Choosing the Tea

This is day two in the five day series of Non-Baker and Non-Chef posts titled The Tea Party.

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When Anna and I discussed the tea party, we had some great lofty ideas. Lavender and rose lemon aid. We imagined photographing everything on the screened-in back porch. I imaged three colorful types of finger sandwiches, delicately laid out on a three-tiered plate. Hydrangea blossoms and peonies were on the top of our shopping list.

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And then reality hit. Anna got sick with a fever hours after our planning meeting, which left her sick and in bed basically until the time of the event. My son decided to start waking up seven or eight times a night for who knows what reason. The weather turned absolutely nasty, with a hundred-plus degree days of muggy Kansas humidity. The flowers we envisioned weren’t available at our favorite florist.

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So we adapted.

And know what happened? We had a beautiful spread and a wonderful time.

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Memories were made. A new tradition was born. (We’re already discussing another tea party for October!)

It was much simplier than our original plan, which was a good thing. So much less to worry over.

One of my tasks was to choose the tea.

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The history of tea is long and complex spanning literally thousands of years. It likely originated in China during the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC), or so I’ve read. From there it spread to Portugal in the 16th Century to Britain in the 17th Century to the rest of the world through the British Empire.  There is now over 3,000 varieties of tea to choose from.

I remembered reading that J. K. Rowling’s favorite tea was Lancashire tea. I thought I would begin my quest there. I imagine that Queen Rowling probably has great taste in tea.

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You know how I was talking about reality earlier?

No, I did not have any special tea imported through Amazon.uk. I didn’t even buy the dusty box of expensive tea that was stocked in the British section of my local grocery store.

Instead I went back to a couple of old favorites of the standard grocery store variety. We enjoyed Bigelow English Tea Time and Twinnings Lady Grey. We discovered that both are old favorites for several of us.

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Isn’t that the point of Non-Chef?

Life is crazy. There is always the daily grind, but then there is always this other stuff that we need to do too, and it all starts piling up and getting out of control.

Keep it simple, and bring people together.

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Check in tomorrow for day 3 in the series The Tea Party: a recipe for Deviled Egg Sandwiches!

The Tea Party

There is power in matching words of gratitude with the good in your life.

 

That’s why I want to speak a bit about these exceptional women.  They happen to be related to me, and I am so thankful to be surrounded by them.

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We are turning the page into a new chapter in our family.  I have mentioned before that my grandma is in the middle of preparing to sell the family farm.  We’ve come together over the last several months to tackle the huge job of preparing the property to go on the market.  It has been exciting to see the farm come back to life in preparation for its next chapter, and exceedingly sad, because this place is full of fond memories and radical hospitality.

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It has been a gathering place not only for multiple generations of my family, but also many others.  In fact, most people I know have probably partaken in a Cassel-role dinner at the farm at some point. And if not, join us for Sunday dinner. It’s that kind of place.

As my grandmother, mother, sister and I carefully cataloged each of the collectable or antique items in the house over the summer, we had an idea: a tea party. Girls only. No boys allowed. (Although, we made an exception for the baby.)

How could we resist one more party at grandma’s house.

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My sister Anna, the Non-Baker, and I offered to cater.  We thought it would be a fun photo shoot for our blogs.  Grandma graciously donated her beautiful delicate things.  My cousins and their daughters and a few teddy bears and dollies were invited.  Everyone dressed in their tea party clothes.

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I have to stop and say here that we were severely missing the members of our family who live too far to attend a tea party on short notice!  We wish you could have joined us too!

 

Posts will be published throughout the week containing the tea party recipes.  Please, stay tuned!

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At the beginning of the year, a few friends and I picked a word to focus on for that year.  I picked community.  And on January 5, I printed this page and put it up on my fridge:

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I’ve accomplished a few things on the list: I have gone outside, I have visited my local library, I have given LOTS of hugs, I have bought food at farmer’s markets, I have hosted parties, I have made friends with my neighbors, I have read books with my child, I have supported local artists.  But there are plenty of community building activities I still should do.

 

Being hospitable, for instance.  Building a community also includes my own hospitality.  Just look at #6 on the list.  Nobody, nobody is more hospitable than my grandparents.  I myself have eaten there at least once a week for the majority of my life.  Even when it’s not perfect, the door is always open.

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Hospitality is not about being perfect.  It’s about the coming together.  At the farm, it typically happens over pot-luck dinners and paper plates, but today it happened over tea and flowers.  Let’s celebrate tea parties this week!

-Brohgan

This is one of ten posts in a series called The Tea Party. Please check back this week for additional recipes and tea party tips!

Also, check out Non-Baker for their delectable contribution to the series!

Chickpea Curry Over Brown Basmati Rice

Something magical happens as the onion and the curry powder bloom over the heat. Flavors come to life, and the stress of the world melts away. These vegan curried chickpeas over brown basmati rice feed body, mind, and soul. It’s one of my favorite recipes, in case you can’t already tell.

I was on the fence about writing about this.  Google chickpea curry and a TON of identical recipes will come up, and mine isn’t all that different.  One of those was what inspired me to cook this for the first time several years ago, but as time passed, the recipe changed.  Now I use fewer ingredients and have upgraded to brown basmati rice (which you can now buy at Aldi grocery stores!).

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Chickpea curry is one of our favorite recipes, and it served to be a huge inspiration to writing about food in the first place.  I clearly remember the day: screaming fussy baby and we’re STARVING.  My husband volunteered to do the cooking for the evening (he was that hungry haha), so I’m calling instructions over the partition between the living room and the kitchen while doing the mom-things that needed to be done.

Me: “Are the onions in the skillet opaque yet?”

Adam: “Yes. Now what do I do?”

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I shout off the next several ingredients off the top of my head, including where to find them in the kitchen, reminding him to shake the can of coconut milk.  I ended up coaching him through the entire dinner process off the top of my head from the other room.

Now maybe that’s something that lots of people can do.  I know several of the women in my family could probably cook a favorite recipe blindfolded.  Adam, however, was apparently impressed.

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After seven years of marriage, I managed to surprise him by doing something unexpected. And that’s a pretty good feeling.

There’s something about getting encouragement from someone you love, someone who knows you better than anyone else, that’s just the little push you need to try something new 

Both Non-Baker and my site broke triple digits in views this month.  We’ve moved beyond just the friends and family who feel loving obligation to read what we write into a small community of kind readers who happened to stop by.

(In case you didn’t know, my sister, Anna, and I realized that we were both flirting with the idea of starting very different food blogs, so we started at the same time.  Check out Anna’s blog sometime!  It’s great!)

So why do I share a recipe that’s been done before on the internet?  Because sharing a recipe is also showing a little piece about who I am.

So enjoy chickpea curry.  Its texture is absolutely perfect, not to mention its flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1 C brown basmati rice
  • 2 1/4 C water
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1  14 oz can coconut mil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp hot chili paste (sriracha or other  brand)
  • 2 14 oz cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

Instructions:

  1. Cook the rice per package instructions.
  2. Start the onion cooking in olive oil over a medium heat in a large deep skillet.  Stir occasionally.
  3. When onion is opaque, add curry powder.  Allow curry to cook with onion for about a minute to meld the flavors.  Add the cayenne pepper.
  4. Give the can of coconut milk a shake, as it naturally separates.  Pour into the pan.
  5. Add the honey and chili paste.  Let the sauce bubble for a minute or so. (Taste and adjust flavor as needed. Some curry powder and chili paste is more mild than others.)
  6. Drain cans of chickpeas and dump into curry sauce.  Stir to combine.
  7. Serve curry sauce over rice in bowls.  Enjoy!

Something magical happens as the onion and the curry powder bloom over the heat. Flavors come to life, and the stress of the world melts away. These vegan curried chickpeas over brown basmati rice feed body, mind, and soul. It's one of my favorite recipes, in case you can't already tell.
-Brohgan

One Pot Brown Fried Rice

This simple one pot recipe uses brown rice, frozen veggies, eggs, and soy sauce to make fried rice.  It’s great for those evenings when even takeout seems likes too much effort.  Brown rice provides whole grains and fiber, which are an essential part of a healthy diet.

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Today, I’m feeling a little frayed around the edges. “Thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread,” as Bilbo Baggins says.  You know those kinds of days?

Oh sweet baby, please never outgrow your slobbery kisses and morning time coos! Forever, hold my face in both your little hands and beam from ear to ear; I’ll never grow tired of it. May you light up with smiles every time you see me for a long, long time!

But anytime you would like to sleep through the night would be absolutely fine, mmmkay?

So temporary? Maybe. People love to remind me how temporary and short this phase in life is, but that advice doesn’t keep all the pieces of life I’m juggling from crashing down today.

Simplifying everything does keep my world running a bit more smoothly. Oh, and prayer. And a little coffee.

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The first kitchen purchase after I had a baby? A rice cooker.

There is nothing simpler: Rice + water + on switch. Combine with a few veggies and a meat (or beans… rice + beans create a complete protein), maybe some broth, and you could end up with a hundred easy and budget friendly dinner options. If you don’t have a rice cooker, minute rice and boil in bag are also great options. I relied on those products for years.

Rice feeds more than half the world’s population on any given day and is a major staple in many cultures cuisine. It comes in two basic varieties: brown and white, the former being whole grain holds the most nutritional value. It has been credited to be beneficial for your skin, your metabolism, your blood pressure, and your lower digestive system. Some scientists even say it prevents cancer.

This simple recipe is one of the big guns in my “surviving the crazy of real life” arsenal; so simple and basically healthy, especially compared to the other foods we Americans typically turn to when life gets crazy.  The ingredients are easy to keep on hand, and it only takes minutes to dump and cook. (I especially appreciate my rice cooker on days like this. Smartest purchase I’ve ever made.) And only one pan to clean!

May this recipe make your life a little easier. And yummier. 🙂

 

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One Pot Brown Fried Rice

This simple one pot recipe uses brown rice, frozen veggies, eggs, and soy sauce to make fried rice. It’s great for those evenings when even takeout seems likes too much effort. Brown rice provides whole grains and fiber, which are an essential part of a healthy diet.
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 2 cup water
  • 6 oz frozen mixed veggies: corn carrots, peas (approximately half a bag)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce, plus 1 tsp separated

Instructions

  1. Add brown rice, water, 2 tbsp soy sauce, and frozen veggies to a rice cooker. (Or, cook rice on the stovetop per package instructions, and add frozen veggies to water with rice.)
  2. When rice is almost cooked, crack eggs into a small microwave safe bowl. Cook in the microwave on high, stirring with a fork in 15 second increments until completely cooked.
  3. Stir cooked egg into pot of rice and veggies after rice is completely cooked.

Recipe Notes

Optional: mix in cooked chicken or shrimp with the egg if you have it on hand!

This simple one pot recipe uses brown rice, frozen veggies, eggs, and soy sauce to make fried rice. It's great for those evenings when even takeout seems likes too much effort. Brown rice provides whole grains and fiber, which are an essential part of a healthy diet.

Fajita Tacos

A combination of fajita’d veggies and ground beef, this fun, single pan recipe is perfect for a weeknight dinner. Quick to make and quick to clean up!  The lightly seasoned meat allows the flavor of grassfed beef to shine through.  Top with any of your favorite taco or fajita ingredients!

Call this Kansas girl naive, but I still can’t believe that I bought this ground beef from an actual bow-legged cowboy.

I have been attempting to use local meats and produce, and the grass-fed beef tent at my local farmer’s market caught my eye.

I have been aware of the benefits of grassfed beef for a while. First off, it’s leaner. So lean, I ended up with a burned layer stuck to the bottom of the pan. Secondly, it’s nutritious! Who knew grass was the key to antioxidants and nutritious omega 3’s? Lastly, our family doesn’t eat much meat. In the end, we felt that it was worth the $6/lb price, since we only needed that one pound for the week.  That’s right, we typically only buy about a pound of meat or less a week, and we’re completely fine with that.

So we gave grassfed a try. I’m actually pleased with my $2 investment. This ground beef was an entirely different product!  I can’t wait to pat this stuff down into a burger patty someday. But for now, I settled on some simple one pot fajita tacos. Perfect solution to our Tuesday hunger pains.

Ok, honesty time, because I have a big confession. I don’t like grocery store taco seasoning. AT ALL. I find it a little overpowering in all the wrong ways and unnecessarily high in sodium.  I just sprinkled a bit of cumin and chili powder on the meat.  And I seasoned the heck out of the peppers while they sautéed. Even added a bit of this. Love this stuff!

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The Chipotle Chile Pepper seasoning is an impulse buy gone right.  I picked it up when the store was completely out of cayenne once, and it has served me well for years (and is the secret ingredient in many a spicy dish).

When the peppers were almost cooked, I added a fresh clove if garlic, crushed. There is nothing sadder than burning the garlic, in my opinion. So wait until you think the peppers are about done.

Top with your favorite taco toppings. We went with romaine lettuce and salsa.  We’re experimenting with a dairy-free diet for now (oh the joys of breastfeeding). Otherwise, we may have added a few more toppings. Do not use the “C” word around us! We’re still going through withdrawal.

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Honestly, the texture was perfect, and I didn’t miss those toppings.

Enjoy! Let me know what you think!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb hamburger
  • 3-4 small bell peppers
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp Chipotle spice

Instructions:

  1. Brown the hamburger. Slice the green peppers into strips.
  2. Set hamburger aside and dust with cumin.
  3. Add oil and peppers to the skillet. Cook over a medium to medium high heat. If you are using corn fed beef, you probably want to cook this in a separate pan. Or embrace the choleaterol-y goodness of cooking peppers in the ground beef grease. I would be tempted to.
  4. When the peppers are softer but not quite done, add garlic to the pan. Toss tortillas into the microwave to warm per package instructions.
  5. Fill tortillas with beef and peppers, top with your favorite things, and serve immediately. Recipe serves 3-4.

Best,

Brohgan

Handmade Pierogies

These happy little dumplings filled with potato originally hail from Pre-war Poland (now the Ukraine).   The types of filling can vary, but potato, onion, and cheese are common.   This versitle dough can be baked, boiled, or fried from its frozen state. Perfect for holidays or make ahead for a quick and impressive side to any meal.

When a member of the University Christian Church Solid Rock Youth Group asked me to submit something for their silent auction, how could I say no? My alma mater just as much as my high school, this is the place where I met my high school sweetheart, now my husband of 7 years. Their leader married us. The trips–the summer camps, CIY conferences, missions trips to Mexico and New Orleans and Alabama–greatly influenced who I am today. It feels like just a summer or two ago, not a decade ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if my R.A.M. letters are still tucked into a box somewhere.

So, really,  how could I say no?

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I had made and donated pierogies before, so that was what I offered.  I mean, who wouldn’t want little smile-shaped pockets of mashed potato?

These little dumplings take a little more effort than my standard recipe, but Pierogies are my love language, so I find that it’s worth it.  And, since you do all the work ahead of time, it only takes a few minutes to enjoy this terrific side dish on a busy evening.

 

They’re just my favorite.  You can tell because in this digital age, I actually took the time to write down the recipe on a card.

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Just ignore the fact that I misspelled vegetable here, please.  *face-palm*

Start with the dough.  A large bowl and a well of flour filled with the liquid ingredients.  Go slowly; the best things in life cannot be rushed.

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I took a chance, and used my dough hook on my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer to handle the kneeding of this dough.  I was nervous because I had never used that feature before, but it worked like a charm!  And watching it go was more than mildly satisfying.

While the dough rests, start peeling and boiling potatoes to make the filling.

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I’ve never met a flavor of pierogi that I didn’t like.  Green onion and cheddar are my favorites, but today I made cheddar and onion.

Roll out the dough to about 1/8 of an inch thick, and cut into circles using a biscuit cutter or an upside down cup.  Stuff with about a tablespoon of potato in each.  Seal the edges with loving attention to detail — nobody wants a watery pierogi.

Most importantly, lay flat individually on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and leave in the freezer for 24-48 hours until frozen.

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I tried to rush this process once.  I bagged a bunch of half-frozen pierogies and proudly walked into Thanksgiving dinner, unaware of the catastrophe that awaited.  Skip to the end of the story: me in tears, all the pierogies stuck together, most of them ripping open while they boiled.

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A few people politely ate raw, watery pierogi dough that year. I am so sorry.

Ok back to today, because I’ve mastered this process now, and I’d rather repress that memory.  After freezing this batch for a day, of course I had to taste test!  Obviously I’ve learned SOMETHING from the Thanksgiving Day fiasco!

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I boiled them first, 5 minutes, but then I fried them up in a skillet with a little olive oil.  Ya know, for my health.  Butter would be even better.

Soft and freshly boiled is fine, but that little bit of brown, crispy crust just puts them over the top.

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So please, if you are attending the UCC Silent Auction tonight, bid some $$$ on my pierogies, because it’s for a good cause.

Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 3 C all purpose flour
  • 1 C water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp salt

Potato Filling:

  • 1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes
  • 6 oz grated cheddar
  • 1 tbsp garlic salt

Instructions:

  1. Put flour in a large, shallow bowl, and make well in the center.  Add water, egg, oil, and salt.  Carefully beat together with a fork, not to disturb the flour.  Continue stirring, gradually incorporating flour until a soft dough forms
  2. Transfer dough to a floured surface and kneed about 8 minutes, or use a dough hook and kneeding setting on a stand mixer.
  3. Dump dough onto clean counter top.  Invert bowl over dough and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
  4. While dough stands, peel potatoes and cut into 1 inch pieces.  Boil potatoes about 8 minutes.  Drain, add cheese and garlic salt, and mash (feel free to use a stand mixer here too!).
  5. Let potatoes cool, and scoop with a cookie scoop to make uniform rounded balls.  Refrigerate until dough is ready.
  6. Half the dough, and roll out to 1/8 inch thick.  Cut 24 rounds with a floured cutter.
  7. Place a single round in the palm of your hand, add a potato ball in the center, and use your fingers to close the dough around the ball.  Pinch the edges firmly and seal completely.
  8. Freeze for 24 to 48 hours.  They can remain in the freezer for 3 months (if they last that long).
  9. When ready to eat, boil pierogies for 5 minutes or until they float.

 

Optional: drain and fry in a small amount of olive oil until a crust forms.

Vegan “Kartoffelsalat” (German Potato Salad)

Kartoffelsalat, or German potato salad, is traditionally served warm.  Fresh dill, sautéed onion, and a hint of vinegar makes this salad delicious while still being light and nutritious. This salad is a great vegan option and dairy and egg free, perfect for any social gathering or potluck. Break free of the gelatinous supermarket potato salad, and enjoy the freshness of the ingredients that brings everyone back wanting more.

Kartoffelsalat, or German potato salad, is traditionally served warm. Fresh dill, sautéed onion, and a hint of vinegar makes this salad delicious while still being light and nutritious. This salad is a great vegan option and dairy and egg free, perfect for any social gathering or potluck. Break free of the gelatinous supermarket potato salad, and enjoy the freshness of the ingredients that brings everyone back wanting more.

One of my favorite local restaurants here in Manhattan, KS is the Little Apple Brewing Company.  They are known for their beef, and I challenge you to find a better burger than theirs.  Even if you can find a better burger (doubt it), I know you will not find a better combo than a big juicy burger and a side of German potato salad.  Ordering a side of German potato salad with a LABCO burger is how I was introduced to this amazing dish in the first place, and it’s one of my all-time favorite dinners out, which is saying a lot.

This recipe is no copycat of the LABCO German potato salad, and it doesn’t try to be.  Traditional German potato salad uses bacon and its grease, and I imagine the restaurant has no qualms including similar high fat and sodium content in their decadent side dish. Instead, this recipe is much lighter and uses no animal by-products; it’s vegan and allergy friendly!

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For some reason, I recently confidently volunteered to bring potato salad to a dinner function even though I knew some people who couldn’t eat dairy and eggs.  It wasn’t until later that I realized that all my potato salad recipes relied on ranch, sour cream, or mayo.  You know the feeling??

Yup. Gob understands.

I studied vegan potato salad recipes without finding anything that struck my fancy, mostly because I struggled to imagine a non-fried potato in any form not being paired with dairy!  (Baked potatoes without sour cream OR butter OR cheese??! Shudder!)

Inspiration came in the form of a gift from an old man at my community garden.  My garden neighbor generously offered some fresh dill that he was thinning out anyway.  Not really familiar with how to even use fresh dill, I initially took it to be polite, but the dill completely inspired this recipe.  It has never even crossed my mind to grow dill, but I really enjoyed finding ways to use it!  Now I can’t wait to get the stuff in the ground to use again!

I confess, when I made this salad, I didn’t realize until JUST before it was time to leave for dinner that I didn’t have any apple cider vinegar in the house. With no time to buy any, I tasted and eventually served the salad without the vinegar because it was SO GOOD.  I later added the vinegar on another attempt, and the result was a completely a different salad, and both versions are absolutely delicious and very enjoyable!

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Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs yukon gold potato, cubed
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 1/4 C apple cider vinegar (optional)
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions:

  1. Cover the potatoes in water in a large pot and bring to a boil.  Cook until completely tender. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and the onion in a skillet over a medium-high heat, stirring often, until the onion is soft and translucent.  Add vinegar to skillet and remove from heat.
  3. Pour the skillet contents over the potatoes, add the dill, and mix until distributed evenly and potatoes are slightly crushed.  Salt and pepper to taste.  German potato salad is traditionally served warm, but this salad is also yummy cold.

Extra note: Vinegar is the quintessential ingredient when making German potato salad.  However, the vinegar is optional and can be adjusted to taste.  If the hint of vinegar is not a flavor you enjoy, I would recommend only adding a couple of tablespoons or eliminating it altogether.  The salad without the vinegar is still absolutely delicious!  I can’t say it enough!

Best,

Brohgan

Savory Blackberry Basil Pizza

The mild flavor of blackberries sings in perfect harmony when paired with mozzarella,  parmesan, and ricotta cheeses.  Green onion and fresh basil add interest to this unusual savory pizza. The soft, baked berries act as both the sauce and and as a topping, and their hint of sweetness combined with the salty and creamy cheeses and tangy green onions creates a memorable, delicious flavor. This simple pizza recipe results in complicated flavor using healthy, fresh ingredients.

Have I mentioned that we have a new baby?  A new, very cute baby who turned life, including dinnertime, upside down?

I have to say, I was stuck in a deep rut before I made this pizza.  Every meal was about what made me think the least. My creativity was nonexistent. I was in pure survival mode.

That is what life with a newborn does to you. You live completely in the moment. You walk around constantly looking like you’re in shock or in the middle of some sort of trauma.

Parenting is wonderfully rewarding, but it’s completely exhausting.

In the midst of newborn craziness, I saw this pizza on Pinterest, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I couldn’t quite inagine what it would taste like. Was it sweet? Was it savory? Was it creamy? I HAD TO MAKE IT.

It literally took weeks before I managed to accomplish my goal. So worth the wait! It’s mostly cheese and blackberry, so there is really no going wrong!  A hint of sweetness, like pineapple or sweetened tomato sauce, combined with traditional white pie toppings. All flavors I love on a pizza!

The ricotta was honestly my favorite part. And the berries. And the onion. Ok, all of it.

After having my life dictated by an infant, this pizza just felt like the most adult-like thing I had done in a long time.  And it only took less than 10 minutes to toss together.

Ingredients:

-your favorite pizza crust (I cheated and used a store bought crust because, well, remember how I mentioned that new baby earlier?)

-1 tbsp olive oil

-1 C fresh blackberries, divided

-1 C shredded parmesan

-1 C mozzarella cheese

-1/4 C chopped green onion

-2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Drizzle olive oil over your pizza crust and spread evenly using a  brush or the back of a spoon.
  3. Use a fork to mash up 1/2 C blackberries. Spread evenly over the crust. (This is the pizza sauce.) Top evenly with the parmesan and the mozzarella cheeses.
  4. Use a spoon to generously dollop on the ricotta cheese over the top. (And my mouth is watering again. This was my favorite part!)
  5. Sprinkle on remaining whole blackberries, green onions, and basil.
  6. Bake 8-10 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown.
  7. Serve immediately.

Tomatillo Ranch Chicken

Tangy tomatillo ranch smothered over chicken and rice! While the chicken and rice are served immediately after cooking, the sauce is cold, which makes this a very enjoyable  summer dish.This creamy dish is quick and easy to make. It makes dinner time a breeze! Exactly the relief we need in this Kansas summer heat!

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This recipe provided an opportunity for self-growth. A new ingredient, and an unfamiliar flavor. Oh, I am so glad I embraced the tomatillo goodness, because the tangy ranch sauce just hit the spot!

Tomatillos are common in the Deep South. However, I was unfamiliar with this ingredient when I ordered from it as a part of my weekly produce co-op basket. I’ve never even seen the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes.”  Basically, I had no idea what to do with it.

Tomatillos are basically the flavor of a sweet lemon. Peel off the husk and rinse off the sticky film that is commonly found underneath. Handle like a tomato.


Let’s talk about the ranch seasoning, because seasoning mixes are one of my favorite things, and this ranch is certainly the most commonly used mix in my kitchen.  Powdered ranch seasoning is extremely versatile to be used on both vegan and non-vegan dishes without adding tons of unwanted extra calories or sodium.

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While fresh herbs have a better taste, this dry mix is much more convenient to have on hand.

Firstly, rub the the chicken in the ranch mix and get it into the oven.  While the chicken roasts, put together the tomatillo ranch sauce and cook the rice.

 

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Tomatillo Ranch Chicken

Ingredients

  • -3 medium chicken breast
  • -1 tbsp homemade ranch mix see ingredients below
  • -1 c white rice uncooked
  • -2 c water
  • -1 C mayo
  • -1/4 C milk
  • -2 cloves garlic
  • -1 C fresh cilantro
  • -3 medium tomatillos
  • -2 tbsp homemade ranch mix

Homemade Ranch Mix:

  • -1 tsp Black Pepper
  • -1 tbsp Parsley dried
  • -1/2 tbsp Garlic Powder
  • -1/2 tbsp Onion Powder
  • -1 tsp Dried Dill

Instructions

  1. Top raw chicken with ranch mix and put in 375 degree oven for 25 minutes until fully cooked.
  2. Cook rice per package directions.
  3. Combine mayo, milk, garlic, cilantro, tomatillos, and 2 tbsp ranch mix in a food processor until creamy.
  4. Slice chicken into strips. Spoon rice into 3-4 bowls. Top rice with chicken and sauce. Enjoy immediately.

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After I made this, I just realized a vegetarian or vegan version using this sauce could be amazing!  Unfortunately, my leftover sauce was left out, and I had to throw it out.  Someday, I will figure this out.

Tangy tomatillo ranch smothered over chicken and rice! While the chicken and rice are served immediately after cooking, the sauce is cold, which makes this a very enjoyable summer dish.This creamy dish is quick and easy to make. It makes dinner time a breeze!

Garlic Salsa

This recipe for red salsa leaves out one key traditional ingredient: onions. What’s left is a sweet, tangy blend and a spicy kick that can be adjusted to taste. Fresh ingredients–summer tomatoes, fresh cilantro, lime, fresh garlic–are the key to transforming this recipe from similar-to-jarred into “restaurant quality.” (As my cousin put it. Thanks again, lady!).  Best of all, it only takes a few minutes to make and requires almost no chopping!

This recipe for red salsa leaves out one key traditional ingredient: onions. What’s left is a sweet, tangy blend and a spicy kick that can be adjusted to taste. Fresh ingredients–summer tomatoes, fresh cilantro, lime, fresh garlic–are the key to transforming this recipe from similar-to-jarred into “restaurant quality.” (As my cousin put it. Thanks again, lady!). Best of all, it only takes a few minutes to make and requires almost no chopping!

My grandmother has been known for her gigantic tomato collection for decades.  Ceramic tomatoes, Campbell’s tomato soup signs, tomato shaped mugs, tomato salt and pepper shakers of all sizes, tomato cutting boards, tomato magnets, and so much more decorate every surface her sunny country kitchen.  Now that she’s preparing to sell the farm, my sister, my mother, and I have been photographing and cataloging a lifetime of tomatoes piece by piece.

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My grandpa was known in the family for his love of eating tomatoes.  Maybe that inspired her collection?  I have never asked.

Confession: despite the family history, honestly, I don’t really like tomatoes.  Years of training keeps me from not picking them off burgers and sandwiches.  Let me tell you, I am really the black sheep of tomato enjoyment in my mom’s side of the family.  I like looking at them.  I love the juxtaposition of grandma’s red tomatoes in front of her country green plaid wall paper.  I just don’t feel like eating them.

So when I received a pile of Roma tomatoes in my weekly produce co-op basket, I was less than thrilled…

…until the clouds above opened and the idea for this salsa floated down. Hallelujah salsa!

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I brought this salsa to my grandma’s house for Sunday dinner with the family, and they gobbled it up! (On Sundays only, dinner equals lunch, supper equals dinner. Local Kansas country colloquialism lesson for the day!)

This salsa is a hit!  I’ve had people asking for more!

Ingredients:

-3 garlic cloves

approximately 1/4 c fresh cilantro

-3 Roma tomatoes

-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded (leave seeds in for spicy salsa!! Ay-yay-yay!)

-1 tsp cumin

-1/2 tsp salt

-juice from half a lime (or the whole lime, because it’s yummy that way too)

 

Directions:

  1. Blend cilantro and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and pulse food processor until uniform texture is achieved.  Easy!
  3. Chill and serve cold as dip for chips or a topping on any Mexican flavored dish.  Be prepared for it to disappear quickly!

Creative option:

Adjust to your taste.  If it’s too spicy, add more tomato.  If it’s too bland, add the jalapeno seeds.  If you don’t like cilantro, well, I don’t understand people who don’t like cilantro. But, we can overcome our differences and still be friends, ok?

Side note! For me, I’ve learned that my dislike of tomatoes is limited to heirloom tomatoes.  Even though it seems like the opposite should be true, heirloom tomatoes are the type of tomato that embraces that watery, bland flavor that you find placed on a fast food burger.  The newer strands of tomatoes that have been developed in recent years highlight the acidity and provide actual flavor.  But, I know this is a controversial opinion… you heirloom tomato people are crazy about your watery tomatoes.  Look at it this way: I’m just leaving more available for you to eat!

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Garlic Salsa

This recipe for red salsa leaves out one key traditional ingredient: onions. What’s left is a sweet, tangy blend and a spicy kick that can be adjusted to taste. Fresh ingredients–summer tomatoes, fresh cilantro, lime, fresh garlic–are the key to transforming this recipe from similar-to-jarred into “restaurant quality.” (As my cousin put it. Thanks again, lady!). Best of all, it only takes a few minutes to make and requires almost no chopping!

Ingredients

  • -3 garlic cloves
  • approximately 1/4 c fresh cilantro
  • -3 Roma tomatoes
  • -2 jalapeno peppers seeded (leave seeds in for spicy salsa!! Ay-yay-yay!)
  • -1 tsp cumin
  • -1/2 tsp salt
  • -juice from half a lime or the whole lime, because it's yummy that way too

Instructions

  1. Blend cilantro and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and pulse food processor until uniform texture is achieved.  Easy!
  3. Chill and serve cold as dip for chips or a topping on any Mexican flavored dish.  Be prepared for it to disappear quickly!

Recipe Notes

Adjust to your taste.  If it's too spicy, add more tomato.  If it's too bland, add the jalapeno seeds.  If you don't like cilantro, well, I don't understand people who don't like cilantro. But, we can overcome our differences and still be friends, ok?