cartoon by marc johns.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Colorful, fresh, & delicious.

Flavorful & healthy.


This is an easy "throw it together" kind of salad that is wonderful to serve as a side at a BBQ or to eat for a light & healthy lunch. The colorful veggies make me happy. This is made with Israeli (sometimes called Pearl) couscous, which has more of a chew and is more substantial than the typical tiny fluffy couscous. You can make it with either one; I like it better with the Israeli couscous because I think it stands up better to the crunchy fresh veggies. Please feel free to mix it up and add whatever veggies you like to this. This is a great recipe to make ahead and then eat all week for lunch. Using the Israeli couscous helps it not to get soggy with the dressing all mixed in. Speaking of the dressing, it is a wonderfully lemony dressing that tastes bright. The fresh herbs help to add a great zing to it all. Also this dish makes a great meal if you add some grilled chicken, top it with an egg, or some salmon. This recipe makes 2-3 servings if you are eating it as your main dish, and 6-8 side servings. Enjoy!


1 8 oz. box Israeli couscous
1 Persian cucumber, chopped
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
3/4 cup chopped, pitted, Kalamata olives
1 cup artichoke hearts, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Salt & black pepper to taste (Note: the olives, artichoke hearts, and feta are all pretty salty, so you want the dressing to taste a little "under salted").

To the cooking:

1. Cook the Israeli couscous. Not a totally necessary step, but I like to toast the couscous before I boil it. I just combine the couscous with a few tablespoons of olive oil in the pan. Then I sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently so nothing burns, for about five minutes. You want a nice toasty smell to come out of the pan, and the pearls of couscous will get slightly more brown.  Then add in the water and cook according to package instructions. (Mine said to add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil, then cover and put on low heat and simmer for 12 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed). 

Toasting the couscous.

Added the water.

Cooked couscous.
2. While the couscous is cooking, make the dressing: whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, parsley, oregano, and basil. Add salt & pepper, to taste. (Remember to "under salt" the dressing!)

Ready to whisk.
3. Pour dressing on warm couscous and mix. 

Dressing on couscous.
4. Add in the chopped veggies & feta cheese and stir to combine. 

Ready to mix up.
All mixed.
Ready to eat.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Soft Pretzels with Sweet Onion Mustard



Ready to eat!

Right out of the oven.
Those of you who know me know that a soft pretzel is one of my favorite foods. Ever. I cannot pass up an opportunity to get one when I see them. There is something about the light, airy texture, the crisp exterior, and the crunch of the salt that is totally addicting. I also have a long-standing love of mustard, so I made a mustard to go with these pretzels. I recommend giving it a try! This time I just made standard pretzels, but don't be afraid of giving different flavor options a go as well - sea salt & rosemary, cinnamon & sugar, basil & garlic. You can also stuff the pretzels with cheddar (or whatever cheese you like), cream cheese & jam, marinara & pepperoni. The combinations and options are endless. Just start with this base recipe and get creative. You can also make pretzel bites rather than full size pretzels. This recipe makes about a dozen full-sized soft pretzels.

 I also made a mustard to go with the pretzels - again, the ideas for sauce options are endless depending what flavor profile you go with - you can do a pesto, a sweet vanilla sauce, a cheddar beer sauce, etc. The sauce I made is a delicious sweeter mustard - it goes great with the salty pretzels, but is also really yummy on a sandwich or burger. This is a fun recipe to try for a movie night, a bbq, or when watching a sporting event. I recommend experimenting with it and giving it a go. Enjoy! 


2 cups milk (any milk is fine - skim, nonfat, etc. - this time I used almond milk.)
2 packets active dry yeast
6 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 1/2 cups of flour (if the dough is too wet, try adding 2 tablespoons more)
2 teaspoons fine salt
1/3 cup baking soda
3 cups warm water
kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (for spreading on finished pretzels hot out of the oven)

To the baking:

1. Warm the milk up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Then stir in the yeast and let sit for 3 minutes. The heat activates the yeast. You do not want to be too hot or the yeast is killed, and not hot enough results in less rise and fluffy texture in your pretzels. 

Heating my milk.

Yeast is in.
3. Once the three minutes are up, add the butter and brown sugar, stirring to combine.

Butter & sugar are in.
4. Then add the flour one cup at a time, mixing/ kneading as you go.

2 cups of flour in.

All 4 1/2 cups in.

Sticky, tacky dough.
5. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes. The dough will be very sticky so coat your hands in either a little flour or a little olive oil.  Once done kneading, put dough in a greased bowl and cover it with greased saran wrap. Leave in a warm, dark place for about an hour. You want the dough to proof and at least double in size. Preheat oven to 450F. (While the dough is proofing, you can make the mustard sauce - recipe below).

Done kneading.

Done proofing - it has doubled in size.
6. Punch down the dough and divide it into 12 lumps. I divide the dough in half, then in half again, and then each of those lumps into three.

Lumps of dough.
7. Prepare the warm water and mix in the baking soda. You want it in a wide, flat bowl because you are going to dip each pretzel in the mixture before baking. This baking soda/ water dipping is traditional in pretzel making - it gives the pretzel the dark brown color you think of in a pretzel without causing you to have to over-bake the insides.

Baking soda & warm water.
8. Roll each lump of dough as thin and you can get it, and then twist it into the traditional pretzel shape. Submerge each whole pretzel completely into the baking soda & water before placing it on a greased parchment paper covered baking sheet.  Then sprinkle each pretzel with the Kosher salt.

Dipped , salted, and ready for the oven.
9. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until nice and brown. Once out of the oven, immediately brush the melted butter onto all sides of pretzel and allow to soak in. Once the butter has been absorbed, they are ready to eat. Enjoy!

Melted butter ready to brush on.
Right out of the oven.

Time to eat.


How to make the Sweet Onion Mustard:

This mustard is delicious. It has that good mustard-y dijon-y tang that you want out of mustard, but it is made sweeter by adding in some onions. This sauce goes great with the pretzels, but I also love it on a turkey or tuna sandwich, or with a hot dog. This recipe makes about 1 pint, and will last about 1 month to 6 weeks, sealed in your fridge. It makes a great hostess gift as well.  (Plus it is super easy and takes 5 minutes to make).



1 yellow onion
About 2 tablespoons of olive oil
Sprinkling of kosher salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup dijon mustard

1. Dice onion. Sauté in olive oil with a sprinkling of salt until soft.

2. Pour onion and  and oil in the pan into food processor. Add brown sugar and dijon.

Together in food processor.
3. Pulse until blended and smooth.  Taste and add more salt if necessary. That's it. You're done! Enjoy.


The finished product.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Blueberry Mint Lemonade

Sweet but not too sweet.


Today's blog recipe is for a delicious, refreshing, crisp blueberry mint lemonade. It is the perfect drink to serve for a summer BBQ, and it would not be a bad idea to add some vodka in, if you like. This drink is not too sweet, and not too minty - it has a nice kiss of mint, but you can still taste the lemon and blueberries. I recommend making this simple and fresh juice - there are only four ingredients! You start by making a mint simple syrup, which you combine with your lemons and blueberries at the end. You can leave the lemonade in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. This makes about 6 servings of lemonade.


Mint simple syrup:
3 cups sugar
3 cups water
3 cups packed mint leaves

3 cups fresh lemon juice
4 1/2 cups cold water
4 cups blueberries

1. Make the mint simple syrup by combining sugar, water, and mint in a saucepan. Put over heat and allow to simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool.

Ready to steep.


2. Squeeze your lemons, and combine with water and blueberries in a blender. I do this in two batches because my blender is not big enough. Blend the three ingredient together and strain into a pitcher (or whatever container you are using).

Squeezing lemons.

Ready to blend.


Straining. You are left with the skins of the blueberries.
3. Strain the mint simple syrup, discarding the leaves. Pour the remaining liquid into the blueberry/ lemon mixture and stir to combine.

Mint leaves strained out.

Mint simple syrup.
4. Pour over ice and serve, garnished with a mint leaf. Enjoy!