Spinach Salad With Pears and Pomegranate

Raw Spinach Salad with Pears and Pomegranates Recipe

Some scoff at the idea of adding a salad to the Thanksgiving spread, but it’s an elegant way to start things off, and, if you’re watching your waistline, it’s an easy way to fill up on healthy calories before you dig into the rest of the meal. This seasonal salad works during the fall or winter, and brings a lot of festive color to the holiday spread with sliced pears, red onion, and tart pomegranate.
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“Candied” Sweet Potatoes

Aida Mollenkamp Easy Healthy Dinner Recipe "Candied" Sweet Potato Casserole

Candied yams are a staple at Thanksgiving but they’re traditionally made with loads of sugar, butter, and marshmallows. To make this recipe worthy of The Biggest Loser, a fair amount of reworking was in order. In this renovated version, the yams get simmered instead of mashed with butter then topped with a yogurt and goat cheese combination instead of marshmallows. It may sound strange on paper, but it makes for a seriously satisfying substitute for the traditional dish.
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Mashed White Beans and Cauliflower with Leeks

Aida Mollenkamp Easy Healthy Dinner Recipe White Bean and Cauliflower Mash

Mashed potatoes are the foundation of the Thanksgiving meal but they’re nutritionally lacking so, for my The Biggest Loser Thanksgiving menu, I decided to makeover mash. By using steamed cauliflower and white beans, I crafted a vegan take on mashed potatoes that has fewer calories, fat, and more fiber than the original. The key to the flavor here is the leeks and the chives so don’t skimp on either and know that the longer you cook the leeks, the deeper, more caramelized the flavor will be.

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Pretty. Easy. Kale Salad

Aida Mollenkamp Pretty Easy Kale Salad Recipe

It’s the countdown to the biggest cooking day of the year and, in the whirlwind of inviting, planning, shopping, and prepping, you just might forget to eat before you eat — know what I mean? While some like to starve before they dive into the Thanksgiving meal, I’m of a different camp: the one that eats a healthy, hearty salad. Here’s a kale salad that fits that bill and is pretty easy to make.

Speaking of which, Pretty. Easy. is also the name of a new series on the site where I’ll be sharing recipes that are seriously simple and easy on the eyes. But, back to the salad at hand: it’s quick enough to throw together whenever hunger strikes, yet festive enough to bring out for Thanksgiving, assuming you haven’t already eaten it all beforehand.
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Mushroom Agrodolce Bites

Aida Mollenkamp Easy Healthy Dinner Recipe Mushroom Ragout

Cocktail parties are my favorite. And, no, it’s not because of the cocktails. Okay, it’s partly because of the cocktails, but it’s mostly because, to me, a good party is made up of a range of small bites with a variey of tastes. With the holidays around the corner we’re heading into high-gear party season, so I thought I’d share one of my go-to cocktail party recipes: Mushroom Agrodolce Bites.

These little numbers have a lot going for them — they’re affordable, a cinch to make, and can be made ahead of time — but what I’m drawn to is the sweet-sour flavor. Agrodolce is a sweet-sour sauce hailing from Sicily and though it’s classically made with just onions, here it’s combined with roasted mushrooms for a recipe packed with a mix of sweet-sour and earthy flavors. If you aren’t entertaining anytime soon, serve the mushrooms (without the endive) as a side-dish as they a natural pairing with a variety of cold-weather fare from roasts to slow-cooked foods.

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Summer, From Concentrate

Aida Mollenkamp Easy Recipe Cocktail Shrub

If only it were possible to bottle summer and store it away. Then, on a whim, you could open it to let sunshine, frozen desserts, and grill smells brighten even the rainiest of days.

When I was a kid, I almost had it figured out. I’d be at my grandmother Noni’s house in late summer — where time was kept in matches of badminton and meals defined by how many grilled scalloped potatoes you ate and I’d run about with a net and jar bottling fireflies. To me, fireflies were the epitome of summer because they’d dance about in the dark and make the room so bright that I could read Nancy Drew by their light. The next day we’d let them go and I’d inevitably be saddened because I’d remember that both the fireflies and summer were fleeting.

Now that I’m older, I take a different approach. Each season, I round up the season’s produce, get crafty in the kitchen, and lock in the flavor at its prime. Over the years I’ve pickled, preservedcandied, and canned all in the name of sealing the season tight in a jar. But this year, I took a different approach and started distilling those sunshine-filled flavors into shrubs.
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The Bodysurfing Lavender Farmer

Aida Mollenkamp Easy Healthy Dinner Recipes Lavender Thyme Pork Chop

Recently, I headed to Newport Beach for a bodysurfing session with friends at The Wedge. The Wedge isn’t just any surf spot, but the spot for bodysurfing in Southern California. It’s a steep wave and you have to know what you’re doing to ride it (and to avoid getting hurt). As is the case with many top-tier surf spots, there is a pecking order to surfing The Wedge and a crew of locals who doggedly enforce that hierarchy.

I know, it may seem weird that I’m talking bodysurfing instead of food, but the two worlds aren’t that different — both are tight-knit groups and both tend to have one-track minds (the only difference being surfers focus on waves instead of food). The crew at the Wedge has a long-standing reputation of being abrasive and confrontational if brushed the wrong way, so, when my friends decided to brave the wave that was well beyond my skill level, I made like a wallflower and minded my own business from the comfort of the jetty.

And then I met one of the crew. He’s a stocky, middle-aged, bodysurfer named Potato, because, well, I have no idea why, but it’s a great nickname all the same. Upon meeting him, I quickly learned two things: he’s very kind and very much a chatterbox. We talked the whole time my friends were in the water — first about the beach, the waves, Newport, and finally about food. I figured food came up because he knew I cooked, but turns out it was because Potato is a part-time cook and a full-time farmer. While he grows all sorts of produce, Potato’s main crop is lavender. (I know, you were hoping it would be potatoes, weren’t you?)
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