Thursday, October 25, 2012

Splendid Salads: apple almond chicken salad

Ready for a brown bag redo? Here is a lovely little chicken salad that is loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables, good flavor and not drowning in mayo. I used chicken left over from a roasted chicken and so the whole salad came together in just a few minutes.

Apple Almond Chicken Salad

Makes 4 hearty servings
  • 2 tablespoons plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups cooked cubed chicken
  • 1 large apple, diced
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds (substitute roasted sunflower seeds if allergic to nuts)
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, olive oil, mustard and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add cubed chicken, apple, carrot, celery and almonds and toss to coat with dressing.
  3. Serve on a bed of lettuce, on whole grain bread or with scoop it up with whole grain crackers.

If you wish, you could substitute veggie chicken or roasted tofu to make this dish vegetarian. 

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

You are what your food ate - what did our food eat?

You are what your food ate - what did our food eat?

In general, folks don't know a whole heck of a lot about the foods that they eat every day; they couldn't pick a tomato plant out of a garden line up, couldn't tell you if carrots grow under ground or on a tree (underground, if you were wondering) or what grows in which season locally. The great news is that there has been a booming interest to get in back into the kitchen and garden.
You're probably heard the phrase "you are what you eat", and it is true, but more acurately, "you are what your food ate". The nutrients from your food and beverages are used by your body for energy, to build and repair bones and tissues and to keep your body moving and grooving. Wholesome foods in the right balance literally leads to better structural integrity of our bodies, which means we’re healthier now (and later) and less prone to disease. But if you feed your body junk, eat too much or too little, you don't have the right building blocks to maintain a healthy body and immune system.

You are what your food ate is easy to think about with animal foods. For example, wild salmon is typically richer in omega-3 fatty acids than farm raised. Free range chickens that have a varied diet lay eggs that are more nutrients dense, higher in omega-3 and vitamin D and lower in cholesterol, than conventionally raised hens that receive no sunshine and only eat chicken chow.

While it is a bit more abstract, this same line of thinking is also applicable to our produce; plants get their nutrients from the soil. With the rise of industrialized agriculture, fertilizer became an industrial product for purchase. Farmers focus on the application of three main minerals; nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These are three important nutrients for plants, but only needing those three is too simple. It would be similar to saying that humans need only carbohydrates, protein and fats and forget about vitamins, minerals and water - we need all of those things. When we eat produce from fertile soil, we reap the benefits of healthy, nutrient dense products.

How do we increase soil fertility? By adding compost and rotating crops. Compost adds an enormous variety of nutrients back into the soil as well as microorganisms (think: probiotics for the soil). The jungle of little critters in the soil benefits the plant in two ways; by suppressing pathogens and by assisting with nutrient absorption from the soil.

Crop rotation - changing the plants grown in a specific area each season - is important too. Different classes of plants take various nutrients from the soil - if you keep growing the same plant in the same spot, it is going to deplete the soil of the nutrients that it uses each year.

While a recent study received media attention for their findings that organic produce is not more nutrient dense than conventional, many other studies do find a significant nutritional benefit of organiclly raised fruits and vegetables. Keep in mind that not all farmers grow their crops in the same way - so it makes sense that the results are varied. And as a whole, the body of research is still growing.

Vote with your wallet and your fork - by supporting organic agriculture, you’re valuing fertile soil and by proxy, nutrient dense fruits and vegetables. If you shop locally and try growing some of your own produce, you know exactly what you’re getting. You are what your food ate - make sure that your food ate good stuff too.

Reader poll: do you purchase organic produce? Why or why not?

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Squirreling for Winter: M.M.M. spaghetti sauce

How do you eat locally and seasonally in the winter? You store the produce when it is fresh! Making something that you don't need a canner for is a great place to start learning these skills. 

I love homemade marinara sauce - stuff in a jar just can't touch fresh with a ten foot pole. Unless you're carefully reading labels, store bought sauce is loaded with added sugars and salt and lacking in flavor.

I recently spent a Thursday night making sauce (and drinking a bit of sauce too, which made it even more fun!). There isn't an exact recipe, I just used a bunch of tomatoes and peppers from the farmers market. Some farmers will sell "seconds" - these are the fruits and vegetables that aren't as pretty, might have a nick or split in the skin or have a weird shape that makes them harder to slice or cube. This benefits the farmer because they get to sell produce that might not be purchased and it helps your wallet because the farmer is going to give you a bargain. Win!

I wasn't too precise with the ingredients because I didn't plan to can the sauce. If you can tomato products in a water bath canner, you have to ensure that there is sufficient acid to prevent bacterial growth. I wanted to be easy and just stuck the sauce in the freezer.

Nutritional note: don't skip the olive oil. Some of the nutrients in the vegetables, such as the lycopene in the tomatoes and tomato paste, are fat soluble. If there isn't any fat in the meal, we miss the nutritional boat!

M.M.M. Sauce
(aka Mushroom and Merlot Marinara)
Makes one huge pot of sauce

1/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions, diced
2-5 cloves of garlic, minced, per your love of garlic and fear of vampires
8 ounces of mushrooms, sliced
2-3 bell peppers, any color
10 pounds of tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup of merlot, or so (and some for you too!)
4 ounce can tomato paste
1 bay leaf
Basil, oregano, hot sauce, salt and pepper per your taste buds
  1. Bring a big pot of water to boil. Gently drop whole tomatoes into water and simmer for 30-90 seconds or until skin starts to split. Remove them from boiling water and plunge into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. Once cool enough to handle, the skins should slip right off. If not, redunk in boiling water and try again.
  2. In your biggest pot, saute onions and garlic until onions become translucent 
  3. Add bell peppers and mushrooms and saute for a few more minutes.
  4. Add diced tomatoes, merlot, tomato paste and seasonings. Go lightly with the seasonings here, because the flavors get concentrated as the sauce simmers. You can always add more later.
  5. Bring sauce to a boil and then drop temperature down to low and stir sauce occasionally.
  6. Put on a movie, pour yourself a glass of wine and remember to stir sauce once in a while. 
  7. By the time the sauce has simmered for a few hours, it should smell fantastic and have developed a rich red color. Taste it: does it need anything else? 
  8. Let the sauce cool. If you keep stirring, it will cool off faster. 
  9. Once cooled, ladle into plastic quart freezer zip-top bags (these are more heavy duty), plastic containers from take out or glass jars with a screw on lid. Either way, leave a bit of space for the sauce to expand as it freezes. Label with the M.M.M. sauce and date and pop into your freezer.
Ready to use the sauce? You could try my Mile-High Vegetable Lasagna in the slow cooker. Yummy!

See the skin peeling off? That's what you're looking for
Lots of onion and garlic...vampires beware!

Add tomatoes, wine and tomato paste
Ready to go!
Reader Poll: Have you put anything up for the winter (aka canned something, frozen surplus fruits or veggies or dried apples)?

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Food you never need to buy: Bread crumbs

Bread crumbs are really easy to make and save food being wasted - instead of those bread heels or stale bread going into the trash (or compost), they are reborn into something useful. Use your crumbs to make dinner in a flash: Kid-friendly breaded tilapia or as the binder in black bean and corn veggie burgers. The point is, we don't need to be spending money on a product that has too many strange ingredients and uses packaging when we can make it ourselves for free.

To make your bread crumbs, use a serrated knife (the one with teeth) to cut stale bread into cubes - the exact size doesn't matter. Toss cubes into a baking sheet and bake at 250 until completely dry. If you drop a cube onto the tray, it should clank. Once the cubes have cooled, process in your food processor until finely ground. Store in a tightly sealed container. 

Add caption

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Cinnamon Roll Dip - Shhhh! It's healthy!

I firmly believe that healthy food and delicious food are NOT mutually exclusive - fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans, prepared well, are wonderfully filling and satisfying. That's not to say that I don't have a sweet tooth though; we're all programmed to love sweet things!

In the US, we are paying a lot more attention to our food and nutrition, and that is great news because our obesity epidemic is out of control. We need to work on more fruits and vegetables and more fiber. Having fresh produce with a tasty dip means we usually eat more of the fruits and vegetables, but most dips aren't adding much to the nutrition equation - they're loaded with calories and have the less-healthy fats from butter and cream cheese.

Here is a delicious dip that has a cameo star to replace the usual butter and cream cheese in party dips...garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas)! The beans are packed with fiber and protein and are low calorie. Can you believe it? Give it a try and I think you'll be surprised at how smooth and velvety it is, and how well it pairs with sliced apples. I even spread it on a whole grain waffle to have a high fiber and protein packed breakfast.

Yes, the dip does have sugar in it, but much less than a traditional dessert. I am not a huge fan of artificial sweeteners, so I'd rather use the real thing, just less. The fat is heart healthy - almonds - and if you're choosing fruit to dip, they're really achieving the goal; a healthy dessert that tastes great.

Cinnamon Roll Dip
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1.5 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup water (more or less, depending on how thick you like your dip)
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk powder (optional)
  1. Drain and rinse chickpeas well and add to blender container of your food processor - unless you have a very powerful blender, you need to have a food processor for this recipe
  2. Add cinnamon, vanilla, almost butter, sweetened condensed milk and 2 tablespoons of water and buttermilk, if using. Blend for a full 2-3 minutes or until very very smooth. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until your desired consistency is reached; I used 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) total.
  3. Scoop into your serving bowl, garnish with cinnamon and a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk and serve with sliced fruit and pretzel sticks. 

Beans for breakfast? How about a butterfly!

Reader poll: What's your favorite dessert? I'll try to make it into a healthy dip flavor :)

Did you try the dip? I'd love your feedback and comments!

Thank you for visiting my blog. Have a happy, healthy day! 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cooking class: Take chances, Get Messy, Make Mistakes

Cooking in any capacity can be intimidating. You might not know the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon, how to know if a pear is ripe or how to safely hold a knife. Simple tasks such as chopping an onion, scrambling an egg or blending a smoothie may strike you with fear. But, what are you afraid of, really?

I have been cooking - recipes from books and my own creation - for as long as I could remember. When I was three I had a toy kitchen that my parents put it in a sunny spot in the yard. One afternoon I tried to cook noodles in the toy sink. I stirred the raw noodles in the sun-warmed water, but they were never ready to eat. Generally, my parents encouraged and fostered our creative pursuits, but even my mother was hard pressed to allow me to mix every condiment in the fridge when I asked her one afternoon.

There are many benefits to be had from developing even a basic cooking set of skills. Folks who cook and eat at home are likely spending less money and eating healthier meals. Kids who eat dinner with their parents regularly are at lower risk of obesity, more likely to do their homework, and are less likely to drop out from school. We remain in an economic downturn and many families have a tight budget. With the drought we've had this summer, food prices are going to shoot up. There is no time like the present to grab your spoon and jump in the kitchen.

"You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces -- just good food from fresh ingredients." -Julia Child

So, how do you learn how to cook? My mom did give me a fantastic foundation of practical skills - but more importantly, she fostered the confidence to try things that were new. The first time I baked chocolate chip cookies, I burnt every single one except for the last six. I was devastated, and thought that I’d never be able to bake. When my mom checked to make sure that the house wasn’t burning down, she encouraged me to try again. I very clearly remember the first cake that I made from scratch - I was puffed with pride down to my black converse shoes. If I hadn’t tried again, I would think, to this day, that I can’t bake.

Cooking, chopping vegetables, meal planning, baking - they're all skills that are developed over time with practice. You can't learn how to do something well, with confidence, until you practice. You didn't learn how to walk or crawl the first time, or the first several times, and cooking is no different. If you screw up, brush yourself off and try again!

As Miss Frizzle would say on The Magic School Bus,
“Take chances, Get Messy, Mistakes”.
Not all of your kitchen trials will be successful - but some will! The more you try, the more you learn, and the more confident you’ll become in your kitchen. Part of learning to cook is reading recipes from books and online, but that can only get you so far. Learning to cook is about the smell of banana bread when it is done, the sound of hot oil in the skillet and the change in color as onions sauté. You’ve got to try it to learn it!

We recently celebrated the would be 100th birthday of kitchen master Julia Child, and so I’ll end with some words of encouragement from her;
"Learn how to cook -- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun."

Reader Poll: Who taught you to cook? What is your most hilarious kitchen disaster?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Slow Cooker Savvy: Mile high vegetable lasagna

I love lasagna! It is delicious, filling and great to warm your belly on a cold winter night. If you're a sneaky vegetable ninja, you can load up your lasagna with gobs of vegetables. Pair that with whole grain noodles and reduced fat cheese, you've created a nutrition powerhouse. Did you know that you never have to boil the noodles? Follow your favorite recipe, don't cook the noodles, add 1/2 of extra water and cover the pan with foil. Once the noodles are soft, remove the foil for a few minutes in the oven to let the top brown. This saves a lot of time!

I used to baby-sit for my cousin and cook dinner for the family. Her four year old son and I would make several batches of lasagna at once - one pan for dinner, and several more for the freezer. Did you know that kids love to help in the kitchen? While he was standing on a kitchen chair and stirring the huge bowl of the cheesey-veggie filling, he suddenly looks up at me and excitedly asks, "Holly, do you know what we're making?". "Lasanga?" I reply, not sure if this was a trick questions. "Witches Brew!", he corrects.

Is that not the cutest thing?

I usually make lasagna in the oven, but wanted to try using the slow cooker. I gathered the usual vegetable suspects in my kitchen and reviewed several recipes for slow-cooker lasagana when I realized that they were also using much larger crocks; 4 to 6 quarts. Mine is a much smaller 3-quart slow cooker. Well, I like a challenge and so just gave it a try. The result? A very delicious, and very TALL lasagna! Perhaps not traditional, but dinner will be on the table none-the-less.

Mile-high vegetable lasagna
  • 15 ounces reduced-fat ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese)
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced-fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup thawed frozen spinach, water squeezed out
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli, frozen and thawed, or fresh
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto (or 1/4 minced fresh basil, or 1 tablespoon dried basil)
  • 24 ounces marinara sauce
  • 1 package whole wheat lasagna noodles, uncooked (not no-boil kind) - about 9 noodles
  1. In a large mixing bowl, add ricotta Parmesan and 1-cup of mozzarella cheese. Add eggs, pesto, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  2. Thaw spinach in microwave; use hands to squeeze our excess water. Add to cheese mixture. 
  3. Chop broccoli, if using fresh, or thaw if using frozen chopped. Add to cheese mixture, along with minced onion. 
  4. Pour half of marinara sauce in the bottom of the crock. Make an even, single layer of noodles on top of sauce, breaking as necessary. Spread 1/3 of cheese mixture on top of noodles.
  5. Layer the rest of the noodles and cheese mixture, pressing down on noodles after each noodle layer. You should have four layer of noodles and three layers of cheese, ending on the noodles. Tip: if you alternate the direction when layering the noodles, the lasagna will be easier to cut.
  6. Pour the remaining marinara sauce on top of the last noodle layer and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. 
  7. Cover and cook on low heat for 4 to 6 hours or until hot, bubbly and noodles are tender when poked with a knife. 
  8. Turn off heat, remove lid and let lasagna rest for 10-20 minutes - this will make it much easier to cut.
Note: if using a larger crock, make three layers of noodles and two layers of cheese for a not-so-tall lasagna. Cooking time should remain about the same. 
Note: if you don't have lasagna noodles, use macaroni or ziti noodles, uncooked, instead.  

I served the lasagna with this salad - yum!

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Scrumptious Soup: Pumpkin and pear

Sweet, spicy and delicious!
I love fall! It is my favorite season. Have I said that on every post lately? The drop in the humidity during the day and the crisp evening air make for great hiking and biking and make soup sound so good! Many cultures around the world eat soup daily, but here in the US, we tend to eat soup in cool weather.

Pureed soups are a great way to introduce a new fruit or vegetable to reluctant eaters of all ages - people can become wary of new flavors and new textures; a new fruit or vegetable may be both the the person. Since we all ate smooth baby food, we are usually comfortable with this texture. Pureeing also makes it harder for the eater to identify what is in the pot. Think your child, husband or roommate will balk at eating pumpkin? Call it something that they do like - Superbowl soup, Orange crayon soup, sunshine know your audience, sell, sell, sell!

For creamy and smooth soup, you need to use a blender or immersion blender. If you're going low tech, you could chop the fruits and veggies finely and then after cooking, mash with a potato masher for a chunky soup instead (just call it "rustic" and you can get away with a lot!). But, if you love soup as much as I do, an immersion blender is a great tool to have in your kitchen; big work horse without taking up a lot of cupboard space. And plus, you don't have to blend a big pot of soup in batches.

Pumpkin Pear Pureed Soup
Makes 4-6 bowls of soup
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cubed pumpkin, raw or roasted (or butternut squash, or 1 15-oz can pumpkin puree)
  • 2 medium pears, cored and cubed (no need to peel)
  • 2-4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Mrs Dash Extra Spicy Blend (or crushed red pepper)
  • 1 cup fat free plain Greek yogurt
  1. If you wish to roast your pumpkin or butternut squash first, please find directions here. This lends to a more developed flavor, but is optional.
  2. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, warm up your vegetable oil and add diced bell pepper, onion and garlic. Saute for 3-5 minutes or until tender. Add cubed pear and squash and add just enough broth to cover the vegetables. Cover pot and bring to a simmer.
  3. Simmer 3-20 minutes or until pears and squash are tender when poked with a fork; takes no time if using roasted or canned squash, takes a bit longer if using raw. Just keep checking :)
  4. Using your immersion blender, or a counter top blender in batches, puree soup until smooth. Or, mash a whole lot with a potato masher. Add more stock if you'd like the soup to be thinner.
  5. Taste seasonings; add salt, pepper and Mrs Dash to taste. Add 3/4 cup yogurt and stir until smooth. 
  6. To serve, pour into a bowl or soup mug and add a dollop from the reserved yogurt. Top with more Mrs. Dash, if you wish.
Note: you could also try tossing this soup in the slow cooker (onion through broth) and blend it when you get home from work or school - add the yogurt and seasonings at the end.

Reader Poll: What is your favorite kind of soup?
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Thursday, October 4, 2012

For The Mamas & the Papas: Blackberry infused vodka

Summer is wrapping up, but I have had one summer project in the works that I forgot about...and just rediscovered. Earlier in the summer, I went to Butler's Orchard and picked a bunch of fresh blackberries. I ate a bunch, used some to make Basil Blackberry Jam, a basil and blackberry salad with goat cheese and I also topped toast with the fruit to lower added sugars (I only use jam occasionally). I even froze some and later used those to make Berry Compote. Lots of blackberry deliciousness, but I forgot I had one last project up my sleeve...I had infused vodka with blackberries!

This project is so easy! You pour vodka into a larger jar, add your fresh berries and let infuse for at least a week (I had it in the cupboard for at bit longer). Strain out the fruit and add some sugar. That's it! The fresh, sun ripened flavor of the fruit is perfectly preserved in the liquor. Try is simply over ice, with a splash of seltzer or ginger ale or in any number of cocktails. I can't wait to try some different mixers!

Note: most of my produce scraps (except for citrus or onions) go into my worm bin composter. I refrained from adding the left over fruit from this project as I didn't know what the proper drinking age is for worms...didn't want to get the little guys drunk :)

If you want something fancy to infuse or serve your vodka in, or to make a big batch of punch in, this glass infuser was well reviewed on amazon and is eligible for prime shipping. When I have my own house, I'd love something like this :)

Blackberry infused vodka
1 small (750ml) of vodka (nothing fancy)
2-3 cups of fresh berries (frozen doesn't work well)
1/2 - 1 cup sugar
  1. Give berries a quick rinse. Place in your large container - any glass jar with a tight fitting lid works well. Pour in your vodka.
  2. Screw lid on tightly and place jar in a dark place and let infuse for 1 week or longer - depending on when you remember about your project :)
  3. Strain fruit from your vodka and add sugar to taste. I thought 1/2 cup was sufficient, but many other recipes online called for more. Up to you!
I used a huge jar that used to hold artichoke hearts - Reduce, reuse, recycle, right?
The soaked berries look pretty weird!
Add sugar to your taste buds!

Mmmmmmmmmmmm :)

Reader poll: What is your favorite cocktail? How would you use fruit infused vodka?

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Slow cooker savvy: which slow cooker do I need?

Steaming fresh pumpkin
Fall is here and it is time to bring out the slow cookers so that with all of the back-to-school hubub, you can have a warm dinner ready when you get homw. If you don't have one, here are some tips for figuring out which slow cooker is best for you, your cooking style and cooking abilities.

  • Size - Slow cokers come in a wide range of sizes; teeny for making dip (1.5 quart) to huge for feeding a crowd (7 quart) - Are you usually cooking for 1 or 2,  or a larger crowd? I am usually cooking for a smaller group, so my 4-quart slow cooker is perfect. Size also applies to your cupboard space. How much storage space do you really have?
  • Programming - some slow cookers simply turn on or off, others can be programmed to cook for a certain amount of time and then reduce to "warm" until you get home.
  • Stove to slow cooker - there are a few slow cookers that allow you to put the insert on the stove to brown meat and then directly to the slow cooker without washing another pan. If you love pot roasts, this may be a valuable feature. Are you vegetarian? Probably don't need it.  
  • Washable? Can the insert go in the dishwasher?
  • Chickpea Curry
  • How snugly does the lid fit on? This is only important if you intend to carry your slow cooker to potlucks and parties. There are also large slow cookers that come with a hindged lid; makes it easier to serve with one hand.
  • Shape of crock? If you're usually doing soups and stews, this doesn't matter. But, if you'd like to roast a whole chicken, an oval shape will probably work best. 
  • Does it come with a carrying case? Just like the lid consideration, this is only important if you intend to bring the crock with you to parties.
  • Do the handles stay cool? Some do, some don't, but this may or may not be important to you.
  • Peeping Tom? Some lids are see through and others aren't. If you like to keep tabs on your slow cooker as it works, you may be interested in a glass lid so that you're not letting out heat when you look at the cooking food.
This is the slow cooker I have: not too big (4 quart), nothing fancy. I don't usually take the slow cooker with me, so the features related to travel didn't apply for me. I don't eat red meat, so browing meat wasn't a factor for my cooking. If you're ready to take the plunge, this slow cooker is amazon prime eligible and well reviewed.

Reader Poll: What would you like to learn how to cook in a slow cooker?

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Splendid Salads: Roasted Squash and Apple Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette

This salad really is special. Inspired by an Ina Garten recipe (the Barefoot Contessa). It is the best of autumn flavors in a hearty and filling salad. The peppery bite of the arugula paired with the sweetness of the roasted squash and fruit, the warm vinaigrette and squash with the cool fruit and greens. I just love it and hope you'll try it too! The original recipe called for maple syrup and shallots, both of which are pretty pricey. I made the substitute of onions and brown sugar for similar flavor but a lower impact on the grocery bill. The original recipe called for butternut squash, but since I have pumpkin at home, that is what I used. Use what you have or what you love!

Tip for the winter squash: don't bother peeling; it is a pain in the rear unless you have an epically sharp peeler and a lot of patience. Simply slice or cube, roast and when fully cooked (and cool enough to handle) the skin will come right off.
Roasted Squash and Apple Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette
Serves 4
  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) winter squash (pumpkin, butternut squash, acorn squash), roasted
  • 1 tablespoon  brown sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 apples (or pears), diced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (or golden raisins)
  • 3/4 cup apple juice (or apple cider)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place the winter squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender.
  3. While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and onion in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard,  olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
  4. Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the chopped apples, raisins and the grated Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well. Serve immediately. 

    Pumpkin ready for the oven!
    Apple juice and onion reducing for excellent flavor; just waiting on olive oil and dijon mustard

    Almost ready and so delicious

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