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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blueberry Watermelon Salad

This was the side dish that got kicked to the curb by the crab boil potato salad. No longer is it at the curb. Late in the week, I had another long day in a week of long days. Late afternoon, two of my intrepid employees and I headed for my home. One had brought her truck and the other was "furniture shopping." She was thrilled with my old family room furniture so we loaded what we could in the truck and they took off for her house. Once that was dropped off, the truck went to a friend's house to pick up a couple of bookcases. My truck driving employee wanted one and we'll use the other in the basement. Then, once our bookcase was unloaded, the truck was reloaded with a couple of kid's desks and some stools that we'd had in our storage unit. At that point I suggested we all eat dinner. I'd made the thai ribs from my friend MomChef and knew I could put those on the grill. And, I had the LaBrea Tar Pit chicken wings. Oh, and I had a wonderful dip that I blogged about for the Secret Recipe Club on Monday. Appetizers we had. Plenty of meat. No sides. Now, did I mention that we're in the midst of having a new kitchen floor installed? That means all of my pantry goodies are in boxes. Boxes and boxes and boxes. I needed something that I had all the ingredients for AND that I could find said ingredients. All the ingredients were handy for this and it sounded wonderful. Score.  Here's my living room/pantry right now.  UGH!

What did we think? This is my new favorite way to eat watermelon. Don't get me wrong, I still love watermelon and feta salad. Lots. I just love this a little more. The lemon really kicks the flavor up. The watermelon and blueberries play very nicely together. A super double bonus is that this is really easy to put together.

Blueberry and Watermelon Salad


1/4 c sugar

1/4 c water

3 mint sprigs

zest and juice of one lemon

pinch of salt

2 c blueberries

3 c cubed watermelon (I own a melon baller so used that instead)


Mix the sugar and water in a saucepan. 

Add the mint springs. 

Gently heat they syrup until the sugar has dissolved. 

Remove it from the heat and allow it to steep for ten minutes.  Add the juice and zest of one lemon.  Put the blueberries and watermelon in a large bowl. 

Pour the syrup over and gently toss the salad.  Allow it to sit for ten minutes so the flavors will meld.

Adapted from Everyday by Rachael Ray

adapted from Food Network Magazine

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kara's Crostini

Life is a series of adventures, isn't it?  And, I love the way the pieces and parts of life weave together. 

Way back in 4th grade, I was put into the beta test group of advanced kids.  I was lucky enough to spend the balance of my grade school, junior high school and high school years with a lot of those folks.  Along the way, other grade schools fed into the junior high then other junior highs fed into the high school.  So, along the way I met new friends.  One of those is a fellow named Steve.  Steve and I kept in touch for many years and I got to know his wife, Pam.  Then, life interfered and we lost touch.

Fast forward to 2004 when I met Connie.  I winked at him on  He responded.  We corresponded then met for dinner at the restaurant of my choice:  Sangiovese.  We got married a couple of years later.

Connie plays bridge.  He was talking to one of his fellow bridge players about this blog.  She said one of her best friends had a blog.  That Skinny Chick can Bake by Lizzy Do.  She introduced us.  Liz was totally delightful.  We started chatting and she told me where she lived.  I commented that some friends I'd lost track of used to live right about there.  Well, what do you know,  Pam and Steve live across the street from Liz and Bill and they're the best of friends.  Small world, isn't it?

We all got together for dinner and had a lovely time.  This past weekend it was time for another adventure.  We were going to go to Bonge's Tavern.  Now, Bonge's is one of those destination restaurants.  It was originally the local bar in a community named Perkinsville.  Many years ago, it was converted to a restaurant.  You get there early and tailgate in the parking lot.  After a long while (like a couple of hours) your party's name is called and you're seated for a fantastic dinner.  We gathered at Liz and Bill's house at 4:30.  Liz was finishing up taking some photos of her blue cheese gougeres.

And, Lambeau was helping. 

Head on over to Liz's blog and you'll be able to make those yummy gougeres yourself. 

Here's the crew:

We piled into Liz and Bill's car and headed north.  Bill and Connie in the front seat.  Steve, Pam and me in the back seat.  And, Liz in steerage - the jumpseat in the WAY back.  She was there with the cooler with my shrimp crostini and Pam's cooler with the wine and the container with the gougeres.  Since they were packed warm and she didn't want them to steam, she took the top off the container.  The aroma of blue cheese wafted through the car.  We probably all looked like a bunch of pups with our noses in the air sniffing.  YUM!  A couple of gougeres were tested on the way north.  They were every bit as good as they smelled.  Finally, we were at Perkinsville.  See the fellow in the left in the photo? 

Well, he came up to the car and said they were full up for the evening.  Bummer.  I asked what time folks had to get there to get in for that evening.  Are you ready for this?  3:00.  That's right, these folks were going to be tailgating for about four to five hours to get in.  Here's what the tailgating looks like:

Brainstorming time.  Where can we go?  Every restaurant we could think of on the way north was booked...  How about Sangiovese?  Perfect!  They could accomodate six on the deck overlooking the river.  Back south we headed.  But, wait!  What about the appetizers.  Well, being the intrepid adventurers we are, we ate them in the car.  That was a bit tricky because I'd packed anticipating a tailgate where I could put them together.  But, thanks to Liz unpacking the cooler for me and Pam holding the dish, we were in business. 

Now, one final thanks - to my lovely daughter-in-law Kara.  This is her recipe.  It's become my go-to for elegant finger food.   The sauce is delicious and an absolutely perfect foil for the toasted bread and the shrimp.  I first posted this recipe back in May of 2010.  But, it's so good I think it bears repeating!

Kara's Crostini


1/4 c mayonnaise
2 t wing sauce
8 arugula sprigs
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped


Pulse the mayo, wing sauce, arugula and garlic in a food processor until it's relatively smooth.  Cut the baguette into 3/8" slices.  Lay the slices on a baking sheet and broil for 3 minutes on the first side and two on the second.  To serve, schmear some sauce on a slice of baguette and top it with a shrimp. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Barbecued Chicken Dip

Good Morning!  Today's the Secret Recipe Club.  It's a really fun group of bloggers.  And, it's grown so much that they've divided us into three groups.  Three Mondays of the month, a group reveals a recipe from the blog we've been assigned.  The blogger doesn't know who's going to post one of their recipes so it's fun to go through the list and find which of your recipes has been posted.  You'll find hops to the other blogs at the end of this post.  And, if you'd like to participate, here's a link:  Secret Recipe Club.

When I got the original assignment, I dutifully read through a couple of months of posts on my assigned blog:  From Apples 2 Zucchini.  There were a lot of choices but I really wanted to make a jambalaya.  Well, time went on and I didn't get it made.  Last week I realized I needed to check and make sure I had all the ingredients.  Then, I counted days.  Hmmm, it was Wednesday and I already had chicken thighs, ribs and wings to cook.  Enough goodies to feed the crew when they come to move the furniture we're giving away.  The blog is to be posted on a Monday so that means it needs to be written by Sunday.  And, Sunday was my next time to cook.  That wouldn't work.  Well, wouldn't you know when I went to From Apples 2 Zucchini, there on the first page was the perfect recipe!  Thank you Pam :-)  This barbecued chicken dip would be perfect for the chicken thighs.  And, my hungry movers would love it.  I love it when a plan comes together.   Click on the link above to see Pam's original post.

What did we think?  Pam's husband was exactly right when he asked if there was any more of that crack dip left.  This is one you want to put your serving on your plate and back away or you'll just plain eat too much.  It's addictive and wonderful.  Now, today she's got a rosemary foccacia roll posted that'd be perfect to turn this into a sandwich. 

Barbecued Chicken Dip


1 boneless, skinless chicken breast or 3 boneless skinless chicken thighs
3/4 c of your favorite barbecue sauce
1 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
1 green pepper, diced
1 sweet onion, diced
2 t olive oil
1/2 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
1/3 c shredded cheese


Simmer the chicken in the barbecue sauce until it's fully cooked.  Allow it to cool, then shred it.  Saute the pepper and onion in the olive oil. 

Soften the cream cheese and mix in the chicken, pepper, onion, garlic powder and onion powder. 

Put the mixture in a casserole dish

and drizzle it with a bit more bbq sauce

then top it with the shredded cheese. 

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dig IN

Have you ever felt like you never will need to eat again?  I know, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  But, in the summer there aren't any holidays like that.  Unless, of course, you were lucky enough to snag some tickets to Dig-IN.  Connie and I were among the lucky ones.  I found half off tickets from an email called Green Clipping.  That's an offshoot of Green Piece Indy which is a wonderful green living email I receive.  So, today a bit after noon we headed downtown to White River State Park.  We knew the crowd was going to be huge when all of the parking close by was full and we saw people streaming in on all of the sidewalks close by. 

The program says, "At Dig-IN, farmers, producers and chefs from all over Indiana join forces to celebrate Hoosier food."  And, boy did they ever!!  Several of our favorites were there:  Terry Knudson from Viking Lamb, JJ Boston from Chef JJ's Back Yard, Chris Eley from Goose the Market, Regina Mehallick from R Bistro.  I got to meet the delightful gal from Maple Leaf Farms - producers of the best duck in the USA - and she was kind enough to give me a copy of their cookbook.  (Which I will read cover-to-cover as soon as I'm hungry again in about a week - lol.)  There were 26 restaurants, 9 wineries and 11 breweries.  An amazing collection of food and drink.  And, an amazing number of folks enjoying said food and drink. I failed miserably at taking photos because I was so busy noshing on incredible food.  Let me share with you the description of my favorite dish of the day from J. Ford's Black Angus in Terre Haute:  "Slow smoked pulled pork slider, hickory horseradish coffee BBQ glaze and basil goat cheese garden slaw."  Now, doesn't that make you want to hop in your car and drive straight to J. Ford's?  Me too!

Bottom line - we'll go back next year.  We made it to 12 of the 26 restaurants and about 9 of the breweries.  We tried one winery but unfortunately, most of the wine there today appeared to be the sweet stuff that we really don't care for. 

I've saved the best for last, though.  The score of the day.  Beef n'Noodles.  From Coes Noodles.  OMG.  The best beef and noodles I've ever had.  Bar none.  We went back for seconds.  I bought a bag just to get the recipe.  Well, that and the fact that these are wonderful noodles.  Here's the link:  Coes Noodles

Beef n'Noodles


2-3 lb chuck roast or any cut of beef
1 can Campbells Beefy Mushroom soup
1 package dry onion soup mix
1 T salt
10 c water
1 lb package Coe's Noodles


Everything but the noodles goes in the crockpot.  Let it cook on low overnight and through the next day.  A couple of hours before you plan on serving dinner, shred the beef then add the noodles.  Stir everything very gently.  Make sure the noodles are covered with the liquid.  Then, put the lid on and walk away.  Keep your hands off the lid.  That means you.  No touchie, no lookie for two hours.  Serve and savor :-)

A big thank you to Judy Coe for a wonderful recipe and some fantastic noodles.  They've got them for sale on their web site so you too can enjoy them!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

POM Vanilla Martini

The week of no kitchen is almost at an end!  I'm not quite sure what I'll do if I win the lottery and can actually have my kitchen remodeled.  Wait, I'm a financial planner.  Winning the lottery is NOT a plan.  And, you've got to buy tickets anyway - lol.  Why did I have no kitchen?  Well, first off, no kitchen is an exaggeration.  Almost all the furniture had been moved out of the kitchen.  And, my pantry was scattered amongst the dining room and living room.  In about 25 boxes.  It's not that I use a lot of canned foods.  But, I do need jars of roasted red peppers, capers, and olives.  And, panko.  Connie's the one who packed up the pantry so I took to walking into the empty space and "getting something off the shelf" to show him where it was.  That worked the first day when he remembered where everything had gone.  Not so well after that.  Peanut sauce?  Four boxes later.  Dark brown sugar?  Don't ask.  Soy sauce?  Trip to the grocery store.  And, on it went - lol.  Remember, you've got two choices here.  Laugh or cry.  Laughing is better.  Trust me on this.

Now, you ask WHY was everything packed up?  Just when I got the pantry nice and neat and organized?  The only room in the house to be nice and neat and organized?  Chalk it up to brown and beige.  I've mentioned before that when we bought this house it was beige.  A really ugly beige.  And, I'd lived with it for five years.  We'd painted the dining room early on.  Since we eat dinner in there every night that it's too hot or cold to eat on the screened porch, that was kind of the oasis of beauty.  Then, we papered our master bedroom.  Ahhh, another room that didn't turn a menacing yellow when bathed in incandescant light.  That was progress.  This year thanks to being forced to paint the exterior of the house and replace some windows (and as it turned out, replace a good bit of siding since the prior owners didn't prime it with oil based primer and it rotted,) it was a great opportunity to paint the interior of the house too.  All the furniture was moved and a large number of the pictures on the walls, so the prep work wasn't nearly as daunting.  Yeah, right. 

I'd painted one wall in the kitchen a grey blue when I first moved in.  It's the wall where all of my copper pans and antique kitchen goodies reside.  Most of that was my grandmother's.  Am I lucky or what?  There's the wall behind my handsome nephew, Tom.

 Once the rest of the kitchen was painted a paler version of the grey blue and the trim went from brown to white, the brown floor looked worse than ever.  The problem was that thanks to the unexpected siding bill, I'd exhausted my budget.  Time for plan B.  Peel and stick flooring.  It won't last years and years but it's certainly MUCH better than the old brown.  See what I mean?

Typically, we only have a cocktail on Sunday.  But, after a particularly grueling day at the office, I wanted to fix a cocktail and sit down and relax.  The cocktail part was fine.  The sitting down and relaxing was a dream unless dinner was to be served at 10pm.  It needed to be something really easy that I could actually get to all of the ingredients.  Somewhere I read about a POM and vanilla vodka drink.  I could do that.  Out came the POM liqueur and the vanilla vodka.  (nb:  It's really easy to make your own.  Don't waste money on the expensive liquor store stuff when you can put a vanilla bean in a bottle of vodka...  It winds up brown but we don't care!)  I tested different ratios and settled on half and half.  Into a cocktail shaker it went.  Shake, shake, shake until it's too cold to hold.  Then, into a chilled martini glass.  Here you have it.  A lovely, refreshing cocktail.  Next to my kitchen's latest decor:

Don't forget to kiss the one you love!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Crab Boil Potato Salad

Connie and I had a difference of opinion on the best dish of Sunday night's dinner.  He voted for this potato salad.  I voted for the kicked up baked beans.  But, when push came to shove and we had 25 points to allocate among crab boil potato salad, kicked up baked beans, esssence corn, essence chicken and essence + Alabama sauce chicken, we both came up with 6-5-5-5-4 points.  And, really I didn't mean to wind up with three starches.  It just happened.  I wanted bbq chicken, corn on the cob and sliced tomatoes.  It just didn't quite turn out that way.  i served dinner and said OOPS!  We've got a whole lotta starches going on here.  It's not going to quite work with the old food pyramid deal.  It did, however, work wth the old taste buds!

You see, when Connie plays bridge I frequently have either part of a can of Bush's Bourbon Brown Sugar Grilling Beans or part of a jar of pasta sauce.  It's called easy and quick food so I can get on with my projects for the evening.  Let's just say I had half a can of beans left.  They needed to be used up.  That's excuse number one.

Excuse number two is even better, if I do say so myself.  While we were out running our errands Sunday afternoon, I read part of a Food Network magazine.  There was a GREAT booklet of 50 potato salads.  We guessed the percentage that were mayonnaise, sour cream and yogurt based.  I won when I said half to two-thirds.  There were 30 out of 50.  I love winning contests like that :-)  One of them was for Crab Boil Potato Salad. Now, who I ask you, can pass up an opportunity to make that???  And, I had potatoes from the CSA that needed to be used.  The watermelon and blueberry salad got moved to later this week. Quickly got moved. 

What did we think?  Well, you already know Connie voted this as his favorite dish of the meal.  For me, this was second place.  It was VERY good and I'll absolutely make it again.  I may try making this as a pasta salad too.  The flavors were wonderful together and I think they'd do equally well with pasta.  The original recipe called for 1 1/2 t of the seasoning.  I doubled it and was very happy I did.

Crab Boil Potato Salad

2 lbs boiled, cubed red potatoes
1/2 c celery, chopped
1/2  c corn
1 c mayonnaise
1 T lemon juice
1 T Old Bay or Emeril's Essence
1 c crabmeat


Put the potatoes, celery and corn in a bowl.  In another bowl, mix the dressing ingredients:  mayo, lemon juice and Old Bay or Emeril's.  Gently toss the potato salad with the dressing.  Then, gently stir in the crab meat.  Serve warm or cold.

adapted from Food Network Magazine

Monday, August 22, 2011

Whiskey Baked Beans

Indianapolis is frequently a test market for new grocery products.  That means all too often I find something wonderful and use the heck out of it and then poof, it's gone.  Another test that didn't work out.  Mushroom risotto in a bag was one of the more notable items.  When Bush's came out with their Grilling Beans, I thought here we go again.  A test product that I'll love and it'll go away.  This time it appears to be different.  This time, they're adding flavors to the lineup so it looks like they may stay around.  YAY!!

I had half a can of Bush's Bourbon and Brown Sugar Grilling Beans left.  They needed to be used.  Dinner was going to be bbq chicken so they'd be perfect with that.  Now comes the fun part.  How do I dress them up a little without ruining their already great flavor?  A little red onion sauteed in butter.  Half a shot of whiskey added in and reduced.  Finally, a bit of diced pancetta. 

What did we think?  This is the dish I liked best from our Sunday supper. For me, it just barely edged the others out. For Connie, the Crab Boil Potato Salad barely edged the others out.  You'll see the rest of the dinner recipes as the week progresses.  Actually, if I'd gotten some great shots of the Crab Boil Potato Salad during dinner, you'd have seen that today.  But, since I didn't that'll have to wait til tomorrow.  Just an fyi, since most people start with a whole can of baked beans, I've adjusted the recipe thusly. 

Whiskey Baked Beans


1 can Bush's Bourbon and Brown Sugar Grilling Beans
2 T butter
1 medium red onion, very finely diced
1 shot whiskey
1/2 c diced pancetta


Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  (Yes, I know I used a skillet but that's what was handy.)  Add the onions and saute until they're softened. 

Pour in the whiskey and cook until the sauce has reduced by half. 

Add the pancetta and saute for about five minutes. 

Add the beans and cook until warmed through.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Weekend Wrap Up, August 20, 2011

I'm itching to cook.  It's been a week of mostly quick and freezer meals and I'm just about over them.  I really don't understand how so many folks are content to heat up a can of something and call it dinner.  Guess that's why I'm a foodie, eh? 

The good news is that Friday night while Connie played bridge, I finally got the little guest room put together.  My last task was the dressing table.  It was originally Mom's.  Then, it became mine when I was a kid. I don't use it any more since I long ago gave up on the whole eye shadow, mascara, blush routine.  It is now a repository for some of my favorite things.  An angel that was my grandmother's.  A powder box that my great-grandmother painted.  A hat pin holder from our former neighbors Ruth and Leo.  A toasting cup from the cruise I took with my family and Trish, my wonderful friend since 5th grade.  It was to celebrate our 50th birthdays.  Yes, she's a bit older.  No, I don't let her forget that.  A carved rabbit I got down in Madison, IN on a lovely vacation probably fifteen years ago.  An angel my mom brought me from a trip she took with her buddies, the Cruise Girls.  Lots of wonderful memories.  I loved being able to unwrap each piece and put it back in place and think about the people who mean so much to me.  

Saturday was moving day.  Time to clear out the storage unit.  No, you don't want to see the photos of me dancing on the table in celebration.   Bills's old desk came to the house.  Bill and Trish were married for many years.  I was in their wedding.  She was in my first wedding.  Sadly, he left many years ago.  Then, several years ago he died of a stroke.  He was way too young and I miss him to this day.  But, I now have his old desk in my sitting room to use.  We'll move the computer that was on the big lummox of a desk in the big guest room into the sitting room and I'll have a place to blog while Connie's in the family room listening to his beloved Red Sox at full blast. 

A couple of weeks ago, I was really hungry for pot roast.  I know.  It's a fall and winter dish.  Maybe it's because my friend the Mom Chef started writing about fall and apple season.  Or, maybe it's because the temps started falling into the 50's overnight on occasion.  Over the weekend, I browned the pot roast.  Then one weeknight, I cooked it in the pressure cooker.  Hmmm.  Not something I'd recommend doing.  It was lovely and tender.  But, the gravy was thin.  It just didn't have the flavor of a pot roast that's been baked low and slow for several hours.  I think everyone likes their mom's pot roast and chocolate chip cookies the best.  For me, since I've found my friend Liz's pot roast, it's been a toss-up.  This time, Liz's won. 

What to do with the leftovers?  They needed to be eaten last weekend.  Something over noodles.  You can call it beef and noodles.  Or stew.  Or stroganoff without the sour cream.  Whatever you call it, it was wonderful.  I took the leftover beef and cubed it.  Then, the leftover "gravy" (remember, it was thin thanks to the pressure cooker) was turned into a real gravy.  Carrots and peas were added along with some mushrooms.  Voila!

One of our meals was a miserable failure.  We love eggplant in almost any dish.  And, I love potatoes.  I'd found a Greek vegetable dish calling for potatoes, rice, eggplant and some other veggies.  It was cooked with tomato juice.  We both gave it a two out of five and put the rest of it down the disposal.  And, the recipe went in the trash. 

I'm starting to look forward to Labor Day weekend.  Cassoulet or beef wellington?  I'd like to try and make one of them.  Both require a LOT of work and some time and I really will need to spend a day making cat food and should spend two whole days in the office.  And, there's a lot more to do in the house and yard.  So much for wishful thinking!

Hope you've had a delightful weekend :-)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Nikki's Beef Stroganoff

Growing up we had our fair share of meals made with Campbell's Soup.  Mom was a very good cook.  But Campbell's Soup frequently makes for a quicker meal.  And, that's important when you're working and still trying to get a good meal on the table for a family.  Some of my favorite dishes like Chicken Green Bean Casserole and Chicken Elegante have Cream of Chicken Soup in them.  But, this is the only one with tomato soup.  The original recipe came from a friend of Mom's by the name of Nikki, ergo the name of the dish. It's ultra quick and easy to make and is pretty darned good.  Best of all, it freezes beautifully.  All you have to do is cook some rice or noodles, heat up the sauce and fix a vegetable or salad for the side and you're in business.

Having a frozen dinner or two available was important this week. You see, since our house has been in total chaos since March we were anxious to finally get a room done.  And, since the painting is complete upstairs that meant that the little guest room could be completed.  Pictures hung on the wall et al.  Now, the other three rooms upstairs, not so much.  Soon, we'll have movers here to take a large file cabinet to the office and take an old desk to the garage where a charitable organization can pick it up.  Then, they're heading to the storage unit to clear it out.  I've had a bunch of our old furniture stored there since we bought this house five years ago.  Some of mine that didn't fit in the house and some of Connie's that's his ex's taste and is too formal for my taste.  And, some that we just plain couldn't use.  I thought one of his three kids or my niece or nephew would certainly want some of it.  But, to date, no takers.  And, I'm tired of paying for the storage unit.  So, it's all going elsewhere.  Whew.  Once all of that is done, I'll easily be able to put together two more rooms.  The sports guest room will be last.  I've got to make t-shirt pillows for the bed.  And, buy a bedspread.  Means I can finally get rid of the one with the gold and green and rose that I've disliked since day one.  But, it came with Connie and until I knew what I wanted to do in that room it didn't make sense to spend the money on an interim quilt.  Hopefully, by the middle of September, I'll have the upstairs put together.  I'd better be because by then, I'll be out of freezer meals!

Nikki's Beef Stroganoff

1 lb ground beef
1 can Campbell's Tomato Soup
1 large onion, sliced
1 8 oz box mushrooms or a 4oz can of mushrooms
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1/4 t - 1/2 t garlic powder
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c sour cream


Brown and drain ground beef.  If you don't mind using multiple pots and pans, you can saute the onions and the mushrooms in two separate pans.  Otherwise, once the beef is done, wipe out the skillet, hit it with a good dose of cooking spray and saute your onions and mushrooms.  Once they're nice and softened and a bit brown, add in all the other ingredients except the sour cream.  Simmer the stroganoff for about 20 minutes.  Stir in the sour cream and serve over rice or noodles.  I love to serve roasted broccoli with it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Matt's Spinach Salad

The first time my youngest stepson had this salad he about swooned.  Now, swoon probably isn't a great word to apply to a mid-20's young man.  But, it's the closest description I can come up with.  I'll never again have a spinach salad without thinking about Matt.  He's the kid who'll eat anything but beans.  The first time we took him to a restaurant after I'd started dating his dad, he ordered lamb.  I was in shock.  A teenager who ordered lamb.  This is a kid who knows how to eat!  So, here's to you Matt!

My mother's mother used to make hot bacon salad dressing.  Didn't almost everyone's grandmother?  But, Matt didn't remember ever having it before.  To me it was an old family recipe that I rarely made because it was so wicked.  Now, I mostly make it with olive oil to keep away from the bad fat from bacon.  I still like to put a bit of bacon in the salad though.  When I made this, I had a container of diced pancetta that either needed to be used or frozen.  Since I'm trying to take out of the freezer rather than put in, into the dressing it went.

Matt's Spinach Salad
serves 4

8 oz box button mushrooms, sliced
olive oil
4 eggs, hardcooked
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 T flour
4-8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (number depends on how wicked you want to be!)
bag of baby spinach
olive oil
red wine vinegar
celery seeds

Saute the mushrooms in a little olive oil. 

Saute the onions in another pan.  You can do both in the same pan but I don't like the way the moisture from the mushrooms tends to keep the onions from browning a bit.  When the onions are nicely softened and a bit brown, mix the mushrooms in then add about a tablespoon more of olive oil to the skillet.  (Here's where I tossed in the package of diced pancetta.) 

Let it heat through, then sprinkle the flour over everything.  Stir well and allow the flour to cook for a few minutes.  Add the rest of the dressing ingredients:  vinegar, sugar and celery seeds.  I confess I didn't measure here...  Once the dressing is sweet/sour to your taste, allow it to thicken. 

Now, it's time to put the salads together.  Put a bed of spinach on each plate.  Top it with the onion and mushroom dressing.  The put a sliced hardcooked egg on each salad and top with crumbled bacon.  You can see in my photo that I did mine with the egg below the onions and mushrooms.  It just doesn't look as pretty!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chili Mac and Cheese

I saw a recipe that was very similar to our family favorite - Glop.  We're always open to trying a twist on an old favorite so I put it on the menu.  I made my own taco seasoning - thanks to a bit of guidance from Annie's Eats.  I didn't follow Annie's recipe exactly but was still very pleased with the results.  Now, when it came to the Chili Mac and Cheese Recipe from Gooseberry Patch 5 Ingredient, I changed it a good bit.  The way their recipe was written was way heavy on the pasta and light on the tomatoes.  The end result was good.  And, had we not had Glop for years and years, it would've been really good.  But, we spent most of dinner bemoaning the fact it wasn't Glop.  Sometimes a twist on an old favorite isn't the best thing to do.  The recipe below is how I made the dish.

Chili Mac and Cheese

1 Kraft mac and cheese
2 10 oz cans Rotel tomatoes with chilis
2 T taco seasoning mix
1 lb ground beef

Prepare the mac and cheese according to the package directions.  Make the taco seasoning mix or use two tablespoons of the package variety.  If you want to make your own, here's a link to Annie's blog:  Taco Seasoning

Brown and drain the ground beef.

Add the taco seasoning


and ground beef to the mac and cheese. 

Mix well and serve.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Potatoes and Apples

Yes, I've been MIA on my blog.  It's because I really wanted to take a whole day off and go play.  To do that meant putting every ounce of energy into the office.  Weekends are normally my clean up from the last week and prep for the next week time.  I wanted to take Saturday and spend it with three of my closest friends.  After all, I was going up to Lafayette on business on Friday so I'd already be near Donna and Phil's house.  And, Doris and Patti were could both come up on Saturday.  Sounded like a perfect excuse to me too! 

What an adventure we had.  Donna and Phil own an rv.  Their driveway is half a mile long.  Here's looking toward the entrance:

And, here's looking toward their house:

Oh, and along the side of the driveway is a pond:

What a perfect place for camping.  I got there Friday a bit before Donna got home from the office and fixed a couple of Scotch's for us. 

We spent a pretty uneventful evening in the rv.  Cooked a lovely cowboy ribeye on the fire.  Pittsburgh style.  If you're not familiar with that, it's charred on the outside and rare on the inside.  No, I didn't remember to take photos.  Bummer because that was a beautiful piece of meat. 

Saturday came and we spent the morning running errands.  First stop was Route 66 for breakfast.  It's owned by the same folks who own Triple XXX of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives fame.  Breakfast was good.  Not fantastic but good.  After our errands we headed back to the rv in time for Doris and Patti to show up.  Lunch was my award winning Puttanesca Salad.

Here's everyone enjoying lunch:

As friends are wont to do, we sat around and gabbed.  I clipped recipes.  Shocking, I know.  They read the papers.  We had chairs set up under the rv's awning overlooking the pond.  Couldn't have been more perfect.  Max stayed put with us. 

Then, Phil, the bearer of bad news showed up.  There's a BIG storm heading our way.  Really?  Seriously?  The sky is a gorgeous blue.  We grabbed Donna's ipad and confirmed.  Ugly storm.  Should we go to the house?  Nah?  We're plenty stooopid to stay out here in the rv.  Patti headed back to Indy ahead of the storm and the other three of us hunkered down.  We put away all the outside stuff.  The awning was rolled up.  The chairs were moved.  We were ready.  The storm hit.  We had to close all the windows and turn on fans.  (Remember the fans, they're important for later.)  Torrents of rain.  Lots of thunder and lightening.  And, the rv didn't rock or roll.  Whew!  I got the soy sauce, dijon mustard and lemon juice out to fix the marinade for the salmon.  The potatoes, apples, onions, sweet potatoes, butter and shagbark hickory syrup were put together for one of the sides.  The broccoli was chopped for the roasted broccoli.  But, I was out of soy sauce.  And, I knew I needed it for the broccoli.  A trip to the house was in order.  Dash to my car and drive half a mile to the house.  There sat Phil and one of his buds.  With a bunch of oil lamps going.  No electricity.  Heh, heh, heh.  We still had electricity and he didn't.  That's what boondocking will do for you.  New soy sauce in hand, I headed back to the rv to share the funny. 

That's when things really got funny.  Ok, better to say, that's when this really turned into an adventure.  We couldn't get a fire going even under an umbrella. 

The wood was just too wet.  So, we decided to cook in the rv's kitchen.  Easier said than done with one burner and a microwave doubling as a convection oven.  Let's just say that when a bunch of fans are running, fuses do not like convection ovens being turned on.  Nope, they don't.  They blow.  We're now on to plan C.  And, the best thing to do is laugh.  Really.  Crying rarely accomplishes anything but making your nose red and runny.  Besides, laughing is so much more fun.  Into baskets go all the goodies to fix dinner.  We pile into my car and head to the house.  There, I fix dinner on the grill.  Did I mention it was pouring rain?  Did I mention the grill is not under a canopy?  Ok, you get the picture.  Drowned rat.  That was me.  Dinner was served at 10:00 pm and was very much enjoyed.  And, no, I didn't get a photo of the finished dish.  Suffice to say it was very good and I'll make it again.

Potatoes and Apples


2 small potatoes or 1 large
1 large sweet onion
1 gala apple
1/2 large sweet potato
1 T butter
1 T shagbark hickory syrup or maple syrup


Tear off a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil.  Spray one side with cooking spray or drizzle it with cooking oil.  Slice the potatoes, onion and apple.  Layer them on the foil and dot them with the butter. 

Drizzle them with the syrup.  Fold the foil tightly and cook on the grill over high direct heat for about 20 minutes.