Thursday, July 25, 2013

BBQ Chicken and Quinoa Salad

Yummy!!!  Such a great alternative to the normal lettuce based salad.  And a great alternative to your typical BBQ for someone who loves that BBQ sauce flavor but wants to cut the fat and calories of the tradition BBQ dinner.

This was a hit!  Everyone loved it plus the kids could eat the components of the salad separately (for example, a plate with piles of chicken, quinoa, corn, veggie).  Another great way to use quinoa and something I'm adding to our regular rotation (Ha!  we don't have a regular rotation, but if we did I would include this).  I LOVED it and couldn't wait to eat the leftovers for lunch the next day.  Hope you enjoy it too!

Happy Cooking!

BBQ Chicken and Quinoa Salad
recipe based on
2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, cooked and shredded or cubed
2 cups of chicken stock
1 cup of quinoa
1/2 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup cooked corn
1/2 cup shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup your favorite BBQ sauce (and some extra for the chicken)
1/4 cup of 2% greek yogurt
1/3 cup of freshly chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/2 of an avocado, cubed
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup of cubed cucumber

I cooked some quinoa as I always do:  1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups of liquid, in this case it was chicken stock but water would be fine.  Put that in a medium sauce pan, bring to a boil, and turn down to a simmer (covered) for about 15 minutes or until tender.  At this point, if there is still extra liquid in the pan, just take it off the heat and cover it up.  The quinoa will absorb the extra liquid. 
Now for the corn...I used frozen, cooked it in the microwave, then waited for it to cool.  If you have time and the desire, then feel free to use a fresh ear of corn and grill it. 

And the rest of the basic ingredients:
My chicken breasts (leftover from earlier in the week - I grilled three times as much chicken as I needed for my chopped cobb salad, used some for this recipe, and the rest for my kiddos).
All the ingredients prepped and ready to go...its almost time for layering the ingredients.

Before we begin composing the salad, take about 2 tablespoons of extra BBQ sauce and toss it with your chicken.
Then use 1/4 cup of the BBQ sauce and 1/4 cup of greek yogurt in a small bowl, whisking until smooth, to create a surprisingly delicious dressing.

This is seriously delicious, and I was very skeptical.
I wanted to add more vegetables than the original recipe.  So aside from the avocado and scallions, I also diced some cucumber and tomatoes.

Now for the layering...first use the quinoa, corn, and black beans.  (I should mention that this makes 2 LARGE portions, or 4 medium sized portions.  I made 2 plates with the ingredients listed.  My husband ate his entire plate, I ate half for dinner and saved the other half for my lunch the next day.  I think it depends on your appetite and caloric intake - your call.)

Then the chicken covered in BBQ sauce and the cheese.  Yummy!  At this point you can pop it in the microwave to melt the cheese, but I didn't really care about that.

So onto the BBQ dressing drizzle, the scallions, and cilantro.  Stop here if you want, but why do that when you can add more veggies?!?!

Lastly, the tomatoes, avocados, and cucumbers.  YUMMY!!!

I hope you guys love this as much as we did...totally worth prepping on the weekend for a quick dinner or a delicious lunch.

Quinoa, Chickpea, Lemon, and Feta Salad

I've been on a quinoa kick lately...basically looking for grains that are higher in protein and fiber to serve as a side dish or as part of the main dish.  Quinoa, farro, barley, wheat berries, and lentils all fall into this category.  Yummy! 

So here's a great little side dish (or vegetarian lunch) for you to share at your next BBQ.  I served this with roasted chicken and grilled asparagus.  This dish has lots of fresh dill, which I love.  But if you aren't a fan, then substitute basil or mint and will be just as delish.  Love having fresh herbs in the garden this time of me lots of options.  Enjoy!

Happy Cooking!

Quinoa, Chickpea, Lemon, and Feta Salad
original recipe based on the following:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken stock
1 (15 oz) can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup of fresh peas
1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/3 cup of crumbled feta cheese
the juice and zest of 1 1/2 lemons
3 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste 

Because we are a culture of convenience, most grocery stores will sell fresh peas in the produce section like the picture below.  Who has time to shell peas???  Well worth it and so yummy.  My husband and I hate cooked peas but these are great.  If you haven't tried them, I encourage you to give them a try...just might change your mind about peas.
So back to the recipe...I cooked some quinoa as I always do:  1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups of liquid, in this case it was chicken stock but water would be fine.  Put that in a medium sauce pan, bring to a boil, and turn down to a simmer (covered) for about 15 minutes or until tender.  At this point, if there is still extra liquid in the pan, just take it off the heat and cover it up.  The quinoa will absorb the extra liquid. 

The leftover quinoa I put aside for the kids to eat.
In a medium bowl, combine the quinoa, peas, and chickpeas.

Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper, and dill.  Stir to combine.  Then the best part...the feta!
Allow this to sit in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.  Its the kinds salad that gets better in time.  I just had some leftover for snack and it was better than the day I made it.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sarah's Chopped Cobb Salad

I love Cobb salads, I love chopped salads...I love salad.  And this salad has everything I love and is substantial enough for my husband to eat it for dinner and feel satisfied.  Yummy!  There is nothing more to say. :)

Happy Cooking!

Sarah's Chopped Cobb Salad
original recipe, ideas from several sites
6 cups of your favorite lettuce (I used 3 cups of baby arugula and 3 cups of baby butter lettuce)
1 avocado, cubed
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 pickle cucumber, chopped (I love the crispness of these type of cucumbers but any kind works)
1/2 pint of grape tomatoes, sliced in half or 4ths, depending on the size
5 slices of cooked bacon, chopped
1/2 cup cooked corn (I used frozen, cooked it in the microwave, and cooled it before using it in the salad)
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
or your favorite salad toppings, 1/2-1 cup of each
2 chicken breasts, cooked and sliced (I like to grill some chicken on the weekend to use throughout the week for lunches or a quick dinner salad like tonight)
1/3 cup of your favorite salad dressing (we used an all natural, organic, creamy blue cheese)

Start with a large bowl and the lettuces.  Mix to combine whichever varieties you choose.

Carefully arrange the salad toppings in the Cobb style.  Looks beautiful, if I do say so myself. 
This salad makes 4 servings, so we have leftovers for lunch the next day.  (The kids eat the chicken and some extra toppings, along with pasta I cook up separately).  We usual toss our portions in a separate bowl to use as little dressing as possible.  Tossing your salad with the dressing means you will use much less than just pouring it along the top.

Place the grilled chicken on top and dig in!  Did someone say yummy???  Enjoy!

Lentil Salad with fresh Peas, Mint, and Lemon

This is a simple and delicious cold lentil salad with fresh ingredients.  The best part...Trader Joe's sells cooked lentils in the produce section!  AMAZING!!!  Why not cut out the time it takes to soak, cook, and cool the lentils?  If you can't find pre-cooked lentils, then you will need to purchase green or brown lentils and cook them according to the package directions. 

I had this salad at a friends BBQ last summer.  My husband loved it so much he asked me to ask for the recipe.  My hubby wants to eat lentils and peas????  Okay!  So I immediately asked how she made it and Ive been making my version ever since.  This recipe is just the framework for a salad - you can add or substitute to make it your own.  So yummy!  Definitely give this one a try. 

Happy Cooking!

Lentil Salad with fresh Peas, Mint, and Lemon
original recipe
1 package of Trader Joe's pre-cooked lentils (or about 3 cups of cooked lentils)
1 cup of shelled English peas (fresh, not frozen!  most grocery stores sell them already shelled in the produce section)
6 scallions, cleaned and sliced (start at the white end and go half way up the green part)
1/3 cup of freshly chopped mint
1 lemon, juiced and zested
3 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sized bowl, break up the lentils with a spoon.
Add all the other ingredients and stir to combine.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.  This salad only gets better over time.  A great recipe to make over the weekend and have for lunches.

I originally made this salad as a side dish for my pork souvlaki can see my lunch below!  Greek deliciousness!!!  Enjoy!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pork Souvlaki with Tzaziki and Shredded Greek Salad

We LOVE Greek and Mediterranean food!!!  I needed to make some at home and wished I would have made this sooner.  So delicious!!!  This takes a little bit of prep, but so worth it!  And I loved having the leftovers for lunch.  If you don't eat pork, you could easily substitute chicken breast.  The kids loved the meat too!  Hope you enjoy this one!

Happy Cooking!
Pork Souvlaki with Tzaziki and Shredded Greek Salad
recipe based on these recipes

For the tzaziki:
1 1/2 cups of Greek yogurt
1 pickling cucumber, shredded (I prefer these, but a regular cucumber, seeded will suffice)
1 T minced shallots
1 T minced garlic
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup of fresh mint, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until serving time.  This can be eaten as a dip for any fresh veggies as well.  It can stay in the fridge for up to a week.

For the shredded salad:
3 cups of red leaf lettuce, shredded
1/3 cup of thinly sliced vidalia onion
3 large tomatoes, diced
2 T red wine vinegar
4 T extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

First, make the dressing by combining the vinegar, olive oil, dried oregano, salt and pepper.  Set aside until ready to serve.  Do not mix the dressing with the salad until you are ready to eat.  The dressing can sit on your counter all day or overnight if necessary.

Place the shredded lettuce, diced tomato, and sliced onion in a large bowl. 
When ready to serve, toss the veggies with the dressing and eat immediately.  This is yummy by itself with some cucumber, feta, and olives for a traditional Greek salad.

For the Souvlaki:
1.5 lbs of pork tenderloin or pork loin roast, trimmed of all fat and cut into 1.5 inch cubes
salt to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 T chopped fresh oregano
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium shallot, minced
juice and zest of 2 lemon
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 orange and an additional 1 lemon, each sliced in half for grilling

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a large bowl (everything except for the 1 orange and 1 lemon).  Set half of the marinade in a small bowl and set aside to use as a basting oil while grilling.
The marinade
Place the pork in the large bowl with the rest of the marinade and allow the flavors to meld for at least 3 hours up to overnight.  (I did 3 hours and it was fantastic!) 

Before you begin to grill, allow the pork to come to room temperature.  In the meantime, soak the skewers in salted water for 20 minutes.  Skewer 4-5 pieces of pork per skewer (I got 5-6 servings from mine).  Grill over medium high heat for 3 minutes a side, basting as you turn, until cooked through.  While grilling the meat, grill the citrus fruits cut side down.  Once you remove the pork skewers, squeeze the grilled citrus juices over the top and serve.

Top with the shredded salad and tzaziki...pita totally optional, but not necessary.  I also served mine with a lentil, pea, and mint salad (separate post).   Wish I had more to eat right yummy!  Enjoy!!!

Quick & Easy Kale Salad

Greens are hands down the healthiest vegetable that you can consume.  I eat large portions of leafy greens daily.  If you don't like salads or sauteed greens, then try putting them in a smoothie.  (Spinach has little to no texture or taste in a smoothie).  I happen to LOVE salads and eat them at least once a day.  This is a quick and easy salad using baby kale and less than 5 ingredients.  It doesn't get any fresher, easier, or healthier.  And did I mention it was a hit with the critics?

Happy Cooking!

Quick and Easy Kale Salad
1/2 container of organic baby kale, found in the grocery store (you can substitute regular kale, and I have on many occasions.  If using regular kale, you must remove the rib that runs through the center of each leaf, then shred using a food processor or your own knife skills.  Baby kale just needs to be chopped up a bit but is much more tender.)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1-2 T extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1-2 T pine nuts (to taste, but optional)

Start with the kale (if regular kale, ribs and stems removed) and thinly slice the leaves.

Toss it with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!!!

Simple Grilled Vegetables

Grilling vegetables is my go-to side dish during the summer, especially on those really hot days (which we seem to be having a lot of this summer).  Here is the basic rundown on how to fix your grilled veggies.  If you don't have a pan like the one shown in the picture below (safe for the grill), then you can use an aluminum foil packet instead (they will cook up a little differently, being steamed more than just grilled). 

Chop up your favorite combination of vegetables such as onions, peppers, mushrooms, summer, squash, and zucchini.  Toss them with salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Cook over medium-high heat on the grill in a special pan designed for the grill or in aluminum foil as I mentioned earlier.  I sometimes line my pan with aluminum foil so that they veggies don't stick and I have easy clean up.

Ready for the grill...
And after they are done...super delicious and versatile. 
On this particular night, I grilled some eggplant and summer quash separately.  I sliced them about 1/4 inch thick, length wise.  Then I brushed them with olive oil and seasoned them with salt and pepper on both sides.  Then I grilled them directly on the yummy!  Can't get enough!  These are great as sides, used in a veggie lasagna, on a salad, on a veggie sandwich with your favorite soft cheese, or just as a snack. 
I took the leftovers from dinner and created a roasted veggie salad the next day.  I started with some arugula, topped with the veggies, some feta cheese, and a squeeze of lemon.  With a little hummus and pita chips on the side, I had a delicious and filling lunch. 

I hope you give these recipes a try and enjoy them as much as we do!

Happy Cooking!

Blue Cheese Burgers with Arugula and Tomato

Okay, I confess...I have a small obsession with blue cheese burgers.  In fact, I will order one at a restaurant if its on the menu because I love them so much.  However, I have been incredibly disappointed by some expensive burgers I've had.  So I thought, why not make my own???  I know what I like and I can make it even healthier for me at home because I will know what is in it.

This burger was awesome!  This recipe makes 4 very large burgers - 2 for dinner and 2 for lunches later in the week.  (my kids won't eat burgers so we just do some chicken for them) Yummy! 

Happy Cooking!

Blue Cheese Burgers with Arugula and Tomato
original recipe from Sarah
1 lb of ground beef, preferably 80% or 85% ground beef, (any less fat content and the beef will be very dry)
salt & pepper to taste
4 buns, whole wheat if you can find them
4 oz of good quality blue cheese, sliced (1/4 inch thickness)
2 cups of arugula, dressed with a little olive oil, lemon, salt & pepper
2 tomatoes, sliced to your preference and seasoned with salt and pepper

Preheat your outdoor grill to medium-high heat.  Form 4 hamburger patties from the beef, all about the same size, making them approximately 1/4 lb burgers.  Season them agressively on both sides with salt and pepper.  Place on the preheated grill and close the cover.  Do not fiddle with them!!!  Just allow them to cook for 3-5 minutes or until you see the edges turning brown and they flip easily.  Cook for an additional 2-5 minutes on the other side, depending on how well done you like your burger.  I prefer mine medium or medium-rare so I only leave it on for about 2 minutes after I flip it.

At this point, if you would like your buns warmed you will need to place them on the grill (face down) and watch them carefully.

Once cooked to your liking, remove them burgers.  Place one burger on the bun, top with the blue cheese, tomato, arugula salad, and serve immediately.  Yummy!!!  I served mine with grilled vegetables.  Enjoy!