Category Archives: Salads

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

It has started to warm up, but in that usual spring way of being 70° one day and 46° the next. Still, I can feel spring around the corner and am in the mood for a cold salad. The trick is not to make too much for the two of us, so that we don’t feel obligated to eat it for a week or throw it away. I’m only going to use 6 0z. of the pasta, but I know it will still be too much.

I’m using fresh garden peas, now that my local grocer carries them, a few jarred roasted red peppers, hard boiled eggs, and the chicken breasts of the previous post. And bacon.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

  • Servings: 3-4 as main dish
  • Difficulty: easy
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6 oz pasta—I used white fiber pasta shells that have more whole grain—cooked according to package directions

2 large roasted red bell peppers, diced

8 oz fresh shelled garden peas, microwaved for 1 minute, or frozen peas, uncooked

4 eggs, hard boiled and chopped

4-6 slices thick-sliced bacon, browned and chopped

4 small poached chicken breasts, about 2 lbs, cut in large chunks (see previous post)

1 1/2-2 cups ranch dressing (below)

Ranch Dressing:

1/2 cup each whole buttermilk, real mayonnaise, sour cream

2 tablespoons dried chives

1 tablespoon dried dill weed

1 clove garlic, grated or minced

salt and pepper

  1. Whisk all ingredients until smooth. You can double the recipe if you think you need the larger amount, and it never hurts to have more on hand.

Combine all the salad ingredients, tossing with the ranch dressing. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. The garden peas are a nice addition with that fresh pop in each bite.

Asian Apple Cabbage Slaw

I had half a large head of Napa cabbage left from yesterday’s egg rolls, so a quick slaw seemed like a good idea. We were already in an Asian flavor mood, but I had some Fuji apples, too, and that’s how it came together.

Asian Apple Cabbage Slaw

  • Servings: 6-8 as a side dish
  • Difficulty: easy
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2-3 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage

1 Fuji apple, or apple of your choice, cut in matchsticks


1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar, unsweetened and unseasoned

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/3 -1/2 cup Hellmann’s® Mayonnaise

1/8 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

ground pepper to taste

Whisk sauce ingredients together until smooth. Pour over cabbage and apples in bowl, before they are mixed together, so that all the apples are covered to prevent browning. Toss. This is a slaw that can be eaten right away, as Napa cabbage is milder and more tender that regular cabbage. I don’t like to add salt to slaw, because it draws out too much water from the cabbage, but it can be added by diners at the table.

Peach Tomato Salsa

When your garden gives you tomatoes, make salsa. All the gathered vegetables look so nice and ripe and neat before you begin, and then you create a gigantic mess of fruits and vegetables with skins and seeds to be removed, dripping their juices before you get them all into the bowl, but once it’s done and all cleaned up, there it is, conveniently waiting to be used on fajitas or scrambled eggs, with black beans or chips, or wherever you can imagine.

Peach Tomato Salsa

  • Servings: makes about 4 cups
  • Difficulty: easy-moderate
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A salsa recipe is pretty much all prep. You’re making a condiment to use in a variety of ways from the star of the show to a small, hidden element. I decided to make a peach salsa because they are also ripe now and it seemed like a nice twist on the traditional salsa flavors. Let’s start with my ingredients:

  • 7 tomatoes (1 orange, low-acid and 1 plum)—this is just what I happened to have gathered from the garden, but if tomatoes are the main feature of your salsa, the number of tomatoes will determine your quantity of salsa
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • zest and juice of one lime
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 large garlic bulb, roasted with olive oil
  • 1 orange bell pepper, 1 jalapeno pepper, 1 Anaheim pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 medium yellow-flesh peaches, peeled and diced

Just about everything needs to be peeled in this dish, but not necessarily at the same time. Here’s what I did:

  • Tomatoes: Using the parboil/ice water method, I peeled the tomatoes and chopped them, seeds and all and added to mixing bowl. Drop tomatoes in boiling water and remove as soon as the skin splits to a bowl of ice water. The skins will slip off. Some recipes don’t call for doing anything but chopping to the tomatoes. I think that works best for a fresh salsa that does not sit and marinate for a lengthy period. Most recipes suggest peeling, but then seeding is the next option. I did not seed my tomatoes and the salsa was consequently very liquid. I strained it after it had chilled, but you might not care, or you might decide to pulse it in a blender. I would probably seed them in a fresher salsa or if your family has a problem with seeds.
  • I roasted the garlic and peppers all at once in a 350° oven, the garlic in olive oil, gathered in a foil purse, and the peppers brushed with olive oil spread out on the cooking sheet. The peppers were charred and ready to peel, seed, and chop in about a half hour, but I did have to turn them a few times. I removed the garlic from the oven after doing that and pressed out the garlic cloves, mashing them into a paste. I wanted roasted flavors instead of so many raw flavors and textures in this salsa.
  • I used shallots instead of onion for a milder onion flavor. I suppose you could roast onions with the other roasted vegetables, too.
  • I’m not a great fan of cilantro, but I think salsa needs that flavor. Chop the cilantro to your taste. I probably used close to a half cup, and less would have been fine with me. There are probably more sites about hating the taste of cilantro than loving it. I sympathize. Here’s one:
  • Peaches can be peeled with a paring knife, but if they are not very ripe, you can use the same parboil/ice water method that you use for the tomatoes. Mine were just ripe, but not soft and juicy. After dicing them to about 1/4 inch, I put the bowl in the microwave for 1 minute to soften them and release a little of their juices and sweetness.

with black beans

So, it’s all prep and everything goes into one bowl and then into the fridge to chill and marinate. As I said, I strained mine after that. Last night we ate it on chicken fajitas with lettuce and avocado. Today, I’m cooking black beans to mix with the remaining salsa for a side dish—for me, the main dish.






What to Bring to the Summer Get Together

Side dish or dessert? Side dish or dessert? You’d think with only two choices, making one would be easy, but whenever I hear that option, my head starts swimming with all the possible dishes I could make. First, I lean toward dessert, because within the narrow confines of my family I am known for some pretty good ones, whether elaborate or simple. But then I start panicking about all the possible things that can go wrong, most of them having to do with accidental burning or insufficient rising, overworked crusts or underbaked centers, or missed ingredients—in a dessert, the littlest thing turns into a disaster.

The dessert disaster scenario takes only seconds and I start thinking about side dishes. Now, that’s a gigantic category encompassing appetizers, salads, vegetables, each one of those its own abyss. I’ll have to admit that what first popped into my head was a corn-black bean-mango salsa, but did I want to bring chips or turn it into a pasta salad? Not really. I quickly fell back on the old standby macaroni salad because it’s easy to make and hard to ruin, but with visions of seeing 12 different bowls of the stuff, I had to figure out how to make mine stand out or at least compete well with the others so as not to be faced with taking home the only untouched dish.

Bacon, obviously

A quick trip around the web showed me the right dressing to go with the bacon, so I’m taking Bacon Ranch Macaroni Salad with homemade ranch dressing.

Continue reading What to Bring to the Summer Get Together