Friday, July 29, 2016

Caprese White Bean & Pasta Salad

Caprese is my favorite summer flavor - especially when it's as easy as this vegetarian dinner recipe for Caprese White Bean & Pasta Salad, served over arugula. Since we're so close to the last full month of summer, it's time to take in as many garden vegetables as possible!

My tomato plants are huge this year, I think due to the very hot weather we experienced this month and the series of rain storms over the past few weeks. I planted a sun gold cherry tomato plant and two regular tomato plants. For this recipe, I was able to add a small handful of ripe sun gold tomatoes. The rest of the plant should be bursting in a few short weeks.

This recipe is so simple I almost didn't share it, but after making it three times this month I decided it was worth writing up. There's nothing better than gorgeous summer tomatoes combined with greens, basil, and pasta for an easy dinner.

I used "cherry size" mozzarella, which slices up perfectly for this pasta salad.

I used quinoa-blend fusilli pasta, but any pasta will work. Adding white beans is what makes this take on caprese salad unique - it increases the protein in your dinner, and I think the addition is delicious.

Try this salad the next time you're looking for an easy summer dinner!

Caprese White Bean & Pasta Salad
Yields: 4 servings 

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes  

3 cups dry fusilli pasta
1 can {15.5 ounces} white kidney beans / cannellini beans
1 and 1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
1/3 ounce cherry-sized mozzarella balls
10 basil leaves
4+ cups arugula
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Balsamic Vinaigrette {I love this recipe from}!

How to~
*Cook pasta according to package directions.
*While pasta is cooking, prepare ingredients: Halve tomatoes, chiffonade basil leaves, halve mozzarella, and drain white beans.
*In a separate pan, warm olive oil on low-medium heat. Saute tomatoes for 2 minute; add salt and pepper. Add beans and cook for 2 additional minutes.
*Stir pasta and tomato + beans together. Add basil leaves.
*Serve pasta over a bed of arugula. Top with mozzarella and balsamic dressing before serving.

Interested in more caprese recipe ideas? Try my Caprese Chicken Zoodle Bowls and Caprese Salad Bruschetta.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Green Smoothie: Chocolate Covered Strawberry

Happy weekend! I have a new smoothie recipe to share this morning that's packed with healthy ingredients but tastes like dessert - a green smoothie with Chocolate Covered Strawberry flavor.

It's a dark and stormy morning here in Chicago, with thunder and rain starting before 9am. Thankfully garden greens were picked for this smoothie before the storm and photographed just in time!

Only a handful of ingredients are needed to make this healthy breakfast smoothie: unsweetened cocoa powder {Ghirardelli is my favorite - affiliate link!}, greens, frozen strawberries, bananas, and the milk of your choice. I like to use unsweetened vanilla almond or cashew milk, and add vanilla extract for good measure.

I added kale and collard greens from our garden, but any kind of greens will do. Spinach, kale and collard greens work best for smoothies because they have the mildest flavor. I made the mistake of using 'spring mix' salad in a smoothie once and it was poured down the drain. Ha.

It's nice to start the second half of the weekend with breakfast that tastes like dessert but is secretly healthy! By drinking one smoothie, I added two servings of fruit and at least one veggie into my day.

Green Smoothie: Chocolate Covered Strawberry
Yields: 2 smoothies

3+ cups greens
2 bananas
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 heaping cups frozen strawberries
2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk {or milk of your choice}
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract {optional}

How to~
*Add all ingredients to a blender. Blend until combined.

Affiliate link:

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Weekend in Door County, Wisconsin

K and I spent a long weekend up north in Door County, Wisconsin for the 4th of July holiday. We packed in as many activities as possible in four nights, while leaving time for daily naps. This post includes a few highlights from our trip.

For more on traveling in Door County, check on these posts:
Onto the highlights:

Breakfast at Base Camp Coffee Shop {Sister Bay, WI}

I can't visit Sister Bay without stopping for a yogurt parfait, coffee or a pastry at Base Camp. It was packed with coffee lovers for the holiday weekend! I picked up this yogurt parfait, with house-made hazelnut granola and an iced maple latte. So good.

Afternoon Drinks at Top Deck - Gordon Lodge {Baileys Harbor, WI}

During a long bike ride {20+ miles}, we stopped for afternoon drinks outdoors at Top Deck, located at the Gordon Lodge resort. I had a watermelon mocktail and it was soo tasty. Anything flavored with watermelon on a hot summer day is at the top of my list. K and I also wanted to visit our wedding destination, as we got married at Gordon Lodge three years ago. It's a beautiful place to vacation too!

Hiking at Newport State Park {Ellison Bay, WI}

My favorite state park in Door County for a quiet beach and hiking is Newport State Park, located near the top of the Door County peninsula. K and I finished a few hiking miles on the Europe Bay Trail during our weekend trip. Newport is over 2,000 acres, with 11 miles of protected shoreline. It is the only wilderness-designated state park in Wisconsin.

Fireworks {Gills Rock, WI}

We took in two fireworks shows over the 4th of July weekend, and the best was in Gills Rock. The fireworks show was close to 45 minutes long, and fireworks went off from a barge out on the water. I have never been so close to a fireworks show before - it was unreal. I felt like I was in an IMAX theater. If you're ever in Door County for the 4th of July, I highly recommend the Gills Rock fireworks. Gills Rock is located near the very top of the Door County peninsula, and it's where you can catch a passenger ferry to Washington Island.

Shopping for Cherries at Seaquist Orchards Farm Market

Seaquist Orchards is my favorite place to pick up cherry products, and this visit was no exception. I stocked up on frozen cherries, cherry pie filling, dried cherries, cherry & almond muesli, jam, and individual pie slices for the road. Seaquist Orchards holds their annual cherry festival at the end of July, which is usually when tart cherries are at their peak picking season.

Dinner at Waterfront {Sister Bay, WI}

{Image via Yelp}

Waterfront is a lovely fine dining destination, located on the water with beautiful Lake Michigan views. K and I had dinner here for the first time over the holiday weekend, on a double-date with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. The seafood was so good on the summer menu - I had halibut with white bean gremolata broth, goat cheese ravioli, and summer vegetables. One of the best meals I have had all year!

Have you visited Door County?

Friday, July 1, 2016

Chicago Summer "To Do" List 2016

Since the summer solstice started last Monday with the longest day of the year and we are rolling into July today {!!}, I can't think of a better time to share my summer 'goal' list for 2016. I think summer is the best time of year to explore Chicago, for new travelers and locals alike.

1 ~ Attend Free Concerts in Millennium Park

On Monday and Thursday evenings, free concerts are available at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park for the Summer Music Series. I celebrated the summer solstice last week with a concert on a hot evening. Picnics outdoors are the best in the summer, especially with a view.

2 ~ Bike Ride & Picnic at Promontory Point

Promontory Point is a man-made peninsula in Burnham Park, south of downtown Chicago and near the neighborhood Hyde Park. It's a beautiful bike ride through downtown and along Lake Michigan, and a perfect spot for a snack or picnic.

{Image via Red Tricycle}

3 ~ Visit local Farmers' Markets

I can't wait for tomato season. My favorite farmers' markets in the city include:

Wednesday evening: Andersonville
Thursday lunch: Daley Plaza {Chicago Loop}
Thursday evening: Lincoln Square
Saturday morning: Horner Park or Green City Market {Lincoln Park}
Sunday morning: Logan Square

4 ~ Visit Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo is 35 acres in size, with free admission. Bonus: the entrance is very close to the Green City Market farmers' market.

5 ~ Relax on the Beach

Chicago has 26 miles of public beaches along Lake Michigan. My favorite is Foster Beach, at 5200 N. Lake Shore Drive.

6 ~ Go to a Baseball Game

We are White Sox fans in this house, but I would love to take in a Cubs game this year too to check out the renovated stadium. I think my favorite part of White Sox baseball, besides picking a gorgeous day to sit outdoors, is the kosher beef hot dogs with grilled onions ;)

7 ~ Bike to Northerly Island

At the end of last summer, K and I visited Northerly Island Park by bicycle. Northerly Island Park is located on a peninsula on Lake Michigan, covering over 90 acres. The Northerly Island Nature preserve officially opened in early September 2015, with more than 40 acres dedicated to native plantings and migratory birds. It's an absolutely beautiful place!

What's at the top of your summer list?