Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cranberry Apple Walnut Salad {with Balsamic Apple Vinaigrette}

Thanksgiving is ONE week from today!!!

And let's be honest...

Where food is concerned, the traditional stars of that day include one, some, or all of the following:

1. Turkey... or Ham... to each their own
2. Pies... lots and lots of pies
3. Mashed Potatoes with Gravy
4. Stuffing
5. Marshmallow-Topped Brown Sugar Sweet Potatoes
6. Green Bean Casserole
7. Dinner Rolls

Each of those things are completely and utterly delicious. (Also, I happen to have the best roll recipe for you to try if you don't already have one pegged down. It's super easy. You're gonna love it!)

True to form, these dishes also make for a monster heavy meal.

Don't get me wrong. I'll be the first to admit that I love everything about this feast and look forward to it each year. Though I try to be conscious of serving my family healthy food much of the time, I definitely love ALL of the dishes mentioned above... marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes included... and I don't hesitate to dig in on Thanksgiving Day with my family.


(Yes, there's a "but," here.)

To lend some balance, the Thanksgiving table really must have at least ONE dish to counter all that heaviness, thickness, and richness, or the dishes honestly just doesn't taste as good as they could. Everything starts tasting brown after a while.

That's where the salad comes in.

This cranberry apple walnut salad is the perfect dish for the job... a veritable kick in the palate after so much "brown."

I mean, come on... just LOOK at it:

If you need something to cut through the richness of Thanksgiving day, without compromising the fall harvest theme, you really can't go wrong with this dish.

Tender leafy greens, combined with crisp apples, and tart cranberries balanced by walnuts and powerful cheese are a killer combo. Add to that the zing of a lightly sweet and tangy vinaigrette, and you've got yourself the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving feast. 

Your tummy will thank you. 

Cranberry Apple Walnut Salad
{with Balsamic Apple Vinaigrette}
Printable Version

*Serves 6-8

(Notes: You can use any variety of spring mix greens that you like. I generally use gala apples, and while it's completely unnecessary to the dish, I like to candy my walnuts. I do this by heating a couple Tbsp. of sugar in a pan on low heat till the sugar just barely starts to melt, then I add the walnuts to the pan and coat them. If you do this, be sure to let them cool before you add them to the salad. I use gorgonzola cheese, but it's a very potent cheese... feta might be easier for more people to accept.)

1 5 oz. package Spring Mix greens
2 apples, cored and sliced
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup gorgonzola cheese

1/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice

In a blender, add the apple juice, balsamic vinegar, canola oil, salt, sugar, and lemon juice. Blend on a high setting, stopping to scrape the sides with a spoon if needed, until sugar and salt are dissolved, and the vinaigrette is smooth. Pour into desired serving container, and refrigerate while you make the salad.
In a large serving bowl combine the greens, apples slices, walnuts, dried cranberries, and gorgonzola cheese. Gently toss.
Serve immediately with the balsamic apple vinaigrette. Vinaigrette may be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Harvest Pumpkin Bars

Hello, friends!

As most of you know, the Thanksgiving holiday is just around the corner.

Nearly everyone I know adores this holiday... but there are some turkey-cranberry-stuffing-mashed-potatoes-and-gravy lovers who wrestle with a deep, dark secret...

I'm in the loop where this Thanksgiving Day scandal is concerned... but only because one of those people happens to be my 7-year old daughter.

Here's the hard truth...

(Whispers) Some people... do NOT like pie.

They just don't.

Not even a tiny bit!

Not pumpkin, or apple, or berry, or pecan... or if they have a more serious problem (like my daughter) they don't even like banana cream.

I can't pretend to understand it.

Thanksgiving Day dessert it an utter let-down to these poor souls.

Thankfully, I have a killer pumpkin dessert recipe on hand straight from my mom's kitchen, that is in keeping with the season, and will knock their socks off.

These pumpkin bars are easy to make, smell, and taste wonderful, are incredibly moist, and amazingly delicious. Plus, they are really healthy compared to the typical pies you'll find at the Thanksgiving table.

These are not your typical pumpkin bars... they have applesauce in place of oil, whole wheat flour in place of all-purpose flour, and spices to boot.

A crowd pleaser everywhere I take them, these pumpkin bars come together with very little effort, and with basic pantry staples.

So, with Thanksgiving Day approaching, I encourage you to give these bars a try... any friends or family who aren't fans of pie will be singing your praises.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Harvest Pumpkin Bars
Printable Version

*Makes 35 bars (in a jelly-roll pan/large cookie sheet)

(NOTE: This recipe is SO easy, and very versatile. You can use oil in place of the applesauce, any kind of flour you prefer, cream cheese frosting instead of buttercream, egg whites only... the list goes on. So make it your way! You really can't mess this one up.)

2 cups flour (I use whole white wheat)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice (or a combo of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and all-spice)
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin (not canned pumpkin pie filling!)
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (or oil)
4 eggs

*1/2 recipe Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Add to the dry mixture, the canned pumpkin, applesauce, and eggs. Use a hand mixer on low speed to thoroughly combine the ingredients until smooth.

Spread the batter into a large grease cookie sheet/jelly roll pan. Lift the pan, and gently shake it back and forth until the batter is even. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Remove from oven, and allow to cool. Frost with a half recipe of Vanilla Buttercream Frosting if desired. Cut into bars. (I do 5x7 making 35 bars.)

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