Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Pomegranate and Chicken

Remember those Arby’s commercials that ran awhile back promoting roast beef sandwiches on the premise that they were “Good Mood Food”? These ads always drove me nuts, because even before I was a nutritionist, I could tell you that eating processed red meat on a processed white bun slathered with overly sugary barbecue sauce was not going to be put me (or anyone else) in a good mood. In fact, the opposite is true.

Basically every time I eat fast food–no matter how tasty it sounded when I was really hungry–I always end up feeling super gross afterward. It’s one big reason why, in our family, fast food restaurants have become a last-resort destination reserved primarily for road trips. In the words of my husband, “I’m so hungry I could eat at Arby’s.” (Then again, I totally get that for some families, eating out at more expensive restaurants isn’t financially feasible. We all have to make the best choices we can with the resources we have.)

Thankfully, the American people apparently also saw right through this ad campaign, naming it one of the worst of 2011. (Luv’s diapers’ “Poop! There is is!” topped this list–though I find this one kind of disgustingly charming, don’t you?) We all know that, except under certain circumstances like after a REALLY rotten day at work or a beloved cat dying, junk food leaves us full of regret, not good vibes. So thanks but no thanks on the feeble attempt at deception, Arby’s.

Healthy food, on the other hand, does actually have the power to lift our spirits. Research around the Mediterranean diet shows that this eating plan centered around fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, olive oil, and seafood is linked with lower risk of depression. And I for one can say that I feel far better about myself when I’ve made healthy food choices.

That’s where this Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pomegranate and Chicken comes in. My kids and I had this for dinner the other night as an easy, light meal while my husband was out of town. Often, without my husband to feed, I go easy on myself by heating up something frozen or getting pizza. But once this salad was made, I realized it had hardly taken any time and, with its bed of greens, lean chicken, crunchy almonds, pops of juicy pomegranate, and olive oil-based dressing, I actually felt really good about eating it. Plus, I had some awesome healthy leftovers for lunch the next day. I’d say that’s the REAL Good Mood Food.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, this shaved Brussels sprout salad could also make a nice healthy side dish (without the chicken, perhaps) for the main event. I’d love to hear how eating it makes YOU feel!

Print Recipe
Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Pomegranate and Chicken
A delicious, colorful salad that serves as a light dinner or hearty side dish.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings
as a main dish
Ingredients
For the dressing:
Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings
as a main dish
Ingredients
For the dressing:
Instructions
Make the salad:
  1. In a food processor fitted with a shredding blade, shred Brussels sprouts. (I like to leave some larger bits for textural variety.) Pour into a large serving bowl.
  2. Add diced apple, pomegranate arils, cranberries, almonds, chicken, and goat cheese to Brussels sprouts and toss to combine.
Make the dressing:
  1. In a small measuring cup, whisk together all dressing ingredients. Pour over salad and toss to combine.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Spend With Pennies.

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Amazing All-Purpose Tahini Sauce

In the past, I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid using tahini. It’s just so expensive, I thought, and what on earth would I do with an entire jar of sesame paste? Sure, I like hummus like any red-blooded Millennial, but I just couldn’t see making that much of it from scratch.

Little did I know that tahini can be used for other things besides hummus.

A few weeks ago I came across this helpful post on Babble that set me straight. Twenty-eight ways to use tahini that AREN’T hummus? The mystery! The intrigue! Turns out the sesame flavor and smooth texture of tahini lends itself to salad dressings, pestos, and even…brownies? While that particular suggestion may be going a bit too far for my tastes, the idea did broaden my horizons. When I ended up buying a jar at Trader Joe’s (for only around $3–far cheaper than I expected) it was with plenty of options on my radar.

This amazing all-purpose tahini sauce started its life as a dressing for a to-die-for roasted cauliflower salad over at Budget Bytes, but in my house, it’s turned into so much more. This week I put it on baked salmon, dipped pita in it, and have been seriously considering its possibilities as a sandwich spread. (With a bit of deli turkey, sprouts, and cucumber, it sounds like Mediterranean perfection.) I could see it working well on grilled chicken, as a veggie dip, or on falafel.

And, if you’re really adventurous, I suppose you could even use it in brownies.


Print Recipe
Amazing All-Purpose Tahini Sauce
A tangy sauce that works perfectly on fish, chicken, or just for dipping!
Servings
(makes about 1 cup)
Ingredients
Servings
(makes about 1 cup)
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a measuring cup, mix all ingredients until well combined. Keep covered in the refrigerator.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Budget Bytes.

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Cauliflower Steak Sandwiches with Garlic-Lime Aioli

Cauliflower is, as they say, “having a moment.” More accurately, it’s having a decade. Everywhere you look, cauliflower versions of food products have cropped up in the last few years, whether it’s cauliflower rice, cauliflower pizza crust, or cauliflower cake. (Yes, really.) Apparently our national fear of carbs and/or gluten has driven us to conclude that cauliflower is the miracle vegetable that will save our dietary souls. I’d say this tweet I saw this morning pretty well sums it up:

 

I haven’t jumped on the cauliflower bandwagon (I still think bread and potatoes have their own nutritional benefits), but cauliflower does boast plenty of nutrients of its own, including fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. So bear with me as I add to the Cauliflower Conversation with these Cauliflower Steak Sandwiches with Garlic-Lime Aioli. I think you’ll forgive me when you taste them.

Cauliflower steak sandwiches have actually been on my mind for about six months. Back in February, our family took a trip to Disneyland. At the Red Rose Taverne in Fantasyland (formerly the Village Haus pizza restaurant) I was trying to be healthy and ordered the Enchanted Cauliflower Sandwich.

And it ROCKED. MY. WORLD.

As described on the menu, it’s a “grilled cauliflower steak, spicy lime aioli, tempura-battered green beans, lettuce and tomato on a toasted roll.” But the description doesn’t do justice to the amazing combination of flavors and textures this plant-based dish had to offer. It was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. Ever since, I’ve wanted to re-create it at home, but couldn’t find any copycat recipes online.

Sooooo I had to make my own. I started with roasted cauliflower steaks (I don’t grill; it’s my personal cooking Waterloo)…and seasoned them with lemon juice, olive oil, and red pepper. These cauliflower cross-sections emerge from the oven crispy and sandwich-ready.

From there, whipping together a chili-garlic-lime aioli wasn’t too complex. Added to a toasted ciabatta bun with lettuce, it totally fulfills my Fantasyland-inspired craving. (I will admit, though, that I haven’t gone to the trouble of making tempura-battered green beans like the Red Rose Taverne. I do enjoy putting Snapea crisps on top, however!) Now I don’t have to go all the way to Disney for my favorite sandwich.

But I think I’ll keep going anyway. 😉

Print Recipe
Cauliflower Steak Sandwiches with Garlic-Lime Aioli
Inspired by the Enchanted Cauliflower Sandwich at Disneyland's Red Rose Taverne, this copycat makes a tasty plant-based lunch or dinner.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
For the cauliflower steaks:
For assembling the sandwiches:
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
For the cauliflower steaks:
For assembling the sandwiches:
Instructions
Make the cauliflower steaks.
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice cauliflower head lengthwise through the core into 4 slabs. (It helps to leave a bit of the core on to hold them together.) Place on greased baking sheet.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Brush this mixture on the upward-facing side of the cauliflower. Roast for 15 minutes.
  3. Flip cauliflower steaks and brush the other side with remaining olive oil mixture. Continue roasting another 20 minutes or until browned around the edges.
Meanwhile, make the aioli.
  1. In a measuring cup, combine all aioli ingredients and mix with an immersion blender (or whisk vigorously) until well combined.
Assemble the sandwiches.
  1. Assemble to your liking with cauliflower steaks, aioli, lettuce, and tomato on the toasted ciabatta rolls.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food original recipe, cauliflower steaks adapted from Allrecipes.com.

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Sangria Granita

You know what this blog needs? More alcohol. And it could always use more desserts. Let’s get crazy and combine the two in a fruity, refreshing Sangria Granita.

If you’ve never had granita before, you’ve probably had something similar that goes by a different name–because it’s basically a grown-up slushie. In fact, there’s not even always anything “grown-up” about it. It pretty much IS a slushie…or, if you prefer another name name, a “shaved ice” or, for the truly refined, a “sno cone.”  With origins in Sicily, granitas can be found alongside gelato all over Italy (which explains why you might ALSO hear them called “Italian ice”). A dead-easy dessert, granita typically contains just water, sugar, and a flavoring. Add some freezing time and a few rounds of ice crystal-scraping and you have the perfect sweet to hit the spot on a hot day.

With summer on the horizon, this Sangria Granita might be just the light treat you need poolside or after dinner. This version starts with Merlot and the juices of oranges, lemons, and limes, but could easily be adapted to use other wines and/or fruit juices. Let me know which combination you think would taste best!

Print Recipe
Sangria Granita
A refreshing, light dessert that's perfect for summer!
Course Dessert
Cook Time 5 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
Course Dessert
Cook Time 5 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, heat wine, water, and sugar to boiling over medium heat. Boil and stir one minute, until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in fruit juices. Let cool.
  2. Pour mixture into an 9 x 13 baking pan (metal works better than glass for optimal freezing). Place the pan in the freezer. Remove after 30 minutes to scrape and stir the mixture with a fork so that flaky ice crystals form. Repeat every 30 minutes until frozen to your liking.
  3. To serve, scrape with a fork into individual bowls and serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Fine Cooking.

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Sun Dried Tomato Almond Pesto Pasta with Chicken

Sometimes I think it’s a scandal that sun dried tomatoes don’t cost more. I’ve never made them myself (though, living in the Phoenix area, we’re certainly not short on sun…or dryness…or tomatoes), but I do have a dim sense of how much time and effort go into the end product of these shrivelly red strips. The process goes something like this: 1. Pick tomatoes 2. Wash tomatoes 3. Cut tomatoes 4. Season tomatoes 5. Dry tomatoes in the sun for days on end 6. Package tomatoes. Seems like an awful lot of work–and an awful lot of tomatoes, seeing as how they lose around 90% of their original weight and shrink down to less than half their original size upon drying.

Yet there they are, a whole bag of them for only $3.00 at Trader Joe’s. Isn’t our food system strange?

Despite the seemingly inverse relationship between cost and effort in sun dried tomatoes, I for one am quite thankful for their relative inexpensiveness, because I adoooooore them. Chewy, brightly colored, and tangy-sweet, I happen to think they bring their A-game to any dish they grace.

And wouldn’t you know it, they make a pretty spectacular main ingredient in pesto.

This Sun Dried Tomato Almond Pesto Pasta with Chicken took its place on our family’s weeknight dinner plan last week, and it’s definitely an entree I’ll be making again. Whole grain spaghetti, olive oil, tomatoes, and almonds place it squarely in the Mediterranean Diet category–a category I’ve been known to harp on relentlessly for its many health benefits. (By the way, didja see the new U.S. News and World Report ranking of diets for 2017? The Mediterranean Diet comes in at the top of nearly every category they analyzed.)

Health benefits aside, this chicken pasta boasts excellent taste and can be whipped up in about 30 minutes. Add it to your meal plan this week!


Print Recipe
Sun Dried Tomato Almond Pesto Pasta with Chicken
A Mediterranean chicken dish packed with the healthy goodness of tomatoes, olive oil, and almonds.
Course Main Dish, pasta
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
Course Main Dish, pasta
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
Instructions
Make the pesto:
  1. Add tomatoes, almonds, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Process until nearly smooth, then taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Set pesto aside.
Make the pasta and chicken:
  1. Make the spaghetti according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, season chicken on both sides with basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add seasoned chicken and cook about 4 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
  4. Serve immediately: assemble entree with any combination of spaghetti, pesto, and chicken you like!
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

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