Catalina Salad Dressing…..

This is one of the most delicious salad dressings I’ve ever tasted.   It is a tomato based dressing with a little zip, much like french dressing.  Don’t think you can EVER get something like this out of a bottle!   I enjoyed  it with fresh romaine, onion, blanched green beans, canned black olives (not kalamata) , and cannelli beans.  The dressing seems to compliment this combination very well.  One other addition that would be spectacular would have been crisp bacon, YUM!  You’ll have to roast tomatoes for about 20 minutes, totally worth it!   Other than that everything goes into the blender.  It’ll keep for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Why not serve this salad at your next dinner party?  Your guests will be very impressed!

Catalina Dressing

4 large ripe plum tomatoes, halved
drizzle of olive oil
2 pinches kosher salt
1 pinch of black pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 medium clove of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2-3 dashes of hot sauce
1/3 cup olive oil

1)  Preheat the oven to 425′.  Halve the tomatoes and toss with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place in a small baking dish.  Roast tomatoes for about 20 minutes.  Let cool and transfer to a blender.  Add the vinegar through the hot sauce.  Blend.  While blender is going, slowly add the olive oil.  Refrigerate immediately.

*for a little kick add a pinch of cayenne pepper.


Warm Cabbage Salad with Bacon and Honey Mustard Dressing…..

This is one of my favorite salads.  The dressing is warm so it slightly wilts the cabbage.  There is a small amount of bacon for a touch of delicious smokey flavor.  Soooo good!  Serve with a simply seasoned and grilled pork chop.

Warm Cabbage Salad with Bacon and Honey Mustard Dressing 

4 cups very thinly sliced green cabbage or nappa cabbage
4 ounces of raw mushroooms, sliced
2-3 strips of bacon, cooked crisp, chopped
2 plum tomatoes, finely chopped
1/4 cup of your favorite honey mustard dressing
2 pinches of black pepper

1)  Shred the cabbage and put it into a large mixing bowl.  Chop the tomatoes and toss into the cabbage bowl.  Slice the mushrooms and chop the bacon.
2)  Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat until very hot.  Add the mushrooms.  Stir often until they’re cooked,  2-3 minutes.  Add the bacon and cook another minute.
3)  Add the honey mustard dressing, stirring constantly.  Once it’s hot and bubbly, pour over the cabbage.  Toss well to coat.  Top with a couple of pinches of black pepper.  Enjoy!  Serves 2.



Chili Lime Shrimp with Lime Cilantro Brown Rice Salad…..

In case you haven’t yet noticed, I am in love with lime and cilantro.  This combination is fresh and makes most any grilled fish, chicken, or salad absolutely delicious!  I made this combination for the first time over Labor Day weekend and it got rave reviews.

For starters, marinated and grilled fish takes minutes.  Really.  I then save a bit of the delicious marinade to spoon over the cooked fish and a little over the salad…DELISH!  This brown rice salad is a wonderful accompaniment to the Grilled Chili Lime Shrimp.   The brown rice lends the perfect texture, the green onion and red bell pepper a little crunch, and the crumbled cheese a little salt and cream.  It’s perfect.

Why not make a whole bag (about 5 cups uncooked) of brown rice and freeze it for later use?  Defrost and use in this salad or any other quick weeknight dinner.  It’s best to use completely cooled rice for the salad.

Grilled Chili Lime Shrimp

1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, and skewered

1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons chili powder (mild or to your own taste)
1 clove fresh garlic, crushed
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1)  Combine all of the marinade ingredients, whisk well to combine.  Reserve a couple of tablespoons of the marinade to spoon over the cooked shrimp.  Use the rest of the marinade for the raw shrimp.  Marinade for 20 minutes before grilling.  Skewer the shrimp and cook over medium high heat for 4-5 minutes.  Shrimp will be bright pink when they’re done.  Spoon the reserved marinade over the shrimp when  ready to serve.  Makes 4 servings.

Lime Cilantro Brown Rice Salad

1/4 cup fresh or bottled lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt or more to taste
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Salad ingredients:
2 cups cooked and cooled brown rice
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1 large bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
4 ounces *Fresco Mexican cheese, crumbled

1)  Whisk dressing ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
2)  Add the salad ingrediens to the dressing bowl.  Mix well to combine.  Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.  Makes four 1/2 cup servings.

*Fresco Mexican Cheese is made from cow’s milk.  It tastes a bit like mozzarella yet has a crumbly almost grainy consistency.  It doesn’t  melt completely like mozzarella.
**If you’d like a more spicy shrimp, add a couple of pinches (or more) of cayenne to the marinade.
***If you’re using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for 20 minutes before using to prevent burning on the grill.

Fresh Grilled Corn Salad With Chili Lime Dressing….

This salad reminds me of corn on the cob served by street vendors in Mexico.   The combination of the sweet corn, lime and cilantro makes for a very light and refreshing summer salad.  I cook the shucked corn directly on the grill, no fuss with the husks or soaking and all that jazz.  Most often when I make corn on the cob, I end up with an ear or two left over.  Oil and season them up the same way and toss on the grill for some color.  Add the grilled corn to most any salad you’re serving for an unexpected treat.

The easiest way to grill corn is to shuck it and coat evenly with canola oil.  Season with a couple of pinches of salt and pepper and right onto the grill for 10-12 minutes.

The best way to remove the corn from the cob without making a mess of the kitchen is to stick the cob into the top of a bundt pan.  It will hold the cob in place while you hold the top.  Use a sharp knife and carefully remove the corn from the cob.

 Now for the dressing.  Squeeze the juice of two limes into a medium size mixing bowl.  Add 2 tablespoons of light mayonnaise, 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro(or more), and 1 teaspoon of chili powder.

Whisk until combined.

Add the corn and mix gently to combine. Give the salad a taste.  Add additional salt and pepper to taste.   Makes four 1/2 cup servings.

Fresh Grilled Corn Salad With Chili Lime Dressing

4 ears of sweet corn
2 teaspoons canola oil
salt and pepper

For the dressing:

2 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 pinches salt
1 pinch black pepper

1)  Preheat the grill to medium high.
2)  Shuck and rinse the corn cobs.  Rub the two teaspoons of oil over the corn cobs.  Season each piece with a little salt and pepper.  Place corn directly on the grill.  Grill for about 12 minutes, turning every few minutes.  Remove from grill and allow to cool until you can easily handle them.
3)  While the corn is cooling, add all dressing ingredients to a medium size bowl and whisk to blend. 
4)  Remove the corn from the cobs and add directly to the bowl with the dressing.  Mix to blend.  Add more salt and pepper to taste.  Makes four 1/2 cup servings.

*add black beans and diced red pepper and serve with grilled fish or chicken.
**Corn on the cob out of season? Try it with white frozen corn.  Cook in a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil.  Saute until the sugar in the corn caramelizes.  Cool completely and continue with the rest of the salad.


Caesar Salad With Garlicky Croutons…..

It’s been so hot I haven’t had the energy to muster up much more than cool salads!  We’ve hardly spent time outside for the past week, huge bummer.  It’s absolutely beautiful looking outside but of course, it’s like an oven. 

That being said, I’d like to share one of my favorite salads with you.  Caesar salad dressing is very simple to make.  I use the blender to completely pulverize all of the yummy ingredients.  I use light mayonnaise in lieu of a raw egg yolk, and of course, a Caesar salad just wouldn’t be without anchovies.  Before you wrinkle up your nose, I will tell you that when you blend these flavorful little fillets, you will not be able to detect them in the dressing.  Just this amazingly deep and rich flavor.

Another very important component of an authentic Caesar salad is croutons.  I simply cannot use a store bought crouton in my salad.   Use leftover bread ends or baguette.  If you simply cannot turn the oven on at this point, I understand! 

Lastly,  olive oil, (first cold pressed) and nice parmigiano cheese.  If you buy a chunk of it you can grate it or put 1/2″ chunks into the blender to make perfectly crumbled cheese.  For a lovely garnish use a basic vegetable peeler to make shavings. 

This recipe is pretty straight forward.  Feel free to double or triple it as it keeps well in the refrigerator for 3 weeks.  Check out my recipe for croutons below.

Authentic Caesar Salad

2 large cloves fresh garlic, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 anchovy fillets
2 teaspoons worchestershire sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons light or regular mayonnaise
6 tablespoons olive oil, first cold pressed is best
6 tablespoons grated parmigiano
1/2 cup garlicky croutons (recipe below)
2  heads romaine lettuce, chopped

1)  If you’ve got a chunk of cheese, cut about a two inch piece into 1/2″ pieces and put into the blender.  Process until you have an evenly grated cheese.  Add the garlic through the olive oil and give it a whirl on high until you have a nice smooth consistency.
2)  Place the lettuce into a large mixing bowl.  Add the croutons and spoon about 4 tablespoons over the lettuce and toss.  Add additional dressing to thoroughly coat the lettuce.  Reserve the rest for another time.  Toss to evenly coat.  Plate the salad and top with a couple of parmigiano shavings.  Makes four servings.

Homemade Garlicky Croutons…..

What to do with leftover bread or crust ends?  Croutons, of course!  Great on any salad, but particularly necessary on a Caesar salad.  These are amazing and far better than any store bought crouton. 

Preheat the oven to 300′.  Cut the bread into 1/2″ pieces.  You’ll want about 4 cups of cubed bread.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small dish, this should take about 30 seconds in the microwave.

Now, the star of the show….fresh garlic.  Crush 1-2 large cloves right into the melted butter/olive oil mixture.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter mixture with the cubed bread.   Toss to evenly coat.  Add a pinch of salt if you’ve used unsalted butter.

Spread the perfectly seasoned bread cubes over a cookie sheet and into the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes, then give them a turn.  Bake another 15 minutes. 

Remove the pan from the oven right onto a cooling rack.  Allow them to remain on the sheet until completely cooled.  This will assure that they will be completely dried out.  Store in a zip bag.  Makes eight 1/4 cup servings.

Homemade Garlicky Croutons

4 cups cubed stale bread, cut into 1/2″ cubes
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 large cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1 pinch of salt

1)  Preheat the oven to 300′.
2)  Cube bread and place in a large mixing bowl.  Melt the butter and olive oil together in a small microwavable dish.  Add the crushed garlic.  Pour over prepared bread and mix to evenly coat.  Add salt if you’ve used unsalted butter.
3)  Spread the bread over a large cookie sheet being sure not to crowd.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Give the croutons a turn and bake another 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven onto a cooling rack.  Allow to completely cool on the cookie sheet.  Store in a zip lock bag.  Makes 16 two tablespoon servings.

Tabbouleh Salad…..(Only 3 points plus per serving!)

This is my favorite salad to date.  For a quick and satisfying lunch serve over a bed of nutrient rich red cabbage and garnish with fresh diced plum tomatoes.   Great with grilled fish or chicken.  Simple to prepare and it will keep for 5-7 days in the refrigerator.  I especially like to make a big tub of it and eat it for lunches or side dishes throughout the week.

The base of this salad is bulgur wheat.   I love the texture of this healthy grain.  One half cup serving contains 5 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber.    One half cup cooked equals 3 Weight Watcher’s points plus.  As you may already know, whole grains such as bulgur digest slowly, keeping you full longer.

You can soak it in water for an hour and drain off excess water, but I think the best way to prepare it is to cook it.  It only takes 12-15 minutes to cook and I like the texture much better when it’s cooked as opposed to soaking.

Tabbouleh Salad

1 cup bulgur wheat, cooked and cooled
2 large bunches (or more) fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh or bottled lemon juice
2-3 large cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
2 medium plum tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1 large cucumber, seeded and finely chopped
2 pinches of kosher salt (or to taste)
2 pinches of black pepper (or to taste)

1)  Prepare bulgur according to package directions, allow to cool completely.  I use Bob’s Red Mill bulgur.  Add 1 cup bulgur to 2 cups of water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover.   Allow to simmer for 12-15 minutes.  Dump the cooked bulgur into a large bowl to promote quick cooling.  Stir often to release the heat.
2)  You can use a food processor to blend the parsley, mint, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil.  It is not necessary, but it’s a lot easier than chopping the parsley and mint by hand.  Either way, it’s all good.
3)  Add all salad ingredients to the bulgur.  Mix well to blend.  Refrigerate the leftovers immediately.  Enjoy!

*makes about 8- 1/2 cup servings
**1/2 cup serving=3 Weight Watcher’s Points!

Chayote, Pear, and Avocado Salad with Fresh Lime Dressing…..

Of all of the “UFO’s” I’ve featured on my blog, this is my favorite!  Chayote is available year round and packed with amino acids and vitamin C.  It is great to be able to add another fruit/vegetable to the rotation.  I originally thought it was a vegetable as it’s technically a squash, however vegetables that contain seeds are technically fruits.    I’ve known for years that tomatoes were considered a fruit but never gave squash a thought.  Either way, I love chayote.

Now for salad specifics.  The layers of flavors in this salad are incredibly delicious.  You’ve got the crunch of the chayote, the sweetness of the pears and strawberries, the creamy avocado, saltiness of the feta, and the richness of the toasted walnuts.  Topped with a drizzle of simple fresh lime and honey dressing adds the perfect amount of acidity to pull all of the flavors of the salad together perfectly.

Serve at your next dinner party either on individual salad plates or on a large platter for buffet style serving.  Lovely and Delicious.

Here we go:

We’ll begin with the very simple lime dressing.  Whisk the juice of one fresh lime (about 1 1/2 tablespoons), 1 1/2 tablespoons of honey, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add 2 pinches of salt and a pinch of pepper.  Whisk to blend.  Set aside.Chayote is quite simple to work with.  I would say that it the texture resembles an unripe pear when slicing.  As you can see it has a seed.  It is edible but I removed it.

The seed is very easy to remove, simply scoop it out with a spoon.

After you halve it, slice it into thin strips flat side down.

Next we’ll be using a crisp pear. 

Slice it in half and thinly slice it around the core.

Next, avocado, my favorite salad ingredient. 

Slice the avocado in half.  Remove the pit with a spoon.  Carefully remove the flesh of the avocado from the peel with a spoon.  Slice thinly.  If you’re making the salad a few hours ahead of time, place the avocado in a bowl and drizzle lime juice over it to coat to prevent browning.  (Do this with the pears as well)

To assemble the salad, alternate layers between the chayote, the pear and avocado. 

Once the chayote, pear and avocado fill the plate.  Add the strawberries, feta, and toasted walnuts.  (There is enough salad ingredient  to make two dinner plate size salads or 6 individual salad plates)

Lastly, drizzle the salad with the lime dressing and top with a little fresh cilantro.

Chayote, Pear, and Avocado Salad with Fresh Lime Dressing

For the dressing:

1 lime, juiced or 1 1/2 tablespoons bottled
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pinches kosher salt
1 pinch black pepper

For the salad:

1 chayote, sliced in half, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 crisp pear, halved and thinly sliced around the core
1 avocado, pit removed and thinly sliced
5-6 strawberries
2 ounces crumbled feta
2 tablespoons toasted walnuts (325′ oven on cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes, watch closely)
1 small bunch cilantro for garnish

1)  Whisk all salad ingredients together to blend, set aside.
2)  Arrange sliced chayote, pear, and avocado on the serving plate.  This amount of vegetables will make two plates of salad pictured.
3)  Top with sliced strawberries, feta, and walnuts.  Whisk the dressing again and drizzle over the salad.  Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.  Serves 6.

*This recipe will make one large serving platter of salad, or two dinner size plates, or 6 individual salad plates.

Quinoa Salad with Artichokes and Lemon…..

If you haven’t tried quinoa, this is the perfect recipe to introduce yourself!  It lends itself beautifully to the subtle flavor of the artichoke, lemon and garlic.   Love to serve this high protein grain alongside a delicious piece of grilled fish or chicken.  It’s fresh and light, perfect for bikini season, right?  Make this for your next picnic or barbecue, it’ll have your friends oohing and ahhing.

Quinoa Salad with Artichokes and Lemon

2 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup uncooked)
1 14 ounce can artichokes, drained well and quartered
1 large bell pepper, I used yellow, red would be beautiful too
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large clove fresh garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or more to taste
2 tablespoons fresh or bottled lemon juice

1)  Cook the quinoa according to package directions.  Place into a large bowl to cool.
2)  Once the quinoa is cool, add the artichokes through the black pepper.  Gently toss to coat.  Add the lemon juice to the mixture and toss to coat.  Taste.  Add additional salt or pepper to your taste.  Makes about ten 1/2 cup servings. 

*Only 2 Weight Watcher’s points per 1/2 cup!
*Add any of your favorite vegetables, hearts of palm would be a lovely addition.
*One half cup of cooked quinoa has 3 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein.

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette…..

This is an absolutely beautiful salad made with readily available  fresh summer produce.  Simply season with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Grill and add a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette.  Serve with anything from grilled Italian sausage to a simple cheese and garlic pasta.  You could top with some fresh shaved pecorino romano cheese or bleu cheese crumbles.  Try chopping the vegetables into 1/2″ pieces and serve on top of crusty grilled italian bread, delish!

Balsamic vinaigrette

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1)  Whisk all of the vinaigrette ingredients together in a small bowl.  Refrigerate immediatley unless you’ll be using right away.

For the salad:

8 ounces white mushrooms
2 small zuchinni squash, cut lenthwise into quarters
2 small yellow squash, cut lenthwise into quarters
1 large red onion, sliced into three large slices
1 small red, yellow, and orange pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 pinches salt
2 pinches black pepper

1)  In a small bowl, add the mushrooms and a tablespoon of the vinaigrette.  Toss to coat and allow to marinate for 10-15 minutes, continue to toss to coat.  Skewer and place on a platter.
2)  For the onion, drizzle a little olive oil on each slice and season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle the rest of the vegetables with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.  Toss to coat. 
3)  Grill over medium-high heat.  The vegetables will vary in cooking time.  The onions will take the longest, followed by the peppers and the mushrooms.  The squash will cook relatively quick.    The vegetables should all have nice grill marks.  Remove from the grill and slice the squash into bit size pieces on the diagonal.  Do the same for the peppers.  Slice the onion slices and the mushrooms into quarters.  Toss into a medium size mixing bowl.  Drizzle the vinaigrette over the vegetables and gently toss to coat.  Serve or refrigerate immediately.