Easy Orzo Salad

Two servings of Orzo salad on salad plates and served outside.
Thanks to my aunt, Marian, who was glad to pass along her recipe for my blog. This is a favorite for potlucks and parties at her house.  She calls it "Frog's Eye Salad" and once you start mixing it you'll see why. No matter how hard you try to keep them separate, the peas find their way into the olives and, well, they look like cartoon frog eyes to me!

If you're trying to get a kid interested in cooking, this colorful salad is a good first choice. Depending on the age of the child, you may want to take over pasta cooking duty, but save saying, "frogs eyes" for the kid. 

With apologies to my aunt, I confess that I made some changes to her original. Since everything was in season, I had the opportunity to use fresh peas and heirloom tomatoes, but you can also use frozen peas and a juicy beefsteak tomato. As always, stick to locally grown organic vegetables. I didn't add the shrimp, since we were serving it with grilled prawns but I served crumbled feta cheese on the side.


Time: 1 hour
Level: Easy
Yield: Serves 10 - 12


Almond Crusted Crab Cakes with Lemon Yogurt Sauce

I can't remember the last time I had crab cakes. The breading, the frying, it's just not worth the trouble. That said, when my neighbor went crabbing on the Oregon coast, I couldn't say no to this offering. 
The challenge was to enjoy the meal and not the guilt. I get it, I could have eaten it right from the shell, or in a salad but I haven't posted in a while and I needed the challenge of developing a new recipe.

Recently someone posted a recipe where they added cauliflower to the crab meat in place of bread. I figured that was a pretty good place to start.  Also, I love the mild taste of crab and I didn't want to overwhelm it with a strong-flavored sauce. So I tweaked my lemon yogurt salad dressing and served a dollop on each cake. Given the feedback I've gotten from the lemon cream sauce I blogged about, I think you'll like this. If not, go back to a dollop of mayo or a drizzle of aioli -- just don't tell me about it if you go with ketchup!

Here's what I came up with. No mayo, no bread, and no frying. These were cooked on top of the stove in a covered nonstick pan that was rubbed with a little olive oil.

Time: 1 hour
Level: Easy
Yield: 3  2 1/2" crab cakes


Blackberry Braid

Berry or fruit puff pastry braid
Blackberry Braid appears in TakeRoot Magazine. Feature photo by Debbie Duhn
Summertime means blackberries are ripe for the picking in the Willamette Valley. So, when TakeRoot Magazine offered to let me play in the kitchen, I stayed there until I remembered this idea for the Summer issue.
If you're like me, you've got plenty of recipe options for jam and pie, so try something a little different.

This simple puff pastry braid is easy to make (beginners will like this one), looks fancy enough to impress the neighbors and, best of all, it's versatile. Try option 1 if you love the lemon and blackberry combination, or option 2 for an orange liqueur version.

Enjoy the summer, and have some dessert!

Time: 1 1/2 hours
Level: Easy
Yield: One 12 inch braid


Wheat Berry Salad with Clementine Maple Vinaigrette

Salad served room temperature. wheat berry wheatberry wheat-berry, tangerine, maple vinaigrette
Wheat berry, wheatberry, wheat-berry. I've seen them all and can't seem to get consensus on how this neat little kernel is spelled.

After asking an editor, a proofreader and consulting the industry website, I finally did what all marketers eventually do (and rarely admit), I went to google! Two words (no hyphen) generated the most results, so wheat berry it is!
If you haven't tried them, this might be the time. If you like farro, wheat berries are similar. Both offer that mild, nutty taste and a gentle 'pop' when you bite into them.

You'll find this recipe is forgiving. If you don't like arugula, use kale. Maybe use a little water cress or almonds. I decided to celebrate Oregon with cranberries and hazelnuts but walnuts and raisins would be great for the holidays. For my sister who doesn't care for maple, a good local honey is a perfect substitute in the dressing!  Have fun this summer, there are plenty of salads to be had!

Time: 1.5 hours (mostly cooking time)
Level: Easy
Yield: Serves 6-8


Apple Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce

Apple bread pudding served warm and drizzled with salted caramel sauceWhen I got the call for a recipe that featured northwest apples, I got busy with some of the most popular ingredients around; sweet Honey Crisp apples and salted caramel sauce! Since this recipe will publish in the fall issue of Take Root magazine, I thought I'd offer up something that would be appropriate for one of those chilly fall days.

Traditional bread pudding was the base for this one but I made some changes, like adding apples and using cinnamon bread. My friends tell me that the bread pudding was good but the caramel sauce put it over the top. I'm glad to have friends who are such willing taste testers! Anyway, here goes, enjoy!

Time: 2.5 hours (1 hour to soak bread, and cooking time)
Level: Easy
Yield: Serves 12