Tag Archives: Cooking

Something I learned from my little sister

Every time I roast a chicken, I think of my sister.

For years, decades really, I refused to have anything to do with “chicken on the bone.” Besides eating it, of course. If Col. Sanders was willing to hack through all that horrible connective tissue and handle that mysterious package of squishy little pieces, more power to him: I’ll eat the delicious fried results. But heck if I was going to handle that stuff — that’s what modern butchers are for! I bought skinless boneless chicken breasts.

Then, about a decade ago (I might have been living with her briefly at the time, between marriages as I was), my sister salted and peppered a whole chicken, popped it in the oven and said something like, “well, there’s dinner.”

“Oh, I admire you,” I said. “I hate handling chicken on the bone.”

“Oh, it’s so easy,” she said, making “easy” sound like it had 12 syllables. “You really should try it.”

Pretty much up until then, I assumed I was the smarter sibling. Because I was older, see. I had more experience.

Well, not with preparing chicken, as it turned out. My sister was right. Roasting a chicken is easy.

And then, I discovered when I moved in with my Beloved, that disgusting carcass of chicken bits and bones make the most amazing chicken broth. “Amazing,” with 12 syllables.

And making chicken broth is pretty easy, too! Who’d a thunk?

So today as I was salting and peppering my whole chicken (my Beloved refused to let me use anything fancy like lemon or garlic or, God forbid, rosemary), I thought of my sister. And of the amazing chicken soup I’m going to eat tomorrow, too.

Improvisation, also known as winging it (with panache)

Sometimes you just gotta work with what you got.

Dinner began with the concept: “No more chicken.”

I had ground beef, and my Beloved suggested chili.

Chili. Good. Except I didn’t have diced tomatoes. And the only beans I had were Great Northern, which would have worked but we like black-eyed peas in our chili.


At quick look at Google revealed a concept for Frito Pie, and a little digging revealed a Frito Pie recipe using salsa verde instead of tomatoes.

I didn’t have Fritos either. But I had Takis!

[What are Takis, you ask? Ridiculously hot, ridiculously red rolled-up corn chips. Volcanic in nature, they are an ingredient one can’t ignore.]

Besides salsa verde, the recipe called for canned green chilis.

Yup. Fresh out of those, too. But I had a half a sweet red pepper. How ’bout that?

Damn recipe also called for corn. Who shows up about then but the Schwan’s man! He sells frozen corn! (He also sells a lot of other complete dinner options, but I was committed to using that hamburger now.)

Well, a little bit of simmering coordinated all my flavors. Green Takis Pie with ground beef and Great Northern beans was even better topped with the very sharp cheddar cheese I found in the back of the cheese drawer (no mold, thank you very much) and dollops of cool sour cream. We had lots of sour cream.


From inconsiderable beginnings come impressive results.

“Measure not by the scale of perfection the meager product of reality.”

~ Friedrich von Schiller

Meatless but not tasteless, thanks to Mother Nature’s bounty

Tomato and Corn Custard Pie from the September 2014 issue of Food Network magazine

Tomato and Corn Custard Pie from the September 2014 issue of Food Network magazine

Today’s celebration of summer’s bounty: Tomato and Corn Custard Pie.

Rarely do I attempt Martha Stewart’s creations in her Living magazine, but sometimes I try what Food Network magazine is dishing. Notwithstanding the blender spew of hot, creamy corn, tonight’s dinner depending on a harvest of autumn veggies (and a little cheese) was a rousing success.

tomato and corn custard partial

I was pleased my version looked quite similar to the magazine’s picture, which made my mouth water.

Real men do indeed eat quiche; my Beloved had two slices.

tomato and corn custard slice


Cherry tomatoes: Sauce for the cook (and the eater, too)

This tomato sauce is the best EVER!

Of course, it begins with fresh ingredients — I picked the cherry tomatoes and peppers this afternoon — but I’m a sucker for using the blender.

My version blends the tomato seeds and skins right into the sauce — more texture for the cook, I say.

Here’s how: Roast a cookie sheet of whole cherry tomatoes, five small peppers (deseeded), two carrots (cut into sticks), half a red onion and a couple garlic cloves at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Season with a generous amount of grape seed oil, salt and pepper. Allow to cool 5 minutes, then scrape the whole mess into a blender. Add a half cup chicken broth and a handful of fresh herbs (parsley, mint and basil) and blend until smooth. Turn into a pan and simmer on low heat while you prepare pasta.

I’ve enjoyed this sauce twice this week — once over quinoa spaghetti noodles and once over mushroom ravioli — it’s so good (and I’m trying to use up my garden harvest). Try it.


A semi-exotic way to use fresh raisins: A twist on Curried Chicken Salad

Do you remember that strange chicken salad that has raisins and almonds, all dressed in curried mayonnaise?

Well, if you don’t remember it, you must not be from the Midwest. The recipe for it must have been in the same issue of Good Housekeeping or Better Homes & Gardens as the recipe for Waldorf Salad in the ’60s because I remember some version of these two salads being served by my mother or some other family matriarch at various ladies’ gatherings.

A little Google research reveals a version of this curry salad, called Coronation Chicken, was served at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 so maybe it’s less “Midwest” and more “suburban” as I can imagine American women’s magazines popularizing this dish for their readers.

This old-timey salad was the inspiration for a healthier version I created to use my fresh raisins (check out that experiment here). Instead of mayonnaise, I channeled a green goddess and substituted plain yogurt and avocado. The result was exotic and fresh tasting — the basil leaves were an inspired addition (thanks, garden, for being a constant source of creativity).

Curried Chicken Fresh Raisin Salad with Creamy Green Curry Dressing

Curried Chicken & Fresh Raisin Salad
with Creamy Green Curry Dressing

Dressing ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons plain, fat-free yogurt
  • 1/4 avocado, mashed
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • Dash of salt and freshly ground pepper (taste it — more salt might be necessary to balance the tang of the yogurt and sweetness of the honey)

Salad ingredients:

  • 1 4-6 ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded thin
  • Sprinkling of curry powder, paprika, salt and pepper
  • 2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1/2 small cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • 15-20 small basil leaves (baby leaves the size of your fingernail)
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh raisins (or regular raisins if you must)
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted if you like


  1. Combine dressing ingredients, stirring until smooth.
  2. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breast with curry powder, paprika, salt and pepper, and saute with cooking spray in a saute pan over low to medium heat until no longer pink in the middle.
  3. Assemble the remaining salad ingredients on a plate. Drizzle with dressing. Slice chicken and arrange on top of salad. Enjoy immediately. Serves 1; multiply ingredients for additional salads.

By the way, this salad would qualify as lunch in the “Omni Diet,” a little bit outlandish and laborious eating plan I’ve been attempting to follow for the past week. If you’re lactose intolerant, use a couple of tablespoons of coconut milk instead of plain yogurt. I’ll save you the trouble of calculating the calories: 456. This salad is worth the effort.

Here’s the recipe for the world’s best baby back ribs

Summertime is the season for ribs, at least it is as Minnesota Transplant’s house. We got a good deal on meaty baby back ribs at Costco, so we indulged tonight and I’m sharing my Beloved world-famous recipe for those of you who might have missed it the first time.

Two small changes we tried today: Tyler used a rub on the ribs after boiling them in RC Cola, and then he smoked them on low heat in his smoker grill for about 90 minutes. The rub wasn’t really necessary, but the smoking added lots of flavor. Still, even if you don’t have a smoker, you’ll love this recipe from 2011. Try it.

Minnesota Transplant

My mother never made barbecued ribs when I was growing up, so when I started cooking for myself and eating out, I never cooked them or ordered them either because I didn’t know they could be good.

See, she made a batch for her father-in-law when she was pregnant with me, and they were awful because she didn’t know what she was doing; they made her sick. She never attempted them again, and in fact, found ribs in general to be tough and greasy.

In the way things always seem to come full circle, we entertained my parents for dinner tonight, and my husband decided to make ribs for his in-laws.

Only the big difference here is that my Beloved knows how to make ribs (and I’m not pregnant).

They were slurpworthy (“Better Than Great: A Plenitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives” author Arthur Plotnik recommended using this more interesting…

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Purple abomination

Some pretty purple plums at the market last week spoke to me. “We’d be delicious grilled,” they said.

So I picked ’em up and waited for an opportunity to have my Beloved throw them on the grill after he’d made some sort of carnivore’s delight. I only had to wait until today. Caswell, who is learning the art of grilling from his father, set the halved plums on the barbecue grill and proceeded as instructed.

I was so looking forward to a sweet dessert!


I topped the plums with freshly made whipped cream, and I luxuriated in my first bite. It started out sweet but about three chews in, all I was tasting was burnt wood. And whipped cream. Not a good combination.

So disappointing.

Grilling lesson: Don’t overcook the stone fruit.

Impressive bright pink seeds

My best friend, Jill, is the sort of amazing hostess who can prepare a complicated dish from a two-page magazine recipe, while simultaneously chatting about life, work and spouses and drinking a glass of red wine.

She’s multi-talented like that.

I admire her for tackling all kinds of Bon Appetit-esque recipes I would never be willing to try.

One time several years ago, she made me a fancy salad with pomegranate seeds because she knows I like entree salads, and she was willing to tackle seeding a pomegranate, a complicated six-step procedure involving cutlery and a bowl of water (interested in the how-to? You won’t find it here on Minnesota Transplant because though I watched Jill successfully accomplish this task, I’ve never tried it myself. But check it out here.)

All this to say: I found pomegranate seeds at the farmer’s market on Sunday. Not pomegranates, just the seeds. Someone had already done the hard work.

So I enjoyed them on my oatmeal yesterday, and it was delicious!

The yummy oatmeal has raisins, chopped pecans and cinnamon in it, topped with plain yogurt (sweetened with Splenda). Garnish with pomegranate seeds.

The yummy oatmeal has raisins, chopped pecans and cinnamon in it, topped with plain yogurt (sweetened with Splenda). Garnish with pomegranate seeds.

Lentils: It’s what’s for dinner

In honor of Meatless Monday, I pulled out my Experimental Chef hat.

Meatless Monday, if you haven’t heard of it, is a movement encouraging people to eschew meat on Mondays in the pursuit of better health, saving money and going easy on the environment.

I’m seeing people everywhere use their iPad as a contemporary cookbook, propped up on the kitchen counter top, and I decided to do that with a meatless recipe tonight, too. I tried a very different sort of recipe from microwave wizard Wancy Ganst, Hong Kong author of 18 cookbooks more than 800 recipes on Amazon Kindle.

My choice? Chestnuts and Lentils in Thai Red Curry.

A word of warning: These are authentic recipes so an American cook may need to do some conversions. For example, I needed 100 grams of chestnuts.

Well, the supermarket (even the good one with a wide selection 20 minutes from my house) didn’t have chestnuts so I used hazelnuts (recommended as a good alternative by my friend Google). As for 100 grams? It’s about 3.5 ounces but I had 2 ounces. So I used that much.

Ditto for the microwave wattage. The recipe called for an 850-watt microwave. Mine’s 1500 watts, so I microwaved for about half the time called for.

Lentils are high in fiber and protein, but they taste like sand if you don’t prepare them right. The red curry paste enhanced them deliciously — spicy but not unbearably so.

Who knew you could prepare lentils in the microwave? Wancy Ganst, I guess. Her instructions worked like a charm.

I served my Hazelnuts and Lentil Thai Red Curry sauce over Thai rice noodles with vegetarian spring rolls. Yum!

Secrets to a better breakfast

It’s not just a trite saying. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

I probably spend an inordinate amount of time on my breakfasts, but it’s worth making them grand at least once a week — like on a Sunday — even if you’re not as big a fan of breakfast as I am.

Here are a few secrets of a great breakfast:

  • Great breakfasts always include a serving a fruit. I’m partial to fresh strawberries, and nothing beats a half a grapefruit in season, but even a sprinkling of raisins in the oatmeal counts.
  • Don’t manhandle the hash-browned potatoes. I used to be guilty of using too little oil and too much spatula on my hash browns, but no more. Once you drop the hash browns in the hot oil (don’t skimp on the oil!), leave them alone! Let them brown for at least 15 minutes. If they burn, you’re using too high of heat. Flip ’em over, turn down the heat a bit, drizzle a little more oil on them, and leave them alone again! That one flip is all you need. Wait ’til they’re brown, and ta da, perfect golden hash browns.
  • Practice your poaching technique. Add a dash of vinegar and salt to the water for poached eggs. Once the water boils, turn down the heat to a simmer. Crack the egg into a separate container (like a measuring cup) and slide it in the water. Wait 4 minutes, 30 seconds. Set a timer. Timing is crucial. Now, remove the egg from the water with a slotted spoon. Ta, da! Perfectly runny yolks with solid whites.
  • Avocado and eggs go together like peanut butter and jelly. My favorite breakfast treat lately is golden hash browns topped with mashed avocado topped with poached eggs and Smoked Chipotlé Tabasco sauce. Divine.
  • Toast requires butter. Margarine in excess will kill you, too. You might as well clog your arteries with better tasting butter.

Did I miss anything? Any breakfast secrets to share?