Fresh, Grilled, Sauteed or Pickled! Salad with a Side of Vegetables!

Thought I would start this blog post with a few things that I don’t cook often. Don’t you dislike when you finally splurge on your favorite restaurant and are not only gasping at the prices, then only to be disappointed by that starter salad that taste like it came straight out of a plastic bag??  I believe that many of us ovelook the fact on how simple it is to prepare some great tasting salads at home without caving to that salad bar at the super center. I am going to share a few of my recent salads and maybe dig up some oldies, but goodies from my archives, lol!

 

Black Beans and Rice Salad~ August 8, 2014

Black Beans and Rice Salad
Black Beans and Rice Salad

 2 cups steamed rice
15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn
3 green onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, diced
1 red fresno pepper, diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients, taste for salt. Cover and chill for 1 hour. Stir before serving. Best when left to marinate overnight. Yields 6 servings.

 

Prepping some veggies for grilled kabobs.
Prepping some veggies for grilled kabobs.

Grilled Mushrooms over a Zesty Quinoa Salad! Cooking quinoa  is something new I just tried a few months back.  It’s all the rage right now for a healthier alternative as a side dish. I had only prepared it as a warm side dish a couple of times, but for this quinoa recipe, I decided to treat it like a pasta salad. Spring is here, even though I still see snow outside, lol!! My mind is set on spring and summer cooking with grilled recipes and chilled salads, tall drinks! I am ready!

I have really tried to make the effort to prepare a few meatless meals a week. This meal is great for meatless Monday and is also  Lent friendly. I am happy to say, that my husband Richard does not miss the meat like I thought he would. I will say though, that he has become quite the food critic, ha, ha, ha!! I still cannot get over how he loves the spicy food now, just like me. Makes cooking our meals alot easier for me these days….confessions of a diehard chilihead…loving every moment!

Grilled Mushrooms over Zesty Qiunoa Salad

Grilled Mushrooms over Zesty Qiunoa Salad

For Quinoa Salad

2 cups cooked quinoa

1/3 cup diced red onions
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 red fresno pepper, finely diced
1 jalapeño, finely diced
2 stalks of celery, just top halves with the leaves, chopped fine
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Juice of half a lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Grilled Mushrooms
Grilled Mushrooms

For Grilled Mushrooms
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for grilling
2 tablespoons of hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste
8 to 10 ounces baby bellas, sliced in half
*wooden skewers is optional, they are not always easy to skewer because they are delicate.

Zesty Quinoa Salad with red Wine Vinaigrette
Zesty Quinoa Salad with red Wine Vinaigrette

1. Cook the quinoa according to package directions. I like to cook mine in chicken broth instead of just water. I add a drizzle of olive oil as well. Set the quinoa aside while you prep the other ingredients.

2. In a large bowl, combine the quinoa with all of the vegetables. Whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Pour over salad, stir well to combine, cover and set aside. Stir before serving and taste for salt.

3. In a large bowl, combine the ingredients to make the marinade for mushrooms. Toss in the mushrooms and stir gently to coat evenly. Preheat stove top grill pan to medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes.  Drizzle with olive oil. You can use 8 inch wooden skewers and skewer 3 to 4 mushrooms. Or you could just grill the mushrooms directly if that is easier for you. Grill for a few minutes per side or until they start to soften and caramelize slightly. Serve over quinoa salad. Yields 4 servings.

Grilled Mushrooms over a Zesty Quinoa Salad
Grilled Mushrooms over a Zesty Quinoa Salad

Tips~ I served mine with warm flour tortillas, avocado slices and pickled red jalapeño slices. They were some of the tastiest meatless tacos I have had.

 

Jicama Corn Salad 

Jicama Corn Salad, the key to this salad is to use fresh corn!
Jicama Corn Salad, the key to this salad is to use fresh corn!


1 1/2 cups jicama
1 large carrot
1 small red bell
1/2 red onion
*Julienne all of the above vegetables
1 1/2 cups corn
I serrano or jalapeño pepper, minced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chile limon powder
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
Salt to taste

Combine all of the ingredients, taste for salt. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes before serving or cover and chill until ready to serve. Stir before serving. Yields 6 servings.

Tips~ I used 3 ears of fresh corn. Remove kernals and transfer onto plate. Season lightly with salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and steam in the microwave for 3 minutes. Cool completely before adding to salad.

 

Tomato, Red Onion, Cilantro and Serrano Slaw

Tomato, Red Onion, Cilantro and Serrano Slaw. I love this as a topping for tacos or simply on a bed of rice.
Tomato, Red Onion, Cilantro and Serrano Slaw. I love this as a topping for tacos or simply on a bed of rice.


1 medium red onion, julienned
2 to 3  large, firm roma tomatoes, seeded and julienned
2 serrano peppers, sliced into thin rings
1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped
Juice of 4 to 5 key limes or 2 regular limes
3 tabblespoons olive oil
1/2 tablespoon Mexican oregano, crushed
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients, taste for salt, cover and let sit for 30 minutes before servings. Yields 4 to 6 servings.

 

Grilled Vegetable and Black Bean Salad with Cilantro Dressing

Grilled Vegetables on a salad are the best!
Grilled Vegetables on a salad are the best!

For the Cilantro Dressing:
2 cups Greek yogurt (nonfat plain) or light sour cream
Juice of 1 lime
1 jalapeño or serrano pepper (seeds removed)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
Salt to taste

For the Salad:
1 large ear of corn, cleaned
1 medium zucchini
1 red bell pepper
1 poblano pepper
1 small red onion
1 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning
½ teaspoon salt
1½ tablespoons olive oil
1½ cups black beans, rinsed and drained
6 ounces corn tortilla chips, slightly crushed
1 avocado, diced
1 head of romaine lettuce, washed and torn into pieces

1. Combine all of the ingredients to make the dressing into the blender. Blend on high until smooth, taste for salt. Keep chilled until ready to use. Chop all the veggies, except for corn and red onion, into 1-inch pieces. Slice the onion into thin strips and lay the corn whole onto the hot grill. In a large bowl, toss the vegetables with lemon pepper seasoning, salt and 1½ tablespoons of olive oil.

2. Preheat a large indoor grill pan to medium/high heat for 5 to 6 minutes. Line the pan with “easy release” foil paper. This will make cleanup a lot easier, believe me. Spread all of the vegetables out onto hot grillGrill for a few minutes on each side, turning as needed.

3. Remove veggies from grill and let cool slightly. With a sharp knife, cut the kernels off from the cob. Divide the romaine onto 4 large salad plates, add grilled vegetables, corn, black beans, avocado, crushed chips, and dressing. Toss lightly to combine, serve right away. Yields 4 large salads or 6 smaller salads. For a complete meal, add some grilled chicken or shrimp!

Notes: The vegetables can most certainly be grilled on an outdoor grill as well. If you have a hard time getting the dressing to blend, you could drizzle in a little water.

 

Chickpea and Cucumber Salad

Chick Pea and Cucumber Salad
Chickpea and Cucumber Salad

2 cups chickpeas
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 cup chayote or jicama, julienned
1/2 cup red onion, julienned
3 baby cucumbers, sliced
1 jalapeño, diced or sliced
1 red fresno, diced or sliced

For Dressing
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 tablespooon dried Italian herb mix
2 cloves of garlic, grated
alt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Toss all of the ingredients for salad in a bowl or serving dish. If using canned chickpeas, drain and rinse well before using.

2. In a separate bowl whisk all of the ingredients for dressing in the order listed. Taste for salt and pepper. Add to salad 20 minutes before serving, toss to combine. Yields up to 6 servings.

Tips~ I removed the pulp from tomato to avoid salad from being watered down, but I think I should have removed seeds from cucumbers as well…lol! Next time.

Jicama Salad 

 

Jicama Salad is great to eat as is or as a garnish for seafood and grilled meats
Jicama Salad is great to eat as is or as a garnish for seafood and grilled meats


4 cups jicama, sliced into thin strips
3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and sliced into thin strips
2 jalapeños, seeded, sliced into thin strips 
1 small white onion, sliced into thin strips
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 3 keylimes or 1 large lime
1/2 tablespoon chlie limon powder
* if not available add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil

Combine all of the ingredients listed 30 minutes before serving. Stir well to combine, taste for salt. Yields up to 4 servings.

 

Frutas Frescas Con Chile y Limon~Freh Fruit Cups with Chile Limon!

Fresh fruits, such as jicama, pineapple, mango, coconut, watermelon and cucumbers generously seasoned with chile limon powder, fresh lime juice and hot sauce!
Fresh fruits, such as jicama, pineapple, mango, coconut, watermelon and cucumbers generously seasoned with chile limon powder, fresh lime juice and hot sauce!
Cauliflower Tabouli Salad in the works!
Cauliflower Tabouli Salad in the works!

 

A Refreshing Cauliflower Tabouli Salad is adapted from the lastest issue of Food Network magazine. Love tabouli, love cauliflower!

Love tabouli, love cauliflower! How could I resist? Tasty!
Love tabouli, love cauliflower! How could I resist? Tasty!

1 head of cauliflower, grated
6 green onions, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 red cherry peppers, seeded and diced finely
3 firm roma tomatoes, seeded and diced finely
1 small bunch of parsley, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons ried Greek basil or 2 teaspoons of fresh mint
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
Salt to taste

Combine all of the ingredients listed. Stir well to combine, cover and chill for a few hours before serving. The flavors will get better the longer in marinates. Great as is or serve with flat bread or pita chips. Yields up to 8 servings.

 

Corn, Black Bean and Chayote Succotash
Corn, Chayote, and Tomatillos All Going in for Succotash

 

Corn, Black Bean  and Chayote Succotash. I was never crazy about lima beans when my mom would serve up a side of succotash. So I decided to change it up a little, adding some of my favorites, like black beans, chayote squash and tomatillos! Great warm or at room temperature.

 

Corn, Black Bean and Chayote Succotash
Corn, Black Bean and Chayote Succotash



2 ears of corn
olive oil
1/2 white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño or serrano, mnced
2 chile de abol, optional
1 poblano, diced
1 cup red or orange bell pepper, diced (I had a mix of both)
1 chayote, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon mexican oregano
Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
4 tomatillos, diced
1 cup black beans, drained an rinsed
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup chicken broth

Directions 

1. Remove corn kernals from the cob and set aside.

2. Preheat 2 tablespoons of olive oil to medium heat for a few minutes. Add the onions, garlic, chiles, bell pepper, chayote, celery, cumin seeds and oregano. Season with salt and pepper and saute for 6 to 8 minutes.

3. Add all of the remaining ingredients. Stir well to combine. Reduce heat and continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated. Taste for salt and pepper. Yields up to 8 servings. Great warm or at room temperature.

 

Caprese Salad~Tomato Basil Mozzarella. The fresh herbs are in full bloom and I am loving all the fresh basil! June 20, 2014

Fresh Ingredients, Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella...Dressed with Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil, Salt, Fresh Cracked Pepper and Chile Pepper Flakes...
Fresh Ingredients, Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella…Dressed with Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil, Salt, Fresh Cracked Pepper and Chile Pepper Flakes…

8 thick tomato slices
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into 8
1/3 cup fresh basil, sliced into ribbons
Chile pepper flakes

Layer the salad in the order listed.  Season to taste. I like to top the salad with a little more balsamic and olive oil to finish. Yields 4 servings

Caprese Salad, a quick and tasty salad that can be served as an appetizer or light meal with some crostini bread. A trick I learned a while back is when dressing your salads directly, drizzle on the vinegar first before the olive oil. If you drizzle the olive oil first, it may not take to the vinegar as well. 

Caprese Salad, Tomato, Mozzarella and Fresh Basil with Balsamic Vinegar, Olive oil
Caprese Salad, Tomato, Mozzarella and Fresh Basil with Balsamic Vinegar, Olive oil

 

Fresh Herb Tomato Cucumber Pasta Salad . The fresh herbs in my garden are in full bloom and I can’t get enough of them. Fresh basil, oregano, parsley and cilantro are all added to this zesty pasta salad. It’s great on it’s own or as a side for your favorite grilled recipes like chicken or shrimp. Light and full of flavor! June 30, 2014

Fresh Herb Tomato Cucumber Pasta Salad
Fresh Herb Tomato Cucumber Pasta Salad



5 cups cooked pasta
1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced 
2 roma tomatoes, sliced into strips
* I like to seed both my tomatoes and cucumber when preparing salads
2 tablespoons fresh basil
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano
*finely chop all of your fresh herbs
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dijon mustard 
Fresh cracked pepper, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste

 

Freash herbs from my garden. Basil, parsley, cilantro and oregano
Freash herbs from my garden. Basil, parsley, cilantro and oregano

 

Combine all of the ingredients, stir well to combine. Cover and chill for 30 minutes before serving. Stir well before serving. Yields 6 servings.

Fresh Herb Tomato Cucumber Pasta Salad. Great on it's own or with your favorite grilled recipes.
Fresh Herb Tomato Cucumber Pasta Salad. Great on it’s own or with your favorite grilled recipes.

 

Crunchy Chicken Tenders with Cilantro Avocado Sauce

I love cilantro! I remember a few years back when I was teaching a cooking class and there were a few students who really disliked cilantro. To say the least, it was hard to remember not to add cilantro to the dishes, lol! But in the end, they still ate everything! Maybe I converted them, hahaha! Many people who dislike cilantro, describe the flavor as soapy?? I grew up enjoying fresh cilantro and I have never thought it tasted like soap, but that’s me…

For this Crunchy Chicken Tender recipe, I used boneless thighs. They are inexpensive, moist and  flavorful! I enjoy preparing different salsa’s, sauces and pesto variations using the basic ingredients listed. To make different variations, it’s just a matter of switching out this for that and you have a total different finish. For example, if I added a few chopped tomatillos and white onion instead of the olive oil and Parmesan, it would be a totally different and very Mexican salsa. Try both for variation, why not. And if you can’t get passed the cilantro flavor, you could use parsley instead.

Crunchy Chicken Tenders with Cilantro Avocado Sauce
Crunchy Chicken Tenders with Cilantro Avocado Sauce

For Cilantro Avocado Sauce 

1 small bunch of cilantro, washed with stems intact
2 serranos or jalapeños, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large avocado, diced
Juice of 1 lime or lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated cotija or Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Salt to taste (cheese is salty, so taste before adding more salt)

Crunchy Tenders
I love my wire rack for cooling as well as for draining fried foods

For Chicken
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs, sliced into tenders(16 to 20 tenders)
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup hot sauce
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Pepper
1 teaspoon Smoked paprika
1 teaspoon Garlic powder
1 teaspoon Onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
3 cups oil for frying (I used half olive oil and half grapeseed oil)

* also added 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning to the flour

Directions

1. Combine all of the ingredients for the cilantro avocado sauce into the blender. Blend on high until smooth, taste for salt. Pour into serving dish, cover and set aside.

2. In a large glass bowl, add the 2 cups of buttermilk and 1/4 cup of hot sauce. Add the sliced chicken and push down into milk. Cover and chill for 2 hours.

3. After chicken has marinated, take out of refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking. In a shallow bowl add the flour and all of the dry spices listed. Stir well to combine.

4. Preheat 3 cups of oil to medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until temperature has reached 360 degrees F. Drain the chicken into a colander and dredge through seasoned flour. Transfer to a lined baking sheet and let set until oil comes up to temperature.

5. Fry the coated chicken for about 3 to 4 minutes per side or until crispy and golden brown. Drain onto wire rack lined with baking sheet. Keep warm in low temperature oven. Yields  4  to 6 servings.

Enjoyed the crunchy tenders on a big salad
Enjoyed the crunchy tenders on a big salad

* Lettuce, sweet peppers, red onions, tomatoes, cilantro and avocado for a tasty salad.
Tips~ Never throw out the stems of the cilantro! That’s where most of that great cilantro flavor that we love is! The stems are great for when preparing sauces or marinades and you want a more concentrated flavor. Just make sure you wash them well.

Fresh Corn Tortillas

While in Texas last summer, my sister in law Norma would prepare a fresh batch of corn tortillas every other morning. I have prepared many over the years, but from the moment I ate the first one she had prepared, I knew I was doing something wrong, lol! Hers were so soft and pliable, where most times when I would prepare them for tacos, they would crack once in a while when you tried to fold them. I soon quizzed her on what her method was.

For years, I would start with the dry masa harina and gradually add in the hot water until the dough formed. She starts with room temperature water and gradually adds in the masa harina. And she also rolls the dough balls several times in between her hands, which I believe adds some air into the dough. I could be totally wrong about this, but I could not wait to get home and try a batch using her recipe.

Since that trip, I have prepared at least 6 batches using Norma’s recipe and it really did make a difference on the softness of the tortilla. I tweeked the recipe by adding olive oil and a little baking soda. The olive oil adds moisture and the baking soda, makes them puff out a little more. But, those ingredients are optional if you just want to try a basic recipe. I love that we never stop learning and am so grateful for my new sister- in-law Norma.

Tortillas de Maiz Hechas con Masa Harina
Tortillas de Maiz

Ingredients

Yields 24 small or 18 medium tortillas

2 cups room temperature water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda, optional
2 tablespoons olive oil, optional
2 1/3 cups, plus 2 tablespoons masa harina (Maseca brand)
* When I state optional on an ingredient, I leave it up to you if you want to try those ingredients in the recipe. They are not absolutely necessary to complete the recipe, but I believe they help.
You will also need
Tortilla press or flat bottomed plate
A heavy plastic storage bag
A comal or griddle pan

Corn Tortillas Made with Masa Harina
Corn Tortillas

Directions

1. In a large bowl, add the water and the salt, baking soda and olive oil. Stir to combine. Gradually add in the masa harina until the dough forms. It will be slightly sticky, if too sticky, add another couple of tablespoons of masa harina. Cover with plastic wrap and let set for 20 minutes.

2. Cut the plastic bag down to line the inside of tortilla press, about 5X5 in size.

3. Preheat the comal or griddle to medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes.  A hot comal or griddle pan is very important.Take enough dough to make 18 to 24  dough balls. Keep them cover with plastic so they don’t dry out.

4. When ready, roll it several times in between your hands and even rolling it into the shape of a cigar. I believe this add a little air into the masa for a softer more pliable tortilla. Form back into a ball and press gently in lined press to about 4  to 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Making sure the tortilla fits comfortably in the palm of your hand, peel off the plastic and transfer to hot comal or griddle. If the tortilla tears, just roll it into a ball and start over.

5. Tortillas are ready to turn when they release easily from the comal. Turn over and cook for another 30 seconds or so. Turn again and using a flat metal spatula, press gently on one side of tortilla. This will create an air bubble in between the tortillas, making a softer and lighter tortilla! Yay!! LOL! Remove from heat and keep warm in between two kitchen towels.

Homemade Corn Tortillas
Homemade Corn Tortillas prepared with the Maseca yellow masa harina

Tips~ Some things to remember…

1.The dough is a bit stickier than my old recipe, so rolling several times in your hands releases a little of the moisture before cooking.

2. My hands are small, so I can only make small tortillas, hahha…bigger hands, bigger tortillas.

3. Don’t give up…my first half was not the greatest…the second half were awesome…practice, practice, practice!

Homemade Corn Tortillas

Norma and me acting silly after making a big batch of savory empanadas!
Norma and me acting silly after making a big batch of savory empanadas!