Smarter Than Pancakes

Sunday, March 1, 2009

My all time favorite salad

Filed under: 7-layer salad,Side Dishes,WW Points — shaye3 @ 10:09 am
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Every Easter, I make a 7-Layer Salad for dinner.  It’s one of a few traditional dishes that we always have to have for Easter, but it is one that I’ve been known to serve several times in the weeks before Easter too.  For some reason, this salad is the epitome of spring for me.   Steve and I LOVE it.  Simon doesn’t really care for anything that has the word “salad” anywhere near it–which is strange because it’s one of the few things I craved when I was pregnant for him.

Anyway, it started as a recipe from a cookbook called  Mealtimes & Memories, but I’ve changed it quite a bit.  I’ve eliminated iceburg lettuce in favor of the greener and more nutritious Romaine, and added green onions.  I’ve also replaced the quite tasty but HFCS full combo of Miracle Whip and mayo in the dressing for a lightly sweetened mayo that is much healthier–and we can’t taste the difference.


Seven Layer Salad
Servings 12
WW Points 6 (Points determined using Hellmanns canola mayo and real bacon.  Using 4 Tbs soy bacon would make it 5 points.)

10 oz bag baby spinach (You can absolutely use non-bagged and just wash it really well, but bagged spinach is the one bagged green I do use.)

1/2 lbs bacon–cooked & crumbled OR 1 cup soy bacon pieces (Since my family believes that bacon is a vegetable, I usually cut the raw bacon into small strips, cook the whole package, and about half makes it onto the salad.)

10 oz bag package frozen baby peas (I’m serious about the baby part. Get the ones that say “baby” or “petite”.)

3 green onions—chopped (We like green onion so I use the whole bunch.)

1 head Romaine lettuce—cut into bite sized pieces and washed (Sub at will for any lettuce you like.)

6 hard-boiled eggs—sliced (This amount totally depends on the size container you’re using. You need enough slices to completely cover the top, so if you’re using a wide container you’ll need more.)

1 cup mayonnaise (This amount also depends on your dish. You need enough to cover the top of the eggs completely by about 1/8-1/4 inch.)

1/2 tsp sugar—optional (The original recipe calls for 1/2 mayo and 1/2 Miracle Whip. Since MW is chock full of HFCS, I don’t use it. I did like the sweetness it gave the dressing, so I add a little sugar to the mayo for the same taste.)

1 cup shredded cheese (I usually use cheddar or colby jack, but the original recipe called for Swiss)

  1. Layer each item through eggs in order in a trifle dish. (Or any dish you want.  My aunt makes it in a 9×13.)
  2. Combine mayo & sugar and frost over egg layer.
  3. Can be covered tightly and stored in the fridge up to overnight.
  4. Just before serving sprinkle cheese on the top.

This is one of my default pitch-in dishes, so if you invite me to come over and ask me to bring a salad, this is probably the one you’ll get.  It looks impressive, is easy to put together, and tastes amazing!

…And just because I haven’t mentioned any small appliances lately–here is my beloved egg steamer.  I realize that it’s completely senseless for me to have an appliance that  has the sole purpose of cooking eggs, but it is SOOO much easier to just throw some eggs and water into this thing, turn it on, and in a few minutes have perfectly cooked eggs.  It does boiled, scrambled, and poached.  What more could you ask for??    (And in case you’re wondering, this is another one I got from my mom.  I don’t actually spend good money on all of my senseless appliances.) 😉



Thursday, July 31, 2008

Rainy Day Picnic

A few weeks ago, we had tickets to Symphony on the Prairie; but just about the time we should have been leaving the house, the sky opened and we considered ark building instead. I’m not kidding you, there was so much rain that all of the neighbors’ yards were under water. The street was even under water a little ways down from us, and that never happens. The amount of water was crazy!

Of course I had already packed a fabulous picnic dinner, so we were forced to have a picnic on the living room floor instead. (It’s probably for the good of the blog that the concert was rained out because it didn’t occur to me to take pictures of the food until I was plating it on boring old plates to eat in our boring old living room.)

But just for you…

Most of our picnic fare on regular old plates!
Goat Cheese & Tomato Salad Wraps, Lemon & Quinoa Salad, and a simple Spinach Salad with Raspberries and a Red Wine Vinaigrette. (We had a few other things, like berries in spiced yogurt and peach lemonade, but I didn’t take pictures of either so I’m not going to post those recipes right now.)

Quick Lemon and Garlic Quinoa Salad
Serves 4 – 6.2 ww points per serving (But you’ll get in your healthy oil for the day!)

This recipe originally came from my good friend Ginny, but I tweaked it just a little to make it easier.


1 cup dry quinoa (Rinse in a fine mesh strainer to get rid of the bitter coating that quinoa sometimes has.)

2 cups water

1 pinch salt

1/2 cup carrot, chopped

1/3 cup parsley, minced

1/4 cup sunflower seed


2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used part Tamari and part Braggs Liquid Aminos.)

  1. Throw the quinoa, water, and pinch of salt in a 3 qt. microwavable container with lid. Microwave on high for 10-12 minutes or until the water is almost entirely gone.
  2. When the water is gone–stir, re-cover, and let sit for five more minutes.
  3. Prepare dressing in a small bowl.
  4. Add carrots, seeds, parsley, to the cooked quinoa, and toss well.
  5. Pour dressing over the top, and stir until well combined.

Simple Spinach Salad with Raspberries and Red Wine Vinaigrette
The Dressing makes 14 (1 Tbs.) servings and has 2.3 ww points per tbs.

My sister Dawn first made a version of this for me about 20 years ago, but I think her version had sliced strawberries and some other salad toppings. I had just gotten the spinach and fresh raspberries from my friend, Costco; and I wanted to keep the rest pretty simple for travel.


fresh baby spinach

fresh raspberries


1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup (scant) sugar

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp dry mustard

  1. Combine dressing ingredients
  2. Arrange and serve

Goat’s Cheese and Tomato Salad Wraps

Serves 4 – 4 ww points per wrap

4 1/2 oz goat’s cheese, crumbled

1 1/3 cups tomatoes, seeded & diced (I used one red and one yellow for color.)

1 1/3 cups cucumbers, seeded & diced (I also peeled mine.)

5/8 cup green onions, chopped

2 1/16 tsp extra virgin olive oil

2 1/16 tsp balsamic vinegar

4 flour tortillas — about 25 cm (Nuke them for a few seconds to soften before rolling if necessary)

  1. In a bowl, combine all ingredients except tortillas.
  2. Divide mixture evenly between the 4 wraps, and enjoy!

(Here’s my hint for wrapping—Put the filling in a little line along one side of the tortilla. Fold the short side over and then fold the ends over. After that, fold the sides of the long side over by just a little—maybe half an inch. Then roll it the rest of the way up. It you do it that way, the filling won’t fall out.) 😉

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sweet Peppers Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Ok, so I’m a Costco addict, and I’ve noticed that at my friendly neighborhood Costco (30 minutes away is neighborhood–right?) there are bags of red, yellow, and orange bell peppers for a very good price.  I’ve been buying bell peppers each time I run to Costco, so by now I have bell peppers coming out of my ears.  (Too bad my garden peppers didn’t fare as well.  Maybe next year.)

I present to you…

Sweet Peppers Stuffed with Goat Cheese
Serves 4 as a side dish – 1.5 ww points for 2 pieces

1 oz. soft goat cheese

1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded or grated

1 Tbs. snipped chives

1 Tbs. snipped fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried basil, crushed

2 medium sweet peppers

  1. Combine the cheeses and herbs in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Wash the outside of your peppers, then quarter them lengthwise.  Remove the seeds.
  3. Throw them on your grill over medium heat, and grill them until they start to get crisp tender and brown just a little, turning once. (Maybe 8 minutes?)
  4. Spoon the cheese mixture into the pieces evenly, then put them back on the grill for 2-3 minutes until the cheese starts to melt.
  5. Yum.

Monday, May 5, 2008

It’s Easy Being Green

Filed under: Side Dishes — shaye3 @ 10:00 am
Tags: ,

Just in time for your Cinco de Mayo tortilla chip dipping pleasure, I present to you:

Homemade Guacamole and Homemade Tomatillo Salsa!Guacamole & Tomatillo Salsa

Both dips are completely delicious, and neither takes long to make! They’re both very forgiving, and the measurements are more like a starting point. I would highly suggest that you taste and tweak both until they’re just the way you like them.

Homemade Guacamole
4 avocados –more if they’re small
1 4 oz. can of diced chiles (or you can roast your own fresh chiles and dice them)
1 ripe tomato
1 onion
1-2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
minced garlic to taste (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

  1. When you buy avocados, you want them to give slightly when you press near the stem, but you don’t want them to be mushy. If you get them a day or two ahead, you can get unripe/harder avocados and they’ll ripen on your counter in a day or two.
  2. Chop your onion, put it in a medium sized mixing bowl, and throw your lime juice on top of it. (The acid in the juice helps keep the sulphuric/oniony smell at bay.)
  3. Do the same with your garlic if you’re using it.
  4. Peel your tomato by making a tiny “X” in the bottom with a sharp knife, then drop it into a small pot of boiling water for a minute or two. As soon as the skin loosens, move it into cold water. The skin will come right off, then you can cut it into small pieces and throw it in with the onion.
  5. Open your can of chiles, drain and dump it in -OR- take your fresh, mild, green chiles; wash them; then throw them either under your broiler or on your grill until the skin starts to blister and char–turning several times so it roasts evenly. Pull them out, put them in a closed container, and let them steam for a few minutes so the skin comes off easily. Cut off the stem, then open them up and remove the seeds. Dice and throw in with everything else. (If you want to reduce the heat in peppers, take out the inner membrane where the seeds connect to the pepper. Roasting helps reduce the heat a little, too.)
  6. Take a sharp knife and cut each avocado in half around the pit lengthwise. (Through the stem end to the bottom.) Twist slightly and it will come apart leaving the pit in one side. You can carefully thwack the sharp part of your knife (closest to the handle) into the pit and twist. The pit will will come out–stuck to your knife. Pinch the blade just behind the pit (from the dull side) and the pit will pop right off your knife. Cut each half lengthwise in half again, and then you can either pull the peel off with your fingers, or use a spoon if you don’t want to get messy avocado fingers.
  7. Drop all of your avocado pieces into the bowl with everything else.
  8. Now you need cut and mash your avocado together with your other ingredients. I use a sturdy pastry cutter. I’ve also used my potato masher, a fork, or two cutlery knives in a pinch.
  9. Your guacamole will be exactly as chunky as you want it. We like to leave the pieces of onion, tomato and avocado a little bigger, but you can mince your onion and tomato pieces very small and mash the heck out of your avocado if you want. Heck, if you like it perfectly smooth you can throw the whole mess into your food processor!
  10. When it’s all mixed, add salt and pepper to taste.
  11. If you have leftovers, put them in a tightly sealed container, and press some waxed paper or plastic wrap directly on top of the guac so it isn’t exposed to air. Avocados turn brown quickly, and putting something directly on top of it helps prevent that. If some of it does turn brown, just stir it in and it’ll be fine. It’s ugly but won’t hurt you.

* * * * *

Tomatillo Salsa Verde

1 1/2 lbs. fresh tomatillos in their husks (Feel them to make sure they aren’t squishy. Also do yourself a favor and try to get the ones with loose husks so you don’t have to spend much time removing the husk.)

3 unpeeled cloves of garlic (Of course I used more.)

Chile peppers of your choice (The original recipe called for 5 Serranos, but the reviews on the original recipe said that it was almost too hot to eat that way. I used 2 jalapeños and it still had some kick, but wasn’t painful. Your mileage may vary.)

1/2 cup fresh, chopped cilantro (I leave the bunch in the rubber band to wash and spin dry in my salad spinner, then I use scissors to chop it.)

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1-2 Tbs. fresh lime juice (I used juice of half the lime for the guac and half for the salsa.)

2 tsp. coarse salt

  1. Remove the husks from your tomatillos, then rinse off the sticky residue. Cut them in half, then put them on a broiler pan or a sheet pan with at least a little bit of a lip to hold the liquid that drains out.
  2. Throw your pepper(s) and garlic cloves on the sheet with the tomatillos, and put the whole pan under your broiler–an inch or two from the heat. Roast until it starts to char a little, then turn everything over and allow everything to char a little on the other side. (Maybe 10 minutes total?)
  3. Take the skins off the garlic, remove the stems and seeds from the peppers, and throw all of the ingredients into your blender or food processor. (I didn’t add all of the liquid from the roasted tomatillos because I didn’t want my salsa to be too soupy.)
  4. If you aren’t sure about how many chiles, it doesn’t take long to roast more. Try a conservative amount, then if your salsa isn’t hot enough for you, you can always throw in more later!
  5. Taste for seasoning, then allow to cool and serve exactly the same way you’d serve any other salsa.

This is perfect to use with my friend Nikki’s Chicken Verde, and it’s also great to simmer pork in. Yum!!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Summer Veggie Salad

Filed under: Summer veggie salad — shaye3 @ 9:48 am
Tags: ,

Can you tell we’ve had a warm spell this week? We’ve been making the most of our patio!

Today’s offering is a marinated Summer veggie salad. Yet another recipe that is wonderful to use some of those garden veggies–or the garden veggies you find in your farmers’ market or produce department. It’s really good as a side with sandwiches or quiche.

There’s a lot of chopping involved, but I find it cathartic. Just think of your issues or enemies while slicing and dicing!

Summer Veggie Salad (5 ww points per serving—fewer if you use less olive oil)
6 servings

1/2 cup salad oil (Olive oil is a little strong for this so I use canola.)

1/4 cup vinegar (White balsamic is our favorite in this.)

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 cups broccoli (Chop the florets pretty small, then peel and dice the stems to throw in for extra crunch.)

1 cucumber–peeled, seeded and cut into a small dice

2 tomatoes—seeded and coarsely chopped

1/2 cup coarsely chopped red onions (The vinegar really takes the bite out of the onions so don’t be afraid to add more if you’re an onion fan.)

  1. In a small bowl, combine oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
  2. Mix the veggies in a salad bowl.
  3. Pour on the dressing and toss to mix well.
  4. Cover and chill 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. (I usually make mine in a lidded storage container and just flip it over a few times as it marinates.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that as often as not we use this as a chip dip. And the liquid left at the bottom after the veggies are gone is so good that we use it as a salad dressing on a green leafy salad when it’s all said and done.

I’ve NEVER had to throw this away as a leftover because it’s so fresh and good. Mmmmm!

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