Lemon Basil Quinoa Salad

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My local grocery store sells the most delicious quinoa salad in the deli case. It has quinoa, tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta cheese, artichoke hearts, and red onions, all mixed together with a mildly sweet lemon basil dressing. The salad is light and refreshing and has a great combination of sweet and savory flavors. I took one bite and I immediately started thinking about how I could recreate this salad at home.

Lemon Basil Quinoa Salad

I served this salad at my mother-in-law’s birthday dinner last night, and it was a big success! The bowl was practically scraped clean, but I managed to save some leftovers, which I had for lunch today, topped with some left-over salmon (yum!).

I omitted the artichoke hearts and red onions from my recipe, since they are not part of my low FODMAP diet, but feel free to add them to your salad, if you like. You can adjust the ingredients and quantities shown in my recipe below, but be sure to only use fresh basil. I had some trouble finding fresh basil in the grocery store, so I went to my local nursery and bought a basil plant for about the same price I would pay for a handful of basil as the grocery store. Now I can plant my basil plant and have fresh basil all summer long!

The quinoa will need time to cool in the fridge, so be sure to cook the quinoa the day before, or at least a few hours before you plan on serving the salad. This recipe will serve about 6-8 as a side dish.

1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
1 container of grape tomatoes
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/3 cup feta cheese
1 tablespoon sliced green onions
2 lemons, juiced (approximately 4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper, to taste

To prepare the quinoa, first add the quinoa to a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly under cold water to remove the bitter coating. Add the quinoa to a large saucepan or deep skillet (make sure it has a lid). Add 3 cups of water to the quinoa and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed. I usually stir it once or twice while it’s cooking and check the water level. Burnt quinoa doesn’t taste good (don’t ask me how I know).

Once the quinoa is cooked, let cool for 30 minutes, then transfer to a mixing bowl and place it in the refrigerator for several hours, or overnight.

To prepare the salad, remove the quinoa from the fridge (the quinoa should be cold), and add the tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, and green onions. Gently stir to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, maple syrup, fresh basil, and salt and pepper. Pour into the bowl with the quinoa and gently stir until thoroughly coated with the dressing. Have a taste and add additional salt and pepper, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Mexican Chopped Salad

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I made my Mexican Bean Salad last weekend. It’s a family favorite, but we always have some left over the next day. It keeps great, so we usually just enjoy a “rerun” of the yummy bean salad on day 2. This week I wanted to do something a bit different though, so I decided to make a chopped salad with my leftovers. I just mixed a few salad ingredients into the bean salad and presto-chango. It was so good! The dressing on the bean salad combined with the avocado to add the perfect amount of flavor for a nice, light salad.

I served this salad with my yummy Chile Lime Chicken, which would also be great chopped up and mixed into this salad.

2-3 cups leftover Mexican Bean Salad
4 cups romaine lettuce, chopped into small pieces
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 avocado, chopped

Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl and toss lightly to combine. Serve immediately.

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Sweet Potato Fries

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I’ve tried several recipes for sweet potato fries, all with varying degrees of success (or failure). This recipe from the Food Network is the best recipe yet! The fries are full of flavor, tender on the outside, and crisp on the outside. Click here to view the original recipe, or you can follow my slightly modified version below.

Sweet Potato Fries

2-3 medium sweet potatoes
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Thoroughly wash the sweet potatoes to remove any dirt from the skin. Cut the sweet potatoes into French fry shapes, about 1/2-inch wide by 3-inches long.

Add the sweet potatoes and the remaining ingredients to a large bowl and toss together until well coated. (Note: if you use more olive oil (4 tablespoons vs 3 tablespoons), the fries will have more of a “fried” texture.)

Spread the sweet potato fries out on a large baking sheet, making sure the fries aren’t crowded. I usually need to use more than one baking sheet.

Roast the fries 20-30 minutes, stirring once, until the fries are very dark around the edges. I’ve discovered that the sides of my oven are hotter than the middle, so some of my fries on the edges of the pan will be a bit burnt when the rest of the fries are perfectly done. Every oven is different though, so adjust your baking time, if needed. Enjoy!

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Sweet-n-Easy Coleslaw

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This sweet coleslaw is super-delish, and the perfect side for barbecued chicken or pulled pork. The addition of chopped apple adds extra crunch and flavor to the coleslaw. You could shred your own cabbage for this recipe, but I prefer the bagged coleslaw mix that contains thick shreds of red and green cabbage, and carrots, because it makes the prep time really quick! The slaw will need about an hour to marinate, so be sure to prep this in advance.

2/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon poppy seeds
2 tablespoons diced onion
1 medium apple, chopped
1 (16 ounce) bag of coleslaw mix

Whisk together the mayonnaise, oil, sugar, rice vinegar, salt, and poppy seeds in a large bowl.

Stir in the onion and apple, then add the coleslaw mix and stir until thoroughly combined.

Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour before serving.

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Baked Zucchini Sticks

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Zucchini is in abundance right now, and this is a wonderful way to prepare them. The zucchini are coated in seasoned bread crumbs and then baked to perfection. You get tender zucchini beneath a crunchy coating, right out of the oven. The zucchini will need to sit for at least one hour before cooking, so be sure to start this recipe in advance. 

3 medium zucchini
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup flour
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
Olive oil spray

Cut the zucchini lengthwise into sticks about 3-inches long and ½-inch thick. Place the zucchini into a colander in the sink and sprinkle with the salt. Toss lightly and let stand for at least 1 hour. This will help draw the moisture out of the zucchini.

After the zucchini has rested for at least 1 hour, rinse thoroughly to remove excess salt (it will be plenty salty), then dry thoroughly with a towel.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (use a convection setting, if you have it). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with the olive oil spray.

Place the flour in one shallow bowl, whisk together the egg and milk in a second shallow bowl, and place the bread crumbs in a third shallow bowl. Line up your breading assembly line, as follows: zucchini, flour, egg mixture, bread crumbs, and then parchment-lined baking sheet.

Use the “wet hand/dry hand” technique for coating the zucchini sticks. Drop a zucchini stick into the flour with your right hand and coat thoroughly; drop the stick into the egg and coat it using your left hand; lastly, drop the stick into the bread crumbs and coat with your right hand and then place on the baking sheet. This technique should keep your hands relatively clean and make the coating process more efficient. Repeat for the remaining zucchini sticks. Spray the zucchini lightly with olive oil spray.

Bake for about 12 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and turn each zucchini stick with tongs, and then bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Serve hot and enjoy!

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Mexican Bean Salad

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This colorful bean salad is beautiful to look at and delicious to eat! The flavor is amazing and the crunchy bell pepper and creamy avocado add great texture to the salad. I adapted this from a recipe on Allrecipes. Click here to view the original recipe. This makes 8-10 servings, so plan on having some leftovers. This will keep for several days in the fridge (if it lasts that long!).

1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1/3 cup diced red onion
1 cup frozen corn, thawed and drained
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 clove crushed garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 avocado, diced

In a large bowl, combine beans, bell pepper, red onion, and corn.

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, lime juice, sugar, salt, garlic, cilantro, cumin, black pepper, and chili powder. Pour olive oil dressing over vegetables; mix well.

Chill thoroughly, and serve cold. Add a tablespoon or two of diced avocado to each individual plate when serving.

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Bean and Kale Ragout

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Do you ever find yourself torn between wanting something healthy for dinner, and not wanting to spend a lot of time slaving over a stove? Well, my friends, this is the recipe for you.

This main dish stew is healthy, easy to prepare, and full of comforting flavor. Plus, you’ll probably spend more time chopping the vegetables (which really doesn’t take that long) than you will at the stove.

All of the ingredients are combined in a big pot and then left to get better acquainted, while you relax with a glass of wine (just a suggestion), and look forward to the flavorful white beans and tender kale. Now do you see why I love one-pot meals?

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Dash cayenne pepper
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Add the olive oil to an extra-deep skillet (a dutch oven or large pot will work too) and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onions and kale and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes, or until the onions soften and the kale wilts.

Reduce the heat to low. Stir in the diced tomatoes (with juice), garlic, chicken broth, bay leaves, oregano, basil, cumin, and cayenne pepper.

Cover and simmer until the kale is tender, about 45 minutes. (Now’s your time to relax – don’t forget your glass of wine!)

Stir in the beans and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Take a bite (careful, it’s hot!) and add some salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with your favorite crusty bread, or try my Olive Oil Toast recipe. Enjoy!

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Tasty Collard Greens

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Growing up on the West Coast, I never had collard greens until I moved to North Carolina. I grew to love these healthy greens and this is my favorite way to prepare them. For more authentic southern collard greens, begin the preparation with chopped bacon instead of olive oil.

1 bunch collard greens
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

Although edible, the stem of the collard green is tough, and requires more time to cook than the leaves. I find it easiest to discard the stem prior to cooking, so I can be sure to get evenly cooked greens. To remove the stem, flip a collard green leaf upside down on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut the leaf away from the stem (I usually keep the top third of the leaf intact, and cut the bottom two-thirds of the stem out in a V shape). Repeat for the remaining leaves. Stack the de-stemmed leaves on top of each other and cut them into 2-inch pieces.

Place the cut collard green pieces in a colander and rinse very thoroughly, and then leave the colander in the sink to drain.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook for about 3 minutes, or until the onions begin to soften.

Add the collard greens to the pot and sauté until they begin to wilt, about 1 minute. Add enough chicken broth to completely cover the greens. Then add the brown sugar (this helps remove the bitterness from the greens), salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper (optional).

Bring the pot to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 45 minutes. The greens should be very tender, but not mushy. Take a little bite and then add additional salt and pepper, if needed.

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Tabouli Salad

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This refreshing salad is full of flavor and a perfect side dish (or light meal) to enjoy on a warm day. Look for bulgur wheat in the bulk bin department of your grocery store. Be sure to make this in advance, so the flavors in the salad can blend into yummy goodness.

1 cup bulgur wheat
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 lemons
1 lime
1-2 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup diced cucumber
1/4 cup chopped green onions
Kosher salt to taste
Black pepper to taste

Mix the bulgur wheat and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt together in a medium bowl. Pour the boiling water into the bowl (no stirring necessary). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a medium bowl. Cut the lemons and lime in half and squeeze their juice into the bowl with the olive oil. The easiest way to do this is to stick a fork into the cut side of the lemon or lime, and then squeeze the lemon (or lime) around the fork, while simultaneously moving the fork in a circular motion around the inside of the lemon (or lime). (Note: use a fine mesh strainer over the bowl to catch the seeds.) Stir in the garlic and the mint.

When the bulgur wheat is ready, stir the dressing into the bulgur, cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

Before serving, stir in the tomatoes, cucumber, and green onions. Take a bite . . . or two . . . or three. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and enjoy!

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Grilled Garlic Artichokes

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It’s artichoke season and this recipe is an amazing way to prepare these prickly veggies. The artichokes are first steamed, then grilled and basted with a lemon, garlic, olive oil sauce that perfectly complements the artichokes. The flavor is amazing and the preparation is simple. The original recipe can be found here, but I’ve changed the preparation a bit to suit my tastes.

2 large artichokes
1/2 lemon
3/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

First prep your artichokes by pulling off the small leaves at the bottom, then use kitchen shears to snip off the pointy end of the leaves around the sides. Use a serrated knife to cut off the tips of the leaves on the top of the artichoke, cut off the stem, and then cut each artichoke in half. Cut out the fuzzy stuff above the artichoke heart using a sharp paring knife.

Steam the artichokes in a large pot with a steamer basket for about 20-30 minutes, or until just under-done (you could probably also use the microwave in a pinch).

While the artichokes are cooking, squeeze the juice of the lemon into a medium bowl, and then stir in the olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Preheat the grill.

Brush the artichokes with the olive oil mixture and place them on the grill. Cook the artichokes for about 5 to 10 minutes, turning and basting frequently with the olive oil mixture. Remove the artichokes from the grill when the edges are charred and serve immediately.

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