I live in South Carolina where the weather changed from almost uncomfortably warm to hot and humid some time last week. During the oppressive heat season, the only foods that appeal to me are fresh and crunchy and light. As a result, we have been eating variations of a Greek salad quite a bit lately.
The reason I love the Greek salad so much is because of the dressing. When you search Greek salad dressing recipes, there are many options. I took a few recipes that were similar and combined parts using the herb combination I liked best. The finished dressing is tart and tastes great with steak or chicken. If you are looking for a light summer meal, put together a chopped Greek salad. Leave the dressing off and make some individual portions to bring to school or the office for your teacher or work lunch. Add the dressing when you are ready to eat.
2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
~1 t. salt (or to taste)
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
1 t. Dijon mustard
1/2 c. olive oil
2 T. fresh lemon juice
5 T. red wine vinegar
1/2 t. dried basil leaves
1 t. dried oregano leaves
Romaine lettuce, chopped (enough for people you will be serving)
peeled cucumber, seeded and chopped
grape tomatoes halved or quartered
thinly sliced purple onion
crumbled feta cheese
grilled steak or chicken, thinly sliced
Mix together dressing ingredients and shake in a jar or use a whisk to combine. Set aside.
Put chopped lettuce in a serving bowl. Top with cucumbers, tomatoes, and purple onion.
Mix salad dressing again if it has separated and pour over salad. Toss well until ingredients are covered evenly with dressing.
Sprinkle feta crumbles on top.
Serve with sliced meat and pita chips.
Other ingredients you could add are calamata olives or mild banana peppers.
I like my lettuce chopped into small pieces because I think it tastes better that way. The dressing really covers well.
This makes a great teacher lunch. Assemble in individually sized tupperware with the dressing on the side. Pour the dressing over when ready to serve, put the lid on firmly, and shake.
Here is another summer salad that will be easy to pack in individual containers and bring to swim meets, picnics, or any other tailgate type event that comes up this summer. It can be made ahead and keeps in the refrigerator for a day or two as long as you do not add the lettuce until just before serving. I also tested to see if it could be stored in a Mason jar for a teacher or office lunch, and it works perfectly. I won’t lie; the fact that it looks very Martha Stewart and Pinterest-y in the Mason jar is a huge draw for me.
16 oz. shell pasta, cooked and cooled
2 roast chicken breasts, pulled off the bone and diced/shredded (a grocery store rotisserie chicken works too and saves time)
12 oz. Caesar salad dressing (I like Marie’s brand)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/4 to 1/2 purple onion, thinly sliced in 1/4 circles
~1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
black pepper, to taste
1-2 heads Romaine lettuce, shredded or chopped
Combine cooked pasta, chicken pieces, tomato pieces, and sliced onion.
Add dressing and mix gently. Start with about 2/3 of the dressing and add more if it seems too dry. You will need more dressing than you think because of the lettuce that will be added before serving.
Sprinkle with black pepper and Parmesan cheese and mix again.
Just before serving, add the lettuce to the pasta and mix.
If you are packing in a Mason jar or tupperware for a work lunch or picnic, layer the serving of pasta salad on the bottom. Place a layer of lettuce in the top. Store in the refrigerator (or cooler) until ready to eat.
Salads taste so much better in the summer. There is a crunchy coolness to them that is perfect for evening meals on a hot day. My favorite salad recipes are the ones that work as a whole meal. I have a few different taco salad combinations that I like to use. The Mexican Chopped Salad and the Baja Chicken Salad are good options, but I played around with a new layered chicken taco salad recipe this weekend while my mom was visiting. I made a version that serves a group in a trifle dish, and I also tested it out in Mason jars to make single servings to take to school for school teacher lunches. It was a hit both ways.
2 heads Romaine lettuce chopped (or amount needed for number of people serving)
~3 c. chopped fresh spinach (or amount needed for number of people serving)
1 (15-oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (11-oz) can white shoepeg corn, rinsed and drained (or any type of canned corn)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
2 c. cooked chicken, diced (I used 2 roasted chicken breasts)
1-2 c. shredded Colby-Jack cheese
2 green onions, chopped
2 T. fresh cilantro chopped
~3/4 c. salsa
~1/2 c. ranch salad dressing (or dressing of your choice)
tortilla chips, ( ~1/2 c. broken into smaller pieces)
Directions for Assembling in a Trifle Dish
Sprinkle black beans on the bottom layer of the trifle dish. You might not use the whole can. Add the amount of beans you like.
Mix the chopped Romaine and spinach together in a separate bowl. Add half of the lettuce mixture on top of the black beans.
Sprinkle a layer of corn on top of the lettuce.
Sprinkle cherry tomato pieces on top of the corn.
Add the chicken.
Cover the chicken with the remaining lettuce.
Drizzle ranch salad dressing over the top layer of lettuce. I like a light salad dressing layer.
Cover dressing with a layer of cheese.
Spoon desired amount of salsa in the center of the trifle dish on top of the cheese.
Sprinkle green onions and cilantro over the salsa. Sprinkle crushed tortilla chips around the edges. Sprinkle a little more cilantro in the center for garnish.
Offer additional whole tortilla chips, salad dressing, and salsa on the side.
Directions for Assembling in a Mason Jar
Spoon ~1 T. ranch dressing in the bottom of the jar.
Add ~2 T. black beans.
Add a layer of lettuce followed by corn, tomatoes, chicken pieces and another layer of lettuce. Do not overfill.
Sprinkle the top with cheese, green onions, and cilantro.
Put one spoonful of salsa on the top, add the lid and tighten.
To eat, pour salad into a bowl or out on a plate, so the dressing on the bottom will drizzle over the top. Serve with tortilla chips on the side.
You do not need exact ingredient amounts. Use amounts you need for the number of people you are serving. 2 heads of Romaine lettuce and 3 c. of spinach will serve 5-6 adults.
You can add/delete any toppings. I think diced red pepper would be a good addition and possibly seeded and diced cucumber.
Not only am I tasked with making a lunch for my two children every morning, I also have to pack my own lunch. If you read about the Teacher Emergency Kit, you know teachers are trapped in the school building all day until after the students are gone. It is a rare day that we can step out and pick up a sandwich at lunchtime, and I want more than the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches my kids are getting in their lunch bags. If I am on my game, I make something for dinner Sunday night that can be re-heated over the next few days for lunch. This week, I was on my game.
I made a double batch of Orzo with Roasted Vegetables, which is delicious at room temperature or slightly heated. I do think it only has a leftover shelf life of 2 to 3 days, so I would not plan to eat it all week. Anybody have any other suggestions for adult school lunches?
1 red bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1/2 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
1 medium yellow squash, 1-inch diced
1 medium zucchini, 1-inch diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 c. good olive oil (or a little less)
1 1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
1/2 lb. orzo
1/3 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/3 c. good olive oil
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
4 scallions minced, white and green parts
1/4 c. pine nuts, toasted
15 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
Toss the bell peppers, onion, zucchini, squash, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned turning once with a spatula.
Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.
Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.
For the dressing combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on the pasta and the vegetables. Let cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pine nuts, and basil. Check the seasonings, add another splash of fresh lemon juice (if desired), and serve at room temperature.