Tag Archives: recipes

Weekly Menus: Labor Day Edition, Week of 9/1/2013

Gentle Readers, never has a holiday been more confusingly named or welcomed with more open arms. Hello, Labor Day, we need you. A bit of a break after the bustle of school starting, recovery from travel season for me, it’s time to roll up sleeves and cook again. How to do so without too much labor? Invite yourself to someone else’s cookout.

Tea wth the Ladies Who Lunch: China Edition

Tea wth the Ladies Who Lunch: China Edition

I’m bringing a dessert, or a salad, or both. But I digress. The weather is getting cooler, and more cooking ahead is possible. Seize the day, or at least the weekend, between naps.

Turmeric Tea from Samovar: Gold, Spicy, Amazing

Turmeric Tea from Samovar: Gold, Spicy, Amazing

For this week, the weekly menus are:

Weekly Menus: 9/1/2013

Weekly Menus: 9/1/2013

And the Four-Square Grocery List is:

The Four-Square Grocery List: 9/1/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List: 9/1/2013

Which all means:

Sunday: Rotisserie Chicken
It’s been too long. Great for eating and reusing in salads, plus stock from the bones. Will serve with Brussels sprouts and glazed carrots, or mac-n-cheese if I run low on time.

Speedy Salad: Strawberries, rotisserie chicken, almonds, goat cheese, greens.

Speedy Salad: Strawberries, rotisserie chicken, almonds, goat cheese, greens.

Monday: Not Dogs?
Since we’re heading to a cookout, we may do one lighter meal on this Labor Day. There are great options for vegetarians and for anyone looking to balance their caloric consumption.

Hot Dog from The Pig with Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish

Hot Dog from The Pig with Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish

Tuesday: Veggie Chili
Breaking out the Red, Gold, and Green Veggie Chili here, in honor of the fall that finally feels like it’s on the way. Perfect to make ahead and eat for a while in different forms.

Veggie Chili Simmering

Veggie Chili Simmering

Wednesday: Salmon and Couscous
Light and simple, I think I’ll pan-roast this and serve with confetti veggie couscous (aka, use the last bits of diced veggie up from previous meals, shhh, don’t tell).

Orange Salmon, Broiled Asparagus, Accidental Butternut Bulgar

Orange Salmon, Broiled Asparagus, Accidental Butternut Bulgar

Thursday: Egg Sammies
If we’re short on time, the eggs will be scrambled or fried. More time = egg salad sammies. This was a favorite summer meal in my youth, and it’s fun to recapture a little of that feeling as we start the school year.

Eggs on their way to becoming egg salad.

Eggs on their way to becoming egg salad.

Friday: Leftover Delight
The Eldest asked what this was, and I told her it was marketing. She got that. Friday is a clean-up hitter today. Prep for Saturday practice, recover from a week of early rising, gather around the table and enjoy.

Saturday: Dine Out!
We’re on the hunt for a new country to visit. All suggestions welcome!

What’s on your grill this season? Send ideas this way, post a comment or send a Tweet!

Send extra hot dogs, hours of sleep, and brownies to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Wednesday: Road Salad, A How-To Survive Guide.

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Weekly Menus: Summertime Edition

Gentle Readers, when did summer become busier than the school year? Lots of fun in the queue, but my calendar is openly weeping. Combined with the heat and training for upcoming 5k for Wounder Warrior Project, and I’m more focused than ever on efficient, seasonal, light eating.

Meze platter from Bosphorus: endless variety, light and amazing.

Meze platter from Bosphorus: endless variety, light and amazing.

My friend and food muse, SassySpice, teased me the other night about my fruit obsession, but it’s true–healthy transportable water, with some sugar, that’s what it is.

Fruit: The Cookie Antidote

Fruit: The Cookie Antidote

Plus, I’ve done some serious field research recently courtesy of my fellow pig fan from the Left Coast, Chinese5Spice. No regrets, but this week must be simple food one can eat outdoors or after a trip to the pool.

Pork Belly Buns from Lucha Tigre: Run Don't Walk (Cucumber makes it healthy)

Pork Belly Buns from Lucha Tigre: Run Don’t Walk (Cucumber makes it healthy)

Which means this weeks weekly menus are as follows (and yes, apparently I tried to sneak an extra day into the week there, good job me):

Weekly Menus: 6/16/2013

Weekly Menus: 6/16/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List (complete with another round of ingredients for another birthday party!):

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/16/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/16/2013

Which all translates to:

Sunday: Salad
I am going to unapologetically combine a field research trip  (bulk bin cereals) to the Whole Foods with a raid on their salad bar. I really crave this. Upcoming post on tips and tricks on what you get there–please post yours in the comments!

Better to top your salad with a little barbecue than a lot of ranch.

Better to top your salad with a little barbecue than a lot of ranch.

Monday: Fish and Quinoa
This meal serves both TPCs Jr, one who loves fish (The Youngest) and one who loves quinoa (The Eldest). High protein, light, and infinitely variable, I highly recommend you give this one a try. Serve with either a hot green veggie or a cold cold salad.

Salmon and Arugula over Quinoa: It rocked

Salmon and Arugula over Quinoa: It rocked

Tuesday: Hummus and Falafal
You can make hummus from practically anything, and it’s usually way better than any commercial product, and in consumable quantities. I’m either going to do a blend of chickpeas and edamame, or use white beans and lime. Leftover chips or toasted (aka, getting stale) bread as an accompaniment.

Wednesday: Pasta and Salad
It’s carbonara time I think. Or perhaps diced fresh veggies and a light lemon sauce.

Not Quite Pasta Carbonara with Spinach

Not Quite Pasta Carbonara with Spinach

Thursday: Breakfast for Dinner
We’re in high biscuit production mode here. They make a great portable breakfast, toast and reheat well, and I want to be that old lady who can whip out light and fluffy biscuits without breaking a sweat. Game on.

Inspired by Rise in Durham's Fried Green Tomato and Pimento Cheese Biscuit. Yes, it was that good.

Inspired by Rise in Durham’s Fried Green Tomato and Pimento Cheese Biscuit. Yes, it was that good.

Friday: Leftovers in a Quesadilla
Sounds more purposeful this way, don’t you think? These were a huge hit last week, so we’re going for Round 2.

Saturday: Dine Out!
This will be pizza, as we celebrate another birthday with friends. More cake, more festivities, and another pack-up to travel.

Carrot Cake Decorated with Care by TPCs Jr.

Carrot Cake Decorated with Care by TPCs Jr.

What’s on your table this summer? Post your comments below, including your tips and tricks for the Whole Foods Salad Bar (which seems to be a shared addiction). Or Tweet my way. I don’t bite. Unless you’re bacon.

Send cold foods, good ideas, and actual questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Wednesday, by popular demand: Jeepney in NYC Reviewed!

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Three Salad Ideas for the New Year

Gentle Readers, may those among us who did not strap on the cookie jar like a feedbag cast the first baked good. It’s New Year’s Resolution time again, and I’ve got a few. I’ve extended the deadline on my one pull-up resolution of 2012. Don’t be a hater, they are very very hard. 2013 will be my year.

2013 will be the year of the pullup. I swear.

2013 will be the year of the pullup. I swear.

Also, if you know someone precise, someone who likes exact measures, let’s say an engineer, and she places a scale in front of your cookie cabinet, that is so not holiday feng sui. Just saying. I will not name names here, but will simply call her 5FeetofFury.

Chicken Jolt Salad with Espresso Cheese, Apples, and Dijon-Sherry Vinaigrette

Chicken Jolt Salad with Espresso Cheese, Apples, and Dijon-Sherry Vinaigrette

Back on point, it’s salad time here at Team Practical Cook. We’re all tired of rich food at this point. Here are 3 salad ideas to get you started:

1. Caesar Salad with Fried Onions: While you think this is not a health food, read on. The trick here is to use a lot of lettuce, not so much dressing, and something different for the crunch. That’s the point. The fried onions from Trader Joe’s are extremely satisfying, and not a complete calorie bomb. I like their dressing too. The Practical Cooks Jr are both big fans of onions instead of croutons because the salad is easier to eat. And that is really the point, isn’t it?

Trader Joe's Romano Caesar Dressing, I Heart You

Trader Joe’s Romano Caesar Dressing, I Heart You

2. Just Add Fruit: Dried or fresh, nothing brightens up greenery like something sweet. I find the combination satisfies my hunger and keeps me from craving other forms of sweetness. I’ve been on a blackberry and toasted almonds kick lately, but always keep dried cranberries and Honeycrisp apples on hand. Also, orange sections or mango chunks: both pair well with leftover salmon or tuna.

Blackberries and Toasted Almonds on Herby Greens FTW!

Blackberries and Toasted Almonds on Herby Greens FTW!

3. Salad Bar: This is not a new concept, I think the 80s got the patent on this one (remember when Wendy’s and Pizza Hut relied on this to lure you in for lunch?). However, it works at home and is worth a reminder. Buy 2 types of lettuce (or spinach plus lettuce) and let the people choose A vs B. It works. It’s not “eat a salad or leave the table,” now it’s “which one do you prefer?” Stay with the basic formula, greens, something sweet, something crunchy, something salty/cheesy, and ranch for emergencies.

Take it from the pros like Whole Foods, Salad Bars work.

Take it from the pros like Whole Foods, Salad Bars work.

So my journey into 2013 begins. What’s your resolution? Or your favorite salad? Post a comment below, or Tweet my way!

Send your digital scales to someone else. For questions, comments, or strokes of brilliance, email me at practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Friday, First Time Fast Foodies.

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Arepas: It’s What for Dinner (Recipe)

Gentle Readers, on rare occasions, inspiration strikes. Such was the case the other evening, just in time for the 3-course pancake meal. Mind you, I subbed something in for the middle pancake course, but I digress. Arepas, as I understand them, are corn pancakes, and can be thin and flat or puffy and stuffed.

Easy Arepas with avocado, cheddar, roasted red pepper, and sour cream

Easy Arepas with avocado, cheddar, roasted red pepper, and sour cream

Because I am all about efficiency on a school night, I opted for flat. Once you have the pancake made, the topping variety is somewhat endless. The results were off the charts good. I’m still thinking about them. Truly an amuse-bouche.

Quick and Easy Arepas Recipe

Based on The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon, this recipe is intensely forgiving.

vegetable oil
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cornmeal (the original recipe called for ground white cornmeal, but I used a local yellow with fantastic results)
1 teaspoon salt (this would be table, not kosher or sea)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Put a dash of vegetable oil in your largest skillet and heat it over medium.

2. Whisk the milk, cornmeal, and salt until fully combined. Add the butter. If the batter is too thick, add a bit more milk. You want a slightly thin batter.

3. Once the skillet is hot enough to make a drop of water dance, add silver dollar size dollops of the batter, working in batches. The first one will take some time to brown (like 4 or five minutes). Flip, repeat.

4. When the arepa is cooked, take it off immediately and top it with any combo of the following:

  • diced avocado
  • roasted red and yellow peppers
  • extra sharp cheddar cheese (Tillamook for the win!)
  • black beans
  • sour cream
  • anything else you can dream up

Serve promptly. These are mind-blowing, just try them and trust me.

The variety for arepas is endless! Experiment!

The variety for arepas is endless! Experiment!

Do you like to serve meals in courses? Why or why not? Discuss in the comments section, or Tweet me!

Send deep thoughts and kitchen challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up this Friday: An Ode to Fat.

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Restaurant Review: Gregoria’s Kitchen (with bonus black beans recipe)

Gentle Readers, sometimes atmosphere and service really and truly matter. Gregoria’s Kitchen in Durham, NC, is that special sort of place. Located in an old house near the very longest traffic light in the entire city, the space is lovely and relaxing, the service is warm and personable, and the food, well, read on.

Extra points for any restaurant located in an old house: Gregoria's Kitchen

Extra points for any restaurant located in an old house: Gregoria's Kitchen

Let’s just say that we ordered one of everything. Not quite, because the shellfish would kill me, but almost everything else. Why? Because it’s what one should do when one has the opportunity, and a dining companion as nuts as oneself. (Said dining companion is not a blog reader currently, there is a lesson here.)

Don't miss the seasoned butter. It is tasty!

Don't miss the seasoned butter. It is tasty!

We ordered:

Chicharrones: When bacon puts on its formal ware, it tastes like this. Pork belly with tamarind sauce.

Pork belly + mood lighting with a tamarind drizzle. Mmmmm.

Pork belly + mood lighting with a tamarind drizzle. Mmmmm.

Yuquita Frita: Fantastic rendering, the cilantro sauce is divine. If you’ve never tried yucca fries, this is a run, not walk, situation. I think they are far superior to French fries.

Yuquita Frita: Fun to say, more fun to eat.

Yuquita Frita: Fun to say, more fun to eat.

Tostones: Good, but I’ve had homemade that were better.
Lechon Asado: My personal favorite. It’s like Southern gone a bit further South, essentially a pulled pork dish.
and a Shredded Beef dish (don’t see it currently listed on the menu!): The favorite of  the Eldest Practical Cook Junior and my dining companion, this dish was complex and interesting.
Beans and Rice: Black beans and rice were the sides with both mains, and they were fabulous. The Jrs consumed all of it in a snap.

Black beans and rice from Gregoria's Kitchen in Durham.

Black beans and rice from Gregoria's Kitchen in Durham.

(I should note, enough food was ordered that 4 boxes of leftovers came home, and were devoured by certain short foodies.)

I am not here to argue about the authenticity of the food (in my experience, Cuban food is only approved of by Cubans when served in Miami or in their grandmother’s house, irrespective of location), I will just say I really liked this meal. Each bite was interesting, and clearly prepared with care. The flavors were clean and sharp, the presentation was lovely, and the pork belly made me want to do a little dance. If you’re local to NC, check out Gregoria’s and let me know what you think!

Pretty Quick Black Bean Soup

Adapted from Elsie’s Cuban Black Bean Soup recipe, found in Bean by Bean by Crescent Dragonwagon. This book is fabulous, and I’m thoroughly enjoying working my way through it. I served this thick soup over rice with diced avocado and lime wedges on the side. Simplicity itself, it was a huge hit. Enjoy.

Black Beans and Rice: Simple and Satisfying for Dinner

Black Beans and Rice: Simple and Satisfying for Dinner

2 cups black beans, rinsed thoroughly, picked over and soaked if you have time (I did not)
Enough water to cover the beans in the pot by at least 2 inches
2 bay leaves
1 fresh jalapeno (I only had a Serrano, which worked well), stemmed and seeded
splash of olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt

1. Put the rinsed and drained beans into a large heavy soup pot, fill with water till it’s 2 inches above the bean line. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a strong steady simmer because you forgot to do this in advance and it’s dinnertime soon. Drop in the bay leaves and the pepper. Cover tightly and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, 1 1/2 hours or so.

2. At the end of the cooking time, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until they become translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the peppers (feel free to add more if you’ve got them), and saute for a couple of minutes more. Add the garlic and spices last, including some salt, and cook until you smell the garlic. Turn off the heat.

3. When the beans are tender, stir in the onion mixture. Salt to taste. If you want thicker soup, mash some of the beans up in the pot and stir. Simmer slowly, uncovered, for at least 20 minutes, or until your kids yell that they’re starving. Discard the bay leaves and the pepper.

4. Serve over or beside hot rice, with avocados and lime wedges. A dollop of sour cream is in order for the spice-a-phobes, though we found this flavorful and not spicy with one seeded pepper.

Are you a fan of Cuban food? Of beans and rice? How do you get your fix?

Send blog ideas, challenges, and compliments to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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It’s time for Weekly Menus, live on Sunday. Not all of them will be chocolate bunny meals.

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One Ingredient, Three Ways: Salad Edition

Gentle Readers, as Star Wars informs us, there must be balance in the force. In a life full of bacon, there must be some salad. The Practical Cook is actually a fan of salad, salad of all stripes. This challenges comes from @convertiblelife as she is working on a month of salads. My parameters are broad, doesn’t have to be iceberg with ranch. In fact, I can promise you it won’t be. And why stop with one salad when you can have a trifecta?

Grilled Veggie Salad, Potato Salad, Spinach Salad with Gorgonzola and Strawberries

Grilled Veggie Salad, Potato Salad, Spinach Salad with Gorgonzola and Strawberries

Honestly, I could eat salad every day. I do most days. I did today. See above. See below.

The Corporate Lunch Salad: Dismantle the veggie sandwich and add it to the mix!

The Corporate Lunch Salad: Dismantle the veggie sandwich and add it to the mix!

And now, One Ingredient, Three Ways: Salad Edition (fine, salad is not technically an ingredient, let us call it artistic license):

Simple Seasonal Salad with a Moroccan Twist: Romaine lettuce, toasted almonds, mango, goat cheese, and chopped dates (not bacon!)

Simple Seasonal Salad with a Moroccan Twist: Romaine lettuce, toasted almonds, mango, goat cheese, and chopped dates (not bacon!)

1. Fruit Salad. From my awesome SIL, the key is not to mix the fruit till the last possible second. And grapes take up space. You’re welcome, you can now attend potlucks with ease and confidence.

Look to the left of the carbs for the beautiful fruit salad.

Look to the left of the carbs for the beautiful fruit salad.

2. Rainbow Orzo Salad. This is a reminder that a pasta or grain salad does not have to drown in dressing or salt. You can make something healthy and colorful with a fantastic chew.

Orange Salmon, Broiled Asparagus, Accidental Butternut Bulgar

Orange Salmon, Broiled Asparagus, Accidental Butternut Bulgar

3. Green Salad Guidelines. Something green, something sweet, something crunchy, something salty. Toss with either Balsamic and Olive Oil, or a Sherry Vinaigrette. Example: mixed baby greens, dried cranberries, walnuts, goat cheese. We’ve served this in TPC kitchen for years, it is the house salad. Simple, easy to eat, delicious.

Blueberry Herb Salad: This picture just makes me want to eat it again.

Blueberry Herb Salad: This picture just makes me want to eat it again.

Look for more salad guides upcoming. I love the idea of 30 days of salad. I will confess that our salads have a lot of real bacon bits on them right now. You have your leftovers, I have mine. What’s your house salad? Post a comment, and yes, I’m talking to you.

Simple yet delicious, The Practical Cook's House Salad.

Simple yet delicious, The Practical Cook's House Salad, in Variation.

Email your pictures, queries, and challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Friday, Round 3 of Bacon Brackets: Local Edition!

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Weekly Menus: Week of 3/4/2012 (bonus recipe)

Gentle Readers, with life’s hectic pace, and the winter months upon us, The Practical Cook must confess she did not go to the Farmer’s Market for a long time. Yesterday, driven by a cause (bacon), she went with the Juniors. Hog wild barely describes the scene. And that was just the Juniors. We came, we saw, we tasted and bought. We also learned.

Sing with me: "You're the inspiration!" (Bread, I Love You.)

Sing with me: "You're the inspiration!" (Bread, I Love You.)

If you haven’t located or visited your local Farmer’s Market lately, make a point of doing so. Interesting things are starting to happen again in most climates, and the baked goods are not to be missed. In fact, I’m so inspired, I’m making bread tomorrow. I have a partner in crime, though she doesn’t know it yet. Thanks CV Tall in advance.

Farmer's Market = Potential, my equivalent of mainlining

Farmer's Market = Potential, my equivalent of mainlining

I’ve included my Farmer’s Market purchases on the grocery list, though retroactive, as proof that I don’t exist solely on bacon. Especially since, irony of ironies, I’ve gotten multiple requests for veggie recipes lately: salad, grains, etc. I am here for you. Look to the bottom of the post for the bonus recipe inspired by today’s shopping trip.

Without further delay, here is this week’s Weekly Menus:

Weekly Menus: 3/4/2012

Weekly Menus: 3/4/2012

And the Four-Square Grocery List (still very spartan, still trying to eat down my unfreakingbelievably large pantry warehouse + my assault on the Farmer’s Market = fresh veggie overload):

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 3/4/3012

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 3/4/3012

Which translates into:

Sunday:Salmon and kale
I think I’ll do something orange-ish, as I have a few oranges lingering in the crisper drawer, and pair it with Quinoa or couscous salad (recipe research!)

Monday: Butterbeans, cornbread, and beets, et al TBD
I’m looking to do a serious veggie meal, as the Juniors are developing a bacon withdrawal problem.

Wednesday: Sausage and Chard
Of course, then we’ll eat more pig, but as part of a cassoulet-like dish, with white beans.

Thursday: Bacon and Egg Sammies with Salad
Maybe I’ll have nailed the homemade bread by this point . . .

Friday: Soup and Sammies!
I’ve got some beef stock I need to use, so it may be time for a French Onion soup of some stripe.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Field research is so necessary. I’m scoping some new spots, let’s see if I can gather a research team. Volunteers? Mission: Chinese.

Breakfast for Dinner: I almost forgot, I bought more grits too.

Breakfast for Dinner: I almost forgot, I bought more grits too.

Bonus Recipe: Spinach Salad with Cherries, Pecans, and Goat Cheese

This is too obnoxiously easy to be a true recipe, but it permits me to lecture on what to keep in your pantry/fridge, so you’re salad-ready at all times.

baby spinach (don’t be without this, for real)
dried cherries
chopped pecans, lightly toasted
goat cheese, fresh is best and way less goaty
good quality Balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Combine in portions that work for you. My Youngest, a notoriously picky salad eater, literally wiped the plate with her spinach leaf. She would walk on hot rocks to get to goat cheese, so I crumbled a heftier portion on her salad. The basics here are sweet, crunchy, and salty. Spinach is a good salad back-up. It stays fresh longer in the fridge, is less bitter than some greens, and packs a serious nutritional punch. Keep dried fruit always. Raisins are good, but red dried fruit (cherries and cranberries) look more festive in salads. Nuts or seeds, also keep on hand. Of course, if you’re me or have a nut allergy, you can sub bacon bits. And though I’ve got both feta and goat cheese in the house, I find goat is way more versatile. If you hate it, go with feta, but you want creamy/salty here. It melds with the oil and vinegar.  End of lecture. Salad on!

What are you eating between seasons? Post a comment with your meals or your cravings!

Send salad suggestions, vegetarian challenges, and lucrative book contracts to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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For Wednesday, we’ll be testing one more round of M&Ms: Pretzel vs Peanut!

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