Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring is Here!

The return of beautiful weather could not have come at a more opportune time. There comes a time every winter when I become so depressed by the endless clouds and limited indoor activities that I begin to despair that the sun will never shine again. Well, God has blessed us with a very early spring this year and the sun has been shining nearly every single day in March! Matthew and I have spent a lot of time outdoors on the isle, at the zoo, and on hikes at various spots around town. On Saint Patrick's Day, we were even able to spend the day at the beach. And I got a sunburn. In MARCH!

Actually, it was a pretty bad burn and very painful. But it was worth every ray of sunshine I soaked up.

We celebrated the first official day of spring with some free Italian ice from the neighborhood creamery and then headed over to the park. Matthew was obsessed with the park last fall and his love of the various slides, swings, and wobbly bridges has not waned. After about an hour of chasing him all over the play structures, Paul and I were exhausted and wanted to go home for dinner. We had to tear our screaming, crying child away from the swing set and forcefully wrestle him back into the car. We were quite the spectacle and the subject of many a critical stare. I think some of the park patrons may have suspected us of kidnapping.

The beautiful weather inspires thoughts of fresh local produce, grilled hamburgers, lunches enjoyed on a picnic blanket, and dinners served out on the patio. I think it is time to leave the mashed potatoes and meatloaf behind and start breaking out some more spring-worthy recipes.

In other words, much to Paul's chagrin, we are going to start eating a heck of a lot more salad.

This recipe is one of my favorite salad staples. During the week, I will normally whip up a batch of this dressing and then have the materials for salad on hand so I can easily throw them together for a quick lunch. Fresh, fast, healthy and fabulous. Instead of the apples, sometimes I will use pears (and throw in a couple pieces of cooked, crumbled bacon for Paul). This salad is also awesome topped with some crumbled Feta or Gorgonzola.

Apple Pecan Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette

For the Salad:
A few handfuls of mixed lettuce (I like spinach and butter lettuce)
One Pink Lady Apple, thinly sliced into bite-sized pieces
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
Handful of chopped pecans, toasted
Handful of craisins
For the Dressing:
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 large red onion, finely grated
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups canola oil

To make the dressing, place all ingredients except the oil in a blender to combine. Gradually stream in the oil. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Place all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle enough dressing over the salad to coat and toss gently. Enjoy out on the porch with a glass of Riesling!

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