Archive for Salad

Roasted Chickpea and Artichoke Salad for a Potluck

   I do not, really, do not know what led me to try Ricki’s Warm Chickpea and Artichoke Salad. The idea of a warm salad didn’t grab me immediately – maybe because our Central Texas weather is warming and the birds are singing, building nests, flowers are blooming, weeds popping up, etc. I like chickpeas okay and the same with artichokes. Maybe it was Ricki’s picture with all the herbs. But it kept hanging around in the back of my thoughts until I finally felt compelled to try it. I bought a can of artichokes and with the can of chickpeas on hand put it together. It was good – some things are better than the sum of their parts and this was unexpectedly one of those. A few days later I decided to repeat the recipe with home-cooked chickpeas. That was even better. Plus I added chopped romaine and had it as a cold salad. Then I shared it with Ann and then Andrea who both loved it. Then our neighborhood had the spring potluck earlier this week and I made a TRIPLE batch of this salad. I have been craving this salad like it was cookies and wonder just what is going on with my taste buds.
   Starting with dry beans adds greatly to the overall taste and experience. I soaked the dry beans for over 24 hours until they swelled to double the original size and looked like they were going to sprout (drained and the water replaced after about 12 hours). Then they were drained again and cooked in fresh water with a lid on the pot. The liquid needs skimming occasionally as the white foam bubbles up. Then they simmer quietly on the stove for 90 minutes. Quickly drain them and return the hot chickpeas to the pot. Put the lid back on and set aside to continue cooking in the residual heat and to finally cool down. You can continue the salad from this point but I prefer to do this prep the day before I start the second phase. They are stored in the refrigerator until needed.
   The second preparation phase involves pan-roasting the chickpeas and artichokes, separately. While Ricki’s warm salad came together very quickly this one takes me a couple of days staging for everything to marinate before adding the fresh greens. (Sighhh, the extra time is so worth it)
   The third and final preparation step is to chop a head of fresh romaine and mix with the marinated chickpeas and artichokes – no other embellishments required. I had leftovers only because 1) I made a huge punch bowlful and 2) there were 5-6 other bowls of fresh homemade salads.

Roasted Chickpea and Artichoke Salad – 4-6 servings
1-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, well drained (1 cup dry chickpeas before cooking)
6-8 artichoke hearts (about one large can), well drained and quartered
1/3 cup natural almonds, coarsely chopped or sesame seeds or pepitas, totally optional

Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (I used celery leaves :-))
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more, to taste
Romaine or other seasonal salad greens

Prepare the chickpeas and set aside.
Open the artichokes and drain them well. Cut into quarters and set aside.

Pour 1-2 tablespoons olive oil into a skillet. When the oil is hot add the chickpeas. Cook over medium heat until they are a light golden color (10-15 minutes, longer if you double/triple the batch). Remove the chickpeas to a salad bowl large enough to contain your completed salad.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. Add the quartered artichokes and roast them over medium heat turning them very gently occasionally so as to not break them (they are already very tender). Add the garlic and dry herbs along the way. When the artichokes are roasted and the herbs are fragrant add them to the chickpeas in the salad bowl. Add the balsamic vinegar, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Mix the ingredients together so that the herbs and dressing are distributed throughout. Cover the bowl and put the salad into the refrigerator to marinate and mellow. It is really good if you have a full day for this – although it is not critical as there is plenty of flavor going on.

To complete the salad you will add chopped greens of your choosing. I like to use romaine. You can add more or less to your liking. If you add more greens you may want to add a bit more dressing as the chickpeas seem to absorb quite a bit during the marinade process.

The first time I made this I used Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette. An oil and vinegar dressing of any type is good once you have the basic seasonings in place. The very nutritious main ingredients are rather bland on their own – it is the seasoning and dressing that makes it great!

BTW – Ellen DeGeneres has gone vegan and sugar-free and Ricki wants to be the expert that is invited to appear on The Ellen Show and cook for Ellen. Ricki needs support for her ‘Quest for Ellen’. Please read about it and then link to Ellen’s page and compose a request citing Ricki as just the expert she needs!
Click right here ->EL-LENd Me A Hand! Thanks!



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Winter Fruit Salad with Sweet Potato Vinaigrette

   There hasn’t been much gluten-free baking going on lately. Two weeks before we left on our post-Thanksgiving vacation I bought bananas to ripen (over-ripen) for banana bread. Since we returned those bananas were ready-to-go and the final batch of banana bread has been tucked away in the freezer.
   Why bake with gluten at all? Well, the recipe that I created for my family when Rita was a child has not translated well to gluten-free so far. The closest that I have come is Ricki’s Oatbran Banana Muffins adapted from her recipe book Sweet Freedom which I love, love, love. But family favorites are not to be messed with so I have moved on to other experiments. This is why while I was baking that last batch for Christmas it was sooo hard to cope with that wonderful aroma in a responsible, gluten-free way.
   There were abundant fall pears on hand, celery as always, and boiled sweet potatoes in the fridge. I diced celery and two of the pears, toasted some finely chopped pecans (I really wanted walnuts but didn’t have any), added some dried cranberries, and thought about mayonnaise for a Waldorf type dressing. When those sweet potatoes calling my name prevailed, what resulted was a surprise – even as I was putting it together.

Sweet Potato Vinaigrette

Sweet Potato Vinaigrette

Sweet Potato Vinaigrette
1/2 cup diced, soft, cooked sweet potato
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (more if you want it tangier)
Sweetener depending on your taste and the sweetness of that potato

Preparing the sweet potato:
Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite treats whether baked, boiled, or microwaved. When I have something softer in mind I will simmer them in water to cover until tender and a knife slides in easily. Then they cool in their own cooking liquid. Drained, they will keep well in the fridge for probably a week – they get used before then so that is definitely a guess.

Preparing the vinaigrette:
Put all of the ingredients in the blender and process. It is thick mixture rather like mayonnaise with just the 2 tablespoons of vinegar. Add more vinegar if you want it to pour or you could use pure cranberry juice to kick up the color and flavor. You could alternately add a touch of olive oil but the nuts added enough fat for my taste. I had been so ready for something sweet that I just mixed it up and ate. It was only after a few very satisfying bites that I remembered to save some for a picture. By the time this blog is posted that serving will be history! Yields 1 – 2 servings.


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Tuna and Macaroni Salad

    This salad received many complements at the volunteer potluck luncheon meeting Friday. They were surprised to find out that it was gluten free. YES! This is the quality of food that is my heartfelt goal.
    The basic recipe makes enough for 3-4 people as a side salad or two main dish servings. Double or triple the recipe for a main dish salad for four or more. The vegetables make it nutrient dense and calorie light. Substitute fresh veggies in season or what you have on hand in the fridge. You may even use canned or frozen-cooked for the veggie component but for me the green onion is the flavor essential of this salad.

Ingredients for Basic Recipe:
3/4 cup dry whole grain rice pasta (Tinkyada)
1 can olive oil packed tuna
1/2 cup light GF mayonnaise (Hellman’s light)
    (note: I am still working on creating homemade egg & soy free mayo)
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Salt & pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
3/4 cup finely chopped celery & tops
4 cups finely chopped romaine
1 carrot, finely grated (I use a Microplane *)

    Boil the water plus salt for the amount of pasta that you plan to use in a pan that has a lid. Add the pasta and boil for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat, put the lid on the pot, and set the timer for 20-25 minutes. This is an ‘energy sparse green’ technique advised on the package and it works very well. When it is done you will turn it into a colander and rinse well with cold tap water to stop the cooking process.
    Dump the tuna and oil into a large mixing bowl. Add the mayonnaise and mix these together very well. Season the mixture to taste with the onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. This mixture will season the vegetables and pasta so make it quite intense.
    Add the vegetables and toss to coat them well. Add the cooled and well-drained pasta and toss gently to distribute all of the ingredients evenly. Refrigerate until serving.


* Microplane USA has a line of food graters that are interesting in design. The cutting edges work forward or backward but yet are so low that you cannot seriously injure yourself by accident – a bonus for someone like me with poor eye/hand coordination!

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Apple Salad

    Is anyone ready for a nice breakfast salad? When anticipating a whole morning of baking and taste testing it seems like a good idea for forego cereal and baked goods for breakfast. Not one to fuss for hours over a meal very often (birthdays and holidays the exceptions) fruit salad is a favorite. Recipes that are adaptable to any meal make life in the kitchen a bit less complicated and this one that combines apple with celery (my well-known obsession) and toasted nuts (for protein) is a big favorite.

Ingredients (per serving):
1 apple, washed, cored and diced
1 stalk of celery with leaves, washed and diced
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted lightly in the microwave (or your favorite nut)
1/2 tablespoon gluten-free mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 – 2 teaspoons sugar *optional (I used a no-calorie substitute)
A few drops of vanilla
A sprinkle of allspice

1. Dump all of the prepared ingredients into a serving bowl (if only for one) or a mixing bowl to hold a larger batch. Stir well to combine evenly.
2. Cover tightly and store in the fridge until needed. Or just stir your one serving and enjoy as a healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert.

Note: Thanks to the lemon juice this keeps longer than usual without the apples turning dark. Add more goodies like raisins, cranberries, romaine and/or parsley to create a larger meal with a wider range of nutrients.

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Shopping at the farmers market can raise a lot of questions if you are more accustomed to super-market produce. Fresh carrots seem to be more tops than carrot and I had always thought of that as a waste. Now, as a veteran of Rita’s vegetable broth assignment, it made sense that if you can put them in broth then just maybe you can eat them. An internet search turned up some very interesting carrot information and inspired me to try it in salad as a stand-in for parsley. A quick nibble was reassuring as to taste. It was a bit astringent but not terribly bitter, very much like parsley. And according to other resources this ‘bitterness’ factor has many healing properties.

I really needed to have a salad for lunch anyway after a breakfast mostly (blush, there goes that sweet tooth again) of Ricki’s Sexy Cowgrrrl Cookies. Ricki has some incredibly tasty, creative, nutritious recipes on her Diet, Dessert, and Dogs blog and if she saved some of her best for the cookbook – you really need to have this cookbook, Sweet Freedom, publication May 2009.

Wednesday Afternoon Salad
Head of romaine; washed and chopped small
One carrot from a bunch of carrots; washed, carrot sliced, top minced
Leftover chard leaves, a handful, chopped small
Leftover leek tops, the tender pale green middle section, sliced thin
6 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted in the microwave
2 tablespoons light balsamic vinaigrette dressing (it came in a bottle)

Put it all in a bowl, greens on the bottom and tomatoes, leeks, and walnuts on top if you are taking a picture, otherwise it doesn’t really matter. Eat slowly to savor the various textures and flavor. Could you pick out the taste of carrot top? It really tasted to me like there was parsley in the salad. There will be no more wasted carrot tops in this kitchen!


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Mushroom Croutons

    A potluck supper is exactly that. Sometimes there is an abundance of desserts and appetizers and not much else. Sometimes everyone is inspired to bring baked beans or macaroni and cheese. The planning committee this time made a great to-do about how we always run out of meat at the end of the line so guess what – nearly everyone brought meat. There were a few bean casseroles, a macaroni and cheese casserole with bacon, tomato and onion, and two salads! One of them was this salad that I made up at the last minute from what I had bought at the farmer’s market and when the bowl turned out to be only partially full, a raid on the pantry. I had forgotten fresh tomatoes and mushrooms so those came out of the pantry as well – talk about the-mother-of-invention! It was so gratifying when several people remarked on how much they enjoyed the spinach salad.

Hodge Podge Salad
Large bunch of fresh spinach; washed, stems removed, and torn into bite-sized pieces
Bunch of carrots; washed, tops removed, and shaved into strips with the peeler (don’t peel them first)
Bunch of leeks; washed, tops removed (saved), and sliced crosswise into thin rounds
Celery; tender center stalks including tops, washed and sliced thin
Can of black olives; drained and patted dry
Julienned sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil (who hasn’t sometime forgotten fresh tomatoes?)
Light balsamic vinaigrette dressing (it came in a bottle)

And finally:
Mushroom Croutons
8-oz package of fresh mushrooms, sliced
(in this case, a can of mushroom pieces, 8-oz drained weight, drained and patted dry)
Sea salt
Garlic powder
Onion powder

    Cut the mushrooms, fresh or canned, into fairly uniform pieces so they will cook evenly. Lightly oil or spray a skillet, add the mushrooms, turn the heat to medium high, and sprinkle the mushrooms with salt to draw out their moisture. As they heat up and begin to cook in their own juices adjust the heat so that they continue to give up moisture but do not scorch. As they cook keep stirring and add the garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper. The garlic and onion powder will absorb a small amount of the juice and begin to form a coating on the mushroom bits. They are ready when there is no discernable moisture remaining in the pan. Add the mushrooms to the salad.  Toss while adding a moderate amount of dressing depending on the size of your bowl. Use enough to lightly coat the salad without pooling any in the bottom of the bowl. Add tongs and serve.


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