Wednesday, May 23, 2012

This Will Get You Hooked on Salads

Once upon a time, about 8 years ago, hubby & I hosted friends from the south of France for about 2 weeks.  It was an older, very chic couple we'd visited several times and we were excited to finally have them visiting us.
Here they are goofing around at the Comstock Covered Bridge

While they were here, Marie taught me what she called a basic dressing for salads.  Let me tell you, there is nothing basic about it.  It officially ruined any bottled dressing for me.

Over the years it has evolved as I've experimented with the ingredients, but here's the current version I make, and the one that is requested by pretty much everyone who has ever tried it.  I serve it on green salads especially arugula, spinach or watercress, as well as over cold pasta salads.  I use a scaled down simpler version on potato salad too.  I'm sorry to say I generally don't use precise measurements - it's more of a feel of what's right by personal taste and experience.

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup or less of Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar
Few squeezes of agave nectar (or honey)
1 large garlic clove, pressed and/or small shallot minced
1/4 or more tsp of dijon mustard
palm of hand measurement of herbes de provence
squeezes of fresh lemon juice - maybe a quarter of a lemon or more to taste - I've used orange in a pinch
sea salt & freshly ground pepper
(sometimes I throw in a splash of white wine if I happen to be drinking some while I'm making dinner)

whisk it all together

That's pretty much it.  When I make it with a spinach & goat cheese salad I use balsamic vinegar.  I cut back on the vinegar when I make it with potato salad and add a little more lemon for freshness & a little bit of mayonnaise or sour cream.  With pasta salad I've been known to add capers and chopped sun dried tomatoes.  It's a really versatile dressing (last night I poured the left over dressing from this weekend into a linguine dish with pancetta, olives, basil & tomatoes!) and it so good I always sop up the extra with baguette.

Merci Marie for sharing the love.  Now I share it with all of you.  Bon App├ętit mes amis!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Spotting the GREEN CT Realtor

Haven't seen much of me lately, have you?  Neither have many of my friends, or the instructors at my gym (I swear I'm going back!) This past month I've been the blur running from real estate appointments to showings, to appraisals, to inspections, to letting in the carpet guys, to meeting the movers....the insanity of the Spring real estate market has me working until almost 8pm, then collapsing in a heap while my iPhone continues to buzz with other Realtors calling me as late as 10:30pm.  (Btw, I don't take calls that late.)  I've felt like the subject of a British documentary (naturally British because the narrator in my head has an accent) on the "elusive and rarely seen in her own habitat" GREEN CT Realtor.

In this month of crazy, I did manage to carve out a half-day a week of quality family time.  I signed up my family, Team Minnick aka The Minnick Adventure Squad, to participate in the CT Department of Energy & Environmental Protection's  No Child Left Inside activity called The Great Park Pursuit.  Briefly, the idea of No Child Left Inside is to fight nature-deficit disorder.  Get the kids outside instead of in front of a TV/computer/video game.  The Great Park Pursuit started maybe 6 years ago and has evolved to the program it was this year, which was 4 Saturdays of environmentally-themed days in a secret state park location revealed through clues to solve.  For completing enough of the events or educational stations each Saturday, the kids earned a patch and if we completed all 4 weeks we earned a season pass to all the Connecticut state parks.  When I mentioned to friends on Facebook that we were committing to doing it, another family decided to join us and each Saturday we'd pack picnics (which got progressively better each week!) head out early, and meet up in places far & near.  From week to week we'd see the same friendly volunteers working the events and 3 of the 4 parks we visited were new to me.  Overall a really positive experience for us!

Week I - Goodwin State Forest - Theme: Forestry - Kids Highlight: Canoeing

Learning forestry techniques, taking tree inventory for logging and measurements
If you're thinking my daughter is wearing "war paint" you'd be correct.  Turns out my children thought this was a competition and came downstairs that morning with blue paint they applied together!

Week II - Sherwood Island State Park - Theme: Birding - Kids Highlight: Climbing Rocks on Beach
Bird banding demonstration
C releases a just-banded American Robin 
Sherwood Island has a really nice beach, birding areas, nature center and Sept. 11th memorial.

Week III - Day Pond State Park - Theme: Fishing - Kids Highlight: Fishing & Trout Stocking


                                                               Making fish prints.  Like stamping, with fish.


Week IV - Dinosaur State Park - Theme: Energy - Kids Highlight: Solar-Powered Blender & Smart Energy Game
CT Clean Energy Fund serving up smoothies made in 2 solar-powered blenders and served in reusable water bottles for the kids.  We are big fans of the CTCEF and used them for our solar panel project.  They tell me the program will be up and running again for grants in 3-4 months for all of you who have asked me about that.
This game is a great visual of the comparison of how much energy traditional appliances use versus Energy Star appliances.  The two biggest differences I saw were the refrigerator and the cfl lightbulbs.  The kids loved it too!

I'm going to say this about the Great Park Pursuit:  we loved it.  Macy's sponsored the season passes and it was run by volunteers who seemed to know what they were talking about: foresters, fishermen, birding experts from the Audubon Society,  etc., and it was obvious how much work went into it.  I feel like we got a lot out of it - they made it very educational and active (did I mention the relay-type events each week?) and interesting for all of us.  It was a great family experience, and my children have already asked if we can do it again next year.