Someone asked me today what my favorite thing to do in the kitchen is. It was a hard question to answer. My love of cooking actually started with baking. Baking is so soothing to me. If you pay attention to what you are doing, the product almost always turns out right. Plus – it’s delicious! You can be creative in the frosting, decorating and presentation of a baked product. Baked goods almost always make people happy. They are the perfect antidote to a rotten day, a broken heart or a case of the blues. They are also always present at celebrations: birthdays, graduations and promotions.
I remember being in high school when my grandfather was taken to the hospital and placed in intensive care. My parents were with him in the hospital and I was home waiting word of his condition. Upon arriving home in the early hours of the morning, my parents discovered me pulling out a 3rd batch of cookies from the oven. They joined the pound cake, 2 dozen cupcakes and other 2 batches of cookies already sitting on the counter. I had been at it for hours. The baking kept my hands and mind occupied during a very stressful time. Baking is still like that for me.
However, I have moved on in my culinary interests and truly enjoy cooking. The process of putting together different ingredients and the balancing act involved in turning out a complete meal all at the same time prove to be a challenge that I love to take on every time. Experimenting is one of my favorite things to do. It is so great to have a staff around all of the time that I can convince to be my guinea pigs. Not all of my experiments are successes, but some of them end up making their way to the Olive Branch menu.
One such experiment is the Orchard Salad dressing. It is a fat-free citrus vinaigrette that has real fruit, vanilla, honey and garlic. It is sweet and savory at the same time and is perfect with the strawberries, candied walnuts, feta cheese and smoky bacon we pair it with on our salad greens. It has been so popular that I put it in my cookbook “To Taste.” Don’t be afraid to try this at home. It is super easy and always a winner!
Orchard Salad Citrus Vinaigrette
1 pint fresh strawberries washed and sliced
1 Cup fresh pineapple cut into 1 inch pieces (you can use canned pineapple, drained)
3 T of honey
1t vanilla extract
½ Cup balsamic vinegar
1t minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large salad serving bowl, put all the ingredients in and stir together.
- Let it sit in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours before adding your salad greens and tossing.