Nana’s Potato Salad

Over the weekend, we celebrated my dad’s birthday. We tend to spend our family occasions at home and cook a nice meal. On the odd occasion, we order take out Chinese food (which was always my birthday request growing up). I’ve learned to plan the meal ahead. I’ve got better at timing the things I’m cooking. Each time, the meal seems to come out a little bit better.

Dad’s birthday request was for steak. I got to choose the side dishes. So, I picked up some gorgeous sirloin steaks from The Bauer Butcher, fresh Ontario asparagus from Vincenzo’s (asparagus season is coming to an end soon, so I’m eating as much of this delicious vegetable as possible), and some potatoes for a potato salad. To top it all off, Nana made an amazing confetti cake (dad’s favourite).

BBQ Sirloin Steaks

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Now, would you be surprised if I told you that the highlight of the meal is the potato salad?

You see, it’s my nana’s recipe and a family favourite. Nana has made her family-famous potato salad ever since I can remember… and ever since dad can remember. I have fond memories of spending weekends with Nana as a child and there always being an amazing array of delicious home cooked food. And her potato salad is among my favourites (also check out some of her other recipes that I’ve deconstructed and posted, including Macaroni and Cheese Casserole and Asparagus Soup). As a child I flat out refused to eat potato salad. I claimed I didn’t like it. I especially didn’t like the pre-made potato salads from the grocery store and fast food restaurants (I still don’t really like most of them). However, Nana’s potato salad was the exception. Not only did I eat it, I would go back for seconds.

Steamed Asparagus

The “recipe” is another one that I’ve had to watch time after time to document. The vague directions call for potatoes (it doesn’t say how many), the oil and vinegar dressing is the only thing that is really precise. And that’s as long as you know that the recipe is for 5 servings.

This weekend, I made the salad under Nana’s supervision. The salad was very well received by my family! No complaints. No comparisons. No suggestions for next time. It was just like Nana’s. Hooray! Now I need to make it again without supervision to really put my take on the potato salad to the test.

What makes her salad so much better? So one, she serves it warm. I don’t know why, but this makes a difference in the flavour. Her salad is good as leftovers but is definitely best served and consumed fresh. Like, within an hour of making the salad. It has great sweet and sour flavours in the dressing. It’s smooth with delicious crunch pieces of fresh vegetables. It doesn’t take too much time or effort to make. It just tastes better. (And I don’t think it’s nostalgia making me say this!)

Don’t believe me? Try it out for yourself and let me know what you think!

Nana’s Potato Salad

Adapted from her sister’s recipe

Ingredients

  • 5 large potatoes (about 2 1/2 cups when cubed) – approximate cost $1.75
  • 2 teaspoons sugar – approximate cost $0.10
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar – approximate cost $0.10
  • 2 tablespoons salad oil (canola or olive oil works well) – approximate cost $0.10
  • 3/4 cup celery, chopped – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1/4 cup green pepper, diced – approximate cost $0.25
  • 2 tablespoons green onion, sliced thinly – approximate cost $0.15
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1/2 (slightly heaping) cup mayonnaise – approximate cost $1.00

Method

  1. Boil and drain the potatoes.
  2. Allow them to cool until they can be handled.
  3. Peel the potato skin.
    1. If you like the potato skins, skip this step. For my own salad, I would leave the potato skin on. Nana prefers the potato skins removed.
  4. Cut potato into bite-sized pieces.
  5. Combine sugar and vinegar, stirring constantly until dissolved.
  6. Add salad oil to the vinegar and sugar mix.
  7. Pour oil and vinegar mix over hot potatoes.
  8. Allow the potatoes to cool until lukewarm, about room temperature.
  9. Add celery, green pepper, and green onion pieces.
  10. Mix well.
  11. Add pepper and mayonnaise.
  12. Mix thoroughly.
  13. Serve and enjoy!

Makes 5 servings (approximate cost: $0.80 per serving).

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Chicken and Rice Soup

With summer coming to an end and the cooler weather of fall arriving, it seems that everyone around me has caught a cold. This is a time when I like to prepare a large batch of chicken and rice soup. It’s comforting whether you’re the one who is sick or you’re trying to avoid catching the cold from those around you.

This soup is fairly basic. The most time consuming portion is making the broth, however this is a hands-off process if you have a slow cooker. From start to finish, this soup takes about 8 ½ hours to prepare, but only about half an hour of that time is spent in the kitchen.

Chicken and Rice Soup

Chicken and rice soup

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken cut into pieces (or 4 chicken legs), bone in and skin on – approximate cost $8.00
  • 3-4 dried bay leaves – approximate cost $0.10
  • 2 cooking onions, chopped into bite-sized pieces – approximate cost $1.00
  • 2-3 teaspoons of sea salt – approximate cost $0.10
  • Water
  • 3-4 celery stalks, chopped into bite-sized pieces – approximate cost $1.00
  • 3-4 carrots, chopped into bite-sized pieces – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1 cup of your favourite medium or long grain rice (I used basmati) – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1 teaspoon of dried parsley – approximate cost $0.10
  • Salt and pepper to taste – approximate cost $0.10

Method

  1. Combine chicken, onion, bay leaves, and sea salt in a slow cooker. Add enough water to entirely cover the chicken with about 2-3 inches of water.
  2. Cook on low temperature for about 6-8 hours.
  3. Carefully remove cooked chicken from the liquid and place on a cutting board, allow to cool until you can handle the chicken.
  4. Remove and discard skin and bones.
  5. Chop chicken into small, bite-sized pieces.
  6. Return chicken to the slow cooker.
  7. Add carrots, celery, and dried parsley to the slow cooker.
  8. Add more salt and/or pepper to taste.
  9. Turn slow cooker to high heat, cover, and cook for about half an hour (or until the rice is ready)
  10. Cook rice according to package, using brother from the slow cooker instead of water
  11. Add rice to the slow cooker and mix the soup well.

Serve immediately or keeps well in the freezer for about a month.

Makes about 7 servings (approximate cost: $1.74 per serving)

Garlic-y Peppers with Mushrooms and Pork Patties

On New Year’s Eve, I had dinner with friends. It was a lovely meal similar to the one in this title. The menu consisted of peppers, mushrooms (a vegetable I tend to avoid), celery and garlic sautéed in olive oil, ground chicken patties topped with Asiago and parmesan cheeses, and jasmine rice. Aside from some quesadillas a friend served me last summer, this was one of the few times I ate (and enjoyed) mushrooms. The meal was so delightful that I tried it myself at home the next week. Unfortunately, my local grocery store didn’t have ground chicken in stock, so I modified the original to use ground pork.

Garlicky Peppers and Mushrooms

The vegetables, in my opinion, are what make this meal. When the vegetables are sautéed (but still a bit crispy), they are delicious! The first time I made this dish, I overcooked the peppers. Since then, I’ve learned to prepare this part of the meal last to ensure the vegetables are still a bit crisp when served.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 stalks of celery, rinsed and chopped – approximate cost $1.00
  • 2 peppers (green, yellow, or red), julienned – approximate cost $2.00
  • 10 crimini mushrooms, chopped – approximate cost $1.50
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced – approximate cost $0.40
  • Olive oil – approximate cost $0.10
  • Salt to taste – approximate cost $0.05

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
  2. Sautéedthe garlic for about a minute.
  3. Add the celery and cook for about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add the mushrooms and peppers (one green pepper and one red pepper) and cook for 3-4 minutes
  5. Remove from heat and add a dash of salt.

Peppers with mushrooms

Pork Patties

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of ground pork – approximate cost $4.00
  • 1 large egg – approximate cost $0.25
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary – approximate cost $0.10
  • 2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese – approximate cost $0.50
  • 2 teaspoons Romano cheese – approximate cost $0.50

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine the pork, egg, some breadcrumbs and the rosemary into a large bowl and mix with your hands until well blended (start with a small amount of breadcrumbs and add more to the mixture as needed).
  3. Form the mixture into patties and set on a plate.
  4. Pan fry the patties until the outsides are browned.
  5. Move to a baking dish.
  6. Top with your choice of cheeses (hard cheeses such as Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago work well). Try using more than one type of cheese if you’re feeling adventurous.
  7. Bake for 10-15 minutes (or until cooked through).

Pork patties with rice

Jasmine Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked Jasmine rice – approximate cost $0.25
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • 2 cups water

Method

  1. Cook rice according to directions on package.

Serve pork patties and vegetables on a bed of jasmine rice.

Makes 4 servings (approximate cost: $2.86 per serving).

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