Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Apples, More than Apple Pie

According to the calendar, it's fall.  According to the temperature, it's fall. 

For me, when fall rolls around, it's time to cook heartier dishes.  I want to cuddle up with warm food.  Turning on the oven means I don't have to turn on the heat.  Killing two birds with one stone.

Last week my local newspaper ran an article on the health benefits of apples.  If you need more reasons to eat apples here are few.
  • They are low in calories.  A medium size apple has only 80 calories.  They contain no fat or sodium.
  • They are a good source of vitamin C. 
  • About half of the fiber in apples is in the peel.  An apple with the peel contains about 3.3 grams of fiber, whereas, one without the peel has about 1.7 grams of fiber.  Applesauce and apple juice contain even less fiber.
  • Consumed whole, apples are a convenient and mess free snack. 
It seems that when we think of apples, we immediately think of pie, crisp and maybe applesauce.  That's too bad.  Apples work well in savory dishes.  They are a nice accompaniment go meats such as, pork and chicken.  Give them a try.

I decided to pair apples with sweet potatoes for an easy fall side dish.  Apples play a supporting role in this dish.  Stay tuned, we will cook apples again.  In the meantime, try this recipe for candied sweet potatoes with apples.

Candied Sweet Potatoes with Apples

Serves 4. 


cup brown sugar, packed
2 Tablespoons water or apple juice
1 Tablespoon butter
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 pound sweet potatoes, about 3 medium
1 large apple
¼ cup pecans, toasted and chopped


1.  In a small saucepan combine, brown sugar, water or apple juice, butter, and cinnamon.  Heat on low heat until sugar dissolves and butter melts.

2.  Coat a two-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

3.  Wash and peel sweet potatoes.  Cut into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Wash and core apple.  Cut into 12 wedges.  Layer apple and sweet potato slices in baking dish.  Pour sugar mixture over apple  and sweet potato slices.  Cover with lid or foil. 

4.  Bake in an oven preheated to 350°F for about 45 minutes.  Remove covering and cook for an additional 15 minutes.  Top with pecans and serve.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

When the Neighbor Gives You Kale

I like kale. O, you know, kale, ham hocks and corn bread.  Lately kale has been all the rage.  It seems to be everywhere, from grandma's garden to the fancy restaurant. 

Kales chips were a new thing for me.  I saw them at a fancy organic grocery store and the price! Won't be purchasing those.  A very nice colleague brought a package of kale chips to work.  I was hooked, except for the price. 


One evening a friend called to say that she had received kale as a 'gift'.  Sounded good to me.  With so much free kale, why not make chips.  We didn't have a recipe, so we did what any good cook would do.  We googled it. 

This is essentially how you make kale chips.

Firstly, wash kale.  Remove the center vein.  The center vein and the leaf do not cook the same.  Cut kale into bite-sized pieces.

Secondly, dry kale.  This is a good time to break out the salad spinner.  Place kale into a bowl and  coat lightly with olive oil. Hint: Too little oil and the chips burn.  Too much and they are a touch greasy.  But greasy beats burned.  Season kale as desired.  Seasoning salt or other flavored salts are good choices. 

Thirdly, place kale on a large baking sheet, in a single layer.  Bake at about 275°F for about 20 minutes.  After 10 minutes, flip the kale and cook the second side for an additional 10 minutes.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Summer, Tomatoes and Fish

Several years ago a colleague asked me to make tomato jam to be served with ice cream.  I thought this would be the worst thing I had ever made.  But I grudgingly agreed to make tomato jam for ice cream.  Being the food person that I am, I knew this would not work.   Ha, to my surprise, it was wonderful!  It just goes to show one should always keep an open mind.  You never know what your next surprise might be.

After nursing my bruised ego, I started to think about what a tomato really is, a fruit.  Why not make a jam with it?  While summer is rapidly coming to an end, tomatoes are in full swing.  Your local farmers market should still have a plethora of tomatoes.  Why not grab a few and make tomato jam.

Tomato jam can be spicy, with hot peppers and vinegar and served with meat dishes.  It can also be slightly sweet and served for dessert. 

A note of caution, these jams should not be canned for later use.  It can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

This is my version of spicy tomato jam that I serve with meat dishes.  If you would like other recipes using seasonal produce, check out Discover Seasonal Cooking on the UNL-Extension food website.  You will lots of great recipes for seasonal produce as well other food information.  We aim to be your one stop source for food information.

Tomato Jam

Serves 4.


2½ cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes or
     1 can (14 ounce) diced tomatoes
cup rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
1 Tablespoon honey
2 teaspoon minced garlic
teaspoon red pepper flakes


1.  Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

2.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes.

3.  Remove pan from heat and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

We Want Breakfast!

According to a recent report from the Mintel Group, consumers consider breakfast to be the most important meal of the day, even more than lunch or dinner.  Specifically, a 2009 International Food Information Council Foundation's Food and Health Survey found that 93% of Americans consider breakfast to be the most important meal.  In contrast, 87% feel this way about dinner and 81% say the same thing about dinner.  Even though 93% of consumers believe breakfast is important, only 44% eat breakfast everyday.

Now here is a little info to help those non-breakfast eaters think about that morning meal.

An NPR story reported that people who consume breakfast have reduced risk of heart attack.  A study conducted by Harvard School of Public Health, finds that men who routinely skipped breakfast had a higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from coronary heart disease compared to men who ate breakfast.  Even when the researchers accounted for differences in diet, smoking patterns and exercise patterns, there is still an elevated risk of heart attack among the non-breakfast eaters. 

It seems that most Americans want  breakfast-on-the-go.  Hand-held breakfast food is the fastest growing segment of the frozen food market.  Below is a recipe for blueberry muffins to help you get an on-the-go breakfast.  They can be made a head of time, frozen until you are ready for breakfast. These can be made as muffins or muffin tops.

Blueberry Muffin Tops

Makes 12.


6 Tablespoons butter
cup milk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups all purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh blueberries


1½ Tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
¼ cup all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons sugar


1.  Batter.  Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Coat the muffin pans with cooking spray.

2.  Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat,  Remove from heat.  Whisk in milk, whole egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.  Stir to combine.

3.  Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  Add milk mixture and stir until just combined.  Gently fold in blueberries.

4.  Divide batter among 12 muffin cups.

5. Topping.  Blend together topping ingredients until crumbly.  Sprinkle evenly over batter. 

6.  Bake until golden and crisp, about 18 to 20 minutes.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A New Look at Potato Salad

If you follow this blog you know that I like potato salad. It seems that most people eat potato salad mainly in the summer months.  But in my family, it's an 'anytime' food.  We even eat it at Christmas dinner.  I asked my sister why we have potato salad for Christmas dinner.  Her reply was, "I don't know.  We just do.  We always have and we always will."  Enough said.  Our potato salad is normally laden with mayonnaise and eggs.  While it is good, sometimes change is also good. 

It's still officially summer and we have a few more opportunities for picnics, potlucks, and dinner on the ground.  I thought I would bring out my new potato salad recipe.  This one is made sans mayonnaise and eggs.  This recipe is based on one found on the blog, Olive Tomato.  I added red bell pepper, because it gives the recipe a nice bright color, a little crunch and a few antioxidants don't hurt either. For acidity, either red wine vinegar or lemon juice can be used.

Mediterranean Potato Salad

Serves 4 to 6.


2 pounds potatoes, Yukon Gold or Russet
½ small red onion, chopped
½ cup chopped red bell pepper
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar or lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste


1.  Wash potatoes, place in a sauce pan and cover with cold water.  Place a lid on sauce pan and cook until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.

2.  Drain and cover with cold water.  When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut into cubes, about ½-inch.  (Peeling is optional.)  Add onion and bell pepper to potatoes.

3.  In a small bowl, combine Italian seasoning, olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice.  Gently stir the dressing into the potatoes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, July 22, 2013

'Fun with Healthy Food' Day

I was recently asked by the Lancaster County Extension office to help with their 'Fun with Healthy Food' Day.  I jumped at the chance.  Any time I have an opportunity to push food, I'm on it.  My colleague stated that she wanted them to cook and to have fun doing it.  The great thing about cooking and kids, they see cooking as fun.  They love getting in the kitchen and cooking. 

We started off the day with hand washing. Cleanliness is the first step to preparing food.  The kids got to use GloGerm to see how good they were at hand washing.  

Next on the list was pancakes.  We made whole wheat pancakes and the kids thought they were great.  Of course, we let the kids add bananas, chocolate chips and blueberries.  After all, no one said healthy had to be boring.

Lunch was vegetable pizza.  It took a little cajoling from the leaders to get a few more vegetables on some pizzas.  We started with a ready made crust, added purchased tomato sauce, and vegetables.

For dinner, we decided to make salads.  We started with a base of romaine and red leaf lettuces and let the kids add various toppings, like hard boiled eggs.  We even made our own salad dressing, Roasted Red Pepper Ranch Dip and a Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette.  Kids had a great time making the dressings and thought they were out of this world.

Crafting is also a part of this day.  We decided to craft a centerpiece.  Out of what got it - fruit.  We made apple turkeys.  Or at least that is what we called them. 

Before you little ones head back to school, give some of these ideas a try.  Bet your kids will think these foods are great!

Enjoy the last few days of summer.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I'm Baaaaaaaaack!

It's been a while since I have posted.  I could tell you that I have been on vacation.  But the real truth is I've just not been in the blogging mood.  It just hasn't been there.  But at some point, you just gotta pick up and go on.  For my return post, I decided to focus on berries.  And yes, they are attached to a cake. 

I first found this recipe in an old Gourmet magazine, and thought it would make a good blog.  The recipe is for lemon sun cakes with berries and cream.  It just sounded so cute!

It makes six little cakes.  They are baked in small brioche molds.  If you don't have them, use a muffin tin.

I served my cakes with black raspberries (because I have a back yard full of them), blueberries, and red raspberries (because they were on sale).  Strawberries would have also been good in this mix.  These fruits contain a group of compounds, anthocyanins that are responsible for the red, purple, and blue colors of fruits, vegetables, and grains.  Some research shows that these compounds may reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.  My philosophy is that if you can prevent diseases and enjoy it at the same time, it's a win-win situation. 

For a full serving of fruit, serve with ½ cup of berries.

Lemon Sun Cakes with Berries and Cream

Serves 6.


¾ cup plus 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
½ cup whole milk
3 cups mixed berries
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ cup chilled heavy cream


1.  Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.  Generously butter molds and place on a baking sheet.

2.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Cream butter and sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add egg and beat until combined.  Add vanilla and lemon zest.

3.  Add about one-third of the flour, followed by one-half of the milk.  Repeat until all
the flour and milk have been added.  Divide batter amount the molds, filling each mold about two-thirds full.  Bake until edges of cakes are golden and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.  Cool cakes in molds on a rack for 5 minutes.  Remove from molds and cool completely on racks.

4.  Combine sugar and cream.  Beat until soft peaks forms. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Just in Time for Memorial Day

Memorial Day is coming up real soon.  Memorial Day was originally intended as a day to honor those who gave their lives in service to our country.  And yes, some of us visit the graves of our  loved ones.  But when most people think about Memorial, beginning of summer and firing up the grill rise to the top. 

When Monday rolls around and you need a new side dish, try this recipe for Guacamole Salad.  I originally found this recipe in a Barefoot Contessa cookbook.  This recipe contains two of my favorite ingredients - black beans and avocados.  I love this new take on guacamole. 

Beans are a good source of fiber and protein.  They are fat free and low in calories.  Results of studies indicate that consuming beans may reduce cholesterol levels and aid in controlling diabetes.  And if this ain't enough, they're cheap.  So eat up!

As for avocados, I discovered them a few years ago.  Until recently, I hated avocados.  That just goes to show that change is possible.  Avocados are actually a fruit and are a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamin E and B vitamins.  Avocados also contain fat, primarily, mono- and polyunsaturated that help increase the absorption of fat soluble vitamins. 

So, combine beans and avocados for a healthy addition to the Memorial Day Cookout!

Guacamole Salad

Serves 6.


1 pint grape tomatoes
1 yellow or red bell pepper
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup red onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
¼ cup fresh lime juice, about 2 limes
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 avocados, seeded, peeled, and diced


1.  Cut tomatoes in half.  Slice pepper in half.  Remove seeds and veins.  Dice the pepper.  Stir together tomatoes, pepper, beans, onion, and jalapeno.

2.  Whisk together lime juice, olive oil, salt, black pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper.  Pour over vegetables and toss well.  Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

3.  When ready to serve, add avocados.  Adjust seasonings if necessary.

When I first tried this recipe, I was mostly into red tomatoes, but now I love the colors of heirloom tomatoes.  For an even more colorful salad, try different colors of tomatoes.  If using large tomatoes, about 2 cups is a good amount for this recipe.  After trying this recipe again, I decided that cilantro would be a good addition. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

If you’re reading this then let me start off by congratulating you.  You’ve made it through yet another winter, a winter of snow storms that knocked power out and left people in the cold for 12 hours, a winter full of bone chilling cold temperatures and highs that didn’t even get into double digits. But with all of that comes great news, it’s coming to an end, and that can only mean one thing, summer.  In kicking off summer we start with the month of May, which as you may or may not know is barbecue month.

Barbecue can be a big tradition in families and communities, and as we start dusting off the grills and breaking out the aprons and the sauces we need to remember one big thing, food safety.  The last thing you want to do is make a batch of delicious, fall off the bone, ribs that will get your family and friends sick.
We all do our best to be as safe as we can when handling barbecue for the family, but are there any specific guidelines we need to follow?  Are there different guidelines we need to follow with the sauces, spices, rubs, and equipment that comes with barbecue?  There are a lot of questions to be answered before we go out and fire up the grill. 
In order to get some answers to these questions and some expert advice to pass on to you, I went to the experts, the boys at Helping U Barbeque “HUB” in Omaha, NE.  The owners started out by going to competitions, and now they own a store to sell you everything you’ll need from pellets, to sauces, to grills. They give classes on how to barbecue. And they still go to the competitions.  So I went to these guys, and here’s the advice they gave me.
Keep Your Equipment Clean
When we cook in the kitchen we always clean our utensils when we’re done and clean the stove or the oven, and we usually do it very thoroughly, so we need to take that same cleanliness to the grill.  Always be sure to clean and wipe down your equipment before and after you grill and barbecue, that goes for the grill itself, and all the utensils that you use.  That little extra time cleaning could be the difference between a great cookout and a sick bunch of friends and family.
The biggest things the boys at HUB talked about was temperature, and everybody’s first question to the temperature discussion was how long things needed to stay at temperature, and their answer was however long it took to get to that temperature.  There’s no magic answer to temperature for barbecue and large slabs of meat due to none of them being the same, it’s about the safe internal temperature to ensure that the meat is safe.  To insure that this is correct they recommended a device called the iGrill, which is a device with 2 probes that you insert into the meat that is cooking.  It monitors the temperature and connects wirelessly via Bluetooth to your iPhone, so you can walk away from the grill if need be and still monitor the temperature of your meat.
Now, if you don’t have all of those fancy gizmos and gadgets there is another very simple way to check the temperature of your meat, with a good old fashioned meat thermometer.  Just make sure you have the thermometer in the middle of what you’re cooking, as that will be the spot in the meat that takes the longest to cook thoroughly. 

One big thing to make sure of with thermometers/probes is that they are properly calibrated, which is very easy, here are the steps:
Calibrating Thermometers
Boiling Point Method
1.  Bring a small pot of water to a boil.
2. Test the thermometer in the boiling water, if it doesn’t read 212°F then adjust the nut on the back of the thermometer and test the water again until it reads 212°F.  The nut on the back won’t require large turns, so easy does it.
Ice Point Method 

1.  Fill a glass with water and ice.
2.  Test the thermometer in the ice water, if it doesn’t read 32°F make another slight adjustment and test it again until it reads 32°F.
Although either method is acceptable, most people prefer the ice point method.  With the boiling point method, one will need to know the boiling point at their elevation.

So those are really the basics to food safety in order to keep your meat clean and safe for the whole family and the entire neighborhood, be sure that your equipment is clean, and always make sure that your meat is internally cooked to the right temperature, and of course have a great time.
For specifics I have 2 resources, the first is from the USDA, and the second is the Kansas City Barbecue Society rule sheet that explains everything they have to do.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Screen Free Week - OMG, What Will I Do?

April 29 - May 5 has been deemed Screen Free Week.  Funny, I remember when my parents purchased our first television - black and white, with rabbit ears.  We got three or four channels.  And at 10:30 there was no more TV until the next morning.  Fast forward to 2013.  There are no more rabbit ears or black and white TV.  Kids these days would call that 'cruel and unusual punishment'. 

Today the average American household has 2.73 televisions and 2.55 people.  What a reversal.  In addition to televisions, there are home computers and smart phones.  You name it and we got it.  We are now spending more time in front of a computer than ever before.  The average child spends 4.5 hours per day watching television. 

For those of you looking for a little help with reducing screen time, here are a few resources
So, what does Screen Free Week have to do with cooking? It's a good time to head to the kitchen to reconnect with your family and improve your cooking skills.  For Screen Free Week, team up with your child or another family member for a little kitchen time.  There is no place like the kitchen for reconnecting with those you love.

To help you get started, try this recipe for Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies from  - Fast Foods!, a UNL-Extension 4-H Foods Curriculum.  Hope you enjoy, and please go to Facebook - and post pictures of your Screen Free Week activities.

Oatmeal Cookies

Makes 2 dozen.


½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
¾ to 1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup regular or quick oats
teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup raisins
Cooking spray


1.  In a large bowl beat together both sugars and butter.  Mix in vanilla and egg. 
2.  In a small bowl stir together flour, oatmeal, salt, and baking soda.  Set aside.
3.  Add flour and oat mixture to the wet ingredients.  Stir to combine.  Stir in raisins.
4.  Refrigerate dough for about 30 minutes.  (Dough can be refrigerated for up to one day.)
5.  Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets coated with cooking spray.
6.  Bake at 350°F for 12 minutes.
7.  Remove cookies from pan and place on a cooling rack.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

National Garden Month

April is National Garden Month and time to 'gear up' for the growing season.  Americans are gardening in greater numbers than ever.  In 1971, 25 million households or 39% of American families raised a portion of their vegetables.  According to a recent report, 49% of Americans gardened in the past 12 months. 

Most Americans (30%) garden for access to fresh vegetables and second (25%) most popular reason for gardening is better-tasting, higher quality food.  Gardening for fun (22%) beat saving money (15%) as a reason for gardening. 

The most popular vegetable for the home gardener is by far, the tomato.  It is followed by, in order, peppers, green beans, cucumbers, onions, lettuce, summer squash, carrots, radishes and in tenth place, sweet corn. 

If you would like to begin gardening this year, check out your local county extension office.  Gardening centers also offer a wealth of information, as do seed companies. 

In honor of National Garden Month, I am pulling out something from last year's garden - winter squash.  After all, gardeners can not throw anything away. 

Spiced Butternut Squash Puree

Serves 6.


1 large butternut squash, about 3 to 4 pounds
¼ cup butter
cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper


1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Pierce squash with a knife or fork.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for about one hour.  If squash is soft enough, cut in half to allow steam to escape.  Continue cooking until squash can be easily pierced with a knife or fork.

2. Scrape seeds from cavity.  Remove squash from the skin.  Mash squash and add butter, brown sugar, and seasonings.  Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Little Short on Cash

Tax time is almost over.  For me, it was over a few weeks ago.  And things did not go my way - I think the government kept too much of my money.  At least in my humble opinion. 

Well, I gotta eat and being the foodie that I am, I want good food.  I am not one for believing that good food has to be expensive.  I prefer not to think of it as cheap, just frugal.  You make the best of what you have.

For my frugal dish, I went back to something my mother used to make, salmon cakes.  This is one of the most inexpensive dishes you can make.  You need a can of salmon, one egg, and some type of bread to bind it.  Crackers and dry bread crumbs work well for this.  Additional seasonings can be added, like onions, lemon zest,  red pepper, and mustard.  Mix it up to suit your tastes.

Recently, I read where a chef stated that canned salmon was like cat food.  "Meow".  Sorry chef, mom used canned salmon and that's what I use.   Canned salmon is great.  It is inexpensive, a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and if you consume the bones, a good source of calcium.  Here is my recipe for salmon cakes.  Use the recipe as a guideline.  If you want to add or remove something, please do so.

Salmon Cakes with Mustard Sauce

Serves 4.


1 can (14.5 ounce) salmon
¼ cup dry bread crumbs
cup chopped red onions
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 large egg
Vegetable oil, for frying

Mustard Sauce:
1 container (6 ounce) plain yogurt
1 Tablespoon coarse grain or Dijon mustard


1.  Drain salmon and mash with a fork.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Divide into fourths.  Form into a ball and flatten to about ½ inch.

2.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook salmon cakes, turning once, until golden brown and just cooked through, 6 to 7 minutes.

3.  Stir together yogurt and mustard.  Serve with salmon cakes.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

National Soybean Month

April is National Soy Foods Month.  Before you turn up your nose, soy foods have come a long way in the United States.  Gone are the days when we associated soy with poor quality, filler ingredients.  It's the real thang!  And for good reason, soy is a very nutritious food.

If you want to consume soy, edamame is a good place to start.  Edamame are harvested at the green stage and can be purchased in the pod or shelled.  They can be used to make salads, humus, added to soups and stir fries. 

A one-half cup serving of edamame contains 3 grams of fat (primarily mono- and polyunsaturated), 8 grams protein, and 4 grams of fiber.  If you are looking for ways to add soy to your diet, try edamame with mustard vinaigrette and check out Cooking Light Magazine website for more recipes.

Edamame with Mustard Vinaigrette

Serves 4 to 6.

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 bag (12 ounce) frozen shelled edamame
cup chopped red onion
½ cup chopped celery
1 Tablespoon minced parsley

1.  Vinaigrette.  In a small bowl combine vinegar, mustard, and salt.  Add oil and stir to combine.

2. Salad.  Add about 1 teaspoon salt to about 4 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Add edamame and cook for about 5 minutes.  Drain well.

3.  Combine edamame, onion, celery, and parsley.  Stir to combine.  Add vinaigrette and stir to coat vegetables.  Cover and chill for 1 hour before serving.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Asparagus - A Sign of Spring

I'm not sure that seeing asparagus in the grocery store is a true sign of spring.  Since now, I seem to see it all year round.  For me, seeing fresh asparagus means that spring is not far away. 

Since Easter is coming up in a couple of days, I thought this asparagus recipe would be great for a nice dinner.  This is a recipe I made several years ago.  It was originally published in Cooking Light magazine.  A colleague made it and declared that her family gobbled them straight off the baking sheet.  What more can you say about a vegetable!

For more information on selecting, storing and the nutritional value of asparagus check out the Fruit and Vegetables More Matters website.  Also check out the Local Foods/Seasonal Eating section of UNL-Extension Food Website.  You will find more recipes for asparagus and other seasonal produce.

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Browned Butter

Serves 8.


2 pounds asparagus spears, trimmed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Cracked black pepper, optional


1.  Preheat oven to 400°F. 
2.  Arrange asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Coat with olive oil.  Rub asparagus to coat with olive oil.  Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes or until tender.

3.  Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat.  Cook for about 3 minutes or until lightly browned, shaking pan continually.  Remove from heat and stir in soy sauce and balsamic vinegar.  Pour over asparagu, tossing to coat.  Garnish with cracked pepper, if desired.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day

Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day is the tagline for National Nutrition Month.  I'm sure the only people excited about this 'holiday' are those working in the nutrition field.  But, this is an excellent opportunity to talk with consumers about what a healthy diet can be and most of all, how delicious a healthy diet can be.  Just because a food is healthy does not mean it has to taste badly.  Delicious and Healthy can coexist in the same dish. (Sounds like a Disney movie, but that's another story.)

The essence of Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day is that there is no one way to 'eat right'.  When exploring the 'right diet' for you, consider balance, moderation, variety of foods and aiming for a healthy lifestyle.  For more information on diets, check out the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.

If you plan to include fish in your diet, this recipe for baked fish with savory bread crumbs is an excellent place to start.  I came across this recipe in an Italian cookbook.  I tried it out in my Cooking 101 class and they liked it.  Now I am sharing it with you.  If parsley is not your thing, try basil or a basil pesto.  It will still be delicious.

Baked Fish with Savory Bread Crumbs

Serves 6.


2 pounds whitefish fillets, such as cod
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
6 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Juice of one large lemon, about 3 Tablespoons
½ cup dry white wine
6 large garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
½ cup fine dry bread crumbs
Zest of a large lemon, about 2 teaspoons
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon butter, optional
Fresh lemon slices, for serving


1.  Preheat oven to 400°F.

2.  Lightly salt fish on both sides.  Pour 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, lemon juice, white wine and ¼ teaspoon salt into the baking dish, and whisk together well.  Drop in the garlic cloves, and stir with the dressing.  Lay the fillets in the dish, turn to coat both sides of fish with dressing.  If your fish has skin, place the skin side down.

3.  Toss the bread crumbs in a bowl with the lemon zest, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes, and ¼ teaspoon salt.  Add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Stir  until the mixture is coated with olive oil.

4.  Spoon the bread crumbs on top of the fish.  Bake, uncovered, until the crumbs are crisp and golden and the fish is cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes.

5.  Lift the fish out with a spatula, and set on a warm platter to serve family style. 

6.  If desired, reduce the sauce by about one-half.  Add one tablespoon butter, about one-third at a time.  Shake the pan to incorporate the butter.  Pour the sauce over fish and serve.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Vegetarian Soul Food...You Kidding?

Vegetarian and Soul Food?  Now is that an oxymoron or what?  I just could not believe it.  Now I can see vegetables as a central part of the soul food diet, but no meat.  I had issues with that. 

While discussing soul food with a colleague, she mentioned the book, Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry.  I had heard of the book, but did not pay a lot of attention to it.  After all, vegan and soul food do not go together, at least not in my mind.  I always tell my students to keep an open mind and try new things.  Be careful of what you tell students.

I decided to give this book a try.  I was skeptical, very skeptical.  Upon examining the book, I found a few recipes that sounded interesting.  One was Citrus Collards with Raisins Redux.  My colleague assured me this was a good recipe.  Since she has good taste, I decided to try this recipe first. If she was wrong, I basically would loose a little time and some good collard greens would be lost. 

To say that I was surprised at how good these collards tasted, is an understatement.  They knocked my socks off.  They are a touch sweet, with none of the bitterness typically found in brassica vegetables.  I used freshly squeezed orange juice.  I think you need freshly squeezed with this recipe.
This recipe most definitely will be made again at my house. 

Citrus Collards with Raisins Redux

Serves 4 to 6.


Coarse sea salt
2 bunches collard greens
2 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice


1.  To prepare the collards, start by removing the large rib from the center.  Lay several leaves together.  Roll up and cut into a chiffonade. 

2.  In a large pot over high heat, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and add one tablespoon salt.  Add the collards and cook, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes, until softened.  Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of ice water to cool the collards.

3.  Remove the collards from the heat, drain, and plunge them into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking and set the color of the greens.  Drain and set aside.

4.  In a large saute pan, combine the olive oil and the garlic and raise the heat to medium.  Saute for one minute.  Add the collards and salt; stir to combine.  Sprinkle raisins on top and cover to allow raisins to soften, about 3 minutes.

5.  Add orange juice and cook for an additional minute or so.  Do not overcook.  Collards should still be bright green.

If you have a favorite soul food recipe that you have altered, we'd like to hear about it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pasta and Beans

I have been on this Italian - Mediterranean kick for quite some time.  Frankly, I am fascinated with  the European view of food.  I was also a little skeptical of pasta and beans in one dish.  It just did not sound good to me.  However, I was fascinated enough to pick out the recipe. 

When I really thought about it, Olive Garden makes a pasta e fagioli soup. As it turns out, pasta and bean soup is a traditional Italian dish, made from inexpensive ingredients.  It is traditionally made with cannellini or borlotti beans and some type of small pasta, such as elbow macaroni or ditalini.  Onions, garlic, rosemary or basil are used as seasonings.  Most recipes use tomatoes or tomato sauce.  For a more meaty flavor, prosciutto or pancetta can be used.

I got this recipe from The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Nancy Harmon Jenkins.  A note to this recipe stated that you could make the pasta and beans.  And if there were any leftover, you could add stock and make soup.  Two meals for the price of one, I was 'in'.  I used Jacob's cattle beans.  But you could use pinto, cranberry or a similar light reddish bean.  I also used pesto, about 2 tablespoons, instead of the actual basil.  Pesto was in my frig and basil is too expensive.  Yes, I am cheap.

If you want additional vegetables,  sautéed greens, such as kale or spinach.  Winter squash can also be added to this dish.  If this recipe works out, I'm going to try zucchini.

Day 1.  I made the pasta and beans.  My faithful tasters loved it.

Pasta with Pancetta and Beans

Serves 8 to 10.


1 cup dried beans, such as borlotti, cranberry, or pink
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 to 4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 can (14 ounce) whole plum tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound short pasta, such as farfalle or bowties
¼ cup sliced basil leaves
Freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano


1.  Sort, wash and soak the beans.  Drain.  Transfer to a saucepan, cover with water to a depth of about 1 inch above the beans.  Cover and cook until beans are tender, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Set aside, reserving one cup of the cooking liquid.

2.  Chop the onion and set aside.  Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to a large heavy pan.  Set over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook until onion is translucent.  Add garlic and pancetta, continue cooking for about 10 minutes, or until the garlic is soft and the pancetta has started to release its fat.

3.  Add tomatoes, breaking them up with the side of a spoon.  Cook, continuing to break up the tomatoes, until they have reduced to a sauce.  Taste and add salt and pepper.  Add beans the cooking liquid.  Return to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, to make a thick sauce. 

4.  In a separate saucepan bring about 5 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil.  Add pasta and cook rapidly until the pasta is almost, but not quite, ready to eat.  Drain and quickly add the pasta to the bean sauce, toss to mix well.  Sprinkle with basil or add pesto.  Drizzle with olive oil and top with cheese.

Note: If desired,beans can be made and frozen in individual containers.  Pasta can be added when ready to eat.

Day 2.  Pasta e fagioli.  I added broth and made soup.  My tasters liked it as well.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Soul Food Junkies

Recently public television aired the documentary Soul Food Junkies.  It was an excellent documentary and very nicely done.  I applaude the producer Bryon Hurt and public televison for tackling this sensitive and diverse subject.  African Americans hold soul food close to their hearts.  Even if we no longer consume soul food on a regular basis, it is still a part of our culture.  Soul food is also very diverse, with everything from collard greens to gumbo.  And no, we don't fry everything we eat.

The soul food diet encompasses lots of healthy foods, such as black-eyed peas, pinto beans, sweet potatoes, watermelon, collard greens, turnips, cabbage.  The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that we consume these foods.  They are good sources of fiber and beta-carotene.  Collards, turnips and cabbage are member of the brassica family of vegetables.  Research suggests that consumption of these vegetables may reduce risk of certain forms of cancer. 

While the soul food diet is not all bad, it can be high in sodium and fat.  And those things need to change.  But let's don't toss out the baby with the wash water. 

The website for Soul Food Junkies has a 'Pin It to Win It' section.  You can go on the website and find healthier soul food recipes and you can also pin your masterpiece.

I am posting my new 'classic', Black-eyed Pea Salad with Sriracha Vinaigrette.  It's a twist on black-eyed peas. 

Black-eyed Pea Salad with Sriracha Vinaigrette

Serves 6.


2½ Tablespoons white wine or apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 to 1½ Tablespoons Sriracha sauce
½ teaspoon salt
1 bag (16 ounce) frozen black-eyed peas
3 celery ribs
2 carrots
1 red or yellow bell pepper
1 cup lean ham, about 4 ounces
cup chopped parsley


1.  In a small bowl, combine vinegar, olive oil, Sriracha sauce, and salt.  Set aside.
2.  Cook black-eyed peas according to package directions.  Drain.  Rinse in tap water.  Drain and set aside. 
3.  Chop the celery.  Peel and grate the carrots.  Chop the bell pepper and ham.  Combine in a large bowl.  Add black-eyed peas and parsley.  Stir to combine.
4.  Add vinaigrette and stir.  Allow salad to sit for at least 10 minutes or up to one day before serving.

Source:  Whole Foods Market

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Barley - An Untapped Grain

Usually when I talk to my students about barley, I tell them the number one use is beer production, followed by livestock feed.  And that is really all that I say about barley.  In the United States, we don't consume much barley, at least not as barley.  However, since starting this blog, I have been on a mission to find more uses for barley.  After all, why should the brew masters have all the fun. 

Barley has a chewy texture and a nutty flavor, similar to brown rice.  Basically, you can use barley the same way you use rice.   It can be used in stir-fries and pilafs.  Next time you want to make a rice dish, try using barley instead. 

There three types of barley:
  • Dehulled or Hulless  - The hull has been removed, but the bran remains.  It requires the longest amount of time to cook.
  • Pearled - The hull and the bran have been removed. 
  • Quick Cooking - This type has been rolled flat and requires about 10 minutes to cook.
Regardless of your choice, they are all excellent additions to your diet.

Barley, Feta, and Pear Salad

Serves 2 as main dish or 4 as a side dish.


¼ cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon salt
cup pearl barley
½ cup packed flat-leafed parsley
1 celery rib
½ small head radicchio
1 pear, unpeeled
¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste


1.  Preheat oven to 375°F. Toast the walnuts until golden, about 5 to 7 minutes.

2.  Bring about 3 cups of water to a boil.  Add 1 teaspoon salt and barley.  Stir.  Partially cover and cook until barley is tender, about 30 minutes.

3.  Chop parsley and celery.  Slice radicchio into thin strips.  Core and chop the pear.  Combine all ingredients, along with the walnuts in a large bowl.  Drain barley and allow to cool.  Add barley and the feta cheese to the mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

4.  Add lemon juice and olive oil.  Stir to combine. 

If desired, red wine vinegar can be used instead of the lemon juice.