Greek Summer Salad

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Vegetables can be a struggle for me. I know, I run a healthy food blog — coming up with creative ways to use veggies and seasonal produce should be second nature to me, right?

Wrong. The vegetables we actually eat in my house are pretty repetitive. Brussels sprouts, sometimes with bacon. Kale. A salad. Sometimes chard, if my garden is going gangbusters. Zucchini on the grill, if my husband feels like taking that on. Asparagus.

I got sick of salads the other day and needed to find something new. A quick flip through my Gourmet cookbook was disappointing. Really? No vegetables section? But a more detailed look revealed that a lot of the “Salad” recipes were not just lettuce at all, but a variety of vegetables thrown in a bowl with dressing, which was exactly what I was looking for.  Continue reading

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White Bean and Ham Soup

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March and April are apparently “the hunger season,” when most of the cold storage crops are gone and nothing fresh has come out of the ground yet. It’s also the period in my life when I generally start feeling gloomy and sad, wanting it to either snow and be pretty again like December, or warm up and get sunny like spring and summer are supposed to be.

Really the only thing for this uncomfortable time is to make soup. Soup can make you forget how gross and gloomy it is outside, help you feel better about curling up inside with a book, and make you so happy to be using up the beans stored in your pantry that you almost forget how angry you are to not be wearing your favorite new spring flats. Continue reading

Peanut Veggie Stir-fry

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I knew my upcoming trip to Austin was going to involve meat, fried things, queso, and more meat. I wanted to eat salads for a week or so to preemptively make up for the damage I was about to do to my body. But…it’s March. In Idaho. Even though it has been sunny and the snowpack has melted off, it’s not the kind of warm yet when you’ll have a carrot for dinner and call it good.

Plus, I have a husband to feed. And despite my best efforts, “vegan” is a four-letter word to him. He will balk at any dinner that too blatantly seems to be made entirely of vegetables and microwave a frozen lasagna instead, which makes me feel like a total failure and like trying to make a nutritious meal is a waste of time. So. I try to stave this off.

It immediately became clear that stir-fry was the only option. Continue reading

Black Beans and Cheesy Polenta

DSC_0048You know how I said that sometimes food is just about love? That’s true. And sometimes, it’s just about slapping something on the table and making sure everyone is fed.

I cried the other night about dinner. And not welling up, not just a single delicate tear tracing across my perfect cheekbone. An ugly, horrible, can’t-breathe, burying-my-face-in-the-dog’s-tummy-while-she-cleans-my-face kind of cry. There was heaving, sobbing and mucus. It was awful.

Ostensibly, I was crying because I was supposed to make dinner, but a series of miscommunications sent my husband storming off in search of a burger as I sobbed and threw a spinach omelet in the trash. But at its heart, the sobbing spell had everything to do with being on week eight of the most stressful period we’ve had in our entire relationship — buying a house and trying to move at a time when both of our jobs have heated up.  

These are good things, and we’re very lucky. It’s also been incredibly overwhelming, and the cumulative effects of weeks of miscommunication and frustration and exhaustion and selfishness on both of our parts welled up and spilled over when I couldn’t do something as simple as get dinner on the table.

I could have staved off that crying jag by throwing this meal on the stove, and in 30 minutes, all of my problems (well, most of them) could have been solved. Both of us could have been sitting down to a delicious, gluten-free meal that is good for the soul. Everything looks better once you’ve eaten.

This meal has its roots in a story I read in one of my favorite books on food, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant. One writer describes how he’d make black beans every night, simmering them with garlic and then serving them over homemade cornbread.

It sounded great, but I am not one of those people who just randomly has cornbread sitting around, nor am I the type to throw together a batch on a weeknight. So I tried it with polenta (infused with cheese, of course) and lo! This 30-minute meal was born.  You can skip the cheese for a yummy vegan option.

Black Beans and Cheesy Polenta
 
Author: Kate Wutz
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • salt to taste
  • 1 can black beans and juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp Frank’s Red Hot
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • cilantro, sour cream, any other garnishes for serving
Instructions
  1. First, put the polenta and broth on to simmer. Stir very frequently and cook, uncovered, until thick and the general consistency of grits (this will take about 30 minutes). Stir in butter and cheese, allow to melt, then taste and add salt as necessary. Remove from heat.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the beans and their juices over medium heat until they start to boil. Lower heat slightly, add garlic, cumin, cayenne and Frank’s and simmer, uncovered, until the polenta is done.The juices should thicken into a sauce. Stir in lime juice and remove from heat.
  3. Spoon polenta onto serving plates; top with beans and whatever accoutrements you desire.
 

 

Resolutions and Chicken Curry

cheap easy chicken curry vegan paleo options gluten-freeDid you make New Year’s resolutions? I almost never do. It seems to me if that if you want to change something in your life, you should just do it — go for it — change it, not try to force yourself to do that at an arbitrary time like the beginning of the year.

There is something symbolic and oddly satisfying about starting the new year with the best of intentions, though, with the optimism inherent in deciding that this year is going to be different. This year, I’ll make it to the gym three times a week. This year, I’ll keep up with blog posts. This year, I’ll finally read the financial magazines my husband constantly leaves around the house. This year, I’ll work harder to bring my lunch, not buy it.

Bringing my lunch is always a goal I’m working to achieve. Though I do get a break in the middle of the day for lunch, it’s also my chance to run errands, get a few extra hours in, or practice yoga. And with the price of a Cobb salad at my favorite lunch place reaching $10, it’s cheaper to bring lunch, too.

Curry is perfect for the purpose. It does have a smell, but it’s the kind that will have your officemates jealously wondering what you brought. It’s not too spicy, so you won’t spend the rest of the day smelling like it, and best of all — it has vegan and Paleo options to help you meet your other resolutions.

I borrowed most of this recipe from this one at Food52. The chickpeas were a last-second inspiration, but I love how they help stretch just a few chicken thighs into a meal that can feed you for at least three lunches. If you’re vegan, swap out the chicken for chickpeas and add the extra curry directly to the sauce. If you’re Paleo, swap out the chickpeas for extra chicken and maybe bump up the curry a little.

Whatever way you do it, it’s a delicious way to start the year off right.

Easy Chicken Curry
 
Author: Kate Wutz
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 4
A warm and comforting chicken curry with vegan and Paleo options that will help you stick to your New Year’s resolution of bringing lunch to work. Or, you know, just being an awesome cook.
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 2 1/2 tsp curry powder, separated
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (omit if desired)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bize-sized pieces
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk (make sure it’s thoroughly blended! Shake it up.)
  • White or cauliflower rice, if desired, for serving
Instructions
  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for 6-8 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then add 1 tsp curry powder, remaining spices, and tomato paste. Stir to combine.
  2. Toss chicken pieces in a plastic bag with the remaining 1 1/2 tsp curry powder and salt and pepper to taste. Add to pan and cook until they start to brown, about eight minutes. Add chickpeas about three minutes in.
  3. Once chicken in brown, pour in coconut milk and stir to combine. Simmer over medium-low heat for about ten minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Serve with white or cauliflower rice, naan, or whatever your heart desires.
 
Notes
To make vegan, simply replace the chicken with another 15-ounce can of chickpeas. Add the extra 1 1/2 tsp curry to the onions with the rest of the spices.[br]To make Paleo, replace chickpeas with three more chicken thighs and continue as directed.

 

 

Orange-Ginger Beef Stir-fry

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Whenever I go to any sort of Asian restaurant, I am always dying to order orange chicken. I never actually do, choosing instead something with vegetables and without the fried stuff and the gloppy, wonderful sauce that I could eat by the bucketful. But that orange chicken is always in the back of my mind.

This stir-fry is a compromise between my wants and my needs. See all of those carrots? A need. Carrots are really good for you. The baby bok choy adds crunch, plus the feeling of virtue that comes from eating something green. The beef? Protein, of course.

But it’s all enveloped in this sweet, salty, deliciously orange-y stir-fry sauce that’s a definite want. If you don’t love the idea of orange and beef, feel free to use chicken instead, but the orange and ginger play perfectly with the sweetness of the carrots. Plus, I mean, aren’t you sick of poultry by now? You can, if you like, replace the beef with a crown of broccoli if you need even more vegetables.

Best of all, this reheats beautifully, making it the perfect packable lunch for this week. Enjoy!

Orange-Ginger Beef Stir-fry
 
Author: Kate Wutz
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 4
A delicious 30-minute orange-ginger stirfry with tons of veggies and a touch of sweetness. Gluten-free, and can be made vegetarian by replacing the beef with broccoli.
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pound top round or ribeye, cut into thin slices
  • 1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 2 medium carrots, spiralized (you can also just use a normal peeler to peel thin noodle-like strips, or a julienne peeler)
  • 1 bunch baby bok choy, thinly sliced
  • juice and zest of one orange
  • 2 Tbsp honey (less, if you like)
  • 3 Tbsp gluten-free tamari
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • white rice, for serving
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add meat strips, and cook until browned on all sides. Remove to plate and set aside.
  2. Add onion to the pan, still over medium heat. Deglaze the pan with the rice vinegar and continue cooking onions until soft, about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together the orange juice, orange zest, honey, tamari and ginger in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. When onions are soft, add carrots and bok choy to the pan and cook, stirring, until the green parts of the bok choy are soft. Add your stir-fry sauce and continue to sautee until the carrots are starting to become more tender. Add beef and stir until the beef is heated through.
  5. Remove from heat and serve over white rice (or the grain of your choice). Store in the refrigerator for up to two days.
 

 

Beet Salad with Orange-Cardamom Dressing

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You know those days when you just want to eat a sandwich and go to bed? That’s pretty much how my life has been for the past two weeks. The “Polar Plunge,” as CNN has taken to calling it, has hit Idaho hard. While I expect living in the Rocky Mountains to be cold, of course, this is definitely the kind of cold that generally we don’t see until January, when we’ve already had two months to ease into it.

When it’s this cold, I have a hard time eating vegetables. Or, you know, anything that isn’t a carb and covered with cheese. This is lasagna weather, Minnesota “hot dish” weather, weather that demands meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy. It’s hard for me to get excited about salad when it’s so cold, my dog won’t go outside.

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This is a recurring problem in my life and on this blog. Thankfully, this salad has pretty much solved all of my problems with goat cheese, beets and a deliciously warming orange-cardamom dressing that not only made me feel all warm and cozy inside, but also infused a little bit of brightness into my otherwise lackluster, Vitamin D-deficient day.

And, because it’s winter, I bulked it up with kale and quinoa. No fussy, summery frisee or baby greens here — this is a winter salad that is more than up to the task of filling that winter-hungry tummy. Eat it for lunch, feel virtuous and full, and then go eat lobster mac and cheese or something for dinner. It’s winter — you totally have permission.

Beet Salad with Orange-Cardamom Dressing
 
Author: Kate Wutz
A gluten-free and meatless winter salad that you actually want to eat — beets, kale, quinoa and a bright orange-cardamom dressing keep things fresh and interesting even in the darkest polar plunge.
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • pinch ground ginger
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • zest of one orange, divided
  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 2 medium beets, roasted
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, de-stemmed and sliced into ribbons
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Instructions
  1. First, whisk the first four ingredients and 1 Tbsp of the orange zest in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Bring quinoa and water or stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Add remaining orange zest and stir. Lower heat and cover, simmering for about 15 minutes or until quinoa no longer has a small white dot in the middle and the “springs” have become uncoiled. Set aside and let cool.
  3. Meanwhile, cube the beets. Set aside in a bowl. Pour half of your dressing over the beets, then pour the other half over the quinoa. Stir to combine.
  4. If you want a pretty layered salad like the one I have pictured, place kale on individual serving plates, then top with quinoa, beets, goat cheese and almonds. If you would like a beautiful, brilliantly purple salad, combine everything in a very large mixing bowl and toss. Serve, or keep in the fridge for up to three days.
 
Notes
For a vegan version, use maple syrup in place of the honey and eliminate the cheese.