Category Archives: Salad

Strawberry Avocado Salad

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This salad is something I whipped up on a hot afternoon recently, as a way to avoid cooking, and decided that it was good enough to share the recipe. I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I really enjoy a good salad but I’m often too lazy to get out all the ingredients and prepare a salad. I have no problem prepping food for the meals I cook, but for some reason the idea of preparing a salad always turns me off. I’ve been trying to change that lately, and the warm weather helps.

This Strawberry Avocado Salad combines fresh summer produce with filling protein and leafy greens. I used avocado, a hard-boiled egg, almonds, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese for protein and healthy fats to keep me satisfied, and fresh strawberries and a light raspberry vinaigrette for sweetness. This salad is light yet filling and makes a perfect lunch. Next time I make it I would add grilled chicken. I also think a poppy seed or citrus vinaigrette would complement the salad nicely as well.

I was recently reading that a well-balanced salad includes nuts, cheese, something sweet, and acidity. I found this to make a lot of sense and realized I already tend to base my salads around these guidelines: Nuts, for protein and healthy fats; cheese, for more protein and a salty flavor; and something sweet and slightly sour to balance each other out. Nuts and cheese do add significant calories to a salad, but if you’re eating a salad as a meal, those calories are necessary to supply you with nutrients and keep you full. Opting for monounsaturated fats whenever possible and eating those fats in moderation will help to keep your diet in check, but that being said, I think it’s okay to splurge a bit when you’re really craving something.

Strawberry Avocado Salad
makes 1 salad

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Ingredients:

  • 1 small stalk of romaine hearts, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 3-4 strawberries, rinsed and diced
  • 1/4 avocado, diced
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, crumbled
  • 2-3 Tbsp sliced almonds
  • 2 Tbsp raspberry or citrus vinaigrette
  • optional: sprinkle of parmesan cheese
  • optional: small breast of grilled chicken

Directions:

In a salad bowl, combine all ingredients and top off with salad dressing. Enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚

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Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

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This is a recipe I stumbled upon on Pinterest, only to find out it comes from Ina Garten. Barefoot Contessa is one of my favorite shows on the food network. I love Ina ‘s calm demeanor and her versions of classic dishes. This particular recipe has awesome ratings on Foodnetwork.com and seemed like a perfect dish for the beginning of the summer.

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables includes roasted bell peppers, onion, and eggplant, served over orzo and finished off with feta cheese, fresh herbs, and a light lemony dressing. After reading through the comments on this recipe’s Foodnetwork page, I tweaked some of the ingredients a bit and left out the pine nuts but overall tried to keep all the wonderful flavors intact. You can view the original recipe here,and you can even watch a video of how it’s done.

My mom makes an orzo pasta salad with tomatoes, black beans, corn and feta which we always enjoy at home. This recipe reminds me a bit of my mom’s orzo, but perhaps with a Mediterranean twist. I like dishes like this because they can be served hot or cold, for lunch or for dinner. You can also play around with the ingredients and incorporate your favorite vegetables or herbs. This recipe makes a large batch, so if you’re cooking for a smaller crowd you may want to cut it in half like I did.

I’m not a big fan of traditional pasta salad, but I loved this dish. The tangy dressing and salty feta perfectly balance the sweet roasted vegetables, and the combination of the basil and scallions is just right – not to mention how wonderfully colorful it is. This recipe will definitely be making an appearance at any cookouts I attend this summer.

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables
slightly adapted from Ina Garten’s Orzo with Roasted Vegetables seen on Barefoot Contessa

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Ingredients:
serves 6 (but can be easily cut in half)

  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small eggplant, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 pound orzo
  • 4 scallions, chopped + 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 8 oz. feta, crumbled
  • For the dressing:
    • 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons – I used slightly less, closer to 2-3 Tbsp)
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • salt and pepper, to taste

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Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425ยบF. Prepare the chopped vegetables and garlic by tossing them with enough olive oil to coat (about 3 Tbsp) and arrange them on a large baking sheet. Roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring once or twice, until veggies are tender and lightly browned.
  2. While the veggies are roasting, cook your orzo according to box directions. After draining, transfer to a large bowl and toss with the roasted vegetables.
  3. To make the dressing, simply whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Pour over the orzo and vegetables and stir to combine. Let cool to room temperature and then add the scallions, basil, and feta.* Serve as a side dish or for lunch or dinner.

*Ina says it’s important to pour the dressing over the orzo while it’s hot because it will absorb more of it, and I also read in the comments that letting the dish cool to room temperature makes for the best flavor.

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Toss your chopped veggies and garlic with olive oil and bake at 425 for 30-40 minutes. While your veggies are roasting, begin cooking your orzo.

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Once your veggies are tender and browned, they’re done. I cooked mine for about 35 minutes.

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Prepare the dressing by whisking together the lemon juice, 1/4 cup of olive oil and salt and pepper.

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Combine your cooked orzo and veggies, and stir in lemon dressing. Let sit and cool to room temperature.

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When your orzo has cooled, add crumbled feta, chopped basil and chopped scallions. Stir to combine.

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Serve your orzo as a side dish, or as a meal. Yum!

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Also, just wanted to mention that the other day my blog reached 100,000 views. Thank you so much to all my readers out there! It makes me so happy to be able to share my favorite recipes with all of you ๐Ÿ™‚

Kale Salad with Honey-Tahini Dressing

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At UMass, there’s a cute little vegan/vegetarian cafe called “Earthfoods”. It’s a student-run organization and they serve up fresh, healthy meals daily. Prior to eating there, I knew I enjoyed a lot of vegetarian food, but knew little about vegan food. The first time I ate there was at the beginning of my junior year with my friend Nik. He told me to get the steamed kale as a side choice, so I did. I had never eaten kale before but I knew it was somewhat similar to spinach. After a few bites, I wasn’t really into it, so I gave my kale to Nik, who happily devoured it. Then I looked around and realized just about everybody surrounding us was also eating a huge plate of kale. What is with these people and their kale?ย I thought to myself.

Fast forward to a few months later: I was one of those people also enjoying a big plate of kale. I guess it just grows on you.

Their kale is cooked perfectly and always ripe and sweet. My favorite part is the tahini dressing that many people pour over the kale. It’s nutty and tangy and complements the kale perfectly. Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. If you’re a hummus-eater, you’ve probably eaten tahini at some point or another. Tahini is one of the main ingredients in most types of hummus. It adds that tangy, slightly bitter taste. It’s often used as a substitute for cream in vegan meals because it has a very smooth, thick consistency. Trader Joe’s sells small tubs of it (already mixed with lemon juice and garlic) that you can find in their hummus section, or in the natural foods section of your local grocery store.

The tahini dressing at Earthfoods contains oil, lemon juice, garlic, and parsley and is super tasty. For this particular salad, I decided I wanted a slightly sweeter dressing so I added some honey. Pour that on top of your kale and add some toasted almonds, dried cranberries, and shallots and you’ve got one delicious, healthy salad! If you’re not a fan of kale, feel free to substitute your favorite greens. This salad would be great with baby spinach.

Instead of steaming the kale for this method, I used the “massaging” technique to soften it. It’s exactly what it sounds like – gently massaging oil or dressing into the kale leaves (using your hands) until they become softer and turn bright green. This helps break down the toughness of the leaves and bring out some of the natural moisture.

Kale Salad with Honey-Tahini Dressing

Ingredients:

  • For the dressing:
    • 2 Tbsp tahini
    • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
    • 1 tsp vinegar
    • 1 tsp honey
    • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 5 stalks kale, rinsed and torn into pieces
  • 1/4 cup sliced roasted almonds (or to toast your own, see directions below)
  • 2 Tbsp dried cranberries
  • 1 small shallot, sliced thinly (or 1/4 cup sliced red onion)

For the dressing

For the salad

Directions:

  1. To prepare the dressing, simply combine the first 5 ingredients into a small bowl and whisk until combined.
  2. Pour the dressing over the kale leaves and using your hands, gently massage the leaves until they soften and turn bright green. Set aside.
  3. To toast the almonds, add 1 tsp olive oil to a small frying pan and heat over a low flame. Add the almonds (and a sprinkle of salt, if desired) and stir constantly for 30-45 seconds. The almonds toast very quickly so you have to keep and eye on them. They’ll be done within 1 minute.
  4. Toss the kale with the almonds, dried cranberries and sliced shallot and enjoy. ๐Ÿ™‚

Mix the dressing up

Toast up some almonds

Massage the dressing into the kale (this is what it looks like before)

And this is what it looks like after. Notice how the leaves have turned bright green?

One nice thing about kale is that it holds up well to moisture. You could prepare this salad in the morning, dressing and everything, and it will barely have wilted by lunch time.
I really love the toasted almonds in this salad because they are nice and crisp and almost taste like pumpkin seeds!

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Basil-Feta Pasta Salad

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Pasta salad is one of those things I really only eat in the summer. In the winter, I’m all about hot pasta with marinara sauce or some creamy pesto. But in the summer, with frequent cookouts with my family, pasta salad just seems so appropriate.

This salad came about due to my love of basil. When I was younger, I used to hate basil and wouldn’t touch any dish that had strong basil flavor. As I got older, I learned to appreciate the flavor of basil, and now I love it.

I even bought a basil plant at the beginning of the summer, hoping to use the leaves in lots of recipes. For a few weeks, it was really nice having fresh basil at my disposal whenever I needed it. After about a month, though, it started to dry out and always looked limp, even when I kept it moist and let it get enough sunlight. And now, it looks like this:

… Oops. Needless to say, I was not blessed with the green thumb. Yeah…

Anyway, onto the food!

This pasta salad features a thick, creamy sauce made from basil, feta cheese, garlic, and a couple other spices. I was a big fan of the sauce. It’s similar to classic basil pesto, but with the addition of tangy and salty feta cheese. Feta cheese has always been one of my favorites. Like most other cheeses, it is fatty, but I recently realized feta has a lot of protein – 7g per 1/4 cup! So, while it should still be eaten in moderation, at least you’re getting your protein and calcium.
I also added fresh tomatoes and sweet peppers to the pasta for a little crunch, but you can add any type of veggie your heart desires.

Basil-Feta Pasta Salad
serves 5-6

Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • For the pasta:
  • 1 box pasta of choice (I used penne)
  • 1 large tomato, diced (or 1-2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved)
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • For the sauce:
  • 2ย  cups fresh basil leaves (stems removed), rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar (I used apple cider)
  • 1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 shallot, finely diced
  • 7 oz. hunk of feta cheese (or about ~1 1/2 cups crumbled), cut into small chunks
  • 2 Tbsp fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • pepper, to taste (the cheese is pretty salty so you’ll probably find you don’t need any more salt)

your ingredients for the sauce

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to box directions. Rinse with cold water and let drain.
  2. In your food processor, add chopped basil, 1/3 cup olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and shallot. If you have a small food processor, you may need to add some of the basil, blend it to break it down, and then add more. Pulse until well-combined, scraping down the sides when necessary.
  3. Add feta and parmesan cheese (I did this in two batches) and blend again until smooth. If it’s too thick, add another Tbsp of olive oil, or a small amount of water. Add oregano, red pepper flakes, and pepper. Pulse a few more times.
  4. Add basil-feta sauceย  to cooled pasta and stir well. Note: you may not need all of the sauce – I used ~3/4 of it (it made about 1 cup), so I’d recommend adding some, stirring, and then seeing if you need more. It may also be necessary to add extra olive oil at this point to loosen up the pasta.
  5. Add diced tomatoes and peppers and stir. Serve immediately or chill for a few hours (it also tastes great heated up!). Leftovers should be eaten within 3-4 days.

rinse that basil!

separate the stems from the leaves

combine basil, olive oil, shallot, and garlic

pulse until all leaves are broken down

add feta, parmesan cheese, and spices

blend until smooth, and it’s done!

I had this pasta salad as a side dish, and also served it as a meal with diced grilled chicken. Yum. The sauce would also be delicious on a sandwich or a pizza!

Raspberry Almond Summer Salad

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Raspberry Almond Summer Salad with Goat Cheese

This past Sunday, I had a girl’s day out with my mother, sister Emily, Mirva, and little Naomi. We took a walk around a local park, ate at one of our favorite restaurants, and got our nails done. It was so nice to spend time with the girls in my family and I hope we start making a tradition of it.

This salad is inspired by the one I ordered at the restaurant, Not Your Average Joe’s. Their salad is called the Almond-Crusted Goat Cheese Salad, and I finished eating it before anybody else had even touched their appetizer… oops. I loved the lightly fried warm goat cheese and the way the fresh raspberries perfectly balanced out the tanginess of the goat cheese. Raspberries have always been one of my favorite fruits, but I only recently discovered that I really enjoy goat cheese. I decided to make a simpler version, using fresh crumbled goat cheese and chopped almonds. I’m not usually a big salad person, but this one has seriously kept me going back for more – I’ve had one a day for the past three days. Ha.

Raspberry Almond Summer Salad
as adapted from Not Your Average Joe’s

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh field greens
  • a handful of almonds, roughly chopped (I used Cinnamon & Brown Sugar, mmm)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh goat cheese, crumbled
  • handful of fresh raspberries, halved (or frozen, thawed)
  • 1-2 Tbsp light raspberry vinaigrette (I used Naturally Delicious brand)

Directions:

In a medium salad bowl, add field greens and then all other ingredients. Toss and enjoy. To make a meal of it, try adding some sliced grilled chicken.

Simple and delicious.