Pear, Pecan, and Gorgonzola Salad

My husband LOVES this salad and, honestly, I just can't get ENOUGH of it either. It's the BEST when we can use the ripe PEARS from our own tree, but it's too hard to WAIT until September!

Pear, Pecan, and Gorgonzola Salad
Chopped or torn lettuce
2 pears sliced or cubed
1 tub Gorgonzola crumbles
Cooked bacon, crumbled
Candied pecans
Red Wine Vinaigrette (check Salad Dressing posts!)

Other options:
Grilled or cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
Sliced or cubed apple
Sliced or quartered strawberries

The prep for this salad is what takes the longest! When you have everything ready, just layer it all on dinner plates and top with the dressing. This salad is soooooo good, you'll want seconds for sure!

TIP: I love trying out different dressings, so don't feel like you have to stick with the Red Wine Vinaigrette. I recently tried a Pear Vinaigrette by Cardini's, and I think a good poppyseed or balsamic vinaigrette would be yummy on this salad as well. Or really, any type of dressing that is sweet and fruity!


Mexican Lasagna

This is a YUMMY dinner that my mom has made for us a few times, and we LOVE it. Obviously not your TRADITIONAL lasagna, but there's still lots of GOOEY layers!

Mexican Lasagna
1 pound ground beef
1 envelope taco seasoning
2 (16-ounce) cans refried beans
6 (10-inch) flour tortillas
1 package queso fresco, sliced
1 (4-ounce) can sliced olives, drained
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
1 cup corn
1 large can enchilada sauce
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until browned; drain. Combine with the taco seasoning and beans. Spread half of the mixture in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Top with 3 tortillas and trim to fit. Spread half of the enchilada sauce over the tortillas along, with half of each the olives, green chiles, and corn. Top with all of the queso fresco slices. Repeat layers, ending with the grated cheese. (Or hold off and add it the last 10 minutes or so of cook time.) Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until heated through. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

TIP: If you aren't sure about the queso fresco, just use a cheese you're comfortable with. I'm sure they'd all be good! Also, try garnishing this tasty dish with some chopped tomatoes and sliced green onions. My family loves it with some sour cream and salsa, and sometimes we even throw on some shredded lettuce.


Chicken Caesar Pizza

This is so REFRESHING to eat in the spring, and the perfect COOL dinner for hot summer nights! NOTE: My husband calls this "CHICK FOOD," but totally downs it when I make it!

Chicken Caesar Salad Pizza
1 refrigerator pizza crust
2 to 3 chicken breasts, cooked
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 to 3/4 cup Caesar salad dressing
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1/2 garlic clove, minced
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
4 cups thinly sliced romaine lettuce
1 small can sliced black olives, drained

Fit pizza crust on a baking sheet with sides and bake according to package directions; let cool. Slice or chop the chicken; set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the Parmesan cheese, salad dressing, lemon pepper, and garlic.

In a separate bowl, mix together the cream cheese and half of the dressing mixture. Spread cream cheese mixture over cooled crust. Arrange the chicken pieces over the cream cheese layer. Toss together remaining dressing mixture, lettuce, and olives and then spread over the pizza. Makes 6-8 servings. 

TIP: Since it's just me and my hubby that eat, I just toss together enough lettuce and dressing for the two of us and top each individual serving. That way we can eat more the next day and not have soggy lettuce!


Sweet Potato Fries

Mmmmm! These FRIES are probably not too bad for you, or they may even BORDER on the side of slightly GOOD for you! Very tasty plain or served with Some Dude's Fry Sauce. YUM!

Sweet Potato Fries
2 sweet potatoes
Olive oil
Season salt
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Wash and peel the potatoes, then cut into thin wedges or strips (like fries!). Put in a large ziplock bag and drizzle a tablespoon or two of olive oil over top. Sprinkle a good amount of the season salt over top as well and then seal the bag and shake to coat. You may need to add a little more olive oil and seasoning until there is a nice even coating on all of the fries. Go easy though—you can always add more, but you can't take any away! 

Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick spray. Spread the fries evenly over the pan, trying to stick with just one layer. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until tender, tossing the fries at the halfway mark and seasoning with some salt and pepper. NOTE: Bake time will vary depending on how thick or thin you cut the fries, so make sure you keep an eye on them while baking! Serve with a yummy burger or the Ham Dandies I posted a few days ago! :)

TIP: Sweet potatoes can be pretty starchy and your fries may seem limp or even soggy. If so, turn your broiler on and toss the fries every so often and they should firm up. I think they taste extra good with a little brown around the edges anyway!


Red Wine Vinaigrette

So it might seem SILLY to post such an easy salad dressing, but I sometimes forget about this little GEM of a recipe! This dressing is so YUMMY and super fast to make. And, it TASTES good on just about any SALAD, especially my favorite with pears, candied pecans, and gorgonzola! (Hmmm, maybe I'll post that recipe a little later . . . )

Red Wine Vinaigrette
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4–1/2 cup sugar (to taste, but start with 1/4!)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2  teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a screw-on lid. Shake vigorously and serve over your favorite salad.

TIP: I found a recipe once very similar to this one that used raspberry wine vinegar instead of red wine. I'm sure you could experiment with all sorts of different vinegars and get some very tasty variations!


Ham, Pecan, and Blue Cheese Pasta Salad

I discovered this RECIPE while editing a book a few years ago, the Ivy Bake Shoppe Cookbook. It's very SIMPLE but is full of FLAVOR. It's also a great way to use any LEFTOVER ham you might have hanging around!

Ham, Pecan, and Blue Cheese Pasta Salad
2 cups cubed cooked ham
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted or not
4 to 6 ounces blue cheese (I prefer Gorgonzola)
3/4 cup snipped parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh rosemary or 1 to 2 teaspoons dried
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon black pepper
Salt and pepper
1/2 to 1 pound cooked bow-tie pasta, cooked according to directions and cooled (I usually use rotini)

Combine all ingredients except the pasta in a large bowl. Cover and let stand 30 minutes. Add the pasta to the mixture and then toss and serve or chill until ready to serve. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

TIP: If it seems a bit dry, toss in a bit more olive oil.  Oh, and you can also serve this salad on lettuce leaves for a pretty presentation!  


Chicken Divan

This recipe is soooo YUMMY! My best friend's mom used to make this ALL of the time when we were KIDS. I've loved it all these YEARS!

Chicken Divan
2–3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
2–3 cups broccoli florets (or more if you want!)
1 can cream of chicken soup (I always use the low-fat version)
1/2 cup mayo (again, I use light!)
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Grated cheddar cheese

Toss the chicken and broccoli in a 9 x 13-inch pan that has been prepared with nonstick spray. Combine the soup, mayo, curry powder, and lemon juice and spread over chicken and broccoli. Sprinkle cheese over top to cover. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked through. (It depends on how big you cut the bite-size pieces.) Yum!

TIP: Cover with foil for the first 20 to 25 minutes, and then remove so the cheese melts without becoming too hard to cut! Also, try serving this dish with rice and garlic bread. It's SUPER good!


Chocolate Chip Caramel Oatmeal Bars

These sound WAY more complicated than they are. So EASY, and so good, and, since today is my birthday, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to me! I LOOOOOVE this dessert!

Chocolate Chip Caramel Oatmeal Bars
2 cups flour
2 cups oats
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, melted
12 ounces chocolate chips (I like to do half semisweet and half milk)
1 jar Mrs. Richardson's Butterscotch Caramel Topping, warmed

In a bowl, combine all but the chocolate chips and caramel topping; mix with a fork until moistened and crumbly. Press half of the mixture into a greased 9 x 13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes; remove from oven and then sprinkle chocolate chips over top and let melt slightly. Pour warm caramel topping over chocolate and then sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes more, or until golden brown and slightly bubbly around the edges. Let cool and then serve!

TIP: These are easier to cut when slightly chilled!