Preparing a summer salad is a creative outlet that allows me to experiment and play with my food. Colorful and fresh ingredients are readily available in the stores, farmer’s markets, CSA boxes and, if you are lucky, your own garden. Magic happens in a salad bowl when fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruits combine with a light dressing. A mix of crunchy and soft textures with sweet and tangy flavors delight the taste buds.
Inspiration for this summer salad came from a nectarine, my first of the season. This nectarine was surprisingly sweet and juicy. Resisting a nectarine with its gorgeous red-orange skin and luring sweet smell is nearly impossible. They just might be my favorite fruit. Hence, my decision to use the nectarine in my newest summer salad creation.
A Palette of Vegetables
Creating a brilliant summer salad isn’t difficult. There are so many tasty, fresh ingredients to inspire a multitude of delicious results. With my guys out-of-town for the weekend, I only had my own taste buds to please. As a result, I could experiment with whatever I had on hand. The refrigerator yielded fresh ginger, lacinato kale, red cabbage, a red pepper and the remaining quinoa from a previous meal. From my pantry came an avocado, orange cherry tomatoes, a lemon, olive oil, and almonds. Pink Himalayan salt and toasted sesame seeds were in my spice drawer. Finally, the pièce de resistance, that gorgeous nectarine was waiting in the fruit bowl just for me.
Simple Steps to a Summer Salad Masterpiece
Whisk the juice from half a lemon, ginger, olive oil and salt together in the salad bowl.
2. Rip the dark green kale leaves from their center stem and slice them up into thin ribbons. Toss them with the lemon juice mixture.
3. Chop some red cabbage and add it into the bowl with the kale.
4. Make thin slices from the red pepper, cut them into bite sized pieces and toss them in with the kale and cabbage.
5. Add quinoa to the bowl and mix it all together. I had some radish slices mixed in with my leftover quinoa (just in case you are wondering about the little white circles). They could be added, but aren’t necessary for this salad.
6. Chop up the nectarine, tomatoes, avocado and almonds.
7. Toss everything together in the bowl and top with the almonds and sesame seeds.
8. Serve it up on a plate and enjoy. Alternatively, you can it eat it straight from the bowl. It’s so good you’ll devour the entire salad. At least I did.
9. Finally, enjoy outside with a beautiful view.
What are your favorite summer salad combinations?
Thérèse Buckingham for Vitality in Focus
Summer Salad: A Palette of Colorful, Fresh Ingredients
We tend to measure our children’s lives in milestones and stages. Often we are wishing for a certain stage to conclude (think terrible twos) or hoping the current stage never ends. However, it is the milestones that we really celebrate. Events like the first day of school or getting a driving permit or when they take their first step, start using the toilet, and lose their first tooth are all celebrated in a big or small way. There are the “big” birthdays; 1, 10, 13, 16, 18 and 21 that have a bit more weight or importance than others. However, we put our heart and soul into making every childhood birthday special and memorable. Finally, we celebrate graduations from kindergarten, sometimes eighth grade, high school and college. When you get to the college graduation you realize that this amazing child of yours has made it through all of the childhood stages and milestones. From now on the milestones are adult level: marriage, turning 30, first house or first baby. This may make you feel old, but don’t let it make you act old!
Sugar River in Shirland, Illinois
A Big Milestone to Celebrate
On May 14th we celebrated our oldest son’s college graduation. It was a big milestone and worthy of all the pomp and circumstance. I didn’t even mind that it took center stage to Mother’s Day. This was Rikley’s day and a day for his parents, grandmother, aunt and brother to cheer him on as he strode across the stage and accepted his diploma. All of his success has been a direct result of his effort. As a side note, for Mother’s Day, I was given a fabulous new cookbook. I’ve tried three of the recipes and would make them again. Run Fast Eat Slow is written by two runners and is full of nourishing recipes. The recipe for their Superhero Muffins is reason enough to buy the cookbook. They promote it as “nourishing recipes for athletes” but I would consider the recipes to be nourishing for anyone who is wanting to add delicious real food to their diet.
Kale & Radicchio Salad with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts. Recipes came from Run Fast Eat Slow.
What? No Waterfall?
Back to graduation. Before the ceremony began Keaton asked me if I was going to cry. It’s a fair question because I’m known to cry over everything and anything. Any emotion, whether it is sad or happy, can cause tears to well up in my eyes. Shoot, I’ve even cried watching coffee commercials. My guys just laugh, shake their heads and say, “Mom’s crying again.” But, back to Keaton’s question. The tears clouding my vision on this beautiful spring day were from the joy I felt as Rikley took his diploma in his left hand and shook the college president’s hand with his right. Then I wondered why it was so different from his high school graduation?
The Difference Between Then and Now
Four years ago I was wiping tears from my eyes for two months. All at once it came to me. High school graduation is the end of a big childhood stage. It’s the stage that most parents never want to come to an end. Have you ever wished that you could go back in time and do it all over again? I would repeat the last 19 years in a heart beat if I could. This is the stage that starts with your child’s birth and ends when they’ll no longer be living full-time in your home. College is a short four-year stage that flies by. Nonetheless, college graduation is a triumphant milestone that proceeds new beginnings and adventures as your child begins a new stage of adulthood. Additionally, it is the end of tuition payments and that is certainly worth celebrating, right? Perhaps one other small factor to the absence of a river gushing down my cheek is knowing that my boy is coming back to Oregon where he will pursue his doctorate degree in physics at Oregon State University. One hundred thirty miles away is so much better than two thousand seventy-eight miles!
Age is Irrelevant
I wonder how it is possible that I am old enough to be the mother of a college graduate? Of course age is “just a number.” What is important is how you feel inside and out, and this comes down to the choices we make every day. I refuse to think myself “old”. Think young and stay young. Some people stay young at heart, playful and physically active. They keep their brain and body engaged in activities they enjoy. Furthermore, they participate in social engagements and belong to groups. I seriously believe that this is what has kept my mother so young. She chooses to stay socially engaged and to keep herself mobile.
When my boys were small little bumpkins crawling and playing with toys on the floor Mom would get down there with them. She said to me, “I just want them to remember me.” You have to understand that she was 75 at the time. So, it was a justified fear of hers that she might die before they had time to accumulate enough memories of her. Well, she is now 94 and they have a treasure trove of memories to look back on and remember what a remarkable Nana they have. One memory they will never forget was the day they were playing golf with her and she got her first hole-in-one! It was just the three of them and they watched the ball she hit from the tee roll right up to and into the hole. Mom continued to play golf until she was 91, getting one more hole-in-one before she quit. She still gets out 3 days a week to play bridge with friends, walks up the street to get her mail, goes to Book Club once a month, drives herself to get groceries, goes to the library to check out more books, meets with friends for dinner on Thursday nights… She does all of this even though her knee aches, it takes more time to get ready and she tires more quickly. My mom is my role model.
Nana has been there every Christmas morning of their life.
Milestones to Come
This is why I want to stay healthy and fit. I want to be able to get down on the floor and play with my grandchildren. I want to take them on hikes, play games, and chase them around a playground. However, that stage is years away, so I think I will savor the stage my boys are in right now. I know that I am taking care of myself not only so I can run, ski and hike with my family now but to ensure that I can still do those things twenty years from now. Choosing to eat real food (not processed) and choosing to exercise is my insurance for a healthy future. Be thankful for the milestones and celebrate them. However, don’t forget that what we do now will determine how we will enjoy all the future milestones.
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When I hear fritter I think of some morsel of food that’s been covered in a batter and deep fried. Think of corn fritters, hush puppies or apple fritters and the word healthy doesn’t come to mind. However, fritters can also be pan fried with a little healthy fat and made up of any number of vegetables. My aim is to find recipes that are good for you, taste great and are simple to make. This recipe fits the bill. It has just 9 ingredients that should be readily available at most stores or could be substituted. These vegetable fitters are versatile and are even good cold the next day for lunch, so double the recipe and have plenty left over. Pair them with a kale salad and you have a nutritious complete meal.
Potential Health Benefits
There’s lots of healthy goodness in this meal. The ingredients contain antioxidants, nutrients, essential fatty acids, and minerals that boast numerous health benefits. As a result your brain, skin, eyes, joints, gut and heart will thank you. In addition, a dinner like this can speed up your metabolism, increase your energy and improve your memory.
Zucchini is low in calories and high in anti-inflammatory properties. Essential nutrients like potassium and manganese are high in zucchini. In addition, it has a high water content that makes you feel full.
I grew up watching commercials for Chia Pets, and was surprised when chia seeds became a popular superfood. There are a number of reported health benefits to adding nutrient dense chia seeds into your diet. Studies have shown that they can improve heart and digestive health, boost your energy and metabolism, help you build muscle and lose weight, and prevent premature aging of the skin. They are versatile and can be added to many recipes. I’ve use them in our morning smoothies, breads and pancakes, on yogurt with granola and in these fritters. There is some evidence that soaking them in water for 30 minutes makes them easier to digest and makes the nutrients more readily available.
The list of health benefits for coconut oil goes on and on. From reducing inflammation to improving memory in addition to boosting the immune system and increasing energy and endurance it has an impressive line-up of benefits when used both orally and topically. It is important to buy cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil and avoid the refined or processed oil to ensure that you get the greatest health benefits.
These vegetable fritters are so easy to make especially if you have a food processor. My Cuisinart is about 25 years old and still running strong. It makes quick work of prepping vegetables, making hummus, chopping nuts and making smooth salad dressings. I keep mine readily available on a shelf in my pantry so that deciding to use it is a no brainer. If your useful kitchen tools and small appliances are buried in a cupboard behind other things you won’t use them. At least that is my experience, because a knife or grater is easier to grab than getting down on your knees and pulling things out to get to the food processor. Alternatively, you can use a box grater if you don’t have a food processor.
Carrots & Zucchini
You’ll want about 2 cups of grated vegetables for this recipe. You can see that I have a heaping 2 cups from 1 large zucchini and 2 large carrots. I had extra grated carrots that I then used in the kale salad. The zucchini has a high water content, so it helps to squeeze or press some of the moisture out of it before adding it to the other ingredients. After grating the zucchini put it into a colander with small holes or a mesh sieve, sprinkle a little salt on it and let it sit while you prepare the carrots and onion. Then just push the zucchini down and let the excess water drain out. Alternatively you can squeeze it with your hands. You could also use sweet potatoes, parsnips, rutabaga, or butternut squash.
Dice half an onion to equal about 1/2 cup. Onions add immense flavor to savory recipes.
Add Flax & Chia
Put the carrots, zucchini, and onion into a bowl and add 1/3 cup of flax meal and 3 teaspoons of chia seeds.
Break two eggs into a smaller bowl and give them a quick whisk with a fork.
You can make this a vegan meal by replacing the eggs with chia seeds.
Next add a 1/2 teaspoon of Himalayan pink, sea or kosher salt and 3 grinds of pepper from a pepper mill. Mix it all together.
Kale Salad to Complete the Meal
This is a simple kale salad to serve along with the fritters. Plus the ingredients add to the nutritional bang of this meal. I like to use Lacinato (dinosaur) kale in salads, but I had curly kale, so I used it. There are just 7 ingredients in this salad. Wash, de-stem and chop the kale. Put the kale, the extra grated carrots, and 2 tablespoons each of pepitas and goji berries into a bowl. Drizzle the juice of a lemon and a tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil on top with a pinch or two of salt and toss to combine. When I make a kale or cabbage salad I like to make it first and let it sit while I prepare the rest of the meal. This helps to soften the kale and the flavors have time to mingle and create a more flavorful salad.
After the salad sits for 10 minutes give it a taste test and add more lemon juice or salt if you think it needs it. If you don’t have any more lemon juice then apple cider vinegar works as well.
Cooking the Fritters
Heat a griddle pan or skillet on medium heat and melt 1/2 a tsp of coconut oil on the hot surface. I love this griddle pan from Al Clad. It covers two burners and allows me to fry more fritters at a time. Measure about a 1/4 -1/3 cup of fritter batter onto the hot skillet and let them cook until browned, about 4 minutes. Flip the fritters and brown on the other side. Make sure you keep mixing the eggs back into the batter. They tend to puddle in the bottom of the bowl and you want them to cook with the fritters.
These fritters smell delicious as they are cooking and get a nice golden brown crunch on them. You’ll want to sneak bites as they come hot off the griddle.
Dinner is Ready
Plate 2-3 fritters along side the kale salad and get ready to enjoy. Save any leftover fritters for tomorrow’s lunch. One of the nice things about using kale in a salad instead of lettuce is that the leftovers don’t get limp or slimy by the next day. You can enjoy leftover salad tomorrow as well.
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2 cups grated carrots and zucchini (about two large carrots and one large zucchini)
2 eggs; whisked (organic and/or free-range if possible)
1/3 cup flax meal
3 tsp chia seeds
1/2 tsp Himalayan or sea salt
3 grinds on a pepper mill
1-2 tsp coconut oil
THE KALE SALAD:
2 cups of chopped kale
1 cup of grated carrots (you can use what is left from the carrots grated for the fritters)
2 TBS pepitas
2TBS goji berries (could replace with raisins, dried cherries, or dried blueberries)
Juice from 1 lemon
1-2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Add all of the salad ingredients to a bowl and toss to combine. Let the salad sit while you make the fritters. This will give the kale time to soften.
To make the fritters combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
Heat the coconut oil in a hot skillet.
Spoon about 1/3 cup of the fritter batter onto skillet and flatten out like little pancakes. Fit as many as you can onto the cooking surface.
Let the fritters fry for about 4 minutes until brown underneath.
Turn them and let them brown on the other side.
Serve the fritters with the kale salad and enjoy!
Zucchini has a high water content and it is best to drain some out before adding it to the other ingredients. After grating the zucchini put it into a colander with small holes or a mesh sieve, sprinkle a little salt on it and let it sit while you prepare the carrots and onion. Then just push the zucchini down and let the excess water drain out. Alternatively you can squeeze it with your hands.
You can make this a vegan meal by substituting the eggs for more chia seeds, 1 TBS/egg) that have been soaked in water for about 30 minutes or so. You can used ground chia or flax seeds as an egg substitute as well.
Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli is Hit Dinner #10 in my recipe journal. I started keeping a journal in my kitchen three years ago. Whenever I “wing” a meal that everyone likes I write it down in my journal. I wish I had started doing this many years ago because my journal would be filled by now. Before starting the journal I’d throw something together for dinner, all of my guys would like it, but I didn’t write it down. I thought at the time that I would remember what I had created, but unfortunately I never did. Even with my journal I’ve missed recording some great meals because I got busy and thought, “I’ll write it down later.” Needless to say, “later” never comes. I am learning that I have to do it in the moment or else it doesn’t happen.
Why Dinner Menus?
There is a reason why I want to record the entire meal. I experiment with recipes all the time, but then I also have to come up with an idea for the side dish. We get bored with steamed broccoli, or I fall into a salad rut. When I make a dinner where every part comes together, I want to remember what I made so I can do it again. My dream is to write a cookbook based entirely on seasonal dinner menus that are simple, fresh and easy to prepare. Of course they have to taste good as well.
Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli
This Paprika-Lemon Chicken was our dinner Sunday night. I already had the buckwheat soaking in a Mason jar because I had planned to use it in a salad. However, I had forgotten to thaw the salmon and as a result didn’t have a complete dinner plan. When Rob called me from the market to see if there was anything I needed, I thought for a moment, and then asked him to get a couple boneless chicken breasts. While waiting for him, I cooked the grains and pulled a bunch of veggies out of the refrigerator. I do my grocery shopping on Mondays, so by Sunday it’s time to use up whatever is left. We had a red pepper, red onion, cucumber, parsley and garlic to make a tabouli style salad with quinoa and buckwheat. I also found a bunch of kale that needed to be eaten. Bingo! I had my dinner plan.
I should probably call it Quinoa-Buckwheat Tabouli, but that was too long. You could do this with any grain. I wanted to try buckwheat, which is naturally gluten-free, and I like using quinoa. Quinoa is actually not a grain even though we prepare it like a grain. It’s a pseudo-cereal loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals, and it’s high in protein.
Cook the buckwheat and quinoa each for about 15 minutes. It’s best to soak the buckwheat prior to cooking to make it easier to digest and allow you to absorb more of its vital vitamins and minerals. Put the buckwheat in a glass bowl or jar in the morning, add warm water and then cover the container with a clean kitchen towel. It can sit on the counter until you are ready to use it. Rinse the quinoa and soaked buckwheat before cooking. I cooked mine separately, but you could try cooking them together. Use enough water in the pot to cover buckwheat and/or quinoa by about two inches, bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes. The buckwheat should be tender but not mushy, and the quinoa should have little white halos around them. Quinoa comes in different colors. The kind I used was a mix. When done, rinse under cold water and combine in a bowl. I used about a cup of each of the cooked quinoa and buckwheat and the rest I stored to use in a soup later in the week.
Traditional tabouli is more parsley than anything else. I’m not a huge fan of the flavor of parsley but it is a great herb for digestion and detox. Use the amount that suits you. Sweet peppers and cucumbers are among the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables that you should absolutely buy and eat organic. This is because they have some of the highest pesticide loads even after peeling and washing. Just to be clear, I don’t peel red peppers, but I will peel and remove the seeds from cucumbers in salads. They aren’t as bitter that way however, you lose some of their nutritional value.
Chop the vegetables and combine them with the quinoa and buckwheat. Stir in 2 TBS of extra virgin olive oil, a TBS of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar and a TBS of fresh lemon juice. Taste and adjust the oil and acids to your taste. Finish it off with a pinch or two of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper.
This is going to sit while you cook the chicken and kale. The flavors will have time to settle in and get all happy together. Taste again before serving and adjust the seasonings to your taste.
I used two boneless, skinless chicken breasts for the two of us and we had some left over. Put the chicken breasts between some plastic wrap on top of a non-wood cutting board.
Before you start pounding the chicken with a meat mallet smash three cloves of garlic on the cutting board you used for the veggies. You could do it with the flat side of a chopping knife but, since the mallet is out I like to give the garlic a good bang with it. The garlic will be used with the kale so peel off the thin papery skin and set it aside.
Pound the chicken until it is about a 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Peel off the top layer of plastic wrap. Season the tops of the chicken breasts with a pinch of sea salt, a tsp of smoked paprika, a couple turns on the pepper mill and a 2 tsp of fresh lemon juice. Turn them over and do the same on the back side.
Heat the avocado oil over medium heat until it will move easily around in your grill pan. Add the chicken breasts and let them cook for 4 minutes.
Start the Kale
While the chicken cooks wash and de-stem one bunch of leafy green kale. Heat another TBS of avocado oil in a separate pan over medium heat. When you can swirl the oil around to coat the pan add the smashed garlic cloves.
It should be time to turn the chicken.
Doesn’t that look good? It will be a nice golden-red color. Set the timer for another 4 minutes for the chicken and start cooking the kale. After cooking the second side, remove the chicken and let it sit for 5 minutes before slicing into strips.
When the garlic starts to brown swirl it around in the oil and then add the kale. Be careful, if your kale is still wet from washing it the oil will spit at you. I try to add the kale all at once to cover the pan surface. Turn the kale over as it cooks so that it wilts evenly and doesn’t burn on the bottom.
The kale will be nicely wilted. Before serving sprinkle it with a pinch of sea salt and a drizzle of lemon juice. I’m amazed at how little there is once it’s wilted. Rob and I will eat the entire bunch in one meal. I could eat kale like this every day. I love it! Adjust the salt and lemon to your taste buds.
Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli
There’s your Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli dinner. Plate it all up and enjoy!. I happened to have some pomegranate seeds that needed to be used, so I topped the tabouli with those and chopped raw almonds for added crunch. These are optional additions.
Yields 2 servings
Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli
1/2 a chopped Cucumber, peeled and de-seeded if desired
1 cup chopped parsley
2-3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 TBS Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar
1 TBS fresh Lemon Juice; or more to taste
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste; a pinch or two
8 raw almonds, chopped
Pomegranate Seeds; optional
FOR THE CHICKEN
2 skinless, boneless Chicken Breasts; pound to 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick
1 tsp Sea Salt
2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/2 - 1 tsp Ground Pepper
4 tsp lemon juice
1 TBS Avocado Oil
FOR THE KALE
1 bunch of Leafy Green Kale; washed and de-stemmed
3 Garlic Cloves; smashed and peeled
1 TBS Avocado Oil
1-2 tsp fresh Lemon Juice
a pinch or two of Sea Salt
For the Tabouli, put the buckwheat in a pot and cover it with 2 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil, turn heat down to low and simmer for 15 minutes. The buckwheat should be tender but not soggy. Rinse it under cold water in a fine mesh sieve and add to a medium sized salad bowl. Rinse the Quinoa well and then cook in the same way as the buckwheat. Rinse it under cold water and add to the bowl with the buckwheat. Mix in all of the chopped vegetables. Add the oil, vinegar and lemon juice and stir. Taste to see if you want more lemon juice or vinegar or if you need to add more olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and a few grinds from a pepper mill. Stir and set aside so the flavors can blend while you prepare the rest of the meal.
For the Chicken, mix the salt, paprika, and pepper together. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with the mixture. Then drizzle the lemon juice over the chicken using about 1/2 a tsp per side on each breast. Heat the oil in a grill pan over medium-high heat. When you can swirl the oil around to coat the pan add the chicken. Cook the chicken for 4 minutes on each side. Let it sit for 5 minutes before slicing into strips.
For the Kale, heat the avocado oil in a pan over medium-high heat. When the oil swirls easily in the pan add the garlic. Stir the garlic, flipping it over until it is lightly browned. Add all of the kale to the pan. Be careful because the hot oil will spit at you as the water from the kale hits it. I like to use tongs to turn the kale as it cooks so that it wilts evenly and doesn't burn. It should take only about 5 minutes to wilt down. Drizzle with the lemon juice and sprinkle with a pinch or two of sea salt.