Healthy Super Food Salad

I have recently been researching the so-called “super foods” for some of my kids’ culinary classes.  You know… those foods that pack a big nutritional punch, keep you healthy, fight disease and basically make you feel like a super hero.  (Or at least that’s how I pitch it to the kids.)  I created a salad and a dressing that uses a whole bunch of these super foods.  And it turned out pretty super delicious.  You can increase the proportions of those ingredients that you particularly like.  Have a SUPER time with this one.

Balsamic Roasted ANYTHING!

I was digging around in my refrigerator veggie drawer tonight and found a wilted-but-still-kickin’ tomatillo, a couple of brussel sprouts and some leftover baby bella mushrooms.  Hmmm…. I know!  I whip out a sheet pan, give the veggies a rough chop, rub them down with some olive oil, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar, sea salt and crushed red pepper.  Then, into a 375 degree oven for 17-20 minutes and HELLO delicious side dish.    I am convinced this would work with just about anything lurking in your vegetable drawer.  Go on the hunt for dinner tomorrow!

Sauteed Kale and Butternut Squash Medley

I enjoy creating dishes that include ingredients people THINK they don’t like.  My husband says he unequivocally doesn’t like kale.  But Honey, it’s so good for you!  So I got out my culinary palette and developed a tasty side dish that would change his mind.  Ok, Ok I had to add bacon but at least he’s eating kale now.  I know you will love this one, kale fan or not!

Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta served as an appetizer

I love, love sun-dried tomatoes.  I could spend a really long time just eating them by themselves. Combine them with pasta, spinach, pine nuts and cheese… OH BOY!  Happy Mama!! I made this pasta salad for a Christmas party and served it as an appetizer in little individual 2-ounce plastic condiment cups.  My guests enjoyed this as something different.  Next time, I think I’ll choose a smaller sized pasta so it will fit into the cups a little easier.  You could also add other ingredients to this pasta salad like pancetta, olives, artichokes and mushrooms.  Just go crazy!  It’ll be great!

Panzanella Salad your way

My friend Kris turned me on to Panzanella Salad based on an Ina Garten recipe she found.  I have modified Ina’s recipe to suit my own tastes and whatever happens to be residing in the fridge today.  You can substitute or add pretty much any fresh salad vegetable you like.  I keep leftover French and other breads in the freezer for making croutons and crostini.  This recipe is a good way to use some of that stockpile.  Just thaw on the counter before cubing. Enjoy!

Wrapping up the summer with Fiesta Salad

Like it or not, our summer days are soon coming to an end.  There are many things I love about summer including all the fresh fruits and vegetables.  Summer salads are the best!  But by mid August, you’ve probably worn out your salad repertoire.  Here’s a little inspiration to get you over the finish line with bright and colorful good taste.  I include this one in my Lake Salads.  Don’t ask why, it’s just where I usually make it.  Summer is not about logical choices, just go with it.


Summer makes me think about Country Potato Salad

I think it’s fun to take food from my childhood and give the recipe a little twist of my own.  I have wonderful memories of my great-grandmother and then my mother making our family’s potato salad.  My Philadelphia-bred husband says it’s not really potato salad, but mashed potatoes with stuff in it.   I disagree with him in my subtle Southern way.   Here’s my version of the local classic.. you be the judge.

Country Picnic Potato Salad


Tips for Potato Lovers

Potatoes in some form or another probably appear on everyone’s list of favorite foods.  Whether you smash, slice, fry, shred, bake or puree there some “best practices” for preparing our spud pals.  Did you know?

  • When boiling potatoes, in order to avoid “mushiness” start them in cold water and once they’re done, never rinse them in cold water to cool.  Drain and let them air dry or put them back in the pot to dry out a little and then cool down naturally.
  • Idaho or Russet starchy potatoes are best for baking and deep-frying.  They are drier than other potatoes.
  • When you want potatoes to retain their shape and moisture (roasted, sauteed, potato salads,  etc) choose waxy potatoes, which have less starch and more water.
  • All purpose, or “chef” potatoes are great for a variety of applications including soups, stews, shredding, and mashing.
  • When it comes to mashed potatoes, I prefer the Yukon Gold potato.  It turns out moist, fluffy and delicious.
  • If you peel potatoes ahead of time, put them in some water until it’s time to cook them or they will turn brown.
  • If you store your baking potatoes in the refrigerator, your baked potato may have an unpleasant “sweet” flavor when baked due to the starch turning to sugar under refrigeration.  So, store them in a cool, dry place instead.
  • Be sure to dry out your cooked and drained potatoes before preparing them further (like mashing).  Water is the enemy of cooked potatoes!
  • For a perfect baked potato, just choose an Idaho or Russett potato, scrub it, dry it, poke a few holes in the ends and bake it until it is soft when squeezed.  There is no need for foil, oils or other preparations.
  • Be sure to always cut the green parts off  potatoes.  Bitter and not good for you to eat!
  • When making mashed potatoes, be careful not to over-whip or they will be sticky.  Also add the butter first and then the milk or cream.  You can keep them warm by setting the bowl of potatoes over a pot of boiling water (like a double-boiler set up)

Drum roll please…. Here’s my favorite mashed potato recipe.

Sinful Mashed Potatoes

1  (5-pound) bag of Yukon Gold potatoes
1 stick butter, softened
6 oz  of cream cheese, softened
4 oz sour cream, to taste
1/8 cup prepared horseradish, optional
¼ cup or more of half and half
Kosher salt & white pepper to taste

Peel and cube potatoes.  Cover with water in a sauce pot, add some salt, bring to a boil and simmer until falling-off-the-fork tender.  Drain completely and return to hot pot to dry out a little; mash potatoes (using a potato masher) with butter, cream cheese, sour cream, horseradish (if used), salt and pepper to taste.  Add enough half-and-half to achieve desired consistency.   Once you get everything mashed up together, give it a good whip with a hand mixer to make it smooth.  8 servings.

Veggie Smarts

Vegetables get no respect!  If you’re like I used to be, the vegetable side dish to an entree is often an after-thought.  We drag some sad little bag out of the freezer or open a can of mushy veggies, stir in a little salt and pepper and call it serving the family a balanced diet.  Ha!  No wonder the kids don’t eat it!  We are also guilty in the South of absolutely cooking the crap out of vegetables so they don’t have much flavor or nutrients left.  One of my chef instructors jokingly said that the only reason we Southern women even cook vegetables is to have a vehicle for our bacon and salt pork!  Perhaps it’s not that bad, but I’ve been making a real effort at giving those veggies a little TLC and spending as much time thinking of creative and delicious ways to prepare veggie sides as I do the meat entree.  Here are some tips for delicious veggies:

  • When cooking potatoes, cut them into uniform pieces and start them in cold salted water so they cook evenly.
  • When cooking green vegetables, you want to cook them as quickly as possible so as to preserve color and nutrients.  Start them in boiling salted water and never cover them when cooking.  Covering traps the plant enzymes and causes the vegetables to turn a drab color and perhaps have an unpleasant odor.
  • If you want to prepare fresh veggies at mealtime in a flash, pre-cook veggies (not potatoes) by blanching them in boiling water and then shocking them in ice water.  At mealtime, you can finish cooking them in boiling water or (my favorite) saute the veggies in olive oil with salt/pepper and other seasonings.  Then, deglaze the pan with a little broth and add some butter to make a light sauce.
  • To make glazed veggies, barely cover with water and boil with some sugar and butter until water is almost evaporated.
  • Steaming is one of the quickest and most nutritious ways to cook vegetables.

Here’s a recipe I found for some show-stopper veggies.  The crisp-tender texture is key and the garlic/balsamic flavor additions will surely get your family’s attention.

Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots