Beet and Arugula Salad

Wow, it's already June. It's amazing how quickly time flies when you're busy. I'm feeling a bit guilty that my last post was in March, especially since I have plenty of content to share with you all. Over the past few months, I've shifted roles in my day job, helped friends prepare to move cross-country and have rediscovered my love of reading. More relevant to this blog, I've taken a few day and long-weekend trips that have left me with some great restaurant finds to pass along. I've found one of my true food loves is Southern cuisine, met one of my favorite chefs and experimented with a lot of seasonal produce. I've literally filled my fridge with produce in no less than a half dozen grocery trips this year. I've participated in 5-10k races and an 11-mile hike for charity, and while I've always been active, the running in particular has pushed me to pay more attention to how my body responds to different foods. There's really no comparison to a meal that's rooted in fresh fruit and vegetables, whether it's the side dish or an entire meal. Well maybe a meal rooted in mac & cheese ... but then, it's all about balance. 

I managed a 6-mile walk this past weekend in 95 degree weather to make a trip to the farmer's market. It was hard work as it got warmer, but well worth it when I made dinner that evening out of all my market finds. This simple three-ingredient salad is perfect for summer and makes a perfect compliment to a heartier pasta or steak. 

2 beets
2 cups arugula
1 cup sunflower shoots (These can be found at most farmer's markets and some specialty grocery stores, but other sprouts and shoots could easily be substituted)
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Peel and dice beets into small chunks. 
3.  In a baking dish, toss in just enough olive oil to coat and lightly season with pepper.
4. Roast beets for 35-45 minutes, until just soft. Remove and let cool for 20 minutes.
5. Rinse arugula and sunflower shoots, pat dry. Combine in a serving bowl. 
6. Add beets to serving bowl, toss and drizzle lightly with 1 1/2 tbsp each balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Depending on your taste, you can add more vinegar or less. 

Serves 2

Cranberry Chicken Caesar

This salad is a great use for leftover grilled chicken. Even if you don't have leftovers lying around, it's still a quick recipe taking about 10 minutes to prepare. And, for a salad with only five ingredients, it's got an amazing range of flavor with peppery arugula, the sweetness of the cranberry and the slight saltiness of the cheese. 

2 boneless chicken breasts
3 cups arugula
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup feta cheese
4-5 tbsp caesar vinaigrette or salad dressing (I used a store-bought one, so I could prepare the salad quickly)

1. If not using leftovers, dice and season chicken breasts with pepper. In a skillet, grill chicken in 1 tbsp olive oil until no longer pink. Set aside to cool.
2. Wash arugula, drain and pat dry. 
3. Combine arugula, cranberries, feta and chicken. Toss well. 
4. Add salad dressing and toss again until salad is lightly coated.

Serves 2

Sautéed Vegetable Salad

Ingredients2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 white onion
1 red bell pepper
1 portabella mushroom
2 cup arugula
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (other crumbled soft cheeses can be substituted)

1. Wash arugula and set aside to drain.
2. Julienne cut onion, bell pepper and portabella mushroom.
3. In a skillet, heat olive oil and add onions. Sauté for about 4 minutes, or until onions begin to turn translucent.
4. Add bell pepper, mushroom and Italian seasoning. Toss and sauté until vegetables are slightly browned.
5. Plate arugula, topping with sautéed vegetables. Add about 1/4 cup blue cheese, more or less as desired.

Serves 2