It’s been months since I’ve posted anything new, mainly because I’ve been busy with other writing projects and have been relying on my favorite standbys when it comes to meal prep. However, now that summer is here, and my planting is done, and I’m just starting to see little baby zucchini and squash and tomatoes sprouting in the garden, I am ready to harness the season.

A few nights ago, some friends had come over for an impromptu pizza dinner and I wanted to make a quick salad to go with it. I had an abundance of watermelon, as well as some feta and arugula in the fridge. I threw it all together, tossed in some mint I had picked from my garden, drizzled it with good balsamic, olive oil  and a splash of lemon juice and served it to my guests. They raved! So did my husband, who isn’t a huge fan of either watermelon or feta. I filed this salad into the easy, weeknight side dishes folder that exists in my mind.

The next day we had family over for swimming and grilling and I wanted to make this salad again, but I wanted it to be a bit heartier, since I didn’t have time to make a pasta salad. I’m slightly obsessed with Israeli couscous right now (also called pearled couscous), a larger, slightly chewier version of couscous whose texture is similar to barley or farro. I thought it might pair well with the rest of the ingredients.

And oh was I right! This salad is fabulous! I made a big bowl of it and there weren’t any leftovers. It’s light, it’s flavorful, it has cheese and fruit in it…basically it’s everything a summer salad should be. Oh and I did I mention how easy it is? You’ll want to make this salad all summer long!

Note: I first became a fan of Israeli couscous after reading an article about it in Cook’s Illustrated awhile back. Their solution to maximizing the flavor and texture is to toast the couscous in the pot with a little bit of olive oil until it lightly browns, then add water and salt. This really brings out the couscous’ nuttiness. They also recommend spreading the couscous out on a baking sheet and letting it cool before adding it to a salad. Doing so allows it to retain its chewy texture without being gummy. Definitely do this.

isaraelicouscouswatermelon

Israeli Couscous With Watermelon, Feta and Arugula 

Serves 6

2 cups of Israeli couscous, uncooked (see directions below)

1 5-ounce clamshell of organic arugula

1-2 cups of watermelon, cubed

1/2 cup feta, crumbled (add more or less to taste)

6-8 sprigs of mint, chopped

Good quality aged balsamic vinegar

Olive oil

Lemon juice to taste

Directions for couscous:

Heat the couscous with 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat until some of the grains turn golden brown. Add 2 1/2 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until most of the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand, covered for three minutes. Transfer the couscous to a rimmed baking sheet and allow it to cool for 15 minutes before adding to the salad.

Add the couscous, arugula, watermelon, feta and mint to a large bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil, balsamic and lemon juice to taste. Give it a toss and serve immediately. (You can also make the couscous ahead of time and refrigerate until you’re ready to make the salad.)

 

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It’s snowing pretty hard here right now, but these little bursts of warm weather we’ve been having over the past few weeks have got me thinking about spring. For some reason, tacos (and margaritas) always make me think of the warmer months so on one of those 70 degree days in February, I made tacos for dinner. A salad accompanied this and I wanted to do some sort of lime dressing. A quick Google search led me to a cilantro-lime vinaigrette on Epicurious. I had all of the ingredients so I quickly whisked a batch together.

I seriously wasn’t prepared for how delicious this dressing would be. It’s INSANELY flavorful. Just the right amount of tart with a little hint of sweetness. I definitely had seconds of salad that night (possibly thirds) and I began thinking about all of the other salads I could make with this dressing.

A few nights later, I was tossing spinach and some leftover quinoa into a bowl. I added some goat cheese, pepitas and avocado and wondered how the lime vinaigrette would taste on it. Um, ridiculously delicious. This is one of my new favorite salads. Here’s how it came together, though keep in mind that these are just estimations. With salad, I think you should add more or less of whatever you like.

Spinachandquinoasaladwithcilantrolimevinaigrette

Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

5 cups of organic spinach

1 cup of cooked quinoa

1/2 of an avocado, cubed

A sprinkling of pepitas

A sprinkling of crumbled goat cheese

For the dressing: (from Epicurious.com)

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (I’ve made this with and without the cilantro. While it’s better with, it’s still good without.)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss with the dressing.

 

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Baked Buffalo Bites

by Michelle on March 2, 2017

I know, I know. It’s been MONTHS since I’ve posted any new recipes. I’m still cooking and baking a lot, but I haven’t been so great about writing down what I’m doing. And then last night I realized that although I make these buffalo bites all the time, I’ve never posted about them on this blog. Which is surprising because they are SO GOOD. Flavorful and slightly crispy and not dry—everything baked chicken should be. They also call for, like, three ingredients so they’re easy to make for a quick dinner—or serve as an appetizer at your next party. And since you’re saving so many calories by baking rather than frying them, you can go ahead and dip them in blue cheese dressing without feeling guilty.

Incidentally, these are also delicious barbecue style so if buffalo ain’t your thing, replace the Red Hot with your favorite barbecue sauce.

buffalochickenbites2

Baked Buffalo Bites

1 package of organic chicken tenders, cut into bite sized pieces (If you don’t have tenders, you can use boneless breasts, though I think the tenders are easier to cut up)

1 cup of Frank’s Red Hot (you may need more depending on how many chicken pieces you have)

1-2 cups of panko breadcrumb

Coconut oil spray

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray a baking sheet with coconut oil. Pour the Red Hot and the panko breadcrumb into two separate bowls. Dip each chicken bite into the Red Hot until it’s fully coated, then roll it in the panko. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 22 minutes, or until cooked through, flipping once halfway through the cooking time. Serve with a side of blue cheese dressing.

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