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Stirring the Pot: Shaking Up the Repertoire

I have five pairs of jeans. The reigning pair, my fave, has everything going for it. The pants hug my legs without encasing my thighs in a vice-like grip (a too familiar predicament of many jeans). They’re soft, but not too soft, and are the perfect shade of blue. I can dress them up or dress them down, rock them with heels or sneakers, boots or sandals. Tried and true, they are the ones I reach for. The other four pairs are relegated to keeping my fave company in the drawer. 

But recently, on laundry day, when my fave was taking a rinse and a spin, I reached for one of the other, older pairs. With some trepidation, I eased into them. The waist was higher, and the color was a pale, sun-bleached blue. Yet they were kind to my shape, soft but not too soft, a warm hug from an old friend. And would you believe it? I could rock them too! My wardrobe doubled. There might even be a chance for those other three pairs.

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A fashionista I am not. But I do know the value of a good life lesson. So join me back in the kitchen….

When I contemplate my recipe faves, it’s like reaching for that same pair of jeans every time: a dinner of garlicky baked salmon, roasted caramelized vegetables, wild rice, and something decadent for dessert; or a stick-to-the-ribs lasagna accompanied by a huge green salad dressed in citrus vinaigrette, and fresh berries with homemade whipped cream for a triumphant finish. Yes, yes, all well and good. But what about the ones that got away? Where are those dishes that were too basic or too fussy or too old-fashioned? Perhaps it’s time to resurrect them and shake up the repertoire. Bring back the imposing Seven Layer Salad, those cute Hamburger Kabobs, and don’t forget that perky Apple Cornflake Pudding! Leaf through those old cookbooks and recipe cards. Call your Mom or Dad and ask about a childhood dish. Revisit and rediscover. Make the old new again!

It will feel like a warm hug from an old friend.

Seven Layer Salad

Ruthie's Seven Layer Salad. | Photo by Ruthie Cohen

Ruthie’s Seven Layer Salad. | Photo by Ruthie Cohen

3 cups shredded mixed greens
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup cauliflower, riced
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
1 cup carrots, diced
2 medium red or orange peppers, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium red onion, very finely chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste
Optional garnishes: crumbled bacon, grated cheddar cheese, halved hard boiled eggs

You will need a deep, high-sided glass serving bowl (such as one for a trifle or small punch bowl) — presentation is everything for this one!

Arrange vegetables in layers in the order listed. Combine mayonnaise, sour cream or yogurt, sugar, and parmesan cheese in a bowl, mixing well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour this dressing over salad. Do not toss. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or even overnight. The vegetables will not wilt because the dressing is just on the top.

Feel free to substitute other vegetables, such as cucumbers, olives, zucchini, or broccoli florets. Aim for color. This recipe can be doubled or tripled in varying bowl sizes.

To serve, just make a vertical plunge into the bowl!

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Hamburger Kabobs

1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey)
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
3/4 cup steak sauce
1 can (8 ounces) pineapple chunks in unsweetened juice
1 medium red pepper, diced in large pieces
1 medium onion, sliced in 1/2-inch chunks
1 zucchini, sliced in 1/2-inch rounds
6 white mushrooms, halved
Pita bread
6 skewers

If using wooden skewers, soak in water for 20 minutes prior to assembly. In a medium bowl, mix ground beef with egg, bread crumbs, and 1/4 cup steak sauce. Form beef mixture into the size of golf balls. Drain canned pineapple, reserving juice. Mix pineapple juice with remaining steak sauce for a marinade and set aside.

Preheat broiler.

Begin to assemble kabobs on skewers, alternating meatballs with pineapple chunks, peppers, onion, and zucchini. Top with mushroom half. Brush kabobs with pineapple juice and steak sauce mixture. Place on rimmed baking sheet. Broil for 10 to 12 minutes, turning several times and brushing with marinade as needed.

Carefully remove kabobs from skewers. Kabobs can be served on a bed of rice or with pita bread that can be used as an edible pocket.

Apple Cornflake Pudding

2 cups crushed cornflakes
4 tablespoons melted butter
4 medium apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray.

In a small mixing bowl, mix cornflakes with melted butter. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, mix apples with brown sugar, orange juice, and cinnamon.

Line the bottom of the prepared pan with a third of the cornflake mixture. Add half of the apple mixture and spread to cover. Layer with another third of the cornflake mixture. Follow with the rest of the apple mixture. Top with the last third of the cornflake mixture. Bake, covered with tinfoil, for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream and/or whipped cream. 

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Ruthie Cohen
Ruthie Cohen moved from New Jersey to Bloomington in November 2011. Every day she marvels at her good fortune to be living in this gem of a town. When she isn’t concocting recipes in her kitchen, you can find her teaching and practicing at Ekah Yoga and VibeYoga and Pilates studios; wielding a hammer or a paintbrush with the mid-week crew folks at Habitat for Humanity; or hanging out with future chess masters at the Crestmont Boys and Girls Club.
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