Category Archives: Vegetables

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad

If I had to list them, the very best parts of this meal–in no particular order– include:

  • It cost $15.16 total or $3.79 per serving.
  • It’s deliciously crunchy, peanuty, and the slightest bit spicy
  • It’s healthy (veggies, mango, and chicken breast…hello!)
  • It requires zero cooking, almost no chopping (veggies are pre-cut) and takes about 3 minutes to prepare.

When I dreamed up this meal I knew it could do no wrong and boy was I right.  Just like Tuesday’s post all ingredients are from Trader Joe’s. This makes me exceedingly happy because some grocery shopping days I can hit up to FOUR DIFFERENT PLACES for ingredients. Yes, you read that right: The farmers market, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Stanley’s Produce. Four…count them….four. There goes my Sunday! Yes, I realize that’s insane. So the idea of going to just one place is kind of life-changing to me.

Let’s break down what you see on this plate of chopped healthiness: Trader Joe’s chopped veggies, which includes of mix of eight different items including broccoli, carrots, green and red cabbage, jicama, green bell pepper, radish, and celery. The 16 oz container was on sale for…drumroll please…$2.99. Boom! A package of boneless skinless roast chicken breast (picture rotisserie chicken, but no skin, no bones, and white meat only). Sliced mango. Chopped cilantro. And a generous drizzle of TJ’s Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette. Get your hands on it ASAP. You’re going to want to dip every single item of your fridge into this dressing. Trust me. And when your fiance is traveling for work so there’s no one to witness, absolutely no one will know. Unless you confess it on your blog….d’oh!

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad

We’re off to New York tomorrow for a dear friend’s wedding and we’ll get to see my family, too! I hope you all have a lovely Labor Day Weekend!

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad

Serves 4 as a side salad or 2 as a main course


1 (16 oz) package) Healthy 8 chopped veggie mix

1 (16 oz) package sliced roast chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 mango, cut into chunks

1 handful cilantro, stems removed and leaves chopped (optional)

Spicy peanut vinaigrette

1/2 cup lightly salted peanuts, chopped


Combine veggie mix, chicken breast, mango, and cilantro in a bowl. Pour on desired amount of peanut vinaigrette and mix to combine. Top with chopped peanuts.

Grilled Chicken Quesadillas

Grilled Chicken Quesadillas

Grilled Chicken Quesadillas

Happy Friday, friends! Before we dive into the goodness that are these life-changing quesadillas I’d like to take a moment to let out a high-pitched squeal because this weekend is my bachelorette party! Just thinking those words–not even saying or writing them–blows my mind. Me? Bachelorette party? Whaaaaa? My sister will be landing in Chicago shortly and a weekend of girly fun will ensue. I absolutely can’t wait for Saturday night. I’ll be sure to give you all a recap just as soon as I can.

But first…these quesadillas.

grilled chicken quesadillas

Where’s the salsa? Gimme.

Fact: Before last week I had never had a quesadilla in my life. Because I don’t like cheese. And there’s always cheese. But earlier this year, I started making an effort to learn to like cheese for about a million different reasons. Among them: When you don’t eat cheese you realize how many foods contain cheese and I don’t want to miss out on so many foods in life. So basically my queso-phobia was giving me a serious case of FOMO. I’ve been making very small strides (I ate fried brie in Austin! And this meaty baked ziti!)  Quesadillas were my next accomplishment.

The ‘dilla you see in the first photo? That was Robert’s – ooey and gooey and packed with cheese. That’s probably what you want. The ones above? All mine. Just enough cheese to get a little melty action, but without too much, you know, cheesiness.

I’m obsessed. And it’s true–I have been missing out BIG time. I don’t need to explain the million reasons why quesadillas are amazing because you’ve probably had 10,000 more in life than I have. Although my basis for comparison is very small–as in, I’ve only ever had these (twice)–I like to think they’re especially delicious because the chicken and veggies are grilled.  That automatically gives you like a million bonus points in the taste department, right?

You may have plenty of quesadilla tricks already up your sleeve, but be sure to put these on your menu this summer while you’re still regularly firing up the grill.

Clockwise from left: Whole wheat tortillas, chopped cilantro, grilled bell peppers, red and yellow onion, marinated grilled chicken, cheese (we used a fiesta mix from WF)

Whole wheat tortillas, chopped cilantro, grilled bell peppers, red and yellow onion, marinated grilled chicken, cheese (we used a fiesta mix from WF)

Grilled Chicken Quesadillas

Serves 4-6


2-3 Tbsp olive oil

2 tsp paprika

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast (1 1/2 lbs will leave you with delicious chicken leftovers)

Salt & pepper

3 bell peppers (red, yellow, and orange), each cut into 1/2 inch thick slices

1 small yellow onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices

1 small red onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices

Olive oil

Cheese of your choice, shredded (quantity is up to you!)

Chopped cilantro (optional)

6-8 whole wheat tortillas


In a small bowl combine marinade ingredients (olive oil through cumin). Place chicken in a bag or container for marinating. Season with salt and pepper. Add marinade to chicken and let it marinate anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours.

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Coat rack will cooking spray. Grill peppers and onions until tender and slightly charred, about 5 minutes. Remove from grill and set aside. Once slightly cooled, chop peppers and onions into small pieces.

Remove chicken from marinade and grill about 6 minutes on each side until cooked through. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Thinly slice.

Heat some olive oil to just coat the bottom of a medium-sized pan on the stove (an iron skillet works great.)

Prepare quesadilla: Sprinkle some cheese over half of each tortilla; add some vegetables and chicken; top with some cilantro. Fold tortilla in half over filling. Place 2 quesadillas in pan and cook about 3-5 minutes on each side until cheese melts and tortilla browns. Remove from heat. Repeat with remaining tortillas/ingredients. Once quesadillas slightly cool cut into four pieces each.

Serve with salsa.

Roasted Tomato & Corn Soup

Roasted tomato & Corn soup

Roasted tomato & corn soup

I know what you’re thinking. Soup? In the summer? Just stay with me here. You won’t be disappointed.

Farmers market fresh tomatoes roasted in the oven until they spill their juices and slightly caramelize. Sweet kernels sliced off the cob cooked until they’re just golden around the edges. Bell pepper singed on an open flame and peeled down to its soft flesh. Now add all that to slightly sauteed yellow and red onions plus a fiery jalapeno. Some chili powder and seasonings. A little bit of vegetable broth. Then whip everything into a frenzy with an immersion or regular blender.

You feel me now?

If you’re like a certain someone I know and you love when food is a vehicle for toppers, well, then you’re in luck. The options are endless: Freshly chopped cilantro, chunks of buttery avocado, shreds of salty tortilla chips, I could go on…

Despite its creamy texture there’s not a drop of dairy in here–not that there’s anything wrong with that. Just foods from the earth hanging out in your soup bowl getting along famously.

Summer is served

Summer is served

Roasted Tomato & Corn Soup

Serves 4-6


4 ripe tomatoes, sliced in half horizontally

Olive oil

4-6 ears of corn, kernels sliced off the cob, cobs discarded (or saved for future endeavors)

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

1 jalapeno, chopped (optional)

3 garlic cloves, minced

About 2 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth

1 tsp chili powder

Salt & pepper

For garnish: Cilantro, avocado, paprika


Heat oven to 375. Place tomatoes flesh side down in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil. Roast until tomatoes get soft and juicy, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Spread the corn in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast until the edges begin to turn light brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Place bell pepper directly on the flame of a gas burner turned on high. Sear the pepper and use tongs to turn until each side is charred all over, about 10 minutes total. Place pepper in a brown paper bag and close tightly. Let stand for 15 minutes. Remove and discard the skins and seeds. Chop pepper.

When the tomatoes have cooled slightly, peel off the skins and discard.

In a soup pot, heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute yellow onion, red onion, jalapeno, and garlic until onions soften, about five minutes. To the pot add the tomatoes including any accumulated juices, half of the corn, and red pepper. Season with chili powder, salt, and pepper. Add enough vegetable broth to cover the vegetables. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-high. Using an immersion blender (or adding to a blender in batches), blend until just smooth. It’s okay if some smaller chunks of vegetables remain. Add the remaining corn to the pot and serve with desired garnishes.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Red Pepper, Potato & Spinach Frittata

Frittata with red peppers & spinach

Red Pepper, Spinach & Potato Frittata 

I have this thing about eggs. And by “this thing” I mean I’m not very good at cooking them. Sad, but true. So I was a little skeptical when I set out to attempt a frittata which includes eight–count them–eight whole eggs. Still, I was determined and it couldn’t have been any easier or tastier! Plus, who doesn’t love a one pot, er, skillet meal? I’ve made this recipe both with a potato and without and it was awesome both times. I also added a bag of raw spinach as a great way to sneak in some healthy and colorful greens. The secret to that golden color on top? When it’s done cooking, place the skillet under your broiler for about two minutes. Voila!

The frittata is hearty enough to serve as dinner (yes, even for the person in your life who claims he or she doesn’t like breakfast for dinner….don’t listen to them and just make it, they’ll love it). It also makes filling leftovers for lunch and is super easy to whip up for a crowd for brunch.

My favorite way to eat it: Served alongside a big pile of mashed avocado or guac!

Red Pepper, Potato & Spinach Frittata 

Serves 4


Olive oil

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, stems, ribs, and seeds removed, sliced into very thin strips

1 russet potato, peeled and cut into thin round slices

Salt & pepper

1 bag baby spinach

8 large eggs

1 Tbsp Sriracha (optional)


Preheat oven to 400. Heat some olive oil in cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until peppers soften, about 3 minutes. Add spinach. Saute until wilted. Remove onion, pepper, and spinach to a bowl and set aside.

Add a little more olive oil to skillet. Add potatoes and season well with salt and pepper. Cook until potatoes are lightly browed, about 10 minutes. Transfer potatoes to bowl with onion mixture and toss to combine. Return mixture to skillet, flatten so it’s evenly spread across the bottom.

In a bowl, beat eggs and season with some salt and pepper. Add Sriracha and beat to combine. Pour eggs over potato mixture, tilting skillet to distribute evenly. Bake in oven about 15 to 20 minutes until set. When finished cooking, remove skillet from oven. Move the top rack to the highest location and turn on the broiler. Place skillet under broiler for about 2 minutes until the top turns golden brown. Cut into wedges and serve.


Steak & Asparagus Spring Salad

Steak & Asparagus Spring Salad via ABalancedLifeCooks.comHere’s how I know spring has finally arrived here in Chicago: On one of the first non-30 degree days I stepped outside, pointed my face toward the sun, and basked in its warmth. It has been a long, cold, grey winter and I’m so ready to finally emerge from hibernation.

Sometimes I like to coax the next season with the food I make. I love roasted veggies as much as the next gal, but it’s time for something a little lighter. What you see here: Raw organic arugula with yellow bell pepper, boiled and seasoned baby potatoes, steamed asparagus with shallot vinaigrette, and marinated flank steak. Can I get an OH YEAH? The perfect meal to bridge the seasons: light and fresh flavors with a few hearty slices of steak.

The great thing about this meal is you can serve it so many different ways. Check out the fixins’ below:

DSCN2202You prepare each component separately, which means you can pile everything together into a salad like I did or place each item on a different part of your plate if you’re not into your food touching. Either way it’s a tasty and refreshing way to celebrate the start of spring!

Steak & Asparagus Spring Salad

Since there are several different parts to this meal I offer instructions below on how to prepare each one so you can make it all or pick a few. 

Marinated Flank Steak

To a bowl or baking dish combine: 1 pound flank steak, 2 Tbsp olive oil,  juice of 1 lime, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 chopped jalapeño (remove ribs and seeds), 1/2 cup chopped cilantro. Refrigerate for 1 or more hours.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the steak and cook 5 minutes (or more depending on desired degree of doneness) on each side. Remove steak to a plate and let it sit for at least 5 minutes. Slice into thin strips.

Steamed Asparagus & Shallot Vinaigrette

Steam 1 bunch asparagus. Drain and place on a plate. In a bowl whisk together vinaigrette: 2 Tbsp champagne vinegar, 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp chopped shallot, 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Pour vinaigrette onto asparagus.

Arugula Salad

In a bowl combine: 7 oz bag organic arugula, 1 chopped bell pepper, 1 Tbsp olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper to taste.

Baby Potatoes 

Boil 1 pound baby potatoes until fork tender. Drain. Remove to a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Healthy & Hearty Winter Ragout

Sausage, kale, mushrooms, kidney beans, cannelini beans, and tomatoes.

You may recall about a month ago, while watching the Bachelorette wedding, my cable completely went out. It turns out the cable box had a heart attack and we didn’t get a new one for about 2.5 weeks. I can’t even begin to describe the positive impact going without TV (we couldn’t even get the basic channels) had on me during that time–and since.

Robert happened to be traveling for work during those weeks (otherwise it probably would’ve been fixed sooner) so I was left to my own devices to entertain myself. What I discovered: Life without TV in the evening frees up an enormous amount of time. It’s awesome. In fact, some nights I got into bed by about 8:30pm because I wasn’t really sure what else to do. Bonus: I finished a few books way more quickly than I usually do.

Now, don’t get me wrong I love TV. A lot. Often, it’s not what’s on TV as much as how relaxed and zoned out I feel while watching it. Plus, I love getting completely engrossed in shows (Homeland and Downton Abbey are some of our recent faves). And I can pretty much guarantee we’ll have a few Dexter marathons this weekend (we just started watching the first season).

However, those 2.5 weeks were enough to break me of a habit: Eating dinner and watching TV every night until it’s time to go to bed. Lately, I’ve been cooking meals that take just a little bit more time to make (still, not more than 30 or 40 minutes on week nights). More importantly, I’ve really been able to enjoy the process more than ever because I’m not rushing through cooking so I can plop down on the couch ASAP to watch whatever’s on the DVR. If I make it there, great; if I don’t, well that’s great too.

Ingredients. Ready to party.

This was one of those meals that I truly loved cooking. I was able to take my time and when I realized I didn’t have any of the usual suspects with which to deglaze the pan after browning the chicken/turkey sausage (such as white wine or chicken broth) I realized beer would be a stand-up stand-in. Oh my, was I right. I also used some of the beer to steam the kale and I actually can’t imagine this recipe without the depth of flavor thanks to the brew (Boulevard, no less, for you Kansas City folks.)

The result, as Robert summed up in seven words: “This tastes like winter in a bowl!”


I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Thank you for reading!

Winter in a bowl.

Winter in a bowl.

Healthy & Hearty Winter Ragout

Serves 4


Olive oil

12 oz chicken/turkey sausage, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1/4 cup shallot, minced (about 2 shallots)

2 gloves garlic, peeled and minced

8 oz sliced mushrooms

1 bottle beer

2 (14.5 oz) cans of no salt added beans such as kidney and cannellini (FYI: I found them in BPA-free boxes at Whole Foods, which were each 13.4 oz.), drained and rinsed

14.5 oz can diced no-salt added tomatoes

1 bunch kale (about 6 cups), stems removed and chopped

Salt & pepper

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes


Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add sausage and saute until browned on both sides, about 5-8 minutes. Remove sausage. Add minced shallot, garlic, and mushrooms to pan. Saute about 2 minutes. Pour about 1/4 cup beer into pan and use a wooden spoon to remove brown bits left from the sausage. Cook until mushrooms soften, about 5 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, and kale. Pour in 1/2 cup of beer. Cover and cook until kale wilts, about 5-10 minutes. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash some of the beans to create a thicker consistency. Add sausage back into the pan and continue cooking until heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and serve immediately.

Adapted from Cooking Light

Hoisin Glazed Chicken & Sesame Snow Peas

I’m beginning to think that moments of culinary inspiration aren’t so different from artistic inspiration. Except, fortunately, artists don’t eat their work–for the most part anyway. The inspiration occurs when several different factors combine at once inside your head and bam! you’ve got an idea for dinner. At least that’s how it happens for me.

Last week my dad sent a photo of a dinner he cooked with the caption, “Still got it!” He made this fantastic glazed pork loin with broiled pineapple. It looked so great, in fact, that I made the very same recipe Saturday night while “watching” the Michigan football game with Robert:

I loved every single part of this meal–the sweet glaze combined with the slightly salty pork, the juicy grilled pineapple, and especially the Asian inspired dipping sauce served on the side (not pictured.) Oh…the sauce! I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Hoisin, pineapple juice, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. It’s like the best combination of flavors all in one bowl. Robert and I dipped our pork and pineapple directly into the sauce (it’s totally acceptable to do those kinds of things when there are only two of you sharing a meal.) There was also the fact that I bought an entire 32 oz bottle of organic pineapple juice for the original recipe that only required 2 Tbsp. Clearly I have a tendency to overestimate ingredients. So I was also on a mission to use up the juice.

The pork loin happened to be the impetus to help me overcome my fear of the broiler. Yes, I have a complete nonsensical fear of the broiler that probably stems from the fact that the broiler in my old apartment’s electric oven was no better than tossing meat on a radiator. If you were lucky and the food actually cooked all the way through it was rubbery and chewy. Gross! As a result, I’ve always skipped recipes that require me to broil anything. When I asked my dad if he broiled the pork like the recipe suggests he confirmed that he did and responded, “Be brave my daughter.”

I heeded my father’s advice and with only one snafu (the meat was a little too close to the flame at first hence some charring (a.k.a. extra flavor that no one was complaining about)) and learned that a real gas broiler is actually a very easy, efficient, and tasty way to cook.

And then, in a moment, all of these factors combined and the inspiration for broiled chicken thighs using the dipping sauce as a marinade sprung into my head. From there, the rest of the pieces (i.e. the sesame snow peas) fell into place.

Ultimately, I took a slightly more involved recipe (the pork), which makes for a perfect weekend meal when you have a little more time and turned it into an easy peasy weeknight dinner. Just promise me you’ll try both? Deal.

Hoisin Glazed Chicken

1 to 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
4 Tbsp hoisin sauce
4 Tbsp pineapple juice
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp peeled, minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp hot sauce such as Sriracha (optional)

Add hoisin sauce, pineapple juice, soy sauce, mustard, ginger, garlic, and hot sauce in a bowl and stir to combine. Place chicken thighs in a bag, pour sauce on top, and marinate at least one hour.

Heat broiler (on high if it’s an option.) Place chicken on a broil-safe baking sheet lined with foil about 4 inches away from flame and broil about 6 minutes on each side.

Sesame Snow Peas

9 oz snow peas
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp crushed red chili peppers (optional)

Steam snow peas for less than 1 minute until they turn bright green. Drain. Toss snow peas in a bowl with sesame oil, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and chili peppers.

Source: Slightly adapted from