Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Sandwich

I may have an unhealthy love of basil.   I use it almost daily, and my herb garden can’t grow it fast enough.  To me, it’s what healthy eating is-fresh, bold, and poignant.  My insides feel cleansed whenever it’s in my food.  Might be all in my head.

As a lover of sandwiches, I’ve been trying to find great sandwich recipes that include basil and travel well.  Like many students, my lunch is made at 7:00 a.m.  No one wants a sandwich that is all soggy by noon.  If that unsoggy sandwich includes basil, even better.  This sandwich has only four ingredients that travel well so you can bring all the ingredients with you and easily assemble it when you are ready to eat.  No need to live solely on pb&j’s anymore!

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Mocha Frappe

Who doesn’t love blended coffee drinks? They are delicious, refreshing, and a great way to get your caffeine fix. Matt LOVES these drinks.  And when he spends his afternoons in the wood shop making us furniture, I like to surprise him with a coffee treat.  Unfortunately, the price tag at coffee shops is a bit too steep for me.  This drink is a delicious, money-saving alternative.

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Grilled Chicken and Tri-Color Peppers with Chimichurri Sauce

When I want to splurge, I buy red, yellow, or orange bell peppers.  Matt buys fried chicken.  As much I as love Matt, fried chicken doesn’t have many healthy redeeming qualities so we went for a compromise. Matt whipped up some homemade onion rings for himself, and I made a chicken entree with bell peppers. (although I did sneak a ring or two and they were amazing!)  But what’s with all this splurging?  Well, I had my health law final yesterday, and it went well!  One thing you learn from law school is the importance of celebrating the little victories. So today’s dinner was our mini-celebration.  I found a traditional South American sauce to pair with our chicken and peppers.  This sauce has a bold, herbal flavor that is perfect for summer grilling.

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Mexican Black Bean and Hominy Salad

Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner, and I couldn’t be more excited.  While I do not need a holiday to enjoy a margarita or delicious Mexican food, I can definitely get behind the idea to have a day devoted to it.  Unfortunately, people have the tendency to associate great Mexican food with deep fried options.  But that doesn’t have to be the case!  I am in the middle of law school finals (last time EVER!) and to a lot of people that means gorging on unhealthy snack food and injecting coffee straight to the veins.  I do not want to become victim to this habit, but it’s really hard.  Sitting at your computer for hours at a time, pouring over case books, statutes, and outlines, it is tempting to run down to the vending machine and stock up.  But don’t worry that you’ll find yourself hiding in a study carrel shoving Cheetos in your face (it’s hard to hide the evidence when your fingers are stained orange).  This refreshing side salad is a great study snack that will keep the less healthy snacks at bay.  It pairs well with baked tortilla chip and has a little bit of sweet and salty.

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Get on your running shoes–It’s May Day!

May Day.  My favorite holiday of the year.  To me, it’s been a holiday of making homemade May baskets that you fill with candy, flowers, and little trinkets.  The basket is placed on the doorknob of your friend’s house.  You ring the doorbell, and then run as fast as you can back to your house.  If your friend catches you before you make it home, he/she gets to kiss you.  If a holiday celebrates artsy-craftsy gift giving and kisses, I’m in.  When ding-dong ditch is incorporated, even better.

Most kids outgrow these little holidays.  People stop making boxes to stuff Valentine’s in; stop leaving their shoes out for St. Nick, and stop making May baskets.  [Although St. Patrick’s Day never gets left behind–it only gets more fun.]  But I never stopped.  With Peter Pan on my side, I will give out little Valentine’s cards, leave my shoes out for St. Nick, and make May baskets til I die (maybe even longer.  Heaven seems pro-holiday).  And at 26, this year is no different.

My two best friends have always been my targets on May Day.  And Nicky has always taken her role in May Day seriously.  She is determined to catch me.  Lucky for me, our houses are only a couple backyards away from each other so I don’t have too far to run.   But, running through other people’s backyards has not always gone well for me.  In 5th grade, as I ran for my life from Nicky, I ran straight into a dumpster and fell flat on my back.  Things did not fair too well for Nicky either.  As I knocked myself unconscious, a neighbor boy threw a rock at Nicky’s head.  Not sure who “won” May Day that year.  Things were always less dangerous with Hollie.  She lived a half mile away so I would always bike to her house.  Pretty hard to catch someone on her bike.  Still, Hollie isn’t one to give up easily, and she’d try to catch up.  Mind you, that wasn’t too much of a challenge when we lived together in college, sharing a dorm room.  It’s not easy trying to run up a dresser to hide in a lofted bed.

Nicky and me at Hollie’s wedding. [note the creepier in the background. yep. married that one]

Hollie and me on my wedding.

This year I’m hoping for a dumpster and loft free May Day.  Since I don’t live in the same town as Nicky or Hollie anymore, I’ve had to result to mailing their May Day baskets.  Much less satisfying than ding-dong ditch, but who doesn’t love mail?!

So, how do you make this May basket?

First, you need a basket.  You can really use anything.  This year I went with plant pots (from Target), but you could use a cleaned out milk carton (my Mom’s favorite); a cute purse; a vase, mug, a red solo cup. You get the idea.  Then you decorate it.  Let your creativity flow.  I’ve always been a fan of paint so this year I used glitter fabric pant to write “Happy May Day” around the pot and placed scrapbook flower stickers around the middle.

Second, what goes in the basket?  Anything! This year I stuck with the classics.  I made pipe cleaner flowers and curled ribbon that I placed along side the baskets.  Tossing in some fruit snacks, a bouncy ball, and Burt’s Bees, the May Day baskets were complete!

And you got yourself a May Day Basket.  Ready to be delivered! I just have to get on my running shoes first.


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Cremona Chili

I LOVE chili.  Love it.  In fact, whenever I cave and decide I’m going to get fast food, I pick Wendy’s so I can get chili.  I have multiple different chili recipes, and I have yet to take a side on the noodles or no noodles battle.  But one thing I can definitively agree upon is using turkey instead of beef (or you can opt out of meat all together and make this vegetarian).  The beans and tomatoes serve as the prominent flavors so any distinguishable taste between turkey and beef is effectively muted.   For only 4 Weight Watcher’s Plus points per 1 1/2 cups, this chili is a healthy and filling meal.

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The Mother of All Bloody Marys–A Del’s Bloody

This is the Helen of Troy of Bloody Marys.

The holy grail of bloodies.  The Bloody Mary that I compare all other bloodies to.  This Bloody Mary is from the La Crosse bar Del’s.  I have searched in vain for a comparable bloody in the Twin Cities.  And there is no substitute.  Made with classic tomato juice, a heavy pour of vodka, and spiked with couple shakes from a pepper shaker mixture of 23 spices, it’s smooth and gritty at the same time.  And Del’s does not skimp on the toppings.  Dressed with a large dill pickle, an olive, a pickled brussel sprout, and huge chunk of pepper jack cheese along with any beer on tap (go for the Pearl Street Downtown Brown-another La Crosse classic), this Bloody Mary really is a meal in a glass.

Del’s easily wins as my favorite bar in La Crosse, and whenever I am in town, the visit isn’t complete without a trip for a Del’s bloody.  Still, I miss my Tuesday afternoons spent sipping bloodies and pbrs with Leslie. Gah. Growing up is tough!

And if it is not obvious enough already–Del’s wins 5 out of 5 stars.  Maybe 6.

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Black Bean Burgers with Guacamole

Grilling season is upon us! After a not-so-brutal winter, I miss the summer cookouts.  As much as I love a good hamburger, red meat is not the healthiest of options.  This black bean alternative is a great substitute and tastes better than a beef burger.  Top it off with guacamole, this burger is an instant summer classic.  This comes in at only 5 Weight Watcher’s Plus Points compared to the 8 Weight Watcher’s Plus Points for a 98% lean beef burger (patties only. buns are extra points).  I paired this meal with my sesame garlic green beans.

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Peppermint Surprise

Peppermint Patties are my kryptonite.  I can never eat just one.  Or even two.  I pretty much can eat an entire bag in one sitting and feel hardly any shame.  And at one Weight Watcher’s Plus Point per patty, my 26 points per day can get depleted quickly.  Still, I allow myself to indulge an a couple every once in a while–especially when finals come around.  So when I found this cookie recipe, I had to try it out.  It combines my peppermint patty love with my chocolate love.  Can’t ask for much more!  I made these for the students in the class I TA for, and I am very proud to say I didn’t eat a single cookie.  My willpower is strengthening thanks to my good friend Krystal who tries to keep my sweet tooth in check (an almost impossible task).  These cookies do take a bit longer to make than most, but they are definitely worth the extra effort.

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