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Layered Cobb Salad

1 Jul


It’s really feeling like summer lately – flags on porches, sunshine until nine at night, lots of rose wine pouring and an interest in never turning on the stove. Last night, I made a layered cobb salad for an easy weeknight meal with a friend – and lots of lunch leftovers. This salad can be made with all store bought ingredients – rotisserie chicken, precooked eggs and precooked bacon. Or you can take the time to cook each ingredient – it takes little to no time but requires a little heat in the kitchen.

This salad is perfect for a casual party (serve with a good crusty bread) or a picnic in the park. Get chopping!

Layered Cobb Salad:

  • 2 split chicken breasts (roasted in the oven at 400 for about 30ish minutes – or buy a rotisserie bird!)
  • 1  avocado, cubed
  • 1 head romaine, chopped
  • 5 bacon slices, cooked until crisp and finely chopped
  • a handful of grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • a handful or two of greens (baby kale, watercress, arugula)
  • 4 hard-boiled large eggs, chopped
  • 3 or 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 English cucumber sliced

Layer the salad in a large bowl (I love the glass to show the layers). Romaine lettuce, chicken, bacon, tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, avocado, greens, egg and cheese! Dress with your favorite dressing.

Rare Tuna and Roasted Cauliflower Salad

9 Jun



Just another manic Monday. My summer has been packed with projects and I can’t seem to make more than 15 minute meals on a week night. And I’m not talking about the kinds on TV that involve weekend prep, freezing and crockpots. My 15 meals  mostly look like the above – a salad combination of greens, items from the olive bar, roasted cauliflower or broccoli and a piece of grilled fish. All in all, pretty healthy and sophisticated for a Monday night after a long day and a trip to the gym. I highly recommend getting creative. It makes busy living seem much more like ‘easy living.’

What is your goto weeknight meal?

Blackened Salmon Caesar Salad

13 May


The best thing about the arrival of grilling season is saying farewell to some dish washing. I use the grill as an excuse to not use the stove top or clean my cast iron pan. And, grilling is a lot of fun, a nice way to spend time in the garden and add a great flavor to meals. This Sunday I prepared a simple meal of Blackened Salmon on the grill, Caesar salad and a Sweet Pea and Prosciutto Crostini. Oh, and single barrel bourbon vanilla ice cream that will change your world.

I’m a big fan of my friends at Savory Spice Shop at Friendly Center. Not only are they super knowledgeable about spices and blends – they sell great fresh spices that can make a big difference in your cooking. Since I discovered them, I’ve dressed up all kinds of dishes from simple oven fries to dry rubs for all kinds of meats. I made up this spice mixture for salmon and it was a great flavor addition and formed a lovely crust on the salmon.

This is a very quick and healthy dinner for a weekend or weeknight! Fire up the grill!

Blackened Salmon Caesar Salad

Homemade Blackening Season Rub

  • 1 heaping tablespoon sweet & spicy paprika
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 heaping teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon leaf thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Caesar Dressing:

  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 anchovy filets, minced and smashed into a paste
  • 3-4 splashes worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the rub my mixing all spices. Graciously coat the salmon. Grill to your desired temperature. Mix a salad of greens (I love torn romaine lettuce), cucumber, tomatoes and anything else you like. Top with salmon and serve with a piece of great bread.



Celery, Fennel and Pear Salad

21 Oct



This is my new friend Aysim. She is the most enthusiastic women in Greensboro and I adore her crazy personality. She grew up making pasta with her family and joined in pasta making last week. On top of loving the pasta making (I haven’t seen Aysim NOT love something), she also was the only person with experience cooking with fennel. But, only eating cooked fennel! So, I was glad to introduce her to something new.

We made this super easy, fresh and seasonal salad to go along with the homemade pasta and double ragu sauces. It’s crisp and perfect for Fall dinners. Aysim loved the fresh fennel just as much as cooked – although she was, of course, an easy convert.

Celery, Fennel, and Pear Salad with Pecorino and Walnuts, from Franny’s Simple Seasonal Italian 

  • ¾ cup walnuts

  • 2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed, quartered lengthwise, cored, and sliced crosswise ¼ inch thick (1 cup)

  • 2 to 3 celery stalks, cut on the bias into ¼-inch-thick slices (1 cup)

  • 1 large Bosc pear, quartered, cored, and cut lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick slices (1 cup)

  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped celery leaves

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

  • A 2-ounce chunk of Pecorino for shaving

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the walnuts out on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast until fragrant and golden, about 8 minutes. Cool, then roughly chop.

In a large bowl, toss together the fennel, celery, pear, walnuts, and celery leaves. Season with the lemon juice, salt and pepper, and the olive oil.

Divide the salad among four serving plates. Use a vegetable peeler or a wide-bladed Microplane to shave the cheese over the salad. Finish with cracked pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Sorta-Pickled Cucumber Salad

13 Sep


Happy Happy Weekend! It’s beautiful here in North Carolina and I feel like I’m up in the air with this guy! My mom and her BFF Debbie are visiting this weekend to work in the yard, cook good food and drink wine. I’m ready to get some rest and enjoy the slow weekend. I’m sure I’ll have great recipes to share.

If you are looking for a refreshing seasonal salad for a picnic or outdoor dinner, this could be it.  Slightly pickled, this cucumber salad is crisp cold and a little salty. It’s perfect to make in advance and serve with grilled meats or antipasto. Hope this can inspire you to get in the kitchen and enjoy the weekend! Cheers!

Sorta-Pickled Cucumber Salad

  • 2 lbs assorted cucumbers
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • red onion
  • red wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • fresh parsley, mint and basil

In advance, halve and remove seeds from the cucumbers. Slice into 1/4 inch pieces. Toss with salt and sugar and sit for 45 mins. Drain, rinse and dry the cucumbers. Refrigerate. An hour before serving, add thinly sliced red onion and minced parsley, mint and basil. Dress with oil and vinegar. Refrigerate again and serve!

Southern Living’s Summer Gazpacho with Avocado West Indies Salad

3 Sep



It’s a good thing white jeans are out for the season because this Labor Day resulted in a little red wine spillage. I’m just back from another summer holiday at Overlook Lodge with friends. This weekend was no exception to our typical mountain mayhem including overextended cocktail hours and culinary indulgences. Over two nights, we prepared a variety of delicious dishes including this fresh no-cook summer gazpacho with fruits, fresh crab and avocado. My mom sent me this recipe several weeks ago with a “must make” recommendation. She was right (duh). This recipe paired perfectly with grilled steaks but would work perfectly for a nice lunch with tasty sandwiches. Save it for your end of season parties or flag the recipe for next year. It is different than your average tomato gazpacho with an interesting kick of fruits (peaches, strawberries AND watermelon!). So fresh and light – with a nice vinegary kick of seafood.

More recipes for appetizers, grilled meats and fig sauces to come!

Southern Living’s Summer Gazpacho

  • 1 medium-size red heirloom tomato
  • 1 cup diced seedless watermelon
  • 1 cup diced strawberries
  • 1 Kirby cucumber, diced
  • 1 cup diced peaches
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Cut tomato in half; gently squeeze to remove seeds. Discard seeds, and chop tomato. Combine tomato and next 12 ingredients in a large pitcher. Serve immediately, or cover and chill up to 24 hours. Meanwhile, prepare Avocado West Indies Salad. Spoon gazpacho into bowls. Top with Avocado West Indies Salad

Avocado West Indies Salad

  • 1medium avocado, chopped
  • 8 ounces jumbo lump crabmeat, drained
  • 1/3 cup diced sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons, chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons, apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Gently stir together avocado, crabmeat, onion, basil, vinegar, olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately, or chill up to 2 hours.

Fig Balsamic Chicken Salad with Fresh Summer Peaches

2 Aug


Hey Ya’ll! It’s Friday! I’m about to head out for another short vacation! Stay tuned for lots of photos and food adventures! In the meantime, check out this easy recipe for Fig Balsamic Chicken Salad with Fresh Summer Peaches!

Summer is a really great time to experiment with fruity olive oils and vinegar. You can find a variety at The Fresh Market. I always check out what they have in stock and what is on sale. My favorites are Fig Balsamic Vinegar, Blood Orange Olive Oil and Truffle Oil. They are great in vinaigrettes, on popcorn and even drizzled over ice cream with sea salt! I highly recommend Blood Orange Olive Oil over vanilla ice cream with Maldon Sea Salt. Your friends will think you’re a genius (I stole this from my friend Debbie!).

This recipe also utilizes the rotisserie chicken but could also work with grilled chicken too. The trick is to shred the chicken right when you get home and store it for use all weekend. This salad was a super last-minute supper and it was made part by my advance preparation! Enjoy any variation of this with different lettuces, fruits, cheeses and vegetables. This is even better eaten outside in the garden – rain pending. It’s great solo or for a nice casual evening with friends. Serve with good bread!

Fig Balsamic Chicken Salad with Fresh Summer Peaches

Dressing:  2 tablespoons fruity balsamic vinegar, 1/2 lime juiced, 1 teaspoon local honey and 2 tablespoons good olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  • 1 fresh peach, sectioned
  • romaine or spring mix lettuces
  • shaved parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 red onion, shaved
  • rotisserie chicken, shredded





Balsamic Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Bacon and Capers

16 Jul




It’s that time of year when it is way too hot to turn the stove on. Winston agrees has he has started the Dog Days of Summer with extreme napping (see proof in the photo above!). The past couple of weeks I’ve been making big batches of chicken salad, pasta salad and humus that I can pull out of the fridge and use for cold no-cook lunches and dinners. These recipes are also budget conscious for those who are saving dollars for summer vacations, extra cold beers and afternoon iced coffees. What recipes have you been cooking for the Dog Days?

This Saturday I put together this impromptu pasta salad with staples from the kitchen and garden for my friend Margaret’s birthday lunch. To me, pasta salads really require no instructions. The key is to cook the pasta salad and immediately dress it – you can use any of your favorite store-bought or homemade salad dressings. Then, just toss in veggies and herbs from the garden, crunchy nuts or seeds from the pantry, olives or capers for an acidic bite and good shredded parmesan cheese. For the birthday celebration, I put in lots of bacon to take it up a notch. No one complained.

Balsamic Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Bacon and Capers

  • 1 pound, your favorite pasta
  • 1 pint, grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 pound, crumbled bacon
  • 1/4 cup, drained capers
  • 1 large handful, basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup (or more), shaved parmesan cheese

Dressing: You can make more if you think the pasta needs it. I do this by taste…

  • 3 tablespoons, balsamic Vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons, olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon, honey
  • Salt & Pepper

Boil pasta to al dente. Immediately toss into balsamic dressing and refrigerate. Once cooled, add tomatoes, bacon, capers, basil and cheese.

Grilled Portobello with Sauteed Spinach, Tomato & Goat Cheese

20 Jun



Today was one of those days. I ate two pickles and a cookie for lunch. Not good!  So much that my new beau (which you will hear more about soon) told me that I could have gotten more nutritional value from eating a legal pad. He speaks the truth. And, on top of that, summertime vegetables are too good to be fooling around with Jimmy Johns cookies while cooped up in the office for eight hours straight. So, I blew out of the office at 5pm for a trip to the gym, a run to The Fresh Market produce section and some much needed time in my garden.

For a nutrient packed dinner, I stocked up on and improvised with tomatoes, greens, garlic and goat cheese!  This recipe included tomatoes stacked between a meaty grilled portobello with bitter arugula dressed with sweet fig balsamic vinegar.  Tomatoes are like candy this time of year – so I doubled up with two varieties – but you could use less. A thousand variations on this recipe could be made so be creative (or just follow the simple recipe below). The point is, pack in summer produce while we’ve got it. In the meantime, I’ll back away from the pickles and cookies.

Grilled Portobello with Sauteed Spinach, Tomato & Goat Cheese over Greens with Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette 


  • 1 (or more) large portabello mushroom(s)
  • 1 bag, baby spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 large summer tomato
  • 1 small log, herbed goat cheese
  • small handful, fresh basil, chopped
  • arugula or mixed greens
  • yellow and red grape tomatoes (optional)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • fig balsamic vinegar (I used this really great one at The Fresh Market!)

Lightly oil and season the mushroom with salt and pepper.  Light your grill! Grill the mushroom on both sides until tender with good grill marks.

Meanwhile, saute spinach with a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Wilt the spinach and cook until any liquid evaporates.

Once the mushroom is grilled, place on a baking sheet. Top with sauteed spinach, a slice of tomato and a tablespoon (or so) goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Place under the broiler until heated through and cheese begins to brown.

Season arugula lightly with olive oil, fig balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning. Add halved yellow and grape tomatoes for color. Top with mushroom and fresh basil! Enjoy!

Summerfield Farms; A Farmer’s Vision

15 May


Looking out onto the rolling hills of Summerfield Farms, it’s hard to not see opportunity. Fields of cattle grazing, free-range chickens and a color palette of summer produce are preparing for a plentiful season on the market. Yet, David Couch, owner of Summerfield Farms, has the vision to see beyond the hills. Couch has his sights set on changing the way our community makes choices about nutrition and wellness. Summerfield Farms wants to bring ethics and responsibility back into farming and land management – and they are doing that through sellingtop quality, nutrient-dense foods.

Couch purchased Summerfield Farms in 1996 with an interest in wildlife. After his first job on a tobacco farm and an entrepreneurial endeavor raising bull calves through high school and college, he became the well-respected CEO of Blue Ridge Companies. After years raising hay for horses on Summerfield Farms, he was drawn to the land.

If you’ve heard of the term “empty calories,” nutrient-dense is just the opposite. Nutrient-dense foods have substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals and fewer calories. Grass-fed beef is a great example of a nutrient-dense food with a better proportion of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, plus more vitamin A and E. Understanding the potential impact that non-grain fed animals can make on our community’s wellness, Summerfield Farms wants to be the source for America’s most top-quality, nutrient-dense grass-fed beef and to become a learning center for animal and soil health in the Triad.

Their beef tastes great too. While grass-fed beef has a bad rap for being tough or tasting gamey, Summerfield Farms has done their research on best practices to maintain the intramuscular fat levels and omega ratios in their cattle. Their patience pays off, as they do not process cattle until they weigh at least 1200 pounds. I recommended sampling their grass-fed beef on the menu at Iron Hen. Their 1/2 pound Grass-Fed and Finished Beef Burger will hit the spot!

The best way to understand their practices is to visit the farm yourself. Recently, the Farm obtained a permit for events and agritourism. You’ll be greeted by the farm mascot, Buzz the Turkey, who is known to meet visitors with a friendly and funny welcome. Plus, their learning center is a great source to gain information about sourcing foods, all things healthy and wellness. Their farmers and family are also great resources for local farm referrals.

In the future, Couch envisions an expansion of the on-farm market and widening their channels of distribution in both retail and home delivery. But, ultimately he stresses that the goal is to produce the highest quality grass-fed beef in America. And, he claims they are on schedule.

Summerfield Farms Market is open Tuesday, Thursday and Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. They sell a variety of 100% grass-fed beef cuts, free-range chicken, eggs and seasonally available garden staples from peppers, to melons and tomatoes. Additionally, you can find their products on the menus of The Iron Hen and Zaytoon.

Rare Grass-Fed Beef Summer Salad


  • 3 pounds whole beef tenderloin
  • 15 ounces, fresh arugula 
  • 1 pint, small heirloom tomatoes, quartered 
  • 5 radishes, thinly sliced 
  • 1 bundle, spring onions or scallions, sliced 
  • 1 handful, fresh basil and tarragon, torn 
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil


  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh horseradish
  • salt and pepper to taste

Assembly: Bring the beef tenderloin to room temperature. Rub oil on the meat an generously season with sea salt and ground pepper. Bring a dry cast iron skillet to smoking hot. Sear all the sides of the meat in the skillet. Monitor the meats internal temperature with a thermometer. I recommend a digital thermometer. Once seared, put the meat into a 425 degree oven until the internal temperature reaches 120 degrees. Take the meat out and allow to rest about 15 minutes. Slice thin with a very sharp knife.

Layer the meat on top of a bed of arugula. Top with thinly sliced onion, radishes and a sprinkle of basil and tarragon. Then top with colorful heirloom tomatoes. Mix all the salad dressing ingredients in a mason jar and shake. Sprinkle over the salad.



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