Janet's Notebook
Easy Recipes, Fancy Names: Taking the Fear Out of Holiday Cooking

Rosy Calvin's Holiday Ready Salad

Over the years I have collected many handy tools that I keep close by while cooking. There's one thing, however, that I absolutely refuse to have to use in the kitchen.... a dictionary! There are so many recipes these days that call for exotic, specialty ingredients with names that twist the tongue. I'm sure they're probably wonderful - if I could find them at my local grocery store. But I, for one, almost always prefer the tried-and-true to those things shiny-and-new.

Ok, with that off my chest I'll be the first to say that just because a recipe has a fancy name doesn't mean it's out of reach! We've come across some dandies lately that have million dollar names but are a breeze to prepare. Take Deborah Sanders' Squash Croquettes for example. "Croquette" is a French word. And French things are a bear to make, right? Well, not always! In fact, these savory little cakes have a grand total of just FOUR ingredients: zucchini, flour, an egg, and oil for frying. Add in just a pinch of salt and pepper and you have impressive French-style croquettes for your holiday table, without adding even the slightest glisten to your brow.

Similarly, I recently presented the Kitchen Crew with a sampling of Rosy Calvin's yummy Mango-Radicchio Caprese Salad with Basil Vinaigrette. A hundred times easier to make than it is to spell, Rosy's recipe makes the most of flavorful, fresh ingredients that are available nearly everywhere. While absolutely perfect for a Summer picnic, I also love to include a salad like this to lighten-up (and brighten-up!) a heavy holiday meal. With directions like "blend, overlap, drizzle and serve", Rosy's exotic-sounding salad is well within reach of cooks of all skill levels.

Colleen Gilbert of Rochester, MN also recently weighed-in with a demystified version of an intimidating recipe: tiramisu!

"Tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts," says Colleen. "This is an easy version and gets rave reviews!"

Add our voices to that choir of raves, Colleen. Before trying this simplified version of the classic dessert, we only ever sampled the stuff at restaurants. Well, no longer! Colleen's Tiramisu Trifle is semi-homemade at its best. Using instant coffee, prepared pudding and pre-packaged lady finger cookies, you'll be able to whip this together in a flash.

"If you can't find lady fingers, you can use pound cake or even angel food cake," adds Colleen... making this easy dessert even more of a snap.

So go on, sit back, relax and enjoy the accolades you'll get when your big-name dishes hit your family table. And after all your " hard work" in the kitchen, someone else should surely do the cleaning up... don't you think? It's only right.

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Heidi Hoerman - Dec 1, 2010
One of my favorites that falls into this category is "clafouti." So easy! Just fruit with a batter baked on top. Even easier than a cobbler for a good company dessert.
Jane Whittaker - Nov 24, 2010
The French terms don't intimidate me. I grew up on the Canadian border and everything is French and English, radio everything. Took French in school too so I am famaliar with the whole French thing.
Think sometimes it gives people the impression that it is "snooty" though.
WE frequently called each other a couchon (spell) when I was a kid when someone would burp or do a piggy thing. It means pig in French, so French was really incorporated in our lauguage here
Jewel Hall - Nov 24, 2010
I love the article and my thinking exactly. However, we are not all alike and from diverse back grounds. So, like you Janet, I will keep learning. I am always learning something new. Have a Blessed Thanksgiving !!!
Jane Whittaker - Nov 23, 2010
I AGREE TOTOAALY. I tried arugula because the food network mentions it so often. It was ok, but nothing to write home to mom about