Arugula, Beet, Feta, Pecan Salad with Quick Balsamic Dressing

I know, the name of this post (and recipe) isn’t very exciting, but I couldn’t think of anything cool enough for this simple, but deceptively delicious salad. Amazing Arugula Salad? Nah. Mouth-Watering Beet Salad? Too misleading (sounds like a mostly-beet salad). Nope…I decided to keep the name straightforward to match the preparation. Eats this tasty shouldn’t be this easy to put together…

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I put together this salad on Sunday afternoon based completely on what I had in my refrigerator at the time. I lucked out and got to take home a couple leftover ingredients from the farm-to-table dinner on Saturday (suh-weet, right? Thank you Jaime & Courtney!). I was really excited to be given the leftover beets. Beets + Salad = Foodie Heaven. If you don’t agree then you probably just haven’t had them cooked right. They’re so underappreciated, but so good! I knew those beets would be going into a salad soon, but I didn’t know it would be less than 24 hours after the dinner.  :P

Did I need more than beets and arugula to make a delicious salad? Not really (hello, remember this one?!), but feta added some nice creaminess and the pecans added some crunch. And since I’ve recently picked up a particularly taste bottle of balsamic at the farmer’s market, I’ve been putting it on a lot of my eats, salad dressings included. Thusly, the dressing was a no-brainer.

So easy, so right. Nom!

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Arugula, Beet, Feta, Pecan Salad

This salad makes a great use of leftover roasted beets. The key to ease of preparation is having the beets ready already. If you don’t have leftovers, you actually can get ready-t0-eat beets at some grocery stores (I think I’ve seen them at Trader Joe’s). The combination of beets and arugula is particularly tasty, but feel free to switch out the greens for something else (no, I don’t recommend leaving off the beets! hehe). Heck, you could even switch out the cheese and nuts for different types. Tweak the combination of ingredients to your taste.

I prefer this salad as a side or light lunch/snack.

*Vegetarian* *Vegan if you leave the cheese off* *Maybe GF, too? Does anyone know?"*

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups arugula (I like to quadruple wash mine and dry it in a salad spinner)
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup roasted beets, cut into small pieces (click here to learn how to roast your own)
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 2-3 tablespoons pecans (toast them for an extra flavor boost)
  • Quick Balsamic Dressing, recipe follows

Directions:

  1. You can mix all the ingredients up, but I prefer to layer mine, starting by piling the arugula leaves in a tall pile on a large plate.
  2. Place beets around the arugula leaves.
  3. Sprinkle feta over the salad.
  4. Sprinkle pecans over the salad.
  5. Drizzle salad with Quick Balsamic Dressing and enjoy!

***

Quick Balsamic Dressing

I’ve heard different things about proportions of oil to balsamic. I found one-to-one worked ok for this salad, but maybe that’s because I really, really like balsamic. Use a really good quality balsamic for the best flavor.

*Vegan* *Probably GF, too?*

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • sprinkle salt, about 1/8 teaspoon
  • dash of fresh-cracked pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle in extra virgin olive oil while whisking until mixture is emulsified.
  2. Add additional salt and pepper, if needed.

***

If you like these recipes, you may also enjoy:

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What underappreciated ingredient are you going gaga for right now? Mine is beets!! :)

Cookies ‘N Cream Green Monster Smoothie (Energy Boosting)

If you’ve never stuffed a handful of baby spinach into a smoothie, then you’re missing out. Adding spinach to a smoothie is hands down one of the easiest (and sneakiest…hehe…shhh) ways to get your spinach serving in for the day.

Any why eat spinach? Check out this quote from whfoods.com:

Spinach is an excellent source of bone-healthy vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, and calcium; heart-healthy folate, potassium, and vitamin B6; energy-producing iron and vitamin B2; and free radical-scavenging vitamin A (through its concentration of beta-carotene) and vitamin C.

So basically…you should eat spinach because it’s good for you. Yep…just like mom said. Parents…they’re always right!

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Anywho, if you’re on the fence on trying spinach, then try this recipe on for size. I promise, you won’t taste the spinach at all. Just chocolate-y-creamy goodness.

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This smoothie has a pretty short and healthful ingredient list: banana, milk of some sort (I used vanilla soy), cookies, ice…

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…and the star ingredient – spinach!

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I know, I know Green-Monster-first-timers. It looks scary, but it’s good. Trust me!

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Cookies ‘N Cream Green Monster Smoothie (Energy Boosting)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
The Green Monster signature ingredient is spinach (or kale). The vegetable is almost tasteless and imparts that gorgeous green color on the smoothie. Fun, right? Add more spinach for a deeper green color.
It’s a healthy smoothie (with both a fruit and vegetable serving) hiding behind a handful of cookies. Sneaky, sneaky! ;)
*Vegan if you use vegan cookies*
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 1½ – 2 cups loosely packed spinach (or kale)
  • 1 banana (a frozen banana will give you a thicker consistency, but non-frozen works, too)
  • 1 cup vanilla non-dairy milk, sweetened (or use unsweetened milk, dairy or non-dairy – just also add a drop of vanilla and your sweetener of choice, to taste)
  • 2 cubes ice
  • ¼ cup chocolate cookies (or sub chocolate/vanilla sandwich cookies and use non-sweetened milk and vanilla extract – see notes)
Instructions
  1. Place spinach, banana, milk, and ice in the blender.
  2. Cover and blend until banana/ice is processed and smooth, about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add cookies to the blender, re-cover, and blend until cookies are chopped finely, about 30-60 seconds. Optional – sprinkle an extra cookie, crushed into crumbs/small pieces, on top before serving.
  4. Enjoy!
Notes
Easily multiplies for additional servings, if needed!

I found some great chocolate cookies at Trader Joe’s that were not only tasty and crunchy but also not as filled with chemicals and additives as some other options.

***
If you like this recipe, then you may also enjoy:

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Have you ever added spinach to your smoothie? What did you think about it?

Stuff-Your-Face Breakfast Potatoes

Sundays are for sleeping in and taking your time making breakfast. Not that you need to cook for hours to have something delicious on your plate. But if you’re like me, you rush around during the work week whipping up whatever is relatively quick and easy. But on Sunday. Ahh…when Sunday rolls around, you can sip coffee and take your time sautéing up some tasty potatoes and onions. At least that’s what I did this past Sunday.

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I love eating breakfast potatoes, but they aren’t always the quickest thing to throw together. I typically only enjoy them at my parents’ house or when I’m out at a restaurant for brunch. While my parents make a mean batch of breakfast potatoes, they also live  almost 2 hours away. And the problem with eating them at a restaurant is that 1. they’re more expensive and 2. they’re usually doused in excess oil and butter. By making them at home, you can better control the price and fat level.

The recipe is at the end of this post, but here are some photos and tips:

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You can peel all the skin off your potatoes if you like, but I prefer the texture of the potatoes with the skin on. After scrubbing my potatoes, I usually only take off the bad parts (where it’s dark or rough) and the eyes. And in case you need another good reason to leave the skins on, consider that the skins contain vitamins, phytochemicals, and most of the potato’s fiber. (source – whfoods.com)

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Anywho, after scrubbing and removing the bad parts off the potato, just cut it into roughly 1/2” cubes.

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As for the onion, you can use one small onion. I happened to have two teeny-tiny onions, so I used both of those.

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After tossing the potatoes in the oil and butter to coat them, spread them to an even layer.

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After a few minutes, turn and spread to an even layer again.

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When the potatoes are done, toss in some fresh, green parsley for color and a fresh bite.

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Stuff-Your-Face Breakfast Potatoes

Unlike most restaurant breakfast potatoes, these potatoes are not overly cooked (squishy potatoes and onions…ew!) and are also not cooked in an excessive amount of butter and oil. The onions have a bit of a bite to them, so cook them for a couple minutes before adding the potatoes if you like them more tender.

By the way, while I prefer to use as few pots and pans as needed, I find the boiling step necessary. Sorry, but these potatoes are worth a little extra dish-washing! :)

Oh, and although I usually reserve my weekend mornings for making these potatoes, they actually come together pretty quickly and easily.

*Vegan options listed*

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon butter (or vegan substitute)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 medium/large red potatoes, scrubbed, bad parts of skin and eyes removed, cut into 1/2” dice, about 2 1/2 cups
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra salt for the boiling water (about 1 teaspoon total)
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

  1. Boil potatoes for 3 minutes in salted water. Drain potatoes and place back into the same pot you just used to boil the potatoes. Place the pot back on the burner, but make sure the burner is turned off. Note: the residual heat will help the potatoes dry out.
  2. Pre-heat a saute pan over medium heat. Add oil and butter and stir butter to melt. Add onions and potatoes to the pan. Sprinkle mixture with salt, garlic powder, paprika and pepper, and toss until well-coated and spices are evenly distributed.
  3. Spread mixture to an even layer and let brown on bottom, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Flip potatoes (it’s ok if you don’t flip every single piece over), spread to an even layer and let brown, about 3-5 minutes.
  5. If needed, toss again and continue cooking to desired doneness. (I didn’t need this step, but everyone likes their potatoes a little more or less crispy, so just cook to your liking)
  6. Stir in parsley just before serving.
  7. Enjoy!

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What foods do you cook on the weekend that you don’t normally make during the week?

A Poplar Ridge Farm-to-Table Dinner (6.25.11)

On Saturday, I had the pleasure attending my second Poplar Ridge farm-to-table dinner as the official photographer.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, a farm-to-table dinner is a meal that is created using ingredients (vegetables, herbs, etc.) straight from the farm you are visiting. It doesn’t get any more local than that, folks.

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As a serious locavore, I get extra excited about amazing events like this.

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And since I’d been to a Poplar Ridge dinner before, I knew the menu and food would be spectacular.

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Upon arriving, I headed straight for the pool house to put down my camera bags and purse and see who was in the kitchen.

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I was so happy to see Jaime and Courtney who had been the chefs at the first farm-to-table dinner I attended in September of last year (click to view that post). The two are not only a dynamic duo in the kitchen but really great people. I was worried last time that I may be in the way of the busy chefs (since I was shooting photos in the kitchen while they were preparing the eats), but they really made me feel welcome.

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Jamie is the Executive Sous Chef at local restaurant Barrington’s. I’ve never been to that restaurant, but after experiencing Jaime’s kitchen skills first-hand, I really want to go!

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While Jamie and Courtney prepared for the dinner, I headed out to take pictures around the flower garden and pool area.

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The guests were served Poplar Ridge’s famed Pimm’s punch, which is a refreshing, fruity concoction.

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And guests were free to roam the pool area…

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…the yard…

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…and the flower garden.

I loved wandering around the pool house and flower garden. They were both so peaceful and beautiful.

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Soon enough, it was time for the dinner to start.

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I headed back to the kitchen to take more food photos.

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Courtney was plating the first course.

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First course: Chilled Cucumber Soup with Spicy Gazpacho Gelee, Maine Crab Salad, Micro Cilantro, and Edible Flower Petals.

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I had so much fun talking food with the chefs who both patiently answered my many foodie questions. Thanks guys! :)

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Second Course: Curried Summer Bean Salad, Bacon, Caramelized Shallots and Cobra Tomatoes.

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Third Course: Roasted Carolina Grouper, Braised Fennel, Spinach and Beet Emulsion.

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Fourth Course: Blueberry Financier with Candied Lemon and Sour Cream Ice Cream

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I didn’t sit at the tables during the meal, but I was lucky to try at least a bite of each course. Wowee, was it good. Chef Jaime (and Courtney) are very talented! :)

One of these days I’m going to have to partake in a farm-to-table dinner…as a guest! I just need to talk hubby into it. ;) I think it would make a fantastic date night.

Thank you Poplar Ridge for letting me behind-the-scenes at your farm-to-table dinner! Click here to check out the PRF web site and learn about upcoming farm-to-table dinners, as well as CSA memberships.

***

Have you ever been to a farm-to-table dinner?

If you went to one, what vegetable or fruit from the farm would you most like to see the chef prepare?

PVU Guest Post: Embracing Vegetables (Katy Widrick)

And for Project Veg-Up(PVU), here’s a specially written guest post by one of my favorite bloggers Katy Widrick. Take it away, Katy!

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Katy Widrick is a vegetarian triathlete who blogs about healthy living and social media at http://katywidrick.com. She’s also founder of #Fitblog Chats on Twitter, which is pro-vegetables!

In all my life, there’s only been one vegetable I didn’t like — in fact, I’d pick it out of foods, trying to avoid even the smallest speck. I’d ask for special preparationat restaurants and I’d walk out of the kitchen when it was being cooked.

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I’m talking about the dreaded onion. That tangy, spicy, crunchy enemy of my youth.

But youth is a funny thing. You know how people (parents) always tell you to keep trying things? That one day you’ll like what you currently hate?

I can’t believe it myself, but sometime between the ages of 20 and 25, I fell in love with onions.

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Sauteed in stir fries? Yes, please.

Battered and fried? Nommmmm…

Caramelized to dark perfection on sandwiches and pizza? Oh, be still my stomach.

But I could have gone my entire life thinking I was an onion hater. One day, I just didn’t want to go to the effort of picking those bad boys out and I decided to just give in an eat those darn onions. Imagine my surprise when I didn’t just tolerate the vegetables — I relished them.

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I’m a veggie freak. I love squash and mushrooms and carrots and potatoes and corn and just about everything under the sun. But if you don’t — I totally understand! All I ask is that you give at least one vegetable a second chance.

My name is Katy. And I love onions.

***

Thank you Katy for this fun guest post. :) Here’s to the veggie freaks! I kind of want to go saute up some onions right now! lol

Click here to check out another fun Project Veg-Up guest post with two recipes!

Note: photo credits -http://123rf.com

Healthy Cookies ‘N Cream Smoothie

When I think “Cookies ‘N Cream”, I’m taken back to long days of my childhood spent at the local pool. One of my favorite parts of the pool (besides the diving board and being able to touch the deep end) was the snack bar. There I enjoyed all kinds of candies (Sour lemon candies anyone?) and ice creams, but none more beloved than “Cookies ‘N Cream.”

Naturally, I typically associate milkshakes (made with ice cream) with this chocolate-y flavor.

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But, the other day, I decided I wanted to try to make a healthy version sans ice cream – a smoothie! So, on Saturday, I set out to concoct just that…but not before hitting up the farmer’s market.

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We slept in but still made it to the market while there were tons of produce left.

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We even managed to get a breakfast burrito at the Roots food truck, which was tasty, as always.

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And though I was afraid they’d run out since we were getting there late, we even got blueberries!

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Once back at the Chic house, I gathered ingredients for what I hoped would be a successful recipe: a banana, vanilla soy milk, and chocolate cookies.

I really like the chocolate “cat” cookies at Trader Joe’s, which I learned about when I made Mama Pea’s Cookies ‘N Cream vegan ice cream last year. Thanks Mama Pea! :)

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Healthy Cookies ‘N Cream Smoothie

This smoothie is made without ice cream, so it’s great as breakfast or a healthy afternoon snack. I believe all good smoothies have at least a bit of fruit in them, so I added banana to this one. You can barely taste the banana (thanks to the cookie flavor), but feel free to omit if you would like. Also, if you can’t find plain chocolate cookies, you can use chocolate-sandwich cookies (like Oreos, or this healthier version), but you may want to use non-sweetened milk to cut back on the sugar. In fact, you can use regular milk in this recipe if you don’t have vanilla non-dairy milk, but you’ll want to add a drop of vanilla extract and your sweetener of choice, to taste.

*Vegan if you use vegan cookies*

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana (a frozen banana will give you a thicker consistency, but non-frozen works, too)
  • 1 cup vanilla non-dairy milk, sweetened (or use unsweetened milk, dairy or non-dairy – just also add a drop of vanilla and your sweetener of choice, to taste)
  • 2 cubes ice
  • 1/4 cup chocolate cookies (or sub chocolate/vanilla sandwich cookies and use non-sweetened milk and vanilla extract – see notes)

Directions:

  1. Place banana, milk, and ice in the blender.
  2. Cover and blend until banana/ice is processed and smooth, about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add cookies to the blender, re-cover, and blend until cookies are chopped finely, about 30-60 seconds. Optional – sprinkle an extra cookie, crushed into crumbs/small pieces, on top before serving.
  4. Enjoy!

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As Borat would say, “Great success!” I only wish this healthier version was available at the pool when I was a kiddo. ;)

What’s your favorite way to eat “Cookies ‘N Cream”?

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