Cool beans

11 Jan

This recipe is from the Crystal Little League Cookbook (2013). It is a collection of recipes by Crystal (MN) Little League Families and friends. My husband was a (volunteer) district administrator for Little League in and around Minneapolis suburbs for 15 years! This cookbook was one of his parting gifts.

Black Bean Salsa

2 10-ounce cans Rotel chopped tomatoes with green chilies

1-2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed (I used only one!)

1 15.25-ounce can Mexican corn

½ red onion, chopped (about ¾ to 1 cup)`

2 green onions, chopped

1 teaspoon cumin

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

Cilantro, chopped (to taste)

Mix all together. Chill. Serve with tortilla chips.

This salsa is the perfect “winter salsa” – especially now! In Minnesota we can only dream about summertime and fresh picked tomatoes and corn.  If you can’t find Mexican canned corn, look for a Southwest version – I found Kuners Southwest Sweet Corn & Peppers. Del Monte makes one as well.

Serve with tortilla chips – or better yet, make your own. Using a pizza cutter, slice corn tortillas in half and then in quarters and then in eighths. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray and arrange chips in pan. Spray again with non-stick spray and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake at 425 for 10-12 minutes or until chips are lightly toasted. Turn halfway through.

Don’t like cilantro? Don’t use it. Like/dislike of this herb is actually genetic. Chances are if you don’t like it, someone else in the family shares your dislike!

Note to WW members: Black Bean Salsa is zero points on all three color plans – and delish to boot!

Doesn’t look like this cookbook is still around for purchase – but again, do check out those local cookbooks put together as fundraisers for sporting teams, schools or the like. Real cooks, real good food.

This is a good egg(drop soup)

26 Jan

Time for another recipe from Lerner Book’s easy menu ethnic cookbook series (I have 10 in my collection)! Today it’s from Cooking the Japanese Way (1983). Interestingly, the author of this cookbook was Reiko Weston who opened what became a well-known Twin Cities Japanese restaurant, Fuji Ya, in downtown Minneapolis in 1959, later moving it to the Mississippi riverfront.

Today’s recipe is for Eggdrop Soup. I make egg drop soup frequently but my version was obviously not authentic! Rest assured, this one’s the real deal! I was intrigued by the key ingredient in the recipe – “dashinomoto.” It is an instant powdered soup base made from dried seaweed and flakes of dried bonito fish called katsuobushi. Homemade soup stock is called dashi. I had no luck finding dashinomoto in area grocery stores and ended up ordering it on Amazon.

Wow – what a difference! Dashinomoto is truly the secret ingredient for this simple soup. It’s one of those recipes that you can throw together – again, if you have the right ingredients on hand – to round out any meal! Here’s that basic soup recipe you will need to make first, followed by the eggdrop soup recipe.

Basic Clear Soup/O-sumashi

3 cups water

1 heaping teaspoon dashinomoto

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon soy sauce

In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Stir in dashinomoto, salt and soy sauce.

Eggdrop Soup/Tamago Toji

1 egg (I used two and recommend it)

2 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped

3 cups basic clear soup

Beat egg and scallions together in a small bowl. In a saucepan, bring basic clear soup to a boil. Swirl egg mixture around the inside of the pan in a small stream, making a circle. Remove from heat and pour into four bowls to serve.

Comforting cornbread

25 Jan

I cook differently in the winter. When it’s cold outside – I make stick-to-your-ribs kind of meals like stew, pot roast, pot pie and my all-time cold weather favorite – chili. And what better accompaniment to a bowlful of chili than cornbread. I’ve tried many recipes over the years. My favorite is one I prepare in a cast iron skillet. This recipe caught my eye because it was easy to put together with what I already had on hand and was “just enough” for the two of us to eat with the chili I made yesterday*! I found it in another one of my Better Homes and Gardens Encyclopedias of Cooking (1970)Coconut to Cup to be precise!

Perfect Corn Bread

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

1 cup yellow cornmeal

2 eggs

1 cup milk

¼ cup shortening

Sift flour with sugar, baking powder and salt; stir in cornmeal. Add eggs, milk and shortening. Beat with an electric mixer till just smooth. (Do not overbeat.) Pour into greased 9 x 9 x-inch pan. Bake at 425 degrees until done, 20 to 25 minutes (top should be firm). Cut into squares.

* Happy to share my favorite chili recipe (pictured here) – it’s a funky recipe made with ground beef, onions and a ton of seasonings. Message me if you want that recipe! Believe it or not, I found it in a February 1982 Parents’ Magazine – the month when I became a parent for the first time!

Soup’s on

24 Jan

Found this easy and healthy vegetable soup recipe in Bon Appetit Light, Fresh & Easy Cookbook (1997). It is a compact paperback book with only 102 pages. Betting I received it with a new subscription to the magazine! Full disclosure: I left out the mushrooms. They are a fungus; need I say more?

Seriously, this is a tomato-based soup with a lot of flavor and it freezes well. Like all soups, it’s better the next day. I freeze bowlfuls for quick weekday lunches. Note: no added oils = WW-friendly!

Tip: Use a mandoline to help with slicing.

Low-Fat Vegetable Soup

3 medium zucchini, sliced

2 medium carrots, sliced

10 mushrooms, sliced

1 medium onion, sliced

1 10-ounce russet potato, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 14½ ounce cans vegetable broth (44 ounces)

3 cups canned crushed tomatoes with added puree

1 14 ½ ounce can stewed tomatoes

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon chopped dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Salt and pepper

Additional chopped fresh parsley

Combine zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, onion and potato in a heavy large Dutch oven. Add vegetable broth, crushed tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, 3 tablespoons parsley, cilantro, garlic, basil and oregano. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are tender about 30 minutes.

Strain cooking liquid into large saucepan; reserve vegetables. Place 3 cups vegetables in a blender. Add ¼ cup cooking liquid. Puree until smooth. Stir puree into remaining cooking liquid in saucepan. Return remaining vegetables to cooking liquid. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 5 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Bring soup to a simmer. Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with additional parsley.

Don’t chicken out

23 Jan

I can always count on Rachael Ray for a reliable recipe. I picked up Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals get togethers (2003) at a Hennepin County Library used book sale a number of years ago – and it’s my go-to when pressed for time. Ray is a huge fan of extra-virgin olive oil or EVOO as she references it; this recipe could just as easily be called Olive Oil and Rosemary Chicken Breasts! I can always use a different twist on preparing boneless chicken breasts. This is quick and easy to put together – true to its 30-minute promise. Truthfully you don’t need precise measurements for this recipe. I usually horizontally slice chicken breasts to make thin cutlets so they cook up quicker. Of course you can also pound them with a meat mallet (great for relieving stress!). I serve these with roasted potatoes and a green salad!

Rosemary Chicken Breasts

2 pieces (6 to 8 ounces) boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, just enough to coat chicken lightly (eyeball it)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 stems rosemary, stripped of leaves and chopped (1 tablespoon)

Salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste

2 cloves garlic, cracked away from skin with a whack against the flat of a knife

Marinate the chicken: coat chicken with balsamic vinegar, then olive oil. Season chicken with rosemary, salt and pepper and let stand 10 minutes. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts and cracked garlic to the pan. Cook chicken, 10 to 12 minutes, or until juices run clear, turning occasionally. The balsamic vinegar will produce a deep brown, sweet finish on the chicken as it cooks.

Slice cooked chicken on an angle to serve.

You’ll find this book still available online!

Note: Invest in good quality extra virgin olive oil. Skip the jugs at Costco and Sam’s. My favorite local store is Vinaigrette at 5006 Xerxes Avenue South in South Minneapolis. Trust me, you’ll taste the difference!

Lovable vegetables

22 Jan

I remember picking up this cookbook at a grocery store many years ago. It caught my eye because it was clearly a self-published cookbook and I knew the author! Betty Husney was an old friend of my mother’s. If you shopped at Dayton’s department store’s Oval Room back in the day, you knew Betty!

Titled Betty Husney’s Cook Book with LOVE (1989), it is a collection of her personal recipes calligraphed by her husband, Ed. In the book’s forward, Betty wrote: My purpose in writing this book is to hand down from generation to generation the strength of family. Betty was 96 when she passed away in 2015.

This veggie casserole is easy to throw together and company worthy. Vary the type of vegetable and you will have a totally different dish. This just might be “the” vegetable dish you can get the kids to eat! Leftovers were just as good reheated the next day!

Vegetable Souffl

2 medium onions, chopped

4 tablespoons oil (I used about 1½ tablespoons!)

1 pound fresh or frozen broccoli, spinach or zucchini, drained*

4 eggs

¼ pound melted butter (personally you can get by with less)

1½ cup grated Swiss or Cheddar cheese (I used a cup of Cheddar)

⅓ cup flour

Sauté onions in oil.  Add vegetables, cook for 10 minutes or more until slightly done and put in a greased (I used non-stick spray) 9 x 12-inch cake pan and set aside. Beat eggs first; add butter, grated cheese and flour; beat together and pour over vegetables and mix. Bake for ¾ hour at 350 degrees in a preheated oven.

*I used a 14.4-ounce bag of frozen broccoli cuts, defrosted for a few minutes in the microwave and then drained

Personal note: I put together my own cookbook for my children several years ago – including recipes from friends and relatives and those culled from other cooks and cookbooks. I think I was more excited giving them the book than they were receiving it but hoping it will be passed from generation to generation and they will appreciate that I took the time to compile it for them! I love it because I no longer have to scrounge for recipes. Time for volume 2!

Skip the “men” – go for the bread instead

21 Jan

Okay, today’s recipe makes no sense given the time of the year. I get it. Or maybe it does – given that we are in the midst of a pandemic and need a daily dose of comfort food. I know I do! Who says freshly baked gingerbread can only be enjoyed at holiday time???

I am a huge fan of gingerbread and this holiday season I found only one local bakery selling gingerbread men. Starbucks stopped selling its decadent Ginger Bread Loaf filled with real pieces of ginger. Not a good year to take away a seasonal favorite! I kept hoping it would show up on the menu. So when I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it. Once again, if you’ve been reading my blog, you already know baking is not my forte!

The recipe is from the cookbook Making It Easy Entertaining by Laurie Burrows Grad (1984). I remember seeing Laurie Burrows Grad on morning talk shows and ended up picking up this volume at a library used book sale years ago.  What an easy recipe and what a delicious bread! It stayed moist and flavorful for days! I know I’m not going to wait until next December to bake it again!

Old-Fashioned Gingerbread

¾ cup molasses

1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

¼ pound butter (1 stick), melted

2 eggs

2½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon mace*

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter one 9-inch x 5-inch x 3-inch or four 6-inch x 3½ inch x 2-inch mini loaf pans and lightly dust with flour. Combine molasses and brown sugar in bowl of food processor, blender, electric mixer or by hand in a mixing bowl. Add butter and process for a few seconds, add eggs and mix well. Combine flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, mace, baking powder and salt; stir and add to molasses mixture. Dissolve baking soda in boiling water, stir and add to molasses mixture, continuing to beat until smooth.  Pour into prepared pan(s) and bake for 50-55 minutes for a large loaf or 35-40 for mini loaves. Allow to cool slightly.

 Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

*I drove to two grocery stores looking for mace. No luck. Ended up adding a sprinkle more nutmeg. Feel free to skip it.

Looks like this book can be found on Amazon and other used book sites!


20 Jan

Time for another recipe from Ina Garten! This one is from her cookbook, Cook like a Pro (2018).

Have to admit, every recipe I make from her books makes me fill accomplished!

My husband’s staff customarily gift him with restaurant gift certificates at holiday time – but with the pandemic underway this past year, they came up with a wonderful alternative – three boxes filled to the brim with everything from briskets to chickens, pork butt to pot roast and of course, ribs!  (They even gave him a box of assorted wood chips for smoking meats!)

I saw this recipe as a novel way to use the pork. While the accompanying sauce sounded delicious to me – I had to get my husband on board; he is not a fan of radishes. Full disclosure, I told him, the radishes are grated into the sauce. Happy to report he loved the sandwich/sauce combo. Be willing to try something new!

This recipe sounds complicated. It is not – provided you have the right tools, like a Microplane zester and a citrus press – and the ingredients as listed. I’m always asked if it’s okay to leave out a particular ingredient (note, I used a regular yellow pepper from my grocery store’s produce section). I’m never sure how to answer that. Maybe. Maybe not. Assume that each ingredient is included for a reason and that without one or two or more, your finished dish may not be as good as it could be!

Pork Souvlaki with radish tzatziki

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed, ¾ -inch diced

1 red onion, cut in ½ -inch wedges through the root end

1 large Holland yellow pepper, seeded and cut in ½-inch strips

Grated zest of 1 lemon

⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons) plus extra

Good olive oil

3 garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane zester

2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh oregano leaves

2 teaspoons roughly chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 warmed pita breads, for serving

Radish Tzatziki (recipe follows)

Julienned fresh mint leaves for serving

Combine the pork, red onion, bell pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice, ⅓ cup olive oil, garlic, oregano, rosemary, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper in a large (1-gallon) plastic storage bag. Press out the air, seal, and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 12 hours.

Preheat one very large (14-inch) or two medium (10-inch) dry cast-iron skillets (I needed two) over high heat for 3 minutes. Add the pork and vegetables, including the marinade, spread out, and cook without stirring for 3 minutes. Continue to cook over high heat for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pork is cooked through but still slightly pink in the middle. Don’t overcook the pork or it will be dry!

Place 1 warmed pita on each plate. Spoon the pork and vegetables on one half of the pita and place 2 rounded tablespoons of Radish Tzatziki on the other half. Sprinkle with mint, lemon juice, and salt and serve hot.

Radish Tzatziki:

6 medium radishes, scrubbed and trimmed

2 garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane zester

1¼ cups plain whole milk Greek yogurt (10 ounces)

1 tablespoon good olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ cup minced scallions, white and green parts (2 scallons)

2½ tablespoons julienned fresh mint leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Grate the radishes on a box grater. Place the radishes in a paper towel and squeeze out the liquid. In a medium bowl, combine the radishes, garlic, yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, scallions, mint, 1½ teaspoons salt, and ¾ teaspoon pepper. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 12 hours.

Note: I cut large pitas in half and “stuffed” them with the pork and vegetables and topped with the tzatziki sauce.

Messy and unbelievably tasty!


19 Jan

I promised to include a recipe today for homemade lavash. “Real” lavash is an Armenian flatbread – a crackerlike bread. This version is made from store bought flour tortillas! Word to the wise – the higher the fat grams per tortilla, the crisper the end product. Today I used Ole Xtreme Wellness, high fiber tortilla wraps. They are virtually fat free – just 1.5 grams per tortilla – so the end result isn’t as crisp. I still love this version for a low carb dipping option. When you have savory appetizers like baba ganoush or hummus, the cracker is just a vehicle for scooping!

This recipe is from L’Dor V’Dor (2003), the Adath Jeshurun Women’s League Cookbook. (Translation: From Generation to Generation). I am a proud third generation member of the Adath Jeshurun Congregation in Minnetonka, Minnesota.


1 package large-size flour tortillas

Seasonings: garlic powder, onion powder, salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds

(Use Trader Joe’s bagel seasoning for one-stop sprinkling!)

Wet one side of tortilla under a kitchen faucet. Lay on a cookie sheet (should be able to fit two per sheet). Sprinkle with seasonings as desired. Bake about 10 minutes in a 400-degree oven until light brown and puffed up. Watch them carefully so the tortillas do not burn. Break into pieces when cool.

If you’re interested? I have an extra copy of this book. I will mail it to the first person to email me a name and address!

Baba what?

18 Jan

I’m a big fan of eggplant – cooked multiple ways. It’s really a very versatile vegetable. Thanks to my Romanian heritage I grew up eating chopped eggplant simply flavored with chopped onions and a drizzle of oil. My next favorite preparation is Baba Ganoush, a spread made from roasted, pureed eggplant and tahini, olive oil, lemon and garlic. I was excited to see a simple preparation for this Middle Eastern favorite in one of my cookbooks.

I found it in Cookinanny for the New Millennium (2001), created by members of the B’nai Zion Temple Sisterhood in Shreveport, Louisiana. It’s a super easy recipe plus it tastes divine. Note, you can half the recipe – but why would you?

Serve it with pita bread wedges, crackers or homemade lavash – come back tomorrow for that recipe as pictured below!

Baba Ganoush

2 medium eggplants (1 to 1½ pounds each)

2 fresh garlic cloves, finely minced or crushed

⅓ cup tahini (sesame paste)

2½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Sal and pepper to taste

Pierce the skin of the eggplants several times with a fork and place them on a baking sheet. Broil them, turning them often for 20-30 minutes until skin is blistered and charred. When eggplants are cool enough to handle, scoop out the insides. Discard skin and stem. Puree the eggplant in a food processor and add garlic, tahini, lemon juice, water, olive oil and parsley until almost smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature. Decorate with olives and cherry tomatoes. Serve with pita bread or homemade lavash.

This cookbook was a gift from my good friend, Bonnie Rubenstein Wunsch. Recipe is credited to Miriam Robinson, who Bonnie told me was a former Rabbi’s wife! Looks like there are some copies available on Ebay at a premium price. Honestly, this is one of the best local cookbooks in my collection!

Top banana (bread that is)

18 Jan

Had to include a recipe from this particular cookbook because one of my personal recipes – for Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins – is included in this book!

I started entering the Minnesota State Fair baking competitions in the late 80s. Remember, I do not LOVE baking – but I do LOVE the Minnesota State Fair and it was a way to gain access to the fairgrounds prior to opening day. It was fun driving through the fairgrounds as vendors were setting up – and waiting outside the Creative Activities Building to drop off my handiwork. Sometimes the lines were around the block! Best part was talking to people in line – some had driven several hours to drop off their baked goods. In those early years, I dragged my four kids with me – promising we would go to the Children’s Museum which was then located just a couple miles away.

I’ve won a fair share of ribbons over the years – no blue unfortunately – and hope I will be driving through those gates again this summer! After taking home a third place ribbon for those aforementioned muffins in the Minnesota State Fair’s 1993 Creative Activities competition, I received a letter asking for the recipe to be included in a forthcoming book about Minnesota State Fair competitions. That book, Winning Recipes from Minnesota’s Greatest Cooks (1994,) is where I found today’s recipe, Banana Bread, for which Elaine Irvin won a blue ribbon. Outstanding. Great texture. Moist. Great with a cup of coffee!

Banana Bread

½ cup butter, softened (not melted)

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

1½ cups flour, sifted

¾ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder

3 bananas

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Blend into butter and sugar mixture. Beat in mashed bananas.

Pour mixture into a greased and floured loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes.

Lesson learned: I didn’t let the butter soften sufficiently (the first time) and when I tried to cream butter and sugar using a hand mixer, big pieces of butter remained. I ended up throwing it all out and dragging out my KitchenAid stand mixer and starting over with properly softened (not melted) butter and the right equipment. End result was worth the extra effort. Shortcuts in baking usually compromise the end result!

Let me know if you want my award-winning banana chocolate chip muffin recipe!