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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.)
Boiling 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.