Dragonfly Home Recipes

Recipes, Photography, Musings

Month: May 2015 (page 1 of 2)

Yogurt-Dill Dressing for Greens

dill and greens 5Delicate and robust at the same time, freshly-picked greens are one of the most refreshing foods on the planet.  And this is the time to eat them–gardens and farmers markets are full of tender lettuces and other greens right now.  They soothe the body with all their vitamins and minerals.  This simple, yet flavorful yogurt-dill dressing enhances the greens without overpowering them.

Homemade salad dressings are so much fun to work with, because you can be as creative as you want to be with them.  A general rule of thumb is to use a ratio of one part acidic liquid (like a vinegar or lemon juice) to about three parts oil (like olive oil or vegetable oils).  A prepared Dijon mustard, though not necessary, adds flavor and helps bind the oil and acidic liquids together.  You can also play around with herbs, garlic, salt and pepper, and creamier agents like Greek yogurt or buttermilk.  The possibilities are endless!  Just adjust the levels according to your tastes.

salad on porchThe yogurt dill dressing I am sharing today is loosely based on a recipe I found in the inspirational Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts by Aglaia Kremezi, though I made some changes to reflect my own tastes.  That is the beauty of homemade dressings.  You get to be creative, and you don’t need tons of time or complicated ingredients to make a wonderful accompaniment to fresh greens.  This dressing is gently creamy with the heavenly flavor of dill.  I love the smell of dill, and I am in heaven chopping it.  If you are not a fan of dill, or want to try another homemade dressing, I posted a recipe for a simple, tangy dressing last spring.

The poet in me is always looking for symbols and finding metaphors and multifaceted interpretations of different aspects of life.  As I was thinking about the tender greens that are so delicious this time of year, I started making connections with a couple of moments that have touched me and stuck in my mind this past month.  I realized that those moments revolve around tenderness as well.  Tenderness has to do with softness, freshness, and gentleness, but also with vulnerability.  It has to do with caring for others in their vulnerability.

reaching for water balloonsA couple weeks ago, on a warm and sunny afternoon, my kids and their neighbor friends were having a water balloon fight.  They had a great time, and got all wet and cooled off.  When they had used all of their balloons, they were winding down and getting ready to move on to another activity.  My six-year-old neighbor friend came up to me, gave me a bucket, and said, “here.”  Without my even asking, she and her brother and my two kids had gone through the yard and picked up all (or almost all) of the broken balloon pieces scattered about, and put them in the bucket.  She told me they picked up the pieces so our dog would not eat them and choke on them.  I was so touched that they had gone to all that effort to take care of our dog, all on their own.  You can tell a lot about people by the way they treat those (animal or human) who are more vulnerable than themselves.

In the same week, I attended a funeral for a friend’s father.  This was difficult and poignant for me, because I lost my own father a little over a year ago.  But I wanted to be there to support my friend, since I had an idea of what she was going through.  I sat with my mother and a mutual friend of ours.  At the end of the ceremony, there was the usual hand-shaking and hugging and showing of support that is so important to those going through loss.  When our mutual friend gave our mourning friend a hug, I witnessed an act of complete tenderness.  Her embrace and the look in her eyes was that of unguarded caring and kindness.  So often we go through our days covered in a protective shell of busy-ness, politeness, or irony.  It is rare to get a glimpse of raw tenderness, especially in adults.  I felt privileged to witness such authenticity, such caring in the midst of pain and loss.  It made me realize how that caring and tenderness is often there, even when it is not visible, and how important it is to express it.

What does all this have to do with food and salads?  Nothing and everything.  We are all vulnerable or tender in certain areas at certain times.  It is the tenderness of others that helps us through that.  I often see food as a way of showing others that I care about them.  We all get hungry; we all need to eat.  Food is something we all have in common.  And sometimes the most natural and authentic food soothes and refreshes us best.  Sometimes a salad with raw, tender greens and homemade dressing takes care of the heart as well as the body and soul.

I cannot believe it is Friday again already.  This has been a really quick week!  Since it is a Friday, I will include this recipe in Angie’s awesome Fiesta Friday, co-hosted this week by Dini at Giramuk’s Kitchen and Mollie at The Frugal Hausfrau.  I hope you all have a refreshing weekend!

dill and greens 1greens on back porchgreens with tomatoesgreens on purple bench 2greens and fork

Yogurt-Dill Dressing

  • Servings: dresses 2-4 salads
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Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh dill
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Directions:

Wash greens, pat dry (or dry in a spinner) and tear into bite-sized pieces.  Wash and chop the dill.  In a glass container with a pouring spout, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, and yogurt.  Add the olive oil gradually, whisking as you add it.  Whisk in the dill, and the salt, pepper, and sugar to taste.  Feel free to adjust levels of ingredients–the taste will vary depending on the particular vinegar and oil you use.  Pour the dressing lightly over the greens.  Add any other vegetables you wish to the salad.  Enjoy!

This recipe is loosely based on a recipe found in Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts by Aglaia Kremezi

German Potato Salad

german potato salad 3I have been wanting to share this recipe for quite some time.  I love this classic potato salad, and a couple of friends and relatives have asked me for this recipe, since they have enjoyed it at picnics.  So here it is!  It is a recipe I found years ago in my Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, and reminds me of the potato salad my German/Swiss grandmother used to make when I was a child.  My husband, not a fan of the mayonnaise and egg type of potato salad, loves it too.  Since I lean toward the vegetarian end of things, I have tried making this salad without the bacon, and cooking the onions in olive oil.  But it just doesn’t taste the same.  So I find the highest quality of bacon I can find.  It’s not imperative to crumble the bacon and add it to the salad, but it seems important (at least to me) to cook the onions in the bacon drippings.  I have also tried making it without celery seed, since one time I didn’t have celery seed, and that also didn’t taste as good.  So I would not leave those two ingredients out unless you really need to.  As with everything involving vegetables, the better the potatoes, the better this salad will taste as well.  I am excited that new potatoes will be appearing soon at the farm stands around here.

We are just kicking off picnic season with Memorial Day weekend upon us, so I thought this would be a fitting time to share this delicious recipe.  I like this potato salad because it is very portable.  It tastes good warm, cold, or at room temperature.  I am sure we will be taking it with us this weekend to my daughter’s soccer tournament.  I don’t know why, but food often tastes better when eaten outside.  Maybe because it’s novel and exciting after a long winter, or maybe the fresh air whips up our appetite.  We have our screened in porch cleaned up and ready to use, and I am looking forward to eating out there as much as possible, in addition to lots of picnics!  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! With it being Friday, I am going to take this recipe over to Angie’s Fiesta Friday, co-hosted this week by Cooking with Aunt Juju and The Chunky Chef. german potato salad 2german potato salad in skilletgerman potato salad with fork

German Potato Salad

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients:

  • 4 medium potatoes (or six smallish ones, about 1 and 1/4 pounds)
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • fresh chives or parsley for garnish (optional)

Directions: Cook the potatoes in a covered saucepan of boiling, salted water for about 20 minutes, or until fork-tender.  Drain the potatoes and set them aside to cool.  (I do not peel my potatoes, because I like the skins.  Peel them if you want to, but it is not necessary).  When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them into cubes or slices. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the 4 slices of bacon until it is crisp.  Remove the bacon and let drain on a paper towel-lined plate.  Crumble the bacon when it is cool.  Add the chopped onions to the bacon drippings in the skillet.  (There should be about 2 tablespoons-worth.  If there is more than that, drain it out till there’s about 2 tablespoons).  Saute the onions over medium heat until soft, about 5-7 minutes.  Stir in the sugar, flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed.  Then stir in the water and vinegar.  Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.  Stir in the potatoes and bacon.  Garnish with chives and/or parsley if desired.  Enjoy with your chosen main course!

This recipe is adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, Tenth Ring Bound Edition.

Chocolate Mint Cookies

chocolate mint cookies 4I put together this chocolate mint cookie recipe out of my love for chocolate and the desire to use our fragrant, plentiful mint that is flourishing in our garden right now.  The contrast between the deep, rich flavor of the cocoa powder and the light, refreshing mint is pure pleasure.  With a relatively small amount of ingredients, these cookies are so easy to make.  In addition to the basic sugar cookie ingredients, I added cocoa powder and finely chopped fresh mint.  (The mint we have in our garden is spearmint, but peppermint would work just as well.  And chopping the stuff releases such a fresh fragrance!) What I also like about this recipe is that the sugar is all brown sugar, which also deepens the flavor.  The cookies come out moist and tasty–a decadent, yet refreshing treat.

spearmintWith the mint and other plants thriving, the past few days I have been overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude for this place, this verdant corner of the earth.  The spring rains have softened everything to a lush, velvety green, and the air is singing with birds and frogs.  It also really helps that there aren’t many mosquitoes out yet.  My husband and son went fishing with our neighbors and their son the other night.  The walk to the lake near our house is very wet, through dark, thick mud and bright green foliage and undergrowth.  The journey is not an easy one at this time of year.  But when they got there, they took their boots off and let their bare feet sink into the cool water.  They sat on the shore and looked out at the calm lake.  After such a busy, over-scheduled week, it felt so refreshing to do something unstructured and unhurried.  My son caught and released two fish.  He and my husband returned smiling and covered in mud.  On the back of my son’s shirt were three or four perfectly shaped little muddy handprints, where his neighbor friend had patted him on the back.  It is a good life when you can work hard, and then go fishing and eat chocolate mint cookies.  Happy Spring! chocolate mint cookies on rackchocolate mint cookies 9chocolate mint cookies 8

Chocolate Mint Cookies

  • Servings: 24 cookies
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Ingredients:

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Wash and finely chop the fresh mint.  Cream the butter and the sugar together in a large mixing bowl.  Add the egg and the vanilla, and stir again to mix well.  In a small mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the flour, baking powder, and cocoa powder.  Gradually stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture, and stir well until combined.  Stir in the mint.  Drop by a rounded spoon onto a baking sheet, leaving a couple of inches of space around each ball of dough.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12 minutes.  Let them sit on the baking sheet a couple of minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Enjoy!

Kale and Pecan Casserole

kale and pecan casserole 3Kale is such a popular green right now!  Long overlooked, it is now revered for its superior nutritional qualities.  Kale is something that grows really well in our garden, and its growing season lasts from spring until late into the fall, so we eat a lot of kale in my household.  I am always looking for new ways to use this superfood, and this casserole is my latest favorite.  The jury still seems to be out on whether raw or cooked kale is best for us.  Some sources say that cooking kale kills some of its nutrients, while other sources say that boiling kale for a short time makes the nutrients easier for our bodies to digest.  The way I deal with this is that I make kale all kinds of different ways–raw in smoothies and salads, baked in kale chips, and blanched and baked in this scrumptious casserole.

In addition to the vitamin and mineral-rich kale, this casserole also contains pecans, which are chock-full of nutrients as well.  The recipe I am sharing below is adapted from one I found in one of my favorite cookbooks, the charming “Mrs. Chard’s Almanac Cookbook: Hollyhocks and Radishes” by Bonnie Stewart Mickelson.  The pecans and nutmeg offset the earthiness of the kale, and the sautéed onions and breadcrumbs add a savory richness to bring out kale’s deep flavor.  I feel like I am feeding my body lots of good energy when I eat this casserole.  Many of us are depleted of minerals these days, so eating a vegetable so rich in minerals helps restore the natural balance our bodies crave.

kaleOur bodies long to be close to the earth and the minerals that come from the earth.  With spring finally here and gardening season in full swing, I am reminded of how good it is to eat foods grown in my own soil or soil close to home.  This quote expresses this feeling well, and though the author mentions a carrot, I think the sentiment can apply to all fruits and vegetables:  “If you truly get in touch with a piece of carrot, you get in touch with the soil, the rain, the sunshine.  You get in touch with Mother Earth and eating in such a way, you feel in touch with true life, your roots, and that is meditation.  If we chew every morsel of our food in that way we become grateful and when you are grateful, you are happy.”  –Thich Nhat Hanh

As a side dish, this casserole can bake away peacefully while you focus on the main course of the meal. kale in skillet 2kale and pecan casserole 1kale and pecan casserole with lilacskale and pecan casserole with vases

Kale and Pecan Casserole

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/2 pounds of kale, chopped
  • 1 cup of onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup whole of wheat bread crumbs, plus 1/4 cup more for later
  • 3 tablespoons of butter, plus 2 more for later
  • 1 cup of light cream (if you don’t have cream, I have also used 2% milk)
  • 1/2 cup of pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • salt to taste

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Thoroughly was the kale and trim away the leafy parts from the thickest parts of the stems.  Discard the stems.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the kale.  Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the kale is just barely tender.  Drain well in a colander and chop into bite-sized pieces.

In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter.  Sauté the chopped onions until soft (about 7 minutes).   When the onions are softened, add the cooked kale, 1/3 cup bread crumbs, cream, chopped pecans, nutmeg, and salt.  Stir to combine.  Transfer to a lightly greased 1 and 1/2 quart deep baking dish.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the same skillet.  Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup bread crumbs to coat.  Sprinkle over the top of the kale mixture in the baking dish.  Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Add salt to taste, as needed. Enjoy!

To make ahead, prepare the recipe up to the point of baking.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.

This dish also tastes good as a leftover.  Refrigerate the leftover portion and warm it back up in the oven the next day.

Recipe adapted from “Mrs. Chard’s Almanac Cookbook: Hollyhocks and Radishes” by Bonnie Steward Mickelson

 

Potato Soup with White Beans

potato and white bean soupSpring never arrives smoothly here in Michigan, and the weather swings back and forth like a pendulum.  Some days are as warm and sunny as a dream (like today), with flowers and buds popping out everywhere, while some days are bone-chillingly cold, wet, and windy (like 3 days ago).  It was a cold, wet, and windy spring day when I put this soup together in my warm, cozy kitchen.  This recipe is a great way to use some staples in your pantry and make that grocery budget stretch a little further.  And it is healthy, hearty, and really tastes delicious too.  My husband and son are big fans of this soup.

Potatoes, great northern beans, onions, and carrots all keep really well and can be easily eaten at any time of the year.  I used golden carrots this time, and brightened up the soup with chopped fresh parsley from the plant on our windowsill.  As spring produce comes in, I can imagine serving it with a side of asparagus or fresh new greens.  The tablespoon of tomato sauce adds body and flavor to the soup, but it is optional.  We almost always have a jar of tomato sauce in the refrigerator for one thing or another, so it was easy to grab a tablespoon of it to add to the simmering pot.

vegetables on cutting boardThis soup is very easy, and does not take more than thirty minutes to make.  I am on a continuing quest to make meals from as many whole foods as possible, while keeping an eye on both the time involved and the grocery bill.  I feel that this soup recipe fits in with my ongoing quest.  Of course it is nice to splurge sometimes, both with time and money.  And it’s not realistic for us to eat healthy, whole foods one hundred percent of the time.  But with a little planning, it doesn’t always have to be expensive and time-consuming to eat in ways that are good for our bodies and good for our planet.  And truly, foods that are good for our bodies and the planet taste really, really delicious!

Have a great weekend! Spring is a time of great promise and new life, and lots of labor to bring our seeds to fruition.  Our cherry trees are in full blossom and some vegetable seeds are coming up. This quote seems fitting for this time of year: “Happiness held is the seed; Happiness shared is the flower.” –John Harrigan vegetables on porchpotato soup on porch

Potato Soup with White Beans and Carrots

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup of onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into small disks
  • 3 cups of potato, scrubbed and chopped into small cubes
  • 15 ounces of cooked white beans (I used great northern beans), drained and rinsed
  • 6 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce

Directions:

Wash and chop the vegetables.  Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot.  Swirl the oil around to coat the bottom of the pot.  Sautee the onions and carrots for about 5-7 minutes, until soft, stirring frequently.  Add the broth and potatoes, and bring to a boil.   Reduce the heat, and simmer at medium-low heat for about 12 minutes, until the potatoes are fork-tender.  Add the beans, and cook over low heat until heated through.  Then add the tablespoon of tomato sauce and salt and pepper to taste, depending on how much salt is in your broth.  Serve with a salad, sandwiches, or cheese and crackers. Enjoy!

 

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