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.


Skinny Chicken Tetrazzini

One of the comfort food and potluck staples I’ve come to enjoy is chicken tetrazzini. The creamy sauce is hard to resist, yet it is not easy on the waistline. But what is the best way to make this dish in a healthier manner? My friend Kim Van Dunk of Life in the Van was the first to get my wheels spinning for this recipe. She has created an award winning pot pie which uses cauliflower as a main part of the sauce. What an inspiration! I had tried the popular cauliflower pizza crust (a pinterest favorite) last year and knew if was possible to make cauliflower taste like, well . . . not cauliflower.

This nugget of a recipe idea was in the back of my mind when I cleaned out my desk over the New Year’s holiday break. I found I had saved this recipe from Cooking Light which gave me the idea to use evaporated milk and cream cheese to round out the flavor of my sauce, without losing consistency.


The last inspiration was from a recent church potluck. Susan’s tetrazzini included pimentos, which gave it a beautiful pop of color and extra bit of flavor.


The end result was a delicious tetrazzini that wowed even my cauliflower-hating husband. If that doesn’t sell you on trying this skinny chicken tetrazzini, then hopefully the photos will!


Skinny Chicken Tetrazzini

2 lb cauliflower, leaves removed and cut into pieces (~ 5cups florets)
6 oz evaporated milk
4 oz cream cheese
1 teaspoon onion powder
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground thyme
2 tablespoons butter
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
12 oz fettuccini
3 cups precooked shredded chicken (~3/4 lb)
½ lb frozen peas
4 oz jarred pimentos, drained
½ cup shredded Parmesan
¼ cup Italian bread crumbs

Place the cauliflower in a large pot and cover with water. Boil over medium heat until florets are soft, about 15 minutes. Drain and add the cooked cauliflower to a food processor. Process until finely chopped, then add the evaporated milk and cream cheese and process until smooth. Stir in the onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and ground thyme; set aside.
Heat the butter in a large sauté pan and add the sliced mushrooms. Sauté until golden brown.
While the mushrooms are cooking, cook the fettuccini according to the package directions, drain and add to a large bowl.
Preheat oven to 375 °F and spray a 13-inch x 9-inch casserole pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Add the cooked mushrooms, chicken, peas, and pimentos to the fettuccini and stir to mix. Pour the cauliflower sauce over the pasta mixture, stir to coat and then pour into the casserole pan. Evenly sprinkle the top of the pasta with the Parmesan and bread crumbs, then place in the oven. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes, or until heated throughout and the cheese begins to brown.
Remove from the oven and serve.

P.S.  I made this recipe with gluten free noodles and amazingly they didn’t get hard.  Don’t be afraid to try this gluten free!



With January 1st comes a re-commitment to New Year’s resolutions, resolutions such as:

(1) Eating healthier
(2) Trying something new

You can accomplish both with the babaganoush I made this week. Babaganoush is a an eggplant based dip with a variety of other spices depending on the origin of the recipe you use. I have used Ellie Krieger’s recipe with a few tweaks on quantity ( I increased the garlic and I added lemon zest and red pepper flakes) since I love her simplistic approach to the dish which borrows from the Israeli (the use of tahini) and other Levantine cultures (parsley, garlic, and lemon). Since the majority of the dip is eggplant, this really is a guilt free snack!

After roasting the eggplant I blended all the ingredients except for the parsley in a food processor until smooth. I then stirred in the parsley and served it with pita wedges for a tasty appetizer. It also served as a good excuse for a gyro lunch (OK, maybe that part wasn’t so healthy).


I hope we are all successful this year in keeping our resolutions, including the ones mentioned above!


1 large eggplant (~ 1 pound)
1 teaspoon freshly minced garlic
¼  teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
zest of one lemon
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼  cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Fresh pita bread or pita chips


Preheat oven to 450 °F.

Prick eggplant with a fork and place on a cookie sheet. Bake the eggplant until it is soft inside, about 20-30 minutes. Remove the eggplant from the oven and let cool, then cut the eggplant in half and scoop the pulp into a food processor. Add the garlic, salt, tahini, lemon juice, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes to the food processor and process the ingredients until a smooth dip is formed. Transfer to a medium sized bowl, stir in the parsley, and serve with pita wedges or pita chips.


Asparagus Frittata

This week my husband and I split the grocery shopping in preparation for our Thanksgiving meal. As you can imagine, we ended up with some overlap – in this case asparagus.


This wouldn’t have been so bad, except our holiday guests have had to cancel at the last minute due to an everlasting cold, meaning we now have 4 and ½ pounds of asparagus to eat between two adults and two toddlers. I’m sure the week ahead will be filled with all sorts of asparagus salads, sautés, and soups.

The first recipe on my asparagus pare down list was my asparagus frittata. Not only is it a deceptively easy weekend breakfast, but leftovers make for a wonderful treat before rushing out the door for work.

I started with ½ pound of asparagus (woody stems removed) and gently sautéd them, then added some leftover mushrooms and onions from dinner the night before. Next, an egg mixture which included a bit of cream and seasoning was poured on top and finally covered with a bit of feta.



A few minutes over low heat on the stovetop followed by a few minutes under the broiler resulted in a beautifully, golden asparagus frittata. The whole family enjoyed the special Sunday meal, with the baby out-eating all of us!




Asparagus Frittata

½ lb fresh asparagus
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon italian seasoning
½ teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup cooked mushrooms
¼ cup sautéed onions
4 oz feta cheese, broken in pieces

Preheat the oven broiler; Break off the woody ends of the asparagus, and then cut into 1 in segments. in a medium sized bowl mix together the eggs, whipping cream, italian seasoning, onion powder, salt, and pepper and set aside.
Put the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet and melt over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and sauté for 3 minutes, or until softened. Reduce the heat to medium-low, sprinkle in the mushrooms and onions, and then pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Place the cheese pieces evenly over the top of the egg mixture. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the edges begin to firm and upon inspection the bottom of the eggs is beginning to brown. Remove from the stovetop and place in the broiler and cook for 3minutes longer, until the top is lightly browned and puffed. Remove from the oven, cut into eight wedges and serve immediately.


Asian Salad with Ponzu Dressing

When life gets busy, it is often easiest to make the same, old staples for meals – things that are quick, or don’t take much thought to prepare. While I fall into this trap myself, I think we are cheating ourselves when we walk past ingredients in the grocery store just because we have never used them. For example, have you tried ponzu sauce?


Ponzu sauce is a citrus based soy sauce that adds wonderful depth to an entree. In my opinion, it isn’t as harsh as soy sauce and can be used as a finishing touch in dishes, or as a key component of my Ponzu Dressing that tops my Asian Salad.

To make my Asian Salad, I started with some fresh, baby spinach,


and then I added some mandarins, green onions, carrots, cashews, and water chestnuts.




I mixed up some oil, rice vinegar, ponzu sauce, and dried ginger to make a dressing, poured it over the salad and tossed to coat. To serve, I topped each plate of salad with a bit of chow mein noodles – time to dig in!



Asian Salad with Ponzu Dressing

9 cups of baby spinach, washed
6 mandarins, peeled and segmented
½ cup diced green onion
½ cup shredded carrots
½ cup cashews
8oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup ponzu sauce
½ teaspoon dried ginger
1 cup chow mein noodles

Place the baby spinach in a large bowl, then add the mandarin slices, green onion, carrots, cashews, and water chestnuts. In a separate, small container, stir together the oil, rice vinegar, ponzu sauce, and ginger until well mixed. Pour the dressing over the spinach salad, and toss the salad to coat. Divide the salad between eight plates, topping each plate with two tablespoons of chow mein noodles, and serve immediately.



Tomatillo Salsa

This week we hosted our church small group and the meal theme was taco bar.  I was lucky enough to get to prepare one of my favorite things to make – SALSA.  When I started cooking, a variety of salsas was what kicked off my kitchen experimenting. So much so, that people started saying, “oh yeah, you’re the salsa lady – I loved the ________ salsa you made last time”.

I love experimenting with salsa because it is so versatile, enabling both vegetables and fruit combos, and eaten with chips or as an entree topper.

My latest salsa is this tomatillo salsa, which starts with a pound or fresh tomatillos that get roasted,



and then blended before stirring in a generous amount of red onion, tomatoes, corn, and garlic (plus a bit of honey to balance the natural tartness of the tomatillos).



The salsa (and the taco bar theme) turned out to be a great hit – next time I plan on making a double batch!





Tomatillo Salsa

1 lb tomatillos, husk removed
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup diced red onion
½ cup diced roma tomato
½ cup frozen corn, thawed
2 cloves garlic, minced
Set oven to broil and place tomatillos on a roasting pan. Place in the oven and roast for 8-10 minutes, turning once, until both sides are slightly charred. Remove from the oven and pulse in a food processor until smooth. Add the pureed tomatillo to a large bowl, and then stir in the honey, salt, onion, tomato, corn, and garlic. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with tortilla chips.


Zucchini & Sweet Pepper Gazpacho

As is typical, I brought home a bounty of fresh vegetables from the local farmers market this week. Since there is no time like the present, I decided a refreshing gazpacho was in order for lunch.

Gazpacho, a chilled soup originating from Spain, typically consists of pureed tomato, chopped vegetables and a garnish of croutons or hard-boiled eggs. I’ve taken a more liberal approach to my version of gazpacho today, and replaced the tomato with zucchini and sweet peppers.


I started with two globe zucchini, two sweet red peppers (one Italian Bullhorn and the other Aconcagua) and one ear of Peaches & Cream corn.

I decided to serve the soup in the globe zucchini, so I cut the tops off the squash and scooped out the insides, saving the insides for the soup. Next I diced the peppers after removing the seeds and membranes, and then cut the corn kernels off the cob.


I reserved a bit of the peppers and corn to stir into the soup later, and placed the rest in a food processor with the zucchini meat and water and pureed until smooth. I then poured the soup into a large bowl, and stirred in the remainder of my ingredients, including green onions and horseradish.

To serve, I poured some into by globe zucchini bowls, making sure to include crackers on the side. This zucchini-pepper gazpacho was just as refreshing as the tomato-based variety, and a most tasty lunch!



Zucchini & Sweet Pepper Gazpacho

2 globe zucchini
1 ear sweet corn
2 sweet red peppers
3 green onions, diced
1 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons grated horseradish
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper


Cut off the top of the globe squash and reserve, then scoop out the insides of the squash, leaving about ¼ inch shell. Place the squash meat in a food processor and refrigerate the squash bowls and bowl tops until ready to serve. Remove the corn kernels from the ear of corn, and then remove the sees and membranes from the peppers and dice the peppers. Reserve ¼ cup of both the corn and peppers, and add the remainder to the food processor. Blend the squash, corn, and peppers until smooth, and then pour into a large bowl. Stir in the remainder of the ingredients and chill until ready to serve. Serve in the squash bowls, or cups.


Firecracker Coleslaw

As July fourth approaches, it usually means an abundance of picnics and barbecues to celebrate Independence Day. Most certainly the typical fare of pasta salad, potato salad, burgers and franks will be present, as will be . . . coleslaw! For my contribution to this weekend’s festivities, I’ve decided to bring my vibrant and irresistible coleslaw with a fiery kick.

I start with a bit of red cabbage, yellow pepper, and golden delicious apple . . .


Which get shredded into a kaleidoscope of slaw.



Mayonnaise and sriracha sauce provide a creamy/spicy coat and a dash of celery seed gives a bit of extra crunch.


That’s it! The bold flavor and color are sure to be a hit. Also, a quick side dish means more time to relax this holiday weekend, spend time with my family, and reflect on how thankful I am for a free country and the individuals who selflessly defend our freedom. Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!



Firecracker Coleslaw

½ lb red cabbage
1 yellow pepper, seeds and stem removed
1 golden delicious apple, cored
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon celery seed
Shred the cabbage, yellow pepper, and apple and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the mayonnaise, sriracha sauce, and celery seed, making sure all ingredients are evenly distributed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Rhubarb & Apricot Compote Parfait

What is one of the best ways to sneak an extra serving of vegetables in at breakfast or dessert? Pretend the vegetable is a fruit!

Rhubarb is actually a vegetable, despite its famous use in strawberry-rhubarb pie. It is also delicious in savory dishes, but one of my favorite ways to eat it is in compote form, which is just a fancy way of saying a sauce you can use like a jam or finishing syrup.

First, I chopped the rhubarb (just the stalks, not the toxic leaves) into approximately 1 inch slices,


Then I chopped a few fresh apricot, adding sweetness, color, and great flavor to the mix.

apricot mixedFruit

The fruit, along with honey, water and a vanilla bean were all added to a large pot and simmered together for a few minutes. The vanilla adds a lovely undertone, but if you don’t have any handy, this compote will still be scrumptious if you skip it – I promise.

The end result is a sweet-tart, delicious mixture that is the consistency of thick applesauce.


Once it cooled, I layered it generously with some Greek style vanilla yogurt and topped it off with my favorite granola.

This has been a great way to start my day this week, and soo easy to put together. It even did double duty as dessert one night!


Rhubarb & Apricot Compote Parfait
1 lb fresh rhubarb, chopped in 1 inch slices
½ lb fresh apricots (about 4), pitted and chopped
½ cup clover honey
½ cup water
1 vanilla bean

Rhubarb-apricot compote
20 oz of Greek style vanilla yogurt
granola for garnish (optional)


Add the rhubarb, apricots, honey and water to a large pot. Scrape the seeds out of the center of the vanilla bean, and add both the seeds and the pod to the pot. Place the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for another 15-20 minutes or until the rhubarb has started to soften. Remove from the heat, remove the vanilla pod from the pot, and let the rhubarb mixture cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use. Makes ~2.5 cups of compote.

To make the parfait, layer equal amounts of the Rhubarb & Apricot Compote and Greek style vanilla flavored yogurt in a glass. Garnish with granola and serve. Makes 5 parfaits.