As we're still in the middle of "winter" here, I find myself craving more summery offerings, like the homemade salad bar that we often love to make for a crowd--our small group had it over at our house earlier this fall and a few other times since then.  It's so healthy, filling, and suited to just about anyone's tastes, and it's so easy to put together that the real focus of the meal can be on the company around the table.

Grab a nice mix of greens, then chop up and lay out any assortment of fresh veggies--tomatoes, peppers, carrots, cucumbers, and avocados--alongside olives, cheeses, canned veggies, like hearts of palm or artichoke hearts, and some pre-made sides, like hummus or lentils.  Grill some lemon-marinated chicken and toast up some rustic whole grain bread with warm butter.  Put olive oil with a little vinegar, lemon juice, and S&P in the bottom of the greens bowl (with greens sitting on top), then toss when ready to eat.  Ranch dressing is good, but this is actually better!

Taking an extra second to present it prettily makes a difference.  Group items in simple little bowls and gather veggies in neat rows on large white platters (ours are from Target).  Though quintessentially summer, this can also be winterized by roasting some of these same veggies or others (think asparagus, zucchini, butternut squash, even tomatoes) and pairing it with some warm and cozy soup on the side.  Sounds perfect for tonight!

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Speaking of good eats, I've been wanting to eat some of this YUMMY thing since I saw it before Christmas.  Now that the January detox is done, time to start eating treats again!

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Upside Down Pear Cakes with Vanilla Honey and Cardamom Cream

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(BTW, this recipe is from one of my favorite blogs -- ROOST.  The author, Caitlin, went to camp with me as a child (Camp Desoto- woop woop!), went to my Alma Mater, married a fraternity brother of Jay's, and a is foodie as well -- what wonderful connections!  And as fabulous as the food and photography are, the story behind the blog is the most special part of all -- here.  Enjoy!)