Vegetarian

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.

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.

Roasted Veggie Hummus Wraps

Roasted Veggie Hummus Wraps  |  Lemon & Mocha

Lunch always seems to be a struggle for me, especially when I’m trying to eat healthy. I don’t want it to be complicated because if I’m cooking lunch and dinner on a weekday I’ll feel like all I did all day was cook and work with no time to relax. Boring also won’t cut it because then I’ll find myself not wanting to eat it and will end up with takeout or vending machine chips instead. My ideal healthy lunch has lots of veggies, minimal carbs and is something I can mass meal prep on a Sunday without taking too much time out of one of my days off.

Roasted Veggie Hummus Wraps  |  Lemon & Mocha

Roasted Veggie Hummus Wraps are one of the go-to’s in our house. I roast all the vegetables on Sunday and then we are ready for lunches for the week. Having lots of roasted veggies in the fridge for weekday lunches is great when you want veggies, but the thought of another salad is making you want to order a panini and fries! If you have never had roasted vegetables with hummus before you are missing out. The creaminess of the hummus with the tender bell pepper, zucchini, eggplant and mushrooms is a really tasty combination. This recipe makes four servings, but it can easily be scaled up or down. If you want more protein in your lunch these wraps work really well with grilled or rotisserie chicken.

Roasted Veggie Hummus Wraps  |  Lemon & Mocha

When you are buying wraps, especially if you are trying to be healthy, make sure you read the ingredients and nutrition facts. I always thought wraps were healthier than sandwiches, but a while back I did some research and found that a lot of wraps can be worse for you than sliced bread. Many brands claim to be healthy, but are full of sodium and trans fat. Try to find wraps that are high in fiber, low in sodium and don’t have artificial preservatives.

Roasted Veggie Hummus Wraps  |  Lemon & Mocha

A quick tip for softening your wrap to make it easier to roll so it won’t crack on you: wrap the tortilla in a damp paper towel and microwave for ten seconds. That’s it! I told you it was a quick tip!

Roasted Veggie Hummus Wraps
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 red bell pepper, thickly sliced
  • 2 zucchinis, quartered then thickly sliced
  • 1 small eggplant, small diced
  • 1 package sliced baby bella mushrooms, about 8 ounces
  • 4 6” whole wheat wraps
  • ½ cup roasted red pepper hummus
  • 1 cup spinach leaves
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a half sheet pan with nonstick tinfoil. Arrange all the prepared bell pepper, zucchini, eggplant and mushrooms on the baking sheet. Try to get the vegetables in a single layer, slightly overlapping the mushrooms if needed. Drizzle with olive oil then lightly move around with a spatula to coat. Generously season with ground black pepper, salt, garlic powder and Italian seasoning.
  2. Roast the vegetables in the oven for 20-25 minutes, adding more time if needed, until the vegetables are tender. Toss the veggies halfway through the cooking time.
  3. Lay out the wraps. Spread 2 tablespoons of the hummus onto each wrap. Divide the spinach leaves between the 4 wraps then evenly divide the veggies. This is definitely a loaded wrap so you will probably need a fork to finish all the yummy veggies that fall on your plate while eating!
Notes
- If making ahead, store the roasted veggies separate from the wraps and add when ready to eat so they don’t make the wraps soggy. This can be eaten with the veggies room temperature or heated up. If I was bringing these wraps to work or packing in a lunch I would put the divided veggies in a little reusable container. That way the veggies can either be warmed up in their container or left cold. Then I would put the hummus and spinach on the wraps and roll them up. When it is time to eat, carefully unroll the wrap, add the veggies, and wrap it back up.
- For additional protein, add some grilled or rotisserie chicken to the wrap.

 

Mini Raviolis with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Spinach & Goat Cheese

Mini Raviolis with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Spinach & Goat Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

Why do mini food items always taste better? Does their cuteness enhance their deliciousness? Or is it that knowing you can eat more of the tiny bites makes them even more irresistible? Whatever the reason may be, the mini raviolis in this dish certainly increase the tasty factor.

Mini Raviolis with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Spinach & Goat Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

And using store-bought raviolis and prepared sauce is a winning weeknight dinner combination. This pasta meal was an unplanned dish born from the ingredients in my fridge, but I was so happy with the results I decided to share it here on Lemon & Mocha.

Mini Raviolis with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Spinach & Goat Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

The sautéed garlic, shallots and sun-dried tomatoes tend to be my go-to pasta trifecta. They are the perfect base to almost any pasta dish, providing full-packed savory flavoring.

Mini Raviolis with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Spinach & Goat Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

The fresh spinach leaves are a great way to sneak in some veggies and are a great pairing for the ricotta-filled raviolis. The goat cheese adds a depth and creaminess to regular prepared sauce, almost giving it the taste of a vodka sauce.

Mini Raviolis with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Spinach & Goat Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

Feel free to swap out the spinach and use your favorites veggies to mix and match this pasta dish. I think asparagus and mushrooms or eggplant and zucchini would both be delicious variations. I might have to go give them a try!

Mini Raviolis with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Spinach & Goat Cheese  |  Lemon & Mocha

Mini Raviolis with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Spinach & Goat Cheese
 
Yield: 6-8 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
  • 12 ounces fresh spinach leaves
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, regular or garlic & herb
  • 1-2 cups prepared tomato sauce, depending on sauciness preference
  • 1 pound mini raviolis, prepared according to package instructions
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, if desired, for serving
Directions
  1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the minced shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallot has softened and started to lightly brown.
  2. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach leaves, a handful or so at a time, stirring often, until all the spinach has been aded and wilted.
  3. Stir in the goat cheese until melted. Add the tomato sauce and stir until warm.
  4. Carefully stir in the prepared mini raviolis until coated. Serve hot with freshly grated Parmesan, if desired.

 

New England Harvest Salad

New England Harvest Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Have you heard of Boloco? They are a Boston based burrito joint, but these are not your average Mexican burritos. Self-described as “globally inspired burritos” they take it to the next delicious level with creations like Bangkok Thai, laden with addictive spicy peanut sauce, and the Mediterranean, complete with black bean hummus made in house.

New England Harvest Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Although Boloco, which is a mashup of Boston Local Company, is mostly based in Boston, they do have several locations in Massachusetts outside of Boston and have spots in New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and even Maryland! And in case you were wondering, no Boloco is not paying me for this or even aware I’m writing this blog post, I just love their food that much!

New England Harvest Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

One of my favorites was a recent addition last year: the New England Harvest Salad. I normally don’t get so jazzed up over a salad, but this dish is so outrageously tasty I eventually had to re-create it myself. This here is a sautéed kale salad topped with quinoa, roasted squash and fresh cranberries, shredded beets, roasted balsamic mushrooms (told you those bad boys were going to make an appearance!) and goat cheese.

New England Harvest Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

If you told me I could only eat one salad for the rest of my life I would pick this one without even hesitating. In addition to the addictive mouthwatering qualities of this salad, which caused it to never even make it to the table and instead be eaten standing at the counter, this salad is healthy. Just look at all those superfoods!

New England Harvest Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Since all the components are warm, other than the shredded beets and goat cheese, I made extra so all Matt and I had to do was throw the leftovers in the microwave the next day then top with the cold ingredients for a quick, healthy and satisfying dinner.

New England Harvest Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

New England Harvest Salad
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 16 ounces peeled and cut butternut squash (1” cubes)
  • ⅔ cup fresh cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 10 ounces roughly chopped kale, hard stems removed
  • 1 small red beet
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 batch Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms
  • 8 ounces goat cheese
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil and set aside.
  2. Toss the squash and cranberries with the 1½ tablespoons of the olive oil then place on the prepared baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes or until the squash is tender.
  3. Meanwhile heat the remaining 1½ tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the kale and half a cup water. Cook until the kale is tender and the water has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Peel the beet with a vegetable peeler then grate with a microplane. Set aside.
  5. To plate the salad first layer the kale. Top with the quinoa, followed by the shredded beets, balsamic roasted mushrooms and the roasted squash and cranberries. Finish by sprinkling with the goat cheese. Serve warm.