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 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 20: a staple I can’t take credit for … lentil stew + arugula

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … recipes are meant to be shared. They’re in constant evolution and when they’re truly great, they last for generations. I borrowed this one from Real Simple and I’ve been making it in masses for months. I normally add, omit, or substitute … but hey, if ain’t broke, why bother fixing it?

*I did leave out the feta cheese & reduced the amount of potatoes (reflected below)

lentil_stew

What you’ll need:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups lentils
  • 6 small red potatoes, quarted
  • 1/2 pound turkey kielbasa, sliced
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 small bunch of arugula roughly chopped
  • kosher salt and black pepper

What you’ll do:

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and curry powder and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant.
  2. Add the broth, bay leaf, and lentils and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes, cover, and cook until the potatoes and lentils are tender but not mushy, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, place the kielbasa in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Brown on both sides. Set aside and keep warm.
  5. When the stew is cooked, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, arugula, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  6. Divide the stew among bowls and top each with the kielbasa.
  7. 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 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 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.

day 12: well, that just happened … laugh it off!

So, let’s be honest … shall we?

You’ve planned well. You’ve prepared for every possible scenario. You have stood in front of the mirror, your speech is memorized, your outfit is fresh & clean … and then, BOOM! You completely bomb. Yep … if it’s the bomb part … I nailed it today.

What you’ll need:

  • One amazing recipe for sweet potato, black bean chili
  • All ingredients to execute said recipe without a hitch
  • A trying day (like this one)
  • Distractions (mine was a dog and my thoughts)
  • Equal parts honesty and humility
  • Minimum of 2 strong cocktails
  • A healthy dose of laughter

What you’ll do:

  1. Chop all ingredients and complete recipe up to the point of simmering and fail to turn heat down
  2. Walk away to take care of things/ dogs, pay bills, cry, watch TV, or whatever you fancy really
  3. Notice the scent of burning chili just in time to realize all liquid has left the pot
  4. Turn chili remnant off. Cry a bit. Pout. Throw chili remnant away.
  5. Pour the first of your cocktails
  6. Tell the truth about what happened to your post for today
  7. Pour the second of your cocktails
  8. Laugh at yourself
  9. Try again tomorrow.

day 9: using what you’ve got … til it’s gone (chicken salad)!

In the world of food, creating a new dish from ingredients you have on hand is looked upon as creative and expressive. It can also be a glimpse into one’s ability to spend your kitchen dollars wisely. Here … I like to refer to it as an opportunity to show off your culinary kung-fu kickery. Did you know that some of the most delicious dishes were comprised of mere leftovers, remnants of what was once a delicacy?

As someone that enjoys the art of cooking, loves food and loathes the never-ending trips to the market … I take this practice to heart often. Ever been to someone’s house who says they have no food? Ever seen that person whip up rock star meals with seemingly no effort, budget or stress? It’s down right sexy isn’t it (oh, yes I did)!

Let’s exercise some of that frugality, shall we? Day 1 dawned homemade chicken stock. Day 2 brought a chicken soup to life. Fast forward … what on earth could possibly be left? Chicken salad of course!

Leftovers have never looked or tasted so good!

Leftovers have never looked or tasted so good!

What you’ll need:

  • Leftover pulled chicken
  • A smidge (yes, a smidge) of mayo by way of about a heaping tablespoon
  • A smidge of sour cream (heaping tablespoon I mean – or plain Greek yogurt)
  • Juice from one lemon
  • Fresh Italian parsley, chopped (a small handful works great)
  • A bit of dried fruit – dried cranberries is what I used. Raisins, fresh grapes cut in half or apples chopped will do just fine.
  • 2 stalks of celery diced
  • 1/2 red onion diced (or chives work great too)
  • 1 tsp of brown sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste (I add quite a bit as chicken, in my humble opinion is like a blank canvas)
  • Chopped nuts (I don’t like nuts in my salads, but hey, if you’re into that sort of thing add away)

What you’ll do:

  1. Combine mayo, sour cream, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. Whisk until sugar is dissolved and mixture is velvety smooth.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine chicken , parsley, fruit, celery, onion and nuts (if you’re choosing to).
  3. Pour dressing over the chicken mixture and blend until all ingredients are well combined.
  4. Simple as that! Now serve with celery stalks, a sandwich container of some sort, atop a mixed green salad, or eat with the crunch of your choice … mine at the moment are pretzel thins (insert AMAZING).
  5. Enjoy!

day 7: baby, it’s cold outside …

I can’t lie … keeping up with this challenge is a fair kick in the ass for me … But, I’m doin’ it! Today you get a two-part “viking” challenge. I don’t know about you, but when I think of vikings I think of fur, brawn, meat and potatoes … perhaps a bit of vegetation for digestion. Thus, the inspiration for this meal.

Next time you crave steakhouse fare … do yourself a favor and start here.

A twist on a wedge

A twist on a wedge

What you’ll need:

  • Romaine hearts, washed and cut carefully in half
  • Grape tomatoes (the best you can find this season) washed & cut in halves
  • A just-ripened avocado, sliced
  • 1 lb. bacon, chopped and cooked to your desired level of crispness
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
  • fresh scallions, cleaned and chopped (green parts only)
  • salt & pepper
  • a healthy dash of lemon juice
  • a healthy dash of worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 cup of quality crumbled blue cheese

What you’ll do:

  1. Combine sour cream, buttermilk, lemon juice, worcestershire sauce, blue cheese crumbles, salt & pepper to taste. Set aside in the refrigerator
  2. Cut bacon into 1 inch strips and cook until done to your whim ( I go for crunchy personally)
  3. Grill romaine hearts over high heat for about 2 minutes (you want grill marks)
  4. Plate romaine with avocado and tomato
  5. Top with bacon & scallions
  6. Drizzle with dressing
  7. Wait for the perfect steak …
  8. Enjoy!

day 6: sunshine all the time + anytime asparagus

This lovely side always brings a little sunshine to a cold, dreary day. Though I can’t take credit for this one … After all, I always thought asparagus was a my way or the highway type veggie. Grilled. Steamed. Boiled and grey. Anne Burrell gave me some inspiration and taught me a trick or two. The key here is to remember that green should stay GREEN. Do not serve your guests, your children or your worst enemy overcooked vegetables (they will resent you for it – as they should). Oh, and in this case salt is most certainly your ally.

Serve this as a side dish, an add-on to your favorite salad (mine is baby kale with pickled beets & goat cheese), or all alone (with a sprinkle of fresh reggiano). You won’t regret adding this one to your arsenal. Mark my words!

Something new to do for asparagus

Something new to do for asparagus

What you’ll need:

  • Fresh asparagus spears
  • A juicy lemon
  • Quality red wine vinegar
  • Quality olive oil
  • A healthy amount of kosher salt (more than you’d think you’d want or need)

What you’ll do:

  1. Bring 1 quart of well salted water to rolling boil
  2. Prepare a salted icebath
  3. Snap the ends from your asparagus spears (they’ll “tell” you where they need to be cut, just apply a little pressure)
  4. Drop spears into boiling water and allow to return to boil. Spears should be bright green (think fresh spring grass)
  5. Remove spears and place immediately into icebath
  6. Drain once cooled (just a few minutes). Spears should be tender yet crisp
  7. Cut into diagonal 1.5 inch pieces or leave whole (your choice)
  8. Drizzle with olive oil, red wine vinegar and finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon
  9. Enjoy!