Peach, Arugula, & Gorgonzola Pizza

You’d think that working at a pizza place for five years would have burned me out on pizza. Or going to school in the land of deep dish pies. Or having one of the single.most.amazing pizza restaurants just two blocks away from my apartment.

Peach, Arugula, & Gorgonzola Pizza

But no. I still can’t and don’t get enough of it. But, I don’t just want the standard cheese and sauce anymore. I need flavor, I need texture, I need…well…I need more of this pizza.

Peach, Arugula, & Gorgonzola Pizza

It’s fruity and sweet, but substanstial and filling. It’s got a small bite of peppery flavor from the arugula and a salty kick from crumbled gorgonzola. Plus a whole other layer of flavor from the balsamic reduction drizzled over top at the end! Swoon! It’s like summer. But pizza.

I cut corners here by using a store-bought whole wheat crust, feel free to use homemade if you’ve got the skill or patience (I have neither). It’s summer, I can’t wait for dough to rise. Not when I need pizza. And you need this pizza. Now.

Peach, Arugula, & Gorgonzola Pizza

Peach, Arugula, & Gorgonzola Pizza (serves 4 – 8)

1 container store bought whole wheat pizza dough

1 TBSP olive oil

2 peaches, thinly sliced

3 cups arugula

1/4 – 1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola

balsamic vinegar reduction (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out dough to a 1/8 inch thick circle (mine was about 16 inches around) and place on pizza pan. Alternatively, if you don’t have a round pan, you can use a square pan and simply press the dough into it.

Drizzle olive oil over prepared crust and bake for 10 – 12 minutes, or until edges begin to brown. Pop any wayward bubbles with a knife to release steam.

Top partially baked crust with half of the sliced peaches, a layer of arugula, the remaining peaches and sprinkle with gorgonzola. Return to oven for an additional 5 – 7 minutes, or until cheese has just begun to melt and arugula is wilted.

Drizzle with balsamic reduction and slice into 8 equal pieces. Serve immediately.

For the balsamic reduction:

Pour 1 cup of balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, allow to simmer for 15 – 20 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by over half.

Peach, Arugula, & Gorgonzola Pizza

Pizza = summer = pizza


Sweet Potato and Lentil Salad

In grocery stores back home the deli cases offer a huge selection of what they call “salads” though none of the dishes actually have lettuce or greens in them. It’s a very Midwestern thing, I think, to have these giant bowls of goodness loaded with mayonnaise, pasta, potatoes, meats, and occasionally vegetables and to sell them for only $4.95/pound.

sweet potato and lentil salad

There’s potato salad (Polish or German, there’s a difference), pasta salad, tuna salad, fruit salad, grasshopper salad (a delicious combination of Cool Whip, mint flavoring, green food coloring, and crushed Oreos). The list goes on.

The traditional Midwestern response: “Kale? Escarole? Radicchio? Just who do you think you are? Those don’t belong in a salad! Now go get me a can of cream of mushroom soup for tonight’s hot dish…”

sweet potato and lentil salad

Aaaaaaaaanywho. That loose definition of what constitutes a salad led me to make this delish dish. Creamy sweet potatoes, protein-packed lentils, tart apples and meaty mushrooms are combined to make an incredibly filling vegetarian dish. A drizzle of balsamic reduction and a healthy sprinkling of a nice salty cheese balances out this warm and filling Sweet Potato and Lentil Salad. Make a large batch of it at the beginning of the week and eat for days or make for a group and a delicious side dish to go along with a roast chicken.

sweet potato and lentil salad

Sweet Potato and Lentil Salad (makes 4 servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

¼ medium red onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 tart apple (such as Cortland), chopped

1 medium sweet potato, steamed, peeled, and chopped

1 cup cooked lentils

Balsamic vinegar reduction, see recipe below

2-4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, for serving (optional)

Salt to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, stirring to coat with oil, and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, and cook until mushrooms begin to soften and release juices. Add remaining oil, apples, sweet potato, and lentils. Cook until warmed through, about 5 – 10 minutes.

Divide among bowls and top with balsamic vinegar reduction and cheese. Serve immediately.

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

½ cup balsamic vinegar

Place vinegar in a medium saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes, or until reduced by half, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly. The reduction will thicken as it cools.

sweet potato and lentil salad

Totally worth $4.95/pound.

Blackberry & Blue Cheese Salad

“Woa! What’s that?” he asked as I slipped the lettuce into the cart. 

“Umm…salad mix?” I said, more question than answer. How did he not know what salad mix was? 

“What do you do with it?”

“Umm…make salad.”

“Should I get some? Should I be eating this?” He slipped a container of the greens onto his pile.

blackberry and blue cheese salad

On and on it went. My neighbor and I were grocery shopping and we were both experiencing a culture shock. He didn’t understand why I wanted fresh carrots and I was flabbergasted as to what one person could do with 10 frozen pizzas. He tried to convince me of the advantages of  a 2 for 1 sale on baked beans (just…no) and I tried to get him to buy 18 eggs instead of just a dozen. 

crumbled blue cheese

Clearly, our tastes don’t align, but the shopping trip was still fun. I’ve never seen someone get so confused in the bread aisle. And I definitely know he’d be very confused about this salad. Cheese on a salad? Nuts on a salad? Fruit on a salad? Yes, yes, and yes. This salad is so big and filling and fresh. Creamy and salty blue cheese (I got some fancy brand from Whole Foods – their cheese selection is my kryptonite). Crunchy and satisfying nuts. Sweet and juicy blackberries. Pile them high on a bed of mixed greens and vegetables and this is a perfect spring salad to enjoy for a quick dinner.

blackberry and blue cheese salad

Blackberry & Blue Cheese Salad 

2 cups mixed greens

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup cucumbers, peeled and sliced

2 TBSP red onion, sliced

1/2 cup blackberries, halved

1 oz (about 1/4 cup) pecan halves

2 oz. crumble blue cheese

Pile ingredients onto a large plate or toss in a large bowl, drizzle with balsamic vinegar or favorite salad dressing. Serve immediately. 

blackberry and blue cheese salad

…or share with a neighbor. Or maybe not.

Caramelized Red Onion, Cabbage & Stout Handpies

I’m not late with this. Nope, not a minute late. See, these delicious looking handpies down there, suuuuuuuure they would’ve been wonderful for St. Paddy’s Day. Perfect, even. Alas, papers beat out Patrick on Sunday. I spent over five hours in the library. And four hours the day before. That’s nine hours more than I ever anticipated being in the library this year (my academic advisor is weeping right now).

cabbage hand pie

I knew it was too good to be true. Last week was obviously a fluke. Getting two recipes posted on time. Pssh. I used up all my promptness by turning in final papers a full TWO DAYS early. You win some, you lose some.

cabbage and stout handpie

And you’ll win if you make these handpies. How else are you going to use up the cabbage and beer leftover from this weekend’s festivities? Springy and light, these pies are filled with caramelized red onions and red cabbage, melty Kerrygold Dubliner & Irish Stout cheese, all sandwiched between a cheese and stout crust. Perfectly portable and totally doable for more than St. Patrick’s Day. Trust me.

cabbage hand pie 2

Caramelized Red Onion, Cabbage, & Stout Handpies (makes about 8 pies)

For the crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ tsp. salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled

¾ cup grated Kerrygold Dubliner with Irish Stout Cheese

¼ – ½ cup heavy stout beer (I used Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout)

1 egg + 1 TBSP water, lightly beaten

For the filling:

2 TBSP olive oil

½ medium red onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage

½ – 1 cup stout beer (whatever’s left of the bottle from the crust)

1 tsp. dried thyme

½ cup grated Kerrygold Dubliner cheese

Whisk together the flour and salt. Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse sand. Stir in cheese. Pour in ¼ cup beer and stir to moisten dough. Add remaining beer 1 TBSP at a time until a shaggy dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly flour surface and knead dough a few times to bring together. Pat dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.

While the dough chills, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Add cabbage and cook until it begins to break down, about 5 minutes. Pour beer over mixture. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove cover and continue cooking until liquid has evaporated. Stir in thyme to warm mixture.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

To form the pies: on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thick. Using a cookie cutter (or, in my case, a mini tart pan turned upside down) cut out an even number of crusts. Place half on prepared baking sheet. Top crusts with about 2 – 3 TBSP of the caramelized vegetables before covering with about 1 TBSP of cheese. Place another crust over top and press with fingers or fork to seal edges.

Brush lightly with egg wash and cut small slits in top to release steam while baking.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 – 22 minutes until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted.

Remove from oven and cool on wire rack until warm enough to handle easily.

Pies are best served the day they are made but will keep for two days in the fridge.

Crust adapted from Food Network, filling adapted from Martha Stewart

cabbage and stout handpies

That’s the last time I do schoolwork ever early.

Pear & Mixed Green Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

“What kind of dressing do you have?”
“Well, we’ve got 1000 island, balsamic vnaigrette, blue cheese, French, ranch, honey mustard, Caesar, parmesan peppercorn, and our house Italian,” I rattle off from memory. Over and over and over again. Inevitably the customer gets 1000 island on their side salad (eww, btw) but only tells me after I’m out of breath from reciting the list. Sometimes, they ask twice before making a decision. Why we don’t have our dressings listed on the menu is beyond me. Drives me bonkers.

And has kind of turned me off of salad dressing. Forget that from the ages of 4 to 14 I assumed any sort of vegetable was just a vehicle for ranch dressing. Now, I normally just do a little balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper on my salads. Sometimes, if I’m feeling funky I’ll do an avocado or salsa.
But, now I’ve got a new go-to salad dressing. And go-to salad. This Pear and Mixed Green Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette is filling but fresh, a perfect way to ring in the New Year. A fresh cranberry vinaigrette dresses a simple salad of mixed greens, red onion, bacon crumbles, pear, and blue cheese. Salty, tart, sweet, crunchy, creamy. Phenomenal. 

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Acorn Squash and Kale Risotto

I have this friend, let’s call her Peg, who doesn’t really “do” vegetables. She doesn’t buy them, rarely eats them, and certainly doesn’t cook them. She actually doesn’t really cook anything, save for microwaving the occasional Lean Cuisine Meal.
You’d think that being the complete opposite of her, I’d be less than enthused to interact with Peg, but in fact, that is not at all the case. I feel the need to take care of her, to make sure she’s getting some kind of sustenance besides blueberry bagels smothered in cream cheese. The girl loves carbs.

At least once a week, Peg picks me up and we go to the grocery store (because her fridge contains only Diet Coke and cheese cubes) so I can make dinner. While she stocks up on bagels and freezer meals, I gather up fresh produce, eggs, butter, and whatever else I’ll need to make dinner and dessert.
Back at her apartment, I start puttering around in the kitchen while she does homework at the dining room table. I know trying to get her to eat a salad or steamed cauliflower is not going to happen, so I have to get sneaky with vegetables. She informs me her mother used to try and stick vegetables in pasta and Peg, stubborn even at age 4, would spit them out on the floor and only eat the noodles. This friendship is preparing me for motherhood.

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Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Caramelized Red Onions, Goat Cheese, and Toasted Walnuts

There are a few questions I don’t like being asked. “What size jeans are you?” “Did you want that with whipped cream?” “Can you give me the answer to this math problem?” Those are merely a sampling. They make me feel uncomfortable and unnecessarily stressed. I’ve carefully honed my behavior to avoid these kinds of questions (meaning I wear sweats, order Americanos, and refuse to take a math class until it is absolutely needed).
But lately, a question I can’t seem to escape is whether or not I am a vegetarian.
Growing up in Wisconsin, I didn’t encounter a whole lot of herbivores (I actually only knew one vegetarian before coming to college). Many times our family meals consisted of meat, potatoes, and more meat. Maybe some tasty biscuits from a can if we were feeling fancy.
Despite this meal plan, I managed to cultivate a strong taste for vegetables, particularly since coming to college. Raw, steamed, roasted, any way I can have them I will happily fill my plate. I include them in nearly every meal and feel very thrown off my axis if I don’t have any vegetables at all in a day. All very strange, I know.
Not all of my friends here share my outlook on, or love for, vegetables. I’ll talk about a dinner I made or order a meatless entree at a restaurant and be bombarded with a chorus of “Are you a vegetarian?”

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Salmon Tacos with Roasted Corn and Poblano Salsa

I’m having an affair. With my jean jacket. Wait, is that weird? To be in love with an item of clothing? Definitely Probably. But I’m in love, and I don’t care who knows it!
We started flirting a few years ago, when it caught my eye across a crowded GAP Outlet. We went out casually a few times over the next couple of months, nothing too serious, just a little light layering. I didn’t want to seem desperate. We even separated for a few months and I turned to my wool peacoat for comfort and warmth during those cold and dark months.
Then, this summer, we made up. And were inseparable. We spent nearly every day together. Sundress, maxi dress, peasant skirt. Jacket, jacket, jacket. If I had been carrying around a notebook there would have been little doodles with “Amanda <3s JJ” or “JJ + Amanda = Togetha Foreva”
And now, as the weather gets cooler and hemlines get longer, I am still relying on good ol’ Jeanie. Keeping me warm on cool morning walks to class or managing to make an outfit both more casual and pulled together without looking too “done” – my jacket is there for me. In the summer. In the fall. Forever.
These tacos are the jean jacket of the food world. Comfortable and versatile, they can transition from summer to fall without effort. 

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Spinach and Jalapeno Salmon Cakes with Sauteed Kale and Cherry Tomatoes

I’ve been thinking about Baltimore a lot lately. Around this time last year I visited a friend from school there and had one of the best weeks of vacation, bar none. My memory has been able to retrieve the smallest details – the feel of the hardwood floor on my toes early in the morning, the spray of the water coming off the harbor cooling my hot skin, the sound of construction crews as they worked tirelessly on the road outside my friend’s apartment.
I remember my first meal there in vivid detail. Fresh off the plane (or as fresh as one can be after 4 hours of sleep and a nearly missed flight), we went to a Baltimore landmark, Miss Shirley’s, to sample a Baltimore classic, crab cakes.
Having had crab cakes in Wisconsin before and being less than impressed, my taste buds were primed to be disappointed. 
I love when my taste buds are wrong.

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Foil Wrapped Salmon

I can’t even think of a witty story or anecdote to go along with this salmon. I think that’s because it’s nothing particularly special. It’s delicious! Don’t get me wrong, it is a tasty piece of fish. But it’s simple.
It’s the dinner I make for myself when my dad is working nights. He refuses to eat salmon and I refuse to make two separate dinners – so I save this meal for when it’s just me.
Normally I make this in the oven, but yesterday I tried it on the grill with great success.

Foil Wrapped Salmon
Serves: 4
2 – 8oz. filets of salmon, skin on
1 lemon, sliced, divided
1 TBSP Coconut oil (or butter)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Miscellaneous spices/herbs, to taste
Preheat grill over medium-high heat until internal temperature is between 350 – 375 degrees. Alternatively, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Spray a large square of foil with olive oil spray. Lay salmon on foil, skin side down. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and any additional spices or herbs (I use a seafood blend with sage, thyme, and rosemary, among others). Top with pat of coconut oil and lay lemon slices over filet. Wrap foil tightly around salmon to create a packet o’ fish. Repeat with other filet.
Grill (or bake) for 10 – 15 minutes, until fish is medium pink and flakes easily with a fork.
Peel off skin and serve with grilled or steamed veggies for a fast and healthy summer dinner! 
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