Beet and Chickpea Quinoa Salad

I used to live right above a Le Pain Quotidien and as it was one of the few restaurants in my neighborhood where I could just sit with my newspaper and eat my favorite soft boiled eggs.  They also had some light, rustic French fare that included this tasty quinoa salad.


We try to pack our lunches during the week, and lately I’ve been making a lot of quinoa salads, but it felt time to mix up the type of quinoa salad.  I suddenly remembered this one, and it ended up also being a delicious brunch when set over some lightly dressed arugula and a side of avocado toast.


Add some eggs and then you truly have a healthy but elaborate brunch. Bon Appetit!


  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 medium beet, chopped (I like to buy the precooked, prepeeled beets and just dice them)
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas

If you’re serving this over an arugula salad… then also:

  • 2 cups arugula per serving

And if you want to add eggs…

  • 3-4 eggs/person


  1. Begin by preparing the Quinoa salad. In a medium bowl, mix the cooked quinoa, beet, parsley, and chickpeas. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper until fully incorporated.
  2. If you’re serving over arugula, add arugula to your serving plates, and then add about a cup of the quinoa salad.
  3. If you also want to add eggs, heat olive oil on a medium sized skilled, crack your eggs into the skillet and cook for about 5-10 minutes until the whites are not runny anymore.  Serve on top of everything else!

Adapted from Le Pain Quotidien, Quinoa Taboule Salad Recipe.


Shrimp and Arugula Avocado Pesto Pasta

We don’t tend to eat pastas that often, but when we do, we try to go for interesting flavors.  I’m always also looking for easy recipes that I can throw together in the evenings after work, and this concept was recommended to me by a friend at work.


I came home to assemble it and it tasted like one of the healthiest pastas I’ve ever had!  Plus it helped that it had one of my favorite ingredients, shrimp!


  • 1 lb linguine pasta
  • 1 lb peeled and deveined large shrimp
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil for sauce, 2-3 tbsp olive oil for cooking shrimp
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 cups baby arugula
  • 2 avocados


  1. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil and cook linguine according to box instructions (usually about 13 minutes).
  2. In a medium sized bowl, toss the shrimp with the paprika, about 2 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp of lemon juice.
  3. In a large skillet, spread some olive oil and when hot, add the shrimp.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes until the shrimp has lost the translucent color.
  4. In the bowl of a food processor, add the arugula, avocado, and olive oil and pulse and puree until creamy.  Feel free to add more olive oil if you want a thinner sauce.
  5. Once the pasta has been cooked, drain and return to pot.  Add in the sauce and stir all together.  Add the parmesan cheese here, as well and stir.
  6. Serve onto shallow pasta bowls and place shrimp on top.  Lightly season with salt and pepper.

Easy Feta and Roasted Tomato Salad

Light salads often feature as a first course in our more elaborate dinners on the weekends.  Oftentimes I know I want to make a green salad but am never sure what to throw into them.  The best salads, though, are often when you discover leftover bits and pieces in  your fridge, that when assembled look picture perfect.  This was one of those.


I happened to have a bunch of roasted tomatoes leftover from a previous brunch, and so decided to throw them into this light salad.


  • 1 block of feta cheese
  • 5 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1/2 lb arugula
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • pinch of kosher salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Cut your tomatoes in half and arrange them on a baking sheet lined with foil with the flesh sides up.   Season with salt and pepper and oregano.  Bake for about 35 minutes or until the tomatoes look slightly browned.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the arugula, olive oil and lemon juice.
  3. Cut the block of feta cheese into 2″ squares and set aside.
  4. Once the tomatoes are done, let them cool for about 15 minutes.
  5. Assemble the salad by placing the arugula in a shallow bowl, followed by an arrangement of feta and tomatoes to your taste.
  6. Serve immediately!

No Bake Nutella Cheesecake

I wasn’t planning on making any special desserts for Valentine’s Day, mainly because I had just made a week’s worth of post-dinner desserts in the form of pot de creme.  However, when Lisa sent me this round-up of recipes, I knew that I had to make the Nutella cake.  The thought of  basically taking a tub of Nutella and then not having to bake anything to create a dessert was too tempting to pass up.

This cake vanished in a matter of days, and was wonderfully dense and like eating blocks of fudge on top of a graham cracker like crust.  I would probably make it with a graham cracker crust next time. Thanks to this recipe, I also learned what Digestives are.  True to their name, apparently they were originally used to help with digestion!  (A product name that describes exactly what it does? Brilliant.)

While I could have added Hazelnuts, I couldn’t seem to find them in my grocery store and had not thought to add them to my order, and as it turns out – I think it was much better without the extra nuts!
  • one 8.8-ounce package of Digestive cookies, or substitute graham crackers or chocolate wafer cookies
  • 75grams (5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) soft unsalted butter
  • 400grams (one 371-gram jar is fine) Nutella, at room temperature, divided
  • 100grams (2/3 cup) hazelnuts, well-toasted and chopped (see note), divided
  • 500grams (two 8-ounce packages is fine) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 60grams (1/2 cup) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  1. Break the digestives into the bowl of a processor, add the butter and a 15-milliliter/1 tablespoon of Nutella, and blitz until it starts to clump.
  2. Tip into a 23-centimeter/9-inch round springform and press into the base either using your hands or the back of a spoon. Place in the fridge to chill.
  3. Beat the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar until smooth and then add the remaining Nutella to the cream cheese mixture, and continue beating until combined.
  4. Take the springform out of the fridge and carefully smooth the Nutella mixture over the base. Place the tin in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight. Serve straight from the fridge for best results.

Tuscan Potato, Sausage and Kale Soup

zuppa toscana1I am afraid to jinx things, but mostly Chicago has been insanely lucky this winter. We have had very little snow and it hasn’t even truly been that cold – certainly nothing that lasted for days on end. As a result, I have been slightly less moved to make all of the soups and stews that I normally relish as soon as the temperature drops. The last few days have been a bit colder and the next few are expected to be as well so I went searching for new soups I could try out. I checked out about five different versions of Zuppa Toscana and ended up with my adaptation of a few. Some used 1:1 ratio of whole milk to chicken broth and that just seemed like way too much. And because I used chicken Italian sausage, instead of pork, there was virtually no added fat. Don’t get scared off by the heavy cream; it’s only one cup for a big pot of soup. The soup is actually ridiculously easy to make and you can have it ready in under an hour. Just have some crusty bread on hand and a salad if you are feeling ambitious. There is lots of kale in here so you are getting your greens.

Zuppa Toscana adapted from Tuscan Recipes

Yield: 8-10 servings


1 pound fresh Italian sausage (hot or sweet) that has been removed from its casings

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 Tablespoon EVOO

3 large leeks, cleaned well and thinly sliced (white and light green part only)

4 large garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

10 cups of chicken stock, preferably no salt

4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced into half-moons

1 cup heavy cream

1 large bunch kale (I just used regular curly kale, but you can use Tuscan kale if you prefer)

Fresh cracked black pepper and more Kosher salt to taste

Parmesan or Pecorino cheese for serving


  1. In a large, heavy soup pot of Dutch Oven, saute the Italian sausage and paprika, breaking it up while it cooks. Cook until just browned. If you are using pork sausage you will need to drain off the fat. Otherwise just set aside in a separate bowl.
  2. In the same pot, add the EVOO and saute the leeks and garlic until softened and beginning to brown. I sprinkle them with the 1/2 teaspoon of salt at this point.
  3. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Now addthe sliced potatoes, turn the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the heavy cream, kale and add back the cooked sausage and cook until heated through. You want to serve this hot! Garnish with freshly grated cheese and crispy bread.


Stir-Fried Bean Curd with Ground Turkey

Ma Po Tofu

Okay, this may not sound wonderful, but it’s really quite good and simple to make. As I have mentioned before, one of my favorite food websites is Food52. I have found several very good recipes though the site as well as some fun – and useful – kitchen items to purchase. I love Asian food, especially as an antidote to the occasional over-indulgence in some rich foods. I haven’t located a delivery Chinese restaurant that ever seems worth the expense to me and frankly, what could be fresher than homemade.

This recipe is known as Ma Po Tofu in restaurants and is usually made with ground pork. I chose ground turkey, but feel free to substitute ground pork if you prefer. This is an adaptation of an adaptation of a recipe that was originally published in Food & Wine.

Ma Po Tofu (Stir-Fried Bean Curd with Ground Turkey) – adapted from Robin Diane

Yield: 4 portions unless served with other dishes


1 pound ground turkey

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch

3/4 teaspoon five-spice powder

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 bunch minced scallions or more to taste

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

About 1 teaspoon sesame oil (regular or “hot”)

About 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I used Peanut oil)

3/4 cup finely chopped sweet red pepper

1 teaspoon (or more to taste) minced jalapeno pepper

1 rounded Tablespoon minced fresh garlic

1 rounded Tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 cup chicken stock, preferably unsalted

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 Tablespoons oyster sauce

1 pound fresh firm or extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into 3/4 inch cubes (see my instructions on pressing tofu)


  1. Press tofu according to instructions, cut into large dice and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. When ready to cook, combine the ground turkey, egg, 1 Tablespoon of the cornstarch, the five-spice powder, about 1 Tablespoon of the scallions, 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar. 1/2 teaspoon of the seasme oil and the salt. In a wok or large frying pan, heat 1.5 Tablespoons of the oil over high heat until it is shimmering. Then add the turkey mixture and break it up with a wooden utensil until it browns. Stir-fry until it is cooked through – about 3 minutes. Transfer to a strainer over a bowl to drain any excess fat.
  3. Lower the heat to moderate and add about 1 Tablespoon of the vegetable oil until it is hot. Stir in alll of the remaining scallions (except for about 1 Tablespoon that you have set aside for garnish), the red and jalapeno peppers, garlic and giner. Stir-fry until fragrant – about 30 seconds. Add back the cooked turkey and the remaining sugar and mix well. Increase the heat to high, stir in the chicken stock, soy sauce and oyster sauce and bring to a boil.
  4. Meanwhile dissolve the remaining 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in 2 teaspoons of cold water. When well mixed, add the mixture to the center of the pan, stirring as you do it. Gently stir in the tofu and cook for about 3 minutes more until heated through. Serve over steamed or boiled rice and sprinkle with the remaining chopped scallions and drizzle with a bit more sesame oil.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Crostini

Most of my cooking adventures are well planned, with a timeline that goes backwards to gauge when I should start said adventure.  Unfortunately, there are a few times that the adventures are unfolding just fine until I discover that step 2 takes an hour instead of 15 minutes, or I forgot that something else was in the oven and so I can’t swap it out.  At these times, a little snack is all we need to get from “oh my goodness I am so hungry that I’m only seeing spinning wheels” to “oh hey, I’m feeling just fine, you take as long as you want to get dinner ready!”


This snack was inspired from a starter at a restaurant that we recently discovered near Lincoln Center that seemed oh so fancy, and then I realized that I could easily make it at home since I seem to always have tomatoes and goat cheese (thanks to an amazing goat cheese sale at the grocery store) and a couple of delectable, tasty olive oils.

It can be used for dinner party starters, cocktail parties, or just that lazy Saturday afternoon around 3 when brunch has worn off but dinner is far off.  The best is that you can play with the ingredients and add any kind of herbs or differently flavored olive oils and still get good results, so experiment!


French baguette, cut in 1/2″ slices
2-3 tomatoes (any will work, I like the Roma ones for this)
Goat cheese
Olive oil
salt and pepper for taste
basil (optional – I didn’t use it in the photo, but it would be a perfect touch)


Preheat your oven 200 degrees F.  Line a tray with foil and place your bread on the tray and stick it in the oven even as it is warming up.  Depending on how toasty you like your bread, leave it in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Once the bread looks toasty, take the tray out of the oven, and drizzle olive oil on the bread slices.  Take about a tablespoon of goat cheese (I like to be generous and use large chunks of it) and spread on the bread.  Slice the tomatoes and press slices into the goat cheese.

Drizzle with a little more olive oil if you wish, and sprinkle some pepper on all the arrangements.  Serve immediately!

Grilled Lamb Chops

In my more recent forays into cooking “real meat” as I call it, meaning I’ve started cooking outside of the chicken comfort zone, I’ve had fun discovering fancy looking dishes that are really quite easy and don’t take too much time.  In wondering out loud what to make for dinner, a friend suggested this recipe that she has made for company for years.


While the recipe calls for a grill, we both used a cast iron skillet and had amazing results anyways.  Some people have said that cast iron skillets are extremely difficult to clean, but this recipe resulted with very minimal clean-up.  The marinade adds wonderful depth of flavor, and you can use the leftover herbs sprinkled into dishes for the rest of the week, including omelettes and chicken for salads.


2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Pinch cayenne pepper
Coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 lamb chops, about 3/4-inch thick


In a food processor fitted with a metal blade add the garlic, rosemary, thyme, cayenne, and salt. Pulse until combined. Pour in olive oil and pulse into a paste. Rub the paste on both sides of the lamb chops and let them marinate for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator and allow the chops to come to room temperature; it will take about 20 minutes.

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat until almost smoking, add the chops and sear for about 2 minutes. Flip the chops over and cook for another 2 minutes for medium-rare and 3 minutes for medium.

Adapted from Food Network Grilled Lamb Chops.

Red Quinoa and Butternut Squash Salad

While I love making sandwiches for lunch, every once in a while I find myself looking for something a little more interesting.  I’m also always looking for dishes that are multipurpose – where it works as a side, a full meal or a simple lunch.  I definitely had lunch envy the other day when a colleague was taking out her amazing looking quinoa salad, and it occurred to me that it’s been forever since I made any quinoa salads (minus the most recent disaster when an entire quinoa salad went flying out of my refrigerator and crashing.)


Anyways, I came across this delicious recipe from someone who apparently also seeks to defeat the “sad desk lunch” — who knew that there’s apparently an entire website devoted to sad desk lunches?  There’s a whole universe of delicious, easily packable lunches – so why are so many people suffering?

But I digress, the point is that I made this salad once, and then had it as a side with salmon, for lunch with some sliced chicken, and again for dinner with sliced chicken (I could have even just thrown an egg on it.)  The pomegranate seeds add a bit of colorful flair (take that sad desk lunches!) and the arugula tossed in adds even more color and crunch to an already colorful dish that just begs to be photographed.


  • 2 ½ cups butternut squash, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 4 teaspoons, extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¾ cup uncooked red quinoa
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon good quality maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • Salt
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate arils
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
  • 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • Handful of arugula (optional)


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the cubed butternut squash on a baking sheet or in a baking pan. Drizzle with two teaspoons olive oil and sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Toss to coat. Roast your butternut squash for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes, until it is very tender.
  3. While your squash is roasting, cook red quinoa according to package directions (I find this is generally a 1 cup of quinoa to 1.5 cups of water or broth if you choose to use that instead). When cooked, transfer it to a large bowl to cool slightly.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the minced shallots, remaining two teaspoons olive oil, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Season with salt to taste and set your dressing aside until ready to use.
  5. Toast walnuts in a small pan over medium-high heat.  Just make sure to watch that it doesn’t get too toasty crisp! Remove from the pan and set aside.
  6. Add your roasted butternut squash, toasted walnuts, pomegranate arils, arugula, parsley and crumbled feta cheese to the bowl with your cooked red quinoa. Pour the dressing over your salad and gently toss to coat. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.

Adapted from Domesticate-me Red Quinoa and Butternut Squash Salad.

Roasted Plum Tomatoes

roasted tomatoes

Plum Tomatoes seem to be everywhere right now, so I recently bought up a big bunch at the farmer’s market and decided I would figure out what to do with them later. Sauteed in EVOO with lots of garlic and fresh basil, it makes a quick, easy and fresh tasting pasta sauce. Just add about 1/3 cup of the pasta water at the end plus some salt and frsh cracked pepper to taste. Drizzle with EVOO and add freshly shaved or grated parmesan or romano and wow!

I also thought I might make a Margherita Pizza, but I ended up oven roasting them instead. Kept in a glass jar, drizzled with some additional EVOO they will last for at least a week in the fridge or months in the freezer. I use roasted tomatoes in sauces, soups, on sandwiches and of course on pizza. You are only limited by your imagination.

Oven Roasted Plum Tomatoes


About 3 pounds of ripe plum tomatoes with the little core removed and quartered length-wise      Oven-Roasted Plum Tomatoes

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh herbs like thyme and oregano fresh herbs

1/4 cup EVOO


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. With your fingers (yes, get a bit messy, okay!) scoop out most of the seeds and excess gelled liquid
  3. On a shallow baking pan, lined with parchment paper, lay out the tomatoes cut side up in a single layer.
  4. Sprinkle wit the garlic mixed with the herbs. Drizzle with the EVOO.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. and bake for 20 more minutes, until carmelized.
  6. Turn off the oven, but leave the pan in the oven for 10 more minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

NOTE: Only add salt after cooking. The flavor will be too intense otherwise and too salty.