Strawberry Pear Salad

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This is my family’s very favorite salad of late. Not only is it delicious and beautiful, it’s really easy too.
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It’s kind of a riff on the Mandarin Spinach salad I shared with you a little while back, as it uses the same dressing.

To make the dressing, you just shake the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. I’ve discovered that my family isn’t a huge fan of vinegar, so I usually cut back on that a bit, using one tablespoon instead of two.

Once you’ve made the dressing , you just toss it with torn Romaine lettuce, sprinkle in sliced strawberries, sliced pears, and top it with sugared almonds. These particular almonds are from an Aldi special buy at the holidays (my goodness, they were SO good!) but if you’d like to make your own nutty salad topping, just follow the directions on the Mandarin Spinach salad recipe. Or you could make these spiced nuts.

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If you don’t have any perfectly ripened pears at your house, you can use canned, drained pears (which is what I usually do!).

You’ll need to use fresh strawberries, though…if you use frozen, thawed berries, they’ll be way too mushy to be enjoyable. But hey, strawberry season will soon be upon us, so you can make this to your heart’s content with fresh, local berries.

I think this salad is WAY better if you toss the lettuce with the dressing rather than drizzling it over each serving. But be careful not to dress more salad than you’ll eat in one sitting, because dressed salad will wilt over time and become significantly less appealing.

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Strawberry Pear Salad

2 heads of Romaine lettuce, washed, spun, and torn
2 fresh pears or 1 15 oz. can of pears, cut into slices or chunks
1/2 pound fresh strawberries, sliced
sugared almonds or spiced nuts

Toss lettuce with dressing to taste (see below). Toss in pears and strawberries, and sprinkle nuts over top of the salad.

Dressing

1/4 cup oil (olive, canola, etc)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
1 teaspoon dry parsley
2 tablespoons sugar
dash of Tabasco

Combine ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake until combined. Store leftover dressing in the refrigerator.

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Joshua’s 365 post: Whatsoever is Lovely

Easy, Ridiculously Good Roasted Carrots

Crazy delicious and easy roasted carrots

I’ll give you once chance to guess where I got this recipe.

I know. That wasn’t even a challenge, was it?

Cook’s Illustrated, of course, is the source. (duh.)

I’ve been trying to add some variety to our vegetable dishes, since the whole steam-and-then-add-butter-salt-and-pepper thing gets awfully boring after a while. And raw veggies are lovely and all, but in the winter, I do tend to like my veggies hot at least some of the time.

So, I logged onto Cook’s Illustrated, browsed the vegetable section, and printed off a bunch of recipes.

This happened to be the first one I tried.

And it was, as I like to say, marvy-fab.

Steamed or boiled carrots are ok, but now I know that they just cannot hold a candle to roasted carrots. Roasting makes them so sweet, you’d swear you sprinkled on some sugar along with the salt and pepper. I could not stop eating them.

And after dinner, I made another half batch because both Sonia and I wanted more.

(Seriously, when is the last time you felt like making another batch of veggies after dinner?? That’s how good these are.)

To make ’em, first heat your oven up to 425° F. (Yup. Won’t be making these in the summertime!)

Then peel your carrots (or don’t, especially if they’re organic). Cut them in half width-wise, and then lengthwise as necessary to make them into even pieces.

How much cutting is involved will depend on the thickness of your carrots. Just make sure they’re fairly uniform so that they cook evenly.

Toss the carrots in a bowl with butter, salt, and pepper. If you can’t eat butter, I’m sure you could use another fat, like coconut or olive oil.

Next, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper* and arrange carrots on the pan in an even layer. Cover the whole pan tightly with aluminum foil.

*I do intend to see if this can be made without the parchment, since I much prefer to avoid disposable products whenever possible.

Bake for 15 minutes, and then remove the foil. The carrots should be nice and steamed, and now they’re ready for browning.

Put the carrots back into the oven and roast for another 30-35 minutes, stirring twice, until they’re nicely browned. Your roasting time could vary depending on how thinly you sliced your carrots, so keep an eye on them.

They should look something like this when they’re done.

Plate ’em up, and enjoy.

By the way, I really, really love having a membership to Cook’s Illustrated’s website (and no, they don’t pay me to say that. I happily hand over my subscription fee every year because the recipes and reviews are so stinking helpful.) I highly recommend subscribing, and hey, maybe someone who loves you muchly will give you a subscription for Christmas.

One can always hope. ;)

Ridiculously Good Roasted Carrots

1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled, halved crosswise, and cut lengthwise if necessary to create even pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Table salt and ground black pepper

Heat oven to 425° F. In a bowl, toss together carrots, butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange carrots in an even layer on top of parchment, then tightly cover the whole pan with aluminum foil.

Bake for 15 minutes. Take pan out of oven, remove foil, and return pan to oven for another 30-35 minutes, or until the carrots are lightly browned. Stir twice during cooking time.

Season with more salt and pepper if desired, and then serve.
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P.S. Lisey and I made a less lemony version of lemon bars, and the recipe’s up on Baking With Lisey. Go see!

Sauteed Green Beans with Garlic and Herbs

We’ve been eating green beans around here for a long time…the steamed sort, topped with butter, salt, and freshly-ground black pepper.

They’re good, but nothing extraordinary. Just a standard veggie side-dish.

I’ve been looking for ways to spice up my vegetable preparation, though, so I flipped through my Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook and happened across this recipe.

You guys, these beans are really good! They’re crisp-tender, bright green, and they’ve got a great garlic butter flavor.

I normally eat beans at least partially out of a sense of duty, but I might be tempted to eat these even if I thought they were bad for me.

Plus, the process is quick and easy, and only one pan is dirtied. What’s not to love??

The process actually moves so quickly, I didn’t manage to snap step by step pictures. I’m sure you’ll be fine, though.

First up, you’ll need to make a little bowl of flavored butter by combining butter, garlic, and thyme. I usually just use garlic, but do whatever floats your boat.

Second, you’ll need to heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a 12-inch frying pan. If this pan has a lid, you get bonus points, because you’ll need it later.

I got an All Clad stainless steel panfor Christmas a few years ago, and it came with a lid.

Twenty bonus points for me.

Ok, once the oil is heated, add a pound of trimmed, halved green beans, along with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper and cook them for 4-8 minutes, or until they’re looking a bit browned and spotty.

It feels really weird at first to add beans to a dry pan, but it works. Just trust Cook’s Illustrated, mmkay?

Next, add 1/4 cup of water, put a lid* on the pan, and cook the beans for two minutes. Remove the lid, and let the rest of the water evaporate (that should only take 30 seconds or so.)

*If you don’t have a lid for your pan, you can use a cookie sheet or something similar for a makeshift lid.

Stir the garlic butter into the beans, and cook for about one or two minutes more, until the butter mixture is melted and the beans are coated. Sprinkle with lemon juice (I just squeeze a lemon half over the beans) and toss to coat.

Serve right away because green beans tend to lose their heat pretty promptly, and I think these are much better when they’re piping hot.

Actually, I think that about most foods, which is why Mr. FG is always a little bit scared to come to the table right when I call him. He’s burned his mouth on my hot food a few too many times.

(I think my mouth has a higher temperature tolerance than his because I can eat piping hot food without burning myself.)

Where was I?

Oh, right. The delicious beans.

Make a pan of these soon, because they just might turn green beans into a treat you look forward to.

And honestly, if you haven’t bought a Cook’s Illustrated cookbook or subscribed to their website, what are you waiting for? Cook’s Illustrated is awesome sauce,* and their recipes will make you a better cook. It’ll be money well-spent!

*Cook’s Illustrated does not pay me to say that.

Sauteed Green Beans with Garlic Herb Butter

1 tablespoon butter, softened
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound green beans , stem ends snapped off, beans cut into 2-inch pieces
Salt and ground black pepper
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)

In a small bowl, combine butter, garlic, and thyme; set aside.

In a 12 inch skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat until it’s just smoking. Add beans plus 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper; cook and stir for 4-8 minutes, or until beans are spotty brown.

Add 1/4 cup water; cover and cook for 2 minutes. Remove lid and cook until all the water has evaporated.

Stir in herb butter and cook beans for 1-3 minutes longer, or until beans are crisp-tender. Toss with lemon juice and parsley if desired; serve immediately.

Print This Recipe!

P.S. I’ll be back this afternoon with a short post because I have a couple of things I want to share with you.

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Today’s 365 post: Sometimes it doesn’t stink to have to come along on a photo shoot.

Joshua’s 365 post: Something I’ve Always Wanted

Mandarin Spinach Salad with Sugared Almonds

I got this easy recipe from a church friend, and I think it’s delicious, so of course I want to share it with you.

You should so throw together a bowl of it.

Like most salads, it’s quite customizable. You can use whatever greens you have a hankering for, you can use strawberries or some other fruit instead of the oranges, you could toast pecans instead of almonds…………….

You get the idea.

To make the dressing, simply combine all the ingredients in a jar.

And then shake them all together.

It would be good to choose a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

I changed the toasted almonds a bit from the original (which called for cooking almonds and sugar together until the sugar melted), only because I couldn’t seem to keep from burning them with that method.

Also, it took forever, that method did.

There’s nothing like standing over a pan for 15 minutes only to end up with burnt almonds.

So, I melt a tablespoon of butter in a skillet, add a cup of sliced almonds, toast them until they’re lightly browned, and then add a tablespoon of sugar.

Let the almonds cool on a plate because if you leave them in the pan, they may get a little too toasted from the residual pan heat.

In a salad bowl, combine the lettuce or spinach, mandarin oranges, and cranberries. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Sprinkle the almonds over the top, and you’re done.

If you don’t think you’ll eat all the salad in one sitting, you might want to pass the dressing at the table, because pre-dressed greens don’t keep very nicely at all.

If you’re like me and could eat about 5 bowls of this in a row, ignore that and dump all the dressing on.

Leftovers? What leftovers??

Mandarin Spinach Salad with Sugared Almonds

printable version

1 head of green leaf lettuce
1 head of red leaf lettuce
(or use any other greens you like, such as spinach)
1 large can of mandarin oranges, drained
1 red onion, thinly sliced (I don’t usually add this)
1 bag of dried cranberries
Sugared Almonds (see below)
Dressing (see below)

Combine lettuce, oranges, onion, and cranberries in a large bowl. Toss with dressing and sprinkle with almonds. Serve immediately.

Sugared Almonds
1 cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon butter
1-2 tablespoons sugar, depending on how sweet you like your nuts)

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add almonds, and toast, stirring frequently, until almonds are light brown, about 5 minutes. Toss with sugar, and spread almonds on a plate to cool.

Dressing

1/4 cup oil (olive, canola, etc)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
1 teaspoon dry parsley
2 tablespoons sugar
dash of Tabasco

Combine ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake until combined.
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Today’s 365 post: Holding Sunshine

Joshua’s 365 post: Kablooie!

Indulgent Scalloped Potatoes

We don’t eat tons of potatoes here at Chez FG (no particular reason, really!), but when we do, one of our favorite dishes is scalloped potatoes.

Of course, I use a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, because Cook’s is awesome.

Mmm-hmmm.

This version of Scalloped Potatoes is not remotely low-fat (however, it is delicious!).

In fact, it calls for 3 cups of cream plus a cup of whole milk. However, I have varied the proportions of milk to cream (2 cups cream, 2 cups milk) when necessary, and the potatoes have still been quite good. I would not, however, advise you to replace all of the cream with milk. If you want to use milk instead of cream, you’ll need a difference sort of recipe, one that has some method of thickening the sauce.

If you’re like us and only eat these a few times a year, though, I say use the 3 cups of cream. Live a little!

A handy thing about this recipe is that it actually doesn’t take two hours to bake. Basically, you slice the potatoes very thinly (a food processor is really, really helpful), cook them in the sauce on the stovetop for 15 minutes, and then put them into the oven for about 20 minutes. Because the potatoes are so thinly sliced, they really do bake through that quickly.

If you don’t own a food processor, this recipe will be much more difficult to manage, just because it’s hard to slice potatoes evenly, and because slicing this many potatoes takes a while!

Alrighty. Here’s how to make these.

First, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy-duty pot, and add the chopped onions. Cook them until they’re softened and brown, then add the garlic and cook for about half a minute.

Then stir in the cream, milk, thyme, bay leaves, salt, and pepper.

I never happen to have fresh thyme around, so I just use about 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme.

Next, add the potatoes.

See how thinly sliced they are? 1/8 of an inch.

Cover the pot and bring the potato mixture to a gentle simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, or until a paring knife slips in and out of a potato fairly easily. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Transfer potatoes to a 9×13 inch pan.

I got a little carried away with the stirring this time around, so my potatoes got a bit broken up. They tasted just fine in the end, though!

Sprinkle potatoes with shredded cheese, then bake for 20 minutes. Let the potatoes cool down just a bit before serving.

If you want to make the potatoes ahead of time, cool and refrigerate them after you transfer the potatoes to the 9×13 inch dish, and then bake them when you’re ready to serve. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to allow about twice the amount of baking time since the potatoes will be starting out cold.

Scalloped Potatoes
Printable Scalloped Potatoes Recipe

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion , minced
2 medium cloves garlic , minced (about 2 teaspoons)
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 pounds russet potatoes , peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)

Heat oven to 350° F. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened. Add garlic and saute for half a minute. Stir in cream, milk, thyme, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Stir in potatoes.

Cover and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, or until a knife slips in and out of the potatoes fairly easily. Remove bay leaves and discard. Transfer potatoes to a 9×13 inch baking dish, and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly and thickened. Cool for a few minutes before serving.

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Today’s 365 post: Gettin’ rid of stuff!

Joshua’s 365 post: Wizardry and Something for Ms. Samantha

Easy Frugal Cooking | Mandarin Chicken Salad

I know…it’s Wednesday. But I’ve been busy sanding, painting, and priming, which means there’s not been a lot of time for baking. I do have a super delicious recipe for Cinnamon Crisps that I desperately want to share with you (well, mostly I want an excuse to make them again because they were so delectable), but that will have to wait until next week.

So, for now I’m going to share a recipe for a simple, light main dish salad that we enjoy in the summertime. It’s similar to the chicken salad served at Wendy’s, and I found the recipe online a number of years ago (I’d give credit but I did a search this morning and came up with nothing).

It’s not that hard to come up with the salad part of this…lettuce, grilled chicken, mandarin oranges, and chow mein noodles aren’t rocket science. But until I found this recipe, I couldn’t figure out how to make a yummy Asian dressing to pour on top of the salad.

I considered trying to figure it out myself, but I’m glad I didn’t go that route, because I’d never have thought to combine this many different ingredients.

The dressing is really easy to make if you own a blender (though I suppose you could do this by hand as well.). Basically, you just combine everything except the oil in a blender.

Then with the blender running, you slowly add the oil, which turns the mixture into a slightly thickened, honey-colored dressing.

Yum.

The dressing keeps in the refrigerator for a remarkably long time, which is good because I find that the dressing recipe makes way more than we need for one meal’s worth of salads. So, I just keep in in a jar in the fridge and use it instead of bottled salad dressing, or I sometimes halve the dressing recipe.

Since this makes a fairly light meal, I like to serve it with a good bread, like Pull-Apart Garlic Bread or Glazed Honey Pan Rolls. Really, though, any number of breads from the Yeast Bread category would be tasty alongside (ok, maybe not the overnight cinnamon rolls!).

Mandarin Chicken Salad-serves 4
Printable Mandarin Chicken Salad Recipe

Dressing
1/2 cup corn syrup (you could try subbing honey if corn syrup freaks you out. This isn’t high fructose corn syrup, though, and only a small amount makes it onto the salad anyways)
3 tbsp. white distilled vinegar
2 tbsp. pineapple juice
4 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/4 tsp. ground mustard
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. paprika
dash garlic powder
dash ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. sesame seeds (I don’t usually add these)

Salad
4 chicken breast fillets
1 large head iceberg lettuce, chopped
4 cups red leaf lettuce, chopped (I just use green leaf lettuce)
1 1/3 cups canned mandarin orange wedges
1 cup rice noodles
1 cup roasted sliced almonds (I forgot to add these to the pictured salad!)

Prepare dressing by combining all dressing ingredients except vegetable oil and sesame seeds in a blender on high speed. Slowly add oil to mixture (to create an emulsion). Add sesame seeds and blend for 2-3 seconds. Pour dressing into a covered container (I like to use a small Mason jar) and refrigerate.

Rub each chicken breast fillet with oil, then lightly salt and pepper each piece. Grill on medium/high heat until done. Chill chicken breasts in refrigerator until cold.

In 4 large salad bowls, layer lettuce, chicken, orange wedges, rice noodles, and almonds. Serve with prepared dressing.

Today’s 365 post: Sneak Peek