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Tuscan Kale Salad with Feta

September 11, 2013


Let’s take a little break from talking about all things travel and talk a bit about food. Since, you know, this is supposed to be a food blog. I think I mentioned that I was heavily influenced by the food we enjoyed while in Tuscany, right? Well in case you missed that tidbit, I was totally enamored with the food we ate in this amazing region of Italy. Actually, I was really surprised at how different the food was as we traveled throughout the country. I naively believed that the cuisine would be very similar everywhere we went. And while there are a lot of similarities from region to region, each place we visited was very distinct.

Joe and I both agreed that the hearty, earthy and complex flavors we tasted in Tuscany were our favorite. I fell head-over-heels for ribolita (a bread, bean and vegetable stew) and the heavy use of spices like rosemary and thyme. While we were at our wine class we learned that many times the types of cuisine present in an are were influenced by the types of wine native to that area. The rich, earthy flavors found in Tuscan cooking perfectly compliment the Chianti and Brunello wines grown in the region. Those Italians know what they’re doing!

Ever since I returned home, I’ve been pulled to earthier flavor profiles and simple, yet tasty dishes that are heavy on the crusty bread. I can’t get enough of that stuff! After returning from Italy, I also had a renewed commitment to cooking with high quality ingredients. Maybe that’s why I shopped entirely at Whole Foods for our groceries this week? Good thing I did because I was able to pick up two bunches of this beautiful Tuscan kale for only $4!


Prior to my trip to Whole Foods I had been unable to find Tuscan kale (also known as lacinato kale) at the local grocery stores. The leaves of this type of kale are flat rather than ruffled. I really love that there are fewer ribs in this type of kale, meaning you only have to remove the center rib in the kale before cooking. If you can get your hands on this variety, I would highly recommend it.

As for this salad, it’s about as simple as you can get. The kale is seasoned and sauteed in a skillet, then tossed with toasted bread cubes drizzled in olive oil and topped with feta cheese. It’s not directly inspired by any dish we ate while on vacation, but the flavor profile is heavily influenced by our trip, and the dish is ultra satisfying. I’ve enjoyed it for dinner twice already this week!

Tuscan Kale Salad with Feta
Makes 1 meal-sized serving
2 1/2 cups Tuscan kale (aka lacinato kale, which I got at Whole Foods), ribs removed and chopped roughly
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of dried thyme and rosemary
1 thick slice whole grain crusty bread, toasted and cut into cubes
1 oz feta cheese, crumbled

In large skillet over medium heat, combine the kale and 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil, the salt and thyme and rosemary. Use your hands to work the oil into the kale to coat completely. Cook, stirring frequently, 4 to 6 minutes or until kale is softened and slightly crunchy around the edges. Remove from heat.

Drizzle remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil over bread cubes. Add bread cubes to skillet and toss to combine. Transfer to bowl. Top with the cheese. Serve immediately.

Happy Cooking!


End of Summer Salad

August 26, 2013


We have been swimming in produce over here! This weekend my mom brought us a basket full of peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and other veggies that were absolutely beautiful! And then there is the abundance of produce we have at our house: cherry tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, basil. Oh, and did I mention we’re also members of a CSA, so we get a box of produce every week? Yeah, like I said, we have a lot of produce at our house.


This week I bought a ton of lettuce (one of the few produce item we don’t have) and decided that this week is all about eating down the veggies in our house in the form of salads. Already this past weekend I consumed four large salads and I don’t see my salad consumption slowing down. But in order to keep things interesting, I’ve been playing around with flavor combinations and cooking methods, like adding roasted corn on the cob to a crisp Romaine salad.

I also picked up a bottle of light spicy Thai peanut salad dressing at Target this week that I’ve fallen in love with. When left to my own devices, I tend to gravitate toward creamy salad dressings like Caesar or blue cheese. But it was nice to mix things up with something a little fresh that brings out the flavor of the veggies rather than mask them. This salad is ultra simple and hardly counts as a real recipe, but when my mom said it was one of the best salads she had eaten in a long time, I figured it was worth sharing, if nothing else than for the fact that it might serve as salad inspiration.


End of Summer Salad
Makes 3 servings
*2 hearts of Romaine lettuce, chopped
*1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped
*1/2 to 3/4 cup grape tomatoes, sliced
*3 heads sweet corn, grilled or boiled, salted and removed from cob
*1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
*Mild Thai Peanut salad dressing (I like this brand I bought from Target)

*Divide the lettuce among three bowls, Top with the avocado, tomatoes and sweet corn. Sprinkle with the fresh basil. Lightly dress with the thai peanut salad dressing. Serve immediately.

Happy cooking!


California Style Tuna Salad (Mayo-Free!)

June 25, 2013


If we’re being totally honest, Tuesdays are one of my least favorite days of the week. Mondays have been redeemed by the fact that The Bachelorette is on TV, though I think this season is incredibly lame and am struggling to get into it. Anyone with me? By Wednesday you can say “the week is halfway over” and Thursday and Friday are filled with anticipation of the weekend to come. I’m still searching for something to love about Tuesdays.

I guess that really has nothing to do with tuna salad, other than the fact that on Tuesday I’m usually ready for an easy weeknight meal that I can throw together in just a couple minutes. When Joe and I get home from working out we’re both starving and need food now, so dishes like this are the perfect solution.

Up until a couple weeks ago, I was not a fan of tuna salad in any form. Since I hate mayonnaise with a passion, most tuna salads were out by process of elimination. And the idea of using yogurt in place of mayo in tuna salad really grosses me out. So what’s a girl to do? Consult my favorite cookbook, of course!

A couple months ago our book club at work went through Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook. I’ve talked about my love for Sprouted Kitchen blog many times on this site, and the cookbook did not disappoint, either. I was so impressed by the book at book club that I bought my own copy a few days later. I’ve been cooking my way through ever since, adapting the recipes to suit our tastes and the ingredients we have on hand. I’m pretty sure I made at least one recipe a week from the cookbook.

Anyway, back to the tuna salad! This recipe doesn’t contain any mayo and instead gets its flavor from coarse grain mustard and olive oil, a combination that I love. The original recipe doesn’t include avocados or tomatoes (I photographed sans tomatoes but added them in after) but I really liked the flavor and increased volume that they added to this dish. Joe and I have been eating this every week, usually with tortilla chips of some sort for dipping.


California Style Tuna Salad (Mayo-Free!)
Makes 2 servings
Recipe adapted from Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook

2 cans (5 oz each) water-packed white tuna
2 tablespoons coarse grain mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 medium ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup sliced cherry or grape tomatoes (optional)
Juice from 1/2 of a lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all of  the above ingredients. Stir until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with tortilla chips, if desired. The tortilla chips pictured above are the new Green Giant Veggie Chips I scored at work. They are fantastic!

Happy Cooking!


Barley and Bean Pesto Salad

May 30, 2013


Summer seems to be taking its sweet time arriving in Minnesota this year. And to say that the weather has been crazy this month would be an understatement. We had snow, rain, hail, 100 degree temps and 30 degree temps. And right now? Well it’s as muggy as Florida with treats of severe weather and tornados. Crazy, I tell you!

And while summer may not be here in full force, Joe and I have certainly been eating meals that feel like summer. So take that, Minnesota. Grain salads packed with veggies are one of my summer favorites. They are fresh and hearty and store well for a couple days in the refrigerator, meaning I can take leftovers to work the next day. Major bonus.

I ate more than my fair share of this salad last night. Probably a little more than I should have, since I was absolutely stuffed after dinner. Considering that this salad is packed with good-for-you ingredients like barley, black beans and green beans, I guess there are worse things to overdose on.

If you’re looking for a dish to take to a picnic or barbecue, I would highly recommend taking along this salad. It’s incredibly versatile and easy to customize. If you leave off the feta cheese this dish can also be made vegan, just be sure the purchased pesto you use is vegan, too. Or make your own if you’re feeling like an overachiever! 

Barley and Bean Pesto Salad
Makes 2 to 3 dinner-sized servings or 4 to 6 smaller side dish servings
3/4 cup baby spinach
2 tablespoons purchased pesto
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups cooked barley (I love the quick cooking barley from Trader Joe’s)
8 oz steamed and chopped green beans
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 to 2 oz crumbled feta cheese
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. In a food processor, combine all the dressing ingredients. Process until blended and well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
2. Combine the barley, green beans and black beans in a large bowl. Toss with dressing until well combined. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper. Top with crumbled feta cheese. This salad can be served warm, at room temp or chilled. I prefer it chilled.

Happy Cooking!


Peter Reinhart’s Gluten-Free Almond Flour Pizza Crust

May 28, 2013


Happy Tuesday, friends! I hope you all had a wonderful long weekend. Perhaps you were blessed with prettier weather than we were in Minnesota? It pretty much drizzled all weekend and stayed in the 60s. Since my dad, step-mom and little sisters were visiting from Idaho, I was hoping to have a little bit better weather. But we made the best of the weather and gave them a great taste of Minneapolis. It was also so much fun showing them our house for the first time! We managed a full long weekend with six people in our house and it wasn’t all that bad. I would call that a success.

I’ll have photos of our weekend to share in a couple of days, but in the meantime let’s talk about pizza. A couple weeks ago, someone at work prepared this pizza recipe and immediately I knew I had to have the recipe. The recipe, created by master baker Peter Reinhart, was unlike any pizza recipe I’ve ever had before. It was made with almond flour, egg whites and was completely gluten-free. Crazy, right? How almond meal and egg whites could come together to make a pizza crust is beyond me, but after tasting it and then making my own batch, I’m totally a believer.

If you have friends who are gluten-free or looking to cut back on carbohydrates, this would be a great dish to share. It’s fun to make because it’s so unique and takes much less time than traditional dough. Additionally, Joe and I both found that it makes great leftovers because the almond meal keeps the dough from drying out. This dough doesn’t taste like wheat-based dough but it its own thing all together. Very delicious, slightly nutty with a little crunch. It’s incredibly delicious, hearty and a great change of pace for pizza lovers like us.


Peter Reinhart’s Gluten-Free Almond Flour Pizza Crust
Dough (adapted slightly)
*3 cups almond meal
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*2 teaspoons baking powder
*1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
*4 egg whites
*1 cup chicken broth
*3/4 cup grated mozzarella, fontina or Monterey Jack cheese
*Marinara sauce and shredded cheese

*Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat, such as a Silpat. Set aside. You can also use parchment paper brushed with olive oil.
*In bowl, whisk together the almond meal, salt, baking powder, and xanthan gum. In a second bowl, use an electric mixer to beat egg whites until they develop stiff peaks.
*Add the broth to the dry ingredients and stir until it makes a smooth batter. Fold in the egg whites and the cheese.
*Pour mixture onto prepared pan with the nonstick baking mat. Spread into an even layer, using wet fingers if necessary to prevent sticking. Top lightly with marinara sauce and shredded cheese.
*Bake 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until the crust is puffed through and baked and filling is bubbly. Cool 10 minutes. Cut into squares to serve.

Happy Cooking!

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