Go Bananas

“One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.” — Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

eat me

In general, I’m calmer in the summer. I love long daylight hours. I love July (fireworks! my birthday!). I love being warm and wearing shorts and sundresses. I love summer vacations (we’re going to England and Denmark! yay!). And I love it that my kids go to camp and swim and play all day, and I don’t have to spend all afternoon nagging them to finish their homework.

But yesterday afternoon, I was a little stressed out. I had a somewhat frustrating day at work. At home there were bills, dishes, laundry, messes, blah, blah, blah.

bake me

I had a two-hour window between work and the next activity, and I was expecting a friend in town from California to drop by with her toddler.

What to feed them? Since the recent power outage, we’ve eaten mostly everything still edible in the fridge, and the cupboard was looking pretty bare too. The fruit bowl was empty but for one completely black banana (miraculously, no fruit flies). Toddlers like bananas, right? Time to make some muffin magic.

These muffins are magic because they require no refrigerated ingredients (no eggs, no butter, no milk), they take very little time to make, and they are YUMMY. Yes, they are vegan. And they elicit more recipe requests from friends than anything else I bake.

can't eat just one

Magic Banana Muffins
Makes 6. Recipe can easily be doubled.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with 6 cupcake liners.
In a large bowl, mix together 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (these are optional for you, maybe, but mandatory for me).
In a small bowl, mash 1 ripe banana, then add 1/4 cup water (or almond milk or soy milk), 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Dump wet mixture into dry mixture. Stir just till combined.
Here’s the magic part: stir in 1/2 tablespoon vinegar (cider or white).
Spoon into muffin cups. Bake for 25 minutes.
Let cool, then sprinkle with powdered sugar to make ’em pretty.

p.s. My friend from California had to reschedule (sick kid, late nap). But my two constantly starving non-toddlers had no problem polishing off the muffins. Happy kids. Calm mom. Peaceful summer night.

Posted in Bananas, Desserts, Muffins | Leave a comment

Better Than Butter

“Nor do I try to keep a garden, only
An avocado in a glass of water…”
— James Merrill, The Broken Home

Okay, so I don’t exactly have a green thumb. I’m the first to admit that I’m not great at the care and feeding of plants, but I’m pretty decent at the care and feeding of two kids and a dog, so maybe the universe will forgive me.

I am really good at eating plants, though. And when it’s 90 million degrees outside, my favorite way to eat them is uncooked.

This mostly uncooked summer supper features the avocado, aptly known as butter fruit in parts of India. I love this meal for the textures (creamy avocado, crunchy toast), tastes (sweet tomatoes, spicy arugula), and teensy amount of prep time and cleanup.

avocado + toast = avocado toast

Better-Than-Buttered Toast

[1] Mash an avocado with a fork. Spread it on some whole-grain toast.* Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

* No, toasting doesn’t count as cooking.

easy, breezy, beautiful

Easy Caprese **

[1] Layer in a bowl: arugula, basil leaves, grape tomatoes (halved), fresh mozzarella (cubed), olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.

** Yes, I know that “easy” and “caprese” don’t actually rhyme.

nature's perfect dessert


[1] Wash and trim some strawberries. Eat them.

p.s. Yesterday a nasty storm knocked out all the power in our area. Our frozen food didn’t fare too well, but I hardly had to throw out anything from the fridge, since it was almost all fruits and veggies. Plant power!

Posted in Avocados, Salads, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Oats: They’re What’s for Dinner

“Wild oats will get sown some time, and one of the arts of life is to sow them at the right time.” — The Quest of the Golden Girl, Richard Le Gallienne

I want to sow my oats and eat them too — at the right time, of course. But in my opinion, there really is no wrong time to eat oats. I have a big bowl of (steel-cut) oats pretty much every morning for breakfast (with banana, blueberries, or pumpkin), and I often have a little bowl of oat (bran) for a nighttime snack (plain, or with a little peanut butter and maple syrup). Tonight, I went oat wild and had a bowl of oat (groats) for dinner, too.

I’ll admit that “oat groats,” which are whole oats, don’t sound all that appetizing (unless maybe you’re a goat) — but they’re similar in appearance, texture, and taste to barley, which most people are familiar with (at least, in beer form).

I started out making the oats as a side dish to go with some steamed broccoli and sauteed mushrooms. But I ended up making an oat groat risotto, and it was YUM. Typically risotto is made with white arborio rice. But if you want a whole-grain risotto, barley is a good alternative. And partway through cooking the oat groats, I realized that they would be a good alternative too.

This is kind of a cheater’s risotto, in that I didn’t follow the usual technique of slaving over the stove, adding broth a half-cupful at a time and stirring constantly for an hour. I like to let my food cook itself as much as possible. My food thanked me for not hovering by turning out yummy.

great groats

Whole Oat Groat Risotto
Makes 2 servings

[1] Put 1/2 c. oat groats and 1 1/2 c. vegetable broth in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for 1 hour.
[2] Add a handful of frozen peas (I had some leftover, cooked, in the fridge) and a handful of frozen corn. Then, add about 1/2 c. liquid. (I had just steamed some broccoli, so I used the “green water” from that.)
[3] Turn up the heat to bring the mixture back to a boil, then simmer on low, uncovered, stirring frequently, till it’s steamy hot and creamy textured.
[4] Stir in about 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese. Add a few grinds of black pepper. (My vegetable broth is pretty salty, so I didn’t add any more salt.)
[5] Stir in a bunch of quartered brown mushrooms that have been sauteed in olive oil. (I had made these as a separate dish and then thought, why not throw them in? Sometimes I’m crazy like that.)
[6] Sprinkle with a handful of chopped fresh parsley.

Posted in Oats, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

I’m So Kneady

“Who hath not met with home-made bread,
A heavy compound of putty and lead … ?”
— Miss Kilmansegg and Her Precious Leg (1870), Thomas Hood

So homemade bread has been getting a bad rap for at least 141 years, though I really don’t understand why. Most bake-your-own recipes don’t actually contain putty or lead … or, for that matter, high fructose corn syrup, monoglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium propionate, etc. etc. etc.

make bread, not war

But what I really love about baking bread — aside from the heavenly smell that wafts through the house, the warm-from-the-oven wholesome goodness, and the way my son says “yumba carumba!” when he takes his first bite — is pounding and pummeling the living daylights out of that dough.

It’s so therapeutic. It’s so sensual. It’s like throwing pots (think Demi Moore in “Ghost”), but then when you’re done, you get to eat them. Unless you’re baking bread for an army, I just don’t understand why you’d want to miss out on the fun by using a bread machine or dough hook instead of your own two hands.

When I need to knead, here’s what I make:

sliced bread: it's the best thing since ... ?

Hands-On Whole Wheat and Oat Bread

[1] In a large bowl, mix together: 2 c. whole wheat flour, 1/2 c. oat bran (OR 1/2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats, ground up in food processor), and 1 packet instant yeast (a.k.a. Rapid Rise or Quick Rise). If you like a little crunch in your bread, throw in 1/4 c. raw sunflower seeds too.
[2] In a microwaveable measuring cup, mix together: 3/4 c. water, 3/4 c. skim milk (or milk substitute of your choice), 2 tbsp. olive oil, and 2 tbsp. pure maple syrup (or honey, if you prefer). Heat in microwave till “ouch”-hot to the touch, but NOT boiling — maybe a minute or two.
[3] Dump the wet stuff on the dry stuff. Mix with a wooden spoon. You’ll have a gloppy, sticky mess.
[4] Measure out 1/2 c. whole-wheat flour and keep it on the counter. Take out a board (for kneading the dough) and cover it liberally with some of the flour. Dump the gloppy dough on top. Sprinkle more of the flour on top.
[5] Now for the fun part: start kneading. Push into the dough with the heels of your well-floured hands, fold the dough over, repeat. Pound out all of the day’s frustrations — the dough can take it. Sprinkle flour on the board and on the dough as needed to keep it from sticking. Keep this up for 5-8 minutes till the dough feels smooth and not sticky. You’ll use up all the extra 1/2 c. whole-wheat flour and probably a little bit more.
[6] Form the dough into a ball, make sure it’s flour-coated, then put back in the bowl and cover with a towel. Let it rest for 10 minutes.
[7] Meanwhile, line a loaf pan with non-stick foil or baking parchment.
[8] Flour the board again, and put the dough ball on top of it. Press down the dough ball till it’s a rectangle of about 9×12-inches. Then, starting with the short side, roll it up. Tuck the edges under and plop it into the prepared pan, seam side down.
[9] Brush the top of the loaf with a little bit of milk and maple syrup, then sprinkle with some old-fashioned rolled oats.
[10] Turn your oven on to 200 degrees for 1 minute, and then turn it off. Then, put the loaf pan in the turned-off oven for 30 minutes to rise.
[11] After 30 minutes, turn the oven up to 350 degrees, and bake the loaf for 40 minutes.
[12] Let cool (a little). Slice. Eat. Aaaaaaahhh …

Posted in Breads, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Cuckoo for Coconut

“The two basic items necessary to sustain life are sunshine and coconut milk. Did you know that? That’s a fact.” — Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman), Midnight Cowboy

coconut snow

Well, we’re a little short on sunshine here today in Chicago-land, thanks to the already famous Blizzard of ’11. But fortunately we’re well-stocked with coconut milk and other coconut products.

So what if we can’t open our front door, and the dog has tracked icy puddles all over the already freezing wooden floor? We’re cooking up the taste of the tropics.

First up is Coco-Choco Pudding. This is an adaptation of a Cooking Light recipe. The only difference is I substituted light coconut milk for dairy milk — which is actually a huge difference in terms of taste.

After that is Coconut Candy. Don’t let the word candy fool you. This is a natural treat with no added sugar. It’s a homemade version of the yummy but pricey Larabar. Recipes for this are all over the Internet; I’m going to share mine.

coconut! it's everywhere!

Coco-Choco Pudding
[1] In a medium saucepan, stir together 1/2 c. sugar, 3 tbsp. cornstarch, 3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa, and 1/4 tsp. salt.
Gradually add 3 c. light coconut milk, stirring with a whisk.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Then reduce heat and simmer 1 minute or until thick.
Remove from heat. Add 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped. Stir until melted and smooth. Then stir in 1 tsp. vanilla extract.
[5] Pour into individual cups (4-6 servings) or into one big bowl. Cover by putting a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface (so it doesn’t form a “skin”).
Lick the spoon (unless your chocolate-loving daughter gets to it first).
[7] Chill the pudding for 4 hours (if your son who didn’t get to lick the spoon can wait that long).  

Coconut Candy
Put 1/2 c. pitted dates (around 40 dates) into your food processor. (Thanks for the new food processor, Mom!) Process for a couple minutes. They’ll form a big gooey ball. Dump the big gooey ball in a bowl.
Now put 1/4 c. flaked, unsweetened coconut and 1/4 c. raw cashews (these aren’t really raw, but by “raw” I mean “unroasted”) into the food processor. Process just as long as it takes to grind them up finely, but not so long that they turn into nut butter. Dump it into the bowl with the dates.
Using your hands, smoosh everything together so the coconut and cashews are all completely incorporated into the dates.
Now form the mixture into a log with your hands, and then slice into candy-size pieces.

p.s. Full disclosure: my kids love coconut (especially the chocolate-coconut combo), but they don’t love nuts. Which just means … more coconut candy for me!

Posted in Chocolate, Coconut, Desserts, Snacks, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

First You Take a Leek … or an Onion … or What Have You

“…For this is every cook’s opinion,
No savoury dish without an onion;
But, lest your kissing should be spoiled,
Your onions must be thoroughly boiled…”
Market Women’s Cries, Jonathan Swift

Leeks, onions, scallions, shallots (boiled, or not): any will do as a dish starter for me … as long as it’s a leftover.

Back in “the day” when I had relatively unlimited time and funds (i.e., “any day” before I had kids), I loved going to the grocery store with recipes in hand and buying all sorts of exotic and expensive ingredients that I might only ever use a little bit of.

These days (now that shopping is a chore, spending money is painful, and wasting food is unthinkable), nothing gets my cooking creativity going like sifting through the dregs of the refrigerator and wondering what edible magic I can make with whatever I find.

Today’s loot included partial portions of about four different onions, some limp stalks of celery, a few flaccid carrots, two-and-a half plum tomatoes, and three wrinkly honey crisp apples, all of which had seen much better days.

Game on!

The vegetables have now been transformed into a robust, winter-warming Veggie Barley Soup, and the apples (paired with a long-forgotten half-loaf of raisin challah from the freezer) have a starring role in an Apple Bread Pudding that is truly magical — I just took it out of the oven and it has already all but disappeared.

Veggie Barley Soup

onions and friends

[1] In a soup pot, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil. Dump in about 1 diced onion, 3 diced celery stalks, and 3 peeled, diced carrots. Saute over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.
[2] Add about 3 diced plum tomatoes, 6 c. vegetable broth, 1 c. pearl barley, and 1 bay leaf. Add some salt, pepper, and thyme leaves (fresh or dried), to taste.
[3] Bring mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer for 1 hour.
[4] Remove bay leaf. Add 1 c. frozen corn kernels and a big handful of chopped fresh parsley. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Add more salt and pepper to taste. The soup will thicken as it stands, so feel free to add more water or vegetable broth till it’s the consistency you like.

Apple Bread Pudding

new life for old apples

I’m going to give you my whole recipe here, but the batch I made today was a half recipe, since I had only 3 apples and a half-loaf of challah. This recipe is very forgiving regarding amounts of ingredients…just use whatever you have.

[1] Assemble your ingredients:
a loaf of challah (raisin or plain), sliced and cubed
1/2 c. butter or margarine, melted
1/2 c. sugar
6 appl
es, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 c. orange juice

[2] Lightly grease a glass baking dish and assemble the pudding in the following layers:
a third of the challah cubes
a third of the melted butter, drizzled on
a third of the sugar, sprinkled on
dash of cinnamon, sprinkled on
half of the sliced apples
half of the orange juice, drizzled on
same as first layer, above
remaining challah cubes
remaining melted butter, drizzled on
remaining sugar, sprinkled on
dash of cinnamon, sprinkled on
[3] Cover baking dish tightly with tin foil and bake at 350 degrees until the apples are apple-pie soft. Then uncover and cook for about 10 more minutes or until topping is golden brown.
[4] Serve warm as-is, or with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on top.

p.s. Still in my fridge: a take-out carton of rice, a few spoonfuls of black beans, a few cupfuls of homemade cranberry-orange sauce, and some leftover veggie gravy…wonder what I’ll make for dinner??

Posted in Apples, Barley, Desserts, Soups, Vegetarian | 2 Comments

Rice Is Nice

“…They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,
To a land all covered with trees,
And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,
And a hive of silvery Bees.
And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws,
And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,
And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,
And no end of Stilton Cheese…”
“The Jumblies,” Edward Lear

I’m not sure, but I think Edward Lear was describing my office’s annual holiday potluck.

There was guacamole, enough hummus to re-mortar my house, a million kinds of chips and crackers, samosas, sub sandwiches, cream-cheese pizzas, regular pizzas, tortilla roll-ups, crock-pot chili, crudites, kitchen-sink Chex mix, pasta salad, peanut M&Ms, turtle cookies, swirly cupcakes, a bunch of other weird and wonderful items, AND … my Lear-inspired salad, featuring rice, cranberries, and a bunch of other weird and wonderful items. (Absolutely no Stilton cheese though … blechhh.)

Actually my salad was inspired by Ina Garten, a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa, whose recipe I happened upon in a magazine at my new home-away-from-home, a.k.a. the orthodontist’s office, where my son was having one of his braces re-glued, AGAIN, to his apparently glue-resistant teeth. (Maybe he’s more highly evolved than the average 12-year-old?)

As soon as I saw the sweet-savory salad recipe, I knew it would be perfect for the potluck. The original recipe is here: http://www.lhj.com/recipes/holidays/thanksgiving/ina-gartens-fabulous-thanksgiving/?page=3

wild and crazy rice

But I “made it my own” (by using different amounts of ingredients; subbing wild rice/brown rice blend for plain wild rice, chopped pecans for halved pecans, clementines for navel oranges, red grapes for green grapes, balsamic vinegar for raspberry vinegar — because that’s what I had on hand; and adding fresh parsley — because, why not?), so I’m including my version below.

I did make it barefoot, though, because I think the Contessa — and Lear — would like that.

pick me! pick me!

Festive Rice-and-Cranberry Salad

[1] Put 1 1/2 c. wild rice/brown rice blend and 3 c. vegetable broth in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Then cover and simmer for 50 minutes. Remove from heat. Lift up the lid, quickly dump 1/3 c. dried cranberries on top, then quickly re-cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
[2] While rice is cooking, spread 1/2 c. chopped pecans on a foil-lined baking sheet and pop them in a 350 oven for 2-3 minutes or until toasted. Set aside.
[3] Peel and section 4 clementines and cut each section in half. Set aside.
[4] Wash 1 c. red grapes and cut each in half. Set aside.
[5] Wash, trim, and thinly slice 2 scallions. Set aside.
[6] Wash and chop a big handful of fresh parsley. Set aside.
[7] Put rice-cranberry mixture in a mixing bowl. Add the stuff you prepped and set aside in Steps 2-6 (pecans, clementines, grapes, scallions, parsley).
[8] In a little bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil , 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar, and 2 tbsp. orange juice. Pour on top of the rice mixture and fold in thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
[9] Let flavors blend for at least 1/2 hour before serving. Or refrigerate, and bring up to room temperature before serving.

p.s. Even with all the food there was to choose from at the potluck, my dish was completely devoured. Yay!

Vegging Out Online – rice salad

Thursday, December 16, 2010 2:47 PM

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Did 1 ½ times the recipe
Used a wild rice/brown rice blend  instead of all wild rice
Used vegetable stock instead of water
Cooked rice a little differently; plumped up cranberries
Used sea salt instead of kosher salt
Used clementines instead of navel oranges; did not remove the membranes;
cut the little sections in half
Used balsamic vinegar instead of raspberry vinegar
Used red grapes instead of green grapes
Used chopped pecans instead of pecan halves
Added a big handful of chopped fresh parsley

I made it barefoot.

Potluck Festive Rice Salad

1. Put 1 ½ c. wild rice/brown rice blend and 3 cups vegetable broth in a
large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Then cover and simmer until rice is
tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from heat. Lift up the lid and dump ¼ c.
(more?) dried cranberries on top, then quickly re-cover and let sit for 10

2. Spread ¾ c. chopped pecans on a foil-lined baking sheet and pop them in
a 350 oven for X minutes or until toasted (but not burned!). Set aside.

3. Peel and section 4 (5?) clementines and cut each section in half. Set

4. Wash ¾ c. red grapes and cut each in half. Set aside.

5. Wash, trim, and thinly slice 2 scallions. Set aside..

6. Wash and chop a big handful of fresh parsley. Set aside.

7. Put rice in a mixing bowl. Add the stuff you prepped and set aside in
Steps 2-6 (pecans, clementines, grapes, scallions, parsley).).

8. Whisk together 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar,
3 tbsp. orange juice. Pour on top of mixture and fold in thoroughly. Add
salt and pepper to taste.

9. Let flavors blend for ½ hour. Or refrigerate overnight (as I did), then
bring up to room temperature before serving.

Posted in Rice, Salads, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Pop Till You Drop

“You know, I once scored 41 points on a league championship game. … Yeah, and on the same day I invented the space shuttle and microwave popcorn.” – Gabriella, High School Musical

Okay, I don’t really want to talk about why I can quote lines from High School Musical off the top of my head. But I do really want to talk about the mistaken belief that microwave popcorn is the greatest thing since sliced bread (and, come to think of it, the mistaken belief that sliced bread is the greatest thing since … ?).

Popcorn is the greatest thing. Curling up on the couch on a winter afternoon with a bowl of hot, crunchy, whole-grain popcorn is one of life’s little pleasures (whether or not you have to watch High School Musical, or Camp Rock, or The Hannah Montana Movie for the hundredth time). But microwave popcorn … who needs the chemicals?

I know it’s supposed to be a convenience, but popping corn yourself is so easy. You don’t need a special popcorn popper, just a pot with a lid. And please, not an air popper. Cooking the kernels in just a small amount of olive oil makes the difference between eating something that tastes like Styrofoam packing peanuts and eating a really satisfying snack.

It’s also a lot cheaper. Grab a bag of white popcorn kernels (they’re sweeter than the yellow ones), a bottle of olive oil, and a container of sea salt, and you’re good to go for a million batches, at least.

don't you just want to dive in?

So, here’s how I make popcorn for one. And by “one,” I mean “one grown-up, plus one dog, plus the one of my kids who doesn’t have braces and is therefore not banned from eating popcorn.” This recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, quadrupled … just use a bigger pot.

could you say 'no' to this? really??

Perfect Popcorn for One (Plus)

[1] Put 1 tsp. olive oil in a non-stick pot over high heat. Put in 1 white popcorn kernel. Cover the pot.
[2] As soon as the kernel pops, add 1/4 c. white popcorn kernels to the pot. Give them a quick stir to coat them in the oil, and then cover the pot.
[3] As soon as the popping slows down to a few seconds between each pop, remove the pot from the heat.
[4] Dump the popcorn out into a bowl. Add your favorite seasonings. Mine are sea salt and chili powder. If you like butter on your popcorn, by all means go ahead and melt some and pour it on (before you sprinkle on the seasonings). Eat your delicious snack. I promise you won’t miss the chemicals.


but not ...

for long

p.s. Popcorn is the official state snack food of Illinois. Who knew? Other states with official state snack foods are South Carolina (boiled peanuts), Texas (tortilla chips and salsa), and Utah (Jell-O! I’m not kidding!). Think I’ll stay here in corn country…

Posted in Corn, Snacks, Vegetarian | 2 Comments

You Say Potato

“It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.” — Life, the Universe, and Everything, Douglas Adams

I know Douglas Adams discovered the meaning of life and all, but I just have to respectfully disagree with his potato philosophy. Right off the top of my head, I can think of several major problems that can be solved with potatoes, including, but not limited to:

1. What’s for dinner?
2. What’s for lunch?
3. And, what’s for breakfast?

Since this is the week of Hanuka, the solution to #1 is easy: Potato Pancakes (a.k.a. “Latkes”), the traditional Hanuka food, traditionally served with A Side of Applesauce. (Recipes follow.)

Since this is the first week of arctic temperatures (which, not surprisingly, only my Yeti-like dog is excited about), the solution to #2 is also easy: Stick-to-Your Ribs Salmon Chowder. Full disclosure here: I don’t eat meat, poultry, or shellfish, at all. Most of the time I follow a vegetarian diet. But occasionally I will eat some varieties of fish that have fins and scales (“kosher” fish), such as the salmon in my chowder. (Recipe follows.)

Since this week, like every week, it’s my mission to use up any leftovers lurking in the fridge, the solution to #3 might be, as it was last Sunday: Leftover Baked Potatoes, Diced and Pan-Fried in Olive Oil with Salt, Pepper, Onion Powder, and Garlic Powder, till Crispy and Brown. (Recipe does not follow, since I just gave it to you.)

Potato Pancakes (a.k.a. “Latkes”)
makes 12 pancakes

whole lotta latkes

[1] Grate 1 med. peeled onion into a bowl. If you’re grating by hand (which is what I do), try not to grate, you know, your hand (which is what I try not to do).
Grate about 6 unpeeled med. Yukon Gold potatoes into the same bowl. Stir with each potato addition (because the onion magically keeps the potato from turning an unappetizing shade of brownish-gray).
Sprinkle some salt on the potato mixture and let sit for about 5 min. Then, lift out a handful of the mixture, squeeze the liquid out over the sink, and put it into a clean bowl. Lift, squeeze, repeat … etc.
Sprinkle 2 tbsp. whole-wheat flour on top of the squeezed-dry potato mixture. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. (Yes, you can taste the raw mixture.)
Add in 1 beaten egg and combine thoroughly.
Cover the bottom of a non-stick griddle with olive oil and heat it. I use an electric griddle ’cause it’s the best (thanks Mom!).
Scoop out 1/4 cupfuls of the potato mixture and put them on the hot oiled griddle. Flatten with a spatula.
[8] Cook the cakes over medium-high heat till they’re crispy brown on the bottom, then flip them over. Keep cooking till they’re crispy brown on both sides, and the insides are nice and soft.
[9] Watch them disappear.

A Side of Applesauce
Peel, core, and dice about 3 – 4 apples. Put them in a pot with about 1/4 cup apple juice (or water, if you don’t have any apple juice). Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer till the apples are soft. Turn off the heat and mash them with a potato masher till they’re the consistency you like (a little chunky is nice). If the mixture is too liquidy, turn the heat on low and simmer till some of the liquid cooks out. Serve warm with your potato pancakes.

Stick-to-Your-Ribs Salmon Chowder
makes 4 servings

come on in, the chowder's fine

[1] Heat 2 tsp. olive oil in a large soup pot. Add 1 med. peeled, chopped onion and 1 lg. peeled, shredded carrot. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
[2] Add 2 med. unpeeled, chopped Yukon Gold potatoes. Stir for 1 minute.
[3] Add 2 c. vegetable broth and 1 bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then cover and simmer for 20 min. or until potatoes are soft when you stick a fork in them.
[4] Turn off the heat. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Then remove about 1 1/2 c. of soup and puree it, using an immersion blender (which is what I use) or a regular blender. I don’t bother cooling the mixture before I use the immersion blender, but from what I’ve seen on T.V. cooking competitions, I think you do need to cool it if you’re using a regular blender, or else the top will blow off — uncool.
[5] Add the puree back to the pot.
[6] Stir in 1 1/2 c. corn kernels (frozen is AOK), about 6 – 8 oz. cooked salmon (you can use fresh cooked, canned, packaged, or smoked — whatever you like), anywhere from 1/2 – 1 c. skim milk (depending on the consistency of soup you like), and a generous handful of chopped, fresh parsley.
[7] Add salt, pepper, and a little dill weed (fresh or dried) to taste.
[8] Warm gently before serving. Or, portion the soup out into 4 containers, and heat one up for lunch each day.

p.s. Potatoes sometimes get a bad rap, but check out the stats for 1 medium Yukon Gold potato (my favorite variety, in case I didn’t make that clear): 100 calories, 0g fat, 3g fiber, 4g protein, 45% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin C. Not too shabby …

Posted in Breakfast, Potatoes, Soups, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Salad Day (and Cornbread Day, too)

“My salad days, when I was green in judgment…” – Antony and Cleopatra, William Shakespeare

Cleopatra and I have a lot in common. Ancient Egyptian queen, 21st century Midwestern mom – you don’t need me to point out the parallels. What’s more, “… she was a woman of surpassing beauty … she also possessed a most charming voice and knowledge of how to make herself agreeable to everyone,” according to a Roman historian. Need I say more?

As far as I can tell, the only difference between Cleo and me is that she thinks of salad as “green” … whereas I think of salad as “red, orange, yellow, green, and purple.”

the rainbow concoction

red: grape tomatoes, quartered
orange: carrot, shredded
yellow: corn, frozen (I don’t bother thawing it)
green: baby arugula;
cucumber, diced; avocado, diced
purple: cabbage, shredded

yogurt + salsa = yum

Cleo would probably love a Caesar dressing, but since she was actually Greek maybe she’d be cool with my favorite salad topper, too:

Mix together more or less equal amounts of Greek yogurt (plain, 0% fat) and your favorite salsa. You can mix in some ground cumin, too.

The reason for my salad day?

With Thanksgiving coming up, I’ve got to eat light to make room for the food I’m most thankful for: stuffing.

Speaking of which, in order to make my favorite cornbread stuffing, I’ve first got to make my favorite cornbread. Which, come to think of it, would go great with my salad …

I dare you to eat just one


[1] Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
[2] Line an 8-inch or 9-inch square or round pan with non-stick foil.
In a large bowl, mix together: 1 c. cornmeal, 1 c. whole-wheat flour, 2 tsp. baking soda, and 1/2 tsp. salt.
[4] In a small bowl, mix together: 1 c. milk of choice (I’ve used skim milk, soy milk, and almond milk — all good), 1/4 c. light olive oil, and 1/4 c. maple syrup.
[5] Dump wet mixture into dry mixture. Stir just till moistened (don’t overmix).
[6] Dump into foil-lined pan.
[7] Bake for 25 min., or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
[8] Cool. Cut into squares (if you used a square pan) or wedges (if you used a round pan).
[9] Save to make cornbread stuffing. Or, eat the whole pan and then make another batch.

p.s. Want to know how good this cornbread is? My daughter took a batch to her 4th grade “Thanksgiving Feast” today. The well-balanced feast consisted of cornbread, banana pudding, Doritos, sugar cookies, and lemonade. The kids didn’t finish the Doritos, but they polished off the cornbread.

Posted in Breads, Corn, Salads, Vegetarian | Leave a comment