Posts tagged salad

El Azteco’s Topopo Salad Recipe

Thanks to Jessie Voigts, the guru behind WanderingEducators, for sharing this easy, inventive Mexican-inspired salad recipe.

Topopo salad

When I was in college at Michigan State University, we used to go to El Azteco Restaurant for our Sunday dinners, when the cafe was closed. El Az offered bean and cheese burritos at a fair price for a college student in the late 1980s: $1.50 each. Since I graduated many moons ago, they’ve moved to a better location – and I’m able to afford more than a bean and cheese burrito.

One of my favorite dishes at El Az is the Topopo Salad. Piled high on a plate, it’s a crunchy green salad with chicken and peas, limey dressing, refried beans, and cheesy chips. It’s very easy to make (and adapt) at home. Use what you have – tonight, I was out of cilantro (what?!), but did have some lovely colored sweet peppers to throw in.

The recipe is flexible in terms of ingredients and quantity. It is not good left over, so if you think you chopped too much, only put the dressing on what you’ll eat tonight.

 

Recipe
Dressing:
Equal parts olive oil, lime juice, and white wine vinegar (rice vinegar works well, too)
Minced garlic, to taste
Salt, to taste

Mix this all up in a mini food processor or jar. Now, I like my salad lightly dressed, while our daughter likes more dressing on hers. Keep the jar handy for those that like more.

Salad:
Iceberg lettuce (I know, this is the only time I buy this lettuce. Trust me – you need crunchy lettuce)
Cooked chicken, chopped
Cilantro, chopped
Tomatoes, chopped
Avocado, chopped (or guacamole, if you feel like making it)
Green onions, chopped
Frozen peas, thawed and crisp (or edamame, if you have them and would like extra protein)
Colored peppers, chopped
Salad
Beans
You can use a can of refried beans, or, you can fall in love with Orangette’s creamy black beans and use those instead, like I do (if you make one can, instead of four at a time for her larger recipe, you can finish the beans in the time it takes to chop everything).

Chips with beans

Tortilla Chips
Grated Cheese (we love the Tillamook extra sharp. Quality is important here)
Chips with cheese

Directions:

  1. Get your beans ready, either by cooking the black beans or heating up the refried beans.
  2. Chop everything for your salad. Combine in a large bowl with the dressing, quantity to taste.
  3. Spread enough tortilla chips on a pan for whoever is joining you for dinner. Top with plenty of shredded cheese, and slide into a 350 oven for 5-8 minutes. You want the cheese gooey, not crispy.
  4. Divide the chips up onto the plates. Top with beans (spread them around a bit) and then you can go one of two ways, depending on how you like it:
  5. Pile the salad on top of the chips and beans (photogenic, Instagram-ready)
  6. Put the salad next to the chips and beans (no wet chips, more scooping of prized ingredients)
  7. Now is the time to have people add things they love but others don’t – avocado, banana or jalapeno peppers, olives, chopped onion, etc.
  8. Serve and enjoy. This salad is the best thing you can have in the winter. Or summer. Or spring or fall. It’s perfect for a crowd, and I always try to keep the ingredients on hand for when our teen has friends drop by and they are hungry enough to devour everything in my kitchen. El Azteco knew what they were doing…

 

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Simple Blackberry Vinaigrette

Blackberry vinaigretteFor dinner, we’ll often do a big salad–especially now that spring is finally here.

 

But salads can be boring. And kids know it.

 

So I like to play with the lettuce, toppings, and dressing to keep my kids asking, Can we have salad for dinner?

 

Berries–dried or fresh–are a great way to enliven a salad and add a burst of sweetness. I also like to add them into the dressing.

 

You can make your own vinaigrette from scratch by using equal parts vinegar (or fresh lemon juice) and olive oil along with seasonings such as dried herbs but I usually don’t have time on a weeknight meal to do all that. Instead, I start with a good quality store-bought vinaigrette as a base and then pump up the flavor.

 

Here’s how to make your own blackberry vinaigrette–this is the perfect starter salad dressing recipe for kids who like to help in the kitchen and are old enough to be trusted with the blender.

 

Recipe

Yield: About 1 1/3 cups dressing

 

Ingredients

1 cup oil-based salad dressing (I like Matsos Greek Dressing or Ken’s Lite Northern Italian Dressing)

1/3 cup blackberries (or any other kind of berry, fresh or frozen)

2 tsp. fresh lemon juice (opt.)

1/2 tbsp. fresh parsley or other fresh herb you have on hand–basil would be fabulous (opt.)

1/4 tsp. ground cayenne

 

Directions

  1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  2. Drizzle on your salad.

 

Salad Suggestions

Romaine lettuce or green leaf, topped with grated carrots, pumpkin seeds, cubed cheese like Gouda, thin sliced onion, rotisserie or grilled chicken

 

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Energy Salad

Last week I bought what was deemed an energy salad from Trader Joe’s — I needed it. I had about 10 minutes to eat something that had to fit as both lunch and dinner during a crazy day. The salad was so good I’ve been making it all week for lunch. Aptly named. The mix of spinach with crunchies like beans, dried fruit, and seeds fill you up and taste so good.

Energy Salad pic

 

Recipe

Serving: One, big, yummy salad

 

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups baby spinach

1/8 cup pumpkin seeds

1/8 cup chickpeas (canned, drained)

1/8 cup edamame

1/8 cup dried cranberries

1/8 cup shredded carrots

1 1/2 tablespoons ginger miso dressing

Energy Salad Ingredients

Directions

  1. Place baby spinach in the bottom of your salad bowl.
  2. Add remaining ingredients.
  3. Enjoy!

A few notes:

  • I used shelled edamame seeds that came in a microwave steam bag.
  • I bought miso ginger dressing, but you can make your own simple dressing by mixing equal parts olive oil and vinegar and add a little fresh lemon juice, then dried or fresh herbs.
  • The leftover ingredients I stashed in the fridge and then added them to other meals for my kiddos – so far the edamame has been a hit.
You can make salads ahead of time and put them in dishes for quick lunches all week long.

You can make salads ahead of time and put them in dishes for quick lunches all week.

 

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Hawaiian salad with avocado pineapple salsa

Hawaii saladI’ve never been to Hawaii, but after trying this new barbecue sauce, I want to go! Whenever I’m starved for dinner ideas (forgive the pun) World Market is one of my go-to places for inspiration. Enter Da Kine Hawaiian BBQ Sauce. I was debating between a couple of bbq sauces and I asked one of the staffers  which one was better. She mentioned she got regular calls requesting Da Kine. After trying it out, I understand why. You don’t have to have Da Kine to make this salad, but it is worth hunting down.

 

Recipe

Servings: 5

Prep time: 30 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 Head Romaine lettuce

2 chicken breasts

Almond slivers

Da Kine Hawaiian BBQ Sauce (or regular BBQ sauce with a few tweaks–see below*)

Ranch dressing (or plain Greek yogurt, sour cream)

Garlic powder, onion powder

Olive oil

 

Salsa

AvocadoDa Kine BBQ Sauce

Green bell pepper

1/2 red onion

1/4 cup cilantro

1 lime, divided

1/8 cup pineapple (tidbits from a can work well)

Cayenne pepper (opt.)

 

Directions:

  1. Cut the chicken into thin pieces. Bring 1 tablespoon olive oil to medium-high heat in a saute pan; add the chicken.
  2. As the chicken cooks, sprinkle it with onion and garlic powders along with salt and pepper to taste. Once the chicken is almost cooked through–about 5 minutes–drizzle with 1 tablespoon bbq sauce and squeeze with a little fresh lime juice. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl mix up diced avocado, green pepper, red onion, and cilantro. Squeeze half a lime over the salsa and season with salt and pepper and cayenne (if using).
  4. In a small bowl mix equal parts bbq sauce and either ranch dressing, sour cream, or Greek yogurt. *Now if you don’t have Hawaiian bbq sauce, I understand. Try doctoring regular bbq sauce with a little bit of pineapple juice. I don’t like to drench my salad so it’s your choice how much you want to make.
  5. Assembly time! Place a handful of chopped romaine lettuce in each serving bowl. Top with chicken, sprinkle with almond slivers and then drizzle with bbq-ranch dressing. Finish off the salad by adding a heaping scoop of salsa to each dish.

 

Kids’ reaction: My youngest finds an excuse to put the Hawaiian bbq sauce on her wraps, salads, as a veggie dip… All around, we plan on having this salad a lot this summer.

 

 

 

 

 

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Spinach apple salad with honey dressing

It’s been a mild winter here in Ohio, but I’m still finding myself a little stir-crazy for Springtime. This salad gives me a bit of a taste of spring–with both kicks of fruit (both fresh and dried) along with a light vinaigrette.

Kid reaction: My teen liked the fruit/spinach combo but asked for it sans onions next time. The two youngest still aren’t convinced about vinaigrettes–to them salad dressing equals something creamy. I’m working on that.

Recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients

12-ounce bag baby spinach (romaine works well too)

1 apple (Gala, Empire, Pink Lady), cut into thin slices

4 thin slices of red onion

½ cup roasted sunflower seeds

¼ cup dried cranberries

Vinaigrette

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup water

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons honey

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Whisk together all of the vinaigrette ingredients.
  2. Pour the vinaigrette over the spinach and toss along with the apples, red onion, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries.
  3. Serve right away.
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Tostadas for dinner

Do you see the little Halloween ghost, cat and bat I used on top?

This Friday is Mexican Independence Day. Don’t confuse Independence Day with Cinco de Mayo (literally the 5th of May, which is more of an American holiday). To celebrate, I wanted to pass along some of my favorite Mexican dishes this week. That brings me to tostadas. It seems like tostadas are often thought of as an appetizer. But trust me, it doesn’t take much to turn ‘em into a meal.

First things first. There’s going to be some frying involved. Please don’t buy those stacks of pre-made tostadas you sometimes see at the store. They’re tasteless. Instead, use corn tortillas you may already have at home or buy a pack at the store. This is one of the times that fresh tortillas are actually harder to use (more moisture means splattering when you fry). I fry the tortillas in a wok that has about 1 1/2 to 2 inches of canola oil in the bottom. Bring it to a medium-high heat, checking the temp by dropping a sprinkle of flour into the oil–if the flour immediately begins to sizzle, you’re ready to go. Fry ‘em in batches of two or three about 2 minutes on each side. Remove them when they just begin to have golden spots (you don’t want them too crisp). Keep in mind the tortillas may form an air bubble as they fry, just push ‘em down gently into the oil and the bubble should go away. Drain the tortillas on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. As far as servings go, I make two tostadas for kids, three for adults. And one last note, these are meant to be eaten with your hands, trying to cut these with a fork and knife…well…I wouldn’t recommend it.

Now for the fixins’. I raid the fridge. Granted, I usually have quite a bit of Mexican ingredients on hand. But here’s the idea–it’s like

Someone is ready to eat!

building a taco salad using the fried corn tortilla as the base. You can use store-bought rotisserie chicken to keep it easy, or I usually have some kind of meat leftover that I toss in a pan that’s been heated to medium-high with a little bit of oil and then I crisp the meat and add ground cumin, garlic powder and chili powder or cayenne for a bit of a kick. (We also make these meatless and use sauteed zucchini instead of pork or chicken). Then I make sure I have refried beans, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, shredded sharp cheddar cheese (authentic tostadas would usually have a fresh white cheese like queso fresco on them) and a dollop of sour cream. I also had some leftover diced green chiles and corn so I put those on too.

Now as long as I had the oil out and heated, I had to add some fun to my tostadas. I recently bought a Halloween linzer cookie cutter (hey, I had a 40% coupon at Jo-Ann Fabrics, which surprisingly has cooking stuff too). I used the small cutters to make shapes in the corn tortillas and then I fried those. Caution: they fry fast. I had at least one burnt bat.

For and easy to scan recipe, here you go–

Dinnertime tostadas

Ghostly tostadas

Prep time: 45 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients

8-12 corn tortillas

2 cups chopped, heated chicken, pork, beef or zucchini

1 can refried beans, heated

3 cups shredded lettuce

1 cup chopped tomato

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup corn (optional)

1/2 cup green chiles (optional)

1 lime (optional)

Sour cream

Canola oil

Salsa

Directions

  1. Bring 1 1/2 to 2 inches of oil to medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pan or a wok.
  2. Fry the corn tortillas 2-3 at a time until just crisped, drain excess oil on a paper towel.
  3. For each fried corn tortilla, slather refried beans on the top (this is important because the beans act as the glue between the corn tortilla and the rest of your ingredients).
  4. After the beans, layer the rest of the ingredients on top in this order–meat, lettuce, tomatoes, corn, green chiles, whole beans, squeeze a little lime on top, then add the cheese and sour cream. (If you fried up some ghosts, you can use those too. Any small cookie cutter will do for cool shapes)
  5. Serve warm with salsa.
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Flank steak spinach salad

Lean, flat flank steak is a quick-cooking meat that’s perfect for weekday dinners or jazzed up with fixins’ for weekend meals.

This recipe takes a little planning ahead: you rub a flavorful paste into the meat the night before you plan on grilling. (I usually make two at the same time—one for dinner that night, one for leftovers for a meal the next). Don’t be put off by the rub’s main ingredient. The mustard base (note: DIJON, regular mustard won’t work) brings together several marinade musts, including vinegar and other acidic ingredients so you don’t have to hunt down each one. They’re in there. I add in a few of my favorite seasonings like garlic and paprika, but if you have a good smoky seasoning mix you like, toss some of that in too.

You’ll notice I upped the pepper in here. Most of the pepper’s spicy edge is burnt off during grilling, it’s the tanginess that’s left over. But, you’ll need to use freshly ground pepper versus the finely ground variety you’ll find in most shakers. Don’t have a pepper shaker? They aren’t much more expensive than the regular variety and it really does make a difference. Plus, unlike some spices, you’ll use pepper all the time.

As with most meats hot off the grill, this one is better if you wait about 5 minutes before cutting. A little patience gives the meat time to soak up all those marinade ingredients you worked to rub in. Flank steak works well with many meals, fajitas come to mind, but I like serving it with a simple spinach salad.

Recipe

Mmmmm...flank steak

Prep time: 15 minutes + marinating + grilling

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients

1 pound flank steak

Wet rub

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½-1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne powder

Soy sauce

Agave syrup or honey

Salad

1 bag baby spinach

1 tomato, sliced

Parmesan cheese

green onions

Balsamic vinegar

fresh basil (optional)

Directions

  1. Stir wet rub ingredients together to form a paste.
  2. Rub the paste into the flank steak using your fingers.
  3. Place in a large plastic bag overnight.
  4. Remove flank steak from the bag about 30 minutes to an hour before grilling.
  5. Bring grill to high heat and place the meat on the rack.
  6. Grill for 5-7 minutes on each side.
  7. Optional, but REALLY good—in the final 1-2 minutes cooking on each side brush generously with a combo of equal parts soy sauce and agave or honey (called a finishing sauce). If you don’t use the finishing sauce, make sure to sprinkle with salt at the end of cooking.
  8. Allow meat to cool for 5 minutes before cutting to retain juices.
  9. On each plate place a generous serving of spinach, followed by tomato slices. Place several pieces of steak on top followed by a drizzling of Balsamic vinegar then green onions, Parmesan cheese and bits of fresh basil.
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Watermelon arugula feta salad

I have a weakness for a good salad. My favorites have strong flavors that play off each other with hints of sweetness, sourness (without being bitter) and crunch. This salad has it all–plus it’s easy to put together.

Sure, I’d love to take credit for coming up with the combo, but that goes to a restaurant I went to with friends–Moxie’s. I wanted to share one of the dishes with my kids (I’ll save figuring out the shrimp and zucchini fritters for later). This simple salad came to mind when I found watermelon on sale. I made several tweaks from the restaurant, including not making a vinaigrette. Lately, I’ve been just drizzling the vinegar on the bottom of the salad plate, stacking on the mixins’, then drizzling a sweetener, or flavored oil, on top. Saves time and it lets the flavors stand apart instead of being mixed from the start.

Here’s how to put it together:

  1. Cut up watermelon into bite-sized chunks. Sprinkle with a little salt to bring out the flavor and set aside.
  2. On each plate, drizzle your favorite vinegar. I use orange vinegar (thanks Trader Joe’s!), but other good choices would be something on the lighter side, like white balsamic.
  3. Place a handful of arugula, followed by feta cheese (Moxie’s used goat cheese), candied walnuts (this is my idea instead of rye croutons), then the watermelon pieces and finally a drizzle of agave.
  4. That’s it! Serve immediately.

Kid version of the salad

Now my oldest is to the point where she eats just about anything, but I knew my two younger kids wouldn’t go for it, so I separated out each ingredient so they could mix it on their own. You can see it pictured. They weren’t too fond of the kick of arugula at first, but when I coaxed them to try it with watermelon, then dip it in agave, they seemed to like it. Now, I won’t say they’re requesting this salad everyday (even though I’d love to have it often), but they were willing to give it a try and finish it. I call that a success. Now to figure out those fritters…

And we have winners in the eco-products giveaway. It was easy to pick ‘em out since the comments were sparse. So congrats to Jennifer, Betsy & Kerry. I’ll be sending your lunch bags soon!

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