Potato, Cauliflower and Corn Chowder

Long before it was trendy, we were a cauliflower eating family.  When G was going to college and working nights, C the MP and I would have cauliflower with melted cheese for dinner.  He was 3 and it’s what he always asked for.   I thought he had incredibly good taste.

My mom used to make potato soup on a regular rotation, so I’m not surprised how many potato/cauliflower soup recipes I found in her binders.  My dad loved potato soup.  Hello, he was born in Idaho.

  • 12 oz bacon sliced into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 4 medium russet potatoes peeled and chopped into 1/2″ thick pieces
  • 1 medium head cauliflower cored and chopped into florets
  • 6 cups warm water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
  • 2 to 3 cups corn kernels cooked from fresh or frozen
  • grated cheddar cheese for sprinkling

  1. Cook bacon in a 5 1/2 quart heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven over med/high heat until browned. Remove bacon with slotted spoon to paper-towel-lined plate.
  2. Pour the bacon grease into a bowl. Spoon 3 tablespoons of bacon grease back into the pot and discard the rest. Add diced onion and sauté 5 min or until soft.
  3. Add chopped potatoes and cauliflower, 6 cups warm water along with 4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. Stir and bring to a boil. Add 1 cup cream, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until potatoes are cooked through (about 15 min).
  4. Meanwhile cook your corn. Drain and cover to keep warm.
  5. Puree the soup in batches in a blender until completely smooth (making sure your blender has a little breathing hole at the top so you don’t create a suction vacuum from the hot liquid. Return soup to the pot and season to taste (for an adult soup, we add another 1/2 tsp cayenne). To serve, ladle into warm bowls and garnish generously with bacon bits, cooked corn kernels and fresh parsley.

*  From the Recipe Box:

Lazy butt time:  I used precooked bacon.   I put 3 tablespoons of butter in the pot instead of bacon grease to saute the onions.  I did not peel the potatoes, and I did use Yukon Gold.  I thawed frozen corn and dumped it in at the end.  I used the bags of cauliflower-ettes from Costco.  I did not use a stand blender; I used my immersion blender.  Are you seeing how much time I saved you?

and remember:  Life is so damn short, for god’s sake, just do what makes you happy.  Big kiss, Lynn

Corn Chowder

Hooray, it’s time to enjoy the corn harvest in Western Washington.  Yes, we’ve been enjoying fresh corn for about a month, but this is different.  Today, it’s soup weather.  So, say it with me, HOORAY!  You all know how much I love soup and since we’ve been having some interesting weather, it seemed like the right time.  We had a thunder and lightning storm that was almost biblical in its intensity the other day.  Wow!  When your town makes CNN reporting for this kind of weather, you know it was impressive.

But, as usual, I digress.  All I really wanted to acknowledge was it’s time for soup.  I just found out corn chowder is a favorite for one of my favorite people, so it’s time to find the perfect recipe.  This is basically Ina Garten’s chowder recipe with a few additions.  She’s my hero, what can I say.  My favorite sous chef gave me a hand with all the chopping.  He’s turning into a soup fan as well.

4 slice bacon, chopped

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups chopped onions

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

6 cups chicken stock or broth

1 pound white potatoes, Yukon Gold for example, unpeeled and cubed to a 1/2 inch dice

5 cups of corn, approximately 5 ears fresh or a pound or so of frozen

1 cup half-and-half

1 heaping cup grated cheese, I use a combo of Jack and Cheddar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.) Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon.

*   From the Recipe Box:

G said it needed more bacon, so we used 8 slices.

The turmeric really added a yellow vibe to the chowder.

and remember:  Fake it until you make it.  Big kiss, Lynn

 

 

Kool-Aid Pickles (Why wouldn’t you?)

I was watching Andrew Zimern’s Bizarre Foods the other day and he was touring the Mississippi Delta.  The Hunka-hunka and I took Route 61 through the Delta a few years ago as well.  I love the Blues and wanted to feel the origins.  We did not stop for Kool-Aid brined dill pickles like Andrew did, but we did see them and it made me go “HUM?”.  I’m married to a non-pickle eater.  I know, where did I go wrong?  He doesn’t like mustard either.  What can I say?

Since I love both flavors, I decided I should do some experimenting even if it was just for me.   Colorful dill pickles/summer time, a match made in heaven.   Kool-Aid dills are called koolickles in the South.  Clever.  I looked at half a dozen recipes before I discovered they are all basically the same.

                (Before and after)

Ingredients

  • 1 jar (32 ounces) whole dill pickles, undrained
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 envelope unsweetened Kool-Aid mix, flavor of your choice (Cherry turned out to be my favorite)

Directions

  • Drain pickles, reserving juice. In a small bowl, combine the reserved juice, sugar and Kool-Aid, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
  • Slice pickles; return to jar. Pour juice mixture over pickles. Discard any remaining juice.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 week before serving. Store in the refrigerator up to 2 months.

Most online recipes suggest starting with a gallon jar of pickles.  I used a half gallon, because I didn’t need that many koolickles in the house. Simply drain the brine into a clean jar, add in a packet of cherry Kool-Aid and 2/3 cup of sugar.  Shake the jar until the sugar dissolves.  I used sliced dills for maximum surface exposure and I thought they would look good on a hamburger patty; I wanted as much surface as possible to receive the cherry Kool-Aid.  Return the sliced pickles to the pickle jar or a wide mouth Mason jar, and place it in the fridge for at least one week and up to a couple of months.

and remember what Muddy Waters sang about the Hoochie Coochie Man:

The gypsy woman told my mother
Before I was born
I got a boy child’s comin’
He’s gonna be a son of a gun

Big kiss, Lynn

Electric Mud was my first blues album and damn but I loved it.

Pea Salad

Yes, we heated up the bar-be-que this weekend.  It’s definitely that time of the year here in Washington state.  We never get the blazing hot temperatures other parts of the country receive.  I find a 75 degree day absolutely perfect to be out and about, making it time to grill.

I really don’t care about the protein element however, I’m all about the side dishes and this one is a perfect side year round.  The bright color of the peas draws your eyes to the bowl.  The Smokehouse almonds and crispy bacon add a nice color contrast.  I usually use a cheddar-Monterrey Jack cheese combo, so there’s another colorful element.  I shouldn’t forget the red onion, even though I’ve never seen a red onion that wasn’t purple.  Whatever!

The combination of the mayonnaise and sour cream is perfect with the other elements.  I often use this combination for chicken salad or apple salad.  It tastes super creamy without being heavy.  This makes a lot of dressing, but not too much if you like a moist salad.

Some salads get dangerous on the buffet table after an hour or 2, and anything with mayonnaise is high on that list.  As my mom used to say, they are breeding grounds for Sam and Ella to visit.  Mom lived in total fear of making someone sick and salmonella was number one on her list, so be sure and take precautions if you are serving this on a warm day.  My favorite safety tip is freezing discs of ice to set the bowl on.  I make up several and just keep them handy in the freezer.  You would make mom happy if you were being proactive as well.

Combine:

4 pounds frozen peas

1 red onion, diced

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1 pound bacon, fried hard and crumbled

1 to 2 cans Smokehouse almonds

For dressing combine:

Equal amounts mayonnaise and sour cream, 1 to 1

Make early and let the flavors marry.

* From the Recipe Box:

For four pounds of peas, use approximately 2 cups each mayonnaise and sour cream

I don’t add the bacon or almonds until ready to serve.  They soften quickly.

Everyone loves this.  This might be my most requested recipe.  It originally called for water chestnuts as well, but that was not a popular addition.

Excellent buffet salad; stays fresh a long time.  Not that the salad will last a long time.

and remember:  Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what.  If you can’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.   Big kiss, Lynn

 

Sheet Pan Dinners

You all know how much I love my roasted vegetables.  So far, my only failure has been roasted kale.  I called them Zombie Chips so the Gkids would taste them.  I lost a lot of trust as a result that day.  Remember the scene in the movie BIG when Tom Hanks eats caviar and then tries to scrape it off his tongue, it was like that.  But as usual, I digress.

I love easy-squeezy meals.  Why couldn’t I have a tray of roasted veggies going and put chicken on top and have a complete dinner ready with little to no muss or strain.  So, that was my plan this weekend when Gluten-free girl was coming up to visit.

For me, there are certain veggie combos that just work.  I love potatoes and carrots together.  Asparagus goes with anything.  You have to keep on eye on mushrooms; they are kind of delicate.  My jury is still out on broccoli, but it was excellent the other day.

So, grab a 15 x 10 inch standard sheet pan, the kind with sides.   Pick your vegetables.

Zucchini was disappointing; it became too mushy.

Asparagus was overcooked after that long in the oven.

Mushrooms also became too soft.

The potatoes and carrots were perfect.

I like tossing the vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Lay your chicken thighs or legs or breasts on top of the veggies.  S & P the chicken parts.

Place in a 425 degree oven for 45 to 60 minutes.

This was a hit, but it does need work.

For example, some basic changes would totally change the basic concept, but the easy-squeezy would remain the same.

  • chopped garlic sprinkled over the top
  • marinating the chicken parts in teriyaki sauce and using ‘Asian’ veggies like bok choy, green onions, Napa cabbage
  • add the asparagus and mushrooms about half way through the cooking time so they don’t over cook
  • croutons and grape tomatoes and a sprinkling of basil at the end would be good

The possibilities are endless.

and remember:  Making a big life change is pretty scary.  But, you know what’s even scarier?  Regret.  Big kiss, Lynn

7-Layer Salad

This salad positively screams the 60’s.  I have a copy in my recipe box, there’s a copy in mom’s.  It was at every holiday meal and everyone would have been disappointed if it wasn’t.  You could change it up with crab or shrimp.  You could turn it into a Chef’s salad.  My favorite part was having the dressing on top when you were ready to go.

How do some recipes become such a ubiquitous part of an era?  And then, where do they go?  When was the last time you saw a 7-layer salad?  Well, I’m going to change that at our house.  Ever since I spotted the recipe cards, I’ve been possessed to make one.   I’m pretty sure it’s going to be part of my summer rotation especially adding a layer of crab.  Num!

The other thing that makes this special is the bowl.  Yes, I’m a bowlaholic, but there aren’t any meetings to help with this and I wouldn’t go if there were.  I love bowls big and small.  (Don’t even start me on my drinking glass selection.)  Back when this salad was first popular, I remember it was served in a 9 x 13 inch pan.  Awkward.  The first serving was always a mess waiting to happen.  Now I’ve found the perfect straight sided bowl making it possible to see all the layers plus have some room to mix in the dressing.

In a 9 x 13 inch baking dish or a straight sided bowl layer:

½ head iceberg lettuce, shredded

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

½ red onion, sliced and separated

½ pound ham, sliced or cubed

1 cup corn kernels

½ pound bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 to 2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Dressing:

1 cup mayonnaise

Juice of 1 lemon

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Combine dressing ingredients and spread on salad.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.  It will stay fairly crisp for a goodly amount of time on a buffet table.

* From the Recipe Box:

Crab or shrimp makes a good layer instead of the ham.

I like romaine and shredded cabbage as the first layer as well.

and remember:  Everything becomes funnier when you aren’t allowed to laugh.  Big kiss, Lynn 

Broccoli Salad

Bear with me, I’m on a salad kick.  I love salads.  They follow soup as my favorite thing to eat.  Eating one forkful of sameness bores me.  I want to see how many flavors I can get onto each fork and that’s what salad provides.  Plus, summer is salad season and the sun is shining here and I’m ready for picnics and parties.

When I’m standing at a buffet table, I stop and scope it out before I make any snap decisions.  I look for old favorites.  Next, I look for something unique with ingredients I like.  That’s how some of my recipes evolve.  I’ve been making this salad for 20 years.  And then, one day, I was at a bridal shower and some genius included red grape halves in their recipe.  I immediately pulled out my notebook (yes, I always carry a notebook), and wrote that incredible idea down.  I’ve not made broccoli salad since then without including grapes.  They add just the right touch of sweetness.  Yes, the craisins add sweet, but they add tart as well.  The grape addition is mellow.

I know I’m getting a little too gung ho about salads, but be open to changing your recipes.  Keep an open mind about additions or subtractions to what you’re making.  You might find just the thing to take your creation over the top.  And remember, broccoli is a super food, so eat lots!

Combine for salad:

4 to 5 cups broccoli flowerets

1 cup raisins or craisins

1 cup red grapes, halved

1 cup salted sunflower seeds or sliced almonds

10 slices bacon, fried hard and crumbled

Combine for dressing:

½ cup mayonnaise

3 to 4 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Mix and add right before serving.

* From the Recipe Box:

I double or triple the dressing amounts.  Everyone prefers the salad moist.

Craisins add a nice color contrast.

I like diced red onion in it as well, but I’m in the minority so I only occasionally add it, but you should.

Sits on a buffet a long time without getting icky.

and remember:  There is a super hero inside all of us; we just need the courage to put on the cape.  Big kiss, Lynn

Marinated Asparagus

For years and years, I had 2 favorite foods:  watermelon and asparagus.  I have a watermelon recipe that I’ll share with you during that season, but for now we’ve got to focus on asparagus.  After all, it’s spring!  I’m not especially fond of the asparagus spears the size of a pencil.  I want robust stalks, up to a 1/2 inch in diameter.  They have the most flavor.  I roast them in the oven, I’ll fry them in a fry pan, I add them to omelets, I love them in stir-fry.

I know the Spanish invented Tapas, but I think with our family’s love of hors d’ouerves, we probably just missed the opportunity of copyrighting them and beating them to the punch.  Whether you call them hors d’ouerves, appetizers, or nibbles, I love a spread of options.  I want to go down the buffet table and take one or two small bites of everything that looks even marginally nummy.  Then I’ll go back and take a few more of what really appealed to me.   I don’t want to be caught throwing something away and perhaps hurting someone’s feelings.  I have advanced Norwegian guilt, thank you very much.

This is another treat from mom’s recipe box.  She made this frequently.  Now don’t laugh, but I love these in my breakfast omelets with a few grape tomatoes halved.  So, you don’t have to worry about leftovers.  They are great in green salads.  The blanching you give them keeps the asparagus fiercely green.  Next time I may try this with black sesame seeds.  I bet it would give it a totally different look, maybe a little on the exotic side.  I think it’s time to start planning my next cocktail party.

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons white sesame seeds

3 tablespoons vinegar:  apple cider, white or rice wine

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoons soy sauce

Salt to taste

1 to 1 ½ pounds asparagus, cut into 1 ½ inch lengths.

Heat oil and sesame seeds together until light brown.  Add vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and salt, mix together.

Blanch asparagus until just tender yet still crisp.  Pour sauce over asparagus, mix and refrigerate.

* From the Recipe Box:

This is a light and springy appetizer that mom made as long as she was able to get fresh asparagus.

Silver bowls with asparagus, Hazel nuts and dried cherries are the perfect nibble.

and remember what Mark Twain said:  20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do then by the ones you did do.  So, throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.  Big kiss, Lynn

Side Dishes are Faboosh

I want my plate to be balanced.  I don’t really care about my protein, vegetables and carbs being in balance, even though I know I should.   But, I do care about color and making sure everything on the plate stands out.  This is why side dishes become so important.  Here’s a good example.  I started stir frying pea pods and grape tomatoes a couple of years ago.  Why?  Why not.  I had extra tomatoes that were right on the edge of wrinkled.  I cut the tomatoes in half to help release the juices, and if the pods were too big, I chopped them as well.  A little olive oil and some S & P  in a pan and there you go.  This has turned out to be one of my favorite sides and probably my easiest.  And look at that color.

And then there’s my favorite green, arugula.  I love laying a bed of greens down on a plate before I put the main protein component down.  I’ll put a couple of handfuls of arugula in a bowl and toss it with olive oil and S & P.  If I’m serving pasta, I’ll put some on one side of a pasta bowl and then add the pasta.  It makes the pasta pop.  Or, it will be the bed for something ultra special like my crab cakes.  I’ve included this picture before, but it’s such a good example.  Would the crab cakes stand out without the green curly arugula leaves?  I don’t think so.  Sliced rotisserie chicken looks much more special if you have arugula and balsamic reduction on the plate first.

Greg has always disliked coleslaw.  He thinks it’s the cabbage.  I think he’s wrong; he just never had the right dressing.  When we started making pulled pork a few years back, I wanted coleslaw to go with it.  I found the perfect ingredient to make the dressing sing…sweet chili sauce.  I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t that for Asian food?”  My answer to that is why limit yourself.  Depending on how much slaw I’m making decides how much mayonnaise I need.  I use the sweet chili sauce to thin the mayo.  Adjust the amount to your taste buds.  I like it spicy, you might not.  Give it a try, it’s really a refreshing dressing for coleslaw.

Bottom line, I love color on my plate and I bet you will too.

and remember:  Trying to understand the behavior of some people is like trying to smell the color 9 or the number blue.  Big kiss, Lynn

Grandma’s Carrot Salad

Do you like carrot salad?  I grew up with it on the dinner table.  We either had it or a bowl of sliced cucumbers and onions in vinegar.  I’ve always had a fondness for both.  I found a note in my grandma’s recipe box about carrot salad and whether it was better to grate or chop the apple.  She decided chop.

I’ve tried to modernize the ingredients a little bit.  She called for field carrots, a handful of raisins and a chopped apple.  I know the average person thinking about carrot salad does not visualize an apple, but it provides the sweetness of the pineapple you’re probably used to and pineapple was not readily available for a Minnesota farm wife.  I’m assuming field carrots are just the average garden variety carrot.  I was lucky enough to find this huge bag of multi-colored carrots at Costco.  I’m a sucker for any vegetable that’s out of the ordinary color-wise.  These also looked cool on my veggie tray last weekend.  Oops, I got distracted again.

When I grated the carrots, I decided to do them individually to keep the colors from getting muddled.  If you love carrots like I love carrots, you are going to be mass impressed by how they look.  The combination of different colors really makes the salad much more festive.

I didn’t make a whole bunch since it was just the Hunka-hunka and I and he hates carrots.  But, then the unthinkable happened.  He said, “you’d better let me taste it”, and I just about dropped the whole bowl of salad with shock.  But, then the unthinkable happened again.  He said, ” this is good!”.  My heart is not strong enough for this kind of shock.  He’s been such a good sport about trying recipes for the cookbook, I really don’t expect him to try things he doesn’t like.  This must prove how fabulous Grandma’s carrot salad is.  The secret is the apple!

1/2 pound carrots, shredded

1/3 cup golden raisins or craisins

½ cup chopped apple

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2 or 3 tablespoons sugar

Combine the carrots, raisins, mayonnaise, and sugar in a small bowl. Chill for several hours or overnight

As always, the amounts are only approximate.  I’m an ooey-gooey mayonnaise user and you might like it a bit more dry.

*     From the Recipe Box:

I combine the Mayonnaise, sugar and raisins or craisins together and let them sweeten up a little before adding it to the carrots.

I’m having trouble photographing dark reds for some reason.   Remember the ligonberry jam?  Those are craisins in the mayo, not small pebbles.

and remember:  You always have the right to change your mind.  Big kiss, Lynn