Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pear + Bleu Cheese Salad

Drinking: Ice Water
Listening to: Infinite Arms by Band of Horses

Finally a new blog post! Sorry about being so long between posts- I was busy vacationing/loving my life in Colorado for the last week and didn't bring a computer with me to blog.  This magical combination of pear, green onion, avocado, and bleu cheese is truly divine.  My mom first started making this salad a year or so ago and I have adapted it to be more my style.  The nice thing about this salad is you can control how much of each ingredient you want.  My measurements are pretty "topping" heavy with not a ton of lettuce.  I love big chunks of diced pear and avocado.

The first step is to start with the chopping! Check out all of these ingredients... 

smashed garlic... the beginning of all good things
crumbled bleu
candied walnuts and green onion
a very underrated fruit

And all together, they look even better.

Then I just layered and tossed! A super simple salad, with the right ingredients.

so many green layers!
I got this sweet salad dressing mixer from one of my sisters for Christmas.  The stick down the middle has a stirrer at the bottom that blends the dressing as you pull the green loop up and down.  Also, you can spin the green loop to a locked position to keep the extra dressing in the bottle for later.  The dressing in this salad contains apple cider vinegar, red wine, chopped garlic, olive oil, salt, sugar, and mustard.

<3 kitchen gadgets
I poured the dressing on, tossed, and DONE.  So easy and so delish.

I bet you will be craving this salad after the first time you make it.  The nice thing is it makes a pretty big salad, and if you don't add all the avocado at once you can take some to work for lunch the next day.  It is definitely big enough to feed the whole family.

Pear + Bleu Cheese Salad
Makes: 6 dinner salad servings
Time: 30 Minutes

1 head lettuce torn in to bite sized pieces
2 pears, cored/peeled/diced
1/2 c bleu cheese, crumbled
1 avocado, diced
3-5 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 c candied walnuts

1/3 c olive oil
2 tbsp red wine
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white sugar
1 tsp yellow mustard
1 clove garlic, chopped
black pepper to taste

1. Layer all prepared salad ingredients.
2. Combine all dressing ingredients and mix well.
3. Toss salad with dressing.

You can pin this with the 'Pin It!' button below! I have added it to all of my blog posts.

Enjoy, and please let me know if you make it :)


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

Drinking: Intelligentsia Chai Tea concentrate with almond milk 
Listening to: The Lumineers album 'The Lumineers'

<3 Beta Carotene
I may be a little too excited about my new hand blender, or I am just in a cooking mood from this blog. I spent another night cooking this weekend and wanted to share with everyone before my busy week begins.  I had a taste for a sweet potato soup with carrot and ginger, so I started researching a few recipes and went to purchase some ingredients.  I ended up using a can of tomatoes with jalepenos instead of plain tomatoes due to forgetting to grab a plain can at the store. The spice in the soup was an accident, but a very advantageous one.

These ingredients looked so beautiful together.. The gorgeous, vibrant orange soup the veggies created was perfect for a chilly January night.

<3 chai
I started my evening with a mug of chai tea and almond milk.  This Intelligentsia chai tea concentrate is worth every penny. I found it at Lemon Tree in downtown Downers Grove.  Seriously, go get it now.

First step was to fire up the pot! This gem was a Christmas gift last year that remains permanently on display in my kitchen.  It is huge and red and perfect for soup/chili/stew making.  Thanks, Paula Dean, for designing such a beauty.

it's a beautiful thing
Into the pot went the carrots, red pepper, and onion with olive oil to cook until softened, about 7 minutes over high heat.

Next, I added the spices, garlic, and ginger, and continued to saute on med-high heat for just a few minutes to coat all the veggies.

Then in went the sweet potato, tomatoes with jalepeno, and veggie broth. I pre-boiled the sweet potato to make it easier to peel (about 10 minutes), so it was already soft and didn't need much more cooking.  I brought this to a boil, then turned it down to a simmer for about 10 minutes.

Now, this is where a nice chunky soup could be enjoyed, but what fun would that be when an immersion blender is made for dishes this!?  I removed the soup from the heat and blended it up. This- and all hand blender recipes- could also be pureed in a regular blender.  But honestly, you should just go buy an immersion blender so you can become obsessed too.

And there you have it! Top with green onion to add another layer of flavor. Don't skip this step; The green onion pairs perfectly with the spice and ginger flavors. 

the sunflower bowl added an extra touch of amusement

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup
Makes: About 6 servings
Time: 45 Minutes

1 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 large carrots (~2 cups), chopped
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated*
6 cups vegetable broth
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced**
1- 14oz can low sodium diced tomatoes with jalepeno, with juices
2-3 green onions, to top***

1. Cook onion, carrot, and red pepper in oil until vegetables are soft, about 7 minutes over high heat.
2. Add chili powder, black pepper, garlic, and ginger to coat vegetables.  Cook about 1-2 minutes over med-high heat.
3. Add sweet potatoes, broth, canned tomato with jalepeno with juices.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes, or until sweet potato is soft.**
4. Remove from heat and use immersion blender to puree soup completely.
5. Ladle into bowls and top with green onions.

*Use a regular spoon to peel the skin! It's super easy. The ginger intimidated me a little bit at first.
**I preboiled the sweet potatoes to easily remove skin and reduce cooking time of the soup.
***Remember this is not optional and totally necessary for deliciousness.

This soup definitely warms up even the coldest of winter nights.  Let me know when you try it!

Happy cooking,


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Artichoke Pesto

Drinking: Diet Sierra Mist Cranberry
Listening to: Laura Viers' album 'Hello I Must Be Going'

a most perfect lunch

I am spending my first weekend of 2013 battling with a broken car (that is hopefully fixed now) and cooking away with my new immersion blender - a most excellent Christmas gift from Santa.  My resolution? To use this bad boy as much as possible over the next year! 

I am so excited to be sharing this recipe as my first recipe blog post. I made this artichoke pesto this afternoon and oh my goodness it is so good! I am already thinking of different things to top with this delicious green spread..  Today I enjoyed it with some baked crusty bread and bruschetta.  SO DELISH!  And super easy with this magical blender stick.

Cuisinart Smart Stick

My mom knows I love purple, so this Cuisinart appliance could not be more perfect.  It is so small and easy to wash which is perfect for apartment living.  I found out the hard way how sharp the blade is on it last night.. my fingertip is healing nicely with some Neosporin.

This recipe requires a big bowl and an immersion blender.  First, I blended the artichokes, parsley, lemon juice and zest, garlic cloves, candied walnuts (recipe to come, but store bought is okay here too),  salt, and pepper.  The candied walnuts were a last minute addition, and they worked perfect! The sweetness with the lemon is interesting.

green goodness
Next, I added the basil, thyme, parmesan, and olive oil.

And voila! This beautiful green spread was created...

say whaaaaaat?

While I was busy blending away, I had put some bread in the oven.  I drizzled sliced Italian loaf bread with olive oil, then sprinkled oregano and garlic powder on top and baked at 400ºF for ~15 minutes or until browned and crispy.

I topped the pesto bread with bruchetta to make for a delicious lunch, but this pesto will be making many appearances through the next week or so in probably all of my dishes.


Artichoke Pesto
Makes: 2 Cups prepared
Time: 20 min

1 cup parsley
2 garlic cloves
10oz artichoke hearts - not marinated (I used frozen artichoke hearts, thawed)
1/2 cup candied walnuts
1/2 cup basil
3-5 sprigs thyme
1 lemon - zest of whole lemon, juice of half
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil

1. Combine parsley, garlic, artichokes, candied walnuts, basil, thyme, lemon zest, salt, and pepper with immersion blender.
2. Add lemon juice, parmesan cheese, and olive oil and blend until smooth.
3. Add to bread, top on pasta, add to any sandwiches or wraps, enjoy with pita chips, really anything!

*This was super easy with the immersion blender, but to use a food processor just add all ingredients except the olive oil, blended first, then slowly add the olive oil.

What do you think? Will you try it? Have you tried it? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Happy cooking,