Tuesday, November 26, 2013

8 Awesome Thanksgiving Side Dishes!




For the complete recipes and step by step instructions (with photos) just click on the name of the dish, below!


1. Lyonnaise Potatoes

2. Brusseld  Sprouts with Balsamic and Pancetta

3. Oven Roasted Herbed Potatoes

4. Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus (cold and hot versions)

5. Roasted Root Vegetables

6. Creamy Steakhouse Spinach

7.  Mashed Potatoes and Parsnips

8. Broccoli with Orange Vanilla Butter






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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Autumn Harvest Salad with Chicken and Sweet Cider Vinaigrette



This salad would be a perfect way to add something light and fresh to the Thanksgiving table, to add some of that leftover turkey to the next day, or for any other time that you're craving a crispy, crunchy, sweet and savory salad. You can get all of the ingredients year round in most local stores - including the apple cider for the vinaigrette. Even if your store doesn't have apple cider, most organic sections will have organic unfiltered apple juice,which is similar in texture and flavor.

These Red Bartlet Pears were the inspiration for this salad.

For the salad you'll need:
  • Fresh washed and dried mixed baby greens
  • Cubed or shredded cooked Chicken Breast (or Turkey or Pork)
  • Crumbled Plain Goat Cheese
  • Red Bartlet Pears, cut into cubes
  • Red Onion, sliced very thinly
  • Spiced Pecans (recipe HERE)
  • Sweet Cider Vinaigrette (recipe HERE)


The addition of chicken (or turkey, or pork) makes this salad a satisfying and delicious meal in itself.


I always roast off a couple of extra chicken breasts when I'm preparing them for a casserole or just as the primary protein in a meal. I love having plenty left over to create other dishes like chicken salad or to add to green salads like this one.

1. Slice the pears in half, lengthwise.

2. Scoop out the core and any seeds.

3. Using a small melon baller or measuring spoon makes short work of removing the core and seeds.

4. If you need to prep the pears ahead of time, a little lemon juice will help to prevent browning.

5. Slice/chop the pears into bite-sized pieces.


The recipe for the Spiced Pecans can be found by clicking HERE and the recipe for the Sweet Cider Vinaigrette can be found by clicking HERE


The salad can be made up to 2 hours ahead without adding the pecans or the dressing. Just cover it tightly with plastic wrap and keep it in the refrigerator. You could also prep all of the ingredients individually and store them in airtight containers until ready to assemble and serve. I would not refrigerate the spiced pecans and you should also take the salad dressing out of the fridge about 20 to 25 minutes before serving, in order to bring it to room temperature.


If you're pretty sure that the entire salad is going to be eaten in one meal, you can dress and toss it before serving. If not, you might want to allow everyone to dress their own on their plate.


The flavors in this salad are a great balance of salty, sweet, tangy, creamy, crunchy and fresh. I can honestly say that it's my favorite salad combination, so far.





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Let's Bloom Linky Party hosted by the lovely Jenny over at Bloom Designs

Sweet Cider Vinaigrette



I made this dressing to go with my Autumn Harvest Salad, but you could certainly use it for any salad where a sweet vinaigrette would go well with or enhance the other ingredients. It would also make a really nice marinade for pork or chicken. Just be sure not to leave the meat in the marinade for more than a couple of hours. Any marinade that contains highly acidic ingredients like citrus juices or vinegar, will break down the fibers in meat as it sits, which (of course) is a good thing because it will help to tenderize meat. But... when it's left there too long, it can easily turn into one of those situations where you really can have too much of a good thing.

It's a very simple dressing to make and even though I used a food processor on this particular day, you can certainly mix it well with a whisk or shake it vigorously in a clean jelly jar or in one of those blender bottles. (large plastic salad dressing and drink shakers that have the little round "whisk ball" in them) Which, by the way, I highly recommend having in your kitchen arsenal for a number of applications.


Sweet Cider Vinaigrette
  • 1 Lg Shallot, chopped
  • 1/8 Cup Vinegar (I used White Balsamic)
  • 1/2 Cup Apple Cider
  • 1/2 Cup Light Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbls Honey
  • 1 Tsp Kosher Salt
This is a very light dressing, in terms of consistency. When taking a little "test taste" for me, my hubby initially thought that it might need a wee bit more oil added. (I disagreed. lol) However, when he actually put it on his salad and it co-mingled/combined with the goat cheese and other ingredients, he changed his mind. It's definitely one of those times where the individual components in a dish can be absolutely delicious on their own, but can be raised to a whole new level of flavorliciousness when it's combined with other ingredients.


The directions are pretty simple... Just combine all of your ingredients in the processor or blender and blend for about a minute.

Note: If you do decide to mix this up with a whisk or a blender bottle, make sure to mince the shallots very finely before combining them with the rest of the ingredients. I don't know about you, but I really don't enjoy biting into big chunks of raw shallots (or onions or garlic, etc.) in my salad dressing.


Also, when/if you are mixing this by hand, you'll need to drizzle the oil in slowly as you whisk vigorously, but using the processor (or a blender) allows you to add it all in at one time with the other ingredients.


There's a reason that I use honey (as opposed to sugar) in some of my salad dressings. (see below)


The dressing looks creamy here (and in a loose or maybe light way, it is) and that's due to the use of the food processor and the addition of the honey. A processor or blender will emulsify the oil and the other ingredients much more thoroughly than using a whisk or other utensil to mix it by hand. The honey also works very much the same way a Dijon mustard or an egg yolk would, as an additional emulsifier in a vinaigrette. (If you whip partially crystallized honey, it becomes quite a bit lighter in color and texture - it's how they make creamed or whipped honey) Either way, the dressing will still have enough body to cling sufficiently to the lettuce and other vegetables in the salad.

Serve with my Autumn Harvest Salad (HERE) or with any green salad. It also makes an excellent marinade for chicken or pork and a delicious dressing for a Fall themed fruit salad.



You can find the recipe for the spiced pecans HERE.








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Monday, November 18, 2013

Easy Cinnamon Spiced Pecans



Just a few short years ago, if I ordered a salad at a restaurant and it arrived at the table topped with any kind of nut sprinkled on top, I would immediately pick them out with my fork (or, let's be honest here - my fingers) and pass them over to Hubbers with a grimace and a shudder. Most of the time, unless the other ingredients in the salad were just too hard to pass up, I'd likely avoid ordering it altogether. For most of my life, the only nuts that I've really ever considered palatable, were peanuts and cashews - and that was only if they were plain and straight from the bag or can... definitely NOT mixed into or plastered onto the top of something; especially sweet treats like cake - or cookies - or God forbid... brownies! Eeeeeek!

All of that changed when I received the "wrong" salad at a local restaurant a few years ago. I'd ordered the "blue cheese wedge" salad, but what the waiter brought out to the table and placed in front of me, bore absolutely no resemblance to that classic steakhouse staple.  It did have blue cheese sprinkled on it, but instead of bacon, scallions and a nice thick, creamy blue cheese dressing, there were chopped apples, dried cranberries, a vinaigrette of some sort and much to my shock and horror, (insert "DAT, DAT, DUHHHHN" here)... spiced pecans! Now, the hubby was more than happy to take them off my hands, but encouraged (read: pestered) me to at least try one before he did. So, I thought about it for a minute and I figured that it certainly wasn't going to kill me. You never know, right? It wouldn't have been the first time that I'd tried something that I thought I wouldn't like and instead, ended up thoroughly enjoying it.

The conclusion?? Well.... let's just say that I've been a huge fan ever since. :~) So much so, that I find myself mixing up a batch of these little sweet and salty gems on a somewhat regular basis. You see, there's something about roasting or toasting most kinds of nuts, that changes the texture and gives them a sort of melt in your mouth quality. (of course, the sugar and spices don't hurt, either) I'll often toss them into a simple green salad, but I also put them in my Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, tuck lovely little jars of them into holiday gift baskets or just keep them around for snacking. (not that they last very long in this house, though)


Cinnamon Spiced Pecans
(makes about 2 Cups)
  • 1/2 of a large bag of Pecan Halves
  • 2 Tbls Coconut Oil (or other light oil)
  • 1 Tbls (heaping) Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Ground Allspice
  • 1 Tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 Tsp Kosher or Sea Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Cayenne Pepper (optional)


Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the oil in a medium sized mixing bowl. (for this batch, I was in a bit of a hurry and I left the coconut oil in it's "right out of the jar" semi-solid state, but if you choose to use it as your base, you might want to take a minute to melt it slightly in the microwave. It will help coat the nuts more easily)


Add your brown sugar, spices and salt and combine thoroughly with a whisk, spoon, or mix them together with your meticulously clean fingers. You should have a fairly smooth paste-like consistency.





Add the pecan halves and mix them with the sugar, oil and spices until you have them all coated well.



My mixture was a tad lumpy due to the cold coconut oil, but it still worked out fine. I just used my fingers to pack or press it onto some of the pecans to make it stick better.


If your oil is more liquid, a spoon will do the job.



Spread the coated pecans out in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet or pan and toast them in your pre-heated 350 degree (Fahrenheit) oven for 3 to 6 minutes. There's no need to take them out and turn them, but you can do it if you don't feel like they are toasting evenly.


A batch of this size usually takes a total of about 5 minutes, but since ovens can differ in temperature, you might need to take them out sooner or leave them in a little longer. Just be sure to remove them as soon as they've turned a a slightly darker golden brown and you can see the spice mixture sizzling or bubbling a wee bit.


Remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool thoroughly. (at least 10 minutes) The sugar and spices form a yummy crispy coating as they cool.


You can use them in a light dinner salad (like this Autumn Harvest Salad with Chicken and Sweet Cider Vinaigrette) or for sandwiches in the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad that I mentioned previously. If you aren't in the mood for either of those, you can just put them in an air-tight container and keep them in a cool dry place as a super yummy (and slightly addictive) sweet and salty snack. You might want to make a double (or triple) batch, if you happen to have pecan lovers in your house. ;~)

Enjoy!

Mary


Autumn Harvest Salad with Chicken Recipe HERE

Sweet Cider Vinaigrette Recipe HERE






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