California: Introductions & Delights

I can’t believe I’ve lived my whole life not in California!

It feels like I was made to live here. I’m loving the fresh fruit, the gorgeous hills, the winding roads, the SUNSHINE and the change of pace.

The other day I went to Trader Joe’s and it felt like a whole new experience! I forgot that the alcohol doesn’t have to be separate from the groceries in this state and I found produce with the stems and leaves still connected to the fruit! Freshly picked clementines, straight from the grove and sold at Trader Joe’s. I was in heaven!

I’ve been eating my fair share of cheap, fresh, tropical fruits: pineapple and papaya with lemon juice was for breakfast. With the price of the fruit out here I’ve been able to snack on blackberries and mandarins all day. I can’t wait until we go to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday, Eric’s mom has been telling me about fruits I’ve never even heard of that I should try!

The guys come back from their cross-country trip this afternoon. I can’t wait until Eric gets home! After so many months of winter and packing it’ll be so much fun to actually get some time together.

While I’ve been waiting for him to come home I’ve had people “capturing” me and taking me on fun adventures. The other day Faye and I went to the OC and had lunch at this all vegan restaurant called The Veggie Grill.


We had the “Bali Bliss” which is a Tempeh burger with red onion, tomato, lettuce and a (all vegan, of course!) chipotle ranch sauce. I ordered the “All Hail Kale” salad which was this amazing creation we tried to reproduce last night. It was kale, red cabbage, quinoa, corn salsa, agave-roasted walnuts, with a ginger-papaya vinaigrette. The burger and the salad were the best things we ordered! The mac-n-cheese was a disaster (but what did I really expect?) and the chili was an incredibly fresh texture but not a lot of flavor.


All in all, it was a great experience and such a joy to find easily accessible and affordable healthy food. Welcome to California!

The next day Ruby picked me up and we went to Uncle Tim’s for a little Thai date with the girls and an IKEA run. It was so good to catch up a little, get out of the house and start doing “normal” things. I’m still adjusting to the fact that I live here now because every other time I see these people I’m visiting. That’s a pretty good lightbulb-moment feeling: I live here now.

I, thankfully, was able to grab a few things at IKEA to style up my new digs. There’s still a lot of unpacking (and then more packing) that needs to be done but it feels nice to have some clean white light coming in through open windows and a freshly made bed. Waking up to birds chirping outside my windows has been another one of my favorite things. What a delight! (I feel like a visitor to a foreign country) 


This does look like a foreign Target though. It’s like I’m taking pictures of Starbucks in different countries or something. The last Target I left was a freezing walk from the car to the store through salty parking lots with downtown’s skyscrapers in the background. What a difference!  Now I’m seeing palm trees, hills, snow covered mountains (this time of year) and blue skies.

I’m thankful to the Lord for all these little blessings sewn throughout my day. This is exactly what I needed.


Kale Salad

There’s this cute little gourmet cheese shop just a mile from my house. They have the best selection of cheese in the twin cities, artisan sandwiches, gourmet entrees of the day for dinner to-go and an extensive selection of healthy salads and sides in their deli. It feels like you walked right into a New York deli.

I’m mostly there to check out the two different gluten free soups that they offer daily. The chef is brilliant and comes up with some of the best soups that I’ve ever tasted: Watermelon Gazpacho, Coconut Corn, Chicken & Dill Mazo, just to name a few.

They also have this Kale & Feta salad that I can’t get enough of. It inspired me to create my own salad with a seasonal twist.

First I took a giant bunch of kale, stripped all the leaves from the stalk, tore them into bite size pieces, and covered them with water in a big pot. I boiled the kale for no more than three minutes – just enough to tenderize the leaves.




If you’re making this recipe a day before you’ll actually eat it, you don’t need to boil the leaves because the apple cider vinegar you add will tenderize them naturally. Making it this way is actually the best way to retain all of the nutrition of the kale that you would otherwise lose in the boiling process.

Drain, rinse the kale in cold water and throw in a large bowl. Toss the kale in a mixture of (best if it’s the organic with the “mother”) apple cider vinegar, EVOO, cayenne, and freshly ground pepper and sea salt. Then I mixed in some crumbled french feta from the cheese shop and the arils of a pomegranate.

It was so delicious, cheap and easy. It’s my new favorite way to eat kale!


[Paired with a Caesar wrap for dinner. Lots of greens that night!]

Brussels Sprout Salad



I’m sick of the traditional spinach salads. I switched over to chopped salads (which I love!) in the last year. Lots of romaine, red onion, corn, etc. But now I’m feeling the need to mix up my salad routine. Here’s a great nutrient-rich alternative: BRUSSELS SPROUTS!


Take a pound of brussels sprouts, cut off the stem and peel off the outer green leaves for your salad. You’ll discard the rest of the sprout for another delicious use.

Have a pot of water heating up and boiling while you’re peeling your sprouts. You’ll boil the leaves for 90 seconds just to soften their texture and bring out the brilliant green color. Make sure you have a big bowl of ice water ready. After you drain the sprouts you’ll transfer them to this ice bath to stop the cooking process and keep them fresh and cool.


While your leaves are cooling you’ll start to toast your sliced almonds. Set your oven to 400 degrees and cook for about 8 minutes. Almonds tend to burn easily. You’ll want to peek in on them through the toasting process to make sure they don’t get too brown & lose their sweet toasty flavor.



While my almonds are toasting I combine 1/4 cup of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and 1/4 cup of lemon juice in a large bowl with freshly cracked sea salt & pepper. I add a handful of shaved parmesan and my drained brussels sprout leaves with some baby arugula and some chopped grilled chicken. Mix it all up for a perfect summer salad that rivals all of your traditional salad options!