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Salad

Kale and Red Cabbage Salad with Pecans

Kale and Red Cabbage Salad with Pecans

2013 was a year of a lot of over-rated food trends. Cue bacon flavored ice cream in continuation of 2012, fancy-flavored doughnuts, meat-laden paleo philosophy, overly sweet cake pops, almond milk overload, yadda yadda yadda. Don’t hate me if you disagree. I am a healthy, mostly vegetarian food blogger, after all. And I’ve always disliked bacon.

There have been plenty of good 2013 trends, too, however. Like the proliferation of farmer’s markets and local food production, cauliflower everything, red quinoa, gourmet vegan food, and kale salads.

Kale and Red Cabbage Salad with Pecans

Perhaps kale salads were more of a 2012 phenomenon, but so be it. I still think they’re trendy, and they’ve graced my bowl this year more than any other. 2013 was the year that kale salad really stole my heart.

Kale and Red Cabbage Salad with Pecans

I’m going to say this is because it took me awhile, and I think restaurants too, to really get the hang of mastering them. Which is really not a hard thing to do. But if you miss the key step of massaging the leaves, your kale salad will never be trendy, no matter how pretty it is. Every raw kale leaf needs a trip to the spa  before heading to the fork.

Get your (clean) hands in there with a little oil though, and kale can become the perfect slate for a heartier, more long-living version of a salad. This is what I love about it. It stores well, and often becomes even better, after a day left in the fridge. I tend to eat a whole lot healthier during the workweek when I have snacks/dishes already waiting for me, and lately that’s meant a ton of huge bowls of kale salad. I must say, I often feel my best when this is included in my week.

The following recipe was inspired by this lovely picture I came across on the New York Times Well blog. I generally do a ton of tahini-based kale salads, but this purple and green combination caught my eye, and I wanted mine to look like the NYT’s one, with just an oil-based dressing. So I spun off that and went with toasted sesame oil. I liked this so much that after bringing it to a party, I made it again the following day. Sometimes you need a huge bowl of kale salad all to yourself. Following the holiday season is certainly the perfect time for that.

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Butternut Squash Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Pecans

Butternut Squash Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Pecans

Snow is falling, flannel PJ’s are on, and my parents house is my office for the day. Suddenly, I feel the holiday bug has hit me. I am ready for the feasting, and gifting, and extra special loving to begin.

In preparation for tomorrow, I whipped up my family a healthy, wholesome lunch this afternoon. Perhaps consider doing something similar for your own dinner, pre or post Thanksgiving day.

Light meals are extra welcomed this time of year.

Butternut Squash Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Pecans

Salads are rarely rocket science. For this one, I tore up a bunch of washed romaine, while I let a butternut squash roast. For the squash, preheat your oven to 375F. Slice it in half, lengthwise and remove the seeds, and then cut into 3/4-inch half moons. Place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum oil, and lightly coat with olive oil, salt and pepper, and add a bunch of fresh thyme. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until soft and creamy, but still together enough to slice.

For the vinaigrette, mix 2 parts oil to one part apple cider vinegar, and throw in a few Tbsp. of Dijon mustard. Season with pepper. If you use enough Dijon, likely you won’t need any salt. The Dijon should make it creamy, but not be overpowering in flavor. Taste as you whisk.

Toast up a handful or two of chopped pecans, depending on how many heads of lettuce you’re using. Simply add to a dry skillet over medium-high heat and stir with a spoon until edges of the pecans are browned.

Toss lettuce with the vinaigrette. Chop the cooked squash into bite-sized pieces, and add to the salad bowl. Throw in toasted pecans and a handful of pomegranate seeds. Share, eat, enjoy.

Happy Thanksgiving, FoodFitnessFreshAir friends!

 

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Vegan Coconut Bacon

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Vegan Coconut Bacon

There’s this new spot that opened up in Philadelphia last year called COOK, designed for cooking demonstrations and classes. It features a 16-seat bar that sits in front of a workspace and large open range, with mirrors that hang above for the audience’s viewing. Here, foodie experts and chefs come to hold tastings and learning sessions. And the audience watches/joins in/eats, depending upon the night’s topic. The place is an absolute gem.

Brussels Sprouts

A newfound friend recently invited me to a vegan Thanksgiving class being held there, which would bring me my first COOK experience. By the end of the experience, I was entirely smitten. I do hope this means more nights there to come.

The event was held by a sweet lady named Rachel who owns Miss Rachel’s Pantry, a vegan catering and delivery service as well as a communal table styled restaurant. During the session, she whipped up recipes like cashew brie with toast, winter veggie stuffed seitan roast, and the recipe I bring you today. As the cooking transpired, the audience tossed out questions while COOK’s event host poured an endless supply of wine. Rachel’s responses were incredibly warm and so was the night.

Coconut Flakes

For me, this salad was definitely the highlight of the menu. I had only ever had coconut bacon once or twice before, and the raw brussels sprout concept was entirely new to my taste buds. Together, they make a combination that gives memory to a salad.

This is a bowl of leaves that’s far, far more than just a salad. With the toasty sunflower seeds, sweet and tart cranberries, and smoky coconut-y bacon, theres a huge depth of flavor going on here, all complimentary to the earthy, cabbage-like flavor of the brussels sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts

COOK often sends you the recipes from their events, which is awesome because I had been planning to recreate this recipe since my last bite. I whipped it up yesterday for a lovely Friendsgiving, and plan to make it again for my family’s own Thanksgiving. When a salad gets rave reviews at a party, you know its worthy of remaking and eating twice within a week’s time. If you don’t get around to it for Thanksgiving, I recommend you bookmark this for later. Thanks Rachel!

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Pickled Spiced Beets

Pickled Beets

Beets and I have a love-hate relationship.

Love when they add a hint of sweetness to my bitter arugula and goat cheese. Hate when they turn my t-shirt from pretty-in-white to pajama-only appropriate.

Love when they transform my tabbouleh into a beautiful party in pink. Hate when they permanently make my cutting boards appear as though I have a serious wine addiction.

Love when roasted. Hate when boiled.

Love when pickled. Hate when that pickling includes hard-boiled eggs.

Pickled Beets

I could go on, but I’ll save you and get straight to the point. One more love profession first though, which is for this pickled beet recipe. I assure you it’s worth every bit of stain and messiness inevitably involved in its preparation. The recipe comes from Saving the Seasons, a book given to me by my farm family when I started mentioning a desire to start canning. I must’ve been dreaming big because not one tomato, peach or beet for that matter ever made it to the canner. I actually somehow did manage to get a canner to my house this summer. It sits untouched on my living room floor…

Pickled Beets

I didn’t let the mason jars that came with it go to waste though. A few of them got filled up with these beets, a refrigerator staple you can munch on for a couple weeks after preparing — canned or not. These make for a great salad topper of all kinds. From lettuce to grains, they’re simply born for salads.

Pickled Beets

If you do decide to finish out the recipe and actually put the beets through the boiling process, they’ll last much longer. It’s one of those dream big ideas I still plan on carrying out before my beet supply runs short. We’ll see. That part of the recipe’s up to you.

P.S. I’ll be in Vermont for the next week! Expect a possible delay in blogging while I eat nothing but maple syrup for a few.

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Summer Rice and Quinoa Tabbouleh with Beets

Summer Tabbouleh with Beets

Can we talk about how fast life moves after graduating from college? And I’m not even at a 9-5 job anymore. Nor do I have kids…I can’t image how time will feel when that happens. I’m picturing similar to how this 800 mile per hour high speed train would feel, if it ever gets built.

This summer seems like a blur. Late August and evening sweater weather, how did you creep up so fast? Please leave me be for another few weeks. I need some time to contemplate. (i.e., to lay on my back in a pool, and stare mindlessly up at the sky). Ya feel me?

At least I can say the past few months have been entertaining ones, and packed with a tabbouleh salad full of new experiences. This last week, I had the opportunity to teach yoga to a class of senior citizens, a group of former homeless drug addicts, and Temple University’s volleyball team. Man, was each experience different. And tremendously rewarding. Occasions like this really make me reevaluate life. If only I had more time to ponder over those feelings. In a pool. Or a lake. I won’t be picky, summer, if you just stay a bit longer.

Summer Tabbouleh with Beets

So while life has been busy and all over the place, I’ve been making a lot of no-recipe tabbouleh salads. Ones in a huge bowl that will last for the week, and are packed with farmer’s market veggies to keep me charged and thinking straight.

On these occasions, there are no measuring cups or spoons present, excluding the one I’m using to taste as I go. There is no exact science involved. Or open laptop being splattered with veggie juice, tracking every ingredient’s use. While I love recipe development, more often than not, this is how I enjoy cooking the most. Improvisation based off of the ingredients I have at hand.

I hate to snub you guys of a precise directions here, but I want you to simply use this as inspiration to create your own version of tabbouleh. No stressing if you’re missing ingredients from the recipe, well, because there is no recipe. And no freaking out if it doesn’t look like some photo. Below is simply a loose blueprint to get you started. Also, just an FYI, one beet can go a long way. You don’t need much to add that gorgeous pink vibrancy you’ll see in the bowl above.

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