Salmon-Quinoa-Arugula Salad (inspired by California Pizza Kitchen’s Quinoa-Arugula Salad)

Last summer my daughter asked me to try to replicate California Pizza Kitchen’s Quinoa-Arugula Salad. After a few attempts, I think I’ve got it down. It’s a fantastic salad that’s bursting with flavors but not heavy at all. It makes for an easy, delicious weeknight meal and, if you have leftovers, it’s great for lunch the next day. Even my husband and son, who would normally prefer heartier fare, enjoy this dish.

On the CPK menu, chicken, salmon, or shrimp are optional add-ons. I’ve made this with shrimp once or twice, but salmon really is the best. What’s nice about this recipe is that nothing really needs to be finished at the exact same time so you can sort of make it at your leisure. I usually get the salmon on the grill, then get the quinoa going. While that’s simmering, I’ll roast the asparagus. I do like to take the extra step of toasting the pine nuts, but I do that last so I can watch them and make sure they don’t burn.

CPK salad ingredients

Everything can finish in its own time, and then sit at room temperature for a little while until you chop the veggies and make the dressing. And if you buy the packaged arugula and the pre-crumbled feta, there really isn’t a ton of chopping to do.

Serve with a chilled, crisp Sauvignon Blanc and enjoy!

My CPK salad.jpg

Salmon-Quinoa-Arugula Salad

1-1 ½ lb. salmon
1 lemon, cut in half
Tony Cachere Creole seasoning, to taste
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups chicken broth
1 lb. asparagus, rinsed, dried and trimmed
1 container baby arugula
½ small red onion, chopped
About 6-8 sun dried tomatoes, diced
¼ C pine nuts, toasted
½ C crumbled feta cheese
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Champagne vinaigrette (recipe below, or use your favorite bottled version)

Season salmon with juice of half of the lemon and Tony’s to taste. Grill to medium-rare or medium doneness (depending on your preference) and set aside.

While the salmon is cooking, add a dash of olive oil to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add quinoa and toast for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chicken broth, season to taste with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover, simmering until broth is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

At the same time, preheat oven to 370 degrees. Place asparagus on baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast asparagus in preheated oven, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool slightly.

To toast the pine nuts, place a small skillet over medium heat. Add pine nuts and stir frequently until lightly toasted. Remove from heat.

To serve, divide the arugula evenly among four plates and top with quinoa, asparagus, sun dried tomatoes, onions, pine nuts and feta cheese. Serve salmon on the side and drizzle all with vinaigrette!

Champagne Vinaigrette

I based the recipe for the dressing on this recipe on I tweaked it by omitting the honey and the hot sauce just out of personal preference, but you could certainly leave those in.

1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
¼- 1/3 cup champagne vinegar (can use white wine vinegar instead)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup olive oil

Whisk together the garlic, mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the dressing emulsifies.

Lakehouse Tuna Pasta Salad

As much as I love to cook, I love to be outside enjoying my favorite season more. Summers are fleeting in Michigan and weekends are short, so I try to make meals that are quick to put together. This pasta salad is ridiculously simple but always gets rave reviews.

(I know I’ve been saying I’m trying to cut back on my pasta intake, but it’s just such a quick, easy way to feed hungry lakehouse guests and teenagers. Besides, I did Pilates this morning.)

Let’s take a moment to talk about tuna. For years I was a Bumblebee albacore fan, but in recent years I’ve found it to be disappointing. It seems mealy and lacking in flavor. Definitely not worth the price tag. I basically stopped buying tuna for a while, until during one of our Costco visits when they were doing tastings of their Kirkland brand canned albacore tuna. I thought it was so good I bought an eight-pack and that’s what I’ve used ever since. It’s high quality, firm, not watery at all, and delicious. tuna pasta salad ingredients

This is such a basic dish it really doesn’t require instructions. I always include chopped celery, green onions, fresh dill (dried is fine if you don’t have fresh), fresh lemon juice, light mayo, lemon pepper, freshly ground black pepper and a little salt. For the pasta I like medium shells.

tuna salad ingredients

Dill is one of my favorite herbs. You know how they say that of the five senses, the sense of smell is the number 1 trigger of memories? When I was little we had a next-door neighbor named Mrs. Ring who had no children of her own and treated me like a granddaughter. I spent a lot of time with her (I think most of it was during the summer my mom was pregnant with my brother). She had a vegetable garden where she grew dill for canning pickles. To this day the smell of fresh dill reminds me of my childhood.

tuna chopper

When I drain tuna I use this little gadget to shred it. I don’t like to bite into huge hunks of tuna; I prefer it in little bits. The gadget is similar to one my mom gave me when I first lived on my own. It disappeared last year and I panicked, because I couldn’t find a replacement anywhere. I asked my mom where she got it and she said it was one of two that my grandmother, her mother-in-law, had given to her. In other words, it was a thousand years old and so outdated nobody probably even uses it anymore. But it’s such a handy, simple little tool that really has a lot of uses. It’s a great, low-tech way to give a quick rough chop to just about anything. I searched everywhere and online but wasn’t even sure what to search for. Meat chopper? Tuna shredder? Anyway, I finally found a bunch of them on clearance in Meijer’s kitchen gadget section, so I bought four of them.

Sometimes it’s the old-fashioned ways that work the best.

Tuna pasta salad

Here’s the finished dish. It’s best if you make it ahead of time and refrigerate it for a few hours before serving, so the flavors have time to blend. Enjoy!

Lakehouse Tuna Pasta Salad

1 lb. pasta (I prefer medium shells), cooked in salted water according to package directions, drained and cooled

2 cans tuna (preferably albacore, packed in water), drained and shredded to your liking

4 stalks celery, medium to finely chopped

1 small bunch green onions, whites and part of the greens, chopped

3 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Roughly 1/2 cup mayo (I use light)

Lemon pepper, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients together and adjust seasonings to taste. Refrigerate for a couple of hours; serve. Makes about 6 servings.

Beans… They’re Good for Your Heart

Baked beans are such an old school dish but they’re perfect for feeding a crowd, especially at a summer cookout. I’ve played around with my tried and true baked bean recipe many times. I always start with canned beans, including a can or two of already-prepared baked beans, and doctor them up with various ingredients. I am not one to soak dried beans overnight, although I respect people who do because it seems like something serious cooks would adhere to. But really, who has the time?

Anyway, I stumbled upon this recipe for Cowboy Baked Beans on Wicked Good Kitchen recently. It’s very similar to my recipe with one unusual addition: a dark beer reduction. I made a few tweaks and was very happy with the outcome. This is now my go-to baked bean recipe.

Just look at those beautiful beans.

baked beans

Cowboy Baked Beans

For the beer reduction:

  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle dark beer (I happened to use a Michigan beer, Founders Imperial Stout, but any dark beer will work)

For the vegetables:

  • Four slices center cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 medium to large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

For the beans:

  • 1 (28-ounce) can Bush’s Original Baked Beans
  • 2 (16-ounce) cans kidney red beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (16-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (4-ounce) can green chiles, drained
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

For the bean sauce:

  • Beer reduction
  • ½ cup BBQ Sauce (I used another Michigan product, Brownwood Farms Yankee Bourbon Barbecue Sauce)
  • 1/3 to ½ cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1-½ tablespoons Dijon or spicy grain mustard, such as Grey Poupon®
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Tabasco® sauce or cayenne pepper, to taste (a few dashes)
  • 1 teaspoon dried cilantro or 1 tablespoon fresh
  • ¼ teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin

For the topping:

  • 4 slices center cut smoked bacon, partially cooked but still soft
  • A couple of tablespoons of dark brown sugar, if desired (I skipped this)


Prepare the beer reduction: In a heavy saucepan over high heat, bring beer to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and continue to simmer until reduced by half to ¾ cup, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Arrange oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 350º F. Spray 2-quart (9×13-inch) baking dish with cooking spray.

Prepare the bacon and vegetables: In a large frying pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until browned and just about crispy, about 5 minutes. Reserve rendered bacon fat in pan. Add onion and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in chopped red bell pepper and green onions; sauté until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare the beans: Combine beans and chilies in large bowl or stock pot; season with salt and pepper. Scrape bacon and vegetable mixture into beans. Season with salt and pepper; stir well to incorporate. Using rubber spatula, scrape and pour into bowl or stock pot and stir into bean mixture.

Prepare the bean sauce: Add all of the sauce ingredients to the bowl or stock pot with the bean mixture. Stir well to incorporate. Using rubber spatula, scrap and pour mixture, evenly dividing, into baking dish.

Bake in preheated oven until sauce has thickened, is bubbling and cooked through, about 90 minutes. Top with the precooked bacon slices and sprinkle with brown sugar (if using) after 30 minutes of baking. Remove from oven and transfer to cooling rack to rest before serving, about 5 minutes.

I love pasta

I love pasta. Man, do I love pasta. But at the beginning of 2014 I was feeling a bit… ahem… chunky, and in an effort to shed a few pounds, decided to swear off my beloved carb of choice for a while. I had a work trip to Italy scheduled for March, so I told myself I could have pasta as a reward when I was there. In the meantime I jumped on the spaghetti squash bandwagon, which at first was disappointing but has actually grown on me. And I did manage to drop at least a few of those pounds (although I’d still like to lose a few more).

Anyway, summers are problematic because I spend every weekend sitting on a boat all day eating and drinking, as opposed to the rest of the year when I work out every weekend fairly consistently. However, I recently discovered outdoor Zumba near our lake house so now I can at least get one good workout in every weekend. Therefore I feel I can occasionally indulge in some special treats. The local farmers market had some early tomatoes, and they inspired me to make a Caprese salad. The indulgent addition to the traditional Caprese was pasta. It turned out to be delish – Caprese, which is practically perfect on its own, but with the addition of pasta.

Here’s the recipe, tweaked slightly from one I found on Annie’s Eats:

Caprese Pasta Salad

1 lb. pasta (we used gemelli)
6 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 lb. grape tomatoes, mix of yellow and red, halved or quartered
1 lb. fresh mozzarella (I used bocconcini cut in half)
½ C fresh basil, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. While pasta is cooling, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over low heat and add the garlic and red pepper. Warm the oil slowly until you smell the garlic, then remove from heat and let the pepper and garlic infuse the oil, about 5-10 minutes. Add the pasta to a large bowl. Add the oil and basil and combine. Add in the mozzarella and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Caprese3