Category Archives: Lunch

Homemade Lara Balls

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Oh, hey there! It seems that once summer hit, I kind of fell off the blogging wagon. But, now that the temps are cooling down and my schedule is returning to normal, I promise to bring many, many delicious recipes into your kitchen! Today I’m going to jump back in with a great snack and on-the-go recipe: Lara Balls.

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These energy bites, are a homemade twist on a Larabar. If you’re not familiar, Larabars are energy bars that use dates and almonds (or other nuts) as there base and build flavors from there. And of course, I love any excuse to used my favorite kitchen tool: our Vitamix!

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These are SUPER easy to make, your blender or food processor does all (most) of the work!

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After the mixture has been processed, it’s time to get your hands a little messy. The mixture will probably seem too loose to be able to roll into balls, and this is partly true. You really need squeeze the mixture in your hands to get it to stick a little before shaping it into a ball. of course, you could also press this into a pan and cut into squares after a few hours in the fridge, but I haven’t tried that before. Watch out though, these little guys are addicting!

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Homemade Lara Balls

Servings: 9-10 balls

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: n/a

  • 1/2 C almonds
  • 1/4 C sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 C pitted dates
  • 1/4 C dried cranberries
  1. Add the almonds and sunflower seeds to your food processor or blender; process until coarsely ground
  2. Add the dates and cranberries to the nut mixture; process until combined and slightly cohesive
  3. Roll into ~1in balls
  4. Store in the refrigerator*

*Don’t forget this step! The cool temps in the fridge really help hold the balls together.

Question: What flavor combinations do you think would make awesome Lara Balls?

Chicken Tzatziki Salad

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Lately, I’ve been buying a rotisserie chicken on the weekend. I’ll cut off a breast for us to eat for dinner that night (usually on top of a salad or whatever leftovers are in the fridge), and then I pick the rest of the meat off to be used for the following week. I buy my rotisserie chickens from Costco, and usually get 2lbs of meat off the chicken (not including the chicken used for the first meal). So, what have I been doing with this chicken? Chicken salad. Lots of chicken salad.

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This week, I made Chicken Tzatziki Salad. Oh boy, was it good! The lemon and yogurt combo makes it so fresh, and a bit tangy, while the cucumber adds just the right amount of crunch. The first night, we ate this along side some leftover pasta salad I had made for a friend’s BBQ (above), and the second night, we ate chicken salad salads (below).

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This recipe is super easy, and is actually better if you make it ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours (to days) before eating. (Read: great for an easy weeknight meal!)

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The original recipe is from Cooking Light, and I haven’t made too many changes here. Now that summer is almost here, there are so many parties and celebrations happening. This chicken salad would be great to bring to a party or for a picnic lunch or dinner. Since there are so few ingredients, this recipe can easily be doubled (or tripled, quadrupled…) if you’re feeding a larger crowd.

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This recipe calls for seeded and diced cucumber; if you’re not sure how to do this, check this post for a reminder! And of course, you don’t have to use rotisserie chicken for this, just make sure you give this enough time in the fridge to cool down if you’re using just-cooked chicken.

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Chicken Tzatziki Salad

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: n/a

Serves: 4

  • 1 lb chicken, cooked & diced
  • 2/3 C plain yogurt (I prefer greek yogurt, but any will do)
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and diced
  • 2t dried dill
  • juice from 1 lemon
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, let sit in refrigerator for 2+ hours before serving
  2. Enjoy!

Question: Do you ever buy a rotisserie chicken? Which do you like better, white or dark meat?

Chickpea Za’atar Salad

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You guys. Change whatever you have planned for your next meal, and make this instead. I winged this recipe and it turned out phe. nom. e. nal.

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We ate this for dinner a few nights ago, but then I had it for lunch the next few days too. Now, I want to work this into the normal rotation for lunches because it’s great straight from the fridge!

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Are you familiar with za’atar? It’s a mixture of sumac, toasted sesame seed, salt, cumin, thyme, oregano and marjoram (source: http://www.savoryspiceshop.com/blends/zaat.html). Another great use is to add it to olive oil and dip bread in it…mmmm. You probably won’t find it at your everyday grocery store, but any spice shop or international grocery store should have it. My favorite spice shops are Savory Spice Shop and Penzeys Spices.

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This is a fabulous dish to serve to to any meat-eaters in your house who think they’ll miss the meat. They won’t. The flavor is amazing, and the mix of beans, quinoa and veggies is light but filling.

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Chickpea Za’atar Salad

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: n/a

Makes: 4 2C-servings

  • 1/2C dry quinoa, cooked
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed & drained
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 2 small zucchini squash, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4C tahini
  • 1T za’atar seasoning
  • juice from 1 lemon
  1. Combine lemon juice, tahini and za’atar in the bottom of a bowl
  2. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well
  3. Enjoy!

Question: Have you every used za’atar seasoning before? In what way?

Mother’s Day Brunch

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Wow, we really lucked out with some amazing weather for Mother’s Day this year. My parents came to visit us for the day, starting with a trip to my favorite farmer’s market, The JFX Farmer’s Market. We made our way around the market, picking up things for the week as well as some key ingredients for brunch that I would cook when we came home.

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On the menu: Spinach, mushroom & artichoke quiche, lemon ricotta muffins and a beet & feta spinach salad. Mmmmm, delish! The salad is pretty straight forward, dressed with fig balsamic vinegar and garlic & mushroom olive oil (I use a 2:1, vinegar:oil ratio), that I bought at a cute shop, Pure Mountain, while visiting a friend last year.

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The lemon ricotta muffins are a Giada De Laurentiis recipe from Food Network, Nonna’s Lemon Ricotta Biscuits. It was the first time I’ve made these, so I followed the recipe exactly.

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I made them the night before and then popped them in the oven for 5 min before putting them on the table for brunch. I also baked them for 26 min, not 20 like the recipe calls for. They just didn’t look done at 20 min, so I added time in 2 min increments. As a result (I presume), the outside of the muffins were a little hard, but the insides were perfect!

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The quiche was one I’ve made before. It uses ricotta cheese, hence the ricotta muffins…I hate having left over ingredients!

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It turned out great, I almost didn’t get a picture before it was gone! The mushrooms and eggs I used were straight from the farmer’s market which was awesome.

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Previously, I’ve added parmesane cheese to this quiche but I totally forgot on Mother’s Day. It was still good, but in the future I will be sure to not forget the parmesan cheese. Cheese makes everything better.

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Mushroom, Spinach & Artichoke Quiche

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 40 min

Makes: 4 servings

  • 1C ricotta cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4C parmesan cheese
  • 8oz mushrooms, sliced/chopped
  • a few handfuls of spinach
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained & quartered
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Saute the mushrooms, about 5-10 min
  3. Towards the end, add the spinach to wilt
  4. Meanwhile, combine ricotta, eggs and parmesan in a bowl until smooth
  5. Add mushrooms, spinach and artichokes to ricotta mixture
  6. Pour into 9″ cake pan, top with fresh ground pepper
  7. Bake 40 min
  8. Enjoy!

Question: Did you cook for your mom on Mother’s Day?

Successful Substitutions

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Our week hasn’t been particularly adventurous as far as food is concerned. I have, however, had a lot of success with some substitutions I’ve made for some of my go-to recipes!

First up is a substitute I made to my Banana-Oat Breakfast Bites recipe.

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Instead of 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, I used 1 teaspoon of almond extract. The result is almond-y and delicious! If you want a more subtle almond flavor, I would suggest using 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract.

Next up isn’t really a substitute, but more of an alternate way to use the same method. Remember how I used the microwave to cook the egg for my Breakfast Sandwich? Well, I’ve started making sunny side up eggs in the microwave too:

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I simply crack an egg into a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave for 30-40 sec and have a perfectly cooked egg! I’ve been enjoying my runny egg over some avocado in the mornings, mmmm.

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Lastly, I went to make my beloved Avocado, Tuna & Quinoa Jumble yesterday only to see we were out of limes & lemon-pepper seasoning.

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I knew I needed to substitue some sort of acid for the limes, so I opted for red wine vinegar (the acid in the lime juice/vinegar is what keeps the avocado from turning brown). I know I like mustard & red wine vinegar together in salad dressing, so I thought this brown mustard rub might work well. So, instead of the juice of 1 lime, I used 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar and instead of 1 teaspoon of lemon-pepper seasoning, I used 1 teaspoon of brown mustard-honey seasoning. Success!

Sometimes substitutions totally flop, but this week I’ve had some big successes so I thought I’d share them with you all. Usually I’m pretty good about having the “right” ingredients on-hand, but it’s always nice to vary your go-to recipes once in a while.

Question: Do you often make substitutions to vary some of your favorite recipes?

Avocado, Tuna & Quinoa Jumble

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It’s Sunday, are you getting ready for the week ahead? It you’re looking for a great pre-packed lunch idea, look no further! For lack of a better name, Avocado, Tuna & Quinoa Jumble is one of the go-to lunches in our house. It started as just using avocado instead of mayo to make tuna salad for sandwiches and evolved from there.

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One batch makes 2-3 servings, depending on how hungry you are, so I make this ahead for us to pack in our lunches during the week.

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The spice that I use, Sunny Spain Seasoning, can be found at Penzeys Spices. If you don’t have one near you, any lemon-pepper seasoning would work here, just be careful of the salt content (Sunny Spain is salt-free).

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Make sure your avocado is pretty soft, otherwise mashing it with a fork will be a pain.

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I don’t know how most people cook quinoa, but I like to think I have found the easiest way possible…use your rice cooker! I use 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water and the rice cooker does the rest. Funny story, this rice cooker was bought in the early 2000s by my brother for his dorm room. A decade later, and it’s still kickin’!

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The greenish color from the avocado might be a little alarming, but it tastes so fresh and delicious! The red bell pepper adds nice color, but you could use a green bell or any other diced veggie you have on hand (carrots work great too).

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Avocado, Tuna & Quinoa Jumble

Prep time: 10min

Cook time: n/a

Serves: 2-3

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1t lemon-pepper seasoning
  • 1 can tuna, drained
  • 1/2C dry quinoa, cooked
  1. Mash avocado with juice from 1 lime and lemon-pepper seasoning
  2. Add diced bell pepper, tuna and cooked quinoa
  3. Mix until well combined

Question: Do you pack your lunch for work or school?