Warm sweet potato salad

sweet-potato-salad4It’s the time of year that beckons comfort food; hearty pastas, squash of all types, casseroles and creamy soups. With that comes a load of calories as well – and if you’re like me, you’re not at all active in the winter, so chowing on all that yummy food tends to add up and leave you feeling a bit sluggish come spring.

Pace yourself through the season with this salad – it has the best of both worlds. The sweet potato is the star giving substance and when paired with the crunch of pistachios two ways, the tang of goat cheese and the snap of pomegranate, this is a salad that eats like a meal without making you feel like you over indulged.

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Easy, homemade croutons

When faced with leftover bread that’s gone stale and no longer good enough to eat on its own, one must not worry! The easiest thing you can do is turn it into croutons which no doubt will be better than anything you can buy at the store.

You can customize your own flavor and season as much or as little as you like to get the exact flavor you want. If you have 20 minutes, you can make these in time to serve with your dinner salad. Easy peasy, done and done. Use to garnish your salad or soup of choice!

Ingredients

  • Bread (leftover baguettes work fantastic)
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • Seasoning of choice (herbs de provence, garlic, rosemary, thyme, etc.)
  • Salt

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350
  • Slice the bread into ½ inch cubes
  • Toss in a bowl with the olive oil until the bread is well coated
  • Sprinkle in your seasoning and a few pinches of salt, continue to mix until the bread is well coated
  • Spread the croutons on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, ensuring to mix and turn at least twice so the croutons get an even color on all sides.

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Tomato soup with feta, olives and cucumbers

tomato-greek-soup2There are few things I look forward to getting in the mail as much as my food magazines. Last week I came home the newest issue of Food & Wine and didn’t even have to open it up to know what I was going to make for dinner over the weekend.

The cover recipe was a beautiful tomato soup with Greek salad garnish. The recipe is ridiculously easy to make and the payoff is huge. The flavors are amazing – especially the onions. Cooking them down tames the flavor a little bit so you won’t end up with dragon breath when you’re done. And because the base is just pureed tomatoes and nothing more, it’s extremely light. You could serve a good sized portion of this without it ruining your appetite for the main course.

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Triple threat

It was busy in the carrot kitchen today! I made 3 dishes and spent as many and more hours cooking. I barely noticed the time passing by. I guess that’s because I think cooking is FUN.

I started out with raspberry lemon ricotta bread. The recipe was for muffins, but I was feeling like a badass so I decided to make bread instead. Aside from it totally falling apart when I took it out of the pan (must have taken it out too early), it turned out delicious and made an excellent pre-dinner dessert. I think I just made up a new course! Try it yourself – the recipe is right over here.

I just finished what will be our main dish – quinoa salad with black beans, tomatoes and corn. I’ve been making some pretty heavy and not-so-healthy dishes lately, so it was time to lighten things up a bit. This dish is super easy, tasty and totally healthy (aside from the cheese, I guess). Protein-packed and flavorful, it would easily serve as a great filling for a wrap. I bet some avocado would taste great on top, too.

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For our appetizer, we started with these baked zucchini stacks, which turned out to be what I was most excited about all day. OMG so good. They make me crave summer. I’ll tell you how to make them here.

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Oh yeah – don’t forget to follow me on Instagram!

Recipe borrowed from Simply Recipes.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, well rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup diced red onion
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn, defrosted, OR 1 cup of fresh corn, parboiled, drained and cooled (approximately the amount of kernels from one ear of corn)
  • 3 medium tomatoes, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 5 ounces Queso fresco, Queso Panela, fresh Mozzarella or other mild farmer’s cheese, cut into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, including tender stems, packed
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil

Put the rinsed quinoa, salt and water into a pot and bring it to a boil. Cover and simmer gently until the quinoa absorbs all the water, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Place into a large bowl and fluff up with a fork to help it cool more quickly.

While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the rest of the salad. Soak the red onions in the lime juice and set aside. Soaking the onions in lime juice (or lemon juice or water) helps take the edge off of them. Mix the prepped black beans, corn kernels, tomatoes, cheese, jalapenos, cilantro, and oil into a large bowl.

When the quinoa has cooled, mix it into the bean mixture. Add the red onion and the lime juice and add salt, more oil or lime juice to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Two Salad Sunday

This nasty winter is making me crave fresh, healthy salads. I’ve been on a major grapefruit kick and since they’re in season right now, I wanted to incorporate them into a salad. I saw this recipe for a grapefruit/beet salad a couple weeks ago and have been dying to try it out.

Since I couldn’t find white grapefruit OR white beets, I had to improvise.  I grabbed a regular pink grapefruit, blood orange, and golden and red beets.

In the end, it was a lot of work for not a lot of payoff. It wasn’t awesome, but it wasn’t horrible either. What I gained from it was learning how to cook beets (tricky to peel after they’ve been roasted), and also that cutting citrus into nice hexagon or pentagon-shaped slices is a pain in the ass and will take some more practice.

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Fortunately, I had better luck with the next salad.

The second salad today was this quinoa salad with sweet potatoes and apples from Food & Wine Magazine. I’ve had a bag of quinoa sitting in my pantry forever and this seemed like the perfect recipe to put it to use. The flavors of everything together, along with the sweet potatoes were just the sort of thing I had been craving. We gobbled this one up in no time!

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Recipes

Grapefruit and White Beets with Yogurt and Tarragon (Adapted from Bon Appetit)

  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 4 medium white or Chioggia (candy-stripe) beets (about 1 lb.)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 white grapefruits
  • ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup fresh tarragon leaves

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Toast pine nuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 6–8 minutes; let cool.
  • Increase oven heat to 400°. Place beets on a sheet of parchment paper set on top of a sheet of foil; rub beets with oil and season with salt. Close up parchment and foil around beets. Place packet on a baking sheet and roast beets until tender, 40–50 minutes. Unwrap beets and let cool.
  • Peel beets and thinly slice into rounds. Toss beets and vinegar in a medium bowl; season with salt and let stand 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, finely grate ½ tsp. zest from 1 grapefruit and set aside. Using a sharp, small knife, cut all peel and white pith from both grapefruits; discard. Thinly slice grapefruit into rounds.
  • Place yogurt in a small bowl; season with salt and mix well. Spoon onto plates. Top yogurt with beets and sliced grapefruit, then tarragon, toasted pine nuts, and reserved grapefruit zest.
  • DO AHEAD: Beets can be roasted 2 days ahead; let cool. Cover and chill. Pine nuts can be toasted 1 day ahead; store airtight at room temperature.

Quinoa Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Apples (Adapted from Food & Wine)

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa
  • Salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 large Granny Smith apples, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 packed cups baby greens, such as arugula or kale (about 6 ounces)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the quinoa and toast over moderate heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add 3 cups of water, season with salt and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer the quinoa for 16 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff the quinoa, spread it out on a baking sheet and refrigerate until it is chilled, about 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, on a baking sheet, toss the sweet potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 25 minutes, stirring once, until golden and softened. Let cool.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 6 tablespoons of olive oil with the vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Add the quinoa, sweet potatoes, apples, parsley, onion and greens and toss well. Serve right away.

Make Ahead: The quinoa and sweet potatoes can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.