Thursday, March 12, 2015

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Miso Dressing and Toasted Cashews

Perfect Pairing:  Ready Rice

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I officially have spring fever.  Just a taste of sunshine and 50+ degree temperatures here in Chicago makes me want to grill, pick asparagus, clean my garage, and wash my windows.  The coming of spring also means my wedding is getting really, really close!  I am so incredibly excited!  I have been busy with plans and DIY projects.  We will see if ALL of the DIY projects actually happen.  Somehow the list keeps getting longer, not shorter.

I can’t wait to take the cover off of my grill!  I am getting tired of indoor cooking.  Baked or roasted meat is just not the same.  I also love grilled vegetables and make them at least once a week in grilling season. 

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I made this fun salad for a picnic at Ravinia, an outdoor concert venue where we attended the Food Network festival.  I wanted to have a couple “scoopable” salads that were not your standard pasta, potato, or lettuce varieties.  This was so good.  It is a great combination of grilled vegetables, rice, and a simple miso dressing.  The toasted cashews put it over the top.

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I used bell peppers, red onion, and Portobello mushrooms, but you could also use asparagus or other mushroom varieties.  The veggies are simply seasoned with salt and pepper and then cooked  until they have grill marks and are just tender. 

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The veggies are cut into bite sized pieces and mixed with rice and the miso dressing.  I am loving miso.  Expect more miso recipes on here soon.  I used the Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice packet for this recipe.  So convenient!  Stir in some fresh basil and toasted cashews and you have an incredible salad.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Impossibly Light Pineapple Whip

Perfect Pairing:  Favorite frozen fruit

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I am an adult Disney fan and proud of it.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t wear Mickey ears (I may proudly wear a vintage Mickey t-shirt to bed) and I don’t wait in lines to meet characters, but I unabashedly love Disney World.  Every time I am there I truly feel like I am in the happiest place on earth.  They just do everything right!  It is magical.

I was lucky enough to go to Disney twice in 2014.  No complaints here!  The first trip was with my parents in March inspired by a free hotel stay. Then in July I had an incredible trip with my parents, brother and his family (including two little girls), and his in-laws.  I wrote about that trip in this post. 

I have some must-dos at each park, especially at Magic Kingdom.  I run a tight schedule.  I wore my parents out!  My fitbit told me I was averaging about 25,000 steps per day.  Most of the requirements are the attractions like Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Small World, etc. but there are also some mandatory food stops.  While I am on the subject, the dining at Disney is pretty incredible.  One of the best meals I have ever had was at Canada at Epcot.  Back to the Magic Kingdom and required snacks.  One is a Mickey shaped rice krispy treat with the ears dipped in chocolate.  They make me so happy.  The other one is the Dole Pineapple Whip sold at Aloha Isle in Adventureland.

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Apparently the Dole whip is only sold at Disney and at the Dole pineapple plantation in Hawaii.  Honeymoon stop??  It is a pineapple flavored ice cream concoction that you can eat solo, mixed with vanilla soft serve, or topped with pineapple juice.  It is unbelievably tasty.  When I was at Disney in March I was pretty darn bummed that the line was REALLY long and I didn’t have enough time to wait.  Remember, I was on a tight schedule.  I made it a priority when I was back in July.  It did not disappoint!

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When I got home I was determined to try to make something similar.  I finally came up with an incredible substitute.  Not only is it light and delicious it is ridiculously easy and healthy. 

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A bag of frozen pineapple chunks are whirred in a food processor until broken down into tiny pieces.  This will make a REALLY loud noise and will rock the processor violently.  Stick with it and it will settle down.  Then you add a single egg white and some honey for sweetness and it turns into this unbelievably light pineapple whip.

Of course, I have to add a disclaimer about raw egg whites.  Be sure to use pasteurized eggs and if you are squeamish about it, avoid the recipe.   I will let you do your own research on the egg white issue.

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I have also done this same method using mixed berries and it was equally delicious. 

Guilt free, refreshing, and so so tasty. 





Monday, February 23, 2015

Cheeseburger Soup

Perfect Pairing:  Mix ‘n Chop

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Here in Chicago we are still smack dab in the middle of winter.  We are to the point where it is no longer charming in any way.  The snow is dirty, the cars are salty(as is my coat and, inevitably, my dark jeans), the potholes are growing, and everyone is just super ready to see some green grass and birds.  I guess if you want to see a silver lining it would be that it is still soup season!  It is a very thin silver lining.

Soup is one of my favorite winter foods because it always seems to get better leftover and it is so simple.  I think I have made a batch of soup almost every Sunday in 2015 so it can be enjoyed all week long. 

My mom first had a version  of this Cheeseburger Soup earlier this year made by a friend and she asked for the recipe.  She has probably made it 4 times since then and it quickly became a family favorite.  I made a few variations from the original recipe to lighten it up just a bit.

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It is just really darn good soup.  Kind of a nice change from your standard chili or noodle soup.  I feel like I should maybe apologize for using processed cheese.  It is not very "foodie" of me.  So, sorry about that.  All things in moderation?

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I have a lot of tools in my kitchen and some are probably (definitely) superfluous but one I really love is the Mix ‘n Chop from Pampered Chef.  It is the perfect tool for breaking up ground meat.  I’m a big fan.  If you want to purchase one here is a link to my favorite Pampered Chef consultant, Julie.





Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Brussels Sprout and Pear Salad with Bacon and Candied Pistachios

 Perfect Pairing:  Sheller

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I just got back from an absolutely amazing vacation in Cabo with my family and fiance.  It was pretty much perfection.  Here is the obligatory photo dump to prove it!

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So now it is back to reality, which means guacamole is not served at every meal and mojitos (no sugar) are not offered at 4 PM for BOGO Happy Hour.  Sigh.

The best part about a spinach salad is obviously the bacon dressing.  I really love the Pioneer Woman’s spinach salad recipe.  She cooks the red onions and mushrooms in a little bacon grease instead of adding them raw.  That is a game changer.
This Brussels Sprout Salad takes its cue from the Spinach Salad since it is tossed with a warm bacon dressing. 

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Then the whole thing is topped with crumbled bacon, pears, and candied pistachios.  How about a close-up?

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This salad is all about contrast…. Crunchy bacon with soft pears, salty bacon with sweet candied nuts, warm bacon dressing with cold shredded Brussels sprouts.  Hmmm, sounds like this salad is all about the bacon. 

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Waaay back at the start of the blog I posted an Asian Inspired Brussels Sprout Salad that was a copycat recipe.  I was trying to recreate a salad I had at a fabulous restaurant in Chicago called Sunda.  That recipe called for quickly stir frying half of the veggies.  If you are not into raw Brussels you could also try that method using some of the leftover bacon grease.  I am sure it wouldn’t suck.

You will need about a half cup of shelled pistachios for this recipe.  I recommend getting a sheller.  No, this is not something you buy at Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table.  Mine was my grandma.


One year ago on Perfecting the Pairing: Lemon Cream Pasta

Two years ago on Perfecting the Pairing: Slow Cooker Lemon and Garlic Chicken

Three years ago on Perfecting the Pairing: Ham, Cheese, and Asparagus Croissants  & Cherry Cheesecake (Perfect for Valentine's Day!)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Creole Jicama Hash with a Sunny Side Up Egg

Perfect Pairing:  Box shredder

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I am so excited about this dish!  It will come as no surprise that since I have a big day (MY WEDDING!!!!!) coming up soon I am doing my best to eat healthy, workout, and tone up.  I am always searching for healthy recipes that are still delicious.  I have a fiancé to feed!

I love jicama but had only eaten it as a raw crudite, how it is served here.  In this breakfast (or any other meal) the jicama is shredded and cooked like a hash with onion and creole seasoning.  A simple box shredder is the perfect tool here.  No need to drag out the food processor. Just watch your fingers.


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Jicama has a slightly sweet flavor which is great in this, especially if you balance it with a hefty pinch of salt.  

Top it all off with a sprinkle of green onions, sriracha, and an egg.  I like (love) a runny egg, but cook according to your preference.  


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It is such a satisfying meal.  If you are familiar with the diet that uses “points” this is only 3 points!!!  You can’t beat that.  It is also paleo friendly for my paleo friends out there!  


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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Salmon Burgers with Dill Yogurt Sauce

Perfect Pairing: Broiler Pan
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These salmon burgers were a fun switch from regular hamburgers or a simple salmon fillet.  Fresh salmon is combined with fresh dill, horseradish, lemon zest, and shallot to form a super tasty burger.  Then it is topped with a light sauce made from fat free Greek yogurt, fresh dill and a touch of honey.


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These are so simple to make, you basically throw everything into the food processor and then the oven.  I would try to get salmon without the skin.  I didn’t do this and removing the skin was the most time consuming part of the meal prep.


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Most ovens come with broiler pans but I think they are pretty underused.  I know I rarely use mine!  I dusted it off for this recipe and it was perfect.  If you don’t have a broiler pan you could use a cooling rack placed over a baking sheet.


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These were perfect with slices of crunchy cucumber and crisp lettuce.  I served mine with oven-roasted broccoli and sweet potato fries.  It was a delicious and healthy meal.  




Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Roasted Caprese Salad

Perfect Pairing:  Off-season tomatoes


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While I love cold-weather comfort food sometimes I crave something fresh that reminds me of warmer days. Especially with the negative temperatures and dreary, dirty snow outside.

The perfect summer dish is a caprese salad made with garden-grown tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and sweet basil.  Now we are stuck with hothouse tomatoes that barely resemble the summer varieties that you could eat like an apple.   Roasting mediocre tomatoes brings out their natural sweetness and concentrates all of the good tomato flavor. 


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I used a variety of grape and Campari tomatoes, but use whatever you have on hand or what is on sale.  


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After roasting they are topped with shards of fresh mozzarella, julienned basil, and a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar.  

Park yourself under a heat lamp, pour a glass of sauvignon blanc, turn on some Bob Marley and it is practically summer.


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