Weekly Winner: New Year, New..yeah, yeah, yeah….

buddha bowlIt’s that time again!  New Year, New You!!!  You know what?  I’m the same me as I was last year and the year before that.  This doesn’t mean that when January 1st comes around I don’t feel like making a change…. it means I always feel like making a change.  After the excess and excuses of the holidays it is time to hunker down and clean up the eating game for a bit.  Yes, that’s right…. I said “for a bit”.  Because I know me.  I will revert back to cheese, my pastas and my pork.  And for me, this “new, old me” will take everything in moderation….even moderation.

Since I’m ready for some clean, nurturing meals, I can think of no better way to start than with this Buddha Bowl with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Spiced Chickpeas, and Chard.  I got the recipe from Epicurious and honestly, it was so tasty and satisfying (not to mention pretty), I forgot I was being good!  I’ll be eating this throughout the year (even when I slip back into my “old” not-so-virtuous ways).

Buddha Bowl with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Spiced Chickpeas, and Chard

Serves 4

For the poblano tahini sauce

1-1/2 cups roughly chopped poblano pepper

1 clove garlic, quartered

1/3 cup tahini

3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

For the Buddha bowls

1 cup quinoa, rice, or farro (I used farro)

2 large sweet potatoes (1-1/2 to 2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1-1/2 Tbsp olive oil (the recipe calls for melted coconut oil, but I gotta be me)

2 tsp pure maple syrup

1 tsp orange zest

sea salt

1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and patted dry

1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp olive oil

1/2 tsp paprika

1/8 tsp ground cumin

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Freshly ground black pepper

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 bunch Swiss chard, red, green, or rainbow, stemmed, leaves cut into 1-inch strips

Preparation:

For the poblano tahini sauce:

In a blender or food processor, combine the poblano, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and 1/4 cup water and blend until smooth. (If sauce is too thick, add water as needed to reach desired consistency). Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Set aside

For the Buddha bowls:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425F
  2. In a medium saucepan, cook the quinoa, rice or farro according to package directions.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil (or coconut oil, melted) maple syrup, orange zest, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Mix until the potatoes are evenly coated
  4. Spread potatoes on a rimmed backing sheet and roast for 20 minutes.  Flip them with a spatula and roast until the potatoes are tender and beginning to brown, an additional 10-15 minutes (while roasting chickpeas — see next step)
  5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the chickpeas, 2 teaspoons of the olive oil, the paprika, cumin, cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Mix well until the chickpeas are thoroughly coated. Spread the chickpeas on the rimmed baking sheet with the sweet potatoes and roast until golden, about 10-15 minutes.
  6. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil until shimmering.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the chard, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chard begins to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes.  Uncover, add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chard is completely wilted and cooked through, an additional 1 to 2 minutes.  Discard the garlic cloves.
  7. Put 1/2 cup of the cooked grain in the bottom of each of the four serving bowls. Top each bowl with equal portions of the roasted sweet potatoes, roasted chickpeas, and sautéed chard.
  8. Drizzle with the poblano tahini sauce and serve.

Weekly Winner: Farro + Fennel + Feta = Fantastic Fall Feast (in a bowl!)

farro bowlThis dish should not be this good.  There is no rational reason for it.  I mean, I knew it would be OK, a unique new lunch, but seriously…. I just kept eating it and asking “Why is this so delicious”!!  The name certainly doesn’t hint at the unique combination of tastiness that awaits — Farro Bowl with Pomegranate Vinaigrette.  Yawn, right??  No!

There’s just something about the combination of the caramelized sweet potatoes, raw fennel, earthy farro, and tangy feta cheese that just keeps you coming back from more.

All I can tell you is just make this mysterious grain bowl and surprise yourself.  Then, maybe you can let me know why it’s so dang good!  The recipe comes from Real Simple Magazine.

Farro Bowl with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups uncooked farro

6 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks

1 tsp kosher salt, divided

1 large shallot, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)

1 cup refrigerated pomegranate juice

1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp black pepper

2 cups baby spinach

1 medium fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced, plus chopped fronds for serving

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 oz)

Procedure:

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high. Stir in farro and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and place in a large bowl.
  • While farro cooks, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium. Add sweet potato, ¼ cup water, and ¼ teaspoon salt; cover and steam for 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until water evaporates and sweet potato is tender and browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to bowl with farro
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium. Add shallot and cook, stirring often, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add pomegranate juice; cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to ½ cup, 8 to 10 minutes. Whisk in vinegar, mustard, pepper, and remaining ¾ teaspoon salt. Remove from heat and gradually whisk remaining ¼ cup oil into dressing.
  • Add ¾ cup dressing to farro mixture and toss to coat. Add spinach and fennel; toss gently. Divide among 4 bowls and drizzle with remaining dressing. Top with cheese and garnish with fennel fronds.

 

Weekly Winner: Reworking the Waldorf

farro waldorfI gotta admit, I do love a retro salad.  Crab Louie, Ham Salad, and perhaps my all-time favorite in this classic category: The Waldorf.  Apples, grapes, walnuts, raisins, celery (not a fan but it’s got to be there!) all combined in a tangy mayonnaise-based dressing.  Seriously, what’s not to love??  Well, for starters the calories.  Yes, you’re getting all sorts of healthy things in there but usually the dressing is so thick that it overwhelms everything and wilts the bed of salad greens the whole thing is served on.

What about lightening up the dressing, and rather than putting it on lettuce, build some whole-grain goodness into the mix as well?  Now, we’re talking!  That’s exactly what attracted me to Food Network Magazine‘s Farro Waldorf Salad.  I took the revamp a step further and swapped out the sour cream for plain yogurt in the dressing.  I also found that I only needed about 1/2 the amount of dressing called for.  Don’t use it all at first — start with half and work from there.

This should be the new standard for Waldorf Salad….and it definitely will be the only version served around here!

Farro Waldorf Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

1 cup farro

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk

3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 scallion, sliced

3 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

2 apples, chopped

1 cup halved seedless grapes

3 stalks celery, sliced, plus 1 cup chopped celery leaves

1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

1/4 cup golden raisins

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

Procedure:

  • Cook the farro as the label directs, then spread on a baking sheet and let cool.
  • Make the dressing: Whisk the mayonnaise, yogurt, buttermilk, vinegar, scallion and dill in a large bowl
  • Add the apples ,grapes, celery ,walnuts, raisins and farro to the bowl with the dressing; toss.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the parsley and celery leaves

Weekly Winner: Whatever You Call It – It’s Tasty!

What constitutes a salad? I know there are “entrée” salads and “side” salads and “grain” salads. But what, exactly makes said dish a “salad”? These are the deep thoughts and nagging questions that keep me up at night. (OK, actually nothing keeps me up at night – I sleep like the dead. But it makes for a good post so just go with it.). The dictionary tells me that it has to be a cold dish to be a salad, but if that’s the case, what about warm potato salad? Is it the dressing that makes a plate or bowl of ingredients into a salad? I honestly don’t know. And you know what? I don’t care, either. When I can compose a dish this drop-dead gorgeous, interesting, and healthy and…. oh yeah, crazy delicious… then you can call it whatever you want.

According to Cooking Light Magazine, this is Chicken with Broccolini and Farro-Beet Salad. According to me, however, it was a spectacular dinner. I did make just a couple changes to the recipe. First of all I had regular broccoli on hand rather than Broccolini so I used that. Secondly, I did not buy raw beets and microwave them — I bought already cooked beets and used that — ain’t nobody got time to cook and peel beets if you don’t need to! Also the recipe calls for pre-cooked farro. Really people, just cook your own, it takes no time at all and is far tastier. Hey, but other than that I followed this recipe exactly!

Chicken with Broccolini (or broccoli) and Farro-Beet Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2/3 cup water

2/3 cup plus 1-1/2 tsp cider vinegar, divided

1 cup vertically sliced red onion

4 small red beets, trimmed (11 oz) [or one package pre-cooked red beets]

3/4 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1-1/4 tsp kosher salt, divided

4 (6 oz) skinless, boneless chicken breasts

6 Tbsp olive oil, divided

12 oz broccolini, trimmed [or regular broccoli]

1 garlic clove

1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves

1 (8.5 oz) pkg precooked farro (such as Simply Balanced) [or cook your own!]

2 navel oranges, peeled and sliced

Chopped fresh dill

Procedure:

  1. Bring 2/3 cup water and 2/3 cup vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. Add onion; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat; let stand 15 minutes. Drain.
  2. While onion stands, pierce beets a few times with a knife; wrap in a large piece of microwave-safe parchment paper. Microwave at high until tender, about 8 minutes. Cool slightly; rub off skins with a paper towel. Cut beets into wedges. [if using pre-cooked beets, simply open package and cut into wedges — see? Isn’t that much easier? You can use this time to cook your own farro which only takes about 15 minutes]
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Combine garlic powder, paprika, cumin, and 1/4 tsp salt; rub over chicken. Add 1 Tbsp oil to pan; swirl. Add chicken; cook until done, 6 minutes per side. Place on a cutting board; let stand 5 minutes. Cut into slices
  4. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add broccolini, and cook until just crisp-tender, about 2 minutes; drain. Rinse with cold water; drain.
  5. Place garlic in a mini food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Add parsley; pulse until chopped. Add remaining 5 Tbsp oil, remaining 1-1/2 tsp vinegar, and 1/2 tsp salt; process until well blended.
  6. Heat farro according to package directions. Combine beet wedges, farro, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Divide farro mixture and broccolini evenly among 4 plates; top evenly with onion, orange slices, and chicken. Drizzle each serving with about 2 Tbsp parsley sauce; if desired, sprinkle with dill.

Weekly Winner – Digging into a Big Bowl of Goodness

There is little I look forward to more than being able to curl up on the couch with my favorite evening show (or in my case, Cubs baseball) and eat dinner out of a big ‘ol bowl.  More often than not, however; the more comforting and satisfying said Bowl is to eat, the less healthy and virtuous it is to have consumed.  Not in this case. Today I present a big bowl of comfort, joy and about the healthiest thing you can eat for dinner.

I find myself eating like this more frequently than I have in the past.  Rather than a protein, veggie, starch, etc artfully displayed on a plate, I now enjoy throwing a bunch of goodness in a bowl, mixing it up and digging in!  Grain Bowls with Chicken, Spiced Chickpeas and Avocado has a bit of everything and keeps you happy and picking away until the very end.  The chickpeas and the avocado add perceived luxuriousness without any guilt.  Their creaminess is a nice contrast to all the fabulous crunch in this dish and it all of it comes together with a bright herby vinaigrette.  The recipe comes from Epicurious and while they gave a choice of grains to use in this dish, my go-to grain of choice is always farro and that’s what was used here.

Grain Bowls with Chicken, Spiced Chickpeas, and Avocado

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the chickpeas – 

2 tsp olive oil

1 15.5-oz can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, patted dry

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp kosher salt

For the dressing – 

1-1/2 cups parsley leaves

3/4 cup mint leaves

1-1/4 cups olive oil

6 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp honey

1/2 tsp salt

For the bowls – 

4 cups cooked quinoa, farro, barley or brown rice

4 cups shredded cooked chicken

2 mini seedless cucumbers, halved, sliced

2 avocados, halved, pitted, sliced

4 cups baby arugula

1@ cup pickled red onions

4 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Procedure:

Make the chickpeas – Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook chickpeas, cumin and cayenne, shaking to coat, until heated through.  Increase heat to medium-high and cook, shaking occasionally, until chickpeas are golden brown and crisp, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to paper towels and season immediately with salt.

Make the dressing – Meanwhile, pulse parsley and mint in a food processor until finely chopped.  Add oil, lemon juice, honey, and salt and pulse to combine.

Assemble the bowls – Toss grains (farro in my case) with 1/2 cup dressing in a large bowl.  Divide among individual bowls.  Toss chicken with 1/4 cup dressing in the same large bowl.  Arrange chicken, cucumbers, avocados and arugula over farro.  Top with chickpeas, pickled onions, and sesame seeds.  Serve remaining dressing on side for drizzling.

Weekly Winner:  A Clean Start to the New Year with some Nutty Chicken

It has taken me a while, but I finally think I have figured out the Food God’s evil, master plan.  It makes you crave – then gorge on – all of that excessive, sugar-laden, rich, gooey, nostalgic food over the holidays simply so that come New Year’s, you actually crave healthy, clean meals. And it works…..every time.

Last night was the first night we either weren’t traveling, entertaining house guests, eating out with friends, or simply trying to clear out the fridge of the holiday dregs that still lingered..tempting us.  We needed a clean break, literally and figuratively from all the crap we’d been eating (and loving, I might add).  The problem is, after such a gluttonous long week, bland boring “diet food” would not cut it.  I wanted something healthy-tasting but with loads of flavor. Something that felt hearty yet wouldn’t weigh me down.  My “dinner in shining armor” arrived in the form of Pistachio-Crusted Chicken with Warm Barley Salad.  Since hubby prefers farro to barley (and yes, I take full credit and much pride in that fact!), I made that swap.  The dish is amazing.  Perhaps the best testament is that even though its insanely healthy, I’ll gladly make and eat this dish anytime — not just when trying to cut back and clean up my act.  The recipe comes from Eating Well and is a wonderful mix of flavors, textures and all-around wholesome yumminess.

Pistachio-Crusted Chicken with Warm Barley Farro Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Olive oil or canola oil cooking spray

2 cups water plus 1 Tbsp, divided

1/2 cup quick barley (or pearled farro)

1 cup salted shelled pistachios, divided

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 tsp orange zest

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 large egg white

2 8-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut in half crosswise

1/2 tsp salt, divided

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 Tbsp white-wine vinegar

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 450F.  Coat a wire rack with cooking spray and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  2. Bring 2 cups water and barley or farro to a boil in a small saucepan.  Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 10-12 minutes.  Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, pulse 3/4 cup pistachios, breadcrumbs, orange zest and garlic powder in a food processor until the pistachios are coarsely chopped.  Transfer to a shallow dish.  Whisk egg white and the remaining 1 Tbsp water in another shallow dish.
  4. Place chicken between 2 pieces of plastic wrap.  Pound with the smooth side of a meat mallet to an even 1/2-inch thickness.  Sprinkle the chicken with 1/4 tsp salt, coat with the egg mixture and dredge in the pistachio mixture, patting to adhere.  Place on the prepared rack.  Coat both sides of the chicken with cooking spray.
  5. Bake the chicken until and instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 165F, about 15 minutes.
  6. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add tomatoes and vinegar.  Cook until the tomatoes just start to collapse, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat.
  7. Drain barley or farro, if necessary, and stir into the tomatoes along with the remaining 1/4 cup pistachios, 1/4 teaspoon salt and parsley.  Serve with the chicken.

Weekly Winner:  Another Fabulous Foray into Farro

Can I just say that farro rocks??  I am beginning to realize that I have a serious crush on this grain.  While it makes a perfectly fine side dish, I prefer to make it the star and that usually means some sort of grain salad that lets the farro shine.  This is that salad.

Farro, Chicken and Grape Salad comes from Fine Cooking and it is perfect for this time of year.  It can be eaten with the farro and chicken warm for a dinner as we did this week or chilled and taken to work for a hearty lunch.  I suspect I’ll be making this a lot in the coming months — for myself and for several of my clients.

Farro, Chicken and Grape Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

2 cups pearled farro, rinsed and drained

3 Tbsp mirin

3 Tbsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp Asian (toasted) sesame oil

1-1/2 Tbsp minced jalapeño

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil

1-1/2 cups green seedless grapes, halved

1-1/2 cups small-diced seedless cucumber

1-1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

Procedure:

  • In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the farro with enough water to cover.  Add 1/2 tsp salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the farro is tender but still slightly chewy, 15 to 18 minutes.  Drain.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the mirin, lemon juice, sesame oil, jalapeño, 1-1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.
  • Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil on medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook, flipping once, until brown on both sides and just cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes total.  Let rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
  • Add the chicken and any accumulated juice, the farro, grapes cucumber and dill to the vinaigrette.  Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

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