Thai Quinoa Salad

Thai Quinoa Salad

Quinoa. We dated a few years ago. I couldn’t commit. We parted ways.

Then I was introduced to the quinoa salad at Zoe’s Kitchen (ahh mazing!), and I realized that perhaps I shouldn’t ditch this little grain just yet. Perhaps I just needed to find some better recipes. Perhaps quinoa is really a keeper. Perhaps.

So I found this recipe scouring the depths of Pinterest. The sauce was reminiscent of one of my fav dishes (Simple Asian Peanut Noodles), and so I felt like it had some real potential. Y’all – this stuff is good.  As Blake described it to Brogan last night when he asked what was for dinner: “Pure deliciousness.” And it is. I hope you enjoy!

Thai Quinoa Salad

1 cup dry quinoa, cooked according to the package and drained afterwards
3 cups of shredded (or sliced very thin) cabbage
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup diced green onion

Sauce:
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
6 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tbsp)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp water

1) Add all the salad ingredients into a large bowl.
2) In a small bowl, mix the sauce ingredients until peanut butter is fully incorporated with the sauce.
3) Pour sauce over salad and toss until well combined.

Adapted from Sweet Peas and ABC’s Rainbow Thai Farro Salad

Greek Orzo Salad

Now that it’s summer it’s time to roll out the salads! I first made this orzo salad for a bridal shower last spring. It was a big hit then, and so I made it about a dozen times throughout last summer. Somehow though, I never got around to blog about it! Well, I made it again last weekend, and so here it is!

This salad is light and fresh. It has just as much (or maybe more) veggies than pasta, and is dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. The feta cheese and artichoke give it the Greek flare and it’s really hard to eat just one bowl. Hope you enjoy!

Greek Orzo Salad

1 1/2 cups dried orzo
1/2 cup olive oil (plus some to drizzle on the cooked orzo)
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
3/4 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tsp minced garlic
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced
1 red pepper, diced small
1 yellow pepper, diced small
1/2 a medium red onion, diced small
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

1.) Boil orzo according to package. Drain, rinse and toss with a liberal drizzle of olive oil. Set aside.
2.) In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, oregano, salt, pepper and garlic. Set aside.
3.) In a large bowl, stir together orzo, artichoke, tomatoes, peppers, onion, feta, parsley and dressing. Refrigerate for 1 hour to overnight.

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Greek Orzo Salad

Sweet Potato Salad with Goat Cheese, Pecans and Cranberries

I may have said this once or twice, but I swear I mean it this time… this may be the best thing I’ve ever made. Seriously.  I was partly inspired by a sweet potato salad dish made by the wife of one of my co-workers. Hers is made with gorgonzola and red peppers. So yesterday when I was trying to come up with something to do with my sweet potatoes, her idea of mixing cheese with them in salad form came to mind. As some of you may know, due to my oldest son’s allergies, tree nuts are off limits in my house. So when we received his diagnosis last year, I put my pecans up on the highest shelf of my pantry, not sure if I’d ever get to use them again (sniff, sniff). But this week Brogan happens to be at the beach with his grandparents, and so…. I am free to use nuts once again!

There are so many flavors in this salad it’s incredible – the sweetness of the cranberries, sweet potatoes and honey, the savory and tangy taste of the goat cheese, the spicy sharpness of the green onions and the crunch of the pecans. The combo is really quite spectacular. I served this with a pork tenderloin, and while it would have been really good on it’s own, the flavor overload of the sweet potatoes left everything else on the plate a little dull by comparison. So if you live for sides (like me), this is one to wow you. And so without further adieu…

Sweet Potato Salad

Sweet Potato Salad

3 medium/large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Olive oil for drizzling on sweet potatoes
1 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
4 oz. crumbled goat cheese
2/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced small
1/4 cup green onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Dressing
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp dijon mustard
Juice from half a large lemon (or 1 small)
1 tsp salt

1.) Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place sweet potatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet and toss with a little olive oil. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are fork-tender.
2.) While sweet potatoes are cooking, dice your onions. Place all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until emulsified.
3.) In a large mixing bowl, add onions, cranberries, parsley, cooked sweet potatoes, toasted pecans and goat cheese. Pour dressing over top and stir until well combined. Mixing ingredients while the potatoes and pecans are still warm will make the goat cheese nice and creamy. Serve warm or cold.

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Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

We enjoyed this salad with our Pork Tenderloin Marsala last night. I can’t take all the credit on this one… I knew what I wanted this to be in theory, but had to call in the real chef (Blake) for the execution on the warm bacon vinaigrette. It turned out great – and the different color tomatoes made it a beautiful salad as well! This would be a great addition to any meal (or make a meal by itself!). Some of the quantities below are approximate – real chefs don’t have time to measure 🙂 Just taste and adjust as needed.

Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

Salad
Fresh spinach (6 to 8 cups)
6 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 cup golden cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 large tomatoes, cut into slender wedges

Vinaigrette
6 slices of bacon, diced
1/2 of a sweet onion, julienned
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar (or more to taste)
1/4 cup honey (or more to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

1.) Add ingredients for salad into a salad bowl.
2.) In a nonstick skillet, cook bacon over medium low heat until the fat is rendered (and bacon is starting to get crispy). Add onion, and sauté until onion is soft. Add vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Taste, and adjust to your liking. Dressing should be tangy and slightly sweet.
3.) Pour warm dressing over spinach salad and toss well.

*Don’t drain the bacon grease – this acts as the oil in the dressing. 

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Spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigreett

Apple Basil Chicken Salad

Chicken salad is one of my favorite things.  Truthfully, I love just about anything with mayonnaise, but there’s something about this chicken salad with a fresh crunch and sweetness that makes it really good.  I’ve been making the same chicken salad for about 2 years, and I thought I had perfected it.  Then when we found out a few months ago that my oldest has tree nut allergies – one of the star ingredients, roasted almonds, had to go.  So as I tried to think of what I could add in place of delicious almonds, I looked to my fridge and saw basil.  I thought about this for a couple of minutes, hesitant to add something so new to my beloved chicken salad (and not wanting to waste 3 chicken breasts if it didn’t turn out!) But I took a chance and it paid off – yay!  I didn’t think it was possible, but I believe this variation is better than the original!

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Apple Basil Chicken Salad

3 chicken breasts, boiled and shred
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1/2 of a medium sweet onion, finely diced
1/2 of an apple, finely diced (I used Golden Delicious)
2 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp celery seed
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and chill. Enjoy!

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