Picnic in the Park: Two Healthy Brunch Salads to Share

We like to brunch here in Washington, DC. Whether you live in Eastern Market, Mt. Pleasant or anywhere in between you’ve got at least a dozen solid options any given Saturday/Sunday. While I’m all for brunch, it makes it way too easy to blow your healthy eating habits—especially after your third (or was it fifth?) bottomless mimosa. And when it becomes more of a ritual than a splurge it can have a negative ripple effect on your overall diet. If you’re a habitual bruncher, why not try a picnic lunch in your favorite city park? When you’re the chef you have control over the menu and can ensure it’s bettering your wellness goals rather than bulldozing them.

Last weekend I went to one of my favorite District parks with three of my favorite people. My friend Jeanine is an amazing cook and is all about healthy eating and fitness. We divvied up the dishes and came up with a delicious gluten-free, dairy-free  menu that seemed to please not only us wellness wackos but the men in our lives too. You know you’re doing nutritious the delicious way when your self-proclaimed meathead mates are going back for thirds. J took the lead on the heartier fare with crustless, dairy-free baby quiche and potato pancakes. They were both so light and super tasty. Perfect for a steamy summer morning.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I decided to tackle the fruits and veggies. Dressing up a fruit or veggie salad is all about the quality of the ingredients. To give these simple salads a little boost I went to Whole Foods and picked up ripe, organic and mostly in-season fruits and veggies. The watermelon and heirloom tomatoes (both packed with lycopene as discussed in my Gazpacho post and Active Life DC Watermelon Popsicle article) were calling my name as soon as I walked through those sliding doors. Everything else followed suit.

I like to add a little je ne sais quoi to my recipes—you know, a taste that pleasantly lingers on the palette and makes you immediately ask for the recipe. The wow factor on my Favorite Fruits Salad is in the Ginger Lime Dressing and chia seeds. The acidic bite of fresh lime combined with ginger’s subtle spice and agave’s earthy sweetness bring continuity to the diversity of fruits I selected. And I’m all for texture, so the chia seeds add not only heart-healthy omega-3s but a nice crunch. When it came down to veggie selection time I wanted the tomatoes to steal the show so I balanced them with creamy, ripe avocados (which increase HDL cholesterol and lower the bad LDL kind) and organic basil leaves. After adding a drizzle of delicious Le Roux’s fig balsamic vinegar and a couple cranks of ground sea salt and black pepper, the minimalist in me screamed stop! In both dishes, the beauty of whole, real foods speaks for itself. It doesn’t take much doing when you let the food dictate the menu.

Favorite Fruits Salad with Ginger Lime Dressing


What You’ll Need:

  • 1/4  watermelon, cubed
  • 1/2 fresh pineapple, cubed
  • 1 kiwi, diced,
  • 1 ripe mango, diced
  • 1 white peach, diced
  • 1/2 pint blueberries
  • 2 tbs mint, cut into ribbons
  • 1 tbs chia seeds

For the Ginger Lime Dressing:

  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbs agave
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grater

How to Make It:

  1. Chop all your fruits and mix together in a big bowl (feel free to substitute ingredients for your favorites or what’s in season).
  2. In a separate smaller bowl, mixing together the ingredients for your dressing until combined.
  3. Pour dressing over fruit, sprinkle in chia seeds and mint, and toss to combine.
  4. Chill, serve and enjoy!

Heirloom Tomato, Avocado and Basil Salad with Fig Balsamic


What You’ll Need:

  • 3 heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, whole
  • Fig balsamic vinegar (or your favorite flavored vinegar)

How to Make It:

  1. Thinly slice tomatoes crosswise into rounds
  2. Thinly slice avocado crosswise into rounds
  3. Take a platter and create a bed of basil leaves as your base. Layer different colored tomatoes and avocados until the plate is covered
  4. Drizzle with balsamic and garnish with basil chiffonade

My Top 5 Green Smoothie Recipes

It’s officially Cherry Blossom season here in the District, which means spring (real spring, not teaser spring) is just around the corner! To honor the onset of my favorite time of year in DC, I thought I’d share 5 of my favorite “Greenie”recipes. My Greenies are healthy vegan  smoothies that bring together fruit, dark leafy greens, plant-based protein and nutritional superfoods in one tasty and satisfying blend. At under 400 calories for 16oz of smoothie (that’s two full glasses!), all of these recipes are are great way to start your day. They’re also packed with dietary fiber (thanks to the flaxseed and chia seeds in there) and protein to keep you full and focused. Best of all, they have anywhere from 3 to 5 servings of fruits and veggies so by the end of breakfast you’ll have either met or surpassed your recommended daily intake. Now, that’s no excuse to eat junk for the rest of the day, but it is mighty nice to know that you’re giving your body much of what it needs for optimal function from the get-go. Also, studies show that if you start your day with a healthy breakfast you’re less likely to be obese, more likely to have good/stable blood glucose levels (and consequently more energy and less moodiness), and less likely to be hungry later in the day.

If you’re not a fan of almond milk substitute your favorite unsweetened rice, hemp, soy, coconut or skim milk, or try fat-free plain Greek, soy or coconut yogurt in lieu of almond milk yogurt. Coconut water is another good liquid to swap, just beware of its sugar content. Several brands really jack that up. My favorites are Blue Monkey, C2O, and–la crème de la crème–100% Raw Coconut Water.



(1) Banana-Berry Breakfast Greenie:

  • 8 oz unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup frozen whole strawberries
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 tbs almond butter
  • 2 tbs ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

287 calories, 14g of dietary fiber, and 10g protein per serving.

(2) Blueberry-Kale Protein Greenie:

312 calories, 22g of dietary fiber, and 27g of protein per serving.

(3) Blueberry-Beet Power Greenie:

  • 8 oz unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 medium beets (boiled)
  • 1 cup frozen wild blueberries
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 tbs grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbs hemp protein powder
  • 2 tbs ground flaxseed

319 calories, 21g of dietary fiber, and 25g of protein per serving.

(4) Pineapple-Mango Vitamin-C Greenie:

  • 8 oz unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup frozen mango
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen pineapple
  • 2 handfuls of kale
  • 1 tbs chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

341 calories, 13g of dietary fiber, and 10g of protein per serving.

(5) Dark Cherry Goji Greenie:

381 calories, 21g of dietary fiber, and 25g of protein per serving.

10-Day Cleanse: Smoothies

Here are the recipes you’ll need for breakfast, days 1 through 4 of my 10-Day Cleanse.

Blueberry Beet Smoothie w/ Ginger:

Amy’s 10-Day (Moderate) Cleanse: Breakfast, Days 1 and 2

To Make: Blend together 1-2 medium raw beet (cleaned with skin on, roughly chopped), 1 cup frozen wild blueberries, 1 tbs grated fresh ginger, 2 tbs fresh lemon juice, 1 cup water, and a handful of ice. (Optional: substitute half of that water for a 1/2 cup almond milk)

  • This energizing smoothie is bound to put some pep in your step. The blueberries boast a high concentration of antioxidants and the raw beets are full of folate, vitamin B, and fiber.

Pineapple Banana Kale Smoothie:

Amy’s 10-Day (Moderate) Cleanse: Breakfast, Days 3 and 4

To Make: Blend together 1 cup fresh pineapple (cubed), 1 banana, 2-3 kale leaves (chopped with stems removed), 2 tbs ground flaxseed, 1 cup water, and a handful of ice. (Optional: substitute half of that water for a 1/2 cup almond milk)

  • This powerful smoothie is not only naturally sweet, but packed with dietary fiber, two powerful antioxidants (carotenoids and flavonoids) that are proven to help prevent cancer, and vitamins A, K and C.

Keep in mind this is a cleanse, so while these will taste refreshing and healthy they won’t be as sweet as a typical smoothie. If you are really struggling, try adding in the optional almond milk and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup or raw honey to these recipes–with the sweeteners these would also be great non-cleanse smoothies too.

Blueberry Banana Muffins

If you liked my healthy Banana Bran Muffins, you’re going to love these Blueberry Banana Muffins. Like that recipe, this one is made dairy-free by substituting banana for oil or butter, and almond milk for yogurt or cow’s milk. If you don’t have lactose issues I’d skip the almond milk substitution and use non-fat, plain Greek yogurt for a slight protein boost.

These muffins are easy to make, friendly on your waistline, and yummy to boot. Three of my fabulous lady friends tried them out a few weekends ago and can attest that they’re a mighty tasty alternative to the traditional blueberry muffin which can pack a serious caloric punch at an average of 450 calories a pop. Mine will set you back less than 1/3 of that.


  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup almond meal
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup cane sugar
  • ¼ cup agave or honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 ripe bananas (mashed)
  • ¾ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup frozen wild blueberries

How to Make Them:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F; spray 12-muffin pan with oil or line with fun paper liners
  2. In a bowl, mix together dry ingredients (flours and almond meal, baking soda and powder, and salt)
  3. In a separate, large bowl (or KitchenAid mixer if you have one), vigorously whisk together sugar and eggs. Add in your mashed banana, almond milk, and vanilla extract)
  4. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, mixing as you go
  5. Once combined, gently fold blueberries into batter until just combined
  6. Fill each of the muffin pockets 2/3 full; bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean

Try them out for yourself and let me know what you think!