Helping Hands in the Kitchen: Salads & Sides

August 16, 2022

Today I would like to share some ways to turn salads and side dishes into a full meal. Let’s get creative!


Example of pear salad with candied pecans


You can adapt this salad to your preferences and what you have on hand. You can either shred the roasted chicken and put it in the squash soup or you can carve it and put it on the salad.


  • 2 bags pre-washed romaine lettuce, rinsed, dried, and torn or chopped (OR baby spinach/greens of your choice)
  • ¼ red onion, sliced thin
  • 4 small mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 pear
  • ½ cup pecans, candied (see recipe below)
  • Parmesan cheese


  1. In a big bowl, combine the greens. Make sure they are dry.
  2. Slice the onion and mushrooms thin.
  3. Wash and core the pear. Slice or cut into bite-sized pieces, if desired. Drizzle lemon juice over them to prevent browning.
  4. Combine with other ingredients and toss candied pecans on top.
  5. Top with the cheese shreds.
  6. Serve with a salad dressing.
Example of candied pecans



  • ½ cup butter, diced
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg, grated
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups pecans, halved or pieces


  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 15x10x1” baking sheet with heavy-duty foil.
  2. In a large skillet melt the butter, and add syrup and spices. Stir.
  3. Add pecans and stir to coat all the nuts.
  4. Pour mixture into the lined pan. Distribute as evenly as possible.
  5. Bake 10-15 minutes or until golden. Do not burn so watch carefully. Remove, stir, and let cool.
Example of roasted herb chicken



  • 1 whole chicken, 3-4 pounds in size
  • 4 thyme sprigs or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried tarragon
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 15-20 cloves unpeeled garlic (about 2 bulbs)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil


  1. Rinse and pat dry the chicken. Make sure all the parts are out of the chicken cavity.
  2. Place the herbs inside the cavity.
  3. Rub the chicken with soft butter.
  4. If using dried herbs, rub them on top of the chicken with salt and pepper.
  5. Squeeze lemon on top of chicken.
  6. Tie the legs together and tuck wings under so they don’t burn.
  7. Put breast side up in a well greased roasting pan.
  8. Toss garlic in olive oil.
  9. Scatter around the chicken. Put some under the bird.
  10. Bake in preheated 375 degrees F. oven 1 ½ – 2 hours. Meat thermometer should register 180 deg F. Legs should move freely when you try to move them around.
  11. Remove and let rest 15 minutes before carving. Tent with foil to keep warm.
Example of squash soup


Pumpkin bowls are optional.


  • 6 pumpkins for bowls if using. Remember to take out the part of the flesh inside and leave enough to keep a solid bowl if using for bowls.
  • 3 strips bacon
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic or 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups winter squash, cooked and mashed or pumpkin puree
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces evaporated milk, divided
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground fennel
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs


  1. Cut tops off pumpkins. Clean out seeds and strings. Rub inside and outside lightly with butter or vegetable oil over clean pumpkin skin.
  2. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil and bake in a preheated 350 degrees F. oven just until done – a knife will go in and out easily. Just do not prick the skin all the way through or the soup will not stay inside the pumpkin.
  3. Let cool completely. Scoop out the pumpkin mash and set aside.
  4. Cook bacon until crisp. Crumble and set aside.
  5. Drain all but 1 T. drippings and sauté the onion and garlic in the drippings. Do not brown.
  6. Add flour and 1/3 c. milk and stir.
  7. Add broth, spices and rest of the milk.
  8. Stir and add the mashed pumpkin.
  9. Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  10. Remove bay leaf. Toss.
  11. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  12. Add cheese and stir to combine.
  13. When melted, fill the bowls.
  14. Place on baking sheet or in a roasting pan just in case there is a leakage.
  15. Place a dollop of butter on top of soup. Top with fresh breadcrumbs.
  16. Put back in the oven and let get hot, crumbs should brown a little, soup should be hot.
  17. Garnish with sour cream and parsley if desired.

TIP: Put the pumpkin lids on the baking sheet initially so when you serve the soup, you can put the lid back on the pumpkins, cooked.


These recipes can also be adapted to your preferences and what you have on hand.


Serves 8-10.


  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup Acini Di Pepe pasta (little round balls)
  • 2 (11 oz.) mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 (20 oz.) chunk pineapple, drained
  • 1 (20 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 carton (8 oz.) whipped topping
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows


  1. Mix sugar, flour, and salt in a small pan.
  2. Stir in pineapple juice and egg.
  3. Cook over moderate heat, constantly stirring until thickened.
  4. Add lemon juice. Set aside and cool.
  5. Cook the Acini Di Pepe pasta according to directions. Combine cooked mixture with the pasta.
  6. Cover, place in refrigerator until cooled.
  7. Combine remaining ingredients. Stir lightly.
  8. Chill at least 1 hour before serving.


  1. Bring 6 cups of water to a rapid boil in a 3 qt. pan.
  2. Add 2 t. salt. Slowly add 1 cup pasta.
  3. Return to boil, stir to separate. Boil only 2 minutes.
  4. Cover and remove from heat. Let set 6-8 minutes.
  5. Drain immediately and rinse with cold water to chill.


Makes about 4 servings.


  • 2 chicken breasts (or thighs)
  • 2 slices ginger root, peeled and chopped
  • 1 green onion
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon sherry (preferred NOT cooking sherry)
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 pound vegetables, optional (OPTIONS: 1 cup onions and 2 tomatoes; ½ pound fresh mushrooms and ½ pound Chinese cabbage; ½ cup asparagus, ½ cup bamboo shoots, and 1 cup bean sprouts; 2 green peppers, 3 celery stalks, and 8 green onions; ½ cup mushrooms, 1 cup celery, 1 cup peas, and ½ cup onion.
  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • 1 Tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
  • Pinch of sugar
  • ½ cup chicken broth


  1. Skin and bone chicken then cut into small chunks.
  2. Mince ginger and green onion, then combine with cornstarch, sherry, and water.
  3. Add to chicken and toss to coat. Let stand for 15 minutes, turning occasionally.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare and slice the vegetables.
  5. Heat oil, add chicken, and stir-fry until it begins to brown (2-3 minutes). Remove from pan.
  6. Add vegetables and stir fry to coat with oil (1-2 minutes).
  7. Sprinkle with soy sauce and sugar.
  8. Stir in chicken, brown and heat quickly.
  9. Simmer, covered until vegetables are nearly done.
  10. Return chicken, stir to reheat and blend flavors (about ½ minute). Serve.

I hope you enjoy these unique meal suggestions! I have some more, so we’ll do this again!

Bon Appétit
With Love,

Granni K

Download the recipes here.