May Foodie Pen Pal!

It's that time again...FOODDDDIEE PEN PALLLLSSS!

That was in my Liz Lemon Oprah voice.

I took last month off from FFPs because I thought I'd be too busy to get everything together for a pen pal. Turns out this month way just as (in a good way) crazy. It all worked out. I had fun shopping and send my box of goodies over to Nikki!

Eva over at The Optimist Kitchen got paired up with me for May and she sent me a ton of great stuff.

I was super excited to hear she was from the Bay Area! Now, she is living in Atlanta and just started her blog not too long ago.

Here's what she sent me...

We've got lots of goodies here!

Red lentils, some tea, some Now or Later type candies, ramen snacks, coffee candies, little biscuits filled with chocolate, and sea salt chocolate covered butterscotch from Trader Joe's.

All were pretty tasty, but here are my absolute favorites...

I'm a little obsessed with lentils right now. I've been trying them out a lot lately and love these. I've become addicted to this soup because of these little guys.

Espresso candy. Yes, please. I'm going to keep these in my office for when I need a little pick me up.

And theseeee. My absolute favorite item from the box! Sea Salt Chocolate Covered Butterscotch. Dear Lord. It was the first thing I opened when I was tearing apart everything Eva sent me. I had to hide them from myself for fear I'd gain 15lbs before my reunion next week.

I can't get enough...

Thanks again, Eva!

If you want to join the party and be a Foodie Pen pal here's how:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your pen pal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your pen pal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your pen pal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.

If you’re from the US or Canada and are in participating for June, please CLICK HERE (www.theleangreenbean.com/foodie-penpals/) to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions. You must submit your information by June 4th as pairings will be emailed on June 5th!

Hope everyone had a good May. Off to June we go...




Food Prep and Meal Planning

I get comments all the time at work about my organized lunches and healthy packed snacks  “You’re so healthy…” “How do you have time to make your lunches?” “You eat so well.”

My answer is pretty simple. I plan.

Most week nights, the hubs and I don’t get home until late so instead of eating take out or just peanut butter sandwiches, I’ve gotten into the habit of planning the week in food to make life easier.

Maybe it’s a little neurotic, but it helps me keep organized, healthy and prepared.

And once you do it for a few weeks, it just becomes part of your routine. It simply takes an hour or so on the weekend to get your entire week ready. It makes such a huge difference.

So how do you get started with this whole food prep thing? You can do several different things. Do a google search on how to plan meals or check out the Lean Green Bean blog - she has amazing tips and ideas on what to prep for the week and she does a weekly post about other food preppers.

This is just what works for me. 

First, I start with grabbing a piece of paper and laying the entire week out. I am a very visual person, so it helps to see what the week will look like.

On the back on my meal plan I usually write down some breakfast ideas, lunches and snacks for the week.

I usually do my food shopping on Sundays so that’s when my week of meals starts. Scan your pantry and fridge to see what you have and go from there. After I make my meal plan, I usually make my grocery shopping list. I also keep a very well stocked pantry full of stuff from the bulk bins and a freezer full of meat from Costo. 

I've found it helpful to plan at least one meal a week where we will have leftovers too – one less meal to make. For example, tacos for dinner one night can be a taco salad the next day for lunch.

Then you prep.

Some basics and ideas:

  • hard boiled/baked eggs, granola, overnight oats.
    • Hard boiled eggs make for a quick easy breakfast that I can just through in my bag when I am running out there door. 
    • I  make a batch of granola and it lasts for a couple weeks. I just throw 1/2 cup in a bowl with some yogurt and fresh fruit and I am good to go. 
    • Overnight oats: These have become my new favorite I've been making them for when I go to early yoga classes and eating them when I get to work. 
  • pick 2 types of lunches and rotate through out the week
    • tuna salad you can make ahead of time
    • green salads; wash and cut up your lettuce early in the week. You can make this salad easy by cutting up all the veggies
    • make a large batch of salad dressing to use throughout the week. 
    • roast nuts/seeds to top off salads (sunflowers, almonds, pepitas)
  • pick several snacks and have them ready in the fridge to pack in your lunch or just grab from the fridge/pantry
    • roast raw almonds
    • make a trail mix or energy bars like these homemade lara bars
    • peel and cut carrots/other veggies
    • make a batch of hummus
    • roast chickpeas
    • wash apples or other fruits
Main Meals/Proteins:
  • Meat: Grill a batch of chicken or throw a whole chicken in the crock pot on Sunday – for dinners, salads or quesadillas one night. Broil some salmon.
  • Soups/Casseroles; make ahead of time and freeze or use it throughout the week. They make good meals for several nights in a row or leftovers for an easy lunch.
  • Stir fries/bowls: If you want stir fry for one night, cut your peppers and onions ahead of time so they are ready to go into the pan. Add whatever protein you have prepped and you have an easy meal. Same with the grains/beans – these make great, easy meals. 
The main thing to remember is that your plan isn't set in stone. This is a flexible guide made to help you get through your week and make your life just a tad bit easier.

Below is my food prep from a few weeks ago. I've got washed strawberries, prepped kale, granola, cut up peppers and shredded carrots, cucumbers, hard boiled eggs, carrots and hummus, sliced onions, and popcorn trail mix.

Do you meal plan? What's your secret? Please share your tips and tricks!




Roasted Balsamic Strawberries and a Crostini

Seriously, strawberries are everywhere I look right now. I see them at the farmer's market, the grocery store, and there is even a guy at the corner of our street selling the heck out of some strawberries. They are in full season here in the Bay, and I am loving every. single. minute. of this season. How can I resist these beautiful things. Plus, at $6 for 3 pints, there is no way you can keep me from them. I am always adding one to my cart, going back to the farmer's market one last time before it closes, and pulling over to the side of the road on my way home from work. I just give in every single time I see them. 

It kinda sounds like I am addicted or something. Like strawberries are my crack. Whoa.

Hello, my name is Erica...

No, but really, all last week I made my Strawberry Kale Salad for my lunches. This week, I went a little over board and decided to go wild and roast them. Crazy, right?!

The roasting pushed the flavor over the edge! It's so juicy, savory, with the natural sweetness is still fully intact. I want to put these suckers on EVERYTHING!

So grab 2 pints, and let's do this!

Wash them all clean and towel dry them off.

Cut off the stems and quarter them up.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, maple syrup, balsamic, and salt. Love my reflection in the oil too.

Add the cut up strawberries to the balsamic mixture and toss to combine. Then spread them all out pretty on a baking sheet.

Then we roast!


Eat by the spoonful or grab a crusty vessel. 

Roasted Balsamic Strawberries
Makes about 1 cup // Adapted from Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson
2 pints of strawberries, rinsed, stemmed, and quartered
3 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, olive oil, vinegar, and sea salt. Add the prepared strawberries to the vinegar mixture and toss to coat. Transfer the strawberries to the prepare baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Bake for 35-45 minutes. Check at 35 minutes and keep cooking until everything is bubbly and caramelized, but not burnt.

What else should you do with these beauties...

Roasted Strawberry and Goat Cheese Crostini
1 loaf of crusty bread, cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 tsp olive oil
1-2 ounces of soft style goat cheese
roasted strawberries

Slather olive oil of the bread pieces and bake in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for about 5 minutes or until toasted. Watch carefully as it can burn easily. Spread desired amount of goat cheese on the toast and top with roasted strawberries.

I also topped my Sunday morning pancakes with them. I plan to add them to my greek yogurt in Monday. Maybe ice cream Tuesday?

The possibilities seem endless. 




Strawberry Avocado Kale Salad

Did I tell you my high school reunion is in June? It's been 10 years already. And what a 10 years it has been! Lots of life has happened between then and now. College, jobs, marriages, some people have had babies - multiple babies!

Honestly, at first, I really didn't want to go to this thing. Then somehow, that turned into me being on the planning committee. What?! I know! Seriously though, if I am going to this thing, I am at least going to have a say in how its done.

To tell you the truth, I don't think people really care about reunions any more. I mean, with Facebook and all people feel like they already know what's going on in each other's lives, that's the vibe I am getting at least. I kinda feel the same way. But as it gets closer, I have to admit, I am getting pretty excited. There are some people I haven't seen in so long and Facebook just doesn't compare to hugs and laughs and reminiscing in person. Plus, this reunion makes a really good excuse to book a plane ticket to Florida and drink catch up with everyone. I'll get to go to the (warm) beach (ek, that means a bathing suit) and go to Publix for a Pub Sub! I really can't wait for that...oh, and sweet tea!

So right now, I am preparing. Like I said, I haven't seen some people in years, so I gotta look my best. I'm a girl - we think about these things. I am doing my best to not let my exercising slack. And I'm eating salads. Lots of salads. I mean, I gotta look good for this shin dig. Plus, I haven't posted shared a salad recipe in a while. Or talked about kale in at least 6 weeks. It's overdue.

This salad is perfect for this time of year. Fresh kale and juicy strawberries. And avocado. Of course, avocado. The dressing is so simple you should everything you need right in your kitchen.

Strawberry Avocado Kale Salad
Serves 1
1 healthy handful of dino kale
1/4 cup of fresh chopped strawberries
2 teaspoons of crumbled goat cheese
2 tablespoons of chickpeas
1 tablespoon toasted/roasted sunflower seeds*
1/4 of an avocado to top

For the dressing:
The juice from 1 lemon
drizzle of honey (about 1/2 teaspoon - adjust to your taste)
1 teaspoon olive oil

Wash and de-stem your kale and tear into bit size pieces. Place kale in a bowl and squeeze lemon juice on top, drizzle honey, and pour the olive oil over it all. Massage the kale with your hands so it is evenly coated. Add the strawberries, chickpeas, and sunflower seeds and mix it all together. Top with the goat cheese and avocado. Season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper and enjoy!

*If you only have raw sunflower seeds, you can easily roast them in a shallow pan on the stove top. Simple add you desired amount and cook over medium heat for about 5-8 minutes. Watch carefully and stir often. They can burn fast.

Ugh, I can't believe I am going to have to get into a bathing suit in 5 weeks. I may have nightmares about this...




April Adventures

Started April out right. Banana Flax Whole Wheat Waffles. With a hunk of butter.

I did a little organizing with washi tape! I love buying from the bulk bins.

I'm getting good at Sunday Food Prep and menu planning.

Went to a running vigil for Boston.

Lunch break shadows in a bamboo forest at work.

We took a trip down to San Leando to Drake's. Love that place.

I had a training in Oakland last week and stop by Farley's for a latte. Such a great way to start a Wednesday.

Signed up for Birch Box. Gonna get my beauty on. That nail polish is supposed to change colors in the sun! The things they can do these days, I tell ya.

My green thumb turned black. Fail on the lettuce.

I'm a little obsessed with breakfast. This one in particular.

The husband and I making our Triple Berry Sorbet! Its gone now...but it will be made again. Soon. And please excuse the laundry on the ground in the back.

My old girl watching over everything.

Now for some link love from this month...

Dr. Richard Kimble: This chicken killed my wife! - this chicken is crazy.

13 life changing Bay Area Bloggers. I just added a bunch to my feeder!

New spin on a birthday cake. Mine's in November if any one is interested....

Phone tips for long distance friendships.

I am buying flowers weekly as a treat to myself. Found this for some new tips on arrangements.

New ways to eat your pizza.

Thug Kitchen. Ah-mazing haha. Warning - graphic language, like sailor language.

Drinking around Berkeley. Can't wait to get to some of these.

Nipple balm for your lips. Hmm...

And this last thing...laughed out loud to this video.

Off to May we go!!


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