day 28: salad for lunch with haricot verts, avocado, tomato + hearts of palm

I don’t know about you, but I love a light lunch and I get bored with the typical salad. Who says salads have to be just a variety of lettuces and typical veggies on hand? No one, that’s who!

Earlier this month, I showed you how to make asparagus pop cold. Let’s take that same concept and put it to good use with french green beans. They’re hearty, healthy and pack a hefty punch of crunch. Add some creamy avocado, grape tomatoes and an everyday vinaigrette … sounds like lunch to me.

Easy, refreshing french green bean salad with hearts of palm

Easy, refreshing french green bean salad with hearts of palm

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups of haricot verts, quick boiled in salted water and cooled in a salted ice-bath, then drained
  • 14 oz hearts of palm, sliced
  • a handful of grape tomatoes halved
  • 1 just ripened avocado diced
  • a handful of fresh thyme, picked, stemmed and rough chopped
  • 3 green onions, tops and bodies sliced thinly
  • 4 tbsp quality apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp of dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 8 tbsp olive oil

What you’ll do:

  1. Combine haricot verts, hearts of palm, grape tomatoes and onions. Then set aside
  2. Make the dressing. Combine thyme, salt, pepper, vinegar, brown sugar and mustard
  3. Slowly whisk in olive oil until well combined
  4. Toss and top with avocado, salt & pepper
  5. Enjoy!
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day 27: beer + fish + chips = bliss

I’ve always known that my stomach runs my life. I wake up with cravings and simply have to act on them. The failure to feed deploys the hungry version of me – the cranky, green hulk monster being kept at bay by snacks – yeah, that one.

I wish my cravings came in a complete thought … like, I’d like a BBQ sandwich with with spicy cole slaw (which sounds delish by the way). But, oh no, not me! I crave the sauce or condiments and try to figure out the rest … like, I’d like to devour something with sour cream on it. Makes no sense, but I’m used to it.

So, today when I woke up craving malt vinegar. I knew I had to break out the fish & chips and fast. Oh, and a beer (because I like it).

Pub worthy fish + chips

Pub worthy fish + chips

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb of white, meaty fish (I used cod), cut into 1 inch strips
  • 2 bottled beers (one to batter and the other to drink)
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 russet potatoes, skin on, cut into wedges, soaked in water
  • canola oil for frying

What you’ll do:

  1. Heat oil to medium
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper
  3. Slowly add the beer to create a batter. Be sure there are no lumps left in the batter. Allow to rest in the fridge as we tend to the chips
  4. Pat the potatoes dry and place in the oil. When potatoes begin to soften and brown slightly. Remove form oil and allow to rest on a cooling rack (this single step with give those potatoes a heck of a crunch later on)
  5. Return potatoes to the fry to completion
  6. Meanwhile, batter up the cod strips and drop into the oil
  7. Once the batter begins to set, rotate! Remove when browned all around
  8. Serve with malt vinegar, lemon and tarter if you like (my recipe is below)

*For a quick and delicious tarter sauce combine 2 heaping tbsp quality mayonnaise, 1 tsp of grainy mustard, a dash of white wine vinegar, a pinch of salt & fresh ground pepper, sweet pickle relish and pulse in a food processor for a few moments.

day 25: snappy shaved brussel sprout salad + white balsamic lemon vinaigrette

I’m not big on trends in food … I like what I like and personally, I think it’s delicious all the time. Some foods have had the misfortune of encountering me ill-prepared, inexperienced or drenched in cheese. Brussel sprouts, for years, have fallen into such a scenario. Imagine my surprise when EVERYONE, and I do mean everyone suddenly starts touting the best shaved brussel sprout salad in town (ick)!

That being said, I’m not one to give up. To date, I’ve had 4 variations out on the town. Not that I’m not impressed or inspired. But, when you discover for the first time brussel spouts are not disgusting, I think it only fair to let their natural flavors shine. So to the kitchen I go!

Remember this … anything that someone has skillfully created in a restaurant, you can learn to do for yourself at home. Dining out is an opportunity to relax and enjoy the experience of the atmosphere AND the fare. Don’t you deserve that at home too?

Shave brussel sprout salad in a snap + a versatile lemony white balsamic dressing

Shaved brussel sprout salad in a snap + a versatile lemony white balsamic dressing

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb. brussel sprouts, ends trimmed, loose leaves removed and sprouts shaved (use a mandolin or simply cut very carefully)
  • 1/2 a medium red onion, shaved or cut thinly
  • 1 cup of shaved pecorino cheese
  • 2 tbsp or juice of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 6 tbsp quality olive oil
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp honey or agave nectar

What you’ll do:

  1. Toss sprouts, onion and cheese in your favorite gorgeous bowl and set aside
  2. Combine lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, and honey until well combined
  3. Whisk in olive oil slowly and until emulsified
  4. Toss sprouts mixture with your dressing
  5. Enjoy!

*Undressed salad last for days in the fridge! Make a batch for the work week.

day 19: butternut squash + kale lasagna … don’t mind if’n I do

I think I’m getting to a point in life where there are very few things that truly shock me … maybe a few that catch my emotions off guard, disappoint or baffle, but very few that genuinely shock me. Now, food on the other hand never ceases to amaze me. Just when I think there couldn’t be anything else worth trying I find a new flavor profile that rocks my world. I say all this to say … food just doesn’t let me down.

It’s no secret, I’m from the South and there are some things I just didn’t have exposure to as a young’n. I don’t believe butternut squash and I met until the latter of my twenties. Hell, I thought it was sweet potato. It’s a truly interesting vegetable. It’s pale and seemingly boring on the outside, but a beautiful orange on the inside. It smells like cantaloupe when you cut into it raw, but roasted it mirrors sweet potato. What on earth to do with such a chameleon? Lasagna. That’s what.

Shockingly fantastic butternut squash + kale lasagna

Shockingly fantastic butternut squash + kale lasagna

What you’ll need:

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and sliced thinly.
  • 1 handful of dinosaur kale, washed and stems removed.
  • 2 cups of milk or heavy cream (milk cause you probably have it and cream if you’re trying to put yourself into food coma & forget somethings)
  • a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups of Italian cheeses (I used parmesan, romano, and fontina)
  • 5 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • no cook lasagna noodles

What you’ll do:

  1. Melt butter over medium heat and whisk in flour to form a rue
  2. Add nutmeg, salt & pepper
  3. Add cold milk or cream and continue to whisk until well combined
  4. Gradually add in cheese and continue to whisk until well combined
  5. Ladle sauce on the bottom and top with noodles, followed by squash, then sauce, then kale (salt & pepper each layer)
  6. Bake at 350 covered for 30 minutes
  7. Continue to bake uncovered for another 30 minutes or until top is golden brown
  8. Allow to rest for 20 minutes
  9. Serve & Enjoy!

day 18: deconstructed meditteranean salad with falafel

I’ve been quiet for a few days … sorry! I’ve been cooking, I’ve just been to busy to share…

I love falafel and I’ve been too afraid to try to make it on my own. I know what the ingredients are. I know it’s fried. And right now, I know I want it. I’m sure my recipe is as far from authentic as one could possibly get, but it was amazing and curbed my craving. All in all, a success!

falafel

What you’ll need:

  • 150z. chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 handful of Italian parsley, washed & stemmed
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 green onions, washed and sliced
  • 1 pinch of cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • juice of a lemon
  • 1 heaping tbsp flour
  • Canola or grapeseed oil (light and flavorless)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • your favorite red wine vinaigrette
  • sliced English cucumber
  • sliced red onion
  • 1 handful of grape tomatoes, halved
  • a bit of crumbled feta
  • your favorite salad baby greens ( I used arugula, tat, soi, red & green chard)
  • A food processor

What you’ll do:

  1. Pulse garlic, chickpeas, parsley, green onions, flour and spices in processor until well combined.
  2. Add lemon juice. When you have a sticky dough, you’re good.
  3. Heat oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Form falafel patties. I made a total of 4 that were about 1/2″ tall and 2 1/2″.
  4. Drop your patties and move on to the deconstructed salad. Simply place a handful of greens with a bit of feta, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers. Toss your greens or serve a with a side of your dressing.
  5. Flip patties (one time is the goal). They should be golden brown.
  6. Remove and serve immediately.
  7. Enjoy!

day 17: if looks could kill … but tastes could revive …

Ever had those moments you WISH you could have gotten on camera? Or rather, you wish you had a better photo to represent the moment that ROCKED your world? Welcome to today’s lesson in culinary genius …

On that note, tonight was all about flexibility and creativity … I realized that I was a bit behind on the start with tonight’s blog post. In a dash, I got flexible and creative. What’s in the fridge … Pork steaks, broccoli, black rice, cilantro, onions and apples … Sounds like a meal, eh? And indeed it was. BUT, let’s not forget, part of the appeal in reading a food blog is the inspiration to replicate the beautiful photo of food you see before you. One day, I’ll learn enough tips & tricks to make Teresa Blackburn of Food on Fifth proud (hopefully, she’s still keeping up with me *hint hint). In the meantime, let’s just take a leap of faith. Take my word for it … this one is worth perfecting through the lens.

Meal on the fly!

Meal on the fly!

What you’ll need:

  • Pork steaks
  • A healthy sprinkle of cinnamon
  • A healthy sprinkle of cumin
  • A healthy sprinkle of garlic powder
  • Broccoli florets
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime
  • 4 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 tsp of honey
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 granny smith apple, sliced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • black rice, cooked to recipe with chicken stock and 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • a handful of cilantro, chopped
  • Salsa verde (I used a personal favorite’s house green hot sauce – ask nicely and I’ll connect you with that recipe one day)

What you’ll do:

For the Pork Steaks

  1. Allow steaks to come to room temperature and sprinkle with cinnamon, garlic powder and cumin.
  2. Grill steaks to your preference. I typically go for 135 internal temp and let them rest for a few minutes
  3. Make chutney (recipe below) amazing!
  4. Enjoy!

For the Roasted Broccoli

  1. Combine 2 tbsp of olive oil, lime, salt & pepper. Whisk well.
  2. Toss broccoli in dressing
  3. Spread into an even layer on a baking sheet
  4. Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes
  5. Enjoy!

For the Chutney:

  1. Sautee onions and apples in the remaining oil and butter
  2. Add in salsa verde of your choice (I used about 3 heaping tbsp)
  3. Toss in fresh cilantro (leave a few to dress your plate if you like)
  4. Enjoy!

*Plate it up with black rice. Get brave stir it all together. Bite, chew and continue the digestion process. You can thank me later!

day 16: always on time & in a curry shrimp with coconut milk

It’s been quite the trying day. Emotions are high and the body is weary! I understand that it’s not necessarily a food worthy topic, but if one is to appreciate one’s motivation for writing, cooking, sharing, blogging … it’s a must.

The truth is, there are two kinds of recipes – emotionally driven ones and those glorious accidents that evolve into culinary skills and expertise. When you understand that, the art of cooking becomes quite simplified. You become more interested in the story and effort of the dish than that of the outcome. It heightens the senses and becomes more of an experience vs. a taste. And as an added bonus, the taste exceeds expectation and eludes absolute, undeniable bliss.

This recipe is the emotionally driven kind – I say that as a preface. Don’t expect traditional blends or results. Open up and explore.

Curry Shrimp with Coconut Milk & Parsley

Curry Shrimp with Coconut Milk & Parsley

What you’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of raw medium to large shrimp, deveined & peeled.
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into thin strips
  • 1 1/2 inches of ginger, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut thinly
  • 2 honeycrisp or other pink variety apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 plum or campari tomatoes diced
  • 1 can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3 tsp. curry powder
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. corriander
  • 1/2 tsp. tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
  • a dash of sriracha (optional)
  • 4 tbsp. quality olive oil
  • Prepared rice (I cooked mine in equal parts white wine and chicken stock)
  • Salt & pepper (layer each time to add something to the recipe)
  • A handful of chopped Italian parsley (I had it on hand) or cilantro

What you’ll do:

  1. Heat olive oil to medium-high. Add onions, garlic and ginger and cook until onions are becoming translucent & others are fragrant.
  2. Add in carrots and apples and cook until almost tender.
  3. Incorporate all dried spices. Combine until spices are fragrant & coat existing mixture.
  4. Add in tomatoes, coconut milk, and shrimp. If you’re adding in cayenne and/ or sriracha add this in now too.
  5. Cook until shrimp is tender and opaque.
  6. Allow to simmer to reduce by 1/3. Serve with prepared rice.
  7. Garnish with parsley or cilantro. Lime would be delish too!
  8. Enjoy!

* Also in the spirit of being earnest, I doubled my sriracha & cayenne counts … Do not do that! I nearly lit my esophagus on FIRE.

day 15: good + good for you roasted vegetables with arugula + goat cheese

I love roasted root vegetables! I mean seriously … the affinity is almost bizarre. Almost.

Here’s the thing … they’re delicious, easy to whip up, and with a couple of additions they go from ordinary good to extraordinary. Perhaps that is the appeal! No matter, I’m hoping this is the catalyst for the week ahead. At least I’ve done my prep work…

Roasted vegetables with arugula + goat cheese

Roasted vegetables with arugula + goat cheese

What you’ll need:

  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped
  • 4 tbsp. good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. good quality olive oil
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • salt & pepper
  • a handful of arugula, watercress, baby kale or spring mix
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • sunflower kernels for garnish

What you’ll do:

  1. Whisk olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey until well combined.
  2. Toss all veggies in sauce and coat generously with salt & pepper.
  3. Roast on a baking sheet in 400 degree oven until sweet potatoes are tender and veggies have a caramel color around the edges … all the sauce should be absorbed
  4. Allow veggies to cool for a few minutes uncovered and away from heat
  5. Serve atop a bed of greens (I used arugula – the peppery flavor is fantastic) and top with goat cheese & sunflower kernels
  6. Enjoy!

*Leftovers are great the next day – no need to reheat.

day 14: soon to be famous crab stuffed mac + cheese

I spent the day being an adult … not that I’m not all the time, but the not fun part of being an adult. Car repairs. I’m fairly certain the most stoic of grown ups has shed a tear or two over just the right unexpected car dilemma. And, once you’ve paid and gotten back on the road … I think you’re entitled to a little self-indulgence. What on earth could be better a fit splurge than crab and mac & cheese? Nothing. That’s what.

This ain’t your Momma’s mac + cheese … it’s got a few twists (literally).

Crab Stuffed Mac + Cheese

Crab Stuffed Mac + Cheese

What you’ll need:

  • 16 oz. Cavatappi pasta, cooked al dente & drained
  • 2 cups of shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1 handful chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup of panko
  • 16 oz. lump crab meat
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 3 tbps flour
  • 3 shallots minced
  • zest & juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 cups fontina shredded
  • healthy dash of your favorite hot sauce (I used Frank’s here)
  • 1 tbsp of quality dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp quality of olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • a smidge of nutmeg
  • truffle oil drizzle (optional)

What you’ll do:

  1. Sautee shallots in 1 tbsp of the olive oil until fragrant & tender
  2. Combine crab meat, hot sauce, dijon, lemon zest, lemon juice and shallots. (Careful not to over mix – you want lump crab meat not shreds). Set aside.
  3. Combine shredded gruyere, panko, parsley, and the remainder of your olive oil. Set aside.
  4. Melt butter and whisk in flour over medium heat. Add heavy cream and fontina. Continue to whisk so nothing sticks! Throw in your smidge of fresh ground nutmeg.
  5. Combine your cooked pasta with the crab mixture in a casserole dish.
  6. Pour your sauce over the crab mixture.
  7. Next top with the panko mixture.
  8. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until the topping is golden brown & bubbling on the sides.
  9. Let stand for 10 minutes before digging in. Top with a drizzle of truffle oil.
  10. Enjoy!

day 13: if at first you don’t suceed, TRY again! Sweet potato + black bean chili at last!

Woot! Second time’s a charm folks. I believe after yesterday’s fiasco, it’s worthy. This dish is served with a bit of wisdom, parody … hey, let’s put it all on the table!

Life is an ever-evolving lesson in the art of the try. It’s not enough to declare you’re going to do something. You have to truly attempt and risk failing, pick it up (if you’re determined) and make the shit (sorry for the language) WORK! Don’t you dare give up after you fumble, try again. If you don’t … then you’ve truly failed.

Now that I’ve completed my soap box rant, here’s the recipe. It’s kind of fantastic, 100% vegetarian, and frankly amazing!

Sweet potato + black bean chili at it's finest

Sweet potato + black bean chili at it’s finest

What you’ll need:

  • 1 medium sweet potato – washed, peeled & diced into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 15 ounce cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups of vegetable stock, water or chicken stock – whatever you have on hand
  • 1 tbsp of quality olive oil
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 4 tsp cumin
  • 1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • salt & pepper

What you’ll do:

  1. Heat olive oil to medium and add onion and garlic. Cook until fragrant. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
  2. Add sweet potatoes, zucchini, cumin and chili powder. Combine until coated.Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
  3. Add stock and crushed tomatoes
  4. Add in black beans and bring to rolling boil
  5. Reduce heat and reduce to simmer until sweet potatoes are fork tender
  6. Serve with your favorite toppings – cilantro, sour cream, avocado, cheese, jalapenos, fresh lime, salsa, etc.
  7. Enjoy!

* This freezes WELL! Don’t be afraid of leftovers.