Mary Beth Johnson is a wife and mum to four schooners, as she’s dubbed her children. On a normal afternoon, you would find her in moccasins, skinny jeans and a comfortable tee, camera in hand. Recently moving to the suburbs of Atlanta, Mary Beth spends her days homeschooling, sneaking away to the bookstore, trying to act the part of a southerner, and sifting through recipes in The Vegetarian Times. Food is her love language.
I stole away to Washington (all by myself) last weekend and fell hard for their cozy weather and stunning mountain views. I’ve been to Seattle in warmer months and while I love the Pike Place market and the quirky street corner productions, I was more in the mood for peace and quiet this go-round. I found myself taking the ferry to Bainbridge Island every chance I got and wandering the streets looking for nothing in particular.
Armed with books and phone chargers that didn’t work, I walked in the rain and stopped for coffee and spent more time talking to the baristas then I would if my baby was on my hip screaming for us to move. Growing up the second oldest of 14 children, I am not comfortable being alone. For as long as I can remember I’ve been surrounded by people and it feels strange to walk city streets without checking twice to make sure everyone is following me.
As weird and wonderful as it was to have time to myself and clarity of thought, I am happy to be home again with familiar smells and snuggling partners and people who need me to cook for them. Breaks away are refreshing, but so is coming home.In its own way.
I’ve been in the mood to make all the comfort foods now that the weather is matching a bit of the PNW. We all love brussels sprouts in our house, so this was very well received! We don’t do a lot of meat and skipped the bacon, but you should go for it.
//CARAMELIZED BRUSSELS SPROUT PECAN SALAD w/ BACON + CARAMEL APPLE VINAIGRETTE
- 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped (leave bacon out and swap 1 tablespoon olive oil for a vegetarian version)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced or grated
- 1 pound brussels sprouts, stems removed and sliced
- 1/2 a small onion, chopped
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/2 a green apple, chopped
- 2 honeycrisp apples, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup pecan halves
- 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, optional
- CARAMEL APPLE VINAIGRETTE
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 of a green apple, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 4 sage leaves, chopped
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper, to taste
Heat a large skillet with high sides over medium-high heat and cook bacon until crispy. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Remove all but one tablespoon of bacon fat from the pan and then add 1 tablespoon olive oil, heat over high heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add the brussels sprouts and chopped onions in a single layer and sprinkle with brown sugar and salt. Let sit 1 minute and stir. Continue to saute for another 4-5 minutes, until bright green and tender. Now add the apples and cook another 3-5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the the pecans. Divide the salad among plates and top with blue cheese. Drizzle with the caramel apple vinaigrette and the crispy bacon.
Add the apple cider, brown sugar and chopped apples to a medium sauce pot and bring to a boil, boil for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the cider has reduced to about 1/2 cup and is slightly thick and syrupy. Remove from heat and add the cider vinegar, & sage leaves. Pour the mixture into a food processor or blender and add the olive oil, pinch of cayenne, salt and pepper. Pulse the vinaigrette a few time to mince the apples (do not puree the apples). Taste and season with more salt and pepper if desired. Keep the dressing in the fridge for up to 4 days.