Spring Green Asparagus & Arugula Salad

I’ve been craving this salad for weeks now. I’m not sure what triggered the idea, but it slowly expanded in mind, every few days mentally adding a new ingredient. Today, finally, I put pen to paper, err knife to vegetable (???) and made it happen!

The salad is the epitome of fresh, spring flavors, with a little Italian influence thrown in for good measure. The base is a bed of peppery baby arugula, topped with blanched asparagus, salty Prosciutto and Parmesan cheese, and finished with a smattering of toasted pine nuts and tart fresh lemon juice. The whole thing is a delight to the palate and to the mind, which in my case so badly wanted the weather to feel as springy as the salad tasted.

This is a must-try. It’s simple and doesn’t even require making a salad dressing. Simply drizzle a bit of olive oil and lemon juice over the top and it’s ready to serve.

Here’s the recipe for Spring Green Asparagus & Arugula Salad:

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Mint Chocolate Brownies

Yesterday I had the pleasure of participating in the Chicago Food Blogger Bake Sale. It was a terrific event filled with fun people, great treats, and an AMAZING location. Our group raised more than $885 for Share Our Strength! Check out Maris’s recap and Smash Cake Bakery, which will be reopened by the sweetest family on May 1. It’s seriously adorable AND available for private events. Hint, hint…

Aren't these cookies from Kudos Kookies amazing?

The week leading up to the bake sale was a tough one. I was busy with so many things and was experiencing a terrible case of baker’s block. I knew I wanted to make my Marshmallow Mish Mash squares because who doesn’t like chocolate and homemade marshmallows? But what else to go with it that wasn’t too complicated (again, short on time).

Of all people, my non-chocolate loving sister came to the rescue with the suggestion of mint chocolate brownies. That was something I’d always wanted to try – a brownie topped with a layer of mint, then another layer of chocolate, sort of like those mints hotels used to leave on pillows.

Mint Chocolate Brownies

Why don’t they do that anymore, anyways?

So, brownies. I found a recipe on from Bon Appetit that looked promising. It was very late on Friday night at this point (and the bake sale was Saturday morning), so I didn’t make any changes to the recipe other than increase the amount of unsweetened chocolate in the brownie batter. The result was a very deep chocolate and minty brownie. While delicious, it could be a little strong for some people. And you definitely have to be a mint fan.

Here’s the recipe for Mint Chocolate Brownies:

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Food Blogger Bake Sale this Saturday!

One of the greatest benefits to being a food blogger is the community I’ve been welcomed into. Throughout the past two years I’ve gotten to know many others who share my passion for all things food both in Chicago and across the country.

Being a culinary professional, among other things, has also opened my eyes to the multitude of food and hunger issues facing so many people in the U.S. So when Maris from In Good Taste asked for volunteers to help with the Chicago Food Blogger Bake Sale, of course I said yes. It’s one of many going on across the country this Saturday, a brilliant idea from Gaby of What’s Gaby Cooking. All proceeds from these bake sales will go to Share Our Strength, a national organization that works hard to make sure no kid grows up hungry.

Whatever city you’re in this weekend, please find your local Food Blogger Bake Sale and help support SOS!

Chicago Food Blogger Bake Sale

What: Remember your childhood bake sales? This one will be even better! Food bloggers and baking aficionados are teaming up to give readers the opportunity to sample some of their favorite baked goods and treats. Proceeds from the sale benefit Share Our Strength.

When: Saturday, April 17 from 12pm – 3pm (CST)

Where: Smash Cake Bakery, 2961 N. Lincoln Ave. Chicago IL 60657 (at Wellington) Get a sneak peek at its BRAND NEW location!

Why: Food bloggers from across the country will unite to support Share Our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger in America by holding bake sales in their states. Proceeds from the sale will support the 17 million children (almost one in four) who face hunger in America. More information on SOS can be found at www.strength.org.

It’s not too late to bake or volunteer! If you’re interested, contact Maris at maris.callahan@gmail.com!


Roast Bison with Port Sauce

I’ve been going through a bit of a flexitarian phase lately, meaning that while I’m in no way a vegetarian or opposed to eating meat, I just haven’t been wanting it as much and have been planning meals around vegetables instead. Fearing I was headed down a dangerous path and could be turned off meat forever, I decided it was time to do something drastic.

So there I was, perusing the meat counter at Whole Foods when I saw they had bison roasts on sale. Perfect! Just like that, I was back in the meat game!

This was seriously simple and extremely delicious. As a rule, bison is leaner than beef (has less fat), and therefore cooks faster. It also has a different taste than beef that may take a bit of getting used to. It tastes gamier, which I describe as an iron-rich flavor.

The port wine sauce and onions are a great compliment to the bison, adding a little sweetness and depth that takes just an extra five minutes.

Here’s the recipe for Roast Bison with Port Sauce:

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Asparagus with Vanilla Balsamic

As I mentioned in my blogiversary post, I was thrilled last week when the folks at Nielsen-Massey offered to send me a few of their vanilla products to try. The first thing I made was this AMAZING Vanilla Peach Cake. Seriously delicious – you MUST make it at least once! And when you do, it will become a most-requested favorite.

But I was also eager to try one of the savory recipes they included in the package: Nielsen-Massey Green Beans with Vanilla Balsamic. The recipe suggested substituting asparagus for green beans, which I thought would give it an extra Spring-like touch. The original recipe also included onion and red pepper, and while I’m sure they would’ve been fantastic I was in the mood for something a bit more simple.

This recipe was another winner! The asparagus with the dressing were fantastic hot and cold (I enjoyed the leftovers cold – trust me, it works), and it was incredibly simple to make.

The Nielsen-Massey recipe calls for using a good-quality balsamic vinegar and I couldn’t agree more. As you probably know by now, one of my favorite kitchen staples is an 18-year aged balsamic vinegar that is thick, rich and a little sweet. This is a must-have that I suggest everyone buy. Seriously, buy it.

(If you’re in Chicago you can do a one-two stop by going to Old Town Oil for the aged balsamic, then two doors down stop at The Spice House for Nielsen-Massey vanilla bean paste.)

Here’s the recipe for Asparagus with Vanilla Balsamic:

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