Monthly Archives: July 2014

Homemade Russian Dressing Recipe

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When I was growing up, I don’t remember vegetables having a starring role at our dinner table. Sure we had corn on the cob, green beans, or peas and carrots, but mostly I remember salad before most meals or a half of a grapefruit with a maraschino cherry on top. For the salad, my mom would cut a head of iceberg lettuce into wedges and serve them with some cherry tomatoes and sliced cucumbers on the side. This was nothing fancy, but with the addition of her homemade Russian dressing – it was delicious! It’s a great dip for vegetables, everyone loves it (especially children), it’s easy, contains ingredients you probably have in your refrigerator, it is non-dairy, and you can even use it as a spread for turkey sandwiches!

It’s a staple on my table with raw vegetables at least 3 nights a week and something my boys always agree on. However you decide to try my mom’s homemade Russian dressing, I hope you Enjoy!

2/3 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise (I use regular but you could use light or low fat)
1/3 cup Heinz ketchup
1 to 2 teaspoons of water

Optional #2 Variations
1 teaspoon garlic powder or
1 to 2 teaspoons no salt seasoning (I use Costco’s Kirkland brand Organic no salt seasoning)

Option #3 Thousand Island dressing
Add 1/8 cup of sweet relish to the first four ingredients and omit the options.

Directions
In a small bowl mix the mayonnaise till creamy, then add the ketchup and mix together. You can adjust the ratio of mayo to ketchup depending on how you like it. If you are using it as a dip for vegetables, you’ll want it on the thicker side. If you are planning to using as a dressing over lettuce, add a splash of water until it’s the consistency you like.

When making either of the variations in #2, you’ll want it to sit for about 1/2 hour for the flavors to blend.

Bar and Grill Veggie Burger with Secret Sauce

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I tried to start this blog with a funny headline but no one in my family laughed. First I thought “A veggie burger walks into a bar and gets sauced” . . . . . . . . get it, . . . . . . . because of the secret sauce? When that didn’t work I simplified it with “A veggie burger walks into a bar… ba – dum – bump!” While it made me laugh, and I think my sister-in-law Barbara would appreciate it, my family heckled me to the point that I just wrote what it is – a veggie burger recipe! Wait, here comes my husband chiming in with a joke of his own! I’d better start writing this post…

A friend of mine told me she went to a restaurant last week and when she asked about the veggie burger on the menu the waiter said it was a frozen Morningstar Farms black bean burger. She was horrified to learn they use a frozen burger you can buy in the grocery. Plus, it’s not the healthiest and definitely not fresh tasting. She inquired as to why they didn’t have a house-made one and they said they’ve never found a good recipe for one. I find it difficult to believe in today’s day and age they couldn’t find a really good recipe or come up with one of their own. She told them they should take it off the menu, and I agree.

One thing you’ll learn about me pretty quickly is that I love good veggie burgers – and, I can be a bit of a snob about them! Even the frozen brands, that’s why I like to make them myself. I don’t like the kind that pretends to be meat. I like the ones where you can see the vegetables and grains. You know the kind that say “hey look at me! I’m healthy and delicious!” Here in Columbus, we’re lucky to have Northstar Cafe where their veggie burger reigns supreme! It’s filled with brown rice, black beans and beets, it’s very different and very delicious! Bare Burger (an up and coming NY chain) has a few vegetarian burger options, including mushroom and quinoa and recently opened in town. Sad is the restaurant that serves a frozen brand when they are so easy to make.

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I was watching a show on the Food Network the other day featuring a bar and grill. All of the customers were raving about their veggie burger. The chef was making what he called bar food kicked up a notch. A few days later, I watched the show again, wrote down all of the ingredients and then tried to figure out the quantities of each component. I substituted shredded hash browns for mashed potatoes in the original to keep calories down and for simplicity, however, if you have leftover mashed potatoes, go for it and use that instead.

I must have done a great job because everyone in my family loved them. Everyone from my son who is a pescatarian (vegetarian who will eat fish), my other son who is a carnivore (meat lover), and my husband who is an adventurous eater as long as there is a good sauce. Then there’s me, I’m a bit of a wild card. My diet is different from everyone in my family. I am happy with a piece of grilled salmon on a salad any day of the week! While I enjoy a good burger, I can’t remember the last time I actually had one. I usually opt for a turkey burger, tuna burger, and obviously a veggie burger!

So here you have it, my version of an upscale bar food veggie burger, I hope you Enjoy! Let me know how it turns out if you make it! Oh, and while I don’t think it needs cheese, if you just have to have it, select something like fontina, brie, or port salut; mild and creamy that won’t take away from the deliciousness of the burger.

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1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup shredded zucchini
1 red pepper diced fine
1 cup shredded frozen hash brown potatoes (or mashed potatoes if you have them on hand)
1/2 cup corn
1/2 cup green peas
1/2 cup cooked barley
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup scallions sliced thin both green and white parts
2 teaspoons – no salt seasoning
1 extra large egg (omit if you want to keep it vegan and add extra potato)
1/4 to 1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper or to taste
canola or light olive oil to pan fry the burgers

Toppings:
Use a good lettuce like crispy frisée or spicy arugula or mixture of both
sliced tomato
slices of avocado

1 soft challah roll, ciabatta roll, or pita
1 to 2 tablespoons of special secret sauce (recipe follows)

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While the barley and rice are cooking, prepare everything else. It took about 1/2 an hour to assemble and another 15 to cook. Cook the barley according to package directions. I purchased mine from Trader Joe’s and it was a quick cooking barley that took only 10 minutes. Cook the brown rice according to directions on the package as well.

While they are cooking, assemble all of your other ingredients. Dice the red pepper in a small dice, and slice the scallions finely. Measure the shredded potatoes (I used the Trader Joe’s shredded hash brown potatoes), peas and corn and place in a large bowl then set aside. Finely shred 2 or 3 carrots (depending on size to make a cup). Do the same with the zucchini. I like to buy smaller zucchini when I can find them, they have less seeds and are less watery. It’s okay if your measurements aren’t exact. If it’s a little more or less of an item, it will still turn out well. Just don’t overdo it, keep well within the recipe guidelines especially the first time you make it. Then make it your own!

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Into the bowl with the potatoes, peas, and corn, add the rice while it is hot and it will defrost the other ingredients and cool down the rice. Rinse the barley and add that in as well. Next, add in the shredded carrots, zucchini, red pepper, and scallions, Mix well with a fork. Add the salt, pepper and no-salt seasoning and stir gently. Side note here… I like the Kirkland Organic No-Salt Seasoning from Costco or Trader Joe’s 21 Salute, but any no-salt seasoning you like will do.

Add in the egg, mix and then add in the breadcrumbs until everything just comes together enough that you can make a patty.  I used a 1/2 cup measuring cup to scoop out the portions so they would all be the same size. Mold the patties tightly so that they’ll stay together and place on a plate.

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Heat a large frying pan or griddle with a couple of tablespoons of canola or extra light olive oil on medium heat. When the oil starts to bubble, place the burgers into the pan. Cook until golden brown on each side – approximately 6 – 8 minutes a side.

This recipe makes approximately 10 burgers and they freeze very well. Just make sure to individually wrap them tightly with plastic wrap and then place in a zipper bag in the freezer. The only problem is that these are so good, they’ll never make it to the freezer!

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I Entered a Food Contest! Here’s the Big Pitch…

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A few weeks ago I did something that was completely out of my comfort zone. I entered a food contest! Even as I type this, I still can’t believe I did it!  Here’s the whole story… While cleaning out my emails, I came across an event being hosted by FoodStart Ohio. They were looking for the next big food product. FoodStart Ohio is a nonprofit organization supporting Ohio food entrepreneurs. Together with Franklin University and The Women’s Small Business Accelerator they held an event called The Big Pitch. It was for food entrepreneurs in Ohio with great food products.

Truthfully, I’ve secretly dreamed of entering something like a Pillsbury Bake-off! However, this was completely different than that. It was more like the show Shark Tank. The competition was to take place over two weeks. The first week was the tasting, the second week was for the 3 finalists in each category to make their “Big Pitch” to the judges. The three categories were: food products, mobile food trucks, restaurant/catering. You could participate as an entrant or attend as a voter. The attendants were people from the community who paid an entrance fee to sample the food, then vote for their favorites in each category.

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Before I continue, I should tell you I found sign-up information on the Wednesday evening, 2 days before the Saturday event! Like I do most things, I held my breath, jumped in with both feet and didn’t look back. I entered the restaurant/catering category and had to make my product for about 150 people, show how I would package it, and write a business plan. I had 48 hours to buy ingredients, bake, make flyers, get supplies, and write a business plan. Luckily my husband went to business school! I narrowed down some of my best products, chocolate shots, almond macaroons, decorated sugar cookies, and babka bites. Together with my husband and son Ethan, team Sweets by Sherri was ready to go!

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We arrived at Franklin University very early and selected our table. First we rushed to set everything up and then walked around to see who else was there. Among the other contestants were amazing foodies that made jams, hot sauce, potato chips, vegetarian soul food, chili, gumbo, cake pops and wedding cakes, buckeyes, and pierogi to name a few.

There was a lot of camaraderie amongst the contestants and the fun part was trying their food! After the first round of judging, which was based on the public’s vote, the top three entrants per category were invited back the following week for final judging. That is where the Shark Tank model came in. Each person had to pitch their product to the official judges. They were all great!

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I didn’t make it into the final three – but came close in 4th place. In all honesty what I did in 2 days amazed me! Now I can’t wait until next year – yes, I said next year! What I learned is that I have to focus more and I’m already thinking about how to do that. At the end of the day, I met a lot of great people: people that are passionate about food and the food they create, food they grow and turn into jam, food they create as part of a family, food to sustain a new wave of keeping it local. I’ll be visiting some of them and blogging about them. As for “The Big Pitch” I’ll be sure to give you plenty of notice next year so you can come out and vote for me!

Here’s What’s Coming…

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post and I owe all my readers a big apology! My intention is to write something at least 3 times a week and being a newbie at this I’m still figuring out my groove. I marvel at some of the bloggers that post everyday; it has to be their full time job!

Whether you come up with an original recipe or follow one from a cookbook, you still have to shop for ingredients, then do the cooking or baking. After that, you have to style and photograph the food, sometimes photographing and documenting how to make the recipe all along the way. Then you then have to go through tons of photographs and select just the right ones. In some cases the photos need to be edited in Photoshop. Finally you can sit down to write a story to go with it. Writing the story, recipe, and editing, can easily take an hour or two. Now that you see what it takes to write a blog post, hopefully you’ll give me a pass for leaving you the past couple of weeks. But trust me, I wasn’t on a vacation from my blog. I was doing research and have had a great many food experiences and adventures along the way.

So, what’s been going on with Sherri? Well, quite a bit actually!

Here’s what you have to look forward to:

Entered a Food Contest (came in 4th place in my category)

Had friends for dinner, one of which writes the blog No Chefs Allowed and she brought me Homemade Preserved Lemons.

Tried a charming New Restaurant in town (South of Lane).

Came up with a great Veggie Burger Recipe & Sauce to go with it.

Found a fun cookbook with Ice Pop Recipes that look so good I can’t wait to try one!

Ordered from a Snack Delivery Service I saw advertised on the Cooking Channel (which I received today),

Thinking about doing a Food Crawl in my area focusing on coffee – iced of course!

Went to a Farmer’s Market i can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Going to take a class called The Life of Pie.

There you have it, a truly fun filled couple of weeks that I’m ready to write about and share with you, So Get Ready!

Happy Birthday America and Me!

Every year on my birthday I wear red, white and blue. There might have been a year as a teenager I thought about rebelling, but then went and changed my clothes, it just didn’t feel right to wear any other colors!

When I was younger, I always loved to watch fireworks and thought they were there just for me. Of course my mother told me they were and that everyone celebrated the 4th of July for my birthday. Since I believed everything she told me, I didn’t think any different!

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My birth date seems very suited to me as I have always felt my personality is somewhat like a firecracker! There are so many things I love about my birthday…

I love barbeques, the summertime, corn on the cob and cherry pie with ice cream. I love how I look in the color red, it compliments me very well and one of my favorite colors. I love that so many people think it’s “neat” that my birthday is on the 4th of July and when they find out, they get a really big smile on their face. I love when someone excitedly says to me “so, you must be a real Yankee Doodle Dandy, or I’ll bet you’re a real firecracker.” They say this as if they think I haven’t heard that a million times before! I love that everyone in my family has the day off of work on my birthday, it makes me feel like that’s my gift to them! I love that when I was younger, I never had to go to school on my birthday and always had swim parties. I love that it’s the one day I can get my family to play cards with me, happily at their request! I love that they think it’s weird that my best gift is just being together. I love that I have my mother’s attitude about getting older.

I love when people call me on the phone for my birthday. I love it even more now since it’s so much easier to text, Facebook, or email – my real gift is hearing their voice. However, I also love getting a birthday wish from someone that was in my first grade class, my best friend in art school, someone I worked with many years ago, or my good friend in Switzerland. Without social media, I wouldn’t have gotten those! Finally, I love that this is the one day of the year I don’t feel guilty enjoying a real piece of cake! I can’t wait to see what that will be tonight and have an extra big piece!

Happy 4th of July everyone! I hope you have a safe, fun and delicious holiday! Recipes coming soon, keep reading!