Enchilada Quinoa with Home-Made Tomatillo Sauce

tomatillo.quinoa

Ah, the strange but beautiful tomatillo. Contrary to its appearance and the sound of it’s name, the tomatillo is not a little green tomato. In fact, some tomatillos are purple. They’re not tomatoes, either.

So what exactly is a tomatillo, and why should you eat it? A tomatillo is a type of savory fruit indigenous to Mexico. Now is the time to try them, because they are are generally in season from June to October.

Tomatillos are what gives green enchilada sauce its color. The taste is a bit citrusy and a bit earthy. Other than that, I can’t really explain it except to say that the tangy flavor adds an exciting pop to your plate.

Tomatillos supply us with a very nice amount of both magnesium and Vitamin C. There are not many foods that are high in both. This is significant because magnesium tends to be absorbed better when paired with something slightly acidic.

Why do you need to absorb magnesium? For starters, it keeps bones healthy. Also, an adequate dose of magnesium on a consistent basis helps us sleep better.

So, we pair our easy-to-make homemade tomatillo sauce with some sweet red tomatoes and tangy green olives, and we’ve got a lively accompaniment for our protein-rich quinoa and beans. Delicioso!

Enchilada Quinoa with Home-Made Tomatillo Sauce
(Serves 4)
1 c. rinsed red quinoa*
*(Some quinoa comes pre-rinsed. If yours is not, you must rinse it to remove the natural bitter saponins)
2 c. home-made tomatillo sauce (or use your favorite chemical-free store-bought brand)
2 garlic cloves
1 c. grape tomatoes, sliced
1 c. green olives
1 15 oz. can of white beans, rinsed
2-3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Heat the enchilada sauce on high heat just until it begins to boil. Immediately turn heat to simmer and add rinsed quinoa. Cover. Cook for approximately 20 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, place all remaining ingredients into a sauce pan. Sauté over low heat until tomatoes are slightly soft.

Once quinoa is done, gently toss sautéed ingredients into quinoa.

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Sesame Nori Chips: Easy to Make & Take

nori.chips

Recently I’ve received a lot of emails requesting healthy after-school snack recipes for the upcoming school year. Here is one that you can make in no time, then store for 2-3 days. If you’ve got kids, they can even help you make this – which, in my experience, always improves the likelihood that they will eat something :)

Nori is sold in sheets. It is generally used to wrap sushi; however, with all of the nutrition it contains, it would be a shame not to eat it more often. Nori is known as a ‘sea vegetable’, or ‘seaweed’. But don’t let the concept of seaweed deter you from trying it. Just think of it as a nutritious veggie that just happens to grow under the water instead of on land. This is exactly how the Japanese have viewed it for over a thousand years.

Nori contains a wonderful supply of iodine. Iodine is essential for healthy metabolism. Recent studies have shown that low iodine levels are linked to both breast cancer and prostate cancer. It is interesting to note that breast cancer rates are lower in Japan than in Europe or the United States.

Besides being abundant in iodine, nori is also rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and magnesium. Vitamin C helps protect the body from disease-causing free radicals (i.e., all those sick little boys and girls whose parents send them to school anyway). For kids and adults who will be pouring over books and computers, remember that Vitamin A is good for our eye health. And magnesium helps to regulate blood sugar levels – which comes in handy when we become stressed about tests or deadlines!

So there you have it. Whether you’re a little kid, a college student, or an adult on the go in the work force, you’ve gotta try these sesame nori chips. Besides being very good for you – they’re just plain yummy!

This recipe works best with a a pastry brush and a pizza cutter. If you don’t have these tools, use your fingertips in place of the brush, and a non-serrated knife in place of the pizza cutter.

Sesame Nori Chips

10 nori sheets
1/4 c. water*
*(you will not use all of it)
1/4 c. sesame oil or olive oil**
**(you will not use all of it)
1/4 c. sesame seeds
optional: sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. (HOWEVER, if your oven tends to run hot, preheat to 275 degrees F.)
Dip a pastry brush (or your fingers) in water. Very lightly brush a sheet of nori with water.
Cover this nori sheet with another sheet, pressing down lightly.
Very lightly brush the top sheet with oil, then sprinkle with sesame seeds (and salt, if desired).
Using a pizza cutter (or a non-serrated knife), cut the double-nori sheet into 8 pieces. Place the pieces onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Be sure that they are not touching or on top of each other so that all chips get crispy.
Repeat for the remaining nori sheets.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until dry to the touch.
Cool completely on a rack.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature. They will keep for 2-3 days.

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Your Asian Solution to an Almost-Empty Fridge: “Forgiveness Veggies”

forgiveness.veggies.2

We’ve all had those weeks. You know the ones. Running errands and attending appointments all over the globe. No time to breathe, let alone go food shopping. Ugh, even the thought of pushing that cart around is exhausting.

The problem is, when you open the fridge your remaining food items are so…random. So how do you pull it all together into something appetizing? Forgiveness Veggies.

The fabulous thing about Forgiveness Veggies is that you can put almost any type of veggies into this meal. They will all work together in the end. Try to slice everything to approximately the same thickness; but if you have more delicate veggies such as kale or collard leaves, just let those veggies wait 5 minutes before joining the rest of the veggies on your baking tray. As for protein, sesame seeds provide it. Add more sesame seeds to upgrade the protein content to a main course level.

One caveat: Being prepared with a nice selection of condiments is like having a magic hat full of tricks. I cannot emphasize this enough. Condiments last a lot longer than groceries. So be sure to invest in condiments when you have the luxury of a little more shopping time; this way they can save your tail when you have zero time. In this case, the glaze is made from a few ingredients that would be beneficial to have in your kitchen all the time – miso, rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, agave nectar, and sesame seeds. (Note: I avoid soy, so I always have chick pea miso from South River Miso on hand)

Forgiveness Veggies
(Serves 4 or more)

8 cups of fresh veggies of your choice (sliced to about 1/4″ thickness)
2 tbsp. grapeseed oil or healthy cooking oil of your choice
1 tbsp. black sesame seeds

Glaze:
2 tbsp. agave nectar
3 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. light miso or chickpea miso
1 tbsp. rice vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
If you are using any thinner or more delicate veggies, toss them alone in 1 tbsp. of the grapeseed oil. Toss remaining sliced veggies in the remaining cooking oil.*
(*if all veggies are sturdy, they can all be tossed together in the grapeseed oil).

Place sturdy veggies on a baking tray so veggies are spread out and not on top of one another. Bake for 5 minutes, then add the more delicate veggies. (**Again, if they’re all kind of the same thickness, you can throw them all in at once). Bake for 25 minutes.

Take the veggie tray out of the oven. Drizzle veggies with agave nectar and toss carefully to coat. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top. Return tray to oven for 5 more minutes.

Mix sesame oil, miso, rice vinegar, ginger, and garlic together until blended. Place veggies into a bowl, then carefully toss in the sesame oil mixture. Serve immediately.

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“Fix-It-Yourself” Summer Parties

salad dressing 2
You just never know what will happen in the summer. You’re sitting around with your friends, and you all decide to light up the grill. Or, maybe old friends pop in unexpectedly. Or perhaps the relatives are on their way for a summer visit. Whatever the occasion, there’s no need to stress about what to serve. The “Fix-It-Yourself” party is the way to go so that everyone is happy regardless of age, allergy, or tastebuds.

What exactly is a “Fix-It-Yourself” party? Well, first, pick a main food. This will serve as a sort of ‘canvas’ from which everyone can build their ideal meal. From there, all you have to do is supply a ‘buffet’ of toppings or mix-ins. The mix-ins should include both fruits and veggies, as well as nuts and toppings according to the base you’re serving. Recently on Big Blend Radio, I discussed this very idea. Here are the ideas I shared for “Fix-It-Yourself” Summer Parties:

Mini pizzas on the grill
Baked potatoes or sweet potatoes
Veggie kebobs
and, the feature of my talk – a Pasta Salad Bar.

A bit about the mini pizzas – use the uncooked pizza crust of your choice. Before topping, grill one side on high until browned. Flip it over, then allow guests to load-em up. Then, place back on the grill over low heat until done.

The baked potatoes are self-explanatory, and you can serve both sweet and savory toppings to make it fun.

As for the veggie kebobs, if you use fruit then keep it chunky. There’s no need to pre-marinate the veggies and fruits. That would be too messy for people as they load them onto the skewers. I would suggest to serve them as is, since grilling brings out their natural sweetness. You might also serve them with dipping sauces. Or, if you are lucky enough to have a rosemary plant, then use some of your rosemary stems as skewers. Your veggies will be infused with gorgeous flavor.

Finally – the pasta salad bar. All you have to do is put out a variety of cooked pasta. To add texture and healthy options, you can also serve precooked quinoa or gluten-free pasta (clearly labeled, of course). Again, guests can choose their mix-ins, so be creative! You will also need some snazzy dressings to pour over the pasta concoction. But again – Keep It Simple, Sweetie! Pictured above are 3 easy dressing ideas to get you started: a basic olive oil and vinegar (just use whatever you have around and mix to your taste), Mango-Lemon Dressing, and Basil-Lime Dressing.

So, to sum it all up: “Fix-It-Yourself” meals satisfy each guest because they are only mixing in what they like. This serves as a meal and activity all in one, as it allows guests to exercise their creativity. This style of eating also becomes an icebreaker: “What combination did you choose?”

The beauty is, once you’ve chopped a few things, your guests are doing most of the work!

Mango-Lemon Dressing
(Yields approximately 2 cups of dressing)

1 c. ripe mango
1 c. coconut milk
juice and zest of 1 lemon
¼ c. olive oil
Sea salt or pink Himalayan salt to taste

Blend all ingredients at high speed.

Basil-Lime Dressing
(Yields approximately 2 cups of dressing)

1 c. fresh basil (leaves and stems)
1 c. coconut milk
juice and zest of 1 large lime
¼ c. olive oil
Sea salt or pink Himalayan salt to taste

Blend all ingredients at high speed.

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Gluten-Free Gooey Cinnamon Muffins

gooey cinnamon muffins
I may have shared my frequent cravings for gigantic Cinnabon muffins. I’ve lost my taste for many white-flour desserts – but never for Cinnabon. The gorgeous smell…the gooey frosting…the decadent cinnamon….

Right about now you’re saying,

Snap out of it, Lisa!! Seriously, just get a hold of yourself. You’re supposed to be helping us eat better – not tempting us to eat junk.

But wait. I am helping. These little muffins may not resemble Cinnabon – and because they lack white flour, they are not as fluffy – but the flavors are definitely there. Sticky, gooey, cinnamon indulgence. (And – for our friends with dietary sensitivities, even more good news – they are gluten-free.)

That said, please hear me on this. This is not a breakfast muffin – it is a dessert muffin. The reason is that although it contains a nice amount of protein, it also contains agave inside and on the top. It’s not a huge amount of agave nectar; but regardless, it’s best to avoid sugar first thing in the morning, whether it’s a natural sugar or not. So save these little babies for a mid-day treat or dessert instead.

Incidentally, a fabulous place to buy pecan meal is nuts.com.

Also, you’ll notice that the topping is made with Earth Balance Coconut Spread. Love-Love-Love this stuff as a butter replacement in baking.

Happy indulging.

Gooey Cinnamon Muffins

(Makes about 8 muffins)

2 ½ c. pecan flour (also called ‘pecan meal’)
1 tbsp. coconut flour
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 eggs (or egg replacer equivalent)*
*(muffins will not get as fluffy or hold together quite as well)
½ c. coconut milk
½ c. agave nectar

Topping:

4 tbsp. agave nectar
2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
4 tbsp. Earth Balance coconut spread

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Mix all dry ingredients together (except topping).
In a separate bowl, mix all wet ingredients (except topping).
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix well.
Pour batter evenly into lined muffin cups.
Mix all the topping ingredients in a separate bowl.
Drizzle over the muffins.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Mmmmm.

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Enter our Giveaway by 7/4/14!

contest.june.2014

Enter to win a beautiful Carolina Herrera tee from Saks 5th Avenue’s “Key to the Cure” collection. The design is a forest of trees with pink hearts for leaves…but if you look close, you’ll see that the ‘leaves’ form the continents of the world. Size Medium, white with 3/4 sleeves. In honor of July 4th, you have 4 ways to win. The more ways you enter, the more chances you have!

1.) Follow us on Instagram @Pink__Kitchen (Note: ****2 underscores***)

2.) Leave a friendly review for your fav Pink Kitchen cookbook on Amazon.com

3.) Leave a friendly comment after your favorite recipe on this blog

4.) Add us on Snapchat: Pink_Kitchen

Winner will be picked at 11 p.m. EST on July 4th. Good Luck!!!

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Kale w/ Roasted Garlic & Hazelnuts: A Delicious Dose of Manganese

hazelnut.kale

I really enjoy getting letters from people who are just starting to dip their feet into vegetarian or vegan cooking. One perspective I often hear is that vegetarian/vegan cooking is too light – skeptics expect that it’s all salads and no fun. Yet I also hear the opposite perspective: some people complain that many vegetarian/vegan recipes are too heavy, because they rely too much on grains to bulk up the protein in a meal.

This is one vegan meal that offers the best of both worlds – it’s light enough that you won’t need a nap afterwards; yet it’s hearty enough that your appetite will definitely be satisfied. And there are no grains included! Rather than a grain we will use millet. Millet has a fluffy texture similar to quinoa, but a bit firmer. Although millet is often labeled as a ‘grain’, this is incorrect. Millet is a seed; therefore, it provides a healthy amount of gluten-free protein. For more millet recipes, click here.

To kick the protein up a notch so that it’s worthy of being called a ‘main course’, we will add some hazelnuts (also called ‘filberts’). These nutritious little nuts were once believed to have mystical powers, such as helping to find buried treasure. Today, they are still magical in the sense that they provide a healthy supply of manganese. Lucky for us, millet is also high in manganese.

Unfamiliar with the importance of manganese in the diet? Well, this little mineral is a treasure for all seasons. Whether we are out playing in the summer sun, or sliding down a ski slope, manganese helps defend us against free radicals. Whenever we are experiencing a less active lifestyle because of colder weather or due to extreme heat, manganese helps us synthesize cholesterol. Whether we’re splurging on Christmas cookies or sipping a cocktail by the pool, manganese is there for us again – balancing out our blood sugar levels.

Even luckier for us – this recipe is very simple, yet loaded with flavor.

Kale w/ Roasted Garlic & Hazelnuts
(Serves 4)
2 Rapunzel vegetable broth cubes*
(or, substitute 4 c. broth for the cubes and the water)
4 c. water
1 c. millet
1 bunch of lacinato kale
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram (substitute oregano if necessary)
Himalayan salt or sea salt to taste
1/2 c. raw hazelnuts
1/2 c. peeled raw garlic cloves
2 tbsp. refined coconut oil or grapeseed oil
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place water and broth cubes into a deep skillet and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, chop thick stems off the bottom of the kale and save for another use (such as juicing). Chop kale into bite-size pieces.
Once water boils, reduce heat to simmer. Place kale, millet, marjoram, and salt into skillet. Cover and cook over low heat until millet is fluffy, 25-30 minutes.**
**(Millet will not completely absorb broth)
While millet mixture is simmering, slice garlic cloves in half. Toss with 1 tbsp. of the oil. Place onto a pan so that they are not covering each other. Place pan into oven.
Toss hazelnuts with the other tbsp. of oil. Wait 5 minutes, and then add them to the garlic pan.
Remove pan from oven once garlic is lightly browned.
Divide kale mixture into 4 pasta bowls. Top with some of the roasted garlic and hazelnuts. Drizzle with olive oil.

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Repairing Summer Skin with Vitamin A: Watercress & Marcona Almond Salad w/Sweet Lemon-Basil Dressing

watercress. marcona

We all know that the summer sun wreaks havoc on the health of our skin. But did you know that there are certain vitamins that work very hard to protect the skin? Increasing our intake of these vitamins over the summer may help save our skin from disease or accelerated aging.

One of the key players is vitamin A. For starters, vitamin A helps repair sun-damaged skin because it contains retinol. You may be aware that retinol is one of the top ingredients in skin care cream. Retinol guards against sun spots and fine lines, and it also helps to restore elasticity. More importantly, the retinol in vitamin A acts as a shield against melanomas.

Watercress is a fantastic supply of vitamin A. Watercress has a slightly bitter flavor, but this is easily balanced with the addition of a sweeter ingredient, such as the red grapes in this salad. Watercress is also one of the ‘juicier’ greens – to understand what I mean, think about how raw spinach has more ‘juice’ when you bite into it than kale or chard does. Both the stems and the leaves are edible.

Now that we’ve talked about watercress, let’s discuss Marcona almonds. Marconas are a bit more expensive than regular almonds due to their gourmet status; but it is worth it to splurge for a little bag of them now and then. There is no brown outer skin as with the typical California almond. Marcona almonds, which originate in Spain, are short, plump, and naturally sweet. If you can’t find them in your local supermarket or specialty food store, you can order them online. The Marcona almonds I used in this recipe are a special type from a store called Trader Joe’s. They are seasoned with rosemary and sea salt. Divine!!!

They look like this:
marcona.54 PM.png
To find out if you have a Trader Joe’s in your area, click here.

On a side note: This recipe yields more dressing than you will need, simply because one ‘bunch’ of watercress may be bigger or smaller depending where you buy it, or how much of the lower stems you discard. My advice is to start out using only half of the dressing. If your salad is too dry, you can always add more. If you have some dressing left over, lucky you! You have a beautiful dressing or marinade for another day.

Watercress & Marcona Almond Salad with Sweet Basil-Lemon Dressing

1 bunch watercress
2 c. red seedless grapes
1 c. Trader Joe’s Marcona Almonds with Rosemary and Sea Salt*
*(If you have no Trader Joe’s in your area, just use regular Marcona almonds and add a little dash of dried rosemary and sea salt to the salad.)
2 green onion stalks

Dressing:
Zest of 1 whole lemon
1 whole lemon, remaining peel removed
½ c. fresh basil
¼ c. agave nectar
½ c. olive oil
½ c. water

Chop off and discard the very bottom portion of the watercress stems.
Chop watercress into bite-size pieces.
Cut all grapes in half.
Slice green onions.
Toss grapes, watercress, green onions, and Marcona almonds together, making sure to include some of the rosemary/sea salt mixture (from the bottom of the bag) into the salad. Set aside.

Place all dressing ingredients into a blender. Blend until combined.

Pour 1/2 of the dressing onto the salad mixture. Toss well. Add more dressing only if needed. Otherwise, save remaining dressing for another use. (Note: Dressing is fabulous as a bright summer marinade!)

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My Experiment with Walnut Flour: Berry-Chocolate Madness

blu.choc.madness

By now I’ve worked with several types of nut flours. But the one that I have not worked with very much is walnut flour – more commonly known as walnut meal. The difference between a nut ‘flour’ and a nut ‘meal’ is texture. Nut flours are usually off-white in color because they are blanched (put briefly in very hot water to remove the skin). Examples of nuts which are blanched to make flour include almonds and hazelnuts. Conversely, nut meals are usually tan or brown, because the skin of the nut has not been removed. The result is a coarser flour. Examples include pecan meal and walnut meal. Additionally – hoping not to cause confusion here – but almonds and hazelnuts are also available as ‘meal’ when their skins are left on.

The main thing to remember is that the type of nut flour you use will effect your end result. If you are making something that is meant to be more fluffy – like a cake – then blanched nut flours would be the better choice. But if you are baking something that can have more texture to it – like chunky cookies – then nut meals work well. (See the photo above).

Walnuts are a heart-healthy food because they are very low in cholesterol. They are also a fantastic source of the minerals copper and manganese.

The combination of walnuts, blueberries, and dark chocolate in these cookies gives them a powerful punch of anti-oxidants, and NuStevia keeps sugar content low. So in this case, cookies are very good for you :)

Berry-Chocolate Madness Cookies
(Makes 1 dozen cookies)
1 1/4 c. walnut meal
1/2 tsp. baking soda
4 packets of NuStevia
pinch of salt
1/2 c. dried blueberries (+ enough water to soak them)
1 c. chocolate chips
1 egg (room temperature)
1/2 c. coconut oil, melted
1 tsp. natural strawberry extract

Soak dried blueberries in enough water to cover them. Allow to soak for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Live a baking tray with parchment paper.
Mix walnut meal, baking soda, NuStevia, and salt in a medium bowl.
In a separate bowl mix egg, coconut oil, and natural strawberry extract.
Drain blueberries.
Stir in blueberries and chocolate chips.
Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Let cool completely before removing from tray.

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Sounds Like a Devil, But Really an Angel: The Fabulous Peach Mojito Salad

peach mojito 2

When you hear the word ‘mojito’, you do not necessarily think ‘healthy’. Typically, a mojito is an alcoholic beverage high in rum and sugar, with the potential to wreak havoc on your figure and your liver. But here at Pink Kitchen, ‘mojito’ means just the opposite!

Summer is a great time to detox. Warm weather helps the body relax and let go of toxins. How does this work? Well, the first reason is that we sweat more. Secondly, we are often doing more of our favorite recreational activities. This means that our muscles are more relaxed – even if those activities include getting a good work-out. A third reason that summer is such a great time to detox is that we are more likely to eat raw fruits and veggies, since they are more readily available than in the colder months. Finally, since the warmer weather deters us from the hot stove, we are more likely to eat lighter.

In this fresh summer recipe, we’ll use 2 fabulous detoxification foods: mint and cucumber. Cucumber alkalinizes our body’s pH. A pH on the alkaline side of the scale helps to keep us from getting sick. Cucumber also rehydrates the body, which is especially important during the hot summer months. Mint helps to clean out our liver and gall bladder. When our liver and gall bladder are clean and healthy, we can fight off diseases more quickly.

On another note, this is an especially great salad for “Girls’ Night In” – it is full of iron and vitamin C. Many women do not realize this, but in order for iron to be absorbed properly, it needs vitamin C. Mint contains lots of iron, while both mint and peaches contain vitamin C.

Another delicious idea for this recipe: Use it as a summer burger topping. Fantastic! Your Peach Mojito topping will be the talk of the barbeque!

Here is the recipe for my fabulous Peach Mojito Salad, which I shared recently with at Creative Celebrations Magazine.

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