Category Archives: Sides

Easy Cucumber Tomato Salad With Balsamic

Close up of cucumber tomato salad in a bowl

My friends’ with gardens always seem to have an over abundance of tomatoes and cucumbers each summer. Seeing that I do not have a green thumb, I’m always more than willing to help them out. One of my favorite things to make with them is this delicious and easy tomato cucumber salad with feta and balsamic.

It is so good.

After all, how can you go wrong with a fresh cucumber tomato salad with balsamic.

The ingredients are simple:

  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes (preferably vine ripened)
  • Onions (red or another more mild onion)
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh basil
  • Feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper, of course

Ingredients for cucumber tomato salad on a cutting board

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There’s nothing not to love! Unless you are one who doesn’t like feta or onions or basil. If that’s the case, leave it out or swap it with a different ingredient and it will just be a tomato cucumber salad instead of tomato cucumber salad with feta. 😉

You could try these subs:

  • Oregano instead of basil.
  • Freshly grated Parmesan instead of the feta.
  • Apple cider vinegar instead of balsamic.
  • Adding sliced olives.

Isn’t that one of the great things about salads? They are so customizable!

It is also so easy.

You can have this cucumber tomato feta salad with balsamic done in 10 minutes. Honestly, that would probably include the time it takes to wash the dishes. 😉 All it takes is a little bit of cutting and a little pouring and you are done!

cucumber tomato salad with feta with a pink text box

Be sure to make it at least an hour before serving because it tastes best after the flavors are allowed to marinate for a while.

Let talk how to chiffonade basil! I taught my daughter what this meant when making the recipe together this weekend. It’s super easy. You stack the basil leaves on top of each other and then gently roll the pile together (roll from the long side). Next you slice the basil into thin ribbons using a sharp knife. A sharp knife is important, otherwise your basil will end up bruised.

One tool recommendation. A few years ago I received a microplane to use for garlic and ginger and I love it! I makes doing the garlic so easy in the recipe and also makes it paste like.

One more note, I never like to give exact salt amounts because everyone’s tastes are so different. Maybe start with a 1/4-1/2 teaspoon, taste and add more if needed.

I’ve made this salad pretty much always. Both of my girls love it (as long as I’m sure to use a more mild onion). In fact, I used to have to “fight” my oldest for it, when she was 3. It’s just that yummy.

It makes a delicious side dish to go with any grilled meat and wouldn’t it be a great salad for your 4th of July celebration.

I also love to eat this as my lunch (served on a bed of spinach is my favorite) and don’t ever tire of it.

Go make this! I hope you enjoy a yummy cucumber tomato salad with balsamic as much as we do.

Cucumber tomato salad with feta in a bowlYou might also be interested these recipes:

A fun side salad: Garbanzo Bean and Roasted Corn Salad
A main dish salad: Mandarin Salad

Cucumber Tomato Salad with Balsamic

Cucumber Tomato Salad with Balsamic
Author: 
Recipe type: Side Dish
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 side servings
 
An easy and delicious cucumber tomato salad with feta and balsamic. It comes together in minutes and has lots of flavor.
Ingredients
  • 1 English cucumber or seeded regular cucumber (around 2.5 cups)
  • 3 vine ripened tomatoes (2.5-3 cups)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • ¼ cup minced onion (red or mild)
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • fresh basil (1/8 cups lightly packed chiffonade of basil)
  • 4 tablespoons feta cheese
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Cut the cucumber into fourths the long way and then slice. (Be sure to peel if you aren't using an English one.)
  2. Cut the tomatoes into bite sized chunks.
  3. Chiffonade the basil leaves.
  4. Add the garlic, onion, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, basil, and salt & pepper to the bowl. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.
  5. Sprinkle the feta cheese over the top of the dish.
  6. Refrigerate until serving.

Originally published June 2014. Updated May 2020.

cucumber tomato salad with feta in a bowl with white text boxpicture of cucumber tomato salad with green text boxoverhead shot of cucumber tomato salad with feta and balsamic in a bowl

The Best Cranberry Salad Recipe

When I think Thanksgiving this best creamy cranberry salad recipe is one of the first things that comes to mind. In fact, my family loves it so much it also makes an appearance at our Christmas Eve dinner.

This is the best creamy cranberry salad recipe ever! This recipe will be passed down to your kids and you will be asked to make it every holiday! It's my FAV!

One of the things that sets this recipe apart is that it uses fresh cranberries. No canned cranberries allowed here. 😉

I like to stock up on cranberry discounts after Thanksgiving is over and store several bags in the freezer to last through the year. They are perfect for this salad, muffins, and any other fresh cranberry recipes.

This particular recipe came from my grandma. It was one of the ones that my continued to make and now so do my siblings and I. Recipes that hold special memories are the best kind. Add this cranberry salad recipe to your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner (or really, just meal) and it will be the dish you are always asked to make.

Ground cranberries and sugar mixed together.

Ingredients:

What are the other components of this dish besides good old cranberries?

  • Marshmallows
  • Crushed pineapple
  • Sugar
  • Heavy cream, whipped

That’s it! See how easy it is?

You can also make this dish the day before. The marshmallows absorb any liquid and turn into this delightfully light and airy bite.

Cooking for a crowd, be sure and double this recipe! Besides, you will want leftovers too.

Let’s talk sugar for a minute.

This recipe calls for 1 cup. I never make it with the full cup. Not even when making it for company. To me, what’s the point of cranberries if you aren’t going to have a little tart. Your first time making it, try with 3/4 of a cup and see what you think. If you think it’s too tart, you can always add more. (But I don’t think you’ll need too – the pineapple and marshmallows add sweetness as well.)

When I made this cranberry salad recipe for these pictures, I used just 1/3 cup of sugar and a sprinkle of stevia. It’s a little tart, but still good! Disclaimer: I would not recommend starting with that small of amount of sugar your first time making it!

The Best Creamy Cranberry Salad Recipe

The Best Cranberry Salad Recipe
 
Ingredients
  • 10 ounce bag of cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 20 can of crushed pineapple, well drained
  • 1½ -2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Using a food processor or blender, grind the bag of cranberries. Pulse button works well. I like them to to be ground but with some large pieces mixed in.
  2. Drain the can of crushed pineapple very well. It yields approximately 1⅓ cups after drained.
  3. Add the drained pineapple and sugar to the cranberries and mix well. Stir in the marshmallows.
  4. Whip the heavy cream until medium to stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into the cranberry mixture.
  5. Refrigerate until serving (at least several hours or up to a day early).
  6. Enjoy!

 

This is the best creamy cranberry salad recipe ever! This recipe will be passed down to your kids and you will be asked to make it every holiday! It's my FAV!

Best Simple Fried Rice Recipe

I love, love, love fried rice! When you combine it with easy and get a simple fried rice recipe, it’s a winner all around!

best simple fried rice recipe

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Secret ingredients are always a good sign! This recipe has a couple and the extra pop of flavor makes it the best fried rice.

I love using basmati rice when making this. I’ve even used brown basmati. If you don’t have that, try using a long grain white rice.

Try using cauliflower rice if you are limiting your carbs. Shredded cabbage you saute with the rest of the veggies would also likely work.

bowl of dry rice for simple fried rice recipe

If you have a super busy day, this recipe is perfect because you can prep your vegetables the day before (or even several days before). You can also use leftover rice because day old rice makes the best fried rice. See, I told you this is a simple fried rice recipe. 🙂

Did you know you can also freeze fried rice? (I wouldn’t do this with cauliflower rice.) Simply make the fried rice and let cool completely. Place in freezer storage bags or food storage containers and place in freezer. Pull out of the freezer the night before or morning of when you are going to use them and let thaw in the fridge. Saute in a skillet for 5-10 minutes until warm

simple fried rice recipe ingredients

If you don’t mind reheating in the microwave, this would also be perfect to freezer in single serving amounts to pack for work lunches.

Secret Ingredients!

There are a couple ingredients that put this simple fried rice recipe over the top.

  1. Fresh ginger. Of course fresh garlic is involved, but the ginger adds a little something special.
  2. Toasted sesame oil. If you’ve never had this, you are missing out! My picky, opinionated 5 smelled the bottle and proclaimed how good it smelled. Do yourself a favor and get some for this recipe and for making the best Asian salad dressings. (I’ve linked to it on Amazon, but I’ve found it at Aldi for a great price before.)
  3. Sambal. Okay, this is totally optional. My kids don’t use it, but I’m obsessed. It adds a kick and a little extra punch of flavor. I blame my dad for turning me onto this years ago. You could also use siracha (I’ve also found the equivalent of this at Aldi).

simple fried rice recipe square picture

Favorite tool!

I LOVE using a microplane for the ginger and garlic. It makes it fast and super easy.


P.S. I love using fried rice to sneak in lots of veggies. 🙂  In these pictures, it’s the amounts listed in the recipe, but often times I add in extra.

Simple Fried Rice Recipe

Best Simple Fried Rice Recipe
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • ½ inch ginger, peeled and minced/micro-planed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced/micro-planed
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup frozen green beans
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 6 cups cooked cold rice
  • 1-2 cups cooked, diced meat (optional)
  • 3 scrambled eggs (optional)
  • oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Sambal or siracha (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat a large pan over medium heat and add a little cooking oil (can use butter).
  2. After heated, add the onions and stir and cook 5 minutes. (Lower heat if needed.) When beginning to soften add garlic and ginger and continue to cook another 3-7 minutes until fragrant and tender.
  3. Add carrots and continue to saute. After a few minutes add the frozen vegetables and continue to saute until everything is hot and tender. (Add meat at the end of this time if using.)
  4. Add rice to the pan and stir over medium high heat for 3-5 minutes. Add soy sauce and and sesame oil and stir to combine.
  5. Take off heat and adjust soy sauce and salt and pepper if needed.
  6. Add scrambled eggs if using.
  7. Serve with sambal or siracha on the side.

 

The best simple fried rice recipebest simple fried rice recipe ingredients

 

Healthy Side Dishes for Grilling

 

Delicious real food (healthy) side dishes for grilling! Perfect for the next time you fire up the grill. Yummy, so many great ideas.

There is just something delicious about supper from the grill. Our grill has been fired up multiple times a week lately and we are nearing 4th of July weekend where I think the majority of the country will be throwing some meat on the grill or packing a picnic. Now we need to tackle healthy side dishes for grilling!

The meat is the easy part – add some marinade or rub and you are good to go. Figuring out side dishes for grilling is where the problem comes in. Especially if you want healthy sides!

Don’t worry, I’ve rounded up a great list of 26 healthy side dishes for grilling! These would make the perfect addition to your next grilled supper – in fact, there are enough real food options to keep you going all summer.

Healthy Side Dishes for Grilling

Salads

Delicious real food (healthy) side dishes for grilling! Perfect for the next time you fire up the grill. Yummy, so many great ideas.

Garbanzo Bean and Roasted Corn Salad

Red White and Blue Fruit Salad

Patriotic Taco Salad

Greek Pasta Salad

Cucumber Tomato Salad

Broccoli Salad

Coleslaw

Simple Potato Salad with Thyme and Olive Oil

Potato Salad

Texas Caviar

Dips

Delicious real food (healthy) side dishes for grilling! Perfect for the next time you fire up the grill. Yummy, so many great ideas.

Homemade Guacamole

7 Layer Taco Dip

Healthier Cheese Dip (No Velveeta)

Homemade Salsa

Strawberry Peach Salsa

Easy, Delicious Hummus

Veggies, Beans, and Potatoes

Citrus Grilled Asparagus Final copy

Citrus Grilled Asparagus

Homemade French Fries Better Than Fast Food

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers

Maple Baked Beans

Cheesy Hashbrown Potatoes

Easy Grilled Vegetables

Grilled Potatoes with Rosemary and Smoked Paprika

Asparagus and Peppers

Oven Roasted Corn

Cheesy Mashed Potatoes

What are your favorite real food side dishes for grilling?

Delicious real food (healthy) side dishes for grilling! Perfect for the next time you fire up the grill. Yummy, so many great ideas.

Linking up to these fun parties!

Easy Crockpot Refried Beans

I suppose these would actually be called unrefried beans and not be considered authentic as there is nothing fried about them but they have become a staple in our home the last several years.

Easy and yummy refried beans in the crock pot (or on the stove). I love making a huge batch and freezing the leftovers!

 

I make up a pound or two of dried pinto beans at a time and turn them into refried beans. I portion what we won’t use that week into plastic containers and store them in the freezer for us to use the next several weeks. Just set a frozen container of refried beans in the refrigerator overnight to defrost and they will be ready to reheat for a quick meal. Things such as bean tostadas or bean and cheese tortillas make an easy lunch or supper in little time. (Perfect for a day crazier than planned or for one of those meals you forgot to buy an important ingredient for.)

If you don’t have dried beans, you can still use the same seasonings on canned beans. It really doesn’t add on any more hands on time to use the dried beans and you’ll be saving yourself money. I highly recommend you give it a try.

Using fresh onion and garlic (and deseeded jalapeno too if you like a kick) in the cooking of the beans is completely optional. If I’m out, I’ll still make up the beans with no seasonings in the cooking liquid and add extra onion and garlic powder when I’m smashing them up.

Easy and yummy refried beans in the crock pot. I love making a huge batch and freezing the leftovers!

These beans can also be made on the stove instead of the crock pot. You’ll just want to watch the water level and add more if needed. There are concerns of toxins not being removed from the beans when cooked in the crock pot, but I’ve found that on high my pot gets the beans up to a full boil. If yours doesn’t, you can boil them on the stove for 10 minutes and then return to the crock pot to finish cooking.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Easy Crockpot Refried Beans
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 deseeded jalapeno
  • 1 T. cumin
  • 2 t. seasoning salt
  • Optional, ½-1 teaspoon garlic and onion powder
Instructions
  1. Rinse and soak the pinto beans overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse beans and place in the crock pot and cover with water.
  3. Add a peeled and quartered onion and peeled and smashed garlic cloves if you are using (and a deseeded jalapeno if you like a little kick).
  4. Cook on low for 5 hours.
  5. Turn to high for the last hour to allow beans to come to a boil for at least 10 minutes and finish cooking.
  6. When beans are tender and falling apart, use a slotted spoon and scoop beans into a bowl. Reserve the cooking liquid.
  7. Add cumin powder and seasoning salt. Add garlic and onion powder if you didn't use fresh in the cooking process.
  8. Use a potato masher and stir and mash the bean mixture until it is as smooth as you like. Add some of the reserved cooking liquid to make it as soupy as you like. It will thicken up as it sits at room temperature.
  9. Cool and separate into storage containers and freeze what you won't use the first week.
Notes
You can also cook the beans on the stove top for several hours until tender and falling apart.

 

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