recipe

The Easiest Mason Jar Sangria

 easy sangria in a mason jar 

I'm comin' in hot with a cocktail recipe that is simple and perfect for your 4th of July festivities! It's my lazy girl take on classic sangria and I am going totally basic and serving it up in mason jars. 

In all seriousness, the jars make this a breeze as a hostess because you can make them ahead of time, screw the lids on and throw them over some ice for a fun presentation and built in glass - no extra cups required. Sangria is already really simple but I swapped out some ingredients to make it even more approachable for you busy folks! The patriotic colors make it even more fun for the holiday, but of course you could serve this all summer long. 

 ingredients for sangria 

Wine

I went red because I prefer red sangria over other variations, but you can use white or rosé too. If you switch up the wine, just think about the other flavors and make ingredient adjustments accordingly. In terms of which type of wine to use,  any cabernet, merlot or shiraz should work just fine; it really comes down to your taste preferences (sweet or dry).  My suggestion is to go for an inexpensive bottle since you will be mixing it with other things anyway. This is not the time to splurge on that fancy one you've been eyeing!

Juice

A traditional sangria typically has orange juice, but the thought of drinking a glass of orange juice in the hot sun is not super appealing to me so I went for lemonade. I knew the flavor would pair nice with the fruit I chose, and I often have this Simply Lemonade on hand in the summer so it was the practical choice. Many sangrias also include some sort of sugar or sweetener, but since lemonade is plenty sweet, I omitted that component for taste and simplicity. 

Liquor

I swapped in whisky for the more traditional brandy because I hate having to buy something I won't use in anything else and brandy is one of these. But use whatever you like. Vodka would probably work too!

Fruit

The options for fruit are endless. In the past I have used anything from oranges to mangos to melon in sangria and it always turns out great. To keep the patriotic theme going I went red (strawberries), white (apple) and blue, er... black? (blackberries). The lemon pictured above is for the garnish but some citrus is always a nice addition. I have also seen some people get really clever and cut the apples in a star shape for the 4th of July but I'm not that cutesy or patient. If you have it in you to do that part, I think it would be a hit! 

Bubbles

I chose sparkling water because again, I always have it on hand. You could also use lemon-lime soda, basic club soda or even prosecco if you want to get fancy. The bubbles makes all the difference though so be sure not to skip this step. Remember to wait on adding anything carbonated until just before serving since it will go flat if it sits for several hours. 

 pitcher of sangria 

Important Note: after having made this myself, I made the determination that it would have been much easier to divide the fruit evenly among the jars as opposed to putting it in the pitcher. 


The Easiest Mason Jar Sangria

A fresh and fruity summertime drink - perfect for the 4th of July or a backyard party!

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 6 servings | Prep time: 15 minutes | Total time: 4 hours 

ingredients

  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 cup lemonade
  • 1/4 cup whisky (or bourbon)
  • 6 oz fresh blackberries
  • 5 large strawberries, chopped
  • 1 granny smith apple, peeled and chopped 
  • 1 can sparkling water
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced 

instructions

  1. Pour the wine, lemonade and whisky in a large pitcher and mix well. Set aside. 
  2. Evenly distribute the fruit between six wide-mouth, pint-sized mason jars. 
  3. Pour the wine mixture into the jars filling each to the 1 cup line. Give each a good stir and muddle the fruit just a bit.
  4. Screw the lids on and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (could make up to a day in advance).
  5. When ready to serve add ice, top off with sparkling water and a slice of lemon.

 the easiest mason jar sangria in a mason jar

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Stupid Easy Summer Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce

 summer rolls with spicy peanut sauce 

If you get my Healthy Dish emails, you are well aware of the {overly dramatic} story of when I made summer rolls for the first time. And I have to tell you, I've made them at least three times since! In case you missed it, the basic gist of the story was... For some reason I always thought they were way harder than they actually are.

In reality, they are stupid easy - hence the title of this post - and a new favorite summer dinner in a hurry. Plus, once you have the rice paper on hand, you can throw these together with any fillings that you need to use up, super fast. I might even get really adventurous and try using fruit as the filling.

As a bonus, the peanut sauce is a combination of pantry staples that is worthy of being eaten straight from the spoon (not that I would know). The leftovers would also make a fab addition to some soba noodles!

Did I mention that these are also an amazing vehicle for all of your fresh summer vegetables? To add a fun twist you could use julienned radish, cucumber, zucchini and cilantro all straight from the garden if you wanted. Customize the protein or leave it out completely to make these vegan.  Regardless of what variation you choose, the next time you have friends over, I think you should set these beauties out as an appetizer for something a little bit more creative than the standard chip bowl. Or better yet, set out all of the toppings and let everyone build their own. 


Stupid Easy Summer Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: Serves 2 for an entree, 4 for appetizers | Prep time: 15 minutes 

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter 
  • 2 Tbsp warm water (you might need more if your peanut butter is thick)
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp ginger paste (could also use fresh grated ginger)
  • 1 tsp hot chile sauce (like Sriracha)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar 
  • 10 rice paper wrappers (mine were 6" in diameter)
  • 3 pieces of leaf lettuce
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and chopped into matchsticks
  • 1/2 avocado, peel removed and sliced thin
  • 8 oz pre-cooked shrimp, tails removed and cut in half lengthwise
  • Basil leaves
  • Mint leaves

Instructions

  1. Add peanut butter through brown sugar in a mason jar and shake until well combined. Set sauce aside. 
  2. Fill a shallow bowl with water (for dipping the rice paper), then build an assembly line with all of the other summer roll ingredients. 
  3. Dip rice paper in water for about five seconds, then layer the ingredients in a line just below the center of the wrap (being careful not to overfill). Fold over the top (away from you), fold in the sides, then roll up like a burrito and place on a cutting board or plate seam side down. You can drape a wet paper towel over the top to keep the rolls moist while you finish building the entire batch, but as long as you eat them right away I don't think it's necessary.
  4. To serve, arrange the rolls on a serving platter with the peanut sauce.

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Blueberry Farro Salad with Creamy Fresh Herb Dressing

 blueberry farro salad with creamy fresh herb dressing

Can I just eat this for lunch every day for the rest of the summer please? Okay so maybe I would get tired of it after a week or so but add of side of watermelon and an ice cold beer and this Blueberry Farro Salad with Creamy Fresh Herb Dressing is what summer dreams are made of. 

All About Farro

What exactly is farro?

Farro, which is actually pronounced "FARE-oh" (I just found out I've been saying it wrong for years! anyone else?) is an ancient grain - meaning it has been consumed for thousands of years and has been largely unchanged over time (1). It falls into the same category as some trendier counterparts such as quinoa, millet and sorghum, all of which pack a big nutritional punch and are typically purchased unrefined.

Health Benefits of Whole Wheat

Farro is whole wheat, which means it is not suitable for the gluten-free folks out there. And although I find that wheat gets a bad rap these day, the health benefits are well established and include reduced risk for many chronic diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke (2, 3). The high fiber content is likely responsible for these benefits since as we know, fiber acts like roughage going through the digestive tract pulling in water and waste while keeping things running smoothly. Fiber is also highly satisfying (i.e. hard to overeat) and promotes a healthy gut microbiota in addition to its many other amazing beneficial qualities. 

The Process

Let's Talk About That Dressing

Should I rename this blog, "all things tahini"? Just kidding. Although I'm back with another way to use it in this fabulous dressing recipe. The cool thing is that it's luxurious and creamy but still vegan and dairy free for those of you with dietary restrictions. Balsamic vinaigrette is great and all, but sometimes you just need something creamy, amiright? 

For this particular version, I mixed in copious amounts of fresh herbs for flavor along with some lemon juice for brightness. Something sweet is usually a good thing with tahini, even if just a drizzle so there is a touch of maple syrup to balance out the bitterness. 

Another nice thing is, you can make it ahead of time and use it on just about everything from traditional salads to grain bowls. It should last for about 5-7 days in the fridge. I know the blender is a little bit high maintenance, but trust me when I say you will thank me later! 

The Other STar Ingredients

Pictured below are the core ingredients you need to bring the actual salad together. Now, I love a simple whole grain salad as both a side dish or a light lunch in the summertime heat. My basic no-fail formula is grain + fruit + flavorful cheese + nut + dressing to bring it all together. Beyond that, you can get creative and make it your own based on what you find at the farmer's market or what you need to use up in your fridge at the moment. I also keep color and texture at top of mind. Experiment with different whole grains to find your favorite!

 blueberry farro salad ingredients

The specific brand of farro that I purchased (see above) cooked in just 10 minutes. I thought that was pretty awesome because this made for a really fast lunch. While it cooks, you can seed and chop the cucumber (no need to peel). Note: I used a Persian cucumber here. I love them because they are small and less watery than the larger, traditional cucumbers. An English cucumber would also work great. 

Small dice the onion (really small) and then soak it in some cold water to take some of the bite away. This is a simple step that makes a huge difference in the final product!

Pro tip: Use the soak method on any traditionally bitter vegetable when using it raw. You would be surprised how well it works. Beware of using raw onion in salads because you might be risking onion breath for the rest of the day. Just sayin'. 

 ingredients chopped up and ready to go in bowl
 blueberry farro salad ingredients chopped and in bowl

Once all of your ingredients are ready to go, add them to a medium-size bowl and mix until well combined. At this point you can add the dressing and I would highly recommend chilling if you have the time. When ready to serve, garnish with walnuts (or any other favorite nut or seed) and serve as a side dish or over some mixed greens for a light lunch. 

 blueberry farro salad with creamy fresh herb dressing in a bowl

Blueberry Farro Salad with Creamy Fresh Herb Dressing

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 4 servings | Prep time: 15 minutes | Total time: 25 minutes

Salad ingredients

  • 1 cup farro
  • 1/4 red onion, small diced
  • 1/2 pint blueberries
  • 1 small Persian cucumber, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts 

Dressing Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • Juice from one large lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chives
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

instructions

  1. Put a medium saucepan of water on the stove and bring to a boil.
  2. While the water is coming to a boil, make the dressing by adding those ingredients (tahini through garlic powder) into a food processor or blender and running until mixed thoroughly. Slowly stream in warm water while the motor is still running until consistency is smooth and creamy (should drip from a spoon). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a jar or other airtight container and put in the refrigerator to chill.
  3. Once water is boiling, cook farro per package directions. 
  4. Meanwhile, prep the onion, blueberries and cucumber and add to a large bowl along with the farro. 
  5. Add about 1/2 cup of the dressing to the salad (or per preference) and mix well to combine. Top with walnuts just before serving. 

Sources:

1. Whole Grains Council. Whole Grains 101 (Wheat). Retrieved from https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whats-whole-grain/ancient-grains. 

2. Zong G, Gao A, Hu FB and Sun Q. Whole Grain Intake and Mortality From All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. Circulation. 2016; 133(24):2370-80. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25646321. 

3. Dagfinn A, Keum N, Giovannucci E, et al. Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ. 2016;353:i2716. Retrieved from https://www.bmj.com/content/353/bmj.i2716.