Spicy Roasted Pepper + Ginger Salsa

homemade-salsa-tortilla-chips

Homemade salsa, y’all. Need I say more?

Okay, I’ll say more (since this is practically its own food group in my world). I don’t think I’ve met a salsa I don’t appreciate because, well, how could I? What is there not to appreciate? Blended tomatoes and peppers and onions and whatever else you want to throw in, really: that’s what I call perfection. However, I’ve never made it until this week. That was a major mistake on my part — the not making it until this week — since, oh my goodness, homemade salsa tops all of the salsas. I’m not even tooting my own horn here.

The feeling that comes with making something so tasty, yet so easy, is really insurmountable. I’ve made pico de gallo and guacamole for years, but this is a whole new level, you guys. If you don’t own a food processor, I demand that you go out and get one (or at least borrow one from a friend) and make this rendition of a tangy, mouth-on-fire-in-the-best-way salsa, like, yesterday. Put it on your eggs, dip your (homemade) chips in it, or just spoon it by the mouthful. However you eat it, you won’t be disappointed. And that’s a personal guarantee.

PS! These simple halfway-handmade chip recipe comes straight from my smarty-pants boyfriends’ brain, and I totally recommend it if you want to switch up your chip game. Another personal guarantee from yours truly that you’ll be more than pleased. And you’ll impress anyone you’re selfless enough to share these babies with.

Recipes below!

tomatoes-lime

homemade-tortilla-chip-recipe

Salsa Ingredients:

  • Coconut oil spray
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 serrano pepper
  • 1 habanero pepper (skip this and use less jalapeños in exchange for 1 extra red bell pepper if you want a less spicy mix)
  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 3 jalapeño peppers
  • 1 white onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 9 tomatoes on the vine, halved
  • 2 limes, halved
  • 1.5-inch piece of ginger, skins cut off
  • 1 cup cilantro
  • Black pepper and sea salt

peppers

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Wash all peppers and place on a coconut oil-sprayed baking sheet with the onion and garlic cloves. Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven. Flip all vegetables over.

Arrange tomato halves and lime halves on another baking sheet. Sprinkle with black pepper. (It’s okay if you have to layer some of the tomatoes on top of the first layer if you run out of room.)

Place tomato/lime tray and pepper/onion/garlic tray in oven for 15 minutes. Remove pepper/onion/garlic tray from oven and let cool until touchable (5 minutes or so). Keep tomato/lime tray in oven and turn on broiler.

Add ginger piece to tray and broil tomatoes, lime, and ginger for 5-6 minutes. Remove from oven.

Cut stems off peppers. Peel serrano and poblano peppers by scraping a knife against the skins (it should flake off fairly easily).

Remove seeds from inside the red bell pepper and poblano peppers.

Place all vegetables in a food processor and blend as much as you can at a time. Squeeze the broiled lime halves over top of some vegetable you are about to blend. Pour processed veggies in a large bowl, and add more veggies to the processor, blending finely until everything’s been mixed thoroughly. Don’t forget to add the cilantro into the processor with the veggies.

After all’s been blended and poured into the bowl, grind black pepper and sea salt over top and mix salsa with a spoon.

It’ll still be warm from baking, so place bowl in fridge for at least two hours, and then serve!

tomato-lime-black-pepper

homemade-salsa-recipe

Chip Ingredients:

  • 12 pack of 6-inch corn tortillas, each cut into 6 triangles
  • 1/2 c. canola oil
  • Juice from half a lime
  • Sea salt (as much as desired — a lot for me!)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix ingredients in a bowl so tortilla pieces are covered with oil, lime juice, and salt. Arrange on baking sheets so that the tortilla triangles lie flat and only barely overlap.

Bake for 10-15 minutes. (Check often after 10 minutes; the doneness depends on your oven and on your preferences. I prefer extra-crispy chips.)

peppers-onion-garlic

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Southwestern Stuffed Bell Peppers

stuffed bell pepper meal

Are you sick of seeing my chevron-print cutting board yet? I am obsessed with it, but I’m getting insecure since every single recipe post I publish has pictures of it. I feel like a fashion blogger who wears the same outfit in every post. THE SHAME. Anyway, if you think I should get a new but equally pretty wood cutting board, feel free to start a petition in the comments below or, you know, spam my boyfriend’s Instagram page (@the_beermonger) asking him why he doesn’t buy me more presents. (I don’t see how this could go wrong.)

Let’s move on to the actual food. Stuffed peppers are one of the absolute best simple staple dinners, but I always forget about them! I probably only make them a couple times a year, which is a shame. They’re delicious, filling, and healthy. Even though I post a lot of sneakily healthy recipes on this blog, there really are not a lot of ways for me to feel like I’m treating myself with an indulgent meal that’s secretly good for me. These peppers do that, though. They’re honestly better than most tacos or burritos I’ve had, and I’ll prove it once you make ’em yourself. Plus they’re low calorie, low carb, and high protein. Boom.

Recipe below!

onion jalapeno garlic

homemade no sodium taco seasoning
Four-ingredient, no-sodium taco seasoning: YES.

Ingredients:

  • 9 organic bell peppers, tops cut off and insides scooped out
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 jalapeños, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 c. cooked brown rice (about 1 c. uncooked)
  • 2 cans black beans, drained
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 c. shredded Mexican cheese
  • Homemade taco seasoning:
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
    • 1/2 tsp. coriander
    • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • Coconut oil spray
  • Chopped tomato, romaine lettuce, and avocado for garnish
  • Lime slices and chopped cilantro to top

bell peppers

pre oven stuffed bell peppers recipe

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line up the bell peppers in a coconut oil-sprayed 9.5-inch X 13-inch cake pan.

Cook rice according to package. Once cooked, stir in corn and black beans with half of the taco seasoning.

Warm the olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat and sauté the red onion, jalapeños, and garlic with the remaining taco seasoning until golden and tender. Stir veggies into the rice/corn/bean pot.

Scoop that mixture into the bell peppers and sprinkle with cheese. Place pepper pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Sprinkle lime juice and cilantro on top to serve.

stuffed bell peppers
DON’T BE ALARMED IF THIS HAPPENS. Set back in place. Take a deep breath. It’ll all be OK.

bell pepper vegetarian

southwestern stuffed bell peppers

Perfect Bar Giveaway + Nutrition Q&A with Sydney Spoon from “The Spoonful of Health”

Sydney, a registered dietician and the voice behind “The Spoonful of Health,” was one of my best, best, best friends growing up. We went to middle and high school together, and before that played soccer for a bright-green uniformed team called the Tabagators, and we kind of kicked ass. We were goofy kids who loved being active together from a young age, from soccer to dance classes.

I remember one time she came with me to a group exercise class at my 24 Hour Fitness when we were teenagers, and we thought we were SO. COOL. because halfway through the class we decided to workout in just our sports bras. We definitely believed we were hot commodities, when in fact we were actually little pipsqueaks.

Syd and I lost touch some through college when I came to Texas and she went to Reno, but we’ve kept up with each other’s lives thanks to, of course, social media. After seeing each other work hard and pursue success in different fields — hers nutrition and mine journalism — we’ve reconnected and realized we’re still huge dorks with tons in common, namely: growing our brands and trying to maintain healthy, balanced lifestyles.

She is one of the hardest workers I know and knowledgeable about all things health (and she has amazing eyebrows — a surefire sign you can trust someone), so I knew no one was better to answer my nutrition questions than this chick. If you have queries about food norms or what you should be putting in your body every day, look no further!

(Giveaway details below the Q&A!)

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Audrey: As an RD, what are some of your favorite snacks-on-the-go that fill you up but don’t kill in the calorie/fat/carb department?

Sydney: The fresher the foods the better. I love grabbing a piece of fruit and a small nut butter packet for the perfect mix of carbs, protein, and fat. This way, I can be satisfied while staying full for a longer time, rather than if I just had a carb-loaded snack! Also, certain nutrition bars, such as Perfect Bars, have a great nutrition profile and are great snacks for busy days.

I always keep fruit or veggies that are easy to grab on the go when I am running a tad behind, too. For example, I will slice up a bell pepper the night before and have it in a baggie next to a small hummus in the fridge to take on the go.

A: If you’re cooking at home, what are some easy ways to sneak in healthy components to what might be thought of as “cheat meals?” Like, if you’re making tacos or pizza, how can you up their health factors?

S: I always strive to add a lean protein source and extra veggies to make sure I am eating a better version of what people think of a “cheat meal.” For example, when making a pizza, I always use whole wheat dough (Trader Joe’s is my favorite) and always roll it out extra thin to increase size while decreasing the concentration of carbohydrates. Also, for pizzas, I load them with a ton of my favorite veggies. There’s less room for extra cheese, which can cause an over consumption of fat.

As for tacos (one of my favorite meals), I always make sure to use whole wheat or corn tortillas for a good choice of whole grains. Usually I can eat more than just one taco, so to make my calories count, my second “taco” would include a bed of lettuce with the traditional toppings and no tortilla — a taco salad, if you will. If you like sour cream, try adding nonfat plain Greek yogurt instead for less fat and more protein. Seasonings should always include salt-free herb mixes for heart health, and now you can make your own Mexican seasoning at a lower price instead of buying it at the store! (Maybe one day I will blog about how to do that!)

A: What about at restaurants? Say you’re at a fancy-schmance burger place — or somewhere like that where options are limited to a type of food. How would you order to feel a little better nutritionally?

S: Hopefully, I am not eating by myself so I can share a dish with someone I am dining with. If I see a burger that I really like and want to try, I would gladly order it if I knew my boyfriend or friend would split it with me. If you are eating alone (no judgment!), I would say no to toppings such as cheese, bacon, or a fried egg, since they add a ton of unnecessary fat and calories. If you order a hamburger, try eating it open-faced (discard half of the bun) because you still get the full burger effect without consuming extra carbohydrates.

It also won’t hurt to use a fork and knife. I know. God-forbid we don’t use our hands for a hamburger, but this trick can help us to slow down our eating and be more aware of each bite we consume.

And don’t be afraid to ask for a side of fresh veggies! Usually all restaurants have ingredients that are not listed on the menu, so why not ask if you could have a side of steamed broccoli (great source of fiber, and delicious – well, I think so).

It also won’t hurt to use a fork and knife. I know. God-forbid we don’t use our hands for a hamburger.

A: Am I going to be a fatso if I eat chocolate every day? (Please say no, because I pretty much do.)

S: NO! I am a firm believer of keeping the foods you love incorporated into your life. Obviously, you don’t want to have a chocolate binge every other night, but moderation is perfectly okay. The darker the chocolate, the better because it is richer in antioxidants. My favorite sweet treat is a Dove dark chocolate square with a tiny bit of peanut butter on top. This super savory and rich treat leaves me satisfied and prevents me from binging on a whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s; perhaps it can work for y’all, too!

A: If your philosophy toward food was a Real Housewives tagline (which you might not watch (I don’t blame you), but they’re concise and clever lines to describe each housewife)), what would it be?

S: Oh my goodness, I have never seen an episode nor am I that creative, BUT I would have to say my philosophy toward food is, “Eat what you enjoy and foods that make you feel good.”

A: Is there a ratio we should be trying to attain when it comes to eating clean vs. splurging? In my head it would be 95% clean to 5% splurge, but in reality mine’s a little more like 75% to 25%.

S: Honestly, I don’t like to think of eating clean and splurging as two different things, mainly because there is a lot of psychological aspects when it comes to food behavior. That is why I say we should always strive to eat healthy, but to not feel guilty when we “splurge.” If we fear foods and mark them as “unhealthy,” our minds will associate that with no and, ultimately, guilt. It is okay to eat foods that are not as healthy as others. If you give yourself a little bit more freedom, you will find those sweet cravings or binges completely absent because you allowed yourself the foods you once thought was off-limits.

If we fear foods and mark them as “unhealthy,” our minds will associate that with no and, ultimately, guilt.

A: If you need a superfast breakfast or lunch, what do you usually go for?

S: I always try to get some carbs and protein incorporated into my meal. For breakfast, sometimes all I have time for is grabbing a Perfect Bar, small banana, and bottle of water. Other times, I may grab a cheese stick, apple, and peanut butter packet. It may not be a full or complete meal, but it is A LOT better than just skipping a meal completely. We need to constantly feed our bodies and brains with the energy it needs to function properly.

A: Is there really a good time of day to eat carbs? I always hear this but don’t necessarily believe it…

S: Any time of the day is okay to eat carbohydrates. It just depends on your activities for the day and what your eating habits are. If you like to work out at night, you will definitely need to consume carbohydrates at dinner in order to have the proper amount of energy for a killer work out. On behalf of most dietitians (okay, well at least the ones I know), we like to think every meal should be composed of the same ratios of carbohydrates, protein, and fat (i.e., the MyPlate method).

Eating a balanced dish for every meal is a great way to stay on track with your healthy lifestyle. Also, don’t forget that fruits and veggies have carbs… Some people think it is better to stay away from carbs after breakfast, but truly that is impossible. We need a consistent amount of carbohydrates primarily because carbs get converted into glucose in our bodies and that is the number one source of energy for our brain to run on.

A: Anything else we should know about food, meals, nutrition from the annoyingly smart mind of RD Sydney Spoon?

S: I could talk about so many things, but mainly I would want people to know that they should create a healthy lifestyle they can maintain. Diets simply do not work and making healthy changes should start out small to create long lasting results. Everyone can improve on their health and diet, but truly as long as you love your body and feel good each day while having enough energy to live your daily life, then you are doing everything you need to succeed.

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And now for… THE PERFECT BAR GIVEAWAY:

  1. Follow my Instagram page (@frecklesandfigs) and Sydney’s (@thespoonfulofhealth)
  2. Like each of our Perfect Bar photos on Instagram (posted this morning)
  3. Tag two friends who inspire you to live healthfully in EACH of our Instagram photos (they can be the same friends in each of our photos!)
  4. BONUS! Repost one (or both) of our giveaway photos for an additional entry to win!

Syd and I each get to choose a winner who will receive a sample pack of Perfect Bars, which includes all seven flavors of full-size Perfect Bars and two mini bars. Yum! Contest closes Sunday at 11:59 p.m. Winners will be announced Monday. Contest is valid for US residents only.

Thanks to Perfect Bar, for sponsoring this giveaway, and to Sydney, for answering all my questions!

Citrus Avocado Salad + Lemon-Pepper Salmon Skewers

salmon-skewers-citrus-salad-white-wine

Well, folks, I guess I’m just ready for it to be summer already. I blame Texas for the beautiful, sunny weather of late for putting me right in the midst of a midsummer headspace. I don’t hate it, especially because that means I have an excuse to make foods that remind me of bright skies, warm patios, and long, lazy days.

Enter this colorful and citrusy concoction of flavors. I am in love. I don’t even want to eat salmon anymore, unless it’s skewered and lemon-peppered. And this pretty-as-it-is-tasty salad complements the lemony flavors in the salmon with its own touch of tart.

(Recipes below!)

citrus-blood-orange

lemon-salmon-skewers-citrus-salad

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 grapefruit, peel cut off and sliced
  • 2 oranges, peels cut off and sliced
  • 2 blood oranges, peels cut off and sliced
  • 1 avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 jalapeños, sliced
  • 1/3 c. EVOO
  • 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • Freshly cracked pepper and sea salt
  • 1/4 c. mint leaves

Directions:

Combine all fruit and veggies in a large bowl and toss gently with a soft spatula.

Whisk EVOO, vinegar, and honey with salt and pepper in a separate small bowl until combined. Pour over salad.

Serve with mint garnish on top.

lemon-pepper-salmon-glaze

lemon-pepper-salmon-skewers

Salmon Skewer Ingredients:

  • 1 fair-catch salmon filet, skin removed (the Whole Foods fish counter will do this at no additional cost!)
  • 2 lemons, washed and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 c. EVOO
  • 2 tbsp. white table wine (a fruity blend is best!)
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • A splash of white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c. parsley, minced
  • 1 tsp. lemon pepper
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Freshly cracked pepper and sea salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. If you’re using wood skewers, soak them in water for at least 10 minutes to avoid charred wood while they bake.

Chop the salmon up into small 1 x 1 inch pieces.

In a medium bowl, whisk the EVOO, wine, honey, lemon juice, vinegar, parsley, lemon pepper, cayenne, and salt and pepper together until well-mixed. (Pardon the humble brag, but this combo makes one of the best lemon pepper glazes I’ve ev-er tasted.)

Toss the salmon in the glaze mixture, and then place the salmon and the lemon pieces on your skewers alternating places.

Place skewers on a tin foil-covered baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.