Arugula Salad with Pan-Seared Goat Cheese, Candied Walnuts and Strawberries

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Happy Monday!

I’m recovering from a weekend of amazing seafood, a healthy cookout, cold beers, freckles and oddly-shaped sunburn, a perfect beach day, dancing until I couldn’t feel my feet and late night snacking on pickles, salsa and chips, Ben and Jerry’s, hummus and carrots and a Wawa turkey hoagie. Oh and a horse and carriage smashing into the passenger side of my car and basically taking off the door and almost my friend’s toe.  Yes…that really happened.

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But after a 6 hour delay and thanks to Enterprise Rent-A-Car, we finally were able to start the weekend off right at the Raw Bar at the Lobster House in Cape May, NJ. We ordered tons of oysters and crab, including the best crab soup you’ll ever have. Typically we stick with stone crab (pictured above) but we were still so hungry so I decided to order us steamed hot & spicy crab. I didn’t realize they’d come out looking like this, however:

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Kinda cute, eh?

Gia didn’t seem to think so.

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It was a perfect beach weekend with beautiful weather and it was really nice to catch up with Gia. We used to be roommates in Philadelphia and for the past five summers we’ve made it tradition to have several girls’ getaways down the shore.

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Saturday night we had a cookout and made awesome Quinoa veggie burgers with arugula, goat cheese and pickled onions (recipe to come soon), a kale salad and corn on the cob.

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I don’t think we had enough food for the two of us, do you?

But alas, the beach weekend is over and it’s back to reality for a few days which means back to clean eating. To me that means smoothies, lots of fruit and veggies and salads.  I decided to spice up my normal daily salad a bit and made for you an Aurugula Salad with Pan-Seared Goat Cheese, Candied Walnuts and Strawberries. The nuttiness of the arugula paired with delicious fresh strawberries and warm goat cheese with easy homemade candied walnuts it’s more than enough to get you excited for your Monday lunch or dinner. Drizzle on top a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar and you’ve got yourself a delicious salad surely to get you through a Monday back to reality after an awesome weekend. And so easy to make, you can sear the goat cheese and candy the walnuts on a Sunday night and have to eat throughout the week.

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Monday Morning Green Vegan Detox Smoothie

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After a weekend of good food, good wine and lot’s of recipe experimenting (and tasting), I find the best way to start my week is with a little detox. No, I’m not talking about a crazy week-long juice cleanse, but just a healthy, refreshing breakfast smoothie, packed with vitamins, potassium, antioxidants, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. And the best part about it? It tastes SO good you’d never know it was so good for you!

What’s in this smoothie?

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Banana– one of the best sources of potassium, an essential mineral for maintaining healthy heart function and blood pressure.
PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter– the same taste of my ultimate favorite snack with 85% less fat calories than regular peanut butter.
Chia Seeds– known for its richness in omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fiber. Don’t worry- you won’t grow green hair 🙂
Spinach– high in nutritional value and rich in antioxidants (high in vitamins, calcium and fiber)
Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk– with only 30 calories per serving  and 50% more calcium than regular milk, Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk is a healthy, non-dairy solution (and it’s gluten-free too!)

You can also add other fruits too, such as blueberries and strawberries, or even some protein powder to help you keep fuller, longer.

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Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Fresh Blueberry Sauce {Hello Saturday, I love you}

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Hello Saturday, I love you.

I have been craving this day like a cup of coffee when my alarm goes off at 6:30 am on a Monday morning. Like water after a 6 mile run. Like french fries after eating salads for a week straight. Like peanut butter…every day. Like sleep after five days in Vegas.

OK, you get the point. But I’m really so happy it’s Saturday!

I don’t know about you but my breakfasts are always so rushed during the week and I look forward to the weekends when I can actually spend some time making a delicious breakfast. When I can actually sit down and enjoy every bite, rather than having to scarf it down, chug a cup of coffee and run out the door with coffee dripping down my shirt and spinach from my eggs stuck in my teeth as I try and juggle my gym bag, laptop bag, purse, lunch bag and coffee mug all at the same time. Then realizing I don’t have my keys, and they’re not where I usually put them on the counter and they’re not in my purse so where are they?! Is it just me or does anyone else have this problem in the morning? There’s nothing like the Valet guy at work telling you as you get out of your car that you have something stuck in your teeth and having to quickly come up with a whitty reponse like ” just savin’ it for later”. Yes, this happened to me this past week and it was super awkward. But definitely not as awkward as your skirt flying up right in front of all the valet guys when it’s laundry day and all you have left is a pair of underwear with ducks on them…

Regardless. It is Saturday! And finally there’s not a cloud in the sky and the temperature will be in the high 70’s. I really thought the rain would never stop this week. And what a better way to welcome a gorgeous weekend than to start it off with some lemon ricotta pancakes with a fresh blueberry sauce. The ricotta adds a fluffiness to the pancakes and the lemon adds a refreshing bite that makes them the perfect breakfast on a Saturday morning that doesn’t leave you feeling weighed down and dreading the next time you have to put a bikini on. And the fresh blueberry sauce brings all of the flavors together. Hey, it may not be my Nutella sauce, but it will sure leave you feeling satisfied, refreshed, and ready to take on this gorgeous day. And the best part? It won’t leave spinach in your teeth!

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Peanut Butter Oreo Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookies

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Today is a great day. You know why? It’s National Peanut Butter Cookie Day.

You didn’t really think I was going to let this day pass without baking you something with my favorite ingredient did you?

And to celebrate I didn’t even eat peanut butter for a snack today.

Ok, fine. Who am I kidding. I only had a few scoops out of the jar. Hey, everyone needs a little protein, right?!

I came across a recipe that I just had to share with you.  And you know what the best part is? It’s made with one of my other favorite things in this world, Oreos.

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But not just any Oreo. Peanut Butter Creme Oreos.

It’s like a match made in heaven.

What could be better than a peanut butter Oreo?! Oh wait, that’s right. A peanut butter cookie stuffed with a peanut butter Oreo.

Remember in my last post how I shared with you things I just don’t quite understand?

Well I have an additional thought to add.

How did I not think of this first?

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Fudgy Black Bean Nutella and Salted Caramel Cookies {better-for-you cookies that can be easily made vegan and gluten-free}

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There are many things in life I don’t quite understand.

Like why in the world someone ever thought it’d be a good idea to have a five day workweek and a two day weekend in the US, and not the reverse.

Or why money can’t just grow on trees.

And why has no one invented a money tree?

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I also don’t understand why flying cars have yet to be invented. If flying cars were invented there would be less traffic. Less traffic would then result in less stress. Less stress would result in less accidents. And less stress eating.

I also don’t understand why companies don’t pay their employees to go on vacation. More vacations would equal happier employees which would result in less stress resulting in more productivity resulting in higher revenue resulting in a lower turnover rate. Right? But then maybe that would put recruiters out of business…and then I wouldn’t have a job and I wouldn’t be able to live all because Albert Einstein forgot to invent a money tree.

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Cream Cheese and Nutella Pancakes {the best pancakes you’ll ever have, inspired by Valencia Luncheria}

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Yes, that’s right…Cream Cheese and Nutella. All in one bite. All in one pancake.

This morning I made the best pancakes I’ve ever had. And I just had to share it with you right away!

These pancakes are inspired by one of my favorite treats at a restaurant down the street from me in Norwalk, CT called Valencia Luncheria.

Valencia is known for their arepas and empanadas. I actually first came across this place the night I moved into my current apartment in Norwalk, CT. I had just sat down after moving all day and turned on the TV to, what else of course, Food Network. Diner, Drive-Ins and Dives was on and Guy happened to be at this place in Norwalk. What a coincidence! I knew after watching the episode that I just had to go. And the next morning that’s exactly where I ended up. Less than half a mile away to the best thing that has happened to me since moving here, Valencia Luncheria.

When you walk into Valencia you feel like you’re stepping off of the beach. Leading up to the restaurant is a sand-covered pathway and tiki torches that make you want to put on a Hawaiian skirt and do the hula. Well, maybe that’s just me. But I really would have because that’s how happy I always am after leaving this place. The decor is very similar to the theme of the restaurant, Venezuelan beach food.

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Valencia is known for their arepas. In case you’re not familiar with an arepa, it is basically a fried open-faced corn cake that can be filled with just about any combination. My favorite combinations are the “Real Deal” which is chorizo and mozzarella and I also love the “Chef “which is chipotle jalapeno cheese steak (Philly represent, what what). Their guacamole is also to die for along with their super fresh ceviche. However, Saturday and Sunday mornings are the absolute best time to check out Valencia because that’s when they have their Bloody Mary bar! Oh my goodness. They have four different kinds of tomato mixtures you can choose from, from mild to Italian to spicy, and they also have just about everything imaginable you can put into your Bloody Mary, from bacon on a stick (my fav), to sweet potatoes, olives, pickles, blocks of cheddar cheese, shrimp…just about anything! It’s truly a reason in itself to drag yourself out of bed early on a Saturday or Sunday morning. And they also make this ridiculous green secret sauce they bring out to every table. They won’t tell you what’s in it but all I can tell you is it’s creamy like an avocado, it has a kick of garlic, there’s definitely cilantro and one day it may accidentally end up falling into my purse…just saying!

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But, what I haven’t told you about yet is my absolute FAVORITE thing on their menu. Their cream cheese and Nutella empanada. A perfect combination of cream cheese and Nutella, fried in an empanada and sprinkled with powdered sugar. I usually can only get through a couple of bites at this point of the meal but I make it happen and I am always SO glad I do. And this cream cheese and Nutella empanada is exactly what inspired me to make these pancakes.

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The key to these pancakes is to stick the cream cheese in the freezer the night before. This will ensure you actually get chunks of cream cheese in every bite. Otherwise I have found if not frozen, the cream cheese will bake into the pancake and you won’t get the oozy-goodness chunks of cream cheese in each and every bite.

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And the Nutella topping adds a richness that when paired with the cream cheese, just like in the empanadas, is a crazy good mouthful that makes you keep wanting more. So good, you won’t be able to stop eating. The entire stack. Like I did. And for added texture, I sprinkled chopped walnuts on top for a nice crunch. You can use any nut you prefer, but walnuts were all I had. Make this for your boyfriend, girlfriend, mom, dad, aunt, uncle, cousin, brother, sister, husband, wife, friend, noisy neighbor who has a coughing problem (hey- that’s not a bad idea!) and they will surely love you forever. And hopefully stop coughing…

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