Grape and Goat Cheese Salad with Honey Vinaigrette

It’s lovely to have a weekend away. An entire weekend of seeing new things.

Eating at new and exciting places for every meal.

Finding new inspiration.

Escaping your routine.

Walking new places.

Getting lost.

You know, shaking it up a little.

After a relaxing weekend of eating and drinking in Melbourne, it’s nice to be home.

Back to my bed. Back to my routine.

A routine of morning jogs, writing in the evenings, and lunchtime salads. My routine isn’t special, but I like having it to come home to. These are the simple things in my day that never fail to make me feel good.


Grapes are in season! The red ones have been particularly crunchy and sweet. I usually just keep a big bowl in the fridge and grab a handful of them in between meals. But I love using them in savory salads for extra texture and juiciness, too. I used a honey vinaigrette to compliment the fruit, nuts and cheese.

Red Grape and Goat Cheese Salad
(serves 2)
– 3-4 big handfuls of baby arugula, washed and dried
– 1 cup red grapes, cut in half
– 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, finely shredded
– 1/4 cup of crumbled goat cheese
– 1/4 cup toasted coconut flakes
– 2 tablespoons toasted walnuts, chopped

Honey Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon good quality honey
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl.

Place all ingredients for the dressing in a jar with a lid. Shake it up well to make sure all that honey blends with the oil and vinegar.

Pour dressing over salad, toss well to combine. Serve immediately.


Sweet Potato Treat Salad

I love an opportunity to treat a sweet potato right. I love sweet potatoes. I would happily eat a baked sweet potato with a healthy heap of melted butter and a generous sprinkling of salt every day.

But sweet potatoes are complimented so well by so many different ingredients that it would be a shame not to mix it up. I mean, this root vegetable goes well with both kale AND marshmallows? It’s hard to deny how special that is.

While there are no marshmallows involved here, adding some good quality cheese and a bit of dried fruit can do wonders to a normal, upstanding mix of vegetables and healthy proteins. Because not all salads should be completely virtuous. Sometimes you need a salad to feel like a treat.

Soft sweet potato with crunchy walnuts and sunflower seeds, tart dried cranberries and a little bit of rich, salty blue cheese is simple, but all kinds of perfect.

If you’re not a blue cheese fan, I totally understand. I think this would be great with some goats cheese too.

Serve it over some greens or wilted spinach to make it a meal.

Sweet Potato Treat Salad
(serves 1-2)
– 1 sweet potato, scrubbed well and cut into 1 inch/2.5cm wedges
– 1 tablespoon of walnut pieces, toasted
– 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds, toasted
– 1 tablespoon dried cranberries
– 1-2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese such as Roquefort, Gorgonzola, or Stilton to taste (the flavor is strong, so a little can go a long way)
– 1 tablespoon of olive oil, plus more for oiling the baking pan
– 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
– Salt & pepper

Place potato wedges on an oiled baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put in a 200 C/400 F oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, tossing half-way through, until golden but soft. Remove from oven and let cool.

Combine cooled sweet potato, nuts, seeds, cranberries and cheese in a bowl. Drizzle on olive oil, lemon juice and additional salt and pepper and toss well to combine. Serve at room temperature.

To toast walnuts and sunflower seeds, place in a dry pan over a medium-low heat for about 5 minutes until golden and fragrant.

Crunchy, Savory and Sweet Spinach Salad

Truth: I eat a lot of salads.
Falsehood: All salads are delicious.
Truth: Honey mustard is a wonderful invention.
Falsehood: I eat salads just because they’re good for me.
Truth: Salads can be downright awesome with the perfect combination of textures, sweetness and salt.
Falsehood: Crispy apples, crunchy toasted walnuts, mellow chickpeas and caramelized shallots drizzled with honey mustard just don’t work together. (SO FALSE.)
Truth: I love tawdry historical fiction dramas with a strong female protagonist. …which is totally besides the point, I’m sorry. (Not sorry.)

I also love everything about this salad – the combination of the apple, raisins and honey mustard almost make it a dessert, while the spinach, walnuts and chickpeas bring it back to lunchtime. And the caramelized shallots – they’re just there for a dash of sex appeal.

The Ultimate Spinach Salad
(makes 2 meal-sized servings)

– A few large handfuls of spinach (Baby spinach works well. I had English spinach so I cut the leaves into small ribbons.)
– 1 cup of cooked chickpeas, rinsed well
– 1 apple, sliced thin (I used a gala apple)
– 2 tablespoons of raisins
– 2 tablespoons of toasted walnuts
– 1 shallot, sliced thin
– 2-3 tablespoons of honey mustard dressing (see below)
– salt&pepper, to taste

To toast walnuts: place nuts in a dry skillet over a medium heat, tossing occasionally until slightly browned and fragrant (3-5 minutes).

To caramelize shallots: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over a medium heat. Add the shallot slices and a dash off salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. They should become dark brown in color without burning.

Place all your ingredients (besides the dressing) in a large bow. Add the dressing slowly, tossing as you go. Serve immediately.

Honey Mustard Dressing
– 2 tablespoons of honey
– 2 teaspoons of mustard (I used 1 teaspoon of wholegrain and 1 teaspoon of Dijon)
– 1 tablespoon of olive oil
– 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar

Place ingredients in a small jar with a lid and shake well.

Fruit & Nut Chocolate Bark

I discovered Cadbury Fruit and Nut chocolate bars when I was 19 and in London for the first time.  I can almost remember the exact moment I went weak in the knees after I had my first bite of the dairy milk chocolate. I think it was in a tube station.

Something about that brand of chocolate in that city tastes far superior to the same type anywhere else.

…Maybe that’s why I love London so much. That would make a considerable amount of sense, actually.

Anyway, back to the chocolate treat at hand.

One of the suggested desserts in Bon Appetit’s Cleanse was a dark chocolate bark with pepitas and sesame seeds, which I made and really enjoyed.

(A bark is chocolate melted down, spread out in a thin layer and topped with nuts, candy, pretzels (!!!) – whatever you’d like.)

I decided to make a Cadbury-inspired fruit and nut bark — still cleanse-ish, but with a little nostalgia.

I added some crushed up toasted hazelnuts and walnuts, along with some dried cranberries and raisins and a sprinkling of sea salt. I love how thin and delicate the sheets of chocolate are in some places – it almost enhances the flavor of the chocolate itself and the other components at the same time. The sea salt doesn’t hurt either.

If you’ve got some extra plain chocolate lying around, make this with whatever you have in your cupboards. I put some toasted coconut in an earlier version which was lovely.

The point is to make it your own brand of awesome.

Fruit & Nut Chocolate Bark
– 150 grams/5.5 ounces of good quality dark chocolate
– 1-2 tablespoons of combined hazelnuts and walnuts, toasted and crushed into small pieces
– 1-2 tablespoons of combined dried cranberries and raisins.
– Sea salt (optional, but totally recommended!)

Chop up your chocolate into small pieces that will melt easily.

Make a double boiler by placing a stainless steel bowl over a saucepan with a few inches of boiling water in it (make sure the saucepan is smaller than the bowl, so the bowl comfortably rests on top without touching the boiling water.) Place chocolate in the bowl and melt, stirring frequently until smooth. Oh, and wear an oven mitt when you’re touching the bowl – that thing gets hot!

Using a heat-proof rubber spatula, spread the melted chocolate out onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Sprinkle with nuts, fruit and a little salt.

Let set in either the refrigerator or the freezer (I opt for the freezer because I’m impatient.) Once the chocolate is hard again, break into pieces and store in an air-tight container in the fridge.

Nectarine, Serrano Ham and Caramelized Rosemary Walnut Salad

Phew, that’s a mouthful of a salad name – but all important elements should be mentioned!

The holidays, as I am sure you have been reminded constantly, are upon us. I was reminded last night at a party where my dinner consisted of 3 bites of honey baked ham, a Tim Tam, a fruit mince pie and some other sugary concoction called “White Christmas”. Yeah, that happened. Happy Holidays!

Naturally, my mind turned to salads today. I’ve been thinking a lot about special salads to add to my repertoire that are easy to throw together and make a positive contribution to a holiday feast. You know, not just any old salad – a festive salad.
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