Balsamic Vinaigrette with THREE Bonus Recipes


The first official day of summer break for my kids was yesterday.  The weather got the memo too because it’s been HOT and HUMID the last two days!  Right now I should be weeding my garden buuuut…I think it’s probably best to wait till this evening when the sun chills out and I won’t pass out from the heat (dramatic much?!).   What’s this got to do with the recipe you may be asking yourself?  If you’re thinking because of garden fresh produce then you win the prize!  Hey, don’t get too excited, the prize is just a free, simple recipe!

This recipe is super versatile, can be used in countless ways, is customizable to your liking and the ingredients can be found anywhere.  This vinaigrette is so easy to make yet tastes gourmet.  If you’ve always wanted to make your own salad dressing but feel intimidated or think it’s too hard then you’ve come to the right place because I’m here to help you out!

Ways to use this Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  1. As a salad dressing in any kind of salad.  *Recipe below for a show-stopping salad.
  2. A marinade for kebabs.  *Check below for another bonus recipe for this!
  3. A dressing for an Italian Pasta salad.  *Toss together cold pasta with the cucumber tomato salad (recipe below), add some uncured sliced salami and olives.  Double the dressing recipe for this or make one full recipe and whisk in 1/2 cup mayo.
  4. Dressing/Dip for all kinds of veggies and vegetable salads. *Recipe below for a cucumber tomato salad with a few more options.
  5. Mix with mayonnaise for a sandwich spread.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 2 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A simple, delicious, versatile salad dressing that’s healthy and Paleo with no crazy ingredients needed!

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. raw honey or real maple syrup
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • pinch of sea salt and black pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk together all ingredients until the olive oil and vinegar emulsifies (fancy word for the oil and vinegar come together and don’t separate).   You can also use a mini blender such as a ninja or bullet.  This method works better if you add herbs.
  2. Refrigerate until ready to use.  The olive oil will solidify some but once it reaches a warmer temp just give a little stir and it’ll come right back together.

 

*CUSTOMIZE IT:

  • Add fresh herbs, like 10 leaves of fresh basil or mint.
  • Add dried herbs, about ½-1 tsp of choice.
  • Use another type of vinegar such as red wine vinegar.
  • Add ½ tsp garlic powder or 1 small clove fresh garlic (either mince if you’re whisking or throw in the mini blender).

*Recipe for Peach Avocado and Goat Cheese Salad

  • 4 cups greens of choice (arugula is my choice but romaine is always a crowd pleaser too)
  • 1 peach, diced
  • ½ avocado, diced (feel free to use the whole thing!)
  • goat cheese crumbles
  • *optional: add grilled chicken or salmon to make this a full meal
  • *optional: chopped pecans or candied pecans/walnuts
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinaigrette

Toss the lettuce with the dressing.  Top with remaining ingredients and serve!  Recipe makes 2 side salads or 1 dinner salad.  

 

Above is the side salad with arugula and goat cheese.  Below is a dinner salad with chicken thighs and romaine.

*Recipe for Kebabs

  • 1 lb. chicken (breasts or thighs)
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 recipe for balsamic vinaigrette
  • *optional: fresh peach slices or pineapple chunks
  1. Cut everything into equal sized pieces, about 1″ in size.
  2. Place chicken in a bowl to marinate with 1/2 of the dressing.  Marinate for 30 minutes or longer.
  3. When ready to grill, skewer alternating pieces of chicken and vegetables/fruit.
  4. Grill over medium heat, brushing the remaining dressing over the kebabs as you grill.

*Recipe for Cucumber Tomato Salad

  • 1 medium cucumber (seedless work best), diced into small pieces
  • ½ pint of grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • ½ recipe of balsamic vinaigrette (make the full recipe and save the rest)
  • *optional additions: fresh herbs such as mint, basil, or chives.  Soft cheeses such as goat cheese, feta cheese or bleu cheese.  Very thinly sliced red onion or green onions.  Sliced black olives.

Combine all ingredients. Boom, done!

SaveSave

SaveSave

Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back From Being a David In a World Filled With Goliath’s


There is an old saying that people don’t change.  I strongly disagree with that though.  People can and do change!  Sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse but we all change.  Sudden change can be hard, but oftentimes it’s necessary to become a better version of ourselves.  This has been something weighing heavily on me lately.   I am changing into a better version of me because of my faith.  Old parts of me are dying.  Praise God for that because they were things I didn’t always like about myself.  Like the prayer “Lord empty me of me so I can be filled with you.”  It’s referring to the sinful parts of ourselves, not us as a whole.  God doesn’t want us to be a different person. He made us and created us, but the sinful parts of us need to go.

I’m finding the courage to navigate a newer side of myself that wants to be bolder in my faith.  Like writing these blog posts.  The human-ness in us wants to be accepted and liked.  Sadly, writing about God isn’t always popular, so we tend to shy away from talking about it or writing about it.  Then one day God grabs you and shakes you and says wake up!  So the groggy eyed Nicole got up every morning during Lent and spent the first part of the morning sipping hot coffee (because it’s early! DUH!), praying and doing devotionals.  There’s a funny thing that happens the more you pray…it makes you want to pray MORE!  God fills those empty parts of you with all HIS goodness and love and you start to feel whole and loved and happy.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a happy person by nature but this feeling is something even more, and it literally fills you to the brim!  Lent had a profound effect on me this year.  Holy week tore me up, spit me out and made me radiantly new.

Yesterday morning I was in the middle of a devotion and felt drawn to write something down.  I grabbed my prayer notebook and wrote.  What’s funny is this post is actually one I’ve been wanting to write for a few weeks but the words always evaded me.  I knew when the time was right, it would come to me.  These next few paragraphs in Italics are what I wrote. Word for word.  I pray that they reach someone and speak to you in a way they did to me as I sat in prayer.  As I finished writing, right at the minute I had to wake up my girls, I set my notebook down and had such a sense of peace about it and knew this post was ready.

Do not be prideful that you lack the ability to change because of fear. Fear of people looking at you differently.  Fear of losing old “friends” whom live a different sort of life than the one God intended for us.  Fear of being seen as different.  

It’s just like when someone changes their food choices in a permanent way.  For instance… just because the old you would drive through McDonalds, but the new you wouldn’t dream of it!  You don’t stress much about making the change because you know it’s better for you.  You feel better for these changes so you keep at it.  Spiritual changes are no different.  Getting rid of old sinful ways, like bad food choices, will improve your life.  You start to feel better!  God never promised that it’d be easy.  Jesus said “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  Mark 8:34  That cross led to eternal peace and happiness in Heaven.

Think of it like this, when going to a party many times when following a Paleo diet there aren’t many food choices.  It can be awkward and difficult to navigate the buffet and stick to your lifestyle.  We don’t want to be embarrassed by being different or make the host feel bad, but we stick to our diet anyway.  Why?  Because even though the food may taste amazing at that moment you know that deterring means you’ll feel awful later.  Just like sin.  It might feel good at the moment but later on the guilt, the shame and the hurt hit you and you feel awful.  

So why is it so difficult to stick to your beliefs as a Christian?  If you can do the hard work for your health, make the hard choices, and stick to your guns by not eating unhealthy foods, why is it so hard to stick to your Christian beliefs?  Your spiritual life is on the line.  Eternity, not just the time you’re here on this earth.  It is hard to make changes and be a new person on your quest for a close relationship with the Lord.  We’re human and we fail often.  But we’re not defeated in that sin, we need only go to God for true forgiveness.  Just like with food.  One day we may indulge and eat something we know isn’t the best choice, but it doesn’t mean we totally give up and go back to our old ways.  We start again at the next meal and do better.  

Say for instance you realize you may partake in some sort of activity that you know is wrong. Whether it’s drinking in excess, gossiping, premarital sex, drugs, cussing, etc., and your friends are used to you doing these things, or they do these things.  How do you go about changing this cycle and telling them that isn’t who you are anymore?  There is a massive fear of being rejected for these changes.  MAKE THE CHANGES ANYWAY.  Do it for yourself, your happiness, your inner peace, and your eternal destiny.  

If your friends are true friends they will love you and support you through the changes and when you become the new you.  If they abandon you, make fun of you, or challenge you then maybe it’s time to look for some new friends.  Be willing to be the one that stands out from the crowd for your faith. Be brave!  

David stood up to Goliath because he knew God was on his side.  God is on your side too.  Be a David in a society filled with Goliaths.  After all, we all know what happened to Goliath.  

In High School I was once called “one of those God freaks”.  I blurted out before I knew what I was saying “No, I’m not!” but then instantly regretted saying it.  I didn’t get a chance to defend myself because the kids (one of them was supposedly a friend), walked off laughing.  It’s been 19 years and I still remember that moment.  It’s high time I quit living that way, denying my love of God by being private about it, and start being brave to show that I love God.  I’m working hard to be a better person and change into a better version of me.

I pray that if you know this feeling too, you look inside and find the strength to be brave and be a David.  I’m not suggesting being pushy with your faith.  What I am saying is to not be afraid to be the new you.  Be the you that tries hard to avoid sin, even when everyone you’re surrounded by is doing it.  Don’t be afraid to divert a conversation that you know is heading in a bad direction.  Don’t be afraid to turn down that extra drink, that date that you know only wants one thing, or suggesting a different music station.  Be you.  Unapologetically you.

Changing Things Up a Bit on PaleoHope


It’s a good thing I don’t get paid to blog because I’d be broke.   I’m not good at being consistent with it.  I can go for months without posting then post three times in a week.  I love that I have the freedom to write or create when it hits me though.  So, I’m thankful this is a hobby and not a job.

What have I been up to the last few months then that has kept me away from my blog?  Well, a lot of stuff.  Nothing earth shattering to keep me away this long except for the simple fact that my life is evolving.  I’ve been struggling with how to write with what’s on my heart when what people expect to read here is recipes and health related articles. With that being said, I haven’t hidden the fact that my blog name is not just Paleo but also Hope-as in “Hope in God in all things”.  I’ve been feeling the urge in my heart to write more about this side of it.

I am guessing I will turn some people away with my writing about God…that’s ok with me.  I will not deny Him (Matthew 10:33).  That’s the cool part about writing your own blog, you can write about whatever YOU want and if people read it, awesome!  If they don’t, that’s fine too.  I write not just for others but also as a form of release and creativity for myself.


I’ve struggled with how to go about adding posts that are strictly about God when this blog isn’t just about religion/faith.  The more I pray though and the more I read the bible, the less complicated it seems.  I need to not worry what others think and do what is right for me.  I have many doubts in myself…I’m not a theologian, I don’t know the bible front to back, I don’t know a lot!  I’m a sinner, I’ve been broken, and yet I remind myself…we all are.  Maybe, just maybe the words I type will reach someone in a way they need and God will use me as his vessel to help someone.  Even one person.  That is enough for me to push on and type without fear.

I can’t tell you how many posts I will write in a month and how many of those will be about food, health or God, because like I said above I am not very consistent with it.  But what I can tell you is that I will be writing more about my faith and if that’s not something you want to read about then that’s ok.  You can choose to keep following my blog and only read the Paleo type posts or you can choose to unfollow.  I have a heart for God and I have been feeling an intense calling to share some reoccurring thoughts so expect that soon.

I’ve taken a big step back from some things in my life in order to spend more time in prayer.  If you follow me on Instagram and noticed a drop in my posting there, that is why.  It is easy to get drawn into social media and forget the things in our life that really matter most.  The people in front of me, time spent with God, my calling to be first a wife and a mother.  PaleoHope is NOT my main priority.   There are times I have to check my pride when it comes to Instagram.  Seeing how many likes a picture received, how many followers I have, etc. at all hours of the day.  I realized that is not a feeling I enjoy.  My worth is not dependent on any of that.  It’s fun to interact but I have to make sure I’m doing it for the right reasons and not for my own glory.   So for now, I leave you with this:

He said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”  Matthew 4:4

Food alone does not sustain me or fulfill me, and my blog will be a more true reflection of my life from here on out.  I pray that God blesses you in many ways today.

Save Money on Paleo Foods by Shopping at Aldi


I won’t sugar coat it, eating a strict Paleo diet can be more expensive than a standard american diet (SAD).  There are definitely ways to cut costs and make it work with your budget though.  Like eating a diet heavy in vegetables and avoiding processed foods (even the Paleo kind!).  I wont get too in depth with it since there are literally entire blogs by people about just this subject.  What I will tell you is that you should be doing some of your shopping at Aldi!

Seems kinda crazy right?  In the past Aldi was laden with pretty much only junk food.  Things have really taken a turn though and the tides have changed.  As of January 1, 2017 Aldi has committed to removing 8 pesticides from all items in their stores.  As well as really increasing the amount of organic and gluten free items they carry.  Sure I can’t get all the items I need from their, but being able to go every few weeks and stock up on certain things has helped keep my grocery budget in check.

I took a trip there yesterday and picked up some things.  Below are pics and prices for what my store offers.  There are still many more things that are Paleo at Aldi than what I was able to snap pics of.  So be sure to check it out and save yourself some loot!  Side note:  be sure to bring a quarter for the grocery cart (no worries you get it back when you return the cart!) and bring your own bags too!

They don’t have a huge produce section but they actually offer quite a bit and a section of it is even organic.  One way I save money is by working off the dirty dozen and clean 15 list from the EWG.  I buy the produce listed on the clean 15 and only organic for those on the dirty dozen.

img_8898

Organic bananas= $.59/lb  Avocados= $.59/each  Cabbage= $1.09  Green onions=$.69/package  Cauliflower=$2.29

Seafood should always be purchased wild caught and not farmed.  Basically farmed seafood are swimming in a concentrated pool of their own filth.  Juuust let that sink in for a second.  Gross.  Aldi carries wild caught salmon, scallops and a few other fish such as tilapia.  They are even sustainably caught!  Heck yeah!

img_8903

Wild caught jumbo scallops=$9.99/12oz     Wild caught pink salmon fillets $7.39/2lbs

Pasta sauce can get really pricey when you start getting into organic no junk added sauces.    I’ve seen many jars upwards of $6-8/jar!  Ideally we’d all make our own but lets be real, most of us aren’t going to do that.  I’m hoping to this summer but until then I will keep buying the Aldi organic brand and add some extra dried herbs and olive oil to make it taste homemade.

Organic pasta sauce $1.99/jar

Frozen produce is not only a cost saver, it also can be a lifesaver on busy nights or when the fridge runneth empty!  They don’t have a huge selection but they have brussels sprouts and even organic berries!

img_8897

Frozen Brussels Sprouts $.99/bag 12 oz

A new find was this salsa!  They have always carried some really cool varieties but they only recently came out with an organic one and with pretty clean ingredients!

Organic Salsa $2.29/jar

I normally don’t shy away from healthy oils for cooking. I use a generous amount in my food.  However, there are times that using an oil spray is just needed, such as on a waffle iron, or in a muffin tin.  Every oil spray I have seen, that doesn’t also have soy lecithin in it, (Trader Joe’s coconut oil spray does have this) is about $5/bottle.  I was so excited when I spotted this olive oil spray that only has olive oil in it and a steal at $2.49!!

img_8900

Olive oil spray $2.49/bottle

Nuts are typically something most Paleo people keep on hand.  Aldi offers a wide selection of them, just be sure you buy raw ones that don’t have added oils.  They also have cashew butter and almond butter!

img_8899

Shelled Pistachios $4.99/6oz bag

This past year I discovered I don’t react to goat milk products!  It’s been so wonderful being able to eat goat cheese and goat milk yogurt.  I usually snag a few goat cheeses while at Aldi and found a cool red wine variety this trip!

img_8896

Red wine infused goat cheese $3.99   Garlic and herb goat cheese $1.99

A few other things to grab…

  • Coconut oil
  • Guacamole
  • Raw honey
  • Organic applesauce and squirt applesauce pouches
  • Organic baby food pouches (I take these when we travel for times there is literally nothing else to eat)
  • Rice pasta
  • Kerrygold cheese varieties
  • LaCroix is even there on occasion!
  • Organic ketchup (it has added sugar so if you’re looking for squeaky clean Paleo, skip it)

They are always getting new products in and have one time specials so there are many more things than just the ones I listed!  Check them out and let me know what you think!