Bacon-Avocado Vinaigrette

Let it be known that I am not a gardener. I had tried container gardening about a decade ago, which turned out to be a complete disaster.  I vowed to wait until I had more space and could have a raised bed garden.

My husband and I finally got around to making a raised bed this summer.  We planted kale, spinach, green onions, and tomatoes – all mostly from seed.  We planted one seedling tomato plant since that was all that looked decent by the time we bought plants this year (we had extremely late May snow and hail in Colorado this year). We had high hopes and thought the kids would have a lot of fun watering the garden and watching the plants grow.

After a summer of cultivating we netted only a small bowl full of kale and 1 tomato. You may notice that I have two ripening tomatoes on my plant in the picture, but one lost its life to a curious kiddo who “gently squeezed it” and left a hole in its side.

To celebrate our bounty I made a kale and tomato salad with bacon-avocado vinaigrette (recipe below). While the serving shown is small, rest assured that I shared the tomato with the entire family.  We each got two, small slivers and declared that is was the best tasting and most expensive tomato we had ever eaten.

bacon-avocado dressing

Bacon-Avocado Vinaigrette

1 small avocado
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup avocado oil
1 slice of cooked, crisp bacon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon minced onion


Place the avocado in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Add the vinegar, oil, and bacon and process again until smooth.  Stir in the salt, pepper, and minced onion.  Refrigerate until ready to use.


mayocoba beans

Mayocoba Bean Salad

It is that time of year again where the benefits program offered by my employer encourages healthy eating choices.  By choosing “superfoods” such as beans and legumes I can earn points faster, so I tend to incorporate them even more than I already do in my diet.

mayocoba beans

With this in mind I have been on the search for beans I haven’t tried and I stumbled upon mayocoba beans.  They are a smooth white bean, similar to a northern bean, and equally as mild.

I decided on a basil vinaigrette and tomatoes and heart of palm as mix-ins, which was a decision based on using up some leftover ingredients.  The resulting mayocoba bean salad was a fresh dish that I most certainly will make again.

mayocoba beans

Mayocoba Bean Salad

1 lb dry mayocoba beans
6 cups chicken stock
14 ounce can of hearts of palm, drained and chopped
1 lb vine-riped tomatoes, destemmed and chopped
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup white vinegar
4 tablespoons basil stir in paste
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup grated pecorino Romano cheese

Soak the beans overnight, then drain and rinse.  Add the beans and stock to a large pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 1.5-2 hours or until beans are tender, but firm.  Drain and add to a large bowl. Add the tomatoes and hearts of palm.  In a separate bowl, stir together the oil, vinegar, basil paste, and salt.  Pour over the bean mixture and stir to coat.  Stir in the cheese and serve.  Refrigerate any leftovers.


baked potato salad

Baked Potato Salad

My daughter was successful in finishing kindergarten as a word warrior (a title based on the number of first grade words she knew). In our house, this title earned her a dinner of her choosing.   We meandered through the grocery store, and one of the items she picked out was peewee potatoes.  For her special dinner, I roasted some of the tiny potatoes (they are about the size of grape or cherry tomatoes) and contemplated how else I could serve them.

baked potato salad

One idea that came to mind was a potato salad that didn’t involve chopping and boiling.  Hence, the Baked Potato Salad was born. The mini potatoes are roasted whole, and then stirred together with some chive cream cheese, bacon bits, black olives, green onions, and cheddar cheese for a crowd pleaser of a dish.

The Baked Potato Salad was such a hit with my husband, I’m sure the next time I make it I will need to double the recipe to have enough for guests!

baked potato salad

Baked Potato Salad

1 ½ pounds peewee potatoes
4 ounces whipped, chive cream cheese
One 2.25 ounce can sliced, black olives, drained
¼ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup real bacon bits
¼ cup diced green onions


Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Rinse the peewee potatoes, then spread them out on a large, greased baking sheet.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tender and begin to brown slightly.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

Place the cooled, baked potatoes in a large bowl, add the cream cheese and stir to coat.  Add in the remainder of the ingredients and stir to mix.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Farro and Mixed Berries Salad

If you often get bored with the typical dinner sides of rice and potatoes, then you will like trying this ancient grain as much as I did.  Farro is a hulled wheat that provides a good source of fiber, protein, and magnesium among other nutrients.  When cooked, it has a chewy texture and a nutty flavor.  I used it to create a Farro and Mixed Berries Salad that was both refreshing and delicious.

Farro and Mixed Berries Salad

I also thought it would be a fun side dish for 4th of July parties by mixing in a bit of red, white, and blue through my add ins.  The strawberries and blueberries add a pop of color and just the right amount of sweetness, whereas the onions and feta add enough savory balance.  Who knows, the unique grain might also serve as a great conversation starter during your meal!

Farro and Mixed Berries Salad

Farro and Mixed Berries Salad

Farro and Mixed Berries Salad

1 cup farro
2 ounces balsamic vinegar
2 ounce olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon ground mustard
1 tablespoon honey
½ cup chopped strawberries
½ cup blueberries
½ cup diced white onion
½ cup crumbled feta
1 tablespoon chopped mint


Rinse the farro, then add to a large pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes then drain and add to a large bowl.  In a separate small bowl, stir together the vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, mustard and honey.  Pour over the farro and stir to coat. Add in the strawberries, blueberries, onion, feta, and mint and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Broccoli Pesto

Fusilli Primavera with Broccoli Pesto

In April I wrote about coming up with creative ways to eat broccoli,  setting a goal of discussing seven different recipes.  Today I want to discuss four more ideas to bring the tally to seven.

First up is my most creative twist – Fusilli Primavera with Broccoli Pesto.  I subbed in steamed broccoli for basil to create a unique and tasty pesto.  It worked great as the sauce for a primavera style pasta that was stocked full of baby tomatoes and summer squash.

Broccoli Pesto

Broccoli Pesto

The next kitchen experiment used a grocery store find I have been waiting to try – sriracha powder. Blanched broccoli and honey roasted peanuts get a kick from a light sriracha mayonnaise dressing.

Sriracha Broccoli Salad

Third up is flash fried broccoli. I used my recipe for flash fried Brussels sprouts, though you only need to fry the broccoli for 2-3 minutes to get a crisp exterior.  This was just as much of a hit with my husband as the fried Brussels sprouts.

Flash Fried Broccoli

As the seventh and final way to eat broccoli in a week I’d be remise if I didn’t go with the classic crudité plate. My dipping sauce these days for fresh broccoli is a poblano ranch dressing.

Phew! Seven different ways to eat broccoli in a week.  Now you are either sick of broccoli or an addict.

Fusilli Primavera with Broccoli Pesto

¾ lb fusilli
½ lb fresh broccoli
½ cup pine nuts
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup grated pecorino-romano cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup chopped baby tomatoes
1 yellow squash, chopped

Cook fusilli according to package directions.  Meanwhile, steam the broccoli for 5 minutes.  Add the steamed broccoli to a food processor and process until finely chopped.  Add the pine nuts and process until mixed, then with the food processor running, pour in the oil.  Scrap down the sides of the food processor if necessary, and blend until smooth.  Remove the bowl from the food processor and stir in the pecorino, salt, and pepper.  One the pasta is done, drain and place in a large bowl.  Pour the pesto over the pasta and stir to coat.  Add in the tomatoes and the squash, stir until combined and serve.

Broccoli Pesto

Sriracha Broccoli salad

½ lb fresh broccoli
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sriracha powder
¼ cup honey roasted peanuts

Blanch the broccoli,  drain and place in a large bowl.  In a separate small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise and sriracha powder until a smooth sauce is formed.  Pour over the broccoli, add the peanuts and stir to coat.  Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


Italian Cobb Salad

Italian Cobb Salad

Like many of you, I colored Easter eggs with my children this week.  What I had in mind for this craft was a method that would be easy for both of my kids (ages 3 and 5) to do.  A while back I had seen a method using shaving cream or whipped cream which I thought would be the perfect pace for them.  As I described the upcoming craft to my daughter she got really excited and said that she wanted to pass out colored eggs to all of her friends. I explained to her that hard boiled eggs aren’t an easy gift to give to others and that perhaps we should find a substitute craft she could give as gifts.

To my surprise (and probably revealing that I don’t stay on top of the craft trends) there are colorable plastic eggs. This revelation solved two problems for me: (1) my daughter wanting to pass out dyed eggs and (2) no one eating hard-boiled eggs but me.

I decided to make a few hard boiled eggs and bought some of the plastic, colorable eggs to satisfy everyone.  We colored six of the plastic eggs using the shaving cream method, which turned out to be super messy and surprisingly not so thrilling for the kiddos. The result was also a more subtle, pastel color.

Easter Eggs

Easter Eggs

I had also bought a Dudley’s roll it coloring kit in case the first method didn’t work.  This turned out to be a HUGE hit with my daughter, and we spent a fun-filled afternoon coloring my hard boiled eggs and the remainder of the plastic eggs. Both sets of eggs turned out with a vibrant hue.

Easter Eggs

Easter Eggs

Even though the plastic eggs helped solve the “how many hard boiled eggs do I have to eat?” problem, I tasked myself with creating a different way to eat hardboiled eggs this week.  I decided to try a variation of a classic by making an Italian Cobb Salad.  The chicken and blue cheese are swapped out for steak and mozzarella, and the dressing is a mix of Italian dressing and jarred sundried tomato pesto for a refreshing take on a cobb salad.

Italian Cobb Salad

If your are looking for other hard-boiled egg tips, don’t forget to check out my posts on how to make foolproof hard-boiled eggs or my Southwest Egg Salad.

Happy Easter!

Italian Cobb Salad (for one)

2 ½ cups arugula
½ avocado, peeled and chopped
2 ounces grilled steak, chopped
1 hard boiled egg, peeled and chopped
¼ cup diced tomato
1 ounce diced mozzarella
2 tablespoons Italian dressing
2 tablespoons sundried tomato pesto

Arrange the arugula on a dinner plate, then place in strips down the plate the avocado, grilled steak, egg, tomato, and mozzarella.  In a small bowl, stir together the Italian dressing and sundried tomato pesto.  Pour the dressing over the salad and serve.


Cashew Chicken Salad

Cashew Chicken Salad Stuffed Avocados

I love cashews.  I think they are my favorite nut, perhaps because they had a seat at our holiday get-togethers growing up.  My grandfather would set them out in a bowl where the adults had gathered and I couldn’t resist snagging a few for myself.  They are perfectly salty and creamy, and I find it disappointing that there are so few when you have a container of mixed nuts.

This Cashew Chicken Salad Stuffed Avocados is a result of merely wanting – and buying – a copious amount of cashews.  I figured it was better to incorporate some into a dish rather than scarfing them down by myself.  We often eat chicken salad in my house for lunch, so why not shake it up a bit and make a cashew chicken rendition?

Cashem Chicken Salad Stuffed Avocados

A bit of soy sauce, ginger, and rice vinegar added to mayonnaise form the creamy dressing, and cashews, green onions, orange pepper, and water chestnuts add just the right amount of texture, crunch and flavor to the chicken salad. Serving the salad as a stuffing to avocados was just another fun way to break out of the lunchtime rut.

Cashew Chicken Salad Stuffed Avocados

I served the Cashew Chicken Salad Stuffed Avocados with some rice noodles and cashews on the side so that my family could add as much or as little as they wanted.  The dish was an instant hit, even with my two little kids. Lunchtime success!

Cashew Chicken Salad Stuffed Avocados

P.S. If your New Year’s resolution has you trimming fat from your diet, try the Cashew Chicken Salad over arugula instead of avocados (though note that avocados pack a lot of nutrients, so they shouldn’t be vilified for their fat content!) . My husband and I thought this was just as yummy over greens (plus I was out of avocados after the photos seen here and the salad was requested again by the hubby).

Cashew Chicken Salad Stuffed Avocados

12.5 ounce canned chicken, drained
4 green onions, diced
¼ cup diced orange pepper
1/3 cup salted cashew pieces
¼ cup diced water chestnut
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 large, ripe avocados
Crispy rice noodles (optional)
Additional cashews (optional)

Add the canned chicken, onions, pepper, cashew pieces, and water chestnuts to a large bowl; set aside.  In a separate, small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, soy sauce, vinegar, and ginger until a smooth sauce forms. Pour the sauce over the chicken mixture and stir to coat and mix the ingredients well. Slice the avocados in half lengthwise, remove the pits and then place the sliced avocados cut side up.  Evenly divide the chicken mixture between the avocados, stuffing the pit cavity.  Serve with rice noodles or additional cashews, if desired.



Christmas Chestnut Salad

“Chestnuts roasting over an open fire . . .” croons a popular Christmas tune. Roasting chestnuts is often associated with the holiday season, however I have found the task tedious and more work than it is worth to taste the tender treat. That is why I was thrilled to find the whole roasted and peeled chestnuts from Blanchard & Blanchard at the grocery store.

Chestnuts, unlike other nuts, are actually low in fat while still providing a good source of both fiber and protein. They are also a good source of vitamin C and provide almost as much potassium as a banana in ½ cup of chestnuts. One of the ways I have enjoyed them this year is in my Christmas Chestnut Salad.



In my opinion a celebratory holiday dinner isn’t complete without a festive starter salad. For this recipe I started with a blend of arugula and endive, dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette, and then topped the greenery with blue cheese, dried cranberries, chestnuts and golden beets.


The resulting Christmas Chestnut Salad is a vibrant starter with well-balanced flavors. I also love that it sneaks in a serving of in-season root vegetable!


Christmas Chestnut Salad

¼ cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 T white sugar
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups arugula
4 cups chopped Belgian endive
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup whole roasted and peeled chestnuts, chopped
1 cup sliced golden beets

Make the dressing by pouring the oil, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small container and mixing until well blended; set aside. Place the arugula, endive, and blue cheese in a large bowl, then pour the salad dressing over the salad mixture and stir to coat and mix the leaves. Divide the dressed leaves between four salad plates. Evenly top the four plates with the dried cranberries, chestnuts, and sliced beets. Serve immediately (makes 4 servings).


Adzuki Bean Salad

Since I am always on the lookout for new, healthy foods to incorporate into my family’s diet, it was about time that we tried adzuki beans.

Adzuki beans (also called aduki beans) are a part of the legume family. They are often found in red bean paste used in Asian cooking and are easier to digest compared to other beans.  After slowly cooking the adzuki beans, I mixed them with some butternut squash, avocado, and balsamic vinaigrette to make a colorful and delightful salad.


Why try a new bean, you ask?

*Did you know that beans can count as vegetables or as a protein source in your diet? (although the Botanists among us might argue that they are a fruit)

*They are a source of high fiber, important minerals, and useful nutrients.

*Can you really argue with trying something new?

My whole family (kids included!) enjoy eating this as a side salad, though we have been known to eat it as a lunchtime meal with a bit of chicken stirred into the Adzuki Bean Salad and served over mixed greens.




Adzuki Bean Salad

1 ½ cups dried adzuki beans

2 ½ cups cubed butternut squash, cooked

1 avocado, cubed

2/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced


Place the adzuki beans in a large pot with 4 ½ cups of water. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 ½ hours, or until beans are tender, adding additional water if necessary (I usually have to add 1-2 more cups of water after about an hour). Drain the beans and place in a large bowl, then stir in the butternut and avocado. In a small bowl, stir together the oil, vinegar, salt, and garlic then pour over the bean salad and stir to coat. Serve immediately; refrigerate any leftovers.

Note: Some cooking instructions recommend soaking the beans prior to use. My package indicated that no soaking was required, however I recommend checking your package and adjusting your cooking time as necessary if soaking is required.




Lentil Salad

Many people kick-off the new year with certain foods as a way to try to usher in good luck for the entire year.  For example, lentils are thought to represent wealth for the new year. While I don’t make certain meals as talisman, I do think reinvigorating my healthy meal preparation by including lentils in my cooking is a great idea. I also can’t seem to ignore the beautiful color range of the dried lentils, from salmon-pink to pale-moss-green, which beckons me to add a lentil recipe to my repertoire.


Lentils, which are high in protein and fiber, are quite easy to prepare. A quick and tasty way to try lentils is with a French style lentil salad.  The lentils are boiled in water until tender yet chewy, then drained and topped with a red wine vinaigrette.




The lentil salad was a satisfying and delicious addition to lunch this week, and surprisingly, enjoyed by young and old alike!

Lentil Salad

2 tablespoons olive oil
10 pearl onions, peeled and cut in half
1 ½ cups green lentils
3 cups water
½ cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon freshly minced garlic
¼ teaspoon salt
Add the olive oil to a medium sized pot and heat the oil over medium heat. Next, sauté the onions for three minutes, then add the lentils and water to the pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until tender but still chewy. Drain the lentils and add them to a bowl. In a separate small bowl, stir together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, and salt. Pour over the lentils and stir to coat. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Kaniwa, Tomato, and Basil Salad

In my opinion, eating a gluten-free diet is getting easier and easier. Not only are there many more gluten-free breads and other goodies on the market, but I even stumbled upon another wheat-free side dish option to put into rotation – kaniwa.

Kaniwa is a gluten-free “grain”, that like quinoa is actually an extremely nutritious, small seed. Similar in fashion, when this reddish-brown seed is cooked it develops a light outer ring.


My experimenting with this grain has only just begun, but I think it will prove just as versatile as quinoa.  An easy way to try kaniwa is in my simple kaniwa, tomato, and basil salad.  After boiling the kaniwa in water for approximately 20 minutes, I stirred in some basil, grape tomatoes, and diced garlic.


I then gave it a light dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and served it warm. It was a welcome change of pace from our typical dinner starches and quickly won the approval of my family. Whoo hoo! Another successful gluten-free dinnertime companion!



Kaniwa, Tomato, and Basil Salad

1 cup kaniwa
3 cups water
4 cloves garlic, minced
0.25 ounces fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt

Place the kaniwa and the water in a large sauce pan and boil over medium heat for 20 minutes or until the kaniwa is tender and chewy. Remove from the stove, drain any remaining water, and stir in the garlic, basil, oil, lemon juice, and salt. Serve immediately.


Asian Salad with Ponzu Dressing

When life gets busy, it is often easiest to make the same, old staples for meals – things that are quick, or don’t take much thought to prepare. While I fall into this trap myself, I think we are cheating ourselves when we walk past ingredients in the grocery store just because we have never used them. For example, have you tried ponzu sauce?


Ponzu sauce is a citrus based soy sauce that adds wonderful depth to an entree. In my opinion, it isn’t as harsh as soy sauce and can be used as a finishing touch in dishes, or as a key component of my Ponzu Dressing that tops my Asian Salad.

To make my Asian Salad, I started with some fresh, baby spinach,


and then I added some mandarins, green onions, carrots, cashews, and water chestnuts.




I mixed up some oil, rice vinegar, ponzu sauce, and dried ginger to make a dressing, poured it over the salad and tossed to coat. To serve, I topped each plate of salad with a bit of chow mein noodles – time to dig in!



Asian Salad with Ponzu Dressing

9 cups of baby spinach, washed
6 mandarins, peeled and segmented
½ cup diced green onion
½ cup shredded carrots
½ cup cashews
8oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup ponzu sauce
½ teaspoon dried ginger
1 cup chow mein noodles

Place the baby spinach in a large bowl, then add the mandarin slices, green onion, carrots, cashews, and water chestnuts. In a separate, small container, stir together the oil, rice vinegar, ponzu sauce, and ginger until well mixed. Pour the dressing over the spinach salad, and toss the salad to coat. Divide the salad between eight plates, topping each plate with two tablespoons of chow mein noodles, and serve immediately.