Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Musings on the Instantpot

I made chicken jambalaya the other night for dinner. It's one of my favorite one pot dishes but I haven't made it much the last couple of years because Sarah doesn't like it. I think I've already made it twice this fall. It's a really easy recipe, cook the veggies, add the broth, rice, and seasonings, let it cook then add cooked chicken at the end and heat through. Easy.

So as I was cooking it the other night I was thinking that this was a dish I could probably make in my instantpot - sauté the veggies, add the rest of the stuff, cook for some amount of time, add the chicken. But the more I thought about it I began to wonder why? It wouldn't really save me that much time and it's so easy as it is. I think it would save only a few minutes and it would save stirring a couple of times. But is it worth it? I don't think so and this is why I'm not in love with the instantpot.

Except that it makes perfect hard boiled eggs I haven't really found a reason to love my instantpot. I did makes beans again and this time they came out much better. I think it's just a different way of cooking, learning different recipes, and I still haven't put in a concerted effort. The example above of the jambalaya is one case of why I'm not jumping on the bandwagon. Another is a beef and broccoli dish I made. It was good in the instantpot, although I remember thinking it was kind of a pain to sauté the meat, take it out, then put everything in to cook. Another time I was making the same dish, didn't feel like pulling out the instantpot and make it in a skillet. It worked just fine, was just as fast if not faster since the skillet could fit all the meat in it at once. I'm just not sold.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Rolls

The perfect fall breakfast, pumpkin flavors in a cinnamon roll. These are easy to make ahead the night before; let them rise in the fridge overnight, then pop in the oven in the morning to finish rising and bake.

Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Rolls
makes 8

For the rolls:
1/4 c warm water
2 1/4 tsp yeast
2 Tbsp sugar
3 c flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 c pureed pumpkin
1/4 c white sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp melted butter

For the filling:
3 Tbsp melted butter
1 c brown sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 c maple syrup

Combine the warm water, yeast, and the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir gently just until all the yeast is moistened then set aside for 3-5 minutes. In a separate bowl, add the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sea salt and mix until combined.

To the yeast mixture add the pumpkin, egg, sugar, and melted butter. Dump the dry ingredients into the bowl of the mixer on top of the wet ingredients. Using the dough hook, turn the mixer on low to combine the ingredients into a soft, sticky dough. Knead for about 5 minutes; if the dough seems a little too sticky add a bit of flour, up to 1/4 cup.

Remove the dough hook, form the dough into a ball, and return to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, place in a warm, dry place and let rise for 90 minutes or until it has doubled.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface into a large square, about 18 by 18 inches. Combing the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Brush the melted butter over the dough then spread the brown sugar mixture over. Roll the dough up gently then slice into 8 equal slices.

Grease a round cake pan with some butter. Drizzle the maple syrup over the bottom of the pan and place the rolls in the pan. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap to rise.

To bake now - let the rolls rise about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350* and bake 25-30 minutes.

To bake later - place the covered rolls into the fridge. When ready to bake, set the oven to 350* and place the rolls in while it's preheating. Once the oven reaches 350* set the timer for 25-30 minutes.

When the rolls are done turn them out onto a plate for serving, letting the maple syrup drip over the rolls.

modified from The Busy Baker

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Roasted Butternut Squash with Baby Spinach & Cranberries

I found this recipe in Wegman's magazine, the Thanksgiving issue. It looked good and since I'm not cooking Thanksgiving dinner and we both love squash I thought I'd make it tonight. I don't usually do "fancy" side veggie dishes during the week but this was worth the bit of extra effort. It was easy to make and I cooked the chicken as the same time; one way to ensure all the dishes are ready at the same time. I modified the recipe from Wegman's and now it's one of those "use a bit of this, a handful of that" kind of recipes.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Baby Spinach & Cranberries

1 medium butternut squash, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 red onion, chopped
olive oil
salt & pepper
a couple of handfuls of baby spinach
1/3 c dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 400*. Toss the squash and onion with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 35-40 minutes until lightly browned and tender. Put the squash into a bowl, add spinach and dried cranberries then toss to combine.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

White Bean Tuna Salad

Summer has hung around too long this year and this was a great late summer salad. Beans and tuna for protein, an easy dressing, very refreshing. Great served with some crusty bread.

White Bean Tuna Salad
serves 4

1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and
2 5 oz. cans tuna packed in water, drained
2 cups lightly packed arugula or spinach
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 c red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dried leaf oregano, crushed
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 lemon

In a large bowl combine, beans, tuna, arugula, red onion, and parsley. For dressing, in a screw top jar combine vinegar, oil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Shake well to combine. Pour dressing over tuna mixture; toss gently to combine. Squeeze juice from half of the lemon over salad.

from Better Homes & Gardens

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Barley, Black Bean, and Corn Burritos

It's been a while since I've made these but they're really good, freeze well, and it makes a lot of burritos. Plus they're easy since the filling is cooked in the crockpot. I need to make some soon so I can take them to work for lunch.

Barley, Black Bean, and Corn Burritos
makes 18 burritos

15 oz black beans, drained and rinsed
10 oz diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
1 c barley, uncooked (not the quick cooking type)
2 c chicken broth
3/4 c frozen corn
1/4 c green onion, chopped
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 c cilantro, chopped
18 small flour tortillas
1 c sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
for serving - salsa and sour cream

Place first 11 ingredients in crockpot, stir well. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Stir in cilantro.

If serving right away heat the tortillas according to package directions. Spoon 1/3 cup of the barley mixture down the center of each tortilla, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of cheese, and roll up. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

If making to freeze, spoon 1/3 cup of the barley mixture down the center of each tortilla, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of cheese, and roll up. Roll the burrito in wax paper and place in a zip lock freezer bag. Reheat in the microwave for 2-3 minutes depending on your microwave or in the oven at 350* for 20 minutes or until hot. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Instantpot Beef and Broccoli

Last week I told Jen, my cousin's wife, that I was about to give up on my instantpot. It's great for hard boiled eggs, the corn came out good, rice has done well, but some other things it's really not worked well for me - beans were totally a mixed bag, chicken didn't work well. I made one other recipe that worked fine but we just didn't like it. She insisted that I had to try this one before I give up. Honestly? I'm still not sold on it. Ok, the dish was really good but the work to get it there? I don't think it really saved me any time; I could have cooked it up in my wok in just about the same time or less. I'm still on the fence, sorry, Jen!

I'll still post the recipe here so I can find it again because it was good.

Beef and Broccoli
serves 6

1 1/2 lbs boneless beef chuck roast, well trimmed and sliced into thin strips
salt & pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c beef broth
1/2 c soy sauce
1/3 c brown sugar
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 lb broccoli florets
3 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp cornstarch
toasted sesame seeds for garnish, optional

Season beef with salt and pepper. Put olive oil in the cooking pot and select sauté. When oil begins to sizzle, brown meat in batches until all the meat is browned - do not crowd the meat. Transfer meat to a plate when browned.

When all the meat is browned add chopped onion to the pot. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes until the onion starts to soften. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute more. Add beef broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes to the pot Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add browned beef and any accumulated juices. Select High Pressure and set timer for 12 minutes.

Place broccoli in microwave-safe bowl with 1/4 c water. Microwave 3-4 minutes until broccoli is tender.

When beep sounds turn the instantpot off and use quick pressure release. When valve drops carefully remove the lid.

In a small bowl/cup combine cornstarch and water, stirring until smooth. Add to pot and stir well to combine. Select sauté and stir until sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Add steamed broccoli and stir to combine.

Serve hot over cooked rice and garnish with sesame seeds.

Notes: You can use flank steak, skirt steak, or London boil instead of chuck roast. Freeze the meat for about 15 minutes to make slicing thinly easier.

Nan's Chocolate Mousse

This is such an easy and delicious dessert. It can be a bit on the sweet side so don't make it into two portions, not matter how much you want to! Just a little is enough. It's a great dessert for that romantic dinner you're planning.

Nan's Chocolate Mousse
serves 4

1 6-oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 c whole milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp Grand Marnier, etc (optional)
1 egg
2 Tbsp sugar

Dump all the dry ingredients and the egg into a blender. Heat milk to scalding*. Add milk to blender; whir for about 1 minute. Pour into custard cups, fancy drink glasses, etc. and chill until set. A shaved curl of orange peel or a small dollop of whipped cream is a nice garnish.

*I zapped mine in the microwave for 2 minutes, makes it plenty hot.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Chicken and Spinach Quesadillas

It's been over the top hot here. Like crazy hot and humid, not wanting to cook anything hot. But eating still has to happen. I was mulling over what to make, what I had in the fridge, what was easy that didn't require the oven or grill and these quesadillas were born. They were really good!

Chicken and Spinach Quesadillas

sliced mushrooms
minced garlic
olive oil
baby spinach
sliced or chopped cooked chicken
shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the mushrooms. Sauté for a couple of minutes then add the garlic and a sprinkle of salt, sauté for another minute or two and add a couple of handfuls of spinach. Cook until the spinach wilts.

Layer a tortilla, some cheese, cover with some of the spinach mixture, add some chicken, then more cheese and a top tortilla. Cook on a griddle until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are nicely browned.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Black Bean Shrimp and Rice

I had a night last week when I was the only one home for dinner and this recipe had just come across my path. Figured it was good for a night alone although Sarah would have liked it as well. It does make four servings, which was perfect last week - dinner one night, lunch a couple of other days.

Cilantro-Lime Black Bean Shrimp and Rice
serves 4

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

2 c chicken broth
1 c uncooked Jasmine rice
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 c fresh cilantro, chopped
garnish - extra lime juice and cilantro

Heat a large skillet until hot on medium heat; add olive oil. When it's hot add the shrimp and garlic to the skillet, making sure it isn't crowded; sprinkle salt and red pepper over shrimp. Cook shrimp, stirring once or twice, on medium heat about 3-4 minutes total until pink in color. Remove shrimp from the skillet to a plate.

To the same skillet add chicken broth, rice, and 1/4 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low. Cover the skillet with a lid and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the rice is cooked through. You might need to add 1/2 c water if the rice is not completely cooked when all the broth is absorbed. Mix in the lime juice, black beans, and cilantro into the cooked rice.

Add extra lime juice, about 1 tablespoon, and extra chopped cilantro to the plate with the shrimp; mix to coat the shrimp. Add the shrimp to the skillet with rice and gently reheat.

from Julia's Album

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Day in the Kitchen

It feels like I spent the day in the kitchen (and no photos to show for it!). I didn't but it sure feels that way. I made banana muffins this morning to use up some going brown bananas. They were really good this morning, not sure what I did different.

Tonight was making food for tomorrow. I will be away tomorrow but the girls and some friends from camp are here and will need lunch after church, before they head back to camp. I made one of Whitney's favorite dishes, Sesame Ginger Chicken Pasta. One thing we decided about this is that the ginger isn't a strong enough flavor so this time instead of using ground ginger I used fresh ginger (although I'm thinking maybe I should have used a bit more than I did). So that's made and in the fridge. I left them simple directions - give it a toss, add the sesame seeds, and if they want cook up some broccoli and toss it in. This is a dish that is good hot or cold so it works well making it ahead.

The other thing I made tonight was pumpkin scones. Yes, it's that time of year. The girls are working at camp and Whitney doesn't generally eat breakfast, although she's getting better about it especially at camp. But she doesn't really like camp's breakfasts and she usually has to eat on the go. I've been making her chocolate chip scones but she's still got a couple from last week and I have some in the freezer so she's good this week. Sarah wanted pumpkin so those are in the oven right now. Yep, late night baking.

Now that I'm working part time and it's usually just Bob and I here for dinner I need to look over my pinterest boards and find quick, easy things to make for dinner. Leftovers will be good for lunches so that won't be an issue cooking for two.

And now my house smells deliciously like fall!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Instant Pot, Again

My love-hate relationship with my instant pot continues. I decided to make chicken quesadillas for dinner last night and my cousin's wife posted a while back about cooking chicken in the instant pot then using her Kitchen Aid to shred it. I figured it would be easy-peasy. Not so much. The instructions she linked to said they cooked 6 pounds of chicken for 12 minutes on high pressure. I had five chicken breasts, probably about 4.5 pounds, and cooked them for 12 minutes. Two were cooked perfectly, the other three weren't cooked all the way through. I shredded (with a knife) the two I needed for dinner and put the others in the microwave to finish cooking. Not really saving myself much time there. When the others were done I shredded them and packed them to freeze for another couple of meals later.

Impressions this time? The chicken that cooked was nice and juicy but the fact that I had to finish them in the microwave was a disappointment. The adventures will continue and hopefully I'll find something besides hard boiled eggs that comes out perfect.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Instantpot, Take 2

I am still super on the fence about the instant pot. I'll admit it makes super great hard boiled eggs, but it's an expensive way to do that. As for regular food I've definitely had mixed results. The one chicken dish I made came out fine (it was the recipe that needed tweaking for more flavor, not the instant pot). I cooked dried beans, total mixed bag, literally. Some of the beans were still hard, some were perfect, some were overcooked. I took my favorite black bean soup, read a similar recipe on Food Network so I could adjust mine to the instant pot and it came out great, even starting with dried beans.

I've seen people say that they throw frozen food in, adjust the cooking time a bit longer, and it comes out fine. Didn't work so fine here. Last night I was going to make sesame chicken and my chicken thighs were frozen. Looked at some recipes, estimated the cooking time, threw in the ingredients, and hoped for the best. Big fail! I'm just glad dinner was edible. After I released the pressure and took the lid off, the chicken was only partly cooked and the sauce was seriously starting to burn on the bottom of the pot. Big bummer. I took the thighs out and finished them cooking on the stove and rescued what sauce I could. At least with the finish of the pot it cleaned up easy. I think the main problem last night was that the thighs were frozen in a block, not individual, and I couldn't get them apart. Although really, I'm not sure it would have gone any better if they were individual frozen blocks; I think the sauce still would have burned anyway.

At this point I think I'll keep it and keep searching out recipes, trying them but I'm not wowed by the instant pot.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Key Lime Bars

Happy Easter! For dinner today we had grilled pork tenderloin (just salt & pepper on the grill, so good!), bacon wrapped asparagus, and rice with leeks. I totally forgot to put out the fruit salad that my mom made. For dessert my mom brought pineapple upside down cake and I made key lime bars. I had made them a while back for something at church and they were so good. They're a quick and easy take on key lime pie, which I love, and they also are just the right portion size. Actually I should probably call them "key" lime bars since I used regular limes, not key limes. The recipe is sort of a combo of two different ones from Martha Stewart.

Key Lime Bars
makes 9-16 bars depending on how small you cut them

4 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 c sugar
1 sleeve graham crackers, broken
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1/2 lime

2 egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c fresh lime juice (about 5 limes)
whipped cream (optional topping)

Preheat oven to 350*. Blend graham crackers in a food processor to get crumbs. Mix all crust ingredients together. Butter the bottom of an 8x8 pan and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides. Press crust into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool, about 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and condensed milk. Add the lime juice and whisk until smooth. Pour filling into cooled crust; carefully spread to edges. Bake until set, about 15 minutes. Cool in pan, then chill at least an hour before serving. Lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into 9 medium or 16 small squares. Top with a spoonful of whipped cream before serving.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Irish Week

Last week was Irish week around here; most nights I made something Irish for dinner. One was a hit but the rest were so-so and of course the corned beef on Friday for St. Patrick's day was delish. I'm not sure what exactly it was we didn't like about the first few recipes, maybe the Guinness (which is always better on draft), maybe some other ingredient or mix of ingredients. Nothing was horrible and maybe a few tweaks would make them better.

We tried bangers and mash with Guinness gravy. I think the problem with this recipe is that the Worcestershire sauce was a bit strong and just overpowered the Guinness a bit. It was still good, I'd probably make this one again, cutting back on the Worcestershire.

Another day was beef and stout pie. I think the problem here was operator error. I should have cut the puff pastry larger so it sat more on the dish and didn't sink into the stew. This one will probably be made again.

The Irish potato pie was probably the big hit, although this one did have it's issues as well. It ended up on the greasy side, partly because the directions weren't totally clear. It has bacon in it as well as a lot of butter to cook the potatoes in initially. I think the grease needs to be drained/left out when you pour the potatoes into the puff pastry. Really good flavor in this though. Definitely will try this one again.

We finished the week with corned beef and cabbage with roasted potatoes and carrots. As always it was really good. I love my crockpot for cooking corned beef; put it in in the morning on low and it's ready at dinner time. I used the leftover corned beef and potatoes to make hash Saturday morning and the leftover cabbage was chopped up and cooked with bacon for a quick easy dinner Saturday night.

All in all a good week of eating.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Slow Cooker Enchilada Quinoa

I used the instantpot again. I hadn't really planned to the other night but it fit the need. I was looking for a Mexican recipe but didn't want chicken since it was on the menu a couple of other times last week. I found something I thought looked good (we'll see how the other two like it) and it was made in the crockpot. Sarah said to make it in the instantpot so I could test out all the functions. Good idea there. Plus it was easy - the instantpot was on the dining room table while my crockpot is put away in the cabinet. We'll see how this works out, especially since I got things going a bit late.

After making this I'm not sure it's a total keeper but it was good. Sarah and I thought it needed more heat/spice/something (I used regular fire-roasted tomatoes since I couldn't find ones with chiles and I used mild enchilada sauce in deference to Bob). I'm not sure Bob liked it much at all. As for the instantpot it worked fine as a crockpot; could have just as easily have made it in a crockpot.

Slow Cooker Enchilada Quinoa
serves 4-6

1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can yellow corn, drained
2 15-oz cans mild or medium enchilada sauce
1 15-oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles
1 c uncooked quinoa + 1/2 c water
4 oz cream cheese (light is fine), room temperature
salt & pepper to taste
1 c shredded Mexican style cheese
optional - chopped cilantro, diced tomatoes, diced avocado, sour cream

Stir together the beans, corn, 1 can of enchilada sauce, fire roasted tomatoes, quinoa, water, cream cheese, salt, and pepper. Mix well to make sure the cream cheese is mixed in. Pour remaining can of enchilada sauce on top, then sprinkle with cheese. Cover and cook on high 4-5 hours or low for 6-7 hours. Uncover, top with cilantro, tomatoes, avocado, and sour cream.

from Creme de la Crumb

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Instantpot Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I used my instant pot again today. Still have mixed feelings about it. I don't think it really was any faster to make mashed potatoes in it (really all you're doing is cooking the potatoes, you still have to mash them). The one advantage of cooking the potatoes this way is that you avoid the messy boil over that usually happens, at least when I'm boiling potatoes. This would come in handy at Thanksgiving or some other time when I have a lot of things going on the stove but still need to get the potatoes cooked.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

5-6 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 c chicken broth or water
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 milk (may need more)
salt & pepper

Put the potatoes, broth, and garlic into the instantpot. Cook on high manual pressure for 25 minutes then do a quick release. Drain and put into a bowl; add milk and butter and mash. Add more milk if needed to make them creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Note: you can use more or less potatoes and still cook them the same amount of time

Saturday, March 4, 2017


Like so many others I got an Instantpot for Christmas. I'll admit I was really on the fence asking for one because I wasn't sure I'd get much use from it. I've got a crockpot I like, it will be just the hubby and I soon, and did I really need another appliance in the kitchen. I'm still on the fence but I've at least by this point pulled it out of the box and used it to make hard boiled eggs several times. I also cooked beans once but that had mixed results.

I've decided, after some nudging from my cousin, that I need to get on the stick and use it. I have several things on the menu this week to give it a try. Tonight I'm making Asian sesame chicken, one day for lunch this week I'm going to make sweet potatoes, and I have about three other recipes that I want to look through and decide which one to try.

I think one of my issues is that my crockpot is either bigger or just a different shape that makes it seem bigger so I think some of my "throw a hunk of meat in the crockpot and let it cook" recipes will still work better in my crockpot even though this has a crockpot function. I'm also not sure how to transfer some of my other recipes and make them work in a pressure cooker. I'll give it a go with what I have above and figure it out as I go along.

If you have any tried and true instantpot recipes please share!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Italian Orzo Spinach Soup

Today was a good day for soup, we had about 3" of snow last night and while it mostly melted today it stayed on the cold side. I mentioned making soup and Sarah mentioned a corn and bacon chowder, which sounded really good only problem is that Bob doesn't like chowders or cream based soups. Little does he know what he's missing. I may still make the chowder some other time. After perusing my pinterest soup board I found this one which sounded good. It was quick and easy to pull together which was good since I had some things come up right at the time to fix dinner.

Italian Orzo Spinach Soup
serves 4-6

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 c diced carrots
1 c diced celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 c chicken or vegetable stock
1 14-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 1/2 c orzo pasta
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
4 c loosely packed spinach
salt and black pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for 4 minutes, until soft. Add carrots, celery, and garlic; saute for an additional 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes, orzo, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and stir to combine. Bring soup to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente.

Stir in the spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes until it is bright green and wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Apple, White Cheddar, and Spinach Salad

We usually have our nice Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. I like to keep things easier on Christmas day so I can enjoy the day and not spend it in the kitchen making a fancy dinner. I enjoy the fancy dinner, I just want to be able to spend the time on Christmas with family. This salad was really good, a light counterpart to the potatoes au gratin.

Apple, White Cheddar, and Spinach Salad
serves 4 as a side salad

about 6 c fresh spinach
1 large apple, cored and sliced very thin (Gala, Fuji, or similar type apple)
1 c grated white cheddar cheese
1/2 c dried cranberries (plain or orange flavored)
1/2 c sliced almonds or walnuts

Honey-Apple Cider Vinaigrette
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c honey
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
3/4 tsp salt & pepper, or to taste

To make the vinaigrette add all the ingredients to a small container with a lid. Shake well to combine, taste and tweak seasonings as necessary. In a large bowl, toss together all salad ingredients. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss again to combine. Leftover dressing will keep covered in fridge for a week.

modified from Averie Cooks

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Olive Oil Taste Test

We have been blessed by family and friends that travel and bring back gifts. In this case it was olive oil. My mom went to Greece (with my nephew) and Portugal (with my niece) and an employee of Bob's went to Italy. We've been waiting for a night to have all/most of us together to taste test the oils and see if there was a difference. Wow, was there, at least for some of us. Bob said that he tasted no difference between them. Whitney and I liked the Greek oil best.

Our method - I bought some soft French bread from the grocery store and poured the oils into dishes. It wasn't a blind tasting, we knew what we were having. It was just the bread and olive oil.

The results - Whitney liked the Greek oil best. She said that the one from Portugal had a fruity taste and an odd after taste that she didn't like. The one from Italy was ok. I also liked the one from Greece best. I didn't notice the fruity taste of the Portuguese oil but didn't like it as much. Maybe it was just more olive tasting and I don't like olives. The one from Italy had a strong garlic taste to it which I didn't like. It was also very strong smelling. I find it funny that Bob is the only one of us that likes olives and he couldn't taste a difference between the oils and neither Whitney and I like olives and we could taste a difference between all three.

It was a fun evening. We rounded out our dinner with roasted vegetables (cauliflower, mushrooms, and zucchini) and pepper-pepperoni salad.