Super Green Spring Salad

Super Green Spring Salad // Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

It’s spring! And my garden is blooming and booming. I’ve been eating this Super Green Spring Salad every chance I get since all of the ingredients are directly from my garden… delicate lettuce, baby kale, bright broccoli with pretty tiny yellow flowers, crisp sugar peas, mint, chives. This salad is less of a recipe, and more of a throw-together spring green treat!

Super Green Spring Salad // Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

Super Green Spring Salad // Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

But, I should pause and preface this delicious garden post with the fact that I am not a good gardener. Seriously. I’m bad. Plants shrivel at my touch. They tell their other plant friends to run and hide when I decide to buy them. Any success I have at gardening is not my doing. Plants thrive in my garden in spite of me. I just wish I was a good gardener like my grandmother was. She could make anything grow and she could make you think that you could do it too. *sigh*

The first year we moved to Kansas City, I decided that I wanted to BE A GARDENER! (p.s. I said this with both hands on my hips and in a booming voice).  This is a laughable statement because at the time I killed anything in a pot in my house and at one point was scared to even get a pet because I couldn’t even keep a plant alive!

But, dangit, I was going to finally try to grow a garden and feed myself and eat healthy and get dirt in my fingers and sweat and love it and bring bushels of food in at the end of the day and sigh and say “way to go me!”.  So I bought three tomato plants and marched into the backyard of our new rent house with a shovel and a prideful grin on my face.  Like a blind settler deciding on their perfect plot of land, I just shoved my shovel into the hard clay ground next to the fence and dug three holes. That’s it. I just stuck the tomato plants in the ground as if I were planting flowers.  But, despite my ineptitude and lack of reading up on “how to grow tomatoes“, I ended up with some darn good tomatoes that year. Those plants grew over 8 feet tall! I even canned tomato sauce! Yeah. All that from just digging three holes…..and praying like hell and battling thieving squirrels!

Super Green Spring Salad // Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

Basically, I kill any plant that is not in the ground. If it is up to me, all plants would die. However, after I put the plant in the ground, I cross my fingers that mother nature will take over and that she’ll be the true gardener.  I depend on her to water my garden too. I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do…it’s just what I do…as a bad gardener!

Also, as a bad gardener, I don’t weed. I should…but I don’t. I feel like everything should be given a fighting chance.  My husband goes out to my garden and tries to weed things and I freak out. FREAK out. I’m scared that he’s going to pull a baby beet or a baby kale or maybe just a baby, hell I don’t know. “NOOOOO! That’s a blah blah blah and I wanted it there…. yeah. I WANTED that weed.”

Sorry, I’m super protective of my garden… even if it’s a weed box. Back off!

As a bad gardener, I plant things too close together. My husband always tries to correct my eagerness to cram as much as possible into our tiny raised beds. But I tend to say, “Space shmace. If you want to survive, you gotta try harder Mr tomato!!!!”.   This doesn’t always work out….buuuut, I won’t admit that to him.

But this year, six years into BEING A GARDENER, my garden is growing like a REAL garden!  Thank you again, mother nature. I have one of the biggest lettuce crops (which love these cool temps and tons of rain that KC has gotten this spring). I also have gorgeous broccoli heads! Oh and peas! I have snow peas climbing a trellis (actually it’s a defunct hand rain I pulled off my outdoor stairs) and tiny pea pods dangling everywhere! Kale is coming up like a champ! Baby beets are gearing up and their greens are getting taller.  I’m even growing brussels sprouts and cauliflower for the first time. Way to go me! I hope my grandma would be proud. I think she’d also really love this Super Green Spring Salad that I’ve been making from all of my garden goodies!

Super Green Spring Salad // Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

I mention my lack of gardening skills in order to encourage anyone that loves fresh produce but may be scared to begin their own garden because, like me, they are terrible with plants. But don’t be scared. Just go do it!  What do you have to lose? A few bucks on a pack of seeds? You’ll fail, but you will also succeed and learn from those mistakes.  Man, I sure sound like an after school special, don’t I?  Anyways, I love seeing what new things I can grow. Nothing is better to me than walking outside my door to my own farmer’s market!

On this Memorial Day weekend, I encourage you to branch out, dig a whole, plant something.  Plant something in honor of the one’s that you have loved and in their memory.  And then every time you go out to tend to it and get dirt on your fingers and sweat on your brow and harvest your fresh amazing produce, you can remember them and realize that their memory lives on. But also, don’t forget to give yourself a high-five from them and say “way to go!” (but say it with both hands on your hips and in a booming voice).

Super Green Spring Salad // Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

Super Green Spring Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Note – This salad does not really have a set list of ingredients and can morph into whatever you have on hand. I have provided a gentle guide for what I like to use, but feel free to mix and match with whatever greens you have on hand or can spot at your local farmer’s market.  

Ingredients for the Salad

  • Four generous handfuls of spring greens mix (such as, leaf lettuce, baby kale, arugula, beet greens, etc.), gently rinse and dry
  • Handful of fresh sugar snap peas or snow peas
  • Two small heads of broccoli
  • Handful of fresh herbs (such as mint, dill, chives, cilantro)

Ingredients for the Lemon Vinaigrette 

  • Juice of 1 large lemon (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Slice the snow peas or sugar peas in half or into bite-size pieces if they are large. If they are small, you can keep them whole. Whatever you choose.
  2. Chop the broccoli florets from the stalk. Chop the florets into small portions. Cut off the bottom fibrous portion of the stalk and chop the tender portion into 1/4-inch bite-size pieces.
  3. Place the lettuce, peas, broccoli, and herbs into a large bowl.
  4. Place all vinaigrette ingredients into a lidded jar. Shake vigorously until well mixed. Just before serving, drizzle about 1/3 cup of the dressing over the salad and toss gently. Place leftover dressing in the fridge or add more if needed.

Suggested toppings:

  • Optional Protein Toppings: chicken, quinoa, boiled egg, chicken sausage, fish
  • Optional Misc Toppings: sunflower seeds, roasted nuts, crumbled feta, shaved parmesan, goat cheese

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Creamy Polenta with Braised Kale and Poached Egg

Creamy Polenta with Crispy Kale and Poached Egg

Lately I have been cooking and posting a lot of my comfort food recipes. Hearty soul-warming french onion soup, curry (this one and this one), creamy tapioca, lemon pudding…mmmmm. These are foods that not only keep me cozy, but also nourish my tired and warn out mind and body.

They may not be the typical comfort food that most american’s have come to know and love. No mac n’ cheese. No cream o’ something soups dumped in a casserole. Sorry, no big fat cinnamon rolls are coming out of my oven (womp womp). No biscuits and gravy piled on my plate. Although, there are a few times that I miss some of those items, I feel better feeding myself and my family cozy winter comfort foods that are wholesome, full of nutrients to keep our immune systems up, and not laden with preservatives or packed with empty calories.

Lately I’ve been on a polenta kick.  Erhmergerd. It’s creamy. It’s sensational. It can be cheesy. It can be buttery. Hellooooo! And all it is is slow cooked stoneground cornmeal, water, and salt. You can add butter (yes) and cheese (OH YA) as options to kick it into winter overdrive.

Creamy Polenta with Crispy Kale and Poached Egg

You will need to spend a bit of time upfront cooking the polenta, like 40 minutes. But you can swirl it, let it bubble away, then put a lid on the dang pot while it boils away (stirring every 10 minutes) and then it’s done. The great thing about polenta is that any leftovers can be reheated with a little liquid to return to its creamy holiness OR it can be cut and baked into awesome polenta cutlets.

Polenta can be topped with a myriad of things: braised short ribs, sautéed mushrooms, or, my fave, a poached egg with braised kale. This dish is perfect for both brunch or dinner.  Bonus, make it for brunch one day, and leftovers can be reheated for dinner the next day. Win Win!

Notes: For a great tutorial on easy poached eggs, check this out.

Creamy Polenta with Crispy Kale and Poached Egg

Creamy Polenta with Crispy Kale and Poached Egg (gluten free)

Adapted from The Kitchn

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coarse ground yellow cornmeal (or polenta, not quick cooking)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bunch of kale, inner ribs removed and discarded, coarsely chop leaves (wash and dry)
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 4 poached eggs (I use this method)
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Place water in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a vigorous boil. Add salt and stir. While wishing the water gently, pour the cornmeal into the boiling water in a steady stream. Turn the heat down to low and continue to whisk the cornmeal/polenta until it has thickened.
  2. Cover the pot and continue to cook for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring vigorously every 10 minutes. Once it is finished, stir in butter and cheese. Place lid on pot and let sit for up to 10 to 15 minutes until ready to use.
  3. While cooking the polenta, place a separate sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the kale and season with salt and pepper. Stir the kale lightly until it is slightly wilted. Stir in the vinegar, cover the pan, and turn the heat to high. Cook the kale over high heat until it is tender (about 5 minutes). Turn the heat off and set aside.
  4. Poach or fry eggs according to desired consistency. For a great poached egg, follow these directions.
  5. To serve, place 1/3 to 1/2 cup of creamy polenta in bottom of bowl, top with braised kale, and one poached egg. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Roasted Beets with Apples and Greens

I have a confession.

I have a Friday ritual.

I cry.

I cry every damn Friday morning…not because I want to cry. No, I cry because Story Corps comes on NPR’s Morning Edition every Friday morning while I am on my way to work. And I’m not a cryer, folks,…I’m tough…I’m strong…I do what I want….Rargh!!!!

But on Fridays, there I am….crying at the stop sign or crying by a playground or crying in the parking lot of my office.  I have mascara smeared across my face because this little old man is being interviewed by his granddaughters and he is talking about his wife of 70+ years that just passed away and he remembers dancing with her the first day that they met and how beautiful she was and how she sparkled and now life just doesn’t have that sparkle anymore because she was his sparkle and….damnit…here those stupid tears come again.

This morning those tears streamed down again as I heard an amazing story of a young woman that was homeless in highschool. She shared a room in a Chicago shelter with 6 other family members. She rode the bus 1.5 hrs one way every day to school. She currently is in college, working hard and continuing to take care of her family.  And here those tears come again…it kills me knowing how common this story is. So many Americans are well below the poverty line. So many children are homeless. They have so much to overcome and many are able to but many do not have the chance.

So here is where I give an interweb high five *BAM* to all you educators (my husband included) for fighting for these kids and working long hours and believing and loving and opening your homes and hearts. Keep trucking, because what you do matters.

Doh! There I go again. Telling ya’ll a story and forgetting to go into much detail on the featured recipe.  So lets talk beets and fall apples!  A dear friend of mine from grad school sent me a recipe for an apple and kale saute.  I drooled and immediately made it the next night but added two roasted beets that I had bought at the market. Winner!

Roasting beets is super duper easy. It is way better than boiling…ew!  Read below for a short tutorial on roasting and removing the outer skin of the beet. I always run my roasted beets under running water and the skins rub off easily. Oh and USE THOSE GREENS!!!!  I added the beet greens with the kale. The tart apples and earthy roasted beets are a perfect pair. A dijon vinegerette drizzled on top really seals the deal!  Serve as a side with grilled salmon, pork chops, or chicken. Or for a vegetarian or vegan dish, serve over quinoa and maybe add some toasted walnuts. Mmmmm fall.

Roasted Beets with Apples and Greens (adapted from Whole Foods Market)

Serves 4 as a side

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of beets with beet greens (about 1 lb)
  • 2 small apples
  • 1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch of kale, stems removed
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon stone ground mustard or dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Let’s roast some beets! Remove greens from beets. Set beet greens aside to use later. Scrub beets well and do not dry off. Wrap beets loosely in aluminum foil. If beets are similar size, then they can all be wrapped together. If the beets are very large, then wrap them separately. Transfer the wrapped beets to a baking sheet and roast for 1 hour for large beets and 45 minutes for smaller beets. Beets are done when a fork slides easily to the middle of the beet. Allow the beets to cool for 5 minutes, or cool enough to handle. Hold the beets under running water and rub the outer skin away easily. Note – if the skin doesn’t come off easily then it is likely that the beets need to cook a little longer.  Peel and slice all the beets. Set aside.
  2. While the beets are roasting in the oven and they have about 20 minutes until they are done, start cooking the rest of your ingredients. Wash and remove the stems from the beet greens and kale.
  3. Heat 1/2 Tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Saute red onion for 5 minutes or until translucent and browned. Add thinly sliced apples and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1/2 tablespoon of apple cider, kale, and beet greens. Place lid on top of skillet and allow to steam for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat when greens are wilted.
  4. In a small bowl, mix remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, and mustard. Set aside.
  5. Divide the kale and apple mixture among 4 plates. Place sliced beats on top of kale and apples. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve warm or at room temperature. Note – If you don’t use all of the roasted beets, they can be stored whole or sliced for up to a week in the refrigerator.