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Monday, February 3, 2014

Roasted Beet, Apple, and Goat Cheese Salad with Pecan Vinaigrette

beet salad with apples and goat cheese
Roasted Beet Salad with Apples and Goat Cheese

Last month was an extreme test in flexibility and adaptability. I headed to my parent's house in the Chicagoland area over my holiday break to relax and spend time with my parents and also celebrate Baby McLaury with a few baby showers while Ryan went off of a bachelor party / guy's trip. It was wonderful to be home, soaking up my last few days of time off before the baby arrives and vacation days take a whole new meaning.

It was, of course, not without its challenges, as I hinted at above. For one, have you ever lived through a remodeling project? My parents are renovating the entire first floor of their house, which essentially means they're living amidst a construction site for a few months. This is difficult enough of its own, with the dust and the noise and the, uh, lack of a kitchen, but add me and my two sisters who were also home and you have yourself a test in staying calm and patient with a lot of mess and chaos in a small amount of space. Adaptability became all the more required as my date to head home continued to be pushed back thanks to a blizzard followed by the Polar Vortex, which struck in both Chicago and St. Louis and left bitterly freezing (we're talking negative double digits!!) temperatures in its wake, making highway travel impossible. It wasn't that I was sick of my parents and I'd even come to find the construction craziness manageable...but I had a job to get back to and a husband who I was ready to see again, not to mention a nursery to set up!
Pin Itbeet salad with goat cheese
A past version of Natalie would've stressed and fretted and been miserable, wasting emotions on things that could not be controlled. I'm learning to mellow, however, and I just went with the flow, thankful for the ability to work virtually, the chance to spend a few extra days with my mom and dad, and a warm house to protect me from the treacherous conditions outside!

This salad was also a bit of a lesson in adaptability, albeit not a very tough one. The original recipe was passed along to me by a family friend a few years ago, who said it was one of their favorite summer salads. It called for peaches and other summery ingredients that aren't possible to get in the dead of winter, so I adapted it for the winter. Flexibility paid off, as we loved the finished product, a great meatless dinner option that could easily be made even more of a main dish with some sliced chipped thrown on top (we ate it with the "best cornbread in the world"!). The pecan vinaigrette is the true star of the dish, and a dressing I'll be using on all sorts of salads from here on out!

One Year Ago: Slow Cooker Spotlight
Two Years Ago: Split Pea and Barley Soup 
Three Years Ago: Raspberry Truffle Tarts and Quinoa, Squash, and Leek Pilaf with Runny Eggs
Four Years Ago: Margarita Ice Cream Pie and Banana Oat Bars with Peanut Butter Chips

Roasted Beet, Apple, and Goat Cheese Salad with Pecan Vinaigrette
adapted from Real Food magazine (Summer 2009)

-2 large fresh beets (about 1 1/4 lbs)
-2/3 cup pecan halves
-2-3 large apples, about 1 lb
-1/3 cup olive oil
-2 tbsp pure maple syrup
-3 tbsp rice vinegar
-1 tbsp Dijon mustard
-few drops tabasco
-1/2 small clove garlic, pressed
-12 cups mixed greens
-2 medium stalks celery, thinly sliced
-4 oz fresh goat cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Wash (but don't peel) beets. Trim roots and stems and wrap beets tightly in foil. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 75 minutes. Remove from oven, open packet, and allow beets to cool. Once cool, remove skins from beets with your fingers (skins should slip right off, but will stain your fingers!).
2. Place 1/3 cup pecans in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground. Whisk together oil, maple syrup, vinegar, mustard, and Tabasco in a small bowl. Mix in pressed garlic, ground pecans, and salt to taste, whisking until smooth.
3. Toast remaining pecans in a small nonstick skillet over high heat, about 2 minutes.
4. Slice apples into thin wedges. Add mixed greens to a large bowl. Cut beets into 1-inch pieces and add to the bowl with sliced celery, apples, toasted pecans, and goat cheese. Toss with vinaigrette and serve immediately.