Fresh Pear Cake with Vanilla Glaze

recipes with pears

My jaw dropped when I saw this cake.  I love pears, cake and thick glaze – especially when combined!  And this is an exceptionally moist cake thanks to the peeled and grated pear, as well as the canola oil (oil cakes tend to be very moist).


Recipe and Photo courtesy of Taste Of The South Magazine

Quinoa Tabbuleh – Healthy & Delicious

healthy quinoa recipes

Forgive me – one more non-sweet recipe.  Too delicious to pass up!

Have you ever tried quinoa?  It’s packed full of protein and can be used in place of bulgur, barley and kasha.  Did I mention that it is absolutely delicious too?!  And so is this healthy quinoa recipe.  The parsley is fresh out of our garden and in another month or two I’ll be using our home grown tomatoes and cucumbers too!

Thai Beef Salad Recipe

Friends of mine at have been singing the praises of this flank steak salad recipe for quite some time.  Now that I’ve made it I’m definitely chiming right in with them: it’s delicious!  Thanks to a divine sauce that is, at once, both marinade and dressing – the salad has great flavor.  Although a light meal compared to steak and potatoes, add a roll with a great crust and a glass of good wine and you’ve got yourself a wonderful meal.  Easy too!

Ellie Krieger, a host on Food Network, developed this recipe which I’ve adapted a tad.  I like her use of thinly sliced shallots (not as strong as onions) as well as mixing basil and cilantro.  However, as I serve it throughout the summer, I’m going to add a few more ingredients such as thinly sliced cucumbers, matchstick carrot strips, mushrooms (I might saute those first to brown them a bit and bring out more of their flavorful) and even dried cherries.

Flank steak, once cooked, needs to be sliced thinly and across the grain, otherwise it will be very tough.  I explain and show how to do this in my Maple-Soy Marinade for Flank Steak.

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Watermelon and Feta Salad

Bad picture – WONDERFUL salad! This salad is so easy to put together.  And you can vary the ingredients to your own liking.  We love the sweet and salty mix of watermelon, feta cheese and kalamata olives.   Add basil, mint or parsley –  all work beautifully in this salad!

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Mexican Salad – A Feast!

My love affair with this salad began 30 years ago at Michigan State University at a great Mexican restaurant, “El Azteco”, that remains an institution there.  Called a Topopo Salad (Topopo means “Volcano”), it has often been described as a Mexican chicken salad on steriods.  One look at it and you’ll understand.

It starts with a base of refried beans and then moves on to melted cheese, then guacamole.  The salad is a combination of shredded iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, green onion, jalapenos, shredded chicken and green peas and it’s dressed with a light vinaigrette and topped with Parmesan cheese.  At least I think it is and that’s how I’ve created our home version of it.  And I’m pretty sure that this will fast become a favorite of your home too!

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Spinach Strawberry Salad w/ Honey-Peanut Dressing

Diva Entertains Strawberry and Spinach Salad

This spinach strawberry salad recipe is a snap to make.  Strawberries and spinach are the only salad ingredients but the heavenly honey-peanut dressing elevates this from simple to sublime!

Spinach Strawberry Salad with Honey-Peanut Dressing

Serves 6 – 8

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup salted peanuts
  • 3 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. cider vinegar
  • freshly ground pepper (optional)*
  • 8 cups baby spinach
  • 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  1. Blend first 6 ingredients in a blender or food processor until well blended but with bits of peanuts still showing.
  2. Arrange spinach and strawberries on a plate and drizzle with the dressing.  (Or you can put the spinach and salad in a large bowl and add the dressing to it.  Toss and serve.)

*I like to add a bit of fresh ground pepper to the honey peanut dressing.

Jicama Orange Salad – So Refreshing

Diva Entertains Orange-Jicama Salad

I had never had jicama* before until a friend served this jicama orange salad.  It was then that I realized I had really been missing on something delicious.   The salad is crunchy, sweet and refreshing.  And the salad contains no oil whatsoever.  Best if made with juicy oranges.  If your oranges don’t exude much juice, add 2 tablespoon of orange juice to the salad and mix well.

Jicama Orange Salad (Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, 1995)

Serves 4-6

  • 4 navel oranges, peel and pith cut away with a serrated knife and sections cut free from membranes (about 2 cups total), reserving the juice.  (If there isn’t much juice – add 2 Tbsp. to salad.)
  • 12 ounces jícama, peeled and cut into 2- by 1/2- by 1/4-inch sticks
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced thin lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro sprigs
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • toasted pecans, chopped (optional)
  1. In a large bowl gently stir together all ingredients except pecans.  At this point, salad can be made up to one day in advance.  Keep covered and chilled.
  2. To serve, sprinkle each serving with pecans.

*Jicama: A crisp, sweet root vegetable used raw in salads and as crudités or cooked in stew.

Chicken and Wild Rice Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

Diva Entertains Wild Rice Undressed

Whenever I’m asked to bring a dish to potluck or luncheon this is dish I bring.  It never fails to win raves.  It’s easy to do and can be made a day ahead – just don’t dress it with a vinaigrette until you are ready to serve.  Although most bottled ‘Italian’ style salad dressings will work well here, I think the very best dressing for this chicken and wild rice salad, by far my favorite is the Maple Vinaigrette that my friend, Kim, shared with me.  She is a fabulous cook and has shared many of her wonderful recipes with me.  This particular vinaigrette is extremely easy to make – you’ll make it over and over again once you try it.

Although you can easily make this chicken from a rotisserie chicken which will save you time, my preferred way (when I have the time) is to take boneless chicken breasts, cut them into bite-size pieces, and saute them in olive oil and with dried spices such as basil and oregano.

The top picture is what the salad looks like without dressing, immediately below it is dressed with the Maple Vinaigrette:

Diva Entertains Wild Rice Dressed

Chicken and Wild Rice Salad

Serves 6

  • 1 pkg. of Uncle Bens Original Recipe (not ‘fast cooking) Wild Rice
  • 3 boneless chicken breasts**, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • olive oil
  • 1 tsp. basil and oregano*
  • 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup of pecans, toasted then chopped

  1. Make the packaged wild rice according to package directions.  Cook and then let cool 20 minutes.
  2. Spray a skillet with non-stick spray.  Add olive oil and turn heat to medium-high.  When the oil shimmers add the chicken.  Sprinkle the chicken with the basil and oregano.  Let cook 2 minutes and then stir.  Chicken should be done in about 4-5 minutes.  Cut into a piece (one of the larger ones) and check to make sure it isn’t pink inside.  Remove from heat and season with the salt and pepper.
  3. In a bowl combine the rice, chicken, cherries, green onions and pecans***.  Refrigerate until needed.  Bring to room temperature before serving and dress with vinaigrette 20 minutes prior to serving.

Maple Vinaigrette (Bon Appetit, 2002)

You will only need about 1/4 of this recipe for this salad.  Save leftover vinaigrette for another use (it’s delicious on a lettuce salad too!).

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

  1. Blend all ingredients in a blender until emulsified. Or, add all ingredients to a medium sized bowl and whisk to blend.  Then gradually whisk in oil until mixture thickens.

*Pat the chicken dry before you cut it.  Wet chicken steams as you saute instead of developing a nice sear that you want for flavor and looks.

**Don’t worry if you don’t have both.  Use whatever you have on hand, or just salt and pepper.*

***To toast pecans preheat your oven to 350F.  Spread the pecan on a baking sheet and cook about 4 minutes.  Nuts can go from toasted to burnt in a matter of minutes so the first time you make these watch your pecans carefully.

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Little Touches: Homemade Croutons

Diva Entertains Croutons

Because I always watch what I eat (calorie-wise)  I tend not to add croutons to the salads I make.  Further, the store bought croutons that I’ve added in the past were always a disappointment at best.  Dry, flavorless and small.  If I’m going to splurge than I want to eat a big, crisp, flavor-drenched crouton that has been softened ever-so-slightly be the salad’s dressing.  I have, on occasion, experienced these at restaurants that make their own.

Diva Entertains Homemade Croutons

A few weeks ago I finally decided “enough is enough”.  I may not eat them every night in my home but occasionally I want those delicious, croutons-on-steriods with my meal.  As I  started serving them on our salads when we had company and I was surprised by how many times I received compliments on them.  The salad seemed just ‘a little more special’ because of it.  I guess, at times, it is the ‘Little Touches’ that make the biggest impact.

Homemade CroutonsDiva Entertains 2 Cups

  • 4 cups of 1″ bread cubes*
  • 4 T. melted butter**
  • 1 1/2 T. dried oregano
  • 2 T. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375F.

Put the bread cubes in a large bowl.   Drizzle with the melted butter and add the oregano and Parmesan cheese.  Mix well.  Then mix some more.  Then lightly press some of the cubes against the sides/bottom of the dish to ensure that they absorb all possible flavor.

Bake for 5 -7 minutes and take out of the oven to check.  If nicely browned flip them over and continue to bake another 5 – 7 minutes.  Otherwise, bake another 2 minutes and then flip and and continue to bake as above.  Serve same day and store left-over in an airtight container***.

* Use whatever bread you like: Italian, French, White, etc.  If you are going to use pre-sliced bread look for ‘thick-sliced’ varieties.

** I made multiple batches of croutons with butter and croutons with olive oil to see which I prefered.  Hands down the butter had more flavor and browned faster/better.  But of course it is up to personal taste and/or diet preferences. If you’d prefer to use olive oil just substitute 4 T. olive oil (you can go as low as 3 T. if you’d like).

***Depending on the humidity level in your home, how dried out your bread was before you bake the croutons, how long you baked the croutons, etc. the croutons in the airtight container might become a bit soft within a matter of days.  No problem whatsoever.  Simply toast them for 3-5 minutes in a 375F oven, before serving, to crisp them up again. (You can also put them in a 250F oven but it will take a bit longer – just watch them until you determine how long they need to be in there to crisp (start at about 12 minutes).

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