Winter Pasta Salad

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Pasta salad is one of those dishes that are supposed to be infinitely flexible.  It’s just cooked pasta, vegetables, and dressing.  What could be easier?  Well, nothing … which is precisely the problem.  Pasta salads can be so easy, they’re uninspiring.

That’s the dilemma I faced when I sat down to come up with the second in my series of recipes for easily made breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner dishes that can be substituted for store-bought items typically loaded with added sugar.  I knew I wanted to do a home-made pasta salad, but finding one that was both tempting and convenient seemed difficult.

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Buttermilk Dressing for Dunking

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Why do kids like to dunk foods so much?  I have a couple of theories.  For very young kids, I think it’s a way to indulge their natural curiosity about interesting textures and color combinations, a kind of culinary equivalent of finger painting if you will.  For older kids, the goal is more utilitarian – dunking is a way to instantly combine two flavors that are better together than apart.  Chocolate chip cookies in a glass of milk and a French fry in a puddle of ketchup are two examples that come to mind.

I was thinking about this universal love of dunking while I was in the supermarket recently searching for my older daughter’s favorite brand of ranch dressing.  Despite eating plenty of vegetables when she was younger, once she hit her teens, she stopped pretty much cold turkey.  The only time she eats them now is when she first dunks them in ranch dressing.  Read More


Brussels Sprouts Salad

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One of the great things about living near a place like Washington D.C. is the proximity to great restaurants.  That’s the theory at least.  As a busy parent, I’ve found that great restaurants are wonderful only if I can overcome the inertia of the “I’m too tired to drive that far for a meal no matter how good it is” mindset that afflicts me most weekends.

Fortunately, one Saturday night a few months ago I managed to overcome my inertia and found myself at a darling of the D.C. restaurant scene, Proof.  Now, don’t misinterpret what I’m about to divulge – I absolutely loved the meal I had that evening.  I’m sure there was a salad or soup to start, followed most likely by a steak (medium rare, please) as the main course.   But the dish I actually remember eating by name was – wait for it –
a salad of shaved Brussels sprouts.

Yes, I know.  That’s probably not the revelation you were expecting.  But hear me out. Read More


Butternut Squash Soup with Mushroom and Pine Nut Garnish

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For many people, the point of a restaurant is to avoid the chores of cooking and cleaning up. Yep, been there, done that.  But did you know they can also be a source of inspiration?

Last Saturday night, both of my daughters were at friends’ houses, so my husband and I had that rarest of experiences — a night alone.  We decided to eat out at a nearby Moroccan French restaurant where I ordered the evening’s soup, butternut squash with a mushroom and pomegranate seed garnish.  As I was eating it, my first thought was “this is delicious,” and my second thought was “I can make this at home!” Read More


Green Beans with Herb Finishing Salt

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In my last post I shared my foolproof method (courtesy of Sally Schneider on the Splendid Table) for making an herb finishing salt that’s guaranteed to make you everyone’s favorite gift-bearing party guest this holiday season.  In this post, I describe one way that I use that herb finishing salt all through the year.

My favorite use is to sprinkle it on vegetables just before I serve them.  Green beans are a great choice.   I trim and wash the green beans and then steam them for no more than five minutes.  This brings out their full flavor and ensures they stay crisp.  (I find that steaming them for more than five minutes makes them too soft for my taste.) Read More