The Friday Salad

Two Fridays ago, while visiting Steve’s family, I had lunch at The Backyard in Milton, DE.  I’ve been there a few times before and enjoyed such treats as cauliflower steak and avocado fries (yes, you read that right), but this last time took the cake.  I knew I wanted to try and stay gluten-free (always a challenge at restaurants), and that quickly cut down on a lot of options.  Mostly I’m choosing from salads these days, but when there’s something like a black bean mango salad on the menu, I’m not complaining.  This was the mother of all salads.  It started with quinoa, included a somewhat spicy tomato and pepper salsa, black beans, barbecued chicken, and mango.  And in case that’s not enough, it came with a side of spicy ranch dressing.  So, creamy dressing and your feelings on meat aside, this is a pretty healthy meal.  As soon as I finished it, I knew I’d be making it myself soon.

Exactly one week later, I set out to recreate this little delight.  It actually doesn’t cost too much to make; the most expensive ingredients are the quinoa and the chicken, and you’ll have leftovers of those for other meals.  I always keep black beans in the cupboard, and I usually have some version of the Rotel tomatoes and chilies on hand too.  I’ve been working my way through a bag of quinoa for some time, and this was a great way to finish that up.  So when I started this, I needed mangoes, chicken, barbecue sauce, and ranch dressing.


The beginning of something great.

Here’s what I did: I started the chicken and quinoa first.  The chicken needs to be absolutely slathered in barbecue sauce and baked at 350 (flipped once halfway through) for about 35 minutes.  After that, I turned the broiler on for about 5-7 minutes, flipping it halfway through that as well.  I wanted a really good coating of sauce on these because I’d be slicing them later on.  While that was baking, I cooked the quinoa in vegetable stock – that takes a total of about 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, I combined the black beans and Rotel in a saucepan with a little bit of diced red onion to punch it up.  I cooked this over low heat really just to combine the flavors.

Once everything was cooking, I sliced up two mangoes and waited for everything else to finish up.  I did let the quinoa and the black bean mix sit and cool off for a few minutes, and I let the chicken rest for just a few minutes as well.  I didn’t necessarily want anything to be piping hot – it is a salad, after all.

And then it was just a matter of plating – my favorite part!  The only thing you can’t see here is the quinoa, but it’s hiding under there.

I have to say, this was one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever made.  I enjoyed it, Steve enjoyed it, and I will absolutely be making this again (Friday, perhaps?)!  I topped mine with some ranch dressing – not the healthiest, I know, but it balances the spicy flavors so well.


Now is that a summer meal or what?

Mango Black Bean Salads


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 ripe mangoes, sliced

1 cup quinoa

1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies

1 can black beans

8-10 ounces barbecue sauce

Ranch dressing

Optional: 1/4 red onion, diced


1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

2. Place chicken breasts in glass baking dish; cover and toss with barbecue sauce

3. Bake for 30-35 minutes, flipping halfway through

4. While chicken bakes, cook quinoa according to package directions (typically, boil in vegetable stock 12-15 minutes and let sit until liquid absorbs).  Let cool.

5. In a saucepan, combine black beans, Rotel, and red onion (if using).  Cook over low heat for 8-10 minutes stirring regularly.  Let cool.

6. When chicken is cooked through, turn on broiler and broil for 5-7 minutes, flipping halfway through.

7. Once chicken is finished, let sit for a few minutes, then slice.

8. In each serving bowl, combine one large spoonful of quinoa and one of bean mix; arrange chicken and mango on top and top with Ranch dressing




Twofer Tuesday: Turkey Version


Until last night, I had never cooked turkey before, not even for Thanksgiving.  I didn’t even make a Tofurkey that year I was a vegetarian.  So instead of starting off with an entire bird, I figured I’d go a little smaller.  I bought some turkey breast fillets at Wegmans for around ten bucks and gave it a whirl!

It turns out cooking these fillets was much more like cooking fish than chicken.  They only needed to go into a 375-degree oven for 15 minutes, or until they were white all the way through.  (I think I cooked them just a minute or two too long, but hey, you live and learn!)  I sprayed my cookie sheet with olive oil first, then lightly salted and peppered the fillets.  Then the kitchen muses descended and inspired me to top them off with some leftover Rosemary sprigs I had.

photo (2)

Not too bad for my first try.  I served it with green beans and toasted Ezekiel bread, which I have recently discovered and will likely write about soon.  I didn’t eat the herb sprigs, but they were too pretty not to photograph.  I was surprised at how much flavor they gave the turkey!   All in all, a good meal!

I was going to have leftovers for lunch today, but I wanted something a little bit different, so I came up with this:

photo (3)
I cut up the leftover turkey fillet and made a scrumptious salad!  There’s baby spinach, bean sprouts, the turkey of course, pecans, and craisins – because you can’t have turkey without cranberries, right?  I topped it off with a little balsamic vinegar and promptly devoured it.

I’m a huge fan of leftovers, but at the same time I get tired of eating the same thing over and over.  It would have been perfectly healthy to have the same meal for lunch, but mixing it up was a lot more fun!  New summer challenge: jazz up all the leftovers!

Till next time, happy cooking!