Spinach, Blueberry, and Blue Cheese Salad with Blueberry Vinaigrette

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I took a short break from the internet at the end of August, and I can’t believe we are into September already! But it’s still officially summer and the weather is still warm for many of us, so I thought I’d post a recipe for a fruity, cheesy salad. Salads make great light lunches on hot, humid days and it’s even more convenient when you can make them ahead of time for work or just to have handy at home. I found lots of great grab-and-go ideas in Mason Jar Salads and More by Julia Mirabella. The salads are made by layering the ingredients vertically in Mason jars (the 9781612432892.011dressing usually goes on the bottom–this salad is an exception). In addition to recipes for salad lunches, the book includes some breakfast smoothies and oatmeal you can make-and-take in mason jars, as well as other healthy lunch options that include pasta and rice. There are some snack ideas, too, and lots of great homemade vinaigrettes to try out.

I decided to make the Spinach, Blueberry, and Blue Cheese Salad and instead of using the Red Wine Vinaigrette that the original recipe calls for, I made the Blueberry Vinaigrette. I thought the blueberry-spinach combination was really good, and I loved the taste of blue cheese with it, too. The Blueberry Vinaigrette was great on this salad–it added even more blueberry flavor. If you like fruit and cheese, this salad is a great way to enjoy those mix of flavors. Some of you may not be crazy about blue cheese, so if that’s the case, you could try substituting feta cheese. This is a really easy salad to put together–hope you enjoy it!

SPINACH, BLUEBERRY, AND BLUE CHEESE SALAD WITH BLUEBERRY VINAIGRETTE from Mason Jar Salads and More

Makes 1 serving

  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 3 cups spinach leaves, divided
  • 1/4 cup shaved or sliced almonds
  • 2 ounces crumbled blue cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons Blueberry Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
  • 1 quart-size Mason jar

Place the blueberries, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth. With the blender running, slowly add the olive oil until it is the right consistency.

Place the blueberries in the bottom of the Mason jar. Next make layers of 2 cups spinach, the almonds, and the remaining 1 cup spinach. The final layer should be the blue cheese. If you’re eating this right away, you can pour the vinaigrette over the salad and serve. If you’re storing this in the fridge for later, see below…

On top of the blue cheese, make a parchment paper cup (cut a square of parchment paper to an 8×8″ size; place it over the jar and push down to form a little cup). The edges of the parchment paper should extend beyond the edge of the jar; bend edges downward over the outside of the jar.

Pour the vinaigrette into the parchment paper cup and twist on the lid, making sure it is tight. Refrigerate until ready to eat and mix the vinaigrette in with the other ingredients in your salad. Note: !f you’re going to eat this salad on the same day you make it, you can put the dressing in the bottom of the jar and eliminate the parchment paper cup. Otherwise, the salad will last longer if the blueberries don’t sit in the dressing.

BLUEBERRY VINAIGRETTE

  • 3 Tablespoons fresh blueberries
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey
  • pinch of salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 to 5 Tablespoons olive oil

Place the blueberries, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth. With the blender running, slowly add the olive oil until it is the right consistency.

I love using fresh fruit in salads–it adds so much extra flavor! What fruits do you like using in your salads?

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Super Greens Fiesta Salad and a Greens Giveaway!

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When I buy salad greens, I like buying organic. Last week, I had the chance to try some complimentary greens from OrganicGirl. This company specializes in making a variety of salad OrganicGirlblends and greens that are all organic, triple washed, and packaged in 100% recycled plastic packaging, which I think is great! I tried out a package of their Super Greens (a blend of baby red chard, baby tat soi, baby spinach, baby green swiss chard, and baby arugula), and a package of their Baby Spinach. I really liked these OrganicGirl greens–they were very fresh and tender, and worked great in the recipes I used them in. And I’ll be sharing these recipes with you!

And more good news–OrganicGirl will provide 5 giveaways of the same two packages of greens I tried out–so 5 of you can win these two healthy, tasty organic greens to try out for yourself! Organic Girl will send the greens directly to you, or you can receive coupons to get them from your local health food store if you prefer. See the end of the post for details on how to win!

Today I’ll share the Fiesta Salad recipe I made with the Super Greens. The giveaway will end on Wednesday evening at 8 p.m. (CST), and on Wednesday or Thursday evening, when I announce the 5 winners, I’ll share a recipe I made with the Baby Spinach.

I really like the variety of ingredients this Super Greens Fiesta Salad has! I found a recipe at Taste of Home and modified it a little, taking out some ingredients and adding in some other ones. I also used larger amounts, so this will make a big bowl of salad that serves about 8 people. If you need to make the salad a little ahead of time, don’t toss the dressing in until right before serving.

SUPER GREENS FIESTA SALAD by NancyCreative, adapted from Taste of Home

Makes 8 servings

  • 1 (5-ounce) container OrganicGirl Super Greens mix (about 4 well-packed cups; or substitute your favorite lettuce greens)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 (2.25-ounce) can sliced olives
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2/3 cup salsa
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup light Ranch salad dressing

In a large salad bowl, combine the salad greens, corn, black beans, tomatoes, green onions, sliced olives, and celery.

In a small bowl, combine the salsa, sour cream or plain yogurt, and ranch dressing; mix until well blended. Drizzle this salsa dressing over salad mixture and toss to coat. Makes about 8 servings.

Note: This dressing gives the salad a generous coating. If you or your family prefer a lighter amount of dressing, just use about 3/4 cup of the dressing mixture. Or, just toss all your salad ingredients together without the dressing and serve the dressing on the side.  You can also serve this salad with a vinaigrette if you prefer.

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OrganicGirlGIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED–winning comments were: #7, #10, #20, #24, and #33

Now for the Giveaway…if you’d like to enter to win two packages of organic greens–Super Greens and Baby Spinach–from OrganicGirl, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Wednesday evening, March 12, at 8 p.m. (CST)–the random drawings will be made from the comments on this post only (there will be 5 winners)! The winners will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced on Wednesday or Thursday evening, March 12 or 13. Winners will be notified via email. Giveaway is limited to readers in the Continental U.S. and Canada.

NOTE: If you are a winner, your email will be given to OrganicGirl and they will contact you via email about getting your greens delivered to you. You have the option to have coupons for the product sent instead if you prefer. Winners who reside in Canada will only be able to receive the coupons.

First entry: Leave a comment on this post–it would be great to hear what your favorite greens are, or what your favorite salad is!

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following.

I hope you all have the time to leave a comment or two for the chance to try out these OrganicGirl greens! And if you’re not sure where OrganicGirl products are available near you, there’s a store locator here to help you find one!

10 Recipes for Valentine’s Day

Here’s a roundup of 10 recipes that your Valentine–or Valentines–will love…some are healthy and some are not-so-healthy (but very yummy)!

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If you’re wanting something sweet for your Valentine breakfast, try these Strawberry Yogurt Muffins–the strawberries on top look like hearts, so they’re perfect for Valentine’s Day!

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Or if you’re wanting something healthy, try this Cranberry-Pecan Oatmeal, made with dried cranberries and chopped pecans. You can substitute dried cherries for the cranberries if you want.

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Or make this Cranberry Almond Oatmeal Bake if you’re feeding a larger group.

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You can also use your dried cranberries (or cherries) in these Cranberry Almond Breakfast Scones for a mid-morning or afternoon Valentine snack!

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Since you may be eating lots of sweets on Valentine’s Day, you’ll want to include a healthy salad in your lunch or dinner menu–this Apple Pear Pecan Salad has dried cranberries in it too, but dried cherries would be yummy as well!

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Savory Strawberry Salsa makes a great appetizer with tortilla chips, and it’s also really good served over grilled chicken!

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Now you need some dessert ideas…Strawberry Cupcakes are just the thing!

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But lots of people prefer something chocolate, and you can’t go wrong with these Chocolate Cupcakes with Fudgy Frosting!

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If you want a healthier dessert, you could always make this Healthy Chocolate Shake

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But, hey, it’s Valentine’s Day–if you want to splurge, make these Dark Chocolate-Covered Cherry Swirl Brownies!

Hope you get a chance to try out some of these treats! Do you have a favorite Valentine recipe?

Apple Pear Pecan Salad

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It’s always fun trying out different ways to make salads–it makes salad-eating a little more interesting! In the summer months, I like adding strawberries and blueberries to my salads. So I thought I’d try making a more “wintry” salad with apples and pears, inspired by this recipe. There’s also creamy crumbles of feta cheese mixed in, along with some healthy pecans that give this salad a nice flavor and crunch! I learned recently that pecans are rich in antioxidants and contain heart-healthy mono and ployunsaturated fats. They’re also rich in fiber–a handful of pecans contain the same amount of fiber as a medium-sized apple! I had received a complimentary sample of Bergeron Pecans through the National Pecan Shellers Association, and they were a perfect addition to this salad!

APPLE PEAR PECAN SALAD by NancyCreative, adapted from Kraft Foods

Makes 6-8 servings

  • 8 cups of packaged salad mix (about a 5.5-ounce package) or coarsely chopped romaine lettuce
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries, divided
  • 1 medium or large apple, unpeeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium or large pear, unpeeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 (4-ounce) package crumbled feta cheese, divided
  • 1 cup pecan halves or coarsely chopped pecans, toasted or untoasted, divided (I used Bergeron Pecans)
  • 1 bottle of your favorite Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing (regular or lite)

In a large salad bowl, toss together the lettuce, half of the dried cranberries (1/3 cup), and all of the chopped apple and pear. Then add in half of the crumbled feta cheese and half of the pecans (1/2 cup) and toss all ingredients together. Sprinkle the remaining dried cranberries, pecans, and feta cheese on top. Serve on individual plates and drizzle each serving with Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing.

Toasting Pecans: For more crunchiness and flavor, you can toast your pecans in the oven by spreading in a single layer in a shallow baking pan; bake at 350˚ for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. To toast pecans on the stove top, place them in an ungreased skillet and cook on medium heat until golden brown, stirring frequently. To toast pecans in the microwave, place up to 1 cup pecans in a microwaveable shallow dish; microwave on high until crisp, stirring every 30 seconds.

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This salad is great with a meal–a larger serving of it can even be a meal in itself! What types of recipes do you like to use pecans in?

Linked to Tidy Mom–I’m Loving It.

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

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If you like vinaigrette on your salads, and if you like honey-mustard flavor, then you’ll have to try this vinaigrette! It’s very quick and easy to make, and really good! This Honey Mustard Vinaigrette recipe has a great lightly-sweet and tangy taste and makes about 1 cup of vinaigrette, so if you need more you’ll want to double the recipe. The original recipe is from Colman’s, although I couldn’t find the recipe to link back to on their site.

I made this vinaigrette two ways–I tried it first with Colman’s Superfine Mustard Powder (or you can use your favorite brand of dry mustard). This was actually a mistake I made! I didn’t realize the recipe called for prepared mustard. But I like how it turned out with the dry mustard.

Then I tried it with the prepared mustard–I used a slightly sweet, grainy mustard–and I liked it that way, too. The taste of the two versions was very similar.

ncHonMustvin1nmThe main difference?  The dry mustard version separates more quickly when standing, forming an oily layer at the bottom. It needs to be shaken right before serving on your salads. The prepared mustard version has a thin oily layer on top, but otherwise doesn’t separate much. I would still stir this well before serving, but it doesn’t need to be continually shaken like the dry mustard version.

I think the best time to make this vinaigrette is right before you serve your salad, with the ingredients all freshly whisked together!

If you have any vinaigrette left over, you can refrigerate it in a container with a tight-fitting lid–when I buy fancier salad dressings, I save the glass bottles–they’re perfect for keeping your own homemade dressings in! Then just give it a good shake when you’re ready to use the vinaigrette again!

HONEY MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE slightly adapted from Colman’s Mustard

Makes about 1 cup

  • 3/4 cup Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon prepared mustard (I used a slightly sweet, grainy mustard) or mustard powder (Note: if you use mustard powder, you will need to shake the vinaigrette just before serving, since the mixture separates)
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Whisk all ingredients together, blending everything well, and serve over your favorite salad.

Do you ever make your own dressings and vinaigrettes?

Juanita’s Crunchy Coleslaw

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You may have had this coleslaw or something like it at a potluck or picnic. I’ve had this side dish several times recently, and every time I have it, I think, “I need to get that recipe!” The most recent time I had Crunchy Coleslaw was when Juanita made it for a department lunch at work, and it was so good I thought I could have eaten the whole bowl of it! Juanita gave me the recipe, and so I finally had the chance to make it myself–I love, love, love this coleslaw! The crunchiness comes from the toasted sliced almonds and sunflower seeds, along with the crumbled, uncooked ramen noodles. It seems a little strange to call coleslaw yummy, but this really IS yummy…so I hope you get a chance to try it out! This tastes best the same day you make it, while everything is freshly mixed and crunchy, and since it’s so good, you probably won’t have any leftovers anyway! :)

JUANITA’S CRUNCHY COLESLAW

Makes a large bowl, about 8 to 10 servings

  • 1 small package sliced almonds (I used 1/2 cup from a larger package)
  • 1 small package sunflower seed kernels (I used 1/2 cup from a larger package)
  • 2 packages Ramen Noodle Soup, Beef Flavor, uncooked and crumbled (save the Beef flavor packets to mix with the vinegar, oil, and other ingredients)
  • 3/4 cup oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar (Juanita likes to add a few extra shakes, so I did, too!)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag of coleslaw mix or shredded cabbage
  • finely chopped green onion to taste, optional (I didn’t add this to mine, but I’d recommend using about 1/3 cup)

ncCrunchyCslw1Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Toast almonds, sunflower seeds, and plain noodles (uncooked and crumbled into small pieces-save the Beef flavor packets for later) on a cookie sheet at 350˚F for 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring halfway through. Remove from oven and set aside. The mixture will look like what you see in the small photo here. NOTE: An easy way to crumble up those Ramen noodles is to hit them lightly with a hammer while they’re still in the bag–they break up really easily that way! I also lined my cookie sheet with parchment paper, but it’s not necessary to do that.

In a small bowl, mix the Beef seasoning packets from the Ramen noodles with the oil, vinegar, and sugar, blending everything together well. Set aside.

Just before serving, empty the entire bag of coleslaw mix into a large bowl. Add in the chopped green onion, if using. Then add in the toasted almond/sunflower seed/ramen noodle mixture and toss well with the coleslaw, until all ingredients are evenly incorporated.  Finally, pour the oil-vinegar mixture over the coleslaw and blend everything together well. Serve immediately while everything is still “crunchy.”

Thanks to Juanita for sharing her recipe! It’s one of my all-time favorites! Have you made a crunchy coleslaw recipe before?

Watermelon-Cucumber-Tomato Salad with Feta

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Throughout the summer, I love eating slices of juicy watermelon, but I thought I’d try something different with it for a change. I found a Watermelon-Cucumber Salad with Feta recipe at Food.com, and it sounded like the perfect thing to try! I omitted some ingredients and added some others, and I really like the slightly sweet and savory combination of tastes this salad has! It’s a great way to use your garden veggies if you’re growing cherry tomatoes and cucumbers, too!

WATERMELON-CUCUMBER -TOMATO SALAD WITH FETA by NancyCreative, adapted from Food.com

Makes 6 servings

  • 6 cups watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 medium English cucumber, peeled or unpeeled and thinly sliced or cut into chunks
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced or chopped (chop the green stems and the white part of the onions)
  • 1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • I/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (or you can use a whole 4-ounce container if you want to have extra cheese in your salad)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh mint, chopped (optional)

Combine watermelon, English cucumber, green onions, olives, and cherry tomatoes in a large salad bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, honey, and olive oil.

Add lime juice mixture to watermelon and other ingredients in large bowl; toss gently to coat.

Sprinkle with feta and chopped fresh mint, if using; toss gently again and serve.

Have you made any unique watermelon recipes this summer?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday.

Peach-Strawberry Salad with Feta

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This fresh and fruity salad was something I discovered at a potluck. I love all the healthy ingredients in it–slices of fresh peaches (or nectarines) and strawberries–with some slivered or sliced almonds added in–all tossed in a slightly sweet-and-tangy vinaigrette. Crumbles of delicious Feta cheese top the salad. It’s a great side dish to enjoy during peach season! I actually like using smooth-skinned nectarines in this salad–you can use either peaches or nectarines, or a combination of both. No fruit-peeling is necessary!

PEACH-STRAWBERRY SALAD WITH FETA slightly adapted from a potluck recipe

Makes about 8 servings

  • 6 peaches or nectarines, sliced or chopped
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups hulled strawberries, sliced or cut into quarters
  • 1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup Briannas Blush Wine Vinaigrette (or you can use Balsamic or Raspberry Vinaigrette)
  • 2 ounces crumbled Feta cheese, to top the salad (half of a 4-ounce container)
  • addtional slivered or sliced almonds, to top the salad

Place sliced peaches (or nectarines), sliced strawberries, and almonds in a large bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the ingredients and toss until well-coated. Top everything with the crumbled Feta cheese and additional almonds, if desired. Serve immediately.

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The Feta cheese with the fruit is such a great combination! Have you tried out any new fruit salad recipes during this summer season?

Corn and Blueberry Salad

ncCornBlubrySal2nm Sometimes you come across a recipe that sounds so different, you just have to try it! I love all the ingredients in this Corn and Blueberry Salad, but I never would have thought of putting them together myself! What a brilliant idea this salad is…a sweet and savory mix of lots of yummy, healthy ingredients. The sweetness of the corn complements the blueberries…and the red onion, jalapeno, and cilantro give this salad a nice savory punch. And I have to mention the cucumbers, too, that give this summery side dish a great crunchiness. All of these ingredients are marinated overnight in a slightly sweet and savory dressing, which I think would be good on a salad, too. I found this recipe at Better Homes and Gardens and I changed it slightly by adding extra blueberries–one cup just didn’t seem like enough, so I doubled it to 2 cups. I’m glad I did…I thought it was just the right amount! CORN AND BLUEBERRY SALAD slightly adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 6 ears of fresh sweet corn, husked (or substitute 4 1/2 cups of frozen corn, unthawed)
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

In Dutch oven, bring salted water to boiling. Add fresh corn (or frozen corn, if using). Cook, covered, 5 minutes, or until tender (if using frozen corn, just cook about 2 to 3 minutes). When cool enough to handle, cut corn from cobs. In a serving bowl, combine corn, blueberries, cucumber, red onion, cilantro, and jalapeno. For dressing, in screw-top jar, combine lime juice, olive oil, honey, cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and shake well to combine. Add to salad; toss. Cover and refrigerate overnight (up to 24 hours). This is such a unique way to use blueberries! What creative recipes have you used blueberries in?

Spinach and Feta Salad with Fresh Beetroot from The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook

If indulging in British delicacies from another era sounds good to you, then you’ll need to check out The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, inspired by the popular Emmy Award-winning series. I recently received a review copy from the publisher and enjoyed looking through this classic recipe collection. There’s a wide range of sophisticated snacks, entrees, and desserts, including Mrs. Isobel Crawley’s Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches, Saxe-Coburg Soup, Potatoes Lyonnaise, Mrs. Patmore’s Downstairs Pork Pie, Decadent Chocolate Almond Cake with Sour Cream Icing, Classic Vanilla Rice Pudding, William’s Bilberry Pie, and many more delicious-sounding recipes.

Author Emily Ansara Baines points out: “In a world where appearance is key, it’s no surprise that each meal served at Downton Abbey is a gargantuan display of opulence.” So trying out these recipes is a great way to treat yourself! :)

I decided to try one of the salads, since it was very unique and different from any I had ever made–the Spinach and Feta Salad with Fresh Beetroot. I am developing a taste for beets more and more, so I really enjoyed this salad…and the fact that it has feta cheese in it, too, is appealing to me since I’m a big feta cheese fan! The candied walnuts that top the salad are also a great touch.

Here’s the recipe…

SPINACH AND FETA SALAD WITH FRESH BEETROOT from The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook

The unique addition of fresh beets–known as beetroot in London–mixed with these ingredients makes for a surprising, but delicious salad that everyone at Downton Abbey would enjoy. The festive mix of sweet flavors (such as maple syrup and orange juice) would provide guests at any garden party or luncheon with an extra excuse to smile.

Makes 4-6 servings

  • 4 medium beets, scrubbed, trimmed, and cut in half
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 10 ounces fresh spinach, washed and dried (I used baby spinach leaves)
  • 1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 oranges, sliced
  1. Place beets in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then cook for 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and cool, then cut beets into cubes.
  2. Place walnuts in a skillet and briefly heat over medium-low heat. Add maple syrup and butter. Cook and stir until walnuts are evenly coated, then remove from heat and let cool.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together orange juice concentrate, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil, and set aside.
  4. Place a large helping of spinach leaves on plates, then divide candied walnuts among plates over greens. Place equal amount of beets over greens, then top with feta cheese. Drizzle each plate with some of the dressing, followed by orange slices.

Are you a Downton Abbey fan? Or a fan of classic British recipes?

Honey-Sweetened Cucumber Salad

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If you are growing cucumbers in your garden this summer, this is a great side dish to use them in! I found a recipe at Our Best Bites that I modified a little…I used honey instead of sugar as a sweetener, used a little less salt, and used white wine vinegar instead of rice vinegar. I thought using honey in this cucumber salad worked out great! I’m trying to use honey instead of granulated sugar when I can because it’s healthier, and this seemed like a great recipe to try it in.

The honey gives this salad a yummy sweetness, and there’s a little zing and spice from some diced red onion and red pepper flakes. Sweet and spicy…I love that combination in this salad! If you don’t want much spiciness, add a little less of the red pepper flakes and it should be just fine! This recipe makes about 4-6 servings, depending on how big your servings are. If you’re making this for a larger group, you’ll probably want to double the recipe.

HONEY-SWEETENED CUCUMBER SALAD by NancyCreative, adapted from Our Best Bites

Makes 4 to 6 servings

  • 1 1/2 pounds cucumbers (about 3 medium), peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar (or substitute rice vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 Tablespoons honey (or substitute same amount of granulated sugar)
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tablespoons finely diced red onion

Place cucumber slices in a colander sitting over a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and toss well. Let cucumber slices sit in your refrigerator for 1 hour, tossing them several times as they are draining.

Prepare marinade while cucumber slices are draining in the refrigerator: Combine vinegar, water, honey, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until liquid is reduced to about 1/3 cup (if you end up with less than 1/3 cup, add some water to bring the mixture to 1/3 cup). Remove mixture from heat and mix in the diced red onion. Let mixture cool to room temperature.

When cucumber slices are ready to remove from the refrigerator, dry them a little more by patting with some paper towels and then combine with the vinegar marinade mixture, blending well. Refrigerate until well chilled and then serve (you can serve it without chilling, but it tastes best chilled!).

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Cucumbers are great in summer salads and side dishes! Do you have a favorite recipe you like to make with cucumbers?

Tabouleh Salad from Quinoa Cuisine

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I’ve heard that quinoa is very good for you, but didn’t realize it was a superfood until I reviewed Quinoa Cuisine, a new cookbook that features 150 creative quinoa recipes, from salads and soups to entrees and desserts.

The introduction to the book gives you a good overview about quinoa, which is very helpful if you’re like me and don’t know much about it! According to the book, quinoa is rich in protein, calcium, iron, fiber, potassium, B vitamins, and Vitamin E. It’s also considered a complete protein because it provides a healthy balance of all eight essential amino acids. If you’ve never used quinoa, there are helpful cooking tips in the introduction also.

Then there are the delicious-sounding quinoa recipes…Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes,  Banana Nut Power Muffins, Black Bean, Corn, and Quinoa Salad with Lime Dressing, Gouda and Red Pepper Tarts, Spinach and Parmesan Pilaf, Chicken Potpie with Quinoa Biscuit Crust, Ginger-Peach Shortcake, Apple-Cherry Trail Bars…and many more! The recipes all use quinoa seeds, flakes, or flour to create yummy and healthy dishes. This softcover book does not have inside photos, but the recipes seem easy to follow.

I’ve always wanted to make Tabouleh, and when I saw a recipe for that in this book I just couldn’t resist making it! In this recipe, quinoa replaces the wheat grain bulgur. I really liked it, so I guess I’m a new Quinoa fan now…I’m looking forward to trying more of the recipes out!

Here’s the recipe for the Tabouleh…it’s packed with lots of healthy ingredients like cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, chickpeas, green onion, olive oil, and some herbs and spices. Very delicious!

TABOULEH SALAD  from Quinoa Cuisine

A staple of Middle Eastern cuisine, this salad is a natural use for quinoa. Substitute red quinoa to add a nutty quality to the salad, or use black quinoa for a great contrast of color. SERVES 6 TO 8.
  • 2/3 cup white quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small cucumber, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 Tablespoons sliced green onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  1. In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the quinoa and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit for  5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the cooked quinoa, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, green onion, parsley, mint, allspice, lemon juice, and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving so the flavors can marry. Serve cold or at room temperature.

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A little garlic powder might be nice in this, too…I don’t think that’s typically in Tabouleh, but I may try that out next time!

Do you cook with quinoa often? What’s your favorite quinoa dish?

Lemon Pepper Garbanzo Salad

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Since I love hummus so much, I’ve been interested in trying more recipes using garbanzo beans, or chickpeas. So when I saw this recipe from Spice Islands, I thought I’d give it a try. I love all the healthy, colorful ingredients this Lemon Pepper Garbanzo Salad has in it! I added just a bit more lime juice and lemon pepper seasoning because I like the tanginess of those flavors. And I mistakenly used a whole can of black beans instead of the 1 cup the original recipe called for, but I liked it with the extra black beans. The chopped veggies add a flavorful crunchiness when combined with the black beans and garbanzo beans, and the seasonings in this salad give it a great taste. It’s easy to make, so try it out when you get a chance!

LEMON PEPPER GARBANZO SALAD by NancyCreative, adapted from Spice Islands

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup celery, diagonally cut in 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped (about 1 medium-sized pepper)
  • 1 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped (about 1 medium-sized pepper)
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons dried cilantro
  • 2 to 2 1/4 teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 to 2 1/2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine beans, celery, peppers, and red onion in a large serving bowl.

Mix cilantro, lemon pepper seasoning, garlic, cumin, vinegar, lime juice, and olive oil in a separate bowl. Pour over bean and pepper mixture and stir to thoroughly combine. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour to blend flavors, then serve.

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All those colorful ingredients are a feast for the eyes, aren’t they? It’s a great side dish and if you want to make a meal out of it, you can serve a cup of this over lettuce greens–you won’t need to use any other dressing with this flavorful mix of beans and veggies!

Chopped Salad to Go

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Here’s a fast, easy, and healthy lunch idea my friend Ann told me about. She saw this recipe over at Kraft Foods. I thought it sounded good, too, so I tried it out and thought it was great! This easy salad is so much better than fast food and perfect when you’re in a time crunch on your lunch hour. It’s really easy to put together beforehand, too–you can even prepare it the night before so it’s all ready for you to take when you leave for work the next morning. Here’s the recipe, with some notes on how you can modify it…

CHOPPED SALAD TO GO from Kraft Foods

  • 1 Tablespoon Miracle Whip® Dressing, light or regular (or you can substitute mayonnaise)
  • 2 Tablespoons Italian dressing, light or regular
  • 2 cups chopped lettuce (chop up your own or use pre-packaged lettuce mixes; I like to use spring mix or baby spinach leaves, or a combination of both)
  • 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped red onion
  • 3 slices smoked turkey breast, chopped (or substitute smoked chicken breast or ham)
  • 1 slice bacon, cooked and crumbled (or substitute 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon bacon bits)

Mix together Miracle Whip® and Italian dressing in a 3-cup resealable container. Top dressings with layers of remaining ingredients, then seal the container. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before eating, with the lid still on, shake your container to evenly coat the salad with dressing. Then it’s ready to eat!

Tomato Corn Salad

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I came across this recipe in a Taste of Home magazine, and having never eaten Tomato Corn Salad, I was curious to see how it tasted. I liked all the ingredients I saw listed in the recipe–in addition to the tomatoes and corn, there were red and green onions, some fresh cilantro and basil…all tossed with a light dressing of balsamic vinegar. There’s also a little Dijon mustard in the original recipe, which I substituted with honey mustard, for just a touch of sweetness.

I really liked it when I tried it out…the balsamic vinegar gives a nice tangy taste to the salad, and the corn-tomato-onion combination is great, too. If you’re growing your own corn and tomatoes in your garden this summer, this is a great way to use your fresh veggies! I also like it because it’s a different way to serve corn–I don’t have very many recipes that include corn, so it’s a great addition to my recipe collection. And it’s just 140 calories per 3/4 cup serving, so it’s light and healthy, too! This recipe makes about 7 servings.

TOMATO CORN SALAD slightly adapted from Taste of Home

  • 3 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 cups fresh corn (about 9 ears of corn–or you can substitute thawed frozen or canned corn)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced or thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon honey mustard (or Dijon mustard, if you prefer)

Combine the first eight ingredients in a large bowl. In a large skillet, saute corn and garlic in oil until tender. Stir in mustard. Add to vegetable mixture; toss to coat. Serve with a slotted spoon. 

Do you have any favorite recipes you like to make with fresh corn?