Saturday, August 31, 2013

Quick Kale Salad

So we all have days where we are just go go go running errands all over the place. I know the last thing that sounds desirable on those days is cooking when you pass several drive thrus that offer such convenience and momentary satisfaction. Well even though a kale salad doesn't sound like it would beat out your favorite fast food chain meal for tastieness I promise you will feel loads better about eating the meal after and likely it will be cheaper too!

This is just one version of many I have for my favorite kind of lettuce. If you aren't familiar with kale it is a dark green lettuce and in its rawest form it tastes similar to broccoli. Hey that may not be for you so feel free to substitute your own lettuce fav, but personally I love it and it really is sooooo good for you. It is loaded with nutrients and fiber which I have noticed allows me to stay fuller longer after eating it in comparison to other types of lettuce. Anyways enough with my ode to kale, if you have never tried it please try it out!

But a disclaimer if you are like my family members then likely you will look at this post and think I am trying to get you to eat your own arm or something so maybe you should try it cooked in something first. (Don't you worry those recipes will appear here soon!)

Regardless I hope you give it a chance. If not, you at least have a backbone to what can appear to be a fancy restaurant salad made from your own home.

Like I said this is one of many many versions I have of this salad. I typically use whatever I have in the house, it is sort of an everything but the kitchen sink salad. My staples though are kale, frozen corn (or fresh if I have it), and almonds. I have a little bit of a health trifecta going on there between the antioxidant ridden leafy green kale, the starchy yet sweet corn and the protein packed almonds, it really is a filling salad!

Quick Kale Salad
2 leaves of kale
1/4 c. almonds
1/4 c. frozen corn cooked ( I just pop it in the microwave for 45 seconds to a minute to cook it and set it in the fridge to chill while I assemble the rest of the salad)
1/4 c. dried cranberries ( I hate dried fruits that are overly sweetened so I try to buy unsweetened or reduced sugar versions)
4 strawberries chopped
2 clementines peeled and separated
2 T. dressing of your choice
 Yes I am a little hoity toity about dressings because I knowI can make excellent fresh ones at home so when I do buy them I buy them for quality. This little gem has great flavor and can be picked up at Giant or even Target. 

Simply rip the lettuce up into bite sized pieces and combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Yes I measure everything out including the dressing. The fastest way to making a salad unhealthy is to overload it with dressing. Besides when you are packing in so many great flavors already you don't want to overwhelm them with too much dressing anyways. Sometimes if I use a lot of dry ingredients and I have less fruit or something I will add another tablespoon but usually I like to keep it light. I like to combine all of my ingredients in a bowl and mix it, then place a plate on top and flip the two over together so everything gets evenly mixed.

Voila enjoy! This is large enough to eat if you were like me yesterday and missed breakfast so were starving but still needed to fit in the gym before work, it will fill you up and get you through your workout without feeling like you are going to vomit. Or it can even be shared if you just want it as a side to something else.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


So mom is coming to dinner! She misses me and wants to hang out, cue the awwws. What can I say I was a pretty great kid. :-P Anyways what to make the woman who brought you into this world, who suffered through your rebellious teenage years of being a complete brat without killing you, and has simply been there to talk you through your most stressful times when she herself had dealt with so much worse but never letting onto the fact that your problems were any less devastating??

A fantastic meal made with love and kindness that is. This had me thinking comfort food, I couldn't get creamy whipped potatoes out of my head. Sometimes for me when I fixate on a certain item I simply have to make it. Or it won't go away. So we knew this meal would be mashed potatoes. Then what? Well what goes better with mashed potatoes than steak? Nothing I could think of at the time. Also we are transitioning into my FAVORITE season of the year. Fall. Nothing is better than Fall. That being said I thought of roasted squash and then the mashed potatoes turned into mashed SWEET potatoes a concoction that would surely have my roommate drooling at just the thought and wham bam we had a meal on our hands.

(Disclaimer Here: I just moved and am getting used to the grocery stores in the area, the selection of steaks at the local store was not up to par and I will be searching around more next time, but time being a factor I went with what was available.)

Anyways on to how I did it.

The first thing I wanted to do was get the steaks in a marinade, the longer they sit the better the flavor, but a good fifteen to twenty minutes will do ya just fine!

2 steaks of your choosing ( I used the NY Strip steaks here)
3 cloves of garlic minced
1/4 c. worcestershire sauce
1/4 c. canola and olive oil blend ( you can simply use olive oil or canola oil, whatever you have on hand)
salt and pepper to season

First I seasoned the steaks with salt and pepper on each side. Then in a gallon sized bag I added the rest of the ingredients and threw the steaks in with it. Mixing it all together by giving the bag a good shake. Then I put it in a bowl and in the fridge to break down the flavors.

After they have marinated and your grill is nice and hot pull them out of the fridge and cook to your desired doneness. If you are making this meal like me in your kitchen, because after many years of dorm life and now apartment living you don't actually own an outside grill/ are kind of scared to use one by yourself but you are craving a steak or grilled item, don't you worry let me introduce you to my friend George.

George Foreman that is. This little counter friendly device is probably my second highest used piece of equipment. I use it for everything. It even comes with a little booklet on cooking temps that I visit often. It is fast to heat up and easy to clean. The teflon coating doesn't require you to use any extra oils or fats to keep from sticking and all the excess fats drain off into the drip pan at the bottom! Okay enough with the advertising. Simply put if you don't have one of these it is the best 50 or so bucks you will spend!

Mashed Sweet Potatoes (I.E. Heaven):
3 raw sweet potatoes
1/2 stick of butter ( I used unsalted but salted will work as well)
2 T. of honey
1/2 T. pumpkin pie spice ( or 1/2 tsp. each of cinnamon and nutmeg)
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream ( I just happened to have this in my fridge but I usually use whatever kind of milk I have on hand, you can substitute for convenience or even for nutrition purposes)

First you want to wash the potatoes thoroughly. I like to leave the skin on for the nutrients and also because I like my mashed potatoes to have a little chunk in them. (Also secretly I LOATHE peeling potatoes.) Next you want to chop them into bite sized chunks like so: 
If you have never dealt with sweet potatoes in their raw form note that they are much denser and harder to cut than regular potatoes. Just use a sharp heavy knife and caution when working with them. Remember slow and steady wins the race. 
After you have them chopped up transfer them into a pot big enough so that you can cover them with water leaving a good third or fourth of the pot unfilled. If you don't have a pot big enough that is fine you will just have to stay close during the cooking process so that they don't boil over and when they get close simple stir them to calm them down or reduce the temperature.
I covered the potatoes and had them at a medium high heat until they boiled. Then I removed the lid and let them cook for about 15 minutes until they were fork tender. (Total cooking process 25 minutes) Depending on how many you use this could take longer. Just remember fork tender and you are golden.
Next I strained them in the sink like so:
(If you aren't familiar with what I mean by fork tender, I mean that you can easily poke your fork into any potato and it would be soft enough to eat. I usually check a couple just to make sure)
Next I transfer them into my kitchen aid ( probably the best kitchen gift I have ever received (THANKS MOM)) and I add in the rest of the ingredients. The butter first I usually forget to pull it out and it is cold and solid so I let it melt a little over the hot potatoes before I begin mixing. Then I add in the honey and the spices and start the mixer at a low speed as I pour in the cream slowly as it is blending. Whip to your desired chunkiness or smoothness consistency and dip a spoon in to taste test! 
(That last step is the most crucial to me!)

Roasted Squash:
2 yellow squash washed
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 c. italian style breadcrumbs
1 1/2 T.- 2 T. oil

Okay this part couldn't be easier. You wash the squash (because again you are leaving on the skin.) Cut into bite sized chunks. Put into a baking dish season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the oil evenly on top. (You can use your desired oil amount here, you could even roast them without if you are using a nicely teflon coated pan, to make them healthier, but to avoid sticking I add a little oil.) Top with the breadcrumbs. Progresso makes a good italian blend. 
Bake at 450 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. Again fork tender but with a little crunch left in them.

Now all you have to do is sit back and ENJOY your meal with your mom, dad, friend, sibling, whoever! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hello World/ Cherry Almond Chicken Salad

With the strokes of these keys my next big adventure begins. They say when one door closes another opens, well as my undergraduate career has come to an end and the in between period before my adventures into culinary school start I find myself with a bunch of free time on my hands. With a life long passion for food and a developing need to share that love with the rest of the world grows the only thing that makes sense is to start a blog. Now it must be noted that while I have thought about this a time or two on my own it is the power of suggestion that has really pushed me over the edge. Because while my love for food is strong it is really other's interest in what I create in the kitchen that has me on a path of sharing. 

When it comes to food I am still as much of a student as I feel like I can be a teacher. I know a lot but I have a lot more to learn. Here I will share recipes that I have made up on my own, have been passed through family or dear friends, or have been found amongst my cookbooks or other food blogs that I follow. Inspiration is only one ingredient away and in the kitchen anything is possible. 

I hope to inspire others like I myself have been inspired in the past and continue to be in the present and future. I hope to show people how easy and fun cooking can be and I hope from here people will be able to find answers to culinary questions they might have or bring some to the table that I can help solve. 

With that being said let the fun begin!

Cherry Almond Chicken Salad

In my opinion there are many ways one can mess up a simple chicken salad sandwich, one of which includes shredding the chicken. There are not many things I despise in the world of food but for some reason the texture of shredded meat really turns me off. Another way you can mess up a good chicken salad is being careless when it comes to the selection of meat you choose, nothing is worse than enjoying a good chicken salad sandwich and biting into a tendon or a piece of fat YUCK! 

These are easy enough things to avoid, take the time to cut up your chicken ( usually faster than shredding it anyways!) and simply pay attention to what you are doing.

This version was a combination of convenience of what was in the fridge and a craving for an old favorite!

What you will need:
A rotisserie chicken ( you can likely pick up one of these for about 5 bucks at your local grocery store)
  - I used about 2 cups of meat from the bird for this recipe
White Onion diced ( red or yellow onions would work just as well, whatever you have on hand!)
  -1/4 cup
  - 1tsp
  -1 tsp.
Roasted almonds chopped in half
  -1/4 cup
Mayonaise ( I like the kind Hellmann's makes with olive oil)
  - I used about 3-4 Tbsp. 
Fresh Cherries 
  -1 cup pitted

First you want to remove the chicken from the bone, I also remove the skin, while the flavor is good and tempting to keep, it is terrible when mixed into the chicken salad. Trust me I have tried it both ways.

Once you have removed all of the chicken from the bone next you want to start chopping it up. Paying special attention to any fat or unsavory parts. 

After you have chopped up all of your chicken set it aside in a bowl. 

Now chop your almonds in half. You can leave them whole if you prefer but I wanted to spread them out in the mix so I cut mine in half. 

Mix in your salt and pepper.

Now add in your mayo. I only used about four tablespoons for my recipe and it was enough to cover the chicken and the almonds lightly. If you prefer creamier chicken salad you are welcome to add more.  I just caution you to do this slowly, I tablespoon or even a teaspoon at a time. You only have so much chicken and if you ruin it with too much mayo well, there isn't a whole lot I can suggest to bring it back to life! I just prefer to be able to keep the taste of the chicken and other ingredients pure and find that less mayo is not only healthier but also does a good job of not overpowering the other ingredients.  

The last thing I do is add in the pitted cherries. I only want to mix them in lightly as to not let their juice bleed all over the chicken salad and also to not coat them in the mayo. 

If you have never pitted a cherry before this is a very easy thing to do. Simply take a knife. I use a small butchers knife. Remove the stem place your knife in the center where the stem comes from and circle it around the cherry's pit creating a slit all the way around. Next twist one side of the cherry gently off the pit and then pop out the pit. Voila pitted cherries not that hard, just a little tedious. But so worth it!

After you have mixed in the cherries you are ready to eat!

I served mine over a piece of toast with a little extra mayo spread on the bread( I didn't eat it right away and being in the fridge overnight it needed a little extra love)  with a piece of kale. 


I don't always use cherries, often I actually use purple grapes but cherries were what I had on hand. Also I often add some celery in for a little extra crunch but didn't have anything on hand and the onions and almonds did plenty in that department. 

It can also be enjoyed without bread. Sometimes I will eat this by itself ( like the few forkfuls I ate over the kitchen counter straight out of the bowl, you know for the sake of ummm taste testing.) Or I will put it on top of a salad as well. 

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!