Arugula, Spinach, Strawberry, Prosciutto, and Fresh Mozzarella Salad with Balsamic-Mustard Vinaigrette

While starting to work full-time, I also began doing PiYo (a combination of pilates and yoga) six days a week. My goal is to incorporate more fruits, vegetables, and proteins in my meals. Don’t get me wrong, I have a deep and undying passion for carbs (I can’t go without pasta for a week or else I get cranky). However, I want to start making healthy, innovative salads that can act as a hearty meal.

A few days ago I came home from work determined to experiment with what I had in my fridge.

Greens: Arugula and Spinach (GREAT combination)

Fruit: Strawberries

Dairy: Fresh Mozzarella

Protein: Prosciutto

Now, what to pair with these ingredients for a dressing. I sifted through my vinegars. Ah ha! Balsamic makes the perfect tangy vinaigrette with a dash of dijon mustard.

The finished product?

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

At first bite you feel the heartiness of the spinach with a little punch from the peppery arugula. The sweetness of the strawberry complements the tang of the balsamic vinaigrette. The fresh mozzarella is a welcome repose with its creamy texture. The prosciutto adds some protein, provides a necessary bit of saltiness, and takes to balsamic vinaigrette like a fish to water. A beautiful salad all around.

Arugula, Spinach, Strawberry, Prosciutto, and Fresh Mozzarella Salad with Balsamic-Mustard Vinaigrette

Salad (serves 2)

  • 1/2 bag fresh baby spinach, washed
  • 2 large handfuls of fresh arugula, washed
  • 1/2 ball fresh mozzarella, diced into 1 inch cubes
  • 5 strawberries, washed and chopped
  • 3 slices of prosciutto, ripped into pieces (you can substitute with another protein, like baked chicken)

Vinaigrette (adapted from a recipe in America’s Test Kitchen’s Complete Vegetarian Cookbook)

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon light mayonnaise
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Wash the spinach and arugula and dry using a salad spinner. Add the spinach and arugula to a large bowl.

2. Cut a ball of fresh mozzarella in half, and then cut that half into one-inch cubes, or into whatever size cubes you wish. Add this to the bowl.

3. Wash and cut the strawberries. Add to the bowl.

4. Take three pieces of prosciutto and rip into pieces with your fingers. The pieces can be as large or as small as you’d like. Add to the bowl.

5. To make the vinaigrette, add the balsamic vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise, salt and pepper to a smaller bowl. Whisk it until smooth. Then, while whisking with one hand, drizzle in the three tablespoons of olive oil until completely incorporated. If you struggle with this multi-tasking as I certainly have, you can add the olive oil and then whisk. It will turn out just fine!

6. Add the vinaigrette to the salad and mix the salad with tongs until the vinaigrette fully coats all the goodness.

This salad comes together in just minutes, and the flavors do not disappoint.

Have a wonderful Father’s Day weekend, everyone!

Best Authentic Wontons

The month of May brought several blessings to celebrate.

1. I graduated with my Master’s in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College!

2. I accepted a job offer with America’s Test Kitchen! I’ll be their new Email Marketing Specialist. I start on June 8th, and I can’t wait to return!

3. On the last day of May, I made wontons.

Do you remember my post on Lessons in Chinese Cooking? Well, I finally got around to making wontons, and they came out exceptionally well thanks to Mrs. Chang’s detailed instructions and infinite kitchen wisdom.

When I made wontons with her, we folded them like this:

Folded Wontons
Folded Wontons

Aren’t these beautiful?!

My boyfriend helped catch me in action and take step-by-step photos for how to fold wontons. I shall now impart my wisdom unto you so that you can make the most glorious wontons at home.

Best Authentic Wontons

Filling (same as for steamed pork buns, fyi)

  • 3/4 pound ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 box of frozen spinach, thawed and chopped (or 1/2 bag fresh spinach, sautéed, cooled, and chopped)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger (chopped or grated)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional ingredient: 1/8 teaspoon of Hondashi (a seasoning of sorts that can be made into a fish stock – adding a little of this brings out the flavor of everything else very well)

Wrapper 

To Make the Filling…

1. Take your ground pork and put it in a medium-large mixing bowl.

2. Chop the scallions, defrosted spinach (or sautéed and cooled spinach), and fresh ginger. Add that to the mixing bowl.

4. Add the sherry, sesame oil, egg, and spices (salt, pepper, and Hondashi if you have it). In this step, add as much liquid as you need in order to make the mixture sticky. You don’t want it too thin (too much liquid/oil) or too dry (not enough).

5. Take your hands (or chopsticks or a fork) and mix the filling together, making sure all ingredients are evenly incorporated. Wash your hands and set aside.

How to Fold Wontons

Step 1 for Making Wontons
Step 1

1. Add a small amount of filling to the middle of the wonton wrapper. Fill a small dish with water and set that beside you. Dip your finger into the water and wet the top edge of the wonton wrapper.

Step 2 for Making Wontons
Step 2

2. Fold the bottom edge of the wrapper up to meet the wet top edge. Press down to create a seal.

Step 3 in Making Wontons
Step 3

3. Take the now sealed top edge and make a small fold towards you. The fold should hit the top of the meat filling. this ensures a tight seal.

Step 4 in Making Wontons
Step 4

4. Now, grab the left and right side of the wonton wrapper and fold it down so that the two ends meet in the middle. The motion is curved so that by the time your two hands meet, your hands have moved in a half circle meeting at the bottom-most point. Does that make sense? In other words, the wonton should look like your typical tortellini.

Step 5 in Making Wontons
Step 5

5. To create the seal, dip your finger into the water bowl and wet the bottom left inner edge of the wonton.

Step 6 in Making Wontons
Step 6

6. Finally, take the right side and bring it over to the left, creating a seal with the wet left edge. The two ends will not completely overlap, just those inner edges.

The final product should look like this:

My folded wontons
My folded wontons

Don’t worry if it takes a few tries to get the perfect fold. As long as you have a good seal, your filling won’t come out!

To Cook the Wontons

1. Bring a large pot filled with water to a boil.

2. Put as many wontons as you would like into the pot to cook. You can refrigerate the wontons for a day or so, or you can freeze them to use again later.

3. Once the wontons begin to float, let them cook for another minute or so. If there are many wontons crowded into the pot, add an additional minute just to be sure. Then they are ready to eat!

You can simply take a slotted spoon and place the wontons on a plate. Have some soy sauce, sriracha, and sesame oil on the ready for dipping sauces.

OR…and this is my favorite…make the easiest wonton soup ever.

Wonton Soup

1. As the wontons are boiling, grab a clean soup bowl and add your seasonings and fixings. I usually like to chop up one fresh scallion, mince a small amount of fresh ginger, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon of sriracha, and a little salt and pepper. You can add almost anything that makes sense. Mrs. Chang had special pickled radishes you can find in an asian foods market, and she also had these little baby shrimps you can find in the asian foods market. This is your chance to get creative!

Ingredients for Wonton Soup
Ingredients for Wonton Soup

2. When the wontons are done, take a slotted spoon and add your wontons. Then, take a ladle and add some of the wonton water into the bowl. Mix it all around, and there you have it! Those seasonings will flavor that water so that it doesn’t just taste like boiled water, trust me.

Easiest Wonton Soup
Easiest Wonton Soup

Have fun with this! Please comment with any questions, concerns, or success stories. Have a wonderful week!

Braised Kale and Parmesan Whole Grain Rice Bowl

Is it just me, or was kale not really around in the 90s? I’m sure it was, but as a child I was too fixated on Dunkaroos, those fake cheese snacks with the bread sticks or pretzel sticks for dipping, and Little Debbie oatmeal pies. My family ate healthfully for the most part, but hearty leafy veggies like kale were not exactly on our radar.

I ate kale for the first time when I moved to Boston in August 2013. When I hosted a dinner party with new friends, one of them brought sautéed kale with cumin. This same friend brought a kale salad with wheat berries, apples, and a smoked paprika vinaigrette to another dinner party. Kale began to intrigue me. The hearty, earthy flavors mix so well with fresh fruit and smokier spices. The one thing I could not get over was the texture of raw kale. Treated incorrectly, raw kale feels like rubber in my mouth.

When I interned at America’s Test Kitchen, I discovered this quick video tip about how to handle raw kale:

While raw kale is totally edible, I prefer this nutritious veg braised.

What is braising, you ask? Braising means cooking something in a small amount of liquid that will evaporate and allow the main ingredient to caramelize without getting burnt. It’s magic.

I love mixing whole grains with salad greens. Sweet Green got me hooked. I feel full, but I don’t experience that food coma you get when you eat too much of that homemade mac and cheese.

America’s Test Kitchen’s The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook has a recipe for Braised Kale that’s amazing (I urge you to check out this cookbook, even if you eat meat). I adapted that recipe for the amount of kale I had, and then I added brown rice (I used Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Medley with long grain brown rice, black barley, and daikon radish seeds). Adding grated pecorino romano cheese at the end was the slam-dunk perfect finishing touch.

Braised Kale and Parmesan Whole Grain Rice Bowl
Braised Kale and Parmesan Whole Grain Rice Bowl

Braised Kale and Parmesan Whole Grain Rice Bowl

For braised kale

  • 1 10 oz. bag of tuscan kale, or 10 oz. fresh kale rinsed, stemmed, and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth (if you don’t have broth on hand, you can use 1 cup of water and 1 bouillon cube)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 cup parmesan

For brown rice 

  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1 1/4 cups water

1. Heat olive oil in a 4-Quart pot or Dutch oven on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until translucent, about 7–8 minutes.

2. Add the garlic and cayenne pepper, cooking for about 1–2 minutes. Just make sure the garlic doesn’t brown.

3. Add in half the kale and cook it so it wilts down. This is a fabulous ATK tip I learned, and this will allow you to fit all the kale in the pot.

4. Put the rest of the kale in the pot along with the broth and some salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir every once and awhile until the greens are tender. This will take roughly 20 minutes.

6. While the kale is cooking, grab another pot and cook your brown rice. Follow your package’s instructions. If you have a rice cooker, even better. My parents just got an Aroma rice cooker and love it.

5. Now, remove the lid of the pot with the kale and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook the kale until the liquid has pretty much evaporated. This will take about 10 minutes.

6. Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and any additional salt and pepper you may need to the kale.

7. Take your now cooked brown rice and add that to the pot of braised kale. Mix together. Then add the pecorino romano cheese and mix until combined.

There’s nothing better than food that is super healthy and super easy to make. If you are just getting introduced to this leafy vegetable, I guarantee you’ll love this dish.

Egg Noodles with Ricotta, Lemon, Mint, and Peas

Yesterday was the first day of spring, and it’s now…let me check my phone…26 degrees Fahrenheit here in Boston. We’ve all been craving the sunshine, the green grass, the blossoms, and the spring harvest. Winter brings us squash and citrus, but gosh do I miss those colorful farmers markets, those bright, fresh flavors. I needed a boost after being plunged into the cold for months, so I went to the grocery store and found fresh mint. One whiff of this beautiful herb brings images of summer to my mind’s eye.

Right before I traveled to England in 2011 to study abroad in Oxford, I watched Jamie at Home every day. Jamie Oliver is one of my favorite chefs of all time for several reasons. He has a knack for pairing flavors together in the most beautifully simple way. The one flavor trio that stood out most was his use of lemon, mint, and chili. Look to his courgette salad recipe for an example of this. Mint and citrus are made for each other, and that extra kick at the end from the chili adds an unexpected warmth. Amazing.

This past weekend my boyfriend and I ate dinner at The Haven, a Scottish pub in Jamaica Plain, MA. One of their signature sides is minty mushed peas. Oh my heavens. Chopped mint made those creamy peas the most refreshing mashed vegetable in the world.

So, with these inspirations in mind, I wanted to create a dish that put lemon, mint, peas, and chili together. Behold:

Egg Noodles with Ricotta, Lemon, Mint, and Peas
Egg Noodles with Ricotta, Lemon, Mint, and Peas

 Egg Noodles with Ricotta, Lemon, Mint, and Peas

Serves 2

  • 1 pound egg noodles (I recommend Pennsylvania Dutch Extra Wide)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (about 1/4 cup per person)
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 9 mint leaves, chopped
  • a pinch to 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (you can use fresh red chili if you wish)
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Put the frozen peas in a pan. Take a garlic press and crush one clove of garlic, adding that garlic to the pan.

2. Add olive oil to the pan and turn the heat up to medium. Season the peas with salt and pepper to your taste. Let the peas sizzle in the pan until fully thawed. Turn off the heat and set aside.

3. Fill a large pot with water and heat until boiling.

4. As the pasta water heats up, wash the mint leaves and either chop them with a sharp knife or rip them into pieces with your fingers for less bruising. Add these mint leaves to a bowl along with the lemon zest and lemon juice. If you do not have a mortar and pestle (I don’t!), take the back of a spoon and press or “muddle” the mint and lemon against the side of the bowl. This allows the juices in the mint to come out and mix more readily with the lemon juice.

5. Add the ricotta cheese to the mint and lemon and mix until fully incorporated. Add the cayenne pepper (or fresh red chili) and salt; mix until combined. Set aside.

6. When the water begins to boil, add the egg noodles and cook until al dente.

7. Add drained pasta back into the pot and mix with the sauteed peas and garlic.

8. Spoon the pasta into bowls and top with the lemon mint ricotta cheese mixture. Mix it all together.

And there you have it! A pasta dish so creamy yet so refreshing. Spring is here—celebrate with good food. Happy cooking!

 

“The Bomb” Ice Cream Sundae — A Tribute to My Grandmother

My grandmother, my Italian Nonna, passed away a few weeks ago.

Memories with Nonna
Memories with Nonna

Nonna Joanne was a fount of confidence, faith, and joy. A meticulous organizer, my Nonna was the boss, the life of the party. Nothing mischievous could get past her. I’ll always remember her laugh, her voice on the phone as she always, without fail, told me how proud of me she was. Though we were only able to see my grandparents twice a year, my Nonna took full advantage of her visits with us. We would play cards together for hours. While she had me and my two sisters at the table, she would chat with us about our lives. The most important lesson she taught me was how to be assertive. There is a way to stand up for yourself without being aggressive or terribly passive. In those chats with her, I learned how to be proud of myself and how to never let anyone else’s mean behavior get in the way of my happiness.

In our summer visits to Massachusetts, it was tradition for me, my sisters, and Nonna to make an ice cream sundae she affectionately titled “The Bomb.” We’d be watching television in the library after dinner, and then suddenly she would say “let’s make the bomb!” We knew exactly what she meant. Down we went to the kitchen, where we grabbed the necessary sweets for this scrumptious concoction.

Nonna Joanne and I, with "The Bomb" Ice Cream Sundae
Nonna Joanne and I, with “The Bomb” Ice Cream Sundae

First, we had to have a fudgy brownie on the bottom. We usually used vanilla ice cream, but moose tracks was an extra special treat. Spoon hot fudge sauce on top of that, lather on the whipped cream, and then top off the sundae with a maraschino cherry or a “truffle” as my Nonna called it. In this picture it looks like we put an Oreo on top!

Though my Nonna is no longer with us in body, she is most definitely with us in spirit. She lives on in my heart as a woman who celebrated life and all of its infinite joys. Ice cream sundaes were one of those little joys she wished to share with her granddaughters.

I made “The Bomb” ice cream sundae yesterday in tribute to her. The sundae may seem simplistic to some, but for me the process of making it fills me with the sweetest of memories.

"The Bomb" Ice Cream Sundae
“The Bomb” Ice Cream Sundae

“The Bomb” Ice Cream Sundae

  • 1 fudgy brownie (You owe it to yourself to make Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownies. I use no other brand.)
  • 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream (Any flavor will do, but I prefer something vanilla based for this sundae.)
  • hot fudge sauce
  • whipped cream
  • 1 maraschino cherry, Oreo cookie, or “truffle”

1. Make one batch of brownies. You can use your own recipe. If you use a brownie mix, buy Ghirardelli. You will not be sorry.

2. Take one brownie (as big as you want), and place in a bowl.

3. Top the brownie with one scoop of vanilla ice cream.

4. Warm hot fudge in the microwave per the package’s instructions. If you make your own, even better!

5. Pour the desired amount of hot fudge on top of the ice cream and brownie.

6. Add your desired amount of whipped cream on top.

7. Finally, top the sundae with a maraschino cherry, Oreo, or “truffle”

The sundae is simple, and simple is best in this case. Everyone’s sundae will come out differently, and that’s the point. Making “The Bomb” sundae allowed my sisters and I to celebrate our uniqueness. Who knew making ice cream sundaes could be so profound?

Here’s to you, Nonna Joanne. Thank you for influencing the woman I have become. Thank you for making the best ice cream sundaes in the world with me. They are, truly, “the bomb.”

French Toast Oatmeal

Before we get into the goodness the title of this post suggests, I’d like to start off with a much-needed life update.

I graduate with my Master’s in May, and that means it’s thesis time. Forty pages in, and I’m marching along. Digital marketing is such an analytical yet creative industry. You interpret data, yes, but you also have to imagine the needs and typical lifestyle of a user on your site or digital apps. While I was an English major in college, both of my Physics professors said I should be a physicist. One of them even wanted me to be a Physics TA and teach it! I love that mixture of objectivity and subjectivity. You can find this marrying of objective and subjective in cooking. There are some elements of the craft that you must follow, through and through, like don’t ever substitute baking soda with baking powder. Food is scientific. On the other hand, taste depends on an individual’s palate. Food is creative, too.

America’s Test Kitchen is treating me well, too! I love working as a Web Editorial Intern. I’m writing their Facebook posts and some Pinterest pins. My blog series on the America’s Test Kitchen Feed is launching March 6th. So exciting! It’s called “#ATKVeg Better Together,” based on The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook. I’ll be highlighting unique flavor combinations in some of the book’s recipes, reflecting on each ingredient before showing how they are the perfect match. My first post involves Roasted Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese, Pecans, and Maple. How do goat cheese, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper taste together? Find out next Friday the 6th!

Roasted Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese, Pecans, and Maple
Roasted Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese, Pecans, and Maple

Lastly, my grandmother passed away a few weeks ago, so I was out of town all last week. She inspired me immensely. I’ll have much more to say about her in a forthcoming post, a tribute to her and the glorious ice cream sundaes we always made together.


Now, for the goods.

Yesterday was my first day with no plans or obligations in a very long time. So, I thought I’d treat myself to a nice breakfast—something sweet but healthy. I craved two things: french toast and oatmeal. Having both would mean a carb overload. What to do? Fuse them together!

French Toast Oatmeal with Dried Apricots and Cranberries
French Toast Oatmeal with Dried Apricots and Cranberries

French Toast Oatmeal

Serves 1

  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats (these cook up far quicker when you’re in a pinch, but steel cut oats would be lovely if you have time. Just remember that the ratio of milk/water to oats will be different with the steel cut variety. Follow the package’s instructions.)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • dried fruit of your choice (I love dried apricots and cranberries. Golden raisins are wonderful. Add as much or as little as you like.)

Note: While I did not add this yesterday, I think a little orange zest would be a fantastic addition. Try it and let me know what you think!

1. Put the oats and milk into a medium pot.

2. Turn the heat to medium-high. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and dried fruit. Mix all ingredients until fully incorporated.

3. Wait until the milk begins to boil on the sides, about 2 minutes. Start stirring more frequently to prevent the oatmeal from sticking on the bottom. Once the mixture starts mildly boiling, cook until oats are tender and reach desired consistency, about 5 minutes. I love my oatmeal nice and thick, but you may like yours more liquid-y.

4. Pour into a bowl and enjoy. I recommend topping the oatmeal with real maple syrup, à la french toast!