Category Archives: Health & Nutrition

Book Review: Bread & Wine, A Love Letter to Life around the Table with Recipes

511z58htsll-_sx340_bo1204203200_Niequist, Shauna. Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life around the Table, with Recipes. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.

Bread & Wine is, by far, one of the best books I’ve read in the last several years! Shauna shares raw, real life stories mixed with a collection of her favorite recipes. I have literally laughed out loud and bawled my eyes out reading this! I feel like the author is sitting across from me, sharing a cup of coffee and opening up the window to her true self, and it feels like we’ve been friends for a lifetime even though I just met her in these pages. It’s as if you’re reading an intimate journal of an everywoman’s soul, and she says, “Come. Sit. Eat.”

In the author’s note on page 10, she writes the following:

“My prayer is that you’ll read these pages first curled up on your couch or in bed or in the bathtub, and then after that you’ll bring it to the kitchen with you, turning corners of pages, breaking the spine, spilling red wine on it, and splashing vinegar across the pages, that it will become battered and stained as you cook and chop and play, music loud and kitchen messy.

“And more than anything, I pray that when you put this book down, you’ll gather the people you love around your table to eat and drink, to tell stories, to be heard and fed and nourished on every level.”

Shauna begins with an explanation of what being a “bread-and-wine person” means: “By that I mean that I’m a Christian, a person of the body and blood, a person of the bread and wine. Like every Christian, I recognize the two as food and drink, and also, at the very same time, I recognize them as something much greater–mystery and tradition and symbol. … The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and the earth, the divine and the daily” (p. 11).

I am very much a “food” person. I love to cook, to share meals, to host friends and family and strangers, to talk about food and hospitality and life and God. So this book was perfect. The recipes are simple and offer a wide variety of personalization. I could not put this book down! Not only was it beautifully crafted, it was inspirational to get back to sharing food and faith with friends and family.

She talks about her cooking club, a group of friends that met together frequently, cooked together, did life together, laughed together, cried together, prayed together. Even when life and jobs scattered them across the country, they found ways to come back together, and it always involved food and faith and friendship in some combination.

I love that they would meet for dinner regularly, kids included. After supper, they’d put all the kids down for bed in pack n plays and sleeping bags, or whatever; and then the adults would come back downstairs to share what God was teaching them and pray with one another. Then when they needed to leave, they carried their sleeping children to their cars and took them home, but they stayed long enough for their souls to be fed and not just their bellies. And when there was a death or a new baby, a sick parent or another loss, they would bring food to one another, almost instinctively. This is the way I want to live my life; the way we try to live our lives.

Here are some of my favorite passages:

“Food is a language of care, the thing we do when traditional language fails us, when we don’t know what to say, when there are no words to say. And food is what we offer in celebration–at weddings, at anniversaries, at happy events of every kind. It’s the thing that connects us, that bears our traditions, our sense of home and family, our deepest memories, and on a practical level, our ability to live and breath each day. Food matters.

“At the very beginning, and all through the Bible, all through the stories about God and his people, there are stories about food, about all of life changing with the bite of an apple, about trading an inheritance for a bowl of stew, about waking up to find the land littered with bread, God’s way of caring for his people; about a wedding where water turned to wine, Jesus’ first miracle; about the very first Last Supper, the humble bread and wine becoming, for all time, indelibly linked to the very body of Christ, the center point for thousands of years of tradition and belief. It matters. It mattered then, and it matters now, possibly even more so, because it’s reclaiming some of the things we may have lost along the way” (p. 14).

“When you eat, I want you to think of God, of the holiness of hands that feed us, of the provision we are given every time we eat. When you eat bread and you drink wine, I want you to think about the body and the blood every time, not just when the bread and wine show up in church, but when they show up anywhere–on a picnic table or a hardwood floor or a beach” (p. 17).

“I believe every person should be able to make the simple foods that nourish them, that feel familiar and comforting, that tell the story of who they are. Each one of us should be able to nourish ourselves in the most basic way and to create meals and traditions around the table that tell the story of who we are to the people we care about. And the only way to get there is to start where you are.

“If you don’t cook, begin by inviting people over. Order pizza and serve it with a green salad and a bottled salad dressing. Get comfortable with people in your home, with the meds and the chaos. Focus on making people comfortable, on creating a space protected from the rush and chaos of daily life, a space full of laughter and safety and soul…and little by little, build a sense of muscle of memory, a body of knowledge, a set of patters for how your home and your heart open and expand when the people you love are gathered around your table” (p. 40).

“Learn, little by little, meal by meal, to feed yourself and the people you love, because food is one of the ways we love each other, and the table is one of the most sacred places we gather” (p. 51).

“One of the best part of my childhood was traveling with my dad” (p. 93). “…he taught me that where we are, we eat what they eat, and we eat what they give us, all the time. We taste the place when we eat what our hosts eat. As we traveled, food became a language of understanding, even more so than museums or history lessons” (p. 94). “…I want my kids to learn, as I learned, that there are a million ways to live, a million ways to eat, a million ways to dress and speak…. I want them to know that ‘our way’ isn’t the right way, but just one way, that children all over the world, no matter how different they seem, are just like the children in our neighborhood–they love to play, to discover, to learn. … I want my kids to taste and smell and experience the biggest possible world, because every bit of it, every taste and texture and flavor, is delicious” (p. 98).

“What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t longing to be impressed; they’re longing to feel like they’re home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd. …So that’s what we do. We throw open the front door and invite people into our home, despite its size, despite its imperfections. We practice hospitality, creating a soft and safe place for people to connect and rest” (p. 106-7).

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment. Part of that, then, is honoring the way God made our bodies, and feeding them in the ways they need to be fed.

“I do draw a line between food restrictions for health reasons and plain old picky eating. I bend over backward for the first–I make sure to have a meal that includes a filling and beautiful option for people who can’t eat one or another part of the whole meal….

“What I don’t do, though, is knock myself out for picky eaters. Part of eating at someone’s table is learning about the tastes and textures and flavors of their home, and part of eating at someone’s table is understanding that homes are not restaurants and your host is not a short-order cook….

“So this is the dance, it seems to me: to be the kind of host who honors the needs of the people who gather around his or her table, and to be the kind of guest who comes to the table to learn, not to demand” (p. 114-5).

“[Y]ou can decide that every time you open your door, it’s an act of love, not performance or competition or striving. You can decide that every time people gather around your table, your goal is nourishment, not neurotic proving. You can decide” (p. 195).

“The church is at its best, in my view, when it is more than a set of ideas and ideals, when it is a working, living, breathing, on-the-ground, in-the-mess force for good in our cities and towns” (p. 208).

“When you offer peace instead of division, when you offer faith instead of fear, when you offer someone a place at your table instead of keeping them out because they’re different or messy or wrong somehow, you represent the heart of Christ” (p.250).

“Body of Christ, broken for you. Blood of Christ, shed for you. ‘Every time you eat the bread and drink the wine,’ Jesus says, ‘remember me.’ Communion is connection, remembrance. …the genius of Communion, of bread and wine, is that bread is the food of the poor and wine the drink of the privileged, and that every time we see those two together, we are reminded of what we share instead of what divides us” (p. 251).

“And I believe that Jesus asked for us to remember him during the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine every time, every meal, every day–no matter where we are, who we are, what we’ve done” (p. 252).

“Most of the time, I eat like someone’s about to steal my plate, like I can’t be bothered to chew or taste or feel, but I’m coming to see that the table is about food, and it’s also about time. It’s about showing up in person, a whole and present person, instead of a fragmented person, phone in one hand and to-do list in the other. Put them down, both of them, twin symbols of the modern age, and pick up a knife and a fork. The table is where time stops. It’s where we look people in the eye, where we tell the truth about how hard it is, where we make space to listen to the whole story, not the textable sound bite.

“…if you can satiate a person’s hunger, you can get a glimpse of their heart. There’s an intimacy in it, in the meeting of needs and the filling of the one’s stomach, that is, necessarily, tied to the heart.

“I want you to gobble life up in huge bites, tasting everything, trying every new flavor, remembering every smell and texture like it’s the best thing you’ve ever had. I want you to live with wild and gorgeous abandon, throwing yourself into each day, telling the truth about who you are and who you are not, writing a love song to the world itself and to the God who made every inch of it” (p. 257-8).

See why I couldn’t put it down?! And it comes with recipes at the end of almost every chapter, a 4-week book club discussion guide (along with suggested menu for each book club night), and all kinds of entertaining tips. It’s beautiful and relatable, sharable and practical. Pick up a copy, read it, re-read it, share it, try the recipes, but most importantly, open your home and your table to the people God brings across your path, and enjoy!

Bon Appetit!

It Cooks While I Sleep…

 I’ve always loved cooking…but I have a secret to admit: I have never been great with the crockpot! I know, I know. It’s supposed to be the simplest way to cook ever, but I seem to fail with this method. I either cook it too long or add too much liquid or it doesn’t get all the way done…. It’s a curse!

But desperate times call for desperate measures. And I am in a season of life where there isn’t much time for meal prep between when I get home from work and when Kyle goes down for bed…and we both need to eat sometime in there. And then there’s the part about kids waking up in the middle of the night…especially (it seems) when you’re already at your tiredest. So, I’m taking the plunge and attempting to cook with the crockpot! I even started a Pinterest board just for crockpot recipe ideas: Crockpot Meals (aka Working Mama Nom-Noms!).

Thankfully, I’ve stumbled across a few keepers (which I’ve modified or merged a couple of recipes together).

The Roast: 5 red potatoes (quartered), 1 small bag baby carrots, 1 onion (peeled and cut into 8), 3 cloves garlic (peeled and minced), 1 box beef broth over veggies, salt-pepper-cornstarch rubbed on the 2 pound roast and seared for 1-2 minutes on each side, then topped with fresh rosemary, basil, parsley, and sage, 1-2 Tbsp. each of honey, soy sauce, and worchestershire sauce. 10 hr. on low.

The roast I made for a friend who’s had sick kids and been discouraged recently, and I literally prayed over the crockpot! (Maybe that’s the real secret.) The recipient commented: “Well my plain ol roast will never taste the same. Delicious!” Great. Now I want pot roast.:/

Peaches ‘n’ Cream Steel Cut Oats: 1 small bag frozen peaches, 1/4-1/2 c. brown sugar,
Pinch salt, 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 c. steel cut oats, 4 c. whole milk.
Do not stir; cook on low for 8-9 hr. in slow cooker. Top with coconut butter or cream and a drizzle of maple syrup or fresh berries.

Breakfast Casserole: 1/2 bag frozen hashbrowns (so 15 oz.), 8 oz. block pepper jack cheese (shredded), 8 oz. breakfast sausage (cooked and crumbled). Sprayed crockpot with oil, then mixed the above ingredients in crockpot. This basically filled my small/med crockpot…but…Then I whisked the following together and dumped it over the top and it filled in all the nooks and crannies…12 eggs, 1 c. milk, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, fresh basil, rosemary, and sage (torn by hand and tossed in). Covered on low for 8 hrs.

Both breakfast dishes were super simple (though they made 3x the amount we need, but at least there’s leftovers). And Kyle loved it all too! They all turned out good enough to repeat! And I am very thankful!

What are your favorite crockpot recipes?

Recipe: Winter Harvest Soup

This soup was invented based on two criteria: 1. I had the ingredients on hand that needed to be used before going bad, and 2. I needed something that would give Kyle (age 1) vegetables in a soft form. Thus, Winter Harvest Soup. The grownups enjoyed the recipe as is–a heartier, chunky soup; and I pureed the rest for Kyle–or those who prefer a smoother, creamy soup. He LOVED it!

Feel free to adjust the types of vegetables used in this soup (though root vegetables do seem to work best). If you’re not a sweet potato fan, try Yukon golds. If you have acorn squash instead of butternut, go for it! And if you’ve never seen a parsnip–well, first, try to find a parsnip because they’re delicious!–but if you can’t, try a turnip or rutabaga or just more carrots. This made a large pot of soup, so if you have fewer vegetables, just use half of the other ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower (chopped)
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes (halved)
  • 1 butternut squash (halved and seeded)
  • 1 bag baby carrots (chopped)
  • 4 parsnips (peeled and chopped)
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. marjoram (if you don’t have marjoram, basil would work)
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 6-8 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp. chicken (or vegetable) bouillon
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. prepared basil paste
  • 2-3 c. coconut milk (or cow’s milk, if preferred)

Instructions:

  1. Prep the winter vegetables. Using two large baking sheets, spread out vegetables in a single layer, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, herbs and spices. Roast at 400°F for 40 minutes.
  2. Remove vegetables from oven and let cool slightly. Peel and chop squash and sweet potatoes into bite sized pieces.
  3. Toss all vegetables in large stockpot; fill with water to not quite cover vegetables. 
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes (or until vegetables are completely soft). 
  5. Serve hot. 

Suggestion: serve with crackers, croutons, or garlic bread and a simple salad. 

New Favorite, High-Protein Snack: Peanut Butter and Honey Parfait!

My friend Mike Campbell introduced me to this new favorite treat! It’s so simple. It’s healthy. And it’s delicious! (And, yes, I told him it was going on my blog.)

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  • 3/4 to 1 cup Plain Whole Milk Yogurt (you can use the low fat if you really want to, but I personally think we need a little fat in our diets to help absorb certain nutrients, and it makes it creamier)
  • 2 Tbsp. All Natural Peanut Butter (or organic, if you can find it)
  • 1-2 tsp. Local Honey (or organic, if you can find it)

Just stir or whip the three ingredients together, and it creates a rich, creamy, high-protein treat that tastes as good as a parfait or dessert mousse. If you want, you can substitute a spoonful of your favorite jam instead of the honey and call it “PB&J Parfait”–great way to get kids (of all ages) to eat yogurt! Bon Appetit!

 

Fresh, February Feast: Cooking in Season

Tonight’s dinner was primarily made from fresh produce that is currently in season! And Bryan brought home some fresh rye and caraway bread from class today to round it all out. Throw in a little citrus and local honey, and we’re golden!

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Counter-clockwise from the top right, we have Sautéed Asparagus and Mushrooms with Fried Eggs, Creamy Cucumber and Avocado Soup, Fresh Bread with Butter, and Broiled Grapefruit with Sliced Bananas and Honey.

Here’s a closer look at the individual dishes:

Creamy Cucumber and Avocado Soup (adapted from EatingWell.com) - my friend Ashley shared this recipe and told me to double the avocado and add tarragon. It was quite tasty! (Click on image for recipe.)

Creamy Cucumber and Avocado Soup (adapted from EatingWell.com) – my friend Ashley shared this recipe and told me to double the avocado and add tarragon. It was quite tasty! (Click on image for recipe.)

Sauteed Asparagus with Baby Bella Mushrooms, Red Peppers, Garlic, Mint, Dill, Cilantro, and Parsley, and a squeeze of lemon juice; and some fried eggs for some extra protein

Sauteed Asparagus with Baby Bella Mushrooms, Red Peppers, Garlic, Mint, Dill, Cilantro, and Parsley, and a squeeze of lemon juice; and a side of Fried Eggs

And last but not least...Broiled Grapefruit with Bananas, Honey, and Ginger from She Wears Many Hats (click on picture for recipe)

And last but not least…Broiled Grapefruit with Bananas, Honey, and Ginger from SheWearsManyHats.com (click on picture for recipe)

It was a feast indeed!

 

Tuttorosso’s Cooking Spoon Sweepstakes Ends Today

Tuttorosso just sent me a beautiful wooden spoon with their new slogan: “The most important ingredient is you.” Enter to win a new wooden spoon–or the grand prize of a Le Creuset cookware set!

How to enter? Visit Tuttorusso’s Facebook page and click on the “Cooking Spoon Sweepstakes” tab. (Note: commenting on this post will not increase your odds of winning nor enter you into the sweepstakes.)

Tuttorosso is Italian for “all red.” They’ve been creating 100% all natural tomato products since 1929, with the goal “to produce the freshest, best tasting tomato products in the world.” See their full product line and several recipes at http://www.redgold.com/tuttorosso.

 

Recipe: Corn Salad by Melissa McKinnon

photo-21Ingredients:

  • 1/3 c. mayonnaise
  • 1/3 c. sour cream
  • handful of fresh basil and cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 ears of sweet corn, husked, scrubbed, and kerneled
  • 1/2 small Vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 3 radishes, finely chopped
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cubed

Instructions:

  • Chop herbs and whisk together with mayonnaise, sour cream, salt and pepper. (If vegan, dairy-free, or you just don’t like mayo: substitute mayo with vegannaise and corn milk for the sour cream–after cutting off kernels, run flat edge of knife down ears of corn to release the sweet milk.)
  • Clean vegetables.* Cut kernels off of corn (discarding the cores), and chop other vegetables to desired sizes (I like the radishes and onion to be fairly tiny and the cucumber and avocado to be a little bigger, personally).
  • Toss vegetables into dressing and mix. Serve with sprigs of herbs as garnish, if desired.

*Note: All vegetables are raw in this dish–no cooking required. So, it’s a fast dish with fantastic colors and flavors. Since everything is raw, make sure you use the freshest produce possible and clean everything well. This salad is a great alternative to potato salad or coleslaw at a picnic or as a “salsa” on top of curried chicken and rice. Serves 6 to 8.

Interesting Articles and Tips for College-Age Students

It’s back to school and the blogosphere is flooded with tons of helpful tips, advice, and info about heading back to college…or jumping in for the first time.

First, I read two articles specifically addressing “20-somethings.” The first was “The 20 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me at 20” by Dr. Karin L. Smithson on HuffingtonPost.com. It has some good reminders worth reading as so many head back to school…about picking friends, staying healthy, the importance of family and faith, etc.

The second was “20 Things 20 Year Olds Don’t Get” by Jason Nazar on Forbes.com. For all my friends heading back to college…or just out of college…or just trying to build traction in your careers, this article contains some fairly sound advice. It’s not necessarily that young people “don’t get it” but rather some good career tips that they “should get,” or maybe “don’t get yet,” or “what to strive for.” From productivity to professionalism, online etiquette to face to face communication, reputation and fiscal responsibility, this article hits the key topics that are crucial for young people to grasp early on if they desire to be successful.

Also, I’m noticing lots of college-age or recent post-college grads struggling with “discerning God’s will for their lives.” One book I recently read that I wish I had read when I started college is Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something. See my recent book review here. Also, remember that you don’t have to read every spiritual self-help book known to man; if you have a Bible and read it regularly, seek godly counsel, and prayer, those three things are more valuable than any “how to” book or article out there.

In regards to what to major in, I read “The Decline and Fall of the English Major” by Verlyn Klinkenborg on NYTimes.com. It is sad to hear that the number of students majoring in English is declining. I could have majored in a great number of things, but I am continually thankful that I majored in English. It has been invaluable in every aspect of my life–personally, professionally, socially, even spiritually. The most beneficial classes I took were probably Critical Writing with Dr. Horton and Philosophy of Education with Dr. Salter (both should be required by every major, in my humble opinion). To think clearly and logically and to be able to write concisely and coherently are two of the most precious yet neglected treasures in this culture. Klinkenborg writes: “Writing well used to be a fundamental principle of the humanities, as essential as the knowledge of mathematics and statistics in the sciences. But writing well isn’t merely a utilitarian skill. It is about developing a rational grace and energy in your conversation with the world around you.” and “No one has found a way to put a dollar sign on this kind of literacy, and I doubt anyone ever will. But everyone who possesses it — no matter how or when it was acquired — knows that it is a rare and precious inheritance.” Well said, Verlyn.

Finally, it’s important in your college years to stay healthy in this fast-paced, stress-filled season of life. Here’s a fun “Cheat Sheet for Healthy School Lunches” from The Honest Co.:

Recipe: Mel’s Stuffed Peppers with Avocado Sauce

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Stuffed Pepper Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 pound ground chicken (or turkey)
  • 1 tsp. sriracha sauce
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground sage
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1/2 c. chopped red and green bell pepper
  • 2 c. stemmed and chopped kale leaves
  • 1 c. vegetable broth
  • 1/2 c. uncooked red quinoa
  • 6 whole bell peppers
  • parmesan rind and freshly grated cheese (optional)
  • fresh cilantro leaves (optional topping)

Stuffed Peppers Instructions:

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Sauté onions and peppers with salt and pepper until almost translucent. Add garlic and cook for one more minute. Add ground chicken and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Don’t worry about getting it fully cooked yet–it will keep cooking through to the end. Stir in sriracha, Worcestershire, and spices.

Add water, quinoa, and kale, and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes (see quinoa package cooking instructions for time length; if you have parmesan rinds available, add them during this step).

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425ºF and prep whole bell peppers by carefully cutting off (and reserving) pepper tops. Remove seeds and pith. You may need to remove a small portion of the bottom of the pepper so it stands upright, being careful not to cut through into the shell of the pepper.

Stir stuffing till mixed evenly. Oil a medium size casserole dish and line with about 1-2 cups of the stuffing. Stuff peppers and place in stuffing bed in the casserole dish.  Place pepper tops back in casserole dish as well. If there’s any remaining stuffing, add it to the casserole dish around the peppers to help them stand up. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake uncovered 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on top. Meanwhile, prepare Avocado Sauce (below).

For serving, remove parmesan rinds, drizzle with Avocado Sauce, and top with freshly chopped cilantro leaves and freshly grated parmesan, if desired.

Avocado Sauce Ingredients:

  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. water (or more to desired consistency)

Avocado Sauce Instructions:

Add all ingredients except olive oil and water into food processor (or high power blender) and blend till smooth. Slowly drizzle olive oil in till emulsified, then slowly pour water in until sauce reaches desired viscocity.

Note: This dish is great to make the night before and reheats very well. On the second day (if there is any leftover stuffing), use as taco filling and top with chopped fresh tomatoes, sour cream, avocado sauce and fresh chopped cilantro.

Recipe: Kale Salad with Bacon, Cranberries, and Goat Cheese by Melissa McKinnon

Ingredients:

  • 3 slices thick-sliced bacon, crumbled
  • 3 Tbsp. bacon grease, reserved from frying
  • 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. dry mustard
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 6 c. chopped fresh kale leaves (discard stems)
  • 1/4 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/4 c. slivered almonds
  • 1/4 c. crumbled (honeyed or plain) goat cheese (about 2 oz.)
Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce and Fresh Basil; Kale Salad with Crackers

Kale Salad with Crackers, served as a side with

Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce and Fresh Basil

Instructions:

1. Cook thick-sliced bacon over medium high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and pat dry with paper towels. Crumble bacon. Let bacon grease cool slightly (pour 3 Tbsp. grease into a glass bowl to help it cool faster, if desired–just don’t let it burn).

2. Prepare kale. I buy the pre-washed, pre-chopped bag of kale, but if you buy fresh, whole kale from your grocery store or farmers’ market, wash thoroughly (I recommend triple washing to remove all the grit), pat (or spin) dry, remove stems and chop as finely as desired. Set aside.

3. Whisk together vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper. Carefully pour warm grease into vinegar mixture; whisk to combine. (I do this step in the serving bowl to cut down on clean-up.)

4. Toss kale in dressing. Make sure leaves are evenly coated with dressing (use your hands–just don’t burn yourself). Then add crumbled bacon, goat cheese, cranberries and almonds and toss.

5. Serve as an appetizer, a side salad, or as dip with crackers. The combination of crunchy and creamy, tangy and sweet is fantastic! This is definitely a new family favorite! Bon Appetit!

Note: You could also add 2 Tbsp. of finely chopped red onions or scallions for a nice touch.

As an alternative, I made some this week and switched out the cranberries for some finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, added juice from half a lemon to the dressing, and used plain goat cheese, along with the almonds and crumbled bacon, and it was a big hit! So whether you go savory or sweet, bon appetit!