Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Potluck Stars, Cooks and Casseroles

Marcy with her  Mac and Cheese Style Cauliflower. Recipe  link below.
Growing up in Minnesota, potlucks erupted in the Lutheran church basement a couple times a year, and as I recall:
  • They were called "covered-dishes" and/or "hot dishes."
  • A lot of the dishes included corn.
  • Jell-O with miniature marshmallows was a given.
  • Sometimes the Jell-O included sliced celery or grated carrots, health food.
  • Women (always women bringing those covered dishes) prided themselves on casserole cozies, little blankies to keep their dishes warm.
  • Spam was not prohibited. 
  • Coleslaw was sweet. Exceedingly sweet.
  • Cakes were made from box mixes.
The potluck idea, sadly,  didn't transfer to my parents' social life, but it has somehow become a significant part of mine. Our rural Southern Oregon potlucks bear little resemblance to the church potlucks of yore.
  • First, they are parties, an excuse for friends to eat and drink and rant. Dance, play ping pong, bocce ball, watch the Ducks on TV. Talk. Cry. Philosophize.
  • Bringing something good to eat tis he price of admission.
  • Guests with the time and inclination knock out dishes that are Sunset-magazine worthy, even with made-up recipes. There's always at least one drool-inducing, rave producing creation on the buffet table.
  • Fine wines have been known to appear. And then quickly disappear.
We partied around potluck food last weekend. Gail, the hostess, sent an email to let us know what she was making and asked guests to weigh in with their culinary plan so we all didn't bring dessert. A relatively small group, here's how the accidental menu shook out:

 with notes, kudos, jabs, and a recipe or two

Smoked pork roast with BBQ sauce, fantastic. But you need a Traeger (smoker) grill to follow this recipe.  Also, Gail ALWAYS tweaks. "I smoked two fresh picnic roasts all day before the party. Cut them up and just reheated in the crock pot with a bottle of what ever bbq sauce we had on hand."  

Gail's spectacular smokey baked beans.
Hot and smokey baked beans. STAR of the show! Best baked beans ever. Of   course, Gail added her own touches such as using more bacon, cooking the beans hours longer than the recipe specified, but at 250 degrees, AND adding the pork roast bones to the pot. Wow. She also started with dried beans and soaked them overnight. Recipe here.

Morel-and-truffle gratinee, appetizer This sounded like a great idea but Gail was the first to say it was disappointing. The mushrooms were from the local woods, too. Emeril doesn't usually produce a clunker, but this one? Clunk.

Gail also made the benches around
the bocce ball court. 

Dr, Mike and his mushroom soup.
Mike's Mushroom Soup. He most often contributes something mushroom, always tasty, because he's the mushroom king, founder and chief scientist at Mycorrhizal Applications, Inc, an international company based in Grants Pass, OR. His is a fascinating and inspirational story and I could literally write a book about this guy. Here's what he says about his soup and the shrooms.

What's in it: Wild rice, chicken stock  chicken, carrots, celery, spinach,
garlic, yellow feet chanterelles,  belly buttons,  hedgehogs, maiitakes, and oyster mushrooms with shiitake powder to thicken. Many of these mushrooms grow in nearby woods and are sold at the local farmer's market. Plus Mike, and many other friends, are avid and successful mushroom hunters.

Why mushrooms? Mike writes: "Shrooms have a lot of micronutrients and about a dozen complex polysaccharides that stimulate your body's ability to fight rogue cellsand pathogens."

How does he know? Aside from the fact that he's a Ph.D mycologist, Mike was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer more than five years ago, practically a death sentence. He underwent all the surgeries, radiation, and chemo of traditional medicine plus accupuncture.  But he also treated himself, and continues to do so, with a a variety of mushrooms plus antioxidant foods including an enormous amount of dried strawberries. He eats or drinks something every three hours to keep the rogue cells at bay, plus he keeps himself physically, mentally, and emotionally fit. 

Fruit and cheese plate
Eileen , Mike's wife and business partner, brought the ubiquitous cheese and fruit plate, but this one was top notch: gourmet cheeses, super sweet crisp apple, and a pressed date/fig/nut thing. It all  disappeared quickly.
Ok. So there's always the person who didn't have time to cook, but going to Safeway? No problem! Dave, usually a fine kitchen performer, brought those fine white  buns. And don't give him any crap about it.

Mac and Cheese.Style Cauliflower.  Super! Marcy included some broccoli, and the bread crumbs were gluten-free. 

Fancy Chocolate Chip Cookies with Fresh Strawberries, a wonderful and simple dessert. But beautiful Susan was too shy to be photographed.

Springtime kale, asparagus, avocado, and cabbage salad with sweet and tart sesame dressing. 
Guess who made this? Yes. Guilty. I can't stop it with the kale! And mixing it with avocado and asparagus proved to be pretty dang good. Since this is an original recipe, I need to link to my blog. But first I have the write the damn thing!

And, a couple hours later, the recipe!

Spring Salad - Asparagus, Avocado, Kale and Cabbage

It doesn't seem right to mix kale, asparagus, cabbage and avocado in the same raw salad. Throw in a bunch of dried cranberries and some chopped garlic chives and it could be an embarrassment.

But! I had all those things, including the kale, asparagus and garlic chives growing in the garden, a potluck to go to and not a lot of time. Plus I know my friends. They'll drink plenty of wine and it won't much matter.

It turns out the combo got some generous comments and I thought it was quite tasty, thank you very much. I will  make this salad again soon and put it on my ongoing spring menu when the asparagus spears are piercing the garden soil and avocados from the south are on sale in the markets.

Asparagus, Avocado, Kale and Cabbage Salad with Sweet and Tart Sesame Dressing
Serves 10

1 pound or more of asparagus, tough parts of stalks discarded
1 large avocado, cut into  chunks
1/3 medium-sized red cabbage, thinly sliced and chopped
1/4 medium sized green cabbage, thinly sliced and chopped
1 bunch of kale, any variety, rinsed, dried and chopped into small pieces
 handful of dried cranberries
 handful of roasted pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts or other nuts
 a bunch of garlic chives, if you can get those sweet tasty grass-like stalks, or  regular chives, or sliced green onions
 1/4 to 1/2 lime or lemon to drizzle over avocado
 Dressing (recipe below)

Slice the tops off the asparagus spears on the diagonal and set aside. Cut the remaining stalks into smaller pieces.
Slice and chop the cabbages, chop the kale.
Halve the avocado, remove the pit, slice the flesh while still in the skin, then cut across the slices to get the size chunks you desire. Scoop avocado out with a spoon and drizzle with juice of lemon or lime. Set aside.
Slice into bits the chives, onions or whatever you're using,

To assemble the salad, mix the cabbages and kale in a large shallow bowl. Put a few tablespoons of dressing on the cabbages and kale. Mix well and let marinate for up to 30 minutes.

Arrange the asparagus heads in a radial pattern from the center. Put the rest of the cut-up asparagus around the inside edges of the bowl.  Arrange the avocado pieces between the asparagus spears. Sprinkle cranberries, seeds or nuts on top, and finish with chopped chives, onions, or whatever. Drizzle with more salad dressing and serve.

Sweet and Tart Sesame Dressing
4-6 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil or avocado oil, or a combo
1/3 cup toasted sesame oil. (gotta be toasted)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup Worcesteshire sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar, or half lemon juice, half rice vinegar
1 - 2 TBSP Dijon mustard
2 -3 TBSP pure maple syrup. Sugar or honey may be substituted, but taste before adding the third tablespoon.

Use a food processor to chop the garlic, then add everything else and process til oil and other liquids are mixed. Taste and adjust seasonings.

NOTE: This is way more than needed for one salad. It stores in the refrigerator for several weeks and is good on any salad or as a marinade for roasting veggies. Or just cut the recipe in half.

Despite the fact that our asparagus patch produces so much that we actually get tired of eating it, I've neglected to post other asparagus recipes. Next spring I'll rectify that; I feel a post about spicy pickled asparagus coming on. And maybe that asparagus and gruyere quiche.

In the meantime, if you're looking for asparagus recipes, here's a fabulous collection plus a definitive guide to everything you ever wanted to know about this delicious vegetable posted on a useful site called Quick Easy Cook.

For now, I'm good for a load of tasty recipes on using kale.

More kale recipes on Ordinary Life

Kale chips!
Asian Mexican Fusion Kale Salad
Creamed kale with dried tomatoes
Kale and Yoga Eggs Fritatta
Killer Kale Salad with Sesame Dressing
Savory Eggs, Kale, Prosciuitto Breakfast
Kick Butt Kale Soup
Key to a Happy Marriage (includes kale!)
Spring Smoothie
Quinoa Kale Salad

The potluck party that inspired this recipe.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Garden Greens and Ham and Cheese. Jeez! Low carb, too.

HEAL!!! And it will, after a month of neglect as we traveled. And, of course, it was winter. All things considered, the garden is doing fine after our absence. Yes indeed. Feed us, please. The is the first winter/spring  in a long time that we haven't relied on a cold frame. Cold frames bring on the greens earlier and in greater amounts. We knew we'd be gone during prime harvest, so didn't bother to put the heavy frame in place. Maybe next year.

Sweet little harvest of lettuce, winter spinach, garlic chives, kale flowers, kale, asparagus etc. Make you hungry for a dinner salad? Me too.
This is how our main garden looked today.

This is how it looks in mid-season,  mid-July. But even the tiny piece of productive land currently producing supplies us with greens several  times a week. Most years we use a cold frame, which allows way greater production than open-air planting. The message: no matter where you live, with protection and sun exposure, you can grow spinach, lettuce, kale, etc. etc. during late winter and spring. In most climates. Those same crops do not do well in summer, as heat makes them bolt and get bitter and ask, Why don't you  just grow tomatoes?

The message: no matter where you live, with frost protection and southern sun exposure, you can grow spinach, lettuce, kale, etc. etc. during winter and spring. In most climates. 

To make a dinner salad, chop kale, cabbage, chives, broccoli, etc. That cabbage? Gotta confess. Green Giant. They have apparently dropped "jolly" from the name, leaving that to Santa.

Grate Swiss cheese and cut up ham. The ham has a story.

The ham was not procured from the grocery store, but resulted from a barter between our doctor friend and a patient. He often barters services for meat and such. The doctor and his wife couldn't see consuming an entire hog, however, and offered to sell us half. We accepted. The hog was butchered and smoked locally. We baked the ham when my sister and her husband visited a few days ago. As a result, we sent them along with ham sandwiches, enjoyed together a delicious ham and scalloped potato dinner, ham and eggs for breakfast, a huge batch of ham and bean soup (several meals in the freezer) plus our dinner salad. And more.
Assemble veggies and top with ham and cheese and dressing of choice. I use our go-to dressings:
Laurie's sesame dressing and chipotle sauce, mixed.
Laurie's dressing is here.http://ordinarylife-mk.blogspot.com/search?q=laurie%27s+dressing So good!

Thanks for checking out this post. Other low-carb entries— every post I ever wrote about diet and food—is probably contained in the link below.

However! Google Blogger does not seem to care about preserving photos, which annoys me. I am going to see about migrating to another blog host, perhaps WordPress. In the meantime, if you feel like looking back on a low-carb life, photos or not.....here you go.