Meatless Mondays: Thai Peanut Salad Dressing

Ideally, after I make and photograph food to share, I’d be sitting here munching on it while I review the recipe.  Instead I’m eating chips and salsa from a local taco shop.  The salad is a few feet away from me, dressed and ready for me to dive in.  I dipped my toe in and I’m not sure I’m impressed.

Here’s the thing: the dressing is good.  And, had I followed the recipe closely, I’m sure it would be outstanding.  In fact, I know it would be, because I had the real version on Friday at our office Halloween potluck.  My coworker brought a Thai salad that was swoon-worthy.  She said she’d had something similar at California Pizza Kitchen the week before and wanted to recreate it.  And, after two helpings on Friday, so did I.

But weekends can be lazy.  Actually, they should be.  And I’m not a big fan of running to the grocery store for food when we already have so much food in the ‘fridge.  I’d like to just make do with what’s around until we need more to survive.  Also, last week I started with our local Harvest2U service.  Once a week we pick up a box of freshly picked produce at a designated location.  It’s all organic.  All local.  And all a complete surprise.  It will make dinner preparation a little more challenging for my husband, but maybe we’ll get some extra nutrition out of it.

That said, Harvest2U gave me cilantro this week.  I don’t like cilantro.  Not even a little bit.  I leave it out of anything that calls for it.  But, here I was with a giant bunch of cilantro to use and all I could think about was my coworker’s potluck salad.  She said the recipe was readily available on the Internet, so a quick search brought me here.  I have no idea if this is where she got the recipe, but this is the one I used for the dressings.

Recipe: Lime Cilantro Dressing


  • 1/4 small red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 small bunch cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Place bell pepper and cilantro leaves in the work bowl of a food processor, then add remaining ingredients except for olive oil. Process until smooth, 30 to 60 seconds.
  2. With food processor on, add olive oil in a thin stream and continue processing for 1 minute after all the oil has been added; there should be no oil on the surface. Store covered in refrigerator for up to 1 week (whisk before using).


Remember that part about not going to the store? I attempted this without the red pepper or the ginger. It's okay.. but I'd suggest following the recipe!

Recipe: Thai Peanut Dressing


  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon (scant) cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil


  1. Whisk together peanut butter, vinegar, honey, water and soy sauce. Stir in sugar, salt, cayenne and red pepper flakes. Add oil and continue whisking until smooth. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to five days. Bring to room temperature and whisk before using.

See how that says almond butter? A little substitution on my end. We were out of peanut butter and this was on hand. Not a bad substitution!

Okay, both of these dressings are tasty on their own, but become instant magic once they’re on the right salad.  The peanut one is a little thick, but that isn’t anything a little tossing  can’t fix.  For me, this is where my recipe went south.  At California Pizza Kitchen they give you all sorts of wonderful vegetables to throw this liquid wonder onto, but in our home kitchen we were a little on the limited side.  I wanted to use the fresh romaine and other greens from my box, but what I didn’t realize is that dandelion greens might not be great for salads.  At least, not for my tastebuds.  But why bother trying them before I mixed them with my delicious romaine and dressing?  Why bother testing it before ruining a bunch of food?

That grass stuff on the cutting board is garlic chive. This is new to me! It's pretty tasty on a baked potato, though. I thought it might help take the flavor of the dandelion greens out of the salad. ....nope.

The moral of this story is: don’t buy dandelion greens.

No, no.  That isn’t it.

The moral of this story is: allow yourself to try things again.  Even if you hate them in nearly every form, there will be a way to enjoy them some way, some how.  This cilantro dressing proved that to me this afternoon.  So now, my challenge will be to pick the dandelion greens out of the romaine and try to find a way to enjoy them.  As tempting as it is to stomp them into the ground or feed them to our turtle, I’m sure they can be rescued somehow.  Maybe after I finish this salsa.

Anyway, hope you all have a spooky Halloween!  We’re going to celebrate by seeing Paranormal Activity 3 and passing out candy to the neighborhood kids.  Then, later, I will continue the festivities by hiding under the covers with a flashlight until I finally pass out around 3 am from sheer exhaustion and fear.  Good times.  Good times. 

Friday Feasts: Cream of Asparagus Soup

It’s asparagus season.  They’re on sale this week at Stater Bros. for $1.49/lb.  What a deal!  I hated them as a kid.  My mom would make me eat them and I’d leave the ends.  But today they’re one my favorites.  Anyway, this soup is so simple to make, but tastes like you slaved over it all day.  It’s my husbands favorite.

Make it today and you’ll love me forever.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Adapted From:


  • 1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (I use 2 tsp)


  1. In a large saucepan, combine asparagus, chopped onion, and 1/2 cup chicken broth. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until asparagus is tender, about 12 minutes. Process the mixture in a blender to puree the vegetables. Set aside.
  2. In the same saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Whisk in the remaining chicken broth, and increase the heat to medium. Cook, stirring constantly until the mixture boils. Stir in the asparagus puree and the milk.
  3. Put the sour cream in a small bowl, and stir in a ladleful of the hot soup. Add the sour cream mixture and the lemon juice to the soup. Stir while heating the soup to serving temperature, but don’t allow it to boil. Serve immediately.


Tuesday Tip Day: Homemade Pancake Syrup

Who doesn’t like pancakes smothered in butter and hot syrup!?  Well, I know a couple people and I think they’re weird.

Mrs. Butterworths and Aunt Jamima taste so good, but are loaded with high fructose corn syrup and we all know that it’s terrible for you!  Your best bet is to use real maple syrup but it can get expensive, especially when you have a lot of mouths to feed.  I only have one other mouth to feed and he eats for two, so I guess I have three mouths to feed.

I bought a cook book a couple months ago called Family Feasts for $75 a Week (a recommendation from my mother) and she has some really, really great money saving tips for the home cook.  I’ve actually made a couple things out of this cook book that weren’t too bad.  It saved me once when I couldn’t figure out what to make for a dinner party.  I ended up making her Chicken Kiev which is baked (which I like so much better!) and it was a complete hit!  Anyway, I made her pancake syrup over the weekend and it was yum!

And then I smothered my pancakes with it.

 Homemade Pancake Syrup


1 1/2 cup of firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups of water

3/4 cup light corn syrup

1 tsp of salt

1 tsp of vanilla extract

1 tsp of maple flavoring (optional)


1.  In a medium size saucepan combine sugars, water, and corn syrup.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Boil until slightly thickened, about 7 minutes.

2.  Remove from heat and sir in salt, vanilla, and maple flavoring (if using).  Cool for 15 minutes before using or cool entirely before storing in a tightly covered bottle in a cupboard just as you would with any syrup.  Serve over pancakes, waffles, and French toast.

Makes 3 cups

Meatless Mondays: Yay! Pumpkin Curry Soup!

With only a week left before Halloween, I see no reason we can’t continue the pumpkin obsession.   Besides, pumpkins don’t just belong to October, there’s a whole extra thirty-something days in the month following that could use more than just turkey and stuffing.  I think I’ll try to sneak a pumpkin dish on the table this Thanksgiving and see if anyone notices..

But anyway, on to pumpkin soup!  I’ve never cooked with curry powder.  I didn’t even own it until this recipe demanded I go to the supermarket.  So, for my first attempt at curry, I’m pretty pleased!  It’s a little spicy for my delicate, white-bread mouth, but those of you who aren’t wimps are sure to enjoy it.

I tweaked this recipe from Allrecipes to make it vegan:

Recipe: Pumpkin Curry Soup


  • 2 tablespoons Earth Balance (or butter)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. coriander
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 3 cups organic vegetable broth
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin (You can substitute about two cups of fresh pumpkin if you have it on hand. Alas, I did not.)
  • 6 to 8 ounces of unsweetened soy milk (Start with six and see if you like the consistency. If you add too much, it’ll get watery. Also, if you’re anti-soy, you’re welcome to try anything, but I imagine a thicker liquid is better. Almond milk would probably not work very well here.)


  1. Melt “butter” in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in curry powder, salt and pepper; cook for 1 minute.
  2. Add broth and pumpkin; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in soy milk. Transfer mixture to food processor or blender; cover. Blend until smooth. Serve warm.

Also, bonus points if you serve it in a pumpkin. My husband "happily" hallowed out this pumpkin just for pictures. I'm pretty sure I heard a sigh and something along the lines of: "All this just to try and get on Foodgawker?" Yes, honey. Just wait until it's time for Christmas-themed dishes..

Now it’s your turn:  What’s your favorite pumpkin-themed food?

Saturday Night Hooking: Yay! Pumpkins!

You know what I love more than pumpkins?


Okay, that may be a little extreme, considering the love one feels for a squash should not equal the love one feels for family.

Still.. they’re so cute and orange!  And tasty.  Let’s not forget tasty.

I’ve tried to trace my fondness for this bulbous autumn vegetable to try to find a source, but I feel that it’s a combination of a few things: spending several of my early years in a small town outside San Francisco called Half Moon Bay and, perhaps, Jack Pumpkinhead from the “critically acclaimed” (and I say that with all the love and sarcasm I can muster) 1985 film Return to Oz.  If you’re a child from the 80’s, enjoy talking moose heads and fearless chickens, this movie is straight up your alley.

There he is, on the right. I'll wait here while you add it to your Netflix queue. Won't take but a second. And look at Tick Tock! So shiny and handsome! I could gush further, but this is about pumpkins not childhood cinema guilty pleasures. But, perhaps if I knit my own Scarecrow I could bring this movie up again another time...

Anyway, there’s a picture hanging on my mother’s wall of little-pig-tailed-me crouching in a pumpkin patch with the biggest grin on my face.  This year, on our way up to visit my husband’s family for Canadian Thanksgiving, we stopped at a sprawling pumpkin patch in Washington to browse their knick-knacks and take photos of pumpkins.  Well.  That’s why I stopped.  I think my husband stopped because I was clawing at the door and shouting, “LOOKTHEREAREPUMPKINSSTOPTHECARSTOPTHECAAAAAAR.”

I'm a bit bigger in this picture versus the one on my mother's wall, but you get the idea.

That's road fatigue on his face. Also, the general loathe of anything farm related. He's a good sport!

In August, for my birthday, my friends gifted me a few balls of yarn and a pattern to make a “Precious Pumpkin Beret” by Anna Connors (purchased from her Etsy store).  We work in construction so we joked about how the shade of orange they picked up was suitable for a Safety Hat and, not-so-secretly, one of them hoped I’d hate the color and want to donate the orange to making tiny desk pumpkins all October.  I did donate, in the end, but only once I’d finished not one, but two pumpkin berets.

When you see these pumpkins again, they will be grossly mutilated and burning from the inside.  I mean, carved, smiling and sitting at our doorstep.

When you see these pumpkins again, they will be grossly mutilated and burning from the inside. I mean, carved, smiling and sitting at our doorstep.

This may be the first thing I’ve ever made where size made a difference.  Scarves are scarves — sometimes they’re shorter and sometimes they’re longer, but they still work just the same.  And if the scarf ends up being shorter than I planned, I just give it to a shorter person to make up for the inches and start again.  The one I made first is on the left.  The yarn weight may have been slightly lower than what was called for, so it came out a little small on me but adorable on Monique.  So, I made a larger one which I think is a tad too large, but is still acceptable.  Also, instead of Safety Vest Orange I went with a Lion’s Brand skein of “Wildfire.”  I added a few rows to make it droop more in the back as well.  If I really wanted to wear it day-to-day, I’d probably accept these as the first two steps of the Goldilocks Method and do one more, using that weight of yarn and not adding any rows.  Then it would be just right.  But it’s a pumpkin beret and I’m running out of Fall here, so we’re leaving it at that.

I'm especially fond of the color changes.


Here they are, side by side, so you can see what a difference yarn weight can make in a project!

We did end up adopting a baby pumpkin from that farm in Washington.  We smuggled him across the Canadian border, too.  On the way back we declared him, though, because we had bigger things to smuggle.  No, not drugs or firearms, but a gift from my mother-in-law: a full bag of sheered wool, fresh off the sheep.  But that’s a story for another day.

His name is Pascal. He's the most well-traveled mini-pumpkin of his time (except for those grown far away and trucked in to be dumped in supermarket bins). Pascal travels in style.