Tomato & Basil Salad

Well, my garden is starting to wind down now.  We’ve had some beautiful weather and the cooler temperatures have slowed production.  Matt actually made this Tomato & Basil Salad earlier this summer for the first time and we both really liked it.  We’ve made it several times since then and love that we can use any tomatoes from our garden and we can more or less follow the recipe and it still turns out well.  We still have some cherry tomatoes and the basil is still out there, so yesterday, I quickly tossed together this wonderful salad to go along with some Baked Tilapia and brown rice.  It made for a really nice, quick, delicious dinner.

If you have tomatoes to use up, I highly recommend this salad!

Tomato and Basil Salad


Tomato & Basil Salad
from a cookbook called Vegetarian

4 large ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 shallot, finely chopped
8 basil leaves, roughly torn
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T balsamic or wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper

What To Do
Overlap tomato slices on a serving platter.  Sprinkle with shallot and basil.

Spoon oil and vinegar evenly over salad.  Season generously with salt and pepper.

My Comments
So, actually, we’ve never done the serving platter thing.  We have just chopped up tomatoes and sometimes put onion in and sometimes add feta cheese or in yesterday’s case, I sprinkled parmesan cheese on top.  Like I said, we more or less follow the recipe.

For the cherry tomatoes, I just sliced them in half and tossed all the ingredients together.  Very simple.

Some Photos Along the Way
Tomato and Basil Salad

Tomato and Basil Salad

Tomato and Basil Salad


So easy and so delicious! I hope summer isn’t over yet and I hope to get some more tomatoes out of the garden but if not, I can look forward to more of these yummy salads next year.

Have a great day!


Cranberry Sauce

You know how “they” say there are two kinds of people in the world? And then “they” go on to say what those two kinds are.  Well, I’m going to add another one – there are two kinds of people in the world – those who like canned cranberry sauce and those who like homemade real cranberry sauce.  Guess which one I am?

That’s right – no canned cylindrical sauce for me.  It’s so easy (only 3 ingredients!) to make and tastes great.  I love that it can be made ahead of time and I just love the bits of real cranberries in there.  It’s super pretty too.  Definitely a great addition to the table.  Oh, and the leftovers! Great for spreading on toast or turkey sandwiches or even making a cranberry yogurt coffeecake.  Hmmm…maybe a future post?


Cranberry Sauce


Cranberry Sauce
from the label on the bag of cranberries

makes about 4 cups

3 c fresh or frozen cranberries
1.5 c sugar
3/4 c water

What To Do
Simmer cranberries and water together over medium heat.  Add sugar.  Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour into a container and cool.  Refrigerate after cool.

My Comments
At the store I most frequently shop at, fresh cranberries come in 12-oz bags, which is about 3 cups.  I just use the whole bag.

You could substitute orange juice for the water or do a mixture of both.  I use a mixture of both.

Cranberry Sauce

I turn the heat down to simmer after adding the sugar.  I don’t think it needs to be at a rolling boil for 10 minutes!

Cranberry Sauce

I love the Pop! Pop! while the cranberries are cooking.

Hmmm…I’ve never measured the end result before but today I poured the sauce into my 4-cup glass liquid measuring cup (to cool and store it in until Thursday) and it came to 2.5 cups! Still plenty but weird….

The sauce will set up (firm up, gel) as it cools.  You can make this a few days ahead of time, which is great! I wouldn’t store it in the bowl you want to serve it in, though, because I like to stir it up a bit before serving and want to make sure it all looks nice on the table…but that’s just me.


Wouldn’t this make a fun jigsaw puzzle?

Cranberry Sauce

You know, just in case you (or perhaps your guests) need something to do. 🙂

Have a great week!

Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes

I read something the other day (and, of course, I can’t for the life of me remember where) that said something about not focusing on how stressed you are but how blessed you are.  Thanksgiving is coming up very soon (next week!) and though the very nature of Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks for our blessings, it’s often a day (or several days) of crazy stress.  You know, trying to make plans, families getting together, cooking, cleaning, entertaining, traveling – all good things – but can cause some stress in our lives.

What does this have to do with Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes?

Well, my friends, if you are hosting Thanksgiving this year, and you want some yummy mashed potatoes, and you want to get as much done ahead of time as possible so you don’t spend all your time in the kitchen when you could and should be spending time with your guests, then you will want this recipe!

Remember:  less stress! You can make these up to two weeks in advance! Then just pop ’em in the oven on the big day and enjoy.


Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes


Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes
from two different friends at two different times in my life
serves 10 – 12

5 lbs potatoes
6 oz cream cheese
2 t onion salt
1 c sour cream
1/2 – 1 t salt
1/4 t pepper
2 T butter

What To Do
Peel potatoes and cut into roughly same-sized pieces.

Cook potatoes in a large pot of boiling water until tender.  Drain and return to pot.

Mash until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and beat/whip until fluffy.

After they cool down, cover and place in refrigerator.  May be kept for two weeks.

To use: place desired amount in a greased casserole.  Dot with butter and bake at 350ºF until heated through, about 30 minutes.

My Comments
I don’t think it matters much what kind of potatoes you use.  Today I used red potatoes because they conveniently came in a 5-lb bag.  I have used other kinds in the past.

To save time, put a large pot of water on the stove and get it warming while you’re peeling and cutting the potatoes.  It might just work out that when you finish with the potatoes, the water will be boiling.

You might want to set the cream cheese and sour cream out ahead of time so they’re not so cold when you incorporate them into the potatoes.  You could set them out when you start peeling the potatoes.

I cut my potatoes into roughly 1″ pieces.  The smaller you cut them, the faster they’ll cook.  Just make sure they’re about the same size so they cook evenly.

Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes

Today my potatoes took 15 – 20 minutes to cook. To test if they are tender, take a few pieces out and stick a fork in them. If it goes in easily, they’re done.

If you like chunkier mashed potatoes (me! me! I do!), use a potato masher to incorporate the remaining ingredients instead of hand beaters or a mixer (less dishes to wash too!).  Another time saver is to go ahead and add the remaining ingredients to the drained potatoes and mash them all together.  I did this and as you can see, I cut the cream cheese and butter into smaller pieces so they’d melt and mash easier.

Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes

Oh, and I just did the mashing on the stove because I was short on counter space. The pot was not on a heated burner while I mashed.

Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes

When I’ve made these in the past, I warmed them in a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish, which held the entire amount of mashed potatoes.  You could go ahead and store them in your fridge in a greased baking dish but this time I’m using a bowl and will transfer to a baking dish later.

Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes


I made these today because Matt & I are hosting Thanksgiving this year.  I am definitely a planner and like to get as much done as possible ahead of time.  I feel very blessed to be able to make this part of the meal ahead of time.  If you are traveling and taking a dish, this might be a good option for you too – if your weather is anything like mine is now, your Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes will stay cold in the trunk of your car until you reach your destination.

I love hosting and I love these mashed potatoes and I love less stress.  It is possible to have it all!

Green Bean Salad

Brrr…it’s a bit chilly out this morning.  It does certainly feel like a fall morning.  I know Labor Day happened and all but I’m not quite ready to let go of summer yet.  Plus, my calendar says Autumn doesn’t begin until later this month.  If you feel the same way, this recipe is for you! I know there are still fresh green beans and cherry tomatoes out there!!


Green Bean Salad


Green Bean Salad
from The Food Network

Kosher salt
1 pound slender green beans, ends trimmed
1 cup feta cheese crumbles
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
1/2 cup slivered almonds
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 large clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper

What To Do
Boil a large pot of salted water. Add the green beans and cook until tender crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Use a spider to remove to a bowl of ice water. Drain well, pat dry and place the beans in a large bowl. Combine with the feta cheese, tomatoes and red onions.

Toast the almonds in a small skillet, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a plate.

Whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, basil, garlic and some salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the green beans and sprinkle with the toasted almonds. Let marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving.

My Comments
Well, so…Matt and I really really like this salad but we altered it just a bit…first, we cooked our green beans (in unsalted water) all the way because neither of us like crunchy green beans.  So that means, no ice bath needed.

Clearly, from the picture, you can see we did not slice our cherry tomatoes in half and really, at this stage of the garden game, mine are smaller now anyway – there’s really no point in halving them.

We skipped the almonds.

And we used dried basil instead of fresh because my basil never really took off this year.  It reached maybe 5 inches tall with a few leaves and that’s it.

And…the first time we did not let it marinate for an hour because we didn’t have time.  The second time we did.  Either way, it tastes great!


Did you ever see the movie, UP? They say “adventure is out there!” and I feel like saying “summer is out there!” because really, it is and we can still eat delicious fresh green beans and cherry tomatoes in wonderful salad form…even if we need to wear a sweater while doing so.

Enjoy your day!

Egg Rolls

I hope you are having a great weekend! One thing I love about weekends is that I sometimes (normally? often? usually?) have more time to play in the kitchen than during the week.  Yesterday I made egg rolls!!

It’s not hard at all and they turned out really good! You too can make egg rolls and impress your friends and family! 🙂


Egg Rolls


Egg Rolls
inspired by Lil’ Luna
makes about 10 egg rolls

1 12-oz package of broccoli cole slaw mix (contains shredded broccoli, carrots, red cabbage)
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
oil (olive oil or stir fry oil and vegetable oil)
soy sauce
1 package of egg roll/spring roll wrappers (mine were 6.5″ squares – look in the produce section by the mushrooms)
a little water

What To Do
Heat some (maybe a couple tablespoons – sorry, I didn’t measure) olive oil or stir fry oil in a large pan on the stove over medium heat.  Add the cole slaw mix and cook for about 10 minutes, until soft (tender-crisp?).  You should eat some to make sure it’s how you want it – some people might like it softer/crunchier than others.  About halfway through (5 minutes), add the shredded chicken.  You might not use it all, depending on how big the chicken breasts were.  Just add as much as you want and looks like a good balance of chicken and vegetables (again, sorry, I didn’t measure).  At this point I also added some splashes of soy sauce.  Again, taste as you go.

Here’s what mine looked like at this point:

slaw and chicken mixture

After the cole slaw and chicken mixture is cooked to your liking, take it off the heat.  Now you will prepare your egg rolls!

Fill your egg roll wrappers with roughly 1/3 cup (I did measure this!) of the cole slaw/chicken mixture.

Egg Rolls

Wrap it up and continue until you’re out of filling.  Mine made 9 egg rolls but yours could make more/less depending on how much filling you put in and also how much chicken you added…and how big your wrapper is.

Wrapping Step 1 – fold in the sides first
Egg Rolls

Wrapping Step 2 – fold up the bottom and put some water along the top part,
where the white line is in the picture (I used my finger)
Egg Rolls

Wrapping Step 3 – roll away from you and the water will adhere the wrapper to itself
Egg Rolls

Now I never fry food so don’t have any fancy frying gadgets so I just heated up some vegetable oil in a small pan on medium-low heat and fried 2 egg rolls at a time.  Check them frequently, as they brown quickly.  Turn over and don’t forget the sides and ends!

Place on some paper towels when you’re done frying and repeat until you are finished.  You might need to add more oil at some point.  Be careful!!

Egg Rolls

Serve while they’re hot and crispy.  If you need to reheat them, I recommend using the oven, not the microwave.


Egg Rolls


It was super fun to try something new and have it turn out well.  I hope you give it a try some time.  It really doesn’t take long once you get going…especially if you’re not stopping to take pictures at every step! 🙂

Have a great week!