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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Spinach Chips

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I’m a spinach lover and I always have a big bag of baby spinach in my fridge. I put spinach on sandwiches, salads, omelets, smoothies – pretty much anything that I think can use a bit of green. Still, I often have a hard time getting through the bag before the spinach leaves start to get slimy.

I stumbled onto this recipe the other day and had an “aha” moment. Spinach chips – of course! The perfect way to use up my extra spinach! Spinach chips are similar to kale chips, but with a much lighter texture. My kids loved them too, so this recipe gets a gold star in my book.

Ready to go into the oven:
Spinach Chips

Ready to eat:
Spinach Chips (cooked)

2 big handfuls of pre-washed baby spinach
Olive oil (use a Misto Olive Oil Sprayer, if you have one)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. (Note: this step is important; otherwise the spinach will stick to the baking sheet.)

Lightly spray the parchment paper with olive oil using an olive oil sprayer (or put a bit of olive oil on a paper towel and wipe it onto the parchment paper).

Spread the baby spinach evenly between the two baking sheets, making sure to keep the spinach in a single layer. Lightly spray the spinach with a bit more olive oil (alternatively, you can toss the spinach and olive oil together in a bowl, but be sure not to use too much oil).

Sprinkle salt and pepper over the spinach and bake for 12 minutes (you can cook both baking sheets at the same time). After 12 minutes, turn the oven off and keep the spinach in the oven for another 5 minutes.

Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the spinach cool for a few minutes before digging in. Enjoy!

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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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Broccoli Cheddar Quiche

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Broccoli and cheddar cheese is a classic combination, and this Broccoli Cheddar Quiche is as good as it looks! Even my oldest daughter devoured it without the usual strong-arming it takes to get her to eat her broccoli. I’m picky about the egg-to-milk ratio in quiche – too much milk makes the filling too “soft” and too many eggs turns it into an omelet – but the ratio in this recipe is perfect. I hope you agree! 

1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup diced red onion
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup finely chopped frozen broccoli, thawed and well drained
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup milk (1%)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 frozen pie crust

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds (reduce heat, if needed, to prevent burning). Stir in the broccoli, and remove the skillet from heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks, cream, milk, salt, and pepper.

Press 1 cup of the shredded cheese into the bottom of the pie crust, making sure to cover the entire bottom of the crust. Mix 1/2 cup of the cheese into the broccoli mixture and then add the broccoli mixture to the pie crust. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the pie crust, and then top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.

Bake for about 40-50 minutes, or until the center of the quiche no longer moves, when the quiche is gently jiggled.

Let cool for at least 20 minutes. No, really. If you cut into the quiche too soon, it won’t set properly and you’ll be left with runny quiche (yuck). This quiche tastes even better the next day, so it’s a great recipe to prepare in advance. Enjoy!

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Grilled Veggie Sandwich with Garlic Basil Chevre

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The end of summer is near, but there are still plenty of summer squash available in the markets. I was feeling kind of meh about a veggie sandwich, but I bought some delicious garlic basil goat cheese from Jollity Farms in Garden Valley and knew that it would be amazing alongside the grilled veggies. 

Yeah, I was right. Doesn’t it look delish? You’ll never miss the meat in this sandwich. The smoky, caramelized flavor of the grilled vegetables goes perfectly with the spicy garlic and mellow basil in the creamy goat cheese. Don’t skimp on the goat cheese; you want a good quality cheese with lots of flavor.

To prevent the veggies from falling through the grate during grilling, use the top rack of a broiler pan or a grilling basket, if you have one. You could also use a large piece of aluminum foil, although the veggies may not get as brown or crisp.

This will make about 4 sandwiches.

1 red bell pepper
1 red onion
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-2 loaves Italian bread (ciabatta, focaccia, etc)
1/2 cup Jollity Farms Garlic Basil Chevre

Slice the bell pepper lengthwise into several wide strips. Thinly slice the onion into rounds. Trim the ends off of the zucchini and yellow squash, cut the zucchini and yellow squash in half, and then slice each half lengthwise into strips.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

Lightly coat the top rack of a broiler pan with olive oil, and then place the bell pepper strips and onion rounds on top, in a single layer. Place the rack on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the veggies begin to soften and brown on the bottom. Brush olive oil on top of the veggies and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use tongs to flip the veggies over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for around 5 minutes, or until the veggies are cooked. Remove the bell pepper and onion to a plate and set aside.

While the bell pepper and onion are cooking, combine the mayonnaise and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside. Cut the bread into sandwich-sized pieces and then split each piece horizontally into a top and bottom slice.

Brush the broiler rack with more olive oil, if needed, then lay the zucchini and squash in a single layer on the rack. Cook for about 3 minutes, and then brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use tongs to flip them over and then sprinkle the other sides with salt and pepper. Cook for another 3 minutes, or until the veggies are cooked. Remove the veggies and the broiler rack from the grill.

While the zucchini and yellow squash are cooking, spread the mayonnaise mixture on the top slices of bread, and spread the Garlic Basil Chevre on the bottom slices of bread. After the veggies are done, place the bread slices, mayo and cheese sides up, on the grill (you may want to lower the heat of the grill first). Close the lid and let the bread get warm and toasty for about 2 minutes.

Remove the bread from the grill. Pile a bunch of veggies on the bottom slices of bread and then cover with the top slices of bread. Serve warm and prepare to say “mmmmm”!

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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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Chicken Caprese Panini

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Summer is here and my garden is finally producing some ripe, red tomatoes! I love the taste of fresh tomatoes off the vine, and one of my favorite ways to eat them is the Caprese Salad, which is simply tomatoes combined with fresh basil, mozzarella cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

This panini has all the wonderful flavors of Caprese Salad, with chicken added to make this sandwich hearty enough for a main dish. Feel free to experiment with different ingredients (maybe add some pesto, procuitto, crushed red peppers, or spinach). Fresh mozzarella cheese is best, but I was out, so I had to use Colby-jack instead.

1 loaf Italian bread (ciabatta, etc), sliced 1-inch thick
Olive oil
2 large tomatoes, sliced and de-seeded (try heirlooms)
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper
Balsamic vinegar
Chicken, cooked and sliced
Mozzarella cheese, sliced

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Spread mayo on one side of a slice of bread, and spray the other side of the slice with olive oil (I use a Misto for this, but you can also brush the olive oil on with a pastry brush). Lay the bread in the skillet, olive oil side down. Place a tomato slice on top of the bread, then a few basil leaves, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, top with a slice or two of chicken, and finally cheese. Place a second bread slice on top of the cheese.

Reduce the heat to low, if needed. Using a cast iron pan, or other heavy dish, press down on the sandwich for about 1 minute to flatten it. Spray the top slice of bread with olive oil. Flip the sandwich and then use the pan to press down on the sandwich again until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted.

Remove to a plate and repeat for the remaining sandwiches. Serve warm 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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