Wilted Frisée with Coarse Grain Mustard Vinaigrette and Granny Smith Apples

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No meal is complete without something green so when putting together a 3 course wine dinner, I knew we needed a little something fresh that would be a perfect pairing with Chardonnay. While I was bouncing around ideas with our Sommelier, she threw out the idea of a wilted frisée salad.  Honestly, I was skeptical.  Frisée are the little bitter greens that I’ve always picked out of a mixed green salad simply because they’re always a little too tough or frankly, bitter (which they are by nature). I’ve never been a fan. Creating a salad comprised of all frisée scared me, but she convinced me when she suggested slightly wilting it to make it easier to eat and to help meld the flavors of a course grain mustard vinaigrette. I decided to take the chance and I’m so glad I did. I could not believe how much I LOVED this salad – I actually went back for seconds! The combination of light, slightly bitter greens, mustard vinaigrette and apples are the prefect compliment to our California Chardonnay. The chopped, granny smith apples bring out the hint of apple and pear in the wine while the mustard vinaigrette offers the perfect touch of acidity to compliment the bitterness of the greens. This is a delicious, light and crisp salad to enjoy before a hearty main course (coming tomorrow). YUM! Give it a try this weekend for your Valentine and I promise you’ll love it.  Just be sure to pair it with a little Chardonnay. The combo is pretty spectacular.  Scroll down to view the recipe!

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Yield: 2 salads

Ingredients

1 head frisée
1 tablespoon coarse grain mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup feta
1/2 medium granny smith apple (chopped)

Directions

1. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
2. Toss greens in pan until slightly wilted and just starting to brown.
3. To make your vinaigrette, whisk together mustard, red wine vinegar, black pepper, salt and remaining olive oil.
4. In a large bowl, toss greens, chopped apple, feta and drizzle with vinaigrette.  Serve with a crisp chardonnay.

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Salad Wars – Quinoa Salad

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Happy Tuesday!  I meant to post the second salad of Salad Wars last week, but things got crazy at work and there was just no darn time for blogging.  You know how that goes!

Now back to salads…

This salad probably takes the cake as one of the best everyday salad I’ve ever had.  Jake and I visited some friends last summer when they got engaged and moved into their first place together.  Lauren whipped this up for everyone and I was sold.  I had to have the recipe.  Thankfully she sent it over a few days later and I’ve been making it ever since and it’s such a hit every time.  What’s really great is that it’s so simple to make ahead of time too and these days I’m all about easy lunches.  Usually on Sunday or Monday night I’ll make a great big batch of quinoa (2 cups of quinoa in 4 cups of chicken stock) and then I have a ton of it for the week to throw into anything that needs a little extra something.  Pre-chop the veggies (peppers, onion and cucumber) and you’re good to go.  Simple lunches FOR. THE. WIN.  Huge thanks to Lauren for changing my salad life and turning me on to quinoa!

Prep: 30 minutes
Serves: 2 people (entree sized portion)

Ingredients

4 cups of fresh spinach
1 cucumber (peeled and chopped)
1 red bell pepper (seeded and chopped)
1 green bell pepper (seeded and chopped)
1/4 red onion (chopped)
1 avocado
1/2 cup feta
1 lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken stock
2 cloves garlic (minced)
salt & pepper to taste

Directions

1.  In a small pot, combine chicken stock with quinoa, garlic, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

2.  While cooking the quinoa, chop all of your veggies.

3.  Once quinoa has absorbed all of the chicken stock (about 20 minutes) remove from heat for 5 minutes and fluff with a fork.

4.  Combine spinach, veggies and feta and pour quinoa over top.  Juice lemon and add olive oil and balsamic.  Toss and serve.

5.  Two great wines to pair… this one and this one :-)

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Salad Wars – Easy Spinach Salad

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As much as I wish I could say that I’m a health nut, it just isn’t the truth.  I blame part of it on growing up with a should-have-been-a-chef father who was always whipping up something absolutely incredible that generally included rich flavors: garlic, spices, great meats, savory cheeses, etc.  Now that I work in the wine industry, my foodie levels have only been heightened by pushing myself to think about pairings and learning more about what foods bring out certain characteristics in wines and vice versa.  However, when I started running a LOT earlier this year (more than ever before in my life), I started to learn a few things about my body.  Mainly that I absolutely could not continue eating anything and everything I ever wanted.

The issue for me is that it’s really hard to find healthy food that is flavored well and that I really, truly crave.  I need salads that are way more interesting than the pre-made quinoa and kale station at Whole Foods during lunch to keep me going or else I wind up at the ridiculous taco joint down the street for the best fish tacos on the planet, or god forbid, CHIPOTLE, which is also conveniently within walking distance to the office.  Additionally, I took a hard look at my bank account a few weeks ago and it’s just sad how much money goes to eating lunch out almost every day of the week.  It’s no secret that packing a lunch saves you money, but it was a truth I chose to ignore for quite a while.

Enter Salad Wars which is mainly a great big experiment and challenge to find the best, most convenient and healthy salads out there.  In my quest, I have found a few and to my disbelief, I’m actually excited for them by lunch or dinner – a feat I never thought possible ;-)  Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a few of those recipes and hope to inspire you to join me on the quest for good health.

#1 is my go-to Spinach Salad… check out the recipe below!

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Prep: 5 minutes
Yield: 1 serving

Ingredients

2-3 handfuls of fresh spinach
1 handful of cherry or grape tomatoes sliced in half
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 avocado
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt (to taste)
a dusting of freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions

If you’re taking this for lunch and would like to prep it the night before, I usually mix the spinach, pine nuts, parmesan and a little salt in a travel container.  I slice the avocado and tomatoes just before eating to keep things fresh :-)

This salad could not be simpler, which I love.  No dressing at all (including EVO) is always better than dressing, but cutting out pre-mixed, store bought dressing also cuts out major calories so I feel ok with a little drizzle of olive oil.  With a tiny bit of salt and just a slight dusting of cheese, I’ve found that I don’t miss the pre-mixed dressing at all and I feel fulfilled and re-energized when I’m done eating instead of slipping into total food-coma… We’ve all been there after lunch.  You know what I’m talking about.

*If you’re having this for dinner or if you’re allowed to have a taste of wine at work, this wine or this one are great options and pair deliciously with all of the flavors above :-)  Cheers!

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Pear Salad

Following a weekend traditionally made up of non-stop eating, I figured we could all use a salad ;-) Exhibit A:

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Believe it or not, until a few months ago I “hated” pears. I’d tried them as a little girl, decided they were “gross” and then never tried them again for probably 15+ years.  I can not believe what I’ve been missing!!!  When searching around for cocktail ideas for work, I kept coming across pear recipes and decided to overcome my ridiculous fear of pears and surprise, surprise… I completely fell in love with them!  You guys, I’m SO happy about this… I think they might be my new favorite fruit and I crave them constantly.  When I had a few left over from shooting this, I decided to put them to work in a new salad and figured it would be a nice change of pace from my go-to greens.  I found this recipe for a Honey Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette (yes, it’s even better than it sounds) and knew that the flavors would pair insanely well with pear.

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Prep time: 10 minutes
Serves: 2

Ingredients

5 oz. Mixed Greens (I used spring mix + arugula)
3 oz. Goat Cheese
1 Pear
1/2 cup Glazed Walnut Pieces (I used Fresh Gourmet brand – available in the salad or crouton aisle)

Ingredients for Dressing

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic (minced)
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
3/4 cup olive oil
Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

Directions

1.  Combine all ingredients for dressing until thoroughly mixed. I like to put everything in a mason jar and shake it up to get an even consistency. This also makes it easy to save leftovers :-)

2.  Combine spring mix, walnuts and goat cheese. Drizzle with dressing and mix. Top with sliced pear and serve with a crisp chardonnay. This and this are both great options for Chard :-)

Cheers!

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