Category Archives: Holidays

Spinach, Pear and Shaved Parmesan Salad

I love planning dinner party menus. Putting together a fun and unique combination of appetizers is always enjoyable and there are so many from which to choose. The entree requires a bit more thought, but it’s definitely the “meat” of the menu (no pun intended) and you know when you’ve found “the one.” The sides follow easily after that. And deciding on just the right dessert is – let’s face it – the icing on the cake. But for some reason, I seem to get stuck on the salad course. It’s always always the very last thing I add to my menu. I always change my mind a few times. I’m not sure why this is. Is it because I’m so clever and intuitive as to how a salad course should compliment and build up to the entree and dessert that I wait until last to decide? Probably not. Is it because so many salad courses include cheese and nuts and I’m a sensitive hostess who takes all potential food aversions very seriously? I do, but really, that’s not why. Is it because the dinner salad, put simply, just isn’t the sexy part of the meal? Perhaps.

This is where I got stuck last Thanksgiving during my menu planning. I had chosen a bean and kale salad at first – and  just typing those words makes me thankful that I  gave it a second thought. I finally found this spinach, pear and shaved Parmesan salad on and I had that menu-planning Eureka! moment. And it didn’t disappoint. It’s so easy to make and it looks so beautiful on the dinner table. The tart mustard dressing is a perfect pair with the sweet slices of pair.

If you’re still stuck on your salad course for this weekend’s big dinner, I hope that this can maybe be your Eureka! menu moment.


  • 8 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 Bosch pear, quartered lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 oz. Parmesan or Parmesano Reggiano cheese, shaved (you can do this ahead of time with a vegetable peeler and room temp cheese)
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. whole-grain mustard
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper


Combine spinach, pears and cheese. For dressing, whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper and sugar. Whisk in oil. Drizzle on salad and pass remaining.

Makes eight servings.


Brie Topped with Pralines

I don’t know about you, but I can’t get through the holidays without ridiculous amounts and variations of cheese dishes. If it’s super easy to make – even better. If it’s sweet and topped with nuts – even better. If it’s perfect for spreading onto a slice of crusty bread or a crisp tart wedge of apple – even better. This is the ideal appetizer with which to start your holiday party or dinner. It’s quick, it’s decadent and it’s sure to get the conversation started since people tend to stand around the plate because one taste of this just is not enough!


  • 1  13-ounce  round Brie or Camembert cheese
  • 1/2  cup  orange marmalade
  • 2  tablespoons  packed brown sugar
  • 1/3  cup  coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
  • Apple slices and/or baguette slices, toasted


Preheat oven to 350°F. Place cheese in a shallow ovenproof serving dish or pie plate. In a small bowl, stir together orange marmalade and brown sugar. Spread on top of cheese. Sprinkle with pecans.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until cheese is slightly softened and topping is bubbly. Serve with the apple and/or baguette slices.