Tag Archives: avocado

3 Salad Ideas OR Greens with Envy

Gentle Readers, in the inimitable words of Shakira, hips don’t lie. Into every bacon-fueled life, some salad must fall. With the onset of summer and the quest to run a 5k (an even more poignant goal as my heart goes out to Boston), it’s time to focus on my other favorite food group, salad.

Blueberry Herb Salad: This picture just makes me want to eat it again.

Blueberry Herb Salad: This picture just makes me want to eat it again.

Yes, you can make friends with salad. It’s infinitely diverse and interesting, and not because you load it down with cheese and dressing and whatever else. It takes time to eat. It’s pretty. I love to top it with fruit.

Tomato Watermelon Salad from Crook's Corner

Tomato Watermelon Salad from Crook’s Corner

But I digress. Here are 3 salad ideas to get you started.

1. Mediterranean style. Greens with goat cheese, orange segments, dates, and almonds. I had this salad this week at Sitti, a Lebanese restaurant in downtown Raleigh. With a light lemony dressing, this was summer on a plate. Delightfully balanced between bitter, salty, sour, and sweet.

Orange Date Salad from Sitti. Mmmm Dates.

Orange Date Salad from Sitti. Mmmm Dates.

2. Ole! Who says salsa is not a salad dressing? This is a new wave take on an old idea: taco salad. A bed of greens, a diced avocado, a mango, some stray black beans, and a few crunchy noodles (forgive me, they should be tortilla strips), and you’ve got a party. I thinned the peach salsa (hello, Trader Joe’s)  just a bit with Orange Champagne Vinegar (also from Trader Joe’s), and it was a hit with everyone.

This is a different salad, because I ate the taco salad too quickly. This is greens, mango, goat cheese, and walnuts. Plus the orange champagne vinegar and a splash of olive oil.

This is a different salad, because I ate the taco salad too quickly. This is greens, mango, goat cheese, and walnuts. Plus the orange champagne vinegar and a splash of olive oil.

3. New Chicken Salad. Rotisserie chicken, diced apples (pink lady FTW), walnuts, Caesar Romano Dressing. I know, perhaps not what you would think of at first, but you’re taking Waldorf salad and mashing it up with chicken Caesar. Don’t be afraid.

TPC Tested, Ninja Approved: New Chicken Salad

TPC Tested, Ninja Approved: New Chicken Salad

As you can tell, I take my salad inspiration from leftovers. I often have less than 5 minutes to prep lunch. If you pre-chop and wash Romaine and leave it in your salad spinner in the fridge, you will grab for it first. Dicing fruit takes less than no time, and then toss something else crunchy or salty on top. Done.

Colander, Salad Spinner, Metal Bowl

Colander, Salad Spinner, Metal Bowl

What are your salad ideas of the moment? Tweet me your salad beauty shots by ccing @practicalcook on Twitter or @amylewi on Instagram. I’m waiting!

Send your food puns, questions, and frosted cupcakes to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Up next on Friday, Kitchen Tool Talk: 3 More of My Favorite Things

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Filed under One Ingredient Three Ways, Recipes

Smoked Salmon Salad: A Recipe of Sorts

Gentle Readers, sometimes life requires hitting the reset button. After weeks of being on the road, meal after meal out, it is time to detox. The good eating habits were taking a beating, and the chocolate chip cookies were being consumed in grosses. When that happens, I have to stop and smell the carrot sticks.

Smoked Salmon Salad, now with pea pods!

Smoked Salmon Salad, now with pea pods!

I don’t really like carrot sticks, which makes it that much more effective. However, I do love salad. So I’ve been eating one most days for lunch. This one is exceptionally tasty, borne of what was on hand. Great blend of salt and crunch, tied together with a little smoke. Special thanks to SmokerNinja and family for the leftover salmon that anchors this creation.

Romaine lettuce prep!

Romaine lettuce prep!

Smoked Salmon Salad

a serving of leftover smoked salmon (prefer hot smoked over cold for this)
romaine lettuce
1/2 avocado, diced
sugar snap pea pods
crunchy rice noodles (in the Asian section of the grocery store, near chow mein noodles)
Caesar-Romano Dressing (or something light and fruity, your choice)

Avocado sliced in the halfshell.

Avocado sliced in the halfshell.

Toss in quantities of your choice. I was low on romaine and used a lot of pea pods. It was pretty fantastic. Smoked salmon adds depth, but leftover cooked salmon would work as well. Don’t skip the crunchy noodles, they are our current favorite salad topping.

Trader Joe's Romano Caesar Dressing, I Heart You

Trader Joe’s Romano Caesar Dressing, I Heart You

So what’s in your salad bowl? Share your ideas in the comments box below!

Send your bacon, your lettuce, and your vine-ripened tomatoes to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday, Weekly Menus!

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Polenta: Mexican Style! (Recipe of Sorts)

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook listens to the crowd in planning menus. And TPCs Junior have spoken–polenta for the people! Apparently, if a casual counting of likes, reactions, and genial nods are indicators, you, the viewing public, also like polenta recipes.

Mexican Style Polenta (vegetarian!)

Mexican Style Polenta (vegetarian!)

Here’s this week’s offering, Polenta: Mexican Style!

1 shelf-stable package of Trader Joe’s polenta (feel free to make your own, or sub your favorite brand), cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
1 Tablespoon butter/olive oil combo, in any ratio
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 can diced no-salt tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon cumin
a pinch of oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 package Trader Joe’s soy chorizo (or the real stuff, or another kind of soy chorizo)
1 avocado, diced
shredded cheese for topping
sour cream for topping

1. Heat the butter/oil in a large skillet over a strong medium heat. When hot, add the polenta and fry both sides well, at least 8 minutes per.

2. Meanwhile, open, drain, and rinse the black beans. In a small saucepan, heat a dash of olive oil over a low medium heat and saute the onions until soft. Add the garlic and saute until you smell it, about 30 seconds, then add cumin and oregano. Add black beans and tomatoes, stir. Lower the heat and simmer until flavors meld, which I find happens right when the polenta is done because I’m hungry.

Soy Chorizo from Trader Joe's: Not bad actually, but on the spicy side.

Soy Chorizo from Trader Joe’s: Not bad actually, but on the spicy side.

3. Meanwhile, yes, there’s a lot of meanwhiling going on, saute the chorizo (remove the casing!) over medium heat in a dash of olive oil.

Saute the chorizo (soy chorizo in this case, don't be afraid).

Saute the chorizo (soy chorizo in this case, don’t be afraid).

4. Assemble by placing at least 2 rounds of polenta, a dollop of beans, chorizo, cheese, and sour cream on the plate. Dig in.

Deconstructed Mexican-Style Polenta, or Polenta Face (courtesy of the Eldest)

Deconstructed Mexican-Style Polenta, or Polenta Face (courtesy of the Eldest)

I suppose that was actually a recipe. Enjoy, it was my favorite iteration to date. Not quite the masa cakes of Brooklyn Star, but I’ll get there yet. I suspect I need to find a way to make my own polenta cakes, or masa cakes, but the shelf-stable one is so very easy and in demand.

Have you tried polenta yet? What’s your flavor? Post a comment below, the crickets will thank you.

Send your corn meal, witty rejoinders, and favorite cereals to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up next, it’s Weekly Menus or Wait, Where’s November?

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Arepas: It’s What for Dinner (Recipe)

Gentle Readers, on rare occasions, inspiration strikes. Such was the case the other evening, just in time for the 3-course pancake meal. Mind you, I subbed something in for the middle pancake course, but I digress. Arepas, as I understand them, are corn pancakes, and can be thin and flat or puffy and stuffed.

Easy Arepas with avocado, cheddar, roasted red pepper, and sour cream

Easy Arepas with avocado, cheddar, roasted red pepper, and sour cream

Because I am all about efficiency on a school night, I opted for flat. Once you have the pancake made, the topping variety is somewhat endless. The results were off the charts good. I’m still thinking about them. Truly an amuse-bouche.

Quick and Easy Arepas Recipe

Based on The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon, this recipe is intensely forgiving.

vegetable oil
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cornmeal (the original recipe called for ground white cornmeal, but I used a local yellow with fantastic results)
1 teaspoon salt (this would be table, not kosher or sea)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Put a dash of vegetable oil in your largest skillet and heat it over medium.

2. Whisk the milk, cornmeal, and salt until fully combined. Add the butter. If the batter is too thick, add a bit more milk. You want a slightly thin batter.

3. Once the skillet is hot enough to make a drop of water dance, add silver dollar size dollops of the batter, working in batches. The first one will take some time to brown (like 4 or five minutes). Flip, repeat.

4. When the arepa is cooked, take it off immediately and top it with any combo of the following:

  • diced avocado
  • roasted red and yellow peppers
  • extra sharp cheddar cheese (Tillamook for the win!)
  • black beans
  • sour cream
  • anything else you can dream up

Serve promptly. These are mind-blowing, just try them and trust me.

The variety for arepas is endless! Experiment!

The variety for arepas is endless! Experiment!

Do you like to serve meals in courses? Why or why not? Discuss in the comments section, or Tweet me!

Send deep thoughts and kitchen challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up this Friday: An Ode to Fat.

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Reviews from the Road: San Diego Style!

Gentle Readers, last week’s journey was sponsored by, wait for it, bacon. And avocado. And dessert. It is so very difficult to eat properly while traveling, particularly when the days last for 22 of 24 hours. However, there was much deliciousness to be found in San Diego. This was my first trip, and I very much liked what I saw. I kicked things off with this:

Peppery Lacquered Bacon from the San Diego Marriott: Winner!

Peppery Lacquered Bacon from the San Diego Marriott: Winner!

And it just kept going from there. Because what could be better than mixing my professional (social media) life with my personal (food) life? Answer: nothing. So we threw a Bacon and Waffles Tweetup at Brians24. Ironically, I had eaten so much bacon by this point I went for the lo-cal option, fried chicken.

Not bad for SoCal: fried chicken and waffles!

Not bad for SoCal: fried chicken and waffles!

But that wasn’t enough! We also held a team meeting at Extraordinary Desserts in Little Italy. The taxi driver kept trying to drop my teammate and I off at the bail bondsman, no matter how many times we repeated the address. A hint perhaps? The desserts should have been illegal. They were delicious, and so artfully presented. Carrot cake is a vegetable, right?

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Mango-Caramel Glaze

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Mango-Caramel Glaze

I spent some quality time with my favorite California ingredient, the avocado. I had it in omelets and as presented here, in this fantastic blackened tuna wrap. I attacked this like a wild dog. It was at a cafe in the Gaslamp District, where there are endless little bistros ready to serve you.

Blackened Tuna Wrap with Avocado and a Tasty Side Salad

Blackened Tuna Wrap with Avocado and a Tasty Side Salad

Of course, there was also plenty of my road food staple: oatmeal. Hats off to my friend, SirMinceALot, for pairing a parfait with bacon for the morning meal.

Bacon. Parfait. Bacon. Parfait.

Bacon. Parfait. Bacon. Parfait.

In my meager health defense, I did run a 5K in the middle of the event. I ran most, I walked some, I worked a 12+ hour day after doing so. Not my best planning ever. However, we raised over $1700 for the Wounded Warrior Project, so well worth it.

My first 5K ever!

My first 5K ever!

Overall, I loved the parts of San Diego I got to see, and plan to return when I have time to explore further. Very relaxed vibe, and some truly fantastic food. Have you been to San Diego? Would love to hear your recommendations for the next trip. Post a comment below!

Send your good will, questions, and restaurant recommendations to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up on Friday, a guest blog: Bacon Pecan Ice Cream Recipe!

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Veggie Nachos Perfected! (Recipe Included, Additional Napkins Are Not)

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook takes good ideas where she sees them. Having made nachos for years, in many variations, I have a new version that was met with wild applause by The Practical Cooks Junior. It’s not easy being cheesy. And even less easy being a sweet potato. Read on.

Hello beautiful sweet potatoes.

Hello beautiful sweet potatoes.

Veggie Nachos Perfected (A recipe and a method to the madness)

The key here is layering. I’ll leave exact proportions to your specifications, but don’t be shy about the cheese. The order of operations is actually important here. It is the thing that transforms this from idle snack to actual recipe.

These veggie nachos come loaded.

These veggie nachos come loaded.

1 bag of high-quality tortilla chis (I specify, because wimpy chips simply won’t stand up here)
2 cups or so cheese of choice, shredded (we used the shredded Mexican blend from Trader Joe’s)
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (or to taste)
salt
1 can black beans, rinsed well
1/2 of something tomatoey (use red salsa if you want more heat or diced tomatoes for milder)
1 small to medium sized sweet potato, peeled and diced small
2 or 3 handfuls of baby spinach
green onions, sliced
1 avocado, diced

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put foil over a pizza pan or baking sheet, put a layer of tortilla chips on it. Quantity depends on size of crowd and the preferred ratio of stuff to chip. Cover with a generous layer of cheese (half of what you’re using), bake until cheese melts, remove pan from the oven and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. When hot but not smoking, saute the garlic and the onion briefly, toss in the cumin and a sprinkle of salt, then add beans. Stir well.

The veggie nacho rainbow: black beans, sweet potatoes, and some spinach for good measure.

The veggie nacho rainbow: black beans, sweet potatoes, and some spinach for good measure.

3. Add the tomatoey item of choice, and the sweet potatoes. Stir, cover, and cook at medium to medium-low for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are cooked but not mushy. Add spinach and cook till it wilts, a couple of minutes more.

This is not the time to hold back the cheese.

This is not the time to hold back the cheese.

4. Pour bean mixture over cheesy chips, spread out to cover the chips. Leave no chip behind. Cover with remaining cheese. Return to oven and bake until cheese melts, another 5 to 7 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven, and immediately sprinkle with the green onions and avocado, so that they stick in the glorious melty cheese.

Veggie Nachos Perfected! With pickled jalepeno on top, for good measure.

Veggie Nachos Perfected! With pickled jalepeno on top, for good measure.

Serve promptly with sour cream, salsa, and a whole lot of napkins.

What’s on your nachos? Post a comment below, or Tweet!

Send your avocados, your kudos, and your cooking challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, The Great Sweetener Race: Molasses vs. Honey!

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