Roasted Sweet Potato and Kale Salad

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Whelp. As the song goes, this is The End.

The end of 2016, that is.

Wait, what; did you guys think I meant…THE end?

I mean, I dunno. Maybe it is. Check back with me after January 20th.

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For today however, let’s just keep the main focus on the fact that we’ve reached the end of the year. There is but one more day left in 2016. Crazy.

I won’t say this year’s went by particularly quick; it hasn’t really felt like that for me personally. I will say that it brought LOTS of change. Lots of new. Lots of different. There’s room for pessimism but the thing about starting a new year is that there’s also room for some new optimism. If things can get worse, there’s no reason not to hope that they can and won’t just might get better too, right?

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Some of us may choose the simple practice of optimism going into the new year. Others like to engage in certain practices that across cultures are supposed to bring especial luck to individuals if done on New Years Eve. I’m sure you guys are familiar with plenty of them.

Healthy amount of libations consumed.

Kissing a significant other or a… whatever you want to call them, at the stroke of midnight.

Opening doors and windows wide at night to let the ‘bad luck’ out of a house.

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There are plenty of places worldwide where people will consume particular foods, whether through tradition or believing that the foods themselves will provide good luck because of what they symbolize. Noodles consumed in Asian countries symbolize and are supposed to bring life longevity. In Spain, eating 12 grapes for each month of the year is supposed to predict the kind of year you will have (sweet for good times, sour for bad). There’s a certain Greek bread called Vasilopitta that I swear I’m gonna get around to trying myself one of these days. In the American south, black eyed peas, corn bread and leafy greens eaten at years end/new years are supposed to bring good luck.

If I’m being completely honest, I really don’t know or care whether or not eating greens of any kind will bring good luck. I’m gonna eat ’em regardless. But if the taste of today’s recipe was any indication, I’d say I was feeling pretty lucky this afternoon.

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Prior to this, the only ways I’d had kale previously was eating it raw, then eating it in the crispy chips you bake in the oven. Both are fine, but they’ve never really ‘wowed’ me into thinking kale was all that special. This recipe changed my mind. The kale is quick roasted in the oven, just to the point where it’s soft without being completed deflated. Sweet potato is roasted until it’s soft, but not quite mushy; it’s still got body to it. Both are then gently tossed together with some dried cranberries in a sweet and tangy dressing for a salad that is just REALLY delicious. The best part is, it tastes even better the next day after the flavors have had enough time to meld properly. The firm texture of the sweet potato is preserved and the texture of the kale in my opinion is improved: whereas raw kale is tough and fibrous, the quick roasted kale that’s been tossed in the dressing has this robust chewiness that’s a really great bite.

Truth to be told, it’s gone now and I’m already missing this stuff.  Oh yeah: and did I mention it’s pretty darn HEALTHY? And I actually want it. That’s always nice.

Linking this post to Fiesta Friday #152, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Ginger @ Ginger & Bread.

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Roasted Sweet Potato & Kale Salad

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes peeled, seeded, quartered, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large bunch (about 8 ounces) kale
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup (about 6 ounces) dried cranberries or cherries

Directions

Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 400°F. Toss sweet potato pieces with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until potatoes are tender throughout and well browned around the edges, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before attempting to remove from foil. Carefully remove potatoes from foil using a thin metal spatula and transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.

Meanwhile, pick leaves off of kale stems into a large bowl and roughly tear with hands; discard stems. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil, season with salt and pepper, and massage until well-coated in oil. Transfer to a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake until wilted and crisp in some spots, about 7–10 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to bowl with sweet potatoes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together shallot, maple syrup, mustard, vinegar, cinnamon, paprika, nutmeg, cloves, cayenne pepper, and brown sugar . Whisking constantly, drizzle in remaining 1/4 cup of the oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add cranberries to bowl with sweet potatoes and kale,. Toss with half of dressing, taste, and add more dressing as desired. The dressed salad can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Let it come to room temperature or briefly microwave until warm before serving.

Chinese Chicken Salad

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I went to a popular restaurant in our city for breakfast with my mom and sisters one day a few years back. It was a pretty good day, I was in a pretty good mood, and ready to eat some food that was more than pretty good (actually it’s fantastic, so if you’re ever in the Lansing MI area then make sure you go to Sophia’s House of Pancakes).

When we were seated, I noticed that there was an elderly couple that had also been recently seated in the booth just behind ours. The woman was sitting with her back to me, while the man was sitting on the opposite side, facing me. As well sat down, he smiled at me. I thought it was a very nice, kind smile, and even though the strangers I’ve come across normally didn’t throw out smiles like that, I decided to go ahead and throw a great big smile back at him. I didn’t really think too much of it after that, focusing my attention on ordering m food and engaging in conversation with my family.

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I think it was a few minutes after the food we’d all ordered had come out- we were about mid way through, when suddenly our waitress comes over to our table. She bends down and starts murmuring to us quietly, “Excuse me: I know this is our of nowhere, but I’ve just been told to let you now that your meal’s been completely paid for.”

TimeoutwaitWHAT?!

That was about the collective response at our table. When we asked her if she was sure about that, she nodded and pointed across the restaurant, “Yes: it was that gentlemen over there. He said that he just wanted to cover your bill for you because of how nicely you,” She nodded at me, “Smiled at him when you came in.”

You guys, I’m not the type of person who gets embarrassed easily. I think I’ve blushed a grand total of three times in my entire life.

Well, that was one of them.

At hearing that, my face got all hot and pink, I started grinning like an idiot and I paused long enough to swallow my mouthful of pancakes to choke out a sheepish, “Oh my God, are you serious?!” I was in a state of mild shock.

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I looked up to find the elderly gentleman and his wife and saw that they were just then leaving the restaurant. He waved at all of us as we shouted out a collective, stunned “thank you!”. I still remember the way that he grinned at me and mouthed, “Keep smiling!” as they went out the doors.

It’s the year 2015. Everywhere I look, I see people posting about New Years resolutions to accomplish things that (if we’re being completely honest with ourselves) are almost entirely superficial. I’l be upfront with you all and even admit that I’ve made similar resolutions to myself in past years. It’s easy to focus on what’s ‘wrong’ with you as a person and resolve to change it. Heck, that’s not always a bad thing.

However, this year I’m hoping for more moment like that day in Sophia’s House of Pancakes where I come across people like that kind elderly man and his wife that aren’t too old, jaded or bitter to notice and value the important of seemingly little things like kind smiles and random acts of generosity to strangers. I’m also hoping that this year I can do more to take my focus off of myself and be like that elderly man was in noticing the beautiful things of life that are far too often taken for granted. I believe that days and moments like the one I just shared are a large part of why we’re here on this Earth in the first place. They make the world seem brighter and filled with hope. They’re what’s really important in life.

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I’m still keeping things light and healthy this week with a salad that’s become a new favorite of mine. Although the recipe is originally for chicken, we are just coming off of the holidays and if you still have some leftover turkey in your fridge (like I do) then you can definitely sub that in. The dressing is both tangy from the vinegar and ginger, and also earthy from the flavor of the peanut butter. The chipotle gives it a nice little kick of heat in the aftertaste. If you can’t find dry crunchy Chow Mein noodles where you are (they’re usually in the Foreign Cuisine aisle of the grocery store) then using peanuts would also give the same ‘crouton’ contrast of textures that you’re looking for in a salad.

I’m taking this salad to Fiesta Friday #49 this week, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by Mr Fitz @CookingwithMrFitz and Kaila @GF Life 24/7. Happy New Year everyone!

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Chinese Chicken Salad

Recipe Courtesy of Bobby Flay

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle pepper puree
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 head Napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 head romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1/4 pound snow peas, julienned
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
  • 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • Handful of Chinese crunchy chow mein noodles

Directions

1. Whisk together the vinegar, peanut butter, ginger, chipotle pepper puree, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, and canola oil in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

2. Combine cabbage, lettuce, carrots, snow peas, cilantro, and green onion in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to combine.

3. Transfer to a serving platter and top with the shredded chicken and chow mein noodles.

Lime-Glazed Chicken

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Hey guys!I’m back from my little blogging break I took after completing the 12 Days of Christmas series.It was a blast nd I feel super proud and accomplished that I actually pulled it off, but I did need a few days to recoup and recover from 12 straight days of posting.

Once again, thanks to all of you who followed along, liked or commented on all those posts. If you missed some or all of it, well, the posts are still there. Feel free to look back over the past few days and get caught up. I’m sure not all of us are in sugar comas yet, right? No reason why you can’t get some before the new year starts.

Speaking of which- it IS almost New Years Eve isn’t it? How is it 2015 ALREADY? If you figure it out, let me know because I swear we just started 2014.

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Anyone have any great plans for tomorrow night that I should know about? Me, you ask? Heh.

Guys, I’m the last person you want to ask about how to spend a New Years Eve. I’ve told you before, I’m a complete and total introvert. That’s the polite way of saying that I’m kinda boring. The not-so-polite way of saying it is to just straight up admit that not only am I kinda boring, I’m also kinda lame- when it comes to ‘partying’ stuff anyway.

Let the track of my New Years Eve nights speak for itself:

One year, I went to bed at ten, and slept straight through the whole thing, not getting up until eight the next morning.

Another, me and my mom spent NYEwatching one of those half hour long infomercials selling a 1970’s soul collection on CD. The New Year rung in with us singing along to Donna Summer and The Emotions. (But to our credit, we still didn’t buy the CD set)

I spent one year watching an ER marathon and binge eating saltine crackers  (don’t ask, I just got a craving for them).

And last year, all of us here spent New Years Eve in the living room having a Disney karaoke marathon. Enough said about that.

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This year? Well, it’ll probably involve me and a sofa, I’ll tell you that much.

Please tell me you guys will be doing something more interesting than all of that.

On second thought, no don’t tell me that. Just say you won’t be doing anything interesting for NYE either- I’ll feel better about my boring, uneventful self that way.

I’ve had this recipe swimming around in the blog folder of my computer for a while now- I just kept forgetting to put it up (to be honest, I’m not too crazy about how these pictures turned out in retrospect, but oh well). It’s another simple, quick and pretty healthy chicken dish that I use for my family when I buy bulk chicken breast packages from the grocery store to last us through the week.

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This chicken reminds me of a dish I’d order in a Latin American-themed restaurant alongside some paella or arborrio rice. You could even slice or dice it up and throw it in a tortilla or on top of a salad for a full meal. I’ve done both with this chicken and it turned out great both times. The ingredients are simple, but the flavors still really pop. Give it a shot when you don’t have a lot of time on your hands and still want a great meal.

Seeya ‘next year’ guys 😉

Lime Glazed Chicken


Recipe Courtesy of Great American Recipes

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Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 5 oz. each)
  • 1/4 cup honey mustard
  • 1 tbsp. finely grated lime zest
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray an 11 x 7 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Place the chicken in the prepared baking dish. Combine the mustard, lime zest, lime juice, honey, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

3. Brush half of the glaze over the chicken. Bake, brushing with the remaining glaze occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear when pierced with a knife, 25-30 minutes. Serve.