The Great Salad Quest

To know me is to know that my obsession with salads is borderline absurd.  Ask my family or close friends!  There is nothing better to me than a great, well thought out, memorable salad.  One that is full of healthy, yummy ingredients that make me want to keep eating after every morsel is gone.  Packed with fruits, vegetables, nuts, seasonal options and a variety of greens to nourish every part of my body, and then some!  Where all of the ingredients marry together to make me want to come back again and again.  You see, a salad can be just as satisfying, filling and enjoyable as any other item on the menu, whether cooking at home or dining out.  So…Therein lies my dilemma.IMG_20170630_141324_880

When the subject of going out to eat comes up, the first question is, of course, where do you want to go?  The next 15 or 20 minutes are occupied by extensive due diligence, trying to locate a mouthwatering salad on many menus filled with burgers, pasta, seafood delights and other trendy, although I’m sure, delicious items.  The salad is never thought of as a main dish, never as many choices, and sometimes overlooked all together.  So, again, where do you want to go?  More times than not, the final answer is the grocery store and I’ll cook something at home.  

Likewise, when you read reviews of restaurants or a new restaurant opens in town, the judgement is always on the main meat, pasta or specialty item of the establishment.  There may be a slight mention of a yummy side salad, something to start your meal, but generally focus is on the spectacular entree.  My conclusion…the salad lover is out of luck when it comes to enjoying a night out!

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Well, have no fear, salad lovers!  I am here for you.  My quest is to explore, pursue and taste test salads of all varieties: around town, or around the state, take out, when I travel, or if you have any suggestions!  I know I am not the only one…have you ever explored Pinterest, Instagram or other social media sites?  I find some of the most mouth watering salads in pictures and know that they are out there in the food world to discover.  We should be able to go out to eat and finish our salad with the same full belly as the meat lover – only not as uncomfortable!  Please, don’t misunderstand, I am a meat eater.  I enjoy a great chicken, pork or seafood dinner with the best of them!  When eating out, though, I tend to head straight to the salad section of the menu.  There are several reasons for this.  One of the biggest is that there is always too much food on a the main entrees and usually ingredients that I tend not to eat.  Therefore a salad is the perfect choice.

While this may not be a world changing dilemma, it has caught my attention and curiosity.  Over the next coming weeks, months, or however long it takes, I will be in search of the menus with outstanding, healthy, unique, vibrant, well thought out salads to share with you.  I will be keeping a journal and share my thoughts, critiques and yummy factor for all that I taste.  Sometimes you just want a great salad, and I will let you know where to find just that.  Follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest at Ann E’s Perfect Portions and we will discover what’s out there together.  If you have had a salad you can’t forget, please let me know.  I’d like to add it, and try it.

Stay tuned for a must try…or sometimes maybe not try…directory of unforgettable and nutritious salads.  I am excited about this journey and look forward to sharing my findings.

Eat well, and until next time…

Embrace your age! It’s who you are

Where do You Shop? Do You Have a Favorite, or Shop Around?

I finished up what I wanted to accomplish before work this morning, leaving me with questions about why and where others shop.

Date-Nut Butter was on my to do list.  Needing to pick up some dates for this yesterday, I decided to give Aldi’s a try.  I keep hearing people talk about how much they love it.  I’ve been in a few times and walked out, not really getting the big deal.  The first thing as you walk in the door is an entire aisle of chips, candy and other bagged and processed items.  I also don’t do well with warehouse shopping.  It feels like a Rack Room for food.  The out of date items, the brands that no one can sell, sitting on the shelves for who knows how long.  I’m NOT saying that’s true…just feels that way to me.   But, yesterday I was going to see what I could purchase!  I found some trail mix selections.  Different nut and seed varieties.  I like to buy a couple of different ones and mix them together.  Price wasn’t bad.  Ok…first purchase.  Next, I found spicy mustard.  I needed some, and it looked as good as any.  The produce didn’t look too bad.  I found my dates.  They were Medjool, although the price wasn’t any better than Trader Joe’s.  But freshness is the most important element.  Let’s try them.  That was about all I needed, so that would be my first buying experience with Aldi’s.  As for other warehouse stores, I’ve tried Sam’s with no luck, but never been in Costco.  I know they are loved by many, so call me crazy!

I opened the nuts when I got home.  These were nuts I would use in my Date-Nut Butter as well as make my own trail mix.  They weren’t as fresh tasting as I’ve had, but mixed in with other things, probably wouldn’t make much difference.  This morning I used them for my nut butter.  After processing them in the food processor, it was time to add the dates.  Definitely not as fresh as Trader Joe’s.  Some were hard to cut open in order to remove the pit.  Some were fine.  I added my warm water and turned on the processor.  Gonna need a little more water to get these to break down.  Fresh dates don’t need too much added water, but these were a little harder.  Again, making me wonder how long they had been packaged.  I added the water, got things mixed and processed.  Date-Butter ready.  The taste was good, I can’t complain about that.  Not feeling like I’m eating fresh ingredients, I can question.  It didn’t seem like the price savings was great enough to compromise quality.

Which brings us to the many other choices out there.  I have mostly been a Harris Teeter shopper.  I find their rotisserie chickens to be the best, and I usually feel pretty good about their produce.  Like most places now, you can opt for organic or not.  They have the best deal on kale…large bunch that seems to be fresher than anywhere I’ve shopped and a great price.  I was never a Trader Joe’s shopper until my daughter started working there.  It was nice, of course, for the discount, but I also found out what the fuss was about.   Everything is good quality and usually at a very good price.  I now only buy my meats and eggs there.  And…as you well know…dates!  I also find their nuts to be fresh and reasonably priced and I love their bags of already prepared produce.  If you hate the preparation of vegetables, this is the way to go!  I am such a fan of the cauliflower rice.  It’s so versatile and adds a great texture to any dish.  I use it as a side dish, or add other ingredients and make a meal of it.  So simple and ready in no time.  That’s a great one for  a “too tired to cook” night.  Throw in a few of the already 20170526_184432prepared veggies and you have supper before even thinking about how going out might be a good idea.

I do occasionally try the higher end stores.  Whole Foods has some good choices and sometimes you can find a good price or a sale that will make you glad you came in!  Fresh Market is a beautiful store, but I only shop there when I’m feeling a bit extravagant!  Where is your favorite?  I think we all gravitate to one place as our go to, maybe venturing in another on occasion.  I’ve tried most in my area – oh, I left out Ingles.  Never knew of them until moving to this area.  I do find them expensive and some things are very questionable.  They are a last resort for me, but will go if needed.

I don’t think most people like to shop around, it can be very time consuming.  But, after years of looking for the best deals, watching all of these stores evolve and wanting the freshest quality at a reasonable price, I feel like I know exactly where to go to get what I need.  Funny, but it actually makes shopping easier.  If I know what I’m after, I can go right to that store and I’m done.  No shopping around, wandering through the aisles, or wondering if I got the best deal.  So, although I may travel to different places, it has, for me, become a time saver!  What are you looking for in a store?  Do you shop around, or stick with what’s close?

How about a Cauliflower Rice vegetarian dinner tonight?

Easy Vegetarian Cauliflower Rice

1 Bag Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Rice

1 Bag Snow Peas

1 Pint Heirloom Grape Tomatoes

1 Red Pepper, chopped

1 Red Onion, diced

2 Garlic Cloves, peeled and chopped20170526_190926

1 Can Garbanzo Beans, drained and rinsed

Juice for 1/2 lemon

2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet, heat olive oil and add onions and garlic.  Sprinkle vegetables with a pinch of salt.  Turn heat to medium/low.  When onions are a bit translucent, add tomatoes and red pepper.  Let cook 3-4 minutes and add snow peas, stirring into other vegetables.  Cook 3-4 minutes and stir in garbanzo beans.  Add cauliflower rice last, along with lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. Stir to incorporate all of ingredients.  Let cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Serve with sliced avocado.  It is a meal in itself!  Mix it with chicken or salmon the next night, and you have a completely new meal.  Enjoy!

Until next time –

Embrace your age…it’s who you are!

Put a Smile on Your Face, Your life is Just Beginning…

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Welcome to the Cafe

I was walking to my car one day and I started thinking about age…my age to be exact…and how people use the phrase “you look great for____ (fill in the blank!)”.  What exactly does that mean?  What exactly does (fill in the blank) look like, or feel like, or anything?  It’s just a number.

At 59 not a day went by that I didn’t wonder what being 60 would be like.  Will it be any different than 59?  Will it be any different than 55?  I think 55 was the year that made me think about my age and where I was heading.  It just seemed like a downhill slope to 60.  Actually, it has been anything but downhill.  With these years I have made a life for myself after a divorce, created a career and gone back to school.  I have started exploring my real feelings about what I want and where I want to go.  Who am I and is any of this different from when I was 25 thinking the same things?  Yes, as a matter of fact, it is.  It’s better.  Think about the experiences, the ups and downs, the knowledge from succeeding and from failing, the loves and the losses.  Yes, much different.  But the feelings are the same, the anxieties are the same, the uncertainties are the same.

If I had known at 25 what I know now, how would my life be different?  Would it be different?   Would I ask for the same things with confidence and assurance?   Would I walk away if my gut said to?  Would I believe in my own self worth?  Would I believe in me at all?  I guess I’m still that 25 year old, with a lot more experience and self assurance.  Kind of an interesting and exciting combination.  My children are just starting their lives, this chapter anyway.  Two of them fresh out of college, securing jobs, moving to new and exciting places. The youngest, still in college, but traveling a different path than originally planned.  Nothing unusual at that age.  But what about at my age?  I have certainly traveled much different paths than I thought I would.  But, isn’t that true at any age?  25, or 55?  Do you see the inconsistencies, and the consistencies?  Life is very strange, yet very intriguing.

So, what does any age mean?  Are you asking the same questions?  Are you ready to explore the whole idea of age and what exactly you do with it?  Sit around and get old, or ignore it and keep on moving?  If you all answered that one question, I dare say I would get as many different answers as people who answered.  Or, would we all see it the same?  We are all faced with age, getting older, aging, etc.  It’s just what we choose to do with it.  How about you?  What are you doing with it?

I would love to hear your thoughts on your aging process.  Do you even think about it at all?  Are you worried about each line that shows up on your face and gray hair on your head?  Do you think about the aches and pains?  Do you sag in places you didn’t before, and wish you didn’t now?  Or are you out there showing the world that you are stronger than ever and your number has nothing to do with how you feel?  Does our health and how we have taken care of ourselves over the years play a role?  Have you had to make some adjustments in your routine or what you can eat and not eat?  Can we straighten up and get healthy now and change the course of time?  How old do you want to be?  How far are you ready to go?  Let’s find out together!

Until next time…

Embrace your age, it’s who you are!