Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Salad Days

On hot summer days, one of the few things that sounds good for dinner (besides ice cream, of course) is a dinner salad.

And considering we've had more than our fair share of hot summer days lately, we've been having LOTS of salads for dinner. Here are three recent new favorites I've an attempt to bring back "Recipe Wednesday".

Greek-Style Picnic Salad

Greek Style Picnic Salad...the flavors here are wonderful. I added sliced flank steak, to make it a one-dish meal. When I make it again, I will probably use more spinach and less order to please my husband, who prefers not to eat much rice. But I thought it was amazing and delicious just as written! Perfect to take to a summer potluck!

2 cups uncooked white rice
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (packed without oil)
1.5 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
8 cups spinach (8 0z)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups feta cheese, crumbled (8 oz)
1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 15 oz can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
3 Tbsp. pine nuts, toasted
10 lemon wedges

1. Cook rice. Cool to room temperature and set aside.
2. Combine water and tomatoes in a bowl; let stand 30 minutes until soft. Drain and cut in 1" pieces.
3. Heat 1.5 tsp. oil in a large skillet over med-high heat. Add spinach and garlic and saute until spinach wilts. Combine rice, tomatoes, spinach, cheese and next 5 ingredients (through the chickpeas.) Drizzle with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil; toss to coat. Sprinkle with nuts and serve with lemon.

Mixed Salad with Vanilla Pear Vinaigrette

While cooking this, I couldn't help but think of lunchtime and an old colleague of mine from the high school where we taught together. There were a few school lunches that the teachers liked...and my friend Dawn loved to get pears on the side, particularly for the pear juice. I think she would have liked this recipe!

Mixed Salad with Vanilla Pear Vinaigrette

4 grilled chicken breasts, sliced
1 cup vertically sliced red onion
2 10 oz packages Mediterranean style salad (I substituted European blend)
1 small avocado, cubed
10-15 baby carrots, quartered lengthwise
2/3 cup Vanilla Pear Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1. Combine first five ingredients together in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss well. Sprinkle with walnuts.

Vanilla Pear Vinaigrette
1 (15 oz) can pear halves in juice
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. honey
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. vanilla
dash of ground red pepper (optional)

Drain pears, RESERVING 1/3 cup pear juice. Combine all ingredients plus the reserved juice in a blender and process until smooth. Place in covered container and chill well before serving.

Yields: 2 cups

Stone Fruit Salad with Toasted Almonds

This one has been in my file for a long time. And it was worth the wait. Definitely a summer salad, given the stone fruit ingredients, so make it soon! This would be delicious for a ladies lunch or shower, but our whole family enjoyed it as well. I added grilled sliced chicken to the salad to make it a dinner salad. A perfect addition, if I do say so myself.

Stone Fruit Salad

1 cup riesling wine
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. almond oil or olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
8 cups mixed salad greens
3 plums, sliced
2 nectarines, peeled and sliced
2 peaches, peeled and sliced
2 apricots, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup pitted fresh cherries, halved
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
2 Tbsp. sliced almonds, toasted

1. Heat wine in a medium saucepan over med-high heat until reduced to 2 Tbsp. (About 10 took me closer to 30 min. but I used a very small saucepan.) Remove from heat and stir in vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper. Chill
2. In a large bowl, toss the salad greens and fruit together with the dressing. Sprinkle with goat cheese and almonds and serve immediately.

Serves 6.

I hope you enjoy these...I wish I could give proper credit for these...but I think it's likely that they're originally from Southern Living and Cooking Light, though I've put my own twist on each of them.

Friday, July 23, 2010

This is just to say...

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

~William Carlos Williams

I can't help but recite that poem whenever I see or taste a plum. It was one of my favorites to read to students...they were always surprised by it's origin (William's apology note to his wife).They would say, "That's a poem???" But it always began a good exercise in writing.

The other day, we stopped by a roadside fruit stand and selected some plums, as well as tomatoes and a watermelon. We enjoyed them later that night for dessert, and yes, they were so cold and so sweet.

Don't you love local produce? I do. And though I really have no knowledge of where plums grow (or if they're even grown in Oklahoma), I was quite amused by the single plum whose "California plum" produce sticker had been overlooked by the owners of the roadside stand. In their defense, the tomatoes were amazing and undoubtedly local. I think. :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Where I've been...

I love this picture.
Despite the evidence of her first head wound (yes, one mom in panic) and the sweet smile, I love that it's the last picture of her with her crib in the background.

Yep. Over the fourth of July weekend, we disassembled the crib that has been a sweet fixture in our home since the summer of 2003. (And yes, I did take a picture of her sleeping there for the final time. And I may have cried. But that's no surprise.)

She has spent the most time in the crib, since her siblings were always moved out before they were two...pending the arrival of a new baby. It was bittersweet for me. But she's so excited about being in her big-girl toddler bed now.

The main reason for the move was this:
Potty training. Hello Kitty undies. M&M rewards. (Except she says nMn' cute!) Three big accidents. And then...waking up dry in the morning. Waking up from naps to potty. Staying dry on two-hour car trips. We're pretty impressed around here. And searching for the perfect dress-up dress as her "all potty-trained" reward.

And this week, while her older siblings are enjoying VBS, I've been enjoying one-on-one time with my little baby girl who is all of a sudden all-grown-up.

We've painted. Gone shopping. Had coffee dates. Played at a friend's house. Early lunches. It's been wonderful. Kinda sad that tomorrow is our last day.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy Fourth of July!

We've been singing patriotic songs and reading our copy of America, the Beautiful.

We've enjoyed a rainy weekend and look forward to clearer skies and sparklers tonight. (We'll see if we all last for fireworks tonight...the kiddos have had some late nights recently.)

I have been missing our "hometown" of Asheville, NC today...that's nothing new, but I love the Fourth of July in Asheville. My parent's neighborhood has a charming parade and picnic (pictured above last year) that I grew up going to...and somehow that parade makes the Fourth of July seem more "Fourth of July-ish". Last year the kiddos loved was the first time we had been since Hadleigh was a baby. Hoping for many more celebrations there!

Today, we're reminded of the great country we live in...of the men and women who faithfully and selflessly serve our nation...and of the freedoms we enjoy. As today is Sunday, I'm especially reminded of the freedom to worship our Lord and Savior...and so very thankful for that.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Fireworks almost as fun...

as the real thing:
First, you will need some acrylic paint in a colorful and patriotic assortment. (I love Claudine Hellmuth's Studio paints, though any acrylic paint will work.) You will also need water, paper, paintbrushes, and drinking straws.
Pour a small amount of paint into a container and dilute slightly with water. (Make sure to stir!) You want the paint to drip off the paintbrush...think splatter-painting. (I love saving our leftover gelato cups...I use them all the time for crafts and snacks!)
Using the paintbrush, drop paint onto the paper in all different sizes of drops. You could also use a medicine dropper to do this.

Then, place one end of the straw a couple inches above the paint drop. Blow gently until you achieve your desired look. The next three pictures shows how the drops spread. (Pay attention to the dark blue drop.)

The angle at which you hold your straw will determine the direction the paint spreads, so to achieve a "sunburst" you should hold the straw at a 90 degree angle above the drop. Holding the straw at an angle will direct the paint on a more narrow path, as seen above.

You can see a variety of patterns above. (Kind of reminds me of my spin-art days!)

We made ours on some cardstock ready to assemble into cards. We kept it simple and just included a greeting on the front...but I think it would be fun to embellish the fireworks with glitter for some extra sparkle!

Enjoy! (Idea originally found in Family Fun.)

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