Butternut Squash, Kale and Apricot Salad

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It’s official, we’ve entered squash season! All kinds of squash are popping up in the grocery stores and my blog feed and Pinterest seems to be overflowing with squash recipes.

Personally, butternut is my favorite of the Fall squashes. I recently heard that it was given it’s name because of it’s buttery softness and taste, I’m not sure if this is true, but it certainly is fitting.

A simple vinaigrette is all this salad needs to top it. I made a quick mixture of olive oil, chili herb vinegar, honey and a tiny bit of chili powder to add just the tiniest kick to offset the sweetness of the squash and the apricots.

Butternut Squash, Kale and Apricot Salad
2 cups roasted butternut squash cubes (see below)
1 bunch baby kale
1 cup dried apricots, chopped into small pieces
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
4 ounces goat cheese

To make the roasted butternut squash cubes: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel the squash, cut it in half lengthwise and chop into 1 inch cubes. Toss the cubes in a bowl with olive oil and whatever spices you prefer. I like to add salt, pepper, cumin and cinnamon to mine but use whatever flavors you like best. Place the cubes on a baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes until they’ve softened.

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To prepare the salad just wash and dry the kale, top it with the roasted squash, the apricots, red onion slices and crumble the goat cheese on top. Enjoy!

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Ina’s Eggplant Dip

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Each Summer I look forward to getting fresh eggplant to make this spread. As soon as I see some beautiful looking eggplants at the market I’m reminded of how delicious this dip is and immediately get excited to make it!

This recipe is not my own, though I usually make a few changes. I have to give credit to the lovely Ina Garten and her amazing ability to make simple ingredients so special and elegant.

I edited Ina’s recipe slightly to add a jalapeno for a bit of spice and some cumin and parsley. This dip is great with some freshly made pita chips, slathered over bread or honestly just by the spoonful! I’ll be sharing this with my friends over at Fiesta Friday today. If you haven’t joined us yet you should definitely stop by!

Ina’s Eggplant Spread from Ina Garten with a few changes

1 eggplant
1 red pepper
1 onion
1 jalapeno
1 garlic clove
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut the eggplant, red pepper onion and jalapeno into small chunks and place in a bowl with the garlic. Add the olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper to the bowl and toss it all together to coat the vegetables.

3. Place the vegetables on a baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes until soften and browned. Remove the baked vegetables and let them cool down.
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4. Place the cooled vegetables in a food processor with the parsley and tomato paste and pulse until combined and smooth. Enjoy!

Kale and Pepper Quesadilla

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This quesadilla was the result of needing to use up everything in our fridge before heading out of town for a few days. I was rummaging through the fridge to determine what had to be eaten before we left. The discoveries were a half a block of cheese, half a bag of small sweet peppers, one bunch of kale and a few green onions. Once I realized there were a few whole wheat tortillas hidden in the back of the fridge, the idea came to life. I think quesadillas get a bad rap for being unhealthy food, but depending on the tortilla you use and what you put in them they don’t have to be so bad.

I’m bringing these quesadillas to Angie’s Fiesta Friday party today.  If you haven’t joined the party yet you totally should it’s a ton of fun and the other bloggers are so inspiring! 

Kale and Pepper Quesadillas

Serves 2
2 tablespoons olive oil
8-10 mini sweet peppers
1 bunch kale
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/2 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded or cubed
2 whole wheat tortillas
Salt
Pepper

1. Remove the tops and seeds of the peppers and cut them into thin strips. Add the pepper strips and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a pan on medium heat. Sauté until the peppers soften, about 6-8 minutes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the peppers to a bowl.

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2. Remove the kale leaves from the stems and chop into small pieces. Add the remaining olive oil and kale to the pan on low heat and sauté for about 4 minutes until the kale wilts. Add the kale to the bowl with the peppers.

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3. Add the green onions to the bowl with the other vegetables and stir to combine.

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4. Place a tortilla in the pan and return to low heat. Place 1/4 of the cheese on half of the tortilla, then half of the vegetable mixture then another 1/4 of the cheese. Fold the other half of the tortilla on top and cook for 3 minutes. Flip the tortilla and cook for another 2 minutes then remove it from the pan. Enjoy!
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Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry

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So I went a little crazy this weekend…at the grocery store! We had a beautiful warm sunny day and I think that definitely affected my attitude while shopping. All of the vegetables in the store looked so fresh and delicious, I didn’t want to pass anything up. I just kept picking things up, and it wasn’t until I got home that I realized I probably had more veggies that I could use up in a week. After a couple large salads I still had quite a few left to use so I figured this stir fry would be a great way to do that.

This might not be what you typically think of as stir fry. Instead of a sticky gooey sauce I prefer to let the vegetables be the star and season the chicken with paprika for a little more intensity. However, you could definitely add a little brown sugar to this to make it a little sticky if that’s how you like it. Another great thing about this meal is that it only takes one pot and one pan, making for quick and easy clean up!

Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry
3 chicken breasts
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
5 carrots
1/2 yellow onion
1 cup green beans
6-7 asparagus spears
5-6 kale leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups brown rice
2 cups chicken broth
2 green onions

1. Preheat oven to 375. Place the chicken breasts in a baking pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom. Season the chicken. Combine 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 2 teaspoons paprika in a small bowl. Season the chicken with half of the spice mixture. Turn the chicken over and season the other side withe the rest of the spices. Bake for 45-60 minutes, until cooked through (cooking times will depend on the size of your chicken).

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2. Peel and chop your carrots. Place a pot with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat and add the carrots. Next chop your onion and add that to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Allow these to cook together until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes.

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3. Next chop your green beans and asparagus and add them to the pot. Chop your kale into bite sized pieces and add it to the rest of the vegetables.

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4. When the vegetables begin to soften add your stock and rice to the pot. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook at a simmer until the rice is cooked and the stock has evaporated.

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5. When the chicken has cooked use two forks to pull it apart. Place the pulled apart pieces in the pot and stir to combine with the vegetables and rice. Add more salt or pepper if needed and top with chopped green onions, enjoy!

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Chicken, Quinoa, Pesto Bowl

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The inspiration from this dish comes from one of my all time favorite lunches. On nice sunny warm days I love taking the opportunity to walk to one of my favorite lunch spots, Protein Bar . While their menu is full of great healthy options, I’m particularly fond of their spinach pesto bowl. Given that the closest location is nearly a mile from my office, and the temperatures this winter have been absurdly terrible, I haven’t felt like making the trek there at lunch so, I decided to try to re-create the bowl myself.

I substituted kale for the spinach and added some grape tomatoes because I like their fresh bite. I used chicken thighs for the meat because that’s what I had but chicken breasts would work just as well if not better. This didn’t come out exactly like Protein Bar’s bowl, but it was pretty darn close and still pretty good!

Chicken, Quinoa, Pesto Bowl
4 chicken thighs or breasts
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 bunch of kale (about 6 leaves)
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup quinoa
3 Tablespoons pesto
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
salt
pepper
fresh parsley (optional)
fresh basil (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a baking dish and place your chicken on top. Season the chicken with half of the rosemary, oregano and some salt and pepper. Turn the chicken over and season the other side with the rest of the spices. Bake in the oven for about 45-60 minutes until cooked (cooking time will depend on the size of your chicken pieces).
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2. While the chicken is cooking begin preparing your kale. Wash the kale and cut into bite sized pieces. Add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to a medium pot. Then add the kale and season with salt and pepper. Cook the kale until it begins to soften and wilt, about 7 minutes.

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3. Next, add the chicken stock to the pot with the kale. Then add the quinoa and bring to a boil. Turn it down to a simmer and let it cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes. When the liquid is gone stir in your pesto.

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4. When the chicken is cooked, take it out and use two forks to pull apart the meat. Add the meat to the quinoa and stir to combine. Finally, turn the heat off on the pot and stir in your tomatoes. Season with more salt and pepper if needed and top with fresh parsley and basil if you want. Enjoy!

Tomato Soup

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While I absolutely love over indulging myself during the holidays, there always comes a point where I hit a wall and need to stop constantly eating heavy foods and sweets. I was lucky to enjoy a full week home with my family this year and along with that comes lots and lots of great homemade food. On our first night back in DC I decided to make a simple and light tomato soup to help us adjust. There are few meals that have the simple deliciousness of a good tomato soup. With some great crusty bread or a nice grilled cheese sandwich, this is definitely the perfect winter meal.

Tomato Soup
1 can crushed tomatoes
16 oz vegetable stock
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup heavy creamphoto (68)
1/2 cup grated mozzarella and a slice of good bread for garnish (optional)

1. Add the olive oil and chopped garlic to a saucepan on medium-low heat. Let the garlic cook for just about 2 minutes.

2. Add the crushed tomatoes, basil, parsley, oregano and pepper to the saucepan and stir. Let these all cook together for about 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

3. After cooking the tomatoes and spices for about 30 minutes add the vegetable stock and continue to cook until the soup begins to get bubbly.

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4. About 10 minutes after adding the stock add your heavy cream and cook for another 5 minutes. Garnish with cheese and crusty bread, enjoy!