Category Archives: From Scratch

Work Lunch: Taco Salad

WorkLunchToday is the first in a series I’m calling Work Lunch! Each week, I’ll share something I’m making for lunch. I’m hoping it will inspire you and me to keep work lunches creative and satisfying!

photo (27)Lately, we’ve got a lot of greens to eat, so I find myself eating a lot of salad. I start with a large plastic container – mine’s just over 6 cups. I like to pack it up with greens, other raw veggies and whatever dressing I’m using. Since it’s a large container, I end up with enough room to toss things around when I’m ready to eat. I pack my dressing in a 4oz mason jar and stick it in the salad container so that if it happens to leak, it will leak onto my greens and not into my bag.

IMG_4525When I prep my salad, I put all the greens into the big container and use kitchen shears to give it a few chops. It saves me a little time and a few extra dirty dishes. Plus, it quickly reduces my greens into bite-size pieces.

IMG_4526In order to make the salad something that will sustain me until my afternoon snack, I add lots of protein and grains to my salads. For my taco salad, I pack a pint jar full of brown rice and black beans. I pack those apart from my salad greens in case I want to heat them up a bit before I add them to my salad bowl. I love this salad when the rice and beans are warmed so they wilt the greens ever so slightly.

Instead of a dressing for this one, I opt for a generous squeeze of lime, a sprinkling of salt, and some spoonfuls of homegrown roasted tomatillo salsa. To top it off, I add some slices of avocado. I learned somewhere that the pit of the avocado helps keep the avocado from turning brown, so I keep the pit in as long as I can. Either way, the skin of the avocado helps serve as natural protection when it’s making its journey to work with me. If we happen to have some tortilla chips, I bring a little bag of them along with me. I especially love to smash a handful of tortilla chips over my salad bowl. There’s something magic about the salty crunch.

 

Back-to-School Granola Bars with Cacao and Cranberries

image (10)After a whirlwind of a summer, during which I finished planning the wedding I spent four months putting together, I officially became Mrs.Davison! (You can expect an extremely detailed recap of all the wedding goodness…as soon as all those beautiful pictures come in!) A few days after that, I came home to start my new job as an instructional mentor. So, if you’ve been wondering why I’ve been MIA as of late, that’s why. It’s exhausting keeping up with so many huge life changes.

photo (24)That being said, I am in full-on work mode at this point – the time of year when I spend half of the day on Sunday prepping lunches and snacks for the work week. There’s something grounding and comforting about this weekly routine of mine, especially when I can get Eric to keep me company while I cook.

photo (26)This recipe for naturally sweetened homemade granola bars has been a solid snack resource of mine for a couple of years now. These bars are versatile as there is room for adaptations when it comes to the add-ins. Coconut flakes, golden raisins and cardamom (instead of the cacao or cinnamon) is a stellar combo. So is dark chocolate bar pieces, sour cherries, and chopped pecans. I have a feeling my Ayurvedic guru, Nicole, would say these would also be an excellent vehicle for the super root, maca! The options are really limitless. It’s just that now that I’ve eaten my latest version, the recipe below, I don’t know if I’ll be in the mood to experiment for awhile. They’re that good.

Give them a try, change ’em up, and let me know what you came up with!

photo 2 (2)DIY Granola Bars with Cacao and Cranberries

Adapted from this recipe by Diana at My Humble Kitchen

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients:

2 cups rolled oats, uncooked
*1 2/3 cups dried fruits and nuts (For this amazing combo, use: cranberries, chopped pecans, raw pumpkin seeds, golden flax seeds and mini-chocolate chips)
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tablespoon raw cacao powder (or 2 tsp cinnamon or cardamom, depending on the flavor combo you’re creating)
1/2 tsp salt

*You need a total of 1 2/3 cups of extras, not exact totals of each, so be flexible and be creative! I simply take the 1 cup measuring cup and fill it up with a combo of goodies and then dump it into my dry ingredients bowl. I repeat a second time, filling the cup about 2/3 of the way full. It doesn’t have to be hard and fast – have fun with it!

Wet Ingredients:

1/3 cup raw honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil (heat slightly if it’s in a solid state)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and brush a 9×13 pan with coconut oil. Remember to grease those pesky corners too!

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

3. Mix together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and then add them to the mixing bowl with the dry ingredients. Fold in until all the dry ingredients are evenly moistened.

4. Press the granola bar mixture into the pan with your hands. This is a messy, not-so-easy process, but it’s worth it! It’s a little less sticky if you press with damp hands.

5. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes.

This part is critical. When I follow these steps, exactly as written (thank you, Diana, for leading the way!), my granola bars come out beautifully. When left in the pan for too long at one of these stages though, I sometimes have to fight to get them to come out and have ended up with granola. So, take care at this stage.

6. Remove the granola bars from the oven and allow them to cool on a rack for 5 minutes. Then, when the timer goes off, loosen the edges with a spatula or knife.

7. Allow the bars to cool for another 15 minutes. Then, slice into bars and gently (this can be especially difficult with the first two or three bars until you have room to maneuver) transfer them onto a rack to cool completely.

8. When cool, store the granola bars in an airtight container, separating layers with parchment paper so they don’t stick.

9. Take them to work and enjoy a happy snack during the day or on your commute home!

The One Christmas Cookie I Cannot Put Down

IMG_2848Everybody has them, the handful of recipes you make every year for the holidays because it just wouldn’t be the same without them. Sure, you might add a few new recipes into the mix, but the old standards always make an appearance. My family depends on it – I’m the cookie maker in the family.

The Almond Roca cookies, from a recipe that comes “from the kitchen of Lillian”, a woman I never knew, is that old standard I can’t live without. Their name hints at their toffee-like crunch and buttery taste. It is not a candy and does not require those steps. In fact, its one of the easiest Christmas cookies I make. This is the cookie that I look forward to making when December comes around. As I type this, I realize I could make it anytime, yet for some reason I follow some unspoken rule, making it only as part of my holiday cookie spread. It’s seasonal. They’re a treat. That makes them special and impossible to put down. I apologize in advance.

IMG_2853The one inconvenient thing about these cookies is the fact that the recipe calls for cake flour, something I never use except when making these cookies. I heard somewhere that you can substitute 1 cup of all-purpose flour for 1 cup of cake flour by reducing the cup of the all-purpose flour by 2 tablespoons, but I’m not sure that would work. I’ve also tried using a combination of all-purpose flour and whole-wheat pastry flour, only to end up with a cookie that was edible at best. I won’t skimp or stray from the original recipe again. That being said, this year’s addition of Maldon finishing salt over the top of these bars was brilliant. It put them right over the top.

Almond Roca Cookies with Sea Salt

From Lillian

1 cup of unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup white sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups cake flour
12 oz. chocolate, melted
1 cup sliced almonds
Optional: Maldon salt, for finishing

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugars. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and mix until combined. Add the flour, one cup at a time, just until fully incorporated.

Transfer the mixture to an ungreased baking sheet. Press and spread the dough evenly with your fingers until it reaches the edges of the pan. The original recipe I follow says to spread the dough onto a sheet that is 10 x  15 inch cookie sheet though mine is about 2 inches larger in both directions. It will feel like there is not enough dough to spread, but with a little finesse and a lot of patience, it will happen and you will end up with a cookie that is perfectly crunchy and toffee-like. Just make sure your baking sheet has a lip.

Bake about 20 minutes or until golden.

Let cool, about ten minutes. Then, spread the melted chocolate over the top of the baked cookie. Sprinkle sliced almonds and for added amazingness, Maldon sea salt, all over the top of the chocolate.

The tricky part is cutting them into squares, which should be done before they cool completely and the chocolate sets. The key is to use a sharp knife and to clean it often as you cut. I like to cut the cookies into small bars about 1 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch. Once you cut the cookies, place the entire baking sheet into the fridge to allow the chocolate to set. Enjoy!

Makes about 5 dozen small bars.

Mustard Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grilled Cheese

This post is a series on how I’m using my bounty of Brussel sprouts from the new online marketplace, Farmstr. Check out the first post of the series for a recipe for Cilantro Lime Brussels Sprout Slaw. Also, just a reminder that readers of my blog get a special discount for signing up to receive Farmstr’s weekly emails. Mention my blog when you sign up and Janelle, Farmstr’s founder, will hook you up!

photo (1)If you look up recipes for Brussels sprouts, you’ll find more than a handful of recipes for roasted sprouts. This is another one to add to your repertoire. It is scrumptious. I ate almost the entire pan of these before they ever made it to a plate. What’s more, this recipe is super simple and these days, in my whirlwind of a life, an easy recipe is like gold.

For the record, the grilled cheese part of this equation is an added bonus. I made the roasted b. sprouts to go with an aged white cheddar grilled cheese, but ended up stuffing them inside the sandwich instead. Magic.

photoMustard Roasted Brussels Sprouts

~ 1 pound of Brussels sprouts
1 1/2 Tablespoons stone ground or Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the over to 400 degrees.

Remove the outermost leaves of the Brussels sprouts and trim off their ends. Cut them in half and spread them out evenly on an ungreased cookie sheet.

In a small saute pan on the stove, melt the butter and then remove from the heat. Mix in the olive oil and the mustard until well incorporated.

Pour the mustard mixture over the sprouts and mix it in to coat the sprouts. I just got in there with my hands and made sure the mustard mixture thoroughly coated the Brussels sprouts. Sprinkle some salt over the sprouts and pop the cookie sheet in the oven.

Roast for 10 – 20 minutes, checking periodically to avoid over browning. Turn with a spatula at least once, about half way through, to promote even cooking. Watch these carefully as they go from chartreuse, to golden to charred in a matter of minutes. Honestly, I loved the crispy, blackened bits.

Taste and sprinkle with a bit more salt, if needed. Enjoy as a side dish or stuffed into a grilled cheese or grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Enjoy!