Homemade Pesto

Homemade Pesto

As you might have seen from my last post, I am up to my ears in fresh herbs (which is such a good thing)! I have been making this Homemade Pesto recipe lately on a weekly basis to go over pasta, served alongside grilled chicken or shrimp or as a topping to fresh salmon. This recipe is so easy to make—my fifteen year-old, Zachary made this batch for me. Toss fresh basil, garlic, Parmesan, olive oil, salt and a touch of a fresh lemon juice in a blender or food processor. It’s that easy!

Similar to cilantro, basil if filled with many health benefits including helping to rid of acne, help replenish iron and more. Basil is a good source of vitamin A and can help with cardiovascular health. Basil is also an anti-inflammatory food so it can also help individuals with inflammatory health problems such as rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions. Try this recipe and enjoy fresh basil all summer long.

DIY Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

I am really into making homemade fresh salad dressings this summer. When I was out of town last month in Cabo, I came home and my husband had planted various hanging fresh herb baskets in our backyard. Needless to say I was beyond excited, and this DIY Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette recipe will be the first of many recipes including fresh herbs in the coming months. This vinaigrette can be drizzled over salads, fish tacos, seafood, pork and chicken. We served it last night over a big mixed salad with grilled shrimp, and it was divine! If you want to grow your own cilantro this summer, it’s super easy. It just needs good sunlight and water almost every day.

fresh cilantro

Fresh cilantro is very low in calories, and its green leaves contain  antioxidants, vitamins, and dietary fiber, which may help reduce the “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood. It’s also high in potassium, calcium, folate, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. It’s also said to be a detoxifying food.

 

5 Meal Prepping Hacks That Save You Time in the Kitchen

 

meal preppingOne of the most common excuses for not eating healthy is lack of time. With people busy between work and their families, the easiest thing to do is to pick up dinner instead of cookie. Active families like mine need to eat healthy, so it’s important to do everything you can to eat at home as often as possible (we eat at home at least five to six nights a week). Meal prepping is the best way to make meals at home when you have a hectic schedule. Here are meal prep hacks that will keep your family eating healthy.

1. Meal Plan

Meal planning is an extremely important part of prep. Create a calendar that has every meal planned out until your next grocery shopping trip. While some people like to plan out breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, that can be planning overkill for some families. Planning dinners is the most important part, so at least plan those, and then wing the rest if you don’t feel the need to plan every small detail. Once you have planned each meal, add all of the ingredients that you need to your grocery list to make each dinner.

food prepping

2. Cook in Advance

Cooked meals stay fresh in the fridge for several days, so you can cook several meals to reheat during the week. Choose items that won’t try out when they’re reheated. For example, you can cook spaghetti, enchiladas, a casserole, and a few other meals all in one day. Let them cool at room temperature, label them, and then place them in the refrigerator until the day you plan to eat them.

crock pot meals

3. Crock Pot Meals

Prepping crock pot meals is another great way to prep in advance. You can take all the ingredients to make one crock pot meal and store it in a one-gallon Ziploc freezer bag.  Placer bag in the freezer, uncooked, and pour it in the crock pot the morning of the day that you want to eat it for dinner. Having about five to six crock pot meals prepped will give you more options and allow you to have something easy in the freezer that will make very little time to prepare. Put everything in your slow cooker during breakfast and it will be ready after work. If you don’t know many recipes, you can dress up the same ones with different sauces and dressings. Hampton Creek is popular for creating the Hampton Creek mayo. They also have healthy ranch, chipotle, and other delicious sauces and dressings that you can add to your dishes.

healthy snacks4. Prep Snacks

Prepping snacks is just as important as prepping dinners. Do you find yourself running to the gas station to grab snacks on the go? Instead of getting stopping or trying to figure out what type of snacks to eat, prep some snacks. Fill Ziploc bags with an apple and a handful of strawberries. Fill other bags with some crackers and some sliced cheese. As you get some meal prepping practice, you’ll find yourself coming up with more combinations. When it’s time to run to to tennis tournaments or dance practice, everyone can grab a bag full of the snacks that they enjoy.

5. Re-Organize Your Fridge
 
Fridge organization is one of the biggest problems when it comes to prepping foods. Most people have a row of yogurt, a drawer of apples, and so on. Basically, all of your foods are grouped together. What’s wrong with that? It makes it more difficult to prep for the week. Dedicate different areas of your fridge for each week. Many people use baskets to organize their shelves around their home. Using them for your fridge can help too. Put all of your Ziploc bags full of snacks for Monday in one basket. Put the snacks for Tuesday in another basket and so on.

Meal prepping is the best way to make sure your family eats healthy every day. You’ll save money and time.

Fresh Peach Pecan Crisp

Peach Pecan Crisp

If you’re looking for a super easy summer dessert, try this Peach Pecan Crisp recipe. In 45 minutes, you’ll have an a scrumptious mouth watering dessert for friends and family to enjoy. I love using two of my favorite ingredients—peaches and pecans. I typically purchase mine from Pearson Farms in Georgia. They’ve been in business since 1885 and are a wonderful, friendly family-owned business. At our house we go through peaches and pecans so quickly, so I try to always have them on hand, especially while peaches are in their peak season. If you want to prepare this recipe when peaches go out of season, feel free to use frozen peaches (be sure to thaw them slightly before serving). Peaches are so healthy for you. One fresh peach (about 21/2 inches) is only 68 calories and has zero fat. Peaches contain 10 different vitamins. A large peach provides Vitamin A, which is important to healthy vision, Vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, niacin, folate and more.

I’ve been using my cast-iron skillet often for desserts lately, but if you don’t have one, you can substitute a 10-inch or 2 quart baking dish. Be sure to slightly grease it before adding the peaches and brown sugar. If you don not have a 10-inch, you can also use an 8-inch as well as a 61/2-inch if you have these smaller sizes. Have a great week and cheers to summer!

Layered Berry Smoothie

layered berry smoothie

Layered smoothies take extra time, but they are so worth it! My family has been working out a ton this weekend (tennis tournament, hiking, swimming, running and golf) so we decided to make these Layered Berry Smoothie just in time for the Memorial Day holiday. The best way to make these, so the flavors don’t run into each other is to prepare each flavor at a time, and put each flavor in the freezer until ready to layer.

layered berry smoothie 2

These layered smoothies are so healthy with fresh strawberries, blueberries and bananas. They are also easy to prepare, taste fresh, are filling and are good for you. Feel free to use your favorite milk, and if you can’t have dairy, feel free to substitute coconut water.

Texas Meets Montana at The Resort at Paws Up

montana grillers paws up

Memorial Day Weekend is this weekend, and if you haven’t made any plans, pack your cowboy boots, jeans and head to Montana to one of my favorite places on earth: The Resort at Paws Up®. The resort is kicking off summer this weekend welcoming guests for a weekend of incredible food, wine and wilderness adventures at Montana Master Grillers: Texas All-Stars. This all-inclusive Memorial Day weekend celebration will feature gourmet outdoor dining prepared by some of the most outstanding chefs, outdoor adventure and so much more.

montana paws up

This year, Montana Master Grillers will feature four renowned BBQ chefs from Texas. The event will feature grilling demonstrations prepared by these world-class chefs including Chef Tim Byres from Smoke in Dallas, TX; Chef Evan LeRoy from Freedmen’s in Austin, TX; Chef Wayne Mueller from Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, TX; Chef Kent Rathbun from Hickory in Plano, TX and of course, Paws Up’s own Executive Chef Ben Jones. Read on.. there is more:

Montana Long Table

Perfect Pairings: A weekend of grilling and BBQ would not be complete without craft beer and small-batch spirits. Celebrate this weekend with Montana’s Philipsburg Brewing Company and RoughStock Distillery (Bozeman, MT), Austin, Texas distilleries Dulce Vida Organic Tequila and Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Dennis Cakebread from Cakebread Cellars in Napa Valley will also be offering featured wine tastings and pairing varietals with the featured chefs’ spectacular fare.

CookShack-2

Barrels (Both Gun and Wine): On Saturday afternoon, Dennis Cakebread will lead a thrilling sporting clays adventure. Guests who sign up in advance will have the opportunity to talk shop with this winemaking legend. Afterward, participants will kick enjoy an intimate wine tasting.

paws up montana grillers

Wrangle Up an Appetite: As part of Montana Master Grillers: Texas All-Stars, guests will partake in some of the resort’s outdoor wilderness adventures, such as horseback riding or whitewater rafting with one-on-one interaction with some of the finest chefs, distillers and brewers and winemakers in the United States.

paws up smores

Live Beats: On Sunday night, relax with an outdoor concert by local Missoula band, the Lil’ Smokies, the winner of the 2015 Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition.

There are few spots left for this weekend, so hurry! The Montana Master Grillers: Texas All-Stars all-inclusive weekend from May 27–30, 2016, starts at $975 per person, per night for four days, three nights. This package rate includes a private home or tent accommodation, three meals daily for two adults (including breakfast, all featured lunches, multicourse dinners and alcohol pairings), all scheduled events, three wilderness adventures of choice per person, airport transportation to and from Missoula International Airport (MSO) and on-property transportation. Don’t miss the spa tents (see below):

paws up

Also…

As part of the first annual BBQ-U held June 17–19, 2016, Montana Master Grillers alums Sam Huff (Sam’s BBQ-1)in Georgia) and Danny Fischer (Baby Blues BBQ in California) will conduct outdoor grilling demonstrations that will transform attendees from backyard beginners to experts. Guests will learn the techniques to cook a variety of high-quality meats and veggies like an expert, get up close and personal for demonstrations, and enjoy the grill masters’ fine cooking at a Montana Long Table dinner. Participants will take all of this in amidst Montana’s majestic outdoors, luxury accommodations and outdoor adventure opportunities. For reservations, please call 877-588-6783 or go to paws.com.

Skillet Blueberry Crisp

Skillet Blueberry Cobbler

Blueberries are at their peak season right now with most grocery stores selling them buy one get one free. I made this Skillet Blueberry Crisp on Sunday night, which only takes 10 minutes of preparation time. It’s so easy, healthy and tastes fantastic! My husband said this blueberry crisp was so good that it did not even need vanilla ice cream (or frozen yogurt to top it off). If you have some on hand and want that cold and warm temperature combination, feel free to add it. I used my 61/2-inch cast-iron skillet, but if you only have the larger one, you can double the recipe. Blueberries are also healthy for you. In only 80 calories per cup and virtually no fat, blueberries offer many nutritional benefits. They are packed with Vitamin C and are a good source of manganese (which is important in bone health). Blueberries have antioxidants that can improve vision and promote quicker adjustment of the eyes to darkness. They can also improve memory and reduce the risk of infections. They have high levels of compounds that help widen arteries and can help blood flow. Blueberries are also a good source of fiber, and they have phytonutrients that protect cells from damage. This recipe is great to serve to kick off summer, and it will be awesome to serve on Memorial Day and Fathers’s Day too!

5 Healthy Dinner Recipes

Greek-Style-Pork

May is a wonderful time of year for grilling and cooking fresh, flavorful heathy dinner recipes. This Greek style pork recipe can be made in a flash—it takes only 26 minutes to prepare! I love using boneless pork loin chops because they cook quickly, are low in calories and fat, and pair with a myriad of flavors, toppings and accompaniments. The recipe for Greek Style Pork Chops can be found on SC Johnson. I am so lucky to be one of their content bloggers, and I wanted to share with you 5 healthy dinner recipes that are easy, fantastic, family-approved and delicious.

Skillet-Lasagna

Skillet Lasagna on SC Johnson

In this recipe, I used oven-ready noodles so no boiling is needed. Make sure to break them into pieces so when you layer the lasagna, they are close together but do not have to touch. My son, Zachary said this is one of his favorite lasagna recipes.

salmon asparagus foil packets

Salmon Asparagus Foil Packets on SC Johnson

There are several ways to cook this recipe. Personally, I love to cook on the outdoor grill, but you can also cook indoors in your oven. Feel free to substitute any of your favorite vegetables or herbs and to sprinkle a tablespoon of shredded Parmesan or crumbled feta cheese over the top to make this recipe your own.

Caprese Panini

Pesto Caprese Panini on SC Johnson

These easy Panini sandwiches that are simple to prepare and full of flavor. Serve on ciabatta bread, an Italian white bread that is now more commonly found in your grocery store’s bakery.

Salmon Kale Pasta

Salmon Kale Pasta on SC Johnson

Prepared with fresh kale, tomatoes, chives and basil, this recipe incorporates fresh ingredients to flavor this simple dish.

4 Avondale Restaurants Not to Miss

Fancy's on FifthI love featuring guest writers on my site, and I am so excited to share an article by Leigh Lewis and Ann McQueen Whatley, high school Juniors at Mountain Brook High School in Birmingham. They recently visited a few of the hip, cool restaurants in Avondale in Birmingham, and here’s what they found. Take it away Leigh and Ann McQueen and thank you Leigh Lewis for the photos.

Post Office Pies Pizza

In recent years, Avondale has become a hotspot neighborhood in Birmingham with numerous food options. All of the food at the spots we visited was delicious; the only ways the restaurants differentiate is in their prices and service. Overall, the restaurant that excelled above the others is Fancy’s on Fifth.

After much consideration, we dined at four popular restaurants in Avondale to determine which excelled the most in three vital categories: price, service, and taste.

  1. Melt

Price: Everything on the menu is under $12.00, and this includes, starters, salads  sandwiches and desserts. We loved that!

Service:  The service was good. Waiters were very friendly, chatty and helpful.

Taste: Melt’s sandwiches exceed the average grilled cheese. From traditional grilled cheese to more experimental sandwiches, Melt has something for everyone. We tasted the Mac Melt, which was (as the name suggests) a grilled cheese with mac and cheese in the middle, and the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, which is spicy buffalo chicken in between two toasted pieces of bread. Both sandwiches tasted great. 

Post Office Pies

2. Post Office Pies

Price: 9 inch pizzas cost anywhere from $9.00 – $14.00 but are only served at lunch. 12 inch pizzas range from $13.00 – $17.00. Although a bit pricey, the amount of food as well as the fresh ingredients are worth it. 

Service: The service is really good. Even though the restaurant is not sit-down-and-order-style, waiters checked on us throughout our meal.

Taste: We ordered the Margarita Pizza and the Chicken Pesto Pizza and all of the ingredients were distinctively fresh. From the crust to the basil, we could tell that the ingredients were fresh and of good quality. 

3. Fancy’s on Fifth

Price: The price was much like that of Melt’s, where nothing was too pricey, and the portions are very good (not too big, not too small). The atmosphere is really fun, but get there early, as there is usually a wait. 

Service: The service was very good. The waiter was very helpful, and they were eager to please. 

Taste: Fancy’s on Fifth is an overall creative concept of oysters and burgers, but each item is more than just your average oyster or burger. They offer many healthy options, such as gluten-free bread, vegan patties and lettuce-wrap buns. We ordered the Smoked Salmon Salad and the Turkey Jive Burger, both of which had very good presentation and an unexpected but delicious tastes. Don’t miss the Chorizo Grilled Oysters, Ramen Noodle and Soft Shell Grab Burger as well.

4. Wasabi Juan’s

Price: With sushi burritos ranging from $6.00 – $11.00, Wasabi Juan’s is pretty inexpensive, especially considering the quality of the seafood and portion size.

Service: The service was less than adequate. We were both delivered something we did not order, and while they tried to take our food back, we had already touched it and ended up with four meals. What’s even worse is that they were noticeably irritated and did not apologize. 

Taste: For such an experimental restaurant that combines Mexican and Asian food, the sushi burritos were great, and there were many different combinations of ingredients that were creative and tasty, including one sushi burrito with mango and shrimp.