Don’t you feel that lunch is the most “unloved” meal of the day? We are often far too busy to think about what to eat in the middle of the day. The result is we either get an expensive and often unhealthy takeout or eat the same ol’ boring sandwich. In other words, nothing to write home about.
Well, not all is lost and I’ve got an excellent reason for you to get excited about breaking into your lunchbox again. Persian Chicken Salad is a modern update on the timeless classic. This energy boosting salad made with tender and juicy chicken breasts, crunchy vegetables and black smoky olives and seasoned with yogurt and lime dressing and loads of herbs. It’s especially delicious in a wholewheat pita mixed with a bunch of spinach leaves. So fresh and satisfying!
Eating it in a pita pocket is so appealing to children! Here is your school lunch sorted.
Ingredients: (Serves 4)
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts- 3
- Olive oil ( for cooking chicken)- 1 tbsp.
- Salt-1 1/2 tsp.
- Pepper- 1/2 tsp.
- Plain Greek Yogurt- 1 cup
- Mayonnaise (I used low fat)- 1/3 cup
- Dijon Mustard- 1tbsp.
- Lime juice- from 2 limes
- Carrots (grated)- 4 medium
- English Cucumbers (diced)-2
- Celery (diced)-2 ribs
- Frozen petite peas (thawed)-1 cup
- Red Onion( chopped fine)- 1 small
- Black Olives (halved and pitted, I used Smoky Moroccan Olives but Kalamata Olives will work as well)- 1/2 cup
- Flat leaf Parsley(chopped)- 1/3 cup
- Fresh Basil(chopped)- 1/2 cup
- Wholewheat pitas-4
1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and brown your seasoned with salt and pepper chicken breasts on both sides over medium heat until done, about 5 minutes per side, it might take a couple of minutes longer if your chicken breasts are very thick. Remove from the pan, let it cool until it’s safe to handle and slice crosswise into bite-sized pieces.
2. In a small bowl mix together yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, lime juice and remaining salt and pepper. In a large bowl combine together chicken, carrots, cucumbers, celery, peas, onion, olives, parsley and basil and carefully toss together with the dressing.
3. Serve in a pita pocket or on its own for a gluten-free lunch.
I can’t believe it took me so long to share one of my favourite things to eat with you friends! However, summer is upon us, and since even England is reluctantly warming up, it calls for colourfully fresh outdoor dining.
This salad is something that appears on our table any season of the year but tastes best in the summer when the tomatoes are ripe and flavourful. It comes in many incarnations as long as there are the major players present-tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic, chillies and lime juice. The rest is variable and optional. I usually make it into a fresh salsa but once in a while I change it up and add various beans, corn and such. You can use it as a filling for your burritos and fajitas but you can also eat it as a salad. My kids called it a dip because they were dipping tortilla chips into it. Whatever you call it, this concoction is bursting with flavours, vitamins and is out-of-this-world delicious.
- Cherry Tomatoes (red and yellow)- 2 large handfuls
- Red Onion-1 small
- Garlic-2 cloves
- Cilantro- a bunch
- Red Chilli (minced)-1
- Lime Juice (I was out of limes and used lemons!)- from 1 lime
- Green Onions-3
- Chick Peas/Black Beans- 1 can
- Green Lentils (optional)-1/4 cup
- Corn- 1 cup
- Avocado (diced)-1
- Salt to taste
Half or quarter the cherry tomatoes, dice the red onion finely, mince the garlic cloves and red chilli, then add chopped cilantro, sliced green onions and lime juice. To the mixture add the beans/chick peas, lentils, corn and salt. Mix everything and taste for the right balance of spices. You can see that this is hardly an accurate recipe and more of an idea. I like my pico de gallo spicy but you can skip or half the amount of onion and garlic if you prefer a milder version. Add diced avocado right before serving to avoid browning.
This Pico De Gallo is truly a flavour winner and packed with power foods like chick peas, lentils and avocado. My kids were scarfing it down, having completely forgotten that they can’t stand tomatoes!
What is your favourite side for a barbecue? Mine is Russian Potato Salad “Olivier”. It’s incredibly tasty but not exactly a health food. Green beans on the other hand are full of great stuff if only someone would think of an exciting way to eat them! If you eat green beans before and find them plain you are not alone. Green beans are not the most exciting vegetable in the world. Good news is I have found a reason to eat them, enjoy them and come for a second helping! Interested?
This recipe comes from the Georgian cuisine – not the state of Georgia but the country situated on the coast of the Black Sea. The dishes from Georgia were and are incredibly popular in Russia and many of them have become staples in every Russian home. I got introduced to real Georgian food while on a family holiday at the age of 15. To this day I consider that experience to be the biggest culture shock I’ve had – and I’ve lived and visited countries like China and Philippines.
Georgian food was very different from mild and rich flavours of my native Russia, but good different. Fresh, exciting, spicy and delicious are the words that come to mind when I think of their food. This Green Beans in Walnut Garlic Dressing recipe is no exception. Full of flavour and a joy to look at!
- Walnuts-1/2 cup
- Fresh Cilantro-half a bunch (1/4 cup chopped)
- Garlic cloves- 2-3
- Red Wine Vinegar- 2 tbsp.
- Fresh Lemon Juice- 2 tbsp.
- Water- 1 tbsp.
- Salt- a good pinch
- Olive Oil- 4 tbsp.
- Red Onion- 1/2
- Green Beans- 1 lbs
In a food processor or blender combine all the ingredients except for green beans and onions and blend them well until you have a homogenous paste, very much like Italian pesto. Slice the onion thinly and put it in the dressing. Let stand for 30 minutes. This time allows the flavours to blend and the onions slices get slightly pickled. The acidity in vinegar and lemon juice neutralise the bitterness of the onion and enhance the flavour.
Put the green beans in a pot and cover them with water, bring to a boil and cook them for about 5 minutes until tender but still have a bit of a crunch and retain their beautiful green colour. Take care not to over boil or the dish will be ruined.
Drain and rinse in cold water. This shocks the beans and they stop cooking immediately. Let them dry and toss with the dressing. Taste and add salt if necessary. Serve at room temperature or cold.
Bring it to the next barbecue party and people will be hounding you for the recipe! You can proudly tell them it comes from the Caucasus. Talk about being exotic!
My children are off school for a spring holiday, only spring itself was here merely in theory or that was the case until two days ago. We were completely overwhelmed by cold, grey and windy days and then suddenly the sun appeared and made everything bright and lively bringing along little green buds and beautiful pink blooms. And although spring is still quite shy and only stays around in short spurts we are hopeful and ready to embrace longer days, brighter clothes and lighter meals.
A little while ago I made Quinoa and Puy Lentil Salad and it was quite popular with my family and my readers. I love adding quinoa, bulgur or couscous to my greens when making salads as they make light things a bit more substantial and satisfying without compromising the health benefits. As I had mentioned in that salad post I usually cook more quinoa and lentils than one recipe requires and use the extras throughout the week in various incarnations. Beet and Quinoa Salad is another tasty way to combine quite a few nutritious ingredients together and end up with a little number that is pure joy to look at and even more to eat.
- Quinoa (cooked according to package directions)- 1 cup
- Lentils or Chick Peas (cooked)- 1/2 cup
- Beets (cooked and grated)- 1 large or 2 small
- Radishes (sliced)- 5-6
- Rocket/Arugula- 2 cups
- Creamy Goat Cheese- 2 tbsp.
- Balsamic Vinegar-1 tbsp.
- Olive Oil- 1/4 cup
- Lemon -1/2
- Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley- 2 tbsp.
- Salt to taste
Combine quinoa, lentils or chick peas, grated beets and sliced radishes and set aside. If you are not a regular beet eater let me assure you they are very easy to cook. Just boil them like you would regular potatoes until are easily pierced with a knife. Life is even easier for the UK readers as packs of cooked and vacuum packed beetroot are readily available in any supermarket. I would steer clear of the canned beets. They are pretty horrid and lacking in the nutrition department for sure!
Make your vinaigrette dressing by mixing together balsamic vinegar, juice of 1/2 lemon and chopped up parsley, then slowly pour in olive oil in a thin and steady stream while whisking the entire time. You can use an immersion blender or food processor if you like your vinaigrette to be very smooth but a regular whisk will also do the trick.
Dress your salad with vinaigrette until evenly coated, taste it and add salt if needed, toss with rocket/arugula and goat cheese. Allow 15 minutes in the fridge before serving for the flavours to meld.
Quick, easy and tasty! Just what I like for this spring season.
Do you love vegetables or do you merely tolerate them? When Brad and I met I quickly learned that one of his favourite quotes was borrowed from Homer Simpson, the infamous “you don’t make friends with salad”. I am happy to report that a few ‘properly’ cooked vegetable dishes changed his opinion, and now he happily gobbles up a plethora of salads that I make. I can eat vegetables in any form or shape, I will even eat the majority of them simply boiled with a pinch of salt and pepper or raw but if I am completely honest with you I could not be inspired to write about them. Salads are too often associated with dieting, and therefore pain, and it’s completely unfair! Vegetables could be so vibrant and lively if put together with a little bit of thought and care. This Warm Zucchini Salad shows up in our house regularly and with many variations. It could be served as a side dish to your meat for dinner or on it’s own for lunch. It could also be served warm or cold. You can also add a few chunks of fresh mozzarella for a balanced veg + protein meal. The flavours that all the ingredients produce together is like a beautiful melody. It’s so tasty and comforting especially on a cold winter day, the type of meal that will transport you from winter in London to the seaside by the Mediterranean. I tell you this salad is pure magic!
- Zucchini-4 small
- Grilled Red Peppers (prepared from a jar or your own. Recipe here) 1 or 2 large
- Tomatoes (red and yellow cherry tomatoes or regular)-1 large or 5-6 cherry tomatoes
- Marinated mushrooms(Italian anipasti or saute your own)-1/2 jar
- Garlic (minced)- 1 clove
- Basil (fresh or dried)-a small bunch
- Balsamic Vinegar- 1 tbsp.
- Olive Oil- 1 tblsp. for cooking zucchini
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Slice your zucchini 1/4″ thick , sprinkle them with salt and pan fry them in a tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat-2-3 minutes on each side until golden.
Remove your zucchini from the pan and put them in the salad bowl, squeeze 1 garlic clove directly on them and tear a few basil leaves into the salad bowl to allow warm zucchini absorb the flavours.
Slice grilled peppers and tomatoes and add them to the bowl.
Now throw in your mushrooms, drizzle a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, mix everything carefully taking care not to mash up your delicate vegetables. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Done! This wonderful dish is as quick and simple as it sounds but there is nothing “simple” about the taste! It’s complex and involved. The sweetness of basil and zucchini balance the tanginess of tomatoes and balsamic vinegar while a slight taste of garlic adds a refreshing zing to the whole ensemble!
A long string of bleak and rainy days is a sure proof that the winter is upon us. So instead of fighting it I decided to embrace it. It’s quite dark outside and I need some cheering up to do. What is better than bringing some colourful food onto my family’s dinner table? In order to do that I had to dig deep and access my Russian roots. Here is what I came up with-a beautiful, healthy and very nutritious salad that won’t break your budget.
First off, let me warn you it contains beets. Of course, it does! It is Russian after all. Secondly, it provides very much needed vitamin C that comes from cabbage. Surprised? Don’t be because cabbage has as much if not more vitamin C than a traditional orange and virtually no sugar! I can not tell enough just how healthy this salad is, so do yourself a favour and give it a try.
Green cabbage-1/2 of a small head
Red onion-1 small
Tart apple-1 medium
Dill pickles-4 medium
White wine vinegar- 2 tbsp.
Extra virgin olive oil-2tbsp.
Salt and pepper to taste
Put beets, potatoes and carrots in a pot and boil all the vegetables until fork tender but make sure not to over-boil. Beets will take longer than the rest. I recommend boiling them in a separate pot.
Meanwhile, take your washed cabbage and slice it discarding the core into bite-sized pieces. Then add your course salt and vinegar directly to the sliced cabbage and start squeezing it with your hands until it softens and releases some liquid. Cover it with a plate and put something heavy on top of it like a kettle full of water. Set aside for about 1 hour to let the vinegar work it’s magic. What we are trying to accomplish here is usually a long term marinating process but you are getting an abridged version.
When your potatoes, carrots and beets are cooked, cool them completely, then peel them, and dice them into little cubes.
Now take your cabbage and add the diced vegetables to it, do the same with pickles, onions and apples. Mix everything together and dress the salad with the olive oil. Taste it and add salt and pepper if needed. You might think that the salad is already salty enough because of the pickled cabbage and cucumbers.
I do hope you will be adventurous and give it a try. Although it doesn’t resemble the usual salads that you eat it offers so many nutritional benefits in comparison to green lettuce and cucumbers!