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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!


Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

April 3, 2013


Lately, I’ve been trying to do a little bit more “organic” blogging and a little less blogging for the sake of blogging. Can we make the phrase “organic blogging” a thing? What I mean is this: Joe and I keep a pretty busy schedule. I don’t mean to say we are too busy to enjoy life. In fact, a lot of the things that keep us occupied and busy are actually related to enjoying life and packing a lot of different things into a short amount of time.

A typical day consists of waking up and eating breakfast together, taking Nutmeg out and packing lunches to take to work. After work we both head straight to the gym and meet up there. I work closer to our gym so typically I get done before Joe gets done, giving me time to head home, shower and prep dinner. When Joe gets home he lets Nutmeg out and showers while I finish dinner. If we have dinner leftovers, I pack them up for our lunches the next day and Joe loads the dishes in the dishwasher. Then, we crash on the couch for a bit for some cuddle time with Nutmeg and a little bit of TV time before we head to bed. Some nights we have friends over for dinner, maybe once a week,

As you can see, our days are full of great stuff. And while I love blogging more than a lot of other things, it doesn’t take precedence over my job, my hubby or getting in a good sweat session. So in the name of juggling it all I’ve been trying to find ways to integrate blogging into daily life. This salad is a great example of just that.


Last night when I got home from the gym, I pulled together this salad for dinner. It was incredibly easy and truly made sense for a weeknight meal. Since the days are getting longer and the temps are slowly rising, I’ve started to crave foods that are more summer-like in nature: salads, smoothies and chilled grain and pasta dishes. But since it’s still not exactly balmy outside, my hankering for foods like roasted sweet potatoes hasn’t completely disappeared.

The minute I walked in the door, I preheated the oven to 375F. I chopped the lettuce and tossed it in a bowl with avocado, sliced grape tomatoes, and edamame. Then, I chopped the sweet potatoes and shallots and put them in an oven with a little olive oil and salt. While they roasted, I jumped in the shower and unpacked my gym bag. Multi-tasking while making dinner? Major win in my book.

Joe and I fell in love with this dish from the first bite. Something about the crispy bits of onion and the charred ends of the sweet potato paired with the crisp lettuce, tomatoes and other toppings just hit the spot and made it hearty enough to serve as a main meal for dinner on a Tuesday night.


Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
Makes 2 to 3 large servings
*2 medium sweet potatoes, cubed
*2 medium shallots, sliced
*1 tablespoon olive oil
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
*1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
*1 cup sliced grape tomatoes
*1 medium avocado, pitted, peeled and chopped
*1/2 cup shelled edamame
*1/4 cup sesame seeds
*Your favorite dressing to toss (we prefer Trader Joe’s Spicy Asian Peanut Vinaigrette in this salad)

*Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly toss sweet potatoes and shallots with onion and sprinkle with the salt and ground black pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until sweet potatoes and crisp on the outside and tender inside.
*Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Once sweet potatoes are finished cooking, add them to the salad mixture and toss with dressing before serving.

Happy cooking!


Vegetarian “Meatballs” with Spaghetti

October 17, 2012

Lately, I’ve fallen into a bit of a cooking rut. It’s not that Joe and I have been eating takeout every night, but I haven’t really been cooking anything interesting. Most nights, I find myself falling back on easy staples like roasted veggies, baked chicken breasts for Joe, and some whole grain, such as quinoa, whole wheat pasta or brown rice. Tasty? Sure. But I’ve hardly been pushing myself out of my culinary comfort zone.

This week, I set out on a mission to get back on my cooking game by making our meals from real, actual recipes. Beef stew and biscuits one night, sweet potato and black bean enchiladas another. It’s amazing how putting a little extra effort into meal planning can have incredibly tasty results. But the recipe I was most excited to try was a recipe I found on Cooking Canuck’s site for Cannellini Bean “Meatballs” made with beans, bread crumbs and Italian herbs.

I tweaked the recipe slightly to suit the ingredients I had in my pantry, and added a little bit of grated Parmesan cheese to the mix, too, since I don’t think adding cheese is ever a bad decision. And although Joe was pretty skeptical of the recipe while it was cooking, he was pleasantly surprised with the end product. I don’t think anyone will be fooled into thinking these are actual meatballs, but once they are tossed with marinara sauce and served over whole wheat pasta it creates an incredibly satisfying, flavorful dinner that will keep you full for hours.

We had quite a few leftover “meatballs” and I found that they heat well in the microwave for lunch the next day or dinnertime leftovers. The second time around, I served them alongside a bowl of roasted Brussels sprouts. So tasty!

Vegetarian “Meatballs” with Spaghetti
Inspired by Cooking Canuck’s Bean Balls
*2 1/2 cups canned white beans, drained or cooked dried beans (such as cannellini beans or my new favorite, cranberry beans)
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*1/2 medium yellow onion, grated
*1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
*1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
*1 large egg, lightly beaten
*1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
*1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
*1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
*1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
*Whole wheat angel hair pasta (enough to serve 4)

*In the bowl of a food processor, combine the beans and garlic and process with on-off turns until beans are broken up and begin to hold together but are not so processed that they form a paste. Transfer bean mixture to a mixing bowl and add in the onion, Italian seasoning, bread crumbs, egg, Parm, salt and pepper. Stir until well combined.
*Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or lightly grease with nonstick cooking spray. Scoop bean balls by heaping tablespoons and shape into circles with your hands, about 2-inches in diameter. Place balls on the baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown and crisp around the outside. Remove from oven. Toss with warmed marinara sauce and serve atop whole wheat angel hair pasta. Makes 4 servings

Happy Cooking!

Garlic Feta Burgers

March 26, 2012
Hey, everyone! How was your weekend? We had a wonderful weekend over here. My mom arrived on Friday night and stayed until Sunday after church. And she brought Nutmeg with her, too! I can’t tell you how good it feels to be reunited with our little fur baby after two weeks without her. 
The weather in Iowa was absolutely unreal this weekend, too, so we made the most out of it by spending a lot of time outside. Tennis was played, more than one long walk was taken and we grilled out, too! Since we don’t have a deck or much outdoor space in our apartment, Joe and I are stuck grilling on our little baby grill (pictured below), which I realize is incredibly lame. But I’m shocked at how well it works. I think it will have to do until we have a larger place to store a grill. 
I made these Garlic Feta Burgers for my mom and Joe on Saturday night and served myself a veggie burger. And we paired it with a fresh salad and steamed green beans. If the calendar didn’t say it was March, I could swear that summer is already here. 
Back to the burgers…
Out of the pound of ground beef that I had on hand, I made three burgers. I seasoned the meat with Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper, then formed it into six small patties. For the filling, I combined chopped garlic, feta cheese and oregano for a little Mediterranean flair. Then the filling was placed in the center of three of the patties and topped with the remaining patties for a salty, juicy filling. Just be sure to seal the edges of the patties completely in order to be sure the cheese doesn’t come in contact with the grill.
The burgers were a huge hit with my mom and Joe, and I enjoyed my veggie burger, too. 😉 Now let’s bring on summer!
Garlic Feta Burgers
*1 lb. ground beef
*1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
*2 ounces crumbled feta cheese 
*1 clove garlic, minced 
*1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 
*3 hamburger buns
*In a bowl, combine the beef, Worcestershire sauce, salt and ground black pepper. Stir until well combined. Form the meat mixture into six thin patties, about 4- to 5-inches in diameter.
*In a small bowl, combine the feta, garlic and oregano. Place some of the feta mixture into the center of three of the patties. Top each of the feta-topped patties with the remaining patties. Seal the edges tightly with your fingertips to completely cover the cheese. Form the patties into well-formed circles.
*Preheat grill to medium high heat. Grill the burgers for eight to ten minutes, flipping once halfway through cooking. 
*Transfer cooked burgers to buns. Serve immediately.
Happy Cooking!
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