Category Archives: Sides

Chopped Kale Salad with Bleu Cheese & Bacon

Kale. Seriously can’t get enough of it. Ben can’t either. No complaints here.

Chopped Kale Salad | thepajamachef.com

Normally, our kale is cooked–in pasta, fried rice, or as a base for chicken or pork. But this time, I decided to do something different and make a chopped kale salad. That’s right… raw kale, chopped into a billion teeny tiny bites and tossed with a fabulous array of toppings and the most spectacular dressing ever. Intrigued?

Chopped Kale Salad | thepajamachef.com

What makes this salad special and different is ALL the tastes and textures going on. Crisp carrots, sweet apples, salty bacon, pungent bleu cheese, tart cranberries, crunchy toasted almonds. And a sweet peanut butter-maple vinaigrette that is nothing short of amazing. I was literally eating it with a spoon, for goodness sake! It has a peanut butter base, so that’s totally legit, right?

By the way, if you aren’t the biggest fan of bleu cheese, don’t let this scare you. There’s only enough to give a hint of the flavor, but if you like it you can always substitute feta or parmesan. I don’t always include cheese in my salads but it really works in this one, to make it more substantial. Just FYI.

Chopped Kale Salad | thepajamachef.com

I threw this recipe together quickly on a busy night when we were headed to a small group dinner, and it was all but polished off. Fortunately, there was enough leftovers to enjoy for lunch the next day, but the salad definitely got a little soggy on day 2 so I would recommend adding the dressing just before serving if at all possible. I only made this a couple weeks ago and am totally craving it now, as I write this at 10:27 pm. I have a feeling this salad is going to become a regular in our house and I hope it will in yours too! Enjoy!

So you tell me… have you ever had a kale salad before? What are your go-to [kale] salad mix-ins?

a year ago… Man Cupcakes
three years ago… Creamy Baked Spaghetti

Chopped Kale Salad with Bleu Cheese and Bacon [dressing adapted from Iowa Girl Eats]
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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 bunches kale
  • 1 1/3 cups red cabbage
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large Fuji apple
  • 3 ounces bleu cheese, crumbled
  • 5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • freshly ground black pepper

dressing

  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter

Directions:

Wash and dry kale, then tear into small bite-size pieces, discarding thick stems. Add to a large bowl and set aside.

Wash and dry cabbage, carrot, and apple, then shred. I used my food processor but a grater would also work. Add to kale, along with bleu cheese, bacon, almonds, and cranberries.

Whisk together balsamic, olive oil, maple syrup, and peanut butter until smooth to make dressing, then drizzle half over the salad. Toss to combine, and add more dressing as desired. I used about 3/4 of the total dressing made. Season with black pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Time: 20 minutes.

Yield: 10-12 side salads, 3-4 meal size salads.

Linked up with: Tuesday Talent Show.

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Mom’s Potato Salad

Everybody has their own favorite potato salad recipe. You know, the only one you’ll make. Well, this is mine. Actually my Mom’s, or more likely her Mom’s. Or something like that. Anyways. This potato salad is absolutely perfect. Creamy, crunchy, classic–with just the right ratio of potatoes to eggs to celery to onion, with a super simple mayo-mustard dressing. The only catch? You must make it in this very yellow bowl for its perfection to truly shine through.

Mom's Potato Salad | ThePajamaChef.com

Yes, that faded Pyrex yellow bowl is the potato salad bowl. A piece of family history, if you will. If you don’t have one, don’t despair. Just be sure to serve it up with tons of paprika and it’ll even out. :) Lots of paprika on potato salad is key, imo. Do you agree?

Maybe it’s easier for me to make it in this bowl because it’s one of those recipes where you just eyeball everything without measuring [though I did provide rough measurements in the recipe below, recorded from when I recently made this].

Mom's Potato Salad | ThePajamaChef.comRegardless of the bowl, this is seriously the best potato salad I’ve ever had, and I hope you’ll give it a try too! But even though I think this is the best, I’m curious to know… what’s in your potato salad? Links welcome! I’m super curious. :)

#TheSaladBar

P.S. I know I don’t usually post on Saturdays but I just joined The Salad Bar, which is a new monthly blogging group challenge. Wendy of The Weekend Gourmet started this group last month and I am so happy to be part of it. You can request to join by clicking on the above image [linking to our Facebook page]. The theme this month is potluck salads, so please check out the other awesome recipes below. I know I cannot wait to do just that later today!! :) Have a great weekend!

Mom’s Potato Salad
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Ingredients:

  • 6-8 white potatoes [about 2 lbs]
  • 3-4 hardboiled eggs, chopped
  • 2-3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • about 1/2 to 1 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • about 2 to 4 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • paprika

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil, add potatoes, and cook until soft. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut into chunks and place in large mixing bowl. Add eggs, celery, and onion, then enough mayonnaise to coat. Add mustard to taste, then season with a little pepper and a lot of paprika.

Serve warm or chilled.

Time: 60 minutes.

Yield: 10-12 servings.

10 Minute Lunch #6: Italian Chicken & Veggie Couscous Bowls

Eeeek! It’s been a long time since I’ve shared a 10 Minute Lunch, eh? Whoops. I’ve been eating a lot of leftovers for lunch on days I work from home, or have been snacking my way through the day, which is not a good idea because then I’m hungry for dinner at 3 pm. Ahem. #seniorcitizeninthemaking

Italian Chicken & Veggie Couscous Bowl | The Pajama Chef

But not anymore! I’m bound and determined to let this month be the month I get my lunch act together and actually eat a real meal for lunch everyday–not just on days that I’m on campus at work. Starting with this little number! :) It’s totally simple, flavorful, and fast–perfect for the days that you have to deal with crazy computer drama with no time to cook. As I said yesterday, my MacBook has been acting up–not charging, randomly shutting off, resetting the date, etc.  So now it’s back at the shop for the second time in a week, and thanks to my dramatic Facebook post, I had not one, but three offers of a loaner laptop until mine can be fixed or replaced. I have some generous friends, what can I say? :)

But laptop woes [and lunch breaks spent writing blog posts] aside, these couscous bowls are incredible! Quinoa is so popular and rice is so common that couscous [at least in my house] becomes the forgotten grain. You can bet I won’t forget it anymore! It is super fast to prepare and is so light and filling. Once you mix up the couscous, veggies, and chicken, just add a fresh Italian dressing to your bowl for instant flavor–minus the work of measuring and dicing herbs. Perfect! I can totally see so many variations–instead of chicken, beans! Instead of frozen veggies, a chopped tomato! Instead of Italian dressing, Caesar! I could keep going, but I gotta get back to w-o-r-k. What would you add? Enjoy!

Italian Chicken & Veggie Couscous Bowls
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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup couscous
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 mini sweet peppers, finely diced [or ~ 1 cup diced bell peppers]
  • ~ 1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
  • ~ 1 cup frozen vegetables
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • garlic powder [could substitute 1 clove minced garlic]
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • large handful arugula, chopped [other light salad greens like spinach would also work]
  • Italian dressing–we are obsessed with this recipe from Macaroni and Cheesecake

Directions:

In a small pot, bring water and butter to a boil. Remove from heat, stir in couscous, and cover. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the chicken and vegetables.

Heat olive oil in a small saute pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Add peppers, chicken, and frozen vegetables, then season with pepper and garlic to taste. Saute for a minute, then cover and let cook for 2-3 minutes to heat everything up.

Next, add green onions to the chicken and vegetable mixture.

To serve, divide the couscous between two bowls, then top each with half of the chicken and vegetable mixture. Stir in green onions and arugula, then top with a drizzle of Italian dressing to taste. Enjoy!

Time: 10 minutes.

Yield: 2 delicious lunches!

Notes: To take this lunch to go, I’d recommend keeping the green onions and arugula separate and stirring them in immediately before eating and after heating it up. The dressing would be fine mixed in already, though!

Mexican Rice

Oh my goodness. This RICE! Normally, rice is Ben’s obsession, but this time, it’s mine. This Mexican Rice is seriously amazing. It’s the closest restaurant-style replica recipe that I have ever successfully made. Ben agreed, and thought this was better than something you could get at a restaurant. And for a guy who likes to eat out, that’s saying something!! So many recipes online or in cookbooks claim to be restaurant-worthy, but most of the time, they’re lying. Well this one? Not so much. It’s just like the rice you’d get at your favorite local hole in the wall Mexican place.

Mexican Rice | The Pajama Chef

When I first saw that the recipe called for three jalapenos, I have to admit that I was a little nervous [even considering my recent love of spice]. But really, I needn’t have been afraid–this rice had the perfect amount of kick. Not too spicy, not too bland. Stirring in cilantro at the end and adding a squeeze of lime juice to each serving definitely balanced out the flavors and gave the rice a little something special.

Mexican Rice | The Pajama Chef

At first glance, this Mexican Rice recipe might look a bit intimidating. Even if it has good flavor, isn’t it a bit overkill to go through all these steps of rinsing and sautéing the rice, then cooking it on the stove and in the oven? NO! Not at all. Don’t skip a step–each is necessary to make this light and fluffy without a bit of gloopy, gloppiness that can all too easily happen when a bunch of stuff is added to rice. The texture isn’t sticky or mushy. It’s just perfect. And when paired with homemade tacos and refried beans, well, it’s just like eating at a restaurant  But at home, for a fraction of the cost… and with all the leftovers you could want. :) I know I’ll be making this rice over and over again for many tacos nights in our future, and I hope you will too. Enjoy!

Mexican Rice | The Pajama Chef

Mexican Rice [from Food.com]
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Ingredients:

  • 1 can diced tomatoes [15 ounces]
  • 1 medium onion [yellow or white]
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 medium jalapenos, minced and divided [deseed as desired--I deseeded two]
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lime, wedged

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor or blender, combine tomatoes and onion. Puree until smooth, then pour into a measuring cup and reserve 2 cups. Discard excess [or save for something else, like salsa, or eat with a spoon...].

Add oil to a large [10-12 inch] straight-sided sauté pan or Dutch oven [with a tight fitting lid] and set over medium-high heat. While oil is heating up, place rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water for about 2 minutes or until water runs clear. This is similar to rinsing quinoa–it removes the starch from the rice to make it nice and fluffy. Do not omit this step! Shake rice to remove excess water.

Next, drop a few grains of rice in the oil. If they sizzle it is ready. Add rice to oil and cook for 6-8 minutes, constantly stirring, until rice is lightly golden and translucent. Reduce heat a little if the oil starts to splatter, and add up to another 2 tablespoons of oil if it seems too dry.

Reduce heat to medium, then add 2 jalapenos and garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.

Stir in pureed tomatoes and onions and chicken broth and bring to a boil.

Remove from heat, cover, and transfer to oven. Cook for 15 minutes, then remove and stir well.  Return to oven for another 15-20 minutes, or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove from oven and stir in remaining jalapeno and cilantro. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with a wedge of lime to squeeze on each serving before enjoying.

Time: 55 minutes [20 minutes active].

Yield: 8-10 servings.

Notes: You can use 12 ounces fresh ripe tomatoes but since I made this before tomato season, I opted for canned. If you use fresh tomatoes, the recipe recommends supplementing with salsa if you need to get up to 2 cups AND to add 1 tablespoon tomato paste to the mix as well.

Linked up with: Weekend Potluck.

Pork Chops with Quinoa, Kale, and Blood Orange

I’ll be totally honest: before this spring, I had never tasted a blood orange. Of course I’d heard them hyped up online and in food mags, but for some reason had never had them in real life. Crazy, huh? So I picked up some during the same shopping trip where I found some majorly discounted pork chops nearing their expiration date [no problemo, just throw them in the freezer]. I came home and this dinner promptly appeared on our plates. Cool, huh?

Pork Chops with Quinoa, Kale, and Blood Orange | The Pajama Chef

Well, it wasn’t QUITE that simple. I had to mix some things up and do a little work, but other than that, this dinner was a cinch to throw together. And quite tasty too. So after we devoured it, I quickly wrote down what I did so I could share it here with you!

Pork Chops with Quinoa, Kale, and Blood Orange | The Pajama Chef

I’m not sure what the best part of this dinner was: the sweet, garlicky, vinegary pork chop? The tender sauteed kale? The nutty ‘n citrusy quinoa? I don’t know, but what I do know was that each bite was just so darn good! And it’s pretty fabulous that this dinner comes together in about 30 minutes. You gotta try it! If you don’t get around to til after blood orange season has passed, then try it with regular navel oranges, or grapefruit, or even clementines. The more I think about it, the citrusy freshness was definitely my favorite part. Enjoy! :)

Pork Chops with Quinoa, Kale, and Blood Orange [a The Pajama Chef original]
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Ingredients:

  • 2 pork chops
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 blood orange: zest all of it, juice half of it, and slice the other half of it
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 bunch kale, washed, dried, stems removed, and chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • salt
  • garlic powder

Directions:

Place pork chops in a shallow bowl. Whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic, red pepper, and half the blood orange zest. Pour over pork chops and marinate for 10 minutes as you start preparations for the quinoa and walnuts.

Prepare quinoa according to package directions–but instead of just using 1 cup water, use juice of 1/2 the orange and make up the difference with water. Also add the remaining half of the blood orange zest.

Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in a small skillet set over medium heat. Cook for 7-8 minutes until fragrant, stirring occasionally. When toasted, chop walnuts.

Now, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add pork chops and marinade to the pan and saute for 4-5 minutes per side until cooked through. [Don't forget to watch the walnuts!] Remove pork chops from pan to a plate; cover to keep warm.

Add kale to hot skillet, stir to coat with pan juices. Saute until kale is tender, and season with pepper, salt, and garlic powder as desired.

Serve pork chops on top of kale and quinoa, dressing with pan juices, chopped walnuts, and blood orange slices.

Time: 30 minutes.

Yield: 2 servings.

Linked up with: Weekend Potluck.