Spicy Quinoa Cucumber and Tomato Salad

 

Lately, I’ve been determined to make more room in my pantry, so I’m making a concerted effort to use ingredients I already have to plan my meals. It’s kind of like an overcrowded closet…until you start cleaning it out, you really don’t even know what all you’ve got!  Such is the case with my pantry, so when I ran across some organic red quinoa, I decided it was time to make a meal! Hubby had the Traeger Smoker fired up and ready to smoke some chicken breasts, so I thought a nice healthy quinoa salad topped with a bit of protein sounded like perfect way to top of a beautiful day of sunshine!

Spicy Quinoa Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Spicy Quinoa Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Spicy Quinoa Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Quinoa:

  • 1 Cup Organic Red Quinoa (or use any quinoa you like)
  • 2 cups chicken broth (can use vegetable broth or water)

Rinse quinoa thoroughly before cooking. Combine broth and quinoa and pinch of salt in medium saucepan.  Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender.

Salad:

  • 1 English cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup fresh mint, chopped (or more to taste)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • ¼ – ½ serrano pepper, minced (can use jalepeno for milder spice or omit altogether)
  • 1 lime, zested then juiced
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

 

Combine cucumber, tomatoes, mint, shallot, serrano, lime zest and lime juice.  Toss together, and drizzle with olive oil.  Add cooked quinoa, fold to combine and add salt & pepper to taste.  Add more lime juice if desired.

  • If you like this recipe, feel free to Tweet it, Facebook it, or just email it by clicking the “share” button below. 
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Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils…Great for Lentil Salad!

I continue to be amazed and thrilled at the products carried by Trader Joe’s. Every time I visit, I make it a point to leave with several new things to try, and, soon I’ll post a complete list of my favorite items.  Today, however, it’s all about their “ready-to-eat” steamed lentils that are in their produce section.  I’m a huge fan of lentils, and while they’re not difficult to cook, its just so darn convenient to buy them ready to go! These lentils come vacuum-packed and ready to use! I love keeping protein packed salads in my fridge for a quick lunch, and this was an instant favorite the first time I made it. Quick & easy, full of flavor and healthy, too! It’s a win/win in my book!

Lentil Salad

Lentil Salad

Trader Joe's Ready to Eat Lentils

Trader Joe’s Ready to Eat Lentils

Lentil Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
  • ½ cup red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ cup celery, diced
  • ⅓ cup green onions, diced
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice or more to taste
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Preparation:

Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt & pepper and set aside. Put lentils, red bell pepper, celery, green onions and parsley into large bowl. Add dressing and combine well.

Liz’s Tidbits:

  • I like using the rainbow colored carrots when I can find them at Trader Joe’s. They add such pretty color to the salad!
  • Feel free to add or delete veggies to your taste.  Sometimes I’ll add diced cucumber if I have it, or I’ll use red onion in place of green onion.   I’ve also thrown in some baby arugula which was delicious!  Use your imagination and make it your own!  🙂

If you like this recipe, feel free to Tweet it, Facebook it, or just email it by clicking the “share” button below. 🙂

Steak and Tomato Salad

 

With temperatures soaring into 3 digits over much of the country, who wants to heat up the kitchen by turning on the oven?  Not me, that’s for sure! It’s time to fire up the grill, and throw on a hunk of meat!  We have some wonderful grass-fed beef in our freezer (thank you, Becky!), and the other night, I was craving a good steak.  I had the pleasure of enjoying this salad years ago at Morton’s Steakhouse and thought the presentation was just beautiful.  Use the best tomatoes you can find for this showstopper “main meal” salad! It’s a great way to use leftover steak as well!  DELISH!

Steak and Tomato Salad

Steak and Tomato Salad

Steak and Tomato Salad

Steak and Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

  • steak, grilled to your liking
  • onion (I use red), thickly sliced and grilled alongside the steak
  • tomato, thickly sliced
  • lettuce leaves
  • blue cheese, crumbled
  • dressing, your choice

Preparation:

Place two large lettuce leaves on a plate, stack the sliced onion, steak and tomato. Sprinkle cheese around the plate and dress with your choice of dressing.

Liz’s Tidbits:

  • I prefer a light red wine vinaigrette to dress this salad.  Whisk together ¼ cup red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon sugar and salt & pepper to taste.  Slowly whisk in the oil in a steady stream until thickened.

If you like this recipe, feel free to Tweet it, Facebook it, or just email it by clicking the “share” button below. 🙂

Antipasto Pasta Salad

Did you know?

In a study, it was found that teenage boys will routinely scarf down 2,000 calories at lunch if given the opportunity, without any fat-producing effects. Given the chance, 14- to 17-year old guys eat more than girls their age and turn those calories into height and muscle mass. Click here to see full article.  

No surprise to me!!  My 8th grade 14 year old son, TBP (Teenage Bottomless Pit), eats me out of house and home.  At 6’4″ and 190lbs, obviously the study is right on!

Yesterday, we attended TBP’s end-of-season lacrosse party, and I was blown away by the food that was served.  I’ll save the smoked brisket recipe for another post all it’s own, but suffice it to say, it was the absolute BEST smoked brisket I’ve EVER had…BAR NONE!!

There was another dish that caught my attention, and that’s the one I’ll share with you today.  It’s a pasta salad that was delicious and full of flavor. I love anything Italian, and this Antipasto Pasta Salad is a keeper!  It can be prepared ahead of time and is great for outdoor gatherings. If there’s something in there you don’t like, omit it and add something else.  It’s a very versatile salad…Thanks, Ana, for sharing the recipe!

Antipasto Pasta Salad

Courtesy of Ana Maier

Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb rotini or fusilli (or any pasta will do)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 ounce (1/2 cup) sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), soaked in hot water for 5 minutes and drained well
  • 1/2 pound smoked mozzarella cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 lb can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  •  3 1/2 ounces sliced hard salami, cut into julienne strips (see Liz’s Cooking Tidbit)
  • 10-20 bottled small peperoncini peppers (pickled Tuscan peppers), sliced into rings
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh flat leaf parsley, minced
Preparation:
In a kettle of boiling salted water cook the pasta until it is tender and drain.  In a blender, blend the garlic, mustard, vinegars, water, oil, and salt to taste until the dressing is emulsified.  In a very large bowl, toss the pasta well with the dressing and stir in the sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella, garbanzo beans, salami, peperoncini peppers, red pepper flakes and parsley.  Chill the salad, covered for one hour.  The salad may be made 2 days in advanced and kept covered and chilled.

**Liz’s Cooking Tidbit: Julienne & Batonnet Cuts

“Julienne” is a term meaning to cut into thin strips, (matchsticks) usually 2″ x 1/8″ x 1/8″ .

“Batonnet” refers to matchstick type strips a little bigger, (think french fries) usually 2″ x 1/4″ x 1/4″.

To see a video of how to do this, click here.

Black Bean Salad…Caribbean Style!

We recently returned from a fabulous trip to Stocking Island, a hidden jewel located in the Bahamas.  We stayed at the St. Francis Resort, a wonderful, quaint little place with only EIGHT rooms. How we managed to snag one of those rooms, I’ll never know.  I think we just got lucky!

George and Jill are the proprietors of this little slice of heaven, and they are the perfect hosts.  You truly feel welcome and part of the “local family” as soon as you arrive.

The beaches are private and pristine, and the water is gin clear!  There is world class bone fishing and snorkeling along the beautiful reefs and two blue holes that are very close by.  We kayaked, sailed, hiked and many times just relaxed with a book on the beach.  Thanks Jill and George…We can’t wait to return!

 

 

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I love the local food in the Caribbean and this salad takes me back to “island time”.   It’s quick, easy and full of flavor!

Black Bean Salad

Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 3/4 cup scallion (both green and white parts), thinly sliced
  • 1-2 fresh serrano peppers, diced **(see notes)
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • kosher salt to taste

Preparation:

In large bowl, combine beans, corn, tomato, scallion, serrano and cilantro.  In separate small bowl, whisk olive oil and lemon juice together and add to remaining ingredients.  Stir to combine, and salt to taste.

**Liz’s Notes:

  1. Jalapeno peppers can be substituted for serranos if milder heat is preferred.  Peppers can be omitted altogether for no heat.
  2. Do not substitute jarred or pickled peppers for fresh.

Salpicon…The Perfect Party Dish!

Growing up in El Paso, I remember Salpicon being on several different Mexican restaurant menus.  It was always a popular dish, so when I moved to the San Antonio area, I was surprised when I didn’t find it on any menus.  This recipe is an old one that I’ve tweaked over the years, and my family loves it!

Salpicon is basically a shredded brisket salad.  The brisket is slow-cooked until fork tender, cooled, shredded with a fork and then mixed with adobo sauce.  Add some onions, tomatoes, cilantro, Monterrey jack cheese and avocado, serve it with some flour or corn tortillas and you have a GREAT dish for a party!

Make sure you hold some back to enjoy for breakfast the next morning. Put some in a skillet and saute until the cheese starts to melt.  Beat some eggs, pour them over the meat and scramble over low heat until eggs are set.  Then place into a flour tortilla and you have a GREAT breakfast taco! It reminds me a lot of another dish I enjoyed in El Paso called Machaca.

Salpicon

Salpicon

Salpicon

Printable Recipe

Serves: a LOT

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8-9lb) trimmed brisket
  • McCormick Grill Mate Steak Seasoning
  • 10-12 whole cloves garlic
  • 1 jar Adobo Sauce (see note)
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 2 cups finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 lbs Monterrey Jack cheese, diced small
  • 6 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 large avocados, sliced for garnish

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 325 °.

Line pan large enough for brisket with heavy-duty foil.  Place brisket in pan, season with steak seasoning, sprinkle garlic cloves all over the top and seal pan tightly with another piece of foil.  Bake 4 hours or until meat is so tender, it falls apart.  When done, remove from juices onto a cutting board, and let cool.  Reserve juices.

Strain fat from meat juices, then combine enough of the juice with the Adobo sauce to make a thin liquid (about 3 cups).  If there are not enough juices or you’d rather not use them, water or chicken stock can be used.  Shred meat with fork when cool, discard all fat and place the meat in a large bowl.  Start adding adobo sauce about a cup at a time, tossing the meat to incorporate the sauce.  Add chopped onions, cilantro, cheese and tomatoes and mix gently, taking care not to smash the cheese or tomatoes.  Place in pretty bowl and garnish with sliced avocado.

Serve with warm flour or corn tortillas.

Note:  Adobo sauce comes in a glass jar and is readily available at the local grocery stores in the San Antonio area. It is a thick paste that is thinned with liquid.  Don’t make the mistake of buying the canned “chipotle chiles in adobo sauce”.

Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Mango Vinaigrette

Here’s another recipe that not only fits my “Main Meal” salad theme, but also has one of my favorite fruits….Mango!  My friend, Blanca, served this as a first course, but it’s so good that I’d fix it again as my main course!  You get the sweetness from the mango, the spicy from both the red and black pepper and a creaminess from the avocado.  If you’re serving this as a first course, try something different and serve it in martini glasses or any clear glass.  It adds a touch of elegance.  🙂

Sweet 'n' Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Mango Vinaigrette

The recipe calls for 1 pound of peeled, cooked shrimp.  I happen to think shrimp is much more flavorful if roasted in the oven than boiled in water.  I just toss my shrimp with a few tablespoons of olive oil and maybe 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, lay them out in a single layer on a sheet pan, and roast in a 400° oven for 8-10 minutes, just until pink, firm and cooked through.  Set aside to cool, then add to your salad.  This recipe is from the Cooking Light Magazine.  Enjoy!

Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Mango Vinaigrette

Serves 4 as a first course

Cooking Light Magazine

Printable Recipe

  • Mango Vinaigrette
  • 6 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper (1 medium)
  • 6 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions (optional)
  • 1 pound peeled cooked shrimp
  • 1 avocado, peeled and diced

Place Mango Vinaigrette in a large bowl.  Add lettuce bell pepper, and green onions, if desired; toss well.  Add shrimp and avocado;toss gently.

Mango Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 to 2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 cup diced peeled mango (about 1 medium)

Combine first 8 ingredients, stirring with a whisk.  Stir in mango.

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