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!

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Pomegranate and Chicken

A delicious, colorful salad that serves as a light dinner or hearty side dish.
Prep Time15 mins
Total Time15 mins
Servings: 4 as a main dish

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 1 1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts
  • 1 green apple, diced
  • 1/2 c. pomegranate arils
  • 1/3 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/3 c. sliced almonds
  • 1 1/2 c. shredded chicken
  • 2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

For the dressing:

  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Dijon

Instructions

Make the salad:

  • 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.
  • Add diced apple, pomegranate arils, cranberries, almonds, chicken, and goat cheese to Brussels sprouts and toss to combine.

Make the dressing:

  • In a small measuring cup, whisk together all dressing ingredients. Pour over salad and toss to combine.

Notes

Adapted from Spend With Pennies.

Mediterranean Baked Eggs With Croutons and Tomatoes

Do you eat eggs at dinner?

Though I almost never eat eggs at breakfast–I’m more of a grains gal to start my day–I am weirdly, unaccountably loyal to them at dinner. I suppose it’s partly because I grew up eating dinner quiches on a regular basis, but partly because eggs have so much going for them. They’re cheap, first of all, and relatively easy to purchase locally. Then there are all their nutrition benefits. With 6 grams of protein, a sizable dose of vitamins D and B12, and only around 70 calories, a single egg packs plenty of nutrition.

Also, the health concerns that used to plague most consumers about eating too many eggs have been shown to be largely unfounded. Whereas in decades gone by, the medical establishment believed that high intake of dietary cholesterol led to high blood cholesterol, we now know that saturated fat and fiber play a far more important role in blood cholesterol levels. So the days of avoiding eggs for the sake of your HDL and LDL are past.

Which is really good news for this amazing Mediterranean Baked Eggs with Croutons and Tomatoes.

This delightful breakfast-lunch-or-dinner dish comes from America’s Test Kitchen’s Complete Mediterranean Cookbook, a fabulous resource I’ve been working my way through since receiving it for my last birthday. If you like Mediterranean flavors (or dig the health perks of a Mediterranean diet), you’re going to love this unique combination of crunchy croutons, garlic-herb roasted tomatoes, tangy feta, and baked eggs. Something about the match of blistered, tender tomatoes against the crunch of croutons and the heft of the eggs has made this one of my new favorite meals.

Made step-wise by baking the croutons and tomatoes at the same time, assembling, and baking again, this recipe may look slightly daunting at first, but ultimately is quite simple once you get the hang of it. Plus, the baking time involved gives you a few extra minutes to toss a light salad–True Food Kitchen’s Kale Salad, perhaps?–to complete the picture of an unforgettable Mediterranean-style meal.

Bring on the eggs for dinner!

Mediterranean Baked Eggs With Croutons and Tomatoes

A breakfast-lunch-or-dinner standout full of Mediterranean flavor: crunchy croutons, garlic-herb roasted tomatoes, tangy feta, and baked eggs--yum!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: Main Dish, vegetarian
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 5 c. French or Italian bread, sliced into 1/2-inch chunks--preferably a savory loaf like rosemary or garlic-infused
  • 4 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 20 oz. cherry tomatoes
  • 6 large eggs
  • 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the bread chunks with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and spread the bread into it in an even layer. Set aside.
  • In the same large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil, minced garlic, oregano, tomato paste, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add cherry tomatoes and stir to coat. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, pouring any additional olive oil mixture over tomatoes.
  • Place both the dish of croutons and the baking sheet of tomatoes in the oven. Bake the croutons for 10 minutes and the tomatoes for 20 minutes.
  • Once both tomatoes and croutons have baked, pour tomatoes over the croutons and gently stir together, adding an additional 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Using a large spoon, make six shallow indentations in the mixture. Crack one egg into each indentation. Season with salt and pepper. Return the baking dish to the oven for another 12 minutes or until eggs are just set.
  • Let cool for about 5 minutes, then sprinkle crumbled feta over the top and serve.

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. 😉

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 Time10 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time45 mins
Servings: 4

Ingredients

For the cauliflower steaks:

  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the aioli:

  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder

For assembling the sandwiches:

  • 4 ciabatta rolls, sliced in half and toasted
  • 4 large leaves romaine lettuce
  • 1 tomato, sliced

Instructions

Make the cauliflower steaks.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • In a measuring cup, combine all aioli ingredients and mix with an immersion blender (or whisk vigorously) until well combined.

Assemble the sandwiches.

  • Assemble to your liking with cauliflower steaks, aioli, lettuce, and tomato on the toasted ciabatta rolls.

Notes

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

Spinach Salad with Mahimahi, Grapefruit, and Avocado

I’ll be honest. This is a rather polarizing salad. At least in my house it is. I contend that the flavors of tart grapefruit, mild mahimahi, creamy avocado, and a lime-honey vinaigrette all mixed up together make for an explosion of deliciously contrasting flavors and textures. The rest of my family, on the other hand, is not so keen.

Grapefruit isn’t just an acquired taste. Apparently our taste perception of it and several other bitter foods depends on our genetics. (So I can give my husband and kids a pass.) But if you’re one of those fortunate people who can enjoy grapefruit, now is the time to do so–at least in Arizona, where we live.

This grapefruity recipe comes from Real Simple, a magazine that generally lives up to its name. But to take a simple recipe and make it even easier for weeknight dinnertime, I swapped out grilled fresh mahimahi for Trader Joe’s frozen mahimahi burgers. They may not be quite as pretty as grilled fillets, but these burgers, diced, turned assembly of this salad into a total breeze. Plus, they’re a WHOLE lot less expensive than what my regular grocery store charges for mahimahi.

I enjoyed this flavor combo so much on Thursday evening that I recreated it for my Lenten Fish Friday. If you observe Lent or just need a light, refreshing, easy lunch or dinner, you can’t go wrong with this healthy salad…

…unless you’re genetically predisposed to hate grapefruit.

Spinach Salad with Mahimahi, Grapefruit, and Avocado

An explosion of varying tastes and textures, this salad is a light, healthy meal!
Prep Time20 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Main Dish, seafood
Servings: 4 as a main dish

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 1 package 4 frozen mahimahi burgers, such as Trader Joe's
  • 8 c. fresh spinach
  • 1 grapefruit, sliced into 1/2-inch segments
  • 1 avocado, diced

For the dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil

Instructions

  • Prepare mahimahi burgers according to instructions on box. Meanwhile, spread spinach on a large platter. Top with grapefruit segments and diced avocado. When mahimahi burgers are done cooking, slice them into pieces and spread over salad.
  • Make the dressing: in a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together all ingredients. Toss salad with dressing or serve on the side.

Notes

Adapted from Real Simple.

Jerk Salmon Bowl with Avocado-Mango Salsa

Is it just me, or does it feel like it’s really trendy to eat things in bowls right now? Poke bowls, burrito bowls, Buddha bowls (what even IS a Buddha bowl?) Taco Bell has “Power Menu Bowl,” while KFC offers a mashed potato-chicken bowl, which has the dubious honor of making Time Magazine’s 10 Worst Fast Food Meals). Burrrrn.

The take-home message of the Bowl Movement (don’t think too hard about that phrase) seems to be that you can throw a wide variety of foods together in a bowl and watch them play nice as a one-dish meal. I don’t really care about being trendy, but I can definitely get behind the idea of protein, starch, fruits, and/or veggies all mixed up in one tasty package. Kinda like some other recipes I like.

This bowl I’m featuring today combines jerk-seasoned salmon, black beans, rice, and a zesty mango salsa for a refreshing, healthy catch-all dinner or lunch. The pan-frying method of cooking the salmon in this recipe gives it a restaurant-quality, almost-but-not-quite crispy on the outside texture that complements the cool sweetness and tender texture of the avocado-mango salsa. Sturdy staples of black beans and rice round out the equation. When serving, separate it into sections (as pictured), or stir it all together. There’s no wrong way to eat a bowl.

Especially if you’re observing Lent, this is a great one for meat-free days, or any time you’re looking for a light meal packed with nutrition.

Jerk Salmon Bowl with Mango Salsa

This one-dish meal of salmon, beans, rice and mango salsa is packed with nutrition!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Main Dish, seafood
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 2 c. mango, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 c cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 lime
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 lb. wild-caught salmon, skin removed
  • 1/2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 1/2. c. cooked white rice

Instructions

Make the salsa:

  • In a medium bowl, stir together avocado, mango, red onion, and cilantro. Squeeze juice of 1/2 lime onto mixture and stir again. Season with salt to taste. Set aside.

Cook the salmon:

  • In a small bowl, combine spices (curry powder through cumin). Rub over both sides of salmon. Heat olive oil over medium-high in a large non-stick skillet. Add salmon and cook 3-5 minutes per side. Break salmon into chunks and continue to cook until no longer translucent. Remove from heat.

Assemble the bowls:

  • Divide rice, beans, salmon, and salsa between four bowls. Serve immediately.

Notes

Adapted from Pinch of Yum.