Whip Smart Kitchen

Recipes, methods & musings for the whip-smart home cook

Salad

Marinated Cucumber Tomato Salad

Salad, Sides, Summer, Vegetarian, Recipe, Make-aheadLeannda Cavalier1 Comment

This light and refreshing salad packs a tangy punch, but has just enough sweetness to balance out the pucker factor. Crunchy cucumbers and onions mingle with juicy tomatoes and summery herbs to make a colorful side for family dinner, or the perfect easy pot luck dish.

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy products I recommend at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I believe in from companies I believe in—either I use them myself or I've at least done thorough research and vetting. Please reach out if you have any questions or want more info!

Just here for the cukes, thanks. Jump to the recipe, please!

Holy pho, life has been moving lightning fast lately for our family.

In the past three weeks my catering, teaching and sideline reporting jobs have all started back up, featuring two road games 7-10 hours away and lots of muggy, 90º days. I’ve shot a ton of recipes (more than I’ve posted) so this blog doesn’t fall off the face of the earth this Fall. We’re also scrambling to get ready for our baby—who is due in 8 weeks (what?!)—by taking childbirth education classes and hiring a doula, along with the now bi-weekly midwife appointments (all of which are 40 minutes away).

I love all the things I do, or I wouldn’t do them, and indulging my nesting instincts has been fantastic. That said my feet hurt, my intentions to read all the baby literature are quickly going out the window, and I’m in need of a little simplicity.

Enter Marinated Cucumber Tomato Salad. Simplicity and nostalgia soaked in a delicious blend of vinegar and herbs.

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I’ve always said I’m not a huge fan of most the kind of “salads” you find at picnics. Heavily mayo-ed potato and pasta salads, just about any “salad” compared of meats. Fruit salad can be good if it’s not all canned fruit. But this is one I can get behind unquestionably.

One of my favorite snacks is actually just sliced cucumber drizzled with a little vinegar, salt and pepper. My Pop-Pop used to keep a section of the garden just for me with cucumbers and watermelon because I ate them all (also growing the watermelon was my idea, so it was only fair, really).

I can’t even explain how excited I this summer when my morning sickness FINALLY let up enough to let me have my first cucumber snack. It was such a relief to stop living on granola bars and getting all my veggies from fruit squeeze pouches.

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I grew up with my Ya-ya’s version of cucumber salad, which I can’t get enough of when I visit home. Hers is just thinly sliced cucumbers and white onions in white vinegar with salt and pepper. Full stop.

It’s so simple, but so incredibly good, and it goes SO well with the sweltering summer sun and/or a lack of air conditioning in the summer, let me tell you from experience. My house only had a window unit in one room, and my Ya-ya’s house (where I spent at least half my childhood), to this day only has air conditioning in the bedrooms.

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I think everybody’s grandma has a version of cucumber salad where I grew up, as the majority of families are Italian, Polish or Balkan. I don’t think I’ve had a bad one yet.

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Why add the tomatoes? Why NOT add tomatoes? I’ve had variations with and without, but at this time of year when there’s an abundance, I see no reason to hold back.

Shallots fit nicely in this recipe too, rather than the standard red or white onions. Their flavor is a little softer and they bring a nice color to the party. They’re a little thinner, so they don’t take up a lot of real estate, plus they absorb the marinade nicely so you don’t get such a shockingly pungent bite if you’re not watching your onion-to-everything-else ratio closely.

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You can certainly use fresh herbs, as I do sometimes, but lately I’ve been loving partially dried basil. The grocery store closest to my house is hit or miss with fresh herbs, especially basil—sometimes it’s all going bad on the shelf and they often don’t have it at all. Partially dried basil has much better flavor than dried (which I rarely use), and it can stay in your refrigerator much longer than fresh leaves.

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Since moving to the South I’ve encountered something pretty new to me… super SWEET tomato and cucumber salad in a marinade so think it’s almost like a vinaigrette. It’s delicious, but it’s also a lot. To me, marinated cucumber and tomato salad is ideally about simplicity.

Besides, I still like the stuff from home, so I compromise: I add a little sugar (or sometimes honey), but not enough to make it syrupy or sweet to the point where it loses its kick or stops being cooling. Let the vinegar have it’s moment in the sun, please. 

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I also like to hold back on the olive oil a little bit, I don’t want this dish feeling greasy, or it defeats the purpose for me. I’m all about this remaining a light delight. 

The reason I cover Marinated Cucumber Tomato Salad tightly with plastic wrap is because it lets the liquid cover the veggies without wasting vinegar just to make sure everything is completely covered. Yes, eventually the vegetables would soak up the liquid even if they aren’t entirely covered, but that takes time and I’m not about that for this dish.

You’ll want to makes sure you squeeze as much of the air out as possible, or it defeats the purpose. The goal is to get all that liquid to travel up around the veggies so it can really soak in.

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And the reveal. Gorgeous.

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Today I’m forcing myself to rest, but I don’t see things slowing down for us anytime soon, and if history is to be trusted, it’s going to continue to feel like summer here until well into the actual fall. I see a lot of this simple Marinated Cucumber and Tomato Salad in my future.

I’m not mad about it.

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If you make this, snap a pic and show me! I’d love to know how it went. Just tag me and hashtag #whipsmartkitchen.

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Let's get marinating!

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Tricolore Pear Salad

Dinner, Vegetarian, Summer, Fall, Italian, Recipe, Salad, SidesLeannda CavalierComment

Sweet, soft pears and pine nuts complement a mix of buttery, nutty and bitter lettuces dressed in a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy products I recommend at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I believe in from companies I believe in—either I use them myself or I've at least done thorough research and vetting. Please reach out if you have any questions or want more info!

I need summa those sweet greens—jump to the recipe, please!

Summer isn't over yet and I'm trying to squeeze out every last drop, but... fall has undeniably started creeping into my thoughts. Maybe it's just from spending the majority of my life in school and teaching, but once August hits everything goes into overdrive, hurtling toward September like a defensive end on a pass rush. 

I truly love fall. I love the start of school and football. I love the foliage and wearing sleeves again. I love pumpkins and bold spices. But it still feels like everything summer is ending way too fast. Pools are closing and I'm seeing school buses everywhere. Didn't we just do the Fourth of July? 

Luckily, I've got the perfect dish if you're also struggling to accept all that comes with the inevitable shift from summer nights to autumn evenings.

This Tricolore Pear Salad is incredibly simple from the short ingredient list to the simple dressing, but trust me, it has an undeniable wow factor. 

It's based on the classic Italian insalata tricolore, which uses a mix of dark and light lettuces brilliantly to balance bitterness and sweetness as well as softness and crunch. It also happens to feature the three colors of the Italian flag, green, red and white. 

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Some also call caprese salads insalata tricolore, which makes sense with the color theme, but we'll leave that in its own pedestal where it belongs. 

I do a little catering as a side job, mostly for small events, but sometimes I do personal catering too. I developed this Tricolore Pear Salad for a client whose family wanted to eat a version of the paleo diet, in an effort to keep the choices from getting stale and, oh boy, I could not have predicted what happened.

He told me the first time he picked up the salad that he had never had a fresh pear before—which is actually something I hear pretty frequently about peaches and pears—so nobody here really knew what to expect. 

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They LOVED it. Like ordered it multiple times a week from there on out. It got to the point where I was visiting multiple grocery stores a multiple times a week because I was buying out all the ingredients for it. Once we got into the later fall and fresh pears got harder to find, I had to limit the amount of times they could order just because I literally could not find enough ingredients.

It was a problem, but you know, a nice one. If you guys are reading this, know I love you and your pear madness!

I recommend using green d'anjou pears for this salad, though I've also used green and red bartletts with great results. There's just something special about a d'anjou pear—it's sweet and buttery with just enough crispness. Red ones are nice later in the fall as they're a little more robust.

Whatever you do, use a good one! If all the d'anjous are rock hard? Move on to the next kind. If it's so soft it falls apart in your hand? 

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You got a million ways to get it. Choose one

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I've actually been putting pears on salad for years now, usually in an arugula salad with goat cheese and a sweeter dressing, but I think using no cheese, a more acidic dressing and bitter chicory takes this salad up several notches. 

It's pretty common to serve a tricolore salad with shaved parmesan, but I actually really like this salad without the cheese. The softness of the pears and the nuttiness of the pine nuts and arugula pretty well takes care of that desire for me in this case. 

Speaking of simplifying the dressing, HOLY COW is this EASY. Just combine three ingredients and shake. If you want, you can switch it up with other vinegars or add other things (I might add a garlic clove and let it sit for a different salad), but there's no need, and you probably have balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and salt on hand already if you cook often. 

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I can't say enough about how much I love this aspect of Italian cooking. I'm a person who tends to make things much more complicated than they need to be, which is sometimes good, and sometimes makes my life a living hell.

Maybe that's why I go back to Italian food so often. Or maybe it's that my husband is Italian, I'm coastal Croatian, and Italian food is TASTY.  

One piece of advice I do have is that when you're making something so simple, use the best quality ingredients you can find. That's one of the reasons simplicity works so well in Italy: pretty much everything they use is grown nearby and freshness is key (with exceptions, of course, because they clearly know how to preserve tomatoes and cheese like wow).

I'm not telling you to break the bank here, but I am saying you can uplevel your kitchen game approximately 100 notches just by investing in a good extra virgin olive oil for cold foods like salads. I typically buy an okay brand in bulk for cooking, but I keep a big bottle of my one of my favorites on hand for dressings and drizzle. 

What are my favorites? I love going to an olive oil specialty store and doing a tasting to figure that out. My favorite is Oil & Vinegar in Greenville, South Carolina. Their products are all high-quality, their staff is super knowledgable (but not snobby!) and they're so friendly and enthusiastic that it's tough to want to buy anywhere else.

My most recent buy, pictured in the background above, was their extra virgin olive oil from Puglia , and it is SO good—robust, peppery and a little sweet. It's got low acidity and high polyphenols (antioxidants), making the flavor more intense and the oil better for you. 

That being said, if you just wanna pick some up from the grocery store or order some from Amazon, that's totally cool too. In that case I encourage you to experiment, but I recommend California Olive Ranch EVOO as a good starting point. 

Here are a few things to pay attention to if you're picking one up on your own: 

How to choose a grocery store olive oil: 

  1. Is it fresh? Most good olive oil brands will have a harvest date somewhere on the bottle, as olive oil doesn't necessarily age well. 
  2. How is it bottled? Olive oil should be stored in a cold dark place, so a dark, glass bottle is the best packaging. You don't want the oil deteriorating as it sits in the truck. 
  3. Where is it from? Check the country or region of origin. First of all, it should only have one. Second, foreign isn't always best, as the further away it is, the longer it probably took to ship and the harder it is to find out about the source. This is why I recommend California Ranch Olive Oil. Now if you're buying imported oil from a specialty store, you can probably go for it safely as they will be more discerning about the source.
  4. How long is the ingredient list? Hint: it should only list one thing. Extra virgin olive oil. 
  5. Is it cold-pressed? Good olive oil is processed with olives that are crushed and pressed without help from heat or chemicals, so the bottle should say cold-pressed. According to Larousse Gastronomique, this designation doesn't necessarily tell us much anymore as processors now have machines that are temperature-controlled, even if they don't use traditional extraction methods. First-pressed means virtually nothing as modern methods don't typically require a second press. Still, if a bottle doesn't even bother saying it? I'd steer clear unless you know the person who made it.
  6. Other factors? Higher polyphenols means more antioxidants and a bolder flavor. The lower the acidity, the better (extra virgin olive oil must have less than 1 percent acidity). You might not be able to find this information on bottles of grocery store olive oil, which is okay, but it's a good sign if you can. 

If all else fails, try out Google University! Here's a great article from The Kitchn that does the work for you with recommendations from Italian cooks.

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I tend to give balsamic vinegar a bit more of a pass, for better or for worse. Don't get me wrong, really good balsamic vinegar makes a huge difference, and you should get an aged vinegar marked Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale with a D.O.P. certification if possible. The thing is... a lot of grocery store brands are pretty good in their own right, and purity is less of an issue. 

That being said, if you live near a specialty store, go in for a tasting! A top-quality balsamic isn't as necessary to me as top-quality olive oil, but it is undoubtedly one of my favorite special occasion splurges. Especially a cherry-flavored one. Mmmmmm. 

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Now let's talk about that green. And red. And white.

You can make many variations of this salad depending on what's available (my local grocery stores don't always make it easy to find good greens), but here are the leafy ingredients I like to use:

  • Arugula (rocket) - A soft, nutty green and situation where stems are okay. You don't have to use it, but I highly recommend it.
  • Baby kale and baby Swiss chard - Soft versions of the big leafy bunches you know. Earthy and lightly bitter, but much more subtle than their later stage selves. You can often find a mix of these (sometimes along with arugula, spinach and other young greens) marketed as "super greens". Bonus: baby swiss kale adds a nice aesthetic touch with its bright pink stems. 
  • Radicchio - It looks like thin red cabbage, but it's not! Radicchio is an Italian chicory with a mildly spicy, slightly bitter flavor. It's not thick and woody like cabbage (and doesn't have the same side effects), but it does still have a crunchy bite. Don't sub in red cabbage. Just don't.
  • Belgian endive - Another chicory plant with delicate, buttery leaves and a nice crunch. This one is a little bitter too, but it's subtle and it works with the dressing and pears. Embrace the bitterness. I typically peel off the outer leaves and then cut off the hard bottom as needed to pull the rest off easily, but you can also cut a cone into the bottom to get all the leaves off at once. 
  • Substitutions - Some of these can be a little hard to find, I'll admit. I don't know if I'd made this unless I can find at least two of them or else it's a different salad, but here are some recommendations. In a pinch, I've used baby romaine instead of endive. It's not the same, but it has a similar texture. If you can't find radicchio, seriously, don't use red cabbage. My grocery stores typically have a box of four "artisan lettuce" varieties that typically include chicories you could use instead. If it's curly and spindly, it's probably a chicory or something with similar flavor.  For the darker greens you could use spring mix if you have to.
  • Red Cabbage - Just don't! I'm warning you.
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The last, but definitely not least important element of my Tricolore Pear Salad is the toasted pine nuts, and yes, I do think toasting them makes a big difference when you're eating them raw. Pine nuts are earthy little tree nuts that give pesto its nutty flavor.

They're much milder than pecans and softer than almonds, which you might typically put in a sweeter salad. I would almost call them creamy based on the feeling of chewing them. 

Toasting them may feel like one more step, but it's super easy and fast. The one skill you need to have is vigilance. 

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How to toast pine nuts: 

  1. Heat a pan over medium heat.
  2. Pour in the pine nuts and stir frequently for 2-3 minutes, or until you start to smell them and they leave grease trails on the bottom of the pan, and remove them to a plate to cool. Watch them closely and if they start to brown or smoke, remove them to a plate immediately so they don't burn.
  3. That's it!
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This Tricolore Pear Salad is far from rabbit food, and I have family/friends/happy customers to back me up on that if you don't believe me. BUT I hope you'll make it to find out for yourself! You could even make it into an entire meal instead of a side dish by adding a little chicken or even sliced steak, which I sometimes do when I pack up the leftovers for lunch the next day. 

If you do make it, let me know by sharing a photo with the hashtag #whipsmartkitchen and tagging me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. You can also use the "tried it" feature on Pinterest to help out others looking for a salad they don't have to force themselves to eat!

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Let's get this pear party started!

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Summer Party Panzanella

Dinner, Italian, Party, Recipe, Salad, Slow Food, Summer, VegetarianLeannda CavalierComment

This Italian bread salad boasts the best summer garden bounties and toasted bread cubes, all tossed in a tangy white wine vinaigrette. It’s big enough to bring to your block party—and keeps well enough to keep all to yourself. 

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy products I recommend at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I believe in from companies I believe in—either I use them myself or I've at least done thorough research and vetting. Please reach out if you have any questions or want more info!

Ready to party but less ready to read? Click here to jump straight to the recipe. 

Is there any better feeling than walking out to the garden on a sunny day, picking a juicy cucumber, rinsing it off, and eating it right then and there like an apple? Adding a sprinkle of salt and a splash of vinegar might enhance things a bit, but otherwise, probably not.

Growing up in Wellsburg, West Virginia it seemed like every other house had a garden, or at least a vegetable patch. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and more abound. Though my Pop-Pop’s garden was huge and we had some tomatoes and peppers sprouting at my house most years, neighbors would still bring over grocery bags full of their extra bounty all summer.

This is what July tastes like. 

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I could walk outside, grab a cucumber, rinse it off and eat it like an apple—and never run out as long as it was warm! I thought I fully appreciated it then, but now that I have a shady yard hundreds of miles away, I’m really missing the abondanza.

Whether you have a plentiful garden, a bustling farmers' market, or even a decent grocery store, sometimes you just end up staring at all those beautiful veggies thinking, "okay, but what am I actually going to do with all of this?!"

Enter panzanella.

What is panzanella?

Um, just the manifestation of summertime joy and happiness. With bread.

What is it really? A bread salad filled with all your favorite summer produce. I think everyone makes it a little differently, but I like a good mix of tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, red onion and basil. 

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Add a deliciously tangy white wine vinaigrette for good measure and you're golden. Well, golden and all the other colors that taste good. 

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This summer party panzanella lives up to its name. Panzanella in general is great for cookouts because it can safely sit out at room temperature, plus it's best after sitting for a while. Primo vegetarian option, but no one is skipping this dish just because it's not barbecue. 

This specific panzanella recipe has another advantage: the bread is toasted in the oven rather than pan-fried. I do realize both stovetops and ovens are hot (especially in the middle of summer), but the oven method is so much faster, less messy and less greasy-feeling. It’s also a little easier to evenly cook the bread this way.

Hold up, is the bread cooked in authentic panzanella?

Classic panzanella, as it's made in Italy, features stale bread soaked in vinaigrette and tomato juice in yet another example of what I love about Tuscan cooking—finding a way to use what's around and still managing to make it irresistible.

Somehow over the years, especially in American versions, it's evolved a bit to the point where we're grilling, frying or toasting the bread to dry it out enough to really soak up the vinaigrette. I'm gonna be honest. I REALLY like it that way. The texture. The flavor of the slightly browned bread. The crisp from the hot olive oil. Everything about it. 

How do you toast bread for panzanella? Simple. Just toss it in a little olive oil and salt...

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Toast it in the oven until it's just turning golden-brown, turn the oven off, and leave it for a few minutes to dry off.

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That's. It. 

Another difference from panzanella purist recipes? The OG dish is typically made with bread, tomatoes, onions, vinaigrette, maybe basil, and that's it. Sounds delicious, but I have all this amazing produce laying around and it all tastes SO good together. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again. There's a time and a place for making food perfectly authentic, and I'm all about knowing the rules, but you're missing out on some incredible food if you're not willing to be a rule-breaker sometimes. 

HOWEVER, there is one unbreakable rule here. 

This recipe is great for bread that's a day or two old and starting to get a little stale, but for just about everything else it's all about freshness. That goes for all the vegetables down to using garlic you cut yourself—not the jarred stuff. This is a true peak of summer recipe. If you’re not eating all your ingredients as fresh (and ripe) as possible, don’t make this.

You’ll thank me when you take a bite.

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I like to make this with red and orange bell peppers (orange are my favorite to eat raw), but yellow is great too. Green peppers are a little too grassy for me in this particular recipe, but hey, try it out if you have some on hand you want to use up. Let me know how it goes!

I’ve made summer party panzanella for a bridal shower, for dinner parties, for hungry football players who helped us move, and plenty of times on regular old weeknights. My husband and I have been known to destroy one of these in 24 hours—yeah, that’s an entire loaf of bread for two. Yikes. Such a good yikes. 

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As it sits, the vinaigrette and the juices from all those veggies meld and soak into the bread for such explosive flavor that you don't even need fireworks, okay? Leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals, because you can blow minds all on your own with this. 

Some people will beg you for this recipe. Everyone else will just ask you to make more. 

Luckily for me, we do travel to the land of veggie-sharing (aka West Virginia) pretty often during the summer. I'm actually surrounded by fresh tomatoes and basil at this very moment, some of which I just ate in a frittata. We also live fairly close to some great farmers markets and the famous Grainger County tomatoes in Tennessee, so I’m not completely missing out.

Still, if you live in a community like the one I grew up in, know I’m jealous. Go out and pick the biggest, most misshapen, sun-ripened tomato you can find and slice it up with some salt for me!

So what's the produce situation in your area, and what's your fave summer vegetable or fruit? A super-ripe peach or plum might be runners-up to tomatoes and cucumbers for me. Basil and mint are great too though... Oh God, I almost forgot watermelon! For the record, that was an actual, unedited stream of consciousness.

Anyway, freshen up the comments below with your picks!

If you try out this summer party panzanella, let me know by sharing a photo with the hashtag #whipsmartkitchen and tagging me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. You can also use the "tried it" feature on Pinterest to help others find it too!

Let's get toasting!

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Roasted veggie salad with chicken

Salad, RecipeLeannda CavalierComment
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This post was originally published on my old blog. This version may contain minor edits and updates. The original is preserved at Recipe Repository

I love Easter food. The ham, the green beans braised in bacon, the yeast rolls and most of all the cheesy, greasy scalloped potatoes. But after a week of leftovers, I needed to lighten it up. 

Enter the roasted veggie salad with chicken. It’s fresh, savory, tangy and the dressing and avocados make it a little creamy without feeling too gluttonous. 

It’s got plenty going for it health-wise too. It has the varied protein, good (unsaturated) fats and complex carbs you need to keep you energized and full for a good while. Plenty of vitamins and antioxidants are a nice bonus. 

Variations of this salad are a standby in my meal planning. 

This recipe makes a lot of hearty salad, but it’s actually pretty great if you’re only cooking for one or two. The veggies are already roasted and the greens fairly sturdy, so it keeps well in the fridge. You could even dress it individually to make it last longer. 

I promised this recipe last night on SnapChat (follow me at lcavalier33), so order up!

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Roasted Veggie Salad with Chicken

Makes 6-8 servings

About 30 minutes total (12 mins cook, 15 mins prep)

  • 5 oz mixed greens of choice (I used baby arugula, kale and chard)
  • 5 oz cherry tomatoes
  • 1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 portabella mushroom, scooped and sliced
  • 1 red onion
  • 2-3 TBSPs extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • 1-½ tsps kosher salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 cup quinoa cooked in chicken broth (can use veggie broth)
  • 1 avocado, scooped out in bite-sized chunks
  • 1 lb baked simple chicken tenderloins, sliced (recipe below)
  • ½-¾ cup Apple cider vinaigrette (recipe below) or vinaigrette of choice
  • Optional: Softened goat cheese
  1.  Preheat oven to 400°F and line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place tomatoes, zucchini slices and mushroom slices on the sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Halve red onion, then slice. Place on a sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle with 1-2 TBSPS olive oil, then wrap the onion tightly in the foil.
  3. Bake both veggies and onion for 12 minutes, checking halfway through. If they’re dry, stir them around a bit with tongs and add more oil if necessary. If onion is fork-tender after 12 minutes, leave in for an additional five minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, combine roasted veggies, cucumber, quinoa, avocado, chicken and vinaigrette. Toss lightly to combine.
  5. Serve over a scoop of softened goat cheese. 

Baked Simple Chicken Tenderloins

Makes four servings (about two tenderloins each)

About 22 mins total (five mins prep, 12 mins cook, 5 mins rest)

  • 1 lb chicken tenderloins
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried cumin
  • 2 tsp ground thyme
  • 1-2 TBSPs extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F, and line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil
  2. Combine salt, pepper, dried basil, cumin and thyme in a small bowl and stir with a fork to combine.
  3. Place tenderloins on the foil about one inch apart.
  4. Spread seasoning mix evenly on top of chicken, then drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Bake for 12 minutes or until cooked throughout, flipping tenderloins over halfway through.
  6. Allow to rest on a cutting board for five minutes before cutting or serving.

Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Makes about two cups

About five minutes

  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ¼  cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsps minced garlic
  • ½ tsp Italian spices
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1-2 TBSPs honey
  1. Combine ingredients in a bowl and whisk.
  2. Allow to sit at least 10 minutes for flavors to marry (optional). 
  3. Use to dress your favorite salad. 

Eating fresh food like this makes you feel better, and making it yourself makes sure extra sodium and sugar isn’t sneaking its way in. It gives awareness and control of what you put in your body. It also tastes pretty incredible!

But remember, you always have options. Avoid the shame spiral. 

*(INSERT SHAME ON YOU GIF)*

Do the best you can with what you have available and what you have time for. In a pinch you can use any vinaigrette you have in the fridge, and using pre-cooked chicken will speed it up. 

Fresh is best and pre-packaged foods can be filled with sodium and sugar, but we’re all busy! Don’t give yourself too hard a time if you have to pick up some shredded chicken from the deli on the way home to get it done today. 

If you make this recipe, let me know what you think over on SnapChat

Blog beginnings plus an incredibly useful, easy recipe

Salad, Italian, Recipe, VegetarianLeannda CavalierComment

This post was originally published on my old blog. This version may contain minor edits and updates. The original is preserved at Recipe Repository

First, I want to tell you how happy I am you’re still here if you got through Friday’s post. Looks like you’re my ideal reader! Thank you!

Friday I told you who I’m blogging for, why and the most important message I want to send you about cooking. Today I’m going to tell you my entrepreneurial story… and then give you a recipe I use at least once a week!

I’m writing this as part of Alex Beadon’s 7-day Feel Good Blogging Challenge. I’m a little behind everyone else participating because it came at a bad time for me, but whatever, I’m finishing it anyway!

Looking back, I think I’ve always been geared toward entrepreneurship. I love helping people and I love talking people into trying things. Honestly, I’m pretty sure I can be insufferable to some people on Facebook comment threads. I want to solve your problem and give you my full experience with things right there in the comments.

My reaction to someone asking for cooking advice is similar to a dog hearing the doorknob turn when his owner gets home from work. “YOU CAME BACK! TRY HITTING IT WITH THE BROILER FOR A FEW MINUTES!”

I’m just trying to help!

I toyed around with the idea of a food blog for about two years before I actually got serious about it, partially because people kept asking me to start one. I delayed it a long time because of fear of what other people would think and because I was a little nervous I wouldn’t have enough to say. Oh boy, I was so wrong on that count.

I mentioned in my last post that I was underemployed for nearly two years before finding my current full-time job this February. In January I happened upon one of stylist Hilary Rushford’sInstagram posts promoting her Instagram marketing class. I had been keeping my skills fresh with tons of webinars and this one actually looked fun, so I signed up immediately. During a Q & A toward the end of the class she mentioned she was thinking about hiring some brand ambassadors. I sent an email volunteering to help her out, not really expecting to hear back. A few weeks later I began helping maintain customer service on her 25k+ account along with three other talented ladies, for which she generously gifted us her full Instagram with Intention course. That was the beginning of my descent into the world of online entrepreneurship.

The day after I finished Instagram with Intention I scoured Hilary’s site for more info and landed on a video where she mentioned Marie Forleo’s B-School. I looked Marie up on YouTube and it was over. I was doing it. Seriously, if you want to do anything in this world, watch one of her videos. You’ll be doing air punches and cartwheels all the way to whatever it is you wanted.

She’s also hilarious, which is enough to keep me watching.

Related videos were a blessing here, because that’s exactly how I found entrepreneur Alex Beadon, the host of this blogging challenge. “How to Blog and Build a Following” showed up in the sidebar when I was watching one of Marie’s video. With that, I was down another (wonderful) rabbit hole, late for a very important date. Alex has been so supportive, and she is ALWAYS on. I am sincerely amazed at how much she’s taught me in such a short time.

I also found graphic designer Lauren Hooker of Elle & Company around the same time, either through Hilary’s IWI class or as another suggestion from Instagram. Her online course set me on my way to my next big project, the one I said I would announced soon in my last post.

I’m not getting paid for this, I promise. 

Being virtually surrounded by all these incredible people making the lives they wanted happen just with their passion, talents, the internet, a pinch of brilliance and ton of elbow grease… How could I not go for it?

Funny how things work out sometimes…

I finally found a full-time job in February. It’s shocking how quickly it happened after I searched for so long. I’m not a very woo-woo type of person, but I firmly believe that the change in attitude made it happen.

I went from feeling like a victim who had accomplished so much in my old job/school/home/life only to have it ripped away once I moved, to someone who was just going to go ahead and employ myself if no one else would. I would show everyone exactly what I could do, and it would be even better because it would involve my favorite thing: food. The fact that could use my skills in broadcasting, public relations and advertising just sweetened the deal.

The full time job means it’s happening a lot slower than I planned, but I’m just thrilled it’s happening, and people are starting to hop on board for the ride. I would love to think I could inspire and help someone as much as my forerunners helped me.

Thanks so much for reading, you have no idea how much I appreciate it. Growth with these kinds of things is generally slow (and a little painful), but every little bit is like a drug. A drug that vastly improves your life instead of ruining it and evicting all your friends/teeth.

Thanks =)

Okay, I promised you a recipe and you definitely deserve it after reading all of that. Enjoy!

Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

Caprese Salad

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 2 large or 4-6 small tomatoes*
  • 10 oz fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 15 large basil leaves
  • 1 batch of balsamic reduction
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Cut the tomatoes into ¼ inch slices.**
  2. Slice the mozzarella into ¼ inch slices.
  3. Chiffonade the basil using the following method: stack the leaves on top of one another, roll them up lengthwise (so that the middle veins don’t bend) and slice thinly across with a sharp knife so that you cut tiny spirals. After you’ve sliced through the whole roll, toss the spirals so that they separate into thin strips.
  4. On a platter, arrange alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella any way you want, I like to line them in a circle toward the outside of the platter, placing any odd ends in the middle.
  5. Sprinkle the basil on top (I like to put a bunch in the middle and then a few pieces over the tomatoes and cheese) and drizzle a little olive oil and balsamic reduction on top. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve with extra balsamic reduction on the side.

*My faves are bulky heirlooms or romas in summer, camparis/kumatos in winter. You can always use 8-10 oz cherry tomatoes, but it greatly changes the flavor.

**Halve or quarter smaller tomatoes, much less work!

Balsamic Reduction

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TBSP honey, brown sugar or coconut sugar

Instructions:

  1. Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat.
  2. Turn down heat to low and simmer until reduced to about ⅓ and can coat the back of a spoon. This takes about 10 minutes but watch it closely because burnt vinegar is acrid, awful and can ruin your pan.
  3. Allow to cool for 10 minutes or more. It should look a little like chocolate syrup.
  4. Drizzle away!

Note: You’ll notice my photo features little balls of mozzarella. That’s called ciliegine. Ten ounces of it works just fine, and it doesn’t even need to be cut!