Carrot & Raisin Salad

I have never made this for Thanksgiving, ever. I made it this because I love it even though I know neither the Boy nor the MotH likes it at all – their loss, more for me. So I made it because there would be other family members at Thanksgiving in case someone other than me might like it too. I do think that worked.

D&D_2329These are random thoughts:

I eat carrot/raisin salad for breakfast – just a couple of days in the fridge and this really is excellent. It keeps so much better than cole slaw. Cole slaw need to be made the day you are eating it and then just toss it out. That is not to say you cannot use the cole slaw mix for days and days, you just have to dress it the day you are going to eat it. This works really well, especially when serving bbq pork or sloppy joes.

Oh, and yes, breakfast because apparently I have to eat meals now. Ugh.

I have no recipe for carrot & raisin salad* – same as with cole slaw.  Let me try to explain. I peel and grate a 1 pound bag of carrots on the large holes of a box grater. Put that in a bowl. Add golden raisins – sultanas, and decided if I need more raisins. Then get out the Duke’s mayonnaise. This is where you must be careful. Too much mayo will make just a hot mess. So add the Duke’s judiciously. A little at a time – a little kosher salt now would be a good thing. Then let the whole damn mess sit refrigerated overnight and decide if you need to add something more. In my case, a couple of days later the salad needed a little more (very little) mayonnaise. Made the difference in my breakfast this week. Indeed.

Carrot Raisin Salad is always for my brother’s birthday. That’s saying a lot. I’ve said this before, probably lots, but for our birthdays growing up you got your favorite meal for your birthday. My brother’s favorite was roast beef with rice and gravy and carrot & raisin salad. Maybe it was the roast beef I made the week before Thanksgiving that made this happen, but no matter what this was a really good treat for me and the others that recognized this** on the Thanksgiving buffet.

Who writes about carrot & raisin salad? No body but me.

*Why is it called a salad – it’s like a carrot slaw with sultanas. Oh, and pineapple-ly things will never, ever, be involved in carrot/raisin salad. Ugh – just so wrong. Yes, I have very strong opinions about food. I think we all do. Well, even if we all don’t, I still do.

**Yes, it was all of us old-ish people, but they enjoyed it. Me, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law’s mother, and I think my brother-in-law too. Yes, I was looking at plates. Based on what I saw, I think they liked it.

Either way, a great breakfast for a few days at the office.

Chicken Salad Sandwich

I love a really good chicken salad sandwich. But to me this is just a simple chicken salad on white bread with a little mayo and if I’m feeling really special, some iceberg lettuce.

This is another no-recipe recipe.

Poach chicken breasts. I do this in just water because then I can give the poaching liquid to the dog. But, if you want, you can add bay leaves or garlic cloves, and even peppercorns to the water. Poach low and slow just make sure the chicken is covered by at least an inch of water. Not sure how long, but until it falls apart when you pick it up with a fork – this also makes sure the interior is not still pink.

Remove chicken from water and let cool to room temperature. (Give a dog chicken water and he will love you, pretty much, forever).

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Yep – it’s a mess, but a very good mess.

Shred or chop chicken to whatever size you prefer. I am a medium dice/shred person.

Now here is where things get subjective. Things needed: Duke’s mayonnaise, celery, shallots, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Here is where I get a little weird exacting. I like, for two good sized chicken breasts (and, no, I don’t weigh them but I should), 3 celery stalks including the leaves. The thing is – you must peel the celery. This is just not optional. Get out that serrated vegetable peeler and go to town. It gets rid of those pesky strings that no one ever wants to eat. Then split the ribs into three pieces lengthwise and the mince well. I did say exacting, right?

Now for the shallots – two medium or one large, minced. I get my shallots at Bailey’s Farmers’ Market – they sell them by weight, unlike the grocery store that sells them by some little bag. At Bailey’s, I also get to pick the ones I want – yes, this is the way to do things.

Once all the chopping is done, mix celery and shallots into chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Add Duke’s mayonnaise to taste – remember, as my mom always said, you can always more, but you can’t take it away. Taste as you go and season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Add lemon juice if you would like. Yes you do want to do that.

For the sandwich you need really fresh soft white bread*. Spread one side with more Duke’s and pile on the chicken salad. Then add the super crunchy iceberg lettuce that you cored, washed and have chilling in the fridge. Another option – toast the white bread first. Yes, do.

This, I know, is simple food, but sometimes that is what is best and even more often, that is just what you need.

Now you could do this with a rotisserie chicken, not that I ever have, but I guess in a pinch it would do. If you are really jonesing for some chicken salad. Who am I to judge?

* or Italian bread or a good whole wheat.

Orzo Pasta Salad with Asparagus, Feta, Artichoke Hearts, and Sun-dried Tomatoes

D&D_1854So we had an abundance of feta cheese at the office – it is a long story, but I decided to make something of it. For Easter I thought a pasta salad would be good, but something light and fresh. So here is what I did. Another non-recipe recipe, but there it is.

8 ozs Orzo, al dente
1/2 pound asparagus, blanched until bright green (30 second – 1 minute) and the cooled, cut into 1 inch pieces
16 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and diced, or frozen
1/2 8.5 oz jarred sun-dried tomatoes, julienne cut, drained*
2 Tbs minced chives
Feta crumbles from the office – not sure how much, but just make it look good with the color contrast

Vinaigrette –
juice and zest of one lemon
2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 cup minced chives
salt/pepper to taste**

While the orzo is cooking, mix together vinaigrette ingredients in a decent sized serving bowl.  Once orzo is drained, add the hot pasta to the vinaigrette. Let the orzo soak up all that flavor. All that lemon.

Mix in all the other pasta salad ingredients and serve at room temperature.

What could be easier? I am not entirely sure especially since I had it all on hand – thanks work for the feta. Have to take the perks when you get them.

I feel proud of this – I mixed a lot of things together and it really worked.  Thank you Nigella for the vinaigrette recipe.

*I usually use dried tomatoes that I rehydrate in hot water, but this time oil-packed made more sense to me.

** I hate this expression. Do people not really know to taste things and season them with salt and pepper if necessary. Or maybe add more acid with some lemon or vinegar. Now I am being that food person that everyone says I am. Sigh.

Cous Cous Salad

Yep, I am so back to my vegetarian days with this recipe. I think that making the orange juice, white wine, butter sauce pasta makes me crave this too. So many similar ingredients and flavors. Although it is interesting that I have not sized this recipe down for just me and therefore I eat it for breakfast and/or lunch for about a week. Now, I use local pecans because the are just so sweet. I know I have written about this before but Renfroe’s pecans are … I am at a loss. They are stupidly, amazing, dumbly, good. I guess because I grew up with pecans from Georgia and did not understand how the season worked, nor how to store them in between that I have learned a lot. Since moving to Pensacola, I now know how local pecans work. It is a charmed world to have such amazing fresh pecans.  Once again – spoiled.

D&D_15561 cup orange juice
1/3 cup raisins or sultanas – I prefer sultanas, but will deal with raisins, easily.
1 red onion minced
1/2 cup toasted pecans (or walnuts), salted
3 scallions, diced
1 cup Cous Cous – (not israeli couscous – I have tried, but not my favorite)
Red wine vinegar
1 Tbs Canola oil

Heat orange juice over low heat until bubbly. Add raisins or sultanas and let simmer until raisins are soft. Heat a small saucepan with water to boil. Add red onions and boil for just a minute and a half. Remove from water into a bowl and cover with red wine vinegar to soak until you are finished with everything else.

Add Cous Cous to orange juice with Canola oil. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand until orange juice is absorbed.

Toast pecans in a skillet with some kosher salt until fragrant. Just about a minute on medium heat.  Dice scallions. Drain red onions. Fluff Cous Cous with a fork and add red onions, pecans, and scallions.

I think next time some blanched asparagus would be a great addition. Or maybe some thawed frozen artichoke hearts – just make it a bit more substantial.

I think this is my goal – to take the things I make over and over again and develop them further, to add another dimension to them. I already have a few ideas for this – may be great – may be an random failure, but it is worth a shot. At least to me.

Maybe some salty cheese. Will have to think about that.

Red Creamer Potato Salad

The right time of year for really small red creamer potatoes is longer than it used to be since most of the farmers’ markets that carry them get them from our local farms in the area. This is great for me because I love these tiny potatoes. When you roast them they almost become candy-like. And I mean that in the best possible way.

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Roasted Creamer Potato Salad

To me potato salad is an elusive thing. That makes it sound exotic, like an Indian tiger, but that is not really what I mean. But it is elusive. It is one of those things you have in your head, but that doesn’t mean it is easy to execute.

Again, this is a no-recipe, recipe. If that makes any sense at all – likely not. But sometimes you really do just have to wing it in the kitchen. Trust your gut and your taste buds.

So I love these potatoes roasted and as soon as they came out of the oven, I doused them with rice wine vinegar. I think it is important to do when they are hot – they just soak it up. I did not want a traditional mayonnaise-based potato salad. I had tried that the week before and loved it, but wanted to go in a different direction. So vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, Dijon mustard and Italian parsley. I really liked it. It is not your traditional Southern potato salad, but it was really good. Again, just trust your palate. And remember that when you taste hot potatoes, they are going to be different when they are cold. Err on the side of more vinegar while the potatoes are hot. I kid you not. It really works.

Recipes – making them my own

I like trying recipes and finding favorites that I make over and over again. And I almost always make some adjustments. I cannot help myself. I guess the only recipes I do not change too much are my mom’s recipes and a few other family recipes.

Some recipes I change so much that I claim them as mine. I think that is fair, in the grand scheme of thing.

I think now it is time to start making my own recipes. So I am going to start with a few things that I remember from childhood that I have not been able to quite get there. So research. Which was always my favorite part of my uni education. Research, at least to me, is fun. What do you expect from a historian? Research. Yep. I’m a total nerd that way, but it was always my favorite part, at least until I learned how to really write. A public school education, at least in my day, did not really teach you how to write. It was sad really. The one thing I learned working for my master’s degree was that I needed to learn how to write and understand the English language much better than a public school education had taught me. To bad it cost a crap-load of money to do that.

I am still a word nerd, but I do not think that is a bad thing. It is kind of funny, I think if I had to do it over again, I would be (a Secret Service agent – no … really!) or a linguist (much more likely).

So research it will be for the following things:

Peanut Butter Fudge – can not quite help myself.

My mom’s meatloaf – especially a meatloaf sandwich.

Chicken and Rice – really simple, but slightly amazing.

Cheese Crackers – did the Cracker Challenge a few years ago, but I feel like the only person that makes cheese crackers – is that possible?

Potato Salad – been struggling with this all summer – and not to my satisfaction.

Peach Cobbler – wow – this one is charged. I love my mom’s recipe, but I don’t really like the biscuits on top. How to fix that?

 

 

Couscous Salad

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Couscous Salad

Me and Mr. Peabody are in the WABAC machine for this recipe – if it can be called a recipe at all. This is another in a long line of things I made while in my vegetarian phase – if you can call a decade a phase, but that I continue to make because it is just so damn good. I have been thinking of making this for a while now. It uses things that I don’t tend to have on hand, red onion and orange juice.  It is a mix of a lot of strange things, and I could not tell you, have no idea, where the original recipe came from. But somehow all these weird things come together and if I am honest, which I can occasionally be, it is the red onion and orange juice that totally make this for me. Worth that trip to the grocery store – yep. Every time.

1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup raisins or sultanas
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/3 cup toasted nuts, coarsely chopped
1 scallion, sliced thinly
1 cup couscous
Handful of minced flat-leafed parsley – not totally required really – but pretty much.

Heat orange juice in a saucepan until simmering gently. Add raisins. And let the raisins enjoy themselves.

Toast the nuts in a small pan, stirring often until just fragrant. Coarsely chop.

Place diced red onion in a heat proof glass dish with just enough water to cover. Heat in microwave for about two minutes. Let sit for a few minutes, then drain. Add a splash of vinegar, which ever kind you prefer to the onions.

Turn up heat to a nice simmer on the orange juice, add the couscous with a tablespoon of olive oil. Mix, cover and let sit off heat to steam. Fluff with a fork. Add scallions, red onion, nuts, and parsley and mix to combine.

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Couscous Salad – or something like it …

Notes: I like regular small couscous. I tried it this time with “pearl” couscous, which I think is just a bit too big, too toothy – if that makes any sense, so I went back for the tiny couscous and made it again. Yep – that is what I remember – fluffy couscous with all sorts of weird flavors that really work together. Let it sit over night and it gets even better – no joke. Amazing, flavorful, and really great for breakfast – but I am the girl that likes cold Pad Thai for breakfast too. There it is.