Snow Day Salad?

Snow days don’t automatically bring to mind memories of great salads, right?  Right.  But I plan our meals a week at a time, so it just happened that we had one recipe left when we found ourselves snowed in for the weekend–Spinach and Barley Salad with Grilled Pork (a la Country Living).

 

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photo by Stephen Devries (via the Country Living website)

 

I know, I know.  It sounds healthy.  Who gets excited about spinach and barley?  Much less the beets and radishes and carrots that get thrown into the mix.  But trust me on this one.  It is delicious.  We decided it deserves a spot in our regular meal rotation, and that’s kind of a big deal.

I’ve been in a bit of an anti-cooking, anti-veggies kick lately.  Sadly, I’m an adult who feels the need to eat the occasional vegetable, even when I don’t actually want to eat a vegetable.  And my husband has this strange love for all things healthy.  I grudgingly picked this recipe to try to tick those boxes.

This salad was so flavorful and fresh and hearty at the same time.  The dressing was perfect with all of the strong vegetables, and the pork made it feel much less virtuous (in a good way).  Other bonuses include reasonable clean-up and very little actual cooking.  This was so good that I chose the leftovers for lunch today instead of the off-brand Easy Mac that’s hanging out in our pantry.  That’s quite a coup.

In case you didn’t see the link before, you can find the recipe right here.

(I know I’m not the only person who struggles with a love for fake cheese and all things carbohydrate, so put that stink eye away.  They’re just so good.  Please don’t let that cloud your opinion of this recipe.  This is no Easy Mac.  But if you happen to like Easy Mac, you still have a chance of liking this recipe.  It’s like a Venn Diagram.  Not all fake cheese eaters will like this, but some will.  Not all radish eaters will like fake cheese, but some will.)

And hey, enjoy the snow if you’re lucky enough to have some in your neck of the woods!

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Niçoise Salad

At our house, we try to buy birthday gifts without going hog wild (read: we don’t to spend our life savings on birthday presents, not even for ourselves).  But there are still good things to be had for your birthday.  During birthday week, you get to pick the menu for dinner every night, you get to pick what we watch on tv, etc.  Any small life decisions for the week are yours.  It makes for a week that feels a little bit special and personal.

We started Scott’s birthday week last night with my first attempt at Niçoise Salad.  I didn’t quite use a recipe, which is the beauty of this salad.  There’s a traditional list of ingredients, but it’s pretty darn simple: hard-boiled eggs, green beans, tomatoes, small potatoes, and tuna with capers and olives sprinkled on top and a nice, strong viniagrette dressing (my favorite kind of dressing–heavy on the vinegar).

So you could read about what I did, but I like this post from Food52 a whole lot.  It’s what I used as a guide.  It gives you a bit of history about the dish, tells you what traditionally goes into it, and lets you figure out the details.

Asparagus looked better than green beans at our store, so that was the only real substitution I made.  And I guess I roasted the taters instead of boiling them.  I just really like roasted potatoes.

Here’s the official version from Food52:

1272a0d5-e253-4b5e-b2c9-918f9385f833-2016-0816_how-to-make-a-nicoise-salad_linda-xiao_352

photo taken by Linda Xiao for Food52

Here’s what mine looked like the next day in Tupperware (because this is real life):

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The scary dark spots are either nice roasty parts of the potato or salad dressing.  I promise.

This salad is legit, guys.  It tastes awesome, it’s as good cold as warm (we ate it with potatoes right out of the oven last night, but everything else was room temperature), and it’s healthy.  I mean, you aren’t going to get all worried about those five tiny potatoes, are you?  Everything else is really super duper healthy.  There are so many good flavors.  Yum!  Oh, and don’t be intimidated by the suggestion that you could throw some anchovies on top.  I had some anchovy paste that I mixed into the dressing, but I could have left that out.

The super awesome thing about this?  The “composing” of the stripes makes it feel fancy.  And while the ingredients aren’t all kid-friendly, you could easily turn it into something kids would love.  Who doesn’t want striped dinner?  You could also do lots of these things ahead of time and then just put it together at the last minute.  Last but not least, I’m honestly kind of excited that I’ve found a way to use canned tuna that feels fresh and fancy.

Birthday week is off to a good start.

In unrelated news, at the ripe old age of 10 months, our kiddo likes kalamata olives, feta cheese, and roasted butternut squash.  I’m A) proud of him for his fancy preferences and B) concerned that I’m raising a child who will one day say something like, “I don’t think I can eat those mustard greens unless they’re locally sourced and organic.”  I hope I’m wrong.  I’m hoping I’ll raise a kid who loves good old peanut butter and jelly AND roasted butternut squash.  And maybe once in a while enjoys some locally sourced organic mustard green.

The Slow Life

I have found myself relaxing a lot this week.  I haven’t made any new recipes (just a favorite–Roast Salmon with Lentils).

It looks kind of like this, but this is Martha's version (photo from marthastewart.com)

It looks kind of like this, but this is Martha’s version (photo from marthastewart.com)

I’ve been reading snippets of books I got part-way through ages ago (Seabiscuit and Brat Farrar).  Did you know that to calm Seabiscuit down, they got him an older, wiser horse stall-mate?  And a monkey.  And a dog.  Supposedly (according to Hillenbrand’s excellent book), you could often find the monkey sleeping on Seabiscuit’s stomach and the dog sleeping on Seabiscuit’s neck.  Or maybe the monkey was on the neck.  Either way, I like that Seabiscuit just needed some calming friends to become a great race horse.  Okay, and some training and practice and food and lots of smart people around him.  But also some friends.

I’ve also watched the entire first season of Call the Midwife.  I like it a lot.

photo from Amazon.com

photo from Amazon.com

And I’ve been working.  It has been slow, and I’ve been enjoying it a lot.  I’m sorry I haven’t written much.

Huevos Rancheros in Minutes!

In case that title is ambiguous, I’m talking Huevos Rancheros in 10 minutes.  The original recipe says 15 minutes, but honestly, there’s can opening and egg cooking.  It’s pretty much the easiest thing I’ve made in months, and it’s delicious to boot.

photo-11That’s the “every man” version.  This is the professional version (obviously still in the pan):

photo by Quentin Bacon (via realsimple.com)

photo by Quentin Bacon (via realsimple.com)

I don’t know if I’ve actually had Huevos Rancheros at a restaurant, so this may or may not be exactly like the traditional recipe.  What I do know is that this was inexpensive, easy, healthy, and tasty.  I’m going to be making this a lot in the future.

We added some leftovers from another dinner into this, so it was a little bit of a time cheat.  Maybe it’s 15 minutes if you add meat-brownin’ time.  Anyway, it’s ridiculously easy and serves 4.  (Why yes, I did use twice the beans, extra salsa, meat, and 2 extra eggs while leaving the serving number the same as the original recipe.  Real Simple portion sizes might be correct from a dietician’s perspective, but we need a little bit of extra food.)

Skillet-Poached Huevos Rancheros+

Ingredients

  • 3 cups salsa
  • 2 15.5-ounce cans black beans, rinsed
  • 6 large eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 lb. ground venison or beef, browned (totally optional)

Directions

  1. If you want to use ground beef or venison in the recipe, brown the meat in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Combine the salsa and beans with the browned meat and bring to a simmer.
  2. Make 6 wells in the bean mixture. Crack each egg and slide it gently into one of the egg wells. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  3. Cook, covered, over medium heat, 3 to 5 minutes for slightly runny yolks.
  4. Sprinkle with the scallions and cilantro. Add a dollop of Greek yogurt to each serving.

You might even have enough time after this to paint your nails:

photo-10I love that snow days mean clean dishes, folded laundry, and enough spare time to do my annual nail painting.  And thank goodness the roads were totally cleared today.  I almost got the house so put together that I would have to start filing old paperwork.  Whew.  It was close.

Roasted Salmon with Lentils

I picked this recipe for roasted salmon with lentils because it looked healthy, and we had a giant family pack of salmon fillets in the freezer.  Both excellent reasons to pick a recipe, in my opinion.

But why will I make this recipe again?  Because it tastes delicious.  Yum!  Oh, and it’s healthy.  That’s the right way to eat a healthy recipe, in my opinion–tasty first, healthy second.

This gem is from Dinner: The Playbook, which I very much don’t want to give back to the library.  But as a librarian, I have to set a good example of not stealing books.  Sigh.

It looks kind of like this, but this is Martha's version (photo from marthastewart.com)

It looks kind of like this, but this is Martha’s version (photo from marthastewart.com)

Roasted Salmon with Lentils

Takes about 30 minutes, makes about 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups of any combination of chicken broth and water, or enough to cover lentils by about 1 inch in the pot
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (more if you’re making extra dressing)
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (white or balsamic, tarragon, or red wine, we used red wine vinegar, more if you’re making extra dressing)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil (same… more if you’re making extra dressing)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch of scallions (white and light green parts), chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped bell pepper
  • leaves from 2 fresh thyme sprigs (or a generous pinch of dried rosemary or thyme, or even 2 tablespoon of finely shopped fresh parsley)
  • 1 1/4 lb. salmon fillet(s)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a medium pot, boil the lentils in the broth-water combo, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes (15 if you’re using beluga lentils).  While the lentils are cooking, in a medium bowl make a vinaigrette by whisking together the mustard, vinegar, 1/3 cup olive oil, and salt and pepper.  (I made extra here–roughly doubling the recipe, and we used the extra dressing on top of some halved cherry tomatoes and cut avocado to create an easy, healthy salad on the side… delcious.)
  • While the lentils are tender but still hold their shape, drain them in a fine strainer.  Toss the lentils in the bowl with the vinaigrette (making sure you’ve already used any extra that you made), adding the scallions, bell pepper, and thyme or other herbs.
  • Meanwhile, brush the salmon fillet(s) with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until flaky.  Break the salmon into bite-size pieces and toss with the lentils.

You can even make everything ahead of time except for the roasted salmon, if you want.  That would make this a really exceptionally easy dinner.  It’s already pretty darn easy.

The vinaigrette on top of the mixture just makes this meal.  A little bit of vinegar and oil and mustard, and the lentils are transformed.

Why did I forget to take a picture of our salmon with lentils?  Well, I’ve been getting more early Christmas presents, and I was busy taking pictures of my awesome cowboy boot slippers and new kitchen rug instead.  That’s a totally legitimate excuse, if you ask me.

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Eggs, Edamame and Extras

We tried a new “breakfast for dinner” option the other night, and I was a huge fan.  The recipe is officially called “Quinoa with Edamame, Parmesan and Egg,” which covers almost the entire ingredient list.  Nice and simple!  It tasted rich and filling while maintaining a pretty solid health factor, too.

official photo and recipe from thesepeasarehollow.blogspot.com

official photo and recipe from thesepeasarehollow.blogspot.com

And here’s our slightly less magazine-ready version:

eggs n thingsI think it even looks kind of pretty when photographed in less than perfect conditions (read: should have moved my foot away from the right side of the picture).  Any food that can look tasty next to a foot is a winner.

So what did we change from the original combo of quinoa, parmesan, fried eggs, and avocado?  Well, we threw in a few things we had in the kitchen.  That red you see in our picture is essentially a red bell pepper.  It’s supposed to be a poblano pepper, but it didn’t quite percolate right in the garden.  Fortunately, it tastes almost just like a red bell pepper without any extra heat.  Works for me.  We also threw on one grilled chicken breast cut into small pieces.  Together the pepper and the chicken made this a slightly more traditional/filling dinner choice.  It made three large servings.  Very large servings. 

Quinoa with Edamame, Parm, and Egg 
serves 3 (or 4 dainty people, or 2 adults and 2 adventurous kids)

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 cups shelled, cooked edamame (kind from the freezer section works great, just make sure you undermicrowave a bit to keep that crisp texture)
  • 1 red bell pepper, loosely chopped or diced (optional but nice)
  • 1 grilled chicken breast, diced any way you like–slightly larger than the edamame for me (also optional)
  • 2 oz. shaved Parmesan cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for frying egg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced (or pitted and sliced without peeling, if you’re okay with scooping avocado as you eat)

In a bowl, mix together the quinoa, edamame, bell pepper, and chicken, and toss with one teaspoon of olive oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Fry the egg until whites are set, but yolk is still runny (this will make a nice sauce for your quinoa).

Sprinkle the cheese over the quinoa and top with the hot fried egg. Serve with the sliced avocado, drizzled with a bit of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Fresh Summer Corn Salad

First there were the strawberries, and then came the fresh corn.  Mmm.

photo from kellysluckyyou.com... few things I love to see more in the summer than a field full of corn

photo from kellysluckyyou.com… few things I love to see more in the summer than a field full of corn

Scott and I made a warm corn salad last night, which we combined with some marinated and grilled venison from ye ol’ freezer.  Add a tortilla, and you had some semblance of a fajita.  “Use What You Have” fajitas, we’ll call them.

I can’t help you with your venison needs, because that was all Scott’s responsibility.  I do know that there was Worcestershire sauce in the mix.  And I know that grilled chicken or beef would also be tasty with this combo.  And more importantly, I can help you with the warm corn salad.  It was almost exactly this recipe from But I’m Hungry/Amateur Omnivore.

But not quite.

Hannah’s Ever-So-Slight-Twist on Warm Corn and Bell Pepper Salad with Asparagus

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1-2″ pieces (because who wants to use a knife on their salad?)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 5 ears of corn, cooked and cut off the cob (grilled is tastier, microwaved is easier)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • salt and pepper
  • cheese (we used Monterrey Jack, but I personally think that Feta would be just about perfect)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line the asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes or to desired tenderness.

Meanwhile, in a large pan over medium-high heat, add the butter and diced peppers. Cook for 5 minutes, add the corn and season with salt and pepper and cayenne to taste. (I don’t usually measure my seasonings anymore, but please measure this time.  I probably used double the called-for cayenne, and my taste buds are mad at me.) Cook 5 more minutes.  Throw in the asparagus and give it a good stir before serving.

Serve on its own or add any cheese you like.  Monterrey Jack was tasty with grilled venison and tortillas.  Personally, I will be using Feta next time.  I predict good results.