Archive for the ‘Salads’ Category

We all have those nostalgic recipes lurking in the back of our minds that evoke a sense of the past, maybe childhood or home, when we make them and eat them. Perhaps for you it’s your grandmother’s “top secret” recipe for chocolate chip cookies or your aunt’s best-ever potato salad. Maybe it’s the first recipe you and your spouse made together or the one thing you remember eating over and over again in a college dorm.

I have more than just one nostalgic recipe that holds a special place in my heart. But today I’m going to share with you a twist on a near and dear one: all the flavors of salmon loaf turned into a dressed-up salmon salad.

Doesn’t every little kid love salmon in a loaf? I know I did. My mom always seemed to make it just right. Her recipe was simple: just salmon, breadcrumbs, an egg, chopped vegetables (usually onion, celery, and bell pepper), and sometimes mayonnaise all mixed together and baked in a loaf pan. Unmolded from the pan and cut into slices, it was a tasty supper served alongside some warm peas and roasted potatoes. I haven’t had salmon loaf for a long time now, being gluten-free and all, but I do enjoy a good salmon salad every once in a while. Not only is this healthy meal gluten-free and dairy-free, it also replaces the mayo with a bit of olive oil for richness instead.

It was thinking back on Mom’s salmon loaf that got me inspired to make this salad. I tossed together Mom’s classic combo of onion, celery, and bell pepper along with some canned wild salmon and a splash each of olive oil and lemon juice (Mom always served lemon wedges alongside her loaf). To sort of wrap the side dish of peas right into the salad, I threw in a handful of those as well for a pop of sweetness and color. Served up on a bed of greens, this delicious salad had all the flavors and colors of Mom’s salmon loaf but none of the breadcrumbs or mayonnaise that make it a bit indulgent.

When I took a bite of this salad—though it’s quite deviant from Mom’s original salmon loaf recipe—the memories came galloping back to the front of my mind: Mom in the kitchen stirring up ingredients with her trusty wooden spoon (which she still has, by the way)…reaching over the counter to give me a few strips of celery to nibble on…sitting down at the table as a family to chat about how the day went and enjoying a satisfying meal together.

Does life get much better?

I guess that’s why we have memories. To keep us mindful of what life used to be, of the simple pleasures we once savored, of the people close to us who we continue to love through the years, and of all the time stretched out ahead of us like a canvas ready to be spattered and splotched with new memories.

What are your nostalgic recipes?


Dressed-Up Salmon Salad  – Serves 1

3 oz. (half can) canned wild salmon, drained and flaked into bite-sized pieces

1/4 cup each: chopped bell pepper, celery, and onion

A few cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup fresh or dethawed frozen peas

Splash of olive oil and lemon juice

Salt and pepper, to taste

1-2 cups mixed greens

In a small bowl combine salmon, vegetables, tomatoes, peas, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Mix it all up well and spoon onto a bed of greens. Serve.

Looking for a crunchy gluten-free cracker or slice of flatbread to go along with your salad? Check out these recipes:


By the way, over the winter I devoted a whole entire post just to canned wild salmon. Head on over here to read it and find another tasty salmon recipe. It’s such a versatile and healthful ingredient. I always have some stocked in my pantry.

This post is linked to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday.


Read Full Post »

One stretch of warm weather—by which I mean 60-degrees—and I’m already cranking out salads for every meal! With the balmy temps and sunny skies, my thoughts have turned to lighter cuisine airing on the cleansing side. Nothing tastes better than a big entree-size salad after a long winter of warming, hearty foods.

Last week I posted about greens and how they are such a delicious facet of spring. Shortly after I wrote that post I came up with the recipe for this salad featuring a tender mix of baby greens as the base. Use whatever blend of greens you like or that are in season. I made the salad with a few handfuls of spicy baby arugula, some tender spinach, and a little bit of romaine for some crunch.

Regarding the fish for this salad, feel free to use whatever is available and suits your tastes. I used tuna steaks, which I marinated in a splash of orange juice, olive oil, orange zest, and black pepper and then grilled. I’m eager to make this salad again with wild salmon or halibut, both of which I prefer over tuna but just didn’t have around at the time I first made the recipe. Of course, if you’re not much of a fish eater you could certainly swap in grilled chicken as well. But with spring on it’s way and, yes, even summer not far off, my tastebuds are asking for the light but satisfying flavor of fresh fish these days.

The dressing here is just your basic vinaigrette sweetened up a bit with some orange juice and made a tad crunchy with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a salad is over-dressed—in other words, swimming around in a gallon of dressing on the plate. So if the dressing here doesn’t seem like enough to you, that’s why. I air on the side of less when I dress things, especially vegetables, since I like to taste the flavor of the actual ingredient being dressed and not just a plateful of dressing. But if you prefer a more heavily dressed salad, I give you permission to double the dressing recipe and douse on as much as your heart desires. I’ll never know.


Grilled Fish and Baby Green Salad with Orange Sesame Dressing – Serves 4

For the salad:

7-8 cups mixed baby greens such as arugula, spinach, and romaine

3/4 – 1 lb. firm fish such as cod, halibut, tuna or salmon, grilled or broiled and flaked into bite-sized chunks

1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded

3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/4 medum red onion, thinly sliced into rounds or half-moons

1 avocado, diced

For the dressing:

2 tbs. olive oil

Juice of 1/2 large orange

1 tbs. red or white wine vinegar

1 tbs. sesame seeds

1 tbs. fresh parsley, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Arrange the greens on individual plates or a large platter. Top with the flaked fish, shredded carrot, peas, red onion slices, and avocado cubes.

In a small bowl whisk together all of the dressing ingredients until emulsified. Drizzle evenly over the salad and serve.


Looking for more delicious recipes as you usher in the spring season? Check out Slightly Indulgent Tuesday over at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.


Read Full Post »

It’s official. I’ve come down with a case of spring fever.

We’ve had some warm temperatures here the past week or so with highs climbing into the mid-40’s. The warm weather has got me dreaming about gardening, spring fashions and—of course—food. As spring draws tantalizingly close, I can’t help but think of spring and summer foods these days. Grilled fish with avocado salsa, fresh peas tossed with goat cheese and arugula for a refreshing salad, berries…fistfuls and fistfuls of sweet, succulent berries.

In my quest to satisfy my spring-starved palette, I came up with this recipe last week for a simple salad of chilled brown rice noodles dressed in a creamy and luxurious peanut dressing. No sodium-laden soy or fish sauce here. Just a delicious blend of garlic, peanut butter and lime with a hint of honey for sweetness. This is not an overly rich or peanut-y recipe, which is why I classify it as lighter, springtime fare. All of the flavors are subtle but distinct at the same time. I like to serve the noodles with simple broiled fish seasoned with ginger and a nice big, green salad.

Spring might be a ways off yet for us Wisconsin dwellers, but with recipes like this one to keep my cravings at bay I think I just might get through this bout of spring fever after all. Enjoy!


Chilled Peanut Noodles – serves 4 as a side

For the noodle salad:

8 ounces brown rice spaghetti (such as Tinkyada brand)


1 tbs. olive oil

1 large stalk celery, peeled and finely chopped

3 scallions (white and green parts), chopped on an angle

Handful or two of frozen peas

For the dressing:

1 tbs. olive oil

1 garlic clove

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (no sugar added)

1 tbs. honey or agave nectar

Juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup water

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt the water and add the noodles. Cook according to package directions, but drain 1-2 minutes shy of suggested cooking time to achieve “al dente” texture. Drain noodles well and rinse thoroughly with cold water.

While noodles cook, heat 1 tbs. olive oil in a skillet over medium-low. Add celery and cook 2 minutes. Add scallions and cook 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the peas and cooked noodles to the bowl with the vegetables.

Make the dressing: combine all dressing ingredients in a blender. Blend until creamy and very smooth. Pour dressing over noodles and vegetables. Toss to coat. Season to taste with salt.

Chill salad in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving. Just before serving, toss the salad thoroughly and break apart any clumped noodles.


 More tasty recipes to be savored at Slightly Indulgent Tuesday! Check it out.  

Read Full Post »

Photo courtesy of Brianna Tittel

Welcome to the fifth and final week of the 5 Pantry Essentials series. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ingredient spotlights, nutrition info and recipes over the past five weeks. Here’s a recap of the ingredients covered so far:

   Week One: canned salmon (Salmon-Potato Cakes) 

   Week Two: quinoa (Cilantro-Lime Quinoa with Avocado)

   Week Three: black beans (Spiced Black Beans and Rice with Mango Salsa)

   Week Four: onions (Caramelized Onion and Chickpea Dip)

And finally, week five: olive oil.

In cooking I use olive oil so frequently I almost forget I’m using it, as I think most people do. And it is for this reason that olive oil is so indispensable and essential to every cook’s pantry. It’s that underlying ingredient that we’re ever dependant upon…and rightfully so. Here’s why. 


Nutrition Spotlight

  • Antioxidant power. Here’s a bit of info regarding the antioxidants in olive oil excerpted from Natural News: “For starters, olive oil – particularly extra virgin olive oil – is very high in antioxidants, one in particular called DHPEA-EDA. When researchers exposed red blood cells under oxidative stress to this and other antioxidants, they found that the DHPEA-EDA provided the best ‘stress-alleviation,’ if you will, fighting off the free radicals to a greater extent than the three other antioxidant compounds used in the study.”
  • Get healthy and stay young with olive oil. Centuries ago, olive oil was first used on the body, not in it. Olive oil was used as a massage oil by ancient olympians, a hair softener and nail strengthener by people of royalty, and a cure for hangovers and aching muscles by physicans. It was not until many years later that people discovered the amazing culinary benefits of olive oil. Packed with vitamins A, D, E, and K, “liquid gold” (as some people refer to it) is thought to slow down the aging process as well.
  • Aid absorption. Some studies have indicated that by consuming a healthy fat such as olive oil with foods rich in antioxidants such as lycopene or lutein, the absorption of those compounds is improved. Try enjoying a spinach salad (lutein) drizzled with extra virgin olive oil or adding a splash to tomato sauce (lycopene) for increased absorption.
  • Extra virgin all the way. Choose extra virgin olive oil for all cooking purposes instead of virgin or light olive oil. The extra virgin variety ensures the best quality and taste as it is made directly from whole olives and only through mechanical processes (no chemicals used in processing). Make sure the label reads “first cold pressed” as well. This indicates that the oil in the bottle was extracted from the first press of whole olives, not a second or third press made from already mashed olives.


What Makes it Essential

Like I said, olive oil is one of those ingredients that sneaks into my cooking so often I almost don’t even know I’m using it. How often do I just reach for the bottle by the stove and drizzle some into a pan without even thinking about it? Many times I’m just using the oil as a way to keep something (like chicken or burgers, for instance) from sticking to the pan and burning. But other times, like when I’m finishing off a pot of hearty minestrone, I drizzle in some olive oil at the end for that extra layer of richness and flavor that is so unique and delicious.

I can’t even think of making a salad dressing without olive oil. Honestly, I can’t. Every dressing I’ve made in the past six months (at least) has started with a stream of golden, glossy olive oil. Or what about pestos, dips, spreads? How would they get their smoothness without a bit of oil to get things moving? Several times I’ve forgotten to add a splash of olive oil to my hummus when I’m making it and boy, can you tell a difference. Without the oil, it really lacks something. I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly—but the oil is a must.

From searing meat and fish to whipping up sauces and spreads to whisking together dressings and vinaigrettes, olive oil is simply a necessity in every cook’s pantry. Like last week’s ingredient, I think olive oil takes a back seat in the kitchen sometimes. But when you stop to think about it, olive oil is one of the most foundational and central elements to all of cooking.

Check out this book, The Passionate Olive: 101 Things to Do with Olive Oil, for more information on the history and uses of olive oil. It’s a fun little book with some tasty recipes as well.


The Recipe

I could have posted about 90% of my recipe collection here since olive oil shows up in so many of them! Instead of creating the longest blog post in all of history, however, I decided to feature a recipe using olive oil in it’s simplest and most delicious form. Today’s recipe is for a Sweet Potato Salad with Thyme Vinaigrette. While I cook with olive oil daily and use it often for sauteing, making sauces, dressing pasta or pilaf, etc. etc., to me it is best enjoyed as a pure and uncooked vinaigrette drizzled over some type of colorful vegetable. 

When veggies are at their peak in the summertime, there’s nothing better than a plate of tomatoes and mozzarella drizzled with oil and balsamic, or a bowl of steamed green beans tossed with lemon juice and olive oil, or a bunch of multi-colored beets roasted with oil and garlic in the oven until sweet and brown. I’m salivating like a labrador just thinking about it all! That’s the wonderful thing about olive oil (and vegetables, too, for that matter): there’s so many ways to enjoy it, it just never gets old.


Sweet Potato Salad with Thyme VinaigretteServes 4

4 small-medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks

2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs. red wine vinegar

1 tbs. water

1 tbs. Dijon mustard

2 tbs. fresh thyme leaves, minced

Salt, to taste

Chopped parsley, for garnish

Fill a medium-large pot with about 1-inch of water. Insert steamer basket into the pot making sure that the water does not come up through the holes. Add sweet potato chunks to pot. Place over medium-high heat, covered, and steam potatoes until just tender when pierced with a fork but still holding their shape—about 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, water, mustard, and thyme until combined well. Add steamed sweet potatoes to the bowl along with salt to taste. Toss gently to combine. Transfer to serving dish and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve warm or room temperature.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on pantry essentials. It’s been a blast to create recipes and write posts each week. If you have ideas for future series topics (or just single post topics) you’d like to see on this blog, please leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to hear from you. Your olive-oil-guzzling blogger,



This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Read Full Post »

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t love gifts. Getting them, giving them. It doesn’t matter. I just love the whole gift-giving and receiving experience. Who doesn’t?

When I give a gift, I feel that I’m showing my love, care, and appreciation for the recipient. And when I receive a gift, I in turn feel loved, cared about, and appreciated. I know it sounds awful to say that someone can buy their way into my heart, but it’s the truth. Any stranger could show up on my doorstep, hand me a beautifully wrapped present with my name on it and, quite honestly, they’d just about make my year. I love gifts. It’s just who I am.

This past Christmas, I received (among some others) four very special and very practical presents. Cookbooks.

Now, before I go on, let me say something here. I truly appreciate any gift related to cooking because, if you haven’t noticed already from reading this blog, it’s something I do quite a lot of. But books? Those are my real weakness. I could empty my entire bank account at the bookstore in one day. I’m not kidding! Though I’ve never tried this, I’m sure I could do it. So, as you can imagine, when I opened up a box full of books on Christmas—cookbooks, to be exact, laden with delicious and mouthwatering recipe upon recipe upon recipe—I just about tipped over into the heap of wrapping paper on the floor beside me. These really were the perfect gifts.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been pouring over every page of each cookbook tagging recipes that I want to try and jotting down notes for meal ideas. It’s been a blast.

Over the weekend, I set to work on some of recipes on my “high priority” list. While flipping through Moosewood Restaurant Cooks for a Crowd, I saw a carrot salad that looked tasty. Instead of the following the recipe to a T (and ending up with a massive bowl of carrots to serve 24 people!), I used it as inspiration for my own concoction: a carrot-raisin salad with just the right amount of tang and saltiness from a squirt of lemon juice and some crumbled feta cheese. Now if that doesn’t sound like edible heaven, I don’t know what does.

With winter on full blast here in Wisconsin, there’s not much fresh looking lettuce at the store these days. So salads like this one utilizing root vegetables and the fresh, tart bite of lemon are a nice alternative to a plate of greens. The raisins add a great burst of flavor and their sweetness plays off the salty feta cheese wonderfully.

The cookbooks I received for Christmas really are lovely gifts. But it’s the inspiration that they’ve given me in the kitchen that’s been the best part. Come to think of it, isn’t food itself one of the most precious gifts of all? In the end, it’s what nourishes and fuels us. And even if it’s just a simple bowl of carrots and raisins, food is that rare substance that can satsify our deepest cravings and enliven us from the inside out. It’s the ultimate gift…the gift that gives us life.

Tangy Carrot-Raisin Salad – serves 2-3

2 large carrots, peeled and grated

1 tbs. chopped parsley

Handful of raisins

Juice of half lemon

Pinch of salt (not too much; the feta will lend plenty of saltiness)

Crumbled feta cheese, for garnish

Combine carrots, parsley, and raisins in a bowl. Add lemon juice and salt. Divide among 2 or 3 small bowls. Top each with a few feta cheese crumbles. Serve and enjoy.

(This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.)

Read Full Post »

Happy New Year! With the dawn of 2010, today I’m posting a healthy and delicious recipe I whipped up over a relaxing week spent with my sister and brother-in-law. We divided our time between chit-chatting over tea in the living room, ice-skating on frozen ponds, browsing busy shops and their after-Christmas sales, and—of course—enjoying good conversation over a week’s worth of good meals.

This year we held our second annual “Iron Chef” competition, which is meant to be a spoof on the popular TV show on Food Network. My brother-in-law, Mike, and I teamed up to create a meal utilizing three special ingredients assigned to us by the judges (my dad and sister). Last year’s ingredients were crab, rosemary, and shallots. They proved to be a rather difficult trio that didn’t quite fit well together flavor-wise. But this year was different. This year, Mike and I were spot on with our culinary creations.

Our ingredients? Wild Alaskan salmon, pineapple, and parsnips. A much more versatile bunch, if you ask me. Immediately we decided on doing a “tapas” theme, creating little appetizer-like bites instead of a big family-style meal. With the salmon and pineapple, we prepared Grilled Pineapple-Salmon Skewers with a Parsley-Ginger Dressing. Kudos go to Mike on that one. He nailed the grilled pineapple. We also prepared Herbed-Goat-Cheese Stuffed Roma Tomatoes and Brown Rice Timbales (don’t worry…I’ll post one or both of those recipes soon enough!).

With the parsnips, we decided to showcase their sweetness in a salad made of sauteed carrots, parsnips, and leeks and fresh arugula. First I sauteed matchsticks of the root vegetables in a knob of butter until they were tender but still held their shape. I removed the pan from the heat and hit it with a slash of fresh-squeezed Cara-Cara orange juice and a healthy drizzle of honey to bring out extra sweetness. Finally, to balance out the sweet veggies, we tossed them—still warm—with spicy arugula leaves. Mike’s pineapple skewers were good, but my heart was won by the bold and earthy flavors of this salad. I’ll be making it again soon. Very soon.

With 2010 here and another blank slate of a year before me, I look forward to dreaming up many new recipes that rival (or hopefully rise above and beyond) this one in the coming months. And I can’t wait until next year’s “Iron Chef” competition where Mike and I can once again don our chef’s jackets, sharpen our knives, and spend the evening working magic in the kitchen.

Above is a photo of the Iron Chef Champions—Mike and I.


Glazed Root Vegetable and Arugula SaladServes 4 as a side

3 tbs. butter

4-5 small parsnips (or 3-4 large), peeled and cut into 2 1/2 inch long matchsticks

2 small carrots (or 1 large), peeled and cut into 2 1/2 inch long matchsticks

1 large leek (white and light green parts only), cut into 2 1/2 inch long matchsticks

2 tbs. pure honey

Juice of one Cara-Cara orange (any variety of orange will work, though)

Salt, to taste

4-5 cups arugula leaves

Melt butter until it begins to foam and sizzle in a large, high-sided pan. Add parsnips, carrots, and leek. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 5-6 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes until just tender to bite. Remove pan from heat.

Drizzle vegetables with honey and orange juice; sprinkle with salt. Cover pan with lid or tent with aluminum foil and allow the vegetables to sit for about 5 minutes. (This helps them tenderize even further in the acidity of the orange juice.)

Toss the vegetables with arugula leaves in a large bowl. Transfer to serving dish and serve right away.

(This post is linked to Friday Foodie Fix at The W.H.O.L.E Gang.)

Read Full Post »


Something about the spring and fall seasons seems to get me in the mood for cleaning.  Nothing like a long, dark winter or busy summer to make junk accumulate, dust pile up on the blinds, or stale crumbs work their way into the pantry’s many crevices.  In the spring, I focus more on bedrooms, baths, closets, etc.  But in the fall, I turn my attention to the kitchen cupboards, refrigerator, and pantry.  It’s sort of like I’m clearing out all the clutter before the holidays hit and things again turn into one giant mess. 

“Purging the pantry” last weekend, I came across a jar of marinated artichoke hearts that I’d forgotten about.  Artichoke hearts got me thinking about a Greek salad I made earlier this summer.  And that recipe got me thinking about the photo I remember snapping of the salad because it was just so darn pretty.  And the photo got me wondering if I still had it stored on the computer.  So, quite determinedly, I sat down at my desk this week and started to sort through a whole kaboodle of pictures that have somehow worked their way onto my computer over the summer.  Photos of pasta, lemons, herbs, olive oil, some fig thing, and a bunch of others needed to be organized and filed away into their proper place.  It was cleaning of different sort, but much needed all the same.

Alas, I found the Greek salad tucked away in a folder I never use.  Instantly, though, I recalled the way I’d made it.  It was a super simple entree sized salad recipe that really was no recipe at all.  Just a bunch of Mediterranean ingredients compiled together to make a tasty, hearty, healthy salad.  I originally made the dish with the intention of posting it to this blog, but–as you can see–that never happened.  Well, it’s happening now.  This one’s just too good to file away into some far recess of my computer’s mind without at least mentioning to you.

Forgive the rather vague recipe.  It’s not that I can’t remember how I made it.  I can.  Quite clearly, actually.  But the whole point of the salad is to work with what you’ve got and put your own spin on it.  No red onion?  Use scallions.  No marinated artichoke hearts?  Try marinated sun-dried tomatoes.  No chicken?  Use white beans.  It’s all up to you and what flavors come to mind when you think of Greece.  I myself have never been there or known anyone who has been there (cry me a river), so this salad is just a conglommeration of my musings about Greek food and what I imagine it to be.

As much as I love fall cleaning, going through the cupboards and wiping out the fridge can wait.  For now, let’s eat like Greeks.


Greek Salad with Chicken and Artichoke Hearts

6-8 cups mixed greens (I like romaine lettuce mixed with baby spinach)

Chopped tomatoes–about 1/2 cup

Thinly sliced red onion–about 1/2 cup

1 (6 oz.) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped

Pitted Kalamata olives, if desired

Thinly sliced cucumber–as much as you like

2-3 grilled chicken breasts, sliced into bite-sized pieces (or use shredded rotisserie chicken meat)

Handful (or two or three!) of grated parmesan cheese

Arrange greens on a platter.  Then scatter atop the greens your tomatoes, onions, artichokes, olives, cucumbers, chicken, and parmesan.  It’s THAT easy!  For a dressing, I just pass olive oil and lemon wedges at the table.  This way people can dress their own salad to their tastes.

(UPDATE 10/23: This post is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays.)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »