Strawberry Spinach Salad with Candied Almonds

Strawberry Feta Candied Almond Salad

This weekend I helped throw a bridal shower for my sister, which meant a culmination of all of her favorite foods: brown butter banana bread, chocolate chunk banana muffins, dirt cake, mini cupcakes, cheese-laden-yet-fluffy egg bakes…and then there was this salad.

I know what you’re thinking: what’s a salad doing among that lineup? If there’s any “salad” at all, shouldn’t it be stuffed with chicken and swirled with mayonnaise?

Wrong. We had strict instructions from my sister: “No tupperware, no chicken salad.” So in lieu of chicken salad I made a salad that my sister introduced to me years ago. It was our “fancy salad” that we would make at family gatherings, holidays, etc.

While it may not be the creamy mess you’d expect to see at a bridal shower, be not deterred by the word “salad” in this recipe’s title, because it has its indulgences. There is no fat-free feta used here, no store-bought “light” balsamic vinaigrette, and the candied almonds are more candy than almonds.

But, you know, it has spinach and fruit and stuff…so yeah. Legit.

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Energy Boosting Sesame Orzo

energy-boosting sesame orzo

I kind of failed at food last week. I took a “cooking vacation,” if you will. I went out to eat, grabbed takeout, or made avocado sandwiches literally every night. With everything going on this summer, I just hit a wall where I felt overwhelmed and like I had no time. When this happens, it’s not only fast meals that I crave, but carbs. I just want all the carbs.

When I finally found myself with some time on Sunday, I decided I better step foot in the kitchen and see if I could get back in the groove and make something substantial. While I had no intention of ending my carb bender, I thought adding greens and protein to the mix might be helpful for my dwindling energy level.

Enter beluga lentils. A teeny tiny protein powerhouse that pairs well with just about anything. I figured lentils, broccoli rabe, and a miso-sesame sauce juuuust might bring my energy back up and get my cooking shoes back on.

To be clear, I would be piling all these ingredients on top of pasta, of course…we’re taking baby steps here, people.
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Peanut Butter Drenched Ice Cream Sandwiches

Peanut Butter Drenched Ice Cream Sandwiches

Some people can fall right into vacation mode. They simply finish up work, walk out the door and haven’t a care in the world.

I’m not one of those people. Not even close.

Since the 4th of July fell on a Wednesday this year, I went crazy and took a 5-day weekend. Look out for this girl, I know. The boy and I decided to spend the vacation at his dad’s place in Wisconsin. It’s secluded within a bunch of tree-covered bluffs, has a creek the weaves throughout the property, and it’s also one of the few places where my phone absolutely refuses to work. So, to summarize, it’s pretty great.

On our first day of vacation, Wisconsin set a heat record (brace yourselves, here I go complaining about heat again), so, with the exception of an hour sitting in the creek with a beer in my hand, the outdoors was off-limits. No structure and no outdoors? My thumbs started to twiddle, my toes started dancing up, down, around…I needed to do something to settle into vacation mode. Naturally, this “something” became a baking project. I’m so predictable.
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Red, White and Blueberry Crisp

Red White and Blueberry Crisp

This weekend had some ups and downs. Not in temperature or humidity, of course, as those just kept going up, up, and away. Sure, it was beautiful, sunny, and full of skin-burning loveliness, but it was also the weekend when I started to move my stuff from my apartment to the boy’s place. This is a great thing, yes, but what is NOT great is that I currently live on the third-floor of a brick building with absolutely zero air conditioning. Not even a window unit, because in all my cockiness I thought, “Psh, I’m moving out in July, I don’t need to pay $25 for someone to install my air conditioner. I’m stronger than that.”

I’m not stronger than that. That was a mistake.

Triple berry crisp | Veggie and the Beast

The air was heavy, the floor was hot and moist, and the fans were just turning their heads in vain. We were productive, sure, but also…thirsty. So very thristy. I wanted all the water in the world, and something refreshing and sweet. Yes, I wanted dessert, because even when nearing heat-stroke I’m still me.

Finished blueberry raspberry strawberry crisp

So when I finally got in his (/my new) central-air-conditioned home, I deemed it dessert time. Fruity, fresh, and weather-appropriate dessert time, that is, and something likely involving ice cream. Yes, that is what I needed. And a cold glass of Chardonnay on the rocks. This, my friends, is the key to hot-weather happiness. Fact.

Sweet, slightly tart, gooey perfection, with melty ice cream just making a mess of the whole thing.

I made this late on Sunday afternoon, and it took all my strength not to eat the entire “photo shoot” piece before dinner.

raspberry blueberry strawberry crisp ice cream

So then I ate half of it.

…Okay maybe a little more than half.

Triple berry crisp | Veggie and the Beast

If I had waited a few days, this would have been a perfectly patriotic dessert to have on the Fourth of July. After all, it’s got the red, white, and blue covered, plus it’s filled with refreshing berries and covered in ice cream. If that’s not a celebration of mid-summer then I don’t know what is.

But let’s be real, that wasn’t the point here. I wasn’t thinking straight. The heat had gone to my head and a selfish fruit and sugar craving had overtaken my common sense.

Red, White and Blueberry Crisp
 
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A fruity, sweet, and tart berry crisp perfect for hot summer days. Easily adapted to be vegan.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert, Summer
Serves: 9-12

Ingredients
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 2 cups chopped strawberries
  • 1 pint (aka two ½ pints) raspberries
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup old-fashioned oats
  • ¾ cup slivered almonds
  • ½ cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter (or vegan margarine), chilled and chopped into small chunks

Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine the berries, cornstarch, sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice in a bowl. Pour into an 8×8-inch baking dish.
  3. Mix together the flour, oats, almonds, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Use a fork to start mixing in the chunks of butter, then get in there with your hands and incorporate the butter fully. Pour the streusel topping on top of the berries.
  4. Bake for 1 hour, until golden on top with bubbly berry goodness underneath.
  5. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes before digging in, then serve with vanilla bean ice cream (you know, if you want).

 
raspberry blueberry strawberry crisp ice cream bite
Summer heat can drive a girl insane, but you just need to know your own quick fixes. In my case, triple berry crisp. Done and done.