Sunday, May 30, 2010

Single Potato ISO creamy, low-fat dressing

Let me just start out by saying that I love potato salad. At least, I always thought I did. Potato salad, in my world, should be equally made of potatoes and eggs, seasoned with celery for crunch, onion for spice, and pickles for tartness, the assorted flavors held together by a creamy Miracle Whip glue.

I don't, however, love making potato salad. For a household of 2, the cutting and cooking of the potatoes and eggs, plus the various dishes that are required to cook and mix all of it - too much work for a pair of busy working people.

I've been on the hunt for several weeks now for something unique - a potato salad that made people sit up and take notice. The evil genius of potato salads, as it were.

My first attempt, a couple of weeks ago, came out bland and traditional, not much different from the salad available at the deli.

Tonight's follow-up came closer.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

All In One Pot

As did many of my peers in the 70s and 80s, I grew up with a morbid fear of the casserole dish.

Looking back, I don't understand it, really. My Mom is a fabulous cook, and I owe a lot to her teaching. But when she left the kitchen with her white casserole dish, the one with a spray of blue daisies painted on each side, I knew we were in for one of THOSE meals.

If it was ham-and-cheese casserole, I was in luck. I could pick the ham out and push it to the side of my plate, and very happily eat the remaining potatoes and cheese. I'd only have to eat enough ham to pass so I could be excused from the table. No sweat.

If it wasn't ham-and-cheese, though, I was in for a challenge. Mom's other casserole was a frightening concoction involving layers of potatoes, rice, ground beef, kidney beans, and tomatoes. No herbs, no spices, no flavors other than the base ingredients - which, since they were cooked in layers, didn't even mingle flavors in any appealing way. The only thing I disliked more was meatloaf. I think every parent has one meal that is guaranteed to keep the kids sitting at the table for hours trying to wish their plate away. This was it. I eventually learned to dowse the offending scoop with ketchup and eat it quickly. The only thing worse than shipwreck was cold shipwreck.

Given my history with casseroles, it came as a surprise to me when, a couple of weeks ago, I was thinking over all of the recipes I have ever concocted on my own, and realized that the only one worth repeating was our casserole from college. It was a chicken and rice combination with canned vegetables, largely because that's what we happened to have available.

Thinking about it made me realize that I didn't even have a casserole dish. So when I found a small oval casserole at Pepperberries, I bought it. It's just about the right size for a small household like ours.

We inaugurated it last night with a tamale casserole. The base recipe comes from, but needed to be adjusted. For one, I'm not wild about shrimp - I'll eat it, but it's not my favorite - and wanted to use chicken instead. For another, the recipe promised to make 9 servings, which is an awful lot for 2 people.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cold-Brewed Coffee

Coffee and I have a long history together. I started seeing Coffee back in college, after watching my mom consume three cups a morning regularly while I was growing up. I'd been denied the pleasure, and since she took it blacker than black, and often reheated, I didn't mind so much. There was a sort of check-out system in place in the kitchen - once you'd been in there for a couple of minutes, Mom would demand to know what you were doing, which made me feel like I had to account for each grain of sugar (not to be wasted on drinks that would only stunt my growth anyways!)

College, though, was another story. Coffee hung out at the convenience store, with all the cream and sugar I could stir in, and I greedily tried every flavor I could find.

After the first couple of years, though, I started to fear the ulcer I was sure to get by slurping down coffee by the cupful and stressing over a combination of schoolwork, part-time work, and helping a sick friend over a difficult term. So I broke up with coffee, told him I couldn't see him anymore, and switched to cocoa. Only to find out that I hadn't been super-stressed at all, I'd just been over-caffeinated. The heart palpitations, the blood rushing through my veins, the thump-thump sound in my ears - all a reaction to the caffeine.

And that's about how things stayed until I moved back to Oregon several years ago. Eugene being a mere half-day drive away from Seattle, the coffee culture has permeated. I resisted for some time, but losing my job and taking a new one in an office that didn't provide hot water and tea at the flick of a switch led me back to temptation. Over the intervening years, I managed to stay ulcer-free, although I still have problems with caffeine. And isn't it lucky that they make coffee in decaf?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day Brunch

When I was a child, my mother told me she didn't like fruit salad. Every time I asked her for some, she objected. As a teenager, though, it became clear that we were talking about two different things.

When I think of fruit salad, I think of a big bowl of fruit, with little or no dressing. My mother things of the confection frequently found in supermarket delis, small bits of fruit wrapped in a foamy marshmallow soup.

So for Mother's Day, I'm making her fruit salad as it should be.

Our Mother's Day Brunch Menu:

Scrambled Eggs
Smoked Salmon Quesadillas
Lime-Ginger Fruit Salad
Blueberry Muffins
Orange Juice