Spinach & Pesto Wheatberry Salad

Spinach & Pesto Wheatberry Salad

Today was my first day back in the kitchen after a two-week accidental cooking hiatus. It wasn’t that I was purposely trying not to cook, just that I haven’t really been home. And I have to say, picking up my chef’s knife felt great.

One of the dishes I made was a long time coming. The inspiration of making a spinach and pesto salad stemmed from one I’d had at Protein Bar a few weeks back (Protein Bar is a fairly new fast food chain in Chicago and a brilliant concept at that). That dish came with quinoa, but I wanted to change it up a bit to incorporate a different whole grain I haven’t used before – wheat berries.

I started by cooking the wheat berries (which I got for about 65 cents from the bulk foods section at Whole Foods), then moved on to the pesto, which was a bit different from a traditional basil pesto. While it does include basil, I also added spinach and arugula to give it a light and super fresh taste, which went wonderfully with the slightly earthy taste of the wheat berries. When the wheat berries were done, I mixed in the pesto, a handful of baby spinach, quartered cherry tomatoes and toasted pine nuts to round out the dish. You can also easily bulk this up into a main dish by adding chicken, which is exactly what I’m going to do for lunch tomorrow. :)

So, about those wheat berries: 1) They come in different varieties, but for this recipe look for hard red winter wheat berries if available; 2) A general ratio for cooking wheat berries is 1:3 (1 cup wheat berries to 3 cups water), but if there’s water leftover at the end simply drain the wheat berries through a strainer; 3) The cooked texture should be chewy but not too firm; 4) Wheat berries are a whole grain – you can read about why they’re good for you here.

Here’s the recipe. Give wheat berries a try and tell me what you think.

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Feeling Naughty over Slutty Brownies

I first heard about these brownies a few weeks ago when a very pregnant Jessica Simpson raved about them on The Tonight Show. She talked about how these decadent brownies were, like, the best thing ever. Slutty Brownies are essentially a layer of chocolate chip cookie dough topped with Oreos (I used double-stuffed) topped with brownie batter, and then it’s all baked together.

And why are they called “Slutty” brownies? She said it was because of how rich and over-the-top they are, and probably because you feel a little naughty after eating one, but I’d rather call them Poncho Brownies because after I eat one, all I wanted to do is cover up. But damn, they really are worth it.

You’ll find a ton of recipes and interpretations of Slutty Brownies if you Google it, and most call for using store-bought cookie dough and brownie mix. This is totally fine, but me being me I like to make it all myself. Well, not the Oreos, but the rest. You get the point.

The recipes I used were the standard Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe (a classic and always a hit) and a standard chocolate brownie recipe from Gourmet Magazine/Epicurious that I halved.

This was actually my second attempt at making Slutty Brownies – the first was a comedy of errors with everything that could go wrong actually going wrong (I used pan that was too small so the batter never baked, somehow punctured a hole in the bottom of the aluminum baking pan and would up with a major spill and smoke billowing from the oven, and I slightly burned by finger). With a new brownie recipe, bigger pan and a calm head, this time things turned out much better.

Slutty Brownie fail

Here’s the recipe:

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