Monday, April 20, 2015

Meal Monday - My Signature "Big Salad"

I'm always looking for meal inspiration.  I find myself getting into a cooking rut quite often, so I like to experiment with new recipes.  I've had my share of failures, of course, but I'm always open to trying new things.

When my husband J. and I were first dating, I was a terrible cook.  My mom is from a long line of Italians and she definitely inherited their culinary skills.  Me?  Not so much.  So I marathon-watched the cooking channel and took notes on Rachael Ray, Ina Garten, and Giada De Laurentiis' shows.  J. surprised me with a Rachael Ray cookbook that I had been eyeing, and I "Post-It noted" pages of recipes I intended to try.

My first attempt downright sucked.  I made this chicken dish with a pan sauce and it tasted like mush.  When I served it, I told J. not to judge it on its appearance, so he took a bite and I watched his face for his immediate reaction.  It didn't change.  Then he said, "It's...(long pause)...good," hesitantly.  So I took a bite -- and then I spit it out. 

"This is disgusting!!" I said. 

"Well, it's not awful.  I know you worked hard on it." 

I told him that I knew he was just being nice.  I told him he wouldn't hurt my feelings if he said it was bad because it really was terrible.  I told him we were throwing it out and ordering pizza.  And that's exactly what we did.

Then I got on a "George Foreman Grill" kick.  I used it for EVERYTHING: chicken, steak, veggies, sandwiches (which I later learned were called "paninis").  It took forever to make dinner, though, because I had a small version of the grill and I had to cook everything separately.  It was a pain in the butt, quite frankly, and I knew I had to learn to cook for real. 

So I kept watching the cooking channel and started small.  I asked friends and family for no-fail recipes and started with the easy stuff.  I've slowly become better and now cook just about every night for my family. 

Because of this, I'd like to dedicate Mondays on this blog to meals - either ones I've cooked or ones I'd like to try.  I'll include pictures because I feel like you NEED pictures when you're looking for recipes, especially when trying something new.

This week, I'm sharing with you my signature "big salad" (Seinfeld, anyone?).  I was at a get-together yesterday with some of my college roommates and this is what I brought.  It's sort of my "go to" side because it's healthy, yummy, and fast to make.

Here's my ingredient list:
  • Romaine lettuce and spring mix lettuce (I like to use a combo of both)
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Tri-colored bell peppers
  • Sharp cheese
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Some sort of pasta (this time I used tri-colored rotini)
Here's the stuff I add that makes it extra yummy:
  • Dried cranberries & glazed walnuts
  • Mango salsa
  • McCormick's "Salad Supreme"
  • Poppyseeds
 Other items I'll add when I have them on hand:
  • Broccoli
  • Red onion
  • Blueberries
  • Blue cheese
  • Croutons
As far as the dressing goes, you really can use anything.  I usually use Good Seasons' Italian dressing mix (not the "zesty" version - just regular) and just follow the directions on the box.  I prefer to make it with balsamic vinegar, but any kind will work.

There are so many possibilities when it comes to salads, so use your imagination!  This just happens to be one of my favorites, but I love to experiment, too.

Have a great Monday!

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