Author Archive for Larry Smiley


Potato Salad without Mayo

It’s early February, the weather is amazing and I feel like grilling out.  I’m going to do some vegetarian mushroom, onion and Swiss burgers.  I’m going to caramelize the onions and grill portobello caps as the “meat” of the burgers.  If you have never done this, they are delicious.  My only dilemma is that I need to come up with a nice healthy side dish.  I settled on Potato Salad.  I know, it’s not the most healthy side dish out there.  All that mayo really packs on the calories.  I also don’t like potato salad very much.  So, off to the drawing board to come up with a tasty potato salad recipe that is a little more healthy than the other stuff.

Here is what I came up with.

1 – Cup of low fat buttermilk

2/3 – Cup of low fat Ricotta cheese

1 – Clove of garlic

2 – Tbs of fresh chopped dill

8-12 – Red potatoes (depending on their size)

15-20 – Cherry tomatoes

1 – Hand full of baby spinach

1 – Celery stalk, thin sliced

Salt to taste

The first thing you need to do is get a pot of water on the stove to boil the potatoes.  I put about 1/4 cup of salt in the water as well.  While this is heating up chop up your potatoes, skin on.  I did about a 1/2 inch cube.  Once you have finished this your water on the stove should be boiling.  Add all the potatoes to the pot.  Once it comes back to a boil I reduce the heat from high to medium high.  Cook the potatoes until you can push a fork through them easily, 5 or 10 minutes.  (I forgot to time it)  Once they are done drain them in a colander.  Immediately fill the pot back up with cold water and poor the potatoes back into the pot.  Stir gently to encourage the cooling process.  If they are still pretty warm after this, do it again.  Finally strain and move them to the fridge until you need them.

Now time for the other ingredients.  First clean the celery and cut it down the middle making two long stalks.  Next begin slicing them very thin.  I like thin sliced celery because  you don’t have to worry about string-y-ness.  Once you finish this chop up the fresh dill.  Now you have everything you need to make the potato salad.   Except for the one clove of minced garlic.

Add 1 cup of butter milk to a large bowl with the 2/3 cup of ricotta.  You can also add the chopped garlic, salt and chopped dill.  Stir with a wire whisk until well blended and creamy.  Next toss in the celery, tomatoes and spinach.  Use a large wooden spoon to give it a good stir to combine.  Retrieve your potatoes from the fridge and add them in.  Stir somewhat gently so you don’t break up all the potatoes.  If your potatoes were larger you can add more liquid.  I would take a small bowl and add two part butter milk to one part ricotta.   Stir to combine and add until it is the consistency your are looking for.  The potatoes will soak up some of the liquid as it sits.  You can also add more of the other ingredients if you like more tomatoes, spinach, etc.

I would make this a couple hours in advance so the flavors can have time to get to know one another.  Enjoy!


Potstickers, Brussel Sprouts and Tempeh

I purchased some brussel sprouts today because Danielle said that she has never had brussel sprouts, and liked them.  I took that as a challenge and this is what I came up with.


1 – Package of Nasoya round wraps

1 – Large Onion

2 – Cups of shredded brussel sprouts

1/2 – Package of Tempeh

3 – Egg whites

2 – Cloves of Garlic

1/4 – Cup of chopped cilantro

1 – Tbs of toasted sesame seeds

2 – Tbs of canola oil

Salt and pepper to taste

The first thing you need to do is prepare your veggies.  First I clean up my brussel sprouts.    Chop off the hard ends so they are pretty much round to just below round.  Then peel off the leaves that are very green and are loose.  Now, cut these in half and slice them very thin.  You probably need 10 or 12 for this dish.  The next thing you need to do is to dice your onion.  Make sure it is a pretty fine dice.  Chop or mince your garlic and you are done with the veg mix.

Finally, time to cook.  Bring a saute pan to medium high heat and add 1 Tbs of canola oil.  Once it is nice and hot add the diced onion.  Lightly salt.  Cook this for 5  minutes or so until they are somewhat translucent.  While this is happening take out your tempeh.  Cut the package in half and put that part back in the fridge.  Crumble the remaining piece by using your fingers.  The fresher it is the easier it crumbles.  Once the onions become translucent add the crumbled tempeh and shredded brussel sprouts.  You will need to add a bit more salt, pepper and canola oil at this point.  Let this saute for about 5 minutes or so stirring constantly.  Finally add the chili powder and garlic and cook for another couple minutes.  Check seasoning and add salt or pepper as needed.   Once it is done spread it out on a plate so it can cool.

After about 5 or 10 minutes put it in a bowl and add the egg whites, sesame seeds and cilantro.  Stir it well.  You will want to get your round wraps out of the fridge at least 20 minutes before you begin making the wraps.  The more cold they are the more fragile they are.

Now, it’s time to make the potstickers.  First get a small bowl and fill it with water.  The next thing you need to do is lay out 12 of your round wraps.  (This is enough for 2 people to have 6 portions)  Using a small spoon put a couple teaspoons of the mix on top of the wraps.  Be careful not to add to much.  The more you put in there the harder it is to seal it. I would start with one tsp and work my way up from there.  Once you get your mix in the center of the wrap dip your finger in the water and then run it around the outside of the wrap, all the way around.  Next bring to of the opposite sides together and squeeze them at the top, forming a half moon.  Work your way down the sides, squeezing them together until you reach the bottom.  Get as close to the center as possible, you don’t want any air inside.  Once it is sealed fold the seam over onto it’s self at least 3 or 4 times.  Set it on a counter and make sure it stands up straight.

While you are putting the potstickers together cut a burner on medium and put a saute pan on it.  Put just enough oil in it so the potstickers don’t stick when you put them in the pan.  Once they are in, I do about 12 at a time, put 1/2 cup of water in and put a lid on it.  Let this steam until the water is mostly gone, about 5 minutes or so.  Once the water is gone add a bit more oil and give the potstickers a shake to loosen them.  If they don’t shake loose just use a wooden spoon or something to get them moving.  Continue to brown until the bottoms are nice and crispy, a couple minutes at the most.  Remove them from the pan with some tongs and place them on their sided on a plate.  If you put them bottom side down you will loose some of your crispiness.  I serve mine with soy sauce.



Pineapple/Fig Risotto in a Blue Cheese Sauce

As I was going through the grocery store I was looking for some type of “sale item” I could cook for dinner.  It was pretty barren so I settled on the $2.50 whole pineapples.  As I checked my pantry I found some arborio rice, so I settled on risotto.  This is what I did with my pantry items.


1 – Cup of Arborio Rice

3 – Cups of Vegetable Broth

1 – Cup of Fresh Chopped Pineapple

1 – Cup of Peeled, diced fresh Figs or 1/2 cup of dried  Camembert figs, diced

1/2 – Package of Firm Tofu drained, 1/2 inch chopped

1/4 – Cup of Good Blue Cheese, crumbled

1 – Tbs of Butter and Canola oil

1 –  Tsp of Fresh Thyme

2 – Shakes of Parmesan Cheese

Salt to taste


The first thing you need to do is buy or make some vegetable broth.  I tossed a bunch of carrot, celery, onion, pepper, broccoli and garlic in a pot with about 6 cups of water.  These are the ingredients I had in my fridge.  I salted the water and cooked them at a boil for about 30 minutes.

The first thing I do is prepare the pineapple.  When purchasing fresh pineapple check the base to make sure it is firm but does not give to pressure.  To chop it start by slicing off about 1 inch of the base.  Then do the same for the top.  After this stand up the pineapple and begin running your knife down the sides, removing the skin.  Make sure you go deep enough to get 80% or so of the pits.  Once you get it peeled slice it from top to bottom into 4 long wedges.  The core is tuff so make sure you remove 1 1/2 inches of the core on each wedge.  Finally, slice and rough chop the pieces.


Now, let’s make the risotto.  The first thing  you do is add the butter and oil to a pan and bring it to medium heat.  Once you do add the rice.  Saute this for about 3 or 4 minutes.  Next toss in the chopped pineapple and fig.  Cook/stir for about one or two more minutes.  Now it’s time to add the vegetable broth.  Make sure the broth is hot, so if you are using canned o boxed stuff, toss it in a pan to heat up.  Add one cup of the broth to the rice mixture and stir.  Let it continue to cook until the broth has been absorbed, then add 1 more cup of broth.  Continue cooking until the broth has been absorbed again.  At this time add the tofu.  Season to taste.  Finally add the last cup of broth. Cook until it is 80% absorbed.  At this point taste the rice to check and see if it is done.  If not, add a bit more broth.  Once the risotto is soft add the blue cheese in small pieces.  Stir and cut the heat off.  The residual heat will melt the blue cheese and make a nice creamy sauce.    Season to taste.

Spoon the rice onto your serving dish and toss on a couple shakes of parmesan cheese.  To finish this sprinkle a small amount thyme and fresh pineapple over the dish.

This was an amazing dish.  This amount is good for a side dish if you are feeding 4 people. Or this would work as an appetizer for the same amount.  I fed two adults and two kids, and ran out.


Pan Seared Scallops over Octopus Braised Swiss Chard and Squid Ink Fettuccine

Once again I am not working off of a recipe.  I pieced this together while walking through the grocery store and seeing what was available.  This fish counter didn’t have anything I had never cooked before, so I decided to make something “fancy” instead.  Here is my ingredient list.   This can be changed up depending on what is available.


1 – Package Octopus in oil ( I used Reese Fancy Octopus 4 oz)

2 – Bunches of Swiss Chard or Rainbow Chard

1 – Package of Al Dente Squid Ink Fettuccine Noodles

8 – Large Scallops

6 – Crimini Mushrooms, Sliced

2 – Cloves of garlic, minced

1 – Tbs of Canola oil

2 – Tbs of Extra virgin Olive oil.

2 – Shakes of Parmesan Cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

The first thing I did was drain the octopus pieces so I could use the oil for the Swiss chard.  Before I begin prepping up the other items I get 2 pots of water on the stove so they can head toward a rolling boil.  They should be good-sized because you are going to use them for the pasta and chard.  I would also pull the scallops out of the fridge and put them on a paper towel to dry.  Now back to prepping.  Clean and prep the chard just like you would do most any greens.  Pinch the leaves toward one another, starting at the base, and pull them off.  Discard the stem.  Stack up some of the leaves and cut them into 1/2 to 1 inch strips.  It cooks down more like spinach than other greens.

This is where it gets interesting.  Add 2 saute pans to the other two eyes.  I know, using 4 burners at one time, for one dish seems excessive.  Trust me it is actually easy.   The only reason you need 4 at one time is for the timing, so that everything gets done about the same time.  In saute pan number one add about 2 table spoons of the reserved octopus oil and heat over medium.  Add the sliced crimini mushrooms and garlic.  Rough chop the octopus and add it as well. Flip the scallops over on the paper towel to make sure they are getting good and dry.  Next add the chard to one of the pots of boiling water.  Cook for about 3 minutes.  You do this to pull some of the acids out of the chard.  Once this is done drain it and add it to the mushrooms and octopus.  Stir it in well and reduce the heat to medium low.  Season the chard at this time.  You are just trying to marry the flavors at this point.

You can now add the canola oil the second saute pan and bring it up to a medium – medium high heat.  Once it is hot season the scallops with salt and add them to the pan.  I would also drop my pasta in the water at this point.  This brand only takes 3 minutes to cook.  Make sure the pasta water is well salted.  It should taste like ocean water.  Once the scallops have browned on once side, flip them over.  It will probably take 3 or 4 minutes.  Cook them about the same amount of time on the other side.  You want them to be cooked to medium at the most.  Once you get higher than that they get very chewy, not “good eats”.  Once my pasta is done drain it, in the same strainer you used for the chard.  Put it back in the pot you just drained from and add the chard, mushroom and octopus mixture.  Now is when you would add the extra virgin olive oil.  I find it easiest to toss it with a pair of tongs.

Now that everything is cooked it’s time to plate it up.  Using a pair of tongs pull some of the pasta/chard out of the pot.  Put it on the plate, twisting it to try to give it some height.  The give each plate a couple shakes of Parmesan cheese.  If you have a block of parm that is even better.  You could shave some on with a veggie peeler.  Next cut the scallops in half giving you 16 medallions.  Arrange these on the top of the pasta.  This is a very nice looking dish.  The contrast of the squid ink pasta, mushrooms and the scallops pops nicely on the plate, especially a very white plate.  I will definitely be making this again.  The family loved it.  There is also enough pasta left over for lunch the next day.


Curried Butternut Squash over Coconut Rice

When I make this I make it very spicy.  It goes really well with the sweet components of the dish.  This time I tried Korean chilies.  I also make this without the chilies and my girls love it as well.

I use medium-sized butternut squash.  If you have never used it before I have a couple of tips  for preparing it.  First of all the top is solid squash and the bottom had seeds similar to a pumpkin.  I first, with a large knife, remove the bulb at the bottom.  I then slice off the ends and peel it.  If your knife skills are good you can stand the two  up and run your knife down the side to peel them.  If you are going to use a peeler I would use this one because the skin is kind of tough.

You can use a regular peeler but you will have to go over it a couple of times.  You peel it until you get all orange.  After you peel it you slice the top part and cube it into 1/2 – 1 inch chunks.  You can seed and keep the bulb for something else.

Curried Butternut Squash

Top of a medium butternut squash chopped

1 – Onion chopped

1 – Package California Mission Figs (in the raisin aisle)

3 – Apples chopped

2 – Korean Chilies

1 – Lime juiced

2 – Tbs honey

1 – Tbs curry powder

1 – Tbs kosher salt

1/2 – Cup chopped cilantro

1 – Tbs Sesame seeds (toasted, found in the Asian section)

2 – Tbs canola oil

Enough water to cover

For the Coconut Rice

1 – Cup of Jasmine rice

1 1/2 – Cups of water

1/4 – Cup of shredded coconut

1 – Tsp kosher salt

First get everything chopped, except the apples.  This includes the figs.  You first need to cut off the stem.  After this quarter them.  Once you do this put the onions and butternut squash in a pot with the oil.   Cook over medium high heat until the veggies start to soften, about 5 minutes.  While this is happening go ahead and chop up the apples and add them along with the figs.  After another couple of minutes  add the Korean chilies and the seasonings, not the sesame seeds.  Cook this for another 3 or four minutes.  Squeeze in the lime juice and add enough water to cover.  You can also add the honey at this time.   The only things that should be left are the sesame seeds and cilantro.  Cook this mixture over medium heat for 30-45 minutes.  If it looks too thick add some water.  I normally don’t need to, but I like it thick.  Once it is done add the chopped cilantro and sesame seeds.  It should now be done.

For the rice, combine 1 1/2 cups of hot water, from the sink, with the shredded coconut.  Let this set for about an hour.  After an hour pull the coconut out and give it a good squeeze.  If there is some coconut left floating around it is actually a good thing.  Bring the water to a boil and add the salt.  Once it boils add the rice and reduce the heat to low.  Cook for 10 – 12 minutes and remove from the heat.  Let this sit covered for another 5 minutes.

To finish the dish get a scoop or rice and top it with a scoop of the butternut squash mixture.  You can garnish it with more cilantro, sesame seeds, sour cream, ect.  Enjoy


Black Bean Soup

This is one of my favorite soup recipes.  Not only is it delicious, but it is also very versatile.  This recipe varies depending on what is in my fridge.   I like serrano peppers because the heat is more consistent than jalapenos.  The “secret” ingredient in this Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans.  They are cheaper if you buy them in the bean section as opposed to the international ingredient section.  You could also buy an extra can or two and make some hummus latter.



Finally, here is the recipe.

2 – Cans of black beans (rinsed)

1 – Can Chick Peas (rinsed)

1 – Large onion chopped

1 – Bell Pepper (your favorite color) chopped

2 – Carrots chopped

2 – Celery stalks chopped

3 – Serrano peppers

4 – Cups water

1 – Good hand full of cilantro

1 – Lime

1 – Tsp cumin

1 – Tsp chili powder

1 – Tsp garlic powder

1 – Tbs kosher salt

1/2 – Tsp black pepper

2 – Tbs canola oil

This is a really simple recipe once you get all your veggies chopped.    I go for about 1/2 inch pieces.  This size isn’t overly important because it will be partially pureed later.

First chop your onions, carrots, celery and bell peppers.  Once you get that done toss them in a large soup pot with the oil over medium high heat and start to soften them up a bit.  I probably let them cook for about 5 minutes or so until they begin to soften (stirring occasionally).  While this is happening I chop up my serrano peppers.  You’ve got to be careful when chopping any hot pepper.  The oils on the inside of the peppers can harm your skin if you don’t wash up properly.  After you finish chopping them toss them into the pot and wash your hands, knife and cutting board.  Don’t put them away because you have to chop the cilantro later.  After another minute or two add all the spices, black beans and chick peas.  Stir to get everything coated with the spices then add the water.  Bring this to a boil then reduce to medium heat.  Cook for about 30 – 45 minutes stirring occasionally.  Once the veggies look nice and soft take it off the heat and use an immersion blender to puree it about 50%.  If you don’t have an immersion blender I strongly suggest you go and get one.  Here is the one I use:

Depending on how chunky you like your soup you could not puree it or fully puree it.  I prefer mine about 50%.  Once this is done check your seasoning to see if you need to add anything.  You can also add some water if it is too thick.  Once it is all cooked, seasoned and pureed add a good handful of chopped cilantro and squeeze the lime in.  Stir well and serve immediately.

I like a dollop of sour cream in mine.


Sukuma Wiki (Kenyan stewed greens) and Ugali

I first had this dish while in Naivasha, Kenya.  If you like greens of any kind, you will absolutely love this dish.  Sukuma Wiki is Swahili for, “to push the week”.  This dish is used to stretch the limited food supply through the week.    I have used several different greens in this dish.  While in Kenya we used Spider Weed.

You CAN’T have Sukuma Wiki without it’s traditional and delicious side, Ugali.  I also call it the Kenyan biscuit.  I do so because it is used just like we in the South use a biscuit.  You hold it in your non fork hand and use it to sop up whatever is on the plate.  Here is a pic I took of Jael making Ugali.

Now, on to the recipe.

1 – Large bunch of greens (I prefer mustard greens)

1 – Onion

2 – Tomatoes

2 – Cloves of garlic

2 – Tbs of canola oil

Salt and pepper to taste

The first think I do is take the stems out of the greens.  Fold the leaves over and pinch the stem.  Begin pulling the stem apart from the leaves working your way down.  You just need to go as far as the stem lets you.  After this I wash the greens.  I rinse them each under running water rubbing away the grit.  It is extremely important to wash the greens well.  I’m sure there are better ways to clean them, this is just how I like to do it.  The next thing to do is chop the greens.  The greens I had in Kenya were very thinly sliced.  The best way to to this is to stack several leaves on top of each other and then roll them up like a cigar.  Using a very sharp knife start shaving off the end as thin as you can.    Here is a pic demonstrating.

Once this is complete go ahead and dice the onion and tomato.  If I use anything other than a roma tomato, I rinse out the seeds.  Also, don’t forget to dice on mince your garlic.

Finally, start with a medium to medium high skillet.  The leaves really cook down so a 10 inch pan would be fine.  Add the oil and begin to give the onions some color.  After a couple minutes add the tomato and garlic.  You can do an initial seasoning at this time as well.  After a couple minutes add a good hand full of the greens.  Once they cook down some, a minute or so, add another hand full.  Do this until all the greens are in the pan.  Once they are all in add about 2 cups of water.  From here simmer for about an hour on medium low.  Keep an eye on the water lever and add some if needed.  Once it’s done check the seasoning one last time.  Enjoy

The ugali is really easy to make.

1 – Cup Corn Flower (not meal)

2 – Cups Water

Bring the water to a boil and add the corn flower.  Immediately reduce the temperature to medium or so.  It gets thick very quickly so you may need to pull it off the burner till it cools a bit.  Stir with a wire whisk pretty much the entire time, about 12 minutes.   Once it is done scrape it out onto a plate.  Spread it out evenly keeping it a bit thick.  Once it cools a bit slice it up and enjoy it with your Sukuma Wiki.