Kale Summer Salad

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I have a confession…I love having friends and family over, hosting dinner parties & BBQs and cooking for lots of people. Problem…I’m not actually very good at it! I mean, the food is great and I’d like to think we create a fun environment but every single time, I spend a lot of the time in the kitchen preparing food and not mingling and hanging with our loved ones. It actually makes me really anxious too, something about people watching me cook, having a messy kitchen and not being able to just enjoy myself. The worst part is that I KNOW the steps to having a successful dinner party and I DON’T FOLLOW them!! Typically I go to the grocery store the day of and do no prep ahead of time. I also don’t pay too much attention to the steps that go into making a dish (i.e. cook time and or something with a lot of hands on time).

So, I’m turning over a new leaf 🙂 I really want to enjoy our dinner parties more so I am determined to plan ahead. Here you go, steps to a successful dinner party that the cook can enjoy as well…
1. Make recipes you are familiar with. Your best bet is to stick to recipes you have made before. This way you are familiar with the ingredients and the steps, plus, you know how it is going to taste. No wondering if your guests are secretly spitting their food into their napkins 😉
2.Choose recipes with as little hands-on time as possible or can be mostly prepped ahead of time. Whether it is meat you can marinate the day before and can just throw on the grill, a dish that can be prepped and tossed in the oven to cook or fruits and veggies cut up the day before. Anything you can do to lessen your time in the kitchen, the better. Ideally, during the party, you should shoot to only be tossing something in the oven, on the grill or on a dish.
3. Stick to your timeline. Grocery shopping 2 days before, recipe prep 1 day before, on the morning of pull together any cold dishes, dishes that will go in the oven later. Get your serving table ready and decide what dishes and utensils you will be using for each dish.
4. Accept offers of help! I am terrible at this. People ALWAYS ask, can I do anything to help? And I ALWAYS tell them NO! Why do I do this?!?! Probably because I want to seem all cool, calm and collected 🙂 Haha! Let them help! Not only will they feel good about helping you, if you are stuck in the kitchen for a bit it will give you a chance to still chat while getting things ready.

This salad is my attempt at better dinner parties. We are planning to have people over for 4th of July so I am trying out some new recipes ahead of time so I can plan the menu. This salad is ABSOLUTELY making the cut! Seriously delicious, a bunch of kale, gorgeous summer fruits, nuts and a tangy dressing to top it off.

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Kale Summer Salad
1 bunch of Kale
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1 cup blackberries
1 peach, pitted and diced
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup diced mango
3 Tbsp dried cranberries
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup walnuts
For the dressing:
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

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1. In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper until combined. Slowly stream in olive oil while whisking until emulsified.
2. In a large bowl, combine the kale and dressing. Massage the dressing into the kale until coated and place in the fridge to marinate for a few minutes. (Don’t do this too far ahead of time or the kale will get soggy, no more than 30 minutes before serving)
3. Before serving, add the diced fruit, dried cranberries and nuts to the kale and toss until evenly combined.

*Original recipe from The Balanced Berry

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Lamb Chops with Farro, Arugula and Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette

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What a weekend! Our Seahawks are going to the Superbowl again!! Such a fun weekend up in Seattle, watching the game and hanging with friends. Along with that, lots of yummy football food and drink. Which means we needed something a little lighter for dinner tonight.

If you don’t already read or subscribe to Cooking Light Magazine, this is the month to do it! The recipes in the Jan/Feb 2015 issue are mouthwatering! I have not dog-eared so many pages in a food magazine before as I did in the current issue, and tonight’s dinner was one of them.

Lamb Chops with Farro, Arugula, and Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette
Serves 4
8 (4 oz) lamb loin chops
1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
8 ozs uncooked farro
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp finely chopped shallots
2 tsps. honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsps. finely chopped fresh thyme
2 ozs baby arugula

1. Heat grill to medium-high heat. Sprinkle lamb with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add to grill; cook 5 minutes on each side. Remove from grill; let stand 5 minutes.
2. Cook farro according to package directions. Drain and let cool.
3. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and next 7 ingredients (through thyme) in a small bowl.
4. Combine farro and arugula in a bowl. Add half of dressing; toss to coat. Divide farro mixture evenly among 4 serving plates; arrange 2 lamb chops on each plate. Drizzle remaining dressing over lamb.

*Original recipe from Cooking Light Magazine

Fall Harvest Salad

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My friend Janine texted me one day about a homemade salad dressing, saying that I HAD to try it. Of course I believed that it would be tasty and that I would like it, but for whatever reason, I didn’t try out the recipe. A few weeks later, Janine and her hubby were at our house for the weekend. We were getting ready to eat dinner, I was asking what kind of salad dressing everyone wanted on their salad and Janine quickly whipped up this Maple Vinaigrette Dressing.

I mean…this dressing has changed my salads forever!!!

This is another recipe for your Thanksgiving table, course #1 to get everyone started, a beautifully colored and incredibly full-flavored fall salad.

Maple Vinaigrette Dressing
Makes 1 1/2 cups dressing
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp Dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste
3/4 cup olive oil

1. Combine balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard and salt & pepper together in a blender or food processor.
2. With blender or food processor running, add olive oil in a steady stream, to combine.

Fall Harvest Salad
1/2 acorn squash, peeled, seeded and sliced lengthwise into 1/2″ wedges
olive oil
salt & pepper
4 cups spinach
1/2 cup shaved parmesan
1/4 cup pecans
1/4 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place squash on rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until squash is tender when pierced with a fork.
2. In a large bowl, toss spinach with 1/4 cup of Maple Vinaigrette Dressing (more to taste if desired).
3. Top spinach with squash, parmesan, pecans and cranberries. Toss to combine and serve.

Parmesan Fritter Salad with Bacon Buttermilk Dressing

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This was course #2 from my first-day-of-summer dinner. Not your usual salad with tons of different toppings but oh so much flavor thanks to the fritters and dressing. A great crowd pleaser when you are hosting dinner guests but I recommend making the fritters and dressing ahead of time (up to 2 days) to limit your kitchen time when your guests are mingling. Warning: be very careful with this dressing…you may want to lick it all from a spoon and have none left to serve with the salad! It’s that good! Original recipe from Fine Cooking.

Parmesan Fritter Salad with Bacon Buttermilk Dressing
Serves 6

For the Dressing
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 clove of garlic, mashed to a paste with a pinch of salt
1 scallion, trimmed and finely chopped
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
3 slices thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise 1/4″ thick and cooked until crisp
For the Fritters and Salad
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and coarsely grated on a box grater
2 cups coarse breadcrumbs
3 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil; more as needed
6 oz. mixed salad greens

To make the dressing:
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, mayonnaise, garlic paste, scallion, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper.
2. Crumble the bacon and whisk it in.
3. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

To make the Fritters and assemble the salad:
1. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan. Add 1 tsp. salt and the fennel and cook for 2 minutes. Drain in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold water until cool. Press out as much water as possible from the fennel, and then transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Pat dry with more paper towels.
2. In a large bowl, gently mix the fennel with the breadcrumbs, Parmigiano, eggs, garlic, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.
3. Heat the  oil in a 12-inch cast-iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat until hot.
4. Using your hands, form a heaping tablespoonful of the Parmesan mixture into a patty about 1/2 inch thick. Add it to the skillet and repeat to make 3 more patties, adding them to the skillet as you form them. Cook, turning once, until golden and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Repeat, in batches, with the remaining Parmesan mixture, adding more oil as needed.
5. In a large bowl, toss the greens with just enough of the dressing to lightly coat. Divide among 6 plates, top with the fritters, and then drizzle with some of the dressing.

Chicken Salad with Strawberries & Asparagus

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One of my all time favorite salads, and perfect on a warm summer afternoon. When I was working full-time, my husband and I decided we had to change our diets because eating out for lunch everyday was just not helping us in anyway. I got online and ordered a few different recipe books and this has turned out to be my absolute favorite, Paleo Power Lunch. There are 26 different lunch salad combinations and they are ALL so tasty. Let me put out a disclaimer here, I do not follow the Paleo diet. I just love the combos of fruits, veggies, meat and nuts/seeds that this book uses. Even my husband, who doesn’t love salads, enjoys them. So, here is #1 with plenty more to follow.

2 cups arugula
3 ozs grilled chicken, chopped
4 large strawberries, sliced
4 stalks of asparagus, cut into 1″ lengths
1 Tbsp red onion, chopped
1/2 cup pecans
2 Tbsp Annie’s Organic Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing

In the cookbook, they also give recipes for Paleo dressings. I, however, like my full-flavor, full-fat dressings…sorry Paleo. I like to use Annie’s Natural & Organic Salad Dressings because they come in so many different flavors and most are certified organic.

That’s that. Enjoy!