Mystery Box Salad

Do you ever feel like dinnertime is a cooking show mystery box challenge and you have to throw ingredients together and whip up some fabulous meal before your husband kids… someone…votes you off the island?  Although timers and cooking-under-pressure aren’t really my thing, I think I would survive a mystery box challenge–I’m a stay-at-home mama!  I create my weekly meal plan based on the ingredients I have in my fridge and cupboards at the time, no more, no less, and it gets pretty creative sometimes.

I will either throw the lucky ingredients together for a great mystery box dinner…and cross my fingers…(Green salad mix?  Cauliflower?  Apricots?  Shrimp?  How about a homemade green spaghetti pasta with roasted cauliflower and shrimp in a garlic cream apricot sauce topped with sunflower seeds and fresh basil?), or grab one main ingredient I have and consult a cookbook.  Fennel bulb?  Snap peas?  Grapefruit?  I used Martha Stewart for this dinner salad inspiration, and adapted her fennel and snap pea salad to include a few more ingredients I had on hand, because fresh fruit always wants to join the salad party.

fennel snap pea salad beginnings copy

fennel snap pea salad

And seriously, what goes with a salad better than roasted sweet potatoes and homemade buttery croissants?  And I swear, taking a bite of the licorice-y fennel with the roasted, salted pistachios tasted exactly like bacon.  Great combo!



  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Fennel and Snap Pea Salad from her Meatless Cookbook.  I used pear, grapefruit, and avocado as the “fresh fruit” portion of the salad, because that’s what I had on hand.  You could easily substitute nectarines, peaches, berries and lime or lemon (in the summer), or pears, apples, and oranges (in the winter).  Just be sure to include a citrus to section up in the salad and use the juice for the vinaigrette.


  • 1 fennel bulb, core removed and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup snap peas, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 pear, thinly sliced
  • 2 grapefruits, sectioned and juiced (put juice in a smaller bowl for later use)
  • 1/2 cup roasted/salted pistachios


  • juice from two grapefruits
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


Put all salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste in the smaller bowl with the grapefruit juice, and whisk in the olive oil.  Whisk in just enough until the dressing comes together.  Pour over the fruits and veggies in the larger bowl and gently toss.  Serve with whole grain bread (or croissants!).


Poached Eggs on Toast

poached eggs on toast

My favorite breakfast when I was little was poached eggs on buttered toast.  Something about that salt-sprinkled cracked egg yolk running over crispy crunchy, sweet, buttered toast–warm, yummy, and comforting.  Whenever I hear those famous chef-folk talk about “umami”, it’s always a somewhat nebulous mystery to me–what do they mean by umami?!  Why do they use the word in the definition?!–that doesn’t help anyone understand what they are talking about when they are licking their lips after downing sea urchin, soy sauce, and other “ocean-y” tasting things.  Is umami like drinking the ocean, or what?!

And then I remembered the salty, homey, earthy taste of poached eggs on buttered toast–and I realized, in my opinion, that’s what umami is!  Not the ocean per se, but that otherwise indescribably melty, homey, hint of salt flavor.

And when you’re all grown up, it’s only right to put something green on that toast, right?!  Homemade toasted 10-grain whole wheat bread topped with smashed lime avocado, sautéed asparagus, fresh tomato slices, poached eggs, and grapefruit sections on the side.


  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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You can top your toast with any veggies you’d like–peas, broccoli, etc.; I had fresh tomatoes and asparagus on hand so that’s what I used.


  • bread of choice for toasting
  • 1-2 avocados (1 will be sufficient for 2 slices of toast)
  • 1-2 limes, juiced
  • 1 garden fresh tomato
  • 15-20 asparagus stalks
  • 1 egg per piece of toast


  1. Bring a pot of water to a slow simmer over medium heat.
  2. While water is heating, first, toast bread and butter slices.  Next, trim and sauté the asparagus stalks in olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. The water should be ready for poaching the eggs at this point.  It’s true what they say–add a splash of vinegar and it will keep the egg white tighter while poaching.  Gently drop the eggs in the water and watch so they don’t over-poach, maybe 3-4 minutes total.
  4. While eggs are poaching, shuck the avocados and smash in a bowl with the lime juice, add salt and pepper to taste.  Slice fresh tomatoes.
  5. Layer toast: lime avocado, sautéed asparagus, one slice of tomato, poached egg, sprinkle with salt and pepper.