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Italian Chopped Salad

Italian Chopped Salad

The dog days of summer mean salads for days. The weather is hot but this Italian Chopped Salad is cool, crisp, and delicious. When the temperatures soar I find myself craving cooling raw foods and not wanting to spend much time in the kitchen. Who can be bothered heating up the oven, clicking on a burner or even standing by a hot BBQ grill? On many summer days, I can’t.

There is no cooking involved in this Italian Chopped Salad. It only requires a bit of chopping and assembling. You can even prep the salad ingredients and dressing ahead of time. Then, you just need to take a few minutes to assemble the salad. Viola! Dinner is served.

Italian Chopped Salad

How to Make an Italian Chopped Salad

The steps necessary to make an Italian Chopped Salad are combine crisp Romaine lettuce with a few handfuls of colorful spring mix salad greens for a beautiful base.

For the chopped part of the salad, rinse and drain a can of artichoke hearts and then halve or quarter them depending on their size. You want to have bite-size pieces. No awkward large pieces! For the roasted red pepper, I cut it once around the equator (horizontally around the middle) and then into thin strips.

Halve the olives. Be sure to use nice olives for this salad. Skip the canned olives. Kalamata olives are typically sold in glass jars and have better taste and texture than the canned counterparts. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and then toast the pine nuts.

Italian Chopped Salad

To make the dressing, in a small bowl or Mason jar, combine olive oil (or tahini if you are trying to reduce processed oils), mustard, apple cider vinegar, honey, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and garlic. Shake or whisk to combine.

I like to serve the Italian Chopped Salad on a large platter or bowl. Then, layer the greens, artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper, olives, and chickpeas, toss salad with dressing and top with toasted pine nuts. I like my salads to be lightly dressed so add about half the dressing then toss. You can always add more but you can’t take any out once you’ve poured it on!

Here are few other salads that you might enjoy

Carrot Scallion Coriander Salad

3/4 shot of carrot scallion coriander salad

Have you seen the beautiful colorful carrots in the market lately? I have been seeing bags of full-sized colorful carrots for a while now in grocery stores. But, just recently I have seen bags of colorful baby carrots too. So, recently I picked up a few bags of those colorful babies and wanted to figure out a way to showcase their bright colors in a crisp carrot salad.

In case you were wondering, the colorful carrots while a bit bling-y taste just like orange carrots but the range of colors are best showcased in raw carrots. Cooking or roasting the carrots will mute their vibrancy a little. Fortunately, no cooking is necessary for this recipe. All you need to do is a little slicing and chopping.

Overhead shot of two plates of carrot scallion coriander salad

You know that I am a mandoline slicer evangelist. I use this kitchen tool ALL THE TIME! For example, here are a few recipes which are a breeze to make when you use a mandolin: Golden Beet and Cucumber Salad, Maple Walnut Crostini and Spicy Cucumber Salad with Peanuts.

How to Make Carrot Scallion Coriander Salad

But, back to this deliciously crisp and colorful carrot scallion salad. You can make the dressing ahead of time if you like. I toasted raw walnut pieces for a few a few minutes in a small pan on the stove top. Toasting the nuts brings out the flavor so don’t skip this step. I used my mandoline to slice the radishes and carrots. Instead of slicing the carrots into rounds, I held the carrots on the side and sliced them into ribbons. Don’t you think they look pretty?

Once your veggies are sliced, place them on a platter. You can also make four individual plates of salad if you prefer. Next drizzle the dressing evenly over the veggies and then top with walnuts. If you are a walnut fan you could substitute a different nut. I think pistachios would be very nice too.

Carrot Scallion Coriander Salad

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

What the heck do vegetarians eat? I hear this all the time from friends and family who want to invite someone they care about over for dinner. But, when that person is a vegetarian many cooks get stumped. Ask my Mom. She will tell you. That poor woman has two daughters are totally or nearly vegetarian and two grandkids are vegetarian. She will tell you that she hates inviting us over for dinner because she has no idea what to make. So, Mom, Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers is one great alternative to consider. It is hearty enough that even carnivores (like your husband) will feel satisfied.

First, a little background about Picadillo which is a popular dish in Spain and many Latin American countries. Picadillo is typically made with ground beef, tomatoes, and a variety of spices. It is often served with rice and used a filling for dishes like tacos or savory pastries.

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed PeppersI like this healthier version of Picadillo swaps out ground beef for lentils. Lentils are inexpensive to buy, low in fat, high in fiber, and full of protein. By sautéing aromatics like onion and garlic with chili powder, cinnamon, Italian seasoning, cocoa powder, and tomatoes, you can achieve a rich flavorful broth to coat the lentils.

This version of Lentil Picadillo is most similar to the Picadillo found in Puerto Rico which includes green olives for a salty bite and raisins for a sweet chewy texture. In Puerto Rico, Picadillo is a common filling for empanadas or fritters. In this recipe, I add cooked rice to the Picadillo and stuff it inside a sweet red bell pepper before baking.

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

Finally, lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers is a great make ahead meal. You could prep the Picadillo on the weekend and then on a weeknight, stuff the peppers and bake.  A healthy, homemade dinner will be on the table in under 30 minutes. What is not to love about that? Also, can you say lunch leftovers? Just try not to gloat as your coworker pulls her sad little Lean Cuisine out of the microwave.

How to Make Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Pepper

Roasted Carrot and Goat Cheese Sandwich

Roasted Carrots with Goat Cheese

Life is too short for the same old, same old sandwiches. How many peanut butter & jelly, tuna, or egg salad sandwiches can one person eat in a life time? Sandwiches are simple, portable, and can be quite delicious with just a little bit of effort and creativity. I love sandwiches that have a mix of colors, textures, and tastes.

In this roasted carrot and goat cheese sandwich you get sweetness from the roasted carrots, tangy creaminess from goat cheese, and a bit of salty bite from the green olives. Are you familiar with the spice blend za’atar? It is a Middle Eastern seasoning made from dried herbs, spices, and sesame seeds. I buy za’atar at the Middle Eastern market. You can also order za’atar on Amazon.

You may recall this recipe for Za’atar Roasted Tomatoes and Pita Chips from earlier this year.

Roasted Carrots with Goat Cheese

If you aren’t a fan of goat cheese you can use cream cheese instead. The cream cheese will have less tang and a smoother texture. Plus, it might be easier to find and more economical but I love goat cheese so usually use it for this sandwich. Also, if you aren’t a green olive lover you can leave them out, use black olives or substitute capers instead.

You will want to use a bread that when toasted is hearty enough to hold up to spreading the thick goat cheese mixture. I used plain white sandwich bread but I can think of a few other breads that would make a great sandwich. I like the idea of a walnut raisin bread or a honey wheat bread.

Next time I make this sandwich, I will use thicker carrots and slice them slightly on the diagonal in order to get more surface area to roast. I also think that thicker slices of roasted carrot will make the sandwiches more substantial when you go in for a bite.

Roasted Carrots with Goat Cheese

What are your slightly out-of-the-box sandwiches you like to make and eat? I am always looking for something new.

How to Make Roasted Carrot and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

roasted carrot and goat cheese

Spicy Mango Sauce

Spicy Mango Sauce

Oh, just imagine all the foods that you can dip in this delicious spicy mango sauce! Coconut shrimp? Yes! Asparagus fries? Yes! Spring rolls? Of course! How about spicy mango sauce served with roasted cauliflower? I think that there is potential there. In the comments, let me know how else you might use spicy mango sauce.

If you stop by Hello Fun Seekers from time to time, you probably know how much I love the sweet and heat flavor combination. Here are a few of my favorite sweet heat recipes.

 

Spicy Mango Sauce

This spicy mango sauce exemplifies that sweet heat idea perfectly. The mango and coconut milk provide the sweet. You will want to use the canned coconut milk found in the ethnic food aisle of the grocery store rather than the coconut milk in the carton found with other nut milks. The heat comes from the Sriracha and chipotle chili powder.

This spicy mango sauce comes together very quickly. Once you cut and peel the mango, you just blitz everything else in the blender. I have included a tutorial on peeling and seeding a mango if you need a refresher.

See? Peeling and seeding a mango isn’t that bad. Give it a try if you haven’t. You will be so happy that you did! Below is a photo of my coconut shrimp recipe served with the spicy mango sauce. Delicious! You can find the link to the coconut shrimp recipe in the first paragraph of this post.

Coconut ShrimpA

 

Spicy Mango Sauce

Greek Buddha Bowl

Greek Buddha Bowl

One of the things that I love about Buddha bowls is that you get a complete meal in a bowl.  Hello Fun Seekers’ reader Mila inspired this Greek Buddha Bowl. I combined the flavors that you typically associate with Greek food, like feta, olives, red onions, and a spicy yogurt sauce into a hearty and healthy meal. This Greek Buddha Bowl recipe is the second in a series of Buddha bowl recipes here at Hello Fun Seekers. The first post was a Mexican food inspired Fiesta Buddha bowl.

Are there flavor combinations that you love that would make a great Buddha Bowl? I would love to hear them in the comments below. I am thinking about Thai flavors or maybe sushi roll flavors.

Greek Buddha Bowl

Ingredients and Swaps

Along with their versatility, I adore the way a Buddha bowl incorporates a grain (in this case, farro), vegetables (zucchini, red onion, and red pepper), and beans (garbanzos) into a nutritional powerhouse of a meal. All that is needed is a delicious sauce and perhaps a few toppings and dinner is done. But, the beauty of a Buddha bowl is the way the recipe can be adapted to incorporate your favorite flavors.

There are no rules here! Swap out ingredients that you or your family are not crazy about with ingredients that are more palatable to you. If you aren’t a zucchini fan just replace it with something else that is green. How about broccoli? Or, perhaps spinach suits you better? Don’t roast the spinach but you could sauté it if you didn’t want to use it raw.  However, you can use it raw and the spinach would likely wilt a little bit when combined with the warm grain and roasted veggies and be incredibly delicious.

Greek Buddha Bowl

Have you tried farro? Farro is a wheat grain often used in Italian cuisine. Until recently, farro was sometimes difficult for me to find at the grocery store. Thankfully, I can regularly find farro at Trader Joe’s and sometimes in the bulk bins of many grocery stores. Farro has a slightly chewy texture and nutty flavor when cooked. If you can’t find farro you can substitute other grains such as brown rice, quinoa, or barley in this recipe.

Greek Buddha Bowl

Greek Buddha Bowl

Greek Pizza with Spicy Yogurt Sauce

Greek Pizza with Spicy Yogurt Sauce

Do you have a few dinner recipes in your arsenal that you go to when you need a quick, healthy dinner? Veggie burgers, bean and cheese burritos, and popcorn are mine. I know popcorn isn’t technically dinner but on occasion, paired with a glass of wine, it is the best I can do.

It can be easy to outsource dinner to take-out or delivery but its January and we are committed to sticking with our healthy eating goals, right? Right! So, let’s skip take-out and add some new quick and healthy recipes to our collection.

Greek Pizza  with Spicy Yogurt Sauce | Easy | Healthy |  Quick

What I love about this recipe is not only quick and healthy but the Greek flavor profile is delicious too. The only cooking involved is chopping the veggies and roasting them in the oven. Everything else is just an assembly job.  The pizzas can be totally customized to suit your taste and the tastes of your families. Hate olives? Skip them.  Love artichoke hearts? Add them.

Use a whole wheat pita as a base. You can use regular white pita too, of course, but using whole wheat bumps up the nutrition. Hummus is the sauce. You can use prepared hummus or homemade. I love making hummus at home but there are so many delicious commercially prepared tubs of hummus out there that I almost always pick up a few containers to keep in the fridge when I grocery shop.

Greek Pizza  with Spicy Yogurt Sauce | Easy | Healthy |  Quick

The only step in this recipe that can be considered cooking is this one. You will chop up vegetables into uniform pieces to encourage them to roast together in harmony. If some of the veggie pieces are huge and others small, the small pieces may burn before the large ones cook through. So, uniformly chop your veggies and drain then rinse a can of garbanzo beans. The roasted beans add a little crunch to the pizza.

Warm the pitas in the oven while the veggies roast and all you have left to do is assemble pizzas and pat yourself on the back for sticking to your resolutions.

Greek Pizza  with Spicy Yogurt Sauce | Easy | Healthy |  Quick

Greek Pizza with Spicy Yogurt Sauce | Quick | Easy | Healthy

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