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Happy New Year…and Happy Salad!

by Aggies Kitchen on January 16, 2010


Well hello stranger…

Where do I begin?  It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted last.  My New Year has been off to a great start…lots of trying to get back into a post-holiday routine only to disrupt that long enough to take an extended weekend away with my hubby in Hilton Head…a trip courtesy of my wonderful parents who let us use their timeshare while they watched the kids for us!  We enjoyed a relaxing few days in the cold (I know I know…but it was seriously cold for us!) eating well and really catching up on some good R&R.  I’ve also aged since we last spoke…I celebrated a birthday this week, which is always fun right? :)


Now do you want me to tell you about this “Happy Salad”?  Well, I can’t take credit for this creation…it’s actually the creation of a friend of mine who mentioned it one day on good ole Facebook, and of course, I had to have it.  What really caught my attention about this salad is that it was layered full of healthful and nutritious elements, one specifically being quinoa.  I’m a quinoa novice…although I have an expired bag of it in the pantry, I have only tried cooking with it once and am not even sure I did it quite right.  I invited my friend Jenna over to the “kitchen” with the hope of her getting me over my silly intimidation of quinoa….and to also play with my new Christmas gift – a set of Lowel EGO lights that my husband gave me!  How cool is that?

My kitchen table became our little food photography “studio”…

Lowel(Photo courtesy of Jenna Atchison)

Having fun playing…then aaah!  Memory card full…must delete…

(Photo courtesy of Jenna Atchison)

The afternoon was great…and the salad was delicious.  It was exactly what I needed after what feels like a month of non-stop celebrating…a good wholesome meal that I knew would make my body happy.  Enjoy!

And thanks for a fun afternoon Jenna!  :)

Jenna’s Happy Salad

(makes about 4 servings)

(Printable Recipe)

bunch of fresh spinach leaves
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 can black beans
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 large cucumber (not pictured b/c I didn’t have it on hand), peeled and chopped
bunch cilantro
olive oil, optional
salt and pepper to taste

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 cup of uncooked quinoa to water and stir. Bring back up to boil and then simmer until quinoa “pops” out of it’s skin. It should absorb all of the water as well. Set aside.

In small saucepan, heat can of black beans (undrained, unrinsed). Set aside.

To assemble salad, place spinach leaves on plate. Top with quinoa, then black beans, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro leaves and a touch of salt and pepper. Squeeze lemon juice over salad, along with a light drizzle of olive oil if you like.

(Photo courtesy of Jenna Atchison)

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Ninette January 16, 2010 at 9:50 am

LOL. I noticed the light right away. I use a Lowel ego light, because I get very little natural light in my house. Nice!


Diana @ frontyardfoodie January 16, 2010 at 11:45 am

I’m working on a light box right now. your photos look incredible!


Melissa January 16, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Nice setup. I thought for a long while about buying one of those Lowel lights. I really should.

And oh the salad. It has two of my top 10 favorite foods – spinach and black beans. Yes please!


Jamie January 16, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Those lights are so cool. It looks like a real food stylist setup and your salad looks so healthy and the photos are great.


AnneStrawberry January 16, 2010 at 6:47 pm

That salad looks amazing and I’m jealous of your new lights (and your trip away, how fun!) Can’t wait to see more photos with your new toys!


bellini valli January 16, 2010 at 9:38 pm

First of all happy birthday Aggie. The lights, the trip…you have had some special memories in the past few weeks


Maria January 16, 2010 at 9:50 pm

I hope you had a wonderful birthday! I LOVE this salad and congrats on your new lights. Your photos are stunning. My hubs got me a light set up too for Christmas, our hubbies think alike:)


Leslie January 17, 2010 at 9:34 am

I am glad you had a fun trip with the hubby WITHOUT the kids! I am jealous!
Ohhhh and you got the ego lights! fun fun fun


Jenna Atchison January 17, 2010 at 10:08 am

It was truly my pleasure (and honor) to spend the afternoon in the kitchen with you. Thanks again for allowing me to witness the genius at work. The site looks amazing; best regards my friend. (oh, and thanks for the props!)


HoneyB January 17, 2010 at 11:35 am

Aggie, your salad photos are awesome! How nice of hubby to buy you the lights! I’m glad you had a great birthday and a chance to spend some alone time w/ hubby! Oh, and Happy New Year to you too!


Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen January 18, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Happy New Year and Happy Birthday, Aggie! Awesome photos too – sounds like you have a great start to the new year!!!


Liz - Meal Makeover Mom January 18, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Happy birthday. You’re so lucky your parents watched the kids while you and hubby went to Hilton Head.
It was fun seeing the photos of your new “studio.” Photography is something we’re also playing around with.
Quinoa is a wonderful ingredient. We recently created two new recipes featuring quinoa (the trick is to rinse it really well before cooking to wash away the bitter “saponins”).
Did your kids like it? Mine liked one of my two creations!


David H. January 18, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Your “happy salad” looks delicious!


Cajun Chef Ryan January 19, 2010 at 9:56 am

Wonderful salad, the black beans sitting on the bed of spinach looks great! I need to get one of those photo studios for my kitchen, my photography needs big help!

Culinarily yours,


Amy from She Wears Many Hats January 19, 2010 at 10:05 am

Have been thinking about investing in some lights and have heard a few friends mention those but have never looked into it. They look so compact and easy for a table top. Maybe I’ll have to drop some hints for Valentine’s?

That salad looks perfect. I’ve never tried preparing quinoa myself but this looks like a simple recipe to try it with. Love black beans too!


Jessie January 19, 2010 at 10:41 am

amazing photos! I need to invest in those lights and set up a mini photography studio too. I know it would make photos look so much better in the long run


patsy January 19, 2010 at 12:25 pm

What fun you are going to have w/your new lights! The salad looks fabulous, too!


Chaya January 20, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Happy salads make happy people and this salad looks like it can do just that. Beautiful photos.


zara January 21, 2010 at 11:10 am

Love the pics. I’ll have to make a studio out of my table too so my pics of food can come out as nice as yours ;)


eatingRD January 22, 2010 at 11:32 am

oh my gosh!!! I’m going to have to look into that lighting kit, I’ve been looking for one to help with the terrible lighting in our kitchen since I leave before the sun comes up and get home after it goes down :) thanks for the link!


NWA June 1, 2010 at 1:15 am

Beautiful pictures. I shoot with an old Nikon Coolpix 5000 and then retouch the images in Photoshop.
The next time I’ll try the barbecue recipe!


Melanie Flinn December 6, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Ok, so I remember this post on your blog and one on Steamy’s kitchen re these lights. Now that you’ve had them awhile can I get your review? Xmas and my bday coming around and I’ve been wanting to purchase these. The reviews on Amazon don’t sound too great, but your pics are great so am wondering if you use them a lot? Thanks for the input! Melanie


Jersey Girl Cooks January 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Happy birthday and happy new year! The salad looks delicious and healthy. I have a box of quinoa in my pantry to use.


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