Tag Archives: salad

Fun with Gourmet Greens: Arugula

The produce selection in Michigan these days is a dismal affair: it’s in that in-between stage where boxes brimming with bright berries can only be consumed with longing gazes, but sturdier alternatives like hard winter squashes are nowhere to be found. Perhaps I’m not going to the right places or perhaps I’m just too picky. I am a fairly picky eater, even more so when it comes to produce…I don’t like apples…or oranges…or bananas…or carrots or….

*awkward silence*

And I certainly don’t like  spending a lot of money on fruits and vegetables (all the less for other, more gourmet foods, like nuts!).

Given this, it should come as no surprise that I rarely consume leafy greens other than “standard salad blend,” which, once you’ve had a taste of anything else, becomes boring, mundane and tasteless. This probably explains why it’s the cheapest.

Arugula–is the exact opposite: sharp-cornered, intense green leaves textured with a pattern of small dots that warn of the peppery blast to come. With personality like that, it is no wonder this sharp leaf costs 5X as much (per ounce) as the hospital-wall white bargain in a bag. You may hear from other (less discerning) foodies that spinach and pepper is an acceptable substitute, but this is akin to swapping green peas with lima beans and sugar. I suppose it depends how you define acceptable.

My first experience with arugula was actually in England a few years ago, where I fell in love with the sandwiches sold at the chain pharmacy, Boot’s (not with a z like my cat). The sandwich, which featured a simple paring of carrots, hummus and the accurately named “rocket,” quickly became one of my favorites. It wasn’t until I tried to mimic the arugula-spiced sandwich upon my return that I learned “rocket’s” U.S. translation was “expensive”. I tried the recommended spinach and pepper substitute but found the result so distasteful I preferred to do without. And so ended my affair with arugula….

Until yesterday at Kroger where, out of some inexplicable cosmic irony, I happened upon a (perfectly healthy-looking) box with two labels: one proclaiming the box contained USDA-certified organic baby arugula (a.k.a. rocket, eruca, or “the peppery-est thing your tongue will ever encounter outside of a tiny glass bottle), and the other proclaiming it was 70% off ($1.29).

I’m sure you can figure out the rest of the story….


Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad with Balsamic Peppers and Mushrooms
makes 1 salad

  • Soft goat cheese (typically sold in a log or crumbles)
  • Frozen 3 pepper and onion blend
  • Sliced mini bella mushrooms (or portabella mushrooms you slice yourself)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Minced garlic (or its lazier cousin, garlic powder)
  • A few pinches each sage and dried rosemary leaves (optional)
  • and, of course…..arugula

→In a small/medium saute pan greased with nonstick spray, “saute” the mushrooms, 3 pepper blend and garlic (if using minced). Near the end of cooking, add the vinegar and spices. Set aside.

Put the arugula in a salad bowl. Top with crumbled goat cheese. Toss on the (still slightly warm) peppers and mushrooms. If you want, drizzle with a little extra balsamic to create a “dressing” (for those that don’t like the idea of “dry” salad).

Eat slowly, savoring each peppery bite.


The Back of My Freezer: Seitan

Can you imagine a better salad?

For the record, I’m not exactly sure when I bought this package. Or why, for that matter. Really, I’m not even exactly sure what seitan is. According to the back of the package, it’s made out of wheat gluten and has the “mouth feel” of chicken. I can’t say if that’s true or not because I don’t remember what chicken tastes like but, well, there it is.

All I know is that, when this 2-serving, $5 mass was defrosted, it looked like something my cat hacked up at 2 AM last night. (Unrelated side note: For those of you who’ve never heard the sound coming out of a cat as a hair-ball is viciously expelled from their body, I can only describe it as akin to one you would imagine the boogie man making).

Either way, at $5 for such a small box, I wasn’t about to throw it in the trash. That and my growling stomach made me even more inclined to using it. The taste was actually pretty bland, so I figured it might not be that bad if I could spice it up a bit. Meyer Lemon? Balsamic Vinegar? Garlic? Sure why, not. (Funny thing, I used to hate vinegar but I’ve been obsessed with sniffing it lately…I think it’s probably my horribly clogged sinuses).

For extra kicks, throw in some lettuce.

Close up of seitan

Simple Salad Made Inspiring with Lemon-Balsamic Seitan and Sauteed Mixed Peppers
makes 1 salad

  • Lettuce of choice (“Seven Lettuce” or Mediterranean blends would would nicely for this)
  • Tomatoes, chopped or, even better, sun-dried tomatoes
  • Unseasoned seitan
  • 3 pepper onion blend + mushrooms

For the sauce/dressing:

  • 1-2 meyer lemons, juice, pulp and rind (or just juice)
  • Few squirts balsamic vinegar
  • Garlic powder + onion powder + italian seasoning
  • Dried rosemary
  • Dried mint leaves
  • Salt and pepper

→For the sauce/dressing, mix the sauce ingredients together, whisking well. Note that all dry ingredients were measured in pinches (I added about a few pinches of each).

Put the lettuce in a bowl/salad plate. Put the tomatoes on top.

In a small frying pan sprayed with nonstick spray, “saute” the 3 pepper onion blend with the mushrooms. Put this on top of the salad.

In the same frying pan (sprayed with some more spray), saute the seitan. Once it looks a little brown, add about half of the sauce/dressing you made. Put this on top of the lettuce/peppers.

Pour the rest of the dressing over the top of the salad.

Serve with some thinly sliced meyer lemons if you want.

Yet another side note: I just realized how completely disjointed this post sounds (and how much the recipe title resembles a newspaper heading). I blame the sinuses. And the fact that I’m currently sniffing lab fumes.

5 Minutes to a Little Taste of Italy

It’s funny, because you’d think, not taking any classes, I’d have a lot more time on my hands to cook. But what seems to happen every day is I’ll get caught up in something (like cleaning/reorganizing or playing with photoshop) and the hunger pangs will sneak up on me. Then, I’ll need to eat something healthy quick before my blood sugar crashes and I eat everything in sight.

To prevent this eating of everything in sight (which usually leads to a great degree of anxiety and some self-destructive behavior), I usually open up the fridge/freezer and cook up the first thing that looks interesting/is going bad. This salad is a mix of both, I would say…the Morningstar Chicken Strips had been lying there forever and the peppers and onions go in almost everything if I’m cooking. So, here it is, another great weeknight meal.

*sigh* I hate taking pictures at night...

Last-Minute Chick’n and Veggie Salad (Italian Version)
makes 1 salad

  • Lettuce of choice (“Seven Lettuce” or Mediterranean blends would would nicely for this)
  • Tomatoes, chopped or, even better, sun-dried tomatoes
  • Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Chick’n Strips (feel free to substitute)
  • 3 pepper onion blend
  • Parmesan and/or fat-free mozzarella cheese
  • A couple good squirts fat-free Italian dressing

→Put the lettuce in a bowl/salad plate. Put the tomatoes on top.

In a small frying pan sprayed with nonstick spray, “saute” the 3 pepper onion blend and the Chick’n Strips. Put this on top of the salad.

Sprinkle a little cheese on top.

Squirt on a few good squirts of dressing.

Some chopped parsley would be nice too if you have some.

Yes, I tried to make it look like an actual recipe but, let’s be honest, this one’s so incredibly easy, it’s more of an idea than a recipe.


Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

This is one of my favorite salads. It’s for those few days in-between sunburns and snot icicles (which seem to come all too quickly in Michigan). Warm, cold, sweet, salty…it’s every flavor and texture that you could want in a salad (and one you’ll NEVER find in the dining hall).


The roasted butternut is really good enough on it’s own. But that’s not what makes this salad great. No, this salad is great because of the goat cheese. Although a rather expensive feat to make, the lavender-lemon crumbles of creaminess lend an earthy feel to the entire thing that makes the salad perfect for days when you’re tired, miserable, and just had your weekly news story ripped to shreds by your editor.

Yes, this is a salad for those days. The days when you wish you could rip yourself open and scoop out all the blubber. You know, as a substitute for killing your cat/dog/significant other/friend/self.

Go ahead, have a salad. It’s diet friendly!

Can't you just smell the lavender?

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Lavender-Lemon Goat Cheese

  • butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • goat cheese
  • lavender (you can find this in the spice aisle)
  • lemon zest (just grate it yourself…it’s so much cheaper)
  • lettuce mix of choice (I like the spring mix)
  • nuts (pistachios are good, almonds, I guess?)

→Step 1: Roast the squash
Preheat oven to 375*F. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Put the peeled/cubed squash on the tray and roast it for about 45-55 minutes. Make sure to check frequently to avoid burned squash!
Step 2: Make the goat cheese
Take about an ounce of goat cheese and mix it with the lemon zest and lavender. Make sure the goat cheese is cold so that it won’t turn into a paste when you’re trying to mix it.
Step 3: Put it together
Top the lettuce with the goat cheese and squash. And anything else you want. Usually, I’ll put some fake chicken strips, nuts, and/or Walden Farms raspberry vinaigrette. Honestly, though, this tastes good all by itself.

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