Strawberry & Goat Cheese Salad

Sometimes it is so tempting to not pack a lunch for the office. Sometimes I just want those extra ten minutes to sleep or drink coffee or play with my hair. Sometimes I am uninspired by what I see in my fridge. Sometimes I just plain don’t feel like making lunch.

strawberry and coat cheese salad

So I go out. I zip to the Whole Foods five minutes away and peruse the aisles for something to eat (grocery shopping when hungry may actually be considered some form of torture). I usually end up in the prepared food/salad bar section of the store trying to narrow down my choices. A few weeks ago I found a “Seasonal Selections” salad filled with berries, nuts, and goat cheese. I had to have it! So I did…for about $8. For. A. Salad.

strawberry and coat cheese salad

I am ashamed. It’d be one thing if the dish would stretch to two meals, but let’s be real, I rarely leave leftovers as it is and a salad surely won’t make the cut. It was delicious, just like I thought it would be, but it wasn’t entirely worth it. Plus, I did the math (which in itself is huge!) and realized I could spend about twice that much on ingredients and make the same kind of salad 6 times over!

And that’s exactly what I did. This Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad is light, summery and perfect for on the go lunching or those days when making food is the last thing you want to do. Sweet berries, tangy cheese and filling nuts on a bed of crunchy greens? Yes please!

strawberry and coat cheese salad

Strawberry & Goat Cheese Salad (serves 1)

3 cups lettuce blend (I like Spring Mix and Romaine)

1 cup sliced strawberries

1 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

1 oz.  walnut pieces

balsamic vinegar, optional

Pile lettuce on plate and top with strawberries, nuts and cheese. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired.

strawberry and goat cheese salad

Whole Foods, Schmole Foods.

Sweet Potato and Lentil Salad

In grocery stores back home the deli cases offer a huge selection of what they call “salads” though none of the dishes actually have lettuce or greens in them. It’s a very Midwestern thing, I think, to have these giant bowls of goodness loaded with mayonnaise, pasta, potatoes, meats, and occasionally vegetables and to sell them for only $4.95/pound.

sweet potato and lentil salad

There’s potato salad (Polish or German, there’s a difference), pasta salad, tuna salad, fruit salad, grasshopper salad (a delicious combination of Cool Whip, mint flavoring, green food coloring, and crushed Oreos). The list goes on.

The traditional Midwestern response: “Kale? Escarole? Radicchio? Just who do you think you are? Those don’t belong in a salad! Now go get me a can of cream of mushroom soup for tonight’s hot dish…”

sweet potato and lentil salad

Aaaaaaaaanywho. That loose definition of what constitutes a salad led me to make this delish dish. Creamy sweet potatoes, protein-packed lentils, tart apples and meaty mushrooms are combined to make an incredibly filling vegetarian dish. A drizzle of balsamic reduction and a healthy sprinkling of a nice salty cheese balances out this warm and filling Sweet Potato and Lentil Salad. Make a large batch of it at the beginning of the week and eat for days or make for a group and a delicious side dish to go along with a roast chicken.

sweet potato and lentil salad

Sweet Potato and Lentil Salad (makes 4 servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

¼ medium red onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 tart apple (such as Cortland), chopped

1 medium sweet potato, steamed, peeled, and chopped

1 cup cooked lentils

Balsamic vinegar reduction, see recipe below

2-4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, for serving (optional)

Salt to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, stirring to coat with oil, and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, and cook until mushrooms begin to soften and release juices. Add remaining oil, apples, sweet potato, and lentils. Cook until warmed through, about 5 – 10 minutes.

Divide among bowls and top with balsamic vinegar reduction and cheese. Serve immediately.

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

½ cup balsamic vinegar

Place vinegar in a medium saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes, or until reduced by half, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly. The reduction will thicken as it cools.

sweet potato and lentil salad

Totally worth $4.95/pound.

Blackberry & Blue Cheese Salad

“Woa! What’s that?” he asked as I slipped the lettuce into the cart. 

“Umm…salad mix?” I said, more question than answer. How did he not know what salad mix was? 

“What do you do with it?”

“Umm…make salad.”

“Should I get some? Should I be eating this?” He slipped a container of the greens onto his pile.

blackberry and blue cheese salad

On and on it went. My neighbor and I were grocery shopping and we were both experiencing a culture shock. He didn’t understand why I wanted fresh carrots and I was flabbergasted as to what one person could do with 10 frozen pizzas. He tried to convince me of the advantages of  a 2 for 1 sale on baked beans (just…no) and I tried to get him to buy 18 eggs instead of just a dozen. 

crumbled blue cheese

Clearly, our tastes don’t align, but the shopping trip was still fun. I’ve never seen someone get so confused in the bread aisle. And I definitely know he’d be very confused about this salad. Cheese on a salad? Nuts on a salad? Fruit on a salad? Yes, yes, and yes. This salad is so big and filling and fresh. Creamy and salty blue cheese (I got some fancy brand from Whole Foods – their cheese selection is my kryptonite). Crunchy and satisfying nuts. Sweet and juicy blackberries. Pile them high on a bed of mixed greens and vegetables and this is a perfect spring salad to enjoy for a quick dinner.

blackberry and blue cheese salad

Blackberry & Blue Cheese Salad 

2 cups mixed greens

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup cucumbers, peeled and sliced

2 TBSP red onion, sliced

1/2 cup blackberries, halved

1 oz (about 1/4 cup) pecan halves

2 oz. crumble blue cheese

Pile ingredients onto a large plate or toss in a large bowl, drizzle with balsamic vinegar or favorite salad dressing. Serve immediately. 

blackberry and blue cheese salad

…or share with a neighbor. Or maybe not.

Pear & Mixed Green Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

“What kind of dressing do you have?”
“Well, we’ve got 1000 island, balsamic vnaigrette, blue cheese, French, ranch, honey mustard, Caesar, parmesan peppercorn, and our house Italian,” I rattle off from memory. Over and over and over again. Inevitably the customer gets 1000 island on their side salad (eww, btw) but only tells me after I’m out of breath from reciting the list. Sometimes, they ask twice before making a decision. Why we don’t have our dressings listed on the menu is beyond me. Drives me bonkers.

And has kind of turned me off of salad dressing. Forget that from the ages of 4 to 14 I assumed any sort of vegetable was just a vehicle for ranch dressing. Now, I normally just do a little balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper on my salads. Sometimes, if I’m feeling funky I’ll do an avocado or salsa.
But, now I’ve got a new go-to salad dressing. And go-to salad. This Pear and Mixed Green Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette is filling but fresh, a perfect way to ring in the New Year. A fresh cranberry vinaigrette dresses a simple salad of mixed greens, red onion, bacon crumbles, pear, and blue cheese. Salty, tart, sweet, crunchy, creamy. Phenomenal. 

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Pecan & Cranberry Crusted Goat Cheese Salad

I’ve never been one of those people. The ones who “do lunch.” You know, the fancy people who always seem suuuuuper busy but can always “do lunch” sometime.
Puh-leaz. I do lunch every day. I can’t not do it. I schedule my classes at school around it. I start thinking about lunch as soon as I take my last bite of breakfast.
Lately though, with work and baking and other holidays to-dos, lunch has consisted of cookie dough, cookies, frosting, or some combination thereof. Delicious for a while, but not a sustainable meal plan. Mainly because I have to wear jeans to work. 

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Fried Egg and Warm Kale Salad

Thanksgiving weekend is full. Full of family, friends, and food. There’s also a fair amount of shopping, coffee drinking, and laundry doing. Maybe a little "Office" watching thrown in for good measure. 
Know what there’s not a lot of? Restraint. Of any kind. A third plate at Thanksgiving dinner? Sure! Eat pie at 8 at night and then power nap before Black Friday shopping? Obvi. Buy the child sized fingerless gloves because they’re pink and sparkly?! Duh!
Ok, maybe that last one was just me (and the two ladies behind me in line who saw what I had and snatched up pairs for themselves. My lack of taste is vindicated!), but I’ll bet most of us are still feeling the effects of an extended weekend full of nonstop eating. I’m surprised I didn't sweat mashed potatoes on my run this morning. 
How can we rectify this situation? Kale. Kale is always the answer. 

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Blueberry Kiwi Salsa

I’ve got nothing for this salsa. It’s hot, I’ve been working like crazy, and am beyond sleep deprived. And really need to paint my nails so we’re keeping this short and sweet. And eating some Blueberry Kiwi Salsa.
I made it months ago right in the midst of a heat wave and a baking lapse. I put it on everything. Salads. Salmon. Spoons. It was phenomenal. I’m always looking for new salad toppings and love putting fruit in my salads so this salsa was the best of both worlds.
Any fruit and be thrown together with some jalapeno and red onion and become a quick and easy salsa, I’ve done cherry and strawberry variations of this with huge success. Have fun with it!

Blueberry Kiwi Salsa(make approx. 2 cups, inspired by How Sweet Eats)
1 vine ripe tomato, seed and chopped
½ medium jalapeno, seeded and chopped
¼ cup chopped red onion
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 whole kiwi, peel and chopped
Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
Juice of ½ a lime
Salt, to taste
Combine ingredients in food processor and pulse until desired consistency is reached. Alternatively, ingredients can be chopped uniformly and simply mixed together.
Salsa can be stored in fridge for up to one week.
I lied, I’ve got chips for this salsa.
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