Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Black Bean, Corn and Quinoa Salad

How many of you are saying…Quinoa?  What the heck is quinoa?

Let me tell you…if you haven't tried it yet, this is the recipe to get it started with... Black Bean, Corn and Quinoa Salad is perfect for a get together, a side dish or as a stand alone meal…its that good!

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is a grain that has been around for human consumption for 3000-4000 years, primarily originating in South America.  I'd describe it as a cross between rice and pasta, although it certainly has it's own unique characteristics.

It has made it's entrance into the US health food market in the last few years and has been termed a superfood on more than one occasion (understatement alert).

It is gluten free, high in protein and a good source of fiber…what more could you ask for?!?

Especially when handed to you as part of a delicious recipe.

Quinoa is quick to cook, just about 15 minutes total…and I always buy my quinoa pre-rinsed, that eliminates one step.

So, while that quinoa is cooking (one cup dried quinoa to two cups boiling water), I whipped up the fabulous dressing.

Two tablespoons red wine vinegar, 4 tablespoons lime juice, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 tsp salt and 1tsp cumin all work together to pull off the perfect complimenting dressing to this combination of grains and  legumes.

Before adding the dressing, 1# of thawed frozen corn (I know, sounds crazy to me too!) is mixed with 1 can of rinsed black beans and the cooked quinoa.

They are all folded together and topped with some freshly chopped cilantro…(Just realized I haven't planted any cilantro yet…what was I thinking!?! Needs to be corrected, immediately, if not sooner!)

It's that easy and that good!  

This dish was made for a cookout over the weekend and it was gone immediately.  I think that Jerry and I are both wishing it would magically reappear in the fridge so we could have it, pretty much anytime we want!  

I'll be honest, kids aren't huge fans, but they always have to try what we make and I think it is growing on them…and, while I want my kids to love everything I make…with something this amazing, I'm fine when it means more for me!  

But seriously, if you are already a quinoa lover, like me, you may want to double this recipe.  

If you are a quinoa virgin and you don't like it, just call me…I'll take it off you hands.  Promise!  


1 cup dried quinoa
2 cups boiling water
1 lb frozen corn, thawed
1 can black beans, rinsed
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
4 Tbsp Lime Juice
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin

While the quinoa cooks, whisk together all of the ingredient to make the dressing.  
Pour the dressing over the quinoa, black bean and corn.  Top with cilantro.  

So easy and so good!  Go enjoy! 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Mom's Most Famous Crab Salad

Memorial weekend is finally upon us, along with that comes picnic and get-together season, otherwise known as summer.  Yay!!!

Seems like the best and most logical time to break out my Mom's Most Famous Crab Salad recipe.

Funny thing about my mom's cooking is that she never uses a recipe, rarely writes one down and has an uncanny ability to use whatever she has on hand to whip up something delicious.

While I've come a long way since my first attempted meals when I graduated from college, I still have a long way to go to achieve her level of mastery.

I am so thankful for her love of cooking, people and the outdoors that she has passed down to me and that I get to now share those same priorities with the next generation.  My kids also have her to thank for the love of singing that she has passed down!  Ha ha!

This delicious pasta creation starts with 1# of farfalle (pronounced far-fa-lay) or bow tie pasta cooked according to the instructions on the box.  Most notably, when making a cold pasta dish, cooked pasta should be rinsed in cold water.  This helps to stop the cooking process, dead in it's tracks.

Next, a few stalks of celery were chopped up, including the nice green leafy parts, they are an awesome addition to most dishes.

Then a cup or so of matchstick carrots were added.  These add nice color, texture and even a bit of nutrition to this salad.

Finally, before the dressing was mixed up and poured on, 1# of imitation crab or surimi was added.

As far as the dressing, start with equal parts sour cream, mayo and pickle juice, about a cup of each.   Pickle juice is really the key ingredient in this dressing as it brings the perfect blend of flavor and salt and thins the dressing to the perfect consistency.

Additionally, about a teaspoon of each dill weed and garlic powder were added and the dressing was whisked together before being poured over the salad and mixed well.

I like my salad saucy and flavorful…so upon initial mixing, the dressing should be plentiful.  As the salad cools, the pasta soaks in the moisture from the dressing, so I stir it every few hours to ensure that there is still plenty of sauce…if not, I'd definitely recommend throwing some more together, or just adding some of the individual components to the pasta to achieve the desired sauciness!


1# of farfalle or bow tie pasta
1 cup chopped celery with leafy greens
1 cup matchstick carrots
1# of imitation crab or surimi

1 cup mayonaise
1 cup sour cream
1 cup dill pickle juice
1 teaspoon dill weed
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Cook pasta according to box instructions and rinse with cold water. 
Add vegetables and imitation crab. 
Mix up dressing, pour over salad, stir and refrigerate.  

For best results, make at least 4 hours in advance of serving.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing over Taco Salads

Lately, I've been a big fan of whipping up my own dips, sauces and dressings.

I much prefer knowing exactly what is in my condiments as well as the freedom to tweak any flavor profile towards my preference or try some new crazy combinations because ...why not, what do I have to lose?

So, after deciding on taco salads for dinner earlier this week, I decided to mix up a fresh dressing that would pull together all of the perfect flavors to compliment the salad.

This Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing was the perfect topping to bring together all of the delicious flavors and textures of the taco salad.  The key components in the dressing, sour cream, garlic, chili powder, lime and cilantro were a perfect little bundle of taco dressing joy!

The dressing would also pair very well with Chicken Quesadillas (I know, because we had them yesterday) as well as the Shrimp Tacos, just to name a few!

So, to get this party started, begin with about a cup of sour cream, add the juice from half of a fresh squeezed lime, or slightly less, as I ended up adding some (1 tsp) sugar to balance out some of the tartness from the juice.  Then, add a 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil, as the desire was for this concoction to be pourable, more like a dressing than a dip.

Before setting the blender on high, 2 tablespoons of minced garlic, a teaspoon of chili powder (goes a long way!), a teaspoon of salt and a 1/2 cup of roughly chopped cilantro were also added.

This was the perfect occasion for a taco salad bar…put all the toppings out there and let everyone choose for themselves.

My salad started with tortilla chips…Doritos, to be exact.  I think my kids were wondering what had gotten into me or it if was some kind of holiday, as I never buy Doritos…don't worry, the bag was devoured before the meal was over.

Next, a bed of lettuce and then taco seasoned ground turkey.  Since we had steaks the night before, I wanted to switch things up a bit, I generally try to serve a variety of protein-sources throughout the week.

Top with chopped onions and tomatoes, an assortment of shredded cheeses, and, of course, the Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing, stir and enjoy!

RECIPE for Dressing

1 cup of sour cream
Juice from half of a fresh squeezed lime or slightly less
1 tsp sugar (to taste)
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of chili powder 
1 teaspoon of salt 
1/2 cup of roughly chopped cilantro

Add all of the ingredients to the blender and set to high until well blended, smooth and pourable.  

RECIPE for Taco Salad

Tortilla Chips of choice
Lettuce of choice
Taco seasoned ground turkey
Shredded Cheeses of your choice
Onion- chopped
Tomato - chopped
Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing

Layer into bowl, toss and enjoy!  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Banana Nutella Crepes (gluten-free!)

Hi y'all!  Hope you had a fabulous weekend!

I'm excited about some of the developments around the All Things Libby yard this weekend.

First of all, we have our garden plot ready to go, are so super excited about growing our own vegetables and sharing the experience with the kids.  Learning the basics about the simple joys of life, reaping the rewards of your labor.

There was an overgrown flower bed in the back corner of the yard and while I hated to lose what was nice, the whole thing was just OUT. OF. CONTROL!!!  Ask any of our neighbors.  So, I did salvage a few lilies and will place them elsewhere.

I'm a girl who is not afraid of a little hard work and am always thrilled when the whole family can be part of the fun!

We also picked up our first batch of annuals to plant for the summer.  I never really plan out my planters very well.  Just grab some old favorites and always like to try out something new.  Will head to  The Berry Basket again this week to round out the needs for the planters and garden.

Just love the local, personal feel of The Berry Basket, and they are only a mile from my house, so that helps too!

Other than all of the outdoor excitement, I had some indoor/kitchen success too.  After many iterations, these gluten-free Banana Nutella Crepes finally came together.

Not gonna lie…gluten free baking is harder than I thought!

With all of my food experience, making my way around a kitchen is generally a breeze.  I can whip up just about anything, anytime, for anyone, with little apprehension.  Sometimes, I start with the end in mind…give me a soup or dish and I can pull it off.  Other times, I pull out what I want to use and see how it comes together.

Well, taking the gluten out of crepes really tested my abilities, but I'm not complaining.  It was fun to experiment and learn, of course, the most rewarding part was the successful, delicious end result.

But, before I get to the recipe, I'm going to take you on a little trip down memory lane.

Twenty two years ago…when I was a wee teenager and my eldest niece was just an infant, my family and I ventured to Paris to meet this first member of the next generation.

Since I was all of 13 years old, I was not overly impressed with the French culture or much of the food (other than the bread), but those crepes did make quite the impression on me.  If I come across a picture of a homely teen eating crepes Paris, I will be sure to share.

While my parents enjoyed the Grand Mariner crepes, my brother and I devoured the Nutella crepes and luckily, those crepe stands in Paris are like Walgreens in Chicago…one of every corner.  Looking back, there was no doubt who the Americans were.

Ok, now that I have my warm fuzzy feeling, we can move on.

I won't bore you with all of the iterations that didn't work, I will just say that the proteins in nut flours do not function similarly to wheat flour.  Ultimately, I nixed the flour alternatives completely.

This amazing creation began by simply whipping up 3 eggs, 1/4 cup milk, 3 tsp sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp cinnamon (optional).

This should be a very thin batter, as crepes could be described as a very thin, eggy pancake.

I used a medium-sized pan, over low heat, so that the batter can be evened out in the pan before it starts to cook.

Coconut oil was perfect for this dish, just a teaspoon or so into the pan to melt, then wiped out, leaving just a thin layer.

Pour in a quarter cup of the batter and tilt the pan in all directions to even it out before cooking.

As it cooks, the edges will pull away from the side of the pan, a good indicator that the crepe is almost ready to be flipped.

Crepes are tender creatures, so flip with care!

The sugar in the batter is responsible for adding some browning and texture in addition to the sweetness.

Now, for the filling….

Just a perfectly ripe banana sliced up and fresh jar of Nutella.  

Start by slathering on the Nutella. 

Then added the bananas.  

I generally work in halves or quarters…beginning with the end in mind, so that the crepe can be folded...

first in half
then in half again, for devouring.  

The boys were not disappointed after having to wait a little longer than expected for this tasty breakfast.  

I mean, really, how can you go wrong with egg, bananas and chocolate for breakfast! 


Ingredients: (makes 4 crepes)
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
Coconut Oil


Whisk all of the ingredient together until smooth.  

Melt 1 teaspoon over low heat in medium pan.  Wipe out excess, leaving just a thin layer behind.  

Add 1/3 cup of batter to pan, tilt pan in all direction to even out batter. 

Let cook until the edges start to pull away from pan and crepe is ready to be flipped. 

Flip and cook for a few more minutes on the 2nd side.  

Layer in Nutella and bananas, or your favorite sweet or savory filling. 

Fold into quarters and devour!  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Shredded Pork (Slow Cooker) with Coleslaw

As the spring picks up and the nights get busier, I know that I find it harder and harder to squeeze in home cooked meals around all of the games, practices and lessons.

So, even though it is (supposed to be) warming up outside, I still find myself going back to my slow cooker so that there is something ready and waiting for us to get home.

It also helps to fend off the temptation to eat another meal out knowing that there is a food awaiting our return.  I'm just a firm believer in home cooked meals.  They are better for both the waistline and wallet!

Last weekend we had at two afternoon games and since the troops and I would be returning home hungry right at dinner time I turned to the slow cooker to save the day.  This time for some tasty, tender and delicious shredded pork.

While Jerry was shredding the pork, I whipped up some home made coleslaw.   The crunchy, creamy contrast of slaw on barbecued pork is the perfect compliment to the smoky meatiness.

The shredded pork started with a 4.5 lb pork shoulder, on low, in the slow cooker, for most of the day, 8 hours to be exact.

Since the roast was on the bigger side, there were plenty of leftover, thankfully!  Seems like the guys in the All Things Libby house all have bottomless stomachs!  

The seasoning consisted of one chopped onion, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 3 tablespoons ketchup, 3 tablespoons yellow mustard, salt and pepper to taste, all topped with 1 cup of vinegar.

I think I popped into the house just once during those 8 hours and stirred the marinade...spooned some of the juices back over the pork and let 'er ride!

What did our grandparents do in the days without slow cookers????  Those things are a godsend!

There is some sort of guilty pleasure over my family oooohing and ahhhhing over a meal that I hadn't thought about for 8 hours...but I'll take the credit and think you should too!

After the pork was shredded, I always add back some of the cooking juices, seems as though shredded meat seems to soak that back in when it is pulled, which keeps it tender, juicy and delicious!

The coleslaw was just 1 lb of the bagged cabbage and carrot blend.

The dressing consisted of one cup of mayonnaise, a healthy dose (about 1 tbsp) of seasoning salt, a teaspoon or two of poppy seeds, a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1/2 cup cider vinegar and 1/2 cup of olive oil to thin out the dressing.

These ingredients can be adjusted according to your own personal flavor and texture preferences.

Stir the cabbage and carrots with the dressing and get it ready to serve with the pork.

This was the first time that we tried Udi's Gluten Free Hamburger buns (picture at the top) and I think that Jerry was pleased.  At least he had some bread to enjoy this saucy, sweet, tangy, meaty meal with.


Shredded Pork


4.5 lb pork shoulder
1 chopped onion
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
Sea salt 
Fresh ground black pepper 
1 cup of vinegar

Place the roast in the slow cooker, top with marinade/seasoning ingredients.
Cook on low for 8-10 hours, stirring occasionally.  



1 lb of the bagged cabbage and carrot blend

1 cup of mayonnaise
1 tbsp of seasoning (or celery) salt
A teaspoon or two of poppy seeds
A teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup of olive oil


Whisk up all of the ingredients to make the dressing, add in the cabbage blend and serve. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Happy Monday and welcome back from another wonderful weekend!  Hope all of you amazing moms celebrated in style.

After I was spoiled by my traditional Mother's Day breakfast in bed, the kids and I spent Sunday morning at Busy Barns Adventure Farm in Fort Atkinson with some friends.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much they have to do for visitors of all ages.  Before we left home, my kids (8, 10 & 10) had the notion that they were going on behalf of our younger friend, but that certainly wasn't the case once we got there.  They were all having a blast and our 2 hour window flew right by, definitely could have stayed longer.

If you haven't been there yet, I highly recommend adding it to your list of family fun outings.

From Busy Barns, we dashed off to sporting events…Ryker had a soccer game (where the players presented flowers to their moms before the game, a very nice touch!) and Landon had a baseball scrimmage.  I was thankful to have Alayna by my side throughout the day.

The weekend kicked off with a girls' night, in honor of a dear friend having her second baby soon, so the best way for me to keep the peace when I have my own fun going on, is to make something delicious for the guys…such that they may ask me to go out more often.  Not likely to happen, just saying'!

So, I wanted to whip up something easy, appealing and guy-approved.

My first thought…bacon.   Never a bad idea to start planning a meal around bacon.  The end result…Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Chicken Breasts.  

While I don't think they will be kicking me out of the house any time soon, the meal was met with rave reviews.  I can't even quote Jerry because he may have been a little too excited about it.

The three main ingredients were 8 oz of bacon, 1# of asparagus and 2# of thin sliced chicken breasts.

Started by trimming the asparagus, I generally cut off at least the bottom third of the stalks, that is the part that is the most stringy and least tender.  Toss the asparagus with some olive oil, salt and pepper, to prepare it for being rolled into the chicken breast.

The chicken breasts were laid out flat and just lightly seasoned with some fresh ground pepper and sea salt.

I know the bacon will provide lots of great salty flavor on the outside, but wanted to be sure that the asparagus and inner layers weren't missing out on any of the flavorful action.

To complete, just roll the chicken around the asparagus, then wrap the bacon around and fasten with toothpicks.

I used two half slices of bacon, but in retrospect, I would have kept the bacon whole and perhaps done a short pre-fry on them to add a little more texture to the finished meal.  

The Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Chicken Breasts were placed on a parchment paper - lined roasting pan, so that the excess grease from the bacon could drain right through.

Bake the chicken at 400 F for about 20 minutes.  That is just about as fast as you can make something so delicious!

These were just served with some fresh strawberries, but some pasta, rice or corn would have been an appropriate addition to the meal.



8 oz of bacon
1# of asparagus
2# of thin sliced chicken breasts
Olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper


Trim asparagus, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. 
Arrange chicken breasts, sprinkle with salt and pepper, lay asparagus across. 
Roll up chicken breast and wrap bacon around, fastening with toothpicks. 

Bake at 400F for 20 minutes.  

Friday, May 9, 2014

Dried Cranberry Pistachio Goat Cheese

Need a quick idea for Mother's Day, a shower (nope, not the kind falling from the sky this morning) or upcoming get together with friends?

I've got just the answer for you…quick and simple Dried Cranberry Pistachio Goat Cheese.  

It's creamy!  It's tangy!  It's nutty!  What more could you ask for?!!?

This combination is quite the bouquet of flavors and textures, which is like a little piece of heaven in your mouth.

While we are talking about foods that are just meant to be together (see Spinach Artichoke Turkey Burgers)…Cranberry and Pistachio are another pair to add to that list.  I love how the crunchy, nutty pistachios compliment the chewy and tart dried cranberries.

You don't want to miss out on this!

And, of course, with only 3 ingredients, you can put it together soooo fast!  (In fact, I managed to squeeze it in between dinner and my volleyball game last night.)

Started by rough chopping 1 cup of dried cranberries and 1 cup of pistachios.  

Equal ratios would be important in a recipe like this and a rough chop is fine, so that there are a variety of sizes to cover the cheese.

The fruit and nuts were mixed together in my trusty breading (loaf) pan.  This gives a whole new perspective to my Coatings experience…many principles still apply, but no deep frying here.

Gently roll and press to get the fruit and nuts to stick to the goat cheese.

It really was just that easy!  (I actually spent way more time taking pictures than making the food!)



1 cup of dried cranberries
1 cup of pistachios
Goat Cheese


Roughly chop the cranberries and pistachios.
Mix into a pan for coating. 
Gently roll and press to get the fruit and nuts to stick. 

Serve immediately or roll up in plastic wrap to serve later or give as a gift.  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Spinach Artichoke Turkey Burgers

Hip hip hurray for longer days!

Earlier sunrise!!!  Yes, I'm a crazy early bird so the sun coming up at 5:20 when heading out makes me happy!

Later sunsets!!! So that we can sit on the deck and catch up in the glory of the outdoors before heading in for the night.  Oh, and see our neighbors again...that will be nice too!

All of this long awaited warmer weather has me so excited for burgers...because nothing says summer like burgers do!

Today I have one of my favorites for you...Spinach Artichoke Turkey Burgers.  Soooo yummy!  I'm an especially huge fan of artichokes.  Love, love, love their texture.  Love their salty, tangy flavor and everything to they bring to any dish.

Of course, one of my signature things is to incorporate at least one veggie into every dish.  This time it is spinach...they just go together!  Like salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly...spinach and artichoke are a culinary pair.

Finally, these burgers wouldn't be complete without some creamy, cheesiness of their own, in the form of shredded Monterey Jack.

As far as the process, let's start with the spinach.  I am not a fan of frozen spinach...I don't like how stringy it is, nor do I like how much water is in the package that somehow has to be removed before using it for cooking.  Most importantly, I hate how my hands freeze when attempting to squeeze the excess moisture out of it.

I'd much, much rather sauté my own fresh spinach down to a perfect wilt.  So, tossed about 3 cups, or 2 handfuls of fresh spinach into a pan over medium heat with 1 cup of quartered artichokes, for a little moisture.  Also, a tablespoon of Italian seasoning was added to the pan to bring the flavors to life a bit faster.

And, since the spinach wilts to quickly, I think you'll find yourself ahead by sautéing instead of trying to wring out every last drop of moisture from the frozen stuff.  

The spinach artichoke mixture was combined with 1.25 lbs ground turkey.  

1 cup of shredded Monterey Jack was added and all of the amazing ingredients were mixed together well.

The final mixture was divided into patties and tossed into a preheated grill pan.

Equal sized patties would be ideal, but that is also so…boring and conventional.  

These would have been marvelous on a real, outdoor grill, but the winds we've had this spring have been crazy and I'm not sure the grill would have won the battle against the near gale force winds.  

Over medium heat, they were grilled for about 6 minutes on each side, and then longer, as necessary, as the thermometer indicated.  Seems like my home made patties are never as thin as the store bought ones (hence, mine are juicier and more delicious!), so sometimes they may take a few extra minutes.

The tasty turkey burgers were served on whole wheat sandwich flats with tater tots as a side as well as fresh fruit.  And, what can I say…I'm a closet ketchup lover.  

These home made with love burgers have summer lovin' written alllll over them!


3 cups or 2 handfuls of fresh spinach
1 cup of quartered artichokes
tablespoon of Italian seasoning
1.25 lbs ground turkey
1 cup of shredded Monterey Jack

Sautee the fresh spinach in a pan with the artichokes, over medium heat, add 1 tbsp of Italian seasoning for good measure.  

Add the spinach and artichokes to the ground turkey, once mixed add the cheese. 

Divide into patties and grill to well done.