Strawberry & Goat Cheese Salad

Sometimes it is so tempting to not pack a lunch for the office. Sometimes I just want those extra ten minutes to sleep or drink coffee or play with my hair. Sometimes I am uninspired by what I see in my fridge. Sometimes I just plain don’t feel like making lunch.

strawberry and coat cheese salad

So I go out. I zip to the Whole Foods five minutes away and peruse the aisles for something to eat (grocery shopping when hungry may actually be considered some form of torture). I usually end up in the prepared food/salad bar section of the store trying to narrow down my choices. A few weeks ago I found a “Seasonal Selections” salad filled with berries, nuts, and goat cheese. I had to have it! So I did…for about $8. For. A. Salad.

strawberry and coat cheese salad

I am ashamed. It’d be one thing if the dish would stretch to two meals, but let’s be real, I rarely leave leftovers as it is and a salad surely won’t make the cut. It was delicious, just like I thought it would be, but it wasn’t entirely worth it. Plus, I did the math (which in itself is huge!) and realized I could spend about twice that much on ingredients and make the same kind of salad 6 times over!

And that’s exactly what I did. This Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad is light, summery and perfect for on the go lunching or those days when making food is the last thing you want to do. Sweet berries, tangy cheese and filling nuts on a bed of crunchy greens? Yes please!

strawberry and coat cheese salad

Strawberry & Goat Cheese Salad (serves 1)

3 cups lettuce blend (I like Spring Mix and Romaine)

1 cup sliced strawberries

1 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

1 oz.  walnut pieces

balsamic vinegar, optional

Pile lettuce on plate and top with strawberries, nuts and cheese. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired.

strawberry and goat cheese salad

Whole Foods, Schmole Foods.

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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Pecan & Cranberry Crusted Goat Cheese Salad

I’ve never been one of those people. The ones who “do lunch.” You know, the fancy people who always seem suuuuuper busy but can always “do lunch” sometime.
Puh-leaz. I do lunch every day. I can’t not do it. I schedule my classes at school around it. I start thinking about lunch as soon as I take my last bite of breakfast.
Lately though, with work and baking and other holidays to-dos, lunch has consisted of cookie dough, cookies, frosting, or some combination thereof. Delicious for a while, but not a sustainable meal plan. Mainly because I have to wear jeans to work. 

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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” all.over.it.
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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Mini Turkey Pitas with Avocado and Red Onion

I’m so sick of ham. Sick and tired of ham. Ham sandwiches. Hot ham and cheese. Dirty crockpot water ham. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. The ham that is at every seemingly respectable church, community, or family event in the Midwest. It just sits in dirty water for 6 hours as people grab stale buns and make sandwiches with it for.the.entire.party. Makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.
I, on the other hand, have a much more refined palate and choose to snarf down taco dip and lemon squares and bbq baked chips like my life depends on it. But that's neither here nor there…
But, not every day holds such an occasion as the annual church picnic or a second cousins graduation party. On those days there is no dirty crockpot water ham (thank goodness). There’s just lunch.

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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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Chicago Chronicles: Grahamwich

What do fresh coffee, laundry detergent, dog food, and cute shoes all have in common? I can buy them at Target. My love affair for the Bullseye store is deep, like, way deep. I can go into that store for toothpaste and a roll of tape and come out with four bags of items I didn’t even know I needed.
Recently, Target has been doing a great job of getting big name designers to create clothing collections that are fashionable and affordable. I could buy a cute Missoni top or Jason Wu skirt and feel like a million bucks, without actually spending a million bucks.
I feel like Graham Elliot and Target have a lot in common. 
With his self-titled restaurant, Graham Elliot has left a huge culinary imprint on Chicago and the world. The restaurant and its name sake are racking up awards and accolades like nobody’s business. While dining at Graham Elliot would undoubtedly be a revelation, I have yet to make it there. My dollars will only stretch so far.

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