Strawberry Orange Salad

Strawberry Orange Salad

Inspiration: Well. With a nine month old who just learned how to crawl and having just purchased a new house, we certainly haven’t had as much time as we’d like to try new recipes and work on the blog. Things are finally settling down a little bit for us here, though (just in time for spring and summer!), so we’re hoping to get back into some semi-regular posting habits. This salad was born out of a bunch of random ingredients left in the fridge, and it turned out to be just the colorful, pretty, and simple dish that I needed to get back into the blogging spirit.

What We Loved: I think that this is the first time that I’ve had an orange in a salad, and I really loved the juicy citrus flavor. That bright summer flavor was my favorite aspect of the salad, and it really combined with the sweet strawberries and creamy avocado for a myriad of fresh flavors. With just a hit of salt and pepper, a touch of olive oil, and an herbal garnish of cilantro, this salad was just so light and refreshing. I enjoyed it alongside some cottage cheese for a nice lunch.

Tips: If you’re particularly hungry, I’d go ahead and throw in a whole avocado. This is not a filling salad, so that extra avocado might be nice. I also think that cashews would be a nice addition. I was going to throw some in, but I ate them all before I got the chance to make the salad (….I seriously have zero control with cashews….).

Strawberry Orange Salad
Source: Original recipe to serve 1

Couple handfuls salad greens
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
3 strawberries, sliced
1/2 navel orange, peeled and sliced
1/2 avocado, diced
Handful cilantro, minced

1. Drizzle the salad greens with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use your hands to mix everything together.

2. Top the greens with the strawberries, orange slices, avocado, and cilantro.

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Southwest-Style Chopped Chicken Salad

Inspiration: I created this dish as a meal that would be a good on-the-go dinner when Brandon and I were taking childbirth education classes at the hospital. The classes ran from 6:30 t0 9:00 at night, right through dinner time, so I was looking for something that we could pack up into a cooler and eat a few hours later during class. When the occasion arises where we need to eat a quick dinner away from home like that, I would much rather pack a meal from home than be forced to grab something from a fast food place. There’s nothing worse to me than gobbling down some food that I’d rather not be eating while I’m busy and in a rush. To a couple of people who  love food as much as we do, we always feel like meal times should be enjoyed, no matter what.

What We Loved: This salad was really good for just what I intended – an easy throw-together meal that was great eaten cold and on-the-go. We really enjoyed the combination of flavors – moist chicken, creamy avocado, bright tomatoes, earthy black beans, and awesome little cubes of spicy pepper jack. We both thought that the pepper jack cubes were the best part! And to top if off, everything was coated in some lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, and salt, which really tied everything together.

Tips: I served this with some fresh blueberries alongside, and that was a good pairing. I think that mixing some blueberries right into the salad would be delicious! Or, it would be great to serve all of the ingredients over a bed of salad greens, with the olive oil, lime juice, cilantro, salt, and pepper whisked together to form a dressing instead of just added into the salad separately.

Southwest-Style Chopped Chicken Salad
Source: Original Recipe
Serves: 2-3

2 chicken breasts
Butter
Kosher salt and black pepper
2-3 oz pepper jack cheese, cubed
Half pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 small avocado, diced
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from 1 lime
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat a pat of butter in a saute pan, and saute the chicken until cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan, let it cool, and then cut into cubes. Cool in the refrigerator until nice and cold.

2. Add the chicken, pepper jack cheese cubes, grape tomatoes, black beans, avocado, and cilantro to a bowl. Squeeze the lime juice over everything, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and pepper.

3. Serve immediately, or chill until ready to serve.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Lemon (Cachumber Salad)

Inspiration: We recently had some chicken tikka masala for dinner, and I was searching for a nice and fresh side dish to go along. I ran across the idea for a cachumber salad online as a nice pairing for Indian dishes, and it really seemed like just what I was looking for. I love when I find new ideas or dishes that I’ve never heard of before – there’s something so thrilling to me about trying new recipes, particularly from cuisines different than American.

What We Loved: This certainly was a refreshing salad and was the perfect complement to a spicy curry. The cool flavors of the cucumber and other vegetables really contrasted nicely with the rich heat of the curry. This reminded me a little bit of a Mexican pico de gallo – but with cucumbers and lemon instead of peppers and lime, this was definitely its own dish entirely. I just loved the freshness and how perfect the flavors were for an end-of-summer meal.

Tips: I chopped the vegetables big enough to make this into a salad, but you could also finely mince everything (or throw it all in the food processor for a few whirls) to make this into a salsa. Made that way, I think it would be great to serve right atop a curry, rather than alongside.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Lemon (Cachumber Salad)
Source: Adapted from Poetry of Food
Serves: 2

1/2 small onion, diced
1 small tomato, seeded and diced
1/2 English cucumber, diced
Handful cilantro, minced
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Good pinch Kosher salt

1. Toss everything together in a serving bowl and serve.

Chicken, Avocado, and Blueberry Salad

Chicken, Avocado, and Blueberry Salad

Inspiration: I whipped this salad up for lunch one day using just about the only odds and ends that I had left in the refrigerator. It was a day when grocery shopping was desperately needed, and I wasn’t really expecting to much enjoy whatever I threw together. It turned out that I loved this salad so much, that I tossed it onto our dinner menu for the next week. We’re not big salad eaters, and I know that Brandon is usually less-than-excited when a salad appears on the menu for dinner, but I think this one deserved a spot.

What We Loved: I just love how the ingredients in this salad play so well off of each other. The flavors and textures of browned chicken, creamy avocado, tart blueberries, and nice chunks of Colby cheese really complement each other so well. I added a good glug of olive oil over top and plenty of Kosher salt, which really helped to bring everything together and make the flavors pop. As always, the avocado especially benefits from a nice sprinkling of salt. We also love how this is such a substantial and filling salad. Believe it or not, there is a good deal of Romaine lettuce hiding underneath all of the other goodies – you just can’t see it because the salad is so packed full of delicious.

Tips: I think that the chicken on this salad is best at room temperature or cold. If it were hot, it would wilt the lettuce, melt the cheese, warm up the nice cold blueberries, etc. So I would leave enough time to cook your chicken beforehand and let it cool for a while before assembling the salad.

Chicken, Avocado, and Blueberry Salad
Source: Original Recipe
Serves: 2

2 chicken breasts, butterflied and cut in half
Kosher salt and black pepper
Butter
About 3 cups chopped Romaine hearts
2-3 oz Colby cheese, cubed
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup blueberries
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Heat a pat of butter in saute pan. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and saute until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side. Let cool to room temperature, and then chop into cubes.

2. Divide the lettuce between two salad bowls.  Top with the chicken, Colby cheese, avocado, and blueberries. Drizzle generously with olive oil, and sprinkle with Kosher salt and black pepper.

Bean Salad

Bean Salad

Inspiration: This one comes from Brandon’s Mom and is something that he has been eating since he was a kid. Now, it’s one of our favorite summer dishes.  I made this most recently to take to a Fourth of July party over the weekend (how the heck is it Fourth of July time already?) as a dish that could sit out for several hours without having to be refrigerated. I always find that those kind of dishes are hard to come by, but this one fits the bill perfectly and is also super tasty.

What We Loved: This dish sure has a lot of fresh and nutritious ingredients going on. Creamy beans, crisp corn, bright carrots and cilantro, a touch of spicy jalapeno, and a nice bite from some onion and garlic really give you so many wonderful flavors in each bite. And the olive oil/lemon/garlic dressing just coats everything in all kinds of goodness. We can just eat this salad by the spoonful, particularly during the summer when all of the great bean and vegetable flavors taste so crisp and refreshing.

Tips: Brandon’s Mom always serves this as a salsa with tortilla chips, and it’s fabulous that way too. I think it’s great as a side dish or even just on its own in a bowl for a nice light lunch. Also, you can either mince the onion, carrot, and jalapeno by hand (as I did this time around since I had some time) or throw them into the food processor for a quicker mince.

Bean Salad
Source: Slightly adapted from Brandon’s Mom
Serves: A crowd

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can red beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
3/4 cup red onion, very finely minced
3/4 cup carrot, very finely minced
1 jalapeno, very finely minced
Large handful cilantro, minced
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 heaping teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1. Combine the black beans, red beans, pinto beans, corn, onion, carrot, and jalapeno in a large bowl.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the cilantro, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, vinegar, cumin, and salt.

3. Right before serving, pour the dressing over the bean mixture and mix together thoroughly.

Warm Edamame Salad

Inspiration: Brandon has been bugging me for years to cook more Chinese food. We both love Chinese, but for whatever reason, I just don’t tend to cook much Chinese-inspired food at home. I think part of it is because it requires a lot of condiments and ingredients that I generally don’t keep on hand, and I really hate cluttering up my fridge with all kinds of bottles, etc. I recently caved and bought all kinds of stuff, though, and I promised Brandon that I’d cook a lot more Chinese food in the coming weeks in order to use everything up. I think he’s a happy camper.

What We Loved: I could have eaten the whole pan of this salad as a main course. Soy sauce and sesame oil are a couple of classic ingredients in Chinese-style dishes, and they really coat the vegetables nicely with a rich and salty flavor. Plenty of garlic powder adds its wonderful garlicky goodness, and you really can’t go wrong with so many vegetables all thrown into the same dish. With edamame, three different peppers, onions, and mushrooms all mixed together, this dish is chock-full of nutrients, colors, and flavors. Plus, it’s really a snap to throw together.

Tips: I added pepper, garlic powder, soy sauce, and sesame oil to taste (going heavier on the garlic and the soy sauce). Make sure to add enough of the liquid ingredients to create a sort of sticky coating for the vegetables, but be careful with the soy sauce, as it is very salty (even the reduced sodium version, which I always like to use). I’d recommend being conservative with the soy sauce at first, adding more as necessary until you get enough flavor without too much salt.

Edamame Salad
Source: Original Recipe

Sesame oil
2-3 slices onion, diced
3 small sweet peppers, diced (I used one red, one yellow, and one orange)
8 baby bella or cremini mushrooms, diced
About 1 cup frozen edamame
Black pepper
Garlic powder
Reduced sodium soy sauce
Black and white sesame seeds

1. Heat a good drizzle of sesame oil in a saute pan. Add the onions, peppers, and mushrooms, and saute until the vegetables are softened and beginning to brown.

2. Add the edamame. Season to taste with black pepper, garlic powder, soy sauce, and additional sesame oil. Add enough soy sauce and sesame oil to create a nice coating for the vegetables, but be careful with the soy sauce – too much might be too salty.

3. Stir to combine, and continue cooking for about 8-10 minutes, until the edamame is softened and cooked through. Taste, adding more seasonings if necessary.

4. Serve topped with black and white sesame seeds.

Cherry Caprese

Cherry Caprese

Inspiration: Last August Brandon and I took an awesome week-long trip around Michigan visiting all of our local breweries, since we’re so lucky to live in a state with some of the best craft breweries in the nation. In between drinking beer (I think we hit 13 breweries/craft beer bars total), we hung out around all of the cities, did some random shopping and sightseeing, visited some parks, checked out a concert, and bought a great painting to hang above our sofa. One of the other little items that we ended up bringing home with us was a nice little bottle of cherry balsamic vinegar that we picked up in an olive oil and vinegar shop. It sat in the pantry all winter long until cherry season hit, and since then we’ve been enjoying it on all kinds of salads.

What We Loved: Both of us consider caprese to be the definition of a summer salad, and we enjoy it in its standard form quite often as a side dish or at restaurants. I didn’t think that it could be improved upon until I tried it this way. The subtle sweetness added to the dish (both in the form of the fresh cherries and the cherry balsamic vinegar) was really delightful. That sweet touch meshed perfectly with the juicy tomatoes, earthy basil, and creamy mozzarella. I used mozzarella that had been marinated in olive oil and Italian spices, so there were also some rich and herbal flavors added to the mix. With a touch of salt and pepper, the end result was a refreshing summer side dish and a great Michigan-inspired spin on traditional caprese.

Tips: After trying this salad, I think that other fruits would also be good in place of the cherries. Strawberry caprese or blueberry caprese both sound great for this time of year.

Cherry Caprese
Source: Original Recipe

Grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Basil, sliced chiffonade style
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
Cherries, pitted and sliced
Kosher salt and black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Cherry balsamic vinegar

1. Place the tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, and cherries in a bowl.

2. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and cherry balsamic vinegar.

Rosemary Lemon Salad Dressing

Inspiration: Several years ago, we used to have the problem of bottles and condiments overtaking our refrigerator. We’d want a certain salad so we’d buy a bottle of dressing, or we’d want some Mexican so we’d buy some salsa, etc. We’d end up with bottles and bottles of items that eventually went bad after sticking around the fridge for months on end. So, I finally realized that I could reduce our waste and make things a lot more environmentally friendly and natural by making little batches of condiments whenever we need them. I also get to control exactly what is in my condiments this way, plus it’s really very fun to learn how to make items that I might not have considered making in the past. Better all around!

What We Loved: This dressing is exactly what a nice summer dressing should be. Light, lemony, and refreshing. The tangy lemon and earthy rosemary really complement each other well, and I feel like the flavors would work great on any number of savory salads. We enjoyed this dressing over a nice, light salad with leftovers from the fridge – chopped romaine hearts, sauteed diced lamb and snap peas, and chunks of smoked mozzarella.

Tips: The ingredient amounts for this dressing will vary depending on the size of your garlic cloves/lemon and your tastes. I think it’s best to just start with the base ingredients (using three parts oil to one part acid as a rule of thumb) and add more/less based on your preferences by taste testing. Listed below are the *very* approximate amounts that I used.

Rosemary Lemon Salad Dressing
Source: Adapted (slightly) from Sarah’s Cusina Bella

1 small clove garlic, finely minced & then smashed with a touch of salt into a paste
2 sprigs rosemary, finely minced
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup (maybe a bit less) extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. Whisk the garlic, rosemary, lemon juice, and oil together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Adjust the lemon & oil amounts as necessary if the dressing is too oily or too tart for your tastes.

Cheesy Mexican Chicken Salad

Inspiration: We’ve certainly been eating a lot of summery salads lately. I sure do love winter comfort foods, but with the first signs of sunshine in the spring, I’m always more than ready to give them the boot. Light, casual food is one of our favorite things about summer, though there sure are a lot of things to love. Walks in the park, weekends downtown in the sunshine, cocktails, vacations, flip-flops, BBQs. I hope that everyone who celebrates Memorial Day this weekend gets a good dose of all of the summer things that make them happy!

What We Loved: Brandon just couldn’t get enough of this meal. He’s been really into the entrée type salads lately – those with a nice bed of lettuce, plenty of protein, and some great veggies. Like the shredded beef salad we had a few weeks ago, this salad is so full of flavors that it doesn’t even need a dressing. The chicken is mixed with three kinds of cheeses – cream cheese, cheddar, and Monterey Jack – and there are all kinds of Mexican spices and seasonings thrown in. The result is a rich, cheesy, spicy chicken mixture that is warm and wonderful. Combined with fresh and crisp romaine hearts, creamy avocado, and sweet tomatoes, this salad is just packed full of protein, vegetables, and flavor – which is really all that you need.

Helpful Hints: Though we loved this salad exactly as it was, anything that you would normally throw into a Mexican meal would probably be a good addition – sour cream, black olives, additional salsa, minced onions, pickled jalapenos, etc.

Cheesy Mexican Chicken Salad
Source: Chicken recipe adapted from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen, originally from Our Best Bites 

Olive oil or butter
1 slice onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup salsa
Juice of 1 small lime
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 cups cooked and shredded chicken
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese
Romaine hearts or other greens, chopped
Grape tomatoes, sliced
Avocado, sliced

1. Heat some oil or butter in a saute pan over medium heat, and then add the onion. Cook until softened. Add the garlic, and stir to combine.

2. Add the cream cheese, salsa, lime, chili powder, cumin, cilantro, chicken, and cheeses. Mix well to combine, and cook over low heat until heated through.

3. Serve the chicken mixture over the romaine hearts with grape tomatoes and avocado.

Hearts of Palm Salad

Inspiration: I’ve mentioned before that Brandon went to Brazil a few years back and that he introduced me to some new foods when he came back. Hearts of palm are one of those foods that he first tried at a Brazilian BBQ. For Brandon, they’ll always remind him of that meal, and for me, they will forever be linked to the romantic images of Brazil that live in my head. 85 degrees with glorious sunshine every day, perfect meals on the beach every night, drinking pina coladas in bathing suits all day long. That’s what it’s like, right? And because Brandon also introduced me to the caipirinha after returning from Brazil, in my eyes it’s practically a crime not to serve up a delicious caipirinha when you’re eating hearts of palm. They make a perfect pairing!

What We Loved: This salad is summer in a bowl. If you haven’t had hearts of palm before, they’re very tart and tangy, with a surprising creamy texture. Looking at them, you’d think that they might be crunchy or maybe have that vegetable crispness of something like a cucumber, but they’re actually very soft and creamy. Combined with their extremely tangy flavor, they’re really a unique food that is unlike anything else that I’ve had. And I think that this salad works so well because the other ingredients have similar components. There’s more tang from the lime, and the avocado chunks add some extra creaminess. With a hit of salt, some fresh cilantro, and a nice drizzle of rich olive oil, this salad is so bright/fresh and rich/indulgent all at the same time.

Helpful Hints: We enjoyed this salad alongside whitefish with banana salsa – a really great pairing!

Hearts of Palm Salad
Source: Original Recipe

1 14.5 oz can hearts of palm, cut into rounds
1 small avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
Handful fresh cilantro, minced
Juice from half of a small lime
Kosher salt and black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Add the hearts of palm, avocado, cilantro, and lime juice to a bowl. Season to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper. Add a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil.

2. Mix gently to combine, and refrigerate until ready to serve.