Category Archives: Sides & Salads

Spinach, Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

To get back on track after the craziness that was January/February – I’ve been eating a lot of salads lately. It’s partly in an attempt to detox and get back on a healthy track – but also because I’m absolutely fallen in love with this salad. I think I’ve eaten this exact salad for lunch on the weekdays for the past 3 weeks or so. It’s getting a little out of control, but in a totally great way.

I saw a few different salads in the food magazines I subscribe to that included goat cheese, spinach and beets and took what I liked best from the salads and made one of my own! I forget the exact magazines, because I get too many, but what resulted was a deliciously balanced and healthy salad – and it’s so easy to put together! I always keep nuts, particularly walnuts, in the house and I always have canned sliced beets on hand because I can’t stand the mess of roasting and peeling beets – but I love the flavor. Using these ingredients, I’m already halfway to a yummy salad lunch!

I don’t measure out the ingredients for this salad exactly, I just sort of throw it together (and I usually put 5 together in storage containers for the week during Sunday food prep). I also make a big batch of a simple lemon salad dressing at the beginning of the week and then portion it out as I need it for weekday lunches.

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Spinach, Beet and Goat Cheese Salad
Makes one salad. Measurements are approximate – have fun with it!

    – A couple handfuls of fresh spinach, about 2-3 cups, depending on how big you want your salad to be
    – 1/4 cup quinoa, cooked and cooled
    – 2-3 tablespoons walnuts
    – 1/4 cup cooked and cooled sliced beets (I use canned – so quick and easy!)
    – 3-4 tablespoons crumbled or sliced goat cheese
    – Juice of a lemon
    – 2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a salad bowl or container. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil to serve. Alternatively, whisk lemon juice and olive oil in a container until emulsified and store until ready to use as dressing.

I can’t get enough of this salad. The tang of the goat cheese pairs so great with the sweet beets and the earthy spinach and walnuts. Plus, it’s so quick to throw together! I hope you enjoy 🙂

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Homestyle Chicken & Tortellini Soup

I’m so excited that it’s Thanksgiving week! 🙂 Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it combines some of my favorite things – food and football! And family of course 🙂 We don’t have a lot of extended family in town for Thanksgiving so it’s just me, my sister, and our parents. It’s a nice, relaxing way to celebrate the holiday. And this year my Steelers play Thanksgiving night which should be the perfect way to cap off the day!

It has been very cold and windy in DC lately, which means I’ve spent a lot of time hiding inside from the cold weather. In addition to that, I picked up a cold this past week that made me want to do nothing but sleep. It was a little bit of a set-back fitness wise, but this week I’m looking forward to getting back into it! Yesterday I tried out Jillian Michael’s ’30 Day Shred’ DVD for the first time and truly enjoyed it. I didn’t think I could get that sweaty from a workout in my own home! I’m tempted to take it home with me for Thanksgiving along with a set of dumbbells. Because traveling with your dumbbells isn’t weird or anything. #fitnessbloggerproblems

Also, this year my family has decided we’re going to do a family 5k on Thanksgiving morning. Instead of doing an official race, we’ve decided to just map out a path together at a local park. I think it’s going to be a great healthy activity to start off the day! Considering in past years our morning activities have consisted of mimosas, this is a step in the right direction. Not that we’re not going to have mimosas once we’re back from the 5k! 🙂

Another way I’ve been fighting off this wintery weather is with the ultimate winter food – soup! Nothing truly warms me up like hot soup for dinner. Plus soups (at least broth-based soups) tend to be low-calorie foods. Perfect for my under-active winter I’ve had so far. For dinner last week (right in the middle of my terrible cold), I whipped up this quick and easy Homestyle Chicken Soup that was perfect for how I was feeling. This soup is a super easy basic recipe that you can customize with whatever you have on hand. I made this version based on several things I had around the house that I needed to use up. (I’m telling you – that’s pretty much always what I’m doing)

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Homestyle Chicken & Tortellini Soup

– 1 onion, chopped
– 1 cup carrots, chopped or sliced (shredded carrots work here too)
– 1 cup frozen green beans (or other veggie)
– 1 teaspoon dried dill
– 1 teaspoon dried marjoram (or oregano)
– 1 cup cooked chicken (I used leftover chicken that I keep in the freezer from making stock)
– 3 cups chicken stock (I used homemade)
– salt and pepper, to taste
– 1 8 ounce package tortellini or half a pound of dried pasta or egg noodles (your choice!)

Heat up a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and carrots to a tablespoon of olive oil. Salt and pepper the vegetables, and cook until tender – approximately 8 minutes. Add the dill, marjoram, frozen green beans, chicken, and stock and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and boil according to package directions. I decided to use tortellini since I had some in the fridge and it was a delicious decision! But regular noodle, or egg noodles, would work just as well.

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Such a quick and easy soup! And you can customize it with whatever vegetables you have leftover, on hand. It’s perfect for post-Thanksgiving leftover turkey and vegetables! I know I’ll be using the leftover turkey bones to make some more stock! 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Whipped Feta Dip and Herbed Goat Cheese Dip

I hope everyone had a great weekend! Yesterday was my birthday and I celebrated with a relatively relaxing day of football and then dinner and drinks with friends. I don’t think there is a much better way to spend a Sunday 🙂

On Saturday I stopped by Starbucks post-Body Pump for a soy latte and noticed that Godiva has a new “truffle flight” out that is dessert themed. The truffle flight features flavors like Red Velvet Cake, Crème Brulee, and Chocolate Lava Cake. Needless to say, I couldn’t resist buying it. It seemed like the perfect birthday treat!

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When the cashier rung me up at the counter, she noticed that I was buying truffles and offered me a free truffle “sample” (it was a whole truffle) that they had been giving away earlier that day. Free truffle? Yes please! It was a great start to my Saturday. On Saturday night, Heather and I went to the Jason Aldean concert at Jiffy Lube Live. It was a great show, although the weather was a little chilly. I guess fall really is almost here!

Ever since my Mom and I tried the goat cheese dip at Café Caturra I have been obsessed with re-creating it. Well, I think I succeeded at making a homemade version! 🙂 This Sunday I whipped up a few cheese dips to enjoy while watching football, including a goat cheese dip. I had to restrain myself from eating all of it. This is a quick and easy recipe that I will definitely be making for many football gatherings (and non-football gatherings) to come!

Sidenote: I went to Café Caturra last night for my birthday and again failed to take any pictures. #bloggerfail I think the problem is that when I see food, I instantly start stuffing my face. #thingsIneedtoworkon

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Herb & Goat Cheese Dip

    – 1 log goat cheese (I used a small one – just a few ounces)
    – an equal amount of ricotta (I used this to tone down the tangy goat cheese, you can use less ricotta and it’ll be more tangy)
    – a pinch or two of oregano
    – a pinch of herbs de provence, Italian seasoning, or other herb blend
    – 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    – 1 tablespoon Greek yogurt

Process or blend all ingredients together in a food processor. Serve with chips, crackers, or toasted bread.

Once I made the goat cheese dip, I figured I could apply the same technique to some feta cheese I had to use up. It turned out great!

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Whipped Feta Dip

    – 1 container feta
    – 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese
    – 1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
    – 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    – a pinch or two of dried oregano

Blend or process all ingredients together in a food processor and serve with chips, crackers or toasted bread.

I also think either one of these would be great spread on a sandwich or in a pita! 🙂

Homemade Chicken (or Veggie!) Stock

This weekend I took some time to make homemade chicken stock which is one of my favorite cooking tricks. Stock is so easy to make at home, and can be made for practically nothing with a little planning. Today I’m happy to share my strategy for always having homemade stock on hand.

My first trick is that I keep a large container in my freezer and throw vegetable scraps in it. The root end/skins of onions, ends of celery, little nubs of garlic, herb stems, etc – all go into this container. And when it’s full – I use it to make stock. When it’s full, it looks like this:

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Seriously, stock made out of stuff you would have thrown away? Genius! I just recently discovered this through an article on Organic Gardening and it’s my new favorite trick. So thrifty! 🙂 Once the container is full, just throw all the ingredients into a large stock pot.

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You can totally make this stock vegetarian just using the saved-up scraps, but I like to add in some chicken to make chicken stock – and you get poached chicken out of the deal! 🙂 Alternatively, you could just add chicken bones/carcass (or any other leftover bones, like from a Thanksgiving turkey) and you would still get delicious stock, just not the bonus of the poached chicken!

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Once you add the chicken to the pot, I like to add a handful of black peppercorns and some sliced lemon, along with enough water to cover the ingredients in the pot. The amount of water you add is the amount of stock you will get, and I usually get about 12 cups from this process.

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Place the pot over high heat, covered, until the water comes to a boil. Note that if you start with frozen vegetable bits, it will take a little longer to boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce it to medium-low and let it simmer for an hour. After an hour has passed, remove the chicken to a cutting board (I use tongs) and allow to cool. Once cool, you can pull the meat from the bones and shred or chop the meat for use in a variety of dishes (soup, pasta, enchiladas, salads – the possibilities are really endless). I like to split the poached chicken up into smaller containers and place them in the freezer so I always have chicken on hand and ready to use in meals.

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Next, strain the stock through a sieve into a container. I usually have to do this a few times as the stock won’t all fit into one container! 🙂

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Discard the odds and ends from the stock, which are now thoroughly used up! 🙂 Split up your stock into containers for storage. I found these great plastic (BPA-free!) Ball freezer-safe storage jars at my grocery store so I used them to freeze about half of the stock.

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I saved the rest of the stock and the chicken for use in meals this week – I’m thinking soup!

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Zucchini Pancakes

One of my best friends went home to visit her family last weekend which is good news for me because every time she takes a trip home, she brings me a load of fresh vegetables from her dad’s garden! 🙂

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Check out that huge haul of veggies! I actually knew it was going to be a challenge for me to eat them all myself. Luckily, my mom is coming into town for Labor Day weekend and I know her and I will eat up a ton of them! My friend also brought me some zucchini bread which I had never had before and is absolutely delicious. It takes like dessert to me! In addition to the zucchini bread, she also gave me two of the biggest zucchinis I have ever seen! I hope the picture does them justice – they were each literally the size of my forearm.

So one of my first challenges was to decide what to do with all this zucchini! I already had zucchini bread – so I was looking for other ideas. I decided on zucchini pancakes, or latkes or zucchini fritters – whatever you want to call them. I’ve seen them called a bunch of different names on the internet. Basically, they’re very similar to potato pancakes.

First thing, I shredded up about a zucchini and a half (I saved half and diced it up to use in a frittata). I was a little wary of the task of shredding up that much zucchini, but it actually went pretty easily – probably because the zucchini has such a high water content. Because of that, I didn’t want soggy pancakes so I put the shredded zucchini in a strainer with a little salt and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Then, I squeezed it out in a water towel. I’m glad I did because a ton of water came out!

Next, I mixed the shredded zucchini up in a bowl with granulated onion, granulated garlic, eggs, and a little flour.

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I heated up a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet and dropped in small, silver-dollar sized pancakes of batter and cooked over medium-high heat until golden brown on both sides.

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I drained the pancakes on paper towels to soak up the excess oil.

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Ta da! These are delicious. They really remind me of potato pancakes, and a little bit of hashbrowns. They would be great served up with ketchup, or sour cream, or even apple sauce (which is traditional for potato latkes). I definitely saved up the leftovers for my mom and I to enjoy for brunch on Friday!

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Zucchini Pancakes
Makes approximately 12 pancakes, depending on size.

    – 2 cups shredded zucchini
    – 2 eggs
    – 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
    – 2 teaspoons granulated onion
    – 1 tablespoon flour
    – 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and sauté a few tablespoons of batter (small pancake size) in hot oil until golden brown on both sides, approximately 5 minutes per side. Serve for breakfast or brunch.

Freezer Cooking: Mixed Grains and Veggies Side Dish

Last night for dinner I pulled one of my all-time favorite side dishes out of the freezer – my ‘Mixed Grains and Veggies.’ I developed this recipe about a year ago based on a side dish I had purchased from Let’s Dish. I fell in love with the combination of couscous, rice and veggies and it’s such a quick side dish to pull out of the freezer and whip up for dinner. The thing that makes this recipe hard to blog about is that I never just cook up a batch and eat it for dinner. I cook one huge batch, split it into dinner-sized portions and then freeze them for later dinners. So the recipe as-is makes a ton of food, and I’m not sure it’s the most dinner-friendly on it’s own since it requires cooking up couscous and rice. But – on a positive note – it’s great for using up leftover rice/couscous/even quinoa! And if you’re like me, and you like to have a “freezer cooking” day where you make a bunch of food for later dinners – this is the recipe for you.

The original side from Let’s Dish had red rice in it. I had never had red rice before, but I instantly fell for it! It’s got such a nutty flavor, and chewy texture – there really is nothing like it. Unfortunately, the only red rice I found in my supermarket is this mixed rice packet with red, black, and wild rice.

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I do really love this mixed variety – but if you find red rice in your grocery store definitely feel free to substitute that!

Mixed Grains and Veggies Side Dish
Makes approximately 9 (large) servings, I split it into three freezer bags of approximately 3 servings each.

    – 1 1/2 cup couscous, cooked (I’ve used both regular and pearl for this recipe – I prefer pearl but they’re both delicious)
    – 1 1/2 cup rice, cooked (red rice, wild rice, or some mixture)
    – 1 red bell pepper, diced
    – 1 shallot, diced
    – 2 teaspoons dried thyme
    – 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning (or dried basil or parsley)
    – 1/2 cup frozen peas
    – 1/2 cup frozen carrots
    – salt and pepper, to taste

Sauté the red bell pepper and shallot over medium heat in a little olive oil with the thyme and Italian seasoning until tender, approximately 3 minutes.

To cook this dish for immediate consumption:
Add the couscous, rice, peas and carrots to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Add olive oil as necessary and let the mixture cook over medium heat for approximately 8 minutes until parts of the rice/couscous get toasted and crunchy (think paella).

To prep for freezer storage:
Set out three freezer bags (I use a medium size – about half the size of a gallon bag). Divide the rice, couscous, and frozen vegetables evenly in between the bags. Do the same with the red bell pepper/shallot mixture. Seal and freeze. To re-heat, add the entire contents of the bag to a sauté pan over medium heat and cook until heated through and crunchy on some parts, approximately 8 minutes.

This is a great side dish for a variety of foods, but my favorite way to eat it is as a side to chicken sausage. I’m in love with this spinach and feta chicken sausage from the grocery store – and it makes for a quick and easy heat-and-eat, and healthy, dinner! 🙂

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Today’s Healthy Living Articles…

~ Best Drink to Recover from Post-Workout Soreness (Women’s Health> I know Monica from Run Eat Repeat is excited about this one!

~ How to Run Your Fastest Race (Women’s Health)

~ 8 Foods You Should Always Buy at the Farmer’s Market (Rodale News)

“Greek-Style” Tabbouleh Salad

This weekend I had some cucumbers and other veggie odds and ends to use up in my fridge so I decided to make a tabbouleh salad. Based on some of the items I needed to use up, I decided to make a Greek version. Plus, making tabbouleh salad means I have a great excuse to buy naan bread (yum!) and make my favorite – tandoori chicken! I also whipped up a batch of my classic hummus because I feel like all these foods go together in my mind. I love spreading a little hummus on some warm naan bread, adding some tabbouleh and chicken and eating it all together.

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This version was 100% based on the items I had available to use up in my fridge – but it turned out great!

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”Greek-style” Tabbouleh Salad
Serves six to eight.

    – 1 cup bulgur wheat
    – 2 cucumbers, chopped
    – 1 lemon
    – 1 tablespoon grated shallot or onion (or you can substitute a tablespoon of granulated onion)
    – 1 clove garlic, minced or pasted
    – 2 cups chopped tomatoes (I used about 5 Roma tomatoes)
    – 3 green onions, chopped
    – ½ red bell pepper, chopped
    – 1, 6 ounce container feta cheese
    – ½ cup olive oil (or less, just enough to coat the salad)

First, start by preparing your bulgur wheat. Combine a cup of bulgur wheat with one cup boiling water in a heat-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit until the bulgur wheat has absorbed the water.

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While the wheat is working, chop the ingredients for the salad. Peel and seed the cucumbers. The way I do this is to peel the cucumbers, then slice them in half and scoop the seeds out with a spoon. They will look like this:

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Then chop them into bite-sized pieces and mix into the wheat.

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Next, add the grated garlic, grated shallot or onion, lemon zest, and lemon juice.

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Core, seed, and chop the tomatoes and add to the bowl. Do the same with the red bell pepper. Finally slice the green onion (greens and whites) and add to the bowl. Add the feta cheese and olive oil and stir to combine. At this point I was almost overflowing the bowl so I had to stir carefully! 🙂

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Delicious! I love the addition of the salty feta! Cheese isn’t usually an ingredient in tabbouleh but I had some in my fridge that I wanted to use up, and I’m glad I did. 🙂

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As I mentioned at the beginning on this post, this salad is great as an accompaniment to tandoori chicken – but it’s also great served on top of some lettuce leaves as a salad (that was my Meatless Monday lunch this week! :-)) I’m sure it would also be delicious stuffed into a pita with some hummus and chickpeas. Yum 🙂 I might have to make that next!

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If you like this recipe, you might also like my recipes for:
~ Classic Hummus
~ Tabbouleh Salad
~ Tabbouleh Salad, Remix