Yukon Gold Potato Salad

Potato salad is really illusive. It really should not be so difficult. It is just potato salad, but it can be good or bad. And most of the time it is not good, just sort of meh.

I have a few pointers from one of my best friends. While the potatoes are still hot, just dump that pickle juice on them – they totally absorb it. That does make a really good potato salad – it does.D&D_1431

2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cleaned, peeled or not, and cubed
4 stalks celery, peeled (yes, peeled),  finely diced
4 scallions, finely diced
4 Tbs sweet relish, squeezed of most liquid
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely minced
6 Tbs Duke’s mayonnaise – it really must be Duke’s

Set a pot of water to boil and salt it heavily – like the ocean. Add those Yukon Gold potatoes and boil until the potatoes are tender – which in my head means you can pierce them with a paring knife. Meanwhile, peel that celery (not kidding – a serrated peeler works the best), and then mince it. Mince the scallions too. Add to that the squeezed out sweet relish (my favorite kind) and you can add the relish juice to the cooked potatoes because that is pretty much amazing. Guess I should have said that earlier while the potatoes were warm but I think I did. Now let everything cool a bit.

So after waiting, we do the following: Add those hard boiled eggs, and the parsley. Combine the Dijon, lemon juice and Duke’s and mixed until combined. Add to the potatoes, but don’t go crazy.  You don’t want to break up the potatoes too much.

I made this for Easter this year, along with Baked Beans. But this was one of those just wing-it-kind-of-recipes. And that is what I did. Looked at lots of recipes, bought 5 pounds of Yukon Golds and went for it. It seemed to be a hit for Easter, but I am also thinking about it again for this summer – you know, picnic time.

I never have been on a picnic and that seems a damn shame  – will remedy that, at least I hope I will.

 

Another Card Company Created Thing

I cannot stand created holidays. By this, I mean the following: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Administrative Assistant’s Day, National Bosses’ Day, etc. etc. blah blah blah. Groan.

Mother’s Day in particular is annoying because it falls so very close to my own birthday. To be honest, lots of women have babies, it is not exactly difficult. Yes, I am that person. But a made up holiday for Mother’s Day just has never worked for me.

I have just deleted this post again and again, but it keeps coming back up. I find these “holidays” offensive along with all the other made up ones. I am very aware that this post will not engender any goodwill whatsoever. But there it is.

My mother always got offended when I talked about the made up holiday. Really offended. But I sent the stupid card and told the Boy to never get one for me. He texted this year, “Happy Hallmark Holiday” which was just the best. Sometimes he is WAY TOO MUCH like me. Sorry Boy, no, not really.

Now in anticipation for “Fathers’s Day” I am not sure what to do.

I wrote this before the Dad died. Yep – that is a bit of a mess. But not really – he was not a fan of created holidays either.

Pretzel Toffee

I love toffee. I can’t help myself. And when you pair it with salty pretzels what is not to love?  I am going to plan this carefully – Florida = humidity, but I think past weekend was my time. In May that is a strange land indeed. What the hell, I will give it a go.D&D_1465

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar (how would this work if we changed it to brown sugar?)
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups of pretzels
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Line a baking pan with a Silpat. Cover with the pretzels in a single layer. Sprinkle walnuts evenly over the pretzels.

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Cook until the sugar is light amber in color, about 7 – 10 minutes. It can separate but that’s okay.

Pour sugar mixture over the pretzels with the walnuts. Top with chocolate chips then use an offset spatula to spread the chocolate over the toffee. Cool the toffee in fridge. Then break into big or middle-ish pieces. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge. Fridge = dry, and in NW Florida, at this time of year, that is a good thing for toffee.

Baked Beans

I do realize that I have (probably – mostly) posted about this before. It is one of those not-recipe recipes. This is a mix of my mom’s baked beans and my former mother-in-law’s baked beans. But it really is something special. I am glad to be the one who mixed these two recipes together.  And I am really glad that that had a great mom and one of the best mother-in-laws. And for many years I have had another mother-in-law that I love like a mom.  D&D_1442

It is kind of stupid, but also ironic, that I use Bush’s* vegetarian beans but top them lots and lots (and lots) of bacon. I do kind of like that the vegetarian beans are kind of neutral so I get to flavor them the the way I want. That means lots of brown sugar, mustard (yellow = more vinegar), yellow onion,  Worcestershire sauce, and baking it slow and easy. That is how baked beans work. This is not something you can rush at all. Nope.

When the Boy and I had a Wednesday Night Cooking Class about this, the most important thing I could tell him about this is test the flavors before you put this in the oven. Figure out the balance – do you need more of something to balance this out. Because if you cannot figure that out before putting it in the oven, you will not be happy. Baking only concentrates the flavors. But when you top the whole thing with lots of bacon, that somehow fixes everything.

* My favorite brand of beans. Dog not withstanding. He’s cute, but …

 

How do we teach our kids how to eat?

When I was a kid, you sat down for dinner (supper in our case) and you ate what was on the table. If you did not like something, (green beans – ugh – even though my Mom was a great cook, I just never could get past this),  you ate more of something else that you did like (rice and corn mixed together with lots of butter or homemade mac n cheese or anything else). But there was not a separate meal for us kids. To be honest, I do not remember kids’ menus at restaurants either.

We had to try things (rutabagas, which I loved with lots of butter and black pepper), and we could certainly doctor things. My great aunt Rhodie’s chow chow made black-eyed peas amazing and now I cannot figure out how to eat them without that. Collards with home-made hot pepper vinegar* – amazing.

But supper was what was on the table. There it was. Your food. Enjoy.

To a large degree, we did that with The Boy and at a very early age, he ate pesto and sushi at 3-ish. In England he did what we did – trying lots of new vegetarian things (because I was, at that time, a vegetarian). Indian samosas were great and cheese and onion pasty (no sniggering –  it is what they call them) was simply and stupidly good. I’d like to think that The Boy still tries new things (in all honesty, I know he does). He is still a fan of salt and vinegar potato chips because we had chips (in the UK version of the word) with malt vinegar – something sublime about that. Okay – damn it. Now I have a craving. Crap.

Do we do our kids a disservice by catering too much to them for supper? In my case, there were nights where we had “fend for yourself” nights. For all of us – me, the Boy and the MotH. Go in the kitchen and make your dinner out of what was there. That is still one of my favorite things. Tonight, I think popcorn.

In my family, the only time you could just get around the – eat what is on the table rule – was when it was your birthday. That day you got whatever you wanted. I think that is totally valid.  But my mix of food was so weird. I mean, tacos and pecan pie. Who does that? Sounds so ugh at this point. But it did make me really, stupidly, happy. I am glad there are no pictures from this point in my life. My brother’s birthday food was even better. Roast beef, gravy, rice, and carrot and raisin salad. What a way better choice than mine. But I got the benefit of his birthday – I was smart.

I am sure we need a picture or two here, but, I’ve got nothing. Which is probably for the best.

*Home-made hot pepper vinegar is so easy. And so good.

My little Bering boy 

This post just seems to get harder each year. But I will not forget my duffus Siberian Husky. I loved the way he welcomed me home every night – with his chortling and talking. It is a total Husky thing.  MotH – I do want at least one more Husky and also a GSD. Yep. You have been given notice.

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Bering – my sweet puppy boy

Love every once in a while how Bering would howl like a wolf. Not very often, but he still did it. Love how he probably would let a burglar in the house and showed them to the best stuff if you gave him something to eat. Duke would never ever do that. Bering totally would.

He was my* first sweet (puppy) boy. The Boy was so happy when we got him because this was one of the two dogs he always wanted. The first was a GSD and the other was a Siberian Husky. Not many kids get the exact dogs they want. The Boy came up with the name and with his geography brain he said Bering. It made so much sense. The two (dog) boys were close in age. Duke was about a year and Bering, when we rescued him was, according to the vet, about 9 months, so the dogs and the Boy grew up together. Best thing ever.

*Duke was always the MotH and the Boy’s dog. Not mine, but Duke always took care of me.

Thermopen

This was a bit of a splurge but it has been so well worth it.  I first saw this instant-read thermometer on America’s Test Kitchen and did not order it at first because the price put me off. I had a little thermometer that I really kind of liked and it worked just fine, but it was a bit pokey in indicating temperature and kind of meh, but it was ATK best buy and I did get along with that for several years.  So when America’s Test Kitchen sent an email that they were giving a discount on their “most trusted” Thermopen, I just had to go for it.

And I am glad I did. I am beyond thrilled with my Thermopen. No kidding. It is great for casseroles and even better for meat temperatures.D&D_0320But it is best for me for pound cakes. I know the skewer thing works, but this makes me feel so much better.

Nothing worse than slicing into a pound cake and finding out it is a bit raw inside. Blech. Yeah really blech.

Butter usage – by month – April 2016

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars – yep

2 April –  8 Tbs – Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars (for Heather)

9 April – 8 Tbs – Salted Crispy Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

11 April – 2 Tbs – Everyday Orzo (once again amazing!)

13 April – 8 Tbs – Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

16 April – 12 Tbs – Buttermilk Bundt Cake with Lemon Glaze – don’t do this

17 April – 7 Tbs – Italian Cream Cake

21 April – 8 Tbs – Lemon Ricotta Cookies – don’t do that either, do this

28 April – 12 Tbs – Brown Sugar White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

30 April – 5 Tbs – Mac and Cheese My Mom’s recipe, as such which I will say again – just do it. Really. Not kidding.

30 April – 8 Tbs – Brown Sugar Pecan Scones

78 Tbs = 9.75 sticks = 39 ozs = 2.4375 pounds

Not great, but not a ringing endorsement either. And from what I can gather my May does not start out any better. Crap.

 

Meyer Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Yes, once again with a lemon cookie, but this time we can say it is a Meyer Lemon cookie to make is sound strange and wonderful – which Meyer Lemons are.

So I am going to compare this recipe to my Lemon Sour Cream Cookies with Lemon Glaze because I love the cake-like texture and I think this cookie will have a similar texture – cake-like.

Caveat – read this whole post before deciding to make this – no, really. Then make this.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested
Glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Over waxed paper sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer,  combine the butter and the sugar until light. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Mix to combine. Add in the dry ingredients, a little at a time.
Spoon the dough –  I use a cookie scoop –  onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes – turn half way through the baking, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet a few minutes.

Glaze: Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours.

Notes: This came together really easily, but I have to say, I was disappointed in this recipe. The cookie was sticky and lacked flavor. It makes me sad. I will be going back to my Lemon Sour Cream Cookies with Lemon Glaze.

I am not sure how to deal with recipes that just do not work out for me, but this is one of those.   Do you keep it in the cookie binder with a big “Hell No” on it? I would like to depend on my memory, but I am not sure I can. Maybe my visual memory will work that way, but I am not sure the rest of me can work that way. – Ugh.

Will not go into sources, because that does not seem fair. This just did not work for me – hence no picture, but at least a warning in case you see something similar. The Lemon Sour Cream Cookies, those, I can totally vouch for and have been making for years.

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Mac n Cheese – the best ever

This is another no recipe thing – but in the tradition of Michael Ruhlman – it is a ratio –
though I am not good at math. There it is. My mom made the best mac n cheese ever. We never had anything out of a Kraft box (ugh — so gross). I do think I picked this up my osmosis (cannot believed I spelled that correctly on the first go – woo hoo!). I really don’t remember paying that much attention to how my mom made it, but I knew how to do this by instinct  – again, in my head it was osmosis.

So this is a total ratio thing, but to me the easiest way to tell someone how to make it is to show them how to make it. It can be a little vague otherwise. This was the subject of one of the early Wednesday Cooking School nights for the Boy. It is one of his favorite things, not surprising, since it also one of my favorite things. It is also vegetarian, which means I had it in the freezer while waiting for him to be born and I remember distinctly that I had some the night I came home from the hospital with him.D&D_1397

I have this lovely ceramic dish from Portugal (I did not go there to get it, but did buy it from a store in Durham, NC) and it is a pretty dish and I bought two because of that. But here is where the ratios come into play. No matter what dish you have, to make mac n cheese for whatever sized dish you have measure out dry pasta* in the dish to about the half way full. Once you cook the pasta, then it will fill the dish — see, a ratio – who knew from math? But I knew that before Ruhlman (still love you guy).

Now here is the next ratio – fat to flour – also knew this before Ruhlman. I always prefer to have more cheese sauce than I need, so for my pan (need to measure and figure out how big that dang this is). I start with 4 Tbs of unsalted butter, which I melt over low heat and then add basically the same amount of all-purpose flour and a bit of salt and pepper. Then cook the flour for a minute or two, stirring the whole time. It  would be a good thing if you had taken your whole milk out prior to starting this and I probably should have said that before now. But as long as you add the milk a little at a time, it will be okay. Some people warm the milk in a sauce pan, but my mom never did, so I don’t either.

Here’s the thing – when you first start adding the milk it will look like a clumpy mess with the butter mixture. You really are making a light roux and then you are going on to make a bechamel sauce sort of. Anyway. Use that whisk to eliminate lumps, but pretty soon you need to switch to a good spatula (Get it Right spatulassee this link, and this one, then there is this one, and .. well you get it.)  because you don’t want the milk to scorch on the bottom of the sauce pan – that would be a disaster (i.e. start over – no other choice, nope none).

So again, this is where it is where it is so much easier to show than explain, but the ratio, is about the same amount of cups of milk as butter – in this case 3 1/2 to four, but add a bit at a time. Let simmer over low heat and let thicken over time.

Then the cheese comes into play. In my case, always extra sharp cheddar, white or yellow, your choice, but once the bechamel thickens it is time to take it off the heat and add the grated cheese, setting aside a bit to put on the top. Add the cooked pasta (you did that already, right? Dumped the pasta you measured in the pan into a nicely salted pot of boiling water and cooked until al dente) to the sauce and tip into the baking dish, top with a little extra shredded cheese and cover with foil. But in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 5 – 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly.

You need to let it cool a bit before diving in, but that is a necessary thing.

So to you from me – My Mom’s not-recipe for the best homemade mac n cheese.

*I typically use penne or rotini, but elbow is good too. Some pasta that will hold the cheesy goodness of the sauce.