Ham, Goat Cheese, and Mango Chutney Croissants

Ever find yourself in a sandwich rut? Let’s be honest, most of us have made enough peanut butter and jellies or turkey and cheeses in our lifetimes to feed a small army (in my case, the small army of my own children). And after awhile it can get b-o-r-i-n-g, an endless loop of the same old, same old.

Now that I work from home, I’m especially motivated to make my lunches a little more exciting. I don’t generally do anywhere or do anything special for lunch–and I rarely even see other people (cause I can get kind of hermit-y). Mostly, when lunchtime comes, if my husband isn’t working from home along with me, I sit on my back patio and scroll through Facebook or listen to a true crime podcast over a sandwich or salad.

So when I have an impressive lunch to look forward to, it’s kind of big news. And the lunch I’m talking about is none other than one of my very favorite sandwiches: a Ham, Goat Cheese, and Mango Chutney Croissant.

I first had this sandwich at a little cafe on Bainbridge Island off the coast of Seattle when we took a trip there a few years ago. The juxtaposition of salty ham, creamy goat cheese, and sweet, chunky mango chutney rocked my world–why had I never thought of this combo before?–and ever since I’ve enjoyed making it on my own. Today, since I just made a Trader Joe’s run yesterday, I had all the ingredients on hand to make it. (If you’re not familiar, TJ’s makes a mean mango chutney for about $2.)

There’s no reason, of course, you couldn’t have a Ham, Goat Cheese, and Mango Chutney Croissant for an easy dinner, or serve it in mini-croissants as part of a buffet. For me, though, it’s a favorite lunch that makes my workday a little bit more inspiring (and delicious).



Print Recipe
Ham, Goat Cheese, and Mango Chutney Croissants
A sure-to-please combination of salty ham, creamy goat cheese, and tangy mango chutney on a flaky croissant. Is this the world's most perfect sandwich?
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
sandwich
Ingredients
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
sandwich
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Halve croissant lengthwise. Place ham on one side and spread the other with goat cheese and mango chutney. Assemble and eat!
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

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Creamy Smoked Salmon Dip


Smoked salmon is one of those foods that polarizes people. You either love it or hate it. I happen to fall into the former category. I love smoked salmon for its high omega 3 content, its smoky flavor, its chewy coolness, and the way it slices so clean with a sharp knife.

Is that not sooooo satisfying to watch?


My husband, on the other hand, falls into the “hate-with-the-heat-of-a-thousand-burning-suns,” “vomit-vomit-vomit” smoked salmon camp.

It’s ok. I get it. It’s an acquired taste–and even more so, and acquired texture. (Is that a thing, “acquired texture”? That’s going to be my new phrase for velour jumpsuits and those reversible sequin unicorn pillows my 7-year-old adores.) Anyway, it’s all right if the cold-and-clammy texture of raw fish doesn’t appeal to you. But I think there’s still hope for you to like smoked salmon in the form of this delicious Creamy Smoked Salmon Dip. 


Yea, verily. 

Although the signature taste of smoked salmon comes through in this appetizer, its usual fishy texture is nowhere to be found, pulverized into oblivion by your friendly food processor. What’s left, when blended with cream cheese, lemon juice, horseradish, fresh dill, chives, and a few other simple ingredients, is a creamy, herby dip that’s perfection on butter crackers, crudités, or as a spread on toast.

Since my husband and kids aren’t fans of smoked salmon in any form, I’ve been powering through an entire batch of this by myself this past week, and I am not mad about it. Now that we’re a couple of days into Lent, which means no meat on Fridays for me, I plan to make it again as a staple for a light lunch. But it would serve just as well in a brunch, a classy baby shower buffet, or as a pre-dinner appetizer. 



So how about you? Where do you stand in the Smoked Salmon Debate? And do you think this tasty dip could change your mind? Let me know in the comments!

Print Recipe
Creamy Smoked Salmon Dip
A creamy, herb-y dip packed with brain-boosting omega 3s. It's perfect on butter crackers, crudités, or toast!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings
as an appetizer
Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings
as an appetizer
Instructions
  1. Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until well blended and consistency reaches your liking. Serve with crackers, fresh vegetables, or on toast or bagels. Store covered in the refrigerator.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Valerie's Kitchen.

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How to Eat Healthy at a Buffet

This past weekend my husband and I got out of town for a little Valentine’s getaway to Las Vegas. I’ve lived in the desert Southwest nearly my entire life (since 1985!) and visited 31 states, but had never made the short 4-hour drive to cross into Nevada, let alone seen the bright lights of Las Vegas. But I’ve always just been SO curious! What is it about this place that makes it such an iconic destination? Does the reality live up to the hype?

I’m not a gambler (unless you count the round of bingo I played on my honeymoon in Aruba, but I chalk that up to the included $6 hot dog lunch that appealed to my broke 21-year-old self) and I’m definitely not one for glitz and glam. But you just can’t live as close as I do to Sin City and never, ever check it out. So, for this one of our bi-annual kid-free getaways, I convinced my husband: Vegas, baby, Vegas!

During our whirlwind trip of about 48 hours, we saw and did a TON. We took in the majesty of the Bellagio fountains.

We wandered through the endless shops and corridors of the Flamingo, the Venetian, New York, New York, Treasure Island, and the Mirage.

 

We attended an amazing magic show by Penn and Teller (and got pictures with them!).

And I posed with a naked mermaid figurehead. Because Las Vegas.

But mostly, we did what anyone who’s not into hookers and gambling does when they go to Vegas: we ATE. I’d heard tales of the mythic proportions of casino buffets, so this experience topped my list of dining options. Based on online reviews, we settled on the buffet at the Bellagio for dinner on Saturday night.

It was, in fact, the largest feast I have ever laid eyes upon. And while the food wasn’t all as fabulously gourmet as legends tell, the sheer AMOUNT of it honestly outdid my expectations. King crab legs by the pile, sushi on demand, rows upon rows of mini desserts, and bottomless alcohol (for an extra premium, of course).

As much as I adore food–especially endless mountains of it–like anyone else, I struggle with eating the right amount when faced with the overwhelming free-for-all of a buffet. But I must say, years of practice honing my awareness and tuning in to my body’s cues have taught me a thing or two about how to navigate a buffet in a healthier way. I actually left the Bellagio that evening feeling comfortably full, not overstuffed.

We could all use a refresher from time to time on how to hit the dietary sweet spot of just-enough-and-not-too-much. Here are some of my nutritionist-approved tips for healthier buffet dining.

7 Steps to Eating Healthier at a Buffet

1. Don’t show up starving. Sure, you want to get your money’s worth out of an expensive meal with so many options. But showing up ravenous is a surefire recipe for overdoing it. It’s certainly wise to eat a little lighter throughout the day when you know a large dinner is coming, but on a totally empty stomach, you’re almost guaranteed to gorge–and then regret it.

2. Survey the scene. Before I dig in, I like to make the rounds of the entire buffet scene. This way I can prioritize my must-eat items and fill my plate accordingly. Try taking a reconnaissance lap before you begin.

3. Take one plate–and make it MyPlate. If you grab two plates and a soup bowl the minute you head into the buffet fray, odds are you’re going to fill them. And for most of us, two heaping plates plus a bowl of minestrone is way more food than we actually need from a single meal. Start with a single plate. You can always see how you feel when you finish it.

While you’re loading up, think of your plate as a canvas on which to paint the MyPlate categories of  fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. It’s a helpful visual that can keep you from maxing out on a single food group.

4. A little of this, a little of that. It may sound obvious, but with a million choices before you, try thinking of a buffet meal as a sampler platter. A little place for everything, and everything in its little place.

5. Savor. When you sit down to your edible masterpiece, be sure to give your food the attention it deserves. Savoring food by focusing on its taste and texture is a proven way to slow down and moderate your intake. Though you may be distracted by the restaurant environment or the conversation at your table, do what you can to engage your senses to really enjoy what you’re eating.

6. Get up to check in. Plate #1 down! Is it time to head back for your next helping? Maybe. But perhaps when you get up from the table, it could be to take stock of your level of fullness, rather than to revisit the pasta bar. Removing yourself from the table for a momentary check-in provides the pause you may need to get a handle on whether you’re really still hungry.

7. When you’ve taken too much… At buffets, it’s inevitable: We bite off more than we can chew (literally). So what should you do when you’re getting full but there’s still a whole scoop of tortellini or half a cheesecake on your plate? It’s not like you can say, “Sorry, I took too much!” and pour your excess chicken noodle back into the soup bin.

As much as I hate food waste (and I really, really hate food waste) I sometimes have to ask myself: “Would I rather waste this food by throwing it in the trash or waste it by putting into my body?” For me, the answer is clear. If food has to go to waste, it’s not going in the trash compactor of my belly. Let the sad misuse of food left on the plate be a lesson for taking less next time.

With these strategies, I believe healthy buffet dining is actually possible. With any luck, there will be more buffets in your future! So enjoy the one before you in the moment, knowing you can eat just the right amount.

Lemon Raspberry Smoothie

When I think of smoothies, I don’t often consider lemon as a particularly tempting flavor. Lemon in cocktails, muffins, or chicken recipes? Yes, all the way. But lemon in a smoothie? Sounds a little odd. I would think the tangy taste would be a bit too overpowering for a snack as tame as a smoothie–or that putting lemon juice in with dairy would produce something curdled.

Then again, lemon yogurt was always my favorite growing up, and I think we can all agree that lemon sweets are some of the best around. (P.S. I just counted, and just on this blog I have 13 recipes with lemon as their primary flavor.)

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the flavor of lemon–especially when paired with raspberry–in this easy smoothie turned out refreshing and delicious. The sunshiney tartness mixed with that pretty rosy color just stole my heart. And my mouth.

Plus, a lemon raspberry smoothie gave me an excuse to use the candied lemon slices I bought from Trader Joe’s, which I didn’t actually need, but were so cute and appealing I couldn’t resist. (Like so many other things at Trader Joe’s.) Now that the package is open, I guess I’ll have to go and make those other 13 lemon recipes and garnish the heck out of ’em.

Looking for more lemony goodness this winter season? Try some of my other recipes!

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes

Lighter Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Sparkling Ginger Lemonade



Print Recipe


Lemon Raspberry Smoothie

This lemon raspberry smoothie with the prettiest pink color makes a refreshing, tangy snack.

Prep Time 5 minutes

Servings
smoothies

Prep Time 5 minutes

Servings
smoothies


Instructions
  1. Place raspberries, yogurt, honey, and among milk in a blender. Zest lemon directly into the blender, then juice the 1/2 lemon directly in as well, straining for seeds. Blend well and top with whipped cream, if desired.


Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food original recipe.


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Blueberry Flax Seed Muffins

Oh, breakfast, I love you. How can anyone not eat breakfast everyday? I know there are those who say they feel nauseous in the mornings, or they’re just not hungry first thing, but breakfast is MY JAM. When my kids were really little, eating an entire breakfast for myself with no interruptions was something I’d fantasize about. Sitting there with my coffee steaming, a buttery muffin or crunchy bowl of cereal in front of me (and only me) sounded like pure bliss–the perfect start to the day.

Now, when I have a great breakfast to look forward to, it literally extends its joy to the night before. Last night, knowing I had these Blueberry Flax Seed Muffins to wake up to was enough to curb my late-night sweets cravings and make me wait until morning to eat. That’s right, I said NO to the COSTCO CHEESECAKE in my fridge for these things.

See, I’ve been kind of obsessed with flax seed lately. (And planning a post all about it and how to use it–so for now I’ll restrain myself for the moment from launching into accolades about its many benefits.) Suffice it to say, a switch has flipped in my brain and I am in full-on Flax Seed Mode. Energy balls, smoothies, and, of course, muffins make excellent vehicles for this mega-healthy–and, I think, mega-tasty–ingredient.

In light of recent evidence that more dietary fiber reduces the risk of numerous chronic diseases, I’m digging flax seed’s enormous fiber content. A single tablespoon of the stuff contains about 3 grams of fiber. Plus, flax seeds contain plenty of heart-healthy omega-3 fats. So even if they’re not a familiar ingredient for you, why not try something new?

These Blueberry Flax Seed Muffins are springy with flax seed, chewy with oats, and bursting with luscious blueberries. Maybe you can see why the thought of them sustained me when Costco cheesecake was calling.

Oh, and did I mention that each muffin has only 125 calories?

Oh. YEAH.

So whaddaya say? Gonna try flax seeds in your muffins? (And if you put them in your muffins, I have a feeling you’ll want to put them in everything.)

 


Print Recipe
Blueberry Flax Seed Muffins
Ready for something a little different? These blueberry muffins use a combination of ground flax seed and oats to achieve their unique texture--and blueberries for juicy pops of flavor. Delish!
Course breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
muffins
Course breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
muffins
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all wet ingredients: egg, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, yogurt, oil, and almond milk.
  3. To the same bowl, add dry ingredients: flax seed meal, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, oats, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir until just combined. Fold in blueberries.
  4. Divide mixture among 12 muffin cups and bake 20-22 minutes or until browned on top. Store in an airtight container.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Running With Spoons.

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