Balsamic Mushroom and Fruit Summer Salad

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Wow summer has flown by.  Usually summer is my season with the most cooking, because I have the most free time, however this summer has been a very different story.  My last ten weeks have been entirely consumed by three summer courses, a part time job, an internship, one week as a camp counselor, a trip to the lake house, and moving into a new house.  So much for slowing down!

I know from personal experience that when life gets too busy, cooking is often one of the first things pushed aside. Instead of taking the time or energy to cook a nutritious meal, we often end up turning to junk food, microwaveable options, and eating out.  Guilty as charged.

There is hope though! This salad is something I whipped together over my lunch break this afternoon, and was so pleasantly surprised at how quickly it all came together, and how delicious it tasted, that I knew I had to share it with you.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did, and I hope your August is filled with porch swings, slow evenings, ice tea, and friends.  I’m still holding out hope for that slow summer pace  🙂



Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 4-5 large button mushrooms
  • 2 cups mixed spinach leaves
  • ¼ cup rinsed blueberries
  • 4 large strawberries, sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons crumbled goat cheese (as desired)

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon olive oil
  • Juice from ¼ of an orange
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon agave (a little more if the balsamic is too strong for you!)


  1. Heat 1 Tablespoon of oil in a small frying pan.  Rinse and slice the mushrooms, and add to the frying pan once hot.
  2. Sautee for one minute, then drizzle 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar over the mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes, flipping occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the salad dressing ingredients in a small cup and whisk thoroughly.
  4. Toss the spinach leaves in a medium-sized bowl.  Add the sliced strawberries, blueberries, and crumbled goat cheese over the top.  Then add the warm mushrooms and top with a drizzle of dressing.
  5. Serve and enjoy!


Notes and Tips!:

  • Try marinating your mushrooms in the dressing for a few hours prior to sautéing them for a fuller flavor!
  • Vegan? Leave out the goat cheese and replace it with a vegan cheese substitute if desired!
  • Like this recipe? Try these other delicious dishes from ‘a rented kitchen’ and make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss a thing!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Goat Cheese, and Cranberries over Barley

Due to the fact that I am a college student, cooking in a tiny rented kitchen from the 1920s, I do not have all of the kitchen tools that say, Martha Stewart- or any adult living on their own would have. I am completely fine with this reality because I have most of the necessities one would need for efficient cooking- cutting boards, a few pots and pans. I recently got a potato peeler!

This week was a big week because I decided to invest in my first cast iron skillet! I kept stumbling upon recipes that require skillets, so when I found one at the groccery store it quickly ended up in my cart. And of all the recipes I have been eager to make with a skillet, this recipe takes the cake.

I have only had brussels sprouts a few times in my life. My mom never cooked brussels sprouts growing up, so I am assuming my dad was not a fan of these little green vegetables. After making this recipe however, I don’t know what’s not to like! Mixed with warm goat cheese, sweet cranberries, and natural barley, these brussels are the perfect complimentary flavor- savory, without a bite of bitter. You are going to love this fall-time medley of food. Give it a try! Whip out that old skillet of yours and shake things up a bit. You have nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain!


  • 1 cup dry Barley
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt
  • 2/3 cup fresh cranberries (or 1/3 cup dried cranberries)
  • 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, or more to taste


  1. Add 1 cup of dry barley to 3 cups of water in a medium sized saucepot. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until the barley is soft and the water is absorbed.
  2. While the barley cooks, preheat your broiler.
  3. Rinse the brussles sprouts and remove the tips, all browning/discolored leaves, and slice in half.
  4. Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet on medium-high heat on the stovetop. Allow it to sit for a few minutes until hot. *
  5. In a medium-sized bowl combine the sprouts, olive oil, and salt. Toss well so that the Brussels sprouts have a fine coating of oil.
  6. Once the skillet is hot, quickly arrange the brussels sprouts so that the center of each sprout- the flat side- is face down. This method of roasting allows for the heat to get trapped in the layers of the sprout and steams them. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  7.  Add the cranberries to the pan and place the entire pan in the oven. Use oven mitts! The pan will be very hot.
  8. Broil the Brussels sprouts and cranberries for about three minutes. The tops should be lightly browned and the bottoms caramelized.
  9. Combine the warm barley, sprouts, cranberries, goat cheese, maple syrup, and balsamic vinegar in a large bowl. Mix well to evenly distribute the syrup and vinegar.
  10. Season with salt as desired, serve, and enjoy!

Notes and Tips!:

  • Yield: Serves two.
  • Optional: add toasted almonds to this dish!
  • A quick and easy test to determine whether your skillet is hot enough: Sprinkle a few drops of water on the skillet while heating it up. If the water quickly sizzles away, your skillet is hot enough!
  • If you don’t have/ don’t like Goat cheese, try Gorgonzola! Vegan, omit the cheese!
  • Use a cast iron skillet for the oven! Non-stick skillets are not designed to be used in the high temperatures of the oven- they can emit toxins at the extreme temperatures.
  • If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container.  This recipe will keep for a few days and can easily be microwaved for later meals!
  • Source: Cookie + Kaite
  • Other dishes you might like!: Terriyaki Tofu and Pineapple Bake; Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes, Mint, and Goat Cheese; Sweet Potato Pizza with Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese, and Kale

Agave Sautéed Kale with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Hello World! I hope you all had a very special, relaxing, and family-filled thanksgiving! I had the privilege of going to the beautiful mountains of West Virginia to celebrate the holiday with my boyfriend’s family. There we enjoyed the slower pace of the country, and stuffed ourselves with the holiday’s favorite dishes.  It was lovely.

Despite having consumed an unhealthy amount of sweet potato casserole, I’m still not tired of sweet potatoes! I’m not sure a day will ever come where I will grow weary of that beautiful vegetable. Thus, since they are in season, healthy, and delicious, I thought I would share one of my favorite quick and easy sweet potato dishes! I make this combo of kale and sweet potatoes regularly for a simple and satisfying lunch, and it is faaaantastic. The agave takes the bitterness out of the kale and blends in perfectly with the sweet potatoes. Give it a try! It’ll make a hard day significantly better.


  • 1 Sweet potato
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 Large kale leave
  • 1-2 Teaspoons agave
  • 1 Teaspoon dry minced onion
  • Parmesan or Goat Cheese for sprinkling


  1. Rinse the sweet potato, and peel the skin if desired. I left most of the skin on, but scraped off some of the rougher eyes.
  2. Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sized frying pan.
  3. Chop the sweet potato up into bite sized pieces and place in the frying pan. Arrange so that as many of the potatoes are flat on the pan as possible, flip periodically, and roast until soft and slightly browned- about 20 minutes.
  4. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, rinse the kale leaves and slice into thin strips.
  5. When the potatoes are done cooking, remove the potatoes from the pan, placing in a separate bowl, and replace with the sliced kale.
  6. Drizzle the agave over the kale leaves and use a spatula to mix the agave in with the kale.
  7.  Sautéed the kale for 3- 5 minutes until wilted, stirring occasionally.
  8. Add the kale to the sweet potatoes, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese or goat cheese as desired, and serve warm. Enjoy!

Notes and Tips!:

Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes, Mint, and Goat Cheese

In an ideal world, I would only cook with produce that is in season. There are several reasons for this. 1) If a product is in season and in your grocery store, there’s a higher chance it’s local. When we buy out of season produce, it has been shipped from somewhere with a different climate- which is bad for the environment. 2) There is a huge financial benefit to shopping in season! Produce is cheaper when it’s naturally time for it to be harvested. 3) There are health benefits to shopping in season. If we follow the calendar year and eat what is available in each season, we will most likely increase the variety of produce we consume, and thus nutrients we intake. Seasons are Mother Nature’s way of balancing our diet.

I still have a lot to learn about the seasons for different fruits and vegetables, but one season I have been looking forward to is eggplant season. And good news! Here it is! The natural season for eggplants is from July to October, with some slight variations based on location.  Eggplant was not a common vegetable I ate as a child, but as my obsession for reading recipes has begun, I have been dying to try several eggplant recipes. It’s a very versatile produce and can be prepared in numerous ways.

The recipe I have here today calls for oven roasted eggplant slices that are then topped with a delicious tomato based salad- almost like bruschetta but with eggplant slices instead of bread! It’s perfect for a meal for 2, or as an appetizer or side dish! Happy eggplant season, and happy cooking!



  • 1 to 2 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds eggplant (about 2 medium), in 3/4- to 1-inch slices
  • 2 ounces (1/2 cup)
  • ½ cup crumbled goat cheese or crumbled ricotta salata*
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/3 cup finely diced red onion
  • 3 seeded, diced medium tomatoes (1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
  • 2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper.


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and prepare a baking sheet by coating with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.  I suggest using a pastry brush to really cover the entire sheet!
  2. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the baking sheet, sprinkling each slice with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Roast the eggplant for 15 to 20 minutes, without disturbing it.
  4. After roasting, remove the eggplant from the oven and flip each piece.  They should flip with ease, and the underside should be dark and slightly blistery.  If the slices are not dark and blistered, allow them to cook for another few minutes.
  5. Sprinkle the tops with salt and pepper again, and return the eggplant to the oven- roasting for another 10- 12 minutes.
  6. While the eggplant is cooking: in a small bowl, combine the crumbled cheese, capers, onion, tomatoes, mint, vinegar, and the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil.*
  7. Serve each slice of eggplant with a scoop of the tomato salad on top of each round. Serve immediately.

Notes and Tips!:

  • Yield: Makes about 4 appetizer/salad portions, assuming people will eat two rounds each.
  • Feel free to season the tomato mixture more as desired- adding salt, crushed black pepper, more vinegar, oregano, parsley, etc.
  • The original recipe calls for ricotta salata, however I used goat cheese because it’s what I had in the house and found it to be delicious.
  • Tip: In order to save left overs for another time, store the tomato salad and eggplant in separate sealed containers in the refrigerator. This will work best if the eggplant has not yet been coated with the tomato mixture. Thus, only serve up the eggplant rounds based on what is called for originally. You can always serve a second round with more tomato mixture, or allow for people to top their own eggplant slices as desired.
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen

Sweet Potato Pizza with Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese, and Kale

If I had to make a list of my absolute favorite foods, the top ranking foods would be: chocolate, bread, sweet potatoes, goat cheese, blueberries. Hands down. I have to fight the temptation to eat chocolate and a muffin with every meal, and I pin every single sweet potato recipe I see on pinterest like it’s my job. Thus, this recipe is about as close as it comes to perfection in my book- it’s got bread in the form of a yummy pizza crust, a base of sweet potato, and goat cheese to top it all off! What more could a girl want?! (besides chocolate and blueberries.) I know it may seem weird to have a sweet potato pizza, but try something new! Shake up your typical routine! Life’s more fun that way, and turns out- a pizza can be more delicious that way too.


  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 3 tbsp. skim milk or soymilk
  • 1 prepared whole wheat pizza crust
  • 1 cup shredded goat cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 premade pizza crust (I suggest whole wheat)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Rinse your sweet potato and poke several small holes in it with a fork.
  3. Wrap the sweet potato in aluminum foil, place in your preheated oven, and bake for about 45 minutes- or until soft all the way through.*
  4. In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over low heat. Add the thinly sliced onion and dash of salt to the pan.  Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, for 30- 40 minutes or until just caramelized.
  5. When the onion is close to being done cooking, add the kale to the skillet and cook until tender and wilted. This should only take a few minutes! Remove the pan from heat and salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Scoop the potato insides into a medium bowl and mash.  Add the milk and salt, mixing until blended in and smooth.
  7. Using a large spoon, spread the potato mixture onto a pizza crust.
  8. Sprinkle with half of cheese, the kale and onions, and then the remaining cheese.
  9. Bake the pizza for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees, or until kale begins to crisp and cheese melts.
  10. Enjoy!

Notes and Tips:

  • Tip: Don’t turn your oven off after baking your potato- leave it on because in a few minutes you will need it heated up to bake your pizza!
  • This recipe is from the food blog ‘Oh My Veggies’ It’s one of my favorites- check it out!