It’s July. It’s hot. It’s humid. Looking for a refreshing entree salad that is light, healthy and cools you down from the inside out? This is it. Fresh blueberries and oranges’ sweet flavors contrast tangy goat cheese, salty bacon and hearty walnuts.
And the dressing? Mmmm… fresh orange juice (not store-bought) blended with herbs and garlic, go with me here, adds the perfect amount of zesty, juicy, savory goodness drizzled over this beautiful meal rich in colors, tastes and textures.
I’m super excited about this salad and hope you enjoy it as much as we do! Stay cool out there!
Summer Citrus Salad
5oz Baby kale mix
1 bunch Green onions (a.k.a. scallions); chopped
4oz Fresh mushrooms; quartered
4oz Walnuts; chopped or halved
2 Avocados; diced
1c Bacon; cooked & crumbled
2 Fresh oranges; peeled & sliced or quartered
4oz Crumbled goat cheese
1c Fresh blueberries
Fresh Citrus Dressing
Fresh Citrus Dressing
1/3c Plain rice vinegar
1/3c Canola or vegetable oil
1/4c Granular sugar
1/2c Fresh-squeezed orange juice
2 cloves Garlic; minced
1t Herbs de Provence
Dressing – Add all dressing ingredients into a bottle or bowl with tight-fitting lid. Shake well to blend. Or, add ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend until thoroughly combined.
Salad – Layer salad in order of ingredient list beginning with kale and ending with blueberries on top. Drizzle dressing over salad upon serving.
Growing up in Florida, I’ve savored Cuban sandwiches ever since I can remember. Cubans can be enjoyed hot or cold, and whether served in school cafeterias, packed for lunches on the beach, or grab & go from the deli, Cubans have been a part of every season of my life. Mmmm….
So I thought I’d try my hand at transforming this delicious sandwich into a decadent salad!
Keeping this salad true to the original Cuban sandwich, the ingredients are especially important. A “real” Cuban does not have mayo, fancy mustards, tomatoes, or any type of cheese other than Swiss; nor is it served on a hoagie. If a Cuban sandwich comes your way with any of these, it’s a fraud. 😉
An authentic Cuban simply has butter, yellow mustard, roasted or barbequed pork, ham, Italian salami, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and Cuban bread. That’s it!
I used these ingredients (and their proportions to the sandwich) to keep this salad true to form. The dressing has real butter and yellow mustard. Italian seasoning compliments the salami’s spices. Rice vinegar and shallots are the mildest flavors of vinegars and onions so as to give this dressing personality but not dominate the salad or change the Cuban’s original flavor. And the vinegar also compliments the vinegar-soaked pickles; an awesome combination.
The point of the dressing is to get mustard and butter into this dish (like on the sandwich) and lightly coat the lettuce so it is still a proper salad yet with all of the authentic flavors of a Cuban sandwich.
Don’t skimp on the pickles! A true Cuban has bity dill pickles that deliver a crunch. Please skip the shelved, limp pickles and get the fresh, refrigerated pickles. Their crisp crunch and fresh taste is light years beyond any non-refrigerated pickle. Trust me on this! Good pickles are the ingredient that pulls this entire dish together. They are the crowning jewel of this salad; use at least 2 cups but add more if you’d like.
The mixed soft greens of spring, kale and watercress are given texture with crunchy cabbage and Brussel sprouts which do not add flavor, but do add texture and nutrition with the Brussels.
We prefer hard salami to Genoa, but either works. The roast pork is a cheat that I buy precooked from the deli. It’s definitely a time-saver, and since it’s part of the entree and not the main course I’m totally fine buying a pre-cooked portion of pork versus roasting an entire tenderloin – though leftovers are never a bad thing.
Lastly, serve with Cuban bread on the side or skip it for a gluten-free option.
My family kept saying that they couldn’t believe how much this salad tasted like a Cuban sandwich, woohoo!!
Enjoy Cuban sandwich flavors on top of a zesty, high-protein salad that, when paired together, you have a new, uncompromised version of the Cuban we all know and love.
Make the dressing by melting butter in the microwave or on the stovetop, then blend all dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor.
If saving for later, pour dressing into a bottle, bowl or measuring cup that can be microwaved to keep butter melted if it cools and thickens. Otherwise simply set it aside. Dressing should be room temperature when served.
In a large bowl, toss spring lettuce, baby kale, watercress, cabbage and Brussels with the dressing until evenly coated. Divide evenly among 4-6 serving plates.
Plate salads by dividing remaining ingredients evenly and layering them on top of the dressed greens in the order listed above beginning with ham and ending with pickles.
5. Garnish with Cuban bread, optional. Serve immediately.
This salad!!! Oh my! New family favorite. I love to cook using ingredients in their peak season and right now peaches are perfection. Mmmm! This salad is our only meal of the day…it’s that hearty and satisfying!
The base flavors of this salad are peaches, goat cheese, blueberries and basil. These flavors compliment each other with sweet, savory and tangy tastes.
Salad notes – I always try to add a hidden vegetable to bump the nutritional value and the hidden jem here are green beans. They don’t change the taste but add nutrition and pack a crunch.
Bacon and peaches play off of each other with salty & sweet flavors and give this extra layers of YUM!
Compote note – Leeks add a savory tang to the sweet peaches and sugar in the compote. Balance is key to a yummy dish.
Marinade note – I always use grapeseed oil when I can. It’s better for our hearts than other oils and can handle heat up to 500 degrees which makes it perfect for the grill to help keep proteins from sticking when flipping.
6 fresh peaches; peeled and sliced
1 leek; white part only finely sliced
4 -6 chicken breasts (# of pieces depends on # of servings)
4T balsamic vinegar
3T garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1T Herbs de Provence
4T grapeseed oil
Salt & pepper to taste (be a little generous with the salt)
1/2c balsamic vinegar
1/2c extra virgin olive oil
2 fresh peaches; peeled and Sliced
2T good white wine (preferably not “cooking wine”)
1T Herbs de Provence
10oz spring lettuce
5oz baby kale
1/2c fresh basil; finely chopped
2c fresh green beans; ends cut off and beans cut in thirds
1. Begin the peach compote. Place 6 sliced peaches and sugar in small saucepot and cooking on medium heat, stirring often so it doesn’t burn.
2. Once bubbling, turn down the heat to low and add sliced leeks. Simmer on low until sauce becomes translucent and compote is loose-jam consistency. It will take a good 20 minutes so start this step first.
3. While compote is reducing, prep chicken by rinsing the chicken then the trimming fat and cutting breasts in half lengthwise.
4. Add chicken halves to a gallon plastic bag and then add the marinade ingredients.
5. Massage the bag gently and thoroughly to coat the chicken pieces evenly. Set aside.
6. Now make the dressing by blending all dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pour into a serving bottle and chill until ready to use.
7. Place cut green beans in a small pot with enough water to cover and boil for 5 minutes (set a timer!).
8. Immediately remove beans from heat and dunk them in an ice bath (a bowl with enough ice and cold water to cover the beans). This is called blanching. Boiling will slightly cook the beans, and the ice water bath shocks them so they stop cooking and keep their crunch and color. Keep them in the ice bath until ready to use.
9. Heat grill and place chicken halves on the grill. Cook thoroughly. (You can also bake the chicken in the oven or air bake for approx. 20 minutes @ 350 turning halfway through- in lieu of grilling.)
Time to assemble the salad…
10. Compote should be finished. Once it is thick, pour into a bowl and let cool on the counter while making the salad.
11. Keep checking on and turning the chicken, then remove from heat.
12. Assembling the salad – plate the ingredients per their list order beginning with lettuce and ending with avocado. (I always put the green items on the bottom so the colorful items pop on top.)
13. Drizzle dressing over top. (Leftover dressing makes a great marinade for chicken or pork – or more salads!)
14. Place two grilled chicken halves on top of each salad. Evenly spoon compote over all chicken pieces. Serve immediately.
I’m a firm believer in working smart, not harder, in the kitchen. This salad requires minimum prep and I buy our favorite crab cakes from the market. We prefer Charleston-style crab cakes versus Maryland crab cakes, but both work with this entree salad. If you’re feeling it, make your own crab cakes. More power to ya! Bought or made, they are a perfect compliment to this dish.
There are several different tastes and textures layered in this meal. Sweet, savory and salty work cohesively to give this salad a big, flavorful personality. There is also plenty of crunch in the carrots, Brussels, pepper, sugar snap peas, walnuts and pepitas which contrast this salad’s softer side of tomatoes, pickled onion, cucumbers and blue cheese.
Added proteins of nuts, pepitas and blue cheese elevate this meal from filling to downright hearty.
The dressing is my bruschetta dressing. Super light and summery but full of flavor. Works great as a dip for veggies, or don’t blend it and voila! You have bruschetta ready for a sliced baguette.
Enjoy the fresh flavors of the season with this summer dish!
1. Prepare dressing by adding all dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until thoroughly combined. Chill until ready to use.
2. In a skillet on medium heat, heat grapeseed oil. Add crab cakes and pour lemon juice on top. Flip halfway through cooking (according to package directions or recipe). Or air fry at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through.
3. While the crab cakes are cooking, plate salads by dividing prepped ingredients into fourths and layering them in order listed above.
4. Drizzle dressing over salad. Top with crab cakes. Serve immediately.
*Note – use a female pepper because they are sweeter and better for eating raw. Male peppers are better for cooking. Female peppers have 4 bumps on the bottom. Male peppers have 3 bumps. You can taste the difference! 😊
1. Trim chicken and place halves in a gallon Ziploc bag with all chicken ingredients. Massage until well coated. Place on greased cooking tray and spray pump oil top to top help crisp the breadcrumbs.
2. Bake at 350 for 20 min or until cooked through. Or air fry at 400 for 20min (flipping halfway through). Or pan fry in extra oil on medium heat until cooked through.
3. Prepare dressing – combine all ingredients in a bottle/bowl with lid & shake well until sugar dissolves or blend in food processor/blender.
4. Divide salad ingredients in fourths. Plate the salad in order from bottom up: lettuce, basil, Brussels, onion, pepper, tomatoes, carrots, pepitas. Drizzle dressing over salad. Place chicken on top and drizzle dressing over chicken. Serve immediately.
Cooking note – use a female pepper because they are sweeter and better for eating raw. Male peppers are better for cooking. Female peppers have 4 bumps on the bottom. Male peppers have 3 bumps. You can taste the difference! 😊
I love the look of the classic wedge salad with tomatoes, bacon and blue cheese. Very swanky. Unfortunately, iceberg lettuce has practically zero nutrition. So I remade this salad into a much hearty, healthier version…and it’s addictive!
INGREDIENTS: Makes 6 entree-sized salads
1 pkg Center-cut bacon; cooked
1 Orange pepper; fresh (not frozen), sliced with seeds removed
1 Yellow pepper; fresh (not frozen), sliced with seeds removed
1/2 Red onion; peeled & sliced
4T Grapeseed (preferred), vegetable or Canola oil
1 + 1/2, 10oz boxes 50/50 lettuce & spinach
2 Crowns of fresh broccoli (crown = without the stalk, if there is stalk just cut it off); chopped
Cook bacon @ 325 degrees for about a half hour (flip bacon halfway through). Place cooked bacon on plate with paper towel so as to absorb extra grease. Set aside.
While bacon is cooking, saute orange & yellow peppers and red onion in 2T oil on med-high heat on stove until they just start to blacken. Set aside.
While bacon is still cooking, make the dressing – Combine dressing ingredients (except blue cheese) in a food processor or blender and blend thoroughly. Add blue cheese and mash together until well blended. Cover and refrigerate.
Prepare remaining vegetables according to their descriptions above (chop, slice, etc).
Using 6 large bowls, divide the lettuce into the bowls.
Divide the remaining vegetables equally and layer on the lettuce beds.
On med-high heat, cook the beef (salt and peppered) and 2T oil on stove until no longer raw or as you wish (it’s safest to cook meat completely through). It only takes a few minutes; do not overcook or the meat will be tough.
Optional – add a few splashes of red wine to the beef and cook for another minute or two.
Do you like BBQ dinners but not the heavy feeling after eating them? This BBQ plate fills you up without needing a nap afterwards.
This dish looks as yummy as it tastes, with several flavors going on here.
Red wine vinegar offers a cohesive flavor between the onions, BBQ sauce and the slaw dressing amid the different textures and tastes of this recipe. The crunch of the slaw, pickled onions & pumpkin seeds pairs well with the soft pork. The mixed greens catch the extra BBQ juices and slaw dressing, making it a bonus salad unto itself. The cornbread replaces a traditional bun and has much more flavor (and doesn’t get soggy like a bun). I like to mix everything together (sans the cornbread) so as to get even flavors of everything in each bite. Enjoy a lighter, yet filling, take on this Southern dish!
INGREDIENTS: Serves 4
1# Pulled pork BBQ
2 bags Broccoli slaw (or cabbage slaw)
1, 5oz bag Mixed greens
1c Pickled red onions
1 box Cornbread
3T Red wine vinegar
4T Agave syrup
3T BBQ sauce
1/2t Celery salt
Whisk together all of the slaw dressing ingredients together and then blend in the bag of broccoli slaw, tossing well to coat. Refrigerate until ready to serve. *OR* Buy slaw dressing in the refrigerated section of salad dressings in the grocery store and add 6T per total jar (adjust amounts depending on your servings size). Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Use store-bought cornbread or make with either a BOX MIX or THIS RECIPE (I half the sugar and butter in this recipe).
Use store-bought pork BBQ or make it fresh with THIS RECIPE.
Use THIS RECIPE for the pickled red onions. It’s really easy and one batch lasts for an entire month.
When ready to serve, assemble the salad: greens on the bottom, then slaw, then BBQ, and top with pickled onions. Add cornbread and your all set. Enjoy!
If you love BBQ and go to a restaurant to get it, you probably don’t put just one kind of sauce on your beef or pork. You put at least two, maybe three! That’s one reason why BBQ at home never tastes the same…because we’re dumping one kind of sauce on the meat.
My BBQ is the secret sauce of mixing different flavored sauces together and adding one special ingredient. This recipe is crazy easy and freezes great!
Now you can enjoy restaurant-style BBQ at home any time you want, and any time is a delicious time for BBQ!
1 pack Pork shoulder (a.k.a. pork butt, however the cut is actually the shoulder) or Beef chuck roast, whichever you prefer
1-2 bottles Red, sweet BBQ sauce (Our very favorite is Old Mule Original, but if you can’t find it, Sweet Baby Ray’s Original or Stubb’s Original bbq sauce works)
1-2 bottles Tangy, Memphis-style BBQ sauce (I use our local grocery store’s brand, but any Memphis-style sauce will work)
1/2-3/4c Red wine vinegar (secret ingredient!!)
Place meat in a crock pot. Add 1c of water. Place lid on top and turn crock pot on high for several hours depending on the number of pounds of meat. Check it every couple of hours.
When the meat is done, turn off the crock pot. You will know it’s done when it looks visibly cooked through (pork should not look raw/pink) and easily falls apart when you try to lift it with tongs.
Using tongs, lift out a chunk of meat at a time and place it on a cutting board.
Using two forks, separate the meat from everything else (fat, tendons, gristle, etc.). This is not hard to do, but does take some time.
Then shred the meat with the two forks by pulling it apart.
Put the shredded meat into a saucepot. Pour both sauces and red wine vinegar onto the meat and stir until blended.
Keep the sauce pot on low heat until the sauce has thickened and BBQ is heated through.
If freezing, let the BBQ cool to room temperature first. Never freeze meat hot. This recipe will typically yield several pounds of BBQ because of how the meat is packaged and sold, so call some friends to come over or pack up what you don’t need immediately and freeze it for later. Think sliders, sandwiches and my BBQ Slaw Salad recipe!
Some meals satisfy our appetites. Others fill our souls. This is one of those soul-filling meals for me because of the backstory.
Growing up, eating out was a rarity. These days restaurants – fast food, sit downs, food trucks, etc – are a way of life; a food group of its own, if you will. But not so 20 and 30 years ago.
So on the very rare day my mom said, “Let’s go out!” I was so excited. One restaurant was very special to me because it was special to my mom.
Enter Cafe Pepe’s in Tampa, Florida.
I was fortunate to grow up in a melting pot city with so many diverse flavors – Southern, Coastal, Latino, Asian, and Soul food to name a few. An authentic Cuban sandwich is still my favorite sandwich in the entire world (no mayo or hoagie rolls allowed!).
Cafe Pepe’s is where my mom went when she needed a pick-me-up. She hardly ever did anything for herself, so if we were going there then it was because it met not just a physical need for food, but an emotional need for comfort. Watching her do this for her selfless self meant the world to me and I wasn’t going to miss it!
Funny thing about this restaurant…I never knew they had menus. Seriously! When we went, we got the same thing every single time. Complimentary dark bread (like a pumpernickel), garbanzo bean soup, and flan (her favorite dessert, and even that was a splurge).
It wasn’t until I was dating my then husband and offered up Cafe Pepe’s for a walk down memory lane, and on a dinner date did I see my first menu with paella and all kinds of yummy dishes.
Visiting Tampa years later, I was so excited to take my kids to this favorite spot, only to find it gone. No! Right then, I promised myself I would recreate their garbanzo bean soup so even though the restaurant may not be there, I can enjoy this comfort food anytime, as well as keep its legacy alive for my mom’s legacy, the grandchildren she sadly never got to meet.
Cafe Pepe’s may be gone, but its memory lives on. I’m not sure what I miss most about this magical restaurant; the incredible food, the dimly lit atmosphere illuminated only by glowing candles, or that this place will always remind me to take time for a little self-care that my mom modeled for us.
After much tweaking, this recipe replicates the taste exactly how I remember it. I tell my kids, “If you want a taste of my childhood, this soup is on point.”
I hope this soup warms your heart and stomachs as much as it does ours.
6 cans Unsalted chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1 ½ large White or sweet onion; diced, I used frozen
4 Mixed fresh peppers (red, orange, green & yellow); diced
2 pkgs Polish Kielbasa or smoked sausage links, fully cooked; sliced into bite-sized pieces (I use skinless, no MSG) * Turkey sausage does not work well in this recipe. Use beef, pork or a combination of both.
2, 32oz boxes Reduced sodium chicken broth
1, 32oz box Reduced sodium beef broth
4 cloves Garlic; minced
1t Salt, to taste
1/4t Cayenne pepper (a.k.a. crushed red pepper)
1t Herbs de Provence
Drain & rinse beans.
Add everything to crock pot and cook for 5 hours on low then 2 hours on high or until peppers are soft.
Add everything to large stock pot on stove and heat until boiling and peppers are soft. Simmer until ready to serve..
I typically post recipes on Saturday’s, but there’s not much typical about life right now in our house. Ha! So here ya go on a Monday…
With temperatures cooling down, we’re heating things up in the kitchen! There is little food I enjoy more than a simple dinner of pasta and sauce. It’s like the ultimate comfort food. We tackled marinara sauce in Culinary Quest #6 Pasta Marinara with Parmesan Panko Chicken, but sometimes a hearty, meaty sauce is just the thing for a cool evening’s dinner.
My entire life I only knew hamburger meat, or perhaps a mixture of hamburger and sausage, for a meat sauce. However, hamburger (in my opinion) is bland and spongy and just blah. This time, I broke out of my box and used mild Italian sausage – taking the risk that only using sausage may prove too dominant against the backdrop of the other flavors.
The risk was totally worth it! Goodbye hamburger – hello sausage! It has the perfect amount of fennel and other spices to make this sauce nicely robust. But, there is a trick. I ground the sausage so finely, it is perfectly blended in the sauce. Rather than this being a pasta sauce with sausage chunks, the sauce is a smooth blend that can be used over noodles and in any recipe calling for sauce (lasagna, manicotti, stuffed shells, ravioli, etc.).
This is hands-down our family’s new favorite! Bonus…when making this from scratch, you get to pick exactly which meat goes in your sauce – unlike jarred meat sauce. I like knowing exactly what is in my food. 🙂 And, the whole house smells so good while simmering that everyone is chomping at the bit by dinnertime. Double bonus!
I would have included a picture, but we ate it all! :O The next time I make it, I will come back and post a photo. Whoops!
Savory Pasta Meat Sauce (yields a full-sized slow cooker)
2 pounds mild Italian sausage
1c diced, fresh basil (measured after dicing) – Fresh is important! I do not recommend dried basil for this sauce.
1/3c olive oil
2 tablespoons dried oregano
3/4c pureed onion (I use sweet onions)
28oz crushed tomatoes
28oz tomato puree
28oz tomato sauce
2 cans tomato paste
14.5oz diced tomatoes; drained
6 cloves garlic
* Using a large skillet on the stove top, thoroughly cook the Italian sausage. Remove from heat and let cool.
* Once cooled, place sausage in a food processor and blend until uniform.
* Puree onions in food processor until almost liquid – keeping a little texture to them.
* Add all remaining ingredients, plus sausage and onions, in a slow cooker and cook on low for 9 hours or high for 6 hours – stirring occasionally.
***TIP*** To make things easier when putting this together in the morning for dinner, cook the sausage and process it and the onions the night before. Store them in a container in the fridge and in the morning just add all ingredients in the slow cooker and you’re done!