meatless monday: warm brussels sprouts salad with persimmon, pomegranate, blue cheese, celery, and almonds

image1(3)Are you ready for the next great salad in your life? What about one with so many of my favorite things that I just had to name them all in the title?

This. salad. though.

The best part? I didn’t even have to go to the grocery store today. The brussels, persimmon, pomegranate, and orange were in my Dirt Farmers CSA box, and I already had the rosemary, celery, blue cheese, and almonds on hand. This is an excellent cold weather salad because of its use of hearty brussels sprouts, plus they’re lightly sauteed to give you a warm bite on a chilly night.

Can we talk about persimmons for a second? Where have they been all my life? They taste like firmer plums that have been marinating in mulling spices. They’re my new favorite.

Let’s also chat about pomegranates. These juicy morsels of fuchsia are a beauty of nature, and their tartness and sweetness serve as a great contrast to the smoky almonds and pungent blue cheese. The celery is added for freshness and crunch.

This needs to go on your “Want to Try” short list for Meatless Monday, or any night, for that matter. Dig in!

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad with Persimmon, Pomegranate, Blue Cheese, Celery, and Almonds

Serves 2 as a dinner salad or 4-6 as a starter

1 lb. brussels sprouts

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary (about three sprigs)

2/3 cup pomegranate seeds

2 persimmons, tops removed and cut into dice-sized cubes

3 celery stalks, split down the middle and thinly sliced

2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup smoked almonds, roughly chopped

salt and pepper

Orange-Dijon dressing: Juice and zest of one navel orange, 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbsp. dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper. Shake in a jar.

For each sprout, cut off the bottom stem and slice each one lengthwise about three or four times. Discard the stems. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil and rosemary over medium heat in a large pan, then add the brussels and toss to coat in the oil. Turn the heat up to medium high and saute for about 3 minutes, tossing throughout the cooking process. After the three minutes are up, Place the warm brussels in a mixing bowl. Add the persimmon, pomegranate seeds, chopped almonds, blue cheese crumbles, and celery. Toss to combine, then drizzle with about half of the dressing. Toss to combine, then serve.

lunchbox life: pesto chicken and mushrooms

image1(2)Another Sunday rolls around, and that means it’s time for another edition of lunchbox life. This photo isn’t amazing, but the smells coming out of our oven were! This recipe is full of flavor and protein, and it’s a particularly helpful lunch to keep your workweek nutrition in check amongst all of the holiday parties and overindulgence.

The recipe is so simple that it’s not even a recipe: for five lunches, cut three chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 lbs.) into bite-size pieces. Combine chicken, 2 cups of sliced mushrooms, and 1/3 cup pesto (homemade or store-bought) in a baking dish and bake for about 40 minutes at 350 F.

After the chicken and mushrooms are done, divide the dish into fifths and pack each portion of chicken and mushrooms with about 1 cup of baby spinach.

lunchbox life: turkey and brie tortillas with kale and carrot salad


Whew! I am totally worn out. After four days and four nights in Athens, I have attended a conference, run a half marathon, and eaten lots of delicious food, and while I’m not quite ready to forge ahead toward a five-day work week, it’s nice to be home. Tonight’s lunch prep is simple and features some of my favorite, tried and true ingredients. Pay special attention to the high fiber, low carb tortillas I’ve featured in this recipe as well as in previous entries. They’re a great way to mix up a sandwich, wrap, or Mexican dish because they’re full of fiber and very low in calories. I know that I just featured kale last week, but I couldn’t help but buy a bag of shredded kale, broccoli, and brussels sprouts at Trader Joe’s this afternoon on our way out of Athens. What a great idea! I also bought a bag of multicolored carrots, so I thinly sliced a few of them and threw them into the kale melange for color and crunch.

Turkey and Brie Tortillas

10 5-inch high fiber, low carb tortillas

7 oz. brie, cut into slices

8-10 thin slices of deli turkey

Heat a grill pan or large skillet to medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. While pan is heating, assemble five of the tortillas with an even distribution of the turkey and brie and top each one with another tortilla. In batches, grill the tortillas for about 2 minutes on each side. Let cool, then slice in half.

Kale and Carrot Salad

about 5 cups of shredded kale, brussels sprouts, and/or broccoli (I used the Trader Joe’s cruciferous collection)

3 carrots, peeled and sliced thinly on the diagonal (I used one purple, one yellow, and one white)

1/4 cup olive oil

4 Tbsp. dijon mustard

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. salt

Toss the kale mixture with the carrots. In a jar, shake the remaining ingredients together, pour over salad, and toss to combine. This salad can be dressed and refrigerated for a few days.

meatless monday and lunchbox life duo: kale salad with roasted butternut squash, blue cheese, pomegranate, and pecans


…and quinoa, and citrus vinaigrette. For both Meatless Monday and Lunchbox Life this week, the plan is to detox! Alex and I had an awesome time visiting New England this past weekend for my cousin’s wedding. We flew to Boston and drove to Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Thursday, explored coastal Maine on Friday, walked around the city of Boston on Saturday morning, and celebrated cousins Jessy and Doug on Saturday evening. We had a wonderful time, but after lobster rolls, clam chowder, airport snacks, and more locally brewed beer than I care to count, I’m feeling the overindulgence. What do I always crave after a vacation full of rich food? Broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, and other members of the cruciferous family.

Since today was a professional development day and I’ll be in Athens for a conference on Thursday and Friday, I just needed two school lunches this week, so I decided to make a double batch of this kale salad. There are many variations of kale salad, but this version is perfect for fall (despite the warmer-than-I’d-like temperatures this week). The kale is the base, the butternut squash is a great meat replacement because of its heartiness, the pomegranate seeds provide sweetness and a pop, the pecans provide the crunch, the quinoa is there for the whole grains and fiber, and the blue cheese is there for saltiness, tartness, and creamy texture. This is really a non-recipe since you can add or subtract anything you like, but I am proud of this combination and think that it really works!

Kale Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash, Blue Cheese, Pomegranate, and Pecans

2 bunches of kale, torn into bite-size pieces

2 Tbsp. olive oil, separated

1 butternut squash, seeds and skin removed, small dice

1 cup dry quinoa, prepared as directed (should yield 2 cups cooked quinoa)

2 navel oranges, zest and juice separated

1 pomegranate, seeds removed

4 oz. blue cheese

1 cup roasted pecans

for the dressing:

use the juice from the navel oranges

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Toss the butternut squash diced pieces with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 400 F for about 20 minutes. While the squash is cooking, massage the kale pieces with the other Tbsp. of olive oil and the orange zest. Add the quinoa, pomegranate seeds, pecans, blue cheese, and roasted butternut squash to the massaged kale and toss to combine. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, pour over the salad, and toss to combine.

Note: You can eat this salad right away and store it (already dressed) for lunch the next day. Kale is hearty enough of a green to not wilt under the weight of the dressing, so save this step the next day and enjoy your already dressed salad!