Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Strawberry and Grilled Chicken Spinach Salad with Homemade Poppyseed Dressing (and the Cave of the Mounds)


Summer fun is in full swing and I'm taking advantage of my first summer home with my kids since maternity leave 10 years ago…

So, in addition to lots of delicious summery foods, we are also working on hitting some local attractions for our own family fun.


Last weekend was kicked off with a tour of the Cave of the Mounds in Blue Mounds, WI.  Some place I've always wanted to go so was excited for my first visit.

We arrived around 2:20 and the 2:30 tour was already sold out, so we got our tickets for the 3:00 tour and decided to explore the grounds a bit.


Whenever there is a chance to hit a nature trail and catch some serenity while being active, I'm game.  This family groupie was taken on the shorter and more lush loop of their hiking trails.

The tour is about an hour long and included a short intro video which helps get us novice cavemen on the same page.


The sights of the cave were quite amazing, especially when considering that the cave is still alive, forming, growing, changing while we are exploring it. 


They were quick to point out the cave bacon, which was a big hit with my guys. 


The colors and textures of the formations were breathtaking, just look at the contrast!  


Even in the cave we were all still smiling!  
Probably helped that it was nice and cool in the caves too! 


The flowing water through the cave is a large reason that this cave is still alive. 

Outside of the cave and back at home, summer meals are still in full swing.  While we did eat/jam up the first 20 lbs of fresh strawberries, I went back for more!  They are just too good to pass up! 



Besides, I had yet to make my Homemade Poppyseed Dressing served over Strawberry, Spinach, Grilled Chicken Salad.

A salad like this is so refreshing and as long as there is enough chicken, it should fill the family up as well.  


Just started with a bag of spinach, I did have to bulk it up with some romaine, otherwise there wouldn't have been enough for my hungry family.  


Added my first layer of sliced strawberries.  I love the sweet contrast of strawberries in this salad, so this is just the first of a few layers. 


Next, some chopped red onion.  I am not often a huge fan of raw onion, but chopped small enough and coupled with all of the right fixings, this just seems to work! 


Salad wouldn't be complete without something crunchy.
I had some slivered almonds on hand, but other nuts or sunflower seeds are always great adds.  


This layer of feta brought the perfect creamy element to this salad as a meal.  
Feta is nice and mild, so perfect for salads.  


These grilled chicken tenders, topped with seasoning salt, chopped into bite sized chunks, were the key to this meal.  


My family was salivating as they were watching me put this together.  


And, of course, more strawberries had to be added….


For the dressing, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp grated onion, with my beloved microplane, 1/2 cup canola oil, 2 tsp poppy seeds, 1 tbsp vinegar and 1 tsp ground mustard (which is key for it's emulsifying properties….which means keeping the vinegar and oil mixed) were all whisked together and spooned over the salad before serving.  

I'm a huge fan of making my own dressing, in case you haven't noticed by now…I love knowing each and every hand picked ingredient in my dressings and I usually make just about enough for a meal anyway, so I don't have a half of a bottle sitting around for, uh, years!  



RECIPE:

INGREDIENTS:

Dressing:
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp grated onion
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tsp poppy seeds
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp ground mustard

Add all of the ingredients into a bowl and whisk up.  

Salad:
Spinach
Romaine
Strawberries - sliced
Red Onions
Almonds - sliced
Feta cheese
Grilled Chicken

Layer the salad fixing in a bowl, top with dressing and toss for a fabulous summer meal!