Salads, Side Dishes

Recipe—Asparagus and Feta Salad

California is one of the leading producers of asparagus in the United Stated. Asparagus is so big in California that the city of Stockton even throws an entire festival in honor of asparagus. True story! I grew up eating asparagus on a regular basis. (By the way, I am 33 and still crack up that it gives you stinky pee. I don’t think I will ever grow up.) I could eat asparagus every day. There are just so many ways to prepare it but I think I have found my favorite way to eat the lovely green spears, grilled asparagus and feta salad. Man this was awesome! My husband and I devoured the whole bowl so if you are cooking for more than 2 people just go ahead and double or triple the recipe. Trust me you will eat it all! There was just so much flavor in the salad and it was so light and refreshing. Perfect for spring or summer. We just served it with a simple grilled chicken breast seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper and it was the perfect complement. This my friends, is good eating.

Want to know more about asparagus? Then check out this old post and you will be an asparagus pro!

INGREDIENTS
1 bunch thick asparagus, ends trimmed
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
zest from one lemon
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 c crumbled feta cheese

STEPS

  • Preheat the grill to about 325º.
  • Place the asparagus in a baking dish and coat with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and then season with salt and pepper.
  • Place the asparagus on the grille making sure that they are perpendicular to the grates so that they don’t slip through.
  • Close the grill and cook for 3 minutes.
  • roll the asparagus over and cook for another 3 minutes.
  • Remove the asparagus and transfer to a cutting board.
  • Allow the asparagus to cool for 5–10 minutes.
  • Cut the spears into 1–2” pieces.
  • Place the cut asparagus into a medium bowl and toss with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and half of the feta.
  • Top the salad with the remaining asparagus and serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from Once Upon a Chef.

Salads

Recipe—Dad’s Beet, Carrot, and Feta Salad

My dad has always been an incredible cook. He manages to take the most simple ingredients and turns them into something wonderful! This is a salad that he first made for me last year and it is now one of my favorites. It took him a few minutes to throw it together and yet it turned out to be delicious and it had a gourmet quality to it. The carrots and raw beets are just slightly sweet, perfectly crunchy, and the feta adds a wonderful salty, tangy, creamy quality. Yum! This is the perfect salad going into spring. Since all of the vegetables are raw it will hold up and remain crunchy for several days when stored in the fridge allowing you to enjoy it more than once, that is, if you even have leftovers. Enjoy!

Note: My beets appear pink in the photo because I used chioggia beets which vary in color from the more common red beets. You can use any kind of beet you can get your hands on for this recipe. However, I do think red beets give you the most beautiful color.

INGREDIENTS
3 fresh beets, washed, peeled, and shredded
4 large carrots, shredded
1/2 c Italian dressing
1/2 c feta cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

STEPS

  • Combine the shredded beets and shredded carrots in a large bowl.
  • Pour the Italian dressing over the veggies and toss to combine.
  • Top with feta cheese and fresh parsley.
  • Chill until ready to serve.
Soups

Recipe—Creamy Cheesy Broccoli Soup

It is FINALLY starting to feel like winter in California! We have been having 60–70 degree days in December and January. Not normal! Don’t get me wrong, I love nice weather but one of my favorite things about Cali is that we usually have 4 very distinct seasons. I love being bundled up with a cozy scarf and boots on a cold winter day with a big bowl of soup and it has just not been that kind of winter. Well we just got our first spell of rain in what feels like months! This led me to go into full on soup mode.

Broccoli cheddar soup has always been one of my all time favorite soups. It is so rich, creamy, and filling. (Exactly what you need after you made your new year’s resolutions right?) Well give yourself a cheat day and serve this up with an old-fashioned grilled cheese sandwich for a real winter treat. A perfect warm up for a cold winter day!

INGREDIENTS
1/4 c butter
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
1/4 tsp thyme
3 tbsp flour
3 c milk
3 c chicken broth
1 c heavy cream
2 heads broccoli, chopped
1 c cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 c parmesan, grated
salt
white pepper

STEPS

  • Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add the garlic, onion, and thyme and cook stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent, about 4–5 minutes.
  • Add in the flour and mix until well combined and it starts to brown, about 1 minute.
  • Gradually whisk in milk, broth, and cream.
  • Stir in the chopped broccoli and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the broccoli is tender, about 8–10 minutes.
  • Add in the shredded cheeses and stir until smooth and melted, about 2 minutes.
  • Season to taste with the salt and white pepper.
  • Serve and top with additional shredded cheddar if desired.
  • Serve immediately.
Appetizers, Side Dishes, Snacks

Recipe—Roasted Carrot Fries

A couple of weeks back we got these GORGEOUS rainbow carrots in our box of organic produce and when my son saw them he honestly didn’t believe me that they were carrots.  They ranged from a deep purple to red and even white. They were just too pretty to get tossed into a salad or cooked any ordinary way. I wanted these to stand on their own. I know I have mentioned in many previous posts that I am always looking for fun and healthy after school snacks for my little man so we decided to make roasted carrot fries. They were awesome! I just sliced, baked, and served them with a little side of ranch (because every 3 year old loves to dip their food in sauce).  These were super quick and a wonderful way to enjoy these rainbow carrots.

INGREDIENTS
4–5 large carrots (I used rainbow carrots)
olive oil for drizzling
salt
ranch for dipping (optional)

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 425º.
  • Carefully cut the carrots into “fry sized” pieces.
  • Place the carrots on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Toss the carrots to coat and season with salt.
  • Bake the carrots for 15–18 minutes or until crisp tender, flipping once halfway through cooking.
  • Remove from oven and transfer to a serving dish or plate.
  • Serve with a side of your favorite dressing or enjoy all on their own.
Salads, Side Dishes

Recipe—Broccoli Salad

Broccoli SAlad

Over the past several months I have been on a total broccoli salad kick. Whenever we go to the store I can’t resist getting some at the deli counter. I figured I might as well learn to make my own, and so I did. And it was the bomb diggity! This broccoli salad is the perfect balance of crunchy and creamy, and sweet and salty. I could seriously eat this as a meal all on it’s own, okay I did eat this as a meal all on it’s own. I ate it by the bowlful! It is the perfect summer salad. It’s super light and refreshing. I don’t care if you are a fan of broccoli or not, you will love this recipe. I will make broccoli lovers out of all of you yet!

INGREDIENTS
3 heads of broccoli, chopped into small pieces
1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 c craisins
1/2 c salted sunflower seeds
1 c mayonnaise
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp white vinegar

STEPS

  • In a large bowl combine the broccoli, bacon, red onion, craisins, and sunflower seeds.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar.
  • Drizzle the dressing over the broccoli salad and toss to coat.
  • Cover the salad and place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
  • Stir right before serving.
Side Dishes

Recipe—Cracked Corn and Cheese Cornbread Muffins

Cracked Corn and Cheese Cornbread Muffins

I am not one to just make something out of the box without tinkering with it. I’m sort of like a dog, I want to make my mark, make it my own. I love the convenience of those little boxes of the Jiffy corn muffin mix but it’s fun to add a little pizzazz. This recipe takes a plain old-fashioned corn muffin and gives it a little extra oomph. I add some corn kernels, pepper jack cheese, and a handful of green onions. This gives them a nice texture with the bits of corn, a nice little bite, and the cheese is like a gooey surprise in the middle. The kids will flip over these!

Note: If you are concerned about the spice of pepper jack cheese just use regular jack. 

INGREDIENTS
8.5 oz package of Jiffy corn muffin mix
1/2 c pepper jack cheese cut into 1/4” cubes
1/2 c corn (frozen or canned will work)
2 green onions, chopped

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 400º.
  • Prepare corn muffin mix per package instructions.
  • Stir in cheese, corn, and green onions.
  • Prepare muffin pan with liner cups and evenly distribute the muffin mix in each cup filling up about 2/3 of the way.
  • Bake for 18–20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before serving.

Love this idea for corn muffins? Then perhaps you will like these!

Jalapeño Cheddar Corn Bread Muffins

Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread Muffins

Salads, Side Dishes

Recipe—Orzo Pesto Pasta

In my office we all have a habit of bringing in various treats to share with each other throughout the year. (I know rough environment to be working in right?) Several years back we had an awesome (student assistant named Sarah. One day Sarah brought in this incredible orzo pesto pasta salad. I was in love! (With both Sarah and her pasta. Sarah was awesome.) She made her own pesto from scratch and I will not lie, I was impressed. This is the perfect summer salad. You have the seasonally fresh tomatoes and zucchini mixed with tangy vinegar and pesto giving it a wonderfully light and refreshing flavor. I make it several times of year and whenever I am generous enough to share with my friends I am asked for the recipe. It is definitely a favorite in our household. My son was even eating it by the bowlful when he was 1 1/2 years old. If you are looking for a tasty recipe for any summer cookouts or BBQs then search no further. This is perfect. While that little box of orzo may not look like much, it expands a great deal so this makes a very decent sized bowl of the tasty pasta salad.

Note: I save a couple of tablespoons of the feta and pine nuts to garnish the top of the salad with.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb box of orzo pasta, uncooked
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium zucchini, cut into quarters lengthwise and then sliced
salt and pepper
4 oz feta cheese crumbles (see above note)
2 c pesto (make your own or get some from the market to save time)
3/4 c white vinegar
2 c cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 c pine nuts

STEPS

  • Cook orzo pasta per package instructions.
  • While the orzo is cooking, heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add zucchini and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook the zucchini for 3–4 minutes just slightly cooking it and then remove from heat.
  • Drain the orzo and place in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the feta and pesto stirring to combine.
  • Drizzle the vinegar while stirring.
  • Stir in the cooked zucchini, tomatoes, and pine nuts.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with extra feta and pine nuts if you saved any.
  • Refrigerate for at least 2–3 hours before serving.
Dinners

Recipe—Summer Squash with Cheese Tortellini in a Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce

Many pasta dishes have a certain heaviness to them, which makes them great comfort foods for fall and winter. This is a pasta dish that defies that logic. The lemon zest and fresh summer squash gives this dish a wonderful light and refreshing quality that will have your taste buds tingling all summer long. The sauce is what I would call a grownup version of alfredo sauce. It has that wonderful creamy quality but with more flavor. This recipe is great for many other reasons. It is incredibly cheap to make, it’s super easy, it’s delicious, and it took me under 15 minutes from start to completion, making it the perfect dinner for a busy night.

Note: You can also substitute ravioli for the tortellini.

INGREDIENTS
16–18 oz cheese tortellini (fresh or frozen)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
2 tsp garlic, minced
3 summer squash (zucchini and/or yellow squash), thinly sliced
salt and pepper
1 1/2 c heavy cream
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp green onions or chives, chopped

STEPS

  • Cook the pasta per package instructions.
  • While the pasta water is coming to a boil, heat the olive oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add the shallot s and garlic and cook for 3–4 minutes.
  • Add the squash and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 4–5 minutes.
  • Add the cream and lemon zest and cook until the cream begins to simmer and thicken.
  • Add in the grated parmesan and stir to combine.
  • Drain the pasta.
  • Once the sauce is the desired thickness, add the cooked tortellini to the pan.
  • Transfer to serving dishes and top with extra parmesan and a sprinkling of the green onions.

Recipe adapted from Real Simple.

Salads

Recipe—Bok Choy and Carrot Slaw in a Tangy Sesame Soy Vinaigrette

I really wanted to cook some seared ahi the other night and I was looking for the perfect side dish. Well low and behold! There was bok choy in my produce box that week so I knew exactly what to do.  A light and refreshing Asian inspired slaw. It was perfect for the warm summer night and was exactly what my gorgeous piece of ahi needed. Something not too heavy but loaded with flavors that would complement the simplicity of the fish. The dressing for this slaw is tangy, sweet, has a nice sesame flavor, and just a little bite from the fresh garlic. This is great for any Asian inspired dinner you have planned. I also had it with some chicken teriyaki and it was killer! This super fabulous recipe takes less than five minutes to make and is super low cal. Delicious and nutritious!

Note: Dressing can be made a couple of days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. Then just toss the salad and the dressing right before serving.

INGREDIENTS
1 tsp garlic, minced
2 tsp sesame seeds (plus more for garnish if desired)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp olive oil
2–3 large baby bok choy, thinly sliced (about 4–6 c)
1/2 c shredded carrots

STEPS

  • In a small bowl whisk together the garlic, sesame seeds, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and olive oil until well combined.
  • Pour the vinaigrette over the sliced bok choy and shredded carrots and toss to coat.
  • Garnish with extra sesame seeds if desired.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The Cozy Apron.

Side Dishes, Snacks

Recipe—Roasted Fennel Fries

Awhile back I posted a recipe for kale chips. Kale chips are a delicious and healthy snack that my son absolutely loved. I was eager to find more recipes that were just as simple, tasty, and nutritious. I recently used the same seasoning and cooking technique with roasted fennel and had fabulous results. These roasted fennel fries were absolutely addicting. My son and I could not stop eating them! We didn’t even waste time getting out a plate. I kid you not, we were eating the pieces straight off the baking sheet. They were that good! Think french fries, but without the calories and even more flavorful. Roasted fennel fries are not only a great snack but they also make a great side dish for any dinner. Just be sure you make enough because these fries will go fast!

INGREDIENTS

2 large fennel bulbs, fronds removed and sliced into 1/3” thick pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 375º.
  • Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper and place the fennel slices in a single layer.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place in the oven and cook for 30–45 minutes flipping once halfway through.
  • Bake until the fennel is fork tender and a golden brown.