Sunday, July 6, 2014

Warm Arugula Salad with Portobello Mushrooms and Pears

Hey, everybody! I want to start out with an apology for not posting at all during the Vegetarian Challenge. I'm so lame. I really am. I am ACTUALLY back this time for good, though! I have a lot of really fun things planned for the rest of the summer, including a lot of new videos! 

Since I didn't update you at all on the vegetarian challenge, I guess I'll give a little summary on how I felt about the whole thing. The first day was hard because I ate at people's houses and such, so I had no control over what I could eat. I had barely any protein and a lot of carbs. The next two days were better because I had clean, healthy, protein-packed foods, but I got a stomach ache as I was readjusting back to a cleaner diet than I had over the weekend. Days 4 - 6 were great. I tried all these new recipes, got more and more protein each day, and felt really good! Aaaaand then, I started to tank. I just didn't feel motivated to keep up with cooking and cleaning and cooking and cleaning and cooking and cleaning and cooking and cleaning. That's a lot of cooking and cleaning. I was making food only for myself, and I really just wanted to make a family meal, but I didn't get around to it until towards the end of the challenge. 

The main take-away for me was that being a vegetarian and monitoring myself so closely really did improve the balance in my diet. When I eat meat, I tend to just eat fruits and veggies and carbs (generally good carbs, like whole-wheat pasta) all day and then eat all my protein during dinnertime. I really should be eating protein throughout the day, and being a vegetarian really helped me do that. With the exception of protein powder, it's hard to get more than 25g of protein in one serving of a vegetarian meal, and the average woman needs 46g, so I had to really work at maintaining this throughout the day. I've totally lost that motivation and maintenance since the challenge ended, and I really need to get back on it. The vegan challenge, which starts on Thursday (yay!), is going to be especially hard for me because I've been eating a lot of cheese. A slice of pepper jack cheese was a go-to snack for me when I needed some protein in the middle of the day, and I can't do that on Thursday. I also ate a lot of ice cream (don't worry, guys - it was organic!) on the Fourth of July.

Alright, enough of me blabbering about my experience as a vegetarian. Here is the recipe you've been waiting for! I made this on Thursday night, and OH MY GOD, WAS IT GOOD! I can honestly say that this is the best salad I've made all year. My mom said it was "restaurant quality." I should probably stop bragging... but seriously, you've got to try this. This is a sure way to impress adults when your parents have company for dinner. You could even make this for a date, and I promise you that this salad is a guarantee into your date's heart. It's also SUPER EASY! You could whip this out in 20 minutes, but it looks like it took you hours of preparation since the flavors are so complex. 

Warm Arugula Salad with Portobello Mushrooms and Pears
Serves 4 

2 medium-sized portobello mushrooms
1½ Bartlett pears
½ tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup freshly shaved Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
6 loosely packed cups pre-washed baby arugula
Salt and pepper, to taste

For dressing:
½ of a Bartlett pear, cut into large chunks
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp water
½ tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp lemon pepper (optional - use regular pepper if you don't have any) 
Salt, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a dry towel, gently rub any dirt off of the mushroom caps. Cut off the stems and remove the gills on the underside using a small spoon. Cut the mushroom into 3/4-inch pieces. Remove the core from the pears and cut into 3/4-inch pieces as well. Transfer mushrooms and pears to a bowl and coat with olive oil, balsamic, thyme, salt and pepper. 

2. Place parchment paper/a silicon mat on a baking sheet. Transfer the mushrooms and pears to the baking sheet. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and the pears are soft. Give it a taste test to make sure it's done. Remove from heat.

3. While the mushrooms and pears are baking, combine all of the dressing ingredients in a Vita-Mix or blender. Blend on a low speed and gradually increase to medium. Blend until very smooth. If you find that it is too thick for your taste, add more water. 

4. Combine the roasted mushrooms and pears, the dressing, and the remaining salad ingredients in a large bowl together. Toss thoroughly and serve immediately. 

There you go! I hope you all enjoy this recipe! Out of everything I've ever posted, this is hands-down one of my favorite recipes, and you will really be missing out if you don't give this one a try. Please, please, please share your recreations with me using #teenscancooktoo on Instagram! Don't forget to follow us at all the social media handles below as we embark on our vegan challenge starting on Thursday! I will be out of town during part of it, so it'll be really interesting to navigate my way through being vegan when I don't have any natural markets or fancy kitchen appliances available.