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Archive for the ‘salads/dressings’ Category

It’s hot. I was in France last week and it was hot. I came back to Chicago, and it was hot. So damn hot. In this kind of weather I don’t have much of an appetite, not that it slowed me down much in France (copious amounts of cold rosé certainly helped) but back home, my dinners have been a bit lackluster. Truth be told, I decided the other day I wasn’t going to eat much else besides fresh sweet corn and cold watermelon for rest of the month.

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I was hungry. It had been a long, chaotic day spent on my feet cooking for other people and the last thing I wanted to do was cook for myself. A drive thru was in order. Driving home, I passed the usual suspects and wasn’t all together thrilled. Burger? Fries? Ugh. I started thinking about healthy fast food and the lack thereof. In general, the options are not great. Back in my advertising days, I worked on my fare share of fast food accounts and time and again, no matter how great the option, healthy fast food never sold. The sad truth – surprisingly (or maybe not), there’s not a high demand for healthy options in fast food restaurants. But there was one thing, quite a while ago, that was pretty good. Back in the late ‘90s Wendy’s had fresh pita sandwiches on the menu and they were delicious. Really good.

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Despite this recent heat wave, we’re nearing the end of the gardening season and my little community plot is still happily cranking along. Though it wasn’t the best year for tomatoes, my herbs have been unbelievable. At least once a week I’m aggressively cutting back the basil, lemon verbena and mint in an effort to tame and contain the little beasts. I recently trimmed the oregano so aggressively I think it might shiver a little as I approach. My rosemary bush is having a year like no other but it’s the parsley that is the most surprising. No matter how much I cut it back, it springs forth with new vigor in all its vibrant, bushy glory. I’ve been using it quite a bit in the last month but needed to step up my efforts. It was time for tabbouleh.

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I made cheese boereg over the weekend, delightful phyllo pastries filled with a mix of delicious, slightly salty cheeses. They were wonderful, perfect in this cold weather, but to make them a meal I needed something else. I’ve been trying to stick to a healthy eating regimen to start the new year and though these little pastries didn’t necessarily fit that bill, if I made a salad I could scoot it into that category with a little creative rationalization. So I made a good, chunky greek-type salad to go along with those little golden triangles. The salad, filled with fresh summery vegetables, may not the best choice for this time of year – it’s definitely more of a warmer season type dish – but I needed a little crunch, a little brightness in my gloomy day.

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Every year, I participate in a wonderful community garden program, The Peterson Garden Project. It started 6 years ago when I came home from drinks with friends at half price wine night. Dangerous. I was scanning through my twitter feed and saw someone post that she’d just bought a community garden plot in the city. I didn’t even know we had that so completely intrigued, I clicked on the link to learn more. The next morning I saw the confirmation in my inbox. In general, I don’t mix pinot and online shopping but I was thrilled. I’ve never been much of a gardener beyond the herb boxes on my back porch but I am a cook and an eater and the thought of growing things tickled me to death. I started perusing seed catalogs and downloading plot planners like a kid making Christmas wish lists.

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Easy weeknight dinners are a challenge for everyone. Believe me, I understand all too well the pull of a drive thru or takeout after a long workday. In fact, I succumb more than I care to publicly admit. I’m not immune to a fried chicken-biscuit combo and I know I should cook myself a nice balanced dinner more often, energy levels be damned. Doesn’t mean I always do it. That’s why everyone should have a few simple tricks in their back pocket. This is one of mine. A simple piece of beef, marinated in flavorful ingredients, quickly cooked and served with anything you like.

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The outdoor farmer’s market season started here two weeks ago. This is a big deal for some of us. We Chicagoans view the start of the outdoor market season as a beacon of hope that better, warmer, sunnier weather is coming. Though this past winter wasn’t too bad, we cling desperately to every little sign possible. It’s been a tough start; the first week was chilly and I was caught in a deluge, arriving at my car soaking wet. The second week was downright cold and I received several warnings not to plant the basil plants I had just purchased until it inched up over 55°F. Oh I know, I replied, I’ve been bitten in the ass by that before. We laughed knowingly as only those who have had to yank out frostbitten tender seedlings can. Looking around, I saw the usual suspects of a new market season: asparagus and rhubarb. Harbingers of spring and predictable or not, into my bag they went.

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