Summer Salad Series: A Simple, Satisfying Side Salad

The Summer Salad Series didn’t turn out to be the best-series-ever, I admit it. But today I had a very random salad that I threw together with what I happened to have in the house, and it turned out great! Sometimes the best things come from throwing together whatever ya got!

Being the eve of Labor Day Weekend, I figured this would be a perfect time to post one last salad of summer, and also offer a great option for a side salad for this weekend’s festivities!

eat something new

What you’ll need:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Mild Banana Peppers
  • Cucumbers – skin left on for extra crunch!
  • Reduced Fat (or Fat Free) Feta Crumbles
  • Italian dressing (I used Olive Garden’s I had left over from a salad I got to-go)

What you’ll do:

I think it is pretty self explanatory, but just for good measure: Wash and cut lettuce. Top with desired amount of the rest of the incredients, toss with dressing of your choice and enjoy! As always, this recipe is super easy to adapt to your tastes, preferences and allergies. I do recommend a lighter dressing because of the bold flavors from the feta and the banana pepeprs – you don’t want to cover them up! Light italian, light balsamic, or a little oil and vinegar would probably be best.

The verdict: It is so simple, but completely satisfying! I thought I would be left wanting more, so I packed a few light post-salad snacks, but I honestly don’t even need them! The little bit of fat from the cheese, the zing and heat from the banana peppers, the filling lettuce and super crunch from the cucumbers is a great combination. This is sure to make an appearance at least once a week!

Want to make it a meal? Throw in some grilled chicken, chick peas or tofu and you are good to go!

I also think that this salad would make a phenomenal side to go with burgers, chicken, barbeque or anyhting else, really.

How do you feel about banana peppers?
They are my latest obsession and I can’t get enough of them!

Do you have a salad you make for parties? Please share!

What’s your favorite must have ingredient for salad?

Have a Happy Labor Day!

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Summer Salad Series: Spinach Caprese Pasta Salad

I made this pasta salad last weekend for a birthday barbeque and it seemed to go over very well. I like this one for the summer because it is very light and the spinach and especially tomatoes are tastes of summer for me. You can make this in either large or small quantities, it can definitely be made ahead of time and it travels well, too. Perfect for attending or hosting summer parties!

What You’ll Need: 12 side servings

  • 1 pound pasta, I prefer Farfalle (bowties) for this
  • 6 roma tomatoes
  • Fresh Mozzarella cheese (half average size block/roll)
  • half bag of fresh baby spinach
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic
  • 4 average-sized basil leaves
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

What you’ll do:

Prepare the pasta, drain and return to a large pot or mixing bowl.

Chop tomatoes – I found that it worked best to slice in to round disks, then cutting each “disk” twice in to 4 pieces. Add to pasta

Remove the end of the stems from the leaves of spinach, rip spinach up in to smaller pieces. Add to pot.

Cube mozzarella in to desired size pieces.

Remove outer casing and any rough edges from the cloves of garlic. Mince garlic in to very small pieces and add to pasta.

Fold all basil leaves together and chop finely. Mix everything together.

Add red wine vinegar and olive oil. Mix. Salt and pepper to taste.

That’s it! Not too bad as long as you can stand all of the cutting and chopping, or if you have a great sous chef! 😉

A tip for pasta salads: The ideal bite would contain a little bit of everything. It is up to you to decide how big you want each of your ingredients to be as you prepare them to be added to the pasta. However, think about how small they would all need to be in order to fit nicely on a fork and in to your – and your guests’ – mouths all at once 🙂 In terms of this recipe I would caution against making the mozzarella pieces too big.

I would also try this with some grilled chicken mixed in, or sub the pasta for heartier veggies like zucchini and squash for gluten free/low carb! Try Dreamfields pasta for a healthier, but still truly pasta taste and texture!

Do you have a favorite pasta salad?

If you avoid pasta, anything you prefer as a substitute?

Any suggestions for salads for me to add to the series, or particular ingredients to highlight?