10 Skinny Summer Cocktails

  10 Skinny Summer Cocktails #HappyHour

Happy hour in the summer time is the best. Soaking up the sunshine while grabbing a cocktail with friends on the patio is a great way to unwind. However, a lot of cocktails are loaded with sugar and calories, which could lead to weight gain if you go out a couple times a week. Avoid wreaking havoc on your waistline at happy hour with these 5 great tips for lightening up your summer cocktails!

  1. Cut the fruit juice in half and replace it with club soda. You’d be surprised how a little juice can go a long way! The same goes for simple syrup.
  2. Replace the fruit juice entirely with fresh fruit. Think muddled berries for mojitos or frozen mango for margaritas. 
  3. Skip the bottled margarita mix you buy from the store and make your own at home. Even better, replace the mix completely with pureed fruit.
  4. Use fresh ingredients with a lot of flavor and not a lot of calories like: mint, cilantro, basil, ginger root, citrus fruit, etc. 
  5. Use diet soda instead of regular. If you are looking to be adventurous, give kombucha a try! 

For inspiration, try out any one of these 10 delicious, skinny summer cocktails:

Simple Summer Salad With Balsamic Vinaigrette

Summer meals should be simple. This salad is no exception. With just 9 super fresh ingredients, it doesn’t take much to create a flavorful salad. I whipped this up after the farmers market for lunch because I just couldn’t wait to enjoy some of the fresh veggies we had just bought! Wash up the greens, chop the tomatoes, and mix the vinaigrette while the corn steams and you will be ready to enjoy this fresh salad in a matter of minutes. 

Summer Salad with Corn, Arugula, and Balsamic Vinaigrette | Dietitian Debbie

 I added a hard boiled egg for a bit of filling protein, but feel free to substitute with chopped chicken or tuna. If you want to make it vegan, skip the cheese and add tempeh or baked tofu as a protein topping. I have a feeling this will be a new go-to salad for me this summer! The recipe below makes two meal sized servings. 

Simple Summer Salad with Corn, Tomatoes, and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Simple Summer Salad With Balsamic Vinaigrette
Recipe type: Salad, Entree, Lunch
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
Highlight the flavors of summer in this simple salad with less than 10 ingredients but a ton of flavor.
  • For the Dressing:
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Clove Garlic, Minced
  • Salt and Pepper
  • For the Salad:
  • 3 Cups Arugula
  • 1 Ear of Corn
  • ½ Cup Halved Cherry Tomatoes
  • 2 Ounces Fresh Mozzarella Cheese (or Cheese Curds)
  • 2 Hard Boiled Eggs
  1. Steam the ear of corn for 5-7 minutes. Cut the kernels off and set aside.
  2. Prepare the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a jar and shaking well.
  3. Assemble each salad by adding 1½ cups arugula to each bowl and adding ½ of each of the rest of the ingredients.

Summer Salad with Corn, Tomatoes, and Balsamic Vinaigrette  

Weekly Farmers Market Meal Plan for Vegetarians

Weekly Farmers Market Vegetarian Meal Plan

As a Dietitian, eating seasonally has truly become a passion of mine. Nothing beats farm fresh fruits and vegetables purchased at the peak of ripeness directly from the farmers themselves. Fueled with a huge cup of iced coffee, I love nothing better than filling up our bags with fresh produce at the Logan Square Market on Sundays. Each week is a bit of a surprise as I wonder things like: are peaches going to be ripe this week or is sweet corn coming in yet?!

Although meal planning ahead of time is a little more tricky when you buy your produce from the market, it isn’t impossible! To give you the tools you need to make eating seasonally easier, I’ve come up with a weekly meal plan with a shopping list you can take with you to the market. If anything isn’t available at your market that week, you can simply buy that item at the store when you stock up on staples or be a little adventurous and substitute something new.

All the recipes included in the plan are vegetarian, however meat can easily be added as a side or topping for any of these dishes. The list includes everything you’ll need to make each entree for the week. I’ve included some suggestions for sides or you can come up with some creative ones of your own!

Weekly Meal Plan for July 27-August 2

  • Monday: Zucchini Pesto Pasta - Pair with a protein based side like a Field Roast Vegan Italian Sausage (one of my favorites), chicken breast, or fish.
  • Tuesday: Tempeh Broccoli Stir Fry - If you need some carbs, serve over some whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, or barley. If you aren’t adventurous enough to try the tempeh, feel free to substitute ground turkey or beef (for non-vegetarians!). 
  • Wednesday: Spicy Tuna Salad Lettuce Wraps - Serve these wraps with cut veggies and hummus OR sliced fruit for a simple, no-cook meal.
  • Thursday: Blueberry, Hazelnut, and Feta Salad - This is one of those salads that is filling enough to be a meal. However, if you want a little something more, feel free to serve it as a side salad with grilled/broiled fish.
  • Friday: Beet Burgers - A fun dinner for a Friday night! Serve these beet burgers on whole wheat buns with a side of kale chips or maybe some baked sweet potato fries

Farmers Market Shopping List:

Here is a convenient printable shopping list to take with you to the Saturday/Sunday morning farmer’s market. Most every recipe makes 2-3 servings so double or triple the ingredients if you are cooking for more. In addition to market produce, you’ll find a list for any store items or pantry staples you will need for any of the entree recipes this week. Pick up additional ingredients for side dishes based on my suggestions above or your personal preferences. 

Vegetarian Meal Plan for a Weekend at the Farmers Market  Click here to download the PDF version to make it easier to print –> July 27th Week Meal Plan PDF

Hope you find this helpful! Let me know in the comments if you would like to see more meal plans or shopping lists. :-)

Frozen Ginger Mango Margarita

Happy national tequila day! Let’s celebrate with a little happy hour beverage. Hot summer evenings totally call for a frozen beverage like a margarita. The only problem with the margaritas you find at most bars is that they are absolutely loaded with sugar – typically in the form of corn syrup. So, why not make a healthier version at home?!

Mango Ginger Margarita with Coconut Cream

The only “sweetener” in this fruity beverage is from the two fresh mangoes. Mmm… Speaking of mangoes, have you seen this trick for peeling them quickly? I can say that it totally works! After peeling your mangoes, toss them in the blender with the rest of the ingredients and give it a whir. I always like trying out new tequila brands, so this time around I added Casa Noble and loved the flavor profile of the silver tequila. The thing that really makes this margarita special is the addition of just a tablespoon of coconut cream. I just swirled it around the top of the drink to add a hint of coconut every time you sip.

Mango Ginger Margarita

Frozen Ginger Mango Margarita
Recipe type: Beverage
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
Ditch the sugar mix and make your own homemade margarita! Sweetened with fresh, ripe mangoes.
  • 4 ounces tequila
  • ½ teaspoon ginger (fresh or dried)
  • 2-3 handfuls of ice
  • 2 fresh mangoes
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  1. Peel mangoes and add to the blender. Toss in the ginger, ice, and tequila as well. Blend on high until smooth.
  2. Pour into two 6 ounce glasses and top with tablespoon of coconut milk. Stir gently to create swirls. Sip and enjoy!

Mango Ginger Margarita

I was sent a bottle of Casa Noble Tequila for National Tequila Day but was not compensated in any other way. The recipe and opinions shared in this post are all my own.  

Spicy Sweet Potato Pasta with Chickpeas and Spinach

As much as I love a big bowl of pasta, it’s not really the best thing on a hot summer night when you want something lighter. Over the past couple of weeks I have been experimenting with different veggies as substitutes for pasta. Zucchini is a popular one that pairs really well with pesto or pasta sauce. For sweet potato noodles, I went with Asian/Thai inspired flavors and  loved how it turned out! To make “pasta” out of the sweet potatoes, I used a Procizion spiral slicer. (They were kind enough to send me one to try out!) Although it takes a little muscle to push the sweet potatoes through, I have a feeling it will become a frequently used gadget in my kitchen. 

Spicy Sweet Potato Pasta with Chickpeas and Spinach #vegan #dinner

In case you need more convincing to try this dish, let’s take a quick look at how subbing a vegetable for pasta can add not only flavor but numerous healthy benefits.

  • One cup of white pasta has 330 calories, while one cup of sweet potato pasta has only 114!
  • Pasta has little to no Vitamin A, while one cup of sweet potato pasta provides over 300% of the RDA.
  • Both white pasta and sweet potatoes actually have a similar amount of fiber – around 4 grams.
  • Traditional pasta does have more protein, but you can make up the difference with the addition of ground meat, tempeh, or chickpeas as a topping.
  • Vegetable “pasta” is a great alternative for those with gluten-intolerance who can’t tolerate most traditional pastas.  

Spicy Sweet Potato Pasta with Chickpeas and Spinach

Spicy Sweet Potato Pasta with Chickpeas and Spinach
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Vegan
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-3
Toss out your boring traditional pasta for these sweet potato noodles with a kick!
  • 3 sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups spinach leaves
  • ½ bell pepper, cut in thin strips
  • ⅔ cup chickpeas, cooked
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  1. Use a spiralizer/spiral slicer to make the sweet potato noodles. I used 3 potatoes to make about 2½ cups of sweet potato pasta.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the sweet potatoes and stir gently. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the spinach, chickpeas, bell pepper and garlic. Cook for another 3-5 minutes or until the spinach is wilted and the garlic is aromatic.
  4. Turn off the heat and stir in the ginger, sriracha, vinegar, paprika and coriander.
  5. Serve warm or cold with additional sriracha.

  Spicy Sweet Potato Pasta with Spinach and Chickpeas #vegan #glutenfree

Pavlova with Boozy Berry Sauce

One of my favorite courses in college was food science. I loved that we got to spend lab time cooking and learning why cookies brown when baking or how soufflés hold their structure. Making the meringue for this pavlova recipe took me back to those college days. Several blogs I read have published delicious recipes and gorgeous photos of this meringue based dessert. It seemed like the perfect dessert for a summer – light, airy, and doused in seasonal fruit. Since this month’s recipe redux challenge called for a recipe with spirits, a boozy berry sauce was the perfect topping. The little bit of brandy in the berry sauce really balanced out the sweetness of the meringue.

Pavlova with Boozy Blueberry Sauce  Don’t be intimidated by this recipe. I was totally nervous about making a meringue but it was actually much easier than I thought. Nothing to be scared about. :-) I used this pavlova recipe I found on The Kitchn for my pavlova and it turned out great the first time around. 

Pavlova with Boozy Blueberry Sauce

Pavlova with Boozy Berry Sauce
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
This elegant, yet simple dessert is light and airy and perfect for summer! Balance out the pavlova's sweetness with a bit of blueberry sauce spiked with brandy.
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  1. Separate egg whites from 4 eggs into a bowl. Let the whites sit out until they are room temperature.
  2. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
  3. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Use a glass to trace 6 three inch circles onto the wax paper. Flip the paper over so the side you drew on is facing the cookie sheet. (So you don't get marker/pen on your pavlova.)
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. In another small bowl, combine the vanilla and vinegar.
  5. In a clean mixing bowl, whip egg whites until they reach soft peak stage. Begin adding the sugar/cornstarch mixture a couple tablespoons at a time. Keep whipping until you have added all of the sugar. (The peaks should begin to stiffen.)
  6. Sprinkle the vinegar/vanilla mixture over the eggs. Whip until combined and eggs look shiny with stiff peaks.
  7. Use a spatula or large spoon to scoop the meringue into the circles made on the cookie sheet. Spread meringue up the edges of the circles, smoothing out any small peaks. Make a slight depression in the meringue in the center of each circle (for filling later).
  8. Place meringues in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until meringues sound hollow when tapped.
  9. Leave the meringues in the oven but turn off the heat and leave the oven door ajar. Let meringues cool completely in the oven.
  10. To make the sauce, heat the blueberries, lemon juice, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally. After about 5 minutes, the berries should begin to break down and form a sauce. Use a potato masher to break apart the berries even more. Once a thick sauce is formed turn off heat and stir in the brandy. Set aside to cool.
  11. To assemble the pavlova, top each meringue with a ¼ cup of fresh blueberries and pour cooled sauce over top.

Pavlova with Boozy Blueberry Sauce

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Zucchini Pesto Pasta

This zucchini pesto pasta dish is honestly the quintessential dish for summer. I started with this bowl of fresh basil and created a simple pesto with parmesan, olive oil, and walnuts. Is there anything better than the aroma of fresh basil as you are picking through the leaves? Mmm….

Fresh Basil

 Once the pesto was made, I used  a vegetable peeler to make zucchini ribbons. The ribbons were then quickly steamed and tossed into an ice bath to stop the cooking and keep them from getting mushy. After draining, you toss them in the pesto, sprinkle with additional parmesan and a few cherry tomatoes. Serve it up in a bowl and you have a light, yet satisfying meal that is also gluten free and super delicious. 

Zucchini Pesto Pasta

Zucchini Pesto Pasta
Recipe type: Entree, Main
Cuisine: Vegetarian, Gluten Free
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
Lighten up your normal pasta dinner by substituting zucchini ribbons for the pasta. Perfect for hot summer nights when you don't want to spend much time at the stove!
  • 2 zucchini
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • Dash of salt and black pepper
  • 2 ounces parmesan cheese + extra for topping
  • Halved cherry tomatoes
  1. To make the pesto, combine the fresh basil, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and walnuts in a food processor. Puree until no large pieces remain.
  2. Cut zucchini into ribbons by running peeler along the zucchini long ways. Save the inner seedy part for another recipe. Two zucchinis will make about 1½ - 2 cups of pasta.
  3. Salt the zucchinis and place in a colander. Let them sit for about 10 minutes then pat dry as best you can with some paper towels.
  4. Prepare a bowl of ice water.
  5. Heat water under a steamer basket. When boiling, add the zucchini ribbons to the steamer basket and cover. Cook for 1½ - 2 minutes.
  6. Toss the zucchini noodles into the ice bath for 1 minute. Pour into a colander to drain off the cold water and pick out any remaining ice cubes.
  7. Toss the zucchini ribbons in the pesto and top each individual serving with additional parmesan and cherry tomatoes.

  Zucchini Pesto Pasta

20 Healthy Snacks for Work

  20 Healthy Snacks for Work When the siren call of the vending machine hits you around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, be prepared with an arsenal of healthier alternatives! These snacks all provide a satisfying balance of protein, fiber, and fat to keep your stomach from growling again before dinner time.  

1.  Hummus (3-4 tablespoons) and fresh vegetables.

2. One ounce of nuts.  Almonds are my favorite!

3. Apple and 2 tablespoons peanut butter. 

4. Yogurt (1/2 cup) and dried fruit or granola.

5. Trail mix (1/3-1/2 cup).

6. Homemade granola bars. Try these banana oat bars with dark chocolate drizzle for a healthier alternative to store bought granola bars. 

7. Small latte. To flavor, just add a dash or two of cinnamon and nutmeg at the counter where they set the milk. You’ll save yourself a lot of calories and added sugar by skipping any flavored syrups. You could also ask for soy milk. Most places use the sweetened version so it has just enough sweetness to make it easy to skip the flavored syrup.

8. Popcorn. Check out my smoky chili popcorn for a spicy, salty twist!

9. Sliced cheese, veggies, and whole grain crackers.

10. Cottage cheese (1/2 cup) and fresh fruit. 

11. Plain yogurt (1/2 cup) and fresh berries. 

12. Fruit smoothie made with 1/2 cup yogurt or milk and 1/2 cup fruit.

13. Cheese stick and frozen grapes. 

14. Almond butter (2 tablespoons) and a fresh pear.

15. Whole grain toast topped with mashed avocado (1/2) and black pepper.

16. Hard boiled egg and a fresh peach (or other fruit).

17. Handful of whole grain tortilla chips and 1/3 cup salsa.

18. Homemade fresh fruit salad (3/4 cup)

19. Kale chips. Check out this recipe to make your own at home.

20. Roasted soy nuts or endamame. Soy nuts are packed with fiber and protein and when roasted make for a tasty snack with a bit of crunch.

Vegetarian Huevos Rancheros

Can we all agree that tofu is a little weird, right? In fact, the firm tofu kind of reminds me of jello cubes… Since becoming a vegetarian, tofu has always been lower on my list of plant-based protein choices at dinner. Yet, every once in a while I see some great recipe with tofu that I have just got to try. One of those quirky recipes was making scrambled tofu as a replacement for scrambled eggs. The perfect vehicle for delivering scrambled tofu? A corn tortilla with a layer of beans and green chile otherwise known as huevos rancheros!

Vegan/Vegetarian Huevos Rancheros

I know this actually just looks like a hot mess on a corn tortilla, but I promise that it is actually really good! Plus, it comes together in a matter of minutes for a quick and filling breakfast OR dinner. Make these vegan by just leaving off the cheese and subbing oil for the butter when making the “refried” beans. 

Vegan/Vegetarian Huevos Rancheros

Vegetarian Huevos Rancheros
Recipe type: Entree, Breakfast, Dinner
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
A simple vegetarian meal that comes together in under 30 minutes that is perfect for busy evenings. Beans and tofu add lots of filling protein to these vegetarian huevos rancheros!
  • 4 Corn Tortillas (6" Round)
  • 2 cups cooked kidney beans
  • 3 tablespoons chopped green onion (~3 spears)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (or oil if vegan)
  • ½ cup vegetable broth
  • ¼ cup chopped red bell pepper (~1/3 pepper)
  • 2 pinches baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 8 ounce package extra firm tofu
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 4 tablespoons canned green chile
  1. Remove the tofu from the package and press under something heavy to squeeze out some of the extra moisture. Set aside to press while you start the beans.
  2. To make the beans, melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add beans, green onion, red bell pepper and broth. Simmer for 4-6 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and baking soda. Begin to mash the beans using the back of a wooden spoon and cook for another 2 minutes until liquid is absorbed an beans are well mashed.
  3. Place the pressed tofu in a medium bowl. Using a butter knife, roughly chop into ½" pieces. Heat a non-stick skillet over low heat and add the tofu. Sprinkle with turmeric and cumin and stir to evenly coat. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until the tofu is no longer releasing excess moisture.
  4. Toast the corn tortillas for 2-3 minutes in a toaster oven until crisp.
  5. Assemble huevos rancheros by spreading the ¼ of the bean mixture on a tortilla, then topping with ¼ the "eggs", 1 tablespoon green chile and other desired toppings.

Blueberry, Hazelnut, and Feta Kale Salad

Oh my goodness, I am so excited to tell you about this salad. Blueberry season is finally here and this salad is the perfect way to highlight their deliciousness. In fact, I put them on top of this salad as well as in the dressing. Mmm…

Blueberry, Barley, and Hazelnut Kale Salad

The best part about kale salads is that the flavors get even better when you serve the leftovers. I made this huge salad for myself and have been doling out single servings into containers for my lunch at work. It makes lunch prep when I am still half asleep in the mornings super easy!


In addition to being delicious, this salad is a nutrition powerhouse!

  • Kale: We all know now that kale is super good for you. One cup of chopped raw kale has over 100% of your nutrient needs for Vitamins A, C, and K. That one serving has only 33 calories too.
  • Blueberries: These cute berries are high in polyphenols which research indicates play an active role in alleviating inflammation. Most recently, research has linked blueberries with a slower rate of cognitive decline with age.
  • Hazelnuts: Hazelnuts are super high in a nutrient called manganese. Although you don’t hear much about it, manganese plays an active role in metabolism, bone development, and wound healing. Hazelnuts are also a good source of heart healthy monounsaturated fats. 
  • Barley: Barley supports intestinal health in two ways: (1) it adds bulk to stool alleviating constipation and (2) feeds gut bacteria which break it down into short chain fatty acids to fuel the intestinal cells lining your gut.

Blueberry, Barley, and Hazelnut Kale Salad

Blueberry, Hazelnut, and Feta Kale Salad
Recipe type: Entree, Main, Salad
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
Blueberries, kale, and hazelnuts pair perfectly in this delicious summer salad that is packed with antioxidants.
  • ⅓ cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • Dash of Salt and Pepper
  • 1 cup barley
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • ⅔ cup hazelnuts
  • 4 cups chopped kale
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  1. Combine the barley, water, and broth in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a rolling boil, then cover and turn heat down to low. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the barley is softened. Reserve 1 cup of cooked barley for the salad and store the rest.(Note: You'll have leftovers which you can use for dinner the next day!)
  2. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the hazelnuts and roast for 5-7 minutes or until aromatic. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, use a folded towel to rub the skins off of the hazelnuts.
  3. Wash the kale, cut out the stems, and chop into 1" pieces.
  4. To prepare the dressing, pour all the ingredients into a blender. (If your blender has a single serving cup, that works best.) Puree until smooth.
  5. To make the salad, put the kale into a bowl, top with blueberries, barley, hazelnuts, and feta cheese. Pour dressing over top and toss to coat.