Tag Archives: salad

No Fear: Spinach Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash and Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

10 Nov

squash 3

I do a lot of things even though I’m scared of them. I ride airplanes, even though I’m terrified of flying. I write this food blog even though I’m terrified of being judged negatively by my food. I got married even though I was terrified of marriage. I had a baby even though I was terrified of being tired all the time. On the other hand, I rarely drink because I have a fear of being out of control. I don’t break the rules because I have a fear of getting in trouble. But how much do we let fear manage what we do or don’t do?

So this thing happened about 6 weeks ago and it was/is a big thing. I’ve been keeping it to myself for a while but when the tech guy at school, who I’m not sure even knows my daughter’s name, came up to me to confirm the rumor of this big thing that happened 6 weeks ago, I think it’s safe to say that the ‘jig is up’. Six weeks ago, a professional opportunity dropped into my lap and I couldn’t ignore it. Try as I might, I just couldn’t ignore it. I wasn’t looking for a job. I have a job. I have a job I like that I think I’m pretty good at. I get to work with people I generally really like; who make me laugh out loud on a daily basis. But then I got a call offering me a huge professional opportunity, which would have been a no-brainer except for this one very big hiccup—the job is in LA. If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you’ll know my family and I live in Miami. We are here because my husband is in the middle of getting his PhD in Marine Biology from the University of Miami. We’ve been here almost 3 years. I like it enough. We’ve always said we didn’t want this to be our permanent place. Miami is nice and all but it’s not where we want to raise our children. Before this call, the only guarantee we had once my husband finished his PhD is that there is no guarantee. In the back of our minds, we always thought that we would go anywhere he got a post-doc or a job; be it Australia, Israel Hawaii or North Carolina. But we’re nearly 3 years into a 4.5 year PhD so we didn’t REALLY think about it but then this thing landed in my lap and then we were forced to think about it.

The job has all the things a person looks for in a job–prestigious school, giant promotion, room for growth, resources and is located in sunny LA. But there’s just this one thing. My husband can’t leave his PhD program. So the question came to be: How much are we willing to sacrifice for a job? How much are we willing to sacrifice for our family’s future? If I said ‘yes’, that meant that I would be in LA with Siona for a year without my partner; my love. If I said ‘no’, that meant that I was passing up a major opportunity for myself and also, a guaranteed future for my family. How does a person make that kind of decision?

First, you take a trip to LA. Who wouldn’t want to say ‘yes’ after an all-expense paid 4 days in Beverly Hills? Then you talk . . . and you talk . . . and you talk. Then you come to realize that the only reason you and your husband can come up with for NOT taking this opportunity is fear and damn it, I will not miss out on this opportunity of a lifetime because of fear. I refuse to live like that.

What will Shabbatot (shabbats) be like without my best friend for roughly a year? What will it be like in a new city and a new job without my partner? How will I be a ‘single’ parent for roughly a year? How will I do it? I’ve been asked these questions MULTIPLE times by MULTIPLE people and I don’t have any answer except, “It will be hard. It will be so. very. hard. But then, Gd willing, it won’t be. But in the meantime, I will need your support. I will need everything you’re willing to give.” I am terrified to start this new chapter without my partner standing beside me but the really incredible good news is that we will still be together, we just won’t be together all the time. I will need to remind myself of this on a constant basis.

So, in roughly 8 months time, at the end of June, we will pack up our Miami life, keep some of it here and ship some of it to LA. Then, we will load ourselves into an RV and drive across the country to LA (yes, we are driving cross-country to LA in an RV. Dreams really do come true. Those will be some fun posts, I hope.) because what the hell are we doing with this life if we’re not going to live it up, right?

Morning rituals with Dada.

Morning rituals with Dada.

Siona and JFK on our trip to LA (I did not mean for that to rhyme).

Siona and JFK on our trip to LA (I did not mean for that to rhyme).

So, with all that being said, life is going to get interesting and a bit tough around this time next year. I probably won’t have the time to make mini grain-free pies with mixed berries or Sriracha cheddar sauce but I will have time to make salads. I will probably live on salads. Why make life harder than it needs to be, right? Back in my single days, I lived on salads so I might need to bring out the old repertoire. But, I have to admit, the salads of my 20s were pretty boring and certainly would NEVER have contained roasted butternut squash or anything having to do with fruit. I also NEVER made my own salad dressings but now that I’m becoming more and more comfortable with my cooking skills, a salad dressing is a piece of cake.

Imperfect yet perfect

Imperfect yet perfect

After the roast.

After the roast.

Getting everyone on board.

Getting everyone on board.

Up close and personal

Up close and personal

Reading for a healthy feast.

Reading for a healthy feast.

Spinach Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash and Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

Salad Ingredients:

1 bunch of fresh spinach
1 medium butternut squash, roasted and cubbed
1/2 small purple onion, diced small
1/2 honey crisp apple, diced small
1/2 cup white cheddar cheese, shredded

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette:

1/4 balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1/4 olive oil
Sea salt

Roasted Squash How To:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While oven is heating, cut butternut squash in half. Use a peeler to peel the skin from the squash. Scoop out innards of squash and throw away (or save seeds to roast later). Drizzle olive oil or coconut oil onto the inside flesh of the squash. Place squash flesh side down onto the baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes (give or take). You’ll know it’s done when you stick a fork into the flesh and it meets no resistance (see picture above for post-roast squash). Let squash cool while you make the vinaigrette.

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette How-To:

Place maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, mustard and dashes of the sea salt and pepper into a small bowl and whisk until combined. Slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl while whisking so that all ingredients combine. Taste and add additional seasoning to suit your taste buds.


Once roasted squash is cool, cut into 1 inch thick horizontal strips leaving the ends for using in a soup or sauce for later. Cut the strips into cubes. Assemble all ingredients except walnuts into a bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette and crumble walnuts on top before serving.


*PS – You’ll noticed the pictures don’t include the purple onions. In my Sunday Funday mom-haze, I completely forgot to put them on the salad until AFTER I took the pictures. I took the hit.

{Guest Post} Leaning on Others – A Post by Jackie

19 Jul

Hi Again,

Below is the second guest post for this week that I’m away on vacation and this one is from my dear friend, Jackie. Before you read a bit about her story, I wanted to share a bit about who she is to me. Jackie and I met while I was working at the University of Michigan Hillel. We met at a happy hour. We started chatting about who knows what and then she asked if I like to dance and well, the rest is a very sweet history. We spent 8 months going dancing, drinking tons of coffee, laughing until the point of tears and almost piddling our pants, supporting each other through the hell that is dating and, of course, eating. I went to live in Israel within a year of us meeting and yet, our friendship deepened even though we were several time zones away. Her ability to give advice and listen without judgement is so frikkin’ rare and I’m grateful for it. So, please do enjoy her story and recipe and note that this woman has eaten in the finest restaurants in the world so hers is a palate to trust. Shabbat shalom, Whitney


My girl, Jackie, giving me blessings at my wedding.

Thank you to my dear friend Whitney for letting me share my story and recipe on this amazing site. It is both her tomato salad recipe and endless advice that have inspired this post.

I’m just about the last of my married friends to get pregnant. During the year I was trying to conceive I struggled with this fact, and was often filled with feelings of jealousy and anger. It seemed the whole world was fertile including all of my lovely girlfriends. It took a lot of personal work to get to a place where I could truly be happy for my friends and right around that point I finally got my double line.


Pregnant at last after a year of heartache

Now that I am pregnant (thank you G-d!) I am thrilled to have this wealth of knowledge and support from friends. For every question, concern and query I have a variety of mom-friends to turn to. I never feel alone and am thankful for this team of women behind me. I’ve found the silver lining in being the last to be pregnant and the advice is already priceless.

Jackie and I doing what we do best, dancing up a storm (circa 2007).

Just like in cooking, I am taking a little bit of this and a little bit of that from each of my friends. Some moms have been instrumental in building my registry. Other moms have shared with me their breast feeding stories and have helped me to be aware of future issues. Several moms have loaned me maternity clothes and my closet is full of fun outfits to wear. And every single mom friend has been willing to share her journey and hear mine. Thank you ladies for every text, gchat and phone call.

Being pregnant in the summer means trying to find light dishes that are filling and nutritious which is just what this salad is. I remember visiting my girl, Whitney, when she first moved to Miami. She told me she was hungry for a snack and I expected her to pull out a granola bar or maybe a few pretzels. Instead she diced a tomato, red onion, avocado and added feta cheese and olive oil. Delicious. To fill out this salad I add toasted Israeli couscous and some other tasty treats. It’s the perfect summer picnic salad, pregnant or not!

Jackie’s Couscous Salad inspired by Whitney’s snack salad

Israeli cous cous, 2 cups (for a party)
Water, 2 ¼ cups
Pad of Butter
Almond slivers, ⅓ cup
Tomatoes, diced
Seedless cucumber, diced
Avocado, diced
Yellow bell pepper, diced
Feta (pasteurized if you are pregnant)
Parsley, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Olive Oil

1. Heat pan and add cous cous, shaking pan frequently until cous cous takes on a golden brown color.
2. Add water and salt and bring to a boil. Cover and turn to simmer until all liquid has absorbed. (Tip: You can also use veggie broth, or chicken broth and omit cheese to add additional flavor to your cous cous).
3. While the pearls are cooking, dice all your veggies. Add as much or as little as you want!
4. Toast almonds in a pad of butter. Enjoy the smell of melting butter.
5. When cous cous has cooled mix together with veggies, feta, toasted almonds. Now it’s time to grab a fork. Top with olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt, pepper and chopped parsley. Taste. Decide what you need more of (usually for me it’s lemon and salt). Adjust. Taste. Adjust. Etc.




Phenomenal Woman? Phenomenal Salad.

27 Nov

Having a baby is an amazing privilege. Having a postpartum body is an amazing pain in my ass. Let’s back up. I’ve had the same body since I was 15 years old. Five feet, ten inches and 145 pounds since I was 15 frikkin’ years old. Being 15, a girl and 5’10” is difficult. Being 32, a woman and 5’10” is awesome. And I know what you’re thinking, “Oh, poor little giant skinny girl finally has some thighs, cry me a river”. And I get it. I really do. However, I’ve known my body to be the same exact shape and size for the past 17 years and now all of a sudden there’s a muffin top and hips and I have no idea what to do with myself. Yes, there’s also an amazingly sweet baby but did you not hear me when I said there’s a muffin top too because there is. If we still lived in Michigan and I could hide under bulky sweaters and that sweet, sweet Midwestern physique I would be a happier camper. But alas, we live in Miami, land of perpetual summer and Real Housewives and billboard after billboard advertising liposuction with completely unrealistic before and after pictures of “happy” clients (mostly women). I consider myself a pretty confident woman but even the most strong amongst us start to break after being exposed to the expectations of Miami living. And please, I want to get all ‘Phenomenal Woman’, Maya Angelou on myself and most days I can but the reality is that it takes work to get to know this new body of mine. I am so grateful for the life it nourished and brought forth but no one said I couldn’t be grateful for all that AND miss my favorite skinny jeans . . . right?

OK, so this brings us to the food (the food!). In celebration of Meatless Monday and in trying to keep the carb consumption to a minimum I made a kosher replica of my favorite salad from the now closed Calliope Cafe in Chicago. I stumbled upon Calliope Cafe thanks to my cousin, Mike. The place was the size of my first apartment and everything was made and prepared in house. It was the perfect Chicago ‘mom and pop’ cafe. The salad showcased all my favorite comfort food flavors—sharp cheddar, black beans, buffalo wing sauce, cilantro. It’s possible I’ve lost you by now but I promise it worked. Because this salad was B.K., Before Kosher, I now recreate it with those delicious fake Buffalo wings from MorningStar Farms and a few other complimentary ingredients. I also add one final ingredient that just takes it to a whole other level and will probably be the reason why it’ll take me a bit longer to get back into those favorite skinny jeans but it’s totally worth it. Scroll down for more.


1. Mixed lettuce
2. Shredded cheddar cheese (as much as you want)
3. 1/2 cup black beans
4. 1/2 cup canned corn
5. 1 diced tomato
6. 5 – 6 Fake Buffalo wings
7. Bunch of cilatntro

How’s That Now?

Add items into bowl—-it’s a salad.


Food Besties–Cilantro y Avocado

Epic Salad – Please excuse the poor quality of picture. The lighting is terrible in our place at night.

Once your salad is all pretty you can eat it as is or . . . . you could add french fries.


That’s right. French Fries.

French fries. I know, it’s a little ridiculous but everything else in the salad was organic. Also, the cheese I use is GMO free and I’m pretty sure the avocados were local. Does that make it at all better? No? Well, it’s delicious. I’m telling you. Delicious. Also, just to kick the healthy up to another level, I tend to put Ranch dressing and some Frank’s Red Hot sauce on the whole thing and call it a day. I suggest you do the same. Enjoy!

America’s Next Top Salad

9 Feb

I’ve been cooking so much more since the beginning of the year.  It’s kinda freaking me out.  Each time I make something I get a little more brave.  Last week I put my hands into ground turkey meat for crying out loud.  I didn’t die.  No, I lived, but I sure did make a face or 12 and I might have squealed.  I haven’t been ready to relive that experience for the blog yet.  It’ll happen.  I just need a minute or two to get over my experience of making Jewish Meatloaf.  I know.  What does that even mean?  Jewish Meatloaf?  We’ll get there.  Whatevs.


This week I’ve been craving a big salad for whatever reason.  Maybe it’s because I’ve also had a moment or two with fast-food?  Probably.  I had giant spinach salad at work a couple of days ago and I’ve been needing more ever since.  I was partially inspired by Oprah’s Meat Free Mondays challenge but I’m obviously a couple of days late.  Sometimes I move a little slow.  I was also inspired to make a big salad by my friend Kelly.  I was complaining last week about how expensive groceries are and she told me I was going to the wrong place.  I was going to a big supermarket chain here in Chicago.  Today?  I went to a small local grocery store.  Let me tell ya…I saved some serious cash.  Produce doesn’t have to cost a million dollars?  WOW.

Anywho.  So I started researching salads on the internet.  Then I realized that I was researching salads on the internet.  I mean, how silly is that?  I’ve eaten vegetables.  I know what vegetables I like.  So…why the hell research something like that?  I decided to get of my ass and go stand in the produce section at the store and figure it out.  I encourage you to do the same.  My feeling is that vegetables are vegetables.  It’s not like you’re going to pick something for your salad that’s going to clash.  You’re not picking out sweater sets, you’re making food.  A salad.  Be brave.  It’s easier than you think.  My end result is what my husband called, “The BEST salad in the world.”  Sure.  So sometimes he exaggerates.  Whatever.  I like the encouragement.

I will say this about your efforts in the produce department.  A couple chopped veggies go a really really REALLY long way.  My salad could feed an army of starving Jews.  I’m talking this thing is big enough for a family reunion.  It’s big, y’all.  So be careful.  I’m hoping we eat it all before it goes bad.


Baby Spinach  (why use stupid lettuce when you could have something dark and gorgeous?)

2 squash

1 zucchini

1 red pepper

1 bunch of scallions

1/4 of a small red onion

3 carrots (shredded)

1 head of brocoli

3 eggs

1 small packet of blue cheese

1 can of garbanzo beans

1 can of beats

1 small can of sweet corn

1/2 small bag of walnuts

2 green apples

I cut everything and threw it into a big bowl (the one pictured above), then I realized that I like everything chopped really fine in a salad.  I like to be able to shove a salad in my mouth without having to waste too much effort on big chunks of lettuce or giant pieces of brocoli.  I’m not going to lie.  The salad is kinda amazing.  It also took a long time to chop all of this stuff down into small pieces.  I was going to be all Martha Stewart and make my own salad dressing but the salad took longer than I expected and I stared at different options from Martha’s cookbooks and became overwhelmed.  I had a bottle of balsamic vinaigrette in the fridge.  That seemed way too easy…so I went for that instead.  I’m going to work on making this a little smaller.  Say…maybe something just big enough for TWO people?  At least I didn’t spend a million dollars on making it happen.


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