Farro Caprese Salad w/ Lemon Pesto Vinaigrette

Happy Memorial Day!

For me, Memorial Day always brings back memories of the town pool opening, our first al fresco dinner on the back deck, and licking melty fudgscicles that Dad would hand out the window as we played “Ice Cream Man.” For some reason those popsicles tasted so much better when you envisioned them being handed to you from an ice cream truck. Maybe I can get Ben to play “Ice Cream Man” with me this year.

Today it was actually a dreary, humid day here in Durham. Definitely NOT what one would hope for on a Memorial Day holiday. That’s ok- for all of you who follow me on Instagram, you know that I got my tanning time in on Saturday, when I lounged for a few hours by the pool, sipping on sun tea and catching up on Real Simple (I think I was still on April). Glorious!

Rainy weather or not, Memorial Day deserves a summery spread, so here we go! I’ve been dying to lighten up a caprese pasta salad recipe for some time now, so I decided to sub farro for pasta in order to pack a healthier and heartier punch. Farro is a very dense grain, much more al dente than quinoa or couscous, which makes it a perfect alternative to pasta. Cooked to al dente, farro also holds up well when tossed with any vinaigrette (quinoa tends to suck up all the extra liquid and get mealy, in my experience).

If you’re interested in learning more about the health benefits of farro, or the nutritional breakdown of farro vs. quinoa, be sure to check out the following links:

Huffington Post: What is Farro?

Farro Nutrition Breakdown

Quinoa Nutrition Breakdown

Farro Caprese Salad w/ Lemon Pesto Vinaigrette
Farro Caprese Salad w/ Lemon Pesto Vinaigrette

I also made my own pesto because I can never bring myself to pay $8+ for a tiny can of prepared pesto that is really half olive oil. This way I can control how much oil I want to add, and experiment with a few new flavors (like lemon!). I also made this batch with roasted, salted almonds because pine nuts are way too expensive.

Homemade Lemon Pesto
Homemade Lemon Pesto

I used some of the homemade pesto in the lemon pesto vinaigrette for the salad, and saved the rest in a mason jar for future dinners. It should last about three weeks in the fridge (or for three years in the freezer, if your brain works like mine does and you know that the freezer really stops time).

When the slightly sweet, tangy pesto vinaigrette is drizzled over farro mixed with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and roasted corn, this salad cannot be beat- rainy Memorial Day or not!

Farro Caprese Salad w/ Lemon Pesto Vinaigrette
Recipe Type: Salad
Cuisine: Summer, Healthy, Vegetarian
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
Happy Memorial Day! This farro salad is chewy and hearty, drizzled with homemade lemon pesto dressing that will not disappoint!
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup homemade lemon pesto (see recipe below)
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tbsp reserved farro liquid
  • 2 cups farro, uncooked (5 cups water)
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen corn
  • 12 oz. container of mozzarella balls, halved (I used bocconcini)
  • 1/4 cup basil chiffonade (leaves cut into long strips)
  • Homemade Lemon Pesto:
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup roasted salted almonds (if unsalted, add 1 tsp salt)
  • 3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup parmesan-romano cheese
Instructions
  1. Prepare farro according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water, reserving a bit of the starchy cooking liquid for later.
  2. Prepare pesto: In food processor, add the garlic and almonds, and pulse until smooth. Add the basil and lemon juice and continue to process on high, scraping down sides occasionally.
  3. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, then turn speed down to low and add the pepper and cheese. Pulse a few more times until blended.
  4. Store in a mason jar for up to 3 weeks in the fridge.
  5. Prepare the pesto vinaigrette: add 1/2 cup homemade pesto, balsamic vinegar, honey, and reserved farro liquid in a jar and shake vigorously.
  6. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Serve with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Prepare the lemon pesto in food processor.
Prepare the lemon pesto in food processor.
Fresh bocconcini!
Fresh mozzarella balls!
Supper al fresco, anyone?
Supper al fresco, anyone?

Happy Memorial Day, and Happy Summer to all!

Crispy Parmesan Zucchini Fries

Crispy Parmesan Zucchini Fries
Crispy Parmesan Zucchini Fries

Oh hello, zucchini fries. I’ve been missing you.

You make me feel a little better about eating you because you’re supposed to be healthy…ish. Well, you were until I slathered you in egg and breadcrumbs and cheese.

At least you’re still better than gobbling down an entire plate of soggy, oily potato fries. And about 137x more delicious!

I made these to go with Ben’s turkey burgers and my salmon tonight- the perfect crispy side for any summer meal! You can dip them in yogurt, ketchup (catsup? does anyone ever spell it like that anymore?) or mustard. I dipped in all three!

Crispy Zucchini Fries
Crispy Parmesan Zucchini Fries

These could NOT be easier. Simply slice your zucchini, shake up in a bag with a spoonful of corn starch, dredge in egg, and roll in breadcrumb-cheese mixture. Bake at a high temperature for 20 min or so or until crispy.

I had a slight panic attack trying to decide whether to call these “zucchini fries” or “zucchini frites.” Then Ben informed me that I was not French and neither were these. Fries they remain.

Crispy Parmesan Zucchini Fries
Recipe Type: Side
Cuisine: Summer, Vegetarian
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2-3
In the mood for something healthy yet indulgent? Look no further! These crispy, cheesy zucchini fries will hit the spot without making you feel greasy and cow-like.
Ingredients
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into long strips
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan-romano cheese
  • pinch of greek seasoning (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 deg.
  2. In a large storage bag, shake zucchini strips with cornstarch.
  3. Dredge in beaten egg, then shake gently to get rid of excess.
  4. Roll zucchini in breadcrumbs mixed with cheese.
  5. Sprinkle with greek seasoning, if using.
  6. Bake at 425 deg for 20 mins on parchment-lined sheet or Silpat, until crispy and golden brown.

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Crispy Parmesan Zucchini Fries
Crispy Parmesan Zucchini Fries

These Parmesan Zucchini Fries will hit.the.spot. without making you feel that greasy, gross feeling that you get after gorging on an entire plate of Loaded Cheese Fries from Carolina Ale House. I mean, these are vegetables! Even Ben liked them. And he hates zucchini.

Already planning my next attack plan to get him to eat brussels sprouts…

P.S. Sorry about the half-chipped nail polish on my exposed left thumb in the above picture. Also about the harsh lighting. I have a bad habit of waiting until the last minute to take pictures of my recipe creations until the last minute when there’s no natural light left (Ben is usually sitting at the table with his dinner getting cold in front of him). Not my best work. Oops, just keepin’ it real over here.

Have a great rest of your weekend!

Tortellini Salad w/ Basil and Olive Tapenade

Happy Hump Day, friends! Today it felt like summer, with temps in the high 80s, and I was craving all.the.summer.veggies. I stopped by TJ’s on my way home from work and couldn’t resist picking up three different packages of tomatoes (grape, heirloom, and on the vine) with some fresh basil, ready-to-cook spinach tortellini and a prepared olive tapenade for this incredibly easy tortellini salad.

You could have made the tapenade on your own, or grown your own basil plant, or heck- made your own pasta… but no one got time for that! It was so simple to dice a few tomatoes and basil, throw the cooked tortellini and tapenade in, and squirt a little balsamic and lemon juice on top! Summer was practically licking my ankles (oh wait, that was Samoa).

Enjoy! Happy summer-dreaming!

Tortellini Salad w/ Basil and Olive Tapenade
Tortellini Salad w/ Basil and Olive Tapenade
Tortellini Salad w/ Basil and Olive Tapenade
Recipe Type: Salad, Pasta
Cuisine: Vegetarian, Italian
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 10
You’ll be dreaming about summer all spring long, but now you don’t have to wait for tomato season to taste it!
Ingredients
  • 1 package (about 16 oz) cheese or spinach tortellini pasta
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 containers grape or on-the-vine tomatoes (I used both), diced roughly
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 container olive tapenade (I used TJ’s) or 1/2 cup diced olives
  • 1 cup crumbled feta
  • spinach for serving (optional)
Instructions
  1. Prepare tortellini 2 mins less than package directions until al dente. Drain and reserve a bit of the pasta water.
  2. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients except for feta. When cooled, stir in tortellini and reserved pasta water.
  3. Stir in feta and serve with spinach for a light summer salad!

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Tortellini Salad w/ Basil and Olive Tapenade

Shaved Brussels & Lentil Slaw w/ Creamy Hummus Vinaigrette

Happy Monday! Even though our Panthers didn’t pull it out, my Blue Devils did! (knock on wood, as I am writing this post with 24.5 sec left on the game clock…)

Last night we had a potluck at our house with some good friends, including members of our small group and my dear bosom buddy Sarah and her husband Mike. I made BBQ pulled pork for sandwiches, and this (healthier) brussels sprout slaw to balance out all the wings n’ things. Although, I do have to admit- Tawny made these incredible vegan stuffed mushrooms that went like hot cakes! Soooo good.

Shaved Brussels & Lentil Slaw w/ Creamy Hummus Vinaigrette
Shaved Brussels & Lentil Slaw w/ Creamy Hummus Vinaigrette

If you’re lazy like I am, you buy brussels sprouts that are pre-shredded (try Trader Joe’s) and pre-cut butternut squash. I had a ton of brussels sprouts and no TJ’s within 10 miles, so I decided to go crazy and whip out the grating attachment to my food processor. If you don’t mind a bit of extra cleaning/scraping out the little bits of shaved brussels that get stuck in the lip, it’s really pretty simple to just use the same food processor that you would make the vinaigrette in. Kill two birds with one stone! Also, if you want you can sub out the lentils for some other protein like chickpeas or edamame. I like the lentils for being so small, though- they really bulk up the salad without overwhelming it.

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The hummus vinaigrette is creamy and zesty from the orange and lime juice, and you can also customize the dressing to your own tastes (more olive oil, more vinegar, etc.). I also added some arils (pomegranate seeds, for the less fancy among us) and slivered almonds for a bit more crunch! Just make sure not to add them until just before serving so that the almonds don’t get too soggy!

Shaved Brussels & Lentil Slaw w/ Creamy Hummus Vinaigrette
Recipe Type: Salad
Cuisine: Healthy, Vegetarian
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
A light side dish for your next potluck, perfected with a creamy hummus vinaigrette, crunchy almonds and juicy pomegranate seeds!
Ingredients
  • 1 lb brussels sprouts
  • 1 cup butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • zest and juice of one orange
  • juice of one lime
  • 2-3 tbsp hummus (I used edamame hummus)
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (or honey)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup arils (pomegranate seeds)
  • 1 cup dry French lentils
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 deg. Mix together squash, onion, garlic, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and 1 tbsp olive oil. Layer on a Silpat and roast for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
  2. In a food processor with grater attachment (coarse shredding), shred brussels sprouts and combine with squash and onions. Set aside.
  3. In same processor with regular chopping attachment, make vinaigrette by processing orange, lime juice, hummus, red wine vinegar, maple syrup, and salt and pepper. Drizzle in remaining olive oil during processing. Add more olive oil, vinegar or a bit of water to your preference!
  4. Prepare lentils according to package directions. While still warm, add to brussels sprouts and squash mixture.
  5. Up to 2 hrs before serving, gently toss with vinaigrette.
  6. Just before serving, toss salad with arils and slivered almonds.
  7. Serve on top of pulled pork sandwiches for a little extra crunch, or with a poached egg on its own!

Happy week!

“Veggie Dump” Grain Bowl

Who’s in favor of dinner that you throw in a pot and walk away? I got the idea from fANNEtastic food a few nights ago- she has the best ideas for easy, throw-together dinners! While I didn’t include the chicken breasts due to the woes of vegetarianism, I added a few leftover meatballs in Ben’s bowl and added a fried egg on top of mine for a little extra protein!

Sorry for the site being down yesterday- glad that smart husband of mine knows computers and was able to fix the problem in no time! Yay computer scientists.

"Veggie Dump" Grain Bowl
“Veggie Dump” Grain Bowl

The ingredients are simple, and you could add any frozen veggies you like. I settled on some ready-chopped broccoli/cauliflower/carrot from Harris Teeter, frozen peppers and onions from TJ’s, a can of chickpeas, kalamata olives, frozen spinach, and diced tomatoes. With some capers and a TON of spices (I should have spring cleaned my spice cabinet while I was at it!). Two thumbs up for Mediterranean food!

“Veggie Dump” Grain Bowl
Recipe Type: Salad, Main Dish, Side
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Author: Claire McCormick
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
Dump and simmer away- dinner is served! Add any veggies you like- the only rule is that you are only allowed to do 2 minutes of chopping/prepping for this meal. The rest is up to the stovetop!
Ingredients
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups chopped veggies (peppers, onions, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, or any other ones you want!)
  • 2 cups frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives (pitted)
  • 2 T capers
  • 1 tsp each garlic powder, oregano, Greek seasoning, parsley
  • 1/2 tsp each chili flakes, coriander, salt, and pepper
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water or veggie broth
  • Feta, for serving
  • Protein of choice
Instructions
  1. In a large pan, heat oil on medium-high, then add onions and garlic to pan. Cook until tender, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add garbanzo beans, followed by veggies, spinach, tomatoes, olives and capers, and all spices/liquid. Cook, stirring every so often, for about 3 minutes.
  3. Cover and reduce heat to low, then simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Prior to serving, top with feta and extra salt/pepper if desired.
  5. Serve with protein of your choice! I added some leftover grains we had (barley/quinoa/lentil mixture) and some crusty crackers.
Prep ingredients.
Prep ingredients.
Cook onions, garlic and chickpeas.
Cook onions, garlic and chickpeas.
Add veggies and simmer.
Add veggies and simmer.
Serve and enjoy!
Serve and enjoy!

Don’t work too hard on this one! It’s meant to take away stress, not add it!

What are you up to this weekend?

Vegan Lentil Chili

He calls it soup. I call it stew. See, apparently the amount of broth is the defining factor in whether you need to use a spoon or can just use a big hunk of crusty dipping bread. We decided to settle on “chili.” Crisis averted.

Vegan Lentil Chili

My sister Bethany got me these adorable Le Creuset Ramekins for Christmas and I was itching to use them to display my chili! (Don’t worry, we actually ate a lot more than what it looks like in the picture.) But you could totally use these cute little dishes as a container for ingredients, garnishes, or soup as an appetizer. They’re also the perfect size for a scoop of ice cream! Freezer, microwave, and oven safe, they’re completely versatile, and you know the Le Creuset name will not disappoint.

Anyway, back to chili. What better way to come back from Christmas travels than a nice hearty bowl of veggie-packed chili to fill you up without weighing you down? I was inspired by the original recipe by our good friends Sarah and Mike, who made a similar vegetarian chili for us a few weeks ago when they had us over for a pre-holiday dinner. For those of you looking to get a head start on your diet for the New Year, this vegan chili is protein and fiber-packed, and is also filled with vitamins and minerals from fresh and frozen vegetables. I used green lentils and black beans as my legumes, but you could also use kidney beans or chickpeas for a slightly different take. I originally planned to add another grain like farro or barley, but by the time I had all the ingredients in the crock pot, I literally had no room!

The struggle is real.

Serve with crushed tortilla chips, crusty bread, or whole-grain crackers for dipping. Then garnish with feta (or cotija for the fancy ones) and a dollop of plain greek yogurt. I also layered some spinach under mine because I can’t resist having spinach with every single dinner. I am a creature of habit.

Hope you enjoy!

Vegan Lentil Chili
Recipe Type: Main
Cuisine: Mexican, Vegan, Vegetarian
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
A protein and fiber-packed stew/soup (stoup?) that will fill you up but not weigh you down! Get a head-start on your New Year’s diet resolution with this lentil chili recipe, perfect for rainy December nights.
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 carton mushrooms
  • 2 cans diced or stewed tomatoes and juices
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 2-3 cups chopped butternut squash (buying pre-chopped saves so much time!)
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup frozen peppers and onions (I love the TJ’s bagged mix)
  • 1 tsp each garlic powder, coriander, cumin, basil, and chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3-4 cups low sodium vegetable stock (depending on how much room you have!)
  • 1 cup dry lentils
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil on medium high, then add onion, garlic, and carrot. Cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue to cook about 1 minute more until tender. Layer in bottom of crock pot sprayed with cooking spray.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
  3. Set on high for 4 hours, or low for 6 hours until squash and carrots are tender.
  4. Serve with feta/cotija cheese and grain of your choice!
Vegan Lentil Chili
Vegan Lentil Chili

All opinions of products in this post are my own.