Crunchy Green Salad

crunchy-green-salad

 Today will forever be ingrained in my head as one of the most embarrassing ever for me. It will be a day I won’t forget until the end of time, a day that will stick with me for a number of reasons, but mostly because..today is the day the salad bar lady at Eatzi’s made me cry. Like uncontrollable, ugly crying where your head tells you to stop but your face just won’t do it. The tears were flowing and my face was pinched. And I need to put this out there- I’m really not a huge crier. I mean of course I cry, but generally my reaction to things that set me off is anger and retaliation (wonderful traits in a person, I know), not heaps of emotion and sadness. But today was different, I don’t know why, and it’s going to take me a while to recover. I wish I had some super dramatic story to tell you, but the short of it is: I waited for 15 minutes in the DELICIOUS MOST AMAZING salad bar line at Eatzi’s – a rarity these days because walking around there with a double stroller is awkward and taxing- made the most perfect salad that I was going to eat tonight for dinner, and just as the lady handed it to me, one of my twins knocked it out of my hand and onto the floor (name protected because he is a minor) . They’re screaming, they want to leave, I look at the line and it’s now 20 people deep, and I meagerly asked the lady if she wouldn’t mind just adding a little lettuce and chicken into my bowl. Nope, she said, “there’s a line behind you if you haven’t noticed”. Well, I did notice and I certainly wasn’t trying to cut in line, but I was a little overwhelmed and I wanted that damn salad. I had worked hard for it. Or at least something to eat with their lemon vinaigrette (it’s the best if you’ve never tried it). I was pretty sad but ok until I put my bowl in the trash and was walking out the door and another older mom- the kindest woman- came up to me, hugged me, and said that was so horrible and that I was doing a wonderful job (I mean, she doesn’t really know if I’m doing a wonderful job, she probably didn’t know I was an hour late feeding the twins’ lunch because I was at Eatzi’s getting a salad, but..). It was so nice! Nice people make me cry. (So does losing my lunch). Anyway, tears started flowing, then the manager Dave got involved, and now I’m home and Dave and Eli the other manager are bringing me my favorite Eatzi’s dinner tonight (the 3 of us really bonded). So unnecessary, but so generous, and a reminder to always be nice to people. It can make or break their day. 

Anyway, I’m not eating this crunchy green salad tonight because tonight I am eating the rotisserie chicken family meal with mashed potatoes and roasted cauliflower. But I make it for lunch a lot, and probably even more going forward because I don’t think I’ll be showing my face in the Eatzi’s salad line anytime soon. 

Recipe

  • 1/2 bunch kale
  • 1 ripe pear
  • feta cheese
  • sunflower seeds
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • S&P

Whisk the salad dressing ingredients together- rice vinegar, oils, water, soy sauce, Dijon, honey, lime and S&P. Chop the kale (double the dressing recipe if using the whole bunch), and toss in the salad dressing. Let sit for at least 20-30 min (kale tastes better when marinated a bit, IMO).  Divide into two large bowls, and top with desired amount of chopped pear, avocado, feta, and sunflower seeds. 

Healthy Creamy Spinach Soup

healthy-creamy-spinach-soup

I really love my weekends. I’m sure you’re thinking duh, everyone does! But I reeeeeally indulge on my weekends. I eat great food, drink (lots of) great drinks, and there’s usually a few DQ blizzards or donut ice cream sandwiches sprinkled in there too. I love it. I love food. I love wine. But when Monday rolls around, I need to reverse some of the damage I’ve done over the past 72 hours. And actually, I like that too. I like eating healthy, fresh, and relatively light during the week.  And last year, right after we had the boys, my mother in law brought over a couple containers of spinach soup for me to freeze and eat when I had a free hand. I kept it in there for quite a while because I never thought I was ‘craving’ spinach soup…but when I finally tried it I was blown away by how delicious and satisfying it was. I asked her for the recipe, but because she didn’t have exact measurements this is only loosely based on hers. I wanted to keep mine relatively clean and light, But you could add more cream, more butter, more corn starch to thicken. Or you could add less milk and less butter if you wanted it even cleaner. I also did a high spinach to liquid ratio, because I wanted it to pack a strong spinach punch. But you could add up to 2 more cups of liquid to dilute a little more. Basically, this is a very easy soup to make and you can freeze the leftovers for a rainy day.

Recipe

  • 16 oz spinach, stems mostly removed
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 3/4 cup diced celery
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups full sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper (more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch mixed with 1/3 cup water (optional)
  • Topping ideas: parmesan, croutons, feta, sour cream, store bought stuffing

Heat a little olive oil in a large soup pot, and toss in the onions and celery.  Cook for several minutes, then add in the butter to melt.  When onions are cooked, throw in the spinach and 1/2 cup water. Stir, then cover and cook until wilted (only about 5 min). Side note- removing the stems from the spinach isn’t nearly as annoying or time consuming as I thought it would be. Just tear as many off as you get to, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. You could also use a package of frozen spinach instead. When spinach is wilted and tender, transfer everything to a food processor and puree. Pour it back into the soup pot, then add in the chicken broth, whole milk, kosher salt, pepper, and thyme (if using). Stir to combine and allow to heat.  For a thicker soup, whisk together 3 tablespoons of corn starch with about 1/3 cup water. Add it to the soup and bring to a low simmer to thicken. Serve plain, or top with cheese, croutons, or sour cream.

taco-salad-with-easy-baked-tortilla-bowl

There’s nothing like waking up on a Monday morning to a kid with a 104 degree fever, and another kid who decided today was the day they would drop their morning nap. Days like today make me feel like twins is just one too many babies. Just kidding! I love having twins. But you know what I mean…

The good news is I finally got my poor, sick, hot little baby down for a nap. The bad news is the other one has located all of his noisiest, most annoying toys and is stacking them on the bench next to me. So far we’ve got a xylophone, a dump truck that honks, a little magic stick that plays club music, a laptop that sings the ABC’s, and an elephant that shakes his head and sing ‘do your ears hang low, can you tie them in a bow… yada yada yada.’  All next to me, all turned on.  Very annoying, but I guess also very cute. I guess that’s the thing about kids.

So here I have a great weeknight meal for you. Easy taco salad with ground beef and all the taco salad basics, served in a homemade baked tortilla bowl. I absolutely LOVE the tortilla shells they serve taco salads in at restaurants, but a) I couldn’t find them at the store and b) I don’t like to fry things.  So I baked mine with a regular flour tortilla, and loved it!! And the ground beef has such great flavor, you’ll never need to use on of those taco seasoning packets again.

Recipe

  • The best taco beef recipe here
  • Taco sauce or homemade sauce here
  • Shredded iceberg lettuce
  • Shredded Cheddar or Jack/Cheddar Blend
  • 1 can refried beans
  • Sour cream
  • Diced tomatoes
  • 4 large flour tortillas
  • Canola oil or nonstick spray

First start the ground beef. While it’s cooking, preheat the oven to 350.  Warm up the tortillas in the microwave, then spray each generously on both sides with canola oil or baking spray.  Turn a muffin pan upside down, and situate the tortilla in between 4 muffin holders, pressing the center down to create the bowl. Repeat with remaining three. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and bake for about 12-15 minutes until bowls are crispy and slightly brown. Remove and let cool.  Heat the refried beans in a pan over the stove or in the microwave. Line the bottom of the taco bowl with beans, then top with cheese, lettuce, tomato, more cheese, and ground beef.  Top with taco sauce, sour cream, and guac.

cheesy-spinach-artichoke-crostini

As I’m writing this post, I am watching one of my sons climb across the top of the couch with the corner of my eye. Dangerous for sure. I need to get him off, but honestly it’s the 87th time I’ve done it today, and it’s getting old. He thinks it’s hilarious, I think it’s annoying, and that’s where we’re at. These boys of mine are CRAZY DAREDEVILS. And they’re only 1! Luckily they’re fairly coordinated too, but I understand I can’t rely on that as a safety measure. My older son (by 90 minutes), actually has a bit of a hedgehog safety mechanism built in. When he falls his little fat body kind of tucks and rolls. It’s amazing. And extraordinarily cute.

I love a good recipe hack, particularly when it comes to appetizers. I hate wasting my time making appetizers. They’re almost always putzy and they aren’t supposed to be the star of the show. So when my husband and I thought about making some sort of spinach dip app, we thought about how to make it easier. Store bought creamed spinach is the key, and it adds a nice sweetness that’s not always there with spinach artichoke dip. LOVE this app, it takes no time, and it’s always a party favorite. Happy weekend!

Recipe

  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • Butter or light butter spread
  • 1.5 cups prepared creamed spinach
  • 6 artichokes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly butter each of the sliced baguette pieces. Place in oven and toast until just slightly brown.  Meanwhile, mix your creamed spinach with the chopped artichokes and parmesan cheese. I got my creamed spinach at our grocery store Central Market, but get it anywhere! Boston Market has a good one.  Place a heaping spoonful of spinach onto each crostini, then top with shredded mozzarella (I like to be generous here, but you can certainly go easy on the cheese). Place back in oven until cheese is melted.

roasted-butternut-squash-soup

Today has been a total bust. I went to a play date at a pumpkin patch with my mom’s group, only to get there and not be able to find anyone. It’s a new group, so I didn’t have any phone numbers. No worries though, I’m at a pumpkin patch on a beautiful sunny fall day! I’ll just let the boys out to play! What a terrible idea. I lasted literally about 3.5 minutes before I realized that it was too much for one person – – open area, 8 million kids running around, and my boys running in opposite directions. I decided it was better to go home and be bored than to come home with 0 or 1 babies. So I decided I would redeem the morning by getting a Coke Zero. I went to multiple drive thrus, only to find Diet Coke, which wasn’t gonna cut it. Finally ended up at 7-11, got everyone out and into the stroller, and got a Big Gulp of Coke Zero. Best Coke Zero I have ever tasted – they do something special to their fountain drinks there. Got home, got Price out of the car, and as we’re walking in he knocks it out of my hand. Coke Zero all over the sidewalk. Total bust. Not the worst day, but definitely not the best. And to be honest it’s hard to truly understand until you have two 14 month olds at the same time. Just the sheer effort and manpower it takes to get them dressed, into their car seats, out of their car seats, and into the stroller is too much sometimes. Or maybe annoying is a better word. Two kids in rear facing car seats is annoying.

Anyway, I am enjoying the rest of my afternoon with this butternut squash soup.  So simple and so quick. I roasted my squash for that extra roasted flavor, but you could easily just microwave it to save some time. I love getting the cubed butternut squash in a bag from Trader Joe’s, because it makes this recipe just ridiculously easy.

Recipe

  • ~2 cups chopped butternut squash (I love the Trader Joe’s pre-cut bag)
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cup chicken broth (full sodium)
  • 1 tablespoon half & half
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • Pinch nutmeg

Roast the butternut squash on a baking dish at 400 for about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the onion in a pinch of olive oil.  Add the chicken broth to heat. Then, transfer the cooked squash and broth mixture to a food processor or combine it in the pan and puree with an immersion blender. Transfer back to the soup pot. Stir in the half & half, syrup and nutmeg. A little bit of salty Feta cheese goes great on top of this.

apple-and-smoked-gouda-stuffed-chicken

You guys, it’s 96 degrees in Dallas today.  I feel like I’ve been patiently waiting for fall, trying to see the positives of a never ending sweltering summer, and I just can’t do it anymore. I might lose my %$^&. I just literally drove my kids to and from a doctor’s appointment, and I’m so hot I might need to take another shower. I wish there was someone I could call and complain to, and maybe ask for my money back. I did not sign up for this.

The only silver lining is that we can continue using the man-made Braley waterpark in the backyard (which includes this fun little thing), and if the heat keeps up I could probably start charging neighbors for admission.

Since it’s too hot to cook any stews, I’m keeping things quick and simple in the kitchen. This dinner was delicious, fun, pretty, healthy, easy, and fast. What else could you ask for?

Recipe

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (2 full breasts), butterflied
  • 1 large Honeycrisp apple (or two small), cut into thin slices
  • 4 slices smoked Gouda (looooove Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil

Pan sauce (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup apple juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt

Season the butterflied chicken with salt and pepper. I bought 4 chicken breasts and butterflied them myself (it’s pretty easy using a sharp knife, lay the breast half down flat and cut parallel to your surface until about 1/2 in from the edge), but you can easily have the butcher do this for you. Preheat the oven to 350 and heat about a teaspoon of olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the sliced apple to the skillet and saute for only about 2 minutes, to soften them up a bit. Transfer to a bowl.

With the butterflied chicken breasts lying open, add one thick slice of gouda (I like the pre-cut round variation from Trader Joe’s), followed by 1/4 of the apple slices. The gouda I centered in the middle of the butterfly, but the apple slices I placed on one side to prevent them from breaking.  Fold one half of the chicken over the other, and secure with a toothpick. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Heat about a tablespoon of oil in the skillet over medium heat.  Brown each of the chicken breasts 2 minutes per side, transferring/moving the toothpick when you flip. This is actually fairly easy to do after the first side cooks, because the chicken stays folded over. When done browning, transfer to a baking dish.  Bake the chicken for 15 minutes.

While the chicken is baking, make the pan sauce if desired.  Add the apple cider vinegar to deglaze the pan, then pour in the apple juice and add the butter and a pinch of salt. Let the sauce reduce on low while the chicken cooks. Pour a spoonful or two over each breast before serving.

12366