Spinach & Blackberry Salad

Spinach & Blackberry Salad

A few of my posts to date have discussed recipes I received as a gift at my wedding shower, such as Pistachio Cake and Chopped Veggie Salad.  Today is another one of those recipes.  The recipe my Aunt Kelly added was a Spinach and Strawberry Salad.

A few years ago I made this salad for an Easter gather of friends and it has been requested every year since then.  This year is no exception, so I will be making the original recipe as well as my new version, a Spinach and Blackberry Salad.

Spinach and Blackberry Salad

I have kept the dressing the same, as I find the sweet poppy seed dressing is a huge draw. What I did swap out is the strawberries, which I replaced with blackberries, avocados, and pecans.

I knew it was a winner when my kids (who have been on a streak lately to proclaim they are hungry just after finishing a meal) each ate a full plate as if I was serving them ice cream.

I am looking forward to the verdict at Easter: strawberry version or blackberry version?

Spinach & Blackberry Salad

Spinach and Blackberry Salad

Two, 9 ounce bags of baby spinach
18 ounces fresh blackberries
2 avocados, peeled and diced
1 cup pecans
0.75 ounces fresh mint, finely chopped
¾ cup canola oil
½ cup white sugar
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons grated onion
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons poppy seeds


Place spinach, blackberries, avocado, and pecans in a large bowl. Add the oil, vinegar, sugar, onion, mustard, salt, and poppy seeds to a blender.  Cover and process until combined.  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Note: This salad does not keep well once the dressing has been added.  Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving.


Spinach Lasagna

The dish that is the best blend of my mom’s and my mother-in-law’s cooking is my Spinach Lasagna. Pasta is a family favorite at my in-law’s house, and lasagna is at the top of the list. This recipe is their typical starting point, serving as the canvas for a variety of fillers.


The first tweak I made to the recipe was the cheese filler. Growing up, my mom always made a lighter version of lasagna using cottage cheese instead of ricotta. I have grown to prefer the cottage cheese, since the end result is not overly rich and has the benefit of boosted protein. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a light lasagna, since I tend to go heavy on the mozzarella (I may use more than the called-for pound of cheese. Occasionally. OK, maybe more than occasionally).

Spinach Lazagna

The second tweak I have made is to the timing of the uncovered portion of cooking. I have found that extending the uncovered portion of the baking time results in the perfect amount of browning of the cheese, and a less watery lasagna. This time may vary for different ovens, so make sure you check your lasagna frequently the first time you make it.

Spinach Lazagna

Spinach Lazagna

When my husband and I are missing home, Spinach Lasagna is an easy solution for dinner. For now, the dish makes enough for 2 dinners. However, as our two-year-old-going-on-linebacker gets older I fear I’ll have to make multiple pans to satisfy our family.

Spinach Lasagna

12 uncooked lasagna noodles
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 large egg
24 ounce container of low-fat cottage cheese
1 lb frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 jar of your favorite red pasta sauce
1 lb shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 375 °F. If not using oven-ready noodles, cook and drain the noodles according to the package directions. Mix the Italian sesasoning and the egg into the cottage cheese. Lightly coat the bottom of a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish with some of the pasta sauce. Place 4 of the noodles on the bottom of the dish, then spread half of the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle half of the spinach over the cottage cheese, then 1/3 of the sauce, and ¼ of the cheese. Repeat the layering, then top it off with the last four noodles, remainder of the sauce, and the rest of the cheese, in that order. Bake for 45 minutes uncovered or until cheese begins to brown and then 15 minutes covered (or difference of an hour). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.

Note: I have found lasagna sets-up even better if cooked a day ahead. Once cooled, refrigerate until ready to serve, then re-heat individual slices.


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.



Cedar Plank Salmon with Spinach Chimichurri

If you haven’t done so already this year, why not fire up the grill to celebrate the start of summer? Making an easy and delicious cedar plank salmon with spinach chimichurri is just the way to kick-off days filled with warmth and sunshine.

Cooking fish on a wood plank is a foolproof, yet impressive way to prepare a meal. You get a wonderful, smoky flavor without the worry of your meal falling through the grate and it saves on mess and extra heat in the kitchen. Triple win!

Simply soak the cedar wood plank in water for 1 to 2 hours, then pre-heat the grill to medium heat (~350 F).

Lightly coat the deboned and deskinned fish with a bit of olive oil and place on the soaked plank. Then, set the plank directly on the grill. I prefer to use direct grilling since it produces the right amount of smolder to flavor your fish. By pre-soaking the plank, you shouldn’t have any issues with spontaneous flames, but keep a spray bottle of water handy just in case.


Close the lid of the grill and let cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the salmon is cooked through.

In the meantime, prepare the chimichurri sauce.

Chimichurri is an Argentinean green sauce, typically consisting of parsley and garlic plus some spices, that is served with grilled meat. For this recipe, I decided to make spinach the main ingredient in my chimichurri, with pimentos, lemon zest, garlic, and parsley to round out the flavors.


All the sauce ingredients get added to a food processor and blended until smooth – done!


Once the salmon is cooked, remove from the plank and plate, topping with a generous amount of the chimichurri and serving with rice to soak up any of the extra sauce.


You will barely be able to keep yourself from licking the plate clean.


Cedar Plank Salmon with Spinach Chimichurri

(2) – 6oz salmon fillet
1 cedar plank, soaked for at least 2 hrs

2 cups fresh baby spinach
½ cup fresh curly parsley
½ cup chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoon diced pimentos
2 cloves of garlic
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Place the cedar plank in a large bowl of water and let soak for 1-2 hours.

Puree all of the spinach, parsley, onion, pimento, garlic, oil and vinegar in a food processor until a smooth sauce is formed; transfer to a small bowl and stir in salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve; at least two hours.

Once plank is well soaked, preheat a grill to medium heat. Lightly brush the salmon with olive oil, then place the salmon on the pre-soaked plank and place plank on grill. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until salmon is just cooked through.

Remove salmon from grill, transfer to plate and drizzle with a generous amount of chimichurri.

You should have plenty of extra chimichurri sauce – it is actually enough for about two more fillet, but I like to pour the extra sauce over my rice!