Comfort-Cookin'One of the secrets to cooking when one has persistent pain is “make it easy”.  There are so many good recipes out there that are fairly easy and sometimes you don’t even require a recipe. Main dish salads (MDS) are one of those things that fall under the category of easy.  My husband and I love them year a round although in the summer when it is hot, there is nothing better.

There are so many good recipes; however MDS don’t always need one.

Step ONE: Start with a base of your favorite greens; I like Artisan lettuces and my hubby likes ice berg so it is usually a combo for us.

Step TWO: Add vegetables or fruits like:

  • Tomatoes, avocados, cucumbers, crisp cooked veggies like broccoli or asparagus, mushrooms
  • Melon balls, berries, diced apples or pears, and/or stone fruits such as peaches or nectarines.

Step THREE: Include a protein if desired (which for us is definitely a good idea)like:

  • Leftover (cooked) chicken, turkey, beef, shrimp, etc. (or)
  • Grilled steak or chicken breasts sliced thinly (after grilling)

When I use grilled steak I prefer to marinate first. Chicken breasts I will marinate or brine them.

Step FOUR: Garnish with olives (any type), onions thinly sliced, croutons, nuts, dried cranberries, cheese (goat cheese, blue cheese, shaved Parmesan, shredded or diced cheddar, Swiss, etc.,) and so on.

Step FIVE: Mix in your dressing either a favorite bottled one or homemade.  I like vinaigrettes but Ranch and others work well too.  With a fruit salad the dressing should usually be a little sweet (think, poppy seed or fruit vinaigrette) but standard vinaigrette can work as well.

Last summer I made a dinner salad which used melon balls, blueberries and a few raspberries, with grilled brined breasts, and raspberry vinaigrette.  Everyone loved it.  Go wild; your taste buds will thank you.

Grilling on an outdoor grill is not always practical or even possible if you live in areas where winters are harsh even though I used to grill outside in almost any weather Maine would offer.  A grill pan on your indoor stove is easy to use and very handy. (Last December I had everyone over for a birthday dinner for two of the grandbabies.  It had been snowing lightly and changed to rain.  Like a dummy I didn’t check the temperature, step out to go to the grill and landed flat on my back!  I hadn’t realized it had changed to freezing rain.  Fortunately I was only bruised, as was my pride.  I am quicker to pull out the grill pan now.)  To make clean-up easy, before using the pan, spray it heavily with a grilling spray oil which is made for high heat. When you are finished using it, fill the pan immediately with water (I use the tea kettle).

Slicing meat is easy (especially for those of us with arthritis in the hands) when you use an electric knife.  I would only recommend it for cooked meat (I do roasts with it also) or if my bread is too hot to cut with a bread knife.  The neat thing with slicing the steak or breasts in thin slices is you have more servings.

Brining keeps your breasts moist when not using a marinade.  Use ¼ of a cup of kosher salt (1/2 cup if you only have table salt) and mix with 1 quart water.  Place breasts in this in a bowl or Ziploc bag (then in a bowl) for 45 minutes to 1 hour).  Rinse after removing from brine and pat dry with paper towel (unless going directly on grill).  If using a rub or sauce I would eliminate or decrease the salt in it.

So, go ahead and practice. Here are a few of my favorite recipes, I hope you will enjoy:

[toggle title=”Shrimp Louis”]

“Louis” salads go way back, originating in California in the early 1900’s.  The salad can be made with shrimp, crab, or lobster (or a combination) and consists of greens, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, ripe olives, and whatever you want to add.  I usually add avocado and asparagus (steamed until tender) if I have it. This is my favorite “Louis Dressing.” It comes from a 1969 Better Homes and Gardens Salad Cookbook.

1 cup mayonnaise (I use Light)

¼ cup chili sauce

¼ cup diced green pepper

2 Tbsp. sliced green onion with tops

1 tsp. lemon juice

¼ cup whipping cream, whipped

Mix the first five ingredients and then fold gently into the whipped cream.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Rancher’s Marinade”]

Easy, tasty marinade for steak (including less expensive cuts which need to tenderize); adapted from a recipe in Woman’ Day Barbecue Outdoor Cookbook (1976)

¾ cup white wine

½ tsp. dried dill

½ tsp. garlic salt

2 Tbsp. wine vinegar (preferably white)

1 tsp. bottled browning sauce (optional)

½ cup catsup

2 Tbs. cooking oil

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Marinate meat at least one hour, preferably more.  When ready to grill drain meat well and discard marinade.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Chicken Salad Chez Vito”]

Interesting and tasty combination of ingredients, kind of fallish with the grapes; adapted from Fruits in Cooking (1973) serves 4-6

3 cups cooked chicken, diced

1 cup celery, diced

1 small onion minced

1 ½ cups seedless grapes, rinsed and drained on absorbent paper (I prefer red grapes and I half them)



¾ cup mayonnaise (I use Light)

Salad greens

3 hard-boiled eggs peeled and quartered

Pitted ripe olives (4-5 for each serving)

2 tomatoes cut into wedges

Mandarin orange slices well drained

In bowl mix chicken, celery, onion, and grapes.  Add mayonnaise and toss gently.  Season with salt and pepper if necessary (seasoning in chicken may be sufficient).  On individual plates of mixed greens mound chicken salad; garnish with eggs, tomatoes, olives, and oranges.[/toggle]


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