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Sara and me

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Sarah Steele wrote a quite intricate book – probably more interesting to a woman anyway – called The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon. A young woman going through a breakup of her marriage, and the death of her grandmother, finds a box in the relative’s wardrobe. In it are fabric swatches attached to dress patterns, and a postcard of a woman wearing the dress. It’s all quite mysterious. Florence decides she should re-create the dresses and the journeys. Quite an interesting theme for a book, and it’s well done here. Travel to the Riviera is included, and some fun encounters with new friends. Well worth reading.

I’ve been a fan of C.J. Box for several years. Have read most of his books. Mysteries of a sheriff in Wyoming, solving murders, usually. Box has a gift of suspense. This new book, Long Range (A Joe Pickett Novel) This one starts with the after-effects of a deadly grizzly bear attack, then extends to the murder of a judge’s wife. All interconnected, and complicated. The book was too short . . . I always want more.

Tracy Chevalier has written another fascinating book . . . A Single Thread: A Novel. The time period is between the wars, Britain. So many spinsters were left following the war, and Violet doesn’t want to become an embittered woman, caring for her angry, feeble and declining mother. So she moves on to Winchester. She works at a ho-hum job, but also becomes a volunteer at the Cathedral (ever been there? gorgeous), helping to make needlepoint kneeling pads. There are traditions even for kneeling pads (yes, really), and Violet takes this very seriously. There’s a love story woven into the fabric of this story too, and how Violet blooms and grows. Chevalier has a way with words. A good read.

An unusual book, The Weight of a Piano: A novel by Chris Cander. It begins in 1962 in Russia, a young girl is gifted a Blüthner piano. She has real skill and hopes to keep it forever. Yet, once she marries, she must leave it behind when she emigrates to the U.S. Thence the story begins, of what happens to the piano, its interim stops (even a bit about how the piano feels –  yes, some surrealism here). And about how it survives the voyage to America itself. I don’t want to give it away. You’ll learn a LOT about pianos and equally as much about Blüthner ones, how they’re made. The book does not have a happy ending – at least not in my opinion, if that’s something that’s important to you. Quite a story; and again, unusual.

Erik Larson’s tome, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. This book covers the “reign” of Winston Churchill during the height of WWII. You’ll learn so much more about him. About the war. About the inner workings of the British government, including political. I’m a great admirer of the late Mr. Churchill. One of my more recent trips to England I visited Chartwell, the family home and where Winston died. If you’ve never been there, do add it to your itinerary next time. Beautiful grounds, including the small studio he used to paint.

Ken Follett is one of my fav authors, and I pre-ordered his newest, The Evening and the Morning (Kingsbridge), which is a prequel to The Pillars of the Earth: A Novel (Kingsbridge), my all-time favorite book I’ve ever read in my life. Time period: 975 to about 1007 or so. Give or take. It follows a poor, but eager and intelligent builder as he earns his trade. It’s about his loves. His failures. The families all around, and much about the ever-present church (and its leaders, some honest, many not). Could hardly put the book down. Love Follett’s style of writing.

Every so often I read a romance of some kind. Historical ones mostly. And most I don’t include them here. But one I liked a lot is The Secrets of Saffron Hall by Clare Marchant. It happens to be very inexpensive right now on amazon, on Kindle, in case you’re interested. It jumps from 1538 and to 2019. Having to do with a precious book, a Book of Hours, and what secrets it contains. The growing of saffron plays large here and both romance in Tudor times and a tenuous marriage in current time, but nearly all of it takes place at a Tudor castle. Loved the book.

The book Where the Blind Horse Sings: Love and Healing at an Animal Sanctuary shares the story of a number of animals brought to an animal sanctuary in the Catskills. If you’re an animal lover, you’ll enjoy the stories, each animal bringing more to the human-animal relationship than you might even guess. Profound stories of love of animals. Not a long book; I think I got it as a bargain book from bookbub.

The title caught my attention on this one: Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim by Sabeeha Rehman. She’s written her own autobiography, beginning when she was a young child in Pakistan, to her eventual settling in New York. It’s about the Muslim experience. Their beliefs, their customs and traditions, told in a very pleasing and informational way. She marries in American Pakistani Muslim (an arranged marriage) and it’s the story of everything. Nothing much is left out of the journey she made, and still makes. She became a kind of activist for her religion, trying to bring Muslim customs to integrate into American culture (not always an easy task). Her husband is a doctor; she a hospital administrator. Likely you’ll learn more than you thought about Muslims. Very well written. Enjoyed it very much.

Finished Chinn’s story, The English Wife. What a great read. Could hardly put it down. I’m reading 3-4 books a week these days, and am so happy when I have a book I can’t wait to get back to. Really the story is about two sisters. Partly in Norwich, England, then in Newfoundland. One there, one here. And some of it takes place during WWII in Norwich, and much of it Newfoundland, then, and more recent. I loved the part of the book that took place on 9/11 when flights were diverted to Newfoundland. Family secrets, family lies, much anger between the sisters. There’s romance. There’s war. There is love of family. Particularly I savored the descriptions of Newfoundland, mostly rock, if you’ve never been there. It’s a twisted tale, by that I mean the family secrets which become the undoing. It’s a bargain on amazon right now, as I write this.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture, does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

Jamie Ford has written another good one, Love and Other Consolation Prizes. Remember, he wrote The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Loved that book. This one takes on a rather ugly part of America’s past, when Chinese people were treated like trinkets. Ernest Young is such a boy, who ends up being a “prize” at an event, and with great angst, ends up as a kind of servant at a high-class bordello in Seattle. Yet, the women and girls there become HIS family. He is intelligent and learns many lessons. Eventually, when society women battle to close down such houses of ill repute, he leaves that life, with his wife. They have children. The bulk of the book is about the early years around the turn of the 20th century, then you pick up the threads nearing the end of his life, and his wife’s. There are any number of small mysteries, which unravel with a word here or there – you know that word foreshadowing? Really interesting read.

In between more literary novels, I bought a comedic memoir . . . Juliette Sobanet’s Meet Me in Paris. There’s the falling apart of a marriage (and divorce), but in the inbetween, she decides to take a trip (sans husband) around Europe to get her head straight. The kind of tour that would drive me crazy, but it was one night, maybe two at each major city. She knew no one, but soon enough bonds with  three other women. Then she has a chance-meeting of a young Frenchman who had been an exchange student in her home town. They’d lost touch, yet there were definitely sparks there, never realized. Some of the touristy stuff was trite, I must say, although the women do try to take in all the major sites, if only for a few minutes. There is plenty of humor. Some steamy stuff too as she meets up with the young man in another city. Apparently it’s a happy-ever-after story. Great literature it is not, but it was a fun romp, so to speak.

Recently finished Thomas Nelson’s The Hideaway. It seems like there are SO many novels out there about families finding, inheriting or otherwise going to an old house with memories. Especially ones on the water. With stories to tell. It’s a great way to introduce some light mystery to the telling of some other family story. In this case it’s Sara’s grandmother who was enigmatic in every way. And Sara inherits the run-down, ramshackle B&B on Mobile Bay. Cute story with lots of twists and turns.

Also just finished James Conroyd Martin’s Fortune’s Child: A Novel of Empress Theodora (Book 1 of 2). Theodora grew up the daughter of a circus performer, but then moved onto “the boards,” as acting was called back in Byzantine times (Constantinople, 6th century). She always had high expectations – she just “knew” she was going to accomplish great things. She was an occasional prostitute, a mistress, and then, behold, the son of Emperor Justin is mesmerized by her beauty, takes her on, and makes her his wife, amid much royal machinations. A young eunuch also plays large in the story too, a man hopelessly in love with Thea, but knows his love can never be returned or fulfilled. He becomes an historian to the Empress. Quite a story – much of it chronicles her early life and not a lot of it in Constantinople. But riveting story.

I’m doing SO much reading of late. Read this book in one day. The Glass Hotel: A novel by Emily St. John Mandel. Loosely based on the story of Bernie Madoff (Ponzi scheme), it tells a novelized version of a man with incredible power and charisma who gathers a group of willing partners. It’s about the people he cuckolded, and the people who took him down. At the beginning drugs come into play and I almost didn’t continue, but that was a very short section. Well worth reading. Lots to discuss if you’re looking for a book club read.

Once in awhile I read a poignant animal story, as you know if you’ve followed this sidebar for any length of time. Craig & Fred: A Marine, A Stray Dog, and How They Rescued Each Other by Craig Gross, tells the story of his military duty in Afghanistan, in a war zone. And how his unit befriended a dog, a stray, and how that dog really did become his lifeline.

Cara Wall’s new book, The Dearly Beloved: A Novel. It tells the story of two couples. The two husbands become co-pastors of a New York City church. The wives? Oh my, are they ever different. They don’t abide. The husbands try to get a grip on their jobs, pastoring, preaching, and keeping the wives happy.

Loved-loved Gregory Buford’s humorous memoir, Kept: An American Househusband in India. He aims to be a U.S. diplomat, takes the tests and fails. On a whim, his wife takes the test and is hired. Their first assignment: Chennai, India. They spent two years there, with his much-loved wife going off to do diplomatic duties (albeit at a low level – everyone must pay their dues at the beginning) and Greg is left at home to deal with the servants, the house, the beggars, the nanny, the construction next door, shopping, and also partly caring for their infant.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Shirley Ann Grau’s book, The Keepers of the House. Hmmm. Much to think about. [from an amazon review]: There is a reason it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1965. Seven generations of Howlands have lived on this rural Alabama plantation in good times and bad. It tells the story of this family from the time its patriarch settled the land in the early 1800s to the mid-20th century.

Marie Martin wrote Harbored Secrets. From amazon: In May of 1935, Blinny Platt’s homestead shack burns to the ground forever leaving her family asunder, scattering them like the embers flew on the Montana wind. She was only 8, sent away and in charge of her little sister. She could handle that because Platts take care of Platts. However, it is the hidden secrets of her parents smoldering beneath the charred remains that haunts Blinny until 1982.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

Alan Hlad has written quite a novel. From true life. The Long Flight Home. It tells the story based on family history, of the homing pigeons that were used in Britain during WWII that flew back and forth across the English Channel into German-occupied France. It’s a heartwarming story. Heart-wrenching sometimes. War is an awful thing no matter which side you’re on when it comes to how it affects everyday people. You’ll learn a lot about pigeons, but also about love. Great read.

Riveted to Katie Munnick’s novel The Heart Beats in Secret. It begins in Scotland in 1940. A woman, a single mother. A journey across the sea. Then her daughter’s story, and finally the granddaughter’s story, when she inherits her grandmother’s old cottage back in Scotland. Plenty of mother-daughter dysfunction. But it comes right in the end.

Sarah Vallance has written a book about her devastating brain injury. Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain. What a story. What a saga of her recovery. And how she did it. An open wide sharing of her angst, her anger, her journey. Well worth reading. If you have anyone who has suffered a brain injury, it would be wise reading.

Just love all of Amy Harmon’s books. This one is no exception. Where the Lost Wander: A Novel. A pioneer story of a young woman made a widow on the trail to the west. 1850s. As it was in life, tragedies occur. But there is caring and love too. Loved it.

Read Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers. After leaving her childhood home of Switzerland, young Marta Schneider dreams of one day owning a boardinghouse, until marriage and motherhood change her ambitions. Determined to give her family a better life, she vows to raise strong children. But her tough love is often misunderstood, especially by her oldest daughter, Hildemara Rose, creating repercussions that will echo for generations.

Esther Freud’s book The Sea House: A Novel is about a small village on England’s southern coast.  The book is about love found, love lost, love sometimes found again, sometimes not. About how fleeting it can be or seem.

Amor Towles’ book, Rules of Civility: A Novel was quite a read. It’s NYC, 1937. Twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent [Kon-TENT she iterates to many] is in a Greenwich Village jazz bar when a handsome banker happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society.

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien. What an adorable book. True story about Stacey’s 20 years with a feisty but lovable barn owl.

Loved The Wedding Officer: A Novel by Anthony Capella. It takes place in the middle of WWII in Naples. A young British officer, Captain James Gould, is sent to Naples to wade through the zilions of applications from soldiers to marry local Italian women (and presumably take them back to England when the war ends).

Reading behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald. So interesting. Jill is  young, with a newly minted degree in library science at a time when the economy was very slow. She accepts a position in a minimum security prison in Ohio.

The Walls of Lucca by Steve Physioc. A novel that takes place in between WWI and II about a weary Italian soldier.

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna. A novel about Croatia in the aftermath of their more recent wars.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

Having read all of Kristin Hannah’s books, I knew I’d read her latest too: Between Sisters: A Novel.  Two sisters, raised by the same mother but different fathers. At a young age a rift occurs and the sisters go their own way.

Just finished Matt McCarthy’s book The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year. It tells the true life story of his first year as an intern at a New York hospital.

Also read Karen Harper’s book The Royal Nanny: A Novel. The time frame is 1890s onward, at Sandringham, when Charlotte Bill (a real person) was hired by the Duke and Duchess of York, to care for their children.

Also read Roger Swindell’s Mendelevski’s Box. It’s an historical novel about the aftermath of WWII in impoverished Amsterdam.

Also read a very quirky non-fiction book: The Perfect Gentleman: The remarkable life of Dr. James Miranda Barry by June Rose. This is a biography about a person who lived in the mid-1800s. He was a surgeon; graduated from Edinburgh Medical School at the age of 14. Joined the British Army as a medical officer then sent off to South Africa and many other tropical outposts during his career.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with her distant heritage.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. It’s about Jeju Island off the coast of Korea where the island as a whole is matriarchal because the women were trained from a young age to deep dive, free dive, for mollusks. These women were the breadwinners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). Her family was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt.  You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. 

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? If I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who  lacks self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. Sweet story.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee. Everyone should read this one.

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. DIdn’t like it much, but others do.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.


Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Salad Dressings, Salads, on March 16th, 2014.


Oh gosh, this salad is just SO good. I think I could eat this every other night for the rest of my life and not get tired of it. Does that tell you anything? Like – – you need to make this? It’s that good!

So what is this stuff? It’s mostly Napa cabbage cut into narrow shreds, a whole bunch of radishes, some snow peas (or sugar snap, because that’s what I had on hand), some green onions and toasted almonds. All that cloaked in a really delicious mayo-based dressing that’s sweet with a little bit of sugar, sour with a bit of white wine vinegar (I used white balsamic), and flavored with ground ginger, a bit of cayenne, a garlic clove and just a smidgen of toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. Then you add a cup of mayo. The salad part can be made ahead; so can the dressing; then you just combine them before serving, although you don’t use all the dressing. The salad is best served immediately, or within a few hours. The next day the cabbage is somewhat wilted, but the salad is still edible. Not at its peak, but still tasty. I don’t eat left over green salad cuz the green leaves just get limp – and to me they’re inedible. This cabbage salad was nowhere near that, so it IS definitely edible one day later.

The CRUNCH? It comes from the cabbage, the radishes, the peas and even the toasted almonds. All of it is crunchy. The origin of this recipe is Sunset Magazine. A month or two ago the magazine did a 25-year retrospective of their favorite recipes. This recipe – THIS ONE – was the #1 nominated recipe (from both readers and editors). More reason to make it. Again and again and again.

What makes it special? I’d say it’s the salad dressing. It has just a hint of Asian flavor (from the soy sauce and toasted sesame oil) but it’s very subtle. Truly, it is subtle. And I particularly liked the hint of sweet in it too. And the faint hint of heat from the cayenne. And it’s probably from the variety of veggies. The combo is just different. I don’t know who came up with this recipe, but I tip my hat to her/him.

What’s GOOD: absolutely everything. Love-love-love this salad. It’s going to go onto my favs list if that’s any indication of just how good it is.
What’s NOT: Nothing, other than the time required to slice and shred the veggies. But worth it, for sure.

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Crunchy Napa Cabbage Slaw

Recipe By: Sunset, January 2014
Serving Size: 8

1 pound Napa cabbage — coarsely shredded
12 ounces snow peas — strings removed, thinly sliced (or sugar snap peas)
1 1/3 cups radishes — thinly sliced
1 1/3 cups green onions — (including green tops), thinly sliced
1 1/3 cups cilantro — lightly packed, chopped
2/3 cup slivered almonds — toasted
CREAMY SOY DRESSING: (you’ll use 3/4 of this to dress the above salad)
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 clove garlic — peeled, minced
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup mayonnaise

1. In a large bowl, combine cabbage, snow peas, radishes, green onions, and cilantro.
2. DRESSING: Whisk together sugar, white wine vinegar, soy sauce, garlic clove, ground ginger and toasted sesame oil, and cayenne. Whisk in 1 cup mayonnaise.
3. Add about three-quarters of dressing and the almonds to cabbage mixture; mix to coat. Taste and mix in more dressing if you like. Pour into a serving bowl.
Per Serving (not accurate as you don’t use all the dressing in the recipe): 342 Calories; 30g Fat (74.5% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 10mg Cholesterol; 306mg Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, on March 14th, 2014.


The other night I made the best salad. I can’t say that on any ordinary evening I feel my green salads are exceptional. They’re GOOD, but not exceptional. And usually they’re good because I make my own salad dressings. This one, though, was about the salad itself, and it was likely enhanced because of the dressing. I’ll tell you about what was in it down below. . . it’s not like I could even come up with a recipe, exactly. But I will tell you what I put in this one.

The dressing, though, is what I’m mostly telling you about today. But first, I want to talk a bit about vinegar. If you read any of the foodie magazines, you’ve likely read somewhere about the sad state of apple cider vinegar in our country. Most of the stuff we buy at the grocery store (Heinz included) is just the straight white vinegar with a little bit of brownish coloring in it. It’s not cider vinegar at all. apple_cider_vinaigrette_in_cruet

According to Wikipedia, apple cider vinegar a type of vinegar [that is supposed to be] made from cider or apple must and has a pale to medium amber color. Unpasteurized or organic ACV contains mother of vinegar, which has a cobweb-like appearance and can make the vinegar look slightly congealed.

If you’re lucky enough to find apple cider vinegar that comes from some local farms, all the better, but on a bulk note, I generally buy Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar. According to their website,

“Certified Bragg Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar is unfiltered, unheated, unpasteurized and 5% acidity. Contains the amazing Mother of Vinegar which occurs naturally as strand-like enzymes of connected protein molecules. . . Bragg Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar is made from delicious, healthy, organically grown apples.”

bragg_vinegarAt upscale markets you can sometimes find lovely winery-produced wine vinegar and at organic farms (particularly apple orchards, I’d guess) you may be able to buy apple cider vinegar. Since I see that rarely, as I mentioned, I buy Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar Organic Raw — 32 fl oz – sometimes even at my regular grocery store. I prefer to buy the unfiltered that contains the “mother,” a clump of yeasty, spongy stuff that you’ll sometimes find in the bottom of a bottle of vinegar (only the apple cider type).

Back to this dressing, though . . . I went to my most recent salad dressing cookbook I bought last year, Vinaigrettes & Other Dressings: 60 Sensational recipes to Liven Up Greens, Grains, Slaws, and Every Kind of Salad. By Michele Anna Jordan. I leafed through, looking at every recipe. I’ve added one of her recipes in this book to my regular rotation, the Molasses Honey Vinaigrette. And I settled on this one to try something different. I did make two tiny changes – I used apple juice concentrate mixed with a little water (so it may have been slightly more concentrated than her recipe; and after tasting the dressing, I decided it was just a tad too acidic, so I added another T. of oil.

Why use Bragg?

Simple: it’s a true cider vinegar made with the must of apples, not just a white vinegar that’s colored to look like cider vinegar.

According to the author, she prefers to use this dressing on a cabbage slaw or on a chicken or duck salad. (I used it on a green salad!) She offers 4 variations on the recipe below – I have included them in the recipe below, although I haven’t tried any of these variations. A spicy version: adding 2 T. apricot, kumquat or fig jam and  3-4 garlic cloves (wow, 3-4?). Another variation has 1/2 cup pureed fresh mango in it and cilantro. A 3rd one adds 2 T. hot pepper jam, like jalapeno jelly; yet a 4th adds 1-2 tsp. chipotle chile powder and a T. of crème fraiche.

So, the mixture is combined in a glass jar, or as I did, in my handy-dandy Chef’n Emulstir 2.0, Salad Dressing Mixer. It was a gift for Christmas, and I will say, I use it a lot. After I make a salad dressing, of course, it resides in the refrigerator. Depending on what kind of oil I’ve used, it may be really firm (as in EVOO) and a bit thinner if I’ve used canola oil. I take the Chef’n Emulstir out of the refrigerator when I start fixing dinner, so that by the time I’m ready to toss the salad, it’s warmed up and will pour out of the spout and doesn’t clump on the salad. First, though, you grab the jar and flex the green handle thingy, which rotates inside the bottle, hence stirring it up well – emulsifying it as best I can.

The SALAD, then . . . for a salad to serve 3 people (we had a houseguest, our friend Joe Casali, of the Italian mushroom story) I used about 1 1/2 cups of Romaine, about 3/4 cup of arugula that I chopped up coarsely, 1-2 leaves of red leaf lettuce, 1/4 cup chopped-up sugar snap peas, about 1/2 cup chopped celery, mostly inner pieces, 1 medium tomato, chopped up in fairly small pieces, about 3 tablespoons of Feta cheese, crumbled, 2 T. toasted almonds, a few dried cranberries (craisins), a few pepitas, and lastly after dressing and plating the salads, I added 2 slices of avocado on each one.

What’s GOOD: I liked this dressing a lot. I have just enough for another salad. The author says to use up all the dressing in one go, but I didn’t do that. I’ll add an addendum here if I find the dressing doesn’t taste great at the 2nd iteration.
What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. All dressings are best the day they’re made, but that doesn’t keep me from making larger quantities. Nothing in dressings can really spoil except with very long term storage (the oil could turn rancid, but that’s a long shot).

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Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Adapted very slightly from Michele Anna Jordan, from her book Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings
Serving Size: 6

2 tablespoons apple juice, frozen concentrate
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar — [I use Bragg brand]
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil — [I used about a tablespoon more]

1. In a glass jar add the apple juice concentrate and water. Stir or shake to combine.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and shake well before pouring over a green salad of your choice. Also goes well on a cabbage slaw or a chicken salad.
NOTES: VARIATIONS (I haven’t tried any of these):
(1) Zesty – add 2 T. apricot, kumquat or fig jam and 3-4 minced garlic cloves. Serve on pork or pork sliders.
(2) Mango – add 1/2 cup fresh mango puree and 2 T cilantro leaves. This one is best on fruit salads.
(3) Spicy – add 2 T. hot pepper jam – serve with chevre cheese and leafy greens.
(4) Smoky – add 1-2 tsp chipotle chili powder and a T. of creme fraiche. This particularly goes well with carrots, jicama and radishes.
Per Serving: 130 Calories; 14g Fat (91.8% calories from fat); trace Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 237mg Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, on August 25th, 2013.


Since you probably already know that I make 99% of my own salad dressings, it’s no surprise I’ve made yet another one from that new cookbook. This one an Italian style.

We had a big group on our boat for dinner, mostly family, but also friends. I really don’t cook on the boat – the galley is so small, the equipment is minimal and the oven either works on high or low – nothing in between, and the tiny grill won’t cook enough for more than 4 people. Cooking on the boat isn’t fun for me, so I went to a local San Diego restaurant chain, Filippi’s, and got a big tray of ricotta lasagna with meat sauce. On the several occasions when I have ordered lasagna from them, I request their marinara sauce, but this time I decided to try the meat sauce. I could have ordered their green salad, but salad is such a no-brainer, I decided to just make a dressing and Dave bought a big bag of lettuce stuff. Very simple. The lasagna was the star of the meal anyway.

The recipe came from that new cookbook I’m in love with – Vinaigrettes & Other Dressings: 60 Sensational recipes to Liven Up Greens, Grains, Slaws, and Every Kind of Salad. This time I chose a dressing that was mostly a tart vinegar-based one, since that’s what we generally get when we order green salad in an Italian restaurant, right? This one has a red wine vinegar base, and all I can tell you is that the dressing will only be as good as the quality of the red wine vinegar. I chose one I had in my pantry that was fairly mild – it had a thin quality to it, so my dressing didn’t turn out very ruby colored. If I had used some of the very dark vinegar, I’m sure it would be reddish in color and it would have a more intense red wine taste too. The recipe doesn’t call for using a blender (just a jar, combine and shake), but I wanted the shallots to be really finely minced, so I did use a blender for that and the garlic. Besides, when you do it in a blender, it will emulsify much better

The photo shows the dressing when it was 2 days old, and it hadn’t separated, so the blender did good work for me! I made the dressing according to the recipe (shallot, garlic, vinegar, salt, EVOO, pepper and Italian herbs – oregano and thyme). Then I tasted it. The balance of oil to vinegar was mostly okay, but it was more acidic than I wanted. Adding a tetch more oil didn’t do it, so I chose to add about a tablespoon of sugar. Definitely not something most people would want to do with an Italian dressing, but I liked it MUCH better that way. If you decide to make this, it’s your choice whether to add the sugar or not. I’ve made it optional in the adapted recipe below. Definitely it’s not authentic.

The base recipe doesn’t include lemon juice, garlic or herbs, and the author includes 2 variations: (1) this one, and (2) a richer one with anchovy paste and lemon juice. I did a little combination – since I like lemon juice and had some fresh squeezed in the refrigerator anyway, plus the garlic. Didn’t add the anchovy paste as our 6-year old grandson would be there, and although he’s very adventurous about food, I thought the anchovy might be a turn-off for him. Next time I might try it.

What’s GOOD: great, basic Italian dressing. Liked the addition of the sugar, though it’s not authentic. A real Italian might berate you if they figure it out! Keeps for at least a week.
What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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Ruby Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Vinaigrette and Other dressings (Jordan) 2013
Serving Size: 6

1 small shallot — or red onion
Kosher salt to taste
2 whole garlic cloves — minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar — (use very good quality)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons Italian herbs — dried (oregano & thyme)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar — scant (or Splenda) [optional – my addition]

Notes: this version made my way in the blender – can also be made in a jar and shaken – just mince the shallots and garlic very, very fine. The original recipe (the “base” recipe) doesn’t use garlic, herbs, or lemon juice. The sugar was my addition. Another variation includes anchovy paste, or a couple of anchovy fillets, if desired.
1. Start the blender on low and drop in the shallot and garlic. Whiz until finely minced. Add salt, then gather the remaining ingredients while you allow garlic and shallot to marinate in the salt.
2. Add the red wine vinegar, herbs, pepper and sugar, if using. Blend until smooth, scraping sides of any shallot & garlic if needed.
3. Through the screw top slowly add the EVOO, blending on low. It may spatter – if so, put a towel over your hand. Taste the dressing – add more oil or vinegar if needed. Pour into a jar and allow to sit for about an hour to allow the flavors to develop.
Per Serving: 171 Calories; 18g Fat (92.7% calories from fat); trace Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; trace Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, on August 21st, 2013.


If you like ranch dressing, you might enjoy this change of pace – it’s still the mixture of sour cream and mayo, but instead of the herby mixture from the packet, you add some of Penzey’s peppercorn salad dressing base that’s all about black pepper.

In my youth, I can recall watching my father piston the pepper shaker that lived on a little lazy susan in the center of our kitchen table. He shook that pepper onto everything, but the most noticeable was on top of his over-easy eggs that were nestled just-so on a piece of toast, and he would use his knife and fork to completely mince the egg. He didn’t like egg white particularly, so if he chopped and chopped, the yolk and white were all mixed up and it was palatable that way. But then he’d start in with the pepper shaker. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could eat an egg with so much pepper on it. But then, I had a naïve palate, as most children do. As I’ve aged I seem to like more and more pepper (thanks, Dad!). So much so that my DH has even asked me to not put so much on his food, since I generally add extra on servings.     I’m very limited with the salt – I’m super sensitive to overly salted foods, so I under-salt things. But pepper, oh that’s another thing altogether!

penzeys_creamy_peppercorn_dressing_baseA few weeks ago my friend Cherrie and I, after a cooking class in San Diego, made a quick trip to the new Penzey’s store in Hillcrest. It took no time to get there from our class site in Pacific Beach, and we shopped for about half an hour. I was out of several things, actually. I bought some Vietnamese cinnamon, ample ground coriander, garam masala, Sarawak white peppercorns, new nutmeg pods (my aging whole nutmegs were at least 15 years old and even though some have said they should be fine, I only had two left, so I tossed them and bought new) and a bottle of the creamy peppercorn dressing base.

And I also bought a cellophane bag of extra bold peppercorns. I’d never heard of extra bold peppercorns, but penzeys_peppercorns_extraboldsince I have this addiction thing, then I’ll likely like it. It’s still in the bag as I write this, and I’ll need to put it in a pepper grinder (I’ll have to buy another one since I don’t have one that I’m not already using).

Picture at left shows the extra bold peppercorns.

It took no time whatsoever to make the dressing – the dressing base (which contains other stuff (sugar, salt, garlic, thyme and parsley) reconstitutes in water for a few minutes, then gets mixed with 1/2 cup of mayo and 1/2 cup of sour cream. I used a whisk (photo at top) because I wanted the mayo and sour cream to be fully mixed. Without using the whisk there were just a few little globs of either the sour cream or mayo – not sure which.

What’s GOOD: loved the ranch dressing style, but particularly liked the peppercorn taste. My DH just LOVED it. I mean he really loved it. He asked about it – what was it, where did it come from, had I made it, do we have more . . . yes, we have more. I’ll be making it again when I’m weary of all of the other salad dressing rotations I make.

What’s NOT: gee, nothing. It’s cinchy easy to make. It should keep for awhile too.

Posted in Salad Dressings, on August 11th, 2013.


Have blender? An orange?  A lemon? With regular pantry items you can make this succulent salad dressing. Add some kind of fruit to a green salad and you’re all set. Particularly nice are fresh chunks of mango and pomegranate seeds.

Before I tell you about the dressing, won’t you just look at that cute little pitcher in the photo? It belonged to Dave’s mother. It’s the finest of crystal – ultra thin glass, and notice that the top handle doesn’t connect. It must be held very carefully or small fingers will slip right through the gap. But it’s so pretty and I love to use it. (Usually for cream when we serve coffee to guests – although it doesn’t hold much.)

This recipe came from Vita-mix, the manufacturer of my new powerful blender. I made it right after I got the blender, and then when we attended a cooking class for the Vita-mix, the demonstrators did this dressing as well. I’ve made it twice now, and have some in the refrigerator as I write this. It needs to be used in tonight’s dinner for sure since it’s been 3 days . . . this dressing will keep for 4 only.

The only tedious thing about making it is peeling and seeding the orange and lemon, the seeding particularly. Our home grown lemons have ample seeds of various sizes! But it’s worth it. Your blender needs to have some power in it otherwise it won’t grind up all the citrus membranes. But they’re good for you, and they give the dressing some viciousness. Just be careful when you make it – the oil has to be drizzled in through the removable cap in the lid – and it splatters – so just be aware!

What’s GOOD: the citrus taste – the dressing has just a hint of bitter, but also sweet from the honey. Goes best with a fruit-enhanced salad, I think. It’s best without a lot of vegetables added – mostly greens.
What’s NOT: nothing except that it doesn’t keep for more than 4 days.

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Orange Vanilla Vinaigrette

Recipe By: adapted from the Vita-Mix Blender cookbook
Serving Size: 12

1 medium orange — peeled, all pith and seeds removed
1/2 medium lemon — peeled, all pith and seeds removed
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey — or more if needed
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil — plus 2 tablespoons

Notes: this is a good dressing for a green salad, but do add some kind of fruit (fresh mango and pomegranate seeds, or dried cranberries if that’s what you have on hand). If nuts are available, add those to this salad too, for a bit of crunch. Dressing will keep for 4 days only.
1. In a good high speed blender place the orange and lemon, both cut up into small chunks, vinegar, honey and vanilla. Whiz until the mixture is a fine puree.
2. Reduce speed to its lowest setting and very, very carefully and slowly pour the olive oil in the removable top until the mixture has emulsifies. Add salt and pepper to taste. Taste the mixture – it will have a slight bitterness. Taste it with a leaf of lettuce. Adjust the honey or oil if needed to suit your own palate.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups
Per Serving: 131 Calories; 14g Fat (90.4% calories from fat); trace Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; trace Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, Veggies/sides, on July 22nd, 2013.


Need a really quick, easy and healthy slaw for summer? You could eat this any time of year, but it’s perfect for summer entertaining. It starts with the pre-cut packaged broccoli slaw from the grocery store. The rest is cinchy easy. The apple and pecans are what make this – well, maybe the curry powder added to the dressing also gives it an interesting twist.

It’s not often that I use a prepackaged anything, yet I know the package of broccoli slaw at the grocery store is probably quite healthy. It’s nothing but broccoli STEMS and carrots, I think. You could make your own if you have sufficient broccoli stems and carrots on hand. The mixture is tossed with a yogurt/mayo dressing which has the addition of some curry powder (I used a medium – meaning hot – heat level in mine and liked it a lot). The dressing is nothing but equal quantities of yogurt and mayo (and you could probably use nonfat or low fat of either or both), honey, rice vinegar, pepper and curry powder. Easy.

If you have some red cabbage on hand, add that to the salad mixture – my store bought package didn’t have it included. You do have to cut up a tart apple into julienne pieces – I peeled a green Granny Smith, cut off the domes on all 4 sides of the apple, put it through my alligator slicer and it made short julienne. That was really, really easy to do. Then I added pecans.

The nice thing about this is that it keeps for days. I made this the day of a summer dinner party we were having, and it was still wonderful 4 days later. As I’m writing this, we’re going to someone else’s home today for a barbecue and I’m going to use the 2nd package of broccoli slaw and just add another apple and more dressing to what I have left over from the first batch. The recipe came from Lydia over at The Perfect Pantry, a blog I’ve been reading for years and years.

What’s GOOD: the crunch for sure – of everything, including the pecans. The apple and pecans make this salad (to me anyway) and the dressing is very light. It’s got to be very healthy as well!
What’s NOT: gee whiz, nothing at all. It’s easy to make and great for a crowd.

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Curried Apple and Pecan Broccoli Slaw

Recipe By: From The Perfect Pantry blog
Serving Size: 6

2 tablespoons Greek yogurt — (Lydia used nonfat)
2 teaspoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
6 ounces broccoli slaw mix — (3 cups) or 1 cup each of shredded broccoli stems, carrot and red cabbage
1 large tart apple — cut into matchsticks or thin slices
2 tablespoons pecan halves — or more to taste (2 to 3)

1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients. Add the broccoli slaw and apple slices, and toss gently until all ingredients are well combined.
2. In a nonstick dry frying pan over medium heat, toast the pecan halves for 2-3 minutes, until they are fragrant but not browning. Add them to the salad, and toss.
3. Cover the salad with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.
4. Serve cold or at room temperature. Will keep for several days.
Per Serving: 59 Calories; 3g Fat (40.4% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 1mg Cholesterol; 20mg Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, on June 30th, 2013.


A happy camper am I. Could that be a song? Camping isn’t required to make or serve this delicious salad dressing.

Scanning through my new favorite salad dressing book (I think I’ve made 3 or 4 of them from this book in the last 3 weeks) Vinaigrettes & Other Dressings: 60 Sensational recipes to Liven Up Greens, Grains, Slaws, and Every Kind of Salad, this one is a winner for sure. You don’t need a blender, just a wide-mouthed sealing type jar. It starts with a little bit of molasses and honey. I warmed them in the microwave since they were both viscous, for sure. Then I added in the other ingredients – sherry vinegar, minced shallot, salt and extra virgin olive oil. Chopped pecans are also in the ingredient list. Easy peasy. Shake it up and set aside.

With each and every recipe the author, Michelle Anna Jordan, recommends what kind(s) of salads each dressing – in her opinion – are best for. In this case she suggested a cold sweet potato salad and a root vegetable salad. Well, I thought it would be really good with a rougher lettuce salad – by rougher I mean some cabbage, even head lettuce, Romaine, but not the softer tender greens so much. I had some Savoy cabbage, celery and did mix in some arugula, Romaine and head lettuce. As I write this, I’m going to make this salad again – I still have some of the roasted figs left over. So tomorrow I’ll give you a little overview of the salad itself. I didn’t make the dressing with the pecans – we were going to a family dinner where there is a nut allergy, so I left them out, but when I make the salad this time I’ll add in pecans. Pecans are one of the few nuts that don’t seem to absorb dressing (and get soggy). Perhaps if I were making this to keep around for awhile I’d just keep the nuts out and toss them in when I toss the salad.

The recipe indicates the dressing will keep for up to 3 days. I don’t know why it wouldn’t be good for a week for sure, but that’s just my opinion. I haven’t tested the theory as the dressing was used up in just 4 days at my house.

What’s GOOD: it’s sweet and sour all at the same time. If you taste it alone, it has just a bit of an acid twang, but once mixed with a salad, it seemed perfect to me. I could pick out the sherry vinegar in it – I liked it. You can also add a bit more oil or honey, etc. to suit your own palate. It doesn’t have to be made in a blender – there isn’t anything in this dressing to emulsify it (like mustard or dairy), so it’s just fine made in a glass jar. I don’t believe I’ve ever made a salad dressing with molasses before, and I was little timid about that – wondering how it would taste! It really is delicious.
What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. I’ll be making this dressing again for sure.

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Molasses and Honey Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings, Jordan
Serving Size: 12 (a guess)

2 tablespoons molasses — warmed
2 tablespoons honey — warmed (may need additional to taste)
6 tablespoons sherry vinegar — (may need more to taste)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small shallot — minced
3 tablespoons chopped pecans — toasted (optional)
2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Notes: Ideal for a cold sweet potato salad, spaghetti squash salad, roasted root vegetable salad. Also goes very well with a rustic green salad that contains roasted figs and goat cheese.
1. Place molasses and honey in a large screw-type jar (to hold 2 cups or more), then add vinegar and salt. Close jar tightly and shake vigorously until mixture is smooth.
2. Add shallot, pecans (if using), white pepper and olive oil. Close jar and shake again.
3. Taste and correct for sweetness, acid, salt and/or oil as needed. Use immediately, or store covered, at room temperature for up to 3 days. Shake dressing vigorously just before serving.
Per Serving: 194 Calories; 19g Fat (86.7% calories from fat); trace Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 158mg Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, on June 22nd, 2013.


No, this isn’t a Caesar dressing . . . it’s a simple vinaigrette but with an egg yolk added in to give it heft, unctuousness and to emulsify the dressing so it “holds.”

I’m on a tear, as the saying goes, trying new recipes for salad dressings from the new book I bought, Vinaigrettes & Other Dressings: 60 Sensational recipes to Liven Up Greens, Grains, Slaws, and Every Kind of Salad. So far, I’m loving this cookbook, only because it contains a whole bunch of new dressings with just one or two little things that make each one different. Love that! In this one it’s the egg and 2 T. of heavy cream. Not a lot, when you divide that up amongst several salad servings. I put it on a hearty green salad. The author suggests serving it on a leek salad, or a frisee salad with a poached egg on it, a grilled tuna salad, salad Nicoise or a grilled salmon salad.

Some people are fearful of raw egg – if so, you may not want to make this. Or, buy the pasteurized eggs that can be found in some stores. Or easier yet, take a look at this blog post about how to do it yourself. You merely have to get the egg to 138° in order to make it safe.

This dressing does require a bit of wrist action – you do have to whisk in the egg, the heavy cream, then the oil and vinegar (or lemon juice). Other than that, it’s cinchy easy to make. Get all the ingredients out and at-the-ready before you start and it comes together in a jiffy. I’ll be making this one again.

What’s GOOD: the smooth silkiness, the richness of it. Pretty color too. Delicious.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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Velvet Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings, Jordan, 2013
Serving Size: 7

1 whole shallot — minced
1 whole garlic clove — minced
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 tablespoons mild olive oil — or peanut oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar — or lemon juice

1. In a large bowl combine the shallot, garlic, egg yolk and cream. Whisk vigorously for 1 1/2 minutes.
2. Season with salt and pepper and whisk again. Slowly whisk in the oil until it’s completely incorporated, then add the vinegar or lemon juice and continue to whisk until combined. Taste and correct seasoning. Use immediately, or refrigerate up to 2 days (covered).
Per Serving: 128 Calories; 14g Fat (95.9% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 36mg Cholesterol; 3mg Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, on June 18th, 2013.


A happy camper am I when I find a new citrusy salad dressing recipe. EVOO, lemon juice, shallots, garlic, a little tiny bit of crème fraiche and chives. Delish.

I must say that amazon does a great job of letting me know when a new cookbook comes out that fits the kind of home-cook profile I must have on their background servers. They send me emails at least once a day about something, but when this one popped up, and I read the author’s name (I own several of her cookbooks), I jumped on it immediately. Michele Anna Jordan lives and works in the Sonoma area. She’s a writer, has been a caterer in the past, does a radio show and develops recipes, obviously!

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I make all of my own salad dressings. It’s a rare day that I’ll use a bottled dressing, and that’s only if I’m desperate for time. So with this new cookbook in hand, Vinaigrettes & Other Dressings: 60 Sensational recipes to Liven Up Greens, Grains, Slaws, and Every Kind of Salad, I flipped through the first section on sort-of standard vinaigrettes and this one spoke to me.

Citronette. What IS that, exactly? It must be French, and I couldn’t find a true definition online, but I did find that it differs from a vinaigrette in 2 ways: (1) it uses lemon juice instead of vinegar (that’s the citron- part of the word); and (2) it’s unstable, meaning it doesn’t make an emulsion. It probably could since it has crème fraiche in it, but for this, you want a more clear dressing. Even with the dairy in it, it’s not a cream-style dressing.

Probably because of the crème fraiche in it. This one isn’t made in a blender or food processor – although I suppose you could, but then it wouldn’t be a citronette, you see (read above paragraph). Jordan just says combine the ingredients, in order, in a glass jar. The shallots, garlic, salt, lemon zest and lemon juice are allowed to mingle a bit before you add the oil – likely that draws out the flavors from the shallot and garlic. Then you add the crème fraiche, olive oil, pepper and shake vigorously.


Normally (and Jordan recommends) using this on a green type salad, but I had some lovely little cherry tomatoes and fresh basil and this dressing just seemed to call to a combination. Jordan does recommend using it within 2 days. Hope I can do that. It doesn’t make a huge quantity, so you should be able to use it up before it’s over the hill.

green_beans_citronetteAnd here’s what I did with the remainder – I tossed it on freshly cooked Blue Lake green beans, and then sprinkled the top with my Peppered Pecans. Loved the taste – particularly all the garlic. This dressing is very garlicky, just so you know . . .I used 2 cloves of garlic, and by day 2 the garlic was very pronounced. If you aren’t a garlic lover, you might want to keep the garlic to just 1 clove.

What’s GOOD: the FRESH taste of it, but obviously that’s because of the freshly squeezed lemon juice. It has a lovely clean taste. Lots of flavor from the shallots and garlic. It would be delish on a green salad. Jordan recommends a salad with red onion, blue cheese crumbles, chickpeas, pasta salad, or over grilled fish. That last sounds wonderful.
What’s NOT: well, it’s a bit fussy, but really it’s only the shallots, garlic and chives that require fine mincing. Otherwise it’s simple.

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Creamy Lemon Citronette

Recipe By: Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings, by Michele Anna Jordan, 2013
Serving Size: 6

1 small shallot — finely minced
2 medium garlic cloves — finely minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt to taste
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon creme fraiche
1 tablespoon fresh chives — finely minced
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. In a jar (with a good seal) place shallot, garlic and lemon zest. Add lemon juice and let sit for 15-20 minutes.
2. Season generously with salt, add olive oil, seal the jar and shake it vigorously. Add creme fraiche and mix or shake again.
3. Add chives, season with pepper, taste again and correct seasonings if needed. It is best served immediately, but will keep for up to 2 days, refrigerated.
ALTERNATES: (1) Lime Citronette – replace lemon zest and juice with lime zest and juice and use cilantro instead of chives.
(2) Preserved Lemon Citronette – replace lemon zest with a tablespoon of minced preserved lemon peel.
Per Serving: 131 Calories; 14g Fat (95.8% calories from fat); trace Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 2mg Cholesterol; 2mg Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, on April 3rd, 2013.


There isn’t any cream in this, but because the dressing emulsifies, it just looks like it contains cream or sour cream or something dairy. Except for an egg – a raw egg. It does contain peanut oil and olive oil and the acid is from red wine vinegar.

Every so often I get a yen to try a different salad dressing. Nearly every time I do, I revert back to my favorites, but I get tired of the similar flavors in them (garlic, Parm and usually a little bit of blue cheese). So I venture away as I did this time with something unusual. I found the original recipe in a favorite cookbook of mine, A Cook’s Tour of Sonoma by Michele Jordan. Her version contained one thing I didn’t want – green olives – so I substituted capers. And I used extra virgin olive oil – instead of the pure olive oil. I also added garlic – just because I like it. About the oil – I used extra virgin because I don’t HAVE any pure olive oil. I should, but my goodness, I don’t know about you, but I have bottles and bottles of different kinds of oils in my pantry. Way too many, and I rarely use the pure olive oil. The author has a revised edition of the book available too – The New Cook’s Tour of Sonoma which I understand from reading about it, contains a lot more touring information – food purveyors, tours about food, cheese, etc.

To make this, you just start adding ingredients to the blender. This recipe (in its original form) came from a restaurant in Santa Rosa, and was enough quantity to feed about 100 people. My recipe software easily scaled it down and I have about 1 1/2 or 2 cups of dressing which must be used within 3 weeks. Reason? It contains raw egg. The original actually called for one egg, and I truly didn’t know what I’d do with part of a raw egg, so I just used a whole (very small) egg for the quantity I green_salad_creamy_herb_vinaigrettemade. It has in it some Dijon, Worcestershire, soy sauce (so you don’t need any salt) and a bunch of dried herbs – but all in very small amounts. Oh yes, it has a tiny pinch of curry powder in it too. I love that hint – if you didn’t know it was there I don’t think you could taste it. Then you slowly pour in the peanut oil, olive oil and lastly the red wine vinegar and it’s done. Other than gathering up all the herb and spice jars, it took little time to make.

If time permits, do let it sit out (in a sealed jar) for several hours to let the flavors marry before you use it to dress a salad, or pour over some spring asparagus. It would also work over cooked pasta (as a salad, not an entrée). I did let it sit out for awhile, then put it in the refrigerator for several more hours before I used it on the green salad you see above.

What’s GOOD: it’s easy to make, it’s creamy, and full of all kinds of interesting herb flavors. Love the miniscule hint of curry powder in it (you could easily eliminate that if you don’t like curry). It’s definitely different! We both liked it very much.
What’s NOT: it does contain raw egg – I don’t have a problem with that, but many people do. It also – because of the egg – doesn’t keep as long – the author recommended no longer than 3 weeks.

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Creamy Herb Vinaigrette

Recipe By: A Cook’s Tour of Sonoma (adapted)
Serving Size: 16

1 1/3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley
1/8 cup capers — drained
1 small egg
2/3 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/3 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 pinch curry powder
1 whole garlic clove
1 cup peanut oil
1/3 cup olive oil — or extra virgin if that’s all you have available
1/3 cup red wine vinegar

WARNING: This vinaigrette contains raw egg.
1. Combine all ingredients except oils and vinegar in blender and puree briefly.
2. With blender motor running slowly, add the oils, then briefly pulse in the vinegar. Allow to stand at room temp for 2-3 hours before using, then store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Should not be kept longer than that due to the raw egg. Can be used on green salads, as a dip with crudites, or drizzled over cooked vegetables.
Per Serving: 166 Calories; 18g Fat (97.6% calories from fat); trace Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 13mg Cholesterol; 34mg Sodium.

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