kid-friendly · Recipes

Classic Potato Salad

What else says summer like potato salad? My mom makes the hands-down yummiest, but if you can’t have hers, this is the next best thing.

I think potatoes get a bad rap: branded as a pound-packer since the low-carb craze of the early 2000s, potatoes are in fact quite nutrient dense, especially if you keep the skin on as I do in this recipe. Full of fiber and potassium, potatoes can absolutely be part of a healthy diet — especially for vegetarians — if you keep portion sizes in check and watch the fattening add-ons like sour cream, bacon, cheese, and Miracle Whip (back away from the fake spreads!) This recipe derives flavor from lots of ingredients, from green onions to pickles and celery, and cuts the mayo dressing with bright Dijon mustard. You won’t miss one ounce of creamy texture, but you will get just enough zip to perk up the whole dish without tipping over into spicy territory. Serve cold or at room temperature ~ enjoy!

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Classic Potato Salad

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 pounds red potatoes, skin on, cut into quarters
  • 3-4 eggs, hard boiled
  • 1 small onion (red or yellow), diced; or use a bunch of scallions/green onions
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 8 small sweet pickles, chopped
  • 2/3 Cup mayonnaise
  • 2 TBSP Dijon (OR 1 TBSP each Dijon and Yellow, to reduce spice)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: fresh or dried dill for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Set the eggs on to boil if you haven’t any on hand, and then place a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil. Meanwhile, prep your other ingredients.

Quarters the potatoes. Small dice the onions and set aside in a small bowl of water to take the bite out of them. Chop the celery and the pickles and set aside.

Cook the potatoes in the boiling water for about 10 minutes or until fork tender. (Note: if you prefer to cook whole potatoes and chop after, allow for 30 minutes cooking time.) Drain and set aside to cool.

Once cool, stir in the pickles, celery, onion, eggs (discarding the water they soaked in), mustard and mayo, and stir together, seasoning to taste. I like to half-mash them to break up the texture so it’s somewhere between chunky and smooth. You can do anything for complete mashing to leaving the potatoes in big pieces. Top with fresh dill if using.

Serves a good sized crowd, and will stay good in the fridge for a week. 

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There are a few ways Potato Salad can go wrong.

Choice of spud is key: russets aren’t really your best bet, because they turn to slop so quickly. I’m a fan of catching that texture somewhere in between total mush and in-tact crunch, so something like a red bliss, fingerling, or even purple potato is better for me. The less starchy, the better. You’d want to pick a high-starch Russet for nice, fluffy mashed potatoes, but not so much for a salad where it’s important they hold their shape.

Fresh eggs, boiled just before you are about to make the salad, taste better.

I normally don’t do this, but seasoning the water for boiling the potatoes is key. Potatoes can end up pretty bland if you don’t salt the water. You can make sure you don’t damage your pans by adding the salt after the water is at a rolling boil, and before you add the potatoes to cook.

Let the potatoes cool off a bit before adding the mayo. If you add it too quickly while they are still warm, it can change the consistency of the dressing and turn it a bit oily. You can also use Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise if you prefer.

Finally, as I said above, I really feel like Miracle Whip is never the right choice, but I won’t judge too harshly those who disagree. 😉

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If you are in Boston, stay cool in the heat wave that’s just starting up. And happy Amazon Prime Day! What deals do you have your eye on? Popular items seem to be the Echo and the Instant Pot. There are also deals to be had on the Fire TV stick and kids tablets, if you’re in the market for one. On the food front, I might check out the markdown on a stainless pasta maker or a stand mixer. Personally, I’ll probably end up buying something boring like diapers or work shoes for myself; the dress form I really want is not on sale for Prime Day, unfortunately!

Don’t forget to also mark your calendars for the other big sale that happens this time of year — the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. It is not to be missed and I’m already hard at work making my virtual wish list. 🙂

Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes · Uncategorized

Healthy Green Smoothie

Happy almost weekend! I’ve come down with a summer cold, so I’m stepping up my eating habits to nourish myself back to health. Nothing helps kick an icky illness better than eating right and resting. The body needs real food to recover! Sunday night, when I felt this one coming on, Georgia and I grabbed the last lettuce from the garden and some fruit from our weekend grocery haul, and got down to business. This smoothie is refreshing, re-hydrating, energizing and nutritious. Sip happily!

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Green Smoothie

Makes enough for two servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 slices watermelon
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 apple, cored and quartered
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 head of romaine, rough chopped
  • optional: 1 celery stalk, chopped (I love adding celery to smoothies :))

Using a fresh banana is fine, too. You may want to add a couple ice cubes to keep it cold if you do that. Subbing a lime for the lemon is also OK; you can also swap the romaine for any kind of lettuce, and any type of apple will do. This is a flexible smoothie that tastes sweet, not super green. My only advice would be to keep water as the base or it will get too heavy and won’t have the same smooth drinkability.

DIRECTIONS

Adding the water, lemon juice and watermelon first, then the other ingredients, blend on high until smooth. Enjoy cold! Keeps well for up to a week in the fridge, or double and freeze extras to have throughout the week.

🎉 Happy Independence Day everyone! 🎉

 

 

Baby & Toddler · Grow Your Own Way · Recipes

Sneaking veggies into food (with toddler-friendly risotto recipe)

Well, I suppose it was inevitable: the day where my toddler figured out junk food exists in the world, and that she’d prefer to eat cookies, fruit juice and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese than mom’s home cooking. Hoping it’s just a short-lived phase, I’ve adapted by sneaking in greens where I can and holding a firm line on her requests to snack the day away. “More?” “Cookie!” and “Mine” are her new favorite words, especially when pointing to mom’s coffee, a bag of fruit snacks or (cringe) the drive-through menu.

There are a couple key things I’ve done to get through this temporary eating issue.

One is to make smoothies with greens like celery and lettuce blended in, since they add nutrients without turning the flavor detectably non-fruity.

Secondly, we’ve gone back to sending fruit & veggie pouches to daycare for snack time. She sucks them down as readily as her applesauce pouches without realizing there are greens mixed in with those pears and apples.

Since she loves mac n’ cheese so much, I’ve tried to make my own more often, and to buy better boxed versions from Trader Joe’s and Annie’s — as well as to mix in peas, diced green beans or broccoli, since covering them with cheese seems to get her to accept more veggies. 

I also shredded carrots into my homemade marinara, and she was none the wiser.

Finally, last week I realized I had a very adaptable recipe in my arsenal: risotto. By finely dicing carrots, onions, celery and celery greens with cut up sweet chicken-apple sausage, and swirling in a spoon full of low-fat cream cheese right at the end, I made a toddler-friendly version of one of our favorite dishes.

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She not only finished some off of our plates, she ate it by herself for lunch the next day, and even scooped a handful out of my bag while I was packing up leftovers to take to work! So we know it’s a keeper.

Here are my other two favorite risotto recipes:

An important note: I do choose to leave in the step with white wine, even while cooking for Georgia, because it’s a critical component to the final texture of the arborio rice. However, omitting it won’t ruin the dish completely, if that’s what you’d prefer to do.

In other news, Mark and Georgia planted our garden this weekend! This year, we are having strawberries, peas, tomatoes and basil:

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This is a kid who loves getting her hands dirty! I went online pretty much right away and ordered her this gardening play set from Green Toys, and already it’s a huge hit. She loves to help daddy with the soil, seeds and plants!

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Have a great week everyone and get out there to enjoy some nice weather now that it’s here to stay 🙂

Holidays · Recipes

Eating Fish on Good Friday?

Allow me to share my two favorite seafood recipes for any last-minute Good Friday cooks out there (with apologies for the 2012-style fuzzy photo in the second dish). These really are scrumptious and easy to pull together.

Seafood Pasta Baked in Foil, adapted from the Pioneer Woman

Are you eschewing meat entirely this Lent? Allow me to share with you my favorite meat-free risotto recipe.

Springtime Risotto

However and whatever you’re celebrating, have a lovely weekend and enjoy your family, friends and food. XOXO

Recipes

Belgian Salad

This recipe comes to me from my aunt who lives in Florida and hosts lots of casual cookouts and parties. This is a great dish to bring to a barbecue because it doesn’t spoil, since there’s no mayo or sour cream or any other protein/dairy in it. The marinade adds a nice tang to the crisp veggies!

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Belgian Salad

  • Prep Time: 10 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 Minutes
  • Ready In: 8 Hours 20 Minutes
  • Servings: 10

Says my aunt, “this is a refreshingly sweet side dish of baby peas, white corn, green beans and pimentos, all tossed together with a simple sweet n’ sour vinaigrette. Using all canned vegetables, this is a snap to prepare and has wonderful flavor after marinating overnight. It does not taste like canned veggies and you get a variety of crunch in every serving.”

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can green beans, drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can baby peas
  • 1 (15 ounce) can white corn, drained
  • 1 (2 ounce) jar pimentos, drained
  • 1 cup chopped celery, plus the leafy green tops if available
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

1. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring oil, vinegar, and sugar to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Refrigerate for one hour.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the drained green beans, peas, corn, pimentos, celery, and onion. (I actually put my canned veggies in my colander and let them drain while I am chopping the fresh onions and celery). Combine them all in a big bowl then pour the dressing over the top and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Before serving, drain the marinade. Season with salt and pepper, and serve chilled.

This easily feeds 10-15; double the recipe to feed a crowd of 20 or more. Enjoy!

Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes

Raspberry Celery Smoothie

You might remember a couple months ago when I made some raspberry beer punch to take to a party. I had leftovers of both the frozen raspberries and the frozen lemonade, so I just put them in one container in the freezer and figured I’d find a use for them eventually. Well, when I blogged about how to make cashew cream in May, I decided to see what cashew cream would taste like in a smoothie…and then I rememberd my frozen raspberries.

Blended together with some refreshing celery for a touch of green, these simple ingredients balance one another’s flavors so well that I think this is the yummiest smoothie I’ve ever made. Granted, it’s not the healthiest since there’s frozen lemonade in there, but taste-wise it’s my new favorite. Try it for yourself!

Raspberry Celery Smoothie

INGREDIENTS

  • 3-5 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 cup frozen raspberry lemonade (from concentrate)
  • 1/2 cup cashew cream
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • water if necessary for texture/consistency

DIRECTIONS

Blend all ingredients together until smooth, adjusting amounts to taste. Serve cold.

kid-friendly · Recipes

Springtime Risotto

Risotto isn’t anywhere near as difficult to make as some people would have you believe. Once you master the basic techniques, you’ll find it’s easy to make it your own. It’s truly an all season food ~ I have summer and winter versions, and I’m always inventing new recipes!

The thing I love most about risotto is how easily it feeds a crowd and makes fabulous leftovers. In fact, I prefer eating day-old risotto to a freshly made batch; the flavors just blend together so nicely.

My spring risotto included leeks, peas, celery and lemon; I was looking for good asparagus but left it out because everything I found looked a bit tired.

I also make a fall version with roasted red peppers and sundried tomato chicken sausage. It’s super hearty and my husband loves it. Experiment to your heart’s content!

The first thing to know about making risotto is that you need a handful of essential ingredients before you can customize. You’ll want to use arborio rice; it usually comes in a cardboard carton, vacuum sealed, and can be found either with the other rices or in the ethnic/organic section of major food markets, depending on where you go. I buy mine at Trader Joe’s because their packaging is exactly the amount of rice you need for one batch (about two cups). Arborio rice is an Italian short-grain rice that is high in starch and absorbs lots of liquid to give you a creamy finished product. When I lived in Italy, I learned that risotto is truly a staple — you can throw just about any leftover veggies into it, and it reheats very well as I mentioned. The children in my host family ate it most days of the week when they came home from school for lunch.

The second thing you need is broth — chicken or vegetable, either works fine. You’ll either need two cans or one of the cardboard cartons. I don’t recommend getting low sodium, unless you are on a strict heart-related diet, but fat free and/or gluten free versions (like the one above) are just fine. To get started, set a pot of stock on to boil while you chop your other ingredients. Once the stock boils, you’ll want to keep it at a medium simmer — not so high that it starts to burn off, but not so low that it cools down, either. You need it hot to mix into the risotto properly.

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The second thing you need is a chopped onion. In this case, I used leeks. While your stock is boiling, chop your onion and add to a large stock pot with equal parts olive oil and butter. Be liberal here — you really need it to coat the onion and bubble up when heated. The olive oil and butter keep each other from burning. You’ll start by sauteeing the onion over medium-high until translucent.

Next, you will pour all the arborio rice into the pot and stir immediately so it doesn’t stick. Why do this? The butter and olive oil actually coat the arborio rice and prevent it from getting soggy, which might happen if you started adding liquid right away.

Then, pour in a healthy glug of white wine. Just eyeball it; you’ll almost always use white, unless you are making something so meat- or seafood-heavy that only red makes sense. Stir until the wine burns off, just a minute or so. Get a measuring cup ready — after the wine burns off, you’re going to add a cup of water to the pan and stir.

Now there’s two ways you can go from here. If, like me, you’re using things that would benefit from longer cooking — like celery — you can add them in at this point, before you start adding the stock to the pan. If you are mixing in meat, I’d cook that in a separate pan and add it in the end; anything you don’t want to get soggy you won’t cook with the risotto. Most things fall into that category. Celery just happens to be pretty tough. Since I was also using a package of frozen peas, I tossed them in at this stage, too, so they could cook alongside the rice and celery.

Now it’s time to add the broth! It should be simmering away on medium-low. Using your measuring cup, add it one cup at a time, and stir the rice slowly until the liquid is absorbed. Then repeat. I don’t recommend leaving the room for longer than a minute or the rice could stick to the bottom of the pan — death to your risotto! If there’s one thing you can’t rescue, it’s burned rice. But don’t get sneaky and add too much veggie stock at once, either, because risotto is fickle that way. You have to go slow.

Once all your broth is gone, you’ll want to do a taste test. Check the risotto for tenderness. You want it to be al dente; a little pushback when you bite, somewhere between mushy and hard. If it’s still doesn’t taste done, then you can add water from here on out, tasting after every cupful to get the right texture. If you are cooking veggies or meat on the side, now would be the time to add them in. For my spring risotto, now was the time to add fresh squeezed lemon.

When you’re done, it’s time to add in grated cheese. Before you do this, you can also add salt and pepper to taste. Some people like to stir in a creamy element at this point, such as mascarpone cheese, but I prefer not to. Up to you!

Now if you decide you like your risotto more luiquid-y, that’s fine. Some people prefer a porridge feel, and that’s just as good. I wouldn’t skimp on cheese either way; I mix in a blend of parmesan and pecorino, because pecorino lends a nice salty bite that cuts the inherent blandness of a dish like risotto. Of course, fresh basil is always a good option.

Springtime Risotto

hands on time: 30-40 minutes // serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package of arborio rice, about 2 cups
  • 1 onion, chopped, or one bunch of leeks, sliced
  • 1 large carton (or 2 cans) of vegetable broth (chicken stock is OK too)
  • 1 small package of frozen peas
  • 4-6 stalks celery, diced
  • freshly shaved parmesan and pecorino (or just use one of these)
  • water
  • EVOO & butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS 

Set a sauce pan on medium-high and pour in the stock. Once it reaches boiling, reduce heat and keep the stock at a low simmer, so it doesn’t burn off  but stays warm.

Meanwhile, chop your leeks and add them to a large stock pot with equal parts olive oil and butter; stir until melted, well coated and translucent. Salt well to help leeks release their flavors.

Pour a healthy splash of white wine into the pan and stir to reduce. Next, add about a cup of water and stir until absorbed.

Add the celery and peas and stir to combine. Then, start adding the simmering stock, one cupful at a time, stirring constantly to prevent sticking.

Once the stock is gone, taste test; if the rice is too al dente, add water gradually until it achieves the right texture — firm but not stiff, and before it gets soggy.

Squeeze one organic lemon into the pan and stir.

Grate parmesan and pecorino directly into the pan. Pick a not-too-small grater and be heavy handed with the cheese.

Taste; add salt and pepper if needed.

Optional: Stir in a spoonful of mascarpone or cream cheese. I don’t do this; it’s a tad too Americanized for me. If anything, a drizzle of excellent olive oil is more authentic, as would be some freshly torn basil.

Serve with white wine and enjoy leftovers the next day!