Spring has officially sprung and seasonal veggies are hitting the market. Asparagus is ready for harvest from March to June, depending on your region. Contrary to popular belief, the skinnier spears are not necessarily more tender. In fact the thickness does not indicate tenderness at all. The tenderness of asparagus is determined by how it is grown and how quickly after harvest it is eaten. Asparagus should be stored on your counter but I keep mine in the fridge because I do not need my cats messing with it while I’m at work. If your asparagus has wilted, trim the ends, place upright in a glass with a little water in the bottom and it will perk right up.
This recipe is refreshing and flavorful. A quality balsamic will make all the difference in the world. It is worth it to spring for the good stuff. Leftovers are still delicious the next day. Try mixing it up by adding slices of kielbasa, or putting it on bruschetta toasts with a crumble of feta. What is your favorite asparagus recipe?
ASPARAGUS, TOMATO, AND WALNUT SALAD WITH BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE
One 10oz package of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 lb asparagus, tough ends trimmed, chopped into one inch pieces
3/4 cup walnuts
6 tsp balsamic vinegar
4 tsp avocado oil (olive oil would work just fine as well)
2 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
In a medium sized bowl mix together the tomatoes, asparagus, and walnuts.
In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing of balsamic, oil, mustard, and salt and pepper.
Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad, tossing lightly.
Take it to the next level: Add in grilled sliced kielbasa or top bruschetta toasts with salad and add a little crumble of cheese.
Miss Mioux has been diggin’ on yogurt-based salad dressings lately, Bolthouse Farm’s Ceasar specifically. These yogurt-based salad dressings pack a lot a flavor and save big time on calories, I love it! This honey mustard yogurt-based dressing is only 34 calories per tablespoon. You can burn that off by walking for 6 minutes. That is less time that it takes to carry in groceries from the car.
Now you know how sometimes you go to the store, and it’s Sunday morning, and it’s just slammed? Not even the cute firefighters, who also grocery shop early Sunday morning, make you want to hang around longer than necessary, or so Miss Mioux tells me. Anyhow, Miss Mioux needs more caesar, and she isn’t interested in firefighters in this crowd on this particular morning, so she is in and out. Mission accomplished. At home, she unpacks and finds she still needs ceasar salad dressing because in her haste she grabbed honey mustard. She almost went back to exchange it, but the firefighters would be gone and the store would still be crazy busy. Not worth the mileage. She does not want it on her lunchtime salads so we gotta do something with it.
We came up with this recipe below because it allowed us to feel like we were eating something indulgent, something creamy. Who doesn’t like sauce? And hello…bacon! With the yogurt-based dressing rather than heavy cream for the sauce it allows us to stay well within our healthy lifestyle goals. And this dinner will show you how to turn a bottle into a killer pan sauce.
PRO-TIP: When I was a crazy couponer, I would use free salad dressing as a chicken breast marinade often. Italian salad dressing is a great marinade to add a little more moisture and flavor to chicken breast. And if you purchase your meat in bulk you can add it to your freezer bag with the raw chicken before you put it in the freezer.
ONE-POT PAPRIKA DUSTED CHICKEN WITH BACON IN A HONEY MUSTARD YOGURT SAUCE
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
5 slices of bacon
1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tbsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 bottle of Bolthouse Honey Mustard Yogurt dressing
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced (about 10 mushrooms)
Heat a large skillet on medium and cook bacon until it starts to brown.
While bacon is cooking, in a small bowl, mix the paprika, mustard, salt, and pepper.
When bacon is browned, remove and set aside, leaving bacon fat in skillet. Add chopped onion to the skillet and cook in bacon fat until soft. Set aside onion with bacon.
Rub paprika-mustard mix into sides of chicken breast and place in skillet. We had a little bacon fat left in the skillet. If your skillet is dry, add a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook each side 1-2 minutes to get a nice sear on the chicken. It will not be cooked all the way the way through.
Add the bacon and onion back to the skillet, along with the chicken broth, bottle of dressing, and mushrooms. Stir to combine, lower heat to a simmer, and cover for 10 minutes.
Uncover skillet and simmer another 10 minutes to let the sauce reduce. Go ahead an taste it though, it’s delicious! Chicken will be cooked through and no longer pink in the center. Serve with side of choice and drizzle sauce on everything.
I get my chicken from a company called Zaycon. They are a farm to table company that delivers to your town at prices that beat the grocery store big time. You purchase in bulk and items available are based on the schedule for your area. They are nation-wide. I have often split orders with family or friends because 40lbs of chicken can be a lot for a three person household that includes a child that doesn’t eat much. To check if they are in your area, create an account here. You can also sign up for emails to be made aware of future events in your area. Over time I have ordered:
Today Fred Meyer (and other stores listed below) are offering a FREE 15.5 oz jar of Tostitos Salsa Dip. Load the coupon to your card today and use by April 9th, 2017. I think I will put my jar in my InstaPot with some Zaycon boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Shred it when it is done cooking and then make some enchiladas! Today before midnight PST you can get $20 off $100 order on Zaycon with code DEAL20.
With your store loyalty card, you can register on the app, and download coupons to your loyalty card. Every Friday, Fred Meyers releases a FREE ITEM coupon that is only available on Friday and only to the first 25,000 people to load it to their account. The coupons are good for a couple of weeks. It also applies to other Kroger stores. You can even get an announcement text sent to you each Friday.
When Miss Mioux and I first started cooking together, there were not a lot of vegetables she liked because there were not a lot of vegetables she had tried. She knew she liked cauliflower, so we made cauliflower everything:
Each dish continued to surprise and be delicious. We talked about revisiting them until we saw a recipe for Cauliflower Grilled Cheese. Oh. My. Damn. Low carb and cheesy? Heck yeah! And if you are having grilled cheese, you need soup to dip.
I found cauliflower grilled cheese on Kirbie’s Cravings. My favorite part is the methodology. Anyone who has tried to make cauliflower pizza crust has had to wring the water out of crumb sized pieces of steamed cauliflower, and personally I think it is a giant messy pain. This recipe dries the cauliflower out in the microwave. I am telling you this is a game changer! The soup recipe is from Cookin Canuck and is a nod to Miss Mioux’s Canadian heritage. It turned me on to the book Eating Clean by Amie Valpone. The ginger cashew pesto in it sounds amazing.
CAULIFLOWER GRILLED CHEESE
1 head of cauliflower, stem removed and cut into small florets
1 large egg
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp Italian herb seasoning
4 deli slices of muenster
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place cauliflower into food processor and pulse until it is in rice-sized pieces.
Place cauliflower into a large microwave safe bowl and microwave for two minutes. Stir the cauliflower and place it back in the microwave for three minutes. (At this point if you want to wring the water out of the cauliflower be my guest, from this day forward I will choose to use the microwave to dry out my cauliflower.) Remove and stir again so all the cauliflower cooks evenly. Place back into the microwave and cook for 5 minutes. At this point, you will start to see the cauliflower dry out. Mix and place back for a final five minutes. Pro Tip: With the moisture released from the cauliflower, this is a good time to wipe down the inside of your microwave with a paper towel to clean it, after you have removed the cauliflower.
Allow the cauliflower to cool for a few minutes. If you have ever used the wringing method, by now it should look the same, but SO much less fuss. Can you tell I am excited by this? Innovative I tell you!
Add in egg, parmesan, and seasoning. Stir to combine until smooth. Divide the dough into four equal parts. Place onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. Having neither at that moment, we just sprayed a glass baking pan. Using your hands, shape the dough into square “bread slices.” Bake for about 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool a few minutes.
The cauliflower crust is too delicate to flip on the stove, so put two slices of muenster cheese on two slices of cauliflower “bread.” Using a spatula, place the other slice of “bread” on top, sliding it back into the oven until cheese begins to melt, just a few minutes. If you were working with a harder cheese, like a thick hunk of cheddar, I would set it to broil for 5 to 10 minutes to get the cheese melty. For a softer cheese like muenster, just placing it back in the oven works fine.
GOLDEN RED & ORANGE BELL PEPPER SOUP
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk diced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper , to taste
8 yellow, red, and/or orange bell peppers, chopped
1 large sleet potato, peeled and chopped
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
6 tsp dried marjoram
Fage greek yogurt, for garnish
croutons, for garnish
sliced avocado, for garnish
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes.
Add the bell peppers and cook until soft, about 6 minutes.
Add the sweet potatoes and broth. Season with salt and black pepper, cover the pot.
Bring to a boil then lower the heat and add the marjoram. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
Let the soup cool slightly, and then in batches, transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. If needed, thin the soup with water. Adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper if necessary. Return the soup to the pot to keep warm until serving. Serve garnished with a sprinkling croutons, a dollop of the Fage, and avocado slices.
The “bread” firms up well, considering each slice is basically just a quarter head of cauliflower.
For the office St. Patrick’s Day potluck, it was a green theme. There were green deviled eggs and green rice krispie treats, along with shepherd’s pie and cabbage rolls. I needed a recipe with some green, some health, and some quickness. This salad from Turning Back the Clock fit all my needs. I adapted the recipe to omit the mayonnaise and got tons of compliments on the dressing. I doubled the recipe and it came together quickly and easily, and fit in with our office Get Fit Challenge. Perfection.
CREAMY BROCCOLI APPLE SALAD
4 cups broccoli florets and stalks (If you don’t like the stalks you don’t have to use them but why not?) about three small heads
Miss Mioux and I have been challenging each other to be healthier. We started a daily plank challenge March 1st. For all our belly slimming efforts, I have been craving something cheesy in a big way. Miss Mioux is right there with me. I am going on a trip to Jamaica and in an effort to get swimsuit-ready, I have cut out pizza, fast food, and most takeout. My body needs cheese. I balance this need by pairing it with veggies – lots of veggies. And it is delicious! Serve with a crisp green salad and crusty bread.
THREE CHEESE SPAGHETTI SQUASH
1 medium spaghetti squash
3 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp olive oil
3 handfuls of spinach
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded colby jack
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/2 panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Microwave the spaghetti squash whole for 3-4 minutes to help it slice in half more easily. Cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Rub the inside of the squash with a little olive oil and place skin side up, squash side down in a baking dish. Bake for 40 minutes. While the squash is baking, prepare the sauce.
In a medium pot, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the spinach and stir until wilted. Add cream cheese, milk, and cheese (set aside a few pinches of each type of cheese to mix with the panko bread crumbs). Stir until the cheese is melted. Whisk in cornstarch. Add salt and pepper to taste. When the sauce has thickened, remove it from heat.
Once the squash is done roasting, allow it to cool to touch or use an oven mitt. Reduce the oven temperature to 350. Using a fork, scrape the spaghetti strings of squash out, creating a squash boat. Mix the spaghetti squash with the sauce and fill the squash boats back up.
Mix the reserved cheese with the panko and sprinkle the crust evenly on top. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until heated through.
Dig in guilt free!
If you are pressed for time, you can roast the squash ahead of time, bake for only 30-35 minutes and refrigerate. When you are ready to eat, scoop the squash out while the sauce comes together, mix, add back to the bowls and finish cooking.
Feel free to substitute your favorite green, such as mustard, kale, or chard. Diced cooked chicken, sautéed shrimp, bacon or sausage crumbles would add protein. Any number of additional veggies would be delicious add-ins, such as mushrooms, bell pepper, or broccoli. Follow your heart.
Miss Mioux and I were full with a quarter the squash, salad, and a couple pieces of bread. Plus we both wanted leftovers. I packed my leftovers in my Hunny’s lunch bag the next day. Having never had spaghetti squash before, he thought it was great. He described it as satisfying and rich without making him feel overly full. He had the idea of cooking the spaghetti squash with cheese in place of hashbrowns*. A stuffed hashbrown version with spaghetti squash in place of potatoes will be a thing we will have to try out…
*In a nod to Miss Mioux’s Canadian heritage, we spell hashbrown as one word.
I’m excited by my InstaPot purchase. It was pricey at $99 but this kitchen wonder replaced my pressure cooker, my crockpot, and my rice cooker. All three sold on Craigslist for nearly the whole expense. Miss Mioux bought one too and sold her rice cooker and crock pot to a coworker. She was patient enough to wait until it went on sale for closer to $70. I love that I can do all the prep, saute and cooking in one vessel, plus it leaves only one thing to clean.
My first test was to make brown rice. I loved that it took half the time on the pressure setting that my rice cooker would take. It does so much! Miss Mioux made a killer cheesy broccoli soup once. Maybe one day we will be brave enough to utilize the make your own yogurt settings. For now we are taking this to the next level and cooking chicken. I recommend getting the carrots into the oven and then starting the chicken cooking while the carrots roast. This way the sauce for the chicken should be just about thick enough when the veggies are done roasting and everything will be hot and ready at the same time.
ASIAN ROASTED CARROTS AND BROCCOLI
3 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar, packed
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp Sriracha
1 pound baby carrots
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound broccoli, chopped
2 tsp sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and Sriracha. Set aside.
Place carrots in a single layer on a baking sheet (we halved ours so they would roast faster). Drizzle with olive oil, add garlic, and toss with your hands until evenly coated. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until fork tender. While the carrots are roasting, start your chicken.
Stir in the broccoli and bake another 7-10 minutes. Remove and drizzle with the soy sauce mixture, gently tossing to combine.
Serve with Spicy Honey Chicken. Garnish with sesame seeds.
Preheat the InstaPot using the sauté setting. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the diced chicken and add to the InstaPot with oil, onion, and garlic. Stir occasionally until onion starts to soften, about three minutes.
Add soy sauce, ketchup, and red pepper flakes to the InstaPot and stir to combine. Add the lid and pressure cook on high for three minutes. The InstaPot will stay “ON” until it builds up enough pressure within, then it will count down. When the timer beeps, turn the pressure cooker off and do a quick pressure release.
Add sesame oil and honey to the pot and stir to combine. In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in water and add to the InstaPot. Select the sauté option and simmer until sauce thickens, stirring often.
Serve with Asian Roasted Carrots and Broccoli. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions.