Recently, I wandered over to the olive bar at my local grocery store, and it was here that I found the inspiration for today's featured recipe for two -- a fantastically light and flavorful Italian Salad!  

Keeping with the Italian theme, I'm serving my salad with a side of homemade bruschetta.  This recipe is easy to create, and it tastes as good as any restaurant bruschetta that I've ever purchased, just make sure you use fresh mozzarella for maximum quality and taste. 

One note about the salad, I picked up fresh olives, artichoke hearts and hearts of palm.  However, you can get these items pre-packaged if your local store does not have an olive bar or vegetable bar to choose from. 

Bruschetta
Total Time: 25 minutes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes

What you'll need
3-4 roma tomatoes seeded and diced
3 basil leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
1/2 French bread baguette, sliced into 1-inch thick pieces 
1/2 cup grated fresh mozzarella

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper; mix gently.  If you have time, let the tomatoes marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. 
3. Place french bread on a baking sheet: drizzle with olive oil; bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. 
4. Remove from oven and let cool.
5. Top with tomato mixture and fresh mozzarella. 
Italian Salad
Total Time: 10 minutes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 0 minutes

What you'll need
lettuce (I used romaine), as desired 
handful of green olives
1 cup artichoke hearts
1 cup hearts of palm
1 cup salami, diced 
Italian dressing 
parmesan cheese
 
Directions
1. In a large salad bowl, combine lettuce green olives, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm and salami.  
2. Add your favorite Italian dressing to salad as desired.  Toss well. 
3. Top with parmesan cheese before serving.  
4. Serve with bruschetta.  Enjoy!
 
 
Today's featured recipe for two combines a man's love for beef, and a woman's love for salad, to create the perfect couple's dinner! And while both of these components are essential elements to the salad, the heart and soul of the dish resides in the Honey Dijon Dressing.  

Honey Dijon Steak Salad 
Total Time: 25-30 minutes

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 10-15 minutes

What you'll need
For the Salad
1 steak (I used Strip steak)
garlic salt
pepper
1 romaine heart, chopped
1 tomato, diced
1/4 onion, sliced or 2 scallions, diced 
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced in half
feta cheese

For the Dressing
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced

Directions
1. Generously season steak with garlic salt and pepper.  Grill until steak reaches desired doneness.  When steak is cooked, carefully slice into 1-inch thick strips.
2. Meanwhile, combine the remaining salad ingredients in a large salad bowl.  
3. In a separate mixing bowl, combine dressing ingredients.  Whisk well until dressing ingredients are well blended. 
4. Drizzle dressing over salad as desired.  Toss well. 
5. Top salad with steak strips.  Serve and enjoy!
 
 
Ditch the mayonnaise and dress your pasta salad with flavors of the Mediterranean.  It's a lighter way to enjoy the traditionally creamy salad favorite.  And with orzo's "fancier" appearance and filling attributes, you'll quickly and easily take this dish from the picnic table to the dinner table. 

Greek Orzo Salad
Total Time: 25 minutes + marinating time 
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes

What you'll need
For the Salad
3/4 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1 cup bell pepper, diced (any color)
1/3 cup scallions, diced
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1/3 cup capers, drained
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste 
drizzle of olive oil

For the Dressing
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Directions
1. Cook orzo according to package directions.
2. Combine salad ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.  Toss well. 
3. In a separate mixing bowl, combine salad dressing ingredients.  Mix well. 
4. Pour dressing over salad as desired.  Toss well.  Let salad marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
5. Serve it cold or at room temperature.  Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from epicurious.com
 
 
Spice up your caesar salad Southwestern style with this wonderfully flavorful salad for two.  The creaminess of the caesar dressing combined with a crisp blend of Mexican seasonings exudes a fiesta of flavors and textures in every bite. 

Southwestern Chicken Caesar Salad
Total Time: 30-35 minutes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20-25 minutes

What you'll need
1 romaine heart, chopped
7 ounce can Green Giant Mexicorn, drained 
1 tomato, diced
4-5 scallions, chopped
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup flour
1 egg
1 cup plain panko bread crumbs
1/2 packet taco seasoning 
caesar dressing, as desired 
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
tortilla strips

Directions
1. Add lettuce, corn, tomato and scallions to a salad bowl. 
2. Combine panko bread crumbs and taco seasoning in a shallow bowl.  Mix well. 
3. In a separate bowl, combine egg and a splash of water.  Whisk well.  And in a third shallow bowl, add the flour. 
4. Dip chicken breats into flour then into the egg mixture, and finally dredge them in the panko mixture until they are well coated. 
5. Place chicken breasts on a greased baking sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. 
6. Meanwhile, add your favorite caesar dressing to a small mixing bowl.  Stir in minced garlic.  Mix well. 
7. Add dressing to the salad as desired.  Toss well. 
8. When the chicken is cooked, carefully slice it into strips.  
9. Top the tossed salad with chicken strips and tortilla strips.  Serve and enjoy!
 
 
If you are hoping to fill your dinner plate with something spicy, flavorful and filling, but you don't have many calories to spare, then today's featured recipe for two is the answer to your dinner prayers.  The crisp vegetables and juicy buffalo chicken tenders smothered in a creamy jalapeño dressing come together to form one light, but explosive salad. 

And don't let the sound of a creamy dressing fool you into thinking this salad is drowning in fat and calories, because it's not.  The dressing gets its creaminess from buttermilk, which is naturally low in fat and calories.  One tablespoon of this homemade mixture of creamy, jalapeño goodness is approximately 6 grams of fat and 53 calories.  

Buffalo Chicken Salad with Creamy Jalapeño Dressing
Total Time: 27 minutes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 12 minutes

What you'll need 
For the Salad
4-5 chicken tenders (about 1/2 pound)
pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1/4 cup buffalo wing sauce (I prefer Franks Red Hot Wings Buffalo sauce)
lettuce
3-4 scallions, diced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1/2 cucumber, diced
handful cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese or blue cheese

For the Dressing
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt 

Directions
1. Season chicken with pepper. 
2. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add chicken tenders; cook for approximately 5 minutes on each side, or until chicken is cooked through. 
3. Reduce heat to low.  Carefully stir in buffalo wing sauce.  Mix well until chicken tenders are evenly coated in sauce.  Let simmer for 2 minutes.  Remove chicken and set aside.
4. In two salad bowls, add lettuce, scallions, celery, cucumber, tomato and cheese.  Top each salad with 2-3 chicken tenders. 
For the Dressing
Directions
1. Add mayonnaise, buttermilk, scallions, jalapeño, lime juice, salt and cumin to a food processor.  Pulse until scallions and jalapeños are minced.  
7. Add dressing to salad as desired.  Toss well.  Serve and enjoy!

Note -- you will end up having leftover dressing.  I'll be using some of the leftovers later in the week in my Taco Pot Pies.  You can also add the dressing to a side salad, or serve it as a dip with freshly cut vegetables. Either way, it's a great way to spice up a dish. 

Creamy Jalapeño Dressing adapted from Cuisine at Home Magazine 
 
 
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Continuing with my "light and fresh / post holiday recovery" theme of the week, today I'm serving up a wonderfully fresh and inviting salad for two.

I adapted this recipe from a food blog that I recently started following, Skinny Taste.  I have quickly fallen in love with this site for it serves up a wide variety of dishes that are easy on your waistline and your taste buds.  And who doesn't love that?

Panko Coconut Chicken Salad with Honey Balsamic Dressing
Total Time: 45 minutes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes

What you'll need
For the Salad
3-4 chicken tenders
3 tablespoons shredded coconut
1/4 cup panko style bread crumbs
1 tablespoon crushed cornflake crumbs
1 egg
pinch salt
1 tablespoon olive oil 
3 cups mixed baby greens
1/3 cup shredded carrots
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 small cucumber, sliced
1/4 cup fresh mozzarella (if desired)

For the Vinaigrette:
1/2 tablespoon oil
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/2 tablespoon white vinegar or balsamic
1 teaspoon dijon mustard

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Combine panko bread crumbs, coconut flake and corn flakes in a bowl.  
3. In separate bowl, combine egg and a splash of water.  
4. Season the chicken tenders with salt and pepper (I like to use garlic pepper if available).  
5. Dip tenders in egg mixture and then dredge them in bread mixture until they are well coated. 
6. Place tenders on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
* Note -- If you prefer a crispier crust, pan sauté the tenders in medium-hot olive oil for 3-4 minutes per side.  Then place the tenders in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

5. Combine salad ingredients and mix together.  Top with chicken tenders.  Mix Vinaigrette in a separate bowl.  
6. Warm the Vinaigrette in the microwave for 10-15 seconds and drizzle over the salad as desired.  Serve and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from SkinnyTaste.com  
 
 
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After a weekend eating frenzy, otherwise known as Christmas, I'm suffering from a major food hangover.  Consequently, I'm going to lighten things up with a fresh salad loaded with crisp vegetables, rice and as a little extra gift to myself -- cheese quesadillas.   

Quesadilla Fiesta Salad
Total Time: 30 minutes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
What you'll need
For the Salad
lettuce (I used 2 romaine hearts, chopped)
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 cucumber, diced
1/2 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1/2 can yellow corn, drained
1/2 packet Knorr Spanish Rice 
handful tortilla strips 

For the Quesadillas 
4 medium soft tortilla shells
1 can green chilies
1/4 onion, diced 
1 cup Queso Fresco cheese, shredded 
cajun seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil 

For the Dressing
3 tablespoons vegetable oil 
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon cilantro, chopped 

Directions
1.  Cook rice according to package directions. 
2. Meanwhile, in a large salad bowl, add lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, corn, rice and tortilla strips. 
3. In a small mixing bowl, combine onion and green chillies.  Season generously with Cajun seasoning.  Mix well.  
4. Spread a thin layer of the onion and chili mixture over two tortilla shells.  

5. Sprinkle with cheese and top with another tortilla shell.
6. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 quesadilla to the skillet.  Heat until the bottom shell is lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes. Carefully flip quesadilla over and brown the other side.  
7. Remove from skillet and add the second quesadilla.  Repeat step 6.
8. Once the quesadillas are cooked, cut them into quarters. 
9. In a small mixing bowl, combine dressing ingredients.  Mix well.  Pour desired amount of dressing over the salad.  Toss well.  Top with quesadillas. 
 10. Serve and enjoy!
 
 
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My husband and I are obsessed with Panera's Asian Sesame Chicken Salad.  Given that we eat it at least once a week, I thought I would try to replicate the salad at home.

The base of the salad was fairly easy to come up with.  However, the dressing was a bit of a challenge.  But, after doing a lot of research/trial and error, I think this is the closest one can get to the original.  My husband said it was "spot on," and I have to agree, it's pretty wonderfully close.
Asian Sesame Chicken Salad
Total Time: 30 minutes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes

What you'll need
For the Salad
2 romaine hearts, chopped
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup wonton strips
2 tablespoons sesame seeds 
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon peanut oil
salt and pepper

For the Dressing
1/2 cup of Original Rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sesame oil 
2 tablespoons sugar

Directions
1. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then coat each side of the chicken breasts with sesame seeds.  Be sure to firmly press seeds into the chicken.
2. In a medium skillet, heat peanut oil over high heat.  Add chicken breasts.  Brown from 2 minutes on each side. Reduce heat to medium, continue to cook for about 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through.  Remove from heat and let cool.
3. Slice chicken into thin strips. 
4. In a large mixing bowl, add lettuce, cilantro, almonds, wontons and cooked chicken. 
5. In a small pot, boil vinegar and sugar until sugar disolves.  Remove from heat and let cool completely. 
6. Using a hand blender, slowly pour in the sesame oil.  Blend well. 
7. Add dressing to salad as desired.  Toss well. Serve and enjoy!
 
 
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You can mix-up a traditional Caesar salad by adding seasoned and roasted portobello mushrooms and roasted red peppers to the lettuce, crouton and parmesan cheese spread.  For a boost of protein, I also like to add in hard-boiled eggs.  In the end, you'll have a flavor packed and nutritious (minus the dressing) salad for two.

Grilled Portobello and Red Pepper Caesar Salad 
Total Time: 45 minutes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes

What you'll need
1-2 romaine hearts, chopped
2 large portobello mushroom caps, sliced
1 red pepper, julienned 
4 hard boiled eggs, sliced in half
4 tablespoons of your favorite Caesar dressing
1/2 cup favorite croutons
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon steak seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions
1. Preheat oven on roast at 400 degrees F.
2. Arrange red pepper and mushrooms on a  baking sheet covered in foil.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and steak seasoning.  
3. Roast seasoned vegetables for 25 minutes.
4. While the vegetables are roasting, add Caesar dressing to the bottom of a large mixing bowl.  Add chopped lettuce.  Toss well.  
5. Top with croutons, parmesan cheese and sliced egg.  
6. When vegetables are tender, carefully remove them from the oven.  Arrange roasted red pepper and mushrooms on top of the salad.  Serve and enjoy!
 
 
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This salad not only looks great with its variety of textures and colors, but it tastes great too.  The spiced shredded chicken, fresh vegetables and crispy tortillas all come together to create one dynamite salad.  

Shredded Chicken Taco Salad
Total Time: 40 minutes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes

What you'll need
For the Salad

1 cup shredded chicken (left over rotisserie or cooked)
1 cup Mexican cheese blend
1/2 cucumber, sliced
1/2 can black beans, drained
1/2 can yellow corn, drained
2 romaine hearts, chopped
fajita seasoning packet
2 tablespoons guacamole
2 tablespoons sour cream
handful cherry tomatoes, halved
handful crushed tortilla strips

For the Dressing 
2 tablespoons of your favorite Ranch dressing
1 teaspoon fajita seasoning

Directions 
1. Add the shredded chicken to a medium skillet.  Stir in fajita seasoning packet and water, minus 1 teaspoon of fajita seasoning, which you will need for your dressing.  Let simmer for 30 minutes.
2. Mix together dressing ingredients.  
3. Add lettuce to a large mixing bowl.  Pour in dressing.  Toss well.  
4. Top lettuce with vegetables, cheese, tortilla chips and warm chicken.  Toss well.  
5. Add guacamole and sour cream just before serving.  Enjoy!
The leftovers
You can add the leftover corn and beans to any salsa that you have on hand.  It's a great way to infuse a sweet flavor (as well as protein) into your favorite tortilla chip dip.