No Guilt Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad

A healthy, make-ahead salad that’s low on guilt yet full on flavor, this Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad will become a new family favorite in no time.

This No Guilt Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad is the perfect healthy, make-ahead meal that will please the whole family!

How, oh how is it August already?? This summer has just flown by but, hey, we still have at least a month left, so let’s make the most of it, shall we? It may mean different things to different people, but I think one thing we can all agree making the most of summer does NOT mean is spending a ton of time in the kitchen – which is why you need some of this No Guilt Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad in your life.

With the little one keeping me busy and the beautiful weather keeping us outside, I’ve personally found myself in the kitchen less than I have probably ever been in my life, which means I am loving anything that I can make a big batch of in advance. I need to be able to come home from a morning at the beach, reach into the refrigerator and have lunch there waiting for me – because goodness knows the little one will NOT wait for me to whip up any sort of elaborate meal!

This Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad is just what my summer-loving heart ordered. Full disclosure, this recipe was inspired by a Trader Joe’s salad I grabbed in complete haste one day when I knew there was nothing waiting for me at home for lunch. Yes, it was a quinoa salad (which, on its own can be quite drab) but somehow the sweet corn, juicy tomatoes and creamy poblano-cilantro dressing all complemented each other just perfectly. So I set out to make my own version!

A healthy, make-ahead salad that's packed with protein and nutrients.

The salad part was pretty obvious – quinoa, corn, kale, tomatoes and some chunks of poblano pepper for good measure – but then came the dressing. I loved the creaminess of the dressing in the TJ’s version, but if this was going to be my go-to grab-and-go lunch, it needed to be as healthy as possible – which meant, Greek yogurt! I love how thick and creamy it is while also having so many nutritional benefits. And, honestly, I knew that all the other ingredients I’d be adding in were so packed with flavor that that was all I needed.

Speaking of those other ingredients – garlic, cilantro and roasted poblanos, I’m looking at you! I knew that would be all I needed to make this No Guilt Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad of mine a reality.

So, it’s pretty obvious that this recipe is packed with flavor, but the other thing I love so much about it is how much of it can be prepped in advance. Literally each of the steps that requires cooking can be done up to a few days ahead of time, so you can work on it whenever you have a free minute (or 10) in the kitchen. And, once it’s done and assembled, you’ll have enough Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad to last you at LEAST a week.

Meal prep lovers unite! This No Guilt Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad is nutrient-rich and will give you an entire week of healthy lunches.

If those aren’t all signs of a winning recipe, I don’t know what would be!

Maybe it’s time you see for yourself… 😉

No Guilt Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
30 mins
 

A healthy, make-ahead salad that’s low on guilt yet full on flavor, this Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad will become a new family favorite in no time.

Course: Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Keyword: make-ahead, meal prep, quinoa, southwestern
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 355 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the salad:
  • 2 cups uncooked quinoa
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cob
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups kale, destemmed and cut into bite-size pieces
For the dressing:
  • 1 cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Cook the quinoa according to package directions. (I usually put one part quinoa to two parts water in a saucepan, bring it to a boil, turn it down to a heavy simmer and let cook with the lid on for about 10 minutes, or until water is absorbed.) Fluff gently with a fork and let cool completely.

  2. Next, you’ll want to cook the peppers (both of them) and the corn. If you have a gas stove, simply cut the stem off of the peppers and hold them over a burner until they are lightly charred. If you have an electric stove, you may have to head to your grill to get that nice looking char. Let cool and then cut one pepper into large chunks and one into a small dice.

  3. For the corn, heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the corn kernels and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown and smell caramelized. Remove from heat and let cool. 

  4. The final thing you’ll want to prep before assembling the salad is the dressing. Combine all dressing ingredients (including the charred poblano that is in large chunks) in a blender, omitting the olive oil and salt for now. Blend until ingredients are fairly creamy, then start streaming in the olive oil, until you come to a consistency you like. Finally, season with salt. 

  5. In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients – quinoa, corn, diced poblano, kale and tomatoes – then pour on dressing and stir to combine. Salad will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator!

Ahi Poke Pineapple Bites with Avocado Mousse

I don’t think you understand how excited I am to bring you these Ahi Poke Pineapple Bites with Avocado Mousse today!

Ahi Poke Pineapple Bites with Avocado Mousse are the perfect healthy appetizer for your next get-together.

If you know me at all, you know that poke is one of my absolute favorite foods, and it seems to be right up there on your list of favorites, too. My Spicy Poke Bowls are the most pinned recipe on this site, after all, and this Spicy Beet Poke has become one of the most-requested dishes from some of my closest friends.

I’ve been dying to share these Ahi Poke Pineapple Bites with Avocado Mousse for MONTHS now, but I wasn’t about to share them when I couldn’t enjoy them (thanks, pregnancy!) Well, let’s just say that now I’m making up for lost time and ahi poke in any way, shape or form has once again become a weekly staple in my diet.

I love these flavorful little bites because they combine so many of my OG foods in one bite – poke, pineapple AND avocado? I mean, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Ahi Poke Pineapple Bites with Avocado Mousse are both gluten-free and dairy free!

So let’s chat a little bit about the three different components that go into making these tasty appetizers..

The pineapple is the easiest part. I cut into a fresh piña because they are plentiful here in CA even in the winter, but if you live somewhere that’s not the case, you can even use canned slices. The important part is to get the wedges as thin as possible so the juicy pineapple flavor doesn’t overwhelm all of the other deliciousness we’re getting to next.

Speaking of – the next step is perhaps the most important part: the poke! You know the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” so I stuck with the basic recipe I’ve used for the other poke dishes on this site. When I made this dish to photograph I left out the spicy sambal oelek, but I must say that there would be absolutely nothing wrong with adding some in to the mix to give the poke a little extra hit of flavor.

And, the third and final step – avocado mousse! Guys, I don’t know why I’ve never ventured down this path before but I kind of feel like I’ve just opened the door to a whole new world of avocado usage. And it’s so easy! Just take ripe avocado, lemon juice and a touch of salt, throw it all in the food processor and – voila! – the creamiest, fluffiest, avocado-ness you’ve ever tasted.

A tray of Ahi Poke Pineapple Bites with Avocado Mousse is sure to be the star hors d'oeuvres at your next party!

I mean, how can you hate a healthy appetizer that contains THE best healthy ingredients (IMO) on the planet? Pineapple, avocado, ahi – I’m looking at you.

Okay, I have to admit that there is ONE more special touch that I think would really take these Ahi Poke Pineapple Bites with Avocado Mousse over the top…and that special touch comes in the form of CRUMBLED MACADAMIA NUTS. I was seriously kicking myself for not thinking of this before I shot the recipe, so please, please PLEASE do me a solid and sprinkle some over top when you make ‘em. And then invite me over 🙂

Ahi Poke Pineapple Bites with Avocado Mousse
Prep Time
25 mins
 

These bite-size appetizers feature the best healthy ingredients - ahi, pineapple and avocado - and are both gluten- and dairy-free!

Course: Appetizer
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 292 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the poke:
  • 1.5 pounds sushi-grade ahi
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • 1/4 of a sweet onion, diced
  • Sambal oelek or sriracha, to taste
All other ingredients:
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 pineapple, peeled and cut into wedges
Instructions
  1. Add all poke ingredients to a large bowl and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.

  2. Place peeled, ripe avocados, salt and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until no chunks remain. Transfer to a piping bag and set aside.

  3. To assemble the bites, scoop a small spoonful of poke onto each pineapple wedge, then pipe a dollop of avocado mousse on top. [And here is where you would also sprinkle on the macadamia nuts if you’re smart enough to use ‘em.] Serve immediately, before the avocado mousse has a chance to brown.

Loaded Mediterranean Hummus Board with Pulled Lamb

Well hi there! It’s been a while…

This Loaded Mediterranean Hummus Board features slow-cooked pulled lamb, pomegranate arils and refreshing sliced cucumber to make the perfect healthy appetizer for your next get-together!

Can I offer you a Loaded Mediterranean Hummus Board with Pulled Lamb to make up for it? I promise it’s just as good as it sounds (and more) and will quickly become a favorite meal of yours. Might I also add it would make a great, healthy option to feed the troops during Super Bowl this weekend?

If you were a reader before, or perhaps have been following me on Instagram, you’ll know that the reason for my recent hiatus was because my husband and I welcomed our beautiful baby girl, Raia Marie, into the world in October. I had a good amount of content lined up for when she was first born, but then (as I’m sure you’ve heard) the perfect storm of unfortunate events hit our little community of Santa Barbara, first with the Thomas Fire and then with the Montecito Mudslide. Add to that a 10-day trip to Hawaii (where we infamously had a near miss with a ballistic missile attack) and you can see why it’s taken me a little longer than anticipated to get back in any sort of groove.

This is the first time since mid-November that we’ve been home for an entire week, and I’m slowly figuring out a schedule (if you can call it that) with little Miss Raia where I can occasionally get a little bit of work done and, most importantly, get back in the kitchen!

A Loaded Mediterranean Hummus Board with Pulled Lamb can serve as a healthy appetizer to feed a crowd or a light dinner for you and your family.

My new favorite method of cooking is, understandably, batch cooking. Since my time in the kitchen is quite sparse these days, when I DO have the time I love roasting up a huge tray of veggies or throwing a big cut of meat or various other ingredients into the slow cooker and letting it do most of the work. Bonus if I can figure something out using healthy ingredients because, man, breastfeeding is no joke and I’m way hungrier these days than I ever was while I was pregnant.

This Loaded Mediterranean Hummus Board with Pulled Lamb fits my need for easy to cook, filling and delicious recipes that, let’s be honest, can just as easily pass as an easy weeknight dinner as it can for a show-stopping appetizer for your next get-together.

I’ve simply created THE most delicious slow-cooked lamb recipe that then gets dumped on top of creamy hummus which is then garnished with pomegranate seeds, fresh rosemary, cucumbers and the like. And don’t forget the pita bread! You could also go hog wild and throw on some fresh veggies like beets, carrots, radishes or whatever you prefer to enjoy your hummus with.

Since my time is a bit limited as far as recipe development goes, I went with premade hummus and pita bread wedges for this go-around, but I know this whole setup will be equally (if not more) delicious if you decide to take the time to make all of these things from scratch.

Loaded hummus is the perfect healthy snack that can easily pass as a meal!

If you’re feeling ambitious, my friend Becky over at Baking the Goods has mastered the Creamy Dreamy Hummus from Tusk in Portland and you can click here for the recipe. Or, you can try one of the other hummus recipes I’ve shared on this site like this Roasted Cauliflower Hummus with Rosemary and Garlic or this Pumpkin Curry Hummus.

I haven’t yet come up with my own recipe for homemade pita bread, but I’m sure you can’t go wrong with this Golden Pita Bread Recipe from King Arthur Flour or this tutorial on How to Make Pita Bread from The Kitchn.

But for those of you who (like me) don’t have a lot of time on your hands, store-bought is just fine. Just be sure to find hummus and pita with as few ingredients as possible!

As far as the lamb goes, it really couldn’t be easier since you probably already have most of the ingredients on hand in the pantry. Just head to your favorite local butcher and ask for the boneless leg of lamb (or lamb shoulder would work, too) and you’ll be well on your way to a tasty, healthy protein made in quite possibly the least hands-on way possible.

This hummus is loaded with all your favorite Mediterranean flavors from a juicy pulled lamb to refreshing pomegranate seeds.

Before I leave you with all the deets on how to create your own Loaded Mediterranean Hummus Board with Pulled Lamb, be forewarned that this lamb recipe will leave you with wayyy more lamb than you will ever need piled on top of your hummus. Well, I’m giving you permission to use the extra to whip up lamb tacos, a Greek casserole, or even pulled lamb sandwiches to get ya through the week. I’m learning now more than ever that there is so much power in leftovers!

5 from 1 vote
This Loaded Mediterranean Hummus Board features slow-cooked pulled lamb, pomegranate arils and refreshing sliced cucumber to make the perfect healthy appetizer for your next get-together!
Loaded Mediterranean Hummus Board with Pulled Lamb
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
6 hrs 55 mins
Total Time
7 hrs 10 mins
 

Not-your-average-hummus recipe! This healthy appetizer has way more going on than a simple chickpea spread - it's loaded with juicy pulled lamb, fresh rosemary and pomegranate seeds!

Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the pulled lamb:
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3-4 pounds boneless leg of lamb (or lamb shoulder), trimmed of any large pieces of fat
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, plus more to taste
All other ingredients:
  • Hummus (I used two tubs of store-bought)
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • Pita bread, cut into wedges
  • Other vegetables such as carrots, radishes, etc. (as desired)
Instructions
  1. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil in bottom of a large slow cooker. Add lamb and drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over top. 

  2. Add garlic cloves, rosemary, oregano, mint, salt and pepper. 

  3. Cook on low for 7 hours. 

  4. Remove lamb from slow cooker and place in a large bowl, reserving the lamb’s juices in the slow cooker. Using two forks, shred the lamb until no big chunks remain.

  5. Drizzle on just enough of the reserved juices from the slow cooker so that the lamb is nice and moist without having too much extra liquid in the bowl. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

  6. To assemble, scoop hummus onto the center of a large cutting board or serving platter, swirling to create a sort of a well in the middle.

  7. Add pulled lamb to the well in the center. Top with pomegranate arils and fresh rosemary.

  8. Surround the hummus with sliced cucumbers, pita bread and any other vegetables you’ve decided to use and serve!

Five-Ingredient Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Roll-Ups

Let’s kick off the week with another easy appetizer recipe!

A tray of Five-Ingredient Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Roll-Ups will be a huge hit at your next holiday party!

I hope you all had a restful, relaxing weekend filled with lots of fun and holiday cheer. Ours was about as exciting as can be with a one-month old and was made even better by the enjoyment of these Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Roll-Ups, which I am officially dubbing the “it” easy, healthy recipe of the season.

That’s right, these Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Roll-Ups are incredibly simple to make, yet so full of flavor you’d never guess they’re actually one of the healthiest appetizers you can add to your repertoire in this month of endless get-togethers and celebrations.

Five-Ingredient Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Roll-Ups are an easy, healthy appetizer for any get-together.

Oh, and did I mention they only require five ingredients? That’s right! No special grocery store trips or endless hours slaving over the stove to whip up these delicious bites of heaven. You can grab everything you need at your neighborhood grocery store and have a beautiful tray of Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Roll-Ups ready to bring to your next holiday party in less than 20 minutes.

Speaking of those easy-to-find ingredients, here they are!

Cream cheese
Dried dill
Fresh chives
Persian cucumbers
Smoked salmon

See what I mean? Never been easier.

These Five-Ingredient Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Roll-Ups are the best holiday appetizer to make this year!

I think I’ve made it pretty clear why I love these tasty tidbits and want to make them for every occasion for the foreseeable future – they’re easy, healthy, composed of just a few ingredients and yet so full of flavor. Plus, I really missed my regular intake of smoked salmon when I was preggo with our baby girl so I’m making up for lost time 😉

I’m not going to keep you long today because, if there’s anything that’s a constant this time of year, it’s that we don’t have much spare time on our hands to sit reading blogs all day. There are more important things to do and people to spend time with!

But, in case you’re looking for a few other appetizer ideas to whip up this season, here are a few of my favorites from the archives…

These Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Dates

This Butternut Squash Crostini with Crispy Prosciutto and Sage

These Spiced Rosemary Bar Nuts

This Creamy Mushroom Pate

And these Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears with Creamy Blue Cheese.

Read on for the Five-Ingredient Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Roll-Up recipe!

Five-Ingredient Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Roll-Ups
Prep Time
15 mins
 

This easy, no-cook appetizer is full of flavor yet requires just five ingredients. It's the perfect healthy contribution to your next get-together!

Course: Appetizer
Servings: 30 pieces
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces whipped cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 4-5 Persian cucumbers
  • 8 ounces smoked salmon, cut into 30 strips
  • 30 toothpicks
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the whipped cream cheese, dill and chives until combined. 

  2. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the cucumbers lengthwise to form long, wide strips and lay out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

  3. Spoon cream cheese mixture into a pastry bag and cut off the tip. Squeeze a line of the cream cheese onto each strip of cucumber. 

  4. Place a strip of smoked salmon on top of each cream cheese-lined cucumber and roll up the cucumber, securing at the end with a toothpick. Refrigerate until ready to serve!

 

Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs

We’re stepping a bit outside the Thanksgiving box today.

This Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is the perfect vegan side dish for Thanksgiving.

Because, although not a traditional holiday side dish, this Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is completely worthy of a spot on your holiday table. It’s full of dried cranberries, whole grains, white beans and seasonal fresh herbs like fresh rosemary, sage and thyme and literally is a Thanksgiving explosion in your mouth. You’re going to get this one on the menu STAT.

I’ve been a big fan of grain salads for quite a while now, as evidenced by this Spring Fava Bean and Burrata Grain Salad, this Fresh Corn, Leek and Edamame Grain Salad and this Herbed Grain Salad with Broccoli Rabe and White Beans. I love them because they are filled with a ton of healthy ingredients and filling to boot. The whole grains give them plenty of heft to make them completely suitable as an entire meal, although they are equally delicious (and the portions go a bit further) if you serve them as a side dish among all the other delicious things you typically serve up for a holiday meal.

I’m not joking when I say tell you this Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs tastes like your entire Thanksgiving menu in a bowl. Sure, there’s no turkey in there (although you could easily add some and I wouldn’t be one bit upset about it) but just the cranberries and the fresh herbs alone are enough to mentally transport you to arguably the most well-known food holiday of the year. I love allll the fresh herbs, but there’s also just something about fresh sage in a recipe that really screams fall and all the deliciousness that comes with it.

A bowl of this Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is filling enough to be a delicious vegan holiday meal.

As far as making the dish goes, it couldn’t be easier. Not only does it come together fairly quickly (the longest step will be cooking up the grains) but it can also be made in advance and served cold or at room temperature, which means it’s easy to fit into an already busy cooking and kitchen schedule once T-day rolls around.

For the whole grains, I used a combination of farro and Italian couscous because they were what we had on hand, but feel free to use other varieties such as quinoa, barley or even wild rice. I also added in some toasted pine nuts, and I highly recommend you do not skip this step, even if you want to sub in some other type of toasted nut for that little extra crunch. (Pecans? Almonds? So many possibilities.)

This Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is an easy, make-ahead side dish for the holidays.

I would also like to point out that said Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is completely vegan, which makes it a delicious, healthy, high-protein option for anyone in your group that may have certain dietary preferences. It’s a great way to serve them up some protein and filling flavor without having to bend over backwards making some sort of interesting Tofurkey creation.

Since I was developing recipes so far in advance this holiday season due to our little one’s arrival, I served this up as a side dish at my mother-in-law’s birthday celebration we held down here in Santa Barbara at the beginning of October. Let’s just say my sisters-in-law were already requesting I make it as our contribution to the Thanksgiving meal when we go celebrate with them in a couple of weeks.  I hope you decide to add it to your menu as well!

Serve this vegan Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs as a hearty side dish or light, healthy meal during the holidays.

Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs
Prep Time
10 mins
 

This festive vegan side dish is full of filling whole grains, protein-rich white beans and pine nuts, and the freshest herbs of the season. 

Course: Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Servings: 6 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked grains of your choice (I used a combination of farro and Italian couscous)
  • 2 15.5-ounce cans Great Northern or white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to two days before serving.

Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs | CaliGirlCooking.com