Overnight Kale Salad with Pomegranate

Yes this is an iPhone shot and you’re lucky to get that these days.

A post! A post! Yeah, I can hardly believe it either, haha. Want to know how I managed it? A paragraph at a time, that’s how. In between model fittings I added to this post bit by bit until it was decent enough to be worthy of the public eye. Or the internet public eye that is. There is a bit of a difference. ;)

This salad was a wonderful breath of fresh air to me as I had been searching for ways to get more kale into my diet. I really liked kale, but had struggled with preparing it myself in the past. Sauteing the deep green leaves on the stovetop was an easy way to start. As the queen of leftovers, though, I found sauteed kale to not be very palatable after the second day. Kale chips weren’t bad, but were difficult to pack without crushing and took time to make in my mini-oven as each batch had to be quite small. The few salads I tried with these tough, ribbed greens were nearly inedible – I am not polygastric, thank you very much.

However, I knew I was on to something when I read about this Overnight Kale Salad. The zesty marinade sounded delicious. The toss-and-leave strategy was perfect for busy/lazy bums like me. And the recipe called for cheese and pomegranate: two of my favorite things. My only concern was that the acid wouldn’t wilt the tough kale leaves enough to be edible or perhaps be too effective and turn my kale into a soggy mess. I needn’t have worried, the end result is a totally delicious, fully edible salad that has been tested by yours truly again and again.

Overnight Kale Salad with Pomegranate (adapted slightly from Women’s Health)

Ingredients:

3   T   white wine vinegar

2   cloves garlic, finely minced (~1 rounded T)

1   T   honey

1   T   EVOO

1   t   salt

pinch of black pepper

little squirt of fresh lemon juice

1   bunch of dinosaur or curly kale, ribs removed, torn into bite-sized pieces

1   C   pomegranate seeds

1   C   grated, fresh parmesan cheese *

* Note: I go a little crazy with the pomegranate and cheese because they are just so good and I love lots of texture in my foods (crunchy seeds, soft cheese, firm kale). Feel free to scale back a bit here if you wish. I won’t judge.

Procedure:

1. Whisk together vinegar, garlic, honey, EVOO, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

2. In a large bowl, toss kale with dressing until coated evenly. STOP: don’t panic! The dressing will seem ridiculously light, I know, but the kale will wilt to nearly half its size in the acid bath. Try these proportions after fully resting first before doubling your dressing or you may regret it.

3. Cover bowl air-tight with plastic wrap and let marinate overnight in the fridge. In the morning, give the salad a good toss before serving – it should have about half the volume as before. Will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge (gotta love vinegar).

Beezer’s Notes:

This has become one of my favorite salads of all time and is perfect for winter when you’re struggling to be healthy while still satisfying that cold-induced hunger. Now I know I’m technically posting this in the Spring, but since we’re still getting snow here I think I’m justified. Another bonus? This lovely dish tastes even better as leftovers! The longer it sits the more the flavors develop and meld, so it is perfect for those of us who want very flavorful meals in very little time.

Overall Enjoyment:  ♥        

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I’ve done it! After a full summer of fighting sore knees, asthmatic wheezing, and general laziness I can finally call myself a jogger. Not a runner, no – heavens no – but a jogger…yes! Of course, many of you are probably wondering why I would even bother at all and I admit I wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been for two things. First, with my new grad student lifestyle (read: timetable and budget) I realized I would actually have to make an effort at being healthy; weekly climbing and kayaking trips were just not in the cards anymore. Second, my doctor had never shown as much shock as she did the day I admitted I couldn’t jog past 3 minutes out of doors. Five spirometer tests later (I had failed the first three and insisted on trying twice more – to no avail) and my lung capacity was determined to be significantly below average and back at the level I had been at as a chunky 12 year old. Embarrassing.

My initial attempts at running here in Halifax were just like all my previous ones back home: miserable. I couldn’t go for more than a few minutes at a time and felt like death every time I did so. I felt like such a fraud, trying to do something I have never been good at in the least. It also stung my pride that here I was, the same gal who could kayak all day and hold side-planks like a champ, gasping for breath when jogging a lowly 4 mph. Luckily for me and my lungs, my stubbornness is one of my strongest features and this time it really came in handy.

By our apartment there is a beautiful, large park right on the bay. All summer I’ve managed to get my butt out the door and into the park several times a week. I was still jogging painfully slow, but after the first six weeks or so it actually started feeling pretty good afterwards. The pattern would usually be a 5 minute warm-up walk followed by alternating 3 minutes jogging, 5 minutes walking, for one circumference of the park (~ 2.8 miles). The first few minutes of every jog continued to be torturous as my body fought me down to the very. last. synapse. …but if I were able to hold out my muscles would slooowly start to comply. By the end of July I seemed to have actually won my body over and the entire routine was comfortably challenging.

The real breakthrough came just a few weeks ago. I had been looking up running tips and learned that beginners should just focus on the goal of jogging for 15 minutes at any pace, before they worry about things like rate or distance. “Bummer,” I thought, “there’s no way that’s going to happen.” At this point, I had improved to 6 minutes of jogging, but that was the top of my game. However, I also read that one should warm up for at least 10 whole minutes – that’s quite long when you actually time it. So, the next day, I walked for 10 minutes before jogging and then told myself I wouldn’t stop jogging until my legs literally gave out on me. I would keep my slowest pace – pride be damned! – but I would just keep going. Perhaps not the healthiest experiment, haha, but I really wanted to push myself and see what I could do.

Well I didn’t make it the entire route, but I did make it 2/3 of the way – a whopping 11 minutes of straight (slow) jogging! Unbelievable. I had to take my puffer as a went and I certainly was a striking shade of pink walking home, haha, but I had nearly doubled my past time. It was challenging enough that I almost chickened out on trying it the next week. Since I hadn’t experienced any injury or actual pain from the first attempt, though, I told myself I had to do it again, that I could do it again. And I did. And I’ve kept doing it. The other shoe finally dropped just a few days ago when I went out and clocked a 10-minute-mile during that same route. Let me say that again: a TEN MINUTE MILE. Better get your mitts out, hell just froze over. And I am ecstatic. :D

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps (America’s Test Kitchen Light & Healthy 2010)

Ingredients:

1½   C   water

1   C   short-grain rice (such as sushi rice), rinsed

3   T   fish sauce

zest and juice of 1 lime (~ 3 T juice, 2 t zest)

1½   T   brown sugar

1   t   cornstarch

1   lb.  ground chicken

2   t   canola oil

1   Thai or jalapeño chili; stemmed, seeded, and minced*

¼   C   chopped fresh basil**

3   scallions, thinly sliced

12   Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves (~ 1 head)

* Note: For more heat, include some or all of the seeds

** Note: Since I needed to trim my mint plant anyway (my first potted herb since moving across the border! Excuse me while I do a little dance…), I used mint leaves and loved the flavor they added to the dish. If you want more authentic flavors, stick to basil, but I highly recommend you try a little mint at some point. You’ll be surprised.

Procedure:

1) Start the water and rice cooking in your rice cooker  – or bring both to boil in a medium saucepan over High heat before covering, reducing heat to Low, and cooking for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and let rice sit, covered, for 15 minutes before fluffing with a fork.

2) As the rice cooks, whisk fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, and cornstarch together in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, mash the ground chicken with the back of a spoon or a potato masher until no stringy pieces remain.

3) Heat the oil in a 12″ non-stick skillet over Medium heat until shimmering. Add the chicken, chili, and lime zest and cook until meat is no longer pink – breaking up the meat constantly as it cooks – about 5 minutes. Whisk the fish sauce mixture briefly to recombine and add it to the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens – about 45 seconds. Remove skillet from heat and stir in basil and scallions. Transfer chicken to a serving bowl and serve immediately with rice and lettuce leaves.

4) To assemble wraps: put a spoonful of rice into the center of each lettuce leaf and top with a spoonful a chicken. Fold the edges of the leaf up to form a taco-shape and eat with your hands. The trick is not to stuff them – easy does it!

Alternative serving suggestion of you really want to load up your wraps or are concerned with spills.

Beezer’s Notes:

I’m very happy I decided to try this easy and light recipe. I’m always a sucker for Asian dishes and this one gives you full-scale flavor without investing hardly any time or ingredients. I ended up making this twice in a single week – with NO leftovers surviving! A big thank you to Shane who supplied me with lovely home-grown veggies, including the scallions that I couldn’t find in either grocery store (Halifax grocers are just odd); the next handful are going on my potatoes haha. Quick note: although I think they’re just perfect, Brad thought the wraps were a little dry. You may want to keep a little soy sauce or other Asian-themed sauce handy to top these off, if you so desire.

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

Honey Citrus Steamed Salmon

You might find this hard to believe, but I have never liked salmon. It’s strange because salmon is supposed to be the fish that pleases all pallets. Yet as I grew up and began to enjoy more and more kinds of seafood salmon has always remained at the bottom of my list – right next to sea urchin and raw oysters. Living in Japan gave my taste buds a whole new appreciation for fish of all kinds, both raw and cooked, and some of my favorite foods today include sashimi and cooked sea bream. Salmon however…is just…too fishy.

I had a revelation, though, shortly before I moved to Nova Scotia last year. My dad (a loyal salmon eater) prepared a few fish steaks in the oven one night using a new cedar plank he had received as a gift. Deciding I didn’t have anything to lose by giving them a shot, I served myself a small 3″-square helping…and ended up eating two more full-sized steaks. They were amazing! I wish I could share that recipe with you now, but I lack both the cedar plank and my father. Believe me, I’m working on it. In the mean time, I challenged myself to come up with a different salmon recipe that I could enjoy. Something ridiculously easy that I could whip up on a busy weeknight and with the possibility of leftovers.

Believe it or not, I have found my recipe. This dish is super easy to prepare (especially if you buy your fish already skinned), very customizable, and is easily scaled up or down. The lighter flavors are great for summer, but the meal is satisfying and stays with you throughout the day. Oh, and you’ve got a big omega-3 boost plus a load of vegetables. That doesn’t hurt either. ;)

Honey Citrus Salmon (glaze recipe sourced from here)

Ingredients:

4   ~6 oz. salmon steaks, skin removed

4   small zucchini, sliced into ¼” thick medallions

4   T   honey

3   T   fresh lime juice

2   T   fresh orange juice

1   T   fresh herbs of your choice*

1   T   EVOO

salt and pepper to taste

lemon wedges for garnish, if desired

* Note: I was feeling adventurous and used summer savory this time. I know it’s supposed to be used in red meat or rich poultry dishes, but it just smelled so good at the market I had to get some! Apparently, savory is frequently used in Atlantic Canada like sage is used elsewhere. Taking into account my past obsession with sage, I shouldn’t be surprised savory smells so amazing to me, haha.

Procedure:

1) Preheat oven at 400°F. In a small bowl, whisk together honey and juices to make a light glaze (I included a few pieces of orange pulp in mine, just to give it a few extra bursts of flavor), set aside. In a medium bowl toss zucchini medallions, EVOO, herbs, and seasoning until evenly coated.

2) Distribute prepared zucchini evenly among four large sheets of aluminum foil, mounding them no higher than 2 slices thick in the centers of each. Place salmon steaks on top of zucchini and then drizzle honey citrus glaze over the salmon. Add a pinch more of seasoning to the tops of salmon to finish.

3) Starting with the shorter edges first, gently but firmly roll up the foil around the salmon forming little packets. Be sure to leave plenty of room on top for the steam to collect. The packets a bit like calzones standing up on their edges. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until salmon easily flakes. Be careful when unwrapping the packets to check – the steam will be HOT! Serve immediately. Leftovers will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Beezer’s Notes:

I really do like this salmon; it does exactly what I want it to and tastes great to boot. The best surprise with this recipe, though, was Brad’s reaction: he has dubbed this my “best dinner ever”! I am stunned. I know he likes salmon in general, and this is a pretty tasty dish, but I didn’t think it was that good, haha. I’m going to compromise and give it 4 hearts. It’s not my favorite, but it’s now his so I must have done something right. ;)

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

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