A Menu To Please The Masses

Cooking, food and figuring out what fuels you can vary greatly from person to person. Some of us love cooking and some of us hate it. Recipes may be required while flying by the seat of your pants could be preferred. Based on our goals in mind and preferences at hand, we set out on projects that put life to the test. We tackle a wide variety of alternative eating and lifestyle regimens, ranging from Vegetarian to Vegan, Gluten Free, Paleo, Mediterranean, Shakeology, Herbalife, Weight Watchers and many more. We find what suites our style and for a short or long period of time, stick by it.

As we follow our paths of body awareness, fueling our inner fire and self discovery, we often find unexpected challenges in the community around us. Right when we’re excited and eager to try going meatless, we find ourselves at an all beef manfest. When we announce a decision to eliminate animal products, we receive weary eyes and uneducated advice about getting the nutrients your body needs. We order a new shipment of meal replacement shakes and everyone becomes obsessed with making sure you’re eating.

The confusion and mile long mixed signals that all this creates is crazy making. On the one hand, we’re pressured to prioritize health, we’re brainwashed by businesses who swear they’ll help us succeed and the population leads us to believe we better be bombshell beautiful to accomplish anything. Simultaneously, we’re getting “too extreme” when we change our diet, we’re getting “too thin” after barely entering our healthy weight range and we’re waking up in the morning mad about being less than perfect the day before. I’m a believer that this has to stop. We have to encourage more consistency, help each other succeed and stand by each other’s sides.

Over time, my fit life journey has led me to a current lifestyle of being active everyday and watching what I eat most of the time. I don’t mind splurging and I’m proud of myself for being in a longer stage of health conscious consistency than ever before in my life. I’ve tried a lot of different things, I’ve eaten a lot of different ways and I’m not afraid to continue exploring the world beyond my standard refrigerator contents. I’m also thrilled to hear when friends and family are taking on new challenges, cutting out ingredients that don’t work well for their bodies and discovering new ways to settle into better health and increased self confidence! As such, it seemed fitting that I was recently the one who received the task of playing chef for my big sister’s baby sprinkle.

My initial reaction of excitedly saying yes turned into a puzzle of putting all the requirements together. Mommy to be is a healthy and fit doctor by day who keeps her growing number 2 in peak condition. This time around has turned her taste buds against meat and lord knows she has enough to worry about with a 4 year old and a million things to do, so this process had to be all in my hands. Looking at the invites, I was also made aware that we had someone attending who’s gluten free, another who likes little outside her standard meal plans, growing teenage women who double as athletic all stars, the “I’ll eat everything” ladies and the list goes on. To top it all off, the menu had to be easily transportable, fast to prepare, inexpensive to buy ingredients for, fun, fresh and presented without the presence of much heat due to the extremely hot temperatures outside.

The final result? A delicious table of fresh salads, side dishes, sample platters, snacks and homemade specialties that everyone absolutely loved!

THE MENU

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Quinoa Yam Cakes & Cilantro Dressing
After inspiration from a friend, I decided to create something that felt like a spin off of burgers for the hot summer season. Microwave sweet potatoes or yams until squishy and easy to poke with a fork and remove the skin, cook up a few cups of quinoa (or use the 3 minute microwave bags from Trader Joe’s – AMAZING!), chop up some garlic, cilantro, chives and mix it all into a bowl with salt, pepper, chili powder and any other seasoning that suites your fancy. When testing the recipe earlier in the week, I made it for one so it was portion controlled – one medium yam (150g) and half cup of quinoa mixed with all my herbs and seasoning. Mixed together, rolled into little balls like meatballs and then squished flat for browning on the skillet or BBQ with the portion control made 3 hearty patties. For the larger group, the amounts were eyeballed and items added to create the right consistency – probably about 7 or 8 mixed size yams and about1.5 to 2 cups of quinoa.

Top it all off with a tasty greek yogurt based dressing, fresh fruit jam or in this case, the Cilantro Dressing from Trader Joe’s for extra fun dipping!

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Grilled Peaches & Burrata Salad
Using fresh produce and incorporating burrata were musts because of certain preferences in the group… don’t have to twist my arm, fruit and cheese are friends of mine! A mix of arugula, spinach and baby kale in a Light Champagne dressing was topped with lightly grilled peach slices and burrata cheese. Delish!

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Nibblers
I love a simple veggies and hummus spread for any and every group setting. When my fit life began, I started bringing veggies to gatherings, parties and BBQs. At first, it was my way of making sure I had something healthy to eat. To my surprise though, I quickly realized everyone was eating them with me. It was odd to me that my friends and I were collectively in a place where everyone desired to have the healthy option, but it took an odd man out feeling like a weirdo to bring carrots to the card game. I’ve continued to present veggie platters ever since. They’re always eaten and enjoyed, they’re easy munchies that give people nutrients without much awareness, they’re a colorful addition to any table and they’re very worthy of being a bigger trend!

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Build Your Bruschetta Bar
With a group of such varying tastes and types of eaters, putting together “build your own” bars can be a lifesaver. For this event, I got some easy to count on and ready to eat items from Trader Joe’s, including the bruschetta mix, olive tapenade, tasty cracker varieties, marinated mozzarella balls and individual goat cheese packets. Mix and match, mush them all together and just make yourself happy!

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Quinoa, Feta & Avocado Salad
Although the picture I snapped of this yummy dish looks a little more blurry than I’d like, the taste was spot on – fresh, simple and fantastic! About 5 cups of cooked quinoa mixed with 1-2 chopped up avocado, chopped cilantro and chives, salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon and feta cheese.

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The Take Out Favorite
An all time favorite for my sister and my entire family is the Clearman’s North Woods Inn Red Cabbage Salad. The crunchy red cabbage in that delightful vinegar dressing is absolutely to die for and I knew it was required on the menu! Mixing in some local take out favorites like this also creates fun conversation and introduces friends to new food finds!

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Strawberry Kale Salad with Dijon Balsamic Dressing
This last delicious dish is another quick prep, palette pleaser utilizing fresh seasonal produce and already in your pantry picks for homemade dressing. A flavorful bed of kale and spinach topped with juicy red strawberries and served with a side of dijon mustard, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chives, salt and pepper mixed together for dressing perfection. This flavorful combination of nutrient dense foods makes healthy eating so much easier and happy to come by!

To party pleasing, taste bud tickling treats that encourage health, happiness & all the comforts of home,
Rachel

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