Pretty much every type of salad that I like is some variant of spinach, fruit, good cheese and nuts. For as long as I can remember my Mom has been making a spinach salad with pears, blue cheese and salted pecans, and for a Mom who loves decorating the table but isn’t so big on the actual food – this salad was quite a delectable creation. I have made that salad countless times, and it’s still my go to, but in the interest of changing it up ever so slightly, I decided to try this recipe, and guess what, I loved it! In fact it holds the title as the first salad a certain “salad hater” has ever eaten, and liked (no…it’s not John but another picky husband who doesn’t like vegetables :-)).
I think what I really liked about this is that it includes an easy, throw together recipe for a really good dressing. So much of the time I go to the trouble of toasting nuts, chopping fruit, buying spinach, and then covering it all with some bottled dressing because making homemade just seemed like too much work. This dressing is super easy, and really complements the flavors of the salad well. Also, I think I like this salad because I love an excuse to eat my new favorite apples, ‘Honeycrisp”. (Which, ironically recently had a sign aat the grocery store that said “Everyone’s New Favorite” – good to know I’m not alone). But if you can’t find Honeycrisp, I think Fiji or Granny Smith would work equally well.
Harvest Apple Salad with Buttered Almonds
For the dressing:
- ¼ cup finely minced sweet onion
- 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp. sesame seeds
- Pinch of paprika
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
For the almonds:
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- ¾ cup sliced or slivered almonds
- 2 tbsp. sugar
For the salad:
6-8 cups baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
2 medium apples, cored and thinly sliced
4-6 oz gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
To make the vinaigrette, whisk all ingredients except olive oil in a measuring cup. Then slowly add the olive oil whisking vigorously to combine.
To make the buttered almonds, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the almonds and cook, stirring occasionally until toasted and lightly browned. Stir in the sugar and cook just until melted and well incorporated. Set aside to cool.
Place spinach in a large salad bowl or on individual salad plates. Top with apple slices, gorgonzola, and the buttered almonds. Drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately. Leftovers are good for up to a day, as fresh spinach does not wilt as quickly as other types of lettuce.
When I put this on our (new) menu board for the week, John had no idea what it was. I described it to him as crouton salad, partially because it’s true, and partially because John loves bread and I knew a salad made of it would intrigue him. I really liked this dinner because it was easy, fresh, and included more than a full serving of vegetables, but the really great thing about it was the John loved it as well. He even said, “Wow, this was a lot more filling than I expected.” I served this as a meal on its own, but I think it would also be great as a side dish for a summer picnic.
In terms of cooking, don’t be tempted (as I was) to turn the heat up on the croutons in order to make them brown faster – this actually only makes them burn faster. You do have to watch the croutons while cooking, which is why I think cooking them on the stove is better than the oven. Just be sure to use a large pan, and to toss the croutons every few minutes. Also, this makes a lot of salad (way more than John and I could finish), and unfortunately the leftovers aren’t good because the bread gets soggy. To avoid this, cook the bread and cut the vegetables, but only combine the ingredients you will actually use that day. Then you can make the salad again the next day for lunch!
- 6 cups rustic bread (about 3/4 loaf), sliced into 1-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and sliced (or 1 hothouse cucumber – no need to peel)
- 1 Red pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 Yellow pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 Green pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1/2 of a Red onion, sliced into thin strips
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
- 8 oz feta, sliced into 1/2 inch cubes
For the Dressing:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 teaspoon dried, crushed oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon combined)
1. In a large frying pan heat 1/4 cup olive oil on medium- high heat. Once hot, add bread and reduce heat to medium-low. Salt the bread with 1 teaspoon salt. Toss the bread for about 10 minutes until crisp and slightly browned.
2. Chop vegetables, and in a large bowl combine all vegetables, feta cheese, and olives.
3. In a small bowl combine all ingredients for the dressing and whisk until combined.
4. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss. Add in the crisp bread and toss until evenly coated.
5. Clean up the kitchen while waiting for the flavors to meld. Add salt and pepper as needed and serve.
Yesterday was full of kitchen disasters. You see our friend Adam is on a whorl wind cross-country tour, and stopped by our place for a visit. Since I am on vacation for another 5 days, I figured what better way to spend my time than to make a dinner completely from scratch. I had the menu all planned out, which consisted of homemade hamburger buns, black bean burgers (for which I even cooked my own black beans), home-fried potato chips, homemade ranch dressing, DIY oreos, and pina coladas – none of which I had ever made from scratch before. Despite the best intentions, while we were sitting outside because our apartment was too filled with smoke to breathe, I firmly decided that never again will I make an entire menu that I have never tried before when we have house guests :-). I also decided that on the rare occasion that we do fry something – John is going to be soley responsible (hot oil and I are not friends).
About halfway through the disaster, I wanted to scrap it all and go out to eat, but I’m actually really glad we didn’t because the dinner was salvageable and I got 2 keeper recipes out of it- the best ranch dressing you’ve ever tasted and out-of-this-world pina coladas. Plus, it made for some funny memories (picture John running through the house wearing chemistry goggles so that his eyes wouldn’t burn from the smoke). I really wish I would’ve taken pictures of all the mishaps that occurred, but I think I was too traumatized by the billows of smoke around me to remember. Here’s John and Adam recovering by playing super mario brothers:
Despite the fact that I slightly burned my hand, and that we all suffered from some smoke inhalation, this ranch dressing really made it all worth it… it’s that good! It’s the kind of thing that will literally make you eat every last vegetable you have in your fridge, and then some. I tend to have this habit of buying veggies with the best intentions of eating them for snacks, but then somehow I forget about them and then eventually they look unappetizing. With this ranch dressing around I’m pretty sure no vegetable will ever go bad in this house again.
It is the perfect summer treat – cool, refreshing, and goes great on just about anything. While I normally think of ranch with vegetables, I actually made this dressing to go with the homemade chips (that John ended up cooking). It’s coolness was the perfect complement to the warm, greasy, crispness of a potato chip. I also think it would be great for dipping pizza crust (if that’s your thing), or pizza bites , or you could use it as regular old salad dressing (but believe me, no salad will ever taste the same).
I know dressings get a really bad rap for being unhealthy, and I’m not trying to pretend that you should drink this dressing by the cupful – but it’s quite a bit better for you than the store bought kind. It also tastes worlds better than bottled “low-fat” dressing, despite the fact that it is made with low fat ingredients. Depending on your taste, you can alter the amount of parsley, chives and dill you want to put into this. I happened to add a lot, and it really gave the dressing that cool, summery flavor I was looking for. I probably added a full cup of greens (parsley, chives & dill), but I will mention that the dill flavor came through strongly, so if you add it, tred lightly. If you add any more than what I did, you will get something closer to a green goddess dressing – but nothing wrong with that, it will still taste amazing. So make this, no picnic will ever be the same.
Homemade Ranch Dressing
Makes about 2 cups. Stays good for 2+ weeks (but good luck making it last that long :-))
- 3/4 cup light sour cream
- 3/4 cup light mayonnaise
- 1 T. Olive Oil
- 1 T. Lemon Juice (or juice from 1/2 a lemon)
- 1 cup buttermilk (but you can use less if you like a very thick dip)
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped
- small bunch chives
- small handful parsley
- 2-3 dill springs (optional)
- pinch of salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients except for 1/2 cup buttermilk in a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth (no need to pre-chop anything). Check the consistency, and add remaining buttermilk until your desired consistency is reached.
Adapated from Confections of a Foodie Bride
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I figured what would be better than a POTATO with the colors of the Irish flag! I made mine with broccoli, scallions, and cheddar, so I could get the green, white and orange effect. I hope this brings a little St. Patrick’s Day spirit to your day!
My better half is interviewing people this week, so it’s just me here until tomorrow. Cooking for 1 can be tricky, but I think this recipe fits the bill – It’s quick, easy, and I had all the ingredients on hand. The recipe is for 4 potatoes, but can easily be adapted to make just 1, or 8. I often forget how great a good baked potato can be. In college, my friend Christine, once had a “Baked Potato Party” in which she baked a bunch of potatoes, and then had all kinds of fun toppings for us to put on them. It was such an easy and creative idea, and I have been wanting to do it ever since – maybe this will inspire you to host your own. Whatever you put on your baked potato, it can be a hearty, and filling meal that’s easy and cheap to make. I also included some suggestions for alternate stuffed baked potatoes , which I am now dying to try!
Twice Baked Potatoes
- 4 russet potatoes – scrubbed and patted dry
- Olive Oil and Salt
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 3/4 cup light sour cream
- 1/4 cup skim milk
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3/4 cup chopped broccoli, steamed
- 1/2 cup chopped scallions
Preheat oven to 400°. Rub potatoes with a small amount of oil and sprinkle with salt. Place potatoes directly on rack and cook for 45-60 minutes. Do not wrap potatoes in foil because this will make the skins soft and it will be difficult to scoop the filling out later.
In a large bowl combine 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, sour cream, milk, garlic powder, broccoli, and 1/4 cup scallions.
Remove potatoes from oven and let cool slightly. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Using a soup spoon, scrape out as much potato as you can while leaving the skin intact – leaving about 1/8 inch. The potatoes taste better when there is less plain flesh left in them. Add the flesh to the large bowl with sour cream mixture. Mash the flesh until combined.
Spoon the flesh back into the potato shells. Place filled shells on a baking sheet coated with aluminum foil. Sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese over the tops of the potatoes.
Return potatoes to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and starting to brown.
To serve, top with remaining scallions.
Variation 1: Blue Cheese, Onion and Mushroom Potatoes
- Substitute 1 cup crumbled blue cheese for the cheddar, and 1 cup sautéed mushrooms and onions for the broccoli.
Variation 2: Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Stuffed Potatoes
- Substitute 1 cup of herbed goat cheese for the cheddar, and 3/4 cup caramelized onions for the broccoli.
Variations inspired by America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook