Summer Salads

mexican chopped salad

Now that it is summer, I am more inclined to make a salad for a meal. Let’s be serious, now that it is summer, I am really not inclined to make anything at all. But on the odd day that I prepare a real meal, I might be more likely to make a salad. The Fried Chicken salad we took to Miss Priss’ teacher for their last day at school is my favorite, but this one might be my new second favorite.

A friend shared this Mexican Chopped Salad recipe that she found on Fine Cooking. I made it a few weekends ago. TheRoomDad grilled fish, and we ended up wrapping the salad with the fish on a tortilla for some really good fish tacos. There was leftover salad, which we used like salsa the next day with tortilla chips. It is quite delicious and very summery!

mexican chopped salad and dressing

Dressing Ingredients

  • 1 small clove garlic
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 T. fresh lime juice
  • 3 T. fresh orange juice
  • 2 t. finely chopped shallot
  • 1 T. honey (more to taste)
  • 3/4 t. ground cumin
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper

Salad Ingredients

  • 2 large orange or red peppers
  • 2 ears fresh corn
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large firm-ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 small jicama, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 large firm-ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 c. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  • Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a heavy duty rimmed baking sheet with foil. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and remove stem, seed core, and ribs. Put the pepper halves on the baking sheet cut side down. Husk the corn and put the ears on the baking sheet. Drizzle both with olive oil and rub oil around to coat the skins and corn kernels evenly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven about 20 minutes until the peppers are soft and slightly shriveled and skin is blackening. Corn kernels should be lightly browned in some spots.
  • When the vegetables are done, let them rest until cool enough to handle. Scrape away the pepper skin (it should peel off easily) and cut the flesh into 1/2-inch dice. Cut the kernels from the cob.
  • Make the dressing. Mince and mash the garlic to a paste with 1/4 t. kosher salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the garlic paste with the lime and orange juices, shallot, honey, and cumin. Slowly add the oil in a thin stream, whisking until well blended. Season to taste with pepper and more salt and honey, if you like.
  • Artfully arrange the corn, tomatoes, peppers, jicama, avocado, and black beans in stripes or piles on a small platter or other wide, shallow serving dish. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad platter just before serving.
  • Spoon elements of the salad onto your plate or tortilla to eat (don’t toss ingredients together).

Notes

  • Squeeze fresh lime juice on the avocado slices to keep them from turning brown too quickly.
  • Serve the salad with grilled chicken, grilled fish, or grilled flank steak and warmed tortillas for really good tacos.
  • Chop all of the ingredients up to 4 hours ahead and store them covered in the refrigerator until time to serve. The assembly is very fast.
  • Don’t forget to sprinkle the cilantro on the salad before serving. I made this mistake. It was still delicious, so I guess cilantro is optional.

What is your favorite food or meal in the summer?

serving mexican chopped salad

The Last Lunch

fried chicken salad in container

“Manager’s Special” is on the menu at my daughter’s school today. What that really means is the cafeteria is cleaning up for the summer and is serving anything they have left in the refrigerator. I don’t like to eat the clean-out-the-refrigerator meal in my own house, so I certainly would not want to eat it at school.

Since I am already on summer break, and my daughter is not, we overslept this morning. I sent her to school without a lunch and promised I would bring something to her. I figured my daughter’s teachers did not want the Manager’s Special either, so I packed a lunch for everybody. Consider it a final little teacher gift for the year.

As a reminder, teachers are stuck in the school building all day. Unless you hire a sub, there is no leaving the building to grab a sandwich. If you are looking for an easy, low cost end of the year teacher gift, consider bringing a tasty lunch.

fried chicken salad w dressing

Fried Chicken Salad

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 3 T. cider vinegar
  • 2 T. honey, room temperature
  • 1 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T. coarse-grained mustard
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. white pepper
  • 1/4 c. walnut oil (can use all olive oil and delete walnut oil)
  • 1/2 c. olive oil

honey mustard vinaigrette

Salad

  • 2 tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into small bites (I like Granny Smith apples)
  • romaine lettuce, chopped, enough for 4-6 people (or any lettuce combination you prefer)
  • 1/2 lb. blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 c. pecan halves, toasted
  • 2 T. chopped green onion, white and green parts
  • good fried chicken tenders, ~2 per person

Directions

  • Prepare dressing by combining vinegar, honey, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in oils until well blended.
  • Place lettuce greens in a large bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat. Sprinkle apples, cheese, green onion, and pecans over the top.
  • Cut chicken strips crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces. Arrange on top of salad.
  • Drizzle with remaining dressing if needed.

Notes

  • In order to keep the apples from browning, toss the apples in a little lemon juice before sprinkling on the salad.
  • If making for a school or work lunch, compose the salad but keep the dressing in a little container on the side. I like to keep the chicken strip pieces on the side too. Do not add dressing until ready to eat and then top with the chicken strips.
  • If I have the option, I always use Publix fried chicken tenders. When we lived in New Orleans, I used Popeye’s fried chicken tenders. If you do not have a Publix or Popeye’s in your area, I find that most local grocery stores usually have superior fried chicken tenders to other fast food restaurants. Chik-fil-a tenders do not really work for this salad because their coating is a little different than a straight up fried chicken strip.
  • This salad is great for baby showers, picnics, luncheons, and summer dinners!

I delivered the teacher salads and my daughter’s lunch a little before 10 am this morning. My daughter had a decomposed salad in her lunch box (chicken strip bites in one container, apple slices in another container…). The teachers received their salads in a bento style tupperware that they get to keep– cookies included.

Happy summer everybody!

fried chicken salad

Teacher Gift or Hostess Gift– You Decide

carrot pickles finished

When organizing a teacher gift, I try to follow a generic but personal policy. The carrot pickles with cilantro are a little bit of a risk and break this rule. I visited Sewing Sister last weekend, and she served some carrot pickles with grilled hamburgers for dinner. The pickles were surprisingly delicious, easy to make in large batches, and they looked really pretty in the jars. The risky part, however, is that it is a pretty specific food type– not very generic. I teach at the school my son attends and know my son’s teachers fairly well. I was pretty sure everyone would eat them (or at least try them).

If you don’t know your child’s teachers at all but want to send a small appreciation gift for the end of the year, I think the Insulated Drinking Cup with gift card or an Ice Cream Sundae Kit works better. If you know your teachers like trying new restaurants or enjoy good food, I would give this gift a try, especially if you need to make a large quantity. I needed about 15 teacher gifts.

I will also be bringing an extra jar to a friend’s house this weekend as a hostess gift.

carrot pickle jar samples

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb. carrots, trimmed and peeled
  • 8 oz. shallots, thinly sliced
  • 6 sprigs cilantro
  • 1 c. distilled white vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 2 t. kosher salt
  • 1 t. sugar
  • 1/2 t. celery seeds
  • 2 t. whole black peppercorns

carrot pickles bias cut

Directions

  • Cut the carrots into sticks that match the height of the jars you are using or slice using a bias cut (this is the diagonal, oval shaped cut).
  • Combine the carrots, shallots, and dill in a glass container with a lid.
  • In saucepan, combine 1 c. water, 1 c. vinegar, garlic, salt, sugar, celery seeds, and peppercorns. Heat until it simmers.
  • Pour the heated vinegar mixture over the veggies, cover loosely, and let cool to room temperature.
  • Tighten lid when cooled and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
  • Can be kept in the refrigerator ~2 weeks.

carrot pickles assembling

NOTES

  • I used a 5-lb bag of carrots, 5 shallots, and 2 bunches of cilantro to fill 17-20 jars. I used a mix of tall and wide mouth half pint jars. I needed 4 batches of the vinegar mixture. 
  • I tied a label to each jar with raffia ribbon explaining the contents and wishing the teachers a happy summer from our family. Click here for the Carrot Pickles with Cilantro Labels.
  • The recipe is fairly forgiving, so you can double, triple, etc. pretty easily.
  • The cilantro can be replaced with dill.
  • The original recipe came from Simple Fresh Southern by the Lee Brothers. They have a whole section of pickle recipes. Sewing Sister also recommends the radish pickles and the watermelon pickles.

carrot pickles with labelsWhat homemade recipes have you given as teacher or hostess gifts that work well? Do you think this gift is a hit or miss? I will admit that I am giving Miss Priss’ teachers (who I do not know as well) the insulated cup gift!

Class Cookbook from A to Z

front cover

Aaaah. The end of the school year. It’s the time of year when I start thinking of some little sirsee for my children’s teachers that will 1) remind the teacher of my child’s class in the years to come and 2) be something the teacher might enjoy using.

A few years ago, we created a class cookbook with photos from the school year. My son has aged out of this teacher gift, and my daughter is on the cusp, but if you have nursery school or kindergarten aged children, this is a fun end of year gift.

The year we gave this particular gift, the children were on a snack rotation (a little like Miss Priss’ snack schedule this year). The students had a letter of the week, and families started sending snacks that related to the letter of the week. By the end of the year, the kids had eaten a snack for each letter of the alphabet.

e and f pages

Parents sent me photos from events during the school year and any recipes they had; I compiled the photos and recipes into a Shutterfly photo book. We ordered copies for the teachers, and many of the families ordered copies as well.

I love this little book. I still use it when I need kid snack ideas (like the Worms in dirt or the Veggie dip). The nursery school teachers continue to use it as a resource for their classroom. The book has the class name on the front cover, a picture of the class and class year on the inside cover page, and a student list on the last page.

g page with photo

Here is what the children had for snack that year:

  • Apple sticks
  • Blueberry muffins
  • Cupcakes
  • Doughnuts
  • Elephant Ears
  • Finger sandwiches
  • Ghoulish Granola mix (served at Halloween)
  • mini Hot dogs in buns
  • Ice cream sandwiches
  • blueberry Jam
  • Key lime pie
  • Lemonade
  • Marshmallows
  • bird Nests
  • Oatmeal aggression cookies
  • Pizza
  • cheesy Quesadillas
  • Root beer floats
  • Sugar cookies
  • Tortilla wraps
  • Upside down cake
  • Veggie dip
  • Worms in dirt
  • chocolate X-plosion
  • orange Yogurt
  • Zucchini bread

I don’t know if all the snacks fall into the “healthy snack” category, but it is a great kid cookbook. I will mention that we did attach AmEx gift cards for the teachers to the cookbook, but I think they would have appreciated the little memory book anyway!

back cover

Fancy Dill Dip

dill dip in bread bowl

You may not recognize the dill dip in the picture above because I shared the recipe previously as a kindergarten snack idea. Even though it is the same recipe, it looks totally different when presented in the grown up way. I brought the fancy version of the dill dip to a neighborhood party, and the adults and kids dug in. You know it is a hit when even the bowl gets eaten (no after photo available).

Dill Dip

Ingredients

  • 2 c. sour cream
  • 2 c. mayonnaise
  • 3 T. chopped fresh dill
  • 3 T. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 2 T. grated onion
  • 1 T. seasoned salt

Directions

  • Combine ingredients and chill at least one hour or overnight.
  • Serve with raw vegetables, pita chips, pretzels, etc.

dill dip in bread bowl w veggies

Bread Bowl

  • Purchase a round loaf of crusty bread. I think the loaf in the picture was called “Mountain Bread”. Sour dough loaves work well too.
  • Using a serrated knife, cut the top and center off the bread. It is similar to cutting the top off a pumpkin when carving.
  • With your fingers, pull out some of the squishy center, so you have a good amount of hollowed out area for the dip.
  • Cut the removed bread into bite sized pieces and serve with the dip.
  • Pour dip into the center of the bowl.

bread bowl