Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Recipe-Vegetable Potato Salad

Hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!
I decided to spent a part of my extra long weekend making another attempt at cooking. This time, my latest concoction was an always popular summertime dish, potato salad.

Potato salad is one food that I never hesitate to indulge myself in whenever I see it as menu item at a restaurant. I've always been strangely addicted to it (my addiction can probably be attributed to the simple fact that potatoes are my favorite veg), and it's a dish that I've always wanted to recreate in my own kitchen. Unfortunately, it's something that I never got around to trying until now. It was perfect timing actually considering that it's an ideal summertime favorite and I was coming across all these articles on how to create the "perfect" potato salad. I finally came across a Delicious looking potato salad recipe in Southern Living. What made it so appealing was that it contained a variety of vegetables aside from the potatoes and it contained less calories. A "lightened" up version of potato salad made my health nut side excited.

Here is the recipe for a veggie potato salad courtesy of Southern Living. You can also find this recipe on (another great site).

2 1/2 pounds baby red potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup whole buttermilk
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise with olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 carrots, grated
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup sliced radishes
1/2 cup steamed, cut fresh green beans
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 garlic clove, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


  • 1. Bring potatoes and salted water to cover to a boil in a large saucepan; reduce heat, and simmer 7 to 10 minutes or until tender. Drain. Place potatoes in a large bowl; sprinkle with vinegar and oil, and toss gently. Cool completely (about 1 hour).

  • 2. Whisk together buttermilk and next 3 ingredients. Stir in carrots and next 6 ingredients; season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon buttermilk mixture over potato mixture; toss gently to coat. Cover and chill 1 to 24 hours before serving.

  • As with all my recipes that I've shared with you all, it's relatively easy to make and most of the ingredients are readily available in my kitchen. I decided to exclude the radishes, the celery, and the green beans because I'm not a fan of any of these vegetables. That might have been a mistake because I think having more vegetables in the salad would have given it more flavor. Another problem I noticed with my take on this dish was that it tasted too sour. This might be attributed to the excessive lemon zest that I added. To combat the sour taste, I continued to add more sour cream(I used fat free sour cream instead of reduced fat. Both taste the same though). I think that backfired on me because it made my salad soggy, and I think it lost all of its flavor. One significant ingredient that was missing from this version of potato salad is the eggs. Now, I know eggs are an important ingredient in many foods, but I've always wondered if it was necessary for potato salad. When I was making this, I did wonder if eggs would have made it any better. Overall, my attempt at this recipe was mildly successful. I haven't decided if I'm going to attempt this recipe again. Maybe I'll just continue to enjoy it at my favorite restaurants.

    Here are some restaurants around Birmingham that offer delicious potato salad:
    1) Zoe's Kitchen
    2) Kairos Katering
    3) Kingler's European Bakery and Cafe
    4) Olexa's
    5) Max's Delicatessen

    If anyone has any tips for making a fabulous potato salad, I'd love to hear from you!

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    Lunchbox Recipes-Black beans with Saffron Infused Rice

    Almost every Sunday night nowadays, I have a habit of staring blankly into my fridge and my pantry trying to decide what I'm going to eat at work for the next few days. Usually, I try to make something that will last me Monday-Wednesday or just Monday and Tuesday, and then I'll go through the same process of deciding my meals for the rest of the work week. Last week, I made some black bean dip in spirit of Cinco de Mayo. Well, it turns out I had an extra can of black beans sitting in my pantry so I decided why not make a meal out of this again. This time around I decided to make black beans and rice flavored with saffron and other spices that are common in Indian cooking. (Mom would be so proud of me because I'm embracing my heritage).

    Like my other cooking attempts, this recipe is relatively easy to make. It just takes a few extra steps,  but still not at all time-consuming. As usual, I had all these ingredients at my disposal. There are plenty of ways to make this simple dish, but given my usual time crunch and my desire to make things as simple and as quick as possible without compromising the taste of the dish, I left out most of the ingredients.

    For those of you who may not know a lot of saffron, it's a spice commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. It may not be an ingredient that you'd typically find in your spice rack. Also, saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the market, so some of you may not want to buy it for that reason. The good news is that there is a substitute for saffron although it may not do the dish justice. Turmeric is an alternative to saffron. It still provides the dish with a yellow color, but it is stronger than saffron so use it sparingly.

    1 (16 ounce) package white rice
    1 (15 ounce) cans black beans, divided
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 medium onion, chopped
    1 jalapeno pepper, minced
    1 garlic cloves, minced
    1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
    1/4 tablespoon ground cumin
    1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
    Garnishes: additional chopped fresh cilantro

  • Prepare the white rice according to the package directions,using the amount of oil/butter and water as indicated on the package.

  • While the rice is cooking, rinse& drain the black beans in a mesh strainer to remove all the sludgey canning liquid and dump them into a small saucepan.

  •  Pour the entire contents including the onions and  chili peppers,liquid and all,into the same pan with the beans and stir to combine.

  • Cover the saucepan with lid,turn on the heat to low, and let bean mixture heat while the rice cooks, stirring occasionally- it should be ready when the rice is done.

  • When the rice is fully cooked, pour it into a deep, medium sized casserole dish.

  • Pour bean mixture into the center of the rice, leaving a border of the yellow rice peeking out arounds the sides.

  • I did not include tomatoes or onions in my version of this recipe, so you might find this a bit drier. Also, onions and tomatoes add an extra flavor to this dish. This can easily become Pilaf with just a few additonal spices and vegetables. I also skipped the jalepeno because I didn't have any in my house. Skipping the pepper made the dish less spicy. For once, I was actually okay with eating a relatively mild dish.

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Lunch Box Recipes-Cinco De Mayo Style

    Happy Cinco de Mayo!
    In honor of this day, last night I made an awesome layered spicy black bean dip to enjoy as a late afternoon snack and a possible (actually probable) late night munchies meal that I’ll be sure to have later tonight after the evening’s festivities. I might even eat this for tomorrow’s lunch!
    I came across this recipe on For those of you who haven’t checked out this awesome site, I highly recommend it. Any recipes that you might find in Cooking Light, Southern Living, and so forth can be found on So have a look!
    Like my previous attempts at cooking, this recipe is easy to make and most of the ingredients were readily available in my kitchen, so no extra trips had to be made to the grocery store. For this recipe, I only added one extra ingredient which isn’t necessary. I decided to add a chipotle hot sauce to this because I wanted to kick the spices up a notch. It gave the dip a smoky flavor, but I loved it.
    1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
    1 (16-oz.) jar spicy black bean dip
    1/2 (8-oz.) package shredded Mexican cheese blend
    Toppings: sliced green onions, chopped tomatoes, sliced black olives
    Assorted tortilla and corn chips
    Layer cream cheese, dip, and cheese in a 1-qt. serving dish. Add toppings, and serve with chips.

    Please note the image is from Southern Living. I was so excited to try my recreation of this dish that I forgot to take a picture.

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Lunch Box Recipes: Spicy Ranch Dip

    I know it has been an absurd amount of time since I last updated this blog. Unfortunately, I can't provide a legitimate excuse other than lacking the motivation. Shame on me. As some of you might know, I started working as a temp for a well-known magazine in my hometown back in January (I can't disclose the name due to privacy reasons). While I've been working, I've started bringing my lunch from home as a way of being kind to my bank account and saving my body from eating 2 meals of unhealthy "stuff" to put it nicely. In the beginning, I was eating lots of mac and cheese and fried foods, and frozen meals (organic of course). Now that I've adjusted to my work schedule, I'm finding time to do a little bit more cooking. I'm lucky in that I receive A LOT of food magazines so I don't think I'll ever be short of finding inspiration for cooking ever again.

    Besides looking for healthier alternatives for lunch, I've also started choosing recipes that allow me to use ingredients that I already have in my kitchen, which saves me taking multiple trips to the grocery store just to buy a few random items. I realized that I had some ranch dressing cups (don't worry they hadn't expired) from a recipe that I had tried randomly on some unknown date. I came across a recipe on that was called spicy ranch dressing dip. It looked easy to make and I already had all the ingredients in my kitchen cabinets.

    Here is the recipe for spicy ranch dressing:


    • 1 cup mayonnaise
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 3 tablespoons dry ranch salad dressing mix
    • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
    • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
    • 1 dash hot pepper sauce 


    1. In a blender, combine the mayonnaise, buttermilk, ranch dressing mix, bell pepper, cilantro, jalapeno pepper and hot pepper sauce. Pulse until blended.
    The first time I tried making this I was a little overenthusiastic with the hot pepper sauce (FYI: I used Choluha hot sauce, but I'm sure any will do). To make it even spicier, I also added crushed red pepper to the recipe. I don't recommend doing this the night before you actually eat it because I think the dressing absorbs the pepper and it makes it spicier than it should be. For the record though, it tasted AMAZING with carrots and organic blue chips.

    Instead of using ranch dressing mix, I used the ready-made ranch dressing. I don't think it really makes much of a difference though. I also used green bell peppers instead of red because that is what I had in my house. I don't think it would really change the flavor if you decided to use a yellow bell pepper.

    This is a recipe that I plan to make more regularly simply because it requires very few ingredients (most already being readily available at home) and it's quick to make. Plus, if you love that feeling of your tongue burning just a bit, then I think this recipe does that as well. Enjoy!