Tag Archives: chicago cooking classes

Cooking with Dawn Jackson Blatner – Fall Farro Salad

I had heard a lot about the cooking classes at The Chopping Block, but I just never seemed to get around to signing up for a class. Somehow I stumbled upon a class called 100% Nutritionist Approved Healthy Holiday Eats taught by renowned food and nutrition expert Dawn Jackson Blatner. If you haven’t heard of her check her out. Just a few fun facts about her. She is the nutritionist for the Chicago Cubs and the author of The Flexitarian Diet, a fabulous book about her philosophy to healthy eating. Her philosophy is basically this: pro-plant not anti-meat. She believes that wholesome, nourishing foods are magic for your body. For more about her visit her website, she has tons of fabulous recipes, tips, and articles she has written for major magazines.

I learned so much from her class and each recipe was so phenomenal that I think they really deserve a post of their own. First up is the….

Fall Farro Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

**Farro is an ancient relative of wheat. They look like popcorn kernels and are similar in texture to brown rice but they are round and have a nuttier flavor. Adding a grain to your salad makes it heartier and gives your dish a more fall/winter feel.


  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1/2 cup uncooked farro, toasted
  • 2 Tablespoons pitted and quartered kalamata olives
  • 1 cup thinly sliced fresh fennel bulb
  • 2 cups arugala
  • 1/2 orange, zested – about 1/2 teaspoon (Tip: use a cheese grater to zest to get chunkier pieces)

Orange vinnaigrette

  • 2 Tablespoons orange juice, from zested orange above
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • S&P to taste


In a medium saucepan, combine the water, salt and farro. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the farro is tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl to cool.

Add the olives, fennel, arugula and orange zest to the cooled farro and toss to combine. In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients until combine. Add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss to coat. Let the salad stand for at least 10-15 minutes at room temperature & serve.

NOTE: To intensify flavors, let salad marinate in refrigerator overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.

One more thing. If you are in the Chicago area and are interested in learning to cook, I highly suggest you check out the Chopping Block. I had such a wonderful experience there, it is a very nice establishment and the staff were so gracious and helpful. I thought it was a little pricey at first but after leaving I can honestly say it was worth every penny. It’s a great place for a fun, interactive date or a night out with girls. If nothing else, go solo – that’s what I did and I met some really cool people. Definitely Dishin’ approved!


Chicago Blogger Meet-up with Amanda Skrip

Last night was the much anticipated (for me at least) Health food Chicago Blogger Meet-up at Whole Foods (Halsted and Waveland location) with natural foods chef Amanda Skrip. It was so fun to get to meet local bloggers, some of which I have followed since before I was blogging (I’m talking about you Chelsey!) and some newbie bloggers, Katie, Cait and Tracy! Amanda also had help from an equally as talented assistant Alia! Due to crazy Chicago traffic some bloggers weren’t able to come but I hope to do it again sometime so if you are a local blogger and you weren’t able to come this time around, let me know and I will add you to the list for the next meet-up 🙂

So we started out the evening with snacks and a much needed glass of wine…

After introductions and bloggy gossip (which truthfully could have gone on all night!) we sat down to watch Amanda whip up some unbelievable grub! All of the recipes were gluten free and vegan – love it! We started out with some Sweet Potato Ginger Soup which was awesome and sooooo easy to make. Amanda explained how this is a great way to use up left over cooked sweet potatoes from a previous meal, which, as many of you know, I HATE wasting food, so this is a perfect recipe to have handy (not to mention I always have sweet pots on hand for those nights that I am out of creative ideas).

While we sipped on the soup Amanda was busy making a Brown Rice ‘risotto’ style dish with white beans, kale and maitake mushrooms. I couldn’t believe how creamy it was and yet there was no cream in it! Amanda described it as the perfect comfort food and I couldn’t agree more. Comfort food without all the ‘baggage’!

One of the reasons I love going to Amanda’s classes is because she is so knowledgeable about food, the health benefits, how to make healthy substitutes and so much more. If I wasn’t eating, drinking wine or asking her a million questions (yeah, I was that girl…) I was watching her cook so effortlessly and trying to soak in all of her knowledge. While I could go on and on about how talented she is, I’ll spare you and just share with you the next dish 🙂 Spaghetti squash salad with arugula, olives and almonds – perfect for fall!

And for dessert we were treated to Baked Pears in a Pecan Crumble, perfect fall dessert recipe! Amanda suggested that this recipe works great for other fruit too like apples, peaches, etc.

Just when you think it can’t get any better, Amanda pulls the Sesame brittle out of the oven. I’ll be honest, I was skeptical about this one, it looked like a bland pile of seeds but when I tasted it I think Chelsey and I almost simultaneously fell off our chairs! This was hands down the group favorite and Amanda says her clients request it all the time. This makes a great snack or treat with the perfect mixture of salty and sweet.

And I certainly can’t rave about it without giving you the recipe, so here you have it! If you do make it please be sure to link back to Amanda’s website and give her some kudos for a fantastic dish (www.amandaskrip.com). She also mentioned this makes a great gift for the holidays, which is something I definitely plan on doing.

Sesame Brittle


  • 3/4 cup of sesame seeds
  • 3/4 cup of sunflower seeds, raw
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, raw
  • 2 sheets of nori
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1. Preheat oven to 325. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Heat a large skillet over a medium flame. Add the sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds, and stir frequently with a wooden spoon until toasted, about 3-5 minutes.

3. Transfer content to a large bowl. Using scissors or kitchen shears, cut the nori into small, thin pieces and add to the seeds. Pour maple syrup into bowl, and stir to coat evenly.

4. Pour seeds onto baking sheet, and use a spatula to spread it into an even layer. Transfer to oven for 10-12 minutes.

5. Remove from oven and let cool 30-40 minutes. Break the now hardened brittle into medium size pieces. And enjoy!