Salad in a Jar {quinoa-arugula layered salad}

If you typically pack your lunch for work – you’re going to love this recipe.

salad in a jar

 

I actually made the salad for dinner on Tuesday night but the remaining two jars were perfect to pack for lunch the rest of the week.

This would also be a great salad to pack on a picnic because you simply shake and eat out of the jar.

To start, prep your quinoa.  Simply heat up a little olive oil and then toast your quinoa before adding chicken broth.  You can use water but chicken broth (or any broth) adds so much flavor to the quinoa.

Once cooked, allow the quinoa to cool.  If you assemble the jars while the quinoa is hot, the heat from the quinoa will wilt your veggies.

While the quinoa cools, make your dressing.  The dressing is a simple combination of olive oil, lemon juice, pepper, garlic and salt.  Whisk together and then add about a tablespoon to the bottom of each jar.

Then simply layer in the ingredients:

Spicy arugula
Nutty quinoa
Cool cucumber
Bright red onion
Garden fresh tomatoes
Herbaceous 
parsley

salad

Portable, healthy and full of flavor.

Totally lunchbox worthy.

 

Fire in the Triangle {Battle Cheerwine}

Two chefs.

One ingredient.

Six courses.

But only one can move on in Competition Dining.

On Monday night Big Guy and I attended Fire in the Triangle for the semi-final battle between Flights and City Kitchen.

The Chefs found out the secret ingredient at noon and had the afternoon to plan and execute their three dishes.

Battle Cheerwine.

Each dish is judged by the pros and the Joe’s (that’d be us) on overall taste, use of the secret ingredient and presentation.

While eating and judging, we had no idea who made what dish.  It wasn’t until the very end when the scores were announced that we found out what Chef was responsible for what dish.

While this is my personal recap, here’s the official recap.

course 1

COURSE 1
Shrimp and Grits, 63°C NC Egg, Herbed Yellow Old Mill of Guilford Grits, Andouille Sausage, Cheerwine Crispy Bacon, Cheerwine BBQ Sauce
Chef Younes Sabouh of City Kitchen

Such a fun play on shrimp and grits.  But I will say that I think shrimp and grits is kind of playing it safe since that is a staple in the south.  However, you could really taste the Cheerwine in the bacon.  I didn’t get much of the Cheerwine flavor in the BBQ sauce.  And that egg.  It was cooked to perfection.  While it probably made other squeamish, I adored the runny yolk with the grits.

I gave this dish a 27 out of 40.

Voter Score: 24.638
Pro Score: 24.333
Weighted Score: 24.546 

course 2

COURSE 2
Cheerwine Sous Vide Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast, Cinnamon-Braised Manchester Farms Quail & Almonds, Crispy Kataifi, Parsnip Mousse, Cheerwine Bing Cherry Marmalade
Chef Younes Sabouh of City Kitchen

One of my favorite dishes of the night.  The duck was tender and flavorful without being “gamey.”  The pairing of the cherries with the duck was genius.  I also really enjoyed the texture that the crispy kataifi (a pastry-like dough) brought to the dish.

I gave this dish a 32 out of 40.

Voter Score: 29.229
Pro Score: 22.333
Weighted Score: 27.160 

course 3

COURSE 3
Soy Cheerwine Roasted Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork Loin, Cheerwine Gingered Sweet Potato Purée, Jicama Pawpaw Salad, Sweet Chili Cheerwine BBQ Sauce
Chef Dean Thompson of Flights

Pork perfection.  Thinly sliced with just the right proportion of fat with each bite.  The peanuts were a perfect topping to this dish, adding crunch and flavor.  The gingered sweet potatoes were a little too baby food-like but I loved the freshness and texture from the jicama salad.

I gave this dish a 16 out of 40.  (yes, I’m a tough judge.)

Voter Score: 28.561
Pro Score: 29.333
Weighted Score: 28.792 

course 4

COURSE 4

Confit of Elk with Cheerwine Demi, Truffled Cauliflower, Goat Cheese, Chive, & Mushrooms with Cheerwine Bacon Jam
Chef Dean Thompson of Flights

Such an interesting dish!  I was so excited to see goat cheese on the plate as I was hoping to have a taste of local cheese.  While elk isn’t something I normally eat (and I doubt you eat it a lot either) it was delicious.  Full of flavor and perfectly cooked.  I really enjoyed the truffled cauliflower that was the bed for the confit of elk.  Another favorite of the night, though I gave it a lower score because I wasn’t able to detect much Cheerwine flavor.

I gave this dish a score of 24 out of 40.

Voter Score: 28.364
Pro Score: 29.333
Weighted Score: 28.655 

course 5

COURSE 5

Almond Praline Cheerwine Ganache Chocolate Cake, Milk Chocolate Mousse, Raspberry Cheerwine Gel, Mascarpone Vanilla Cream
Chef Younes Sabouh of City Kitchen

Dessert!  After four savory dishes I was ready for a little sweetness.  The cake was dense but the perfect balance of sweet.  The crumble on the top and bottom reminded me of a Larabar.  I’m almost certain there were dates in the crust.  My favorite part of the dish – the mascarpone vanilla cream.  Silky smooth decadence.

I gave this dish a 26 out of 40.

Voter Score: 28.881
Pro Score: 26.000
Weighted Score: 28.016 

course 6

COURSE 6
Chocolate and Cheerwine Mascarpone Chess Pie, Graham Crust, Chocolate Chip Pistachio & Cheerwine Ice Cream, Funnel Cake, Dark Chocolate Ganache, Tarragon Dulce de Leche
Chef Dean Thompson of Flights

The last dish of the night.  And the sweetest dish of the night.  Almost too sweet though.  The best and most unexpected part of this dish was the chocolate chip pistachio and Cheerwine ice cream.  I need that recipe.  I honestly couldn’t taste the tarragon in the dulce de leche and I think this is what made the dish overly sweet.  The chess pie was more like a blondie but was incredibly tasty.  Out of the two desserts, this was the one that I tasted the Cheerwine in the most.

I gave this a score of 31 out of 40.

Voter Score: 31.894
Pro Score: 32.000
Weighted Score: 31.926 

And the winner of Battle Cheerwine….

Chef Dean Thompson of Flights.

The #1 cause of home fires and burn injuries is cooking…so be careful!

Blackberry and Sage Refresher plus Roasted Tomato and Sweet Onion Dip {sip and indulge}

This past weekend was as relaxing as they come.

And since it’s Monday and none of us would have complained if we were told to stay home from work, I have a cocktail for you.  And an appetizer.

So let’s sip and indulge and pretend that it’s Saturday all over again.

blackberry

Blackberry and Sage Refresher is just that:  refreshing.  A sage simple syrup is made with equal parts sugar and water.  Once all the sugar is dissolved, add in sage and allow to seep for a couple of hours.  (just a note – I would use less simple syrup next time; it was a tad sweet.)

Blackberries
Sage simple syrup
Vodka
St. Germain
Lemon juice

It’s cocktail time!

We walked down to the beach, cocktails in hand, and it was absolute perfection.  A cool breeze, salty air and a sweet cocktail.

And while we’re sippin’, let’s indulge in Roasted Tomato and Sweet Onion Dip.  What isn’t to look about a cheesy dip topped with homegrown tomatoes that are cooked until their bursting?

sweet onion tomato

This dip is in no way healthy.  Well, except for the tomatoes.  But it’s unbelievable delicious.  We were so eager to dig in, we burnt our mouths.  Twice.

Oh, take me back to the beach.

Please?!?!

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday, guys and dolls!  We made it.  I have a fun weekend in the sun planned and I hope to enjoy some delicious food, a summer outdoor concert, and a fun cocktail.  Oh, and I really hope to finish book number four for the summer.  I haven’t had a “Friday Favorites” post in a while so I thought I share with you some of my favorites from around the worldwide web.  Just a reminder (and a shout-out), these Friday Favorite posts were inspired by the lovely Momma over at Iowa Girl Eats.  I adore her blog, her writing style, her recipes, and she has the most adorable little boy.

 

Favorite Fresh:  Roasted Peppers with Tomatoes with Herbs and Capers.  Our garden is overflowing with tomatoes and peppers and herbs.  This would be great alongside some grilled chicken thighs.

Favorite Treat:  The Best Coconut Flour Chocolate Chunk Bars.  The last time I went Trader Joes (ahem, over a month ago) I grabbed a bag of coconut flour and threw it in my cart.  It still remains unopened in the pantry.  These bars are the perfect excuse to tear open the bag and get my bake on.

Favorite Fashion:  Grey t-shirt, white skinnies, long necklaces, and tan accessories.  Simple has never looked more put together.

Favorite Spin:  Cheesy Margarita Pizza Hummus with Grilled Pesto Pizza Bread.  I love margarita pizza.  I love hummus.  I love pesto.  So let’s combine them all into one glorious appetizer.

Favorite spot:  All I need is a pool and a book (and a cocktail) and I’m a happy girl.  I could get lost here for hours.

Favorite Wake-Up:  Homemade Coffee Syrups and Cold Brew.  I have been obsessing over iced coffee this summer.  And there’s absolutely no reason I can’t make it at home.

Favorite Sweat:    The thought of 50 mountain climbers makes me cringe.

Favorite Bite:  Coconut-Lime Fried Shrimp with Fiery Mango-Peach Jalapeno Sauce.  Big Guy loves coconut shrimp.  And I can’t lie, so do I.

Favorite Sip:  Blackberry & Sage Refresher.  I love a cocktail with fresh herbs and muddled fruit.  I may or may not be sippin’ on this little number come 5 o’clock tonight.

Favorite Indulge:  Roasted Tomato and Sweet Onion Dip.  Give me all.the.cheese.  Sweet, bubbly cheese.  I would probably burn my mouth because I would be just so eager to dive in.

 

And with that, enjoy the last weekend of July!!!!

Cherry-Port Glazed Pork Tenderloin

I keep a pretty well stocked kitchen.

If there’s a spice you need, I probably have it.

A random flour, I got that, too.

Condiments fill our refrigerator door.

But when I made a chipotle chicken dish last week, I needed cherry preserves.  Not typically something I keep on hand.  (Strawberry jam is my jam.)

Not wanting to let the cherry preserves go to waste, I was excited to see Cherry-Port Glazed Pork Tenderloin in a recent issue of Cooking Light.  

The recipe calls for a 3-pound tenderloin which will serve about 10-12 people.  However, the pork tenderloins that you buy at our local HT come in 3-pound packs but it’s actually two separate pieces of meat.  Seeing that it was just Big Guy and me for dinner last night, I froze one for another day.

I kept all the other measurements the same, though.  (I did end up with quite a lot of leftover sauce.)

The pork is seared on the stove-top after being seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  After searing, bake at 435 degrees for 10 minutes.  The pork is then sauced and returned to the oven for 8 more minutes of cooking.  (Cooking times are increased if you use a 3-pound piece of meat.)

Once cooked, remove from the oven, sauce again and let stand for 5-10 minutes.

pork

I served the pork over a mound of grits (aka polenta) and topped the plated pork with fresh thyme.

To note – use a good port, the flavors only intensify when you reduce any type of wine.

The pork was cooked to perfection.  Tender and juicy and full of flavor from the sauce that was drizzled on top.

And because I just thought of it – goat cheese grits would have taken this dish over the top.  Just sayin’.

So if you need a spice, or cherry preserves, come see me.  I’m like the bulk section at Whole Foods.

 

Grilled Lemon Chicken with Tomato Salad

I can’t take full credit for this dinner.  In actuality, I can only take credit for choosing the recipe and making sure that we had all the ingredients at home.  I had full intentions of helping Big Guy prepare this dinner but I found myself at a meeting that lasted a little longer than I expected.

Thankfully Big Guy knows his way around the kitchen.

The recipe is simple.  Besides the usual suspects:  salt, pepper and olive oil, you’ll only need a handful of ingredients.

Chicken (we used chicken thighs)

Lemons

Baby or grape tomatoes (or whatever is growing in your garden)

Cheese (the recipe called for feta but we had goat so that’s what we used)

Basil (totally optional but if you have it I recommend it)

The chicken marinates in a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice (Big Guy wanted me to let you know that he used more lemon juice than the recipe called for) while you prepare the tomato salad.

The tomatoes are tossed in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Before grilling the chicken, sprinkle on some salt and pepper.

The chicken is plated and then topped with the tomato salad, crumbled goat cheese and basil confetti.

The lemon-flavor was subtle but so refreshing.  I actually think I preferred the tangy, creamy goat cheese over salty feta.  But either would be delicious.

Homegrown tomatoes really make this dinner special.  Bursting with flavor and really only needing salt and pepper to heighten the flavor.

Summertime.  It’s my favorite.

And so is Big Guy.

Date Night at SoCo

Date nights are my favorite.  While I typically favor a weekend date night, I will never turn down a date night.  So when Big Guy offered to take me to SoCo last Thursday night, I couldn’t say no.

1000

Any date night is a reason to celebrate so I started with a glass of bubbles.

Big Guy convinced me to do the wine pairings with my courses and they happily subbed in the Cava for the pairing that was originally intended to go with the salad.

salad

SALAD:  Roasted Homegrown Spaghetti Squash with salt-cured olives, Holly Grove goat cheese, pecans and herb vinaigrette

This is the best spaghetti squash I’ve ever tasted and I can’t wait to recreate this salad at home.  The olives were the perfect salty component and the herb vinaigrette was bursting with fresh flavor.  Absolutely delicious and quite possibly my favorite dish of the night.

wine

And then the wine started coming…

Kimberly, the Chef’s wife and co-owner of the restaurant, is absolutely brilliant at pairing wines with food.  There is not one pairing that I didn’t like over the course of the meal.  Some pairings were quite unexpected and I loved that.  Wine and food belong together.

squash

SECOND:  Roasted Homegrown Patty Pan Squash with Hen of the Woods mushrooms, rosemary-goat cheese, and sunflower kernels

I adore the fact that so much of their food is sourced from their garden.  It’s so cool to know that the Chef is preparing a meal with the food that is growing feet away from the kitchen.  The rosemary-goat cheese sauce was stunning and I could have eaten the mushrooms all night long.

Big Guy ordered the pork belly dish and it was the favorite of the two.  But honestly, does bacon ever lose?

grouper

ENTREE:  NC Grouper with tomato purée and garlic & herb homegrown potatoes

Such a surprising presentation of grouper.  The tomato puree tasted amazing and I’m fairly certain that is because the tomatoes were grown on the property and were probably harvested that day.

But I can’t lie – Big Guy’s venison meatloaf was the favorite of the entree dishes.  By far the best meatloaf I’ve ever tasted.

sweet

SWEETNESS:  Homegrown Blueberry Trifle, with cantaloupe purée, lemon whip and cornflake crisp

My favorite part of this dessert – the cantaloupe puree.  It was totally unexpected but totally perfect.  It was as if cantaloupe was meant to go with blueberries.  This was a summer dessert from the first bite to the last bite.

sunset

Thank you, SoCo, for another amazing meal.  Each visit is a new experience that I talk about for days.  I can’t wait to return again.