dinner

My Go-To Hearty Kale Salad

If you have been following along lately, you know that I have been throwing together a lot of salads. They are just so quick and easy and versatile. You can throw anything in them and run out the door. And, I’m not one that can always go out to lunch, so it’s great to have this ready to go at work. I always include one or two things with it, like an apple or a yogurt, or a granola bar or crackers and hummus, but this salad really helps satisfy me and keep me energized for the rest of my day.

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To me it’s hard to prep salads ahead of time because so many of the lettuces like spinach and mixed greens can get wilty (is that a word? I’m goin’ with it) really quickly. The great thing about kale is that I can go ahead and wash it, chop it and throw it in a bowl, or put together and dress my salad completely and it will still be good in a couple of days! For all of these reasons, I have been loving this kale salad. This is the variety I typically make but I put a few other varieties at the end of this post. You can either prep the greens and toppings and store separately, allowing for more variety during the week or go ahead and throw it all together in one large bowl! When I use this creamy tahini caesar (which I tell you in my post is by Cookie & Kate) I usually store it separately. If using a balsamic or some sort of vinaigrette, I’ll often go ahead and massage the dressing into the kale. It helps break it down a little bit so it is not so tough when it’s time to enjoy it.

Today I’m sharing this tasty, fueling and satisfying go-to salad with you. I hope you enjoy!

Happy Fueling!

Taylor



My Go-To Kale Salad with Creamy Tahini Caesar Dressing

Makes about 4 entree-salads (if using about 2 1/2 cups per salad)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Balsamic Roasted Portobello mushrooms (recipe and 3 ingredients in this post)

  • 1 batch of Tahini Caesar Dressing (recipe & ingredients in this post, original recipe by Cookie & Kate)

  • 7 cups chopped Lacinato kale (about 1 bunch)

  • 5 cups lightly packed Romaine lettuce

  • One 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (optional but I LOVE adding these!)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven and roast mushrooms according to directions linked above.

  2. While the mushrooms roast, whisk together the ingredients for the Tahini Caesar dressing in a small bowl (recipe linked above). Keep in the bowl or pour into a small mason jar (or other airtight container) to store and use throughout the week.

  3. Add the pumpkin seeds to a small skillet and heat on medium heat. Cook about 5 minutes until the seeds begin to “pop”, brown and you start to smell their rich nuttiness. Yum! You don’t need to add any oil to the skillet because seeds naturally contain oil that will start to come out as the seeds begin to heat up.

  4. Add the kale, romaine, chickpeas, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, roasted chopped portobello mushrooms and pumpkin seeds to a large mixing bowl and toss together with tongs or salad spoons to incorporate all ingredients.

  5. Store the salad and dressing in the refrigerator separately to use throughout the week. Or, if serving for a group immediately, add dressing to the salad and toss until all well-combined. I would start with about 1/4 cup of dressing and toss all together. Add more dressing as needed or let your guests add it separately at the table!

  6. Enjoy!

Nutrition Notes:

Kale: Did you know kale is a non-dairy source of calcium?! I try to incorporate it into any of my athletes meals that don’t eat dairy but will eat kale (that’s not often, ha, but I’ll take it when I can!) This leafy green also contains, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese.

Tomatoes: vitamin C, lycopene, fluid, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium

Chickpeas: protein, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, folate, copper, manganese

Pumpkin Seeds: protein, fiber, monounsaturated fats & some omega 3’s, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc

Tahini: protein, thiamin, phosphorus, monounsaturated fats and some omega 3’s, copper, manganese

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Miso Ginger Glazed Salmon

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I was definitely not a salmon lover growing up. Other than fish sticks and fried catfish, I really didn’t care for fish at all. That is, until high school when I started trying more foods and then college where I started cooking, learning about nutrition, and experimenting with different recipes. Now I love it and, because it is recommended to include fatty fish like salmon or tuna in your weekly diet, I have been trying to figure out a way to keep salmon on our weekly menu. It try to mix it up to keep it from getting boring.

Why include fatty fish like salmon and tuna, you may ask? Well, both of these fish are high in omega 3 fatty acids, which, studies have found and continue to find, can improve our heart health, aid in brain health, and fight inflammation in the body. This is important for pretty much everyone, from the infant needing the DHA and EPA for brain development to the child continuing to grow and develop to the young and adult athlete in states of inflammation after hard practices, games and competitions to the older adult potentially struggling with arthritis or other inflammatory diseases. Plus, it can help all of these groups mentioned maintain a healthy heart! And, if that is not enough, salmon can be a source of vitamin D, which is super hard to get from the diet and its fat helps the body digest the fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin A, D, E and K.

SO, for all of those reasons, let’s start incorporating more fatty fish into our diets, shall we?! I have a few other salmon recipes on the blog including my simple lemon dijon salmon and my spinach & feta stuffed salmon, and I’m excited to add this one to our family list. If you don’t like ginger, it might not be your thing, but if you don’t mind it, then I certainly recommend giving this recipe a try! Here you go. The recipe for my Miso Ginger Glazed Salmon.

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

MISO GINGER GLAZED SALMON

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

  • Two 6-ounce salmon filets

  • 2 tablespoons yellow miso paste (I used the Light yellow miso that I found at Central Market)

  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oli

  • 1 teaspoon grated, minced ginger

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Brush some of the sauce over the salmon filet, covering the top entirely.

  3. Save any remaining sauce to spoon over the cooked filets, if desired.

  4. Cook the salmon for about 15 minutes or until desired level of doneness.

  5. Serve each salmon filet with your favorite veggies, a crisp green salad and fluffy rice and enjoy!

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Jazzed Up Mac & Cheese Cups

ja

Hello! How is everyone’s week going? Mine has been quite packed, but the good kind of packed that keeps you on your toes and keeps you thinking. So much going on in January in the world of Wellness and I’m also staying pretty busy with sports nutrition items as well.

Today, however, oh my gosh, I’m excited to finally get to share with you one of my newer recipes, these jazzed up mac and cheese cups.. This is one of my favorite recipes yet. It’s so savory and cheesy and easy to eat. It’s basically mac & cheese with a few surprise ingredients in a cup! And a bonus - made with milk and cheese, each cup packs in some calcium, which we know everyone needs, especially the young growing athlete. I actually created these about a year ago, but it took me a few times to get the recipe just the way I wanted it and then I, of course, had to have friends and family give them a try and earn their stamp of approval. You can prep these ahead and then store them in the fridge until you are ready to bake which, if you know my recipes, you know I love. They also store and reheat nicely, which is great because the recipe makes 12. I store them in a big airtight container or wrap them individually in plastic wrap and store in the fridge. They can be an easy option to take to school or work or enjoy as a late night dinner or post-practice snack. What makes them jazzed up? Well, I substitute some of the pasta for roasted cauliflower and add in sun dried tomatoes, which gives it a whole new level of deliciousness. And, honestly, you may not even realize it’s cauliflower in there if you are not paying attention. I seriously love these and I hope you do to! So, here you go, the recipe for my Jazzed Up Mac & Cheese Cups.

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

JAZZED UP MAC & CHEESE CUPS

Makes 12 cups

INGREDIENTS:

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  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup macaroni noodles (will use 1 1/2 cups cooked)

  • Cooking Spray

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter

  • 1 teaspoon flour

  • 1 1/4 cup 1% milk

  • 1 1/2 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

  • 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon creamy Dijon mustard

  • 1 whole egg, whisked

  • 1/2 cup rehydrated (according to package directions) and chopped sun dried tomatoes

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the chopped cauliflower with the olive oil and salt.

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Spread cauliflower on lined baking sheet.

Roast cauliflower in preheated oven for 15 minutes, stir the cauliflower, and roast for 15 minutes more.

While the cauliflower cooks, bring a large pot of water to a boil and, once boiling, add the macaroni, cooking about 7 to 8 minutes until tender. When done, drain the cooked macaroni into a large colander and set aside.

Once the cauliflower is cooked, remove from the oven and set aside.

Now, increase the heat of the oven to 425 degrees F.

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Prep a 12-muffin tin (or two 6-muffin tins) by spraying lightly with cooking spray and then, using about 1/4 of the Parmesan cheese, sprinkle on the bottom of each muffin tin.

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Heat the same large pot you used to cook the noodles in to medium heat and add 1/2 tablespoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of flour. Whisk for about 3 to 4 minutes, allowing the flour to cook and start to brown.

Add the milk, whisking slowly as you pour it in, and continue to cook, whisking occasionally, until the milk begins to warm almost coming to a simmer.

Add the cheese to the warm milk and whisk in until the cheese melts into the milk and the mix is smooth.

Take pot off the heat and add the Dijon and egg and stir to incorporate all ingredients together.

Add 1 1/2 cup of the cooked macaroni, the sun dried tomatoes, and the cauliflower to the pot and fold it into the cheese sauce.

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Spoon mac and cheese mixture into each muffin tin (about 1/4 cup mix per tin).

Bake in a preheated oven for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove cooked mac and cheese cups from the oven, sprinkle tops of each with remaining 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese divided equally between every cup.

Turn oven to a broil and broil on low for about 1 to 2 minutes until the tops start to brown and crisp a little.

Remove cups from the oven.

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Allow to cool about 10 minutes so that the cups will keep their shape when you take them out of your tins. After they cool a little, I run a knife around the edges of each muffin tin to help get each mac and cheese cup out smoothly.

Serve immediately or store to enjoy later in the week!

Serve It Again!

As I mentioned earlier. Wrap each individually in foil or plastic wrap to pull out and take with you as a part of lunch. Or reheat them as an easy side with dinner another night of the week. OR grab one after an afternoon or evening practice as an easy source of protein, quality carbohydrate and calcium!

NUTRITION NOTES

Just one of these scrumptious cups contains 210 mg of calcium!

Nine - Ingredient Yummy Stuffed Sweet Potato: A Vegetarian Prep-Ahead Meal

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Hi there! So, last week was a busy one! Lot’s of projects due and presentations and program wrap-ups and then we went to Scottsdale for one of my best friend’s wedding. I’m so glad that I did my meal planning the weekend before because there certainly wasn’t lots of brain space left to figure out dinner. One thing to note about my meal planning - there is nothing cookie cutter or perfect about them. I have a general plan that I could follow, but most weeks I actually go off course. This week my stuffed sweet potato was on the menu but I had actually planned to use slightly different ingredients. Then, when Monday came around, I had leftovers from dinner with friends the night before and, with that, a new idea. That is how this recipe came about that I’m sharing with you all today. It’s so SIMPLE!!! And it’s super tasty. It uses ingredients that, years ago, I would not have normally put together. However, after our trip to Israel this year I have become a little more adventurous with food and flavor combos.

This dish is a vegetarian option. However, it’s still packed with great stuff like complex carbs, vitamin A, iron, magnesium, some healthy fats and protein. I talk to so many people who think you have to eat meat to get your protein. Newsflash, you don’t! There are lots' of ways to get protein without eating meat. You may have to eat a little bit more of those foods because plant protein is not as easily absorbed in the body as animal protein, but, it can be done! For example, the 1/2 cup of chickpeas here provides about 7 grams of protein. then there are a couple of grams in the dressing and a gram or two in the potato. So, here is the recipe for my Mediterranean Stuffed Sweet Potato.

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

NINE-INGREDIENT YUMMY STUFFED SWEET POTATO

Serves 1

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 medium sweet potato

  • 1/2 cup of Prepared Slaw (see recipe below)

  • 1/2 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained

  • 2 tbsp hummus

  • 1 tbsp water

  • 1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

SLAW INGREDIENTS (from Ina Garten):

  • One 10 oz. package of cabbage slaw

  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped dill

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

  2. Poke holes in the sweet potato with a knife or tongs of a fork and place on a baking sheet. I usually use a fork and poke the holes in a line down the center (longways) of the potato, where I will end up slicing it once cooked.

  3. In a large bowl mix together the slaw, fresh dill and white wine vinegar. Cover and let sit, allowing all of the flavors to meld together. This can be done a day in advance. And for any of you who read my previous posts, this is from Ina Garten’s DELICIOUS salmon taco recipe.

  4. When the oven is preheated, place the sweet potato in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, until when you poke the potato with a fork, the tongs come out easily and clean.

  5. You can either allow the potatoes to cool at this point and then wrap in foil and store in the refrigerator, or go ahead and prep them to eat.

  6. To continue prepping, whisk together the hummus, water and lemon juice in a small bowl.

  7. Open the potato so that there is room to pile the toppings on top.

  8. Add about half of the humus dressing followed by about a 1/2 cup of the slaw followed by the chickpeas followed by drizzles of the remaining hummus dressing. Serve and enjoy!

  9. If serving this later in the week, I prep my potato the night before or morning of, opening it and adding the slaw and chickpeas. I package the hummus dressing separately. At the office, I heat up the potato and then add the dressing once heated through. Easy peazy!

NUTRITION NOTES:

Sweet potato: vitamin A

Chickpeas: protein, folate, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese

Hummus: protein, healthy fats…

Slaw: fiber

Pesto Chicken Panini: Making Use of Leftovers

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So, I made this sandwich a way long time ago and realized I never posted it! I came up with the quasi - recipe when I was trying to figure out what to do with my remaining Roasted Red Pepper & Pesto Chicken Salad. I love the chicken salad on it’s own but wanted to find some other way to mix up the recipe. That’s when this sandwich was born. I made it for me and my husband and we both enjoyed them! This can be a lunch or dinner item. Packed with protein, complex carbs, fiber, some calcium, and vitamins, including B vitamins and vitamin K this one sandwich packs a nutritional punch! The pesto and roasted red peppers keep this sandwich moist and full of flavor and adding the melty mozzarella takes it up another few notches. I always remind clients and friends to not overthink meals. If you can get three out of the five food groups at a meal, excellent! The sandwich can be easily overlooked, but if we take a closer look at this guy, we see that you get the “3 out of the 5” in just this one item! Whole grains, dairy, and meat are all here. Plus there are just a few little veggies snuck in there as well! The next time you toss together my Seven Ingredient Roasted Red Pepper & Pesto Chicken Salad, make sure to plan for this grilled panini with some of the leftovers. It won’t disappoint!

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

PESTO CHICKEN PANINI

Serves 1

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 slices hearty whole grain bread (my go-to’s are Dave’s Killer Bread, Seeduction bread from Whole Foods, and Flax & Chia Seed bread from Central Market)

  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup of my prepared Roasted Red Pepper & Pesto Chicken Salad

  • 3 thin slices of mozzarella cheese (you could also sprinkle on shredded, if desired (about 1/4 cup shredded)

  • About 3/4 cup fresh spinach

DIRECTIONS:

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  1. Lightly toast the two slices of bread.

  2. Preheat a panini press or heat a small skillet oiled with about 1 teaspoon of butter over medium heat.

  3. Place prepared chicken salad on one of the slices of toasted bread.

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4. Lay mozzarella slices over the chicken (or sprinkle if using shredded

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5. Top mozzarella with fresh spinach leaves.

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6. Make sure your skillet or panini press is preheated and top the layered ingredients with other slice of bread.

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7. Place sandwich in panini press, press down and cook until the mozzarella cheese is softened and melty and the bread is crispy.

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8. Serve and enjoy!

Mushroom, Thyme & Goat Cheese Pizza

If you've been following along, you know that I have been working on, and loving I might add, this new pizza recipe.  The idea started from a magazine clipping I found in my old binder of recipes collected throughout college and grad school.  However, I've added and edited and played around with so many ingredients since then that I can't actually remember what the original recipe was, other than the fact that it used thyme and goat cheese.  Today I'm sharing with you the recipe results of many tests and tastes.  While this recipe is how I like it best, you can make a variety of little ingredient changes and I bet it will still be wonderful!  In fact, I alternate between two varieties and I want to share that quickly with you before diving into the recipe..

VARIETY #1:  THICK CRUST

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One way I make this, and actually the first way I ever tried it, is on Whole Foods fresh pizza dough that I roll out and use for my crust (I hear Trader Joe's has a fresh whole wheat pizza dough too that is really good).  This version makes a thicker fluffier crust that yields a delicious pizza where the toppings kind of bake into the bread.  Ahh, so, good!  Not only is this option delicious but it can also be an easy way to get more calories and carbohydrates in your young growing athlete that has daily games and practices, depleted energy stores, and increased energy and nutrition needs. This option does take a little more time because you have to flour a surface and roll out the dough, but if time allows, I think it's absolutely worth it!  And, because it has a thicker crust, you or your athlete can throw on more favorite toppings!

 

VARIETY #2:  THIN CRUST

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My second variety is made on the Trader Joe's already-made whole wheat pizza crust that you find in the bread aisle.  I mostly like this version because of how quick and simple it is.  Wednesday night I cooked this variety for some girlfriends.  I got home around 6:00 p.m. and only had to focus on prepping the toppings.  Once the girls were over, I assembled the pizza and popped it in the oven for about 20 minutes and it was done.  I don't know about you, but that's my perfect idea of entertaining on a weeknight - a dish that everyone will enjoy and that allows you to be present with your company, not have to put all of your attention on cooking.  This is the variety that I'm going to share with you today!

PIZZA TAKEAWAY...

I always hear people say, "oh pizza is bad".  Oiy, feels like a punch to the stomach.  While, yes, some pizzas provide less fueling and health - promoting ingredients than others and when eaten too often, in too big of quantities over a long period of time can promote weight gain and other health concerns, I cannot say that pizza is "bad" and here is just one of my examples why.  This pizza uses a whole wheat crust from Trader Joe's (or something similar), easy to make homemade blistered & crushed tomatoes, sweet caramelized onions, soft crumbly goat cheese and fresh thyme.  And, while this is one of my favorite flavor combos, it is just one example,.  You can put any variety of your favorite veggies, cheeses and herbs and spices on here or throw in some chicken or lean ground beef if you want.  A perfectly fueling & filling option if you ask me!

So, here you go, my Mushroom, Thyme and Goat Cheese Pizza..

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

 

Mushroom, Thyme & Goat Cheese Pizza

INGREDIENTS:

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  • 1 Trader Joe's whole-wheat pizza crust

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil + 2 teaspoons olive oil + 1/2 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons olive oil (last 2 tsp optional)

  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes

  • 6 - 8 ounces of mushrooms (your choice - I love picking a variety!), chop larger ones but smaller ones can be left whole

  • 1/2 of a medium white or red onion, sliced into half moons

  • 4 to 6 ounces of crumbled goat cheese

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh thyme

  • Juice from 1/2 of a lemon

  • Salt and pepper, to taste



DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat the broiler on high.

2.  Line a medium-size rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

3.  To a medium-size skillet, add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and heat on medium-low heat.

4.  Add mushrooms to the heated skillet and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until softened.

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5. While the mushrooms cook, in a medium-size bowl toss the cherry tomatoes with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Spread the tomatoes out on half your lined baking sheet.

6. In the same medium-size bowl toss the onion slices with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Spread the onions out on the other half of the lined baking sheet next to the tomatoes.

7. Place the baking sheet in the oven and let cook under the broiler for about 10 minutes, until onions and tomatoes begin to charr and the tomatoes burst. Mix with a heat-proof utensil about half-way through.

8. Once mushrooms are done cooking, turn off the burner and set aside.

9. Once tomatoes and onions are done cooking, remove from the oven and turn off the broiler. Gently crush the tomatoes with a fork (being careful not to squirt yourself with tomato juice!) and set aside.

10. Change the oven setting to Bake at 400 degrees F.

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11. Place pizza crust on a pizza stone or a large baking sheet and brush with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.

12. Then spread the tomato - onion mixture in a thin even layer, leaving a little room on the edges.

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13. Top pizza crust with mushrooms, crumbled goat cheese and fresh thyme. This picture was from a trial where I added the mushrooms raw. You can do this if pressed for time, but I thought the mushrooms had a better texture and were more thoroughly cooked when sauteed before adding to the uncooked pizza crust.

14. Place prepped pizza in the 400 degree oven and cook for about 20 minutes until the crust is crispy and the cheese has melted.

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15. Remove from the oven and slice into 4 to 6 triangular slices (or however many you want!)

OPTIONAL - you can whisk together the lemon juice and last 2 teaspoons of olive oil and drizzle over the pizza before slicing and serving. It adds a little pop of flavor!

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16. I always like pairing my pizza with a different salad. Sometimes I keep it simple with spinach and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and sometimes I throw together lots of mix-ins and a fun dressing. Anything works!

17. Serve and enjoy!

Chili Lime Spice Mix

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Remember back in the spring when I made those roasted salmon tacos by Ina Garten?  If you missed it, I made them right before Cinco de Mayo and they were one of my best discoveries yet.  If you are looking for a simple & delicious taco recipe I hiiiighly recommend you try this one.  It was basically "love at first bite" for me and this spice mix and after dinner I started to think up what else I could use it with.



Super Simple & flavorful Chili Lime Shrimp  Salad!

Super Simple & flavorful Chili Lime Shrimp

Salad!



Since then, I've used the rub for my Chili Lime Shrimp Salad.



Originally vegetarian dishes. But the Chili Lime Chicken on these Burrito Bowls was delish!

Originally vegetarian dishes. But the Chili Lime Chicken on these Burrito Bowls was delish!

I have also used it on chicken, which I added to a fall vegetable salad one week and burrito bowls another.  Both recipes were from the cookbook Eat Real Food by Kathryne Taylor.






WHY DO I LOVE THIS SPICE MIX?  I LOVE THIS SPICE MIX BECAUSE:

  1. There are only 3 ingredients!

  2. These 3 ingredients happen to be items I always have in our kitchen, so that's (1) less thought and (2) less groceries to buy.

  3. It takes no time at all to prepare!


This spice mix has come to the rescue several nights already and it is guaranteed to stick around as one of my go-to simple flavorings for meats and fish to add pizzaz to even the simplest weeknight dishes.  Here's how you make it.  I hope you enjoy it and that it helps you get some deliciously simple meals on the table like it has for us!

Happy Fueling!

Taylor


CHILI LIME SPICE MIX

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By Ina Garten

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt (or less if you prefer)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl.

  2. Toss with shrimp, salmon, chicken or flank steak.

  3. Cook your seasoned protein of choice.

  4. Serve and enjoy!

 

NOTE:  This original recipe was for about 1.75 pounds of salmon. (to serve 6)  You could double or halve the recipe depending on how many people you are serving.  I have done both and it's turned out delicious either way!

Dinner without a Plan

Tuesday night's dinner had pretty much no plan at all but turned into something really delicious!  I want to share it with you to demonstrate that just because you don't have a plan, doesn't mean you can't get something simple and tasty on the dinner table after a long day of work / school / practices / motherhood / fatherhood / etc..  I mean, some days you just can't. Period.  I totally get that.  Been there,  This, however, is for those days when you think you can't but you know you have just a little left in you.

We were out of town last weekend and so I didn't do my normal recipe brainstorm and planning.  However, when we got in town on Sunday evening I quickly ran to the store and bought items for big salads plus a few veggies and other staples.  I also knew I had some uneaten veggies from last week that were still good.  

My initial plan was baked salmon with lemon, a spinach salad and bread.  Nothing fancy but it was dinner and it would do.  I actually talked to my husband after work around 6:15 and we almost threw in the towel and went out.  But then we decided to stick with the plan of salmon and somewhere between picking up the salmon at the grocery after work and pulling into the driveway I had concocted a whole new dinner idea pulling together simple ingredients that I knew we had at the house.

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In this post I'm going to list the ingredients I used for this dinner and how I went about getting it all on the table in about 30 minutes.  I didn't measure anything so these are ball park amounts.  I'll make it again and update with exact measurements in one of the upcoming weeks.  However, I think that's the great thing about cooking, sometimes measurements don't have to be exact.  You can play around with it to your liking and it can still be great!  

Before I give you the rundown of dinner, I want to leave you with 3 take-aways to remember so that you can create your own weeknight dinners when you have no specific plan in mind.

 

THREE THINGS TO REMEMBER FOR DINNERS WITHOUT A PLAN:

  • Always have your favorite go-to ingredients stocked in the fridge / pantry. They will be so handy when the unplanned dinner rolls around! (For me this includes things like: feta or goat cheese, a bell pepper, an onion, mushrooms or summer squash, dried herbs, fresh whole grain bread, quinoa or pasta)

  • Tasty & healthy dinners don't have to be complicated. If you have a few great herbs and spices, you can have a delicious dinner!

  • It's ok to keep parts of the meal basic. I used to feel like every part of dinner had to have it's own recipe and be something glamorous. Then I realized (a) that's a lot of pressure for one weeknight meal and (b) that's just not how it has to be. For this meal, I focused on the salmon, then kept the veggies fairly simple and our starch even simpler with one of our favorite hearty whole grain breads toasted in the toaster. Protein, veggies, complex carb, DONE!

 

FOR THIS DINNER YOU NEED:

  • Two 6-ounce salmon filets (I used coho salmon b/c it's a little meatier and a little less "fishy")

  • About 2 to 3 cups of fresh spinach

  • About 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

  • About 1/4 cup of part-skim ricotta cheese

  • About 1/3 cup of pine nuts

  • Pinches of salt, for the spinach stuffing and for the veggies (maybe about 1/4 tsp total but taste test if for yourself)

  • Pepper, to taste

  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced and then each slice halved (so you end up with half circles)

  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, cored and chopped into about 1/2 to 1 inch dices

  • 1/2 white onion, peeled and sliced into half moons

  • About 2 teaspoons + 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

  • About 1/2 tablespoon Herbs de Provence seasoning (or more, if desired)

  • 2 slices of whole grain bread (we used the Seeduction Bread from Whole Foods)

 

HOW I PULLED THIS ALL TOGETHER:

  1. My thought process on the drive home that got me from plain baked salmon & spinach salad to what was actually on the dinner table went a little something like this....... "Can I step it up a notch so that dinner is a little more interesting? I really don't want a salad if I think about it. I know I have an extra pepper in the fridge and, oh yeah, the rest of that zucchini that I didn't make last week (if it's still good. I'll have to check that). And what if I stuffed the salmon?! I know I always keep feta in the fridge and I bought some ricotta last week for something I now honestly can't remember, ha. And toasted pine nuts take everything up a notch! Yep, I think this will work". That's how deep my thought process went - clearly, not too complicated.

  2. I got home and found an onion to add to my veggie medley, which was perfect. I quickly sliced up the yellow bell pepper, zucchini (which I found to still be good) and half of that white onion.

  3. In a small skillet, I heated about 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium low heat. To that I added about 2 to 3 cups of fresh spinach, about 2 tablespoons of crumbled feta (I used the last of what we had) and about 2 big spoonfulls of part-skim ricotta so about 1/4 cup, I would say but you could use a little more if you want.

  4. While the spinach wilted and the cheeses all melted together (you need to stir these a little) I heated about 1 - 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Once that was heated I added my sliced peppers, zucchini and onions and let those cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies were softened and browned and the onions looked caramelized (probably around 15 minutes or so). A few minutes into cooking the veggies I added one of my favorite seasonings, Herbs de Provence, and a pinch of salt, stirred and continued to let those cook over the stove while I finished the rest of dinner.

  5. After I got the veggies started I added about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of pine nuts to another small skillet and toasted on medium-low until they were browned and fragrant, about 4 minutes (watch these and you'll know when they are done. They start to brown and you can smell the nuttiness - so good!). You don't need to add any oil to the skillet because as the nuts heat they release their natural oils into the pan. When the pine nuts were done I added them to my spinach & cheese mixture, incorporated well with a rubber spatula, and set aside.

  6. Then I prepped my salmon by cutting a slit in the top of each filet and creating sort of a pocket. I then divided my spinach-cheese mixture evenly and stuffed it into the "pocket" of each salmon filet. I sprayed a grill pan with vegetable oil , heated it to medium-high heat and turned my oven broiler on high. Once the grill pan was hot, I added my salmon filets and let those cook about 5 to 8 minutes until you start to see it cook / turn light pink from the bottom up. I then put my grill pan in the oven under the broiler and let that cook for about 1 1/2 minutes.

  7. While the salmon cooked I gave the veggies another stir and then turned the heat as low as it would go just to keep them warm. The veggies should cook in about 15 minutes.

  8. After 1 1/2 minutes I used oven mitts to take the grill pan out of the oven. While the salmon cooled down just a smidge I toasted 2 slices of whole grain toast in our toaster and set the table. When the toast was done, I prepared each plate adding a stuffed salmon filet, big scoops of warm veggies and the slice of whole grain toast.

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This was delish!  The stuffing was mild but had a little bit of a bite from the feta and a nuttiness from the toasted pine nuts.  The veggies were tender but not mushy and the toast was simple but just as good as always.

I hope this post not only leaves you with a new recipe idea but that it also encourages you and helps you get dinner on the table the next time it's 5:30 PM and you haven't yet really thought dinner through.  Remember to use what you have, keep it simple, get creative & don't be afraid to play around with ingredients.  Sometimes the best things happen when you don't have a plan!

 

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

Chili Lime Shrimp & Mango Avocado Salad: A Monday Night Dinner After Being Gone All Weekend

Chili Lime Shrimp Salad.JPG

If you've been following along, you know that I have been traveling a lot lately.  It has been super fun but also doesn't leave much room for my regular routine, which usually includes weekend meal planning.  I love traveling and experiencing new foods in new cities, but, to me, there is nothing like a meal cooked in your own home.  It can be the simplest dish around -  nothing more than a grilled cheese and soup,.  However, for me the process of picking my own bread, my own perfect mix of cheeses and the fresh ingredients for a simple tomato stovetop soup is often times the perfect creative re-centering endeavor after crazy airports and plain rides and days of eating out.  

I recently just finished back-to-back trips where I went to Belize followed by NYC.  Needless to say, there was zero meal prep done in-between.  Breakfast was pretty easy b/c I managed to stock the fridge with some less-perishable fruit and milk before we left and I always make sure to keep Sun Butter and my go-to granola bars in the pantry.  Those are staples I highly recommend keeping around. While breakfast was simple, Monday night dinner didn't come quite as easily; however, I was excited to still be able to get a fresh and fast dinner on the table.  Being tired from travel and a full day of work, I was tempted to call on my usual go-to's, Zoe's or Eatzi's, but I knew that as tired as I felt, what I really needed was to get in my kitchen and chop and toss and mix and grill.  I know myself and I know that taking an hour or so to myself after work and using that time to create something in the kitchen would leave me more rejuvenated than our standard take-out.  It's something about the mixing of flavors and textures and a variety of spices that inspires me and makes me feel like myself again.  I guess some would say that't the "creative" in me.

Anyway, the recipe I put together this past Monday is what I want to share with you here.  I want to walk you through my train of thought and how this delicious dish got to our table.

Ever since I made those incredibly scrumptious salmon tacos by Ina Garten back in May (see my Instagram post), I knew I wanted to try her salmon rub in other dishes.  I'd been wondering how it would turn out on shrimp for a while now and so that is what popped into my mind first. I knew the marinade would be simple and shrimp takes basically no time to cook.  I also knew that my husband and I were not going to want something super heavy after just coming home from back-to-back trips and, in general, I always tend to crave lighter dishes in the summer.  So, I mentally threw together a picture and ingredient list for this Chili Lime Shrimp Salad in between projects at work, stopped by the store on the way home, and then got to prepping in my kitchen.  This dish is so simple and full of flavor.  You whisk together a 5 - ingredient marinade and let the shrimp sit in it while you chop the mangoes, tomatoes and avocado and plate the mixed greens.  Then fire up the grill (or grill pan) and cook those shrimp before topping them on your fresh mixed greens salad.   The longer you let the shrimp marinade the better.  I let mine marinade while I prepped a few lunch items for the week so it was probably about 30 to 45 minutes but I don't think it's an absolute requirement if you're in a pinch.

Here are the details for my quick and simple Chili Lime Shrimp & Mixed Greens Salad.  I hope you can make it a last minute go-to like I have.

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

CHILI LIME SHRIMP & MIXED GREENS SALAD

To make 2 salads I used (& we had left-over shrimp for later in the week)...

INGREDIENTS:

  • About 5 cups of mixed greens (3 for Kyle & 2 for me)

  • 1 small yellow mango, cored, peeled and cut into larger chunks

  • 1/2 of an avocado, cubed

  • About 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

  • 1/2 pound of peeled & deveined shrimp. I put about 8 shrimp on Kyle's plate and 5 shrimp on my plate and had about 5 more shrimp leftover, which will perfect for another one of these salads again this week

  • About 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

  • ~2 - 4 teaspoons EVOO, for dressing

  • Balsamic Vinegar, as desired for salad

  • Crusty bread, optional

  • Marinade ingredients (inspired by Ina Garten)

    • 2 teaspoons chili powder

    • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest

    • pinch of salt

    • 2 tablespoons EVOO

    • Juice of 1 lime

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine ingredients for marinade in a large Ziplock bag. Add shrimp, coat evenly and let sit about 1 hour in the refrigerator.

  2. Add mixed greens to each plate or bowl.

  3. Top mixed greens evenly with the chopped mango, avocado and tomatoes

  4. Preheat grill pan on medium high heat.

  5. Once hot, using tongs, place shrimp on grill pan and cook about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side or until the shrimp are pink and no longer clear in the middle. Place cooked shrimp on a serving platter for guests to add to their salads or go ahead and plate onto dinner salads.

  6. Bake or toast crusty whole grain bread to accompany salads

  7. Serve salads with crusty bread, and drizzles of fresh lime, EVOO and balsamic vinegar as desired.

  8. Enjoy!

 

NUTRITION NOTES

Mangos:  vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, fiber, fluid

Mixed Greens:  iron, vitamin K, fiber, fluid

Tomatoes:  vitamin C, lycopene, fluid

Avocado:  monounsaturated fat, potassium, lutein, fiber

Shrimp:  protein, B12, iron, phosphorus, selenium

EVOO:  monounsaturated fat, vitamin E

Salmon Nicoise Salad

Plated Salmon Nicoise Salad.JPG

Hello, friends!  It's been quite a while since my last post.  This season has been a packed one that seems to have flown by.  I was super excited to get away this Memorial Day weekend.  Kyle and I took a trip to the ranch, which meant no phones or computers or social media - just family, exploring, reading, writing and grilling.  It was just the right balance of exploration and rest. We navigated our way along streams that opened to fresh pools of cold water surrounded by the greenest grass (a very unique find in the Texas - New Mexico desert) and we made ourselves at home on the large rocking chairs that lined our front porch with plenty of reading and writing material in hand (& morning visits from our peacock friend, which you know about if you saw my IG post, ha).  Given the time and lack of technology, I got to catch up on all of my fun reading, brainstorm new recipes and articles, and start making progress on recipes I have been wanting to post for some time now.

As summer is quickly approaching, I thought getting my Salmon Nicoise Salad up would be a good first step.  It's fairly simple to throw together and, although a salad, it is hearty enough for a filling and satisfying weeknight or weekend dinner.  Not only is it simple and filling but wild salmon is also reaching its peak season as we speak, making it a perfect time to give this recipe a try!  Parts of this salad can also be prepped ahead of time, which is great if you're making this for company and want more time to talk and hang out vs being in the kitchen. I'm excited to finally get this recipe up and here it is - my Salmon Nicoise Salad.  It's recipe that friends and family have enjoyed these last few months and I think you will enjoy as well!

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

 

SALMON NICOISE SALAD

Serves 3 - 4

INGREDIENTS (for Salad):

Ingredients.JPG
  • Two 6-ounce salmon filets

  • 1/8 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste

  • Pepper, to taste

  • 1 medium lemon, sliced into 6 thin slices

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, diced (about 4 cups diced raw)

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, to cook potatoes

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced lengthwise

  • 1/2 pound fresh green beans, ends trimmed

  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives (drained of juice)

  • 2 tablespoons capers (drained of juices)

  • 3 cups mixed greens

  • Champagne Vinaigrette - see recipe below

INGREDIENTS (for Dressing):

  • 4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon honey

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard



DIRECTIONS:

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Dressing whisked!

Dressing whisked!

Olive mix & greens tossed together with dressing and added as base of dinner plate

Olive mix & greens tossed together with dressing and added as base of dinner plate

Layer roasted sweet potatoes, steamed green beans & flaked salmon to dish. Serve with the roasted lemon slices.

Layer roasted sweet potatoes, steamed green beans & flaked salmon to dish. Serve with the roasted lemon slices.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper and place both salmon filets on baking sheet.

  3. Sprinkle salmon filets with a pinch of salt and cracked pepper (<1/8 teaspoon salt on each).

  4. Top each salmon filet with 3 slices of lemon, covering the length of the filet and set salmon aside.

  5. Line separate large baking sheet with parchment paper (may need 2 - see step #7).

  6. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the sweet potatoes, 2 teaspoons of olive oil and 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

  7. Spread the potatoes out onto the large prepared baking sheet (use 2 baking sheets if the pan gets too crowded).

  8. Place sweet potatoes in the preheated 400 degree oven on the top rack and cook for about 35 minutes, flipping the potatoes about 15 - 20 minutes into cooking. If cooking potatoes on bottom shelf, turn or stir about 10 minutes into cooking to prevent burning on one side.

  9. While potatoes cook, add capers, olives, tomatoes, and mix greens to a bowl and set aside.

  10. Now start the green beans.. Fill a medium pot with about 1/2 - inch water and bring to a boil. Add the steamer basket to the pot followed by the green beans. Cover the pot and allow beans to steam about 5 minutes. After the beans have cooked, turn the burner off but leave beans in the basket covered to stay warm.

  11. When the potatoes have about 15 minutes left, add the salmon filets to the oven and cook for another 15 - 20 minutes (cooking time of salmon will vary. A general rule is to cook the salmon 10 minutes for every inch thickness).

  12. While the salmon & sweet potatoes cook, make the dressing by whisking together all dressing ingredients. Or add to a small jar and shake really well!

  13. Add about 1 tablespoon of the dressing to the greens-caper mix and toss to combine.

  14. After the last 15 minutes, remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and turn the oven on broil, cooking just the salmon filets about 1 more minute. The lemons will brown and caramelize slightly. Remove from the oven.

  15. Now that all items are cooked, to a dinner plate: Place 1/2 salad mix. Add 3/4 cup green beans to one side of plate. Add 3/4 cup of sweet potatoes to another side of plate. Flake the warm salmon in the middle.

  16. Serve with the remaining dressing, caramelized lemon slices and warm crusty bread.

  17. Enjoy!

 

NUTRITION NOTES:

Green Beans:  folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A

Sweet Potatoes:  beta carotene (vitamin A), vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese

Lemons: vitamin C

Dressing:  monounsaturated fat, vitamin E

Salmon:  omega 3 fatty acids, protein, B12, selenium

Spinach:  vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, iron

FUN NUTRITION FACTS - SALMON

Did you know what the different types of salmon mean?  I didn't really until recently when I asked the man at the fish counter about it and then read an article on it in my new Cook's Illustrated magazine.  Yes, knowing the difference between these can play a role in what you choose from a nutrition perspective, but it may also help your friend or family member like salmon!  Salmon can certainly be a fishier fish, but some varieties are more mild than others.  Here is a brief rundown of what I now know....

WILD SALMON (Coho / King / Sockeye) - leaner, tougher, a stronger flavor

FARM RAISED (Atlantic / King salmon) - milder flavor, more omega-3's (fattier fish), a softer, flakier texture (some say "buttery").

Want more details on the salmon varieties?  There's a good overview here. (Thanks Cook's Illustrated!) or here (thanks Food & Nutrition magazine)!