Category Archives: Recipe

Weeknight Cabbage and Chicken Salad

It is too damn hot outside. Seriously. I am not a garden-waterer, especially for veggie gardens and doubly-especially before July. I’m all for building a robust root system. This June has broke me of that, however, and I’ve had to go out every few days to water my plants in this 90+ degree heat.

Needless to say, cold food sounds better right now.

After the birth of my first kid (also during a hot streak), my sister came to stay for a week. She played the perfect aunt and sister, and introduced me to the concept of cold cabbage salads that aren’t cole slaw. It was kind of a revelation.

So, in her honor, a super-easy, short-cuts included Vietnamese-inspired salad, perfect to make ahead and chill. Perfect with a glass of sparkling lemonade (rum optional).

Cabbage Chicken Salad

Serves 4, but easy to double

Time: 15 minutes active, 2 hours inactive

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb of cooked, shredded chicken (perfect if you’ve got roast chicken leftovers, otherwise, I like to poach in hot water until done– about 20-30 minutes)
  • 1 bag of coleslaw
  • 1/2 c to 1 c of mint or cilantro, chopped*
  • 3 green onions, diced (greens only)
  • 1/2 cup of crushed peanuts (to serve)

Dressing:

  • 4 tbsp lime juice, fresh is preferred
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar or mirin
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp sriracha (optional)
  1. Mix first four ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Mix dressing in a separate bowl until sugar has dissolved.
  3. Drizzle dressing over salad and mix well. Let salad cool in the fridge (2 hours is a good goal, but might get a bit wilty over 6).
  4. Mix once more before serving, topping each plate with crushed peanuts.

*I often use cilantro because it’s often easier to find fresh, but I know some people find the flavor soapy. Mint is lovely and more traditional, but consider using less than a cup.

Favorite Ham Leftover Solutions

My kids and I walked over to a local park yesterday, and my son decided to gather up all of the first-of-the-season dandelions. I forgot the wonder of dandelions as a kid– the joy of every stage of them from a bright yellow flower to the wish-blowing-seed stage. Part of the joy of parenting is getting to experience the wonder again through your kid’s eyes. Confronted with a pile of lopped-off flower heads, we decided to make something of them:

I use this anecdote to introduce the daunting world of ham leftovers. There’s a truism: Eternity is two people and a ham. Not surprisingly, adding two additional smaller mouths doesn’t seem to diminish our ham surplus by much and so I’m trying to get creative with our Easter ham leftover meals. Yes, by the end of a week of ham dinners they can be as ominous as a yellow-head in your lawn, but I swear you can make something good from the situation.

My top three favorite ham meals with quick recipes:

Scalloped Potatoes with Ham

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 to 3 lbs potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (I like to use a mandolin– it’s worth the investment!)
  • 1 cup of diced ham
  • 4 tbsp salted butter
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar, with additional cheese for topping if desired.
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp of pepper (white if you have it!)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 and spray the bottom of a large casserole dish or 9X13 pan with cooking spray.
  2. Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Lower temperature, and add flour, mixing until mixture turns golden (don’t burn!). Then, add milk slowly, mixing constantly.
  3. Once mixture is smooth, add cheese, garlic powder, and pepper and keep at a low temperature.
  4. Line the bottom of the casserole dish with a third of the sliced potatoes, topping with a third of the ham. Finish the layer with a third of the cheese sauce.
  5. Alternate potatoes, ham, and sauce until all three layers have been put down, and top with additional cheese.
  6. Bake, covered with foil, for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until potatoes break apart easily with a fork and the casserole is bubbly.

Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of dried green split peas
  • 1 ham bone with meat, additional ham as desired
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1/2 tsp of dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4 tsp of pepper
  • 4 cups of veggie broth
  • fresh lemon (if desired)
  1. Combine ingredients in a crock pot and cook for 8 (if pre-soaked the split peas) -10  (if didn’t presoak) hours on low.
  2. Before serving, remove the hambone to a cutting board and cut remaining useful meat, stirring it back into the soup. If desired, squeeze fresh lemon over soup and stir in (adds a nice, citrusy freshness).

Savory Waffles, adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour (I use a 50/50 split of whole wheat and all-purpose)
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard powder
  • 1 3/4 cups of buttermilk (or make your own)
  • 4 tbsp melted, cooled unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup finely diced ham
  • 3/4 cup of shredded cheese (cheddar, fontina– any mild cheese is a good choice for this)
  1. Preheat waffle iron and preheat oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, butter, and egg.
  3. Combine wet and dry ingredients gently– just like most recipes involving baking powder, you don’t want to overmix. You might see a few lumps remaining, but that’s normal. Fold in the ham and cheese until incorporated.
  4. Spray the waffle iron with cooking spray, the add the correct amount of batter for your particular waffle iron. Cook until golden brown, and place on a baking sheet in oven until all waffles are prepared.

I can vouch for each one of these recipes, and the savory waffles are an special favorite in our household!

Happy ham season– sometimes eternity can be just the right amount of time to enjoy something good.

A Winter Update

I don’t usually post during the non-growing season, but I thought I would update with a question and a quick recipe—

Question first: How in the world do you take care of succulents?

I’m become a succulent mom very suddenly (it was a Christmas gift) and I think I’m doing it all wrong. Advice on soil mixture? Care and watering suggestions?

So now that you’ve earned your keep, a quick recipe to tide you over (and the perfect potluck recipe for football fun):

Julia’s Orzo Salad

I should note that my name is not Julia. Julia is the person who perfected the amazing additions to this salad, and who is bugged– constantly– to bring this to gatherings. Much love and adoration to Julia, for this and many other reasons!

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16 oz) box of orzo pasta
  • 1/2 small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 cup of red pepper, diced
  • 4 oz crumbled feta
  • 4 oz of pepperoni, diced
  • 1- 2.4 oz can of sliced black olives, drained and rinsed
  • 1 packet of ranch dressing mix
  • 4 T of red wine vinegar
  • 3 T of olive oil
  • 2 T of white sugar (1 T if using splenda)
  • 1 tsp of dried basil leaves
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Pardon the blurry picture. I was too eager to eat this to take a better one!

Instructions:

  1. Make orzo according to box instructions.* During last minute of cooking time, add broccoli florets to boiling water. Drain broccoli and orzo in a colander and rinse with cold water.
  2. In a small bowl or lidded jar, mix last five ingredients.
  3. Put orzo and broccoli in a large mixing bowl and combine with remaining ingredients, mixing well with vinaigrette.
  4. Let salad rest in refrigerator for at least one hour. Can be made a day ahead. If it seems dry, rewet with 1 tsp of each red wine vinegar and olive oil.

*Orzo expands like crazy, so make sure you cook it in a large pot with plenty of water.

French-Kissing Onion Soup

It’s been a rough summer, mainly due to Japanese beetles. Japanese beetles on my raspberries. Japanese beetles eating my baby apple tree. Japanese beetles in my sleep.

You know one thing Japanese beetles don’t like? Onions.

Continue reading French-Kissing Onion Soup

Red and Blue Crumble Pie

I admit it, okay? No need to give me the third degree. I stole it, and I would do it again. I stole the strawberry from the strawberry plant at the greenhouse, the tiny, red one that was almost too ripe. I did it because I couldn’t stand to see it go to waste.

It’s that lovely season where the weather isn’t roasting just yet, berries are cheap, and I’m in a baking mood. All of these factors collide into a mixed berry pie of blueberries and strawberries, just in time for your summer savoring.

Red and Blue Crumble Pie

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 2 1/2 cups of sliced fresh strawberries
  • 2 1/2 cups of fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 2 tbsp of tapioca
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup of white sugar
  • 1 premade pie-crust (or make your own)

Topping:

  • 2/3 cup of all-purpose flour (or a mixture of 1/3 cup oats, 1/3 cup flour)
  • 1/3 cup of butter, slightly chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar

 Directions:


  1. Preheat oven to 375°. In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients and let macerate for 15 minutes.
  2. In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, and brown sugar and stir well. Cut in the butter until it forms small chunks.
  3. After fifteen minutes, pour the filling into the prepared pie crust and cover with topping. Put pie pan on a rimmed baking sheet (for easier clean up, cover with foil).
  4. Bake in the oven for approximately 50 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

 

Chives plus World’s Best Potatoes

The garden is coming up, and one item in particular is ready and has been for weeks: chives. If you grow chives, you know that they grow as heartily as dandelions and they are reliably ready early in the season. Chives are a great addition if you’re looking for a perennial, since they’re edible and they make pretty purple flowers (which my three year old likes to gather into onion-y bouquets). Chives can be good additions to garden salads, but I like them especially as a finisher to my favorite potato dish. This recipe, adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, gives you soft potatoes with a crunchy, buttery shell. They take a bit of babysitting (especially near the end), but the payoff is worth it. I like to serve these alongside a roast chicken, since so many ingredients (lemon, thyme) overlap.

 

  World’s Best Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs small red potatoes (similarly sized, if possible)
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into single tbsp
  • 3 peeled garlic cloves
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh chives
  1. Scrub potatoes and halve them, but do not peel or pierce them. Place the potatoes facedown in a single layer, covering the bottom of a 12-inch nonstick skillet. The potatoes should fit snugly along the bottom. Add water, butter segments, garlic, thyme sprigs, and salt and bring to a simmer over medium/high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes (or until potatoes are just tender).
  2. After fifteen minutes have elapsed, remove the cover and take out the sprigs of thyme and cloves of garlic. Discard the thyme, but keep the garlic and allow to cool. Mash garlic and combine with lemon juice and pepper. Set mixture aside.
  3. Increase the heat on the potatoes to medium/high once more and, with lid still off, simmer until the water has evaporated– about fifteen minutes. The butter will start to sizzle (you’ll smell and hear it, at this point).
  4. At this point, babysit your potatoes very closely, moving them gently to allow the cut sides to remain down but not stick to any one spot in the pan. The goal is to get spotty, browned cut sides (about 5 minutes). If you aren’t vigiliant, the best parts may stick to the pan.
  5. Once browned, remove the potatoes from pan and toss with garlic/lemon mixture. Add chives just before serving, and enjoy!
    While this recipe claims to serve 4-6, my husband and I routinely polish it off with just a little help from our two kiddos. A recipe simple enough for weeknight dinner, but tasty enough to impress a dinner guest or two (if you’re generous enough to share).

Vegetable-Infused Meatloaf

If you haven’t guessed from the name of this blog, I live in the Midwest.  Out here in the great corn ocean, we like our meat products, and one of my comfort foods as a kid was meatloaf.  My dad would often spoil us by making mini-meatloaves with different toppings (bbq sauce, spaghetti sauce, etc) so we could feel like we had more choice.  This is typically a winter meal in my house.  We had a cold day last week and took advantage of the temp to make these.  I baked two and froze one for a later meal!

My toddler is a pretty good eater most days, but sneaking a few extra vegetables into a meal can’t hurt! He chomped this up, and even at the leftovers the next day (which he never does usually!)

Vegetable-Infused Meatloaf

(makes two loaves)

2.5 pounds ground beef
1 c oatmeal
3 eggs
1 medium onion, quartered
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into 2 inch pieces
1 lightly packed cup of kale
4 oz white mushrooms
1 small red pepper, seeded and quartered
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano

Optional: 2 tablespoons of butter

Topping
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly spray oil into two standard loaf pans.
  2. Place onions, carrots, kale, mushrooms, and red pepper into a blender (see pictures) and chop very finely.
  3. (Optional) Saute vegetable mixture in the two tablespoons of butter.  I skipped this step this time, and it still tasted lovely.
  4. Mix vegetables with rest of loaf ingredients, using hands to knead.
  5. In a small separate bowl, mix the topping ingredients.
  6. Distribute meatloaf mixture evenly into loaf pans and spread topping.
  7. Bake in the oven until meat is no longer pink, about one hour.  A meat thermometer should read 160 when inserted into the center.
ninja
Not an ad for the Ninja, but it did make quick work of these veggies.
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Not pretty, but it bakes up pretty tastily!

Pumpkin Minimuffins

My little girl got her first vaccines yesterday, so we stuck close to home afterward, just the two of us.  We cuddled and she napped a lot.  Fittingly, the day was as rainy and chilled as my mood.  While she napped I decided to make something “back-to-school”ish, to prepare for easy meals when I go back to work in a few weeks.

I LOVE homemade muffins.  I like to freeze them fresh and defrost a few in the microwave for breakfasts for me and the toddler.  He gobbles them up and begs for more!

One of my students in my public speaking class four years ago gave a memorable speech on making muffins, showing how easy it truly was to give up the box mix.  I’ve never looked back.  The biggest secret she shared was not over-stirring.  You want a slightly lumpy batter.

These muffins were based on a recipe from Libby’s Pumpkin, but the original recipe called for 3 cups of flour to 3 cups of sugar.  I had to reread that… 3 cups of sugar? This recipe includes whole wheat flour and a lot less sugar.  Feel free to double the spices, or even add in a teaspoon or two of vanilla extract.  These would be less healthy (but even more delicious) with cream cheese frosting.  If you add frosting, make sure to freeze them “naked” and add it when you defrost the muffin.

Enjoy! Get ready for fall and make some tasty muffins:

“Better for You” Pumpkin Mini-Muffins
(Adapted heavily from Nestle)

Yield: About 60 minimuffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 can (15 ounces) Pure Pumpkin Purée
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil or applesauce
1/2 cup orange juice

Preheat to 350° F. Paper-line or grease minimuffin cups.

COMBINE flour, spices, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Combine sugar, maple syrup, pumpkin, eggs, oil/applesauce, and juice in large mixing bowl; beat until just blended. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture. Stir just until moistened… (see pictures below) There will be lumps! Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling 3/4 full.

BAKE for 15-17 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Store muffins in covered container or resealable plastic bags. Can freeze for up to three months. Great reheated!

step one
Always add the dry ingredients to the wet
step two
Mix slowly
Step Three
There will be lumps. Don’t over beat!

BLTs that are Built Lovingly Tall

To me, the tastes of summer have always included watermelon and peaches and corn… But the thing that speaks summer to me the most is the good old-fashioned tomato. Whenever I tell my husband that tomatoes are ripening in my garden, he gets disappointed when I bring in a handful of cherry tomatoes. When the big guys start getting ripe, that’s when the real fun begins.

One of the foods that I hated as a child but love now would be the BLT sandwich. I’m not a big bacon person, which puts me at odds with the rest of Iowa. We Iowans have the blue ribbon bacon festival every year, which sports everything from bacon-flavored beer to bacon-flavored ice cream, not counting bacon-wrapped everything.

This version of the old classic includes some elements which really highlight the tomato and lettuce aspects of this dish. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did last night…

World’s Best BLT (adapted from MarieRnyr)

  • 1 good quality fresh baguette, split lengthwise in half, but not separated, soft centers removed
  • 5 tablespoons mayo
  • 3 tablespoons basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
  • 10 slices bacon
  • 2 large good quality tomatoes or 4 small good quality tomatoes
  • 1 head red leaf lettuce, leaves separated, washed, and dried

HOUSE DRESSING use 3 to 4 Tablespoons

  • 14 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 12 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 12 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Make your bacon by your preferred method. I like to do it this way:

Line a baking pan with aluminum foil, and place raw bacon down directly on the foil (not on a rack). Put pan in a cold oven and set for 400. Bake bacon for 20 minutes, or until reaches your desired level of crispiness. Remove pan from oven and transfer bacon to paper towels to remove extra oil.

  1. Next, make the house dressing, by combining all ingredients in a mason jar. Shake thoroughly.
  2. Under a broiler or on a griddle, lightly toast the inside of the baguette.
  1. Combine the mayonnaise and pesto.
  2. Spread the pesto mayonnaise all over the inside of both halves of the baguette.
  3. Lay the bacon along the length of the bottom half of the bread.
  4. Lay the tomato slices on top of the bacon and drizzle with the house dressing.
  5. Fill the remaining cavity with the lettuce leaves.
  6. Close the sandwich tightly.
  7. Cut on the diagonal with a sharp serrated knife into 2 to 4 pieces, depending on your hunger level. You may need a toothpick to hold the sandwich together.
  8. Pig out. (Quite fittingly.)
bacon layout
Before baking
lettuce
Lettuce share this sandwich… it’s really too much for one person.
bacon
Perfect bacon.
BLT
The finished product!

My husband re-proposed after taking a bite.  Hope you have a similarly good experience!

Potato Salad…. on the Go

I have a wandering (and wondering?) (and wonderful) toddler.  The above picture was taken on a recent outing to the park, where, luckily, he has little trouble to get into if he scurries a bit out of reach.  More troubling is when he gets loose at the gym while I’m trying to wrangle his sister into the car seat, and he runs into the gym where some boys are trying to play a game of basketball. Or most frighteningly of all, when he took his little hand out of mine in the parking lot and started to run towards the car. We had a big talk after that one. The truth about all of these runnings is that he knows he’s not supposed to run too far ahead of us. He looks back at us and gives us a devilish smile as if to say, “Come and get me!” It makes it hard to get mad at the situation for too long.

In our back yard, his favorite game is to go to the only place I tell him to keep out of: my garden. Just like Peter Rabbit.  Once he shimmies down the back stairs, he’s off and running to the edge of my garden, which wouldn’t matter except that I mulch the entire bed with grass clippings and he’s likely to roll around in it if not watched… His dad does the vacuuming and doesn’t appreciate these escapades.  Soon, he’ll be old enough to help me dig and pick, but this summer is all about damage control.  I can’t wait until he understands how his food comes from these plants.

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Potatoes boiling!

One plant currently overgrown in our garden is the dill, which is so fragrant that if the wind blows you can catch a whiff from the other side of the lawn. Dill belongs in potato salad, in my opinion, and so we’ve been chowing down on this recipe all summer. Don’t leave out the relish! It makes it something special.

 

Amazing Dill and Relish Potato Salad

Base Ingredients

  • 3 large yellow potatoes, cubed and peeled (though I didn’t peel this time)
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

Dressing

  • 2 heaping tablespoons sweet pickle relish, with liquid
  • 1/2 cup Miracle Whip (mine was the low-fat, olive oil version)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill (or more, to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • Salt (to taste)

Directions

Boil cubed potatoes until they are tender, about ten minutes. Transfer to a colander and rinse with cold water. In a large bowl add celery, onion, eggs, and cooled potatoes.

In a separate bowl, mix dressing ingredients. Add dressing to base, and let potato salad chill for at least 2 hours. Salt to taste before serving.

Dill flower
Dill flower