{Recipe} Big Summer Salad with Lemon-Strawberry Vinaigrette

In my last post, you got a peek into our kitchen garden with its various veggies taking off. One of my favorite things about having my own garden is coming up with different ways to mix together everything we grow.

I am not a chef by any means, so I don’t put a lot of thought into which flavors go with which. Instead, I put my trust in Mother Nature – that the things that are growing at the same time of year are likely going to taste great together.

And so far, everything’s been great!

big summer salad, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes
Big Summer Salad…recipe below!

My latest salad creation comes from everything I picked in the video from my last post. Recipe below…give it a try!

Dana’s Big Summer Salad with Lemon-Strawberry Vinaigrette
(Serves 1 big meal-sized salad, or two small side salads)

Salad ingredients:
1 cup loose-leaf lettuce
1/2 cup carrots, cut into slivers
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2 tbsp fresh dill (big stems removed)
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

lettuce, salad making
Fresh picked lettuce perking up in an ice bath

Wash and combine all ingredients. Tip: If lettuce is limp (as homegrown lettuce tends to be once picked), let it soak in a bowl of cold water and ice as you prepare the other ingredients. The ice water perks the leaves right up!
Vinaigrette ingredients:
A few strawberries (Best to use overly-ripe berries that are a little mushy, but not moldy. I was inspired to create this recipe from picking my own over-ripe berries from the garden.)
Small bunch of fresh lemon balm (or substitute with lemon juice, to taste)
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Little pinch of salt
Little pinch of garlic powder

muddled lemon balm
Muddled lemon balm

Muddle or mash the lemon balm and strawberries together to release their flavors. Combine well with the other ingredients.

Toss it all together and enjoy!

I don’t have nutrition facts for this recipe, but you can rest assured it is low calorie, low fat, and one big serving provides you with 3 servings of vegetables for the day!

Your turn: What is your must-have summer salad ingredient?

A Video Peek into the Garden

Summer is here, and despite enduring an entire month of rain (seriously, it rained for 28 out of 30 consecutive days here in Virginia this spring), our kitchen garden survived and is thriving!

cherry tomatoes, zone 7, summer garden
Cherry tomatoes are *finally* ripening!

As a fitness professional, I not only value exercise, but also healthy eating. Both are vital to living a long and happy life. But like many other Americans living in the modern day, I struggle at times with getting in all my vegetables. We live in an overly processed, fast-paced world where it is much easier to give in to a packaged treat than it is to wrangle together a fresh meal.

homegrown carrots
Carrots! Watch the video below to see them as they’re pulled.

My “secret” to eating fresh veggies is to grow them myself. No, it’s not easy. Yes, it’s a ton more work, but you know what? I am much more likely to eat things that I worked hard to grow myself, because I don’t want them to go to waste. We, in modern times, live in a grossly wasteful society. I read in the past that Americans throw out about 50% of their food. The availability of food has made this an easy thing to do. I definitely won’t judge you for it, because I am still a bit guilty of it myself (although less so than I was years ago…a very slow process and hard habit to break).

But try throwing out your homegrown veggies that you put blood, sweat, and tears into creating, and something will tug at your heartstrings so hard that you will never want to throw food away again. 

On a less serious note, homegrown tends to taste better than store produce, yes? (Yes.)

So here is a first look into our garden. I say “our” because my husband was a great help in supporting me in getting this running, and he is learning to enjoy fresh vegetables, too.

(For you gardeners out there wondering, we are in Zone 7.)

In my next post, I’ll provide a recipe for the salad I made from all the picked goodies.

Your turn: Do you grow your own veggies, and what kinds? What would you like to try?

 

Seven Ways to Do a Wall Squat

I love working the stability ball into a client’s workout. It’s a neat piece of equipment you can use for several purposes, from classic core work, to postural guidance, to stability and balance challenges and more.

Wall squats are a good way to strengthen the back, butt, and legs, and with the stability ball in place, you can also work on posture – holding your spine tall in a neutral pelvic position (drawing the navel in) while pressing the shoulder blades into the ball.

Here are some variations on the wall squat. There are sooo many possibilities – these are just a few. Have a medicine ball handy for upper body work and to add to your body weight during squat holds.


Not included in the video, you can also take a small inflatable ball and put it between the inner thighs to add a new element of stability challenge. You can maintain a constant, light squeeze as you squat and hold, or you can actively squeeze (pulsing) as you hold the squat.

Your turn: Which variation will you try? How do you like to work out with the stability ball?

Barre Sequence for Strong + Lean Legs

Becoming a barre is seriously one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I grew up dancing and although that didn’t translate into a career as a pro dancer, that didn’t stop me from keeping it in my life.

dana mook, barre instructor, personal trainer, charlottesville virginia
Barre side kick – see the sequence below for this and more moves…

Besides the joy of dancing, barre has done wonders to help strengthen and shape my body. Those tricky areas (saddlebags, inner thighs, the booty) have all strengthened and trimmed down since I began taking (and eventually teaching) the classes.

Notice I use the word “strengthen” a lot – it’s because I want to set the right expectations here. Many people assume or have been told that exercises that target a certain muscle will burn the fat at that area, which is not exactly true. Everyone’s body is unique, and your body will decide where to lose fat first. That being said, building muscle in your “target” areas will help your metabolism along so that fat will burn more easily. So, strength workouts are important – incorporate them into your weekly routine!

Barre is great low-impact method that uses a fusion of ballet, pilates, and yoga moves to strengthen your body, as well as to improve posture and add flexibility. Check out this four-move sequence below to get a taste of what barre is about. Click on the picture to start the video. You can try this sequence at home with a chair or using the wall. Or better yet, try my class at ACAC Albemarle Square! Every Tuesday at 9:20 am.

{Recipe} Green Mixed Berry Smoothie

Summer is, of course, the perfect time of year for adding fresh berries to your diet. Besides being yummy, berries are also high in vitamin C – important for a strong immune system.

strawberry plant, vegetable gardening
One of our little strawberry plants

I’ve started growing my own strawberries in our backyard. Starting with six small plants my neighbor so graciously gifted me with, I’ve been able to pick a handful of those bright red drops of goodness. One day, I hope to pick them by the pint-full for smoothie making! (And hopefully find space for a few blackberry bushes, too.)

Until then, some store-bought organic berries (or even better, locally picked) will do the trick. Today I came up with a delicious smoothie using fresh ingredients that combine the power of vitamin C with protein, calcium, and healthy fat. Though it has a dark purple hue when blended (thanks to the blackberries), you may not realize that it also boasts oh-so-good-for-you leafy greens, as well as healthy fat (avocado), which helps the body better absorb the nutrients from those greens and converts them to Vitamin A. Give it a try – recipe below!

dana mook, personal trainer, charlottesville, smoothie recipe
So yummy! (And yes, I’m a proud Appy State grad!)

Dana’s Green Mixed Berry Smoothie

1/2 cup fresh strawberries
1/2 cup fresh blackberries
1 cup baby spinach
1/4 cup avocado
1/2 cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
1 cup almond milk
1 packet (about 1/2 tsp) stevia
1 cup ice

Throw it all in the blender. Blend and enjoy!

This recipe makes a 24 oz smoothie, with 270 calories, 19 g of protein, and 9 g fat. I used original (sweetened) almond milk in mine, but you may be able to reduce your calorie total by using the unsweetened variety and adjusting with more stevia (0 calories) for flavor.

I love this smoothie as a breakfast drink and for post-workout recovery. To save time, you can also make these ahead in batches – buy the produce in bulk, and throw the portions into individual freezer bags. Add the yogurt, milk, and stevia when you’re ready to blend. Substitute the ice for a bit of water to loosen up the ingredients.

Your turn: What is your favorite berry?

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