feast?

the feeling of Christmas

On more than one occasion, I’ve woken up on the morning of December 26th, only to ask myself, “Was yesterday really Christmas?”

Everything about Christmas is magical when you’re small.  The lights.  The parties.  The hot cocoa.  The rushing of parents, aunts, uncles to “please, please, please finish drinking your coffee so we can please open the presents.”  The food (well, some things obviously never change.) 😉

But then when you’re older, you suddenly realize that there’s a lot of shopping to do in the middle of a busy work week.  Plans need to be made.  A schedule must be followed.  Rush, rush, rush.

I’d like to say I’m immune to all of the madness that sometimes revolves around one of my favorite holidays, but that would be a lie.  These past couple of weeks, I was that girl frantically shopping at the mall for those last minute gifts.  I was very thankful for leftovers.  And I didn’t stop to notice that the neighbors down the street put up a 6 ft. snowman.

But tonight was deliciously different.  I served the family warm bowls of leftover ratatouille with a couple of lightly buttered toasts to drink up any extra sauce (tasty serving option!)  I popped on some old country style Pandora Christmas music.  I danced around the kitchen. 

And then we all bundled up and took a drive to look at Christmas lights. 

I think I found it.  That feeling of Christmas.

Because if dancing to Bing Crosby’s Christmas music in the kitchen and looking at Christmas lights doesn’t put you in the Christmas spirit, I honestly don’t know what will.

Well.  Maybe gingerbread biscotti?

I was starting to grow slightly jealous of all the cookies that I’ve been seeing around blogland.  Homemade chocolate dipped oreos.  Blondies.  Pecan bars.  You name it.  They’re all there.

While I have all of my plans made for what I’ll be making come Christmas, I needed a little tease to hold me over until then.  I desperately wanted to whisk something.

I decided to experiment a little with a standard biscotti recipe that I have on hand. 

First, I wanted to use graham flour, for its nuttiness and crunch.  I also wanted spiciness.  Think ‘gingerbread cookie meets a regular, standard ol’ tea biscotti.’  They should really get together, I thought to myself.  I bet they’d fall in love.

The best part of making biscotti?  Turning a big round rectangular sort of thing… 

Into a dainty little biscotti.  Perfect for that afternoon cup of tea or paired with a hot cup of cocoa. 

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

Gingerbread Biscotti

If you love biscotti and enjoy the spiciness that belongs to a gingerbread man, then it’s time to put the two together!  This recipe is incredibly simple to make, and could easily be tweaked according to what you like.  Raisins?  Walnuts?  Dark chocolate chips?  A drizzle of sweet maple glaze?  They make a great pairing to your cookie platter at Christmas, and they make a nice break from all of the more chocolatey things.  Enjoy! 😀

  • 2-1/4 c. graham flour (may use whole wheat flour instead, or a mixture of all purpose and whole wheat)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 c. molasses
  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Combine flour through baking soda.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and egg whites lightly.  Add brown sugar, molasses and vanilla, stirring until smooth.
  3. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together, stirring just until smooth.
  4. Divide dough in half; shape each into a 14 inch x 1-1/2 inch rectangle on a cookie sheet coated in nonstick cooking spray. 
  5. Bake for 25-27 minutes or until firm to touch.  Remove, let rest for 5 minutes and reduce oven to 300 degrees.
  6. Cut diagonally with a serrated knife, 1/2 inch slices.  Place cut side down on baking sheet; bake for 10 minutes.  Turn biscotti.  Continue cooking another 7-10 minutes or until lightly browned. 
  7. Let cool on wire rack.
  8. ENJOY! 😀

Question: Are you doing a lot of cooking this year for Christmas?  What is the one thing you look forward most to baking (or eating!)

a very special breakfast

Light, fluffy waffles smothered in blueberries.  It makes for a very special breakfast.

There’s something about a plate full of waffles.  It brings me right back to Christmas morning. 

Tissue paper everywhere.  Colorful bows hanging from the sides of opened packages.  The smells of coffee and buttery fried eggs floating through the air.  Christmas morning.

Once the majority of excitement and commotion died down, mom would reveal a heaping plate of waffles.  Thick, buttery waffles.  On the side, there was always—always— a large dish of steaming hot blueberries.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’m pretty sure these waffles were mom’s little secret.  The one tried and true way to pull a bunch of kids away from the Christmas tree and into the dining room. 

This morning, when the idea of waffles entered my head, there was just no going back.  Besides, I had a full bag of graham flour sitting in my pantry.  Waffles were the obvious choice.

I considered many different recipes, and finally decided to make Jess’s (aka, “Healthy Exposures”…click for recipe!) Cornmeal Graham Waffles.  Sometimes it’s best to leave these kinds of things to the experts, you know?  I’ve always envied her waffles and figured it was due time to try them for myself. 

I didn’t really change much, other than the fact that I replaced the chia seeds with 1 T. of flax because that’s what I had on hand.  I also doubled up on the portions since I had a busy morning planned.

For the toppings, I brought about a cups worth of frozen blueberries to a low boil, added in a tsp of corn starch to thicken, and served alongside. 

Yes.  There’s something about waffles covered in warm blueberries (…walnuts and coconut too!) that makes any ol’ morning feel downright special. 

THANK YOU Jess for sending me the Graham Flour (and also for the great recipe!)  I’ve only put a dent in the bag, and I’m looking forward to many more yummy meals. 😀

Click HERE for recipe.

Question: Do you have any food or non-food traditions on Christmas morning?

a typical day.

If you have the chance, check out my guest post at Ashlei’s blog (aka, the Vegster.)  Ashlei was nice enough to ask me to write a guest post on anything that I wanted, so I decided to put up together little ‘photography post.’ 😀

Good Morning! 😀

Tea and oats were eaten in standard form this morning, while sitting in front of  the Christmas tree.  I had exactly 15 minutes to eat, but it still felt incredibly enjoyable with the dazzling drama and glitz of a few colorful lightbulbs. 😀

But I still think it would have been useful to have just a bit more than 15 minutes to clear away any early morning brain-fog.

Look how I almost walked out the door!!

Not that I didn’t mind spending more time in a warm pair of Uggs and striped fleece pants, but…

…phew.  That was a close one. 😉

I managed to get myself out the door in one piece—and wearing a work-appropriate outfit—with a fun, smart lunch packed away in my backpack.

Homemade Baked Beans!

And a raw kale salad!

  • a couple handfuls of raw kale, shredded with hands
  • 1/2 carrot, grated
  • thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • a few splashes of fresh lemon juice
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Snacks included a red orange…

…honey roasted peanuts…

…and an apple, crackers and a cheesestick.

Plenty of snacks.  I’m finding this works best with my internship schedule, since I never quite know when I’ll have the chance for a “quick” bite.  Normally, I can’t go longer than 3 hrs without feeling tired and/or hungry, so having a little something to eat on hand is an absolute must.

Packed last night. 

Ready to-go this morning. 

Munched on throughout the day.

The 9 hrs. at work f-l-e-w by today!

This week’s internship rotation is going to be at a Long Term Care facility.  Today I visited a local nursing home, and I really, really liked it.  I grew up volunteering in nursing homes and working as a food service worker in an assisted living facility as a high school student, so I tend to feel at home in places like this.  And I love talking with the patients.  Their life stories are so fascinating!  Where else would you hear about living in Holland?  Or being born on a ship while having a father in the navy? 

I love it.

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Dinner; kept simple!

I’m on such a scrambled egg kick lately.  Usually I’ll opt for a veggie-styled omelet, but tonight I wanted straight up—pure and simple—fluffy eggs.  Nothing but a touch of salt and a splash of soymilk.

Crisp veggies were saved for the side, with a dollop of artichoke hummus.

And then I blasted the radio, flicked on the Christmas lights and s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d my way through tree poses, downward dogs and plenty of planks.  A delicious end to a typical day. 😀

Time to catch the final show of the Biggest Loser!!

Question:  What is the most enjoyable way that you stay active?  I change my opinion all the time.  Obviously, my true love is running.  But I also love a good long walk or a deep, energizing yoga session.  These days, I’m even enjoying strength training, which is competely new for me! 😀

putting up the Christmas tree

For as long as I can remember—on some random day during those last couple of weeks before Christmas—my dad would announce to the family that it was about time “we take down the Christmas decorations from the attic.”  

I don’t know if it was the smell of leftover pine from the Christmas before.  Or the warm, cozy mugs of Swiss Miss hot chocolates (with those fluffy white marshmallows!) that my mom handed us.  Or the rolling sounds of Bing Crosby looming over the radio.  Whatever it was, this day—this unpacking, sorting and decorating—was almost as exciting as Christmas morning itself. 

I’m not that little girl anymore.  But I can still feel that same excitement and curiousity, just as I did on those nights of helping my dad take down all of our Christmas memories and decorations from the attic.  Peeling back an oversized Toys “r” Us bag to reveal an array of collected ornaments.  Putting garland around the stairways.  Laughing and giggling and just having fun.  

I love Christmas.  I love big bags of unique ornaments.  I love laughing and being silly and listening to Bing Crosby.  

(I love Charlie Brown and funny looking snowmen!)

Know what else I love?

Eating breakfast in front of the Christmas tree.  To be continued…

Question: What is one of your favorite holiday memories?

pumped with pumpkin

Pumpkin seems to be floating around blog land these days.

Some of us continue to eat it in everything.  Some of us are screaming “enough already!” 

And then there are those of us who still have a good dozen cans waiting in our pantry.  Just sitting there.  Lost, confused, alone.  Desparately looking for some way to be used and appreciated.

Now, I’ve always been one to err on the side of sweetness when it comes to pumpkin, which is why I always pair it with warm, creamy oatmeal.  Or yogurt topped with crunchy granola.  But now—with November being over and all—I felt that I needed a change.  A bite of something completely new.

With that in mind, my lunch evolved.

Thursdays require me to pack a lunch the night before.

I’ve learned to embrace this time spent alone in the kitchen at night, trying to think up what it is that I want to eat the following day.  I flick on some Christmas music, pull my comfiest of wool socks on, and dance around the kitchen while preparing my meal.  Speaking of which, whoever said cooking is serious business, obviously did not know what they were talking about.  The less serious you are, the better things will turn out.  Having fun and enjoying the creation of a meal is the key to success! 😀

First, I tossed a couple handfuls of baby romaine leaves with a tsp of olive oil and sea salt.  This is a simple way to up your veggie intake.  It also creates a nice bed for whatever foods are tickling your fancy at the moment. 

With pumpkin on the brain and a bag of leftover whole wheat pasta sitting in the fridge, I created what I now call “pasta with pumpkin and sage.”

I didn’t take any exact measurements, but I did taste a little as I went, just to be sure that the seasonings were exactly where I wanted them to be.  Remember, when you are cooking solely for yourself, there is no need to primp and ponder whether everything tastes exactly like it should.  If you love it, that is all that matters. 😉

The rest of my snacks and lunch itmes included a mini whole wheat bagel smeared with roasted red pepper hummus… 

…a handful of almonds…

…a mini luna white chocolate macadamia bar just for fun…

…and a container of pineapple and red pears.

I received this Luna bar at the recent nutrition expo that I went to.

My thoughts were that it was just “okay.”  Honestly, I don’t think I would actually ever buy one for myself, as all the flavors seem to blend and taste the same to me after awhile!  But it did make for a nice mini-sized snack, and I can see how it would come in handy for an “emergency snack.”  They’re small enough to stash in a purse or to have on hand before or after a visit to the gym.  Still.  I think I’d rather have a handful of almonds or a fruit instead.  Much more satisfying. 😀

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sage

 If you’re looking for a new way to use your canned pumpkin, give this simple, savory dish a try!  I never thought I’d live to see the day, but I can honestly say that I much prefer savory pumpkin to sweet!  There’s something wonderful about sage and pasta mixing and mingling with creamy pumpkin.  These three simple ingredients really do go very well together. 

The addition of lemon juice is a must in this dish!  It (along with the garlic!) gives the dish such a lovely bite, pulling it all together.  Feel free to change things up as you go!  I’m pretty sure nutmeg and/or thyme would be two interesting ingredients to play with as well.  

  • 1 c. cooked whole wheat pasta
  • 1/2 c. canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 c. canned white beans, drained and rinsed
  • a few dashes of sage
  • one or two sprinkles of cinnamon
  • garlic powder to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • sea salt to taste
  • a few splashes of lemon juice (be semi-generous with this!  It offers a wonderful flavor)
  • lettuce, olive oil, sea salt (optional)
  • toppings (optional): walnuts, cranberries, pepitas, etc.
  1. Combine all ingredients from pasta to lemon juice together in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Toss together lettuce, oil and sea salt.
  3. Top the lettuce mixture with the pasta mixture.  Place in fridge for following morning’s lunch or eat right away.
  4. ENJOY! 😀

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My room is officially filled with Christmas cheer! :mrgreen:

This little tree stands a meer 2 feet tall, but it’s sending such a warm glow throughout my room.  I love it!  I can’t wait until the official tree is put up next week. 😀

Question: When do you usually put up your Christmas tree?

snickety snack

Thank you so much to everyone for taking the time to comment on the previous post that made it on to Freshly Pressed!!  What a fun surprise, and I appreciate all of your kind words as well as the stories that were shared.  Thank you! 😀

I’ve noticed that I never—hardly ever—talk about snacks.  Which is a shame, considering how much I (a) enjoy them, (b) preach of their benefits in regards to a healthy diet, and (c) eat them. 

And so I figured it was due time that I share with you a few (or four) of my most recent favorites.  They’re simple—nothing fancy.  But that’s the way I like them.

“Sweet and Salty Banana Crunch”

Sweet and salty meets smooth and crunchy.  It’s a beautiful thing. 

Step one: peel and halve a banana.

Step two: smear with peanut butter.

Step three: sprinkle with your favorite granola (Natures Path Pumpkin Flax Granola is my personal fave!)

Step four: Enjoy.  Each.  Delicious.  Bite.

“Papaya”

As much as I like variety, when it comes to fruit I’m a hopeless bore.  Apples.  Bananas.  Oranges.  Maybe the occasional pomegranate, mango or pineapple. 

And then—this past week—my dad bought me a papaya.  He left the large green fruit on the kitchen table, as a fun surprise for me on the following morning.  And I’ve been addicted ever since.

Papaya is one of those fruits that you’d steer towards in the hot summer months.  It’s refreshing, juicy, and best served chilled.  The flavor is unusual, with an exocit flair like that of mango (without the tart and tangy zing.) 

Simply scoop out the seeds, slice it up, and enjoy!

“Pumpkin Yogurt Crunch”

If you spend enough time traveling through blogland, you’ll see pumpkin pies, pumpkin breads, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin whoopie pies!!, pumpkin souffles, et cetera, et cetera.  Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin.

And why not?  Pumpkin is just one of those things that never gets old.  It’s versatile and goes as well with sweet things as it does with savory.

For a simple snack, I swirl nonfat, plain yogurt into canned pumpkin and top it all off with crunchy granola (hey now, you’ve got to admit that granola makes for a lovely garnish on lots of things!) 

Simply pumpkin.

“Crackers ‘n’ Cheese”

Normally when I’m talking about cheese and crackers, I like to discuss some fancy schmancy cheese.  Like a sharp Robusto that entertains your tastebuds with little crystals that pop as you chew.  Or a slice of mild jarlsberg, turned into a melted grilled cheese and then smeered with a layer of homemade raspberry jam (who needs a cracker there, you know?)

But—in this case—it’s all about the cracker.

My cousin introduced me to these fabulous crackers when she brought them to my sister’s housewarming party.  The cheese was amazing.  Yes, it was.  But the crackers are what stole the show.

Think of a nutty, buttery wheat cracker meeting (and falling in love) with a sweet graham cracker.  This is the result.  Subtle, sweet (but not overly so,) and perfect.  Absolutely perfect.

(p.s. I could eat this for dessert as much as I could eat it as a snack with a slice of cheese.  )

And there you have it.  My top few (or four) favorite snacks.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I’ve been enjoying them over the past week or so. 😀

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Guess what I was up to all afternoon?

The next best thing to putting up a Christmas tree in the living room is decorating the trees outside.

These cheery little bulbs ‘absorb’ the sun by day, thereby turning them into glowing lights by night.  They’re both environmentally friendly and charming. 😀

I give credit to people who have an entire house brimming with lights and things.  I was exhausted after putting the lights up with mom, along with putting up the outdoor wreaths and decorations.  This is what I call a real life workout. 😉

It’s really starting to feel like Christmas.  A little bit of Pandora Christmas singing through the air and a hot cocoa will make it absolutely complete.

Well.  That, and picking up the Christmas tree.  To be continued this week…

Question: What is one of your favorite snacks at the moment?

feeling inspired

Nicole is a planner.  An organizer. 

She’s not that last minute Christmas shopper who frantically buys something just to buy something (*cough*cough*like me!*cough*cough).  No.  She puts thought into each selection.  She’s that person who wraps your gift so elegantly you don’t even want to open it.

So when she called me up and asked if I wanted to go into Boston this weekend, in order for her to finish up her Christmas shopping, I of course said YES!  Maybe some of her organization and Martha Stewart-ness would rub off on me in the process.  One can hope.

I realize that this is my third straight weekend in Boston.  I think I might be falling in love with the place.

I also fell in love with a giant Christmas bulb.

And these two fluffy lovebugs.

I think I need a dog in my life. 😉

And—is it just me?—or are guys getting more and more creative with proposals these days? 

The ice sculpture on the right read, “Will You Marry Me?” 

There’s always something to see in Boston.  Maybe that’s why I love it so much.  People watching is one of my favorite hobbies. 😉

However, today was not just about people watching.  Or eating.  (Although we did plenty of both—hello, cheesecake factory!)  Today, we each had a mission.  To either (a) finish our Christmas shopping or (b) to leave feeling inspired.

Nicole left Boston with all of her Christmas shopping completed.  Done!  And I left Boston feeling inspired not to be that Christmas Eve shopper this year.  It was a successful day! :mrgreen:

Until next time Boston!  I will see you again shortly.  This time, with my very own Christmas list. 

Question: Are you a last minute gift buyer for birthdays and holidays, or do you plan ahead?