Pasta Salad with Cantaloupe, Salami, and Basil

My kids love pasta. According to C, he would eat noodles about 100 times a week if he could. (He just learned about 100.) I like pasta too, but sometimes it can get a little old. And then there is pasta salad. Granted, it’s a family friendly workhorse, but I get a little bored with it. It’s just….forgettable. I’ve been steering clear from it lately. But when I offered to help a neighbor out with a family dinner and she thought a pasta salad would be the easiest, I had to rethink my pasta salad strategy. I started googling. There were lots of recipes, but nothing that I thought was both kid friendly and inspiring. And anything with mayo or that couldn’t be prepared the day before were immediately out. Fortunately, there was a bright spot to help a girl out. Bon Appetit gave me a few ideas of what to avoid – and how to create – better pasta salads. This lit my inspirational fires and I trotted off to Target to grab a few things for our family road trip as well as the pasta for my salad. While I was there, I found myself looking at a cantaloupe and found my inspiration. A fun curly pasta, cantaloupe, salami, mozzarella cheese, basil. I think we’ll have a winner!

For the record – this is just a ball parking recipe. Adjust the flavors/amounts for your personal tastes. This passed the kid test (my kids devoured it) and Jeff told me twice that he liked it. That’s a good thing.  Continue reading

The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook

This past week brought us to the Flint Hills to visit my parents and to give the kids a chance to frolic around the prairie. Other than the heat and remembering what back sweat feels like, it was really great to see the rolling hills, hunt for chalk rocks and agates, and chase fireflies at dusk. Since my mom is my #1 blog reader, I let her pick the cookbook of the week. (Other diligent readers – your chance will come soon! It’s pretty easy – just tell me what you want and I’ll do it. Not a tough crowd here.) I could have guessed the book before we even started the road trip. She loves big, colorful pictures along each recipe (presentation is important!) and likes healthy cookbooks on her shelf. She’s nostalgic, so I knew she’d pick either a cookbook that I gave her or one we both have. Of course – she did both! The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook. I picked up this one for myself when I was working at Williams-Sonoma and I couldn’t walk past the cookbook shelf without taking something home. I knew my mom would love it, so surprise! It’s her christmas present. I may not be the most creative gift giver, but I know what works.

My parents live in the country about 25 minutes from town, so there is generally only one trip to the grocery store per week, and the rest we forage from the prairie. Don’t be too impressed – my dad maintains an extensive garden and my brothers have been growing potted herbs since the early 2000s. My mom knew the cookbook, but she wanted me to pick the recipes, so she just picked up a variety of ingredients that would work for most things. Monday night I grabbed the stickies and picked out the recipes that looked interesting and then I started comparing the ingredient lists. So – this is what we came up with!

The Recipes
Warm Potato Salad (with freshly dug red potatoes)
Garden Peas with Fresh Mint (frozen peas, but freshly picked mint)
Warm Coleslaw with Honey Dressing (fresh parsley)
Chicken Salad with Thai Flavors (featuring my mom’s lemongrass!)
Grilled Flank Steak Salad with Roasted Corn Vinaigrette
Banana Oatmeal Hotcakes with Spiced Maple Syrup
Jamaican Barbecued Pork Tenderloin
Tropical Fruits with Mint and Spices  Continue reading

Bourbon and Baker

I took the kids to Kansas this week and it’s always fun to check out the new places that have opened in my hometown. I especially love to visit downtown – it always seems like there is something new and fun opening up – and this trip was no different. Of course, what’s new to me isn’t new to the locals, and Bourbon and Baker has been open for about a year or so. It definitely has a bar feel when you walk in, and considering that bourbon is the biggest word on the menu, it was clear that I needed to start with a bourbon cocktail. Really, it would be offensive to consider anything less. It’s a good thing that my dad was driving – because I was having a Brown Derby at 11:45 this morning. I love vacation.

This is how to start lunch.

The theme of the restaurant is southern and midwestern soul food served small plate style, so it’s fun to try a bunch of different things. We ordered a pretty wide variety – ribs, red beans and rice, vegetable ceviche, chicken and a biscuit, brussels sprouts, pulled pork quesadilla, strawberry balsamic bruschetta, deviled eggs – and set out to discover our favorites. No surprise – we all liked different things.  Continue reading

Spoon and Stable

I recently had dinner with some college friends who were in town celebrating their birthdays. When they texted the restaurant, there was no way I could pass it up. Spoon and Stable is a fairly new establishment in the North Loop of Minneapolis and it’s getting a lot of press….and another notch on my James Beard nominee list. My friend joked that she had an easier time getting into French Laundry – and considering we had an 8:30 reservation on a Sunday night, she wasn’t kidding. I had to double check my Monday morning alarm carefully as the kids were starting drama camp – and believe me, I’d see drama if we were late.

This was my second time at Spoon and Stable – I had been there for a work event for Jeff, so it was in a private dining area with a selected menu. Don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely delicious and I’m still thinking about the brown butter foam, but it’s not exactly the type of environment the invites the inner foodie to rejoice. From Jeff: “You’re not going to pull out your phone for pictures, are you?” Message received. But with friends – we were seated prime time in the dining room with a view of a kitchen and of the chef himself. Let us rejoice.  Continue reading

Cold Press Coffee

I may mock a lot of hipster trends, but I’m a believer in cold press coffee. I’ve been playing around with different ways of doing it, and while I’ll keep tinkering, I highly recommend that you try it at home. Considering that a delicious “crafted press” at Caribou will set you back $3.50, it’s worth it to try a little home brew. Biggest thing to remember – it takes a bit of planning. If you’re running short on time, hit the drive through.

This is what I do.

1. Grind the beans. You could always go with the bagged stuff, but I think it’s better with a fresh grind. An eye opener for cold press is that it takes A LOT of coffee to get the concentrate. Rather than perfectly measure it all out, I just grind a batch on the largest amount for my grinder on a course setting. It’s almost 4 ounces, and since the french press ratio I originally tried was roughly 4.5, I just reduced the amount of water by half a cup.

2. Dump the beans in the french press, add 3 cups of water, and give it a good stir. It’s like a think coffee slurry at this point. Cover it and walk away. Ideal brew is anywhere between 12-24 hours; I lean more into the 18-24 hour mark.

3. Press the coffee, pour through an additional filter (this can take a little while, but unless you like a little grit in your joe, it’s worth the time) and then you have the coffee concentrate.

4. Fill your glass with ice, fill it about halfway with concentrate, and cut it with milk, water, half and half (only if you have a metabolism like my brother) or  if it’s your birthday, sweetened condensed milk. I generally add a tiny bit of simple syrup to my cold press – and start your day with a smile.


Inspired by….
Blue Bottle Coffee – this is where I started reading about it. It’s pretty hard core, but I appreciate the passion. I don’t have a fultron, and since it was a 6 week wait on Amazon, I decided to move on.
Chow – a food community basic. Pretty simple recipe, and scaled for a french press. Time to pull mine out of the closet.
The Kitchn – this is one of my regular food blogs, so I looked at this one too. It’s a single serving ratio, so if you’re gun shy, start here.
And because I know a lot of people like The Pioneer Woman, you can read an abbreviated version on the Food Network. It’s great for large scale ratios. You can always check out her full description on her official website, “come to mama” and all, but you can find that on your own. It’s a bit much for me.

Do you have a favorite way to start your day? Let me know in the comments below!

BLT Salad

This salad is so simple that it makes me wonder why I didn’t invent it myself. The roasted potato addition adds some heartiness and doesn’t make you notice that the bacon is really just a garnish – if you’re able to grab any. C and his little mitts snatched the bacon before the rest of us could get to it. I knew blue cheese would be a non starter for our aspiring foodies, so rather than waste my precious Matag Blue, I opted for a nice sharp cheddar that was in the fridge. Credit to The Peanut in KC for reminding me that a good BLT has a bit of cheddar on it. I have a fun memory making this salad several (ok, many) years ago to celebrate new outdoor patio furniture with some good Kansas City friends. JM and KP, this one is for you.

BLT Salad
From Cooking Thin with Chef Kathleen, Kathleen Daelemans
My comments/experiences are in italics.  Continue reading

Cooking Thin with Chef Kathleen

After a week of baking bliss, it was time to lean into the healthier shelf of cookbooks. I’m kicking things off with an oldie – Cooking Thin with Chef Kathleen.  Around 2002. She had a cooking show on the Food Network back in the early days before food competitions took over and chefs like Emeril, Sara Moultin, and Jamie Oliver were rocking it old school with a live audience and average lighting. Chef Kathleen has an interesting story – she was overweight, took a new job in Hawaii, and discovered that she was going to be the executive chef for a spa. Keep in mind this was the mid 90s, when going to the spa was more than pulling into a strip mall for pedicures and a massage. (Not that there’s nothing wrong with that…..because I do it too.) It’s Canyon Ranch style spaaing (is that a word?) when you have a schedule with sunrise yoga, meditation breaks, cucumber water, treatments of choice, and of course – delicious yet low calorie food. So she lost weight while she was learning how to cook for her new job. There’s an authentic-ness to this I like – and the first 77 pages of the cookbook tells the story with tips on how you can do it too. After all, I could use a little spa-like detox after enjoying Flour for a week. But will the kids like it?

The Recipes
Sweet Potato Bread with Cranberries, Currants, and Pecans
Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Onion, Tomato, and Arugula
Apple, Cucumber, and Tomato Salad
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Cold Pasta Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Mozzarella, and Mango
BLT Salad
Fast Fried Chicken Tenders
Asian Noodle Salad
Flank Steak and Roasted Vegetables with Crispy Potatoes
Fresh Fruit Sorbets
Crazy Crunch  Continue reading