Healthy holiday eating weeknight Mediterranean (vegan)

Let’s be honest: This time of year is so hard to eat healthy. The average American gains just over a pound between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, which doesn’t sound like a lot.

But as I get older (sigh–closer to 50 than 40 this year), it gets harder and harder to maintain let alone lose weight. But more than anything, when I gain weight I really feel it. Even in the magical elastic jeans that stretch. I hate that feeling physically.

Going Vegan has made that so much easier. I recently learned through my work project that’s in the Type 2 Diabetes space something about new science–calories in, calories out is old thinking. Huh, good to know!

The new research shows that it’s both easier and more complicated than that…the quality, timing and frequency matter. (Especially for diabetics).

Every person metabolizes calories differently. Therefore different foods and even eating foods in a specific sequence can make a difference. For anyone watching blood sugars exercise also matters, with something as simple as taking a walk after a meal to help stabilize blood sugar. (**This is when I say that I am not a doctor and not giving medical advice!**)

So basically I am learning to stop tracking my food–which is a habit built over the last 5 years–and learning to fast (16 hours off and 8 on). I am also watching my reaction to exercise as it relates to meal timing. I feel best when I exercise midstream during my “on” timeframe.

This fasting process tricks your body into burning fat. It’s working for me slowly and without a ton of effort. It’s not really that difficult since I generally dislike breakfast and black coffee doesn’t count (really).

During the 8 hours on, I feel good about eating whatever fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, limited healthy whole grains, non-meat protein I want. And it’s also easier to not have to track things in detail but know that I have good meal quality generally by being vegan.

As always when it comes to food that fuels my body, I try to let go of the good/bad labels that come with “dieting” and in fact don’t see it as a diet but just the way I like to eat because it feels good.

I also enjoy the creative process of putting a meal together, which can be a challenge in a time starved world. This easy Mediterranean dinner is a good break from heavy holiday foods, and it’s simple to prep ahead for dinner on the table in 5 minutes.

Wishing you health and balance this holiday season!

Mediterranean salad

  • 1 English cucumber, skinned and sliced into half rounds
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Hummus
  • Package tabbouleh
  • 1/2cup chopped parsley
  • 1 can garbanzo beans drained
  • Naan

Prepare tabbouleh according to package. Add most of parsley and juice of 1/2 lemon. Refrigerate for an hour or more. Drain and rinse beans. Set aside. Seed and dice tomatoes, peel and chop cucumbers, adding remaining juice of 1/2 lemon. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Allow to marinate preferably overnight. Assemble salad by putting hummus in center, surrounding with tabbouleh, beans, and cucumber/tomato salad. Sprinkle remaining parsley and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with naan.

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Late summer veggie orzo salad

I have always loved the challenge format cooking shows, where competitors get a basket of miscellaneous stuff and have to quickly make something fantastic.

Our house is sometimes like this when we are nearing the end of the week and due for a grocery shop. I love the challenge of figuring out how to pull something together and the thrill of when it’s actually good.

This pasta salad could be made with a variety of things, substituting what you have on hand (different veggies, shape pasta, lemon for lime). I will say that adding a green of any kind is a nice change of pace and certainly adds some nutrients.

It also helps to have adventurous eaters (or just really hungry ones) to try out the experiments! 😉

Late summer veggies orzo salad

  • 12 oz orzo
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/3c olive oil
  • Zucchini, sliced lengthwise in quarters
  • Yellow squash, sliced lengthwise in quarters
  • 2 ears corn
  • 2 large handfuls mixed greens, arugula or spinach

Cook orzo and rinse. Mix together dressing of lime juice, olive oil, dijon and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Toss orzo to coat. Add in greens. It helps if the pasta is slightly warm to just wilt them. Grill zucchini, squash and corn for 10 minutes. Chop squash and slice kernels off of the cob (let it cool first!) Add to salad and toss to combine.

A goat cheese or vegan goat cheese/chevre is a nice touch of tangy too.

Vegs for breakfast

Sitting on the back patio with a cup of coffee early on summer mornings is one of my “recharge” rituals. I love the quiet of the world, with mostly only nature stirring about, and the 70 degrees is perfect.

I have never been a big breakfast eater. In college I remember being weird in that cereal was not a default meal for me. Even before the vegan diet I didn’t enjoy sausage or other heavy rich foods first thing. Brunch time? Maybe. But just a cup of coffee wasn’t all that unusual for me to survive on til midday.

But then you get older and just coffee kind of makes you feel yucko and jittery. So I have really been trying to eat in the morning and in the process expanding my foods.

I have discovered that I like vegetables for breakfast! Typically that’s sautéed zucchini and cherry tomatoes, some bell peppers if I have them and fresh basil. If I need some starch, will put it over quinoa.

Sometimes even a mixed green salad with sautéed sweet potatoes, tomatoes, avocado and nuts (pistachios in this case). It feels a bit odd to have salad in the morning but eh, I am used to being different by now 😉

I also love toasts, with avocado or hummus and topped with radishes or more tomatoes, and dill. A side of fruit salad with mint rounds it out. I make cold press overnight so the coffee is always ready as soon as I am up.

Maybe because it’s first thing in the morning, it’s easier to slow down and take my time to beautify my food too.

There’s something about starting out the day with some solid self-care, both in the enjoyment of nature and healthy food, that is nourishment on many levels.

Tomato herb couscous salad (vegan)

Spring has finally arrived! I planted my herbs and flowers this week. Fingers crossed 🤞 that the window boxes will look decent in time for Alec’s graduation party in a few weeks.

We’ve had a good mix of sun and rain so my herb plants are flourishing. It’s so nice to just pop outside and clip a few to brighten up any meal. I plant basil, tricolor sage, rosemary, mojito mint, french thyme, lemon thyme, dill and oregano. Lavender goes into the garden to hopefully get big (and provide some fragrance). Still need to plant tomatoes.

This recipe highlights a mix of herbs and tomatoes, getting me in the mindset for summer. You can easily adjust it to whatever herbs, tomatoes or grain you prefer. Or even skip the grain altogether.

Since becoming vegan, I find that I like having a grain made ahead that can be mixed into a lettuce salad for some added protein or topped with sautéed vegetables for breakfast. Or some cucs and peppers.

Additional beans like garbanzo or cannelini would make it more filling too. In other words, it’s adaptable (eaten hot or cold too).

The boys will be out of school in just a few weeks and our weekends will be spent at the lake. This salad would be a great make ahead to picnic on the boat!

The outdoor pool is just around the corner, too….I can’t wait!! Life is good during our Minnesota summers, am set to cherish every day of sunshine.

Couscous tomato herb salad

  • 1/2 package Trader Joe’s Israeli couscous mix (quinoa and dried garbanzo ups the protein in this)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2/3c chopped fresh herbs (basil, dill, parsley, thyme, oregano work well)
  • 2c diced cherry or grape tomatoes, variety of colors helps
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic

Make couscous according to package. Rinse and drain. Combine olive oil, lemon zest/juice, garlic and herbs. Add tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and let steep for 30 minutes to bring out juices in tomatoes. Add couscous.

Avocado citrus salad

Dreaming of warmer weather, I am regularly throwing together salads etc that seem more like summer and less like 28 degrees and 6-9″ of snow (forecast for tomorrow). We’re so close to the end of winter I can taste it! Just 2 more weeks until Mexico and when we get back it should be “downhill.”

HS hockey and swimming are now done, both boys finished the season strong. Alec has made his college choice (Lake Forest College), and I have purchased a ridiculous amount of Foresters gear! He will continue swimming, but mostly we are glad for the balanced and practical experience he has chosen for his undergrad experience. Plus Chicago is close but not too close 😉

We’re very proud and excited for this new chapter in his life. Avery has design plans for his “new” car and life as an only child. Oh boy.

Oh, and after all the bragging, here’s the recipe:

Avocado citrus salad

  • Avocado, diced
  • 1 cup citrus segments (grapefruit, oranges)
  • 1 cup hearts of palm segments
  • 1 cup diced cherry/grape tomatoes
  • 16 oz mixed greens
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced, including leaves
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced
  • Citrus dressing (2:1 ratio of olive oil to lemon juice, 1 clove garlic chopped)
  • Salt and pepper

Toss together and pretend to be somewhere warm!

Apple orange farro salad


Yes, the little bowl is the focus. But I just couldn’t resist sharing my giddiness at how much I love this time of year! Our fruit bowls overfloweth! (The boys eat a ridiculous amount of fruit, so much in fact that last week required 2 grocery carts.) 

Sidenote: The most Googled recipe in Minnesota is shortcake. (Duh). I admit I contribute to those statistics, it’s one of our fav ways to enjoy fresh fruit. I would buy stock in Redi-Whip if I wasn’t spending so much on groceries.

I created this recipe after having an orange barley salad at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, which is an absolutely lovely place for lunch and quiet reflection time. The sculpture garden set atop a hilltop overlooking apple trees is one of my favorite spots. (Be sure to check Groupon, you can often find discounted admission tickets). 

The combination of apples and oranges seemed apropos, and perfect for a future picnic date 😊

Apple Orange Farro Salad 

  • 8 oz farro
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • Juice and zest of one orange
  • 1/4c dried cranberries 
  • 1/4c chopped red onion
  • 1/4c sliced almonds
  • 1tsp dijon
  • 2 tbsp champagne vinegar 
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Fresh parsley and dill if you have it

Cook farro according to package directions. Zest and juice orange. Drain farro and place it while hot into orange mixture. Mix in vinegar, dijon and oil. Allow to cool before adding remaining ingredients. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Coffee rubbed flat iron steaks


The boat’s in the water, we had our first trip to the golf club (hysterical) and a lovely hike picking wild flowers– a good weekend up north!

I didn’t do my grocery shopping before we got up there, so I was disappointed to find that the local store was out of flank steak. I will hands down choose flat iron over flank now. They hold a rub well just like flank, but they plump up and have a better texture, IMO.

I have been dying to do a coffee rub ever since we got back from Seattle. It’s in everything these days, and I thought mixing it with something smoky–thus the paprika and cumin–and something with some heat–cayenne–would be a perfect mix. The salt and sweet brown sugar help it stick, giving the steaks a nice crust.

We served this over a salad dressed lightly with balsamic vinaigrette and grilled asparagus on the side. Super easy and super delicious!

Coffee rubbed flat iron steaks 

  • 2 tbsp ground coffee
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika 
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne 

Mix together. Rub over steaks and allow to sit at room temperature for one hour. Grill 4 min per side, remove to top rack to finish cooking to desired temperature. 

This made enough rub for 6 12 oz steaks.