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.

 

Basic Salsa

I am truly embarrassed at how much of my life I spent buying salsa instead of making it myself.  Homemade is fun, it tastes better, it’s cheaper, and totally customizable!  I typically double this recipe and fill many jars to store and give away, but even the recipe as-is will give you a good amount.  Start with the base and then taste and add things as needed, especially peppers.

I make mine in the food processor, but I’ve done it in a blender in a pinch – you just have to do smaller amounts and stir together.  I generally start with the big can of the tomatoes and one can of rotel to break it down, then move a good amount to a mixing bowl just to free up some space in the food processor.  If you don’t, some of the garlic and onions tend to get lost and don’t break down, but you won’t find them until you’re pouring it into jars and it will irritate you.

Basic Salsa

28oz can whole tomatoes

2 cans rotel

half of an onion, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1-2 jalapenos (you’ll start with half of one – they can really vary in heat), stemmed and seeded

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cumin

handful of cilantro leaves

1-2T lime juice

1. Process the tomatoes and one of the cans of rotel until they reach the desired consistency.  Pour half of the mixture into a large bowl.  Then add the other can of rotel, the onions, and garlic, and process until all of the garlic and onion bits are broken down adequately.  Add half of a jalepeno (the whole jalepeno if you know you want it hot), and the spices.  Blend again.  Add the cilantro leaves and lime juice, blend again.

2. Pour everything else into the big bowl and stir to combine.  Give it a taste – add more jalapeno, salt, garlic or lime to taste.  Store in jars in the refrigerator.  If well sealed, they will last a few months.  If you need it to last longer, I’d recommend freezing.

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

 

Miso Salmon

In the past decade of dating/being married to my husband he’s made a lot of requests in the food department.  I enjoy a challenge and, with the exception of one ill-conceived and poorly executed pesto, he’s always been happy to eat everything I make.  Lately he’s suggested more seafood and I have been trying some new fish dishes.  We cook with shrimp a lot, but other fish is not my wheelhouse – I am not experienced enough to make substitutes well based on what’s available.  I also have been generally opposed to salmon – it seems like salmon got trendy in the early 2000s and it was everywhere and generally poorly prepared and I just got tired of it.  I never buy it, but it was on sale at the grocery store and Ross wanted more fish, so I gave it a try.

This dish might be the single easiest dinner I’ve ever made.  It takes 3 minutes of prep the night before and 10 minutes of cooking the day of.  That’s it.  I’ve served it with rice and with quinoa, usually with grilled asparagus on the side.  It’s insanely good.  The miso paste may be hard to find, I located it at Whole Foods.  It’s fermented soybean paste – so it stays good forever in the refrigerator.  Whether you’re a long time salmon lover or a salmon skeptic, give this a try.  Mostly because you can make it in 11 minutes.  You do need to marinate it overnight, so keep that in mind.

Miso Salmon

adapted from Keepers by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion

2/3 cup red miso paste

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

3 Tbsp brown sugar

1lb of salmon filets (at my grocery store, this means 2 long filets so I cut eat in half to get four pieces)

1. Place the miso paste, vinegar, and brown sugar in a large ziploc bag or tupperware and mix together until combined.  Add the fish, making sure to coat all sides, and place in the refrigerator overnight.

2. When you’re ready to eat, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, spray or brush with a little olive oil, and heat the oven to 400.  Arrange the salmon pieces on the foil skin side downand bake for 6 minutes, flip them over, and bake an additional 4 minutes, until you’re just able to flake the fish with a spatula.

Tortellini Salad

When I became a stay-at-home Mom, lunch took on a whole new meaning.  On one hand, it was awesome – I wasn’t restricted to 30 minutes with only a microwave for cooking.  I could use a stove!  Any ingredients I wanted!  I could eat whenever!  It was all fine and good until I found myself with 2 screaming kids who also wanted to eat and a menu that basically varied between taco bell and peanut butter sandwiches.  Something had to change.  Once I had my head above water with 2 kids, I made an effort to improve my lunches.  It’s nothing fancy – typically a wrap sandwich, salad, leftovers, etc.

This tortellini salad is a great lunch option whether you work or stay at home.  It’s good cold and actually improves during it’s time in the refrigerator.  You can add or subtract anything from the recipe – depending on what you have.  I like to make a big tupperware full of this and eat a bowl for lunch every day.  As the dressing soaks into the veggies and pasta, they get better and better.

Tortellini Salad

1 large package cheese tortellini (I use the 20oz. Contadina)

1 small container feta cheese (or goat, if that’s what you have)

1lb. cherry tomatoes

1 cucumber

1/2 to 1 cup kalamata olives

1/2  of a red onion

1/4 cup olive oil

3T red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp dried oregano

salt and pepper

1. Boil the tortellini according to package directions, but subtracting about 20% of the cooking time (if it says 10, only go 8).  Half the cherry tomatoes, chop the cucumber, kalamata olives, and onion.

2. Whisk the olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, and oregano.

3. Run the tortellini under cold water.  In a large bowl stir the tortellini, olives, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and crumbled feta.  Pour the dressing over the top and toss to distribute evenly.  Chill before serving.