Summer Salad Roundup

August 6, 2010

Even though we’ve had unseasonably cool weather this Summer in Southern California, I realize that in some parts of the country there are still many of you experiencing record high temperatures. I feel for you, I promise!

Summer is actually my favorite season but I know, from spending most of my life in Texas, that the last thing anyone wants to do in that kind of heat is to cook. So, I thought this might be a perfect time for a Summer Salad Roundup.

Here are just a few of my favorite Summer Salads.

Ceviche Salad with Avocado, Cilantro, and Green ChileCeviche Salad with Avocado, Cilantro, and Green Chili

Egg White Salad with Spinach, Feta Cheese, and ParmesanEgg White Salad with Spinach, Feta Cheese, and Parmesan

Tomato Salad with Feta, Basil and Balsamic ReductionTomato Salad with Feta, Basil and Balsamic Reduction

Spinach and Orzo SaladSpinach and Orzo Salad

And, last but not least, this is absolutely, positively my most favorite summer salad EVER! And yes, I do realize that I’ve shared it here before, (more than once) BUT there’s no way that I could leave it out of this Summer Salad roundup.

In the Summertime, I make this almost every time we have  friends over and I take it to almost every get-together we attend. You can’t go wrong with this salad; just make sure you use fresh mozzarella and the best tomatoes and basil you can get your hands on!

Insalata Alla CapreseInsalata Alla Caprese

These Summer salads are super simple to put together and perfect to take to any Summer barbeque or picnic.

Stay cool and have a great weekend! :-)


Spinach and Orzo Salad

May 29, 2010

Spinach and Orzo Salad

Spinach and Orzo Salad

Still need a quick and easy idea for a side salad to include in your Memorial Day menu?

This is the perfect salad to take to an outdoor cookout or to pack up individually for a nice Summer picnic.  Since there’s no mayo in this herb vinaigrette-dressed pasta salad, it lasts up to two hours at room temperature and up to four hours on ice packs.

I just made this salad and am taking it tomorrow to serve at our Memorial Day cookout. It turned out awesome and I think it’ll be even better tomorrow after the flavors have a chance to meld together overnight.

If you saw my Toasted Orzo soup recipe that I made recently, you know that I’m a huge fan of orzo pasta. And even though you could make this same recipe with different pasta noodles, the orzo was perfect in this salad. The only thing I changed in this recipe is that I used fresh basil instead of dried.

Spinach and Orzo Salad
(Sunset Magazine May 2010)

1 c. orzo pasta
3 T. each olive oil and red wine vinegar
1 tsp. fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. fresh ground pepper
1 qt. lightly packed baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 c. slivered sun dried tomatoes packed in oil
12 pitted kalamata olives, sliced

Cook orzo according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, basil, salt, and pepper and reserve.

Drain pasta, rinse with water until cool and drain again. Add to bowl with dressing and gently mix in spinach, tomatoes, and olives to combine. Add more salt, if desired.

(Photo credit: Sunset Magazine, May 2010 issue)


Labor Day Potato Salad Recipe

September 7, 2009

Labor Day Fireworks flickr photo by IceNineJon

Labor Day Fireworks flickr photo by IceNineJon

Happy Labor Day! I suppose summer is officially over now. As a final salute to the season, I have a recipe for you. I haven’t been in the kitchen this weekend, so please forgive me for not including photos!  But trust me, this recipe is family-tested and approved!  And you already know what potato salad looks like anyway, right?

Here’s our world-famous SisFamily Potato Salad recipe, which originally came from SisMama’s dad. Ok, it might not actually be world-famous, but our family loves it! What makes it special? No to celery, green pepper, sweet relish and Miracle Whip! Yes to celery salt, a touch of mustard, boiled eggs and dill pickles. That’s how we roll!

SisFamily Potato Salad

3 to 4 pounds new potatoes, as close to the same size as possible
6 eggs, boiled and chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
4 to 6 dill pickles, finely chopped or use dill relish
2 tablespoons yellow or spicy brown mustard
Good mayonnaise to bind it all together: usually 1 cup or more
Celery salt to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes (unpeeled) until just tender.  Allow to cool just enough to handle and then peel.  They peel easier when they’re still warm.  Cut potatoes into medium-size chunks; not too small.  They break up a bit when mixed, and you don’t want to be left with mashed potato salad.  Salt and pepper the pieces while still warm, since they absorb flavors best while warm.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the egg, onion, and pickles together.  Add the mustard, mayonnaise and a few dash of celery salt.  Mix all together, then add in the potatoes and toss together gently. Taste and adjust for seasonings.  You may need to add more mayonnaise to hold the mixture together.  The potatoes will drink up some of the moisture as they sit for a while, so we usually make the salad pretty juicy to start with.  It’s best to make the salad a day ahead or at least a couple of hours in advance so all of the flavors can blend.

For a lower-fat variation, you could use low-fat mayo, but we aren’t big fans of that product.  And here’s a tip that I learned from a co-worker.  To mellow your chopped raw onions a bit, let them marinate for an hour or so in plain water or in lemon juice, then drain them and pat them dry.  The liquid takes out some of the bitter strong flavor.  It really works!  You could also substitute chopped chives or scallions for a milder flavor.

Potato salad is a main course in my veggie household, but it’s just a side dish in LilSis’ household of carnivorous guys.  Fortunately for them, she has an awesome brisket recipe and she’s going to post it for all of you with similar big appetites in your family.  Take it away, LilSis!


Summer Salad

July 8, 2009

Last week we talked about Party Menus, Chips and Dip, Pizza on the Grill, Quick & Easy Recipes, and No-Bake Desserts. Lots of talk about lots of food! We were definitely in ‘party-mode’ in preparing for the holiday. And, unfortunately, I also consumed a lot of party food last weekend and while on our ten-day vacation in Chicago.

Monday morning, I decided that the vacation was over and that it was time to get back on track!  No party food for me for a while.  :-(

I could actually be satisfied with a salad for dinner, but the guys aren’t too thrilled with the idea of just a bunch of green stuff for dinner.  And, to be honest, I’m a little bored with my same old salad recipes so I’m on the lookout for some new ones.

I’ve been so busy since returning home from vacation that I haven’t had time to flip through any cookbooks or browse the internet for fresh salad ideas. A few days ago, I received my new August/September issue of Food Network Magazine. When I found the article on “50 Simple Salads”, I was glad that I had taken a few minutes to look through the magazine.

If you don’t subscribe to the magazine, you can find the  “50 Simple Salads” recipes here. There are a lot of simple dressing ideas and some interesting combinations in some of these salads, but I did say that I was bored, right?

I wonder if my family would try a Watermelon-Feta Salad?

Watermelon-Feta Salad

Watermelon-Feta Salad

Or a Squash and Orzo Salad?

Squash and Orzo Salad

Squash and Orzo Salad

This Bacon Bistro Salad looks really good to me. But, of course it does, it’s got fried bacon in it!

Bistro Bacon Salad

Bistro Bacon Salad

It may be an experiment to see if I can get my guys to eat a salad other than a Caesar Salad or an Iceberg with cucumbers, but I’m going to give it a try. Wish me luck!


Heirloom Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

June 17, 2009


This is one combination of ingredients that I can’t seem to get enough of:  tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, and garlic!  We’re lucky here in Southern California to have great produce practically year round, but if you happen to live somewhere else, hopefully you’re able to get them now that Summer is right around the corner. I found this great medley of small heirloom tomatoes at Trader Joe’s.

Recently, I talked about my love for Insalata alla Caprese. The ingredients in this salad are very similar, but just served differently. So, if you love Caprese, I guarantee that you’ll love this salad!

It’s quick and easy, so it’s perfect to take to a neighborhood cookout or to a friend’s house for a cocktail party.


I found the original recipe for this dressing in the June 2009 issue of Food & Wine. It was featured in an article called “best 5-minute dressings”. The original recipe didn’t include the mozzarella cheese, but I couldn’t imagine this salad without it. I think I also doubled the garlic and the olive oil. This is my version.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette
(adapted from June 2009 issue Food & Wine)

1 lb. small heirloom tomatoes, sliced in half
2 garlic cloves
pinch of crushed red pepper
1 cup packed basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. Champagne vinegar
1/4 lb mozzarella, diced into cubes
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
Coarse salt, to taste

Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper, arrange on serving platter and sit aside.

I don’t like the bite of raw garlic in a dressing, so I pressed the garlic cloves into a small pan and sauteed them in a tablespoon or so of the olive oil just until a little soft. I then added the crushed red pepper flakes to the oil and garlic and sauteed for just another minute or so.

Put the basil in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the oil, vinegar, the garlic and the crushed red pepper and process until smooth. Toss in a bowl and add cubed mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper. Pour on top of the tomatoes and serve!

I think this tomato salad would also be great served on top of a plate of baby lettuce.

I have to use this beautiful bunch of basil soon, so…

some time in the next few days, I’ll be sharing with you yet another great recipe that includes these fantastic ingredients!

I hope you love them as much as I do!


Summertime Fruit Salad

June 5, 2009

Summertime Fruit Salad

Summertime Fruit Salad

How can anyone resist the beautiful fresh fruit at the market these days? We are so fortunate to have a Trader Joe’s nearby. We always have a great selection of fruit and the icing on the cake is that it’s reasonably priced. We don’t pay an arm and a leg for a small container of raspberries or blueberries.

I buy my berries at Trader Joe’s every week, but most of the time no one helps me eat them, so I’m careful not to buy more than I can eat by myself. Since I’m trying to help SirHoney eat more fruit, I bought more on my last shopping trip so I could make a nice fruit salad.

When I got home, I decided to browse through Cooking Light’s website for some ideas for a light fruit salad recipe. I was inspired by this Summertime Fruit Salad recipe, but I omitted so many things, it’s really not even the same recipe anymore. If I were to make this fruit salad for a dessert, I would have included the simple syrup and the whipped cream topping which both include Chambord.

On this particular day, I was just making a nice fruit salad for breakfast, so I didn’t want the sugar, cream or Chambord.  (It’s basically just a big bowl of fruit, so I almost feel bad calling it a recipe.) Here’s what I came up with.


Summertime Fruit Salad

1 c. blueberries
1 c. sliced strawberries
1 c. red, purple & green grapes
1 c. diced pineapple
1 c. raspberries
1/4 c. chopped walnuts

Combine first four ingredients in a medium size bowl, then gently toss in the raspberries. Serve in individual bowls and top with the walnuts.

I really wanted to include blackberries in this fruit salad, but for some reason, the guys don’t like them, so I left them out.  I did add blackberries to my serving and then poured it all on top of a bowl of nonfat vanilla yogurt and sprinkled with a few chopped walnuts. If serving immediately, I would also add some sliced banana.

I loved this fruit salad, and guess what, so did the guys! What an easy way to get them both to eat more fruit!


Insalata ala Caprese

June 3, 2009


One of the many things I love about this time of the year is the amazing fresh produce. One of my most favorite salads to serve either as an appetizer or as a side salad is this Insalata ala Caprese.

We had a few friends over for dinner this past Friday night and I had some great tomatoes and loads of fresh basil, so it was a ‘no brainer’ when deciding what to serve as an appetizer. This is always a real crowd-pleaser! But, seriously, how can you go wrong with fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil?

I just can’t get enough of this salad! Unfortunately, this is a little bit of a splurge when you use the full fat fresh mozzarella. (Unless you’re disciplined enough to keep it to a slice or two of cheese, which I am NOT.) I’ve made it using the lower fat mozzarella and it’s fine, but not quite as good, so I always use the fresh mozzarella when we have guests.

We had eight people and these were the quantities that I used, but obviously, you can modify easily enough for more or less servings.


Insalata ala Caprese

5 medium size fresh tomatoes, sliced
1 1/2 lbs. fresh mozzarella, drained and sliced
fresh basil leaves
1-2 T olive oil
1-2 T. balsamic vinegar
Dash of sea salt

Layer the tomatoes, basil leaves, and mozzarella on a serving platter. Drizzle with the olive oil and the balsamic vinegar, to taste. I also julienne a few basil leaves to sprinkle on the top and put a sprig in the center. Top off with a grind or two of sea salt, if desired.

I’ve made several different versions of this recipe. It’s excellent if you have a variety of tomatoes. I’ve made it with a combination of yellow, orange, and red tomatoes and it turns out gorgeous. Also, if you don’t care for the balsamic vinegar, just use a little lemon juice instead.

Buon appetito!


Cinco de Mayo Meal: Ceviche Salad with Avocado, Cilantro and Green Chile

May 3, 2009

BigSis and I had hoped that BigT could make his Jalapeno Poppers for our Cinco de Mayo appetizer. He would have loved to make these for us, but he moved out of our hacienda on May 1st (again; fingers crossed) so he was very busy getting situated this weekend.

Recently, BigT and I went to one of our favorite Mexican Food dives for lunch.  I ordered my favorite ground beef crispy quesadilla. It’s really more like a humongous nacho because all the amazing cheese and meat are on top of one crispy tortilla and broiled until bubbly and golden brown. (I obviously wasn’t being too disciplined.)

But BigT was being very disciplined, so he ordered the ceviche. I NEVER would have ordered ceviche from that particular restaurant, but I tried a few bites of his and it was really good. In their particular recipe, they used a white fish. We’re going to use Ahi tuna for ours.

I have made a gazillion appetizers over the years but I have to admit, I was always a little afraid of ceviche. Luckily, since living here in CA, we’ve ventured outside our little box. We’ve actually been eating Sashimi Tartare and Carpaccio!

This ceviche recipe is a pretty traditional version, except that the fish in Mexico would likely be mackerel or kingfish, it would typically be marinated long enough to cook through and it would be served in a glass bowl or on a tostada. I really like serving this on the bed of butter lettuce.


Ceviche Salad with Avocado, Cilantro and Green Chile
(adapted from Rick Bayless Mexican Everyday)

1 cup fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup (loosely packed) roughly chopped cilantro
Fresh green chiles to taste, stemmed and roughly chopped
(I only used one Serrano and roasted it before peeling and chopping)
Salt, to taste
1 1/4 pound sashimi-grade boneless, skinless fish (I used Ahi)
1 ripe avocado, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 diced tomato
1 large head butter lettuce

In a blender or food processor, combine the lime juice, garlic, cilantro, chiles and 1 tsp salt. Process until smooth.

Put the diced fish into a large bowl. Pour the lime marinade over it and let it “cook” in the lime juice to suit your own taste: you can eat it right away (Peruvian-style) if you like raw fish, or let it “cook” for an hour or two if you like it more well-done. It takes about four hours to “cook” fish well-done in lime juice; if that is your desire, add the cilantro, chopped, just before serving to preserve its fresh color.

Pour off half the marinating liquid and set aside. Toss the avocado and the tomato with the fish, then taste and season with additional salt if you think necessary.

Divide the lettuce among four dinner plates. Scoop a portion of the ceviche into the center of each arrangement. Sprinkle with a little chopped cilantro, drizzle some of the reserved lime marinade over the salad and you’re ready to serve.

I marinated mine for exactly two hours and the fish was perfect!  If you really do not like the idea of semi-rare fish, marinate for the full four hours OR you can substitute 1 pound of cooked shrimp. In that case, you would only marinate the shrimp for a few minutes to soak up the flavors.

If you’ve never made ceviche, maybe this has inspired you to give it a try this Cinco de Mayo!


Sunday Snack: Angel Hair Pasta Salad

January 11, 2009

I couldn’t call this a Sunday Supper since my “meat eating men” wouldn’t be satisfied with this for dinner.  So, it’s Sunday Snack to enjoy during the San Diego Chargers game today.

This is my ‘lower’ fat version of BigSis’ original recipe. I’m not a big fan of cold pasta salad at all, but I love this recipe. And, I know it seems odd to use angel hair instead of a macaroni or a rotelle, but it just works in this recipe, so I’ve never tried to change it.  To lower the fat, I cut the amount of olive oil in half.  I also cut the amount of the cheese in half and used 2% cheese instead. And, I used turkey bacon instead of regular bacon.  I also added the capers and chives and used very little mayo. (I don’t substitute low fat mayo, though, because I think it’s too sweet!)

Angel Hair Pasta Salad

1 (12 oz.) package vermicelli
Juice of one large lemon
1/4 c. olive oil
1 pound turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled
8 oz. smoked ham, julienned
8 oz. grated cheddar cheese (2%)
5 1/2 oz.  jar green olives, sliced
2 or 3 T. capers, to taste
2 or 3 T. snipped chives
Mayonnaise, (maybe 1/4 c.)

Break vermicelli into 2 inch pieces and cook according to package directions. (Be careful not to overcook) Drain. Toss in lemon juice and olive oil and marinate overnight. The next day, add the rest of the ingredients, using just enough mayonnaise to bind it together. Salad is best served at room temperature.

Oh, so yummy!

Oh, so yummy!


I also whipped up a batch of deviled eggs as another little snack. This recipe is just totally to individual taste. I don’t even measure.

Easy Deviled Eggs

Dozen boiled eggs
Dill Relish
Dill pickle juice
Celery Salt

Cut eggs in half. Remove yolks. Mix together yolks with desired amount of the next five ingredients. Fill eggs and sprinkle with paprika.


Easy Deviled Eggs


I don’t know if these snacks are are really considered “football watching” grub, but they’re both so good!  The guys would have been happy with chips and dip and some big greasy burgers!


Sunday Supper: Political Salad

October 5, 2008

When I was making tonight’s Sunday Supper, it occurred to me that my plate was a lot like the presidential race this year.  There are some similarities on each side, but there is a wide gap in-between the two parties and the two philosophies.  And, yes, I do have an opinion about the race.  A pretty strong opinion I would say, but no, I’m not about to say what that opinion is.  We’d all fight and argue about it, somebody would get mad, and guess what – no one’s opinion would be changed.  So I’ll keep mine to myself.

Back to the supper.  I always enjoy the edamame corn salad that you can get at Whole Foods, because it’s tasty and easy, and pretty healthy.  But it’s a tad too raw-oniony for me, and it just seems silly to pay whatever it costs per pound when it’s only corn and soybeans and a few dressing ingredients.  You can’t put together a dish for less than this little baby costs if you do it yourself.

I was craving the salad today, and decided to try two different variations of it tonight since I had the corn and edamame in the freezer.  One version is Asian-inspired, and one Southwest-inspired.  But, man (or woman) can’t lived on soy and corn alone, so I made a lettuce, tomato and avocado salad to go with it.  In the little political/salad scenario going on in my head, the two edamame corn salads are the democrats and republicans, and the LTA salad is in the gap between them.  Ok, so it’s a little goofy to compare beans and corn to the dems and the reps, but life can get too serious, right?

Supper 10-5

BigSis Supper October 5

Both of the salads started with sauteed red onion and garlic. The asian variety added toasted sesame oil, olive oil, rice vinegar, lemon juice, garlic chili sauce, and salt, plus cilantro, wasabi powder, and shallot pepper all from Penzey’s.  The southwest version had lemon juice, cider vinegar, olive oil, and salt, with more Penzey’s specialties: shallot pepper, lemon pepper, and  Southwest seasoning.  I have to say both were really good, although I expect they will morph a little bit as they sit overnight.  The flavors will blend, and my lunch experience tomorrow may be a tad different story than my dinner tonight.  I’m slightly fearful that the wasabi powder will rear it’s ugly little green head overnight and come back to bite me in the fanny tomorrow.

And just in case you’re wondering, yes, that whole ding dang plate of food was just for one person! You may have heard that vegetarians eat like birds, so let me dispel that myth right here and now.  We eat!   I ate the whole thing!  My tummy was full to the top, but it was a guilt-free full.  This meal was vegan except for Newman’s Own Caesar Dressing.  It was full of fiber and protein, and a plethora of antioxidants and other goodies for my bod. I eat this way a lot of the time.  I’m not a twig by any means, but I’m not overweight either.  I try to eat for health and energy and fuel most of the time, and don’t worry about a big plate of vittles if it’s good stuff.  Which isn’t to say that I don’t have my crazed Kettle potato chip episodes, because I do!  Life’s about balance, right? Eat well most of the time, and then don’t freak out about your little splurge!

On a serious note, can I just say thank you to Paul Newman for so many wonderful high-quality organic products? And for living a life with a purpose, and apparently without scandal? God bless you, Paul; rest in peace.


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