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Chicken couscous salad

Chicken Couscous Salad

I have consumed far too much funeral food as of late. Sadly, there have been multiple occasions over the last few weeks to provide funeral food and my will power has not been the best. Not only did I make a lot of it, I ate a lot of it and funeral food is seldom slenderizing. Just yesterday, I ate half a pan of blond brownies I was taking to a friend. A few days before that it was a tub of Blue Moon cheese spread (yes, you want the recipe – here it is). Oh, and add to that the bacon cheeseburger on a pretzel bun King Daddy and I just had to try at Wendy’s and the leftover fried chicken from my beloved Publix that we fed the inmates with last week (yes, actual inmates who work for us for free at the Community Resource Center).

So I am going to have to do some penance. I am going to have to pretend it’s Lent right now and give up something – like fattening food. I have already stocked the refrigerator with hummus and carrot sticks. I have homemade granola. And I am making chicken couscous salad because it’s good for me and I actually like it. Even King Daddy will eat it and he is not a salad kind of guy.

Chicken couscous salad
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
  • 1 5.4-ounce box of couscous, prepared according to the package directions
  • 1 cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • 1 small cucumber, skin and seeds removed, and diced
  • ½ orange pepper, seeded and diced
  • Half a container of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh mint
  • ⅓ cup diced Monterey Jack cheese
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice from one lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine everything in a mixing bowl. Taste and add more lemon juice if you think the salad needs more acidity.







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Arugula salad with crispy tomato croutons

Rocket Salad with Crispy Tomato CroutonsThis is really a story about my failed summer as a vegetable gardener, something Southerners hate, hate, hate to admit. But this summer has confounded me. Which is why I had to come up with a way to use green cherry tomatoes.  By the way, do birds get hot? It’s hotter than blazes here right now, but the birds seem unaware.

But I digress. So I started my garden in late April with great anticipation for a bumper crop. Last year, I practically had to use a machete to cut my way through the tomato plants. I planted. I watered. I watched. Nothing happened. They did not grow an inch. They died – the tomato plants, that is. Damn that Lowe’s, selling me defective tomato plants. I bought some at the Ace Hardware. I planted them. Watered. Watched. Died. The pepper plants produced peppers the size of thimbles. And died.

tomato plantSo it’s got to be something with the soil. I have poison soil. And I don’t know how to go about correcting that. In the meantime, I buy a cherry tomato plant already in a stylish plastic pot. I’ll just grow that and have a small, elite crop of cherry tomatoes. Physics, however, is working against me. This plant is growing. And at every growth spurt, becomes top heavy. It falls over, always when I’m not looking. Knocking all the green tomatoes off the plant.

I am depressed now and travel to my beloved Publix for fried chicken and macaroni salad. Who needs fresh vegetables? I’ll just carb load and have another glass of Chardonnay. But King Daddy gathers up all my sad, hard, green cherry tomatoes and, in a time-honored Southern tradition, offers this: “Let’s fry them!”

Alrighty then. By any standards, and especially considering the hardship involved on my part, this is a very good salad. The base is peppery arugula. It’s topped with green onions, raw Silver Queen corn, bacon, the crispy tomato croutons and a buttermilk dressing I totally stole from Food and Wine magazine and is labeled “healthy”, although it decidedly is not.

Arugula salad with crispy tomato croutons
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 3 green onions, sliced (including green tops)
  • Freshly sliced Silver Queen corn, from two cobs
  • 6 strips bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled
  • 10 green cherry tomatoes
  • Milk or buttermilk
  • Cornmeal
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Buttermilk Ranch Dressing (from Food and Wine magazine)
  1. Divide the arugula between two plates. Top with the green onions, corn kernels and bacon.
  2. Slice the cherry tomatoes into thin rounds and soak in the milk or buttermilk for a few minutes. Put about a cup of cornmeal into a bowl, drain the tomatoes and add to the bowl. Toss to cover the slices liberally with the cornmeal.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil to medium high. Add the tomatoes and fry until the cornmeal begins to turn brown. Drain and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Put the tomatoes on the salad and drizzle with the buttermilk dressing.
Sliced okra fried in the same manner as the cherry tomatoes would also be delicious.

Buttermilk Dressing
Prep time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 small garlic clove, smashed
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • Freshly ground pepper
  1. Sprinkle the garlic with a pinch of salt and mash to a paste.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the garlic, sour cream, mayonnaise and vinegar. Whisk in the buttermilk and season with pepper.




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Cracked wheat salad


Self-control. Isn’t that just the hardest thing? I was at a gathering today with some of the Women of St. Paul’s and we were talking about the cardinal rules of weight control. If you are eating standing up, there is no caloric intake. If you are eating something that has broken off of the whole, as in part of a cookie, that does not count either. Then there is my own personal theory that if you have existed on twigs and sticks for several days, the body requires a jolt of fat, as in a cheeseburger, to keep the metabolic balance in check.

We were discussing this as I was eating the last shreds of a Velveeta, cream of (fill in the blank) soup, spaghetti casserole out of a sheet pan with a plastic fork. Of course, that doesn’t count either since it falls under the “eating something that has broken off” rule. In this case, the entire sheet pan was the whole and the 18 delicate forkfuls were the part.

But at some point, even with these dietary laws, you have to pay the piper, I’m afraid. So how about a nice, light, healthy cracked wheat salad. Oh, you know what cracked wheat is. It’s the good stuff in tabbouleh, which always contains way too much parsley, in my opinion. Who am I to argue with the peoples of the Mediterranean who love all that parsley? But I have a personal resentment. When my father died, and we were all drowning our sorrows in a luncheon before the funeral, one of my dad’s friends started making his way around the room with sprigs of parsley that he urged us to eat to mask the smell of alcohol on our breath. At the time, there wasn’t enough alcohol in all the world and I didn’t care one whit if anyone smelled it on my breath. If I could have smuggled a box of Chardonnay into the funeral I would have. Is that inappropriate?

At any rate, make this salad. Cracked wheat, or bulgur, cooks like couscous. Easy and quick. It has a nice nutty taste. You can substitute any kind of nut for the hazelnuts. I just happened to have some in the freezer. And you can substitute or add any kind of vegetable.

Cracked wheat salad

1 ½ cups water

¾ cup cracked wheat (bulgur)

½ cup roasted coarsely chopped hazelnuts

½ cup diced orange pepper

¼ cup diced red onion

2 tablespoons golden raisins

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the cracked wheat. Cover and let stand until the wheat is tender and the liquid is completely absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to thoroughly combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature.


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Artichoke rice salad

After my rant the other day about processed foods, I will now reveal to you one of the processed foods I cannot do without: Rice-A-Roni.

When I was growing up, Rice-A-Roni was marketed as “The San Francisco Treat” because that’s where it was invented. The commercial featured a cable car, with clanging bell. Our family made our first trip to San Francisco when I was about nine, and when I heard one of those cable car bells  the first thing I thought of was Rice-A-Roni. My mother was so disappointed. Mass marketing was already clouding my world view.

One of the best and highest uses of Rice-A-Roni is in cold salads. The beauty of it is that you don’t need to worry about adding any seasonings, because everything is in the tasty packet you add to the rice and pasta. I will tell you that I think the Rice-A-Roni people have the cooking directions wrong. The package calls for adding 2 cups of water to the pot. I always use a cup and a half. Otherwise, the rice can get mushy.

Use any Rice-A-Roni flavor for a cold salad and then just add in what you like. Here Chicken Rice-A-Roni gets a boost from lemony artichoke hearts.

Artichoke rice salad

1 box Chicken Rice-A-Roni

2 green onions, chopped

1 can artichoke hearts

1/3 c. green pepper, chopped

1/3 c. green olives with pimento, chopped

1/3 cup mayonnaise

Prepare Rice-A-Roni using 1 ½ cups of water instead of the 2 cups called for in the directions and omitting butter. Chill. Drain the artichoke hearts and chop into large pieces. Mix with the onions, olives, pepper, mayonnaise and cooled Rice-A-Roni.

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