Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Winter Chopped Salad

I definitely owe some people an apology on this one.  To my friend Josie, I am so sorry I slept on this recipe.  To all of you, I apologize for not making it and bringing it to you sooner.  To my taste buds, please forgive me.  I had no idea what we were all missing out on.

For years, many of my blogging friends made this time and time again, proclaiming it a family favorite and regular in the recipe rotation.  I had it on my menu plan many a time and managed to find reason after reason to bump it.  What a mistake.  What a giant mistake.

Josie's original recipe sounded fantastic on its own, but being me, I had to make a few adaptations.  I added pecans and cranberries to the salad for some extra texture, color, and flavor, and put some Dijon mustard in the dressing.  It's a trick my best friend--AKA the queen of amazing salad dressings--uses to add extra zing and emulsify the dressing.  It's genius and it really does transform the depth, richness, and consistency of your dressings.  

This salad comes together quite easily, with the bulk of the work coming in from chopping the sprouts and cauliflower.  Once those are in the oven, everything else can be done while they roast.  Just be sure you heat up two baking sheets in case you'll need them.  And, for goodness sake, don't be like me.  Be sure you make this.  Soon.  You and your taste buds will be so glad you did.   

winter chopped salad

With all the heavy food winter can bring, you and your family will love this winter chopped salad, packed with nutritious root vegetables, lean chicken, and the most incredible lemon vinaigrette.

Winter Chopped Salad
adapted from Pink Parsley

12 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved or quartered, depending on size
1/2 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 c. olive oil, plus 2 tsp. more
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt, plus more to taste 
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
zest and juice of one lemon
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
approx. 8 c. preferred salad greens (I used a mix of spinach and spring greens)
1/2 c. pecans
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. grated aged Gouda 


1.  Place either one or two rimmed baking sheets in the oven and heat oven to 425 F.

2.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl or glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, whisk or shake together 1/2 c. olive oil, garlic, and 1/2 tsp. each salt, black pepper, and red pepper.  Toss vegetables in 1/4 c. of the mixture, reserving the rest for the dressing.  Arrange vegetable in a single layer on the heated baking sheet and roast 15 minutes.    

3.  Meanwhile, toss chicken in remaining 2 tsp. olive oil and season with salt and black pepper.  

4.  Remove the vegetables from the oven and toss.  If possible, make space for the chicken.  If necessary, roast the chicken on a separate, heated baking sheet.  Place the chicken and vegetables in the oven and roast 10 minutes.

5.  While the chicken and vegetable roast, make the dressing by whisking the lemon juice and Dijon mustard into the remaining olive oil mixture.  Set aside.  Toast and chop the pecans.

6.  When the vegetable are done, remove from the oven.  Allow the chicken to rest before cutting into bite-sized pieces.

7.  To assemble the salad, divide greens amount four bowls.  Top with equal amounts roasted vegetables, chicken, pecans, cranberries, and cheese.  Drizzle with dressing.  

yield:  4 main course servings

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Almond-Scented White Cake with Raspberry Filling

To be fair, this is a recipe redo.  I first made it ten years ago as cupcakes, which I adorned with mini roses for the finale of The Bachelor.  Thankfully, much has changed since then--baking skills, my decorating skills, my photography skills, and Melissa Rycroft's relationship status.  You dodged a bullet there, girl.  A man who will do that to you on live national television is no prize.

What hasn't changed is just how phenomenal this recipe is.  As I set out to choose my birthday cake for this year, I knew I wanted to go into previous posts and find a recipe I'd loved but hadn't made again in a while.  My initial thought was my much-loved red velvet cake recipe.  It's still my hands-down favorite cake and, good grief, would I love to have a better picture for it.  Then I remembered I'd be celebrating my birthday at a friend's new house with new furniture and lots of kids.  Not exactly the place to bring red velvet anything.  I toyed with my very vanilla mini cheesecakes, which got a majority vote on instagram, but it just wasn't hitting me quite right.  Then I remembered this recipe and I was done looking.  Decision made.

almond white cake with raspberry

I opted to make the recipe as a full cake this time.  It just seems more birthdayish and, since I'll also get to update the photo here, I wanted the fun challenge and opportunity to work with a whole big cake...even if it means showing up to the party with a cake that's already been partially sliced. #sorrynotsorry 

The cake was everything I remembered.  Light, fluffy, beautiful.  The almond and raspberry flavors go perfectly together and leave your sweet tooth satisfied without making your belly feel heavy.  Cream cheese frosting is a perfectly tangy compliment.  With pops of pink and subtly sweet almond flavors, this really would make a great Valentine's (or Galentine's!) treat, as well, especially paired with some champagne.

Cheers to changes, birthdays, love, celebrations, and cake!

almond white cake with raspberry

Light, fluffy white cake goes from blah to beautiful with the help of aromatic almond extract, sweet raspberry preserves, and a garnish of bright, fresh raspberries.

Almond-Scented White Cake with Raspberry Filling
from Williams-Sonoma 


For the cake:
12 TBSP (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
5 egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 raspberry preserves, melted (I prefer seedless here)
1 1/4 c. sliced almonds, lightly toasted and cooled, for decoration
raspberries, for decoration

For the frosting:
1 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 TBSP (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 c. confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 /2 tsp. vanilla extract

1.  Position a rack in the middle of an oven and preheat to 350ºF.  Butter and flour two nine-inch round cake pans, placing parchment paper rounds in the bottoms.

2.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using an electric mixer and a large bowl, beat the butter, on medium-high speed, until light.  Gradually add the sugar, beating until well blended.  Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.  

3.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. 

4.  Reduce mixer speed to low and, dividing the flour mixture into 3 batches, beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture alternately with the milk just until combined.

5.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer fitted with clean, dry beaters and set on high speed, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the beaten whites into the batter just until incorporated. Divide the batter between the prepared pans; smooth with the spatula.

6.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer to racks and let cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the pan sides to loosen the cakes. Invert onto racks and let cool completely.

7.  Meanwhile, make the frosting by combining the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or in another large bowl.  On medium-high speed, beat until smooth.  Reduce the speed to low, add the confectioners' sugar and again beat until smooth.  Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts until well blended.

8.  Once the cakes are completely cooled (I like to bake the cakes the night before and assemble the cake the day of), use a long serrated knife to cut each cake in half horizontally.  Place one layer on a plate. Spread 1/2 cup of the frosting over the top, then drizzle on 1/4 cup of the melted preserves, taking care not to go all the way to the edges with the preserves. Top with another cake layer and repeat with the same amounts of frosting and preserves. Top with a third cake layer and again repeat with the same amounts of frosting and preserves. Top with the fourth cake layer, cut side down.

9.  Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides, using the crumb coat method if desired.  Decorate with fresh raspberries and toasted almond slices, according to preference.  Serve immediately, or cover with a cake dome and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving.

yield: 12 servings

Monday, January 28, 2019

Meatless Monday--Red Lentil Coconut Curry with Cilantro Chutney

Can you believe there was a time in my life when I was convinced I didn't like Indian food?

Thankfully, my tastes have changed.  This no-butter chicken, one of my blog's most popular posts, was a definite catalyst.  I live in an area with quite a few Indian restaurants, which is wonderful.  The real catalyst, though, was my first trip to London nearly two years ago.  Ever since experiencing truly amazing Indian food--both the white table cloth version and the local carry out joint, I've craved Indian at least once a week.  No exaggeration.

When Sonja and Alex from A Couple Cooks chose this red lentil coconut curry as one of the January choices in their Pretty Simple Cooking Club.  Because it's Sonja and Alex's recipe, I knew it would be good.  But WOW!  This was an absolute, no-brainer, make-again home run!

The spices were perfectly balanced and the cilantro chutney was the most lovely way to add a pop of freshness.  There's definitely room for adjustment, as well.  If you like spicier food, you can experiment with brands of red curry paste because some are much spicier than others.  Use brown or white basmati rice, depending on preference and what you have on hand.  Not a coconut fan?  Give it a go anyway.  I promise it doesn't have a strong coconut flavor.  I have the word of someone who isn't a huge coconut fan.  As for the chutney, don't count it out just because you don't like cilantro.  My best friend doesn't, but that's not going to stop me from experimenting with a mixture of parsley and mint to make sure she can enjoy this new winter staple.  

In fact, I think I'm going to add use a little mint in my chutney next time I make it for myself.  Which will be approximately tomorrow.  I just can't stay away from this level of perfection for too long...
red lentil coconut curry

Spicy red curry, rich coconut milk, softly floral basmati rice, and a bright, fresh cilantro chutney balance each other perfectly in this vegan red lentil coconut curry--a new winter staple for sure.

Red Lentil Coconut Curry with Cilantro Chutney
slightly adapted from Pretty Simple Cooking

2 c. uncooked basmati rice
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 (3-in.) piece fresh ginger, grated
4 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 c. dried red lentils
1 c. canned crushed tomatoes
1 c. light coconut milk (canned), divided
2 1/4 c. water, divided
1/4 c. red curry paste (adjust to brand and spice preference)
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
5 c. baby spinach leaves, packed
2 c. packed cilantro leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped
1/4 c. golden raisins
2 TBSP white vinegar

1.  Cook rice according to package directions.

2.  To make the curry, heat 2 TBSP of the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Reserve 1/4 cup onion for the chutney and add the rest to the pan.  Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and 2 TBSP ginger and saute 1 minute more.

3.  Add the lentils, tomatoes, coconut milk, 2 cups water, red curry paste, tomato paste, and 1 tsp. salt.  Bring to a simmer and cook very gently, 10-15 minutes, until the lentils are soft.  Stir in the spinach and cook until the leaves wilt.  Taste and add salt and/or coconut milk, if desired.

4.  Meanwhile, make the chutney by putting the reserved onion, cilantro, raisins, vinegar, olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 c. water in a food processor or blender.  Blend into a thick, smooth sauce.

5.  To serve, divide rice and lentils among four bowls and top with a dollop of chutney.

yield: 4 servings

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Chicken and Rice Soup with Leeks and Mushrooms

Well, we finally got some honest-to-goodness wintry days here in Dallas.  I got a few itty bitty ice pellets I'm going to call snow for a few minutes early one morning.  Many of you have gotten lots and lots of beautiful, fluffy snow and the days off work and school to show for it.  I'm trying not to be bitter.  I'm really, really trying.

What's helping is focusing on this soup.  Let me tell you, it shocked me with how good it was.  It comes from America's Test Kitchen, so I knew the recipe would be a sound one.  I made a few adaptations and, since I very thankfully had nearly the entire day free, really got to enjoy turning it into a bit of a kitchen project.  It's been a while since I roasted a chicken and, my goodness, I forgot just how heavenly that smells.  About 20 minutes into the process, with my sweatpants and slippers on, I was convinced I was doing the whole hygge thing just right.

The original recipe calls for homemade chicken broth, saying the flavor of the soup completely depends on it.  I'm not going to doubt America's Test Kitchen's famously thorough research process.  What I am going to say is, by roasting the chicken thighs and using the juices from that in the soup, I think I was able to recover a good amount of richness and depth of flavor that might have been missing if I'd relied on boxed broth alone.  I highly recommend it.  That said, it added to the cooking time, which isn't always a luxury we have.  So I say do what you have to do to feed the family.  Use boxed broth!  Use a rotisserie chicken!  Because let's be honest, the soup will still be tasty and your family will be much less hangry.    

So cheers to winter, friends.  Let's all hunker down, bundle up, and enjoy our cold days spent all warm and cozy inside.

chicken rice soup with leeks and mushrooms

Roasted chicken thighs, earthy mushrooms and wild rice, and a mountain of sweet leeks and carrots give this chicken and rice soup with leeks and mushrooms a depth of flavor and a homey warmth you'll crave all winter long. 

Chicken and Rice Soup with Leeks and Mushrooms
adapted from America's Test Kitchen, Soups, Stews, and Chilis 

2 TBSP olive oil, divided
1 lb. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced 1/4-in. thick, and rinsed thoroughly (If you're not sure how to clean them, watch this video.)
8 oz. cremini (also called baby bella) mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed, and sliced 1/4-in. thick
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-in. thick rounds
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh minced thyme or 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper, plus more to taste
8 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 c. wild rice
2 TBSP minced fresh parsley
red pepper flakes, for serving, if desired

1.  Preheat oven to 375º F.  Coat chicken thighs with 1 TBSP olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place on an unlined rimmed baking sheet.  When oven comes to temperature, roast chicken 20-25 minutes on one side.  Flip and roast ten minutes more.  Set chicken aside to cool, but reserve oil and juices accumulated on the pan.

2.  Heat the remaining 1 TBSP olive oil, along with the oil and chicken juices from the baking pan, in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the leeks, mushrooms, and carrots and cook for 10 minutes until the vegetables are softened and lightly browned.  Stir in garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3.  Stir in the broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, 6-8 minutes more.  Stir in the rice, cover, and simmer gently until the rice is tender, 50-60 minutes (depending on cooking directions on rice package).

4.  Meanwhile, remove the skin from the chicken and shred the meat.  Add to the soup, once the rice has cooked, and heat through, approximately 5 minutes.    

5.  Remove the soup from the heat, stir in the parsley, and season with salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with red pepper, if desired.

yield: 6 servings

Friday, January 18, 2019

Green Julius Smoothie

Isn't it supposed to be an orange Julius?  Yes.  Yes it is.  But this is 2019 and we're not teenagers at the mall anymore.  We do things like Marie Kondo (yep, it's a verb now) the heck out of our closets.  We make budgets and stick to them.  We cut sugar like it's our job.  We add greens to every smoothie and juice we can.  And we like it.  For real.  Joy is sparked.

But still, nostalgia tastes good.  Nostalgia tastes even better when it's made healthier and enjoyed in your very own grown-up kitchen.  Can we also recognize the fact that, as for-real adults, we can also enjoy this vibrant, nutritious, and just-sweet-enough smoothie while we wear considerably less glitter (on our jeans, in our hair, on our face) and fewer butterfly clips than we did as teenagers?  It seems a noteworthy thing to be thankful for.  

Whether you blend this up to start your day or to refuel after a particularly rewarding workout, I know you'll just love it.  I sure did.  

A healthified nod to everyone's favorite teenage mall drink, this green Julius smoothie will bring a smile to your face and some serious nutritional value to your day.

Green Julius Smoothie
adapted from Gimme Some Oven

1 large navel orange, zested (reserve zest), peeled, and pulled into sections
1/2 c. almond milk (or other preferred milk), frozen into cubes
1 handful fresh baby spinach
1/4 c. plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. honey, maple syrup, or preferred sweetener

1.  Add all ingredients to the blender, including the orange zest.  You may want to pull the seeds out of the orange if you see any large ones and/or don't have a blender powerful enough to pulverize them.  (I don't!)  Taste and adjust sweetener, if desired.  Enjoy!

yield: 1 smoothie