Retro Carrot-Pineapple Salad

Dad was a “meat and potatoes” kinda guy.  Mom and I, however, had no problem with veggies. Of course, the older I got, the more open I was to them…maybe not so adventurous in my childhood (I remember Mom being “creative” in order to get me to eat more than green peas in my early years.)

Like many folks in the Coal Region, “eating out” was reserved for special occasions, like birthdays and anniversaries. We did not have the budget to indulge in restaurant meals often, but when we did, it was all the more special. 

We had our favorite spots for these occasions, but there was a family buffet style restaurant where Mom and I would look anytime we went there for one particular item — on the salad bar. Mom and I would peruse the offerings before taking a plate and would get all excited if we truly got lucky and the CARROT SALAD was there — crispy shredded carrots, plump juicy raisins, sweet and tangy pineapple, chopped walnuts — and mini marshmallows – oh, how we loved that salad!

Surrounded by baked ham, golden turkey, fried shrimp, a plethora of Pa Dutch “sweets ‘n sours” and so much more, Mom and I felt like we’d struck gold if the carrot salad was on the menu that night. As Pop sat there (with a plate full of fried shrimp that needed side-boards to keep it in check) looking at us like we had lost our senses, Mom and I “umm-d” and “ahh-d” our way through that carrot salad.

Funny thing is, as easy as it is to make at home, we rarely did while she was alive. I suppose the “magic” of that restaurant’s carrot salad was not in the salad itself (although there were those mini marshmallows…) but rather was in the pure enjoyment of spending an evening together, doing something that was very special to us and was a somewhat rare event, not a hum-drum, every day occurrence like eating out these days has become for so many people.

I started making the carrot salad again awhile ago and really enjoy it for Easter dinner as well as throughout the year. Unfortunately, the last time I made it, I did not have the marshmallows in the pantry, thus the salad was “mini-less”. But as I took a bite and thought of Mom, Dad, and the many special occasions we shared throughout the years I was blessed to have them in my life, I was transported in my memories right back to that restaurant with two very special people right beside me.

This recipe is easily adjusted to your taste; both the nuts and mini marshmallows are optional – but highly recommended!

Retro Carrot-Pineapple Salad

Recipe by A Coalcracker in the KitchenCourse: Salads, SidesCuisine: Coal Region, Pa. DutchDifficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup raisins

  • 1 (8-ounce) can of crushed pineapple, drained well – juice reserved

  • Left-over pineapple juice (from draining) and enough water to make 1 cup to plump raisins

  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and grated

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise

  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 1 cup mini marshmallows

  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped pecans or walnuts (or to your taste)

Directions

  • Drain pineapple of excess juices, reserving juice into measuring cup. Add enough water to make 1 cup.
  • Heat pineapple juice/water to very hot. Remove from heat. Add raisins and allow to plump and cool. (about 30 minutes) Then drain well and discard liquid.
  • Place In another smaller bowl, mix mayonnaise, sugar, and lemon juice.peeled, grated carrots in mixing bowl.
  • Pour dressing over carrots and mix well.
  • Fold in raisins, pineapple, marshmallows, and nuts until combined.
  • Cover and refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Stir before serving