Simple Spinach Salad with Apples and Parmesan

Simple Spinach Salad

(pictured with a sweet potato and blue cheese frittata)

Simple Spinach Salad

Everyone has a go-to, simple salad that they love to throw together, and this one is brought to you courtesy of Ashley Higgs. Last month Ashley had some guests over for a pasta-making party, and she served this exquisite, unfussy salad on the side.

Since this is a simple dish, a high quality cheese goes a long way. In other words, this would not be the time to pull out the green shaker of grated parm (not that there ever is). Additionally, I highly recommend a good balsamic vinegar (made with grape must), rather than a cheap, imitation variety. At home, I paired this leafy masterpiece with a sweet potato and blue cheese frittata, but the mellow flavors of the salad compliment just about any dish.

Simple Spinach Salad

Simple Spinach Salad with Apples and Parmesan (Recipe by Ashley Higgs)

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz baby spinach
  • 2 green apples (I used Granny Smith), chopped
  • ¼ cup grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Method: Combine all ingredients in a large serving bowl, and toss until mixed. Serves 4 as a generous side salad.

Nutrition per serving: 140 calories, 8g fat (2g saturated fat), 14g carbohyrates (3g fiber, 10g sugar), 3g protein, 110mg sodium, 68% Vitamin A, 24% Vitamin C, 10% Calcium, 6% Iron

– Kelly

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White Bean Soup

White Bean Soup + Whole Wheat Croutons

I was first introduced to white bean soup at Dean & Deluca in Soho, during a fun weekend trip to NYC with my mom. As with most products in that pristine, marble-clad food emporium, we were instantly smitten. No other white bean soup has lived up since, as most are either too bland or too bitter (from leafy green overload).

White Bean Soup (Delicious, Nutritious, and Super Simple!)

I’ve been wanting to try my own hand at this Tuscan classic, and the recent surge of snowstorms here in Boston proved to be just the perfect atmosphere to experiment with soup making. Canned beans make this an easy weeknight meal to throw together, which is not something you’ll often hear from me. I’m a weekend chef, but a weeknight microwaver. Leftovers are my favorite food group.

Reminiscent of potato soup, this hearty dish is the perfect meal to satisfy during these blustery, cold winter days. At the bottom of this post I also included a simple recipe for whole wheat croutons, as crusty bread is the ideal accompaniment (taste-wise and nutrition-wise) to bean soups.

White Bean Soup

White Bean Soup

Serves 6 (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek (white and light green parts only), sliced
  • 3  15-oz cans cannellini beans (or other white bean), rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups (32 oz) low sodium vegetable broth (more if you prefer a thinner, lighter soup)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups baby spinach, thinly sliced (see tutorial here)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Optional: sliced green onions, whole wheat croutons (crouton recipe below)

Method:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and leeks and stir until onions are translucent, about 6-10 minutes.
  2. Add white beans and broth to the pot, and bring to a simmer.
  3. While your soup is heating up, use an immersion blender to puree the soup into a creamy texture. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can still enjoy the soup in its more rustic style, with whole beans. Alternatively, you can also let the soup cool, then transfer to a food processor or blender for pureeing. (Also, note that the 4 cups of broth makes this soup very thick and hearty. If you prefer a thinner, lighter soup, add more broth.)
  4. Stir the parmesan cheese into the soup. Then taste soup and adjust seasonings (salt & pepper) as necessary.
  5. Stir the spinach into the soup until just wilted, about 3-5 minutes.
  6. Spoon into individual bowls, and serve with optional toppings, such as sliced green onions or whole wheat croutons. If you don’t have croutons (see recipe below), serve alongside a hearty slice of whole grain toast.

White Bean Soup (Easy, Hearty, & Healthy)

How to Make Whole Wheat Croutons: Cut a slice of whole wheat sandwich bread into small (about 1/4 – 1/2 inch) cubes. Toss bread cubes with a light coating of olive oil (I used olive oil spray), then bake on a baking sheet at 350 degrees F for about 7 minutes.

Nutrition per serving: 260 calories, 4g fat (1g saturated fat), 42g carbohydrates (16g fiber, 3g sugar), 13g protein, 180mg sodium, 29% Vitamin A, 11% Vitamin C, 22% Iron, 16% Calcium

*Nutrition does not include optional ingredients

– Kelly

Brown Rice Pumpkin Risotto with Mushrooms, Zucchini and Spinach

Brown Rice Pumpkin Risotto with Mushrooms, Zucchini and Spinach

Creamy brown rice risotto is possible, but you have to know the secret…  Parboiling.

Parboiled brown rice for Brown Rice Pumpkin Risotto with Mushrooms, Zucchini and Spinach

^^ parboiled rice

Basically, the trick is to boil the brown rice for 15 minutes before you begin the recipe. This gives the rice a nice head start. After all, it has a long way to go to get from nutty and chewy to tender and creamy. Don’t be fooled, risotto is still a sweat-inducing labor of love! But if you have ever wanted a healthy whole grain version (and I hope you have!), it is actually quite easier than you think.

Staying true to the season, pumpkin is the star here. Not only does it give this recipe a punch of autumn goodness, it also lends a velvety, milky texture to the risotto. I used a can, but feel free to use a fresh pumpkin and puree it yourself! As for the veggies, the mushrooms and spinach were a no-brainer, but the zucchini was a fun little addition that I threw in after coming across this recipe. After all, when it comes to vegetables, the more the merrier.

This recipe is hearty, healthy, and completely filling! For a little protein boost, I recommend topping with a poached egg (6g protein), or serving alongside a simply prepared fillet of fish, such as sole (11g protein for a 3 oz fillet), or a rotisserie chicken (23g protein for 3 oz of chicken breast).

Brown Rice Pumpkin Risotto with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Zucchini

Brown Rice Pumpkin Risotto with Mushrooms, Zucchini and Spinach

(Inspired by this pumpkin risotto & this zucchini risotto)

Serves 4 (makes 6 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups short grain brown rice
  • 4 cups (32 oz) low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 10 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 15-oz can pumpkin puree (or 1 1/2 cup pureed, cooked pumpkin)
  • 1 medium zucchini, shredded
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups tightly packed baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, for topping

Method:

  1. In a small pot, bring the rice and 3-4 cups of water to a boil. Let boil for 15 minutes, then drain off any excess water and set aside.
  2. In a small pot, heat the broth until it is hot, but not boiling, then reduce to a simmer.
  3. In a medium or large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms, and cook until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the parboiled rice and stir for about 1 minute to coat with oil.
  5. Add the wine, and stir continuously until the liquid has absorbed and the wine has evaporated, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add 1/3 cup of the warm broth the rice mixture, and stir continuously until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process several times, until the mixture becomes creamy, and nearly all of the broth has been used. Periodically taste the rice to check the texture. If hard and undercooked, continue adding broth. (Note- this entire step took me 35 minutes, and I used all 4 cups of broth. If 4 cups is not enough, add water.)
  7. Once the broth has been absorbed, add the pumpkin, zucchini, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir to combine, then continue stirring until the mixture has thickened up a bit and reached a desired texture, about 5-10 minutes depending on preference.
  8. Add the chopped spinach, and stir until spinach has wilted, 1-2 minutes.
  9. Remove risotto from heat, divide into 4 bowls, then top each bowl with 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese.

Brown Rice Pumpkin Risotto with Mushrooms, Zucchini and Spinach

Serves 4 (makes 6 cups)

Serving size: 1 1/2 cups

Nutrition: 290 calories, 6g fat (1.5g saturated fat), 48g carbohydrates (5g sugar, 5g fiber), 11g protein, 120mg sodium, 0g cholesterol, 10% calcium, 16% iron, 23% vitamin C, 211% vitamin A

– Kelly

Mediterranean Veggie Burgers with Sweet Potato, Red Lentils, and Quinoa

Mediterranean Veggie Burgers with Sweet Potato, Red Lentils, and Quinoa, served on Whole Grain bun with Avocado and Spinach

This recipe is a close adaptation of Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe for the New York Times. I actually had the pleasure of meeting her last week (#starstruck), because she’s moderating a panel at an upcoming conference that my company is hosting. Our lunch meeting was catered by SweetGreen, so basically it was an all-around perfect day.

In my version of the recipe, I decided to lighten things up a little bit and bake the patties, rather than coating in breadcrumbs and pan frying them. Shulman recommends serving the patties with raita, chutney, or a garlic mint yogurt sauce, but I went classic veggie burger style, and served them up on toasted whole wheat buns with avocado slices and fresh spinach.

My only previous attempt at veggie burgers was an awesome black bean burger recipe (with avocado mango salsa, might I add), so this was a totally different experience. But a delicious one, at that. The feta and chives really give these veggie patties a flavorful kick, and the lentils and quinoa provide that ever-important protein.

Mediterranean Veggie Burgers

Mediterranean Veggie Burgers

My boyfriend was actually licking the bowl at this point. I’m telling you, these veggie burgers are GOOD!

Mediterranean Veggie Burgers

Mediterranean Veggie Burgers with Sweet Potatoes, Red Lentils, and Quinoa

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 2/3 cup red lentils
  • 2 1/3 cups water
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, baked (I just poked holes and microwaved them, about 4 minutes on each side)
  • 3 cups tightly packed, chopped fresh spinach, plus more for garnish
  • 3 oz crumbled feta (about ¾ cup)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 8 whole-wheat hamburger buns, toasted (I like this brand)
  • 2 avocados, sliced

Method

  1. Combine water, quinoa, and lentils in a small pot and bring to a boil. Then cover and reduce to a simmer, until the outside germ of the quinoa separates into a curly tail, the lentils are tender, and the water has been absorbed (about 15-20 minutes).
  2. While the lentils and quinoa are cooking, skin the potatoes and place them in a large mixing bowl. Then add the spinach, feta, chives, mint, and lemon juice to the sweet potatoes.
  3. Once the lentil and quinoa mixture is cooked, let cool, then add it to the sweet potato mixture. Mash all ingredients together with a fork until mixed well.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop ½ cup of the vegetable mixture, then roll and flatten into a patty. Continue with the rest of the mixture. Recipe makes 8 patties.
  5. Let patties refrigerate for at least an hour- the longer the better. (They can also be made up to two days ahead of time. In fact, they actually turn out better this way, as they have more time to set.)
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes (no need to flip).
  7. Serve on a toasted whole grain bun with fresh spinach and sliced avocado.

Mediterranean Veggie Burgers

Nutrition per serving (1 patty on a 100% whole wheat bun with 1/6 avocado): 300 calories, 6.5 g fat (3g saturated fat), 46g carbohydrates (8.5g fiber, 8.5g sugar), 12g protein, 460mg sodium, 500mg potassium, 228% Vitamin A, 33% Vitamin C, 20% Calcium, 28% iron

 

Mediterranean Veggie Burgers

– Kelly