Southwest Summer Salad

Here is a spicy, savory meal that makes great use of prime summer produce — corn, tomatoes, lettuce, and avocados — in one delicious salad.  This is a crowd pleasing superstar, as it’s dairy and gluten free, vegan, deliciously nutritious, and easy to do much of the prep in advance.

Southwest Summer Salad

This salad uses one of my prior recipes, Spicy Tofu Crumbles.  If you would prefer, you may substitute grilled chicken breast for the tofu crumbles.  The quick to make dressing can be adjusted for spiciness depending on your preference.  (for Hannah & Caleb) Enjoy!

Southwest Summer Salad
(all quantities are dependent on number of servings needed)

romaine lettuce, washed and cut
tomatoes, rough chop large tomatoes, or halve cherry tomatoes
fresh sweet corn – kernels cut off cobs, sauteed briefly in a little olive oil, then cooled to room temp.
avocado, peeled and diced
bell pepper, chopped
fresh cilantro, chopped
pinto beans, cooked and cooled
toasted pepitas
Spicy Tofu Crumbles
Chipotle Lime Dressing (recipe below)

Assemble all ingredients in a large shallow bowl.  Dress the salad just before serving.  Add tortilla chips for extra crunch.

Chipotle Lime Dressing
3 TB fresh squeezed lime juice
6 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/2 to 1 tsp. chipotle powder (depending on how spicy your like dressing)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed

Smoky Quinoa and Lentils

Earthy red quinoa and french green lentils taste amazing with sweet ripe tomatoes and a smoky lemon dressing.


Smoky Quinoa and Lentils

The magic making these simple foods extra delicious is smoked paprika.  I developed this recipe to inspire a friend looking for good lunch ideas.  This one works nicely — it’s best at room temp, protein packed, super tasty, and portable.  It also is an easy make-ahead dish.

simple lemon dressing featuring smoked paprika

simple lemon dressing featuring smoked paprika

french green lentils, tomatoes, red quinoa, and lemon

french green lentils, tomatoes, red quinoa, and lemon

Add a piece of fruit and lunch is served!  Also fabulous over a bed of greens for a dinner entree.  Enjoy!  (for Barbara)

Smoky Quinoa and Lentils
(makes 4-5 generous servings)

1 cup french green lentils
1 cup red quinoa
3 medium ripe red tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup toasted pepitas

For the Smoky Lemon Dressing:
6 TB extra virgin olive oil
3 TB fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt

Make the smoky lemon dressing by combining the olive oil, lemon juice, smoked paprika, and sea salt.  Set aside.

Cook the green lentils:  rinse the lentils, then place in medium covered sauce pan with 3  cups water.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still firm.  Drain and place in a bowl.

Cook the red quinoa:  First, rinse the quinoa.  It is important to wash off the bitter saponins that are a natural part of the seed coat.  I place the dry quinoa in a bowl, cover with cool water, swish around a couple of times, then drain in to a fine mesh colander.  Place rinsed quinoa into a sauce pan, add 1 1/3 cups fresh water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 8 – 10 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender but still has bite, and the water has been absorbed.

When the cooked lentils and quinoa are cooled to room temp, combine with the tomatoes and smoky lemon dressing.  Just before serving, add the pepitas.


California Poached Eggs

Eggs poached in a flavorful, tomato-based simmer sauce is found in many cuisines around the globe.

Eggs poached with tomatoes and chilis

California Poached Eggs

My recipe has a California flavor — adding fresh cilantro, tangy green chilis, and creamy avocado to keep it west coast.
Suitable for dinner, lunch, or breakfast, this fast tangy/creamy dish wins for taste, nutrition, and frugality.  Make ahead tip: prep the sauce when you have some free time, store in a jar in the fridge, then finish by heating the sauce and poaching the eggs right before serving.  Faster than take out — and way tastier.  Enjoy!

California Poached Eggs
(serves two for dinner)

2 TB olive oil
onion, 1/2 cup small dice
diced tomatoes, 14 oz can
diced green chilis, 4 oz can
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. chipotle powder (add more if you like it spicy)
sea salt
4 eggs (may add up to two more eggs if desired)
cilantro, 1/4 cup chopped
one avocado, diced

Heat wide frying pan over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and onions, and saute for a couple minutes.  Add the tomatoes, chilis, garlic, chipotle powder, and some salt.  Stir and simmer the sauce for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Taste for salt, and adjust if needed.  Gently add each egg to the simmering sauce, being sure to leave space between each egg.

eggs just beginning to simmer in the tomato and chili sauce

eggs just beginning to simmer in the tomato and chili sauce

Cover the pan and simmer on low for about 7 minutes, or until the whites of the eggs have changed from clear to white.  I like the egg yolks to be a little runny, but you may prefer yours on the firm side.  Just simmer for a little longer to desired firmness for the eggs.  Garnish with diced avocado and cilantro.  Serve with toast or warmed corn tortillas.

Sunshine Hash

This delicious entree pairs butternut squash and potatoes with warm spices and fresh orange — for a smile of the sun even if the weather is gloomy outside.

Sunshine Hash

Sunshine Hash

Beautiful oranges are in season right now, and their gentle sweetness combines nicely with the smoked paprika, cinnamon and cumin to coax a smile from most anyone in the kitchen.  This dish easily pairs with either chicken breast or tofu to satisfy all eaters.  Added bonus — fabulous leftovers for a quick, warm lunch.  Enjoy!

Sunshine Hash

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts OR 12 oz extra firm tofu, cut into chunks
6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into chunks
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
one large yellow onion, peeled and diced
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of two oranges
sea salt
1 TB smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. hot red pepper flakes (optional – if you like spice)

If you are using chicken breast in this recipe, start by sautéing the chicken chunks until almost cooked through with a TB of oil in a large covered frying pan.  Remove chicken to a plate, and set aside.

To the pan in which you just cooked the chicken, add 3 TB oil and onions.  Sauté for 3 minutes, then add the potato and squash chunks.  Sauté for a couple minutes then add the orange juice, 1 tsp. sea salt and spices.  Cover and simmer for several minutes.  Stir and check every few minutes, making sure to avoid burning the potatoes and squash.

When the potatoes and squash are almost tender, add the chicken chunks or tofu.   Sauté for several more minutes uncovered, or until all the various pieces of potatoes, squash and chicken/tofu are cooked through and there isn’t too much moisture from the oranges in the pan.  At any time in the cooking you can always add a bit of water if it’s getting too dry and beginning to burn.

When cooked through, adjust seasoning and serve.

Quinoa and Red Chard Saute

Here’s a quick main dish that uses the sweet/savory beautiful beet cousin, Red Chard.

Quinoa and Red Chard saute

Quinoa and Red Chard saute

This sauteing green is a nutrition dynamo and pairs well with nutty quinoa and warm spices.  I added some carrot and sweet potato to add a bit of extra mellow sweetness and body to this filling dish.

Red Chard and diced carrots and sweet potato

Red Chard and diced carrots and sweet potato

This dish comes together quickly – ready for a quick midweek meal with the perfect lunchtime leftovers.

Quinoa and Red Chard Saute

1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 big bunch red chard, rinsed and chopped
4 carrots, rinsed and chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. turmeric
sea salt

In a small covered sauce pan, simmer quinoa and water for 15 minutes, or until water is fully absorbed.

While quinoa is cooking, heat a large saute pan over high heat.  When warm, add olive oil and onion to pan and saute for a few minutes.  To onion mix, add spices and 1 tsp. salt, sauteing to distribute spices.  Add carrot and sweet potato pieces to onion mixture and saute for several minutes.  Add a few tablespoons water and cover to steam for a few minutes.  Add the red chard and saute until all vegetables are tender but still holding their shapes.

Mix cooked quinoa into vegetable mixture.  Taste for salt and other seasoning, adding more cayenne pepper if desired.  A couple squirts of fresh lemon juice can also be a help to balance flavors if needed.

Beef Chili

Rich chilies, tangy tomatoes and savory beef make a bowl of chili a homey, soul satisfying classic.  A friend had a bonanza of grass fed ground beef, and I was the happy recipient of her largesse.  This bowl of chili was the result.

Bowl of Chili

Bowl of Chili

Chili is fast, nourishing, and tasty.  The key?  Good chili powder.  There are many different chili powders from which to choose.  Chili powder is a mix of ground chilies and other spices, while ground chilies is just that — ground, dried chili.

Chili flavor agents: onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin

Chili flavor agents: onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin

I like my Beef Chili spicy, so I use a hot chili powder.  If you like your chili on the mild side, buy a mild chili powder.  Whatever your taste, be sure to use enough chili powder — the key to Beef Chili flavor.  This is fabulous served with hot corn bread.  Enjoy!

Beef Chili

1 LB lean ground beef
one yellow onion, diced
2 TB olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, crushed
2  cans (14 oz each) diced tomatoes, or equivalent amount fresh chopped tomatoes
2  cans (14 oz each) beans, drained, or three cups home cooked beans (kidney beans, pintos, and black beans are all great)
1 1/2 cups water
3 – 4 TB chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 – 3 tsp. salt

In a large covered pot, saute onion in olive oil until turning translucent.  Add the ground beef and garlic.  Fry until beef is getting a bit of brown color.  Add all other ingredients, starting with 2 tsp. salt, especially if you’re using canned beans and tomatoes which usually contain added salt.  Bring to a simmer, and simmer, covered for at least one hour.  Serve piping hot in bowls, with corn bread or tortillas on the side.

Chili is a great dish to make ahead, as it keeps well in the fridge for several days.  You may also freeze chili for later use.

Shrimp & Avocado Caesar Salad

Plump shrimp combine with smooth avocado and a classic caesar dressing for a one dish meal that combines strong nutrition with fabulous flavor.
Shrimp Ceasar SaladThe dressing recipe goes together in a minute, and uses anchovy paste for an umami boost.  One tip for pretty salads is to dress the greens separately from the other ingredients.  Then, just arrange the shrimp and delicate avocado on top of the dressed greens to feel like a kitchen artist.  Click here for a note about shrimp sustainibility.
Shrimp Cesear Salad ingredientsMany caesar salad recipes use croutons and too much dressing.  I prefer mine with the crunch coming from quality greens, and light dressing.  Enjoy with some baguette for a great meal.  I especially like to serve this for dinner when the weather warms up and you can enjoy dining outside.

Shrimp and Avocado Caesar Salad

for the dressing:
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tsp. Diamond Crystal kosher salt (see note below)
1 tsp. anchovy paste
1 1/2 TB fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 TB extra virgin olive oil

In a mortar and pestle grind the garlic clove into a smooth paste with the salt.  Add the anchovy paste and blend.  Add the lemon juice and olive oil and whisk until combined.

For the salad:
(serves two for an entree)
1 head dark green Romaine lettuce, rinsed and dried, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup cooked, cooled, and peeled salad shrimp (100/150 count)
1 avocado, peeled and sliced into wedges
Parmasean cheese, freshly grated
black pepper, freshly ground

Dress the lettuce with about 1/2 the dressing, some parmasean and some pepper.  Arrange on plates, and top with the shrimp and avocado wedges.  Grind a bit more pepper on top and drizzle a little bit more dressing on the shrimp if desired.

note about salt:  Among several other salts, I have Diamond Crystal kosher salt in my pantry.  The reason I am specifying this particular salt in this recipe is that is has a light structure, and works well to crush the garlic into a paste.  Any other salt will work fine, but you will need to reduce to 3/4 tsp. if using Morton’s kosher salt, or 1/2 tsp. for ordinary table salt.