Frozen Artichoke Tip and Artichoke and Fennel Salad…..

I’ve fallen in love with Trader Joe’s frozen artichokes.  I love that you only pay for artichokes and not the packing liquid as you do with the canned.

The first time I used them I tossed them with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt & pepper.  I roasted them (when my oven was working!) at 375′ for about 20 minutes.  Delish!  The key ingredient here in terms of the brightness of the artichoke was the addition of the lemon (or acid.)   You do not have this issue with the canned artichokes because they add citric acid to the canning liquid. 

This spring like artichoke and fennel salad is really good alongside any fish or chicken dish.   Of course, I used the frozen artichokes in my salad.  When I steamed them in water and a little salt, they came out very gray.  Interestingly, I tossed them with the lemon dressing and poof, they returned to a more appetizing state.   Clearly acid is required in the cooking process which I found interesting that directions on the package did not mention this.

Steamed Frozen Artichokes

Rinse and drain a 12 ounce package of frozen artichokes.  Put into a pot with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of water.  Steam covered over low heat until most of the water has evaporated, about 6-8 minutes.  Drain well and cool if you’re using in the above salad.   Great in any salad or pasta.  Roast with chicken or add to soups.   The possiblities are endless!

Artichoke and Fennel Salad with Lemon Dressing

2 fresh fennel bulbs with fronds
2 cans quartered artichokes, drained or two packages frozen, steamed, rinsed and cooled
3 tablespoons parsley, washed and chopped
3 green onions, rinsed and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh or bottled lemon juice
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

1) Rinse thoroughly.  Trim off the bottom of the bulb and leave about 1″ of the fronds, slice thinly, place in a large bowl. Remove the tender frawns, the deep green portion, and chop coarsely. (Do not use the celery looking stalks, they are very tough, they would be great in soup.) Add parsley and green onions.
2) In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil through the pepper. Pour over vegetables and toss gently. Taste, add additional salt and pepper if necessary.

Have a great day!


Red Leaf Lettuce Salad With Raspberry Vinaigrette…..

Many years ago I was invited to my good friend Lori’s for dinner and she served this amazingly delicious salad.    The flavor combination was fantastic.  You have tender red lettuce, rich and savory pine nuts, crunch from the onions and creaminess from the feta or bleu cheese.  The best part?  The dressing.  This is my all time favorite salad dressing.

I think the key ingredient here is maple syrup.  It adds the most unique sweetness to the dressing.    I like to mix it simply in a jar with a lid, give it a shake and pour.  Then right into the refrigerator for next time.    It’ll keep for weeks refrigerated.

Lori used Boston red leaf lettuce, crumbled feta, toasted pine nuts and thinly sliced red onion.  I prefer bleu cheese so I used it instead of feta.  I can’t always find Boston red leaf lettuce so I use red leaf lettuce.  Both are tender and very good.  Top with some grilled chicken and you’ve got an amazing entree salad.  It would be awesome with mixed greens and goat cheese as well, endless possibilities!

Raspberry Vinaigrette

1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons dried tarragon, rubbed between your fingers to release the flavor
2 pinches of salt
1 pinch of pepper

For the salad

6-8 cups Boston red leaf lettuce or regular red leaf lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
4 ounces crumbled bleu or feta cheese
Toasted pine nuts
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1)  Put all of the dressing ingredients together in a medium size jar and shake.
2)  Assemble the salad and add the dressing sparingly, a little goes a long way.  Toss gently and serve.  Makes 4 generous servings.

Thank you Lori for sharing your recipe all those years ago!!


Asian Cabbage Salad….

I am SO addicted to this salad.  You can’t help but be happy looking at all of these beautiful colors!   Isn’t mother nature good to us?  Add any ingredients you love.  (Pea pods and shredded carrot would be great)  I start with the dressing in the bottom of the bowl.  I then toss the salad ingredients into the bowl.  Top with chopped peanuts and fresh cilantro.  Serve with simply seasoned and pan seared chicken breast and steamed rice for a fabulous simple supper!

Asian Cabbage Salad

For the dressing:

1 tablespoon cider or rice vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 pinches salt
1  pinch black pepper


2 cups shredded red cabbage (you could also use napa cabbage)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 green onion, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts

1)  Whisk all dressing ingredients together until well blended.  Taste.  Add additional sweet or salt if you need to.
2)  Add the vegetables to the salad bowl and toss to coat.  Serves two.


Have a great snowy weekend!!


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.

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.

Barley and Feta Salad…..

My latest food obsession these days is barley.    I love t0 taste many different layers of flavors especially in salads.  The barley in this salad offers  a lovely chewy texture.  The feta and tomato give it a nice tang, and the basil, parsley, and cucumber balance out the acidic components of the salad.    It can be made ahead and served cold or at room temperature.  For a light supper, enjoy with a nice piece of grilled salmon or chicken breast.  It keeps very well in the refrigerator.  Enjoy for quick and healthy lunches throughout the week.   Top with a little canned tuna or leftover chicken breast, yummy!

Greek Barley Salad

 For the salad:

 2-3 cups cooked barley (about 1 ¼ cup dry pearled)
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup seeded and chopped cucumber, include skin
1 cup chopped parsley
½ cup finely chopped red onion
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
½ cup chopped fresh basil
½ cup crumbled feta cheese

 For the dressing:

¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

1)  If you’re using pearled barley (not the quick cooking kind) place in a colander and rinse well under running water in the sink.  This will prevent the barley from becoming too gummy.  Cook with salt according to package directions, cool completely. 

2)  Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.

3)  Prepare all of the salad ingredients and place in a large mixing bowl.  Pour dressing over and toss well to coat.  Season to taste.  Refrigerate unused salad.  Makes about eight one cup servings.

Happy eating!


Kalamata Olive Vinaigrette…..


I love the flavors in this vinaigrette.  Of course, the most prominent would be the kalamata olives.  I decided to mince them into the vinaigrette to more evenly distribute the olive flavor throughout the salad rather than a strong bite here and there.  The recipe below makes about 1 1/2 cups of dressing.  It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.  Homemade and delicious!

Kalamata Olive Vinaigrette

 2 tablespoons each water, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 large clove garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup olive oil
10 pitted kalamata olives, minced

 Romaine lettuce leaves
Red onion, thinly sliced

 1)  Place all ingredients up to black pepper into a blender.  Blend on low, while the blender is on, add the olive oil in a drizzle until all is incorporated.  Pour into a bowl and add the minced olives.

2)  Place lettuce leaves on a plate with some sliced red onion.  Drizzle with salad dressing.  Makes about 1 ½ cups of dressing.  Keep refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.



Beet, Barley, and Toasted Walnut Salad with Honey Balsamic Dressing…

Calling all overworked, exhausted, over scheduled, and busy Moms and Dads.  Do you ever make something special for your lunch???  I’ll bet not!  I make many, many salads that would be absolutely perfect to make for yourself to enjoy for lunch throughout the week.  Loaded with fiber, protein, and most of all, flavor, this salad fits the bill.  You get the chewy texture of the barley, crunchy walnuts, sweetness from the beets, a tang from the feta, and to pull all of the flavors together, a honey balsamic dressing….YUMMERS!  I do not use the quick cooking barley, feel free to do so if you like.  There is quite a difference in cooking time.
Here we go….

First ingredient, the star of the show…pearled barley…

Regular barley is quite starchy so it’ll need a good rinse…

Rinse the barley for several minutes under running water.  This will remove the excess starch and prevent the cooked barley from becoming gummy.
Add the water and salt to the pan.  Bring to a bubble over medium-high heat, then lower heat to medium-low.  Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes.  While the barley is cooking prep the rest of the salad ingredients.

You will need chopped onions, chopped parsley, crumbled feta cheese and toasted walnuts.

To toast the walnuts, spread onto a cookie sheet and bake in a 300′ oven for 12 minutes. 
Finely chop the walnuts, set aside.
For the dressing, whisk the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, salt, pepper, and granulated garlic powder.
Add the seasonings to the liquid ingredients….

Whisk until well blended.

Into a large mixing bowl, add cooled barley, parsley, feta, chopped walnuts, chopped onions, and rinsed and drained beets.  Pour the dressing over the salad and gently mix until well blended.  Refrigerate unused salad. 

Beet and Barley Salad with Balsamic Dressing and Toasted Walnuts

For the barley:
1 cup barley, rinsed and drained
2 ½ cups water
¼ teaspoon salt

For the salad:
½ cup parsley
½ cup toasted walnuts (300’ for 10 minutes, then finely chop)
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
½ cup onion, finely chopped
1 can sliced beets, drained and rinsed

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons each balsamic vinegar, honey, and olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon granulated garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper

1) Rinse barley under running water for a few minutes. Place in medium pot and add water and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Lower heat to medium-low and cook uncovered for 45 minutes. Barley should be chewy. Cool in a large mixing bowl.
2) While the barley is cooking, toast and chop the walnuts, chop the onion and parsley, and crumble the feta.  Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl, set aside.  Drain and rinse the beets in a strainer.
3) Once the barley is cool, add parsley, walnuts, feta, onion, and beets to the barley bowl. Add dressing to the bowl and gently mix until well blended. Makes about six half cup servings.


Have a healthy weekend!

Light Egg Salad…..

This is the best egg salad I’ve ever made.  You will be a little surprised at the ingredients.  I love that it isn’t loaded with mayonnaise.  The perfect egg salad must start with the perfect boiled egg.  (Recipe below) I made the bread that is in the background, egg salad, soup stock, and chocolate chip cookies last weekend, Joe and Ryan were sick so we were stuck in the house.  Oh well, at least we had some good eats!
You’ll start with 6 perfectly boiled eggs.  Be sure to chop them fine.  If you have a Pampered Chef food chopper, use it here.  Otherwise, just chop with your chef knife until they’re finely chopped.
In a medium size bowl, add 1/3 cup finely chopped sweet onion, 1/2 cup finely chopped celery tops with leaves, and chopped boiled eggs.
In a small bowl, blend 3 tablespoons plain non fat yogurt (greek is best), 3 tablespoons vanilla non fat yogurt, two tablespoons mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons yellow mustard, 1/2 teaspoon ground celery seed, two pinches salt and one pinch of pepper, whisk to blend…
Add the dressing…..
Mix gently until well blended…
Enjoy open faced on a slice of your favorite toasted bread….DE-LISH!
Egg Salad

6 large eggs, hard boiled
½ cup finely chopped celery with leaves
1/3 cup finely chopped sweet onion
3 tablespoons plain non fat yogurt
3 tablespoons vanilla non fat yogurt
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
½ teaspoon ground celery seed
2 pinches salt
1 pinch pepper

1)  While the eggs are cooking (instructions below), add finely chopped onion and celery with leaves to a medium size mixing bowl.  In a small mixing bowl, add the plain and vanilla yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, celery seed, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
2) When the timer goes off, bring the pan to the sink and run cold water over the eggs until cool enough to handle and remove shells. Finely chop the eggs. If you have a Pampered Chef food chopper, use it here! Place chopped eggs into the bowl with the celery and onion. Pour dressing into bowl and gently mix all ingredients until well combined. Immediately refrigerate unused salad. Makes about four ½ cup servings.

*Serve open faced over toast.