In which I don’t lose anything.
I got a text from my friend telling me she lost her car keys. Clearly this is one of those weeks for her where nothing goes quite right, but that’s her story to tell, not mine. As I was reflecting on her lost keys, I started to laugh. Initially this could seem like a very insensitive thing to do, but out of nowhere I remembered something I hadn’t thought about in years. My mom used to lose her keys all the time when we were teenagers. It was a regular occurrence. I don’t remember when she started to pray to St. Anthony, but it became the default. Whenever something went missing, my mom would ask if we’d prayed to St. Anthony. (Except it was common enough that we just called it “talking to Tony”)(We aren’t even Catholic). More often than not, the answer would be “no”. To which she always reminded us that we should be doing that and perhaps we shouldn’t bother her until we had. This is not to imply in anyway that my mom was not sympathetic to whatever it was we had lost. She was, but she didn’t have time to keep track of all of our stuff on top of everything else she had to do. And besides, like I say to my kids all the time, “if you put your stuff away properly…” We all know how it goes and if you don’t, come be my Yoda and teach me how to improve. Anyway, back to my mom’s keys. She would seriously lose them all the time. It wasn’t because she wasn’t organized, but we know how women’s purses are. And when you are in and out of the car and it’s winter and kids and chaos and life. Even if I didn’t get it then, I do now. It was around that same time that my sister and I had the opportunity to go to Italy. I am still grateful for that opportunity. While there, we visited Padua. (St. Anthony is from Padua.) During the visit to the church dedicated to St. Anthony, (who is the patron saint of all sorts of lost things.) we stopped at the gift shop. We already had in mind what it was that we wanted as a souvenir. Arriving home we couldn’t wait to present our dear mother with her very own St. Anthony keychain.
I’d like to be able to say that she never lost her keys again. But I doubt that’s true. Also, I am not sure that she didn’t lose the St. Anthony keychain. She’ll have to confirm for me. Regardless, we tried.My friend texted back later to say that she did find her keys. I tried telling her about St. Anthony. She said that Lutherans don’t do that. (I’m going to take credit for invoking the name of St. Anthony for her.)
So what does any of this have to do with side dishes? Sometimes you don’t even know that you’ve lost something, but when it’s presented to you, you realize that you were missing it all along. And sometimes it’s in unexpected places. Like old newspaper clippings pasted inside an old, red Freshman Handbook. This recipe grabbed me from the first time I saw it. There is nothing in it that I don’t like. Rosemary, maple syrup, mustard, bacon, sour cream and lima beans. Yes, please! But that’s not a guarantee that the recipe is not going to fail. (See Sweet and Sour Bean Combo and “Japanese” Chicken if you don’t believe me.) And sometimes, the recipes leave something out. (Christmas Sugar Cookies, for example) This recipe didn’t disappoint. It was maybe just a little dry. This could easily be combated by adding more sour cream or thinning it with milk. It was such a nice change from regular baked beans. The creaminess and the bacon together was a bit like a carbonara (speaking of Italy…).
In which I ask you to support your local CSA.
Broccoli is my kids’ favorite vegetable…pause for the sharp intake of breath from the crowd…I know, right? I know what you all are thinking. First of all, you are totally impressed that my kids eat veggies at all. Secondly, you wonder what I did to get this behavior from them. Third, you assume I’m lying. Want to know something else? My kids eat and enjoy most veggies. The youngest impressed my grandma by sucking down asparagus as one of her first foods. The diapers were gross and smelled weird, but that’s not what we are going to talk about. These are those brag-worthy moments. There are lots of things that my darling little angels are good at, but one of the things they are best at is trying new foods. Instead of taking complete credit for it, I’m going to rely partially on genetics and partially on my boredom with eating the same foods over and over. This is the part where I remind you that we have the rule for the kids about needing to try everything and if they refuse, they have to eat twice as much as I would normally make them eat. (We are talking teaspoons of food, not full servings. Enough to get the idea of it without overfilling bellies and causing children to puke. We aren’t monsters.) This is also the part where I highly recommend subscribing to a CSA. Ah…I bet a bunch of you are unfamiliar with what a CSA is. CSA is Community-Supported Agriculture. It’s an opportunity to purchase a vegetable “subscription”. With our last one from High Meadow Farm, we got a box of farm fresh vegetables every week. This meant that we ate seasonally. In the spring, after a long winter, my body craves as many greens as I can possibly hold. Luckily this is the time when greens are best. I got to eat spinach sauteed with balsamic vinegar, garlic, and sundried tomatoes as often as I wanted. My breakfast consisted of eggs and greens most days. We had salad at dinner every night. Then there were the beautiful French radishes. We liked them sliced with a little salt, sauteed, or mixed with some spring onions and spices to make a “salsa” type condiment.
I could go on and on about how wonderful the vegetables were throughout the entire growing season, but that isn’t my point. My point is that we had a lot of stuff that we didn’t know how to use. Veggies that I never would’ve put in my garden. We tried them all. When we had too much of something that we could preserve, we’d do small batch canning or freezing so that we could have good veggies in the deep winter. It helped broaden our horizons to the possibilities of flavors and textures of vegetables. It helped us get our 5 servings a day without issue. It cut down our overall grocery budget for the summer because I didn’t have to buy much more than meat and staples like flour. This also meant that in my garden, I could focus on things that I knew my family would eat or things I wanted to use for canning. My kids are great veggie eaters. The only qualm I had about trying this recipe out on them was the blue cheese factor. Blue cheese can be somewhat polarizing. I’ve always loved it and would chose blue cheese dressing for my salad over anything else. The kids are slightly less sure of it. Let me assure you, unless you are using the stinkiest of cheeses, a single ounce of blue cheese combined with the cream cheese, the milk, and the heavy flavor of broccoli goes mostly unnoticed. It’s a background flavor. If you are still unsure, use a different cheese. The broccoli casserole is a beautiful thing. It’s creamy and melty and has the same sort of comfort factor as broccoli cheese soup. Broccoli casserole is a great side with a grilled steak or other grilled meat (or mushroom if you don’t eat meat). The oval crackers the recipe mentions is like a TownHouse cracker. You can use whatever sort of cracker appeals to you. If you want to raid your kids’ goldfish stash, those would be great on top also. This is a weeknight recipe. Check out my post about Skillet Potatoes Au Gratin for another weeknight side dish. If you need a quick dessert idea for the middle of the week, you might want some unbaked cookies.
In which I settle on Jell-O as a more practical option.
You know those days where you just feel like a tropical vacation would cancel the subscriptions to all of your issues? Where you just sort of want to run away and be responsible for nothing and no one? I don’t. I’ve never had one of those moments in my entire life. I have never wanted to sit on a sunbaked beach with nothing around but the sound of waves crashing. Never wanted to relax with an icy drink in my hand brought to me by a super cute cabana boy with a slim, tanned body, who I know is not just something pretty to look at, but should be respected for his mind and his hustle. Never have I ever not wanted to get up early every morning, make sure that everyone is doing what they are supposed to do while I try to get myself ready and do what I can to prepare us for the evening. The very idea of not having to commute and…I can’t go on. If someone told me that I was going to be trading all of this for an all-expenses paid trip to a tropical island, I might hesitate while I decided if I really wanted to go swimsuit shopping. I’d probably try to find a bunch of excuses as to why I really shouldn’t, but I don’t think I would pass it up.
As I stare out at my snow covered yard and see my children cuddled up on the couch in matching blankets, I realize that while I would love to get away, the closest I may come for a while is probably going to be in something like the Tropical Delight Salad.
I have always been attracted to tropical flavors. Pina Colada and I have been hitting it pretty hot and heavy since I was a young girl. When picking out yogurt with my mom, I would always opt for the pina colada fruit on the bottom yogurt. It seemed like a special treat. After realizing that the red food coloring in Jolly Good Fruit Punch and Faygo Red Pop made me throw up, I discovered Jolly Good Pina Colada soda. They don’t even make it any more, but there is something about that sickly sweet pineapple coconut combination that satisfies me. Sadly this recipe does not call for coconut, but it would be a nice addition, especially if it was toasted.And now I have an idea for a roasted pineapple and toasted coconut something…cocktail? Bread? Meringue Pie? This is an ongoing problem. I start out doing something and then get majorly inspired by something completely different and get too excited to start that and want to forget about what it was I was doing in the first place. I am working harder at trying to finish things before I start something new. It’s killing me in my knitting right now. The biggest problem I have is that I have too many ideas and there is only me that can carry them out. It’s all just time and money, right?Ok, back on track. A couple of things to note. Pineapple tidbits or crushed pineapple probably works better than pineapple chunks. And if you haven’t read the Jell-O package (and these are small ones, not big ones in this recipe), do not attempt to use fresh pineapple. Most tropical fruits contain enzymes which counteract the gelling property of gelatin. If you want something like a slimy soup, that’s probably fine, but even despite my protests of not caring for Jell-O, I still prefer it to be gelled. The enzymes are useful for other things, though, like tenderizing meat (mmmm…al pastor). But this is also the same thing that makes some people very sensitive to eating too much raw fruit. Also…The topping of the Tropical Delight Salad is really good. Don’t skip that step. Even if you decide you want to change the flavor of the Jell-O, or decide not to use bananas, or oranges, do not change the topping.
If you are hardcore on Jell-O recipes and want to see what else I’ve done, check out these posts. Cooked Cranberry Salad and Frosty Lime Salad. If you really want to gelatinize everything check out the Peach Cottage Cheese Loaf. (Although I don’t actually recommend making it, but you should see that this exists.)
In which I tell a dad joke.
You know how every once in a while I make something and you think to yourself, “Why in the heck did anyone make that in the first place?” and then you think “And why did she feel the need to repeat it?”. Just remember, I’m trying some of these things out so you don’t have to. (Not that you’d really want to sometimes…)
Now before you get too excited, this recipe is not an actual failure. It’s just another so-what recipe and I’ve been sitting on it for a while. Let’s see what I can do to make this a lot more exciting for all of us.
It was a dark and stormy night and all the frozen vegetables were sitting around the campfire… Nope, too scary.
I slowly bent into the freezer and grasped the bag of veggies with one hand. I turned my head to look over my shoulder and asked the man standing behind me, “Is this what you wanted?” Has the potential to get really inappropriate.
Once upon a time, in a land of frozen vegetables, Princess Corn was lonely, so she invited her friends Peas and Carrots.Seriously?
Why do Jolly Green Giant vegetables taste funny? Because he stands over his corn and peas…
Yeah, maybe not. Maybe just a few helpful suggestions:
- If you don’t want to fully cook your vegetables, at least thaw them before adding everything else. Just trust me on this one. Like I said, I did the research for you.
- More substantial and different textured vegetables may work better. Think things like California blend instead of just regular mixed vegetables. Or some of the blends that include beans.
- Better yet, use some fresh veggies and forget about the frozen ones.
- There is a lot of dressing on this salad. You can cut the recipe in half unless you feel like soup.
- Unless you like mush, don’t used processed cheese. And even thinking about what my great-grandma may consider cooked vegetables, it may be mush regardless of the cheese.
- Add anything with any texture at all to this. Bacon crumbles, perhaps?
- If the recipe is followed, you will have about 11 servings too many of this salad.
This recipe, as I made it, is all sad trombones. It may not even be as interesting as that. It will probably nourish your body to a degree, but it will do nothing at all for your soul. Maybe it’s good diet food? You’ll get bored enough eating it that you’ll lose your appetite all together? Having already tried the 4 Bean Salad, I can see how different versions of this salad could easily sing. This one is completely tone deaf.
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. When 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.
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.
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.
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.