Cool beans

11 Jan

This recipe is from the Crystal Little League Cookbook (2013). It is a collection of recipes by Crystal (MN) Little League Families and friends. My husband was a (volunteer) district administrator for Little League in and around Minneapolis suburbs for 15 years! This cookbook was one of his parting gifts.

Black Bean Salsa

2 10-ounce cans Rotel chopped tomatoes with green chilies

1-2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed (I used only one!)

1 15.25-ounce can Mexican corn

½ red onion, chopped (about ¾ to 1 cup)`

2 green onions, chopped

1 teaspoon cumin

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

Cilantro, chopped (to taste)

Mix all together. Chill. Serve with tortilla chips.

This salsa is the perfect “winter salsa” – especially now! In Minnesota we can only dream about summertime and fresh picked tomatoes and corn.  If you can’t find Mexican canned corn, look for a Southwest version – I found Kuners Southwest Sweet Corn & Peppers. Del Monte makes one as well.

Serve with tortilla chips – or better yet, make your own. Using a pizza cutter, slice corn tortillas in half and then in quarters and then in eighths. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray and arrange chips in pan. Spray again with non-stick spray and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake at 425 for 10-12 minutes or until chips are lightly toasted. Turn halfway through.

Don’t like cilantro? Don’t use it. Like/dislike of this herb is actually genetic. Chances are if you don’t like it, someone else in the family shares your dislike!

Note to WW members: Black Bean Salsa is zero points on all three color plans – and delish to boot!

Doesn’t look like this cookbook is still around for purchase – but again, do check out those local cookbooks put together as fundraisers for sporting teams, schools or the like. Real cooks, real good food.

Salad Days.

3 Jul

Crispy Won-Ton Chicken Salad


3 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons peach or apricot preserves

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon onion powder



8 ounces cooked chicken meat, torn into bite-size pieces (2 cups)*

8 wonton wrappers

 Vegetable oil, for frying


2 romaine hearts, coarsely chopped

4 scallions, coarsely chopped

1 packed cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems

1 packed cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves

Make the dressing: In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sesame oil, peach preserves, mayonnaise, soy sauce, chili powder and onion powder, and season to taste with salt. 

Prepare the salad: Add the chicken to the dressing and toss.

To fry the wonton wrappers, cut the squares into 1/2-inch strips, then cut those strips in half crosswise to shorten them. In a medium saucepan, heat an inch of oil over medium to 350 degrees, or until a wonton strip immediately bubbles when added. Carefully add the wonton strips to the hot oil and, stirring constantly with a slotted spoon, fry until puffy and golden, 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Transfer the crispy wontons to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt.

Assemble the salad: Add the chopped romaine, scallions, cilantro, mint and half of the fried wontons to the bowl with the dressed chicken, and toss to combine. Season with salt as needed. Top with the remaining fried wontons and serve immediately.

*Use leftover roasted chicken – or chopped up rotisserie chicken or even better, soup chicken – what I call liquid gold – chicken simmered long and slow to make chicken soup. I pick up already cooked and cut-up rotisserie chicken whenever it’s on sale and stash it in the freezer!

Hail Kale.

29 Jun

Full disclosure, I’ve never been a kale fan. But with kale showing up now in my first two CSA boxes, I am finding if it’s prepared well – it’s delicious! For starters, fresh kale tastes way different from what you buy in the grocery store.

I’ve made this dish with spinach but I actually prefer it with kale. Feel free to substitute barley or other grains for the orzo (which is incidentally pasta!); you’ll need to toast it a couple more minutes and may need to extend the baking time.

Skillet Chicken and Orzo

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 small shallots, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

½ teaspoon Kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1½ to 2 pounds boneless chicken breasts or thighs

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 lemon, sliced

1½ cups orzo pasta

3 cups low sodium chicken broth

2 cups chopped kale

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Chopped fresh dill, for serving

Preheat oven to 400°. Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, Dijon mustard, 3 cloves garlic, 1 shallot, rosemary, paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss well in mixture to combine.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sear on both sides until golden, 3-5 minutes. During the last 2 minutes of cooking, add butter and lemon slices. Remove everything from the skillet.

Add orzo, remaining shallot, and garlic clove. Cook until the orzo is toasted, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, kale, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Return chicken, lemon slices, and any juices back into the skillet. Bake, uncovered for 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Connie is cooking anew – inspired by a CSA!

27 Jun

While I’ll be posting regularly on Instagram – I’ll be sharing recipes here that you’ll see pictured. Hope you will tune in and be inspired by the fruits, veggies, and more that come straight off a Minnesota farm to my house via

Tuesday is pick-up day! For those of you not familiar with a CSA – it stands for Community-supported agriculture – it’s a system that connects producers and consumers. I’ve talked about purchasing one for years and finally bit the bullet. Most of the first week’s bounty is gone – although I’m still munching on radishes and kale chips!

Here’s the recipe I made with the first week’s rhubarb and basil. It was delicious!

Grilled chicken breasts with rhubarb-mango salsa

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon

½ cup fresh chopped basil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

3-4 boneless chicken breasts (about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ lbs.)

1 small mango, pitted, peeled and diced

1-2 rhubarb stalks, trimmed and diced ½-inc (1 cup)

1 small Jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup chopped English cucumber

1-2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar

One shallot, minced

To make marinade, combine lemon zest and juice, 2 tablespoons of basil, garlic, 2 teaspoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a large zip-lock plastic bag; add chicken. Squeeze out air and seal. Turn to coat chicken. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

To make salsa, combine mango, rhubarb, jalapeno, cucumber, remaining basil, honey, vinegar, shallot, remaining teaspoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl until mixed well. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight. Add additional honey if spice level is too much!

Grill on outdoor grill (or cook on an oiled grill pan) until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Remove chicken from marinade and discard. Serve chicken with salsa.


Happy 4th of July!

4 Jul

Tropical treat.

13 Jun

Im back! This time around I’ll be cooking through the dozens and dozens of recipes I’ve torn from magazines, printed off the internet or copied from friends. This first recipe was from a Parade Magazine (Startribune insert from 2019) and was supposedly inspired by the soft-serve ice cream served at Disney parks. Wow these are good – and super easy to make. Fill cupcake liners just below 3/4 full. And as always – trust the recipe! I thought the frosting was a tad thick and added additional juice – which made it a little runny! If you don’t have a pastry bag, fill a plastic bag with the frosting and cut a small hole in one corner. Or simply slather on that frosting. Not sure which I like more – the yellow cake with bits of pineapple baked in or the rich pineapple-favored frosting!

Dole Whip Cupcakes

1 15-ounce box yellow cake mix

1 cup crushed pineapple with juice

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs


1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

4 cups powdered sugar, divided

1/4 cup pineapple juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Small wedges of pineapple

Preheat oven to 325° and line two cupcake pans with cupcake liners. In a large bowl using a hand mixer, mix cake mix with crushed pineapple, vegetable oil, and eggs. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour batter into prepared cupcake pans and bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting. 

Meanwhile, make frosting: In a large bowl, combine butter, 2 cups powdered sugar, pineapple juice, and vanilla. Using a hand mixer, beat until smooth. Add remaining 2 cups powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Transfer frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Swirl frosting onto cooled cupcakes. Garnish each cupcake with a pineapple wedge.

Makes 20-24 cupcakes.

A spectacular pie to say goodbye.

31 May

Last but certainly not least, I share with you a final recipe – prepared from my cookbooks – 150 recipes from 150 different cookbooks in 150 days! I launched this blog on January 1st – in part to prove to my daughter-in-law that yes, I’ve used every cookbook in my extensive collection. And in part to give me something to do in the midst of a pandemic. Much to my surprise, I relished leafing through cookbook after cookbook to find just the right recipe. Early on, I admit I picked easier recipes. As time went on, I started to challenge myself to make unfamiliar and difficult recipes for foods I craved but had never taken the time to prepare from scratch. The end result? I expanded my culinary skills, discovered a couple dozen “keeper” and “repeater” recipes, enjoyed five months of eating fabulous food – and ultimately gained 6 pounds.  All worth it. And probably most importantly, a “recipe a day” definitely helped to keep my sanity during challenging times.

While I’ve come to the end of my cookbooks….I’ll still be cooking and I will now turn to the stacks of recipes I’ve torn from magazines, copied from friends or printed off the internet for more than 30 years (probably longer) to find new recipes to prepare and share right here. Not sure if it will be an everyday thing this go-around – but I will plan to share often and hope you will share with me any recipes you think I should try. This was a challenge I gave myself – but please know how much I appreciated your comments and questions along the way. I only forgot one ingredient one single time!!!!!

I wanted to end this chapter of my blog with something spectacular. Today’s final cookbook recipe comes from yet another one of those Better Homes and Gardens Encyclopedia of Cooking (1971) books, volume 9. What’s important to note here is that I have never made a lemon meringue pie. For those of you following my blog – you know I’m not fond of baking – but my baking confidence has soared these past months and I wasn’t the least bit nervous about tackling this recipe. And hey, it turned out picture perfect – and was deliciously creamy and tart inside with a just about perfect (could have been higher) meringue.

Lemon Meringue Pie

1½ cups sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons flour

Dash salt

1½ cups hot water

3 slightly beaten egg yolks

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

½ teaspoon grated lemon peel

⅓ cup lemon juice

1 9-inch baked pastry shell, cooled*


3 egg whites

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

6 tablespoons sugar

In a saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt. Gradually add hot water, stirring constantly. Cook and stir over high heat until mixture comes to boiling. Reduce heat; cook and stir mixture 2 minutes (or longer if mixture isn’t smooth). Remove from heat. Stir small amount hot mixture into egg yolks, then return to hot mixture. Bring to boiling again and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly (again, okay to stir longer to make sure mixture is smooth and thick). Add butter and lemon peel. Slowly add lemon juice, mixing well. Pour into pastry shell. Spread meringue over filling, seal to edge. Bake at 350 degrees till meringue is golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool pie on rack before cutting.

Meringue: Beat 3 egg whites with vanilla and cream of tartar till soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat mixture till stiff and glossy peaks form and all of the sugar is dissolved. Spoon meringue over hot lemon filling.

*Cook’s note: use a premade pie crust like Pillsbury or make your own. I make my own and am happy to share that recipe if requested! Don’t worry if that crust isn’t perfect – meringue will cover most of it up!

Sweet treat.

30 May

One of my lasting childhood memories is watching Saturday morning cartoons while munching on a piece of cinnamon toast. The latter was probably my first attempt at “cooking” – as I was up hours before my parents (or brother) – so early on I learned to make this simple but so satisfying breakfast. Until I ran across an actual recipe for cinnamon toast in the Better Homes and Gardens Encyclopedia of Cooking (1971), Volume 16, I had nearly forgotten that childhood pleasure. While I served my kids that long-ago toasty treat, I’ve totally forgotten to share it with my grandchildren!

I used a toasted piece of challah this morning to recreate this delicacy – and I swooned at the first – and subsequent bites. Yum! I highly recommend you revisit this sugary sweet soon!

Cinnamon Toast

Combine 4 parts sugar and 1 part ground cinnamon.* Toast bread; butter while hot and sprinkle with sugar-cinnamon mixture.

*Keep sugar-cinnamon mixture in a large shaker so it’s ready to use instantly.

Not just any meat rack.

29 May

My son Todd gave me Mastering Spice (2019), a cookbook by Chef Lior Lev Sercarz, several years ago. Sercarz is the owner of La Boîte, a biscuits and spice shop in New York City. Until now I merely admired the beautiful pictures. I’ll admit I was initially intimidated by most of the recipes – until I took another look and realized there were several that were not only immensely appealing, they didn’t seem all that complicated to prepare.

I set out to expand my culinary chops when I first launched this blog – and I am grateful that is exactly what’s happened! Case in point – today’s recipe for rack of lamb. This fennel and coriander-crusted rack of lamb with caramelized onions is a showstopper and the prep was relatively easy. And, while rack of lamb can be pricey, I bought two racks at Sam’s Club for $25!

Yes, it was as delicious as it looks. Cautionary note about this recipe. The spice mix is pungent – not necessarily meant to be eaten; instead it seeps flavor into the lamb making it fork tender and oh, so flavorful!

Roasted Rack of Lamb

Main Spice Blend:

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, preferably Telicherry

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fennel seeds

Coarsely grind together the cumin, coriander, peppercorns and fennel. Or, mix 1¾ teaspoons pre-ground cumin, 2½ teaspoons pre-ground coriander, ¾ teaspoon pre-ground black pepper, and 1 tablespoon pre-ground fennel.*

*A combination of whole and pre-ground spices works as well.


1 frenched rack of lamb (about 1¾ pounds)

Kosher salt

6 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard

Extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced

Kosher salt

For the lamb: Let the lamb sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before starting your prep work so that it can be at room temperature for 30 minutes total before roasting.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the spice blend in a small bowl and stir in 1½ teaspoons salt and the mustard. Spread the spice paste evenly all over the rack of lamb.

Lightly coat the bottom of a small roasting pan with oil (2 to 3 tablespoons). Spread the onions evenly over the pan and sprinkle with salt. Set the lamb over the onions, fat side up.

Roast until a crust forms on the lamb and a meat thermometer inserted into the center registers 115 to 120 degrees for medium-rare, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the lamb rest in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring it to a cutting board and slicing it into individual chops. Serve immediately with onions.

The lamb can be coated with the spice mixture and refrigerated for up to 12 hours before roasting.

I eats me spinach.

29 May

With just days left to finish preparing and posting recipes from my cookbook collection, I found a veggie dish that can be made ahead and baked just before serving. Of course my first choice for a veggie would be something fresh and roasted – but this is a great alternative especially when fresh produce is limited (like now in Minneapolis!). It is from the St. Paul (Minnesota) Chapter of Hadassah’s cookbook A Taste of Hadassah (1991). It’s a great mix of corn and spinach – and will round out any menu!

Spinach & Corn Bake

½ cup minced onion

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

1 can cream-style corn

1 teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon pepper

¼ cup bread crumbs

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine

Sauté onion in 2 tablespoons butter or margarine. Add corn, spinach and rest of seasonings. Put in a lightly greased 1½ quart pan or casserole dish. Blend together crumbs, cheese and butter or margarine. Sprinkle over top. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly or brown.

Nothing stuffy about these.

27 May

What’s not to love about tortillas stuffed with cheese and then grilled until they are warm and slightly melty? I was overwhelmed trying to pick just one recipe from the dozens of great chili recipes in The All-American Chili Cookbook (1995) by Jenny Kellner and Richard Rosenblatt. So instead I picked the quesadillas! Vary type of cheese and even the tortillas you use for totally different taste sensations. I prepared them open-faced and closed – as detailed in the recipe itself. These make a quick, easy to fix appetizer or a kid-friendly lunch.


6 ounces Monterey Jack or American cheese with jalapenos, thinly sliced (I used a combo of shredded Monterey Jack and Cheddar)

4-8 flour tortillas – depending on size

Place about ¾ ounce cheese on ½ of each tortilla, folding the other half over to make a half-moon. Heat a nonstick skillet, and toast the quesadilla for about 15 seconds on each side, or until cheese just melts. Cut each half moon in 4 wedges and serve.