I’m always looking for new salad combinations, especially since I’ve somehow become the go-to salad person for our family get-togethers. Two things I’ve learned about making a good salad are 1) you need a balance of flavors and textures, and 2) you can always look to Italian cuisine for inspiration. This Italian salad with pears, shaved Parmesan and honey-balsamic vinaigrette is a perfect blend of sweet, salty, sour and bitter flavors, with a variety of textures from tender salad greens to juicy pears to crunchy toasted pine nuts.
I love summer parties and barbecues with my favorite people and some of my favorite foods – grilled burgers and chicken, smoked baby back ribs, and tons of yummy salad. This past 4th of July we were blessed to attend not one but two holiday barbecues – one with my family and one with my husband’s. I wanted to contribute a dish to both parties, but on such a busy day, there’s no time for fussy cooking. Those are days when I turn to recipes I call “Costco hacks,” dishes I can pull together in a few minutes with simple ingredients from my favorite warehouse store. With a little creativity, you can dress up drab pre-made salads and make them truly party-worthy.
There aren’t many foods I dislike, but I don’t really like quinoa. There, I said it. I know quinoa is trendy and good for you, but I just have never liked the taste of it. Until now. Recently, I was at a food blogger event, and one of the lunch selections was this amazing Southwest salad with black beans, quinoa, queso fresco, and fresh vegetables. With this recipe, I’ve found a way to eat quinoa that I really love.
This salad is substantial, super tasty, and vegetarian. I serve it with a cilantro lime vinaigrette, and even kids will eat it. I love how healthy it is, and how easy it is to make.
During the past week we’ve celebrated a high school graduation, bought season passes to the water park, and fired up the grill at least three times. I guess you could say summer is underway! I love the tastes of summer, especially tangy citrus flavors like lime and lemon. I developed this recipe for Chipotle Lime Honey Vinaigrette to go with my Chipotle Lime Chicken Kabobs, but it goes great with any kind of salad, grilled fish or shrimp.
There are so many flavor directions you can go with a basic vinaigrette, but this combination of chipotle, lime and honey is one of my favorites. This dressing is tart, sweet and spicy without being overpowering. It’s fresher and less expensive than bottled dressing.
I’ll confess I’ve never been the biggest fan of ranch dressing – at least the store bought kind. If a recipe called for ranch dressing or a packet of ranch seasoning, I used to just skip it. Once I started making homemade ranch seasoning and dressing mix, my attitude changed. The homemade version is super-easy and tastes much better than commercial packets.
It takes less than five minutes to make homemade ranch dressing mix or seasoning mix, so I make both, one to use for salad dressing and another to use for chicken, vegetables or other recipes. Both mixes are made with staple ingredients you might already have in the pantry, but the dressing mix includes a secret ingredient, powdered buttermilk, that makes it extra convenient.
Ranch is the most popular salad dressing in the United States, but at our house Italian salad dressing is a lot more popular. It’s probably because my husband’s family is half Italian (on his mother’s side), and they love to celebrate their Italian roots. Early in my marriage, I learned that the secret to my mother-in-law’s wonderful “homemade” salad dressing was Good Seasons Italian salad dressing mix, and I’ve been using it ever since. It’s pretty good made according to the package directions, but I think it can be improved on just a little bit. It’s the basis for this Better-Than-Olive-Garden Copycat Italian Dressing recipe.
There’s something about Italian food that brings people together. Lots of our family celebrations seem to involve pizza, pasta, and generous servings of salad like this chopped antipasti salad. It’s a copycat version of a salad served at Buca di Beppo, one of our favorite restaurants for birthdays, graduations and other special occasions. It’s full of yummy veggies, plus pepperoni, two kinds of olives, and three cheeses. It’s far from being a plain, ordinary salad.
For whatever reason, I often get asked to bring a salad to a party or social gathering. Maybe it’s because salads are so easy to share. This berry salad with spinach, feta and spiced pecans is a crowd-pleasing favorite, and it usually disappears fast from a buffet at a party. Of course, you can also make a smaller version just for yourself or your family. The combination of sweet, crunchy, salty, tangy, creamy and earthy flavors in this salad make it a winner.
To make this salad, start with a bed of your favorite greens. I like to use spinach, butter lettuce and arugula. Layer on sliced strawberries and blueberries, crumbled feta cheese, and spiced pecans. For dressing, I use balsamic glaze, olive oil, salt and pepper.
I don’t know how many times I’ve walked by one of those food carts that sell cinnamon almonds and just had to stop and enjoy the amazing aroma – I love to smell roasted cinnamon almonds almost more than I love eating them. This recipe for sugar & spice pecans will fill your kitchen with the scent of toasted nuts, brown sugar, vanilla and spices, but with a savory touch of salt and a little kick of pepper.
Sweet, salty and spicy is an addictive combination. When I make these pecans, I usually find my family hovering around them as they cool on a sheet of waxed paper, waiting until they’re ready to eat. I make these pecans as a topping for salads, especially my Berry Spinach Salad with Feta, but they’re also excellent by themselves as a snack.
We celebrated Easter and a family birthday this past weekend, and it made my heart happy to reconnect with loved ones. I hope you had a wonderful holiday as well. I ate more than my fair share of candy and yummy baked goods, and now that the holiday is over, I really want to get back to a healthier eating pattern and invite more veggies into my life. Maybe that’s the reason I felt inspired to make this low-calorie balsamic glaze using only two simple ingredients. It adds a sweet-tart deliciousness to salads, grilled or roasted vegetables, grilled chicken or salmon.
It’s easy enough to pick up a bottle of balsamic glaze at the grocery store, next to the balsamic vinegar, but if you make your own, you’ll find it has a more intense flavor. It’s also free of corn syrup and starchy thickeners, ingredients you will find in ready-made balsamic glaze.