Skinny Chicken Caesar Salad

>> Monday, September 29, 2014

Skinny chicken caesar salad

We didn't eat as many healthy foods as we wanted to this summer. Sadly, it was a summer of drive-through lunches and meetings in restaurants with way too much temptation. I think it's safe to say this was a summer spent on the run.

Luckily, we have very health conscious friends who help us be our best selves, not our most self-indulgent selves.When we arranged for a picnic at Ravinia, an outdoor concert venue north of Chicago, Joe tossed up this tried-and-true light Caesar salad that he's been making for years. It's unbelievable quick and tasty.

Wine, fruit, and salad were all we needed to round out an evening under the stars, listening to Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and finally sitting back to relax.


For the Dressing

¼ cup fat-free egg substitute

1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

3 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp anchovy paste or Asian fish sauce

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 tsp ground black pepper

3 cups cooked chicken (for this evening, Joe picked up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store; usually we make this with leftover chicken or roast chicken breast)

1 large head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

1 1/2 cups nonfat croutons

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese


Blend the dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. 

Place the lettuce in a bowl and pour the dressing over it. Add the chicken, croutons, and cheese and toss until well combined.

Note: because we were picnicking at the concert, we brought the dressing and salad ingredients in different containers and mixed it together at the park.

Serves 4.

Skinny chicken caesar salad


Peruvian Potatoes with Cheese Sauce (Papas a la Huacaina)

>> Sunday, September 21, 2014

Papas a la Huacaina

What a whirlwind summer we've had! Though our recipe posts have become farther apart, and stopped altogether for a month, don't think for a minute that we have fallen out of love with food. In fact, we've tested enough new recipes to stock the next year. 

In between my librarian work and marketing work for the local chamber of commerce, I've also been experimenting with art. Joe's been experimenting with having man friends and leisure time, something he hasn't allowed himself in quite a while. When you're raising kids, you don't have much spare time.

But now we've gotten to the lovely part of life where our children are our friends and we have much more time to cultivate our interests. And that's where this recipe comes in. To celebrate Joe's birthday, First Born found a Peruvian restaurant on the north side of Chicago, Ay Ay Picante (4569 N Elston Ave)None of us had tried Peruvian food before, but we learned their cuisine has a strong Asian influence and the backbone of their traditional recipes are seafood and potatoes.

I have become addicted to these potatoes. It's a surprising change on traditional potato salad, or a warm and comforting dish that is hearty enough for a main meal. The luscious sauce is what makes this dish so alluring. It is the authentic version of that orange cheese sauce they put on nachos. It's what nacho cheese sauce wants to be when it grows up.

I bet we could find a dozen other uses for the cheese sauce, but for now, we'll just pour it generously over the papas.


For the Sauce
 1 Pound of queso fresco (fresh farmer's cheese)
 Dash of Salt and Pepper
1 poblano pepper or large banana pepper, seeded
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded (note: you can use all banana or poblano peppers if you like it very hot)
1 can of evaporated milk
1 cup crumbled saltine crackers (about 15 crackers)

For the Potatoes
6 large red potatoes 
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, cut in half
Lettuce leaves
4 eggs
2 tbsp snipped chives or green onions


Boil the potatoes and eggs together until the potatoes are tender. Allow to cool. Peel the potatoes and eggs and cut into slices. If you will be serving the dish cold, chill the potatoes and eggs until ready to serve; otherwise, leave at room temperature.

Put all the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until thick and smooth. Pour into a saucepan and slowly heat up the sauce until it starts to bubble, stirring constantly. 

If you are serving the dish cold, allow the sauce to cool to room temperature before assembling. Otherwise, lay down a bed of lettuce and arrange the potatoes on top. Pour the sauce over the potatoes, then garnish with the chives, olives, and eggs.

Serves 4 as a main meal.


Heirloom Tomato Tart

>> Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Heirloom Tomato Tart

Last summer, my friend Talea made me this tomato pie for lunch one day, and I loved it so much I got her recipe. It's actually a traditional recipe from the Lyons region of France, and perfect for those funny-looking heirloom tomatoes. I've been wanting to post this recipe for the last year.

Up until now, the tomato crop hasn't been so great because of cool weather in the Midwest. The tomatoes I've found at farmer's markets were way too expensive ($7.00 for one pie, anyone?). But last Friday, I stopped by the little farmer's stand near us, run by sassy Ida and Sal. Ida was putting away the produce she had left after two days of farmer's markets in different towns. She offered me her last few Brandywine and yellow globe tomatoes at a regular tomato price, so I scooted home to make a pie. In fact, I had so many tomatoes that we ended up making two pies.

Angela Williams Duea photography

One of the many reasons I love Joe is his fantastic skill at making a pastry crust. Pure delight.


1 single layer pie crust (we love this recipe for Murbteig pie crust, but pre-made is good and quick, too)
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp mayonnaise
4 ounces swiss cheese, grated
1 1/2 pounds fresh Heirloom tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried herbes de Provence (a mixture of oregano, basil, majoram, tarragon, and thyme)
3 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp fine bread crumbs
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 tsp olive oil

Heirloom Tomato Tart


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Oil a pie or tart pan. Place the crust in the pan and pinch the edges. If using fresh pie crust, place it in the freezer on wax paper for a few minutes before transferring it to the pan - it will hold together better.

Prick the crust all over and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, until the crust is puffed and golden. Take it out of the oven and let it cool while making the pie ingredients. Turn the oven to 375 degrees.

Slice each tomato in half and squeeze out the seeds. Slice each half into 1/4" slices, and let them drain in a colander for 10 minutes (this helps prevent a soggy crust and a soupy filling). 

Stir together the mustard, mayonnaise, , salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence. Spread half of the mixture on the crust, then sprinkle on half of the cheese. Layer half the tomatoes over the cheese. Repeat with the second half of the mustard, cheese, and tomatoes.

Stir together the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese, and sprinkle over the top of the pie. Scatter the basil leaves over the crumbs, then drizzle the pie with the olive oil. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for 15-20 more minutes, until the crust is browned and the pie is cooked through.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4.

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