Summer Salad and Avocado Toast

TitleLunches are difficult.

Especially during the work week.

In the evenings it just seems like such a chore to pack my lunch for the next day.

I’m not totally sure why.

Maybe it’s because it’s a reminder that tomorrow I’ll be at work again and my day won’t be my own.

Maybe it’s because at work there’s no stove and no oven, so whatever I pack has to be good cold or at room temp. Limits your options just a bit.

Maybe it’s because not only do I have to pack all of the ingredients for the meal I want to eat, but I also have to think about prep too. What should I chop/cook/wash in advance?

Could be a combination of all of those things.

Anyway, this is a lunch I made for myself recently. It’s often one of my weekend go-to meals, but I have definitely taken it to work too so I know it travels well.

It’s simple.

It’s healthy.

It’s really good.

Maybe it will give you a new menu item to add to your lunchtime repertoire.

Summer Salad with Roasted Chickpeas and Berries, and Avocado Toast

Begin by marinating and roasting some chickpeas, unless you like the flavor of the plain ones. I am not a huge fan of the texture or the flavor of chickpeas straight out of the can. They seem chalky and a bit bland to me. So I always roast them. I found this recipe for salt and vinegar roasted chickpeas on Oh She Glows. I use it. All. The. Time.

While the chickpeas are cooling, clean and dress salad greens of your choice. This particular day I used romaine lettuce and a basic balsamic vinaigrette dressing. But this part changes depending on the kind of greens and dressing ingredients I have on hand. My vinaigrette is 2 cloves minced garlic, about a half a cup of balsamic vinegar, enough olive oil to emulsify the dressing, and a scant tablespoon of agave nectar. Stored in a jar, this will last me for at least a week’s worth of salad.

I topped the salad with some fresh raspberries (any berry will do), the roasted chickpeas and some toasted, slivered almonds. Healthy

The avocado toast is even simpler than the salad. Toast one slice of whole grain bread. I love Food for Life’s Sesame Ezekiel Bread.

Mash half of an avocado in a small bowl, and then spread it over the toasted bread. Sprinkle with sea salt and some crushed red pepper flake. A squeeze of lime over the top is a nice finishing touch.Avocado Toast

Voila! Easy lunch, packed with protein, greens, whole grains and healthy fats.

Pizza with Artichokes, Olives, Tomatoes and Cashew Ricotta

TitleWhen my grandmother tasted this pizza she declared it the best she’d ever had.

Big praise coming from a woman who was making pizza for her friends and family long before there was even one pizza restaurant in her town.

I’ll take the compliment.

I thought it was pretty great too.

You can use any vegetables you have on hand, but the artichoke-olive-tomato-basil combo was popular around here.

Enjoy!

Pizza with Artichokes, Olives, Tomatoes and Cashew Ricotta–Vegan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Allow one package whole wheat pizza dough (I used Trader Joe’s refrigerated dough) to rest on the counter for about ten minutes. Then drizzle one tablespoon olive oil on a pizza pan and roll the ball of dough around in it until covered. Then stretch or roll the dough out to cover the bottom of the pan.

Bake the dough for about 8 minutes, or until starting to turn golden brown.

While the dough is baking, make your cashew ricotta. Process 1 cup of raw cashews (soaked in water for a few hours to soften them) with 1/2 cup raw pine nuts, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 2 cloves garlic, and 1/4 cup water, in a food processor until it’s the consistency of ricotta cheese.  If you forgot to soak your cashews you can do a quick soak by boiling them in water for 15 minutes and then rinsing in cold water to cool.

When the crust is finished baking, spread a layer of your favorite pizza or marinara sauce on top.

Add a layer of cashew ricotta. You don’t have to smooth out the ricotta unless you want to.

Top with whatever vegetables you like. I used black olives, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and canned, diced tomatoes.Whole Pizza

Bake for another 5 minutes, or until the toppings are heated through.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle with almond parmesan (1/2 cup raw almonds processed with one tablespoon nutritional yeast in a food processor until crumbly) and some fresh basil.

By the way, does anything smell better than fresh basil? There may be things that smell as good. But better? I’m not sure.Basil

Slice and serve.Pizza Slice

Month In Review: July

Well we had an abbreviated posting month in July thanks to our Summer Working Vacation. Title

But I jumped right back into the kitchen, baking and cooking up a storm. First up was Cherry Limeade.

Cherry Limeade Title

Then we had a couple of (relatively) cool summer days. Days that were cool enough that turning on the oven didn’t seem like an insane idea. Thank goodness for that because I got to make a tasty Vegan Lasagna, cook up a flavorful and healthy BBQ Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burger, and bake a chocolate Zucchini Bread.

TitleTitleTitle

I got my craft on and used up some fabric scraps with the Fabric-Wrapped Cork Board and the Graphic Print Fabric Photo Mats projects.

Title Title

The month began with part two of the bathroom makeover at my mom’s–installing a tile backsplash.Title

And halfway through the month, I finally got to tackle the second phase of my Kitchen Dreams project when I found a great cedar table to re-purpose as a kitchen island. TitleI recommended a big movie about living small.

And ended the month with a few things I am loving lately.Title

I’ve got some good things planned for August. Hope to see you then!

Today I am Loving…

TitleIt’s time for the monthly list of things I am loving lately. Just like before, none of the companies or individuals mentioned in this post paid me to gush about them. I think they are awesome and amazing. They have no idea who I am.

Today I am Loving…

Beautiful, colorful, summer flowers.  Was the title image a giveaway? 🙂

BiolageBiolage Shampoo and Conditioner. This is the only combination of shampoo and conditioner that softens up the ends of my hair, but doesn’t also leave my scalp greasy or way too dry. I found Biolage after trying almost every product Target stocks. Now it’s the only brand I use. I get it from JC Penny, but there are probably loads of other places you can find it. I think this huge bottle cost me about $14 during a 40% off sale. It might last me until the end of time. We’ll see.

ZeviaZevia soda. This is my reward for spending all day drinking my weight in plain water. Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy a good stainless steel bottle full of cold water, especially in my non-air conditioned, pizza oven-like, brick office building. But it gets old by 5pm. So, I love this stuff. It’s soda sweetened with stevia. No sugar. Calorie free. No artificial sweeteners. No artificial colors. Vegan. Kosher. Gluten free. And really good. There are 15 flavors, including my current favorites, Cream Soda and Dr. Zevia. It can be kind of expensive, but a couple of my local stores often have three (six packs) for $10 deals. That is a cue to me to stock up. I hit Safeway pretty hard last Wednesday at about 6am because I saw they had a sale on. My cart was full of Zevia and…nothing else.

Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. This is the kind of book that can change your life. After reading it I got on a real budget for the first time in a long time, and made a realistic plan for paying off my intimidating student loan and credit card debt. It fired me up to change my behavior with respect to money and allowed me to see a future in which I don’t have to work until my eighties unless I want to. Dave Ramsey also has a podcast, which is free on I-Tunes. I listen to it daily.

DSCN0590The X-Files Files podcast. I loved, loved, loved The X-Files when I was a teenager. Still do. If any of you reading this are too young to remember it, please don’t tell me. It will only make me feel old. You can find the show on streaming Netflix now—all nine seasons—so even if you missed out when it aired (gulp) 20 years ago you can catch up. Kumail Nanjiani hosts. He and a guest recap one or two X-Files episodes during each podcast, sharing their impressions, episode trivia, and some historical X-Files message board posts. So fun to remember classic Mulder and Scully and to get to listen to fellow fans talk about the show the way my friends and I used to.

Okay, there you have it. My favorites from the past month. Hope you’re finding your own things to love this summer!

Graphic Print Fabric Photo Mats

TitleRemember when I wrote about my fabric-related buyer’s remorse? If you need a refresher check out this post.

I turned one yard of said fabric into a wrap for an old cork board.

That left one more yard of fabric to find a useful purpose for. This teal and white print Fabric Samplewas initially going to be a stripe on my white living room curtains, but when it arrived it was not the right blue for the space.

Ultimately I decided to use it as a backing for some black and white photos that would hang upstairs.

First I needed some glossy black picture frames. I had some light wood-colored 8X10s in the garage, but I knew a can of spray paint would turn them into what I wanted.

So first I sanded some of the glossy varnish off of them. Then I wiped them down with a wet rag to get the dust off.

I took them out into the garage, placed them on an old piece of cardboard and sprayed them with a high-gloss black spray paint (about $6 at the craft store).

I left them to dry for a few hours.

Then I took the cardboard backing for each frame and laid them down on top of my fabric. I cut around each square until there was about an inch of fabric on each side.Wrapping Backs

I used fabric glue to attach the fabric to the back of the cardboard and let them dry for a couple of hours.

Then it was just a matter of putting the pictures on the fabric backing (I used photo safe adhesive), and attaching the backing to the frames.

Here they are. Like the bulletin board project this was really quick, super easy, and is adding a nice punch of color and pattern to a wall in desperate need of both.After

BBQ Black Bean Sweet Potato Burger

TitleI love a good burger, especially during the summer. But finding a recipe for a good vegan burger, one that holds together well and has great flavor, has been one of the banes of my existence since I went vegan.

I want a burger that is loaded with vegetables.

And grains.

And beans.

And herbs and spices.

And let’s hold the cumin, which is seemingly a staple in black bean burger recipes. I like Mexican food as much as the next girl, but let’s do something different this time.

How about a burger with black beans…

…and roasted sweet potato…Sweet Potatoes

…and fresh thyme…Thyme…and sweet onion…

Onions

…and brown basmati rice….Pre-Cooked Burger

…and, because it’s summer, finished off with a good-quality barbecue sauce.

Beats a frozen veggie burger any day.Burger Done

BBQ Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burgers–Vegan

Makes 4-6

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into small chunks ɩ one can organic black beans (or pinto beans) ɩ a pinch of salt ɩ 1 cup cooked brown basmati rice ɩ 1 onion, diced ɩ 2 cloves garlic, minced ɩ 2 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, taken off of their stems ɩ 2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil (for sauteing the onion and garlic) ɩ 1 flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax seed mixed with 3 tablespoons water, refrigerated for 15 minutes to thicken) ɩ  4 tablespoons of your favorite barbecue sauce ɩ scant 1/8  cup cornmeal or flour of choice 

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Coat your sweet potato chunks with about 1 tablespoon olive oil and a good sprinkling of salt. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes, or until soft and golden on the edges.

Saute the onion in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, until translucent (about 5 minutes).

In your food processor, pulse the onion, sweet potato, garlic, rice, thyme, flax egg, pinch of salt, beans, cornmeal and barbecue sauce until mixed. Don’t over mix them. The mixture shouldn’t be completely smooth. It should have some chunky pieces in it.

Place the mixture in the refrigerator to chill for about an hour.

Form the mixture into four to six hamburger-sized patties. The thicker the patties are, the softer the finished burgers will be.

Preheat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Coat the pan with non-stick spray.

Brush some olive or grapeseed oil on both sides of the burgers.

Brown both sides of the burgers.

While the second side is browning, brush some barbecue sauce on the top of the burger.

Serve on a bun or by itself with a whole grain and some veggies.

Fabric-Wrapped Cork Board

TitleWay back in April I bought two yards of fabric for a couple of projects I had planned for the blog—re-upholstering my dining chairs and adding a stripe to my plain, white living room draperies. You can read about the dining chairs project here. And about the draperies here.

When the fabric finally arrived I liked the prints just fine, but they didn’t really suit the purposes for which they were intended.

So…they kind of just sat around my house taking up space in various drawers, and sometimes being put to use as backdrops for blog photo sessions. Here for example.Candy Bars 1

I really wanted to use them for something though and, while it took me a couple of months to figure out what, inspiration finally struck. The result was two really simple, inexpensive item upgrades.

The first was this bulletin board.Before

I’ve had this plain framed cork bulletin board for years. It was functional, but definitely not pretty. I decided that what it needed was to be wrapped in a fun polka-dot print. This one to be exact.Fabric

Simple project, right? Just wrap the board in the fabric, secure it with some staples from my trusty staple gun and done. Except…

The board has a wood frame around the edge and the cork sits about a half inch under the top of the frame. So if I just stapled the fabric to the back of the board it would be sitting on top of the frame, and about a half of an inch above the cork. Trying to attach anything to it with pushpins would be impossible.

Hmm…I wandered around the craft store trying to figure out a solution that would not cost me any money.

Then I remembered the magic that is spray adhesive.

First I trimmed the fabric a bit so that there wouldn’t be quite so much hanging off the back of the board.

Then I took the board out to the garage and sprayed the frame and the cork itself liberally with adhesive. (I already had a can on hand.)

I brought the board back inside and placed the fabric on top, smoothing the fabric onto the cork and the frame. The polka dot print was very forgiving, so I didn’t make much of an effort to place it straight on the board. A striped, or symmetrical pattern would have been trickier. Thank goodness I went with dots.Adhering Fabric

Finally, I stapled the edges of the fabric to the back of the board, making sure not to cover up the hanging hooks.Stapling

And voila! A fabric-wrapped cork board. It is, as I type this, adding some fun and color to my little office and making me feel much less guilty about splurging on fabric sight unseen.After