LOW CARB “POTATOLESS” SALAD: GUILTFREE INDULGENCE

“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall…” – Oscar Wilde

As summer draws to a close, having our health in focus is essential to living the best life possible. While being mindful of what we consume in cold winter months can be a challenge with comfort foods and less body conscious clothing, the cool weather brings countless holiday temptations.



This winter I have to be mindful of my intake of starchy carbs. I have noticed that my low-carb recipes have receive heavy traffic, therefore, I do not think I am the only one attempting to embrace this lifestyle. I have enjoyed the creativity that this method of dining has afforded me, and it’s my goal to convert some of my favorite foods into carb friendly options.

When I think of carbs, one of the first dishes to come to mind is potato salad. My grandma Hilda’s potato salad was scrumptious. The perfect balance of creamy and crunchy with just the right amount of tanginess (vinegar was a major ingredient of my childhood).

One of the nice things about making potato salad is a lot of the prep work can be done ahead of time. Since my family does not warmly welcome the idea of a low-carb way of eating, I can easily prep the ingredients and make two salads. The only extra step is prepping both potatoes and cauliflower. If you are bringing this dish to a gathering, you will win over many hearts by offering a Potato Salad and a Potatoless Salad without putting in extra work. 

While the cauliflower in this salad could be steamed or boiled, I decided to roast it to give the salad an extra layer of flavor. While cauliflower is rather “neutral” tasting (one of the reasons it is such a great replacement for rice, pasta, and potatoes) I roast mine with a sauce that gives a lovely nuance of flavor. I serve the roasted cauliflower as a side often and I use the same sauce to roast broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and root vegetables.

POTATOLESS SALAD

*1 head of roasted cauliflower (recipe for roasted cauliflower below)
*½ chopped green pepper
*¼ cup chopped onion
*3 ribs of chopped celery
*6 chopped hard boiled eggs
*1 cup of mayonnaise (substitute low fat options if you wish – Greek yogurt works as a great substitute)
*Tablespoon yellow mustard (or to taste)
*2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
*Chopped fresh dill (to taste – I added ¼ cup. A couple of tsps of dry will work as well)
*Salt and pepper to taste

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER

*1 head of cauliflower cut into small florets
*2 Tablespoons olive oil
*2 Tablespoons of soy sauce
*I Tablespoon Dijon mustard
*1 Tablespoon minced garlic
Roast the cauliflower for 60 minutes at 425 (Flip the cauliflower at 30 minutes). 

After roasting the cauliflower let cool and add all of the above ingredients. It is recommended to prepare the salad the night before to let all the flavors marry. 

While potato salad tends to be a summer option, I think it makes a great dish year round (especially when you are yearning for summer). Going easy on carbohydrate rich sides and entrees gives us a lit more room to indulge in a scoop of decadent ice cream or a piece of your aunt’s should-be-world-famous pies. I was skeptical about a “potatoless” salad, but the cauliflower seems to do the trick. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did. I would love to hear what you swap out for starchy carbs in your favorite meals.

AUTUMN HARVEST: CREAMY CHICKEN SOUP WITH ROASTED JALAPENO

 

“Use what you have, use what the world gives you. Use the first day of fall: bright flame before winter’s deadness; harvest; orange, gold, amber; cool nights and the smell of fire. Our tree-lined streets are set ablaze, our kitchens filled with the smells of nostalgia: apples bubbling into sauce, roasting squash, cinnamon, nutmeg, cider, warmth itself. The leaves as they spark into wild color just before they die are the world’s oldest performance art, and everything we see is celebrating one last violently hued hurrah before the black and white silence of winter.” — Shauna Niequist

I have heard some bloggers refer to soup as a “hug in a bowl” and I heartily agree. It is one of my favorite ways to nurture and take care of my family. A steaming bowl of soup is a mainstay in our house. I enjoy a leafy green salad as an accompaniment and my step son and husband are fond of a gooey grilled cheese sandwich with theirs. I am also known to partner mine with a grilled cheese sandwich (made with swiss and the addition of crisp lettuce, a couple slices of ripe tomato, and wedges of dill pickle). I learned to love grilled cheese with those toppings in Jamaica (of all places). Of course, everything tastes better when served up at a little beachside grill!

When I make soup, I often make a couple of different kinds because soup freezes well. I freeze in a Mason jar (leaving a couple of inches of headroom). I like using jars because I can see what kind of soup it is and then I can pull it out of the freezer the day before for a quick meal. This is especially handy this time of year when we are often running to hockey practice after school and I do not have a lot of time to prepare dinner.
CREAMY CHICKEN & ROASTED JALAPENO SOUP

*4 cups of chicken broth
*2 cups of cooked chicken (I use a whole chicken in the Instapot. Once the chicken is finished cooking I remove the meat and set aside and then use the bones along with seasoning and vegetables for broth)
*2 Tablespoons of olive oil
*2 Tablespoons of chopped garlic
*½ cup of chopped onion
*½ cup of chopped celery
*½ cup of chopped carrot
*3 chopped roasted jalapeno peppers 
*4 ounce can of chopped jalapenos
*1 cup of heavy cream (you can use low fat or regular milk)
*8 ounces of shredded queso quesadilla cheese (you can use pepper jack, mozzarella, or your favorite variety)
*1 stick of butter
*1 cup of flour
*Salt and pepper to taste

Saute the garlic, onion, celery, and garlic in olive oil. While these ingredients soften, roast the jalapeno. Cut the jalapeno in ½ and deseed, put on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, roast for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Add the chicken broth to the sauteed vegetables.

In a separate saucepan melt the butter and slowly incorporate the flour. Whisk well for 2-3 minutes and be careful not to burn. Add a little bit of the liquid from the soup pot into the butter and flour mixture (roux) and whisk well so there are not any lumps. Pour the roux into the soup pot and mix well.

Add the chicken, canned and roasted jalapeno, cream, and cheese. Simmer for 10-15 minutes and add salt and pepper to taste.
This recipe is versatile and you can make it as spicy or mild as you wish. Roasting the fresh jalapenos gives them a slightly smoky flavor profile. I will often roast extra jalapeno and serve on the side so individuals can give their soup an extra kick if they wish. Roasted tomatoes, squash, and corn also are a great autumn addition to this soup and you can top your bowl with crushed tortilla chips or roasted pumpkin seeds. If you are looking for a brighter taste you can add a squeeze of lime juice and top with fresh cilantro.

The butter and cream in the recipe can be reduced if you want a lower fat version, but the roux in combination with the cheese thickens it to a velvety consistency. Since November is the season of thankfulness, you may want to splurge a little. Trust me, this soup is worth it!

As the weather cools, this soup will help warm you and your loved ones up. Making soup for others is a simple act of kindness that reminds us that many of life’s greatest pleasures are homemade. Make sure you check out my my soup tab for over twenty other healthy soup recipes

Our community has been through a lot of challenges and I hope you are able to reflect and count your blessings. Take care of yourself, take care of each other, and embrace the positive!

CABIN FEVER SALAD: GREEK PASTA

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” 
― Philip Pullman

*Note – While it may be October, pretend it’s July. I wrote this in July for my monthly food column in a local magazine (Marquette Neighbors). Yesterday there were snowflakes in the air, so this afternoon I enjoyed time traveling back to July.

July, the sweet spot of summer. Vegetable gardens are planted and are showing promise, Lake Superior is dazzling us with apricot colored sunrises, and we are adjusting to a new way of living. We are a little more cautious, watching things closely from a distance, and hopefully are a lot more appreciative. 

The pond that my husband built for me (and our ducks) is my happy place.

I have heard many people humorously say that 2020 will go down in their memory bank as the year they made dinner 5,000 nights in a row. While I love to cook, it’s the dirty dishes that plague my heart and kitchen. Therefore, 2020 for me is the year that I am extremely thankful for a dishwasher (that runs daily). It is the year that I have had more time to experiment with my Recipes to Try board on Pinterest. It is also the year that I am even more thankful that we have chickens (we have the time to sit down multiple times a week for a formal family breakfast) and the year that my husband decided that maybe cabbage rolls are not as horrible as he thought they were when he was kid. 

The other day my step-son Lukas and I were surveying our yard and I was teaching him the names of the flowers that were in bloom. Of course, I seemed to have a story to go with each flower from my childhood. How my grandfather curated a frothy hedge of pink peonies and how their luscious, fragrant blooms riddled with ants turn me back into an eleven year old too.

Lukas and I get along well and I think it is because we both like to tell stories. Even more important, we listen to each other’s stories. This summer Lukas is obsessed with egg sandwiches and he loves to make different variations of them. However, he’s not too keen on vegetables, but he gives them an honest try. Everything except for beets. He refuses to accept beets and gives his head a fervent shake when I offer him a pickled one from the jar or a roasted one at dinner time.

Lukas always wants to know what recipe I am planning for my recipe column. For this month’s feature he decided no matter what the ingredients were, that it should have Cabin Fever in the title. He thought it was a title that would draw people in and would be relatable. I had to laugh and agree with him. While my husband and I are a little smitten with our log cabin tucked away in the wilds of Skandia, sometimes we too have to venture out and be social. That said, the recipe that I am sharing with you today is one that I often make for potluck and social gatherings. It is a crowd pleaser and one that I make often for my workday lunches or to have as a side with dinner.


CABIN FEVER SALAD – (Greek Pasta Salad)

*Pasta – 16 ounce box (I prefer a small pasta – like orzo, ditalini, or stelline. For this salad I was able to find a petite star-shaped pasta)
*Quart cherry/grape tomatoes halved
*Cup feta cheese (crumbled or cubed – I prefer buying a block and cubing it) –
*½ cup chopped onion (red, white, or yellow)
*Cup of kalamata olives halved
*2 cucumbers chopped (If garden fresh, I leave the peels on)
*1/2 green bell pepper chopped
*½ yellow or orange bell pepper chopped
*4 cups of greens (spinach, kale, or spring mix)
*Juice and zest of 2 lemons (If you make my homemade dressing, you can use the lemon in the dressing)
*Optional – handful of fresh chopped dill. A couple Tablespoons of fresh oregano and a little freshly chopped mint is also wonderful mixed in
*Dressing – I will share my Greek Vinaigrette recipe below. Though, when in a time pinch, I use store bought. I am partial to Newman’s Own Italian varieties or the Zesty Italian that you mix up from the dry packets)
*Salt and pepper to taste

GREEK VINAIGRETTE DRESSING

*1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of red wine vinegar (since homemade dressings can be made to suit individual tastes, I always recommend that you add vinegar to meet the level of tartness that you enjoy. If you prefer your dressings less tart you can add more olive oil)
*Juice and zest of one lemon
*1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard
(I have also used spicy brown mustard
*1 clove of garlic
*1 Teaspoon red onion
(you can substitute with green, white, or yellow onion)
*1 sprig offresh oregano (Approximately 2 Tablespoons. If you are using dried use 1-2 teaspoons. Taste as you go and add more if desired)
*1/4 cup of olive oil (You can add more depending on taste. You could also skip the oil and add the oil directly to each salad, or to the jar, to maintain portion control)
*Salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta, drain, and let cool before adding the rest of the ingredients and mix. If you are preparing for an event, make several hours (if not a day) in advance to let the flavors marry.

This recipe will make a LARGE batch, so you can halve or quarter the ingredients if you only want a few servings. It keeps well in the refrigerator for several days (it tastes better after sitting for a day or two) and it makes a great Mason Jar salad either layering the ingredients or mixing right up. Sometimes I whip up a batch after we make Shish Kebobs. I make sure to grill up extra skewers of vegetables (tomato, onion, peppers) to make a salad the next day.

I also tend to add less pasta, and add more greens, when I am making it for myself at home. However, I enjoy the texture pasta brings to the salad and it soaks up the dressing and makes it extra flavorful. You may find yourself having to add more dressing (depending on how much pasta you add). Sometimes if it seems “dry” I may add some olive oil, more lemon juice, or even raw apple cider vinegar.

In the summer, when growing my own greens, I am partial to kale over spinach. While we grow both in our garden, kale is much easier to grow. It does not go to seed like spinach and lettuce and I harvest the same patch from spring until fall.

I hope you enjoy this salad and that it helps cure any cabin fever that you may be experiencing. May you savor all the sweetness that July offers and take advantage of a slower pace to listen to the stories around you. Trust me, the Lukases in your life will thank you.

Lukas loves to help out in the kitchen.

Goal Setting: Making Human Connections in the Classroom — Glitter and Dog Hair

If you would have told me back in the middle of March when we closed up our school buildings due to a rising pandemic that our lives would still not be back to normal by October, I would not have believed you. Though, what does that mean anymore? While I admit that I am growing tired of the phrase, “The new normal” – doing things differently than we did before may be a reality that we are facing. Also, because I try to be a glass half full sort of person, maybe adapting and changing some aspects of our lives is not necessarily a bad thing.

Goal Setting: Making Human Connections in the Classroom — Glitter and Dog Hair