Friday, May 27, 2016

Great Summer Potluck Salads

With Memorial Day weekend upon us, I thought it would be a good time to post some of my favorite summer salad recipes. Some are old family favorites... some are recipes I have adapted over the years... all of them are perfect to take along to your next potluck or picnic!

Aunt Lotus's Bean Salad 

1 (24 oz.) can pork and beans, salt pork removed 
1 (15 oz. ) can kidney beans, drained 
1 bunch (about 8) radishes, sliced 
1 bunch (about 8) green onions, sliced 
1-2 T. red wine vinegar 

Combine all ingredients, adding vinegar to taste. Cover and chill about 1 hour. Yeah I know this SOUNDS gross, but it's really wonderful. Just try it. 

Couscous and Bean Salad 

1 (6 1/2 oz.) box plain couscous, prepared as package directs and cooled for 20 min. 
1 small cucumber, coarsley chopped 
3/4 C. green or yellow bell pepper, coarsley chopped 
1/4 C. green onions, sliced 
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped 
1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed 
1/3 C. feta cheese, crumbled 

1 T. chopped fresh basil 
1 t. chopped fresh oregano 
1 clove garlic, mashed 
1/4 t. salt 
2 T. balsamic vinegar 
2 T. extra virgin olive oil 

In small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients. Blend well, and set aside. In large bowl, combine couscous with all salad ingredients except cheese. Pour dressing over salad; toss gently to coat. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes to blend flavors. Just before serving, sprinkle with cheese. 

Favorite Fruit Salad 

1 (15 1/2 oz.) can pineapple chunks 
1 small package vanilla instant pudding mix 
assorted fresh fruit of your choice 

In large bowl, combine prepared fruit. Drain juice from pineapple into small bowl; add pineapple to other fruit. Combine pudding mix and juice; whisk until smooth and very thick. Pour over fruit and mix very well. Cover and chill, stirring occasionally, until dressing is saucy consistency, about 2 hours. 

Garbanzo Bean Salad with Olives and Herbs 

1 C. dried garbanzo beans 
4 T. red wine vinegar 
6 T. extra-virgin olive oil 
4 cloves garlic, mashed 
3 t. minced fresh mint 
3 t. minced fresh basil 
1 t. minced fresh thyme 
1 t. minced fresh rosemary 
1 t. minced fresh oregano 
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste 
4 T. Nicoise or Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped 
4 T. green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped 
1/2 C. thinly sliced green onions, including tops 

Sort and rinse garbanzo beans. In large saucepan or Dutch oven, cover with cold water by 1". Bring to full boil. Boil for 2 minutes; cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 1 hour; drain. Return to pan and cover with fresh water by 2". Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until tender, 60-75 minutes. Drain and let cool. In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, garlic, all the herbs, and salt and pepper. Add the cooled beans, olives, and onions; mix well. Serve at room temperature. 

German Potato Salad 

1/2 pound bacon 
1/2 cup chopped onion 
1/2 cup chopped celery 
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
2 tablespoons sugar 
1 1/2 teaspoons salt 
1/2 cup vinegar 
6 cups sliced cooked potatoes 
2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced 
Chopped parsley, pimento, and bacon bits 

Cook bacon till crisp; drain and crumble, reserving 1/4 cup fat. Cook onion and celery in reserved fat until tender. Blend in flour, sugar, salt, and dash of pepper; add vinegar and 1 cup water; cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Add bacon, potatoes and eggs; heat thoroughly, tossing lightly. Garnish with parsley, pimiento, and bacon bits. Serve warm.

Ranch Tortellini Salad 

2 (16-19 oz.) packages frozen cheese tortellini 
2 C. ranch dressing 
1 1/2 C. julienned ham 
1 1/2 C. frozen peas 
1/2 lb. Swiss cheese, cubed 
1/4 C. green onions, chopped 
1 T. dried parsley or 2 T. fresh snipped 

Place frozen peas in colander you will be draining pasta in. Cook tortellini according to package directions. Pour over peas and drain both; rinse with cold water and drain well. Combine tortellini and peas with remaining ingredients; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Stir well before serving, adding more ranch, if necessary. Makes- a buttload 

Red Potato Salad 

3 lbs. red potatoes, cooked and cut into chunks 
1/2 C. bottled Italian salad dressing 
3/4 C. mayonnaise 
1/2 C. green onions, sliced 
1 t. dried dill 
1 T Dijon mustard 

In large bowl, thoroughly combine all ingredients except potatoes. Toss with warm potatoes; cover and chill. 

Wild Chicken Salad 

4 1/4 C. chicken broth 
2 (6 oz.) boxes long grain and wild rice mix 
3 C. cubed cooked chicken 
4 green onions, bias cut about 1/4" 
1/2 C. sliced almonds 
1 small can water chestnuts, drained and coarsely chopped 
1 stalk celery, chopped 
1/2 C. mayonnaise 
1 T. soy sauce 
1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained 

In large saucepan, combine chicken broth, rice mix, and ONE seasoning packet from rice mix. Bring to boil, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes (or time recommended on package). In large bowl, combine next five ingredients; mix well. In small bowl, combine mayonnaise and soy sauce until well blended. Add hot rice mix to large bowl. Add dressing and mix well. Add mandarin oranges and toss lightly. Serve warm as main dish or chill and serve on lettuce leaves as salad. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Spiced Steak Salad

We really should be eating more salads, but it seems like once I get dinner preparation under way, I just can't get motivated to chop up a bunch of stuff to make one. The exception is when I'm making a salad FOR dinner! It's also a great excuse to clean out the crisper drawer (aka the vegetable rotter)!

1 1/2 lbs. your favorite steak (flank, skirt, ribeye, sirloin... pretty much anything will work)
1 lime, cut in half


2 cloves garlic, minced
2 t. kosher salt
2 t. paprika
2 t. cumin
2 t. coriander
1 t. coarse ground black pepper
1 T. extra virgin olive oil (more or less)

In a small bowl, combine all rub ingredients except oil. Gradually add oil until you have a thick paste. Rub mixture liberally onto both sides of meat, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at least one hour. Grill to desired doneness. Transfer steak to platter, squeeze juice of half a lime over, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice thinly just before serving.

Dressing -

1 T. Dijon mustard
juice of remaining lime half
1/2 t. sugar
1/4 t. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C. olive oil
1 large green onion, thinly sliced

Whisk together all ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Your favorite salad ingredients -

Mixed greens (iceberg, romaine, baby spinach, arugula, baby greens, etc.)
diced avocado
halved cherry tomatoes (or diced beefsteak/roma)
sliced radishes
chopped celery
diced cucumber
grated carrots
sliced mushrooms
thinly sliced red onion
whatever else looks good in your crisper drawer... you get the idea

Place salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with dressing. Pile onto individual serving plates and top with steak slices.

Monday, May 16, 2016


This is one of my favorite dishes. Don't let the long list of ingredients deter you. Once you get everything all chopped up and ready to go, it's just a matter of throwing it all in the pot and lettin' er rip. Serve with your favorite cornbread recipe.

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 lb.), trimmed of visible fat, cut into 1" chunks
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
2 tablespoons oil
1 lb. kielbasa, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large stalks celery, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 small yellow bell pepper, diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
1 t. dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup raw long-grain rice
3 cups chicken broth
1 can (16-ounce) diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
3/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Heat oil in Dutch oven.  Add chicken, kielbasa, vegetables and seasonings.  Cook, stirring often, until chicken is no longer pink and vegetables are tender.  Stir in rice, chicken broth and tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until rice is done, about 25 minutes.  Add shrimp and simmer until cooked through, about another 6 minutes. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Spinach and Goat Cheese Quiche

I love quiche. It's one of the most adaptable dishes around. You can eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anytime between... hot, cold, warm, or room temperature. You can put just about anything in it, and it will be delicious. Have bits and pieces of meats, veggies, and/or cheeses sitting around in the fridge? Make a quiche! If you are proficient in making pie crust from scratch, go for it! I am not, so I use the store-bought refrigerated stuff. Works just fine.

For this recipe, I like to par-bake the crust before adding the filling. If you are unfamiliar with this technique, here is a great tutorial from The Kitchn (you want to follow the directions for a crust that is NOT fully baked before filling).

1 Pillsbury pie crust 
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled 
1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, cooked and squeezed as dry as possible 
3 green onions, sliced 
1/4 C. grated Asiago cheese (Parmesan or any other hard, dry cheese would work as well)
4 large eggs 
1 C. milk 
1/2 t. salt 
heaping 1/4 t. ground nutmeg 
heaping 1/4 t. cayenne 
ground black pepper to taste 
about 2 oz. fresh goat cheese (chevre) 

Blind bake pie crust. Turn oven down to 325°. In a large bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add milk, spinach, green onions, Asiago, and seasonings; mix well. Sprinkle cooked bacon in bottom of pie crust. Carefully pour spinach mixture over, distributing evenly. Crumble goat cheese on top. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until filling is set. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Marinated Grilled Pork Chops and Pineapple

I have some cooking habits that I'm sure a lot of people would consider odd. One of the more peculiar ones involves the juice of canned fruit. Whenever I open a can of any fruit product, I drain the juice into a canning jar. Doesn't matter what it is... pineapple, pear, mixed fruit... it all goes in the jar. Whenever I need a sweet, fruity element for a marinade or other recipe, I hit up the juice jar. I only buy fruit canned in its own juices or light syrup, to reduce the amount of added sugar.

The day I came up with this recipe, I had some nice, thick-cut boneless pork chops and a fresh pineapple. Fresh pineapple is one of my favorite things, but there's no juice to add to a marinade! Juice jar to the rescue!! You can substitute straight pineapple (or even orange) juice in this recipe, because I'm pretty sure not everyone has a hoarded juice jar in their fridge. Yet.

These chops came out so incredibly tender and juicy, we hardly even needed a knife to cut them! And if you've never had grilled pineapple before, you're in for a treat. 

Served with brown jasmine rice and peas with sesame dressing.

1/3 C brown sugar
1/2 C Italian dressing
1/3 C fruit juice 
1/3 C soy sauce
1 T sesame oil
1 t powdered ginger
1 t chili garlic paste (or more, to taste)
several dashes Mekong seasoning sauce (pretty much the same thing as Maggi seasoning sauce)
4 thick-cut pork loin chops
1 fresh pineapple, cut into spears

Combine everything except chops and pineapple in a gallon ziplock bag. Add chops, shaking to coat thoroughly, and squeeze out as much air as possible. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (or overnight). Remove chops from bag, reserving marinade. Grill over medium heat until cooked through (about 8 minutes per side), brushing with marinade a few times until nicely marked and glazed. Remove to plate, cover loosely with foil, and let rest up to 10 minutes.
While meat is resting, turn heat up to medium-high and grill pineapple until heated through and nicely marked.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Cashew Chicken

This is another recipe I've been adapting over the years, and I think it has finally reached perfection! Quick, easy, and super yummy!

‎1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced
1 t. powdered ginger
1 t. toasted sesame oil
1 onion, cut into thin wedges
2 large carrots, cut into slices on the bias
1 bunch celery (about 4 C.), cut into slices on the bias
2 T. vegetable oil
1 C. cashew halves and pieces

1/2 C. low sodium chicken broth
1/4 C. soy sauce (I use Silver Swan Filipino-style)
1 t. powdered ginger
1 t. granulated garlic
2 t. sugar
1 T. hoisin sauce
1 T. cornstarch

cooked rice

In medium bowl, combine chicken, ginger, and sesame oil. In small bowl combine sauce ingredients. Prep other ingredients. Heat wok over high until smoking; add 1 T. oil. Stir-fry chicken until almost cooked through; a tiny bit of pink is okay because you'll be adding it back later. Set aside. Reheat wok and add remaining oil. Stir-fry vegetables until almost crisp-tender. Add back chicken and sauce; reduce heat to medium. Cook and stir until sauce is thickened. Stir in cashews just before serving. Serve over hot cooked rice.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Fried chicken was my nemesis for a long time. I tried everything to produce the perfect batch, but something would invariably go wrong. After many, MANY years of trial and error, I finally came up with this version and it was... WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!!

2 C. buttermilk
 1 t salt
1/2 t cayenne
1/2 t poultry seasoning
1/2 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
2 C flour
1/2 t salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/2-1 t cayenne (depending if you want spicy or not... totally optional)
1 t seasoning salt
1/2 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
2 t paprika
1 large whole chicken, cut into 10 pieces (including wings with tips removed)
oil for frying

Mix first six ingredients in a gallon-size ziplock freezer bag, shake well to combine. Add chicken pieces, shaking around until all pieces are thoroughly coated. Press out as much air as possible and refrigerate for at least two hours (up to overnight). In another ziplock bag, mix next six ingredients. When ready to fry, take each piece out of the buttermilk, letting it drip off as much as possible, then shake in seasoned flour. Let stand on rack for 20 minutes (while oil heats to about 350°), then shake in flour again right before you put the chicken in the pan. Brown a few pieces at a time (without crowding) in the largest frying pan you have (I use cast iron), over medium-high heat (about 3 minutes per side). Remove to rack and continue with the rest of the pieces. When all the chicken is browned, put them all back into the frying pan, stacking if necessary. Cover, leaving lid slightly tilted to allow steam to escape, and cook on medium-low for 20 minutes. Remove lid and return heat to medium-high, turning pieces until coating is crisp, about five minutes. Drain on rack.