Main Dishes

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!

 

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.

Healthy Chicken Cobb Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

Healthy Chicken Cobb Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing  |  Lemon & Mocha

As you all know, I am not a huge salad fan, but I love a good cobb salad. Cobb salads have all the best yummy toppings! Bacon, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, blue cheese – so good!

Healthy Chicken Cobb Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing  |  Lemon & Mocha

Most cobb salads are covered with unhealthy creamy dressings, but today we’re switching things up. The dressing is still creamy, but it’s fresh, preservative free and full of only good fats. The creaminess of the dressing comes from the avocado and it gets a nice acidic punch from the lime juice. In addition to this cobb salad, I’ve also used the creamy avocado dressing lightly drizzled over grilled chicken. It would also taste great tossed with warm roasted potatoes – the options are endless!

Healthy Chicken Cobb Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing  |  Lemon & Mocha

Looking at the list of ingredients you might think this salad isn’t healthy, and I’m certainly not a nutritionist, but for me, this salad gets its healthy title from moderation. I would much rather have a small amount of real bacon than more of a “healthier” substitute. Plus, this salad is loaded up with greens and lean protein.

Healthy Chicken Cobb Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing  |  Lemon & Mocha

I love making this salad on a Sunday when Matt and I need to detox from the weekend. It makes four servings so the two of us are set for two lunches each.

Healthy Chicken Cobb Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing  |  Lemon & Mocha

I especially loved having this recipe in my back pocket for the summertime when I was eating lunch outside. No microwave needed and the crunch of the romaine is so refreshing when it’s warm out. I hope you enjoy!

Healthy Chicken Cobb Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing  |  Lemon & Mocha

Healthy Chicken Cobb Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
for the salad
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to season
  • 8 heaping cups of chopped romaine lettuce, washed
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 2 slices bacon, cooked
  • ½ an avocado
  • ¼ cup blue cheese crumbles
for the dressing
  • 3 tablespoons water, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • ½ an avocado
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
for the salad
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with nonstick aluminum foil and place the chicken breasts on it. Very lightly drizzle with olive oil then season generously with garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and pepper. Lightly season with salt. Bake the chicken for 25-30 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Let cool then chop and set aside.
  2. While the chicken is cooking prep the rest of the ingredients. Slice the hard-boiled eggs. Crumble the bacon. Dice the avocado.
  3. Divide the lettuce between 4 bowls or containers. Divide the chicken, egg, bacon, avocado and blue cheese between the 4 servings.
for the dressing
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Add more water if desired for a thinner consistency. Use roughly 2 tablespoons of dressing per salad.
Notes
If you want your salad even healthier you can omit the chopped avocado since there’s already avocado in the dressing. You could also swap some of the romaine lettuce for a different green, such as spinach.

 

Zucchini Noodles & Chicken Sausage in Vodka Sauce

Zucchini Noodles & Chicken Sausage in Vodka Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Happy Monday! This week I’m kicking it off with an easy and healthy dinner recipe – zucchini noodles (aka zoodles) and chicken sausage in vodka sauce! This was the very first recipe I made with my KitchenAid spiralizer attachment. Currently, this is the most used attachment I have for my mixer. I love noodling vegetables! Firstly, because this thing cranks out the veggie noodles so fast. Secondly, something about the noodle shape makes me want to eat all the veggies. Probably because I have a noodle obsession.

Zucchini Noodles & Chicken Sausage in Vodka Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

I’ve made curly-q potatoes, beet noodles, sweet potato noodles and even apple curly-q’s, but zucchini noodles are the ones I go back to time and time again. The best part of this veggie noodle craze is that even if you don’t have a spiralizer I’ve seen prepared spiralized veggies in every grocery store I’ve been in, from Whole Foods to Market Basket to Stop & Shop. So convenient! However, as with most prepared foods, they are pricier than buying the veggies whole and preparing them yourself so I would highly recommend getting a spiralizer, whether it’s a hand held one or the KitchenAid attachment.

Zucchini Noodles & Chicken Sausage in Vodka Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

This dish is a great weeknight meal especially because it is made all in one pan. Check out this handy how-to graphic I made!

Zucchini Noodles & Chicken Sausage in Vodka Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

First, the zoodles get sautéed with some seasoning. It only takes a few minutes because they’re so thin and noodly. After you take the zucchini noodles out, you sauté some sliced chicken sausage, add the vodka sauce to warm it up, toss with the zucchini noodles and serve. Done! After sprinkling with Parmesan, of course.

Zucchini Noodles & Chicken Sausage in Vodka Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

I promise that even the least experienced cook out there can nail this. I love cooking, but most weeknights I want dinner to be done as quickly as possible so Matt and I can have the rest of the night to get stuff done and relax. This meal is one of our go-to dinner recipes for a reason! Enjoy!

Zucchini Noodles & Chicken Sausage in Vodka Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Zucchini Noodles & Chicken Sausage in Vodka Sauce
 
Yield: 2 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 medium zucchinis, ends removed
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 chicken sausages (I use Trader Joe’s Roasted Garlic Chicken Sausage)
  • ¾ - 1 cup vodka sauce or preferred marinara sauce, depending on how saucy you like it
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for topping
Directions
  1. Wash and dry the zucchinis then spiralize them using your desired method. Heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini noodles and season with the garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sauté the zoodles until cooked through, but still al dente, about 5 minutes. Remove the zoodles from the pan.
  2. Drain and wipe any liquid from the pan then return it to medium heat with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil. Slice the chicken sausages and add to the pan. Cook until lightly browned. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the vodka sauce. Stir and let warm then add the zucchini noodles. Toss to coat then divide between two bowls. Top with the Parmesan cheese and enjoy!
Notes
Zucchinis retain a lot of water so if you have leftovers they will most likely be watery when you reheat them. These are best eaten right after being prepared.