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Healthy Holidays: Mexican Ensalada de Noche Buena

When I was a teenager in Mexico, I spent lots of time with my maternal grandparents. That   included traveling with them to their casa de campo, which was up in the hills of Pachuca, in a little town called Mineral del Chico. Getting to that house involved an 8-hour drive from Monterrey and those trips always included a stop to visit one of my Grandfather's colleagues.

You see, my grandfather Rodolfo was a celebrated medical doctor and the only times he went away he managed to arrange meetings to compare notes with fellow doctors. And that's how we came to be in the home of Dr. Carranco and his eccentric wife Doña Maricela, in the city of Pachuca, Hidalgo.

It was December and we were spending Christmas up at the cottage, but after that long drive we made our customary stop at the Carranco household. Not surprisingly, there was Christmas dinner, complete with Doña Maricela's version of Ensalada de Nochebuena.

I don't remember that whole meal, but I do remember the salad. It was the first time I had it and it was memorable because it was horrible. Did I mention Doña Maricela was eccentric? Well, she was also a bad cook, but what she lacked in talent in the kitchen she made up with a love of people and welcoming warmth for her guests.

That salad turned me off beets for many years, but thankfully, I am over that aversion and today I must say they are a favorite vegetable of mine.

This salad is traditionally served for Christmas Eve dinner in Mexico and it is a welcome and fresh addition to the rich turkey dinners with all the trimmings. The colors on the salad platter are vibrant and rich, and the combination of sweet beets, crunchy jícamas, sweet oranges, tangy pineapples, and crunchy apples on a bed of lettuce make a perfect balance with the red onion and meaty pecans. The beautifully pink creamy dressing ties it all together perfectly.

You don't have to wait for Christmas Eve to make this salad; it makes an easy weeknight dinner starter and I think your family will approve.

Get the recipe.

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