Monday Salad

Have you ever sat down to relax on Sunday evening and had the realization that the only vegetable you’d consumed in the entire day was an onion ring?  Weekends in our home are notorious for eating food that has more taste value than nutritional value.  We get out of our normal schedule and sometimes end up drinking coffee for a few hours in the morning and then going out for a few thousand calories worth of Tex Mex and calling it a day.  Often weekends are when I have time to get serious baking done.  Sometimes we spend an afternoon at the food truck park.  Regardless of how our weekend goes, by Monday I’m yearning for healthy food.  During the colder months I make soup and during the warmer months we have salad.  While we don’t specifically focus on “Meatless Monday”, we only eat meat a few times a week and usually not on Mondays unless I happen to have a few extra grilled chicken breasts in the fridge.

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I also grocery shop and meal plan on Mondays and a big salad or soup is a great chance to clear out the previous week’s uneaten produce.  This particular salad evolves every single week in our house based on grocery sales and the contents of my fridge.  I’ve included a few variations, but unlike baking a cake, a salad is very imprecise.  Use what you have and what you like.  This version of the salad feeds conservatively 8 people.  It’s huge.  We have a big family and I like leftovers, but consider halving if you don’t want salad for days.  Grab your cutting board and your best knife – let’s go!

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Monday Salad

1 head lettuce (I prefer romaine, but iceberg or spinach will work, too)

1/2 head of purple cabbage

1 head broccoli

3-6 carrots or a large handful of baby carrots

1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes

3 green onions

1 package ramen noodles

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 Tbsp butter

1 can chickpeas OR 2 grilled chicken breasts

 

Dressing:

1/2 cup oil (coconut, canola, vegetable, whatever.  I use Mediterranean blend, which is a grapeseed/olive mix).

1/3 cup rice wine vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp sriracha or tabasco

1. Finely chop the lettuce and cabbage to make the base of the salad, arrange in a large, shallow bowl or platter.  Dice the broccoli, discarding the stems, and green onions and arrange on top.  Peel and dice the carrots, scatter on top.  Half the cherry tomatoes and finely chop any other vegetables you have (radishes, celery, cucumber).

2. In a small frying pan, melt the butter and with the ramen noodle package still sealed, use a mallet or meat tenderizer (or your hand, whatever) to crush the noodles up.  You CAN open the bag and chop it up, but it creates a mega mess.  Discard the “flavor” pouch.  Pour the crushed, uncooked noodles and the sunflower seeds into the pan and toast for a few minutes until golden brown and fragrant.

3.  Either drain and rinse your chickpeas or finely dice or shred your chicken breasts and add to your salad.

4. In a small jar, combine all salad dressing ingredients and shake until combined.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve.  I layer my salad on a platter so I don’t need to toss it – we just scoop straight down to get everything.  If you’re using a bowl, definitely toss your salad.  If you’d like to add any sliced avocado or cheese, I recommend adding it to bowls individually – the dressed salad will save just fine for about 48 hours without those ingredients.

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Elotes – Mexican Street Corn

I find myself so fascinated by shows like “Extreme Couponing” – coming up to the checkout with $500 worth of mayonnaise and antacids and slowly watching the total dwindle down to $6.75 must be a huge adrenaline rush and I applaud the thriftiness of these coupon mavens. Unfortunately, I find three problems with extreme couponing:

1. It takes time, which I don’t have.

2. I have neither the space nor the desire to store $500 worth of mayonnaise and antacids.

3. I take my food seriously and coupons for real foods (produce, protein, and dairy) don’t really exist.

So what’s a girl to do? I am pretty much bound to seasonal produce and often improvise a dish based on what’s on sale. I do prefer eating seasonal produce, but sometimes eating the same stuff for weeks on end becomes pretty lame. Thus was the case with corn. I just can’t pass up a good corn deal, and for the last 6-8 weeks it’s been 6-8 ears for $1. Insane – I can’t pass that up. Unfortunately, my family started getting really sick of corn (other than my daughter) – boiled, buttered corn is delicious, but it’s not a weekly staple. We had to revamp the corn. In came elotes – street corn! Grilled and sauced, it brings new life to lowly corn. You’ll start to think it SHOULD be a weekly dish – in fact, I might be sad when it becomes expensive again.

I’ve had elotes from restaurants that was boiled corn with the elotes sauce – it’s fine, and in a pinch is still good, but if at all possible, grill the corn. We’ve served it on and off of the cob, and while it’s good both ways, it’s less of a mess to eat if you cut it from the cob.

Elotes

8 ears fresh corn

1/2 cup mayonnaise (1 step closer to clearing the coupon stash!)

1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt

1/2 cup shredded cotija or queso fresco cheese

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp garlic salt (regular salt is fine, too)

1 garlic clove

1 lime

handful of fresh cilantro

1. Shuck the corn, heat the grill. Stir together the mayonnaise and sour cream until well combined. Add in the chili powder, paprika, and garlic salt. Mince or press the garlic and add the garlic and cheese to the sauce. Chop the cilantro and cut the lime into small wedges.

2. Place the corn directly on the grill, turning frequently (8-10 minutes) until all sides are nicely charred. Cut the corn from the cob and serve with the sauce, a squeeze of lime, and a little cilantro.

Late Summer Gazpacho

If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where it isn’t summer anymore, feel free to file this away for use 7-8 months.  But if, like me, you’re still seeing 90 degree temperatures and you’re looking for a fresh tasting meal, then join me for some gazpacho.  If you haven’t made gazpacho before, you definitely should.  It’s quite possibly the easiest dinner ever, it will sufficiently increase your fruit and vegetable consumption for the day, and if you’ve ever thought it would be wise to eat salsa straight out of the bowl, but spice is a concern – you’ll be in heaven.

It’s great for a light lunch, but if you’re serving it for dinner you probably need to consider it as an appetizer or serve some heavy side dishes.

Gazpacho

adapted from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman

3 garlic cloves

1/2 red onion

1 cucumber

1 zucchini

2 stalks of celery

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup olive oil

2T red wine vinegar

1 tsp tabasco or cholula

4 cups V8

salt and pepper

3 hardboiled eggs

1 avocado

1. Peel and roughly chop the garlic and onion and pulse in a food processor until liquefied.  Cut off the ends of the zucchini and cucumber and process until smooth.  Roughly chop the celery and tomatoes and add until the soup is about the consistency of salsa.

2. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the oil, vinegar, hot sauce, and V8.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

3. Chop the avocado and eggs and serve the gazpacho cold with the eggs and avocado on top.

Vinegar-based Barbecue Sauce

A few weeks ago I posted a recipe for BBQ sauce – a classic, sweet, molasses-y sauce that’s great with beef, especially brisket.  This sauce has a different flavor – it’s a little more of a Tennessee style, vinegar-based sauce.  It isn’t as sweet – a little more tangy.  It’s especially good with pork and chicken.  When you grill and smoke meat as often as the men in my life, there’s room for a bevy of sauces.

This particular recipe comes from none other than Aaron Franklin – of Franklin’s BBQ fame.  I think his has some “secret” ingredients, but this is the recipe he’s willing to share and it’s pretty stellar.  There’s also something to be said for the combination of the smoker smell happening outside and the sauce cooking inside – your mouth basically waters all day.

Vinegar-based Barbecue Sauce

2 sticks of butter

1/2 of a yellow onion

1 1/2 cups ketchup

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp garlic powder

half of a lemon

1. In a saucepan over high heat, melt the butter.  Chop the onion finely and add to the butter, cooking until translucent (note that the smell of onions cooking in butter is one of the best in the world!).  Add the ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, and spices.  Stir everything together and cook until it comes to a boil.  Turn the heat down and simmer on the stove for at least 30 minutes, until it has reduced to a thick sauce.

2. Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir to combine.  This sauce has no emulsifiers, so the butter and vinegar will separate.  I store mine in a jar and shake it up before I use it.

Italian Chopped Salad

I attended a local university for my second two years of college and lived at home.  While a lot of college students would hate living with their parents and teenage brothers, I tend to look back on those days very fondly.  During that time my youngest brother (who was 10-11) had a music lesson every Thursday night across town and my parents, my other brother, and I would ride along (in a minivan, natch), go shopping during his lesson, and then eat at a local Italian place, Joe’s.  The food there was a no-nonsense baked pastas and pizza, but the real standout was their signature salad – The Joe’s Salad.  It was one of those salads so rich in cheese and meat that it could hardly be classified as actual salad, but so delicious that you couldn’t stop eating it.

So, when I found this recipe it went on my menu immediately – and will be repeated often in the coming months.  A dinner salad is one of my favorites in the summer because it requires no cooking – you don’t get a hot kitchen from oven/stove use, and since the meal itself isn’t warm it has a cool, refreshing taste.  I feel like I’ve run about 10 degrees too hot since 2011 since I became pregnant for the first time so anything to avoid heat in the summer is excellent.  Give this salad a try – like all salads, customize it to fit your needs and preferences.  As always, I prefer to serve the dressing on the side so the leftovers don’t become soggy.  Also, I bought a half pound of both the salami and provolone, expecting to use it all, but it was too much.  You could get by with 1/4lb, but I thought 1/3 pound was about perfect.

Italian Chopped Salad

serves 4 to 6 as a complete meal

for the salad:

1 large head of crunchy lettuce (I used romaine, but iceberg, radicchio, or some combination would work)

1/2 of a red onion

1/3 to 1/2 pound of salami

1/3 to 1/2 pound of provolone cheese

1 pint cherry tomatoes

a handful of pepperoncini (or banana pepper) rings

1 can chickpeas

for the dressing:

3 cloves of garlic (or 2tsp garlic powder)

1T dried oregano

2tsp salt

pepper

juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1. Chop the lettuce, finely slice the onion, and dice the provolone and salami into bite-sized pieces (I had them sliced thick in the deli, then cut them into small ribbons.  Cut the tomatoes in half and arrange all of the chopped salad ingredients into a large bowl.  Top with the drained and rinsed chickpeas and pepperoncinis.

2. To make the dressing, smash the garlic cloves, oregano, and salt together with either a knife or a mortar and pestle.  Combine with the other dressing ingredients and serve.  I typically put my dressing in a jam jar so I can shake it to combine, but whisking works fine, too.

 

Salmon Chopped Salad

Our family has recently rediscovered cabbage, so we’ve been eating cabbage salads every week.  I’m not sure how we ever forgot about cabbage, but the crunch, the color, the healthiness – it’s really a great base for a summery salad.  Last week I shared my chopped chicken salad, this is sort of a variation on that, but it has a little more ginger and a little less peanut.  I made it for my mother-in-law and sister-in-law for a light, summery dinner, but it’d also be a great lunch.

It’s also a good time to point out that I’ve started measuring lime juice in tablespoon and teaspoons recently and not in actual limes.  I much prefer fresh limes, but in the recent lime crisis, I just can’t afford $1.79 per lime, so I bought a big jug of lime juice and I’ve been using that for everything except gin & tonics, which call for true lime wedges.  I typically think a lime yields 2T of juice, but I also don’t really measure things like lime juice with any accuracy anyway.

Salmon Chopped Salad

for the salmon:

1lb. salmon filets (for me, this usually means 2 filets, and I cut each in half to make 4 equal pieces)

1T lime juice (half a lime)

2T soy sauce

2 cloves of garlic

small cube of fresh ginger

1/2 tsp sriracha

salt and pepper

for the salad:

half a head of purple cabbage

6ish cups of spinach (I like there to be about the same amount of cabbage and spinach)

4 green onions

3 carrots

1 mango

handful of cilantro

3T toasted sesame seeds

for the dressing:

2T lime

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tsp sesame oil

1/3 cup soy sauce

2T honey

1T garlic powder

1T ginger (I use granulated)

1 tsp (or more) sriracha

1. Preheat the oven to 400.  Mince the garlic and ginger.  Stir the lime juice, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and sriracha together to create a glaze.  Brush the salmon on both sides with the glaze and create a packet of foil to bake the fish in.  Bake the fish for 8-10 minutes, until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

2. Chop the cabbage, carrots, green onions, and spinach.  Peel and dice the mango.  Toss together in a large serving bowl.  Chop the cilantro and sprinkle on top.

3. Combine the dressing ingredients together and whisk until well combined.  Serve the salad with the warm fish on top, drizzled with dressing, topped with sesame seeds.

Nutrition: 539 calories for 1/4 of the salmon, salad, and dressing.  25g fat, 18g sugar, 33g protein.

 

Edited to add:

The lime crisis is over!  Use real limes – they’re cheap again!

 

Chopped Chicken Salad

As summer comes upon us, the weather gets warmer, and I want to spend more time in the pool and less time in the kitchen, I find myself craving dinners that are refreshing, easy, and still filling.  Salads with protein are one of my favorite ways to get in some vegetables and a hearty dinner without spending hours over a hot stove.  This chopped chicken salad makes a ton – so if you are only serving a few, you’ll have leftovers for a few days of lunch.  Alternatively, served with cold beers and a killer dessert, it’s great when you have company, too (it’s beautiful to serve).  It’s also one of those meals that you can mix up the ingredients on based on what you need to use up in the fridge – the cabbage and carrots are a must to me, but any other crunchy vegetables would work well, too.  I use finely diced grilled chicken, but any leftover protein would work (shrimp. beef, even tofu).

I’m also excited to share that I’ll be sharing nutrition information for my recipes.  I’ve been pregnant and/or breastfeeding continuously for the past 3 and a half years, so being aware of my calorie intake is important.  I certainly believe that there’s a time and place for splurges (um, see the cheesecake I posted last month), so meals like this that pack in a lot of protein and vegetables without a ton of calories make for a great hearty lunch or dinner – especially when there’s great dessert to be had.  I hope you enjoy this new feature.

Chopped Chicken Salad

2 grilled chicken breasts

1 small head purple cabbage

3-4 carrots

3-4 green onions

1 mango

small handful of chopped roasted peanuts

small handful of cilantro

for the dressing;

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp sriracha

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

2T honey

1/2 cup peanut butter

2T lime juice

2T sesame or olive oil

2T fish sauce

1/2 cup water

1. Chop the cabbage and finely slice the carrots and arrange in a bowl.  Finely dice the green onions and mango.  Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and arrange all in the bowl.  Top with chopped peanuts and cilantro.

2. Stir all of the dressing ingredients together until combined (unless you’re using natural peanut butter, the emulsifiers in the pb will keep it from separating).  Either dress the salad or serve with the dressing on the side (my preference).

Nutrition information:

272 calories for 1/8 of the salad and the dressing.  Note that this does not include the peanuts, which can account for a lot of calories if you aren’t careful.  They aren’t completely necessary, but if you add, say, a tablespoon, you’re adding about 80 calories.  I typically skip them unless it’s dinner and I need some extra protein and calories.

13g fat

10g cholesterol

20g carbs

13g sugars

18g protein