Category: Dinner Salads

20 Main Dish Salads to Continue Your Healthy January Adventure

20 Main Dish Salads to Continue Your Healthy January Adventure

{print recipe for Kalamata Egg Salad with Charred Red Peppers}

If you’re not trying to get healthy this month, you might still want to read this week’s post featuring main dish salads.  Even if all you managed to accomplish was to clear out your entire cellar’s store of Pinot Noir but skipped every red, green, and silver Hershey’s kiss you encountered (and so didn’t gain an ounce in December), you could drum up interest in hefty, heart-warming and filling whole meal salads–if nothing else but to figure out what to do with leftover steak (leftover steak?!), those couple of lonely pork chops, an oh-so-sad single portion of salmon, one languishing chicken breast with wing attached, or perhaps only a drawer full of vegetables and cheese with little else to recommend them but a poached egg or two and maybe a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

Continue reading “20 Main Dish Salads to Continue Your Healthy January Adventure”

Sheet Pan Dinner:  Chicken Fajitas (with Tortillas or Salad)

Sheet Pan Dinner: Chicken Fajitas (with Tortillas or Salad)

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I think of fajitas as a summer meal.  It’s a hot night on the deck.  There are margaritas along with chips and guac to start.  Icy cold Dos Equis to go with the meal and just made cinnamon ice cream to finish.

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Steak and chicken could both make an appearance and I’d probably even twist Dave’s arm to grill all of the vegetables and heat the tortillas.  What’s a husband for?

Continue reading “Sheet Pan Dinner: Chicken Fajitas (with Tortillas or Salad)”

No-Cook Dinners

No-Cook Dinners

Food-Antipasti platter

  Antipasti platter or, in Italian, un piatta di antipasti.  A bit dear, but consummately satisfying for a special occasion. 

Every year about this time, there’s a night when we have only wine, cheese, and fruit for dinner. We eat it in the cool basement on three trays–one for each and then the cheese platter between us on the third.  An old movie plays on the tv. There’s not a salad or even a cooked vegetable and definitely not any sort of cooked meat. The wine is icy white or rosé.  Sometimes even the grill feels too much to do or too hot to light.

Continue reading “No-Cook Dinners”

Grilled Tuna Salad with Late Summer Vegetables and Spicy Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette

Grilled Tuna Salad with Late Summer Vegetables and Spicy Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette

I’m not sure there’s anything like a summer salad that appears to be a Niçoise-Caprese mix.  It’s the best of summer flavors combined and makes you feel as if you’re in Italy and France at the same time.  Especially if you’ve added grilled eggplant and zucchini along with a lemon-basil vinaigrette.

I never pass the fish and seafood in the store without seeing if something’s on the fire sale.  $9 OFF a pound is a fire sale for fresh tuna.  It means they have to get rid of it that day, preferably immediately. I’m willing to eat that tuna. I’m happy to run home and cook it straight away.  Here’s what I did with it,which was all dependent on what I had in the fridge and on the counter after a visit to the market at the Capitol in Saint Paul:

grilled tuna salad with late summer vegetables &
spicy lemon-basil vinaigrette
serves 4

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled, and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds or lengthwise into1/4″ thick slices
  • 2  3/4-inch slices of a very large yellow onion
  • 2 6-8 ounce thick tuna steaks
  • 1/2 cup each cherry tomatoes and boccocini (small mozzarella balls)–about 12 each
  • 2 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/4 cup Nicoise or kalamata olives
  • Juice of half-lemon
  • Spicy Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette (recipe below)
Preheat indoor or outdoor grill over medium-high heat.  Brush eggplant, zucchini, and onion with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Grill about 8 minutes, turning once.  Remove to a plate and set aside.  After a few minutes, slice into one-inch pieces.
Brush tuna with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill 2 minutes on one side until there are dark grill marks; turn and grill other side about 2 minutes for medium rare – rare, depending on the thickness of the tuna. Cook another minute or two for medium-well.   Remove and let rest 1-2 minutes.  Cut into one-inch chunks.
To a large bowl, add tomatoes and boccocini (small mozzarella balls), spinach, olives, and sliced eggplant, zucchini, and onions. Stir gently and drizzle with a bit of lemon juice; add tuna and stir again.  Drizzle with remainder of lemon juice and then generously with vinaigrette.  Divide between four pasta or shallow bowls, placing cherry tomatoes in one section, cheese in another, and so on. Garnish with olives and reserved basil julienne. Serve warm or at room temperature.Cook’s Note 1.:  If you’ve a large enough grill, grill the vegetables and add the tuna during the last few minutes.  I made this on a big cast iron indoor grill that covers two burners (Lodge), but it still wasn’t big enough for everything. Add to that, I’m only an indoor griller and like things in manageable batches. I leave the big gas or charcoal grill to Dave or whomever I can lasso into firing it up.  2. If you’d like a bit heartier salad, stir in a 15-ounce can of drained cannellini beans (season first pepper and with a bit of the vinaigrette) along with the grilled vegetables.

spicy lemon-basil vinaigrette
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • generous pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons shallot, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons basil julienne, divided
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, spices,  mustard, shallot, and two tablespoons basil.  Slowly add the olive oil, whisking all the while, until vinaigrette is well mixed and emulsified.  Taste and adjust seasonings. (Rest of basil is for garnish)
 
 
Wine:  Go American and drink a great big California Chardonnay.Sing a new song; make a new salad,

Alyce
Eggplant-Tomato Salad on Mint Rice with Warmed Mozzarella

Eggplant-Tomato Salad on Mint Rice with Warmed Mozzarella

If you’re a loving cook (and most cooks are), you make your loved ones’ favorite foods.  In fact, you know that what we love — or hate– in some ways defines us.  For instance, I am a chocolate fiend and, if I’m smart, when I’m trying to slim down, I don’t even keep it in the house.  I buy a tiny, perfect piece at the grocery check out (50 calories or so) and I eat JUST THAT ONE.

If I want chocolate cake, I make one for a friend’s birthday and have a piece.  Perfectly happily.  This one was Roberta’s.

Dave’s a baseball nut.  My mother-in-law loves peppermint.  My sister-in-law hates green vegetables.  Roberta has a  life-long love affair with the organ–even has one in her house.  Your favorite color is ____.   My boss “never met an egg she didn’t like.”  Tony’s passion is national parks and scotch; I don’t know in what order.  Artist friend Dan is nutty about bluegrass and my friend Bud waited long years for his Bosendorfer piano.  My sister Helen adores green beans.  Sue loves the beach and anything lemon.  We know who people are (partly) because of these things.

This comes up at my Weight Watcher’s meetings.  People complain and cry (an exaggeration…but nearly) about not being able to have ice cream, margaritas, chips, chocolate, butter, etc.  My comment is occasionally, “You’d better have what you love or you won’t stay on the program, won’t lose weight….because you won’t be YOU.”  It’s actually a pretty well-known fact in WW circles, but it usually needs repeating on a weekly basis.  And no one else ever says WHY you shouldn’t deprive yourself, except that it results in binges.

These little Thai eggplants are often available at Saint Paul farmer’s markets.  If you have small, young eggplant of any kind you probably don’t need to peel them–just wash, trim, and dice.   A little trial and error might be called for.  I did, however, use the regular large, purple eggplant and needed to peel it.  Check out the various kinds of eggplant.

So, in addition to baseball, Dave is crazy about eggplant  Any way. When eggplant is perfect–fresh with tender, deep purple skin– I’m making it as often as I can.  The other night I wanted a salad that I could have for a meal (that Weight Watcher thing) and he could have as a side for his steak sandwich with horseradish sauce while we watched “The Newsroom”, my new TV crush.   I had fresh mozzerella leftover from caprese,  jasmine rice, eggplant, fresh tomatoes, and… this is what transpired, a fusion sort of meal I think you will love.  If you love eggplant, that is.

Sometimes in this blog, I only have to say, “Fried cheese,” though in this case I tempered it with the adjective, “warm.” Try this:

eggplant-tomato salad on mint rice with warm mozzerella

This warm and/or cool salad begins with sautéed eggplant, onions, and tomatoes–seasoned with garlic and lemon rind– that are then spooned into the middle of a ring of rice that has been stirred together with chopped fresh mint, parsley, and spinach. Half-moons of fresh mozzarella are quickly warmed in oil with a bit of crushed red pepper and are then scattered on top of the ring of rice.  Fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil are drizzled at the last second for an instant vinaigrette.  If you have both run-of-the-mill (cooking) and salad (or garnish) extra virgin olive oil, use the better (salad or garnish) oil for the end of the salad vinaigrette.  

Makes  6 servings         Read through recipe before making.

  •  7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups (approximately) eggplant, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 2 cups cooked jasmine (or other) rice at cold or at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup each chopped fresh parsley and mint
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, shredded
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella (1/2 pound), sliced in half-inch rounds and cut again into 1/2 moons, cold
  • Juice of one lemon (2-3 tablespoons)

1.  In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat for 30 seconds with a pinch of crushed red pepper.  Add eggplant and onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper; cook about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until quite softened and tender.  Add tomato and garlic, let cook another 2 minutes or so, and remove from heat. Stir in lemon rind.  Taste and adjust for seasonings.
2.  Meanwhile, in a large shallow bowl or on a large platter, using your hands, mix together the rice, herbs, and spinach.  Sprinkle with just a bit of salt and pepper and mix again.  Pushing the the rice mixture out from the center, form a ring to allow room for the eggplant mixture in the middle.  Spoon eggplant mixture into the open space, mounding as needed.
 

3.  Wipe out skillet with towels, add 2 more tablespoons olive oil and heat over medium flame.  All attention as you begin this step:  Leaving room between each piece, place the mozzarella slices in the skillet, sprinkle with crushed red pepper, and heat briefly until warm and just beginning to ooze.  Quickly turn, using tongs or spatula, and repeat on the other side.  Remove from heat and remove the cheese from the skillet and onto the rice, spreading evenly around the ring. Waste no time or you’ll have a skillet full of melted cheese.
4.  Drizzle entire salad with lemon juice and then with remaining 3 tablespoons (best quality, if you have it) extra virgin olive oil.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.   Serve at room temperature or cold.  Store leftovers well-covered for up to one day.   Keeps well, according to Dave, who ate all of the rest of it for lunch.

COOK’S NOTES:
* If you prefer, and it’s too warm, grill the eggplant in slices, cut it up afterward, and stir in fresh chopped tomatoes with just a tablespoon or so of minced onion–perhaps scallions–along with only half the garlic.  Continue with rest of recipe. I’m a good guesser and guess it’d work.  Let me know if you try it.
*You can certainly make this recipe with different vegetables (bell peppers? zucchini? yellow squash?) and/or different herbs (basil? thyme?oregano?)

Quinoa is a tasty substitute for the rice.

{printable recipe}


Sing a new song; make a new salad,
Alyce

Ina Fridays — Main Courses — Israeli Couscous & Tuna Salad

Ina Fridays — Main Courses — Israeli Couscous & Tuna Salad

   I’m going on vacation after this post. The blog is going with me.  See you late June! 

If you weren’t up for a new tuna salad, this full-of-flavor high-five salad from Ina Garten’s newest book BAREFOOT CONTESSA:  FOOLPROOF; RECIPES YOU CAN TRUST, might make you change your mind.  Made from a good many pantry ingredients (canned tuna, Israeli couscous, roasted tomatoes, olive oil) plus a short list of freshly-purchased ones (oil-cured olives, lemon, herbs), this meal comes together in about fifteen easy minutes.  While the couscous cooks, you’re doing a bit of chopping; by the time the couscous is done, you’re mixing up and serving.

Great for a hot night on the patio, you could stir this up in the morning before the heat begins–or even the night before.  Pop it in the frig and you’re all set.  Leftovers are perfect for lunches.

israeli couscous & tuna salad    (CLICK FOR RECIPE)

 Chop your fresh ingredients while the couscous cooks for about twelve minutes. Ina calls for plain Israeli couscous, but I used an Israeli couscous blend that includes orzo and a few other grains or legumes. I bought it bulk at my local grocery, but Trader Joes often carries it; you can order through the link.   Another name for Israeli couscous is pearl couscous.  If you can’t find any at all, or don’t like couscous, use orzo or a sturdy rice.  I make a salad similar to this (lots of parsley instead of basil/no olives) and use canned white beans. Recipe at end.

 Next, mix most of the fresh ingredients plus the olive oil and spices  in a large bowl.

 Strain the couscous and stir it into the tuna mixture while the couscous is still hot.

Right before serving, stir in the fresh herbs and scallions.

WINE:  A cold and crisp Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps a citrusy New Zealand bottle, would be a good choice for this salad.  No wine tonight?  Unsweetened Iced Tea with Lemon is a thirst-quenching choice.

DESSERT:  Sorbet–lemon or raspberry.
  

                         SO WHAT DID I THINK?

Overall, I liked it.  In fact, I liked it lots.  This is just my kind of food.  Fish, olive oil, lemons, olives…  An easy Mediterranean feel and not terribly expensive.  Good, healthy everyday eating with plenty of leftovers.  I adored the large amount of black pepper, which gave the salad a healthy warm zing without hot sauce or red pepper flakes.

What did I change?   While this is a basically healthy recipe and not terribly high in calories, I did cut the oil in half and I also cut the salt nearly in half.  The recipe calls for a tablespoon of salt, but I find Ina’s recipes sometimes a little salt heavy for optimum health.  I left nothing else out.    I did not use the jar of Italian tuna in oil called for, but rather used a can of premium, wild tuna packed in water.

What would I add? When I make this again (and I will), I’ll add another cup of fresh vegetables like chopped celery, or yellow bell peppers, or perhaps green beans cut into 1/2-inch pieces. The additional vegetables would decrease calories, increase fiber and nutrition, and stretch the recipe out a bit.  A few nuts for garnish  add some crunch, texture, character, and depth to the dish.   I had pine nuts, and added just a few on top.  Any chopped tree nuts would do, but pine nuts just fit in with this dish. 

If I had no basil, I imagine I’d be happy with fresh parsley or even parsley and thyme.

While the dish is plenty on its own, I could serve this with lots of sliced tomatoes or green peppers, a big bunch of green beans, or even a spinach salad.   If I hadn’t had dairy that day, I might add a small piece of cheese or a small scoop of cottage cheese with whole wheat crackers at the side of the plate.

 What might you do?  Big appetites would enjoy a bowl of soup with this meal… Some gazpacho or other tomato soup are two choices.  Don’t like couscous?  Make brown rice, orzo or any other tiny pasta like tubetti or ditalini.

Cook’s Note:  If serving the next day, save a little oil and lemon juice, as well as the basil and chopped scallions, to refreshen the salad before serving.

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ALL ABOUT INA FRIDAYS:

 The first Friday of the month, food bloggers from many parts of the world join together in posting a favorite Ina recipe.  This month we have main courses; next month is Desserts and Other or Miscellaneous Recipes.  Note:  After this round, drinks will go with appetizers instead of with Desserts and Other.

Stop in and see what our fine writers are cooking up today:

Are you a food blogger? We’d love to have you! Want to join in one time a month? Email Alyce @ afmorgan53@yahoo.com  or link in to join us once in a while (click on blue oval link button at bottom and follow prompts) only if you’re blogging Ina! No other posts, please?! 

It is possible some of our writers may be in and out of the Ina group periodically.  If you click on their blog and there’s no Ina recipe that day, check their index for previous entries or return another time.  Thanks.

IF YOU LIKED THIS, YOU MIGHT LIKE

alyce’s tuna-cannellini bean salad with feta

ingredients:

  • 6-7 oz can tuna, drained and flaked with a fork 
  • 15 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained — or any canned white beans
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped finely
  • 4 scallions, minced (white and green)
  • 2 eggs, boiled and chopped*
  • 1 carrot, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach or parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 anchovies, smashed or minced, optional
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1T red wine vinegar
  • 2T extra virgin olive oil
  • generous pinch each kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, crushed red or aleppo pepper
  • 1/4 cup crumbled or chopped feta

In a medium bowl, mix everything but the feta.  Taste and see what it needs.  Dry?  Add a bit more oil?  Bland?  Add a bit more red wine vinegar.  Spoon into bowls and garnish with crumbled or chopped feta.  Happy eating!

*I make these eggs in the microwave.  Spray a cereal bowl with PAM.  Add two eggs and poke with a sharp, small knife–once in each yolk and several times in whites.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on full power for 2 minutes.  Remove and let sit a minute or two to cool.  Carefully unwrap and tip bowl onto cutting board before chopping eggs.

Sing a new song,
Alyce

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Vietnamese Chicken Salad with Mango

Vietnamese Chicken Salad with Mango

Most people, when they decide to make salad, just make a salad.  A quick opening of the refrigerator door.  A glance at the counter.  A whisk and a shake of vinegar and oil.  I love almost every salad I make (surely I should be thinner) and Dave does, too.  With a couple of exceptions, I rarely repeat one, though I am crazy about fresh spinach with lime vinaigrette.  And, maybe even more, green beans and mushrooms with tarragon.  Or Caprese with bacon….  Well.

But this Nigella Lawson salad had us hooked from the very first time we ate it.  I saw the recipe somewhere and that was that.  It’s definitely addictive.  To say nothing of healthy.   Unlike most things I make,  this is one I typically make just like the recipe says.  Asian-inspired anything pushes me toward conventional wisdom and written-out recipes, though I do see myself peeking out from around the soy sauce now and again lately.  For instance:  yesterday I ran out of mint (the only herb called for in her version), but had cilantro and basil. I also had a great mango calling, “Alyce, Alyce.”    You can look at the original version here where I blogged it for Dinner Place.  Shrimp,too, instead of chicken, is scrumptious. Wow!  Add some cooked jasmine rice (ok, brown rice if you must) for a larger, more filling meal.

While this meal contains a whole jalapeno pepper and a bit of crushed red pepper (Nigella’s named a Thai bird chile), it is not terribly hot at all. (I don’t like really hot food just like I don’t like really salty food; I only taste hot or salty then.) It’s just flavorful.   Make just a little with the heat and try some if hot peppers are things you don’t eat.

The sad, but beautiful snow dance of the lilacs in my south garden.  Two of them will not survive.

If you’re watching your P’s and Q’s calorie or healthwise, this salad has your name engraved on it.  It’s one that fits both the South Beach and Weight Watcher profiles with smiles all around.   If you aren’t worried about  intake, you should make it anyway.    By the way, I made this for a group of music friends the other day–right after this last heavy Saint Paul snowstorm– and one of them brought cuties mixed with peach yogurt and chopped walnuts as our dessert.  Nice! Try this:

vietnamese chicken salad  with mango
 4+ generous servings    7 Weight Watchers Plus Points

Ingredients:

  • 1 jalapeno, minced very finely (no veins or seeds)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce (nuoc nam or nam pla)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely sliced
  • Freshly grated black pepper 
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 12 ounces (3/4 pound) white cabbage, shredded
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded, julienned, or grated
  • 1 pound cooked chicken breasts, shredded, or cut into fine strips (can sub cooked shrimp)
  • 1/4 cup each chopped basil and cilantro (plus a little cilantro for garnish)
  • 2 mangos, peeled, seeded, and chopped 
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 2 scallions sliced very thinly (white and green parts)
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

In a medium, stirring with spoon, combine the chile, garlic, sugar, vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, oil, onion,  black and red peppers; set aside for 1/2 hour. to a large bowl, add cabbage, carrot, chicken breast,  basil, cilantro and mangoes, tossing with tongs. Pour cabbage mixture over the dressing, tossing with tongs, slowly and patiently so everything is coated. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Serve on a flat plate topped with almonds, scallions, and cilantro for garnish.

Cook’s Notes:  If you’re not going to eat all of this salad at one meal, store the vegetables-fruit and dressing separately; otherwise it can be soggy.

Weight Watchers Notes:  Skip almonds to subtract a point or cut back on chicken portion; do not cut sugar–it’s necessary for the dressing.
… … … … …

DINING OUT FOR LIFE : DINE OUT/FIGHT AIDS

LIST OF RESTAURANTS DONATING PORTION OR ALL OF THEIR INCOME TODAY!

http://www.diningoutforlife.com/minneapolis

  … … … …

Food Needed:  Cheyenne River Reservation Episcopal Mission–9 congregations in 2 counties

Elderly, Disabled, Grandparents raising children need food. 

Solo Episcopal pastor on the reservation tries to help, but is out of resources.

Please read and help if you can?

Friend them on fb, too!

Sing a new song!  Come, Spring, Come!

Alyce

38 Power Foods, Week 15 — Winter Squash — Israeli Couscous-Butternut Squash Salad with Fall Fruit, Cheese and Orange Vinaigrette

38 Power Foods, Week 15 — Winter Squash — Israeli Couscous-Butternut Squash Salad with Fall Fruit, Cheese and Orange Vinaigrette

How are new salads born at my house?    Like this……

I’ve had some Israeli couscous (actually a blend) in my cabinet for a few months.  Waiting.
Typically I throw some leeks, garlic, and asparagus in a sauté pan come spring and throw those lovely things into a bowl of couscous or orzo with a handful of grated Parmesan and lots of black pepper.

When I realized this was the week to blog winter squash, a different group of ingredients started to percolate.  Despite the summer tomatoes still coming on (albeit slowly) and the basil crying for that last bowl of pesto to be made, I kept thinking fall food once the squash got in my head.  Cranberries, apples, pears, sharp cheese, nuts.

Fall..I adore pears…here I’ve just poached them slowly in port with some orange peel and cinnamon sticks.

Thursday I had a big pot of turkey chili on the stove and called some friends to run over and help eat it.  This salad, which began in my head days before it ended up in our stomachs,  started the meal.  I cooked the couscous and started chopping fruit and toasting nuts.  It came together that easily; it’s fairly fast, too.  I did think I might have liked walnut oil for the vinaigrette, but the only can I had was in the frig at our Colorado house where it’ll stay a bit fresher over the time we’re not there.

Could it be a whole meal?  Definitely.  Since it has oranges to keep the fresh fruit from turning brown, I think it’ll keep a day or so…but no more.  It might be a filling and happy side for a quick Thanksgiving meal:  roast a turkey breast, make this salad, and cook some of those green beans you’ve been freezing.  Anyway, here’s how:

Follow the photo-easy recipe:

Cook 8 ounces of  Israeli Couscous*  according to package directions. Use chicken broth in place of water. You can add a few leaves of fresh sage if you have them (remove before making salad).  When couscous is tender, add 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil while still hot.  Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground white pepper.  Optional:  Stir in 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Cool to room temperature.
Toast 1/4 cup pecans in a dry small skillet and chop, reserving a few whole nuts for garnish.
Dice (medium) 1 pear, 1 apple, 1 orange (peeled),  6 dried figs (or fresh), 1 small cooked butternut squash (see below for my microwave directions).  Dice (small):  2 oz. each sharp cheddar and Swiss cheese like Jarlsberg or Emmental or even Gruyere.
Mix fruit, squash,  cheese, 1/4 cup dried cranberries, and pecans with cooled couscous.  Add the juice of another orange and 1 teaspoon honey.  Stir well, taste and adjust seasonings and/or dressing.  Serve in a bowl lined with fresh spinach leaves and garnish with reserved whole pecans.

 6 servings

We liked this salad with coffee cup pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins.

*I used Harvest Grains Blend from Trader Joe’s (available on amazon.com as well), which is a “savory blend of Israeli Couscous, Orzo, Baby Garbanzo beans, and Red Quinoa.”  Regular Israeli or pearl couscous is fine and orzo or even farro would be easily workable substitutes.

Ingredients list:  8oz Israeli couscous or blend, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper (optional), fresh sage leaves (optional), 1 3/4 cups chicken broth (used 1 15 oz. can plus a little water), 1 1/2 tablespoons each canola and extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup pecans,  1 small butternut squash, 1 pear, 1 apple, 2 oranges (1 in salad, 1 juiced), 6 figs (fresh or dried), 1/4 cup dried cranberries, 2 ounces each sharp cheddar  and Swiss cheeses, 1 teaspoon honey, 2 cups fresh spinach leaves

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HOW TO COOK BUTTERNUT SQUASH IN THE MICROWAVE:

   Place squash in a large microwave-safe dish and, using a sharp thin knife, poke a few holes in the largest section for escaping steam.  Microwave on high 3-5 minutes (depending on size of the squash–a 1.5lb squash might take 5 minutes, for example) and remove the squash to a cutting board.   Using a large chef’s knife, carefully cut the squash in half horizontally and  with a large spoon, scoop out seeds and strings.   Place the two halves back in the baking dish with a little (2 tablespoons or so) water and put the dish back in the microwave.  Cook another five minutes on high or so (depending on the size of the squash) until tender. Covering the squash with plastic wrap or a microwave-safe cover will decrease the cooking time.   I have also filled the center section with butter and a little brown sugar and served it just like that. (I often do this with acorn squash for a quick hot lunch.)  Otherwise, you can let the squash cool, and then peel and chop or mash it according to your needs.  This is much easier than peeling (or cutting) raw butternut squash, which is, at best, difficult.
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I cook winter squash frequently and my reasons are many.  Here are a few:

1.  It’s delicious; it’s good for your body.
2.  It’s easy to prepare in several ways: Stick in oven, saute, braise, boil, or microwave.
3.  It’s useful as a vegetable or side, but is also hearty enough for a main dish. (Stuff with cumin rice, jack cheese and scrambled eggs for breakfast!)
4.  It’s an excellent addition to soups and stews.
5.  It’s a good substitute for potatoes with pot roast or roasted chicken.
6.  It’s inexpensive and easy to find nearly year round, but particularly now.
7.  It keeps on the counter for a long time–easily 2 months. (That’s about the limit for acorn; the others can keep much longer.)

Be brave and try whatever beautiful squash you find at the market.  Whatever you do with acorn squash, you can easily do with most of the others.  Even spaghetti squash is quickly cooked in the microwave.  Shred it with a fork, add a little butter (salt/pepper) and you have a beautiful meal.  And, yes, you can add marinara and stay on South Beach, phase 2!!

Don’t want to deal with the peel?  You can buy peeled and cubed butternut squash or pumpkin at some markets, but you will pay a premium price.

Nutrition Profile for Butternut Squash

Each cup of cubed butternut squash provides approximately 60 calories, 16 g of carbohydrates and 3 g of fiber. It also supplies almost 300 percent of your daily value of vitamin A, 50 percent of vitamin C, 7 percent of calcium and 5 percent of iron.

 Want more info on winter squash, including nutrition and recipes?  Visit the Snap-Ed (USDA) site here.

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If you liked this, you might also like this recipe from my Dinner Place blog.

rosemary chicken thighs with butternut squash, onions, and fennel

Throw it all together with olive oil; slip it into the oven on a big rimmed baking sheet.  Dinner emerges in about 35 minutes!

or you might like this:

roasted orange chicken and butternut squash (meal in a pan)

or my butternut and other squash soup

This is a lovely soup for someone who is not well or can’t chew, but is luscious as well for a first course at Thanksiving.

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I blog with a great group of food writers on Fridays as we cook our way through the list of foods from Whole Living Magazine’s Power Foods:  150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients:    Read more about beautiful winter squash this week at these sites:


Alanna –  http://kitchen-parade-veggieventure.blogspot.com/

Minnie Gupta from TheLady8Home.com

Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
.
Join us:

If you’re interested in joining the gang writing each week, get in touch with Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits:  Mireya@MyHealthyEatingHabits.com

Sing a new song and cook a new squash,
Alyce 

Alyce’s Tortellini Salad Goes to Denver, but Misses Olivia’s Birthday

Alyce’s Tortellini Salad Goes to Denver, but Misses Olivia’s Birthday

IMG_7688

Summer comes and this tortellini salad comes with it.  Just ask my family.
Full of tender cheese-filled tortellini and lots of chunky vegetables, it’s held together with a brisk mustard vinaigrette and lots of thin slices of sopressata or hard salami.  If I’m going to a family event or a church picnic, I make a big bowl of this salad and bring it along.  In Minnesota, it goes in the cooler and makes its way up north to celebrate Joe’s and Olivia’s birthdays. The original recipe was, I think, from the COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE years ago, but it has changed quite a bit over time.

I missed Olivia’s birthday this year, but made the salad anyway.  See you soon, I hope!

Here in Colorado, it travels up I-25 to Denver for a family afternoon by the pool after a visit to a museum.

This year, Bill made a big hunk of brisket he smoked overnight.  Sean brewed some beer and I made (of course) the tortellini salad.  Occasionally it morphs just a bit; originally it didn’t have many vegetables.  I had to amend that.  The resulting salad is fine for a whole meal, but it’s also a total one-dish side for any barbequed meat.  You know how pasta salad can be pale, insipid, and less than interesting?  Perhaps only filling?  Easily left on the plate at picnics?  That is what this pasta salad is not.   

Nope, we don’t want to get out of the pool. Even for lunch.
This is either Cosmo or Gizmo tending bar.  Whichever one, he got no tortellini salad.
The unveiling of the smoked meat!

TORTELLINI SALAD FOR OLIVIA’S BIRTHDAY, BILL’S BRISKET, or YOUR SUMMER BASH
serves 12

18-20 oz. fresh cheese tortellini (find in refrigerator case)
2 small zucchini, cut into matchstick size pieces
1 small yellow squash, ditto
1 red sweet pepper, ditto
1 yellow sweet pepper, ditto
1 green or orange sweet pepper, ditto
1/4 c minced red onion
1/4# hard salami, cut into 1/4″ slices  (I like sopressata for this.)
1/3 c  each fresh basil and parsley, chopped (keep out 1 T for garnish)
1/2 t dried oregano or Herbes de Provence
1/2 c freshly-grated Parmesan cheese (keep out 2T for top of dish)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3T red wine vinegar
2T Dijon mustard
1/3 c Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt; Freshly-ground Pepper;1/8 t crushed red pepper
Cherry Tomatoes for garnish

In 8 qt. stock pot, bring 5-6 qts. well-salted water to boil. Add fresh tortellini and cook about 8 min or according to package directions.
Meantime, make dressing: In large bowl (or in food processor), whisk together red wine vinegar, garlic and Dijon mustard. Slowly pour in olive oil and whisk until emulsified (creamy and satiny). Add salt and peppers; stir well. Set dressing aside.
Drain tortellini while still a tad al dente and, while hot in colander, add all zucchini and yellow squash. Stir gently to let heat of pasta cook the squash just a tad. Allow pasta and squash to cool, stirring periodically.
Add sliced peppers, salami, all but 2 tablespoons parmesan all but 1 tablespoon fresh basil, and the oregano or Herbes de Provence.  Stir gently; tortellini can fall apart easily. Drizzle most of dressing onto salad and combine. (Save some dressing to add right before serving)
Refrigerate until needed or overnight. To serve, add extra dressing and taste salad for seasoning. Add salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with reserved basil or parsley, Parmesan cheese, and cherry tomatoes.  (If refrigerated overnight, you’ll definitely need to re-season.)

Note:  If you have any other vegetables, add them. This version has some fresh, minced broccoli as well as some diced carrots.

Note:  For vegetarian or vegan option, skip salami and, for vegan, use pasta made without eggs and leave off Parmesan.

{printable recipe}

Aunt Carolyn relaxing after lunch.

Sing a new song; make an old tortellini salad,
Alyce

Homemade Potato Chip-Steak Salad

Homemade Potato Chip-Steak Salad

Just add fork

Sometimes I don’t know what gets into me.  I know I have something leftover and simple from which to create a meal.  Say a piece of steak or two small pieces, in this case.  (Neither Dave nor I could finish our dinner the night before. Is there something wrong with us?)  I didn’t set out to make a homemade potato chip-steak salad…but here’s how it happened: 

First,  I take the steak out of the frig and begin casting around for something to go with it.  Toast?  I could make a sandwich.  Pasta?  I could cook up some vegetables to go with the steak while the water boils.  Stir fry?  Omelet filled with steak?  Steak and eggs?  I could make  mushrooms in velouté  sauce with cream (Supreme is the name, I think–I made it up as a young cook without knowing its name.) and Dijon mustard, add the steak and serve it over rice.  How about a childhood favorite, beef hash?  (Who would waste great steak on hash, Alyce?) 

Instead of beginning any of those dishes,  I  find myself at the Cuisinart making homemade mayonnaise, using Daniel Boulud’s method:
    

Who is Daniel Boulud?

 

Make a poached egg and cook it for only two minutes.  Remove from water with a slotted spoon and place it in a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Pulse until well-blended. 

Into the food processor bowl, pour 1T good-quality  white-wine vinegar (such as Chardonnay or Champagne) and 1T Dijon mustard. (I like to use the whole grain variety.) Pulse until well blended.

Through the feed tube, with the machine running, drizzle 1 cup canola oil.* Process until thick.  Season with salt and pepper.

*Daniel Boulud uses peanut oil

~~

And then I take out a skillet, heat a little canola oil and fry up very thin slices of potato for potato chips.  This is coming together, I think:

Drain them on paper towels. Salt and pepper immediately.   Don’t eat them all.

~~

Meantime, I “boil” an egg in the microwave.  (Break an egg into a greased, microwave-safe cereal-sized bowl.  With a fork, poke the egg white all over several times and the yolk once.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on high for one minute.  Let sit one minute.  Remove wrap, tip egg onto cutting board and chop)

Next:  A large bowl comes out of the cupboard (nearly done now–pretty quick!) and I line it with  

4 cups of mixed greens topped with the steak, 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, the chopped egg, 1/4 cucumber, chopped, 2 green onions, chopped, 1 carrot, sliced, 1 stalk celery, sliced, 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley, 1/2 each yellow and red pepper sliced, and whatever other vegetables I can find–including a beautiful warm summer tomato (don’t refrigerate them ever) and even a little leftover grilled sweet corn.

When the chips are done, I put them around the outside of the salad bowl.

A half-lemon is located and squeezed over the entire salad.  Salt and pepper are next.  I’m generous, but don’t go overboard.  After all, the salad will be dressed with real mayonnaise, right?

I slip a few pieces of baguette under the broiler.  (brushed with oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper)

And dinner is served:

I serve the mayonnaise separately; no need to over-dress this lovely bowl of goodness.

This process made enough for Dave and me.  He ate two servings; I ate one.  So I’d say this was about 3 servings!

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two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood

I’m tired of the daytime heat.  Like the whole rest of the country, I guess. Storms often arrive late afternoon or early evening.  Things blow and go; little rain arrives, though when it does, it’s incredibly forceful.  I water everything daily.  A beautiful part of near-mountain living is the coolness of the evening and night.   While we  resort to air conditioning during the day, in the evening after suppertime it’s turned off and the windows are thrown open wide to welcome the sweet breeze.  All night long the air graces our rooms unlike the midwest where the heat lingers heavily.

My favorite breakfast these days…when I’m not having yogurt and berries: 

On the dinnerplace blog now:  Egg+Egg White Omelet filled with Nonfat Cottage Cheese on WW Toast

If I don’t get out early to walk the doggies (by 7:30), and sometimes even if I do, I later get in a power walk on youtube.  Sometimes two! There are several walks from which to choose–3 minute for a desk break, 5 minute, 2 mile, etc. They are easy to fit into the day and I often stick up the laptop (with the walking video on and the sound off) next to the tv when a favorite show is on.   I do the walk/exercise and watch Ina all at the same time.

I’m working on the soups for the cookbook almost daily.  Once I develop a recipe, it must be tested several times and then I pass it on to someone else for testing.  Does it work when someone else makes it?  I’ve now made posole several times, shall we say.  (I think I’ve got it down.)  My dear friend, sommelier Drew Robinson, was to come today to taste three of the soups (and one secret very-fast dessert) in order to begin the process of pairing.  Long ago, at some far-away dinner with our wine group, Drew let it be known he would provide the wine pairings for a cookbook I would someday write.  Not sure either one of us believed it would ever happen, but it’s happening!  Anyway, Drew forgot he has another wine-tasting tonight and we’re rescheduling.   I am a bit relieved because as much as I love my new posole recipe, I’m ready for something else to eat.  The next soups are a quick vegetarian bean and a cold avocado.   As the book will not have photographs, I keep forgetting to take pictures….I must do it!

I play inside with Miss Gab in the afternoons for a few minutes–too hot for her to run outdoors. 

You’re throwing the ball, right?

We’ve had plenty of time to visit with old friends and worship at First Congregational…one of my very favorite churches anywhere.  Last Sunday, the ample sanctuary was filled to capacity.  Nothing special occuring…and it was summer when  a lot of churches are fairly empty.  Why is FCC so full?  While I might not be qualified to say why, I do know these things:  there’s a bow toward tradition…while embracing the new.  All are truly welcome and these folks are joyful; what more could you want?  Except that when the table is laid and communion is about to begin, these words are said, “Come, all things are ready.”  Such a breathing place.

    One of the best parts about being here is more time with my family

    off to a beer festival…

    and lunches/shopping trips in the middle of the day:

    Trip to Toys r Us:  expensive
    Smile on grandson’s face:  priceless

    Sing a new song,
    Alyce