Summer Tomato Salad

Summer Tomato Salad

I love this salad in the summertime when tomatoes are in season.  I am a firm believer in food seasonality and in winter I want a tomato salad so bad but know that it will taste awful because the tomatoes in the grocery stores are tasteless and mushy. So In summer I eat as many tomatoes as I can and I am always looking for new ways to enjoy them. You can add any type of lettuce to this salad and make a full meal of it with some good bread or serve it as a side as it is. Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

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Spicy Grilled Harissa Wings

Spicy Grilled Harissa Wings

This is one of the simplest, but best, grilled recipes in my repertoire. The base of the marinade is harissa paste (not the jarred sauce – this is important), which adds a complex and spicy flavor that’s truly unique. For people not familiar with harissa, it’s a spicy paste made from peppers used commonly in North Africa and France. A little bit goes a long way, and it adds a ton of flavor to any dish. Keep in mind – it’s spicy!

Charring the wings on a hot grill adds a layer of texture and taste that’s impossible to recreate on a stove or in the oven.

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Spanish Almond Orange Cake

Spanish Orange Almond Cake

I love dessert but I do not love baking. This cake recipe is so easy even I don’t mind making it. This cake reminds me of the trip to Spain that Justin and I took in 2017. So simple yet so complex and full of surprises. The first recipe I used did not include the orange zest or the orange glaze. While the original was good I felt it was missing something. When I think of Spain I remember the glasses of fresh squeezed orange juice I drank and how refreshing it was. I realized that for me that the taste of orange is what was missing from the cake. I set out to make this cake feel more like my Spain. I like to bake this cake for family gatherings, for a friend’s birthday, or just because I want to eat it. I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I do.

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How to Care for Your Skin if You Wear a PPE Mask

Skin Care for PPE Masks

Slowly but surely we are coming through this crisis. I live in North Carolina and we are starting Phase One of slowly coming out of lockdown. I have looked at my state’s planned future phases, and I see that it will be recommended to wear masks weeks if not months after lockdown. While wearing a mask can protect us, it can wreak havoc on our skin and cause breakouts and other irritations.

The skin is your body’s largest organ. The skin’s main purpose is to keep germs from entering your body and to sustain your immune system. To keep your skin healthy you need to protect it just as much as it protects you.

  1. First and foremost: always wash your hands with soap and water after removing your mask.
  2. Always wash your face before and after wearing your mask. Start with a gentle soap then make sure to apply a moisturizer shortly after cleansing. Next, thinly apply a product that has zinc in it such as a gentle diaper rash cream like Desitin. This helps protect the moisture barrier of your skin. The Renee Rouleau blog defines this as the “ outermost layer of the skin that provides protection to help retain water and moisture and defend against external irritants like bacteria and environmental debris from penetrating through and causing sensitive reactions”
  3. Also try to avoid makeup if you can, especially heavy foundations and concealers. These combined with the moisture inside your mask can cause your skin to produce an extra amount of an oily secretion called sebum which can increase your chances of having clogged pores and breakouts.
  4. During the time you must wear a mask, try not to use any strong cleansers or exfoliators. You may be tempted to use these products to tackle your skin issues but in the end they are harsh and more than likely will make your skin worse. Stick with gentle cleansers and use extra soft washcloths. If you use Retinol avoid using it for the time being as well as it can make your skin more easily bothered.
  5. If you are presently experiencing a breakout, you can use a cleanser with salicylic acid. Salicylic acid helps remove dirt and bacteria that has built up on your skin throughout the day. It’s a great way to remove dead skin cells from your skin while avoiding a harsh exfoliant. If this is the first time that you have had a breakout or if your breakout looks different than it normally does, contact your doctor or dermatologist just to be safe.

Skirt Steak Chimichurri with Grilled Flatbread

This is one of our favorite easy summer recipes. Chimichurri – the classic Argentinian steak marinade/sauce – is easy to make and absolutely exploding with flavor. It’s a big, bold sauce that requires a hearty cut of meat to stand up to it. Skirt steak is perfect – and its easy to find, and very affordable. We serve this with a flatbread that’s also very easy to make – just a handful of ingredients and a few minutes of kneading and it’s good to go. You can forgo the flatbread if you like, but buy a baguette or a thick country loaf to sop up the extra chimichurri sauce.

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Shrimp Tostadas with Avocado Crema

Grilled Shrimp Tostadas with Avocado Crema and Pickled Onions is one of our favorite summertime dishes.  It blends a lot of elements that we absolutely love – the sweet and creamy richness of the avocado crema, the luxurious mouthfeel and deep flavor of the shrimp, the crunch of the tostada, and the tangy hit of vinegar from the pickled onions.

We usually marinate the shrimp and make the pickled onions the night before, so we can just toss the shrimp on the grill, blend up the crema, and assemble the tostadas for an easy weeknight meal. 

The avocado crema has a smooth, beautiful texture that is the perfect vehicle for the bold-flavored shrimp.  The chilis in this dish are relatively low in terms of heat and intensity – this isn’t a “hot” dish.  

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Pancetta and Corn Risotto

Risotto is one of the easiest things to make – all you need is a few ingredients and a bit of patience – but it can also be one of the most delectable.  When prepared properly it’s delicate, creamy texture can be both luxurious and comforting. It’s also a versatile dish that can be made year-round using seasonal ingredients.  One of my favorite summer risotto uses pancetta (or bacon in a pinch) and fresh sweet corn. 

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Chicken Souvlaki Salad

I haven’t always been a big fan of salads. Here in America salads seem to be an afterthought. Case in point, a side salad usually consists of iceberg lettuce with bad tomatoes, cucumbers, shredded cheese, along with a huge amount of the dressing of your choice. To me that is not very appetizing. When I started reading books about France and learned that salads were amazing dishes – not an afterthought – I was intrigued but a little bit unbelieving.

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Meatball Bánh mì

Meaball Bánh mì

Vietnamese food is one of my favorites because it blends two amazing cuisines – French and Southeast Asian.  The Bánh mì sandwich is a perfect example of this blend – you top a French baguette with any number of toppings; usually some sort of meat (pate is classic) and pickled vegetables.  The beauty of the Bánh mì is that you can put so many different combinations on it and create something unique and wonderful

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White Pizza With Fermented Dough, Topped with Peppadew Peppers and Caramelized Onions

White Pizza Peppadew Peppers

This is an amazingly easy pizza recipe that’s light and delicious.  This is a white pizza, meaning that there is no tomato sauce, only cheese and toppings.  The caramelized onions add sweetness and the peppadew peppers add a hit of acidity which cuts through the richness of the cheese.  A few chives tossed on at the end gives the pizza a light freshness.

I fermented the dough for this recipe – it’s easier than it sounds, and it greatly increases the lightness and quality of the final crust.  It takes a few days, but most of that is just sitting in the fridge. This is a great dough to make on a Sunday then easily toss together your pizza on, say, Wednesday.  If you don’t want to go through the hassle of fermenting, simply let the dough rest for 30 minutes after step 5, then roll it out and top it as you normally would.

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6 Reasons You Should Drink More Water

Water Drops

If You Aren’t Drinking Water Here are the Reasons Why You Should Start

Drinking water is an important part of having a healthy lifestyle. Since I have incorporated drinking water regularly into my life, I have reaped wonderful benefits.

Most important is the fact that our body is made up of about 60% of water.  On a normal day with no exercise our bodies lose 64 ounces of water through perspiration. Perspiring is our body’s way of regulating its temperature. So think of your body as a bank account and water your money. If you keep withdrawing money (water) from your account (body) and you never deposit more money what would happen to your account? Your bank account would become empty and then bad things would happen right? So why would you do that to your body?

I know water seems to be boring and have no taste, but you are talking to the girl that went from drinking six cans of soda a day to one soda a month. If I can do it I know you can. I have found that once you start drinking water your body wants more, and that it is just natural and easier to reach for the water then the soda.

Once you start drinking water regularly you will start noticing the benefits. Let me tell you about the benefits so you will have something to look forward to when you start drinking your first glass.

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Miso Honey Chicken Thighs with Ginger

Miso Honey Chicken with Ginger

Adapted from a New York Times recipe, this is a simple and delicious meal that combines the sweetness of honey, the rich umami of miso, and balances it out with a little kick of vinegar.  No marinating is required – making it a perfect weeknight dish, but you can make this dish ahead of time, and let the chicken sit in the fridge up to overnight.

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When My Mind Grasped Mindfulness

mindful sunset

I have read a lot about mindfulness. I understood the concept and how important it is for a happy life, but my mind didn’t really grasp what it really meant until one day a few weeks ago.

My husband and I were on a walk after dinner. We have a nice nature trail near our home with a creek and small waterfall. It is a really quiet and peaceful place. Justin and I spend our time there planning future trips, talking about our day, or discussing ideas for the blog. While walking we saw a family approach, a mother, father, and two kids between the ages of seven and ten. The father and kids were in the moment, but the mom was walking with her cellphone literally in front her face. I was stunned. It really bothered me. I wanted to say “ hey lady put your phone down! Don’t you realize you will never get this time or day back with your family, because once it’s gone it is gone forever?!?!

Then I realized that I do the same thing in my life. I will get on my phone and before I know it 30 minutes has flown by and I have literally done nothing of value. I asked Justin if he had seen that lady ignoring her family because she would rather be on her phone and he said he had. I told him that I didn’t want to be like that. That is when I actually grasped what mindfulness meant. Be mindful of the moment and knowing that it may never happen again, so enjoy it while you can.

Justin and I started discussing mindfulness and times when we were not in the moment and took things for granted. For instance, we loved to eat at a German restaurant an hour away. We would always order the German Burrito for a starter. What is a German burrito you ask? It is a potato pancake rolled up like a burrito and stuffed inside is ham,cheese, and caramelized onions. On the side is sour cream and applesauce to dip it in. The restaurant is now closed and we will never get to eat a German burrito again. Justin and I can’t remember eating our last burrito because it didn’t enter our mind that the last time we ate it that it would be our LAST time. I regretted not being in the moment and paying full attention to what I was eating that day. Then I thought what else have I missed because I wasn’t in the moment?

I decided right then and there that I was going to start living life in the moment. It didn’t matter how small or unimportant it seems at the time, I would be present for everything. I have decided to cut back on the amount of time I spend on my personal social media accounts. In fact I have deleted the facebook app off of my phone. I didn’t realize how much time I wasted on my phone and how disengaged I had become.

I have also started looking at other ways I can become mindful because it does have a lot of benefits. Some benefits of mindfulness are:

  • Better quality of sleep
  • Helps sustain weight
  • Reduces stress levels
  • Helps shake off negative feelings
  • Boosts attention span
  • Helps diminish anxiety

There are several ways to practice mindfulness. The most commonly talked about is meditation, but there are other less talked about ways as well.

  • Mindful Eating: when you eat do not do anything else like check emails or watch TV.
  • When you take a walk notice your surroundings such as the sites and sounds around you: The changing color of the leaves, the shape of the clouds, the sound of the nearby creek.
  • Pay attention to your breathing: it can take your thoughts from your mind and make you more aware of your body which can free you from your worries and problems.
  • Focus on your senses: How your day’s first cup of coffee smells, the feel of the sun as it warms your face as you sit outside, Hearing the birds chirping as you walk to check the mail, the taste of the summer’s first strawberry, seeing the first snowfall of winter.
  • Truly listen: when someone is talking to you truly listen to what they are saying. People aren’t fully listening because they are thinking about how they will respond, judging what the speaker is saying , or are just in their own thoughts.
  • Engross yourself in the things you love to do: If you love to cook, read, or hike focus your attention on to that activity instead of thinking of your to do list or other mind distracting projects.

Being mindful is different for everyone, what works for me may not work for you. I hope you find your path to mindfulness using my tips or thinking of other ways for yourself. I would love to hear your ideas on what mindfulness means to you.

Tomatoes: The Perfect Summer Food

Ripe Toamtoes
Now that summer is almost here and the tomato plants are growing in our garden, I am starting to think of all the dishes I’ll be able make and eat!. Of course you can get tomatoes year round, but they are never as good in the off-season. Typically they are grown in greenhouses and picked pre-ripe and shipped halfway across the country. They tend to be bland. Nothing is so disappointing as biting into a tasteless store bought tomato. Summer tomatoes that are locally grown, on the other hand, are bright, juicy, and delicious.

Tomatoes are Abundant

You should have no problem acquiring great tomatoes in the summer. For one, tomatoes are very easy to grow – which is what my husband and I do every summer. Most home and garden stores sell small tomato plants in the spring that you can transplant into your garden after the danger of the first frost is over. All you need is a space in your garden, or a very large pot, and you can grow tomatoes. All they require is a lot of water and a lot of sunlight and they will thrive. Before you know it, you will have beautiful, ripe tomatoes that you can pick right off the vine.

If you can’t grow them yourself, ripe local tomatoes are still easy to find! Farmers markets and vegetable stand should have plenty of locally grown tomatoes. Good grocery stores will often have locally grown tomatoes and other produce in-season.

They are Healthy

Tomatoes are one of the healthiest things you can eat! For one, they are rich in lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant. In addition to delivering the standard benefits of antioxidants, lycopene also helps prevent pancreatic cancer. Tomatoes also contain beta-carotene (Vitamin A) as well as vitamins C and E, and potassium.

They’re Delicious!

You can do so many things with a tomato. From cold tomato gazpacho to salads, from grilling them to canning them to make a sauce, there are nearly infinite possibilities.

Thinking it over I think my favorite tomato dish is the simple BLT. What can be better than toasted bread with yummy mayonnaise, crisp green lettuce, perfectly cooked bacon, and a juicy red homegrown tomato? Nothing much, in my opinion.

I also love eating plain tomato sandwiches with nothing more than bread, mayo, a little salt and a fresh cut tomato. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about it. It’s one of the easiest things in the world to make, and it’s one of the best ways to enjoy the simplicity of this amazing fruit. I also love an arugula, goat cheese, and tomato salad with just a little bit of salt and olive oil.

This summer I plan to try some new tomato dishes like stuffed tomatoes, and I also want to make some tomato sauce for winter so I can have those summer tomato memories.