We had a great time on Saturday at the “Gluten-Free Summer Salads Playshop.” The group whipped up five seasonal salads including a Buckwheat Garden Salad, Italian Aduki Bean Salad, Quinoa Salad with a Lemon Tahini Dressing, Raw Kale Salad and Blueberry Avocado Salad. All were quite beautiful and delicious. Well, almost all of them – the aduki bean salad looked just like that – dookie. Fortunately the taste made up for it and as one of my students said, “it reminds me of refried beans, only slightly prettier.” Although that’s not saying much, I guess the presentation of the dish was not a complete loss!
So I wanted to take the opportunity to share the recipe for the Blueberry Avocado Salad inspired by Kimberly Snyder. So yummy and I LOVE the contrast of the deep indigo blueberries with the bright green avocado. Add some red raspberries or strawberries to the salad to make it festive for the 4th of July! But before we get to the recipe, what are some benefits of blueberries?
Blueberries are a cooling food full of vitamin C, pro-vitamin A and manganese. Loaded with anthocyanins and other antioxidants, blueberries are anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighters! They help to keep your memory sharp, your blood sugar levels and cholesterol low and they are good for your eyes and contain bacterial fighting properties that help to keep your urinary system in good shape.
Here is a delicious, simple recipe that contains avocados which contain healthy fats to help you absorb the fat soluble pro-vitamin A in blueberries!
Blueberry & Avocado Salad
Source: inspired by The Beauty Detox Foods by Kimberly Snyder
- 6 cups blueberries
- 2 medium avocados, peeled and cut into 1-inch squares
- 6 TBSP fresh lime juice
- 2 – 4 tsp of raw honey, maple syrup or coconut nectar (or 10 drops stevia)
- 3 – 4 TBSP of freshly chopped mint.
1. Add the blueberries, avocado and mint to a mixing bowl.
2. Whisk together the lime juice and sweetener and pour over the fruit. Gently toss together, being careful not to mash the avocado pieces.
What are some of your favorite ways to use blueberries? Please feel free to post them below!
A couple of weeks ago, I did a cooking demo for BioReliance’s employee health fair. I made a few interesting dishes including a kale, white bean and potato soup, a lentil, sausage and swiss chard skillet and a pan roasted butternut squash and goat cheese salad with toasted shallots, sage and pecans. Although people liked all three dishes, the roasted butternut squash salad seemed to be the favorite. I really like this dish because I love salads, but they tend to be too cooling for me during the winter. If I add some roasted veggies and warming spices and herbs, it’s a great combination for my damp constitution!
To create your own, warm winter salad, roast your favorite root vegetable(s) and then mix them with your favorite toasted nuts, herbs and even cheese. Make a tasty homemade salad dressing and toss with fresh greens such as spinach, watercress, arugula, endive and/or radicchio. In just a few moments, you have a scrumptious starter salad for a Holiday menu or even a satisfying mid-week entree salad.
Here are a few ideas for warm winter salad combinations followed by the recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad. Any of these roasted vegetable options would work well with the basic dijon vinaigrette mentioned in this recipe. Have fun experimenting!
winter squash (i.e. butternut, acorn, kabocha, delicata)
shaved Pecorino Romano
Roasted Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese & Arugula Salad
Serves: 4 to 6
- ¼ cup lightly toasted pecan halves
- 2 bunches arugula leaves (about 4 cups)
- 1 ½ cups shredded radicchio
- 1 butternut squash, halved & seeded
- 1 cup of blue cheese or goat cheese, crumbled
- coconut oil, extra virgin unrefined
- 2 TBSP thyme
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 TBSP finely diced shallot or red onion
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
- 1 TBSP dijon mustard
- ½ TBSP maple syrup
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Halve the butternut squash and scoop out the seeds. Peel and cube (~1-inch cubes). Place in a roasting pan greased with extra virgin coconut oil. Bake approximately 30 to 45 minutes.
- In a medium hot skillet (un-oiled), toast pecan pieces, turning every few minutes.
- Wash arugula well and trim stems if necessary. Use whole leaves or tear into bite-size pieces if leaves are too large. Place in a medium-size bowl.
- Add shredded radicchio, crumbled goat cheese and toasted pecans to arugula and toss gently. Set aside while you prepare the dressing.
- In a small skillet, heat 1 TBSP of the coconut oil. Add shallot and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add thyme and sea salt. Add butternut squash and brown. Once browned, drizzle with olive oil.
- Whisk together dressing ingredients. Pour over salad, toss very gently, and add cubes of squash to top. Serve immediately on individual salad plates.
I know you’re shocked, but I found myself at the cooking demo at the Greenbelt Farmers Market last month while Chef Rasheed Abdurrahman from Wild Onion Catering was sampling his tasty Peach, Tomato and Corn Salad. I was so in love with the dish that I purchased the ingredients at the market immediately and then headed home for some experimenting. I added a little avocado to his recipe for some healthy fat and enjoyed it both as a salad and served it as a salsa on several dishes including venison tacos, eggs and a green salad.
Without further ado, here is the tasty recipe:
Peach, Tomato and Corn Salad
- 1 medium ripe peach
- 1 medium tomato
- 1 ear yellow corn
- 1 avocado
- 1 basil leaf
- 1 tablespoon of raw honey (could use agave, too)
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Clean the corn by removing the husk and silk. Place the corn in a pot of salted boiling water and cook until tender. About 1 to 2 minutes. Remove corn from the pot and allow it to cool for about 5 to 7 minutes. You could also use frozen corn if fresh isn’t available.
Cut the corn from the cobb and add to a bowl. Next cut the peaches and tomato into small dice and add to the bowl with the corn. Slice the avocado in half and cube. Chop the basil and add to the bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste
Add the mustard, honey or agave, and vinegar to a bowl and whisk together, next slowly drizzle in the olive oil and whisk the mixture together. Taste the dressing and season with salt and pepper.
Add the dressing to the salad and stir together.
If you’re like me and can’t wait to eat it, grab some organic corn chips and help yourself to a scoop or two. It makes a great snack, too! Enjoy.
Last month I had nine eager young chefs in my kitchen. We gathered to chat about how the health of the soils relates to the nutrient value in the plants that we eat. Bottom Line? Healthy soils = healthy people. After tracing ingredients in our favorite foods back to the soil and discussing the plant parts that we eat, the students headed to the food prep area to practice their knife skills. They learned proper techniques for chopping veggies such as carrots, cucumbers, peppers and onions. These ingredients were combined to create a tasty lentil salad that we shared together on the patio during a beautiful crisp autumn day.
Parents often ask me how to get their kids to eat healthy and my response is to get them involved in a part of the process. For some, it’s growing fresh veggies and fruits. For others kids, its’s creating simple dishes using fun kitchen tools. In my experience working with youth, I have found that they are more likely to eat fresh fruits and veggies if they are involved in the entire process, from seed to plate. I wanted to share some of my tips for getting kids involved!
Give them a space in a kitchen cupboard to keep smaller, kid-friendly pots, pans, cutting board, a salad spinner and their other favorite kitchen utensils.
Give them a small shelf or drawer in the refrigerator with ingredients to make their own snacks. Some healthy snacks that your kids might store in the refrigerator include: cut veggies, grape tomatoes, fruit, nut butters, hummus, yoghurt dip, cottage cheese, black bean bean dip and hard-boiled eggs.
Purchase an inexpensive child’s apron or chef’s hat at your local craft store and let your child decorate it with fabric markers, appliques and puffy paint.
Provide a sturdy stool so that your child can reach the counter and sink. The object of the game is to make them as comfortable as possible. I find that these Kikkerland foldable stools from Bed, Bath and Beyond work very well and they come in fun colors!
If your child is old enough and mature enough to handle the responsibility of a knife, have them help cut fruits and veggies. If you never learned proper knife techniques and safety, consider taking a knife skills class and sharing that information with your child. Also, sign your child up for a cooking class that emphasizes knife skills and safety. This is the first think I teach in my cooking classes. Remember, a dull knife is a dangerous knife. I find it silly to give children tools (this goes for gardening tools, too) that aren’t sturdy or effective because they aren’t safe and it simply frustrates them and turns them off to cooking and gardening. With my kids cooking classes, I use Kuhn Rikon’s 3-inch Mini Prep Knife and Cuisinart’s 5-inch Santoku Knife.
Have them help with the following tasks, especially if they are not old enough to use a knife:
- Measure ingredients.
- Set the table and light candles with assistance from an adult or older sibling.
- Let them choose dinner music.
- Have them make special place mats or place cards for family members and guests.
- Encourage them to help with cleanup.
- Break out the salad spinner and let them wash the lettuce. Kids also enjoy making salad dressing!
During the summer, give them a container in which to grow greens or a few easy herbs such as basil, chives, oregano or parsley (arugula is a great one that can be used as an herb or as a green for salad, sandwiches and pasta).
Get them started in composting indoors or outdoors as it encourages healthier snacks and foods without packaging! Indoor worm composting is a huge hit with kids.
If you have space, create a small veggie and herb garden with your child.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. I’ll be sharing more recipes and tips for cooking with kids in the coming months. In the meantime, enjoy making this lentil salad with your kids!
Source: adapted from The Daily Bean by Suzanne Caciola White
- 4 cups of fresh watercress or spinach
- 4 cups cooked lentils (pre-soak)
- 1 cup chopped yellow pepper
- 1 cup chopped green pepper
- 1 cup chopped red pepper
- 1 cup chopped orange pepper
- 1 cup chopped red onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes (could use more)
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup olive oil
- 4 TBSP balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 splashes of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 TBSP honey
Combine the beans, peppers, lentils, red onion, celery, cherry tomatoes and ¾ of the greens and toss lightly with the dressing.
To make the dressing, whisk together all ingredients and pour over the salad.
Serve on a bed of the leftover greens.