Monthly Archives: March, 2013

Not My Mom’s Fruit Salad

Not My Mom's Fruit SaladAs a kid you don’t really question the names of things, but as we grow older we may notice the inconsistencies of our language. Salad is one such inconsistency. As a child I never once pondered why a fruit dish heaped in whipped cream would be called salad and served with the main meal. Even as I learned to make whipped cream for said fruit dish, I never once questioned why it was called salad. It was what it was and I did not question it (I’m sure there is some existential story in here if I really dug for it). Perhaps it’s because my family didn’t eat many salads made from greens, they were too expensive. But at some point I asked, why do we call this salad?

This question grew when I first started visiting buffets and was baffled to find mousse and whipped cream at the salad bar. Aren’t they supposed to be on the dessert bar? Why do we call it chicken salad? Why do we call it egg salad? While you can argue the token celery and green onion in chicken salad, there were no vegetables in our egg salad.

The fruit salad my mom made was a monument to the 60s and 70s. The ingredients were easy: canned fruit salad (canned grapes are really, really sad), an apple, a banana, and as many maraschino cherries as you thought you could afford to include dressed with whipped cream. As whipped topping came down in price the whipped cream was replaced with whipped topping. Fruit salad was served at holiday dinners as part of the meal, not to be confused with the pie that we would have for dessert. By the next day it was a sad dish as the cream would have started to separate, the bananas turn brown and mushy, and you could see the poor canned grapes. All the maraschino cherries would have been dug out by then of course.

So this is not my mom’s fruit salad. I’m sure her original recipe would have called for coconut; however, since she did not like coconut ours never had it. Tropical fruit would have cost way too much when I was growing up and nobody but health nuts eat yogurt. This salad will last a couple days in the fridge without separating looking sad. I kept the maraschino cherries though, but you might want to wear gloves when you cut them in half. They can stain your nails. Continue reading →


Ginger Garlic Chicken Soup

101_5070This is just the soup for a weary soggy day or if you feel like you’re coming down with something or if you’re nursing someone who’s come down with something. I’d say that you want to make it when you come down with something, but I can tell you for sure that when I have a cold I’m not cooking something this complicated. If it involves much more than opening and heating, it’s too way to difficult when I’m sick. Plus, it makes me think of my dad. The first thing that he asked when we complained we were sick is if we had taken our vitamin C, the second is to ask how much garlic we’d been eating. I’m pretty sure he believed that vitamin C and garlic could cure just about anything.

Pho is my very favorite kind of soup. The broth is amazing, it doesn’t seem to matter what restaurant I go to. This isn’t quite it, but it’s darn close. I think cooking the seasonings into a paste before adding the liquid is the important part. The ingredients become incorporated in the broth rather than sitting in it. Of course starting with a good stock is important as well, but that’s another post. I think this soup would freeze well if you left out the noodles. Continue reading →

Thai Coleslaw

Thai ColeslawThis is my new favorite coleslaw. I had a heck of time naming this. I’m not comfortable naming something after a country/people/cuisine when I don’t know much about it. However, I finally went with Thai Coleslaw because it really does taste like something I would get at a Thai or Vietnamese restaurant and it’s much better than South East Asian Coleslaw.

I broke a few of my own rules to make this coleslaw such as no cucumbers or bell peppers outside of summer but I’m really glad I did. This will be a perfect salad for summer. This is a much better salad to take on a picnic than a dairy or mayonnaise based salad, vinegar holds up to the heat better.

Speaking of heat, I was surprised it didn’t turn out hotter. When I first tasted the dressing it was spicy, but the cabbage seems to tame it pretty well. If you want to make it spicier try adding some diced hot peppers to the salad or adding spicier or more hot peppers to the dressing. Continue reading →

Sausage Stuffed Squash

Sausage Stuffed SquashI really do loved stuffed squash; I’m not sure why I don’t do more of them. Well, I’m likely to as all those beautiful squashes I bought months ago (see Squash is Beautiful) are now telling me, “use me or lose me.”

What I like about this recipe is that I can section it up, do a little at a time. I think it would be a good recipe for when you invite friends over. You can do most of the work ahead and then just slip it in the oven to finish it off. That’s actually how I made this recipe. I roasted the squash one day, cooked the sausage mixture on another day, and put it all together to bake it the next. It’s also a way to still have a nice meal on a busy work week. Continue reading →

Curry Dressing

Yes, the monkey is sad there's no photo of the dressing as well. However, a sad monkey is far more interesting than a picture of dressing. It's hard to make dressing interesting in a photo especially when your eye is burning from capsaicin.

Yes, the monkey is sad there’s no photo of the dressing as well. However, a sad monkey is far more interesting than a picture of dressing. It’s hard to make dressing interesting in a photo especially when your eye is burning from capsaicin.

Have you had those days in the kitchen? I had one of those days in the kitchen. I had exactly what I was going to make all planned out. I cut up all the costarring ingredients only to find out my star ingredient had gone bad. Guess it’s been a few days longer than I thought. 😦

So then I decided to make this dressing. Curry is one of my favorite flavors and it’s something I always have in the house, only, I couldn’t find it. I took most of the stuff off my seasoning shelf and no curry. Seriously? I was tired, I was grumpy, my food wasn’t turning out right after lots of work and cleaning out the fridge to see what was actually still edible. There HAD to be curry. Of course there was, I just had to get a stool and nearly empty the cupboard before I could find it. Success! And tasty success it is!

Warning! This is a fiery dressing. Know how kitchen advice from professionals always tell you to wear gloves to cut up hot peppers? Ya, I never do that. It’s never been a problem, still isn’t. The advice that you should wash your hands immediately after handling them? That one I usually follow. Usually. Apparently not today. This information over at Livestrong is good stuff and what I ended up doing after touching the really sensitive skin around my eye (but thankfully not my eye!). Make sure you use a good quantity of soap and the aloe really does help. Somedays being in the kitchen isn’t for the faint of heart. Continue reading →

Roasted Creamed Parsnip Soup

Roasted Creamed Parsnip SoupSometimes being lazy pays off. Not the kind of lazy where you find yourself at the end of your weekend having not showered for days and the whole time spent watching movies or playing video games kind of lazy. Although, that kind of lazy is certainly okay and needed on occasion. I’m talking about the kind of lazy that says, “That sounds like a great recipe but too much work so I’ll make some shortcuts.” The second kind of lazy is what I choose today.

I was looking for a St. Patrick’s Day kind of recipe. Parsnips were a common food until the potato was introduced and remained popular until the 1900s. I also had a shload of parsnips in my fridge. I had bought several pounds from a farmer. Luckily parsnips last pretty much forever in the fridge and become sweeter with time. I found a recipe that sounded yummy but I was far too lazy to spend all that time sautéing the veg until it was tender. Since I was roasting I might as well add lots of garlic to the soup. And then I found out that the only onion I had was a red onion. I wasn’t sure what red onion would do to the color of the soup and didn’t want to find out but I remembered that I had a leek in the fridge. What could go better with parsnip and garlic than leek!

The result was a rich and creamy, yet low calorie soup. If you use a low or nonfat stock the only fat is the oil you roast in and you really don’t need that much. The soup is filling as well with a good dose of fiber.

Close-up:  Roasted Creamed Parsnip SoupThe soup went together relatively fast. Once the veg is cut up you can throw it in the oven, set the timer and go do something else. Once the roasting is done you basically just have to blend. Pureed soup always seems so fancy to me but it was pretty darn easy.

The flavors blended well, adding their notes to the chorus without overwhelming the parsnip flavor. I’m a bit of a garlic head so I will probably add more next time. If you are not a garlic head, this had just the right amount. I used homemade low fat stock that was full of flavor, if you use store bought stock you will want to consider adding a pinch of this or that to the stock as it heats. Continue reading →

Mini Funny Bunny Nutter Butter Cookie Pops by Munchkin Munchies


Nutter Butters are one of my all time favorite packaged cookies. I’m not sure that they would last long enough at my house to make something so cute but I had to share this post from Munchkin Munchies. They have the cutest cookies ever on their blog.

Find the how-to here.


Spicy Pineapple Salad with Shrimp Paste Dressing or WTH Happened!?!

Spicy Pineapple Salad with Shrimp Paste DressingI adore fresh pineapple. I like cucumber as well. Adding something spicy to these basic ingredients seemed like a good idea. I generally like foods from South East Asia, well, all of Asia really. And although I hadn’t cooked with it, shrimp paste seemed like it should be somewhat like fish sauce which I know I’ve had.

I tracked some dried shrimp paste down at the store and noticed that it seemed to have a pungent scent. I brought it home and put it in the cupboard until I bought the other ingredients. The next few times I opened the cupboard, I noticed it had a VERY pungent scent and I hoped it wasn’t causing trouble with the other food. It was all I could smell every time I opened those doors. It wasn’t particularly a bad smell, sort of like fish bouillon.

So I got all my ingredients together and opened the shrimp paste. This was when real concern started. It was wrapped in four layers of paper and plastic. The two plastic layers were sealed. I began to ponder something that could that strongly through so much wrapping but carried on, there was salad to be made! I mixed the dressing together and set it aside and then processed the other ingredients. Not wanting to waste a whole pineapple on something I might not like I tried the dressing before adding it. Hmm, it seemed okay. It seemed like something I would eat so I poured it over the salad and set it to chill.

I didn’t actually eat the salad that night; I had made too much other food. But I noticed that my fridge smelled fishy the rest of the night. The next morning I opened the fridge and about chocked, it smelled like rotten fish. I quickly got what I was after and shut it. A little later and much less bleary eyed, I checked on the salad again. It stunk. It smelled like rotten fish. I put a little in a bowl, determined to see if the pineapple could be saved. Now, I’m a fan of food and I and most of my friends consider my palate to be pretty wide. I like frog legs, I’m a fan of haggis, I’ll try anything at least once and probably twice just to make sure I don’t like. I tried one piece of pineapple but when I gagged on the second piece I decided I had tried enough and threw the whole stinking thing out. It tasted exactly like it smelled, like rotten fish.

Anyone familiar with shrimp paste? Did I do something wrong here? I have a whole block of it left and I hate to throw food out so I would gladly take suggestions! Continue reading →

Boursin Style Spread

Boursin Style Cheese SpreadTraditionally family holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, um…yep, those two I guess) we have celery stuffed with jar cheese. There are two kinds that we usually use, the white cheese stuff with pineapple and the yellow cheese stuff with pimento. For quite some time I’ve questioned what exactly this stuff is made of, not that I really want to know. I just have the uneasy feeling that it wasn’t really cheese and if it wasn’t really cheese what could it possibly be? I will say the empty jars make great glasses for kids. We always had a collection of “cheese glasses” that were used for kids or drinks in small quantities. They’re hard to break and, at least use to be, decorative.

My brother even branched out a couple times and bought packaged cheese balls when he was requested to pick up the cheese for the celery. It doesn’t really work very well, doesn’t spread like it should for this job, and again, I’m not really sure it’s cheese or mostly cheese.

This last Christmas was the first without Mom. All kinds of things were up in the air, different people cooked the feast, it was even more potluck than it usually is, so I thought I would break the jar cheese tradition.

This recipe contains real cheese, well, cream cheese. The point being, I know what’s in it. It might not be good for me from a nutritional stand point, but at least I can pronounce it. It has a much more complex flavor than the jar cheese. That’s okay; our tastes have changed a bit from the bland 70s. And while it will last for a while in the fridge, it won’t last forever on the shelf.

The Boursin style spread is not only good for stuffing celery, but as a dip, or even a really tasty sandwich spread. Continue reading →