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My Grandma makes a mean potato salad.  It is her recipe we use as a go to one when we need a pot luck salad.  It is flavorful, easy and reminds me of how she says, Po-day-do.  Love that Quincy accent that reveals itself every now and then.

So, when I saw The Pioneer Woman’s Potato Salad recipe I was hesitant to let my true feelings express themselves.  They were dying to yell out, “I love you Grandma but this one sounds so yummy and interesting and I really really want to try it!”  So I took a deep breath and let them out, and then set to the task of making this potato salad for 17 people, which meant doubling it, which meant a lot of work, which meant with a mild cold all this cooking knocked me on my butt!  But it was worth it.  Cause, dang this was good!

Using a food mill isn’t easy, but it does produce some great results.  The potoatoes were fluffy and soft and the flavors mixed with them just exploded.  I loved the addition of eggs, I love me some hardboiled eggs.  I didn’t use pickles.  1. I don’t like sweet pickles.  2. I forgot to buy dill ones and with my Brother in Japan we didn’t have any in the house.  I could see pickles adding a lot.  Truth be told, this potato salad was packed with flavor as it was!  Lastly, I am with her on the dilemma of the skins- I wanted to fry them in a pan and eat them right up, it felt like a shame to waste them.  But I was tired, not hungry, and didn’t want to cook one more thing when all was said and done.

It was hard to double this recipe and not run out of bowl space.  I can’t remember if I resorted to mixing with my hands, I think I stuck with my spooon and got the job done- but I’m not confident that the mustards, mayos and eggs got everywhere they needed to go.  It was a lot of potatoes!  But it was a good thing I made that much, people were going back for 2nds and 3rds. Seriously, it is that good.

You know what the worst part of this recipe was?  Looking at the amount of mayo that is about to get mixed in.  That scared me.  But I did it.  And thank god I did, potatoes need dressings to be their tastiest selves.  Trust me.

Okay, now that I’m sitting here day dreaming about July 4th weekend again, read on for the recipe and then help me decide what to make for my last 2 July recipes!

Pioneer Woman’s (PDubs) Perfect Potato Salad

5 pounds russet potatoes (about 8 medium russets)
1 1/2 cups real mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip)
4 tablespoons prepared mustard (regular, Dijon, or a mixture of both) I used a mixture, YUM I love me some yellow mustard!
5 green onions, sliced up to the darkest green part
8 small sweet pickles (may use dill if that’s more up your alley) Again, didn’t use ’em- would next time.
1 teaspoon kosher salt (more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 hard boiled eggs, coarsely chopped

Cut potatoes in halves or thirds, then boil until fork tender. Drain.
Mash potatoes or run them through a ricer or food mill to make them extra fluffy.
Fold potatoes together with mayonnaise, mustard, green onions, salt, pepper, and other seasonings you like. Fold in pickles and eggs, then taste for seasonings, adding more salt, mustard, or mayo as needed. You may also splash in juice from the pickle jar if salad needs a little moisture.

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Here we are- recipes 7 & 8!  This makes up for my miss/fail in May and April, right?  No pictures in this write up either, as both the blogs I got these recipes from have way better photos then I could have taken, and I was too busy cooking up a storm to pick up my camera!  These recipes served as a great Birthday Dinner with family and friends on a Saturday night.  Sure I spent a good portion in the kitchen with the Tikka Masala, but sitting down at the table to hear their sounds of enjoyment made it worth it.

First the easy one- Cheese Straws.  I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen and knew I had to make it while I was home with time on my hands and people who were happy to eat what I was making.

Wow this recipe was easy.  Grate some cheese, cut up some butter, throw it in a food processor and you’re in action.  The hardest part was cutting up the straws.  I used a knife at first, but wasn’t pleased with the results- so I pulled out my Mom’s pastry cutter, or maybe it was a ravioli cutter, and the process was much much easier.  As she explains these will/can break- don’t let it discourage you- people like mini ones too because then it doesn’t feel like what they’re eating is so bad.  They took a little longer in the oven than stated in the recipe- so be ready for that.  I doubled the recipe and a good thing too, because as a Jew you don’t have enough unless there are leftovers- and there were a few left.  Phew.

These were a huge hit.  Like, seriously huge.  People couldn’t believe that I had made them, and that I was cooking dinner too.  But they are that easy!  Finish reading this post and go make some.

On to the main course.  This recipe is easy, really it is, but it does take some prep.  Again, I doubled (kind of) the recipe (I didn’t double the rice, that’s a lot of rice Pastor Ryan!)  First, here’s the link on Pioneer Woman’s site.

The chicken was a piece of cake- coat it in yogurt and stick it under a broiler- beautiful.  I had never used his method of the cooling rack on a pan- but it worked brilliantly.  I wasn’t afraid of the chicken being undercooked since I’d be tossing it in a hot sauce later, so don’t be a wuss and overcook it- dry chicken is no good!  It will sit for a few minutes anyway, and cook during that time.

Now the hard part.  Get your cutting board and knife ready.  I chopped the onion, I garlic pressed the garlic (leaving the skin on, who knew, this has changed my cooking life), I chopped some cilantro, I chopped some hot pepper, I chopped some ginger and I waited to put it all together.  I used two pans since I didn’t have one big enough to accomodate double this saucy recipe- that made things a little harder since I was guessing on splitting the ingredients between the two (they weren’t evenly split).  Luckily my Mom had some old Indian spices, including Tumeric for the rice, so I didn’t have to search NH for any, or make my own.  Because of their age, I wasn’t as exact in the measurements.

Overall- this is a lot of prep, to stir and let sit a deliciously smelling sauce.  Seriously, your whole house will smell great and people will ooh and ahh over it.

And then it was done, and it was darker than Pastor Ryan’s, so I was a little worried.  People loved it, I mean LOVED it.  They kept going on and on about it.  I didn’t love it.  I think over spicing this to make up for the age of the spice mixture meant a lot more cumin than I like (I don’t like any).  I kind of thought people were just being nice with their praise- but they seem to love Cumin, thank God.  I will make this again, it was delicious besides the Cumin and the rice was great too (and easy even if you don’t have a rice cooker).  I will use less of the spices next time.  I was kind of disappointed that my color was so much darker, but it also meant this didn’t taste overly creamy or oily like some Tikka Masala from a restaurant can.

So, give it a whirl if you’re feeling adventurous.  It is a crowd pleaser, and pretty easy to make for a large dinner party.

Last Thursday, we had our usual dinner date with Eric and Kate.  This has been a great time for me to try new recipes since I’m cooking for 4 instead of 2.  I had just gotten in to The Pioneer Woman and was eager to try out one of her recipes- so I tackled her favorite Lasagna.  I was wary of all the meat, especially the sausage and of the cottage cheese replacing the ricotta (I know, right?).  I took her tip of making it the night before and sticking it in the fridge, and thank God because Thursday was a day from hell and I did not want to make a lasagna when I got home, throw one in the oven- sure!  It took longer to cook than the recipe stated, but once it got nice and bubbly I pulled it out and we dug in.

YUM.  Matt- who doesn’t like sausage enjoyed it (His only complaint was the sausage and I don’t think he would have noticed if he hadn’t have known it was in there) and Eric who does not like cottage cheese loved it and even kept eating it after I revealed the ingredients.  Fantastic.  I had a little bit for a snack the next day, and it was great reheated.  Next time I will probably leave out the sausage, and actually I’d love to try it with just cheese.  Overall- a great dish- and I didn’t even take pictures- because hers are way better.

So, after the great lasagna success when I saw her Gazpacho recipe come up Monday morning I knew I had to try it out.  I’m visiting my Mom for the week so I have lots of time to shop and cook and this was something I knew her and her boyfriend would enjoy.  Perfect.  The chopping is a little time consuming, but well worth it because this soup rocks.  It is a great consistency and a real crowd pleaser.  I have enough to make another batch and am going to serve it to friends on Thursday.  Fun!

I’m really enjoying not only her pictures and descriptions of steps, but her variation of dishes.  Next up, Chicken Tikka Masala, stay tuned!

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