Mixed Greens Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Apples, Feta, and Candied Almonds

applesalad

Making your own salad dressing is so worth it, in my opinion. For a start, everything tastes better fresh (and you know those bottles sitting on the shelf in the grocery store can’t really be called fresh). Second, they are really, really easy! Most dressings just take a couple of minutes to whip up. Third, they are totally customizable. You can control the amount of salt, sugar, and oil in your salad to your liking. No more being disappointed by your salad- a great dressing can take your salad from being mediocre to being a wonderful meal!

One of our favorite salad dressings ever is this fancied-up balsamic vinaigrette. It has a great smooth texture and is full of flavor, thanks to the addition of Dijon mustard, shallot, and honey. It pairs really nicely with candied nuts (or toasted ones if you want to avoid the extra sugar) and some fruit. Apples and pears both work really well, but dried cranberries would also be delicious. A bit of crumbled feta is the perfect antidote to the other sweet toppings and adds a nice saltiness to the salad. We usually like to use mixed greens or spinach, but feel free to use whatever greens you like best.

Mixed Greens Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Apples, Feta, and Candied Almonds

Recipe from Cooking Classy

Serves about 5 people

Indredients:

For the dressing:

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 1/2 tablespoons finely diced shallot

Salt and pepper to taste

For salad assembly:

1/2 cup chopped almonds, pecans, or walnuts

1 tablespoon salted butter

1 tablespoon packed light-brown sugar

7 ounces of your green of choice (spinach or Spring mix are great)

2 ounces of crumbled feta (or more to taste)

2 apples or pears, sliced

Optional: dried cranberries

Directions:

Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, dijon mustard, diced shallots, and salt and pepper (maybe start with about 1/4 teaspoon of each). Using an immersion blender (or a food processor or blender), mix until smooth and emulsified.

To candy the nuts, melt together the light brown sugar and the butter in a small saucepan. Add the nuts and cook until caramelized, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Place the lettuce in a bowl and top with the sliced fruit, crumbled feta, and candied nuts. Drizzle with the dressing and toss to combine. Serve and enjoy!

Coconut Cream Cheese Brownies

coconutbrownies

While summer is probably best suited for lighter desserts incorporating all the gorgeous fresh fruit that is available, brownies know no season! These particular brownies are extraordinarily fudgy with a thick ribbon of coconut flavored cheesecake. We made these when our brothers had friends over to watch the NBA Finals, and it took some real effort to put aside a couple for photographs! But these are meant to be shared- they’re just too good not to. The brownies pictured here are chilled, which is my personal favorite way to enjoy them (plus, they slice very neatly). Next time we may try replacing the butter in the brownies with coconut oil for enhanced coconut flavor. I think toasted coconut would also work very nicely in the filling!

P.S. Please pardon the slow posting! We worked a lot last week and have been busy, but this week we’re trying to get back on track!

Coconut Cream Cheese Brownies

Makes 1 9×13 inch pan

Idea/Coconut filling from The Baker Chick; Brownie recipe here

Ingredients

For the brownies:

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup butter, salted (if using unsalted add a heaping 1/4 teaspoon of salt)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour

For the coconut cheesecake filling:

1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg yolk

3/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut (if using unsweetened, up the sugar by a tablespoon or two)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixture, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk, vanilla extract, and coconut for the filling. Beat until creamy and then set aside.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Stir in the flour.

Line a 9×13 inch pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Pour in half of the brownie batter, and then top with the cheesecake filling, spreading it as evenly as possible. Top with the other half of the brownie batter.

Bake approximately 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out clean (these will likely take a little longer than a regular pan of brownies). Let cool in pan for about 30 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling. Serve at room temperature or chilled, and store any brownies not being served within a couple hours in the fridge. Enjoy!