My Friend, Bruschetta

bruschetta

OK, so I’m just gonna come out and say it: Bruschetta is the best salad in the world.  Yup.  WORLD.

Don’t get me wrong, I need variety in my diet and absolutely adore other salads (cole slaw, for example) but, honestly, if I had to eat one salad for the rest of my life, (a strange  scenario, but just go with it) I would–hands down–choose bruschetta.

I love the simplicity of this dish.  6 little ingredients that come together in the easiest way to create a sensory experience that appeals to the eyes, nose and mouth.  I can seriously smell the basil and garlic in that photo above.  And the ripeness of the tomatoes coupled with the malty vibrancy of the balsamic vinegar… oh my…

On a hot summer’s night when the thought of turning on the oven or standing over the grill makes me wilt, sometimes I make just this for dinner.  With fresh fruit for dessert and (who are we kidding?) a nice glass of wine… well, that’s kind of a complete meal, right?  At our house: yes.

Michelle’s Bruschetta (pronounced “Broo-skeh-tah”)

Ingredients (quantities are approximate–I eyeball it every time): 5-6 good sized ripe tomatoes, handful of fresh basil, 1 large clove garlic, 1 rounded tsp. salt, 3 tbsp. decent balsamic vinegar (I like Costco’s Kirkland brand, actually), 3 tbsp. olive oil.

Directions: dice tomatoes, chop basil (stems can go in too as long as they’re not too “stalky,”) press garlic and throw everything together in a bowl.  Mix and let sit for a few hours if possible.  That’s it, baby!

Serve on sliced pieces of french baguette.  If you’re feeling super fancy, you can broil the pieces of bread with a drizzle of olive oil for a couple of minutes each side so they get toasty and won’t get soggy with the bruschetta on top.  If you’re not fancy today (and it’s OK, I won’t judge you); slice the bread and there you go.

Tips: Tomatoes need to be ripe and pretty much any kind will do.  Basil can be droopy or even at that “just before it goes off” stage and still work just fine.  Even if you’re a garlic lover like me, use only one clove per 6 tomatoes as I suggest above.  The vinegar and tomato juice will amplify the garlic as it sits.

I make this salad a lot, take it to various summer potluck gatherings and it has never-ever-ever failed to impress.  Hope you enjoy it!

 

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Gorgeous Carrot Slaw

carrot slaw

I simply cannot call this salad “carrot slaw.”  “Gorgeous” must be in the title because, duh: it is so divine to look at!  I placed that blue vase (pronounced “vahs” for effect) in the background as it makes such a stylish contrast.  I am so artsy-shmartsy.

My carrots slaw recipe is tweaked and a bit simplified from Once Upon a Chef.  I eased up on a few ingredients but it could be because the farmers market carrots I get don’t need as much stuff on’em; I don’t know.

The photo above is made with hand grated carrots as I couldn’t find the correct attachment for my food processor that I hardly ever use.  Lucky for me, child labor laws are a bit lax at my house…

Josie grating carrots

“Mommy, my arm is getting tired…”  “Hang in there, honey.  Only 10 more carrots to go!”

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound grated carrots, or 1-1/3 pounds carrots, peeled and grated (if you wash them well, don’t have to peel)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 2 tablespoons lemon juice, from one lemon
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice, from one orange (or a splash of orange juice)
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • a little bundle of green onion, white and green parts, diced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • dash of salt
  • dash of pepper

Here’s what all the yummy stuff looked like before I mixed it up.  It’s already getting pretty!  I went ahead and and tossed my walnuts in as our mouths were beginning to water at this point and I was fairly certain the salad wouldn’t last long.  I was right.

carrot slaw ingredients

Directions:

Bake walnuts at 350 for about 5-7 minutes.  Set aside.  Throw remaining ingredients into a bowl and toss it up a bit.  This salad will keep well in the fridge for a few days, but don’t add the walnuts until you’re ready to eat.

I made my gorgeous carrot slaw for a potluck last night with a few bags of store-bought shredded carrots.  Much less work and a different texture than the hand grated method.  What made it still yummalicious was that I made the salad 24 hours in advance so the flavors had time to really get to know each other.  They got along great, btw.

 

Pre-Summer Quinoa Salad!!

Lisa's salad

There are three things you should know about this salad.  First of all, I’ve never actually made it myself.  It’s not my fault though!  Lisa keeps making and making it and bringing it over…  When or why would I go to the trouble?

The second thing you should know is that this recipe comes from another blogger, Once Upon a Chef that Lisa says “is a lot like me.” (Sounds like a cool lady, huh?)

The third thing you should know is that not only do I love this salad soooo much, I love tons of salads like this.  This, friends, is my kinda bowl of yum to have in the fridge.  It’s a pretty complete meal, it’s de-lish, you can prep large quantities at a time and then grab a spoon for days… I’m smiling already.

So I’m telling you all this to tantalize your taste buds.  There will be more salady-posts coming your way as summer (SUMMER!!!) approaches.  Aren’t you excited now?  Boy-oh-boy-oh-boy!

Quinoa Corn/Tomato/Lime Salad (you can read the recipe here, on my recipe page or you can check out the blog from whence it came–nothin’ like options!)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion, from one small onion
  • 1 cup pre-washed quinoa (if not washed, follow package instructions for rinsing)
  • 1-2/3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes, from 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1-1/4 cups fresh cut cooked corn, from 2 cobs
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, finely sliced
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, from 1 large lime
  • 1 avocado, cut into bite-sized chunks

Instructions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add quinoa to onions and continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes. Add vegetable broth and stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt. Turn heat up to high and bring to a boil. Cover pan tightly with lid, turn heat down to low and simmer for 17-20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is cooked. Transfer cooked quinoa to mixing bowl and chill in refrigerator.
  3. When quinoa is cool, add remaining tablespoon olive oil, tomatoes, corn, scallions, jalapeno, cilantro, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and lime juice. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Right before serving, scatter avocado chunks over top.

Tip: So far, every time Lisa has made this we get so distracted with the kids (gossip, whatever) she has forgotten to put the avocado in–but it still tasted heavenly.

Tip #2 (unrelated to quinoa salad, but still good to know…): If you’d like to check me out all week on Hometown Pasadena, well, go right ahead.  My featured March recipe is fajitas !!!

Salad Recon and Loose Ends…

Mom's salad

OK.  So I popped over to my parents’ house (they’re my neighbors) the other day to borrow something.  Nobody was home but we have the same key (cute, I know.)  While rummaging through the fridge I came across the bucket of salad fixings you see here.

(Sorry Mom!  I may have even neglected to tell you I borrowed something–which I can’t even recall what it was at the moment–much less that I snapped photos of your private produce stash…!)

I, too, prep salad fixings en masse, but holy cow: not like this.  Can you even believe this situation!?  And I thought I was a little overboard with my veggies… seems it may not actually be my fault.  I mean, with genes like this, what real choice do I have?

In this bucket is about the healthiest mixture of  delicious salad fun a person can have on a weekly basis.  Purchased from our local farmers market, in this trough you will find: Swiss chard, cauliflower, carrots, bell pepper, celery… I think that’s it.  Things like onion or tomato should wait till eatin’ time as they don’t keep quite as well.

In case it’s not clear, my parents are pretty darn healthy folks.  This salad chest is but one example of the smart food choices they make every day– choices that are easier to make when whipping up a nutritious salad is as simple as opening the fridge.

Thanks for the positive role modeling, Mom!

Oh–and regarding the loose ends.  Here is Teri’s Baked French Toast recipe from Monday.  I’ll also put it on the recipe page.  Happy Friday everyone!

Teri’s Baked French Toast
Ingredients:
5 cups of whatever bread you have, cut into cubes
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar (divided)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. butter (cut into little bits)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter an 8×8 inch baking pan or pie plate.
Line bottom of pan with bread cubes.
In a large bowl, beat together eggs, milk, 2 tbsp. sugar, salt & vanilla. Pour egg mixture over bread (try to cover each piece). Dot with butter bits.  Let stand for about 10 minutes.
Combine remaining 2 tablespoons sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle over the top. Bake in preheated oven about 45 to 50 minutes, until top is golden.
Serve as is or with a little maple syrup on top!

Just For Me

Workshop reminder: Feb. 5 and Feb. 13th!  Check out my workshop page for more details, or comment on this post/email me on Facebook!

just for me!

This blog, and pretty much every piece of my life puzzle right now, are dedicated to getting healthy food into little bodies and keeping the people who make it as sane as possible.

Occasionally, though, it’s nice to take a break from the “we” part of who I am, and do something just for me.

The other day I was alone in my quiet house.  The laundry was done.  Dinner was prepared.  After almost nine years as a full-time homemaker, I’ve let go of conundrum created by holding a Master’s degree and still being OK with checking these sorts of accomplishments off my daily list of to-dos.  It’s all good.

I made a salad.  For one.  Me.  Mixed greens, fresh sliced pears, thinly sliced red onion, grilled chicken, feta cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing that I fixed on the spot.  I didn’t consolidate my efforts in the kitchen by chopping ingredients for future salads.

I didn’t even make enough to share.

p.s. This was a weird day for me–which you already know if you’ve been reading my blog!  I actually love to make ridiculous quantities of food and share it all with the world.  If you’re interested in attending a workshop “just for you” to get some excellent tips on meal planning or how to get your kiddos to eat anything (including a salad!) make a comment on this post or check me out on Facebook!

Winter Salad

I know I use the word “love” excessively when I talk about food, but, well, I really do love a good salad!

In my humble opinion, a “good” salad should contain a variety of textures and colors and be filled with seasonal produce, when possible, that combine to make interesting and varied flavors.  If you are looking for the iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing, you can stop reading this post now.  If you’d like to tantalize your taste buds (oh my!) and whip up something delicious and nutritious, keep reading…

For a southern Californian, it is easy to make fresh salads year round.  But what’s a meal maker to do if it’s January and one happens to live in, for example, Otisville, MI?  Don’t despair, Michigander amigas!   It is still possible to make a decent winter salad, even if you live in the temporary tundra.  You likely won’t be hitting the farmers market this weekend like I will, but I think you’ll find most of my suggestions at super market near you.

If I use leafy greens, I always start with something dark.  For this salad I used spinach.  You know those fancy restaurants that serve salad sculptures precariously balanced on plates with artsy looking leaves and stalks so large that even a muppet could fit in his mouth?  I hate that.  I like my salad to be easily poppable into my mouth.  You can use a knife or, my fave time saver, poultry shears.  Snip, snip, done!

cutting greens

I chopped up some carrots, celery, cucumbers and then cabbage.  I especially like the striking contrast between the bright white-ish cabbage and the dark spinach.  I do say it is a quite a nice visual, don’t you agree, Dah-ling? (see photo below)

In the summer, there’s nothing (NOTHING) better than a ripe red tomato in a salad.  But in the winter there’s nothing (NOTHING) more disappointing than a white, cakey tomato in a salad.  Don’t do it!  Yes, you need something acidic to make your salad truly del-ish, but there are many better winter options than a lackluster tomato! Even with So-Cal’s year round produce scene, options are still seasonal.   Try a tart apple, fresh or canned sliced pears, or what I used in this bowl of yum: some fresh oranges.

Another winter salad secret of mine is craisins.  Yum!!!  These tart and tangy little garnet gems (they seriously do look like jewels, don’t they?) are the perfect complement to my almost-done masterpiece.

craisins

My kids are well-trained (hello–I hope so!) to eat a good salad, but prefer it without cheese or red onion.  So I usually toss theirs with a balsamic vinaigrette, serve them, and then add the rest for the grownups.  I adore thinly sliced red onion in pretty much any kind of salad, and I also like a dash of cheese.  In this salad I used a mild and salty crumbled feta.  Parmesan or goat cheese could also have worked.   If I use pears, I sometimes like a mild blue cheese.

People who enjoy my salads often get annoyed when they discover that I usually mix the dressing right on top as I go.  “How can I recreate that Michelle!?”  I like a few dashes of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic salt, pepper, sugar, sometimes mustard, sometimes honey, sometimes apple cider vinegar, sometimes celery salt…  (Sorry.  That’s not helpful; it’s annoying.  I think you get the picture…)

I promise to post some actual salad dressing recipes soon.  Honestly, though, when you’ve got so much good stuff in your bowl, a simple vinegar and oil (my general go-to) dressing from a bottle can do just fine too.

Drum roll please… Tah-dah!

salad

Some tips: Add the juice from oranges or pears to the dressing: yum!  This salad was served as part of a meal, but you can make your salad the main dish by adding some protein and maybe some bread or crackers on the side.  My preferred protein pals include chopped chicken, chickpeas, kidney beans or fresh nuts (walnuts, pecans=smile.)  Candied nuts taste marvy, but pack on the calories, so I usually just use plain.

Get creative with your salads.  My mom likes chopped cauliflower and broccoli in hers.  Sometimes we don’t even include lettuce or other leafy greens.  Gasp!  I know.  Shocking.