Winter Cobb Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash

This is a big long recipe and it would be easy to be intimidated but I promise you; it’s easy. And once you make the different components of this delicious salad, you have meals all week long. 

I’m not usually one for salads in the winter. I don’t know why, but I usually lean towards warm and comforting soups to get my vegetables in, but this winter cob salad is a game-changer. Roasted squash, tart pomegranate seeds, creamy avocado and tangy pickled onions work so well together. It’s a recipe that I’ve made over and over again and we’re barely to December. I like it because it’s a one-pot (or really one-bowl) recipe. Throw all the ingredients together and you have a healthy and delicious meal.

Even better, once you have all the ingredients, you can use them in different ways. Don’t feel like a salad? No problem…eat the squash on its own with some roasted chicken. Didn’t have time to make pickled onions (or just don’t like them)? No problem. Skip them. This salad is incredible forgiving, so swap in and out what you like best.

Winter Cobb Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash

For the Squash

 2 delicata squash, washed and cut in half with seeds and pulp removed
 Zest of half a lemon 
 1 teaspoon minced garlic
 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
 1 teaspoon parsley
 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
 Kosher salt and black pepper.

Cut the squash into half inch pieces. In a large ziplock bag or bowl, toss the squash in olive oil, lemon zest, parsley, parmesan cheese and a liberal pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside and allow to marinate for one hour. When ready to roast, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange squash on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Make sure to get all the bits of parmesan cheese and lemon zest onto the tray. Roast in the oven for about 10-12 minutes, flipping the squash halfway through the cooking time. The squash is done when they begin to turn golden brown and a fork easily pierces the flesh. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

For the Salad

 5 ounces arugula
 Roasted delicata squash
 1 cooked chicken breast, cubed (I usually just grab a rotisserie chicken from the store and peel the skin off)
 1 honeycrisp apple, diced
 2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
 2 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds
 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds (dried cranberries work well too)
 Pickled red onion (optional)
 Avocado, sliced

Quick Pickled Onions

 1 red onion, thinly sliced
 1 tablespoon sugar
 1 teaspoon kosher salt
 Apple Cider Vinegar
 Water

In an air-tight container, combine the red onion with the sugar and salt. Pour apple cider vinegar over the onion until they are halfway covered. Fill the container the rest of the way with water. Put the lid on and let sit on the counter for at least onehour. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Salad Dressing

 Juice of one lemon
 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
 ¼ cup white wine vinegar
 1 teaspoon dried mustard
 1 teaspoon dried parsley
 Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

In a measuring cup or a jar with a lid, combine ingredients. Mix well and taste to make sure it tastes to your preference. Add more salt or lemon juice as needed.

To assemble the salad, layer the squash, apple, pumpkin seeds, almonds, chicken, pomegranate seeds, pickled onions and avocado over the arugula. Garnish with kosher salt and pepper.

Drizzle the salad dressing over the salad and using two forks, toss and mix until ingredients are well-combined. Store any leftover ingredients in air-tight containers in the refrigerator. 

 

White Bean Chicken Chili

After a long weekend of many indulgences: hello Trevari rose, hello stuffing and pumpkin pie not to mention the next-day turkey sandwich of my dreams, I’m more than ready to get back to the basics of eating healthfully. It was a tasty and memorable holiday and I hope yours was too.

This week I’m prepping a big batch of white bean chicken chili. I’ve thrown out the last scraps of leftovers and I hit the grocery store for lots of fruits and vegetables. With school and work and activities back in the swing of things this week, I know a big bowl of soup at the end of a long day will be just what everyone needs.

This recipe is perfect to meal prep at the beginning of the week for an easy and healthy dinner or lunches all week. I’ve written the recipe for an instant pot, but if you don’t have one, no problem. Simply combine all the ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours. At the halfway point, use two forks to break apart the chicken.

White Bean Chicken Chili

 2 chicken breasts
 ½ yellow onion, diced
 1 red bell pepper, diced
 2 carrots, diced
 1 16-ounce jar medium salsa (red or green)
 1 can green or hatch chilis
 2 13-ounce cans great northern beans
 1 16-ounce bag organic frozen corn
 1 10-ounce bag frozen riced cauliflower
 2 32-ounce boxes organic low-sodium chicken stock
 1 teaspoon all-seasoning
 1 teaspoon cumin 
 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
 Black pepper

Place two frozen chicken breasts and the jar of salsa in an instant pot. Cook on manual for 25 minutes. Release pressure and turn to sauté function. Add the diced onion, bell pepper and carrots and stir into the chicken. Use a fork to begin breaking up the chicken. After 3-5 minutes of cooking, add the rest of the ingredients. Cook on manual for another 15 minutes. Release pressure, give the soup a good stir and finish breaking up the chicken, so it is nice and shredded. Taste to make sure it doesn’t need a bit more salt. 

To serve, ladle soup into bowls. Top with slices of avocado, fresh chopped cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lime and a dollop of fat-free sour cream. Serves 6-8 generous portions.

 

Cranberry Orange Relish

 

I’ll keep my words short and to the point because I know the hustle and bustle of the day is going to take over in what feels like the blink of an eye.

Whether your house is filled to the brim with every family member in a 100-mile radius or you’re enjoying a cozy quiet Thanksgiving, I wish you a day full of good food, a moment to steal away to reflect on the year’s blessings and priceless memories that will carry you the entire year.

As I write this note, my children are running through the house treading the line between happy jovial play and wild feral animal. It’s a blurry line that they seem to cross and retreat from all day long.

I’ve spent weeks thinking about the menu for Thanksgiving and now that it’s finally here, I realize with crystal clarity that I really don’t care all that much. What I care about is those wild children, my family near and far, friends who I miss and don’t see nearly enough and this wonderful, special opportunity I have each week to share a few words and recipes in this space. I feel so lucky to gather at the table over a meal with the people I love and to share it here as I go along.

And because I can’t just let a week slip by without a recipe, I offer you my most favorite cranberry sauce. I recognize everyone seems to have a firm stance on whether they like cranberry sauce or not, but wherever you fall with your preferences, I challenge you to make this easy dish. Tart cranberries are softened with a little sugar and fresh orange juice and then mellowed with cinnamon and ginger. 

Cranberry Orange Relish, adapted from The Pioneer Woman

 12 ounces, fresh cranberries
 3/4 cups sugar
 1 tablespoon orange zest
 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange Juice
 1 cinnamon stick
 ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
 Pinch of salt

Rinse cranberries well, then place them in a heavy bottomed saucepan with the sugar, orange zest, orange juice, ginger and cinnamon stick. Give it a stir, then place the pan over medium-low heat. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 15 minutes, stirring the mixture every 5 minutes to ensure the bottom doesn’t burn. 

After 15 minutes, the cranberries should all be popped. Remove the pan from the heat. The sauce will look very liquidy, but as it cools, the sauce will thicken up significantly. After the sauce has cooled completely, you can add additional water for a thinner texture. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve the cranberry sauce at room temperature or chilled. Enjoy!

A Cozy Fall Dinner Party

So often food connects us to memories or people. We have a favorite dish our mother made for us as children or remember a special breakfast our grandparents made only when we visited them. We highlight memorable meals with friends and memorialize the trips we’ve taken based on what we ate.

We make a connection to the people we care about through food. It doesn’t matter one bit if you consider yourself a ‘foodie,’ or have no idea how to get around the in the kitchen.  What we find is that the food really didn’t matter all that much, ultimately it’s about the gathering.

My aunt, whose recipe for mashed potatoes is included in this menu,  understood the simple pleasures of a good meal, good friends, the decadence of a sweet-smelling candle and a good piece of chocolate. She never missed an opportunity to gather with her friends and family. She loved to cook and was a natural generous host. I think of her often when I’m in my own kitchen. Her food was thoughtful and inspiring while in the same breath completely approachable.

As the holiday season quickly approaches and so many of us steel ourselves for the onslaught of gatherings and events, here is an opportunity to make a meal for friends and family that feels like a warm hug on a cold blustery evening.

This isn’t a fancy menu; just good, simple food for a cozy evening. Grilled tri-tip steak is marinated in soy sauce, brown sugar, and garlic with a splash of sriracha resulting in tender flavorful meat. Mashed potatoes get a makeover with sour cream and cream cheese, then baked to give the potatoes a twice-baked texture. Your guests will be fighting over the last spoonful, I can guarantee it. And finally, a big spinach salad full of fruit, tangy goat cheese and delicious caramelized onions, not only surprise you but add big delicious flavor.

Dessert is decadent but so easy. Homemade mocha pudding literally comes together in 10 minutes but will wow your guests. It is rich and chocolaty with a hint of espresso. A dollop of whipped cream and a few berries softens the richness of the dessert and makes it so special.

Don’t worry too much about the perfect centerpiece or matching napkins. Just set the table, turn some music on and invite people over. Sit around the table long after the meal ends sharing stories and laughing until your sides hurt. The dishes can wait until morning, just enjoy being at the table, in the moment. 

Grilled Tri-Tip Steak

  • 2-3 pounds tri-tip
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine olive oil, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, vinegar, sesame oil and sriracha. Whisk to combine. Liberally salt and pepper the tri-tip steaks on both sides of the meat. Submerge the meat in the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to marinate at least 3 hours, longer if possible.

Preheat outdoor grill to medium-high. Place tri-tip steak on the grill. Sear each side for 5 – 8 minutes per side.

Lower grill to medium-low heat and continue to grill for 6-10 minutes or until a thermometer reaches 130 degrees in the center of the steak. Tri-tip steaks can range in thickness. I suggest using a meat thermometer to check the temperature to ensure the meat does not overcook. The total cooking time will be about 20-25 minutes. 

Meredith’s Potatoes

  • 5 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups full-fat sour cream
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon green onions, thinly sliced
  • Dash of smoked paprika

Place potatoes in a large pot of salted water. Boil potatoes over medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes until potatoes are fork tender. Drain water from potatoes and return them to the pot. Turn the heat back to medium and cook for one to two minutes until moisture evaporates. Turn heat off.

Using a hand mixer or a potato masher, begin to mash the potatoes. Mix in the sour cream and cream cheese and continue stirring and mixing until the potatoes are smooth and the ingredient are well-combined. Salt and pepper to the potatoes liberally. Taste to see if they need more salt.

Generously butter baking dish. Add potatoes to the buttered dish, smoothing the surface. Sprinkle with a dash of smoked paprika. Bake potatoes in the oven at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Garnish with slivered green onions. Serve immediately.

*Potatoes can be made ahead of time. Instead of baking, cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Allow the potatoes to come to room temperature while oven preheats.

Harvest Salad with Caramelized Onions and Balsamic Dressing

  • 1 8 oz. container organic baby spinach
  • 1 honey crisp apple, thinly sliced
  • 1 6 oz. container fresh blackberries (or raspberries)
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
  • ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup toasted slivered almonds

Maple Balsamic Dressing

  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Start by caramelizing the onion. In a medium saucepan, drizzle two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over thinly sliced onions. Give the onions a quick stir and sprinkle with kosher salt. Turn the heat to medium-low and cover with a lid. Stir every couple minutes until the onions are richly brown and condensed down by about half, usually about 30 minutes. After the first 10 minutes of cooking, remove the lid and continue to stir the onions.

In a large bowl, layer the honey crisp apple, blackberries, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds and slivered almonds over baby spinach. Top everything with the caramelized onions. Drizzle with maple balsamic dressing and mix to combine all ingredients. Serve immediately.

Herb Butter

  • ½ cup salted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs such as Italian parsley, basil and rosemary
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • Coarse sea salt

In a small bowl use a fork to mix softened butter with fresh herbs and lemon zest. Sprinkle with coarse salt. On a piece of parchment paper, place the butter in the center of the paper. Wrap the parchment around the butter forming a cylinder. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, unwrap butter from parchment and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

Chocolate Mocha Pudding

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Sweetened heavy whipping cream
  • Raspberries

In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cocoa powder, instant espresso and cornstarch. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk and egg yolks. Turn the heat to medium and pour the milk mixture over the sugar mixture, stirring to combine. Whisk constantly until the mixture begins to boil and thicken, about five minutes. Allow the pudding to boil an additional minute before removing from the heat. Stir in vanilla.

To make whipped cream, whip one cup heavy whipping cream with a hand mixer. For additional flavor add one tablespoon powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla extract. Store extras in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

*As soon as the pudding is finished thickening and the vanilla extract is stirred in, place a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap over the pudding. This prevents a skin from forming and keeps the pudding decadently smooth.

To serve, divide pudding into individual cups. Top with sweetened whipped cream and a few fresh raspberries.

Pumpkin Whole Wheat Waffles

It feels a little like a light switch was flipped and we went from summer to fall in the blink of an eye. The mornings and evenings are crisp and cool and everywhere I look the trees and foliage are making their transformation from emerald green to deep hues of red, orange and yellow. I love this time of year.

And because I just can’t resist a good pumpkin recipe in the fall, I had to take a stab at some pumpkin waffles. I’ve bought the Trader Joe’s waffle mix for years, stocking up on a few boxes every fall. And while they’re delicious, my kids were hit and miss in liking them, not to mention I don’t live anywhere close to a Trader Joe’s.

So, with a weekend ahead full of soccer and football, I decided what we needed was a warm, cozy and little bit decadent breakfast to get us through. I’ve made overnight waffles dozens of times and they are literally the easiest way to get delicious, light but crisp waffles. You mix up most of the batter the night before, and really it takes just five minutes. Throw it in the fridge and in the morning, when everyone is ready to eat, mix in the last two ingredients and you’re ready for waffles.

I stirred in pumpkin puree and a few spices and the result was absolutely delicious. Light and fluffy with a hint of pumpkin pie flavor, my entire family gobbled these up.

For a special addition, make honey cinnamon butter to top your waffles. Simply take a softened stick of salted butter. Mix in two tablespoons honey and half a teaspoon of cinnamon. Set that out with some warm maple syrup for a breakfast everyone will beg you to make again and again.

Pumpkin Whole Wheat Waffles

Night Before:

• 1/2 cup warm water

• 1 tablespoon yeast

• 1/2 cup melted butter

• 2 cups milk (2%)

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 2/3 cups pumpkin puree

• 2 tablespoons sugar

• 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

• ½ teaspoon cinnamon

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

The Next Day:

• 2 eggs, beaten

• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine the yeast and water in a large mixing bowl and let stand for a few minutes. Stir to make sure the yeast dissolves. Melt the butter in the microwave. Combine the butter with the milk, pumpkin, salt, vanilla, spices and sugar. Test with your finger to make sure the mixture has cooled to lukewarm, then stir it into the dissolved yeast mixture. Add the flour and stir until a thick, shaggy dough is formed and there is no more visible flour.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and throw it in the refrigerator. The batter will double or triple in bulk as it rises.

The next morning, beat the eggs together and add them to the batter along with the baking soda, stirring until completely combined.

Make the waffles according to your waffle maker’s instructions, cooking until the waffles are golden-brown. Serve with cinnamon honey butter and maple syrup. Leftovers can be frozen. Warm them in a toaster oven to reheat.

Pot Roast with Tomatoes, Wine and Herbs de Provence

We had the rare weekend with almost nothing on the calendar. An out-of-town soccer game was cancelled, no birthday parties or commitments popped up on the calendar leaving; it was just our little family of five for the entire weekend.

We did the regular weekend things: worked in the yard, ran to the grocery store, watched a little football but it was all done at a gloriously slower pace than usual and I could feel us all take a collective breath as we shrugged off a busy and stressful week. We need these quiet weekends sometimes. I forget so easily how good rest is. As our weekend wrapped up and we hadn’t left the house all day, I knew I wanted a meal as quintessentially slow and relaxed as our weekend had been.

This isn’t a fancy meal; just good, simple food for a cozy evening. The humble pot roast is jazzed up with a big glug of red wine and herbs resulting in tender flavorful meat. Slow cooked in the oven or your crockpot, the meat literally falls apart as you lift it from the pot. Drizzle some of the juices from the pot over the meat once you slice it for extra flavor and tenderness. Mashed potatoes or polenta are excellent side dishes to go with this recipe but you could also halve a pound of red potatoes and throw them in with the roast and you have an easy one-pot meal.

Pot Roast with Tomatoes, Wine and Herbs de Provence

• 4-5 pound bone-in chuck roast

• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

• 1 tablespoon butter

• 1 medium yellow onion, chopped

• 3 carrots, chopped

• 3 stalks celery, chopped

• 4 cloves garlic, chopped

• 28 ounces can organic tomatoes

• 1 cup beef stock

• 1 1/2 cups red wine

• 1 bay leaf

• 2 teaspoons herbs de Provence

• 1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided

• 2 teaspoons black pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large Dutch oven or oven-safe pot heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat.

Liberally salt and pepper chuck roast on all side (about 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper on each side). Sear the chuck roast on both sides, cooking for about 2-3 minutes each side. Remove meat from the pot and set aside. Sauté the onion, carrots and celery in the pot, adding an additional tablespoon olive oil to the pan if necessary, scraping up the little brown bits. Salt and pepper the veggies, cooking for 5-8 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add chuck roast back into the pot. Add the tomatoes, wine bay leaf and herbs de Provence to the pot. The liquid should cover the veggies and about half the meat. Cover the pot with the lid and put in the oven. Cook for about 4 to 5 hours until the meat is tender and pulling away from the bone.

To serve, pull the meat off the bone, and serve with a generous spoonful of the pan drippings and vegetables from the pot.

Chocolate Almond Butter Swirled Banana Bread

The day finally came. My youngest child started kindergarten. After having three kids in four years, my frazzled ‘mom-brain’ never quite thought the day would come when all my children went to school.

I spent the summer thinking about what this fall would look like. At first, I had grand plans of all the work I would get done and all the recipes I would come up with. I was going to exercise every day and stay caught up on the laundry. I call this my optimistic phase.

Next came the doubting phase. Sometime in August I got a little sad and mopey. I googled homeschooling. I annoyed my children with too many hugs, whipping my phone out to take photos over the smallest things. They rolled their eyes at me and most definitely took advantage of my weakened state of mind, negotiating for popsicles and t.v. time, but they hugged me back, snuggling up on the couch, somehow knowing a change was in the air. (Or maybe it was all the popsicles and t.v.)

And suddenly it was September. And off they went, excited and happy and not a tear anywhere but in my eyes. My daughter announced on the first day of kindergarten, ‘Mom, I just love school.’ I would call that a good sign.

This banana bread recipe is the perfect special treat for kids after school, or let’s be honest, anyone in the mood for a decadent and chocolaty dessert. I’m not quite ready to embrace fall food, but this feels like a baby step in that direction. Almond butter gives the bread a hearty nutty flavor and the chocolate with the banana is an obvious match. If we can keep the loaf around for more than a day or two, we toast thick slices and slather them with a little butter as an after-school snack.

Chocolate Almond Butter Swirled Banana Bread

• 2 eggs

• 1 cup sugar

• 1/2 cup oil

• 3 1/2 bananas, very ripe, mashed

• 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• 2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour

• 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

• 1 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1 cup dark chocolate chips

• 2 tablespoons almond butter (or peanut butter)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cocoa powder and salt in a large bowl and set aside. Beat sugar and eggs with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Drizzle in oil. Add mashed bananas, sour cream and vanilla. Mix until well-combined.

Fold in dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into the lined loaf pan. In a small microwave-safe container warm the almond butter in the microwave for 15 seconds. Once warmed, pour the almond butter over the batter. Use a knife to spread the almond butter evenly throughout the batter.

Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. Allow bread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out on a rack to finish cooling completely.