Warming winter salads: roasted squash salad with cider vinaigrette

Roasted squash salad with cider vinaigrette

Winter calls for a whole different kind of salad, salads with substance and a bit of a bite.

I think that’s why this molasses-roasted squash salad with peppery arugula and cider vinaigrette is so appealing. When the weather turns cold “cool and crisp” are not what I crave in a salad.

Last fall we spent a long weekend in Maine with my twin brother and his wife. It was a little family getaway before the holiday rush and a chance to play tourist in an area that we often visit but never explore. On the first day we coaxed our kids through the Portland Museum of Art and puttered in the Old Port eating homemade Maine Potato Donuts, window shopping and people watching.

It was fun, sure, but we quickly decided that, why play tourist when you can hang out with your bro and his wife, cook the evenings away and bring the wine?

Roasted squash salad with cider vinaigrette

It was a delightfully relaxing weekend with an abundance of family time and the chance to flip through some new cookbooks.

My sister-in-law has a terrific eye for cookbooks and had just bought my brother an entire stack of Barefoot Contessa cookbooks.  An entire stack.

This recipe was one of the first that I came across so I put it on the menu for one evening. I have made it six times since and I make a double batch of the dressing so I always have some in the fridge. Sometimes I top this salad with sautéed pears instead of the squash and sometimes I use both roasted squash and sautéed pears.

Roasted squash salad with cider vinaigrette

Molasses-roasted squash salad with cider vinaigrette

Slightly adapted from Ina Garten aka Barefoot Contessa

For the squash

  • 1 buttercup squash, peeled and diced
  • 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Grandma Fancy Molasses
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the cider dressing:

  • 3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup olive oil or grape seed oil
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

For the rest of the salad

  • 5 ounces baby arugula or baby spinach, washed and spun dry
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, walnuts or pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup freshly shaved or grated Parmesan
  • 3 tablespoons dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the olive oil and molasses. Add the cubed squash and toss to coat. Spread on a parchment lined cookie sheet in a single layer, season with salt and pepper and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. .
  3. While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced to about 1/4 cup (precision isn’t necessary). Remove from heat and whisk in the mustard, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  4. Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and toss with the dressing. Add the dried cranberries, nuts and parmesan. Plate each serving and top with the squash or toss the squash with the greens and serve it that way. Suit yourself.

One more thing…

If you’re in search of family-friendly food that’s easy to prepare, healthy and tastes good, then sign up to receive blog posts by email. The sign-up form is on the top right hand side of this page. We’d love to send you our monthly email too. Our Making Life Delicious newsletter includes cooking tips, menu ideas and featured recipes. Here’s the link to our monthly email sign-up form.

Here’s to eating well, everyday,

Bridget signature



Roasted squash salad -squash

Snow peas and red pepper salad and my family’s best ever surprise party

Snow pea and red pepper salad with walnut dressing pretty on a buffet table and so delicious

For my mom and dad’s 40th wedding anniversary we managed to pull off a big surprise party, in their house, no less.

My mom is a very sharp woman and we were never able to sneak much past her when we were growing up, so for my six siblings and I to succeed with the surprise was a huge accomplishment.

Much was in our favour…

Conveniently, we had a big rowing regatta (the re-enactment of the Paris Crew race in Renforth) as a helpful decoy, a way to get mom and dad out of the house and reason enough for my twin brother, a former rower, to come home for the weekend. Another brother who was living in Minnesota was home for a visit too.

Snowpea and red pepper salad with walnut dressing pretty on a buffet table and so delicious

But making the party a total surprise wasn’t without its near misses…

My brother who was tasked with getting mom out of the house (dad had gone ahead) to make way for the caterer had us all near heart failure when he didn’t arrive at the appointed time.

It was not looking good when suddenly, through the kitchen window I saw his car round the corner (practically on two wheels he was in such a hurry).

As he and mom drove out of the yard the caterer’s van came up our street.

Then, as mom and dad walked along the sidewalk toward their vantage point for the race, another brother and his family (surprise visitors for the party) drove right by, in their distinctive red car. My brother and his wife spied my parents but thanks to the commotion mom and dad didn’t notice.

And when mom and dad arrived home from the race to a yard full of cars they still didn’t suspect a thing. They assumed I had invited a bunch of friends over, until mom caught a glimpse of an old family friend through the window.

“What is Al Barry doing in our living room with a drink in his hand?” she said. “…Oh!”


Snowpea and red pepper salad with walnut dressing pretty on a buffet table and so delicious

We had the party partially catered and then we all pitched in with extra appetizers and salads. That was probably the last time I made this salad. For years it made the family party rounds and then was somehow forgotten, only to be rediscovered a couple of months ago in and old hand-written cookbook of mine from the early 1990’s. I can’t recall the book it came out of but mom and I can both picture the salad, lovely and bright in a pretty blue pottery bowl on their dining room table.

Leafy salads are great but sometimes it’s nice to have a salad with a bit more crunch and colour, which is just what this salad offers.


Snow peas and red pepper salad

  • ¾ lb. snow peas
  • ½ lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small sweet red pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds

Walnut orange dressing:

  • 1 small clove of garlic, pressed
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 2 tsp. Grandma Fancy Molasses
  • 3 Tbsp. cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. walnut oil (or olive oil)
  • Pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper
  1. Top and string peas.
  2. Blanch peas in boiling water for 1 ½ to two minutes.
  3. Drain and rinse immediately under cold water. Dry thoroughly.
  4. In ungreased skillet over medium heat toast the sesame seeds until lightly browned, shaking the pan often
  5. Combine dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake until well combined (or whisk together in a bowl)
  6. Toss vegetables with dressing and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
  7. Serve immediately.

Many dear friends and family who were at that party years ago are no longer with us. It’s a good reminder to celebrate with people who are special to you every chance you get.

My family’s recipe for marinated tomato salad was also on the buffet table at the big surprise party. Here’s the recipe: 


Marinated tomato salad with garlicky paprika vinaigrette

 Some women are crazy about shoes but for me it’s tomatoes. Fresh, local, field-ripened tomatoes. When they’re in season I can’t get enough of them.

I grew up eating this marinated tomato salad at big family parties where the food was laid out on the dining room table and served buffet style. Nestled in among the plates of ham and potato salad this salad was stunningly beautiful and added a welcomed variety to the standard fare.

To add substance nestle slabs of feta or fresh mozzarella in among the tomatoes. Be sure to serve it with crusty bread to sop up all of the dressing.

When summer tomatoes are at their peak this is my favourite way to eat them.

Marinated Tomato Salad 

  • 6 medium tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp fresh herbs (oregano, basil, chives…)


  • 2 tsp spice mix (see recipe below)
  • 1 tsp Grandma Fancy Molasses
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Salt & pepper

Spice mix

  • 2 ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ – ½ tsp dried chipotle pepper or cayenne
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  1. Slice the tomatoes and lay them in a dish that’s deep enough to accommodate the marinade without it dribbling over the sides.
  2. Pour over the marinade and let the flavours blend for a couple of hours. Sprinkle with herbs before serving.
  3. If you’d like to make this a bit more substantial nestle some slabs of feta in among the tomatoes. Or you can serve grilled feta on the side.

*You’ll have way more marinade than you need so save the extra to use as a salad dressing.

One more thing…

If you’re in search of family-friendly food that’s easy to prepare, healthy and tastes good, then sign up to receive blog posts by email. The sign-up form is on the top right hand side of this page. We’d love to send you our monthly newsletter too. Our Making Life Delicious newsletter includes cooking tips, menu ideas and featured recipes. Here’s the link to our monthly email sign-up form.


Carrot cabbage slaw with orange molasses dressing

Carrot Cabbage Slaw with orange dressingI didn’t get to the gym today (not that I’m particularly stressed about it). But tonight I’ll make up for the missed workout by making carrot cabbage slaw. It’s not a diet thing is a fitness goal thing. (I can only do five wiggly push ups and I want to get to eight, not wiggly ones.) Grating carrots by hand will work my right arm. So will slicing the cabbage. So I’ll get half a workout in. And of course my fork is in my left hand…

Carrot cabbage slaw with orange molasses dressing

  • 3 cups grated carrots 3 cups thinly-sliced red cabbage
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts or toasted sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley or cilantro
  • 1/3 cup currants.

Toss with this basic dressing:

Orange dressing:

  • 3 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. orange zest
  • 2 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 2 ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp. cumin (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. Grandma Fancy Molasses
  • 2/3 cup oil (half olive oil, half walnut oil if you have it)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Put all ingredients, except oil, in a mason jar and give it a good shake. Make sure the Dijon is well incorporated then add the oil and give it another shake. Or you can stir it together in a bowl, in the same sequence.

Before serving, squeeze half a lemon over the slaw and add the zest of one lemon.

Walnut molasses salad dressing – healthy & homemade

There are lots of things that I don’t make myself. Things that I could make (like puff pastry) but I don’t. For lots of reasons.

But something that I never buy is salad dressing.

I always make my own because it’s so tasty.

And easy.

Dead easy.

This is what I call my “house” dressing. It’s a double batch  so you won’t run out. It’s delicious with hazelnut oil too, and almond oil…


Walnut molasses dressing

  • 1/3 cup walnut oil
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp Grandma Fancy Molasses
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

Combine everything in a mason jar and give it a good shake. Store in the fridge.

Farro with kale and cranberries – a hearty grain side dish

Farro pilaf with kale and cranberries

We still have winter boots in a heap by the back door. It’s not that we think we’ll need them again before December. It’s late April afterall and even if it snows again (which it won’t) there’s no way any of us wants to put winter boots on again. We’d rather have cold soggy sneakers. It’s that whole winter-to-spring transition that I struggle with. The effort required to put the winter stuff away and haul out all of the spring and summer things.

I have the same season-change challenge with my cooking. On the sunny spring days I don’t feel like heavy winter stews but I can’t quite recall my go-to dishes for spring. My gear shifting is slow.

This farro with kale and cranberries is a good bridge between the two seasons.

It can be hot and hearty in the winter but a warm side dish as spring rolls around. I created the recipe as a way to use up some leftover kale and realised that molasses is the perfect sweetener to stand up to kale and heavy grains. I chop my kale fairly fine so my kids don’t try to pick it out. (So far, so good.) Also, adding navy beans would turn this into a filling main dish.


Farro with kale and cranberries (and molasses vinaigrette)

  • 1 cup of farro (barley or brown rice work well too)
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • Half a bunch of kale (about 6 stalks, leafy parts only), washed and chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • Sea salt & pepper
  • Squeeze of lemon juice and zest of one lemon
  • Cook farro (or your grain of choice) according to package instructions. Fluff and set aside.

Over medium heat saute the onion in a tablespoon or two of olive oil. When softened add the kale.

Stir and cover to let the kale wilt. Stir frequently so the kale cooks evenly. This should take only 5 minutes or so.

When the kale is done to your liking, turn the heat to low, stir in the farro and toss with the dressing (recipe below…you won’t need all of it).

Add the dried cranberries & walnuts. Season with sea salt & pepper.

Add the lemon zest and juice. Serve warm.

Molasses vinaigrette:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. Grandma Fancy Molasses
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Sea salt & pepper

Combine dressing ingredients in a jar with a snug lid and give it a good shake to combine.