Quick and Healthy Meal: The Magic Salad

Quick and Healthy Meal: The Magic Salad

One quick and healthy meal is the magic salad. The salad isn’t really “magic.” The name just shows that by adding leftovers and canned or cooked frozen foods to basic lettuces, you can enjoy a different salad every day of the week. Or you can even partner it as appetizers when throwing a house party with family and friends. All items in a salad should be “bite sized.” The ideal salad does not require the use of a knife.

And you know how it can even be more magical? You can grow vegetables or even fruits of your own if you have an outdoor space for a garden. If you are clueless about planting, you can always call a tree company and ask for assistance. They’ll help you decide about everything as planting trees and seeds for your garden is normally part of their services too.

Healthy Ingredients List for Quick and Healthy Meal: The Magic Salad

Before making any salad, stock your kitchen with the proper salad making ingredients.

Ideally, purchase lettuce that is local to your area, when it’s in season. The next best choice is lettuces grown organically. Bagged lettuces have experienced cleanliness issues, and are also much more expensive than buying whole lettuce heads, or loose leaf lettuce.

The most versatile lettuce to purchase is Romaine Lettuce. Also purchase a small amount of raw baby spinach, or mixed greens, to add color, flavor and variety to the salad.

Salad Dressings

Toss any salad lightly with salad dressing before serving, or serve salad dressing on the side in a separate cup.

  • Honey Mustard Dressing – can be bought or made with honey, spicy mustard and an oil/vinegar base.
  • Italian Dressing – Italian dressing is a staple and a must-have for salads. Italian dressing can also be the base of many other homemade salad dressings.
  • Oil and Vinegar – Your favorite canola or grapeseed oil, plus a white vinegar, or balsamic vinegar make a good base for many dressings.
  • Sweet Dressing – Purchase a sweet dressing for use in fruit-based summer salads.

Also purchase any other dressings that you enjoy, and do not know how to make at home.

Traditional Salad Vegetables

Many different vegetables can be added to salads.

Traditional salad vegetables include onions, cucumbers and tomatoes.

  • Cucumbers – One complaint with traditional cucumbers is that they cause indigestion. It is not the actual cucumber that is the cause, it is the seeds. If this is a problem, purchase a seedless cucumber instead, which does not cause indigestion.
  • Onions – Thinly-sliced purple onions add color and flavor to salad, when used in moderation. When making salad for more the family, or a group, keep the onion slices on the top of the salad.
  • Tomatoes – Tomatoes are another traditional salad item. Fresh tomatoes may be sliced or diced. Whole or halfed cherry tomatoes may also be used.

More Healthy Salad Vegetables

Less traditional healthy vegetables can also be added to salads to increase your salad repertoire.

  • Asparagus, roasted – Asparagus that has been boiled, roasted or grilled for dinner can also find its way into a healthy salad.
  • Beets – fresh and cooked beets, or even canned beets can be sliced and added to salads.
  • Broccoli – Add steamed broccoli florets, or purchase shredded Broccoli Slaw.
  • Carrots – The easiest way to add carrots to a salad is to shred the carrots with a vegetable peeler.
  • Green Beans, fresh – Left over fresh, not canned green beans also make a healthy addition to salads. Raw green beans can provide a crisp crunchiness.
  • Peppers – Red, yellow or green peppers can be added to salads for color, fiber, and for vitamins.
  • Water chestnuts – Canned water chestnuts add unexpected crunch to a salad. The understate flavor of the water chestnuts will not overwhelm the other salad ingredients.

Healthy and Crunchy Add-ins:

  • Almonds – Slivered almonds add nutrients and crunch to a salad.
  • Cashews – Soft cashew nuts can be added to salads, for those who are not prone to migraines.
  • Sesame Seeds – Unsalted and unroasted or “raw” sesame seeds can be added to salads or salad dressings.
  • Walnuts – Raw, shelled walnuts can be used whole, halfed, or chopped. Walnuts may also be roasted before adding to salads.
  • Olives, green, black, Greek, you could add a different type of olive a day for a different tasting salad.

Proteins:

  • Beans and Legumes – Add drained chick peas, kidney beans, white beans or black beans to a salad.
  • Cheese – Add one or one and half slices of American cheese, or 1/8 cup or less of shredded cheeses including an Italian blend or Mexican blend. Or add shredded feta cheese.
  • Deli Meats – Lean turkey breast, lean ham, or all natural roast beef
  • Egg Whites – Add hard boiled egg whites to the salad. Cook a couple of extra at breakfast. Use them the next day in a salad, for variety.
  • Leftover Cooked Meats – Any skinless meat with the bones removed can be used in a salad. Last night’s chicken breast or steak can be chopped and added to a salad.
  • Tuna fish – Drained tuna fish can be enjoyed in salad, without adding mayonnaise.

Fruits:

  • Apples – Chop, dice or slice any kind of apple to add to salad. Peel or leave the peel on to taste. Apples should be eaten soon after cutting, unless the knife or the apple have been rubbed with lemon juice, which keeps the apple from premature browning.
  • Berries – Delicate raspberries or blackberries should only used to top a salad, unless you want them to burst open. Sliced strawberries are also afresh and colorful addition to a summery salad.
  • Grapes – Green or red grapes, whole or chopped add a refreshing burst to summer salads. Also consider raisins.

Savory Items:

  • Olives – Add any variety of black or green olives to a healthy salad.
  • Pepperoncini – Add to salads to give a real bite.

Quick and Healthy Meal Salad Recipes:

  • The Original Magic Salad: Romaine lettuce, mixed greens, one slice of cut American cheese, a handful of sunflower seeds, one slice of deli turkey breast, Poppyseed Dressing. Variation: left-over roasted chicken, or skinless chicken breast
  • Bean Salad: Finely chopped romaine lettuce with kidney beans, chick peas, chopped fresh green beans, diced purple onions and Italian dressing.
  • Cashew Chicken Salad: Mixed greens, chopped roast chicken, halved cashews, shredded carrots, shredded broccoli, peanut dressing.
  • Cobb Style: Finely chopped tomatoes, egg whites, turkey bacon, onions, served on a bed of romaine lettuce.
  • Greek: Romaine lettuce, feta cheese, black olives, sliced onions, tomatoes, green peppers, topped with a Greek dressing or vinaigrette.
  • Happy Vegetable Salad: Romaine lettuce, roasted asparagus, broccoli florets, fresh green beans, artichoke hearts, a vinaigrette.
  • Hearty Steak Salad: Mixed greens tossed with freshly grilled steak, grilled red peppers or any other grilled vegetables (no dressing needed).
  • Italian Salad: Romaine lettuce, red pepper, black or green olives, sliced ham, pepperoncini, Italian dressing or oil/vinegar mix.
  • Mexican Salad: Romaine lettuce topped with taco-seasoned ground beef, beef strips or chicken; add shredded Mexican cheese and avocado to taste; use a salsa dressing.
  • Oriental Salad: Spinach, sliced almonds, water chestnuts, and mandarin oranges, topped with sesame dressing.
  • Shredded Carrot Salad: Shredded carrots, raisins, almonds and dressing
  • Spinach Salad: Spinach, hard boiled egg whites or chick peas and turkey bacon, drizzled with warm honey mustard dressing.
  • Summer Salad: Mixed greens, chopped walnuts, sliced strawberries, a sweet dressing.
  • Waldorf-Inspired Salad: Chopped romaine lettuce, chopped apples, chopped walnuts, with a sweet dressing.
  • Woman’s Salad: Baby spinach, drained tuna, sliced green grapes, a light citrus dressing.

Be adventurous. Start with a green, add a protein, add fruits and or vegetables, add crunch add-ons in moderation, and top with a complementary salad dressing.

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Summer Grilling Party Plan

Summer Grilling Party Plan

To host a cookout that will be long-remembered and enjoyed by all, start with these basics and then use your imagination.

THE PLAN

Host a shish kabob cookout! Everyone picks their own meat, vegetable and spice combination and you can sit back and enjoy your own party. This idea works well for your vegetarian friends and for children who may only want one or two items for dinner. This method is also much less expensive as the amount meat served per person is substantially less.

THE MEAT

Make your meat selection keeping in mind it go on a skewer. Beef should be a lean cut, like London Broil. Boneless, skinless chicken breast works best, but thighs can also be substituted. The meat should ideally be cut into cubes, about 1 ½ inches square. Both chicken and beef are easier to cut while still partially frozen, and the meat will stay fresh longer. A good rule of thumb to determine quantity of meat is to use ¼ lb. per person or enough for two skewers (with vegetables) for each person.

THE VEGETABLES

Peppers and onions work well so buy both in various colors to take advantage of their different textures and flavors. Onions should be quartered and peppers cut in half and then quartered. Zucchini and summer squash, cut into ½ inch slices, hold up well on skewers. Large cherry tomatoes would be the best choice in tomato as they are firm enough to hold their shape. Whole fresh mushrooms can be included as well, and they are available many varieties, though some do tend to crumble. Just keep in mind how the vegetables are to be used when making your selections.

THE SPICES

You will need the basics like pepper, salt, lime, chili powder. Also include bottled marinades, and barbeque sauce. Be sure you cover the whole range of spices, from hot and zesty to mild and sweet.

THE SIDE DISHES

Because you already have meat and vegetables, you will need only a few side dishes. Pasta salad and fruit platters make your meal complete and everyone gets exactly what they want. Keep it light to complement the meat and grilled vegetables.

THE SUPPLIES

Bamboo skewers work well, and you can throw them away. You will need a shallow pan of water to soak them in 15 minutes before the grilling starts.

Since the kabobs will be served right off the grill, use heavy-duty paper plates if you go with disposable. For that matter, why not use decorative plastic and paper products that compliment the festive, fun atmosphere you will have created.

THE MOST IMPORTANT INGREDIENT

Now all you need is friends, some great music and plenty of laughter and good times.

You can visit Fremont Farmer’s Market for the things you’ll need to throw this kind of party. Get them at affordable rates. Have fun and fresh meal!

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Those Lovely Dollar Store Deals: Are You Really Getting a Good Bargain?

Those Lovely Dollar Store Deals: Are You Really Getting a Good Bargain?

I happen to love the Dollar Tree stores that are available in my area. However, unlike many “bargain” shoppers, I don’t practically live at mine, buying anything and everything. There are SO many items that really are NOT a good deal at a dollar store – but the average American consumer never notices!

Let’s look at a few things:

Name brand snacks – a few years ago, our local Dollar Trees started carrying Little Debbie snacks, and I was thrilled. I love Little Debbie, and knowing that I could get a large variety of them for only $1 each all the time rather than the slightly higher prices at the regular stores made me so happy. Then one day I happened to notice a little thing called quantity. For example, the Oatmeal Cream pies – one of my favorites. A regular box at the store contains 12 pies, and usually costs around $1.09 – $1.29, but usually closer to the $1 mark. The boxes at the Dollar Tree only contain 9 pies. This means that if I buy a 12-count box for $1.09, I’m paying basically 9 cents each for them. A 9 count box at $1 comes to just over 11 cents each. It’s not much, but it adds up. Most of the rest of the Little Debbie snacks are the same way, with a few exceptions.

Toothpaste – not only can I get a better deal on toothpaste by taking advantage of the deals at other stores, especially CVS and Rite Aid (I almost never pay anything for toothpaste, and I often GET PAID to bring it home!) but the toothpaste at dollar stores is an iffy proposition, as a lot of it comes from overseas without being subject to the same requirements that American toothpaste must meet. Scary stuff! Check it out at Snopes. And while there is no danger from their toothbrushes, I find the same is true bargain-wise. I can get much better deals at other stores, I have no need to pay even $1 for a toothbrush anymore.

Candy bars – In general, individual candy bars at the dollar stores are 2/$1. While that is a better price than the average, every day price at most stores (usually around 65 cents) if you just check for sales, almost every week at least one store somewhere will have candy bars on sale 3 for $1, which is a much better deal! Foil – while you can usually get foil that is about the same footage as at a regular store, dollar store foil is very thin and tears unbelievably easy, which means you’re probably going to end up using a double thickness from time to time, wasting whatever you “saved” to start with. If they have name brand foil, it’s most likely to be of a shorter footage, and end up costing more per foot in their boxes than if you bought it at a regular store. And at a regular store, you can use coupons to make the deal even better!

Canned veggies – while these come out to about the same price as at a regular store, and maybe a little cheaper, I noticed the other day that their cans are 14.5 oz instead of 15 oz like regular products.

Shampoo and hair products – if you’re not brand-loyal, you can usually buy Suave products for around 94 cents. There’s a savings right there, even if doesn’t seem like much.

bargainThose are just a few of the specific examples I can think of. There are actually many items that are shorted at the dollar store, a half ounce here, two or three cookies there. It all adds up. There are also some items that are of such poor quality, such as cleansers and the above mentioned foil, that you lose all savings by using even more of the product than you normally would to make up for the deficits. Other items are a “decent” deal, but if you look around carefully and shop the sales, you will actually find that you can get MUCH better deals on those items at other stores.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my dollar stores! Shop carefully, and look for the REAL bargains! A real bargain shopper never assumes – go in armed with information and knowledge, and you’ll come out on top for sure.

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Tips for Safely Handling Hot Peppers

Tips for Safely Handling Hot Peppers

I love Mexican food, and many of the Mexican dishes I prepare require hot peppers. I’ve grown hot peppers in my garden, and I’ve prepared them for my favorite casseroles and cream cheese appetizers, but not without taking the necessary precautions to handle them safely. My ex husband helped prepare hot peppers when we had a bumper crop, and he found out firsthand why it’s important to use caution to safely handle and prepare hot peppers.

The following information will help you learn to safely handle and prepare hot peppers and remove some of the fire. Peppers might look harmless, but they can do more damage than you might think!

Protecting Your Hands

I keep a box of sterile rubber gloves without powder, just for the purpose of handling and preparing hot veggies. It’s important to protect your hands before you handle spicy foods, not just to protect your hands, but also to protect your eyes and other sensitive areas of the body. Even after thoroughly washing my hands I’ve had remnants of hot peppers get into my eyes from beneath my nails, and it’s an extremely painful experience. In addition, the gloves allow you to safely handle and prepare hot peppers when skin is broken. I’ve had small cuts on my fingers, and hot peppers in an open wound would be excruciatingly painful.To remove the rubber gloves after handling and preparing hot peppers, simply turn the gloves inside out and dispose of them in a trash receptacle, but only remove them after cleaning up. It’s also important to wash hands even after wearing gloves. It’s real easy to forget and touch the countertop, cutting board, or kitchen knives and end up with hot pepper juice on the skin or in the eyes.

Protecting Your Eyes

As previously mentioned, it’s important to protect the eyes when handling and preparing spicy raw vegetables. I wear clear safety glasses when handling and working with hot peppers. I started wearing eye protection after pepper juice ended up in my eye. Before I could stop the burning pain, I had to take the time to wash my hands thoroughly, and I had to wash out my eye with clear water for several minutes. It might look a little ridiculous, but I’d rather take precautions and protect my eyes than risk getting hot juice in my eyes ever again.

The Importance of Hand Washing After Preparation

My ex husband was careful about hand washing before handling or preparing food, but he didn’t consider the importance of hand washing after handling hot peppers – until he used the bathroom and found out how hot those peppers really were. He washed his hands after coming out of the bathroom, but the burning he experienced in an unmentionable area reminded him to wash his hands before using the bathroom in the future. It’s funny now, but at the time it wasn’t a laughing matter.

Putting Out the Fire

Safely handling and preparing hot peppers is important, but it’s also important to know how to put out the fire. If you’ve eaten hot peppers and your mouth feels like it’s on fire, don’t go for the water. It won’t do a thing to lessen the burning pain. Instead, have a glass of milk or another dairy product such as a spoonful or two of sour cream. It should safely put out the fire and end the pain.

As previously mentioned, I love hot peppers, but I don’t love peppers that are too hot to taste. I always remove the seeds and the white membrane inside the peppers. I also boil away the spice that causes the unbearable heat. The boiled peppers retain their delicious flavor, but they lose a lot of the fire that many people can’t tolerate.

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