Yellow-Eyed Pea Salad with Springtime Herbs

canada geese

I spotted this family of Canada geese one evening on my walk. It looked like they were going to play a pickup game of soccer!

I realized after I swapped out my winter wardrobe for my springtime clothes that Old Man Winter was not kind to me this year. Given the bitter cold we had, I found myself exercising less and eating (and drinking) more. So given this latest turn of events, I’ve really turned to looking at my diet. I’m even joining two friends in a cleanse in a few weeks; no caffeine, alcohol, sugar, meat, dairy, and only whole wheat products; a vegan diet for two weeks. Which has led me to look at past recipes (I found some here and here) and to start creating delicious meals in preparation!

I’ve been wanting to make a nice bean salad after seeing the cover of the most recent Eating Well magazine. I had some dried yellow-eyed peas I bought earlier in the winter to make baked beans, but decided these would work just as well for a salad. Add my usual vinaigrette and some spring herbs with radishes for crunch, this was light and tasty. Even the Eater of the House liked it! I served it along an argula salad with toasted almonds and olive oil and lemon, but it would be equally delicious as a side dish with a nice piece of fish or lean chicken.

I’ve never seen these peas in a can like their black-eyed relatives; if you want to forgo the soaking and cooking, you can substitute a can of Great Northern or cannellini beans. And a spritz of lemon juice on top before serving adds just a little more brightness to the dish!

bean saladYellow-Eyed Pea Salad with Springtime Herbs
I find this salad is best the day you make it; the radishes become a little soggy when left overnight.  

3 cups yellow-eyed peas
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 radishes, thinly sliced
1 chopped TBS each: chives, basil, Italian flat parsley-or a combination of other herbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon juice (optional)

1. In a large bowl, add the beans and radishes.

2. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl. Add to the beans and toss. Add the herbs and top with a spritz of lemon juice, if desired.

(Photo courtesy Burlington Farmer's Market)

(Photo courtesy Burlington Farmer’s Market)

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Visit your local farmer’s market!

It is finally the season for farmer’s markets! By the middle of May my favorite market moves from inside to outside, with early greens and vegetables available for purchase.

This great article from cookinglight.com offers the best farmer’s market from each state, plus a recipe to try with fresh produce! While my local farmer’s market didn’t make the top of Vermont’s list, the recipe looks divine!

You can check out all the farmer’s markets and to see if yours made the list by clicking here.

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Perfect for the Season: Asparagus and Spring Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette

My Peter Rabbit is waiting to go back in the green garden!

Peter Rabbit is waiting for spring so he can go back in the green garden!

Rabbit Rabbit everyone! We’re finally in APRIL! Last week I said a big goodbye to winter; this week I’m saying hello to spring! And what better way to do that than with asparagus?

I buy asparagus by the pound this time of year. Last year I believe I actually got the question before dinner, “Asparagus? Again?” I love just roasting it (check out my recipes from last April!), but this recipe just calls for blanching and adding to a salad. A new way to use it!

What’s not to like with this salad? I never use lemon zest in anything, but I just might start. The addition of that brought a certain brightness to the dressing that just said spring. And gorgonzola cheese is one of my favorite cheeses; my favorite salad is romaine salad, olive oil, gorgonzola cheese and salt and pepper. So easy but SO good!

This recipe serves eight, so it would be a perfect side dish for your Passover or Easter dinner if you’re cooking for a crowd, or you can make it as a side salad for a weeknight supper. I just placed everything in individual bowls and topped with the salad dressing. And had some dressing left over for lunch the next day!

spring salad

I don’t usually see white asparagus in the produce section, so I used all green. Just as tasty!

Asparagus and Spring Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette

This recipe first appeared in the March 2010 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1 pound green and white asparagus, trimmed and cut into (2-inch) pieces
2 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, divided
1 (5-ounce) package mixed salad greens

1. Cook asparagus and 2 teaspoons salt in boiling water 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse asparagus under cold water; drain.

2. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, shallots, and next 4 ingredients (through pepper) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in 1/4 cup cheese.

3. Combine asparagus and greens in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.

easterMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Suggestions for Easter and Passover Dinner

It’s Wednesday, and if you’re like me and you still don’t know what you’re going to make for your Friday or Sunday dinner, here are some suggestions! These publications have lots of delicious recipes for your Easter and Passover dinners!

Cooking Light

New York Times Easter

New York Times Passover

Food Network

Martha Stewart

Rachael Ray

A Very Veggie Salad

New Year's Eve, 2014. Looking west to the Adirondack Mountains.

New Year’s Eve, 2014. Looking west to the Adirondack Mountains.

Am I the only one who feels the need to detox after the holidays? Despite my best efforts, four weeks of rich, sweet foods, alcohol, plus bad weather so I can’t get out and walk has given me tummy trauma. Since they are finally over, I’m looking to healthy and delicious meals at lunch and dinner which are comprised of mostly vegetables with light protein or legumes. This will help your waistline, ward off germs, and are nutritious, too!

This is the usual salad I make for my lunches. Lots of veggies with a little bit of protein and cheese, with a big glass of water, it’s perfect and keeps me full all afternoon. Add some heart healthy avocado or nuts and seeds if you like. I know not everyone loves radishes, so I added them as an option; they add a bit of heat and crunch plus they’re incredibly inexpensive!

One of the drawbacks of making a salad for lunch is finding the time to make it in the morning. So here are two tips:

  1. When you get home from the grocery store, or when you have time some evening when you’re making dinner, slice and chop all your veggies and put them into containers. I find if I pre-cut all my vegetables, making a salad is ten times easier and less time consuming. Plus, it keeps me from being lazy; if I have to slice up cucumber and peppers early in the morning before work, I might think twice about making a salad. This way, most of the work is done!
  2. Pack up the salad veggies the night before and just add the protein and cheese in the morning, so it’s basically made and it won’t be soggy.

This is my current salad these days. Of course, add whatever veggies you like in your salad, be it carrots, cabbage, leftover grains or veggies, whatever you have on hand. I’m on a cider vinegar kick lately, but of course, rice, sherry, balsamic, white or red wine, or other flavored vinegars will be just as tasty.

salad2Very Veggie Salad
Greens (baby spinach, romaine, or a lettuce mix)
Cucumbers, peeled, sliced in half vertically, seeded, and cut into half moons
Peppers-orange, red, or yellow
Grape tomatoes
Scallions or red onion
½ cup beans or other protein: chicken, fish (tuna or salmon), shrimp, hard-boiled egg
Optional: radishes, avocado, nuts, seeds
Sprinkle with feta cheese (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil and cider vinegar
Salt and pepper

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: More Healthy Lunch Tips

I introduced TheKitchn.com to you a while back and they always have lots of great tips and recipes. Although this article is from last fall for back to school suggestions, its tips are useful for those of us who pack our lunches year-round! Here is one that gives you 16 tips on packing a healthy lunch! Salad isn’t the only healthy option out there for lunch!

Mission: Possible

Note the deep yellow hues in the field. Autumn is coming.

Note the deep yellow hues in the field. Autumn is coming.

No Meat

No Seafood

No Gluten

No Dairy

I’ve found myself being invited to a lot of potlucks this summer. In these days of food sensitivities, cooking for a crowd has become a bit more challenging than it used to be; no longer can I make a quick pasta salad with pieces of meat and cheese. I put a lot of thought into what I make so I’m sure everyone can have a helping; now, whether people eat it is another story, but at least I’ve attempted to offer a dish that can be eaten by all. The Eater of the House has noted through the years that while I make a healthy dish to share, that sometimes they aren’t that appealing. Hence the bean salads I’ve brought home because no one wanted them. (Insert sad face.)

The above was the list for the latest dinner party I attended. I fretted for days over what to make; every time I thought of something, it had one of the ingredients not to include. Cucumbers and tomatoes are in season right now, so I thought of an easy caprese salad, but I couldn’t use mozzarella. Then I thought of my cucumber salad, but I couldn’t use the sour cream. But what if I combined the cucumbers and tomatoes with other ingredients? With some leftover beans I defrosted in the freezer, I was well on my way!

This a terrific base-line salad, in that you can take the original recipe and add what you’d like to it: leftover chicken, salmon, or shrimp; feta cheese; even pasta all would be good additions to this, making it an entrée. Also herbs! I wanted to add some fresh basil, but didn’t have any, but I know that would add great flavor, or chives, mint, or dill. Try different veggies–crunchy red peppers, celery, kohlrabi would be delicious. The reason for the corn was I had one ear left in the vegetable bin, but I wish I had more. (And that ingredient is totally optional!) For the dressing, I used red wine vinegar, but another flavored vinegar or even lemon would be great. I measured it by the capful until I got the right acidity that I liked.

But best of all, the salad fit the bill and is relatively low in calories! And this time, I brought home an empty bowl! (Insert happy face!)

salad2
Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Chickpeas

Both tomatoes and cucumbers are water-filled vegetables, so I seed them as much as possible to avoid a soppy salad. To seed the tomatoes, I cut them into fourths and just remove a bit of the seeds before dicing.

1 can of chickpeas, or about 2 cups
2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 cups cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped into large chunks
The kernels from one ear of corn (optional)
4 radishes, sliced thinly
A couple of tablespoons of scallions
Olive oil and red wine vinegar, to taste (a few teaspoons each)
Salt and pepper

Add all of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and vinegar and toss gently.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Nutritional Weight and Wellness, Minnesota

A few years ago I discovered the podcast, “Weight and Wellness,” produced by the nutritionists at Nutritional Weight and Wellness, http://www.weightandwellness.com/ which has locations surrounding the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Each week, they tackle a subject where nutrition can help you solve your physical ailments, from aching joints, menopause symptoms, anxiety and depression, and the list goes on. I always walk away with a list of tips and recipes.

Their website is a fountain of nutritional information and resources and they have four online classes you can take!  http://www.weightandwellness.com/services/online-classes/. I have yet to take one, but I plan to in the near future!

Summertime and the Cooking is Easy

morningWith all due respect to George Gershwin, Vermont this summer has seen waves of hot, hot, hot weather; so humid and sticky that all I want to do is sit in the river. On days like these, I find my appetite isn’t normal, so I try to make salads that are light, yet protein-filled enough so I don’t walk away hungry.

True Nicoise salad has tomatoes, olives, fava beans, and even anchovies. Mine is a bit different, adding some boiled potatoes, radishes that I had on hand, and a salmon salad I made which is just canned salmon, lemon juice, and some capers. I love salads that have a little bit of this and that, so you, too, can create your own riff on the salad, adding your own favorite vegetables and protein. If you’re a vegetarian, you can make a white bean salad in place of the salmon. The vinaigrette recipe will probably make more dressing than you need, but it will keep for at least a week if not longer in a cool spot in your kitchen or in the fridge.

misenplaceI created this salad to take on my annual trek to Lake George with friends a few weeks ago for a simple and delicious lunch. And it is one that is easy to tote if you’re going to the beach or for a picnic. See? >>>

Of course, soon after I wrote this recipe, the temperatures turned and I could finally turn on the oven again. So in the meantime, I’ll tuck this away for the next time we take a trip to the lake or the heat comes back–whichever comes first.

salad
MVK’s Nicoise Salad
2 red peppers, thinly sliced
1-2 cups green beans, steamed
4 small red potatoes, boiled and cubed
4 radishes, sliced into fourths
3 hard-boiled eggs

Salmon or tuna salad: tossed with fresh lemon juice and capers (optional)

Vegetarian option: One can of white beans, toss with a little bit of lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and chopped herbs.

Vinaigrette: 2/3 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar (or a vinegar of your choice), 1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, ½ shallot (a couple teaspoons), finely chopped (optional). Whisk together.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Speaking of Summertime. . . 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less

The title sounds like an infomercial, but seven years ago, when Mark Bittman was still working for the Dining section of the New York Times, he produced this masterpiece; 101 super simple recipes for summer. This has been a savior ever since for those nights I’m not sure what to make, it’s too hot, or I need some creativity.

The recipes run the gamut: meat, vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan. And they are all so simple, that the 10 minutes is true. Cook up some bratwurst with apples and serve with coleslaw (#59) or saute shredded zucchini in olive oil, adding garlic and chopped herbs. Serve over pasta. (#45) Or Bittman’s own version of Nicoise Salad (#34) Lightly steam haricot verts, green beans, or asparagus. Arrange on a plate with chickpeas, good canned tuna, hard-cooked eggs, a green salad, sliced cucumber and tomato. Dress with oil and vinegar.

You can find the article here, 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less.

Asian Chicken Pasta Salad

(Photo © EMR)

This recipe is loosely based on one I used to make from an Eating Well cookbook I received as a Christmas present many years ago. Since I no longer have the cookbook, I can’t tell you how similar this is to the original, as I’ve adapted and changed things through the years to make it even healthier. Since there are a few steps here, cooking the chicken and pasta, I tend to make this in advance, so dinner is ready to go on those busier evenings. But it definitely can be made on those nights you have a little more time, as well.

As always, proportions are approximations. If you want less pasta and more chicken (or vice versa), create away! If you’re a vegetarian, you can substitute tofu or different vegetables in place of the chicken. I usually load up on the vegetables in my salads, more filling and less calories!

Asian Chicken Pasta Salad
3 cups farfalle (bowtie) pasta or any other small-shaped pasta
2 large boneless chicken breasts, cooked and diced into bite-size pieces
1 red pepper, sliced
1 1/2 cups diced celery
Chopped scallions, about 1/4 cup or so
Chopped fresh ginger, a tablespoon or so
A few dashes of sesame seeds

Dressing
2 teaspoons sesame oil (you can definitely use more, but I find sesame oil very rich and I try to keep the fat content down)
1 Tablespoon miso paste*
Rice vinegar, enough to make a thin dressing with the miso

In a large mixing bowl, add the pasta, chicken, pepper, celery, scallions, sesame seeds, and ginger. Add the sesame oil and stir until incorporated. In a small bowl, add miso paste and enough vinegar to thin it to the consistency you desire. Add to the salad and thoroughly mix. Serve on its own or over greens.

*Miso paste  is made from rice and/or soy and is used as a base for soups and dressings in Asian cooking. I find a 13 ounce tub to be on the pricey side, upwards of $6 or so, but it lasts for years and adds a nice nutty flavor to whatever you are cooking. It is fairly salty, so be sure to taste your dish before adding any additional salt.