Today has been a magical day! It was a very productive day; our pool is now ready for the summer, we stained some of the deck, Baby Stevie has been asleep since 8:30, I am enjoying a glass of wine from a local winery that is outstanding, and I had one of my favorite meals for dinner. Getting that much accomplished in a day with a baby around is quite the accomplishment in our neck of the woods. So yes, when you are a 30-year-old mom, those simple things are reason to deem a day magical. In celebration, I am now going to savor this delicious wine from the comfort of my bed all while sharing with you some thoughts regarding that loosely used word “healthy” and one of my current dinner obsessions. Don’t judge me on the wine in bed thing, okay?
Before we get into our recipe, I feel the need to discuss this word that is thrown around so freely, so manipulatively, and just way too damn much. HEALTHY. Healthy is a word that can be misused and can generally be very ambiguous. If you search “healthy dinner recipes” on the internet, as I have many times in the past, you get an endless amount of recipes. However, most of them may not be the type of “healthy” for which you are looking. Huh??? What I mean is healthy can mean a million different things regarding the recipe: low in calories, low in carbs, low in fat, yada, yada, yada. Most of those things are aiming towards people who are watching their weight or on some sort of strict calorie-counting, carb-counting, or fad diet. In my own personal experience, when I would originally tell my friends and family that I was trying to eat much healthier, many would roll theirs eyes and say something along the lines of, “like you need to lose weight.” I would always be and still become shocked when this is a person’s reply to my healthy eating decisions. Why does everyone assume just because a person is trying to eat healthier foods they are on a diet or trying to lose weight? When I say I am trying to eat healthier, that simply means that I am trying to put only good, pure things into my body for the sole reason of my own personal health. I literally am thinking about my health. Personally, I am just trying to put straight food into my body. No chemicals, no additives or fillers, no dyes. Just straight food. Is that so much to ask? Why do we even have to call it healthier eating when all we are trying to do is just eat plain old food? I mean, instead of saying I am trying to eat healthier should I just start staying that I am trying out a new diet on which you can only eat foods free of carcinogens, toxic chemicals, antibiotics, and hormones. Maybe that would make more sense to people or get the point across? I am just over here trying to last as long as I possibly can on this Earth for my daughter by avoiding the poison that is the typical foods provided by our wonderful country’s food industry. Stay tuned for future posts in which I will elaborate on my views on our country’s food industry, specifically the evil, controlling, monster that is Monsanto/Bayer. That rant deserves its very own post. So for now, I shall continue on my way to get you to my current favorite recipe created entirely by myself. Just let it be understood, that when I say my recipes are healthy, I mean they are free of all of those horrible chemicals and additives mentioned above. The ingredients in all of my recipes are and will always be whole foods and nothing else. You will never have to use an ingredient that is made up of 50 ingredients itself. Your body will rejoice!
Without further ado, I will now present you with my very first recipe on my page. It is currently my favorite dinner which I have been making a couple nights a week. I cannot get enough of it, and I know it is good when Ricky is just as thrilled to be eating it numerous nights a week as I am. The title might seem off-putting to you because there are so many different things going on in this salad. However, I promise you that the mixture of all of the ingredients ends up being the perfect balance. The potatoes may seem odd to you, so let me explain quickly. In Pittsburgh, it is common to put french fries on a grilled chicken salad. It is truly a Pittsburgh staple. Another showing of Pittsburgh’s awesomeness. So, that is where I found the inspiration to use roasted potatoes in my salad.
Either way, there’s spicy, there’s sweet, there’s sour, and there are also so many different wonderful textures going on in this salad. Just talking about it is tempting me to go down to the kitchen and eat some leftovers. If I have another glass of wine or two, that is a very likely scenario.
Let’s get to it! I now present to you the most delicious salad on all of the internet that will actually make you feel like you have eaten an entire meal. Also, all of the ingredients are food, plain and simple. Double hooray!! Just an FYI, each time I make this salad the vegetables that go into it are always different. I usually just toss in the veggies that I currently have in my kitchen at that time. So, you are free to throw in whichever veggies you have handy or whichever you prefer in your salads. However, the beets, potatoes, hot peppers, raisins, and the dressing are a MUST! Some of my techniques may also seem odd to you, but I am a mom over here, remember? I am by no means a professional chef – just a mom who has figured out how to create some pretty awesome meals in the midst of caring for a little baby lady. I am always trying to find the easiest, quickest way to cook these delicious meals. There are many shortcuts that I have figured out that result in a tasty meal much faster than if I were to use the typical way of doing things. Also, please remember that all of the ingredients used in my recipes are organic and non-GMO, not because I am a food snob but because I just want my food to be made of, well…food!
Roasted Beet & Potato, Hot Pepper, and Grilled Chicken Salad with Aunt Karen’s Homemade Vinaigrette
4 large beets, peeled and cubed
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
5-8 hot banana peppers, depending on how spicy you prefer, sliced into rings
1 pound chicken breasts, cooked and sliced
5-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2-3 heads of romaine lettuce, chopped
5 cups baby spinach, chopped
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 seedless cucumber, chopped
2-3 roma tomatoes, diced
1-2 rainbow carrots, peeled and diced
1/4 cup raisons, brown or golden
1/4 raw walnuts, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the chicken in a glass baking dish and drizzle 1 -2 tablespoons of olive oil over the chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. While the oven is still preheating, peel the beets and potatoes, and then cube them. Spread the beets and potatoes on a separate baking dish and drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Put both the chicken and the root veggies into the oven. They both should cook for around 20-25 minutes. Check every so often and give the beets and potatoes a little toss to help them from sticking. If you notice the root veggies are soft earlier, I would take them out. You do not want them to get too mushy.
- While those ingredients are baking in the oven, wash and cut all of the veggies. Throw them into a large salad bowl. Top with the raisins and walnuts.
- While those ingredients are still baking in the oven, wash and slice the banana peppers. I usually just slice them into rings. Put 1-2 tablespoons in a medium skillet. Heat the oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the banana peppers. Saute just until they become soft.
- Take chicken, beets, and potatoes out of oven. Place foil over the root veggies to keep them warm and set aside. Slice or cube your chicken, whichever you prefer. Then, add the chicken to the skillet with the banana peppers and toss. This will coat the chicken with the spicy goodness from the peppers. Turn off heat and let the flavors blend together.
- While the chicken and banana peppers are still in the skillet, put all of the ingredients for the dressing into a medium mixing bowl and whisk together. I usually put the ingredients into a container with a lid and shake it up which is faster and seems to get the ingredients mixed together very well.
- Finally, place the beets, potatoes, chicken, and peppers on top of the salad. Top with the dressing and enjoy!
You may notice that I did not end up grilling the chicken at all. That is because most of the time Ricky is working, and I personally do not feel like firing up the grill. So, you can see how I have created a shortcut. However, if you feel like grilling the chicken, go for it! More power to you! I hope you enjoy this salad as much as I do. If you add or tweak anything to the recipe and it turns out well, I would love to hear from you so I can try it myself!
Peace, Love, and Honest Food,