Macaroni Salad

I think my family is like many others that fell into the usual pitfalls of the 80s and 90s. We went to Pizza Hut and it wasn’t healthy. I would be lying if I said I loved the pizza there. I would even be lying if I said I was excited to go there for the pizza. I used to love the salad bar. No, not for the lettuce (that would be weird) or typical salad bar fare. I loved the macaroni salad.

Fast forward to today, the thought of eating macaroni salad from a salad bar or even a grocery store makes me cringe. Thankfully, I have found a great recipe. It has less fat (the grocery store variety has 19 grams per serving!) and you know the few ingredients. Hopefully there are others out there like me who like macaroni salad and are brave enough to admit it.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 8 ounces uncooked macaroni elbows
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 3/4 cup diced provolone cheese
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced roasted red peppers (from a jar)

How To:

Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain, rinse in cold water and set aside. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir well. Add macaroni and remaining ingredients. Toss well to coat. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.
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Tomato Bean Salad

Tis the season for tomatoes. They are in the markets, super fresh and perfectly ripe. You can find them in all colors and shapes, which means it’s time to make colorful salads.

Multicolor cherry tomatoes with white beans is the base for this salad. You can add any other vegetables you choose. I decided on some diced crunchy green pepper. Add some herbs, fresh or dried, salt and pepper, and a little olive oil and vinegar (balsamic works great) and you have a terrific side. It could also be a main dish because you have so many nutrients coming just from the beans.

But what is really great about this salad? It’s incredibly tasty. The tomatoes are refreshing, the beans are creamy (and satisfying), the herbs make it fresh and the dressing brings it all together.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, multicolor if available (they’re prettier!!)
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced (optional)
  • 1 can Northern beans
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
How To:
Cut medium to large cherry tomatoes in half; leave small ones whole. Drain and rinse beans. Combine tomatoes, green pepper and beans in a medium bowl. Add herbs, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Stir, making sure every tomato and bean is coated. Serve room temperature or chilled.

Quinoa Salad

I had been wanting to make a quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) salad for a long time, but either didn’t feel like the “healthy” taste I was convinced this salad would amount to or couldn’t muster up the energy to get the ingredients. I was wrong on so many levels.

Quinoa salad is incredibly tasty and unbelievably easy. It will be a making many appearances at our dinner table. So it’s healthy, yes, but it is also a great filling grain (actually, it’s a seed, but I call it a grain) that is also gluten free. Anyone who suffers from a gluten intolerance can make this recipe in abundance. And the easy part? It cooks up in 10 to 15 minutes, you let it cool a little, add all your ingredients and there you have it: quinoa salad.

You can switch up the vegetables to use what you have on hand or work with the theme of your dinner. For example, if you are making a mexican dish, add in avocado, corn, salsa, and I’d even say black beans. Just a note, quinoa is a high protein grain, so added beans are going to give you a real protein punch. You could make the quinoa salad your meal alone. But let’s concentrate on this quinoa salad – refreshing, light, and filling with sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and cranberries. Just the thing for an almost 100 degree day.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa (the pre-washed variety)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1 zucchini, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, diced
  • 1/2 orange pepper, diced
  • 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted sunflower seeds or toasted cashews (optional)

Variations: diced cucumber, celery, snow peas, shell peas, green beans, carrots peeled and sliced thin, avocado, corn, salsa, chopped scallions, raisins, apricots, Greek olives, roasted red peppers (in water or oil), minced jalapeno pepper, fresh mint, parsley, cilantro, or basil, pinch of cayenne, garlic powder, fresh minced garlic, minced fresh or dried ginger.

for the dressing

  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
Dressing variations: Brianna’s blush wine vinaigrette, italian dressing, caesar dressing, your favorite vinaigrette.
How To:
Place quinoa, water and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until all water is absorbed, about 10 to 15 minutes. When done, the grain will appear soft and translucent and the germ ring will be visible. Place in a mixing bowl and let cool for several minutes.
While quinoa is cooking or cooling, mix lemon juice salt and pepper, then whisk in olive oil. Set aside.
Add the rest of the ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Toss with salad dressing and chill. Serve as a side dish or as your main meal.

Asian Chicken Salad

When you step outside into what feels like a foggy, hazy oven, a warm meal just doesn’t sound enticing whatsoever. What does sound appealing is a cold salad with crisp veggies and a zingy dressing.

First, there is the cabbage portion. I shred mine in a Cuisinart food prep, but you can definitely buy pre-packaged cole slaw mix (just shredded cabbage but they call it cole slaw mix). Then there is roasted chicken; you can again save time and oven heat if you buy a rotisserie chicken. After that there are the sweet mandarin oranges, the crunchy pea pods (which I actually forgot to even add…good thing they taste great on their own), and water chestnuts. I had some baby bok choy ready to be prepared like diced celery in the salad as well, but it was also left out. Apparently my head is in a haze as well.

Just for good measure there are ramen noodles and to add crunch, slivered toasted almonds. This salad is both refreshing and light, perfect for a spring day that feels like late summer.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cabbage, shredded or 1 package cole slaw mix
  • 2 – 3 chicken breasts, roasted and shredded
  • 1 can mandarin oranges (save the juice! see below)
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts, diced
  • 2 packages lightly crushed ramen noodles (throw out seasoning packet)
  • 1/2 cup pea pods (you can also forget this, like I did)
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted (just heat in a dry saute pan for several minutes, turning often) and divided
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup mandarin orange juice
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

How To:

For the dressing, combine the seasoned rice vinegar, sugar, mandarin orange juice, salt and pepper (you can adjust this later, too). While whisking, add vegetable oil. Set aside.

Toss cole slaw, chicken, mandarin oranges, water chestnuts, pea pods, and crushed ramen noodles. Stir in dressing (re-shake if it separated) and mix, getting all ingredients coated by the dressing. Chill for 20 minutes. When ready to serve, add 1/4 cup slivered almonds and re-toss. Garnish with remaining almonds.

Sweet Potato Salad

I’ve tried to express my sweet potato obsession before, and if those messages (recipes) didn’t get across hopefully this one will. Most of us have had potato salad in one form or another. Potatoes are a blank palate but have a great texture and are fun to play with by adding new flavors, other textures, and colors. Of course when thinking of potato salad the idea of sweet potato salad came to me because sweet potatoes are my favorite potato ever. Then I came to the realization I had never tasted a sweet potato salad and that fact alone was enough to scare me into action.

What goes well with sweet potatoes? I’ll tell you! Honey. What goes well with honey? I’ll tell you that too! Mustard! So putting two and two together, and fully acknowledging I was making a potato salad after all, I made mayo be the base for my sweet potato honey mustard salad.  Adding in some apple cider vinegar and a lil’ salt and pepper, some chives and dill and you have yourself the most delicious most addictive potato salad ever. Addicting to the point where you may make it twice in one week.

Sweet Potato Salad

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 sweet potatoes (if small, 8, if medium, 6)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced
  • 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs (optional)

How To:

Peel and cut sweet potatoes into halves or fourths. Boil sweet potato chunks until easily pierced with a knife. Let cool and cut into big dice. Add diced onions. In a medium bowl, mix together 1 cup mayo, Dijon mustard, grainy mustard,  honey, chives, dill, and apple cider vinegar or white vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let chill for several hours. When ready to serve, chop eggs and sprinkle on top with additional chives if desired.

Mediterranean Tuna Noodle Salad

Just like people who wear shorts when it hits 50 degrees for the first time since last fall, I excitedly make summery meals of pasta and a dressing- this past week’s fix- when it was 60 degrees (now its 30 and snowing..its March 20, the “first day of spring.” Right.)- was a Mediterranean spin on traditional tuna noodle salad. May I just say it got me enthusiastically hoping for spring and summer, which I am certain is right around the corner. And to clarify, I was not dressed in summery attire while cooking or at any point of the day.

My mother makes her tuna noodle salad with seashell pasta or conchiglie. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, but I prefer to use a less themed approach in my version. I use rotini because it grabs onto sauce and also looks lovely while doing so. This post was written as a celebration, but is now a plea to mother nature to bring back spring. Pretty please? Look at what a fantastic salad I can make with a little warm weather inspiration.

Mediterranean Tuna Noodle Salad

Ingredients:

  •  10 ounces pasta
  • 3 cans tuna (in spring water), drained
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup finely diced green pepper
  • 1 to 2 roasted sweet red peppers, finely diced (from a jar)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 1 can sliced black olives (or olive of your choice, kalamata could be amazing)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced sweet onion
  • juice from a lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • ground black pepper

How To:

Boil 6 cups water in a large saucepan. Add pasta and a pinch of salt. Cook 8-10 minutes or until it has a slight bite. Drain and set aside.

Mix together tuna, mayonnaise, sour cream, and rest of ingredients until well blended. Add pasta and stir to coat. Chill for about 30 minutes to 1 hour – or up to a day. Serve on leaves of romaine.

Seven-Layer Salad

I am a salad fan. I love the crunch, the freshness, and the infinite possibilities of lettuce, vegetables and anything and everything. We put lettuce in a taco shell and call it a salad. Cook pasta and combine it with tuna and call it a salad. Mix three different beans and oil & vinegar and call it salad…now I give you salad in a trifle bowl: the seven-layer salad.

The seven-layer stands right up there in my top five go-to salad recipes because it’s both pretty and delicious, if even a bit healthy. Oh, and it’s incredibly easy to make, can be made a day ahead of time and is great in both the summer and winter- cooling at a barbeque and a perfect addition to a Holiday table. There is one downside. It doesn’t last in the fridge as leftovers (meaning once its been mixed) for more than a day but in my house that is because it has been plotted against since the click of the Tupperware (and hence eaten).

Seven-Layer Salad

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups lettuce
  • 1-10 ounce package frozen peas (thawed)
  • 2  cups (8 ounces) shredded natural swiss or cheddar cheese
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • sugar, to taste
  • 16 ounces bacon, crisp cooked – drained and crumbled (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions with tops or small rings (I leave these out)
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes – halved, a blend of colors looks awesome
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts

I guess it should be called the eight layer salad…there are eight main ingredients. The lettuce must not count?

How To:
 
Place 3 cups lettuce in bottom of large bowl; sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar.
Layer in order peas, onion, lettuce and chestnuts. Spread mayonnaise over the top, sealing it to the edge.
Sprinkle with sugar, then top with cheese and bacon. Place tomatoes on top. Cover and chill 24 hours.
Makes 12-15 servings