Recipe: Farro Stuffed Tomato on Arugula with Black Beans and Feta

I started running for one reason only. Well, maybe two:  second helpings of tacos and/or that extra glass of wine. Sidelined by two slight but nagging injuries and five pounds gained, I made this Farro Stuffed Tomato on Arugula with Black Beans and Feta to help steer my food-loving face toward better choices. Bit players on the plate include walnuts and julienned cucumber and red onion- YUM! This is a hearty, filling, flavorful lunch salad yet still a lighter meal. You know, like, if you’ve been eating too many tacos of late.

Farro Stuffed Tomato on Arugula with Black Brand and Feta- this was seriously holy freaking yum good.

Farro Stuffed Tomato on Arugula with Black Beans and Feta
for two servings

  • 1 large, really good tomato
  • 4 cups loosely packed arugula, well washed
  • 1 cup cooked farro
  • 1/2 cup julienned red onion
  • 1/2 cup julienned cucumber
  • 1/2 cup black beans, I used canned
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 2 tablespoons toasted walnut pieces
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar salt, pepper, herb blend (Penzey’s Parisien Bonnes Herbes blend is mighty good)

Cook farro according to package directions. I added salt, onion powder and garlic powder to my cooking water, and used the “put the grain in the pot, ad two or three cups of water, cook until tender, then drain off all the extra water” method.

While farro is cooking-

  • slice tomato in half along its equator, and scoop out the inside of the fruit. Dice the part that you’ve removed, and set aside
  • divide arugula between two plates and top each pile with a tomato half
  • sprinkle onion, cucumber, diced tomato guts, beans (rinse ’em off in water first),  feta, and walnuts evenly between the two servings of arugula

When farro is done (taste it… tender + done), drain off cooking water and while it is still in the pot, drizzle about one tablespoon of olive oil and half a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar over the grain. Mix in salt, pepper, and any herb blend at this point, too.

Fill each tomato half with the seasoned farro mixture. Drizzle arugula with a little more salt, pepper, olive oil, and vinegar and dig in!

Have you tried farro yet? It is one of the ancient grains that have been appearing in the markets recently. Along with quinoa and chia, farro has been cultivated for centuries, if not millennia. How does it taste? Well, I think of the grain as a larger, more mild and more tender version of barley.

It took a recipe this tasty to write up another blog post here on Branching Out on a Limb. I had intended to just snap a picture for my mom and tell her about my lunch creation, but the picture and recipe were too good not to share. This salad would also be great with beets, goat cheese, and pine nuts over romaine; turkey, dried cranberries, and hazelnuts over butter lettuce… please share your own great combinations!

Girls’ Day Out #2- Frutilandia and more!

In June I went exploring Liberty Station with one of my most favorite friends- two moms on the loose having a lot of fun!

Six months is way too long to wait. Time for another “field trip,” this time with Dee Dee and Suzanne, friends from our church’s Bunco Club. Incidentally, Bunco Club needs to be renamed to “Let’s Have a Blast Chatting about All Our Favorite Things, Then Finally Get Around to Throwing Those Dice” Club (at least on the day it was held at my house, oops). Well, we chit-chatted about so many different favorite products, foods, restaurants and other places that we promised to go on a field trip to a few of these spots the very next week.

IMG_9304Which brings us to today: Fruitilandia, Pancho Villa’s Farmer’s Market, and Penzey’s Spices. Two of our stops I was very familiar with, but Fruitilandia was my new venture for today. This place was really neato-burrito.

According to Dee Dee, Fruitilandia was once a dumpy-looking small shop across the street from it’s current location at 4328 University Avenue in San Diego. Now it is located in a bright spot, still offering smoothies and all kinds of fabulous Mexican drink specialties.

We asked about the different snack options and were all in for sharing a Tostilocos, and tried the Strawberries and Cream (unfreakingbelievably delish), Pico de Gallo Fruit Salad, Fruit Salad with cottage cheese, raisins and honey, and a Licuado.

IMG_9313Holy cow, where has a Licuado been all my life? It is kind of like a Mexican milkshake, only lighter, like a smoothie. And tastier. And more refreshing. Choose which of many fruits you want blended into your drink with the milk- I chose pineapple and mango. Wow. Delish.

IMG_9311 (1)
Ermuhgersh! Tostilocos!

The three of us split a snack that we decided was like a Walking Taco… on steroids. We barely made a dent in the Tostilocos- served in one opened small bag of Tostitos was cucumbers, jicama, fried peanuts, tamarind bits, spicy sauce and chicharron strips. I’m pretty sure there were 42 other things in there, we just couldn’t get down to the bottom of the bag.

Three forks-full of chicharron… not fried.

Imagine how sad I was to find that the chicharrones were not fried… boo hoo hoo! I definitely prefer my chicharrones fried. Pork skin cooked this way is like calamari, only a little more firm. Not bad, but not to my taste.

Fruit Salad Pico de Gallo- something I never had, but always meant to- chunks of fruit with chile. Definitely tasty, now all my So Cal and Mexican friends and family can get off my case. I think I liked the papaya and watermelon best.

Fruit Salad Pico de Gallo

Fruitilandia could take over the country’s smoothie market. I hope it does.

And I NEED to get out with the women more often!

Out and about, trouble times three, ha.



New Spice- Hot Mustard Powder, And Italian Egg Roll Geniuses…

What's going back to the store? THIS stuff. Yechhh!
What’s going back to the store? THIS stuff. Yechhh!

Let’s get this review out there, right away: I wanted to scrape my tongue free from the residue of this vile paste. When we tried a small taste, I wanted to spit, but International Guy looked betrayed, “This stuff used to come in packets with your frozen ‘egg rolls’ when you were a kid?” Now I’m sure he is thinking terrible things about what Americans will let their children have access to via their kid’s frozen snacks.

As a matter of fact, there is no more American story than that of the founder of the company that made the favorite frozen egg rolls of my youth: Jeno Paulucci. The Italian frozen food genius.

From his 1993 obituary in the Washington Post:

83d5ae9cbe7f2014798c3210a7fdeb2c“His first great success was a company called Chun King,” Ford said during his dinner address. “What could be more American than a business built on a good Italian recipe for chop suey?”

Luigino Francesco Paulucci was born July 7, 1918, in Aurora, Minn. His father was an iron miner and his mother, Michelina, ran a grocery out of the family home. During Prohibition, his mother sold bootlegged wine and also ran an illegal bar. After selling Jeno’s to Pillsbury, he founded Luigino’s and started the Michelina’s brand of Italian foods, named for his mother.

New Menu Monday- “Snicker Snacks” Chicken becomes Lemon Chicken- Two Recipes!

We love our baked chicken around here. This is one of the first dishes my mom taught me to make, and hers is still king in my book. We have a way of preparing it so that it tastes like one of our favorite snack- Snicker Snacks (the same ones I shared with our awesome school security guards, “SnickerWhat’s-its and Thank Yous,” on 2/3/15). I should call it Snicker Snacks Chicken:

Our favorite baked chicken, with mashed potatoes and broccoli.
Our favorite baked chicken, with mashed potatoes and broccoli.

This is super easy- In a 9″ x 13″ baking dish, place a quartered chicken (or 8 chicken thighs), skin side up, brush with a mix of 2 tablespoons melted butter and 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, and then sprinkle with onion powder, garlic powder and Lawry’s seasoned salt; bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes, until the skin is nice and crispy.

We like this served with any vegetable side and mashed potatoes, usually.  I think these are the best staple seasonings- Penzey’s Toasted Onion Powder and California Garlic Powder, and Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. Honestly, these are what I reach for every day.


Lemon Chicken photo from Annie' (click to link)
Lemon Chicken photo from Annie’ (click to link)

I switched up the chicken for today’s New Menu Monday, and tried a simple, easy lemon chicken dish:
Lemon Chicken, from

Bake it long enough, do not be afraid, and you will be rewarded with a lovely crisp skin glazed in lemony goodness. I liked this recipe, even though I overcooked it a bit in the end. I think it is because my thighs were of different sizes. That does sound like a personal problem, but I assure you I am referring to the chicken thighs here. Ha.

The Boy liked the usual “snicker snacks chicken” better, The Husband liked it, International Boy liked it well enough, I gave it a Seal of Approval, “I’d Make This Again” Vote. I really liked the fresh lemon flavor… nice and bright. Yum! I highly recommend following the recipe- do not skimp on the fresh, real lemon zest or juice, and use fresh garlic. They really make this dish shine. Great recipe,!

All ingredients assembled...
Ingredients assembled… Annie’ recipe printed out.
Here's mine! Dee-lish!
Here’s mine! Garlic + Lemon = Dee-lish!