Calling to Chit Chat & Allergy-Friendly Potato Salad with Arugula

Just after graduating college, I had the privilege to move to New York City for a job with a brand new health and fitness startup. It was my dream job and my dream city. But it wasn’t as glamorous as it sounds: I took the train from Boston to NYC with two giant suitcases and moved into an illegal AirBnB apartment near Union Square with my new boss and another dude who was working with us (neither of whom I had ever met). The three of us worked out of that apartment with about five other 20-somethings for a whole summer before moving on to a “real” office (and separate living quarters). We spent all of our time together. Most days, we ate ate all of our meals together, worked out together, explored the city together. At one point, my parents were actually worried I was part of a cult rather than just working really hard.

It was one of the most transformative periods of my life. I became a more confident person, a more independent woman, and way more sure of myself. But probably the best thing about that time was the women I worked with and the friendships we were able to build. They’re not the people I talk to every week or even every month, but I know that even if a year goes by I could reach out to them to check in without it being awkward.

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Kelli (second from right) and me with our coworkers, Fall 2011

One of those awesome women is Kelli. Kelli is from Wisconsin and was brand new to NYC when we met, just like I was. When she walked into our apartment-slash-office on her first day, I knew pretty quickly we would be friends. She is kind, genuine, sarcastic, and has one of my top-five favorite laughs ever.

A lot has changed since those days, but one thing that definitely hasn’t is how much we both think about food. (And wine. Duh.) In fact, Kelli just started a new blog called Calling to Chit Chat with the whole purpose of getting to talk to people about food. So, naturally, when she asked me to chat for her most recent post about life with food allergies/restrictions, I was more than happy to oblige.

And that brings us to potato salad. Kelli asked me to share some easy ideas for feeding an allergen-conscious crowd, and I immediately thought of this potato salad. I’ve made countless versions of this salad to bring as a side dish to barbecues and dinner parties, and it’s a hit every time. Plus, the recipe is easy, you can make it ahead of time, and the leftovers will keep for a few days.

Allergen-Friendly Warm Potato Salad with Arugula

Warm Potato Salad with Arugula

What you’ll need:

1 lb baby yellow potatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
1/2 container baby arugula
2-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon dijoin mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 teaspoon dry herbs of choice (or 2 tablespoons fresh herbs) — tarragon, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, oregano would all work!
Kosher or sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper (2-4 turns of a pepper grinder)

What to do:

  1. Start by boiling the potatoes in super salty water. Cook until you can insert a knife into the center of the largest potato and remove it without resistance.
  2. While the potatoes cook, make the dressing. Combine the olive oil, mustard, vinegar or lemon juice, herbs, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Whisk until combined.
  3. When the potatoes are done cooking, drain them in a colander and immediately dump the hot potatoes into the large bowl with the dressing. Use a large spoon to toss the potatoes in the dressing until they are evenly coated.
  4. Taste a potato and adjust seasoning with salt/pepper to your liking.
  5. If you’re serving it immediately, add the arugula, toss to combine, and serve.

    Note: To make ahead, stop at step 4 and store potatoes in a covered dish. Just before serving, add arugula and toss to coat. You may also want to add a bit more dressing, which you can make easily with a quick swirl of olive oil and a sprinkle of vinegar or lemon juice.

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Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

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These. These were special.

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On Thursday morning, I was loading the recipe for these muffins into Greatist’s content system, and they sounded so good I had to stop what I was doing and make them immediately. (I guess that’s what I get for trying to work before feeding myself.)

The recipe comes from my friend Kelli at The Corner Kitchen. She uses Meyer lemon, lemon greek yogurt, chia seeds, and olive oil to make a healthier version of classic lemon poppyseed muffins.

Lemon Chia Muffin_side

I was missing a few of the ingredients Kelli used, so I improvised a bit: regular lemon instead of Meyer, and plain Greek yogurt instead of lemon-flavored. I also used gluten-free flour instead of all-purpose. And I didn’t fill the muffin cups enough. Oops! (They still taste great.)

I can see how the Meyer lemon would have enhanced the flavor quite a bit, but they were just fine with regular lemon, too. I do recommend doubling the amount of lemon zest if you skip out on the lemon-flavored Greek yogurt. The sweetness level of these was perfect for me with the plain Greek yogurt, but they could have used a bit more lemon flavor.

Head over to The Corner Kitchen for the recipe

A (Few) Week(s) in Greek

On my Instagram account, I usually end up sharing the random breakfasts and lunch I throw together while simultaneously trying to do a million other things. Oftentimes it seems that yogurt — and more often than not higher-protein Greek yogurt — tends to be at the center of or at least plays some part in those meals. Here are a few of my favorites from the last few months, rounded up with (semi) recipes to help you make them yourself at home.

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt (for Breakfast OR Dessert)

2 parts Greek yogurt (I used 2% plain Chobani) + 1 part fresh berries + 1 proportionate drizzle of sweetener, like agave

Combine, blend (in a food processor or with a stick blender), freeze, stir every hour until mostly frozen. Scoop.

Greek Yogurt with Berries and Graham Cracker

1 serving Greek yogurt (I used 2% plain Chobani) + 1 cup berries of choice + 2 graham crackers, crumbled (I used Shar gluten-free honeygrams)

Scoop. Top. Crumble.

Coconut Greek Yogurt with Berries and Granola

1 6oz container coconut Greek yogurt (I used 2% coconut Chobani) + 1/2 cup blueberries + 1/4 cup raspberries + 1/4 cup granola (I used vanilla Udi’s granola)

Key Lime Pie for Cheaters

1/2 6oz container key lime Greek yogurt + 2 graham crackers, crumbled (I used Sharr gluten-free graham crackers)

Just crumble the crackers over the yogurt.

Creamy Pesto Dipping Sauce

2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt + 1 tablespoon pesto (homemade or store bought)

Mix until smooth. Dip whatever you want — I went with a veggie “quesadilla.”

Creamy Smoothie Bowl

1 thick fruit-only smoothie of your choice + 1 scoop plain Greek yogurt + chia seeds, honey/agave, cinnamon, any other toppings you want

Blend, swirl, sprinkle. Eat from a bowl.

Key Lime-Banana-Blueberry Waffle

1 frozen waffle, toasted + 1/2 cup blueberries + 1/2 banana, sliced + 1/2 6oz container key lime Greek yogurt (I used 2% Chobani)

Berry-Coconut Breakfast Waffle

1 frozen waffle, toasted + 1 scoop yogurt (Greek or regular work, any flavor or brand) + 1 cup blueberries + 1/2 banana, sliced + 2 tablespoons toasted coconut

Toast, top, sprinkle.

Oat-Yogurt Mess Bowl

1 cup yogurt + 1/4 cup raw plain quick oats + 1 banana, sliced + cinnamon + peanut butter + agave/honey (optional)

Mix it all together, or make it pretty like this! (Yogurt on the bottom, oats in the middle, banana around the sides, cinnamon and PB all over.)

Dilly Veggie Dip
1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt + 1 teaspoon lemon juice + 1/2 teaspoon dried dill

Mix, eat with veggies.

Tex-Mex Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers are one of my favorite things to make, but one of my least favorite to eat. I’ll tell you why: No matter how you cut the peppers, or what vessel you eat them out of, they’re so impossible to eat. You can’t really cut into them with a fork without spilling the contents everywhere, so you need a knife. But, even when you have a knife, they slip-slide all over the plate. And I can never seem to get the perfect pepper-to-filling ratio for every bite.

But still, for who knows what reason, I love to make them. There’s something about stuffed items that’s just inherently comforting. And filling. And a great way to get in an extra serving of veggies.

I opted for a low-carb filling with this recipe, skipping out rice and using only protein-rich ground turkey and black beans instead. One pepper would make a great dinner for one person if served alongside a green salad.

Recipe: Tex-Mex Stuffed Peppers

Tex-Mex Stuffed PeppersServes 4

What You’ll Need:

1 pound ground turkey
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 a 15oz. can black beans
1/2 large onion
4 bell peppers (any color — I like orange and yellow)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper
olive oil
mexican cheese blend

What to Do: 

Prep peppers: Slice of the tops of the peppers. No need to cut too much off the top — just enough to take off the stem! Cut the good pepper part away from the seeds n’ stem stuff, chop, and set aside with the chopped onions.

Heat oil in a large, tall sided pan. Add turkey to pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook until no longer pink. Add the onions and peppers, and continue cooking. Add in paprika, cumin, cayenne, oregano, and a bit more salt and pepper.

After the onion and peppers are cooked, add the corn and black beans.Cook until heated through, and set aside to cool. (Optional: Stir in a handful of shredded cheese of your choice.)

Preheat oven to 350.

Place the peppers opening-up  in a square baking dish — they should be pretty snug in there, but not crowing each other. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Fill the peppers with the turkey and vegetable mixture, making sure they’re packed full!

Bake until heated through and pepper is tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with cheese, and return to oven until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

Chicken and Rice Comforting Casserole

When I was a kid, my mom could not cook. Bless her heart, she tried, but what ended up in front of my brother and me every night for dinner was usually boiled chicken, macaroni and cheese with hot dogs, or frozen pizza (Elios, it was, I think). But there was one little gem she would throw together once a week or so that I still to this day consider a healthy option (which Kraft does not exactly qualify as…). I believe the story goes that right after she had my brother, a friend brought us this chicken and rice casserole for dinner, and I loved it so much, she asked for the recipe. I’m sure she was beyond relieved when the recipe seemed rather simple: rice pilaf, chopped up chicken, carrot, celery, and cream of mushroom soup. Stirred together, baked in a dutch oven… and boom. Done. That’s it

Chicken and RiceI have vivid memories of eating this casserole at our kitchen table, and specifically, the dish she used to bake it in (which, sadly, was tragically cracked in half at some point in the last 21 years). It was an old, white bowl with a matching lid, both covered with light blue, traditional designs. Not the style of anything else she ever used or liked, but it was so homey looking — I loved it, and it reminded me of this meal.

So, when the weather recently went from 80 degrees on Wednesday to 40 on Thursday, and I was chilled to the bone, I decided this comforting casserole needed to make a cameo in my new home. With some stealthy hunting down of gluten-free cream of mushroom soup, I was off. Here’s the recipe — I hope you can form some memories around it, too!

Chicken and Rice Casserole

1 cup dry rice
2 cups water

1-2 large, or 3-4 small chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
3-4 stalks celery, sliced
3-6 carrots (3 large or 6 small), sliced
1 can cream of mushroom soup*
salt and pepper
shredded cheese

*Note: you can use condensed, or regular. You can also use cream of celery. Pacific makes an organic, gluten-free condensed mushroom soup that I used this time around, and it came out great — just remember to cut it with equal parts of water (or milk)!

First, cook the rice. Follow package instructions, but generally, it’s about 1 cup dry rice to 2 cups water, cooked over low heat, covered for about 20 minutes. Once cooked, set aside.

Preheat oven to 350.

Slice chicken into bite-sized chunks, and add to an oven-proof dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper.

Slice carrots and celery, and add to the pot with the chicken.

Next, add in the cooked rice, and stir. Season with salt and pepper again.

Add soup. Stir until evenly combined.

Stir in a handful of shredded cheese.

Cover the dish, and place in oven. Let cook for about an hour, or until the chicken is cooked through and the mixture is bubbly. Stir halfway through.

Let cool a bit (it get’s really hot!!), and serve in bowls. Top with more shredded cheese, if you like, and some freshly ground pepper.

Enjoy!

Chipotle Chicken Chili

Aaand we’re back!

This was the first meal I cooked in our new apartment. That was an important and meaningful meal to me. It was a nice, sunny, March afternoon, and I cooked to my heart’s content while the boy was at his first day of work. I wanted to make something comforting and filling. I wanted it to make us feel how I hoped our home woud make us feel (after all the unpacking and cleaning was done!). So, I whipped this up. It comes together quickly, and it makes enough to last for lunch throughout the week!

Chipotle Chicken Chili with AvocadoNow I’ll be honest with you. I don’t measure spices. Like, ever. Even if I’m baking, really. (I know, so sue me.) So, for the purposes of this recipe, I kinda just guessed, But, depending on what you or your family or friends like, you can adjust the seasonings as you like. I like a lot of paprika, but not too much cumin or cayenne. But, everyone’s different! Play around with it!

Chipotle Chicken Chili

Chipotle Chicken Chili

What You’l Need:

1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
3 chiles in adobo, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin
1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic powder
3 teaspoons paprika
1 onion, chopped
2 15oz. cans red beans, drained and rinsed
1 large can whole plum tomatoes in juice
Greek yogurt, shredded cheese, pickled jalapeños, avocado, lime wedges (optional/for garnish)

What to Do:

Start by browning the meat. In a large-ish (about 4 quarts) stock pot or dutch oven, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Break up the meat into smalled, chopped up pieces as it cooks. Season with salt and pepper.

After it’s cooked for about 5 minutes, add the onions, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, chiles in adobo, and cayenne pepper. Mix together and continue cooking until the meat is completely browned and the onions are translucent, between 5 and 15 minutes

Once the meat is cooked, add the red beans and tomatoes. Now here’s the tomato trick: If you’re using the whole plum tomatoes in juice, when you add them to the pot, squish them between your fingers to break them up into soupy pieces.

Season with a bit more salt and pepper (and any other extra spices you want to add), cover, and simmer for at least 20 minutes, and up to an hour or two. The great thing about this easy chili is that it can be done in 30 minutes flat, or, you can let it hang out for longer to develop a stronger flavor. (Regardless, though, it’s always better the next day).

Once it’s simmered to your liking, serve in big bowls and top with your choice of flavorings. Enjoy!

Veggie-Filled Mac n’ Cheese

Veggie Mac and CheeseApparently, I’m a bad blog-runner. Life gets just a little crazy, and I go three weeks without posting. Woops. But now I’m back in a normal groove, at least for a little while.

It’s been an interesting month. A month filled with comfort food to help distract me from certain stressors that’ve been on my mind constantly. In the last 30-ish days, I decided to move out of New York and in with a boy (ew, gross). I feared not being able to keep my job due to this move (but, thank goodness, I am!). I apartment-hunted via Skype with said boy. We chose an apartment.  I took a weekend trip to help him move in. We picked out (and fought about) furniture. And I set a moving date for myself (April 26th!) and started packing my apartment. That’s a lot of decisions in very little time for someone who hates being decisive. It’s been unbelievably stressful, but also overwhelmingly exciting. And I couldn’t have made any of these decisions without my  (very patient) friends and parents. Oh, and maybe that boy. 

While this recipe (and photos) is actually over a year old, it’s basically the same thing I’ve been throwing together regularly over the last month: A healthier take on classic comfort food. Sometimes that’s been stovetop mac n’ cheese with veggies (yes, I used Velveeta — deal with it), sometimes it’s been chicken-quinoa meatballs with homemade tomato sauce, and sometimes classic rice and beans. Those are all great things to throw together in 30-minutes after work, but this one… this one’s more special. Perfect to make on a Sunday afternoon. The cheese sauce is made from scratch (but is simplified, and super easy), your choice of fresh vegetables take center stage, and you can use whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta for added fiber (super important).

Veggie Mac n’ Cheese

What You’ll Need:

1 cup broccoli
1 1/2 cups spinach
1 cup tomatoes
1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
1 cup chicken stock (homemade is best!)
1 pound small pasta (I used gluten-free shells, but you could use any gluten-free whole-grain, or whole-wheat short pasta)
1 1/2 cups extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

What to Do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a medium baking dish with olive oil.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add a healthy pinch of salt. Add noodles, and cook until al dente (according to package instructions), about 8–10 minutes. Drain, and set aside.

In a medium frying pan, prep your veggies. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add broccoli and spinach to pan. Sautée until broccoli begins to tenderize. Add tomatoes and peas and continue cooking until heated through. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, warm milk and chicken stock over medium-high eat. Once simmering, reduce heat to medium. Add one handful of cheddar  at a time, stirring to melt in between additions. Once all cheddar is added, add ricotta and Parmesan and stir until melted. Remove from heat.

Add veggies and pasta to the cheese sauce, and stir until everything is evenly combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. remove foil, and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, or until top is lightly browned and edges are bubbling.