Mixed Potato & Kale Au Gratin

I'm in the mood for something cheesy. Are you in? 

Let's do layers. 

Taters first. 

We're gonna combine red potatoes with sweet potatoes, because we like a little sweetness and some extra nutrients. 

Also, we're not peeling the red potatoes because it's "rustic." (This is also how I justify my hairstyle most days….) 

Then kale, the king…er queen of vegetables. Yes, it's trendy, but it's so good for you. 

Also, we're salting and peppering each level as we go, for flavor. 

Then, CHEESE. Big pieces of Gruyere and Parmesan. Because we can. 

More taters. 

Perfection=overrated. Just pile em' on. 

Then, the really good stuff. 

Creamy bechamel sauce and more CHEESE.

Yessss. My life is complete. 

We're baking it for 50 minutes or so until our layers have morphed into bubbling cheesy perfection.

Try to restrain yourself while the smell pervades your kitchen. 

BEAUTY!  I think you need a close up of that cheese. 

(You're welcome.) 

Each bite has texture from the kale, sweetness from the sweet potato, starchy goodness from the red potato, and tangy gooey yumminess from the CHEESE. 

It's impressive, but easy. Healthy, but still a little indulgent. 

This would be an ideal side dish for a big family meal. Maybe with your Easter ham next weekend? 

Go forth and eat your veggies. 

Mixed Potato & Kale Au Gratin 

1 sweet potato, peeled and very thinly sliced
5 small red potatoes (or 1 large baking potato), very thinly sliced
1 bunch kale, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1/2 of a sweet onion, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk (I used 2%)
pinch of nutmeg
salt & pepper 

Preheat the oven to 400. Butter a 9 by 13 casserole dish. 

In a small saucepan, melt butter and then add onion. Saute for 3-5 minutes or until onion is soft. Add flour and stir until it resembles a thick paste. Gradually add the milk, whisking continually. Continue whisking over medium-high heat until the sauce has thickened. Add a pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper, and then keep on low heat while you prepare the other ingredients. 

In a saucepan, heat half a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the chopped kale. Saute for 2-3 minutes or until just wilted. Place kale onto a dish towel or paper towel and wring to remove moisture. (You may have noticed that I used fresh kale above, but after cooking, it released some liquid.  You don't want that!)

Now you're ready to assemble!

Place a layer of potatoes on the bottom of the casserole dish. Add salt and pepper. 

Next, add all of the kale, then the cheese.

Add the rest of the potatoes and more salt and pepper. 

Then pour the creamy béchamel sauce over everything and top with the remaining cheese.  

Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 400 for 25 minutes. Remove foil and cook for an additional 25-30 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly. 


  • To make this gluten free, (and skip the step of making the béchamel sauce) you can also substitute 2 cups of half and half or heavy cream. Decadent, but probably worth it!
  • Alternatively, you could try making the béchamel sauce with gluten free flour.


Tacos with Crispy Chickpeas, Avocado Slaw & Feta

Some ingredients are just meant to be together. 

Chickpeas + feta + lemon. 

I also happen to think that if you add some avocado to the mix, you've got the perfect balance of flavors & textures. (like this salad I'm still obsessed with.)


Great tacos need something

savory (chickpeas) 

 creamy (feta cheese)

crunchy (avocado slaw). 

The crunchy avocado slaw is my favorite part. It's super flavorful, super easy, and super delicious. 

These tacos are perfect for a quick weeknight vegetarian dinner, and the roasted chickpeas are also a satisfying, protein-rich snack.

This is definitely an unusual combination of ingredients, but I've got my boxed-macaroni-and-cheese-oreo-poptart-loving-husband eating these tacos, so I think you and yours will enjoy them too!

Tacos with Crispy Chickpeas, Avocado Slaw & Feta

Avocado Slaw

1 large ripe avocado, mashed
juice from one lemon
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1/2 head green cabbage, finely chopped.
pinch of red pepper flakes
dollop of green jalapeño sauce
salt & pepper

In a small bowl, combine mashed avocado, lemon juice, and red onion. Stir briskly and let sit for about 5 minutes.

Pour avocado mixture over cabbage. Stir to combine. Add red pepper flakes, green jalapeño sauce and salt & pepper to taste. 

*This is best to eat the day it's made!

Crispy Roasted Chickpeas

1 can chickpeas
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 450. Prepare a cookie sheet by covering with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

On the baking sheet, combine chickpeas, spices, and olive oil. Use your hands to ensure chickpeas are evenly coated in oil and spices.

Bake for 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir the chickpeas around. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 7-9 minutes or desired crispiness.


avocado slaw
crispy roasted chickpeas
crumbled feta cheese
corn tortillas

Warm corn tortillas in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. Fill with slaw, chickpeas and feta. Enjoy! 


Peanut Butter Banana Muffins with Nutella Swirl

You've probably already heard the news about Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin.

I guess it's never exactly surprising when celebrity couples split, but those two lasted a while and I was really rooting for them, you know?

At first I thought, how could you walk away from a beauty like Gwyneth? How could you walk away from a man who writes dreamy songs about you like "Green Eyes" and "Till Kingdom Come?"

Then I realized that was a silly thought. Marriage is not made easier by beauty or love songs. In fact, I imagine the more beautiful/busy/talented/rich/famous/successful you are, the harder marriage is.

I'm still relatively new at this marriage thing, and I have a LOT more to learn,  but to me, marriage is about putting your partner's needs before yours, always. Even when it's really hard and you really don't want to. It's a continual process of dying to your own desires because you're committed to the idea that the two of you, as a unit, are worth it.

It's about loving that person even though he's flawed, and has insecurities and bad morning breath.  Because the really beautiful thing is---he loves you back the same way. And when you stop to think about all your flaws and insecurities and bad morning breath, that thought blows you away with gratitude.

It's a fragile thing to be known. To be known and loved is such a gift.

[All of this is to say and hope that your partner is loving/sacrificing/committed to the same level that you are. Things aren't equal all the time, but they should generally even out. If they never do, that might be a problem. Also--lawyer caveat--abusive relationships=entirely different category. Get out of those.]

I hope when I'm old,  I'll view my marriage as one of my life's greatest accomplishments.  Not because it was glowing or perfect or romantic, but because through all the struggles and kids and careers unpredictable things life threw our way, we kept choosing love, and each other, over everything else.

Speaking of love guys, these muffins --> true love.

These are by far, my favorite thing I've made in the last two months.

I've always been crazy about peanut butter & banana, but the addition of nutella takes these to a whole new level.  The chocolate and peanut butter make your taste buds go--dessert!--while the rolled oats, oat flour, Greek yogurt, and coconut oil make your brain go--healthy breakfast! It's a win win.

The oat flower gives these muffins a really satisfying chewy texture, while the nutella crisps up on the top and then melts in your mouth….Please excuse me while I have a moment with my muffin.

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins with Nutella Swirl 

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oat flour (made by pulsing 3/4 cup rolled oats in the food processor until smooth)
2 tablespoons rolled oats
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tablespoons coconut oil or butter, melted
2 eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons Nutella

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a 12-muffin pan with liners or with non-stick spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, oat flour, oats, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and coconut oil. Add bananas, Greek yogurt, peanut butter, and vanilla. Stir until combined. (Mixture may be slightly lumpy with the bananas)

Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, stirring until just combined.

Scoop mixture into muffin tins, filling until about 3/4 full.

Spoon Nutella into a small bowl. Whisk vigorously with your fork to soften and warm the nutella. Spoon a teaspoon or so onto the top of each muffin. Use a toothpick or butter knife to swirl the mixture around.

Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes, or until edges are browned.

Muffin recipe adapted from Peanut Butter Runner 


Broccoli Pasta Salad with Almond Pesto

Have I beleaguered you with my undying love for picnics yet?

Maybe we haven't known each other long enough.

Adam, bless his heart, is extremely familiar with my love of picnicking.

The first 70 degree day in the Spring. "Can we go for a picnic?"

Driving by a park. "We should have a picnic there!"

Random weekend afternoon with no plans. "Let's have a picnic!"

I am annoyingly enthusiastic about it and will harass him until we make our picnic a reality.

I've been fortunate to have picnicked in some pretty amazing places…

In the Boboli Gardens in Florence.

On a beach on Lake Como.

In Central Park in New York and the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

To be honest though, I love normal everyday picnics just as much.

Once while on a weekend run through an old historic neighborhood in Charlotte, I saw a young family having a picnic in their front yard! Under a tree!  That's all I want in life. But until we have a yard or cute little children, I'm enjoying picnicking at parks. (See the bottom of this post for some of my favorites and to add your own!)

Picnic food should be simple. The very best picnic meals, in my opinion, consist of some good cheese and crusty bread. In fact, if you brought me some good cheese and crusty bread and told me you wanted to take me on a picnic, I might love you forever.

Salads are good too though, as are apples and strawberries, and maybe some chocolate for dessert.

I wanted some bright, fresh flavors for our first picnic this spring, so I came up with this super easy broccoli pasta salad with almond pesto.

The pesto is my favorite! It's simple a mix of almonds, lemon juice, garlic, salt, olive oil and parmesan cheese.  Simply give everything a whirl in the food processor and combine with some fresh broccoli and cooked pasta. You're ready to go!

I had a picnic with my family this weekend and it was the best. I brought this pasta salad and my mom brought a salad with green beans, red onions, pecans and feta.  My sister brought carrots and fruit and her dog Luna, who licked everyone's face like it was her job.

I kissed Adam's face like it was my job too.

He lives a hard life.

Grab your friends. Grab your dog. Grab some bread and cheese or some of this pasta salad. Bring a blanket to sit on and some napkins and silverware and something to drink. Bring a book or a frisbee or a deck of cards. Leave your phone in the car.

Then eat some food outside in the sun with some people that you really like and remember that life is good, and we are blessed.

Broccoli Pasta Salad with Almond Pesto 

1 large head broccoli, diced into bite sized pieces.
8 oz small pasta
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and cooled
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup olive oil

Cook pasta according to package directions. Set aside to cool, rinsing with cold water if necessary.

In a food processor, combine almonds, parmesan cheese, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Pulse until almonds are very finely chopped. Add lemon juice, salt and olive oil. Continue pulsing until mixture resembles a thick paste.

Combine almond pesto, broccoli florets, and cooled pasta in a large bowl. If you find the pesto to be too thick, you can add extra olive oil or lemon juice. Taste and add salt & pepper as needed.

Serve with additional parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Almond Pesto from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

  • I happen to enjoy the texture of raw broccoli, but if you don't, try blanching it. Toss the broccoli florets into boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then place into a bowl of cold ice water. The broccoli should still be fresh and bright green but softer in texture.
  • I used this great quinoa pasta in this dish, so it's technically gluten free. Although sometimes quinoa pasta is really expensive, (like $5.99, yikes!) I found this brand for $2.99 at my grocery store.

Favorite Picnic Places:


Chapel Hill:



I'd love it if you'd share your favorite picnic foods and picnic places, wherever you live!
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