Friday, September 4, 2015

Dilly Dip Potato Salad

I've never been much of an experimenter in the kitchen; I have always been pretty dependent upon other people's expertise, cooking wise. That said, I've been getting braver in the last year or so, and today's recipe is representative of that. I adapted two different recipes for this potato salad, which I'll be taking to a party tomorrow. The first recommended baking the potatoes, rather than boiling them, so that's what I did. The second recipe is my own, which usually calls for mayo (Miracle W and mustard); I decided to go really crazy and use a local product that I'd never tried before: Let's Get Dilly dip mix, from Chics-n-Dip.

"Specializing in creating zesty chip & veggie dips, sweet cheesecake dips, meat rubs & bread mixes," Chics-n-Dip is a small Wisconsin company run by two women who work their tails off to offer more than thirty delicious dips and more. My personal favorites are The Villain, I'm Too Sexy for My Beer Belly, and Bling for Carrots; but that's only because I like them so much (as do my guests) that I haven't had the chance to try the rest! I'd never tried the Let's Get Dilly Dip, but since the others are so great, I figured it would be too, and I was right! The directions are simple: mix with one cup each of sour cream (or plain yogurt) and mayo, and you're in business.

I mixed the dip, chilled it, and then prepped the rest:

1 cup chopped celery
1.5 cups chopped cucumber
1 cup chopped dill pickles (my favorite ingredient)
3/4 cup chopped red onion
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
yellow mustard
1 cup real mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream 
1 pkg Chics-n-Dip Let's Get Dilly dip mix

I used this much mustard:

[I had my ingredients in bags because I prepped them ahead and put them in the fridge.]

1 5-lb bag of potatoes

Poke holes in and bake the potatoes (whole) at 350 degrees for an hour or until soft. 
Cut them in half and let them cool enough to handle.
Remove the skin (or keep it, if that's your style) and chop into bite-sized pieces.
Place on a tray and chill about an hour.
(This helps the bites keep their shape and keeps the dressing cold during mixing.)

Mix everything together,
add salt if desired, and enjoy!
I enjoyed some before it even had time to "get happy," 
and I can't wait to eat my fair share tomorrow!
It has just the right amount of dill in it, and the crunch and zing of the pickles...YUM!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Roasted Tomato Zugghetti

I can't believe I've lived 52 years without ever tasting roasted tomatoes! They're DELICIOUS! My cousin Tina shared her method with me last week, and I've made them three times already! Today I decided to top some spiralized zucchini with the tomato loveliness and share it here for future reference. Mr.4444, a pasta lover, proclaimed this "absolutely wonderful." Paired with a chicken breast, he proclaimed, "If I could have a meal that tasted this good, I'd eat healthy all the time!"


small tomatoes, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces (I used Romas, but I don't think it matters.)
minced garlic (for this version, I used one gigantic clove, but Tina uses "a ton of garlic" in hers)
basil (or your favorite fresh herb) I used about ten leaves.
one three-fingered pinch of salt
olive oil (I used about one tablespoon.)
aged balsamic vinegar (I just drizzled it, maybe two tablespoons)

zucchini (or you could also use pasta, of course)
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cut the tomatoes into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces and place in a bowl.

Mince the garlic.

To prep the basil, stack the leaves,

 roll them up.

and slice into tiny ribbons.

Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic. I used The Oilerie's absolutely wonderful 25-year-old aged balsamic vinegar (which I could drink straight out of the bottle, I swear).

Add the salt and toss to coat.

Pour the mixture onto parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes. You will be tempted to take it out early when you start to smell that wonderful garlicky aroma, but it's best to keep them in there until the liquid from inside the tomatoes is mostly gone.

Speaking of liquid, you should have a little "puddle" of liquid beneath the finished tomatoes; give them a stir and do not discard any excess!

I served mine over spiralized zucchini that I'd heated up for one minute (just to take the chill out). (I prefer my vegetables al dente; the little crunch gives it character, if you ask me.) Top with a little grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

I'll have you know that I was the envy of all of my friends who were eating lunch at the same time with me; the aroma was absolutely wonderful, and it was very satisfying! This recipe makes enough for two generous servings.

I made it for dinner on Saturday night.

"I'm not even disappointed that it's not pasta!"
"This is the best healthy food I've ever eaten in my life!"

Mr.4444 keeps singing the praises of this meal.

I hope you like it, too.

P.S. Wondering if you can use balsamic vinegar that isn't aged? I have no idea; if you try it, let me know!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Spinach and Quinoa Mediterranean Salad

I recently made this delicious, healthy salad and plan to make it again, so here you go!



3 tbls freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 tbls red wine vinegar
1/2 tbls olive oil, and a pinch of oregano

Salad Stuff:
1 cup cooked quinoa (I cooked mine in chicken broth.)
3 cups fresh baby spinach (missing from my photo above, btw; Mr.4444 was picking some up)
1 red pepper, diced
1 cup of chopped cucumber (missing from Pop Sugar's recipe, as well as my photo above)
10 grape or cherry tomatoes
10 sliced kalamata olives
1/4 cup feta cheese

First, mix the dressing ingredients while you cook the quinoa.

In a medium-sized bowl, gently mix the spinach, quinoa, and half of the dressing.

Add the other vegetables.


Fold the feta cheese in gently.

Pretty and delicious!

A few years ago, a woman took the time to leave a comment on Mrs.4444 Cooks, chewing me out for sharing so many unhealthy recipes. I found that hilarious (and still do), as if I was twisting people's arms to make unhealthy food. Whoever she was, she'd be proud of me today; this recipe is relatively healthy; the dressing is deliciously lower in fat than a typical salad dressing. There's plenty of fiber, protein, and potassium here. The olives are 20% of your sodium for the day, but check out the vitamin content!
There are about 300 calories per 2-cup serving (This makes about six cups worth.) and the olives provide a fair amount of monounsaturated fat (the good kind!). As mentioned previously, this salad is delicious, and I look forward to making it again!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Kyle's Butternut Squash Soup

My son Kyle is taking after his dad (and grandpa), becoming pretty adventurous in the kitchen!
Because he has a gift (not like me), he doesn't need to use a recipe, 
so I don't have one to share, but I do have some awesome photos 
of the deliciousness we had over here on Friday night.
Kyle made butternut squash soup--It was soooo good!

First, he chopped up green apples, peeled squash, carrots and fresh ginger.

Then he sauteed onions

before adding the root veggies, fruit and some vegetable broth and cooking it all until soft.

After that, Kyle blended the result in batches.

He added salt and pepper, too, of course.
This is the gorgeous result.

This time, the whipping cream was forgotten,
but we loved it anyway.

Maybe Kyle will have a cooking blog of his own one day!
For a printer-friendly version of this soup, click here.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Rabbit Food Sandwich a.k.a. Smashed Chickpea & Avocado Salad Sandwich Spread

Did you know that the USDA no longer uses the "Food Pyramid" as a guide and instead uses the "My Plate" reference? Until this post, I didn't. Here is the plate for dietary recommendations for adults:

Whenever I try to feed my husband fresh vegetables, he says, "That's not food; that's what food eats!" or "That's rabbit food!" I haven't given up, though, and when I saw this recipe (like egg salad, but without eggs or mayo), I thought it would be a great way to beef up a neglected portion of Mr.4444's diet.

Outside of hummus, I've not eaten chickpeas much, and Mr.4444 never even eats hummus when it's an appetizer, so I didn't let him see what the ingredients in this recipe were when I was preparing it. His verdict, "It's a really great sandwich, Hon!" (It also makes a great dip!)

For a simple, no-nonsense, printable version of this recipe, click here.


1 large, ripe avocado
1 15-oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
Juice from one lime
1/4 cup freshly-chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Bread (of course)
Sandwich toppings of your choice, such as lettuce/spinach, tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, etc.

FYI, I ended up using a different bread than that in the photo, simply because I realized I had half a loaf of other bread to use first. I've never had the "Sprouted Grains," bread, and I'm hoping it's good!

First, drain and rinse the garbanzo beans. The recipe recommended removing the skins, which until that moment I hadn't realized existed! Who knew garbanzo beans had skins?! I did this in the colander, in the sink, gently rubbing them to reveal the skins. Full-disclosure: The original recipe says that it takes ten minutes to prep, but this part of the prep took me ten minutes!

Pretty interesting!

There's only a subtle difference between garbanzo beans with or without skin, but I agree that this recipe is better without that added texture.

(Skinned on the left, unskinned on the right)

I was so distracted by my new garbanzo-skin knowledge that I failed to read the directions that said to drain them, rinse them, and then lay them on a paper towel to dry them. I did this after my de-skinning in the colander process and learned that the gentle rubbing with a paper towel sloughs the skins off, too. (I had missed some!)

Place all of the ingredients in a flat-bottomed bowl 

and smash with a potato masher until you have the desired texture. (If you missed any skins, they'll appear during this process.)

Looks just like guacamole, doesn't it?!

Assemble your sandwich

 and enjoy!

I really liked the cilantro and lime juice flavors in this sandwich! It was a nice, 
guilt-free alternative to mayo, and the texture was nice.
 I'm not sure rabbits enjoy limes, but I actually did think that rabbits would love this sandwich, too.

Too bad there wasn't any extra (Makes 3-4 sandwiches).

Friday, March 28, 2014

California Quinoa Salad

On a recent trip to Minneapolis, I was thrilled to visit Whole Foods, the deli of which is always a highlight of my visit, as I love their salads. (I also love that they let you sample them.) On that particular visit, I fell in love with their California Quinoa salad, made with red quinoa, veggies and fruits and some type of light dressing that tasted guilt-free. Sadly, though, the guilt returned when I saw the price sticker on the pound-and-a-half container when I got it home--$13! I resigned myself to not buying it again (which is easy, since we don't have a Whole Foods where I live) and just enjoying the salad. Then I remembered Pinterest! This recipe is inspired by this pin and this pin.

For a no-nonsense version of this recipe, click here. For the nutrition facts, scroll to the bottom of this post.


3 1/2 cups of vegetable broth (or water)
2 cups uncooked quinoa (I used red; it's pretty!)

1/2 cup dried fruit of your choosing [I switched the pictured raisins out (too old) for Door County cranberries. You could use cherries, too.]

First, put the broth, quinoa, and dried fruit in a saucepan and heat it to boiling over medium heat.

By the way, I didn't have any broth and didn't want to use plain water, so I made my own broth! (So exciting!) All you have to do is throw some veggies (any, really) into a pot of water, season it with salt and pepper, bring it to a boil and simmer for at least an hour, then strain it.

And now, back to our show!  Once the quinoa mixture is boiling, lower the heat and cook (covered) 15-20 minutes or until the water has been absorbed. To be completely honest, after 20 minutes, my quinoa was still a little soupy, but I liked its texture, so I just drained it and moved on.)

While that's cooking, prep the rest of the delicious, healthy ingredients:

2 mangos, peeled and diced (I only used one, but will use two next time.)
1 red pepper, diced
1/4 cup finely-chopped red onion
1 cup shelled edamame
3 tablespoons finely-chopped cilantro
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup sliced almonds (I just chopped mine.)
2 limes (zest and juice)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 orange, peeled, skin removed, and diced (This will be my addition next time.)

Don't let the coconut scare you; I couldn't even taste it.

Do yourself a favor and zest the limes before you cut and juice them! (I forgot.)

To me, the mixture looked like Christmas candy of some kind. Yum...

When the quinoa mixture is somewhat cooled, mix everything together, and voila!

While typing this, I decided I would add another mango and maybe an orange, 
because I have a sweet tooth, but it was delicious, all the same, 
and I'll definitely be making this again.

Serve warm or cold.
Makes about three quarts.

Believe it or not, I had no clue how to cut a mango, 
so I found this video, which made it seem simple.
(Keyword: seem)

P.S. Guessing that this recipe makes 14 cups (one cup per serving), 
I analyzed it via SparkPeople and got the following result: