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Lentil & Mixed Vegetable Salad

The heat of the summer brings endless fun and excitement: tons of barbecues, pool parties, beach days, park visits, hikes, and anything else that you can squeeze into the extended hours of daylight. With all these adventures who has time to cook lengthy recipes? Instead, I prefer to fill my refrigerator with ready made salads that are easy to grab and go. Lentil Salad will always be a personal favorite. Lentils range between all colors of the spectrum, and are sold in many different forms, however, a couple characteristics remain consistent: They’re delicious, and loaded with essential nutrients, including tons of fiber and protein. This recipe is fairly quick, very easy, makes a large portion to split up over a few days, and will be a crowd pleaser for any occasion.

Servings:  6-8

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

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Arugula Walnut Pesto

Pesto is traditionally made of Fresh Basil, Garlic, Parmesan, Olive Oil, and Pine Nuts. Originally, all ingredients were roughly chopped and pounded into a paste using a Mortar and Pestle. Thank goodness most of us at home cooks own a food processor now. Today we have many variations of the lovely and fragrant sauce. The French version, Pistou, substitutes tomatoes for pine nuts. A version from Calabria includes grilled Bell Peppers, and tons of Black Pepper. Another version from Sicily also adds Tomatoes, and substitutes Almonds for Pine Nuts. My version? My version includes Arugula, Walnuts, Garlic, Parmesan, and the best quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil you can find.

Servings: 4-6

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

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Parmesan Panko Crusted Chicken with Arugula Walnut Pesto and Sweet Potato Wedges

Parmesan is one of those few ingredients that I believe can take many plates, and your taste buds, to an entirely different level. This dish’s extremely traditional style of breading meat dates back to many of your grandmother’s and great grandmother’s ways of cooking. Instead of using flour in the dredging process, substitute in cheap, powdered parmesan for a recipe your guests will be begging for.

Servings: 1

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

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Tomato Gnocci Soup with Grilled Triple Cheese Sandwiches

There are several couples throughout time that one should never even dream of tearing apart. Bread & Butter, Salt & Pepper, Peanut Butter & Jelly, and, my personal favorite, Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup. Having worked as a Cheese Monger, I have been bestowed with the gift of knowing a pretty fair amount about cheese… incredible cheese. It should come as no surprise that deciding the appropriate array of fromages to sandwich between two of the most divine slices of bread is more exciting to me than any wild Friday night. After choosing the perfect blend of a sharp, crystalized cheese, versus one that has a soft buttery finish, it’s only necessary to choose from the ripest tomatoes to slow cook, and blend to perfection. After all, in the end, it’s all about finding the perfect balance in anything, right?

Servings: 2

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

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Blood Orange, Chocolate Chip, & Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Seasonal ingredients are so special to me. There is something about the exclusivity of an item that brings such excitement to any recipe. Like a kid on Christmas morning, every January I am constantly on the look out at every local produce section and farmers market in the area for the gem of a citrus known as the Blood Orange. Be sure to post haste in finding them because come April or May their crates will be empty and you will have nothing but a fading memory of the ruby tinted rind, and naturally sweet fruit to last you until the next year.

Servings: 1 Pint

Prep Time: 30 minutes and 2 hours of inactive prep

Cook Time: 35 minutes

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Chicken Zucchini Pizzaiola with Charred Broccoli

For several years, I lived with an Italian friend of mine- together, Katie and I not only shared clothes and countless bottles of wine, but tons of our recipes, both old and new. One of her family recipes that I always fall back on is my version of her Chicken Pizzaiola. A traditional dish from Southern Italy, Pizzaiola is typically made with veal and pizza flavorings, where the meat is cooked in a tomato sauce. This is one of my favorite ways to cook Chicken- it’s quick, filling, and always proves to have tons of left overs. You can serve this dish with just about anything- potatoes, polenta, or pasta. Today, I chose to pair it with my favorite vegetable, broccoli. I like to serve it with broccoli so that I don’t need to feel guilty cleaning the plate with a couple slices of bread.

Servings: 2-3

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

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Quick Vegetable Stock

There is always that end of the carrot that you can’t quite slice, or the tops of the leeks that are completely inedible- just because it doesn’t slice right, or it can be found a tad bitter, don’t throw these ingredients away! All those discarded veggies are great for a quick vegetable stock. Add a few other ingredients (an onion or celery can almost always be found somewhere in one’s fridge), and some water- the rest is up to you. Stock can always be added to soups, sauces, and marinades to really take it to the next level. Use immediately or freeze for later use.

Yield: 4-6 Quarts

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

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Parsnip & Leek Chowder with Charred Sweet Corn

Sometimes, even on the sunniest of Sundays, soup is just so appropriate. It warms your belly, your heart, and requires such a minimal amount of preparation for when you just feel like lazing about. I found the most beautiful Parsnips and Leeks yesterday while perusing the Silverlake farmers market- two of my favorite vegetables that I just don’t get around to using as often as I’d like. Parsnips are a particular favorite because not only are they sweet, and succulent, but quite starchy, and full of fiber- making for a great substitute when you’re trying to cut back on carbs.

 

Servings: 4

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time 35 minutes

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Spinach, Kale, & Greek Yogurt Dip with Baked Sweet Potato Chips

Over the years I’ve learned that there are very few places in one’s daily life that provide so much satisfaction and angst all at the same time. To name a few off the top of my head I’d say Target, Ikea, Disneyland, and TRADER JOE’S. When it come’s to grocery stores in my area I believe that Trader Joe’s has the most to offer, yet I constantly find myself less motivated to go than my last visit. Parking is a nightmare at every location I’ve ever been to, their shopping carts have bogus wheels and give me a mild heart attack every time I have to use one, and I can never remember my reusable shopping bags(I own at least 20). So skip the trip all together, and go to another grocery store- that’s the only logical answer for my anxiety, right? But where do I get my Organic Crunchy Salted Peanut Butter, or the Coconut Oil Spray that I can’t find anywhere else… or the delectable variety of Joe Joe’s that we all love so much, and the teeny tiny cups of coffee you get to shop with? What about their delicious unique dips, and impeccable wine selection for those who appreciate good wine but don’t want to pay a fortune? What about all of the things at Trader Joe’s that keep everyone going back?

Today, instead of braving the storm of shoppers, I decided to take a stab at one my favorite Trader Joe’s treats myself. Much to my surprise it was delightful on just my first try. Trader Joes’ Kale Spinach Yogurt Dip is such a delicious snack. Unlike other dips of it’s nature, it has less than half the amount of calories, and I’d go as far as to say that its actually quite nutritious for you. Let me know how you think it compares.

 

…For the record- my love affair with Trader Joe’s will never end.

 

Servings: 6-8

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 1 minute

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Chimichurri Lamb Chops with Paprika-Lime Arugula

As it’s more clear that spring time is upon us, I like to think of some traditional foods of the season. I associate the time of year with fresh, bright ingredients- plenty of herbs, the zest of a lemon, and a little bit of spice to really brighten any dish. Thinking of spring, and the sun staying out longer I’m reminded of years worth of family bbq’s where a variety of meats and giant salads were all that filled everyone’s plate. A staple in many mediterranean diets, Lamb is considered to be quite healthy because of the ability it has to lower cardiovascular disease. A majority of lamb raised spend most of their life time grazing as these animals require less of a confined space, and more free-range over an open grassland  in order to produce quality cuts of meat- as a result they not only lead a very humane life comparatively, and their meat provides a lot more of a organic flavor naturally.

Servings: Variable

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 8-10 minutes

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