Summer Salad with Salmon

Blueberries, corn, peppers, tomato

Summer ingredients are perfect for light salads that are just right for the season’s hot afternoons. Fresh corn and blueberries pair especially well together, lending a slight sweetness and a taste that reminds me of childhood summers in South Georgia. This summer salad builds on this flavor combination and incorporated quinoa and salmon to make the salad a satisfying main course.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint blueberries, rinsed
  • 2 ears fresh corn, husks and silks removed
  • 1 Cubanelle pepper, chopped
  • 3 small, sweet red peppers, chopped
  • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 limes
  • Culantro (cilantro can be used as a substitute)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 lb salmon
  • Olive oil
  • Mixed salad greens
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Cook a cup of quinoa according to the package directions. If buying bulk, add one cup of rinsed quinoa to two cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and turn the heat to low. Let the quinoa simmer for 15 minutes, then drain  any remaining water. Once the quinoa is cooked, set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

While the quinoa cooks and cools, cut the kernels off of the cobs of both ears of corn. Toss the kernels of corn with the blueberries.  Mix in the Cubanelle, sweet red peppers, and tomatoes. Mix in the quinoa and set aside. Season to taste with salt and pepper (about 1/8 teaspoon each).

Blueberries, corn, peppers, tomato
Blueberry, Corn, Quinoa mixture

To make a compound butter for the salmon, mix the butter, juice of half of a lime, and two teaspoons of chopped fresh culantro. Put the butter mixture into the refrigerator to cool.

Culantro-lime compound butter
Culantro-lime compound butter

While the butter mixture refrigerates, make a simple vinaigrette for the salad. In a small bowl, add the juice of the remaining lime and a half , the Dijon mustard, a tablespoon of chopped culantro, salt and pepper (about 1/8 teaspoon each). Whisk in 1/4 cup of olive oil.

When the vinaigrette is ready, set aside and get the compound butter out of the refrigerator. Spread the compound butter evenly over the non-skin side of the salmon. Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the salmon to the skillet, skin side down. Cook the salmon in the skillet for 3 minutes per side. Put a lid on the skillet and finish the salmon in the over for 10 minutes, or until cooked to the desired temperature.

Salmon with compound butter
Salmon with compound butter

Serve the blueberry-corn-quinoa mixture over mixed salad greens and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Top with salmon and serve.

Summer salad with salmon
Summer salad with salmon
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Cheesy Quinoa Vegetable Casserole

A few weeks ago, I was looking for something to make for dinner. Artie was out of town so I was left to my own devices in the kitchen (which can either go really well or really bad). We had veggies in the fridge – a few mini peppers, some spinach, and a bag of broccoli – and some other random ingredients. I was craving comfort food, like a casserole, but I didn’t want anything too heavy. Quinoa is a very popular grain right now so I looked up a handful of recipes on Pinterest and came up with my own version of a quinoa casserole (there are links to the recipes that inspired this one at the bottom of the post).

photo(2)Ingredients:

  • 1-1/4 to 1-1/3 cups quinoa
  • 2 cups chicken broth or stock
  • broccoli (1 bag or head of broccoli – a few cups at least)
  • handful of baby peppers, sliced
  • small to medium onion, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • cup of spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup milk (I used 1%)
  • 8 ounces cheese of your choice, shredded

Rinse the quinoa and cook according to package directions using chicken broth. This will take about 20 minutes. While this is cooking, chop the broccoli, peppers, and onions. Toss the veggies with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

In a bowl, combine quinoa, garbanzo beans, roasted veggies, and spinach. Gently stir in the milk and cheese. Pour everything into a lightly greased casserole dish. Bake at 400 for 20 – 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

photo(3)A few notes on the preparation:

The top would also be good with a breadcrumb or cheese topping. It would brown up nicely and give the top a good crust.

I used a yummy cheese from Publix because it is what we had in the fridge but I imagine mozzarella, cheddar, or Colby jack would work just as well – anything that melts well. I will say shredding your own cheese is preferable to using shredded cheese.

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I chose to roast the veggies because I prefer the flavor of roasted vegetables (and as a bonus while the veggies were in the oven and the quinoa was cooking, I loaded the dishwasher and did a few dishes), however, if you prefer, you could just as easily saute or boil the veggies. The main idea is to precook the veggies  so they get softened a bit and they don’t leach out too much water and make the casserole soupy.

You can use any of the veggies you have on hand. I bet zucchini, mushrooms, leeks, or anything not too mushy (avocado) or wet (tomatoes) would work well. Actually, cherry tomatoes might work well… I like this because you can sort of clean out the refrigerator and use whatever veggies you have on hand.

Inspired by these recipes from Pinterest:

Cheesy Quinoa Mac and Cheese from Around the Table: Loving Food in RI and Beyond

Quinoa Spinach Mac and Cheese from Two Peas and Their Pod

Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole from Annie’s Eats

Spinach and Cheese Quinoa Casserole by Eat, Live, Run

Quinoa Broccoli Casserole by Edible Perspective

Summer Pulled Pork – 2 Ways

Blueberry Cornbread

There is something about the heat of summer that gets me craving barbecue, especially pulled pork.  It also gets me craving fresh corn with my pulled pork. With these cravings stirring around in my mind, I decided to try a twist on the traditional summer barbecue.

Several months ago, I brewed my first batch of homebrew. It was a straightforward, uncomplicated ale. Still having a couple of bottles laying around, I wanted to incorporate it somehow.

Bottles of Homebrewed Ale
Bottles of Homebrew

I picked up a pork tenderloin from Earth Fare, put it in a slow cooker, and dusted it with a little garlic salt, paprika, chili powder, and cumin, roughly a 1/4 teaspoon of each.

Pulled Pork Seasonings
Seasonings for the Pork

I put then poured a bottle of homebrew in with the tenderloin. I let the tenderloin cook on low heat in the slow cooker for about 6 hours. I have only tried this with my homebrew, but I bet you could impart a variety of different flavors into the pork by using different styles of beer.

Pork in the Slow Cooker
Seasoned Pork in the Slow Cooker with the Homebrew

While the pork cooked, I threw together some blueberry cornbread in my cast iron skillet. To make blueberry cornbread, heat 1/3 cup of vegetable oil in the cast iron skillet as you preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups of self-rising cornmeal, 1 1/3 cup milk, 2 eggs, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Remove the skillet from the oven and carefully pour the hot oil into the cornbread mixture, stirring well to incorporate the oil. Pour the mixture into the hot skillet. Lightly dust 1/2 cup of blueberries with all purpose flour and drop them into the cornbread mixture. Return the skillet to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cornbread is a golden brown color. I always love cornbread, but I especially love the combination of blueberries and cornbread. I’ve tried this recipe with blackberries too, but the blueberries work better.

Blueberry Cornbread
Blueberry Cornbread

I also made some blueberry-corn salad by cutting the kernels off of two fresh ears of corn and mixing them with fresh blueberries and halved grape tomatoes. I did not measure the ingredients, but just added blueberries and tomatoes to the corn until the proportions looked good to me. I also lightly seasoned the salad with salt and pepper to taste.

Blueberry Corn Salad
Blueberry Corn Salad

For my barbecue dinner, I sliced a wedge of cornbread in half and topped it with pulled pork and blueberry-corn salad. I gave the food a light drizzle of Amy’s Organic Smokey Maple BBQ Sauce. Heavenly.

Pulled Pork Dinner
Pulled Pork Dinner

I ate more blueberry cornbread for breakfast the next morning, but for lunch the following day, I was thrilled to have some pulled pork left over. I piled some pork between sandwich thins, added some leftover salad, and topped with more of the BBQ sauce and some dill pickle slices for an incredible barbecue sandwich.

Pulled Pork Sandwich
Pulled Pork Sandwich

These two pulled pork dishes helped satisfy my cravings, at least temporarily. If you get adventurous and try experimenting with different beers to make pulled pork, please let me know how it turns out. Happy barbecuing.

Between Breakfast and Lunch: Brunch

I love breakfast foods. I could them any time of day. I’m not picky – I like eggs, muffins, scones, cinnamon buns, biscuits (with or without gravy), grits, waffles, pancakes, fruit, and the occasional slice of bacon. And coffee. Let’s not forget coffee.

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Brunch is  one of my favorite meals to host because the food is pretty low maintenance to prepare, the food can easily be scaled to feed a crowd, and a lazy Saturday or Sunday morning is the perfect time to hang out with family and friends over a leisurely meal.

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Earlier this year, I wrote about our family brunch. On the menu in the photo below, we had biscuits and gravy (pork sausage gravy in the big pot, turkey sausage gravy in the small pot), scrambled eggs, yogurt almonds, fresh fruit (raspberries, nectaries, and grapes), and blueberry muffins. And coffee. Let’s not forget coffee.

I’ve also seen some cute ideas for brunch foods on Pinterest. The create-your-own bar seems to be a very popular idea right now: 

Bellini Bar

Top-Your-Own-Yogurt Bar

Top-Your-Own-Oatmeal Bar

Top-Your-Own-Pancakes Bar

Food on a skewer is easy to serve and can be done in lots of different combinations:

Rainbow Fruit Kabobs

Chicken and Waffle Skewers

Blueberry-Strawberry Pancake Skewers

Lemon, Ginger, and Strawberry Pancake Skewers

And anything that can be made ahead, whether a casserole or single serve portions, is a winner for a party food:

Baked Oatmeal with Fruit

Pancake Bites

Mini Egg Omelets

What are some of your favorite brunch foods?

I’m looking forward to planning some fun brunch gatherings in the future with good friends and yummy food. And coffee. Let’s not forget coffee.

Beach Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

While we were on vacation at Little Gasparilla, we tried for simple, healthy food that was easy to prepare (no special kitchen gadgets required) and easy to clean up  (so we could get back to the sun and sand).

For breakfasts and lunches, we bought:

  • English muffins and bread (whole wheat sourdough and plain wheat)
  • Cream cheese, butter, jelly, and sunflower seed butter
  • Fruit (bananas, blueberries, apples, and grapes)
  • Veggies (cucumber, baby carrots, baby peppers)
  • Yogurt
  • Hummus
  • Provolone cheese
  • Bread and butter pickle chips
  • Chips (roasted garlic flavored and a splurge for the beach)
  • Jo-jo’s (only the best, most delicious vanilla-flavored cookies from Trader Joe’s)

Breakfasts were sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwiches, English muffins with butter and jelly, bananas with sunflower seed butter, or yogurt with blueberries.

Every day for lunch we had a different combination or tasting plate:

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Cucumber and cream cheese sandwich, Jo-jo’s, peppers and carrots with garlic hummus, roasted garlic chips, grapes, and bread and butter pickles

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Grilled cheese (provolone, mustard, arugula, and apple slices), grapes, apple slices, bread and butter pickle slices

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Sandwich (cream cheese with apple and cucumber slices), cucumber and carrots with garlic hummus, apple slices (and probably some Jo-jo’s later in the afternoon…)

What are some of your favorite go-to luches and dinners when you are preparing simple, healthy meals?

Hummus and Veggie Sandwiches

With all of the dining out while on the road at the end of the year, followed by copious amounts of food for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I was looking forward to a couple of lighter meals. Taking a break from organizing my tools in the utility room, I stopped and pulled together this quick hummus and veggie sandwich lunch.

Photo 2012-12-29 09.53.13 AMI made the sandwich by spreading about two tablespoons of Publix classic hummus on one side of a Nature’s Own Healthy Multi-Grain Sandwich Round and laying a slice of Sargento 2% Milk Provolone cheese on the other side. I never use fat-free cheese for anything; it doesn’t melt well, it is rubbery, and it doesn’t taste a good as regular or 2% milk cheeses. I placed thinly sliced cucumber on the side with the cheese and sliced sweet peppers on the side with the hummus. I stacked carrot sticks on top of the peppers and fresh spinach (fresh from my parent’s garden in South Georgia) on top of the cucumber slices.    I put the two sides together and sliced the sandwich in half.

Photo 2012-12-29 09.29.42 AM

I ate my sandwich with a handful of Trader Joe’s Barbeque Popped Potato Chips (a lighter alternative to fried potato chips), Trader Joe’s Crunch Curls (made from lentils and potatoes), and a couple of baby dill pickles.

If you, like most people, plan to make a New Years resolution to eat healthier, I hope this sandwich inspires you to bring healthier lunch options to work instead of dining out every day.

Avocado Egg Salad

I’ve been craving egg salad, which is weird because I don’t usually like egg salad (I have this thing against mayonnaise…). But on a few blogs recently (Closet Cooking and never home maker), I’ve seen recipes for avocado egg salad. Mmmm, now that is something I can get behind. Artie doesn’t like eggs, no matter how they are prepared, so when he was out of town a few weeks ago, I took the plunge and made some egg salad. It actually turned out pretty good!

First, I had to google how to hard boil eggs. It’s actually pretty easy (you know, as easy as boiling water). I followed the directions on this website.

Place the eggs in a pot. Cover with cold water. Salt the water generously. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit 15 – 16 minutes. While the eggs are doing their thing, you could chop/prepare the other ingredients (see below). (I chose to unload the dishwasher but dinner would have been ready a whole lot quicker if I had prepped my ingredients. Lesson learned.)

 

 

Remove eggs from water with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of ice water until they are cold enough to handle. 

Peel, trying not to get shell all over the place. <– Most annoying part, by far.

 

Dice eggs finely (sorry, no picture). Combine four diced eggs (yes, there are five above – I ate one in the process of preparing dinner!) with the following:

A few handfuls of diced peppers (I like the crunchy texture and I’m not a fan of celery, which is typically added to egg salad). A handful of diced dill pickles (perfect crunchy, briny bite). A few dollops of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt (better tasting and better for you than mayo). I ended up not adding any mustard, but I’m sure it would have been tasty if I had. Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Don’t worry – I didn’t forget the avocado! At this point, if you are going to save any egg salad for later (like lunch tomorrow), put that in a container in the refrigerator. Because of the avocado’s propensity for enzymatic oxidative browning (yeah food science!), it will turn your egg salad a yucky brown color. To the portion you are about to eat, add 1/2 of a small avocado (about 2 ounces), diced.

Stir until well combined. And that’s it!

There are a few options for serving. On a sandwich thin with a few spinach leaves (which is how I ate it the first night I prepared it for dinner).

Or on a salad with crackers on the side (which is how I ate it the next day for lunch at work). Just pack the avocado separately and stir it in right before serving.

This was excellent – crunchy bits of pepper, creamy egg and Greek yogurt, salty pickles, and buttery avocado. The protein from the eggs and Greek yogurt kept me full. The avocado made egg salad much more palatable to me. I may never be a fan of traditional egg salad, but this is a recipe I can see myself making again and again.