Tag Archives: side dish

Capr-easy Salad

Cheesy enough title for you?

For the Fourth of July, my uncle made a Caprese Salad. For most of the afternoon, I stood next to the salad bowl, picking out the cute little mozzarella balls dressed in basil and popping them into my mouth. Ever since that day, I could not get the salad out of my mind! It was all I could do to not try making it as soon as I got home that very evening.


My uncle used this Rachel Ray recipe, and not wanting to mess with perfection, I followed it to a tee. It also didn’t hurt that I happened to have all the ingredients on hand besides the bocconcini (that’s what the small mozzarella balls are called for any of you who were clueless when seeing that word for the first time like me).


Besides needing the tomatoes and mozzarella, you’ll need everything that’s pictured above – basil, olive oil, lemon, and garlic (I used pre-minced garlic instead of the fresh stuff).

IMG_0574   IMG_0604

After halving my tomatoes and mozzarella balls (I’m sorry, but bocconcini is too hard of word to try and remember), I started on the pesto dressing.







After pulsing the garlic, lemon juice, and basil leaves together while drizzling in your olive oil, you’re left with a very green dressing. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous at this point. This certainly didn’t look like what I expecting.


Thankfully, once I poured the dressing into my bowl of tomatoes and mozzarella, things started to look more delicious.


All it took after this point was chopping up some fresh basil to toss on top…


…and mixing everything all together.


You can serve the salad cold or at room temperature. And the good news is, the salad actually tastes better the next day after being left to marinate in the fridge over night.

The salad alone can make a wonderful side dish or light lunch. However, since I just can’t leave things alone, I took my salad and put it in a wrap along with mixed greens and balsamic syrup. Delish!


And since we’re at the end of this post now, I suppose I’ll end on just a cheesy note as the one we started on…. that’s a wrap!!


Oh, but on a completely different note, you might want to hang on to your juiced-out lemon. It works wonders on kneecaps and ankles that might have been slathered with a bit too much tanning lotion. Not that I would know from first-hand experience, you know.


Butternut Squash and Quinoa Salad

I’m sorry, what was that?

Oh, I promised you a butternut squash recipe ages ago but never delivered? Why didn’t you say something sooner? ;-)


This was supposed to be the dish that I was going to bring to my “fancy” potluck lunch/dinner but ended up skipping after I started to feel under the weather. Truthfully, I’m not sorry that I got sick and couldn’t go. I was very happy eating this for lunch for an entire week and I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt for being so selfish. :-D

I’ve had the idea of making a butternut squash and quinoa dish for a couple of months actually but just never got around to trying it. I liked the idea of veggie and grain side dish for a potluck, so this seemed to fit the bill. I ended up having a game day switch when at the last minute I decided to use red quinoa instead of regular for an extra pop of color.


This was my very first time cooking quinoa, and I’ll admit, I was a bit intimidated. Turns out, there’s not much too it and it is very similar to cooking cous-cous.  Oh, and we should clear something up in the beginning just so that we’re on the same page. Quinoa is pronounced Keen-wa. All of my life (minus the first 23 years when I didn’t know quinoa existed), I thought you pronounced it Kwin-noah. Not so my friends. So please don’t go around mispronouncing it and making a fool out of yourself. Secretly, I like my way better and still pronounce it incorrectly in my head whenever I think of it, but that’s ok.

Alright back to the butternut.

Butternut Squash and Quinoa Salad

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/2” cubes
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced (or approx. 1/2 tsp of pre-minced garlic)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup uncooked red quinoa (rinsed if it’s not already pre-washed)
  • 2 cups of packed fresh baby spinach, chopped
  • optional: crumbled goat cheese and balsamic reduction sauce

To get started, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. After you’ve chopped your squash and onion, place in a large bowl. Add in the garlic, cinnamon, honey, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to evenly coat everything. Pour squash mixture in a single layer on a lined baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven and let your veggies roast until the edges start to brown (about 35-40 minutes). While your veggies are in the oven, prepare your quinoa per the box’s instructions. In a large serving bowl, toss together the quinoa, veggies, and spinach. Serve with crumbled goat cheese and a drizzle of balsamic reduction sauce.



For my balsamic reduction, I actually used the bottled stuff which I’m quickly becoming obsessed with. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of making your own balsamic reduction, I think any vinaigrette dressing would taste great on this. I also wouldn’t shy away from adding nuts on top. Walnuts, perhaps?


I also love that this can be served warm or cold and tastes great either way!


Have you ever tried quinoa? Thoughts?

I think that quinoa is a great, nutritionally dense grain but is also pretty ‘blah’. I don’t think I would ever eat it on its own, but it’s not so bad once you jazz it up with some flavor!

Cauliflower Cakes

Forever ago, I saw a recipe on Meet Me in the Kitchen for Cauliflower Fritters. I bookmarked the recipe, knowing that I wanted to come back to try it out. Well, the day finally came!

The ingredients are simple: cauliflower, flour, breadcrumbs, eggs, and cheese. The results are divine!

I ended up making a few small tweaks to the recipe. You’re supposed to steam the cauliflower until soft and then go to town on it with a masher. I didn’t have a masher, so I made due with a fork and wooden spoon. I think the results were a little lumpier than what was intended, but didn’t mind since I thought these were a little reminiscent of crab cakes. Next time, I think I would try the “ricing” method to prepare the cauliflower (as shown in the cauliflower pizza crust recipe).

Cauliflower Cakes

  • 1 large cauliflower head
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs (or plain bread crumbs mixed with your favorite seasoning mix)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp oil

Directions: Steam the cauliflower for 10-15 minutes until tender. Mash the cauliflower in a large bowl and let cool. (Alternate method: Grate the cauliflower into a large bowl and heat in the microwave for six minutes and let cool.) Once cooled, combine the cauliflower with flour, bread crumbs, cheese and eggs. Roll the mixture into balls and flatten to form patties. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. In batches, cook the patties for 4 minutes on each side. Serve the cauliflower cakes with your favorite dipping sauce (I used honey mustard vinaigrette).