Red, White & Blueberry Salad (Watermelon, Blueberry, Feta)

Red, White & Blueberry Salad

(From Becky, the Butter Lovin’ Mama)

Update: Looking for a summer vacation beach read?  How about a memoir that will make you laugh, inspire you,  and give you some great ideas for cooking for friends and loved ones? Check out our book, We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook!

I’m going to post this recipe early– for  tonight and in the morning, again, to give everyone time to scoot to the store — if needed — and haul back the ingredients for this simple, amazing, knock-out Red, White and Blueberry Watermelon Salad. Because if you put it together for your 4th of July Celebration, you will be crowned the Queen Cook of Independence Day.  And I would not want you to miss that honor.

Last week I had a little minor surgery (although  it is only really “minor” when if it is happening to someone else)  and to my delight, my friend Lindsey O’Connor brought over a feast so good I’d almost go under the knife again to repeat the meal. It included grilled chicken, humus, homemade tzatziki sauce,  pita chips, Naan bread and a gorgeous watermelon-mint-feta salad.  I’m sharing my 4th of July version of her watermelon salad today, but she promises me the original recipes for the rest of the meal soon! (Which I will share with you.)

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Red, White & Blueberry Salad
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-uB
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved

I love to bring meals to my friends who have been ill or had a new baby. Truly pure joy.  As opposed to,  say, helping someone move or dog sit for them.  When I plan to bring a meal to someone, I usually start cooking in the mid-afternoon and just double whatever Greg and I are having for dinner.  I have a cabinet where I save disposable containers for this purpose, and a system where I wrap the hot stuff in a big towel and put it in one box, the cold stuff (with a bag of ice if needed) in another box and off Greg and I go to deliver some love disguised as a good meal.

I am so rarely sick, and my youngest baby is in his mid-twenties; so I had forgotten what a pampered, soothing experience it is to enjoy a great meal that has been lovingly home-made and delivered.  Somewhere around midnight I got up, padded to the fridge, and finished every last bite of Lindsey’s cold crisp sweet-salty watermelon salad before going back to bed. With each bite, I thought of Lindsey with gratitude.  It is true that  food, made with love, somehow tastes better.

So if you don’t make this salad for July 4,  save it in your recipe file under “Great Dish to Bring to a Friend in Need.”  It’s easy,  nutritious, beautiful and delicious.

Becky’s Red, White and Blueberry Salad

Red, White & Blueberry Salad (Watermelon, Feta and Blueberry)

Ingredients

2 cups diced watermelon (about the size of dice)

1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

2 T. crumbled feta cheese

1 T. fresh lime juice

Dash sea salt

2 t. chopped fresh mint

2 t. honey or agave nectar

Directions

In a glass bowl, layer the watermelon, blueberries and feta, in that order.  Just before serving add the rest of the ingredients and toss very gently again. Serve.  Note:  If you are using frozen blueberries this dish is best served just a few minutes after the berries start to thaw, so they are still a little bit icy and hold their shape. In fact, I would just toss the frozen blueberries in last, and they should be ready for eating by the time people serve themselves and sit down to eat.


Red, White & Blueberry Salad (Watermelon, Blueberry, Feta)

Red, White & Blueberry Salad

(From Becky, the Butter Lovin’ Mama)

I’m going to post this recipe early– for  tonight and in the morning, again, to give everyone time to scoot to the store — if needed — and haul back the ingredients for this simple, amazing, knock-out Red, White and Blueberry Watermelon Salad. Because if you put it together for your 4th of July Celebration, you will be crowned the Queen Cook of Independence Day.  And I would not want you to miss that honor.

Last week I had a little minor surgery (although  it is only really “minor” when if it is happening to someone else)  and to my delight, my friend Lindsey O’Connor brought over a feast so good I’d almost go under the knife again to repeat the meal. It included grilled chicken, humus, homemade tzatziki sauce,  pita chips, Naan bread and a gorgeous watermelon-mint-feta salad.  I’m sharing my 4th of July version of her watermelon salad today, but she promises me the original recipes for the rest of the meal soon! (Which I will share with you.)

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Red, White & Blueberry Salad
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-uB
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved

I love to bring meals to my friends who have been ill or had a new baby. Truly pure joy.  As opposed to,  say, helping someone move or dog sit for them.  When I plan to bring a meal to someone, I usually start cooking in the mid-afternoon and just double whatever Greg and I are having for dinner.  I have a cabinet where I save disposable containers for this purpose, and a system where I wrap the hot stuff in a big towel and put it in one box, the cold stuff (with a bag of ice if needed) in another box and off Greg and I go to deliver some love disguised as a good meal.

I am so rarely sick, and my youngest baby is in his mid-twenties; so I had forgotten what a pampered, soothing experience it is to enjoy a great meal that has been lovingly home-made and delivered.  Somewhere around midnight I got up, padded to the fridge, and finished every last bite of Lindsey’s cold crisp sweet-salty watermelon salad before going back to bed. With each bite, I thought of Lindsey with gratitude.  It is true that  food, made with love, somehow tastes better.

So if you don’t make this salad for July 4,  save it in your recipe file under “Great Dish to Bring to a Friend in Need.”  It’s easy,  nutritious, beautiful and delicious.

Becky’s Red, White and Blueberry Salad

Red, White & Blueberry Salad (Watermelon, Feta and Blueberry)

Ingredients

2 cups diced watermelon (about the size of dice)

1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

2 T. crumbled feta cheese

1 T. fresh lime juice

Dash sea salt

2 t. chopped fresh mint

2 t. honey or agave nectar

Directions

In a glass bowl, layer the watermelon, blueberries and feta, in that order.  Just before serving add the rest of the ingredients and toss very gently again. Serve.  Note:  If you are using frozen blueberries this dish is best served just a few minutes after the berries start to thaw, so they are still a little bit icy and hold their shape. In fact, I would just toss the frozen blueberries in last, and they should be ready for eating by the time people serve themselves and sit down to eat.


Better-than-Restaurant Chicken Tenders

In a couple of weeks we’re headed to family beach vacation in Neskowin, Oregon. I’m truly looking forward to it; however,  this is one of those vacations where there will be lots of family rooming in close quarters.  This is fun for a short run, but usually after the third day of this, people began longing for their own space and some start to get a wee bit cranky. It’s a challenge for humans to stay gracious when they lose their normal personal space. One of my friends, author Charlene Baumbich,  confessed after three days of being cooped up with a bunch of women on a retreat: “I’m running out of nice.”

I was visiting on the phone with my daughter Rachel about this subject yesterday.  She is heading to a week of family vacation to a Florida beach –with all the joys and challenges of being in close quarters for a week with lots of people. And an active baby.

“Just in case you start feeling closed-in,  I’ll share how I handled it our last vacation to Neskowin,”  I told her.  “ I knew I was about to get cranky.  I’d been cooking and cleaning and babysitting nonstop, and was getting exhausted from all this ‘vacationing.’ And I was PMSing.  So I went to the tippy top floor, which was three stories high, stepped out on the deck and took a deep breath. I looked out at the ocean and breathed and prayed until I felt calm.  Then I turned to go back inside because the air was turning quite chilly.  And that is when I realized I’d accidentally locked the door behind me.”

“What did you do?” Rachel asked.

“Well, I hollered and screamed but to no avail.  Everyone was in the living room watching a movie, on the first floor.  So I gingerly stepped over the banister and jumped to the roof below.  Then I reached back and grabbed a plastic lawn chair and tossed it off the roof in front of the picture window in the living room, hoping someone would notice.”

“Did they?”

“Well, it took two deck chairs and one lounge chair, but eventually someone noticed it was raining lawn furniture and came to my rescue.”

“So what you are saying, Mom, is that the moral of this story is that if I should start to feel cranky or closed in, I should simply climb on the roof and start throwing lawn furniture off of it.”

“Yes. Pretty much.  Trust me, it helps.”

I’m so glad I can be there to give seasoned wisdom to my daughter based on my many years of hard-earned experience.

In addition to that piece of advice that you are also now free to use at will on your family summer vacation,  I will also share a recipe that is Greg’s all-time favorite vacation food:  chicken fingers.  He thinks mine are better than any restaurant version and I know they are at least slightly healthier.  I use one of Paula Deen’s secrets to the best fried chicken in the south: dipping the chicken in a mixture of eggs and Hot Buffalo Sauce. You’d think the tenders would turn out fire engine hot, but they aren’t hot at all, just amazingly flavorful and tender.

I like to serve these crunchy chicken fingers atop a salad to beef up the nutrition and add some fiber.  Vegans, like Rachel, can do follow same method using firm tofu, omitting the eggs.  Tofu takes on a whole new yummy crunch when battered and pan fried.  (Of course, so do  rubber bands and shoe leather.)

And if this dish doesn’t turn out well for you, you can always climb on the roof and throw it out on the lawn.  It is a marvelous stress reliever.  I guarantee it.

Better-Than-Restaurant Chicken Tenders (Over a Salad with Buffalo Ranch Dressing)

Better-than-Restaurant Chicken Tenders

Pre-heat Oven to 300 degrees

Ingredients

1 to 1.25 pounds chicken tenders (or chicken breasts, sliced in “fingers”)

1/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Sauce

2 eggs

1 cup flour

1 t. Cajun seasoning (I like Tony Cachere’s brand) or other seasoned salt that has paprika or chili pepper

1 t. grill or steak seasoning (or 1/2 t. salt and 1/2 t. pepper)

Healthy oil of your choice to make 1/4 inch deep in your favorite skillet (I use a combination of olive oil and coconut oil)

Directions:

Heat oil over medium high heat or flame.

In a low shallow bowl mix hot sauce and eggs.

Mix together eggs and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce — Paula Deen’s secret to her famous fried chicken

In another similar bowl, mix flour with seasonings. Using tongs, dip the chicken tenders, a few a time, first in hot sauce/eggs, then roll in seasoned flour.

Dip tenders first in mixture of hot sauce and eggs, then in flour seasoned with Cajun Seasoning and Grill Seasoning

Place tenders in oil and when golden brown on one side, flip to cook the other side. Place first batch on a cookie sheet and keep warm in oven while you finish pan-frying the rest of the tenders.  I only put 4 to 5 tenders in the skillet at one time.

Only pan fry 4 or 5 tenders at a time.

Put pan-fried tenders on baking sheet and keep in warm oven until you’ve cooked all the batches.

Taste one as soon as they are cool enough to touch.  If it needs more salt, sprinkle them lightly with a bit more Cajun seasoning. (If you love hot hot tenders you can also sprinkle them with more  red hot sauce at this point.)

These are awesome just as they are served with your favorite dipping sauce or sauces.   I typically serve them atop a salad with one of the following quick dressings:

Buffalo Ranch: 2 parts Ranch dressing with 1 part Buffalo Sauce.  (For one big salad, I mix about 1/4 cup light Ranch dressing with 2 T. buffalo sauce)

Honey Mustard Ranch: Two parts Ranch Dressing with 1 part mustard and 1 part honey. (For one big salad I mix 1/4 cup light Ranch dressing with 1 T. mustard and 1 T. honey.)

Variation:  If I have leftover chicken tenders,  I like to heat them up for lunch the next day, then cut them in small pieces,  toss them in a little Buffalo sauce, and serve with a bed of chopped celery, sprinkled with a bit of crumbled blue cheese or feta, and top with Buffalo Ranch Dressing.   It’s like eating chicken wings…. with a fork!  Really good with a little side of watermelon to cut the heat.

Leftover chicken tenders cut in bite-size pieces, tossed in buffalo sauce, served over a bed of celery with feta cheese crumbles and buffalo ranch dressing. Mmmm, mmmmm spicy, crunchy, yummy lunch!

Veganize It: Substitute slices of firm tofu, and omit the eggs.  Proceed with recipe.


Kickin’ Melon Cucumber Salad

Melon, agave, and a tiny hint of cayenne take this ordinary tomato and cucumber salad to extraordinary with a burst of flavor. It’s sweet, spicy, and refreshing. Surprise your friends with this unique summer salad at the next barbeque.

Whatever it is that makes pregnant women crave weird things, I’m pretty sure I have it all the time. As I’m trying to eat everything in my refrigerator before vacation (this is counteracting my plan to get in shape for the beach, by the way), I keep finding myself pairing the oddest things.

Oreo cookies, cream filling removed and replaced with peanut butter and banana.

A baked sweet potato doused in hot sauce for breakfast.

Crackers dipped in tomato paste and hummus.

Sometimes I question my authority to co-write a food blog. I mean seriously, how can you trust the palate of someone who removes the filling from their Oreos?

However, sometimes my weird cravings create something truly delicious. When I took a bite of this salad with crisp cucumbers, bright tomatoes, sweet cantaloupe, red onion, and an agave and cayenne vinaigrette, I was in love. It’s an odd combination of fruits and veggies, of spicy and sweet, but it works I tell ya, it really works.

It would brighten up and bring a perfect balance of acidity and flavor to grilled tofu or chicken for a healthy summer dinner. It would also be a great side dish for Fourth of July parties, no refrigeration needed for at least a few hours.

Just be prepared to answer the questions, “How did you come up with this combination? Are you pregnant?”

Rachel’s Kickin’ Melon Cucumber Salad

Serves 6-8 side portions

Ingredients

2 c. cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 c. cucumber, chopped
1 . red onion, diced
2 c. canteloupe or other melon (watermelon and honeydew would both work), chopped

Vinaigrette
3 T. rice vinegar
3 T. agave
3 t. salt
3 t. crushed black pepper
1 t. cayenne

Directions

Mix vinaigrette ingredients and toss with chopped fruit and veggies. Serve.

It’s that easy!

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Kickin’ Melon Cucumber Salad
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-rI
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Avocado Mango Salad “Cocktail” in Jicama Nests

Avocado Mango Jicama “Cocktail” Salad

What would you do if given the gift of one uninterrupted day, a day where your kids, your husband, your friends and your boss gave your their blessing to walk away and create your own perfect 12 hours?  A day to refill your soul?

Some seasons of my life are busier than others and the last two months has been filled to overflowing with people, appointments and a list of “to-dos” that seemed endless.  Seeing his wife was in a state of overwhelm,  Greg hugged me on Friday night and said, “Honey, tomorrow I want you to take the whole Saturday  just do anything you want at any given minute, all day long. Don’t worry about a thing.  I’ll even make my own meals.”

It may have been the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard anyone say.  (True to his word, Greg made his own lunch: two pieces of leftover corn on the cob, a piece of leftover blueberry pie and some leftover salad.  Yes, he missed the protein food group, but it was a great improvement over his usual “bachelor diet” when I am away: potato chips, chocolate chip cookies and cereal.)

Saturday dawned with the song “Saturday in the Park” playing in my mind, and the line, “I’ve been waiting such a long time, for Sat-ur-day” echoing again and again.  The feeling of unencumbered space stretched out for the next 12 hours left me near euphoric.

I spent the day writing on our new book in uninterrupted bliss at Denver’s famous Tattered Cover Bookstore, then lunched and wrote some more at The Corner Bakery, over-looking a gorgeous outline of the Rocky Mountains.  When I walked in the house that evening there was a vase of sunny yellow flowers and a loving card from Greg, “Just because.”  I wrote in my Facebook status:  I feel like a wilted flower that has been put in the fresh water of creative work, healing solitude, and the benevolent blessing of a good man who wants little in this life but for me to be happy.  I may yet live!

After I opened the card, Greg and I went to the back porch for our Summertime Happy Hour, a ritual we started in early June to make sure we have a little time to connect before dinner.  One of the things that centenarians the world over have in common is “joyful rituals.” This has become one of our favorites.  I made us clementine mojitos using the mint from my herb garden,  perfectly refreshing.

The day of rest and writing left me infused with creative energy as I cooked supper a little later.   I grabbed a crisp jicama, a vine-ripe tomato, an avocado and a mango out of the crisper.  In my mind’s eye I saw this recipe appear: a pretty salad of orange, green and red nestled in a bed of white grated jicama, drizzled with a fresh lime dressing and served in margarita glasses.  It would be  our “salad course.”   Let me tell you, it  was every bit as tasty as it is beautiful! So cold and refreshing after a 100 degree summer day.

I am delighted to share this recipe  with you,  along with encouragement to take time out for “Fill the Well Day” for your body, mind and soul as soon as you can!

Becky’s Avocado Mango Jicima “Cocktail” Salad

Avocado Mango Salad “Cocktail” in Jicama Nests

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 cups peeled, grated fresh jicama

1 avocado

1 fresh tomato

1 fresh mango

1 T. chopped cilantro or parsley or mint

2 T. chopped green onion

Juice of 2 limes

1/2 t. salt

4 t. honey

4 T. crushed corn or tortilla chips

Cajun seasoning or Tajin chili-lime seasoning to sprinkle on top

Lime slices for garnish

Tajin seasoning: a delightful blend of lime, salt, and chili pepper. Wonderful on this dish!

The flavors of jicama, tomato, mango, green onion and lime blend beautifully

Directions:

Place 1/2 cup grated jicama in each of 4 margarita glasses or pretty glass bowls to create a white “nest.”   Mix avocado, tomato, mango, herb of your choice and green onion together in a bowl and gently toss.  Place this mixture on top of the grated jicama, dividing evenly in to the four glasses.  In a small bowl mix the dressing of lime juice, salt and honey.  Drizzle evenly over each of the salads.  Top each salad with 1 T. crushed chips and a nice sprinkling of Cajun or Tajin seasoning.  Serve with long teaspoons if you have them and put a slice of lime on each rim.  Have guests stir and toss their salads once they are served to make sure everything gets coated with the lime dressing.


Confetti Rice Pilaf Stuffed Avocados (with Feta, Cranberry, Walnuts)

One of my prized possessions is a postcard with a handwritten note from the late marvelous, hilarious, one-and-only Erma Bombeck.  I wrote her a fan letter, telling her I was praying for her health. To my shock and surprise she took time out of her day (and dialysis) to send this encouraging note to me right after I got my first book contract.

One of my favorite columns by Erma was called “The Leftover Food Syndrome.”  It began, “I have never known a woman who can look at a mound of leftover food….and throw it away –the first time around.”  Erma then describes the leftover ritual known (genetically) to all women. After you wrap the left over in a container of your choice (“no leftover is too small to occupy shelf space”), you put it in the fridge and then over the week, each member of the family takes turns opening up the container asking, “What IS this?”

The object of this game is to never throw away the leftover as long as you can still recognize it. “It is not thrown away until it recognizes you,” Erma quipped.

What I love about this recipe below is that it uses up all those little bits of leftovers before they recognize you!  The savory, sweet, nutty, colorful rice makes a great side dish, or with the addition of extra nuts and cheese or little bits of ham or chicken — a wonderful light lunch or dinner.

Confetti Rice Pilaf Stuffed Avocados

Confetti Rice Pilaf Stuffed Avocados

Serves Six

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon Olive

1 Tablespoon Butter (or Earth Balance for vegans)

2 cups cooked rice, any combination you like or have leftover (I had brown, jasmine and wild rice on hand)

1/4 cup dried cranberries (raisins or other chopped dried fruit can work as well)

1/2 cup chopped cooked veggies, any combo, whatever you have leftover (I had carrots and edamame today)

1/4 cup toasted nuts (walnuts were on tap for this recipe)

2 T. crumbled feta or goat cheese  (skip this or use a vegan cheese substitute if you are vegan)

3 avocados, cut in half, seed removed

Directions:

In a large skillet, melt butter and oil. Toss in rest of the ingredients until warm and heated through.  Salt and pepper if needed.  Just before serving toss in cheese and stir.  Fill avocado halves with mixture, letting some of the rice fall around the avocado on the plate as well.  One avocado makes a nice side dish, two make a meal in itself!

Variation:  Use leftover grains instead of rice, such a quinoa or bulgur

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook

The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com

The Title: Confetti Rice Pilaf Stuffed Avocados

The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-nA

© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Vegan Ranch Dressing

Vegan Ranch Dressing, great as a dip or on a salad.

(Rachel)

This weekend I cleaned out my refrigerator door and overflowed the trash can with expired bottled salad dressings and corn syrup-filled marinades. It dawned on me that I haven’t eaten bottled dressing in years. Once you start making your own fresh dressing, it’s hard to go back.

Usually I make a simple vinaigrette or something like my mom’s Lemon Drop Dressing, but sometimes Jared and I crave the creamy classic, Ranch Dressing.

When Jackson was just a few weeks old, Jared got a hankering for a salad with ranch dressing, but I was nursing the baby and couldn’t get up to help him. So from the rocking chair in the living room, I walked him through the steps of washing, drying and chopping the parsley, mixing it with vegan mayo, salt, pepper, minced onions, and garlic powder, and thinning it out with a little unsweetened milk.

Unsure if he got the seasoning right, he brought the bowl to me so I could taste it. Just as he stepped onto the carpet, our cat Marvin, jetted in front of him, tripping Jared and sending the bowl into the air. Like a scene out of a Steve Martin comedy, the bowl came down landing right on the cat. In a panic, Marvin took off, shaking frantically throughout the living room sending ranch flying in every direction, coating us, baby included, the furniture, the walls, and the carpet.

The house (and the cat) smelled of onion and parsley for days.

If you can chop parsley and dodge schizo cats, you can make this dressing. It’s a great base for other creative combinations, too, like Avocado Goddess Dressing or Roasted Pepper Ranch. You can use dried parsley in this recipe too, but the fresh parsley really pops.

Easy, fresh, and so much better than bottled ranch dressing.

Rachel’s Vegan Ranch Dressing

Makes 1 cup of dressing

Ingredients

1 c. vegan mayo (We like the Grapeseed Oil Vegenaise)
1/8 c. flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 t. dried minced onion
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. salt
1 t. freshed cracked pepper
2 T. unsweetened non-dairy milk (add a little more for a thinner consistency or less for a thicker dip)

Directions

Combine ingredients and store in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Let sit for a couple of hours before using if possible. It should keep for about three days.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Vegan Ranch Dressing
The URL: https://welaughwecrywecook.com/2012/05/24/vegan-ranch-dressing/
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved