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Summer Salads

It is Hott with two T’s here in pretty much all of America this July. If you’re unfortunate enough not to be on the west coast, it is also humid 😦 Can I move back to Portland now?

To combat this heat and humidity, I’ve been trying to come up with as many cool, light dinner recipes as I can lately.  Most often, I resort to salad wraps – a tortilla smeared with hummus – sometimes basil hummus if I’m feeling fancy, topped with a big handful of salad greens and occasionally some cheese. Last week, I decided my salad wraps were getting a little bland, so I spiced them up with a different type of protein. Instead of the hummus spread, I made a bean salad to pair with the greens.

Black bean guac:

1/2 sweet onion diced

1/2 bunch cilantro chopped

2 avocados mashed

1 can black beans rinsed and drained

1 clove of garlic finely chopped

juice of 1/2 lime

salt and pepper to taste

Voila! Mexican-inspired salad wraps. From the Mediterranean to central America without turning on the oven.

When salad wraps got a little boring… correction, I ran out of tortillas. I moved on to chicken salad. This one does require some cooking.  I’m no raw foodist. And although I think bacteria are super neat and all, eating Salmonella isn’t really my thing.  I’d much rather mutate it and see what it looks like under the microscope.

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Chicken Salad with Yogurt Dressing:

2 diced cooked chicken breasts, 1 c celery, 1 diced apple, 1/2 c raisins, 1/3 c chopped pecans, 1/4c salted sunflower seeds, finely diced 1/4 sweet onion. Dressing: 1/2 c vanilla Greek yogurt plus 1-2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar to thin it down and 1 Tbsp dijon mustard.

Finally, tonight’s creation was inspired by Shauna and Danny over at www.glutenfreegirl.com.  Danny made a delicious roasted beet salad last Friday. A former room mate of mine made it earlier this afternoon and sent me the recipe but it was hot, so I knew turning on the oven to roast the beets was out of the question. I knew I had some feta cheese in the fridge, but the recipe called for chèvre. I had some lemon thyme, but the recipe called for dill. I had apple cider vinegar instead of champagne vinegar. I had French stone-ground mustard with horseradish instead of fresh horse radish. I consulted the Flavor Bible… it said my substitutions were going to be okay. I went with it. it was delicious. Vinegary. Refreshing. I paired it with a big handful of baby salad greens and a beer. 

ImageTake that, oppressive heat and humidity!

 

 

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Getting Fresh

We’re in the thick of Spring here in Connecticut. My garden is sprouting, I’ve worn shorts consistently for every run in the last week, and a can’t help but stock my fridge with all things green and crunchy!

This week, I’ve been inspired by a great Cook’s Illustrated recipe I found several years ago. Brown rice with peas, mint, and feta. It’s the perfect balance of flavors, and embodies freshness with the sweet peas balanced by the salty, feta. All of the tastes are brought together by a bright spritz of fresh lemon upon serving.
I served this side, along with lots of other delicious things last Sunday when I had a few friends over for dinner, but come Thursday, I was hungry for the fresh taste of spring again so I whipped up a similar mixture, adding in sweet tiny salad shrimp, and subbing quinoa for the brown rice.

That’s when it happened. I finally used up my 4lb bag of Quinoa. Only took me 14 months. Good thing it’s grocery day and I could stock up again before I had to go without;)

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Planning

Today was one of those dreamy, theoretical days. I have them in all parts of my life, and you do too.  Where you draw up your attack plan for a long term goal, like writing your marathon training program on your google calendar (Or just copying Portland Fit’s marathon training plan onto your google calendar). Or, when you start planning a vacation that’s going to take saving up some money, but also planning out all of the logistics for your trip. Or when you have an awesome 90 minute meeting with your boss about your project at work and instead of just going over the stuff you’ve done in the past, you end up scheming and laying out all of the milestone experiments for your next paper…. Yeah… It was a pretty good science day.

Despite being a good science day, as soon as that meeting was over, I packed it up and headed home! I’ve got cookin’ and cleanin’ to do!

The cleaning and laundry mentioned above are in preparation for having a house guest this weekend… well, for one night before we drive up to BOSTON, baby! My good friend Eric is flying in from Portland to run the Boston Marathon next Monday. I might be more excited about it than he is. Given this excitement, you can expect a Boston weekend re-cap sometime next week.

The cooking is part of my quest to expand my weeknight dinner repertoire. Tonight, it was “Sauteed Spinach and Tomatoes with Paneer Tofu” Why’d I sub cubes of extra firm tofu for the paneer? 1. I’m Lactarded. 2. I wanted to add some lean protein to the dish. 3. I did not want to make paneer.  So, even with the tofu (upping my PNW cred, here) and not the paneer, the dish turned out very well. It was also very fast! 20 minutes from start to finish. I used a bag of frozen, chopped spinach instead of the fresh stuff and a can of San Marzano chopped tomatoes. Easier than pie.

Here’s the final product.  Image

It totally tastes better than it looks!

And just to prove to you that I don’t take horrible pictures of food, this is what it looks like in the cookbook when it’s been food styled.

Image (From the book, Vij’s At Home) So there. It still tastes way better than it looks.

I’m excited about what the future has in store. In the lab, for my ethnic cooking skills, and for this weekend with friends and being surrounded by my people, the marathon-lovers of the world.

 

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