Sunshine State Solutions + Services

Step Away From The Mega Mayo: Yankee Doodle Macaroni and 4 Other Healthy, Star-Spangled Salads

Step Away From The Mega Mayo: Yankee Doodle Macaroni and 4 Other Healthy, Star-Spangled Salads

I am a total salad nerd, though the New York Post might call me a conoisseur. When the temperature in Florida meets the dew point and my a/c is struggling to work its best (quite often lately in Collier County), salads - either as a main course or side dish for anything grilled - become my go-to fare for an evening’s dinner.

But the crucial bit is that I make my own. No store-bought stuff. While Publix makes it easy to pick up family faves like macaroni and potato salad, they’re drowning in mayo. You almost can't taste the other ingredients when they're swimming in all that white stuff.  

True confession: this Jersey (originally) girl loves her Hellman’s, but as an accent to a recipe - not the star player.

So if you have time to make your own salads, I’ve tweaked well-loved recipes for somewhat fewer calories utilizing fresh Florida produce, organic when possible. And…did you know that Florida ranks only behind California as the nation's leader in fresh produce? My only gripe is good lettuces have been hard to find at my usual grocery stops — running the gamut of all price points from the pricey Food and Thought to my local Walmart superstore.

The Key To These Recipes
-Patience with the painstaking mincing and stirring.
-Adding mayo when the ingredients are warm, not hot or cold.
-Tasting after each tbs of mayo is added - and stopping when the pasta looks dressed but not coated.
-Deploying the best tools. I like using large Pyrex bowls with sealing lids; minimal clean up and the food stays fresh in the fridge. There should be no mayo puddles or you’ve added too much.

1. Macaroni Salad

Yields 4-5 Servings

INGREDIENTS

- 1/2 lb pasta elbows (Try Whole Foods 365 brand - they're culled from non-GMO grains and only $1.10 per pound)
- 1 green or red pepper (I prefer green pepper’s stronger flavor) 
- 1/2 red onion
- 1 large organic carrot, peeled
- 2 tbsp Hellman’s mayonnaise
- Salt and pepper to taste
 

METHOD

Wash and mince the veggies, toss, then place in a large bowl. Cook pasta for 5 minutes (al dente), drain and rinse with cool water. Add the pasta and toss with veggies. Add mayo one tablespoon at a time and stir. Add pepper and a pinch of salt. Stir. Add the remaining mayo and more pepper, stirring thoroughly.

2. Baked Red Potato Salad

Yields 4-5 Servings

INGREDIENTS


- 1 pound small red potatoes (2” diameter)
- Fresh parsley (leaves only)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 scallions, washed THOROUGHLY and diced (buy only whole scallion bunches; the pre-chopped variety have been documented as a main source of E-coli infections)
- 1 bunch dill
- 1 red pepper, sliced or julienned
- 1 tbs of dijon or spicy mustard

- 2 tbs Hellman’s mayonnaise

METHOD

Preset your oven to bake (not roast) at 375. Cut each potato in halves or quarters - but keep the size consistent for better results. Spread 1 tsp of the olive oil onto a baking sheet, and add the potatoes in one layer. Distributing your ingredients evenly, add remaining oil to drizzle on the potatoes, a pinch of salt and ground pepper, then the parsley.* Set timer to 45 minutes and place in oven. For even cooking, it's helpful to toss the potatoes after 25 minutes. Remove from the oven after they’re golden brown, and let cool for 5 minutes.

Remove the parsley potatoes with a spatula to ditch the remaining oil and place them in a mixing bowl, adding the cut red peppers, scallions, dill and mustard. Toss. Add 1 tbsp of mayo and stir. Add pepper and one more tbsp of mayo. Stir. Taste and adjust for pepper or salt if needed. 

FYI, you can opt to cook the peppers which adds a flavor dimension but subtracts crunch.

If you have leftover potato or macaroni salad, add a 3 ounce can of tuna or a hard-boiled egg for an easy lunch.

3. Watermelon & Cuke Salad

Yields 2 Main-Course, Or 4 Side-Course Servings


INGREDIENTS


- 1 lb bag of loose spinach. (Trim the stems and wash it even if pre-washed. Drain excess water.)
- 2 cups diced watermelon, seeded (Use remaining juice for a delicious low cal cocktail as featured here)
- 2 cups cucumber, seeded and sliced into half-inch rounds, then halved in the center
- 3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
- 2 tbsp Diana’s balsamic dressing (Recipe below.)

METHOD

Assemble everything in a bowl and toss. Hard, right? Even Dana can do that...

My easy dressing recipe: 3 parts olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar. Add a pinch of salt and ground pepper, and fresh herbs from your garden. I try to mix it up, alternating whole-leaf basil, rosemary and oregano. As the Barefoot Contessa will tell you, the key is using great quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar. (I like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s - $6.99 per liter bottle.) I try to make enough dressing to last the week. 

4. Chicken or Turkey Salad

Yields 4-6 Servings

(Upfront Disclaimer: This is a hand-me-down recipe from a baby shower hosted by former Gourmet magazine test kitchen editor Liz Voight. Thank you, Liz!)


INGREDIENTS

1 lb bag of loose spinach (Again, as above, trim the stems and wash it even if pre-washed. Drain excess water.)
- 2 chicken or 1 turkey breast cut into even bites (Leftover rotisserie chicken - any parts work - is ideal)
- 2 ounces pine nuts, toasted
- 1/2 grapefruit (Peel, section, then cut each section into thirds, removing the seeds.)
- 3 tsp olive oil

METHOD

Coat pine nuts with 1 tsp of olive oil. Place on a baking tray and cook at 350 for 10-15 minutes, checking carefully to ensure they don’t burn. Remove and cool.

Place spinach leaves, cooled pine nuts, grapefruit pieces and chicken/turkey into large bowl. Top with remaining olive oil and toss thoroughly. The grapefruit adds acidity that a vinegar would, so it’s not necessary to add balsamic here.

5. Strawberry Balsamic Salad

Yields 4-6 Servings

(Another Upfront Disclaimer: This dessert isn't terribly original, but I "make it my own" by always seeking the crazy-freshest strawberries and deleting the sugar from the recipe.)

INGREDIENTS
- 1 pound fresh strawberries, cut in halves
- Balsamic vinegar to taste
- Fresh mint leaves
- Fresh ground pepper

METHOD

Rinse then cut the berries and place in a bowl. Lightly drizzle one ounce of the vinegar, add mint leaves, some pepper and stir. Taste, and add more vinegar if necessary.

Our First Giveaway! Get Your Typing Fingers Ready For This Beach-Babe Stash Of Avène!

Our First Giveaway! Get Your Typing Fingers Ready For This Beach-Babe Stash Of Avène!

How Much Tennis Makeup Is Too Much Tennis Makeup?

How Much Tennis Makeup Is Too Much Tennis Makeup?