Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Feta

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

I have a lot going on right now – not just my normal “lot” – but there are some big events coming up in the next few months that I am spending time on, which is taking time away from the kitchen.  I will get back there eventually, but for now I need to make sure all my ducks are in a row.  They are getting there, but it is taking a lot of my time.  What little time I have left when I am not working – which is not a lot these days – work is 200% consuming, and then I have to think about those ducks. Those ducks don’t always want to stay in their rows.

So right now I am focused on cooking healthy foods that are easy to make.  Ok – I know, last week’s post was certainly the opposite of that, but I made an exception.  We have been in a rut recently – a rice rut.  As a family, we probably consume rice 5 out of 7 nights a week.  Fortunately we switched to brown rice a while ago – but still.  It is shocking to me that the kids haven’t protested yet.  I decided that it just couldn’t go on anymore, and that I needed to shake things up a bit – and that’s when I thought about quinoa.

Quinoa is completely underrated – rice gets all the glory – but quinoa is awesome, versatile, and also so easy to make!  It just so happened that I had some fresh feta in the refrigerator that I had to use up – so I went with a Mediterranean theme for this side dish.  It was almost like spring came to dinner.  It was fresh, flavorful and delicious.  And only one duck fell down in the process…

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 English cucumber, chopped
  • 1/4 cup black olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/4 cup oil and vinegar salad dressing

Preparation

Mix all the ingredients together – and serve chilled.  Yes, it is that easy!

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Feta

Chicken Salad with Fennel and Dill

Chicken Salad

Is it Friday yet?  Oh my, it is not a good sign that I am already thinking that, and we are not even at Monday.  My life has been one big hurricane lately – but I haven’t yet reached the eye of the storm.  I am really hoping it comes soon before I completely fall apart.  I am definitely overextended at the moment – at work and at home, and last week just about did me in.  I figured if I didn’t post something tonight, I might never get to it…so here we go.

On top of everything going on right now, this weekend was the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle.  Lucky for me, there was no travelling involved – I just had to get myself out of my office on Friday and downtown for the kick-off event.  Even that was difficult – but I managed to get down there.  And I am really glad I did.  The conference was terrific, with lots product samples to try – that hopefully I can play with when things calm down a little.

I must say, I was not in the mood to socialize this weekend, and I think people could actually sense that.  I didn’t have a lot of people come up to me (was it the scowl on my face that gave that away?) and want to chat – but I did happen to meet a few people that really took me out of my shell, and to the Foodland that I long to be in.  At lunch on Saturday I chose a person with just one other person sitting – who happened to go to college with a couple of others who were at the conference, and they joined her – Adam and Lyndsay from NYC, who worked for Peanut Butter & Co.  They were awesome.  There was no break in the conversation, and they really put a smile on my face.  As well as showering me with packets of their delicious peanut butter – which my daughter basically inhaled today.  I think they have their latest Super Fan in the making.

Later that evening, as we were waiting for the Food Fair to begin, I met two others from NYC – these wonderful ladies named Christina and Alycia.  They have a fantastic blog called Feel Good Foodies – all about their food adventures in NYC and beyond.  It was really fun to look through their site today.  I felt like they were long lost friends, we had so much to talk about – of course everything tying back to food.

Which reminds me – this chicken salad.  Recently I have had to join the ranks of many who have trouble digesting lactose.  Of course those tiny Lactaid tablets work perfectly – but what a pain in the neck.  One of the products I sampled this weekend was the lactose-free Green Valley Organics sour cream.  Oh my gosh.  Wow.  I swear I could have just gotten a spoon and gone to town – good thing they just gave us a little taste.  It was so creamy and delicious, and wonderfully rich.  I can’t wait to try it in this chicken salad with fennel – which was outstanding.  Just the perfect end of summer dinner.

I have lots more to share about the conference, but this is a good start.  Now excuse me as I prepare to blow away…hurricane style.

Ingredients

  • 4 large skin-on, bone-in chicken breast (12-14 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°. Place chicken on a small rimmed baking sheet and rub with 2 tablespoons oil; season with kosher salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown and cooked through, 25-30 minutes. Let cool, then shred into bite-size pieces.

Toss in a large bowl with fennel, scallion, dill, vinegar, chicken, sour cream, mayonnaise and lemon juice; season with kosher salt, pepper, and more vinegar, if desired.

Do ahead: Chicken can be cooked 2 days ahead; cover and chill. Shred just before using.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chicken Salad with Fennel and Dill

Spring Salad with Avocado Dressing

Spring Salad with Avocado Dressing

My girls are pretty funny about salad, and particularly salad dressing.  I have one that use to only use salad as a means to eating the dressing, while the other one just likes plain lettuce.  I am more of a dressing gal myself – although I certainly don’t eat salad just to consume the dressing.  Everything in moderation…pretty much my goal in life.  Of course, usually what really happens in my life is the following:  If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.

Yep, that’s exactly what’s happened with the market basket that I signed up for.  This is no ordinary CSA basket, this is a basket on steroids – but the good kind of steroids, the ones that are organic and healthy.  Seriously, is there such a thing??  YES – it comes to my door everything Thursday!  I am overwhelmed by the bounty, and every week we are scrambling to come up with ways so that we are not wasting a single bit.

The lettuce parade gets us every week.  The problem is that’s my go-to lunch at work. When I have no time for anything else, I can at least grab a salad.  Plus, I must say – the salad bars are pretty extensive – you can basically find anything you have ever hoped for – which is not typical of my refrigerator, unless it comes from the basket.  So, trying to match the type of salad I get at work is pretty tough – but I have been working at it.  I found this recipe for an Avocado Salad Dressing in Cooking Light, and I realized that’s exactly what I need to get through the madness.  The dressing was much thicker than I imagined, but it was delicious and creamy.  I just love avocado in salads, and this made it even better – it coated every single piece of lettuce, instead of just getting some chunks here and there.

Before getting another basket today, I decided I would bring all the lettuce from last week to work for my lunch.  I was on a mission last night to find anything and everything in our refrigerator to make the best salad I could.  I found some leftover pork roast, smoked chicken, roasted beets, hard boiled eggs, roasted red peppers, carrots and leftover cauliflower.  I must say, it was a salad fit for a queen – but it was missing one key ingredient – that avocado dressing…

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup diced avocado
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 (5-ounce) package mixed baby greens

Preparation

Place avocado, cilantro leaves, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and hot sauce in a blender; blend until smooth. Combine radishes, carrots, and mixed greens; drizzle with dressing.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Spring Salad with Avocado Dressing

Lentil Salad with Soft-Cooked Eggs

Lentil Salad with Soft-Cooked Eggs

Lunch has never been my favorite meal and I think I know why.  At home on the weekends, it seems to be more of a chore than anything else.  The girls are usually not starving, because they had a late breakfast – and they never know what to eat.  If it were up to them they would have a brunch every day – with eggs, pancakes, bacon, etc…  At work, although I am starving, I have to force myself to get to the cafeteria just to get something healthy in my body.  Then I just march back up the five flights of stairs just to sit in my office and eat while I catch up on email.  How is that healthy?

When I am traveling in Europe it is completely different.  Even when I am in the office we take the time to go to the cafeteria and sit down and eat – that is if we don’t get out of the building and eat somewhere else.  Even when we have meetings, we take the time to have lunch.  When I studied there during college, I remember that was the only meal that I didn’t eat with my French family – that was their family time – the kids left school to go home for lunch, and that was the big meal of the day.  It makes sense – you have hours to burn off the food and then you eat a light dinner before going to bed.

When I am home on the weekends, my go-to-lunch is an egg sandwich.  I tend not to eat eggs for breakfast, but by lunch time that is exactly what I need.  I have been staring at the lentils in my pantry for quite a while now, when this recipe flew out of the stacked pile from Cooking Light.  A big light bulb went off in my head.  Instead of my typical egg sandwich, why not take the time to make this lentil salad that I can enjoy a few times this week, and cook a soft boiled egg to go on top – just like the beautiful picture next to the recipe.  I swear, it was calling me.

My egg was probably a little softer than the recipe called for – but it was perfect for me.  The yolk drizzled over the top of the arugula and the combination with the lentils was to die for.  By the time this was done, the girls had already eaten, and were upstairs – so I had the kitchen to myself.  It was almost luxurious – sitting there with my beautiful salad. Not having to get up and get something for someone.  I took my time, and savored every bite.  Now I can see why lunch is so appealing – if only life always quieted down during the middle of the day.  Keep dreaming…

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups dried petite green lentils
  • 6  large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 8 cups baby arugula

Preparation

Place lentils in a medium saucepan. Cover with water to 3 inches above lentils; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until lentils are tender. Drain and keep warm.

Add water to a large saucepan to a depth of 3 inches; bring to a boil. Add eggs; boil 5 minutes and 30 seconds. Drain. Plunge eggs into ice water; let stand 5 minutes. Drain and peel.

Combine oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Set aside 2 tablespoons oil mixture. Add lentils, bell pepper, onions, and celery to remaining oil mixture; toss gently to coat. Place reserved 2 tablespoons oil mixture and arugula in a large bowl; toss to coat.

Place about 3/4 cup lentil mixture and about 1 cup arugula mixture on each of 6 plates. Cut eggs in half lengthwise; top each serving with 2 egg halves. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Lentil Salad with Soft-Cooked Eggs

Smoky Quinoa and Bacon Salad

Smoky Quinoa and Bacon Salad

My kids love Top Chef.  It is one of their favorite shows on television.  It is hard for me to put myself in their shoes – when I was their age I was watching Little House on the Prairie.  The only cooking shows were on PBS, and I don’t think there were many to choose from.  Today with DVRs, On Demand, and the Internet, you can basically watch any show you want whenever you want.  Life is very different – and my children take full advantage of the choices available.

Tonight is the season finale of Top Chef, but since we rarely watch a show when it actually is aired – I am sitting here typing this blog post – while they are finishing their homework.  Hopefully this weekend we will see who wins, if we don’t find out beforehand.  So why are my kids so fascinated with Top Chef?  Well, I think for many reasons.  They love a good competition.  They love finding out what the challenges are.  And they love Padma and Tom.  But seriously, who doesn’t?

I don’t know a lot of famous people – meaning, if I saw Tom Hanks walking down the street – I would never know.  But get a celebrity chef – even just a local chef near me, and I know exactly who they are.  I have seen quite a few over the years, but have never met Tom.  He is one of the good guys – I really respect him as a chef and as a person – especially after reading my brother-in-laws interview with him.  I loved it.  I feel exactly the same way about my food – and I spend a lot of time getting my food from the places I feel good about.  And yes, I avoid hormone and antibiotics in my food any way that I can.

One of my favorite foods is bacon.  I have mentioned this many times before – but I am not sure I have mentioned where I get my bacon.  Skagit River Ranch has just about the best bacon in the world (in my opinion).  I have to go to the Farmer’s market to buy it – but let me tell you – it is absolutely worth it.  I don’t know what they do to their bacon, but it is salty yet sweet, and really meaty.  So of course when I saw this recipe in Food & Wine, I knew exactly where the bacon was coming from.  This salad was outstanding.  I love quinoa, and the bacon and caramelized shallots were a delicious combination with the nutty grain.  I adapted the recipe slightly below, but feel free to add even more ingredients – like a nutty green soy bean that I am thinking of…that goes perfectly with bacon.  So for those of you watching Top Chef tonight – I hope the best chef wins, and their life if filled with perfectly smoked bacon that is antibiotic and hormone-free.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • Pinch of kosher or sea salt
  • 8 pieces of bacon
  • 3 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

Preparation

Combine the quinoa, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring the water to a boil, and after the water begins to boil, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Gently simmer, covered, for 15 minutes (there may still be some water not yet absorbed).  Remove from heat. Keeping the pan covered, let it stand for 5 minutes, or until the remaining water is absorbed. Remove the lid and gently fluff the quinoa. Set aside to cool.

Crisp the bacon, drain and cut into 1-inch pieces. Set aside reserving one tablespoon of the grease.  Sauté the shallots in the bacon grease, then set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, brown sugar, smoked paprika, chipotle, salt and pepper. Set aside. In a large bowl, toss together the cooked quinoa, bacon pieces, shallots and parsley. Toss with the dressing and serve at room temperature or chilled.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Smoky Quinoa and Bacon Salad

Easy Dill Cole Slaw

Easy Dill Cole Slaw

Remember a few posts ago, when I was glowing with the happiness of summer, and how the weekends were no longer filled with one event to the next?  Well, I should never write something like that without holding my breath, crossing my fingers – or knocking on a whole bunch of wood.  Even though the kids events have slowed down (I say that, and then I think about the swim meets twice a week), everything else in my life has gone completely out of control for a variety of reasons.  I am getting stressed just thinking about all the fruit I bought last week at the farmer’s market – having all intentions of making tons of jam – but that has not happened.  There is always next weekend, right?

So, what do you make when you are super busy, but having people over for dinner?  Fortunately I am not in this predicament tonight (that would really throw me over the edge), but a few weeks ago – this was my life.  It sounded like a great idea a month before when I arranged everything – but then the date finally came, and I was seriously in a bind.  My husband was all set to grill, which was awesome, but I was in charge of the sides.  I immediately thought about some slaw – but I wanted to make sure it was really easy, and tasted fresh.  Not that I had time to do this, but I looked through a few of my cookbooks, and decided I would just wing it. I had some fresh dill in the refrigerator that was looking right at me, and so I decided on a Dill Cole Slaw.  Wow was that perfect.  I just loved the Cole Slaw with that nice fresh dill flavor – and it seriously only took me 5 minutes to make.  Of course I cheated a little with already pre-chopped cabbage, but there are some shortcuts worth taking.

I hope that you are having a nice relaxing weekend – but don’t fret if you are not – here is a simple recipe to make your life just a little bit easier.  At this point, we should all take what we can get!

Ingredients

  • 5 cups shredded cabbage and carrots
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

Preparation

Mix all ingredients together, and put in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours to allows flavors to blend. For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Easy Dill Cole Slaw

Easy Dill Cole Slaw 2

Tomato, Corn and Avocado Salad

When I was growing up on the east coast, summer was really summer.  It would get warm in June, and stay that way usually into September.  Corn on the cob was usually the true sign that summer was in full swing.  My mother would stop at the farm stand and pick up the really fresh just picked corn, and it was so sweet and delicious, there was no butter needed.  It was only really in season for a couple of weeks, so we really had to get our fill while we could.

When I moved to Denver, summers were even hotter, but it was a dry heat, and I loved it.  We didn’t have air conditioning, so every weekend we would flee to the mountains and camp – it was the only way to stay cool.  We had a rule also, no turning on the stove or the oven – so every night my boyfriend (who is now my husband) would fire up the grill, and I would make a cold salad.  We lived like that all summer long.

Now that I live in Seattle, unless we get lucky, summers are really not summers.  We might get a few days or even a week with temperatures over 80 degrees, but it doesn’t happen often.  Corn on the cob is available for months – but it is so bland, unless you put butter and salt on it, it tastes like just matter.  I still miss that fresh picked corn on the cob, but have instead resorted to making corn salads.  That way I can put a light dressing on, and give it a little flavor.  Or sometimes, I just hop over to Trader Joes and pick up a package, sometimes it actually has more flavor than the supposedly fresh stuff we can get in the market.  This is one of my favorite summer salads – extremely healthy, and lots of different flavors.  So – if you happen to live somewhere that is actually experiencing a summer – give this one a try.  If you can get fresh corn on the cob, all the more power to you – otherwise, use frozen, you will still not be disappointed.  Just take a few bites of this, and no matter what the weather is like, you will feel like it is summer…

Ingredients

  • 1 cup halved heirloom grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups shelled edamame
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3  ears shucked corn (or frozen roasted corn – I used Trader Joes)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2  diced peeled avocados

Preparation

Place the tomatoes in a large bowl, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let stand 10 minutes.

Add corn, and edamame to tomato mixture; toss well. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, cilantro, and lime juice to corn mixture; toss well. Top with avocado.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Tomato, Corn and Avocado Salad