Dreamy's Delights

It's all about the food!

Garden Potato Salad

This recipe comes from my mom’s mom (Grandma Elaine) and it’s been a family tradition my whole life. It is the potato salad to which I compare all other potato salads. I take it to parties and my friends refer to it as THE potato salad. So for the first time ever, here is the recipe, written (or typed) down.

Base Potato Salad– for those who don’t like their veggies (like my dad)

5 lbs of russet or yukon gold potatoes (my parents like russet and i like the yukon gold)

6 hard boiled eggs, finely diced

1 1/2 cups celery, diced

1/2 – 1 whole onion, diced or minced (I HATE big pieces of onion in my salad so I run it through the food processor to make it mush. Then I have the flavor but no big pieces. My mom loves big pieces, so it’s strictly personal preference.)

This next list of ingredients is by weight. I eyeball the measurements so I couldn’t tell you how many cups. I decided it was easiest to put the bowl on a kitchen scale and get the weight as I went along.

9 ounces of Miracle Whip (NOT Mayonnaise! Trust me on this. By the time you get it all mixed up you would never know it was Miracle Whip but the flavor of mayo is just not quite right.)

5 ounces sweet pickle relish

1 1/2 ounces yellow mustard

1 TB kosher salt

2 tsp Salad Herbs (recipe to follow)

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

The first thing to do is cook the potatoes. I leave them skin on and whole, put them in a pot of water and boil until fork tender. Let them cook then skin them. Leave them whole and then use a potato masher to mash each potato ONE time. This will give a combination of very small pieces and larger pieces which a consistency similar to very chunky mashed potatoes. It allows the potatoes to soak up the Miracle Whip, mustard and pickle relish without being soupy. I really, really hate soupy potato salad.

potatosalad1

This picture shows me in the process of mashing the taters. If there are any really big pieces, I break them up with my fingers to something resembling bite sized. Once this is done, add the egg, onion, celery, miracle whip, mustard, pickle relish, salt, salad herbs and pepper. Mix thoroughly. This what we call our “base” potato salad. You can stop right here and it’s a very good, very basic potato salad. Or you can add some extra veggies to kick it up.

2 cups cucumber, diced

2 cups bell pepper, diced

2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced

Mix all that in and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

A word on veggies… If you’re making this during the summer, take the time to get stuff at the farmer’s market. There’s nothing like a good tomato to make this out of the world. During the other seasons I used English Cucumbers (the ones that come wrapped in plastic) for a couple of reasons. 1. the seeds are smaller and 2. the flavor is closer to what you get from a fresh garden grown cuke. I use NatureSweet Cherub tomatoes because again, the flavor is closer to what you get during the summer from your own garden. 99% of store bought tomatoes are horrible and I refuse to use them. That said, since it’s only April I used an english cucumber and cherub tomatoes.

potatosaladfinished

This is what it looks like finished. It sticks together kind of like mashed potatoes but it’s not that smooth. If anyone tries to make this, I’d really be interested to know what you think.

Finally, here’s the recipe for the Salad Herbs. This was a blend that was originally made by McCormick. We used it for years as the “secret ingredient” to finish this off. Then one day we couldn’t find it. McCormick had stopped making it. Woe and ruin! However, on a whim I emailed the company and surprisingly, they emailed me back with the recipe so that we could make it ourselves. I will always admire McCormick for being will to share that with our family.

Recipe for Salad Herbs

2 teaspoons dried tarragon
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4-1/2 teaspoon dried spearmint

Combine all ingredients. Mix gently. Store in an airtight container.

This mix gives the salad an herby touch that catches you a bit by surprise but not in a bad way. It gives a depth of flavor you usually don’t expect from a potato salad and high lights the sweetness of the extra veggies. Now that

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Chicken Stock

Now I already mentioned making my chicken stock in a post about canning. I mentioned the things I tossed in the pot but didn’t really give much of a recipe. This time I thought I’d give something resembling a recipe. Now, this is a really big recipe, I used a 20 quart pot, but you can scale it down very easily. 🙂

Recipe

Chicken bones from a rotisserie chicken (I used six carcasses)

3 large carrots

4 ribs of celery

3 large chard leaves

8 mushrooms

1 head of garlic, skin left on, cut in half horizontally

2 onions, skin left on, cut in half horizontally

3 large bay leaves

salt and pepper to taste

When I peel a chicken, I like to save all the bones. I was as Costco last week and got six rotisserie chickens. I like them because they’ve already been roasted, they’re cheaper than buying a whole, fresh, uncooked chicken and they taste good. Making stock is a good way to cook out the last of the yumminess from the bones and save money buying stock at the store.

Take a pot (in this case, a 20 qt pot) toss in the bones. After that you can pretty much put in what you want. In this case I didn’t use potatoes because I didn’t have any but you can do so. You can buy in anything you want to flavor the stock with. Unlike broth, stock should have a nice, rich flavor that is more than just chicken.

Don’t worry about peeling the veggies. Just wash the dirt off and cut them small enough to go in the pan. Don’t take the skin off the garlic or onions, it gives extra flavor.

For seasoning, I keep it simple with just bay leaves, salt, and pepper but again, you can add other stuff if you want. Fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, and sage are all good too. You want to use just enough to accent the flavor of the chicken without overwhelming it.

Once you have everything in the pot, fill the pot with water and put it on the stove over medium low heat. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the temperature to very low. Cover it and let is simmer for a day or two. Yes, I did say a day or two. This batch simmered for two days before I shut it off. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that you make sure you’ve gotten every tiny bit of goodness out of the chicken bones. The other is that I usually don’t have room in the fridge for this big of a pot and it lets me avoid trying to put it away to cool.

So once it’s done, strain the stock. I use a big wire mesh strainer and a piece of cheese cloth. I put the strainer over another large pot (16 qts I think), doubled the cheese cloth and lined the strainer. Then, I put my big burly man to work. A pot this big is HEAVY! So he was kind enough to slowly pour the contents of the pot into the strainer. Once I had all the chunky bits in the strainer, I gave them a squeeze to get the last bit of goodness out and then threw them away.

First off, let the stock cool before you do this part. Nothing sucks so much as having hot stock splash all over you.

Some people (like my mom) think you should be able to save the solids and use them for something else. You shouldn’t. ALL the goodness is now in the stock. The chicken bones have had all the collagen cooked out and will now crumble in your hands. The tiny bits of meat and the veggies are nothing but mush with very little flavor and a rather icky texture. Throw this stuff out or toss it on the compost pile.

Finally, it’s time to chill the stock. Make sure it’s cool enough to put in the fridge. I actually had to leave my pot sitting on the stove for several hours before I could do this. Then I had to put a whole bunch of veggies in a cooler so I had room in the fridge lol. Once the stock is cold, skim off the fat solids that are on top.

Once that’s done, you’ve got a beautiful pot of chicken stock. In my case, since I made so much of it, I’ll be spending the day canning it in quart jars. If you make a smaller batch, it’s now ready to use to make soup, gravy, and anything else you come up with. 😀

Just a quick note to say that I got 12 quarts of stock out of this. And I’m happy to report that every jar sealed 😀

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Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas with Verde Sauce

This is one of those “take a bunch of already made stuff and put it together” recipe. I don’t make anything from scratch in this recipe but it’s one I never get tired of. It’s also pretty easy to toss together on a weeknight. It takes about 20 minutes of prep time and a half hour of baking.

Recipe

1 rotisserie chicken, peeled and bones saved to make stock

12 6″ corn tortillas (I prefer the white corn)

1 – 1 1/4 lbs of shredded monterey jack (or colby jack) cheese

1 large can of green enchilada sauce (verde sauce, i prefer La Victoria brand)

oil

Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly spray a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick spray.

Heat the oil in a skillet until water sizzles. Then put one tortilla in the oil, frying for 8-10 seconds per side, just until the tortilla is soft. You do NOT want it crispy! The purpose of the heated oil is to cook the corn just a tiny bit and soften the tortilla so it  rolls instead of breaking.

Do this to all the tortillas and drain on paper towel.

Now… about the cheese. As you might be aware, I like cheese. I really, REALLY like cheese. These enchiladas have LOTS of cheese. So, feel free to cut back a bit if you like.

Take a tortilla and put a fingersfull of cheese in a line down the center. Put some chicken meat on top of that and then spoon about a tablespoon of verde sauce over that, roll the tortilla around the filling and place seam side down in the baking pan. You can fit 12 enchiladas in a 9×13 pan. 8 going along the pan, side to side and then four more across the tops in sets of two. enchiladalayout

          It’s not a pretty picture but you can get the idea of what I’m talking about.

You should have some chicken meat left over since the tortillas are pretty small. Don’t worry, it gets used!

Once all the tortillas are filled and in the pan, pour the remaining verde sauce over top. Try to make sure you get as many of the edges as possible. Sprinkle with the remaining chicken meat and then with more cheese. Don’t be shy with the cheese unless you don’t like cheese for some weird reason. Of course if you don’t like cheese you’re probably not going to make these.

I made two pans of these earlier this week and I used a 2.5 lb bag of cheese. 

After you have everything sufficiently cheesy, put the pan in the oven and bake for about half an hour. You want it to be hot, melty and bubbly with the cheese just starting to brown. 

I like to serve mine with sour cream but feel free to add whatever embellishments delight you. 🙂       

 

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Gorilla BBQ; Pacifica, CA

Gorilla BBQ is an interesting place to look at. It sits in an old railroad car off the Coast Highway in Pacifica, just south of San Francsico. Jene and I have been meaning to stop in there for a couple of years now and finally got around to it today.

This place has been on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and I was expecting some pretty amazing BBQ. Now, I will admit my standards for bbq are high. I grew up two hours west of Kansas City and spent almost ten years living there. I’ve had Memphis bbq and bbq in the Carolinas. So yeah, I’m a bbq snob. But really… if you’re on a big tv show, you oughta have something outstanding. Gorilla was a let down.

gorillabbq

I apologize for the poor quality of the picture but Gorilla only does carry out so we were sitting in the car lol. You get a lot of food. I got the three meat dinner and it takes two boxes. One for the meat and one for the sides. I got chicken (that’s a half chicken), brisket and pulled pork which came with coleslaw, rice n beans, mac n cheese, and a corn bread muffin, all for $20. Now that sounds like a lot but I’ll get 3-4 meals out of this easy.

So here’s the thing… lots of food, not much flavor. As near as I can tell, there’s NO dry rub on the meat. The chicken skin is seasoned but they didn’t put any of it under the skin. The brisket and pulled pork are unseasoned except for the smoke. The brisket was dry and tough which I would say means it was undersmoked at too high of a temperature. A good brisket should be juicy and melt in you mouth. I smoke my brisket at about 180F. I’m willing to be they used a much higher temperature. The texture of the pork was good but again, no flavor and the chicken was just middle of the road smoked chicken. I can turn out better bbq with the smoker on my deck.

The sauce… Welllll, um, yeah. I don’t have much nice to say about this sauce. The more I ate of it, the less I liked it. The primary flavor was black pepper. Talk about boring. I could tell they’d tried to add a little zip to it but they didn’t get enough vinegar in it. With all the flavors available to build a bbq sauce, they used black pepper… bleh.

The sides… I know a lot of places don’t focus much on their sides which is a shame. Gorilla is no exception. Bland is a good word to describe them. I will say that at least the coleslaw was cold and the cabbage nice and crisp. However, it had no flavor. It could have used at least a little salt and pepper. Now, I don’t eat beans so I can’t personally comment on that but Jene said they were bland. The mac n cheese had over cooked pasta which annoys me. Finally, the potato salad. Of all the things I ate today, this was surprisingly good. The sad part was that it came in a tiny little foam container that probably had about five bites in it. Jene got it as part of his lunch and I tried a bite. If there hadn’t been a line I’d have gone back in and gotten a quart. It was probably the best potato salad I’ve had outside my own. (yes, I’ll post that recipe sometime this summer)

So the bottom line is that it was ok, but I won’t go out of my way for it again. We were already in South San Francisco today so it wasn’t a huge side trip. I’ll definitely eat my left overs but I’ll be using some Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce on it. All I have to say to Guy Fieri is that maybe he needs better taste buds if he thinks this is good bbq.

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Vegetarian Chili

Now that I’m back home, I’ve been busy making a mess of the kitchen. And although I haven’t been posting this week, I’ve been busy cooking up quite a lot. The first thing Jene asked me to make was a vegetarian chili. I made this for a party a couple of years ago that had a vegetarian attending. I guess it made an impression because Jene wanted me to make it again lol.

After rummaging around in my memory for a bit I came up with the following recipe. (I apologize for the lack of a picture. I was too lazy to go get my phone.)

Recipe

4 cans of beans (1 can each of black, canneloni, pinto and kidney)

1/2 head of celery, chopped

1 onion, choppped

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb carrots, chopped

20 oz mushrooms, sliced and sauteed to remove the water

1 lb asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces

chili powder, to taste

cumin, to taste

salt and pepper, to taste

This makes a pretty big batch so I used my 6 qt crockpot. It can also be made on the stove over very low heat.

Spray the inside of the crockpot with non-stick cooking spray. Drain and rinse the beans then dump them in the pot. For the celery I washed the entire head without pulling any stalks off. Then I just started cutting it from the end until I’d used up half of it. This way you get the leaves in the chili. They have lots of good flavor. Add the celery, onions and carrots to the pot. Season with salt, pepper and chili powder to taste. Do NOT put the mushrooms and asparagus in yet. Set the crockpot on low and let it cook for about 5-6 hours. Meanwhile, saute the mushrooms in some butter in a skillet over medium low heat for about 20 minutes. The purpose of this is to cook out the water so they don’t make the chili runny. Chop the asparagus. When you’re about 45 minutes away from wanting to eat, add the mushrooms and asparagus to the pot, stir them in and and check the seasoning. If necessary add a bit more seasoning. Let cook just until the asparagus is tender. Turn of and serve with shredded cheese, sour cream and chopped green onions if desired.

For those of you who know me, you know I’m a big fan of Penzeys spices. I used their Chili 9000 for the chili powder. The number has nothing to do with heat so it’s not very hot. It’s just  very rich, flavorful chili powder with something like 26 ingredients in it. I highly recommend it. 🙂

And no, I didn’t eat any of this chili. I hate beans lol. Jene really enjoyed it and has been taking it to work for lunch this week.

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Dragon Inn: Overland Park, KS

As far as I’m concerned, Chinese food is the ultimate comfort food. I probably eat more Chinese food than anything else, even sushi. Dragon Inn is and probably always will be, my favorite spot to eat Chinese food. I’m friends with the manager Kate and I adore seeing her when I visit the restaurant. Even after being away for two years I got greeted with a big hug when I walked in the door.

It’s not anything above the ordinary as far as menu goes. There’s the standard dishes that everyone expects. However, the quality is ALWAYS excellent and I never leave hungry. The prices are also excellent. I stopped in for lunch the day I dropped Jene off at the airport to fly back to CA after our drive out to KS. I had the sweet and sour pork lunch plate. It comes with fried rice, egg drop soup and a choice of crab rangoon or egg roll. I had the crab rangoon.

Most people in CA have never heard of such a thing which is sad. Crab rangoon is a wonton style wrapper filled with a mix of cream cheese and crab meat. It’s crispy, creamy and delightful. I can’t get decent ones in CA even if I can find someplace that makes them. 😦

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This picture shows just how nice the food is. You can see that the pork is big chunks of meat with pineapple, green peppers, onions and carrots. My brother ordered some sweet and sour from a different restaurant and it had no veggies and tiny pieces of pork buried in the breading. Dragon Inn is MUCh better!  In addition to the plate of food, I also got a bowl of soup.

dragoninneggdropEgg drop soup isn’t anything unusual but Dragon Inn makes a very simple but very tasty version. It has broth and egg in it, that’s all. But the broth has a nice deep flavor and there’s no shortage of egg. When I lived in Overland Park, I’d come get this soup every time I got sick. I’d call in a carry out order and show up in my pajamas to pick it up. I miss having Dragon Inn nearby, not least because I miss seeing Kate more often than every couple of years.

Kate, if you read this.. I miss you! I wish I’d been able to stop by and see you one more time before I went home. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to. Take care and I’ll see you when I get back there again. 🙂

Dragon Inn is in Overland Park, KS at 7500 West 80th Street. If you are there, go see them.

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Mr. Gyros, Overland Park KS

I love Greek/Mediterranean food and so far, Mr. Gyros is my favorite place to get it. They have rich flavors and good prices. Unfortunately, they’re now about 1900 miles from where I live. What that means is that every time I’m in the area I eat there as often as I can! They have all the usual Greek foods you expect; gyros (the usual beef and lamb mix and a chicken mix that rocks), dolmades, mousaka, pastichio, tzatziki, and spanikopita. They do a wonderful grilled chicken too. My favorite meal is the combination plate with has gyro meat, pita, spanikopita, dolmades, pastichio and a bit of greek salad.

For those of you not familiar with Greek food, I’ll explain what each bit is.

Gyros: A mixture of finely minced beef and lamb, seasoned with garlic, oregano and other spices that is patted onto a big spit that slowly turns in front of a heating element. The cooked meat on the outside is cut off into ribbons as people order the meat. It’s grilled for a few minutes on a flatop and then served. Mr. Gyros also does this with minced chicken meat and it’s awesome.

Dolmades: Grape leaves stuffed with a mixture of spiced meat and rice then steamed. About the size of a person’s finger and very similar in appearance to a cabbage roll only smaller and darker. The grape leaves have a very tangy flavor.

Pastichio: This is one of my favorite dishes. It’s penne pasta with seasoned ground beef on top and a thick custardy cream sauce on top of that. It’s delicious!

Spanikopita: Spinach and feta cheese with seasonings stuffed between layers of phyllo dough. It’s kind of like a spinach pie. I enjoy it with  some fresh lemon juice squeezed on top.

Tzatziki: a yogurt and cucumber dip seasoned with garlic and dill. I like to dip my gyro meat straight into it.

mrgyroscombo

Starting at the top left and going clockwise: Pastichio, gyro meat laying on pita bread, greek salad, container of tzatziki, and spanikopita. The dolmade is hiding behind the pastichio by the lemon wedge.

It was all delicious! I actually ate here twice during my trip to KS. Mr. Gyros is about an hour and a half from my mom’s house too. Fortunately I had plenty of excuses to visit Kansas City and eat here 😉

The final crown in the meal is the coconut baklava. No, it’s not traditional. I don’t like walnuts and therefore find traditional baklava unappealing. However, the coconut is really nice. I love the pairing of coconut and honey.

coconutbaklava

So if you get the chance to swing by 83rd and Metcalf in Overland Park, KS, take the time to stop and visit Mr. Gyros.

 

 

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Home again

At long last I have returned home. It was good to see my family and help my mom although we didn’t get nearly as much done as I wanted to. I wound up sick TWICE while I was there and that made it really hard to get anything accomplished. We did manage to donate a tremendous amount of stuff to charity but that’s about it.

Jene and I had a good drive home. He’s a delight to travel with and I hardly even noticed the miles go by. We spent some time in Arizona seeing the Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is amazing and we even saw a California Condor fly over head. Those birds are BIG!

I have several posts to write about places I ate, how my beer cheddar turned out and the vegetarian chili I made for dinner tonight. Unfortunately, I brought my cold home with me so I’m still feeling pretty icky. I hope to get some stuff written up as the week goes on.

I look forward to getting myself back into the routine of working and creating food. It’s good to be home 🙂

 

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