Tag Archives: almonds

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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Mango Coconut Granola

Quiz time… what do I love but never buy?

GRANOLA!

Okay, that might have been a wee bit obvious judging from the title of this post, but alas… no permanent harm done.

Seriously though, I just don’t understand how companies that sell 10-12 ounce bags of granola for SIX to EIGHT dollars apiece each stay in business. [Please excuse my internet shouting. I get worked up about overpriced items. I'm cheap frugal.] I get why they have to charge those prices… many of the granola brands I’m thinking of are organic, have a variety of nuts or special sweeteners or dried fruit, etc. And the company has to pay its employees and stay in business too, of course. That’s all well and good, and these pricy granolas are mighty tasty. But for the time being, I can’t justify paying that much moolah for one portion of my breakfast that will be finished in a week, tops. Yup, grad student speaking here. So what do I do? Make my own!

I’ve actually been making quite a few different versions of granola that I haven’t blogged about over the past threeish months… mainly because I have so many recipes in the queue that are frankly more exciting. This time though, nothing is holding me back! This Mango Coconut Granola is a tropical treat. It is officially my favorite granola of all time, a prestigious title to be sure.

So what makes this granola so great? Well, let’s see. Quiz time again.

Is it:

a) the triple punch of coconut [oil, flakes, extract]?
b) the use of almonds, the greatest nut ever?
c) the use of very expensive dried mango that my grandpa bought me at Costco?
d) all of the above.

If you picked d, you are very, very smart.

Coconut times three plus almonds plus dried mangoes just cannot be beat, even though I realize that if I added up the cost of the ingredients for this granola they might rival the expensive brands. No bother though–making things at home is part of the fun, and if you can have homemade, crunchy, flavorful granola… why wouldn’t you?

So far, my favorite way to eat this awesome granola has been with Mango Chobani and blueberries, but it’s also great with any other fruit/yogurt combo.

By the way, in case you’re interested, I’ve recently started playing with instagram a lot. :) I’ve had it since I got my iPhone but never really used it til this summer. If you want to follow me, I’m @thepajamachef. Be sure to leave your username in the comments too so I can follow you back! Thanks and happy Friday!

Mango Coconut Granola [from Megan's Cookin']
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Ingredients:

  • 6 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup almonds, sliced or chopped
  • 1 1/3 cups sweetened coconut flakes, divided [could use unsweetened]
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar [if using unsweetened coconut, could increase to 1/2 cup brown sugar]
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1/3 cup dried mango, chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine oats, almonds, 1 cup coconut, and brown sugar. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together coconut oil, honey, and cinnamon, then add vanilla and coconut extracts. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and mix well.

Press mixture evenly into baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then stir, press again, and bake for another 15 minutes. Cool completely, then add dried mango and remaining 1/3 cup coconut flakes. Store in an airtight container.

Time: 45 minutes [15 minutes active]

Yield: about 9 cups.

OTT: Pork Chops with Balsamic Blackberry Salad + Orzo

After a long absence, my husband, Ben, is back with his guest post column entitled One Tablespoon Testosterone, or OTT for short. Enjoy!

———

Each weekend as my wife is planning meals for the upcoming week, she asks if there’s anything I’d like or if I have any ideas.  Generally, my answers range from nothing to worthless until this past weekend.  I knew we had unused pork chops, so I grabbed a cookbook and immediately found a recipe that sounded quite enticing.  This cookbook was by Rachel Ray, whom a friend of mine from my college town of Athens, Ohio [go Bobcats!!!!!!!] has a massive celebrity crush on [to the point where he's told his girlfriend that he would absolutely break up with her for the chance to be with the celebrity chef].  But anyways… Sarah agreed, and for possibly the first time ever, I felt good about my assistance in the meal selection process.

Pork Chops with Balsamic Blackberry Salad + Orzo on a plateSo come Tuesday night, my pork chops’ assigned cooking date, my wife decides she has absolutely no desire to cook.  Why?  Because she just wants to bake cookies.  As tempting as the idea of cookies for dinner was, I’ve put on a few more pounds than I would like in the last year so I shrugged it off.  This meant it was time for OTT to take command of dinner.

close up of Pork Chops with Balsamic Blackberry Salad + Orzo on a plateAnd what a delightful dinner it was. Salty pork, crisp almonds, juicy blackberries on spinach drenched in a sweet vinegary dressing. By the way, the cookies were good too. It was a messy kitchen sort of night.

OTT: Pork Chops with Balsamic Blackberry Salad + Orzo [from Rachael Ray's Look + Cook]
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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb orzo pasta
  • 1/2 c balsamic vinegar
  • 1 pint blackberries
  • 1 T ground basil
  • 1 c spinach leaves
  • olive oil
  • 4 pork chops
  • 1/4 c almonds
  • 2 T butter
  • cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper to taste

Directions:

This recipe basically consists of making three things:  the pork chops, the salad to top the chops, and the orzo to serve on the side.  Let’s start with the salad.  Put the balsamic vinegar in a small pot and bring to a boil.  Once it begins boiling, maintain heating for about 5 minutes, or until it’s reduced by about half and is a thicker, syrupy consistency.  Remove from heat.  Combine the blackberries [or strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, or any other delicious berry], basil, and spinach in a large salad bowl.  You should cut the spinach into thin slices.  I elected to tear it into small pieces because I’m better at ripping things than cutting them.  Sarah was disappointed because it didn’t look as pretty [but she says she still loves me]. Once the vinegar has cooled, you can drizzle it over the salad.

But while it’s cooling, heat a pot of water to boiling for the orzo.  When the water’s boiling, add the pasta and cook it however long the box/bag tells you to.

While the pasta’s cooking, you can get to work on the pork chops.  Season the chops with some salt and pepper if desired, pour some oil in a large skillet, and once the oil has heated add the chops.  Cook the chops for about 4 minutes on each side.  I would recommend covering the skillet.  Once the chops have cooked, remove them from the pan and roast the almonds for a couple minutes, then remove.

Back to the orzo.  When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it and melt the butter in the pan.  Return the orzo to the pan and stir together.  Add the almonds and salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg to taste.

Serve the orzo on the side with the salad topping the pork chops.  Or I suppose you could serve the salad on the side with the chops over the orzo.  Or even the salad over the chops over the orzo.  It all tastes good, so do what seems best to you.

Reader Question ~ If you could have any dessert for dinner on a weekly basis, what would it be? I would have cheesecake. Mmmmm cheesecake… strawberry, blueberry, chocolate, the works. MMMMM!

Linked up on Life as Mom.

Alice’s Vanilla Tea-Infused Granola

I’ve never been to New York City, but I know that when I do someday, Alice’s Tea Cup will be my first foodie stop. My mom owns about a zillion cookbooks, and one that I always love to browse when I’m home was created by the owners of the NYC area chain of tea shops. It’s aptly named Alice’s Tea Cup and it is full of recipes for fun teatime sweets, breakfast treats, and even good info about the proper way to brew tea. I’ve made a scone recipe from the cookbook that was just so-so [probably because I didn't make the buttery glaze to go on top], but I wanted to give the cookbook another chance. I am so glad I did, because Alice’s Vanilla Tea-Infused Granola is simply magnificent.This phenomenal granola combines three types of nuts [almonds, pecans, walnuts] plus sesame seeds and coconut, as well as two types of dried fruit to make a nutty-sweet comination that is absolutely essentail in a good granola. It is a bit more museli-like than a traditional chunky granola, but that doesn’t detract from it’s crunch. But the real added bonus to this granola comes from its spices: the usual suspects of cinnamon and nutmeg… and vanilla tea! I’ve never used tea as a spice before, so I was a little unsure what it would be like, but it’s absolutely wonderful. The tea adds some delicate sophistication to the crunchy hippie treat [ha, ha].

Overall, this is a granola recipe that is perfect as is… but could definitely be improvised based on the contents of the cupboard. We enjoyed it served over yogurt or with milk, but as with any other granola recipe… the possibilities are endless. I can’t wait to make it to NYC to try the original version, but for now, I’m glad I can enjoy it at home when the mood strikes.

What’s your favorite granola fixings? Have you ever been to Alice’s Tea Cup in NYC? Wanna take me? :)

Alice’s Vanilla Tea-Infused Granola [from Alice's Tea Cup]
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Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 2 heaping teaspoons vanilla tea leaves [I used a vanilla-cinnamon tea, and just cut open one tea bag]
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and spray a large jelly roll pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients except honey and butter. Mix together thoroughly, then stir in honey and butter.

Spread the mixture on prepared baking sheet, and pack down with a spatula. Bake for 20 minutes, flipping at the halfway mark. Remove granola from oven when it is golden brown. It will harden as it cools.

Break granola into chunks and store in an airtight container. Serve with milk or yogurt.

Time: 30 minutes.

Yield: about 7 cups.

Linked up with…

Homemade Maple & Brown Sugar Almond Butter

So, nut butter always seemed like one of those things that was so. hard. to make at home. But really? Is it now? After taking a trip to the nicest Kroger in my town and grinding my own peanut butter in their natural foods/bulk bins section, I was swayed a little bit. It looked easy, at least with that fancy grocery-store grinder. I resolved to try it at home “one day.” You know how it goes. One day never came. It was just so easy to keep buying my favorite natural peanut butter from Whole Foods that I didn’t think any more about it. Until I ran out. Whole Foods is a 75 minute drive away. No good.

Enter: creativity, complements of the internet. Guess what? Homemade nut butter isn’t that hard! And you can totally make fancy nut butters for a fraction of the cost of the store-bought non-peanut butters. Sorry, but I’m not going to spend $5-8 on a small jar of almond/cashew/walnut butter or fancy flavored peanut butter. Let’s hope we’re not seeing prices like that on regular peanut butter now that prices are on the rise.

After making a quick trip to Sam’s to stock up on nuts, I went to work. I raided my pantry to see what I could find to fancy up my almond butter and came up with a classic oatmeal combo: maple and brown sugar.

almond butter

A bit of patience and a food processor and you are all set.

While I can’t promise I’ll never go back to the store-bought stuff, I have been inspired to try more flavor combinations and even experiment with different kinds of nuts to see what we like best!

Reader Question ~ What’s your favorite kind of nut butter? What should I try to make next?

Homemade Maple & Brown Sugar Almond Butter [inspired by The Lean Green Bean]
printable version

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound/3 cups raw, unsalted almonds
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for 6-8 minutes. The almonds should smell fragrant. In a food processor, combine toasted almonds, syrup, and brown sugar. Process for 10-12 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached.

Notes:

At first, you’ll have to scrape the sides of the food processor constantly because it’ll be mostly “dusty.” Then, after a few minutes, it should start clumping and from there will get smoother and smoother the longer you let it go. It just takes a bit of patience but it is so worth it!

Time: 25 minutes.

Yield: 16 ounces.