Best Salad…. Evah!

Best Salad…. Evah!

To prove it, I open with a photo of a nutritious rainbow on a cookie sheet. This dish is fun to work on with the grandkids, or as a solo project sometime when you want to make an extra healthy dinner. The recipe I’m about to share stands behind what I say on the Nana Network ALL THE TIME: “Eat a rainbow!” This is one of the best ways to do just that. The secret to perfectly roasted veggies, is to pre-cook them before you roast them. I use a microwave oven to do this, but placing the veggies into your steamer, or into boiling water and then an ice bath will work just as well. Cooking first guarantees that your roasted veggies will have a crunchy outside and a tender inside; the perfect bite!

Your veggies can grace any variety of lettuce or spinach you have on hand. There are so many robust winter varieties of lettuce, and Good Housekeeping has an excellent photo gallery of lettuces for the next prime pick at your local market.

But rainbows aside, I’ve always maintained that the real magic happens when it’s time to make the dressing. This recipe will leave you with extra dressing for salads throughout the week. I use Meyer lemons for an uber citrussy taste in this dish. These are becoming more readily available in your grocery store. They are slightly sweeter than regular lemons and add that little bit of tang needed to balance the heartiness of the veggies.

Use your favorite veggies to create a salad that your whole family will love – like I did here.

Roasted Veggie Winter Salad
With Meyer Lemon -Basil Vinaigrette
Serves a crowd
45 Minute Cuisine

For Roasted Vegetables:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon style mustard
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about ½ cup
3 whole beets, tops removed
1 bunch carrots, tops removed, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
12 new potatoes, cut into fourths
12 Brussels sprouts, cut in half
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes, about 3 cups
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper

For salad:
1 large shallot, peeled and minced, about 2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon Dijon style mustard
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon, about ¼ cup
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped, fresh basil
Six cups lettuce or spinach
2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled, about ½ cup

Preheat the oven to 400°. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and place into the oven. Roast the beets until soft, about 45 minutes. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large baking sheet with rim. Smear the mustard into the bottom of the baking sheet. Add the Parmesan cheese to the baking dish. Place the carrots into a microwave safe bowl. Add two tablespoons water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 4 minutes. Drain the carrots and place into the baking sheet. Repeat with the potatoes, Brussels sprouts and butternut squash. Use your hands to coat the vegies with the seasonings in the bottom of the baking sheet. Season with some of the salt and pepper. Roast until the vegetables are just beginning to turn golden, about 20 minutes. You can use a spatula to flip the veggies about halfway through cooking, if you like, but it’s not necessary. Remove the beets from the oven and cool. Peel the beets and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Place the shallots into a small bowl. Add the Dijon mustard, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and honey. Drizzle in the oil, whisking to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the basil.

Lay the lettuce into a shallow bowl. Pour just enough vinaigrette over the leaves to just moisten them (don’t drown your lettuce!) Place the roasted veggies on top of the lettuce. Sprinkle the Gorgonzola cheese over top. Drizzle a little more vinaigrette over the top.

Shhh! I snuck a few veggies in these fab meatballs…

Shhh! I snuck a few veggies in these fab meatballs…

One of my favorite parenting things was sneaking veggies into food my kids like to eat. I hid chopped spinach in homemade pizza and carrots and celery in marinara sauce. It was a FUN game. I’m providing healthy meals, and the kids pretend not to notice.

What I came away with was an appreciation for experimentation. I love to stuff veggies into places where no man has gone before. Well, at least none of the men in my family. One of my favorites is filling meatloaf and meatballs with eggplant. I peel and dice the eggplant into tiny bits and sauté them in olive oil with diced onion. Once the veggies cool, I add them to my ground meat and season with milk-soaked bread, parsley, and seasonings. To take my meatballs over the top, I place them in marinara sauce and cover them in melting Munster. It’s a doozy of a deception… one I’m sure your family will enjoy!

Shhh! I snuck a few veggies in these fab meatballs...

Meatballs with ground pumpkin in tomato gravy sauce

Sneaky Eggplant Stuffed Meatballs

Topped with Munster Cheese

Serves 4 to 6

45 Minute Cuisine

Not only is this dish fabulous for the first taste in your Italian-inspired menu, but it’s also a great recipe to use for a midweek meal; it’s also a sneaky but loving thing to do if you’re trying to improve your child’s diet.

4 (1-inch thick slices whole-grain bread), torn into small pieces, about 2 cups

¼ cup milk

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 (1-pound) eggplant, peeled and diced into ¼-inch cubes, about 3 ½ cups

½ medium white onion, peeled and chopped, about ½ cup

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

1 ½ pounds lean ground beef, veal or pork, or a combination of all 3

1 medium garlic clove, peeled and minced, about 1 teaspoon

2 large organic eggs

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 cup marinara sauce (homemade is the best!)

6 to 8 ounces Munster cheese, sliced

Place the bread crumbs into a bowl.  Pour the milk over top and push the bread into the liquid to absorb.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the eggplant and onion. Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until the eggplant is quite soft.  Cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Place the ground meat into a large bowl.  Add the garlic.  Add the eggs and soaked bread crumbs.  Season with additional salt and pepper, and the dried oregano.  Add the cooked veggies and fresh parsley.  Use your hands to loosely combine all the ingredients.  Form into 2 ½ to 3-inch diameter-sized balls. Place into a baking sheet with a lip. Bake until the meatballs are just cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Pour the marinara sauce into a baking pan.  Place the cooked meatballs into the pan.  Cover each with a thin slice of Munster cheese.  Place the baking sheet back into the oven and cook until the cheese melts, about 5 to 8 minutes more.

Cook’s Tip

In place of eggplant, you can substitute with any veggie you have on hand.  Mushrooms and zucchini work just fine if you finely dice the veggie. If you do not have a container of your homemade marinara sauce in the fridge, use one with a low amount of added salt and sugar. I like Newman’s Own Tomato and Basil. Ask your butcher for beef, veal, and pork from a source that produces humanely raised animals, not raised with hormones or unnecessary steroids.