Christmas Wreath Salad with Cranberry Orange Vinaigrette

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(Mama Becky)

I’ve been mulling over this year’s Christmas Dinner Menu for our big blended family.  My goal is always to use recipes that are delicious, tasty, and pretty — but are no-brainers to make and serve.

For the main dishes, I  decided on my never0fail, always juicy slices of Tri-Tip roast in au jus; and a nice center cut of grilled Norwegian salmon from Whole Foods, our favorite cut of fish.  This should please the beef eaters and the fish eaters alike.

I recently discovered some delicate, amazing-tasting fresh “pasta purses” stuffed with cheeses and truffles at, of all places, Sam’s Club.   After cooking them in boiling water, I gently ladled  them into a quick rich sauce made of cream, a little garlic, Parmesan cheese and basil. To. Die. For.  And silly easy.  I now have my perfect fancy-but-simple Christmas side dish to put on the menu.

Finally, to add some freshness and crunch to round out the meal,  I thought I’d make a salad.  But I didn’t want an old boring salad.  Then –  faster than a speeding reindeer it came to me! I’d make a Christmas Wreath Salad.  I’d arrange the greens on a plate like a wreath, dot it with red berries, both fresh and dried, sprinkle with nuts and top with  feta cheese “snow” and tuck a bow at the bottom of the plate.  Then, what could be more festive to drizzle on this pretty salad than a vinaigrette inspired by my favorite cranberry-orange relish?

As I write this, it seems the whole country is blanketed with snow and ice. Here in Denver  it is a balmly… 1 degree.  Our front yard proved to be the perfect place to chill the salad and snap some photos.  Let me assure, I didn’t dawdle with the camera outside for long. In fact this was probably the fastest — and coldest – food photography session I’ve ever done.  Greg and I sampled this trial-run salad as a one bowl supper tonight by topping it with some warm, sliced deli roast chicken.  Big, Holly Jolly win.

By the way, if you are looking for an uplifting, fun gift for teachers, girlfriends, moms, grandmas or cooks in your family … may we suggest copies of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook?

We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook - Gift Wrapped

Our memoir is truly one of those perfect, generic, happy gifts that anyone on your list will enjoy.  The recipes at the end of each chapter add extra value.  The book is available online everywhere, and in most bookstores; but if you would like an autographed, wrapped copy check out Rachel’s last blog post with instructions on how to contact us.

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Christmas Wreath Salad with Cranberry Orange Vinaigrette


About 4 to 5 cups of salad greens (I used chopped romaine and arranged spinach leaves on top of the “wreath mounds)

½ cup of whole nuts (I used pecans and pistachios)

¼ cup of dried red berries – cherries or cranberries

½ cup of fresh red  berries – slice strawberries or pitted fresh cherries

1/3 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese (or if you prefer, grated white cheddar, parmesan, swiss or other white cheese)


On a large round plate, put a small bowl for the salad dressing in the middle.  Arrange salad greens around the bowl to make a “wreath”, then dot the wreath with nuts, dried berries and fresh betters.  Finally sprinkle with feta “snow”.    Fill the bowl in the middle with the following vinaigrette and serve chilled.

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Cranberry Orange Vinaigrette

1 cup fresh  cranberries
1 medium navel orange or 2-3 clementines, peeled and broken apart
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon grated onion  or dried minced onion

½ t. garlic powder
2/3  cup olive oil


Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor and process until smooth, and turns a gorgeous raspberry red.  Keep in fridge until ready to serve.

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Chicken-Cream Cheese-Nut Cranberry Monte Cristos

Chicken-Cream Cheese-Nut Cranberry Monte Cristos

If you, like me, served a big bunch of family and friends a large Easter dinner yesterday, then I declare tonight to be “Cook’s Night Off!” If, however, like me, the thought of getting dressed, driving to a restaurant, and making polite conversation with other human beings sounds like it would take more energy than you currently have leftover, this AMAZING and easy sandwich recipe will help you get out of the kitchen and onto the comfy couch quick.

Sorry about the long name. I tried to work with just the initials (a la the “BLT”) but “CCNCMC Sandwiches” sounded like robot food.

I also give you permission to eat this buttery deliciousness in your most comfy T-shirt and stretchy pants. Or better yet, just wear your PJs and ratty old robe.  Home chefs that serve big holiday meals deserve to be as lazy as you want to be the next day. Wallow in it, I say!

Feel free to substitute ham if you’ve got lots of it leftover and want to use it in place of chicken or as an addition to it. I am personally a little “hammed out” today.

A vegan version also follows, because I love my daughter and I want her to taste this dynamite flavor combo!

Becky’s Chicken-Cream Cheese-Nut Cranberry Monte Cristos

Serves 4


4 slices good bread (I like the round sliced French boule from Whole Foods, a light and airy artisan bread)

1/2 c. whipped cream cheese (Toffuti “Better than Cream Cheese” if you are vegan)

1/4 c. chopped walnuts, pecans, or pistachios

1 T. chopped green onions

4  slices turkey or chicken  (use extra portion of of chopped nuts in place of meat for vegans)

1/3 c. whole cranberry sauce

2 eggs beaten with a dash milk (vegans use egg-replacer  of choice and 1/3 c. non-dairy milk)

1 T. olive oil

1 T. butter (Earth Balance for vegans)

1/4 c. arugala or other lettuce greens

1 T. powdered sugar


Mix whipped cream cheese or Tofutti with chopped nuts and green onions. Spread 4 pieces of bread with this mixture on one side. Lay two slices of chicken or turkey on two slices of the bread. (Add extra layer of chopped nuts in place of meat if you are vegan.) Spread cranberry sauce on the other two slices. Put together to make two chicken-cheese-walnut-cranberry sandwiches.

Melt butter or Earth Balance and oil together in  a skillet big enough to hold two sandwiches. In a wide shallow bowl, beat the two eggs with milk (or substitutes if you are vegan). Carefully dip both sides of the sandwiches in the egg mixture as you would for French toast. Place the sandwiches, gently, into the skillet and let cook at medium heat until one side is golden brown. Carefully turn over the sandwiches and grill the other side (adding more oil and butter if needed.)

Sizzling Sandwich

Cut in half, tuck in a few arugula leaves, sprinkle tops lightly with powdered sugar. Serve with extra dollop of cranberry sauce if desired.

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