26 August 2008


When I was about five years old, I watched my dad build a sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, pickles, and mayonnaise, and I decided that it was time for me to start eating pickles as well. So I uncharacteristically asked my dad to add a couple pickles to my sandwich. I quickly realized why I never put pickles on my sandwiches: I didn’t like them. I still don’t, and I’ve since learned that it’s because I dislike both vinegar and dill.

My husband, on the other hand, adores pickles, especially Claussen Dill Sandwich Slices. He regularly eats pickle sandwiches: just bread, mayonnaise, and pickles. It never occurred to me to make pickles. I don’t have a garden, and I don’t do canning. Recently, though, my uncle was telling me about his pickle-making adventures last summer, which included making refrigerator pickles. I immediately realized that refrigerator pickles would be like my husband’s favorite Claussens, so I had to try making them just for him. They turned out great. My husband says they’re better than Claussen pickles, and they make him very happy, so I keep making them even though I’ll never eat them.


1½ pounds pickling cucumbers
3 tablespoons coarse salt, divided
1¼ cups white vinegar
¾ cup water
1 package fresh baby dill (⅔ ounce or so)
6 cloves garlic, minced

1. Wash cucumbers well. Cut off ends. Cut lengthwise into halves, quarters, or ¼-inch-thick sandwich slices, or slice crossways into ¼-inch-thick rounds. Put cucumbers in a colander and sprinkle them with 1½ tablespoons salt. Toss well. Let sit in sink or a bowl for about 2 hours. Rinse cucumbers well; set aside.
2. In a small pot, combine vinegar and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in remaining 1½ tablespoons salt. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
3. In a 1-quart glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, put dill and garlic. Add cucumbers. Pour vinegar mixture over top. Add more water, if necessary, to fill jar. Cover with lid. Allow to pickle in refrigerator for at least 3 days before eating. Pickles will keep for about 3 weeks.

Makes 16 servings.

Nutrition facts per serving: 6 calories, 0 g total fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 400 mg sodium, 1 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 0 g protein.

20 August 2008


Although her family was from Michigan, my paternal grandmother, Anna Mae, spent much of her childhood in Mississippi with her mother while her father worked for Henry Ford in Detroit. When she was in her late teens, the family decided to return to Michigan. Along the way, they stopped to see some old friends in Tennessee--my grandfather's family. According to family lore, my grandfather, Forest, was immediately smitten with my grandmother. But there was a problem: she went with her family to Michigan, and he remained enrolled in college in Tennessee, even though his parents also moved to the same town in Michigan where Anna Mae now lived. Well, in the middle of the semester Forest couldn't stand it anymore, and he decided to drop out of school and ride his bicycle to Michigan to see Anna Mae. Of course, this was around 1940, so friendly people gave him lifts along the way until he reached eastern Indiana, where he stopped to see some of his mother's relatives. When they heard about his quest, they also offered to drive him part of the way. He got in their vehicle, and after a couple hours, he thanked him and told him they'd taken him far enough. But they kept insisting on driving him a little farther, until eventually they drove him all the way to the small town in the middle of Michigan where Anna Mae and his parents lived. Of course, his parents were furious that he had dropped out of college, but Forest and Anna Mae eloped, and they were happily married for 67 years, until my grandfather’s death last month at the age of 87.

Since Anna Mae spent so many years in Mississippi, she made a wonderful Southern pecan pie, and she passed that recipe on to my mother when my parents got married. However, although I enjoyed that pecan pie, I always found it a little too sweet. So now I make this Chocolate-Pecan Pie that is currently my favorite pie recipe. It's super easy and amazingly delicious. Even people who don't like pecan pie find themselves loving this pie. In fact, I'll never make traditional pecan pie again . . . that's how much better this is. Since today is National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day, whip up one today and try it for yourself.


½ cup butter, melted
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup dark corn syrup
2 eggs
1½ cups pecan halves
1 cup (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Stir together butter, sugar, flour, corn syrup, and eggs in a medium bowl. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips. Pour into crust.
2. Cover crust with foil. Bake until just set in center and crust is golden, about 40 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 12 servings.

Nutrition facts per serving: 396 calories, 26 g total fat, 49 mg cholesterol, 210 mg sodium, 32 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 20 g sugars, 3 g protein.

14 August 2008


Oil is interesting stuff, when you think about it--such interesting, useful, and varied stuff. Each kind of oil has its own set of fascinating uses. An automobile engine needs oil to run smoothly--or at all, really, if you want it to run very long. Mineral oil can be a moisturizer (it's a main ingredient in lots of lotions) or a laxative (according to the bottle--I've never used it for that purpose), and it works great for removing labels from jars and bottles. And then there is the multitude of different vegetable (and fruit and nut) oils that are used for cooking: canola, corn, grapeseed, hazelnut, olive, peanut, safflower, sesame, soybean, sunflower, walnut, and more. Of course, all these cooking oils have different uses. Neutral oils, like canola and safflower, are pretty much just good for cooking food. More flavorful oils, like sesame and walnut, are mostly used in small quantities to add a certain taste to foods. Furthermore, one can find creative uses for any kind of oil, as my husband's two older brothers discovered as young boys. There's an amusing story in the family lore about Roger and Larry covering the kitchen floor with vegetable oil and then using it as a "skating" rink. Naturally, this caused their babysitter great consternation.

Oil can also make a great pie crust, but before you pastry purists out there turn up your noses at such blasphemy, let me assure you that it is an amazingly flaky crust that turns out perfectly every time and brings me tons of compliments. It is delightfully quick and easy, and it’s vegan, too. In fact, it's the only pie crust recipe I use. I inherited the recipe from my mom (it's the only crust recipe she uses too), but I always found that the recipe didn't make enough to fit into my slightly extra-large pie plates. I always had to roll the dough so thin that it tore easily, causing me much frustration (so much, in fact, that usually my husband would step in and take over to reduce my stress level). So I finally rewrote the recipe to make a larger amount, and now it is perfect (thus the name).


2½ cups all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons salt
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil*
½ cup cold water

1. In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Pour oil and water into a measuring cup; add all at once to flour and salt. Stir lightly with a fork until combined.
2. Form into 2 balls; flatten dough slightly. Roll out each ball between parchment paper. (Tip: If the surface under the parchment paper is dampened first by wiping it with a wet cloth or sponge, the parchment won’t slide around while you roll.) Fit into a 9-inch or 10-inch pie plate. Trim edge to 1 inch. Fold edge under and crimp as desired. Use second half of dough for top or a second single-crust pie.

Makes 2 single-crust pies or 1 double-crust pie.

*I generally use the neutral-tasting canola oil, especially for sweet pies, but for savory pies and quiches, olive oil (or part olive and part canola oil) is excellent.

08 August 2008


Today is National Zucchini Day. I didn’t eat zucchini growing up, which is a shame, since it’s a good source of vitamins and trace minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin K, the B vitamins, magnesium, manganese, and potassium. It’s not that I didn’t like zucchini; it just wasn’t served in my home. I suspect that my parents had eaten far too much surplus zucchini from their families’ gardens every summer and were tired of it by the time I was born. As an adult, I’ve been making up for lost time, eating zucchini in as many forms as possible: steamed, sautéed, as pancakes, in bread and muffins, even in cake, and, in this week’s recipe, in soup.

Although I generally think of soup as a winter food, this recipe tastes like summer, full of zucchini, corn, tomatoes, and basil. However, as long as you can find decent fresh zucchini and basil in the grocery store, you can prepare this soup year round. In fact, it would be a perfect summery pick-me-up in the middle of a dreary winter.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into ½-inch slices
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 14.5-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
1 15.25-ounce can corn kernels, drained, or 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
4 cups vegetable broth
½ cup finely chopped fresh basil
¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley, or 1½ tablespoons dried parsley

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Add shallot, and cook for 2 minutes.
2. Stir in garlic, zucchini, salt, and pepper. Raise heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
3. Stir in tomatoes, corn, broth, basil, and parsley. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer for 3-5 minutes. Serve immediately with crackers or bread.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition facts per serving: 177 calories, 8 g total fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1180 mg sodium, 24 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 8 g sugars, 4 g protein.

29 July 2008


When I was growing up, my mother regularly made potato salad during the summer. I had a love-hate relationship with the quintessential American dish during those years. I loved the potatoes and hard-boiled eggs smothered in creamy mayonnaise, but I hated the crunchy onions and vinegary pickles. A few years ago I finally decided to start making potato salad myself, challenging myself to create a flavorful dish that omitted the things I disliked. My version is comfort food for hot weather: It has a soft, creamy texture and no dominating flavors. Of course, like all comfort foods, it is high in fat, so don’t eat it too often.

Potato salad has become a classic American dish for picnics. National Picnic Month is almost over, so whip up a bowl of potato salad, find a beautiful spot in nature, and enjoy an outdoor meal. Just be sure, with the eggs and mayonnaise in this salad, that you keep it cold. If you can’t keep it cold on your picnic, eat it at home and picnic with Rotini and Black Bean Salad instead.

For my potato salad I use red or Yukon gold potatoes because they are less likely to fall apart when boiled than russet potatoes. I discovered that I don’t mind onions in potato salad as long are they are mild green onions. Since I don’t like vinegar but I still want to add a bit more flavor to my potato salad, I add dry mustard to the mayonnaise. My husband loves pickles, so he sometimes chops some up and adds them to his serving of potato salad. If you like pickles, by all means add them to your potato salad (about ⅓ cup chopped pickle would be good for this recipe).


1½ pounds red or Yukon gold potatoes
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

1. Wash potatoes well, peel them if desired, and chop them into ½-inch pieces. Place them in a medium saucepan; add water to cover. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered until tender but not at all mushy, 5-10 minutes (check them frequently after 5 minutes). Drain, rinse in cold water, and then drain again.
2. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl. Toss gently with onions and eggs. In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, dry mustard, salt, and pepper. Gently fold mayonnaise mixture into potato mixture. Cover and chill for at least 6 hours.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition facts per serving: 148 calories, 17 g total fat, 95 mg cholesterol, 324 mg sodium, 16 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 5 g protein.

23 July 2008


July is both National Hot Dog Month and National Baked Bean Month, presumably because both are consumed in large quantities on the fourth. These designations for July may make the month seem unfriendly to vegetarians, but this does not have to be the case.

To begin, there are many vegetarian, even vegan, versions of hot dogs, generally made from soy. My personal favorite, pictured below, is Loma Linda Big Franks. They have the best flavor and texture, in my opinion, and they are vegan, but they are difficult to find in stores. They aren’t sold anywhere in my town, although while researching for this post, I discovered that they are available, at competitive prices, at amazon.com and sagegrocery.com.

However, since I couldn’t find Big Franks in my local stores, I decided to test three of the vegetarian dogs that were sold locally. Out of these I found two to be decent options, although neither replaces Big Franks as my favorite. The Yves Meatless Hot Dog, my least favorite, lacked flavor, other than a rather strong smoke flavor, but it had a decent, though slightly dry, texture, and it is vegan. The LightLife Smart Dogs possess probably the best balance of healthfulness and taste. They are vegan and made with non-gmo soy. They have good flavor that my husband (who is a flexitarian) thought tasted similar to beef hot dogs, and the texture is almost as good as my beloved Big Franks, though I found them to be just slightly rubbery (but I’m very picky about food textures). Finally, I tested Morningstar Farms America’s Original Veggie Dogs, the only non-vegan version, which also epitomizes the problems with many traditional meat substitutes: I found the flavor and texture to be almost as good as Big Franks, but, unfortunately, the Morningstar Farms dogs are typical processed junk, including corn syrup and other less-than-healthy ingredients.

As for baked beans, vegetarian versions can be just as tasty, and more healthful, than traditional versions with pork or bacon. And a homemade from-scratch version is tastier than the Bush’s Best Vegetarian Baked Beans from a can. Serve them with a vegetarian hot dog, and enjoy July!


1 pound dry navy beans or great northern beans
1 14-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
½ cup brown sugar
1 shallot, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

1. Rinse beans. In a large pot, combine beans and 8 cups water. Cover and let soak overnight.
2. Drain and rinse beans. Return beans to pot. Add 8 cups fresh water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 30-60 minutes or just until tender, stirring occasionally. Drain beans, reserving liquid.
3. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine beans, 1½ cups reserved bean liquid, and remaining ingredients. Transfer to a 2½-quart casserole dish and cover dish with aluminum foil.
4. Bake for 2½ hours, stirring occasionally. If necessary, add additional reserved bean liquid.

Makes 12 servings.

Nutrition facts per serving: 230 calories, 3 g total fat, 0 g cholesterol, 265 mg sodium, 70 g carbohydrates, 15 g fiber, 10 g sugars, 9 g protein.

16 July 2008


July is national ice cream month. As a devoted ice cream fan, I’m glad President Reagan recognized that ice cream is important enough to deserve a month-long celebration. It was probably around the time Reagan designated July national ice cream month that homemade ice cream started to become a tradition between my family and another family we were friends with. We got together regularly to make ice cream, get huge servings, and then devour the cold, creamy deliciousness with childish glee. Even though the other family moved across the country when I was 13, homemade ice cream was such an ingrained tradition for us that we continued to make it whenever we were together, even hauling an ice cream maker along on a week-long beach holiday.

This is the recipe we always used. It makes homemade ice cream, not frozen custard; thus, it contains no eggs. This omission makes it super quick and easy to make, since you don’t have to cook the mixture.


1 pint half and half
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl. Transfer to an ice cream freezer and freeze according to manufacturer directions. Serve immediately for soft-serve-style ice cream, or for firmer ice cream, transfer to an airtight container and place in freezer until firm, about 2 hours.

Makes 12 servings.

Nutrition facts per serving: 235 calories, 14 g total fat, 72 mg cholesterol, 81 mg sodium, 21 g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 21 g sugars, 4 g protein.

10 July 2008


My basil plant that was a bit spindly a couple weeks ago has become so full and lush that it is nearly a basil bush, so I decided I had better start using more of the leaves. My favorite way to use fresh basil is in pasta sauce.

I grew up eating spaghetti about once a week with Prego sauce, and I still enjoy Prego Organic Tomato and Basil Italian Sauce, but making my own sauce is definitely superior. Since I use canned tomatoes, it doesn’t take much longer to make my own than to heat up a jar of Prego. This sauce is very flavorful, thanks to the blending of four herbs. My favorite herb, basil, is the dominant note, but the other herbs give the sauce balance and additional flavor. I like to complete a pasta meal with garlic bread and a green salad or a steamed vegetable (broccoli is my favorite).


2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary, or ½ teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano, or 2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
¼ cup minced fresh parsley, or 1 tablespoon dried parsley, crushed
½ cup minced fresh basil*

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over low heat. Add garlic, and cook until garlic is golden.
2. Add tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper, rosemary, oregano, parsley, and basil. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens a bit and comes together, 15-20 minutes. Serve with 12 ounces of any pasta, cooked, and grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition facts per serving: 81 calories, 5 g total fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 355 mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 5 g sugars, 2 g protein.

*I don't recommend substituting dried basil.

02 July 2008


I spent my sophomore year of college in England, and at the end of October, two friends and I took a quick trip to Edinburgh, my only exposure to Scotland. In all honesty, I don't remember a great deal from that trip: just the drunk guy belting out "Strawberry Fields Forever" in Victoria Station before we boarded an overnight coach to Edinburgh, the fact that Edinburgh Castle (complete with dog cemetery) struck me as more romantic than Windsor Castle (the only other British castle I'd seen at that point), the bag-piper outside St. Giles' Cathedral, and the delicious sautéed mushrooms and pizza we had for lunch one day at some little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that I'd never be able to find again. And of course, the mouth-watering shortbread.

Edinburgh as seen from the castle

Edinburgh Castle

The Dog Cemetery at Edinburgh Castle

When I returned home at the end of my year abroad, I wanted to recreate that Scottish shortbread. Unhappy with any of the recipes in my mother's cookbooks, I developed my own. This is one of the easiest cookie recipes in the world--just three ingredients and no electric mixer (using a mixer will make the cookies slightly tough, I’ve discovered). Because there are only three ingredients, it is important to use real butter; no substitution will taste authentic. It’s also important to include all three ingredients. My little brother will never let me live down the time I absentmindedly left the sugar out of my own very basic recipe!


1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
½ cup butter

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together flour and sugar. Cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling. Form mixture into a ball and knead until smooth.
2. Press mixture into an 8-inch springform pan. Press the tines of a fork around the outside of the dough to create a decorative edge. Use a butter knife (so you don’t scratch the pan) to cut dough into 16 wedges, but leave them in the pan.
3. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until set. Cut into wedges again while warm. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on wire rack.

Makes 16 servings.

Nutrition facts per serving: 93 calories, 6 g total fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 45 mg sodium, 10 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 3 g sugars, 1 g protein.

To make the shortbread into shapes other than wedges, form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough ¼ inch thick. Using a knife (for shortbread strips) or a cookie cutter (for rounds or other shapes), cut dough into desired shapes. Place one inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Reduce baking time to 15-20 minutes, or until bottoms just start to brown. Let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on wire rack.

For the favors for my wedding, with the help of many family members and friends, I used this recipe to make a couple hundred shortbread hearts. We dipped one corner in melted chocolate and packaged them in small plastic bags tied shut with ribbons. They turned out quite well.

27 June 2008


For the most part, I grew up without a garden. Although my mother was an excellent cook and my parents loved vegetables, we lived in the woods for most of my childhood, making a garden nearly impossible between the hungry wildlife and the lack of direct sunlight. One year my tomato-loving father was determined to grow a couple tomato plants. He planted them right next to the sunny side of the house, assuming the plants' proximity to the house would deter foraging animals, and he looked forward to eating fresh homegrown tomato sandwiches. One late summer afternoon my mother looked out the window and discovered a groundhog happily chomping away on the ripest tomato. She hurried outside to scare away the critter, but it defied her best attempts to frighten it by yelling and threatening it with a handsaw. Instead, it merely cowered under the tomato plant and kept munching. She gave up and returned to the house, and my father stopped trying to grow produce in the woods.

Not only did I grow up without learning how to garden, but I also seem to have inherited my mother’s lack of a green thumb. Like her, I have not had much luck keeping houseplants alive. For example, as a fan of fresh basil, I bought a basil plant last year and transplanted it into a nice pot. During the summer, it sat on my deck. When fall came, I moved it inside near a sunny window. All went well, and I had as much fresh basil as I wanted until Christmastime arrived and I visited family for four weeks, completely abandoning my plant, which was only a dead twig when I returned home.

This summer I’m giving plants a second try, and this time I’ve branched out to include tomatoes. I don’t have garden space since I live in an apartment, so I’m growing a basil plant and two tomato plants (Big Beef and Marglobe varieties) in containers on my deck. So far they seem to be doing well. I’m looking forward to lots of fresh basil and tomatoes later in the summer.

In the meantime thinking of tomatoes and basil made me crave eggplant parmesan, so I made some. The process of dipping the eggplant slices into flour, then the egg-and-milk mixture, then the bread crumb mixture may seem tedious, but it’s the best method I’ve found of getting the heavy crust that I like on the eggplant. Once you have the assembly line set up, it’s not so bad. I like to serve eggplant parmesan with spaghetti or angel hair with tomato-basil sauce, garlic bread, and a classic green salad.


½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 eggs
1-2 tablespoons skim milk
¾ cup Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
1 eggplant (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices
Olive oil for frying (about cup)
Nonstick cooking spray
1½ cups tomato-basil pasta sauce
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

1. In a shallow bowl, stir together flour and salt. In another shallow bowl beat together 1 egg and 1 tablespoon milk, reserving the additional egg and milk in case you need more egg wash. In a third shallow bowl, stir together bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Dip eggplant slices into flour mixture to coat. Dip the slices into egg mixture, then coat both sides with crumb mixture.
2. In a 12-inch cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add eggplant slices; cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Add more oil as necessary during cooking.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Spread ¼ cup pasta tomato-basil pasta sauce in the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of eggplant followed by more sauce. Repeat until eggplant is used up, ending with the last of the sauce. Top with cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until bubbling. Top with basil. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition facts per serving: 351 calories, 23 g total fat, 49 mg cholesterol, 910 mg sodium, 22 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 9 g sugars, 11 g protein.

After frying eggplant, place a few slices of eggplant between two pieces of artisan bread spread with mayonnaise and layered with sliced mozzarella cheese, fresh baby spinach, sliced tomato, and a leaf or two of fresh basil.

18 June 2008


One of my favorite kitchen gadgets is my scale. I waited far too long to purchase one. A basic non-electric model, it weighs up to 6.5 pounds and is more than adequate for my purposes. I use it regularly for weighing smaller quantities of produce bought in bulk for use in recipes, and it’s great for dividing a batch of bread dough into equal proportions to make even loaves.

The scale also works well for weighing the 8 ounces of tri-color rotini—which generally is sold in a 12-ounce box—needed for the following recipe. This is my husband’s favorite pasta salad, and it’s easy, healthful, and filling—thanks to the combination of pasta and beans. It’s perfect for summer meals, especially picnics.


8 ounces tri-color rotini
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 8¾-ounce can corn, drained
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
1 ripe avocado
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ pint grape tomatoes, halved

¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro, or 2 teaspoons dried cilantro
1 teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

1. Cook rotini according to package directions until al dente. While rotini cooks, combine all dressing ingredients and mix well. Set aside. Drain rotini and rinse briefly under cold water. Drain completely.
2. Place rotini in a large bowl. Add beans, corn, and green onions. Toss gently. Pour dressing over rotini mixture and toss again, gently but thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
3. Just before serving, peel and chop avocado and toss with lemon juice. Add avocado and grape tomatoes to salad. Toss and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition facts per serving: 505 calories, 15 g total fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 530 mg sodium, 50 g total carbohydrates, 8 g fiber, 4 g sugars, 11 g protein.

12 June 2008


When I was about 12 years old, George Bush Sr. manifested his dislike of broccoli by banning the vegetable from the White House menu. Reportedly, he said, "I'm President of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli!" This caused an outcry from broccoli growers, who feared that the president would set a nationwide trend, although, really, when you think about it, I doubt George Bush started a single fad in his life. I remember being shocked that the president didn't like broccoli: not only was it my favorite vegetable, but it was also the favorite vegetable of my siblings. It was part of our supper menu twice a week, even surviving attempts my mother to get us to like other vegetables, such as winter squash and lima beans (I'm still not fond of either one). Fast forward 15 years or so. With his children all basically grown up, my father finally confessed that he didn't really like broccoli; he'd only eaten it for the past 25 years to keep his kids eating at least one vegetable. It worked--my siblings and I still like broccoli.

I especially love broccoli mixed with pasta and a creamy sauce, and the following recipe fits the bill perfectly. Even better, it's super easy. You can serve it as a one-dish meal when you're feeling lazy, or add salad and bread to flesh out the menu.


1 pound pasta
16 ounces frozen baby broccoli florets*
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
⅔ cup half and half
2 teaspoons Morton's Nature's Seasons seasoning blend
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Cook pasta and broccoli according to package directions.
2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour. Gradually add half and half and bring to simmering but do not boil. Stir in seasoning. Add cheese and stir until melted.
3. Toss together cooked pasta, cooked broccoli, and sauce. Place in a large serving dish and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition facts per serving: 440 calories, 13 g total fat, 38 mg cholesterol, 616 mg sodium, 62 g total carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 4 g sugars, 13 g protein.

*You can substitute 5 cups of fresh broccoli florets and steam them until tender in step 1.