Eating My Way Through

Pesto Pasta Salad June 24, 2010

Filed under: Lunch,Salad — Nikki Wegner @ 11:11 am
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For the past year I have been meaning to make pesto. I even bought a very expensive, huge bag of pine nuts from Whole Foods last summer. Yet, they have sat in my cupboard, waiting to be turned into something. My roommate makes pesto all the time and she inspired me to experiment with it. Combining a bunch of different recipes, I think I came up with a pretty healthy, very yummy pesto.

I decided to toss the pesto with some pasta and veggies to make a salad I could take throughout the week for lunch. This would be a great addition to any bbq, as it’s super light and has great flavor.

To start, make some whole-wheat pasta according to the package directions.

While it’s cooking, start the pesto by toasting some pine nuts and walnuts for about 5 minutes, watching them so they don’t burn!

Toasting Walnuts and Pine Nuts

Toasting Walnuts and Pine Nuts

As the nuts are toasting, put the basil, garlic cloves, Parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, chicken broth and salt in a food processor. Add the nuts when they are done toasting.

Pesto Ingredients

Pesto Ingredients

Now, start the chopper and process the ingredients until smooth.



That’s it! Now you have a great pesto you can not only use for this salad, but for tons of other recipes!

Once the pasta is done cooking, drain and let cool a bit. Toss in a large bowl with the pesto, and veggies. I used  cherry tomatoes, black olives and sun-dried tomatoes, but feel free to substitute others. Kalamata olives would be great, or maybe spinach and some red onions.

Pesto Pasta Salad

Pesto Pasta Salad

Top the pasta salad with a bit of cheese, I used goat cheese (Parmesan would also work) and serve. I have been eating this all week for lunch and it keeps really well and is super filling, helping me stave off the 4pm snack craving!

Pesto Pasta Salad (own recipe)

2 cups whole-wheat pasta

1 tbsp walnuts

1 tbsp pine nuts

1/2 cup fresh basil, packed

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1/4 cup Parmesan, fresh and grated

1 tbsp olive oil

1-2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 tbsp chicken broth, low-sodium

1 tsp salt

4 oz black olives, sliced

1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped

4 oz goat cheese, crumbled or 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated (to top off the salad)


Prepare pasta according to package directions, drain and let cool

Toast walnuts and pine nuts over medium-low heat, about 5 minutes

Combine basil, garlic, Parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, chicken broth, salt and toasted nuts in a food processor or chopper to make the pesto

Process until smooth

Transfer pesto to a large bowl, toss with pasta and mix until well-combined

Add in olives, cherry tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes and mix everything together

Divide into bowls and top with goat cheese

Yields 4 servings


Black Bean, Mango and Quinoa Salad June 15, 2010

Filed under: Dinner,Lunch,Salad,Veggies — Nikki Wegner @ 8:01 am
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In the summer I love recipes that don’t involve turning on the oven! This probably comes from growing up in a house without central air, where turning on the oven always raised the temp downstairs like 10° and you started sweating instantly.

Now, living in DC, living without air conditioning seems unfathomable. But old habits die hard, and this Black Bean, Mango and Quinoa Salad is a great no-oven necessary summer meal!

To start, toast the quinoa for 4-6 minutes, until fragrant and it starts crackling. Then just remove from the heat and using a very thin strainer rinse the quinoa. Definitely use the thinnest strainer you can find, if you don’t you will have a mess on your hands and quinoa all over your sink!

Quinoa Toasting

Quinoa Toasting

Return the quinoa to the pot and add water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until all the water is absorbed.

While the quinoa is cooking, rinse and drain the black beans, chop the yellow pepper and Mango (I cheated this time and bought pre-cut, cause chopping mangos can get a bit sticky).

Black Beans, Mango and Yellow Pepper

Black Beans, Mango and Yellow Pepper

In a large bowl, combine some orange juice, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, ginger, cayenne pepper and  salt for the dressing and whisk.



Add in the beans, yellow pepper and mango, tossing to coat.

Once the quinoa is fully cooked, toss in the black bean and mango mixture.

Black Bean, Mango and Quinoa Salad

Black Bean, Mango and Quinoa Salad

This is a great salad to make for lunches or a light dinner, plus it is ready in like 20 minutes, so you really can’t beat that!

Black Bean, Mango and Quinoa Salad (adapted from Eating Well)

1/2 cup quinoa

1 cup water

1/4 cup orange juice

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 tsp olive oil

1 tsp ginger root, minced

1 tsp cayenne pepper, ground

1 small mango, diced

1 yellow pepper, chopped

1 15.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 scallions, chopped


Toast quinoa in a saucepan for 4-6 minutes, until fragrant and crackling

Using a very fine strainer, rinse quinoa and return to pan

Add water and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover, and cook 15-20 minutes until water is absorbed

While quinoa is cooking, prep the black beans, yellow pepper and mango

In a large bowl, combine orange juice, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, ginger root and cayenne pepper with a whisk

Add the beans, pepper and mango to the bowl and toss to coat

Once the quinoa is done, toss into the bean mixture and stir

Divide among bowls and top with scallions for serving

Yields 3 servings


Brown Rice Salad with Feta May 12, 2010

Filed under: Lunch,Salad,Veggies — Nikki Wegner @ 10:57 pm
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I am always looking for healthy, easy salads to throw together after work or bring for lunch that are break from just some lettuce and dressing.

When I visited my boss and her new baby the other week her mom made us a great brown rice salad with feta, it was delicious! So I decided to give it a try at home, with a few additions/subtractions and whatever vegetables I had in the fridge/freezer.

One thing that makes this super easy to throw together is the use of pre-cooked frozen rice that you simply steam in the microwave. The rice turns out great, just as if you perfectly cooked it on the stove, without all the time, mess and potential for overcooking, burning, etc.

To get started, I microwaved the shelled frozen edamame and prepped all the other veggies, tossing them in a large bowl.



Next, prepare the brown rice according to the package directions in the microwave. While the rice is cooking, it should probably take about 4 minutes, whisk together the dressing. I used some olive oil, water, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, basil paste and garlic.

Lemon & Oil Dressing

Lemon & Oil Dressing

Carefully take the brown rice out of the microwave, it will be hot, and add to the bowl with the veggies. Mix together, add the feta, and mix again.

Brown Rice Salad

Brown Rice Salad

If you plan on eating the salad all at once/serving at a party, add the dressing and mix well. If you are making the salad ahead or dividing into smaller portions for meals, keep the dressing in a separate container and add as you go. This will make the salad last longer and ensure it doesn’t go bad!

This is definitely a salad I will recreate again and again. Maybe with different vegetables, or a different type of cheese, but it is great salad to toss together one night and use for the week!

Brown Rice Salad with Feta

1 package microwave steamed brown rice (2 cups cooked)

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup red onions, diced

1 cup snow peas, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 medium cucumber, diced

1 1/2 cups shelled edamame

3.5 ounces reduced-fat feta

1 tsp lemon zest

2 tbsps lemon juice, fresh

2 tbsps water

1 tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves minced

1 tsp basil herb blend (I used Gourmet Gardens)

salt to taste


If using frozen edamame, prepare according to package directions

Combine prepped tomatoes, red onion, snow peas, cucumber and edamame in a large bowl

Cook brown rice according to package directions in the microwave

In a small bowl, combine lemon zest, lemon juice, water, olive oil, garlic, salt and basil blend

Whisk until combined

Add rice to large bowl, mix

Add feta to bowl, mix

Add dressing and stir together if serving/eating all at once, or divide into containers for lunch, keeping the dressing separate

Yields 4 servings (about 1 1/2 cups salad, 1 1/2 tbsps dressing)