Super healthy chicken and grape salad…with bacon and blue cheese

Chicken and grape salad

Yup.  That wins.  That's the worst picture in the entire blog.

Yup. That wins. That’s the worst picture in the entire blog.

We’ve got some power couples in this recipe:  Sweet and savory.  Bacon and blue cheese.  Leftovers and laziness.

The flavors on this one are amazing.  The grapes are sweet.  The blue cheese and the yogurt are tangy.  I used full fat yogurt because that’s what we have in the house as decadent people/parents of a toddler.  The chicken was savory and lovely because it was the chicken from the “panic carrots” recipe the day before and it had that nice garlicky, oniony flavor shining through.  The recipe calls for you to use half of a rotisserie chicken.  Everyday Food doesn’t normally miss an opportunity to tell you how to use the leftovers from one of the other recipes in the issue.  The bacon was bacon.

The fact that the salad recipe from this issue has blue cheese and bacon on it demonstrates very nicely how decadent this issue is.  I like the idea of cooking seasonally and everything but the Thanksgiving November issue and the Holiday December issue back to back is a little rough on the ol’ waistline.

I should try to excuse that picture, shouldn’t I?  I can’t.  I forgot to take a picture at dinner, so this picture was taken in the dark break room at work the next day.  If anyone noticed the Baby Bullet container in the background, that held salad dressing.  J graduated from purees a while ago, so those have just become small leftover containers.  When you have a baby and a small kitchen, certain lines get blurred.

 

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Pumpkin cake and the Brussels sprouts reprised

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

lovely cake on a lovely table

lovely cake on a lovely table

D, J, and I spent Thanksgiving with my family.  Because they host Thanksgiving, I often just cook whatever is needed to fill in the gaps in the menu.  This year, that meant two cranberry sauces: the one from the Ocean Spray bag and a cranberry chutney.  The chutney was good and made an obscene amount of food.  Seriously.  Watch out everyone I know, you’re getting a jar of chutney for Christmas.

I was also in charge of bringing a non-starchy vegetable.  I made the Brussels sprouts salad again.  It scaled up pretty well, and, wouldn’t you know it, there were make-ahead instructions on another page!  I wrongly maligned that recipe.  You blanch the brussels sprouts and toast the pine nuts the day before.  That leaves only the dressing and slicing the apples the day of.

Another beautiful dish in a beautiful dish

Another beautiful dish in a beautiful dish

Pumpkin layer cake (recipe after the jump)

The real star of the show was the pumpkin cake.  Now, we had desserts more than covered.  We had a maple walnut pie, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, red velvet cake, pumpkin truffles, and a cheesecake.  But…when else was I going to make a giant layer cake?  My sister already rejected the idea of having it for her birthday next Sunday, so I piled on yet another dessert.  Nobody was mad.  This was a popular cake.  It’s very easy to bake and keeps wonderfully overnight.  I think the pumpkin pie spice in the cream cheese frosting (yeah, you read that right) really did add something.  I wouldn’t call it optional.  The cake was very moist.  I guess it reminded me a lot of pumpkin pancakes!  Giant pumpkin pancakes with cream cheese frosting.  You’re gonna want that.  Oh, one tip: the recipe says to use an electric mixer to make the batter and the frosting.  Incorrect.  Bust out the Kitchen Aid and the paddle attachment.  You’ll want the firepower of a stand mixer to get through all that butter and cream cheese.  Also, it’s a lot of batter.  Your arms will be glad you used ol’ Kitchy.

It just looks moist, doesn't it?  Gotta love pumpkin

It just looks moist, doesn’t it? Gotta love pumpkin

Oh, and check out the cheese from my trip to see B!

Cabot aged cheddar, buffalo wing sauce cheddar, everything bagel cheddar.

Cabot aged cheddar, buffalo wing sauce cheddar, everything bagel cheddar.

Happy Thanksgiving, wherever and whoever you are.

Continue reading

Ugh! Radicchio… (And a really super awesome chicken recipe)

So.  How to start?  The November 2007 issue featured radicchio in the “Have You Tried?” column.  The extent of my radicchio experience was the little shreds of it found in salad green mix.  From that experience, I thought “Great!  I love radicchio!  I bet it’s delicious on its own!”.  I was wrong.  Very, very wrong.

Looks good, right?!  Well, partly right...

Looks good, right?! Well, partly right…

In addition to the awfulness that is radicchio, none of these recipes appear to be online anymore.  I can only assume this is because Martha realized they were inedible (except the lovely chicken!!) and had them banished from her domain.

So, if you have the issue, you can find the recipe for Chicken with Lemon-Mustard Sauce and Seared Radicchio on page 156.  If not, I’ll do my best for you here because really, this chicken is worth a try.

Ingredients:

2 Tbs all-purpose flour

1 1/2 lbs chicken cutlets (or cheat like me and slice a couple of breasts into 3 or 4 pieces length wise)

2 Tbs olive oil

2 Tbs dijon mustard

2 Tbs capers (drain them and rinse them so all that briny-ness doesn’t get into your sauce)

2 Tbs fresh lemon juice

2 Tbs butter (keep it cold and cut into cubes)

2 heads of radicchio, quartered (feel free to skip this part)

Get a large skillet heating up on medium high heat and add 1 Tbs of that once it is heated.  Meanwhile, dredge your chicken in the flour seasoned with some salt and pepper.  Once the skillet it hot, toss those cutlets in! Don’t crowd them, do them in two batches.  They cook pretty quickly so just cook them until lightly browned on either side and cooked through.  Once cooked move them to a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep them warm.

Once you are all done with the chicken, add 3/4 cup water to the skillet and boil it until it has reduced to about 1/2 a cup.  This sucks up all the chicken drippings and floury goodness to lightly thicken the sauce.  Once that has reduced, remove it from the heat and whisk in the lemon juice, mustard and capers.  Once that is all combined, whisk in the butter a little at a time until the sauce gets glossy and beautiful. You can add a little salt and pepper at this point if you think it needs it.  Move the yumminess into a bowl and wipe out the skillet.

Add that last Tbs of oil into the pan and toss the radicchio in with cut side down.  Don’t turn it until it is lightly charred and then repeat on the other cut sides.

Serve it all together with a bit of the sauce on the radicchio as well.

*adapted from pg. 156, November 2007, issue 47

Now, I think I’ve made it pretty clear how delicious this chicken is.  It’s something special.  It’s something to make for guests.  The radicchio is not.  It’s just not.  The bear and I were both pretty excited about trying it.  It looked pretty awesome.  We each took a bite.  It took every ounce of will power not to instantly spit it out.  It was so intensely bitter that my body was literally rejecting it as poison.  The bear’s reaction was the same.  We tried again.  Same result.  We tried again with a bit of chicken on the fork thinking that might cut the bitterness.  No, it just ruined the flavor of the chicken.  We gave up.  The leftovers went straight in the trash.  We gorged on the chicken to forget the wretchedness.

The bear vowed we would never eat radicchio again!  Then G came for a visit.  We were certain that the Radicchio Slaw would be better.  Perhaps it was the searing that made it so repulsive.  If you are interested in giving it a try, you can find the recipe on page 158.  We were still wary so we cut the recipe in half so in the off chance it was just as bad as the seared radicchio, we wouldn’t have to throw so much out.

It's a pretty purple...

It’s a pretty purple…

Here’s the recipe:

In a large bowl,  whisk together 3 tablespoons cider vinegar and 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar.  Once the sugar is dissolved whisk in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Add in the radicchio that has been halved, cored, and thinly sliced along with a couple of scallions thinly sliced on the diagonal.  And finally add in 1/2 celery seed and toss it all together.  Let that all marinade together for at least 10 minutes.

*adapted from pg 158, November 2007, issue 47

Then throw it all straight in the trash.  We tried to save it. We coated it in gravy.  It was edible that way, but not worth wasting the gravy on.  I won’t say it was quite as bad as the seared radicchio, but it wasn’t good.  It was still incredibly bitter, we even went a little heavy on the sugar trying to compensate.  No luck.

Radicchio, you are not my friend.  G, the brave soul tried the third and final recipe…

G, here.  I think B is giving radicchio slaw smothered in gravy (aka “crunchy gravy”) short shrift here.  It was great!  All the texture of cabbage with the taste of gravy!  Who wouldn’t love it?

Anyway, as B said, the final recipe fell to me, Radicchio, spinach, and apricot salad with goat cheese.  B and the bear had already been traumatized enough.  Wouldn’t you know it?  This recipe also isn’t available online.  Trying to hide it, are you?  Nice try.

Radicchio, spinach, and apricot salad with goat cheese

You can see the purple, right B?

You can see the purple, right B?

*adapted from Everyday Food issue #47 page 152 (November 2007)

  • 1/2 c. dried apricots, halved
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 head radicchio (~8 oz), halved, cored, and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 bag (5 oz) baby spinach
  • 2 oz. soft, crumbled goat cheese
  1. Place the apricots in a small bowl, cover with boiling water.  Let stand 5 minutes, drain, and pat dry with paper towels.  Try not to eat them.  Try
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together vinegar and oil; season with coarse salt and ground pepper.  You could also do this in a small bowl and toss the dressing with the greens when you’re ready.  That’s what I did.
  3. Add apricots, radicchio, and spinach to bowl with dressing; toss to combine.  Serve topped with goat cheese.

And?! And?!?!  The suspense is killing you, right?  It was really good.  How did my good friend B take this news?  Was she happy for me?  Well, first she accused me of eating mostly spinach in this salad.  And then…

B: How is it?

G: Are you ready?  It’s good

B: I hate you.

And for that, you get the robot face 😐

G: Robot face all you like.  There’s no getting around this.  Radicchio has been just barely redeemed.

We ultimately agreed that all of the other flavors worked together to practically mask the flavor of the radicchio.  So we wound up where we started: appreciating radicchio for the small supporting role it plays in salad mix.  And that’s where it belongs.

You’re welcome.

Fantastic salad with some fatal flaws

Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad

anything with pine nuts is good

anything with pine nuts is good

This is a very yummy recipe.  It has bright flavors from crisp apple, sprouts, and vinegar, but it also has an earthy, roasty flavor from the pine nuts.  We made this at the beginning of November and D said he was really looking forward to a month of rich Thanksgiving flavors.  I was too.  It’s been fun to delve deeply into Thanksgiving for a whole month.

There are several strikes against this dish as an actual Thanksgiving side: First, there are no instructions to make it ahead of time, and that’s tough for a lot of cooks.  Second, it takes one large bowl, one large pot, one collander, one medium bowl, one cutting board, one or two knifes, two cookie sheets, the oven, the range, and at least four or five paper towels.  So unless you made absolutely everything else ahead of time, you love doing dishes, and no one else is bugging you to do anything just before the meal, this isn’t a good choice for your average Thanksgiving.  It should be noted, however, that I don’t usually have the average Thanksgiving.  My parents have between 20 and 30 people over.  So maybe my perspective is a touch skewed.  Overall, I think this is a nice side dish for a Thanksgiving-inspired meal, but not the feast itself.

One note about the apple instructions:  They are confusing as written. They tell you to quarter the apple then quarter it again.  And make 8 chunks?  From looking at the picture in the magazine, I determined that they actually mean quarter then thinly slice crosswise, similar to how you cut the brussels sprouts.

Here’s one meal where I served leftover stuffed acorn squash with this salad as a side:

it's just ridiculously seasonal, really

it’s just ridiculously seasonal, really

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner(s)!

So, owing to the fact that I don’t really eat red meat, I make a lot of chicken.  I roast it, I pan fry it, I bake it, I stir fry it.  Since G has already explained her “poach only” stance on chicken, this Roasted Paprika Chicken obviously fell into my realm.

Don't worry, it's supposed to look like that.

Don’t worry, it’s supposed to look like that.

Generally, the goal when roasting a chicken is to have a nice glistening crispy skin.  In this recipe, the thick spice crust is meant to blacken while cooking.  The flavor of the spices really get deep into the meat of the chicken.  It was good.  Although, honestly I prefer chicken to have some bright notes like lemon and garlic.  This chicken was so deeply savory you kind of needed something with a little acid to brighten it up a bit…

…Which is why I liked the french chicken salad so much!  The red-wine vinaigrette, while thin, somehow coats the chicken and adds body.  The celery and onion add crunch and a bit of zip and the acidity of the vinegar and mustard wakes the chicken right up.  So tasty.

This issue actually had two chicken salad recipes and four serving options.  I served mine in an avocado:

So creamy!

So creamy!

I lucked out and had a perfectly ripe avocado! The creaminess worked really well with the zing of the chicken salad.  I think this would be a really satisfying and healthy lunch.

I also served the french chicken salad in a roasted tomato:

Roasty toasty ...

Roasty toasty …

You core the tomato and scoop out a nice bowl for the chicken salad.  Then you roast it at 400 degs for just a few minutes.  You can see the skin just began to split.  (For the full instructions, see page 119, October 2003, issue 6).  I enjoyed the salad this way as well, but let’s face it, nothing beats an avocado.

Now G is going to tell you about her adventures with classic chicken salad.

G here!  Well, it’s time for me to eat some crow on my “poach only” stance.  Crow would probably be tastier than chicken salad made with poached chicken thighs or really any chicken thighs.  They are too fatty and rich to be paired with a mayonnaise dressing.  It just tasted off.  There’s a reason why chicken salad recipes call for white meat.  Yum!  Crow!

Anyway, I had the classic chicken salad recipe, and Beth had the French.  I spent a lot of time trying to suss out the difference between the two.  Here it is, dear reader: the classic has double the Dijon mustard, lemon juice instead of red wine vinegar and slightly less of it, hot sauce, and mayo.  I guess the mayo is the real difference, but we’re talking 2 teaspoons per cup of chicken.  Suffice it to say there’s not much of a difference between these two.

Here’s my salad as a sandwich:

Let's play spot the yellow peppers!

Let’s play spot the yellow peppers!

And here it is on a bed of mixed greens:

I found 'em!

I found ’em!

The takeaway here is that poaching chicken is not always the answer.  …—>the moooore yoooou knoooow!!!!—>

Pear Snacks!

Ok, I warned you there were a lot of pear recipes in this issue.  Here is a rundown of the “snack” recipes.  They are all so quick and simple they don’t really have recipes and therefore I have nothing to link to, but I’ll give you a good description.  If you have October 2003, issue 6, you can find the details on page 30.

These pears are getting playful with some honey and toasted almonds.

These pears are getting playful with some honey and toasted almonds.

I have a bit of a thing for honey.  I use it daily in my tea and like to include it in recipes whenever possible.  I also want to keep bees someday (as soon as I have a yard really).  Anyway, this recipe basically consists of slicing up some pear and drizzling it with some honey and toasted almonds.  To toast the almonds just toss them in a dry pan over a medium to low heat and toss them around for a few minutes until you really start to smell the oils warming up.  You can also do this in the oven but I like to be able to see/smell nuts as they are toasting to make sure they don’t burn.  This was very simple and very tasty.

Pears and blue cheese should be besties...

Pears and blue cheese should be besties…

Here’s another super tasty and super easy “snack”.  Slice up some pears, pile them on top of some mixed greens along with some blue cheese and some more almonds for good measure.  We ate it with a nice light red wine vinaigrette.  Super yummy and refreshing!

I had this snack waiting for the Bear when he got home from work one day.

I had this snack waiting for the Bear when he got home from work one day.

This “recipe” is even easier.  Just wrap some prosciutto around pear quarters.  It is really tasty although I was a bit disappointed by the deli prosciutto.  It wasn’t sliced thinly enough for one.  It also had some sort of curing salt/sugar mix still on the outside of it.  (Wegman’s would never stand for this!)

There was one other pear snack that I failed to photograph.  You take some store bought caramel sauce and drizzle or dip your pear slices into that.  It’s an interesting alternative to the autumnal treat of apples in caramel sauce.

And there you have it.  Try one, try all.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Fennel! Fennel! Fennel! Fennel! (And an Acorn Squash and some salmon)

In case that title wasn’t clear, this post is about fennel.  Fennel in four different recipes to be exact.  G and I split the load again, so I’m going to start off by talking about roasted fennel and the acorn squash recipe that I served it with.

One of these days I will get some better lighting...

One of these days I will get some better lighting…

So the acorn squash is actually very similar to the way I grew up eating it.  My mom used to make baked acorn squash all winter long, except she would serve it with honey and a little butter.  Aside from the honey, the process is the same.  I found the molasses flavor of the brown sugar to be really pleasant with the acorn squash so I will probably be using it again sometime.  (Did I mention that I have a half bushel of acorn squash waiting in my pantry?)

I have also made roasted fennel before, but I usually serve it with fish.  This time I served it with a pork loin I made using a maple mustard glaze.  The fennel was a delicious complement to the pork flavor.  I’ll definitely be combining them again.

Next I made a Fennel and Potato Bake.

Still bubbling!!!

Still bubbling!!!

I have to say here, the recipe requires you to thinly slice two fennel bulbs.  If you have one, I would recommend using a mandoline for this.  Slicing with a knife is a bit rough because the fennel keeps falling apart and it is really difficult to get even slices.

The recipe itself is pretty simple, though it requires a decent amount of prep time if you are doing all the slicing with a knife (seriously folks, use a mandoline).  You just sprinkle some asiago, salt and pepper between layers of fennel and potato then pour a little cream over the top.

The outcome is awesome.  The texture is super satisfying and the flavor is amazing! As soon as I get a mandoline, I’m making this again!

Passing the torch to G!

Thanks, B!  First, of all, fear the mandoline.  I once came home from school to find nothing but a mandoline, some carrots, a lot of blood, and no mom.  This is back before cell phones.  She had cut off the tip of her thumb using a mandoline.  She was fine.  It was just a slice of skin, and it grew back.  How’s that for a good story for a cooking blog?  Anyway, it scared me off of mandolines for life.  I use a knife or the slicing blade on a food processor.  Mandolins on the other hand, are a lovely instrument.  😉

I made the linguine with fennel and tuna and the Fennel, orange, and parsley salad.  I served the fennel and orange salad as a side with the Salmon “steaks” with hoisin glaze, so I’ll talk about that too.  And you’ll find out why “steaks” is in quotes.

Linguine with fennel and tuna

It's difficult to photograph this many shades of off-white and biege in one picture...

It’s difficult to photograph this many shades of off-white and biege in one picture…

I adjusted this recipe by using thin whole wheat spaghetti instead of linguine.  Other than that, I followed the recipe as written.  It winds up being nice.  I don’t believe I’d ever had cooked fennel before.  It takes on a more subtle and nutty flavor than the sharp anise flavor you get with fresh fennel.  The capers added a nice briny bite.  The tuna grounded the whole dish and gave it some richness.  I like that even the bites that didn’t have a little of everything still tasted like something.  Too often with these Everyday Food pasta recipes, you get a mouthful of plain noodles and wonder why you bothered.  I’ll get to the whole wheat pasta with kale and fontina later…  The biggest problem with this recipe is how unappetizing it looks.  Aside from the green fennel fronds, it’s all kind of beige.  Ick.

Fennel, orange, and parsley salad

Salmon “steaks” with hoisin glaze

Salmon and fennel, new best friends

Salmon and fennel, new best friends

There’s also a video of this recipe online.  It looks like it’s from the old PBS show.  I miss that show.  The video teaches you how to segment an orange.  She (Allie?) points out that you can use the stalks to make stock.  That’s a good tip.  Mostly the video just serves to make me nostalgic for the PBS show and wish I had a knife sharp enough to segment an orange that quickly and cleanly.

The fennel salad is very nice and bright.  The recipe called for black olives, which I found confusing.  When I think “black olives” I still think of the dopey little olives you get on a pizza.  Taking a look at the picture in the magazine, it was clear that these were no pizza olives.  But what were they?  D wound up buying something at the store from the olive bar.  They were terribly salty.  The video says to use Kalamata olives, which makes perfect sense.  So why don’t you say that, Everyday Food?!?!  This recipe also represents the last gasp of the parsley from our garden.  Sunrise, sun barely shine on garden resulting in stilted growth and wan looking plants with no fruit on them, sun set.

As for the salmon, I really wish I would have bought salmon steaks.  That’s what the recipe actually calls for.  We had a giant side of salmon instead.  It was fine salmon, it’s just that when you broil a piece of fish that’s not uniform thickness, you wind up with an overcooked end and an undercooked end.  The glaze is awesome.  Why am I not putting hoisin sauce and orange juice on more things?  That could have been the dressing for the salad…  Of course, now that I have the 1/2 a jar of hoisin sauce, I’m facing the dreaded condiment glut in the fridge.  If I cook my leftover rice noodles, can I put hoisin sauce on them and kill two orphan ingredients with one stone?

Finding balance

Apricot and Cheddar Chicken Melt with Apple, Grape, and Celery Salad

apricot and cheddar melt with side of apple, celery, and grape salad

yin and yang and cheese

This, my friends, is why I lov(ed) Everyday Food.  A chicken apricot cheddar melt.  That’s not a recipe you see everyday (pardon the indirect pun).  Everyday Food was a great magazine for interesting and creative recipes that didn’t require liquid nitrogen.  This recipe takes a chicken sandwich and makes it a wonderfully balanced, sweet-and-salty treat.  You take a baguette, spread it with apricot preserves, add a marinated and broiled piece of chicken and some deli ham and some white cheddar, then broil again to melt the cheese.  That’s the basics, but I really need to break this recipe down to showcase its genius.

(If you’re really especially interested in this recipe, you may also want to check out the video that Sarah Carey did.)

First, the baguette.  The recipe calls for you to cut up one long baguette, but I came up with a fun substitute.  I bought a couple of rolls from the Vietnamese bakery in my neighborhood (sometime, when I’m thinking of abandoning ship and moving to the suburbs, I need to reread that sentence…”I bought a couple of rolls from the Vietnamese bakery in my neighborhood”).  This place sells banh mi and the rolls of french bread they go on.  The rolls are $1 for a roughly 8-10 inch roll.  Such a deal.  It’s about the size of the roll your sandwich comes on at Jimmy John’s, if that helps.  A base of tasty french bread helps ground the sandwich.  It’s just crunchy enough to hold on to chicken and gooey cheese, but with just enough softness to keep the aforementioned goo from rocketing off of the bread the second you bit into it.

Second, the apricot preserves.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that just about any sweet and sour jam, preserves, or jelly would be good here.  I’m thinking peach, pineapple (aka sundae topping masquerading as jam), and maybe cherry or blackberry, depending on how sweet they are.  Traditional strawberry or grape would be far too sweet.  I could definitely see hot pepper jelly on this one for a hot and sweet variation.  Either way, the sweet and sour jam balances the salt in the cheese and the savory chicken.  It also adheres the chicken to that lovely baguette.  Sarah Carey makes her own apricot jam in the video.  Good for her…

Third, the marinated chicken and the deli ham.  In a lesser recipe, this would have been just any old cooked piece of chicken.  The marinade elevates this piece of meat.  It is made from white-wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic cloves, and salt and pepper.  The marinade adds some tang from the mustard and keeps the chicken from being bland. I can’t remember how long I marinated the meat.  The recipe says you can marinate up to 24 hours in the fridge.  The recipe calls you to split four chicken breasts in half horizontally to make two big, flat pieces of chicken.  It’s somewhat frightening to drag a knife a mere inch underneath the flesh of your palm.  Sarah shows this in the video.  She either has a way sharper knife than me or no fear.  The ham adds a certain hamness that only ham can provide.  If you love ham, you’ll understand that last sentence.  If not, think of it as adding salt.

Finally, the cheese.  B lives in the land of white cheddar.  I do not.  Also, as long as I’m on the subject of things I can’t find at the store that Everyday Food calls for, can some other cooks from outside of New England please back me up when I say that those chocolate wafer cookies do not exist?  How many recipes call for those things?  So so so many.  Have I ever seen them at the store?  No.  I’m starting to think they are an East Coast thing or a prank.  Back to the sandwich.  You take those well-balanced ingredients and broil them all to hot, tasty, crunchy, yet gooey perfection.  What a sandwich!

For as much as this is a balanced sandwich, it’s balanced richness.  In steps the salad.  This salad is fresh and bright.  It cuts through the richness of the sandwich.  It is a Waldorf salad without the mayo. D actually recognized it as a Waldorf salad without being prompted.  It is nicely balanced on its own between the bitter, crunchy celery and the sweet, softer grapes and apples.  Plus pecans. Pecans for the sake of…pecan-ness.  (I’ve used the word “hamness” and “pecan-ness” in this post.  This project is highlighting the gaps in my vocabulary)  Is there a word for that nut texture just shy of crunchy?  Whatever the word is, that’s what it adds.  Then you balance the sweet fruit and bitter veggie with a sour dressing and it all comes together.  I could see bringing this recipe to a picnic in the summer.  It doesn’t have any mayonnaise, so you (read: me) wouldn’t have to stress out about leaving it out.

Help me get rid of these noodles

Thai beef salad

thai beef salad with rice noodles

I am desperately jealous of anyone whose box lunch looks like this.

This illustrates something that I have an issue with (some pun intended) in Everyday Food magazine.  I don’t know who has the time to make these wonderful lunches and breakfasts.  The lunch column is called “lunchbox,” which, to me, connotes that you make this ahead of time and pack as a lunch.  This recipe probably legitimately does take only 15 minutes, but that still seems like a lot for a boxed lunch.  I don’t typically “prepare” a lunch so much as I throw leftovers into a container or maybe make a sandwich and toss in a piece of fruit.  All that having been said, this is a tasty meal.

Using deli roast beef really does save a lot of time and impart a lovely flavor.  The dressing: lime juice, veggie oil, sugar, and Thai red curry paste, is wonderful.  Plus, any chance I get to eat rice noodles makes me feel like I’m getting a take-out treat.

Here’s a question for our readers (we know you’re out there!):  What can I do with all of these leftover rice noodles?  This recipe uses a whopping two ounces of noodles.  This is the second time D and I have made this recipe.  The last time, the leftover noodles sat in our pantry for years before we threw them out.  I don’t want this to happen again.  I also don’t really want to make pad thai.  I like for pad thai to be a special meal that I only get as takeout.  Like crab rangoons.  Could I make them at home?  I guess.  But, why?  So what can I make to use up these rice noodles?

In which G flashes back to her pregnancy

Chef’s Salad

Those blobs are dressing

Those blobs are dressing

I was terribly swollen toward the end of my pregnancy.  My face was pretty puffy.  I couldn’t wear my rings or watch.  But the real problem was my legs.  It got worse over time, but it ended where there wasn’t much of a taper between my lower thigh and my toes.  These weren’t even cankles.  They were thankles.  There was no ankle bone to speak of and a noticeable ridge just before my toes.  I wore D’s shoes to the hospital.  They were a man’s size 9.  My foot is normally a 7.

Where is she going with this?

The amount of salt that was in this lunch meat and cheese-based salad made my legs swell up in a way I haven’t experienced since my pregnancy.  I got that familiar tightness in the skin.  I had to keep my feet elevated.  I even went to the doctor because I thought there might be something seriously wrong with me.  There wasn’t.  Just way too much salt.  (shout out to D’s family: I managed to move the ongoing salt discussion to the internet!)  I think this recipe would be best with leftover home-cooked turkey and leftover home-cooked ham instead of buying chunks from the deli.  There’s nothing you can do about the salt in the swiss cheese or the bacon.  On that note, I didn’t even add the bacon!  I could have exploded from water retention if I added the bacon.

The dressing is, however, creamy and lovely without being too fatty.  It uses reduced fat sour cream and light mayonnaise.

However….I think this recipe (which I found while trying to find a link to the recipe from this issue) looks vastly better!  This one has such a better ingredients list, and, really, avocado is better than no avocado.  I mean, I added the tomato to this salad myself.  It was originally just bacon, lettuce, ham, turkey, cheese, and some green onion.  Lame.  Plus, this other recipe I found uses buttermilk and cider vinegar, which probably winds up tasting much more interesting than sour cream, mayo, and lemon juice.

So spare yourself a glimpse into the life of a pregnant woman in her third trimester and make your chef’s salad using home-cooked meat, where possible, and try this more-interesting recipe instead.