Spinach, Kale Salad with Grapes and Champagne Vinaigrette

Trying to hunt down a nutritious meal at an airport is like trying to find a presidential candidate you'd like to vote for, but on my most recent trip I had some luck. On my return flight at the Denver airport,  I discovered Modern Market, a Colorado- based healthy fare restaurant, and this salad jumped off the menu.

While these foods are all ones that I eat regularly, I would never have thought to pair them together. It was a great reminder to step out of the box and experiment. Increase the quinoa serving for added protein (1/2 cup is 4 g) or add a lean protein to make it a filling meal, then throw in a Bentgo salad box for a quick, easy and healthy lunch. 

Ingredients (1 serving):

- 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (RD tip: for deeper flavor, substitute water with low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth)

- 1/4 cup red grapes

- 1/2 cup shredded carrots

- 2-3 tbsp slivered almonds or crushed walnuts

- 1-2 oz crumbled low-fat feta cheese

- 2 tbsp Trader Joe's Champagne Pear Vinaigrette

Cook quinoa as directed and allow to cool. Prep veggies, then combine with quinoa in a bowl and toss with dressing. 

- Tara

My Healthy Spin on a Strawberry Margarita

I LOVE a classic, tangy margarita, but rarely order them when I go out. Too many times have I been burned by the lime-flavored, sugar water that arrives at the table (with a questionable lack of tequila). Even worse are the bottle mixes you find in restaurants or stores, full of high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors and flavorings. If I'm going to splurge, I'd rather know what's going into my drink, so if I have one it's usually at home.

Last weekend, my father-in-law was in town for his 70th birthday, so to celebrate, we prepared him a Mexican feast. I happened to have some fresh strawberries on hand, so I decided to try a fresh strawberry margarita for the celebration.

I think the key to making a delicious fruit margarita is using very ripe fruit, so make sure your strawberries or mangos are at their peak! You can play around with the ratios of ingredients to your liking, especially with the lime. I prefer things very tangy so I used more.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups fresh, hulled strawberries
  • 6 ounces of good silver tequila
  • 2 ounces Cointreau of generic triple sec
  • 3-5 ounces fresh-squeezed lime juice, depending on your preference
  • 1-2 tbsp honey or to slim it down, liquid stevia

Instructions:

Puree strawberries in a food processor or blender. Add tequila, Cointreau and lime juice and blend again. Taste the mixture and if it's too tangy for you, add your choice of sweetener. Mix in a shaker with ice until chilled, then serve in rocks glasses with ice. Garnish with a strawberry or slice of lime. I skipped the salted/sugared rim, but your preference. 

If you're going to have a strawberry margarita, why not actually use strawberries? Don't forget you can always use frozen fruit for a nice frosty drink! 

- Tara

 

Cruciferous Crunch Sauté

Kale. You either love it or you hate it. While some people eagerly guzzle their kale smoothies every morning, then eat their raw kale salad while wearing their "Kale Yeah" t-shirt, the rest of the population can't fathom choking down one bite of this bold and sometimes bitter green.

Whether you like it or not, the truth remains that this green and leafy is a nutrient powerhouse, providing heaping doses of vitamins A, C and K, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. So, I dare you to try it again- this time not in a smoothie that you gag on, but in this delicious sauté

Trader Joe's has a fantastic mix called Cruciferous Crunch for $1.99 and I've been buying it every week for the last month. I usually cook the whole bag for two of us and it becomes one of the main attractions at the meal. The best part, it takes less than 10 minutes to make.

Lightly cooking these greens in some fat helps to soften them, eliminate the bite, and allow other flavors to take over. I dare say it's quite delicious. My husband, kale-hater, actually liked it, a lot.  

Ingredients:

- 1 package of Trader Joe's Cruciferous Crunch or your own mixture of chopped cruciferous veggies: kale, brussel sprouts, broccoli and cabbage

- olive oil

- salt and pepper to taste

- 1/8 tsp garlic powder, more or less to your preference 

- good quality balsamic vinegar

- grated parmesan or other cheese of your choice; I have used grated rosemary asiago and feta crumbles on other occasions

Place the entire bag of greens in a large bowl and toss with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the greens to the pan, then evenly sprinkle the garlic powder, salt and pepper and mix well. Cook mixture for 3-5 minutes to the texture of your liking- I like mine less wilted. Right before you remove from heat, drizzle the balsamic over the greens and mix well. Remove from the pan, plate and sprinkle with a pinch of your choice of cheese. 

*Not pictured, this recipe is also fabulous with sauteed mushrooms. Cook them down for several minutes in the pan before adding the veggie mixture. 

A Healthy Lunch with Bentgo

Bento boxes are some of my favorite food products for adults and kids alike. They help to reinforce the concept of portion, while displaying your food in an orderly and appealing way.

The folks at Bentgo were nice enough to let me test drive their new Bentgo Salad box and I have to say I'm already a fan. The box comes in four fresh colors and is made with BPA free plastic. The 54 oz main compartment holds a generous amount of greens, while the divided insert has two 5 oz compartments, one 10 oz compartment and a place in the middle for the 3 oz, no-leak dressing container.

The top layer holds a reusable plastic fork, with room for a napkin and is protected by a clear sanitary cover. The layers all fit together in one sleek and attractive container, air-tight to keep your grub nice and fresh until lunchtime. As of last night, they were on sale for 50% off, so if you're interested, I would snag one while they are so cheap!

Bentgo also has a regular Bento box for adults and one for kids,  which I will definitely be getting for Nixon when he moves on to solids! Follow them on Instagram @bentgolunch, where they are always posting beautiful food photos, if you need a little inspiration for lunchtime!

Taking 10 minutes at the end of today to pack a healthy lunch for tomorrow is a small step with a big payoff. This salad box makes it easy and beautiful. I broke mine in last week and made a Southwestern grilled chicken salad.

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- 3-4 cups of fresh greens

- half of one avocado, cubed

- half of one large tomato, cubed

- 5 crushed tortilla chips

- 1 oz low-fat Mexican-style cheese

- 1 chopped grilled chicken breast

- 2 tbsp Bolthouse Farms Cilantro Avocado Yogurt Dressing

*Bentgo provided this product for review. All opinions and thoughts are my own.