Fall Flavors Series: Kale and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

Happy Fall, y’all! With fall comes brisker weather — which as someone who is always warm, I quite enjoy — along with delicious foods. Pumpkin, anyone? See also: Brussels sprouts, squash in all shapes and sizes, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, etc.

I recently prepared a multi-course vegan meal for a group of wonderful women. A couple of friends came up with the idea for an event, GATHER: Your Mat, Our Table. The event included an hour-long rooftop yoga class and then a delicious vegan meal prepared by yours truly using almost completely local ingredients. Here’s the menu lineup (and credit to the farms that supplied the goods, AKA the veggies):

Lacinato kale,  cinnamon-roasted butternut squash and pomegranate salad with candied pecans and a fig-balsamic dressing

Roasted Brussels sprouts with orange zest and toasted hazelnuts

Purple and sweet potato fritters with spiced apple sauce

Butternut squash and lentil curry over coconut-lime cauliflower “rice”

Caramel apple bar

*Lacinato kale, purple and sweet potatoes from Green Acres Indiana Farm; Butternut squash, red onions, red peppers, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts from Geneva Lakes Produce; Apples from K & K Farms*

This was my farmer’s market haul for the event:

fall_vegetabls_in_season

Many of the awesome ladies at the event were asking for recipes, so I figured I would do a series of posts. I want to first highlight my personal favorite dish of the night (and one of the easiest to make!): a roasted butternut squash and kale salad.

I’m all about color and texture in my recipes, and this one really offers it all. Crispy kale, the “pop” of pomegranate, the smooth, creamy texture of roasted butternut squash plus candied pecans on the side to add sweetness and crunch.

Drizzle it with a super-simple Mission fig balsamic vinaigrette and you’ve got a major crowd favorite.

fall_salad

Fall Kale, Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Salad

This salad is vegan but to add a little more protein, try topping with grilled chicken, salmon or to keep it vegan/vegetarian and up the protein, add some lentils or chick peas to the mix.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 bunches lacinato (AKA dinosaur) kale, preferably organic, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil plus 3 Tbsp. olive oil, preferably cold-pressed
  • 1 large pomegranate
  • 8 oz. pecan halves
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. fig balsamic (you can find at specialty grocery stores or olive oil/vinegar shops) Substitute balsamic vinegar if you can’t find fig balsamic 
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut the ends off of the butternut squash then cut in quarters. Scoop out the seeds. Using a sharp knife, cut the peel off, then dice into 1/2″ cubes.
  3. Toss diced butternut squash and red onion with coconut oil, cinnamon and sea salt. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes, or until desired level of char (I like mine really charred).
  4. While squash and onions are roasting, add kale to a large bowl and drizzle with 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Using hands, massage oil into the kale. This will take out some of the bitterness and make the kale a better texture. Put the massaged kale in the fridge to marinate while you prep everything else.
  5. To remove the seeds from the pomegranate, roll the pomegranate gently around on the table (before cutting into it). You will hear and feel the seeds loosening. Then, cut the pomegranate in quarters and scoop out the seeds. Keep seeds refrigerated.
  6. Add 2 tsp. coconut oil to a pan and heat for 1 minute, then add pecans, 1 Tbsp. maple syrup and 1/2 tsp cinnamon to pan and toast, stirring frequently, for about 5-7 minutes.
  7. Using a whisk, mix vinegar, 3 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. maple syrup.
  8. On top of “massaged” kale, add pomegranate seeds, roasted butternut squash/onions and candied pecans. Drizzle with dressing.

Stay tuned for more fall recipes coming your way. And while I’m not generally a “vegan” cook, these recipes have mass appeal and include REAL foods that anyone can get behind. Hope you enjoy!

Kale and Sweet Potato Niçoise Salad

Ever since eating my first Niçoise salad, I’ve been hooked. The perfect green beans. The Kalamata olives (my favorite). The potatoes, which give just the right amount of sustenance to the salad. And of course, the seafood. Throw in hard-boiled eggs and a delicious dressing, and you’ve made the classic.

Well, last week, the urge for a Niçoise salad hit and it hit bad. Since I didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand for the classic, I decided to mix it up a bit and do my own take. Leftover sweet potato subbed for white potatoes, kale subbed for lettuce, capers subbed for olives and sardines subbed for tuna/anchovies. Plus some fresh basil from my beloved Farmed Here and black garlic — a new obsession — to add a little more flavor. Top it off with a 3-ingredient Dijon vinaigrette and I was in Niçoise heaven (or at least my improvised version of it).

Nicoise_salad

Oh and no offense to the Niçoise peeps, but I feel my version is quite possibly tastier and most definitely packed with more nutrients than the original — from the “superfood” status of kale to the omega-3 content (it’s high, folks) of sardines to the antioxidant power of fresh herbs.

Recipe: Kale and Sweet Potato Niçoise Salad

Trader Joe’s just started carrying fermented black garlic, which is where I bought it. If you live near an Asian market, however, you will most certainly find it there. Fresh rosemary or thyme would also be delicious in place of the basil.

Image

Yields: 1 salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups fresh baby kale (love the Earthbound Organic pre-washed Kale)
  • 1/2 large sweet potato
  • 1, 6 oz. can water-packed sardines
  • 1 cup cooked green beans
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into ribbons
  • 1 Tbsp capers, juices drained
  • 1 clove fermented black garlic, sliced

black_garlic

  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp olive oil, preferably organic, cold-pressed
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • Pepper to taste

Directions:

Poke holes in sweet potato and microwave for 3-5 minutes, until potato is soft. You can also use a leftover baked sweet potato if you have one on hand. Cut the sweet potato into large wedges.

Assemble salad: Lay kale on top of a large plate. Top kale with cut sweet potato, can sardines (drained), cooked green beans, capers, sliced black garlic and fresh basil. Grind black pepper over the salad.

Make dressing: Mix Dijon mustard, olive oil and apple cider vinegar in a small bowl. Pour over salad.

dijon_vinaigrette_nicoise

Warning: this salad is best enjoyed in the comfort of your own home. Your coworkers will not be very pleased if they have to smell sardines and garlic over the cube wall. Just sayin’…

Kale and Roasted Vegetable Salad: Hangover Cure

Happy 2014, everyone! Did anyone drink several one too many cocktails last night? If you’re like me, you are bumming around today, downing water and watching the Food Network whilst surfing Pinterest for yummy recipes. I call this hungry over.

And while we all want to reach for greasy, cheesy, high-calorie foods, I promise you, it will only make you feel worse. Instead, make sure you HYDRATE, not just with water, but also with fruits and vegetables, which are mostly water — along with vitamins and minerals, which will surely also help you feel better. This recipe for kale and roasted vegetable salad is delicious, will help your hangover and also get 2014 started the healthy way, because we all want to eat better this year, right?

Kale_Vegetable_Salad

Recipe: Kale Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Blue Cheese

The flavored balsamic vinegar in this recipe isn’t crucial, but it’s definitely delicious. I am lucky enough to have  an olive oil and vinegar shop called Oh, Olive in my neighborhood, which has the most amazing infused oils and vinegars. Aged balsamic would also work nicely.

Makes: 2 salads

Ingredients:

  • 4 large, whole carrots
  • 1 medium red onion, cut in wedges
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups kale (arugula or spinach would be great too)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons flavored balsamic vinegar* (I used a yummy cinnamon pear from Oh, Olive)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place whole carrots and red onion wedges on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until carrots are soft. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cut carrots into match sticks (like those pictured).

Place 2 cups kale on two plates. Top with carrots and red onions, sprinkle with blue cheese and sunflower seeds and drizzle with balsamic.

Kale_Vegetable_Salad

Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year! Cheers!

 

 

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Dates and Goat Cheese

Yes, prosciutto and chicken on Good Friday…I never claimed to be a good Catholic. This recipe was inspired by a recent dinner at State in Chicago. On Fridays, every menu item is $5.99! Plus they have 100 beers on tap (or close to it). Naturally, my boyfriend Dan and I are pretty obsessed (even though it’s a total DePaul/college bar). He ordered their Stuffed Chicken
(marinated chicken breast, applewood smoked bacon, Medjool dates, goat cheese, organic grain rice, seasonal vegetables, spicy plum sauce). It was [obviously] delicious – I mean bacon and goat cheese! How could it not be delicious?

I am eternally searching for new chicken recipes, so the idea of stuffing a chicken breast got me thinking. And this entree included many of my favorite flavors. So, here’s my take on State’s entree. It’s lower in fat and calories because I used WAY less oil than State uses. Plus, thinly sliced prosciutto is lighter (and fancier) than bacon. Enjoy!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Dates and Goat Cheese

Goat_Cheese_Date_Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto (about 4 oz)
  • 1 (6 oz) log goat cheese
  • 6 dates, finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat olive oil for one minute in medium-sized pan. Add minced shallots and saute for 3-5 minutes, until shallots are trasnparent. In bowl, combine shallots, goat cheese and chopped dates.

Using a sharp knife, cut a one inch slit (horizontally) into the thick side of each chicken breast. Use your fingers to loosen the slit. Stuff 1/4 of the cheese/date/shallot mixture into each chicken breast. Wrap each chicken breast with one slice of prosciutto (be careful handling the prosciutto…it’s very delicate). Sprinkle with pepper and bake in preheated oven about 40 minutes, or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.

 

I served mine with sweet potato “hash” (cubed sweet potato sauteed with olive oil, garlic and smoked paprika) and kale chips (a favorite).

 

 

 

Turkey Time

To keep with my recent theme of non-vegan/non-vegetarian foods, I decided to try my hand at some turkey recipes. I absolutely LOVE turkey, but besides its great taste, it has many nutritional attributes. To start, turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan, notorious for causing that sleepy feeling after Thanksgiving dinner (which is probably due more to consuming a giant meal than to tryptophan itself). Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, which helps to regulate mood, metabolism and even sexuality. With regards to metabolism and mood, tryptophan acts as a mild appetite suppressant and helps decrease anxiety and improve focus, respectively.

Besides the positive effect of tryptophan, turkey can be a very lean protein option – specifically when you choose the white meat. For 93% lean varieties, here’s the nutrition breakdown, per ounce (info according the the USDA Nutrition Datatbase):

  • 59 calories
  • 7 grams protein
  • 3 grams fat
  • 30 mg cholesterol

One of the best parts of turkey? It is delicious and, when talking ground turkey, it’s a super-fast protein option. I have been in a Thanksgiving mood, so I made a Thanksgiving preparation two-ways: as a sauté and as a meatball turkeyball.

Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs:

Turkey_Meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces lean ground turkey (93% lean or better)
  • 3/4 cup fresh sage, rinsed, dried and diced
  • 1/4 red onion, minced
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • Topping: 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together and form into 1″ balls. Cook at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until turkey meatballs reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over the top. Served here with kale chips (see below recipe).

Thanksgiving Turkey Sauté:

Thanksgiving_Turkey_Saute

Not the prettiest, but extremely tasty

Ingredients:

  • Same ingredients as above:
    • 8 ounces lean ground turkey (93% lean or better)
    • 3/4 cup fresh sage, rinsed, dried and diced
    • 1/4 red onion, minced
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper
    • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
    • 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt (to taste)
  • 1 slice bread, preferable sprouted whole grain, cubed
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Directions:

Sauté red onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add turkey and cook for five minutes. Add sage, rosemary and pepper and continue cooking until turkey is no longer pink. Remove from heat (transfer to a plate) and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and salt (if desired).* In same pan, add cubes of bread and sprinkle with smoked paprika. Toast the bread cubes and sprinkle around or on top of turkey mixture.

*I added my pomegranate seeds WAY too early in the cooking process, which is why they turned a gross red-brown color (see above picture). Thus, I recommend adding them once you remove the mixture from the heat to preserve that beautiful bright pomegranate pink-red.

Kale Chips:

kale_chips

Ingredients:

  • Kale (the more, the better!)
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt (I love using smoked sea salt)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove kale from stems and rinse, dry thoroughly. Spread kale on baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and other other seasonings you like (suggestions: salt & pepper, garlic powder, cumin, curry powder) and bake for 20 minutes, or until desired doneness (I like mine extra crispy).

Kale is an excellent source of vitamins A and C and a good source of calcium and potassium. It’s also loaded with antioxidants. And kale chips….don’t even get me started. They are delicious, crispity crunchy and really do satisfy a chip craving.