Category Archives: Scrumpdidily Salads

Mango and Avocado Quinoa Salad with Blackened Shrimp

When I was precisely 16 years and 5 months old I went on a trip to Peru. I remember my age exactly because only my 16 year and 5 month old self would get on a plane to one of the most amazing and culturally rich places in the world, kicking and screaming.  It’s quite embarrassing for me to admit it today since I would go absolutely anywhere in a heartbeat, but at the time, I didn’t want to go.

I was the only one left in the house after my older sisters had all moved out and my mom and step-father (a native Peruvian) wanted to bring me along with them to South America.  Being the dramatic teenager I was I thought for sure that my life would end immediately if I missed out on three whole weeks of summer happenings in my tiny Ohio town.  The idea of doing anything other than painting my fingernails and reading teen magazines did not interest me.

The plan for the trip was to first fly into Lima to stay with some family.  After a week of exploring the city we would continue on to a few smaller towns, visit more family, and then eventually end up in Cusco to do a four day hike to Machu Picchu.  Which, by the way, I showed up in the Andes mountains for this half of a week long hike up a mountain, never having hiked before, wearing a pair of Sketchers boots, and a backpack full of Seventeen magazines and nail polish. I vividly remember standing on the top of the mountain next to a group of four Frenchmen, who had been training for this hike for months, as I flipped through and re-read my test scores from the “What kind of boyfriend is he” quiz. 

Lima, Machu Picchu, Cusco…none of those words really meant anything to me at the time because, not only had I never been to Peru, I had never been out of the country before.  I had no idea what it was like to see the world and my expectations were low (how could anything be better than Ohio?).  I was skeptical all the way up to, and even after, getting off that plane and stepping foot into Lima.  I remember how we sifted through taxi after taxi lined up outside to make sure we got in a legit car since they’ve been known to just slap a “Taxi Cab” sticker on the door to make a few bucks.  I remember how I was told that sometimes they’ll even kidnap you and hold you for a ransom to make a few bucks more.  I remember how we got in the taxi with a driver going 720 miles an hour, swerving through traffic while almost hitting a man walking a goat on a leash downtown Lima.   And then I remember thinking, Oh my god.  I’m going to love this place!

It was all so new and exciting and everything about it was intriguing. I especially loved the food. I had never experienced tasting the cuisine and dining cultures of a different group of people before and of all places, Peru seriously does it right.  Foods like quinoa and ceviche are everywhere. Fresh avocado, freshly squeezed oj carts going down the streets, I loved every bite of everything I put in my mouth.  Even some questionable things that I will refrain from sharing with you!

I am so grateful for the experience and it truly helped shape me into the passionate traveler and food lover that I am today.   When I eat foods like quinoa it always makes me nostalgic thinking back to the time when I had it first.  Every bite of the mild and nutty grain is better than the next.  It’s times like this that food…is more than just food.

 Mango and Avocado Quinoa Salad with Blackened Shrimp

Serves 2 large lunch sized portions, or 4 smaller portions


(you can use all water if you prefer, but I think the chicken stock gives it a nice added flavor)

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • salt
  • 1 large mango, pitted and diced
  • 1 large avocado, pitted and diced
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • Cilantro, a large handful chopped (about ½ cup)
  • Freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1-2 tbs olive oil
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • salt
  • pepper

Blackened Shrimp

  • 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and devained
  • blackening seasoning (or you can buy prepared blackening seasoning)
  • salt
  • 2 tbs olive oil

Begin by rinsing your quinoa under cold water.  Next, add your quinoa, water, chicken stock and pinch of salt to a medium sized pot.  Bring to a boil and then cover with a lid and turn the heat down to a simmer. Continue to simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. 

For the shrimp, place all the shrimp in a large ziplock bag, add your blackening seasoning, a little salt and a drizzle of olive oil and shake to coat completely.  Heat another tbsp olive oil to medium-high heat in a large pan.  Cook the shrimp on each side for just a couple minutes, or until they turn pink.  Shrimp cook very quickly, so be sure not to overcook.

Mix the quinoa with the remaining ingredients, season with salt and pepper and serve with the shrimp and fresh cilantro garnish



Filed under All Posts, Appetizers and the likes, Fruity Flavors, Healthy Options, Peru, Recipes, Scrumpdidily Salads, Seafood, Seasonal - Spring, Side Dishes

Roasted Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Candied Pecans and Bleu Cheese Crumbles

Give me a handful of asparagus and I will give you two million different ways to eat it.  Or more.  You all know how I feel about the sleek veggie (see: Feta, Walnut, Sundried Tomato Asparagus) — I could simply eat it every day.  And because asparagus season is upon us, I am literally eating it every single day.  In every kind of way.

But this little number?  Brace yourself, because I’m not sure there is even a word to describe it.  Delicious just doesn’t cut it…

Roasted Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Candied Pecans and Bleu Cheese Crumbles

(The candied pecans are really what make this recipe stand out, so if you’re going to skip a step – don’t skip candying the pecans — it just takes 5 minutes!)

  • Roasted Asparagus (recipe below)
  • Candied Pecans (recipe below)
  • about 2 cups loosely packed arugula
  • 1 ½ cup blue cheese crumbles
  • Balsamic vinaigrette (or olive oil and balsamic vinegar)

Roasted Asparagus

  • 3 bundles thin asparagus
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

(I used the very thin asparagus, but if you use the more average size you will need to cook the asparagus for about 10-15 minutes longer)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Chop ends off of asparagus and lay out on a baking sheet.  Drizzle olive oil over to coat completely, season with salt and pepper. Roast Asparagus for about 8-10 minutes ( again, you’ll have to cook them longer if you have the larger asparagus).  Remove from oven, cool and then cut in half for the salad.

Candied Pecans

  • 1 cup roughly chopped pecans
  • 4 tbs sugar

The candying process with the sugar only takes a few minutes and happens fast, so you want everything set up and ready to go ahead of time.  Line a baking tray with wax paper (or a silpat mat) and set aside and have your cup of pecans waiting nearby.

In a small, heavy bottomed sauce pan heat the sugar on medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the sugar dissolves and reaches a golden amber color.  Add the pecans and quickly stir to coat and then transfer to the lined tray.  Spread the nuts out (I like to keep some of them in clumps, but you can spread them out thinner if you’d like) let cool.

Once your nuts are cool, assemble all of the ingredients in the salad and lightly drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette or just a good olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


Filed under All Posts, Healthy Options, Holidays - Christmas, Holidays - Easter, Holidays - Thanksgiving, Recipes, Scrumpdidily Salads, Seasonal - Spring, Vegetables

Cilantro-Lime Jalapeno Chicken Salad

For anyone who loves a killer chicken salad recipe, the fresh taste of cilantro, ripe avocados, a hint of spice, refreshing summery recipes, or just a really good sandwich, this recipe is for you.  Well, ok that covers just about everyone.  But I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say everyone will love this chicken salad whether it’s enjoyed in the middle of two crispy slices of bread or scooped out of the center of a creamy avocado. 

I posted this recipe last year along with a pasta recipe I wrote about, but I decided it needed a post of its own – a platform to showcase the vibrant green colors that match the beautifully merged flavors that will leave your senses speechless.    It’s literally that good.


  Cilantro-Lime Jalapeno Chicken Salad

  • 3 large chicken breasts
  • poaching liquid (chicken stock, water, carrots, celery, onion, thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns)
  • 1 jalapeño diced (with seeds scraped out)
  • 4 Tbs cilantro coarsely chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 red onion diced fine
  • 1/3 cup mayo (plus a little more if needed)
  • 1 Tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 ripe avocados (or for a sandwich good French or Italian bread)

Season chicken with salt and pepper and *poach. Remove chicken from liquid and shred with a fork. 

Once chicken has cooled add mayo, Dijon, cumin, lime juice, salt and pepper and incorporate.  Add more mayo and lime if necessary.  Mix in red onion, jalapeño and cilantro. Cool in fridge for several hours to let flavors merge and serve with avocado or for a sandwich on French bread with a slice of provolone.

*To Poach – In a medium pot add chicken breasts to the poaching liquid.  The chicken should be completely immersed.  Bring to a boil and then immediately reduce heat and partially cover.  Reduce heat to a simmer for 10 minutes (be sure to just simmer and not boil….and no longer than 10 minutes since you don’t want the chicken to turn “rubbery”).  Remove from heat and let chicken remain in the liquid for about 15 minutes.   Reserve the liquid for future use.


Filed under All Posts, Appetizers and the likes, Healthy Options, Recipes - Chicken, Sandwich Craft, Scrumpdidily Salads, Seasonal - Summer, Side Dishes

Brussel Sprout Salad

Brussel sprouts are such a touchy subject.  They are the vegetable everyone loves to hate.  I too was once a brusselbasher but I vividly remember the moment my feelings changed.   There is a well-known restaurant in Cincinnati, called Boca (if you are ever in the ‘nati you must go), and on the menu are caramelized brussels sprouts.  When I dined at Boca for the first time this was an appetizer on the menu (that’s how good it was).   They were soft and tender, yet still had a slight bite with the perfect amount of warm brown butter and sweet caramelization.   I ate them like candy.

Needless to say, since that experience I have gained a new appreciation for the little black sheeps.   It also taught me a valuable lesson in that butter makes everything better with the right preparation you can bring out different sides of foods that no one has ever seen!

(Measurements are to taste)

  • 1 lb brussel sprouts
  • handful of dried cranberries
  • handful of toasted pecans
  • shaved red onion
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • parmesan cheese

Cut ends off of brussel sprouts and slice thin.  In a large saute pan heat olive oil to med-high and add shredded brussel sprouts.  Season with salt and pepper and cook until they begin to brown and are slightly wilted.

Remove from heat and toss with cranberries, pecans, red onion, splash of lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Top with shaved parmesan cheese.


Filed under Appetizers and the likes, Ohio, Restaurants, Scrumpdidily Salads, Side Dishes, Uncategorized, Vegetables

Almond Enrusted Goat Cheese, Blueberry Vinaigrette and Mixed Greens Salad

Something about the word encrusted just does something to me. One simple utterance across the lips has the power to induce instant taste bud stimulation.  Add goat cheese to that word and I’ll be sitting high in my chair with hands raised to the sky, and letting out the loudest scream of excitement!  Better than any theme park I’d ever want to go to. 



For the dressing:

  • 1 small shallot, diced fine
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon

For the Salad:

  • mixed greens
  • 1 goat cheese log
  • about 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 egg + 1 tbsp water, whisked together
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • blueberries

Saute shallots and blueberries in a drizzle of olive oil for about 2-3 minutes in small saucepan.  Add vinegar, honey and cinnamon and cook for a few minutes more, or until the blueberries have begun to release juices.  Remove from heat and cool before transferring into food processor.  Blend ingredients together in processor and then slowly add 1-2 tbsp to incorporate.  Season with a little salt as desired.

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Prepare goat cheese by slicing into 3/4 inch slices. Lightly dredge the goat cheese in flour and then in the egg mixture.  Coat the cheese in sliced almonds pressing around the sides, bottom and top.  Place on a baking tray and into the oven for about 8-10 minutes.  Serve warm over salad.


Filed under Fruity Flavors, Goat Cheese, Recipes, Scrumpdidily Salads, Uncategorized

A mouth-watering salad

Salads are a deceiving little species.  What looks to be just a simple and thoughtless mixture of a few things here and there, is actually the contrary. And I’m not talking about the type that’s intended for calorie-pinchers. I learned long ago to never order a salad in a restaurant if I was looking for a low-cal dish (unless I was in the mood to eat a bowl of lettuce with a few specs of salt, and in that case I would buy my own head of lettuce). Dieting is for wimps anyway.  I’m talking about the type of salad that is so memorable it leaves your taste buds tantalized just by the mere thought. 

Nothing ruins your dining experience more than when you order something that sounds so incredibly divine, and then when the fork goes in your shoulders collapse and your heart sinks.  Recently, I ordered a salad that read: “White balsamic marinated summer peaches, blue cheese crumbles, and toasted pecans tossed in a sweet white balsamic vinaigrette.”  It sounds great!  How could I go wrong with these few ingredients that are all equally pleasing to my palate?  Well, I was wrong – it sucked.  It was a flavorless pile of blah with the exception of a few juicy peaches here and there.  The dressing was subpar, there was way too much lettuce and way too little crunch.

So, that’s the bad news.  But the good news is that with the right mixture of flavors, textures, and proportions you can make your salad one to remember.   There are a few that are close to my heart and here is one of them (and it happens to be low-cal — that was an accident!): 

Smoked Salmon Salad with Pumpernickel Crutons and a Tangy Sour Cream-Dill Dressing

For the salad:

  • One small package of smoked salmon
  • Spring mix
  • 1 cup of corn
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 half loaf of pumpernickel bread, cut into cubes and toasted

For the Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • 2 heaping tablespoons fresh dill
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 tsp sugar (plus a little more if needed)
  • salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together and let set for several minutes for flavors to merge.  Pour over salad and season all with salt and pepper.

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Filed under All Posts, Healthy Options, Recipes, Scrumpdidily Salads, Seafood, Uncategorized

Banbanji Chilled Sesame Chicken

Allow me to sweep you across the Pacific today as we visit a land of rice brewed beverages, incredibly fresh tuna, and one of the most intriguing cultures in existence.  I was a lucky 17-year-old when I was invited to Japan by a good friend and his wife, who was an Osaka native. My knowledge of Japanese cuisine, at the time – or should I say what I thought I knew – was on par with my ability to use chopsticks — embarrassing and a little…off.  But as each day of my adventure unfolded, my hunger grew stronger and my appreciation fonder.

A whole new definition of soul food was brought to life, for me. The type of soul that originates from a deep-rooted society of tradition and history where food is an undeniable way of life and meaning to their existence.  With each meal the most fresh and pure ingredients are prepared in the simplest of ways to create captivating presentations and unforgettable flavors. 

This dish was made for me by my host mother after I expressed my love for the fresh seasonal flavors and the sweet taste of sesame.  It ‘s been nearly ten years, and I can still taste that first bite of pleasure hitting my tongue.  The recipe below was taken from the only Japanese cookbook I could find in English! Arigato gozaimasu Japan!

Banbanji Chilled Sesame Chicken

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 pack bean sprouts
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 3/4 cup roasted white sesame seeds
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp mirin (or 3 Tbsp sake + Tbsp sugar)
  • 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 12 cherry tomatoes halved
  1. Place chicken in pan of lightly salted water boiling water and boil for about 10 minutes. Allow to cool in the water. Remove chicken reserving the stock. When cool, tear chicken into long strips by hand.
  2. In separate pan, blanch bean sprouts, rinse immediately in cold water and drain.
  3. Slice cucumbers diagonally into matchsticks.
  4. Make the sauce by grinding sesame seeds with a grinder or food processor. Add soy, mirin and vinegar and mix in some reserved stock, a little at a time until mixture becomes smooth.
  5. Arrange sprouts, chicken and cucumbers on plate and dress with sesame sauce. Serve with cherry tomatoes.

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Filed under A taste of Asia, All Posts, Healthy Options, Recipes - Chicken, Scrumpdidily Salads