Potluck/Holliday Recipes

As the weather turns, I have started thinking about holiday entertaining and potlucks, and reading this book about potluck recipes. Recipes for entertaining cannot be finicky, should have some element of "do-ahead"and need to be stable while on the table.

Tuscan Kale Salad: healthy, vegan and raw. Doesn't need to be heated or cooled and is really delicious. Most people haven't seen this variety of kale before either.
Broccoli Crunch Salad: remove the bacon if you're worried about temps or cooking for vegetarians.

Spinach Chana dal: fresh tasting and everything can be ready and waiting, just stir the spinach in at the last moment.
African Sweet Potato Peanut Stew: vegan, cheap and superbly delicious. You can have this bubbling away on the stove.
Miso-Broiled Salmon- very quick to make and a sure crowd-pleaser
Thai Salad with Rice Noodles-easy since you use a supermarket roasted chicken, and assemble prior to the party
Dal Curry- great for vegans/vegeterians, makes large volume with little effort, cheap!
French Lentil Mediterranean salad: meatless but still "meaty" tasting. Great for summer.
Slow Cooker Beef & Potato Tinga: serve with soft tortillas. Make sure folks have spoons and plates for this one!

Dips & Spreads
Mexican Layer Dip: serve with soft corn tortillas or non-gmo tortilla chips
Spicy Garlic Bean Dip- serve with crackers or a veggie tray, vegan/healthy
Spicy Mango Sauce- livens up meats, more exciting than cranberry sauce
Herbed Goat Cheese: simply blend goat cheese with herbs and olive oil instead of buying the expensive kinds at the store. Or make a fromage fort by mixing grated cheddar and other cheese. Or make a cheese ball using cheddar + cream cheese and herbs. Serve with mini toasts.

Chai Tea- more exotic than the standard chocolate, and still accessible to kids and adults. Make a big batch, it keeps in the fridge for several days.

Berry Crisp: assemble ahead, then warm in the oven. You can even assemble then freeze and use later.
Vegan Raw-ish Apple Crisp: easy like the berry crisp- good for autumn when you can get good apples cheaply.
Biscotti: great for a cookie platter. Looks distinguished but you can do all the work ahead and pull out of the freezer at the last moment.

Chocolate Budino Puddings- prep ahead and keep these in ramekins in the fridge, then pop in the oven for showtime
English Toffee with Almonds- a little prep, but you can do a few weeks ahead and put out on the candy platter


Chocoalte Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting

My sister's birthday is today, so to celebrate, I made my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe from this magazine. Of course birthday cupcakes need frosting, so I used a plain vanilla recipe. But with Tammy-proportions of vanilla added, it had a strange gray color.... so I added brown sugar to balance it out. A happy accident since it tasted even better!
Chocolate Cupcakes
Do not double. Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Line muffin pan.

Combine & melt:
8 TB Butter (that's 1 stick)
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ C (or 1.5 oz) dutch-processed cocoa

¾ C (3.75 oz) Flour (all purpose works fine, or a blend of cake and all-purpose)
½ tea Baking soda
¾ tea Baking powder

2 eggs
½ - ¾ C (<5.25>
1 tea vanilla
½ tea salt

Add chocolate mixture to egg mixture, mix until incorporated.

Sift in flour mixture and:

½ C (4 oz) Nancy’s plain honey yogurt
(or sour cream)

Divide batter into muffin pans.

Bake 18-20 minutes, until skewer comes out clean.

Cool before frosting.

Brown Sugar Frosting
Now I wasn't delighted at the finished frosting (too sweet for my taste), but it had a good consistency. I might have to tweak the recipe later... any ideas?

1/3 C melted butter
3 C powdered sugar
2 TB milk
2-3 tea brown sugar
(for color and extra flavor)

The original recipe (from a dusty 1970s ? Better Homes & Gardens cookbook) has you blending the butter and sugar first. Can you say clumpy? You go to all the trouble of de-clumpifying the powdered sugar just to make butter-sugar pellets?

On my next attempt, I think I will stick to mixing the melted butter (otherwise the clumps), vanilla and the milk first, then slowly adding sifted powdered sugar until the correct consistency. Or, I might ditch it and make this recipe for caramel buttercream...


Yummy Mushrooms and Asiago

I took these photos while cooking the previous post and I just can't resist posting them!

Spontaneous Brown-butter-white-wine pasta

Another night of "what-to-cook!" and I found mushrooms, a can of olives and pine nuts...

Brown-butter-white-wine pasta with mushrooms, olives and pine nuts
1. Heat a couple tablespoons of butter and a TB of olive oil over medium-low heat
2. Stir as the butter "browns"- the water is evaporating, leaving those ummy-yummy "butter solids" in the pan. Watch carefully, burnt butter is no good.
3. Once the butter looks like it's got little pieces, and smells nicely nutty, stir in 1 C chopped mushrooms. Stir, cook covered until mushrooms are coated and not raw anymore.
4. Sprinkle pepper and 1/8 tea ground mustard in the pan, stir.
5. Add 1/4- 1/3 C white wine (I like to cook with a cheap bottle of sauvingon blanc) and let it bubble
6. Add a couple tablespoons of sliced oilves, stir as the sauce bubbles7. Add a tablespoon or two of pine nuts, stir
8. When the noodles are almost ready and the sauce is a runny but flavorful liquid, turn off heat and stir in 1/4 C finely shredded asiago cheese. Stir to melt into the sauce. Take off heat.
9. Serve by drizzling sauce over pasta. It's very rich so a small portion with a side salad would be perfect!


I was never really fanatical about applesauce until my Grandma introduced me to homemade applesauce. Quick to prepare, amazingly delicious and a great dessert any time, I am hooked!

Buy a bunch of gravensteen (green ish) apples, maybe throw in a red or other one for variety. You don't want to make this out of grocery store apples, get the good stuff from a farmer, farmer's market or pick your own.

1. Wash and peel the apples. No need to be perfect, just get most of the peel off.
2. Core and cut into 1 inch or smaller chunks. The pieces don't have to be uniform either.
3. Toss apples in large pan, with a sprinkling of water (I used 1/4 C with 4-5 apples, seemed to work fine). You can always add more water.
4. Cook the apples, covered, on medium heat, until they break down and become apple-saucy texture. This happens after the bubbling and frothy stage.
5. Add a tablespoon of sugar if you need it and stir to dissolve.
6. Take the pan off the heat and stir in a tad bit of vanilla
7. Serve!


Japanese Sauteed Chicken Slices- BBQ Style

From what I call the bible of Japanese cooking, I adapted this recipe for "tori no usugiriyaki". Absolutely fantastic!! The best chicken I've had in years!!

I think it would be good with a little grated ginger added to the marinade, but really this is perfect as is.

Combine in a bowl for marinating:
1 tea tahini
1/4 C minced green onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 TB soy sauce
1 TB honey

2 TB sesame oil

1/4 tea cracked black pepper

Add 1-2 thinly sliced chicken breasts and marinate 20+ minutes.

In a hot pan with a little olive oil, fry the chicken slices until golden on each slide. It will spatter, but you need the pan hot enough to cook the chicken to the right texture. I use long "cooking" style chopsticks to turn the pieces without getting hit with oil.

Repeat cooking until all chicken is cooked.

Serve over mixed brown/wild rice.

Alfredo Sauce

After many years of mystery, I finally gave the traditional recipes for Alfredo/white sauce a try. The idea of raw flour in a saucepan is scary no more!
This is a basic recipe outline, you can substitute all you want- I've even used rice milk+ yogurt instead of the milk (and it was good)!

1. melt 2 TB butter over low heat
2. add chopped garlic, shallots etc.
3. add 2 TB flour, cook gently over low heat until the flour cooks, shouldn't smell raw anymore. This takes 2 minutes? Pass the clumpy stage, it will get creamy- this is what you want.
4. Add liquids (milk and white wine). I do this in two steps so that each warms up....

Add 1-2 C milk or some combo of rice milk, milk, yogurt, veggie broth... cooking times to get the sauce to thicken will depend on the thickness of your "milk" product here.

Add 1/4- 1/2 C white wine. I use the cheapy $4 a bottle stuff, "sauvingon blanc"

5. Now you have a sauce, so you can add your veggies. I like to add sliced mushrooms. Cook until the sauce is thickened and your veggies are tender.

Serve over pasta, poultry, whatever!


Soba Noodles with Dipping Sauce

This is one of our favorites- healthy light meal that is pretty quick to prepare. It pairs well with high fat or heavy foods like tempura. I learned how to bundle the soba noodles from my Japanese host mom- it's not as easy as it looks!

The easiest way to make dashi (Japanese soup stock) is to let konbu (kelp) and katsuokushi (fish flakes) sit in water overnight. See the JustHungry blog for details, the Cold Water Method.

Soba Dipping Sauce
Mix over low heat until dissolved:
1/3 C soy sauce
1 TB sugar

Then add 3 C dashi (see JustHungry blog for recipes & instructions)
Heat to a slight simmer

Cool in fridge if you want cold dipping sauce for the cold noodles.

Meanwhile, prepare soba noodles according to the package directions. Mine cooked for 6 minutes. Once the noodles are cooked, drain in a colander. Rinse with cold water, then add the noodles and cold water to a large pot (I re-use the pot I cooked them in) and swish until the noodles are cold. This may take a change of water to cool them down.

In order to form the soba noodles into nice little bundles, do NOT strain the water from the noodles!

The easiest method is to grab a chunk of noodles in the water between your thumb and forefinger. Then swish the noodles until they are somewhat untangled.

Pull this untangled group of strands out of the water with the middle of the strands on your forefinger. Use your other had to wrap both ends around your finger, forming a loose O shape.

Place soba rings on a plate or a soba draining basket and serve with bowls of the dipping sauce.


Hiyashi Chuuka- JPN/Chinese Summer Noodle Salad

After first tasting this dish at my host family's house in Japan, I am hooked. Cold noodles, dressing, thinly sliced veggies, sliced omlette....


The basic idea is to cook chinese egg noodles until al-dente, then drain and rinse in cold water, drain again.

Top with thinly sliced veggies, sliced omelette pieces, and drizzle soy sauce/sesame oil over the top. I sprinkle smashed peanuts over the top, with some pepper.