Avocado, Kiwi, and Strawberry Salad

Inspiration: Well, I think spring has finally sprung in good old Michigan. Thank goodness! After weeks and weeks of cold and rain and gloom that just kept coming back, things have finally been looking bright and sunny fairly regularly around here. Cherry blossom trees are blooming, all of the local breweries are coming out with their spring and summer beers, the cats are sitting at the window sniffing their little noses in the fresh air all day long. Life is good. And what spells spring food better than a nice fruit salad?

What We Loved: I told Brandon that this might be my favorite fruit salad that I’ve ever had. The three components – avocado, kiwi, and strawberry – each brought their their own unique flavors and textures to the dish and paired so perfectly together. The avocado was rich and creamy; the kiwi was tart and tangy with that great crispy texture from the seeds; and the strawberry was nice and sweet. I can’t imagine three fruits that would pair better together. And with a touch of lime, fresh cilantro, and salt, all of the ingredients really meshed together for a fantastic salad. I always feel like salt brings out the flavor in avocado so much, and I will never argue with that bright and fresh cilantro flavor. We enjoyed this alongside breakfast bell peppers for a lovely meal.

Helpful Hints: Be gentle when mixing this all together – avocado is fragile and will mush apart on you if you stir too much.

Avocado, Kiwi, and Strawberry Salad
Source: Inspired from Cook Like a Champion & serves two

1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and finely diced
5-6 strawberries, husked and finely diced
2 kiwis, peeled and finely diced
1 small handful cilantro, minced
Juice from 1/4 lime
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. Combine the avocado, strawberries, kiwi, cilantro, and lime juice in a bowl. Gently stir to combine. Season to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper.

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Mexican Shredded Beef Salad with Goat Cheese and Grape Tomatoes

Mexican Shredded Beef Salad with Goat Cheese and Grape Tomatoes

Inspiration: I love salads that are just chock-full of all kinds of good stuff. At our favorite pub in town, they have this great cherry chicken salad that I frequently order. Chicken marinated in Bell’s Cherry Stout beer, Michigan cherries, bleu cheese, and more vegetables than you can list. It’s just fabulous (as is most of the local food at our pubs!). That said, I’ve never really made many main dish salads at home. I think it’s time to change that!

What We Loved: Wow, what a great shredded beef recipe. It’s so rich and intense with flavor (with all of the slow-cooked Mexican flavors of chili powder, garlic, cumin, and all of the other spices that I so often associate with Mexican food). I could eat it straight from the crockpot and be happy with that! It’s also incredibly tender, and it’s coated in such a wonderful sauce. You can’t tell from the pictures, but the sauce is thick and just coats the meat and clumps it together in all kinds of great flavor. I don’t think that I need to look any further for a standard recipe to use when I need shredded beef - this is absolutely wonderful. And in this particular meal, the creamy goat cheese pairs so beautifully with the shredded beef. The cheese just melts into the meat and is such a fantastic, rich combination. And of course, the big pile of crisp greens, cilantro, and grape tomatoes are the base of this salad, and they provide a great bed of light, fresh flavors for the other richer flavors. Rich and decadent yet light and refreshing. Perfect!

Helpful Hints: I always wonder about variations on cooking times, etc. when you are using slow cooker recipes. The original recipe uses a boneless roast and cooks for 8-10 hours on low. I went a little crazy and used a bone-in roast and cooked for two hours on high and five on low. So if you’re just a *little* short on time, that worked perfectly for me.

Mexican Shredded Beef Salad with Goat Cheese and Grape Tomatoes
Source: Shredded beef from Elly Says Opa

2 lb beef roast
Olive oil
1 onion, cut into quarters and sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup beef broth
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teasoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Mixed salad greens
Goat cheese
Grape tomatoes

1. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Sprinkle the beef roast liberally with salt and pepper, and add it to the pan. Brown the roast on both sides, and place it in the crockpot.

2. Add the onions to the saute pan, and cook for a few minutes until softened and browning. Mix in the garlic and tomato paste, and cook for another minute. Mix in the beef broth and the spices, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

3. Pour the sauce over the roast. Cook on low for 8-10 hours (I actually did mine for 2 hours on high and 5 hours on low).

4. Shred the beef with two forks, removing any fat, and return to the crockpot. To soak up any extra liquid, turn the crockpot to high after shredding the beef.

5. Serve the shredded beef atop mixed greens and sprinkled with grape tomatoes, goat cheese, and cilantro.

Greek Salad

Inspiration: This salad has been kicking around my kitchen for several years now. Whenever I’m having a Greek-inspired main dish, I throw it on the menu. For some reason, I don’t tend to make foods from Greek cuisine as often as from other cuisines (Mexican, anyone??), but I really do love any Greek foods that I’ve had. It seems that every time we have a few drinks downtown on a summer night and are ravenous for supper, the gyro platter at our favorite Greek place just calls our names :)

What we Loved: Fresh vegetables, earthy olives, salty feta – what’s not to love? This is a very light, vegetable-packed salad that goes well with nearly any Greek meal, or it could even be a great vegetarian meal on its own. Everything is coated in a dressing of olive oil, vinegar, and oregano, which results in a tangy, earthy flavor that is just fabulous. Oregano is a key ingredient to Greek food in my mind, so I really enjoy its inclusion here. This salad pairs beautifully with a main dish of lamb – lamb chops or shish-kabobs marinated in oregano, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and olive oil are a great pairing.

Helpful Hints: You can present this salad in a number of ways. Sometimes I slice the vegetables into small pieces, and sometimes I chop them into larger chunks. You can keep the olives whole, crumble or slice your feta, buy grape tomatoes instead of large tomatoes, etc. Varying the presentation is a great way to give this recipe a little bit of a different spin every time that you make it. This particular time, I bought goat’s milk feta, which is another variation that you could try. I really enjoyed its fresh, tangy flavor and its consistency, which I thought was much creamier than other fetas.

Greek Salad
Source: Adapted from Cherrapeno

1 cucumber
1 tomato
2 slices onion
1/2 large can black olives
3-4 oz Feta cheese
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Slice into half-rings.

2. Cut the tomato into quarters, remove the seeds, and slice. Slice the onions and the olives.

3. Add all of the vegetables to a bowl. Cut the feta into cubes, and add to the bowl. 

3. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over the salad and serve.

Creamy Cucumber Salad

Inspiration: I love getting fresh vegetables from Brandon’s parents’ garden. Armed with a crisper drawer full of cucumbers, I mixed up several batches of the cucumber vinegar salad that my parents always made when I was a kid and this creamy cucumber salad that Brandon’s mom always makes. We had some great cucumber snacks for a few weeks!

What we Loved: Cool and refreshing are the best words that I can think of to describe this salad. Dill, sour cream, and cucumbers work really well together to create a light salad that’s a great alternative when you’re not in the mood for a heavier dish. Served with some fresh tomato slices and a nice sprinkle of salt, this really is the lightest and most refreshing salad. Great for (these last few days of) summer!

Helpful Hints: Brandon’s mom always serves these cucumbers over fresh tomatoes, and I really love that flavor combination best. The juicy, sweet tomatoes complement the flavors of the cucumber and sour cream so well! Sometimes, she’ll serve these cucumbers as a side dish to her stuffed hot peppers, which I also think is a surprising and great flavor combination. This salad is also great just on its own as a light lunch or as a side dish to the rest of your lunch items.

Creamy Cucumber Salad
Source: Brandon’s Mom

2 cucumbers, diced
1-2 slices onion, diced
Sour cream
Dried or fresh dill
Salt and pepper

1. Place the cucumbers and onions in a bowl. Season well with dill, salt, and pepper. Add a big dollop of sour cream, and mix everything to combine. Taste, adding more sour cream or seasonings if desired.

Avocado Salad with Blueberries, Grape Tomatoes, and Shaved Ham

Inspiration: I recently ran across a recipe for a blueberry avocado salsa that was unlike any salsa that I’d ever seen. I filed it away somewhere in the back of my mind, and I think it inspired this blueberry avocado salad that I first served with chicken cordon bleu and pina coladas. B originally gave me the side eye when I was planning this one, but in the end, both of us loved it more than nearly any side dish that we’ve ever made!

What we Loved: If you’re looking for something a little different for a summery, island-y recipe, than this salad really is the perfect option. B and I absolutely loved it, and I’ve made it twice in one week, which says a lot around our house! It’s a wonderful, cool blend of creamy, sweet, and salty flavors. I particularly adored how well the sweet tang of the blueberries and the salty, savory ham paired with the rest of the flavors in the dish, and B immediately listed this as something that we need to make all of the time from now on throughout the summer.

Helpful Hints: We ate this as a side dish to chicken cordon bleu the first time around, but the second time that I made this, I made a little extra and we ate it as a main course for a light supper. Both ways were fantastic! Just make sure to serve this alongside a pina colada (it’s a must!) and to use plenty of Kosher salt (I just love the flavor that it gives to avocado!).

Avocado Salad with Blueberries, Grape Tomatoes, and Shaved Ham
Source: Original recipe

1 avocado, diced
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 pint blueberries
1/8 lb shaved ham
Handful cilantro, chopped
Juice from 1/2 small lime
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. Gently mix the avocado, tomatoes, blueberries, ham, cilantro, and lime juice together in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill before serving.

Guacamole Salad

Inspiration: With it being mid- to high-90s here for a while now (I love it!), we’ve been making a lot of fresh salads and salsas (as evidenced by my last few posts). My guacamole recipe is one of our very favorite recipes, so I thought we’d try it out in salad form.

What we Loved: This recipe has the exact same ingredients as my guacamole, only it’s prepared differently. We loved it! The flavor is very much the same, and it works really well as a summer side dish rather than an appetizer, snack, or topping, as guacamole is typically served. I can’t argue with a great new way to enjoy the flavors of guacamole!

Helpful Hints: As I like to recommend with my guacamole, be generous with the salt and the garlic. It really makes the dish!

Guacamole Salad
Source: Original Recipe

1 large avocado, finely chopped
1 roma tomato, seeded and finely chopped
2-3 slices Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
A handful of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 garlic clove (or to taste), minced
Kosher salt, to taste
Juice from 1/2 small lime

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

2. Cover and refrigerate until cold before serving.

Heirloom Tomato Pico de Gallo Salad

Inspiration: We were having a Mexican potluck at work, so I decided to bring a salad. I walked into the store to pick up some tomatoes, and a huge display of heirloom cherry tomatoes sat there staring at me. They were just too pretty to pass up!

What we Loved: I made an extra salad for B and I to have with dinner, and since we both love pico de gallo of any sort, we really enjoyed this little spin on the traditional recipe. We’ve actually never had heirloom tomatoes like this before, so we both had fun trying the different colors and enjoying the different flavors. We loved how each one tasted a little different! Some were sweeter than others, some were a little more tart, some were a little more savory. And the cilantro, peppers, onions, and lime juice really gave this salad a fresh Mexican twist. I served this alongside some chicken burgers topped with muenster and avocado for a light and summery meal that we both really enjoyed.

Helpful Hints: This salad would have been easier to eat if the tomatoes had been sliced in half, but since I was making this the night before a potluck, I was hoping to extend the shelf life of the salad and left the tomatoes whole. If you’re eating the salad right away, I might suggest slicing them. B also suggested keeping the tomatoes whole but using big chunks of onions and peppers rather than mincing them so small, which I also think is a great idea. That way, it would be more like a chunky vegetable salad.

Heirloom Tomato Pico de Gallo Salad
Source: Original Recipe

The ingredient amounts really aren’t specific here, so I’ll just list what I used. Use as much or as little of everything as you’d like.

Heirloom cherry tomatoes
Cilantro
Onion
Hot peppers (I used one jalapeno and one anaheim)
Kosher salt and black pepper
Lime juice

1. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl. Chop the cilantro, onions, and peppers, and add them to the bowl.

2. Sprinkle everything with salt and pepper. Squeeze some lime juice over top, and stir everything to combine.

Cucumber Carrot Salad

Cucumber Carrot Salad

Inspiration: As is often the case when I’m adding vegetables to my meals, my inspiration lies in wanting to make sure that any leftover fresh produce that I have doesn’t go to waste. Last night, I needed to use some cucumbers and carrots before they went bad. Cucumbers aren’t my favorite vegetable, but I really do love them coated in vinegar for a tart, crispy salad. Carrots aren’t my favorite vegetable either, but when making these carrot-flecked dinner rolls, I found that throwing them in the food processor until they are finely minced allows them to be added to recipes without really adding a lot of carrot flavor. So I made this salad with a couple of my not-so-favorite ingredients, and it ended up being one of my favorite salads that I’ve recently made.

What we Loved: This is a fairly simple recipe, but I’ll restate how much I love the flavor combination of cucumbers and vinegar. Coated in vinegar, the cucumbers are sour, fresh, and light, and they’re perfect for a side dish on a warm evening.  This salad is also a completely guilt-free dish, as I can’t think of many ingredients that are healthier and less caloric than cucumbers and carrots. One of my favorite things, too, was how pretty the salad looked with the green cucumbers, the orange carrots, and the red onions. This recipe would be a perfect and easy-to-make side dish for a summer barbeque.

Helpful Hints: There really aren’t a whole lot of routes to take when making a simple recipe like this that would lead you astray. My only suggestion is to use red onions instead of white or yellow, because they make for a pretty dish. I also used red wine vinegar, solely because I wanted the pink color. It collected in the bottom of the serving dish, and it looked nice to drizzle over the salad when serving.

Cucumber Carrot Salad
Source: Original Recipe

1 English cucumber, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
Red wine vinegar
Kosher salt and black pepper
Dried dill

1. Add the carrot pieces to a food processor, and process until finely minced.

2. In a large bowl, add the cucumbers, carrots, and onions. Season to preference with salt, pepper, and dill. Pour a good portion of red wine vinegar over all of the ingredients (I like to use enough so that it pools in the bottom of the bowl), and mix well to combine.

3. Chill until ready to serve.

Caprese

Inspiration: Making a seafood lasagna for dinner, I was searching for a vegetable side dish that I thought would compliment the flavors of the lasagna. B and I don’t care for traditional lettuce salads all too much, but we both like salads that consist of a lot of chopped veggies. If you’re like us and don’t prefer lettuce-based salads, there are plenty of other options out there! This caprese salad is just one option, and I love it because I feel like it has just enough elegance for a meal that’s a little fancier.

What we Loved: There’s not a whole lot that I don’t love about this salad. Tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper are some of my favorite flavors, and they really make for a great tasting dish. I particularly like adding a liberal amount of kosher salt to the salad for a salty crunch, and what I love most about this dish is that it packs a ton of flavor for its simplicity. Traditional caprese salads consist of sliced tomatoes, slices of mozzerella, and whole basil leaves, but I liked the idea of using grape tomatoes, chopped basil, and just a little bit of mozzarella bocconcini cheese (the smaller mozzarella shown here) to make a salad that is incredibly easy to prepare and more in resemblance of a typical side dish salad.

Helpful Hints: I would recommend using kosher salt rather than table salt, as kosher salt is bigger and really provides a nice, crunchy texture to the salad. With table salt,  you would get an unseen salty flavor, but it’s really the texture of the salt that makes it wonderful. I used grape tomatoes, which I prefer because they are smaller than cherry tomatoes, but they’re also a little sweeter. If you don’t want that sweet flavor, you could use cherry tomatoes instead.

Caprese Salad
Source: Seasaltwithfood

1 container mozzarella bocconcini cheese, sliced
1 container grape tomatoes, sliced
2 handfuls basil leaves, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper

1. Combine the cheese, tomatoes, and basil in a bowl.

2. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, mix, and serve.

Cucumber Vinegar Salad

Cucumber Vinegar Salad

*Photo Updated July 2012*

When I was a kid, I remember my Mom and Dad putting sliced cucumbers in a bowl with salt, pepper, and big slices of onions, then soaking them in vinegar in the refrigerator. I loved those super cold and crisp vinegar cucumbers, but until recently I forgot all about them. This recipe is similar, with a great sour taste from the vinegar and a wonderful fresh, crisp flavor from the cucumbers. Such a great snack!

Cucumber Vinegar Salad
Source: Mom and Dad

1 English cucumber, sliced as thinly as possible
1/2 vidalia onion, finely sliced
Dried dill
Salt and pepper
Vinegar

1. Place the cucumber and the onion in a bowl and sprinkle with plenty of dill, salt, and pepper.

2. Coat the salad in vinegar, to preference. I like to use a small bowl and pour until the vinegar just covers the cucumbers.

3. Chill in the refrigerator before serving.