Tag Archives: lunch

Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad

Is it safe? Can it be true? Spring, is that you?

It is gorgeous out this week. Sunny, warm (not unbearably hot), with flowers blooming, and the first whiff of cut grass in the air. Oh spring, you have come with all your glory and I beg you to stay a couple of weeks – a month or 2 even! Don’t let summer overwhelm you with her oppressive heavy humidity.

Every year when spring rolls around I loudly declare that this – THIS – is my favorite season of all. I may also say the same thing come autumn, but that’s just lust for cooler temps and desperation speak, spring is the one I truly love. And this year has been especially wonderful because I have the space to actually celebrate spring with a little gardening of my own.

Fresh spinach and arugula anyone?

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Come spring I find myself craving the ease and portability of a simple chicken salad or tuna salad. Delicious over lettuce and veggies for a light lunch after working in the yard, great with crackers as a low-mess shareable dish on a picnic, and a perfect portable pita pocket* sandwich enjoyed outside during your lunch break. This recipe makes a lot of food and would be really wonderful at an outdoor potluck or BBQ (maybe this Memorial Day weekend even!), but even with just Tom and I eating it, it’s stayed good for over a week, and was great to have on hand for last minute lunches for both of us. The dill brings a great light freshness to the salad that is complimented well by the sour bite of the apple, which also adds a satisfying crunch along with the celery.

Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad 1

*We definitely need more alliteration in our lives.

Dill & Green Apple Chicken Salad
4 chicken breasts
1½ dry white wine
Poaching liquid aromatics (1 large clove, 3-4 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves)
4  stalks of celery
2 large shallots
1 x-large green apple
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
juice of 2 large lemons
¾ chopped dill
salt & pepper

1)     Combine white wine, bay leaves, 1 shallot cut in half, and 3-4 crushed garlic cloves with enough water to cover all 4 chicken breasts. Bring water to a boil and reduce to a low simmer. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts you are using. Remove from poaching liquid and let cool completely.

Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad - cooking the chicken

Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad - poach chicken

2)    Once cool dice the chicken in cubes about a quarter inch in size and place in a large bowl.

Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad - dice the chicken

3)     Next chop up your celery, shallots, and green apple in a size well matched with the diced chicken. Toss chicken and chopped veggies/apple together.

Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad - prep the veggies

4)     In a large measuring cup or medium sized bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, chopped dill, and salt & pepper to taste. Add to the chicken mixture, stirring well to coat. Cover and let rest overnight to really let the flavors meld.

Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad - chop the dill
Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad - dressing
Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad - mix the ingredients

5)     Eat. Eat as a sandwich. Eat on crackers (Tom’s preferred method). Eat on top of spinach. Or, like me, eat it right out of the bowl… sooooo good!

Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad 2


Gluten Free Pizza Dough

GF Pizza Crust 5When my sister mentioned a week before Thanksgiving she was going completely gluten free I wanted to reach through the phone and slap her silly.  Power to her for the life-style change, but I’m the one in charge of  all the holiday family meals.  I’m the one that had to figure it all out!  How about more than a week’s notice, please?  Luckily for both of us  my curious and experimental nature had already lead me to some dabbling in gluten free recipes.

Now I’m not much of a fad person myself, but I do respect the will-power of those who chose restrictive life-styles (for whatever reasons).  I also GF Pizza Crust 4empathize with those living with food allergies.  However, what is often left out of the conversation are those, like me, that do not have these restrictions, but find themselves thrust suddenly into that world. Emilie and I were discussing this not too long ago just after the New Year.

Who doesn’t love to accommodate their friends and family, but can you imagine how bad your host(ess) might feel if they didn’t know of your GF Pizza Crust 3recent vegan conversion and watched you pick at your bacon wrapped  steak and butter topped asparagus all evening?  Forewarned is forearmed!  Don’t feel bad about giving someone a heads up about your allergies or special diet. When Emilie and I were visiting a friend in San Francisco one Spring Break, I made sure to mentioned that it was Lent, which, after receiving a family dinner invite on a Friday night, allowed enough notice for a Lent friendly meal that everyone could enjoy.  When my friend Sue is in town, I know to keep a container of soy milk on hand for her coffee since she is allergic to dairy.  Now that my sister is gluten-free, I have engineered gluten-free versions of our favorite family GF Pizza Crust 6holiday recipes.  However,  there are still folks that might feel uncomfortable at the potential inconvenience.  Emilie has a great tactic for that.  She offers to bring a dish! This tactic not only ensures there will be at least one thing you can eat, but provides an easy opening to mention what you are not able to eat as well as eases any feeling of inconvenience, because you’re bringing the dish.  Not a bad idea huh?

With that said, many of you are like Emilie and me: food lovers.  We like to eat and cook new things, unfamiliar things.   Our friends are lucky, because we’re the most likely to have that paleo vegan, gluten-soy-nut free recipe in our back pocket.  We’re always experimenting.  My favorite food “fad” to experiment is, as I’ve mentioned, gluten-free substitutions.  So, without further adieu,  for your back-pocket I present this gluten free, thin crust pizza dough!

GF Pizza Dough Pizza 2 cu 2

Gluten Free Pizza Dough

makes 2 9″x 9″ personal pizza crusts

GF Pizza Dough Ingredients

  • 2 ½  cups Gluten-Free Flour (see recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons dried milk powder or dairy-free creamer
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon honey or granulated sugar
  • 1 5/16 ounce package of instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (for dough)
  • olive oil for pan
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal for dusting
  1. In a large bowl, blend together the gluten free flour mix, dried milk, baking powder, and corn starch.  Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, add yeast, olive oil, and warm water along with ½ cup of the dry ingredients.GF Pizza Dough Yeast Mixture
  3. Stir to combine and set aside for about 30 minutes.  Mixture should be bubbly and smell yeasty.GF Pizza Dough Yeast Ready
  4. When yeast is ready, add to the remaining dry ingredients.GF Pizza Dough Adding Yeast and Flour
  5. Using a stand or hand mixer, mix at medium-high speed until dough forms. It will not be like the pizza dough you’ve probably made in the past. Instead it will be sticky, like spackling.GF Pizza Dough Sticky Stuff
  6. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 425° Fahrenheit .
  8. Divide dough in half.  If not using right away, grease two sheets of plastic wrap and wrap the two halves separately.GF Pizza Dough Dividing
  9. For a single personal pizza, grease a 9” x 13” baking sheet with olive oil and dust with cornmeal.
  10. Place one of the pizza halves on the baking sheet. Wet your fingers and begin working the dough outwards beginning from the center.  You should be able to get a 9″ x 9″ crust.GF Pizza Dough Forming Crust
  11. Let the dough rest for 10-15 minutes before baking the crust in the oven for 8-10 minutes.GF Pizza Dough Crust Resting
  12. Your crust is now ready to become a pizza. After adding desired toppings, bake pizza for about another 10 minutes.GF Pizza Dough Starting to Make Pizza

GF Pizza Dough Topping Pizza    GF Pizza Dough Pizza 2 in the oven

Leeks Vinaigrette Sandwich

It is not hard to get stuck in a rut when it comes to weekday lunches. At my office there is this one gentlemen who, since he started 6 months ago, has eaten the same thing everyday – a big bowl of spaghetti from home. While I’m sure its nice to know exactly what you are eating everyday and not have to add menu planning to an already difficult morning routine, I don’t know that I could last one week on such a boring diet. I get around the potential for boredom by freezing a lot of individual leftover portions, but sometimes those run out and I need something fresh and new to pack in my lunch bag. So I was pretty excited several weeks ago when several leftover Easter eggs and a vague memory of a French dish I’d once heard of inspired me to create a rich, tasty spin on an egg salad sandwich. The recipe was perfect for 2-3 sandwiches, just the right amount to make things interesting and but not so many I was risking falling back into a rut.

Leeks vinegarette sandwich

I had heard once, quite some time ago, about a French dish involving leeks, hard boiled eggs, and vinaigrette called, unsurprisingly, leeks vinaigrette. The traditional recipe calls for several boiled leeks topped with a simple vinaigrette and chopped eggs, but with just one leek in the fridge that recipe wasn’t going to work. Being someone who loves egg sandwiches in whatever their form – egg salad sandwiches, scrambled eggs on toast, even the occasional fried egg on a burger – I decided to make my own spin on leeks vinaigrette between two slices of bread.

The sandwich is wonderful in its simplicity with just 4 ingredients: bread, eggs, marinated leeks, and mayonaise. What takes it up a notch is the complexity of the herbed mayo with the tanginess of the leeks. It is in these two flavorful sub-components that all of the ingredients find their home. Below are recipes for both the leeks and the mayo and a simple explanation on how I combined it all in the sandwich.

Leeks Vinaigrette Sandwich
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
2 slices whole grain bread

Marinated Leeks
1 large leek
½ cup champagne vinegar
¹⁄3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon horseradish grain mustard
salt & pepper

marinate leeks in vinegarette, 2

Herbed Mayo
2 tablespoons mayo
1 finely diced clove of garlic
3 teaspoons finely copped chives

1)     Begin by preparing your leeks, as you want to let them marinate for about a day before using. Thinly slice the white and pale green parts of 1 leek. Separate the leek rings and rinse well. Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients and add sliced leek to the bowl. Coat well, cover, and place in the refrigerator for about 24 hours.

Marinate leeks in vinegarette

2)     At the same time you prepare the leeks, mix together the mayo, garlic, and chives so the flavors have time to marry.

make herb mayo

3)    To assemble the sandwich: Spread a thin layer of mayo on the inside of each slice of bread. Spread about a quarter cup of well drained leeks over one slice of bread. Layer sliced hard boiled egg over the leeks, top with second bread slice and enjoy.

pile with leeks layer eggs on top

White Bean Spread and Artichoke Sandwich

Beans are a superfood. Tell me I’m wrong. They are packed with protein and fiber. They have been shown to lower bad cholesterol and help with weight loss and general healthy diets. On top of a long list of health benefits, beans are cheap. While dried beans are, per serving, cheaper that canned beans I don’t mind paying for the convenience. I still manage to find them for a around a dollar, and can get 2-3 meals out of that can.

With all of this pro-bean information, and a desire to pack a few lunches for outdoor eating while the weather remains nice, I spent a solid 20 minutes last week just staring at a can of navy beans I had accidentally picked up at the store. (I wanted cannelli beans, but that’s another story for another day). I thought about putting them in a pasta salad, then I though about some type of chilled soup. Then it hit me – sandwich spread. Who doesn’t love a sandwich packed full of veggies with a creamy spread to hold it all together? A little more rooting around in the kitchen,produced some sundried tomatoes, a can of artichoke hearts, spring greens, and a red pepper. This was an ingredient list I could work with.

White Bean Spread and Artichoke Sandwich

Two slice wheat bread
Spring green salad mix
Canned artichoke hearts
red pepper
White bean sandwich spread (recipe below)

Lightly toast wheat bread. Spread a thick layer of the white bean spread on both slices of toasted bread. Top one side with spring green mix, artichokes, red peppers, and additional veggies if desired. I didn’t have any olives at home, but I think black olives would have add a nice saltiness to the sandwich. Place second slice of bread, spread side down, on top. Enjoy!

White Bean Sandwich Spread

1 can of white beans (Navy, Canelli, or Great Northern Beans), drained
2 heaping tablespoons julienned sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato oil, in addition to above
3 tsp fresh or frozen basil
3 cloves of garlic
good quality olive oil

In a food processor, chop tomatoes and garlic, add beans and process until smooth.Once smooth, add olive oil, about a tablespoon at a time, to reach desired consistency. I wanted a thick spread for sandwiches, so I add  2.5 tablespoons olive oil.  If you want a dip for veggies, you will need to add more oil. Depending on how thin you want the spread, you may want to add water to the spread after 4 tablespoons or so of oil total, to avoid it being to greasy.

Guilt Free Grilled Cheese with Apples and Turkey

What could be more satisfying than a grilled cheese sandwich? It is one of those perfect dishes that scream for your own special twist, hence the millions of recipes out there.  My special twist here is keeping it low cal without sacrificing the yum factor, which gives me a little more wiggle room during a season where tantalizing temptations lurk around every corner. I also found a cool way to use more of those apples I picked!

Guilt Free Grilled Cheese with Apples and Turkey
Serves 1
  • 2 slices light whole wheat sandwich bread
  • 1 wedge, Laughing Cow spreadable light cheese (I used Swiss)
  • 2-3 slices of low sodium Turkey Breast
  • 1 tbsp Light Butter
  • 1/4 of small tart apple, sliced thinly
  1. Split the cheese wedge in half and spread each half on the two slices of bread
  2. Layer the turkey breast on one bread slice over the cheese
  3. Layer the apple slices over the turkey slices
  4. Take the second slice of bread and close the sandwich, cheese side down over the apple slices
  5. Heat a grill (or regular) pan over medium high heat
  6. Spread half the butter on the top side of the sandwich. 
  7. Place the sandwich in the hot pan, butter side down.
  8. While the first side browns, spread the remaining butter on the opposite side.
  9. Grill each side 1-2 minutes, or until the bread starts to turn golden and crispy.
  10. Serve with the rest of the apple and a side salad or cup of soup.

Potato Soup, Mediterranean Style

Who’s ready for a bowl of comforting soup? When everyone starts pulling out their Crock Pots for chilli, you’ll find me making this hearty Mediterranean style potato soup instead. Yeah, I’m not a fan of beans, which apparently makes a lot of people think I am a freak, but I digress. Olive Garden serves their own version of this soup, which you may have heard of: the Zuppa Toscana. It’s the only thing my mother likes on the menu.

So, a few years ago, my mother started to lose her voice from “over exercising her vocal cords” (She’s got one of those voices that carry and is very loud for a person under 5’. It always sounds like she’s yelling). We were on the phone one night. In her raspy, whispery attempt to talk softly when she shouldn’t have been talking at all, she mentioned how my dad had brought her home some Zuppa Toscana and how much better it made her throat feel. Now at the time, my dad and I worked out of the same office (different programs) so I decided to make a pot of something like the Zuppa Toscana that he could take home to my mom. This would not only comfort my mom while she was feeling miserable, but also spare my dad the horrible side trip through a severely congested area at the height of rush hour. No one can say I don’t look out for those parental units of mine, lol.

Ever since then, this has been one of the few non Filipino dishes my mom craves. My dad likes it, too, but he loves, loves, loves minestrone. Maybe he’d like my potato soup more if I added beans…yeah, not in my kitchen lol!

This is soup is perfect on a chilly, fall day with a nice chunk of crusty bread.

Mediterranean Potato Soup

Serves a lot! Guessing about six generous helpings at least


  • 4 cups Kale or Swiss Chard chopped.
  •  5 cups Russet Potatoes cubed
  •  2 cups Onion chopped (use sweeter onions like Vidalia)
  •  4 large Garlic cloves smashed
  •  3 2/3 cups Chicken Broth (about two 14.5 oz cans)
  •  3 cups Water*
  •  ¼ cup- 1 cup Half & Half or Heavy Cream (start with a ¼ cup)
  •  12-16 oz Sausage (appx. 1 lb). Pork or Turkey**
  •  Your favorite Spices and Herbs for seasoning Sausage, such as Rosemary, Sage, Oregano, Parsley, Red Pepper Flakes
  •  Salt and Pepper
  •  2 tbsp Olive Oil

*Optional, you can sub with broth if you have enough on hand.

** A lot of my friends do not eat pork for many and diverse reasons, so I usually have a substitute handy for them.


  1. In a large pot, add potatoes, garlic, and onion, then pour in Chicken Broth and Water
  2. Bring pot to a boil, then lower temperature to medium heat and simmer until potatoes are tender
  3. While potatoes are cooking in the simmering broth, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat.
  4. Add sausage to pan. Season with your chosen herbs and spices and cook until nicely browned
  5. When potatoes are tender, add the browned sausage to the pot
  6. Stir in half and half or heavy cream, starting with ¼ cup, using up to 1 cup depending on your taste buds
  7. Add Swiss Chard or Kale to the pot and stir.
  8. Cover the pot, and allow soup to heat through and Swiss Chard or Kale to wilt.
  9. Season with Salt and Pepper to taste
Note: If you don’t mind the potatoes breaking down during thawing and re-heating, this soup freezes pretty well.


Lunchables All Growed Up

Today is Labor Day. In a few short hours, summer will be officially over. Kiddos all over the country are packing their backpacks with all those new school supplies and laying out their first day outfits. To go with those bags and outfits, parents are packing lunches in the latest action hero lunchboxes. Oh wait, do kids still use lunchboxes? Hey, it’s been awhile, okay? Makes me think back to when I was in grade school… I remember when Oscar Mayer Lunchables first hit the commissary shelves in Okinawa… Let me  I think I was about 10 or 11. So trendy! All the cool kids ate Lunchables. The extra-cool kids had Squeeze-Its to wash them down with.  Oh, to be a kid again!

Being a grown up does have its advantages, though, one of them being choice. Why settle for pre-packaged, over processed meals and snacks, when you can create your own quite simply and with healthier ingredients. Honestly, the first time I made these, I was just throwing something together with what was in my kitchen. It wasn’t until after I had finished that I thought, “Hey, these remind of me of Lunchables!”


  • However many of your favorite crackers depending on how hungry you are. My favorite is toasted sesame.
  • Your favorite cheese(s)
  • Small slices of your favorite low sodium, preservative free deli meat* (like Apple Gate Farms or Hormel Natural Choice), fruit(s), and/or veggie(s)


  1. Layer a smear or slice of cheese on your crackers
  2. Add the deli meat, fruit, or veggies you have chosen on top of the cheese
  3. Take a bite and experience a playground flashback
  4. Finish your snack and google the closest playground and go find it!

*Starting from the top and going clockwise: Strawberry Chardonnay Cheddar on a water cracker topped with ham; Four Peppers Goat Cheese on a sesame cracker topped with a strawberry; Laughing Cow Creamy Swiss on a graham cracker topped with honey dew melon; Ricotta on toasted bread topped with a tomato