My New Summer Eating Plan

I’ll just put it out there to start with: minus the cabbage broth cayenne pepper (or the “please-kill-me-now?”) diet, I have given most food-life styles a fair shot. I did vegetarian for about four years. Did raw for awhile (I loved it, my stomach did not), and did every sort of variation of caveman diets, of carb/protein/fat ratios and of cooked/uncooked/baked/boiled/parched plans that are out there.  Some have made me feel better, some worse, some wiped off the pounds and some put them right back on, and some were a heck of a lot more enjoyable than others. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve got a “thing” for eating plans. Like, it’s too confusing and certainly altogether too overwhelming out there when the whole wide world of food is fair game.

But lately, I’ve been sorta treading the waters so to speak. Plan-less, organized-not. I wrote earlier about my move from ranch to city (MT to CA), and maybe that has been a part of the equation. I’ve also been too busy exploring the 100 million restaurants and food stores I’d never even heard of to find a new "plan" to fixate on. To be honest, I’m burnt out. I’m ready for a return to simplicity. Also, I’ve recently discovered (completely unbeknownst to me for 25 years now, I might add) that I am a quite the lover of avocados. As in, I’m fully satisfied with an avocado for a meal, people!  

Over the last few months, I’ve fallen into a rut. I generally eat the same things, and I generally try to explore a new restaurant or two as the opportunity arises. But even then, I haven’t branched out all that much. For example, I still eat altogether too much of the fruit I’ve always eaten, nowhere near enough vegetables and way too many turkey sandwiches.  

So, here is my new plan. As I live in California this summer has officially been dedicated to become the summer of vegetables and salads. Local, organic, and sustainable. How much simpler can it get? I’ve recently started experimenting a bit more with salads, even adding fruit to satisfy my sugary craving (in small doses) – a concept I would have been repelled by four weeks ago. I’m also loving nuts and goat cheeses in place of the chicken and turkey that usually shows up everywhere in my diet, even on salads (nuts=good, candied nuts=gooooood). I’m actually really excited about this plan. If I can invent three new salads a week, I’m going to be satisfied. I’m going to cut the bread to a minimum and fruit too (minus my salad garnish, of course) and take advantage of summer’s spectacular offering of vegetables. There are vegetables lurking out there that I've never even had before.

Are you with me? Feeling bored by your local food staples? We know how to eat organic and local, but when I think “simple, good and tasty,” I think: basic. crisp. refreshing. bright. Like the freshly picked cucumber that has that perfect crunch and that perfect amount of water that sprays in your mouth when you bite down and quenches your thirst like nothing else. Let’s eat more salads and more avocados all summer long (hmmm...this sounds like a "plan"). If you wanna join… listed below will be the next three recipes I try (I can’t claim these, but just wait, I’ll be back with my own, once I’ve got my feet wet, that is). I’ll be back letting you know how this goes. Oh, and please tell me if you have any must-have recommendations!

Watermelon and Feta Salad with Chopped Vegetables
Adapted from Bon Appetit

1 pound plum tomatoes, drained and diced

1 ½ cups seedless watermelon, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
½ large English hothouse cucumber, diced
½ cup thinly sliced radishes
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 ½ cups feta cheese, small cubes
2 divided green onions, chopped, divided
¼ cup thinly sliced fresh mint leaves, divided
½ cup Greek yogurt (plain)
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Combine two tablespoons olive oil and the first five ingredients.  Toss.  Add half of cheese, green onions and the mint.  Take the remaining half of cheese, onions, mint and oil and blend in a food processor.  Add the yogurt and oregano.  Process until just blended (do not overly process or the oil will become too thin and watery).  Finally, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour over salad and toss.

California Fruit & Nut Barley Salad

Adapted from "Food and Home" 

1/2 package roasted pine nuts
4 organic avocados, diced
1 organic mango, diced
2 tablespoons raisins
1 package barley
1 tablespoon mint
4 large limestone lettuce leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare barley according to package instructions, bring to room temperature and then chill.  Minus the lettuce, combine all remaining ingredients.  Toss with a vinaigrette dressing.  Fold mixture into the barley and chill for at least 1 hour.  Serve on top of lettuce leaves.

Combine the remaining ingredients except the lettuce; toss with your favorite vinaigrette dressing.

Organic Greens & Strawberry Salad 

Adapted via: "Coast Explorer"

8 oz organic baby green mix
2 oz balsamic vinaigrette
8 oz Chevre (or Feta)
2 oz candied pecans, crushed
12 large strawberries, sliced

Candied Pecans:

1 pound of pecans
2 ounces butter, melted
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
4 ounces sugar

Combine the sugar and cayenne pepper.  Toss pecans with the butter in a small bowl and add just enough of sugar mix to coat the pecans.  Roast on a baking sheet for 10 minutes around 400 degrees.  Pour the pecans back into mixing bowl with remaining sugar mix and toss.  Pour back onto baking sheet, allow them to cool and then pulse in a food processor.  Save out a few to use as garnish.


Roll the goat cheese into a log shape and press the crushed candied pecans onto the cheese logs until evenly coated. Place the greens, strawberries and vinaigrette in a mixing bowl, toss gently and divide among four chilled plates. Cut the cheese logs into thin slices and place around the salad plates.  To finish, sprinkle a few of the whole candied pecans over each salad. 

For salad dressing ideas, check out the Everyday Salad Dressings from Simple, Good and Tasty.

Freelance writer Tara Alley moved to California simply to enjoy sunshine and fresh produce all year long (To say she’s loving it is a mild understatement). She’s currently writing alongside Air & Water, researching eco-friendly portable air conditioner options.