Harvest Salad + Basic Vinaigrette

Since we're in the height of the holiday season, our calendars filled with parties and treats and goodness galore, I'm seeking some balance as I plan out my meals, especially as I chart out my workday lunches. To counter all of the delicious holiday treats that I'm consuming (and loving), I've been guzzling green juice and noshing on lots of fresh salads, ensuring that I'm still absorbing loads of good nutrients. I've come up with a leafy concoction that mirrors a salad that Korena makes every year for the harvest, and, as a result, there are very few exact calculations for the amount of each ingredient required. So I'd just use however much of each item that fits your palette best. I love this salad because every bite is a little surprise - you may get a burst of tomato or creamy avocado, a bite of tangy cheese or wholesome quinoa, or a taste of tart cranberries or crunchy pecans. The vinaigrette I use with this salad is my very favorite because it's so versatile, and it comes from a recipe in Bread & Wine (of course). It's super basic yet hugely flavorful and it goes with everything (including last week's White Bean Soup). Enjoy! Harvest Salad

Ingredients for Salad:

  • Mixed greens
  • Spinach
  • 1/4 ripe avocado
  • Grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • Broccoli, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • Mediterranean feta cheese (regular feta will suffice but I love the added kick from the Mediterranean flavors - I use Président brand)
  • Dried cranberries
  • Pecan pieces (toasted if you have time!)

Ingredients for Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:

  1. Mix all of the salad ingredients together. That's it!
  2. For the vinaigrette, combine the ingredients in a jar (I use a rinsed out salsa jar - it works perfectly). Shake, shake, shake until you achieve your desired consistency. Add more oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper to taste.

White Bean Soup

I swear that I crave soup on a weekly basis in the wintertime. It's not even very cold here in Dallas (I think it's supposed to be 70 degrees on Saturday!) but there's something about the combination of soup and December and the holidays that is nostalgic for me, so I find myself making tons of different kinds over the course of the month (continuing on into January and February, too). Since I'm cooking through Bread & Wine, I decided to try author Shauna Niequist's White Bean Soup, a hearty mix loaded with delicious beans and vegetables. It is safe to say that I am now obsessed with this soup - it was so easy to make and it is extremely tasty. It thickens over time and gets better and better each day, almost chili-like in texture and so flavorful and robust. I add vinaigrette to my steaming bowl of soup, and James liked his with prosciutto. Both of us agree that parmesan cheese a must. And here's an important note - I couldn't find fennel at the store when I was shopping so I made the soup without it, and I think it turned out delicious. I'm sure it tastes wonderful with fennel included, as the recipe suggests. White Bean Soup

Recipe via Shauna Niequist

Ingredients:

  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1/2 lb carrots, sliced into thin coins on a diagonal
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced
  • 4 celery ribs, sliced on a diagonal
  • 6 cans white beans in liquid
  • 1 tbsp rosemary, rough chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a stockpot or Dutch oven, soften two sliced shallots in olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add carrots, fennel, and celery, and allow to soften for 10 - 15 minutes.
  3. Add beans in their liquid and chopped rosemary.
  4. Cover and cook for 20 minutes at a gentle boil.
  5. Taste, add salt & pepper, taste again - and keep in mind that you’ll get a good amount of salt from the toppings.
  6. Cook for 20 more minutes, or longer if you have time. Off heat, mash with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon for a rustic chunky texture. If you’d like a smoother texture, run it through a food processor or use an immersion blender in the pot.
  7. For the balsamic vinaigrette, mix a spoonful of Dijon, a few tablespoons of balsamic, a quarter cup or so of olive oil, some salt and pepper in a glass jar, then shake well. Adjust to taste.
  8. Serve with a small pitcher of vinaigrette, and bowls of prosciutto torn into ribbons, grated Parmesan, and chopped rosemary.

Around Here

Party DecorWow, time sure does fly - December 10th already?! I apologize for my absence on the blog lately - but then again, I don't because so much goodness has been happening around here and I've stepped away from my online presence to soak it all in. The holidays are such a magical time of year, aren't they? We had an amazing time in Chicago for Thanksgiving, and last week was spent celebrating James and my birthdays, which are just four days apart (so fun!). My 29th birthday was on Wednesday, the 3rd, and Touch A Life has a policy that gives employees the day off on their special day, which is such a treat. I got my stretch on at yoga and my sweat on at City Surf, treated myself to my favorite juice and smoothie at The Gem, picked up some birthday goodies at J. Crew, and got a foot massage at my favorite place. James and I noshed on filet mignon, barbecue ribs, creamy spinach dip, and French fries at Houston's for dinner, toasting with martinis (for me) and whiskey (for him). It was the perfect day.

James's 30th birthday was on Sunday and I threw him a surprise party! It was the best. Nearly 35 of our closest friends came to celebrate James and he was so totally shocked when he walked into our house - we nailed the surprise! My super talented friend Bri took photos of the day, which I'll share here soon. I had so much fun planning the decor (a few party remnants are pictured above), snacks, and drinks, and all of our friends pitched in with setting up, throwing James off, and keeping the secret about the party. It is the best party I've ever hosted, filled with so much fun, love, and good food. James had a fantastic time, which made me so happy.

Holiday events are in full swing, which I love! Tonight is a Christmas-themed girls night in at Korena's, and tomorrow the Black Frames are playing at a charity wrap party hosted by Fullosophie. My dear bestie Becca and her boyfriend Mark are coming in from Nashville to attend a wedding this weekend, and I can't wait to see them (and eat tacos at the best spot in town). Sunday night marks Laura, Kyla, and my fifth annual Christmas besties dinner, and the following day is my favorite event of the season (tied with the besties dinner, of course) - the Cone Christmas dinner at Patrick and Lauren's, where Patrick cooks an entire holiday meal filled with delicious seasonal favorites. James and I are going to check out the Highland Park lights with Callie and hot chocolate in tow, and we're scooting down to Austin the weekend before Christmas as a special treat to one another (also with Callie in tow, as we'll be staying at my favorite hotel).

I've been cooking some of Shauna Niequist's recipes, as I planned, so I'll be sharing a recipe tomorrow, as well as some fun posts the rest of the month! But if I go MIA again, have no fear - I'm just enjoying all that the holiday season has to offer, namely the fact that we get to spend this month thinking of the amazing Christmas story and Jesus's birth. What a beautiful season - I hope you are loving it as much as I am!

Cooking Through Bread & Wine

lindsay-letters-betweenus-canvas-navy_1024x1024As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I reread Bread & Wine recently and it inspired me to get creative in the kitchen. When life gets chaotic and full, I tend to fall back on the recipes I know and love - enchiladas, quinoa bowls, breakfast for dinner, tortilla soup - instead of foraging into the land of the unknown. Shauna Niequist, the author of Bread & Wine, shares loads of delicious recipes in her book, which is part memoir, part cookbook, and they got me excited about trying out some new dishes. Shauna uses good wholesome ingredients and her instructions aren't a mile long; instead of using complicated, fussy verbiage, her recipes are straightforward and easy to understand. So I thought it might be fun to work my way through the book, chopping and dicing and sautéing, stirring and tasting and trying, and then reporting the results to you here on the blog. I'm already a fan of several of the recipes in the book - the blueberry crisp, the basic vinaigrette (which I make once a week and pour on just about everything), the goat cheese scrambled eggs, the lentil soup - so I may post about them here, or I may just venture into uncharted territory…we'll see. Either way, it will be fun (and delicious). Stay tuned!

Image & canvas via Lindsay Letters