About Susan

I'm just a girl with a little faith, a healthy appetite, and a lot of words rattling 'round in my head.

Lisa’s Birthday Potato Salad

Lisa has a birthday this week (today, in fact!) and birthdays = food days at the office. So yesterday we celebrated with an uncharacteristically healthy buffet including hummus, plenty of fruit, and this potato salad. It’s easy, vegan, and great for picnics because it contains no mayo. Make it today, for Lisa!

Lisa’s Birthday Potato Salad

3 lbs. fingerling or new potatoes, cubed

1 Tbs. kosher or sea salt

½ red pepper, diced

½ red onion, diced

3 celery sticks, diced

1 small bunch fresh tarragon, chopped

2/3 c. mustard vinaigrette

Salt and pepper to taste

Mustard vinaigrette

2 Tbs. vinegar

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper

½ c. olive oil

2 Tbs. coarse ground mustard

Place potatoes and salt in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the potatoes are just fork tender, 12-15 minutes. (Don’t overcook them, or your potato salad will be mushy, and no one wants that.) While potatoes are cooking, whisk up your vinaigrette.

Drain potatoes and toss with vegetables, tarragon, vinaigrette, salt, and pepper. Sing Happy Birthday and enjoy warm (my preference) or chilled!

Lisa’s Birthday Potato Salad

 

Roasted Veggies

Yesterday the weather was 65 and sunny, remarkable for Southwest Virginia in February. Today is a different story, with heavy rain this morning changing to a wet snow this afternoon. Yesterday was the perfect day to buy turnips at the winter Farmer’s Market. Today is the perfect day to roast them.

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The View on My Deck Today

Roasted Veggies is one of my very favorite side dishes. Why?

1)      It’s super easy, which is always going to be #1 for me, if you haven’t figured that out already.

2)      It’s a flexible dish. No matter what vegetables you have on hand, you can probably roast them with your choice of seasonings.

3)      It’s a beautiful dish. The more colors, the better!

My favorite summer mix includes yellow squash, zucchini, purple onion, red pepper, orange pepper, and asparagus. But tonight I wanted to put my turnips (a green and white variety, milder than the traditional purple and white turnip) to good use, so I roasted them with a yellow onion and several beets and carrots. And I wish you could smell my kitchen right now – mmm!

No matter which vegetables you choose, chop them approximately the same size so they’ll cook evenly. Toss them together with some good olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste. Add herbs, if you like; tonight I used thyme.

Cover a large baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil. (Remember, I’m all about easy peasy, and who wants to scrub pans after a great meal?) Spread your vegetable on the baking sheet in a single layer and roast at 425° for approximately 25 minutes, depending on your mix. My winter vegetables took slightly longer.

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Winter Roasted Veggies in my Grandma Delbridge’s Dish

And that’s all there is to it.  While your veggies are roasting and making your kitchen smell heavenly, you can finish cooking the rest of your meal…or have a glass of wine and check your email. Finish your dish off with a drizzle of balsamic reduction or a sprinkle of parmesan cheese if you like, but trust me when I tell you they’ll also be delicious without any extra flavor. Enjoy!

Mad Glass Container Love

It’s inevitable. At some point during the holidays, when I’m shopping for Christmas gifts and the budget is tight, I’ll fall prey to something I absolutely must have now. From there, it’s just one short step to justify instant gratification as a well-deserved present to myself. This past Christmas was no different, but at least I can say 1) it wasn’t exactly an impulse item that supplanted all of my good intentions, 2) it wasn’t terribly expensive, and 3) I’m still glad I bought it.

Also, I blame Lisa. We work side-by-side and often end up eating lunch at our desks, so over time I couldn’t help noticing that she typically brings her lunch in nifty glass containers with plastic, snap-on lids, as opposed to my ratty looking 80s Tupperware® and Cool Whip® containers. And thus the seed of covetousness was sown.

The first thing I admired about Lisa’s lunch containers was their appearance. When it comes to food, presentation is second only to taste, and I’d rather eat from a real plate or bowl than paper or plastic any day. Her food always looked beautiful in clear glass.

Then there was the practical aspect of glass containers. I could freeze, refrigerate, heat, and eat, all in the same dish with no worry about pesky chemicals seeping into my soup or casserole. Lisa and I often joke that we’re yin and yang, but her sustainability awareness has rubbed off on me a little, I guess.

And that’s how I found myself in Bed Bath & Beyond®, standing in front of a whole wall of glass container options while I was supposed to be buying a gift for my mother. Lisa, who probably drove me there, was one aisle over browsing the Keurig® K-Cups®, but that’s another blog post. I settled on a set of five Kinetic® Glasslock Clean & Fresh containers with lids for less than $20. They’re clear glass with 100% airtight silicone seals and snap lock lids and are also available open stock. You can find them other places, but here they are at BB&B.

My Beloved Glasslock Containers (See Lisa working diligently in the background?)

My favorite container is the littlest one (4 oz.), which I use for my yogurt, fruit, and granola every morning. (Tip: If you take your breakfast to work, try adding frozen blueberries to your yogurt before you leave the house. They’ll be perfect by the time you get to work and your yogurt will stay nice and cold.)

I’m just in love with these containers. There’s even something therapeutically satisfying about snapping on the lids. So if you don’t own any, you might want to think about buying yourself some for Valentine’s Day. You deserve it!

Breakfast & Lunch

Pimento Cheese Memories

Homemade Pimento Cheese

When I was younger you couldn’t pay me to eat store-bought pimento cheese. In fact, you couldn’t pay me to eat any pimento cheese because I didn’t know there was any kind other than store-bought.  Now, well past my youth, you still can’t pay me to eat store-bought pimento cheese. But at least I know there’s a mouthwatering alternative: homemade pimento cheese.  Let me backtrack a few – no, more than a few – years…

One of the best things to happen to me during my college years was renting a room in Kitty Irwin’s house on Downey Street. Kitty was a beautiful, kind, gentle, wonderfully creative woman who rented rooms to poor college students in her lovely old, brick Victorian, located just a couple of blocks from campus. I was enamored with my room’s yellow fabric walls!

But more than shelter, Kitty’s house offered a ragtag family of sorts and a grounding influence that I sorely needed. She was a talented graphic designer who surely influenced my future by providing my first freelance cut and paste jobs (with an x-acto knife and wax). Eventually I choose the copy path, but I’m still grateful for her inspiration.

Kitty also greatly influenced my love of cooking. My father and my Granna had already given me a solid foundation, but now “on my own,” I found a creative outlet in cooking at Kitty’s house, as well as an appreciation for advance meal planning. Every quarter (a college session prior to semesters) we would put in $50 apiece for groceries, to which Kitty and her guy Bill would add their part. Then each of us would claim one weeknight + one food “theme” and plan menus to last the entire quarter. For example, spring quarter I might have chicken on Wednesday nights. So I would then plan and cook meals with chicken main dishes and sides for the house each Wednesday night that quarter. My roommates would be responsible for the other weeknights: Hamburger Night, Egg/Cheese Night, or whatever else we came up with. (We were on our own for the weekends.) Then we would make up our grocery list and go shopping, an adventure in itself.

This was a great challenge, a great lesson, and great fun for a house full of college students, and I will always be grateful to Kitty for all she taught me. I learned to make scrumptious egg salad, a colorful green salad with violets (yes, they’re edible), and homemade spaghetti sauce. I even remember waking up one icy February morning and shuffling into the kitchen to find a fantastic table of brunch goodies – Kitty’s gift to us on Valentine’s Day.

I also learned to make homemade pimento cheese and I’ve been making it for the past 30 years. It’s a favorite among my coworkers, and even my Larry, who initially said, “Ew, no….I don’t eat pimento cheese,” gives it a thumbs up.

The good news is that it’s very easy to make.  The bad news is that I don’t have exact measurements. You’ll just have to feel your way through.

Start with a large block of either medium or sharp cheddar. For a crowd I use a 1.5 lb. block and shred it in small batches in my food processor, also college era. (Note: Always shred cheese your own self, rather than buying the pre-shredded stuff. You’ll be much happier with the flavor of every recipe…I promise.) Next, blend in a good amount of drained, diced pimentos, a few tablespoons of mayonnaise (I use Duke’s), and 1-2 tablespoons of cream cheese. Process until the pimento cheese is at your desired level of smoothness.

Yummm!

I realize this is a really non-specific recipe, but you’ll figure it out to your taste.  Trust me on this. And as yummy as homemade pimento cheese is on whole grain crackers, it’s even more delish on pumpernickel bread and toasted bagels.  So get shredding and enjoy!  And thank you Kitty….my life is so much richer because you were in it.

Zucchini Pie…oh my!

I have a terrible habit of saving recipes I never get around to trying. They come from all over – the internet, magazines, friends, the newspaper, the backs of boxes – you name it, I’ve saved a recipe from it. But as I was looking through my recipe binder for a side dish recently, I found a recipe for Zucchini Pie that had come to my email inbox from Real Simple magazine and I purposed to make it that weekend.

Didn’t happen. But it did happen tonight, and it was so savory and delicious that I’m going to share it with you.  Just be sure you don’t stash it away in your binder, never to be seen again. It’s super easy and I promise it will make your kitchen smell like heaven. Perfect with a salad and a glass of pinot grigio, try it this week!

  • ZUCCHINI PIE
  • 3 c. grated zucchini
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour (I used self-rising and left out the baking powder.)
  • 1 c. grated provolone cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil (I used canola oil.)
  • 4 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, reserving 1 Tbs. of Parmesan. Spoon the zucchini mixture into a 10-inch round glass pie plate or metal pie pan that has been coated with vegetable cooking spray. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with the reserved Parmesan. Cool 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Zucchini Pie

Tip: Buy firm zucchini with vibrantly colored skins. Choose smaller ones; they have fewer seeds and more flavor.

“I yam what I yam.”

If you expected this post to be about yams I apologize, because it’s not.  It’s about fresh, deep green spinach from my local farmer’s market. I like to sauté it with garlic or shallots in olive oil, but for the sweetest taste, boil it to leach the acids out. Then squeeze it to remove the water and use it in any recipe as you wish.

A healthy foods super hero, spinach is a good source of niacin, zinc, protein, vitamins A, C, E (Alpha Tocopherol), K, and B6, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese. What more could you want…other than a haiku?

Autumn Spinach

Super food spinach!

No wonder Popeye loved you…

Good health on my fork.