Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sweet Potato and Mixed Greens Salad

Lately I've been trying to work more and more on developing my own recipes and just sort of winging it when I'm in the kitchen.  I'm becoming more confident in my ability to cook intuitively as I become more comfortable with different spices and ingredients.


I've found that it's best to have some inspiration when getting going and one of the best types of inspiration I've found is thinking about meals that I've really enjoyed from a restaurant or other food establishment and trying to copy it, maybe not to a tee, but at least as a base.  As I have mentioned before on the blog, the Good Food cart is one of my favorite places to grab lunch when I'm at work and you better believe that it inspired this Sweet Potato and Mixed Greens Salad.


A bed of mixed greens are topped with cinnamon honey roasted sweet potatoes, craisins, pecans and crumbles of tangy goat cheese.  The finishing touches come from a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  I can be lazy at times so I usually just toss some pecans on the salad right out of the bag, but feel free to toast them or even go a little crazy and use candied pecans.  If you'd like a little more protein go ahead and throw on some chicken breast.  One of the great things about salads is they can be so easily customizable depending on your tastes by swapping out ingredients or switching up the proportions.

The recipe below is for one personal size salad that serves as the main dish for the meal.  I've increased the quantities at times as well to serve multiple people, just use your best judgement.  Be careful though, because the toppings tend to sink to the bottom of the serving dish!

Enjoy!
Kelsey



Ingredients:
  • 2-3 cups loosely packed greens, depending on what lettuce to toppings ratio you prefer (I like to use a spring mix for the greens)
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon honey roasted sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons craisins
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/8 cup pecans
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
Directions:
  1. Spread greens over large plate or bowl.
  2. Top with sweet potatoes, craisins, goat cheese and pecans.  Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
  3. Toss as desired and enjoy!


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Brittany's Sunday Brunch

Good morning brunchers!

This time of winter, I always find myself bored. Bored of snow and cold and being cooped up. Luckily, the kitchen can help me stay busy. One of my favorite things to make in the kitchen lately is homemade dog treats for Bear and friends...because one batch makes like 40 biscuits! Bear doesn't need all of those. But he sure wishes he could have them all. He'll do just about any trick for one of those peanut butter goodies. I always crave peanut butter cookies after making these because they always make the place smell so good when baking. Click here for the recipe I use.


Another thing I find myself doing during the boring months of winter is puzzles. My fiancé and I love to spend time after work or weekends at our dinning room table putting together the big, tough puzzles. That's actually how we spent our Valentines day. It was a perfect day in with a puzzle and grilled cheese and tomato soup for two! Simple, cheap and comfy. Oh, and I told my fiancé to hold off on buying me flowers. He'll (we'll) be spending plenty of money on flowers for the wedding. But I still got a lovely orchid. I'm diligently adding 3 ice cubes every Friday and giving her great sunlight. Let's just say I don't have the greenest thumb but I'm trying super hard! So far so good.


One other thing that's kept me busy this winter is the wedding planning. I've been a little stressed just with the idea that it's only 4 months aways! Yikes, where has the time gone? I'm pretty sure I'm ahead of the game but I don't want to start slacking. Bakeries, invitations, bridal gifts, salons...you can see how you might forget something. Through all this planning craze, I stepped aside and thought how I need to pamper and prepare myself for the big day.

I decided to look into grown-up facial regimens. I have stuck with the high school schedule of washing my face am and pm and only using moisturizer when my face gets dry. I wanted to change that in hopes of getting a good routine down for the wedding and beyond. It took quite some time and research to find the right products but I think I found them. I went with ole henriksen because they steer clear of ingredients I'm allergic to, they got good reviews and they are not on the top of the price scale. I'll let you know how I think of them!


And although no one but my yoga mat will see my pretty toes, I treated myself to a DIY pedicure. I did this as a pampering reward after sticking to my work out plans for the week. It was a great alternative to my normal rewards, dessert! Although, I'm not completely ruling out desserts until the wedding, after all, we get free cupcakes at our bakery tastings!

How are you staying busy this winter?

Until next time,
Brittany

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cinnamon Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes


Are sweet potatoes one of those trendy foods, like kale or quinoa?  Not that I have anything against trendy foods because it seems like usually they are things that are really good for you.  So maybe it's not so much that it's a trend but more of an awakening or coming out of sorts.  It's your time to shine vegetable that honestly is kind of mediocre but all of a sudden everyone is figuring out super delicious ways to prepare you!

Maybe sweet potatoes are trendy, maybe they aren't but I sure have seen them around a lot lately.  Part of that might be that I didn't used to care for their taste.  I don't know what it was about them, but they just didn't tickle my fancy.  All of a sudden though I love those buggars and can't get enough!


I remember learning about sweet potatoes in a class I took in college on world hunger.  Sweet potatoes are a type of yam.  There's a very similar yam that's grown in some African countries that is white or more similar looking to a baking potato.  Due to the difference in color, the African yams are seriously lacking in nutritional value that our sweet potatoes have due to the carotin that makes them orange.  Due to cultural reasons they are hesitant to switch to the orange ones.  A researcher at my university was working with some rural African villages to begin harvesting a yam that looked like what they were used to but had been developed to contain similar nutritional value to a sweet potato.  Pretty nifty!


These cinnamon honey roasted sweet potatoes are currently my favorite way to prepare the root vegetable.  The peeled potatoes are cubed and spread out on a baking sheet where all the action is going to happen, no need to dirty a bowl.  Extra virgin olive oil and honey are drizzled over the orange cubes and then sprinkled with cinnamon.  This creates a sweet and spicy potato after the roasting happens.  To be honest, I don't usually actually measure out the ingredients, so feel free to just wing it.

Cinnamon honey roasted sweet potatoes have great flavor and can be eaten as a side dish to any meal.  My favorite way to enjoy them is as a salad topping (salad recipe coming on Friday!)  I usually prepare a batch on Sunday and have enough then to last for salads the whole week.  Get creative though, the possibilities are endless!

Enjoy!
Kelsey

Ingredients:

  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Peel sweet potatoes and cute them into half inch cubes.  Spread out in a single layer on baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle potatoes with extra virgin olive oil and honey.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.  
  4. Cook for 30 minutes or until soft, stirring half way through.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Balsamic Vinaigrette


I've recently entered into the world of homemade salad dressings and I think it's safe to say that I'm never going back.  No longer will get stuck standing in the condiment aisle, staring at rows upon rows of salad dressing, never seeming to be able to find the kind I'm looking for.


Grocery shopping is actually an errand that I usually really enjoy doing.  I love cooking and food so I love being in a huge building with it picking out all the supplies I need.  Thanks to the positive influence of my fiance, our weekly grocery trip almost always includes a well planned list which leads to an efficient and enjoyable experience with no need to venture down the ice cream aisle just in case I suddenly realize that I will not be able to make it through the week without a pint of Ben & Jerry's.


One thing that still cannot be avoided is when you are awkwardly standing in the aisle trying to find something that is right in front of you and seem to be constantly in someone else's way.  Salad dressings might be my worst culprit for this.  Canned tomatoes are right up there too!


I've always found that the balsamic vinaigrette from a bottle never can live up to its companions at restaurants, or my favorite food cart, Good Food.  I assume the difference is the fresh, house-made quality.  And there's so many variations that can go along with such a simple dressing.  A one-size-fits-all recipe is sure not to please all!  For me it's always too salty and missing a bit of sweetness.


This recipe is just the way I like it and is very simple, using only five ingredients that you might already have sitting in your pantry.  The perfect ratio of balsamic vinegar to extra virgin olive oil.  A touch of honey to help balance out the acidity of the vinegar.  Salt and pepper add the finishing touches.


I make mine in my OXO salad dressing shaker and leave it sitting on the counter by the olive oil since I use it almost every day.  It doesn't need to be refrigerated and may actually harden if you do.  I use a little 2 ounce dressing container for my work lunch salads so the lettuce stays as fresh as possible until I'm ready to chow down.

Enjoy!
Kelsey



Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
Directions:
  1. In a small container combine balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, honey, salt and pepper.
  2. Whisk, stir or shake ingredients together until combined.  Redo as necessary as ingredients may separate.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

April's Sunday Brunch

Greetings friends! I hope everyone ate all sorts of chocolate and wine and deliciousness this weekend. You deserve it.

The past month has not been all that exciting, pretty much the usual. A real lack of picturesque moments. Therefore instead of just a recap of the past few weeks, I'm going to share some of the things I'm loving right now.


1. Milkshakes and a blizzard were one of the few picturesque moments. While some may say it is too cold or too much snow, I had my eye on a milkshake and that is what I got. Hubbard Avenue Diner is probably best known for their pie, but they make a mean milkshake too. And by milkshake I totally mean malt. They are way better, but milkshake has a better ring to it.

2. Have you seen Chef? You should. I've been wanting to see it for a long time now just because its about food. It just made sense to see it, but I had no real expectations for it. Hilarious, with a heartfelt relationship between estranged father and son. I would really recommend watching it, while you eat dinner because you'll be hungry by the end. You can find it on Netflix. Have you seen it? What did you think?

3. While browsing Netflix I came across a Frontline series "Locked Up in America," which I watched last year online. This is totally not heartfelt or delicious, but if you are into human rights and social issues, it is worth a watch. Be warned it is rather graphic but totally worth the watch if you are into issues around incarceration and criminal justice.
 


4. ...and now for something less depressing. Cave of the Mounds! Who has been? I was there probably 10 years ago as a school kid. It was so much more impressive than I remembered. Usually it is the other way around. It is also about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is warm considering the single digit weather coming up in Wisconsin.

5. I recently got a Groupon for Barre3 classes. I'm really loving them as an alternative to traditional group fitness classes. They also fit my schedule, with early morning times. The pricing is also reasonable with a student discount

6. I've been obsessed with my rice cooker and subsequently grain bowls. This is a really good how-to for inspiration or jumping point for your first grain bowl adventure. Endless possibilities.

7. This rice bowl sounds amazing too. Rice, beans and roasted broccoli with a little soy sauce and siracha is a dinner staple for me. This and the grain bowl are perfect throw together lunches that can be prepped on the weekend, clean out the fridge or as inspiration.Not to mention way more interesting than my typical rice and beans.




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