winner winner chicken dinner

No surprises here today–title and opening photo have given it all away. The latest run through Great-aunt Helen’s recipe box turned up a recipe written in a familiar hand. I was tickled to find a recipe attributed to my mom, … Continue reading

Say cheese (soufflé)!

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Another week, another riffle through Great-aunt Helen’s recipe box. (New to this series? The preceding link brings you up to speed.) Having thus far only made sweets and snacks from Helen’s decades-old recipe collection, I wanted to make a main … Continue reading

the evolution of supper: quail eggs, freekeh, DIY tomato sauce, and mac and cheese

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Summer schedules have yet to make any more sense to me than they did last time we visited. And I’d bet I’m not alone. Parents everywhere are shuttling their kiddos here, there, and everywhere, while also scrambling to keep up … Continue reading

t is for tofu

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An invite to play with tofu was too good to pass up. Today’s food for fun post is a collaboration with three other fun-loving bloggers. Shanna, of Curls and Carrots, pulled me into a “cooking through the alphabet” game she … Continue reading

campy food and more

My husband and I both camped when we were younger and want to enjoy these trips with our family as well. Yet, it went so poorly with babies that we set those plans aside a few years until our daughters were at a better age for travel. Last year we hit South Dakota and it went amazingly well–we wanted another week of camping this summer. So we headed to Minnesota’s North Shore, which offers miles of gorgeous Lake Superior views.

Hiking, shopping, tenting–all good. But my favorite part of camping–and travel in general–will always be the food. Memories of childhood camping include my mom planning menus and packing food in crates and coolers. Mom is far more organized than I, so my planning and packing efforts pale in comparison, but just the same I love to think through meal possibilities and pack accordingly.

Then there are meals out, which I like having at one-of-a-kind stops along the way. (Though there’s compromise as kids and husband appreciate the Taco Bells and Subways of the road.) I armed myself with a ripped-out feature from a local paper titled Destination Duluth: Where to eat right now, circling the places I wanted to hit. And…




Many of my husband’s family’s friends gave us camping gear as wedding gifts, most likely with the hope of taming the “city” in his “city girl” bride. One such gift was a camp-stove toaster, which toasted sourdough English muffins for egg sandwiches. We’d also brought an Italian-spiced bacon from a favorite meat market and I’m already planning a return trip for more.20130816_081949


Typical drive-in food at A & Dubs.

Chicken basket, fries, cole slaw. The butterscotch malt? Already gone!

Chicken basket, fries, cole slaw. The butterscotch malt? Already gone!

The Duluth Grill makes a great case for going your own way. Originally partners in the Ember’s chain, the owners tell of the day they ran out of pancake mix. Choosing to make their own ‘cakes from scratch–which tasted better and cost less–was a light-bulb moment. Their partnership with Ember’s eventually flamed out and they now have vegetable and herb gardens (the server’s shirts read “Veggies fresh from the parking lot.”) and serve imaginative fare–some out-there, some more down-home–all of it made onsite using local and organic ingredients. My one regret was not having room for the When Pigs Fly sundae: vanilla ice cream topped with cherrywood-smoked bacon, pecans, homemade caramel sauce, and Hawaiian red sea salt.

buffalo tofu strips

buffalo tofu strips

bison burger with homemade onion rings

bison burger with homemade onion rings

ratatouille over polenta sprinkled with goat cheese

ratatouille over polenta sprinkled with goat cheese

beet lemonade--surprisingly tasty!

beet lemonade–surprisingly tasty!

20130813_113627While not technically a lunch stop, I enjoyed wandering a downtown outpost of the Duluth Farmer’s Market. My favorite find: curry coconut granola.


My oldest daughter likes to have her night as head chef to serve up Girl Scout Gumbo (no scouts were harmed in the making of this dish, haha). A hearty mixture of potato, ground beef, bell pepper, alphabet soup, and onion, it goes over especially well when camping.

girl scout gumbo with a side of veg

girl scout gumbo with a side of veg

Hobo dinners are another childhood camping memory, so these fire pit-roasted beef-and-veggie packets were on our list. We changed it up by using chorizo instead of beef and I’ll never go back. The chorizo’s spices (and fat) gave the veggies immeasurable flavor and tenderness.

hobo dinner chorizo-style

hobo dinner chorizo-style

I’d read earlier about cooking breadsticks over a campfire, so had made up a ziploc of dry mix at home and added the liquids at the campsite. They were tricky to cook on a stick, as they tended to droop with the heat and fall into the fire. And cooking too close to the flames left them charred. What finally worked? Laying them in a skillet and turning them often.2013-08-12 18.37.09


banana boats with c chips, mini 'mallows, and cut-up caramel pieces

banana boats with c chips, mini ‘mallows, and cut-up caramel pieces

Banana boats and s’mores. Typical campfire treats, but the s’mores were extra special this year as I’d made graham crackers à la Smitten Kitchen before leaving home.

gimme s'more!

gimme s’more!

skidmarks on my heart

skidmarks on my heart

Positively Third Street Bakery: This tiny gem’s cookies sold out quickly. We never made it before noon in our two visits (to go back twice in five days says something about how badly we needed these cookies), so only had a few to choose from. Handwritten labels listed basic ingredients such as butter and sugar, but each variety had an extra “something.” Adventure, perhaps. Or Joy, Love, Good Times. Our favorite is the Skidmark: deep chocolate, hit of espresso, chocolate chips, etc. And the “special ingredient”? Burnt rubber–what else?

Betty’s Pies is state-famous (though the website claims world fame) for its North Shore location and crazy good pies. Just as fun is the kitschy blue-and-white checker decor.

apple, coconut cream, 5-layer chocolate a la Betty

apple, coconut cream, 5-layer chocolate à la Betty

Another bit of culinary fun my oldest brought to the trip was ice-cream-in-a-bag. In a 1-quart ziploc, she combined 1/2 cup milk (didn’t seem to matter if it was full-fat, skim, chocolate, nonfat half-and-half–everything worked), 2-4 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and pinch of salt. After sealing the bag, she put it in another ziploc and surrounded the sealed bag with rock salt and ice. Five or so minutes of tossing the bag from one hand to another (wrapping it in a towel makes it easier to handle) turned out top-notch soft-serve ice cream. Because we’d picked up malted milk balls at a candy shop that day, we crushed a few and mixed them into the ice cream for a bit of texture and extra flavor.

ice cream in under 10 minutes, better than DQ

ice cream in under 10 minutes, better than DQ

Northern Waters Smokehaus came highly recommended from multiple sources. A quick-order sandwich shop, they also smoke and sell their own meats and if I lived in Duluth it would be a regular stop. Their sandwiches are inventively named (my bahn faux mi layered Berkshire Ham, paté, carrot, cabbage, cilantro, quick pickles, hoisin, chili sauce, and butter–can you even imagine?); I beg you to click on the above link for a taste of their creativity.

a really good sandwich

a really good sandwich

Just for Fun

PhotoGrid_1376430421888Fizzy Waters focuses on sodas of all kinds–vintage and craft especially–as well as a smaller selection of old-fashioned candies. My daughters enjoyed a turn at the make-your-own-soda fountain and I’m giving my youngest the prize for most innovative with her version of Chocolate Sprite.

Duluth Coffee Co. is said to be the antithesis of Starbucks and I can see why with its dark and spare space. As a non-chain fan (see above), I adored it. This coffee is served all around town for good reason. Roasted in-house, it’s fragrant, well-balanced, deep, and dark. I took home a bag–despite the steep price tag–as I need that coffee magic every morning in my own kitchen.

We were glad to come home to warm beds and indoor toilets, but there is so much more food to be enjoyed that we’ll be back. I anticipate a Duluth Dining II post (camping optional) sooner rather than later.

culinary mash-up: chickpeas, margaritas, shabu-shabu, ice cream cake

This weekend I enjoyed one of the craziest–and most fun–meals I’ve yet to experience. Gracious friends invited us over for shabu-shabu–a Japanese dish that owes its name (if Wikipedia is to be believed) to the sound the food makes as it cooks in bubbling broth–along with the host’s amazing margaritas. Already known for his margaritas, our friend had kicked things up a notch after a recent trip to Cozumel. He promised they were even Better now that he was using a homemade lime sour mix. I was asked to bring dessert and also slipped in an app as I’d just seen a Must-Make-This-Now recipe in a recent Bon Appetit.

So, we have Bacony Roasted Chickpeas: a Mediterranean-American-Italian appetizer.

tasting as good as they look

tasting as good as they look

They were simple to make–just a handful of ingredients–and went down easy with the made-to-order margaritas.

margarita anyone?

margarita anyone?

The shabu-shabu was also great fun. Think fondue with an ethnic, less kitschy twist. Our hostess had set it up perfectly: Both halves of the pot held boiling broth, though one half also had a few drops of hot sauce added. Ingredients from the trays of prepped food (gorgeous shrimp, fish balls, mochi, shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, tofu, sprouts, udon) were tossed into the broth with chopsticks, then fished out when cooked as desired. Between “interactive eating” and the fabulous ingredients, this meal was as stellar as they come. As we enjoyed tossing and fishing (and eating), we patted ourselves on the back: save the tequila in the drinks, this was crazy-healthy party food.

Shabu Shabu


boiling broth

boiling broth

Those back-pats ended, though, when the ice-cream cakes came out. With extra mint-chocolate chip ice cream on hand, I’d made two layer cakes of chocolate cookie crumb crusts (14 or so ounces cookies crushed to crumbs and mixed with 1/4 cup melted butter, then pressed into a 13x9ish-inch pan and frozen), a thick layer of minty ice cream, generous drizzles of homemade hot fudge sauce, and clouds of sweetened whipped cream. With cases of Girl Scout cookies in the basement, I couldn’t resist topping the cakes with cookie pieces. One cake might have done it for the amount we needed; I made two so I could stir creme de menthe (3 or so tablespoons) into the ice cream that went in the cake for the grown-ups. It was Grasshopper Cake, after all.



Adding the pepperoni pizza ordered in for the kids, this was quite a feast. A culinary mash-up indeed. Here’s to great meals and great friends and great times. If you want to entertain, but worry think that you can’t come up with the Perfect menu, take a page from this post. The foods don’t have to go together. They need only to be made (or purchased) and eaten in the spirit of friendship.

summer (and veggies) in a bowl

I’m a huge fan of the local paper’s food section. The Minneapolis Star Tribune has won awards for its weekly Taste section and I rely on it for updates on the local food scene as well as the occasional recipe I want to try. Even when out of town, I ask friends or family to pick me up a copy of the Thursday Taste as I’m obsessive enough that I don’t want to miss an issue. (Yes,  I could get it all online as well; but, it’s just not the same. I like my hard copy reads.)

With a counter-top full of garden tomatoes (some ours, some gifts from friends), a gazpacho recipe found in a recent Taste was a must-make. Besides the tomatoes, the recipe also contained garlic (which I doubled), onion (though I used red instead of sweet), bell pepper, and cucumber–all veggies I had on hand. The soup was pureed, which also appealed as I love to use my immersion blender. The article, by food writer Meredith Deeds, hailed the recipe as one she uses to convince her kids to eat veggies. I was not so successful as neither girl (ages 10 and 6) had any interest in eating pureed tomatoes, even after their obligatory taste. And while my husband had a bowl, he wasn’t a big fan.

But I loved it. A quick garnish of a small pile of chilled smoked salmon and a sprinkle of roasted kale nudged my bowl of red into the “this is heaven” category. With all of the raw veggies in my bowl (as well as a touch of olive oil, which make the antioxidants in the tomatoes more easily absorbed), it couldn’t be any more good-for-you. I hope to eventually get my family on board as well, but even if no, I’ll continue to make this gorgeous soup whenever I have an abundance of fresh summer veggies. It’s a keeper.

lovely gazpacho topped with smoked salmon and served alongside roasted summer veggies

Lovely Summer Gazpacho

Adapted from a recipe by Meredith Deeds, veteran cookbook author who co-wrote 300 Sensational Soups.

  • 1 1/2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces smoked salmon, flaked

In large bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, onion and garlic, vinegar and oil. Puree with immersion blender. (Or combine and puree in traditional blender.)  Refrigerate, covered, until chilled. Season with salt and pepper. Divide evenly among serving bowls. Top each serving with salmon. Makes 4 servings.

making a meal that ends with trifle

We have weekend guests and tonight seemed like a great night to stay in, watch the Olympic opening ceremonies, and enjoy a meal. I ran around all day doing errands and such, so had no time to work on a meal. Yet tonight we enjoyed French Dip sandwiches, baby carrots, and a sort of-authentic English trifle. All homemade (ok, rolls for the sandwiches were already in the freezer) and all satisfying and delicious.

My point isn’t to make a big deal about the food we ate; rather, I want to impress that making a good meal doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort. With a well-stocked pantry and a certain level of comfort in the kitchen, healthy, well-balanced, and tasty menus aren’t hard to pull off. I’d imagine I’m preaching to the choir on this as most who read these posts are already turning out fantastic food on a regular basis. But if there are those out there (I’m talking to you, sister-in-law) who think that cooking is a lot of work, I’m here to say that it doesn’t have to be.

About that pantry and comfort level: The well-stocked pantry is subjective. What my family likes to eat is different from what yours does, so only you know what it makes sense to have on hand at all times. The comfort level means you’re not afraid to mistakes and you have a good handle on cooking techniques and how to combine ingredients. Familiarity with and access to recipe ideas help, too. (Which, as a reader of food blogs, you already know.)

Our Olympic feast tonight started with a quick flip through a favorite slow cooker cookbook, which turned up a recipe for French Dip sandwiches. Calling for only a few ingredients (soy sauce, water, a few dried herbs), it was simple to throw together this morning. I took out a package of rolls from the freezer to thaw and asked my husband to pick up a bag of baby carrots on the way home from work.

Dessert was a bit trickier, though only because I hadn’t planned ahead. The original thought was to serve ice cream. But somehow this afternoon I got to thinking trifle and when I remembered I had pound cake in the freezer, there was no turning back. In the half-hour before dinner, I cubed slightly thawed pound cake, then tossed it lightly with about 1/4 cup each sherry and Marsala wines. I’d picked up cream for the whipped layers, but remembered after doing a quick recipe search that trifles also have pudding layers. I made vanilla pudding (from-scratch was easy enough, but of course box mixes work, too), chilled it, then layered it up in a glass bowl along with the soaked cake cubes, blueberries, sliced strawberries, and whipped cream.

The trifle was a hit and when I looked at the meal as a whole I was pleased. We ate well and I hadn’t done much in the way of blood, sweat, and tears. The meal came together well because my pantry was stocked (beef, rolls, carrots, pound cake, wine, berries) and I knew enough about ingredients, menus, and recipes to turn vision into reality. I also knew that if something went horribly wrong, we could always order pizza. If the trifle was unappetizing, we had Girl Scout cookies in the freezer. No worries, right?

There’s a lot I’m anxious about in my life (moms are like that, I think), but putting a good meal on the table is not one of them. And I’d love it if everyone who thinks making great meals from scratch is only for those with great talent and lots of time know that it’s more about thinking things through, being prepared, and jumping in to cook. Seems a philosophy that would serve well in most situations, and it certainly holds true in the kitchen.

trifle in a bowl

trifle in a cup

bison grilling

A few years after college, I decided–for a variety of reasons–to go vegetarian. I was good about subbing legumes etc. for meat, so felt I was doing the right thing by my health. But, on the advice of an acupuncturist (go figure), I eventually parted with my vegetarian ways. I still remember how difficult it was to take the first bites of a pork chop after a few years off. It got easier somewhere along the line and I now very much enjoy animal proteins.

That said, I also try to eat lots of veggies, whole grains, etc. (And dessert–must save room for dessert.) So, I enjoy animal protein in relatively small quantities. Then there’s the source: After watching Food, Inc (sensationalistic for sure, but influenced my buying habits just the same), I stay away from meats sold by corporate farms. Our beef comes from a friend and I like to find chicken, pork, and the like at farmers’ markets. It costs more, but when you don’t eat much of it, it’s worth the splurge.

On a recent farmers’ market trip, I paid the big bucks for a one-pound package of ground bison. I’ve enjoyed this meat before as it’s leaner than beef and has (to me) a more interesting flavor. It went into our freezer and was there today when I asked my usual “what’s for dinner?” question.

I pulled the bison to thaw earlier in the day, then (gently) mixed it with a packaged seasoning along with a slug of red wine and Worcestershire sauce (love Worcestershire). I made six patties from the one-pound package–not quite fast food quarter-pounders. They grilled up spectacularly well with loads of flavor and not a lot of fat. My girls had no qualms eating bison and my husband is always happy to see red meat on the table.

As someone who has studied nutrition and loves all things food, I try to keep meals varied and healthy. It follows, then, that I should be doing more with vegetarian fare. And occasionally I do. But it was plenty fun to grill up bison tonight.

lined up on the grill

bison patties

plated up

tofu on the table

Before kids, I ate an über-healthy diet. No meat, lots of veggies, regular intake of fatty fish, legumes, and whole grains. I still had the sweet tooth I do now, but figured that my overall low-calorie and nutrient-rich diet more than balanced any high-fat, high-sugar indiscretions.

Then came kids. Pregnancy threw my body for a loop as I was completely turned off all vegetables. Bizarre. I also developed ravenous protein cravings and anything whole-grain had WAY too much flavor. Having food issues when pregnant isn’t uncommon and it’s temporary, but each pregnancy still threw off my healthy-eating groove and it takes work to go back. I’m glad to love fresh produce and whole grains again, but returning to occasional meatless meals has yet to happen.

Which is why tonight’s supper was so much fun. I bought tofu a week or so ago, thinking it would be good to cook with again. I found a recipe in my collection I had clipped from an old Vegetarian Times and set about to make Barbecued Tofu. I was trying to use up an overabundance of zucchini, summer squash, and bell peppers, so subbed those in for the veggies called for in the recipe. I made a few other tweaks and this is what I came up with.

barbecued tofu and sweet brown rice

The flavors were good, though a homemade barbecue sauce would have made it even tastier. My husband dutifully ate a serving, though his preference would have been something more meat-and-potatoes. And while I would love to report that my girls gobbled it down, they weren’t thrilled with tonight’s meal.

It’s on me to finish the leftovers (of which there are plenty–this recipe makes a lot), but I don’t mind as this dish is versatile. It’ll be tasty stuffed into pitas, wrapped in tortillas, tossed with pasta, or served over mixed greens. But tonight, alongside brown rice, it made a warm, comforting, and über-healthy meal.

Barbecued Tofu

  • 1 (14- to 16-ounce) package firm tofu
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 each red, yellow, and orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 each zucchini and yellow summer squash, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 to 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 400°F. Coat large baking sheet lightly with olive oil.

Drain tofu; pat dry on clean kitchen towel. Cut tofu into bite-size pieces.

On baking sheet, toss together vegetables. Drizzle with some of barbecue sauce. Toss to coat, adding sauce as needed. Add tofu to baking sheet; drizzle with sauce as needed. Roast, stirring gently once or twice, 20 minutes or until vegetables are desired doneness. Season with salt and black pepper. Makes 8 servings.

un pique-nique

It was just my girls and me for supper tonight as my husband worked late. A bag of lentils in my pantry had me thinking lentil soup and a gift of a tomato flat meant that BLTs would accompany.

When mealtime rolled around, my youngest asked if we could eat outside. It’s been a beautiful and unseasonably warm 80°F day and al fresco dining seemed a lovely idea.

The components were simple and the picnic was served up on our front lawn. The girls enjoyed the sandwiches and at least tried the soup. Reheated (frozen) green beans added the vegetable group. Leftover cookies (which just keep getting better) are always a welcome finish to an outdoor meal. Nothing fancy. No waterfall or other picturesque nature in the background. But it was an easy way to freshen up mealtime. And not having to sweep up under the table? Bonus.

taking it outdoors–soup, sandwich, cookies

Café Lentil Soup

  • Olive oil
  • 4 stalks celery, sliced
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 3 cups lentils
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (10-ounce) box frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Splash sherry vinegar (could also use red wine vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper

In large stockpot, heat small amount of oil over medium-high heat. Add celery and carrots; sauté 3 to 5 minutes or until slightly softened. Add lentils, garlic, onion powder, and bay leaf; sauté 2 to 3 minutes or until garlic is fragrant. Add chicken stock and water; cover. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer 20 to 30 minutes or until lentils are tender, adding additional stock or water as needed. Stir in spinach and parsley; cook until heated through. Season with vinegar, salt, and pepper. Cook 5 to 10 minutes to blend flavors. Adjust seasoning as desired. Remove bay leaf before serving. Makes 8 servings.

chow mein circa 1980s

I’m sure there are other children of the ’80s who have this memory: A hole-in-the-wall (no sit-down dining, only take-out) Chinese restaurant where my parents occasionally picked up an order of chow mein and rice for supper. We transferred the food from its white take-out containers to our dinner plates and I remember thinking it was fun eating directly from take-out containers. Such rebellion. Our spot was named Wong’s and of course it’s long gone.

Even without Wong’s and spots like it, Asian food is easier to find now more than ever and its scope is so much broader (stir-fries, spring rolls, noodle dishes, rice bowls, pho, and then some). But back in the day, in suburban middle America at least, chow mein was plenty ethnic and exotic.

Because I enjoyed that chow mein as a child, it’s still something I seek out. I love the fall-apart-in-your-mouth celery, the savory chunks of meat, the tiny flecks of onion, and, most of all, the thickened and savory gravy that binds it all together. Served on a pile of steamy rice, it’s comfort food that brings me back.

I’ve never found a chow mein recipe that creates what I remember this dish to be, so I tend to make it up as I go along when the craving hits. Chow mein was on tonight’s menu as it seemed a good vehicle for the leftover chicken in our fridge. I managed to get proportions right (doesn’t always happen) and was pleased with the final dish. It’s a healthier version of the chow mein of my childhood as it’s loaded with veggies, leaving meat as accent. I also tossed in baby corn as it was in my pantry and I’m a huge Chinese 5-spice fan so had to use it. It’s not exotic and it’s not fancy. But it is hearty, healthy, and full of flavor. And for me, it’s comfort.

chow mein cooked up in cast-iron

on the plate

Chicken Chow Mein

Amounts for all ingredients are approximate.

  • 1 teaspoon peanut oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons chicken stock
  • 4 cups chopped celery
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chopped baby corn, drained (sliced water chestnuts would also work well)
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated gingerroot
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
  • 1/4 cup stir-fry sauce (I used a tasty black stir-fry sauce which is bottled and sold by a local chef)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed into 2 to 3 tablespoons water
  • Sliced almonds
  • Soy sauce

In large skillet, heat oil over medium (or so) heat. Add onion and garlic; stir-fry 3 minutes or until fragrant and onion starts to soften, adding stock as needed to keep pan from drying out.  Add celery, baby corn, gingerroot, and 5-spice. Stir-fry 5 minutes, continuing to add stock as needed, until celery starts to soften. Stir in stir-fry sauce; cook until vegetables are coated and celery is tender. Add cornstarch slurry; cook, stirring frequently, until sauce is bubbly and thickened. Serve sprinkled with almonds. Season with soy sauce as desired. Makes 4 servings.

dumplings, brownies, and bundt cake

We set out for my in-laws today and arrived just in time for supper. My mother-in-law (m-i-l), a retired home-ec teacher, is a whiz in the kitchen. We were served one of my husband’s favorite meals–potato dumplings. A nod to my in-laws’ Norwegian heritage, potato dumplings consist of a chunk of ham surrounded with a thick coating of flour and potato. The coating is shaped into a ball around the ham and the dumpling is then simmered in beef broth to cook through. The final dumpling is fluffy, though densely packed, and 3ish inches in diameter. One makes a meal. Seasoned with salt and pepper (and dipped in ketchup when on my plate), potato dumplings aren’t bad. But I’ll never be as fond of them as is my husband. I learned to make them once, as a new bride, but made my first batch when pregnant with my oldest. “Morning” sickness struck that night and I never again made a batch of potato dumplings. My very kind m-i-l knows this story and is good enough to make me a baked potato and slice or two of ham when she serves potato dumplings.

Tonight, the dumplings shared the table with old-school farm food: homemade oatmeal bread, tossed green salad, and cooked broccoli and carrots. We enjoyed a wonderful meal. The kicker, though, was dessert. My m-i-l brought out a pan of brownies, an entire Bundt cake, and scoops of ice cream. All for our family of four. We were thrilled with the home-baked goodies (though she confessed the cake came from a box) as well as with the extravagance and heartiness of the meal. We were welcomed with feasting. What more could you ask for? (Though tomorrow I’m going to need to walk this meal off.)

Potato Dumplings

  • Beef bouillon
  • 4 cups grated peeled potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 (1- to 1 1/2-inch) chunks lean ham

Bring stockpot two-thirds full of bouillon to a boil.

Meanwhile, in bowl, stir together potatoes, all-purpose and whole wheat flours, baking soda, and salt until just combined. With damp hands, mound fistful of potato mixture around each chunk ham to make 8 dumplings.

Drop dumplings into simmering broth; simmer partially covered 30 to 45 minutes or until cooked through. Remove with slotted spoon to serve. Makes 8 dumplings.

the Potato Dumpling, veggies, and homemade oatmeal bread

brownies–a chocolate bonanza

vanilla Bundt cake


There’s a rhythm to the kitchen. After a few evenings of full-on home-cooked meals, the refrigerator holds leftovers that need to be eaten. This means cooking takes a back seat to “meal assembly” for the next few evenings. Instead of serving the same thing multiple nights in a row (meatloaf AGAIN?), I have a better shot at getting the family to eat things a second time around when the leftovers are re-assembled. Take tonight’s supper.

If that leftover meatloaf wasn’t eaten soon, it was headed for the trash. A half-loaf of mulitgrain French bread was leftover from the weekend and a small casserole dish of leftover pizza sauce was taking up freezer space. Sounded like the makings of pizza bread to me.

After slicing the bread horizontally in half, I brushed the cut sides with olive oil. The bread then toasted at 300°F for a few minutes while I quickly browned slices of the meatloaf. The bread was topped with thinly sliced fresh mozzarella and the meatloaf. This returned to the oven to melt the cheese and warm all ingredients.

While the pizza bread warmed in the oven, the (leftover) pizza sauce was stirred into a sauté of thinly sliced onion and colored bell peppers. I spooned this bell pepper-tomato sauce alongside the pizza breads and called it supper. (The sauce went on the side as I figured my girls would at least try the sauce if it was on the side. If it went over the pizza bread, they’d most likely turn their cute little noses up at the whole dish.)

Leftover (frozen) green beans added a bit more veggie to the meal and also ensured my girls would eat vegetables, seeing how they’d be passing on the bell pepper-tomato sauce after their token bite. Tonight’s meal will not go down in my family’s “greatest meals of all time” memories. Just the same, we enjoyed a fun–if basic–meal with good flavors. It had the whole-grain carb, protein, dairy, and lots of vegetable. And there’s now room in the refrigerator for when the kitchen rhythm picks up again.