Apple, Zucchini + Walnut Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

Today we’re keeping things light and tasty with this simple spring salad.

I tossed mixed greens with chopped apple, zucchini, dried cranberries, walnuts, feta and an easy-to-make lemon Dijon vinaigrette.

First let’s talk salad. I don’t really know what produce to use right now. Someone fill me in. I feel like we’re in an in-between time. So, I’m cheating and bringing you apples (a little late) and zucchini (a little early). I’m breaking the rules. We can’t be perfect all the time, so break the seasonal rules with me and make this salad.

This is as simple as it gets. Chop a little, toss a little and you’re set. I keep it tossed and undressed in the fridge for several days to make packing lunches super easy and quick.

Now let’s talk dressing. If you’re already on the homemade dressing bandwagon, isn’t it great? If you aren’t but wanting to try, start with this one. It’s so easy to make and will have you wanting to leave store-bought dressings behind. This particular lemon Dijon vinaigrette is very versatile – I can’t really think of a salad I wouldn’t eat it on. The salad I made you today contains sweet ingredients like cranberry and apple and the tart, savory dressing so nicely compliments those sweet flavors.

The amounts I provide for the dressing in the recipe below are a base. Maybe you’ll want it a little sweeter, so add more honey, or maybe you’ll want it more mustard-y, so add more Dijon. Taste as you go and make it something you love.

Crisp, crunchy, sweet, tart and savory, fresh and light yet filling. That’s how I’d describe this salad. The varying flavors and textures are what make this so unique. I hope you make it and I hope you love it!

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Apple, Zucchini + Walnut Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette
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For the salad
Mixed greens
1 medium apple, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Large handful of dried cranberries
For the dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 tablespoon honey
Instructions
For the salad, place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss.
For the dressing, place all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake very well, to combine. It will become sort of creamy. Try the dressing, and adjust to your taste.
Serve salad onto plates and serve with dressing.
Enjoy!
Notes
The undressed, tossed salad will keep fresh in the fridge for several days. The salad makes a great quick lunch.
The amounts I provide in the recipe will make 3/4 cup of dressing and 2 large or 4 small servings of salad.
The Dreaming Foodie http://www.thedreamingfoodie.com/

Early Spring Hike

Two Saturdays ago, it was sixty degrees out. I had to work into the afternoon, but when I was done, Greg and I had plans to hike. We planned to be in the woods exploring until the sun went down. And we did. It was just what the two of us needed. After a long and cold winter, being cooped up for too long, fresh and warm air is just what we needed. We enjoyed every second of that hike, and I know we’re both looking forward to when we can do it again. I took photos that day, of trees and water, of Greg and my shoes, of waterfalls, reflections and a meadow of fresh blooms. Here are some of my favorites from the day, in no particular order.

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Beet Gnocchi

Ahhh. That’s a sigh of relief to be finally posting this recipe. This post has been a long time coming. Like last week, this is not my own recipe. But this again, is too good not to be shared with you.

I discovered this recipe, from Food and Wine, at the beginning of winter and have made it every week since, I think. The first time I made it, Greg declared it as his new favorite meal. And even as I’ve made it many more times, it’s still a favorite. It’s just plain good. Homemade beet gnocchi with a butter sage sauce and topped with toasted walnuts and parmesan cheese – need I say more?

I’ve found some tips and tricks that make the preparation of this meal go smoothly. Today I’m going to share those with you. If you want to make this meal, read the original recipe on Food and Wine. Then read through my tips and take a look at my photos. I feel that a visual always helps. Before making this, I had no experience with homemade gnocchi or pasta of any kind. Trust me, it’s not hard. You can totally do it. And it’s so fun. It’s fun and tastes so good. Have you got a weekend coming up with not much to do? Plan to start this in an afternoon and slowly make your way through the recipe. Play some music, have a glass of wine. You’ll love it.

So, warning: lots of words and photos ahead. If you decide to make this, read and look through. If you aren’t going to make this, look through the photos anyway – this dish is pretty!

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1. Use parchment or wax paper to cover your cutting board while peeling roasted beets. While my cutting board still got just a bit stained using wax paper, it’s a lot better than when using nothing at all.

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2. The four small beets I used (as you see in the photo) produced just under 1 1/2 cups of beet puree (what the recipe calls for). For a full 1 1/2 cups, I would have used 5 small beets. The amount of beet puree that you use, however, is slightly forgiving in my experience. I have used both slightly less and slightly more than 1 1/2 cups for this recipe and it has always been good.

3. Your beet puree does not have to be perfectly pureed. My food processor can’t seem to puree the beets into a perfectly smooth consistency. There are always still some small chunks. I have learned that not only does it not poorly affect the finished product, I quite like the small chunks of beet scattered throughout the cooked gnocchi.

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4. I used white whole wheat flour for this recipe rather than all-purpose flour, just because it’s what I had on hand. It worked quite well.

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5. The recipe calls for toasted walnuts. My suggestion is to start toasting walnuts in large batches and keep them on hand. Since I started to make this many months ago, I started to keep chopped, toasted walnuts in a plastic reusable container to use whenever I please. Toasted walnuts taste incredible and go well on so many things. My favorite dishes to sprinkle them on are this, any pasta dish, lentils and green salads. Having them on hand eliminates a step while making this.

6. View my photos on how to easily roll out the gnocchi dough. Once the dough sits at room temperature for 30 minutes, I cut it into 10 mostly even pieces with a sharp knife. I then flour my cutting board, take one piece of the cut dough and roll it into a ball. I place it on the cutting board to coat the ball in flour and roll the ball into a rope, about the length of my cutting board. I then cut that rope, with a sharp knife, into pieces, about 1/2 inch long, usually making 18 gnocchi from one rope.

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7. The recipe on Food and Wine calls for 1 1/2 sticks of butter for the sauce. While I do think that butter is delicious, I don’t prefer to use that much on a regular basis. I use 2-3 tablespoons of butter plus a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for the sauce instead. I have never felt that I was missing out on the butter I didn’t add.

8. Speaking of the sauce, don’t skimp on the sage leaves. I don’t always love to buy fresh herbs because I rarely use the entire thing, but for this recipe, buy fresh and use all that you can.

9. I do the ending of this dish a bit differently than the original recipe calls for. What I do (this is what I do instead of steps 6-8 of the original recipe): once the gnocchi is cut and I am ready to cook, I set up my stove with one large pot of boiling water and on another burner, my cast iron skillet. In the cast iron, I melt a couple tablespoons of butter and a couple tablespoons of olive oil. I tear the fresh sage leaves into tiny pieces into the cast iron and let them fry while the gnocchi boils. I boil the gnocchi as the recipe says – boiling 1/3 of the gnocchi at a time and removing it from the boiling water with a handheld slotted strainer. Instead of transferring it to an oiled baking sheet, I usually let it drain off very well in the handheld strainer and put it directly into the hot cast iron skillet and turn the heat down to low. You don’t want it to burn, but I like the crispiness the outside of the gnocchi gets as it cooks in the cast iron skillet. Once all the gnocchi is boiled, I let it all cook for several more minutes in the butter/olive oil/sage sauce in the cast iron skillet. I then put it on plates and garnish with the toasted, chopped walnuts and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

10. This does freeze so well. With just Greg and I eating, I always freeze half of this recipe. After cutting the gnocchi, I always end up with two cookie sheets full. I place one cookie sheet directly into the freezer for 30 minutes. I then transfer the gnocchi to a gallon-sized zip bag and freeze. When I’m ready to make it (I’ve saved it for up to a month), I cook the gnocchi directly from frozen. We love this as a quick weeknight dinner!

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11. The most important tip I have for this dish is to truly enjoy making it. It is a dish that is meant to be enjoyed during the process of making it and the process of eating it. Make sure you do it when you have plenty of time and will not be rushed. I remember one Sunday a few weeks back where I spent the entire afternoon slowly making my way through this recipe and being so happy while doing it. I was even happier when after a long day of cooking, I sat down with Greg and enjoyed this beautiful meal.

Okay, I think I’m done. I know that was a lot to take in. If you want to make this dish and have questions about my experience, leave them in the comments! I hope that you find this helpful, but like with all things cooking, you will of course find your own rhythm and shortcuts as you go. Enjoy!

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Recipe from Food and Wine.

Blueberry Crisp

It’s been awfully quiet here on The Dreaming Foodie, but I assure you, my kitchen hasn’t been quiet.

I’ve been in the kitchen more than ever lately, but unfortunately, not producing much to share with all of you. Not much of my own, at least. There have been more times lately than I care to admit when my own ideas have turned into recipe fails.

But it’s okay. I’m remaining okay with it and with the pace at which I share things with you. That’s the only way to be, really. Just being okay with what is.

Now, on to this crisp.

This crisp isn’t my recipe, but I can’t help but share it with you. If my goal on this blog is to share with you what is good in the world, then this is it. I seriously can’t get over this. I’ve made this crisp countless times in the last month since discovering it. It’s the best.

I love crisps, but I usually think of them as strictly dessert. I wouldn’t really think of having a crisp for a snack, or something that I make to keep around the house weekly, but this recipe is a game-changer. With this recipe, crisp is no longer strictly dessert. I do like to have something sweet around, because I know the craving will hit, but I like to keep the sweet things healthy. Like these pumpkin muffins, or these banana muffins or this granola. Now this crisp is added into that rotation. Or lately, it has sort of taken over the muffins and granola.

This crisp is made with olive oil, not butter. Almond meal, not flour. Pure maple syrup, not refined sugar. And oats and nuts. Health things. Things I am completely okay with eating on a daily basis. And real blueberries with no sugar added. None at all. I have been using frozen blueberries, but let me tell you, I cannot wait to taste this with fresh.

This is good any time of the day. I have been eating it as an afternoon snack, with full fat vanilla yogurt from a local creamery. I know I would love to have it as a dessert, too. This recipe is for people looking for something a bit healthier, but I’m convinced that it’s also for butter-laden crisp lovers. I tell you, this is the best crisp I’ve ever had, butter or no butter. This is it. The last crisp recipe I’ll ever need.

Make it. Try it. I promise, you won’t regret it.

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This wonderful recipe is from Shauna Niequist’s book Bread and Wine. Click here to view the blueberry crisp recipe.

Celebrating with Cake

Lately, I’ve had a lot to celebrate, and I did so with this cake.

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This cake helped me celebrate:

Another full year of my life.
A weekend spent with my family.
Greg and I’s first batch of homemade beer (more on that later!).
Another full year spent with Greg.
Six full, happy months at an apartment and job that are both loved.
 Almost one full year of The Dreaming Foodie!
And everyday, I’m celebrating being one day closer to spring!

I don’t make cakes often, but I’ve decided that when I do, they are going to count. Just like the cake I made to celebrate the new year, much thought and time went into this one. I took parts of this recipe, from Sweetapolita, for vanilla cake with homemade blackberry filling. I followed the vanilla cake recipe exactly, followed the blackberry filling recipe exactly, and made the vanilla frosting but used regular sugar and added a vanilla bean. Warning though, if you use regular cane sugar in frosting, the frosting will be crunchy! Although it sounds delicious, I left the vanilla mascarpone filling out for reasons of simplicity.

I simply made two 5-inch vanilla cakes, let them cool, topped one with both vanilla frosting and blackberry filling, placed the other cake on top, and spread vanilla frosting roughly all around.

This cake was so delicious, but was made better by the people who I shared it with. Isn’t that the best? It’s so great to celebrate with cake.

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