I know, that sounds a little bossy, “eat more salad!” But, I really think you should. Why? Well, because my guess is that you’re not eating as many servings of fruits and vegetables as you should!
Oh, don’t get upset, I’m not mad at you, I’m just trying to bring some awareness to what you’re putting in that body of yours. The statistics back me up when I say that you’re not getting enough – to the tune of that 85% of us aren’t getting our 2 1/2-cup equivalent servings of vegetables each day! Don’t believe me? The newest Dietary Guidelines for Americans discusses our deficit and encourages us to shift to a diet that places more focus consuming vegetables.
Avocados are great and if you know me, you know I live for guacamole. But sometimes, I could be a little more creative when it comes to what I do with them. Feeling inspired by the upcoming grilling season, I stepped out of my guacamole comfort zone and tried the latest avocado trend, grilled avocado.
And let me tell you this, grilled avocado is awesome. Really, believe the hype. I simply adore the slightly smoky flavor of them and they’re delicious so many ways. Besides being tasty, they still supply that same powerful nutritional punch. All of those satisfying healthy fats can help with everything from cardiovascular health to keeping your skin looking radiant. Time to get to the grocery store and fill your cart with avocados.
5 Ways to Enjoy Grilled Avocado:
Plain, straight up and out of the skin!
Chopped up and thrown into salads.
Sliced and served on top of scrambled eggs.
Mashed and turned into guacamole (of course!).
Turned into a salsa and used as a topping for grilled fish or shrimp.
Want more ideas? Of course you do! Check out my Shape.com article on how to make grilled avocado, recipes included!
*Disclaimer – this recipe hasn’t actually won any official awards or titles. And it hasn’t been entered in any recipe contests or been featured on the Food Network. So my guacamole is technically “award-less,” however it’s unofficially a “winner” (hence, Winning Guacamole) in my small circle of nearest and dearest. And I’m about to let you in on my not-so-secret recipe! But first, there are some things you should know.
Guacamole 101: What You Need to Know
Pick the Avocado – This is a big deal, so it’s imperative you get it right. How do you choose the right avocado? Depends on when you want to make your guacamole. If you don’t need it until a couple of days from now, it’s ok to buy the rock-solid avocado because it will continue to ripen. If you want it tonight, buy the one that gives just a little when you apply a light pressure to it. Skip the super soft ones and the ones with dents and dings.
Don’t Skip the Onion – So many people tell me they want to leave out the onion, but I encourage you not to do that. Instead, if onion causes you trouble, consider this little trick – chop it and then add it to a bowl of water. Let it sit there while you’re making the guacamole and then drain it and add it. Soaking the onion will help remove some of the bitter compounds, so you won’t have that pungent onion taste in your mouth.
Add salt – Every time I make this guacamole someone always asks, “why does this taste so good?” It’s not that I am an awesome guacamole maker or that I have a special guacamole secret, it’s just salt. Yes, you heard me, salt. If you don’t add the right amount, it’ll just taste like mashed avocados and onion. Add the salt, and you’ve become a culinary genius! Afraid of salt, it’s ok, I understand, but in this recipe I’m only using 1/4 teaspoon of salt and that equals to about 145 milligrams of sodium per serving. That’s a relatively small amount considering 2300 milligrams per day is your cutoff.
There, now you’re armed and dangerous. Time to get to the store and stock up on avocados so you can make a big batch of my No Fail Winning Guacamole!
And it’s time to switch things up a bit. Yes, romaine is good and so are tomatoes and all of the other “usual” salad suspects, but why not try something new? What would you say to Arugula Salad with Apricots and Champagne Vinaigrette?
“That’s too fancy!” Is that perhaps your answer? I sure hope not because that’s just not true. Yes, it may sound fancy, but the ingredients are simple and the recipe is easy. See, not fancy at all!
My new salad obsession just happens to begin with my favorite green, baby arugula. There’s just something special about that little green leaf. It’s just so….spicy and interesting. And I like my food spicy and interesting! When you pair arugula with dried chopped apricots (for a little sweetness), sliced apples, pistachios, feta cheese and champagne vinaigrette, you’ve got a unique salad that is incredibly interesting (and nutritious).
So bust out that bowl and salad tongs and get mixing!
The Pretty Pictures of My Arugula Salad with Apricots and Champagne Vinaigrette:
Why? Because they are awesome for you nutritionally (high in fiber, plenty of amazing vitamins and minerals, vegetarian protein, etc) and they taste great so many different ways.
Think I’m just pulling a crazy dietitian stunt on you?
No way! I love tasty food just as much, if not more, than you do. I would never recommend a food that I didn’t deem “tasty.” Now way!
But why chickpeas Sara?
Chickpeas are the underdog in the bean world seeming to only really be appreciated for their necessity in making hummus. Boo to that I say! Chickpeas belong front and center and here’s just the dish that does that.
Meet my Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing!
This salad is booming with flavor and it’s not only craveable, it’s addicting. Nothing beats lots of fresh parsley and lemon and when you add in creamy tahini, you’ve got a dressing that really shines.
So here you go my friends, my Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing!
A refreshing, yet hearty salad made with chickpeas, bell peppers, parsley all tossed in a tangy lemon-tahini dressing.
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon water
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 red or orange bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1cup)
1 cup diced red onion
1 cup parsley, chopped
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
In the bottom of a mixing bowl whisk together the garlic, tahini, lemon juice and honey. Add the olive oil and continue whisking until combined, then add the water. Toss in the chickpeas, bell pepper, red onion and parsley and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
You’ll wonder why you’ve never made tomatillo salsa before…
I know, you’re doubting me when I say that, right? Why make it when you can buy a perfectly decent canned version? Hear me out! Besides being fun to play with (I mean, how awesome are those papery skins they come in?), tomatillos are a breeze to work with. And I have to say, fresh tomatillo salsa is darn good! I mean, really good. So good you’ll want to add it to everything you make. From scrambled eggs to chicken salad, it’ll be your new favorite condiment!
Looking to “amp-up” your freezer-meal arsenal? Have no fear, because my Basic Black Beans are here!
Ok, so that was a little hokey, but it’s true! This month’s theme for the Recipe Redux was to share one of our favorite freezer meals. Immediately, I thought of my favorite recipe for basic black beans. How many times have they saved my life? More than I can count, let’s just say that.
What’s so great about these beans? EVERYTHING!
I’m not joking. They are just an all-around hero in my house and let me tell you why. First, they are made from scratch and that makes for some pretty perfect beans. Oh, I hear you mocking me about that, but hear me out. When you cook beans from scratch, you get to flavor them and control their firmness. Have you ever tried to eat a bean from a can, just by itself? It’s not that great, right? Generally flavorless and slightly on the mushy side, right? Well, those beans have their purpose, but not when I just want to sit down and eat a bowl full. Second, these beans are freezer champions. Meaning, you can stick these beauties in the freezer and then break off bits and pieces when you want them. It’s amazing and such a time saver!
Oh, I can almost hear you now…”Sara, this is great, but what the heck am I going to do with all of these beans?”
Don’t freak out! I wouldn’t leave you hanging like that! There’s sooooo much you can do with these. First, you can literally just eat them out of the pot like soup. Top a bowl of black beans with Greek yogurt, a little salsa and cheddar cheese and you’ve got an amazing meal. Or, drain them and add them to tacos or burritos. Still not buying it? Try mashing them up and putting them in a quesadilla or on top of a piece of whole grain toast along with some avocado. Sound good? Whew…now go make them and see for yourself!
With just a little planning, delicious black beans can be yours to be used in any meal. These beans freeze well, so enjoy some now and stick them in the freezer to have later.
1 pound dried black beans, sorted and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
6 cups water
3 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
The night before
Place the rinsed black beans in one or two large, sealable container(s) and pour enough water over them to cover by a few inches (they’ll expand a little, so give them room!)
To cook the beans
Heat the oil in a large pot set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin seeds, stirring and cook an additional 1 minute.
Drain the beans from the soaking liquid (you can toss the soaking liquid) and place in the pot with the onions and cumin. Add the water, garlic and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Stir, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover partially with a lid. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 50 minutes to 1 hour, Add the salt and cook an additional 15-20 minutes or until the beans are tender, but still holding their shape.
Remove beans from the heat and stir in the Mexican oregano.
Serve as is for the perfect side dish or drain and add to tacos or quesadillas. They can also be served as soup and topped with Greek yogurt, chopped tomatoes and fresh cilantro.
Why I made this recipe: Because I need things to be simple sometimes, yet I also want them to taste good and be relatively healthy. I mean, who doesn’t want that? Or, should I say, why wouldn’t we all want that!?
Why I love this recipe: It requires no cooking which means my kitchen (and all of those in it) stay cool. It’s quick and easy to put together, something your kids could definitely help you do. It’s loaded with flavor, especially if you use a delicious hummus that’s loaded with good things like veggies or garlic. I also love it because I utilized a simple restaurant trick of dressing the greens before putting them in this sandwich. Yum, it’s a step you shouldn’t skip!
How this recipe is healthy: It seems I am turning into a bit of a vegetarian these days. Or maybe I am just having a summer love affair with vegetables? I can’t help it, they are so good. So, this recipe is loaded with healthy, nutrient-rich vegetables and accented with a tiny bit of full-flavored feta cheese. The dressing on the greens is made from olive oil (yay to unsaturated fat!) and the hummus is a great spread that adds flavor without adding excessive calories and fat. Pile it all on some seriously delicious, whole-grain bread, and you’ve got yourself a winning dish that would make any dietitian (or mom) proud!
1 cup hummus (plain, roasted red pepper, garlic, whatever!)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup thinly sliced cucumber
1 cup sliced tomato
In the bottom of a mixing bowl, combine the mustard, vinegar and garlic. Whisk in the olive oil and season with black pepper. Add the spinach or arugula and toss to coat.
If desired, lightly toast the bread slices. Lay out the bread slices on a clean surface and spread 1 tablespoon of hummus onto each slice. On half of the slices, add the feta, cucumber, spinach and tomatoes. Top with other bread slice and serve.
Well, it’s officially September and it’s blazing saddles here in Chicago. That means it’s time to be creative in the kitchen. Read, “how can I cook without cooking?” Luckily, Mother Nature is on our side during the warmer months, providing us with a wealth of fresh produce that requires very little preparation. How kind of Her! So, to keep the sweat at bay, I created this hearty bean salad that’s both refreshing and satisfying.
If you’ve got a can opener and a knife, you’re all set for this recipe. Just pop open a couple of cans of beans, then chop up some fresh veggies and you’ve pretty much got this dish made. Lots of beans and veggies means you know it’s good for you, which is just an added bonus, really. Then, to jazz it all up a bit, I’ve created a tangy, yet sweet vinaigrette made from fresh lime juice and zest as well as honey, mustard and olive oil. That’s it! So easy, just like I promised.
Serve up a big bowl of this tonight for dinner and save the rest to munch on during the week. This salad tastes even better after a day or two in the fridge.
P.S. – If you’re not in the mood to cook an ear of fresh corn, you can substitute thawed corn or canned corn. See, so easy!
This delightfully healthy dish comes together fast and it not only looks beautiful, but tastes great too.
For the salad
1 ear of fresh corn, shucked and cleaned (or about 1 cup corn kernels)
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained (or any other bean will work here too)
1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded, stemmed and diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded, stemmed and diced
1/2 medium red onion, peeled and diced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced (optional)
For the dressing
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup olive oil
sea salt, to taste
To prepare the salad
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the corn and return to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, then drain and rinse the corn under cold water to stop the cooking process. Pat dry and when cool enough to touch, cut kernels from the cob and add to a large serving or mixing bowl.
To the same bowl with the corn, add the beans, peppers, onion, cilantro and jalapeño, if you’re using it. Toss to combine.
For the dressing
In a small mixing bowl, combine the mustard, lime zest, lime juice and honey. Whisk in the olive oil.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to evenly coat the beans and vegetables. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Toss again before serving.
This recipe makes between 7 1/2 and 8 cups salad.
You don’t have to let this salad sit in the fridge before digging in, but it does taste so much better when you do!