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I was making lunches early in the morning, and I knew I wanted a straightforward, no frills, very basic blue cheese dressing over a super crunchy salad. Something my grandmother would have enjoyed — familiar, simple, and tasty.

I grabbed romaine lettuce, carrots, celery for crunch, as well as italian flat leaf parsley and red onion for flavor, and I got to work.

Ingredients for Recipe for Creamy Blue Cheese Salad with Crunchy Vegetables

Ingredients, ready for action.

Ingredients:
(Serves one as a meal.)
1 heart of romaine, chopped.
4 baby carrots, cut into wheels.
1 rib of celery, coarsely chopped.
2 slices of red onion, quartered.
1/2 english cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced.
1 fistful of fresh italian parsley.
2 T blue cheese, crumbled.
Freshly cracked pepper, to taste.

Blue Cheese Red Wine Vinaigrette:
(Use only what you need. Refrigerate extra for a couple of days.)
3 T extra virgin olive oil.
1 T red wine vinegar.
1 T sour cream.
1 T blue cheese.
1/2 clove garlic, smashed and minced.
1/2 tsp maple syrup.
Pinch of salt, to taste.

Since I was making two salads, I doubled all of the ingredients listed above. I mixed up two jars of blue cheese red wine vinaigrette, and then I started chopping. I began by creating my beds of chopped romaine hearts, and then I added the carrots, celery, onion, and parsley. I crumbled the blue cheese and sprinkled it on top of the salad, before cracking black pepper over it all.

I nestled my husband’s salad dressing jar in the larger glass container with the salad and popped the lid on top to keep everything fresh for lunchtime. I tucked mine in the fridge for later.

Recipe for Creamy Blue Cheese Salad with Crunchy Vegetables

Packed to go!


The Verdict:
This turned out exactly as I intended. Very creamy, savory salad dressing and powerfully crunchy veggies. Celery is highly underrated — I really appreciated it’s crisp flavor with the blue cheese. I think this salad was a bit boring for my husband, but as he always says, my worst homemade salad is always far tastier than anything he can get from a quick lunch restaurant near his work.

Make it a Meal:
Done. If you want to amp up the protein, add some chicken breast, or deli meat, or kidney beans.

Pack it to Go:
Done.

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When I was little, and we had a big enough group of people gathered together, sometimes we went to a local ice cream parlor that had an enormous, crazy sundae called “The Kitchen Sink.” It had everything. It was the size of an actual kitchen sink, with an obscenely large number of different flavors of ice cream, covered in all the toppings they had. Every bite was different, and fun, and I ate it with a gaggle of happy friends at birthday parties, after soccer games, or after drama and dance performances.

This salad reminded me of that sundae.

I had plans for pork tonkatsu (or at least my made-up bastardized version of it) for dinner. I also had nice little brown and serve sourdough rolls from a local bakery. I wanted a big, crazy salad to complete the meal. I like sweet with pork, so I knew I’d be including some candied pecans. I was in the mood for blue cheese, so I added that to the mix. I had gorgeous baby greens, so the bed was determined. I needed some crunch, so I grabbed half a cucumber and what was left of a red bell pepper. A balsamic vinaigrette would tie it all together, and I tossed in some mushrooms to soak up the tasty salad dressing like little sponges. Mushrooms, as you know, are made to be coated in balsamic vinaigrette. It was a wild, vibrant combination. My own little kitchen sink of a salad.

Ingredients for Recipe for Salad with Blue Cheese, Candied Pecans, and the Kitchen Sink

Ingredients, ready for their transformation!

Ingredients:
(Side salad, serves 3-4.)
6 cups of mixed baby greens.
5 scallions, sliced.
1/2 red bell pepper, deseeded and sliced.
1/2 english cucumber, quartered vertically and sliced.
5 medium mushrooms, sliced.
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese.
1/2 cup candied pecans.

Greens for Salad with Blue Cheese, Candied Pecans, and the Kitchen Sink

A colorful bed of baby greens, ready for the party.

Balsamic Vinaigrette:
(Use only what you need. Refrigerate extra for a couple of days.)
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar.
1 small clove garlic, smashed and minced.
1/2 tsp maple syrup.
Pinch of salt, to taste.

I created a lush bed of baby greens, and quickly mixed up my balsamic vinaigrette in a small jar. I quickly chopped my vegetables and gently laid them in the salad bowl. I added the nuts and cheese, and let it all sit for a moment while I dealt with the tonkatsu. Once the rolls were out of the oven and the pork was ready to eat, I drizzled my balsamic vinaigrette over the salad, tossed it, and served it up.

Salad with Blue Cheese, Candied Pecans, and the Kitchen Sink

Ready for that yummy balsamic vinaigrette!


The Verdict:
I got exactly what I wanted — crazy, strong, fun flavors. The sweet nuts worked well with the pork, the mushrooms were delicious, and the blue cheese gave it all an extra creamy flavor kick. I loved it. The kids were not impressed, but my husband gobbled it up right alongside me.
Plated Salad with Blue Cheese, Candied Pecans, and the Kitchen Sink

On the plate, ready to be devoured!


Make it a Meal:
With the nuts and the cheese, I think it would already work as an amazing meal.

Pack it to Go:
Easy. Put your salad in a glass or stainless steel container with a tight fitting lid, and your vinaigrette in a small jar, nestled in the greens. Drizzle the dressing (just as much as you want, to taste) over the salad, fork toss or put the lid back on and give it a few quick shakes to combine. Enjoy!

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Time to make lunch!

We both had busy days planned, so I made two salads, one to go and one for me to eat at home before heading out with the kids for the afternoon. I’ve been on a citrus kick, so I decided to make a lemon citronette. I added navel orange for a sweet citrus punch, as well as daikon, red onion, and lots of cilantro and mint to give it a little bit of an asian fusion feel. I’ve always loved those fresh vietnamese spring rolls, and cilantro plus mint is an easy winning flavor combo for me. The daikon and red bell bepper added necessary crunch, and leftover roasted chicken provided plenty of protein.

Ingredients for Recipe for Salad with Citrus, Chicken, Daikon, Cilantro, and Mint

A rainbow of ingredients!

Ingredients:
(Serves one as a meal.)
4 cups of mixed greens, including red leaf, mizuna, radicchio, and frisee.
1/2 roasted chicken breast, skin removed, chopped.
1 roasted chicken thigh, skin removed, meat torn into bite sized bits.
1/2 navel orange, peel sliced off, quartered, and sliced.
1 large mushroom.
1/2 red bell pepper.
1/2 persian cucumber, sliced into wheels.
8 thin slices of daikon (use a sharp cheese slicer or a mandoline), halved.
1 thin slice of red onion, quartered.
1 fistful of cilantro.
1 fistful of mint.
Zest of one lemon.

Lemon Citronette:
(Use only what you need. Refrigerate extra for a couple of days.)
3 T extra virgin olive oil.
1 T lemon juice.
1small clove of garlic, smashed and minced.
1/2 tsp maple syrup.
Pinch of salt, to taste.

I doubled all of the ingredients above to make two identical salads.

As usual, I prepared a lush bed of greens and zested my lemon over the top. I mixed up two batches of citronette in small jars, and I added the navel orange to the salad dressing so that it wouldn’t wilt the greens. Then I sliced the veggies, herbs, and chicken, layering it all over the greens. For the daikon, I like peeling it with a vegetable peeler and then using a really good cheese slicer (mine were all brought over from Norway in our suitcases) to get nice thin slices quickly. Once the salads were made, I nestled my husband’s jar of dressing in his bowl and snapped a quick picture.

Salad with Citrus, Chicken, Daikon, Cilantro and Mint Ready to Go

Two salads, one packed to go and one ready to stay home.

The Verdict:
Great meal salad. The chicken works well with the citronette, and the diverse veggies and herbs added color, crunch, and flavor.

Salad with Chicken, Daikon, Cilantro and Mint

Ready to eat!

Straightforward and tasty, but not elegant or refined. This is a fun, hearty meal. Enjoy!

Make it a Meal:
Done.

Pack it to Go:
Done.

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My husband loves spicy food. I can handle it, in small doses. He also recently requested “crazier” salads. I aim to please.

I bought opal basil and young ginger at the Berkeley Bowl recently, as well as daikon and mixed asian greens. I wasn’t sure exactly how the salad would come together, but I knew I wanted to play with some slightly more unusual ingredients. We both had busy days planned, so I made two matching lunch salads, packed to go. This was a perfect opportunity to really spice up his salad, and I did. Mine stayed mild enough for me to enjoy, and I made his salad hot hot HOT.

Recipe for Salad with Spicy Sesame Balsamic Vinaigrette, Candied Walnuts, Daikon, Young Ginger, and Opal Basil

Here are the ingredients, ready to face the blade.

Ingredients:
(Lunch salad, serves one.)
4 cups of mixed asian greens, including mizuna, tatsoi, baby mustard greens, and baby romaine.
1 fistful of opal basil, chopped.
4-5 cherry tomatoes, whole.
2 large mushrooms, sliced.
2 scallions, sliced.
1/2 cup candied walnuts.
1 knob of young ginger, peeled, sliced, and cut into small matchsticks.
9 slices of peeled daikon, halved. (Use a mandoline or a good cheese slicer to get thin slices.)
1/4 leftover roast chicken breast, cubed.
1/2 leftover roast chicken drumstick, shredded.

Spicy Sesame Oil Balsamic Vinaigrette:
(Use only what you need. Refrigerate extra for a couple of days.)
2 T extra virgin olive oil.
1 T dark sesame oil.
1 T balsamic vinegar.
1 small shallot, diced.
1 small clove garlic, smashed and minced.
1-3 hefty pinches of red chili flakes, to taste.
1/2 tsp maple syrup.
Pinch of salt, to taste.

Twin Salads with Spicy Sesame Balsamic Vinaigrette, Candied Walnuts, Daikon, Young Ginger, and Opal Basil

Twin salads ready to go!


I doubled all of the ingredients above and made two matching salads, complete with vinaigrette. I began by mixing up the vinaigrettes in little jars, giving him three big pinches of red chili flakes to my one very small pinch. I tasted my dressing, and just hoped for the best for him. Then I created a lush bed of greens for each of us, and layered all of my other ingredients in two glass bowls. I chopped and sliced and sliced and chopped, putting my knife down only to use a spoon to peel the ginger and to use a fine Norwegian cheese slicer to quickly slice the daikon into perfect, thin circles. Finally, both glass bowls were full of a colorful, hearty salad. I nestled the salad dressing jars in the larger containers, popped the lids on, and we each went off for the day.

Recipe for Salad with Spicy Sesame Balsamic Vinaigrette, Candied Walnuts, Daikon, Young Ginger, and Opal Basil Ready to Eat

Quick snapshot taken with my phone of the glossy beauty before I devoured it.


The Verdict:
This was really amazing. Like nothing I’ve tried before, at home or in a restaurant. Full of strong, punchy flavors that worked very well together. I liked the balsamic vinegar with the sesame oil, and the bits of ginger really sparkled. The walnuts and the daikon added crunchy joy, and the sweetness of the nuts and the tomatoes worked well with the spicy dressing and the peppery greens. It was crazy, in a good way. My husband loved the chili heat, and the explosive flavor. This is one that I’m sure I’ll revisit.

Recipe for Salad with Spicy Sesame Balsamic Vinaigrette, Candied Walnuts, Daikon, Young Ginger, and Opal Basil, To Go!

Notice the dressing jar nestled cozily in with the salad.


Make it a Meal:
Done.

Pack it to Go:
Done.

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I was making curried chicken with potatoes and basmati rice for dinner, and I decided to get creative. I knew I wanted a salad with a creamy dressing to help me tolerate the heat of the spicy curry. Riffing on the idea of raita, I wanted a yogurt salad dressing with lots of cucumber and mint. My plan was to turn that into a flavor base for a rich veggie salad. I pulled out all the vegetables that seemed like they might work, and I tossed in an avocado. I grabbed the cilantro on a whim, and then turned to the spice cupboard. I wanted something to round it out, and to capture a little of the delicious complexity of actual Indian food. I sniffed every jar we had of powdered yumminess from Vik’s Chaat Corner, and finally found what I needed. Fennel powder. My secret ingredient.

Salad with Kefir Rice Wine Vinaigrette with Fennel Powder

Simple veggie ingredients, ready for chopping.


Salad with Kefire Rice Wine Vinaigrette with Fennel Powder

A gorgeous green bed of romaine and arugula.

Ingredients:
(Side salad, serves four.)
1 heart of romaine, chopped.
3-4 cups of arugula.
1 red bell pepper, sliced.
1 avocado, quartered and sliced.
6 mushrooms, quartered.
1/3 of an english cucumber, quartered and sliced.
1 small shallot, chopped.
1 large fistful of mint, chopped.
1 fistful of cilantro, chopped.

Salad with Kefir Rice Wine Vinaigrette with Fennel Powder

Tossed and ready to serve!

Kefir Rice Wine Vinaigrette with Fennel Powder:
(Use only what you need. Refrigerate extra for a couple of days.)
1 T plain kefir.
1 T rice wine vinegar.
2 T extra virgin olive oil.
1 garlic clove, smashed and minced.
1/2 tsp maple syrup.
1/4 tsp fennel powder.

I mixed up the dressing first, playing with it and testing it as I worked by dipping leaves into the jar and tasting. I chopped my romaine and made my bed of greens, gently finger tossing the arugula with the romaine. I sliced, quartered, and chopped all of the vegetables and herbs, adding them while monitoring the curry and listening for the rice timer.

The Verdict:
This salad was amazing. It worked perfectly with the curry. It’s obviously not even remotely authentic Indian cuisine, but it was seriously delicious. My husband was really impressed by the unusual flavors. The creamy dressing clung to the greens, and the variety of fresh vegetables was refreshing and fun alongside the simple, hearty curry. The kids all enjoyed it as well — I thought it would be too weird for them, so we barely had enough to share.

Salad with Kefir Rice Wine Vinaigrette with Fennel Powder

Isn't it lovely on the plate with the curried chicken and potatoes?

Make it a Meal:
I think it could work as a meal as it is, but if you need more protein, I recommend adding simple chicken or garbanzo beans.

Pack it to Go:
.As always, but the avocado in with the dressing and give it a gentle shake to coat it with the acidic vinaigrette to prevent browning. Keep the dressing in a small jar, and all the rest of the salad ingredients in a large container (I recommend glass or stainless steel with a tupperware style lid). When you’re ready to eat, shake up the jar of dressing and drizzle it over the salad. Use only what you need. Fork toss, or put the lid back on the large container and give it a few good shakes to combine. Enjoy.

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