Easy Weekday Meal: Chef Salad

After spending an awesome weekend in Park City, Utah with family and friends celebrating one of my bestie’s wedding, I needed something that would take away the shakes and make me start to feel a little more human again.

I love a chef salad, but they are definitely one of those salads that calories can overtake the effectiveness in restaurants quite easily, so it’s always been one of my favorite make at home salads.


On a large plate layer chopped romaine, spinach, and kale.  In stripes, add halved cherry tomatoes, cubed avocado, crumbled goat cheese and bleu cheese, a sliced hard boiled egg, and diced chicken.  Serve with your favorite ranch dressing (mine is Bolthouse Yogurt Ranch).

Recently I feel like I’ve finally nailed the hard boiled egg.  Sounds simple, those eggs, but they aren’t always that way.

Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs:

-Start with old eggs, the older the better.  This makes them easier to peel.
-Place the eggs in your pot and cover with cold water to about an inch over the top of the eggs.
-Bring to a boil.
-Take off the heat.
-Cover, and wait 12 minutes.
-Rinse with cold water until they are no longer warm.

Moist Grilled Chicken:

-Take a chicken breast and sprinkle both sides with salt/pepper, then place in a plastic bag, or cover in plastic wrap.
-Pound to about an inch thick.
-Grill for 7-8 minutes each side on medium-high heat. Do not cut into it to check temperature or doneness.
-Let rest for 1-2 minutes.

Happy summer!


Guinness Cake with Baileys Frosting

St. Patrick’s Day is a big day in our house, this comes from R’s side of the family, who really goes big on March 17 annually.  My first St. Patrick’s Day with the Hanley’s, I flew up from SLC to visit Rory in Bozeman and we drove back to Billings to spend the holiday with his family.  A couple memories stand out from that trip, sipping Amaretto with R’s grandmother, then watching her complete a full jig while all the young cousins tried to keep up, and of course the Corned Beef and Cabbage.

Last week, we couldn’t make it back to Montana for the big day so we hosted a get together at our house and I prepared Corned Beef and Cabbage, plenty of potatoes, coleslaw, and the finale, Guinness Cake.


Instead of the traditional cream cheese frosting, I whipped in a couple tablespoons of Baileys.  The result was rich, sweet, and tasted a lot like an Irish Carbomb.


Although St. Paddy’s Day has passed, this cake would make a great Father’s Day treat as well.


P.S.  Nigella’s recipe can be found converted and adapted a bit here to use American style measurements.

Grilled Salmon and Cucumber Salsa

My friend Lindsey is temporarily back in the area and I couldn’t be more excited.  She came over last week and we collaborated on a salmon dinner served with cucumber salsa.  We were feeling inspired by Ashley, the chef behind one of my favorite Seattle blogs, Not Without Salt, having never poached salmon before, I decided to do what I know and treat my big side of fresh Copper River Salmon to the grill.

Salmon is quintessential in the Northwest, and it is a food that is full of memories for me.  Rory and I were in Alaska with my family on a salmon fishing trip when we got engaged.  We brought home 50 pounds of fish from that trip.

1000 Wonderful Things Salmon

Catch of the day in Yakutat, Alaska (2009).

We were giving it away to our friends and coworkers and still months later, I would pull a bag of salmon out of the freezer, researching new recipes as it thawed.  In the mean time, we found our favorite techniques for preparing the fish.  It is easy to overcook it, but a true Northwester will tell you that if the fish is quality, it can be on the rare side of medium rare and coast into perfect texture once removed from the heat.

1000 Wonderful Things Grilled Salmon

This recipe can be adapted according to what you have on hand, but the basic technique is the same.

Barbeque Salmon

– Using pliers and feeling along the fillet pull the larger eye bones out – this isn’t necessary, but for guests, it makes it much more pleasant to eat.
– Preheat grill to medium high.
– Lay the fish on a piece of heavy duty foil that is big enough to fold up along the edges.
– Season using fennel seeds, green garlic, fresh garlic sliced, fresh chopped dill, salt and pepper.
– Thinly slice a full lemon and lay on top of the fish.
– Grill for about 12-15 minutes (depending on thickness, we usually do about 8 minutes per inch) and let rest for 10 minutes.
– Serve salmon warm with cucumber salsa.

1000 Wonderful Things Cucumber Salsa

Cucumber Salsa Recipe via Not Without Salt, it packed some serious heat from the serrano chili.  Next time, I think we would use a jalapeno instead.




Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

As a kid, my grandmother always had cookies at her house.  My parents didn’t keep junk food in the house, let alone cookies, so going to Grandma Jeanne’s always meant we would get to have either a ginger snap or oatmeal cookie after lunch.  A couple years ago I made this Bon Appetit Chewy Triple Ginger Cookie Recipe and it was delicious, but pretty labor intensive given the amount of ingredients.  Recently, I picked up the Tom Douglas Dahlia Bakery Cookbook and marked the recipe for Old Fashioned Molasses Cookies with Fresh Ginger.  Last night I combined parts of both recipes for these Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies.


Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

-3/4 cup (1.5 cubes) unsalted butter
-1 cup light brown sugar
-1 large egg
-1/4 cup molasses
-2 teaspoons fresh ginger peeled and grated
-2 cups flour
-2 teaspoons baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add molasses, egg, and fresh ginger and mix to combine.  In a separate bowl whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together.  Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and combine.  Add the crystallized ginger and mix until evenly dispersed.

Refrigerate dough for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour 1/2 cup of sugar in the raw (or regular white sugar if you don’t have coarse kind) in a bowl.  Form 3/4 inch balls of dough with your hands and roll in the sugar.  Place on parchment lined cookie sheets 2-3″ apart and squish down with your hand so the ball is flattened.

Bake for 7-8 minutes or until golden brown and set around the edges but slightly soft in the center.

Tip: If dough starts to get soft while you are putting on cookie sheets, return to fridge until it’s set again.

These would make great ice cream sandwiches – put a scoop of chocolate ice cream between 2 cookies and wham bam, delicious dessert!




The Great Nanaimo Bar Search

Most foods are associated with a memory.  For me, my first memory of eating a nanaimo bar was when I was in high school.  I had been invited on a ski trip to Whistler with my friend Meaghan’s family.  We were lucky that a group of our friends could be up there at the same time with their parents or friend’s parents as well.  I think this trip, there were about 15 kids all from our same group of buddies skiing together.  Each day, we would meet Meaghan’s parents for lunch on the mountain.  Following lunch, her dad would leave and come back to the table with coffee for both Meaghan’s mom and himself and a treat to share.  He would alternate between a cookie, a nanaimo bar (my personal favorite) and a brownie.


I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to join Meaghan’s family many more times to Whistler during both the summer and the winter.  And each time, during lunch at least one of the days, I would track down a nanaimo to share.  Over this past Christmas, I was with Meaghan’s family once again, and after I finished my lunch, I stopped at the bakery to pick up the treat, we had decided on a later lunch time and they were out.  Okay, it wasn’t a big deal.  I was up there again last weekend with some friends, I knew I needed my nanaimo fix.  I headed toward the lodge bakery again, when I asked the girl working if they had any nainamo bars she looked at me like I was a lunatic, she had no idea what I was talking about.  At this point, I’d been telling everyone how excited I was for nanaimos and it was starting to get a little embarrassing.

Later the next day, my friend Lindsey suggested I check the case at the grocery store.  FA LA LA!!! I had found the nanaimos!  I immediately gathered a family pack into my arms and then realized in my Caesar induced haze, I didn’t have my wallet.


I was just running into the building to grab my sunglasses from upstairs, and then meet up with the rest of the group.  Luckily, when we returned to the area later for supplies, the nanaimos were still there (I had been a little afraid that someone else was on the same hunt that I was).


They were everything I hoped for and more.  The melty chocolatey top, the custard center, and brownie style bottom are the perfect bite of richness.

3 hours later and a few sake-ritas from Sushi Village and the nanaimo family package was just a memory.


This past Sunday, nearly a week after returning from Whistler, I had to fulfill my need for more nanaimo.  My mom’s friend Jane sent me her recipe, which turned out fantastic.


Nanaimo Bars from the collection of Jane Bertramson

1st Layer:

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup brown or white sugar (I used brown)
3 Tbsp baking cocoa
1 beaten egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (I used pecans)

Mix butter, sugar, cocoa, egg and vanilla over low heat until custard like consistency. (*Watch closely and stir constantly – it overcooks easily.) Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Mix well and press into 9″ square greased pan.  Chill 1/2 hour.

2nd Layer:

2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup evaporated milk

Combine and beat until smooth and fluffy. Spread on 1st layer and chill 1/2 hour.

3rd Layer:

4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 cup butter

Melt together and spread over 2nd layer.  Chill at least 1/2 hour or overnight before serving.  *If chilled several hours or overnight, remove from refrigerator 1/2 hour before cutting.  Cut into 1″ squares.