Celebrate Citrus with My Farro, Kale, Grapefruit and Avocado Salad!

Citrus fruits are at their peak right now — so what better time to find new and unique ways to use them. My all time favorite? Juicy, red grapefruits from Texas. I literally can not get enough of these when they are in season. I eat them like an orange and devour them in a matter of minutes. Rich in vitamins A and C, I love their sweet, tart flavor. Grapefruits from other parts of the country are also great right now – but after biting into my first Texas grapefruit when I lived there a few years ago, I’ve been a convert. So to celebrate my grapefruit obsession, I created this recipe featuring a variety of other citrus fruit and a couple of my other favorite super-foods (avocado, kale, and farro). I’m also rather obsessed with this citrus vinaigrette dressing. I like to make a big batch and keep in the fridge for 2-3 days and use to top salads or to marinade chicken or fish.  Try it out and let me know what you think!

Farro, Kale, Citrus and Avocado Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

farro salad

(serves 4-6)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups kale, cleaned well and chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 blood orange, peeled and cut into wedges (a regular orange can be used if blood oranges are unavailable)
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup cooked farro
  • Citrus Vinaigrette (see recipe)

Instructions

  1. To cook farro, place ½ cup uncooked farro in about 2 cups of water (to add more flavor, you could use vegetable or chicken broth).
  2. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain any excess water.
  3. Assemble dressing (see separate recipe). In a large bowl, pour half of the dressing onto the kale and toss/massage well to coat the kale.
  4. Toss the sliced oranges and grapefruit with the kale along with 2/3rd of the toasted hazelnuts, avocado and cooked farro. Make sure everything is combined.
  5. Garnish with the remaining hazelnuts and drizzle over additional dressing, if desired.

Basic Citrus Vinaigrette

(makes just enough for salad)

Ingredients

  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (from about ½ a lemon)
  • 2 Tbsp orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Combine first 6 ingredients in a small jar or medium bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. If using a jar, shake to blend. If medium bowl, whisk until combined.

Do Ahead: Vinaigrette can be made/stored for 1 week. Cover and chill. Shake before using.

Nutrition info (1/5 of recipe with dressing): 304 calories, 6.6g protein, 18.9g fat, 31.8g carbohydrate, 7.7g fiber, 9mg sodium

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Nutrition Tips to Help Beat the Winter Blues

From Chicago to Boston, we’re experiencing some extremely frigid temps this week and our first real blast of winter weather. While it’s been a relatively mild winter here in Chicago, the temps have continuously hovered around freezing and you might find yourself experiencing a winter slump. Don’t let the lack of sunshine and cold air lead you to drop all your healthy habits and reach for calorie-laden foods. Here are a couple tips that may help boost your mood and an energy-packed recipe that will also please your taste buds.

Be Happy with B-Vitamins

Vitamins B6, B12 and folate may help produce mood boosting serotonin. But that’s not all. They also help lower homocysteine – an amino acid linked to higher rates of cardiovascular disease and even depression. Be sure to include lots of foods rich in these nutrients in your diet, including leafy greens (like kale or spinach), avocados, asparagus, broccoli, bell peppers, and protein-containing foods like salmon, chicken, and beef.

Fill Up on Fish

But not just any fish. Cold water fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, help build connections between neurons in the brain. They are one of the basic building blocks of the brain. Brain cell membranes are about 20 percent fatty acids and they seem to be crucial for keeping brain signals moving smoothly. Optimize your omega-3 intake by enjoying fatty fish like salmon and tuna. Or, if you aren’t a fan of fish, include plant oils like flaxseed or canola and walnuts.

Don’t Skip Your Workout

Exercise has multiple benefits beyond staying trim and one of which is helping to improve your mood. Research has linked exercise with higher levels of various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. Whether you hit the gym for a serious sweat session or can only fit in a brisk 30-minute walk, either can help.

Power up with Protein

Foods that are rich in protein are naturally high in tyrosine, an amino acid that helps boost dopamine. Protein-containing foods like chicken, turkey, lean beef and tofu are great options–but don’t discount beans. They are a great, economical, source of protein.

One thing I love about winter is chili and this chili is sure to improve your mood – with it’s taste and it’s mood-boosting nutrients. Packed with black beans (protein and B-vitamins) and winter greens (B-vitamins) it’s a delicious dish to simmer on the stove while the snow falls, and falls, and falls. Enjoy and don’t fret – spring is around the corner!

Triple B and Winter Greens Chiliphoto-8
Adapted from a recipe found on epicurious.comMakes about 4-6 main course servings.

Ingredients:

  • About 1-2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 2 Tbsp chipotle chili powder (regular chili powder works as well – but chipotle gives a really nice smokey flavor)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1, 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes (fire roasted is great for this recipe)
  • 3, 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • about 5 cups or 1, 10-ounce bag of winter greens (Swiss chard, collards or kale), coarsely chopped

Directions:

1. Over medium-high heat, heat oil in a large pot. Add onions and garlic and saute until tender, about 7-9 minutes.

2. Add squash and stir for about 2 minutes.

3. Add chili powder, cumin, beans, broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil.

4. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the squash is tender–about 15-20 minutes.

5. Stir in greens and cover. Let simmer for about 5 more minutes. Greens should still be bright.

6. Ladle into bowls and serve with sliced avocado and a sprinkle of shredded cheddar and sliced avocado, if desired.

Versatile Chili: So Much More Than Just Beef and Beans

There’s nothing better than a big pot of chili simmering away on the stove on a cold Sunday afternoon. It’s the perfect one-pot dish to serve guests and friends. It’s also great to make just for yourself and then save portions for an easy weeknight meal. But it doesn’t have to be chock full of beef and beans. I love trying out new recipes and then making them my own. Here’s two I recently made and really liked:

Buffalo Chicken Chili

Adapted from a recipe found on the blog closetcooking.com

I’m from Rochester, NY and have been traveling back and forth to Buffalo, NY for years to visit family. So, every now and then, I get a serious chicken wing craving. This chili satisfies any wing craving while saving you some calories, fat, and clean-up, too (no need for hand wipes). Top with crumbly blue cheese and the leaves from the celery. Chicken wings in a bowl!

Makes about 4 servings.

Ingredients: buffalo chicken chili

  • About 1 lb chicken breast
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 head of celery, diced, leaves set aside
  • 4 large carrots, diced
  • about 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1, 15-ounce can or about 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1, 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1, 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce (preferably Frank’s RedHot)

Directions:

1. Poach the chicken. Place in a pan, cover the breasts with water. Add a pinch or two of salt and some black pepper. Bring to a boil then let simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Remove and let cool. Once cooled, shred.

2. Meanwhile, in a large stock pot or dutch oven, add about a tbsp of oil and heat over medium-high. Add the onions, celery and carrots and cook until tender, about 10-12 minutes.

3. Add the broth and stir. Add the shredded chicken through the hot sauce and let simmer – about 15-20 minutes.

4. When ready to serve, spoon into bowls and top with crumbled blue cheese and the leaves from the celery. Get ready for some kick!

Triple B and Winter Greens Chili

This chili includes two of my favorite winter ingredients–butternut squash and winter greens. It’s easy, ready in less than an hour and tastes fab. You hardly notice there’s no meat. I love it topped with sliced avocado and a sprinkle of shredded cheddar.

Adapted from a recipe found on epicurious.com

Makes about 4-6 main course servings. photo-8

Ingredients:

  • About 1-2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 2 Tbsp chipotle chili powder (regular chili powder works as well – but chipotle gives a really nice smokey flavor)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1, 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes (fire roasted is great for this recipe)
  • 3, 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • about 5 cups or 1, 10-ounce bag of winter greens (Swiss chard, collards or kale), coarsely chopped

Directions:

1. Over medium-high heat, heat oil in a large pot. Add onions and garlic and saute until tender, about 7-9 minutes.

2. Add squash and stir for about 2 minutes.

3. Add chili powder, cumin, beans, broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil.

4. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the squash is tender–about 15-20 minutes.

5. Stir in greens and cover. Let simmer for about 5 more minutes. Greens should still be bright.

6. Ladle into bowls and serve with sliced avocado and a sprinkle of shredded cheddar, if desired.