Lemony Green Beans with Almonds and Feta

Three ways you know you’ve found the best green bean recipe ever:

  1. You make it more than once.
  2. When you serve it at Thanksgiving, it disappears to the last bean.
  3. You actually sneak it out of the fridge to snack on it at night.

Or, perhaps all of the above…because all of these things have been true in our household with these Lemony Green Beans with Almonds and Feta. Who’da thunk a green bean side dish could be so appealing?

I featured this recipe on A Love Letter to Food’s Facebook page during my annual Healthy Thanksgiving Countdown as an alternative to the usual green bean casserole. To take my own advice, I decided to make it for the Thanksgiving dinner we attended with friends. It turned out better than I could have hoped, the beans pan-steamed to crispy crunachability and the feta and toasted almonds soaking up the lemony, garlicky dressing. When everyone was served at dinner, nary a bean was left.

On the heels of this success, I served this again at Christmas dinner. Even my 6-year-old fought me to eat the leftovers–cold. That’s a good sign.

Is it weird that eating this makes me think of the Gollum quote from The Hobbit:

“Is it nice, my preciousss? Is it juicy? Is it scrumptiously crunchable?”

Because yes, it is. And that beats green bean casserole any day, if you ask me.

 


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Lemony Green Beans with Almonds and Feta
Crisp-tender green beans tossed with a lemony dressing and sprinkled with toasted almonds and feta make an incredible side dish!
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
Instructions
  1. Toast the almonds one of two ways: either bake them for 3 minutes at 325 degrees or heat a large skillet over medium heat and cook almonds, stirring occasionally, until toasted. Set aside.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add green beans, water, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cover and cook 7-10 minutes, stirring periodically. Uncover and increase heat to medium-high. Continue to cook another 3-5 minutes or until water has evaporated and beans are crisp-tender and bright green. Remove from heat.
  3. Meanwhile, make the dressing: whisk together olive oil, dijon, lemon juice, garlic, red pepper flaked, and black pepper.
  4. When beans are done cooking, toss with toasted almonds, lemon dressing, and half the feta. Spread on a platter or serving dish and sprinkle with remaining feta. Serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Cookie and Kate.

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Cranberry Salsa

How often do you eat cranberries in their fresh, raw form? It seems to go without saying that sweetened dried cranberries have pretty well monopolized the Cranberry Market in recent years, edging out their plump, juicy originators by a long shot.  I’d wager few of us ever go around eating raw cranberries as our go-to fruit of choice. As a matter of fact, when my six-year-old daughter saw them in our fruit crisper the other day and asked to try one, I told her to do so at her own risk. Raw cranberries are so stinking tart, they’re almost inedible on their own.

Not surprisingly, it took about two seconds before she made a horrible face and spit it into the trash.

That’s why this Cranberry Salsa–which I had the fresh cranberries in the fridge for–is so special. It features raw cranberries combined with apple, jalapeño, red onion, and a couple of other fresh ingredients for an unexpected, interesting appetizer that’s sure to be a hit at holiday parties. (It was at mine last night! The bowl I served this in was practically licked clean.)

Being a nutritionist, I’m a bit self-conscious about the food I serve when I entertain. Maybe no one is thinking about it but me, but I feel like my title obligates me to make at least some fairly healthy options for my guests. Plus, the nutritionist in me likes to offer allergy-friendly options for friends and family in the “something-free” club. This salsa fit the bill for both, since it’s vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free–basically everything-free, since it’s made entirely with fresh fruits, sugar, and salt. Heck, it’s even RAW, if you’re into that, too.

Oh, and it’s easy. And make-ahead. And a balanced blend of sweetness and spice. And seasonal.

Can you tell I’m sold? Give this one a try for any upcoming Christmas parties and tell me how it goes!

 


Print Recipe
Cranberry Salsa
This Cranberry Salsa is a festive, healthy, allergy-friendly holiday appetizer.
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, process the sugar until very fine (to create superfine sugar). Pour into a serving bowl and set aside.
  2. Place cranberries, apple, red onion, and jalapeño in the food processor and process until the mixture reaches a finely chopped pico de gallo-type consistency. Add to the bowl with the sugar and stir to combine.
  3. Add orange zest and juice, lime juice, and salt and stir to combine. Cover and chill 2-24 hours. Stir in cilantro just before serving.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Home is Where the Boat Is, who adapted it from Southern Living.

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Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta

I know it’s still only September, but I’ve already got Thanksgiving on the brain. Somehow, once the weather starts cooling down, it feels like one big slip and slide ride to the holidays. And as a foodie, Thanksgiving is definitely a holiday to look forward to. While I enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner as much as the next person, I also love the idea of trying new recipes (especially healthier versions of classics) for the feast. Last year, on A Love Letter to Food’s Facebook page, I did a ten-day countdown to a healthier Thanksgiving, featuring ten different recipes for better-for-you sides and desserts.

This year I already know what healthy side I want to take to Thanksgiving: this Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta.

It may not bear much resemblance to mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, or dinner rolls, but stick with me. When we tried this recently as a side with grilled chicken, it was a match made in heaven. I can only assume the same for how it would pair with turkey.

If you’re new to bulgur, join the club. Though a variety of different grains have become available in mainstream grocery stores these days, bulgur hasn’t caught on as much as the “cool kids” of quinoa, couscous, and wheat berries. If you had asked me a year ago to tell you anything about this particular grain, I would have drawn a blank (except for an internal snicker at how its name sounds kinda gross, like “Aunt Tillie can’t make it to Thanksgiving because her bulgur is acting up again”).

The deeper I get into trying to follow a Mediterranean diet, though, the more new foods I’m exposed to. I now know that bulgur is essentially just hulled whole kernels of durum wheat. Translation: it’s a whole grain, and it’s good for you. It’s low in fat and sodium, extremely high in fiber. Plus, it has a pleasing chewy texture, soaks up marinades and dressings beautifully, and can be used in place of just about any other similar grain, like quinoa, couscous, or even rice. I’m a believer.

This Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta is adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s Complete Mediterranean Cookbook (which I’m LOVING RIGHT NOW and will soon be posting about!). It’s a no-cook recipe, as the bulgur kernels take a soak in lemon juice and water for 90 minutes to soften up to the point of chewy edibility. Once the soaking is complete, the now-chewy grains are tossed with grapes, feta, fresh mint, slivered almonds, and an olive oil-based dressing.

As a side for Thanksgiving–or any other meal–give this refreshing and different salad a try!


Print Recipe
Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta
A refreshing, healthy salad featuring high-fiber bulgur, grapes, and feta cheese.
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl (the bowl you intend to serve this salad in), soak bulgur in a mixture of 1 c. water, 1/4 c. lemon juice, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cover and let sit for about 90 minutes, or until bulgur has softened and become chewy and no liquid remains.
  2. Meanwhile, make the dressing: in a measuring cup, combine 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, cayenne powder, and 1/4 tsp. salt.
  3. When all liquid has been absorbed in the bulgur, pour dressing over the grains and toss to combine. Add feta, almonds, grapes, green onions, and mint and toss again. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or refrigerate.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook by America's Test Kitchen.

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Oranges with Vanilla Syrup

Orange Salad with Vanilla Syrup

January in Phoenix brings many things: the Phoenix Open, the famous Barrett Jackson car auction, citrus fruits up the wazoo, and of course, snowbirds…

snowbird-7

But let’s get back to the citrus (because it’s not even February and I’ve already had enough of snowbirds).

As I always say, whenever this time of year comes around, Arizonans will do almost anything to offload their overabundant citrus fruits. Neighbors don’t want them, schools have had enough of them, and the food banks refuse them, because even the poor and needy will balk at lemons, oranges, and grapefruit breakfast, lunch, and dinner after awhile. We get to the point where we start looking around for a Citrus Drop-off Safe Haven, like they do for babies.

citrus-safe-haven

NO QUESTIONS ASKED!!!

So yesterday when the guy who takes care of our lawn all too eagerly handed me a shopping bag brimming with oranges, I knew I’d have to form a plan. Thankfully, the stars aligned and a way to use up my newly acquired citrus gift presented itself almost immediately: our church’s annual picnic. With my “G” last name, the church bulletin assigned me and the other A-L’s to bring a side dish to go along with the hot dog lunch being served at the picnic. I *could* have been a lame-o and simply dropped off the Little Orphan Oranges on the buffet table in the hopes that the good people of the church would find them all their forever families, but I decided to be a bit more responsible and make them into an actual side dish.

Orange Salad with Vanilla Syrup

This fresh and different stacked orange salad is the result. Sprinkled with almonds and coconut and drizzled with a sweet vanilla syrup, it’s a hybrid side dish/snack/dessert that disappeared fast from the sea of chips and same ol’ veggie trays at the church picnic. And since it came together quickly, easily, and attractively with minimal ingredients, I know I’ll make it again–especially when I have oranges to use up.

Orange Salad with Vanilla Syrup

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Oranges with Vanilla Syrup
A fresh and easy orange side dish for brunch or lunch.
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings
Instructions
  1. Slice peeled oranges into equal pieces and arrange on a platter.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring sugar, water, and vanilla extract to a boil over medium-low, stirring constantly. Simmer 5 minutes, then let cool.
  3. Sprinkle orange slices with almonds and coconut, then drizzle with the cooled syrup. (If you have extra syrup, save for another use--I'm sure it would taste great in coffee!)
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Honey-Orange Cranberry Sauce

Honey Orange Cranberry Sauce

No matter your thoughts and feelings about canned cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, you have to admit it has a singular ability that is both fascinating and a little repellant.

I am speaking, of course, of the ability to slide out of the can completely intact in one fell swoop, and stand alone as a quivering magenta tower on a plate.

Sklooooooooooosh.

Boooooiiiiinngg.

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There’s something vaguely disturbing about watching your food being birthed wholesale from its packaging in this fashion. Something, dare I say, un-CAN-ny? Or something just a little too reminiscent of dog food, perhaps. And while we’re on the subject, what’s IN that stuff? I’ll tell you: a whole lotta high fructose corn syrup (and possibly some kind of food lab Jell-O product they can get away with calling “natural flavor”?) I honestly don’t mind the taste of the classic straight-from-the-can Ocean Spray jellied sauce, but Real Talk: it’s not exactly made of wholesome ingredients, and it’s not the classiest item on the Thanksgiving table, with its sklooshy jiggle and the grooves around its circumference that give it away as canned every time.

Honey Orange Cranberry Sauce

So, this Thanksgiving, might I suggest a detour from the can? This homemade orange cranberry sauce is sweetened naturally with honey (not high fructose corn syrup like the wiggle-jiggle variety) and will give your Thanksgiving table a touch of class and a colorful sweet-tart pop. Plus, it’s super easy and smells AMAZING as it cooks. It’s even fun to make because you get to hear the ping! of the cranberries as they burst in the saucepan.

Honey Orange Cranberry Sauce

So go ahead and be the superstar of your Thanksgiving gathering by bringing this wholesome, delicious knockout. My guess is you’ll never go back to the canned variety again.

Skloooooooooosh!

Honey Orange Cranberry Sauce

 

Print Recipe
Honey Orange Cranberry Sauce
You'll never go back to the canned variety after you've tried this orange-flavored naturally-sweetened cranberry sauce!
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
cups
Ingredients
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
cups
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring all ingredients to a boil and cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have burst and sauce has thickened to your liking.
  2. Remove cinnamon stick and let cool. Serve immediately or store refrigerated in an airtight container.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

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