lunchbox life: kale confetti salad

image1(21)School’s back in session, and so am I!

Welcome back to lunchbox life, my series of meal planning as a high school teacher. If you’re just joining us, I create five refrigerated meals for my school lunches each week. Sometimes I use a microwave to reheat the meal, sometimes I don’t; it depends on what I’ve prepared. My goal is to create a healthy, substantive lunch to help me power through teaching and the rest of my day, all while being mindful of using local produce when possible, focusing on protein and fiber, and fueling up for exercise.

I’m really excited about this school year. It’s year five for me, and while I know I have so much left to learn, I actually feel like I might know what I’m doing (shhh…at least I think I do). If you know any first year teachers, please be nice to them–their worlds are about to be rocked. Alex and I were engaged most of my first year of teaching (we married in late March), and he is a saint for listening to all of my tear-filled moments of agony and defeat. This year, I’ll be teaching US History (an old stand by that I love) and a new prep for me: Humanities. I moved classrooms, too, and now I’m across the hall from one of my work besties, Rachel, so I’m happy to have quips and convos during class changes with one of my favorites.

This week, I’m going to a couple of my go-to ingredients: kale and brussels sprouts. I wanted to avoid the microwave this week since the first week of school can get super busy, plus the oppressive heat has me craving cool salads in the middle of the day. The key to a kale salad is the quick massage with olive oil and salt: thirty seconds, tops. This allows the kale to slightly break down and become more palatable as a salad green. By now, I know how worn out I get during the first week of school, so I wanted to fuel up on my greens, folic acid, fiber, and Vitamins A and K. The combination of kale and shredded brussels sprouts is a great base for a hearty salad, and you can add whatever you like. I love adding raw sugar snap peas to salads for crunch and a natural sweetness. I’ve also added garlic stuffed green olives for a briny touch and organic sliced roast beef for protein (no added gross stuff–read your labels!). I’ll be topping my salad with Lemon Garlic dressing by Tessamae’s. I usually make my own salad dressing, but I started using this brand when I did Whole30 this summer at GHP where kitchen access was scarce. This family company focuses on all natural ingredients, and their salad dressings and sauces are pretty great. I spotted a few of the salad dressings in the produce section of Kroger in my neighborhood, but you can also order from the website.

I hope everyone has a fantastic Monday. For some of us, it’s the start of a brand new year–good luck!

Kale Confetti Salad

1 bunch kale (I used dino kale from my CSA box)

1 Tbsp. olive oil + pinch of kosher salt

1 lb. raw brussels sprouts

8 oz. raw sugar snap peas

1 jar green olives (I used garlic stuffed)

12 oz. all natural, deli sliced roast beef (I used Simple Truth from Kroger–no sugar or carageenan added)

Salad dressing of choice

Slice the kale into thin ribbons (about 1/2 inch in width) and remove the woodsy stems. Place all kale ribbons in a mixing bowl and pour in the olive oil and salt. Using your hands, gently massage the kale for about 30 seconds to break down some of the strong fibers of the greens. Keep on the counter. Next, slice the tough stems off of the brussels sprouts and either slice them thinly or use the slicer function on your food processor. When complete, add the shreds of brussels sprouts to the kale and thoroughly combine. Divide the greens mixture between five bowls. Slice all of the sugar snap peas in half and distribute equally between bowls. Slice all of the green olives in half and distribute equally between bowls. Slice all of the roast beef into 1/4 inch ribbons and distribute equally between bowls. Pack your salad each day with the salad dressing separate and add just before eating.

tasty tuesday: spaghetti and meatballs

The classics never get old.

The classics never get old.

Ok, so it may not seem that exciting that the first tasty tuesday of 2014 is a pretty straightforward classic supper, but this is not the spaghetti and meatballs that a box used to make. This is an example of how easily you can elevate an old standard into a standout.

The first step is making fresh noodles. I’ve talked about good processes in earlier blogs and the interwebs are crawling with videos that can help. At any rate, 2 rounded cups of flour, 4 eggs, a glug of olive oil, salt and granulated garlic swirled together until its a single blob that is kneaded for a few minutes and allowed to rest makes you one heck of a nice dough. I was able to debut my brand new pasta roller from Robinson Home, which I highly recommend. Keep it floured and rest while you prep the rest.

Get a nice sauce going. I used:

1 Can Muir Glen crushed tomatoes
1 medium sweet onion, frenched
6 roma tomatoes, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 tbsp parsley
Olive oil

Start with the olive oil on medium heat and heat the onion. After about 2 minutes add the garlic and saute until onions have softened. Add the the tomatoes and a little water. Stir in the herbs. Bring to boil over medium heat for about five minutes. Stir and reduce heat to simmer about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Use this time to make the meatballs.

1 lb ground round
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 lb pork sausage
3 cloves garlic
1 sprig rosemary, chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 tbsp paprika
1/4 cup panko
Salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together and let sit for minimum of 20 minutes. Form into balls of your desired size.

In a large pan, heat enough oil to coat the bottom on high heat. Sear the meatballs on top and bottom for about 3 minutes per side. Place in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Finish cooking the meat by placing the meatballs in the tomato sauce.

Once you have the meat in the oven, start a large pot with water for the pasta. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook for a couple minutes, until the noodles have plumped and lost all yellow color. Drain.

Serve it up as you have always known, top with parmesan cheese and parsley.

Eat up!

tales from the egg: pastrami short ribs, boston butt, lemon pepper and spicy chicken


When you have a Big Green Egg you try to find excuses to use it. This past weekend, I started by just inviting some friends over, but then our friend Meg realized that with the return of Arrested Development, we should host a bigger shin-dig and have a full on BBQ fest. The BBQ and Bananas event was born (yes, we had frozen bananas, ice cream sandwiches, juice boxes, cornballs, the works). It was a lot of fun. (H/t Corey Bennett, Tim and Leila Regan-Porter, Melanie Bruchet (of the Cooking up Happy blog), and Lauren Morrill Ragusea (Find her in a bookstore near you!) for bringing the above themed goodies)

I want to have a special space here at the Bungalow for my many egg-ventures. I have gotten adept at basic ribs and pulled pork, but I am hoping to greatly expand by repertoire. I started this past weekend with some pastrami-brined short ribs. I got the inspiration from an Esquire article about some guys in Houston making classy bbq. I figured I could do the same.

Brining the night away…

After picking up some quality short-ribs, I set out to brine. In a large bowl I added hefty amounts of pickling spice, coriander, pepper, sea salt, paprika, and thyme. I added hot water and whisked until the dissolvable bits were dissolved and let it sit for a couple of minutes. I placed the ribs in a gallon freezer bag and poured the brine over the top. In the fridge, the ribs brined for over 16 hours.

Note the every recipe for pastrami will call for pink salt. This is designed to help in the brining by adding a distinct flavor while preserving a good color. I unfortunately could not find natural pink salt.

After the brine, as with a good many things, you have to pat these guys dry. I made a special rub of sea salt, whole peppercorns, coriander, and paprika in the food processor, milling the spices until coarsely ground. Add the rub to each rib, being sure to coat the entire top, meaty portion.

With the smoker ready to go and some smoked apple chips handy, head outside! After the chips were added, I got the egg up to 300 and smoked the ribs for about 3 hours, until they began to get a little stringy and easily pulled from the bone.

You guys...

You guys…

Now, for this iteration of the pulled pork. Instead of my usual sweet and spicy rub, I made a special herby rub this time. Salt replaced sugar as the heaviest ingredient and used its friends cumin, thyme, paprika, chili powder, red pepper flake, ground mustard and cinnamon do the work. After coating the butt in canola oil, I applied copious amounts of the rub and let it sit in the fridge for about four hours. It may of have to go on the grill at midnight and smoke for 12 1/2 hours in an applewood bath, but it was well worth it as you see.

So much flavor.

So much flavor.

I am a fan for mopping the butt a few times and flipping a couple of times in the process, just not for longer than an hour per time with the fat cap down. The whole point of slow smoking a shoulder butt is to melt the fat into the muscle and create a juicy, hand pickable meat like so…


For a mop, this time, I used red wine, cider vinegar, water, and some of the rub. I added a little bit of rub (which I added sugar later in the process) after each mop. If you do it this way, you will not need sauce, but if you must, I’ll help you make your own sometime.

In my efforts to get a little more diverse, I invested in Myron Mixon’s new book. He has some great pointers and an excellent lemon pepper chicken recipe. In deference to him, I will not post his recipe online, but know that it uses lemon curb as a base for the marinade and includes fresh garlic, black pepper, lemon juice, and hot sauce. You add this to a whole chicken coating the bird under and over the skin. Smoking with applewood for an hour and half, and then letting it rest for 15, will render a super juicy, easy to carve into pieces, bird.

The second bird I did (same time and process and the above) with a homemade spicy marinade. I mixed turbinado sugar, kosher salt, paprika, cayenne, black pepper, and red pepper flake with louisiana hot sauce and rubbed the bird down. This was a seriously spicy, full flavor bird. You can tell they wanted to be cooked.

Party Fowl

Party Fowl

All told, this was one heck of a spread. I can’t tell you any of the amounts of the above since you will come to realize this is more art than science, but a good rule of thumb is to start your rubs with your featured flavor (salty or sweet) and go 4 parts of it to 1 part of your next spice. Then, for the remaining spices, only use 1/4 of the amount you used for the second ingredient. I like to layer the rubs in a bowl and use sight to gauge my taste and then mix them up before applying.

As always, be adventurous, trust your taste, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

tasty tuesday: beer-braised short ribs, parsnip puree, and green beans with lemon and garlic


I have to start this blog with a confession: I sorta-kinda-but-really-I-did break a cardinal Tasty Tuesday rule…I’ve made one of these recipes before.  The short ribs were my first attempt from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, and boy, were they delicious.  I’ve been thinking about making them lately, and with spring blossoming, I knew that I had to do it soon or else the rising temperatures outside would spoil all of my braising dreams. (Can you tell that I think about food too much?  Yes, I just admitted to dreaming about braised meat…welcome to my brain.)  My other excuse is that I really wanted to try this parsnip puree as an accompaniment, which I solemnly swear I have never made before.

Phew, I feel better with that admission off my chest.  If you’re like me, you might get nervous about over- or under-cooking meat.  If you fall into this category, then welcome, my friend, to the wonderful world of low-and-slow braising.  This recipe is so easy, and you’ll impress all of your friends when these delicious short ribs tenderly fall off the bone with velvety, dripping gravy and goodness.

There’s a catch with the short ribs: they take a while to create.  They braise for three hours, but the prep work only takes about 30 minutes.  I had a hair appointment today (shorter and blonder, thanks for asking), so I seared the short ribs, prepared the sauce, stuck the pot in the oven, and headed over to Signature Salon for my cut and color.  By the time I got back and worked on the two sides, the full-bodied aroma of onion, tomato, and beef deliciousness was all over our house!

A word on parsnips: if you’ve read other entries, you know that Alex and I are kind of into them.  They’re an underrated root vegetable, for sure.  Don’t let its boring white exterior fool you–they are packed with flavor!  The parsnip puree is a one-off of mashed potatoes, but the subtle twist turned out beautifully.

Once you taste fresh green beans, you’ll get super snobby about canned or frozen green beans.  Seriously.  In this recipe, I used my go-to flavors (garlic, lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper) with my go-to temperature: roasting.  Enjoy!

Beer-Braised Short Ribs

(adapted from smitten kitchen)

6 beef short ribs, preferably the same size

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 red onion, halved and sliced

6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

1 cup sliced mushrooms (white or baby bella)

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 bottles of dark beer

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Salt and pepper all six sides of the short ribs.  Heat olive oil in an oven-safe Dutch oven over medium-high heat and, when hot, brown each side of the short ribs (you may want to do this in batches).  Remove the ribs when seared on all sides and set aside.  Add the sliced onions to the olive oil and cook for about 8 minutes.  Next, add the smashed garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.  Then, add the tomato paste and stir until combined.  Lastly, add the vinegar, beer, and Worcestershire.  Turn the heat off, place aluminum foil over the Dutch oven, then place the lid on the pot.  Place in the oven for three hours.

Parsnip Puree

2 lbs. parsnips, cut into two-inch chunks

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/3 cup Greek yogurt (you may also use heavy cream, but Greek yogurt is a great substitute here)

2 Tbsp. horseradish

salt and pepper, to taste

Place parsnips in a pot, fill with enough water to cover the vegetables, and boil for about 20 minutes.  Place boiled parsnips and other ingredients in a food processor until smooth.  That’s it!

Green Beans with Lemon and Garlic

1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed

1 lemon

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp. olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a small bowl, zest the lemon and dd the olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Lay out green beans on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Dress the green beans with the olive oil evenly and roast for about 15 minutes (you’ll hear them pop and sizzle).  Before serving, squeeze the juice of the lemon onto the green beans.