Recipe Review: Cranberry Spinach Salad ~ 5 Stars

Cranberry Spinach Salad


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3/4 cup almonds, blanched and slivered
  • 1 pound spinach, rinsed and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons minced onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil


  1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Cook and stir almonds in butter until lightly toasted. Remove from heat, and let cool.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, onion, paprika, white wine vinegar, cider vinegar, and vegetable oil. Toss with spinach just before serving.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the spinach with the toasted almonds and cranberries.

My Thoughts

My husband and I have made this salad several times for ourselves and family members.  I discovered spinach later in life and now it’s my favorite leafy indulgence.  The dressing perfectly compliments spinach and the cranberries and almonds add tartness and texture.

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Family Recipes: Grandma Marie’s German Potato Soup

We made a double batch of this wonderful potato soup on Sunday. I had both grandchildren of Marie Hodge present as taste testers to confirm the authenticity of the recipe.

Back in 2001, I contacted my then living grandmother, Doris Andrea, for recipes and stories to be included in a local church anniversary cookbook. This was one of the recipes she provided me. The story she told me to accompany this soup hailed back to the hard days of the Great Depression and making simple hearty meals that stretched ingredients.

Addendum (updated 8:15 am 11/09/2015):  Some specifics on the double batch version of this recipe we created in my kitchen yesterday morning include using two 3-pound bags of organic russet potatoes, about half of an organic yellow onion and a few stalks of organic celery.  The rest of the ingredients, with the exception of the bacon, were non-organic.  Instead of a quart of milk, we used a quart of half-and-half (store brand).

The bacon was an uncured natural version from Farmland.  To bake bacon in the oven, cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil (makes cleanup easy) and place the strips of bacon so they just barely touch.  I can usually get an entire 12 ounce package of bacon on my largest baking sheet.  Place the sheet in a cold oven and set the temperature for 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Set the timer for 20 minutes and check the doneness of the bacon when it dings, adding more time if you want it more done and/or crispier.

Restaurant Review: Gyros Village (Leavenworth, Kansas)

Update March 2013:  I’m a little slow, apparently, because this restaurant closed last Summer.  I guess Terry and I should have gone back and been good patrons.

On Wednesday evenings, my husband and I grab a quick bite to eat because that night also happens to be band practice night and neither of us have time to cook dinner.  Even though practice was cancelled, we still ventured out to a new local eating establishment called ‘Gyros Village‘ across from the Leavenworth Plaza (in Leavenworth, Kansas).

I did spend some time online at lunch trying to find a website for the restaurant, specifically looking for their menu and nutritional information (since I’m actively tracking all my caloric intake as part of my GetPHIT resolution).  I easily found entries in business directories (like the online version of the Yellow Pages), but not an actual website or for that matter, many reviews.  I wasn’t too worried, though, since both Terry and I like gyros and most Greek cuisine.

We arrived at Gyros Village in the early evening (probably between 5:15 and 5:30 p.m.) and entered the small dining area (about ten tables).  We waited while a customer ahead of us received their carryout order and then were seated.  Neither Terry nor I wanted an appetizer, although I will return so I can try the Dolmades.  Terry and I ordered the same thing: a regular gyro with a side salad.  I of course asked that any feta cheese be left off my order and, if acceptable, added to my husband’s food.  I don’t eat cheese voluntarily.  I also asked that my gyro be served dry (sans tsatziki sauce).  Dairy and I just don’t get along.

Wed sunset and new moonI watched the phenomenal sunset and spied the very new moon while waiting for our order, regretting leaving my digital camera at home yet again.  I did capture the scene as we left with my cell phone, but as usual the photo did not live up to my expectations.  Our gyros and salads arrived and we began to consume them.

I must say I thought the gyros were tasty and filling.  Rather than traditional pita bread (which my daughter made from scratch when she served us home-cooked gyros over her Christmas break), the restaurant used flat bread instead.  I didn’t mind, as it securely held and delivered the gyro goodness I bit into greedily.  I would have preferred red onions, as opposed to the white ones used in both the gyro and the salad, but I’m not entirely sure what is considered traditional.  I will consult with my daughter later today.

My only disappointment in the meal came with the state of the romaine lettuce in the side salad.  The leaves had begun to turn brown, and were no longer cold or crisp.  I would hazard a guess that the romaine had been left out most of the day at room temperature.  I did not try the house dressing that came on the side, but it looked like a typical Italian sort of dressing.  Another quirk of mine: I prefer no dressing on my salad (or only my own home-made dressing).

We asked the server for a small bag to take half of Terry’s gyro home with us.  When he returned he asked us if we had ever had Greek or Mediterranean cuisine before.  Terry mentioned that our daughter had made gyros and pita bread for us during her recent visit.  I mentioned she had learned from a local couple who also teach a couple of Greek cooking classes at the Culinary Center of Kansas City.  He urged us to take home their menu, which I scanned in and you can review it via this link.  And, after reading the menu more closely, I did discover that Gyros Village has a presence on the Internet.  They have a Facebook page (but nothing else).

We will definitely return to try some of their other dishes and I especially want to try their Baklava.  I ate too much gyro last night to attempt a dessert.  I found their prices reasonable and the portions more than hearty enough for our appetites.

Recipe Test and Review: Chef Meg’s Loaded Potato Soup

I needed to use the rest of my organic russet potatoes purchased while Rachelle visited us.  Terry suggested potato soup, so I went searching for a new potato soup recipe, one with fewer calories (for me … Terry needs to put on weight so he can really load it down with cheese and bacon).  I found one at SparkPeople, created by their Chef Meg Galvin called her Loaded Potato Soup.

Her prep time of fifteen minutes turned into my prep time of forty-five minutes, but I don’t have the benefit of years of knife skills honed to perfection on the culinary cutting board of her career.  I did learn the proper way to cut an onion, thanks to several online knife skills videos.

I got my large saucepan out to heat up and began following her instructions.  I did great until I reached the part where I was to add the spices.  I had not laid out my non-vegetable ingredients before I started cooking, so I looked up at a partial list of ingredients on the recipe web page (partial because I had scrolled down to read the directions and the first half of the ingredients rolled out of sight off the top of the page).  The pepper listed last was cayenne (a quarter teaspoon) which I immediately added to my saucepan.  Then I needed to add the thyme, and I had to scroll back up to find out how much.  When I found it, I realized the ingredient immediately preceding the thyme was black pepper.  So, I had just mistakenly added the cayenne pepper where I should have added a half teaspoon of black pepper.  Argh!.

I quickly read further through the directions and realized the cayenne was added, almost like a garnish, after you remove the bay leaf.  I shrugged and added the black pepper, thyme and bay leaf, since there was nothing I could do about the cayenne pepper at this point.  The rest of the process went without further mishap.

I simmered the soup for more than the suggested thirty minutes (probably more like forty-five minutes).  I did not opt to add the corn nor the lettuce.  And, rather than getting my blender dirty just to puree the soup, I used a mashed potato masher utensil instead.

I filled two bowls with the soup and crumbled turkey bacon over both of them.  I added a handful of colby jack cheese to Terry’s bowl, but left my dairy-free.  The soup had a bit of a kick, both from the yellow bell pepper and, I suspect, the too early application of the cayenne.  But, both Terry and I cleaned our bowls.

I will probably try this recipe again, now that I am familiar with the process and can refine it for our palettes.

Honey Garlic Grilled Chicken

First, the marinade:

2 Tbsp honey
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 mashed garlic cloves
2 tsp ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Now, what to marinade?  We used four chicken thighs, but you can just as easily use other chicken parts or even eggplant (something my daughter would love). We placed the chicken thighs in a rectangular plastic dish (one with a tight sealing lid) and added all the marinade.  We shook it up a bit to even distribute the liquid and then placed the container back in the meat drawer of the refrigerator for about an hour.

A stiff south breeze brought almost balmy temperatures (lower sixties), so rather than broiling the chicken, we fired up the outdoor grill.  Thirty minutes later we had perfectly grilled chicken.  We complemented the meat with a baby spinach and spring mix leafy green salad and a steamed fresh broccoli head (trimmed to just the florets and broken into bite size pieces).  A slice of my fresh baked honey wheat bread rounded out a delicious Sunday lunch.

Sadly, we were so eager to eat our freshly grilled chicken that I neglected to take any photographs.  I did, however, remember to add this recipe in my Spark recipe box, so I have the all-important nutritional information.

We will definitely be making this again.