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Dill Potato Salad

August 10, 2010

A few weeks ago I dropped off dinner for a new mom in our church’s Moms & Tots group. I made barbecue sauce from scratch, cooked chicken and shredded it by hand for shredded bbq chicken sandwiches…I made my mom’s “Nonstop Brownies”and headed to Sam’s Club to buy some rolls for the sandwiches.  While I was there I decided that I needed a little something else, so I bought some potato salad I had sampled, brought it home, doctored it up a bit and took it over. This week I got an email asking for the recipe. I almost died laughing! This is my go-to potato salad recipe, it’s a little lighter than traditional potato salads but will fit right in at your next potluck. I think it would beat Sam’s Club in a “Throwdown. 🙂

Dill Potato Salad

Inspired by Food Network’s Dave Lieberman

3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, washed and scrubbed

2 stalks celery, finely chopped (do not use leaves or white part of stalk)

2 cups mayonnaise (I use Hellman’s Light)

1/2 cup Vidalia or other sweet onion, minced

1/4 cup tightly packed chopped fresh dill

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Salt and Pepper to taste (start with ~3/4 tsp kosher salt. N.B. if using regular salt, start with half the amount)


  1. Wash and scrub potatoes (or peel them, but that is more work and you lose all the nutrients in the peels). If they are very different sizes, cut larger potatoes in half so that they will cook evenly.
  2. Put potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Sprinkle 1 tsp salt in the water and boil until potatoes can be pierced with a fork.
  3. Drain the potatoes and return them to the uncovered pot off the heat. Let them sit until almost room temperature.
  4. While the potatoes are cooling, mince the onion, celery and dill. Add mayonnaise, dijon mustard, lemon juice, and vinegar. Combine all ingredient in a  bowl large enough to hold the potatoes and still have room to mix everything together.
  5. Once potatoes have cooled, cut them into bite-sized pieces, adding them to the bowl as you go. Stir gently until all the potatoes are coated with dressing.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

The original recipe calls for serving at room temperature within a few hours of making the salad. I usually like to chill potato salad because I only make this for picnics or potlucks for other people and they think I am trying to give them food poisoning if I serve it at room temp. 🙂  The  potatoes are at their best before being chilled, the texture is smoother and less grainy. If you do serve this chilled, be sure to taste for salt level after it has chilled as cooling foods mutes seasonings.


Paninis- More than just a Sandwich!

August 6, 2010

In Italian, panino refers to a sandwich. Here (in the US and our house), we use the term panini (albeit incorrectly) to refer to sandwiches that are pressed and toasted or grilled. My sister gave Eric an amazing Breville panini press for Christmas a couple  years ago and it is the perfect method for grilling these delicious sandwiches. If you don’t have a panini press, you can use a grill pan (or any old pan) and flip it over (carefully!) to achieve a similar effect. You can also do these sandwiches on the grill if you have one. This past weekend we did the most basic panini- tomato, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella. To some we added a slice or two of Parma prosciutto, a gift from Eric’s parents who were visiting from Pittsburgh.  A bit of Penzey’s Sandwich Sprinkle elevated these paninis to crispy and melty savory deliciousness!

Basic Panini

A hearty loaf of bread, not that squishy stuff you find in the bread aisle. We used my No-Knead Bread..

Extra-virgin Olive Oil


Basil (fresh)

Fresh Mozzarella

Penzey’s Sandwich Sprinkle (a mix of garlic, coarse salt, basil, oregano, marjoram, black pepper, rosemary, and thyme)


Brush the outside of the bread with olive oil and assemble sandwiches. Sprinkle a bit of Penzey’s Sandwich Sprinkle if you have it, if not, salt and pepper. Cook on grill/pan/panini press until bread gets toasty and cheese is melted. Enjoy! There are a million variations, use your imagination! I will post some of my favorites as I do them…. 🙂

A Spicy Meat-a-ball!

July 4, 2010

Every month I look forward to my cooking magazines arriving in the mail (Thank you Coke Rewards Points!:)). Recently Bon Appetit showcased the meatball (one of Eric’s favorite foods) in many glorious variations and Eric was inspired to make Banh Mi. Banh Mi are Vietnamese sandwiches that reflect the Asian and French roots of Vietnamese culinary history. The sandwich is always made on a baguette …along with pickled vegetables, cilantro, chili peppers, paté (?!) and Sriracha mayonnaise. It is traditionally made with pork, but other meats (including chicken) can also be used. (One time we did a crab cake banh mi that was delicious!) This recipe uses pork meatballs and leaves off the pate… Neither of us are particularly fond of radishes, so we used cucumber, another traditional banh mi vegetable instead. Made exactly as written, these were SPICY!!! (even for Eric) with a nice mix of salty, sweet and sour- reminiscent of Thai cuisine actually. Next time we’ll use less Sriracha  and reduce the amount of jalapeno and perhaps use ground turkey for the meatballs.  Instead of pan frying the meatballs first, we roasted them in the oven, allowing much of the fat to drain off. After the meatballs were fully cooked and nicely browned in the oven, we tossed them in the pan with the sesame oil. The meatballs can easily be doubled, freezing the remainder to be pulled out later for a fast dinner. To freeze meatballs, mix meat and seasonings, shape, and place on a lined cookie sheet and place in the freezer. Once hardened, place in a Ziploc bag and keep frozen until ready to bake. To cook, place frozen meatballs on a baking sheet lined with foil (pref nonstick) and roast 375-400°F until cooked through, turning once or twice to get a nice crust on the meatball. Thank you Eric for a delicious dinner! 🙂

Pork Meatball Banh Mi

Bon Appetit Jan 2010


Hot Chili Mayo:

2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)

1 pound ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

2 cups coarsely grated carrots
2 cups coarsely grated peeled daikon (Japanese white radish)
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces French-bread baguette (cut from 2 baguettes)
Thinly sliced jalapeño chiles
16 large fresh cilantro sprigs


Hot Chili Mayo:

Stir all ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt. Cover and chill. (Can be made 1 day ahead.)


Line rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange on baking sheet. (Can be made 1 day ahead.) Cover and chill.


Toss first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of meatballs. Sauté until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes. Transfer meatballs to another rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs.

Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. Pull out enough bread from each bread half to leave 1/2-inch-thick shell. Spread hot chili mayo over each bread shell. Arrange jalapeños, then cilantro, in bottom halves. Fill each with 1/4 of meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables; place atop meatballs. Press on baguette tops.  Instead of discarding the baguette filling, save them for breadcrumbs. 🙂

Mango Salsa

June 25, 2010

If you’ve never had a fresh, perfectly ripe mango, mango salsa is a great introduction to this delicious fruit! I’ve always loved mangoes-  plain,  with lime and a sprinkling of salt and chili powder (a food vendor staple on Mexican beaches or sidewalks that can be  recreated at home with no fear of food poisoning), mango sorbet, mango ice cream, and of course, the highly versatile and healthy mango salsa. The salsa is delicious with seafood, such as salmon, mahi mahi, or shrimp, as well as pork (chops, tenderloin, etc.), grilled chicken or with tortilla chips.  Other variations include adding a can of rinsed and drained black beans or a couple of diced avocados to the salsa, or substituting peaches or nectarines for the mango.

Mango Salsa

6 Mangoes, pitted and diced

1/2 cup Vidalia onion, minced (can substitute red onions or shallots, or even green onions)

1 Bell Pepper, finely diced (Red has a nicer color contrast, but orange and yellow are just as good)

1/4 cup Cilantro, minced

1 clove Garlic, minced

1 small Jalapeno or Serrano, minced (to taste!)

3 Limes, juiced

1/4 cup Pineapple Juice

Salt and Cayenne Pepper to Taste


Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Salsa can be prepared a day ahead.  If you’ve never cut up a mango, it may be a little intimidating because of the large seed in the middle.  The trick is to stand the mango  up on the cutting board make two cuts in the middle, approximately 1cm/one finger width apart. Then carefully slice the fruit without piercing the skin. The flesh can then be scooped out with a spoon (preferably a grapefruit spoon which has small serrations). You can also slice/cube avocados using the same method.

Embarassingly Easy Berry Cobbler

June 6, 2010

E and I were invited to a Memorial Day Pot Luck BBQ, and as usual, I called my mom for ideas…

Mom: Amy made this delicious cobbler for Bible study, and it is stupid easy, you should bring that.

Me: What’s the recipe?

Mom: Frozen berries, a can of apple pie filling, sprinkle some cinnamon, and crumble some pre-made sugar cookie dough on top and bake.”

Most of my mom’s recipes are equally as detailed and while normally I just kind of figure it out as I go along, this time I needed a recipe since this was for a potluck, so I googled “cookie dough berry cobbler” and found Sandra Lee’s Berry Cookie Cobbler and used that to figure out the general amounts. Usually my mom (and I) make everything from scratch, so I was shocked at 1) how easy the recipe was 2) how amazingly delicious it was and 3) SANDRA LEE MADE THIS?!?!?!? Ok Sandra, from now on I promise I will actually look at your recipes the next time I search for something on Food Network, instead of mocking your “tablescapes”, cocktails, and kitchen that changes with every episode. Well, I will still think its ridiculous that she has a different colored KitchenAid mixer, food processor, toaster, blender, drapes, blah blah blah for each new episode, but I have to give credit where credit is due. This cobbler is delicious and embarrassingly easy. Mom said to leave out the sugar and first  taste the berries and since  the supermarket was out of plain sugar cookie dough,  I used Snickerdoodle cookie dough, which is basically a sugar cookie rolled in cinnamon sugar. You can make this cobbler in individual ramekins (super cute and better crust), but that wasn’t an option for a potluck, so I used a Pyrex baking dish. The middle of the cobbler has a tendency to not cook as fast, so make sure the topping in the middle is cooked through.


  • 2 bags (12 ounces each) frozen mixed berries, thawed
  • 1 container (21-ounce) apple pie filling
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 roll (18-ounce) prepared sugar cookie dough
  • Vanilla ice cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix berries, apple filling, sugar, and cinnamon. Transfer fruit mixture to an 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish. Crumble cookie dough over fruit, covering thickly and completely. Bake uncovered until cookie crust is golden and crisp, and juices bubble thickly, about 45 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.

Cobbler filling before it's topped & baked.

Creamy Taco Mac

June 6, 2010

When I was growing up, my mom would frequently make a Bolognese sauce with macaroni or ziti. Sometimes to jazz it up, she would add some heavy cream and mozzarella cheese and it would be transformed into a delicious plate of creamy, cheesy, meaty pasta. A lot of girls at What’s Cooking had been talking about “Creamy Taco Mac” – a Tex-Mex-inspired version of this old favorite and since they all claimed their husbands LOVED it, I decided to give it a try, using Annie’s recipe as inspiration. I have to admit I was a little skeptical when I first looked at this recipe because it was referred to as Homemade Hamburger Helper  and didn’t sound like it would be anything special (ok, never actually tried HH, so I shouldn’t pre-judge), but more importantly- did I really need another recipe that was heavy on the carbs??? (No, I don’t – I need to eat a lot more veggies!!)  E was a little weirded out by the idea when he came home and saw me making it, but he was nice enough to not say anything, but I could tell by his expression he did not have high hopes for this experiment. The Creamy Taco Mac was surprisingly good, especially with the hot sauce!  It’s not something I would serve for company, but it is a nice “Variation on a Theme” for a quick weeknight dinner when you’re tired of the same old pasta and marinara and you want to make something with ingredients you already have on hand. Using light cream cheese and sour cream is fine for this recipe, though some of the creaminess might be sacrificed. The amount of ground turkey sounds totally random, I know. For some reason the packages of ground turkey come in a weird size. Just buy one package of whatever is at your supermarket in the 1lb ish range, this recipe is pretty flexible.

Creamy Taco Mac


1¼ lbs. ground turkey (or lean beef)
8 oz. dry pasta shapes (I used one 14 oz.  box of Ronzoni Smart Taste elbow macaroni)
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes (fresh tomatoes would be good here as well, but more time consuming)
4 tbsp. taco seasoning (I used ~ 6 tbsp of Penzey’s– nothing artificial, e.g. MSG or thickeners, in here, just spices and herbs)
3 oz. cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste (I added a bit of cayenne and chipotle powder as well)
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)


  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Cook pasta according to the package directions and drain.
  2. Meanwhile in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the onions until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, approximately 30 seconds.
  3. Add the ground turkey and cook it until no longer pink.
  4. Stir in taco seasoning and the diced tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add sour cream and cream cheese, stirring until well incorporated and simmer another 5 minutes.
  6. Toss with drained pasta and serve  with additional sour cream, shredded cheddar, tortilla chips, and your favorite Mexican hot sauce (Cholula for us!) on the side.

I have a bad habit of just sprinkling and tasting, so I have to admit that I sprinkled some garlic powder, toasted onion powder, cumin, cayenne, and powdered chipotle to taste. I increased the seasoning quite a bit because I doubled the pasta (so that there would be plenty of leftovers for E to pack for lunch the next day) and because it’s cheaper to have a higher meat to pasta ratio. 🙂

Salmon Salad with Dill Vinaigrette

May 25, 2010

It has been in the 90’s this week and the last thing we feel like doing is turning on the stove or oven. Fortunately, we have a gas grill we can fire up at a moment’s notice and we take advantage of it almost daily during the summer; it keeps the house cool and there are no pots or pans to clean!  My mom kept raving about this recipe from her friend Susan and urged me to try it.  Since I had lots of dill leftover from the Creamy Dijon Dill Potato Salad we made for a cook-out, salmon from Sam’s Club, and lettuce from the Urbana Farmers Market, this was the perfect opportunity. The original recipe calls for shredding the salmon into the salad, but we left the salmon whole for the photos, then shredded it. We also left off the Kalamata olives since we didn’t have them on hand. Mom says you can sub maple syrup for the honey and use a combination of lemon and orange juice or orange juice and vinegar. This was one of the best salads I’ve ever had and E agreed. The dressing was sweet, tart, and light and would probably go with chicken as well.

Salmon Salad with Dill Vinaigrette

Serves 4-6


3 Tbsp chopped, fresh dill

3 Tbsp honey

½ cup fresh lemon juice

½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper (or to taste)

3/4 cup olive oil

1 clove  garlic, chopped

¼ cup of red wine vinegar (Mom’s addition)


2 ½ lb salmon filet, sprinkled with salt and pepper (I used St. Peter’s Catch Montauk Seasoning: S&P, Garlic, Dill, Coriander)

2 cups chopped red pepper (about 2 med sized peppers)

1 large cucumber, skinned and chopped

2-3 medium red tomatoes, chopped

½ cup chopped red onion

½ cup pitted Kalamata olives

½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper (or to taste)

1 lg head of romaine lettuce, torn into pieces

Feta cheese, crumbled and sprinkled on top

  1. Whisk all vinaigrette ingredients together and set aside.
  2. Grill salmon and allow to cool. Flake into bite sized pieces.
  3. Add next 6 ingredients to salmon and toss gently. Add lettuce right before serving. Whisk vinaigrette again and pour on salad. Toss salad gently, sprinkle feta on top and serve immediately.