Cucumber-Dill Pasta Salad

For another funeral at church, I found myself needing to bring a salad, and for some reason, the winter time and dill always go hand-in-hand for me.  I found myself making this cucumber-dill pasta salad, which could not have been easier to make.  The recipe came from one of those great church cookbooks — this time the Minnesota Catholic Daughters Cookbook, and I mixed it together to take to the church.

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Cucumber Dill Pasta Salad

1 c broccoli florets
3 c cooked pasta
1/2 c thinly sliced carrots
1/2 c thinly sliced celery
1/2 tsp dill weed
1 green onion
1/4 c chopped onion
1/2 c cucumber ranch dressing
salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 c water to boiling. Add broccoli, cover and cook 1 minute. Drain and cool. Combine carrots, celery, onion, salad dressing, salt, and pepper. Add broccoli and pasta. Toss well. Chill.


True Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins

When looking for a great blueberry muffin recipe, one needs to look no further than this true blueberry buttermilk muffin recipe.  I found it in, of all places, the Aunt Bee’s Mayberry Cookbook.  I’ve been looking to cook a little more out of the cookbook from the Andy Griffith Show, and this recipe seemed to fit the bill.  I ended up sharing some of these, along with some other muffins, with colleagues in our facilities services area.  They always do an amazing job of making sure the campus is running, and I like to thank them for their work by dropping off some snacks and treats when the opportunity arises.  This is one of those instances when I was pleased with what I was able put together to thank these colleagues.

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True Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins

2½ cups all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten ½ cup butter, melted and slightly browned
1 ½ cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained

Grease 24 small muffin cups. In a large bowl sift together the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center, and add the buttermilk, eggs, and butter. Mix well. Fold in the blueberries. Pour into the prepared muffin cups. Bake in a 400° oven for 20 minutes. Makes 24 small muffins.

Pineapple-Cashew Quinoa Stir Fry

Are you looking for a delicious meat-free meal to brighten up the start of the year?  This stir fry recipe from Veganomicon was a dish that had been on my to-cook list for months, if not years.  When I had a reason to put together the meal for a student who was also vegan and had a rough month a few months ago, I was so delighted to finally have a chance to put this together.  When I was working on the leftovers a couple days later and wanted to add some additional protein to the meal and had some Gilbert’s sausages in the dish and reheated it in a skillet.

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Pineapple-Cashew Quinoa Stir Fry


1 c quinoa, well rinsed and drained
1 c pineapple juice
1 c cold water
1/4 c soy sauce

Stir Fry:

4 oz cashews, raw and unsalted
3 Tbsp peanut oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 hot red chile, sliced into very thin rounds
1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 c frozen green peas or cooked edamame
1/2 c fresh basil leaves, rolled and sliced into thin shreds
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
10 oz fresh pineapple, cut into bite-size chunks
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp vegetable stock
1 Tbsp mirin

Prepare the quinoa first: Combine the quinoa, juice, water, and soy sauce in a medium-size pot.  Cover, place over high heat, and bring to a boil.  Stir a few times, lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 12 to 14 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa appears plumped and slightly translucent.  Uncover, fluff, and let cool.

For best results, place the quinoa in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.  If you’re in a hurry, chill the covered quinoa for at least an hour.  When ready to use, break up any chunks of the cold quinoa with a fork.

To prepare the stir-fry:

Use the largest nonstick skillet you have or a wok.  Have all of your ingredients chopped and easily within reach.  Place the cashews in the dry pan and heat over low heat, stirring them, until lightly toasted, 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove the cashews from the pan, raise the heat to medium, and add the peanut oil, scallions, and garlic.  When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the sliced chile pepper and ginger.  Stir-fry for about 2 minutes, then add the bell pepper and peas.  Stir-fry for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the bell pepper is softened and the peas are bright green.  Add the basil and mint, and stir for another minute before adding the pineapple and quinoa.

In a measuring cup, combine the soy sauce, vegetable stock, and mirin.  Pour over the quinoa mixture.  Stir to incorporate completely and coat the quinoa.  Continue to stir-fry for 10 to 14 minutes, until the quinoa is very hot.

Serve with lime wedges and additional soy sauce, to season individual servings to taste.

Sweet Potatoes with Honey, Lemon, and Toasted Spices

For Christmas, my parents tasked me with putting together some sweet potatoes to go with the ham that was being served to our relatives.  I was looking for something that was easy and wouldn’t take me away from guests right before the meal needed to be served, and this recipe fit the bill.  Everyone at the table provided compliments about the sweet potatoes.  The sauce and spices add a nice bit of flavor without overpowering the sweet potatoes.  The honey is super subtle and lemon helps make the flavor pop a little more.  The recipe came from Food and Wine and can be easily found on their web site.

Sweet Potatoes with Honey, Lemon, and Spices

Sweet Potatoes with Honey, Lemon, and Toasted Spices

3 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced crosswise, 1/4 inch thick
1/3 c hot water
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp finely grated ginger
salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a baking dish. Arrange the sweet potato slices in concentric circles in the dish.

In a bowl, combine the hot water with 1 tablespoon of the honey and butter; swirl to melt the butter. Pour the liquid over the potatoes. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the cumin and coriander seeds over moderate heat until fragrant, about 40 seconds; let cool. Transfer the seeds to a spice grinder and grind to a powder. Transfer the power to a small bowl. Stir in the lemon juice, oil, garlic, ginger, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of honey; season with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the potatoes and serve.

Raspberry Rhubarb Muffins

To spread further joy in the holidays, I took some muffins to the folks who work in our facilities area.  One of the folks from that area told me there was some fighting over these muffins, so apparently I’ll need to take them again this summer, when rhubarb is in season.  The recipe came from the Flour cookbook, which (it should be) pretty obvious that I adore, and these were a great addition to any menu.

Raspberry Rhubarb Muffins

Raspberry Rhubarb Muffins

3¼ cups (455 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
11/3 cups (270 grams) sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (1¼ sticks/140 grams) butter, melted
1 cup (240 grams) milk, at room temperature
1 cup (240 grams) crème fraîche, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (130 grams) fresh or frozen raspberries
1 cup (120 grams) chopped rhubarb

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin tin, coat with nonstick cooking spray, or line with paper liners.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolk until thoroughly mixed. Slowly whisk in the sugar, butter, milk, crème fraîche, and vanilla until well combined. Pour the butter-sugar mixture into the flour mixture and, using a rubber spatula, fold gently just until the ingredients are combined. Gently fold in the raspberries and rhubarb until evenly distributed. The batter may seem lumpy, but don’t try to smooth it out. (The batter can be made up to 1 day ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)
Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, dividing it evenly and filling the cups to the rim (almost overflowing).
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown on top and spring back when pressed in the middle with a fingertip. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan.
The muffins taste best on the day they are baked, but they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up 3 days. If you keep them for longer than 1 day, refresh them in a 300-degree-F oven for 4 to 5 minutes. Or, you can freeze them, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for up to 1 week; reheat, directly from the freezer, in a 300-degree-F oven for 8 to 10 minutes.


Thai Mango Slaw

Just before Christmas, I had a quilt to take to a friend and her new baby, and I brought a meal with as well.  Again, I wanted to focus on some vegetables and have been wanting to make some more dishes with wild rice lately.  This recipe from Love Real Food seemed to be the perfect remedy.  It has a great, fresh feel in the midst of the heavy food during the holidays.  If you need something different to bring to a gathering in the weeks ahead, this is a great option.

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Thai-Style Mango Slaw 

1 cup wild rice, rinsed
4 cups thinly sliced red cabbage (about 1 pound), roughly chopped into 2-inch-long strips
2 ripe mangoes, diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
½ cup chopped green onions (about 4)
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

¼ cup lime juice (from about 2 limes)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the rinsed rice and continue boiling, reducing the heat as necessary to prevent overflow, until the rice is pleasantly tender but still offers a light resistance to the bite, 40 to 55 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, drain the rice, and return it to the pot. Cover and let the rice rest for 10 minutes, then uncover and set aside while you assemble the slaw.

Meanwhile, to prepare the slaw: In a large serving bowl, combine the cabbage, mangoes, bell pepper, green onions, and cilantro. To prepare the dressing: In a small bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients and whisk until blended. Add the warm rice to the bowl of slaw ingredients and toss to combine. Drizzle in the dressing and toss again. Season to taste with additional salt, if necessary. Serve immediately, or chill the salad until you’re ready to serve. This salad keeps well, chilled, for 3 to 4 days. You might want to wake up the flavors with an extra squeeze of lime juice.

Vegan Vanilla-Mixed Berry Muffins

Over the course of the last year, I have had an increased number of vegans arrive in my group of friends, coworkers, and individuals with whom I interact.  As a result, I have found myself looking for some additional vegan recipes.  So, when I was making brunch for a group of students last week and knew there was possibly a vegan in attendance, I wanted to be sure I was using a recipe in which they could partake.  The folks in the Flour cookbook have yet to disappoint, so I knew this recipe was one I needed to make.  And, they are soooo good — everyone who ate some really enjoyed partaking of the vegan vanilla-mixed berry muffins!

Vegan Vanilla Mixed Berry Muffins

Vegan Vanilla Mixed Berry Muffins

2⅔ cups/370 g all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup/200 g granulated sugar
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp/210 ml vegetable oil
1⅓ cups/315 ml plain soy milk
2 tbsp distilled white or cider vinegar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup/130 g fresh or frozen raspberries
1 cup/150 g fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C, and place a rack in the center of the oven. Line the cups of the muffin tin with paper liners or generously oil and flour them. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and ¾ cup plus 2 tbsp/175 g of the sugar and stir until well mixed. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, soy milk, vinegar, and vanilla. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the middle of the well. Stir with a rubber spatula until well mixed. Add the raspberries and blueberries and mix until the fruit is evenly distributed. Spoon an equal amount of batter into each prepared muffin cup. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining 2 tbsp sugar. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the muffins are pale gold and the tops spring back when pressed gently in the middle. Let cool in the tin on a wire rack before popping them out. The muffins taste best on the day they are baked, but any uneaten muffins can be stored in a covered container at room temperature for 2 or 3 days. For the best results, refresh them in a 300°F/150°C oven for 4 to 5 minutes.