balsamic vinaigrette

kale cobb salad

So this is kind of a weird and personal post and it feels strange to be writing this, but lately I’ve been feeling kind of…

Off.

kale cobb salad with balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

My energy levels have been in the toilet and I’ve just felt run down and kind of crumby most of the time. Even blogging, which has always felt like an escape from the stresses and monotony of my life, has begun to feel like a chore.

kale cobb salad with balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

After months of denial, I’ve finally had to admit to myself that my weight is probably a major factor in how cruddy I’ve been feeling lately.

I’ve always been a little on the thick side, and haven’t been “beach ready” since I was probably 7 years old. Over the past few years though, I’ve packed on a little extra padding and recently it’s felt…

Uncomfortable.

kale cobb salad with balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

When Russell and I first met we were both much slimmer than we are now, though again, far from svelte. When we first started dating I used every trick in the book to woo him, and as you can probably imagine, most of the tricks in my book are food related. Once we moved in with each other and realized we were together for good, we just got comfortable and didn’t really notice as we gained a pound here and another there.

Shortly after we married I started this blog. Especially in the beginning, a lot of the dishes I was making were old family recipes that are near and dear to my heart, but also tend to be pretty heavy. These are dishes that are fine for special occasions, but I was making (and consuming) them much more often than I probably should have been.

As much as I love to cook, my true love has always been baking, so in addition to the heavy family recipes I also started baking even more than I used to. For whatever reason, I also really enjoy photographing the sweets and treats more than the savory dishes, so that was just one more contributing factor in the sudden explosion of cakes and pies and cookies pumping out of my oven. And then, of course, there are the bundts…

kale cobb salad with balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

I mean, not everything I post here is rich, heavy, and unhealthy. I actually think I have done a decent job of coming up with some pretty fun and creative (and delicious) healthy recipes every once in a while, but those recipes tend to be few and far between. That’s also not to say that I’m only eating the food that I post here on the (web) pages of Brooklyn Homemaker. Day to day, I think Russell and I do a pretty good job of trying to eat healthy “whole” foods and plenty of vegetables, but the less exciting recipes in my repertoire (or his) don’t ever show up here.

We really just need to focus on portion control, moderation, and keeping active. I don’t think it’s realistic to think I’ll ever look like an Olympic swimmer or track and field star, but I’m no spring chicken and I definitely need to start considering my health if I want to stick around for a good long time.

For the past week (I know, a whole week, woopty-freaking-doo) I’ve been eating healthy, avoiding carbs where I can, and trying to break myself of the habit of looking for something sweet after dinner every night. Fighting the sugar addiction has been especially hard for me but I’ve been strong so far. I’ve also been walking home from work every day (about a two and a half miles) and I’m in the process of looking for a gym that doesn’t cost a million dollars and isn’t totally disgusting.

kale cobb salad with balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

Aaaaanyway…

I’m not writing all this to say that I’m going to stop blogging, or to say that I’m suddenly turning Brooklyn Homemaker into a health food and fitness blog, espousing the health benefits of an all-bean-sprout diet. I’m just writing this to let you know that I’m going to try, just try, to focus a bit more on healthy dishes and a bit less on baking and sweets and the heavy hearty food I was brought up eating.

Honestly, I’m probably writing this more for myself than for you. I think I might be writing this as a way to hold myself accountable for my health. If I write it here, for all the world to see and read, I have to stick with it or I’ll look like a real dummy. A real overweight dummy.

Please don’t be too harsh if I end up failing…
Pretty please?

I’m not really sure how I’m going to go about all this going forward either. I’d really like to tell myself (and you) that I’m going to post super flavorful & creative healthy dishes all the time, and the baked goods and heavy dishes will be the ones to show up only every once in a while. Realistically though, I know I just love to bake, so maybe my “cheat day” recipes will end up showing up here just as often as my “don’t be such a fatty” recipes. I really don’t want to call this a “diet” (ugh). I just want to do what I can to teach myself how to cook, and eat, and blog, a little differently; in a way that will make me feel better and that I can stick to for years to come.
I guess only time will tell. Wish me luck!

kale cobb salad with balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

Okay, so let’s finally talk about this salad. I know that a cobb salad is not really the healthiest salad in the world. I promise that I know that adding bacon and blue cheese and eggs to a salad makes it less healthy than if I were to just munch on a bowl of lettuce with lemon juice.

BUT!!!
I’ve made some changes to the classic cobb recipe to try to healthy it up a little bit.

First of all, kale is like the king of all health foods right? It’s packed with vitamins and minerals and fiber and good stuff, and packs a lot more healthy punch than romaine does for sure.
Second, even though I kept the bacon and blue cheese (because it wouldn’t be a cobb without them) I did reduce the proportions of the bad ingredients vs the good ingredients. If you wanted to, you could leave them out, but I do think that they’re worth keeping around for flavor and contrast and to make the salad feel like a truly satisfying meal.
Third, while I did keep the crumbled blue cheese, I opted for an easy homemade balsamic vinaigrette rather than blue cheese dressing to gussy up my fancy pants dark green kale leaves.
Aaand, fourth and finally, I added some sunflower seeds for texture and crunch, and because I love sunflower seeds in a salad okay?

While this version of a cobb is healthier than one you might find in a restaurant, it doesn’t taste at all like “health food” and that’s definitely what I was going for! Here’s to our health!

kale cobb salad with balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

Kale Cobb Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Salt & Pepper to taste

Salad:
1 skinless boneless chicken breast
2 to 3 strips thick cut bacon
1/2 avocado, cut into bite sized cubes
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola or other blue cheese
2 boiled eggs, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
3 to 4 cups chopped kale leaves

Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl or a small jar with a watertight lid. Whisk or shake dressing together until well combined and emulsified. Refrigerate until salad is ready to toss.

Season chicken breast with salt and pepper and sear or grill until cooked through. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing thin or cubing.
Cook bacon over medium to medium high heat until fat is rendered and bacon is brown and crisp. Immediately remove to a paper towel to absorb some of the fat. Once cool, crumble bacon.

Assemble all salad ingredients, including the chicken and bacon, in a large bowl. Pour dressing over the top of salad and toss together using large tongs or salad servers.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette

I love beets. There’s just something about that sweet and earthy flavor, al dente firm yet tender bite, and intense color that I just can’t get enough of.

Growing up beets were never on the menu, and I’m not sure that I knew what a beet even was until I went off to college. My grandparents were always big gardeners, so you might think that beets would have been part of my childhood experience, but for whatever reason, they weren’t.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

I don’t really remember the first time I ever ate one, or whether or not I liked it at the time, but eventually I realized that they’re amazing. Oddly enough, part of that beet love may have had something to do with my favorite author. I was in college the first time I heard of Tom Robbins. I was sitting at the bar after a long night waiting tables, sipping on my shift drink and shooting the shit with one of my coworkers about whatever I was reading at the time. Someone a few seats down at the bar overheard us and chimed in, “Have you ever read any Tom Robbins?” I hadn’t, but at the time I wasn’t convinced and didn’t take any steps to change that.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

A month or so later I noticed a Tom Robbins book on a shelf in a friends apartment, and curiosity finally got the better of me. I asked if I could borrow it, and was instantly hooked. At this point I’ve read almost everything he’s ever written. A few titles I’ve read over and over to the point that my paperback copies are covered in masking tape and would probably disintegrate if I tried to give them another go. The first title I read still remains my favorite, and Jitterbug Perfume is definitely the one title I’ve read more than any other.

It’s also the title that I’ve recommended most, and every time anyone has actually taken my advice and read it, they’ve come back to tell me that they LOVED it with a capital LOVE!

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

I won’t spoil it for you, because I urge you to give it a read yourself if you haven’t already, but I will say that the subject matter is a bit more “fantastic” than I usually go for. I’m not someone who normally enjoys reading fantasy, but Tom Robbins’ fantasy is somehow more about the fantastic and less about the unbelievable or childish. He writes so intelligently and poetically and passionately that I’m completely sucked into Jitterbug Perfume‘s tales of time travel and immortality and individuality and old pagan religions and magic and sex and… perfume.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

One craggy old root vegetable (the beet) plays an oddly important role in the story. After reading the book for the second (or may it was the third) time, I briefly contemplated getting a beetroot tattoo. I’m sure my mother will back my story up, as she was equally confused and horrified by the idea.

Robbins waxes so poetic about the humble beet that I was immediately, deeply, passionately in love with them. Even if I’d hated them (I didn’t) I’d still have been in love with the idea of the beet. It’s funny. He doesn’t really point out any profound detail about their history, or their nutritional value, it’s just that he uses beautifully vivid language to romanticize them and use them for a metaphor for something bigger. Nothing changed about the reality of beets, but the way I picture them was forever altered.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.
Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets.
The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip…
The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.
The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.” ― Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

Perhaps one of my favorite ways to prepare (and preserve) beets, is to pickle them. There’s something about adding vinegary acidity to their earthy sweetness that just elevates them.
You can pickle your own easily enough, but pickled beets are increasingly easy to find at the grocery store these days too. My own stash from this summer has already run dry, so for this recipe I bought some locally produced beets pickled with fennel.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy pickled beets is to pair them with other sweet, earthy, robust flavors in a bright filling salad. If you want to make this salad feel even more substantial, just top it with some thinly sliced grilled steak or seared chicken breast.

There’s nothing about this salad that isn’t amazing. Peppery fresh arugula, acidic sweet and earthy pickled beets, creamy earthy crumbled goat cheese, bright juicy pomegranate seeds, crunchy buttery cashews, and pungent yet delicate sliced shallot; all tied together with a quick and easy homemade balsamic vinaigrette. It doesn’t get any better than this y’all.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

Pickled Beet and Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 2 dinner salads, or 4 side salads
  • Print
5 oz (about 4 or 5 cups) arugula
3/4 cup pickled beets (cut into bite-size pieces if not already packed that way)
Seeds of 1/2 a fresh pomegranate (about 1/2 cup) *see note
1 cup toasted cashews
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
2.5 oz crumbled goat cheese (about 1/3 cup)

Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
salt and pepper to taste

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a dressing shaker or small bowl and shake or whisk vigorously until well combined. Set aside.

Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss with about half the dressing. Try not to completely mix in the goat cheese or it’ll kind of just disappear. If you’re happy with the amount of dressing, you’re done. Otherwise, add a bit more until you’re satisfied, and gently toss again. Divide between serving bowls or plates and enjoy.

Any extra salad dressing should last several weeks tightly covered in the refrigerator.

*cook’s note:
My favorite way to get the seeds out of a pomegranate is to cut one in half, firmly grasp one half cut side down over a large bowl in one hand, while firmly whacking the skin side of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon held in the other hand. It may take a few good whacks to loosen the seeds, but they’ll eventually start falling out with each coming whack. You’ll need to rotate the pomegranate as you go so all sides get their fair share of abuse, and once all the seeds are removed you’ll want to pick through them to remove any stray yellow membrane that fell out with the seeds.