Alison Ball Kilmer may live in the valley – an area nestled northwest of the Los Angeles Basin – but her epicurean influence spreads far and wide.
Talk about a digital imprint – she has a pretty significant one from her YouTube video series to her writing endeavors. Her wildly successful blog Ali in the Valley: Home grown cooking, down to earth living has an impressive following. It’s shaking up millennium thinking by demonstrating the value and virtue of getting back to the basics of wholesome food.
Alison has struck a chord with those who follow her lifestyle blog. It’s full of delicious, healthy and budget conscious recipes, and it has great tips for entertaining for all occasions. But beyond that, it’s an outlet for her passion to show people how to enjoy their homes which hits at the core of what’s important to her – strengthening families.
“I want to emphasize the importance of families sitting down and having dinner together because that is where bonding takes place, where you have meaningful conversation,” said Alison. “This has been my quest with Ali in the Valley.”
This mother of two children, wife, entertainment executive, food magazine editor, food blogger and philanthropist knows firsthand how hectic life can be with its many competing priorities. But through it all, she has found the key to balance.
“Yes my life is busy, but I’ve learned to keep it balanced by including my family in many things I do,” said Alison adding that her husband shoots her video series and her children often help her in the kitchen which she says is an important part of their bonding time.
Alison’s connection to food is organic, literally. She grows many of the vegetables, fruits and herbs she uses in the recipes she creates for her blog. From growing basil to tomatoes and everything in between, this city girl feels a strong connection to the soil and shares that connection with her children who love to pick vegetables from the garden they use in making dinner.
She doesn’t stop there. Alison also holds cooking classes in her home and teaches girls how to cook healthy meals using fresh ingredients.
“Their eyes light up when they taste the difference between herbs and vegetables picked from my garden and those purchased from the store,” Alison explained. “And I show them how they can grow their own herbs and vegetables even if they live in an apartment.”
If you don’t follow her blog, you should. She’ll soon introduce some new features and will debut her upcoming e-cookbook at the end of summer called Ali in the Valley Top 25 Chicken Recipes. But her current e-cookbook Ali in the Valley Top 25 Salad Recipes features full color pictures of amazing, mouthwatering and eye catching salads like Chickpea and Golden Raisin Salad, Crab Avocado Salad, Egg Salad with Anchovies, Summer Rice Salad and Tomato and Red Onion Salad – which I have to make soon. Alison also created a homemade dressing recipe for each salad in the book. The download price: visit the site, you won’t believe it.
Alison shares a tasty and novel Salad in a Jar Recipe. This one really is back-to-basics at its best.
Alison’s Salad in a Jar
1- 16 ounce canning jar
1-4 tablespoons salad dressing (see Alison’s salad dressing recipes below)
¼ cup of your favorite meat, beans, and nuts
¼ cup of 3-4 assorted raw veggies or fresh fruit
¼ cup cheese
Salad greens of your choice
Pour 1 to 4 tablespoons of salad dressing in the bottom of the jar. Adjust the amount of dressing depending on your personal preference.
Add your heavier protein items on the bottom such as meat (turkey, roast chicken, etc.), beans (garbanzo, chickpeas, kidney beans, etc.), nuts (pecans, almonds, walnuts, etc.).
Next add raw vegetables (like cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, radishes, onions etc.) or fruits (like avocados, tomatoes, diced strawberries, dried apricots etc.).
Next add your cheese (any grated variety, crumbled feta, diced Gouda, blue cheese, etc.)
Fill the rest of the jar with your favorite salad greens (romaine, spring mix, red leaf letter, spinach, etc.). Your salad greens will take up most of the space in the jar. Make sure you don’t push them down too hard, as leafy greens are delicate.
Finally, twist the lid on tight. When you’re ready to eat, simply pour out the contents into a bowl and toss gently. Recipe makes 1 salad.
Alison’s note: It’s very important that the salad dressing goes on the bottom, veggies and other salad goodies get piled on top. Everything stays separate and dressing-free until you toss the salad together in a bowl — never eat another soggy lunch salad. Even better, these salads last for days in the fridge so you can make a week’s worth of lunches ahead of time. With the lid sealed tightly, these salads can last for several days in the fridge — up to 5 days or so.
Alison’s Creamy Avocado Dressing
1 large (or 2 small) ripe avocado
¼ cup olive oil or grapeseed oil – I used Vega Antioxidant Omega Oil
1 handful fresh cilantro
1 jalapeño, stem and seeds removed
2-3 cloves garlic
Juice from 1 lime
1 tablespoon honey (maple or agave would work too to make it vegan)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
¼ cup water (you may want more if you want it thinner)
Add all of the ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until creamy. You can add more water for a thinner consistency, if you would like. I like to let it sit a bit in the fridge before eating, the flavors really come together.
Alison’s Greek Vinaigrette Dressing
¼ cup red wine vinegar
⅛ cup white wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
Grated lemon rind (1 lemon)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fine salt, plus more as needed
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 small clove garlic
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup canola oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme and oregano, each (or 1 teaspoon dried)
Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix. Store in an air tight container or jar in the fridge. Keeps for about 5 days.