Mystery Box Salad

Do you ever feel like dinnertime is a cooking show mystery box challenge and you have to throw ingredients together and whip up some fabulous meal before your husband kids… someone…votes you off the island?  Although timers and cooking-under-pressure aren’t really my thing, I think I would survive a mystery box challenge–I’m a stay-at-home mama!  I create my weekly meal plan based on the ingredients I have in my fridge and cupboards at the time, no more, no less, and it gets pretty creative sometimes.

I will either throw the lucky ingredients together for a great mystery box dinner…and cross my fingers…(Green salad mix?  Cauliflower?  Apricots?  Shrimp?  How about a homemade green spaghetti pasta with roasted cauliflower and shrimp in a garlic cream apricot sauce topped with sunflower seeds and fresh basil?), or grab one main ingredient I have and consult a cookbook.  Fennel bulb?  Snap peas?  Grapefruit?  I used Martha Stewart for this dinner salad inspiration, and adapted her fennel and snap pea salad to include a few more ingredients I had on hand, because fresh fruit always wants to join the salad party.

fennel snap pea salad beginnings copy

fennel snap pea salad

And seriously, what goes with a salad better than roasted sweet potatoes and homemade buttery croissants?  And I swear, taking a bite of the licorice-y fennel with the roasted, salted pistachios tasted exactly like bacon.  Great combo!



  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Fennel and Snap Pea Salad from her Meatless Cookbook.  I used pear, grapefruit, and avocado as the “fresh fruit” portion of the salad, because that’s what I had on hand.  You could easily substitute nectarines, peaches, berries and lime or lemon (in the summer), or pears, apples, and oranges (in the winter).  Just be sure to include a citrus to section up in the salad and use the juice for the vinaigrette.


  • 1 fennel bulb, core removed and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup snap peas, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 pear, thinly sliced
  • 2 grapefruits, sectioned and juiced (put juice in a smaller bowl for later use)
  • 1/2 cup roasted/salted pistachios


  • juice from two grapefruits
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


Put all salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste in the smaller bowl with the grapefruit juice, and whisk in the olive oil.  Whisk in just enough until the dressing comes together.  Pour over the fruits and veggies in the larger bowl and gently toss.  Serve with whole grain bread (or croissants!).

Avocado Citrus Salad with Creamy Lime Poppy Seed Dressing and Pistachios


citrus avocado salad

Owing to the fact that a) I spent 5 hours this afternoon clearing some boxes and assembling a computer table and therefore had zero dinner prep time, and b) the boys and I ate three quarters of a bog of chocolate chips during said afternoon project (moving has its benefits, right?), I figured a salad was in order for dinner.

The avocado bag had a great salad suggestion: Avocado Citrus Salad with Lime Poppy Seed Dressing.  Buttery avocado, bitter grapefruit sections, zesty lime poppy seed dressing–it was refreshing and yummy and I felt really chefy sectioning the grapefruit.  The recipe called for more citrus by also sectioning an orange, but I didn’t have any oranges on hand, so I instead used a nectarine.  I also love throwing something crunchy on a salad and opted for salty pistachios.  We had leftover biscuits and peach jam on the side.

After all that southern talk yesterday I really had a hankering for buttermilk biscuits today, and my oldest was in total agreement.  He can down hot biscuits smothered in butter and honey like the best of them.  Can something be crunchy and fluffy and pillowy and melty and honey sweet all at the same time?  Yes, yes it can.  And yes, we seriously only ate biscuits and honey for lunch.

Oh, and speaking of crunchy, fluffy, pillowy, melty and honey sweet…my hubby walked in from work tonight to the desk being partially finished, just the hutch on top had yet to be assembled.  He took over the building process so I could throw together our dinner.  He came in to the kitchen and said, in all seriousness, “Good thing I got here when I did; one of the pieces didn’t have predrilled holes and I think it would have thrown you for a loop.”  I gave him one of those wife-looking-at-silly-husband looks (you know the kind) and said, “You came home to your wife having built a desk and you think a few missing holes would have thrown me for a loop?”  And then we both started laughing.  Things always go butter-smooth in a marriage when you can laugh at/with yourself and your spouse.


  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Shawn Syphus’ Citrus Salad


  • 4-6 cups mixed greens (I like the Power Green mix from Costco)
  • 2 grapefruits, peeled and sectioned
  • 2 nectarines, diced
  • 2 avocados, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 green onion stalks, finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup pistachios


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup lime juice (4-6 whole limes, depending on size)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream or plain non-fat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 3/4 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • salt and pepper to taste


For two, this will make a large salad for dinner, for four it will make smaller fresh side salads.  Divide the greens among the number of salad bowls you are using.  Evenly divide the grapefruit sections, nectaries, green onions and avocados between the salads, and sprinkle with pistachios.  Whisk all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and drizzle over the salads.  Because you have the acids (lime and vinegar) and cream (sour cream or yogurt) together, the dressing will separate while sitting in the fridge waiting for its next salad.  Just shake or stir and it’ll reconstitute for secondary use.