Asian Chicken Salad with Sesame-Soy Vinaigrette

asian chicken salad

I love ordering the Asian chicken salad when I go to Cheesecake Factory. My husband makes fun of me for ordering a salad when we go out to eat, but this one isn’t just a sad, cold pile of iceberg. It has such great texture and flavor, and it feels special.

I wanted to recreate an Asian chicken salad to prep for workweek lunches, and this one fit the bill beautifully. The chicken adds protein, the peanuts give great crunch, and the Mandarin oranges round out the mostly umami dish with welcome sweetness.

But…it took me a few tries to get the vinaigrette right. The Cheesecake Factory’s Asian chicken salad dressing is plum sauce-based, but I didn’t want that much sugar in mine. I prefer a dressing that’s a bit more on the savory side—especially if I’m eating it for lunch all week.

The dressing I made has just a bit of light brown sugar for sweetness, but relies largely on soy sauce, sesame seed oil, and apple cider vinegar to up the flavor ante. Feel free to adjust the dressing to your liking (I personally like a more acidic dressing, so add more olive or sesame oil if that’s your jam.)

To make this salad even speedier, use leftover rotisserie chicken. Make it vegetarian by opting for pan-fried tofu or shelled edamame.

Asian Chicken Salad


  • 1 bag coleslaw mix (about 6-7 cups)
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts
  • 1 can Mandarin oranges in water
  • 5 scallions, diced
  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp. toasted sesame seed oil
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup neutral olive oil
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes


  1. Whisk together last 8 ingredients in a bowl. 

  2. Toss lettuce and chicken together in dressing. Top with oranges, chopped scallions, and peanuts. Serve immediately. 

Curry-Mustard Sauce

curry-mustard sauce

Have y’all ever heard of Chicken Kitchen? It’s a fast-casual restaurant known for its chicken “chop chop salads”—bowls made with chicken, rice, black beans, and veggies. Chicken Kitchen has plenty of sauces to choose from, but my favorite was always their curry-mustard sauce. Pollo Tropical has a really similar version that’s also super delicious. Since I live in Alabama, there are no Chicken Kitchens or Pollo Tropicals near me.

I know, I know, it’s really sad. And I’ve had a massive curry-mustard sauce void in my life since I moved here from South Florida. But, alas, I’ve found the next best thing: making it myself at home.

The curry-mustard sauce combo sounds a little weird, but if you think about it, curry and mustard pair beautifully together. Mustard and curry powder are often used together in Indian cooking, and they’re absolutely delicious over meat, in stews, or in curry.

This curry-mustard sauce is no exception. I like to spoon it over DIY chicken chop chop salads or roasted veggies (carrots and sweet potatoes are divine). If you’re on the fence about trying this sauce, it only requires three ingredients and about 30 seconds of your time (so, um, not much investment). But I promise, it’s so easy and delicious, you’ll want to make it again and again.

Curry-Mustard Sauce


  • 4 tbsp mayonaise (I like Duke’s Original)
  • 2 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder


  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, and refrigerate for up to a week. 

Easy Cranberry Sauce with Orange and Walnuts

easy cranberry sauce

Much like politics and religion at the dinner table, cranberry sauce can be divisive among families on Thanksgiving. I find that you’re either team “love it” or “hate it”, and there’s really no in-between. Unfortunately, I kind of fall in the latter camp. But I still make it every year for my dad from scratch. I say “from scratch”, but this easy cranberry sauce takes all of 10 minutes—and like four ingredients—to make. And since this sauce is more zesty than tart, if you’re on the fence like I am, you may be able to switch to the cran-loving dark side.

Even though I’m not a *huge* fan of cranberry sauce, I absolutely love making it. It’s so fun to watch the little berries pop and release their gorgeous juices. If you have kids, this is something they can definitely help you make on Thanksgiving. And, oh my God, it makes your kitchen smell divine. You’ll never want to buy a can of that jellied mush again after making this easy cranberry sauce.

Here’s how to make it:

Easy Cranberry Sauce With Orange and Walnuts

This easy cranberry sauce is so delicious, you may even be able to convert the cran sauce haters in your family this Thanksgiving.


  • 16 oz. fresh cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 orange (zest and juice)
  • 1 cup roughly chopped walnuts


  1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large pot and bring to a gentle boil until cranberries begin to pop and release their juices.

  2. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in walnuts, and remove from heat. Cool and serve.

Garlicky Blistered Shishito Peppers

shishito peppers

I tried shishito peppers for the first time about a year ago, and all I have to say is “OMG why did I wait so long?!” They’re so tasty, and very mild. Only about one in 10 peppers is has a kick to it. Plus, shishito peppers require few ingredients to really shine—so they’re easy to make at home with what you already have in your pantry.

My recipe is really simple: You just heat a little olive oil (about a tablespoon) in a cast-iron skillet and get it hot. Then, when the oil begins to glimmer, add peppers to your pan and cook them over medium-high heat, tossing occasionally until they’re blistered and slightly charred. It should take about 5-10 minutes. After they’re nicely charred, toss them with flaky sea salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and a teaspoon of minced garlic (I cheated and used a cube of Dorot crushed garlic, which you can find in the freezer section of Trader Joe’s.)

Shishito peppers are a perfect one-bite appetizer to serve with cocktails, and you can adapt the peppers to suit your taste. Craving Latin flavor? Add some cumin, a squeeze of lime juice, and crumbled cotija cheese. Want to lean more Asian-inspired? Sub the olive oil for sesame oil, and sprinkle with sesame seeds and drizzle with soy sauce. The world is your oyster. The good news? No matter how you make blistered shishito peppers, they’re pretty much always delicious.

Crab-Corn Chowder

crab and corn chowder

I stumbled on a recipe for crab-corn chowder in the November issue of Weight Watchers Magazine (it’s similar to this one). Needless to say, I was intrigued. Chowder is one of my favorite dishes, but it can be super heavy. All of that butter and heavy cream is really delicious, but not exactly diet-friendly!

Cold fall nights require something hearty and filling, so I was excited to try the Weight Watchers version. But, honestly, I thought it fell a little flat. It needed some extra pizzaz, so I adjusted the recipe slightly.

I’m sharing my version of crab-corn chowder here. I think you’ll really dig it. The addition of Old Bay seasoning and crab claw meat, plus the smattering of fresh chives really punches up the flavor and takes it to the next level.

Crab and Corn Chowder


  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, leaves and fibrous ends removed, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 3.5 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 (10-oz.) bags frozen corn kernels
  • 8 oz. crab claw meat
  • 2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp. fresh chives, snipped


  1. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer (about 1-2 minutes). Add diced onion and celery, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and thyme, and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Do not let garlic brown.

  2. Add flour, and slowly add milk and half and half, scraping the little brown bits from the bottom of the pot.

  3. Add corn and simmer for 8-10 minutes until soft.

  4. Add soup mixture to blender and pulse a few times until chunky (be careful with hot soup, and open blender vent and cover with towel, if possible).

  5. Add soup mixture back to pot. Let simmer for additional 5-6 minutes. Add crab meat, and stir until combined. Serve immediately. Garnish with chives and drizzle with half and half. 


20-Minute Buttermilk-Oat Muffins

buttermilk-oat muffins

I’m a little embarrassed to actually call this a “recipe”, because I basically just dressed up a box of Kodiak cake mix. But I wanted to share it with y’all because these buttermilk-oat muffins only take 20 minutes to make. Plus, they actually turned out pretty dang good.

I was inspired to make these little muffins after eating a buttermilk-oat muffin at a local coffee shop near me. The muffin wasn’t overly sweet, and it was hearty without being too “healthy” tasting. It was the Goldilocks of muffins—it was juuussst right.

I was craving carbs (and thinking about those muffins) one morning. Since I didn’t feel like driving across town to that coffee shop, I decided to make some pancakes from a box. It was fate. I looked on the back of my Kodiak cake mix and saw there was a muffin recipe. I tinkered with it a bit, and came up with these guys.

If you’re looking for a super-sweet muffin (like chocolate chip or blueberry), these probably won’t be your jam. You could always add more sugar, but I think they’re quite delicious as-is. The bananas and whole grains add fiber (which keeps you full), while light brown sugar rounds out the tangy buttermilk flavor. And the crumbly oat topping adds great texture.

These buttermilk-oat muffins would be delicious with a cup of coffee, served at brunch, or made in advance for your weekday breakfast.

buttermilk-oat muffins

Buttermilk-Oat Muffins

These buttermilk-oat muffins would be delicious with a cup of coffee, served at brunch, or made in advance for your weekday breakfast. 


  • 2 cups Kodiak Cakes Buttermilk Flapjack and Waffle Mix
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened and divided
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. In a mixing bowl, combine mix, buttermilk, eggs, 1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar, 1/4 cup softened butter, and bananas.

  3. Fill greased muffin cups about 3/4 way full.

  4. In a separate bowl, combine oats, remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, and remaining butter. Mix with clean hands until you form a crumble. 

  5. Crumble mixture on top of muffins (about 1 tbsp. per muffin). Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until muffins are golden brown.

3-Ingredient Bananas Foster Oatmeal

If you’re a fan of bananas, you’ve probably eaten—or at least heard of—bananas foster. It’s a traditional New Orleans dessert that originated at Brennan’s (side note: go there if you’re ever in Nola, we went for brunch during my bachelorette party and it was to die for!) Anyway, bananas foster is traditionally made by sautéing bananas in sugar and brown butter, then dousing it in rum and lighting it on fire until it’s caramelized and ooey-gooey. It’s pretty spectacular to watch—but not as easy to replicate at home without burning off your eyebrows. I wanted to bring the flavors of New Orleans back home, so I developed this recipe for bananas foster oatmeal. It has just three ingredients, and it’ll make your mornings so much better. Best part? No flambéing is required. Worst part? There’s no rum in it (sorry).

I usually don’t like to put up recipes where you have to buy one *specific* ingredient—especially if you can’t find it at every grocery store—but B. Nutty’s salted caramel peanut butter is a requirement for this recipe (here are locations where you can buy it, or you can buy it on Amazon for like $8). I know, it’s pricey and slightly inconvenient to buy PB online, but it really makes a difference in the recipe. Sure, you can use plain PB or almond butter, but you’re not going to get that rich, caramel taste like you will with this brand.

If you’re still with me, here’s how to make this bougie bananas foster oatmeal (I promise it’s worth it):

Bananas Foster Oatmeal

Course Breakfast
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 person


  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 1/4 cup boiling water, divided
  • 2 tbsp. B. Nutty caramel & pink Himalayan salt peanut butter
  • 1 banana
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)


  1. Mix oats and 1 cup of water together in a bowl, and let sit for 3 minutes.

  2. While oatmeal is cooking, slice your banana. In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup of hot water and 2 tbsp. peanut butter until it forms a thin sauce.

  3. Place sliced bananas over oatmeal. Drizzle peanut butter sauce on top, and top with chopped pecans for extra crunch (optional). Enjoy immediately.


Spanish-Style Braised Chicken Drumsticks

spanish style braised chicken drumsticks

We got a Le Cruset 5.5-quart Dutch oven for our wedding. It was one of my most-coveted items on our registry, so I really wanted to make something special the first time we used it. (Real food people will understand my weirdness about this). I took a chance developing a recipe for the first time in my Dutch oven. I’d never made this type of dish before, but these Spanish-style braised chicken drumsticks turned out great.

This dish is super savory and perfect for crisp nights—the fall-off-the-bone meat and stewed vegetables really warm you from the inside out. Bonus points if you sop up the extra sauce with rice or a side of patatas bravas.

Since there are just a few ingredients in this recipe, you want to make sure they shine. At the risk of sounding like Ina Garten, make sure you’re using high-quality chicken, real garlic cloves, and good olive oil. Trust me, good ingredients make a big difference.

Spanish-Style Braised Chicken Drumsticks

Low and slow is the name of the game here. Chicken drumsticks get braised in a flavorful Spanish-style tomato sauce that makes them fall-off-the-bone tender.

Course Main Course
Keyword chicken drumsticks, spanish chicken
Servings 4


  • 2 lbs. skin-on chicken drumsticks
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil, divided


  1. Preheat oven to 320. 

  2. Pat drumsticks dry and add generous pinch of kosher salt and black pepper all over the meat.

  3. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil to a large Dutch oven (I used my 5-quart Le Cruset), and heat on medium-high. When olive oil begins to shimmer, add drumsticks. 

  4. Cook drumsticks until skin is browned on all sides (this should take 3-4 minutes. Your chicken should not be cooked, you just want the skin to get crispy). Remove chicken from pan. 

  5. Swirl remaining olive oil in pan. Add chopped onion and green pepper, and add a small pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Cook over medium-high until softened (about 5-6 minutes). 

  6. Once softened, add in garlic and tomato paste. Scrape any brown bits on the bottom of pan (that's where you get the good flavor), and add in your chicken broth. 

  7. Add chicken drumsticks back into Dutch oven, turn off heat, and cover with a lid. 

  8. Place into 320 degree oven and bake for 40 minutes.

  9. Turn the heat up to 400, carefully remove lid from Dutch oven, and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Serve with rice, patatas bravas, or a side salad.

Patatas Bravas with Smoky Aioli

patatas bravas

I first tried patatas bravas while in Spain. Though there are plenty of restaurants in America that serve them, I couldn’t seem to find that smoky and slightly spicy aioli that rivaled the kind I had in Spain. So, I tried making it myself. Full disclosure: it took me several tries to get it right, but I think I finally found the (no pun intended) secret sauce.

I cut corners (and calories) by microwaving baby potatoes first, instead of cooking them the entire time in oil. Par-cooking the potatoes ensures fork-tenderness and a fluffy interior, but you’ll still get that golden-brown crust by finishing cooked potatoes in a skillet with olive oil.

These patatas bravas are good, but the pièce de résistance is truly the aioli (pronounced aye-oly…or, if you’re in Spain, allie-oly). I hate to brag, but this stuff is the Even my mayo-hating husband happily dunked his potatoes in this luscious red sauce. It’s more smoky than spicy, but you’ll still get a little kick at the end. Feel free to add more spice if that’s your style (you’re a rebel, and I like you already).

Patatas Bravas

You'll feel like you're in Spain with these one-bite potatoes and smoky and slightly spicy aioli dipping sauce.

Course Side Dish
Keyword patatas bravas
Servings 4 people


Patatas Bravas

  • 1 bag one-bite potatoes
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • kosher salt to taste (I like quite a bit of salt on my potatoes)


  • 1/2 cup mayonaise (use the real stuff here)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed into a paste (again, use the real thing)
  • kosher salt to taste


  1. Place potatoes and 1/4 cup of water in a large, microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap (make sure your plastic wrap is microwave-safe). 

  2. Microwave potatoes for 5 minutes, or until fork-tender.

  3. Drizzle olive oil in a large skillet, and turn stove to medium-high heat. When olive oil starts to shimmer (~30 seconds), carefully add potatoes. 

  4. While potatoes are cooking, mix all aioli ingredients together in a small bowl. Stir until combined. 

  5. After potatoes start to get crispy and golden-brown, remove from stove and serve immediately with aioli on the side.


The Ultimate Guide to Eating Your Way Through Barcelona

I’ve been waiting for over A YEAR to write a guide to Barcelona food and restaurants. Why’d I wait so long, you ask? Well, my husband and I actually got engaged in Barcelona, so when we got back, the next 14 months were filled with wedding and honeymoon plans galore (I wouldn’t change a thing, but my Barcelona guide had to temporarily be put on the back burner…womp womp.)

But, I’ve finally gotten around to writing this post and I couldn’t be happier to share it with you. Barcelona will always have a special place in my heart. It’s a romantic city with lots of gorgeous architecture—and of course, crazy-delicious food. One of my best friends, Ana, lives there and showed us all of the best places to eat when we went to visit her last summer. Today, I’m passing on that insider knowledge—plus, some helpful tips and tricks I’m glad Ana told us when we went to Spain.

Best for dinner with friends: Ca L’Andreu

The first night we arrived in Barcelona, we stumbled upon this restaurant. We were attending a flamenco show at the Palau de la Musica, and everywhere in the area was packed and kind of touristy. After walking down some back alleys, we found Ca L’Andreu, and I’m so glad we did. We started with a bottle of cava (the 1551 Codorniu, which was so crisp and refreshing!), and shared several tapas. I highly recommend the butifarra—a snappy, slightly spicy sausage that was absolutely delicious. But the craziest and most unforgettable part of the night may not have been the food—we actually had a private flamenco show that rivaled the show we saw at the Palau de la Musica later that evening.

Ca L’Andreu: Carrer del Bou de Sant Pere, 13, 08003 Barcelona, Spain

Best lunch spot: Mercat de la Boqueria

Okay, bare with me. I know la boqueria is situated right near “Las Ramblas”, the super touristy area that’s infamous for pickpockets, but I absolutely think it’s worth a visit. It’s like a farmer’s market with only local Spanish foods—think jamon Iberico, fresh fruit, olive oil, fresh chiles, manchego cheese, chocolate, and more. It would be a great place to pick up a grab-and-go snack lunch and head to La Ciutadella for a picnic (it’s about a 20 minute walk, but it’s a scenic one).

Mercat de la Boqueria: La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona, Spain

Best for tapas: Vinitus

The sangria, pulpo (octopus), patatas bravas, bacalao (salt cod), and crema Catalana (the Spanish version of creme brûlée) are NOT to be missed at this spot. It gets packed, and they don’t take reservations, so it’s best to go during the week if possible.

Vinitus: Carrer del Consell de Cent, 333, 08007 Barcelona, Spain

Best for a night out: Espit Chupitos

I can say without a doubt that my husband, Nick, had the most fun at this place. It’s a shot (“chupitos”) bar with literally hundreds of different shots on the menu. You have no idea what you’re ordering—your only hints are the emojis next to the shot’s name to indicate “flaming”, “fun”, “sweet”, or “spicy”. Warning: This is not a family-friendly place, and you’ll probably make some questionable decisions if you drink here (those shots sneak up on ya!) If you really want to have a good time, order the Monica Lewinsky shot. 😉

Espit Chupitos: Carrer del Consell de Cent, 268, 08011 Barcelona, Spain

Best paella: Xiringuito Escriba

Looking for a romantic date night spot, or a fun place to meet up with friends? This is a winner for both. It’s situated right on the beach, and the kitchen is totally open, so you can watch the chefs make giant (and, I mean GIANT) trays of paella. We tried an original paella, and then a black paella with squid ink.

Xiringuito Escriba: Av. del Litoral, 62, 08005 Barcelona, Spain

Best for day drinking: Freixenet or Moritz Brewery

Freixenet is a cava vineyard that was just a short train ride away from Barcelona city center, and the train drops you off right next to the vineyard. In my opinion, it’s totally worth visiting. The cava was delicious, reasonably priced, and we ended up buying a few bottles to take home. You also get several samples, so you’ll end up with a pretty nice buzz (thank God for public transportation after all that cava tasting!)

Freixenet: Plaça Joan Sala, 2, 08770 Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Barcelona, Spain

Moritz Brewery was great, but unfortunately we were rushing to catch a train so didn’t get to spend as much time there as we would’ve liked (literally, the train doors shut after we sprinted on, it was like a movie!) At Moritz, we each tried the three-beer flight, and the Moritz Original was my personal favorite. It was also one of the few places that was air conditioned, which was a welcome reprieve from the July heat.

Moritz Brewery: Ronda de Sant Antoni, 39, 41, 08011 Barcelona, Spain

Best for a date night: Isabella’s

My then-boyfriend (now husband) and I went to Isabella’s for a date night in Barcelona, and it was so perfect.Sure, it’s an Italian restaurant in Barcelona (not exactly local), but Isabella’s has a funky, bohemian vibe and tons of candles, which adds to the romantic ambiance. The carbonara with fresh truffle was out of this world, and I still dream about the house-made tiramisu.

Isabella’s: Carrer de Ganduxer, 50, 08021 Barcelona, Spain