What Makes a Happy Meal

West African-Inspired Salad

We initially didn’t eat want the healthy options on fast food menus, because it wasn’t going to be a happy meal. Today, chefs are creating healthy meals into exciting options. Such as Panera Bread announcing plans to eliminate chemical preservatives and artificial ingredients from their meals by 2016. It was an 11 year process of working with chefs and nutritionists to change how fast food corporations offer healthier options with tantalizing ingredients.

Today we’re seeing less wilted iceberg lettuce topped with lifeless tomatoes and cucumbers, and more salads made with fresh and seasonal ingredients. And, the concept of salads is expanding, such as adding ancient whole-grains (farro, quinoa, barley and so on) most of the world continues to eat today, into an American diet. Panera Bread’s Mediterranean, Strawberry Poppyseed and Kale Caesar Salads are equally appetizing as a juicy burger (I admit, the statement is an exaggeration, but few people want to eat a burger everyday. Besides, those salads are insanely delicious).

Typically, the salads and other dishes are usually created with a cultural theme. After making an Italian-inspired salad bowl a few months ago, I wondered what ingredients would consist of a West African-inspired salad.

Overnight Soaked Sorghum

Citrus Sorghum and Blackeye Pea Salad

The ingredients for this salad are African-Diaspora inspired. The sorghum grain and black-eye peas are tossed with a citrus vinaigrette. A seared duck breast is seasoned with cinnamon and orange. Bitter dandelion and sweet spinach leaves are lightly tossed together. Vegetables, especially mini sweet peppers, are roasted to caramelize their flavor. Grilled okra shares a tangy curry spice. And, a peanut vinaigrette ties all the complex flavors together as toasted benne and salted peanuts provide a crunch.

West African Curry by Teeny Tiny Spice Company

West African Curry Spice Okra

Here’s a disclaimer: This isn’t an authentic West-African dish, but don’t let the amount of time and lack of authenticity prevent this recipe from being served. With the seared duck, it makes an entertaining dinner, especially when each part of the salad is elegantly displayed on a table spread, in which guests build their own salad plates. The left-overs easily pack into a couple lunch bowls.

Sweet Mini Peppers

Roast Sweet Potato and Carrots

Citrus Seared Duck Breast

Dandelion, Baby Spinach and Red Cabbage Greens

Crunchy Garnish: Toast Peanuts and Benne Seeds

Peanut Vinaigrette

For people striving towards healthy lifestyles, their relationship with fast food restaurants are precarious. To finally see one fast food restaurant, such as Panera Bread, making a difference is a milestone. To have the option of spending time making a healthy West African-inspired salad or to quickly visit a restaurant without worrying about chemical preservatives and artificial ingredients is a happier future for our well-being.

West African-Inspired Salad


  • Citrus Black-eye Pea Sorghum Salad
  • Roast sweet potatoes & carrots
  • Roast mini sweet peppers
  • Green Dandelion Salad
  • Cinnamon Orange Rubbed Seared Duck Breast
  • Curry Spiced grilled okra (technique here, but use chili or curry spice seasoning)
  • Peanut Vinaigrette
  • Garnish: Toasted benne or sesame seeds and roughly chopped roast, salted peanuts
  • Ingredients for Citrus Black-eye Pea Sorghum Salad
  • 1 cup sorgham grain; cooked with a bay leaf according to the manufacturer’s directions, rinsed and cooled
  • 1 cup minced parsley
  • 2 oranges; zest removed and sliced into segments (If possible, save zest for squeezing onto finished duck)
  • 1 small garlic clove; minced
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt; more or less to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh black pepper; more or less to taste
  • 2 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • The juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1-14 oz. canned black-eye peas; drained and rinsed
  • Ingredients for Roast Sweet Potato and Carrots
  • 2 sweet potatoes with skin; scrubbed clean and sliced into 1/2-in. thick chunks
  • 3 to 4 carrots; scrubbed clean, stem and ends discarded, vertically cut large carrots in half
  • Sea salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Ingredients for Roast Mini Sweet Peppers
  • 1 lb. mini sweet peppers
  • Sea salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
  • 2 to 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Ingredients for Dandelion Greens
  • 1 small red onion; thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch of dandelion greens; cleaned and roughly chopped
  • About 2 cups of baby spinach leaves
  • 1/4 head of small red cabbage; thinly sliced
  • Ingredients for Cinnamon Orange Rubbed Seared Duck Breast
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon; plus a little more for garnish
  • The juice of one orange
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt; more or less to personal taste
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh black pepper; more or less to personal taste
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 duck breast
  • Ingredients for Peanut Vinaigrette
  • 1 minced fresh garlic
  • 2 to 3 inch ginger; peeled and minced
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
  • The juice of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt; more or less to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh black pepper; more or less to taste
  • (Optional) 1/4 tsp. of crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp. honey


  1. Directions for Citrus Black-eye Pea Sorghum Salad: Gently toss all ingredients together in a medium to large bowl. Tightly cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator to let the ingredients marinate for a few hours. Remove from the refrigerator about one hour before serving.
  2. Directions for Roast Sweet Potato and Carrots: Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Toss all ingredients over the baking sheet. Roast for about 30 to 45 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes and carrots are easily pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven and place aside.
  3. Directions for Roast Mini Sweet Peppers: Line a second baking sheet with foil. Toss peppers with oil, sea salt and black pepper over the baking sheet. In the same oven as the sweet potatoes, roast peppers on a different rack for about 30 minutes or until the peppers are lightly charred. Place roast peppers aside.
  4. Directions for Dandelion Greens: Toss all ingredients in a large bowl. Place aside.
  5. Directions for Grilled Okra here, except use curry spice blend instead of blueberry-coffee spice.
  6. Directions for Cinnamon Orange Rubbed Seared Duck Breast: Follow directions here for preparing the duck breast. After the fat of the duck is cut into a cross-hatch pattern, pour cinnamon-orange marinade over the duck. Follow the directions here for searing the duck breast. Squeeze leftover orange zest used in the sorghum salad and sprinkle a little cinnamon, sea salt and fresh black pepper immediately over the finished duck breast. Let the duck rest for 15 minutes before thinly slicing it.
  7. Directions for Peanut Vinaigrette: Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  8. To plate the West African-Inspired Salad Plate: Line a plate with dandelion greens. Top with the Citrus Black-eye Pea Sorghum Salad. Place Roast Sweet Potato, Carrots and sweet mini peppers over the sorghum salad. Lay a few Cinnamon Orange Rubbed Seared Duck Breast slices over the roast vegetables. Top duck slices with Curry Grilled Okra (recipe here). Drizzle Peanut Vinaigrette over the salad. If necessary, adjust seasoning with a sprinkle of sea salt, fresh black pepper and crushed red pepper.
  9. To plate the West African-Inspired Salad Bowl for Lunch the following day: Think of the bowl as pie chart cut into fractions. Line half of the lunch dish with the mix dandelion green salad. Place citrus black-eye pea sorghum salad over one-third of the dish, partially covering the greens. Place roast sweet potato, carrots and sweet mini peppers over the other third of the dish. If using chicken slices (See note about using meat), place chicken over the sorghum salad and roast vegetables. Pack peanut vinaigrette in another container.
  10. Garnish plate and/or bowl with toasted benne/sesame seeds and roughly chopped roast, salted peanuts


Seared duck slices normally doesn't taste good as leftovers. Recommend using sliced, grilled chicken breast seasoned with West African Curry or sliced smoked duck from the cured meat or deli section of a grocery store. Alternatively, enjoy the salad without meat, because it has a good source of protein from the black-eye peas and sorghum grain.


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A sweet, savory, buttery, green and healthy Food Blogger at MyLifeRunsOnFood.com and a creative thinking Art Director/Graphic Designer at SanuraWeathers.com.