Quick Tip Friday – Leftover Chicken Salad

For some reason or another, I always seem to have chicken lingering in my fridge waiting for me to use (hopefully before it spoils). I hate throwing away food, but leftover chicken just as is can be quite boring. To make it into something more delectable, I like to transform it into a new dish. One of the easiest methods is to create a chicken salad.

quicktip.chickensalad2

Simply shred chicken into thin slices, combine with a creamy dressing and mix in equal parts vegetables. Voila!

Be creative with your ingredients. You can use any number of vegetables from carrots and corn to edamame and red peppers. Try to utilize what you already have on hand and get creative from there. When it comes to the dressing, I like to lighten things up with a combination of mustard and mayonaise. My favorite seasonings include paprika, garlic powder and cumin, but you don’t have to take the Southwest route. Be imaginative and combine any flavor combo you think would be delicious. The results may surprise you. When it comes time to serve, pair with hearty bread, grainy crackers and a good sized green salad.

Your coworkers may swoon over your perfectly crafted lunch, but they don’t have to know you did it with leftovers!

You can find the exact recipe for my chicken salad recipe here.

quicktip.chickensalad

Massaged Kale Salad with Dried Cherries and Macadamia Nuts

Here I am with another recipe for kale. I just love the stuff — as a pesto, in my smoothies, and lately raw in my salads. It wasn’t before I discovered a technique called massaging that I actually considered tossing the bitter greens into my salad rotation. I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Kath Eats Real Food, when I learned that you could actually “rub” your kale to tenderize it. It’s the bitterness that actually makes kale unpalatable, but with a little tender and care, eating it raw is actually quite delicious.  My first attempt was a simple combination of  olive oli, lemon juice, honey, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. After massaging the kale between my fingers for at least five minutes, I could see that its volume had decreased at least by half. I took a bite and was surprised by the absence of bitterness. It does have a bit of a bite, but only equivalent to the tang of the lemon juice. The balance of each flavor and texture was delivered in one perfect bite: rich, earthy, sweet, salty, sour and chewy.

kalecherrysalad

If you can’t tell by now, this is my most recent obsession. I decided to experiment the other night for dinner by incorporating different textures into the salad. But I could only use the ingredients I had on hand. I saw a small bag of dried cherries I purchased weeks ago, begging to be used up. I emptied the thin plastic bag to find the cherries had definitely dried up a bit. To make sure they didn’t stick to our fillings (the dentist loves us), I decided to soak them in a little water with a splash of Cointreau (any other orange liqueur would do). It’s not really necessary to booze them up, but I love the extra pop of flavor it provides.

Side note: For recipes that require a quality alcohol, I buy the airport size bottles. That way I don’t have to spend an absurd amount of money of booze. Fruit liqueurs and bourbon are my most frequented spirits.

My most recent work desk snack (I enjoy a small snack between breakfast and lunch, so I like to have healthy options right at my fingertips), has been macadamia nuts. They are great for digestion and contain antioxidants that help protect the body against certain types of cancer. I found some leftover in the pantry that didn’t make it to my desk jar. After roasting them to nutty perfection, I had the perfect crunch component my salad needed.

kalecherrysalad4

The dressing is an apple cider and olive oil based vinaigrette with tart mustard and sweet honey. Its tangy sweetness plays perfectly with the sour dried cherries and salty roasted nuts. Once tossed and chilled, the boyfriend and I agreed this was salad was surprisingly addictive. In fact, we picked every piece out of the bowl until it was stark empty. Since, we’ve enjoyed this exact same salad three times as a side for a dinner. Its pairs perfectly with grilled meats and vegetables, pasta and pizza. It’s incredibly satisfying, but not a bit heavy on your stomach. In fact, you’ll feel better after consuming a bowl of this salad – energized, satisfied and nourished.

kalecherrysalad2

Print this Recipe

Massaged Kale Salad with Dried Cherries and Macadamia Nuts

serves 2-3, easily doubles

4 heaping cups kale, torn into bite size pieces (1/2 -3/4  bunch of kale)

2 tablespoons dried cherries

¼ cup raw, unsalted macadamia nuts

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon honey

salt and fresh cracked pepper

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

  1. Remove rib from kale and tear the part into bite size pieces. Add to a sieve for rinsing. Run under cold water until all dirt is removed. Add kale pieces to a salad a spinner and spin until dry. Set aside.

  2. Add cold water (optional: a splash of liqueur) to a small bowl and add cherries to soak for at least 20 minutes. Remove from liquids and chop into smaller pieces. Set aside

  3. Place a dry skillet over medium heat. Add whole macadamia nuts and toss occasionally until toasted on all sides, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Once slightly cooled, add to a plastic baggie. Using a heavy bottomed skillet, smack the bagged nuts until broken into smaller pieces. Set aside

  4. In a medium size bowl, add apple cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, dijon mustard, honey, salt and fresh cracked pepper. Whisk vigorously until the vinaigrette comes together, the color will be a light hue of gold.

  5. Add torn pieces of kale to dressing bowl, and begin massaging. Move the kale through the dressing until it coats the kale evenly. Using your fingertips, gently rub the kale pieces until slightly wilted, about 5 minutes. Taste for bitterness. If there is still a bite, continue massaging.

  6. Add the dried cherry pieces, macadamia pieces and parmesan cheese. Toss gently until ingredients are equally distributed. Serve immediately or chill in the fridge until ready to eat (the kale will continue to tenderize if you chill it).

Portobello & Red Pepper Fajitas with Avocado Crema

Fajitas have a special place in my heart. To put it lightly, they were one of my first infatuations with a particular style of food. Whatever restaurant we visited, it would be the first item I checked the menu for. Which now I realize is pretty silly since my family mostly visited Italian and American restaurants growing up. Mexican restaurants were always out of the question since my mother had a strong distaste for spicy food. So, if my memory is correct, I mostly ordered this dish from Chili’s (one of the best available restaurant selections at the time mind you!).

Each time, I would anticipate its dramatic entrance. There was something so exciting, fun and appetizing about the the sizzling plate of peppers, onions and steak arriving hot at your table. Most times, I couldn’t even wait for the audible sputters to seize. I would immediately start building my perfect rendition of the fajita, usually burning my fingers along the way.

veggiefajitas

My perfect fajita combination started with a hefty base of peppers and onions, followed by a generous serving of steak, topped with loads of guacamole — never forgetting to season with a fresh squeeze of lime juice. I think I enjoyed the dish so much because it was really my first account of fusing savory, sweet and tangy items. I was smitten with the way it danced along my palate and how each bite tasted better than the last. It might be safe to say fajitas were my gateway to becoming a foodie.

veggiefajitas2

Today, I don’t enjoy fajitas quite often. Not because I’m over them, we just don’t dine out frequently enough to regularly enjoy them. Which is why I decided to whip up a batch for an early dinner. Since I’m always looking for new meatless meals to prepare, I decided to take a strict vegetable route for these. Meaty portobello mushrooms take the place of marinated steak. Charred red peppers, red onions and corn come together to make a perfect base. And instead of guacamole, a healthy rendition of avocado crema adds the perfect amount of creaminess. Seasoned rice would also make a great addition, but for the sake of a light dinner I chose to skip the extra carbs.

The dish itself is so ridiculously easy to make — perfect for work night dinners. The mushrooms and peppers brown up in less than 15 minutes and the crema will literally take you two minutes and one bowl. How perfect is that? Pair with some black or refried beans for a clean protein to round out the meal.

veggiefajitas3

OH! And don’t forget the fresh lime slices. Enjoy!

Print this Recipe

Portobello & Red Pepper Fajitas with Avocado Crema

serves 4 

fajitas

4 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed and gills discarded

2 mixed red bell peppers (I prefer red and orange)

1 small red onion

1/2 cup frozen corn

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

fresh cracked black pepper

1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro

fresh lime slices for garnish

4-8 small flour or corn tortillas

avocado crema

1 medium ripe avocado, halved, seeded and removed from skin

1/4 cup plain greek yogurt

1 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon honey

zest of one lime (optional)

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

fresh cracked black pepper

directions:

1. Make the avocado crema first. Slice avocado in half by slowly rotating your knife around the middle. Gently tap the seed with your knife to “grab” the seed and  discard. Using a spoon, gently remove the avocade flesh from the skin. Add to small a bowl. Using a fork, mash the avocado until it resembles guacamole. Add greek yogurt, cumin, honey, lime zest, lime juice, salt and pepper. Mix until well incorporated and all avocado lumps are gone. Chill in the fridge until ready to use.

2. Gently wipe portobello tops with a damp towel. Slice into 1/2 inch thick slices. Set aside. Cut the tops off of the peppers, cut in half and remove the seeds. Julienne into 1/4 inch slices and set aside. Cut the root end off the onion and set it up on its flat side. Slice through the middle of the onion and remove skins. Place each half flat and slice thinly from one side to the other.

3. Place two large saute pans over medium heat. Once hot, use a pastry brush to coat the bottom of each pan with canola oil. Add sliced pepper and onion into one pan and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss gently and continue to cook until peppers are juicy and the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add frozen corn and continue to cook until warmed and slightly charred, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add two tablespoons fresh cilantro, toss gently. Meanwhile, add portobellos to the other pan, tossing until browned and softened. Once mushrooms reach a deep brown, season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Warm small tortillas in the microwave and wrap in tinfoil to keep warm. Serve the fajita fillings with flour or corn tortillas, avocado crema, fresh chopped cilantro and your choice of cheese. Don’t forget the hot sauce!

 

Pear Banana Bread with Hazelnuts

I really don’t indulge in desserts much. I like to bake but usually, I just end up taking the sweets as treats to the office. It’s not that I don’t enjoy eating sweet things, I just don’t prefer the way  rich food makes me feel. Instead of feeling satisfied, I usually just feel sluggish and bloated.  Plus, I have a really sensitive stomach and I never know what’s going to set it off. It could be anything from eating too much sugar to too much dairy. So to avoid any discomfort, I just tend to stay away from anything overly sweet.

pearbread3

When I do decide to indulge, I choose recipes that don’t require a ton of sugar or a pound of butter. I also like to Incorporate fresh or dried fruit whenever possible. It’s my favorite way to add a little sweetness naturally. And if you sub out at least half of the white flour with whole wheat pastry flour, it helps make dessert feel a little more filling.

This quick bread basically has every component. I kept the sugar as minimum as possible by adding mashed banana and grated pears for unrefined sweetness. When choosing the “processed” portion, I used some raw sugar I had on hand. You could also use white sugar. If you don’t have whole wheat pastry flour around, feel free to use whole wheat (it will be a bit more dense). Or,  just use all all-purpose flour if you don’t have either. Because the cake is incredibly soft, I threw in some hazelnuts for texture. The chewy cake and crunchy, roasted nuts is the perfect texture juxtaposition. If you don’t have hazelnuts, feel free to substitute any nut you have on hand. I imagine almonds or macadamia nuts would be delightful as well.

pearbread

When baking, this fruit-filled bread will permeate your house with the most magnificent smells of warm spice, which makes this a great dessert to prepare right before entertaining guests. The flavors of cinnamon and banana will bring you right into nostalgia. For me, I am reminded of my mother and her amazing banana bread. I used to get so excited once our bananas reached the ripening stage past raw enjoyment. Brown, speckled nanners always meant my mother would soon be in the kitchen whipping up my favorite treat. While I cannot say this bread quite compares to hers (is it possible to top your mother’s baking?), it does come pretty close. I love the soft, crumbly cake texture combined with a bite of crunchy hazelnuts. Each slice is laced with hints of pure sweetness. It’s truly a perfect combination.

pearbread2

Print this Recipe

Pear Banana Bread with Hazelnuts

makes one 9 x 5 inch loaf

3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour*

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 cup mashed banana (1-2 ripe medium bananas)

1 cup grated pear (1-2 ripe pears)

6 tablespoons coconut oil, melted**

1/2 cup raw sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup raw hazelnuts

7-10 pear slices for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Grease and flour one 9×5 inch loaf pan. Set aside.

3. Evenly distribute hazelnuts across a dry baking sheet. Roast for 5-8 minutes or until fragrant and skins begin to peel. Place semi-cooled hazelnuts into a tea towel and fold the towel over the nuts. Using both hands, roll nuts around in the towel until skins begin to remove. I wasn’t able to remove all skins, so if a few pieces remain no worries. Keep oven preheated.

4. In a medium sized bowl, add flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Mix lightly with a fork. Add hazelnuts to quickly coat with some flour (it prevents sinking) and remove floured nuts a small bowl. In a large mixing bowl, add mashed bananas, grated pears, melted coconut oil and sugar. Whisk everything together until it’s fully incorporated. Whisk in the egg and vanilla extract. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, using a spatula or spoon to completely incorporate the flour until adding more. Once consistency is similar to banana bread, stir in hazelnuts. Pour into prepared loaf pan and top with pear slices for garnish. You could also add some raw sugar on top for crunch.

5. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until the bread is lightly browned on the edges and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before serving.

Notes

*Substitute whole wheat flour or just use all all-purpose flour if you don’t have whole wheat pastry flour.

*Substitute canola oil, butter, or vegetable oil if you don’t own coconut oil.

 

Quick Tip Friday – How to Stack up your blender

I have to apologize for my recent absence. Somewhere along the line of having a full-time job, dedicating time to a relationship, having fun with a new roommate, entertaining some visitors and finding time to breathe, I lost time to write. I hope you can forgive me for taking a break. To make it up, I’m introducing a new series! Every Friday, I want to share a simple, quick tip that I have learned since starting my culinary journey.

Today’s tip is one that I actually discovered myself — just from trial and error. I love to make smoothies for breakfast because they are quick, easy and super tasty. I usually use smoothies as an opportunity eat a lot of greens. It just feels good to eat an entire salad before it’s even 8AM. Plus, it influences my food decisions for the remainder of the day. Generally, if I eat a green smoothie for breakfast, I crave something much more wholesome for lunch.

quicktip

There may be a bit of difficulty if you only have a mediocre blender like me. If that’s the case, you just have to strategically place ingredient so the blender doesn’t have to work too hard to blend. This is what I have found is the most successful. Start with liquids like your yogurt and milk. From there, layer in your greens (I like a mixture of kale and spinach) and grains like oatmeal. Next, place your heavy ingredients including banana, apples, berries or any other fruit. At this point, add your nut butters. I have used a wide variety and they all are equally delicious. My current favorites are sunflower seed butter and super creamy almond butter. Top it off with chia seeds or flax seeds, whir away, and you’ve got one nutrition packed smoothie. The best part is — it’s absolutely delicious.

If you need a green smoothie recipe, try my kale apple banana smoothie. It’s my most popular post.

 

Curry Mango Tuna Salad

It is really sad that tuna gets such a bad rap when in reality, it’s a great source of protein packed with minerals your body needs. Canned tuna not only contains selenium, an antioxidant that can help protect your cells from damage, but it also contains potassium, which helps keep your heart and kidneys healthy. Plus, it’s a great canvas for any flavor combination your heart desires. Depending on what recipe you choose, you’ll want to know the difference in variations, since each has its own flavor profile and texture. I tend to lean toward two varieties: solid white albacore packed in water and an Italian version that contains packed light tuna in olive oil.

currymangotunasalad5

If you buy the variety packed in water like the albacore tuna above, it tastes incredibly light. The tuna is a tad more chunky and firm than its lower quality counterpart, so it’s great for mayo flavored salads since it won’t fall apart as easily. Plus, you can really expand your horizons by experimenting with seasonings since it’s basically a blank slate for any combination of flavors. Tuna packed in olive oil is my absolute favorite because of its fruity accents and mild flavor. It’s a tad saltier than its albacore cousin, but not enough to overwhelm your palate.

currymangotunasalad6

For lunch last week, I wanted something with a little staying power since I would only have one day to prep my lunches. I decided to play around with tuna salad, but  couldn’t decide what flavor combination would  keep me entertained for days. I looked to my fridge for some inspiration and after spotting some frozen mango, I knew exactly where I wanted this salad to go.

currymangotunasalad4

I drained the tuna and flaked it gently into a large bowl. After dicing up the frozen mango, I grabbed an orange bell pepper and cubed it into equally small cubes and tossed them alongside the flaky fish. For a little green color and plant-protein boost, I added a handful of thawed edamame beans and got to work on the sauce. Since I had plans to play around with curry, I wanted the dressing to be creamy but certainly not heavy. To avoid a sauce packed with saturated fat, I opted to make the base out of greek yogurt and flavored it with a tiny bit of mayonaise and a little dijon mustard for bite. Next, I added a good dose of curry powder (you can opt to add less) and a sprinkle of smoked paprika. For a touch of  sweetness and a little bite, I rounded the recipe out with some honey and lemon juice. Mixed together, the sauce is an explosion of spices the minute it hits your palate and rounds nicely ending with smoky, sweet notes.

I enjoyed mine over crusty bread the first serving, then atop a green salad for the next. To mix it up on the third day, I chose to use some wheat thins for a fun, utensil-free meal. Just dip, scoop and enjoy!

currymangotunasalad3

Print this Recipe

 

Curry Mango Tuna Salad

serves 3-4

2 five ounce cans of tuna (I used one albacore in water and one soaked in olive oil)

1 orange bell pepper, diced into 1/2 in cubes

1/2 cup frozen mango, thawed and diced into 1/2 inch cubes

3/4 cup frozen edamame, thawed

2 tablespoons plain greek yogurt

1 tablespoon mayo

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon honey

1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

cracked black pepper

Drain both cans of tuna thoroughly. Flake tuna into the bottom of a large bowl. Add the diced orange pepper, mango and edamame to the bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk yogurt, mayo, mustard, honey and fresh lemon juice. Add paprika, curry powder, salt and pepper and whisk again. Pour over tuna and vegetable mixture. Using a large spatula, gently mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed and well dressed. Taste to season. Serve immediately alongside crunchy bread or atop a green salad. The tuna salad will keep for up to 3 days chilled in an airtight container.

Cinnamon Vanilla Cashew Milk

The town I live in today is a far cry from where I grew up. With a population of only 2,000, you could say our Midwestern town was almost microscopic. Actually we can’t even claim that previous descriptive, we are technically classified as a village (yes, those still exist), so I should be politically correct..

cashewmilk3

Anyways, growing up in a rural town has had its many advantages. Not only was I oblivious to violence and danger for most of my childhood, I was also constantly surrounded by compassion. Every neighbor, postal worker, police officer and teacher knew me on a first and last name basis. Because if they weren’t acquaintances of my family, they were probably long time friends. Most residents have lived there for most, if not all of their lives. So whether I was running around town, playing basketball with my best friend or just hanging out at my high school events, I was always surrounded by people who knew me on a personal basis. While that had it’s own slew of setbacks (if only drama was nonexistent), it also has an incredible impact on my character. For the first 18 years of my life, I was held accountable by a community of people, which just motivated me to prove myself accountable. My motivation and drive to succeed are significant effects from living among a close knit support system. It has also incited my appreciation for kindness and genuine empathy. While I cannot speak on the level of tolerance, I can say that the special gift of Midwesterners is that we genuinely care about the wellbeing of those around us.

On a lighter note, we also have a great appreciation for a tall glass of milk. There was not one single dinner that I attended through my childhood that went without a serving of good ol’ wholesome milk. Today I don’t indulge the practice much, if ever. Because in the last few years, dairy products have started to affect my digestion, so I have been limiting my consumption. And since I do appreciate some creamy oatmeal and frothy smoothies in the morning, I had to find substitutes to satisfy my cravings. When it comes to the packaged variety, my favorite is coconut milk. It’s incredibly creamy and doesn’t taste watery like rice or soy.

cashewmilk4

And since I’ve discovered this new gadget called a nut milk bag, I think I am going to be making more of my own variety. Nut milk is incredibly nutritious and tastes just as delicious as the cow version, especially when homemade. It may sound intimidating, but I assure you it’s as easy as whipping up a milkshake. The great part about this recipe is that you can swap out cashews for any nut you’d like. From almonds to pepitas to macadamias, you can really use them all. Just make sure to soak them for at least eight hours and overnight if possible. In the morning, drain your nuts and give them a good rinse. Add to a blender along with a good serving of water and whirr away. Drain the milk through a nifty nut milk bag or you could use cheesecloth or pantyhose. Any item will get the job done. What remains is the pulp. You can either use it in smoothies for an extra protein boost or you could bake with it. At this point, you can drink the milk straight up or have some fun with flavorings. I went a sweet route here with a little sprinkle of cinnamon and touch of vanilla and honey. Use your imagination and have fun with the flavorings!

cashewmilk5

Now, you can pour the strained milk into a clean resealable container and let it chill in the fridge. Enjoy the milk for up to 3-4 days. It’s delcious on it’s own, in oatmeal, blended into smoothies or atop crunchy cereal. I promise you won’t even miss the dairy version. It’s creamy, smooth and slightly sweet from the honey and vanilla. Now, please excuse me while I indulge in nostalgia with a big, chilled glass of milk. Enjoy!

Print this recipe.

 

Cinnamon Vanilla Cashew Milk

makes about 32 oz milk

1 cup raw, unsalted cashews

4 cups filtered water

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

nut milk bad or cheese cloth over a sieve

Place cashews into a small bowl and cover with water. Cover and let sit for at least 8 hours. Once soaked, drain and rinse cashews under cold water. Add to blender with 4 cups water and blend on high until completely processed and milk begins to froth. Pour into a mason jar or pitcher lined with a nut milk mad or covered with a sieve and cheesecloth. Once liquids completely pass through, squeeze excess milk from bad using clean hands. Save pulp for smoothies or use in a cracker recipe. Add drained milk back into a cleaned blender and add honey, cinnamon and vanilla. Blend quickly and store in a clean mason jar or sealable pitcher. Keep in the fridge for 2-4 days, shake before use. Almond pulp can be kept in an airtight container for 3-4 days.