Honey Chipotle Mexican Salad

A childhood favorite, Mexican Salad, gets a face lift.

A childhood favorite, Mexican Salad, gets a facelift.

When I was a kid, a staple quick dinner in our house was Mexican Salad. You know, chopped ice berg or romaine lettuce, Ranch Style Beans, tomatoes, shredded cheese, catalina dressing, all topped off with a bag of fritos. Adding fritos to lettuce is a sure fire way to get kids to eat their greens.

This week I got invited to a Craft Night at a friend’s house. Let me just pause to say, wow. This working mom of two young kids hosts craft nights at her house every few months for 20-30 women. She gathers all the supplies, plans games and doorprizes, and even cooks dinner for everyone. People who handle this type of entertaining with ease simply amaze me. When I grow up, I want to be more like my friend Autumn.

Festive decorations, silly games (I drew that picture on my head), and adorable crafty ornaments.

Festive decorations, silly games (I drew that picture on my head), and adorable crafty ornaments.

The menu was a taco bar with requests for guests to bring a side or dessert. When I’m not sure there will be much for a vegan to eat, I like to bring a hearty side that will work as a main dish for me, but compliment the host’s meal and be a yummy side for others. That childhood Mexican Salad popped into mind as a perfect compliment to a taco bar. I decided to give it a facelift though. The thought of bottled dressing, packaged fritos, and flavorless iceberg lettuce made me cringe a little. Instead, I made a homemade sweet and spicy catalina dresssing using honey and a chipotle pepper. Because I needed the dish to travel easily, I decided to use kale instead of romaine or ice berg. Kale can be dressed ahead of time without wilting, making it the perfect green for make-ahead salads. Plus it’s a beautiful deep green, adding color to the table and it packs a ton of nutrition, not my first priority for party food, but certainly a bonus. Instead of fritos, I fried tortilla strips and sprinkled them with chipotle powder, salt, and lime juice. Covered in crispy fried chips, kale never looked so good!

I loved loved this. A few guests found it to be a little on the spicy side, so if you don’t like spice, you can seed the chipotle and use paprika instead of chipotle powder on the chips. You’ll still get all the flavor without the heat.

Delicious, filling, entree or side salad.

Delicious, filling, entree or side salad.

Honey Chipotle Mexican Salad

Serves 2-3 entree servings, 6-8 side servings

Ingredients

Dressing:

1 chipotle in adobo sauce (freeze remaining chipotles for future recipes) (remove seeds for mild version)
1/3 c. sweet onion chopped
1/3 c. organic ketchup
1/3 c. vinegar
1/3 c. canola oil
1/4 c. honey (or agave)

Salad:

1 large bunch of kale or 2 small bunches, washed and torn off spine
2 cans vegetarian chili beans (I used Bush’s brand), drained and lightly rinsed
2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and diced
2 roma tomatoes, diced

Tortilla Strips:

8 corn tortillas, cut into small strips
canola oil
salt
chipotle chili pepper powder (if you can’t find this, paprika or smoked paprika will work too)
1/2 a lime

Directions

In a blender, combine all the dressing ingredients. Blend until smooth.

Sweet, tangy, spicy. You'll never want a bottle of boring Catalina dressing again!

Sweet, tangy, spicy. You’ll never want a bottle of boring Catalina dressing again!

Put the kale in a large bowl and make sure the pieces are bite size. Pour in the dressing and use your hands to massage it into the kale. Get in there and really rub it in. You want to break the fibers of the kale down so it’s easier to chew.

The secret to good kale salads is to massage the greens.

The secret to good kale salads is to massage the greens.

Gently stir in beans, tomatoes and avocados. (If you aren’t serving soon, hold off on chopping and adding avocados until you are about to serve.)

In a heavy duty skillet, heat about 1/2 inch of canola oil on medium heat. When oil is ready it will sizzle when you drop a tortilla strip in. Drop in a handful of tortilla strips at a time, fry for 1-2 minutes until they are crispy. Set aside on a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with just a little chipotle powder, salt, and lime juice. Repeat until all are cooked.

Just before serving, add the fried tortilla strips.

Easy to transport. Just bring the tortilla strips on the side and add them when you arrive at your destination.

Easy to transport. Just bring the tortilla strips on the side and add them when you arrive at your destination.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Honey Chipotle Mexican Salad
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-QK
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


Sweet and Spicy Snap Peas in a Snap

These sweet and spicy snap peas are ready in minutes and make a perfect side dish or healthy snack.

These sweet and spicy snap peas are ready in minutes and make a perfect side dish or healthy snack.

I cannot seem to get enough snap peas lately. Since I started working out again, I’ve craved something cool and quick after I exercise. A handful of cold snap peas is a perfect little sweet and crunchy snack for a post workout cool down.

I challenged myself to workout every day for 30 minutes outside, rain or shine, this month. It seemed like an awesome idea the first week when the weather was in the 70s and 80s, reaching record highs for December. As Texas weather does, it abruptly turned from gorgeous 70s to the 30s this weekend. I went from a tank top and shorts and a lovely workout in the park on Sunday…

Resourcefully using the playground equipment for a Sunday afternoon workout/jog with the family.

Resourcefully using the playground equipment for a Sunday afternoon workout/jog with the family.

….to a headwrap, multiple layers, down vest, and gloves on Monday.

Bundled up for our first cold front of the season.

Bundled up for our first cold front of the season. 

Instead of needing a crisp snack to cool down with, I needed something to help me thaw out after that workout. Like a hot bath for starters, and these warm sweet and spicy snap peas that are literally made in a snap.

Two ingredient, five minute side or snack. Sweet, spicy, delicious.

Three ingredient, five minute side or snack. Sweet, spicy, delicious.

Sweet & Spicy Snap Peas in a Snap

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 c. Sugar Snap Peas

2 T. Sweet Chili Sauce (in the Asian aisle of most grocery stores)

1/4 t. sea salt or kosher salt

Directions

In a sauce pan, bring the sweet chili sauce to a boil, stirring constantly until it reduces by about half. Add in the snap peas and stir until coated and just warmed through. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Here’s a closer look.

Sugar Snap Peas are easily found in most super markets.

Sugar Snap Peas are easily found in most super markets.

I've seen this in the Asian aisle of many grocery stores and at specialty stores like World Market.

I’ve seen this in the Asian aisle of many grocery stores and at specialty stores like World Market.

Bring sweet chili sauce to a boil, stirring constantly.

Bring sweet chili sauce to a boil, stirring constantly.

Add snap peas and stir until coated with sauce and just warmed through.

Add snap peas and stir until coated with sauce and just warmed through. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately. 

Serve alone as a snack or appetizer, or as a side with something like rice and Teriyaki Tofu or Chicken.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Sweet and Spicy Snap Peas in a Snap
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Qg
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


Laugh, Cry, Cook Thanksgiving Round-Up (Lots of Vegan & Gluten-Free Options Everyone will Love)

The other day while I was, ahem, procrastinating on doing some actual writing, I decided to organize my Pinterest boards. Obviously, that is a priority two weeks shy of a deadline. And while I was at it, I made a Vegan Thanksgiving Pinterest Board with all the recipes I have made or posted that would make lovely vegan dishes at Thanksgiving. Most are mine, some are moms, and a few are from some of my other favorite blogs.

I thought, in the midst of the final edits and recipe testing for the book and what not, instead of creating something new for my post this week, I’d round up some of our favorite recipes from this blog for Thanksgiving. Most are either vegan or can be easily made vegan with a few modifications, some are gluten-free, and a few are neither.

As a vegan myself and friend to many people with dairy, gluten, and even poultry allergies, I hope this list will give others with different eating habits some ideas for Thanksgiving dinner. I also hope it will be helpful to those who are cooking for people like me this Thanksgiving. Serving one or two special dishes for the “weird” eaters in your life is a way to show how much you love and care for them and to let them know you honor and respect their food choices. Believe me, it means more than you can know to arrive at someone’s home and realize they thought of you while planning their menu. It means they think you matter and want you to feel included at the family table. One yummy dish can say all that.

Jared, Jackson, and I will be heading to Colorado to spend Thanksgiving with Mom and Greg and to celebrate turning in our book. Whoohoo! It’s always a fun time when we get together. We laugh. If we’re lucky, we might even laugh until we cry. And of course, we cook!

Enjoy this Thanksgiving Roundup!

Oh, and I’ve updated our recipe page too, if you want to browse all of our recipes for your own holiday inspired pinterest board. 😉

ENTREES

Topless Veggie Pot Pie

Topless Veggie Potpie
You might want to make up another name for your grandmother 🙂

**Vegan

Rustic Iron Skillet Pot Pie

Rustic Iron Skillet Pot Pie
Would be great with shredded Turkey or Chicken, crumbled tempeh, or Chik’n Strips.

**Vegan variations listed in recipe

Fresh Corn & Roasted Poblano Soup

Fresh Corn & Roasted Poblano Chowder
If you are looking for something a little less traditional, this is one of our favorite fall dishes. It would make a delicious alternative for vegan or vegetarian guests. Adding a little Field Roast Applewood Sausage makes this a filling entree.

**vegan, gluten-free (optional vegan sausage contains gluten)

Roasted Cabbage, Sausage & Honey Balsamic Glaze

Roasted Cabbage & Sausage with Honey Balsamic Glaze
I love my mom’s anecdote with this recipe. It will probably still be fitting for some of our family tables following this intense election. “Every good hostess knows that the best way to break up an awkward family debate is to divert attention by cooking something that smells amazing, and looks so delicious that all conversation stops, as wordless lip-licking and tummy-rubbing take over.  This is one of those simple, delicious, comforting meals that could possibly bring about World Peace.  At least at your dining table.”

**Vegan variation listed in recipe, gluten-free (vegan variation contains gluten)

Spicy Hominy, Kale and Butter Bean Bowl

Spicy Hominy, Kale, & Butterbean Bowl

Another one of our fall favorites. I make variations of this at least every few weeks in the cooler months. It is filling and nutritious and has lots of bright pretty colors. Sometimes I add diced butternut squash for even more fall flavor. It simmers in one pan in less than 30 minutes and can easily be re-heated, so it makes a great alternate meal for vegans at the table without taking up much extra time or kitchen space.

*vegan, gluten-free

APPETIZERS AND SNACKS

Let kids decorate their own Gobble-Gobble Turkey Toasts

Gobble-Gobble Turkey Toasts with Pumpkin Butter

Hold your little ones over until dinner and entertain them at the same time by letting them decorate their own Gobble-Gobble Turkey Toasts with Pumpkin Butter and a variety of toppings like chocolate chips, shredded coconut, walnuts, and dried cranberries. This is a fun way for vegans to incorporate turkeys into their child’s Thanksgiving experience.

**vegetarian, vegan-friendly, gluten-free friendly with gf bread

Warm Stuffed Dates

Warm Stuffed Dates: Two Minutes, Two Ingredients

These appetizers or snacks are so quick and easy, any one of your kitchen helpers could make them. They are melt-in-your mouth delicious when warm, but still great when they cool to room temperature, making them easy to make ahead and just leave out for the grazers. They also provide quick energy for a busy cook.

**Vegan, gluten-free

Carrot Cake Chutney

“Carrot Cake” Chutney (Topping for Cream Cheese & Crackers)
This stuff is amazing on crackers, but also a fun carrot cake “mix-in” for yogurt or ice cream. An easy and unique treat to serve at your next party or bring to a hostess.

**vegetarian, gluten-free, (chutney is vegan and you can easily sub vegan cream cheese)

Pumpkin Spice Dip for Apples (with Extra Toppings for “Double Dipping”)

Pumpkin Pie Dip with “Autumn Leaf” Apples

This recipe is creamy and tastes exactly like pumpkin pie, but uses real food, and most of it is good for you! The fun thing about this recipe is that you get to “double-dip” your apple slices: once in the pumpkin pie fluff and again in any topping of your choice. A friend of mine has a daughter who can’t have dairy and she told me she’s almost embarrassed to admit how many times they’ve made this recipe. In her words, they “can’t get enough!”

**vegan, gluten-free

SIDE DISHES

Baked Macaroni & Cashew Cheese

Baked Macaroni and Cashew Cheese

Non-vegans love this dish too and are always shocked when they find out there is no cream or cheese. Compared to real mac & cheese, this is more like a creamy pasta casserole. With the addition of some chickpeas, I often serve it as an entree.

**vegan, gluten-free w/ gf pasta

Pecan Mushroom Stuffed Zucchini

Pecan Mushroom Stuffed Zucchini

We probably need to retake these pics. It looks much prettier than the picture shows and it tastes amazing. My mom made this for me and I made her promise me she didn’t sneak meat in it. The walnuts really transform into a meaty texture. We both love this dish.

**vegetarian, vegan variation listed

Roasted Red Pepper Quinoa

Roasted Red Pepper Quinoa

This is my go-to quinoa recipe. It’s so easy and with a rice maker, it basically cooks itself while you get the rest of dinner made.

**vegan, gluten-free

Roasted Vegetables with Roasted Garlic

Balsamic Roasted Garlic Vegetables

Balsamic Roasted Veggies

Roasted veggies are delicious on any occasion and even the pickiest veggie eaters often find they like vegetables that have gotten crisp and sweet in the oven.

**vegan, gluten-free

Orange Glazed Carrots

Orange Glazed Carrots

Sweet, buttery orange glazed carrots are the perfect compliment to any Thanksgiving dinner.

**Vegan with sub of Earth Balance, gluten-free

Sweet n’ Sour Green Bean with Bacon

Sweet n’ Sour Green Beans and Bacon

A nice alternative to the traditional Green Bean Casserole at Thanksgiving.

**Vegan variation listed in recipe

SALADS

Creamy Vegan Fruit Salad Dressing

Fruit Salad with Creamy Dressing

Perhaps the best fruit salad dressing we’ve ever tasted. This easy delicious two ingredient recipe will be your new favorite topping for everyday and holiday fruit salads. We promise you we’re not exaggerating.

**vegan, gluten-free

Cranberry Orange Kale Salad

Cranberry Orange Kale Salad

This sweet orange marmalade dressing goes perfectly with massaged kale greens, dried cranberries, and slivered almonds. Kale is a great green for serving at dinner parties or holidays because it holds up well in dressing. In fact, you can dress this the day before and it will only taste better the next day. Just pull it out of the fridge, and sprinkle with toppings.

**vegan, gluten-free

Fruit & Almond Kale Salad with Clementine-Maple Dressing

Fruit & Almond Kale Salad with Clementine Maple Dressing

Another yummy  kale salad option. This one is packed with lots of nuts and seeds, making it a nice filling salad for those who may skip out on the turkey or for your health conscious dinner guests.

*vegan, gluten-free if you sub tamari for the soy sauce

DESSERTS

Luscious Pumpkin Mousse Pie

Luscious Pumpkin Mousse Pie

Coconut has become a best friend in the Laugh, Cry, Cook kitchens. Even though my mom eats dairy, she too is hooked on the wonders of the cold cream from a full-fat coconut milk. Whip it into a whipped cream topping, use it for a yummy pumpkin pie dip (see the snacks and apps), and even make this Luscious Pumpkin Mousse Pie with it. Don’t even bother telling the guests it’s vegan…they will NEVER know. We think it may be the best pumpkin pie either of us have ever had.

**vegan

Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Bread Cobbler

Pumpkin Spice Butternut Squash Cobbler

A grown-up autumn twist on an old easy summer favorite that called for a can of peaches and a yellow cake mix. This version uses butternut squash and pumpkin spice bread mix instead.

**vegan

Healthy Apple Crisp

Healthy Skillet Apple Crisp

Buttery, not-too-sweet, crunchy and rustic. It has no refined sugars, but is made with natural coconut sugar and tad of pure maple syrup. The topping has no flour: it is all oats and nuts and seeds, giving it a fabulous crunchy texture. It is loaded with fiber and protein, a comforting autumn dessert, and healthy enough to serve the next day for fruit-nut breakfast oatmeal – re-heated and served with a little milk, cream or almond milk.

**vegan, gluten-free w/ gf oats

Warm Chocolate Coconut Almond Cake

Chocolate Coconut Almond Cake

A vegan version of a German Chocolate Cake that my mom keeps bragging about.  Mom, can I make this my official request for this to be served at our Thanksgiving? Thank you! 🙂

**Vegan

Honorable Mention Desserts:

We have so many yummy desserts, but this post is getting super long, so I’ve just linked to a few more worth checking out.

Refreshing Mandarin Orange and Pineapple Cake (vegan friendly)

No Bake Apricot Bars (vegan, gluten-free)

Blueberry Oat Nut Bars (vegan and gluten-free friendly — see Rachel’s variation in the comment section)

Coconut Covered Cherries (vegan, gluten-free)

Powerhouse Chocolate Pudding Pie (vegan, gluten-free option)

Pumpkin Cookie Butter Cookies (vegan)

Superfood Hemp Chocolate Treats (vegan w/ vegan chocolate)

BREAKFASTS

Yes, breakfast is still the most important meal of the day…even on Thanksgiving. No one wants the cook to pass out from low blood sugar levels in the middle of prepping dinner.

Kinda’ Healthy Vegan Apple Fritters

Kinda’ Healthy Vegan Apple Fritters (vegan)

Sweet Pecan Pie Breakfast Oatmeal (vegan, gluten-free friendly)

Quick Buttery Coffee Cake

Healthy Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal (vegan, gluten-free friendly)

Some hints for cooking for vegans

Some of your favorite dishes can be easily modified for a vegan guest if you just know a few tricks.

Eggs: 1 T. of flax meal mixed with 3 T. of warm water will gel up in a few minutes and can be used as an egg substitute in most baked goods. 1/2 a banana also usually works in sweet breads or muffins.

Butter: Earth Balance is a delicious vegan butter substitute. In fact, if you already use margarine, you’ll hardly notice a difference int the taste. It is readily available at Whole Foods and Krogers here. My small town Wal-Mart even started carrying it.

Milk: Unsweetened almond milk is my favorite substitute for most of my cooking. It has a very mild taste so it doesn’t overpower a dish. Soy milk seems to have the best results for baking cakes and cupcakes though I usually use almond milk anyway because it’s what I have on hand.

Buttermilk: Add 1 T. of vinegar or lemon juice to 1 c. soy milk (soy does work best for this trick) and let sit for about 10 minutes. (FYI, this trick happens to work with cow’s milk too, if you don’t have buttermilk on hand and aren’t dairy-free.)

Meat: Don’t assume that the vegans in your life will be thrilled with a fake chicken breast as their main entree. Some will, but many of us, especially the ones who technically try to follow a plant-based diet, don’t actually eat many of those processed fake products. I have found a few that I like: Field Roast Applewood Sausages are my favorite meat substitute. They are GMO and soy-free and taste delicious. I’ve used the Chick’n Strips a few times too and those are pretty good on a pizza or something. Whole Foods has a Chick’n Salad in their deli that is quite good. I like cooking with tofu, but it’s taken me some time to learn how to make it taste good. Really, you don’t need fake meat or even soy to have a filling meal. Lentils, split-peas, chickpeas, and beans are all healthy filling options and can easily replace the meat in a lot of recipes.

Cheese: Vegan cheese substitutes are getting better and better all the time. Daiya is the most common shredded cheese substitute. It’s pretty good. We like it on our pizza. Though I don’t think it will fool anyone into thinking it’s real cheese. There are also cream cheese and sour cream substitutes that are pretty good, especially if used in a recipe or dip. I have a recipe on the blog for Nacho Cheese using cashews and sunflower seeds. The cashew cheese for the macaroni (above) could be used for any other casserole type dish as well. Their are also lots of recipes online for different cheeses, like ricotta cheese or parmesan. One of our readers even left a tip that you can make your own sour cream and cream cheese. If you can think it, some food blogger has probably blogged it. 🙂

I hope you find this helpful as you prepare a Thanksgiving meal that includes all the different palates in your family at one table. May the food join your family together in love and respect for one another. May we all honor each other and our differences on this day of gratitude and thanks. 


Sweet n’ Sour Green Beans and Bacon

(Becky, the Mama.)

Greg is away this evening, having dinner with a friend.  And therefore, I decided to make this dish that I created and love and that he considers, actually, to be the Side Dish From Hell.

His three least favorite foods are onions, peppers and green beans, so even the addition of a scrumptious sauce and bacon could not turn his head.  It would turn his stomach, but not his head. Greg worked many summers as a kid in Oregon either picking green beans or in a bean cannery and he has vowed, and I respect this, never to eat another green bean again.  Onions and peppers, according to him, have an “icky, slimy” texture and are also to be avoided.

So while Greg is gone, and won’t have to even look…I made my own Dream Dinner to Eat in Bed, while snuggled in my PJs.  Tonight’s dream meal is made of this sweet and savory green bean dish, below,  loaded with sautéed onions and sweet peppers, with a side of (I know, it’s bad, but try not to groan) boxed Kraft macaroni and cheese. Served with a spoon in a big flat pasta bowl. With a glass of ice cold milk in a frosty-frozen mug.  And a cozy blankey tucked around my feet. While I watch non-action-related shows like Parenthood and Oprah’s Next Chapter, TV my husband enjoys about as much as green beans.

Of course, I miss my man, as I do adore him.

But in the meantime, I’m soldiering on the best I can,  a bowl in one hand, remote in the other.

Sweet n’ Sour Green Beans with Bacon

Ingredients

2 cans or 4 cups frozen or fresh green beans, cooked and drained well

1 T. olive oil

1/2 c. red onion, diced

½ c. chopped sweet red pepper (I used some mini red and yellow peppers)

3 T Thai sweet chili sauce (in the Asian aisle…or World Market)

2 T. brown sugar

¼ c. red wine vinegar

1/3 c. crumbled bacon (I used some Hormel pre-cooked bacon pieces this time.  Some nights you just take the easy way.)

*Vegans can use a vegetarian bacon bits product instead or use sliced almonds that have been sauteed in smoked paprika and a little olive oil instead.

Salt and Pepper to taste (I like a lot of black pepper in this)

Directions

Turn oven to broil

Drain green beans as well as you can. (I even use a paper towel to sort of pat them dry in the colander.)

In an oven-proof skillet saute onions and peppers in olive oil.  Add the Thai sweet chili sauce, red wine vinegar and brown sugar. Cook and stir all together until it is syrupy.

Add well drained green beans and stir once again until well heated.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  (This will vary quite a bit depending on whether you used canned or fresh or frozen green beans.)  Sprinkle the top with bacon crumbles and put pan under broiler for a minute or two until bacon is crisp and beans are bubbling.

Serve as a side dish (a nice alternative for a Thanksgiving green bean casserole) curl up with a bowl of it, while lounging in your PJs.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Sweet n’ Sour Green Beans and Bacon
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-LT
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Balsamic Blistery Potato Chips

I do believe that if my husband Greg were to choose foods that make up his “dream meal,” it would no doubt have Kettle potato chips on the plate.  I’m just not sure if they would be a side dish, or the main attraction.   I dare not leave him alone in the house with a bag of thick cut potato chips because he cannot stop until he’s eaten them all, and by this I mean turned the bag upside down, shaking any remains of potato and salt into his mouth. He loves them too much to have them readily available,  except for very special occasions.               

“When did you start loving potato chips so much?” I asked him.

He grinned and said, “When I was a kid, I’d ride my bike home from school and of course I’d be starving. Then I’d plop in front of the TV with a bag of potato chips and eat the whole bag while I watched three episodes of Star Trek in a row.”  He sighed,then added. “It was heaven.  My favorite ones were Bar-B-Q and I’d lick all the goody off the sides before eating them.  It was before my parents divorced, and I just remember it as a simple, happy time.”

My husband just gave a perfect example of “taste memory” – when something you eat triggers warm happy memories.   I was inspired to create some potato chips that Greg could savor and enjoy, that would give him those warm fuzzy “taste memories,” but would do his body more good than harm.  Last week I tried an experiment that turned out amazingly well.  Rather than baking sliced potato rounds, I broiled them on both sides until “blistery.” In a word:  fabulous.  They are a great cross between an oven fry and a chip.  Greg loves them!

The following recipe is just one version of my Blistery Potato Chips, made with a balsamic-pomegranate vinegar, but you can create 50 Shades of (Homemade) Lays (Potato Chips) with a little imagination, a couple of sliced potatoes, some olive oil and great variety of herbs or spices.  Let your imagination go wild.

Try them as a healthy snack for you or the kids, or a quick, easy, delicious side dish with any meal. We especially love them with Chili Lime Catfish and coleslaw. 

What are some foods that bring warm happy memories to your mind?

Blistery Balsamic Potato Chips

Heat Oven to Broil.

Serves 2-4 people (depending on size of potatoes and appetites)

Ingredients:

2 Idaho potatoes, washed but not peeled, sliced thin (about ¼ inch)

¼ cup olive oil

2 T. balsamic vinegar (I used pomegranate balsamic)

Sea Salt (fresh ground if you have it on hand)

1 T. chopped green onions or chives (optional)

¼ c. catsup, BBQ sauce,  or Ranch dressing for dipping (optional)

Directions:

Place sliced potatoes in a shallow bowl and sprinkle with vinegar. Using clean hands, toss them around until they begin to soak up some of the vinegar.  Add in the oil and do the same. 

Lay “chips” on a big cookie sheet, spread apart and not touching each other.  

Lightly sprinkle them with sea salt.  Broil about 4 inches from broiler on one side for 3 minutes or so,  or until golden brown in spots.  Remove try from oven and turn over all the chips, sprinkle this side with more salt and put back under the broiler until the tops are golden brown.  Remove from oven.  The bottom side of the potatoes will have by now “blistered” and turned an even prettier shade of brown.   Taste one as soon as they are cool to see if more salt may be needed.  Garnish with chopped green onions or chives if you like.  Serve with a side of Ranch Dressing, BBQ sauce or catsup if desired. 

 

 

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

The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com

The Title: Balsamic Blistery Broiled Potato Chips

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

© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved

   


Avocado Cucumber Sesame Salad

My sister and my nieces, Whitney and Tori, age 9 and 11, are here this weekend and we are enjoying them so much!  The youngest one, Whitney,  is quite the  food connoisseur, and has made me feel like the best cook on the planet with her over-the-top compliments.  She describes the food on the end of her fork as one would describe a fine wine, “I can taste the layers of flavor! The hint of coconut, the tang of pineapple…”

As soon as she arrived from Texas she asked if we could make my sweet n’ spicy meatloaf again, together.  She remembered it from three years ago, when they last came to Colorado!  We did, and she said she loved squashing the meat and the seasonings together with her bare hands.   When she took a bite of the cooked finished meatloaf she raised her hands, rolled her eyes heavenward and exclaimed, “This is even better than I dreamed it would be!”

Yesterday, I let the girls paint pictures outside under our tree and beach umbrella,  and then made them each virgin cocktails. (Cranberry Sprite, OJ and slices of lemon, lime and orange on ice.)  Whitney took one sip and said, “This is delicious!  In fact, it is as good as meatloaf!”   I wonder how many bartenders have had compliments like that.  “This Long Island Tea is as tasty as meatloaf!”  Gotta love kids.

With such an appreciative food critic in the house, it really spurred me on to bring out my inner chef.  This is a very simple Asian salad that packs a powerful burst of flavor with very few ingredients, one the whole family loved!   The key is the salt.  Be sure to use sea salt, the best you can find. McCormicks now has a sea salt grinder, where you can grind fresh flakes of sea salt on to your food.  It is quite good!  You will be amazed how good fresh sea salt can be and the “layers of flavor” that come from using the finer, gourmet versions of it.   This dish combines the smooth, richness of avocado with the crisp crunch of cucumber, the warmth of sesame oil and sesame seeds, and that final touch of freshly flaked sea salt.   So easy, but so gourmet at the same time.   I guarantee you, it is even as good as meatloaf!

Avocado Cucumber Sesame Salad

Serves two to three

Ingredients

1 ripe but still firm  avocado, cut in bite sized pieces (we like a lot of avocado, so I sometimes double the avocado in this recipe)

1/2 English cucumber (or regular cucumber with seeds removed , but peel left on) cut in bite sized pieces

1 t. fresh lime juice

pinch sugar

1 T. sesame oil

1 t. sesame seeds (toasted,  white or black seeds –black seeds are actually quite pretty, but I did not have them on hand)

fresh sea salt to taste

Directions:

Gently coat the sliced avocado and cucumber in a bowl with lime juice, pinch sugar, sesame oil and seeds. Sprinkle generously with sea salt. Serve in a low-rimmed edge blow or plate.


Vegan Cajun Red Beans & Rice

Red Beans and Rice, a humble, healthy, easy dish, high in protein, fiber, and iron–a perfectly satisfying meatless meal.

(Rachel, the daughter)

I used to be a firm believer that I needed a little meat, or at the least some cheese or an egg, at every meal to keep from getting the shakes and a headache. I’m sometimes still surprised that this wasn’t actually true. I obviously still need protein, but it turns out, my body happily accepts plant-based protein, like from legumes, whole grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and occasional unprocessed soy (like organic tofu or edamame).

For most of my young adult life I battled headaches almost daily. Recently, it dawned on me that I very rarely get headaches now, like maybe once every two to three months. I wonder if my old diet high in animal protein could have actually been causing it, rather than helping it. Hmmm… I don’t know. But you know what else dawned on me? I don’t have my old built-in excuse for getting out of certain activities anymore.

“Sorry, I have a headache,” can get you out of watching a loud shoot-em-up-bang-em-up boy movie, cooking dinner, going to your husband’s work banquet, paying the bills, and well, you can probably think of a laundry list of other things.

Because I genuinely did have a headache so often, I could pretty much throw it out there on any given day and it was believable. Who was to say just how severe my headache was? Now, I would probably have to put on a bit of a production to sell that excuse. I might have to throw myself on the bed with a damp towel over my head and moan and groan for awhile, stay off my computer (read: facebook), and go to bed early. It’s really more trouble than it’s worth.

Thank goodness, there’s always the go-to “Sorry, I’m so tired” excuse. Who’s going to question that from the mother of a baby?

This recipe for cajun red beans and rice, very high in plant-based protein (and fiber and iron!), is truly easy enough that you won’t need to come up with an excuse to get out of cooking dinner. It only takes about 10 minutes to make, but does need a couple of hours to simmer. With almost 20 grams of protein, 30% of your daily iron needs, 16 grams of fiber, and only 3 grams of fat, you might even feel energetic enough that you want to tackle that laundry list of to-dos.

Rachel’s Vegan Cajun Red Beans & Rice

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves (I used 1 very large clove)
2 jalapeno or serrano peppers
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped (could sub dry parsley)
2 t. smoked paprika
3 dashes liquid smoke
2 t. salt-free cajun seasoning (if yours has salt, add this at the end–salt can make beans tough)
1/2 t. brown sugar
1 lb dried kidney beans, sorted and rinsed (no pre-soak required*)
8 c. water
2 t. salt (use 1/2 smoked salt if you have it)
1 t. pepper
1/4 t. cayenne (optional–adds spice)

1 1/4 c. brown Rice & 3/4 c. wild rice, cooked per package instructions or in a rice maker**

Directions

In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil on medium heat, add onions, garlic, peppers (whole), and saute until onions are soft. Add parsley, smoked paprika, liquid smoke, cajun seasoning, and brown sugar. Stir for one minute. Add kidney beans, stir. Add water, stir, cover, bring to low boil, then reduce heat to med-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until kidney beans are cooked through. You can remove the lid for the last 15 minutes or so to thicken up the juices if you like. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne if desired. (I removed some beans for the little one before adding the cayenne.)

Slow Cooker: Saute onions, garlic, peppers, parsley and spices in a skillet as above. (You can do this the night before and just keep in the refrigerator until morning.) Put onion spice mixture, kidney beans, and hot water to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. When you get home or the beans are cooked to your liking, season with salt, tilt the lid open and turn crockpot to high heat to let some of the liquid evaporate while you get the rest of dinner ready.

Serve over cooked rice.

*No presoak is required, though it could shorten your cooking time if you do. Some beans can be difficult to digest without a presoak and rinse. I’ve eaten two bowls today and have had no, ahem…flatulence or difficulty digesting. More than you wanted to know, right?!

**I combine the wild and brown rice together and cook in the rice maker with a little extra water and about a teaspoon of olive oil. Comes out perfect every time.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Vegan Cajun Red Beans & Rice
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-wQ
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


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.


Orange Glazed Carrots

Orange Glazed Carrots

Is anyone old enough or blessed enough to remember going to a grandma’s house after church on Sunday for a roast chicken or roast beef, usually served with glazed carrots,  mashed potatoes and gravy, her homemade rolls, sliced tomatoes from the garden,  and cold cucumbers served in a sweet-sour vinegar?  Perhaps a little relish tray with olives or miniature sweet pickles.  Maybe followed up with nana puddin’ or peach cobbler. (Or is this just a figment of our collective nostalgic imaginations?)

As tired as I am after church on Sunday, I feel like Super Woman if I can just get some sandwiches on a plate for the two of us before I lapse into a nap. I am amazed that there were women who used to pull this big dinner feat off, and some of them did it weekly!

In Glen Rose, Texas there was a wonderful place called Two Grannies.  I wish we had one here in Colorado.  When you walked into the old-time dining room,  you were greeted by two grandmotherly sisters in flower print dresses who owned the restaurant. Nobody got in or out of the place without a hug.  And you didn’t say “no” because one of the grannies was a big as a middle linebacker.  Someone was always at the piano playing old show tunes or hymns.  And there was one old fellow who would come in now and again, dressed in striped overalls, who would astound the kids by whistling exactly like an old train. The whole place was just like going to grandmas house on Sunday, families greeting each other and chatting from table to table.  I believe  one of the grannies finally moved on to Glory,  but  the two of them left a lot of love and sweet memories — living out their golden years giving people hugs and a good home-cooked meal.  Can’t get much better than that.

I have discovered, on those rare Sundays when I feel my “Inner Granny” coming on and invite family or company over after church,  that a roast chicken and roast beef are the two easiest things to make for a crowd. (Recipe for my garlic roast chicken coming up later this week.) Nothing simpler than plopping an easily seasoned roast or chicken in the oven, then heading off to church and returning to your main dish already cooked and scenting the air as you walk in the door.  One of my favorite side dishes to serve with a savory juicy roast chicken is sweet, buttery orange glazed carrots.  Just carrots plus three ingredients, but it is so good you may decide to skip the nana puddin’ and eat a bowl of carrots for dessert instead.

Orange Glazed Carrots

Becky’s Orange Glazed Carrots

Ingredients

2 c. diced or mini carrots plus 1 T. water

1/2 c. orange juice

1/4 c. brown sugar

1 T. butter (vegans use Earth Balance)

sea salt to taste

Directions

Put the carrots and a tablespoon of water in a tightly covered microwave proof dish and nuke for about 12 minutes or until just tender.  (You can also steam them if you prefer.)

While the carrots are cooking, put orange juice, brown sugar and butter into a pan on the stove top.  Turn burner on high until it reaches a boil, then turn down to a simmer and simmer for about six minutes or until the mixture  reduces and starts to get syrupy. Add the cooked carrots to the orange syrup and simmer just a minute or two more until carrots are coated with thick buttery syrup, and taste like heaven.

Cook until syrupy and tender carrots are well coated.

Sprinkle with a little sea salt and serve.

Glazed carrots: a colorful, sweet-savory side dish fit for any Granny Meal.