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Strawberry Kale Salad with Goat Cheese & Pecans

Strawberry Kale Salad with Goat Cheese & Pecans  |  Lemon & Mocha

I have another healthy make-ahead lunch for you today! Before you run away, healthy can mean super tasty! And kale doesn’t have to mean bitter, especially when it’s been nicely massaged, but I’ll say more on that later. As you know, I only like salads if they have lots of yummy goodies in them and this one delivers. Fresh sweet strawberries, creamy goat cheese and crunchy pecans bring this salad to a scarf-able level. We are still a little early for strawberry season, but as soon as it started feeling like springtime I had to run out to get some to make this salad.

Strawberry Kale Salad with Goat Cheese & Pecans  |  Lemon & Mocha

The other star of this dish is the simple, but delicious vinaigrette dressing. Made with just four ingredients the dressing has the right balance of acidity and sweetness to pair with the kale and strawberries. I use my uncle’s awesome homemade honey, but I recommend using local honey since it can help ease seasonal allergies and it supports your local beekeepers!

Strawberry Kale Salad with Goat Cheese & Pecans  |  Lemon & Mocha

The reason this salad is a great make-ahead dish is because the kale tastes its best when it’s been given time to marinate in the dressing. Kale is a tough green, but that’s exactly why you have to baby it so much to bring out its best flavor. This is where the massaging comes in. A few years ago when kale was popping up everywhere I tried it at home a bunch of times with little success. Then I was out to dinner with a friend and ordered a kale salad to give it one final shot. I couldn’t believe how tasty it was and when I mentioned this to the waitress she said it was because they massage the kale. Basically, this means ripping and scrunching the kale leaves continuously for about five minutes. Kale is naturally bitter, but massaging it breaks down the cellulose structure wilting and softening the kale.

Strawberry Kale Salad with Goat Cheese & Pecans  |  Lemon & Mocha

One batch makes four lunch salads and sometimes I pair them with grilled chicken or turkey burgers for added protein. I love serving this Strawberry Kale Salad with Goat Cheese & Pecans for cookouts, as well, since you can make it the night before and not have to worry about it while you’re busy with your family and friends. I hope you enjoy this salad all summer long!

Strawberry Kale Salad with Goat Cheese & Pecans  |  Lemon & Mocha

Strawberry Kale Salad with Goat Cheese & Pecans
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
for the salad
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • 8 ounces kale
  • 8 ounces fresh strawberries, washed and stems removed
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 2 ounces goat cheese
for the dressing
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1½ teaspoons honey
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions
for the salad
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the pecans on a small baking sheet then toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes. Toss the pecans once during cooking and be sure to watch carefully so they do not burn. Set aside to cool.
  2. If your kale wasn’t pre-washed, wash and dry it. Remove all thick ribs and stems; roughly chop. Place in a large mixing bowl. Continue to tear and massage the kale for 5 minutes. To massage the kale scrunch it up with both your hands, release, and scrunch up some more, tossing and tearing as you go. This helps tenderize the kale and reduce its bitterness by breaking down the cellulose structure.
  3. Quarter the strawberries. Slice the grape tomatoes in half. Add to the kale along with the toasted pecans and goat cheese. Gently toss to combine. Add the dressing and gently toss to coat. Let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or even better if overnight.
for the dressing
  1. Whisk together the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard and honey until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.

Grilled Steak with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce & Grilled Asparagus

Grilled Steak with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce & Grilled Asparagus  |  Lemon & Mocha

As you all know, I am an extreme planner so I have my posts planned out months in advance. And by months I mean all the way into January. Clearly I get a little carried away, especially when it comes to food. Then came along this glorious steak and sauce combination. It was completely unplanned and so outrageous that I moved a whole bunch of posts around just so I could share it with you sooner.

Grilled Steak with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce & Grilled Asparagus  |  Lemon & Mocha

This dish has three main components: a grilled sirloin steak, grilled asparagus and a creamy Gorgonzola sauce. I feel like I’m going to have a hard time describing this sauce in complete sentences because every time I think about it my brain goes fuzzy and the next thing I know I have drool all over my chin. But bear with me. This sauce is cheesy, creamy, savory and salty. It’s also loaded with thinly sliced mushrooms and sweet onion that have been cooked down so they melt in your mouth. Cliche, but fitting.

Grilled Steak with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce & Grilled Asparagus  |  Lemon & Mocha

The inspiration for this recipe was born out of my own cravings and food indecisiveness. I had some leftover Gorgonzola crumbles from the Healthy Chicken Cobb Salad that I wanted to use up. When I think of what pairs well with blue cheese my mind immediately goes to steak and mushrooms. I went back and forth, unable to decide, until I finally came up with this delicious solution of pairing it with both.

Grilled Steak with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce & Grilled Asparagus  |  Lemon & Mocha

This sauce turns tender steak into a decadent treat that will have you swooning. Or guarding your plate if you are eating with others. When I recipe-test I’m usually the only one in the kitchen so I have the fortunate ability to be able to really savor that first bite. And the second, and the third, and so on.

Grilled Steak with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce & Grilled Asparagus  |  Lemon & Mocha

Since the sauce is rich, serving the steak with simple grilled asparagus is the perfect balance. Also, the crisp asparagus is great at swiping any excess sauce off your plate. Another reason I’m so jazzed up about this sauce is that I created it completely on the fly without referencing any recipes for ratios or inspiration, which can be a lot harder than it sounds. The fact that it tastes so bomb and I came up with it on my own makes me want to shout the recipe from the rooftops! So even if you’re a planner like me and have your meals scheduled out for next week I highly recommend you move things around so you can make this dinner ASAP!

Grilled Steak with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce & Grilled Asparagus  |  Lemon & Mocha

Grilled Steak with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce & Grilled Asparagus
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
for the gorgonzola sauce
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 2 cups sliced)
  • 1 glove garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 cup gorgonzola crumbles
  • Salt and pepper to taste
for the steak
  • 2 8-ounce sirloin steaks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
for the grilled asparagus
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
for the gorgonzola sauce
  1. Melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and whisk together. Add the flour and continue to whisk until it has darkened slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Add the sliced onions and ground black pepper and stir to coat. Let cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. The onions should be soft. Add the sliced mushrooms and the minced garlic, stir. Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms have softened, stirring occasionally.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the milk. Once the milk has had a chance to warm, about 1 minute, add the Gorgonzola crumbles. Stir as the Gorgonzola melts into a thick cheese sauce. You can keep stirring until all the crumbles have melted or leave a few crumbles un-melted. If the sauce looks too thick you can add another tablespoon of milk. Remove from the heat and taste. Adjust salt and pepper according to taste, but remember that the steak will also be seasoned with salt.
for the grilled asparagus
  1. Remove and discard the woody ends of the asparagus. If you lightly bend the asparagus stalk it will snap at a natural spot where the thick stem ends. Drizzle the asparagus with the olive oil then toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. I usually do about 5-6 grinds each of our salt and pepper grinders (they are small).
  2. Heat your grill or grill pan so it’s at medium-high heat. Grill the asparagus for 5 minutes, tossing/turning once while grilling. If your asparagus stalks are very thin you may only need 3 minutes, if the stalks are thick you may need longer than the 5 minutes. If you are using a grill not a grill pan I would suggest using a grill grid or basket so the asparagus doesn’t slip through the grill grates and adding about 5 minutes of grilling time.
for the steak
  1. Let your steak sit out at room temperature for about 20 minutes before grilling. Lightly coat the steaks with the olive oil then season on both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat your grill to high heat or your grill pan to medium-high heat. Place the steaks on the hot grill or grill pan so they aren’t touching and let cook for 4-5 minutes. Carefully flip the steaks and let cook for another 3-5 minutes for medium-rare or 5-7 minutes for medium. The internal temperature of the steaks when you pull them off the grill should be 135 degrees F for medium-rare or 140 degrees F for medium.
  3. Let the steak rest for at least 5 minutes. Slice the steak and place on a serving dish then spoon the Gorgonzola sauce over top or serve alongside the grilled steak.
Notes
I used a grill pan for this dish. First I took the steak out of the fridge to come to room temperature. I chopped up my onion and mushrooms then I started cooking the sauce. While the sauce was cooking I grilled the asparagus in my grill pan, two batches at 4 minutes each. I placed them on a plate and grilled the steak. We like ours medium-rare so I did 5 minutes then flipped and did another 3 minutes. By the time the steaks were done resting, the sauce was done and it was time to eat!

 

Best Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs

Best Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs  |  Lemon & Mocha

Guys! And gals! These meatballs? Swooning! I am beyond excited to share this recipe with you today. If you’ve never been to Damn Delicious, go check her blog out. She has some amazing recipes, but these meatballs right here? These are the real deal. These are the best slow cooker cocktail meatballs you will ever have. They are sweet, savory and salty. They are downright addictive.

Best Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs  |  Lemon & Mocha

I have made them for dinner parties, brought them to backyard cookouts and whipped them up for work potlucks. There was one work potluck where they were almost gone by the time it started because we were all sneaking bites during the day. Oh, and it was a lunch potluck so these were being consumed as breakfast meatballs!

Best Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs  |  Lemon & Mocha

I also make them for Matt and I whenever a craving strikes one of us. They freeze well, which is perfect for when I make them for just the two of us. If you don’t have a slow cooker you could certainly make them on the stove top, but I love using the slow cooker because you can dump everything in and then not have to think about it other than a stir here or there.

Best Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs  |  Lemon & Mocha

The very first time I made these we were having a bunch of friends over. I of course was making about 10 million different dishes because I’m a crazy person and saved these for the last minute. Somehow I hadn’t read the instructions and missed the whole “slow cooker” part even though it was in the title. With everyone arriving in 45 minutes I looked down at the recipe, saw the 3-4 hour part and cursed a whole bunch. However, I was determined to serve these meatballs so I defrosted my frozen meatballs in the microwave, whisked all my sauce ingredients together and microwaved them, and threw everything in the slow cooker. By the time everyone got here and was settled with drinks, the meatballs were hot enough to eat and got rave reviews. Crisis averted!

Best Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs  |  Lemon & Mocha

So it is possible to make them quickly if you don’t have time, but a slow cooker is definitely the way to go to save yourself from having a microwave frenzy while still in your sweatpants with guests on their way. I would say I hope you enjoy them as much as I do, but I already know you will!

Best Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs  |  Lemon & Mocha

Best Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs
 
Yield: about 10 servings
Ingredients
  • 40 ounces frozen, fully cooked, mini meatballs
  • 1 cup cranberry sauce, about ½ can jellied cranberry
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions
  1. Place the mini meatballs in a slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula to combine. If using jellied cranberry, break it up a little with your spatula.
  2. Cover and cook the meatballs on low for 3-4 hours, stirring several times during cooking. Once the meatballs are cooked through and coated in sauce, serve immediately with toothpicks.
Notes
These can be made ahead. They also freeze well. If you want to save yourself some time you could make the sauce mixture ahead of time, whisking well, and store in a plastic storage container to be poured over the meatballs right before turning on the slow cooker. If you are using jellied cranberry, microwave for 10-30 seconds to soften so you can whisk into the other ingredients.

Recipe from Damn Delicious.

Healthy Creamy Roasted Carrot Soup

Healthy Creamy Roasted Carrot Soup | Lemon & Mocha

I don’t remember what prompted me to try this recipe, but I am so happy I did. Immediately after tasting it for the first time I ran to Matt (well carefully speed-walked), spoon in hand, telling him to stop what he was doing and try this soup. I couldn’t believe how something with such basic ingredients could taste so rich of flavor and buttery. Also that a soup without cream and less than a teaspoon of butter per serving could taste like such an indulgence.

Healthy Creamy Roasted Carrot Soup | Lemon & Mocha

The depth of flavor in this soup starts with roasting the vegetables. The carrots are roasted until they are super tender and blistered, which amplifies their sweetness. Onion slices get roasted with the carrots to bring a richness to their flavor as well. The ginger adds the perfect amount of balance without being overpowering.

Healthy Creamy Roasted Carrot Soup | Lemon & Mocha

This Healthy Creamy Roasted Carrot Soup freezes well and tastes even better after the flavors have been able to meld together for some time. Although it takes a fair amount of time to make, most of the steps are hands off so it doesn’t feel too involved.

Healthy Creamy Roasted Carrot Soup | Lemon & Mocha

I always ask Matt if he has any dinner requests for the following week and this carrot soup has turned into his most frequent request. Other than meatloaf – the kid loves meatloaf 😂. We end up having it mostly for weekdays, but I’ve also served it for the holidays. Especially for holidays and dinner parties I like starting the meal with a dish I’m proud of, but that isn’t rich or heavy, and this soup fits the bill perfectly. It also makes a great make-ahead lunch – if you have enough leftover from dinner!

Healthy Creamy Roasted Carrot Soup | Lemon & Mocha

Healthy Creamy Roasted Carrot Soup
 
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch lengths
  • 1 medium onion, peel removed and thickly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 ribs celery, roughly diced
  • 1½ - 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger, from about 1-inch peeled piece, depending on preference
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with nonstick aluminum foil and lay the carrots in a single layer. Place the onions in a single layer or if they won’t fit you can layer them on top of the carrots. Drizzle with the olive oil then toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper then roast in the oven for about an hour. Toss the carrots once during cooking and check on the onions; you don’t want them to burn. The carrots should be soft, blistered and browned.
  2. In a medium saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the celery and ginger and cook until the celery starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the roasted carrots and onion, vegetable broth, salt, pepper and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  3. Use a high-speed blender to puree the soup. If using a regular blender, puree the soup in batches. Once pureed, taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Tastes best after the flavors have been allowed to meld for a few hours or overnight. Reheat gently on the stove or in the microwave and adjust seasoning to taste before serving.

Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread  |  Lemon & Mocha

Before you run away thinking I’m a crazy person for putting vegetables in my chocolate I have to tell you that you cannot actually taste the zucchini in this bread. As anyone who has tried zucchini bread before knows, even though there may be a ton of it in the bread all the zucchini does is make the loaf incredibly moist. So take that soft and sweet loaf, add in chocolate chips and cocoa powder, and the chocolate-addict in me is absolutely hooked.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread  |  Lemon & Mocha

I was a little skeptical of this recipe when I first tried it, but all that went away when I tried my first slice. I found myself eating it for breakfast, snack, dessert – you name it – until the next thing I knew it was completely gone. Based on the ingredients and a note from the original recipe author I know this Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread will freeze well, but I have yet to have a loaf make it to that point. Although you could always make two loaves and freeze one to have on hand, which is an excellent idea.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread  |  Lemon & Mocha

This recipe calls for instant coffee powder or espresso powder. As with my Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes, you cannot taste the coffee flavor; it just acts purely as an enhancer to the chocolate. You can certainly omit it, but I highly recommend to include it to help bring out that rich chocolate taste of the loaf.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread  |  Lemon & Mocha

Matt is the only coffee drinker in our house and he drinks espresso every morning. Since I don’t typically have instant coffee powder or espresso powder (which is not really for drinking, it’s a specialty ingredient used in baking) in the house, I found this awesome hack by Bright Eyed Baker to DIY my own espresso powder. Lay used espresso grounds on a baking sheet then bake on your oven’s lowest temperature for about 1 hour, or until they are toasted and crunchy. Then run through your coffee grinder to make a fine powder. Voila! Espresso powder and no wasted grounds!

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread  |  Lemon & Mocha

So espresso powder hacks aside, this Double Chocolate Zucchini bread is perfect for using up all those extra zucchinis everyone tends to have in the summer, but don’t wait until then to try it!

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread  |  Lemon & Mocha

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread
 
Yield: 1 loaf
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups shredded zucchini, about 2 zucchinis, lightly patted dry
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon instant coffee powder, or ¼ teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x5 or 8x4 loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, instant coffee and ¾ cup of the chocolate chips. Stir to combine and set aside.
  3. Whisk together the eggs, vegetable oil, yogurt, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl until combined. Pour into the flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Fold in the shredded zucchini. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Top with the remaining ¼ cup of chocolate chips.
  4. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let bread cool completely in the pan on a wire cooling rack. Once cooled, removed from the pan. Store in an airtight container for 5 days or even longer in the fridge. Bread also freezes well and can be thawed in the fridge.
Notes
You can be flexible about the yogurt in this recipe. If you would prefer full or low-fat yogurt instead of the nonfat feel free to substitute. You could also use regular non-Greek yogurt or vanilla yogurt instead of plain.

Recipe slightly adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction.