Purple Potato Salad: Just Because!

Purple potato salad!

Purple potato salad!

20150506_105900With weather warming up, it’ll soon be time for picnics, potlucks, and cookouts. If you want to really surprise people, make purple (actually more like lavender once it’s made up) potato salad! This is the same as my potato salad recipe, but since I’ve found purple potatoes in the store lately, I couldn’t resist using them to make up potato salad. It tastes just like my potato salad recipe, but such color! (I used new potatoes of the same or similar variety for Roasted New Potatoes Mediterranean Style.)

I cooked the potatoes the day before I made it up…and served it the day after that. Because I didn’t cook the potatoes at the same time as making it up, I left the green onion raw, rather than steaming it under the potatoes. Other than that, it’s the same as my usual recipe (click through above). I cooked the potatoes whole, with skins on (I’m lazy). They’re not much to look at until you cut into them! The dressing subdues the color quite a bit, but still, this is color is irresistable.

The color of the potatoes was so striking that I couldn’t resist snapping pics as I added in ingredients. This is the most fun I’ve ever had making potato salad. Impossible not to grin while mixing this up!

Green onions & celery brighten it even more

Green onions & celery brighten it even more


Add pimentos and the color really pops!

Add pimentos and the color really pops!

Like the bright colors? This will go well with my Frankenslaw!

Fancy Dip bowl for fancy dip!

The Labor Day weekend represents the last hurrah of summer in the U.S. Though weather in the sunbelt states allows cookouts and outdoor parties most of the year, this is the last long weekend until Thanksgiving. So, if you’re planning a party, cookout, or picnic, this is a little something “extra” to dress up the chips-n-dip (or veggies and dip). I don’t recall where I first picked up this trick, but it has come in handy in recent years since I’ve perfected my Frankenslaw recipe, which uses some red cabbage. Here’s a cool way to use the rest of it!

Homemade artichoke dip, in red cabbage bowl.

Homemade artichoke dip, in red cabbage bowl.

I’m not going to lie to you: carving out the center of raw red cabbage takes more time and effort than you would think. But it looks so pretty! I’ve noticed that red cabbage is usually slightly smaller then green cabbage. If you want to use the red cabbage as one of the ingredients in my Frankenslaw and use it as a bowl for dip, pick one of the bigger of the reds. Slice off the top and chisel out the center: it doesn’t matter if it’s messy since it will be used in the slaw (which is really colorful and tasty). Any dip will do. If you want to make what’s in the picture, here’s my artichoke dip recipe. In this case I used smaller artichoke pieces and stirred them in for a chunkier dip than if I had used the blender.

Occasionally I get a cabbage with a very lopsided base and have to neaten up the bottom to make it sit more or less flat and not be tippy. Sit the cabbage on your serving dish and see how it settles and if anything needs to be done to the bottom before you fill it with dip! 🙂

Check out these tags for recipes: Cookouts, Picnics, Parties and Snacks!

Veggie Dip #2: Artichoke Dip


If you want a creamy artichoke dip, you don’t have to buy it. I get the chunkier canned artichoke and mix it in the blender, but if you want a chunkier dip you may want to get can of artichoke that’s already in bits and stir it in or process it less.

1 14oz can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
16 oz sour cream
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbls dried onion flakes
1/2 tsp marjoram
1 Tbls Parmesan cheese
salt (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Refrigerate for several hours. Taste and tweak seasonings before serving. Garlic lovers may want more garlic powder, others may want to ramp up the Parmesan. This recipe is pretty basic; there’s room to experiment as you customize it to suit your own taste. (I put some green olives in it once, but wasn’t crazy about how it turned out…too olive-y.) It’s a good idea to taste it with whatever you’ll have to dip it before adding any salt. It might not need salt if you’re serving it with salty chips or if you’ve added more Parmesan cheese. On the other hand, if it’s a meant for carrots and celery sticks, then a tiny bit of salt might be good. Serve with veggies such as celery sticks, broccoli florets, or baby carrots, or chips.

Veggie Dip #1

With football season around the corner — not to mention baseball playoffs and the World Series — we’re entering Snacking Season. 😀 I’m going to add some simple easy dips and snacks on the blog off and on as we head into fall. This recipe is, in many ways, an old-fashioned dip because it uses sour cream as a base. It’s delicious this way, probably because of all that fat. 😉 If you want a lower-fat option, substitute 8 oz silken tofu for half the sour cream. This will substantially alter the flavor of the dip compared to using just sour cream as the base (but it’s still good). After it’s been refrigerated for a few hours you might want to taste and tweak the seasonings.

If you’ve never made a dip from scratch, this is a good starting point; from this you may decide to add more of this, less of that, or a bit of something else. Seasonings that you typically use together when cooking will probably go together okay in a dip. I would add one caution to your experiments: pre-mixed seasonings usually have salt added, so check the label before you add salt!

16 oz sour cream
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp marjoram
2 tsp dried chives
1/4 tsp sea salt

Mix all ingredients well. Refrigerate for several hours.

Looking for more dips, spreads, and snacks? Try the “snack” tag in the sidebar. Last week: Homemade Pimiento Cheese! Good for sandwiches, or on crackers or stuffed celery sticks.

Homemade Pimento Cheese

There’s nothing like a cold sandwich on a hot day! My Mom and I got to talking about pimento cheese sandwiches recently. I can remember my mother making pimento cheese spread from scratch when I was a kid. In my memory it’s always better than store-bought pimento cheese. I asked her about the recipe and found that she’d never written it down, and scarcely remembered how she made it. She said she used a medium or mild cheddar because she doesn’t like sharp cheddar (I do like sharp cheese, though I use a milder cheddar for pimiento cheese so it will taste like hers). Of course there were pimentos in it, and she said that she thought she added some cream cheese, to to make it soft and spreadable. But she couldn’t tell me the amounts or proportions of the ingredients. She said she just mixed it up until it looked right.

This was before the days of food processors, so she grated the cheese by hand, that much I do know. I use a food processor for things that require a lot of grating (though I do have a hand grate that’s both fast and comfortable to use). After some experimenting this is what I’ve come up with. I tried making it with varying amounts of cream cheese and that did not, by itself, make it spreadable, but rather just stickier. So, I had to add a bit of mayonnaise. I use a low-fat mayo; goodness knows this has enough fat in it already! 😉

Homemade Pimiento Cheese

Homemade Pimiento Cheese

8 oz cheddar (mild or sharp, your preference)
4 oz cream cheese
5 tsp pimentos
1/2 cup low fat mayonnaise
1/4 tsp (or more) paprika or Hungarian Hot Paprika (optional)

Set out cream cheese to soften before making the pimiento cheese. I use a block of cream cheese rather than spreadable varieties because this is what my mother used. Grate cheddar cheese. (I don’t recommend using pre-grated packages of cheese. The cheese is too dry and has less flavor.) Mix and mash cheeses in a bowl with pimientos and the mayo. Add paprika or Hungarian hot paprika to taste. 1/4 tsp will make it very mildly seasoned, use more if you want it to really have a kick. Mix and blend with a fork or other suitable utensil (or put on food handling gloves and mix with your hands).

This makes a lot of cheese spread. Unless you’re crazy about pimiento cheese sandwiches or are making the spread for a party you might want to make a half-batch. Besides being a classic sandwich filling, this pimiento cheese mixture can be used as a casual appetizer spread on crackers or as a filling for stuffed celery sticks. (If that sounds too dull for your taste — or your friends’ taste — that Hungarian Hot Paprika option will liven things up!)

Spicy Meetball Pitas

I experimented with Sausage Style Gimme Lean first with “Meetloaf” because it had been a long time since I’d had a cold meatloaf sandwich, and that’s good picnic food on hot summer days. A variation on this that I came up with was meetballs, which I wrapped in foil with a bit of sauce and stuffed still warm into pita pocket bread when we went to the outdoor Shakespeare Festival last year. I sprinkled a bit of grated parmesan on top, too, though it hardly needs any embellishment. (The Bota box Cabernet went well with this, by the way.) Between the cold meetloaf and the spicy meetballs — both of which I’ve stuffed into pita bread on picnics — I think I’ve created the perfect vegetarian picnic food. 😀

1 pkg Sausage Style Gimme Lean
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tsp dried minced onion
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Hungarian hot paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp marjoram
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 6 oz can tomato paste
Oil for frying
Salt & pepper if desired

Mix tomato sauce, and all seasonings except salt and pepper in a medium saucepan, heat until it just begins to bubble. Dip out 1/2 cup of sauce and add to Gimme Lean and panko bread crumbs. Combine with a fork until homogenous. Shape into balls about 1-1 1/2″ in diameter. (Makes at least 16, maybe more if you’re better at guestimating the size than I am.)

Add tomato paste with equal amount of water to what’s left of the sauce (This makes the sauce milder than what went into the balls.) Simmer on low.

Fry balls in small batches in 1-2″ oil (just enough oil to cover when a batch is in). Remove when the outside is brown and put directly into the sauce. Stir so sauce coats the balls. When all of the balls are fried and stirred into the sauce, cover and simmer gently on low heat for 20 minutes.

I don’t usually make “meatballs” or “meetballs” when I make spaghetti, preferring to use Smart Ground in the sauce instead, however this recipe could easily be adapted to go with your spaghetti sauce by using your usual sauce recipe in making this. (This meetball recipe has more of a “kick” to it than my basic version of spaghetti sauce.)

Black Rice Salad

black rice saladAn older neighbourhood here has a lovely tradition of holding a community barbeque every summer.  Seeing as Boyfriend lives in that neighbourhood, I have attended for the last few years.  It is one of the older neighbourhoods in the city with crazy winding, one-way streets populated by older row houses and some stand-alone Victorian beauties.  One section of the neighbourhood has a field hidden behind the houses of four separate streets – the perfect spot to hold a barbeque.

Barbeques are provided (one for vegan food only), so participants need only bring food to cook and one dish for the community to share.  Local entertainment is provided throughout the barbeque, giving residents a chance to show off their particular abilities.  In a world of subdivisions and people generally not getting to know their neighbours any more, it’s a wonderful spot to sit and talk and take in the friendly atmosphere.

I waited a bit late in the day to make my side dish, so I was stuck with whatever was in the pantry.  My first thought was to make a pasta salad.  Alas, no pasta.  Then I thought I would make the quinoa and lentil salad I made last year.  Alas, no quinoa.  What I did have was a bag of black rice, something I had never cooked before.  I didn’t know how it tasted or what would taste good with it.  Running out of time, I had to make a decision.  So, I decided I couldn’t go wrong with cold rice, some oils, and some seasoning.  And it worked!

I boiled two cups of water and added one cup of black rice.  Be sure to rinse the rice well before you cook it (and be prepared for the water to become a dark purple).  The rice will take about 35 minutes to cook.  Ideally, it would have been better to have had the time to let the rice cool for a few hours, or even overnight, before I added the seasoning but, like I said, I was running short on time.  After 30 minutes of cooling time, I added a shallot, a generous amount of Herbamare, a dash of hemp oil, a dash of flax oil, and several splashes of Tamari.  I mixed it together and left it in the fridge for an hour.

This salad went down a treat.  I know I’ve hit on something good when children will eat it and ask for more.  I can see this being a go-to dish down the road – something to make when the pantry is bare.  Easy to make, tasty to eat, and can be either lunch or a side-dish or a contribution to your own neighbourhood barbeque.

Go Retro with Meetloaf!

Meet (adjective)
1. suitable; fitting; proper.

(Via dictionary.com, which surprisingly — and gratifyingly — did not note this as an archaic usage.)

Meatloaf when I was growing up was made with a jar of Ragu and saltine crackers (not to mention meat). I’m not sure what was used prior to the advent and discovery of prepared Ragu sauce. You could probably make the recipe below using a store-bought sauce, but I hit on the idea of making this meatless loaf (or “meetloaf” as it is “fitting, suitable, and proper” for vegetarians) after one time when I had some filling left from making stuffed bell peppers. I made it into a sandwich the next day, thinking that it reminded me of a cold leftover meatloaf sandwich.

So, if I want to have meetloaf (as I call this soy version) sandwiches, then I had to come up with a meatless loaf. I had used Smart Ground (from LightLife) for the stuffed bell pepper. Lightlife makes another soy meat substitute called Gimme Lean. I decided to try it because it comes in a tube, indicating that its texture is less crumbly than the Smart Ground and might hold together better. It’s very sticky. It comes in at least two versions: I use “Sausage Style” Gimme Lean for this recipe.

For the meetloaf I sauted a chopped onion in a small amount of olive oil, then added 1 15oz can of tomato sauce and a small amount of water (so the sauce doesn’t cook down and thicken too much). I then added 1 tsp marjoram, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp paprika,  and a pinch of hungarian hot paprika, and black pepper. If you want, you can run fresh garlic through a garlic press and saute it along with the onions. I simmered for at least 10 mins, maybe 15.

Combine the sauce with the Sausage Style Gimme Lean in a bowl. Stir and break up the soy thoroughly before added the 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs and 1 Tbls olive oil. Grease loaf pan with 1 Tbls olive oil. Spoon the mixture into the loaf pan and bake 350 for 1 hour. Let sit for 5-10 minutes after taking it out of the oven.

Meetloaf, cooling (slightly) on the counter before serving.

Meetloaf, cooling (slightly) on the counter before serving.

It’s good hot from the oven, but leftovers also make good cold sandwiches. Stuffed into pita pockets, it’s perfect picnic food for hot summer days. 🙂 If you want something warmer and spicier for those picnic pitas, try next week’s recipe for Spicy Meetball Pitas!

Potato Salad

Homemade potato salad.

Some years ago I decided that I was going experiment until I had good recipes for “the big 3” side dishes for summer cookouts. I’d already worked out a good vegetarian BBQ Baked Beans recipe, which was much requested, but I and everyone I knew still relied on store-bought containers of cole slaw and potato salad. I’m a big fan of both, particularly potato salad. Once I’d perfected my Frankenslaw so that it was requested as much as the beans, I knew it was time to tackle potato salad. I was a bit daunted by this because I’ve tasted literally hundreds of different kinds of potato salad over the years, at restaurants, from stores and on rare occasions homemade. Potato salad recipes are a bit like Hamlet: there are as many different versions as there are people doing it!

I’ve experimented and tweaked ingredients and amount until I’m satisfied with this recipe. It’s not terribly innovative and has no wildly exotic ingredients, but it makes a good tasty potato salad. This is best made up a day ahead of time and chilled overnight or longer. The flavor improves with longer chilling.

5 lbs medium-size red potatoes
bunch of green onion (6 stalks)
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 Tbls yellow mustard
1 cup light mayonnaise
1 1/4 cups plain non-fat Greek yogurt
4 oz jar of pimentos, drained
3 tsp dried dill

Wash potatoes thoroughly to remove grit and dirt, remove eyes and bad places, but don’t peel — unless you want to. Some people prefer potato salad made with peeled potatoes. I like potato skins and I don’t like peeling potatoes, so I made the natural choice for me. 😉

You can either boil the potatoes whole or cut them into halves or quarters before boiling. (I usually half or quarter them.) Boil potatoes until done, that is, tender when pierced with a fork through the center. While potatoes are cooking, dice celery finely and set aside. Snip green onion into small rounds with kitchen shears. Place the green onions in the bowl you’ll be using for the potato salad.

I prefer a large ceramic container because the mixture is slightly acidic and that’s not a good combination with metal. On the other hand, if you’re taking this to a cookout, picnic, party, or cookout, a big aluminum pan is probably the practical choice. This makes a ton of potato salad (figuratively speaking). I have a 6 qt crockpot and use removable ceramic dish for this recipe.

When potatoes are done and still hot, drain them, then dump them over the green onions in the bowl. Let sit a minute or so. This wilts and steams the green onion. (If you prefer raw onion in your potato salad, skip that and add the green onion with the rest of the ingredients after the potatoes have cooled.)

Stir potatoes and wilted green onions. Then I use a long knife to slice through and through the potatoes until the pieces are smaller. (If you don’t get all the pieces cut small enough on this first pass, don’t worry about it: you’ll get another shot at it when you mix everything in.) The reason I do it this way is that if you cut up the hot potatoes (or let them cool then cut them up) they aren’t hot enough to steam and wilt the green onion. If you prefer the onion raw and cold, go ahead and cool the potatoes before you cut them up.

Let the potatoes and green onion cool completely. When the potatoes are room temp (or you can cover them and cool them off in the fridge) stir in all the other ingredients, until all is thoroughly mixed together and the potatoes are somewhat mushy from the stirring. If the consistency or size of the pieces doesn’t look quite right, run the knife through the whole mess again several times and stir some more.

Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, overnight is best. Flavor will improve with time and chilling.

The potato salad will dry out in the fridge unless you have a very tight-fitting lid (which I don’t) or perhaps the potatoes soak up some of the moisture. Whatever the cause, you may need to add a bit more yogurt and mayo. If you like your potato salad wetter or mushier, add a little bit more of either mayo and yogurt — a spoonful at a time — until you reach the consistency you like. It doesn’t take much to make it wetter, especially as the potatoes disintegrate with stirring. Bear in mind that yogurt makes it tangier. Give it a taste test before deciding on adding yogurt, mayo or both. This is the point to tweak the texture and consistency to suit yourself. If you think it’s got the right amount of dressing but want it mushier, just continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the potatoes disintegrate more and combine with the dressing.




This is an original recipe. I tried a coleslaw recipe many years ago that included apples. I thought that sounded like a good idea. Unfortunately the recipe wasn’t very good, but the idea stuck in my mind, so a couple of years ago I decided to try to make coleslaw from scratch—with nothing to guide me except taste. The apples and cabbage thing seemed natural to me: it’s a combination I’ve run across before. Then I thought of apple and raisin salad for some reason. If raisins go with apples and apples go with cabbage…but thinking of apple and raisin salad made me also think of carrot and raisin salad. It seemed like all these things from different dishes would go together. Hence the name “Frankenslaw”, a coleslaw put together with ingredients from different dishes. It can be made with just green cabbage, but adding some red cabbage lends more color (and can turn the dressing pink) and with the orange of the carrots it’s a very visually appealing dish.

1 head green cabbage, coarsely chopped
1/2 – 1 head red cabbage, coarsely chopped
2 organic carrots, grated
2 med. Gala apples, peeled and grated
1 cup raisins
1 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
2-3 Tbls lemon juice

If the head of red cabbage is small, you may want to use the whole cabbage. Wash vegetables. Peel apples and carrots. When slicing, chopping or prepping the cabbage, remove the core. Grate, chop or process the vegetables in whatever way you’re most comfortable with. I’ve done it both ways, using a food processor and slicing the cabbage thinly by hand then coarsely chopping. My current food processor sometimes tends to overdo things so though it’s more trouble I sometimes to do the cabbage by hand, rinsing the cabbage and spinning in a salad spinner between the slicing and chopping. I do it in batches, putting the cabbage in a ceramic or plastic bowl after coarsely chopping. Whether you like your slaw fine or coarse and how good your food processor is will determine which method you use. (My food processor has a slice slot on the flip side of the grating blade. That works much better than using the grating blade.)

I’ve noticed that I’m more likely to have pink(ish) dressing if I use the food processor for the red cabbage: it just seems to bleed into the dressing more. Carrots can also be run though a food processor or grated by hand: in this case I prefer the food processor. Peel the apples and grate however seems best to you. (I use the food processor.) It takes a bit of time to prepare the vegetables, but it’s not difficult even if you don’t have a food processor.

Frankenslaw: colorful and flavorful.

Frankenslaw: colorful and flavorful.

Stir all together well. This makes a lot. You’ll need a big bowl, a really big bowl, which is glass or plastic, not metal. My biggest bowl is usually filled to overflowing. Stirring in the dressing and mixing the vegetables evenly can be tricky in a full bowl. I’ve tried doing it with a big spoon and a salad fork/spoon, but the best way is to put on plastic food-handling gloves and turn over the mixture by hand until the dressing and vegetables are thoroughly mixed and evenly distributed.

Refrigerate, covered, in big plastic or ceramic bowl for at least 8 hours. Flavor improves over time. This is usually better if it’s made a day ahead of time.

Look for next Friday’s original cookout recipe: Potato Salad!

Last week’s original cookout recipe: BBQ Baked Beans