Taco Rap!

If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you’ve probably seen some pictures of my baby nephew. You may have heard that his oldest sibling, my fabulous niece, designs my headers and solves my technological dilemmas. But today, we’re here to talk about my other nephew (the middle child), and the results of some dinner inspiration I received from one of his Play-Doh art projects.

This is my nephew, Will. He is a champion big brother, an aspiring alto-saxophonist, and a smart cookie.

calvin and hobbes

He is also, apparently, a sculptor and/or aspiring restauranteur. I found this plate of Play-Doh goodies in our pantry the other day, complete with price tags.


I’m not sure how long it has been there, but I hope these hot deals are still available.


I think the “Brat Semi” is like a bratwurst, but just half of it. For the calorie-conscious. I do not eat wursts of any sort, but you gotta admit that’s a nice price.


The peas are a little more expensive, but they are world famous, and probably organic, too.

Here’s the one that really intrigued me:


Doesn’t a taco rap sound good?? I thought about writing a rap about tacos and performing it via video post, but ultimately decided against that (because I know my own limits). Instead, I made a slightly healthier version of the taco salad my mom always used to make, and then I put it in a tortilla. This is not an exact recipe–it’s more like a series of suggestions–but here’s the gist of what went into this delicious creation.




First, I made some dressing. The taco salad of my youth had a dressing made of equal parts mayonnaise and Western dressing, with a liberal sprinkling of chili powder. I swapped out the mayo for some blended raw cashews (sooooo creamy and delish), and added a little lime juice for pizzazz. The measurements:

  • 1/2 c. raw cashews (I think they’re easier to blend if you soak them in water for a few hours first and drain before using, but it’s not a necessity)
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1/4 c. Western dressing
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder

Put all of the above in a blender and let it run until completely smooth. (This may take awhile because of the cashews, and you will need to stop a few times and scrape down the sides of the blender.) Add a bit more water if you want to thin it out.

I also made taco-seasoned tempeh, to replace the ground beef in my mom’s old recipe. I don’t eat a lot of tempeh, but occasionally I use it in things that would typically have some sort of ground meat in them. The texture is similar. I crumbled an 8 oz. package of tempeh, and browned it in a skillet with a little olive oil for about 10 minutes, adding the following seasonings as it cooked:

  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • about 1/8 tsp salt
  • a few dashes of cayenne pepper


I spread a healthy dollop of the dressing on a tortilla, sprinkled on some of the tempeh, and topped it off with lettuce, bell pepper, tomato, and chopped scallions. Oh, and Doritos. Do NOT forget the Doritos–they are the key to success.


That’s it for today, comrades. If you want to write a rap about tacos and leave it in the comments, that would be super cool. Bye for now!

(P.S. I’m really very sorry if you happened to get multiple notifications about this post via your email subscription–my blogging software is all screwed up. And my niece had to go and start 8th grade, so I have nobody competent here to assist me.)


Satisfactorily sauced

Canning season continues! Because we’re very sensible people, we’re preparing for the harsh winter ahead by capturing as much garden bounty in glass jars as possible. Sure, it may be balmy out today, but soon enough it will look like this:


And then, some poor saps will be stuck inside with nothing but ramen and ketchup. Not MOI, my friends! I’ll be under an electric blanket, watching Sister Wives with a big bowl of home-sauced spaghetti.

To make this recipe you need about 16 pounds of tomatoes. How does one come by 16 pounds of tomatoes, you ask? Well, you could go buy them, but you have to be careful that they don’t come from a million miles away and taste like mealy nothingness. You could grow them. Or–you could find yourself a tomato guy. I have one. His name is Elmer, and he lives about 80 miles from here. We go way back. We received word a few days ago that Elmer was in possession of a giant bucket of garden tomatoes. A rendezvous was arranged at the Godfather’s Pizza in Adel, IA (a convenient mid-point), and thus the stage was set for some serious sauce makin’.


You need to peel the tomatoes first, and I suggest you do this by putting them in boiling water for about a minute until the skins break and then dropping them into ice water. They should peel easily after that. Then, you pretty much just throw everything into a pot and let it simmer while you go about your business for two hours. Your home will smell like Giada’s. Note: that is just an assumption because Giada has never invited me to one of her girl’s-night dinners full of pan-CETT-a.



Just like back when we had our chat about pickles, you need to boil your jars and lids to sterilize them and get a good seal.



To test this stuff out (and to make sure I was not leading you fine people astray), I made a little lasagna with zucchini from our garden and some tofu ricotta. (Tofu ricotta = tofu mashed with a fork, jazzed up with a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and some nutritional yeast if you have it.) It was delicious, in a no-fake-ingredients, made-with-love, I-would-do-a-cartwheel-if-I-hadn’t-already-broken-my-wrist-twice kind of way. So here’s the recipe! See you cats and kittens later.


Spaghetti Sauce (full batch will fill about 8 pint jars)

  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 small onions, diced
  • 3 bell peppers, diced (whatever color you like, or a combination)
  • 16 lbs. tomatoes, peeled, cored, and diced (*Drain off most of the juice, but save some in case you’d like to use it to thin out the sauce at any point)
  • 2 12-oz cans of tomato paste
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley (or about 2 tbsp dried parsley)
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves (or 1/2-1 tbsp dried oregano)
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 3/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 bay leaves (leave them whole and fish them out at the end, or just crush them between your hands when you put them in and don’t worry about finding them later)

Sautee the garlic, bell pepper, and diced onion in the olive oil for about 10 minutes, and then pour all of this into a large pot. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 2 hours. If you would like it to be thicker, just cook longer. Boil the jars and lids for 15 minutes. Then, fill them with the sauce, screw on the lids, and let them cool on the counter. When they’re cool, check for a proper seal–press on the lid and make sure it doesn’t pop down and back up. If any of the jars didn’t seal properly, store them in the refrigerator and use them as soon as you can.

Cookie platter masterpiece

About two years ago, my mom and I went to Sweden to visit one of her oldest friends, Katie. (See this post for more on the trip/fun with yeast bread.) Katie and her husband were wonderful hosts and tour guides, AND…..she gave me a cookbook.


This cookbook, as I understand it, is a Big Deal in Swedish kitchens–it was first published in 1945 and there have been several editions since then. When she gave it to me, Katie told me that traditionally, Swedish ladies would invite their friends over for coffee and serve dainty sweets from the book. And, if you were really an A+ lady known for throwing kick-ass parties, you would make seven different kinds. The foreword to the book confirms this, but then backs off a bit in the last sentence shown below:


“But in today’s world, there is seldom time for more than one or two kinds”?! Is that a challenge, Lady Who Wrote This Cookbook Foreword? Because if it is, I ACCEPT. I will make seven different kinds of cookies, because that’s what you need to be an A+ lady known for throwing kick-ass parties, and that’s pretty much what I’ve always wanted to be when I grow up. Plus, I’m currently unemployed, so what the hell, right?

I decided to attempt this feat when I was put in charge of dessert for a luncheon at my dad’s office this week. It began, like all of my grand schemes, with a list on a yellow legal pad.


(Just so you know, around these parts we call lemon bars “lemon love notes.” It sounds much lovelier, so I suggest you do the same. I’m hoping it’ll catch on.)

I whisked, zested, rolled, and sprinkled, and ended up with this:



The roster: 1) thumbprints with raspberry jam, 2) lime-scented macaroons, 3) chocolate slices with ganache and pearl sugar, 4) chocolate cut-outs with raspberry flowers, 5) lemon love notes, 6) peanut butter chocolate chip mini muffins, and 7) chocolate cigars.

This was not quite as insane as it looks, because I made really small batches of everything, and the thumbprints and mini muffins were made from essentially the same dough, as were the chocolate slices and chocolate cut-outs. Also, it was totally worth it, because when I put everything on the platter and stepped back to admire my handiwork, my heart swelled with joy, similar to the joy I expect to feel someday at the birth of my first child. (OK, I am prone to exaggeration. But I was pretty delighted.)

I’m going to type out the recipe for the chocolate cigars, because they’re my fave. They’re kind of like sandies, if you’re familiar with those, but better because they’re half-dipped in chocolate. They’re also vegan if you use Earth Balance instead of butter, which I did, with no adverse effects on the finished product.  Make these, make six more things, and then take your ladies luncheon on the road, because you’re gonna be a star 🙂


Chocolate Cigars (straight from “Swedish Cakes and Cookies” or “Sju Sorters Kakor” for you Swedish-speakers)

  • 3/4 c. stick margarine or butter, softened (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 c. ground walnuts (I pulsed mine in the food processor)
  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 2 tbsp milk or light cream (almond milk here)
  • For dipping: 2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (I melted about 1/2 c. chocolate chips in a double boiler, with one teaspoon coconut oil for shine, and a couple tablespoons of almond milk to thin it out.)

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the nuts and flour, then the milk. (I chilled the dough at this point. The cookbook doesn’t say to do this, but I think it’ll make what comes next easier.) Roll into small finger-thick ropes and cut into 5 cm (2 inch) pieces. Place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake on the center oven rack for around 12 minutes at 350 degrees. When the cookies have cooled, melt the chocolate and dip one end of each cookie.

Just stopping by (with bars)

Thank you all for your kind support of my foray into vlogging and the blog birthday wishes! You’re all just swell 🙂

So, usually when I share a recipe, I attempt to also include some whimsical/marginally amusing little story. Or a theme. Or pictures of Baby Neph. Today, however, I don’t have much to say. Some people came over for dinner (my Grandpa Norm and his wonderful lady friend Sandy, if you care to know), on their way to an event (the Indianola Hot Air Balloon Classic, if you care to know), and I made peach and blueberry bars. They were delightful. So here’s the recipe, and I bid you adieu!

(Don’t get mad at me for this lazy post. I’m working very hard on dainty cookies for a ladies luncheon. Details coming your way, all in good time.)



Peach Blueberry Bars

Bottom crust and crumble top:

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 c. oatmeal
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 12 tbsp (1.5 sticks) cold butter
  • 1 beaten egg


  • 4 c. diced peaches
  • 1 c. blueberries
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Peel the peaches if you prefer (this will be easier if you cut a shallow “X” on the bottom of each one, drop them into boiling water for a few seconds, and then drop them in cold water), and dice them. Mix the peaches with the rest of the filling ingredients. (Note: if your peaches seem really juicy, you might add a little extra flour for extra thickening power.) Mix the crumble ingredients in a large bowl, using a pastry blender or a fork, until the butter is in very small pieces. Press about two-thirds of the crumble mixture into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan. Spread the fruit filling over the crust, and then sprinkle the remaining crumble on top. Bake at 375 for 45-50 minutes.

The blog turns 1! With awkward video!

If you woke up this morning, felt something special in the air, and couldn’t quite put your finger on it, look no further. SSATT is having its very first birthday! (Or anniversary? I can’t decide which one sounds more appropriate.) It has been quite the year since my first post…..highlights include:

I asked the blog what she wanted for her birthday, and she said “KitchenAid stand mixer, DUH.” Well, sorry, sassy-pants, but we don’t have the funds for that, so we’re going to celebrate with something a little different. Today, I present the very first She Sings at the Table video segment, in which I make carrot cake cookies. And, can I just say–cooking on video is hard! I tried not to be too terribly awkward, but getting good at this would definitely take lots of practice…

Thank you all for reading! I truly have tons of fun cooking and writing for this blog, and it means a lot that a few people actually read it. Here’s hoping year #2 will bring gainful employment, grand times with wonderful people, and more delicious food.

Carrot Cake Cookies (makes 20-24)

  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (I forgot this in the video. If this were “The Next Food Network Star”, they would kick me off, and while packing up my measuring spoons I would say something dramatic through my tears, like “You haven’t heard the last of me, Food Network! You’ll see!”)
  • 1 1/2 c. rolled oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp dry ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp water)
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. melted coconut oil (could also use canola or vegetable oil)
  • 1/4 c. drained crushed pineapple
  • 1/2 c. almond milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. golden raisins (or regular raisins, whatever floats your boat)
  • 1 c. grated carrots
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Combine the ground flax and water to make the flax egg, and set it aside so it can thicken. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, oats, and spices. In another bowl, mix the flax egg, brown sugar, coconut oil, pineapple, almond milk, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until just combined. Fold in the raisins, carrots, and walnuts. Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto a greased cookie sheet, and bake at 375 for 12-14 minutes.


Pickles for P.E.O.s

You know who really knows her way around the kitchen?


My Grandma Neva, that’s who. (Did you think I was going to say Ina Garten? Also a good answer.) Grandma Neva always brings her contributions to family dinner in a big basket, and everything that has ever come out of that basket has been just plain legit. I want to emulate her in cooking (and in just being a great lady in general), so sometimes I wear one of her old gingham hostess aprons while stirring things. She has also been published (several times, I might add) in the Jefferson IA P.E.O. cookbook series.


Oh, are you not familiar with P.E.O.? Let me explain: it is a club for ladies who are passionate about civic engagement, educational attainment for women, and light refreshments. We have meetings in living rooms, give scholarships, etc. My grandma is a P.E.O., as is my mom, so it was preordained that I too would join when I came of age. The club started in Iowa in 1869, but now there are chapters all over the place. Also, it’s one of those clubs where, when you get initiated, you get to find out secret things. And I LOVE SECRETS. That’s all I can tell you. Perhaps I’ve already said too much.

My grandma’s best contribution to the P.E.O. cookbooks, in my opinion, is her recipe for “Crisp Pickle Slices.” It appears in the volume pictured above, but I don’t think you’ll find one of these on Amazon, so I’ll break it down for you right here. First, you need a really big bowl. Like, three times the size of your head.


And get out your box o’ canning supplies.


Slice up the cukes and supporting-role veggies, toss with canning salt in the giant bowl, and cover the whole mess with ice for 3 hours. (My mom has always used the slicing disk on her food processor to slice the veggies. My grandma used to do it by hand–feasible, but it’ll take awhile.)



When it’s time to get to canning, drain the cukes really well and put them in a big pot with the vinegar, sugar, and spices. (The amount of sugar in this recipe looks kind of insane, I know. But it makes a lot and it’s not like you’re going to drink the pickle juice, right? Who does that? I would certainly never do that…) At this point you also need to sterilize your jars and lids by boiling them for several minutes. (This is important! If you don’t sterilize your jars don’t come suing me over your botulism!)


Boil the bejeezus out of those jars and lids, and meanwhile, heat the pot of pickles just to boiling, stirring occasionally. They’ll change from a happy green color to a more muted, pickle-y color. Then take out the jars one-by-one, fill ’em with pickles and juice (a wide-mouth funnel is helpful here), and screw on the lids. Use potholders and tongs as needed, people–this is hot stuff! When the jars seal properly, there will be a little “pop” sound as the lid goes down. Once the jars are cool, press on the lids to see if they still have some give in them. If you get one that does, you’ve gotta refrigerate it, my friend. Eat that one first, because those pickles will not stand the test of time.


I’m going to type out the recipe below, just as it appears in the cookbook, plus the helpful hints my mom has written in with pencil over the years. Give it a try, and have yourself a splendid weekend!

Lovingly in P.E.O.,


Crisp Pickle Slices

  • 4 qts sliced medium cucumbers
  • 6 medium white onions, sliced
  • 2 green peppers, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 c. coarse salt (pickling/canning salt)
  • 5 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 2 tbsp mustard seed
  • 3 c. cider vinegar

“Do not pare cucmbers; slice thin. Add onions, peppers and whole garlic cloves. Add salt and cover with cracked ice; mix thoroughly. Let stand 3 hours. Drain thoroughly. Combine remaining ingredients, pour over cucumber mixture. Heat just to a boil. Seal in hot sterilized jars. Makes 8 pints.”

Notes: We usually use about 16 cups of sliced cucumbers, and end up with about 10 pint jars at the end.

Sunburned, with salad

Hello there, ladies and gents! I’m back from a wonderfully lazy little trip to my friend Ingrid’s parents’ lake house. It was peeeeerfection. I caught a ride there and back with my brother and sister-in-law and their youngest little cherub, so I didn’t even have to drive. (Fun fact: I hate to drive. Hate it like I hate Chick-fil-A.) Ingrid is one of my very best friends from law school, and we always joke about how our families have pretty much the same collective personality. So, the weekend had all the comforts of hanging out with my own kin…..plus a sailboat, jet-skis, a pretty lake, and NO STUDYING. (I didn’t take my camera, sincere apologies. This is why I’m not a professional blogger–I tend to forget important things.)

There was also some really good food. (And isn’t that what we’re here for, after all?) I came home on a mission to recreate a coleslaw-esque salad Ingrid’s mom made, but things went awry. First of all, her salad had a mayonnaise-ey dressing. So I got out the blender and tried to make some mayonnaise out of soy milk and olive oil and it was literally the grossest thing my hands have ever wrought. I spit in the sink after I tasted it (even though I’m usually quite refined). Back to the drawing board on the homemade Vegannaise. Also, the salad that inspired my project had cranberries in it, and the grocery store I went to had no such thing.

But–take note, potential employers–I am nothing if not resourceful. I came home with some cabbage and some Rainier cherries, and mixed up something different. This was kind of unique and refreshing, so I submit it for your consideration.


Cherry-Almond Slaw with Ginger Vinaigrette


  • 1/2 c. canola or other neutral-tasting oil
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • S&P to taste


  • 4-5 c. shredded cabbage
  • 4 scallions, sliced thin (white and green parts)
  • about 1 1/2 c. Rainier cherries, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1/4-1/3 c. slivered almonds

Combine the dressing ingredients in a blender, or if you’d rather, just mince the ginger and whisk everything together. I definitely did not use all of the dressing (saved some for future lunch salads), so scale back the ingredients if you’d rather not have any leftover. Toss the slaw ingredients with the dressing and serve. (Oh–and, I totally should have toasted the almonds first for more flavor, so you might try that. Way to drop the ball, DK.)

But wait–there’s more! I also found this sad little tupperware of leftover cooked orzo in the fridge.


I’d say it was about 2 cups. Taking my cues from this Heather’s Dish recipe, I added the following:

  • the raw kernels from 1 ear of sweet corn (I ❤ you, Iowa)
  • 2 sliced scallions
  • about 1/2 c. blueberries
  • a handful of roughly chopped parsley
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • drizzle of agave (sub honey if you want)
  • a few generous splashes of balsamic vinegar
  • S&P

Finished tupperware (less sad):


So, although I’m back from my little retreat and there are no boats waiting in this backyard, I do at least have a fridge full of healthy eats. We also have a make-your-own-bruschetta station….


…….and a really swanky pool.


Much love from the Moines…..see you again soon!