Golden Beet, Mango, and Avocado Salad

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Holy cow, this is such a great combo—one that I would not have come up with on my own. See, I had something similar recently in Santa Fe, at the lovely restaurant Paloma. The interplay of creamy avocado, earthy beets, and juicy-sweet mango was incredible … inspiring … memorable. I believe their salad was topped with pepitas, but I went with pine nuts for mine, along with a sprinkling of Tajin seasoning for zesty flavor and a hint of chile richness. Check out the recipe below, and then scroll down for beet and mango tips/how-tos.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)
Author:

Golden Beet, Mango, and Avocado Salad

prep time: 10 Mcook time: 1 hourtotal time: 1 H & 10 M
Wow, what a trio: Earthy, tender golden beets, juicy-sweet mango, and creamy avocado come together with a barely-there dressing (the ingredients are so good that they need little embellishment). Each serving boasts a hefty 7 grams of fiber, too. Serve alongside tacos, enchiladas, grilled chicken, or seared steak.

ingredients:

  • 1 lb. trimmed golden beets (about 4 medium)
  • 1 mango
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 ripe, firm avocado
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tsp. Tajin seasoning (see note below)

instructions:

How to cook Golden Beet, Mango, and Avocado Salad

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Wrap trimmed beets in heavy-duty foil. Roast at 425°F until tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Rub off and discard skins. Cut each beet into 8 wedges.
  3. Peel mango (a sharp paring knife works well for this). Carefully cut both mango "cheeks" from pit (see photos below). Slice mango cheeks crosswise.
  4. Place beet wedges and mango slices in a medium bowl. Drizzle with lime juice and oil, and sprinkle with salt. Toss gently to combine. 
  5. Peel and pit avocado; cut crosswise into slices. Arrange avocado and beet-mango mixture  on a platter. Sprinkle evenly with pine nuts, cilantro, and Tajin. 

NOTES:

Calories 221; Fat 12g (sat 2g); Protein 4g; Carb 28g; Fiber 7g; Sugars 20g (added sugars 0g); Sodium 350mg
Created using The Recipes Generator

How to Roast Beets

My favorite way to cook beets is to wrap them in foil and roast them in the oven. If you are pressed for time, though, you can wrap the beets in microwave-safe parchment paper and microwave on HIGH for 6 to 10 minutes. They won’t be quite as tender and moist, but they’ll still be good. Anyway, here’s how I roast in the oven. First, trim the tops of the beets and cut away any “tails.”

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Then wrap the trimmed beets tightly in foil.

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When the beets are done and have cooled off a bit, you can easily remove the skin. I like to use a paper towel to rub off the skins. Here, you can see little bits of skin in the foil; they just rub off easily, leaving a shiny, smooth peeled beet behind.

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Then simply cut each beet into into 8 wedges (and try not to gobble them all up).

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How to Cut a Mango

I know there are all kinds of tutorials online that show how to cut a mango. To me, the fastest, easiest way is to peel the entire mango and then cut off both “cheeks.” Holding the peeled mango (a paper towel might help you get a better grip—the peeled mango will be slippery) so that a narrower side is pointing up, slice somewhere between 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch from the middle. The pit will announce where it is, and your knife can just graze it as you cut down.

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And then cut off the other cheek, on the other side of the pit. Once the cheeks are off, you can slice ‘em, cube ‘em, or keep ‘em whole.

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I sprinkle this salad with Tajin seasoning. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a combo of dried chile, dehydrated lime, and sea salt. It’s tangy, it’s salty, and it’s roasty-toasty with the essence of chiles but not necessarily the heat. It is absolutely delicious sprinkled over mango or watermelon or pineapple, used to rim a margarita glass, tossed with popcorn, or dusted over grilled chicken or beef. You’ll find it with the Mexican or Latin American foods in most supermarkets, and you’ll be glad you did!

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Chicken Enchilada Dip with Corn

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I will pull up a chair to a bowl of dip. I will flat-out embarrass myself. I just love it—all kinds, really. I once had a dip party, where we played board games and everyone brought a dip and dippers, and now I’m wondering why that was just a one-time thing. Anyway, although I love all kinds of dips (salsa! French onion! hummus! guac! spinach-artichoke!), I especially love one that’s warm, gooey, and cheesy. Here’s a dip that hits all those notes, and it incorporates chicken for heartiness and corn for that special crisp-sweet goodness. If you happen to end up with any left over, it makes a pretty great filling for jalapeño poppers—maybe sprinkled with a little bacon. Just sayin’.

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Yield: Serves 10 (serving size: about 1/4 cup)

Chicken Enchilada Dip with Corn

prep time: 10 minscook time: 23 minstotal time: 33 mins

This warm, creamy dip is a real crowd pleaser. It’s a little indulgent. I’m not claiming it’s light—but I do include the nutrition info so you know what you’re getting into (it’s not that bad). The little corn kernels offer a sweet, crunchy pop in every bite—that is, if you use fresh corn (frozen won’t be quite as crisp). As always, please shred your own cheese. The preshredded stuff is coated with starch to prevent it from clumping, and it won’t melt as creamy as cheese you prep yourself. Serve the dip with tortilla chips, pita chips, and/or assorted crudités.

ingredients:

  • 5 green onions, thinly sliced and divided
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen, thawed corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup green chile enchilada sauce (I used Frontera)
  • 1 (8-oz.) package 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup canola mayonnaise
  • 1 cup shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast (4 oz.)
  • 4 oz. pepper Jack cheese, shredded and divided (about 1 cup)
  • Sliced green onions, sliced jalapeño, and extra corn kernels for garnish (optional)

instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Separate the bottom white part of onions from the green onion tops. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add white onion bottoms and garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add corn; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in green onion tops, enchilada sauce, cream cheese, and salt. Cook until cream cheese melts, stirring frequently. Stir in mayonnaise. Gently fold in chicken and half of pepper Jack.
  3. Spoon mixture into an oven-safe 3-cup baking dish. Top evenly with remaining pepper Jack. Bake at 400°F until bubbly around the edges and cheese on top melts, about 15 minutes.

NOTES:

Calories 159; Fat 12g (sat 5g); Protein 6g; Carb 6g; Fiber 0g; Sugars 2g (added sugars 0g); Sodium 303mg
Created using The Recipes Generator

Chickpea Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

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Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 2 cups pasta and 1 Tbsp. cheese)

Chickpea Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

prep time: 10 minscook time: 20 minstotal time: 30 mins

This is one of those fallback recipes you can count on when you have little time to cook but want something really good, really comforting, and really easy. My hubs said it felt creamy and indulgent, but it’s actually quite light at only about 400 calories. The serving size is large, too (2 cups!), and all that fiber (13 grams!) will fill you right on up. A good bit of the fiber comes from the chickpea pasta, which I adore; if you sub traditional pasta, the fiber will go down considerably. I love the bite of broccoli rabe—and, luckily, so do my kids—but if you’re not a fan of its bitter edge, you can sub broccolini or broccoli.

ingredients:

  • Cooking spray

  • 8 oz. sweet Italian sausage

  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 cup vertically sliced white or yellow onion

  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

  • 1 lb. broccoli rabe (rapini), trimmed

  • 8 oz. uncooked chickpea pasta—rigatoni, penne, cavatappi, or rotini

  • 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste

  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

  • 1 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup)


instructions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water (such as a Dutch oven or small stockpot) to a boil. 

  2. While water comes to a boil, heat a large skillet (not nonstick) over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add sausage; cook, stirring frequently to crumble, until browned and cooked through (about 6 minutes). Remove sausage from pan, reserving drippings. 

  3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add oil to drippings in pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and red pepper to pan; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is very soft (about 10 minutes).

  4. Meanwhile, add broccoli rabe to boiling water; cook 2 minutes. Remove from water with tongs (reserving boiling water), place in a colander, and rinse with cold water until cool. Drain well; cut into 2-inch pieces. Add pasta to boiling water; cook until al dente (about 8 minutes). Be careful not to overcook, as chickpea pasta falls apart when cooked too long. Reserve 1 1/4 cups pasta water; drain pasta.

  5. Add garlic to onion mixture in pan; cook 2 minutes. Add tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Stir in 3/4 cup pasta water and salt. Add pasta, sausage, and broccoli rabe; stir very gently to combine. Stir in additional pasta water as needed to form the sauce. Sprinkle with cheese.

NOTES:

Calories 409; Fat 17g (sat 6g); Protein 30g; Carb 41g; Fiber 13g; Sugars 7g (added sugars 0g); Sodium 654mg
Created using The Recipes Generator

Shrimp and Vegetable Curry with Cauliflower Rice

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Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup cauliflower rice, 4 oz. shrimp, & 3/4 cup sauce)

Shrimp and Vegetable Curry with Cauliflower Rice

prep time: 8 minscook time: 12 minstotal time: 20 mins

How about a 20-minute dinner that tastes like it took an hour? That's loaded with vegetables, too? This recipe delivers all that and is mild enough—and creamy enough—to satisfy everyone at the table. My kids hugged me after eating this, and I'll take that as pretty darn high praise! Do take note that it's a bit of a splurge. Though the calories are low (under 400 calories), the saturated fat is on the high side; try to balance out the rest of your day with food that's lower in sat fat. I do think it's worth it to go full fat with the coconut milk here for the most satisfying, creamy texture. Just think of it as a splurge, something to enjoy every now and then. Or hell, maybe once a week! And don't forget to squeeze on a little lime juice before tucking in; it's the perfect finishing touch, brightening the whole bowl.

ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
  • 1 cup vertically sliced yellow onion
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1 Tbsp. red curry paste (I used Thai Kitchen)
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1 (13.6-oz.) can coconut milk (full-fat)
  • 1 lb. raw large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 6 oz. fresh baby spinach
  • 1 lb. riced cauliflower (I used fresh, not frozen)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • Thinly sliced Fresno or red jalapeño peppers (optional)
  • Lime wedges

instructions:

  1. Heat a large skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil; swirl to coat. Add onion and zucchini; sauté 3 minutes. Add half of garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add curry paste; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar, fish sauce, and coconut milk; bring to a simmer.
  2. Add shrimp; cover and cook until shrimp are almost done, about 2 minutes. Add spinach; cover and cook until spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. Stir gently to combine.
  3. Meanwhile, heat another large skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil; swirl to coat. Add cauliflower and remaining half of garlic; sauté until crisp-tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in chopped cilantro. Divide cauliflower rice evenly among 4 bowls; top evenly with shrimp and sauce. Top with Fresno/jalapeño slices and additional cilantro, if desired. Serve with lime wedges.

NOTES:

Calories 376; Fat 21g (sat 13g); Protein 33g; Carb 14g; Fiber 5g; Sugars 9g (added sugars 1g); Sodium 766mg
Created using The Recipes Generator

Dijon Beef Stew

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This stew is basically the love child of two of my favorite recipes: Cooking Light’s Beef Daube Provençal and The New York Times’s Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew. It will make your house smell heavenly and have your family singing your praises. It’s a very easy recipe, too, and cooks hands-free for a few hours so you can tend to other things. This makes it great for a dinner party, as you can get the table set and the sides—I like to serve it with mashed potatoes and a bright, bracing salad—pulled together, not to mention yourself.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)

Dijon Beef Stew

prep time: 30 minscook time: 2 hour and 30 minstotal time: 2 hours and 60 mins

This is one of those cozy, comforting stews that will take the chill of any winter night. It's beefy, absurdly savory, and full of long-cooked flavor. I like to serve it over mashed potatoes (as shown); it's also fantastic ladled over polenta, egg noodles, grilled sourdough bread, or a baked potato. You can make this in a slow cooker—starting with step 4 and cooking on LOW for about 6 hours—but I promise this tastes better when you cook it in the oven. I don't know why, but it's true! The slow cooker version is still pretty darn good, but just know that the oven version is even better.

ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 2 lb. boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped carrots
  • 8 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup unsalted beef stock
  • 1/3 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, quartered (or halved if they're small)
  • 5 large thyme sprigs
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add half of beef; cook, turning occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove beef from pan; repeat procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining beef. 
  3. Add onion and carrots to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly until vegetables are coated. Add wine; cook until wine is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Stir in beef, stock, mustard, salt, pepper, mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaves. 
  4. Cover and bake at 300°F until beef is very tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Garnish stew with parsley, if desired.

NOTES:

Calories 313; Fat 16g (sat 6g); Protein 23g; Carb 9g; Fiber 2g; Sugars 3g (added sugars 0g); Sodium 516mg
Created using The Recipes Generator

White Chicken Chili with Poblanos

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A big pot of chili just screams comfort and goodness. But you don’t always have hours to devote to one, y’know? This chicken chili, with a broth that’s both, well, brothy and slightly creamy, takes only a little more than a half-hour to make. It’s deeply savory and full of flavor, thanks to a few well chosen ingredients. The broth gets its body from pureed beans (it’s not thickened with flour), so it’s gluten free. You’ll be happy you made it whether it’s a cold, damp night or a warm evening—it’s an all-weather chili!

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about 1 1/3 cups)

White Chicken Chili with Poblanos

prep time: 10 minscook time: 25 minstotal time: 35 mins

This hearty pot of chili comes together from start to finish in only 35 minutes, thanks to a trifecta of smart convenience products: rotisserie chicken, canned beans, and bottled tomatillo salsa. The salsa gives the broth loads of flavor, and all you have to do is twist open the lid. Know that poblano peppers can be tricky: Sometimes they’re as mild as bell peppers, and other times they’re hotter than jalapeños. If yours is particularly spicy (be brave and touch a piece to your tongue), use just one pepper—or go for it with two if you’re a hothead.

ingredients:

2          Tbsp. canola oil

2          cups chopped white onion

2          poblano peppers, seeded and chopped

6          large garlic cloves, minced

2          tsp. ground cumin

1          tsp. dried oregano

4          cups unsalted chicken stock (I used Swanson), divided

1          cup bottled tomatillo salsa (I used Frontera)

1          tsp. kosher salt

1          tsp. freshly ground black pepper

3          (15-oz.) cans unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed, drained, and divided

4          cups shredded boneless, skinless rotisserie chicken, white and dark meat (about 1 lb., 1 small rotisserie chicken)

3/4      cup thinly sliced radishes

1/2      cup thinly sliced green onions

2          ripe peeled avocados, thinly sliced or chopped

1          jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced (optional)

instructions:

1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and poblanos; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook until onion is tender, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes. Stir in cumin and oregano; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

 

2. Stir in 3 1/2 cups chicken stock, salsa, salt, black pepper, and bay leaves; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. 

 

3. Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/2 cup stock and 1 can of beans (about 1 1/2 cups) in a blender; process until smooth. Stir bean puree and remaining 2 cans of beans into pan; return to a simmer. Add chicken; simmer 5 minutes. 

 

4. Ladle about 1 1/3 cups chili into each of 8 bowls; top servings evenly with radishes, green onions, avocados, and jalapeño, if desired.

NOTES:

Calories 357; Fat 12g (sat 2g); Protein 30g; Carb 35g; Fiber 11g; Sugars 2g (added sugars 0g); Sodium 653mg
Created using The Recipes Generator

Slow-Cooker Pork with White Beans and Kale

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Well, we’re officially in the busiest month of the year—or at least it’s the busiest for me and every other human I know. Among all the fun social commitments, errand-running, holiday shopping, cookie baking, and cramming in of end-of-year work that just has to get done, there’s little time for everyday cooking. And that’s where the good ol’ slow cooker comes in handy. To be completely honest, I’m not the biggest fan of the slow cooker … until life gets insane enough for me to admit that it really is pretty darn useful. Let it do the work for you, making this comforting, delicious, nutritious (check out that fiber!) meal that will feed you and your family for multiple nights. There’s very little prep involved, and then the slow cooker just does its thing while you go about doing your thing. The pork ends up meltingly tender, and the beans are the creamiest ever. If only everything in December could be this easy and this satisfying!

Yield: 12 (serving size: about 4 oz. pork and 2/3 cup bean mixture)

Slow-Cooker Pork with White Beans and Kale

prep time: 14 minscook time: 7 hour and 10 minstotal time: 7 hours and 24 mins

When your week is insanely busy, you need a meal that will cook itself while you're at work—and then feed you and your family another couple nights of delicious leftovers. This is that meal. It's dead simple, delivering supreme comfort with very little effort. The beans, which go into the slow cooker dry (because who can remember to soak them ahead?) absorb all the delicious porky flavors and cook up to an incredibly creamy texture. Enjoy leftovers as they are, or mash the beans with a little hot sauce and use as a tostada topping or taco filling with the pork; just add salsa to perk up the flavor.

ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 (4 1/2-lb.) bone-in pork shoulder roast (Boston Butt), trimmed (for me, the trimmed weight was 4 lb.)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 lb. dried Great Northern beans (no need to presoak)
  • 4 cups unsalted chicken stock (1 [32-oz.) carton)
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 2 oregano sprigs (or 1/2 tsp. dried oregano)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 dried ancho chile, stemmed (optional)
  • 1 large bunch curly kale (about 12 oz.), stemmed and torn into pieces

instructions:

  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Combine 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander. Rub over all sides of pork. Add pork to pan; cook until well browned, turning occasionally to brown all sides, about 12 minutes. Place pork in a slow cooker. Add water to hot skillet, scraping bottom of pan to release browned bits. Pour water over pork.
  2. Arrange beans around pork in slow cooker. Pour chicken stock over beans. Add garlic, oregano, bay leaves, and chile, if using, to slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW until pork and beans are very tender, about 7 to 8 hours. Remove and discard bay leaves and oregano sprigs. (You can chop or mash the ancho and stir into the beans if desired.)
  3. Increase slow cooker heat to HIGH. Pile kale on top. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until kale wilts. (I like my kale a little chewy and still bright green; if you like it more tender, you'll need to cook it longer.) Sprinkle kale with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt; gently stir to combine with beans. 

NOTES:

Calories 435; Fat 19g (sat 7g); Protein 38g; Carb 27g; Fiber 9g; Sugars 2g (added sugars 0g); Sodium 579mg
Created using The Recipes Generator

This recipe is so simple that there’s not much to show, step- or technique-wise. I do recommend buying a bone-in pork roast, as the bone always seems to add more flavor and helps to keep the pork moist. And please, please, please brown it before it goes into the slow cooker. That step builds deep, savory flavor and is more than worth the few minutes it takes. Remember, brown = flavor. I don’t add any oil to the skillet when I brown the roast (you really don’t need it).

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As for the beans, they go into the slow cooker dry. They cook to creamy perfection over the long, slow simmer, picking up all the yummy pork flavor, as well as that of the broth and the other flavorings:

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Well, I forgot to show the garlic, but garlic goes in with the beans, along with bay leaves, oregano sprigs (or dried oregano), and an optional ancho chile. I love what the ancho adds—no real heat but instead richness and depth, with a hint of bitterness. I fished it out before dishing this up for the kids. But I sort of mashed it into my serving. Delicious!

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That’s it! That’s all it takes to make a warm, comforting, hearty, big-batch meal that will pull you through the busiest December day.

Kale Salad with Pears, Pomegranates, and Pickled Onions

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Every Thanksgiving table should include a big, fresh salad. With all the rich casseroles, gravy, and savory (and sometimes surprisingly sweet) sides, something fresh is a necessity. Whenever I bust up a big salad into the Turkey Day mix, I’m often met with jokes and gentle ribbing. But you know what? My salad always gets eaten. Every freaking leaf. This is a great one for Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving because it can easily accommodate dietary needs and restrictions: It’s vegan and gluten-free, and if someone has a nut allergy, you can easily omit the pecans.

Yield: 8 (serving size: about 1½ cups)

Kale Salad with Pears, Pomegranates, and Pickled Onions

prep time: 35 minscook time: 5 minstotal time: 40 mins

I have a real problem with lame salads, those that feel like an afterthought. Salads, after all, are a great opportunity to play with texture, flavor, and color, bringing all those elements into harmonious balance. This one does just that, combining earthy-chewy lacinato kale, sweet-juicy pears, toasty-crunchy pecans, and tart-crisp pickled onions. I happened upon a bag of petite Seckel pears at my local Publix store, which I think makes this salad feel a little special—but any sweet pear will work beautifully here. You don’t have to cut them the way I did (using a mandoline); you can just quarter, core, and thinly wedge or slice them. See below for tips and technique photos.

ingredients:

  • 1 cup mirin (sweet rice wine—see photo below)
  • ½ cup natural rice vinegar
  • 1 medium red onion, vertically sliced

  • 2 (8-oz.) bunches lacinato kale
  • 3 Seckel pears or 1½ Bartlett or Anjou pears, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup pomegranate arils (about ½ large pomegranate)
  • ½ cup pecan halves, toasted
  • 6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. natural rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated on a Microplane

instructions:

  1. Combine mirin and ½ cup vinegar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Add onion; return to a boil, and immediately remove from heat. Let stand 30 minutes or until cooled to room temperature. You can make the pickled onions a week ahead; refrigerate in an airtight container. 

  2. Meanwhile, remove stems from kale and discard. Tear leaves into pieces. Place kale in a large bowl; drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Massage oil into kale leaves until leaves slightly wilt. Add pears, pomegranate, and pecans to kale; toss gently to combine. Remove half of onion from mirin mixture with a slotted spoon; add to salad. (Reserve remaining onion for another use) 

  3. Combine remaining 5 tablespoons oil, 3 tablespoons vinegar, syrup, mustard, salt, pepper, and garlic in a jar; close with lid, and shake until emulsified. Drizzle over salad.

NOTES:

Calories 196; Fat 16g (sat 2g); Protein 3g; Carb 13g; Fiber 3g; Sugars 8g (added sugars 2g); Sodium 168mg
Created using The Recipes Generator

The first step for this salad is to make a batch of pickled onions. I have you make double what you need for the salad—because why not go ahead and use a whole onions?

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The leftover pickled onions will hold up well in the fridge for a couple of weeks, and you can use them on tacos, other salads, grain bowls, and more. My easy two-ingredient method relies on two products from the Asian foods aisle: mirin and rice vinegar. These guys:

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You can find rice vinegar at any supermarket and mirin at most (I got mine at Target). The mirin is seasoned with salt and sugar plus has a pleasant, light wine flavor—so it takes the place of wine, salt, and sugar. The rice vinegar is softer than many other vinegars, which could make the pickled onions sharp and wince-inducing.

I love lacinato kale for its bumpy texture and earthy and faintly sweet flavor. If you can’t find it, you can use regular curly kale—just know that it’s a little tougher. No matter which you use, do take a minute or two to massage the leaves with a little oil first, to help break down the fibers and tenderize the leaves.

As for the pears, as I mentioned above, I lucked into some gorgeous Seckel pears at the Publix down the road. They come in a bag, like this:

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And they’re smaller than most pears. See?

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Now for the pomegranates. Look, I know that the arils you can buy in the little cups are very convenient. I’ve used them myself on more than one occasion. But they just don’t taste as good as ones you pull fresh from the whole fruit. I learned a trick that makes that process a little easier. First, cut about 1/4-inch off the top of the fruit, like so:

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One you take the “lid” off, you can see where the paper-thin membranes are. It’s a little tricky to see in the photo above, but look for the spoke-like thin white membranes that grow out from the core. You want to score the outer skin of the pomegranate where those membranes run, from the top to the bottom of the fruit, like this:

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Once the skin is scored, you can pull apart the fruit. It will break along those “fault lines” like so—

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Now you can just gently prod those arils out without having to pick through all the pith and membrane. I swear it’s worth the effort (and there’s not much effort to it).

This salad will fill a big ol’ bowl (meaning it makes a lot). But I predict it will all get happily eaten, with thanksgiving.

Cinnamon-Apple Snack Cake

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I’m trying to get ahead for Thanksgiving. My kids are out of school the entire week, and I’ll happily have a houseful of extended family, too. And that, of course, includes my dad, who suffers from celiac disease. I’m always looking for good gluten-free recipes for him—especially desserts, as he has quite a sweet tooth. I wanted a casual cake that I could have on hand for general snacking but that would also be good enough to put out with the holiday feast. And I got there with this recipe. I cannot even express how pleased I am with this cake; it’s one my favorite desserts I’ve ever created, gluten-free or not. My kids agree: They even asked to have it at their birthday party last week! (We ended up opting for something else, but still—they requested it!) Keep reading below the recipe card for some tips and process photos!

Yield: 12 servings

Cinnamon-Apple Snack Cake

prep time: 25 minscook time: 28 minstotal time: 53 mins

I am so happy with how this cake turned out! It comes together in one bowl, and it's moist, tender, and absolutely full of apple flavor. The key is to use Honeycrisp apples, which perfume the whole pan and work some real magic: The batter smells like fresh-pressed cider, and the whole cake tastes as if you somehow crammed the essence of 500 apples into it. My kids went bonkers for it. Connor, in all earnestness, put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Mom. It's really, really good." I can't ask for more than that.

ingredients:

  • 7 oz. (about 2 cups) almond flour
  • 2 3/4 oz. (about 1/2 cup) gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur)
  • 2 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, shredded Honeycrisp apple (about 1 large [10-12 oz.] apple)
  • 4 oz. 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 6 oz. (about 1 1/2 cups) powdered sugar

instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cloves; stir well to combine. Make a well in center of dry ingredients, and crack eggs into the well. Stir eggs to lightly beat them, then stir in buttermilk, honey, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir mixture well to combine. Fold in shredded apple. Spoon mixture into an 8-inch square metal baking pan coated with cooking spray.
  3. Bake at 350°F for 28 minutes or until a few moist crumbs cling to a wooden pick inserted in center of cake. Cool cake, in pan, on a wire rack.
  4. Place cream cheese and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy, about 1 minute. Beating at low speed, gradually add powdered sugar; beat just until combined. Spread frosting over cooled cake.

NOTES:

Calories 261; Fat 12g (sat 2g); Protein 6g; Carb 35g; Fiber 3g; Sugars 27g (added sugars 23g); Sodium 133mg
Created using The Recipes Generator

As I mentioned above, I needed a gluten-free dessert for my dad—and I wanted one that everyone else would love, too. I was unwilling to settle for anything that folks would say was good for a gluten-free cake. That would not be good enough. Thankfully, after a little trial and error, I got there. This cake is just flat-out GOOD. It’s gluten-free, relying on almond flour and gluten-free all-purpose flour (also make sure your baking powder is gluten-free). This is the a-p flour I used:

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A little bit of this gluten-free a-p flour lightens the texture of the almond flour, giving the cake a moist, tender texture. (Almond flour alone would produce a dense cake.) Next, the apple variety you use is crucial. And I contend that the only choice is Honeycrisp. It gives a ton of concentrated apple-y flavor, much more than other varieties. I originally tried chopping the apple, but it remained a little too crunchy in the finished cake. So I switched to shredding the apple, and holy cow did that work well! The little apple shreds melt into the batter and distribute the flavor more thoroughly into every bite.

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After the cake bakes, make sure to allow it to cool completely. If it’s warm when you top with the icing, you may tear off the tender top layer of the cake as you try to spread, getting crumbs all in the icing. (You may still get a few crumbs in there with a cooled cake, but only a few.)

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Use a sharp, thin knife to cut the cake. It’s so tender that it’s a little tricky to cut—not a bad problem if you ask me! And one of the best things about a snack cake is that you can just keep it in the pan and serve straight from there. (Keep leftovers in the fridge since there’s dairy in the frosting.)

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Hearty Cabbage and Sausage Soup

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If you look out on the ol’ interwebs, you’ll find lots of recipes similar to this one (it’s a pretty classic soup). Many include potatoes (mine doesn’t) and lots more sausage than I choose to use. I keep an eye toward sodium and go with only 12 ounces of kielbasa. The Target near my house sells 12-ounce packages of it (I don’t remember the brand), and it’s more than plenty to flavor the whole big pot of soup.

Well, folks, this veggie-loaded soup is just so easy and straightforward that I don’t have any technique or process photos—none needed! All you need is the recipe card. And maybe a side of cornbread. Enjoy!

Yield: 8 (serving size: about 1 3/4 cups)

Hearty Cabbage and Sausage Soup

prep time: 20 minscook time: 41 minstotal time: 61 mins

This humble soup is always on repeat at the Pittman house. I almost thought that it might be too simple to post, but since we love it so much, I figured someone else might love it, too. It's perfect on a chilly night—piping hot and brothy, comforting and full of veggies. It doesn't hurt that the kids love it (and ask for reheated leftovers for school-day breakfasts!) and that the ingredients are pretty inexpensive. It makes almost a gallon, so use a large Dutch oven. The soup holds well for up to three days (and reheats beautifully), but I wouldn't recommend freezing it—the cabbage would get too mushy when the soup thawed. No step-by-step technique photos needed for this recipe: It's just that easy to make!

ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped white onion (about 1 large onion)
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced celery (about 3 large stalks)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 12 oz. kielbasa or other smoked sausage, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 medium head green cabbage (about 2 1/2 lb.), cored and coarsely chopped
  • 4 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
  • 3-4 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh or 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (14.5-oz.) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 6 oz. fresh baby spinach

instructions:

  1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in carrots and kielbasa; sauté 4 minutes or until sausage begins to brown.
  2. Pile cabbage into pan. Pour chicken stock and enough water to mostly cover cabbage (3-4 cups) over cabbage. Gently stir in thyme and bay leaves, then stir in tomatoes, pepper, and salt. 
  3. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes or until cabbage is tender. Uncover and stir in spinach; cook 1 minute or until spinach wilts.

NOTES:

Calories 253; Fat 15g (sat 4g); Protein 10g; Carb 22g; Fiber 7g; Sugars 10g (added sugars 1g); Sodium 684mg
Created using The Recipes Generator