Weekly Winner – Back in Balance…with bread!

My gluttonous moment has passed and I have put away all my gooey cheese, pasta, and pork products (temporarily, of course –everything in balance).  I am back to embracing salads and my favorite type of salad is one that includes bread.  I don’t care if its croutons or a roll on the side — I’m in.  My all-time favorite, however, is a panzanella salad.  What is better than crunchy bread brought back to life with a little dressing?  OK, yes, bacon… but we’re being virtuous this week, so work with me!!

There were a couple of things that caught my interest with this recipe for Chickpea Panzanella which I found in Cooking Light magazine.  First of course, was the chickpeas.  I adore chickpeas.  The other was the fact that this salad had artichoke hearts.  I cannot say I love artichoke hearts.  I didn’t think I hated them either.  Truth be told, with the exception of spinach artichoke dip, I just haven’t had much exposure to them.  I thought this would be an excellent time to try them out.  Everything else in this salad I know I adored so perhaps this would be the vehicle to win me over.  The salad was excellent.  The artichoke hearts?  Meh.  I can honestly say I would like the salad more without them.  Maybe next time I’ll swap them out for cucumbers or roasted peppers.  My husband can have his dislike for watercress, I apparently dislike artichoke hearts.

Chickpea Panzanella

Serves 5 – (seriously, that’s what they say!)

Ingredients:

1 (8-oz.) ciabatta loaf

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1 (15-oz.) can unsalted chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 (8.5-oz.) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained

3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove and discard crust from ciabatta; cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread bread cubes in an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 12 minutes or until toasted and golden.

Combine toasted bread, tomatoes, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, feta, onion, and basil in a large bowl.

In a separate smaller bowl, combine oil, vinegar, oregano, pepper, and salt. Stir with a whisk. Pour over salad; toss to combine. Garnish with chopped fresh basil.

Weekly Winner:  This Salad Has Got It Going On!

Let’s face it, salads can be boring…mundane… expected.  It’s the go-to dish when you want to feel good about what you’re eating. But so often, to make them palatable you need to fill them with things that perhaps, are not so good for you. Creamy dressings, crunchy fried croutons, gooey cheeses, bacon!!! Seriously, when you get done with one of those salads, you just might as well have had a sandwich.

This is not one of those salads.  Toasted Couscous & Chard Salad is everything a salad should be.  First of all, its gorgeous. Nobody wants to eat an ugly salad.  In addition, it’s chock-full of nutritious ingredients, it has a multitude of textures going on, loads of unexpected flavors, and best of all – not an unhealthy ingredient in the entire bowl. It also just so happens to includes my most-recent total obsession:  Pomegranate Molasses. I honestly don’t know how I’ve lived so long without this stuff.  I also don’t know why I’ve gone so long without making this salad.  It is a true keeper.  Try it and see if you don’t agree. The recipe comes from Better Homes & Gardens Magazine and the only change I’ve made was with the beets.  I did not have raw golden beets so I used cooked red beets and simply diced them.

Toasted Couscous & Chard Salad

Serves 8 [in actuality, more like 4 to 6 — no one is only going to have a cup of this salad!]

Ingredients:

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

2 Tbsp butter

1 tsp Aleppo pepper (or crushed red pepper flakes)

6 green onions, trimmed and finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1 cup Israeli couscous

1 cup grated uncooked golden beets [or 1 cup small diced cooked red beets]

1 cup lightly packed Italian parsley

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

1/3 cup chopped, toasted walnuts

1/4 cup mint leaves

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses

8 oz rainbow chard, stemmed and thinly sliced

Procedure:

  1. In a small saucepan bring chicken broth to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover; keep warm
  2. Meanwhile, in a very large nonstick skillet melt butter with Aleppo pepper, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper over medium-high heat. Add green onions; cook 1 minute or until fragrant.  Add couscous; cook 5 minutes until toasted.  Slowly stir in chicken broth.  Cook until all liquid is absorbed and couscous is al dente.  Stir in beets; heat through.
  3. Remove skillet from heat.  Add parsley, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, mint, vinegar and molasses; toss to combine.  Toss with chard and drizzle with olive oil before serving.

Weekly Winner:  An Odd (but tasty) Autumnal Salad

Things have been crazy around here with travel and work so not a lot of cooking “just for us” has happened.  However one of the highlights of my solo meals was this salad.  I’ve had the recipe from Cooking Light for quite a while and have pulled it out several times to make, but just never got around to it.  Until a few weeks ago.  Finally, it was time to try Sweet Potato Medallions with Almond Sauce and Chickpea Salad.

There really is nothing to this salad — it has very few ingredients. Most of them are in the tasty nut butter-based dressing (they call for almond butter but I had cashew butter on hand). But the few parts come together for a wonderful, season-appropriate lunch salad.  I like that the sweet potatoes are served warm which makes it perfect for a cool day and helps to wilt the arugula a bit as well.

Sweet Potato Medallions with Almond Sauce and Chickpea Salad

Ingredients:

4 small (4-oz.) sweet potatoes

1/4 cup creamy natural almond butter

3 1/2 tablespoons warm water

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 (15-oz.) can unsalted chickpeas, rinsed and drained

5 ounces baby arugula

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Procedure:

1.  Prick potatoes all over with a fork; place on a microwave-safe plate, and microwave at HIGH just until tender, about 5 minutes. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds.

2.  Whisk together almond butter, water, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a bowl. Set aside.

3.  Brush potato slices on 1 side with 1 tablespoon oil. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Working in batches, cook potato slices, oil side down, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes.

4.  Combine chickpeas, arugula, salt, pepper, remaining 2 tablespoons juice, and 1 tablespoon oil in a large bowl. Divide chickpea mixture among 4 plates; top with sweet potato slices. Drizzle with almond butter sauce.

Weekly Winner:  A Perfect Power-Packed Punch of Lunch

We all have them.  Those derailing weekends.  Weekends where you totally planned on staying on track – eating healthy and exercising.  Getting outdoors, breathing fresh air, and revitalizing yourself for the week ahead.  Then, well…there are street fairs, baseball games, barbecues, air conditioning to relax in , and chilled wine and beer in the fridge.  Monday comes along and it is time to redeem yourself.  This is the salad to do that with.  Basically, if it’s healthy for you, it’s in this salad.  But more importantly– it is delicious. This does not seem like a punishment for your over-indulging, it actually seems like a reward for surviving it all! Good for you! You made it!  Now let’s get your act back together!

I have to admit I wasn’t sure how blueberries and tomatoes would work together but with everything else going on it this salad (poppy seeds, chickpeas, avocado, sunflower seeds, etc…) it just works.  It also makes every bite a bit different.

No surprise the recipe comes from Cooking Light Magazine.  The article was focusing on salads you can take to work with you but since I work in the kitchen — packability isn’t a problem.  I just needed to transport it to the table. Therefore I didn’t bother layering, I just mixed it all together.  However I did pack up a bunch of this salad for a client who will take it to work.  And no doubt will love every bite!

Packable Power Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds

1 teaspoon minced shallots

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup rinsed and drained chickpeas

1 cup cooked quinoa

4 cups packed fresh baby spinach

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 cup chopped heirloom tomato

2 tablespoons roasted, salted sunflower seeds

3/4 cup thinly sliced ripe peeled avocado

2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

Procedure:

1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a small jar. Cover with lid; shake well.

2. Combine chickpeas, quinoa, and 2 tablespoons dressing; toss well.

3. Arrange 1 cup spinach in each of 4 quart-size containers. Top each serving with 1/4 cup blueberries, 1/4 cup tomato, 1 1/2 teaspoons sunflower seeds, one-fourth of avocado slices, 1/2 ounce goat cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons mint, and 1/2 cup quinoa mixture. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Drizzle each serving with about 2 1/2 tablespoons dressing.

Weekly Winner:  What’s better than a refreshing cool salad on a summer day? A salad with pork!

Seriously, is there anything in the culinary world that cannot be improved with the addition of some pork product?  If there is, I have not found it yet.  OK, wine. Maybe wine.  But other than that, when in doubt — add some pork! Which is just what happened for lunch this week.  Asian Pork and Cabbage Salad is a great change-up from one of my all-time favorite go-to summer salads Best-Ever Chinese Chicken Salad.

I believe I got this recipe from Better Homes & Gardens.  It is super easy but gives you the satisfaction of feeling like you actually cooked since you do have to sauté the pork and peppers. The only other change I made was to use pre-shredded coleslaw mix in place of the shredded napa cabbage.

Asian Pork and Cabbage Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/4 cup low-sugar orange marmalade

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 clove garlic, minced

Nonstick cooking spray

12 ounces boneless pork loin chops, cut into bite-size pieces

1 medium red or yellow sweet pepper, cut into thin bite-size strips

6 cups napa cabbage, shredded

1 cup chopped cucumber

4 green onions, bias-sliced into 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Procedure:

  • For dressing, in a small bowl stir together orange marmalade, soy sauce, vinegar, toasted sesame oil, and garlic. Set aside.
  • Lightly coat an unheated wok or large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Add pork and cook over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add sweet pepper to the pan and continue to cook for 3 minutes or until pork is no longer pink and sweet pepper is crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Add one-fourth of the dressing to pan; stir until well coated. Remove pan from heat.
  • In a large bowl coat cabbage with remaining dressing. On a serving platter layer cabbage, pork mixture, and cucumber. Sprinkle with green onions and almonds. Serve immediately

Weekly Winner:  My Soba Story Continues 

Apparently I have found myself with a bit of a soba obsession. Last week it was the Pad Thai Salad and this week it’s this tasty Soba-Edamame Noodle Bowl.  I guess it’s a sure sign that spring has sprung and my desire for lighter, healthier lunches has taken hold.

Perhaps another reason I find myself gravitating towards these dishes is because there just seems to be something rebellious and decadent about eating cold noodles.  That’s like sneaking into the fridge and swiping some of last night’s pasta straight out of the Tupperware (not that I’ve ever done that!!!). This, however is a civilized way to have cold noodles. And the addition of all the veggies makes it guilt-free whether it’s eaten out of a bowl at the dining room table, or nabbed from a storage container out of the fridge.

The recipe for Soba-Edamame Noodle Bowl comes from Cooking Light. Besides being super easy to make, incredibly delicious to eat, and stupidly healthy for you – it’s also delightfully beautiful to look at.  I mean seriously, check out all those colors!  How can you see something that vibrant and colorful and not want to eat it?

Soba-Edamame Noodle Bowl

Ingredients:

1 cup frozen shelled edamame

6 ounces uncooked soba noodles

1 cup thinly vertically sliced snow peas

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce or tamari

1 tablespoon yellow miso

1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups very thinly sliced red cabbage

2/3 cup thinly sliced green onions

2 large carrots, peeled and shaved into ribbons

Procedure:

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add edamame and soba noodles; cook 2 minutes. Add snow peas; cook 1 minute or until noodles are tender. Drain; rinse noodle mixture well with cold water. Drain.

2. Combine oil and next 6 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl. Add noodle mixture, cabbage, onions, and carrots; toss gently to combine.

Weekly Winner:  Crispy Crunchy Healthy Goodness

It occurred to me that perhaps after my last several posts, I should lighten things up a bit. I’m also constantly on the lookout for healthy entrée salads for some of my clients and wanted to try this Pad Thai Salad out.  Glad I did.  It was the surprise hit of the week (and much needed after lasagna, meatloaf, and queso gravy!).  It also did something I thought might be impossible…it got my husband to willingly eat zucchini! Bonus!

So I know I clipped this recipe within the last few week, but after several internet searches I simply could not find the source for this dish (I’ve got to get better at writing the magazine’s name on the pages I tear out!) Even though no credit can be given I know for a fact I’ll be making this many, many times.  I’m also looking forward to tinkering around with it a bit – adding more veggies and switching things up.

The dressing has a nice zip to it and there’s a welcome chew from the noodles so it doesn’t seem like your just eating a bowl of raw veggies. It’s one of those dishes that you just keep picking at, eating another bite when you think you’re done. But since it’s basically all veggies — go ahead and take another bite or two! Another strange thing about this recipe is that it says it serves 3.  What recipe have you ever seen that says it specifically serves 3? But you know what, we had leftovers after hubby and I had lunch.

Pad Thai Salad

Serves 3

Ingredients:

2 large zucchini

2 large carrots, peeled

3-1/2 oz buckwheat (soba) noodles

4 Tbsp olive oil

1-1/2 Tbsp almond butter

1 Tbsp tahini

1-1/2 tsp maple syrup

1-1/2 tsp tamari

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1-1/2 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper 1 red pepper, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp sesame seeds

1/4 cup cashews

1-1/2 tsp chopped mint

Procedure:

Using a vegetable peeler, cut zucchini and carrots into long strips.

Cook noodles according to package directions; cool slightly.

In a blender or food processor, purée olive oil, almond butter, tahini, syrup, tamari, lemon juice, garlic, cayenne and 4 Tbsp water until smooth.

In a bowl, toss zucchini, carrots, noodles, red pepper, sesame seeds and cashews with dressing to combine.  Divide among 3 plates; garnish with mint.

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