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.

Summer Pasta Salad

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What do hot, hot, HOT summer days make you think of? For me, it’s a number of things.

Growing up and eating MASSIVE amounts of watermelon with my grandpa.

Being on summer vacation from school and getting to wake up whenever the heck I want. (I’m an ‘adult’ with a regular ‘job’ now, so this doesn’t happen anymore.)

The song “Summer Nights” from Grease.

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The sound of the ice cream truck music playing in my grandmother’s neighborhood.

Spike Lee’s movie, “Do the Right Thing”.

The handful of summer camps/programs that my Mom signed me up for…neither of which I ever liked.

Cedar Point trips.

Beautiful, cool(er) sunsets.

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Now how about food? I know that for me, I have “Summer Memories”, and then apart from that, I have “Summer Food Memories.”

Watermelon. Eating watermelon wedge after watermelon wedge until I start burping- that’s how I know when to stop.

Ice cream. One of the only things that I like about extreme summer heat is that it gives me an excuse to eat ice cream. It’s not like I ever NEED an excuse. I definitely eat ice cream in the dead of winter as well, but…still.

Popsicles. Not the watery kind in the plastic wrappers; REAL popsicles with chunks of fruit that are so thick and creamy, you can chew them.

Barbecue. Nothing replaces  the flavor that a charcoal grill can inject into a piece of meat. Nothing.

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Finally, there’s pasta salad.

Pasta salad has gotta be one of the most quintessential summer foods there is. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like pasta salad.

I don’t know if I even WANT to know anyone who doesn’t like pasta salad.

I’ve tried lots of different kinds of pasta salads in the past that experimented with different flavors, including this VERY delicious Supreme Pizza Pasta Salad. However, this recipe sticks to the ‘basics’ of pasta salad, resulting in a dish that is pretty much guaranteed to please everybody.

I’ve included all of the ingredients that I personally prefer in my pasta salad, but should you try this out, feel free to add or swap out stuff that you or your family prefers, like cheese, olives, or meat.

I think it’ll make for a pretty cool summer memory 😉

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Summer Pasta Salad


Recipe Adapted from Southern Living

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Ingredients

  • 8 oz. Penne pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1 green , yellow or orange bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped and undrained
  • 1 cup yellow canned corn, drained
  • 3 mini salad cucumbers, thinly sliced

Salad Dressing

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced

 

Directions

Combine all of the salad dressing ingredients together in a glass measuring cup with a whisk.. Taste and adjust for seasoning if need be.

In a large bowl, toss all of the salad ingredients together, then drizzle in your desired amount of the dressing.

Refrigerate pasta salad for at least an hour to allow flavors to meld, but preferably overnight. Serve chilled.

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.

Chicken Shawarma Fattoush Salad

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There a few foods for me that- if they were actual living and breathing men- I would almost definitely be having a torrid love affair with. That’s how much I love them.

First, there’s pancakes. Pancakes are the bad boy- the guy I KNOW is so bad for me. So, so SO very bad. (Like all the sugar and carbs in the pancakes that are so terrible for my thighs and derriere.) But he’s also the one that can make my entire day just by making an appearance. He’s the one I can’t turn down or resist. He’s so bad, that he starts to actually feel good. For me, if pancakes were a man, he’d be like Johnny Depp, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Tom Hardy all rolled into one. Seriously,  how am I supposed to resist that?

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Then there’s the iced sugar cookie. This is the ‘older guy’;very handsome and sweet, classic, traditional and dependable. Like a fine wine, no matter how old he is, I never get tired of him- he gets better with age. He’s great in just about every way, but still probably not the one I should be with just because he’s so much older than me ( just like I probably shouldn’t indulge in sugar cookies all the time). But I’m still drawn to him because, hey he’s awesome. The iced sugar cookie for me in “guy-form” would be somewhere in between George Clooney, Idris Elba and Jimmy Smitts- thus, explaining my ongoing obsession with it.

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Then, there’s chicken shawarma and fattoush salad. Good news: this is the ‘good guy’. The ‘nice’ guy. The one I don’t have to feel guilty for being hooked on, because he’s actually great for me in a lot of different ways. Stable, wholesome, considerate and just full of good stuff. I can give it all I have with him and take all I can get because I know it won’t hurt later. Chicken shawarma and fattoush are kinda like that too-I’m hooked on them, but I don’t ever have to feel guilty for craving/eating them because hey, there’s never any harm in eating white meat and veggies, right? Yeah, chicken shawarma and fattoush salad is like Ryan Gosling or Chris Hemsworth. (Sigh).

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And now that I’ve beaten that metaphor to death, I may as well get on with the actual point of this post.

Chobani yogurt is just awesome,isn’t it? Not just because of the taste, but also because of the  versatility of the yogurt as an ingredient- you CAN do more with it than just open the lid and dip into it with a spoon. Right now Chobani is holding a #MadeWithChobani Project that shows all the different ways that yogurt can be used in every day cooking. It unites food bloggers in a collective effort to use Chobani yogurt to create a healthy, but still delicious recipe. I definitely wanted to be apart of this project; I thought about doing something sweet- let’s face it, it’s easier to make a sweet dish with yogurt, especially since Chobani has so many delicious sweet flavors. However, I eventually decided against it, opting instead for a more savory application. This is what I finally came up with, and I have to say, I’m really happy with how it turned out.

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The best chicken shawarma and fattoush salad I’ve ever had comes from an awesome Middle Eastern restaurant in Ann Arbor. It’s just so, so, SO good. Because I don’t live near Ann Arbor, I don’t get to eat there very often, but I have to say that this recipe gives me a pretty good -tide-me-over. What makes this distinctive from the restaurant is that instead of keeping the dishes separate from each other, I combined them together in one healthy, delicious salad.

This dish just wouldn’t be what it turned out to be without the Greek yogurt (and I’m not just saying that). It makes the chicken SO moist and tender.  So don’t skimp and buy some cheap, non-name brand yogurt. It’s not gonna come out the same. You need a good, creamy, high-quality yogurt for the shawarma marinade.

For all of you that are on Twitter, feel free to check out the hashtag #MadewithChobani for some other awesome recipes! Also, if YOU have some ideas for creative, healthy recipes using Chobani, then go ahead and visit Chobani.com to find out how you can join the #MadeWithChobani Project as well 😉

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Chicken Shawarma Fattoush Salad


Recipe Courtesy of Jess@CookingisMySport

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Ingredients

Chicken:

  • 5 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 32 oz. Chobani Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup shawarma spice mix (like Ziyad)

Fattoush Salad:

  • 1 romaine heart, chopped
  • 1/4 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 half baby cucumber, sliced into halves
  • 3/4 cup diced shawarma chicken
  • Small handful of pomegranate seeds
  • 1/2 pita, toasted & broken into chips

Fattoush Dressing

  • 1/4 cup Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. sumac
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

 Directions

1. Combine the yogurt, lemon juice and shawarma mix in a large bowl. Place the chicken in a resealable Ziploc bag(s). Pour yogurt marinade over the chicken and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350°. Remove chicken from marinade, scraping off the excess. Discard marinade. Spray a large glass baking dish with cooking spray and place in chicken breasts. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until thickest part of breasts reach temp of 165°.

3. Allow chicken to rest for about 10 minutes out of the oven, reserving ALL of the juices it gives off while baking. Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over high heat with a few tbsp. of vegetable oil. Slice the chicken breasts against the grain into small strips or chunks and immediately toss in the reserved pan juices. Saute chicken in hot skillet, about 3-4 minutes in a single layer until the edges just begin to turn brown and crispy. (You may need to work in batches, don’t overcrowd the pan).

4. For Salad Dressing: Combine water and sumac in a small jar or bowl and allow to sit for about 5 minutes. Add remaining dressing ingredients, taste and adjust for seasoning if need be.

5. For Salad: Combine all ingredients and toss with desired amount of dressing. Serve.

Supreme Pizza Pasta Salad

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I know, I know. Another ‘pizza’ themed recipe. I’m sure it’s kinda getting to be overkill at this point, right?

Well just bear with me one more time. This’ll be the last ‘pizza-style’ recipe I share for a while (at least I THINK it will. I may change my mind about that), and it really was too good NOT to share with you all in the case that you hadn’t heard of it before.

Does pizza have a flavor? I don’t mean the individual ingredients themselves, I mean the actual dish of pizza in and of itself- does it have a specific taste and flavor all on it’s own?

I think so. I mean, I sure can pick out a particular smell at my job and immediately think, “Someone here ordered pizza.”

Then I stick out my bottom lip and kick an imaginary rock because somebody has pizza and they’re not sharing it with me.

I don’t care if it’s just one of the $5 Hot-N-Readys from Little Caesars. When you’re at work and you smell pizza, ANY kind of pizza smells and looks good. And when you don’t get any, you just get in a really rotten mood, then turn back to your crappy food that you brought from home and tell yourself that it tastes just as good. (It definitely doesn’t. Very few things taste as good as pizza.)

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I decided to make this dish purely out of curiosity. I thought it sounded like a good idea, but wasn’t exactly sure if pasta salad- that most famous dish of cookouts that’s usually just seasoned with a bottle of Italian dressing, could actually taste like the ‘flavors’ of a pizza. As it turned out, it really did because the first thing that came out of mouth when I took a bite of this was, “Heh. It tastes like pizza.” (i.i, delicious)

Although the title of this recipe is Supreme Pizza Pasta Salad, I think you should really just adapt it for yourself, and throw whatever you eat on your pizza, into this salad. Supreme Pizza is just what I like, so I used the toppings, plus some roasted red peppers that I roughly chopped up.

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Well, I kinda take that back. There are some rules that go with this when it comes to add-ins. You have to put pepperoni in this- even if you don’t like it on your pizza. And if you don’t like pepperoni on your pizza, then you’re dead to me.

Also, if by some horrible error of your tastebuds in fooling you into believing that you like things like anchovies or black olives on your pizza, then you shouldn’t add them in here either. They’re both disgusting. They’ll ruin the dish.

I’m taking this dish to this week’s Fiesta Friday #28, hosted by  Margot and Saucy.  Give it a shot,  it’s quick, easy, and tastes like pizza: what more do you want from me? 😉

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And now, because I’ve run out of things to say and am too lazy to try and think of anything else to discuss: some completely random facts I hunted down just for you guys.

  • It takes the “Where’s Waldo” artist one month to complete a drawing. (Yeah, I can definitely buy that. I have no idea how that guy can make so detailed drawings that, save for the one itty bitty space where Waldo is hiding, are wholly insignificant. Great talent.)
  • Oprah Winfrey earns $315,000,000/year = $26,000,000/month = $6,000,000/week = $850,000/day = $35,000/hr = $600/minute = $10/sec! (I don’t know whether to be really happy about this because Oprah represents such a Cinderella story, or really depressed because my yearly salary is what she makes in an hour and a half.)
  • Make a fist with your left hand, squeeze your left thumb and then put your right index finger down your throat. “NO GAG REFLEX” (OMG, guys, I actually tried it, and it worked! #MINDBLOWN)

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Supreme Pizza Pasta Salad

Recipe Adapted from Rachael Ray

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
    1/2 medium red onion, chopped
  • 8 fresh white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 stick pepperoni, casing removed and cut into a small dice
  • 1 (9.6 oz) bag of pre-cooked sausage crumbles
  • 20 leaves fresh basil, torn or thinly sliced
  • 1 pound rotini pasta, cooked to al dente and cooled under cold water, then drained

Dressing:

  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves or Italian dried seasoning
  • 1 rounded tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, eyeball it
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, eyeball it
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

 Directions

1. Combine tomatoes, onion, mushrooms, peppers, pepperoni, mozzarella, basil and pasta in a big bowl.

2. Whisk garlic salt, oregano or Italian seasoning, tomato paste and vinegar together. Stream in extra-virgin olive oil while continuing to whisk dressing.

3. When oil is incorporated, pour dressing over pasta salad, add a few grinds of black pepper to the bowl. Add the parmesan cheese, then toss salad to coat evenly. Adjust your seasonings and serve salad.

Southron Spinach and Plum Salad

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Game of Thrones Series Week 3

Happy Mother’s Day everyone! I hope you all get to spend some time with the mothers or mother figures in your lives and make them feel appreciated. They deserve it.

It’s time for another GoT recipe you guys! I hope you’ve been keeping up with the series, if not I’ll post the recipes that I’ve done so far at the end of this post so you can play catch up. Before we get to the food, I’ll say a few words about my favorite parts of last Sunday’s episode:

  • I know that they’re a crazy family, but I just love the scenes between the Lannisters, especially when Tywin is involved. He’s undoubtedly a bad person, but he’s got a strong dose of pragmatism and resolve to survive at all costs that definitely makes him one of the show’s strongest and charismatic characters. So the Lannister’s are out of dough, huh? Never thought that day would come. As I watched the scene between Tywin and Cersei, I thought it was a great conversation between a rich father facing bankruptcy and his privileged, spoiled daughter who’s always been given everything she wants. I loved Tywin explaining the “facts of life” to Cersei and making her aware that she has to ‘take one for the team’ so to speak in order for them to survive as a family.
  • I’m really curious whether or not Daenerys is really going to get the epic battle for the Iron Throne that she’s dreaming of when it seems like every episode just puts up another roadblock/reason for why it’s not her time to invade Westeros and “take what is hers by blood and fire” (God, she used to get on my nerves when was forever saying that in season 2). I know that because she has the dragons, we’re going to get some kind of fancy special effects-laden scene, but I’m not altogether convinced that GoT is going to end with her as the supreme ruler of everything and everyone.

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  • Then of course, there’s Sansa- poor, poor Sansa. Now, not only is she dealing with Little Finger ( who is not only responsible for Joffrey’s death, but pretty much…everything that has to do with the major fallout ofKing Jon Arryn’s Hand- which is also the entire reason that the plotline of GoT got started in the first place) she’s also stuck with her crazy aunt who still harbors  jealousy for her mother and all the things Catelyn had that she never could. And, she has to get married AGAIN to her younger cousin. Sheesh. Sansa just can’t catch a break to save her life. I have a feeling that Sansa is going to end up doing something very drastic and heroic to save herself when this is all said and done- she’s been through too much without having the opportunity to defend or protect herself from all these people who keep wanting to harm her. I hope to God that one of those drastic things is shooting an arrow through Littlefinger’s head.
  • I really liked the short, but powerful scene between Cersei and Oberon. I don’t feel pity for her generally, but I felt for her situation as woman trapped in a ‘man’s world’ while still struggling to maintain her dignity and self esteem- even if it means causing pain and abuse to those weaker than she. I’m still thinking about that line: “Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls.” It gives me chills because of just how true it really is
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  • Finally an episode with Bran scenes that I can get into! Their escape from Craster’s Keep was pure suspense and satisfaction-especially Bran using his powers through Hodor to get them out of there. Now I finally see the merit behind all those creepy times that his eyes roll back in his head and he sees those weird visions. (Random fact: rolling eyeballs give me pure goosebumps. I just don’t like looking at it.)
  • Too bad Bran and Jon didn’t get to see each other again. I feel like a Stark family reunion (what’s left of them anyway) would be full of so much feels and emotion after all they’ve been though. At least Jon got to see the direwolf again. And at least that horrible Karl jerk got his- from both Jon and one of the women he’d been victimizing. It was a solid call to burn that hell hole to ground. Burn it and bury it forever.

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Guys! I’ve made a discovery- turns out, there’s a Game of Thrones Cookbook. A real one. Actually more than one- there’s an official one: A Feast of Ice and Fire, then there’s an unofficial one : The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook. I was at an outlet store in my hometown a few weeks ago, and I came across the unofficial cookbook on a shelf priced for only $3.99 (that was marked down from an original price of $19.95). Now, you really can’t beat that, can you? So of course, I bought the cookbook (…along with a few others that were also too discounted to not buy. I collect cookbooks like some people collect stamps; there’s never too many. Don’t judge me.)

Question: what IS the actual difference between Official and Unofficial in this context anyway? I read the caption on the cover of the book that reads: “This book is unofficial and unauthorized/ It is not authorized, approved, licensed or endorsed by George R.R. Martin, his publishers, or HBO.”

So…does that mean that the other is authorized, approved, licensed or endorsed by George R.R. Martin, his publishers, or HBO? How does that even work? I don’t understand.

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Anyway, official or unofficial, this cookbook is pretty awesome, guys. The recipes are the perfect blend between medieval and still modern enough for the average cook to be able to easily recreate them. I’ve already made a few that I’m super pumped to review and share with you, the first of which being this delightful salad. I’ve never had a salad with plums in it before, but now that I have, I’m pretty much sold on making it a regular occurrence for when I eat salad from here on out. It adds such a special sweetness that is evenly balanced with the acidity of the lemon and orange flavors in the tangy dressing. Throw in some diced chicken or other type of protein, and you’ve got one winner of a meal here.

One of the things I love best about the cookbook is the little introductions that they author gives at the beginning of every recipe that serve to link them to their relevance to the book series. I thought that I could include it in my posting of the recipe here as well.

Thanks for tuning into this week’s  GoT post- stay tuned for next week’s recipe. I’ll give you a hint into two words: Baratheon. Pork.   😉

Game of Thrones Series

Week 1: Pigeon {Chicken} Pies

Week 2: Winterfell Brown Bread

Week 3: Southron Spinach & Plum Salad

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Southron Spinach & Plum Salad

Recipe Courtesy of The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook by Alan Kistler

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

“After a fine day or tourney, Sansa joins the royal court at the riverside for a feast. It’s a magical evening where simply joys and the beauty of the night seem all the more enhanced. This salad of spinach and plums is both healthy yet provides a sweetness to complement the flavor of the night for the young Sansa, who has no idea how far away such lovely times will seem in the months to come.” (A Game of Thrones, Chapter 29 -Sansa)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, torn
  • 4 plums, pitted and sliced into wedges
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 4 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 4 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped basil

Directions

1. Arrange the spinach and plum wedges on 4 plates.

2. Whisk vinegar, oil, juices, zests, salt, pepper, and basil in a bowl.

3. Drizzle approximately 1/3 of dressing over spinach and plums on plates. Remaining dressing may be refrigerated.

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Smoked Paprika Couscous Salad

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Can I be honest about something with you guys?

Sometimes I feel awkward when writing posts for Cooking is My Sport. I know that for the most part people just read food blogs to look at the pictures of food and peruse recipes to cook, but more often recently I find myself wanting to write about more than just my motivation for a recipe, or the process of how I cooked it or how it tasted. Maybe it’s just because in addition to cooking, I’m almost semi-obsessed with reading and (yes) even writing, but a lot of times I just want to write about more than the food.

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I like being subscribed to a lot of food blogs on WordPress for the food of course, but I also like reading blogs where I can also get to know the bloggers, as well as their food.I don’t know about some of you guys, but a lot of the food that I’ve shared with you so far is greatly influenced by my life and who I am personally. Sometimes I do choose recipes at random to cook and share just out of curiosity, but for the most part I just end up cooking food that:

1) I myself want to eat

2) Represents my Southern/African American heritage

3) Someone in my family asks me to make for them

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That’s where my inspiration lies for cooking in general, and I like sharing that with everyone who takes the time to read this blog. I feel like I’m getting way off topic here, but I guess the crux of what I’m trying to say is that in the future I want to try and play with the format of how I write posts on the blog. You guys will definitely still be getting pictures of food, but I may also want to talk about something totally random at the same time.  I hope that that’s okay. If it’s not, you can feel free to just skip past everything I say and just to get to the recipe itself. I won’t mind.

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And speaking of food…couscous. Before making this dish, I had absolutely no experience with making couscous before. All I knew was that it sounded cute/funny when I said it out loud. Couscous. Heh. I can almost see me naming a puppy Couscous, except maybe I’d spell it differently or something. Yeah, I’m just weird like that.

Giada De Laurentiis on the Food Network cooks A LOT with couscous. I saw the episode where she made this one and it looked so good that I thought I would give it a whirl myself.  I went and bought some Israeli couscous from my grocery store….and did nothing with it. For about 3 months. I was looking through my pantry one day and came across this $11.00 jar of couscous and (cheap-skate that I am) started getting really irritated that I still had done nothing with this stuff. So I went back onto Food Network.com and found the recipe that I had seen Giada make. I made some modifications of my own to the recipe (like eliminating the feta, I HATE feta) but still kept it pretty close to the original.

Couscous is not only ridiculously easy to cook, it’s also very tasty guys. You should give this one a shot, it’s every bit as yummy as it is pretty.

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Smoked Paprika Couscous Salad

Recipe Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/3 cups (8 ounces) Israeli couscous
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 12 ounces grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, or baby heirloom tomatoes of assorted colors, halved (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup jarred red bell peppers, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

1. For the dressing: Whisk the oil, vinegar, paprika, salt and pepper in a small bowl until smooth.

2. For the couscous: Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Cook the couscous, stirring frequently, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Add 2 cups water and the salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the couscous is just tender and the liquid is absorbed, 9 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

4. Mix together the spinach, tomatoes, peppers, parsley, and almonds in a large bowl. Add the couscous and the dressing. Toss until all the ingredients are coated. Transfer to a large serving bowl and serve.

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