Entries Tagged as 'Salads'

A Trip to Solana Beach + Cobb Salad



This past Memorial weekend, the boyfriend and I embarked on a journey to our favorite place.


This time around, we went north of San Diego to discover the smaller towns that line the coast. We stayed in an affluent area called Solana Beach. The coast was like nothing I had ever seen before. Its scenery was something out of a story book. When we first walked out, our feet met the velvety pale sand and immediately our eyes were drawn to the vast horizon. Clumps of seaweed and other peculiar ocean vegetation dotted the shore as remnants from the previous night’s high tide. During the day, the commanding sea withdrew to reveal miles of coast reachable by foot. But as the hours past, the milky waves would return to fearlessly collide with the lofty cliffs that lined the shore. The landscape was truly magical, which was the perfect setting for our trip’s purpose. To rekindle and reconnect.


We had no plans for what each day would bring. Our only hopes were to disconnect from reality and delight in one another’s presence. Our mornings started with a leisurely walk on the beach, enjoying the efforts of local surfers capturing the ocean’s energy. On Saturday, we walked to a quaint cafe in our neighborhood for a velvety almond-milk cappuccino (for her) and a rich french kiss mocha (for him).

After breakfast, our days were filled with more time spent on the beach, basking in the warmth of the sun without a care in the world. If only this was real life. The only departures we made were for food and aimless driving. The latter became an evening staple. Not far from the coast, windy roads snaked through thickly wooded countryside. Nestled every few hundred feet were incredibly private neighborhoods. So discreet that it was rare we actually saw a home in its entirety. Instead, we marveled at the grandiose gates that protected each fortress. One evening, we were so engrossed in our opulent surroundings that we completely tuned out my car’s “low fuel” warning. With only five miles left in our tank, we were very luck to reach a gas station almost six miles from where we began.


After dinner, we’d return to our guesthouse (We highly recommend by the way!) to modify our wardrobe. Equipped with light sweatshirts, we would returned to the shore and finish our day listening to the growl of the sea. As we sat, lulled into tranquility, I took a mental note that these are the moments I must never forget. Absent from any distractions and humbled by the ocean’s strength, we sat there feeling as though it was just us and nature. My heart swelled with gratitude for the beauty before my eyes and the fact that I got to share it with the man who sat next to me. I realized in that moment, that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Life was good.


During our stay, we enjoyed many amazing meals. There is something so refreshing about California cuisine. Regardless of the restaurant, there is a deep appreciation for quality ingredients. Every dish seemed to be bursting with flavor as it danced upon my tongue. Our favorites included a crisp, charred Salsiccia pizza from Real Food and Spirits. The atmosphere was spot on for an intimate dinner  as we indulged in our adult beverages. A cold glass of Heineken for him and medium bodied glass of Sean Minor Pinot Noir for me. Our favorite spot, though, was a random find in Encinitas. Union Kitchen and Tap was just up our alley with a wide range of microbrews and classic food favorites. Our drink of choice was a local beer from San Diego called Mission Hefeweizen. It was one of the most crisp I’ve every tasted (no lemon needed). Jordan enjoyed the mini pork sliders, but I went for something a bit lighter — the cobb salad. This classic salad had a base of romaine and was sprinkled with the usual suspects: hard boiled eggs, bacon, tomatoes and a Maytag blue cheese. Everything came together once  tossed in a delicious red whine vinaigrette. It was a well orchestrated salad to say the least. We literally ate every last bite. Now that we are back to reality, I knew I would have to recreate the dish. So last week, I got to work on my own version.


The foundation is classic — freshly chopped organic romaine lettuce. After a light rinse and whirl in the salad spinner, I dressed the mild lettuce in a sharp and tangy red wine vinaigrette. From there, I adorned the salad with customary cobb toppings including hard boiled eggs, tomato and bacon. It’s important to stay light handed when garnishing these salads; as every ingredient (egg yolks, bacon and blue cheese) is pretty rich on your tastebuds and in your belly.

Union’s version was decked out with blue cheese from Maytag, but it tasted far too strong for my liking. While it was easily enjoyed it in small doses, one large bite would quickly send my palate over the stinky cheese edge. So when perusing the specialty foods case at Whole Foods, I decided to utilize the employees’ expertise in my quest to find a milder blue cheese. They directed me to a buttermilk version, and to my delight it was much more tame. Honestly though, I still can’t say I am 100% on the blue cheese train. I would prefer a salty feta any day, but some recipes really do just require it. Like this one. My favorite counterpart to bacon is avocado, so I decided to also add a handful of freshly cut avocado. The result was a deliciously, satisfying salad. Now if only I could recreate the beach that joined it as well.

This salad is perfect for dinner since its ingredients are a bit on the heavier side when compared to other raw green salads. It’s best enjoyed when paired with a cold beer and a hot summer’s night. That kind of meal will make anyone feel thankful for the good stuff in life.


Note: This recipe makes much more vinaigrette then you will need to dress this salad. Store the remaining dressing in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.

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Cobb Salad with a Classic Red Wine Vinaigrette

serves 2, easily doubles

for the vinaigrette:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinaigrette

splash of lemon juice, optional

1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon honey

salt and pepper to taste

for the salad:

1/2 bunch organic romaine lettuce, chopped, rinsed and spun (about 4 cups)

2 slices of thick bacon, baked using this method

2 hard boiled eggs, cooled with shells removed

1/2 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half

1/2 avocado, cubed

2-3 ounces buttermilk blue cheese, crumbled

  1. To prepare the vinaigrette, add olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice (if using), dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper to a high speed blender. Whir on high for 30-60 seconds or until the dressing comes together; set aside.
  2. To make the salad, first prepare the garnishes. Chop bacon into bite size pieces and set aside. Slice hard boiled eggs lengthwise, cutting each half into four pieces and set aside.
  3. Add romaine lettuce to a large boil. Dress the salad with 1-2 tablespoons of the red wine vinaigrette, being mindful that you can always add more. Toss gently and taste to adjust seasonings (using more vinaigrette, salt and/or pepper).
  4. Add the chopped bacon, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, avocado and blue cheese; toss lightly. Serve immediately.



Massaged Kale Salad with Dried Cherries and Macadamia Nuts



Here I am with another recipe for kale. I just love the stuff — as a pesto, in my smoothies, and lately raw in my salads. It wasn’t before I discovered a technique called massaging that I actually considered tossing the bitter greens into my salad rotation. I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Kath Eats Real Food, when I learned that you could actually “rub” your kale to tenderize it. It’s the bitterness that actually makes kale unpalatable, but with a little tender and care, eating it raw is actually quite delicious.  My first attempt was a simple combination of  olive oli, lemon juice, honey, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. After massaging the kale between my fingers for at least five minutes, I could see that its volume had decreased at least by half. I took a bite and was surprised by the absence of bitterness. It does have a bit of a bite, but only equivalent to the tang of the lemon juice. The balance of each flavor and texture was delivered in one perfect bite: rich, earthy, sweet, salty, sour and chewy.


If you can’t tell by now, this is my most recent obsession. I decided to experiment the other night for dinner by incorporating different textures into the salad. But I could only use the ingredients I had on hand. I saw a small bag of dried cherries I purchased weeks ago, begging to be used up. I emptied the thin plastic bag to find the cherries had definitely dried up a bit. To make sure they didn’t stick to our fillings (the dentist loves us), I decided to soak them in a little water with a splash of Cointreau (any other orange liqueur would do). It’s not really necessary to booze them up, but I love the extra pop of flavor it provides.

Side note: For recipes that require a quality alcohol, I buy the airport size bottles. That way I don’t have to spend an absurd amount of money of booze. Fruit liqueurs and bourbon are my most frequented spirits.

My most recent work desk snack (I enjoy a small snack between breakfast and lunch, so I like to have healthy options right at my fingertips), has been macadamia nuts. They are great for digestion and contain antioxidants that help protect the body against certain types of cancer. I found some leftover in the pantry that didn’t make it to my desk jar. After roasting them to nutty perfection, I had the perfect crunch component my salad needed.


The dressing is an apple cider and olive oil based vinaigrette with tart mustard and sweet honey. Its tangy sweetness plays perfectly with the sour dried cherries and salty roasted nuts. Once tossed and chilled, the boyfriend and I agreed this was salad was surprisingly addictive. In fact, we picked every piece out of the bowl until it was stark empty. Since, we’ve enjoyed this exact same salad three times as a side for a dinner. Its pairs perfectly with grilled meats and vegetables, pasta and pizza. It’s incredibly satisfying, but not a bit heavy on your stomach. In fact, you’ll feel better after consuming a bowl of this salad – energized, satisfied and nourished.


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Massaged Kale Salad with Dried Cherries and Macadamia Nuts

serves 2-3, easily doubles

4 heaping cups kale, torn into bite size pieces (1/2 -3/4  bunch of kale)

2 tablespoons dried cherries

¼ cup raw, unsalted macadamia nuts

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon honey

salt and fresh cracked pepper

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

  1. Remove rib from kale and tear the part into bite size pieces. Add to a sieve for rinsing. Run under cold water until all dirt is removed. Add kale pieces to a salad a spinner and spin until dry. Set aside.

  2. Add cold water (optional: a splash of liqueur) to a small bowl and add cherries to soak for at least 20 minutes. Remove from liquids and chop into smaller pieces. Set aside

  3. Place a dry skillet over medium heat. Add whole macadamia nuts and toss occasionally until toasted on all sides, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Once slightly cooled, add to a plastic baggie. Using a heavy bottomed skillet, smack the bagged nuts until broken into smaller pieces. Set aside

  4. In a medium size bowl, add apple cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, dijon mustard, honey, salt and fresh cracked pepper. Whisk vigorously until the vinaigrette comes together, the color will be a light hue of gold.

  5. Add torn pieces of kale to dressing bowl, and begin massaging. Move the kale through the dressing until it coats the kale evenly. Using your fingertips, gently rub the kale pieces until slightly wilted, about 5 minutes. Taste for bitterness. If there is still a bite, continue massaging.

  6. Add the dried cherry pieces, macadamia pieces and parmesan cheese. Toss gently until ingredients are equally distributed. Serve immediately or chill in the fridge until ready to eat (the kale will continue to tenderize if you chill it).

Curry Mango Tuna Salad



It is really sad that tuna gets such a bad rap when in reality, it’s a great source of protein packed with minerals your body needs. Canned tuna not only contains selenium, an antioxidant that can help protect your cells from damage, but it also contains potassium, which helps keep your heart and kidneys healthy. Plus, it’s a great canvas for any flavor combination your heart desires. Depending on what recipe you choose, you’ll want to know the difference in variations, since each has its own flavor profile and texture. I tend to lean toward two varieties: solid white albacore packed in water and an Italian version that contains packed light tuna in olive oil.


If you buy the variety packed in water like the albacore tuna above, it tastes incredibly light. The tuna is a tad more chunky and firm than its lower quality counterpart, so it’s great for mayo flavored salads since it won’t fall apart as easily. Plus, you can really expand your horizons by experimenting with seasonings since it’s basically a blank slate for any combination of flavors. Tuna packed in olive oil is my absolute favorite because of its fruity accents and mild flavor. It’s a tad saltier than its albacore cousin, but not enough to overwhelm your palate.


For lunch last week, I wanted something with a little staying power since I would only have one day to prep my lunches. I decided to play around with tuna salad, but  couldn’t decide what flavor combination would  keep me entertained for days. I looked to my fridge for some inspiration and after spotting some frozen mango, I knew exactly where I wanted this salad to go.


I drained the tuna and flaked it gently into a large bowl. After dicing up the frozen mango, I grabbed an orange bell pepper and cubed it into equally small cubes and tossed them alongside the flaky fish. For a little green color and plant-protein boost, I added a handful of thawed edamame beans and got to work on the sauce. Since I had plans to play around with curry, I wanted the dressing to be creamy but certainly not heavy. To avoid a sauce packed with saturated fat, I opted to make the base out of greek yogurt and flavored it with a tiny bit of mayonaise and a little dijon mustard for bite. Next, I added a good dose of curry powder (you can opt to add less) and a sprinkle of smoked paprika. For a touch of  sweetness and a little bite, I rounded the recipe out with some honey and lemon juice. Mixed together, the sauce is an explosion of spices the minute it hits your palate and rounds nicely ending with smoky, sweet notes.

I enjoyed mine over crusty bread the first serving, then atop a green salad for the next. To mix it up on the third day, I chose to use some wheat thins for a fun, utensil-free meal. Just dip, scoop and enjoy!


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Curry Mango Tuna Salad

serves 3-4

2 five ounce cans of tuna (I used one albacore in water and one soaked in olive oil)

1 orange bell pepper, diced into 1/2 in cubes

1/2 cup frozen mango, thawed and diced into 1/2 inch cubes

3/4 cup frozen edamame, thawed

2 tablespoons plain greek yogurt

1 tablespoon mayo

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon honey

1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

cracked black pepper

Drain both cans of tuna thoroughly. Flake tuna into the bottom of a large bowl. Add the diced orange pepper, mango and edamame to the bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk yogurt, mayo, mustard, honey and fresh lemon juice. Add paprika, curry powder, salt and pepper and whisk again. Pour over tuna and vegetable mixture. Using a large spatula, gently mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed and well dressed. Taste to season. Serve immediately alongside crunchy bread or atop a green salad. The tuna salad will keep for up to 3 days chilled in an airtight container.

Roasted Vegetable Orzo Salad with Feta + Chickpeas



I find myself making these kind of “throw it together” salads quite often. My favorite combinations involve some kind of grain or pasta, an abundance of roasted vegetables, a lean protein and a simple dressing like olive oil and white wine vinegar. It’s fresh, light and always incredibly flavorful. I like to prepare a big batch on Sunday, so my work week lunches are a snap.  Most times, I pack the prepped salad with some raw spinach or spring greens. When lunch time comes around, I rewarm the vegetable salad and simply throw them over the dressed greens. This version is just as tasty chilled or at room temperature, which also makes it a no-fuss party dish. Serve as a bed for grilled halibut and you’ve easily elevated it to rival any restaurant quality dish.


The base of the salad is made up of orzo, which looks like a grain but is actually semolina pasta formed in the shape of rice. It’s just as easy to cook as spaghetti and personally, I just think the little bits of pasta are just plain cute. I really wanted to call this recipe “Confetti Veggie Pasta Salad” because the diverse range of colors mixed with flecks of white makes me think of birthday parties, parades and classic game shows.

The roasted vegetables studded throughout the salad are bursting with flavor and help pack a nutrient punch. Their natural sweetness compliments the salty feta and vinegar, so one bite is really like a party for your palate. Do you see the theme we’ve got going on here — this salad is just plain fun. It’s simple to make (a bit of preparation but everything just mixes together at the end) but still robust in flavors – making any work-week lunch one worth celebrating.


You can find the recipe here.

Mango Salsa [And the contest winner!]



When people say, “I am going to try to eat healthier,” there is one thing that always saddens my heart: People usually equate healthy food with boring food. When in reality, it is much to the contrary.

If you really want to “eat healthier,” your first step is starting to use real foods. Supplementing your diet with things that come from our earth and using products that are minimally processed.

And the truth is, real food is always delicious when treated correctly. Your palate (and body) will sing when fresh flavor is introduced into your diet. Although, if you have inundated your tastebuds with a lot of sugar or salt (pop or fast food), it may take some time for your palate to adjust to the flavors of the earth.

Choosing real foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains is the first step to being “healthier,” and it doesn’t have to be boring. I refuse to waste even a calorie on food that lacks flavor. It just takes a little seasoning and maybe a bit of creative thinking to bring out the bold flavors of real food.

I have just the perfect recipe for those who already love to eat fresh, but also for those who are just starting to enjoy the benefits of real food.


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Mango Salsa

makes ~2 cups salsa

1 medium sized mango, diced

1/4 red onion, diced

1/2 small  jalapeño, seeded and diced

zest of one lime

juice of one lime

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

Make sure to cut everything in relatively the same size. I used a pretty small dice and it worked perfectly. Mix everything together and let sit for at least 20 minutes. Serve over chicken or fish. A great salsa for tortilla chips and best paired with a Corona (you always deserve an indulgence). Don’t forget the lime :)


And before you go, the lucky contest winner is….


Congratulations! Thank you to everyone who participated and look out for more contests in the future ;)

Steffani, your goodie bag includes:

Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter (My favorite topping for pancakes, oatmeal or toast)

An assortment of Justin’s nut butters (My favorite on-the-go snack)

Smoked paprika (My favorite seasoning for roasting veggies)

Quinoa (My all-time favorite grain)



Couscous and Lemon Vegetable Salad



Yes, I am still in the veggie mood! It has been about 10 days since I have eaten a meal with meat! I did have a pastry yesterday from Great Harvest with a teeny little bit of bacon in it. (It was delish by the way with scrambles eggs and cheddar) I am not trying to go vegetarian or anything! Just trying to limit my consumption of animal proteins.

Studies now show that a person who consumes animal protein on a regular basis is more likely to produce cancerous cells, AND they are a huge contributor to heart disease. A diet filled with whole foods and lots of veggies and fruits can help sustain your health and energy to live a long, healthy life.

My goal is 95 years old, and I figure good habits start young–so here we go!

I love these kind of throw-any-veg-you-got kind of salads. They are simple, fast and use up a lot of the veggies that are nearing the end of their days.

It’s as easy as 1-2-3

  1. Chop up as many veggies as you in bite sized pieces.
  2. Mix with any of your favorite grains. [couscous, quinoa, brown rice or wheat berries]
  3. Dress with a vinaigrette of your choice. [lemon, balsamic, white whine]

I like to make these kind of salads in the morning and let it sit and marry together until I am ready for lunch. The flavor in this one is FANTASTIC! Super lemony and fresh!

Serve it straight up or over some greens for extra veggie goodness! If you need some additional protein, add some chickpeas or cheese. I am enjoying mine right now with a little shredded monterey jack on top.

Couscous and Lemon Vegetable Salad


serves 2, easily multiplies

zest one lemon
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1/2 cup plum tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup red peppers, chopped
1/2 cup zucchini, chopped
2 tablespoons red onion, chopped
1 cup prepared whole wheat couscous [sub any grain you like!]


In a small bowl, whisk together lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, garlic salt and pepper. Set aside. In a medium bowl, mix vegetables and couscous until thoroughly combined. Pour in vinaigrette and mix again. Serve room temperature or chilled. For best flavor, allow to sit for 2-4 hours.

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Greek Pasta Salad with Veggies



Yes, I know I have been slacking on the blog duties. I’m sorry :/, life gets busy when you want to graduate on time.

It involves four summer classes that defeat the purpose of “summer” and constant worrying that you forgot to turn something in.

But it’s okay because I have redeemed myself for my lack of posts.

With this—–>

Pasta salad that is super yummy and super healthy but tastes super decadent.

The secret is greek yogurt, inspired by Kath’s mom and her greek pasta recipe.

It totally tastes like cream cheese though—score.

To thin out the yogurt, I made some garlic oil. Which is also super easy and delicious.

Just add 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil to a small sauce pan, add 3 garlic cloves that have been thinly sliced. Cook over medium-low heat until it becomes fragrant. [about 15-20 minutes] I am telling you–make extra, and bottle this stuff up! Garlicly, gold goodness.

I pureed the greek yogurt with about 1/4 cup of the garlic oil, S+P and 4 giant leaves of basil. This would make a great veggie dip too!

Did I mention it’s fat free greek yogurt that totally passes for extra fatty cream cheese mixed with sour cream. Oh yeah, have I lured you in yet?

Toss bow tie pasta + veggies with the sauce. I add feta in at the end to prevent squishing the cheese crumbles.

Talk about redemption. Sweet, creamy redemption.

Do you forgive me yet? :)

I thought so. :)

Greek Pasta Salad with Veggies

serves 4 [sides]

inspired by Kath’s mom

6 ounces medium sized bow tie pasta

scant 1 cup fat free greek yogurt

1/4 cup garlic olive oil


4 large basil leaves

1/2 cup sugar snap peas, snapped in half

1/3 cup carrots, chopped

1/3 cup red pepper, chopped

1/3 cup black olives, sliced

1/4 cup sweet corn

1 cup feta, cut into cubes or crumbled


Cook pasta according to directions for al dente. Meanwhile, combine greek yogurt, garlic olive oil and S+P in a food processor. Blend until thin [add a teaspoon of water if needed]. Add in torn basil leaves and puree until small tidbits of basil appear in the sauce.

Drain the pasta, and set aside to cool. Prepare veggies. Once the pasta has cooled to room temperature, add veggies and toss. Then, add the sauce and toss thoroughly. Finally, add feta and toss until well combined. Eat immediately or refrigerate overnight for best flavor.

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