Have you ever had panzanella? It’s one of my favorite summer salads, full of juicy tomatoes, basil, capers, fresh mozzarella, and chewy ciabatta bread.
Panzanella is an Italian bread salad that was created as a way to use up old bread. In fact, the secret to a good panzanella is to use stale bread, typically 3 days old. The tough bread soaks up the juices of the tomatoes and vinaigrette dressing making for a delicious and filling salad.
I recently had some leftover cornbread and was inspired to create a fall-themed panzanella salad using the stale pieces of cornbread. I mixed the cornbread cubes with fresh leaves of baby kale, dried cranberries, gorgonzola cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds, and — my favorite — roasted sweet delicata squash. For a finishing touch, I tossed the salad with a maple syrup based vinaigrette.
Sweet cornbread transforms the traditional Italian bread salad into a tasty and filling autumn treat in this Fall Panzanella Salad recipe.
2 tsp olive oil
1 delicata squash, seeded and cut into ½" cubes
1½ cups stale cornbread cubes (1/2" cubes)
2 cups loosely packed baby kale leaves
¼ cup unsalted pumpkin seeds, toasted
¼ cup dried cranberries
3 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp pomegranate vinegar
¼ tsp sea salt
1 oz. crumbled gorgonzola cheese
Preheat oven to 425F.
Brush a baking sheet with the olive oil and spread the delicata squash on the sheet in a single layer.
Roast the squash for 15-20 minutes until tender and golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes.
In a medium salad bowl, combine the cornbread, kale, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and roasted delicata squash.
Whisk together the maple syrup, vinegar, and salt.
Toss the salad with the maple dressing and gorgonzola cheese. Let sit for 30 minutes before serving.
If your cornbread is too fresh, cut it into cubes, spread the on a baking sheet, and bake in a 300F oven for 30-60 minutes until the cubes are dried.
To toast your pumpkin seeds, heat a small skillet on medium heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes until the seeds begin to brown. Let cool before you add to the salad.
The Lucini Italia Olive Oil Taste Challenge Line-up: Delicate Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Premium Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and Tuscan Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
The rep told me she would put together a care package for me to sample, so I was expecting some little samples of olive oil and some informational swag. Imagine my surprise when I opened the box and found 4 gorgeous bottles waiting for me! They sent me full-size bottles of their Premium Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Tuscan Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Delicate Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and Trentino Apple Balsamic Vinegar to taste as well as some recipe suggestions.
Yes, it does not suck to be me.
I’m ready to taste some olive oil!
As you can imagine, I’m more skilled at tasting wine than olive oil, but I always take a challenge seriously. I got out some shot glasses and filled each with a little oil then settled in. The Premium Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil is smooth, grassy, and pleasantly bitter with a slight peppery finish. I can see myself using it in many more dishes to come. I really loved the citrus bite in the Delicate Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil, in fact I brushed some on a couple of ears of fresh corn that I then grilled up and served just sprinkled with a little sea salt. Yum!
My favorite though was the Tuscan Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The infusion of basil gives it an herbal quality with that strong peppery flavor that basil is famous for. This little bottle of delight has become a must-drizzle on slices of sun-warmed heirloom tomatoes freshly picked from the garden. Now that is a little slice of heaven!
I love that the beets turn the quinoa a lovely purple color in this salad.
Coincidentally, I was also working on this recipe for Grilled Beet Tomato and Quinoa Salad when I tasted these lovelies, and I immediately knew I had to pull the two together. I brushed the beets with the Tuscan Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil before grilling them and then made a very simple vinaigrette of it and the Trentino Apple Balsamic Vinegar to dress the salad. The olive oil enhanced the flavor of the fresh basil in the salad while the vinegar complemented the sweetness of the grilled beets and cherry tomatoes. The result was pure deliciousness.
Do you cook with olive oil? What’s your favorite recipe to use it in?
3 fresh beets, about 2" in diameter, peeled and sliced into ¼" slices
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
½ haas avocado, diced
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp apple balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Place the quinoa in a fine mesh colander or sieve and rinse well with cold water. Set aside.
Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in the rinsed quinoa, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
Spread the cooked quinoa on a baking sheet in a single layer and set aside to cool.
Brush each side of the beet slices with 2 tsp of the olive oil. Grill on a pre-heated propane grill on low flame for 3-4 minutes on each side or until cooked through and tender.
Coarsely chop the grilled beets and place in a salad bowl. Add the cherry tomatoes, avocado, cooked quinoa, and basil and toss to combine.
In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad and toss to coat.
Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
The beets also grill up very well in a cast iron grill pan. Preheat the grill pan over medium-high heat, lightly coat with olive oil, and grill the beets for 3-4 minutes on each side until cooked through.
I love my summer vegetable garden. Yes gardening is a lot of work, but it’s an excellent stress reliever, decent workout, and you get delicious homegrown tomatoes in the end. What’s not to love?
Right now my summer squash is coming on: zucchini, romesco zucchini, yellow zucchini, crookneck squash, and pattypan squash. These are especially good brushed with a little olive oil and thrown on the grill. Grilling brings an entirely new flavor to summer squash, something that can’t be replicated on the stovetop or in the oven.
Pattypan squash from the garden is brushed with olive oil and grilled up.
For this recipe, I wanted to create a light summer salad that was also hearty and filling enough for a stand alone meal. Mission accomplished!
And the dish is so easy to make that it takes almost no effort to throw it together after a busy day at work. There’s a little prep work involved with the wheat berries, but once those are cooked I simply grill up the squash and throw everything together in a bowl. What’s easier than that?
The colors, taste and texture make this an unforgettable summer meal!
For the dressing, I only make a very small amount because the squash and cherry tomatoes (also from my garden!) have so much flavor that the salad doesn’t need a lot of dressing. Of course the fresh oregano and salty feta also help.
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know that the strawberry patch in my garden is going crazy right now. I started with roughly 8 plants 2 years ago that I transplanted from a planter at my former home. I put them in the ground bordering my raised garden beds and decided to just let them go. Well, like strawberry plants do, they have reproduced to the point where they have almost taken over my backyard. I have strawberries in abundance right now – this week alone I picked a little over 12 pounds!
So what’s a girl to do with all of these strawberries but to find ways to use them? I’ve done the traditional jam making – well not exactly traditional flavors but some delicious combinations such as Balsamic Strawberry Basil, Strawberry Roasted Jalapeno, and Strawberry Hibiscus. Delicious! My favorite trick, though, is to create savory dinner dishes from these sweet summer beauties.
I’ve been seeing a lot of various recipes out there involved roasted strawberries, a preparation technique I had never tried before but I have sincerely fallen in love with. Roasting brings out an entirely different flavor in the strawberry: it is sweet, smoky and deliciously gooey. It’s almost like eating candy.
It took me a while to get the roasting just right, though. The secret: use parchment paper on the baking sheet and roast them in small batches, spreading the berries in a single layer and leaving room between them. The air really needs to circulate between the berries for a perfect roast.
You can roast the berries plain or tossed in a little olive oil, but for this recipe I used a combination of honey and balsamic vinegar for a little extra flavor. In fact, I highly recommend trying this with a fig balsamic vinegar if you have it. I just happened to have a bottle on hand that I had picked up on a recent trip to Napa.
I then combined the roasted berries with some nutty farro, crunchy jicama, thinly sliced green onions, peppery basil, and creamy goat cheese for a savory summer salad that is satisfying and hearty. It’s also perfect for Meatless Monday. This has become one of my favorite recipes, I hope you enjoy it too!
When I started my weight loss journey, I quickly found that I needed to prepare my own food more, instead of running through those all-to-convenient and abundant drive-thrus. This meant that I not only needed to up my culinary game, but I also had to change my cooking style. I turned to TV cooking shows for inspiration, and one of my absolute favorites was Food Network’s Ask Aida, featuring culinary curator and TV personality, Aida Mollenkamp.
Try this Chipotle and Toasted Walnut Wheat Berry Salad for a sample of Aida’s culinary talents!
I loved Aida’s scrumptious recipes, straightforward instructions, and helpful tips ranging from cooking techniques to how to use certain kitchen gadgets to how to select quality produce. I religiously watched her shows and together we made such delicious dishes as a vegan chili, chipotle chicken fajitas, shrimp piri piri, and steak with a compound butter that was to die for. The more I learned, the more confidence I gained in the kitchen and soon I was swapping out this for that and eventually crafting my own creations in order to get the lean calories I needed for my weight loss journey.
So when I was invited to participate in the Virtual Salad Party sponsored by California Walnuts and make a recipe from one of three featured chefs, I was beyond excited to select one of my virtual culinary mentors, Aida Mollenkamp. I chose her Chipotle and Toasted Walnut Wheat Berry Salad because, while I’ve cooked a lot with other grains such as quinoa, couscous, farro and sorghum, I have not yet worked with wheat berries. I saw this as yet another opportunity to learn from Aida. Score!
Raisins add a sweet, chewy flavor that really balances out the spice of the chipotle, the nuttiness of the wheat berries, and the smoky crunch of the toasted walnuts
Whenever I follow a recipe, I always like to make it as crafted first, and then recraft it as my own taste buds, style and dietary needs dictate. I have to say, though, that Aida created a real winner with this recipe because it was delicious. It was so good, I had to go back for seconds, and then I happily took leftovers to work for lunch the next day.
I did have to substitute hard wheat berries as my search of three local grocery stores could not find the soft wheat berries specified in the recipe. I followed the directions on the grocery store bulk bin and soaked the hard wheat berries over night before preparing them according to Aida’s instructions. The result was a delicious, nutty, slightly crunchy grain that I will absolutely be working with again.
Upon first bite, I thought that perhaps the recipe could use another chipotle. But then the finish left the perfect amount of heat. The real surprise, however, are the raisins. They add a sweet, chewy flavor that really balances out the spice of the chipotle, the nuttiness of the wheat berries, and the smoky crunch of the toasted walnuts. All of the flavors combine in perfect harmony like lovers destined for each other.
Win a copy of Aida Mollenkamp’s Keys to the Kitchen below!
As part of the Virtual Salad Party, I’m really excited to be giving away a copy of Aida Mollenkamp’s cookbook, Keys to the Kitchen. Designed to help home cooks become more confident in the kitchen, I just know that the winner will enjoys her tips, tricks and recipes as much as I have over the years. Just try this one for a sample of the deliciousness that awaits you then enter the contest below!
1 chopped chipotle en adobo plus 1 teaspoon chipotle en adobo sauce
1 cup toasted walnut halves, coarsely chopped
½ cup raisins
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
3 scallions, light green and green parts thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh Italian parsley or cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Fill a medium saucepan with heavily salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in wheat berries, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until tender but still chewy, about 30 to 40 minutes. Drain and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet to cool. (Can be made through this step up to 4 days ahead. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.)
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt, and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add carrots and a pinch of salt and cook until just softened but still retains some bite, about 5 minutes more. Stir in thyme and chipotle and sauce and cook until fragrant then remove from heat.
Place wheat berries in a large, nonreactive bowl and add carrot mixture, nuts, and raisins. Whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, vinegar, and honey until honey is dissolved then stir into wheat berry mixture. Let salad marinate at least 15 minutes before serving or cover and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 24 hours. Just before serving, add the scallions and herbs.
If you can't find soft wheat berries (like I couldn't) you can also substitute hard wheat berries. Simply soak them in a large bowl of water overnight before draining and cooking them as instructed in this recipe.
Cooking with fresh vegetables and fruit means using what’s in season. I love to craft recipes using the produce that pops up in the farmers market stalls. The only problem is that it’s often gone in a flash, and that’s what happened as I worked to develop this particular recipe.
I started this recipe using a delicata squash, the sweetness of the roasted squash is a perfect foil for the tart pomegranate. When I finally perfected the recipe, though, I went to the store to pick up another delicata to prep for the blog, and was disappointed to find that it had entirely disappeared from every store.
So I had to start over.
I settled on the acorn squash because it too has a lovely sweet flavor as well as a tender thin skin that can be eaten when roasted up. Perfect! Just be sure to try this now when you can still find these sweet squashes on the shelves.
To add some heartiness to the salad and make it a filling entree, I used sorghum. Sorghum is an ancient grain, often found in Indian cooking. It is similar to pearl couscous in appearance and texture but has a little more crunch to it. It’s a great source of fiber and is a good gluten-free alternative.
This won’t surprise those of you who watch my videos on YouTube and have noticed a slight change in my appearance. I didn’t realize it myself until suddenly my clothes were fitting tighter. And then I stepped on the scale one morning.
Holy cow! I have gained about 20 pounds since hitting my lowest weight in June 2011! How did that happen? Where did that come from?
I still eat healthy food. Honestly. Every recipe you see on this blog has been my dinner – or leftovers at lunch – at some point. And I’m still diligent about exercise, although I have to admit that I haven’t been putting as much time into my workouts as I used to.
I am mostly blaming my social life, though. Since I lost my weight 2 1/2 years ago, I’ve become much more socially active. I go out regularly on weekends, occasionally during the week if there’s a good band playing, and my nights out always involve alcohol. Where I used to limit myself to no more than 1-2 drinks a night and only on the weekends, I’ve completely eliminated that self-imposed barrier.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t imbibe to the point of sloppy drunkenness, that’s not my style. Over the course of a long evening – usually 5-6 hours – I can easily put away 5 glasses of wine and feel nothing more than a happy buzz. When I take a pause to think about it, though, that’s around 800 calories right there, potentially more given the generous pours I often get. Multiply that by 2-3 nights a week and it’s pretty obvious where this extra weight came from.
So I find myself recalibrating and resetting. I’m going back to where I started 4 years ago – the basics. I am starting to track my calories, fats, carbs and proteins again. I am being more diligent about getting daily exercise and finding opportunities for movement. I am wearing a heart rate monitor when I work out to make sure I’m burning the calories that I need to burn. And I’m cutting back on my wine consumption by re-establishing my limit of no more than 1-2 glasses on Friday and Saturday nights only, and even then only when I have the calorie budget to spare for the day.
Is this a pain in the butt? Yes. I can’t tell you how much I hate food journaling. But it works. And frankly I don’t want to buy new clothes, especially in a larger size. That’s just depressing.
I think this recipe is perfect for a fresh start such as mine. It’s rich and filling while also lean and packed full of healthy nutrients and vitamins.
When I first had the idea for this dish, I really wanted to make cauliflower steaks. I’ve seen various cauliflower steak recipes posted on other blogs and I found the idea intriguing. However, I discovered that, due to the small size of the cauliflower stalk, it is impossible to get more than 2-3 “steaks” from one cauliflower head. And, I had all these floret pieces leftover. It seemed like such a waste of a great vegetable. So, I decided to use the whole darned thing.
I start by slicing the cauliflower into pieces about 3/4″ – 1″ thick. I then brush one side with a mixture of olive oil, salt and garam masala. If you’ve never tried garam masala, this is a perfect opportunity. It’s an Indian spice that is a delicious blend of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, black pepper and coriander. It’s great rubbed on pork tenderloin, like in my Chargrilled Kale and Tenderloin Salad, or as a seasoning for roasted butternut squash or sweet potatoes, or here on my grilled cauliflower.
Because of the damp, cold weather in my area, I used my cast iron grill pan to grill the cauliflower. I grilled it for 4 minutes on the side with the seasoning, then I brushed the unseasoned side with the remaining oil-garam masala mixture, flipped each piece, and grilled it for 4 more minutes.
As I experimented with this recipe, I thought the cauliflower was good but not quite enough for a full meal. So I put it over some peppery arugula, drizzled it with an emulsion of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled some zante currants and pomegranate seeds over the top. (By the way, if you haven’t yet watched this video on how to de-seed a pomegranate in less than 10 seconds, you need to. It’s kind of funny because this guy seriously loves his pomegranates, but it’s also a method that really works.)
The result was pure perfection: slightly peppery, slightly sweet, and entirely satisfying. Plus the whole recipe takes less than 15 minutes to prep, cook and serve, making it perfect for a busy Meatless Monday night.
What healthy changes are you incorporating into your lifestyle in 2014?
Cauliflower is seasoned with garam masala, grilled and served over arugula with a balsamic drizzle, sweet zante currants, and tart pomegranate seeds.
1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed of all greens
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cups arugula, loosely packed
¼ cup zante currants
¼ cup pomegranate arils/seeds
Pinch of sea salt
Cut the cauliflower into ¾" - 1" pieces lengthwise from the base of the stalk to the top of the head.
Whisk together 1 tbsp + 1 tsp of the oil, the garam masala, and a pinch of sea salt. Brush one side of the cut cauliflower pieces with half of the liquid. Reserve the remaining half for use later.
Heat a grill pan (a pan with ridges for grilling) over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower with the seasoned side down against the pan. Cook for 4 minutes.
Brush the unseasoned side of the cauliflower with the oil-garam masala mixture then turn it over in the pan. Cook for another 4 minutes or until the thickest part of the cauliflower (the stalk) is tender. Remove from heat.
Whisk together the remaining 2 tsp of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt until completely emulsified (well-blended and thick).
Arrange the arugula on a platter. Lay the grilled cauliflower pieces over the arugula.
Drizzle the balsamic-oil mixture over the cauliflower. Sprinkle the zante currants and pomegranate seeds over all. Serve immediately.
I’m playing catch up this week after having been out of town last weekend, and I find myself at an awkward spot with no recipes fully developed, tested and ready to publish here. So I decided to dig into my archives and refresh one of my previous recipes.
I selected this Maple Glazed Bacon Wrapped Chicken because it’s been fairly popular on my blog and I thought it would give me an opportunity to re-take some photos. Besides, doesn’t bacon make everything better?
Maple Glazed Bacon Wrapped Chicken and Roasted Chipotle Bourbon Carrots
Bacon is not something that I eat often, I couldn’t even tell you the last time I had some. It’s high in fat, cholesterol and calories, so it doesn’t fit well into a healthy lifestyle. But every now and then, I do indulge.
This meal is the perfect indulgence. I like to make a simple marinade of olive oil, sweet balsamic vinegar, and grade A maple syrup. This time, I let the bacon marinate with the chicken breast tenderloins before wrapping the chicken up and grilling it. The flavor was even more intense.
Roasted Chipotle Bourbon Carrots
When I first posted this recipe, I made them with a side of Thyme and Walnut Roasted Sweet Potatoes. This time, I spotted a lovely bunch of rainbow carrots at the Farmer’s Market and decided to roast them instead. I like to leave the carrots intact, just trimming the greens off, but leaving the tops and bottoms in place. And whatever you do, please please please do not use those packaged “baby” carrots in any recipe!
To counter the sweetness of the chicken, I decided to toss the carrots in a glaze of spicy chipotle and smooth bourbon, with just a touch of the same maple syrup that I use in the chicken to complement the main dish, as well as a bit of olive oil to help the carrots roast up.
Chicken wrapped in bacon and glazed with real maple syrup. How can this be low in fat and calories? It's all about moderation in this delicious recipe.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins
½ tbsp olive oil
1½ tbsp grade A maple syrup
½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
pinch of coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 slices of bacon
Whisk together the olive oil, syrup, vinegar, salt and pepper. Reserve half of the mixture and set aside. Take the remaining mixture and pour over the chicken tenderloins then cover and let marinate for about 20 minutes.
Take the 2 pieces of bacon and cut in half to create 2 shorter slices. Wrap each slice around each tenderloin, securing the bacon with a toothpick.
Heat a ridged grilling pan over medium-high heat. Sear the chicken for 1 minute on each side, pressing down to create nice grill marks.
Reduce heat to medium low, brush the chicken with the reserved liquid, and continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes until the bacon is cooked completely, brushing with the liquid throughout the process. (If too much liquid forms in the bottom of the grill pan, pour it out.)
Remove chicken from pan, let sit for 1-2 minutes and serve.
Maple Bacon Chicken and Roasted Chipotle Bourbon Carrots
I have to admit my mind is wandering a bit this morning. As I sit here writing this out, I really want to tell you about my recipe for Tarragon Chicken Pot Pie Soup. I want to tell you the story of how, on a crisp autumn night, I was inspired to take my Chicken Pot Pie recipe from last year and turn it into an easy and hearty soup. Which I did, and it was delicious. I’m still enjoying leftovers from my freezer.
This soup starts with Mirepoix, the French term for a soup or stew base of onion, celery and carrot.
But my mind is wandering and I’m feeling a need to talk about me. Because this really is about me, right?
After my weight loss, I went on a voyage of self-discovery where I tried lots of different activities to figure out what I like and who I am. Because somewhere in between my bad marriage, raising my kids, and devoting myself to my job, I lost myself. With my new body, it felt like all things were possible and I began to explore.
Adding mushrooms and red potatoes to the soup helps thicken the dish.
Over two years later, I have a fairly solid sense of self, but along the way I discovered certain parts of me – mental and emotional – that I don’t like. Specifically, the low self-confidence and fat girl dialogue that still runs through my head. I know that sounds silly, but when you spend years with a “you’re not good enough” mantra running through your head, it’s difficult to get rid of.
One of the tools to building my self-confidence has been to try and overcome my introverted tendencies. You see, when I get into a group of people I tend to step back and be a complete wallflower. When I go out, I prefer to be with a friend and I typically rely on that person to take the lead. And when it comes to meeting men, I’m totally hopeless.
Combining tarragon vinegar with skim milk not only injects flavor, but it thickens the milk to a buttermilk like consistency without the additional fat and calories of buttermilk. No tarragon vinegar? Use white wine vinegar and a tablespoon of chopped fresh tarragon.
I tend to wait for the man to make the first move, my fear of rejection can be a bit paralyzing. I’m clueless when it comes to flirting, I don’t often recognize when a guy is flirting with me. When I do realize that a guy is flirting with me, I get so nervous that all reason and logic completely escapes me and I do something really stupid, simply see my post from last summer as a classic example. So I’ve been working on being more extroverted.
I began with the IFBC. I was attending the event by myself which was a real test for me. I made a goal for myself to meet as many people and exchange as many business cards as I could. So there I was, by my introverted self. Yet, I walked up to complete strangers, introduced myself, and struck up conversations. I was really nervous at first, but my therapist was right: most people will meet you half way.
I met so many friendly, interesting fellow bloggers, many of whom I still keep in contact with. It was, in a sense, freeing. So I decided to try my luck in my own world.
Just about finished!
I belong to a fantastic wine club through a local bottleshop and bistro, Wine Up, of which one of the perks of membership is a free wine tasting every Friday night. Can you guess how many I’ve missed because I didn’t have someone to go with and didn’t want to go by myself?
A couple of weeks ago, fresh off my solo adventure at IFBC, and with much self-encouragement, I decided to go to a Friday night wine tasting by myself. I arrived, collected my glass, and initially stood timidly sipping my wine in the corner. Then I took a deep breath, stepped forward and inserted myself into a conversation between a nearby group of fellow tasters. And what do you know, they met me half way.
I not only had a great time, but I ended up meeting two really interesting guys, one of whom asked for my number and we ended up going on a date the following night. That’s not going to go anywhere, he was just looking for sex. Don’t get me wrong, sex is great, but I’m looking for something that will develop into a relationship, not a one night stand. I didn’t feel bad about telling this guy to scoot, though, instead I felt really confident in knowing what I was looking for and not settling for less, and proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone.
I love to top this soup with a few homemade croutons. I simply brush a couple of slices of whole wheat artisan bread with olive oil, cube them up and toast them in the oven until crunchy.
So I went back last weekend. And I met more people, including another guy who gave me his number. Then I went back last night, and guess what? That’s right, I met even more people. And I had a very promising flirtation with the cute bartender culminating in the following:
Me: “I think I want something sweet to take home. What do you have?”
Cute bartender: “How about my number?”
Squee! (That was my internal teenage girl squealing.)
The bottom line is, I’m liking my extroverted self and that self-loathing dialogue in my head is beginning to be muffled by more positive feelings of confidence. This is so much better than internet dating. I wish I had done this ages ago!
Chicken pot pie gets leaned down and souped up while still retaining its thick, hearty, and satisfying status as a comfort food staple.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 medium stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
pinch of coarse sea salt
1½ cups sliced crimini (brown) mushrooms
½ lb. red potatoes, chopped
2½ - 3 cups cooked, shredded, boneless, skinless chicken breast
¼ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
4 cups homemade, salt free chicken broth
1 cup frozen, petite peas
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley
1 tbsp tarragon vinegar
1 cup nonfat (skim) milk
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.
Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, tarragon, thyme and salt. Stir to coat with the oil and cook until the onions are transparent, about 15 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and potatoes and cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and have released their water.
Stir in the chicken and flour, combining well to coat everything with the flour.
Slowly stir in the broth, using the back of your spoon to loosen up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Add in the peas and parsley. Bring to a boil then reduce to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Pour the vinegar into a measuring cup and add the milk to make 1 cup of liquid total. Let sit for 30 minutes.
Stir the vinegar-milk mixture and pour into the soup, combining well. Let cook for 10 more minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.
To make your own shredded chicken breast, simply put 1 lb. of raw, boneless, skinless chicken breast into a pot of water and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 20 minutes until completely tender. Remove the chicken from the water and let cool for 5-10 minutes then shred it with 2 forks. 1 lb. of raw chicken breast yields 2½ - 3 cups of shredded chicken breast.
I am in love with farro. I realize this grain has been around for centuries, but it seems to just be gaining popularity in the US in the past few months. Farro actually hails from the Mediterranean and is commonly found in Italian food. That’s right, Italians eat more than just pasta.
I was so excited to run into reps from Bob’s Red Mill at the International Food Blogger’s Conference. I love this business, first because it’s local to me but secondly because they have fantastic, quality products at great prices. I am especially a fan of their unsweetened shredded coconut, the only unsweetened coconut I’ve been able to find. But on this occasion they were giving out samples of their farro and sorghum, which I greedily grabbed up and added to my already overflowing swag bag. The rep invited me out to explore their factory store, which I fully intend to do within the next few weeks.
Farro is a wheat grain that looks very similar to barley when it’s uncooked, but, unlike barley, it retains a crunchy outer texture when cooked. Farro is a whole grain which means that your body has to work harder to digest it, and that benefits your metabolism. It’s very filling so a little farro goes a long way, and the taste is similar to brown rice in that it’s very nutty in flavor. I love to use farro in salads, mixed with vegetables like I have here, or in a stuffing such as my Grilled Caprese Farro Zucchini Boats that I made over the summer.
One of the many things I love about this dish is that it’s so incredibly simple and I can vary it up easily too. It is one of my favorite Meatless Monday meals because it’s not only delicious, but it is also quick to make after a busy day at the office. I simply roast sweet cherry tomatoes in a bit of olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic and salt then toss the roasted tomatoes with cooked farro, fresh oregano, light feta cheese, salt, pepper, and an additional splash of olive oil and red wine vinegar for extra flavor.
I highly recommend using light feta cheese instead of the fat free crumbled feta cheese you will find in the grocery store. First, the calorie difference is negligible – the fat free feta is only a measly 10 calories less than the light version. But more importantly, the fat free version is filled with chemicals to replace the fat and flavor it’s lacking, leaving it with a rubbery texture and unpleasant taste. Light feta, on the other hand, is made from skim milk so it’s naturally lower in fat and calories than its whole milk sibling but still has that great brined, feta taste and texture.
Sometimes I vary this recipe up depending on what’s producing in the garden or what I have in the fridge. For example, I recently roasted some baby eggplant with the tomatoes, subbed basil for the oregano, and traded in the feta for some shredded parmesan cheese. My tastebuds and my waistline thank me for this dish!