Citrus Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa & Cumin Lime Vinaigrette

2

20170506_204259

 

With sunny weather finally here, I have moved on from steaming hot soups to fresh seasonal salads and lighter dishes.  This citrus and kale salad is loaded with flavor and textures.  The cumin lime vinaigrette is a perfect complement to the creamy avocado and zesty citrus while the crispy quinoa adds a delightful crunch as well as a healthy dose of protein and vitamins.  Once you try crispy quinoa, you will never go back to croutons and their empty calories.  Even if you aren’t a fan of quinoa, you might be surprised by how different it tastes once it’s been ‘crisped’ in olive oil.

20170507_131929

This is my favorite time of year, when my garden comes to life. The month of May is a wonderful overlapping of seasons.  Spring blooming plants like rhododendron and azalea are still in full bloom and summer roses are just beginning to emerge creating a gorgeous riot of color.

20170507_131158

My vegetable garden is loaded with greens.  You can just see the chickens photobombing in the background.

20170507_131321

Recent warmer nights are allowing tomatoes to retain blossoms and artichokes are sending up their first stalks, so stay tuned for new artichoke dishes this spring.  We will tackle tomatoes later in the summer. when they are ripe and abundant.

20170507_131330

Let’s circle back to today’s green salad.  It’s very easy to prepare with only a few really good ingredients.  I have gotten in the habit of making more quinoa than I need and freeze one cup servings which makes it easy to add to salads, soups and chili.  Just defrost and you’re good to go.  I prefer using red quinoa for this purpose since I like it’s flavor and texture better than white quinoa, but you could also try using the tri-color quinoa which could make an interesting salad.

20170506_204251

CITRUS GREEN SALAD WITH CRISPY QUINOA

  • 1/2 cup red quinoa (1 cup cooked)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 cups baby kale or mixed greens
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/4 small red onion (or 3 scallions)

CUMIN LIME VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, to taste

20170408_155714

  • Cook quinoa according to directions. For more flavor, use vegetable broth instead of water. Drain on papertowels to prevent splattering.

20170408_155425

  • Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet and ‘fry’ quinoa on medium heat until crispy, 5 to 10 minutes.  Season with salt. Remove from heat and let cool.

20170506_173436.jpg

  • Wash greens and arrange in a large salad bowl.

20170506_184249.jpg

  • Sprinkle cooled quinoa over greens.

20170408_173941

  • Using a sharp knife, remove peel and slice the oranges into rounds and then bite sized pieces.

20170408_174818

  • Slice avocado into bite sized pieces.

20170506_184804.jpg

  • Thinly slice red onion and add to salad along with orange segments and avocado.

20170506_204251

  • Whisk together (or use a shaker) all vinaigrette ingredients and dress salad just before serving.

Citrus Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 20170506_204259

CITRUS GREEN SALAD WITH CRISPY QUINOA

  • 1/2 cup red quinoa (1 cup cooked)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 cups baby kale or mixed greens
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/4 small red onion (or 3 scallions)

CUMIN LIME VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, to taste
  1. Cook quinoa according to directions. Drain on papertowels to prevent splattering.
  2. Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet and fry quinoa on medium heat until crispy, 5 to 10 minutes.  Season with salt. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Wash greens and arrange in a large salad bowl.
  4. Sprinkle cooled quinoa over greens.
  5. Using a sharp knife, remove peel and slice the oranges into rounds and then bite sized pieces.
  6. Slice avocado into bite sized pieces.
  7. Thinly slice red onion and add to salad along with orange segments and avocado.
  8. Whisk together (or use a shaker) all vinaigrette ingredients and dress salad just before serving.

Wheatless Wednesday – Warm Scallop Salad with Mango Vinaigrette

2

20150706_204421

Looking for something light and summery – and FAST to make for dinner?  How about a warm scallop salad with perfectly seared sea scallops over a bed of mixed greens, avocado and, I’m in Maine – so blueberries.  Top all of this with a spicy, sweet mango vinaigrette for a lovely summery taste sensation.  Best of all, you can whip this up in 20 minutes or less, depending on how fast you are at putting things together – five minutes or so to make the salad, another five to make the mango vinaigrette and then the scallops only take 3 minutes to cook.  Done and delicious!

20150706_204256 - Copy

Scallops are a great choice for seafood lovers.  They are not only delicious  but low in calories and high in protein.  They are excellent sources of Vitamin B12 and omega3 fats.  Sea scallops are also a good environmental choice.  According to  Seafood Watch, wild-caught scallops are a “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative,” depending on where and how they’re harvested.  Worldwide, farmed scallops are a “Best Choice” because farming methods have little impact on the surrounding environment, however, some countries have questionable farming methods, so I would check before buying.

20150706_194205

I happened upon this mango vinaigrette when I noticed I had some leftover sliced mango that needed to be used up and thought it would make a tasty salad dressing. I grew up with homemade dressing (Thanks Mom!) so I usually make my own.  You will rarely see me pulling a bottle of store-bought dressing from the fridge.  Truly spoiled. I just don’t like that bottled taste they all have. Making it fresh is so worth the extra few minutes, however, if you have a dressing you love, go for it.  With a fruity dressing, I like to pair something savory or spicy like jalapeno or, in this case, red Fresno chili pepper, which also adds a nice color to the vinaigrette.  This otherwise simple dressing also has oil and lemon juice with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  It was great paired with the greens and warm scallops.  It would also be tasty on grilled shrimp or fish.  Sometimes simpler is better as you can taste each and every flavor.

TIPS:  If blueberries are not available where you are, substitute another fruit, like ripe peaches, or sliced red or yellow bell pepper.  You can use fresh or frozen (defrosted) mango slices or chunks.  If you are using a fresh mango, click HERE for a short video on how to cut a mango from cooking pro Martha Stewart, herself.  It’s easy and brilliant.  If you are still struggling to remove the large mango seed, you should check it out.

20150706_204725

WARM SCALLOP SALAD

1 large bunch of mixed greens, bib lettuce or baby spinach
3/4 cup fresh blueberries OR 1 red or yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 avocado, sliced
2-3 spring onions or large scallions, sliced
1 1/4 pounds+ dry sea scallops, (4-6 per person)
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
salt and pepper

20150706_195108

  • Place mixed greens in a large salad bowl along with the blueberries, scallions and avocado.

20150706_194551

  • Rinse and dry scallops with a papertowel, sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.

20150706_203741

  • Add the butter and oil to a wide saute pan on high heat until almost smoking.  Add the scallops in a single layer round side down, making sure they are not touching each other and sear for 1 1/2 minutes on each side. The scallops should be golden brown on both sides but still soft in the center. Don’t overcook or they will get tough and chewy. Cook in batches if necessary.

20150706_204016

  • Remove to a serving plate.

20150706_204256

  • Place a large spoonful of salad mixture on a serving plate and top with 4-6 warm scallops.

20150706_204412

  • Top with mango vinaigrette

20150706_194205

MANGO VINAIGRETTE

1/2 ripe mango, roughly chopped or mango chunks (frozen, thawed okay)
1 red Fresno chili pepper, roughly chopped or 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsn olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

20150706_192856

  • Place mango and chili pepper in a food processor or blender and pulse until it’s finely minced.

20150706_193119

  • Add lemon juice and olive oil and process until smooth. Add a bit more oil if necessary. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste

20150706_194233

  • Pour into a serving bowl.

Warm Scallop Salad with Mango Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 20150706_204421

1 large bunch of mixed greens, bib lettuce or baby spinach
3/4 cup fresh blueberries OR 1 red or yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 avocado, sliced
2-3 spring onions or large scallions, sliced
1 1/4 pounds+ dry sea scallops, (4-6 per person)
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
salt and pepper

  • Place mixed greens in a large salad bowl along with the blueberries, scallions and avocado.
  • Rinse and dry scallops with a papertowel, sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • Add the butter and oil to a wide saute pan on high heat until almost smoking.  Add the scallops in a single layer round side down, making sure they are not touching each other and sear for 1 1/2 minutes on each side. The scallops should be golden brown on both sides but still soft in the center. Don’t overcook or they will get tough and chewy.
  • Remove to a serving plate.
  • Place a large spoonful of salad mixture on a serving plate and top with 4-6 warm scallops.
  • Top with mango vinaigrette

MANGO VINAIGRETTE

1/2 ripe mango, chopped or mango chunks (frozen, thawed okay)
1 red Fresno chili pepper or 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsn olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

  • Place mango and chili pepper in a food processor or blender and pulse until it’s finely minced.
  • Add lemon juice and olive oil and process until smooth.
  • Taste and add salt and pepper to taste
  • Pour into a serving bowl.

Wheatless Wednesday – Endive Salad Bites

5

20150324_192857

Appetizers are the little things you keep eating until you lose your appetite. ~ Joe Moore
I don’t know who Joe Moore is but I’m with him on this.  The way I look at it, you might as well make the appetizer as yummy and nutritious as dinner.  This one is sure to satisfy, or at least start your night off on a delicious, healthy and low cal note.  I’m loving the three bite salad!

I was feeling a bit under the weather today, perhaps a result of spending so much time clearing out and planting my garden.  My raging allergies  have turned into a cold and the best remedy for a cold is soup.  So I made a big pot of White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup for dinner last night, which is a personal favorite. It has luscious creaminess without any added cream or thickener. Click on the link for the recipe. I also had some endive from my CSA box that was not yet destined for anything so decided to make salad bites. I am a sucker for foods that have a nice presentation and are easy to eat appetizer style, my kind of eating! Their shape is perfect for stuffing. I just tossed all the salad ingredients with the dressing and piled them up in the endive spear, or boats as I have always thought of them.  Their slight bitterness is offset by the sweetness of the orange and grapes and the creaminess of the avocado and goat cheese.  The vinaigrette is simple but helps to blend the flavors nicely.

20150324_193209

Alternatively, you could julienne the endive and toss the whole thing together as a large salad.  Either way, delicious!

20150324_185940

This is only the second time I can remember using endive.  It definitely won’t be the last.  I thought it was a really tasty salad/appetizer and I will make it again with whatever is in season.  My CSA box came with an informational blurb on endive which I found quite interesting.  Endive is a member of the chicory family (which makes me think of coffee for some reason).  Belgiun endive is grown from chicory roots in a dark environment, which is why their tender leaves are such a light color. I was enthralled, so I googled, and here is what endive looks like growing. You can click on the photo link for the full story on endive.

For their pale complexions, endive are surprisingly nutritious, providing many valuable vitamins and mnerals, including vitamin C, calcium, iron and zinc, among many others.  The biggest surprise is that it is a good source of beta-carotene which we usually attribute to the orange vegetable family.  But that’s not all.  It has more than 50% of the potassium of a banana. Not too bad for our pale friend, the endive.  It also makes a darn good edible appetizer boat.

20150324_185853

ENDIVE SALAD BITES

1 head Belgian endive
1 orange or grapefruit
1 avocado
1/2 cup red grapes
4 scallions, chopped
1/3 cup crumbled goat, gorgonzola or blue cheese
1/3 cup cilantro or parsley, chopped (or more)

Marinade

2 Tbsn olive oil
1 Tbsn balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsn red wine or apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

20150324_190230

  • Cut the ends off orange and remove the peel by cutting in a downward motion going all the way around.  Cut into wheels and then sections.  Place in a large bowl.

20150324_190721

  • Slice grapes and admire their gorgeous jewel toned colors.

20150324_190824

  • place in the bowl with the oranges.

20150324_191511

  • Halve avocado and cut into pieces a similar size to the orange segments.

20150324_191938

  • Add avocado, cilantro, scallions and crumbled goat cheese to the bowl.

20150324_192024

  • Prepare marinade and drizzle over salad sparingly.  You can always drizzle more later and since they are to be eaten by hand, you don’t want them too drippy.

20150324_192857

  • Cut the core end off the endive. Clean by gently wiping both sides with a lightly damp paper towel. Pull off as many leaves as you want to use. The remainder can be stored in the refrigerator under a lightly damp paper towel.Place 1-2 tablespoons of salad into each endive spear.   Arrange on a platter and garish with extra cilantro.

 

Endive Salad Bites

  • Servings: 12 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

20150324_192857

1 head Belgian endive
1 orange or grapefruit
1 avocado
1/2 cup red grapes
4 scallions, chopped
1/3 cup crumbled goat, gorgonzola or blue cheese
1/3 cup cilantro or parsley, chopped (or more)

Marinade

2 Tbsn olive oil
1 Tbsn balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsn red wine or apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

  • Cut the ends off orange and remove the peel by cutting in a downward motion going all the way around.  Cut into wheels and then sections.  Place in a large bowl.
  • Slice grapes and place in the bowl with the oranges.
  • Halve avocado and cut into pieces a similar size to the orange segments.
  • Add avocado, cilantro and scallions to the bowl.
  • Crumble goat cheese and add to the salad.
  • Cut the core end off the endive. Clean by gently wiping both sides with a lightly damp paper towel. Pull off as many leaves as you want to use. The remainder can be stored in the refrigerator under a lightly damp paper towel.
  • Prepare marinade and drizzle over salad sparingly.  You can always drizzle more later and since they are to be eaten by hand, you don’t want them too messy.
  • Place 1-2 tablespoons of salad into each endive spear.   Arrange on a platter and garish with extra cilantro.

Avocado Mango Smoothie

0

20150319_144055

It’s the first day of Spring and you know what that means…Yes, it’s that time of year.   The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition is already out and soon we will be digging for our beachwear beachcoverups, bathing suits and for the bravest of the brave, bikinis. So when I ran across an article in Prevention Magazine offering 10 smoothies with MUFA’s that will shrink my belly fat, Aha!  Now we’re talking!  I couldn’t look away. Like I said, summer is right around the corner and I will take all the help I can get!   I’m not normally a smoothie kind of person.  I have more of an avocado or peanut butter toast in the morning habit.  Of course I drink a big glass of alkaline water – Lemon Cucumber Mint Water –  while I’m making my first cup of coffee.  Hey, it’s all about balance! That said I loved this smoothie.  Drank the whole thing.

So back to MUFA—the Flat Belly Diet powerhouse ingredient that specifically targets belly fat. There has been much talk recently about MUFAs (pronounced moo-fah) or MonoUnsaturated Fatty Acids, which are plant-based fats found in some of the world’s most delicious foods— avocado, nuts and seeds, oils, olives, and dark chocolate!  In my book, these are the foods that make dinner worth eating, however, there are claims they provide many health benefits. MUFA’s promote healthy cholesterol levels and help us absorb the vitamins we eat. Studies show that these good-for-you fats enhance heart health and protect against chronic disease. We are encouraged to eat a serving of MUFA at every meal.  This article offers 10 smoothie recipes but I only tried one.  Click through for more.Prevention 10 Slimming Smoothies

20150319_143854

TIPS/SUBSTITUTIONS:  I followed the recipe except I used full fat plain European yogurt instead of fat free vanilla which I don’t buy.  I’m always suspicious of what happens when they remove the normal fat that is supposed to be in foods and replace it with something, usually more sugar and unnatural ‘non-foods’.  For the extra 10 calories per cup, I’ll skip the extra sugar and chemicals, but that is just me.  For those weighing the decision to buy full or no fat yogurt, regular or Greek yogurt, here are some yogurt facts via SF Gate you might find helpful. Do you care more about calories, fat or protein?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an 8-ounce serving of plain full-fat yogurt provides about 140 calories, 8 grams of protein, 7.4 grams of fat, 11 grams of carbohydrates and sugar, and 275 milligrams of calcium. The same serving size of nonfat yogurt contains about 130 calories, 13 grams of protein, 0.4 grams of fat, 17.4 grams of carbohydrates and sugar, and 450 milligrams of calcium. Eight ounces of nonfat, plain Greek yogurt has 130 calories, 23 grams of protein, no fat, 9 grams of carbohydrates and sugar, and 250 milligrams of calcium.

Blossoms

According to my calendar, spring officially begins today at 3:45pm PDT.  Does anybody else think that is an odd time of day for a season to begin?  So although it is now Spring you wouldn’t know it if you lived in many parts of the country that are still buried under piles of snow.  In California it feels like spring has already sprung, but perhaps that is because we never really got winter this year. I think the East and the South got it all.  It’s possible that we will have a late coldsnap that will take out all of our delicate plants and blossoms but for now I’m going to relish the beautiful weather and lovely spring blooms.  Maybe I’ll make a smoothie and go sit in my garden and wait for my winter fat to melt away…

20150319_143745

 

AVOCADO MANGO SMOOTHIE

¼ c mango cubes
¼ c mashed ripe avocado (MUFA)
½ c mango juice
¼ c fat-free vanilla yogurt
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp sugar
6 ice cubes

COMBINE all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pour into a tall glass. Garnish with sliced mango or strawberry, if desired, and serve.

NOTES: I followed the recipe except as follows.  I used regular plain yogurt, a pinch of sugar instead of 1 Tablespoon  and a bit more lime juice. I would suggest tasting before adding more sugar because I thought it was sweet enough.  I also added more ice and water since it was too thick for my tastes.  Loved it though!

NUTRITION (per serving based on original recipe) 298 cal, 5 g pro, 55 g carb, 5 g fiber, 47 g sugar, 9 g fat, 1.5 g sat fat, 54 mg sodium

Avocado Mango Smootie

  • Servings: 16 oz
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 20150319_144055

¼ c mango cubes
¼ c mashed ripe avocado (MUFA)
½ c mango juice
¼ c fat-free vanilla yogurt
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp sugar
6 ice cubes

COMBINE all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pour into a tall glass. Garnish with sliced mango or strawberry, if desired, and serve.

NOTES: I followed the recipe except as follows.  I used regular plain yogurt, a pinch of sugar instead of 1 Tablespoon  and a bit more lime juice. I would suggest tasting before adding more sugar because I thought it was sweet enough.  I also added more ice and water since it was too thick for my tastes.  Loved it though!

NUTRITION (per serving based on original recipe) 298 cal, 5 g pro, 55 g carb, 5 g fiber, 47 g sugar, 9 g fat, 1.5 g sat fat, 54 mg sodium

Wheatless Wednesday – Fennel Citrus Salad with Avocado and Olives

0

20150131_194953

Is the dinner party dead?  One of my goals for this new year is to host a dinner party every month. My husband and I are finding that as ’empty nesters’ we are no longer attending school events where we get to hang out with our friends without any planning on our part,and we just aren’t seeing people that we really like as often.  Let’s just say that it takes more of an effort when you have to physically reach out and organize something.  In some ways, our schedules are less busy with soccer and lacrosse games, carpools and school events in the distant past. In other ways we are busier than ever.  Chairing a school committee segues into a new hobby, like volunteering at WildCare, competing in triathalons or starting a blog about something you enjoy (sound familiar?). There is more time for hikes and hot yoga classes if you are so inclined.  Unless you have a Boomerang kid (of which we have had our share) it’s easier to take off and travel. Many of my friends never seem to be around any more.  So this is where the dinner parties come in.  I’m going with the “You build it they will come” theory. We had a dinner party last weekend, a group of 10 fun people for no specific reason, and hopefully, just the first of many in 2015.  January, done and great fun!

20150131_194401

Arugula + fennel bulbs + blood orange + red onion+fresh cilantro from my CSA box + oranges from my tree + an avocado and olives from the market = a gorgeous salad for dinner.  Along with the Fennel Citrus Salad, I served Maple Bourbon Glazed Salmon, a deliciously easy main course that can serve many people, along with one of my favorite GMD dishes, Black and Wild Rice with Roasted Squash and Pomegranate followed by Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse for dessert. You can click on the links to go directly to those recipes. My guests asked what the trick is to having a successful dinner party without being really stressed out. One friend claims she runs around like a crazy person when she has just a couple of people over. I think she is not alone which is probably why people don’t have very many dinner parties.  I think the key is to keep it simple.  I like to have only one item that needs my immediate attention during a dinner party.  The Fennel Citrus salad and dressing can be made ahead and tossed right before serving.  The Black and Wild Rice dish is best served at room temperature so perfect for making ahead.

Chocolate Mousse14

The Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse is a very easy, no-cook recipe I’ve been making since the 80’s and prepared the day before and put right into small jelly jars so they’re ready to serve.  Only the salmon required my attention.  It was pre-cut and resting in the glaze needing less than 10 minutes in the oven for a perfect golden finish. Set up a lovely buffet and you’re all set. I used the lovely china from Nana Rosella, my husband’s grandmother, because I like an excuse to use them and I don’t have ten of my regular plates that aren’t chipped, however you could use paper plates and the salad would still be beautiful and delicious, just don’t use plastic forks unless you’re at a picnic.  I don’t know anyone that can eat with those dreaded implements.  Dinner parties are fun but only if you’re relaxed and enjoying your guests.  It’s not really about the food.  It’s about the friends…

FENNEL CITRUS SALAD
2 cups fresh arugula
2-3 small fennel bulbs
2 large naval oranges (grapefruit or blood orange)
1/2 red onion
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 firm avocado
1 Tbsn fresh herbs (cilantro, mint or parsley)

Dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsn lemon juice,1 Tbsn apple cider or red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

20150131_135825

  • Wash and dry arugula and place in the bottom of a salad bowl

20150131_140217

  • Trim fennel bulbs taking care not to cut too much off the bottom end.  Cut each bulb in half lengthwise, then into quarters lengthwise.  Slice quarters as thinly as possible. Place in the bowl with the arugula

20150131_142937

  • Slice both ends off the oranges and place one cut end on a cutting board.  Using a downward motion, slice the peel and pitch away from the fruit.  Go back and get any remaining pith then slice horizontally into wheels.  Use wheels whole or quartered.  OR if you like perfect slices, check out this handy short video: How To Peel An Orange in 5 Seconds

20150131_141535

  • Slice the onion in half lengthwise and then into quarters.  Slice each quarter as finely as possible.

20150131_173837

  • Slice avocado in half and then slice horizontally. Add all vegetables into bowl with arugula.  If you aren’t serving right away include the avocado pits (to keep the avocado from turning brown) but take them out before tossing.

20150131_194401

  • Whisk together the dressing and set aside until you’re ready to serve. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss.  Sprinkle with fresh herbs.

Fennel Citrus Salad with Avocado and Olives

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

20150131_194953

2 cups fresh arugula
2-3 small fennel bulbs
2 large naval oranges (grapefruit or blood orange)
1/2 red onion
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 firm avocado
1 Tbsn fresh herbs (cilantro, mint or parsley)

Dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsn lemon juice,1 Tbsn apple cider or red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

  • Wash and dry arugula and place in the bottom of a salad bowl
  • Trim fennel bulbs taking care not to cut too much off the bottom end.  Cut each bulb in half lengthwise, then into quarters lengthwise.  Slice quarters as thinly as possible. Place in the bowl with the arugula
  • Slice both ends off the oranges and place one cut end on a cutting board.  Using a downward motion, slice the peel and pitch away from the fruit.  Go back and get any remaining pith then slice horizontally into wheels.  Use wheels whole or quartered.  OR if you like perfect slices, check out this handy short video: How To Peel An Orange in 5 Seconds
  • Slice the onion in half lengthwise and then into quarters.  Slice each quarter as finely as possible.
  • Slice avocado in half and then slice horizontally.
  • Add all vegetables into bowl with arugula.  If you aren’t serving right away include the avocado pits (to keep the avocado from turning brown)
  • Whisk together the dressing and set aside until you’re ready to serve.
  • Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss.  Sprinkle with fresh herbs.

Wheatless Wednesday – Winter Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa

0

Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa14

New year equals new ideas.  The holidays might be over but that doesn’t mean the presents have to stop!  I finally decided to order a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box loaded with produce fresh from a local farm delivered right to my door – And my first one came today!  Even though I was the one to order it, I still felt ridiculously excited to see two boxes with their mystery contents at my doorstep this morning when I got up. It felt like Christmas and Hanukkah all over again.  Some of us will go to great lengths to extend the holiday season…  For those that don’t know, CSA is an alternative ‘farm to table’ method for distribution of produce. Consumers sign up with a local company who arranges personalized home delivery of organically and locally grown fruits and vegetables.  I signed with Farm Fresh to You, who supplies produce from Capay Organic Farm located about 90 miles Northeast of San Francisco.  I chose the Traditional CSA Box but they offer many types and sizes of boxes, like Fruit or Vegetable Only, even a ‘No Cooking Box’.  I decided to try this for a few reasons.  First, I love fresh produce and in the winter, my garden is a bit sparse (because I’m a fair weather gardener).  I also like supporting local farmers and eating with the season. Lastly, instead of going to the market and hand selecting items for dinner, I thought to stretch my creativity by having to figure out what delicious meals to make with the contents of my mystery boxes.

Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa1

What was in my box?  Butternut squash, beets, rainbow carrots, Treviso radicchio, kiwis, baby bok choy, watermelon radish, fennel, red d’anjou pears, pink lady apples and assorted lettuce. Whew! After mulling the many possible ways dinner could go, I opted to use the most perishable items first, like lettuce.  So salad it is… Winter Greens with thinly sliced pears, watermelon radish and avocado, coated with yummy crispy quinoa and crumbly feta with a few pistachios thrown into the mix. I added quinoa, not only to give my salad a nutrient boost with it’s high protein content and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and iron, but also to enhance the taste and feel of the salad.  When tossed with a simple vinaigrette, the crispy quinoa bits collect on the veggies making each bite a tasty treasure.

Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa13

I first had crispy quinoa in a salad at Tamalpie Pizza in Mill Valley, CA.  I was instantly enamored and only slightly dismayed to hear that the quinoa was deep fried.  It was such a great concept, that quinoa can be transformed almost into something else.  I don’t remember what else was in that salad except for leafy greens (and it is not currently listed on their menu, darn) so I made up my own salad with some help from my CSA box.

TIPS: Always rinse quinoa before cooking (unless the packaging says that it has been pre-rinsed) to remove any remaining saponins, a naturally occurring but bitter substance that the plant produces to protect itself from predators (smart, huh?)  Use a fine mesh colander so you don’t lose any of the tiny grains.

Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa11

WINTER GREEN SALAD WITH CRISPY QUINOA

1/2 cup dry quinoa (any kind) or 3/4 cup cooked
1 Tbsn high heat oil like coconut or avocado (not olive oil)
1 head or 4 cups assorted lettuces
5-6 radicchio leaves
1-2 watermelon radish
1 d’anjou pear
1/4 cup pistachios (or roasted hazelnuts)
1/4 cup crumbled feta (optional)

Vinaigrette: (1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste. You can also add 1/2 tsp of either cumin or Italian seasoning or any fresh herbs)

Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa3

  • Rinse quinoa and simmer in salted water for about 15 minutes or until tender.  All water should be absorbed.  Let cool.

Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa7

  • Heat 1 Tbsn oil in a skillet until almost smoking and add in the cooked quinoa. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the quinoa pops and sizzles and turns crispy, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa5

  • Cut or tear the larger lettuce leaves into pieces. Slice the radicchio

Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa6

  • Thinly slice the radish, pear and avocado.

Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa9

  • Sprinkle the cooled quinoa on top of the salad greens

Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa10

  • Top with the sliced pear, radish, avocado, pistachios and feta.

Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa11

  • Dress sparingly with the vinaigrette and toss gently. Serve with more vinaigrette and feta on the side

 

Winter Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Green Salad with Crispy Quinoa12

1/2 cup dry quinoa (any kind) or 3/4 cup cooked
1-2 Tbsn high heat oil like coconut or avocado (not olive oil)
1 head or 4 cups assorted lettuces
5-6 radicchio leaves
1-2 watermelon radish
1 d’anjou pear
1/4 cup pistachios (or roasted hazelnuts)
1/4 cup crumbled feta (optional)

Vinaigrette: (1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste. You can also add 1/2 tsp of either cumin or Italian seasoning or any fresh herbs)

  • Rinse quinoa and simmer in salted water for about 15 minutes or until tender.  All water should be absorbed.  Let cool.
  • Heat 1 Tbsn oil in a skillet until almost smoking and add in the cooked quinoa.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, until the quinoa pops and sizzles and turns crispy, about 5 minutes. Let cool in the
  • Cut or tear the larger lettuce leaves into pieces.
  • Slice the radicchio
  • Thinly slice the radish, pear and avocado.
  • Sprinkle the cooled quinoa on top of the salad greens
  • Top with the sliced pear, radish, avocado, pistachios and feta.
  • Dress sparingly with the vinaigrette and toss gently.
  • Serve with more vinaigrette and feta on the side

 

 

 

Meatless Monday – Avocado Pesto Pasta

4

Avocado Pesto Pasta2

What’s for dinner?  How about a Meatless Monday meal in minutes?  This delicious avocado pesto pasta is ready just in the time it takes to heat the water and cook the pasta.  It’s that fast, less than 15 minutes, and that easy! I am an avocado lover and think most meals can be improved upon by adding avocado, even if it’s just slicing some into a salad, so bear with me while I wax poetic about one of my favorite foods.  Luckily I’m not the only one…

Avocado Pesto Pasta10

Son #2, Dylan, has two food loves, pesto and avocado.  Since he is home on break just having finished his first semester at law school, I wanted to create a dish that included both.  Pesto is traditionally made with basil, pine nuts, parmesan and olive oil, however I opted to use avocado rather than parmesan, in part to satisfy Dylan’s avocado obsession but also to experiment with making a pesto without cheese.  Yes, I am trying to wean myself from my addiction to cheese. No,  I’m not giving it up, just cutting back by getting more creative.  It turns out that avocado adds a silky creaminess which makes it a good substitute for cheese.  It also adds a yummy avocado flavor that melds well with the basil, garlic and pinenuts.  Topped with toasted pinenuts and freshly sliced basil, this pasta is divine and oh so simple!  But don’t feel limited to just pasta.  This thick and creamy pesto would be great spread on toast for breakfast, slathered inside a sandwich or piled on top of a tomato half with some freshly ground pepper. Yum!

Avocado Pesto Pasta12

Avocados have been much maligned in the past by ‘health experts’ who warned us not to eat them because of their fat content.  They are high in fat but the healthy kind of fat that your body needs and they actually boost the ‘good’ cholesterol in our bodies. Avocados are also loaded with vitamins and minerals as well as being a good source of protein.  Unlike the protein in meat, which is difficult for most people to digest, avocado protein is readily absorbed by the body. So it is no surprise that now avocados are considered one of the world’s most nutritious foods.
I used Ancient Grains penne pasta, made with brown rice, quinoa, amaranth and corn, to make the meal a super healthy one.  Most pasta is fairly empty calories and carbs but there are many really good brands now made with whole grains that add vitamins, minerals and fiber to your meal. They have come a long way from the original gluey whole grain pastas, so don’t be afraid to give them another try if you haven’t in a while.

Avocado Pesto Pasta9

TIP:  My friend, David, who is an avocado expert, showed me the best way to get the pit out of an avocado.  Slice the avocado in half. Holding the half that contains the pit in one hand, strike a knife into the pit, twist and it will come out easily. Then you can peel and slice or scoop it out with a spoon.   If you aren’t a huge avocado fan, you might like this recipe better with only one avocado.  You can try adding only one avocado to start, blend, then taste before adding the second avocado.  You might like it just as it is.  A second avocado adds creaminess but also more avocado flavor and less intense garlic and basil flavors. So follow your taste buds…

 Avocado Pesto Pasta13

AVOCADO PESTO PASTA

3/4 lb pasta (any shape)
2 cups fresh basil (reserve a few leaves for garnish)
1-2 ripe avocados
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 Tbsn lemon juice
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt(or more to taste)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts, garnish(optional)
1/4 cup grated parmesan, garnish(optional)

Avocado Pesto Pasta4

  • Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and put back into pan.

Avocado Pesto Pasta8

  • While pasta is cooking, add basil (leaves only), avocado, pine nuts, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic to a food processor and blend until smooth.

Avocado Pesto Pasta7

  • TIP: Add one avocado to begin, blend and taste before adding the second avocado.

Avocado Pesto Pasta6

  • Add olive oil in a stream while food processor is going and process until combined.
  • Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Avocado Pesto Pasta5

  • Toast 1/4 cup pine nuts in a dry pan over medium heat until golden. Let cool.

Avocado Pesto Pasta3

  • Toss with cooked pasta and serve with toasted pine nuts, sliced basil and parmesan, if desired.

Avocado Pesto Pasta2

Avocado Pesto Pasta

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Avocado Pesto Pasta2

3/4 lb pasta (any shape)
2 cups fresh basil (reserve a few leaves for garnish)
1-2 ripe avocados
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 Tbsn lemon juice
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt(or more to taste)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts, garnish(optional)
1/4 cup grated parmesan, garnish(optional)

  • Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and put back into pan.
  • While pasta is cooking, add basil (leaves only), avocado, pine nuts, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic to a food processor and blend until smooth. TIP: Add one avocado to begin, blend and taste before adding the second avocado.
  • Add olive oil in a stream while food processor is going and process until combined.
  • Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  • Toast 1/4 cup pine nuts in a dry pan over medium heat until golden. Let cool.
  • Toss with cooked pasta and serve with toasted pine nuts, sliced basil and parmesan, if desired.

Photo Credit:  Avocado – pxleyes.com

Wheatless Wednesday – Egg in a Basket

2

Egg Basket13

Can you think of a happier breakfast than eggs Sunnyside Up? Think sunshine and smiley faces. How about stretching the cuteness factor by cooking them inside colorful bell pepper rings?

Egg Basket15

I found this new twist on the traditional Egg in a Hole (also called Egg in a Basket, Toad in a Hole, Turtle in a Shell, One Eyed Jack or Pirate’s Eye) on Natashas Kitchen.  In the traditional dish you cut out a circle from a slice of bread, fry it in some melted butter and cook the egg inside the hole.  In this new and improved version (which is originally a Martha Stewart brainchild), you use slices of bell pepper instead of bread to contain the egg while it cooks which adds a shock of color as well as flavor.  Its also a good way to get people to eat their veggies in the morning.  As an alternative, this can also be done with scrambled eggs.  Just whisk the eggs with salt and pepper, and divide the mixture between each pepper slice.  Eat plain if you’re a purist or top with cheese, avocado and fresh tomato for a more filling breakfast.  Serve with fruit and you’ve got a delicious and nutritious start to the day and it takes only about five minutes to prepare.

Egg Basket1

Eggs got a bad rap for a while and we were  advised for years to avoid eggs or limit our consumption of them due to their high cholesterol content.  It is now recognized that, for most people, cholesterol in food we eat doesn’t increase cholesterol in our bodies.  The real culprit is refined foods like white flour and sugar or polyunsaturated oils that cause inflammation in our bodies, resulting in heart disease and other health issues. In reality eggs are loaded with protein, vitamins and minerals, most of which are in the yolk.  For a good article on why the egg is considered the perfect food read The Truth About Food.  All eggs are not considered equal, however.  95 to 98% of eggs come from factory farms where conditions are inhumane and create food safety problems (for starters.)  The List of Reasons to Boycott Factory Farms is almost endless, the least of which is from a nutritional standpoint.  Factory Farmed eggs are less expensive but you get what you pay for.  Eggs from factory farms are nutritionally inferior to eggs from hens raised on pasture. According to Mother Earth News,  real free-range eggs contain:

• 1/3 less cholesterol
• 1/4 less saturated fat
• 2/3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene
• 50 percent more folic acid
• 70 percent more vitamin B12

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

TIP:  I buy organic, free-range or pasture-raised, Certified Humanely Raised eggs (from an actual farm not a factory).  If I’m lucky, I get eggs raised in the backyard next door in exchange for the extra produce from my garden.   I also buy organic produce whenever possible.  I think it’s worth the added expense and I like to support the farmers that do it the ‘right’ way.  Sometimes its hard to know if your produce is organic or not, if it’s not labeled. I learned a handy tip from Dr. Oz (yes, on TV).  In supermarkets check the sticker with the barcode.  If the barcode starts with a 9 it’s organic.  For example, the green pepper I just bought has a barcode of #94065, which makes it organic.  A conventional green pepper would be labeled #4065.  Check it out next time you go shopping!

Egg Basket24

Egg in a Basket

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Egg Basket23

1 bell pepper (any color)
1/2 avocado
1 medium sized tomato
4 large eggs
Salt
Pepper
¼ cup grated cheese (any combination of parmesan, mozzarella, reggiano, fontina, etc.)
1 Tbsn any fresh herbs, minced (parsley, cilantro, basil, etc)
1 Tbsp olive, coconut oil or butter

Egg  Basket16

  • Cut pepper into 1/2″ rings and remove the seeds and centers.

Egg Basket16

  • For more color use a variety of bell peppers.

Egg Basket18

  • Cut avocado in half vertically, remove pit and slice into rings. Slice tomatoes horizontally into rings.

Egg Basket19

  • In a large, non-stick skillet, heat  oil over medium/high heat.   Place sliced peppers into the pan and let them saute for a minute.

Egg Basket20

  • Turn the peppers over and crack one egg into the center of each bell pepper slice. Pour the egg in slowly; it prevents the egg from leaking and forms a nice seal.  If some egg leaks out just use a spatula to push it back under. It might help to press firmly down on the pepper slices while you pour in the egg. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until the whites are set and the yolk is runny.  Top with cheese, if desired, and serve.

Egg Basket21

  • For overeasy, turn over and top with cheese, if desired, salt and pepper.  Cook another minute, two for over hard.

Egg Basket22

  • Cover to melt cheese, if desired.

Egg Basket14

  • Top with avocado and tomato, if desired.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and/or fresh herbs.

Egg Basket25

 

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Grilled Avocado Caprese Salad

2

 

 

Grilled Avocado Caprese Salad10

Insalata Caprese, the ubiquitous tomato, mozzarella, and basil salad, is one of the most popular dishes in summer when tomatoes are in season and so, so good.  It also happens to be one of my favorites and a great way to use up extra tomatoes.  I sometimes include avocado to increase the nutritional value and make it a bit more filling as a main dish.  I must admit that I am on quite a grilling kick this summer which has taken an interesting turn since I am no longer just throwing steaks and burgers on the grill.  I have had to get more creative with ingredients and have started grilling fruits and vegetables that I would not have considered in the past,  including recent dishes,  Grilled Nectarines and Summer Squash with Balsamic Glaze and Grilled Artichoke Mixed Veggie Platter.

Grilled Vegetables1

Grilled Nectarines and Summer Squash with Balsamic Glaze

Grilled Veggies1

Grilled Artichoke Mixed Veggie Platter.

So when it came to making my first Caprese Salad of the summer, I decided to give it a twist by using the tiny sized mozzarella ‘Pearls’ and cherry tomatoes to top a grilled avocado.  Grilling the avocado gives it a wonderfully warm and creamy, slightly smoky flavor. In addition to being delicious, avocado is a great addition to any diet for health and weight loss.  “According to a study by the Haas Avocado Board, adding avocado to a lunch meal caused a 23-percent increase in satisfaction and a 28-percent decreased desire to eat over the next five hours after eating, compared with the avocado-free lunch. And, over a three-hour period, adding avocado to lunch meant a 26-percent increase in satisfaction and 40-percent decreased desire to eat later on.  Half an avocado has about 112 calories and 6 grams of fiber. Avocados are filled with heart-healthy fats, protein, potassium, and vitamins (such as B6, C, K, and B)” (Glamour.com)  So next time you have the grill going, throw on a couple of avocados.  You’ll like it!

Grilled Avocado Caprese Salad5

Grilled Avocado Caprese Salad

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 ripe but firm avocado
2 Tbsn olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup ciliglene, tiny fresh mozzarella balls (or larger mozzarella ball, diced)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced crosswise into strips (chiffonade)
1 Tbsn balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Grilled Avocado Caprese Salad

  • Using a sharp knife, slice avocado in half lengthwise.  To remove the pit easily, strike the pit with the sharp blade and twist slightly.  The pit should pop right out.

Grilled Avocado Caprese Salad3

  • Brush the cut sides of the avocado with olive oil, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.  Place cut side down on a hot grill and grill for about 5 minutes, or until you see nice grill marks.  You can place the avocados on the grill perpendicular or horizontal, depending on how you want the grill marks to look.

 

Grilled Avocado Caprese Salad12

  • Or you can get fancy and grill diagonally

.Grilled Avocado Caprese Salad11

  • Get crisscross grill marks by turning the avocado 90 degrees half way through.

Grilled Avocado Caprese Salad13

  • Remove avocados from heat and let cool slightly.

Grilled Avocado Caprese Salad8

  • Place each avocado half on a plate and fill with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, divided between the two.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Grilled Avocado Caprese Salad7

Grilled Avocado Photo Credits:

1) Horizontal- http://www.foodandstyle.com

2) Diagonal- http://www.glamour.com/health-fitness

3) Criss-Cross- http://www.grillinfools.com

Wheatless Wednesday – Arugula Salad with Roasted Corn and Edamame

1

Arugula Salad8

 

What does it mean if you see a groundhog in the summer?  A couple of days ago, I spotted a fat, furry little creature stealing strawberries from my garden.  It scurried off into the woods as soon as it saw me but not before I got a good look.  It took me a couple of days to figure out what kind of animal it was since I have never seen one before and I have to admit that I became a bit obsessed.  It looked like a beaver but with a fluffy, bristle brush-like tail.  I finally spotted an internet picture of my new little friend, who turns out to be a groundhog, although here in Maine they are called woodchucks.  I know that Maine had a brutally long winter and Punxatawny Phil saw his shadow on Groundhog Day dooming the East to six more weeks of winter, so I hope that this means six extra weeks of summer.   Perhaps the fact that the little guy is a Mainer, and therefore, only a woodchuck, maybe it doesn’t mean anything and he is just a cute little neighbor who likes my strawberries…

groundhog

Photo Courtesy of http://www.teacheratlas.com

So what does my groundhog/woodchuck have to do with Wheatless Wednesday?  Nothing, except that I was carrying all the veggies I just bought into the house when I spotted him and almost dropped them in my excitement.  This week in Maine has been hot and humid so we are eating lots of salads.  You might say I overthink food, and perhaps I do, but here is my take on a Green Salad, which is green (arugula) on green (edamame) on green (snowpeas) on green (avocado) on green (scallions) with just an accent of color (corn and maybe a sprinkle of goat cheese).   The variety in this salad comes from the flavors and textures rather than most summer salads that are generally pretty colorful.

Arugula Salad3

Corn is just starting to come into season and I have had trouble finding organic, non-GMO corn here in Maine, perhaps its just too early or maybe it’s an indication of how much of our corn is now GMO. 😦 It’s hard to pass up the bins of 10 ears of corn for $4.00 but I just did that yesterday.  Instead I bought 3 hard to find ears of organic white corn for $3.00.  Call me crazy but I really go out of my way to avoid GMO’s!  Since corn was my accent in this salad, I decided to rub it with butter, salt and pepper(and maybe just a tad of Creole Seasoning.  I like Tony Cachere’s) and roast it until it turns golden brown.  I let it cool and then sliced the kernels off into the salad.  Delicious!

Arugula Salad2

Although this salad is light, it is also pretty hearty. Arugula is a great choice for a green salad. Arugula contains about eight times the calcium, fives times the vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K, and four times the iron as the same amount of iceberg lettuce.  The Edamame provides protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals (including calcium and iron). and the Avocado is nutrient dense and a source of good fat (which we need to absorb the nutrients so don’t hold back).  Sugar Snap Peas are also a good source of vitamins and minerals including calcium and Vitamin C.   Corn gets a bad rap but is actually pretty loaded in antioxidants and fiber.  The best thing about this salad though is that it’s simple but delicious-a perfect hot summer meal!

Arugula Salad9

Arugula Salad with Roasted Corn and Edamame

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

3 cups baby arugula
1 cup edamame (fresh or frozen, thawed)
1 cup sugar snap peas, sliced lengthwise
1 avocado, peeled and diced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2-3 ears of fresh corn, shucked
2 tsp butter (olive or coconut oil)
salt, pepper & creole seasoning (optional)
2 Tbsn goat cheese (optional)

Arugula Salad

  •  Wash corn and remove any remaining strings.  Rub 1/2 teaspoon butter onto each ear (I used my hands which was messy but effective) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  I also like to add a bit of Creole Seasoning.  Put in a roasting pan and broil for 3-5 minutes per side, or until golden brown.  Let cool.

Arugula Salad6

  • Place arugula in the bottom of a large bowl.  Add snowpeas, avocado, edamame and green onions.  Slice the kernels off the cobs and add to the salad.

Arugula Salad7

  • Top with crumbled goat cheese or serve on the side, if desired.
  • To make a simple vinaigrette, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbsn lemon juice, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper
  • Drizzle with vinaigrette or serve on the side.

 

 

 

Meatless Monday – Composed Salad

0

Composed Salad2

What is a composed salad?  It is a salad that has been artfully arranged and drizzled with vinaigrette rather than tossed.  Why, you might ask, would you go to the trouble to arrange your veggies instead of just tossing everything together?  Well the obvious answer is aesthetics.  Composed salads elevate what would otherwise be a simple salad into  an artistic centerpiece.  The other benefit is that each ingredient maintains it’s integrity so you can taste each individual flavor.  Of course it all ends up mixed together eventually but each person gets to ‘create’ their own personal salad by hand picking from the tray of goodies.  Composed salads are usually hearty enough to be main courses, think Cobb Salad, but the possibilities are endless.  If you don’t have a rectangular tray, go circular like this Rainbow Chopped Salad by Fueled By Vegetables.

Chopped Salad13

You can even take the vertical or 3D approach like this layered Southwestern salad from Kitchen Excursions

Composed Salad10

I love composed or arranged salads, perhaps for the same reason I like to stack food and make edible ‘towers’ like my Crab Quinoa Tower or Polenta Towers. It must be the wanna be artist hidden deep inside me. Don’t worry I’m sticking to food. I recently went to my friend, Nicole’s birthday party where we  attempted learned to paint flowers and owls. Lets just say that my sad little flower went quite happily to it’s demise in the dumpster. I guess my artistry only goes so far…

Composed Salad12

My friends know that I rarely make the exact same salad twice, but I do use the same techniques over and over again, changing the ingredients to use what I have on hand or meet the situation. If I need a main course salad, I use heartier ingredients like chopped egg, beans and avocado to fill up hungry bellies. For a side salad I might do a combination of veggies and fruit with just a sprinkle of feta or goat cheese. The beauty of a composed salad is that it is visually striking and completely flexible.  Just layer the bottom of a wide container with greens and top with rows of any vegetables (or fruit), beans, cheese or nuts that you would normally put in a salad.  Voila, you have a visual feast!  It’s not more work, it just looks like it.

Composed Salad1

The amounts will vary depending on the size of your tray or bowl (A low platter works better than a deep bowl).  Amounts listed here are what I used for this particular salad in a 14×14 square tray.  Round works too, just put the ingredients you want the most of in the center rows, arrange them in triangles or concentric circles like a bullseye.  In arranging the rows, take advantage of the variations in color to provide a contrast.  I also put the cheese and egg on the sides so they are easier to avoid for those that are allergic or don’t eat them.  Be creative!  Use beets, artichoke, hearts of palm, strawberries, nuts or raisins.  Adding grains like quinoa or rice help make it a hearty main course.

Composed Salad5

Composed Salad

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 5-6 oz mixed lettuce
1 cup cooked, or 1 can garbanzo or black beans, drained and rinsed
2 large, ripe tomatoes, diced
1 large avocado, diced
1 cucumber, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
3 hard boiled eggs, diced (optional)
3 oz feta, crumbled

Composed Salad7

  • Spread a layer of lettuce to cover the bottom of the container

Composed Salad9

  • Arrange each diced vegetable in rows, taking care to put allergens like cheeses and eggs on the outer rows.

Composed Salad8

  • Drizzle with your favorite vinaigrette or mix up a simple fresh one by whisking together 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbsn balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tsp dry mustard, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper.  Serve with more dressing on the side.

Composed Salad1

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Scallop Ceviche with Avocado and Tomatillo

2

Scallop Ceviche2

Summer officially begins on Saturday and you know what that means- long lazy days spent at the lake, cool, refreshing drinks by the pool and the return of brilliant pink and red sunsets!  It also means salads or cool foods that don’t heat up your body or your kitchen.  Ceviche is popular in South and Central America where temperatures are warm most of the year.  For the uninitiated, Ceviche is a delicious taste sensation.  Various fish or shellfish is marinated in a citrus-based mixture, usually lemons and limes. In addition to adding flavor, the citric acid causes the proteins in the seafood to become denatured, which is what makes it firm and gives it the taste and feel of being cooked.  Recipes for ceviche vary among countries but adding onions and chili peppers or other herbs and vegetables is fairly common.

My ceviche was inspired by the ingredients I had on hand (tomatillo, serrano peppers, red onion, cilantro and the first tomatoes from my garden), which give it a more Mexican flavor.  I had never used tomatillos before and bought them on a whim the other day. Tomatillo, (in Spanish “green or little tomato”) is not really a tomato but a part of the nightshade family.   If you don’t have access to tomatillos, then you can omit them from the recipe or put some of those ‘not quite ripe tomatoes’ to work for you for a similar flavor.

The ceviche needs at least 3 hours or over night to “cook” but can be assembled in less than 10 minutes.  The flavors combine for a tasty, slightly spicy and refreshing dish that is loaded with vitamins and minerals plus healthy fats.  This is perfect for when you don’t want to turn on your oven.  It makes a great appetizer served in small glasses with chips or crackers or as a main or side dish.

 

Scallop Ceviche4

Scallop Ceviche with Avocado and Tomatilla

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Scallop Ceviche1

2 lbs bay scallops
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely diced
2-3 Serrano peppers(or other hot pepper), seeded and diced
6 limes, 2 lemons freshly squeezed (should be enough to cover scallops)
1/2 red onion, finely diced
3-4 tomatillas
2-3 ripe tomatoes, diced
2 avocados, peeled, seeded and diced

Scallop Ceviche5

  • Rinse scallops and pat dry.  Place them in a ziplock bag or container with a lid.
  • Add garlic, lime and salt.
  • Dice peppers, onion and cilantro and add to scallops.
  • Remove papery skin from tomatillas and rinse to remove the sticky residue. Dice and add to the scallop mixture.
  • Gently comgine.  The scallops should be covered by lime juice.  Add a bit more if necessary.  Refrigerate at least 2 or 3 hours or overnight while the scallops “cook”.
  • Before serving pour off excess liquid, leaving a bit to keep it moist.  Add tomatoes and avocados and gently combine.

Scallop Ceviche6

  • Serve with crackers or tortilla chips (my fave)..

Scallop Ceviche3

 

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Black Bean Quinoa Salad

6

Black Bean Mango Quinoa Salad4

Tired of green salad?  This flavor filled quinoa salad with mango and avocado topped with an orange cumin vinaigrette is my new favorite!  I promise you won’t be bored. It’s a little bit spicy from the jalapenos, a little bit sweet from the mango, the black beans add a rich salty flavor and fresh avocado, purple onion, bell pepper and cilantro make it salad worthy.  Yum!

Quinoa is the perfect backdrop for these beautiful flavors.  It also happens to be a nutritional powerhouse, high in protein, low in fat, gluten free and loaded with lovely vitamins and minerals (but you don’t have to tell your family that).  What I didn’t know is that Mango is also a superfood, providing over 20 vitamins and minerals in every delicious bite. ( This puts a whole new light on my recipe for Mango Margaritas!)  Black beans add another protein and nutrient boost and their high fiber content helps keep your tummy full. Then there is the Avocado, which we now know is a good fat that is highly nutritious.   The best part of this salad though, is how great it tastes!  I can’t wait to have it again for lunch…

This is the perfect dish to throw together for an easy dinner or bring to a potluck, especially if you have leftover quinoa on hand (or you make it ahead), then it’s only about ten minutes of chopping, mixing and you’re done!  This salad can be made a day ahead, without the avocado.  Bring to room temperature then gently toss in the avocado, if using, before serving.

TIP:  You can buy mango pre-cut but it’s very easy to do it yourself (and less expensive) if you know the right technique.  How to cut a Mango

VARIATIONS:  If you don’t have, or like, mango, you can substitute orange or nectarine segments (or even canned or frozen corn).  Use a combination of yellow, orange, red and green bell peppers for lots of color.  This recipe is only mildly spicy using one red jalapeno pepper so double the amount of jalapeno peppers and add a bit more cumin if you like it hot.

Black Bean Mango Quinoa Salad

Black Bean Quinoa with Cumin Orange Vinaigrette

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 Black Bean Mango Quinoa Salad4

1 cup quinoa
1 cup mango, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 red or green jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion, diced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro or parsley leaves, chopped
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and diced
 
 vinaigrette
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt

Black Bean Mango Quinoa Salad3

  • Rinse quinoa to remove bitterness and cook according to package instructions; set aside and let cool.
  • To make the vinaigrette, whisk together olive oil, apple cider vinegar, orange juice, cumin and salt in a small bowl; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine quinoa, mango, bell pepper, jalapeno, black beans, avocado, onion and cilantro. Pour the vinaigrette on top of the salad and gently toss to combine.
  • If you aren’t serving immediately, place the avocado pit on top of the salad to keep the avocado from turning brown, or add the avocado right before serving .  Serve at room temperature.

Black Bean Mango Quinoa Salad8

 

Meatless Monday – Avocado Toast with Coconut ‘Bacon’

4

Avocado Toast 1

BACON – NEED I SAY MORE? I stopped eating meat last June and I must say I don’t really miss it. BACON, however, which really should be it’s own food group, is a different story… There is something about bacon’s crispy, fatty, salty deliciousness that is just so irresistible! I know people who are vegetarians, except for bacon.  I mean, there is a Bacon of the Month Club!   So when I stumbled upon a recipe for Sweet Smokey Coconut Bacon on Pintarest (via www.tohealthblog.wordpress.com ), I realized a stroke of brilliance was before me, bacon without the guilt.

I have been hooked on Avocado Toast for breakfast these past couple of weeks. I’ve been trying to recreate my favorite appetizer, Avocado Bruschetta, from Picco Restaurant in Larkspur, which has chorizo crumbled on top. I have been substituting dry toasted pine nuts and flakes of Maldon Sea Salt which I was pretty happy with -Until I heard about COCONUT BACON! I let my fingers do the walking (thank you google) only to find that there are many, many recipes for coconut bacon on the internet. How did I not know this? Two of my favorite flavors together sounds like a match made in heaven. The recipes call for varying combinations of coconut flakes, maple syrup, smoked paprika, cloves, Braggs Amino Acids, Liquid Smoke or Soy Sauce. For those, unenlightened folks like me, Braggs Amino Acids is a gluten free soy sauce substitute that has beneficial amino acids.  I tried one batch with liquid smoke and one without and I liked it better without, but that is a personal taste. I know a lot of men people love that smoky flavor .  So does it really taste like bacon?  Not really, but it makes a tasty substitute that is  mostly monosaturated fat and Omega-6 fatty acids, which are extremely beneficial for  the body.  For nutritional info on coconut click here:  (http://www.ehow.com/about_5304349_health-benefits-coconut-flakes.html)

Avocados have gotten a bad rap as a high fat, high calorie food when they  are actually quite healthy and are nutrient dense. (Calories that Count).   ‘Nutrient density is a measure of the amount of nutrients a food contains in comparison to the number of calories. One-fifth of a medium avocado (1 oz.) has 50 calories and contributes nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, making it a nutrient-dense food choice.  They are naturally sodium and cholesterol free and contain mono and poly unsaturated fats (good fats).’  For more information on the benefits of amazing avocados click here. (http://www.californiaavocado.com/avocado-nutrients/)

Avocado Toast 2Avocado Toast 3

Avocado Toast with Coconut 'Bacon'

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 

2 slices good bread (sourdough, ciabatta or whole grain )
1 Tbsn olive oil, coconut oil or butter (optional)
1 half ripe avocado
Salt (I like coarse or flaked sea salt)
2 Tbsn pine nuts (optional)
2 Tbsn coconut ‘bacon’ (recipe below)

  • Brush tops of bread with oil and broil for a few minutes until golden.  Or you can toast in a toaster and then brush with a bit of oil.
  • Dry roast pine nuts in a medium fry pan until golden.  Remove from heat.
  • Pit, peel and half avocado.  Slice.  Place half of slices on each piece of toast. Or you can ‘smash’ it on the toast with a fork.
  • Top with coconut bacon and pine nuts.  Sprinkle with salt.  Enjoy!

Coconut Bacon 5

Coconut ‘Bacon’

1 cup  coconut flakes
1 Tbsn liquid aminos (or soy sauce)
2 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
1 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
4-6 cloves ground (or 1/4 tsp pre-ground cloves)
2 tsp  water
Coconut Bacon 1 Coconut Bacon 2
  • Mix the aminos, syrup, paprika, cloves, liquid smoke and water together in a bowl until well combined.  Gently stir in the coconut flakes, trying to coat them each thoroughly and soak up the liquid.  Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir again gently.

Coconut Bacon 3 Coconut Bacon 4

  • Preheat over to 300°F, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  Store them in a plastic bag or container.  Does not need to be refrigerated.

Coconut Bacon 5

Avocado Toast 1

[/recipe]