Marynona’s Potato Salad

IMG_0903People who say they aren’t a fan of potato salad have only had bland deli fare. My mother-in-law was the master at making tasty potato salad, chock full of crunchy celery and onions, and lots of hard-boiled eggs. (I may have overdone it a bit on the eggs the last time I made this, as my nephew Brock said, “So Aunt Cheryl, is this egg salad with potatoes in it, or potato salad with eggs in it?”) Marynona’s secret to making great potato salad, was not only plenty of mustard and seasonings, but to add your mayo and seasonings to the bite-sized potato chunks while they are still warm, so the potatoes absorb the flavors. She also insisted that you must use real Hellmann’s mayonnaise, and not Kraft Miracle Whip, or another brand of mayo. I do agree with her—Hellmann’s really does make a difference. It also helps to make this at least 3 hours before serving time to give it time to chill, and for the flavors to blend.

Serves 6-8

6 eggs
8-10 red potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces (do not peel)
1-2 teaspoons salt
1 to 1 1/4 cups Hellmann’s real mayonnaise
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons dill weed
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon course ground black pepper
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped, or 1/2 large red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, optional

Place eggs in medium sauce pan and cover with cold water; cover. Bring water to boil. Turn element off and let eggs sit in hot water for 10 minutes. Dump out water and run cold water over eggs. Remove shells from eggs; set aside.

Place potatoes in large sauce pan or small Dutch oven, and cover with cold water. Add 1-2 teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook 10-15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender to fork. Once cooked, drain the potatoes in a colander. Let cool until potatoes are no longer steaming, but are still warm.

Meanwhile, combine mayonnaise, mustards, dill, salt, and pepper in large bowl. Stir. Add vinegar and stir again. Fold in celery, onions, and chives (if desired). Dice hard boiled eggs and add to mixture; stir again. Add warm potatoes and gently stir until potatoes are all coated with mayo mixture. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate. After chilling 1 hour, stir salad and refrigerate for another 2 hours. If not serving at this time, move to airtight plastic container and store in frig for up to 1 week.

Classic Baby Back Ribs

IMG_0681With the 4th of July just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to share our favorite baby back rib recipe. These super savory morsels of meat take a few hours on the charcoal grill, but they are totally worth the wait. My husband Rich found this recipe on Weber’s website, and aside from his apostasy of Weber and zealous love of his new-found Big Green Egg, he follows the recipe pretty closely—minus the homemade barbecue sauce. We have someone with an allergy to tomato-based foods in our family, so he avoids brushing any BBQ sauce onto the ribs while grilling. There is also a philosophy out there in manly grilling land that says adding barbecue sauce to meats makes them char, as tomato has a low burning point. Those in the “dry rub” camp say, add your sauce when you’re eatin’, not when you’re cookin’.

What goes great with these tender, smoky ribs? Any of these recipes already posted on my blog: Corn Bread or Savory Sweet Potato Biscuits, Curry Cabbage and Vegetable Salad, Mean Mexican Rice or Baked Beans with Bacon and Caramelized Onions. For refreshments, try Mint Lemon Sweet Tea, Fresh Lemonade, or Rhubarb Mint Coolers—and follow your super summer meal up with warm Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp. My mother-in-law Marynona’s famous Potato Salad recipe (another summer time staple) will be posted soon. Never fear—I’ll be sure all your warm-weather dietary desires are covered!

Serves 4 to 6


2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons paprika
4 teaspoons granulated garlic
4 teaspoons pure chili powder
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin


4 racks baby back ribs, each about 2 pounds
4 medium chunks of hickory wood, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes


1 cup apple juice
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce (from above)

Mix all the rub ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Using a dull knife, slide the tip under the membrane covering the back of each rack of ribs. Lift and loosen the membrane until it breaks, then grab a corner of it with a paper towel and pull it off. Season the ribs all over with the rub, putting more on the meaty sides than the bone sides. Arrange the ribs in a rib rack, with all the ribs facing the same direction. Allow the ribs to stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes, or until the surface looks moist, before grilling.

Fill a chimney starter to the rim with charcoal and burn the charcoal until it is lightly covered with ash. Spread the charcoal in a tightly packed, single layer across one-third of the charcoal grate. Place a large disposable drip pan on the empty side of the charcoal grate. Fill the pan about halfway with warm water. Let the coals burn down to low heat (250° to 300°F). Leave all the vents open.

When the fire has burned down to low heat, add two hickory wood chunks to the charcoal. Put the cooking grate in place. Place the rib rack over indirect low heat (over the drip pan) as far from the coals as possible, with the bone sides facing toward the charcoal. Close the lid. Close the top vent about halfway. Let the ribs cook and smoke for 1 hour. During that time, maintain the temperature between 250° to 300°F by opening and closing the top vents. Meanwhile, make the mop.

Make mop: In a small saucepan mix the mop ingredients. Simmer for a few minutes over medium heat to melt the butter, and then remove the saucepan from the heat. Or melt butter in microwave, and add other mop ingredients and stir.

After the first hour of cooking ribs, add 8 to 10 unlit charcoal briquettes and the remaining two wood chunks to the fire. At the same time, lightly baste the ribs with some mop. Leaving the lid off for a few minutes while you baste the ribs will help the new briquettes to light. Close the lid and cook for another hour. During that time, maintain the temperature of the grill between 250° to 300°F by opening and closing the top vents.

After 2 hours of cooking ribs, add 8 to 10 unlit charcoal briquettes to the fire. Remove the ribs from the rib rack, spread them out on clean work area and baste them thoroughly with some mop. Put them back in the rib rack, again all facing the same direction, but this time turned over so that the ends facing down earlier now face up. Also position any ribs that appear to be cooking faster than others toward the back of the rib rack, farther from the charcoal. Let the ribs cook for a third hour. During that time, maintain the temperature between 250° to 300°F by opening and closing the top vents.

After 3 hours of cooking ribs, check if any rack is ready to come off the grill. They are done when the meat has shrunk back from most of the bones by ¼ inch or more. When you lift a rack by picking up one end with tongs, the rack should bend in the middle and the meat should tear easily. If the meat does not tear easily, continue to cook the ribs. The total cooking time could be anywhere between 3 to 4 hours. Not all racks will cook in same amount of time. Lightly brush the cooked ribs with some sauce and, if desired for crispiness, cook them over direct heat for a few minutes. Transfer to a sheet pan and tightly cover with aluminum foil. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm with barbecue sauce on the side.

Caramel Candy Bars

IMG_0884Some foods are good because of the warm memories attached to them as much as the ingredients. These gooey caramel and chocolate bars fall into that category. My mother always made these for trips to my cousin Dale’s lake property, and my sisters and I couldn’t wait to get to Swan Lake—of course we were pumped to go water skiing, but digging into these decadent bars was a top priority, too. Mom would make a couple batches, cut and stack them in a Folger’s coffee can with wax paper between each layer, and stash ’em in the freezer. (Unlike most baked goods, these suffer no ill-consequences from being frozen!) Once these were pulled from their secret hiding place, the frozen squares would thaw in about 15 minutes, and were the consistency of a chewy candy bar. With mouths full of chocolate-caramel goodness, we could forget about itching our mosquito bites for a while. (And how deathly afraid we were to go to the latrine alone.)

A couple nights ago, we took a trip down memory lane when my Mom brought over a pan of bars. They were even better than I remembered—partly because this time we weren’t covered in mosquito bites, and dreading trips through the dark woods to the outhouse.

These are very similar to the Pillsbury Bake-off Carmelita Oat Bars (to be posted later), except this recipe uses caramel candies, more butter, and has double the amount of chocolate chips and nuts. More butter, chocolate, and nuts? Can’t go wrong there.

Makes 45-48 bars


2 cups All-purpose or unbleached flour
2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups margarine or butter, softened


64 Kraft caramels, unwrapped*
1/2 cup half and half, or milk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Grease large baking sheet (10″ x 15″). In large bowl, combine flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and butter; mix at low speed until crumbly. Reserve half of crumb mixture (about 3 cups) for topping. Press remaining crumb mixture in bottom of greased pan. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine caramels and milk in glass bowl or large glass measuring cup, and heat on high in microwave for about 3 minutes, or until mixture can be stirred smooth.

Remove partially baked crust from oven; sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts. Drizzle evenly with melted caramels; sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Return to oven; bake an additional 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 30 minutes to 1 hour, then cut into bars. Store bars in airtight container with wax paper between layers. They can be left at room temp once completely cooled, or frozen to be served at a later time.

*This is a bit of a chore. If unwrapping these candies is too tedious for you, call my Dad. He has the patience of a saint and happily performs the task, knowing the end result will be some sinfully delicious treats.

Carolina Barbecued Pork

FullSizeRenderSlow cooker recipes are such time-savers, and this shredded pork number from the Crock Pot website is especially tender and tasty. Serve the shredded meat on crusty ciabatta rolls, not on hamburger buns or other soft breads. Stiffer, crustier bread holds up better with this juicy meat recipe. This is perfect for a graduation open house spread (if you live in the Midwest and do parties for high school graduates), but also works at potlucks in spring, summer, fall or winter. I’ve doubled it to serve a crowd, and every time I’ve had this simmering in the slow cooker, the recipe has been requested by a few folks. Let everyone serve themselves, and then gluten-free people can dish up a heaping pile of meat and avoid the bread. Vegetarians in your midst? They might change their persuasion when they get a whiff of what’s cooking. The original recipe gave instructions for making a sauce with the vinegar and seasonings, and then pouring it over the cooked meat when serving. But it’s easier and works perfectly fine to throw it all in the slow cooker, and let the ingredients make magic together.

(My apologies for not posting this last week in honor of Father’s Day! That was my intention, but you know what they say…the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Not sure what that has to do with a blog post.)

NOTE: The Curry Cabbage Vegetable Salad (posted recently) is a nice side with this sandwich.

Serves 6-8

2 medium onions, chopped
4 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika (I use smoked Spanish paprika)
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 to 6 pound boneless pork butt, shoulder, or loin
1/3 cup cider vinegar
4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
BBQ sauce of choice

Place onions in bottom of Crock Pot. In large mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, paprika, salt, and pepper. Roll pork in rub until it coats meat. Place meat in pot on top of onions. In a measuring cup, combine cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper, sugar, mustard, garlic salt, and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine. Pour over meat in pot. Cover and cook on Low for 10-12 hours, or on High for 5-6 hours. Once cooked, remove meat from pot and shred for sandwiches. Return meat to juices in pot. Use slotted spoon to serve meat.

Savory Sweet Potato Biscuits

FullSizeRender-1When you need something to round out your barbecue, soup, or stew menu (and happen to have sweet potatoes on hand), these easy biscuits are sure to garner “ooohs” and “aaaaahs” at your table. The original recipe for these biscuits came from the Deen Brothers website (sons of Food network star Paula Deen) and is a healthier version of traditional southern biscuits. Their recipe used sweet seasonings like pumpkin pie spice, etc., but we found that too sweet for bread you want to eat with a meat or soup, so have substituted in cumin and coriander instead. The sweet potato, yogurt, and oil add moisture to the dough, so you won’t miss the usual buttery biscuits one bit. 

IMG_0844If you happen to have any leftover, rejoice! The savory flavor makes them great second-day, layered with sandwich meats and cheese, and a dab of mustard or fresh hummus. Some fresh spinach and sweet peppers add crunch as well as extra nutrition, as you see pictured here. My son Mitch loves these in his lunch bag, and will request them for supper just to get a tasty sandwich the next day. (Hey Judy, my yeast-fearing sister, here’s a bread recipe sans yeast! Will you try this one?)

Makes 10-12 biscuits

1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (1 large sweet potato)
¼ cup Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon salt
¼ ground ginger
¼ cup fat-free milk

Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Bake sweet potato in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until it yields to gentle pressure. (Can do this a day ahead and store cooked potato in frig.) Line large baking sheet with parchment, or spray with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

Combine mashed sweet potato, yogurt, olive oil, and maple syrup in small bowl and set aside. Whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, coriander, cumin, salt, and ginger in large mixing bowl. Alternately add sweet potato mixture and milk, stirring with wooden spoon until dry ingredients are moistened.

Drop dough onto lightly floured surface and knead a couple times until dough holds together. Do not over-knead—dough will be sticky. Shape into oblong, then roll out with rolling pin (moving from center to outside edges) until dough is about 1” high and 10”x13” in shape. Cut into 10-12 biscuits and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until bottoms and corners of biscuits are golden brown. Remove to cooling rack until cooled. May serve warm or room temperature.

Mint Lemon Sweet Tea

IMG_0850Nothing is quite as refreshing in a summertime drink as mint. If your mint is growing like a weed (in your mini herb garden pots), here’s one way to tame it. I found the original recipe in a food magazine put out by Marshall Field’s (before it became Macy’s), and credit is given to “Sunkist Growers, Inc.” in a tagline. I’ve added more mint, less sugar, and never bothered with the suggested grapefruit, so I think this is kinda my recipe now. I’m giving you an amount of mint (because that’s what you do in a recipe), but I nip off fistfuls of the herb from my pot without measuring, rinse and chop leaves only (no stems), and we’ve never thought, “Oh that’s too much mint.” (Pinch mint stem off right where new leaves are growing, as pictured here. That way your plant will branch out as it grows.)

FullSizeRenderNormally I’m a tea snob, but this is one case where I say, go for the Lipton’s. I used to find gallon-sized Lipton’s tea bags at Sam’s Club, but they no longer stock them. (Costco doesn’t carry any Lipton’s products.) I’ve found the large tea bags through Walmart online—they are cheaper and so much easier than unwrapping 12 single-serving tea bags.

One of the secrets of this drink, is pouring the boiled and steeped tea into the sugar, and stirring to dissolve it before adding the cold water. That’s how the southerners make their sweet tea, and it really is so much better than adding sugar to cold tea, where it just sinks to the bottom in an undissolved, sweet sludge. This tea has become our summertime drink of choice, and my son’s call it “liquid gold” or “the nectar of the gods”—when they are waxing poetic, that is. Suffice it to say, they really, really like it. I think you’ll like it too!

Makes 1 gallon

12 Lipton’s tea bags, or 1 gallon-sized tea bag
1 cup fresh spearmint leaves, rinsed and chopped*
4 cups boiling water
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
8 cups cold water
1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice

If using individual Lipton’s tea bags, unwrap and gather all the strings together. Flip them over the side of medium mixing bowl. (Gallon-size tea bag just goes in the bowl—it has no wrapping or string.) Add chopped mint. Pour 4 cups boiling water over mint and tea; cover and let steep for 5 minutes. Put sugar into gallon-sized pitcher. Place a sieve over opening of container. Pour hot steeped tea through sieve into gallon container, pressing on tea and mint to get all liquid out of bags. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Add 8 cups cold water and lemon juice. Stir again. Refrigerate for 3 hours or more before serving. Keeps in frig for a couple weeks—if it lasts that long.

*NOTE: Just a reminder that you should use spearmint, not peppermint. Hope you planted the right herb!

Swedish Pancakes

FullSizeRenderEvery culture has some version of the French crêpe, even the Swedes. When my son’s friend Karl dropped in with some lingonberry sauce* made from fresh Swedish lingonberries, we thought we better whip up a batch of the crepe-like Swedish pancakes to try the sauce. Recipes for these light pancakes abound in cookbooks and online, so I don’t quite know who to credit for it. This one is similar to the Easy Swedish Pancakes from, but I found that batter a little too thin and therefore doubled the flour. It also needed more salt than called for. Top with anything from maple syrup, to apple sauce, to strawberries and whipped cream—just about any fruit pairs perfectly with these pancakes. I’d love to hear what ratio of eggs, milk, and flour some of YOU true Swedes use for this Scandinavian staple…maybe make ’em for Father’s Day and post a comment.

Makes 10-12 pancakes


4 eggs
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping suggestions

Lingonberry jam
Sliced strawberries
Sliced bananas
Powdered sugar
Whipping cream

In large bowl, beat eggs with wire whisk. Add milk and butter, and whisk again. Sprinkle flour, sugar, and salt over egg mixture, and beat with whisk until smooth.

Heat non-stick skillet to medium heat. Brush a little butter on hot pan. Pour 1/3 cup batter into pan, and rotate to coat bottom of pan. Once edges of batter are dry, flip to cook reverse side. Flip pancake onto plate. Fold into quarters and top with lingonberries or fruit. Add powdered sugar or whipping cream.

*I was a little confused when Karl said his neighbor had made the lingonberry sauce he brought over. Last I checked, lingonberries don’t grow in Minnesota, or any bordering state for that matter! Turns out they had picked fresh lingonberries while vacationing in Sweden, and made it into the sauce. If you don’t have a friend that brings you fresh lingonberry sauce, IKEA sells “Sylt Lingon” (lingonberry jam), and so do most high-end grocery stores, like Lunds & Byerly’s or Kowalskis.

Wheatgrass Pots

IMG_0800“Grass” and “pot” in one blog title—I’m just asking for some serious ribbing from my offspring with this post. But the teasing will be worth it, cause I love these charming little winter wheatgrass table toppers. The first image shows grass seeds that were grown indoors for 2 weeks, and have been trimmed once to even out the wheatgrass growth. Before I show other photos, let me give you instructions for growing these. It’s not hard, but you have to plan ahead a couple weeks if you want these on your table for a specific event. Some people love to have wheatgrass on hand to throw in smoothies, or to juice and drink just plain. My reason for growing it was for the pop of bright green on the table, and not for nutritional benefits. I don’t think my husband would tolerate me putting grass in his food. If he knew, that is.

For wheatgrass pots

Terra cotta pots
(I used 5″ azalea or orchid pots, which are more squat than other pots, and give more surface area for growing grass.)
Terra cotta saucers to fit pots
Potting soil (with peat moss and vermiculite, etc.)
Winter wheatgrass seeds
Large clear plastic bags
Twist ties

Loosely cover hole in bottom of terra cotta pot with a stone or shard of broken pot. This will keep the dirt from leaking out when watering the pots. Add dirt to pot to about 1-inch from top. Sprinkle generous amount of seeds onto dirt, covering 75-85% of surface. You do not want area completely covered with seeds or they will choke each other out. But a decent amount of seed is needed, or the grown grass will be sparse. Top the seeds with a sprinkling of dirt, just enough to cover the seeds, about 1/4-inch.

IMG_0734Water the pots and let them drain in the sink for a bit. Put pots on saucers, then fit clear plastic bag over top of pot and saucer, fill with air, and secure bag with twist tie. Make sure bag is loose to allow for sprouting of grass. Place in sunny spot. Bag will create a mini-terrarium, and these will not need water until the grass is a few inches long, about 7-10 days.

Condensation will form on the top of the plastic, as you can see in the photo. (You can’t really see it, but the grass seed has sprouted and is almost ready to be uncovered.) Once most of the wheatgrass has sprouted and is about 3-inches tall, you can uncover the pots and leave them in a sunny spot to continue filling out. At about 14 days you will probably want to trim the grass evenly. This is the point the pots should be ready for displaying on your table or counter top. Water the pots every couple of days, when the dirt feels dry on top. The grass tends to start dying off about 4 weeks after seeds were started, probably because it gets root-bound in small containers.

Once your grass is grown, you can jazz these up a bit. The first time I grew wheatgrass was for my son’s wedding. We grew a couple dozen 8.5″ pots of grass indoors, and used them on the tables at his summer wedding reception. My daughter-in-law hand-lettered numbers onto cute little signs to stick in each pot, but I don’t seem to have a picture of the finished product. (In know, I know…bad mother-in-law!) Oh, they were darling! And they fit our frugal-wedding budget—roughly $5 per centerpiece.

Then I grew these one spring when my youngest son was drumming up clients for his lawn mowing business. I made signs that said, “Mitchell won’t KEEP OFF THE GRASS. He’s ready to mow your lawn for you…” with his contact information at bottom. I cut out the signs and glued them to corrugate (one of my favorite crafting materials), and stuck a bamboo skewer in the signs. (You have to be sure the channels for the corrugate are running straight up and down on the signs in order for the skewer system to work, so double-check corrugate direction before gluing the signs down. Learned that the hard way.) We brought these to his current clients, and those who had expressed interest in his services. I’m sure these—as well as his magnetic personality—helped secure a couple extra clients that year.

The versatility of the sign-on-a-stick is shown in other pictures. There’s an example of a birthday party centerpiece using the three little pots, breaking up “birth” and “day,” because after all, you are celebrating the day of one’s birth, right? You could also do a sign with a poetic saying like the Maya Angelou quote here, “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” I personally couldn’t get away with this. There’s too much testosterone around my table for me to indulge in feminine whimsy. But go ahead and try an idea like this in YOUR home!




Curry Cabbage and Vegetable Salad

IMG_0804You won’t have trouble getting anyone to eat their vegetables when this salad is on the table. This sweet and sour slaw is a healthy substitute for traditional cabbage coleslaw, and goes well with grilled burgers, barbecued chicken, or ribs. Or add some cooked chicken right to the salad, and you’ve got a light summer meal in one bowl. I believe I got this recipe from a friend who had called it “Oriental Salad,” and it was a simple mix of mandarin oranges, cabbage, almonds, scallions, and chicken. But my males prefer veggies to fruit in a cabbage or lettuce salad, and my son Justin in particular has imposed the “no fruity-chicken” rule when he’s eating at our house. (That means he abhors the mixing of chicken and fruit in any recipe—no apple chicken crepes, etc.) So I started using the dressing recipe from the Asian salad on a mix of vegetables and a couple kinds of cabbage, and often avoiding the chicken. It’s become a summer staple. Oh, and this also boasts a creative use of ramen noodles, defying the myth that only starving college students eat ramen.

Serves 6-8

For salad

1/3 head of green cabbage OR 1/2 head of Napa cabbage, julienned
1/3 head of purple cabbage, julienned
2-3 carrots, peeled and grated
1 sweet red pepper, diced
1/2 cucumber, sliced and diced
1 cup frozen peas, rinsed in cold water and drained
2-3 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted*
2-3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted*
Optional: 1-2 cups chopped or shredded cooked chicken**
1 (3-ounce) bag uncooked ramen noodles, broken up into small pieces (discard flavor packet)

For dressing

1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

In large bowl, combine green or Napa cabbage, purple cabbage (missing from the photo above), carrots, sweet red pepper, cucumbers, peas, and scallions. In jar or salad dressing cruet, combine oil, sugar, vinegar, curry, salt, and pepper. Put lid on jar and shake to mix. Pour dressing over vegetable mixture. At this point, salad can be refrigerated until ready to serve. Just before serving, add toasted almonds and sesame seeds, and stir to combine. Stir in broken up ramen noodles. Serve.

*To toast almonds, spread on baking sheet and place is 325° Fahrenheit oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden. To toast sesame seeds, spread on baking sheet and bake in oven for 5 minutes or just until golden.

**NOTE: A roasted rotisserie chicken from the grocery store is a real time-saver, if you want to add meat to this recipe.

Mean Mexican Rice

FullSizeRenderWhat looks like a lonely little bowl of rice, is actually a culinary heavy hitter—filling for tacos, or a way to amp up rice as a side dish with any meal. We love this rice in our tacos (tortilla and guacamole recipes previously posted), and if you make it ahead of time and refrigerate (then microwave to serve again), you’ll have more time for chopping and grating all those fresh vegetables. Fresh tortillas, guac, and this rice recipe make the trifecta of tacos.

Not in the mood for tacos? This is a great little gluten-free side dish, to serve with grilled or roasted meat. It’s a side dish without a season—works well in summer or winter. I got this recipe from my friend Terri, and I do not know who or where she got it from. I’ve scribbled it on a piece of scrap note paper, with no indication of it’s origins. (Some of you have a neat box of recipe cards written in D’Nealian cursive, all wrapped in plastic sleeves. I envy you organized people. My recipe collection looks more like kidnapping ransom notes.)

Serves 6-8 as a side or 10-12 for tacos

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup white rice
1 can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups chicken stock (or 1 – 14-ounce can chicken broth)

In medium saucepan, heat onion in vegetable oil over high heat. Cook until onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Add rice, tomatoes, spices, and chicken stock and stir to combine. Leave heat on high until liquids start to boil, then turn down to low and let simmer for 20 minutes, covered.

NOTE: If you use vegetable stock instead of the chicken stock, this is a vegetarian recipe.