Cherry Blossom Bites

Cherry Blossom Bites

I live just outside Washington, DC ( seriously it’s a 5 minute drive/Metro ride) – so I have a front row seat to our Cherry Blossom Festival, in March/April, long before cherries hit our grocery stores at reasonable prices. And all the Festival does is make me wish that cherries were in season, because I love them more than just about any other fruit. (Except raspberries, because they’re the best.) Finally, finally, it’s time to celebrate cherries being in season. These Cherry Blossom Bites are an excellent way to use the cherries that are abundant this time of year, especially if you’re like me, and you’ve been buying more than you can reasonably consume on your own.

Cherry Blossom Bites were inspired by a similar hors d’oeurve that was served at the cocktail hour for my wedding last October. They were simple puff pastry, with goat cheese and a sweetened cherry compote on top, and they were lovely. For this recipe, I’ve kept the puff pastry, but I’ve used cream cheese instead of goat cheese.  Cream cheese is less expensive, and more useful to have extra of. You don’t really notice a difference between the two when they’re packed into these little bites. I don’t know exactly what went into the cherries for the version at my wedding, but I used fresh cherries, softened and reduced with a little orange juice, and cloves. If you don’t take anything else away from this post, know that a pot of cherries, orange juice, and cloves heating on the stove smells like absolute happiness.

To add some sweetness and extra crunch, I created a streusel topping using chopped up bits of the leftover puff pastry, combined with sliced almonds and brown sugar. It really takes these bites to the point where they’re a perfect combination of sweet, salty, and tart. They’re a little chewy and plenty crispy, and the overall impact is what I imagine it would be like if you took a really good cheese board and captured all of it’s best parts in a single bite. I’d dare to say these are actually better than the ones from my wedding.

Figuring out how to bake these was something of an adventure, because I don’t usually put puff pastry into mini muffin pans. Puff pastry needs room to expand, so it doesn’t end up too chewy or over-cooked. After some trial and failure with a silicone mold, I found that the simplest method was also the best: I cut the puff pastry into 1 1/2 inch squares and just pressed them into the mini muffin pans. No cutting circles or trying to squish them in neatly, which is always a bonus in my book.

The rest of the process for making these is fairly quick – the cherries only need to cook for about 15 minutes, and the streusel can be prepared in the meantime. I made my own puff pastry, but you can speed up the process even more by buying it in pre-made sheets. These would be a perfect, unexpected treat to bring to summer parties and barbecues. They’d also make a great quick breakfast or snack that you can whip up ahead and then munch on throughout the week. They taste like dessert, but don’t have very much sugar added at all – it’s only in the topping – so they still fit into a healthy lifestyle. Or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself.




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Cherry Blossom Bites

Ingredients

Puff Pastry

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup very cold water
  • 1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter (do not soften)

Cherry Blossom Bites

  • 28 fresh cherries, pitted and halved
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp water - divided use
  • 2 Tbsps orange juice
  • 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 Tbsps brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsps slivered almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped puff pastry bits

Instructions

  1. If you are making the puff pastry: Stir together flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut butter into small pieces and add to the bowl. Pour in water gradually, while stirring the mixture - add just enough water to get everything combined into a rough dough. You don't want the butter creamed into the flour, you want it to stay in chunks - this is what causes the dough to form those beautiful, flaky layers in the oven.

    2. Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface. Form it into a rectangle, and gently roll out until it's about a half inch thick. Fold the bottom third up into the middle, and fold the top third down on top of that. Turn it 90 degrees, add more flour to prevent sticking, and roll it out again. Repeat this process three more times, adding flour as needed. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the filling. You can also freeze it for about 10 minutes before using, if your filling is already made.

    Note: While making this dough, you need to work quickly, with very cold water and butter, to prevent the butter from melting into the dough. 

    3. Pit the cherries and cut them into halves or quarters - a mix of both is good. Place in a small sauce pan over medium heat with 1/4 cup water, orange juice and cloves. Stir occaisonally, until the cherries have gotten soft and released a lot of juice. Combine 1 Tbsp of water with the cornstarch, and add to the pot of cherries. Continue stirring until the cherry mixture has thickened, and then remove from heat.

    4. Soften cream cheese in the microwave in a small bowl, so that it's soft enough to be piped, but not melted. Transfer to a piping bag. 

    5. Roll the puff pastry out into a sheet, about 1/4 inch think. Cut 1 1/2 inch squares and place them into two un-greased mini muffin tins. Refrigerate the pans while you make the streusel topping - There should be a decent-sized section of puff pastry left over to use for this.

    5. Spread the brown sugar out on a cutting board, and add a 3 inch piece of the puff pastry. Coat it with brown sugar, and then start chopping it into tiny pieces. The brown sugar keeps it from sticking to itself, and becoming impossible to work with. Keep working until you have 1/4 cup of chopped puff pastry. Scoop this into a bowl with the excess brown sugar. Chop slivered almonds into small pieces and add to the mixture. Stir until well combined. 

    6. Assemble the tarts: Pipe about 1/2 tsp of cream cheese into the center of each square of puff pastry. Top with 1 tsp of the cherries, followed by 1/2 tsp of the streusel topping. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges of the puff pastry turn a golden brown. 


Sunshine Curry Crispy Chicken Sandwiches

Sunshine Curry Crispy Chicken Sandwiches

Sandwiches are my favorite food. Hands down, no question – food enveloped in other food is the best way to eat anything. I’m including quesadillas and hot dogs in this category because I love them, but I promise I won’t fight you if you don’t believe they’re sandwiches. One thing I think we can all agree on is that a really good crispy chicken sandwich is one of the best things in life. When I’ve got flavorful breading with a nice crunch surrounding moist, perfectly cooked chicken, all enveloped in a hearty roll with delicious toppings, there is almost nothing I would rather eat.

Marinating chicken in a sour cream mixture is a great way to help ensure that the chicken stays tender through the cooking process. When I was working on my Sunshine Curry Dip recipe, it occurred to me that it would make a delicious chicken marinade, so I plopped a bunch into a Ziplock with a couple of raw chicken breasts, and let it sit overnight to get all delicious. I breaded the chicken and baked it in the oven, because I’m not always up for the process that is deep frying. Not having a deep fryer, I just do it on the stove, and it’s a bit of a mess – really only worth it when I’m making food for people besides myself and Bobby. So, baked crispy chicken sandwiches are where it’s at these days.

It goes without saying that baking something in the oven will never yield the same results as frying it. However, there are a lot of methods out there for baking chicken to get perfectly crispy breading that doesn’t get soggy or fall apart. For this recipe, I dried my chicken breasts with paper towel to remove a lot of the marinade, leaving just enough to help the breading stick. Then I dredged the chicken pieces in the breadcrumbs, set them on a cooling rack, and refrigerated the whole thing for about a half hour. Here’s the really important part: I took the cooling rack out of the refrigerator, plopped the whole thing on a tray lined with foil, and lightly spritzed each piece of chicken with olive oil spray. This method keeps the chicken from sitting directly on the tray, so the breading on the underside doesn’t get soft. Another bonus is that you barely need to use any oil: just a quick spray on each side (flip them gently) was enough for beautiful color and proper crispiness.

For the breading, I put curry powder along with salt, pepper, and paprika into some Italian breadcrumbs, to help the flavor from the marinade really shine through. I topped my sandwiches with avocado mashed with a little lime and cayenne, and a cabbage slaw, which is really just the Sunshine Curry Dip stirred in with shredded cabbage, to give the sandwich a little extra crunch and tang. (‘Crunch and Tang’ sounds like one of those weird animal duos, like a bear who is bffs with a monkey). The tart flavor of the cabbage slaw works beautifully with the mild avocado, and the combination of textures from the toppings and the crispy chicken really make this sandwich a winner.

This concept would be easy to double/triple for a large group. You could just set the chicken out on a platter and let everyone go nuts with the toppings. This idea works especially well for picky eaters. Apparently there are people in the world who don’t want avocado on a sandwich – you really meet all kinds these days. I served these sandwiches with potato chips, but you could just as easily throw a salad on the side, if you’re not trying to completely ruin your diet. Although I mean, the chicken is baked, and cabbage and avocado are involved, so this sandwich is basically a salad all by itself. I’ll leave it at that and let you contemplate if a salad on bread is still a salad. Although your head probably still hurts from trying to decide if a quesadilla is a sandwich.




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Sunshine Curry Crispy Chicken Sandwiches

Servings 4 sandwiches

Ingredients

Sunshine Curry Dip (Marinade)

  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 6 Tbsps Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tsps curry powder
  • 1 1/2 tsps Sriracha
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsps white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 Sunshine Spice Blend

Sunshine Curry Crispy Chicken Sandwiches

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 avocados, mashed
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 4 sandwich rolls

Instructions

  1. Mix together all of the ingredients for the Sunshine Curry Dip. Add about 1 cup to a gallon-size Ziplock bag. Slice each chicken breast into 3-4 large pieces, and add to the bag. Seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, overnight if possible. 

    2. Stir together bread crumbs, curry powder, paprika, turmeric, 1 tsp of salt, and the pepper in a shallow bowl. When you are ready to bread the chicken, remove pieces from the marinade and wipe most of the marinade off - leave just a little to help the breading stick. Dredge them in the breadcrumb mixture until well coated, and set them on a cooling rack. Place the cooling rack in the refrigerator for half an hour, to help the breading set further. 

    3. Remove the cooling rack from the refrigerator, and place on a baking sheet lined with foil. Lightly spray each piece of chicken with olive oil cooking spray, and bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven, gently flip the pieces of chicken, and give them another spray of olive oil. Bake in the oven for another 8 minutes. 

    4. While the chicken is baking, prepare the toppings. Mash together the avocado, red pepper flakes, 1/4 tsp salt, lime juice, and red pepper flakes, and set aside. Stir the shredded cabbage into 1/3 cup of the leftover Sunshine Curry Dip. 

    5. When the chicken is done, allow to cool slightly, and then build your sandwiches.  

Vanilla Butterfly Cupcakes

Vanilla Butterfly Cupcakes

Cupcakes have been officially “over” for a while now, but that hasn’t stopped me from eating plenty of them. Trendy desserts are very different from trendy clothes, because even after they stop being the “it” sweet treat, they’re still wonderful. Cupcakes will always be endlessly customize-able, and also the easiest way to transport and share cake. No one turns down a good cupcake, so they’re still worth thinking about – even if they’re not the treat du jour like mermaid toast and cookie cakes.

The most overlooked thing about cupcakes is undoubtedly the cake part itself. Everyone gets carried away with cute toppings and frosting techniques, and a lot of the time the cake is a little dry and the flavor is off. I like to bake as much stuff as I can from scratch, but for basic yellow and chocolate cake, box mixes are a great choice. They require much less work than scratch cakes, they yield consistently nice results, and they’re pretty inexpensive.

When I was about 7, I had a Disney cookbook with a cupcake recipe that I made over and over. I loved that book and that recipe, but the cupcakes were terrible. They were dry, dense, and always had pockets of baking soda that never quite got mixed in properly (this cupcake obsession happened way before my mom got a KitchenAid). I had no idea that the cupcakes were so bad, because I just wanted to eat as much sugar as I could get my hands on. Any cupcake can be improved by putting a tub of frosting on it, like I used to. That 7-year-old metabolism was a beautiful thing, and I miss it.

Fast forward 20 years or so, and I’ve learned that baking a good scratch cake requires specific methods of adding and mixing ingredients. The recipe I like for scratch yellow cake is Fluffy Homemade Vanilla Cake from The Spruce, and the only thing I’ve changed is to increase the vanilla extract. The process involves creaming the butter and sugar until they’re fluffy, adding eggs one at a time, and alternating adding milk and dry ingredients until the batter is smooth. It’s more work than opening a box of mix, adding three other ingredients, and letting the mixer go for a few minutes, but it’s worth it. It’s a great recipe if you’re in the market for a scratch vanilla cake, or box mixes just aren’t your jam.

Now that we’ve covered the cake part, I can tell you about the decorations that make these cupcakes special. I actually dreamed them up for my boss’ daughter’s birthday, and I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out. She wanted butterflies on the cupcakes, and I didn’t really have time to run out and buy butterfly decorations. Instead, I found a simple butterfly image online and printed it out to use as a template. I used melted white chocolate to pipe the butterflies onto wax paper laid over the template. The best part? You can be absolutely terrible at piping and still have these come out nicely. Since you place them on the cupcakes piping-side-down, they look smooth and no one knows how much you struggled to stay in the lines. After they hardened, I broke them in half, and positioned the wings in the frosting at an angle, to make them look like butterflies perched on top.

I piped a simple buttercream frosting in the same rose shaped swirl I used for my Upside Down Lemon Raspberry Pavlovas, because I love the idea that the butterflies are sitting on sweet pink roses. The method I used for the butterflies can be used to make just about any decoration you can think of – I think the inspiration was from a Pinterest post about spiderweb cupcake toppers, done a similar way. These cupcakes are perfect for little kid birthdays, but they’re not cartoon-y at all, so they’d also make great desserts for a baby shower or an adult birthday. They’re an especially good option if complicated, cutesy decor isn’t your forte, and people will just love how adorable they are – and how great they taste!

 




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Vanilla Butterfly Cupcakes

Cake recipe adapted from The Spruce "Fluffy Homemade Vanilla Cake"

Ingredients

Cupcakes

  • 2 2/3 cups flour 345g
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 tsps vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar - divided use
  • 1/2 Tbsp milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 4 drops red food coloring
  • 2 dashes salt

Butterflies

  • white chocolate, melted

Instructions

  1. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. 

    2. Cream butter in a mixer on low speed. Add sugar and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until fluffy, this will take about 10 minutes. 

    3. Add eggs, one at a time, making sure that each is fully incorporated before adding the next one. Mix for five more minutes at medium speed, until batter is light and airy. 

    4. With the mixer still running, add 1/4 of the dry ingredients. When it is fully incorporated, add 1/3 of the milk. Continue alternating dry ingredients and milk until everything has been added to the batter. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. 

    5. Pour batter into cupcake tins, lined with cupcake papers. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are golden. 

    6. While the cupcakes bake, prepare the frosting. Cream together butter and 1 cup of the powdered sugar. Stir in vanilla, salt, and milk.

    7: Stir in remaining powdered sugar. When sugar is completely incorporated, add food coloring and stir until frosting is uniform.

    Optional, but highly recommended: Whip frosting in a mixer on high until very fluffy, about five minutes. Frosting keeps well in the refrigerator for several weeks.

    8. To make the butterflies, lay a sheet of wax paper over a printed template of butterfly shapes - see the blog post for a link to a good one! Melt white chocolate chips in a bowl in the microwave, stirring every 20 seconds. Transfer to a piping bag, and pipe the white chocolate over the templates. If you don't have a piping bag handy, you can also melt the white chocolate chips in a Ziplock bag, and cut a small hole in the corner to pipe through. Let butterflies harden completely before peeling them off the wax paper, and setting on the cupcakes. 


Vegan Tacos: Buffalo Cauliflower and Green Lentil

Vegan Tacos: Buffalo Cauliflower and Green Lentil

With Cinco de Mayo upon us, it only makes sense to post a taco recipe today. Actually, two taco recipes, because I’m bad at making food decisions. The correct answer to “Which taco recipe should we make?” will always be “All of them.” My friend Amanda, who possibly loves cooking more than I do, posted a pic of these tacos on her Insta recently, and I knew I had to get the recipes. Both are vegan, which isn’t typically in my taco wheelhouse, but we all know I jump at any opportunity to make vegetables taste better. Thank goodness for that, because these tacos are unbelievably delicious, and, you guessed it – healthy. One is green lentil and walnut based, the other has buffalo cauliflower “wings,” and they really do mimic the kind of textures you get with beef and chicken tacos. We dressed them up with guacamole, taco sauce, cilantro, shredded cabbage, lime, and fresh onion, and they tasted like all good tacos do: heaven.

In the past I’ve been skeptical of these so-called “buffalo cauliflower wings,” but then I made them, and tried them in a taco, and they’re great. They’re not quite a dupe for boneless chicken wings, but they’re way closer than I ever could’ve imagined. The recipe for the buffalo cauliflower taco is adapted from Gimme Delicious’ Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Wings. Baking instead of frying them makes them healthier and easier, although I suppose you could fry them if you wanted to. After baking, we coated them in Texas Pete Wing Sauce, although you could definitely try this with barbeque sauce, if you don’t love spicy food. The cauliflower itself gets quite soft, but the battered outsides get nice and crispy. This makes it feel very substantial in the tacos, and you can almost forget that you’re eating a pile of cauliflower.

The second taco recipe was my favorite of the two, because the flavor was every bit the kind of wonderful, taco meat flavor I wanted. It starts with cooked green lentils, blended with walnuts and spices, and quickly becomes a perfect taco filling that I never would have dreamed up on my own. The spices are a blend of chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper, with a little tomato paste added. Since the lentils and the nuts are all fairly mild, it’s easy to give them a lot of bold taco flavor. I think they hold the flavors from the spices better than beef or chicken ever would, so you don’t need a load of extra sauce on top. You can use a mix of walnuts and cashews if that’s what you have on hand, and I’d guess a different kind of lentil would yield similar results, although I haven’t tested that theory. The recipe for this taco is adapted from Oh She Glows’ Ultimate Green Taco Wraps. She uses lettuce as wraps instead of tortillas, but I love carbs a little too much for that.

You can go crazy with the toppings, and add beans, corn, salsa – whatever floats your boat. We topped the buffalo cauliflower tacos with shredded cabbage, diced onion, cilantro, guacamole, and Panera’s Asian Sesame Dressing, which added a really nice hint of sweetness to the tacos. The green lentil tacos were topped with mild Ortega taco sauce, guacamole, diced onion and cilantro. We used Whole Foods guacamole, because I’m obsessed with it, and it’s honestly cheaper than making your own fresh guac. I’d go so far as to say that I like it more than Chipotle guac, which is really the best recommendation I can give anything.

I plan to repeat these tacos for dinner on loads of nights that don’t happen to fall on Cinco de Mayo. They’re very filling for being mostly veggies, and they’re quick to make. The buffalo cauliflower is probably the most labor-intensive part, and that really just involves chopping cauliflower, stirring together the batter and coating the cauliflower in it, before baking it in the oven. Either or both of these recipes are a perfect addition to any taco night. Meat eaters will love them, regardless of their meat-free status, because they’re packed with delicious flavor and great textures.

We made a whole day of creating this blog post, because tacos are just better with good drinks and friends, (and a vat of guacamole that doesn’t need to be photographed, so you can dive right in). While Amanda and I were making the tacos, Bobby was making sure we had a constant supply of margaritas. What a guy, am I right? I’m not saying margaritas are compulsory for a good taco night, but they’re definitely the cherry jalepeno on top, as far as I’m concerned.

 


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Buffalo Cauliflower Bite Tacos

Adapted from Gimme Delicious' Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

Ingredients

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 2 Tbsps garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup wing sauce (I used Texas Pete Wing Sauce)
  • 6 inch corn tortillas
  • shredded cabbage
  • guacamole
  • cilantro, chopped
  • diced white onion
  • Asian Sesame Dressing from Panera, or dressing of your choice

Instructions

  1. Chop the cauliflower into bite size florets. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

    2. In a large bowl, stir together almond milk, flour, and all of the seasonings. Add the cauliflower florets to the bowl and stir until well coated. Spray a baking sheet lined with foil liberally with non-stick cooking spray. Pour the cauliflower onto the sheet and spread into a single layer. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and rotate the cauliflower, and then bake for an additional 10 minutes. 

    3. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and drizzle the wing sauce evenly over top. Bake for another 20 minutes.

    4. While the cauliflower is cooking, prepare your choice of toppings for the tacos.

    5.Warm tortillas on the stove or in the microwave, and fill with buffalo cauliflower, and top with guacamole, onion, cilantro, cabbage, and dressing, or whatever suits you!

 

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Green Lentil and Walnut Tacos

Recipe adapted from Oh She Glows' Ultimate Green Taco Wraps with Lentil-Walnut Taco Meat

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups cooked green lentils 3/4 cup uncooked
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp water (add more if it seems dry)
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 6 inch corn tortillas
  • cilantro, chopped
  • guacamole
  • taco sauce (I used Ortega, mild)
  • white onion, diced
  • lime

Instructions

  1. Cook green lentils on the stove. Add them to a small pot with 1 1/2 cups water, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes until lentils are tender. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and spread walnuts on a baking sheet lined with foil. Toast in the oven for about 10 minutes. Check them after the first 5 minutes, and then keep an eye on them so they don't burn.

    2. Blend lentils, nuts, olive oil, and all spices in a food processor or blender until well combined and a thick paste forms. 

    3. Warm the lentil "meat" up in a pan on medium heat for a few minutes, or just microwave. Add to tortillas with taco sauce, cilantro, onion, guacamole, and a squeeze of lime. 

Sweet Potato Summer Salad: Two Ways

Sweet Potato Summer Salad: Two Ways

I bought a new car a few days ago, because my old one was declared totaled after a fender bender. And on the day I bought my car, my laptop died. 2017 is perhaps not going to be my year after all. In the midst of misfortunes such as these, I turn to food to lift my spirits, because food rarely fails me. While I couldn’t be online blogging, I was able to test some new recipe ideas to dazzle you with. Today’s recipe is unusual in the best way, because it’s not a combination of flavors that you see a lot, but I’m so happy it’s in my life now.

I give you Sweet Potato Summer Salad. No longer will I stand for sweet potatoes being associated only with the holidays. Mixed with the right flavors, they’re perfect for spring and summer. This salad is a mix of roasted sweet potato, strawberries, apples, and spicy toasted pecans, tossed in an orange poppy seed dressing. I’ve adapted the Orange Poppy Seed Dressing recipe from Skinny Ms., reducing the honey to keep the whole dish from being too sweet. This dressing adds a light, zingy touch of citrus to the heartier sweet potatoes, and ties it together with the other fruits. The mix of crisp apple, soft, sweet strawberry, and rich sweet potato, with the crunch of the pecans and poppy seeds, makes this dish a textural dream. I highly recommend throwing it all in a bowl and serving it as is, but if you want to add a little something extra, I have a few ideas for you.

This salad works beautifully as a component in more traditional salads, served over a bed of greens and drizzled with a little more of the dressing. You could add meat or more nuts and seeds to make it more of a meal, but it definitely doesn’t need it. Alternatively, Sweet Potato Summer Salad also makes a fabulous dessert. I stirred little cubes of pound cake in with it, which added the perfect boost of sweetness and made the whole thing feel more decadent. You could take the dessert concept a step further and top yours with whipped cream or ice cream, with an extra drizzle of the dressing to balance the sweetness. Both versions offer a very interesting take on their respective food groups (if you count dessert as a food group, which I do). Will it matter if you omit the poppy seeds? Of course not, but in my opinion they add elegance to the salad and a striking contrast to the colorful fruit. You could also experiment with substituting chia seeds, if that’s what you have on hand.

This dish is complex and delicious, and you can still feel good about eating it. Even as a dessert it’s mostly a serving of fruit, and the dressing is packed with flavor, so you don’t need a lot of it. To be fair, I feel good about eating just about everything except coconut and bleu cheese, but it’s nice to have healthy options when summer is coming. Really fast. In less than a month. I feel like everyone I talk to lately is all “how is it May already?” Sweet Potato Summer Salad is the perfect dish to help usher in the new season, so we can all wonder less about where the year has gone, and wonder more about whether or not there’s enough left for a second helping!

5 from 1 vote
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Sweet Potato Summer Salad

Orange Poppy Seed Dressing recipe adapted from Skinny Ms.

Ingredients

Sweet Potato Summer Salad

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 granny smith apple, peeled
  • 8-10 large strawberries

Orange Poppy Seed Dressing

  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsps olive oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel and cube the sweet potato, and place on a baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle about a tsp of olive oil over top and stir the potatoes around until they're all coated. Sprinkle brown sugar and salt over top. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and stir the potatoes around on the tray, and then bake for an additional 15 minutes. 

    2. Roughly chop the pecans, and spread them on a baking sheet lined with foil. Place in the oven to toast for about 5 minutes - they can go in at the same time as the sweet potatoes. They may need an extra minute or so to get nice and toasty, but be careful not to burn them. Stir together 1/2 Tbsp of honey, 2 oz of orange juice, and the cayenne. Stir toasted pecans into this mixture, and then spread them out on the baking sheet to dry. After the sweet potatoes are done cooking, you can set the tray of pecans in the warm oven, with the door slightly ajar, to help them dry.

    3. Peel and cube the apple, and slice the strawberries into bite-sized chunks. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, until well combined. The poppy seeds will rise to the top, so you'll need to re-whisk it before pouring over the salad. 

    4. Add the potatoes, apple, strawberries, and pecans to a bowl, and toss with about half of the dressing. The other half of the dressing can be drizzled over greens topped with the sweet potato summer salad, or ice cream/pound cake, mixed with the salad. Both versions are delicious!