Spring is still a while away, but it can feel a lot closer when you try Food Columnist Judi Leaming's suggestions: Roasted Pear Salad, Rachel Ray's Citrus Salad, and Bev Bresnahan's Greens 'n Fruit Salad.

Even though we’re still weeks and weeks away from seeing the fresh green color of Spring pop out on the trees, you can bring a hint of Spring to your meals by using the fresh salad greens that appear year round in the supermarkets. And there’s no need to try to deal with those almost flavor-less hothouse tomatoes and wilted looking cucumbers. Instead, you can highlight your salads with a variety of fresh fruit that you can find in the produce section of your market.

A friend of mine, Lois Chapman from California, shared this prize-winning roasted pear salad with us. I was unable to find the Marzetti Light Vinaigrette Dressing that the recipe calls for so I substituted a similar non-refrigerated dressing that I found. Worked for us! The pears are roasted in the oven and then served on a bed of butter lettuce so that there aren’t too many clashing flavors when you take the first bite.

Rachael Ray’s citrus salad provided a nice side on an evening when we enjoyed the Nico-bolis that I had purchased from my young friend Abby who is a member of the Caesar Rodney Swim Team. The dressing for this salad is surprisingly light and goes well with the orange and grapefruit sections.

One of the excellent recipes that Bev Bresnahan contributed to the Dover Public Library’s “Recipes from Readers” is entitled Green ’n Fruit Salad, and Bev gave credit where credit was due by noting that this is a “Taste of Home” recipe.  Again you’ll find an excellent dressing recipe included with this.

Roasted Pear Salad
1 cup Marzetti Light Balsamic Dressing, divided
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
4 ounces blue cheese crumbles
1/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries, finely chopped
3 firm ripe pears
2 tablespoons lemon juice
8-ounce butter lettuce

Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Prepare dressing by mixing together 3/4 cup of the balsamic vinaigrette dressing and the sugar in a sauce pan. Cook over low just until the sugar is dissolved then set aside. Stuffing: Place pecans in a small skillet and toast over medium high heat, watching carefully. Set aside. Mix dried cherries with toasted pecans and blue cheese. Set aside. Pears: Slice pears in half lengthwise and remove cores to create a center hollow into which you can place the prepared filling. Trim a thin slice from bottom of each pear half to allow pears to sit levelly in baking dish. Place pears, hollowed side up, in baking dish and sprinkle with lemon juice. Divide filling evenly into six portions and spoon into hollows. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the dressing that you have prepared over each pear. Pour remaining dressing into the baking dish around the pears. Bake uncovered until tender, about 30 minutes, basting three or four times with the dressing in the baking dish. To assemble, clean and tear lettuce into bite-size pieces and toss these with the remaining 1/4 cup of the Marzetti Light Balsamic Dressing. Arrange lettuce on plates and place a pear in center of each plate, spooning pan drippings over top of each pear.

Rachael Ray’s citrus salad
2 hearts romaine lettuce
2 cups fresh “jarred” orange and grapefruit sections, drained and patted dry
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 to 2 tablespoons white wine or apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped or snipped chives (optional)
Slivered almonds (optional)

Wash and chop lettuce and arrange on a platter. Top with the pieces of orange and grapefruit. Combine marmalade with the vinegar and whisk to combine. (You may want to start with just 1 tablespoon of the vinegar and add more to suit your taste.) Slowly stream in olive oil, whisking as you pour. Pour dressing over the salad and season with salt and pepper. Garnish platter with chives and/or slivered almonds.

Bev Bresnahan’s Greens ’n Fruit Salad
6 cups torn salad greens
2 medium navel oranges, peeled and sectioned
1 cup red seedless grapes, halved
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds
4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange zest

Cut navel orange sections in half. In a large bowl combine all of the salad ingredients and toss gently to mix. Prepare dressing by whisking mayonnaise, honey, orange juice and orange zest together. Serve with salad. Refrigerate leftover dressing.