brat fest

This weekend marks one of Wisconsin’s favorite holidays, Brat-Fest. Which means more brats are consumed in the next three days then most of the country can even imagine. But when in Wisconsin, complete with Capital Brewery beer, you know anything is possible.

The wonderful thing about this event – besides eating multiple brats, hot dogs and even veggie dogs is that the money made goes to support local charities. Something I’ll even eat a brat to, if for some reason I started needing excuses.

Growing up in Wisconsin, I certainly had my fair share of brats, mainly during the summer months, when grilling is a must, and brats are plentiful. I picked up these brats at the local Meat Market in my home town, because, let’s face it,  brats are just better when they come from Wisconsin. ;)

Enjoy your long weekend and if you are in Wisconsin, be sure to celebrate with a brat!

artichoke ravioli pasta salad

My grocery bills have been ridiculous recently – something that doesn’t make me happy but my typical excuse? The blog and my general love of good food. Regardless of the excuse I use, I had some frozen artichoke ravioli in the freezer that had been there for at least a year. Meaning that I would have to forgo that beautiful pumpkin & sage ravioli that I saw at the store and use what I have. Repeat: use what I have. (Repetition means your learning, right?)

Despite the large amount of ice crystals in the package, along with some cucumber and artichokes, it hardly felt like I was cleaning out the freezer. I couldn’t wait to have the leftovers for lunch. See, I’ve learned already.

Artichoke Ravioli Pasta Salad - 2-3 servings

  • 1-9 oz package artichoke, cheese & olive ravioli (I had a Trader Joe’s version)
  • 2 cups thinly sliced cucumbers, halved
  • 1 cup quartered artichokes
  • 2 Tbsp kalamata olives, sliced

Prepare pasta as directed. Let cool. Separate pasta onto plates and top with cucumbers, artichokes, olives and drizzle with shallot dressing.

Shallot Dressing

  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper

Whisk all ingredients together until emulsified.

ask the nutritionist: at the salad bar

The salad bar can be a great place to build-you-own balanced meal or a place where you can feel like you are eating healthy when it really isn’t the case.

In college, the salad bar was my favorite aspect of dorm dining – when else do you have access to rows of clean and cut veggies? I frequented it on a daily basis and firmly believe that it helped prevent the dreaded freshman 15.

While I don’t get to the salad bar quite as often these days, it does make a great stand-in for those days that I don’t bring my own lunch. Here are my guidelines for building the perfect salad:

  • The lettuce base: the darker the better, think spinach and spring greens for the majority, and some romaine for added crunch if desired. Fill most of the container with lettuce.
  • Load up on veggies: add as many vegetables as you can, remembering the rainbow – think cucumber, broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, sprouts, etc.
  • Add a protein: tofu, beans, chicken or lean deli meats. This will add some staying power to your salad.
  • The Extras: I sometimes like to add some deli salads for a little something extra, sometimes a grain or pasta, sometimes a veggie salad like the marinated Italian veggies shown here. If choosing a grain or mayo-based salad, stick to less than 1/2 cup.
  • Fat & Flavor: Add 1 Tbsp of nuts (choose nuts over croutons) or flavorful cheese (feta, blue or parmesan) for some healthy fats and extra flavor.
  • Dressing: Instead of the typical ranch dressing, try using  a balsamic vinaigrette or a sprinkle of olive oil and vinegar over your salad.

What ingredients does your ideal salad bar have?

the wedge

Poor iceberg lettuce. I mean, it has a terrible reputation, but I can think of many worse things than iceberg lettuce. Nutritional all-star? Hardly. But sometimes a crisp wedge with creamy blue cheese and fresh cracked pepper is just what I want. And just forget the notion that blue cheese dressing is “bad for you”, it happens to be wonderful on iceberg.

The wedge salad was very popular in the 50’s and 60’s when lettuce options were limited and long before there was a wall of greens in the grocery store like we now see.

 Today, some 60 years later, it is starting to show up again on menu’s – coming back as the “retro” wedge. So put on your heels, pearls and apron and get to that wedge!

I can’t say that iceberg makes it into my refrigerator on a regular basis, but when it does? I’ve got my blue cheese and french dressing waiting.

Wedge Salad - 4 servings

  • 1 head Organic Iceberg Lettuce
  • red onion slices
  • tomato slices
  • blue cheese dressing
  • french dressing
  • fresh ground pepper
  • additional add-ons: bacon crumbles, nuts, cheese

Wash head of lettuce and cut into 4 pieces. Add tomatoes and onions as desired and top with dressings. Don’t forget to serve with a knife, you’ll need it!