Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Picnic

     Weather-wise, this has been a wild Memorial Day weekend. Saturday, it started out chilly and drizzling and then changed to cold, rainy, thunder, lightening, and hail. Three of us in our family were dance performers at the Boulder Creek Festival. We were the lucky ones because we got a little wet running from the costume-changing tent to the covered performance stage, but at least we were mostly covered - unlike our very supportive and brave family who sat on wet straw bales in the rain with only their jackets and umbrellas. Livia, Gracie, and I truly appreciate them!
     Sunday was beautiful - blue skies, warm and sunny weather. We went to a pasta dinner last night and we all ate outdoors and enjoyed it. Today, Monday, the sky was blue and the sun was out until around noon when the clouds rolled in. As of mid afternoon, there was no rain yet, but I did hear thunder. It's coming . . .  Of course, we have a BBQ picnic scheduled for dinner, so we may end up picnicking inside. You hafta roll with the punches - at least we enjoy each others' company! Besides, with all the rain we've had recently, we have pulled out of the drought-conditions. We all hope our gardens will grow as great as the weeds are growing!
     My offering for the picnic today is Wilted Cucumbers. One could rightly call these "pickles" because of the cucumbers and vinegar, but our family has always called them "wilted cucumbers." They are easy to make and are delicious year 'round - they are on our tables Thanksgiving and Christmas - but they are especially yummy in the summer because they are light and cool to eat.

Wilted Cucumbers
Makes a little over 2 cups or about 20 (scant 1/4 cup) servings

4 medium cucumbers
1 white onion
table salt (1/4 to 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
optional: scallions, garlic, carrots, bell peppers, other peppers, fresh dill, fresh basil, fresh oregano

1.  Peel cucumbers; I usually leave a little of the dark green peel on them for a touch of color
2.  Slice the cucumbers as thinly as possible
3.  Peel the onion and cut in half; slice the onion as thinly as possible
4.  In a large bowl, place the cucumber and onion slices in a single layer and then salt that layer, repeat layering and salting each layer until all cucumber and onion is used. Note: I don't measure the salt ahead of time, I simply liberally salt each layer as I go along; I estimate that I use between 1/4 and 1/2 cup altogether
5. Place a small plate or flat bowl on top of cucumbers and onions and use something relatively heavy to help the plate press down on them
6.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours (I usually make these the night before so they're pressed overnight
7.  A couple of hours before severing, place the cucumbers and onions in a large colander and rinse really well with cold water - you want to make sure you get all that salt off, so toss with your hand or tongs and keep rinsing
8.  Place the rinsed cucumbers and onions back into the large mixing bowl
9.  In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the cider vinegar, water, and sugar and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved
10. Pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumbers; toss lightly to coat everything, and return to refrigerator to chill completely
11. When ready to serve, place vegetables in a pretty dish and pour off the extra dressing
12. IF you have leftovers, they keep nicely covered in the refrigerator for several days

Salted cucumbers in bowl with
weighted plate on top
Translucent cucumber and onion slices
after marinating overnight

Wilted Cucumbers
ready to serve

Monday, May 22, 2017

Roast Pork Chops and Veggies

We've had quite a few days of 60-70-80-and-even-90 degrees. The lilacs have blossomed and finished, tulips are up, daffodils, jonquils, and iris have leaves but no blooms quite yet. Some of our trees have leafed out, but not all just yet. And then we got 10 inches of snow 3 days ago. Welcome to Springtime in Colorado! Today, the sun is out, skies are blue, and all the snow has finally melted, but I felt like making a winter-like dinner. Plus, it is a delicious and super easy meal.

Roast Pork Chops and Veggies
makes 4 servings

non-stick cooking spray
1 1/2 pounds Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
1 1/2 pounds red cabbage (about 1/2 medium-large head)
optional: Brussels sprouts, carrots, rutabaga, parsnips, beets, pearl onions, apples
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, divided
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (if use garlic salt, decrease the plain salt), divided
4 bone-in pork chops (6 to 7 ounces each)

Preheat oven to 400º
1.  Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray
2.  In a large mixing bowl, place the potatoes which have been cut into large chunks
3.  Sprinkle with 1 tablespoons of olive oil and about 1/3 of each of the seasonings; toss well to coat all potato pieces; place potatoes along one long side of the baking sheet
4.  In the remaining oil and seasonings in the bowl, coat the other vegetables except the red cabbage
5.  Cut the red cabbage into wedges about 1/2 inch wide; place another tablespoon of oil in the mixing bowl and add another 1/3 of the seasonings; to keep the red cabbage wedges from falling apart, I hold a wedge in one hand and use a piece of red cabbage leaf as a brush to brush on the seasoned oil. Arrange the red cabbage wedges along the other long side of the baking sheet
6. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes
7.  While the vegetables are roasting, place the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the last 1/3 of the seasonings in the large mixing bowl; place the pork chops in the bowl and coat with seasoned oil; place the pork chops in a single row in the center of the baking sheet - they can touch each other but not overlap - and roast for 15 minutes
9.  Turn the pork chops and red cabbage over using tongs, stir the potatoes and other vegetables, and return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes; the total roasting time is 45 minutes
10. Plate 1 pork chop and 1/4 of the potatoes and vegetables per serving

potatoes and vegetables
ready to roast
plated dinner

Note: when I make this for my husband and me, I make the full recipe. After serving ourselves half, I place the remaining food into a glass baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for a day or two. To serve, remove the plastic wrap and bake the food in a 350º for 30 minutes. The vegetables will get heated through and the pork chops may brown a little to make an easy leftover dinner.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Norwegian Potluck Picnic

     I recently joined the Boulder Colorado chapter of Sons of Noway - the Vesterheim Lodge. This past Saturday, we celebrated Syttende Mai (May 17th) which is the anniversary of the signing of the Norwegian Constitution in 1814. Picnic day was gorgeous, sunny and about 80 degrees, with just a slight breeze.

Buffet - Note the kransekake
in the center of table

     After a parade with people in Norwegian costumes and a presentation of the Norwegian flag, we then participated in a favorite Norwegian pastime: eating! In addition to common picnic fare of hot dogs, we had many salads to choose from including several different potato salads, sweet potato salad, cucumber salad, green salad, pea salad, fruit salad, and chicken salad (recipe below). Corn pudding, pate on crackers, and chilled shrimp completed the main offerings.

     Desserts included homemade ice-cream, chocolate cake, blueberry pie, cream puffs, cupcakes, watermelon, and  the edible centerpiece, the towering kransekake. Kransekake is made of almond marzipan-like heavy dough that is baked in special ring pans. The result is a crispy outside with a chewy but soft interior. It is almond-flavored with a sweetly delicate white icing used to help stick the tower of rings together and add a little vanilla sweetness. It's beautiful to look at and delicious to eat!

Chicken Macaroni Salad
Makes about 24 (1/2 cup) servings

2 cups roughly chopped chilled poached chicken
7 ounce box macaroni (tiny rings, shells, or other small pasta), cooked and chilled
3 large eggs, hard-boiled and chilled
2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup Miracle Whip salad dressing
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

      Note: The chicken, macaroni, and hard boiled eggs all need to be prepared ahead of time and chilled for at least 
      2 hours or up to a day ahead of serving.
1.  Poach 1 skinless chicken breast and 4 skinless thighs in a small amount of chicken broth seasoned with thyme, onion, and white pepper. When poached, remove from broth, remove meat from bones, discard broth and chicken bones; roughly chop chicken meat and chill covered in the refrigerator. I make mine the day ahead of time, increasing the chicken by several pieces, poaching it in a slow cooker. That way, I had cooked enough chicken for a dinner meal the day before and enough chicken for the salad. Or, you can buy a roasted chicken from the grocery store and use the meat from that. The meat should chill for at least 2 hours or the day before.
2.  Prepare the macaroni according to package directions and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. I prefer to use tiny macaroni rings. I always bring home several packages in my suitcase when I visit my family in Minnesota because I haven't been able to find them where I live. If you can't find them or prefer other macaroni, a good substitution is tiny shells or bow ties. I have put a picture of the macaroni rings after this recipe along with a photo of the finished chicken salad. Notice that I pulled out a single macaroni ring on the back of the dish so you can see how small they are.
3.  Hard boil 3 large eggs, peel and roughly chop; chill at least 2 hours in refrigerator. If you wish, you can set aside one of the eggs and slice them as a decorative topping.
4.  Dice the celery and carrot and set aside.
5.  In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, Miracle Whip, pepper, and salt and whisk together until blended. I like the combination of mayonnaise and Miracle Whip because of their different tastes. You may wish to use one or the other or substitute dairy sour cream for Miracle Whip.
6. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken, macaroni, eggs, celery, carrot, and dressing. Toss lightly to coat everything, taking care not to smash the delicate macaroni rings.
7. Serve chilled.
8. There is the option of adding what you like or not including what you don't. Examples of additions that I've used include radishes, bell peppers, chopped Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, green onions, green beans, pecans, walnuts, slivered almonds, cashews, grapes, apple pieces, pear pieces, and berries.

My favorite macaroni rings
Chicken Salad - note the tiny macaroni
ring on the back of the dish

 This chicken salad is one of my favorites that I often bring to potluck parties. I add and subtract ingredients depending on my mood and what's available in my pantry or in the grocery store. I encourage you to do the same, but caution you to pay attention because of my experience. Years ago, I had a dinner party on a hot summer evening. I served my chicken salad and everyone said how delicious it was and what a great chicken salad it was. Later that evening after our guests had gone, I was cleaning up the kitchen and putting things away when I discovered a nice big bowl of chilled chopped chicken in the refrigerator . . . the chicken that I had forgotten to put in the chicken salad! Some world-famous Chicken Salad, indeed!!!

     Back to the Syttende Mai party - after eating, we all watched some Viking Re-enactors. Once they had demonstrated their skills and demolished each other, they called up all the kids, gave them Noodles as weapons and let them vanquish the Vikings. The kids had a blast and we were very entertained watching them burn off all the sugar they had eaten at dinner. It was a great way to end the party.

Viking Re-enactors
Kids attacking the Vikings

Monday, May 8, 2017

Cinco de Mayo

¡ Ola !
Happy Cinco de Mayo

On May 5th, we went to - ¿where else? - a Cinco de Mayo party. Though I am Finnish/English and my husband is Norwegian/Swedish and both of us were born and raised in Minnesota, why not celebrate Cinco de Mayo? After all, I marched in a St. Patrick's Day parade with my Hawaiian Hula classmates (!!!).  I love cultural celebrations and cross-cultural celebrations are the best!

This was a fun and sweet family potluck party. The weather was gorgeous, sunny and warm. Most of us ate outdoors to enjoy the evening. We had beans, refried beans, shredded chicken and beef, cheese, tomatoes, onions, roasted beets with cheese, chips, tortillas, taco shells, tostado shells, and several salsas. Oh, and delicious strawberry margaritas. I made a fruity and spicy Pineapple Mango Salsa. It's very easy to make and tastes delicious. I love Pico de Gallo, Salsa Fresca, Picante Sauce, and other tomato-based salsas, but this one is excellent and a welcome addition to your table. Here's the recipe:

Pineapple Mango Salsa
makes about 5 cups

2 cups (about 10 ounces, peeled and pitted) diced ripe mango *
2 cups (about 10 ounces, peeled and cored) diced ripe pineapple *
1/2 onion (red, yellow, or white), peeled and diced
1 whole jalapeño pepper, stem removed, most seeds removed, minced **
1/2 cup (about 20 stems with leaves) cilantro, mostly leaves roughly chopped
juice from 2 limes (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
Kosher salt, to taste

1. Prepare the mango and pineapple by dicing the peeled fruits into small pieces (think of fresh salsa you eat to get an idea of the size)
     * If you don't know how or don't want to peel, pit, core the fresh mango
        and pineapple, you can find these fruits in the refrigerated cut fruit
        section of most large grocery stores
2. Dice the onion into small pieces
3. Prepare the jalapeno:
     ** Remove the stem end of the jalapeno pepper and remove most of the
        seeds and white pith; you can use all the seeds and pith if you like
        your salsa hot - I like to leave a few seeds to add a little heat. Finely
        dice the pepper. I use disposable gloves while handling the pepper,
        especially the seeds and pith
4. Chop the fresh cilantro, removing most of the stems and using the leaves for the salsa; a few stems are OK if you chop them finely
5. Combine the mango, pineapple, onion, jalapeno, and cilantro, tossing lightly to combine
6. Squeeze the lime juice over all and add a dash or two of salt to help enhance the flavors
7. Toss everything lightly
8. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to 24 hours is even better!
9. Serve with chips, or use as accompaniment to roast pork, chicken, or grilled beef steak


Monday, May 1, 2017

Whole30 Cleanse Program

Whole30 Cleanse Program
by guest blogger Karin Hoskin

So a friend of mine posted on Facebook that she was about to do a second round of the Whole30 cleanse. Her decision to do it at all was based on the fact that she wanted to do a cleanse, but only if it allowed coffee and bacon . . . Whole30 does. I liked how that sounded so I committed to doing it also . . . and I committed my husband, my mother-in-law, my teenage son, and pre-teen daughter. Was I crazy? Yes. Did we do it? Yes. And no one starved.

The basic concept is to eat meat, veggies, and fruit. No dairy, no grains, no sugar....for 30 whole days. We already don’t eat wheat with three of us being extremely gluten reactive. We LOVE dairy, but were wondering if my daughter has an allergy to dairy. Oh, and we eat too much sugar, probably way too much sugar, especially after I realized that sugar is in EVERYTHING. Even bacon. Yep, sugar is in most commercial bacon brands.

We are cooks in our family. I love to cook, my mom loves to cook, and my mother-in-law loves to cook. And we are good cooks, yep, we cook really well. But there is always room for growth, so I took it upon myself to try new recipes during the 30 days and we have definitely found some new favorites. One if them is a super simple ‘Bistro Breakfast’, recipe as follows:

Bistro Breakfast
Feeds 4

1 (10 oz) package of bacon (Pederson’s is sugar/sweetener free bacon found at Sprouts Grocery)
1 head of curly endive lettuce
8 eggs, poached (directions at end of recipe)

For the dressing:
1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon minced garlic (about 1 medium clove)
salt & pepper to taste

Cook the bacon until crisp, drain, then set aside
While bacon is cooking, wash and tear up the lettuce leaves
Toss the lettuce with dressing, divide the lettuce, placing on 4 plates
Crumble the cooked bacon on top
Top each salad with two poached eggs and serve immediately

Poaching Eggs
There are many YouTube videos of poaching eggs, but basically I lightly spray or oil a frying pan and add about 2 inches of water, bring to a soft boil and crack the egg into the water, I sprinkle salt and pepper, then gently use a metal spatula to make sure egg is not sticking to the bottom of pan, cover and check in about 1 minute later, when done to your liking (traditionally it's right after the clear egg part turns white, so the yellow part is still very runny), use slotted spoon to remove the egg. You can poach more than 1 egg at a time, but you need to do it quickly as the eggs cook very fast.

Here's a recipe for a dinner that was fast, easy, and delicious:

Broccoli Chicken
Feeds 4

1 pound chicken thighs, boneless and skinless, cut into bite-sized pieces
Coco Aminos (or I have used Tamari, which is a wheat-free soy sauce, or soy sauce; Coco Aminos is a little sweeter and less salty)
Vegetable oil or peanut oil for stir frying
2 big heads of broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets
1 sweet onion, peeled and sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 cup roasted salted cashews (optional)

Marinate the prepared chicken in Coco Aminos for at least 30 minutes
Stir fry the chicken, broccoli, and onion until chicken is cooked and vegetables are fork-tender
Add the cashews and cook until warm
Use Coco Aminos, Tamari, or Soy sauce for additional flavor

I served pineapple and kiwi for dessert afterword!

We continue to basically eat Whole30 with a few allowances. I buy regular ketchup, because the sugar/sweetener free stuff is gross. We have homemade pizza usually once a week, but we don’t also have lasagna the day before and macaroni and cheese the day after . . . so we’re trying to be conscious of not eating so many grains and so much cheese. As far as sweets or alcohol goes, we eat and drink treats, but very consciously, meaning that we’re not eating handfuls of crappy candy, but savoring a beautiful tasty chocolate truffle. Or rather than drinking a few beers, we now enjoy one really amazing local small batch brew, a very nice wine, or a specialty cocktail.