Asparagus & Avocado Salad with Almonds

0514 Asparagus Avocado Salad-3

Happy Mother’s Day! What are you doing today to celebrate your mom or yourself? I’m lucky that my mom is here with us today! She lives across the country so it’s pretty special to celebrate Mother’s Day with her in person.

First on our agenda is heading off to the farmers market this morning to scoop up some fresh veggies and other delicious treats. I am so excited that our farmer’s market was rated one of the 10 best in the country, by country living magazine! I can attest to its awesomeness with a ton of great produce, local meats, dairy, and locally crafted food like pickles and coffee. Plus there’s a bunch of prepared food choices–nothing like have breakfast choices like pit beef, curry hand pies, or smoked mushroom pita wraps.

I know we’ll find asparagus and arugula, which I’ve absolutely been living on all spring long. Especially in this salad. The texture of whole grain mustard, the richness of really good olive oil, the grassiness of asparagus, the sweetness of roasted red pepper, and the peppery bite from baby arugula are already an amazing combination. Recently though I added crunch with toasted almonds and a buttery avocado and it took this salad over the top for me.

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This salad, combined with something simple from the grill, or paired with a quiche for Mother’s Day brunch, couldn’t be a more winning combination.

Asparagus & Avocado Salad with Almonds

Total Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Asparagus & Avocado Salad with Almonds


  • 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5-6 cups arugula
  • 1 roasted red pepper, cut into 2 inch by 1/2 inch strips
  • 1/2 pound roasted or grilled asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted


  1. Whisk together mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in olive oil, stirring briskly until emulsified.
  2. Toss dressing with arugula, and half of the red peppers, asparagus, and avocado.
  3. Transfer to serving platter, and remaining red pepper, asparagus, avocado and toasted pine nuts.
  4. Serve.
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Caesar salad {kids cooking}

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“I’d just like a nice Caesar salad with some grilled chicken” says my 5-year old son occasionally. Because, you know, that’s a typical kids dinner request.

No problem though, I like your style and hey let’s make it together!

Mixing and measuring the dressing is fun, plus we get to use ingredients we don’t normally use together–namely Worcestershire and anchovies. And then it’s just a matter of tossing with lettuce and croutons!

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I salvage stale bread just before I need to toss it out to make croutons, so I always have some stashed away to use for a meal like this.

A traditional Caesar salad would use raw egg yolk and olive oil, but this is a super quick weeknight meal for cooking with kids, so forget the eggs–mayonnaise is not much more than eggs and oil anyway.

Top with grilled chicken, shrimp or steak if you’d like, or serve on the side for an easy accompaniment! We make this about once a week through the summer for an easy no cook meal any night of the week.

Caesar salad

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Caesar salad


  • 4 slices day old Italian bread, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • 2 teaspoons mince garlic, approx 2 large cloves
  • 2 anchovies, minced, or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon water (optional)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 head of romaine lettuce, washed and torn into bite sized pieces


  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Kids cooking step: Toss the bread cubes with olive oil and half of the salt and pepper.
    End Kids cooking step.
  3. Bake in the oven for 7-10 minutes, until toasty. Remove, bring to room temperature. You can do this in advance and keep the croutons in an air tight storage container for a couple of days.
  4. Kids cooking step: Whisk together the garlic, remaining salt and pepper, anchovies, lemon juice, Worcestershire, mustard, mayonnaise, and half of the cheese. If the dressing is thicker than you'd like, splash a little water in to loosen it up.
  5. Add the lettuce and croutons and toss gently until dressing evenly coats every leaf.
  6. Serve, topped with remaining cheese.
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Winter Panzanella Salad with Warm Anchovy Orange Dressing

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This recent bout of spring weather has gotten me in the mood for some fresh farmers market veggies! Too bad winter has returned with a vengeance and spring vegetables are a long way off.

It got me thinking though about what I love about summer cooking:

  • Fresh, seasonal produce
  • Beautiful, bright colors that jump off the plate
  • Light meals with a lot of flavor
  • Quick and easy preparation

As I looked around my kitchen for inspiration I found a gorgeous deep orange butternut squash, dark rich green  mature spinach, black wrinkly oil-cured olives, vibrant red roasted peppers, bright cheerful oranges, and wheat speckled half eaten loaf of olive bread.

Why wait until summer? This winter panzanella salad takes advantage of the best the season has to offer; no compromises necessary!

Winter Panzanella Salad with Warm Anchovy Orange Dressing

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Winter Panzanella Salad with Warm Anchovy Orange Dressing


    For the salad
  • 1 small butternut squash, approximately 1 pound
  • 1/2 loaf of hearty stale bread; olive bread works great
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped oil cured olives
  • 1 roasted red pepper, thinly sliced into 1-inch strips
  • 8 ounces spinach leaves
  • For the dressing
  • 3 anchovies
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 Tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons orange juice--approximately 1/2 an orange
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


    Prep the salad
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel the butternut, remove the seeds, and dice into 1-inch pieces. Toss with 2 teaspoons olive oil and spread out on a sheet pan. Roast for 20-30 minutes, turning once or twice until browned on the outside and tender on the inside.
  3. Cut the bread into 1-2 inch cubes. Toss with 2 teaspoons olive oil and spread out on a sheet pan. Roast for 20 minutes, turning once until brown.
  4. Microwave the spinach for 15-20 seconds, just until it starts to wilt.
  5. Toss together the squash, bread, olives, red pepper, and spinach leaves.
  6. Make the dressing
  7. Combine anchovies, garlic and 3 Tablespoons olive oil in a small saucepan. Turn heat to medium low and break up anchovies. Once it's very fragrant and the anchovies have melted into the oil, remove from heat.
  8. In a small bowl whisk mustard, vinegar, orange juice, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil mixture until emulsified.
  9. Finish the salad
  10. Toss together the salad and the dressing. Let stand for 10-15 minutes, tossing occasionally. Serve.
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Food Lover’s Cleanse Diary Day 14: Victory!

cleanse collageWow, the cleanse is done! I alternate between feeling like it flew by and dreaming about what I’m going to have tomorrow. Fondue? Pizza? Cheeseburger? so many choices. The reality is though that I’m taking a lot of great habits with me and I think I’m off to a great start.

How I feel: GOOD. I just feel good. I’m not transformed, I’m not a whole new person, I just feel good. Which makes me realize just how bad I felt after all of the stress and anxiety and bad food and bad decisions that comes with the end of the year. This has been a great way to get back on track so I can keep making good decisions about my health going forward. And it’s been a great reminder that my family really likes to eat good, healthy food. There wasn’t a single night that I had to convince my kids to eat what I was serving. They loved it, and they were open to it.

Time in kitchen: 30 minutes

Most interesting thing eaten: Dinner was a great riff on baja fish tacos without any of the fried, carby, sour creamy bad stuff. Love it.

Total Weight Watchers Points: 24.

Menu in review:

Breakfast:  Planned: Pomegranate-Apple Salad with Greek Yogurt. [Read more…]

Food Lover’s Cleanse Diary Day 13: The penultimate day!

sunsetWow, tomorrow is the last day of the cleanse. And I took this pretty picture of the sky after a storm on my way to pick up the kids from school so thought I’d share. It felt right somehow.

How I feel: I am REALLY tired of cooking every meal but I feel great about the fact that I have managed to do most of it this far. I am an avid menu planner but we definitely don’t cook every meal. In fact, we are serial eater-outers, especially during the week when we’re all exhausted and the kids are entertained by being out and I just want someone to serve me. But, this exercise has reminded me that a) you can make amazing, interesting, exotic food at home, b) even shopping at Whole Foods can save you money if you’re not eating out nearly as much (and you’re not buying cheese) and c) I will absolutely, positively, undeniably feel and look better as a result. So, while I know I won’t be cooking like this for every meal in the future, I’ll be doing a lot more like it and looking for more new recipes to inspire me!

Time in kitchen: 30 minutes

Most interesting thing eaten: It’s no longer new but I’m really digging the black rice.

Total Weight Watchers Points: 29.

Menu in review:

Breakfast: Planned: Farroto with Fried Egg. 7 Weight Watchers points. Actual: Since I put an egg on dinner last night today I made the Banana Almond Smoothie. 4 Weight Watchers points. [Read more…]

Food Lover’s Cleanse Diary Day 12: Making it my own

collageHow I feel: I have been loving the food on the cleanse and how good I feel, but I’m definitely getting tired of having every meal prescribed. I need some room to be creative! So today, I was, a little.

Time in kitchen: 20 minutes

Most interesting thing eaten: Farro. It’s kind of like barley but I guess since it’s Italian it’s just a little more delicious.

Total Weight Watchers Points: 22.

Menu in review: [Read more…]

Food Lover’s Cleanse Diary Day 11: Golden Globe guilty pleasure

How I feel: Way to wholesome and healthy for watching my guilty pleasure: the Golden Globes. After a long day of working out, swimming with the kids, writing, cooking and prepping for the busy week ahead, this is just what the doctor ordered!

Time in kitchen: 1 hour

Most interesting thing eaten: Actually, the turnips in dinner. I usually overlook them at the market but no more! Sweet and tender, I can’t wait to try them in stews, roasted and pureed this winter.

Total Weight Watchers Points: 25.

Menu in review:

Breakfast: Quinoatmeal with Apples and Toasted Walnuts. 9 Weight Watchers points. [Read more…]

Food Lover’s Cleanse Diary Day 10: Reason #437 why not to make kids different meals…

pork collage…because you’ll eat it too.

How I feel: Like I needed eat about twice as much food as was planned for today. So I did.

By the way, I am freaking out about how amazing my skin is today. 10 days ago it was all dry and flaky and today soft and smooth as can be. Is it the food? Is it the water? Is it working out? Who knows but I need to keep it all up!

Time in kitchen: 45 min

Most interesting thing eaten: My kid’s pizza bagel.

Total Weight Watchers Points: 19 planned. Not enough, ate kids food too. 27 points–still way under my daily limit (before wine of course).

Menu in review:

After 9 straight days of nothing but amazing food, today was a bit of a letdown. But there were a few highlights, read on for more!  [Read more…]

Food Lover’s Cleanse Diary Day 7: halfway there!

collageWow, this is my 7th post…we’re halfway there! I hope you’ll stick with us through the next half of the cleanse.

How I feel: Actually, amazing. Energetic, healthy, not hungry. So far, in one week, I’ve lost the 5 pounds I gaine over the holidays. Superb!

Time in kitchen: 1 hour, but that was actually long since today for the first time I made the kids something different for dinner. So I basically cooked 2 dinners and prepped for tomorrow in an hour.

Most interesting thing eaten: the mix of flavors and textures at dinner tonight: tahini, sesame seeds, garam masala, pepitas, mustard. Wow, I would never have put all of that together but it was really amazing and interesting to mash up all of those flavors.

Total Weight Watchers Points: 25, plus wine.

Menu in review:

Breakfast: Banana Almond Smoothie. 4 Weight Watchers points. [Read more…]

Food Lover’s Cleanse Diary Day 3

0105 lea rachelHow I feel: A really interesting mix of sleepy and energetic at the same time. Dan says I’m already starting to look healthier and slimmer.

Time in kitchen: 45 min.

Most interesting thing eaten: Chicken tangerine cabbage salad. I love to order them from restaurants but have never tried making it at home. Plus it has that sesame miso dressing on it that I’m head over heels in love with.

Total Weight Watchers Points: 35 (that’s over my daily limit but I’m good with it because I want to EAT), plus wine

Menu in review:

Breakfast: Two-Egg Omelet with Red Pepper–Walnut Spread. 7 Weight Watchers points. [Read more…]