}]; Noreen's Kitchen: 01/01/2013 - 02/01/2013

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Salad Days: A Promise To Try and Eat More Salads All Year Long

This post is a collaboration with Williams-Sonoma, but all words and opinions are my own.

When I was growing up we would sometimes have salad with dinner.  It was usually as an accompaniment to a grilled steak or chicken and during the summer  months when it was much too hot, in Tucson, Arizona to be thinking about turning on the oven.  My mom would often put me in charge of tossing the dinner salad together and it always had the same ingredients; iceberg lettuce, tomato wedges and sliced cucumbers.  Onions were left on the side because my brother would not come withing 10 feet of them and my dad did not care for them on his salad.  Break out the bottled dressing and salad was served.  I never really liked salad much when I was a kid.  

When I was in college, pasta salads became very popular (yes, I know that I am dating myself).  Cooked, cold pasta mixed with chunks of Mozzarella cheese, cubes of pepperoni and chopped onions, sliced black olives and sometimes some peppers thrown in for good measure.  Pour on some bottled dressing and voila'! Salad as a meal!   Who doesn't love a good pasta salad?  I haven't had one like this in quite a while.  Kind of makes me want one, come to think of it.  

All of this reminiscing is great, a walk down salad memory lane, if you will, but salad can be and is so much more than just a wedge of iceberg lettuce drowned in blue cheese dressing and a couple of cherry tomatoes tossed on the plate for show.  Yes salad is whatever you want it to be and I think we sometimes forget that we can make almost anything into a salad.

Traditionally, salads are cold but they can be served warm or hot as well.  They can be just greens dressed with a simply vinaigrette made with lemon and olive oil, or they can be full of everything but greens and lettuce.  I personally love a chopped salad sans lettuce.  Sometimes I just think lettuce gets in the way of all that other earthy goodness.  How about throwing some cubed bread for a Panzanella or Tuscan bread salad?  What about using cooked rice, Quinoa, couscous or Millet as a base for a dinner salad?  The possibilities are endless!

There is really no good reason not to be eating more salad.  I, for one, have promised myself that I will serve more salads, hot, cold and everything in between to my family this coming year.  It is my hope that we can love this new path and use it as an opportunity to explore new combinations of ingredients that we can enjoy together at our supper table.  My girls love salad!  My oldest, Molly loves it however she can get it, with lots of greens or with none at all, with grilled chicken or steak, Caesar or Asian style, you name it, she loves it and actually craves salad.  Not bad for a 15 year old right?  My youngest is a bit more finicky but I'm working on her.  Right now she will only eat salad that is made with fresh baby spinach and hard cooked eggs, she only eats the tomatoes on the side and she likes it with ranch dressing.  Like I said, I'm working on her!  As for myself and my husband, we both love them as well, but I just don't think about them being a meal as often as I should.  

So off I go to try and make salad a bigger part of our lives.  I hope you will consider this as well. We can make our lives a bit easier with salad and we can make our bodies a little healthier with them as well.  The good folks at Williams-Sonoma have devised a wonderful chart along with recipes that provide a seemingly endless variety of salad recipes for us to work through.  Have a look and see what you like and start eating salad tonight!

Check them out here:

Click Here to See Great Salad Ideas at Williams-Sonoma

Here are a couple of salad ideas that we love at our house:

Asian Chicken Salad

Ginger Sesame Dressing

Taco Salad with Homemade Chili
I hope you try these and I hope you love them!  I also hope you check out the link to Williams-Sonoma and get some great ideas for salad dinners at your house!

Happy Eating!

You can see lots more recipes and ideas on my website

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuscan White Bean and Kale Soup!Vegetable Soup Even a Veggie Hater Will Love!

The new year is upon us.  Many people have made resolutions for a variety of things such as to lose weight, eat healthy, exercise more, save money get organized, etc.  Eating healthier is on our agenda.  We tend to eat fairly healthy, however, there is always room for improvement.  The problem lies in the fact that most comfort food is laden with fat, sugar, salt and every other thing that the doctors tell us is bad for us.  It can sometimes be hard to find a perfect balance between flavorful, satisfying and healthy.

It can be even more daunting if you are trying to encourage someone to eat healthy and they absolutely hate the idea of even remotely being introduced to a vegetable of any kind besides a potato.  Yes, this is a daunting task indeed.  I have people tell me all the time, that their spouse or their children simply abhor vegetables.  I really cannot offer much advice except that it should be done little by little. 

I have never had a problem with my kids or my husband when it comes to veggies.  We enjoy lots of veggies!  A lot of that has to do with the fact that we grow a lot of our own, in our garden, every year.  That makes it even more meaningful when you can sit down to a table full of delicious veggie dishes and know that the majority of them came from your own soil, tended by your own hands.  My family may be an exception to the norm.  My youngest loves, of all things, Lima beans!  I know, she's a freak right?!

So, anyway, back to the subject at hand.  Getting veggie haters to eat veggies.  There is one thing that I have observed in my years of cooking for people and that is the people who say they don't like vegetables normally enjoy tomatoes and potatoes.  As for the other myriad of offerings in the farmer's market, they may take a bit more convincing. 

Tomatoes and potatoes are the start of a really amazing soup that will warm your cold winter nights and have your family coming back for more.  It is loaded with veggies and it is simple  and quick to make.  You can plan for this soup to take less than an hour to prepare you will be getting rave reviews for much longer after you serve it to your family.

My husband has dubbed this simply "Yummy Soup".  Whatever you call it, you are going to love it.  Filled with Cannellini beans, a selection of aromatics such as onion, celery, garlic and carrots as well as tomatoes and the nutritional powerhouse, kale.  I know, I know, you are saying that you are never going to get your picky, veggie hater to eat kale.  Yes you will, trust me.  rip it or cut it up small enough and toss it in the soup where it will wilt into the broth and be disguised forever! 

When you give your family kale, you are giving them one of the most nutritious vegetables you can find!  Kale is a member of the Brassica family which also is the same family as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.  Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and rich in calcium. Kale, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane (particularly when chopped or minced), a chemical with potent anti-cancer properties. Boiling decreases the level of sulforaphane; however, steaming, microwaving, or stir frying do not result in significant loss. Along with other brassica vegetables, kale is also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. Kale is also a good source of carotenoids.  

My friend, Bev, calls Kale her secret weapon.  She loves to dehydrate it and grind it up into a powder which she then adds to anything she can.  Her family is none the wiser and she is getting some powerful nutrition into them at the same time.  My grandmother used to swear that kale is the reason I never suffered from acne or any other skin problems as a teenager.  She may be right!  We ate kale on a regular basis with our meals growing up.  My mother would sautee' it with garlic and olive oil.  Steam it with onions and potatoes or just open up a can of it and heat it through.  Yes, when I was a kid, they had canned kale available in the grocery store.  I haven't looked for it so I don't know if they still do.  I much prefer the fresh variety and it is always available in the market. 
I hope that you will give this wonderful, nutritious soup a try.  When you eat it you will be in good company.  This is a soup steeped in history.  You could imagine Roman gladiators enjoying a soup like this.  Simple, hearty, warming and delicious.  Try some today and get one of those new year's promises out of the way!

Complete recipe can be found at my website:

Noreen's Kitchen