Overnight Kale Salad with Pomegranate

Yes this is an iPhone shot and you’re lucky to get that these days.

A post! A post! Yeah, I can hardly believe it either, haha. Want to know how I managed it? A paragraph at a time, that’s how. In between model fittings I added to this post bit by bit until it was decent enough to be worthy of the public eye. Or the internet public eye that is. There is a bit of a difference. 😉

This salad was a wonderful breath of fresh air to me as I had been searching for ways to get more kale into my diet. I really liked kale, but had struggled with preparing it myself in the past. Sauteing the deep green leaves on the stovetop was an easy way to start. As the queen of leftovers, though, I found sauteed kale to not be very palatable after the second day. Kale chips weren’t bad, but were difficult to pack without crushing and took time to make in my mini-oven as each batch had to be quite small. The few salads I tried with these tough, ribbed greens were nearly inedible – I am not polygastric, thank you very much.

However, I knew I was on to something when I read about this Overnight Kale Salad. The zesty marinade sounded delicious. The toss-and-leave strategy was perfect for busy/lazy bums like me. And the recipe called for cheese and pomegranate: two of my favorite things. My only concern was that the acid wouldn’t wilt the tough kale leaves enough to be edible or perhaps be too effective and turn my kale into a soggy mess. I needn’t have worried, the end result is a totally delicious, fully edible salad that has been tested by yours truly again and again.

Overnight Kale Salad with Pomegranate (adapted slightly from Women’s Health)

Ingredients:

3   T   white wine vinegar

2   cloves garlic, finely minced (~1 rounded T)

1   T   honey

1   T   EVOO

1   t   salt

pinch of black pepper

little squirt of fresh lemon juice

1   bunch of dinosaur or curly kale, ribs removed, torn into bite-sized pieces

1   C   pomegranate seeds

1   C   grated, fresh parmesan cheese *

* Note: I go a little crazy with the pomegranate and cheese because they are just so good and I love lots of texture in my foods (crunchy seeds, soft cheese, firm kale). Feel free to scale back a bit here if you wish. I won’t judge.

Procedure:

1. Whisk together vinegar, garlic, honey, EVOO, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

2. In a large bowl, toss kale with dressing until coated evenly. STOP: don’t panic! The dressing will seem ridiculously light, I know, but the kale will wilt to nearly half its size in the acid bath. Try these proportions after fully resting first before doubling your dressing or you may regret it.

3. Cover bowl air-tight with plastic wrap and let marinate overnight in the fridge. In the morning, give the salad a good toss before serving – it should have about half the volume as before. Will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge (gotta love vinegar).

Beezer’s Notes:

This has become one of my favorite salads of all time and is perfect for winter when you’re struggling to be healthy while still satisfying that cold-induced hunger. Now I know I’m technically posting this in the Spring, but since we’re still getting snow here I think I’m justified. Another bonus? This lovely dish tastes even better as leftovers! The longer it sits the more the flavors develop and meld, so it is perfect for those of us who want very flavorful meals in very little time.

Overall Enjoyment:  ♥        

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Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I’ve done it! After a full summer of fighting sore knees, asthmatic wheezing, and general laziness I can finally call myself a jogger. Not a runner, no – heavens no – but a jogger…yes! Of course, many of you are probably wondering why I would even bother at all and I admit I wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been for two things. First, with my new grad student lifestyle (read: timetable and budget) I realized I would actually have to make an effort at being healthy; weekly climbing and kayaking trips were just not in the cards anymore. Second, my doctor had never shown as much shock as she did the day I admitted I couldn’t jog past 3 minutes out of doors. Five spirometer tests later (I had failed the first three and insisted on trying twice more – to no avail) and my lung capacity was determined to be significantly below average and back at the level I had been at as a chunky 12 year old. Embarrassing.

My initial attempts at running here in Halifax were just like all my previous ones back home: miserable. I couldn’t go for more than a few minutes at a time and felt like death every time I did so. I felt like such a fraud, trying to do something I have never been good at in the least. It also stung my pride that here I was, the same gal who could kayak all day and hold side-planks like a champ, gasping for breath when jogging a lowly 4 mph. Luckily for me and my lungs, my stubbornness is one of my strongest features and this time it really came in handy.

By our apartment there is a beautiful, large park right on the bay. All summer I’ve managed to get my butt out the door and into the park several times a week. I was still jogging painfully slow, but after the first six weeks or so it actually started feeling pretty good afterwards. The pattern would usually be a 5 minute warm-up walk followed by alternating 3 minutes jogging, 5 minutes walking, for one circumference of the park (~ 2.8 miles). The first few minutes of every jog continued to be torturous as my body fought me down to the very. last. synapse. …but if I were able to hold out my muscles would slooowly start to comply. By the end of July I seemed to have actually won my body over and the entire routine was comfortably challenging.

The real breakthrough came just a few weeks ago. I had been looking up running tips and learned that beginners should just focus on the goal of jogging for 15 minutes at any pace, before they worry about things like rate or distance. “Bummer,” I thought, “there’s no way that’s going to happen.” At this point, I had improved to 6 minutes of jogging, but that was the top of my game. However, I also read that one should warm up for at least 10 whole minutes – that’s quite long when you actually time it. So, the next day, I walked for 10 minutes before jogging and then told myself I wouldn’t stop jogging until my legs literally gave out on me. I would keep my slowest pace – pride be damned! – but I would just keep going. Perhaps not the healthiest experiment, haha, but I really wanted to push myself and see what I could do.

Well I didn’t make it the entire route, but I did make it 2/3 of the way – a whopping 11 minutes of straight (slow) jogging! Unbelievable. I had to take my puffer as a went and I certainly was a striking shade of pink walking home, haha, but I had nearly doubled my past time. It was challenging enough that I almost chickened out on trying it the next week. Since I hadn’t experienced any injury or actual pain from the first attempt, though, I told myself I had to do it again, that I could do it again. And I did. And I’ve kept doing it. The other shoe finally dropped just a few days ago when I went out and clocked a 10-minute-mile during that same route. Let me say that again: a TEN MINUTE MILE. Better get your mitts out, hell just froze over. And I am ecstatic. 😀

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps (America’s Test Kitchen Light & Healthy 2010)

Ingredients:

1½   C   water

1   C   short-grain rice (such as sushi rice), rinsed

3   T   fish sauce

zest and juice of 1 lime (~ 3 T juice, 2 t zest)

1½   T   brown sugar

1   t   cornstarch

1   lb.  ground chicken

2   t   canola oil

1   Thai or jalapeño chili; stemmed, seeded, and minced*

¼   C   chopped fresh basil**

3   scallions, thinly sliced

12   Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves (~ 1 head)

* Note: For more heat, include some or all of the seeds

** Note: Since I needed to trim my mint plant anyway (my first potted herb since moving across the border! Excuse me while I do a little dance…), I used mint leaves and loved the flavor they added to the dish. If you want more authentic flavors, stick to basil, but I highly recommend you try a little mint at some point. You’ll be surprised.

Procedure:

1) Start the water and rice cooking in your rice cooker  – or bring both to boil in a medium saucepan over High heat before covering, reducing heat to Low, and cooking for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and let rice sit, covered, for 15 minutes before fluffing with a fork.

2) As the rice cooks, whisk fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, and cornstarch together in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, mash the ground chicken with the back of a spoon or a potato masher until no stringy pieces remain.

3) Heat the oil in a 12″ non-stick skillet over Medium heat until shimmering. Add the chicken, chili, and lime zest and cook until meat is no longer pink – breaking up the meat constantly as it cooks – about 5 minutes. Whisk the fish sauce mixture briefly to recombine and add it to the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens – about 45 seconds. Remove skillet from heat and stir in basil and scallions. Transfer chicken to a serving bowl and serve immediately with rice and lettuce leaves.

4) To assemble wraps: put a spoonful of rice into the center of each lettuce leaf and top with a spoonful a chicken. Fold the edges of the leaf up to form a taco-shape and eat with your hands. The trick is not to stuff them – easy does it!

Alternative serving suggestion of you really want to load up your wraps or are concerned with spills.

Beezer’s Notes:

I’m very happy I decided to try this easy and light recipe. I’m always a sucker for Asian dishes and this one gives you full-scale flavor without investing hardly any time or ingredients. I ended up making this twice in a single week – with NO leftovers surviving! A big thank you to Shane who supplied me with lovely home-grown veggies, including the scallions that I couldn’t find in either grocery store (Halifax grocers are just odd); the next handful are going on my potatoes haha. Quick note: although I think they’re just perfect, Brad thought the wraps were a little dry. You may want to keep a little soy sauce or other Asian-themed sauce handy to top these off, if you so desire.

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

Peach and Walnut Salad

With all these cookies our kitchen has been seeing recently, I thought I might try to balance things out a little bit by sharing this salad recipe. I know, I know… it’s not *quite* as exciting as candy-laden blobs of heaven…but I wouldn’t bother to share something as simple as a salad if it weren’t one heck of a delicious salad. Lucky for you, this one is! 🙂

I’d also like to share something that comes from another, older corner of my life: gaming. With the move, grad school, and general lifestyle upheavals I haven’t gamed much in the past year unless you count the occasional Machinarium replays or Plants vs. Zombies iPhone addiction I had last fall. In the past, though, I used to log hours on Day of Defeat and Counter Strike with my two younger brothers and even my dad. As an ex-marine and sharpshooter, my dad was actually hilarious to play with (think technophobe with military know-how). I’ve also played WoW on and off since 2007 and have dabbled in other RPGs, but the first-person shooters will always be in my top faves.

Why am I telling you this? Because as a female gamer who prefers “violent” games I’ve come across my fair share of trolls (to put it nicely)…but nothing like what some gals are putting up with these days. I just listened to an NPR broadcast dedicated to online harassment in games which, in turn, led me to discover the amazing blogs Fat, Ugly, or Slutty and Not in the Kitchen Anymore. I also learned about the sexual harassment of Miranda Pakozdi that was broadcast live in front of a world-wide audience. That’s right: broadcast live. For five days. The poor girl finally forfeited the competition just to escape the source of the harassment: her coach.

The silver lining to all this is that it’s starting to make the news and not just gamer mags. I mentioned the NPR program, but there has also been a BBC radio documentary, articles in the New York Times and Forbes, numerous other digital posts, and a cute but informative video by PAX TV’s Extra Credits. Hopefully with more and more people – women AND men – standing up for decent human behavior, trash talking will remain just that: harmless jabs about someone’s leet skillz (or lack thereof) instead of crossing the line into something disgusting, degrading, and completely unacceptable.

Peach and Walnut Salad (from Women’s Health July/August ’12 edition)

* serves 4 as a side or 2 for an entrée *

Ingredients:

3   ripe peaches, sliced into thin wedges

3   Cups arugula

4   oz.   fresh mozzarella, cut into 1″ cubes

2   T   chopped walnuts or pecans

3   T   EVOO

2   T   white wine vinegar

1   C   fresh basil

¼   t   salt

Procedure:

1) In a large bowl, toss together peaches, arugula, mozzarella, and nuts. Put oil, vinegar, basil, and salt in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.

2) Divide peach salad among serving plates and drizzle with basil oil dressing.

Beezer’s Notes:

I promise you, if you are attempting to have a salad instead of cookies this is the salad to have. You’ll enjoy sweet peaches, soft cheese, slightly bitter greens, and crunchy nuts – all drizzled with a zingy pesto-like dressing. This salad manages to be light and filling at the same time, perfect for summer. Plus, with enough of these you could maybe justify your next batch of cookies (or at least, that’s what I tell myself, haha).

Overall Enjoyment:  ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

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