Fresh herbs. A true sign of Spring springing. While our garden is slowly starting to grow back into its lush old self, the huge mint patch is still a dead heap of brown stalks. So the next best thing was to buy a little bunch of organic mint leaves from the store. I used it all up in two delicious meals – and can’t wait for our own mint to grow again!
As well as being a wonderful stomach soother, fresh mint offers many other health benefits, including:
- Antimicrobial properties in peppermint oil, inhibiting the growth of certain bacteria and types of fungus
- Natural breath freshener
- Relief from nasal symptoms associated with seasonal allergies
- Excellent source of vitamins C & A, and the mineral manganese
- Nerve soother, especially in the form of fresh mint leaf tea
Mint livens up a grainy salad like no other. The first dish I made was a farro salad with a classic combination of mint, feta, and pomegranate (although not in season, if you can find a package of the arils – the juicy red seeds – they are such a nice treat every once in a while). Watermelon chunks would be great as an alternative when we’re in the thick of summer, or slices of fresh peaches.
Farro Salad with Pomegranate, Feta & Mint
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Keywords: simmer entree salad side wheat free vegetarian soy-free nut-free spring summer
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 1 1/2 cups farro
- 3-4 celery stalks, sliced
- 1 cup pomegranate arils (or diced watermelon or 1 peach, sliced)
- 1/2 cup sheep or goat feta, crumbled
- 1 large handful fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
- sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Cook the farro according to package instructions (usually takes about 25-35 minutes in twice the amount of water). Leave to cool slightly before tossing with the remaining ingredients.
Serve warm, or place in the fridge to cool completely for a refreshing summer salad.
Another fabulous use of mint is in homemade pesto. I saw a wonderful recipe in the May issue of Real Simple magazine that I had to try – and all of a sudden I’ve found a new love. Mint Pesto is bright, fresh, and zesty and takes all of 5 minutes to make yourself. It came paired with steamed artichokes in the magazine recipe, but you could also serve it with fish, lamb, or in a salad with thinly sliced zucchini.
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 cup cashews
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp lemon zest
Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
We’ve lived in the greater Boston area for 9 months now (hard to believe!) – in that time, so much has happened. Bought a house. Baby on the way. Started up my nutrition consulting business in Newton. Traveled here there and everywhere.
But we’re really starting to get to know our new home town. In particular, we’ve made our way around some wonderful restaurants in the city and the surrounding neighborhoods. While we haven’t quite explored our soon-to-be neighborhood yet (Roslindale), there are quite a few places I’d highly recommend if you live in or are visiting Boston.
What are my criteria for a good restaurant? Healthy options. More than one vegetarian option. Thoughtful ingredients sourced as locally as possible. Fresh fresh fresh! A good selection of menu items that are naturally gluten-free. And above all, delicious food!
The Elephant Walk
Cambodian/French food with plenty of delicious choices for vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free diners. 3 locations: Boston, Cambridge, Waltham. Website: elephantwalk.com
Vegetarian and vegan delights, mostly pizza (although you can order any of the toppings on rice instead of dough). Cambridge. Website: veggieplanet.net
Blue Shirt Cafe
Nice spot for lunch, mostly wraps and sandwiches. Somerville. Website: blueshirtcafedavis.com
Tasty breakfast and lunch spot with a few healthy vegan options. Jamaica Plain. Website: ulacafe.com
Creative and delicious vegan food, including DESSERT (which always gets a thumbs up from me!). Watertown. Website: theredlentil.com
Mei Mei Street Kitchen
The number one greatest food truck in Boston, hands down! Fabulous, locally sourced Chinese street food served by some seriously awesome people. All over Boston. Website: meimeiboston.com
Seriously great wholesome lunch grub with a smorgasbord of options. Cambridge. Website: lifealive.com
Locally sourced and thoughtfully prepared meals to celebrate over. Cambridge. Website: henriettastable.com
Beautiful menu that changes all the time to reflect what’s growing nearby. Newton. Website: farmsteadtable.com
Fun and inspired menu full of the best ingredients found in New England. Newton. Website: 51lincolnnewton.com
Seasonal, fresh ingredients grace this bistro’s menu, along with some of the best pickled veggies I’ve ever had. Newton. Website: sycamorenewton.com
From the same people behind 51 Lincoln, this small restaurant is a neighborhood gem featuring elegant local food. Newton. Website: wabankitchen.com
Vegan cuisine from the same owners as Red Lentil with an almost identical menu. Newton. Website: walnutgrille.com
A neighborhood favorite with the best gluten-free pizza I’ve ever had and a fabulous selection of toppings. Newton. Website: billspizzeria.com
I’m sure I’ll be updating this list in the months to come! Does anyone have any places to recommend in Boston that I’ve missed?
As you read this, I’ll be on the tropical isle of St Thomas, soaking up some much needed sunshine before our baby arrives in June! And with that warmth in mind, I thought I’d offer you a salad recipe that requires very little effort and time but is worth making any day.
Even if it’s still Arctic temperatures where you are (and believe me, that’s how it was when the above photo was taken), you’ll feel a little lighter and brighter when you make this salad. The idea here is to keep everything simple and green, combining a decent amount of leafy greens, a bit of protein, and some healthy fats, along with some great flavors in the dressing.
Making your own salad dressing requires nothing more than a little glass jar (next time you buy capers or olives, wash out the jar and keep it!) and some everyday condiments I know you have already! If you made too much for this one salad, which happily serves two, keep the rest in the fridge for another salad.
Romaine salad with avocado and pumpkin seeds
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 0 mins
Keywords: raw salad gluten-free nut-free soy-free sugar-free vegan vegetarian wheat free
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 1 head of organic romaine lettuce
- 1/2 ripe avocado
- handful green pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- 1 tsp German mustard
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- sea salt and ground black pepper
Slice the romaine into 1-inch strips and throw in a big salad bowl. Cube the avocado flesh and add that to the romaine, along with the pumpkin seeds.
Make the dressing in a small glass jar by combining all ingredients, placing the lid on top, and shaking vigorously for a few seconds to incorporate.
Just before serving, toss the salad with the dressing and serve!
Have you tried carob? It is subtly sweet with a hint of chocolate flavor and comes packed with wonderful nutrients. And in this case, makes for a delicious raw “truffle” you can snack on any time. Why did I use carob here instead of cocoa or cacao powder?
Benefits of Carob
- Carob is caffeine-free, making it an ideal chocolate substitute for anyone who is pregnant, has high blood pressure, or has a sensitivity to chocolate.
- It improves digestion and is used to treat diarrhea in both children and adults. It can also help with acid reflux and GERD.
- It lowers cholesterol, thanks in large part to its high fiber content.
- Rich rich rich in calcium and vitamin E.
- Full of antioxidants (just like chocolate)!
All that being said, carob does have a unique flavor that might take some getting used to. If you’re really not into it, a great quality raw cacao powder can be used in this and any recipe that calls for carob powder. At least that way you’ll get all the benefits of the cacao bean’s inherent antioxidants and magnesium.
Whip these truffles up this weekend and see if they last until Monday
Raspberry Walnut Carob Truffles
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 0 mins
Keywords: raw dessert snack gluten-free vegan vegetarian wheat free soy-free
Ingredients (15-18 truffles)
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 cup pitted dates
- 1/4 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
- pinch of sea salt
- 1/3 cup carob powder
- handful freeze-dried raspberries, crushed into a powder
Combine all ingredients except the raspberries in a food processor and blitz until slightly sticky. The consistency you’re looking for is one that holds together when you press it with your fingers.
Using a tablespoon, scoop out the “dough” and roll it in your hands into a ball. Roll these balls in the freeze dried raspberry powder to coat.
Place in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
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Last night was one of those where I hadn’t planned what to make for dinner. Usually, that means I’ll make some brown rice pasta or a big salad with whatever’s in the fridge, but it was time to come up with something different. I had a bag of red quinoa in my cupboard, some spinach in the fridge, and half jars full of sun dried tomatoes and black olives. The result? An Italian-inspired quinoa dish topped with a fried egg for extra protein.
When frying anything, but particularly eggs, make sure you don’t overdo it on the heat. Gently frying over a low heat will ensure that the wonderful and delicate proteins in the egg aren’t harmed. Don’t burn it, whatever you do!
Healthier options for cooking an egg (if you have more time):
- Hard or soft boiled
- Gently scrambled
- In an omelet or frittata
Warm Italian Red Quinoa
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Keywords: saute simmer entree gluten-free nut-free soy-free vegetarian wheat free
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 1 cup red quinoa
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried basil
- sea salt and black pepper
- 8-10 sun-dried tomatoes (with some of the oil from the jar)
- 10-12 pitted black olives
- 2 handfuls organic spinach
- 2 oz pecorino cheese, grated
- 2 organic eggs
Cook the quinoa in 2 cups of water according to package instructions (should take about 15 minutes).
Meanwhile, saute the red onion and garlic in some olive oil for 3-4 minutes (for extra flavor, use some of the oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes). Add salt, pepper, and some dried basil and stir well. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and the olives and continue cooking for an extra 2-3 minutes.
When the quinoa only has a couple of minutes to go, add the spinach to the saute pan and cook until wilted. Move the veggie mixture to a bowl and add a little more olive oil if needed. Gently fry the eggs in the same pan for a few minutes, until cooked to your liking. (Pregnant ladies like me – cook until the yolks are set!)
Toss the cooked quinoa with the veggies and the grated pecorino.
Top each serving with a fried egg.