Italian Chopped Salad

 

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Hello all-  Took this salad to dinner with a table full of friends on Valentines Day.  A big Italian feast.  Jill made us all wear large heart name tags (ala Julia Child) and Tim was ready with the go ’round questions after dinner–
What’s the most romantic things your spouse has ever done??
What about you, most annoys your husband/wife??
If your spouse were famous, what would he/she be known for??

It was a a delightful evening, 12 old friends, most of us married around 40 years, and I appreciated my Larry all the more by the time the evening was over.

And– we had this bright salad–full of a lot of my favorite tastes.  It’s hearty enough to be dinner on its own– or just part of a big festive dinner with friends!

ITALIAN CHOPPED SALAD

Salad:
6 cups chopped green leaf lettuce*
1/4 pound hard salami, thickly sliced & chopped
3 oz. feta with herbs, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup bell pepper, chopped
14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed
1/2 cup good mixed cured olives

Dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tab. white balsamic**
1 tsp. honey
3 tab. parmesan romano
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

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Spread the greens in a large salad bowl and top with the other salad ingredients.

In a container with a closed lid, shake together the dressing ingredients until they are thoroughly blended.  Pour over the salad just before you are ready to serve and do just a bit of tossing to coat all the salad.  (This amount makes 6 servings)  Enjoy!

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Mandarin Pomegranate Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

 

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Hi all–  A couple weeks ago we had friends in for a wintery night dinner.  There was honey crusted pork loin, wild rice and Brussel spouts– and this bright sweet salad to start us off.

The real hit of the evening was after dinner, when our friend Mark pulled out his little bag of tricks and did an amazing magic show!  How did the nine of hearts jump from that stack of cards to the other?? Or the coin go right through the table??  You had us totally mystified Mark.

MANDARIN POMEGRANATE SALAD WITH POPPY SEED DRESSING

Salad:
4 cups of your favorite greens*
3 mandarin oranges
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1 avocado, cut to neat chunks
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tab. orange vinegar**
2 tab. honey
1 tab. poppy seeds
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Peel and break the mandarin oranges into neat segments.  Then layer the greens, mandarin segements, pomegranate seeds, avocado and almonds onto a pretty platter.

In a container with a tight fitting lid, shake together the oil, vinegar, honey, poppy seeds. salt & pepper until they are thoroughly blended.  Pour over the salad when you are ready to serve it up.

*I used baby arugula– spinach, green leaf lettuce, bib lettuce are all great.
** Love love Trader Joe’s Orange Champagne Vinegar, but red wine vinegar or tarragon vinegar would be terrific too.

 

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Maple Chicken with Sweet Potatoes

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Hello all–  I’m up in San Francisco, spending some stormy days with the new grand-girl Lois, while her mom is off to work.  It’s been quiet and cozy in the house.  Today we baked a birthday cake (actually Lois mostly just looked on from her little chair!).  So this has nothing to do with maple chicken– just wanted you to know how much fun I’m having!!

The Maple Chicken with Sweet Potatoes came out of the kitchen last week– made it for a friend who is having shoulder surgery next week, after a bad fall.  Praying she comes through this all strong and back on the run.  Love her so.

The coating is sweet and peppery, makes the chicken bright and tasty– with those smoshey sweet potatoes, a good winter evening meal.

MAPLE CHICKEN WITH SWEET POTATOES

Sweet potatoes:
2 large-ish sweet potatoes
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tab. butter
2 tab. olive oil
2 to 3 tab. steak seasoning (such as Montreal)
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 green onions, sliced to small bits

Pierce the skin of the sweet potatoes and set them on a baking dish lined with foil (for easier clean up). Put them in a 350 degree oven fro 50 to 60 minutes, until the sweet potatoes feel tender when poked with a fork.

Let them cool for a bit, then peel off the skin.  Put the sweet potato flesh in to a mixing bowl along the the milk, salt and vanilla.  Beat it all with an electric mixer until it’s smooth and fluffy. (You can reheat these easily in the microwave when the chicken’s done).

Slice the chicken breasts horizontally to cut each of them into two thinner cutlets.  Coat the chicken with a sprinkling of the the steak seasoning.  Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet.  Cook the chicken cutlets 3 to 4 minutes on each side on medium high heat– unitl they are nicely browned and cooked through.

Take the chicken from the pan and add the maple syrup to the chicken drippings.  Let it all simmer on low for 2 minutes to thicken the sauce.  Return the chicken to the pan to coat the pieces in sauce.

On a platter heap the sweet potatoes next to the chicken cutlets.  Scrape the extra sauce from the pan onto the chicken and then sprinkle the green onion slices over the chicken.  Enjoy!

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Snowy Weekend

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Snowy trek up the mountain–I’d never seen such white sky!

Hey all– Are you looking out the window to see a wonderland of snow–bright & white & beautiful??  We’re snowless all winter here at our house, real snow amateurs.  But last weekend we trekked up the mountains to Big Bear through a snowy afternoon and it was magical.

We settled in to a snug cabin.
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We woke up to sunshine and crisp mountain air (Larry was the snow shoveler!)
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Some of the group took off to ski/snowboard.
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While Larry and I took a long morning walk in the sunshine.
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We loved every minute talking and playing games and eating and praying with this group of amazing people.  It’s wonderful to be together with them…
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Thankful for the beauty and the people and the quiet of this snowy weekend.
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And thanks Tyler for this sunset photo– it’s awesome! So glad and thankful for this group and for all we learn from you…

Swedish Lemon Hearts

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Hello Cookie Makers– Got this recipe from my friend Sue, who actually learned to make these from her Swedish grandmother.  We’ve both been making them since our kids were small– almost 40 years!  It’s a Christmas favorite.

They are thin and crisp and citrusy and sweet.  And so pretty, they belong on a Christmas table.

SWEDISH LEMON HEARTS
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup flour
1 lemon
maraschino cherries
sprinkling of sugar

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With a fine grater, grate the peel off of the lemon.  Then juice the rest and strain the seeds from the juice.

With an electric mixer beat the butter, sugar and lemon juice until it’s blended and smooth.  Then beat in the flour (it will be dry, may take a few minutes).    Chill the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes or more.

Roll out the dough thinly with a rolling pin an a floured counter.  Also sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough–it may be a little sticky.  Cut out your hearts and place them 1″ apart on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Sprinkle a sugar very lightly and cut up the cherries and put a small bit of cherry at the cleft of each cookie.

Bake them up at 350 degrees for 8 or 9 minutes, just until they start to brown at the edges.  Merry Christmas!

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Sugar Cookies

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Hello Baking Friends– In about a week, 3 grand-girls will coming swarming in the door and what will we do?? Decorate sugar cookies!!  It’s one of my favorite (and messiest) parts of Christmas– frosting and sprinkles from here to there…  Those girls know how to decorate with dash and verve!

On the other hand, Friday evening we had a little more sedate cookie decorating with some young moms from my MOPS group.  It was mulled wine and cheese & crackers, and long conversations as we frosted and sprinkled the evening away.   So much fun.

Whoever you make cookies with, this is a recipe you might enjoy, simple and it makes enough cookies to tide your through a week of Christmas (4 or 5 dozen)

SUGAR COOKIES

Cookies:
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 stick), room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  When that is blended mix in the flour, baking powder and salt. Chill the dough in the fridge about 30 minutes.

Then spread flour on your counter top and a little more flour on your lump of dough– and then flatten it to a thin layer with a rolling pin.  Cut out all your favorite cookie cutter shapes and bake in a 400 degree oven for just 6 or 7 minutes, until they are slightly brown around the edges.

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Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 pound box powdered sugar (about 3 3/4 cups)
1 tsp. vanilla
3 to 4 tab. milk or half & half
food coloring
all the sprinkles you can round up!

With an electric mixer beat together the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and 3 tablespoons milk, add the 4th tablespoon, if you want the frosting to be a bit thinner.

Divide the frosting into smaller bowls and add food coloring for the colors you want to use (I did yellow, green, red and white).  Mix them well with a fork to blend in the coloring.  Frost and sprinkle your cookies!

Let the cookies sit out for a few hours before you stack them in a container– I do them ahead and layer them in large containers, between layers of waxed paper and put them in the freezer.

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Here’s my cookie decorating crews– Charlotte & Maryann, so enthusiastic!!  And 5 dear MOPS moms on our relaxing night together.
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P.S. If you live in So. California, the Decor Store in the corner of Beach Blvd. & La Habra Blvd. in La Habra is “Sprinkle Central!”  every sprinkle and colored sugar you could wish for– plus those cute little eyes!

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Yeasty Waffles with Cranberry Topping

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Good morning!  Last Saturday Jenni and I made brunch for a whole flock of friends to start off our Christmas season together.  And it started with these yeasty waffles and a whole line up of toppings– cranberry sauce, apple & currant sauce, maple syrup, pecans, yogurt, whipped cream, orange marmalade, almonds…   All together with cups of coffee and lots of noisy talk–a sweet way to launch into Christmas.

YEASTY WAFFLES WITH CRANBERRY TOPPING

Waffles:
3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup buttermilk
2 tab. sugar
2 packets yeast (about 4 tsp.)
1 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. baking powder

Six to Eight hours before you want to sit down to waffles, make the batter!  (the night before for morning waffles).

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the oil, milk, buttermilk, sugar and yeast, until the yeast is totally dissolved.  Then stir in the salt and flour.  That’s all, the rest comes later!  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it in a warmish place to sit for 6 to 8 hours.

When you are ready to make the waffles, stir in the 2 eggs and the baking powder.  Use your waffle iron according to the directions.  The batter is thin.  Makes 5 or 6 full sized waffles.

Cranberry Sauce:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tab. cornstarch
1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/3 cup water

In a sauce pan, stir together the sugar and cornstarch until there are no cornstarch lumps.  Than add in the cranberries and water and stir over medium heat until the cranberries start to pop (!) and the sauce thickens.  Takes about 3 or 4 minutes after it starts to simmer.  Serve it warm with the waffles.

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