Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fall Party Salad

Most people who "go paleo" are making pretty good choices when they are at home, but they get nervous when venturing out of their cave. What do I do when I go to a party? Am I going to be able to eat anything? If I don't eat something that everyone else is, will I look weird or rude?

Here's the solution: offer to bring something, and make sure it's something you can eat. There are tons of options, but I really like to bring a salad. I know, you must think I'm crazy for bringing a bunch of leaves and vegetables and thinking that it will be a hit -- but guess what? Every time I bring a salad people go nuts! I don't just go to the store and pick up one of those pre-made salads that's boring--I make a hand-crafted, artisan style salad that has enough elegance that people just HAVE to try it.

If you are just now joining me and haven't read all my posts, my caveman just recently got a new job and we moved to Virginia Beach. The people on his team at work, and his boss, and his boss's boss, are all AWESOME fun people. Everyone is a little different, from different age groups, different ethnicity, but all of them have a great sense of humor and love a party. This is the busy season for Ian's particular field, and to kick off the season, a month or so ago his boss had a cookout at her house, and invited everyone and their families. I asked if I could bring something, and she told me what a few other people were bringing. One of the couples was bringing their signature dish of Spanish Rice and Beans, which had their own flare because they are originally from the Dominican Republic. She mentioned a few other dishes, and I decided to make my Cuban Salad with fresh Avocado Vinaigrette. The only difference to the original recipe was that I added some hard chorizo, so that the salad had a little protein in it. That way, if I was unsure about eating anything else, I knew I could eat my dish, and be satisfied. Everyone absolutely LOVED the salad, and especially the dressing. It was different, but also had some familiar aspects that people were comfortable with, and just about everyone asked for the recipe for the dressing. The Dominican couple even took the leftover dressing home! Big success.

Fast forward to this month, and Ian's boss threw another party and this time ASKED me to bring a salad! "The one you made last time was so good!" So this time, I decided to make a fall salad inspired by what was fresh at the market on Saturday morning.

This salad is meant to feed a crowd, so if you are just making it for your family, cut the recipe in half. Or, make the whole amount, and then you can keep it in your fridge for a few days and serve on the side of a couple of meals.

Fall Party Salad

For the Salad
2 bags of Organic, pre-washed Arugula (I used Trader Joe's)
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
2 small, or one large butternut squash, large diced (about 4 cups - you can also buy pre-cut butternut squash in a lot of stores now if you want to take a shortcut)
1 cup of organic raisins
1 teaspoon of melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon of maple syrup
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of sea salt

1. Pre-heat your oven to 400. Combine the diced butternut squash with coconut oil, maple syrup, cinnamon and sea salt and toss well to coat.
2. Roast the squash on a cookie sheet in a single layer for 30-45 minutes until the squash is starting to brown on the edges and is cooked through. Cool on the counter while assembling the rest of the salad.

For the toppings:

Spiced Pepitas
2 cups of raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 teaspoon of coconut oil
1 teaspoon of maple syrup
2 teaspoons of my House Rub
1 teaspoon of salt

1. Combine all the ingredients and spread out in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Toast in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 400 until the seeds are toasted and brown, but not burnt. Keep and eye on them and stir a few times during cooking. *I did this step while also cooking the butternut squash.

Prosciutto Wrapped Pears
2 4oz. packages of prosciutto
3 pears, cored and sliced into wedges

1. Cut the prosciutto slices into 3-4 strips per peice, using kitchen shears.
2. Wrap one strip of prosciutto around each pear slice, and layer the pears on a serving platter in a fan.

Manchego Cheese Shavings
3-4 oz block of Manchego Cheese
vegetable peeler

Manchego cheese is like a Spanish version of Parmesan, but made from sheep's milk and aged for a LONG time. It's nutty like Parmesan, but it can be easier on the tummy since it is made from sheep's milk instead of cow's. I found it at Trader Joe's, but I have also seen it in lots of "nice" grocery stores in their specialty cheese section. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the block of cheese into delicate shaves, and serve on the side of the salad in a bowl as an "optional" topping for those who like cheese. You can also substitute Parmesan if you can't find Manchego.

Maple Mustard Balsamic Dressing

3 tablespoons of whole grain mustard
3 tablespoons of maple syrup
2 tablespoons of minced shallots, or red onions
1 tablespoon of minced fresh garlic
3/4 cup of aged balsamic vinegar
1 1/4 cups of extra virgin olive oil
1-2 teaspoons of salt, based on your taste
lots of fresh ground pepper

1. Mix together all the ingredients but the oil in a large bowl. Let this sit for five minutes. The vinegar will disolve the salt and start to soften the shallots and garlic.
2. Slowly, whisk in the olive oil in a steady stream. You can also do this step in a blender if you prefer.
3. Store the salad dressing in a glass mason jar for up to a week.

Whenever I bring a salad, I either arrange the toppings in groups like I did with the Cuban Salad, or I put some on the side like with this salad. That way, if someone doesn't do pork, dairy, or seeds, they can leave those things off the salad.

I hope you enjoy this fall party salad as much as we did! Making an artisan salad is so much fun, and your guests don't even have to know that it is technically "paleo" or "primal." They will just enjoy a gourmet dish that looks and tastes like it came from a fancy restaurant. You will be surprised how many people will eat a fun salad, even if they claim they don't like vegetables. And if they don't? MORE FOR YOU! This salad keeps great to have as leftovers! But more often than not, when you bring any kind of homemade dish, paleo or not, people appreciate the effort you went to prepare real food, so don't be shy to bring a paleo dish to a party. Take real food, prepared with love, and take it with confidence! Have a great week everybody!


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