Monday, November 25, 2013

Chopped Kale Salad {The Perfect Winter Mix}

One of the greatest things about cooking is the opportunity it offers for change. You never have to rest on your laurels.. a single recipe (or idea) in hand, blindly and boringly eating the same old thing, day after day. A simple tweak to an old favorite plating, the introduction of a new flavor or pairing of ingredients, or a bit of inspiration from the world around you… and voila… you have something new to enjoy.  

This particular Chopped Kale Salad was born of a little of all the above. I make a lot of kale salads but this one was, surprisingly, inspired by a packaged salad at a favorite deli that was grabbed on-the-go, late in the afternoon, midway through a long checklist of errands. Desperate for something to eat, I popped into the deli along with an unexpected throng of other late-afternoon seekers of sustenance and quickly got sidelined along the sandwich and salad cold case. A long soup line was the tie-up, and one guaranteed to imped any thorough selection process. So, the cold case it was. Among the options was a little packaged kale “vegan” salad… with romaine, red cabbage, carrot, sugar peas, apples, grapes, and other bits and pieces mixed in with a tahini-based dressing. I loved it… and I loved that it incorporated so much of what can be gathered from a winter’s bounty into one healthy salad that would give any summer salad a run for its money. (I happen to believe that salads are equal opportunity seasonal fare… you just have to embrace the possibilities).

My version of this kale salad has much of what that little inspiration offered, with some of my own twists… crisp, leafy green kale and romaine leaves, purple cabbage, red onion, carrot, sugar snap peas, broccoli, apple, grapes and macadamia nuts… mixed with a white miso-tamari-orange vinaigrette that’s sweeten with a bit of honey (so not technically “vegan”).

Apart from the abundant nutritional value a salad like this offers, it’s just deliciously crunchy, savory-sweet, and popping with a bit of everything in every bite… like a good chop should… even in Winter.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mini Apple Pie Ice Cream Sandwiches {for Stemilt Growers}

Even in the savoriest of kitchens, this is the time of year that sweets really come to the forefront with a plethora of puddings, cookies, crumbles, and tarts being whipped, creamed, baked, and rolled. Even I will step from my content little perch as a potato-cheese-bread girl and partake in a bit of pastry puffery. (Desserts are, after all, almost as much about the presentation and form… as they are the flavor.)

But, truth be told, desserts that really appeal to me are what I’d call pretty little desserts… as in mini. What’s better than a sweet little nibble that satisfies that sweet tooth, without overindulging.

When Stemilt asked me to deliver something that might be a little twist on a holiday favorite, I immediately thought of Apple Pie A La Mode, a quintessential dessert this time of year. However, in its traditional form (typically a generous slice), it’s always just a bit too much for me after a full meal. I love all the dessert options that say “holiday” out loud and bold… only I love them even more if they can make that statement in just a few bites.

Mini desserts are perfect holiday treats; having all the flavor you crave with little of the guilt or indulgence… a mini splurge.

These Mini Apple Pie Ice Cream Sandwiches are simply your favorite, store-bought vanilla ice cream with a no-fuss crust and a quick stove-top medley of holiday-seasoned apples mixed in… then sandwiched between mini homemade cookies. If you want you can even use your favorite pre-made pie crust and boxed cookies. But don’t cheat on your apple pie “filling.” That’s the sweet secret to these little nibbles and a firm apple, like Stemilt’s Jonagold variety, works beautifully!

Sweet… simple… and small. For recipe details, click over to The Stem.

Disclaimer: While I am being compensated by Stemilt Growers as a guest contributor to The Stem, the views and/or opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Easy 30-Minute Chicken & Brown Rice Soup {with Fresh Lemon}

The best chicken soup is made from a homemade stock, patiently rendered over a few hours and coupled with a beautiful, tender roasted chicken that’s pulled from the bone and married with a pretty chop of the tried and true mirepoix… onion, celery and carrot.

The homemade-stock variety of this soup classic is often something that’s contemplated and planned for. It’s comfort food at its best… warm, soothing and satisfying. Perhaps it’s a pot you put together on a lazy Sunday afternoon?

And then… there’s everyday cooking and the desire to still have that homemade chicken soup flavor… in 30 minutes. Soup is such a comfort food and you just don’t always have hours to get there.

The trick is to build flavor… even if it’s only 30 minutes you have to work with. There’s still time to craft a tasty, satisfying bowl. Here it’s achieved by being a little patient with that ever-important veggie trio and getting some seasoning on it that can develop some aroma and flavor, and just the right texture… before getting doused with broth. The chicken (in this version) is diced into small cubes to mimic the veggies and gets a little seasoning and swim time before the rice joins in. The seasonings are fairly standard… dried parsley, tarragon, a bay leaf, salt and pepper. When the soup is almost ready to ladle out, it gets a good little squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a little chop of fresh parsley. These last two layers add a fresh pop of flavor that is subtle but do much to brighten up this soup... cutting through what can sometimes be a monotone flavor level without it. Just a little spritz of fresh lemon adds wonders to the flavor dimension of chicken soup... it's a naturally bright flavor note that a soup like this kind of begs for.

This is a 30-minute Chicken & Rice Soup that does a good job of delivering a tasty bowl of comfort… patiently planned for, or not… perfect for a busy weekday or a truly lazy Sunday afternoon.