Posts Tagged ‘vegetables’

It’s frustrating to get home and open a bag of store-bought potatoes only to find that one is so badly rotten it infected each potato it came in contact with. But you squeezed the potatoes before you chose a bag, right?


There are people who slice off the spoiled parts and use the remaining potatoes but I can’t stomach it so I throw the bad ones out. Plus I live in the country so it’s not a quick run back to the store if the situation leaves me with fewer potatoes than what I immediately need. (Maybe I’m making homemade hash browns for smoky ham and cheddar hash brown casserole or the T Boys hot dog casserole.)

Yesterday a lady who introduced herself as Sheila busted me sniffing a bag of potatoes in the produce aisle. She asked what it does. Not wanting to look like a crazy person sniffing vegetables, I explained. A few years ago I started smelling the potatoes before I even put a bag in my cart. There are little holes in the plastic bags and the netted bags are easy – inhale inside the bag (never put a plastic bag over your head or you will look crazy or suffocate). It should only smell like dirt. Even if you gently squeeze some of the potatoes and they seem fine, you will definitely smell if there is something rotten in the package.

It has unscientifically worked for me every time.

Earthy wishes,

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Not everyone grows up with a taste and appreciation for juicy tomatoes. Up until a few years ago, I treated tomatoes as an invasion to my dinner plate. No matter why they were there, I would flick, pick, and poke tomatoes out of my food. The seeds were just as much of an intruder. I could handle salsa, if I used my tortilla chip to dig around and only come up with juice and a few speckles of peppers.

BLTs? Loved them! Hold the tomato.

Pico de Gallo | Random Sweetness Baking

I’m not sure what happened but I think it had to do with Jason being a vegetable lover. (He doesn’t read my blog so he’ll never know I’m admitting he introduced me to something good.) If I recall, I also don’t think I cooked with onions until I met him 11 years ago. I’m sorry, tomato! I was really missing out by not using your juicy flesh in my cooking. You are now welcome to sit on top of my burgers anytime.

peppers tomatoes onions limes

Now it’s all peppers, tomatoes, and onions on deck when I make pico de gallo. I know, I know. My hand is touching a tomato. And I still don’t use the seeds.

core tomato

Once I started liking tomatoes, it seemed like such a pain to cut them up. I was using a chef’s knife. Uh, hello serrated knife! Who knew? Yah, Jason did.

use a serrated knife to dice a tomato

Use kitchen gloves when cutting peppers. If you don’t, your hands and any other body part you touch will feel like a fire pit for an excruciating eight hours.

use gloves when dicing peppers

I’ve never really figured out if there’s a right way to cut cilantro. I just wash it and start chopping/mushing. I don’t use the stems. It’s a texture thing.


You can make pico de gallo with any of your favorite vegetables. Leave out the cilantro if you don’t like it. Jalapeños too spicy for you? Use only bell peppers. Not a fan of onions? Who says you need it in your pico?

Pico de Gallo

Use any amount of vegetables you want. To give you an idea how many limes you need, I used the juice of 3 limes for approximately 4 or 5 cups of diced vegetables. It just depends on how much liquid you like in your pico.

red tomato

green bell pepper

jalapeño pepper

tiny red pepper

red onion


lime, cut in half


tortilla chips

  1. Wash all the vegetables.
  2. Dice all the vegetables, removing the seeds, and place in a bowl. Remember to use gloves when cutting peppers.
  3. Chop the cilantro and toss into the bowl.
  4. Squeeze the lime juice into the vegetables.
  5. Grind a little salt onto the top.
  6. Stir it all up, cover, and place in refrigerator.
  7. Serve with chips or any of your favorite Mexican dishes.
  8. Crack open a beer and put your feet on the table.

What is a food that you like now but you didn’t used to?

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It’s more about the crusty, spongy in the middle, toasty seeds on top, breads than anything I put on my homemade sandwiches. I’m a bread lover not a bread baker and my toppings are simple, like my tuna salad with truckloads of crunch from diced celery.

Bread Lover's Tuna Salad | Random Sweetness Baking

We hit the road this weekend to New Ulm, Minnesota for a girls hockey tournament. It’s one of the few towns within hours of us that I know still has a small-town bakery. Like the town’s streets, German history wafts from The Bäckerei’s ovens.

The Backerei and Coffee Shop in New Ulm MN

We bought dark buns brushed with a hint of butter and a sprinkle of salt. We ate them before we left town. The other one, pictured at top, was called “something in German that I don’t remember,” and “they are like an onion bread.” Whatever it is, a crunchy tuna salad goes perfect right on top of it. (And yes, it really was orange.)

Even though you likely have your own favorite tuna salad recipe, it’s a good reminder to stop and smell the fresh bread once in a while. Bring a loaf home and make yourself a special sandwich.

Staci’s Simple Tuna Salad

1 (2.6 ounce) package Albacore white tuna in water

1 Tablespoon finely diced red onion

chopped celery, I use at least 1/2 cup

mayonnaise to taste

a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce

a few dashes of onion salt

a few dashes of garlic powder

pepper to taste

enough lettuce leaves to cover the entire bread

sliced red peppers

a couple of slices of your most favorite bread in the whole world

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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we’ve all planned our menus. Groceries are lining the counters and over-stuffing the refrigerator. Some of you are already performing culinary magic in the kitchen. It’s not like you need a stuffing recipe in order to prepare for this year’s turkey day. But I only make this savory sausage dish for holiday meals and I want to share it now so you can add it to your Christmas, or other religious holiday, celebration.

I’ve refined this recipe to feed my family of 17 and still have leftovers — give or take a few kids who probably have never tried it. But then there’s the sizeable appetites of the T Boys, my football and baseball-playing nephews, who request this every year. (Check out their favorite hot dog casserole.)

The cool thing about this recipe is that it’s pretty easy to customize. Just use the amounts of bread, sausage, and butter as the recipe calls for so it doesn’t get greasy or dried out. You could substitute some of the celery with mushrooms or a different vegetable, and add garlic, cashews, or cranberries. I’ve used all kinds of breads so pick your favorites and go with it. You don’t have to dry out the bread first for this stuffing.

You may have a larger stove top than I do, or bigger pans, but this batch of stuffing is so large that I need to use two large frying/sauté pans to cook the butter, celery, and onion mixture. You’ll need large pans because once you add the bread, you need room to stir everything together. Or you could split it into batches. You’ll want a very large bowl or pan to bake this in. I’ve used my KitchenAid® roaster and an aluminum roaster. I’ve also put it in a crockpot.

Staci’s Sausage Stuffing

2 pounds bulk pork sausage, cooked, keeping a few tablespoons of the fat in the sausage

1 pound bulk Italian pork sausage, cooked, keeping a couple of tablespoons of the fat in the sausage

4-1/2 cups celery, washed and chopped

2-1/4 cups diced yellow onion

5-1/2 sticks butter

3 tablespoons bacon grease, optional

24 cups of bread cubes (2 to 3 loaves of bread), I use at least two different varieties like white and wheat, wheat and rye, I’ve used pumpernickel and today I used white, wheat, and a small pan of cornbread

5 teaspoons dried sage leaves, or 6 tablespoons of chopped fresh sage leaves

3-4 teaspoons dried thyme leaves, or 3 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme leaves

4-1/2 teaspoons salt

1-1/2 teaspoons pepper

Preheat oven to 325°.

Over medium heat, cook the celery and onion in the butter (add bacon grease if using), stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft. Stir in about 1/2 to 3/4 of the bread cubes. Keep on low heat while tossing together, getting as much of the bread coated with butter.

Transfer to a very large bowl or roasting pan. Add remaining bread cubes, seasonings, and the cooked sausage with fat. Toss to combine.

Transfer to roasting pan, cover and bake at 325° for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes.

To use to stuff the turkey, stuff turkey just before roasting.

This stuffing can be assembled and refrigerated a day ahead and baked the day you need it. I actually think it’s better that way.

Happy Thanksgiving!

What kind of stuffing is a tradition at your family celebrations?

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I was married once. And just like everything in life, something good can come of a less than ideal situation. For instance, my two ex sisters-in-law, Deb and Sue, are lovely women who served some of the best down-home food from their Midwest kitchen tables. Many of their creations, like Deb’s Broccoli Cauliflower Ranch Salad and Sue’s Snickers bar recipe, found their way into my arsenal of recipes.

This weekend, my some-day sister-in-law, Betsy, and her family came to visit and we grilled bacon burgers and hot dogs. Broccoli Cauliflower Ranch Salad was the perfect vegetable side dish to serve on a warm summer evening.

In the morning, Gracie and I whipped up fluffy Cake Batter Pancakes and a new-to-us-recipe for ham, cheese, and egg bake made with Stove Top stuffing. (After 10 years with Jason’s family, I think Grace and I are grandfathered in as Aunt and Niece.) She mastered the “flip” of the pancake so she just might take over the morning spatula when they get back home.

You can make this salad with whichever raw veggies you want. The recipe card that I copied from Deb is fairly vague. I wrote garlic and dill weed but I didn’t write amounts. If you’re not fond of some of the vegetables, just switch them out for something you like. Check your garden before you hit the market.

I tossed in a handful of diced red onion. If you like cashews, sliced almonds or sunflower seeds, they would add a nice salty crunch.

Bacon would take it to the next level.

According to what I wrote, the number of servings makes “a big bowl.” My guess is, it makes 12-18 servings.

Broccoli Cauliflower Ranch Salad

1 bunch broccoli

1 head cauliflower

4 sticks celery

1/4 cup diced red onion (If you prefer, use green onions.)

1-1/2 cups frozen peas (The petite ones are nice.)

1 cup mayonnaise, NOT salad dressing

8 ounces sour cream

1 (1-ounce) packet dry Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing mix – NOT the dip mix

1-1/2 teaspoons dill weed

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (Or use a couple of cloves of chopped garlic.)

Wash and chop the broccoli, cauliflower, celery, and red onion. Add the vegetables, including the peas, to a big bowl of salted cold water. A couple of tablespoons of salt is fine. Let the veggies soak in the water for 10-15 minutes. Drain the water well so the salad doesn’t get watery. Toss the vegetables into a large bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise and sour cream. Add the Ranch packet, dill weed and garlic powder. Stir to mix well.

Add the Ranch mixture to the vegetables and stir until they are evenly coated with the dressing. Chill at least one hour. Serve cold. You can refrigerate it overnight and serve the next day. Refrigerate leftovers.

Do you have a favorite recipe from an ex-family member? 

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You may not think a big bowl of salsa makes a meal, but you won’t be able to stop eating this hearty condiment until your belly is full. If you have a garden, run out and pick a few tomatoes, green onions, and as many varieties of peppers as you can. Sauté a pound of chicken seasoned with Mexican spices, throw a few beers on ice, and in 30 minutes you’ll have a perfect summer meal.

Our favorite sidekick for scooping up this salsa is a big bag of Margaritaville Sea Salt Tortilla Chips. (Thanks to my sister, Kalli, for the recommendation a couple of years ago.) For those of you in the Midwest, you can purchase the chips at Hy-Vee, Fareway Foods and Schnucks.

Of course, no meal is complete without something sweet so we topped off this spicy summer meal with a light and creamy, no-bake dessert — Summer Breeze Lime Pie.

Chicken and Black Bean Salsa

1 – 1-1/2 pounds unbreaded chicken breasts, cooked, diced and seasoned with Southwest Seasoning Mix or any combination of Mexican spices

3 large tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (or lime juice from a bottle), to taste – you may want to add more to make it juicier

1/4 cup green onions, finely chopped just past the white part

2 (15 oz. each) cans black beans, drained and rinsed

3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

1/4 tsp salt, or more to taste

1/4 tsp pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup diced pepper (red, green, orange, yellow, whatever kinds you like)

2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped

Sauté the chicken until fully cooked.

Cut up all the vegetables, cilantro, garlic, and stir together in a large bowl with the salt and lime juice. Drain and rinse the beans and add to the vegetables.

When the chicken is done, stir it into the vegetable and bean mix. Serve with chips. Store in the refrigerator and serve leftovers cold.

Happy summer!

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