The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. ~ Psalm 16:6 nasb

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Winter Salads

I've been taking a lot of food photos lately, mostly for blogging recipes.  I share them on Facebook on my photography page, too.  So I thought I'd share this particular set with you all, in hope they inspire you to try some new food and get creative during this bitterly cold winter.

I have no recipes for these salads.  My little sister Dee would love me for this, since I used to be one who follows a recipe to the tee!  Read on, see what I've put together for meals, get inspired, and get in the kitchen and make something healthy!

We're supposed to be eating our veggies every day, and some of them (some would argue that all of them) should be raw.  I've read--and I have a dear friend who has done extensive research on this--that our bodies don't process raw foods as well in the winter as the summer, due to the cold (and this year the cold is extreme).  Because of this, some of these "salads" are fully cooked, some are partially, and there may be one or two that are completely raw.

Each salad has some protein and lots of veggies, and I made each one of these for lunchtime.  A few have carbs.  All are between 250-350 calories, if you care to count, but I'm not providing recipes because I have none.  I know generally what I can eat at each meal, and I've measured the ingredients I plan to incorporate in the salad to align with my diet.  And by diet, I mean just what I'm eating.  I'm not following a particular plan, just watching my calories and eating as "whole-food" and veggie-rich and carb-light (but still with carbs--whole grains and such) as possible.  No store-bought convenience foods for this girl!

Each of these salads is anywhere between 275-375 calories, perfect for any meal of the day.  Yes, veggies at breakfast are great!

Enough with the explanations.  You'll see a photo with the description under each one, so find one that looks yummy to you and read about it.  Then get in your kitchen and do something creative and healthy for yourself!!

Polenta with mushrooms and tomatoes, topped with queso fresco.

I sliced my allotted amount of polenta--yeah, I bought some organic polenta from Trader Joe's--and fried it in a ten-inch cast iron skillet using water.  Yes, water.  I sprinkled a little salt on top, then flipped the polenta when it was slightly golden on the bottom.  As the water dried up, I added a little more, then a little get the picture.  On the other side of the skillet, I tossed in the mushrooms.  Pick a seasoning--Cajun, Jerk, salt and pepper, whatever, and sprinkle some over the mushrooms while they cook.  When the polenta was done, I arranged it on my plate, dumped the mushrooms over it, topped it with sliced grape tomatoes, then crumbled some queso fresco over all.  It was dee-lish!  Try it with whatever veggies you like.

Mixed raw greens with cubed polenta, queso fresco, and sweetened dried cranberries.

We bought a big bag of organic mixed baby greens from Costco for about $4.50.  They lasted the entire week for my lunches.  I purchase organic when I can, and especially for the Dirty Dozen (click here or you can Google it yourself and find tons of info).  Greens are on that list (spinach, anyway, but all greens are on the list I keep on my smart phone).  I topped the greens with cubed polenta (I had to use it up throughout the week!), queso fresco, and those cranberries (I bought them organic from the bulk food purchasing co-op we're a part of).  After I took the picture, I put a little homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing on top.  Don't overdo your dressing--oil, such as extra-virgin olive oil or EVOO, is healthy but in small amounts!

Sauteed kale with scrambled egg and queso fresco.

I sauteed some chopped kale in a bit of chicken broth (water + organic chicken bouillon), and once it was softened (just a few minutes), added a scrambled farm-fresh egg.  I use either a cast iron pan, or a stainless steel one, so that I can use a metal spatula so my egg doesn't stick on the bottom (I'm not using oil in these recipes).  I dumped the final product in a bowl and topped it with queso fresco.  There was a bit of liquid left in the frypan; I added it to my bowl as well for a "soup" texture.  But you can dump it out if you prefer.

Roasted polenta and Brussels sprouts with cubed queso fresco.

Cut the ends off each Brussels sprout, then halve (or quarter them) into the size you prefer (I like mine smaller, bite-sized).  Bring some water to a boil, and place the sprouts in the water and boil for two minutes.  Drain and put in a small pan, along with the cubed polenta.  Transfer this dish to the oven, set at 400 degrees F for about 7-8 minutes.  Pull it out, put it on a plate, and top with the cheese.  You're probably sick of my "polenta week," huh?  :)

Mixed baby greens with cranberry cheddar, peas, and sweetened, dried cranberries.

Fernando and I sampled some cranberry cheddar cheese at Whole Foods, and decided to purchase a really small brick (about $2) as a treat.  I julienned a one-ounce strip to top this salad:  Mixed greens on the bottom, baby peas, then the cheddar and cranberries.  I topped it with a little homemade creamy Italian dressing (recipe to come soon).

Brussels sprouts topped with marinara sauce, a meatball, and fresh Romano cheese.

Prepare those sprouts like I described above, except boil them for 3-5 minutes until desired doneness (I don't like mine mushy, so I err on the side of 3-4 minutes).  Top with sauce, meatball, and a little freshly grated Romano or Parmesan.  Yes, it's a salad.  Veggies with a little protein!

Sauteed kale, mushrooms, and polenta with tomatoes and queso fresco.

Hey, someone had to eat up all that polenta and queso fresco, and I was the gal to do it.  Saute some chopped or sliced mushrooms in a little broth, then add the kale and polenta and saute until the kale is wilted and soft, just a few minutes.  I added chopped raw grape tomatoes and topped the whole thing with the cheese.

Mixed baby greens, Brussels sprouts, and sweetened dried cranberries.

Whew--I finished the polenta and queso fresco several days ago.  :)  Now on to the Brussels sprouts!  I finished those up today by preparing them as above and putting them on top of the last of my baby greens.  I then topped them with the cranberries, some salt and pepper and Cajun seasoning, and a tiny bit of homemade creamy Italian dressing.  The warm Brussels sprouts with the raw baby greens was a nice texture, and not too stark and cold on this bitter winter day.

Plus, I ate the salad at my kitchen/breakfast countertop, with my back to a west window and the sun streaming in.  I was toasty!!

Here's another one:

Plate of steamed broccoli, with 1/2 cup cooked barley, one ounce cheddar cheese,
and 1/4 cup homemade salsa.

And just one more:

Plate of mixed baby greens, topped with 1/2 cup leftover chili
and 1/4 cup homemade guacamole.  (Day after Superbowl Sunday!)

I hope my lunch adventures with different salads inspire you in the kitchen as well!

Back to life,

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