Tired of Winter Cooking: Some Fresh Ideas

I’m so very tired of winter cooking. Stews, soups (ok, I’m never really tired of soup), roasted meats and veggies. Time to freshen things up.

But with what? The produce section is often disappointing with flavorless items that haven’t seen the light of day. But there are some bright spots and with those I can wave away the winter cooking blues.

First up: Peppers and onions.

This is the time of year when you can find a variety of sweet peppers in all kinds of colors at a pretty reasonable price. My recipes are usually fairly simple. Heat up olive oil, add thinly sliced onions and peppers, season with a dash of salt and pepper. Sauté until they soften and onion are golden. Remove from heat and now you can cook up any number of things: chicken marinated in lemon juice and pepper, thin beef strips marinated in teriyaki and ponzu sauce, pork medallions marinated in apple juice and a bit of apple cider vinegar. The ideas are endless. Serve over rice, mashed potatoes, butter noodles, quinoa…

Or how about Fajitas? That recipe is here.

Next up: Fresh salads.

I found a nice jicama one day and realized I hadn’t made a batch of Jicama Slaw since last summer.  A big bowl of that in the refrigerator to munch on all week really lifted the flavor blahs. You can find the recipe here.

Two other summer favorites that are easy to make mid-winter: Potato Salads (recipes here) and Coleslaw (recipe here).

How about fruits?

Now is the time for Strawberries (recipes here and here)

Blood Oranges (recipes here)


And Grapes – one of my favorite grape recipes is Grapes and Sausagesrecipe here.

That should be enough help you get through a few more weeks of winter while dreaming of the fresh vegetables soon to come from gardens and farm stands.

There will be a puppeh update today or tomorrow. Until then…

Recipe Exchange: Best Served Cold

Watermelon salad  final

With July heat in full swing and the dog days of August coming up, I thought cold recipes would be a good idea for tonight’s recipe exchange. It made working in the kitchen much more appealing this week and I managed to try out a couple of new recipes and do some actual blog posting.

To get things started, Monday was house hunting and one of my new summer favorites, Jicama Slaw, surprisingly sweet and creamy, click here.

Tuesday was notes on the kittehs and Key Lime Bars, which I made to satisfy an intense craving for a cold, tart, citrus dessert, read here.

Wednesday I played with making my first Granita, I chose watermelon, but there are many other flavor combinations for this easy, cold treat. Recipe here.

The dinner menu this week was Grilled Chicken Salad and Green Beans in Vinaigrette.  Complete menu, recipes and shopping list are here.

For the pet lovers, there’s a Bixby Diary update.

Well, that was my week, how was yours? When it’s too hot to cook, what’s your go-to for dinner?

For tonight’s featured recipe, I was looking for a fresh salad idea and a friend was travelling through Italy and posted photos of an unusual salad, complete with recipe (in Italian) on Facebook. It looked good, so I decided to try it. Here’s my version.

Watermelon-Cucumber Salad

I chose to use mint because it’s what I had handy, but I’ve seen it with basil or oregano and white wine vinegar instead of limejuice. For a spicier version, try limejuice and Pico de Gallo

  • 4 cups cubed seedless watermelon
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced (if using unwaxed, no need to peel)
  • 2 tbsp limejuice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • mint leaves, torn into small pieces
  • Pecorino Romano, feta or other similar cheese, cut into small chunks or crumbled

serving bowl

Add watermelon and cucumber to a serving bowl, drizzle with limejuice and oil, add mint leaves, then toss to combine. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes, sprinkle with cheese just before serving cold.

That’s it for this week, have a great weekend and try and stay cool – TaMara



Monday Thoughts: House Hunting and Recipes

Jicama Slaw FinalI just put jicama on the grocery list and I plan on making Jicama Slaw (recipe here), perfect for late summer heat. And it makes 6 to 10 servings, so I’ll have it on hand for the week. I can’t complain too much about the heat, because as far as Colorado summers go, this one has been pleasantly mild. Late afternoon showers keep things from heating up too much.

Rainy Weekend

I wanted to talk a bit about house hunting. I know it must seem like I’ve been shopping forever (trust me, it feels that way to me, too). Timing is everything. I started my own business four years ago and two years ago it became my full-time gig. Once that happened, I clearly needed more room as I worked at my home “office” 3 to 4 days a week. I ventured out into the market right at the time things heated up to bubble status. Houses are selling at a ridiculous amount over list.

Luckily, I have great clients, two who are actually custom home builders and one who is a financial whiz. They’ve been very helpful and confirmed my own intuition. I’m taking their advice, waiting out the bubble and trying to find my patience, both for myself and the critters. We all need more room to stretch out and we will find it.


NOT my actual kitchen LOL

But in the meantime…ugh my kitchen. It’s just unworkable, especially for blogging and photos. No light, cramped space, crappy stove. I’ve been living on salads and diet Coke all summer. I do have a backlog of recipes that I will just have to start posting, sans photos.

And when we do move, then not only can we celebrate, but there should be some fun as I document the inevitable upgrades.

Until then….TaMara


Friday Recipe Exchange: Fresh and Light

Jicama Slaw Final A friend called me early last week and said, let’s go away to the hot springs. Well, heck, why not,  I needed a break, so we threw some swim suits in the car and drove down to New Mexico. After a day of soaking we headed to the onsite restaurant where a simple side dish inspired tonight’s featured recipe. A light, easy, flavorful and completely unexpected salad.

But before we get to that I have an assortment of salads for you to choose from:

Frequent contributor, Josh D. shares his recipe for Corn and Black Bean Salad here

A trip to the international market inspired several Unusual Fruit Salads (recipes here)

And just in time for Mother’s Day, a fresh, light Spring Potato Salad (click here)

What are your plans for the weekend? We’re expecting a wet and wild Mother’s Day, so barbecuing and gardening are out. What’s on your menu? Any unusual and unexpected salads in your recipe box?

Tonight’s featured recipe takes what is usually an afterthought in a green salad and makes it the star to delicious results. Jicama becomes a slaw that is crunchy, sweet, tangy and really fresh tasting. I was completely surprised when I saw it on the menu and even more surprised at how good it was. I knew I’d be trying to recreate it the moment I returned home. This is what I came up with:

Jicama Slaw

I used my mandoline slicer to julienne the jicama and the cucumber. You can use the large blade on a box shredder if you don’t have a mandoline.


  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Jicama


  • 3 cups shredded or julienned jicama (peeled before shredding)
  • 1 English cucumber*, washed and julienned
  • 1 sweet bell pepper, thinly sliced (red, orange or yellow)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley

Combine the yogurt, lime juice, cider vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to develop.

Combine the jicama, cucumber, sweet pepper and raisins in a large bowl and add the dressing. Toss gently but thoroughly to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving toss with walnuts and parsley.

*I like the flavor of English cucumbers and they are unwaxed so I don’t peel them and they don’t need to be seeded.  Peel and seed waxed cucumbers if substituted.

That’s it for this week. If you missed it, the weekly menu of  Bacon Squash Campanelle and Panna Cotta Parfait is here.  Have a great weekend – TaMara



Blood Orange Salad

Blood oranges are in season so I thought I’d make it the focus of tonight’s recipe exchange. This was originally posted January 2009:

blood orangesnap2
Blood Orange Salad
  • 2 blood oranges**
  • 2 large navel oranges
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • ½ small jicama, peeled & cubed
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp oregano, crushed
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • Bibb lettuce leaves

shallow serving bowl

Peel oranges, and slice them into thin circles (don’t section). Place oranges, onions & jicama in a bowl. Sprinkle with vinegar, oil, oregano & cumin, and toss gently. Let marinate 30 minutes at room temperature, serve on lettuce leaves.

**If you can’t find Blood Oranges, substitute pink grapefruit for some tang.

Ming Tsai’s Tropical Glazed Baby Back Ribs

It is rare that I actually drool when Ming Tsai is making something on his show. Don’t get me wrong, I drool plenty looking at him, and his food is good and I’ve tried many of his recipes, but this time, wow. I came in about 5 minutes into the show and saw these ribs and thought they looked amazing. So we take a moment out of our holiday recipes to present Ming Tsai’s Tropical Glazed Black Vinegar Baby Back Ribs. Yum. There is video at the link.

Tropical Glazed-Black Vinegar Pork Spare Ribs

  • 1 large slab baby back ribs (10-12 pounds or more), cut to fit the largest metal baking pan that can fit your oven
  • 3/4 -1 cup Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar with pinch of five-spice
  • 2 cups Ginger-Kiwi-Jicama Salsa (recipe below)
  • 1 pound new red potatoes, scrubbed, boiled and halved
  • 6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


The day before, in a large, deep, metal baking pan, rub the ribs with salt and pepper and let cure overnight. The next day, pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Place 1 cup Ginger-Kiwi-Jicama Salsa in blender and blend until smooth. Rub off any excess salt and pepper on ribs, wash and dry pan and place ribs back in pan. Add the vinegar so that a 1/4-inch layer is on the bottom. Cover tightly with foil and bake in the oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Check ribs at 1 hour, and continue cooking until all the vinegar is evaporated. You can now either transfer ribs to a grill and slather with 3/4 cup blended Ginger-Kiwi-Jicama Salsa or keep in the pan and slather with blended Ginger-Kiwi-Jicama Salsa and change oven to broil to color well. Meanwhile, make German potato salad: when potatoes are still hot, toss with bacon, olive oil, vinegar and parsley. Check for flavor and season if necessary. To serve, spoon potato salad onto platter, top with sliced ribs and reserved Ginger-Kiwi-Jicama Salsa.

Ginger-Kiwi-Jicama Salsa

  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 4 kiwis, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 cups 1/4-inch dice jicama
  • 1 cup 1/4-inch dice red onion
  • 1/4 cup packed chopped cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno, stemmed, minced with seeds
  • Juice of 4 limes
  • 1 shot agave tequila
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Sugar to taste


In a large bowl, gently mix all the ingredients. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and sugar to taste. Let stand at room temperature for at least an hour before using or preferably covered overnight in the fridge.

Can’t wait to try these.  I think the Kiwi-Jicama salsa sounds interesting.  Not something I would normally think of.  There are a lot more recipes at the link and most of his cooking is simple, quick and often one pan. So check it out.

Quick and Easy Saturday Night Dinner

Still tired of cooking, so I’m relying on uncomplicated meals.  Tonight will be very simple, but very tasty:

  1. Peppered Sirlion
  2. Baked Potatoes
  3. Tossed Salad

Peppered Sirloin:  About an hour or more before cooking, coat 1 lb of sirloin with 2 tsp crushed garlic and fresh ground pepper.  This will be a thick coating of pepper, giving the steak a light crust when broiled (or grilled if weather permits).  Refrigerate until it’s time to broil.  I’m broiling for 5 minutes each side for a rare steak.  Let it sit for 2-3 minutes before slicing and serving, as you would a roast.

Baked Potatoes: Scrub 4 large potatoes well, dry completely, rub with olive oil and coarse salt.  Place 2 potatoes each on metal skewers and bake at 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until potatoes are soft.  Remove from oven just before broiling steak.

Tossed salad:  Tonight will be butter lettuce, red lettuce, spinach, snow peas and jicama tossed with Thousand Island dressing.