Can I just say, I have the most amazing parents ever. I mean, I see so many stories about children growing up in horrible conditions. I watched the Casey Anthony trial like a hawk and was disgusted at the thought that she very likely killed her daughter and walks free to this day. I’m not interested in hearing everyone’s opinions on the case whether you think she was guilty or not – the child experienced something traumatic at an age when all we should feel is love. It kills me. Anyways, I just wanted to say how grateful I am and how blessed I feel to be loved by both parents and to have parents that appreciate me and are proud of me. I love them so much and hope I can repay them in some way for every sacrifice they have made for me….so I start small. I have been cooking my booty off for them since I have landed here in Minnesota and I couldn’t be happier. (Did I ever mention that I am a huge Vikings fan? And that I’ve met Jared Allen before? I just found this picture and thought I should share….)
Haha he makes me look like a twerp! I’m actually rather tall (5’7) but he’s Jared Allen so…yea….Anyways. My mom and I got to meet him at the Vikings 50th Anniversary party last year, so cool!
Anywho! Last night I made them a fabulous meal (if I do say so myself). My parents recently built a new house that embodies their personalities to a tee. Coming from Chicago, cooking in their kitchen is beyond words. Look at this insane kitchen I get to cook in?
As we embark into the bitter cold of winter we start to lose our fancy for salads (if we even had one in the first place.) Well believe it or not, there are ways to make salads more “fall/winterish vs Summerish. I told you about the Farro, fennel salad but today I have a classic beet and goat cheese salad that is actually appropriate no matter what the weather. If you don’t have or don’t like beets, pears would also be great with this recipe. This is a very classy salad that takes very minimal effort and looks very gourmet.
- 2-3 medium beets – scrubbed, trimmed and cut in half
- 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
- 3 handfuls of mixed baby spinach (or your choice of greens)
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- Goat cheese
1. Wash and remove stems and ends from beets and place in a saucepan of water and bring to a rapid boil. Cook on boil for 20 to 30 minutes, until tender. Test beets by sticking a knife through it – it should go through pretty easily. Drain and cool. Remove skin and cut into small pieces.
2. While the beets are cooking, place the walnuts in a skillet over medium-low heat. Heat until warm and starting to toast, then stir in the maple syrup. Cook and stir until evenly coated, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice concentrate, balsamic vinegar, garlic and olive oil to make the dressing. (add S&P to taste)
4. Toss spinach in a big bowl with the candied walnuts and beets then top with goat cheese. You can drizzle the dressing on each plate separately or toss with the spinach before adding other ingredients. (I was entertaining so I forgot to snap a pic but this photo will give you an idea of what it should look like.)
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)
- 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!
Posted in Recipes, Reviews and Giveaways
Tagged chicago cooking classes, chopping block review, christmas salad, dawn jackson blatner, fall recipes, fall salad, farro, farro salad, healthy fall dishes, healthy salad, healthy thanksgiving, plant-based recipes, thanksgiving salad, the chopping block, the flexitarian diet, winter salad