Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles

It has been awhile since I posted a kid-inspired recipe, but these Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles stem from a question asked by my 4 year-old daughter. The conversation went something like this:

“Mom, why does Santa only eat cookies? Shouldn’t he also eat vegetables?”

“Good question. Yes, he should. Should we put vegetables in his cookies?” I replied.

“YES! Apples and carrots. Are they both vegetables?” she asked.

“No, just the carrots are vegetables.” was my second response, which was all it took to get my wheels turning. What immediately popped into my head was carrot cake and snickerdoodles. Why not try to combine the two?

I knew using fruit purees is a common way to reduce fat in baking. I was sure the same could be done using a vegetable puree, however I wanted to make sure the quantity I used to cut the butter and shortening would result in a good cookie. I found this Wilton baking site which confirmed my plan – using an equal quantity of puree to substitute half of the fat of the original recipe.

Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles2

Since I have never made snickerdoodles, I wanted to start with a classic recipe. Most I found had similar ratios of ingredients – the one I closely followed was from Betty Crocker. My only modifications were cutting the butter and shortening by substituting with pureed carrots and adding the candie melt drizzle.

Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles

The resulting cooking turned out even better than I imagined. My Mother-In-Law even declared it her new favorite. I fear that even if we do set these “healthier” Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles out for Santa this year, the kids might not let them last until he visits.

Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles 3

Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles6

Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles7

Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles

¼ lb chopped carrots
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup shortening
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
48 white candie melts

Add the carrots to a small sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 20 minutes, or until carrots are soft. Drain the water and mash (or puree in a food processor) until smooth (makes 1/2 cup of carrot puree); set aside.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Mix the 1 1/2 cups sugar, the butter, shortening, eggs, and pureed carrots together in a large bowl until smooth. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until smooth (I found this easiest with a paddle attachment on a standing mixer). Next, shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Mix the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture, then place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then remove from cookie sheet to wire rack to finish cooling. Melt candie melts according to package directions, then drizzle over top of cookies. Let the drizzle cool, then store cookies in a tightly lidded container. Makes 3 1/2 dozen.



Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Each week my church small group does a potluck lunch and we rotate the entrée. Amazingly, we all love – and tend to gravitate towards – Mexican inspired dishes. A group favorite is chicken enchilada casserole. Since it is such a hit I figured it was about time I experimented with a recipe of my own.

One of the first things I wanted to try was ramping up the quantity of vegetables. I had a bag of frozen southwest blend vegetables that fit the bill. Plus the corn, black beans, chilies, red peppers and onion in the mix added a great pop of color.


I also decided to use shredded pre-cooked rotisserie chicken as a time saving step. I typically get more than 2 cups of chicken from the rotisserie chicken I buy, which means I was able to get two meals out of my chicken by using the remaining chicken and bones to make homemade soup.

To build the casserole I layered corn tortillas, my chicken & vegetable blend, cream sauce, and cheese in three layers.


The resulting chicken enchilada casserole was declared a winner by my family. I can’t wait to make it for our church group!


enchilada Casserole

enchilada Casserole

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

2 cups shredded, pre-cooked rotisserie chicken
28 ounce can rotel, drained
14 ounce bag of frozen southwest blend vegetables, thawed (~2-3 cups)
1 can (4 ounces) diced green chilies, drained
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoon fiesta lime Mrs. Dash
¼ teaspoon salt
18, 6-inch diameter corn tortillas
3 ½ cups Mexican shredded cheese blend


Preheat oven to 350 ° F. Prepare a 9 x 13-inch baking pan by lightly spraying with cooking oil. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the shredded chicken, drained rotel, vegetables, and chilies; set aside.

Heat butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add flour, and whisk to combine. Cook for 1 minute until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Add half of the chicken stock, and whisk until combined. Then add the remaining chicken stock, and whisk until combined and thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly, then stir in the sour cream, fiesta lime Mrs. Dash, and salt.

To assemble the enchiladas, place 6 tortillas in the prepared baking pan so that they cover the bottom of the pan. Spread about 1/3 of the cream sauce evenly on top of the tortillas. Sprinkle half of the chicken evenly on top of the sauce, followed by 1 cup of shredded cheese. Repeat with a second layer of tortillas, cream sauce, chicken, and cheese. Then add a final layer of just tortillas, cream sauce and cheese.

Cover the casserole with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Then remove the aluminum foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, uncovered, until the cheese is melted and begins to brown around the edges and the casserole is cooked through. Remove from the oven, cut into squares and serve.  Refrigerate any leftovers.


Ham Fried Rice

Since I pack lunch for work everyday, I usually attempt to make larger quantities of dinner to be able to take leftovers as my meal. However, some weeks dinner is such a success that I am left with a hodge podge of ingredients and nothing to take as a quick lunch. This week I decided to use my random leftover items – cooked rice, diced red onion, and diced ham – and created a Ham Fried Rice.

fried rice

My fried rice typically changes a bit each time I make it, so I decided to do a quick search to see how my fried rice recipe(s) compare to others out there. One of the blogs that caught my attention was the one on, since I agree with many of her tips. She recommends using precooked rice (my favorite too, but probably just because it is easier) and adding oyster sauce. By coincidence I used similar veggies to the recipe on (though in higher quantity) and I decided to try her tip of using butter instead of an oil.

fried rice


I ended up loving the result (and so did my husband). The oyster sauce wasn’t too overpowering, and it was filling enough that I wasn’t hungry 15 minutes later (which is a good thing, since I am usually starving by mid-morning and struggle to not scarf down my lunch by 11am. Being ready for a second lunch around 2pm wouldn’t be ideal). The ginger was just a gentle hint, so if you like ginger go ahead and add a bit more. My Ham Fried Rice was such an easy dish to make to supply a few lunches this week, that I think I am going to add it to my go-to rotation.

fried rice


Ham Fried Rice

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced red onion
½ lb frozen peas, thawed
8 ounces diced ham
4 cups cooked long grain rice
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 large eggs
4 green onions, chopped

Add 4 tablespoons butter to the pan and heat until melted over medium-high heat. Add carrots, and onion, and saute for 3 minutes or until onions begin to soften. Add the peas and ham, and saute for 1-2 minutes longer. Finally, add the rice, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and ginger, and stir until combined. Continue stirring for an additional 3-4 minutes to fry the rice. Keep warm.

Coat a non-stick pan with cooking spray then heat over medium heat . Add eggs, and cook until scrambled, stirring occasionally. Remove egg, and stir into rice mixture. Serve, garnishing with sliced green onion.


Bratwurst Stuffed Acorn Squash

Surprisingly, fall in Colorado has stayed relatively warm.  Despite the lack of cooler nights, I have gotten into the fall spirit.  Perhaps it is the pumpkin flavored everything you see popping up in the grocery stores, but I felt a squash based supper was in order.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Why not celebrate the start of fall with a Bratwurst Stuffed Acorn Squash dinner?  In particular, I thought my kids would get a kick out of the boat-like shape and maybe actual eat more or the acorn squash than typical. I also decided to ramp up the fall fest theme by using uncased, ground pork bratwurst. When combined with the onions and carrots, and seasoned with cloves, fenugreek, and basil the dish perfumed the house with delicious smells and made me want to throw on a sweater to get into the spirit of fall, despite the 85 °F weather.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

The Bratwurst Stuffed Acorn Squash was a great break from the typical grilled dinners we have been enjoying lately.  It also reminded me to occasionally find ways to make dinner fun for the kiddos, especially when trying new foods or ones they haven’t had in a while.  Do you have a favorite, kid-fun dinner idea?

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Bratwurst Stuffed Acorn Squash

3 medium sized acorn squash, halved and seeded
1 lb German style bratwurst ground pork, uncased
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced red onion
½ cup diced carrot
1 cup precooked long grain rice
1 teaspoon ground basil
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1 cup shredded mozzarella


Preheat oven to 375 °F. Add an inch of water to a roasting pan and place the acorn squash halves cut side down. Bake for 45 minutes or until squash is tender yet still holds its shape.

Meanwhile make stuffing by first frying pork sausage until light brown. Remove pork and add to a large bowl. Melt the butter in the pan used to cook the sausage, then add the onions and carrots and saute them for 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat, then remove from the heat and add to the pork. Add the fenugreek, cloves, and basil to the pork mixture and stir until well mixed.

Remove the squash from the oven, turn the squash cut side up and then fill evenly with the sausage stuffing. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top of the squash and return to the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the stuffing heated through.

Remove from the oven and serve immediately.


4 State Cheddar®, Bacon, & Kale Hash Brown Casserole

I love the draw of the TV show Chopped – either it is the awe of the unusual ingredients the contestants have to work with, or shock of ingredients I can’t imagine having to use to craft a master recipe. Like most of us, I have wondered what it would be like to try my hand at the competition.

Recently, Food Network paired with Sargento cheese to sponsor a 3-round content with various “basket ingredients”. I entered round 3, which required contestants to use the Sargento® Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar, kale, bacon, and oyster crackers. While I didn’t make it to the final competition, I was a winner with my family in the recipe I created – this 4-State Cheddar, Bacon, & Kale Hash Brown Casserole.


I was inspired by a typical potluck dish – “funeral potatoes”. A decadent dish of hash browns and cheese, topped with a crunchy cereal crust is a often a favorite at church potlucks, family BBQs, and yes funerals. I decided to take the dish up a notch by stirring in a bit of kale and bacon, and by swapping the corn flake toping for oyster crackers. I also lightened it up, while maintaining the creaminess by using blended cottage cheese.


The resulting 4-State Cheddar, Bacon, & Kale Hash Brown Casserole can easily be served as a side for either breakfast or dinner. Quite honestly, I don’t know which meal is my favorite to serve this dish – let me know which you prefer!


The finalists in the cooking contest battled it out live for the judges – you can view the results at this link.

4 State Cheddar®, Bacon, & Kale Hash Brown Casserole

¾ pound hickory smoked bacon
2 cups low-fat cottage cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup diced shallot
1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic
30 ounce bag frozen, shredded hash browns, partially thawed
10 ounce bag of frozen kale, thawed and well drained
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 and 7/8 cups shredded Sargento® Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar® cheese (about 1 ½, 7.5oz bags), divided
1 cup oyster crackers, crushed


Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Place the bacon on a baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and drain on paper towels. Reduce the oven to 350 °F.

Place the cottage cheese in a food processor and blend until smooth; set aside.

Add the butter to a medium sized skilled and heat until melted. Add the diced shallot and cook, stirring until translucent and begin to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes, then set aside. Chop the cooled, cooked bacon and add to a large bowl along with the hash browns, drained kale, pepper, and 1 and 7/8 cups of the Sargento® Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar® cheese blend (1 bag). Pour the shallot and garlic mixture over the hash browns, and add the blended cottage cheese. Stir until well mixed, then spread into a pre-greased 9-inch by 13-inch casserole dish. Top the casserole with an even layer of the crushed oyster crackers.

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, then remove and sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of Sargento® Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar®. Return the casserole to the oven and continue to bake until it bubbles around the side, about 20 additional minutes. Remove from the oven, cut into slices and serve. Makes 12 servings.



Stir Fry Soup

Every now and then I like to try something different, like this Stir Fry Soup. Presented with an overabundance of vegetables in the refrigerator and a desire to clear out some of the other lesser-used items (like oyster sauce) in my stockpile it seemed like the right time to experiment with an Asian inspired dish.

Stir Fry Soup

One of the great things about this Stir Fry Soup is that it benefits greatly from the crisp textures of the carrots and snow peas, meaning cooking time is quick, making it a great dish to try, even in summer. The addition of the oyster sauce and lime, both typically seen in Thai cooking, give the soup a unique and well balanced flavor without being overpowering.

Stir Fry Soup

Go ahead and make a quick batch, since I’m sure you’ll be delighted (whether lunch or dinner) with this Stir Fry Soup. Don’t forget to trade out your usual accompaniment of crackers for the equally as crisp rice noodles!

Stir Fry Soup


Stir Fry Soup

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces sliced baby bella mushrooms
½ cup chopped carrots
4 cups chicken broth
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon cumin
¾ lb firm tofu, cubed
6 ounces snow peas
Cilantro (optional)
Rice noodles (optional)


In a large pot, heat oil and then add mushrooms. Brown for 5 minutes, then add carrots and cook for 1 minute more. Add broth, lime juice, lime zest, oyster sauce, onion powder, ginger, and cumin and bring to a low boil. Add tofu and snow peas and cook for 3 minutes longer. Ladle into bowls and serve, garnishing with cilantro and rice noodles, if desired.


Flash Fried Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Drizzle

If flash fried brussels sprouts can take my husband from loathing to loving the mini cabbages, then I’m pretty confident this recipe will make everyone a lover of these little orbs.


I haven’t often made brussels sprouts since my hubby has made known how much he detests them. One of the last times I did, he declared that they, “tasted like dead zebra butt.” Not that he or I knows what that would taste like, but the statement was certainly catchy enough for our toddler to parrot back the phrase.

Fast forward to a few weekends ago when we managed to slip off for a date and the waitress (who we have never met) told us to trust her and that we just had to try the brussels sprouts. On a whim we did, which turned out to be a great decision. We fell in love with the flash fried dish, so much so that we order a second helping!

Flash Fry Brussel Sprouts 5Flash Fry Brussel Sprouts

With a new found love of flash fried brussels sprouts I knew I had to recreate the dish at home. A quick, 5-minute dip in the fryer is all these veggies need to turn them into the tasty, golden appetizer.


Flash Fry Brussel Sprouts

A generous lather of balsamic reduction and a sprinkle of sea salt finishes off the dish, which can be eaten as an appetizer or served as a side with dinner (if the chef can keep from eating them all before they hit the table). These are now such a hit that I’m going to add them to our Thanksgiving menu!

Flash Fried Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Drizzle

1 ½ lb brussels sprouts, washed and dried
Enough vegetable oil, about 60-70 ounces
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
Coarse sea salt


Add the vegetable oil to a deep fryer or to a large pot and bring to 375 °F. Trim the ends off the brussels sprouts and cut any large ones in half. Working in batches, fry the brussels sprouts for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes of frying, remove the brussels sprouts from the oil and place them on a paper towel lined platter to drain and cool.

Add the vinegar and honey to a small sauce pan. Place over medium heat and stir frequently, until the vinegar is reduced by half and begins to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Transfer the brussels sprouts to a large bowl and pour the reduced balsamic vinegar over the brussels sprouts and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.


Southwest Egg Salad Stuffed Mini Peppers

The bags of multicolored mini peppers that abound in spring and summer have always drawn my attention. The colors are so vibrant, I feel like I must buy a bag and make something with them.

Mini Sweet Peppers

serrano Pepper

Like their larger relatives, they can be used in salads, stir-fry, etc., but I think their pint size lends them to used as bite-sized appetizers.

Stuffed Mini Sweet Peppers

Filled with a southwest egg salad that consists of hardboiled eggs, sweet and serrano peppers, shallot, cilantro, taco seasoning, and a bit of mayo, these southwest egg salad stuffed peppers are hard to resist. They can be served as a start to a fiesta themed meal, or eaten as a spiced up lunch.

Stuffed Mini Sweet Peppers

As I sit here munching on these delightful bites, I can think of other fun ways to use the mini peppers as vessels for food . . . . sample sizes of cold soup like gazpacho for an appetizer . . . .cheese spread . . . chicken salad.  What is your favorite use?

Stuffed Mini Sweet Peppers

Southwest Egg Salad Stuffed Mini Peppers

12 mini sweet peppers
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon taco seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large hardcooked eggs
1 serrano pepper
2 tablespoons diced shallot
2 tablespoons diced fresh cilantro

Prepare the mini peppers by cutting a hole in the top of peppers, reserving the pepper tops, and rinsing out the seeds. Dice the pepper tops, reserving 2 tablespoons for the egg salad and saving the rest for another use; set aside.

Make the dressing by stirring the mayonnaise, taco seasoning, and salt together in a small bowl; set aside. Cut the serrano pepper in half and remove the seeds and pith. Dice the serrano pepper and set aside.

Remove the shells from the eggs, and place the eggs in a large bowl and smash with a fork, then stir in the 2 tablespoons of diced pepper, diced serrano pepper, shallot, cilantro, and dressing. Stuff the egg salad into the pepper openings. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Note: To hardcook eggs, I recommend using the process I describe here


Baked Tarragon Lemon Sea Scallops with Parmesan Succotash and Lemon Brodetto

In my house, my husband and I celebrate our birthdays with a weekend of nice meals. This year my hubby picked out quite the spread for mine. . . . and then mentioned that I should make some of it to ensure it came out perfect. The item in particular he had in mind was scallops, which turned out to be serendipitous since scallops are a key ingredient in a recipe I wanted to enter in the Saucy Mama contest.

The Saucy Mama contest involves a select number of food bloggers who create inventive and tasty dishes with at least one of the Saucy Mama products to vie for a spot in the Word Food Championships. Since I love the time saving benefits of adding a delicious pre-made sauce to my recipes (and I would love to win a trip to Orlando to compete in the seafood category of the WFC) I jumped at the chance to compete.

The hardest part of the qualification form was selecting the six products to try for my entry. The six products I chose were:

  • Parmesan Garlic Marinade
  • Tarragon Lemon Mustard
  • Miso Orange Sesame Dressing & Marinade
  • Four Leaf Balsamic Dressing & Marinade
  • Hatch Chili Mustard
  • Creamy Horseradish

After tasting each, I had recipe ideas for all of them, but I ultimately chose the first two to showcase in my baked sea scallops recipe. The remaining four are equally as tasty, so don’t be surprised if you see other upcoming posts featuring one of them.

The Parmesan Garlic Marinade I thought would be perfect on a fresh succotash. I decided to use fresh corn right off the cob, and then swapped out the typical lima beans for fresh, blanched fava beans.



A bit of grape tomatoes, and bacon (you can’t leave out the bacon!) completed the succotash, which got a coating of the Saucy Mama Parmesan Garlic Marinade. Don’t be fooled by the marinade title – the concentrated flavors are mellowed by the salad, creating a perfectly seasoned succotash.

The Saucy Mama Tarragon Lemon Mustard is just the flavoring I was looking for to add to the crust for the scallops. I stirred it into panko before sprinkling on top of the sea scallops, and reserved a bit to stir into a lemon brodetto.

You may be surprised that I chose to bake the sea scallops, since often scallops get the lightest of sears. However,  I have found baking to produce the most reproducible and tender results, which is why I chose it as my preferred cooking method.

The plated dish is a feast for both eyes and stomach. The baked sea scallops sits on top of an island of the succotash, which is surrounded by the lemon brodetto.


I must say that enjoying a dinner of Baked Tarragon Lemon Sea Scallops with Parmesan Succotash and Lemon Brodetto was a great way to celebrate my birthday. Being chosen as the winning recipe for the Saucy Mama contest would be icing on the cake (pun intended).

Baked Tarragon Lemon Sea Scallops with Parmesan Succotash and Lemon Brodetto

1 ½ pounds fresh fava bean pods
1 large ear fresh corn
6 slices hickory smoked bacon
2 shallots, diced (equals ½ cup)
2 cups chicken stock
Juice from two lemons (equals 1/3 cup)
Zest of two lemons
1 pound sea scallops, rinsed, drained, and patted dry, plus tough muscle removed from side
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper, each
3/4 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
4 tablespoons Saucy Mama tarragon lemon mustard, divided
½ cup diced grape tomatoes
½ cup Saucy Mama Parmesan marinade
Fresh tarragon as garnish


Remove the fava beans from the pod, then place the beans in boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove from boiling water and plunge into a cold water bath. Once cooled, remove the outer shell from the fava beans. Place the shelled, cooked fava beans in a large bowl and set aside.

Shuck the corn, then cut the kernels from the cob, and chop the fresh kernels until no large chunks remain. Add the kernels to the fava beans and refrigerate until ready to prepare the succotash.

In a large skillet, fry the bacon, turning once, until crispy, about 8 minutes total. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels. Drain the bacon fat from the skillet, reserving two tablespoons of the fat in the pan. Place the pan over medium heat and add the shallots to the pan. Saute until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest to make the brodetto and keep warm.

Preheat oven to 400 °F. Place sea scallops, and melted butter and in a bowl. Season with salt, and pepper. Stir gently to combine. Transfer to a lightly greased 8-inch by 8-inch casserole dish.

In a separate bowl, combine panko and 3 tablespoons of the Saucy Mama tarragon lemon mustard. Sprinkle on top of the sea scallops and pat down.

Bake in preheated oven until crumbs are brown and sea scallops are done, about 15 minutes or until center of scallop reaches 130 °F and they are opaque and milky white.

While the scallops are baking, prepare the succotash. Remove the fava beans and corn from the refrigerator and add the grape tomatoes, and then dice the cooked bacon and add to the fava bean mixture. Pour the Saucy Mama parmesan marinade over the fava beans and stir until well coated and the succotash is mixed.

When the sea scallops are done, remove them from the oven and begin to plate. Stir the remaining mustard into the lemon brodetto, and divide between four shallow dishes. Evenly divide the succotash between the four shallow dishes, placing in a circular pile in the center of the dish. Evenly top the succotash with the baked scallops, about 6 per dish. Sprinkle each dish with some of the fresh tarragon and serve immediately.

Note: If fresh corn and fava beans cannot be found, 1 cup of thawed, frozen corn and ¾ cup of thawed, frozen fava beans can be used as substitution.



Chopped Veggie Salad

The tradition of Bridal Showers over the last few centuries has been to help the new bride start off married life with some essentials, including those for the kitchen. At my bridal shower, this included a recipe from each attendee which they wrote on notecards and compiled in a book. The recipes ranged from personal favorites to easy camping concoctions and covered all categories.

One of my favorites in the book is the Chopped Veggie Salad added by my mom. She had found the recipe in Women’s Day magazine and knew I had enjoyed it whenever she prepared the dish. I still enjoy the salad, as I find it is a refreshing combination, perfect for spring and summer gatherings.


When I make my Chopped Veggie Salad, I stay close to the original recipe, with a few slight modifications. I like to double the amount of carrots and trade out the vinegar variety (I used a flavored balsamic for the one pictured). This time I also decided to use black radishes for an unusual pop of color.

black radish

Black Radish

Black radishes add a pungent bite, a bit more so than the red variety. Their black skin is aesthetic only, as the dark skin gives way to a creamy white center. Make sure to buy firm black radishes, as they can get tough. If you can’t find black radishes, don’t worry, since all radishes taste good in this salad.  I can’t think of any better way to get so many vegetables packed into one dish, while at the same time serving such a delicious dish that second servings are a must!



Chopped Veggie Salad

Slightly modified from Women’s Day

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons raspberry-balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1/3 cup olive oil

1 lb fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 large carrots, peeled and sliced

2 ribs celery, sliced

1 cup black radishes, chopped (you can substitute any other radish)

1 medium cucumber, chopped

1 pint grape tomatoes

½ cup finely diced red onion

1 large firm-ripe avocado, peeled and chopped


In a small bowl, whisk mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper until combined. Whisking constantly, slowly add oil until well blended; refrigerate until ready to use.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add asparagus; cook 1 1/2 minutes. Add carrots and cook for 1 minute longer. Drain and chill in ice water. Drain again and pat dry with paper towels. Transfer to a serving bowl. Add remaining vegetables to bowl. Mix dressing (if separated), add to bowl, and toss to mix vegetables and coat. Serve immediately.


Prep Ahead Hash Browns – An Experiment

My husband is on a hash brown kick for his breakfast, choosing to start the day with a big meal to make sure he has the energy to keep up with our children.

Store bought hash browns are convenient, but can get pricy, so I was determined to find a method of prepping hash browns that wouldn’t result in immediately oxidized (i.e. brown discoloration) potatoes. My goal was to find the easiest and most repeatable prep ahead hash brown method that would allow me to store fresh hash browns in the refrigerator for ~4 days or that were easy to transfer from freezer to pan.

Online searching netted a few options, all of which had a common theme – blanch the potatoes to stop the oxidation. I narrowed it down to two methods to try:

The Taste of Home method works perfectly. Blanched hash keeps in the refrigerator for 3-4 days and frozen packets were easy to thaw.  In addition, the hash stayed in distinct strands when cooked.


The blanched, whole photos just resulted in a mess. The method suggested freezing for ~ 6 hrs before shredding. I didn’t get to shred my potatoes at that mark, and the result was that I had SOLID hunks of potato that could not be shredded without partially thawing first. Thawing frozen whole potatoes takes a while, and then shredding and refreezing resulted in oxidation of the potatoes. Cooking did not reverse the oxidation like some websites suggest, and the consistency of the cooked hash was a bit mushy and didn’t taste as good as the hash made using the Taste of Home method.

Hence, the Taste of Home method is what I plan to stick to for my prep ahead hash browns. To cook them, I season simply with some garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper, and then fry them in a bit of oil until golden and crisp.



Treating myself to a heaping plateful of hash browns makes for a smile-worthy start of my day. These hash browns could almost substitute for my occasional French fries cravings. Almost. Both Russet and Yukon Gold yield great tasting hash browns (shown below on two different days), so feel free to use your favorite.




Hash Browns

2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes (makes ~ 1 ½ pounds shredded potatoes), shredded and blanched

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons oil

Toss the shredded potatoes with the garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and salt until evenly coated. In a 12-inch, non-stick skillet heat the oil. Add the shredded potatoes. Cook the potatoes, turning frequently, until the hash browns are browned to your taste. Remove from the stove and serve immediately.


Squash Spaghetti

Eat your vegetables! I’m sure we can all name one (or two) people whom frequently need this reminder. Sometimes I am looking for a way to make encourage my kids to each more vegetables, and other times I am just looking for a way to create a tasty & light side dish that delights mature eaters.

I have been intrigued by the idea of squash spaghetti and decided to give it a whirl. I cut zucchini and yellow squash into spaghetti-like ribbons (you can use a julienne peeler, as pictured below, or another specialty too like this which produces more fettuccine like ribbons).


Surprisingly, raw squash spaghetti is the best tasting. I have tried a quick saute, but it seemed to enhance the squash/almost pumpkin-like flavors that didn’t go over well with my family.  That’s fine with me since the raw noodles are (1) quicker, (2) creates less clean-up, and (3) healthier.


 I simply tossed my “noodles” with some sun-dried tomatoes, a bit of Caesar salad dressing, and a bit of pecorino-Romano cheese.



Squash Spaghetti

1 lb zucchini and yellow squash (about 4 medium-sized squash, 2 of each kind)

½ cup Caesar salad dressing

½ cup sundried tomatoes, drained

½ cup shredded Pecorino-Romano cheese

Using a julienne peeler or vegetable spiral slicer, create raw noodles from both the zucchini and yellow squash (you should have ~8 cups of noodles). Place in a large bowl and stir in the salad dressing and sundried tomatoes. Refrigerate until ready to serve, then divide between 4 plates and evenly sprinkle the cheese over the pasta.