Winter Citrus and Beet Salad

Many people associate bright citrus flavors with warm summer days spent poolside with a grapefruit margarita in hand. If you’re one of those people, you may be surprised to learn that December is actually peak citrus season. There is no better time than now to stock up on oranges, grapefruits, tangelos, and tangerines. I always try to incorporate many of these summery flavors into my winter cooking as a way to lift my mood during brutal Chicago winters.

wcs finished 1

I created this salad when I was in college and had an overabundance of Cuties lying around. I’m obsessed with those little easy-to-peel oranges and could eat 4 in one sitting. I knew that there had to be another way to eat them other than just by themselves, so I started throwing them in salads. It was then that I learned that bacon and oranges do not mix. I created this salad with what I had on hand at the time and it’s quickly evolved into my absolute favorite salad. I love the contrast of the bitter greens with the sweet juicy oranges and salty spongy feta. The red onions give a much needed spicy bite and walnuts add texture and savoriness. I know that beets aren’t for everyone, but they’re really incredible in this salad. Roasting brings out their inherent sweetness while homemade honey balsamic dressing cuts through their earthy flavor. I think this salad could turn a beet-hater into a beet-lover. I’m also really loving this salad right now because I overindulged way too much over the weekend. I celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday and my birthday on Saturday. So a healthy and delicious meal is exactly what I need!

wcs ingredients 2Winter Citrus and Beet Salad

Makes 4 side salads or 2 dinner salads.

  • 3 beets, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 16 oz of spring mix
  • thinly sliced red onion
  • walnuts or pecans
  • 4 cuties (fresh mandarin oranges), or 1 grapefruit, peeled and segmented
  • 1/2 cup feta

Honey Balsamic Dressing

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 3 tablespoons of aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • a pinch of sugar
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil. Place chopped beets on the pan and coat with canola oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-35 minutes, or until they’re fork tender. Place beets in a bowl and allow to cool.

2. While the beets are roasting, assemble the dressing. Place all ingredients except for the salt and pepper into a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake well. Grab a piece of lettuce and dip into the dressing to test the seasoning. Season accordingly and test again. Set the dressing aside to allow all of the flavors to meld together.

3. Place a handful of spring mix on each plate. Peel one cutie and place all segments around the outside in a circular pattern. You’ll want to use 1 entire cutie for each side salad or 2 cuties for each dinner salad. Then place a mound of beets in the center. Top it all off with a few slices of red onion followed up by a sprinkling of nuts and feta. Drizzle the honey balsamic on top and dig in!

beets finished

How could anyone not love these earthy little gems?!

wcs finished 2


Black Bean & Pumpkin Soup

Even though October is over, I refuse to give up on the pumpkin craze. I will be eating pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes, and drinking pumpkin pie lattes from my favorite bakery cafe for as long as I can. But I can say with great certainty that I will not be eating pumpkin soup. You see, most pumpkin soups are gross. They taste like warmed up pumpkin pie filling without sugar. But this incredible soup recipe from Smitten Kitchen circa 2007 is different. And I mean waayyyyy different. It’s almost like a chili. Black beans and cumin take center stage while pumpkin gently reminds you that it’s still fall even though it snowed on Halloween. It almost tastes like an early Autumn bonfire before it gets too chilly. Cumin and garlic will warm your tastebuds and smoked ham will wrap you up in a great big hug. One taste of this meaty soup will leave all of those other pumpkin bisques in the dust.

I also have some exciting news to share! I will be publishing gourmet versions of your favorite Thanksgiving sides every Thursday from now until Turkey Day. So stay tuned for some fun twists on your old favorites!

bbps ingredients 2

Black Bean and Pumpkin Soup

Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen

Yields 9 Cups


  • Three 15 1/2 ounce cans black beans (about 4 1/2 cups), rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup drained canned tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped onion (if you’re lucky like me, your wonderful boyfriend will help with all of the chopping. Thank you my love!)
  • 1/2 cup minced shallot
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • a 16-ounce can pumpkin puree (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 pound cooked ham, cut into 1/8-inch dice

For Garnish

  • Sour Cream
  • Lime Wedges
  • Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

1. Coarsely puree beans and tomatoes in a food processor.

2. In a 6-quart dutch oven, sauté onion, shallot, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper in butter over medium heat, stirring, until onion is softened and beginning to brown. Add cubed ham and briefly sauté.  Stir in pureed beans and tomatoes. Stir in broth and pumpkin until combined and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

3. Taste soup before seasoning. The beef broth and ham will add salt to the soup so season accordingly. Before serving, garnish with sour cream and pumpkin seeds if using. Serve with lime wedges on the side.

bbps beans

bbps finished 2

Asparagus and Gorgonzola Salad

The first time I ever had this salad was last summer at my favorite Italian restaurant. I haven’t stopped dreaming about it ever since. Am I the only person who eats something once and then obsesses over it until they can have it again? Probably, but that’s just who I am. No apologies here!

There’s something about seeing asparagus in grocery stores that gets me so excited about spring. That’s how I always know that warm weather is on it’s way. Even if it’s still chilly in your neck of the woods, you’ll still enjoy this zesty salad. The asparagus,gorgonzola, and tomatoes combined with a drizzle of lemony olive oil compliment each other so well, you’ll wonder why this is your first time enjoying this flavor combination. This recipe is so simple that I almost feel silly for writing it down.

ingredients 1

Asparagus and Gorgonzola Salad

Serves 4 appetizer portions.


1 bunch of asparagus, woody stems removed

2 tomatoes, diced

1/4 c of gorgonzola cheese, or to taste

1 lemon

1/4 c of extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste


1. Fill a large bowl with ice. Bring 3 inches of salted water to a boil, then boil asparagus for 5 minutes, or until tender. You want the asparagus to be tender but not limp. Once the asparagus is cooked, drain in and place in the bowl of ice to cool.

2. Combine the olive oil and juice of one lemon in a sealed container and shake until combined. Line the cooled asparagus on a plate and sprinkle diced tomatoes and crumbled gorgonzola on top. Drizzle the olive oil all over and garnish with parsley.


finished 5

Split Pea Soup

Sometimes soup-eating can be terribly monotonous. Everyone’s eaten those soups where it’s like spoonful after spoonful of salty chicken water with a few noodles thrown in. My myriad of boring soup eating experiences inspired me to create this split pea soup recipe for you. I’m not even sure if soup is the right word for it, it’s more like a cross between a chili and a stew, due to it’s chunky texture and low amount of liquid. If you’re reading this and thinking, “Ew, I hate split pea!”, please give this recipe a shot. It’s like soup on steroids! The best time to make this is after you’ve made a spiral ham and you have a left over ham hock. However, one of those ham steaks from the grocery store will work as well.


This soup is not only delicious, it is also naturally gluten and dairy free as well. This means that you won’t have to go out of your way to make it allergen-free. Red potatoes thicken it up without having to use flour or milk. And the best part is, you won’t miss either of those ingredients.


However, if you happen to be lucky enough to not suffer from any food allergies, I strongly suggest that you top off the soup with a slice of toasted sour dough and a dollop of goat cheese. The tanginess of the sour dough and goat cheese breaks up the savory richness of the soup. It is far better than sour cream.

ingredients 1


1 16 oz Bag of Dried Split Peas

1 Yellow Onion, Diced

3 Carrots, Diced

3 Stalks of Celery, Diced

2 T Vegetable Oil

2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced

3 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme

1/2 lb Small Red Boiling Potatoes, Cubed

6 c Gluten-Free Chicken Stock

1 Ham Hock

1 c Spiral Ham, Cubed

Salt and Pepper, To Taste


1. In a large pot, saute onion, celery, and carrots in vegetable oil until nearly translucent, about 6 minutes. Then add minced garlic and saute for a minute. Add boiling potatoes, peas, and the ham hock.

2. Add all of the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes, covered. After 20 minutes, remove the lid and simmer for 40 more minutes, or until the peas and potatoes are softened.

3. Remove 2 cups of the vegetable mixture and place in a non-glass bowl (!VERY IMPORTANT!), then add the cubed ham to the pot. Try to drain off as much of the liquid as you can from the vegetables. Place the vegetable mixture in the freezer to cool down (!VERY IMPORTANT!). Once the mixture has cooled, puree in a blender. Please don’t put the boiling hot soup in a glass blender because it will cause the glass to crack!!

4. Return the pureed mixture to the pot and stir to incorporate it in the soup. Serve immediately and top with toasted sour dough bread and goat cheese (optional).

soup final

Caesar Chicken Salad Sandwiches

I am so ready for spring, aren’t you? We had a thunderstorm yesterday and it was wonderful. I’ve never been so happy to be awakened by thunder in my life. There’s something so refreshing about the first big rainfall of the year. The change in weather inspired these light and delicious sandwiches. They’re a modern twist on the classic chicken salad. My family eats chicken salad sandwiches like they’re good for you. I wanted to take 2 familiar classics and turn them into healthy sandwich while still tasting indulgent. If you want to do away with the carbs, you can serve these in romaine lettuce cups, which would still be very tasty.


Caesar Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Makes 4 sandwiches


4 Chicken Breasts

Your Favorite Caesar Dressing, to Taste

1 Romaine Heart

3/4 c (6 oz) Greek Yogurt, I used one Whole Single Serving Fage Cup

1/2 c Freshly Shaved Parmesan

4 Ciabatta Rolls

2 T Olive Oil for the Chicken, and 1 T for the Rolls

1 1/2 T Italian Seasoning

1 1/2 t Chopped Garlic

Salt and Pepper to Taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken on a foil lined baking sheet. Mix together 2 T olive oil, 1 T Italian seasoning, 1 t garlic, salt, and pepper. Pour over chicken. Bake for 20 minutes. Mix together the 1T olive oil with the remaining Italian seasoning and garlic. Brush this onto halved Ciabatta rolls. Pull out the chicken and let it cool until you can comfortably handle it. Turn off the oven and put the ciabatta rolls on a cookie sheet to toast. They’ll be perfectly warm and crispy by the time you’re finished. Then, roughly slice and tear the chicken. You want it to be shredded.

2. Mix the Greek yogurt with the chicken. Then mix in the Caesar dressing to your liking. I used about 1 cup of dressing which provided enough Caesar flavor without making the chicken too creamy. Shave parmesan into long strips with a vegetable peeler.

3. Take the rolls out of the oven and top with parmesan, romaine, and the chicken salad.

4. Enjoy! 🙂