Category Archives: Side Dishes

Chicken Salad – Cool and Healthy

Chicken Salad is a cool and healthy choice for a hot weather lunch or dinner and perfect for a potluck. There are dozens of recipes with all kinds of variations that you can make, but let’s start with a wonderful basic recipe that we have used in my family for years.

Image by Kathy Maister
Image by Kathy Maister


  • Roasted or boiled chicken, chilled
  • Fresh crisp celery, sliced very, very thin
  • Onion, finely diced
  • Seedless grapes, stemmed, washed, dried and cut in half
  • Real Foods (or Hellmann’s) Mayonnaise
  • Mustard, regular
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Sliced almonds or chopped pecans (optional)

NOTE: I purposefully omitted measurements because this is a dish that is best made “to taste.”  My recommendation is to go easy on the celery, onion, and mustard until you reach a combination that works for your family.  Once you get a good idea of the amounts that please your palate, you can always double or triple depending on the number of people you will be serving.


  1. Prepare the celery, onions, grapes, and nuts (if using) – set aside.
  2. Cut the chilled cooked chicken into small pieces and place in a mixing bowl.
  3. Gently mix in the chopped ingredients.
  4. Start with 2 tablespoons mayo and 1 teaspoon mustard – mix very gently and add more mayo as needed until all ingredients are lightly coated – (Do not overwhelm the salad with mayo.)
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.

NOTE: The nuts are listed as optional, but add a nice crunchy texture, if desired. You may also want to try other variations such as adding: hard-boiled eggs, avocado, seasoned brown or Basmati rice, or lemon juice for an additional tangy flavor. If you prefer, you can use low-fat, or light mayonnaise.

Change It Up

Chicken salad has multiple uses. It is delicious on rich whole-grain bread for sandwiches; on a crisp lettuce leaf for a refreshing summer salad; or as a side dish with dinner or at a potluck. My chicken salad is always one of the first dishes to be eaten at a potluck, church dinner, or teenage gathering.

This can also be an economical dish – and who isn’t happy for those? Chicken is often sold in larger quantities for lower prices. Take advantage of those sales and have a prep day where you make a large batch of chicken salad that you place in a big bowl in the fridge for easy access. It is ready for quick packed lunches (sandwiches or salad); a last minute side dish for dinner – or a healthy snack after school.

Chicken salad is also wonderful wrapped in a fresh tortilla, in pita bread, or spread on crackers as a yummy appetizer. And . . . don’t forget to serve it on fresh croissants for a tasty lunch with friends.

Chicken salad is a healthier, more unusual choice than potato salad. It is an excellent choice for picnics, graduation parties, open houses, 4th of July celebrations, taking to the beach in a cooler, or any time you want to serve a nice, cool protein-rich dish that can be prepared in advance.

When served in a clear serving dish, it presents beautifully, especially when it includes deep red or black seedless grapes and avocados; then, trimmed with dark green lettuce leaves.

When you want to serve a rich, healthy, delicious meal, think Chicken Salad. Your family, friends, and/or guests will love it. If you are taking it “out,” be sure to prepare a little extra to set aside for your family.

Photo Credit: Chicken Salad Classics via photopin (license)


“Cool” Healthy Foods – Watermelon

This past weekend was a disaster. My daughter and her children came from California to visit me in Arizona. The frig was out when they arrived. A repairman FINALLY came and fixed that problem and one day later, my air conditioner went out – big problem in Arizona in August when the temperatures are 110+. It was miserable! My family had to stay with other family members – all very frustrating and disappointing.

The good news is there was a silver lining. I realized that recipes for “cool” healthy foods that can be served when it is really hot would be a fun thing to share with all of you.

Eating healthy should be the goal regardless of the weather.

As summer draws to a close, outside temperatures are still high, and you are overwhelmed with everything that must be done to get the kids back in school, the temptation to eat out or order in can be overwhelming. BUT . . . there are healthy options that require no cooking at all.

The next few posts will offer some nice suggestions to help you through the end of summer heat.

Watermelon – Nature’s Healthy, Sweet Treat

Summer is the time to enjoy some of nature’s most delicious foods – and watermelon is on the top of the list. When I was a kid growing up in Arizona, eating watermelon was part of summer fun – and I  love it just as much today as I did then. It is so sweet, juicy and refreshing.

Just the thought of a cold, juicy slice makes my mouth water, especially on a hot summer day. It is not only delicious, this colorful fruit brightens up any plate or table; and is very good for you.

The water content fills you up and acts as a natural cleanser for your body. I know the seeds can be a little annoying, but to me, it is worth the work of picking them out (or spitting them out…politely of course) for all the benefits you get from watermelon . . . and today, there are seedless watermelons.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to incorporating watermelon into your meals or using it as a healthy snack.

Let’s look at a few of my favorites

  1. Watermelon triangle snacks – a long time easy favorite. As soon as you get the watermelon home, slice some of it up into triangular pieces that are easy for little hands. Place the triangles into covered storage containers and keep them in the fridge for easy access. When healthy snacks are visible and accessible, family members will eat them up.  On the other hand, snacks that are out of sight or take a lot of work are generally ignored. Be sure to de-seed if you have smaller children who will be eating the snack.

    Image by Yvonne Brettnich
    Image by Yvonne Brettnich

  1. Watermelon makes a beautiful side dish on any table. Try this . . . lay the watermelon on its side and using zig-zag cuts, cut one-quarter of the melon off the top. This makes a decorative oblong or round “bowl” for serving. Then, cut one-quarter of the melon off the bottom to make a stable base. Set the “bowl” on a serving plate.

With a melon-baller, scoop out the fruit from all three pieces of the watermelon, removing the seeds as you go. Place the melon balls in a bowl as you scoop. When finished, scrape out any residual melon until the “bowl” is fairly clean and smooth. Return the melon balls to the watermelon bowl.

It is fun to add other melon balls from cantaloupe and honey dew for extra color and flavor. Cover with Saran wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

The top part of the watermelon can be used as a lid if transporting.

If you are feeling creative, you can cut shapes out of the watermelon like fish and cars. A great site to learn how to make shapes out of watermelon is the National Watermelon Promotion Board. (

  1. Watermelon is a wonderful breakfast food. Serve it cut up – alone or layered with banana slices, apples, oranges or other fruits of choice. Top with plain Greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey, and granola for a tasty and healthy morning starter.
  1. Watermelon checkers are a fun appetizer. Cut an equal number of 1” squares of watermelon and your favorite cheese and build a checkerboard, alternating watermelon and cheese. Then, cut small circles of the watermelon and cheese to use as checkers. This is a fun creative appetizer to serve at a summer outing or family barbecue. The little ones will have fun helping you build the checkerboard.
  1. Watermelon “ice cream” cones – a fun and healthy summertime treat. Start with small cake cones; fill the bottom of each cone with a tablespoon of Philadelphia pineapple cream cheese (original cream cheese also works). Add a spoonful of dried Craisins over the cream cheese. Using an ice cream scoop, place a scoop of cold seedless watermelon over the Craisins, and top with sprinkles. You will have a healthy, delicious and adorable treat kids ask for again and again. Great for birthday parties, 4th of July or any hot summer night.
  1. Frosted watermelon – another fun treat for both kids and adults. With your favorite cookie cutters create cookie-like shapes from the watermelon. Frost with plain Greek yogurt sweetened with honey and sprinkled with granola. You can also use classic watermelon wedges instead of cookie shapes if you like things easy (as I do).

These ideas not only brighten any table, they also offer the added benefits of serving a delicious and healthy food. Watermelon is nature’s healthy, sweet treat. Serve it often.

Photo Credit: IMG_2639 via photopin (license)

Ceviche – Recipe of the Week

Image by lunamarina

Since we have been talking about eating close to nature, this seemed like the perfect recipe to share with you this week. Use all fresh ingredients and enjoy this deliciously healthy, traditional Mexican dish.  It comes from my cookbook, Mexican Favorites – 21 Traditional Recipes This light and refreshing dish can be served as an appetizer or side dish for lunch or brunch. I first discovered ceviche when I was working in Houston, TX, and loved it. I finally realized I could make it myself. If you use very fresh fish, I promise it will be amazing.


  • 1½ pounds fresh sea bass or flounder deboned and cut into ½” pieces.
  • (Any fish or shellfish will work. Scallops and shrimp are especially good)
  • 7 whole fresh limes (enough Juice to cover fish)
  • 3 medium tomatoes, seeds removed and diced
  • 1 small red onion, sliced very thin and cut in small pieces
  • 1 whole avocado, ripe, but firm, cut into ½” cubes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh oregano, finely chopped, (or substitute 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • Lime wedges and avocado slices for garnish


  1. Dice the fish (approximately ½” cubes. (If using shrimp be sure to use cleaned, de-veined and steamed or parboiled shrimp).
  2. Spread out fish (except shrimp) in a non-metallic bowl. Squeeze juice of 6 limes and pour over the mixed seafood to cover it completely – use more limes if necessary.
  3. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (This step cooks the fish, do not marinate shrimp, they tend to get tough).

An hour or two before serving:

  1. Chop and diced the tomatoes, onions, avocado and herbs.
  2. Drain the marinated seafood in a colander to remove excess lime juice and pat dry with paper towels and place in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add shrimp, vegetables and seasonings to the marinated seafood.
  4. Squeeze juice of one lime and sprinkle over the mixture and toss well.
  5. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  6. When ready to serve, arrange in individual serving bowls.

Garnish with lime and avocado slices. Servings: Varies – depends on whether it is an appetizer or main dish.  Cooking Time (in lime juice): 8 hours

Recipe Tips

  • You can alter the recipe to suit your own taste. Make it as spicy or as mild as you wish.
  •  Do not marinate shrimp, it will get tough. Steam or parboil the shrimp and add them to the mix a few hours before serving.


Spanakopita – Spinach Phyllo Pie – Recipe of the Day

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Spinich Phyllo Pie

Spinach Phyllo Pie is a flavorful spinach and feta Greek dish that is a wonderful appetizer, but can also be served as a main dish. It is perfect when served with Tzatziki Dip, a creamy, tangy cucumber dip flavored with garlic that complements this dish as well as many grilled meats and vegetables.


  • Olive oil
  • ½ bunch fresh spinach
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly whipped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dried dill)
  • ½ cup crumbled feta
  • 5-10 sheets phyllo dough


  • Preheat the oven to 350º F.
  • Brush a baking sheet with olive oil and set aside.
  • Wash the spinach thoroughly and remove stems – then, squeeze the leaves to remove any remaining water – squeeze them until they appear wilted.
  • Chop the spinach and the green onions.
  • Place both ingredients in a large mixing bowl with the egg, dill, and feta.

spinach-pie ingredients - premixed

  • Mix until well combined.
  • Lay 1 or 2 phyllo sheets flat on a very clean counter.
  • Rub a little olive oil on each sheet and place 1/5 of your filling near the bottom of the sheet.

spinach-pie filling

  • Fold in the sides of the sheet(s) and roll them up.
  • Place the rolled, stuffed phyllo onto the baking sheet with the seam facing down.
  • Brush the top with a little olive oil.
  • Repeat the process four more times.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Serve with Tzatziki Dip (see recipe below).

Tzatziki Dip

In addition to the perfect sauce the recipe above, this dip can also be served with grilled meats, vegetables or  pita bread for dipping.

Tzatziki Dip
by Robyn Mackenzie


  • 3 tablespoons high-quality olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, finely chopped 


  1. Mix together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper – whisk to combine well.
  2. Blend the yogurt with the sour cream with a wire whisk.
  3. Add the olive oil mixture and blend thoroughly.
  4. Add the cucumber and chopped fresh dill.
  5. Chill for at least two hours before serving.


Roasted Potatoes with Dill and Green Onions – Recipe of the Day

Roasted Potatoes

[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#c47b21″]A Delicious and Easy Side Dish – Roasted Potatoes[/typography]

Yummy roasted potatoes are the perfect complement to any meal. This easy-to-prepare recipe includes dill and green onions and goes beautifully with almost any type of meat. I particularly like it with steak.


  • 8 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 chopped green onions, including the greens
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the green onions, olive oil and dill.
  3. Add the potatoes and toss to coat thoroughly.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Place in a large baking pan – don’t crowd the pieces.
  6. Bake for 50-60 minutes and toss every 15 minutes to brown evenly on all sides.


Be creative – use your imagination with the ingredients. Use different types of potatoes (red bliss, Yukon gold, new potatoes, russets, etc, Change up the herbs and be inventive with spices, garlic, onions. etc. Have Fun!

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