Spring Salad

 It’s the first day of Spring! Unfortunately it didn’t look like this at all today, but that didn’t stop me from celebrating. I had an overload of leftover produce and what better than to throw it all into a salad! 

This whole weekend has been yucky, cold & gray. I had plans that ended up getting rained out, so today was spent lazying around, watching movies on Netflix and eating fast food. If you have Netflix, I would recommend watching The One I Love (very weird & interesting movie!), and if you’re going to gorge on cheeseburgers & milkshakes for lunch, I recommend having this salad for dinner! 😉

Spring Salad Pint of cherry or grape tomatoes
Broccoli
Half a red pepper
4 green onions
Half a cucumber
2 slices bacon
2 hard boiled eggs
Chopped nuts (pecans & peanuts)
Baby Spring salad mix

Honey Vinaigrette Dressing

Please keep in mind that this salad can be endlessly personalized. The red pepper, green onions, broccoli and bacon were leftovers in my fridge. It all came together quite nicely.  I boiled the eggs in the morning so they could chill before dinner. Cook up the bacon until crispy, slice up your veggies, and whisk together the delicious dressing I got from Martha Stewart. I like to pile up the plates with lettuce, then sprinkle the different ingredients over.  It saves a bowl and makes for a pretty presentation. Spoon over dressing just before serving.
   
It might not look like Spring yet out there, but that doesn’t mean Spring can’t be found in the kitchen! 

Love,
Feisty

Eat Yo Greens


Disclaimer: I am not a healthy eater. I like fresh, real foods, but I don’t try to skimp on the stuff that tastes good–fat, sugar, salt…however, I am getting married in less than 3 weeks. And what better time to try and curb your habits a bit, right?

I like salads. Salads always taste so good in restaurants, but their complexities always boggled my mind a little to make at home. Salads need balance; a crunchy element, a sweet element; what dressings complimented what ingredients?? And so on.  When I wanted to make a salad, I’d break out my classic Caesar, with romaine hearts, torn bread croutons and homemade dressing complete with anchovies and egg yolk. (Pictured above)

But then my lovely husband to be requested a salad every week. Who wants to eat the same salad week to week? The only thing worth eating every week is pizza! ;).


So I went all out with the next one. It’s Cobb, baby! Hard boiled eggs, bacon, homemade croutons–along with broccoli, tomatoes and green onion. Topped with ranch because it’s always in our house (good for dipping pizza crusts–I told you I wasn’t healthy!).


Next go around was a simpler salad, made up of various pantry items. Mushrooms, some leftover broccoli, feta cheese, tomato, and sunflower seeds. I tossed it with my own made up recipe of oil and (apple cider) vinegar because I’m sort of trying to avoid dairy. Sort of…


Tonight was another fancy salad! I candied some pecans in sugar and added them to this sweet salad of pears, avocado and blue cheese. Topped it off with a mustard vinaigrette.

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Behold, the most summery salad of all salads! I got some of those delicious little creamer potatoes and boiled them for a few minutes, blanched them in cold water, then quartered them. Grilled corn in the husk then slipped them out and cut the corn right off the cob. Add cherry tomatoes, red onion and lettuce grown from your garden and toss with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

 This is my Summer-fading-into-Fall salad. Make it easy on yourself and dice up the meat from a rotisserie chicken. Add it to one diced green apple and half a cup of oven-toasted pecans, and toss together with red leaf romaine and a mustard-orange vinaigrette.

It’s fun finding new and interesting ways to eat lettuce! I hope this post inspired you to try your hand at making a delicious salad.

Love,
Feisty

 

 

 

Spotlight On: the Immersion Blender

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I love making soup. It’s an easy way to buy a bunch of cheap ingredients and cook them down into a delicious meal. With summer gone and cold weather approaching, it’s a nice warm, fuzzy meal that doesn’t take too much out of you.
What makes it a Feisty-approved, easy to make meal is the immersion blender. Also known as the stick blender, it’s an electric, handheld blender. It makes cooking sauces and soups a breeze, and is a must for anyone who likes to cook.
It’s a star in dishes like…

Roasted Red Pepper Soup
2 T. butter
4 red peppers
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
24 oz. chicken broth
1/2 c. heavy cream
black pepper

First, roast the peppers. It’s not necessary but roasting adds so much flavor! Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place peppers on foil-lined pans and roast in oven, turning occasionally, until brown and puffy. Cool completely and remove stems, skin and seeds. Chop.
Melt butter in pot and sauté onions and garlic on Medium heat until tender, 5-10 min. Add roasted red peppers in the last few minutes (if not roasting, add chopped red peppers with onion and garlic).
Pour in chicken broth, stirring well. Reduce heat to Low and simmer for 30 minutes.
Nows the time to blend! Transfer your vegetables to a blender in batches, OR leave it in the pot and use your immersion blender! Go from this:
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To this!:
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In no time at all. 🙂 I love it.
Once smooth, run soup through strainer (optional). Return to pot and add cream and black pepper to taste. Heat on Low heat until heated through.
So yummy! I served it with half a grilled cheese sandwich and butter crackers.

Stay warm out there!
Love,
Feisty

Try Try Again

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This, my friends, is the time I tried to make a cake using almond flour. See, I bought this bag of almond flour back in December to surprise my mom with Christmas macarons (seen here, 4th food photo down). I made macarons three times before making her gift, and every time I got it wrong. Even the end result was far less than perfect (as you can see!); no matter what I did, I could not make them look the way they were supposed to look. Since then, the almond flour has been sitting around in the fridge, wasting away.  So I decided, the hell with macarons, I’m going to make a cake! I read online that you could replace the flour in any recipe with it, but it’s heaviness required more of the rising agent….so I used my favorite yellow cake recipe and doubled the baking powder (2 tsp instead of 1). Ka boom! Bad idea.

After the cake mess, I started feeling like a failure, and I started to worry that my future endeavors would have the same sad ending.
I know there are tentative chefs and bakers out there who might see their failure as a sign they aren’t cut out for making food. I felt that way with macarons! I tried and tried and tried, and it broke my heart to see website after website showing off their perfect macarons.  The only way to move on is to realize your strengths.  I make dynamite pies, and countless other things that have had people clamoring for a taste.  So what if macarons aren’t my forte?
I also realized that others fail too, all the time, even successful chefs that I admire.  Working as a baker, more than anything I have learned that we learn from our mistakes, and that I am still so young in my quest to be a great chef.  It is part of the human condition to compare our lives to others and wonder why we don’t seem to be doing as well.  A quote I have heard around the interwebs says it succinctly:
“One reason we struggle with insecurity: we’re comparing our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.”

So that night, after I cleaned up the cake pans and scraped the cake off the cookie sheet, I pushed on and made dinner. Pasta with homemade Caesar dressing and homemade croutons!
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Then I wondered if maybe I’m just better at cooking than baking. After all, cooking is an art, while baking is a science. But what’s more scientific than homemade marshmallow creme???
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Mmmm, s’mores sandwiches for life!!!

My point is, we have to keep trying. Try, try again. And again and again! Only those who never give up succeed.

Love,
Feisty

Ballad of the Chicken Salad

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Summer is here! Okay, maybe it’s still considered Spring, but to me it already feels like the best part of Summer. Sunny days & warm nights are perfect for grilling (even indoors!) but if you don’t want to break out the grill every night, it’s nice to enjoy something that doesn’t require cooking. Enter, the best chicken salad you have ever tasted! Eat it in a pita, eat it on a croissant, scarf down the leftovers straight out of the bowl–however you have it, you will love it. 😀

Super Awesome Chicken Salad

1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. sour cream
1 T. lemon juice (half a lemon squeeze)
2-3 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
3 c. cooked cubed chicken
3/4 c. quartered grapes
1/2 c. chopped, roasted walnuts

 
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In a small bowl, blend the first 5 ingredients and set aside. You can use a whisk, I used a fork.

 
20140507-194623.jpgNow, the chicken. I bought a rotisserie chicken both times I made this because
A. It was less expensive than buying two chicken breasts and
B. It’s already cooked! And seasoned! So much easier.
I didn’t measure out the 3 cups of cubed chicken, but a whole rotisserie chicken gives you a lot. It was enough for 4 servings, which is more than enough for me & my babe.

 
20140507-195148.jpgCombine the chicken, grapes and walnuts in a large bowl. Pour dressing over the chicken mixture.

 
20140507-195440.jpgMix well! Add salt and pepper to taste.

I served it with some juicy tomatoes, and I’m sure some lettuce would’ve topped it off as well. So so good!

Love,
Feisty

You Need a Pita

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Anything that can double as a pizza crust and a sandwich bread is a prized item in my kitchen. As one of my culinary heroes, Alton Brown, attests to, kitchen tools with multiple functions is always better. Sure, he was talking about using your garlic press for something other than pressing garlic (which is apparently a lost cause…)* but when I’m making meals, prepackaged items can be tools as well.

For example, though I originally bought these to make a portobello & feta pizza, with only two mouths to feed, I had plenty of pitas left over. Enter, homemade chicken salad. Someday I will make it again and post my recipe–it was so delicious! Cut open the pita like you would a bagel, and boom.   A pita pocket perfect for your favorite filling.

Or maybe one day you want something for lunch that isn’t a sandwich, and you create a masterpiece personal pizza! I spread some barbecue sauce (all I had–tomato sauce would work too of course!) over the pita, topped it with some sliced tomato and red onion, and then sprinkled small slices of Monterey Jack cheese. Top with some dried oregano and garlic powder, bake in oven until cheese melts and then place under broiler until golden brown.
These are my favorite moments in the kitchen; no recipes, just intuitive flavors and throwing in whatever is available. Feisty worthy food, and lots of fun too. 😉

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*As far as I can tell, there’s not many more uses for the garlic press, and most professional chefs consider it “useless.”  Though it is true that pressing garlic with a knife and then slicing it will result in essentially the same thing, I love the way my garlic press discards the skin and presses the garlic directly into the pot or pan with the appearance of the garlic you can buy already pressed in a jar.  For now, my garlic press has a permanent place in my ever expanding kitchen. 😉

The Poor Girl’s Guide to Shrimp

I love shrimp. The whole world knows I love shrimp, and there’s even a famous fight in my family history about shrimp (me vs. my mom). Unfortunately, it isn’t the cheapest ingredient to work with. If you buy raw, shells on shrimp you can reduce the cost. I bought a bag of frozen raw shrimp with the top and bottom shells on for $17 at Kroger (cheapo grocery store in Richmond/southern Va), and was able to make 3 meals out of it, for 2 people each time. 6 meals overall, making the cost less than $3 a meal. Pretty good right? And then I found this recipe, which uses by products of the recipe as ingredients (meaning you don’t have to buy them!). This recipe is super cheap to make (minus that initial cost of shrimp) and more importantly, it’s delicious. It will make you feel like a seasoned chef too. 🙂
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Shrimp Pasta

6 garlic cloves, pressed or grated
2 lemons
5 T. olive oil
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
21-25 shrimp, deveined & butterflied
1/4 onion
3/4 lb pasta (I used bowtie)
2 T. butter (I cut this in half, using 1 T.)
salt & pepper

In a bowl, combine garlic, zest and juice of one lemon, olive oil, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Remove shells from shrimp and save, and add shrimp to bowl. Set aside to marinate.
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In small pot, add shrimp shells and onion; cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. You’ve just made a shrimp stock. 😉
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Strain into a bowl and discard shells and onion. Bring a large pot to a boil and add pasta, cooking as directed. The original recipe called for linguine, I used bowtie; you can use whatever your heart desires. Also, for 2 people I’m not sure if I used 3/4 lb, just use what you need.
Drain pasta and reserve half a cup of the pasta water. Heat a skillet over high heat. Remove shrimp from marinade, saving the marinade, and add them to the skillet. Cook until pink and caramelized, stirring regularly. Remove shrimp to a plate (try not to pop too many into your mouth) and add the marinade to the skillet. Let cook a few minutes, then add 1 cup of the shrimp stock and 1/2 cup of pasta water. Continue to cook until sauce reduces by half (took about 15 min for me).
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Add zest and juice of second lemon, butter and salt and pepper to taste. Add in shrimp and pasta and toss to coat. I find it easier to toss them together in the pasta pot.

And there you have it! Lemony, slightly spicy, and full of shrimp–who could ask for anything more? 😉

Love,
Feisty

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