Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tuna Fish Salad


This spring I was reminded of a funny fact about Michael that I had forgotten:  that although he dislikes most all seafood, he likes tuna fish salad sandwiches.  So I thought it was worth a try to figure out how to make them.  Personally, I've never preferred tuna fish salad, but I thought that if I could doctor it up with enough other flavors and textures, then maybe I would like it, too.  After some experimenting, I've come up with a recipe that not only Michael and I enjoy, but Sabrina as well.  Besides the flavor, another thing that I've come to appreciate about tuna fish salad sandwiches is how easy they are to make.  Especially on these 90-degree days, it's so nice to have something to make for dinner that doesn't require turning on the oven, stove, or anything else that might make the house even hotter than it already is.  Just mix, chill, and serve.

Tuna Fish Salad
makes enough for several sandwiches

Ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp. Hellmann's Real mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 5-oz. can of tuna in olive oil.  (The ingredients should include just tuna, olive oil, and salt.)  Avoid the tuna in water or vegetable oil because they almost always contain corn products. 
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion (1 small onion)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery (about 2 medium stalks)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dill pickle
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Instructions:

In a medium bowl stir together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.  Over the sink, squeeze the tuna in the can to drain most of the olive oil.  Then transfer the tuna to the bowl. Finely chop the onion, celery, pickle, and parsley, and add to the bowl.  Stir well to combine.  For best taste, chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  Or if you're running late making dinner like I am sometimes, serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Honey Mustard Sauce


I have always liked mustard, and I especially love honey mustard sauce. Sabrina takes after me and usually asks for mustard. Michael, on the other hand, is more of a ketchup person. And Naomi, who at least in this case is more European in her preferences, loves mayonnaise. Yup, she likes to put mayonnaise on her hot dog, hamburger, and French fries. She reminds me of my time in Germany, where I first encountered people dipping their French fries into mayonnaise.  But I am just thrilled that I have discovered the recipe for honey mustard sauce, so now I don't have to think wistfully back to the stops that we would make at fast-food restaurants while on family road trips, when I would get the chicken nuggets and packets of honey mustard sauce.  The great thing about having a recipe is that now I can make my own anytime I want. 

Honey Mustard Sauce
Serve 2-4 people (depending on how much sauce you like)

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup Hellmann's Real mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 tsp. yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
Instructions:

Whisk the ingredients together until thoroughly blended.  Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Hasselback Potatoes


Have you heard of Hasselback potatoes?  I hadn't before I came across a recipe on the internet.  I'm always looking for new ways to cook potatoes, so I was intrigued.  The special feature of Hasselback potatoes is that you cut thin slits into the potato width-wise, being careful not to cut entirely through the potato so that the thin pieces stay attached to one another.  During baking, the thin potato pieces fan out and you end up with a fancy baked potato that looks like you spent a lot more time on it than you really did.  Even better than the looks is the taste, which I think is a big improvement over a regular baked potato.  The skin turns out nice and crispy, and the thin pieces of potato are perfectly bite-size.

As you can see from the picture, I like to pour honey mustard sauce over mine.  (I'll post the recipe for that next.)  To make the potatoes even tastier, you can put small pieces of bacon or Cheddar cheese in the slits.  Writing about Hasselback potatoes makes me want to bake some again, but not until the current heat wave passes and it's cool enough for me to want to turn on my oven.  If you have central air conditioning, you can make some immediately or anytime you want.
    
Hasselback Potatoes

Ingredients:
  • 1 medium (about 8 oz.) Russet potato per person (plus 1 extra just in case one of the potatoes doesn't turn out).  The potatoes need to be Russet; I've tried Yukon Gold and white potatoes, and they don't turn out as well.
  • 1 tsp. of olive oil per potato
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 1 to 1 1/2 slices of bacon per potato.  A few brands of bacon that do not contain corn products are Applegate Naturals Sunday Bacon, Classic Sliced Dry Rubbed All Natural Uncured Bacon, and Hormel Natural Choice 100% Natural Original Uncured Bacon.
  • OR slices of sharp Cheddar cheese 
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add enough water to a large pot so that the potatoes will be fully immersed when they cook in it.  Place the pot over high heat to bring the water to a boil.  (Do not salt the water.  I discovered that if you do, your potato skins will not turn out crispy.) While the water is heating, rinse the potatoes and make slits in them width-wise that are about 1/8-inch apart but not all the way through the potato.  If you aren't great at precision cutting, you can do what I do, which is to place the handle of a wooden spoon on either side of the potato, so that the handles stop you from cutting all the way through the potato.  (See this site for a picture and further instructions.)

Once you have make slits in the potatoes and the water has come to a boil, place the potatoes in the water and boil them for 5 minutes. (Some recipes don't include this step, but I've found that the potatoes take less time in the oven and the potato skin turns out better if you parboil the potatoes first.) Remove the potatoes from the pot to a plate to drain the water a bit. Then place the potatoes, cut side up, in a Pyrex pan.

If desired, cut small pieces of bacon or Cheddar cheese to place in the slits.  The potatoes taste great without the bacon or cheese, but if you happen to have bacon or cheese on hand, I highly recommend adding them.  Since the girls and I have to avoid dairy products, I either make the potatoes plain or with bacon.  If using bacon, cut the pieces of bacon in half length-wise first; then cut the bacon into pieces width-wise to fit the width of the potato.

Once you've placed the bacon or cheese pieces in the potato slits, drizzle each potato with about 1 tsp. Of olive oil. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Bake for 1 hour or until the potato flesh is tender.  (They might need about 5 more minutes.)  Serve with ketchup, honey mustard sauce, sour cream, or whatever sauce your heart desires.    

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cucumber Salad


This spring I discovered that Naomi loves cucumbers, particularly if I toss them in a little vinegar.  I probably should have guessed sooner, given that she would eat pickles with every meal if I let her.  In any case, this spring we've been making up for lost time and eating lots of cucumber salad.  Now if only our cucumber plant would start growing some cucumbers, and Naomi could eat the ones she's picked with her very own hands, then she would be completely happy. 

Cucumber Salad
serves 2 adults or 1 adult and 2 small children

Ingredients:
  • 1 medium cucumber (about 8 to 10 oz.)
  • 1/8 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. white sugar
  • 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar OR rice vinegar
Instructions:

Peel the cucumber.  Cut it in half length-wise; then cut each half into thin slices.  Place the cucumber slices in a small bowl.  Sprinkle salt, pepper, sugar, and vinegar over the slices.  Toss to combine.  Serve immediately. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Creamy Green Beans


This is another recipe that I've been playing with since the winter, when the craving for something creamy came upon me.  Creamy foods are somehow inherently warm and comforting when it's below freezing outside.  But how can food be made creamy when you can't use cream, sour cream, or cream cheese?  Well, in the case of green beans, I discovered that you can make a creamy dressing by using mayonnaise.  I came up with two different flavors that I use depending on the rest of the food I'm cooking for dinner.  And even though I first thought of the recipe in the winter, it's great year-round when that craving for something creamy hits.  The dressing also tastes great with steamed asparagus.  I use 1 lb. of asparagus, which ends up being about 3/4 lb. once you snap off the ends.

Creamy Green Beans
serves 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 young children

Ingredients for Curried Creamy Green Beans:
  • 3/4 lb. green beans (When green beans aren't in season, I like to buy Trader Joe's frozen French green beans.)
  • 2 Tbsp. Hellmann's Real mayonnaise (not low-fat)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/8 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper 
Ingredients for French Creamy Green Beans:
  • 3/4 lb. green beans (When green beans aren't in season, I like to buy Trader Joe's frozen French green beans.)
  • 2 Tbsp. Hellmann's Real mayonnaise (not low-fat)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
Instructions:

Cook the green beans until tender-crisp.  While the green beans are cooking, whisk together the rest of the ingredients.  When the green beans are done, drain them thoroughly.  (If they are too wet, it dilutes the dressing and the dressing doesn't adhere to the beans as well.)  Return the green beans to the pot they were cooked in or a warmed serving bowl.  Pour the dressing over them and toss so that all of the beans are coated with the dressing.  Serve immediately.  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Vanilla Frosting


I'm back!  I finished my second semester of graduate school and have now recovered and caught up on sleep.  Over the past few months I didn't take a break from cooking or trying out new recipes, but I just didn't have the time or energy to post the recipes here.  But now I'm back to blogging and I'll try to make up for my semester-long absence by sharing some of the recipes that I've been working on over the past few months. 

One recipe that I've been tweaking since the winter is corn-free and dairy-free vanilla frosting.  The two basic ingredients in vanilla frosting are powdered sugar (which usually contains cornstarch) and butter (which obviously contains dairy).  Fortunately, the Trader Joe's near us started carrying powdered sugar that contains tapioca starch instead of cornstarch.  From there I experimented with the rest of the ingredients until I came up with a frosting that the girls think tastes great.  The thing I like about this frosting is that it is so quick and easy to make.  So when I need to take one of the girls to a friend's birthday party, I just pull a chocolate cupcake out of the freezer to defrost (since I bake a batch once in a while and freeze the extras), and then make a little frosting to cover it.  Add some sprinkles and we're ready to go.

Vanilla Frosting
makes frosting to cover 3 to 4 cupcakes

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup corn-free powdered sugar.  I use Trader Joe's, but Whole Foods also sells some.
  • 2 Tbsp. Spectrum organic palm shortening
  • 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract.  Use Trader Joe's alcohol-free vanilla extract or another vanilla extract that does not have corn syrup and is preferably alcohol-free, since the alcohol could be derived from corn. Recently I have been using Rodelle Vanilla Flavor alcohol free all natural extract, which I found at Stop and Shop.
  • 1/8 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tsp. rice milk
Instructions:

Add the powdered sugar, shortening, vanilla, sea salt, and 1 tsp. rice milk to a standing mixer bowl with the whisk attachment in place.  Whisk on medium to medium-fast speed.  If the frosting is too thick and not spreadable enough, add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. more rice milk until the frosting reaches the right consistency.  Scrape the bowl at least once and whisk thoroughly so that the salt and vanilla are mixed throughout the frosting.  Spread on top of cupcakes immediately. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins


I started making these muffins back in the fall, when Trader Joe's started carrying their pumpkin puree and when I found this recipe.  I tweaked the recipe to meet our needs and preferences, and now we have a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin that we like to eat not just in the fall, but year-round, as long as I stock up on enough pumpkin puree while it's available in stores. 

Sometime last year I started the tradition of making muffins for breakfast every Sunday.  I freeze the leftover ones and bring them out to feed myself and the girls for breakfast during the school week, when I don't want to get up early enough to make fresh ones.  In addition to tasting great right out of the oven, these muffins taste just as good when defrosted in the fridge overnight and then microwaved until warm.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:
  • 1 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree.  (Get one that does not contain any added ingredients.  I use Trader Joe's brand, which is seasonal.)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup flax seed meal
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips.  I recommend Ghirardelli, Trader Joe's, or Enjoy Life brand.
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease the cups of a muffin tin with canola oil.  In a medium bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, flax seed meal, brown sugar, canola oil, and applesauce.  Heat in the microwave until warm, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.  Then set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon, and sea salt.  Stir the apple cider vinegar into the pumpkin puree mixture.  Then pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and stir until no trace of flour remains.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Pour 1/3 cup of batter into each of the muffin tin cups.  Bake the muffins for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.