Thursday, May 30, 2013

Cold Farro Salad with Vegetables and Chicken in a Mint Yogurt Sauce

Ugh, we are not happy with this heat wave going on here.  While I enjoy spring, I have a love/hate relationship with summer.  I grew up in a desert climate so I'm fine with high heat but add in a ton of humidity and having to commute in hot metro stations with no moving air, and I become a grumpy, sweaty mess.  The girls also don't love it as they start panting and snorting quickly on our walks and the humidity does a number on Sunny's deep-set wrinkle.  Anyways, this was my long intro to say that when the temperatures and humidity go up, my desire for cold yet satisfying meals goes up as well.  I found this cold farro salad on one of my favorite food blogs theKitchn but it only had leeks and peas and I wanted to add some more veggies, color, and meat so I kinda just winged it.  Below is the recipe I used for the dish in these photos but I'm sure you can swap, add, subtract a number of ingredients depending on your preferences.  I wasn't expecting to like this dish as much as I did.  I made this week a farro week for my meals to simplify things and I ended up liking this dish more than Warm Farro Salad with Roasted Vegetables, Fontina, and Cheese!  And since this is best served cold, I foresee myself making this often during the summer!

Servings: Original recipe said serves 4-6 but this is a 2 mealer for me!

1 - 1 1/2 cups farro (original recipe calls for 1 cup but Trader Joe's has 1 1/2 cup 10 minute bags)
2 leeks, halved and then chopped into 1/2 - 1 inch pieces
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (I use Trader Joe's nonfat version)
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup shredded chicken
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
5 oz baby bella mushrooms, cut into small chunks
1 zucchini, chopped (mine is in large chunks but that's because I was too lazy to cut it smaller)
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste


  • Cook 1 - 1 1/2 cups farro according to instructions.  Rinse with cold water, drain, and set aside.
  • Heat a pan over medium heat and coat with cooking spray or olive oil.  Cook 2 chopped leeks, 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper, 5 ounces chopped mushrooms, and 1 chopped zucchini for a few minutes.  You want the leeks to soften but you don't want the other vegetables to get too soggy.  If you want crisper zucchini then I'd recommend adding them for the last minute or two then.
  • If you are using fresh peas or forgot to thaw them (like I did), then blanch them by adding them to a pot of boiling water for about a minute until they're bright green and then move the peas to an ice bath to cool.
  • In a large bowl whisk together 2 tbsps olive oil, 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, juice from a lemon, and 1 tsp of lemon zest.
  • Add to the bowl the cooled farro, peas, sauted vegetables, and 1tbsp chopped mint.  Toss until everything is coated.
  • Add salt and cracked black pepper to taste.
  • You can serve this warm but I prefer it cold and it keeps well in the fridge.
Rosy's face in the photo below just kills me!
Spot the pug?
And don't forget to give your pugs a teeny lick of yogurt!
The pictures above show the farro salad just after I made it but as I mentioned before, I like it best cold.  Below is when I had it for dinner the next two days.
"What's in that bowl?!  Something delicious for us?!"  (Sorry Rosy, not for you!) 
Persistent lil pugs!
Adapted from theKitchn.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Warm Farro Salad with Roasted Vegetables, Fontina, and Chicken

I like mixing my grains up for some variety and decided to try a farro dish.  I had farro for the first time a couple years ago and loved its chewiness and nutiness!  It makes the dish feel heartier with farro than a smaller or less substantial grain.  I came across this warm farro salad recipe with roasted vegetables and fontina and knew I had to try it!  I made a few tweaks based on what ingredients I was able to find easily and personal preferences.  I also added chicken because while I like vegetarian dishes occasionally, I've had a lot recently and wanted some meat this time around.  But definitely feel free to change this recipe based on your personal tastes and keep it vegetarian if that's what you'd prefer.

Servings: 2 (maybe 3, but this was a 2 for me).

2 medium zucchini, cut into small chunks
1 cup grape tomatoes
5 oz baby bella mushrooms, cut into small chunks
1 red onion, chopped
2-3 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-1 1/2 cups farro (Trader Joe's has 10 minute farro bags which are each 1 1/2 cups)
2-3 ounces fontina cheese, cut into small cubes
1-2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup shredded chicken (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Combine 2 chopped zucchini, 1 cup grape tomatoes, 4 oz chopped mushrooms, 1 chopped red onion, and 2-3 tsps garlic in a large bowl.  
  • Either: (1) add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper, toss until all vegetables are coated, and spread on a lined baking sheet; or (2) spread out the vegetables on a lined baking sheet and then spray with an olive oil spray and then season with salt and pepper (I like this option because I think it means I use less oil, but who knows if that's really true).
  • Bake vegetables for about 25 minutes, stirring a couple times.
  • While vegetables are roasting, cook 1 to 1 1/2 cups of farro according to instructions and then drain.
  • Combine the farro with the vegetables.  
  • Stir in 2-3 oz cubed fontina and 2-3 tbsps chopped parsley
  • Whisk together 2 tbsps olive oil and 1 tbsps balsamic vinegar.  
  • Drizzle oil and vinegar mixture over farro mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Enjoy!

Hey!  Psst!  Come here girls, I want to take a photo.
 Not that close Rosy!
Adapted from theKitchn.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Chickpea Salad with Herbs and Vegetables

I knew this week was going to warm up and the last thing I want to do when it gets hot is cook over a hot stove and eat something heavy.  I ate a lot of salads last summer but I hated the prep work that went with that (I'm anal about cleaning romaine leaves since I'm always worried I'll accidentally eat a bug), and bag lettuce goes bad so quickly.  This chickpea salad involves a little less prep work and chopping since the bulk of this salad are the chickpeas and not lettuce.  It's also a lot quicker to throw together on a weeknight after work if you do the chopping in advance, which is what I did.  And this is a super flavorful dish that you can eat during the hot months without feeling gross afterwards.  This can be eaten as a meal or portion it out smaller as sides to your entree.  A great thing about this salad is that you can use whatever vegetables you want so throw in your favorites for this satisfying vegetarian dish!

Servings: 2-6 (depends on how you're eating this as an entree or side dish)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup red onion, chopped
2 cups halved grape tomatoes
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
2 cups cucumbers, chopped (I like the Trader Joe's persian cucumbers)
1/4 kalamata olives, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

A couple notes:

  • I also threw in a couple handfuls of chopped green onions that I had leftover from another dish.  I know this dish already has red onions but I love onions of all kind and can't get enough of them!  Use whatever vegetables you like for additions or substitutions)
  • This dish was very flavorful and pungent in a good way but if you want it less strong, decrease the herbs and garlic a bit.  Also if you have fresh herbs and the patience to chop them, then definitely use them instead of the dried ones!  I love fresh herbs, but I got lazy and the dried herbs here were still delicious!


  • In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 4 minced garlic cloves and whisk together.
  • In a large bowl mix together 2 cans chickpeas, 3/4 chopped red onion, 1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives, 1 tbsp parsley, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp rosemary, 1 tsp thyme, 1 cup feta cheese, 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes, 2 cups chopped cucumbers, 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper.  
  • Drizzle the vinegar dressing over the chickpea salad, toss well, and enjoy!

The entire time I was prepping the salad my pugs were like this:
Or like this:
Sorry girls, you can't have any!  But please come closer and stay still for a second while I taunt you with the food so that I can take some photos. 
Ok last one and then I'll give you a carrot and peanut butter treat!
Adapted from My Recipes.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mexican Bulgur Salad

One of my favorite dishes I first made on my own was this awesome bulgur salad that my sister made for me when I was in college.  I'd never had bulgur before and the flavor combinations were so fresh and yummy!  Sometimes when I'd dogsit for her she'd make me a bunch of meals beforehand, including the bulgur salad which I would promptly eat all in one sitting.  Ah youthful metabolism!  I soon braved the kitchen myself and that recipe became a regular in my very rare cooking rotation.  So when I stumbled across this Mexican bulgur salad recipe I knew I had to try it!  This has renewed my love for bulgur but this salad is spicier and different from the dish I used to eat which included parsley, lemon juice, kidney beans, and feta.

This dish is really quick and easy to put together so long as you do all the prep in advance.  I did all my chopping on Sunday and then tonight when I came home from work I cooked up the bulgur and then tossed everything together - so easy!  The only pain about this recipe is chopping jalapenos.  I used to chop them willy nilly until one horrible day I rubbed my eye long after having chopped and washed my hands.  Oh the burn!  And then my fingertips wouldn't stop burning too!  I must've had a super spicy batch that time.  But ever since then, I make sure to wear gloves when chopping jalapenos!

If you want your dish spicier feel free to add more peppers.  And season this dish generously as it tastes better with a good helping of salt.  This can be served either warm or cold, so I think I'll be making this a lot during the hot summer months!

Servings: 4 (but this is a 2-3 mealer for me)

1-1 1/2 cup uncooked bulgur
1 1/2 cups diced zucchini
1 15-ounce can of corn, rinsed and drained (or use fresh corn if you have it)
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup chopped green onions
3/4 cup diced Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers
1 cup chopped or shredded cooked chicken
3 tablespoons cilantro, minced
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
3 tablespoons jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste


  • Cook 1-1 1/2 cup bulgur according to directions.  (I put this range because the original recipe calls for 1 cup but Trader Joe's has an awesome little bag of 10 minute bulgur and that's 1 1/2 cups so I figured I'd just use the whole bag).  
  • Once bulgur is cooked and drained, add 1 1/2 cups diced zucchini, 1 can of corn, 1 can of black beans, 1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes, 3/4 cup diced Monterey Jack cheese, 3 tbsps minced cilantro, 1/4 cup chopped green onions, and 1 cup chopped chicken.  Stir gently until ingredients are mixed.
  • In a separate small bowl mix together 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup lime juice, 3 tbsps minced jalapeno peppers, 1 tbsp olive oil, and 1/4 tsp cumin.
  • Add juice mixture to the bulgur and toss together until all ingredients are well mixed.  
  • Salt and pepper generously according to taste (Salt is key!).
  • Serve either warm or put it in the fridge and eat it cold later! 
Notice the pugs' strategic sitting in front of the fridge.  Made it very difficult anytime I had to go back in for a forgotten ingredient!
Poor sad, begging lil pugs.
No bulgur salad for the pugs!  Besides, it has jalapenos in it!

Adapted from My Recipes.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Curry Shrimp and Potatoes

I don't normally cook seafood but I was in the mood for shrimp and Trader Joe's makes it so easy with their frozen shrimp.  All you need to do is thaw it and then it's ready for a quick cooking!  This dish was so easy and yet incredibly satisfying without feeling heavy.  I'm a meat and potatoes kind of girl and this hit all the cravings while keeping it a bit light.  The curry flavor is a bit strong but if curry isn't your thing you can halve the amount of curry or try a different kind of spice.  I also love the zucchini in this recipe.  I'm going through a huge zucchini kick (so are my pugs) and so there's a nice amount of veggies in here to balance the dish.  So start defrosting that bag of shrimp now and get ready for a yummy curry dish!

Servings: 4 (but I ate this for two meals)

2 baking potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 scallions, chopped
1 pound frozen shrimp, peeled, deveined, and thawed
1 small zucchini, halved and chopped
5 ounces mushrooms, chopped (I like baby bella)
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking spray (or olive oil)


  • Heat a large nonstock skillet over medium-high heat.  Spray skillet with cooking spray or heat some olive oil.
  • Add 2 chopped potatoes (scrub the potatoes well when you clean them and leave the skin on when you chop them) and cook for 12-14 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender inside and browned and crisp on the outside. 
  • Add 1 teaspoon crushed garlic, 1 chopped zucchini, 5 oz chopped mushrooms, and 4 chopped scallions (sometimes if I have extra chopped yellow onion I add that too because I love onions!).  Cook for about 5 minutes or until zucchini and mushrooms are tender and then transfer to a plate and return empty skillet to stovetop.
  • Spray pan again with cooking spray (or use oil) and add 1 lb shrimp and 2 tsp curry powder to skillet.  Stir occasionally until all shrimp are cooked and coated with the curry.
  • Add back the cooked vegetables to the skillet and toss with the shrimp until everything is coated with the curry powder. 
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Mmmm now dig in and enjoy!
My pugs didn't seem that entranced by the shrimp and curry but they do love zucchini and were begging for some when I was chopping and cooking the vegetables. Lucky for them zucchini is on the ok list for dogs so I gave them a teeny bit.
Sunny loved the zucchini so much that she wouldn't leave the kitchen the whole time I was there in the hope that I may give some more food.  So while I cleaned up and washed the dishes she snoozed on the cold and hard kitchen floor (even though carpet and numerous dog beds were only a few feet away).
I'll definitely be making this again and I'll experiment with different summer vegetables as the season arrives and maybe with some different or more nuanced flavors.

Adapted from Martha Stewart.