Baked Chicken and Deluxe Black Bean Salad

Cook’s Notes: Two excellent dishes combine for a summer night supper that’s “loaded with vegetables”. The next day, make a meal salad for lunch: dice the leftover chicken and toss it with a scoop of the bean salad. Serve over baby spinach leaves with extra dressing as needed.

Honey-Dijon Chicken (link): A bit of a misnomer, since the main components of the sauce are honey, lemon juice, and soy sauce. There is just a touch of mustard in this marinade — and no oil at all, which means the chicken isn’t greasy. Basting the boneless skinless chicken breasts every 15 minutes keeps them from getting dry. The ingredients are nicely balanced. Will definitely make it again — this recipe replaces several other baked chicken recipes I had that weren’t quite right.

  • Tip: Microwave the honey for 30 seconds to loosen it. The warm honey then blends easily with the rest of the sauce ingredients.

Deluxe Black Bean Salad (link): I modified a great base recipe from Diana Rattray, the Guide to Southern Food. A pasta salad becomes an excellent vegetable and bean salad. In fact, this salad just tastes like summer, and it has some of my favorite vegetables: red bell pepper, sweet onion, cucumber, fresh corn, and black beans. The chili-lime vinaigrette dressing is a knockout. Modifications and notes:

  • Omit the macaroni pasta and the mayonnaise
  • Use Vidalia sweet onion instead of red onion
  • Use 1 peeled English hot-house cucumber, diced, instead of just 1/2 cup diced cucumber
  • Steam 3 ears of fresh corn in the microwave for 6 minutes; strip kernels off the cob
  • Use 2 tsp dried cilantro instead of 2 Tbsp fresh
  • Reduce chili powder to 3/4 tsp
  • Increase cumin powder to 3/4 tsp
  • Use 1/2 tsp kosher salt instead of regular table salt

Tried and Liked: Apple Zinger Punch

Apple Zinger...refreshing

Cook’s Notes: Ina Garten calls this “Herbal Iced Tea.” You simply mix 4 cups of strong herbal tea (made with 4 Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger tea bags and 4 Red Zinger tea bags) with 4 cups of apple juice. No extra sugar is added, and it’s naturally caffeine-free. The two herbal teas blend well, and the apple juice adds enough sweetness. We keep a pitcher of this mixture in the fridge at all times now to stave off the summer heat.

Variation: Some readers like to use Raspberry Zinger instead of the Red Zinger.

Best Recipe: Corn and Tortellini Pasta Salad

Cook’s Notes: This is the perfect dish for summer potlucks, when the corn is at its finest. Absolutely delicious. Adding the corn milk to the dressing is a nice touch and infuses the corn flavor throughout the dish.

Tastes like summer

8 ears fresh corn, steam-cooked in microwave
1 tablespoon kosher salt
16 oz package Italian tortellini with pesto filling (dry pasta from Trader Joe’s)
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup cider vinegar, plus more to taste
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano

Husk the steamed corn. Use a corn cutter to remove corn kernels from the cob. Save the corn milk to use in the dressing.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until only 2 minutes of cooking time remain. Add the corn and cook for 2 minutes more, or until the pasta is tender but still has some bite.

Drain in a colander, shaking it to remove the excess moisture. Transfer the shells and corn to a large bowl. Add the diced red peppers.

Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the reserved corn milk, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, cider vinegar, mustard, black pepper, and spices. Gradually whisk in the oil in a slow, steady stream, until the dressing emulsifies. Pour the dressing over the warm pasta and stir gently to coat the shells.

Add more salt and pepper and another splash of vinegar, if you like.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour for the flavors to mellow before serving.

Source: Adapted from Stephen Cooks, who was in turn adapting a recipe from The Way We Cook, by Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven

Tips from The Low-Fat, Low-Carb Southwest Cookbook

Anne Lindsay Greer McCann has written an excellent guide to Southwest style food, but redone to be healthier. Sometimes, dishes from this region are heavy handed with the fat and cheese. I read McCann’s  The Low-Fat, Low-Carb Southwest Cookbook recently and was quite impressed with her re-do recipes. Here are some of my favorite tips from the book:

  • Quick chicken marinade: Mix 12-oz bottle of Italian dressing with 1/8 cup (1 oz) soy sauce and the juice of one lime or lemon. “This adds both flavor and moisture to boneless chicken breasts,” McCann says.
  • Drain 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil and press between paper towels to absorb most of the oil. Mix with 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds and 1/4 cup chopped scallions. Serve with goat cheese or low-fat cream cheese (note: these ingredients would be great mixed together to make a spread).
  • Wrap roasted asparagus spears with thinly sliced smoked turkey and serve with a mustard dip. (McCann recommends blanched asparagus, but we like it best oven roasted).

236. Coffeehouse Cap

Crochet, project 236. Completed 3/29/2010

Adapted from Lion Brand Pattern #: 81087AD (free pattern; but you must register with their site to view it)

Adult M, fits 19-inch head

Yarn: 101 yds total of worsted weight yarn in 2 colors: Cascade 220 (100% Peruvian Highland Wool), 100g / 3.5 oz, 220 yds.
•    A – Dark: Color: 7802, Cerise (Dk. Pink). Used 0.7 oz, 44 yds (0.2 skein).
•    B – Light: Color: 9478, Cotton Candy (Lt.). Used 0.9 oz, 57 yds (0.26 skein).

Crochet Hook: US size J-10 (6 mm) crochet hook

12 sc = 4 in.
Not important — top-down hat

Lion Brand says, “This casual cap is great for guys and gals. Other colorways include Olive/Mustard, Olive/Pea Green, Pea Green/Olive, and Beige/Taupe. ”

Would love to make this again in a larger size (such as 66 sc). The pattern has some clever elements, such as the vertical striping and its shaping.

235. Preemie Bonnet (sc hat)

Crochet, project 235. Completed 3/26/2010

2.5″ long and 3.5″ diameter, to fit an 11-inch head
For an actual preemie baby, make the hat 4″ long.

Yarn: 1 oz / 40 yds worsted weight yarn:
1 skein Cascade Lanaloft (100% Wool), 113g / 4 oz, 160  yds. Color LL90W: Mystical Pink

Crochet Hook: US Size H-8 (5mm) hook

Not important. Worked top-down until desired diameter (3.5″).

I made this hat as part of an egg decorating contest (egg-shaped coin bank is 11″ around and 4″ high).

234. Slouchy Super Star Beret

Crochet, project 234. Completed 3/25/2010

Adapted from instructions by seller April Draven on etsy (she has lots of creative hat patterns)


Adult L, 22-inch head, 11.5 inches across.

Yarn: Worsted weight yarn in two colors:
•    A – Main color: 1.8 oz / 113.1 yds of Cascade 220 Superwash (100% Superwash Wool), 100g / 3.5 oz, 220 yds. Color: 1913, Charcoal Gray
•    B – Star color: 1.1 oz / 69 yds of Cascade 220 (100% Peruvian Highland Wool), 100g / 3.5 oz, 220 yds. Color: 9478, Cotton Candy

Crochet Hooks: US Size I-9 (5.5 mm) hook and H-8 (5mm) crochet hooks

Not important — top-down hat

Sides are 2.5″ long; could also be worked until it is 3 to 5″ long