Strawberry & Goat Cheese Salad with 3-Minute Strawberry Balsamic Dressing.

 Up your salad game with this restaurant-style Strawberry & Goat Cheese Salad! A quick but impressive 3-minute Strawberry Balsamic Dressing ties it all together.

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May = Strawberries!
And, also the end of the school year. Womp womp. It’s always bittersweet!
I have been creating lots of delicious recipes for you the past month, so get ready for lots of cooking and baking inspiration to come your way this summer!

Today I’m sharing TWO summer ideas with you. One is a salad, and the other is a 5-ingredient dressing that will be ready in 3-minutes or less AND will compliment the salad perfectly! I even have a bonus mini-recipe for candied almonds at the bottom of the post!

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So, this salad. Just look at it! Swoon. I love adding fruit to my salad for a little natural sweetness, and ripe strawberries are the perfect way to achieve that. This Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad is perfect for serving company or just enjoying on a weeknight. It’s simple. Ready?

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Spring mix.
Ripe strawberries.
Sliced/slivered almonds for some fun crunchy texture.
My 3-minute strawberry balsamic dressing (recipe below).
Crumbled goat cheese aka chèvre.
The goat cheese is slightly tangy but suuuuuuuuper creamy and compliments the strawberries perfectly. SO. GOOD.

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And then there’s this strawberry balsamic dressing. I’ve been making it for about 6 years now and it never disappoints. My husband isn’t the biggest fan of strawberries but he LOVES this dressing.

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This dressing is sooo quick and easy to make (3 minutes max!). There’s absolutely no reason to buy dressing when this is so easy to make. And, unlike some pre-packaged fruit dressings, there are no food dyes here; that beautiful pink color comes straight from 5 whole strawberries! I love how naturally colorful food can be.

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You’ll have to use some sort of blender to blend the strawberries together with the other ingredients. I used to use my immersion blender, but now that we have a Vitamix, I use it instead. It cleans itself so it’s just a little more convenient! But seriously, use whatever blending appliance you’ve got. Even a food processor should work nicely here.

Along with the strawberries, you’ll add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, a little honey and a touch of salt. Blend it up and BOOM. Done! I like to store my homemade dressings in mason jars so I can give it a quick shake before serving, but you can store it however you want in the fridge.

3-Minute Strawberry Balsamic Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 5 large strawberries, ends cut off
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1 1/2 Tablespoons honey (use 1 Tablespoon unless your berries aren’t very sweet, in which case add a little more)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

1). Combine all ingredients in a food processor, immersion blender, regular blender, etc. Blend until smooth.

2). Serve immediately or store in the fridge. Enjoy!

Servings: about 8. Approximate Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 46 Carbs: 4g Fat: 4g Protein: 0g Fiber: 0g Points+: 1
Recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron.

Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad

Ingredients:

  • Spring mix
  • Ripe strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • Sliced or slivered almonds*
  • Crumbled goat cheese
  • Strawberry Balsamic dressing from above

1). Add all ingredients to a bowl (I eyeball the measurements depending on what size crowd I’m feeding) and toss together. Serve immediately!

*Note: If you want to get really fancy, make your own candied almonds by sprinkling 3 T brown sugar in a skillet over medium heat. Add 1 T water as it heats up to help it dissolve. Watch carefully as the sugar and water come to a boil, then, when the water burns off, you will notice a change in the bubbles. Instead of being wet, they will start to thicken and turn darker. That’s when you add 1/4 cup slivered almonds. Toss them around, let them cool, then add them to the salad!

Recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron.

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Easy Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette.

My go-to balsamic vinaigrette recipe–quick, healthy, and easy!

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I can’t help but think about all the holidays (also: holiday food) that will be here soon, so I’m hoping this recipe will make eating salads more exciting in the meantime! Once the weather turns cold I don’t find myself craving crisp salads as much, but thankfully here in the south we’re still having highs in the 80’s, and my tomato plant is still producing lots of tomatoes, so salads are here to stay for now!

But let’s be honest…with a vinaigrette this delish we eat salads year-round.

Making a homemade vinaigrette is easy and I PROMISE it barely takes 5 minutes, but it makes a huge difference in the end result of your salad. I’m the first to admit that I don’t aaaaaaaalways make my own dressings, but I really prefer them. Not only do you have 100% control over every ingredient (goodbye crazy ingredients you can’t pronounce!), but they just have so. much. flavor!

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I like making my vinaigrettes in mason jars because I can measure straight into the jars, AND shake ’em up right in the container before serving. I also prefer using agave nectar over honey, but if you don’t have any agave nectar you can make that substitution. I also like a tart vinaigrette, but if you taste it and find it’s too tart for your liking, simply increase the olive oil by about 1/4 cup. It will dilute the balsamic vinegar for you.

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One of my favorite salad combinations? Lettuce, homegrown tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, avocado, a sprinkle of feta cheese, and this vinaigrette. Add some grilled chicken and you have yourself a complete meal!

Easy Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette.

  • 1/2 cup EVOO
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp agave nectar (start with 1 and add more from there if it tastes too tart)
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • sea salt and black pepper

1). Combine all ingredients in a jar (or bowl) and shake (or whisk) to combine.

Servings: about 12. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 90 Carbs: 2g Fat: 9g Points+: 3 Recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron.

Caprese Quinoa Salad.

A healthy, easy side dish filled with bright mediterranean flavors!

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Tomatoes + basil = perfection, am I right? I never get tired of that flavor combination.

I know adding mozzarella to the mix is the most traditional option, but I decided to use feta instead. It’s still very mediterranean, but more flavorful in my opinion. Feta is slightly more tangy and salty than mozzarella, and I think it worked great here. If you prefer mozzarella, use it!

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If you have a garden, this is the perfect way to use up a lot of fresh tomatoes and basil. It’s amazing how such simple ingredients can be so good, am I right? Complicated recipes have their time and place, but this is not one of them, making it perfect for a weeknight meal. Toss all the ingredients together in a bowl and you’re good to go!

I served this with grilled chicken breast, but this would be great with fish, pork, beef, whatever! And, if you’re vegetarian, this could become a main dish. You can eat it warm, at room temperature, or cold from the fridge. The leftovers were great, too!

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Do you like caprese salads? Tell me your opinion in the comments section below!

Caprese Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 10-15 basil leaves cut chiffonade
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (or mozzarella)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 Tbsp lemon juice or rice wine vinegar
  • Generous amount of sea salt (about 3/4 tsp) and freshly cracked black pepper (about 1/2 tsp), to taste

1). In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth and quinoa to a boil. Cook according to package directions, about 15-18 minutes or until all the broth is absorbed. Move the quinoa to a large bowl to let it cool.

2). Add all the remaining ingredients to the bowl of quinoa, tossing to combine well. Taste and re-season, if necessary. Enjoy immediately or cover and refrigerate.

Servings: about 8 1-cup servings. Approximate Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 157 Carbs: 17g Fat: 7g Protein: 7g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 2g Points+: 4.
Recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron.

Thai-Inspired Hydrating Cucumber Salad with Roasted Chickpeas

This crisp, cool cucumber salad is sure to help you cool off during the hot summer months! Topped with crunchy roasted chickpeas and peanuts, this dish can be a meal in itself.

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Summer heat is in full-swing here in Georgia! I love everything about summer: the long days, the time we spend outside, the fresh veggies from our garden, and even the heat! Having said that, it’s soooo important to stay hydrated when it’s this hot outside. Drinking lots of water is key, but did you know the food you eat can help keep you hydrated as well? That’s where this cucumber salad comes in! It’s refreshing, crisp, cool, and hydrating. The flavors are (you guessed it!) thai-inspired, but you’ll like this even if you don’t like thai food. Remember–it’s not thai food, it just has some common ingredient combinations you would find in that type of cuisine. Cilantro, red bell peppers, peanuts, etc. Quick confession: thai food is not my absolute favorite, but I loved this salad!IMG_1106

If you’ve got cucumbers growing in your garden, this is a great way to use a couple of them. In my opinion, they’re the focal point of the salad. To get the salad going, the cucumbers, red onion, red bell pepper, and cilantro all take a nice swim in a rice wine vinegar marinade. They need about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to come together, which is the perfect amount of time to finish making the roasted chickpeas, if you want them. The chickpeas are totally optional here. They add a big crunch factor and an extra 7g of protein per serving, but my husband actually preferred it without them. It’s up to you!

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If you want to make the chickpeas, you’ll need 1 can of them. Rinse, drain, and dry them before tossing them with olive oil and spices. Lay them on parchment paper and roast for about 30 minutes, depending on your oven. These actually make a great little snack on their own!

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Thai-Inspired Hydrating Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:
For the marinade:

  • 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1.5-2 tbsp sugar (this is a must to offset the strong tang from the vinegar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For the salad:

  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts for garnish
  • Roasted spiced chickpeas (optional)

For the roasted chickpeas:

  • 1 can (15 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric (I omitted)

1). Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rinse and drain the chickpeas. Roll them in-between two paper towels to make sure they are completely dry before proceeding, otherwise they will not get crispy.

2). In a medium bowl, combine the chickpeas with the olive oil and spices. Toss well to ensure even distribution of the spices. Roast for 20 minutes before stirring them around. Roast for another 10-15 minutes or until the they’re golden brown and lightly charred on the bottom.

3). While the chickpeas roast, whisk together the seasoned rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.

4). Peel the cucumbers, chop off the ends, and slice them in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the seeds from each half of the cucumbers and discard the seeds. Slice the cucumbers thinly into half-moon shapes.

5). Toss the cucumbers, red onion, bell pepper, and cilantro in the dressing. Let them sit in the fridge for 30 minutes to marinade while the chickpeas finish cooking. Let the chickpeas rest about 5 minutes before adding to the salad. Top with roasted peanuts. Enjoy!

Servings: about 3 as a main dish, or 6 as a side dish. Approximate nutritional information for 1 main dish serving: Calories: 275 Carbs: 40.5g Fat: 6.9g Protein: 12.7 g Fiber: 9.5g Points+: 7

Recipe adapted from: http://ohsheglows.com/2013/06/05/thai-inspired-hydrating-cucumber-salad-with-roasted-spiced-chickpeas/

 

 

 

Grilled Asparagus and Zucchini Salad with a Lemon and Basil Vinaigrette.

Fresh asparagus and zucchini are grilled to perfection, then tossed in a lemon and basil sauce with tangy garlic, scallions, and red pepper flakes. 

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I love this salad because it is a great way to use extra zucchini and basil, which are both in season right now and growing like crazy in my garden. If you follow me on Instagram (audreysapron) or Twitter (@AudreysApron), you’ve seen my excitement over the success of my first-ever veggie garden. Whether you’re growing zucchini or not, it’s a great time to cook with it because, as I said before, it’s in season, which makes it more affordable to purchase in store.

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This side dish comes together fast, making it perfect for a weeknight meal. In fact, I made this while we were on vacation. As much as I love cooking, I didn’t want to spend hours in the kitchen on our trip, so I paired this with some grilled chicken. Gotta love summer eats!

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Have you ever grilled asparagus? I love asparagus roasted, but (sadly) I had never thought to grill it until now. If you haven’t tried it, you’re missing out! This is definitely my new favorite way to prepare it. Just as easy as roasting, and just as flavorful (if not more so!).

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On to the recipe! Fire up the grill and toss the zucchini and asparagus in a little oil, salt, and pepper. The zucchini takes longer to cook, so put it on first, followed by the asparagus a few minutes later. While the veggies are cooking, whisk together some lemon juice & zest, olive oil, garlic, fresh basil, scallions, and red pepper flakes. Don’t worry–this dish is not spicy. The red pepper flakes add a tiiiiiny bit of heat, but it’s only 1/4 tsp for the entire bowl, and it’s not very noticeable. In fact, next time I may double that amount. I recommend you taste it and add more if you want it.

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Basil is one of my favorite herbs, and I think it pairs nicely with the veggies and lemon. If you prefer to use parsley, oregano, mint, whatever… you can do it. You might even want to get adventurous and try a combination. The important thing to remember is to use fresh herbs. Everything about this salad is fresh and light, and I just don’t think dried herbs would have the same effect. If you’re in a bind, you can actually leave the herbs out completely–it’s still very flavorful on its own!

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I hope you make it and enjoy!

Grilled Asparagus and Zucchini Salad with a Lemon and Basil Vinaigrette. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • Freshly cracked sea salt and pepper

For the vinaigrette:

  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 garlic clove, grated or minced
  • 1/4 cup  chopped fresh basil (or herb of choice)
  • 3 minced scallions
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Freshly cracked sea salt and pepper

1). Heat the grill to medium-high heat. Prepare the asparagus by trimming the ends. Cut the ends off the zucchini and slice in half. Toss in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the zucchini to the grill, flipping after about 6-7 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook for about 5 minutes per side. The zucchini and asparagus are ready when they are easily pierced with a fork.

2). Meanwhile, prepare the vinaigrette. In a bowl, whisk together the lemon zest/juice, olive oil, basil, garlic, scallions, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.

3). When the zucchini and asparagus are fork-tender, remove them from the grill and chop into about 1 inch pieces. Add the chopped veggies to the bowl with the vinaigrette and lightly toss to combine. Taste and re-season, if necessary.

Servings: about 6. Nutritional Information per serving: Calories: 82 Carbs: 9g Fat: 5g Fiber: 3g Protein: 4g Points+: 2
Recipe adapted from: http://cookblog.org/grilled-veggies-lemon-herb-vinaigrette/ 

Servings:

Cucumber, Strawberry, and Feta Salad.

Strawberry season is here!! One of my best friends and I went to a local farm to pick fresh strawberries this week, and although I already froze and ate some plain, I wanted to incorporate them into a salad. Last year I really enjoyed this strawberry and baby kale salad, and this year I think my new favorite will be this cucumber and strawberry salad!

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I know what you’re thinking: cucumbers and strawberries?! Yes. Surprisingly they go very well together. I’m kicking out the tomatoes from the traditional cucumber/tomato salad and replacing them with another bright red fruit: strawberries.

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Reasons to love this salad:

-It is light and refreshing.

Chilled cucumbers and strawberries together? Cool and crisp!

-It requires only 4 ingredients.

Just cucumbers, strawberries, feta cheese, and a poppyseed dressing.

-It is quick and easy. 

Chop your cucumbers and strawberries, sprinkle some feta, pour the dressing, mix and you’re done!

-It is an unexpected combination.

Everyone expects to see cucumbers and tomatoes together. Why not change it up and use strawberries?

-It is a beautiful color combination.

Bright green cucumbers and red strawberries with a sprinkle of white feta in-between? It’s practically art in a bowl.

-Everyone seems to love it!

I can’t tell you how many people have raved about this salad! It’s a winner, for sure.

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Now, I am typically all about making your own salad dressings. After all, I already have several posted on the blog: creamy garlic, red pepper jelly vinaigrette, chia seed dressingavocado ranch, and a tangy blackberry balsamic. In this case, I did take a shortcut because of time restraints and bought Panera’s poppyseed dressing. If you have time to make your own, do it. If not, I was quite pleased with the flavor of this one and would recommend it. There are certainly more ingredients listed on the label than what you would use if you make your own, but that’s almost always the case with store-bought products.

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So, are you looking for a new way to sneak strawberries into a meal? Want to try a light and refreshing salad? You should really try this one; it just might become your new favorite!

Cucumber, Strawberry & Feta Salad.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups strawberries, washed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 6 tbsp poppyseed dressing

1) Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl. Mix well and serve!

Servings: about 6. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 121 Carbs: 19 g Fat: 5g Protein: 5g Fiber: 4g Points+: 3

Recipe adapted from: http://thehousewifeintrainingfiles.com/cucumber-strawberry-poppyseed-salad/ 

“Black & Blue” Spring Salad with Blackberry Balsamic Vinaigrette.

It is finally feeling like spring around here! As soon as the weather turns warmer, I immediately turn to cool, crisp salads to keep my meals light and filling. I love salads and eat them year-round, but somehow when it’s freezing outside the idea of biting into a cold piece of lettuce does not appeal to me as much!

Salads can get really boring, really fast. The trick to keeping them from becoming mundane is (obviously) change! Change the base of your salad (baby spinach, romaine, spring mix, etc.). If you like cheese, change what type of cheese you add. Change what vegetables you include. Change what crunchy add-ins you include. Change the dressing. And in this case, change it up completely by adding fruit!

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I love ripe, juicy fruit in my salads and usually stick to strawberries, blueberries, apples, or pineapple. Until now, I had never included blackberries! They were perfect in this salad. They were tart but sweet, and off-set the bite from the blue cheese perfectly. I added a few sliced almonds for added crunch, too.

And then, of course, there’s the dressing. It’s the real star of the show (and of this post)! To play up the blackberry flavor more, I topped the salad off with a blackberry dressing. It was quick to make, easy, and had the right balance of sweet and tangy. It’s sweetened with honey and a touch of sugar. I tried it without the sugar and my face immediately puckered–way too tart! I usually try to eliminate added sugars, but in this case the dressing  most definitely needs it. A scant 1 tablespoon is all that’s needed, though, which turns out to be less than a teaspoon per serving. Not too bad!

I love the deep color of the blackberry dressing–so pretty! All I had in the fridge was romaine lettuce, but I think this dressing would be even more beautiful among the deep green of spring mix or baby spinach! Use your favorite, or whatever you have on hand.

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“Black & Blue” Spring Salad with Blackberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

For the salad: 

  • 4-5 cups of your favorite salad base (romaine, spring mix, baby kale, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese*
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries

For the blackberry balsamic dressing:

  • 1/2 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 tbsp honey (or agave nectar)
  • salt and pepper

1) To make the dressing: Add the blackberries and sugar to a food processor and process until smooth. Add the vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt, and pepper and process again until smooth.

2) To assemble the salad: in a large bowl, add the greens, blue cheese, sliced almonds, and blackberries. Top with blackberry balsamic vinaigrette. Enjoy!

*Note: to make it vegan, use agave nectar in place of honey and do not include the blue cheese!*

Servings: 4. Nutritional information per serving for the dressing: Calories: 105 Carbs: 10g Fat: 7g Sugar: 10g Fiber: 1g WWPoints+: 3

Nutritonal information per serving for the salad base: Calories: 91 Carbs: 5g Fat: 6g Protein: 4g Sugar: 2g Fiber: 3g WWPoints+: 2

Recipe adapted from: http://iowagirleats.com/2014/04/02/black-blue-spring-salad-with-honey-roasted-pecans-and-berry-balsamic-vinaigrette/