WRITTEN BY Mary-Audrey Atteberry
Mary-Audrey Atteberry, a stay-at-home mom of two, is nothing short of passionate about cooking! She strives daily to feed her family wholesome, organic and tasty meals, and she is dedicated to finding the best ingredients available. Atteberry also is famous for trying out new, “good for you” recipes on her toughest critics: her 11-year-old daughter and her 8-year-old son. Her sweet husband thinks everything she cooks is the best she has ever made! She delights in sharing recipes with her friends and she is working on creating her first collection of recipes to sell!
Read the full post to discover fabulous luncheon ideas and recipes!
Spring is just around the corner, so let’s get a head start on beating the winter blues! Instead of running errands when the kids are at school, treat your dearest friends to a fun-filled and scrumptious lunch in your home. These dishes can be prepared a day or two ahead of time, which will allow you to join in on the spirit of the day. All you will need to do is reheat and assemble!
Need an additional treat with lunch? Pick up a fresh loaf of bread at the local bakery. My favorites are Café Fleurette (photo left) in Winnetka and Hewn Bakery in Evanston, which specializes in artisanal bread made by hand the old fashioned way. Bonus: These bakeries also have delicious pastries for dessert.
I have noted throughout some of my “go-to” spots around Chicago that offer the finest provisions and the best places to get locally made and locally grown ingredients.
MIXED GREENS SALAD WITH SPICED PECANS, CHEVRE AND HOT APPLE CIDER DRESSING
Borrowed from Cold-Weather Cooking
Makes enough for 8 to 10 side salads
2 cups pecan halves
2 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (A local gem: Get your spices at The Spice House in Evanston. I love Saigon Cinnamon, nicely balanced spicy and fruity.)
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon dry mustard
TO PREPARE THE PECANS: Place the nuts in a small bowl, cover with boiling water and let soak for 15 minutes. Drain well and pat dry on paper towels. Preheat oven to 300. Spread nuts on an ungreased baking sheet and toast stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. While nuts are baking, prepare the sugar and spice mixture. Whisk vegetable oil, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and mustard in a medium size bowl. Remove nuts and turn oven up to 350F. Add hot nuts into spice mixture and toss to coat thoroughly. Spread nuts into a single layer on baking sheet and roast 15 minutes. Let cool and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
For those of you who need a break from lighting up those burners in your kitchen, here are a couple of my favorite downtown restaurants that source locally and support sustained agriculture whenever possible. These are definitely worth the drive.
HOT CIDER DRESSING
2 cups apple cider
8 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 shallots, minced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon honey mustard
½ cup olive oil (Check out Old Town Oil or City Olive in Chicago.)
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
TO PREPARE THE DRESSING: Place cider in a small saucepan and boil until reduced to ½ cup. This will take 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside. Sauté bacon in a medium sized skillet over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels and discard all but 2 to 3 tablespoons of bacon fat remaining in skillet. (Bacon can be reheated on paper towel for a few seconds in the microwave just before serving!) Add shallots to skillet and sauté over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the cinnamon and honey mustard and cook 1 more minute. Add mixture to the reduced cider. Add olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Warm up dressing when ready to plate.
You can find so many delicious varieties of apple cider during the fall at our local farmers’ markets: visit Wilmette or Evanston. And the all-organic Green City Market is worth the drive to the city!
MIXED GREENS SALAD
12 cups torn mixed salad greens (Young lettuces love to grow in the cool spring weather so they are often the first to appear at local farmers’ markets.)
1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb
1½ large Granny Smith apples, thinly sliced
4 ounces crumbled chèvre or other soft goat’s cheese (My favorite is Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery out of Champaign, Illinois. It sells at several local farmers markets and Whole Foods.)
TO PLATE: When ready to eat, slice the fennel bulb and apples into very thin slices. A mandolin is especially helpful. Add pecans, bacon and crumbled chèvre to mixed greens. Dress salad with warm dressing. You can serve one of two ways: Toss the salad with all the goodies or plate the greens, arrange components on top and drizzle dressing onto each plated salad. I prefer to do the later if it is for a group of less than eight.
CREAMLESS BUT OH SO CREAMY CELERIAC AND FENNEL SOUP
Borrowed from Feasting at Home Blog, December 2013
1 yellow onion diced
1 large fennel bulb, cored and diced (about 1½ to 2 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large or 2 smaller sized celeriac (also known as celery root), peeled and diced (about 4 to 5 cups)
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth (You can also use vegetable stock.)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a large, heavy bottom pot, sauté diced onion in oil over medium-high heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add fennel. Turn heat to medium-low and sauté until fennel begins to caramelize, stirring occasionally about 12 minutes. Add celeriac, pepper and broth. Turn heat up to high, bring to a simmer lower heat and cover, continue simmering until celeriac is very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Using a blender, (I adore my Vitamix!) blend until smooth, in batches, only filling blender half full to avoid hot ingredients from exploding!
Return all puréed soup to pot. Taste with salt. When serving, garnish with a swirl of crème fraîche or sour cream, and a little parsley oil.
1 cup packed Italian parsley (stems ok)
½ cup olive oil
1 small garlic clove
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor until combined. If you are a cilantro lover like me, try using it instead of the parsley. It adds a fresh twist!