Category Archives: Salad

Green Bean Tomato Salad With Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreen Bean Tomato Salad with Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

I’ve never seen purple colored “green beans” at the grocery store before and when I saw the seeds for the Trionfo Violetto Beans in one of my seed catalogs earlier this spring, I knew that I had to grow them myself if I wanted to try them.  When it comes to planting vegetables in my little garden every year, I try to grow plants that tend to be uncommon or hard to find at the store.  As for the Trionfo Violetto beans, they certainly fit the bill…

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A big handful of fresh picked Trionfo Violetto Beans.  I absolutely love the dark purple color.  What’s so interesting is that when you slice them, they have a vibrant green center.  While picking my beans one morning, I was startled to see a large purple and green dragonfly sitting on a stem in the middle of the vines.  I’ve seen dragonflies in our backyard around our koi pond but never on the garden side of the house.  This one was big!  Its wingspan was easily 4 inches across.  I did not have my glasses on so I was way closer to the dragonfly than I would have liked.  As soon as I recognized what it was, I pulled my hand slowly away from the beans (taking care not to freak out, scream at the top of my lungs and wake up the neighbors) and ran straight back into the house to grab my camera.

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I was amazed that he was still there in the same spot when I got back! I was fortunate to snap a few photos before he flew away.  He was camouflaged extremely well and was very similar in color to the bean plants.  I’ve been out to the garden several times since and unfortunately I have not seen this beautiful dragonfly again.

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Do you see what I mean about the Trionfo Violetto Beans?  They are really beautiful and very unusual.  What I found is that once you cook the Trionfo Violetto Beans, they turn green just like a regular green bean!

In addition to the gorgeous Trionfo Violetto Beans, I grew some Kentucky Wonder Green Beans.  The Kentucky Wonder variety of bean is similar to the type of green beans you will find at the grocery store.  They are your basic “all purpose” green bean.  You can put them in salads, cook, can, or freeze them.  They are easy to grow and produce an abundance of smooth green pods.  I have to say that for the first time growing pole beans, I was fairly successful with strong plants and a decent sized crop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreen Bean Tomato Salad With Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

My Green Bean Tomato Salad with a Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette can be made with pretty much any variety of green bean.  In this recipe I used the Kentucky Wonder green beans and cherry tomatoes that I grew in my garden.  The Green Bean Tomato Salad With Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette is wonderfully tangy yet slightly sweet.  The bright colored tomatoes make this vibrant green bean salad a stunning side dish. It’s easy to make, fresh and delicious.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds green beans trimmed and cut into 1″ sized pieces
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs champagne vinegar
  • 1 Tbs shallot (minced)
  • 2 tsp mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Begin by boiling a medium sized pot of water with a big pinch of salt.  Add the green beans and cook for about 5 minutes or until tender.  Don’t overcook.  If you do, your beans will look gray and not a pretty bright green.  As soon as the beans are done, immediately place them in a medium sized bowl of ice water.  The ice water stops the cooking process and cools the beans.  Remove ice cubes and drain well.  Meanwhile whisk together in a small bowl, olive oil, champagne vinegar, shallot, mirin, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.   Taste and correct your seasonings.  In a medium sized bowl lightly toss the beans and tomatoes with the Dijon vinaigrette.  Add to a serving dish and serve chilled.  Makes about 3 servings.

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Lemon Cucumbers and Peanut Sauce

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I’m curious…  Have you ever heard of or seen lemon cucumbers before?  The reason that I ask is that I have to tell you that lemon cucumbers are my all time favorite variety of cucumber.  Every year I grow one or two plants in my little garden and for about 4 months during the summer, I get big handfuls of tennis ball sized sweet little cucumbers.  This year, due to lack of garden space, I had to grow my lemon cucumber plants in a pot.  They did surprisingly well and I will be sure to try that method again next year.

One of the ways I like to eat lemon cucumbers is to slice them into thin slices and dip them into a creamy homemade peanut sauce.  I could eat lemon cucumbers and peanut sauce all day if I could… I first was introduced to peanut sauce by my grandmother many years ago.  She always seemed to have a small bowl of peanut sauce on the table at family barbecues and meals.  I loved to drizzle it on many Indonesian dishes such as pork satay, nasi goreng and gado gado.   Many years later, I’ve taken peanut sauce a step further and put it on pizza, tofu tacos and turkey burgers.  Peanut sauce is so versatile and delicious!

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Lemon cucumbers resemble lemons with the yellow color and oval shape.  What I like about lemon cucumbers is that you don’t have to peel them for the skin is paper thin and you can eat them like an apple.  After picking them, you will notice that the cucumbers have a bit of a rough exterior.  All I do is wash them well and rub off the small little stickers or spines with a damp cloth that grow on the outer skin of the cucumber.   Once cleaned up, the skin is smooth and the cucumber is ready to eat.  Lemon cucumbers are delightfully mild and delicious.  Lemon cucumbers have a short shelf life as compared to the green cucumbers that you see in the store.  Once picked you have to eat them within a day or two.  Maybe that is why they are hard to find except if you grow them yourself or visit a farmers market.  Lemon cucumbers taste great sliced up in salads, on sandwiches or in a pickle.  If you get a chance to purchase or grow lemon cucumbers, be sure to make some of my peanut sauce for dipping!  Enjoy!  Tessa

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Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 tsp. garlic paste
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 lime (juiced)
  • 1 Tbls. Indonesian soy sauce
  • 1 Tbls. sweet chili sauce
  • regular soy sauce (optional, to taste)
  • sambal oelek or red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Lemon cucumbers (regular cucumbers can be substituted)

Grab a medium sauce pan or saucier.  Find a whisk.  Add all ingredients to the pan and cook on low heat for 20 – 30 minutes, whisking constantly.  You want the flavors to marry and the sauce to thicken.  Taste it.  If it is too sweet for your liking, add some soy sauce.  If you want it spicier, feel free to add some sambal oelek or some red pepper flakes.  Remove from heat and let it cool.  Pour into a serving dish.  While preparing the peanut sauce, wash and slice the cucumbers.  Serve cucumbers with the peanut sauce.  Makes nearly 1 1/2 cups.

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Bean Salad and the Little Applegate River

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABean Salad

Yesterday morning Bruce and I took a drive to the Little Applegate River here in Southern Oregon. Bruce wanted to go on a 5 mile run along the Sterling Ditch Mine Trail.  As for me?  Oh heck to the no!  I had no interest in running. All I wanted to do was spend my morning in a leisurely fashion and exercising my camera…

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While Bruce was out running along the trails, I made my way down to the Little Applegate River.  The water was ice cold and crystal clear. The trees and plants growing along the banks were green and lush.

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What a lovely place to spend part of my morning. The sound of the water and the wind through the trees was so relaxing…

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Across the river from where I was standing was the remnants of a gold mining operation that took place over a hundred years ago.

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A branch of an Oregon Ash tree.

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Bruce on his way down the trail and towards the finish line.  Once he cooled down, we hopped back into the truck and headed back home.  I needed to get back in order to make my bean salad to share at a barbecue later on that day with family and friends.

My bean salad is a riff on a bean salad recipe that my mother had jotted down in the back of an old cookbook decades ago.  I made my salad a bit simpler and left out the green beans and Worcestershire sauce.  The reason for leaving out the green beans?  The recipe called for canned green beans…  Nope.  That was not happening.  I don’t buy canned green beans.  I won’t eat them.  I can’t stand them… And as for the Worcestershire sauce.  I was out.  No big deal.

My bean salad is a simple mixture of three kinds of beans, kidney, black and chick pea.  It’s tossed with red onion, red bell pepper, parsley and a sweet red wine vinaigrette.  It’s easy, delicious and a perfect side dish for a Memorial Day barbecue.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 15 ounce can kidney beans
  • 1 15 ounce can black beans
  • 1 15 ounce can chick peas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • seasoning salt and black pepper to taste

Begin by rinsing and draining the beans.  Add to a medium sized bowl.  Add red bell pepper, red onion and parsley.  In a separate bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients to make the sweet red wine vinaigrette.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Add vinaigrette mixture to bean mixture and toss to coat.  Refrigerate covered for at least 4 hours before serving.  Makes about 6 servings.

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Snow Pea Slaw

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Early this morning, barely after finishing my cup of coffee, I grabbed my metal pail off the pot rack and headed straight out the back door to my little garden…  My reason?  My snow peas are finally ready to pick!  Every spring I plant snow peas in March and by mid May I have plenty to add to stir fries and salads.  Sometimes, I may even have extra to share with family and friends.  Snow peas prefer cool wet weather and by the time summer rolls around, they stop producing and the vines quickly wither away.

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My favorite variety of snow pea is the Oregon Sugar Pod II.  It’s a hardy variety of snow pea and is fairly resistant to pests and disease.  It’s a prolific producer of beautiful 3 – 4 inch long pods that taste wonderful raw or cooked.

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This year I planted my snow peas in large pots and I supported them with tomato cages.  Once the snow peas are done for the year, I swap the peas out for my favorite heirloom tomato plants.  Growing below the snow peas are edible yellow pansy blossoms.  Behind the peas in the raised boxes are some newly planted heirloom tomatoes.

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Snow peas climb using their tendrils…  Tendrils grow quickly and wrap around anything that will support them.

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The beautiful white pea flowers quickly produce tender green pods.  Within a couple of days, this pod will be ready to pick.  Sometimes my snow peas never make it into the kitchen.  They taste delicious right off the vine!

A few feet away from my garden I planted some giant allium bulbs.

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The round purple flowers are just stunning!  They grow over three feet tall and bloom from May through June.  This is the third year that the allium bulbs have bloomed.  I hope they come back and bloom again for us next year.

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While I was picking the snow peas, I noticed that some of my purple cabbage was ready to harvest.  I planted only 6 heads of cabbage this year but I am starting to think that it was a bit much…  Fortunately, cabbage has a fairly long shelf life in the refrigerator as compared to other vegetables such as lettuce and spinach.  I picked the largest head and thought it would be wonderful in a Snow Pea Slaw.

My Snow Pea Slaw is a fresh combination of snow peas, purple cabbage and an Asian inspired sesame dressing.  It’s easy to make and tastes wonderful!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 pound snow peas
  • 1/4 pound purple cabbage
  • 1/8 cup canola oil
  • 2 Tbs rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbs sesame seeds (I used black and white mixed)
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar (or to taste)
  • 4 – 5 drops sesame oil (or to taste)
  • salt and pepper

Begin by slicing your snow peas lengthwise into this strips.  To make the process go faster, stack two or three snow peas on top of each other and then slice.  Set aside.  Thinly slice the purple cabbage into similar sized pieces as the snow peas.  Add cabbage to snow peas in a medium sized bowl.  In another bowl, whisk together the canola oil, rice vinegar, sesame seeds, sugar, sesame oil, salt and pepper.  Add dressing to the snow pea and cabbage mixture.  Mix well and serve.  Makes approximately 2 – servings.  Keep refrigerated for up to 4 hours.

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Radish Sesame Salad

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Radish Sesame Salad

Every year, early in the spring I plant radishes from seed in my little garden.   Since my garden is so small, I tuck the radishes rows between some of the slower growing vegetables such as broccoli or cabbage in order to utilize precious garden space.  Radishes are amazingly fast and easy to grow.  All they need is water and warm spring days.  Within 3 weeks after sowing the seeds, I am able to harvest crunchy little radishes for salads and snacks.

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Thin sliced crunchy red radishes…

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My Radish and Sesame Seed Salad is one of my favorite ways to prepare fresh picked radishes from my garden.  It’s vibrant in color and has wonderful Asian inspired flavors.  Next time you plant a garden, try sowing a few radish seeds.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients

  • 3 cups thinly sliced red radishes
  • 2 Tbs Mirin (sweet cooking wine)
  • 2 Tbs sesame oil
  • 2 Tbs rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp black sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • fresh cilantro, green onion or chives for garnish

Thinly slice the radishes with a mandolin or sharp knife.  Set aside.  In a medium sized bowl whisk together the Mirin, sesame oil, rice vinegar, black sesame seeds, ginger, garlic and salt.  Add radishes and toss.  Place in the refrigerator and let marinate for about 45 minutes.  Garnish with fresh cilantro, green onions or chives.  Makes 4 servings.

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Spring Green Salad with Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

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Spring Green Salad with Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

I’m so excited!  Spring has finally arrived in Southern Oregon!  According to the calendar, “technically” it’s still winter.  According to what is happening in my backyard, the calendar is way wrong :)…

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A crocus blossom… One of the first flowers to make an appearance in our backyard early in the season.  I love the bright orange stamens and the purple and white streaked petals.  I have them planted in many places in our yard.  Some reside in pots, some are tucked under bushes and trees.  Crocuses grow only a few inches tall and come back every year during the month of March.

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This is a shot of some pansies that I have planted in a hanging pot on my back patio.  Pansies are a regular staple to our yard in the spring and fall.  Every time I look at them they make me smile.  I enjoy the bright and cheerful colors outside my kitchen window.

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A close-up shot of a pansy blossom.  I was thrilled to capture this image with my camera.  Through the lens of my camera, I was able to see this amazing amount of detail on the flower.  I can’t see this level of detail even with my reading glasses on.

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A tulip poking its way through the soil.  I look forward to a big vase full of bright red blossoms on our dining room table in a short couple of weeks.

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Purple crocus.  What’s not to like about that deep rich indigo color?

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Even the koi fish in our pond are starting to surface for the first handfuls of feed of the year.  This is Pumpkin…  He’s one of the original fish to live in our pond.  He’s almost 2 feet long and about 10 years old.  I remember the day when Bruce and I purchased him.  He was about 4 inches in length and shared a plastic bag with four other fish on the trip home. Several years later, we now have a total of 8 koi fish happily living in our pond.

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Whenever I think of spring, one of the first things that come to mind is fresh picked strawberries.  I purchased a couple of pints of strawberries the other day and one of the things that I wanted to do with them was to make a spring like strawberry vinaigrette.  My Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette is a wonderfully pink colored salad dressing made with fresh strawberries, red wine vinegar, local honey, Dijon Mustard, canola oil and poppy seeds.  It’s a delicious vinaigrette to serve drizzled over a plate of fresh picked greens and sliced strawberries.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette Ingredients:

  • 1/4 pound strawberries (cleaned and hulled)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs honey or to taste
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp poppy seeds or to taste

Add strawberries, red wine vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard and canola oil to a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.  Splash more vinegar into the dressing if you want… Mix in the poppy seeds.  Makes 1 cup or 16 – 1 Tablespoon servings.  Store in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 days.

Green Salad (per serving)

  • 2 cups fresh lettuce
  • 1 thinly sliced radish
  • 2 strawberries (hulled and quartered)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced radicchio
  • 1 Tbs Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette (or to taste)

Assemble by placing salad greens on a plate.  Arrange radishes, strawberries and radicchio on top of the greens.  Drizzle greens with the Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette.  Makes one serving.

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Greek Chickpea Salad

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Greek Chickpea Salad

Winter in Southern Oregon can be a great time of year for many people.  There are so many things to do and see.  There are myriad of fun activities such as skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.  But, by the time February rolls around, I’ve grown tired of winter… Those feelings only get further amplified by unexpected snow falls, a foggy day or rain.  I’ve grown bored of wearing tall boots, long coats and hats.  I want my sandals, bright warm sunshine and blue skies back.  I recognize that spring is “just around the corner” but, there are times I just need a little bit of proof…

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Finding proof that warm spring weather is on its way was much easier than I thought.  As I was clipping fresh sprigs of rosemary from my garden for my Greek Chickpea Salad, I noticed a single blue flower on the tip of one of the rosemary stems.  As, I walked through the yard, other small signs of spring started to appear.  My tarragon and chives were starting to poke through the soil.  There were tiny buds on the branches of the cherry and crab apple trees.  All simple reminders that spring is nearly here!

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Fresh rosemary.  Rosemary is a wonderfully fragrant herb used in many Mediterranean dishes. I use rosemary frequently because I love the flavor and because it is so readily available to me.  I use it in many savory dishes that contain lamb, chicken or pork.  I use fresh rosemary in salads and homemade baked bread as well.  It’s a versatile herb that has earned a permanent place in my kitchen.  If you have the opportunity to plant rosemary in your yard, by all means do so!

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My Greek Chickpea Salad is prepared with canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans), crunchy green cucumber, bright red grape tomatoes, red onion, tangy kalamata olives, dressed with a lemon garlic rosemary dressing and topped with feta cheese.  My Greek Chickpea Salad makes a wonderful side salad or as a main course for an easy vegetarian lunch.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients

  • 1 – 15 ounce can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 cup cucumber (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup red onion (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup parsley (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives (sliced)
  • 3 –  4 Tbs olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp garlic paste (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/4  - 1/2 tsp rosemary (finely minced and to taste)
  • feta cheese (optional)

In a medium sized bowl, toss together the chickpeas, cucumber, tomato, red onion, parsley, and kalamata olives,  In a separate bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic paste, salt, pepper and rosemary.  Taste the dressing and correct your seasonings.  Be aware that fresh rosemary can easily overpower a dish.  Add the dressing to the garbanzo mixture.  Mix lightly.  Top with optional feta cheese.  Makes 2 lunches or 6 smaller side dish servings.

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Green Salad with Crater Lake Blue Cheese Dressing

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Green Salad with Crater Lake Blue Cheese Dressing

One of the really cool things about living in Southern Oregon is that we are so lucky to have such a wonderful creamery located right here in the Rogue Valley.  It’s called the Rogue Creamery and in my opinion, the Rogue Creamery is home to some of the BEST blue cheese I have ever tasted.  Ever… The Rogue Creamery makes at least 8 different delicious varieties of award winning blue cheese and several amazing types of cheddar as well.  They’re all absolutely delicious!

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Crater Lake Blue Cheese

My Crater Lake Blue Cheese Salad Dressing was inspired by a day trip to Crater Lake National Park.  Crater Lake National Park is the only national park in the state of Oregon and one of the most cherished National Parks in the United States.  It’s about 90 miles from Rogue Valley and 250 miles from Portland.  Crater Lake is famous for its gorgeous blue water, breath taking scenery and the fact that it is one of the world’s deepest lakes.  In the summer months, tourists from all over the United States and the world flock to this destination.  In the winter months, only a fraction of the tourists come to visit due to the cold winter weather and icy road conditions.  There’s a visitor center, lodge, restaurant and gift shop.

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The West Entrance to Crater Lake National Park.  The other entrances to the park are closed during the winter months.  The West Entrance is the only entrance open for access to the lake because maintaining the roads in winter is incredibly difficult.  Difficult because Crater Lake National Park gets on average of over 44 feet of snow accumulation per year!  Grab a tape measure and see just how much that is… You’ll find that it is a heck of a lot of snow!

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Before Bruce and I arrived at the West Entrance of the park, I asked him how much money we needed to pay for the admission. Well… Within minutes, I received my answer.  Surprisingly, the day we were there was free.  As you can see, there was no park ranger in the booth to take our money and there was a sign on the side of the booth that stated there was no cost for admission.  Crater Lake Lodge was closed for the season and the restaurant and gift shop was operating under “winter hours”.  Before scheduling a visit be sure to check the park fees, hours and rates on their website.  Also, if you plan to visit during the winter months, be sure to have chains on hand or studded snow tires on your vehicle.

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One more foot of snow and we would not have known that we were in a no parking zone.

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Our first peek over the rim at Crater Lake in the winter.  Bruce and I had to climb over 10 foot snow banks in the parking lot just to get a view of the lake.  Once over the top, the view was breathtaking!

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Do you see the thin layer of ice covering the lake?   In the summer months, the ice is gone and the water is a brilliant blue color that you would not easily forget.  The snow covered peak in the background is Mount Thielson.

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A view of the lake next to the lodge.  We were really careful not to get too close to the edge.  It’s crazy steep and trying to get close to the lake is not worth slipping into the caldera below.

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A view looking down at the icy blue water.  When I shot this photo, it looked as if I was pointing the lens up towards the sky.

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An easterly view of the lake.  In the summer months you can drive around the entire rim of the lake.  Given the opportunity, you’ll find that it is one of the most visually stunning day trip drives that you will ever take in your life.

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Wizard Island.  Wizard Island is a cinder cone that rises several hundred feet above the lake.  It is one of the most memorable features of Crater Lake.  If you ever have the chance to visit Oregon, trust me, you must schedule a visit to Crater Lake.

My Crater Lake inspired green salad with Crater Lake blue cheese dressing is simple to make, tastes delicious and is perfect for serving up on a busy weeknight or for a more formal weekend dinner.  It’s made with fresh organic lettuce, grape tomatoes, bits of blue cheese and drizzled with the Crater Lake Blue Cheese Dressing.  My blue cheese dressing is a combination of Rogue Creamery Blue Cheese, fresh buttermilk, Greek yogurt, cracked pepper and a splash of low sodium soy sauce.  Makes about 1 1/2 cups of dressing.  Enjoy!  Tessa

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A wedge of Roquefort blue cheese.  Another favorite!

Blue Cheese Dressing Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces Blue Cheese or Roquefort
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 – 5 ounce container plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp low sodium soy sauce

Add all ingredients to a blender and pulse until desired consistency.  Store in a covered container up to a week.  Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

For each salad:

  • 2 cups fresh green lettuce or your favorite greens
  • 5 or 6 grape tomatoes
  • shredded carrots
  • sprinkle the top of each salad with bits of blue cheese
  • top with a tablespoon or two of the Blue Cheese Dressing
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste
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Wheat Berry Salad and a walk along Bear Creek

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Wheat Berry Salad with Kalamata Olives and Feta Cheese

I’m not a big fan of making New Year’s resolutions.  All my resolutions such as losing weight and exercising more, historically have been destined for defeat.  So, since I despise failure, I don’t do resolutions anymore.  Nope, none, nada…  I look at it this way.  I make New Year’s expectations. Expectations for me are doable and achievable.  This year I expect to take smaller steps to improving my life and health.  I’m certainly not a perfect person but when I expect something out of myself, I do it.

One of the first things that Bruce and I did for the New Year was to take a long walk along Bear Creek here in the Rogue Valley.  Bear Creek is home to many species of birds, aquatic mammals and fish.  During the spring and fall months you may see large salmon or steelhead swimming up the creek on their way to their spawning grounds.  In the winter, the water in the creek is too turbid from the rain and snow to see much at all.  However, it is a great time to go birding.  So, I grabbed my camera and out the door we went.

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A great egret hunting for fish in the marshy area near the creek.

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A pair of mallard ducks on a log.  This is my favorite picture of the day.  The brightly colored drake is on the left and the plain colored hen is on the right.  It won’t be long before they start nesting.

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A closeup of a drake Mallard duck.  Notice the beautiful blue wing bar and bright orange legs?

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When we got back home from our walk along the creek, I decided to make a bright and flavorful Wheat Berry Salad.  My Wheat Berry Salad is simple to make and tastes delicious! It’s made with tasty little wheat berries, red bell pepper, Kalamata olives, green onions, parsley, feta cheese and my favorite red wine vinaigrette.  In just a matter of hours, I’m already living up to my expectations.  A lovely walk and a healthful salad.  That was easy.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  •  3 cups cooked wheat berries (1 cup dried = 3 cups cooked)
  • 1/2 cup red bell (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinaigrette (click on link for recipe)
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives (pitted and chopped)
  • 1/4 cup green onions (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup parsley (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese (crumbled)
  •  4-  6 cups lettuce, watercress or your favorite leafy greens

Mix all ingredients (except lettuce or watercress) in a medium sized bowl adding the feta cheese last…  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Chill and serve on a bed of lettuce, watercress or other leafy greens.  Garnish with additional feta crumbles and chopped parsley.  Makes 6 servings.

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Orange Pomegranate Salad

Orange Pomegranate Salad

The holidays are fast approaching and I am already planning our meal for Christmas Eve.  It’s a family tradition that every year on Christmas Eve I make a huge pot of New England Clam Chowder to share with my family and friends.  With the chowder, I serve up finger foods, fresh baked breads, salad and dessert.  Since the chowder is the only item on the menu that does not change from year to year, I try to think of different and fresh tasting dishes to serve with the soup.

While I am thinking about what I am going to serve with the chowder, our family is busy decorating our home for the holidays.  Bruce’s responsibility is to put up the lights out in the front of the home, and my job is to decorate the dining room and living room.  I love doing that.  It’s one of my favorite things to do.

This is what my dining room looked during the last Christmas season.  Last year, I focused on red and green colors.  This year my plan is to decorate with white and silver.  I want my dining room to have a shiny cold sparkle to it.  The table will be removed and 2 eight foot tables will take its place on Christmas Eve.  That’s what I do every time we have a large gathering in our home.  What I have in mind this year is crisp white table cloths, white candlesticks with snow covered greenery.  The three little trees that you see above are now covered with little white birds, silver ornaments and shimmery snowflakes.

One of my white birds.  I snagged about a dozen of these at a craft store last week for about a dollar each.  I would have bought more but I cleaned out the bin…

Silver pine cone ornament.  My Mom gave these pine cone ornaments to me earlier this year.  These pretty ornaments are on the same trees as the white birds.  Can you believe that this ornament is made of plastic?  Could have fooled me…  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not ashamed of decorating with plastic ornaments.  I like plastic ornaments because they are pet and child friendly, they don’t shatter and when they fall off the tree, all they do is bounce!  And what’s even better about plastic ornaments…  They’re inexpensive.

I just love the holidays!  In my opinion, it’s not about the gifts or the food.  It’s all about spending quality time with family and friends.  I want everyone who visits our home to have a wonderful time and have fond memories of our time together.

I have made the decision to serve my Orange Pomegranate Salad on Christmas Eve.  It’s light, plates beautifully and won’t leave my guests stuffed once I start ladling up steaming hot bowls of chowder.  My Orange Pomegranate Salad is made with fresh naval oranges, pomegranate seeds, watercress, radish shoots, crunchy pepitas and a tangy pomegranate vinaigrette.  It’s easy, bright and delicious! Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 6 large naval oranges, peeled and sliced.
  • 3 cups water cress (use more if you like)
  • 3 cups radish shoots (use more if you like)
  • 6 Tbs toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 6 Tbs fresh pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/8 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/8 cup pomegranate vinegar
  • 1 Tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Begin by cutting off the peel from the oranges.  Slice each orange into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Arrange on six salad plates with water cress, radish shoots, pomegranate seeds, and pepitas.  Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the canola oil, rice vinegar, pomegranate vinegar, brown sugar, ginger and salt.  Drizzle the vinaigrette on the salads when ready to serve.  Serves 6.

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