Multigrain Buttermilk Pancake Muffins

Multigrain Buttermilk Pancake Muffins

Enjoy pancakes as a weekday breakfast with these multigrain buttermilk pancake muffins, lightly sweetened with pure maple syrup! Made with a blend of buckwheat flour and whole wheat flour, they're high in fiber. Pair with peanut butter and fruit for a satisfying breakfast! It's a delicious make ahead breakfast! 

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Peach Buttermilk Chai Smoothie

This peach buttermilk chai smoothie is packed with probiotics from buttermilk and antioxidants from chai tea! 

Yay for smoothie weather! Time to share my latest smoothie obsession - this peach smoothie spiked with chai tea!

While it feels like peach weather, it's not quite peach season, so we'll have to rely on frozen peaches to make this bad boy. I'm such a huge fan of frozen peaches. I absolutely adore fresh peaches, especially living in South Carolina, aka the real peach state. But I really think someone put a curse on me when it comes to peaches. I'll get the freshest, most beautiful peaches from the farmers market and they'll go from perfect to moldy, mushy mess in 24 hours at our house. Drives me absolutely nuts! I get a case of seasonal binge eating disorder every time I see peaches at the farmers market in my attempt to eat them all before they go bad!

The peach chai combination might sound a bit odd, but peaches have a similar flavor profile to mango, a fruit commonly used in Indian cuisine and a natural pairing with chai spices. This recipe was inspired by one from Root to Leaf, one of my favorite seasonal cookbooks.

Peach Buttermilk Chai Smoothie

Serves 1 

If you'd like to add some protein to your smoothie, I prefer Kura for grassfed whey protein or Vega for vegan protein.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup frozen peaches
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional)
  • 1 bag chai tea

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until pureed. Serve immediately.

More recipes for smoothie season:

Turmeric Smoothie with Mango
Turmeric Smoothie with Mango
Red Velvet Smoothie
Red Velvet Smoothie
Classic Green Smoothie
Classic Green Smoothie

Scallion Cornbread Waffles with Spicy Chicken and Homemade Ranch

These scallion cornbread waffles with spicy chicken and homemade ranch are a fresh, healthier take on classic chicken and waffles! 

God bless the wonderful soul who decided fried chicken and waffles have a place together on the dinner table. Random, yes, but somehow the combination of crispy fried chicken and sweet waffles makes comfort food heaven. Food combinations can easily go wrong, as my little brother once discovered when he decided to float croutons in his chocolate milk. Chicken and waffles however, is unexpected magic.

Normally, I would leave a dish like this to the pros (aka Kiki's Chicken and Waffles or The Oak Table), but I was stuck with this idea for chicken and waffles with fresh flavors from bright, juicy tomatoes and a tangy buttermilk ranch dressing. Plus avocado for obvious reasons.

To make the crispy chicken, I did a classic triple dip method that yields a super crispy crust. First dip in flour spiked with lots of spices, then spicy buttermilk, and finally whole grain panko. You could make these crispier first by pan frying and finishing them off in the oven, but I skipped that step to save myself another dish to wash.

I first made this ranch dressing for my crispy barbecue cauliflower salad. I really don't love ranch dressing, but this mayoless version with a bright tangy flavor is pretty fabulous. Although pictured here, I used kefir instead of yogurt because that's what I had on hand and it turned out a little too thin for me. Lesson learned.

These cornmeal waffles are worth making on their own! I might make a batch and top with a fried egg, avocado and some hot sauce for breakfast. They freeze great too!

Scallion Cornbread Waffles with Spicy Chicken and Homemade Ranch

Serves 5-6

Ingredients

Ranch Dressing: 

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk, buttermilk or kefir
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Chicken: 

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup buttermilk or kefir
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha
  • 1 cup whole wheat panko
  • 1 1/2 lb chicken tenders
  • Olive oil spray

Waffles: 

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk or kefir
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 avocado, peeled and sliced

Instructions

  1. First, whisk together ingredients for ranch dressing. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, garlic, cayenne, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. In another medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk/kefir, egg, sriracha. Place panko in another medium bowl.
  4. Spray baking sheet with olive oil spray. Dip chicken tenders in flour, then buttermilk mixture, then panko. Place on a baking sheet and repeat with remaining chicken. Spray chicken with olive oil spray. Bake 15 minutes until golden and cooked through, flipping halfway.
  5. Next, make waffles. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, oil, honey. Whisk wet into dry. Whisk in scallions.
  6. Heat a waffle iron. Pour about 1/3 cup batter into the iron and cook until crispy and golden. Carefully remove from skillet and set aside.
  7. Top waffle with chicken, tomatoes, avocado and drizzle with ranch.

Comfort Food Makeovers: 

Vegetarian Hazelnut and Cremini Mushroom Loaf with Gravy
Vegetarian Hazelnut and Cremini Mushroom Loaf with Gravy
Spicy Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spicy Spaghetti and Meatballs
Dairy Free Mac and Cheese
Dairy Free Mac and Cheese

Classic Multigrain Buttermilk Pancakes

There's nothing better than pancakes done right. This recipe for classic multigrain buttermilk pancakes is sure to become your weekend go to!

To conclude National Breakfast Week, the holiday I made up as an excuse to share a weeks worth of breakfast recipes, I bring you these classic multigrain buttermilk pancakes.

In my almost three years (!!!) blogging here at Avocado, I've shared a few unique spins on pancakes - chickpea pancakes, paleo pancakes, cottage cheese spiked pancakes, savory pancakes and even pancake muffins. Phew! But let's get real here. There's nothing better than a a classic pancake done right.

These multigrain pancakes are my go to pancake recipe. They're adapted from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day (<--- affiliate link), one of my absolute favorite cookbooks. I've made them with all sorts of flour mixes, usually starting with a base of whole wheat or spelt then mixing in whatever I have on hand - rye, buckwheat, oat, brown rice, and even almond meal. It especially like the rye and buckwheat additions, which lend an earthy flavor that goes well with tangy buttermilk. This recipe makes the most perfectly dense and hearty, yet still fluffy pancakes. Even better, they hold up really well in the refrigerator without getting flat and squat.

Now, let's talk pancake toppings, because I think that's where you can have some fun with this recipe. I love pure maple syrup, but I find the combination of flour and a sugary topping just makes me want to fall asleep. My go to pancake topping is a quick sauce made from frozen fruit chia seeds and a little citrus juice to brighten the flavor. It's incredibly easy and once you've made it, you'll find a million ways to enjoy it (on yogurt, toast, oatmeal...shall I go on?). There's no real recipe. I just simmer a bag of frozen fruit, usually berries, with a little citrus juice until the juices are releases. Then I stir in a tablespoon-ish of chia seeds and let it sit about 10 minutes to 'gel'.

Here's some more pancake topping inspiration:

  • Try maple cashew cream or honeyed cashew cream for healthy fats and just a hint of sweetness.
  • A dollop of Greek yogurt and in season fresh berries will always do the trick
  • Have you ever made curd? I love to enjoy leftover meyer lemon-thyme curd from this recipe over pancakes.
  • Nut butter mixed with applesauce with cinnamon is a classic! Try one of my homemade nut butters. The macadamia coconut is the BEST.
  • A dollop of ricotta cheese and a drizzle of honey. Even better with fresh strawberries.
  • Go savory with a fried egg, avocado and goat cheese. Bonus points for sriracha!

Be sure to save this recipe for the weekend! I always whip it out when I have extra buttermilk on hand, since they only sell buttermilk in much larger amounts than I need!

Classic Multigrain Buttermilk Pancakes

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil, plus a little more for the skillet

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk and eggs. Pour wet into dry and whisk until just combined. Stir in coconut oil and whisk again until combined.
  2. Rub a skillet or griddle with coconut oil. Place on medium-high heat. To test to make sure it's hot enough. flick with a drop of water and if it sputters and 'dances' on the surface before evaporating, it's hot enough.
  3. Using a 1/4 cup measure, pour the batter onto the surface and cook until the bottoms are set and the top is starting to bubble a bit. Carefully flip with a spatula and cook about 1 minute until pancakes are cooked through. Remove pancakes to a plate and repeat with remaining batter. Enjoy pancakes hot, topped as desired.

Pancake recipes from the archives: 

Multigrain Pancake Muffins
Multigrain Pancake Muffins
Chickpea Pancake with Avocado, Fried Egg and Arugula
Chickpea Pancake with Avocado, Fried Egg and Arugula
Paleo Pumpkin Pancakes with Maple Cashew Cream
Paleo Pumpkin Pancakes with Maple Cashew Cream

Grilled Vegetable Platter with Red Wine Tomato Jam and Caramelized Onion Buttermilk Dip

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #EntertainandPair #CollectiveBias The following content is intended for readers who are 21 or older.

Grilled Vegetable Platter with Red Wine Tomato Jam and Caramelized Onion Buttermilk Dip

This grilled vegetable platter served with a red wine tomato jam and caramelized onion buttermilk dip, both infused with Dreaming Tree Wine, is the red carpet version of your standard raw vegetable platter! 

Admit it. You've been that person who brings a raw vegetable platter to the party in an attempt to have a healthy option for everyone to enjoy.

Except, no one actually enjoys that raw vegetable plate. Some eat it because it's there, but who has ever left a party saying "Wow! That baby carrot dipped in ranch was amazing! I wish Susan would share her recipe!"

No one. Ever.

Grilled Vegetable Platter with Two Wine Infused Dips

This awards season, give your standard raw vegetable platter a red carpet makeover. My secret for a vegetable platter people will actually want to eat? Grill (or roast) the vegetables first, adding a caramelized, smoky flavor, and serve alongside a couple tasty, homemade dips.

Usually I do some type of hummus or avocado-based dip, but for this campaign, I decided to experiment cooking with Dreaming Tree wine...and I think I found two new favorites in the process! Both get a deep, rich, and luxurious flavor from a base of caramelized onions infused with Dreaming Tree wine. The jammy notes of Dreaming Tree Crush, a red wine blend, went perfectly in the tomato jam, adding a layer of fruitiness and complexity. For the buttermilk dressing, I went with Dreaming Tree chardonnay. Now, normally I'm not a chardonnay person. Actually, I rather despise chardonnay, which is why it was the only Dreaming Tree wine I hadn't tried. But I thought chardonnay's buttery flavor would go really well with the caramelized onions over the crisp, more acidic everyday white (which I love for sipping!). So glad I picked it up though, because I discovered I really like their chardonnay! Like, a lot! It's aged in both stainless steel and oak barrels, so it's not overly oaky and cloying like the other chardonnays I've tried.

Caramelized Onion Buttermilk Dip with Dreaming Tree Chardonnay
Red Wine Tomato Jam with Dreaming Tree Crush

As a long time fan of Dreaming Tree Wine, I was particularly excited about the project. As an even longer time fan of Dave Matthews (high school flashbacks!), who launched Dreaming Tree with winemaker Sean McKenzie, I picked up a bottle almost as soon as it launched and it's been a favorite ever since. Outside of the flavor (Crush is my favorite) and high quality for a reasonable price, I really appreciate their commitment to sustainability. It's a Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing winery and has the largest solar initiative in the wine industry. The wines are even packaged sustainably, using less glass and a recycled label.

Dreaming Tree Wine

Considering we're smack dab in the middle of awards season, I think you'll have plenty of opportunities to whip this up. Usually I'm not big into award season, but this year, we've kept up with most of the nominees and I definitely have my favorites...which I won't share, because after they win I like to say "I knew it! I totally called it!" ;) So, I'm thinking we may have people over to watch and put out this grilled vegetable platter along with a selection of cheeses and crusty bread. Although this might seem like more effort than a premade vegetable platter, leftovers can easily be stretched into meals during the week. Serve the leftover vegetables in a grain bowl. Leftover buttermilk dip is perfect in my collard green salad with cornbread croutons or your favorite simple side salad. The tomato jam would be so tasty served over roasted fish or a grilled steak, or even on a sandwich. And of course, the leftover wine is perfect for sipping and pretending to be fancy during your very own awards party! 

For more inspiration on how to #EntertainandPair, head to their website. Be sure to check out your local retailer for wine tasting demos! What are your favorite red carpet bites, and which Dreaming Tree Wine would you like to pair it with? 

Keep up with Dreaming Tree Wines:

Grilled Vegetable Platter

Use any fresh vegetables you like. I used cherry tomatoes (on a skewer), cauliflower florets, halved baby zucchini, mushrooms and green beans. If you prefer roasting, toss them with a tablespoon of olive oil and roast in a 400 degree oven until golden and tender.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh vegetables, trimmed, and cut into 'serving' pieces
  • Olive oil spray
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • Red wine tomato jam & caramelized onion buttermilk dip, for serving

Instructions:

  1. Set grill to medium high. Spray vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill and cook until lightly charred, but still crisp-tender. Keep an eye on them to prevent burning.

Red Wine Tomato Jam

Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup Dreaming Tree Crush or other rich, fruity red wine
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Heat olive oil on medium heat in a medium pot. Add red onion and garlic and saute until starting to get golden, about 7 minutes. Add a sprinkle of salt and continue to cook over medium heat until deeply caramelized, tender and almost jammy looking, about 40 minutes.
  2. Pour in wine, scraping up the bottom with a spatula. Add tomatoes, balsamic, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook until very thick and jam-like, about 15 minutes total. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed.

Caramelized Onion Buttermilk Dip

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Dreaming Tree chardonnay or other richly flavored white wine
  • 1 cup buttermilk, low or full fat
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil on medium heat in a medium skillet. Add onion and garlic. Saute until starting to look golden, about 7 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and continue cooking, stirring every so often, until onions are deeply caramelized and jammy in appearance, about 40 minutes. Stir in wine, scraping up bottom of the pan with a spatula, and cook until wine is almost completely reduced and the onions are very jammy in appearance, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat, scrape onions into a bowl, and set aside to cool slightly.

  2. When onions have cooled a bit, stir in buttermilk, olive oil, parsley, vinegar, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and add more if desired.

Collard Green Salad with Cornbread Croutons, Beets & Buttermilk Dressing

This collard green salad with cornbread croutons, beets, black-eyed peas, and probiotic rich buttermilk dressing is proof Southern food is more than fried chicken and biscuits! 

I've got a special treat in store for you today - a guest post from my lovely dietetic intern, Sallie Vaughn. We spent a few days together where she got a glimpse into the crazy life of a private practice dietitian/food blogger and a look at all the different career options for dietitians.

When we first met (after my 130 lb Saint Bernard was done pretending to be a lap dog), we chatted about her career goals. She told me as someone who grew up in a small town, she was passionate about people in rural areas live healthier lives. She then told me all about her grandma, or Grom as she calls her, and even shared an article she once wrote all about the healthy lessons she learned from her. Grom sounds like the epitome of a Southern grandma! At ninety years old (I think I got that right - apologies to Grom if I aged you!), she credits her health to savoring food with the family she loves. That's certainly something I can get behind! The dishes she cooked are a great example of how real traditional Southern food can promote health, a fact I love to share with my South Carolina clientele!

Alas, I'll turn it over to Sallie!

Hi! I am Sallie Vaughan, a dietetic intern through South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to write a guest blog post for Rachael. I am soooo excited to share my story with everyone! My blog posts talks about growing up as a child surrounded by southern food and how easy it can be to incorporate traditional southern food into everyday, healthy dishes!

Some of the best memories I can remember as a child were spent sitting around my grandmother’s kitchen table. No matter if it were after church or on a holiday, my grandmother would have a home-cooked meal ready for anyone eager to come to her house. Her kitchen often smelled of warm cornbread right out the oven. On a snowy day, you could find snow ice cream in her freezer and vegetable soup on her stovetop. Homemade chex mix and chocolate covered peanuts would sit in the living room for folks to nibble at before dinner was ready. When it was time to eat, an entire spread of food covered her kitchen table. Nobody was allowed to dig in until she blessed the food!

Gron, as we call her, has a passion for cooking and entertaining family and friends. Her house is where family gathers for all holidays and celebrations. It is rare to find cousins, uncles, and aunts all together without the presence of her good, southern cooking. If you ask anybody in the town, they could tell you how much her chocolate meringue pie is to die for. And I bet they have been invited over to her house for a meal, too! Nobody is a stranger to Gron.

I was the lucky granddaughter, though, because I lived right next door to her for 18 years! When it was just Daddy and I at home while Mama was out of town, we didn’t have to think twice about who was cooking us dinner. We just waited by the house phone until Gron called to invite us over. “Y’all hungry?” she would ask, “well come on over”.

Her kitchen table is where many stories were shared and laughs were heard. It is where we sat for hours upon hours stuffing our face until we couldn’t take another bite. It is where we gathered as one big family. And lastly, it is where my love for food and family originated. It’s no surprise to me that I am pursing a career that revolves around food. Perhaps I could blame Gron for that or thank her. I’ll go with the latter.

Since I grew up on southern food, I know how much of a bad reputation it can get. But, believe it or not, a traditional southern cuisine has great amount of benefits. Unfortunately, you can’t expect to get these benefits from cooking with loads of bacon grease and butter. You can, however, use simple substitutions to make southern food healthy.

Southern Collard Green Salad
Southern Collard Green Salad

Rachael and I spent a day together and created a healthy, southern dish that incorporated many of my grandmother’s favorite ingredients. We created a salad that included collard greens as the base and topped it with beets and black -eyed peas. We used cornbread for croutons and drizzled the salad with buttermilk dressing. Everything was made from scratch - Yum Yum! I told you southern food could be healthy!

Beets were my favorite in this salad because of all the memories I can attach it to. Gron always served beets and I was never a fan as a child. My daddy would lean over and say “you know beets make your eyes pretty, that’s why I’m so pretty”. As a nutrition student, I now know that he mixed up the health benefits of beets and carrots, but beets do have amazing benefits. They contain immune-boosting vitamin C, fiber to keep you full, and potassium/magnesium for nerves, muscles, and organ function.

The other ingredients in our salad offered many rewards, too!

COLLARDS // Provide huge antioxidant benefits. Excellent source of Vitamin K for anti-inflammatory and omega-3 fatty acids.

BLACK EYED PEAS // Our protein source of the salad. High levels of fiber and iron.

CORNBREAD // Corn meal is actually a whole grain! Whole grain=fiber! Calcium, iron, magnesium, B-vitamins, and the list goes on. Rachael and I replaced sugar for honey in the recipe!

BUTTERMILK // Doesn’t contain all the extra fat in store-bought dressings. Buttermilk provides probiotics, healthy bacteria for your gut. Provides calcium, phosphorus, and even protein.

I enjoyed spending the day with Rachael and reminiscing on my childhood. Who knew southern food could be so healthy. The key is cooking from scratch and knowing exactly what is in your food. In today’s world, everyone is so busy and often grab fast food or warm up a frozen meal in the microwave. Instead of eating together at the dinner table, many families sit in front of the television. Food has a huge impact on fueling our body, but it also brings people together for happiness. Just think of all the stories I would have missed out on without Gron’s kitchen table.

Sallie, best wishes to you in all that you do! You are smart and passionate, a surefire recipe for success! Wherever life takes you, I know you'll be inspiring others!

Crispy Cornbread Croutons

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ cups stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ cups organic buttermilk
  • Olive oil spray

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together honey, egg, buttermilk and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Whisk wet ingredients into dry until combined.
  3. When oven is hot, place 1 tablespoon olive oil in an 8-inch cast iron skillet and place skillet in the oven for a minute to warm. Pour batter into hot skillet and place it in the oven. Bake 15 minutes until cornbread is golden and edges have pulled away from the skillet. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  4. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. When cool enough to handle, remove cornbread from the oven and cut into cubes. Spray with olive oil and bake 10 minutes until toasted.

Collard Green Salad with Cornbread, Beets & Buttermilk Dressing

Serves 4

Here are directions for how to roast beets. You could also purchase precooked beets or even pickled beets would be great here.

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of collards, thick stems removed and cut into thin ribbons
  • 4 medium beets, roasted or purchased precooked
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black-eyed peas, from dry or canned
  • Cornbread croutons

Buttermilk Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together collards, beets, and black-eyed peas. Top with cornbread croutons and drizzle with buttermilk dressing.

Cornbread Salad with Buttermilk Lime Dressing

This cornbread salad with buttermilk lime dressing is as Southern as it gets! With sweet Vidalia onions, local tomatoes to go with crunchy cornbread croutons and herb packed buttermilk lime dressing. 

Salads get such a bum rep. I mean, who gets excited about salad? Essentially no one. To most, it's the epitome of bland, boring diet food. When a client tells me he's been eating more salad, it's always in the same droll monotone that reminds me of Ben Stein calling Ferris Buller's name for class attendance.

"I've been eating more sah-luuuds"

So sad.

Hopefully a few of my recipes have already inspired you to see beyond bagged salad, shredded cheese and bottled ranch, but if you're still in the salad hating camp, read on.

Think of salads as a way to turn your favorite delicious ingredients into a full meal.  Sitting down to a big plate of cheese, olives and bread might be tasty, but balanced (or filling), it is not. Toss those ingredients with spicy arugula, and tadaa! Dinner is served! You could also think of salads as a way to indulge in decadent foods in a more moderate way. A sprinkle of bacon, a wedge of triple cream brie, or a few slices of seared steak go a long way on a salad. Here are my favorite tips to build a better salad:

  • Use in season vegetables - what you find at the local farmer's market is great! There's a huge taste difference, important in a veggie-centric dish like salad.
  • Choose your lettuce right. Romaine is great for crunchy chopped salads. Spring mix has a mild flavor, making it versatile, but you should add strongly flavored ingredients like olives, dried fruit, or a bright vinaigrette to punch it up. Boston, butter and bibb lettuces work well with other creamy ingredients, like avocado and soft cheeses, but they need something with a little crunch too, like diced apple or toasted nuts. Arugula, dandelion, kale or other bitter greens need a hint of sweetness, like a bit of honey in the dressing, fruit or roasted root vegetables.
  • Toss out that shredded junk and splurge on flavorful, high quality cheese. You only need a small amount, about 1/2-1 ounce per serving, so make it count. My favorites - gorgonzola, feta and extra sharp aged cheddar.
  • Use fresh bread from the bakery to make croutons. Start by heating olive oil and garlic in large skillet, then add torn chunks of bread and cook until lightly toasted.
  • Toss in cooked whole grains like farro, barley or brown rice. It adds a nutty flavor and turns a basic salad into a substantial main.
  • Nuts make a great salad garnish or you could use a more substantial amount as a protein source. Toast them first to bring out their flavor.

Cornbread Salad with Buttermilk Lime Dressing

Serves 6

Ingredients

Salad:

  • 1 1/2 lb tomatoes, preferably heirloom, in wedges
  • 1 head leaf lettuce
  • 6 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 large Vidalia onion, peeled and sliced as thinly as possible

Buttermilk-Lime Dressing:

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, preferably organic
  • 5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 2-3 limes)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
  • Salt, black pepper to taste

Thin, Crispy Cornbread:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups lowfat buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil or extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients for the cornbread together. In a medium bowl whisk the egg until frothy, then whisk in the buttermilk and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until combined.
  3. Grease a 12-inch skillet with the butter, leaving the excess in the pan and place it in the oven. When the butter in the pan in the oven is melted, remove from the oven and swirl it around (carefully!) to cover the bottom and sides. Pour the batter into the skillet. Bake for about 15 minutes until the bread is golden brown and the edges have pulled away from the skillet. Remove from oven and let cool
  4. While the cornbread is baking, whisk together the salad dressing ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  5. When the cornbread is cool enough to handle, cut it into 1-inch cubes. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake in a 250 degree oven until it's lightly toasted, about 10 minutes.
  6. In a large bowl, toss together lettuces, tomato and onions. Add 4 cups of cornbread cubes! Toss with dressing or serve on the side.

Granola Scones

I've tried my hand at healthy scones before, never with much success. I mean, scones just aren't health food material, so why make them parade around as something they're not? It's kind of like trying to make healthy cupcakes....

oh wait.

But kids, these are the real deal. Dense yet tender with a buttery flavor and just a hint of sweetness. No one would ever guess these bad boys are 100% whole grain, butter-free and made with minimal amounts of added sugar.

When I compare this successful attempt to my previous (unsuccessful) attempts, I think it all comes down to three ingredients.

1. COCONUT OIL // Coconut oil is my favorite substitute for butter, especially in baking applications. It behaves similar to butter and lends a subtle vanilla flavor. Yes, it's a saturated fat, but it isn't the same fatty acid as the saturated fats in animal foods and does not have a detrimental effect on cholesterol

2. BUTTERMILK // Buttermilk, a fermented dairy, does double duty. It adds a light tang and tenderizes the crumb. Despite the name, it's actually lower in fat than whole milk.

3. SPELT FLOUR // Whole wheat flour, as nutritious as it is, can be a bit heavy for many baked goods. Whole grain spelt flour is much lighter and has a similar, sweet taste to white flour.  I actually prefer it over white whole wheat flour and whole wheat pastry flour for baking.

Granola Scones

This recipe is for a sweet variation, but you can make these savory too. Simply omit the flour and use muesli or another unsweetened, whole grain cereal instead of granola. It's fantastic topped with a poached egg or served alongside soup. If you can't find a lower sugar granola, use muesli. Adapted from Green Kitchen Stories.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups spelt flour (or whole wheat flour)
  • 1 cup low sugar granola or muesli
  • 2 tbsp unrefined sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 7 tbsp coconut oil, softened slightly
  • 1 cup organic buttermilk, kefir or coconut kefir for a vegan version

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 475 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or use a pizza/baking stone).
  2. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the coconut oil and incorporate into the flour by pressing and rubbing it together with your fingers until the flour and coconut mixture forms a sandy consistency.
  3. Stir in the granola. Add the buttermilk and mix until a thick dough forms.
  4. Form a large ball with your hands and flatten slightly. Using a sharp knife, cut the ball in half, then cut each half into 4 triangles.
  5. Place on the baking sheet and into the oven. Bake 15 minutes until golden. Let cool slightly before serving.