Get Excited About Salad!

Get Excited About Salad! | Once Upon a Recipe

So I have this pet peeve. Something that really irks me. You wanna know what it is?

I’m going to tell you anyways. I mean, that’s why you’re here right? You allow me to talk incessantly about the crap that runs through my brain 18 hours per day and I reward you at the end of it all with a tasty recipe. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship we’ve got going on here. Capiche?

Back to the pet peeve. Restaurants that serve you a bowl of lettuce with a sprinkle of shredded carrots and call it a side salad. Dude, that’s not a salad. That’s lettuce with some shredded carrots on it.

Get Excited About Salad! | Once Upon a Recipe

In fact, I blame restaurants that make fake salads for turning people off of salads. Giving them a bad rep. Lettuce with shredded carrots on it isn’t exciting! It’s rabbit food!

But adding fun toppings like nuts, cheese, veggies, dried fruit, and a delicious dressing? Now that’s something to get excited about. Take the salad you see here, for instance. A bed of mixed greens is totally more exciting than plain ol’ lettuce. Toasted walnuts – yes. Dried cranberries – wicked. Creamy goat cheese – yes siree. Crumbled bacon – heck yeah. Top it off with a homemade vinaigrette and a hardboiled egg or two for some added protein and that right there is a complete and fantastic meal.

Get Excited About Salad! | Once Upon a Recipe

Dudes will like this salad too! (I credit the bacon for that one) I took this salad to a dinner party to serve as its own course (minus the hardboiled egg). It was a HUGE hit with the ladies and the dudes. The flavors work really well together and the whole thing is just so darn satisfying. I also included halved cherry tomatoes, but didn’t have any on hand when I made it again last weekend. I highly recommend that you add them as they provide a sweet little juicy pop.

Get Excited About Salad! | Once Upon a Recipe

Feel free to play around too! Think of this recipe as a guideline for creating a really well-balanced and flavorful salad. If you don’t like walnuts, try almonds or pecans. Not a fan of goat cheese? Try feta or parmesan cheese. Want to make this vegetarian? Omit the bacon. If you’re making a meal out of it, trying adding grilled chicken in place of the egg. Or grilled tofu! Tuna or salmon! The possibilities are endless. Get into it!

Get Excited About Salad! | Once Upon a Recipe

The Get Excited About Salad Salad (adapted from

The cherry tomatoes aren’t shown here, but please add them if you can. As mentioned, if you’re making this as a side salad or for a salad course, the hardboiled egg or added protein can be left out. But if you’re making this salad into a meal, definitely add your protein of choice to ensure hunger satisfaction. The dressing is wonderful and could really be used on any salad. It will make more than you need for this recipe, so store any leftovers in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge and use on other salads throughout the week.

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad (serves 2 as a meal, 4 as a side):

  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 3 cups mixed greens
  • 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 ounce of goat cheese, crumbled
  • 4 strips of thick-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 eggs, hardboiled (optional)

To toast the walnuts, spread them out onto a baking sheet and toast them in the oven at 350°F for about 8-10 minutes. Combine all of the dressing ingredients, minus the olive oil, in a small bowl. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking constantly as you do so. Set aside.

Combine the mixed greens, toasted walnuts, cherry tomatoes, and dried cranberries in a large bowl. Add the dressing (to taste – you will not need all of it) and toss to coat. Split the salad onto 2 (or 4) plates and then evenly sprinkle with the goat cheese and bacon. Slice the hardboiled egg and add one egg to each salad. Enjoy!

PS. I totally just made this again for dinner last night and added a fried egg. It was mega!

PPS. What makes a salad great for you?

The Deadly Sins of Grocery Shopping | Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Sweet Onion Vinaigrette

Can I tell you something that I’m really bad at? And by bad I mean that I don’t do it “right”.

Grocery shopping.

It seems a bit ironic, considering how much time I spend in the kitchen. One would think I would be very organized. But the truth is, I fly by the seat of my pants when it comes to grocery shopping.

In fact, I tend to frequently commit several of the “deadly sins” of grocery shopping. [Dun dun duuunnn!] There, I said it. My name is Amanda and I stink at grocery shopping.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The good intentions are there. I start with a list, the first rule of smart grocery shopping. Nevermind the fact that I am usually scrawling my list down on a scrap of paper at my desk at work before leaving for the day. With little memory of what might already be lurking within my fridge and cupboards. “I think there’s sour cream somewhere in there…oh, whatever, I’ll grab some just in case.” (Which ultimately leads to the discovery of three containers of moldy sour cream taking up precious real estate in my fridge a month later). And nevermind that fact that I rarely have an actual meal plan at this point, other than the meal ideas floating around in my head. But I have a list.

Unfortunately, it all goes a bit downhill from there. First of all, I rarely go grocery shopping when I’m not hungry. In fact, I’m typically starving as I stalk the aisles for satisfying solutions. (This mad hunger typically results in me tearing open a box of cereal in the car and shoving handfuls of it in my mouth as I make the 5-minute drive home). But hungry grocery shopping can be so fun! The sense of adventure! The magnified desire to try totally unnecessary, typically expensive new things!

Secondly, coupons? What now? I know that I could supposedly cut my grocery bill in half by poring over the flyers that show up on my doorstep each week. But honestly, I don’t have the patience for it. Those flyers go straight from my mailbox into the recycle bin. I show them no mercy.

Thirdly, I spend way too much time in there. I saunter through the aisles, checking things out, and give myself way too much time to find completely unnecessary things. Completely. Unnecessary. Me and impulse buys are likethis. Which leads me to commit yet another sin: not sticking to my list.

Did I mention that sometimes I look up recipes while I’m strolling the aisles? Damn you iPhone, why do you make it so easy?!

Clearly, I’m far from perfect. But I totally pulled my act together last week when I came across this salad recipe in a cookbook lent to me by a coworker called Whitewater Cooks at Home. I am a big lover of goat cheese, so the thought of creamy goat cheese coated in bread crumbs and then fried until golden brown caught my attention, and everything else was just gravy. So I made myself a list, I went to the grocery store, and I came out only with what I needed. Success!

And then I went home and I made this salad. I ate nearly the entire thing because while I had planned well for the salad, I had not made any plans for what would accompany it. Small steps, right? Dinner was followed by watching Harry Potter and eating these cookies. Does that sound like a perfect evening or what?

Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Sweet Onion Vinaigrette (adapted from Whitewater Cooks at Home)

This salad does not have quite enough heft to be eaten as a meal, but makes for a wonderful side dish or starter salad. Or feel free to give it some oomph by adding a grilled chicken breast or another form of protein. 

For the salad:

8 cups of mixed greens

2/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1 1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

1 egg mixed with 1 TBSP. water

6 oz. soft goat cheese

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/4 cup pinenuts, toasted

For the dressing: 

2 TBSP. olive oil

1/2 cup sweet white onion, diced finely

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

2 TBSP. maple syrup

1/3 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup vegetable oil, for frying

Mix together the breadcrumbs, dried basil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Put the egg mixture into another small bowl. Roll the goat cheese into small balls (about 1 TBSP. each), for a total of 12 balls of cheese. Dip the cheese balls into the egg mixture, then into the breadcrumb mixture, pressing the breadcrumbs into the cheese to coat it. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour (longer if possible).

Prepare the dressing by heating the 2 TBSP. of olive oil and sautéing the onion until softened and golden brown. Add in the white wine vinegar and maple syrup and reduce for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the 1/3 cup olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. It’s important to get the oil hot here, so that you can quickly brown each cheese ball on all sides without melting the cheese! Go for it – you can do it! When done frying, place the balls on a plate lined with a paper towel while you assemble the rest of the salad.

To assemble the salad, toss the greens with the dressing (you may not need all of the dressing) and divide the greens between 4 plates. Place 3 balls of cheese on each plate and sprinkle with the dried cherries and pine nuts. Serve immediately.

PS. It is totally important to eat salads the week before you run a half marathon. At least, I’m pretty sure it is. I’m off to the mountains on Saturday to run mine (eek!) so I’ll let you know the final verdict next week! xoxo

PPS. Are you a “good” grocery shopper? Tell me your secrets!

A Guest Post | Goat Cheese Tart with Honey and Figs

Aloha friends. Can I ask you a serious question?

Where the deuce did Summer go? One minute the heat has me more hot and bothered than a lonely housewife reading 50 Shades of Grey at a Magic Mike screening (thanks someecards), and the next minute I’m pulling out my boots, scarves, and turning on my seat heaters during my early morning commute to work. What gives?

Just like that, Fall is here. Don’t get me wrong, I love Fall. Crisp air, gorgeous colors, cozy sweaters, delicious treats (aka. pumpkin everything)…I adore it all. Unfortunately, around these parts, Fall lasts a cool hot minute and then it’s suddenly Winter. For six. long. months.

However…these days I’m focusing my efforts on being a glass half full kind of gal, so let’s nip this Winter talk in the bud and hone in on something positive.

Did you know that fresh figs are in season in late Summer/early Fall? Did you know that if you pair up fresh figs with puff pastry, creamy goat cheese, honey, and fresh rosemary, little tiny leprechauns will do a dance on your taste buds and fireworks will erupt in the sky?

You didn’t?! Well then, get your fannies on over to my lovely friend Kristy’s blog, A Gastronomical Sovereignty, where I tell you exactly how to make this taste bud extravaganza (aka. a Goat Cheese Tart with Honey and Figs) happen. And while you’re there, check out Kristy’s space – where she shares stories about her ethical culinary adventures, and drinks wine while she’s at it. No wonder we get along so well. 🙂

PS. Let’s reminisce about Summer. What was the best thing you did/saw/ate over the past few months?

Eat and Be Merry | Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tartlets













Ahoy mates! I am THIS happy (x 1000) to be back here!

One piece of advice for all of you lovelies…do NOT, ever, under any circumstances, plan a move for December 1. Now, I didn’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter, and consider myself lucky that things worked out the way that they did. It coulda been a lot worse, and so I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, you know what I’m sayin’? But, please try to avoid a December move if at all possible.













‘Cause then, when all you want to do is enjoy the wonderfuness of this holiday season (the decorating, the baking, the parties, the eating, the shopping), you’ll be faced with the unfortunate task of unpacking and organizing. Not a good time my friends, not a good time.

However, should you find yourself in such a predicament, there is a solution. Listen close friends, this is golden advice. Ready?

Unpack and organize the essentials…your kitchen, your bedroom, and your living room…and shove everything else into a room, shut the door, and don’t go back in that dang room until January. Problem solved! 🙂 Don’t tell me I never gave you any good advice.













On to the good stuff! See these beautiful little tartlets?

Make ’em and take ’em to a party this holiday season. Or throw your own party and give ’em a place at your table. They are quick and simple, but big on flavor. The shallots become so sweet and caramelized, they don’t even taste like shallots! Not that I have anything against the little guys. Mega-delicious. A definite party hit!













Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tartlets (from a friend of a friend)

6 shallots, chopped finely

2 TBSP. olive oil

2 TBSP. balsamic vinegar

3 TBSP. brown sugar

Salt and pepper, to taste

5 ounces of goat cheese, cut into 24 hunks

2 eggs, beaten

2/3 cup milk

24 mini tart shells

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prebake the tarts for 10 minutes and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, and sauté for a few minutes, or until they start to turn clear. Add the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and salt and pepper. Allow the mixture to reduce and the shallots to caramelize (about 6-7 minutes). Fill each tart shell with a small amount of the caramelized shallots. Top with a hunk of goat cheese. Mix the eggs and milk together, and season with salt and pepper. Fill the remainder of each tart shell with the milk/egg mixture. Bake immediately for an additional 20-25 minutes, or until the tarts are set and golden brown. Serve warm.













There’s just one problem with that awesome advice I was dishing out earlier. I can’t find anything.

Happy Labor Day | Grilled Peach Salad with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Reduction

Mother Nature delivered this weekend, just as predicted. The weather was beautiful – warm and sunny with a lovely little Fall breeze. Apparently Summer isn’t quite ready to leave us, and to be honest, I’m glad she stuck around. I spent most of my time outside, reading another good book and browning my skin a little bit more. I hung out with friends at a big BBQ, and strolled along Whyte Avenue in the wee hours of the morning in just a light sweater. I even went for a run yesterday, breaking in my legs for what I hope to be an Autumn filled with cool evenings, perfect for running. There is a 10km run at the end of the month, and it’s calling my name.
Isn’t it interesting how the weather affects appetite? What you want to eat and how you want to prepare it? Just a few days ago I was craving a scone filled with the flavors of Fall, and now all I want to eat is fresh summer fruit and barbequed goodness. Craziness. My uncle just returned from BC and brought with him an enormous amount of fresh peaches to share. What do you do when you’re given 5 dozen fresh peaches? You eat them at every opportunity – breakfast, lunch, and supper. And dessert of course.
This weekend, I made this salad twice. It was so simple, yet so delicious. Grilling the peaches does wild (and good) things to their flavor, and the goat cheese and balsamic reduction are the perfect accompaniment. I could eat this every day. And then I would eat peach pie for dessert. Summer love.

Grilled Peach Salad with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Reduction

4 cups of mixed greens
2 peaches, cut in half and pitted
4 tsp. olive oil, divided
1 cup of goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Fire up your grill to medium high heat. Brush the peaches with 2 tsp. of the olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Grill the peaches, cut side down, for about 4-5 minutes, until lightly charred. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. In the meantime, pour the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Allow the balsamic vinegar to reduce, becoming slightly thick and syrupy. This will take about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Prepare the mixed greens by tossing with the remaining olive oil, and seasoning with salt and pepper. To plate the salad, fill each plate with about 1 cup of the mixed greens. Slice each peach half into 4, and place over the greens. Sprinkle with the crumbled goat cheese, and drizzle with the balsamic reduction. Enjoy! Serves 4.

Creamy and Dreamy Amore | Beet Risotto

I wish I could tell you that the beets used in this recipe came from my garden. That I planted them, nourished them to grow, gave them my love, and harvested them myself. But you see, where I live, we are still shoveling snow. Snow that fell on April 14 to be exact. All 10 cm of it. There ain’t no vegetables growin’ round these parts. But I want you to know, that if I lived in a climate that was more conducive to growing anything for more than a few months out of the year, I definitely would have grown these myself.

Well…I would have tried to grow them myself. But unfortunately, I have a black thumb, the deathly version of it’s lively counterpart, the green thumb. I have a curse. I cannot keep plants or flowers alive. They wither as soon as they set root or stem on my property. I will never have the pleasure of telling people that the delicious vegetables they are tasting came from my garden. Thank goodness for farmer’s markets, or else I would be forever destined for a life of tasteless grocery store produce! Depressing eh?

Honey’s lovely sister (and fellow foodie) emailed me a few weeks ago with this recipe for beet risotto. I knew I had to try it as soon as possible when she described it as tasting like “f—ing amazing creamy lovestyle italian amore.” Whoa. Yes please.

So last night, with fingers stained red with beet juice, I tasted this heavenly dish, and totally echoed her sentiments. And added in a hell yeah. Now I don’t want to be pushy, but you might want to go to the store right now (or your garden, if you don’t live in Santa’s backyard or have a black thumb like me), and buy these ingredients, and make this for dinner. Tonight.

Because we can all use a little extra amore.

Beet Risotto

2 beets (about 3″ in diameter), peeled and diced small

1 onion, chopped small

1/4 cup butter

1 cup arborio rice

3 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)

1 TBSP. balsamic vinegar

1/4-1/2 cup goat cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the beets and onion, and cook for 8 minutes (stir to allow the onion to caramelize). Mix in the rice, broth, and balsamic vinegar. Increase the heat. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the rice is tender and the risotto is creamy (like amore, as honey’s sister says), stirring occasionally (about 15 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the goat cheese. If you are not a goat cheese fan, you could substitute feta cheese, but trust me, the goat cheese really enhances the flavor of the beets. Enjoy!
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