Tag Archives: healthy

A winter salad: farro with kale, squash, and ricotta

kale squash farro saladThis salad was inspired by a few things. Number one being a kale salad I had at Craftbar last month. I know kale salads are one big culinary cliché these days, but I don’t care. I always feel amazing after I eat one, and that’s reason enough to continue riding the kale bandwagon. Just had to get that out of the way. And ps, this recipe for a sweet, salty, crunchy kale salad is what I’ve had on repeat since Thanksgiving. The other factors: warm winter salads that are as comforting as they are healthy. And last, my desire to de-clutter my pantry cupboard. Today, it’s farro (leftover from last year’s 101 salads challenge). Stay tuned to see what I do with sardines, barley, and a lot of lentils.

The salad at Craftbar was basically this, minus the farro. I had no idea how good smooth ricotta could be in a salad! It also had some delicious pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds, I think, right?) sprinkled on top, but I didn’t have any on hand for this. I put it all together and left it unrefrigerated through lunch, so the temperature was just right (something about the through of cold spaghetti squash isn’t so appealing, right?). If you’re making it at home, though, just warm up the squashes and farro a bit before assembling everything.

I think there will be more of these sorts of winter salads. It will be a mix of one grain (ha…lots of quinoa I need to use up too) tossed with a leafy green, a couple of roasted root vegetables (when I’m good and organized, I find roasting vegetables one day a week is a great for quick meals later on), and cheese, of course. Because what’s a hearty salad without cheese, right?

This isn’t really a recipe, but just some instructions on how to assemble. If you have everything ready, treat this like you’re at the salad bar at Whole Foods. And be a bit generous if you’d like, because there’s no $8.99 a pound rule that will leave you feeling robbed at the cash register!

Farro, kale, squash, and ricotta salad

First prepare your kale. Cut kale of your choice (I like Tuscan best) into thin strips and rinse. In a bowl that will fit both hands, toss the kale with some olive oil and a bit of salt. Then massage it until it gets bright and soft (just a minute will make a difference).

If you don’t have your farro cooked, these instructions are helpful.

Time to assemble. Toss about half a cup of farro with a big handful of kale. Add in some chopped roasted butternut squash and spaghetti squash. Then add your ricotta cheese. Toss everything together just before serving.

And we’re done!

salmon and trout salads

Guess who’s finally made all 101 salads on this list???! It was almost done last Thursday, but I had to travel home for Ukrainian Christmas and decided to hold off on two last salads, which I figured would make a light dinner when we returned. Here I am last night with #55 and #64…all proud to finally finish.


And here is my cousin Olivia with her boyfriend Mark, who got to taste #5 and #14 with us. I had them feign excitement and they did it well (they’re models/actors in LA, after all!). These salads were both just mediocre, in my 101 salad making opinion. Thankfully I made them Chicken Curry with Apples, which made up for the salads. Side note: Olivia made her acting debut here and she’s only getting started!

olivia and mark

Now, finally, my last list with comments. Very soon I’ll post a few things I learned while doing this challenge…things like the absolute importance of having sherry vinegar in your pantry. More on that shortly. Continue reading

101 days starts now!

Remember a few weeks ago I posted about those fantastic Mark Bittman lists? Well it’s time to start the 101 days of salads! One of the things I’ve heard Mark say is that it’s all about planning. You can put together a perfectly delicious meal in 15 minutes or so, but it’s planning and making sure you have everything on hand that’s key.

And so to make this work, I’ll make sure I have my pantry stocked with the staples (good olive oil, a few vinegars, lemons, salt and black pepper, dijon mustard, soy sauce all make frequent appearances on the list). I’ve also placed the list in a word document, and every week I will choose 7 salads to copy and paste into that week’s list, which then becomes my shopping list. Here’s what I’m making this week. I’m making a Meatless Monday meal out of #84 today, with the addition of some marinated and baked tofu. I can taste the feeling good already!

1. Cube watermelon and combine with tomato chunks, basil and basic vinaigrette. You can substitute peach for the watermelon or the tomato (but not both, O.K.?). You can also add bacon or feta, but there goes the vegan-ness.

3. A nice cucumber salad: Slice cucumbers thin (if they’re fat and old, peel and seed them first), toss with red onions and salt, then let sit for 20 to 60 minutes. Rinse, dry, dress with cider vinegar mixed with Dijon mustard; no oil necessary. [UPDATE 7/30: Meh. It tasted like a herring salad minus the herring. If I make it again, I'll be adding either some herring or sardines and making it Swedish by serving it with boiled potatoes sprinkled with dill.]

22. Thinly slice button mushrooms; toss with finely chopped carrots and celery and mix with mung bean sprouts. Finish with peanut or olive oil, sherry vinegar, a little soy sauce and minced ginger. (This is a super vinaigrette, by the way.) [UPDATE 7/30: Postponed until I can get really good mushrooms worthy of a being served raw.]

92. Simmer a cup of bulgur and some roughly chopped cauliflower florets until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Toss with chopped tarragon, roughly chopped hazelnuts, minced garlic, Dijon mustard, olive oil and lemon juice. [UPDATE 7/26: I made this on Tuesday and all the flavors were bright and unexpected. Beware if you don't care much for leftovers. A 1/4 of a head of cauliflower and a 1/4 cup of bulgur is enough for two generous sides. Also, in case you think this would be a good one to make ahead, don't bother. We had it warm and cold, and warm/room temperature was definitely better.]

46. Sauté mushrooms and shallots in olive oil. Add a lot of spinach, chopped unless the leaves are small. When it wilts, stir in parsley and crumbled blue cheese. Feels like a steakhouse side-dish salad. [UPDATE 7/26: We had this last night along with steak. Delish! Instead of spinach, I used kale...because I'm obsessed with kale. To cut down on kale's cooking time, I gave it a little massage first to break it down--a tip I learned for making raw kale salad.]

84. Spring rolls, unrolled: One at a time, soften a few sheets of rice paper in warm water. Drain, pat dry, cut into strips and toss with chopped cucumber, grated carrots, chopped cilantro, bean sprouts, chili flakes and chopped roasted peanuts. Dress with toasted sesame oil, fish sauce or soy sauce, and rice vinegar or lime juice. A few shrimp are a nice addition. [UPDATE 7/23: Had this for dinner with marinated and baked tofu. I don't think the rice paper is all that necessary...you could easily use some soba or vermicelli noodles to give this a bit more interest. I couldn't find good sprouts, so I used shredded red cabbage. That worked nicely and I'll likely do it again. In fact, I think all of these ingredients minus the noodles or wrappers would make a fun coleslaw].

Rosemary Oyster Mushrooms

Is it time for a Meatless Monday post? Oh, yes it is! It’s been a while.. This one is one of my favorites: grilled oyster mushrooms on a bed of arugula, with some fresh bread and soft cheese on the side, if you’d like. The oyster mushrooms are so meaty and rich that even Texan Adam was like “these are too much” when I made them a few weeks back. Oyster mushrooms aren’t the cheapest, but they still cost much less than a good piece of meat, right? Continue reading

Millet minute

Hello! Here’s a very quick post today about millet, a grain with all sorts of nutritional benefits. I’ve just started cooking with it, but so far I’ve only mixed it into Otto’s vegetable purées. It’s time to get more ambitious! Here are several recipes I’ve found.

This millet bowl sounds like the perfect power lunch to me.Ditto for this one (with kale, natch).

I’m all about making little veggie burgers to freeze and reheat for Otto’s lunches. These ones have some parmesan mixed in, so I’m sold.

And for a quick dinner, this stir-fried millet looks delicious AND gorgeous. The same goes for this blog, which I discovered via Pinterest. BTW, Pinterest is a great way to search for new and fun recipes. Just type in your ingredient and a visual feast of recipes will appear. Happy searching!

Image via Whole Living.

Breakfast kutya

If you have ever had kutya at a Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner, do you agree with me that it’s a bit much? Between the honey and the wheatberries, it’s a lot of sweetness and starch served as the last course of a 12-course dinner. It’s always much better for breakfast or a snack a day or two later.

Well now and then I crave kutya, but I don’t really care to make a batch. To be honest, I still don’t know how (but I will in time for my round of Christmas posts in December, I promise!). Also, it’s a lot of effort for a bowl or two…it’s really only worth making when you have a crowd. Thankfully, I’ve learned that it’s possible to make a single portion of something kutya-like for breakfast. (As I’ve said before, context is everything!)

Here’s how to do it: take a bowl of cooked grains–quinoa would be my first choice, but I just used some leftover cream of buckwheat. I think the key is to make sure the grain is either fluffy, like quinoa, or something with a thinner consistency, like farina. (A side note: oatmeal seems like a logical choice, but the thickness of it, it seems, may overpower the delicate flavors of the toppings. What do you think? If you try it out, let me know how it goes. I’ll try it too sometime…).

Warm the grain just a bit, and then top with a drizzle of honey, a spoonful of poppyseeds (which I found at the health food store), some walnuts, and dried cranberries or raisins.

That’s it! All the flavors come together so nicely and now there’s no need to wait until Christmas! Now I’m starting to think about a recipe for kutya-inspired granola. Could be fun, right?

Ukrainian Vinaigrette (or 3-Bean Salad)–& a Special Birthday Wish

Today my Aunt Olga–or ‘Chocha Olia’ as we call her in Ukrainian–turns 80. It’s hard to believe because she’s still as beautiful and youthful and sharp as I remember her when I was little. Here she is with one of her five daughters, Elena (also my godmother), a few years ago on their annual vacation at the Outer Banks. And the other  picture is of her dancing with her handsome husband, Boris. This one, taken by their son Gregory, is from our wedding, but it seems there’s a shot like this from every family wedding.  I love that they’re still dancing all these years later.

I could tell a story or three, but I think I just want to share a bunch of random wonderful things about my aunt. How she’s quiet and wise and unflappable. How she raised eight amazing kids and supported them as they pursued their passions–everything from photography and fashion to teaching and international diplomacy. Somehow she managed to sew all of their clothes….I still love seeing old pictures of all of them when they were little, lined up from tallest to shortes with their matching outfits. She has the most terrific gasp-like reaction to silly things….it sounds a bit like ‘tsyooooof’. And she is without a doubt the matriarch of the Galadza family; I love that my dad still seems to looks up to her like a big sister–even though he’s physically much larger than her petite frame–and the thought of her taking road trips with her two sisters, as she did this past summer, is adorable. I could go on, but I’ll just end by saying that she’s an inspiration on so many levels. Happy happy birthday, Chocha Olia!!!

I think it’s no coincidence that her birthday lands so close to Pancake Tuesday–hers are the absolute best (kind of a cross between a pancake and a crepe…hard to explain!). Sadly, I don’t have the recipe. Maybe I can work on that…in the meantime, though, I do have a recipe for her 3-Bean Salad (or Vinaigrette, the proper name I learned much later on). It’s nothing fancy, but it is a mainstay at her Christmas dinner. It’s one of those year-round tangy, light salads that balances out the meats and starches perfectly. When my brother had it for the first time, he decided he wanted to have it served at his wedding the following summer. And it looks so pretty on a plate. I’ve misplaced the photo I took last time I made it, but here it is on my Ukrainian smörgåsbord.

A few years ago I called my Aunt for the recipe, and she just laughed and said “oh, it’s really hard!” It was one of those ‘a little of this this, a can of that’ recipes. Here’s how I do it now…I think the only thing that’s different is that I use fresh or frozen green beans instead of the canned ones. And I can’t remember what the ‘third’ bean was, so I just use chickpeas. Feel free to adjust the quantities depending on what you like…you really can’t go wrong with this recipe. Also, some Vinaigrettes have potatoes in them. That’s how it’s served at this lovely restaurant. The salad can be made ahead of time. In fact, it tastes even better a day or two later.

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Milk-Making Muffins

Two months ago I posted my recipe for milk-making cookies. I’ve made them many times over and I’m convinced they help. And I love that they’re healthy breakfast cookie-ish, so even if they didn’t seem to up my supply, I’d still be making them for that reason alone. Well I’m branching out.

Yesterday while in a long line at Trader Joe’s, I got to thinking: I could take the milk-making trifecta (oats, brewers yeast, flaxseed meal) and redo some of my old standby recipes. First up, the bran muffin recipe from the side of the All Bran box. I substituted the flour for half ground oatmeal and half flaxseed meal, and the funky brewer’s yeast smell was masked by all the ingredients, thankfully, because it ain’t pretty. I also substituted mashed banana for the vegetable oil.

I’m happy to report that I’ll be making these a few times over, as well. For the busy mama, these may be easier to make than the cookies; with the exception of grinding the oatmeal, there’s no need for special equipment/extra dishes to wash. And they should freeze well—I’ll let you know if a couple of days to confirm—so making a double batch is worthwhile. Continue reading

Milk-making cookies

I’m mildly obsessed with something, and that is the milk I’m making. Otto can be quite demanding and let’s just say it’s not pretty when the supply runs low. We’re into Month 3 now and I’m happy to say that I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks for making sure he’s well fed, including these delicious cookies (and beer…although not necessarily at the same time!).

There are several recipes floating around on the internet, including one my sister-in-law and fellow milk maker Shirley sent me (thank you!). I looked at a few and came across Dr. Momma’s site, which goes into detail about why these cookies may help. The short version is that they contain three things that some say help increase production: flax, brewer’s yeast, and oatmeal.

Do they work? It’s not really possible to know for sure. All I know is that Otto’s been quite happy these last few days. And even if that’s just a coincidence, I’ll keep making these because they’re really good…not too sweet, lots of natural ingredients, and the flax fills me up. And all that makes me quite happy, which is important too.

I’ve adapted the recipe on Drmomma.org, and there’s another great recipe on her site for the cookies that is even healthier, which I’ll try sometime as well.

Note that the dough can be a bit of a sticky mess and I don’t recommend doubling the recipe because it would be too hard to mix everything adequately. Also, the dough freezes really well. I just make balls of cookie dough, freeze them, and then toss them in a bag. You just need to back them a minute longer. That is if you have dough to bake…I’ve been known to eat balls of raw dough ;)

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Pashtet (or, pâté you can feel good about eating four days in a row)

I have been blessed with a very easy pregnancy–no morning sickness, very few aches, and only a handful of emotional meltdowns (ok, maybe more than a handful, but who’s counting?). Well into my sixth month before I really popped out, I often forgot I was pregnant.

The one thing that I did notice, though, was my taste for all things salubrious (a big and delicious word for wholesome that I learned and loved in this book). Especially the textures: the unmistakable bite of raspberries, the smoothness of liver or beans, and well-drained tofu that took on the texture of paneer, to name a few. And then there were the soft, jammy prunes. One day I opened my desk drawer where I keep a few snacks. I had forgotten what was in there, and reacted with a childlike “Oh! Prunes!!!”.

One of the dishes I’ll be making a few more times in the coming weeks is Pashtet….basically a Ukrainian pâté served at Easter that is much drier and less flavorful than it’s French cousin. I know that sounds barely appealing, but the nice thing is that it’s quite healthy and you can dress it up with condiments and you will not feel guilty eating it four days in a row like I do. You could serve it plain (pictured above, for my family’s Easter spread), or with some beets and horseradish on caraway crisp bread. My favorite way to serve it is on a sandwich; I use my homemade bread (although the the day I used a whole wheat croissant from Balthazar and it was pretty superb), really thinly sliced red onions, and two good spreads of butter (the pâté needs a rich counterpart, you’ll see…). Served with a half-sour pickle on the side, it is by far one of my favorite lunches and it’s good for iron-starved me and the baby.

I’ve taken my mother’s recipe and adapted it for a much smaller batch–about three cups, which is perfect for a household of two or a liver-weary gathering of friends. It keeps for about 4 days, and you’ll have to plan on eating some every day. The beauty of this recipe is that you can play around with the quantities of meats, so long as you follow two rules: make sure the meat is on the bone (except for the liver, which is boneless, obviously), and only add the liver towards the end of the cooking process, otherwise you’ll be dealing with a leathery mess.
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