Pear & Pomegranate Winter Salad

Although the blogosphere doesn’t always advertise as such, winter is just as good for salads as the heat of summer. I do eat fewer entree salads in the winter (unless it’s a sautéed steak version) but we nearly always have a side salad with dinner. With different produce available it’s a great time to mix up the flavors a bit and give your standard toppings a break.

Pomegranate makes its debut in late fall, and is often used for everything from smoothies to desserts. With a tart flavor and saturated color, it’s also a perfect topping to brighten both the flavor and aesthetic of a winter salad. My favorite combination is with pears, but green apples, oranges or blood oranges, and Asian pears are all delightful pairings.

Pear & Pomegranate Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

For crunch and a dash of protein, sliced almonds or toasted pumpkin seeds are my favorite additions. They are both neutral enough to blend with nearly everything, and add just enough texture to each bite.

Goat cheese is my go-to for almost everything, but for a punchier flavor feta is a great choice. A crumbly cheese works best but the palate is very versatile if chevré isn’t your thing. For the dairy-free folks, this salad is also excellent sans cheese entirely.

Pear & Pomegranate Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Lastly, a good quality balsamic vinegar is key here. I personally rarely use legitimate salad dressings and just dress mine with one of my large collection of Olivelle balsamic vinegars. Crisp Anjou Pear Balsamic Vinegar is my favorite for this particular salad, but a plain barrel-aged balsamic, anything with rosemary, or your favorite more neutral vinaigrette would also do nicely. I do recommend using a more viscous vinegar or a reduction to allow for a better coating.

Pear & Pomegranate Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Brighten your dinner table with this healthy and delicious salad that’s easy enough for every day, and fancy enough for holiday parties.

Pear & Pomegranate Winter Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

5 oz baby spinach (or more, to taste)
1/4 cup Olivelle Crisp Anjou Pear Balsamic Vinegar1

1/2 medium pear, thinly sliced
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds or sliced almonds
4oz goat cheese

Directions

  1. In a serving bowl, add spinach and vinegar and gently toss to coat.
  2. Reserving 1-2 tablespoons of each, add the pomegranate seeds and pumpkin seeds or almonds. Add half the goat cheese and gently toss to combine.
  3. Arrange the pear on top of the salad, then garnish with remaining pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds or almonds, and goat cheese. Drizzle with addition vinegar or a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper, if desired.
  4. Enjoy promptly.

Notes

If preferred, you can substitute any dark balsamic vinegar or reduction, or your favorite rosemary vinaigrette. Barrel-aged vinegars are my favorite here!

Protein Porridge

Happy 2019, folks. I hope everyone had a wonderful year, but if not, I hope this coming one is everything you hoped 2018 would be. I am not much of a resolution setter, but I am a huge fan of goals and personal challenges, and also a numbers person. Last year I tried 76 new recipes, shared 36 posts with you lovely readers, started an Instagram, tried and liked a lower carb lifestyle, discovered the magic that is a spiralizer, and went to several difference food-related classes and events, including learning how to make vodka infusions and homemade sausage. I am looking forward to putting those last two things to good use this year, and sharing them with all of you.

One of my December challenges was to keep a food log, in which I write down all the things I eat every day. It’s an analog version so obviously not a calorie tracker, but it makes me stop and think before eating and helps me to choose healthier options, especially during the food cluster that is the holiday season. I feel very successful this year, navigating lots of deliciousness in healthy ways without feeling like I deprived myself of seasonal treats.  Whether, like me, you are looking to maintain a good thing, or perhaps to start anew, this easy peasy breakfast is a great way to start the day.

Protein Porridge {{Baking Bytes}}

In August when I went lower carb, I basically stopped eating my go-to breakfast of banana peanut butter oatmeal. Since it would’ve been half my carbs for the day, I opted for yogurt parfait and chia pudding and probably unhealthy amounts of eggs. As the weather cooled, however, I found myself missing my warm bowl of morning oats even more. I am no longer tracking my macros, but I’m still opting to do lower carb and higher protein whenever possible, so I set out to find an appropriate winter option. Patterning off my summer recipes, I kept the chia and hemp I’ve become accustomed to and added a few oats for volume. Quick oats work best since the hemp and chia don’t need much time to cook, but lightly blended old-fashioned oats works great too. (I tried it once without grinding them and didn’t care for the textural juxtaposition, but you can nix the grinding process if you don’t mind it.) Warm, cozy, filling, and even faster at cooking, this is my new favorite way to start a chilly morning.

Protein Porridge {{Baking Bytes}}

Even without the boosts this recipe has about 12 grams of protein, but I nearly double that with peanut butter powder and/or protein powder. I personally like the peanut butter powder best since it doesn’t affect the texture and adds a nice peanuty flavor with less fat than regular peanut butter (of which there is already plenty from the hemp and chia). You can use up to 1/4 cup depending on your calorie needs, although I typically use two tablespoons. Alternatively, you can use your favorite protein powder. This is a great option if you’re allergic peanuts or using mix-ins that aren’t typically paired with peanut flavor. Don’t add more than two tablespoons though (about half a scoop), because the resulting texture will be noticeably grainy and a little strange.

Protein Porridge {{Baking Bytes}}

Shockingly (jokes), my go-to mix-ins are half a banana and cinnamon, which pairs nicely with my peanut butter powder. Most fruits are great for this, and it’s a good way to use frozen produce as well. Just heat the produce first and then mix in the rest of the ingredients. If you’re not a peanut butter person (weird), I’ve listed a few other varieties that are excellent with or without protein powder. I also typically stir in a little plain yogurt to add that creaminess, or just actual heavy cream when I’m feeling more decadent. You can 100% skip this if you are dairy-free, or use your favorite non-dairy substitute. Although I don’t usually add it, a teaspoon or two of maple syrup is a nice addition for the more tart berries or options like pumpkin that are not inherently sweet.

Protein Porridge {{Baking Bytes}}

You can easily mix together all the dry ingredients in individual portions, then just add your mix-ins and water and you’re ready to go. I like to prep mine in 8oz containers so I can use it to measure the appropriate amount of water if I’m not at home. Additionally, nix the fruit entirely (but maybe up the spices) for a camping-friendly instant porridge that just requires hot water.

Get your protein in a cozy porridge and start your morning warm and happy. Give it a try and share your favorite mix-ins in the comments!

Protein Porridge

makes one serving

Ingredients

basic porridge
1/4 cup quick oats1
2 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp hemp seeds
2-4 Tbsp peanut butter powder OR 1 Tbsp natural peanut butter (optional)
2 Tbsp protein powder (optional)
6-8 oz water

2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt OR 1/2 Tbsp heavy cream (optional)
1 tsp maple syrup (optional)

flavor ideas with peanut butter
1/2 banana, mashed + 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup blueberries, mashed + 1/8 tsp cardamom

flavor ideas without peanut butter
1/2 cup peaches, mashed + 1/4 tsp cinnamon + pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree + 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut + coconut cream instead of yogurt

Directions

  1. If using fruit, mash it into the bottle of a microwaveable bowl.
  2. Add oats, seeds, peanut butter, protein powder (if using), spices of choice, and water. Stir until well combined.
  3. Microwave on high for about 2-3 minutes (2:20 in my microwave is just how I like it) OR use boiling water and let sit, covered, until thickened.
  4. Stir in yogurt and/or maple syrup, if desired.
  5. Enjoy immediately.

Notes

You can also use 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats, lightly ground in a blender. I often do this method since we always have regular oatmeal on the counter for M. Also, if you are gluten-free, use certified oats to keep this recipe up to par.

Carrot Ginger Soup

At the end of fall many folks are left with an abundance of root vegetables and winter squash and no idea what to do with them. Although M and I don’t quite have the garden space to have a surplus of anything (except mint), we are sometimes fortunate enough to share in the bounty of our friends. If you are bored of eating carrots raw or roasted, this is the recipe for you.

Carrot Ginger Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

Cozy but light and with a little spice, this carrot ginger soup is perfect for those crisp fall days when you want to eat healthy but also want something cozy. It works great for both lunch and dinner, either as an entree or a side dish. I like to add lots of ginger and sometimes punch it up with the ground version, but you can keep it milder to fully appreciate the carrot flavor.

Carrot Ginger Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

The slight sweetness from the carrots and coconut milk complements the ginger and turmeric flavors beautifully, resulting in a warm dish both in temperature and flavor. You can peel the carrots or not, according to your preference, which means this soup has relatively minimal prep work involved as well. Conveniently, it is inherently vegan and gluten-free which makes it appropriate for almost any diet, and also reheats nicely for all my meal preppers out there.

For a different flavor you can incorporate other veggies too: grated zucchini lightens it even farther and I think a beet or two would be a lovely winter addition. Play around with the base to your heart’s content and be sure to report back on your favorite iterations.

Carrot Ginger Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

I like to serve mine with toasted bread, either a baguette or slices of ginger cider bread (skip the rosemary and use your favorite ginger cider). It’s also excellent with some unsweetened shredded coconut (as shown in my pictures) sprinkled on top or an additional swirl of canned coconut milk. This is a super easy option to serve alongside although heavy Thanksgiving leftovers, so make sure you have an extra pound of carrots on hand.

Carrot Ginger Soup

Adapted from Everyday Easy Eats
Makes 4 (~1-cup) servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
8 carrots, chopped (peeled if you want)

2 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger, to taste
1 tsp ground turmeric, to taste (optional)

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk

Directions

  1. In a 4-quart pot heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and carrots and sauté until onions are translucent.
  3. Stir in broth and spices and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or until carrots are tender.
  4. Use an immersion blender to completely puree the soup, then blend in coconut milk.
  5. Taste and adjust spices as necessary, or thin with additional broth or coconut milk. If you add more spices, simmer another 5-10 minutes to allow them to blend.
  6. Serve hot and refrigerate leftovers up to one week.

Thanksgiving Slaw

Coleslaw is something I’ve never enjoyed; it took me until my late twenties to realize I really just didn’t enjoy the mayo-based versions. Shredded cabbage or other veggies in a lighter dressing is just a salad that’s easier to eat, but in my opinion mayo is not intended to be the focal flavor of a dish. (Cue Midwest outcry.) If you disagree, that’s just fine, but I hope you’ll still give this non-mayo coleslaw a try.

Thanksgiving Slaw {{Baking Bytes}}

A few months ago when my mom visited, we took a cooking class from Olivelle. The one that happened to fit with our schedule was a paleo menu, and even though neither of us are paleo I figured the menu sounded great and Olivelle has yet to disappoint me, so we gave it a whirl. As it turned out, it was one of my favorite classes to date (I’ve done…several…) and I loved every single recipe on the menu.

One of those recipes was a Brussels sprouts slaw. I don’t usually care for cruciferous vegetables in their raw state, but somehow after being shredded with cabbage and toasted pecans, folded with blueberries, and lightly coated in a fruity balsamic dressing, I was in love. Not only is this one of the few class recipes I’ve gotten around to making on my own, but I’ve made it three times since August despite having to borrow a food processor eat time.

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Since it’s vegan, paleo, gluten-free and pretty much every-diet-ever friendly, this is a wonderful dish to take to potlucks and gatherings. Even better, it’s great chilled but just fine at room temperature, and best when made ahead, giving you all the time to relax and actually enjoy the party. It also makes a great lunch alongside your protein of choice if you’re fortunate enough to have leftovers. As a bonus, the green sprouts contrast nicely with the purple of the cabbage and the red pomegranate seeds, making it aesthetically pleasing in addition to its fantastic flavors.

I made a few tweaks for an autumn version, resulting in a perfect Thanksgiving side that doesn’t need oven space, and/or a healthy addition to Christmas that maybe even the kids will enjoy. (No guarantees, this recipe was not tested on children.) The Brussels and cabbage base remains, but I opted for walnuts since I prefer them over pecans, and pomegranate seeds for their color and tartness. I 100% cheated and bought a container of seeds, but if you want to get in your work out and seed a pomegranate then by all means, please do so.

Thanksgiving Slaw {{Baking Bytes}}

The dressing is a lovely mix of Olivelle products, so if you’ve not jumped on their bandwagon for some reason then now (or actually, Black Friday) is the time to make the leap. If you’re still not ready, a substitution of regular olive oil and white balsamic vinegar with some splashes of blood orange and pomegranate juices might work out, but I have not tested it. (If you go this route and you like the result, share your recipe in the comments!)

Thanksgiving Slaw {{Baking Bytes}}

If you’re in the market for a healthy but different addition to your holiday table, and cannot stomach the thought of putting yet another dish in the oven, this is the recipe for you.

Thanksgiving Slaw

Adapted from Olivelle
Serves 6

Ingredients

1 lbs Brussels sprouts
1/2 small head red cabbage
1 cup walnuts (or nut of choice)
1 cup pomegranate seeds

dressing
1/3 cup Olivelle Harvest Fig or Vanilla Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar(Or a mix of both!)
1/3 cup Olivelle Blood Orange Olive Oil1
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp Olivelle Vanilla Bean Sea Salt (or regular salt)

Directions

  1. Use a food processor (or a grater and a lot of patience) to shred the sprouts and cabbage. (If you’re a novice at food processing, this works best if you do it in relatively small batches.) Add both to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Coarsely chop walnuts (by hand, or with the food processor). Add to a dry pan and toast lightly over medium heat until fragrant. (Or skip this step if you’re lazy or in a hurry – it’ll still be good just a slightly different nuttiness flavor.)
  3. Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously until well mixed. Taste for flavor preferences, and adjust if necessary.
  4. Pour over the sprouts and cabbage and stir with a rubber scraper until well coated.
  5. Fold in toasted nuts and pomegranate seeds.
  6. Store in the fridge until ready to serve – overnight is better – then enjoy chilled or at room temperature. Will keep for at least five days in the fridge.

Notes

If you have not purchased the entire Olivelle store, a substitution of 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar, and pomegranate + blood orange juice to taste might work. This is an untested substitution so let me know if you try it!

Savory Cocoa Stout Bread

Hello friends – can you believe it’s already the last week of October? As usual autumn has flown by and also as usual, Montana doesn’t care that I’m not ready to have snow in the forecast every day this week. Fortunately, M got my winter bike all prepped for me so if the snow does stick at least I am physically prepared even if I am emotionally reluctant.

Savory Cocoa Stout Bread {{Baking Bytes}}

To round out this Oktobeerbreadfest series, this last one is another savory take on a typically sweet palate. Chocolate is an extremely versatile flavor and despite its tendency towards use in sweet recipes, it can add an intriguing depth to savory varieties. A dash of cocoa in your chili can take it to a whole new level – and no, it won’t taste like a brownie. Like vanilla, chocolate is not sweet until you add sugar and so it can be even more interesting in your entrees than in your desserts. My recent love affair with Olivelle’s Vanilla Bean Sea Salt has me adding it to a number of fall veggies like squash and beets and trust me, it’s delightful.

Savory Cocoa Stout Bread {{Baking Bytes}}

On that note, this is a chocolate bread not in the way you think of a sweet bread, but more in the way that beer and wine is described as having notes of chocolate in the flavor. (Except with recipe this it’s not a lie – you can actually taste the cocoa.) The addition is  subtle in flavor but adds just a little something extra to every bite.

Savory Cocoa Stout Bread {{Baking Bytes}}

The small amount of cocoa also deepens the coloring of the bread, resulting in a rich and rustic brown. Obviously this isn’t something that matters to everyone, but for those of us that know you do eat prettiness, it’s a happy side effect.

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This bread blends just as well with peanut butter as it does your favorite stew, making it an easy staple to keep around. I haven’t tried it (yet), but I have a hunch it would make some pretty fun French toast as well. Whether the other breads in the series spoke to you or not, I hope you give this one a try.

Savory Cocoa Stout Bread {{Baking Bytes}}

PS – Isn’t this cutting board beautiful? M’s grandparents gifted it to us when we visited last Christmas and I am loving it as a fall background for my photos!

Savory Cocoa Stout Bread

Makes one standard loaf

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup white flour
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1-2 Tbsp brown sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt

12 oz chocolate/coffee stout (I used Obsidian Stout)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9×5″ loaf pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients to remove lumps.
  3. Pour in stout and stir until just combined.
  4. Spread evenly into prepared pan, smoothing the top as best you can.
  5. Bake 50-60 minutes, or until nicely browned and a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Perfect for toast or alongside stew. (And I haven’t tried it yet, but I would bet it’d be great as French toast, too.)