Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Mediterranean Couscous SaladI prepared this summer salad for a high school class reunion picnic. It was a bit of a challenge to quadruple-plus the recipe, but I think the end result was a success. It’s a an easy salad that can be prepared in less than an hour; unless you over toast the couscous, like I did, and have to meticulously remove the burnt pieces. Lesson learned!

I opted to use Israeli couscous because of it’s pearl-like shape and included a couple of containers that were colored. It made a nice contrast.

This recipe is courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis, one of my Italian favorites on the TV cooking network. I have provided the recipe for a serving of six. My upgraded recipe served 100 people; hence, the large disposable aluminum pan you see pictured.Cook the couscous as directed in the recipe.

INGREDIENTS NEEDED:

  • 3 TBLS, plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound box Israeli couscous
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 zested lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt  & 1/2 tsp. pepper (season to taste)IMG_9005
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh spearmint leaves
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or cranraisins
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted is optional

 

HOW TO:

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1)   In a medium saucepan, heat 3 TBLS olive oil over medium heat. Add couscous, cook for 5 minutes until lightly toasted. Stir often prevent scorching.

2)   Add chicken stock and juice of 1 lemon. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 8-10 minutes. You want the couscous tender, but still firm to the bite. Stir

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occasionally while cooking.

3)   Drain cooked couscous and place in a large bowl. Toss with 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and seasonings. Cool couscous to room temperature. This is VERY important. You don’t want the fresh herbs to wilt when they are added to the couscous.


4)
   Once cooled, add fresh herbs, dried cranberries and almonds. Combine and toss to evenly distribute ingredients.

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Serves 6

TIP: If making larger quantities, toss all ingredients in an unused kitchen trash bag. Once mixed, empty contents of bag into the serving container.

Palm of Heart Artichoke Salad Plate



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This 150 calorie salad is not only healthy, but also very low in fat. It contains artichoke hearts marinated in oil, sliced hearts of palm (in water), low fat cottage cheese on a bed of lettuce and one halved tomato slice. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.

Costco has an incredible selection of hearts of palm and artichoke hearts that are ready to serve right out of the jar. This tasty salad contains a good portion of vitamin C, zero cholesterol and can be served in a matter of minutes.

Consider adding chopped white or green asparagus tips for additional color. These too are available at Costco in ready-to-serve jars.

This salad is a perfect addition to a main course of spaghetti or lasagna. Red leaf lettuce can also be substituted for the bib lettuce.

 

Cucumber Tomato Marinated Salad

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Today’s lunch was this refreshing salad; prepped in under 15 minutes. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving. It’s refreshing, low calorie and filling. Don’t be shy about adding other veggies. Chopped broccoli, red cabbage, cauliflower and zucchini are just a few of my suggestions.

Ingredients:

2 medium cucumbers, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 medium onion, sliced and separated into rings
2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/3 cup vinegar…
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
1/4 cup oil

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Apple & Red Cabbage Salad

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I love cabbage, but not when it is cooked. However, this red cabbage salad was an exception. I love the contrast of the plum color on a white dinner plate, not to mention the semi-sweetness of the apples. When served with BBQ pork or beef ribs, it’s outstanding; the flavors really compliment the meat.

IMG_8212INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 head of red cabbage, chopped
  • 1 large apple, grated
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup turkey bacon, cooked and diced
  • Fresh apple slices to garnish, optional

 HOW TO:

Place chopped cabbage, shredded apple, vinegar, sugar and cloves in crock pot. Cover and cook on high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove to serving dish, add diced turkey bacon and garnish with apple slices.

IMG_8238The tang and sweetness of this salad is a great replacement for traditional green salads.

This recipe will serve 6 people as a side dish. A half-cup serving with an apple slice garnish is in the neighborhood of 115 calories.

 

 

Summer Salad: Mixed Raw Veggies in Marinate

Mixed Veggie Cold Salad

If you are looking for a way to incorporate veggies into your meal plan, this mixed veggie salad might fit the bill. With so many summer garden veggies on the vine, I am always scouting out ways to use up the bounty.

Since the wine-guy (AKA, Honey-Man) is in the wine business, there is never a shortage of great olive oils from famous wine countries. Some of these olive oils can retail upwards of $60 a bottle. I happened to use one of those olive oils for this salad. Take note, I don’t pay that much for the olive oil. This bottle was a sample gift from one of the vineyards the wine guy represents.

Fresh Vegetables for SaladI used the veggies I had on hand which included:

                      • (1) small bunch of Broccoli, chopped
                      • (2) steamed corn on the cob, remove corn from the cob
                      • (2) medium, tomatoes deseeded
                      • (2) medium, cucumbers, deseeded
  • (1) bunch of scallions, chopped
  • (24) pit-free, calamari olives
  • (4) ounces fat-free Feta cheese, crumbled
  • (1) small zucchini, chopped
  • Fresh basil leaves to taste

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                    •  Salad Dressing
                    • 6 tablespoons olive oil
                    • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Mix the dressing and pour over salad ingredients just before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Marinated Fresh Veggie Salad

This recipe will yield approximately (8) one cup servings. Serve over a bed of green scallions (use the green portion that you would normally discard) and add a few fresh basil sprigs.

Tip: A grilled chicken breast would compliment this salad along with a glass of Pinot Grigio wine.

Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad

Chicken Pesto Pasta SaladMy assistant, Jenni, shared this awesome pasta salad recipe with me. It is delish and so easy to make. In this ungodly heat wave we are experiencing in Michigan, no one wants to spend time in a hot kitchen. This one dish meal is perfect for hot weather and has minimal prep time.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 packets of pesto sauce (I use the jar pesto sauce from Costco)
  • 2-3 boneless chicken breasts, chopped and cooked
  • 1 box of Rotini noodles
  • 1 bag steamable frozen vegetables

Prepare the pesto sauce and the noodles as directed on the package. Chop chicken breasts into bite size pieces and pan sear on stove top.

Cook the vegetables as directed. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and serve. This dish can be served hot or cold. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the salad when reheating.

Easy Tomato, Red Onion, Cucumber, Feta Salad

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Last weekend friends visited for the weekend. We did some boating and then a backyard cook-out on the deck. My friend, Janelle, brought this salad YUM-YUM salad which was ideal for a hot, steamy summer day. Very refreshing.

Thanks, Janelle, for sharing the recipe.

Ingredients:

1 ½ Large Seedless English Cucumber (Sliced and then cut in half)
Approx. 6 cups chopped tomatoes (large chopped, about the size of a grape tomato).  I used Campari and Roma, but you could really use any kind you would like.  (It equated out to 4 Roma’s and 16 Campari).
1 4oz container of Light Feta Cheese
3 Tablespoons of your favorite Balsamic Salad Dressing (I used Maple Grove Fat Free)
1 5.3oz – 6oz Fat Free Plain Greek Yogurt (I used Okios)
2 ½ Tablespoons of Italian Seasoning or you can substitute with 1/2 cup coarsely chopped basil
1 teaspoon of minced garlic (I was lazy and used the ‘roasted garlic’ in the jar pre-minced)
1 teaspoon of ground pepper
1 teaspoon of salt
½ Red Onion Sliced (marinated in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice for 2 hours or over night)

Here are some tips on making this salad:

If making the day before, you don’t want it to get soggy, so this is how I prepped it:

Chopped all the Cucumber and Onion the night before, and ‘marinate’ the onion. Mix  the ‘dressing’ the night before (yogurt, dressing, garlic, Italian seasoning) and stored in an air tight container.The morning of, chop tomatoes and add cucumbers, salt and pepper and put it into a serving bowl.

When time to eat, add the feta, onions, and dressing to the cucumber and tomato mixture and wawlaa! Add sea salt and ground pepper on the top once it is all mixed together.

Sidebar from Blimpy Girl: I had leftover salad the next day for lunch. I used a slotted spoon to scoop out the salad. It was delish!!

Bow Tie Pasta Salad

I love cold pasta salads in the summer. Yesterday I had a hankering for one and sought out fresh ingredients that needed to be used up. I found a cucumber, tomato, and asparagus tips that were screaming “Use me”. Onion, broccoli  and bow tie pasta made up the remaining ingredients.

Cut up broccoli, asparagus tips, cucumber and onion.

INGREDIENT LIST:

  • Medium size cucumber chopped, peeled and seeds removed
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup asparagus tips
  • 3/4 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/3 cup hot wasabi peas
  • 1 cup bow tie pasta, cooked
  • 1/2 cup lite ranch dressing
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1 cup water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bow Tie PastaHow To

Add broccoli, onion, asparagus tips and cucumber to the water/vinegar mixture. Allow to sit for 15 minutes; then drain.

Add remaining ingredients to the veggie mix. Stir well. Season to taste.

 

Make approximately six cups. A one cup serving (shown below) is in the neighborhood of 177 calories. It’s generous. If using as a side dish, you could reduce to 1/2 cup per serving.

Once cup serving of Bow Tie Pasta Salad

 

Edamame: A Snack with a Nutritional Punch

Edamame Soybeans

The holidays are over and it’s time to get back on track with the Blimpy Girl eating plan. No more snacking, cheating or avoiding the scale. The day of reckoning has arrived and, quite honestly, it’s not good news. I have eight pounds to lose.

I’ve been searching for snacks high in protein, low in cholesterol and filled with a nutritional punch. Edamame beans have been a long-time favorite of mine. I usually keep a big (frozen) bag of the pods on hand for snacking. With the holidays, I’ve been a slacker and opting for more favorably snacks like BBQ chips and Cheez-its. 

 Roasted Edamame BeansEdamame beans are great raw, but you can doctor them up to be more interesting and flavorful. Here is one of my favorites ways to turn these soybeans into a delicious snack.

If possible, purchase shelled edamame beans. You can generally find a 12 ounce package in the frozen section at a specialty food market.


Ingredients

  • 12 ounce frozen shelled edamame beans
  • Non-stick cooking spray (I use olive oil flavor)
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt (coarse sea salt is best) and freshly ground pepper to taste

 How To

Kick up the oven to 400 degrees while thawing the edamame. The beans won’t take long to thaw if you place in cold water and drain in a colander. Just be sure to ‘pat dry’ the beans before baking. Tip: Defrosting beans the day before and letting them air dry for several hours will help beans stay crispy when baking. Removing extra moisture is key in producing crispy beans.

Generously spray a cookie sheet (9 x 13″) with non-stick cooking spray. Evenly distribute the edamame beans onto the pan. Give another generous spray of non-stick oil to the beans and toss gently. If calories are of no concern, use olive oil instead of non-stick cooking spray.

Sprinkle the beans with the cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Bake in oven for 15 minutes, until crispy.

 The Details

A 12-ounce bag of shelled beans yields five (140 calorie) servings. You reap generous amounts of protein, essential fatty acids and fiber with each portion.

If are unable to find shelled edamame beans, purchase the pod beans and shell them yourself.

Thanksgiving Turkey Tossed Salad

Meatless Thanksgiving Turkey Salad

I was asked to bring a salad to Thanksgiving dinner this year. I just couldn’t bring myself to toss mixed greens, tomatoes and other salad toppings into a bowl. It was time to change things up a bit. Here was my salad at today’s Thanksgiving table.

You have to admit it beat a traditional tossed salad hands down. It’s a salad bar in one dish and could be used as the table centerpiece should you be so inclined. I dressed the rim of a shallow bowl with red leaf lettuce. Chopped mixed greens, including baby spinach, filled the center of the bowl. I then began layering the veggies. I started at the outside edge of the bowl and worked my way to the center.

Here’s what I used:

  • Baby carrots
  • Sliced celery
  • Fresh green beans (blanched). I purchased a microwavable bag of green beans. They were perfect. I cut them in half after they steamed in the microwave.
  • Baby asparagus (slightly sauteed). Unfortunately, the asparagus I purchased was bad, so I didn’t get to use it.
  • Sliced red, yellow, green pepper rings, cut in halves
  • Sliced mushroom caps
  • Grape size tomatoes
  • Yellow squash cut in half
  • Sliced black olive and two black peppercorns for the turkey eyes
  • Small triangular piece of yellow cheese for the turkey beak
  • Reserve one red pepper slice for the wattle and two pieces of celery stems for the feet

You can serve with various salad dressings on the side as well as with a side of ranch for dipping. When you’re ready to serve, use tongs so guests can pick and choose the items they want to put in their salad bowls/plates.

TIP: You can also use shredded cheddar cheese as one of the layers (or any other cheese for that matter). You can put your personal touch on this salad with a variety of other veggies, like broccoli and cauliflower florets.