Salad restaurant chains have become big business as of late. When I first moved to NYC in mid-2009, I was kind of…well…confused by the concept of delis and sandwich shops crafting made to order salads. Perhaps it was my own introversion that caused me to not want to take a container of greens to a guy behind a salad bar and tell him what vegetables I wanted in it. Couldn’t I go to a salad bar myself and craft my own? I was capable!

In 2014, a Just Salad popped up a few blocks away from my Upper East Side office, and it was somewhat of a godsend. Still, my first trip there was dicey, because I sucked up my introversion, got a made – to – order salad…and was $15 dollars poorer by the end. From that point on, I stuck to salads that were on the menu and dealt with the loud cutting of vegetables and shouts of salad makers asking how much dressing I wanted. Though it’s certainly convenient on some work days, I’m definitely a fair weather friend. Works in a pinch, but I’ve never been blown away by the quality or price.

About a week ago, a coveted Sweetgreen opened adjacent to the Columbia campus. Boasting organic and local salad fixings coupled with a popularity swell among many of my fellow social media food friends, I could not resist the call! I stood in line for a good 15 minutes among chattering Columbia students. How I survived that ordeal is beyond me. (Were any conversation I had at the age of 20 as vacant-sounding as the ones I had to endure overhearing? GOD, I hope not…) Still, compared to Just Salad, I’ll take their higher price point for what, in my opinion, is a much superior salad. It was crisp, fresh, and filling.


That being said, I am not a person that can afford to spend a lot of money on a salad. $10 – $13 a pop is a dent in my already hemorrhaging wallet. I’m a person that easily can go to my local Fine Fare, grab a couple of things, and spend $5 on enough ingredients to make many salads. Case in point:

Kale: $2.99 a bunch
Macintosh Apple: 39 cents
Anjou Pear: 45 cents
Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese: $3.99
Walnuts: $6.99 for a one pound bag

I used a 1/3 of the kale, half of the apple, half of the pear, two ounces of the cheese, and an ounce of walnuts. I made the salad (sans dressing) comparable to my Sweetgreen’s salad for roughly $2.87.


Seriously. If you can, make your own damn salads, people. 😉

kale salad

Kale Salad with Apples, Pears, & Cheddar
(Serves 1 as a meal salad, Serves Two as a side salad)


– 1/3 of a average-sized bunch of kale, rinsed, ribs removed, and torn
– 1/2 large apple, rinsed and diced, skin on
– 1/2 large pear, rinsed and diced, skin on
– 2 ounces cheddar cheese, diced
– 1 ounce walnuts
– 1 tablespoon olive oil

Apple Cider Vinaigrette:
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1/3 apple cider vinegar
-A few shakes of garlic powder, to taste
-A few dashes of salt, to taste


1.) In a large bowl, add kale and olive oil. Massage olive oil into kale for approximately 30 – 60 seconds or until leaves are evenly coated in oil.

2.) Toss fruits, cheese, and walnuts into kale.

3.) Toss with Apple Cider Vinaigrette or vinaigrette of choice.

4.) Serve immediately; if storing, place in airtight container. This salad will stay fresh in fridge for up to three days.

The summer solstice has occurred, and, with it, the start of chilled soup season. The dog days of summer are upon us, if I can be clichéd. As I sit here, typing out this prose, it’s 90 degrees with a line of severe thunderstorms looming to the west. The humidity is making both my body and brain listless. The last thing I want to do cook, bake, or put much heat-induced effort into meal creation. Over the years, I have adapted a pretty strict summer diet. On any given night, I’m usually eating some combination of an avocado, cucumbers dressed with plain Greek yogurt and garlic powder, cheddar cheese, pineapple, prosciutto on toast, and unsweetened iced tea. It may lack in nutritional balance, but…damn. It’s always satisfying. The stove glares at me from afar, and I tell it, “I’ll see you again at the end of September.”

So hot, even my cucumber is sweating!

Over the years, I’ve toyed with various cold soups, and the results have never really pleased me. Gazpacho is easy, yet admittedly time-consuming. I always find an excuse to buy it from the store because Westside Market / Fairway / Whole Foods / Samad’s Gourmet / anyone else makes it better than I do! (Damn self-loathing.) As for vichyssoise, my paternal grandmother, Mamie, had that on lock. I have yet to create a batch as good as hers. Then comes the oft-consumed cucumber yogurt soup. It’s simple. It’s light. It’s relatively filling. I can make it with four ingredients. However, one misstep in the recipe, and I’ll end up with unpalatable pale green water. Needless to say, I’ve made a lot of unpalatable plate green water over the years. I’ve played with ratios for more times than I care to count: more cucumbers, fewer cucumbers, different kinds of cucumbers, Greek yogurt instead of plain yogurt, fresh dill versus dried dill, less olive oil, you name it. However, I must mark June 22nd, 2015, as the day I finally got my figurative shit together and had my true “Aha!” moment.

Avocados, is there anything you can’t do?

My past cucumber yogurt soup recipes (or abominations, if I may continue to self-loathe) achieved a creamy mouth feel once I made the transition from plain to Greek yogurt, but the avocado gives it full body. Dare I say, fresh out of the blender, it’s almost fluffy. In addition, I decided to add some lemon zest and juice, helping it achieve a wonderful brightness.


Goodbye unpalatable pale green water, hello full-bodied and bright moss green soup!

(Okay, I’m still working on better descriptive terms. One thing at a time, eh?)


Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup

(Serves Four)


– 2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
– 1 avocado, cubed
– 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt (full-fat)
– 1 & 1/2 cups cold water
– 1 teaspoon dried dill
– 1 teaspoon garlic powder
– Zest of 1 lemon
– Juice of half a lemon
– Salt and pepper, to taste

Before We Get Started…

– If making en masse and saving servings for lunches / dinners for the week, be sure to give each batch a good stir or shake before eating, as there tends to be a slight separation of ingredients after it’s sat in the fridge.

– Depending on the size of the blender / food processor being used to blend the soup, combine ingredients in batches, if necessary.

– If I do say so myself, these are best served with some freshly toasted crusty white bread and a few slices of prosciutto.



1.) Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor, and blend until creamy.

2.) Serve immediately, or place in fridge until ready to serve.



Prosciutto Toasts and Cucumber Dreams, until next time…!

There is little in this world that I find more comforting than a hot bowl of macaroni and cheese. Long gone are the days of neon-yellow Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Spirals, for I no longer have the “Blue Box Blues“. As much I love a box of Annie’s in a pinch, all of these boxed mac and cheeses are loaded with sodium, regardless. (How I’d come home from school in my teenage years and down an entire box without exploding is still beyond me…) Of course, like many, I love to experiment with different cheeses, noodles, vegetables, and methods when it comes to mac and cheese creation. Still, in my opinion, it’s the simplest method that works the best for me. In just an extra five minutes compared to ripping open a box of dried noodles and questionable powder in a packet, you can make a perfectly satisfying bowl of mac and cheese with the full knowledge of what ingredients you’ve put into it.

mac and cheese

Slate counter top and old metal measuring cups. Instagram ready! 

Classic Mac & Cheese

(Serves Two if you’re generous, Serves One if you’re selfish)

– 1 cup dried pasta of choice (I prefer a whole-wheat elbow or rotini pasta)
– 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
– 2 tablespoons salted butter
– 1/3 cup milk
– 4 ounces shredded cheese (I prefer 3 ounces of sharp cheddar with an ounce of Colby Jack; feel free to switch it up!)
-A few generous shakes of garlic powder (optional)

Before We Get Started…

This recipe involves making a roux, since you’ll essentially be making a Béchamel sauce. Some rouxs can be made darker than others, but we’re making a simple white roux in this case. Make it with a whisk, if possible, but I find it just as good to use a fork to mix a roux.

…and if you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about when I say “roux”, this is a pretty good introduction.


1.) Fill saucepan with water and bring to boil; cook pasta according to directions on box. Drain when finished, rinse, and set aside.

2.) Place additional saucepan over medium heat; add butter and slowly melt. Once melted, add flour. Whisk for approximately 2 – 3 minutes to create a roux ; once flour and butter are combined, add milk and whisk. Bring mixture to a slow boil. Once bubbles begin to break the surface, add cheese and stir quickly to form cheese sauce. Remove from heat. Add garlic powder, if desired. Add pasta and stir.

cheese blind
My future, and I’m okay with this.