jicama-lime slaw

Summer seems to be upon us here in Arizona, even though I think spring only officially got started a couple of weeks ago.  So, with temps in the 90s, and our grill performing its usual work-horse duties, I wanted a side that could herald summer.  Spring is fleeting.  Summer, well that just seems to go on forever.

I have my faithful stand-by recipes, but I like to experiment early in the season to find out if there’s anything worth making for upcoming picnics, get-togethers with friends, etc.  And I’m always enticed by oft-overlooked veggies.  Like the jicama, for instance.  You can find them in pretty much any grocery store, but it’s rare you see recipes calling for this uber-nutritious, fibrous root veggie.  And I’m surprised it took me this long to think of it as perfect for cole slaw.  The flavor and texture are spot on – crisp and sweet, somewhere between a water chestnut and a pear.  The jicama’s flavor is enhanced by the lime and doesn’t give way to sogginess when the dressing is applied.

If you’ve looking for a change of pace from a traditional mayo-based slaw, this one is perfect.  It’s tangy, zesty, and perfectly fresh for summer.  Enjoy!

 

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Jicama-Lime Slaw (recipe adapted from Cooking Light Superfast Suppers)

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium jicama, peeled and shredded
  • 1 c green cabbage, shredded
  • 1/4 c red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 c fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
  • 2 tsp EVOO
  • 1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine first three ingredients in a medium bowl, tossing well.  Set aside. t
  2. Whisk together lime juice, EVOO, sugar, salt, and black pepper.
  3. Pour dressing over slaw mixture and toss well to coat.
  4. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

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***Cook’s Notes:  I was in time-saving mode, so I grabbed a bag of pre-shredded cabbage in the produce aisle.  Turns out it was the angel hair variety, so a bit too flimsy for my taste, but worked fine.  Next time I’ll either shred my own or make sure I buy a thicker shred.

 

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penne with herbs, tomatoes, and peas

I’m not one who feels compelled to serve a starch at every meal.  I’d rather double my serving of veggies or add a hearty side salad.   I might even throw some cooked rice or lentils into a salad to beef it up a bit.  But my eaters enjoy their side dishes and I’m easily bored by potatoes.  The poor Irish.  I don’t know what I would have done.  Really?  Potatoes?  Again?

Since I had a flank steak on the grill and my green beans were cleaned and stemmed, I only needed a few minutes to throw this together right before the meat came off to rest.  You can cook your pasta ahead since it’s combined later with the hot ingredients to re-warm it.  I especially enjoyed this as a side because it was anything but “potato boring.”  There are a lot of flavors swirling around in this pasta – from heady garlic and parsley to the sweetness of basil and cherry tomatoes.  I think it would be great adapted to a cold pasta salad, as well, to make it perfect for any end-of-summer picnics you might have on calendar.  Enjoy!

2013-07-28

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Penne with Herbs, Tomatoes, and Peas (recipe courtesy Cooking Light, June 2013)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 ounce fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved (about 1/4 cup)

Directions:

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add peas during last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain.

2. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add garlic; cook 4 minutes or until garlic begins to brown, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high. Add tomatoes to pan; cook 1 minute. Add pasta mixture, salt, and pepper to pan; cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Stir in basil and parsley. Sprinkle with cheese.

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***Cook’s Notes:  Don’t cook your garlic for 4 minutes.  It’ll be scorched beyond belief and your pasta will be ruined.  Keep a close eye on it and throw in the tomatoes when it becomes fragrant, not brown.  Also, it’s super easy to over cook a tomato, too.  The recipe says cook for one minute, but I’d say less.  You still have to return the pasta to the dish and re-warm, which will be plenty of time for the tomatoes to heat through.  The original recipe called for regular pasta.  I substituted whole wheat to boost fiber and protein.

tangy vinegar coleslaw

What should you do when you’re having a small 4th of July gathering (3 adults, and a child who wouldn’t touch cabbage with a ten foot pole)?  Why, make 3 pounds of coleslaw, of course.  Actually, I had the foresight to cut this recipe in half, but it still makes a ton.  And, frankly, while I prefer a vinegar-based slaw, I don’t think they keep as well.  So, serve it to a lot of people and eat it all.

With that said, this was a really tasty recipe and I’d definitely make it again.   It had great texture and a nice variety of flavors.  I opted to use apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar, which is a little more subtle in flavor.  Not too vinegar-y.  The onions gave it a nice little kick, too.  I served it as a side dish, but this would be great on pulled pork or shredded beef sandwiches, as well.  Easy-peasy!  Enjoy!!

2013-07-041

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Tangy Vinegar Coleslaw (recipe courtesy Food For My Family)

Ingredients: (I’ve halved all the ingredients from the original recipe)

1/2  head green cabbage, shredded
1/4 head red cabbage, finely shredded (or 1/2 head radicchio for a spicy kick)
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup white vinegar*
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
1/8 cup oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon celery seed

Directions:

In a large bowl toss the green cabbage, red cabbage, and red onion until mixed. Set aside.

In a small saucepan combine the vinegar, honey, and oil. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt, dry mustard, and the celery seed. Pour the dressing over the cabbage. Toss to combine.  Refrigerate and serve chilled.

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fruit salad with honey-lemon dressing

I have  a tendency to resort to “old favorites,” for holiday meals or picnics.   So I generally whip together this easy, delicious little number for summer festivities.  I have…for years.  I know, I know, how culinarily unchallenged can I be?  Mostly, I suppose, I’m a creature of habit, I know what people my kid  will eat and enjoy, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Yup!   But I was surfing around on Pinterest just before the 4th of July and found this sweet variation on fruit salad; the one side dish every barbecue should offer for those of us who find mayo-based pasta salads and potato salads a bit too heavy for a summer picnic.  Let there be fruit!

Like all fruit salads, there isn’t really a recipe.  If you don’t follow the ingredient list strictly, you’ll still end up with a perfectly delicious fruit salad regardless of which fruits you select.  The key here, in my opinion, is the dressing.  Honey and lemon define simplicity.  They’re  diverse flavors; the sweet and tangy being a perfect complement to any fruit.  Serving it inside the hollowed out watermelon rind is just a fun way to make a visual statement at your holiday picnic, but serve it any way you like.  That’s the beauty of fruit.  Have it your way.  Enjoy!

2013-07-04

Fruit Salad w/Honey-Lemon Dressing (recipe courtesy Honey and Figs Kitchen)

Fruit Ingredients:

  • 1/2 seedless watermelon, scooped with melon baller
  • 1/2 honeydew melon, scooped with melon baller
  • 3 kiwis, peeled and chopped
  • 1 c sweet cherries, pitted and halved
Dressing Ingredients:
  • 3 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp honey (taste test as you go for sweetness)
  • 2 Tbsp limoncello, optional

Directions:

Whisk together honey and lemon until honey is dissolved.  Refrigerate until you’re ready to use.  Next, half the melons and remove fruit with melon baller.  Place watermelon and honeydew melon into medium-sized bowl.  Add sliced kiwi fruit and cherries.  Mix gently to combine the fruit.
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Clean out the excess melon from the watermelon rind to create your serving bowl.  Return prepared fruit to the empty watermelon rind.  Drizzle with honey-lemon dressing just before serving.
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simply egg salad sandwiches

Summer is upon us.  I’m giving myself permission to publish nothing but recipes containing the word “salad” from now until October!!!  I probably won’t, but today, with the temperature currently hovering about 106°, it’s tempting.  Salad is a cool word.  It doesn’t have the same heavy, sweat-on-your-neck connotations as, say, casserole.  I don’t know about you, but I felt infinitely more sweaty (sweatier?) typing “casserole” than I did typing “salad.”  Even in my climatically controlled office space.

On top of that, last weekend I was out of yogurt but didn’t feel like succumbing to peanut butter and jelly for lunch.  I did have, fortuitously, a couple of hard-boiled eggs.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Egg salad is one of those catch as catch can kind of foods.  You make of it what you will with whatever ingredients you can gather from the fridge.  There are no rules.  If it sounds good, add it.  It’s summer.  It’s hot outside (at least here in the desert southwest).  Throw caution to the 106° wind.  Enjoy!

2013-06-01

Simple Egg Salad Sandwiches (recipe adapted from Eat, Live, Run)

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs, hard-boiled
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise (I used reduced fat mayo with olive oil)
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp stone ground mustard
  • 1 stalk celery, rinsed, trimmed, and diced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Mash eggs with a fork and add remaining ingredients. Chill in fridge or spread on whole grain bread with sliced onion and lettuce. Enjoy!

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Cook’s Notes:  I halved the recipe because I only wanted a half sandwich and gave the other half to the husband.  The recipe, as written, makes enough for two sandwiches.  Increase ingredients accordingly depending on how many mouths you need to feed or how much you want left over for tomorrow’s lunch.

orange julius

It’s hot.  While I was frittering away time in the air conditioning going through some of my mom’s old cookbooks, I came across an undated version of God’s Country Cookbook, a compilation of recipes from the women of Central United Methodist Church in Traverse City, Michigan.  My brother-in-law’s dad, Dean Bailey, was formerly the senior minister at Central United Methodist.  I’ve lost track of the years he served, now, but I’m guessing this cookbook to have been put together sometime in the early 1990s.

During that time, I spent a few Sundays at CUMC.  My oldest niece was baptized in the sanctuary there; the younger two each on the shores of East Grand Traverse Bay during CUMC Worship in the Park.  Last summer, only months after my own mom passed away very suddenly, my brother-in-law’s mom, Jan, passed away unexpectedly, as well, and during our annual pilgrimage to the Leelanau Peninsula last July, we celebrated her life with family and friends in the sanctuary at CUMC.

So it was with a bittersweet, tear-stung desire for relief from the heat I came across this recipe in this particular cookbook…memories of my mom scrawled in handwritten notes in the margins, and the realization of the upcoming anniversary of Jan’s death.  And also, by golly, that Methodist women bake a lot of casseroles!

That just needed to be said.  Things were getting a little heavy there.

Now, back to the heat, and ice cubes, and frozen concentrate, and relief from an already oppressive summer when summer hasn’t yet begun.  These were so fun to make and are the liquefied version of a Good Humor™ Creamsicle.  Delicious!!  For the record, this is not a thirst-quenching beverage.  If you want to quench your thirst, drink a glass of ice water or a frosty beer.  An Orange Julius is all about the pretty, and the fun, and beating the heat on a hot day with your kids during summer vacation.  Our forecast is creeping up on 110°.  I think it’s safe to say I’ll be making these again.  Enjoy!

2013-06-03

Orange Julius

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz can frozen orange juice
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 c. low-fat milk
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 10 or 12 ice cubes

Directions:

Blend all ingredients in a blender.  Serve immediately.  This can also be frozen and re-blended for serving at a later time.  It doesn’t get any easier than that!

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mom’s [shake shake shake] potato salad with dill

So, this is one of those recipe-less recipes; the type of which I’m not so fond because I’m a direction-taker.  I like my recipes mapped out like a well-worn road atlas.  Improv gives me cold sweats.  Not that I haven’t occasionally had to cobble together a meal with the handful of unexpired ingredients in my refrigerator, but…a list of ingredients and their corresponding quantities makes me feel so much more competent in the kitchen.

My mom got this recipe from an old next door neighbor several many years ago.  I’m assuming our neighbor gave her the recipe the same way she gave it to me.  There is no written version, apparently, so I’ll share with you, verbatim, how my mom taught me to make it:

Mom:  I use a 1:1:1 ratio, eggs to potatoes to people, and then I add an extra egg.  I like a little more egg.

Me:  How about the seasonings?

Mom:  Well, I don’t really measure them.  It’s more like, potato, egg, dollop of dressing, salt, shake shake shake, pepper, shake shake shake, dill, shake shake shake.  Mix.  Potato, egg, dollop of dressing, salt, shake shake shake, pepper, shake shake shake, dill, shake shake shake.

Me:  {Sigh}

And that’s it.  Shake.  Shake.  Shake.  This potato salad is left entirely to your own whim as to more or less dressing, more or less salt, more or less….well, you get it.  It’s the potato salad that spawned my love for potato salad (at least this one), and is at the top of the request list when warm(er) weather rolls around.  It’s picnic-friendly, perfect for block party BBQs, or holiday weekend festivities (hint, hint, Memorial Day is right around the corner).  Grill some burgers, hotdogs, steaks…whatever.  This salad is the perfect complement.  Enjoy!

2013-05-04

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Mom’s [shake shake shake] Potato Salad with Dill

Ingredients:

  • 6 potatoes, cooked and peeled
  • 7 eggs, hard-boiled
  • Miracle Whip (I use light or low fat variety), to taste and texture
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Dill, dried, to taste

Directions:

Boil potatoes, skins on, until a little less than fork tender.  Remove from water, cool completely.  At the same time, cook eggs until hard-boiled, remove from heat, cool completely.  When potatoes are fully cooled, remove skins.  Peel and wash eggs.

In medium bowl, cut one potato into one inch (bite sized pieces).  Slice one egg into bite sized pieces, as well.  Spoon in about two heaping tablespoons of Miracle Whip.  Add salt, pepper, and dried dill weed to taste.  Mix gently until well combined.  Repeat process with remaining potatoes and eggs.

Keep refrigerated until you’re ready to serve.

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italian basil pasta salad

This post really needs to start with a confession:  I did not make this dish.  I bought the ingredients, but I had absolutely nothing to do with the assembly.  Not that I don’t want to take credit for it.  It was superb.  But I was off-duty enjoying a lovely, chore-free Mother’s Day.  The husband and the world’s greatest kid put this together as part of a truly relaxing, enjoyable day for moi!  No cooking, no dishes, re-fills on wine, plentiful hugs.  It was all good!

Including this pasta salad, which should go on every picnic menu you put together from now until you can’t eat another pickled banana pepper.  It deviated wonderfully from the all-too-predictable pasta salad of  yesteryear: tomatoes, broccoli, green onions, yada yada yada, slathered in Kraft Italian Dressing.  Don’t make that one again.  Make this one.  Great flavors from sweet to savory, great textures from crisp and crunchy to smooth and creamy.  When I tried it, Kat asked what I thought and I blurted out, “It’s like a fiesta in your mouth!”  I’ll probably regret that later, but at the time it caused endless giggles and was a spot on description.

Let the fiesta begin.  Enjoy!

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Italian Basil Pasta Salad (recipe adapted from Taste of Home)

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (16 oz) bow tie pasta
  • 2 c grape tomatoes
  • 7 oz mozzarella cheese pearls, halved
  • 1 medium sweet yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1/2 c pickled banana pepper rings, diced
  • 1 can (2 1/4 oz) sliced ripe olives, drained (the husband used capers)
  • 4 thin slices hard salami, chopped
  • 1/2 c fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Dressing:

  • 3/4 c olive oil
  • 3/4 c red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil

Directions:

  • Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and rinse in cold water. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, tomatoes, cheese, yellow pepper, onion, pepper rings, olives (or, capers, if you’re so inclined), salami and basil.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

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Cook’s Notes:  Make this a day ahead if you can, to let the flavors really come together.

pulled pork bbq (slow cooker style)

Can you ever get enough pulled pork?  I think not.

A friend gave  me this recipe a while back and I hadn’t made it for fear of being accused of being on some strange shredded meat binge.  Finally, the temptation was too great and I gave in, even though I had made shredded something-or-other fairly recently.  But it’s about the easiest recipe ever written and I was in an “I don’t want feel like lingering over dinner” kind of mood.  Four ingredients, people.  Four ingredients and that’s about all the lingering over dinner you’ll need to do.  I always feel like there’s some kitchen fairy magic going on with these meals.  Ingredients in, lid on, twelve hours later, dinner is served.

I’ve seen various recipes like this one calling for the addition of a carbonated beverage.  Does anyone know why?  Honestly, I’m not sure what the added benefit might be, because I think the meat really gets it flavor from the onions and whatever spectacular bbq sauce you choose.  So, if anyone can offer any hints as to why soda of any kind is frequently seen in slow cooker recipes like this, I’d love to know.  The finished product had absolutely no Ginger Ale overtones, whatsoever.

We always top our shredded meat with coleslaw.  We’re quirky that way.  Feel free to do the same, or just slather in more saucy deliciousness.  Enjoy!

2013-03-12

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Pulled Pork BBQ

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs pork roast (shoulder or butt)
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 cup ginger ale
  • 1 (18 ounce) bottle favorite barbecue sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s) barbecue sauce, for serving (optional)

Directions:

  • Slice one onion and place in crock pot.
  • Put in the roast and cover with the other onion, sliced. Pour over the ginger ale. Cover and cook on LOW for about 12 hours.
  • Remove the meat, strain and save the onions, discard all liquid. With two forks, shred the meat, discarding any remaining fat, bones or skin.
  • Return the shredded meat and the onions to the crock pot and stir in the barbecue sauce. Continue to cook for about another 2 hours on LOW.
  • Serve with hardy rolls and additional barbecue sauce. Any leftovers freeze very well.

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Cook’s Notes:  Shoulder or butt are recommended because the meat shreds very well.  It is a fattier cut, but the fat pretty much falls away after cooking and is easily removed from the crock pot before shredding.  Also,  the original recipe cooked for 12 hours the first round, and another 4 to 6 after straining, shredding, and adding the sauce.  I think mine would have been cooked to mush by that point.  Another 2 hours to let the flavors develop was plenty for us.  Also, the original recipe gave a tip on how to freeze ready-made sandwiches.  Personally, that just sounds disgusting.  I can only envision a soggy pile of goo coming out of the microwave upon re-heating.  My preference is to keep the meat and bread separate until I’m ready to eat.  Most importantly (as with any shredded meat sandwich where sauce or coleslaw is involved), make sure your sandwich buns can stand up to all that moisture.  I noted to serve with “hardy rolls” in the directions above, and I can’t emphasize that enough.  Unless you don’t mind eating your pulled pork with a fork.  In which case you can simply call this recipe pork-on-a-fork!

balsamic marinated tomato and mozzarella salad

I know there are a lot of food purists out there who will say this is a travesty; the bastardization of the Caprese Salad.  Yes, there is balsamic vinegar which some say you would never find on a Caprese Salad in Italy.   And yes, I served it as a side dish as opposed to a starter as they would in, you guessed it…Italy.

Alas, we are not in Italy.  We are in the United States of America and here?  Here, I put balsamic on my Caprese Salad and serve it as a side dish.  Except there’s one, minor detail.  This isn’t really Caprese salad.  Because it also has minced garlic and chopped onion.  So, there.  Take that, Italy.  It’s a side salad!

Don’t get me wrong.  I love me some Caprese Salad.  It’s the most tantalizing starter at any summer meal.  But this version is basically a balsamic marinade, and the added onion and garlic gives you an added kick in the taste buds.  It really was very, very good.  Lots of robust flavor with the same summer freshness of the purist’s Caprese Salad.  Keep this recipe on hand for summer weekends where you’re not hosting a formal sit down meal with several courses.  This has summer picnics and barbecues written all over it, especially if you’re invited to a summer meal where you’re asked to bring a dish to pass.  Make it ahead and let the flavors mingle.  It’s all good.  Enjoy!

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Balsamic Marinated Tomato and Mozzarella Salad (recipe courtesy Food.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, cubes
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

Directions:

In medium bowl, combine cheese pearls and tomatoes.  In separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and chopped basil.  Stir to blend evenly.   When dressing is evenly mixed, toss over cheese and tomatoes, stirring gently to coat.

Chill until ready to serve.

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Cook’s Notes:  Especially where dressings and marinades are involved, always use the best quality balsamic vinegar and olive oil you can afford.