Mixed Berry Fruit Leather

img_3536Phew! Anyone else exhausted (and still full) from Thanksgiving? *Raises hand* What a fun-filled, food-coma holiday, though! But if you’re like me, you’ve probably been chowing down on those healthy, crunchy greens and fruit since Sunday. That doesn’t mean we have to give up on our daily sweet treat, however. In an attempt to clear up some kitchen space (before holiday cookie season kicks into high gear) and satisfy her sweet tooth, my wife came up with this delicious recipe for to use up the extra fruit we had lying around. This updated, healthy version for fruit leather takes that childhood classic and combines frozen berries, a little honey, and fresh mint. Super easy, super healthy, and super portable!

Mixed Berry Fruit Leather

Yields 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups frozen berry mix (we used blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 5-6 sprigs mint (about 1/3 cup)
  • juice and zest from 1 lime

Defrost the berries in the refrigerator overnight. Blend all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth. Spread mixture evenly on a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place cookie sheet in a 170°F preheated oven for 7 hours, rotating tray after about 4 hours. The leather is ready to take out of the oven when the texture is firm to the touch, and not sticky. Cool completely. Cut leather in half, roll up, and cut strips. Tie the rolls with kitchen twine. Leather can be stored in an airtight container for about 1 week.

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Seared Tuna Niçoise Salad

img_4433I may be a professional chef and therefore have endless ingredients at my fingertips, but there are some days I just don’t have the time to put into a carefully crafted lunch. Shortage of prep time doesn’t mean I want to skimp on flavor, however. And one of my favorite lunches that satisfies my lunchtime cravings is the simple provençal dish: salade niçoise. My version of the classic salad uses freshly seared tuna, crunchy veggies, and a bright tarragon vinaigrette – all I need to keep my workday going strong.

Seared Tuna Niçoise Salad

Yields 4 portions

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb tuna, grade #1 also known as sashimi grade (Since this recipe uses seared, basically raw, tuna make sure you get the best quality tuna possible. The fish guy at your local grocery store will help you find the right tuna.)
  • 1 tsp. herbes de provence (optional)
  • 1 small bunch of asparagus (Traditional niçoise uses green beans but I was craving asparagus instead. Feel free to use either.)
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • ¼ cup kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half
  • 1 small sweet potato, cut into ¼ inch cubes
  • 4 cups of your favorite lettuce (spinach, arugula, baby kale, etc., or lola rosa like I used)
  • ¼ red onion, thinly sliced (soak in ice water to eliminate that harsh, raw onion taste before adding to salad)
  • ¼ english cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • ½ small shallot
  • 1 sprig of tarragon
  • salt and pepper

Note: Traditional salade niçoise is served with anchovies and hard-boiled eggs. If you have those in your fridge, feel free to add them to your salad.

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Sear your #1 grade tuna until the outer layer is brown but the inside is still beautifully pink.

For the tuna, start by seasoning the outside of the tuna loin with salt and pepper (and herbes de provence, if using). Using a non-stick sauté pan over high heat, add 2 tbsp. olive oil and sear the tuna for 30-45 seconds on each side (just long enough to brown slightly).  Remove the seared tuna from the pan and cool until ready to serve.

For the vinaigrette, blend ¾ cup olive oil, dijon mustard, lemon juice, honey, shallot, tarragon, and a pinch of salt and pepper until creamy. Set aside until ready to serve.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss the diced sweet potatoes with 2 tbsp olive oil, pinch of salt and pepper, and roast on a sheet pan for 10-15 minutes. Cool and set aside. Toss the asparagus with 2 tbsp olive oil, pinch of salt and pepper, and roast on a sheet pan for 10-15 minutes. Cool and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, toss together the sweet potatoes, onions, asparagus, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and a couple tablespoons of vinaigrette. Season with a little salt and pepper if needed. Slice the seared tuna into ½ inch pieces and place on top of the salad.

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Warm Winter Squash and Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

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If I haven’t said it enough, I LOVE fall/winter produce. I think it’s because the complimentary flavors and spices remind me of family, warmth, and the holidays… basically nostalgia in a bowl. So when we had a dinner party with friends this past weekend, I wanted to make a dish with all of my favorites. This warm salad makes a great side dish for dinner, lunch on a cool day, or even breakfast when topped with a fried egg!

Warm Winter Squash and Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

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Use a vegetable peeler to help peel off that tough butternut squash skin!

Yields 6 portions

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs Brussels sprouts
  • 3 medium delicata squashes
  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tart apples
  • ½ cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 sprig of thyme, leaves picked off
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup plus ¾ cup neutral oil (avocado, canola, or vegetable)
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • salt and pepper

In a blender combine 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds, maple syrup, garlic, thyme, cayenne, dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, oil, ½ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. black pepper. Blend vinaigrette until emulsified* and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if you would like. Add in the remaining whole pomegranate seeds and reserve vinaigrette until later.

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*Emulsified means breaking up the oil molecules so that they are suspended within the vinegar, creating a cohesive dressing.

For this roasted salad you’ll either need 4 baking sheets or you can roast in batches then reheat all of the vegetables in the oven just before serving. I know that’s a lot of roasting but bear with me, this dish is amazingggg.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut the Brussels sprouts in quarters and season with a pinch of salt, pepper, and 1 tsp oil. Arrange Brussels sprouts in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes, or until edges start to brown. To prep the delicata, cut the ends off and then cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and cut delicata into 1 inch cubes. Season with a pinch of salt, pepper, ¼ tsp. ground ginger, ½ tsp. ground cinnamon,  and 1 tsp. oil. Arrange delicata in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes, or until edges start to brown.

For the butternut squash, peel skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut top and bottom stems off, cut in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Cut butternut squash in 1 inch chunks and season with a pinch of salt, pepper, ¼ tsp. ground ginger, ½ tsp. ground cinnamon, and 1 tsp. oil. Arrange butternut squash in a single layer on a baking sheet roast for 15-20 minutes, or until edges start to brown.

The onion and apples can be prepared together: cut the top and bottom stems off the onion, cut in half, peel off the skin, and cut into 1 inch pieces. Core the apple and cut into 1 inch pieces. Place both on the same baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes.

So — that wasn’t so bad, right? Now all that’s left to do is mix the warm vegetables with toasted pecans, ½ cup of the vinaigrette, and serve! Autumn, holidays, cozy nights by the fire, snowy mornings, and warm fuzzy feelings all wrapped up in a pretty (and delicious) dish.

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Roasted Chicken

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For my family, weekend activities range from hikes, day trips, and mini vacations to chores and cuddles in front of movies. But wherever the weekend takes us, we always like to close it out with a comforting and warm meal together. For us, the classic roasted chicken is our go-to most Sunday nights. And with cold weather just around the corner, this meal is sure to keep us warm and fuzzy all fall and winter long. And not only do we get a great night of food and conversation around the dinner table but a few days of leftovers and homemade chicken stock as well.  What I love about this recipe is that it’s so simple and yet it produces the best tasting chicken ever. No bangs and whistles, just a little herbs, salt, and pepper and you have a dinner your friends will be talking about for months…until Thanksgiving, of course, and then you’re on turkey duty.

img_4025Roasted Chicken

Yields 6-8 portions (depending on the size)

Ingredients:

  • 6-7 lb. whole chicken, preferably organic
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • ¼ tsp. plus 1 tsp. black pepper
  • ½ tsp. plus 1 tbsp. salt

One day prior to roasting, remove the chicken from any packaging and place on a paper towel-lined plate and store in the fridge. This crucial step allows the skin to dry out slightly, creating a crispier skin when roasted. And since that is arguably one of the most fought after pieces of the bird, definitely take the time to rest it overnight. On roasting day and two hours prior to cooking, pull the chicken out of the refrigerator and place on the counter to come up to room temperature. If you were to place the cold, refrigerated chicken straight into the oven, certain spots (the cold spots) could take longer to cook than others, resulting in a mishmash of internal cooking temperatures. Letting the chicken come up to room temperature allows each part to cook evenly without drying out one portion of the chicken and undercooking another.

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For taking the most accurate internal temperature, insert the thermometer where the thigh and body cavity meet. Make sure to take a couple temperatures, moving the thermometer slightly each time to ensure the temp is correct.

Preheat oven to 475°F. I prefer to roast my chicken at a higher temperature because it prevents the chicken from drying out too fast. The longer the bird hangs out in the oven, the more juices are extracted and evaporated, leaving you with dried out meat. So go high for a juicy chicken. Before trussing the chicken (Don’t worry if you don’t know how! Check out my tips on properly trussing a chicken here.), stuff the cavity with the fresh rosemary and thyme and generously season with ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. black pepper. Truss the chicken properly to ensure even cooking. When the bird is trussed, place in a roasting pan (not necessary, but it does allow for an even cook around the entire chicken) and roast in the oven for about 1 hour, or until the skin is golden brown and the internal temperature is 155°F. Rest the chicken for 15 minutes before carving. (Check out my post on how to carve a whole chicken.) And don’t forget to save the bones for homemade chicken stock!

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Roasted Fall Vegetable Salad with Sage-Brined Chicken

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Now that fall has officially started, I’m diving in deep to all of my favorite fall foods. I was able to put down my pumpkin butter long enough to enjoy the fall produce at our local farmers market and came home with my favorite squash: delicata! The delicata squash has a sweet, nutty taste very similar to butternut squash, but unlike its flavor doppelgänger, comes without the pain of needing to peel the squash. The salad is a staple in our house during the fall and winter weekday nights. Since we don’t eat as much red meat, our salad is typically topped with a seared piece of fish, sautéed shrimp, or brined chicken. But don’t let that stop you beef and pork eaters. This salad is versatile enough to stand up to the bold flavors of a roasted steak or pulled pork. Just top it with your favorite sauce (Chimichurri? Romesco? Herb vinaigrette?) and you could please anyone with this salad. For this recipe, I’ve included a great quick sage-brined chicken that pairs perfectly.

img_3911Sage-Brined Chicken Breast

Yields 4 portions

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups ice
  • 4 tbsp. salt
  • 2 large sprigs of sage
  • 3 slices lemon
  • 4-5 oz chicken breast or thighs
  • 2 tbsp. neutral oil
  • black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried sage

Place the 2 cups of ice in a large bowl and set aside. In a saucepan, bring to a boil the 2 cups of water, sage, lemon slices, and salt. Once boiling, remove from heat and pour over the ice cubes and set aside until ice melts completely. Once the ice is melted and the brine is cold, add the chicken. Place the bowl of brining chicken in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. After 2-3 hours, remove the chicken and place on paper towel to dry. Once dry, sprinkle the chicken with pepper and dried sage.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil on medium-low. Place the chicken in the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes. Flip the chicken over and cook for additional 4-5 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan when the internal temperature (remember to temp the thickest part of the chicken) reaches 158°F. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving.

img_3908Roasted Fall Vegetable Salad

Yields 4 portions

Ingredients:

  • 1 extra large delicata squash (keep the seeds!)
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries
  • 8 oz french green beans (haricots vert)
  • 5 cups greens (arugula, spinach, kale, or mixed greens)
  • tiny pinch of cayenne (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. neutral oil, plus ¼ tsp.
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut the ends of the delicata squash off and then cut in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds (clean and keep them for the salad!) and slice the delicata in ¼ inch moons. Toss the sliced delicata with 1 tbsp. oil, salt, pepper, and optional cayenne. Place seasoned delicata on sheet pan and roast for 30 minutes. While delicata is roasting, season green beans with 1 tbsp. oil, salt, and pepper then roast for 10-15 minutes. With the seeds scooped out from the squash, toss with ¼ tsp. oil and salt and roast for 2 minutes. (Keep an eye on them because they brown fast!) Once all of the veggies are roasted, cool for 2-3 minutes, then toss with the toasted seeds, dried cranberries, salad greens, and your favorite salad dressing (we used my pecorino vinaigrette). Top with the sage-brined chicken and your favorite sauce or more salad vinaigrette!

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Nectarine-Bourbon Chutney

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It’s getting to the end of stone fruit season, and one of the ways I like to savor summer’s delicious fruit is by making it into a sauce. I love having a variety of sauces and dips stored in my fridge — it makes for an easy addition to a “gourmet” weekday dinner. This easy sauce takes little time to prep but makes up for it when cooking. But it’s ohhh-so-worth the time. The longer and lower this sauce can cook, the more the flavors can meld and create a thick, pungent chutney.

Nectarine, Pink Peppercorn, and Bourbon Chutney

Yields 6 servings

Ingredients:

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Pink peppercorns are dried berries with a black pepper flavor!

  • 7 nectarines
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 2 tsp. shallots, minced
  • 1 tsp. ginger, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups bourbon
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. brown mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. red chili flakes (or more if you like it spicy!)
  • 1 tsp. pink peppercorns
  • ½ tsp. ground coriander
  • salt to taste

IMG_3614Cut nectarines in half, remove the seed, and cut into medium sized chunks. (I prefer a chutney with pieces of nectarine as opposed to a more pureed consistency.) In a large saucepan, add oil on medium-low heat. Sauté shallots, ginger, and garlic for 30 seconds. Add in nectarine chunks. Turn off heat while you add in the bourbon slowly. (Use caution adding alcohol to a hot pan.) Turn heat back on to medium-low and add remaining ingredients except the salt. Stir together, then turn heat to low. Stir occasionally for about an hour, or until the sauce turns into a thick chutney. Taste and season with salt to your liking.

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I enjoyed my chutney with a smoked pulled pork and kale-cabbage slaw sandwich! Want the recipe? Comment below!