Category Archives: Salads

Kale & Wasabi Pea Caesar Salad

 

Are you getting in the spring of things? Have you begun a whirlwind of cleaning out rooms, old clutter, elbow greasing the bathroom, and sorting through wardrobes? Do you day dream about tender green baby lettuce, the first sweet juicy strawberry, or delicate spring peas that pop in your mouth? I know I am!

Spring is a time of freshness, rebirth, and growth. The world re-awakens after a long, cold, terrible winter.

Though it is hard to believe now, with the still-cold, hard earth brown and bare, soon rain will drench everything, sun will warm it again, and greenery will burst forth! Birds have begun singing, small furry animals are emerging from hibernation, and gardeners all over are just itching to get outside and play in some dirt!

Now might be a good time to assess your food preservation options. If you don’t have canning jars or could use some more, I recommend at least a case of pint jars (wide-mouth can fit more in easily, you can can or even freeze them), as well as a case of quart jars, and if you make lots of different flavored jams, jellies, or salsas, maybe a few tiny 4 oz jars too. These also make great gifts!

Don’t forget the lids, regular mouth lids and  wide-mouth lids. These cannot be reused (they lose their seal) but the rings you can reuse.

Even if you don’t have a garden yourself, canning is an excellent skill to begin learning. You can get steals and deals at the end of the day in farmer’s markets, pick-your-own bushels of fruits at an orchard, or on-sale in-season produce at the grocery store.

Canning is a great, non-electricity-using way to store these seasonal delicacies for the future dreary winter, that we don’t even want to think about yet. Read my earlier foray into canning beans for more information, directions, and especially important safety information to consider if this is your first time (or hundredth).

In honor of this season of green, here is a lovely salad recipe using fresh greens, wasabi peas, sunflower seeds, and other fresh veggies. Feel free to make it your own based on your tastes and what is currently in season near you.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups assorted greens (romaine, kale, spinach used here. also try arugula, watercress, chard, or endive)
  • 1/2 cucumber, washed and sliced
  • 1/3 cup wasabi green peas (use fresh peas if you have them or don’t like wasabi spice/flavor)
  • 1/2 cup homemade croutons
  • 2-3 tbsp Caesar dressing (or Ranch)
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • Optional: grated fresh Parmesan or Romano cheese

Step 1: To make croutons, cut 2 slices of old bread into cubes. Toss in 2-3 tbsp olive oil, and sprinkle on seasonings (I recommend Italian). Toast on a flat cookie sheet in an oven at 350 for 10-12 minutes, until golden. Or use store-bought, or omit entirely. Up to you.

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Step 2: Shred or slice the romaine, spinach, and kale, and pile on a plate. Top with cucumber slices, sprinkle on the seeds, peas, and croutons, and add dressing. Toss lightly to coat.

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I had this for lunch with an apple, a piece of homemade corn bread (with canned corn in it) and a big glass of water. Just a perfect amount of crunch and spring flavors to perk you right up. Now if only there was no more frost danger so I can set out my seedlings…

Kale & Wasabi Pea Caesar Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cups assorted greens (romaine, kale, spinach used here)
  • 1/2 cucumber, washed and sliced
  • 1/3 cup wasabi peas (use fresh peas if you have them or don't like wasabi spice/flavor)
  • 1/2 cup homemade croutons
  • 2-3 tbsp Caesar dressing (or Ranch)
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • Optional: grated fresh Parmesan or Romano cheese

Instructions

  1. To make croutons, cut 2 slices of old bread into cubes. Toss in 2-3 tbsp olive oil, and sprinkle on seasonings. Toast in an oven at 350 for 10-12 minutes, until golden. Or use store-bought, or omit entirely. Up to you.
  2. Shred or slice the romaine, spinach, and kale, and pile on a plate. Top with cucumber slices, sprinkle on the seeds, peas, and croutons, and add dressing. Toss lightly to coat.
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Fresh Caprese Salad

 

Ahhh the Caprese Salad. Trending for years in America, but traditionally know as “insalata caprese” for centuries in Italy. Typically served as an “antipasti” or appetizer, rather than a salad, the caprese salad all Italian home cooks know and love consists of homegrown or local tomatoes at the peak of freshness, young garden-grown basil, thick chunks of buffalo mozzarella, and the finest olive oil you can afford.

Be warned, the recipe I am about to share violates some of the Caprese purist rules, including using baby mozzarella and balsamic vinegar. My apologies. For a true, simple, Italian recipe, try In Italy.

But as they have pointed out, Americans rarely will accept a very simple dish as-is. Our culture demands experimentation, ostentation, and exaggeration. We want to feel special, trendy, unique. We want validation for spending ten times on a meal what the ingredients to make it at home would have cost.

Enough of my soap box. Here is my at-home version of insalata caprese, enough for one light lunch portion or an appetizer for two.

Best in late summer, when tomatoes are at their peak of season and basil is cheap (or flourishing on your window sill)

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella
  • 4 oz cubes fresh tomato
  • 1 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 oz olive oil
  • 1 oz balsamic vinegar
  • Garlic salt & Italian seasoning

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Better yet, grow your own basil! It’s an easy plant to tend, in a garden or a container, and is usually quite prolific. Then you can enjoy the fresh scent and taste of basil in sauces, pastas, and pesto year-round.

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Step 1: Put a large handful of basil leaves into a bowl. Slice the mozzarella on top. Cut the tomatoes into chunks and add those. If you’re going for a nice presentation, use a larger ball of mozzarella and larger tomatoes, and slice into thick rounds. Layer these on a dish, alternating red-white-green. Like the Italian flag.

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Step 2: For the purists, at this point you should add some salt and pepper to taste, and just a drizzle of pure, high-grade olive oil. I also sprinkled on Italian seasoning (a little redundant to add dried basil to my fresh basil but hey, I love herbs!), garlic salt (because there isn’t anything that doesn’t taste better with garlic salt on it), and some balsamic vinegar.

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Dig in! That’s all there is to it. This flavor combination is absolutely heavenly. The classic is of course classic for a reason. However, if this isn’t enough to satisfy your curious taste buds, try one of these variations:

  • Caprese Pizza – use the same ingredients, just slice onto a pizza crust, drizzle with olive oil, and bake
  • Caprese Pasta – dice the mozzarella and tomatoes into cooked pasta, warm or cold, sprinkle slivered basil on top
  • Caprese Bruchetta – put the cheese, tomato, and basil on toasted bread or crostini, sprinkle with oil & vinegar & serve immediately
  • Zucchini slices in addition to tomato
  • Heirloom tomato slices in rainbow colors
  • Pesto, parsley, or mint leaves instead of basil

 

Power Greens & Beans Salad

 

If you’re looking to fill up, super-charge your cells, up your fiber intake, and feel AWESOME for around 300 calories a plate, look no further!

This phenomenal salad uses a strong base of mixed greens (romaine & spinach) combined with the vegan four-bean salad from a previous post, and topped with fresh green onion to create a super heart-healthy, cholesterol-reducing, vitality-restoring super salad!

(Claims not investigated by the FDA. I made all this up so far.)

But seriously folks, this is delicious, and there is so much gorgeous color and fiber here, it might be a challenge to finish the whole plate! And with the vinaigrette from the four bean salad, you don’t even need dressing, which is where a lot of salad calories tend to come from.

So you can feel really super awesome about eating this.

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 romaine leaves, chopped or torn
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 cup vegan four bean salad
  • 2 green onions, chopped

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Step 1: Create a giant bed of greens on your plate. The more the merrier!

“Oh no, not more green leafy vegetables!” — Said no one’s internal organs ever.

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Step 2: Smother the greens in the bean salad. Chop the green onions on top and that’s all there is to it. Enjoy your phenomenally healthy and tasty lunch/dinner/whatever.

Optional substitutions: Use any kind of leafy green here, kale would also work, even iceberg if you must. If you don’t like green onion, use any other fresh herbs. You can also add other toppings like raw nuts or seeds, croutons, olives, sliced peppers, etc.

 

Power Greens & Beans Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: Makes one huge plate of salad

2-3 cups greens and beans

Ingredients

  • 4-5 romaine leaves, chopped or torn
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 cup vegan four bean salad
  • 2 green onions, chopped

Instructions

  1. Create a giant bed of greens on your plate. The more the merrier! "Oh no, not more green leafy vegetables!" -- Said no one's internal organs ever.
  2. Smother the greens in the bean salad. Chop the green onions on top and that's all there is to it. Enjoy your phenomenally healthy and super tasty lunch/dinner/whatever.
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Vegan Four Bean Salad

 

This dish was cooked up (pun intended) for a work potluck I had. I wanted a dish that didn’t take too much time and effort, since I would put it together the day of, maybe even the night before. And it needed to be something that made a lot, to feed a lot of people, but on a penny budget.

In comes my old best friends, beans, to the rescue! Beans are delightful, cheap, and filling. They come in endless variety too, so when you put several kinds together you get a healthy, hearty, and also pretty dish.

This is a very easily customizable adaptation of your typical “three-bean” salad, in that I simply added an extra type of beans. Here I used canned, but you can slash the cost even further by starting with dried beans, and cooking them in a crock pot on low overnight to rehydrate. Then drain and refrigerate until needed.

Ingredients:

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Step 1: Open all the cans, put the beans in a colander and rinse them several times with cold water. This helps remove some of the excess sodium and any preservatives that might have been in the canned juices. Mix in a large bowl with the peppers and onion.

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Step 2: Combine the vinegar and oil, and pour over the mixture. Add the spices, and mix everything up.

 

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Asian Chicken Salad

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This salad has a delightful combination of ginger, lemon, and orange. The crunchy ramen noodles combine with the greens, chicken, and citrus is sure to delight. Have an Asian night at home, or bring a big bowl to your next pot luck.
Ingredients:
  • 1 large chicken breast
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp mustard
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 package Ramen noodles
  • 2 cups lettuce or greens
  • 2 mini oranges
  • 2 tbsp slivered almonds
  • 2 tbsp butter or margarine
  • Fresh pineapple

Dressing:
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
Step 1: Dice the garlic, and cut the ginger into slivers. Peel and section the oranges.
Step 2: Put 2 tbsp butter or margarine in a pan, and toast the almond slivers for 2-3 minutes. Add in the ramen noodles, and more butter if needed, and toast. Keep the seasoning packet for another use. Remove to a plate.
Step 3: Dice the chicken breast into cubes. Add to the pan along with the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and mustard. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked.
Step 4: Slice the pineapple into chunks for topping. Add in the cores of the pineapple to the pan and simmer.
Step 5: For each salad, add the dressing ingredients to a small bowl and whisk. Pile 1-2 cups greens on a plate, and top with pineapple chunks, orange slices, the toasted noodles and almonds, cooked chicken, and dressing.
The buttery crunchy noodles are so tasty, and the fruit adds a sweet note. The gingery, salty, garlicky chicken is delicious and could be used in so many other dishes as well.
Simply omit the chicken or use tofu instead to make this dish vegetarian. If you have actual glass noodles or other Asian noodles, you could also use those. If you don’t have or like almonds, try peanuts or cashews.

Barley & Kale Veggie Salad

 

Fall is the time for bumper crops of kale. As the current “It” vegetable, we know all about how healthy kale is for you. But even though kale chips are amazing, sauteed kale in greens makes a great side dish, and Zuppa Toscana is a definite crowd-pleasing soup, sometimes you need a new way to enjoy this power green. If you like light, fresh, great-cold-or-room-temp dishes, this baby’s a winner!

I’ve been meaning to try more grain and veggie salads, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. Kale is on sale for 0.99 per bunch, organic! You can’t pass up that kind of deal. So with a fridge full of kale and a hankering for something new, I made up this recipe. It turned out fabulous! The combination of tomato and cucumber and onion crunch with the soft cooked barley and fresh kale leaves is really addicting.

The best part about it? It makes a crap-ton, and per 2 cups is under 100 calories! So you can stuff yourself on this all you like and feel good about it. Have it for lunch, as an afternoon snack, before dinner to dull the appetite. There really isn’t a bad time for this.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch kale, rinsed, torn and stems removed
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 cucumber, rinsed, skin-on, diced
  • 2-3 large tomatoes, diced
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup barley
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Salt & pepper to taste

 

Step 1: Cook the barley in 1 1/2 cups water by bringing to a boil, then lowering to a simmer. Cover, and cook 20-30 minutes, until all water is absorbed and barley is soft. Add more water if needed during cooking. Let cool.

 

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Step 2: Chop all your veggies and place in a large bowl. Mix the oil and vinegars, and salt & pepper if using. Pour over the veggies.

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Step 3: Combine the cooled barley with the veggies and mix well. Now you have a giant side dish, snacks all week, or a super healthy and vegetarian main course.

 

Steak Salad with Balsamic & Orange Dressing

 

Summer is meant for salads. Vegetables are fresh, lettuces are crisp, days are warm. Rather than turn on a hot stove or oven, a salad cools and refreshes. The possibilities for greens are endless, from plain Iceberg to hearty kale to spicy arugula to rainbow chard. On top of your crisp base you can build your masterpiece with any number of toppings.

Since I had recently purchased some steaks on sale, a steak salad seemed only natural. I had also recently procured some “Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar” from Trader Joe’s, which I had heard is delightful as a dressing. So I decided to test that claim. (Spoiler: they were right.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 thin steaks (1-2 oz)
  • 4 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbsp Orange vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 cup torn Iceberg lettuce
  • 1 roma tomato
  • 1/2 cucumber, sliced
  • Handful of banana pepper slices (optional)
  • Handful of Kalamata olives (optional)

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You can of course use whatever greens you prefer for the base of the salad. Just make sure you have a hearty plate full! Gotta get those vitamins and minerals.

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Step 1: In a frying pan over medium heat, cook the steaks with the balsamic vinegar for about 4 minutes per side, until cooked but not blackened. Don’t over-cook, you don’t want them tough like shoe leather.

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Step 2: Let the drippings in the pan cool, and add to a small bowl. Pour in the Orange vinegar and olive oil, whisk with a fork.

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Step 3: Slice the steak into thin strips. Coat a plate with the salad greens, sprinkle on the toppings, and the hot steak strips.

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Step 4: Whisk dressing once more, pour over the salad.

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And there you have it! A hearty, healthy fresh steak salad. Isn’t it pretty? You know you want one.

You will get a nice tang from the two different vinegars, while the umami of the balsamic and the sweetness from the orange muscat champagne balance each other. Adding the pan drippings creates a depth of meaty flavor. The olive oil provides healthy fat in order to absorb all the delicious nutrients in your salad.

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If you aren’t a salad person, or make extra steak and want a different way to eat the leftovers, try the steak strips in a burrito! The balsamic marinade is a perfect way to complement the meatiness of beef. Wrap it up in a tortilla with some beans, cheese, and sour cream (this is actually sour cream substitute, made from coconut milk! Tons less fat with no taste difference!) and enjoy.

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Mmmmm beef and beans and cheese… For the I’m-not-worried-about-healthy nights. =)

As always, make it your own. Don’t like balsamic? Use apple cider vinegar or Worchestershire instead. Don’t have orange muscat champagne? Try a tbsp or two of honey to sweeten it up. And top however you please. Have a healthy summer!

 

Quick Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette on a Hawaiian Salad

Salad is ubiquitously known as a diet super-staple. One can NEVER have too many leafy greens. I’m pretty sure it’s physically impossible to eat enough volume to overdose on any given nutrient in leafy greens (disclaimer: not fact-checked, just widely accepted opinion). But a bowl full of greens can get boring pretty fast. Even with the plethora of toppings and novel ingredients available, it’s important to dress your salad well. Just like a new pair of shoes, a new dressing can perk up a ho-hum meal. Making your own vinaigrette is easy and healthier than bottled dressings, because you determine what goes into it and can choose the freshest ingredients. Get a re-useable bottle and try it yourself! You’ll never go back once you realize how much fun you can have experimenting with different spices, flavors, vinegars, oils, and juices.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup plain vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp diced garlic
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp ground ginger
Dash black pepper

Step 1: Assemble your dressing ingredients. You basically need a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio of sour to oils, and any spices you like. You can add sweetness like raspberry or sugar, or extra tang from citrus.

Step 2: Mix everything in a glass jar and shake it up well! You want to create an emulsion, where the droplets of non-oil are suspended inside the oil. Oil and hydrophobic things mix, while water-based things (like vinegar) won’t mix with the oil. Make sure you shake well just before adding to your salad.

Step 3: Pour a few tbsp over your salad and enjoy! This dressing here was perfect on my Hawaiian Salad.

Ingredients in Hawaiian Salad:
1 cup spinach
2 slices ham, diced
1/4 cup pineapple
3 baby carrots, julienned
Sprinkle of mozzarella

So the next time your lettuce-tomato-cucumber combo gets a little bland, whip out a glass bottle and spice it up!


What’s your favorite way to top a salad?


Strawberry, avocado & feta salad

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I am always trying to get more veggies into my diet, and salads are a great way to do so. But no one likes a bowlful of lettuce leaves with just a splash of dressing for flavor. I like to add extras to make my salads more interesting. Since I had just bought a fresh head of lettuce, I used the fruits/veggies I had on hand, and it turned out great!

The lettuce was $1 and I will probably get at least 5 salads from it. The avocado was also $1, as were the strawberries. The feta was left from a while ago (and you can omit the cheese or use whatever kind you like/have) as was the dressing. So for 5 salads worth, the cost per serving is only $0.60! Plus it’s good for you, and a great side to just about anything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:
1 cup torn lettuce leaves
3 large strawberries, quartered
1/4 Haas avocado, diced
1 tbsp feta cheese
1 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette

Simply toss and enjoy!

Steak salad

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In summer, everything tastes better on the grill. So when craving beef, it is only natural to want to grill a steak. I don’t have pictures of them, but I wish I did. Because I came home to a pound and a half steak that was bigger than my head!

So there was a sizable chunk left (of mine anyways) for the next day. Since I had also bought a head of romaine and I work on a farm, a salad with steak on top worked wonderfully. The farm I work on had radishes by the truckload, and some wild leafy greens that I had harvested 2 days before. Add to it the last leftovers of a veggie tray from a Memorial Day cookout, and a beautiful salad took shape.

Ingredients:
4 oz steak
2 cups torn romaine
1/2 cup leafy greens
1/2 cup baby carrots
2 radishes, sliced
Handful broccoli florets
Balsamic vinaigrette

Step 1:Place a handful or two of fresh washed greens on a plate. Put all the vegetables on top of the greens.

Step 2: Cook or microwave steak slices for a minute, add to greens, and top with 2 tbsp. balsamic vinaigrette. Tasty and super healthy!

Of course, you don’t need the steak on top if you’re vegetarian or vegan. You can also use any other kind of grilled meat you have.