Autumn Harvest Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette #Sponsored by @BrightFarms + GIVEAWAY

Today we're excited to be partnering with BrightFarms as part of their #ChooseLocal campaign. I have been compensated for this post, but as always, all opinions are my own.

DISCLOSURE: Today we're excited to be partnering with BrightFarms as part of their #ChooseLocal campaign.  I have been compensated for this post, but as always, all opinions are my own.

DISCLOSURE: Today we're excited to be partnering with BrightFarms as part of their #ChooseLocal campaign.  I have been compensated for this post, but as always, all opinions are my own.

I'm not quite sure how, or even when it happened, but somewhere along the way food became confusing. What was originally meant to be simple and nourishing has become a complicated mess of buzz words and fads that frequently leaves me scratching my head, wondering what ridiculous suggestion will come next.

In a world that constantly bombards us with "facts" about our health, it can be tough to weed through the information and figure out what is real. Yesterday eggs were bad, now they're good. We need to go gluten-free, dairy-free, or meat-free to be healthy. Eating more vegetables is never a bad idea, but what about the toxic pesticides? Organic is the only way to go, but with the rising cost of food who can afford it? Oh, don't forget, french fries will give you cancer. 

As if that wasn’t enough to make choosing a health lifestyle difficult, there are actually thousands of companies out there selling miracle "cures" to everything that ails you. There is even a vape pen that's meant to be used as an anti-snacking aide.  

Let's take a moment to chew on that one...

Feeding your family healthy meals shouldn't be so confusing. That is why you'll find the vast majority of our posts are dedicated to simple recipes using the best, often local, ingredients that you can afford. The recipes and posts on our site are styled in a way that encourages people of all skill levels to cook healthy meals.

Rather than get caught up in all of the marketing hype, our stance has always been to eat simple, seasonal foods as often as we can because food that hasn't travelled thousands of miles to reach your door always tastes better. The most important thing is to use the freshest ingredients possible, whether you shop at the local grocery store, grow your own food, or purchase it from a local farm or farmers' market.

Today we're excited to be partnering with BrightFarms, a local producer of salad greens, to shine a light on some of our favorite local products. Keep reading for a simple salad recipe made from fresh, local ingredients and while you're at it make sure to enter our giveaway for a $25 grocery gift card so you can purchase everything you need to make your own Autumn Harvest Salad.

DISCLOSURE: Today we're excited to be partnering with BrightFarms as part of their #ChooseLocal campaign.  I have been compensated for this post, but as always, all opinions are my own.

DISCLOSURE: Today we're excited to be partnering with BrightFarms as part of their #ChooseLocal campaign.  I have been compensated for this post, but as always, all opinions are my own.

Autumn Harvest Salad
 

with Apple Cider Vinaigrette



 

Ingredients


for the salad

BrightFarms Local Baby Greens Blend
SweeTango apple, thinly sliced
Shallot, thinly sliced
Pecan halves (see notes)
Applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled (see notes)

for the vinaigrette

3 Tablespoons light flavored oil (see notes)
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon apple cider
½ teaspoon whole grain mustard with honey (see notes)
¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions
 

 

  • Prepare the vinaigrette: in a small glass bottle or mason jar combine oil, apple cider vinegar, apple cider, pumpkin pie spice, whole grain mustard with honey, sea salt, and pepper. Shake until well combined. Refrigerate any leftovers.
  • In a skillet cook bacon until crispy, remove from pan, then set aside to cool.
  • Combine local baby greens, apple, shallot, pecan halves, and crumbled bacon then toss with vinaigrette. Serve immediately, preferably with a huge hunk of crusty baguette slathered with salted butter.

 

Notes


The type of oil you choose for this recipe is very important. A more-strongly flavored oil will drowned out the flavors, which is why I recommend skipping the extra virgin olive oil. Instead try using a light-flavored olive oil, canola oil, or another neutral-flavored oil of your choice.

One important thing to note is that honey mustard and whole grain mustard with honey are not the same things. My preferred mustard comes Doux South, but feel free to substitute with one of your choosing. And, if you happen to be near Madison, WI come visit the only museum in the world dedicated to mustard: The National Mustard Museum in Middleton, WI.

Schermer pecans can be purchased directly from their website, but you'll often seen them offered as part of a fundraiser. Mine came from the Missouri chapter of the Children of the American Revolution (thanks mom!)

I spend a lot of time traveling, so it shouldn't surprise you when I say that my go-to bacon changes depending on where I'm at. While in Wisconsin it's a delicious applewood smoked variety from Patrick Cudahy, located in Cudahy, WI. When I'm down South with my family my allegiance switches to Burger's Smokehouse from California, MO. I've been in love with their old-fashioned Applewood smoked bacon for years, but it isn't always easy to find where I live. They're both solid choices that originate in the mid-west, so if you see them in your local supermarket make sure to give them a try.
 

Giveaway

 

TERMS: This giveaway is sponsored by BrightFarms and will run through October 31st 2017 at 12PM EST. It is open to US readers only, void where prohibited by law. You must be at least 18 years of age to enter, no purchase necessary. The number of eligible entries received will determine the odds of winning. Retail value of prize: $25.  Winner will be selected randomly and be notified by email. If no response is received within 72 hours the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be chosen. Winners: your contact information will be given to Abel Communications PR Firm so they can ship the prize to you, you can expect delivery in 4 - 6 weeks.

Disclosure


Today we're excited to be partnering with BrightFarms as part of their #ChooseLocal campaign.  I have been compensated for this post, but as always, all opinions are my own.

Loaded Potato Salad

With our busy schedules I don't get the opportunity to do much entertaining, but I always make an exception for the 4th of July. The weather this time of year is beautiful so we invite our family up from Missouri and host a huge BBQ. My husband picks up brats, which are made fresh at the local deli, while I take care of the side dishes and dessert. This year I set about making a double batch of the Creamy Summer Coleslaw I posted last week and went to work on finally perfecting the perfect potato salad. 

Coming up with a potato salad that will please everyone is much harder than you would think. Every person I know has a very firm opinion about what makes potato salad great and don't even get me started on the mustard vs mayo debate. This is one of the few dishes I know that manages to spark an argument every time it hits the table. While my version is mayonnaise based the sour cream gives it a tang that mustard lovers will appreciate. It also doesn't hurt that I've loaded it with shredded cheese, bacon, and chives. My guests managed to tuck away over 3lbs of potato salad in under 20 minutes. It's the first time I've ever run out of a dish halfway through a meal since I tend to make enough food to feed a small army. My Loaded Potato Salad is the perfect summertime side dish so make sure you whip up a batch for your next picnic or BBQ, it's sure to be a hit.

LoadedPotatoSalad.jpg

Loaded Potato Salad
makes approximately 6 - 8 servings 

Ingredients

2.5lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
8 ounces apple wood smoked bacon ends and pieces
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
3 fresh chives, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese 

Directions

  • Place potatoes in a stockpot, cover with warm water, and boil for 25 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Keep in mind that larger potatoes can take as long as 40 minutes to cook. Transfer cooked potatoes to a bowl of ice water and once cool enough to handle remove the skins. Dice potatoes and set aside.
  • Add bacon to a cold skillet, then set heat on medium. Allow to cook until crispy, periodically flipping so it browns evenly. When cooked to desired level remove and set on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Once cool cut or crumble the bacon and add to diced potatoes. 
  • In a mixing bowl combine mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, kosher salt, and black pepper. Mix well, then add to diced potatoes. 
  • Refrigerate at least 6 hours or preferably overnight. Before serving add shredded cheese and stir to combine. Top with additional shredded cheese, bacon, and chives if desired.

Notes:

I like to use bacon ends and pieces because they contain more salt than standard bacon. If you can't find them use an equal amount of sliced bacon and add more kosher salt if you feel it is necessary. 

Green Bean Casserole with Caramelized Onion, Bacon, and Mushrooms

One of my all time favorite holiday side dishes has always been French's green bean casserole. I'm a bit addicted to French's French fried onions, I like to put them on everything, although I'm perfectly happy to eat them straight out of the can. I know that I could make my own onion strings, but during the holidays I'll use whatever I can to save a little time here and there. Speaking of saving a little time, I still use canned soup and frozen green beans in my recipe and there is nothing wrong with that. This recipe is a classic for a reason and I just don't feel the need to mess with it (much) although I do like to make the recipe my own in some small way. This year I've classed things up a bit with some caramelized onions, apple wood smoked bacon, and an assortment of sliced mushrooms. I hope you enjoy my take on this holiday classic.
Caramelized Onions
Time: 30 minutes Makes: 1/2 cup

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon salted butter
1 small yellow onion
1 skillet

Directions:

  • Cut onions to desired size, for this recipe they were diced so you'll want to watch them a little closer so they don't burn.
  • Over medium-low heat melt the butter in a medium sized skillet 
  • Add onions, stir to coat with butter, and let them cook. Make sure to check them every five minutes or so and give them a good stir to keep them from sticking to the bottom of your skillet.
  • When onions have reached the desired color, remove them from heat and allow them to cool. I stopped cooking mine after 25 minutes since I didn't want them very dark.

Notes

When choosing your skillet for making caramelized onions, stainless steel or cast iron is preferred, but non-stick works as well. In fact, I ran out of available cookware and ended up using a 10 inch non-stick skillet because it was the only thing clean.

These will store refrigerated for several days when kept in an air-tight container, so feel free to do this step in advance.

I forgot to take a photograph of the caramelized onions, but here are the mushrooms, bacon and onions all mixed together. Don't they look delicious? 
Green Bean Casserole
Time: 50 minutes Makes: 12 servings

Ingredients:

3 pieces of bacon 
4 oz package of assorted sliced mushrooms (I used baby bella, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms)
½ Cup caramelized onions
18 ounces Progresso Creamy Mushroom soup
½ Cup 2% milk
2 packages frozen green beans
2.8 ounce package French's french fried onions
fresh ground black pepper, to taste 

Directions:

  • In a large skillet cook three slices of bacon and set aside on a paper lined plate to cool.
  • Add sliced mushrooms to remaining bacon grease and cook until tender. Set aside to cool and allow bacon grease to drain.
  • Dispose of remaining bacon grease, but do not put it down the drain.
  • In a large bowl combine, green beans, cream of mushroom soup, milk, caramelized onions, crumbled bacon, and mushrooms. Add black pepper to taste, then stir until everything is well coated with cream of mushroom soup.
  • Transfer to a baking dish, top with a liberal amount of French's onions and bake 350°F for 30 - 40 minutes.

Notes

This dish will store refrigerated for several days when kept in an air-tight container so it can be made in advance and baked the day of your gathering. If you do plan on making it in advance make sure you don't add the French's onions until you are ready to bake.

Inspiration for this recipe:
French's Green Bean Casserole 

Oven Cooked Bacon For a Crowd

I love cooking bacon in the oven, it cuts down on the mess I have to clean up and is super easy. It's also one thing that I don't need to worry about while I'm scrambling around trying to feed the hoard of hungry people that tend to descend on my house at various points throughout the year. Make sure you give this fool proof method a try the next time you decide to cook bacon for breakfast, it just may change your life forever. The bacon it produces is so good you might just decide to stay in the kitchen and keep the first batch to yourself.

Oven Bacon for a Crowd

Oven Cooked Bacon
makes 12 pieces

Ingredients

1lb bacon
Aluminum foil
baking sheet with sides 
Tongs to remove the bacon
Paper towels

Directions

  • Line baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange bacon so the sides do not touch.

You will catch your oven on fire WARNING: Please make sure you are using a baking sheet with sides and not a jelly roll pan, otherwise the grease will just run off into the bottom of the oven where it will likely ignite. Grease fires are serious business!

  • Place bacon in a cool oven and bake on center rack at 400°F 

Bake time will vary widely depending on how thin your bacon is sliced. I've had some that has burnt in 10 minutes and extremely thick cut that wasn't cooked after 30 minutes. Make sure to keep a close eye on your bacon the first time you try this method.

  • Remove bacon from the baking sheet with tongs and place on a paper towel-lined plate or baking sheet to let the grease drain. Don't eat it all before you serve your family or guests!
     
  • Make sure to save your grease in a glass container for later use. It's a great way to add flavor to chili, biscuits, fried eggs or any number of other dishes. If you don't save it, do not dump it down the sink, eventually it will clog the pipes and you'll have to call the plumber. Then you'll be thinking, I should have just saved my grease and made a huge batch of fried eggs, it would have tasted better and been a lot cheaper.

Inspiration for this recipe:

I first heard about this technique from a friend who was working in the kitchens at a restaurant in Chicago 10 years ago. This is very similar to the method they used for cooking bacon, but they used parchment paper on top of and bellow the bacon, then covered it with another sheet pan on top. He guaranteed the bacon would come out perfectly crispy every time, I doubted him for the longest time, but of course he was right.