Jan 29, 2011

Handy Kitchen Info: Clever Cook Tips from the Guardian

I stumbled across this article while doing my Saturday morning reading and thought I'd pass it along: it's the Guardian's compilation of handy kitchen tips, everything from how to keep avocado halves from browning to softening butter without using the microwave. I thoroughly enjoy reading articles such as these, although I must admit that I often forget to put them to practice when I'm in the kitchen. However, two tips stuck out that I've got to try: the softening butter tip and the herb freezing tip. 

How many times have you gotten to the point in a recipe where it calls for softened butter and alas, yours is still in the refrigerator not the least bit soft and the last thing you have is 8 hours to spare while it sits out taking its sweet time to soften naturally. I've gotten used to either throwing it in the microwave for a few seconds or heating it on the stove top - but then when I combine it with the batter it slightly cooks the eggs I'm inevitably mixing it with for some sort of batter. I usually continue with the recipe slightly ashamed hoping that the almighty Martha never catches wind of what I've done. Anyway, there's a cool trick in this article that I'm dying to try - and if you try it before I do, please comment below and let me know if it indeed works, so I can continue forgetting to soften butter and still end up with flawless batter.

The other tip is a cool trick that puts those fresh herbs you have sitting in the fridge to use, instead of letting them sit in the back of your produce drawer on their way to rot city. You know you've done it - you get some sort of fresh herb, be it parsley, basil or mint and have a thousand cool ideas for dinner that week using one or even all three, then at the last minute something happens where you don't end up using as much as you thought, so you put them back in the refrigerator for "use at a later date". But we know what's really going on: they sit in the fridge under new produce or cheese and when you're cleaning out the drawer you find a soggy brown plastic bag of what could have been either parsley, basil or mint. If this has never happened to you, you're either A.) lying, B.) a fantastic home cook that should probably take over this blog, or C.) you don't use fresh herbs, in which case I can't really help you.

Regardless, this article has a cool trick that again, I'm dying to try. In fact, I have fresh parsley and cilantro sitting in my produce drawer at this moment that are patiently waiting to be put into a great dish and consumed rather than turn into some science experiment that inevitably gets thrown away.

Here's the link - check it out and let us know if you've tried anything and how well, or not so well the tips work.


Jan 23, 2011

This Ain't No Kraft Mac and Cheese

Who doesn't love a good mac and cheese?? And we're not talking about the neon colored radioactive looking powder you get in a box - real gooey cheese over noodles.
This post is partly inspired by a food cart that someone recently told Caitlin about. The guy made nothing but mac and cheese - sounds a bit boring? But wait - he had about 20 different toppings lined up for people to put on top - everything from tomatoes and fresh herbs to fried bacon - genius!! Unfortunately he didn't make it in the Eugene food cart business (if he'd only stay up late enough for the drunk college kids stumbling home, I bet he'd make a killing), but his vision lives on here!

Caitlin: I feel like mac and cheese is popping up all over the place; it's the new "gourmet" hamburger - not to mention, Michael Symon's goat cheese and chicken mac and cheese won the James Beard award. So when I heard about this food cart, my mind was spinning out of control with various cheeses and toppings. I had to try it. I made a couple different versions: in the first I used smoked cheese (a nice blend I found at Trader Joes) and then I topped it with tomatoes, sour cream, onions and fried pancetta. The second kind was more Southwestern inspired: I used only cheddar cheese, but I topped it with Mexican cream, tomatoes, onions, fresh corn and avocado. I also decided to use whole grain rotini for some added nutrition (not always comparable to the real deal, but when it's disguised in cheese and toppings, it comes fairly close). I actually really loved both versions, so I can't say that I preferred one over the other. But the only pictures I took were of the latter, so here you go. Drool away - and for goodness sake try it!!!

Caitlin's version with cheddar cheese  topped with tomatoes, corn, onions and avocado
Monica: I have to admit, I have a love-hate relationship with macaroni and cheese.  I love cheese (most of the time), however, I sometimes find the milk/cream/cheese combination to be overpowering. I have made many different variations of mac and cheese in the past (from the box, Trader Joe's frozen entree, and John Legend's famous Baked Mac & Cheese - which I saw on the Martha Stewart Show), so when we decided to give it a whirl for the blog, I was looking forward to Michael Symon's award winning recipe.  I made his suggested goat cheese recipe (minus the chicken) and I also used the same recipe but substituted cheddar cheese in place of the goat cheese - I was serving this to my nieces and I knew trying to get them to eat goat cheese would've been rather impossible.  I do have to admit that this has now become my favorite recipe for mac and cheese. I like goat cheese, however, it is a bit more decadent in flavor and texture, so if you prefer cheddar, stick to that. I also loved the fact that it was made on the stovetop, rather than baked, because the stovetop mac and cheese is reminiscent of what the classic childhood favorite is all about. I set a few toppings out to jazz up the mac and cheese - mimicking the food cart idea.  I cut up some tomatoes, diced fresh chives, fried up some pancetta, and also served some fresh corn niblets. I topped my plate with all of the above and it was SO good - especially after adding the pancetta! 
Monica's Version with Goat Cheese topped w/fresh corn, chives, tomatoes, & pancetta
Ingredient List 
Serves 4
1/2 lb pasta: suggest rotini, elbow macaroni or rigatoni
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 tsp dried mustard
If using cheddar or smoked - 2 cups
If using goat cheese - 6 oz.
s&p to taste
*For the Toppings:
chopped tomatoes
chopped onions or chives
fresh corn
sour cream, Greek yogurt or Mexican cream
bacon or pancetta, fried in small pieces
fresh herbs

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. When it boils, put the pasta in and start the roux.

In another small pot, melt the butter. Add the flour, whisk and let cook for a minute. Add the milk and cream and bring to a low boil and reduce so it thickens. Add the cheese and stir until it melts; add the mustard and seasoning. 

Drain the pasta, put in a baking dish and stir in the cheese. Serve with various toppings and enjoy!

Get creative with the type of cheese you use - cheddar and mozzarella are good staples, but you can be brave and use goat, smoked cheeses, gruyere, gorgonzola - the list goes on!

If you are making the goat cheese version, you can omit the butter, flour, and dried mustard.

If using cheddar cheese, you can add a flavorful stout (like Rogue) to the cheese sauce.

Try using whole grain pasta. It's not always comparable to the real deal, but when it's disguised in cheese and toppings, you'll hardly notice the difference.

The toppings can vary depending on what type of cheese you use. Get creative!

Caitlin: Any good friend of mine knows how much I love ABBA - quite embarrassing and sadly, true. But I was in good spirits, excited about this meal and Allan wasn't home yet so I could unabashedly sing along to Fernando without fear of ridicule.
Monica: Since this is a modern twist on comfort food, I chose a playlist that reflected different takes on classic tunes.
1) What a Wonderful World - Joey Ramone
2) It's Alright with Me - Tom Waits
3) I Should Have Known Better - She & Him
4) Goin' Out of My Head - Ella Fitzgerald & Frank Sinatra
5) Redemption Song - Johnny Cash & Joe Strummer

Drink of Choice
Caitlin: Suggest a Rogue Ale.
Monica: A nice Ale would probably go great with this dish, especially if you are not counting calories. I opted for something a little less filling - a small glass of Rosé (not White Zinfandel).

A Recipe to Remember?
YES!! Mac and cheese is fantastic, especially when you get creative with the cheese and the toppings.

Simple, Quick, & Delicious: Cornbread with Whipped Cinnamon-Honey Butter

What goes great with mac and cheese?  Cornbread muffins with whipped honey butter.  If you are looking for the ultimate comfort food combination, this is definitely it!  Instead of making a dessert for this week's post, we thought these muffins when paired with cinnamon flecked, honey infused butter would not only compliment the meal, they could stand alone as a dessert-like treat. Making these muffins is really simple and the prep is quick; but most importantly, they are delicious.  Now what could be better than that?!

Caitlin: Homemade cornbread is a weakness of mine - I can eat an entire batch in one sitting with some butter and honey. And if there's any leftover, it's great with morning coffee. This recipe is incredibly easy and delicious - the only differences I made were to add fresh corn to the batter and then I baked it in a cake tin instead of a muffin pan - that way, you can put it directly on the table and people can cut it and serve themselves while it's still hot. It's the perfect addition to mac and cheese, but I also love cornbread with slow cooked pork or rotisserie chicken. And of course Barbeque - those southerners are definitely onto something!
Caitlin's Version
Monica:  This recipe was a first for me - cornbread from scratch.  It was not only easy, the batter had a wonderfully light texture before I baked it, so I knew it would be good.  The muffins are crumbly, but not too crumbly.  When served warm, the sweet butter mixture melts beautifully on the muffin. I enjoyed these muffins with my mac and cheese and their subtle sweetness was the perfect complement. You can also use the leftover butter for your pancakes or waffles...that is, if there is any left!
Monica's Version
Ingredient List
For the Muffins (makes 12)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk or 2%
2 large eggs
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
*if adding fresh corn - use the kernels from one ear
For the Butter:
1/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Into a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, butter, and honey. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until mixed. If adding fresh corn, stir it in with the batter.

Place muffin paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin. Evenly divide the cornbread mixture into the papers. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden.
If baking in a cake tin, grease it before adding the batter. Then bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

As the muffins are baking, make the butter mixture.

Combine the butter, honey, cinnamon, and salt with an electric mixer. Serve at room temperature with the muffins.

butter with a little extra honey drizzled on top
If you prefer to leave the cinnamon out of the butter mixture, it tastes equally delicious with just the honey.

Add fresh corn to the batter for added texture and taste.

A Recipe to Remember? 
Definitely, it is the perfect treat to eat with this meal. The leftovers are also great for a quick breakfast treat.

Jan 14, 2011

Confounded by Clafoutis

Are you sure you know what Clafoutis (or as Ina Garten says "clafouti") is? Well, it is best described as a cross between a custard and a cake. There are so many variations of clafoutis, some more cake-like, others more like a custard. This version is definitely most like a custard. Why confounded, you ask? Well, we based it loosely on Ina Garten's Pear Clafouti recipe, and judging from her picture and ours there was something very different between our final products. Nonetheless, the Pear Clafoutis we are sharing with you is a gourmet looking and tasting dessert...we both loved it, even after all the confusion and modifications.

Caitlin: A few years ago I made an apricot clafoutis, adapted from an Emerill recipe. It was light, fluffy and had more of a cake-like texture - apparently, this was not what a "traditional" clafoutis  tastes like - it should be more of a firmer custard, or the middle ground between custard, souffle and cake. So, when we decided to try a pear clafoutis, I think we were expecting something a little different. 
Monica made hers first and when she gave an update I could detect a tone of frustration - and talking to her later confirmed it: she was  mad at the clafoutis, or rather mad at the recipe. It was bland, too custard-like and not  cakey enough. So - we needed to act fast. 
Classically trained and 5 star chefs, we are not - however, we know how to change something up to add flavor. One of the great things about cooking with a friend is that when we try newer recipes, the first person is usually the guinea pig (in this case it was Monica) - we talk about what the dish lacked and what can make it better, we make those changes, try it again and have a great recipe. This was absolutely one of those times. The original recipe lacked sweetness, from the pears and custard, so we added a little more cinnamon and sugar for flavor, caramelized the pears before cooking it, and voila! we had a tasty clafoutis. 
Caitlin's Version with Creme Fraiche
Monica: Ok, so I decided to make the dessert first and the directions seemed easy enough. However, I came to realize that I needed to change it up a bit in order for it to be a more luscious dessert. I still realized after I added a few things to the original recipe, it could've been even better with still more modifications. After discussing what I felt the recipe lacked, Caitlin and I collaborated and she added some delicious elements to her pear mixture in order to make the flavors pop! Don't get me wrong, the version I made was still quite delicious, but being able to talk it through with Caitlin, what she ultimately made is an even better version than the original. I decided to serve my clafoutis with a homemade vanilla whipped cream (I think it needs to be served with a sauce or cream) and it was perfect to enjoy with a cup of tea. One more tip, I really think the recipe could've been a tad bit sweeter, so I would add some sweetened condensed milk to the egg mixture, like Eagle brand milk the next time I make this.
Monica's version with Vanilla Whipped Cream
Ingredient List 
*For cooking the pears:
2 tbsp butter
2-3 firm but ripe pears - peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
3 tbsp sugar 
tsp cinnamon
dash of vanilla extract
*For the custard:
1/3 cup sugar
3 extra large eggs
6 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp brandy (you can leave the brandy out, but use extra dash of vanilla extract and a dash more sugar)
Confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 375.

Butter a round baking dish and sprinkle a tsp sugar over it.

In a large saute pan, heat the butter until it's browned. Add the pears, sugar, cinnamon and a dash of vanilla. Cook the pears until soft, turn off the heat and set aside.

Start the custard: in a large bowl beat the eggs and 1/3 cup of sugar on high for about  3 minutes, until fluffy. On a lower speed add the flour, cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest, salt, and brandy (if using). Set aside for a few minutes to settle.

In the meantime, arrange the pears in the baking dish. We both fanned them out around the dish and then again in the middle where there was an empty space. But you can get creative and arrange them any way you want, as long as there is really only 1 layer on the bottom. 
Take the sauce that was created from cooking the pears and the sugar, and drizzle it over the pears in the baking dish. Pour the custard batter over the pears, sprinkle with cinnamon and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until the custard is firm. You can test this by slightly jiggling the dish, if it's still really jiggly, then it's not quite done - put it in for another 5 minutes and check again. Take the dish out and let it sit for a few minutes. 
Serve warm or at room temperature. Sprinkle some confectioners sugar over the top. you can serve it with a dollop of creme fraiche, spiced cream, or vanilla ice cream.
You could add some more flour to the mix to make it cake-like; maybe cake flour would work best. 

Get creative...once summer rolls around use cherries or other stone-fruit like apricots. 

Serve with vanilla ice cream instead of whipped cream or make a spiced cream sauce. 

Caitlin: After talking to Monica, I was a little nervous about making this. What if it sucked?! I wanted to listen something relaxing and mellow so I could concentrate and get it right. Broken Bells was exactly what I needed. James Mercer's light voice and Danger Mouse's musical genius provided the perfect backdrop. If you haven't heard the album yet, please do yourself a favor and check it out HERE - I understand they're collaborating again on a second album; if we're lucky it'll be anything like the first. Here's the video for a song called The High Road - check it out.

Monica: After the recipe not turning out exactly how I anticipated (although still good), I wanted to sit back and relax.  These songs were perfect to listen to while I enjoyed the clafoutis:
1)  Round Midnight - John Coltrane
2)  I Got It Bad (and Ain't the Good) - Duke Ellington
3)  Feeling Good - Nina Simone
4)  Baby It's You - The Beatles
5)  Tangled Up in Blue - Bob Dylan

Drink of Choice 
Caitlin: Tea.
Monica: I drank a nice hot cup of pomegranate-blueberry herbal tea with a touch of honey.

A Recipe to Remember?
Yes!  Even after the stress and altering the recipe, we are both quite excited to get more creative with clafoutis the next time around.

Lettuce Wraps with Serrano-Mint Sauce

Week two of the new year, and we are sure many of you are still trying to find recipes that are not only healthy, but tasty too.  These lettuce wraps hit the spot and most importantly, they are not only figure friendly, they are really good. Caitlin chose to fill her romaine lettuce leaves with sesame crusted Mahi-mahi.  Monica used shredded steamed chicken.  Both sets of wraps were deliciously topped with a Serrano-Mint sauce, inspired by a Bobby Flay recipe from a few years back.  That sauce is versatile and can be used with a variety of proteins (shrimp, tofu, flank steak, etc...).  It is low calorie, yet, extremely flavorful.  Once you try it, we guarantee that it will probably become a favorite of yours too!

Caitlin: I had this whole meal prepped and cooked in just under 30 minutes (take that, Rachel Ray). It was a refreshing and healthy dinner - a nice change after all the heavy winter stews we've been enjoying. The serrano-mint sauce went great with the fish; it was a little spicy so unless your kids enjoy spicy fare, it may not be for them. I had a few Mahi Mahi fillets that I crusted in sesame seeds and sauteed, then I took the whole fillet and wrapped it in Romaine lettuce and topped it with the sauce. While my picture won't be winning any food or photography awards, I promise it was quite tasty.
Caitlin's Version with Mahi Mahi
Monica:  I've made this recipe in the past and have usually either used grilled shrimp or baked tofu.  This time around, I decided to steam some chicken on the stovetop, shred it and added it to my wraps.  I know many of us often wonder what to do with chicken in order to jazz it up.  Granted, steamed chicken may not be the most exciting, however, when shredded and topped with this glorious sauce, it tastes amazingly good.  It is fresh and you don't feel guilty if you have more than one. Oh and like Caitlin, my photo also doesn't do justice to the dish!
Monica's version with Steamed Chicken
Ingredient List
1 pound Mahi-mahi or chicken
Olive oil or Canola Oil
Salt & Pepper
Sesame seeds (to crust Mahi-mahi)
For the sauce:
1 cup tightly packed mint leaves
2 serrano chiles, chopped
1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, cleaned & chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
2 tsp fish sauce OR soy sauce
Salt (if necessary)
1 tbs olive oil (optional)

For the Mahi-mahi wraps: 
Season the fillets with salt and pepper, then crust them in sesame seeds. Heat oil in large saute pan and fry the fish about 3 minutes on each side, or until the seeds are browned and the fish is to your liking. Lay on a piece of Romaine lettuce and top with the sauce. 

For the Chicken wraps:
Steam the chicken and add seasoning to your preference . I chose to add a tad of salt, dried sage and dried oregano for flavor. Once the chicken is steamed, let it cool a bit, then shred it.

Arrange the chicken on the lettuce leaf and top with the sauce! That is it; if you like, add some crispy rice noodles for extra crunch.

For the Serrano-Mint Sauce:
Place all ingredients, except for salt & olive oil, in a blender. Pulse until smooth. Season with salt. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. If you choose to add olive oil (it is optional), add it before serving, it just slightly changes the consistency of the sauce to be slightly smoother. Bring to room temperature before serving.

If you find that the sauce is too spicy, use 1 serrano first and add the second one if necessary.

Substitute a variety of proteins for the wraps, including grilled shrimp, baked tofu, thinly sliced steak, halibut, etc...

Caitlin: I listened to one of my favorite bands, The Specials - upbeat and fun.
Monica: Healthy food inspires good music.  Here is some of my playlist:
1)  Lovers Rock - The Clash
2)  Always On My Mind - Willie Nelson
3)  Time Is On My Side - The Rolling Stones
4)  Ask - The Smiths 
5)  Gracias a la Vida - Mercedes Sosa 

Drink of Choice
Caitlin: Because the fish is light but the sauce has a definite bite to it, I wanted something on the sweeter side, so I had a Gewurztraminer wine.
Monica:  Sparkling lemonade, I felt like something tart, yet bubbly.

A Recipe to Remember?
Defnitely, lettuce wraps are healthy and this sauce is divine.

Couscous 2 Ways

If you are looking for a quick and healthy side dish, couscous is always a good option. It is versatile and you can add your favorite veggies, herbs, and spices to spruce it up to your liking. Caitlin decided to make a Mediterranean flavored dish. Monica also used a bit of Mediterranean inspiration in her couscous with garden fresh flair. If you choose to make this you can also stuff bell peppers or tomatoes with the couscous and bake it in the oven. If you have never tried couscous you really should; and if you have, we hope we can inspire you to make it a new way!

Caitlin: Couscous is probably one of the most versatile side dishes, not mention healthy. It absorbs the flavors of whatever you cook it with, so there are a variety of options. I sauteed bell peppers and zucchini, then threw it all together with tomatoes, black olives, basil, olive oil, lemon juice and a sprinkle of feta cheese. Easy, delicious and most importantly, healthy.
Caitlin's Version
Monica: I love couscous, because you can make a lot at one time, and it is always great the next day for lunch. I also love the fact that it can be made so many different ways and it tastes great warm or at room temperature. My "go-to" couscous recipe is made with peas, 1 red pepper, 1 yellow pepper, capers (or kalamata olives) - seasoned with olive oil, lemon, and cayenne pepper. You can add fresh herbs, like basil and cilantro, but I decided to keep mine rather simple. I served this with my wraps and it went perfectly. I also packed up some of the leftovers and took it to work for lunch the next day...delicious! 
Monica's Version 
Ingredient List
1 1/2 cups coucous
2 cups chicken broth (or water, if you want to keep it vegetarian)

If preparing Caitlin's Version:
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, finely chopped
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chopped black olives
1/4 cup chopped basil (or mint, if have extra from the serrano-mint sauce)
drizzle of olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
*Feta cheese, to taste - optional
If preparing Monica's Version:
1 red pepper, seeded & chopped
1 yellow pepper, seeded & chopped
1 1/2 cups green peas (I prefer frozen)
2 tbs capers
Olive oil
2 Lemons
Cayenne Pepper
Kosher Salt

Boil the chicken broth, or water. When boiled, stir in the couscous, turn off the heat and cover the pan. Let sit for 5-7 minutes. Take lid off and fluff with a fork. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in your additions.

To prepare Caitlin's Version:

Saute your bell peppers and zucchini in olive oil and season with s&p. When the couscous is cooked, mix it with the cooked bell peppers,  zucchini, chopped tomatoes, black olives, basil or mint, lemon juice, olive oil, s&p. Top with crumbled feta cheese, if using.

To prepare Monica's Version:
While the couscous is setting...add the red pepper and yellow pepper to your pan with a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Saute for a few minutes, then add the frozen peas. Mix the peas with the peppers and lower the heat. Cover and let cook until the peppers are soft.

Once the pepper and pea mixture is done, add the couscous to the pan over very low heat and combine. Add about another tablespoon of olive oil to flavor the mixture. Turn off the heat. Now add the salt and make sure to add plenty, but be sure not to over-salt.
Mix in capers and add the juice of 2 lemons. If you like the lemon taste, zest a bit of the lemon rind onto your couscous (about a teaspoon). I always add cayenne pepper to my couscous when I serve it. It looks pretty and gives it an extra kick. If you have fresh herbs on hand, you can also sprinkle them on top. Enjoy!

There are many recipes for sauces that you can add to your couscous...an herb based sauce would be terrific.
If you are making a Mediterranean inspired dish, you can always serve with Feta and Kalamata olives.

Add fresh herbs to your dish such as: cilantro, basil, parsley, and dill.
If this is your main and you want some protein, you can add: garbanzos (to keep it veggie), or shrimp.

Caitlin: Since I made the couscous with the fish - I was listening to The Specials. An upbeat and fun band to listen to while making (and eating) a lighter and easier dish.
Monica: This is a continuation of my playlist from the wraps, since they were served together. 
1)  Falling Slowly - The Frames 
2)  Babe I'm Gonna Leave You - Led Zeppelin
3)  Stand By Me - John Lennon
4)  Cupid - Sam Cooke
5)  Little Twig - Neil Halstead

A Recipe to Remember?
There are a million ways to make couscous, but these are two of our favorite versions!

Jan 6, 2011

Peppery Greens with Pine Nuts and Gorgonzola

This salad is absolutely perfect! It's a great accompaniment to any sort of meat, soup or veggie main. We ended up taking this salad inspiration and running in two different directions with it, both of which were fantastic! If you like salads and enjoy trying new things, please try one or both of these!

Caitlin: This salad is great because it's so versatile - you can really use any combination of greens and it goes great with the toasted pine nuts and cheese. I decided to use goat cheese instead of Gorgonzola and added dried cranberries - it was a perfect combination with the vinaigrette and pine nuts. It's now become a family favorite that everyone (kids included) enjoy.

Caitlin's version with dried cranberries and goat cheese
Monica: I love salads of all sorts and this is definitely no exception.  The flavors are well balanced and the vinaigrette is extremely flavorful!  I decided to vary mine by topping my salad with raw walnuts instead of pine nuts. I also added dried apricots to the mix (one of my favorite dried fruits) to offset the richness of the cheese. In terms of the vinaigrette, I used apple cider vinegar and a bit of honey.  Caitlin suggested adding the honey and I am glad she did, it just added a tad of sweetness, however, it is not a sweet dressing. I actually ate this as my main dish, my lunch, with a some whole-grain baguette (I almost always have to have bread with my salad).  If you are looking for some added protein you can add some grilled or roasted chicken. This salad is a keeper!
Monica's version with Walnuts & Gorgonzola

Ingredient List
¼ cup Pine Nuts
1/4 cup Walnuts
1 shallot, chopped
1 tsp Dijon
2 tbsp sherry wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp honey
1 bunch watercress
1 head butter lettuce (or romaine)
1 small head radicchio
1 bunch arugula
¼ cup gorgonzola cheese (or goat cheese)
* 1/4 cup dried cranberries, if using
*1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped, if using

Preheat oven to 350. Toast pine nuts on a cookie sheet for 5-7 minutes, or until lightly browned. OR, toast in a skillet on the stove. Transfer to plate and set aside.
*If using walnuts, you can toast them or use them raw.

Make the vinaigrette: whisk together the shallot, honey, mustard, and vinegar in small bowl and slowly add the oil whisking until emulsified. Season with s&p.

Tear all the greens into bite sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Toss in the vinaigrette, nuts, cheese and any additions you're using. Toss again to incorporate all the dressing. Top with additional cheese and nuts if preferred.

Dried fruit, such as cranberries or apricots pair perfectly with the pine nuts and vinaigrette.

You can omit the shallot from the dressing and it still tastes great. 

Drink of Choice
Caitlin: Something refreshing and bubbly, such as Perrier with a twist.
Monica: Just like Caitin, I enjoyed some Pellegrino with a squeeze of lime.

Caitlin: Since I ate this salad with the soup, I was still listening to the Twin Peaks soundtrack. Although something upbeat and light would be a great backdrop to the light and refreshing salad.
Monica: This was the perfect lunch after a rainy morning, hence, inspiring some of my music choices.
1)  She's Electric - Oasis 
2)  Silver Wings - Merle Haggard
3)  Out on the Weekend - Neil Young
4)  Don't Get Me Wrong - The Pretenders
5)  Ready or Not - The Fugees

A Recipe to Remember?
Yes, it is versatile, delicious and healthy!