Tortellini Spinach Salad

Tortellini Spinach Salad

I’m going to come right out and say it: salad and I have had our issues. I mean, I love salad. We have a relationship. But… it’s complicated.

You ask some people what they’re having for lunch (or even for dinner–heresy!), and they’ll say, “A salad.” Like… that’s it. Salad. I’m not one of those people. For me, a salad isn’t a meal. Salad and a sandwich? Sure. Salad and garlic bread? Yup. But just a salad? Incredibly unsatisfying, no matter how many sunflower seeds and garbanzo beans I plop on top. I think there’s just something in my DNA requiring that a meal involve some carbs.

Which leads to the issue of ingredients. I like diversity in a salad. Salad bars are my gold standard for this–I can add a couple kinds of greens, lots of raw veggies, maybe some berries, various beans and seeds and cheeses, and top it off with some croutons. But I can’t recreate that experience at home; I’d constantly have a half-eaten can of moldy kidney beans in my fridge, or an almost-empty bag of slimy spinach. And when I did make a salad, I’d be prepping ingredients for half an hour.

And then there’s the issue of the dressing. Can we all just agree that store-bought salad dressings are, in general, pretty awful? I get a salad at a restaurant and love it, but when I recreate the same salad at home with a store-bought dressing, it’s just yucky. About 95% of salad dressings I’ve ever bought taste like nothing but salt and preservatives. (Rob and I have found our guilty-pleasure dressing with this Nebraska-based salad dressing. You can’t get it in Tennessee–except via Amazon–so we ask my parents to bring home a couple of bottles every time they go to Nebraska to visit family.)

So those are the problems. But here’s the part where I launch into apostrophe.

Ah, Tortellini Spinach Salad, you have redeemed the salad experience for me. I can have you for dinner and feel neither gluttonously overfull nor piteously underfed. Your perfect mix of spinach (healthy!), tomatoes (healthy!), onions (healthy!), and processed carbs (delicious!) delights my tastebuds. I salute your limited ingredient list, your simple preparation, your sharply flavorful homemade dressing! Tortellini Spinach Salad, from these glorious beginnings I foresee a long and delectable love affair.

Time Commitment: About twenty minutes. There are literally three steps to this recipe. This salad is weeknight dinner gold.

Mess: Minimal–cutting board, sauce pan, and a pretty salad bowl for serving

For Kids: This dressing isn’t incredibly kid-friendly, so I always reserve some tortellini, cherry tomatoes, cheese, and spinach for #1 to eat, dressing-free.

Tortellini Spinach Salad

Serves 2-3 as a main dish or 4-6 as a side salad

Adapted from Three Boys Unprocessed

Ingredients, Salad

  • 2 cups frozen tortellini
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • Up to 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)

Ingredients, Dressing

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried minced garlic
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3 tbsp shaved Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tbsp mayo
  • salt and black pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions

  1. Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain, return to pot, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and place in refrigerator or freezer to chill while you make the salad dressing.
  2. Place all salad dressing ingredients into a prep bowl and whisk vigorously. Adjust levels of salt, pepper, and other spices to taste.
  3. Toss dressing with chilled tortellini and other salad ingredients in a large bowl.

Squash Sprout Salad

Squash Sprout Salad

Rating: 4/5 stars. This squash sprout salad — which can serve as a sophisticated side or a substantial entree — is a celebration of the best flavors and textures of the colder months of the year.

Someone please explain to me the general public’s prejudice against Brussels sprouts. I just don’t get it. Brussels sprouts are a delight. For one thing, they’re like little miniature cabbages. Adorable! People love miniature donkeys, teacup chihuahuas, even miniature giraffes. Why not the cute little miniature cabbage, aka Brussels sprout?

More importantly, Brussels sprouts have a great texture, especially when roasted. The exterior layers cook up all crisp and papery, while the interior remains chewy and moist. And to me, roasted Brussels sprouts taste just like fall. We’re now in the depths of winter, but this salad hearkens back to the season of decorative gourds–a definite point in its favor. In fact, it would make an amazing Thanksgiving side dish.

A note on the rating: Personally, I would give this squash sprout salad a full five stars. It has so many of my favorite cold-weather Photo Jan 16, 12 54 04 PMflavors. But Rob is in the anti-sprout camp (despite the fact that he loves cabbage; tell me how that makes sense), so I deducted a star from this dish for stirring up vegetable-related family dissension.

Time Commitment: About 45 minutes. Most of that time is passive; you just have to keep an eye on your veggies and lentils as they cook.

Mess: I bought packaged squash and sprouts, making this dish quick to come together and to clean up.

Mom Fails: Two words: mushy lentils. That made the final product of the salad a little bit stickier than I would have liked; everything was coated in a layer of lentil goo. After doing a bit of research, I’ve learned that I probably cooked my lentils at too high heat. After bringing lentils to a rapid boil, you want to decrease the heat as much as possible to keep them just barely at a simmer. Or so says the internet.

Squash Sprout SaladSquash Sprout Salad

Source: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen Spicy Squash Salad

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side

Ingredients

  • Olive oil for drizzling vegetables
  • 1/2 c black or green lentils
  • 2-3 c (or 1 12 oz bag) peeled, cubed butternut squash
  • 2 c chopped or shredded Brussels sprouts
  • 1/2 c crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 c roasted seeds (I used some sunflower seeds I had on hand, but you could use pumpkin or even the seeds from a fresh butternut squash)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook lentils according to directions on the bag. This should take approximately 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. In the meantime, line a shallow baking dish with foil. Spray foil with cooking spray. Add squash and sprinkle with salt and oil. Then roast for 20-30 minutes or until cubes of squash are tender, but not too brown. Watch your squash closely; it might take more or less time depending on how large the cubes are.
  4. When the squash is tender and slightly browned, toss the shredded Brussels sprouts into your baking dish. Stir to combine; then put everything back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so. You want to cook the sprouts just enough so that the exterior layers are getting crispy, but not black.
  5. Let everything cool to room temperature.
  6. Mix together all ingredients in a pretty salad bowl. Serve as a main dish with bread or rice, or as a side dish to your eye-popping Thanksgiving spread.