Now that the long cold winter is behind us, we can take advantage of the warmer weather by spending more time outside playing with our kids or working in the yard. The longer days also mean that we can enjoy our meals outside, and nothing accomplishes this better than a nice salad.

While visions of lettuce and tomatoes come to mind for most of us when we think of salad, the reality is you can make salad with just about anything, including meat, legumes, pasta, and whole grains. The key is to use your imagination, have some fun with it, and make it tasty. Salads are an easy, convenient, and healthy way to get fresh vegetables and fiber into your diet, especially if you can use stuff from your garden.

We enjoy salads throughout the year, and here are a few of our favorites.

Tuscan White Bean Salad

Adapted from Cooking Light.

Ingredients

  • 1 can of small white or cannellini beans, drained (or 2 cups cooked dry beans)
  • 1 plum tomato, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix. Let sit for 30 mins before eating. Enjoy with a good crusty bread.

Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Corn

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed (2 cups of cooked dry beans)
  • 1 cup cooked frozen corn (fresh if you have it), drained
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Dressing

  • 1 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a sauce pan, wash quinoa in several changes of cold water. Add 1-1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil, then turn down heat to simmer. Cook the quinoa until the water boils off, stirring occasionally with a fork. When the quinoa is done (don't let the quinoa burn), cover and let cool for 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, add salad ingredients (including cooled quinoa) and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients and toss into salad, then serve.

Pasta Salad w/Broccoli and Cauliflower

Ingredients

  • 1 package of rotini noodles
  • 2 cups of chopped cauliflower
  • 2 cups of chopped broccoli
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tin anchovies, minced (optional)
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • parmesan cheese

Boil rotini until al dente (firm), about 15 minutes. Drain and place in large bowl to cool. When cool, drizzle with 1 Tbs olive oil and toss.

Steam cauliflower and broccoli until tender, about 10 minutes (can do it separately or together). Add to rotini in large bowl.

In a large saucepan, saute garlic in olive oil for 1 minute. Add anchovies and saute another minute, then add peppers and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic/pepper mix to the rotini in large bowl and toss.

Add salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese to taste, tossing noodles with each addition.

You can substitute just about any kind of pasta you have in your cupboard, and this salad can be eaten hot or cold. Mix in some chicken to make it a main course, and serve with a crusty bread.