WHO: Helen Barrott, 43, of Tierra Verde, a retired marketing consultant, wife and mother of two
WHAT: Kale Salad and Creamy Pumpkin Pie Smoothie for Two
ABOUT THE KALE SALAD: Healthy eating has always been a goal for Barrott, a vegetarian, especially after she read The China Study, a book on nutrition written by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II. She said she loves finding recipes that are healthy and delicious. "If you eat the way I eat for two weeks, there's no doubt you're going to feel better," she said.
This kale salad has everything I love in it: cucumbers, peppers, pomegranate seeds," she said. As a runner, she also appreciates the plant-based protein from the addition of hemp seeds.
ABOUT THE PUMPKIN SMOOTHIE: When Barrott discovered the recipe for this wholesome alternative to a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, she knew she'd found something delicious. "I can't even begin to tell you how good it is," she said. "It tastes like a pumpkin pie milk shake with whipped topping."
You don't have to wait until fall to treat yourself to this smoothie. Spiced with ginger and nutmeg, the ice-cold drink is a refreshing and guilt-free snack all year long. Although the original recipe calls for blackstrap molasses, Barrott eliminates that ingredient to save calories. If you want a less-sweet version, you can also cut down on the maple syrup.
ON THE SIDE FOR THE SALAD: She will make the salad her meal but if the family is eating with her, she'll make a vegetarian chili or a lean protein like grilled chicken or pork to go with it. She said she sometimes adds roasted, chopped-up sweet potatoes to the top of the salad to make it more substantial.
ON THE SIDE FOR THE SMOOTHIE: Homemade granola, or a chocolate chai cookie.
TIPS: The trick to a delicious salad is to massage the dressing into the leaves, then let it sit in the fridge for half an hour, she said. Although the recipe calls for avocado oil, she often skips that step and adds water or extra maple syrup instead. Sometimes she also puts half a teaspoon of unfiltered apple cider vinegar in the salad to give it a little bite. To enhance the flavor, don't add the salt until right before you serve the salad, then toss one more time with your hands.
HOW TO EAT HEALTHY: The trick is to find out how to make a healthier version of the comfort food you're craving. "Let's figure out what it is, and we can make it healthier," she said. "The biggest thing is you can't think about what you want to eat five minutes before you eat it. You've got to have a plan."
FAVORITE THING TO COOK WITH: Parchment paper. Whether you're roasting chickpeas or baking cookies, everything comes out crispier if you put parchment paper on your baking sheet. For a great salad topping, you can brush olive oil on cooked chickpeas (although the olive oil is optional), put them on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper, and bake them in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
Emily Young, Times correspondent
If you have a recipe that you would like featured, or would like to nominate other home cooks and their dishes, email [email protected] with a name and daytime phone number. Include SIGNATURE DISH in the subject line. Or mail to Taste, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.