Bulgur Chickpea Salad

Bulgur Chickpea Salad saved the day for me.  Thanks to Jenn Segal over at Once Upon a Chef for the inspiration and base recipe to start with!

I needed a recipe that could easily serve quite a few people.  Normally, I have a difficult time deciding which recipe to make, since I have so many.  But this situation left me at a loss for what I could make.

You see, there were so many variables and criteria that needed to be met.  It was needed for a barbecue themed potluck that would be served over several hours because people would be getting their meal breaks at different times.  It would also be several hours between arriving at my destination and food service.

Refrigerator space was going to be severely limited, and carrying a crockpot to the destination was not possible.  There were a couple of factors that prevented this, but that really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I needed a dish to fit this criteria.

The last criteria was a new one for me.  There was going to be an ethical vegan eating at this potluck.  If you are wondering what an ethical vegan was, you aren’t alone.  I have asked many questions about this way of eating and still jut know the basics.

With my very limited understanding of this way of eating, I knew I needed to find something that had absolutely no animal products in the recipe.  No eggs, no dairy, and obviously no meat, but this also excludes honey.  If you have read any of our recipes, you know that there is a good possibility that I have no recipes beyond hummus that would fit that bill.  Hummus was not an option as I was committed to a side dish.

A friend suggested I make tabbouleh, but I really dislike that much parsley in any one dish.  I can’t get past the overwhelming feeling that I am eating lawn clippings.  Don’t get me wrong, I love fresh parsley and grow my own during the summer.  It brings great fresh flavor to my dishes, but I guess tabbouleh is just too much freshness!  I needed an alternative.

This side dish salad was the perfect fit.  Bulgur and chickpeas combined with sturdy vegetables like red peppers, onions, and cucumbers would hold up to the acidity of the lemon juice.  I have left out the dill and the cumin, personal preferences here again.  This recipe kind of reminded me of a Portuguese chickpea salad a friend used to make and it only had parsley in it.  So I stuck with just the parsley, and did not use nearly the amount most tabbouleh recipes call for.

Aglio Olio with Mushrooms

A long time ago I had a friend that loved to cook Italian foods.  Spaghetti Aglio Olio, a.k.a garlic pasta,  and a red meatless “gravy” were the only two thing I ever cooked with that friend.

If you have read any of my other posts, you know that I can never leave well enough alone in a recipe and have taken liberties over the years to adjust this recipe to my own preferences.  I think this is the way most folks cook Aglio Olio, as no two recipes ever seem the same.

The way I learned to cook Aglio Olio was to start with olive oil, garlic, and anchovies.  I know that the anchovies are supposed to melt into the sauce and provide a rich flavor.  I find it leaves too fishy of a taste for me and have chosen to not use them.  If you like that flavor, all you have to do is add 4 to 6 anchovy filets to the cold skillet with the garlic and oil when you first start the dish.

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Simple Turkey Dressing

For me, homemade stuffing/dressing is required at Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.  The stuff from the box just doesn’t get it for me.  Although, that is what I was raised on, my mother used it. Yuck.  I had an aunt once declare that this dressing tastes just like her mom’s, but I don’t recall anything besides the boxed stuff at her house either.  In her defense, holiday meals normally meant cooking for 25 to 35 people.  We never had real mashed potatoes either.

I have been known to use a bag pre-seasoned hard cubes, and those can be prepared in a way that it is almost as good as homemade.  And 2 bags of those cubes can be used as a substitute for the loaf of rustic crusty bread used in this recipe.  It will require much more liquid than the crusty bread allowed to dry out will.

People put all kinds of stuff in their stuffing, maybe that’s why it’s called stuffing, it’s stuffed with stuff.  I have never stuffed a bird with dressing, I think it might end up being too greasy and not hot enough to kill whatever bacteria might be hiding inside that turkey.

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Simple Pico de Gallo

You may notice when you look at my recipes that I use minimal or no cilantro in dishes where it is customary.  This simple Pico de Gallo is no different.  If you like cilantro, feel free to add it anywhere and everywhere, just please do not put it into foods you want me to eat.  I can do small amounts of it when I go to Chipotle’s or certain Mexican restaurants, but if there is too much of it in anything I just have to leave it on my plate.

I am one of the few people in this word apparently that thinks cilantro smells like dirty gym socks.

Since I do like Mexican food though, I just make my recipes without an overload of cilantro.  I also use minimal amounts of jalapeno peppers, but just like cilantro, feel free to add more if you prefer more heat.    I serve this Pico de Gallo alongside my Midwest quesadillas because I love all things tomatoes and I think they go well together.  I also think it goes great with chips, it’s more than an acceptable substitute for store bought salsa only I get to decide how much cilantro goes in mine – none.

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Old Fashioned Slow Simmered Green Beans

Old Fashioned Slow Simmered Green Beans have been in my life since I was old enough to eat.  The first indication a holiday feast brewing in the kitchen is the smell of bacon and onions cooking at the crack of dawn.

My grandmother and mother both made green beans often.  I don’t know if it was tradition, cheap, a comfort food, or just the first vegetable that came to mind at dinner time.  When I was growing up, everyone’s normal evening meal included a protein, a starch and a vegetable.

My grandmother used a spoonful of bacon grease when she cooked almost anything.  She had a can of bacon grease sitting on the stove.  She added to that can every time she made bacon for breakfast, which if memory serves me right was daily.  My grandfather loved his bacon.  Even after my grandma passed, he still made himself a breakfast of bacon, eggs, biscuits, and grape jelly.  He also drank his coffee out of a saucer instead of a cup.  I never did know why he did that.  It remains a mystery to me to this day.  He lived to be 89 and had it not been for dementia he probably would have lived longer than that. Continue reading “Old Fashioned Slow Simmered Green Beans”

“Too Cheesy” Macaroni and Cheese

Who doesn’t love a big helping of homemade macaroni and cheese? My spouse, that’s who. He likes the stuff from the box; powdered cheese, foil packet of cheese, any kind of cheese besides good old fashioned American cheese slices. Now don’t misunderstand, there is something to be said about the convenience of those blue boxes and I have cooked my share of them. I have also served up the frozen and refrigerated prepackaged varieties. I feel no shame.

But I prefer my macaroni and cheese the way my mom used to make it when she was in the cooking spirit. It is swimming in cheese, enough cheese that it gets called “too cheesy” in this house and rarely gets made anymore. I was excited to write this post because it gave me the excuse to make it for photos.

(Side note: while writing the recipe, I realize that the DH might actually be right, this might be too cheesy……. But please do not tell him he was right, I will never hear the end of it.)

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Orzo with Asparagus or Peas

Orzo with Asparagus or peas is an easy recipe that can be altered to suit the meal you plan to serve it with. I have successfully used beef broth in place of chicken broth for beef based main dishes. I have changed out vegetables without an issue as well. You could even add some protein and turn it into a one pot main dish.

This version of orzo looks like you worked hard and kind of reminds me of risotto without all the hard work. When I think of risotto I hear Gordon Ramsey in the background talking about incompetence. His shows may have scarred me for life and scared me away from ever attempting to make risotto. I’ll stick to orzo.

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Strawberry Mandarin Orange Salad with Mango Coconut Dressing

We call this $30 salad at our house. My brother-in-law Charlie deemed this a $30 salad.  I think he might have been referring to the cost of the ingredients, but Andy swears it is because they would pay $30 to eat this salad in a restaurant.  This does NOT cost $30 to make.

This is a bright and cheerful addition to any meal.

It’s real name is Strawberry Mandarin Salad with Mango Coconut Dressing.  We used to eat a similar salad, along with the best banana bread and strawberry butter at a restaurant in Venice, Florida.  This is another of those foods we had not seen anywhere else and no recipe existed. So, as usual, I felt compelled to create a recipe that would be similar.  I have been asked to share this recipe most times I have carried it to gatherings or served it at my house to guests.

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Tomato Mozzarella Bruschetta

Sometimes, the best foods have few ingredients and are easy to put together. Tomato Mozzarella Bruschetta is one of those foods.

Served as an appetizer or light snack, this Tomato Mozzarella Bruschetta is a great way to use the bounty of ripe tomatoes available during the summer months. In my opinion, there is no winter tomato or canned tomato product that can beat the taste of tomatoes fresh from the garden or farmers’ markets.

However, if you are looking for something different to serve at gatherings, this will work with the “on the vine” tomatoes from the store, even through the winter.  They may be a little mealy, but the flavor is better than other year round tomatoes.  Whenever I am forced to use these kind of tomatoes, I tend to cut out the middle mealy portions and just use the outside portions with skin still attached.

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Sweet Potatoes and Killer Bee Honey Butter

There are many things in the kitchen that are pretty easy to cook and mashed sweet potatoes is one of those things. In my opinion, cooking a sweet potato is cooking 101. If you’re a relatively inexperienced chef, keep on reading. If you’re an experienced home chef,  you can probably skip to the delicious recipes closer to the bottom of the post.

Everyone has seen someone massacre a sweet potato by boiling it in water. I think this is about the worst thing you could ever do to a sweet potato. Roasting it in the oven or baking it in aluminum foil is the best way to maintain, if not improve, the flavor. The key to baking a sweet potato is knowing when it’s done. Under cook it and you’ll be eating grit. Over cook it and you’ll squeeze the moisture out of it and you’ll be left with a watery stringy mess. Bleh!

Ok, a critical part to cooking a sweet potato begins at the grocery store. The size really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you buy all of the same sized sweet potatoes. You want them all to get done cooking at the same time, so don’t go buying big potatoes and little potatoes. I have seen some pretty huge sweet potatoes and some so small I’m not sure why the store is even selling them. I prefer to buy sweet potatoes that are about 2.5 inches in diameter. Buy too small and they can over cook quickly. Buy too large and the interior can be under cooked while the exterior is mush.

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