Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

In the last year or so, I have become moderately obsessed with Thai food. The tiny little Thai restaurant near our house sees my face a lot… and if I go too long without some pad Thai or curry, I start to panic a little. Despite my love for the cuisine, Thai food is complicated, and involves a lot of ingredients that are not terribly common or easy to find, so I’ve not really had the urge to try my hand at making anything (especially when, for $8 and a 1.5 mile roundtrip drive, I can have a nice, steaming order of massaman curry on the table in less than 15 minutes). I’m sure this salad is FAR from authentic, but it incorporates a lot of the tastes and textures that I love in Thai food – crunchy cabbage, salty peanuts, sour lime juice – and is nearly as satisfying as the real deal!

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing
serves 2 generously

one head napa cabbage, thinly sliced
one large heart of romaine, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
half a red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped
8oz boneless, skinless chicken breast
kosher salt
garlic powder
one batch of Peanut Lime Dressing

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

for the dressing:
1 T fresh lime juice (about half a lime)
1 T mirin (you can use sugar instead, if necessary)
1 T soy sauce
1 t sesame oil
large pinch of red pepper flakes
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 T honey (optional)
up to 2 T water

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

1.) Let’s start with the chicken. Season the chicken well with kosher salt and garlic powder, add a few teaspoons of oil to a skillet, and cook over medium heat until cooked through. Set aside to cool.

2.) While the chicken cooks, chop and prep all your vegetables. I like to shred my cabbage and romaine into roughly 1/2″ wide pieces.

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

3.) For the dressing, whisk together all ingredients except the honey and water. It will take a minute for everything to fully incorporate, but just keep whisking and it’ll eventually smooth out into a nice, creamy dressing. Once you have everything well-combined, whisk is as much water as you need to get a nice, drizzle-able consistency (I used about 2 tablespoons). Taste test your dressing; I found mine to be a LITTLE too sour/acidic, so I added a tablespoon of honey. If you’re happy with it the way it is, carry on!

4.) Once your dressing is made and your vegetables are prepped, shred your chicken (or cut it into bite-size pieces).

5.) Toss the cabbage, romaine, carrots, and bell peppers together. Pile this mixture on to each plate, and then top with shredded chicken, chopped peanuts, and cilantro. Drizzle the dressing over the top, and serve.

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

I don’t think I’ve ever attacked a salad with such intensity in my life! The flavor and texture combinations in this salad are fantastic – and the light, crunchy vegetables keep it from feeling too heavy. It would be absolutely perfect on a hot summer evening (not that it will ever be HOT in Michigan again… I’ve given up hope), or for a summer barbecue. I can’t wait to make it again!

I won’t tell anyone if you accidentally eat a spoonful of peanut butter straight from the jar,


Linguine with Kale Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan

Happy 2014! I apologize for the gaps in posting… like about half the country, Michigan got pounded with a few intense snowstorms over a span of 10 days, and then our temperatures plummeted for a while (on a Tuesday, our wind chill was -40° [yeah, you read that right]… 3 days later, on Friday, our high was 42°). Trying to accomplish everyday activities while fighting 2 feet of snow gets exhausting pretty quickly; and the crazy, intense cold lead to a lot of evenings where I refused to come out from under a pile of 7 blankets, for fear of frostbite. So, no posting. But, the weather has relaxed a little bit, the temperatures no longer begin with a negative sign, and I can once again feel my hands!

Linguine with Kale Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan

I realized a couple days ago that I had a giant bunch of kale wilting away in the fridge. It was definitely past its prime, and no longer good for salads. I’m not a huge fan of cooked greens, so I knew my options were limited… and suddenly, it occurred to me that kale would probably make a great pesto! I set about making a pesto with things I had on hand, and it turned out REALLY good. If you have yet to jump on the kale bandwagon, and you’d like to give it a try, this recipe would be an excellent jumping off point.

Linguine with Kale Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan

Linguine with Kale Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan
serves 4-6 as a main course, 8-10 as a side

1 lb linguine, cooked until al dente
2 cups of kale, packed (stripped of any stems)
good handful of fresh, flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed*
3 cloves garlic
juice and zest of one lemon
1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus more for serving
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
olive oil, approximately 1/2 cup
cherry tomatoes, halved

*You can use walnuts if you prefer. I actually intended to use walnuts, but then I realized I didn’t have any – and it was a happy accident, as I think the hazelnuts were really fantastic paired with the kale.

1.) Start by washing your kale, and drying it really well. Get your pasta water going (don’t forget to salt it very well before you add the pasta!), and cook the pasta as directed.

Kale and Hazelnut Pesto

2.) Add everything except the olive oil to a food processor, and pulse several times, until the mixture is well-chopped, but still a little chunky (make sure the hazelnuts and garlic cloves aren’t still in large pieces).

3.) Turn the processor on, and drizzle in about 1/3 cup of the olive oil. The amount of olive oil you’ll need will depend on the amount of moisture in your kale, how juicy the lemon was, etc. Keep drizzling olive oil (stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if needed) until the pesto has reached a good sauce-like consistency – a little loose, but not soupy.

4.) Pour the pesto into a large serving bowl; when the pasta is done, add it directly to the bowl full of pesto. Toss the linguine with the pesto – add a couple tablespoons of the starchy pasta water if the pesto isn’t coating the pasta well.

Linguine with Kale Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan

5.) Serve the pasta immediately, topped with shavings of fresh parmesan and the halved cherry tomatoes.

This pesto is SO DELICIOUS. It’s fresh, and light, but with a nice richness from the parmesan and hazelnuts. The lemon juice and zest keep the whole thing bright. It’s one of those rare dishes that feels hearty enough for a cold winter day, but would also make a really delicious cold pasta salad for a summer picnic. I’m debating how I’ll use the leftover pesto – I’m thinking I’ll either drizzle it over some roasted potatoes, or mix it with brown rice as a side dish!

Linguine with Kale Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan

I promise you, kale is seriously delicious!

Wheatberry and Kale Salad with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

One of the things I was tasked with contributing to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner was a salad (actually, I may or may not have assigned myself this job; I can’t remember). I wanted to come up with a salad that was more than the just token fresh vegetable on the table; we all know that most of the time, we each slip a few leaves of romaine on to our plates so we can feel somewhat virtuous in between heaping forkfuls of the good stuff like mashed potatoes and stuffing. I wanted the salad to be hearty, and full of delicious things, and something that people might actually eat a second helping of! And if I’m the only one who goes back for seconds of this one? Well, more for me.

Wheatberry and Kale Salad with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

Wheatberry and Kale Salad with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette
serves 6-8 as a side dish

10 oz bag of kale, torn into bite size pieces*
1 cup dry wheatberries, cooked and cooled**
seeds of one large pomegranate
6 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp, and crumbled
3-4 oz crumbled feta
olive oil
juice of one lemon, divided
1 T maple syrup
1 heaping teaspoon dijon mustard
salt and pepper

How To Seed a Pomegranate

*For those who are still scared of kale, you could use baby spinach instead (and obviously, skip the massaging part). However, once kale is dressed with some olive oil and lemon juice and worked a little bit (which helps to tenderize the somewhat tough leaves), it really just tastes like any other green, except with some more texture and chew! I have yet to experience the legendary bitterness that kale supposedly possesses… so, don’t be scared.

**Wheatberries are just the entire wheat kernel (less the hull), and are one of my favorite grains. They have a great chewy texture, which makes them great for things like salads, or stuffing peppers. You’ll find them in the same aisle as rice and other grains in the grocery store; if you can’t find them or don’t care to use them, you can certainly substitute brown or wild rice in this recipe.

1.) Start by prepping your kale. Add all the kale to a large bowl, and pour about one tablespoon of olive oil over it. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the kale, and add a small pinch of kosher salt; use your hands to massage the olive oil and lemon juice into the kale, about 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.

2.) To make your dressing, whisk together the maple syrup, dijon, the juice of the remaining half lemon, a tablespoon of olive oil, and a good pinch each of kosher salt and pepper. Taste to make sure you don’t need to adjust it; my first round making this dressing, I found it wasn’t maple-y enough, so I added some more maple syrup. Adjust to your taste.

3.) Add the wheatberries, chopped bacon, and pomegranate seeds to the bowl with the kale. Pour the dressing over everything, and toss to coat. Top with the crumbled feta, and serve.

(I like to add extra pomegranate seeds to my salad. More antioxidants for me!)

Wheatberry and Kale Salad with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

Since I first came up with this salad (last week), we’ve had it as a main course twice, and we’ve debated whether to have it again before Thanksgiving. It’s super filling and hearty, thanks to the kale and wheatberries, with TONS of different flavors – the salty feta, the smoky bacon, the sweet and tart pomegranate. It’s a great fall side dish, and would be especially perfect to have on hand if you have any vegetarians joining you for Thanksgiving (omitting the bacon, of course). Side note: since kale is very hearty and holds up well to dressing, this salad can be dressed and assembled ahead of time (I wouldn’t add the feta until you’re ready to serve). You could easily assemble the whole thing 6-8 hours ahead of the big meal (drain off any excess dressing or oil/lemon juice), keeping it covered in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Tomorrow morning, I’ve got a quick post put together with a delicious way to cook acorn squash! It’s incredibly quick, easy, and delicious… and the leftover filling can be used to make an equally simple and tasty dessert. Make sure you check back tomorrow!

I’m totally ready for a long weekend,

How To Seed a Pomegranate

This time of year, you see LOTS of recipes that involve pomegranate seeds – in fact, there’s a good handful right here on this blog (and in our Holiday Recipe Round-up!). Pomegranate seeds are beautiful, delicious, nutritious, and FESTIVE! They’re great to have around to add to all kinds of dishes and drinks.

How To Seed a Pomegranate

However… pomegranates are also pretty weird. They have a thick, tough skin that you have to get through to get to the seeds; and attempting to seed a pomegranate can quickly make your kitchen look like a crime scene, if you’re not careful! Those little seeds pop pretty easily, and their juice splatters and stains like nothing you’ve ever seen.

It’s pretty simple to quickly and easily seed a pomegranate, if you know how. I keep a couple in my fridge throughout the holiday season, and I throw the seeds onto anything – salads, desserts, and even cocktails (I love to drop a handful of seeds into a glass of champagne). So, let’s go through the process!

How To Seed a Pomegranate

1.) Start by cutting your pomegranate into quarters, using a sharp chef’s knife. Once you’ve done that, move the quarters to a plate, and rinse your cutting board and knife (if you let the juice sit on your cutting board for more than a minute or two, it WILL stain; it won’t harm the board at all, it’ll just be pink for a while).

How To Seed a Pomegranate

2.) Fill a large bowl about 2/3 of the way with cool water. Working with one quarter at a time, submerge the pomegranate into the water, and break the segment apart with your hands; it should break up fairly easily. (Please note that your hands and the fruit should be IN the water, not OUT of the water, as depicted below. It was hard to take photos of my own hands during the process.)

How To Seed a Pomegranate

3.) Keeping the pomegranate submerged, use your fingers to gently pop the seeds away from the pith. As you work, you’ll notice more and more pockets of seeds, buried within the pith – keep going until all the seeds have been removed. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl, and the pith will float to the top.

How To Seed a Pomegranate

4.) Continue until all the segments have been seeded. You’ll notice little clouds of red juice in the water as you go – just think, those seeds could have been splattering dark red juice all over your face and clothes and walls! This is why working under water makes a lot of sense.

5.) Pour the water (and with it, the pith) off the seeds. Drain them well, and store in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready for them!

Congratulations, you’ve successfully seeded your first pomegranate – and your kitchen doesn’t look like anything met its untimely death! Good work.

Go forth, and enjoy the most festive fruit in all the land,