light, fresh, nutritious. everything a summer meal should be, right? this salad reminds me a lot of my last recipe (chicken & orzo salad with herb lemon vinaigrette or orzo stuffed peppers) but it’s meat free and packed with protein. it’s equally customizable, though. if i had a vegetable garden out back, i imagine i’d throw together whatever i picked fresh (zucchini, peppers, squash, tomatoes, peas, etc.) with whatever whole grain i had on hand at the time.
i cooked up a big batch of this salad and ate it a different way almost every day - once as a side with dinner, once as a quick snack from the fridge, another time for lunch on a bed of spinach (GBG = greens, beans & grains!).
1/2 c. quinoa (uncooked)
one can cannelini beans (15.5 oz)
1 small summer squash, shredded
2 plum tomatoes
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 large cucumber, diced
2-3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
juice of half a lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
kosher salt & ground black pepper to taste
3-4 fresh basil leaves
done with the collecting? time for the doing!
first thing’s first: get your quinoa cooking and wash those veggies.
follow the instructions on your box of quinoa, but in case you bought in bulk or want to know the quick rule of thumb with this great grain, just remember this: 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa. dump it all in a pot, bring to a boil and then let it simmer until all of the water is absorbed. easy peasy!
next up, rinse your beans (until there’s no white foamy bubbles - that’s how you’ll know you’ve gotten rid of some of the salt!) and chop/grate/dice/slice those veggies. i shredded the zucchini because i like the texture and vinaigrette-soaking abilities. i diced up the tomatoes/pepper/cuke, as well, and did a quick chiffonade (rolling and slicing into a ribbon) with the fresh basil.
throw all that into a big mixing bowl and in a smaller bowl, whisk together your oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt and pepper. pour it on top of the veggies and quinoa in the big bowl and toss everything together.
and just. like. that. you’re done! enjoy it and soak up the last month of summer :)
click here for a printable version of the recipe!
a week or so ago, in response to my salad a day post, my friend leeza sent me a recipe for a lemon herb vinaigrette she had just tried. it sounded delicious and i knew i wanted to come up with a summery dinner salad to go with it. my wheels started turning and i had visions of going to the grocery store, picking out some great ingredients on my off day and whipping up something great.
…then i had car troubles, my car was stuck at the shop for the day and i was stranded at home. (more on that when i tell you about my weekend in newport!) good things about being stranded at home: it gave me motivation for a practice 5K before saturday and time to wrap up a couple of freelance projects. bad news: no way to get to the market!
instead, i rummaged through the cabinets and fridge and decided to use whatever we had on hand. the moral of this story is:this summery salad is totally customizable. it can be served hot or cold and can use what you’ve got! use my recipe as a guideline, but get creative :) in short, find a grain/pasta, a protein and some veggies. then follow the steps below and you’ll have a delicious meal.
in my case, we had orzo (i could have also used quinoa), a whole roast chicken (ready to make chicken salad with - but i had other plans), spinach (always on hand for my smoothies) and some red bell pepper for color. looking back, this is sort of the summer version of my one-pot lemony chicken and orzo. (full disclosure: i liked this one better, though!)
ingredients (for lemon herb vinaigrette)
2 T white wine vinegar
4 T extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon (appx. 1 T lemon juice)
2 T water
1 t dijon mustard (optional)
1 t garlic powder
1 t dried basil
1 t dried parsley
generous pinch kosher salt
ingredients (for salad)
1/2 cup orzo
appx. 2 cups diced chicken (we used about 2/3 the meat from this small roasted chicken - you could also use about 2-3 chicken breasts)
3 c. raw baby spinach
1/2 red bell pepper, coarsely diced
lemon vinaigrette (recipe above)
done with your collecting? let’s move onto the doing. if you set yourself up properly, this will involve very few pots & pans and will make your cleanup a breeze!
there’s the start of the show - the lemon herb vinaigrette! i made this in a good seasons bottle (great suggestion, leeza!) so after i poured everything in the bottle, i could easily shake it up before serving. if you don’t have an empty dressing bottle, you could always prep it in a small bowl and whisk the ingredients together.
either way, combine all the ingredients (vinegar, oil, water, lemon juice, optional mustard, salt and herbs) and shake ‘em up. set it aside while you prepare the rest of your salad.
alrighty, here’s where a little coordination will go a long way:
1. get your water boiling for your orzo while you dice your chicken.
2. put your spinach and bell peppers in the collander/strainer you’ll be draining your orzo in and set aside.
3. pour the orzo into the boiling water and cook as instructed on the box.
4. finish prepping your chicken while the orzo cooks and pour the cubes into a large mixing bowl (note: picture above is NOT a large mixing bowl, but i’m trying to help you people save on dishes. learn from my mistakes!) set it aside.
5. when your orzo is done cooking, pour the boiling water over the veggies in the strainer to gently wilt them. pour the spinach, peppers and orzo back into the pot, put a cover on it and let it sit for a few minutes to wilt everything a bit more.
pour the veggies and orzo on top of the chicken and mix everything together. grab your dressing from the fridge and pour it on top of everything. mix everything until it’s evenly and lightly coated. then grab a spoon, serve it up and dig in!
thanks again for the inspiration, leeza!
for the past couple of months, i’ve been eating a salad every single day for lunch. i pack up my shoebox sized tupperware container, load it up with bright veggies and filling protein and go on my merry way. it always takes me tons of time to eat, packs in the nutrients and leaves me feeling full for hours until it’s time for my afternoon snack.
instead of store-bought dressing, i keep olive oil and balsamic vinegar at my desk and shake a little on every day. easy, peasy!
you might think i’d get bored eating a salad every day for lunch, but they’re so versatile, it feels like an entirely different meal each time i eat it! also, instead of woofing it down, i’m able to take longer to eat and stay fuller longer, as well. try it for a week, you won’t be disappointed!
eliz’s tips for a great salad:
1. not to sound like the barefoot contessa, but start with good lettuce. my favorite kinds are romaine and butter lettuce. you might prefer arugula, spinach, spring mix, kale or iceberg. find out what works with you and go with it.
2. load it up with basic veggies - i aim for all different colors and textures in my staples. bell pepper, cucumber, celery and tomato always find their way into my lunch, but maybe carrots, sprouts, radishes, olives or onions are your cup of tea! if you think having 5-7 servings of vegetables a day seems daunting, recognize that you could easily have one serving with breakfast (think veggie omelette or green smoothie!), two servings with dinner and a big salad could easily take care of another four servings of vegetables! wham, bam.
3. don’t forget the protein! protein is what will keep you full, rather than feeling like you just ate a bowl of rabbit food. whether it’s chicken, deli meat, shrimp, salmon beans, hummus, a veggie burger, tofu or tempeh, just get that protein in the mix!
4. change it up & give your salad a theme. although i eat a salad a day, i don’t eat the SAME salad every day. that would get really old really fast. some days it’s greek, others it’s mexican. sometimes it’s mediterranean, others it’s roasted vegetables. keep yourself interested!
5. don’t be afraid of leftovers! instead of letting leftovers in your fridge go to waste, incorporate them into your salad. just the other day, i cut up a leftover turkey burger, sweet potato slices and roasted zucchini from the grill. traditional salad fixins? no. delicious? yes. the next day, i had leftover chicken, peppers and onions from fajitas - i threw that in with some avocado and i had an instant mexican fiesta!
6. don’t go overboard with the “goodies” - you could have an amazingly nutritious salad and throw it all down the drain if you load on lots of croutons, cheese, creamy dressings, etc. some of those treats, in moderation, are fine - let’s be honest, i wouldn’t DREAM of having a greek salad sans feta cheese! just be smart about it so you’re not burying all the benefits that drew you to a salad in the first place. (also, unsuspecting culprit… watch out for low fat/fat free dressings. when they take out the fat, they replace it with SUGAR and that’s not helping anyone. make your own dressing with olive oil or make sure you read in the ingredients carefully.)
7. most importantly, make it your own. maybe you hate celery - then don’t include it. maybe your favorite food is strawberries - include those! whatever you do, make it appealing to YOU or else you’ll never enjoy it.
salad combo ideas:
greek salad: romaine, bell peppers, cucumber, olives, feta cheese, grilled chicken
roasted veggie salad: romaine, roasted zucchini, squash, onion, bell pepper, brussels sprouts, kidney beans
mexican salad: romaine, sauteed onions and bell peppers, grilled shrimp, avocado, black beans, tomatoes
summery salad: butter lettuce, strawberries, peaches, goat cheese, walnuts
asian salad: shredded lettuce, orange segments, baked salmon, sesame seeds, water chesnuts
everything but the kitchen sink salad: also known as a clean-out-the-fridge salad. literally… your dinner from the night before on a big bed of lettuce!
**QUESTION: what are your must-have salad ingredients?**
well hello, there! it’s been a while, no? i really am sorry i’ve been so busy lately. i’ve resorted to eating cereal and bagel bites rather than working on real recipes to eat and share with you. hopefully now that my schedule has calmed down a bit, i’ll be back on track. i also think that spring-y weather makes me want to be outside enjoying the sun instead of inside my kitchen!
speaking of spring weather, though… that was my inspiration (along with a challenge on chopped) for this dish. i wanted something light, different, fun and tasty and simply-prepared salmon with a fresh cucumber citrus salad seemed to fit the bill perfectly.
in the meantime, what has been going on in my life? the 27th annual hockey east tournament, some ncaa northeast regional hockey, turning the big 2-5, catching up with one of the families i used to babysit for, hosting the atlantic-10 women’s basketball tournament, my basketball team making it to the ncaa tournament for the third straight year, the beginning of the softball season. it seems way less overwhelming when i capture it in a sentence like that…
2 salmon fillets
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons honey, divided
1 orange: zest, juice from 1/2, segments sliced
juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 lemon: zest, juice
large cucumber, peeled
[this recipe yields two portions]
whisk together the soy sauce, 1 teaspoon honey, ginger, garlic, juice from the orange, lime and lemon, along with orange and lemon zest. pour it over the salmon in an airtight container. seal, shake so it’s covered and set in the fridge for about 1/2 an hour.
while the salmon is marinating, peel and chop the cucumber and orange. place in a bowl with a sprinkle of ginger, squeeze of lemon juice and the remaining 1 teaspoon of honey. let that sit together for a while, too.
when the salmon has marinated, remove it from the fridge and put the fillets in a skillet. turn it to a medium-low heat, cover and let them cook for 12-15 minutes or until opaque and flaky throughout.
plate the salmon and pour the salad on top. dig in!
it was really refreshing and i have a feeling i’ll be recreating this dish LOTS this summer. my favorite bites were the ones with a little bit of salmon, cucumber AND orange on the fork. :)
click here for the printable version of the recipe!
welcome back and happy monday! this weekend left me more tired than rested, but i’m not complaining. yesterday i managed to be completely productive (for work, this blog and chipping away at my DVR) without getting out of my pajamas. yes, i went to the grocery store in my pajamas. judge me. i never took my coat off, though, so none of my fellow shoppers were any wiser. i’m sneaky (read: lazy) like that.
today’s weather’s kind of got me bummin’, though. enough with the ice, rain, hail, snow, freezing rain and any mix thereof. e-nough.
anyways, onto happier thoughts… like this delicious creation i made this weekend: a warm spinach salad with cannellini beans, kidney beans, quinoa, sweet onions and bacon! SO DELICIOUS. it reminded me of when i made the avocado, black bean, corn & tomato salad - as i was packaging up my leftovers, i kept scooping up another forkful because it was so tasty!
i originally saw a variation of this recipe on how sweet it is and even though i didn’t like all the ingredients, i started craving the dish immediately. i knew that if i was going to make it, there would need to be some adjustments, but i decided this would be my big leftovers meal for the week and happily created my own version.
i am also going to say that it can EASILY be a meat-free meal just by taking out the bacon, cooking with a little olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt. between the quinoa and the beans, there’s so much protein in this salad that it can be a meal in itself and the bacon (even though it’s a fantastic addition) is not crucial. so vegetarians, don’t be scared away! make this dish with that tiny adjustment and you’ll be thrilled you did.
4 slices bacon, cooked well-done and chopped (optional)
1/2 cup quinoa, cooked (about 1.5 cups cooked)
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
6-8 oz. fresh baby spinach (about 8 cups, uncooked)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
[this recipe yields about 4-5 servings]
if you get all the prep work done in advance, it’s a breeze to assemble the rest of the dish. so get started by cooking your bacon and cooking the quinoa. you’ll be rolling from there.
for the quinoa, i used a mix of red and white because that’s what i had on hand. i bought enough white at the grocery store for this dish, actually, but then proceeded to spill half the bag in the sink. i guess there are worse places to spill quinoa, though.
side note 1: i finally found a way to cook veryyy fluffy quinoa, though, so follow this rule of thumb: 1:2.5 of quinoa to water ratio (for 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, i added 1 1/4 cups water) i then brought it to a boil for 2-3 minutes and then reduced to a simmer and covered tightly for another 25 minutes.
side note 2: for those of you that are not familiar with quinoa, get familiar. i had it for the first time this summer in santa monica and have been in love ever since. it’s a grain, finer than rice, but cooked similarly. it’s FULL of protein, though, so it’s a favorite of vegetarians, vegans and health nuts alike.
for the bacon - HOLY CRAP. i’ve never cooked bacon before (aside from turkey bacon in the microwave) and boy, is it finnicky. it makes so much grease and that grease POPS. to be quite honest, i made 1/2 the package on the skillet - you know, to be authentic - and then finished the rest in the microwave.
after you’re done cooking it, let it drain on a paper towel before chopping.
let the quinoa cool, chop the bacon and rinse and drain the beans. set all that aside and you’re well on your way to finishing this dish up.
dispose of most of the bacon grease except for maybe 1 Tablespoon. i know that sounds gross, but it’s what you’re going to use instead of oil while you sautee the onions. give a fairly fine chop to the onion and throw it into the large skillet. add the garlic and stir let it cook at a medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes until they’re tender and translucent.
next, add the spinach and sprinkle the sugar on. stir it around for 2-3 minutes and be amazed at how quickly it wilts. that picture on the top right was taken not even two minutes before the bottom one. so if it seems like you’re putting a LOT into the skillet, don’t worry. it won’t look like much after long.
toss in the beans and quinoa and mix everything together. right before you’re ready to serve, stir in the bacon. serve it warm as a protein-packed side or eat a bowl of it for dinner!
see? told you it was delectable.
click here for a printable version of the recipe!
first, before i get into the details of this delicious creation i’ve eaten for every meal for the last two days… let me tell you a little bit about my morning.
i hadn’t picked out an outfit last night, as clothes haven’t really been a huge priority in this gross weather, since i refuse to ruin cute shoes, i don’t want the bottoms of my pants to get salty AND my real priority is that i just want to be warm. needless to say, i can’t wait for spring and sundresses. in the meantime, though, i like to throw in some non-traditional winter colors into my wardrobe.
i decided this morning that i would wear a bright coral sweater i got for my birthday a couple of years ago. it’s a little bit on the itchy side, though, so i threw on a black, cap-sleeved-but-really-almost-sleeveless t-shirt to wear while i was getting ready and then sport under the sweater. well, when i got to work and unzipped my coat, imagine my surprise when i realized I NEVER PUT ON MY SWEATER. so here i am, in 10 degree weather, in a tank top at work. really? yes. anyways, i threw on a fleece that’s been sitting on the back of my chair all year and i’m looking less than fashionable today.
…anyways. let’s discuss how this amazing, bright, light, flavorful mexican salad came to be! firstly, the title of my post describes all of the ingredients, more or less. i noticed this weekend that i had a can of black beans sitting in my pantry and had some “super sweet” frozen corn in my overly stocked freezer that needs to be cleaned out. i was feeling daring for some creative sandwich last week that never came to be and was left with an avocado and a couple of tomatoes sitting in my kitchen. knowing all these ingredients were strewn about my kitchen inspired me and just like that, i picked up a lime at the store and got to creating!
the assembly is SO easy and i really can’t stop raving about how delicious and versatile it is. i’ll get more into that later, though :)
1 1/2 cups sweet corn, frozen then cooked
2 small or 1 large tomato, chopped
1 ripe avocado, chopped
14 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
juice from 1 lime
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
done collecting? time for some doing!
(i just love how colorful all these ingredients are! screw skittles, this is how you taste the rainbow)
since you don’t have to do much actual cooking when you assemble this salad, most of the prep work is pretty easy. first thing you want to do is cook the corn (mine was the steam fresh kind, so i popped it in the microwave) and once you drain it, put it in the fridge or rinse it with cold water to cool it down.
next, rinse the beans. remember what biggest loser bob tells us! you want to rinse the beans until there’s no white foam leftover, so you can make sure you’ve gotten rid of as much excess salt as you can.
chop your tomato and score your avocado, too. i was thinking of adding half a sweet onion, but i decided against it. feel free to do that now if you’d like! also, i hate cilantro, so i steered clear of that, too. for those of you that like it, i think the flavor would work great with the dish, so chop up some fresh leaves and add away!
also, i’d just like to note that this avocado was the perfect ripeness, no bad spots and i FINALLY took the pit out of an avocado with just a knife. photo documentation:
i always see them to this when they make tableside guacamole at restaurants and i’m so jealous of the skill. i always end up digging into the avocado with my fingers, mashing up half of it and making a mess. i was so proud of this perfect slice, i just had to share.
put all your beeeeeautiful ingredients into a bowl and toss them around a bit to mix. then it’s time to get started on the vinaigrette!
combine your olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and lime juice and whisk together with a fork. then, drizzle it over the salad so it gets evenly distributed and then gently mix everything together even more so every bite is well-coated.
MMMM! the possibilities from here are endless. i grabbed a forkful to make sure it was seasoned well and ended up eating three forkfuls because it was so good! you can serve it in a burrito, have it as a side dish, pour it on top of nachos, dip your chips in it or make my little mexican pizza creation (see below).
i took half a piece of lavash bread (pretty much just a tortilla) and put it on the stove with a healthy sprinkle of reduced fat cheddar cheese. i let it sit, on a low heat, for a few minutes until the cheese had melted. them i poured some of the salad on top and ate it like a piece of pizza. i was in heaven!
i think this is a great option for mexican flavor without loading on tons of cheese, sour cream and deep fried dishes. other than the avocados turning a little less bright green, this was also delicious as leftovers! the flavors from the dressing just soaked in and made everything that much tastier. nothing beats it on the first night, though.
do yourself a favor and make this SOON! or better yet, bring it to a super bowl party and wow your friends :)
click here for a printable version of the recipe.