Lunch and Dinner

I’m Obsessed With A Sardine Salad. No, Really.

Sardine salad with feta and avocado

The word “sardine” by itself is enough to put most people off. Pair “sardine” with “salad” and I know half of you are about to X out of this post. Wait! Give me a chance to tell you why you might want to start eating this surprisingly delicious salad. Hear me out.

I love sardines but I never quite know what to prepare them with. I actually got the inspiration for this salad from a fitness book. I’m a big fan on the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast, and one day decided to buy his book Get-Fit Guy’s Guide to Achieving Your Ideal Body (my Amazon affiliate link). While his podcasts and blog are AMAZING and he’s just a fountain of knowledge, I didn’t get too much out of this particular book. For one thing, I could never quite decide which body type I have, which is kind of a pre-requisite to achieving your ideal body. But the bigger problem is I looked at the workout plans and decided I would completely disregard them and keep doing what I’m doing. So, yeah. I did get one important thing out of this book: my new favorite salad. He talks about making a salad with greens, veggies, sardines, avocado, and feta. And that’s what I did.

Sardines are like the win-win-win fish for me. They’re low in mercury, high in omega-3 fatty acids (as well as iron, calcium, and potassium), inexpensive, and sustainably-fished. Though fresh sardines taste better, canned sardines are good too. They’re really easy to find and not too high in sodium for a canned food. I suggest opting for sardines with bones rather than the skinless boneless type. The bones are soft enough to eat and you get more calcium that way. Aside from the sardines, this salad has so many nutrients and healthy fats, it’s almost obnoxious. But believe it or not, it tastes kinda awesome! All the ingredients come together really well creating a refreshing Mediterranean-flavored salad. OK, not sure if avocado is Mediterranean but, hey. You can never get enough avocado. The best part of this salad is that it’s stupid easy to make and takes like five minutes. It’s my new fast food.

Mediterranean sardine salad

Mediterranean Sardine Salad With Avocado
Makes 1 serving

1 can of sardines packed in olive oil (preferably including bones)
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 large handful spinach
1 tomato, sliced into 8 wedges
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 ripe avocado, cut into cubed and scooped out of its skin
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

Open the can of sardines and pour one tablespoon of the olive oil in the can into a bowl. Slowly add the balsamic vinegar as you whisk furiously with a fork until you have an emulsified vinaigrette. Add the spinach, tomato, and red onion to the bowl and toss until the vinaigrette is evenly distributed. Roughly cut the sardines into big chunks in the can. Top your salad with the half the sardines (or all of them if you’re hungry), feta, avocado cubes, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Prepare to feel awesome.

Sardine Salad

Lunch and Dinner

A Kale Salad to Die For

We’re in the middle of that short period each year that I love salads. LOVE. I will probably be unable to eat this in about two months time, so I’m going to make this as many times as I can before that happens.

I found this lovely Kale Market Salad recipe on 101 Cookbooks one day. It might not have screamed out “MAKE MEEEE” like some other recipes do. But I happened to have almost all the ingredients needed at home anyway, so I picked up some almonds from the store and made it that same night. SO good. It’s just one of those super simple yet magical combination of ingredients where the sum is so much greater than its parts. I didn’t even use farro or fennel, but it was delicious all the same.

Then again, maybe using avocado is cheating. Avocado makes everything taste amazing.


Lunch and Dinner

A Creamy, Cheesy One-Pot Meal

One of my favorite blogs, Big Girls Small Kitchen, posted this gorgeous recipe for a Tex-Mex skillet Creamy Chorizo-Chicken Casserole last year as an April Fool’s joke, saying it was only 100 calories per serving (I wish). This recipe, however, is no joke. It is seriously delicious.

There’s nothing inherently unhealthy about this casserole per se. I did feel slightly guilty every time I had a serving of this amazing creamy, cheesy casserole, though. You know me, I’m pretty liberal about what I consider clean eating. I eat meat, cheese, butter–all that stuff “health-conscious” people don’t get down with. But I just don’t feel like a meal is complete without vegetables. The point of one-pot dinners is having everything you need  in one pot, right? I know I shouldn’t mess with genius, but I thought I’d give it a tiny makeover, just to make it a little more nutritionally balanced. I swapped out a bit of the meat, cheese, rice, and cream for some tasty veggies. I promise–it tastes just as ridiculously good.

Chicken and Chorizo Casserole with Tomato and Bell Pepper
Makes 4 servings
About 690 calories

Adapted from Big Girls Small Kitchen

1/2 pound fresh chorizo
1/2 pound boneless chicken thighs or breast
3 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 medium tomatoes, diced removing seeds and water
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 lime, juiced
1 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 cup coarsely shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Season the chicken with salt and 1 teaspoon of the ancho chili powder. In a large cast iron skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken in the skillet on both sides until browned and cook through, about 15 minutes. In the same skillet, brown the chorizo until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove the chorizo and chicken to a plate and set aside.

Melt the last tablespoon of butter in the skillet. Add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper, tomatoes, garlic, remaining chili powder, cumin, salt, and flour. Cook for a couple of minutes, then stir in the broth. Simmer for a couple of minutes until thickened.

Stir in the cream, sour cream, and lime juice. Simmer over medium-low heat until thickened, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. During this step, you can roughly cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes and slice up the chorizo when not busy stirring.

Remove the skillet from heat. Fold in the meats, cooked rice, and most of the cilantro. Set aside the leftover cilantro for the end. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Remove from the oven and garnish with remaining cilantro leaves.

Lunch and Dinner

More Miso and Asparagus!

A clean eating tip: eat before you go to the airport, preferably something home cooked.

Remember how I was obsessed with Miso-Roasted Asparagus? Yum. Well, I saw a recipe from the Momofuku Cookbook for Pan-Roasted Asparagus, Poached Egg & Miso Butter. Had to make it. Obvi.

I ended up cooking this five minutes before I was supposed to leave for the airport. I had only just started packing a half hour earlier, my travel buddy had arrived and was ready to roll, and I was running around like a totally unprepared crazy person. So basically, not the best time to cook and savor a meal. But I hadn’t eaten any real food all day (I had cake, marshmallows, and peanuts, ew) and was panicking about whether I had packed everything as I had left it until the last minute. I NEEDED this. I needed the calm from cooking and I needed something nutritious in my system. So while my travel buddy nervously watched the clock, I started pan roasting asparagus in front of her. “This will just take a minute, I promise!”

Luckily it didn’t take long to whip up at all. Despite The Kitchn reviewing the recipe as one of the few vegetarian dishes in the Momofuku cookbook, I thought I’d enhance it a little with some chopped up duck prosciutto. A little duck prosciutto never harmed anyone. I may have scarfed it down out of fear that we would miss our flight, but that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy every bite! It’s a healthy, elegant little dish. The miso butter adds complexity to the flavor, and I loved dipping the roasted asparagus in the runny egg. So glad I had this instead of stale airport muffins.

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Single Lady (or Dude) Skillet Meals

I finally bought a set of cast iron skillets! I wanted one so bad for the longest time. Never mind that I was getting by just fine it the kitchen without them, I kept imagine a romantic montage of me making awesome frittatas, skillet cookies, and campfire meals. (Yes, I often have montages in my head.)

I’ve had my skillets for a couple of weeks now and I’ve only been using the baby one so far. My latest obsession: single lady skillet meals. I have this fascination with single urban living. People used to live with their family until they moved in with their spouse and started a new family. But here in the city, more and more people live solitary lives. Without a family to have a family dinner with, what does one eat? I, myself, am a single lady. Yes, I have a boyfriend and yes, I live with roommates, but for most purposes I am on my own.

This means I am also on my own for most meals. I never understand why so many people feel there is no point to cooking for one. It’s awesome–you don’t have to cater to anyone else’s tastes! There are so many single serving things you can make. Or, make more and you have lunch and dinner for the next two days. Win!

Not only am I fascinated by single living and single servings, I also love the idea of a one-pot meal because I am far too lazy to clean so many dishes. So this is my single lady skillet meal. It’s more of a formula than a recipe:

Super Simple Single Lady (or Dude) Skillet Meal

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Chop up and sauté some complementary vegetables in your single lady/dude skillet. Some of my faves include tomatoes and bell peppers, or tomatoes and kale. I highly advise including onions and herbs. Delicious and nutritious!
  3. Sprinkle with some meat or cheese. Crumbled sausage, chopped up bacon, prosciutto, feta, parmesan…whatever you enjoy eating and that goes together well. Note: if you have to cook the meat first you’ll need to do it before the vegetables and set aside. Or if you’re willing to clean one more item, you can cook simultaneously in a separate skillet or pan, and add it in once the veggies are done.
  4. Crack one or two eggs on top and stick your skillet in the oven for about 10 minutes, so that eggs are cooked but still runny.
  5. Top with S&P and eat it all up. Share with no one.

The single lady skillet meal pictured above is tomatoes, white onion, green bell pepper, basil, bacon, and eggs. I love how quick and easy this is to whip up, and how healthy it can be. It can work as breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You can also use up whatever odds and ends you have sitting around your kitchen. For example, my arugula plants only had five leaves left. Yup, I threw them in. As long as you follow the basic formula, the possibilities are endless!

Lunch and Dinner

Making a Vegan Dinner. By Accident.

So, I made a vegan dish…wait, don’t leave! Please! Trust me. This is a good one. You’ll want to stick around to hear about it.

I saw this recipe for Braised Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas with Lemon on The Kitchn back when it was still winter. Their photography is of course a lot better than mine, and I remember almost drooling on myself looking at those images. I never got around to making it. So when my vegetarian girl roomie (not to be confused with the boy roomie who just learned how to use a microwave) suggested we do dinner at home, I had just the recipe. It had been raining for three days straight so it was the perfect comfort food.

It’s such a simple and quick recipe but the flavors come together is this amazing tangy, tropical way, making the sauce taste so much more complex than it is. It was crazy delicious. We were enjoying the dish served over baked sweet potatoes along with a couple of glasses of wine when my roomie pointed out “hey, isn’t this vegan?” Why yes, yes it is. I’m a little weird about “vegan” food sometimes and believe a recipe should never have the word “vegan” in its title if you want people to make it, as it implies (to me, at least) that it’s a lesser version of something that’s not supposed to be vegan.

This is how you do vegan, people. Letting real, tasty food come together and letting it shine for what it is, rather than trying to adapt a non-vegan dish to contain no animal products. This Braised Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas with Lemon dish is really good to the tastes buds, but also really good for you. It’s a such a healthy, balanced meal if you think about it–you’ve got plenty of veggies from different families, protein, fat, and no grains. It makes me so happy when delicious food is also super healthy. It’s like a freebie from the heavens that shouldn’t exist! So if you ever have a vegan coming over for dinner, you know what to whip up.

Totally making this again soon. But next time, dumping some Sriracha sauce in there too. Awww yeah.

Lunch and Dinner

The Detox Burger: Not an Oxymoron!

It’s NY Burger Week and American Craft Beer Week. The Great GoogaMooga Festival is happening this weekend. And on top of all of that, I am participating in a cook-off on Sunday, which mean two sets of 3-course meals. Yes, six courses. It’s going to be a few days of extreme indulgence.

So, last night the boyfriend and I wanted to detox a little before our food-laden weekend, but also still celebrate Burger Week. He came up with a brilliant plan: mushroom burgers.

I’ve had my share of veggie burgers, but never a mushroom burger. I made the first recipe for mushroom burgers that came up on my Google search. I’m not really into packaged, manufactured bread so I wasn’t feeling the burger bun idea. I whipped up some 10-Minute Buttermilk Biscuits instead. I marinated the portobello caps using fresh basil leaves (apartment garden for the win) and cooked them on a grill pan. I topped the burgers with some grated parmesan, a few salad leaves, and served it up with a side of asparagus. And beer, naturally.

We sat on the balcony and enjoyed our detox burgers, and a bowl of roasted berries for dessert. A delicious, clean meal. Bring on the weekend. We’re ready.

Lunch and Dinner

Making Kung Pao Chicken at Home: A GrubKit Review

I took a dumplings and wontons class with Diana Kaun from Appetite for China a couple of weeks ago. She told us she was putting together a Kung Pao Chicken Kit for a new service called GrubKit. Basically, you order a kit that consists of pre-measured non-perishable ingredients in just the right amounts, and a simple recipe. All you need to do is shop for a few fresh ingredients and whip up the meal in your kitchen. GrubKit basically meets you halfway–you’re still cooking your own food but they do some of the prep work. It sounded similar to a company that I’ve always wanted to try out from my hometown called Secret Ingredient, so I ordered Diana’s Kung Pao Chicken GrubKit.

My GrubKit arrived within a day or two in nice packaging.

As promised, all non-perishable ingredients were provided, measured-out and individually packaged.

The recipe is printed on a card along with cooking tips and your shopping list (in this case, just chicken, scallions, garlic, and ginger).

OK, confession. I’ve never actually had Kung Pao Chicken, ever. I really only know Cantonese cuisine and when I moved to the Sates, I kind of just assumed Kung Pao Chicken was some Chinese American take-out dish, like General Tso’s. But turns out this is indeed a classic dish in Sichuan cuisine. I may have nothing to compare my results with, but my guests and I found it to be delicious!

I enjoyed my GrubKit experience and am definitely open to trying it again. I think it’s a fantastic idea but definitely a little pricier than buying ingredients in bulk (duh). I paid a little over $20 including shipping, but still had to shop for fresh ingredients. Therefore, I think GrubKit is best in these two situations:

  1. If you don’t cook from scratch often, and hence really appreciate GrubKit’s prep work so you can save time and effort (not going to lie, it was pretty awesome not having to measure things out).
  2. If there’s a recipe you want to make and you can’t imagine using the ingredients often or don’t know where to find them. I happen to make Chinese food now and then so it probably would have been cheaper for me to make Kung Pao Chicken on my own, but for someone who wants to make it once but doesn’t want to buy bottles of peanut oil, hoisin sauce, etc that they will never use again, GrubKit really comes in handy.

Quick Notes

  • $3.95 flat shipping rate in the US, free shipping on 3 or more kits
  • Eco-friendly packaging
  • Ingredients are hand-selected with a focus on healthy and organic choices
  • It’s a small husband and wife operation in Brooklyn, NY. The wife is a food blogger.

(347) 469-1290

Lunch and Dinner

Spring Time Comfort Food: Mashed Sweet Potato

April was definitely a sweet potato month for me. Spring arrived, but let’s be real. It was damn cold several days this month, and there weren’t nearly enough Spring goodies at the farmers market (though I was delighted at the arrival of spinach). But sweet potato is amazing anytime of year.

I had never heard of Irish colcannon, but when I saw this healthier adaption of it, I had to whip some up for myself. Mashed sweet potato with kale mixed in, topped with crumbled crispy bacon, fresh rosemary, and a nice pat of butter…heaven. I made a meal out of it.

Local Food, Lunch and Dinner

Eating with the Seasons

I’m currently reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. (Loving it so far. Pick up a copy.) It’s about her family’s story of how they committed to eat local for one year. They only consumed what they bought raised in their own neighborhood or grew themselves, and learned to pretty much live without the rest.

The idea wasn’t new to me–I’m an advocate for local food, and both volunteer and shop at farmers markets. I know I’ll never take it to the extreme that Kingsolver did, but I felt good that I bought local more than most people do. What was new to me was the thought of living without what you can’t get locally. I shop based on what recipe I want to make, meaning I’ll buy what happens to be available at the farmers market and get the rest from the health food store, not caring where it traveled from nor whether or not it’s in season.

Inspired by Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I’ve decided to commit a little further to local food. Or at least get in the habit of eating with the seasons. We’re currently getting this bizarre hot weather for March here in NYC. I left work on Tuesday feeling like it was a summer’s evening. I kept imagining going home and making myself a big sexy plate of salad greens and lots of juicy raw tomatoes, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I loooove tomatoes. They’re my fave. But then I thought of the book and it occurred to me that it wasn’t remotely close to tomato season here in New York. I wanted a tomato, and while I could technically get one, it was grown far, far away. I would go without that night.

You know what is in season, though? Kale. I adapted this recipe from the Kitchn using kale instead of collard greens. I cooked it up with onion and bacon while I simultaneously made some leftover quick-cooking polenta I had in the cupboard. I topped the polenta with the kale and bacon mixture and a fried egg, threw some parmesan and a few drops of hot sauce on top, and had an extremely satisfying meal. This is a well-balanced dish (especially if you’re generous with the kale), and would make a delicious breakfast too.

I see why they call it food porn. It feels so dirty getting all up in my dish to snap sexy pictures of her bits.

I’ve gotten rid of everything on my to-make recipe list that isn’t mainly comprised of food I can get locally right now. Moving forward, I’m planning the recipes around the produce and not vice versa. No, not all parts of this meal was local, and yes I will probably end up buying a tomato or two next winter. But hey, it’s a start.