Garlic Chicken Salad Sandwiches

3/4 cup olive oil mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cloves minced garlic
2 cups cooked chicken breast, cut into chunks
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup minced green onions
4 lettuce leaves
4 French bread rolls
1. Combine mayonnaise with mustard, lemon juice and garlic, chicken, celery, pepper, carrots and onion. Mix together and spread 1/4 of the chicken salad  on a  roll and top with a lettuce leaf. Add more mayonnaise if you like a creamier sandwich, after all it is your sandwich!
Servings: 4

MY GRADE SCHOOL HAD THE WORST FOOD EVER, HOW ABOUT YOURS?

I have been in love with good food ever since I was child and I remember that I was never a picky eater, in fact I was very popular with the kids in my classroom at lunchtime when I was in grade school because I went to a school (I am 56 so I was in grade school from 1963 until 1969) that wouldn’t let you have seconds of any dish if you didn’t eat all of your food on your tray and they wouldn’t let you leave the lunch room to go out to the playground if you didn’t finish your tray. Well I don’t know about your grade school but mine had the most unimaginative cooks ever, they served the worst food I have STILL ever had in my entire life and they didn’t even use salt and pepper on anything. A sampling of lunch offerings as the main dish (the sides will follow): Bologna Boats which was bologna baked with a scoop in instant mashed potatoes on top and 3 sprinkles of yellow cheese like substance; Weiner Rollups which was biscuit dough wrapped around a hot dog and baked (now they call something like this a pig in a blanket but the dough was bland and the hot dogs were very cheap) served with catsup; Boiled white navy beans served with catsup because the beans had no seasonings in them; Pizza, which was thick biscuit dough that was baked with ground beef and tomato sauce on top of it; Spaghetti which was plain boiled noodles topped with plain tomato sauce with ground meat in it, not a spice to be found in it (I have hated plain tomato sauce spaghetti for my entire life and I am quite sure it started here). One of the sides that no other kids would eat and I would, so they would give it to me to eat if for them along with a bribe of a nickel or a dessert, so they could go get seconds or go play was: canned boiled spinach with vinegar to pour on it to get kids to eat it, for some reason I have always like spinach in all of its forms, even plain. Some of the other mediocre side dishes were boiled corn with no seasonings, boiled green beans with no seasonings, boiled cabbage they tried to pass off as sauerkraut (not the kind my grandfather made that I ate at home all of the time that actually had flavor) and plain instant mashed potatoes along with plain jello which I hated then and I still don’t like it, it just doesn’t make sense to eat flavored colored sugar water. One of the few things I remember that was actually edible was hamburger gravy poured over the mashed potatoes for the main dish and turkey gravy poured over bread stuffing, even though they had no spices in them at all. I don’t think anyone could have been served less tasty meals than these. Because the so called ‘hot lunches” were so bad I usually opted to have a lunch packed by my mother and only had a “milk card” so I could have a carton of milk with my tasty sandwich, a cup of hot soup in a thermos and some kind of fruit. My mother was a health nut even before it was fashionable so she was always more than happy to make me lunch. In my school kids were jealous of my having an edible lunch and I later found out that in a lot of other schools a lot of kids thought brown bag lunches were lame but at my grade school no one did because of how bad the food at school was. I remember there weren’t that many kids whose mother’s took the time to make them lunches though. As I got older and went to schools that made a little better food I opted to not take lunch to school also but not until I left my grade school. I am sure it didn’t help that my mother was a good cook and I was used to eating things that were really good to eat, or they sure were compared to what the school served, but I am pretty sure she was a good cook. I used to keep a diary and I wrote about lunches and dinners almost every day so I guess food was important to me or I had a really boring life, and I was not fat at all.

These are 5 of the descriptions I wrote about the lunches I had in school and the meals my mother made:

Here are 5 of the days entries for hot lunches I ate in school and the dinners I had at home: Lunch 1: Mashed Potatoes with hamburger gravy, stewed tomatoes, peaches and milk Dinner 1: Sweet and sour spareribs, corn on the cob, cucumbers and tomatoes Lunch 2: Weiner rollups, salad, cantaloupe and milk Dinner: Corned beef, corn on the cob, cucumbers and tomatoes Lunch 3: Chili, uncrispy dry “Crispy Cornbread, jello, apple crisp, and milk  Dinner 3: Lambchops, corn on the cob, tomatos and cucumbers. Lunch 4: Pizza, green beans, cantaloupe slices and milk Dinner 4: Pork roast, baked potatoes, tomatoes and green peppers,  and Grandpa’s homemade sauerkraut  Lunch 5: Fish Sticks, roll, cake and milk Dinner 5: Pork Chops, French fries, tomatos, cucumbers and green peppers.

What do you think about the “imaginative” school lunches I had? You can see why they are so memorable, and also why after having good old fashioned well prepared meat with fresh vegetables from our garden for dinner every night made the crappy school lunches even worse than they already were and they really didn’t need any help to be very poor. It is also obvious why a good homemade sandwich of any kind along with a cup of hot “campbells” soup out of my “Peanut’s” thermos along with some kind of fresh fruit and a carton of milk was way better than the flavor less hot lunches my school prepared. I have since then gone to lunch with my nephews, about 20 years after I went to grade school and about 25 years ago, and the hot lunches were better than they were at my grade school but still nothing to write home about. I guess if I want to see if they have improved any I could go to my nephew’s children’s school and eat with his children but I don’t know if the food is any better that bad! Did any of you experience horrible school lunches?

Baked Crispy Buttered Potato Casserole to go with your Easter ham!

This is the easiest potato casserole you can ever make I have never had anyone not like it in fact when I make them I have to add an extra half a potato per person because they are so good people eat more than they would normally. This is the amount I would make to serve 6 people and if I am lucky I will get leftovers to reheat for breakfast the next day, but that rarely happens.

Ingredients:

8-9 medium size russet potatoes, they bake with the best texture because of their starch content but feel free to use another kind of potato if you feel strongly about it.

1/2 cup melted butter

1/2 cup grated Parmeson or Romano cheese

Salt and fresh ground pepper

1/2 cup chopped green onions or parsley

Directions:

Thinly slice the potatoes, peel them first if you don’t like them unpeeled as they will turn out equally delicious peeled or unpeeled. Take a casserole dish, one that will hold all of the potatoes with there being three to four layers of sliced potatoes in it, and lightly butter the bottom and then start layering the potato slices on the bottom of it. Slightly overlap the potato slices to form one layer and lightly drizzle 1/4 to 1/3 of the melted butter on the first layer (the size of the pan will dictate whether you will have 3 or 4 layers) and sprinkle them lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper. Repeat with another layer of potato slices, butter, salt and pepper. When you get to the last layer, which can be the third or fourth layer, I like it better when the baking dish is big enough to have three layers using the 8 or 9 potatoes as the finished product as you will have the maximum amount of the potatoes exposed to heat on the top and bottom of the casserole to make this dish have a crispy top third, a soft baked middle third and a crispy bottom third. No matter whether you have 3 or 4 layers when you get to the top layer put the remaining butter on it and sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper again but on the top and final layer sprinkle the finely grated Parmeson or Romano cheese on it. Place the casserole dish in a 425 degree oven and place aluminum foil wrapped tightly on top of the dish, or if it is a glass casserole dish with a top then place the top on it and place it on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake it until the bottom layer starts browning nice and evenly and the potatoes are done when you stab them with a fork, which should be about 30 to 40 minutes. Check the dish about 30 minutes into the baking of it. If the bottom is getting too brown then move the casserole up to the next rack. Ideally the top and bottom third of the potatoes should be browning evenly but if the top is a little less browned at the end that is fine as when the potatoes on done and the bottom layer is crispy then you can finish the dish by taking the foil or top off and turn the oven on broil for the last 5 to 10 minutes to evenly crisp the top layer of potatoes. When the dish is perfectly done and browned on the top and the bottom take it out of the oven and garnish with chopped green onions or parsley if you like them, if not you can also sprinkle some bacon bits on them as well or instead of. This potato casserole goes especially well with baked bone in ham that you can do in the oven at the same time. I guarantee you will have no leftover potatoes! Add some fresh sauteed asparagus and you have Easter Dinner!

GREEN BEANS, POTATOES AND PORK-Making food for picky eaters!

I love food, all kinds of food, but I have had to “deal” with people who don’t love all kinds of food and many who won’t or haven’t ever tried more foods than they have already tried before I have met them. I will say that I have “turned” a great many people that I have cooked for to try things they thought they didn’t like, most of the time it was because they had never been offered the dishes I served them and once they were they found a whole new world of food they didn’t know existed.  I will not pretend that I understand this or would ever be “with” someone who is not open to eating all varieties of edible treasures and cuisines from all over the world but I have been forced to deal with the spouses of people in my family that I love and have “special occasion” meals with so I have learned which foods even the most picky eaters will eat and have come to the conclusion that almost all people will eat green beans, potatoes and pork. So as much as I dislike cooking for people who are very limited in their food choices I would rather serve something to those people that they are likely to eat rather than say screw off and don’t eat what I am serving. Green beans are very good and can be served in a number of ways that are easy and quite good to eat. A simple way to serve them that a lot of “picky” eaters have never tried but almost always seem to like in my experience is to take already cooked green beans and toss them with a little salt, fresh ground pepper, sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds. Potatoes are pretty much universally liked by everyone in some form and safe but not boring is to take fresh steamed red potatoes and mix them with some butter, salt, fresh ground pepper and chopped parsley and it satisfies me and almost everyone else that I have served them to. Pork is one of the most versatile meats there is and pretty much everyone other than a vegetarian likes some cut of pork. I have found that every time I make “Chinese” style barbequed pork I almost never have any leftovers and it is easy and inexpensive to make and fairly expensive to order at a restaurant which seems to appeal to the people I serve it to. To make good “Chinese” style barbeque pork can be as easy as buying the marinade at an oriental market or mixing up your own marinade at home from almost any simple recipe for it you can find off of the internet. Add some freshly made hot mustard and toasted sesame seeds to dip the meat in and you are set.  This combination has never failed to please even the most “pickiest” eaters I have been “forced” to cater to.  Bon Apetit!

Healthy Chili or Tacos

You can take almost any meal your family likes and make a healthy version of it. It is not that hard to do and you can’t afford not to do it. I really like dishes with lots of spices in them no matter what the cuisine. Stews, Soups, Casseroles and any other meal that is a one pot meal can be converted to a healthy one using the main spicing and ingredients in the original dish. For instance I love chili, and anything that tastes like chili because if it tastes like chili it is chili! For most people if it tastes like chili It is chili and they aren’t going to be concerned with the ingredients if it tastes good. You can use almost any meat you like to make chili because once you add the spices and chilies that make the dish a chili product no one can usually discern what you have used and they enjoy it because it tastes good. You can substitute so many ingredients when you make chili that the only element that should stop you is if you don’t add the very few necessary ingredients! I have made chili using beef, pork, and chicken and when done properly the only thing that anyone can really discern between the different meats are the texture and there is no way they taste any different if the dish is spiced properly. Spicing it properly is also very easy and works the same no matter what meat you use. I heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet along with minced garlic and onions, and when it is hot I add whatever meat I am going to use and I make sure it is liberally coated with cumin, chili powder or paprika, black pepper and salt and place it in the pan with the oil that has been heated up with the garlic and onions. When the meat has browned nicely I add a can of spiced tomatoes and green chilies. When this mixture has reduced a little and I feel the meat is thoroughly cooked I add the starch of my choice, it can be corn or hominy or rice, and and then I add vegetables. I am particularly fond of the combination of shredded cabbage, broccoli stems, and carrots but there is no right or wrong as after all of the ingredients simmer together in the cumin and chili powder sauce everything tastes like the savory mixture you started with. Then I either serve it as chili with some home-made tortilla chips or I simmer it down to be a taco filling, using either soft corn or crispy tortillas or nice fluffy flour ones. It won’t bother anyone how healthy the filling is once it becomes a savory blend of chilies, vegetables and meat once it tastes wonderful and it couldn’t be simpler to make!