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...]

Food Lover’s Cleanse Diary Day 2

20140103-195417.jpgHow I feel: I was a little sluggish this morning but after lunch I didn’t feel hungry at all! Until 3, when I was starving. But made it till dinner with lots of water.

Time in kitchen: 45 min.

Most interesting thing eaten: Avocado and smoked salmon. Creamy avocado, smoky and salty salmon on a crunchy cracker, hit with a little sweet heat from sriracha. It was the perfect wakeup for my taste buds.

Total Weight Watchers Points: 27, plus wine

Menu in review:

Breakfast: Avocado on Rye Crackers with Smoked Salmon. 5 Weight Watchers points. [Read more...]

Home Economics: The ROI of a salad spinner

Lettuce is easyI have a love/hate relationship with my salad spinner. I know, I know, it’s like the most mundane kitchen accessory, how can anyone either love or hate it?

This one lives on top of my fridge, always threatening to topple on someone’s head if they open the refrigerator door the wrong way. And when I do break it out and use it, it takes up the entire dishwasher to wash all of it’s components.

Recently, though, I fell back in love  with my salad spinner. I started paying more attention at the grocery store after some of the e coli scares and realized that bagged lettuce is not only more prone to bacteria but it’s also incredibly expensive. So I started buying whole heads of lettuce at the farmers market and the grocery and making my own bagged lettuce.

It takes 5 minutes when you come home from the store:Lettuce bagging in progress

1. Chop up the lettuce into your preferred salad-sized pieces

2. Add the lettuce to the spinner and fill with water. Swish the lettuce around with your hands, then let it sit for 2 minutes to allow the dirt and grit to fall to the bottom.

3. Pull out the insert, leaving the water and dirt in the bowl.

4. Wash the bowl out thoroughly and dry.

5. Add the insert back in with the lettuce and spin away!

Lettuce washed and ready to bag6. Put the dried lettuce in a storage bag with a paper towel. The paper towel wicks any remaining moisture away, allowing your lettuce to keep longer in the fridge.

We got our spinner as a wedding gift, so for better or for worse, it’s part of our kitchen family. But, with the holidays approaching, I thought I’d run the numbers to figure out the break even point of buying a new salad spinner.

According to, a new salad spinner is $30.

Last weekend at Safeway, a 6 ounce bag of lettuce was on sale for $3, regularly $3.50. So we’ll use $3 as a conservative estimate.  A head of lettuce was on sale for $1, regularly priced at $2. So let’s call it $1.50 on average.

After chopping and washing, the head of romaine lettuce yielded 12 ounces of lettuce. Or 12.5 cents per ounce. Compared with 50 cents per ounce for the bagged lettuce.

So definitely cheaper to wash and dry your own lettuce than to buy bagged lettuce. But will you be passing your salad spinner down to your grandkids before you break even on this investment?

Nope. I typically use 6 ounces of lettuce for a salad for the whole family. So I’m saving $2.25 per salad I make with my spinner vs. using bagged lettuce. After 14 salads, you’ve paid off your spinner. That’s less than 2 months, if you make just 2 salads a week.

Here are some salad recipes to get you inspired to go out and get a salad spinner, or use the one you have.

Grilled Chicken BLT Salad

Pear, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Salad

Shrimp Greek Salad 

The bottom line? If you have storage space, get yourself a salad spinner. And use it. After you break even, every salad you make for your family using your spinner earns you $2.25 in savings. So the return on your $30 investment yields $200 in the first year if you make salads twice a week. It’s not going to send your kids to college, but every little bit helps.