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Salads and Dressings

Panzanella Salad

July 27, 2016

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I had the most amazing lunch today! It was so delicious that I knew immediately I had to share it with you guys ASAP! Part of the fun was picking the tomatoes, cucumbers and basil fresh from my vegetable garden (warm from the sun, mind you). But this salad would be just as good if you get your ingredients from the farmer’s market or your local grocery store — just try to buy the freshest vegetables you can find. The idea for this salad all started because I had half a leftover baguette from dinner last night and as I was grilling up the bread to make homemade croutons, the Panzanella Salad idea came to mind! Every bite was a sigh of yuuummmm….so much so I’m making it again tomorrow!!

Start by making the vinaigrette dressing: see my recipe under the Salads and Dressings category. Once made, set aside. Next it’s time to make the crusty bread. See my recipe for Homemade Croutons under the Condiments section for instructions. (How useful is this blog?) When the bread is grilled to perfection, set aside. Lastly, slice and dice your vegetables and basil and put them in a mixing bowl. Add the crusty croutons and give everything a good stir.

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Slowly pour the vinaigrette dressing over the salad and toss. Let the salad sit for a few minutes before serving so the bread soaks up some of that delicious vinaigrette dressing you just made.

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Serve individual plates garnished with basil sprigs for a nice added touch!!

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[As a side — I like to add fresh mozzarella to this salad. It’s not a traditional Panzanella but so what!! Other interesting ideas you can add to this salad are capers, red or green peppers, feta cheese, or olives.]

Ingredients:

2 cups or so crusty croutons (see my recipe for Homemade Croutons in  Condiments category)
20-25 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
½ cup fresh basil chiffonade (more as a garnish if desired)
½ English cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
½ red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup vinaigrette dressing (see my recipe for Vinaigrette Dressing in Salads and Dressings section)

Optional: fresh baby mozzarella balls, sliced in half (or any other add in you desire)

Makes roughly four servings 

Lighter Chicken Salad Dressing

July 31, 2015

 

FullSizeRenderSummertime for me is picnics on the beach, lunch al fresco and light dinners under the stars. My go to dish for any and all of these meals is chicken salad. It’s so versatile, going from a bountiful summer salad, to a grab and go sandwich, to a snack atop a cracker! Its only major complaint: the fattening mayonnaise… Trying to be as healthy as I can, I fix this problem in two ways: first, I use a healthy alternative “mayonnaise” (check out Just Mayo — trust me, I love real mayo and this stuff tastes just like it but it’s a whole lot healthier!); second, I use half the amount of mayonnaise substituting plain greek yogurt (which we all know is good for you). This combo makes for a tangy, lighter version of traditional chicken salad!!

To make the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together to blend well. Refrigerate until ready to dress your chicken salad. You will need 2 to 2 ½ cups cooked, chopped chicken to go with your salad dressing. When ready, make your chicken salad like you always do — for me, it’s definitely a mixture of minced red onions and walnuts!! What are your secret ingredients?

Ingredients:

½ cup Just Mayo (or if you must use mayonnaise use a light version)
½ cup plain greek yogurt
2 tsp. grainy mustard
½ tsp. garlic salt
¼ tsp. cracked black pepper
1 tsp. fresh or dried parsley
½ tsp. onion powder
A dash or two of Worcestershire sauce

Makes roughly 1 cup of dressing.

Makes a delicious chicken salad to accompany all your freshly picked garden vegetables!

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Or, perhaps a sandwich on the patio?

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Wicked Good Avocado Dressing

January 16, 2015

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It’s a new year and a new start. I know I have been a little (a lot?) lax in my blog postings lately but I am back and will be starting this new year with some yummy, healthy recipes to keep mealtime interesting! I created this recipe sort of by accident. I had an avocado I let sit too long — don’t ya hate when you do that? —  but I didn’t want to toss it out just because it wasn’t pretty anymore. Since we were going to a friend’s house for dinner and I was in charge of salad, I had to improvise quickly. Instead of the avocado being an ingredient in the salad I decided to turn it into the dressing on top — same great flavor without all the ugliness! A little tweak here, a little tweak there and a great salad dressing was born. As my daughter said last night,”Wow Mom, this is wicked good!” I hope you feel the same way!

In a food processor, add your avocado, vinegar, garlic, greek yogurt, lemon juice and salt and pepper. While blending, slowly add the olive oil through the top feed tube. Puree until smooth. Taste and adjust spices to your liking. The dressing tastes great on any lettuce but I especially like it on butter lettuce. The texture is so smooth and creamy! I even have used it as a replacement for mayo in egg salad — talk about green eggs! All you need is to add a little ham….

Ingredients:

One avocado
¼ cup champagne (or white wine) vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon plain greek yogurt
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup olive oil

Makes roughly one cup of dressing.

Summer Pasta Salad

July 26, 2013

 

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I love summer. Between my garden and the farmer’s markets, fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs abound! There is nothing more spectacular then plucking vegetables and herbs right from the garden, eating them within minutes still warm from the sun’s rays. The key to this salad is to always use the freshest and finest ingredients you can get — fresh basil is a must as is good quality extra virgin olive oil. I have been making this particular pasta salad for so long I can’t remember when or where it originated. I know my mother and sisters all make variations of this dish, sometimes with blue cheese or even brie. And though I call this dish Summer Pasta Salad, I do make it in the winter months. It is never quite as good as when I am able to go outside into my garden, pinch some fresh basil leaves and pluck some cherry tomates right off the vine minutes before making the salad. Oh, how I love summer! Enjoy the pasta salad for dinner tonight but save the leftovers for quick, easy lunch tomorrow!

Make the penne pasta according to package’s directions. While the pasta is cooking, slice your cherry tomatoes, cut your basil, cube your feta cheese and slice your scallions.

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Put the ingredients in a large serving bowl and mix in one tablespoon of olive oil. Add the crushed garlic, salt and pepper and mix well. When the pasta is done cooking, quickly add it to the bowl along with one more tablespoon of olive oil stirring all the ingredients together.  Adjust salt and pepper as desired.

The Summer Pasta Salad is now ready to serve! It can be eaten hot or cold — either way is delicious!  Garnish with a fresh basil leaf and a little parmesan cheese.

 

Ingredients:

Box of Penne Pasta, cooked as directed
2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
½ cup fresh basil, cut into pieces
1 cup feta cheese, cubed
4-6 scallions, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
¼ tea black pepper
½ tea salt

Basil leaf and parmesan for garnish

Makes roughly 8 servings depending on portion size.

Sherry Vinaigrette

May 28, 2013

textMost Sherry Vinaigrette recipes call for sherry vinegar as the base for the dressing — not mine! I use actual sherry and combine it with white wine vinegar. I think if you’re making sherry vinaigrette, use sherry!! Plus, I use sherry in lots of recipes so I always have a decent bottle in the frig. If you have sherry vinegar and not sherry, you can use the vinegar as a substitute. But try it with sherry — you’ll be pleasantly surprised!!

Begin by combining the sherry and vinegar. Next, add the garlic, mustard, scallions, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper. Slowly blend in the olive oil.

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Using an immersion blender (or a blender if you don’t have an immersion blender), mix the dressing until emulsified.

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Dressing can be kept in a sealed jar in refrigerator for up to a week. Let come to room temperature before using.

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Ingredients:

3 tbsp sherry
5 tbsp white wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely minced
1 tsp mustard (Dijon style)
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely minced
1 tsp fresh parsley, finely minced
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper

Makes ⅔ cups.

Black Bean Salad

May 17, 2013

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As promised way back on Cinco de Mayo (sorry so delayed…life got a bit hectic), here is the recipe for my Black Bean Salad. Though I made this salad to accompany Chipotle Shrimp, it also goes nicely with grilled chicken, steak or even as a meal for lunch. It is incredibly flavorful and adapts beautifully to a variety of dishes. It’s the perfect side dish as the black beans are filling yet very healthy. And to top it all off, the entire salad is made using only one bowl and it can be made ahead of time if necessary  — easy peasy!!

To get started, mix together in a large serving bowl the black beans, corn, red pepper, cherry tomatoes, scallions and garlic. Slowly stir in the olive oil, mixing as you go. Now for the good stuff: add the chili powder, cumin, hot sauce and lime juice. Again, mix well. Lastly, add the chopped cilantro. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper to your liking. Stir once again and refrigerate until ready to eat. Let sit at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes before serving. I told you it was easy peasy!!

Ingredients:

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups corn (frozen or fresh)
1 red pepper, diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
¾ cup scallions, sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
¼ olive oil
1 tea chili powder
¼ tea cumin
2-3 tea Mexican hot sauce (I use Cholula Hot Sauce)
Juice of 1 large lime
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste

Serves 6-8

Carrot Slaw

May 1, 2013

 

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I love everything about raw carrots: I love their taste, I love their texture, but I especially love their nutritional benefits. Did you know one carrot has well over 200% of your daily dose of vitamin A? Carrots also are one of the top beta-carotene vegetables — beta-carotne being an antioxidant that not only helps prevent cancer but also slows down the aging process. The benefits go on but needless to say carrots are one of those foods that you should definitely incorporate into your diet. The easiest and most obvious way to eat more carrots is to add them to salads or perhaps eat them with humus. However, a really delicious and even more nutritious way to add carrots to your diet is by eating Carrot Slaw. By combining slivered almonds (vitamin E) and dried cranberries (vitamin C) with shredded raw carrots, you are creating a relative “superfood” salad!! The lemon juice, vinegar and scallions give this salad a zesty kick!!

First, using a vegetable peeler, discard the outer skin of your carrots. Next, with the vegetable peeler, shred the carrots into ribbon-like pieces using the end of the carrot as a “handle”.

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In a large bowl, add the shredded carrots, dried cranberries, scallions and the slivered almonds. Add the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and spices to the salad mixture and stir well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes — longer, the more flavorful! I like to serve the carrot slaw as a side salad in lettuce “cups”. So colorful, flavorful! and healthy! Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

2 cups shredded carrots
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup slivered almonds
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 scallions, sliced
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp black pepper

Serves four as a side salad

Asian Chicken Salad

March 19, 2013

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I was feeling creative tonight…don’t know why. It’s probably the cold start to our Spring (is it even Spring?) making me want to continue nesting. Anyway, I went into the kitchen and decided to make peanut sauce which in turn led me to make Sesame Peanut Noodles and Asian Chicken Salad. Kind of a weird combo for dinner I know but, hey, at least my hubby was happy he got more than simply a salad for dinner.

In a large mixing bowl, add broccoli slaw, shredded carrots, edamame, sliced almonds, scallions, red peppers, and cherry tomatoes. Mix in peanut sauce and stir well. You can make this part ahead of time as the flavors will only be enhanced the longer the salad marinates (if it’s more than 30 minutes, refrigerate). When ready to serve, plate the salad adding about ½ cup shredded chicken to each individual salad. Top with crunchy rice noodles and soy sauce to taste.

 

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups broccoli slaw
½ cup shredded carrots
½ cup shelled edamame
½ cup sliced almonds
6 scallions, sliced diagonally
½ cup red pepper, diced
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup peanut sauce*
2 cups Shredded chicken (I cheat and use a rotisserie chicken)
Soy sauce to taste
Crunchy rice noodles (for garnish)

* See my recipe for Peanut Sauce under Condiments and Sauces category.

Serves 4-6 depending on portion size

Creamy Bleu Cheese Dressing

March 12, 2013

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My husband is a huge wedge salad fan. I think he really just likes the bacon bits and the blue cheese but maybe I’m wrong and it’s the tomatoes and iceberg…..nahhhh, it’s the bacon and bleu cheese!! I’m making him a lovely dinner tonight so this afternoon I whipped up a quick batch of my homemade bleu cheese dressing. It’s much better fresh and made with light ingredients–I use fat-free sour cream, low-fat mayonnaise and skim milk. The bleu cheese is full fat, however. Can’t change that!

In a small mixing bowl, whisk the sour cream, mayonnaise and the milk together. Add the white wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice, mixing well. Stir in the garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Now to add the good stuff: crumble the bleu cheese a little at a time using a fork to mash the cheese so it mixes well with the other ingredients. I believe it is really important to use good bleu cheese (such as stilton) for truly great flavor. Average bleu cheese has a much milder almost bland taste. Also, I like my dressing chunky so I don’t cream it 100%. If you like it totally creamy, use a hand immersion blender to mix to desired consistency. If it’s too thick, you can add a little milk to thin. Refrigerate in airtight jar until ready to use. Dressing will last in refrigerator for a week. Now off to make the bacon….

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Ingredients:

⅓ cup light mayonnaise
⅓ cup fat-free sour cream
1 tbsp skim milk
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
3 ounces bleu cheese

Makes ¾ of a cup.

Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

February 7, 2013

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For as long as I can remember I have been making my own salad dressing. So long, in fact, I could do it with my eyes closed! Well, maybe not closed all the way… Anyway, my mother passed on her vinaigrette wisdom to me just as I have passed it on to my daughters. We each do it a little differently, yet the basic flavors are all there….lots of lemon and garlic.  I love family traditions!!!!

DSC_4850In a small jar that has a lid, add  all of the ingredients together:

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon basil
Hearty dash of good quality salt and black pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons mustard (dijon style)
2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (in my book, the more the better!)

Put the lid on the jar and shake until mixed thoroughly.
Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Makes ½ cup of dressing.