Zippy Beet Salad

In which you can watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.

It’s time to break out the recipes that make you go hmmmm….

 

One of the things that helped foster my dislike for Jell-o (other than old church ladies who put mayonnaise on it instead of Cool-Whip) was the meat gelatin I ate while visiting a friend in Poland for Easter.  It was layers of vegetables and meat and hardboiled eggs ensconced in gelatin.  There was some sort of sauce to put on top.  I’m sure it’s fancy gourmet food.  At another time in my life, in another place, it might’ve been amazing.  At that point in time, however, it was just not my thing.  DSCN3154When we read literature about Russia and Poland, we think of foods like cabbage rolls and borscht.  (See what I did there?  Linked the two thoughts) Cold weather vegetables that store well.  Which makes this whole recipe make a lot more sense.  So put on your fur coat, study up on a little Boris and Natasha and get ready for this recipe.

I did not pickle any beets this year.  (Or really any other year, although I think I have a recipe for pickled beets that I should make.)  We resorted to buying a jar of pickled beets at the grocery store.  The girl was being extra helpful and tried to unload the grocery cart.  Despite warning her, she dropped a full jar of pickled beets on the unyielding tile floor of the grocery store.  Nothing like the smell of vinegar and embarrassment. DSCN3178

As you get to the point of finely slicing cabbage, just grate it in the food processor like the onion.  I can never slice cabbage thinly enough for my own taste.  I even have some decent knives (that might need to be sharpened), but I still can’t get it to the point I like it.  Maybe I just find thick cabbage or something?  If you don’t do this, you will end up with the mess that I got.  DSCN3172

Zippy Beet Salad could actually be good.  I mean, yeah, it’s weird, there is no getting around that.  But the thing that threw it off most was the cabbage.  It was long and stringy and there was a lot of it.  More than there should be for the small amount of gelatinized beet juice.

You will notice from the pictures that I tried to mold this salad.  My darling Mother-in-Law sent me her favorite Jell-o mold.  It didn’t work so well for me on this recipe.  I ‘d try it again with one of those creamy salads with things like crushed pineapple and marshmallows.  But you can see the star on the top.  DSCN3153

If you don’t like beets, this will probably not be the dish that will change your mind about it.  If you do…try it.  It’s not the worst thing you’ll put in your mouth.

Zippy Beet Salad

 

Cranberry Fluff

In which I get advice from a coworker.

Isn’t there something so nice about the word “Fluff”?  It’s soft and comforting and towels out of the dryer.  When someone tells you that a “fluff” is on the menu, you know what to expect.  Something soft, puffy, creamy, and cloyingly sweet, perhaps with marshmallows and definitely with whipped cream or Cool Whip.  At nearly any deli counter in America, you can pick up a plastic tub filled with pistachio pineapple fluff.  (Sometimes the salads are called “Ambrosia” instead of “fluff”, but we all know what they mean.)DSCN3235I found this recipe when I was looking for recipes to bring to our friends’ house for Thanksgiving dinner.  I scoured 11 different recipes looking for the perfect dish to bring along with my Cherry Meringue, Pumpkin, and Apple pies.  I asked a number of coworkers for their favorite thing to eat at Thanksgiving and one of them mentioned “Cranberry Fluff”.  I had never heard of it.  When I called my grandma to ask about it, she fondly remembered it as one of her favorites.  How could I not make it after that? DSCN3236As an aside, that was such a good conversation with my grandma.  I love talking to her about her food memories and bonding with her that way.  We chatted for a decent amount of time about the blog.  I hope she knows that she’s really the inspiration for it.

 

I had a few minor modifications.  My apple was sweeter than I was expecting it to be.  The grocery store didn’t have green grapes that day, so I used red ones.  I didn’t read through all the instructions and didn’t let the cranberries, marshmallows, and sugar sit overnight.  I let them sit on the counter for a couple of hours instead.  The purpose of this is really just to soften everything and ensure that there are no big chunks of marshmallow.DSCN3239

 

So the verdict…holy buckets.  This was easily the best fluff salad that I’ve had.  It’s not as sweet and mushy as a lot of fluff salads.  The fruit and nuts add texture.  One of the kids thought the “pink fluff” was better than the “green fluff”.  It was good enough that I didn’t mind eating the leftovers (which were gone before I had to go back to work.)  It made a nice change from super tart cranberries.  It was sort of like a Waldorf salad, but not mayonnaise-y.  DSCN3238All in all, this dish is a keeper.  Get yourself some Wisconsin cranberries and make this one.  I think it’s a better dish than the Cooked Cranberry Salad.  (And in case you didn’t read about it before, the teacup is Wedgwood that I found at the thrift shop for less than $1.  I love the color, I love the pattern, it coordinates with my dining room and the rest of my blue and white dishes.)

Cranberry Fluff

Sauerkraut In A Hurry

In which I mention that friend that wanted to be mentioned…

I have this friend that has an amazing German heritage.  Her family speaks German and sometimes when trying to talk “secretly” in front of people they will speak in German.  Her grandma forgets that I understand German also, which is why I found out that her grandma lost her teeth on the way to the birthday party.  “Ich habe meine Zahne verloren!” She exclaimed upon entering.  I tried to stifle my giggle, but tend to have a very expressive face.

I wish I had made this dish when she was coming over, but instead I made it when my brother was here.  We also have amazing German heritage, but our celebration of the culture has a lot more to do with sausages and beer than it does language.  (That might also be the Wisconsin background.  It’s pretty indistinguishable, really.)  Regardless, it’s an excuse we didn’t even need to eat brats and sauerkraut.

You are going to have to excuse these terrible pictures.  They are from the time where I was still learning how to use the basics of my camera.

DSCN2627

The sauerkraut here is not something you do in a hurry, regardless of what the recipe says.  To get it to the point where I felt it was done, it took at least a half hour, maybe longer.  Maybe their idea of a hurry was different than mine?  I mean, they are making Jell-O salads that take all day.  These are not things that a working mom can do on a limited schedule.

Ok, so taste.  Have you had a French choucroute garnie? Because it’s like that.  I’m sure that doesn’t help a lot of you.  Here’s what Wikipedia says about it.  If you don’t feel like clicking over, it’s sauerkraut, sausages, potatoes, onions, and beer all cooked together for a nice long time and best served with mustard (not the yellow stuff, the good stuff).  The long cooking time mellows the bite of the sauerkraut and everything sort of melts into each other.  This has amazing similarities to that dish, but much quicker.  It’s kind of like sauerkraut for beginners.

When you have time to make this “in a hurry” dish, you may want to put on your leiderhosen, put on some polka, make some spaetzle, and indulge.  Even if it wasn’t my brother’s favorite, I thought it was pretty darn good.Sauerkraut in A Hurry

Frozen Salad

Growing up, we had these great neighbors with whom we always had fantastic potlucks.  Our neighborhood was really a fantastic place.  The 4th of July picnic involved an all-neighborhood water fight and blocking off the street.  A writer I knew even wrote about it.  I’m not sure if it’s in his published works or not, but I intend to read his books to find out.

As much fun as July 4th was, it was Thanksgivings that stick in my mind.  There were green salads with chickpeas in them.  It seemed exotic to me at the time.  (Note to self:  start doing that more again).  My mom would make sweet potato rolls.  There was enough variations of the traditional foods that it seemed like passing the food almost took longer than eating it.  The crown jewel of the meal, the thing that seemed the most impressive in that whole meal was the frozen fruit salad.  It was always done in a ring mold and had canned fruit cocktail and bananas and whipped cream and marshmallows. DSCN2425At the time, I had no idea that this version of frozen salad existed. For some reason I associate butter mints and salted peanuts with old ladies (or ladies that seemed very old when I was very young).  The addition of canned pineapple and marshmallows combined into a creamy frozen Jell-O salad solidifies that feeling.  It’s both disgusting and wonderful all at the same time.  One of those guilty pleasures.  The nuts add a bit of crunch and texture.  The mints kind of bring everything together and make it really refreshing in an unexpected way.

 

When I made the salad, I realized partway through my freezing that I had forgotten to add the mints.  I ran downstairs to the freezer expecting that the salad would be frozen solid and there would and I was going to have to figure out a workaround, but it turned out that when we moved the freezer, someone had plugged it back into the wrong outlet and the power strip had tripped.  This meant my salad could easily be saved.  (It hadn’t been very long, so everything else in the freezer was saved also.  Not like that other time when I suddenly had to cook 3 pounds of ground beef, some ribs and some chicken.)

 

When you look at the recipe, there is something written next to the word “Jell-O”.  It looks like “clay”, but is probably “cherry”, but I didn’t know, so we used lemon Jell-O.

Sorry for the lack of pictures on this post.

A word of caution, this is a dessert salad.  You can serve it along with your regular meal, but it is very sweet.

Frozen Salad

Frozen Salad

1 large pack small marshmallows
1 pack Jell-O (the small box)
1 large can crushed pineapple

mix and refrigerate overnight.
Crush 1 pack butter mints.  Mix with 1 cup cream whipped.  Add nuts.  Mix with Jell-O and freeze.

 

BLT Salad

In which I attempt to hold onto summer for a minute longer.

I still have a few tomatoes clinging to the vines in my garden.  There are plenty of green tomatoes that I should pick and use to make Green Tomato Mincemeat or Fried Green Tomatoes.  That might come later.  I’m clinging to the skirts of summer, pulling on the hems, begging it not to leave quite yet.  There is so much preparation that has to happen before winter and so little daylight to do it all. DSCN2914Rather than dwelling on the melancholy of passing time, I’m going to grab another ripe tomato and make this salad again.

 

There is a movement going on right now called “Will It Waffle?”.  In his book Daniel Shumski answers this question over and over to delicious ends. DSCN2916

I believe this salad was created with a similar thought in mind, and probably before Mr. Shumski was even thinking about waffles.  Everyone has had BLTs.  There is that pleasure of biting into the crispy toast and having the tomato juice combine with the mayo as it drips down your hands.  Saladizing the classic sandwich gives it a bit of elegance.  You can serve it in a bowl, eat it with a knife and fork.  It instantly becomes fancy food.  It’s not just a salad, it’s a Panzanella.

Take one last bite out of summer.  Find that last red tomato and make this salad.  Fancy it up with a good loaf of Italian or French bread.  Use your favorite bacon.  Get out your fancy dishes and eat this salad.

DSCN2917BLT Salad

 

Frosty Lime Salad

In which I try (and somewhat fail) to impress old friends.

Another post with bad pictures, but I have to get rid of the backlog and I’m really not going to remake some of these so I can have better pictures. 

The kids and I went to the grocery store and got a bunch of packets of Jello knowing that I would eventually need them.  I had read through recipes and just got the things that I knew were popular flavors or things that I had seen.  So in the cart went Cherry, Orange, and Lemon.

We can start to enumerate my mistakes here:

  1. Going to the grocery store with 3 children
  2. Not having a good list.
  3. Buying things because I would probably need them someday.
  4. Not menu planning properly.
  5. Not realizing that when the old recipes call for packets of Jello, they mean the small packages and not the big ones.

DSCN2708

All of this is preparation for what happened next.  I had my old camp friend and her family coming over for dinner.  It was the first time she was seeing our new house, I had just started the idea for my blog and was excited about all of that.  And so I planned a menu that involved only recipes from my collection.  And what could be more representative of what I was trying to do than to make a Jell-O salad?

 

Looking through the ingredients I had in the house, I decided that Frosty Lime Salad sounded about perfect.  Except I didn’t have lime Jell-O.  I figured it wouldn’t matter that much if I substituted lemon.  But then I made the mistake of mentioning that I made the substitution after talking about my intention was to follow the recipes exactly as written.  And because I only had huge boxes of Jell-O, the recipe was doubled.  I might have gotten teased a bit.DSCN2719Frosty Lemon Salad is refreshing in a way you wouldn’t normally think of.  Cucumbers fresh from our garden, and celery make a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the pineapple.  I did not serve with lettuce and cherries.  The creamy layer was a bit loose, as you can see.  No one complained that this was gross, so it must’ve been ok. (Mom just told me that it was Martin VanBuren and his set that coined the term O.K., who knew?)DSCN2722Frosty Lime Salad

 

Skillet Potatoes Au Gratin

When I was young, the idea of potatoes au gratin really appealed to me. They just sounded so special and fancy.  Scalloped potatoes were a regular thing at our house and there were au gratin potato chips, but I don’t recall them being a regular part of our menu.  They may have been, but I don’t remember it.  (Sorry, mom.)

Potatoes and cheese are classic.  Switzerland has raclette (which I have eaten in Switzerland).  Canada has poutine (which I have not eaten in Canada, but I assume I will at some point.)  Sports bars have potato skins.  Diners offer cheese with hashbrowns. One time I made chipotle potatoes au gratin and they were amazing.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had a potato and cheese combination that I didn’t like. These Skillet Potatoes were no exception.  DSCN2768

Maybe these potatoes were so ooey-gooey delicious because we use Weyauwega cheese almost exclusively.  Seriously, there is nothing better.  It’s the cheese I grew up eating, so maybe that’s part of it, but it is really good cheese.  They are even distributing cheese curds to Texas now.  My friend called to ask if they were legit.  Yep.  They are the real thing. (This makes it sounds like an advertisement.  It’s not, I just really love Weyauwega cheese.)

DSCN2769Boiling the potatoes with the onions mellows the onions and just leaves the flavor.  The small amount of water used to boil the potatoes means the potatoes don’t need to be drained and the starch from them helps to thicken the cheesy sauce.  These are not the best au gratin potatoes I’ve ever had in my life.  They aren’t steakhouse worthy, but you know, for something that is ready in 30 minutes or less, it’s a pretty decent side dish for any night of the week.

Skillet Potatoes Au Gratin