I just spent four amazing days at the 2014 Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo. I packed one bag and came home with four. My bags are full of education materials and handouts, lots of food samples and kitchen utensils, and a couple of free cookbooks.
And that’s only the stuff I took home. I also ingested a fancy free dinner, a few gratis happy hours, a lot of education sessions, and a freakin’ ton of new food products. I met new friends, made industry contacts, swapped lots of business cards, and came home with some creative ideas for my career.
I could talk FOR-E-VER about what an incredible experience my first FNCE was, but I really just want to share one cool thing:
I went to dinner one night with a few new dietitian friends. As we ate our appetizer of bone barrow — yes, you read correctly, more on that in a minute — we discussed the movement of dietitians toward food rather than away from it. It seems to us that there is a New Age of Dietitians who are embracing real food, farm-to-table food, fresh food, natural food, indulgent food (rather than, say, five-calorie iceberg lettuce, no dressing, please). On which end of the “healthy food spectrum” is important, but only to the point of how much we are eating. As a profession, we always say, “Everything in moderation,” and I feel like this was a weekend that truly celebrated that. I spent the weekend taste-testing sugar substitutes and learning about ancient grains, but I also spent a happy hour surrounded by dietitians drinking cocktails and an evening at a swanky restaurant nibbling on bone marrow.
And that’s a very long, drawn out way to say: My profession is very cool. I’m proud to be a dietitian. And I hope this post reaches at least one person who thinks we are judgemental or scary or “perfect eaters.” I’m here to say that we aren’t!!! We get it. We also sometimes struggle with food. Because it’s gooooood. Because we are wired to like nutrients that sustain us as human beings. Dietitians love. food. too.
And with that, I bring you some green, leafy vegetables. But not iceberg lettuce, because that is so 1990’s.
Isn’t it prettttyyyy? The colors work well, and so do the flavors and textures of the ingredients — it’s a little sweet, a bit herbaceous and earthy, and a touch of salty. Some bites are crunchy or chewy or creamy. It’s a healthy dinner, but it’s filling and the rich combination of autumn squash, goat cheese, mushrooms, and pumpkin seeds tastes indulgent.
Fall Kale Salad with Pesto Chicken
- 2 tablespoons pesto
- 1 pound chicken breast*
- 1 medium butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2x1/2" cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces sliced baby bella or button mushrooms**
- 5 ounces kale I used baby kale -- it's more tender
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 4 ounces goat cheese crumbled
- dressing of choice I used Marie's Basil Pesto Vinaigrette
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Spread the raw chicken breasts evenly with pesto and refrigerate at least 6 hours.
Toss the squash only with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper as desired. Evenly spread out in a 9x13" cookie sheet. Roast for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, toss mushrooms with remaining olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper as desired. When the timer goes off, mix the mushrooms with the squash and roast for 15 more minutes or until tender and beginning to brown.
In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat the chicken until cooked through, about 6 minutes per side. There is no need to add olive oil to the skillet as the pesto has sufficient fat to properly sear the chicken.
In a large bowl, toss the kale, squash and mushroom mix, pumpkin seeds, goat cheese, and dressing to combine. Top with cooked chicken and serve.
*I marinated the chicken and roasted the butternut squash and mushrooms the night before for quick assembly the next evening.
**This makes a lot of roasted vegetables. Use what you want in the salad and refrigerate the rest for a healthy side dish later in the week.
My rating: 5/5 stars. I’ll definitely make this again. I couldn’t get enough of it. I ate it for dinner, breakfast, and lunch in a 24-hour period.
The BBF’s rating: I text-asked him and he replied, “4.” I text-asked why and he replied, “Idk it was yummy lol.” *Insert eye-rolling.*
I couldn’t find an authoritative source on bone marrow health benefits or drawbacks, but judging by the flavor, it’s probably 100% fat (but possibly the good kind of fat?!?) Anthony Bourdain has said, “If God made butter it would taste exactly like bone marrow.” Mmmkay, Mr. Bourdain. I’ll let ya have that one.