Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs

We’re stepping a bit outside the Thanksgiving box today.

This Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is the perfect vegan side dish for Thanksgiving.

Because, although not a traditional holiday side dish, this Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is completely worthy of a spot on your holiday table. It’s full of dried cranberries, whole grains, white beans and seasonal fresh herbs like fresh rosemary, sage and thyme and literally is a Thanksgiving explosion in your mouth. You’re going to get this one on the menu STAT.

I’ve been a big fan of grain salads for quite a while now, as evidenced by this Spring Fava Bean and Burrata Grain Salad, this Fresh Corn, Leek and Edamame Grain Salad and this Herbed Grain Salad with Broccoli Rabe and White Beans. I love them because they are filled with a ton of healthy ingredients and filling to boot. The whole grains give them plenty of heft to make them completely suitable as an entire meal, although they are equally delicious (and the portions go a bit further) if you serve them as a side dish among all the other delicious things you typically serve up for a holiday meal.

I’m not joking when I say tell you this Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs tastes like your entire Thanksgiving menu in a bowl. Sure, there’s no turkey in there (although you could easily add some and I wouldn’t be one bit upset about it) but just the cranberries and the fresh herbs alone are enough to mentally transport you to arguably the most well-known food holiday of the year. I love allll the fresh herbs, but there’s also just something about fresh sage in a recipe that really screams fall and all the deliciousness that comes with it.

A bowl of this Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is filling enough to be a delicious vegan holiday meal.

As far as making the dish goes, it couldn’t be easier. Not only does it come together fairly quickly (the longest step will be cooking up the grains) but it can also be made in advance and served cold or at room temperature, which means it’s easy to fit into an already busy cooking and kitchen schedule once T-day rolls around.

For the whole grains, I used a combination of farro and Italian couscous because they were what we had on hand, but feel free to use other varieties such as quinoa, barley or even wild rice. I also added in some toasted pine nuts, and I highly recommend you do not skip this step, even if you want to sub in some other type of toasted nut for that little extra crunch. (Pecans? Almonds? So many possibilities.)

This Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is an easy, make-ahead side dish for the holidays.

I would also like to point out that said Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is completely vegan, which makes it a delicious, healthy, high-protein option for anyone in your group that may have certain dietary preferences. It’s a great way to serve them up some protein and filling flavor without having to bend over backwards making some sort of interesting Tofurkey creation.

Since I was developing recipes so far in advance this holiday season due to our little one’s arrival, I served this up as a side dish at my mother-in-law’s birthday celebration we held down here in Santa Barbara at the beginning of October. Let’s just say my sisters-in-law were already requesting I make it as our contribution to the Thanksgiving meal when we go celebrate with them in a couple of weeks.  I hope you decide to add it to your menu as well!

Serve this vegan Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs as a hearty side dish or light, healthy meal during the holidays.

Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs
Prep Time
10 mins
 

This festive vegan side dish is full of filling whole grains, protein-rich white beans and pine nuts, and the freshest herbs of the season. 

Course: Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Servings: 6 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked grains of your choice (I used a combination of farro and Italian couscous)
  • 2 15.5-ounce cans Great Northern or white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to two days before serving.

Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs | CaliGirlCooking.com

Butternut Squash and Sausage “Stoup” with Crispy Brussels Sprouts

I hope you’re ready for a delicious fall/Halloween/weeknight meal today!

Butternut Squash and Sausage "Stoup" with Crispy Brussels Sprouts is the perfect healthy, hearty weeknight fall meal.

This Butternut Squash and Sausage “Stoup” with Crispy Brussels Sprouts is one for the books. It’s full of all the fall flavors, easy enough to make on any night of the week (yes, even Halloween), healthy and did I mention tasty?

It’s basically a seasonally appropriate version of my go-to Warming Minestrone Soup using all of the ingredients I crave this time of year (here’s looking at you butternut squash, kale, Brussels sprouts and sausage!) And why do I call it “stoup”? (I hear you asking…) Well, because it’s just a touch on the heartier side…almost a stew but not quite past the point of soup…and I feel like we’re all looking for something a little more hearty and belly-filling this time of year….am I right?

Soups and stews are one of my favorite dishes to make for the fall and winter for the same reasons salads are one of my favorite dishes to make for the spring and summer – it’s easy to pack in tons of nutrients from seasonal produce, and the recipes are also quite forgiving, so you can sub things in and out as you please based on your personal preferences or what’s caught your eye at the Farmers’ Market on any particular week.

A big pot of Butternut Squash and Sausage "Stoup" with Crispy Brussels Sprouts is the perfect dinner to have linger on the stove on any busy night.

Yes, I love the butternut squash and kale and sausage in this dish, but I promise not to hate you if you want to swap in something equally delicious like fresh pumpkin, Swiss chard, beans, etc. The one thing I’m going to beg you to at least give a shot is these crispy Brussels sprouts as a topping because they are TO DIE FOR. I seriously love them so much. But you have to make them fresh, right before you’re ready to serve your “stoup,” or else they’ll get soggy. Trust me on this, crispy Brussels sprouts are about to change your life.

I mean, just the fact that this Butternut Squash and Sausage “Stoup” with Crispy Brussels Sprouts is a healthy and hearty meal should be reason enough to serve it up tomorrow night before your little ghosts and goblins head out for a night of trick-or-treating, but I will also say that it’s a great meal to just set up on the stove top and let people help themselves as they see fit. Shoot, you could even invite over all your adult friends to sit and enjoy this deliciousness while all the little ones do their Halloween thing.

Butternut Squash and Sausage "Stoup" with Crispy Brussels Sprouts is a hearty yet healthy weeknight meal that anyone will love.

Even if you don’t have any little ones doing any trick-or-treating this year, I’m going to just go ahead and guess that you yourself have been indulging just a leeeeetle bit on all the Halloween candy and other devilish treats that are making their appearance out there right now. And because I’m all about that balance, I’m prescribing this Butternut Squash and Sausage “Stoup” with Crispy Brussels Sprouts as the perfect dinner to counteract your impending sugar coma.

Two delicious bowls of Butternut Squash and Sausage "Stoup" with Crispy Brussels Sprouts ready to be devoured!

Here’s to a safe and happy Halloween and lots of delicious food in your immediate future!

Butternut Squash and Sausage "Stoup" with Crispy Brussels Sprouts
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
30 mins
 

This hearty yet healthy stew and soup hybrid is full of the tastiest fall produce like butternut squash, kale and a topping of crispy Brussels sprouts.

Course: Main Course, Soup
Servings: 4 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 of a white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1/2 of a medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • Parmesan rind (optional)
  • 3 cups packed kale, destemmed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 12 ounces precooked Italian chicken sausage (sweet or spicy), sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons bacon grease (or 2 additional tablespoons olive oil)
  • 2 cups thinly sliced Brussels sprouts (about 8 sprouts)
Instructions
  1. Warm olive oil and butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Once butter is melted, add onion and garlic and saute until translucent and fragrant, about 5 minutes. 

  2. Add celery, carrot and butternut squash and saute another 5 minutes. 

  3. Add bay leaf, chicken stock and Parmesan rind (if using) and bring to a low boil. 

  4. Stir in kale, white wine and sausage and let simmer until kale is wilted and sausage is heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste and keep warm on low heat until ready to serve.

  5. Once your soup is prepared, make your crispy Brussels sprouts. Heat olive oil and bacon grease (if using) in a large, deep saute pan over high heat. Once oil is sizzling, drop in sliced Brussels sprouts. If the sprouts are going to be crowded in your pan if you use a whole batch, you can split them up into two batches. 

  6. Fry Brussels sprouts until they look frazzled with dark brown edges. Strain out of oil and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain and crisp up. 

  7. When you’re ready to eat, ladle the soup into bowls and top with Brussels sprouts.

Butternut Squash and Sausage "Stoup" with Crispy Brussels Sprouts | CaliGirlCooking.com

Easy Indian-Style Yellow Curry (with Toppings!)

Today’s super-delicious recipe is brought to you by dear old Dad.

Easy Indian-Style Yellow Curry is delicious when served with an assortment of toppings.

I’m finally sharing his go-to curry recipe and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s not the typical Thai-style curry you order for takeout, instead it’s an Indian-Style Yellow Curry with an assortment of what we call in our household “da boys”…aka a bunch of tasty toppings that take a fairly simple, straightforward recipe completely over the top.

This Easy Indian-Style Yellow Curry is so easy, it’s almost comical how much flavor it has for so few ingredients involved. It’s totally achievable on any night of the week, and you can also easily control the spice so that even the pickiest of eaters in your household get excited about it.

Easy Indian-Style Yellow Curry (with Toppings!) is the perfect easy dinner for any night of the week.

Although this recipe has very few ingredients, the one that I highly recommend you pay close attention to is the type of curry powder you use. Our family favorite has always been this Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder, and I highly recommend that you invest in some yourself ASAP. Sure, you could use some other brand of curry powder, but I guarantee that this one does the trick and, trust me, my family doesn’t mess around when it comes to our go-to cooking ingredients.

Aside from the curry powder, the only ingredients you’ll need for the soup itself are coconut milk, a can of green chilies, onion, chicken and chicken broth. And, depending on how thick your coconut milk is, you may also need a “cheater’s roux” made simply of melted butter and flour.

Of course, there are also variations you can make depending on special dietary preferences. For example, use tofu and vegetable broth to make this dish vegetarian, or you can also omit the green chilies if you have some in your group who are averse to a lot of spice.

Easy Indian-Style Yellow Curry is made extra-delicious when adorned with a selection of toppings!

And no Easy Indian-Style Yellow Curry would be complete without an entire assortment of toppings! As I mentioned, in my family we refer to these as “da boys,” but I realize that may seem just plain odd to many of you. Here are just a few suggestions of different toppings to serve with your curry:

Chopped macadamia nuts
Coconut flakes
Raisins
Mango chutney
Crispy onions
Chopped dried apricots

I can guarantee you will not go wrong with any of these, and you may even never resort to just “plain old” curry ever again.

We’re slowly getting into cooler weather here in Santa Barbara, so I’m looking forward to hunkering down with our new little one and enjoying all the comfort food dishes it’s been too hot to even think about for the past few months. This Easy Indian-Style Yellow Curry is definitely on my list of things to whip up as often as we can!

Easy Indian-Style Yellow Curry is the perfect easy weeknight dinner.

This post contains affiliate links.

Easy Indian-Style Yellow Curry (with Toppings!)
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
30 mins
 

This Indian-style yellow curry is incredibly tasty and easy to whip up on any night of the week, plus it's served with toppings galore!

Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 4 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 4-ounce can minced green chilies (optional)
  • 3 small chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • Assorted toppings such as chopped macadamia nuts, coconut flakes, raisins, mango chutney, crispy onions and chopped dried apricots
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and chilies and saute until fragrant, about 5 minutes. 

  2. Add the chicken and begin to brown it. Sprinkle on the curry powder and continue stirring until all sides of chicken are browned and curry powder is incorporated. 

  3. Pour in chicken broth and bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once mixture has come to a boil, bring down to a simmer and add in the coconut milk.

  4. At this point, you’ll have to make the call of whether you want to thicken up your curry or not. If you like it a bit creamier, whisk together the melted butter and flour in a small bowl and then stir it into the soup. If you’re happy with a thinner curry, leave it as is. 

  5. Place toppings in small bowls and set them out on the table for people to help themselves. Serve curry over cooked brown rice. 

Easy Indian-Style Yellow Curry (with Toppings!) | CaliGirlCooking.com

Avocado Pizza with Bacon, Cilantro and Lime

Are you ready for the pizza toppings to end all pizza toppings?

Avocado Pizza with Bacon, Lime and Cilantro is a fun new pizza flavor that is sure to impress.

Because I’m pretty sure after eating this Avocado Pizza with Bacon, Cilantro and Lime you’re never going to want to go back to plain ol’ cheese or pepperoni again.

I mean, we all know what a bona fide hit avocado toast has become, so it would only make sense that avocado pizza follows suit. The mere fact that this recipe includes bacon means it’s perfectly acceptable for breakfast, and why not just call it a day by throwing a fried egg on top? You’re welcome for that little nugget of inspiration.

In real world news, still no sign of baby. We “lived it up” this weekend as a family of two with a visit to the Harbor & Seafood Festival, a stop at the local pumpkin patch, a movie and some dinner out. We’re trying to enjoy as much time together as we can before our little girl gets here!

On the NorCal wildfire front, I’m relieved to see that they’re getting things somewhat under control (comparatively speaking) and was uplifted to see some of my favorite local businesses reopening over the past few days. That’s not to say there’s still not a long way for Napa and Sonoma to go as far as recovery is concerned, but let’s hope the worst is behind us and things only go up from here.

A slice of Avocado Pizza with Bacon, Cilantro and Lime ready to be devoured.

As I’ve been whipping through recipe development this past week, I’ve certainly not taken it for granted. Often, when I’m pulling something out of the oven or stirring something on the stovetop, I find myself thinking about how, for my food-loving friends in Wine Country, whipping up a home-cooked meal is the last thing on their mind right now. I wish I could make a big feast and somehow get it up to them, but for now all I can do is continue to make delicious things and record them so that hopefully my friends can enjoy making some of my creations very soon.

This Avocado Pizza with Bacon, Cilantro and Lime is one I know will be a huge hit with ANYONE who is blessed with the gene that makes you love cilantro (I hear that’s a thing? Sorry to all my cilantro-haters out there.) The combination of all four flavors – avocado, bacon, cilantro and lime – complimented by my go-to overnight pizza crust recipe and just a light dusting of cheese is seriously a party in your mouth.

It seems like a bit of a cheater’s pizza, because really the only toppings you put on before baking are some olive oil, garlic and cheese, but the real flavor arrives as soon as you put on those finishing touches of creamy avocado, crispy cooked bacon, tart lime juice and fresh-chopped cilantro. And if you’re like me and are usually too lazy to reheat anything when enjoying it for leftovers, Avocado Pizza with Bacon, Cilantro and Lime is going to be your new best friend. Promise.

A couple of slices of Avocado Pizza with Bacon, Cilantro and Lime make the perfect easy lunch or dinner.

As I mentioned, I used my favorite from-scratch pizza dough recipe – Jim Lahey’s Overnight Pizza Dough – but you can easily use a premade dough or crust. I will say that, even though the words “overnight” and “from-scratch” may seem a bit intimidating, Jim Lahey’s recipe is SUPER easy and in my opinion well worth the little bit of extra planning it requires to mix up a batch of the dough the night before you plan on making the pizza.

I don’t know about you, but pizza is a weekly go-to dinner in our household, and having a homemade version makes it infinitely better. I love that you can add as much (or as little) of a topping as you want, and you can opt for healthier options like fresh vegetables, meats and herbs. Plus, it all comes together pretty quickly once you have your pie rolled out and ready to go in the oven!

Avocado Pizza with Bacon, Cilantro and Lime is the perfect easy lunch or dinner for any day of the week.

Avocado Pizza with Bacon, Cilantro and Lime
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
25 mins
 

A traditional pizza dough is dressed up with fresh avocado, crispy bacon, a squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro. The perfect flavor combo!

Course: Main Course
Servings: 4 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 batch of Jim Lahey's Overnight Pizza Dough (see notes)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese
  • 4 pieces cooked bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 of a large avocado, sliced
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Instructions
  1. Prepare pizza dough according to recipe directions and roll out onto a large pizza or baking sheet dusted with cornmeal (or sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.)

  2. Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. 

  3. Brush olive oil evenly over pizza dough and sprinkle on minced garlic and cheese. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until the crust is lightly golden and the cheese has melted.

  4. Remove pizza from oven and let cool slightly (5 minutes or so) before adding the other toppings. Sprinkle the chopped bacon evenly over the pizza, followed by the avocado. Squeeze on the lime juice and finish with the chopped cilantro.

  5. Slice pizza into wedges and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Find the recipe for Jim Lahey's pizza dough here

Avocado Pizza with Bacon, Cilantro and Lime | CaliGirlCooking.com

Spinach Artichoke Dip Chicken

Winner winner chicken dinner!

This Spinach Artichoke Dip Chicken is the perfect, easy weeknight dinner.

You heard me. Today I’m bringing you the ultimate in chicken dinners, perfect for you to whip together in these first few days of fall when we’re craving comfort food but not quite ready to pull out the Crockpot. Artichoke dip lovers, you’ve been warned.

This Spinach Artichoke Dip Chicken is basically my excuse to take a favorite appetizer and turn it into a full-fledged meal. It’s high-protein and also happens to help meet your daily quota of healthy veggies. You can also easily enjoy it alone as a light meal, or if you’re a carb-lover like me you can serve it atop a bed of bowtie pasta tossed in a simple lemon, butter and pine nut sauce with even more spinach thrown in for good measure.

Have I convinced you yet that this needs to happen for dinner tonight?

Spinach Artichoke Dip Chicken served over a simple bowtie pasta for the perfect kid-friendly weeknight dinner.

What if I told you this Spinach Artichoke Dip Chicken has the revered appetizer spread both inside the chicken roll-ups AND slathered all over the top? Yea, thought that might win you over.

There are a couple of things that I absolutely love about this recipe that I just MUST bring to your attention:

First, it makes plenty of spinach-artichoke dip, so rest assured that you will have plenty to snack on while your main course is cooking or for your next Sunday football get-together. You don’t even have to bake it if you don’t want to, totally up to you!

Second, this is a “set it and forget it” meal, meaning once you’ve constructed your cute little chicken roll-ups, all that’s left to do is pop them in the oven and worry about whatever you’re going to serve with them (if anything.) That’s a functional fall meal if you ask me.

This Spinach Artichoke Dip Chicken is creamy, delicious and sure to please the pickiest of palates. In fact, I’m pretty sure any kids you have with a mind of their own about what they will and will not eat will gobble this up faster than you can say “eat your vegetables.”

Spinach Artichoke Dip Chicken is a protein- and vegetable-packed dinner that's incredibly easy to make.

I love baking sweet treats and mixing up cocktails for y’all, but as we move into comfort food season I also want to make sure you have plenty of healthier comfort food choices on hand for just any weeknight dinner. If you have anything you’d like to see me make, or any parameters for a recipe you’d like me to stick to (i.e. sheet pan dinners, Crockpot cooking, etc.) please tell me in the comments below!

I’m working hard to get a ton of stuff queued up for you guys for when I’m out on “maternity leave,” so now’s the time to put in your requests!

In the meantime, here are a few of my other “healthy” comfort food dinners that would be perfect for you to start whipping up this fall:

Bruschetta, White Bean and Pancetta Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Champagne Roast Chicken with Grapes and Shallots

Carrot, Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Pizza with Fontina

Double Pumpkin Curry with Shrimp

I hope you all have a wonderful week filled with the most delicious food! Xo

A plate of Spinach Artichoke Dip Chicken served over a bed of spinach and pine nut bowtie pasta.

Spinach Artichoke Dip Chicken
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
50 mins
 

The classic appetizer dip is rolled inside and slathered on top of lean chicken breasts to make the perfect weeknight dinner that even the kids will love!

Course: Main Course
Servings: 4 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces light cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 2 cups packed fresh spinach
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 large chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4-inch thick
Instructions
  1. Combine cream cheese, yogurt, garlic, artichoke hearts, spinach, garlic powder in a small mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You can make this up to a day in advance and keep it in the refrigerator if you’d like. 

  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a glass or ceramic baking dish large enough to hold your chicken roll-ups with cooking spray. Set aside. 

  3. Spread the flattened chicken breasts out on a large cutting board and season both sides of the breasts with salt and pepper. Place a couple of tablespoons of the prepared spinach-artichoke dip on each breast, then roll up the breasts and secure with a toothpick or two (you could also wrap with kitchen twine if you’d prefer.)

  4. Place the chicken roll-ups in the prepared baking dish and place in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. 

  5. Remove roll-ups from oven and turn broiler on high. Spread more of the spinach-artichoke dip over top of each roll-up and return to the oven for 5 more minutes, or until the spread on top is slightly browned and bubbly.

Recipe Notes

Serving suggestion: Cook up some bowtie pasta and toss it with some more fresh spinach, toasted pine nuts, butter and lemon juice. Place chicken roll-ups over top of pasta for serving.

Spinach Artichoke Dip Chicken | CaliGirlCooking.com