Monthly Archives: July 2012

Make Like A Rabbit

One day my kids went to visit a friend who is a vegetarian.  When they came back they reported that she was doing great, but that she was eating a “bowl of weeds.”  Upon further investigation I found out what she was eating was kale.  And really, I couldn’t argue in kale’s favor.

I’ve never been a big fan of your leafy green things.  I love salad, and have embraced the spinach (especially the baby variety) but collard greens, mustard greens, kale, etc. leave me baffled.  I don’t really know what to do with them, and truthfully, I’ve never really liked them.  When I have had them, they have been cooked to slimy lumps of science project green that leave me with no appetite.


One of my goals in the last year has been to teach myself to like some new foods.  Foods that I have previously either disliked or really never eaten.  Especially foods that are really good for you. Like your dark leafy green things. Hello, Kale.

So I was watching a food documentary the other day, and Rip Esselstyn, author of the Engine 2 Diet, was showing some people a few recipes and one of them was a kale salad.  I was actually intrigued.  It looked good.  Kale looked good?  Yep.  So with this new revelation and very simple recipe in hand, I ran to the store and bought myself a wad of kale.

I will not say that kale will be on my menu every day from now on.  I didn’t looooooove it. But I liked this recipe.  It was simple, crisp and refreshing.  I ate this one day as my lunch and then again as a side dish with pasta the next day.  I’ve made my peace with kale and I have a feeling we’ll be meeting again soon, maybe even with a little heat involved.

Kale & Avocado Salad

Kale & Avocado Salad

1 small bunch of kale (I used dinosaur kale)
1 avocado
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt & pepper

Chop up the kale into small pieces.  Stop when you get down to the stem area unless you want to do some extra chewing; the stems are tough.  Put the chopped kale in a bowl.  Peel the avocado and scoop out the insides into the kale bowl.  Squeeze the lemon juice in with it.  Add some salt & pepper to taste.  Using your hands, mash the avocado and kale together like you were making a meatloaf.  The mashed avocado and lemon juice make a sort of salad dressing consistency that should coat all the greens.  Adjust the seasoning if needed and make like a rabbit.

This will make 2 main dish servings or 4 side dish servings.


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Vanishing Meatloaf

When I visited my sister and her family in Spain I cooked for them a few times.  One of the things my sister misses most about home while living in Europe is plain old American food.  So one night I made meatloaf.  It was a huge hit with the whole family.  About a month later, I got a call from her saying David, my brother-in-law, was craving meatloaf.  And mine was the one he wanted.  Who could blame him, it’s awesome!

I am a huge advocate of hiding vegetables in places you wouldn’t really expect them.  Meatloaf is one of my favorite veggie hiding spots.  Not only do the additional veggies contribute extra flavor and variety to what can be a pretty boring, albeit classic, dish, but they also add moisture, keeping it from being dry and lifeless.  That isn’t even touching on the extra health benefits from eating meatloaf that is secretly about 1/3 veggies.  I much prefer this to the traditional version and my kids can’t get enough of it.  For those of you who are not huge veggie fans, chop them small or grate them and you probably won’t even notice they are there.  Don’t expect any leftovers.

Don’t feel like you have to use the exact amounts listed here.  I only wrote it down so someone else could make it.  Truthfully, I don’t measure anything when I make it.  Because let’s face it, good meatloaf is just like good art:  sometimes you just throw things together and magic happens.

Vanishing meatloaf. So good!

Vanishing Meatloaf

2 pounds ground beef
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 chopped red pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/3 cup ketchup
A few shots of hot sauce
1 tbsp of Italian seasoning
1-2 cloves chopped garlic
Salt & pepper
1 egg
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat your oven to 375˚. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Your hands are the best tools to use for this job.  Wear gloves if you don’t like to get dirty.

Ready to get my hands dirty. I really should have used a bigger bowl.

Mix lightly with your hands until all ingredients are combined.  Spray your casserole dish with cooking spray, plop in the meatloaf mixture and lightly press into the shape of the pan.

Don’t feel like you have to mash this down. Just press it into the shape of the pan. I top it at this point with some more ketchup and hot sauce. Spread it together over the top for a tangy topper.

Top with additional ketchup and hot sauce and spread over the top. Bake uncovered for 45-60 min at 375. If there is extra grease or juice around the edges after cooking, just drain it off a bit before serving.  Get ready to watch it disappear!

Vanishing meatloaf. I had to hold off the hungry hoard to get this photo. You’re welcome.

Kaleidoscope Salad

Every once in a while you hear someone say something is “just too pretty to eat.”  Are you kidding me?  I love eating pretty food.  The prettier the better.  But I have little patience for fancy food styling.  When you use food that is pretty to begin with though, there isn’t much need for that.  The colors in this salad reminded me of a kaleidoscope, bright and beautiful, turning round and round.  The fact that eating a variety of colors is a healthy thing to do and that it all tastes amazing together…well that’s just a bonus.

Kaleidoscope Salad. So pretty!

Kaleidoscope Salad

Salad (per serving):
3-4 small fresh beets
3/4 cup sliced carrots
1 cup romaine lettuce, torn or chopped
1/2 cup fresh or canned mandarin oranges (drained if you are using canned)
2 tbsp. goat cheese

Dill Vinaigrette:
5 tbsp. vinegar (I used a combo of apple cider and red wine vinegar)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp. minced shallots

Roast beets in the oven at 400˚ for about 30 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork.  Take out and let cool.  Peel and slice.  Meanwhile, mix all vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl.  Toss about half the dressing with sliced carrots and beets.  Build your salad starting with a bed of romaine.  Add carrots and beets, surround with oranges and dot with goat cheese.  Drizzle extra dressing over the top if desired.  If you have dressing left over after that, it will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.  Put it on eggs, salad, veggies or fish!

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Tomato Basil Benedict

In my continuing saga of breakfast for any meal of the day, I present to you Tomato Basil Benedict.  This is just about as simple as it gets, but when you have good ingredients sometimes you just don’t need to fancy it up much to make it taste amazing.

One of my friends in the midwest told me it had been so hot there this summer that all of the tomatoes had burned up.  How sad is that?!  Here, it was so chilly and wet the first part of the summer we are just now starting to see ripe tomatoes from the garden and farmers market.  And I’m so happy they’re here!  I used small “early girl” tomatoes for this, but any fresh garden tomato will do.

Tomato Basil Benedict

Tomato Basil  Benedict

English muffin
Garden tomatoes, sliced
2 eggs
1 tbsp fresh basil leaves, sliced
Salt & pepper

Bring salted water to a low boil in a small sauce pan or skillet.  Gently slip the eggs in the water and cover with a lid.  Put the muffin in the toaster and press down the lever.  When they pop up, check your eggs.  They should be just about done.  Arrange your muffin on a plate, top with tomatoes and sprinkle with some salt and pepper.  Gently remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon or spatula (drain well) and place on top of the tomatoes.  Scatter the basil on top and eat!

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Italian-ish Pasta Salad

In my experience Italians are pretty hot, but it’s summer and I’m the boss of my kitchen, so this is one Italian dish that will be served cold.  At least at my house.

Honestly I don’t know if actual Italians make anything like this, but most of these ingredients are something I associate with Italian cooking, so there you go.  It’s Italian.  Sort of.  Italian-ish. Or maybe it’s just April-ish.  However you want to describe its origins, it is delicious, refreshing and I just couldn’t get enough of it.

At farmers market I stumbled upon a homemade pasta that was described as the “pesto blend.”  It contained several flavored pastas, including a sun-dried tomato pasta, garlic-pepper pasta, and basil pasta.  I think there may have been one other kind in there as well.  In any case, the subtle flavors were a nice addition to this recipe. Feel free to experiment with flavored pastas or just use a tri-color rotini or regular pasta if you prefer.

Italian-ish Pasta Salad

Italian-ish Pasta Salad

8 oz. tri-colored rotini or other small shaped pasta
2 cups broccoli florets
3 tbsp. olive oil
5 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. each of salt & pepper
1/4 cup sliced red onion
A pinch of crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. capers
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/4 cup black olive halves
1 orange bell pepper, diced
2 tbsp. chopped sun-dried tomatoes (I use the ones packed in olive oil)
2 oz. muenster cheese, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup chopped dry Italian salami (optional, leave out for a vegetarian meal)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook for 5-6 minutes.  Then add the broccoli to the pot with the pasta and cook an additional 3 minutes, or until pasta is tender.  Drain and rinse with cold water until it’s all cool.  Set aside.  In a serving bowl combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red onion, salt & pepper, garlic, capers, and dijon mustard.  Whisk until well blended.  Add olives, peppers, tomatoes, cheese, salami and basil.  Stir to blend well with the dressing.  Add pasta and broccoli and toss gently until well coated.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt & pepper if needed.  At this point you can refrigerate it for a while to chill completely or just go ahead and dig in.  This is one that tastes even better after it sits and mingles for a bit.  The next day it’s even more fantastic.


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You Say Tomato, I Say Potato

I haven’t gone to the grocery store in a month.  Mostly out of pure laziness, but also because I’m enjoying throwing together all of my farmers market goodies and calling it dinner.

So this is what I had that I needed to use up.  Does it look like dinner to you?

New potatoes and the yummiest, juiciest heirloom tomato ever. And pretty flowers, just for ambiance.  I also had some goat cheese and fresh dill hiding in the fridge that paired so nicely with these!

One of my favorite compliments is when someone says I look “smashing.”  I love that word.  It’s got such pizazz. Plus I like words with more than one meaning.  Yes, you’ve discovered my geeky secret.  I’m a word nerd.  But hey, at least I’m a word nerd who cooks.  Things could be worse.  Anyway, I decided I wanted to make some “smashing” potatoes.  And by smashing, I mean they will look and taste amazing, and I will also get to do some actual smashing!  And what could be more fun than that?

One note on the actual smashing of the potatoes:  we are not reinventing the sledge-o-matic here.  Smash gently or you will have potato bits everywhere.  I used the flat side of a meat tenderizer hammer thing, but anything will work to flatten these babies.

The farm fresh heirloom tomatoes with goat cheese and dill were the perfect complement to the potatoes and made for a simple, rustic meal that was quite satisfying.  You can eat the tomatoes raw if you prefer, but I popped them under the broiler for a few minutes just to get warm and melty.

Smashing Potatoes. These were so dang good.

Smashing Potatoes

1-2 pounds small new potatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
Juice of half a lemon
Salt & pepper

Boil the potatoes until they are fork tender.  Drain and let cool a bit.  On a lined cookie sheet, place the potatoes and smash gently.  I used the flat side of a meat tenderizer hammer, but you could use a regular hammer, the bottom of a glass, really anything you’ve got will work.  Just don’t go too crazy with it or you will have flying potatoes instead of smashing potatoes.

Combine all other ingredients in a small bowl.  Spoon olive oil and dill mixture over potatoes, making sure each one gets a little love.  Bake for 20 minutes at 400˚ until they are a little crispy on the bottom and edges.

Broiled heirloom tomatoes with goat cheese and dill.

Broiled Tomatoes with Goat Cheese & Dill

1-2 large heirloom tomatoes
Goat cheese
Fresh dill
Salt & pepper
Olive oil

Slice tomatoes into thick (around 1/2″) slices.  Place on parchment on a cookie sheet.  Top with goat cheese, some chopped fresh dill and a sprinkle of salt & pepper.  Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil.  Broil for 2-3 minutes, until cheese is melted and tomatoes are warm.

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Put Down The Weenie!

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’ve eaten many weenies roasted over a campfire, perfectly blackened in the flames.  And loved every bite.  In fact, I would even say I excel at weenie roasting.  But, sometimes I prefer real food, even when I’m camping.

The view from my campsite, if you tilt your chair back and look up.

I went camping this week at Silver Creek Falls, in Oregon. You’d think camping would lend itself to a pretty healthy diet.  The cavemen probably didn’t suffer from obesity.  I imagine they ate a nice low-carb diet, full of lean protein with the occasional handful of berries and greenery.  I’m pretty sure there are a couple of fad diets going around very similar to that at the moment.  I’m guessing the cavemen didn’t stock their picnic baskets with cookies, mac salad and hot chocolate either.  Too bad for them.

This time around, we kept the cookies and mac salad for lunch (gotta have standards), had lots of fresh berries for snacks and dessert, and for dinner one night I made some delicious foil packet dinners.  I threw them together before I left, stuck them in the cooler, and then onto the fire they went when we were ready. And they were AWESOME!  While I would consider this perfect camping food, I’ve also done the exact same thing in the oven or on the grill in the backyard.

Dinner cooked on fire. No bun necessary.

Campfire Foil Packets

For each packet:
Aluminum foil (I used the heavy duty “for the grill” foil)
1 chicken apple sausage (I like the Aidell’s brand, they have several different flavors), cut into 3 or 4 pieces
Portobello mushrooms slices
A handful of fresh green beans
A few slices or wedges of red bell pepper
3-4 small red potatoes, cut in wedges
Salt & pepper
Olive oil

Lay out a large square of foil.  Put the potatoes and sausage in the center first, and then top with the veggies.  Lightly drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Keep everything in a fairly small area in the center so you have plenty of foil left for wrapping it up securely.

Making the packets. Feel free to vary the ingredients to your tastes.

Bring two ends together over the top, fold several times and crimp to make sure it’s well sealed.  Do the same thing with each end, making a somewhat flat rectangle.  Pile them in the cooler until you are ready to cook.

Make sure you have a decent fire going, but not huge flames, you don’t want to flash fry them.  Set the packets on the grate and let them cook for about 30 minutes, flipping and repositioning every 5 minutes or so.

Cooking dinner! Make sure you play “musical packets” and switch them around so they cook evenly.

Be very careful when you open the packet!  They are full of steam and it can burn you if your fingers are in the way when it escapes.  Carefully open one, make sure the potatoes are cooked all the way through (throw it back on the fire for a few minutes if they aren’t), add extra seasoning if it needs it and then eat!

Top off your happy belly with a cup of hot cocoa by the campfire.  I forgot my marshmallows.  Darn it.  I guess I’ll have to go back.

Relaxing by the fire after dinner. So nice!




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I Won Something! Woot!

A few days ago, I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award!  Thanks to Ashley from instillari for the nomination.  I’ve been enjoying Ashley’s blog, and found that we have several things in common, including a love of sweet treats (I have to make that strawberry-cheesecakey-pretzel thing!) and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Apparently if you are nominated for the award it’s the same as winning, so yay!  I can’t even remember the last time I won something.

This award comes with a few rules:

  • Thank the person who gave you the award and provide a link to their page on your blog
  • Nominate 15 blogs for the award and let them know by leaving them a comment
  • Copy/Paste the award on your blog post
  • Share 7 things about yourself

So…in keeping with the rules of this award, here are seven random things about myself that you may or may not know.

1. Although I like almost every genre of films, I have an embarrassing weakness for teenage coming of age movies.

2. I usually start planning my next meal before I’m even finished with the one I’m eating.

3. I started practicing for my old ladyhood when I learned to crochet when I was 8 or 9 years old.  But I’ve tried to knit many times with no success.

Giant granny square!  I made that!

4. I have 77 cousins (last time I counted them up).  I might have missed a few. They are constantly multiplying.

5. I have a girl cat named Fred.  She thinks water tastes better when there is a fish swimming in it.

Fred. And the ill-fated Timmy, who has since been replaced by Nelson the fish.

6. I take a photo of my feet in the ocean every time I go to the beach.  It reminds me that simple things make me happy.

Just a couple of weeks ago at the Oregon coast.

7. I’m afraid of heights but I like to climb trees.

And now I have all the power!  I get to nominate 15 blogs for the award I just received.  These are not in any particular order of fondness or anything.  You guys rock!  Keep ’em coming.

1. Meatballs & Milkshakes.  The name drew me in and I stayed for the food.  Wonderful, fun commentary and good visuals. Simple, delicious looking food.  Plus she loves lemon and olives so we could definitely dine together any day.

2. The Flog.  Felicia Day cracks me up.  I’ve been a fan ever since Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog.  This is her at her geeky best, and the only video blog included here. My favorite episode so far is where she and Colin Fergusen learn to crochet.

3. Summer Tomato.  Scientist meets foodie.  Great insight and information about leading a healthy lifestyle and eating well.  I really enjoy her “for the love of food” posts, where every week she gives us a list of links to more info, studies, food facts and all sorts of fun tidbits.

4. Poor Girl Eats Well.  Great recipe blog with delicious food cooked on a tight budget.  Also good shopping tips, etc.

5.  Can You Stay For Dinner? Written by Andie, who has lost over 100 pounds and maintained it over the last few years, despite having a great love of food and chocolate.  Mouth-watering recipes, tips and some very thought provoking posts as well.

6. Linus & Bubba Books.  This blog is written by one of my numerous cousins mentioned above (the only one I am nominating here I might add).  Terrific book blog with well-written reviews, literary insights, funny banter and the occasional cute dog pic.

7. Learn 2 [use the] Kitchen.  Fun recipe blog.  Great beginner recipes but many anyone would enjoy, including me.  I like how she includes the antics of her boyfriend “the Ryan” and some of the challenges they face with some of their opposing dietary wishes.

8. BevCooks.  Just recently discovered but loving the creative recipes!

9. SabbyinSuburbia.  I just used Sabrina’s blog to create my own pendants and I LOVE them.  I have received so many compliments every time I wear one, which is almost all the time.  I can’t wait to try some more of her crafty ideas.

10. Foodimentary. Looking for something to celebrate?  Look no further.  John will give you a foodie holiday for just about every day, plus some fun facts to go with it.

11. Photonatureblog.  Gorgeous photos. ’nuff said.

12. Back Road Journal. Beautiful food, flowers, travel.  I love the photos and the recipes look wonderful.

13. Spoon fork bacon.  They had me at fried pickle chips.

14. A Cup of Jo.  Terrific photos, snippets of conversation, and a touch of poetry. Lovely.

15. The Drinking Girls.  I just starting reading the blog, but I’ve had their first cookbook for a while.  Wonderful recipes, including an incredible Spanish Tortilla, and cocktails too!

And there you have it, folks!  Thanks again for the award, and for reading this thing in the first place!!

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Farmer’s Market Pita Pizza

I almost forgot to go to Farmer’s Market this weekend.  At the last minute, I remembered I had no veggies in my fridge, and if it wasn’t the market, it was a trip to the grocery store instead.  I chose the market.  I arrived with only a few minutes to spare, in fact some of the vendors were already breaking down their booths.  So I embarked on what surely was the quickest, most efficient farmers marketing I have ever done, rushing through and grabbing a few goodies here and there without giving it too much thought.  It was actually a lot of fun, and I ended up with an armful of random items that somehow go really well together.  Plus I scored a gorgeous flower bouquet, greatly discounted.  I’d like to think it was because I was looking especially fetching that day, but truth is, he probably just wanted to go home.  Maybe both. 🙂

Farmer’s market goodies! Gorgeous flowers, new potatoes, goat cheese, beets, dill, carrots, sweet onions, raspberries and look at those beautiful tomatoes!

So for dinner, obviously I couldn’t wait to dip into my treasure trove of goodies.  I had a couple things left from my last trip to the market that needed to get used up – some pita bread and Italian salami.  Combined with some of fresh goat cheese and freaking amazing tomatoes from this trip, plus some basil from my garden, I had myself a pizza to die for.

My beautiful pizza!

Farmer’s Market Pita Pizza

1 greek pita or flatbread
1 small to medium size tomato, sliced
fresh basil
olive oil
goat cheese
dry salami

Drizzle the pita with a tiny bit of olive oil.  Arrange tomatoes over the top to cover the surface.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Scatter salami and basil over the top and dot with blobs of goat cheese.  Add another little drizzle of olive oil.

Building the perfect pizza. You really don’t even need to cook it if you don’t want to.

Broil for 5 minutes or so until the cheese is melty and the crust is browned around the edges.  Cut into wedges and eat!


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Zippy String Bean Salad

I really love gardening.  It’s relaxing, it’s fun, I like seeing things grow…and eating them.  Unfortunately gardens don’t like me much.  Which is why I was thrilled when my daughter Claire showed a little more potential in this area.  This year she decided to grow string beans.  Perfect!  I love string beans!  But then, she left for vacation.

Our bumper string bean crop.

So off to farmer’s market I went, where I scored a big wad of beans grown by professionals.

With the kids on vacation I haven’t been cooking much.  Plus it’s been hot and with no air conditioning in my house, turning on the oven just isn’t a wise idea.  So I’ve taken to getting creative with salads, particularly those where I can make a big batch and eat on it for 2 or 3 days.  This is one of those recipes.  If you make it all up except for the goat cheese and nuts, it will keep in the fridge for days, and I actually liked it even better the second day than I did the first.  Add the cheese and nuts when you are ready to eat it so the nuts stay crunchy and the cheese holds its shape.

Zippy String Bean Salad

Zippy String Bean Salad

1 pound green beans
1/2 cup red onion, sliced or chopped
1/2 red chile pepper, minced or thinly sliced
1/4 cup cider vinegar (I used apple jalapeno vinegar for an extra little kick)
Salt & pepper
1/2 cup walnut halves
Crumbled goat cheese – 1-2 ounces per serving

Trim the ends off the beans.  Mix onion, chile pepper and vinegar in a serving bowl.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.   Toss in the beans and boil for 5 minutes. Do not boil these beautiful beans to death!  They should still have a little snap to them.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.  Add to the vinegar mixture.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper and toss well to coat.  At this point you can refrigerate for later or the next day.  Top with goat cheese and walnuts right before serving.

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