Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer Salads: Green Side Salad

So tonight we used up leftover spaghetti sauce with some pasta and I made a green salad to go with it.  Nothing too fancy since the sauce had ground beef in it, not really a major need for protein, just some light veggies to round out the meal.  Here's what I came up with.

Green Side Salad

1 head romaine lettuce (I should clarify, I used the skinny romaine hearts I bought at Costco in the 5 pack)
1 beefsteak tomato, diced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, quartered, and diced
3 tbsp soft goat cheese, crumbled


1 pkt Italian dressing mix
1/8 c water
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
1/2 c olive oil

In a salad dressing mixer (or in a bowl with a whisk) shake up the ingredients for the dressing. Set aside.

Chop the lettuce into 1/4 to 1/2 inch strips. Place in bowl with tomato, cucumber, croutons, and goat cheese.  Toss dressing with salad and serve along side your dinner entree.

Summer Salads: Pasta Salad

Everyone seems to have a different recipe for pasta salad and this one is just another variation of the idea.  As mentioned before the beauty of salads is you can tailor them to your likes and dislikes.  I am kind of playing around with this one still because while I like pasta salad, it's not always been my favorite.  So I am messing with the ingredients and trying different combinations to see what I like best.  Here's last week's variation.

Pasta Salad

1 lb of your favorite shape of pasta (the short cut kind of course) I used whole wheat rotini
1 c halved grape tomatoes
1/2 c chopped basil
1/2 c feta cheese
1/4 c black olives, halved or quartered
1/4 c quartered artichoke heart quarters (in water, not marinated)
1/4 c roasted red pepper strips


1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1/4 c olive oil
fresh ground black pepper

Whisk together dressing ingredients.  Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss with dressing.  Refrigerate overnight, or at least 2 hours.  Best the next day so the flavors can come together better.  Serve cold or room temp.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Salads: Mexican Chicken Salad

So this morning I decided we needed a bit of Mexican flavor. Once again, I forgot photos.  Sorry about that.   This is sort of like the Cafe Rio style chicken salad, but different.  I wanted to lighten it up a bit and add some more vegetable content and less carbohydrate content.  I also wanted to lighten up the fat level of the Cafe Rio salad, as that one can get kind of high in calories for sure.  I hope you like what I did, and maybe you can try it for your family too!

Mexican Chicken Salad

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 c taco seasoning
1 can low sodium chicken broth

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 c grape or cherry tomatoes
1/2 bag crispy tortilla strips (sold near the croutons)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 c grated pepper jack or monterey jack cheese (could also use Mexican cotija cheese instead)
a tortilla for each person you are serving (salad makes enough for about 4 people)
1 lime, quartered


1 avocado, halved and pitted
1/2 c Newman's Own Light Lime Vinegarette (this was just the best mexican salad dressing I could find without it being a creamy ranch base that's loaded with calories)

In the morning of the day you make this, place thawed chicken, chicken broth, and taco seasoning in your crock pot.  Set for 4-6 hours on low.  Occasionally check on the chicken and flip pieces over to keep from drying out.

Just before dinner time, chop your lettuce, add tomatoes, tortilla strips, cheese, and beans.  Shred the chicken and stir to coat with the broth and taco seasoning (which should have formed a sort of sauce while cooking all day).

Mash the avocado well and then add the salad dressing and mix well til you get a smooth consistency.  This becomes a new "avocado lime dressing."

If you so choose, you can place the tortillas in a tin pie plate for each person and bake each one to make kind of a tortilla bowl.  I chose not to do this in order to keep my kitchen cooler.  If you don't bake them, just serve them on the side of the salad.

Add chicken to salad, and dressing and toss well.  Do not add chicken until you are just about ready to serve, as hot chicken will wilt the lettuce and other ingredients.  Serve in your tortilla bowls immediately after tossing with dressing and chicken.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Green Salad with Asian Flare

Tonight I was in the mood for some Asian flavor. Sometimes when I make a salad of this nature I will cook some potstickers and toss them in with it, but this time I decided to serve it with some Hake fish on the side. I panko breaded and pan-fried the fish, and then served it along side the salad.  It was light and fresh and very tasty.  I did make the dressing myself this time and I think it turned out well.

Green Salad with Asian Flare

1 head romaine lettuce
1 cup loosely packed spinach
1 avocado diced fine
1/2 c grape tomatoes
1 tbsp lemon juice (to keep avocado from browning)

1/4 c rice vinegar
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 tsp dijon mustard
pinch ground ginger
pinch granulated garlic
dash cayenne pepper

Whisk together dressing ingredients, then pour it over salad ingredients.  Serve with your favorite protein or toss in some pan fried potstickers with it.  Because there isn't protein in the salad, you might want to add some grilled chicken or something.

Summer Salads: Mixed Greens with Fresh Veggies

So this one is very similar to some others I have made, but not completely the same.  The thing about salads is you can play around with them and change ingredients to make it completely different or just different enough to make it not boring.  So I played with ingredients and added a few I liked and changed a few for a different flavor. Just enough to break up the monotony.  Feel free to play around with it as you like.

Mixed Greens with Fresh Veggies

1 head romaine lettuce
1 c baby spinach, loosely packed
1 cucumber, peeled, quartered, and sliced
1 c grape tomatoes
1/2 feta cheese
1 avocado, diced fine
balsamic vinegarette

Toss all ingredients together, serve with your favorite protein, or on its own.  Feel free to add chicken or turkey or steak to your liking.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer Salads: Tortellini Pasta Salad

So here is a way to enjoy some great pasta without making the kitchen super hot.  Not really on the low carb side, but pretty delicious and pretty light considering its name.  You can kind of play with the ingredients and use veggies that you and your family like, but here are some of the flavors I used for my husband and I tonight.

Tortellini Pasta Salad

1 pkg veggie "rainbow" tortellini (about 1 pound.  I got mine at Costco.)
3 tbsp each olive oil and balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 c feta cheese
1/4 c julienne cut sundried tomatoes
1/2 c black olives, sliced or quartered
1/2 c quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1/4 c diced roasted red peppers, optional
2 c peeled, deveined, and tail off shrimp (optional), or you can use chicken or turkey or ham

Cook tortellini according to pkg.  Takes about 4 minutes if frozen, 2 if fresh.  Drain and rinse immediately with cold water.

Whisk together balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Add basil to this mixture.  Pour over pasta and toss well to coat all of the tortellini.  Add feta, sundried tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, and peppers and toss well.  Chill in the refrigerator.

Saute shrimp in skillet with a tiny bit of olive oil, til pink.  I sprinkled it with a bit of cajun seasoning but that's just optional.  Chill in the fridge til fully cooled, then just before serving toss into the salad.

Serve room temp or cold.  Great for picnics too!

Pasta with Ham and Peas

So this is not a salad.  But I made dinner for some friends of ours tonight because they just had their baby on Friday last week and not having to cook after having a baby makes life a lot easier.  I know this first hand because several people brought my husband and I dinner when we had our son about 4 months ago.

Anyway, my mom used to make something similar to this when I was a kid, and I always loved it.  The great thing about this recipe is you can kind of play with it a little and change the vegetables in it if you like.  And, it's fairly easy.

Remember how I told you we had baked a spiral ham last week for that lunch?  Well here is a good way to use said leftover ham.   It's also a pretty family friendly recipe--most of my siblings liked it too when we were growing up.  So here goes!

Pasta with Ham and Peas

1 lb pasta of your choice (I used whole wheat shells, but it doesnt really matter.)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced fine
1 c diced ham
3/4 c frozen peas
1 container garlic flavored Philadelphia cooking creme OR
1 container herbed spreadable cheese (like Rondele, Boursin, or something similar)
1/2 c milk, approximately
dash cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta to pkg directions.

While waiting for water to boil and pasta to cook, saute onions in olive oil til translucent, then add ham to the pan and cook til its browned around the edges and starts to render some of its natural fat.  Stir in the cooking creme or spreadable cheese and add milk slowly til it thins out to a creamy sauce consistency.  Reduce heat or turn completely off til the pasta is fully cooked.

Once pasta is cooked, drain and set aside briefly.  Return the sauce to the heat, and add cayenne, salt and pepper,and peas, and then toss it all with the pasta.  Add some parmesan cheese if you wish and then serve hot with whatever side you.  Usually a nice big green salad works great since this dish is a bit on the rich side.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Salads: Mixed Greens and Turkey

OOPS! I forgot to take a picture before we devoured this one... haha.

This salad is kind of a mix of different things we like and using some of the leftovers we have from last week. Last Sunday, we blessed our sweet baby boy at church and then we had a big lunch party at our house for our family and friends that came to witness the special occasion.  For the lunch party, I roasted an 18 lb turkey and we baked an 8 lb ham.  We still have some of these leftovers, and we're working on using them up as quickly as we can.  Tonight's salad served that purpose as well as helping us keep to our salad eating. It turned out pretty well and maybe you'll like it too!

Mixed Greens Salad with Turkey

1 small head romaine lettuce, chopped into 1/2 to 1/4 inch slices
about 2 c loosely packed baby spinach leaves, washed.
2-3 tbsp chopped roasted red bell peppers (I buy them in the jar, and then just do a rough dice)
3 tbsp julienned sun dried tomatoes (again, already jarred, packed in olive oil and usually garlic)
1/2 c feta cheese crumbles
1 c shredded roasted turkey (recipe found here if you need a fantastic one)
croutons to your taste
balsamic vinaigrette (we bought the Newman's Own brand this time, but you can make your own with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and parmesan cheese.  Some people like to add garlic powder or other herbs)

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Serve with french bread on the side if you wish.  Eat immediately, as once dressed the greens will begin to wilt and the croutons will begin to go soggy.

Summer Salad Series

Okay my fellow bloggers, friends, and readers.  I have decided to take on a new project here on Recipes to Live By.  This time I plan to keep it going at least for the rest of the summer (the next 7-8 weeks).  Here's what I plan to do:

Last week after cooking for 30 people and having all of them come over for lunch after our son's blessing at church, we decided it is too dang hot to cook every night of this summer.  We have also decided that the two of us (the hubby and I--baby actually is on the small side and still needs to gain but all he eats is formula these days...) could stand to lose a few pounds.  Pregnancy, premature delivery, eating out during the NICU days, etc has kind of gotten us off the bandwagon of eating very healthily and we think it's time to pick ourselves back up and get going again.  Hopefully this will also help me get my blood sugar back into gear, too.  Low carb, high vegetable and fiber, and protein is the goal here. (not Atkins, mind you, just carb conscious, and using "smart carbs")

Thus was born the idea of eating salad for dinner about 4 times a week.  We're going to be trying all kinds of salads and dressings and combinations of ingredients.  I am going to try hard to stay away from the potato salads and those summer picnic salads (if you know what I mean) just because they aren't my fave and they don't really meet the goal of this project.  I will be trying to do different flavors and definitely be using fresh ingredients.  We'll probably be "visiting" all different places on this adventure: Greece, Italy, Mexico, Asia, etc.

I hope you'll follow me on this journey, and even give suggestions or comments on the way. More than that, I hope you feel inspired to try some of them too!   Here we go!