Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole with Chipotle Slaw and Corn on the Cob with Chipotle-lime Butter

Reflections and Transitions 

S'mores with mom, Justin and Zsuly 
Have you missed me? My apologies for my absence and for not getting up any new recipes in the last week or so. Last week I was on vacation. A little extra respite and relaxation before starting a new job yesterday and a new school year teaching.
My brother, Justin, who lives in LA, was east on vacation before he started his new job, Mr. Vice President of an Insurance Company based in Pasadena and London. Maine was his fourth stop after tasting the Mediterranean.  A week in Greece and another in Spain, then on to a Wedding in New Hampshire. Having the opportunity to spend time with him at our childhood home and share stories about our adult lives is always cherished. 


Webb Lake, Mt. Blue 
It was also during the past week and a half that I have really been able to reabsorb and appreciate the beauty of the state I grew up in, and where I now have come to call home once again. There is something about August in Maine.
Embden Pond 
Hot, humid days, filled with the shrill notes of Dog Day Cicadas, who hide high in the tree tops. Nights humming with the drone of crickets, setting the mood for the smear of the milky way, which stretches across the inky night sky, bleeding out to the leaf framed horizon.  Knowing that these days won't last much longer, as autumn begins to show her face in the forgotten swamps, trying to creep in unnoticed, are all part of the
Tumbledown Mountain 
uniqueness of this month.  As if there is no choice but to let every drop of the heavy humidity, honey scented golden fields, velvety emerald leaves, silken ruby tomatoes, sink into the essence of your senses and reserve them there until next year.  In this time I have been able to enjoy some of the most precious gifts Maine has to offer. Crystal cool lakes, rocky faced mountains, sandy shored beaches, smokey campfires, camping in the rain, and more fresh vegetables and berries than one family can eat. 

Each of these moments reminds me of what life is truly about and fills me with gratitude to be so blessed. 


Ferry Beach, Scarborough, Maine
Although it has been quite a number of years since I was enrolled in college or attended school, each fall it seems I return, fresh and new, with a little more experience in my grip, to a new school and grade level to teach. I am excited to begin my new position this year, as a Spanish Teacher for grades K-2.  It will be a place to incorporate my own talents of art, music, cooking, while teaching young children Spanish. It isn't easy transitioning from the freedom I have had this summer to working again; planning, rushing, having less time with my daughter, learning a whole new environment, not to mention the names of 500 students, but it is also exciting to feel the positive energy at my new school, and surrounded by a number of talented, dedicated teachers and staff. As I make this transition, I aim to keep true to the things I enjoy outside of teaching, including weekly entries on this blog. I already have a handful of fall recipes I can't wait to share, including Roasted Root Vegetables, which will forever remind me of my dear friend Debbie out in Nevada. 

With reflecting and transitioning, here are two great recipes I have always enjoyed, and are great end-of-summer recipes to help you transition into any new season. 

Enchilada Bake

It might not be the prettiest looking casserole, but it is such a flavorful comfort food , whether on a hot summer day, crisp fall evening or frigid dark winter night, it really hits the spot. 

Prep time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes Serves 4-5


  • 1 can of organic black beans
  • 1 can of organic red kidney beans
  • 1 small sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 2 stalks of organic celery
  • 6-8 fresh corn tortillas
  • 1 cup of tomato puree
  • 3-4 Tblsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 oz of extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup low fat greek yogurt

Step 1: 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

Wash the cilantro well and the  celery. Rinse and drain the beans and set aside. 

Chop the onion finely. Remove ends of the celery, cut each stalk in half lengthwise, and then chop. Chop half a large bunch of cilantro (1/4 cup chopped). In a medium size pan, add in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and the onion, heat over medium heat, stirring regularly. When the onions begin to soften, add in the cilantro, cumin, chili and salt. Sauté another minute or so and add in the celery. Sauté another 2 minutes or so. When the onions are soft. Add in the tomato puree. Stir well. Add in the beans and stir well. Let cook on medium low heat for about 4-5 minutes. While the bean mixture is cooking, go on to step 2. 

Step 2: 

In a small bowl or glass mixing bowl, combine the sour cream and the yogurt. Mix well until creamy. 
Cut the tortillas in half. Grate the cheddar. 

Step 3: 

When the bean mixture is finished cooking, remove from heat. layer the bottom of a loaf pan with the tortillas. Layer on a generous, but not too much, amount of the bean mixture over the entire surface of tortillas, sprinkle on cheddar, then dot on the yogurt and sour cream mixture. Repeat this process until you have reached the top of the pan. Ending with a layer of the bean mixture, yogurt mixture and then topping with cheddar. 

Step 4: 

Put the casserole in the oven, cook for 10 minutes at 425, then turn down to 375 and cook for another 10 minutes, or until cheese is browned and the casserole is bubbly. 

Chipotle Slaw

  • 1 small cabbage
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp chipotle
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed, chopped finely

Step 1: 

Wash the cabbage and peel off outer layers. Remove thick stem at bottom. You can shred the cabbage using a food processor, but I slice it thinly by hand. Toss shredded cabbage into a large mixing bowl. Chop cilantro well. Add to the cabbage. Mix. In a glass measuring cup, add the sour cream and mayo. Mix well. Add in the salt, and the chipotle. Finely chop the jalapeño, and add to the sauce. Mix well. Squeeze the lime by hand or using a squeezer. Add to the sauce. Add the sauce to the cabbage and cilantro mixture and mix well. 

Step 2: 

Cover and let chill in the fridge for at least 1/2 hour. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sancocho de Gallina Colombiano

Mi sopa favorita

One of my favorite Colombian dishes and comfort foods is this fabulous chicken stew, Sancocho. When I was living and teaching in Santa Marta, Colombia, on the Caribbean coast, I ate this soup at least once a week. The little restaurant to the left of my building on Calle 9 con carrera 2 en El Rodadero, used to have it pretty much as a daily special. It was also a big deal when it was made in the cafeteria at our school Colegio Bureche, or a special treat for teachers on inservice days. I will also never forget years back, when a number of family members came to my in-laws home in Bogotá for Semana Santa. Mi suegra (mother in-law), and the aunts and cousins were in the kitchen all day,  preparing this dish. They had two whole plucked, headless, chickens, feet and all,  and were holding them over the flame on the kitchen stove. In an enormous pot, went the number of ingredients, the pungent smell filling the air.  Mmm… a bowl of sancocho, arepas, white rice, and a glass of tomate de árbol en leche (tree tomatoes: one of many delicious, exotic fruits grown in Colombia used to make juice), I still dream about meals like that one.  Sancochar in Spanish means to parboil. I guess you can almost equate this to a New England Boil Supper, Latin style. Full of flavor and goodies, the sweetness of the plátanos (plantains), the saltiness of the broth, the tang of the lime and the flavor of the cilantro...you just have to keep coming back for more. 

Ingredients ~ Los ingredientes

Traditionally you use a whole chicken to make Sancocho. Using         leftovers from a roast chicken works great too, and that is usually how I make it. However, there are times when I am craving this soup, and I just start from scratch.

Serves 6-8
Prep and cooking time: about an hour

  • 2 split breasts, skin on bone in or 3 chicken thighs, skin on bone in
  • 1 sweet onion, diced 
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 medium yucca root, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch crescents 
  • 1 ripe plantain (yellow and bruised) or green can also work, but won't be sweet
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 3 celery stalks diced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, washed and chopped
  • a few sprigs of cilantro for garnish
  • 2 ears of corn, husked and cut into 3rds
  • 3 tblsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 2 limes
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 avocado
  • Step 1:

    With all your vegetables washed, prepped and ready to go, add the olive oil to a large pot, and heat on low. Add in the onions increase heat to med-high and sauté until slightly soft, about 2 minutes.

    Add the celery and sauté another 2-3 minutes. Add in the yucca and the potatoes along with 2 cups of water. Bring to a slight boil. Add in the salt and the garlic. Reduce the Let simmer for about 5 minutes.

    Step 2:

    Add the remaining 6 cups of water. When the water has come to a boil, add in the chicken, 1/2 cup cilantro, pepper, and the juice from one lime. Let cook on a low boil for about 10-15 minutes. 

    Step 3: 

    Add in the carrot and the plantain. Let cook another 10 minutes, or until the plantain becomes puffy and soft. At this point I remove the chicken, and let it cool slightly on a plate, and then remove the meat from the bone, I put the meat and the bone back into the soup. 

    Step 4: 

    Add in the corn, and let cook another 10 minutes or so. 

    Serving the soup

    Be sure to remove any bones. 

    Serve the soup in a bowl, and top with slices of avocado, chopped cilantro and a lime wedge. It is best accompanied by a bowl of white rice, and fresh arepas 
    (For those of you who don't know what these are, they are the Venezuelan or Colombian variation of a corn tortilla, amazing, I will follow up on that another day). 

    ¡Buen provecho! 

    Tradicionalmente usa la gallina entera para preparar la sopa. Generalmente yo uso las partes dejadas del día anterior, cuando preparo un pollo del horno. Pero aveces el antojo me llama y empiezo de cero.

    Receta para 6 – 8 personas
    Tiempo de preparación: 1 hora

    • 2 pechugas con el cuero y hueso o 3 perniles con cuero y hueso
    • 1 cebolla dulce, picada
    • 2 dientes de ajo, picado
    • 1 libra de yucca, pelada y cortado en trozos
    • 1 plátano maduro o verde, cortado en trozos
    • 2 papas medianas, peladas y cortadas en cubos
    • 2 zanahorias medianas, peladas y cortadas en rebanadas
    • 3 troncos de apio, picados
    • 1/2 taza de cilantro, lavado y picado finamente
    • hojas de cilantro
    • 2 mazorcas, cortados en 3 pedazos
    • 3 cucharadas de aceite de oliva
    • 1 cucharadita de sal
    • 1/4 cucharadita de pimienta
    • 1/2 cucharadita de oregano
    • 2 limones
    • 8 tazas de agua
    • 1 aguacate

    Paso 1:

    Con todos las verduras lavadas y preparadas, pon el aceite en una olla grande y calienta a fuego bajo. Agrega las cebollas y saltea a fuego medio por 2 minutos. 

    Agrega el apio, y cocina otro 2-3 minutos. Agrega la yucca y las papas, seguidas por 2 tazas de agua. Pon a hervir. Cocina por 5 minutos. 

    Paso 2:

    Agrega las otras 6 tazas de agua. Cuando se pone a hervir, agrega el pollo, 1/2 taza de cilantro, la pimienta y el jugo de un limón. Cocina por 10-15 minutos.

    Paso 3:

    Pon la zanahoria y plátano. Cocina 10 minutos, o hasta el plátano está blandito. A mí me gusta quitar el pollo de la olla, y quitarlo del hueso. Primero, déjalo enfriar un poco. Cuando la carne está suelta, pon la carne y los huesos en la sopa otra vez.

    Paso 4:

    Agrega la mazorca y cocina 10 minutos.

    A servir la sopa

    Quita los huesos antes la sirves. Pon la sopa en la taza. Termina con aguacate rebanadas del aguacate, cilantro picado y una porción de limón. Sirve con arroz blanco y arepas medianas.

    ¡Buen provecho!

    Monday, August 11, 2014

    Brown Rice California Rolls

     Sushi love

    I have already said in a previous post how Asian food is one of my favorites. So of course sushi fits the bill. Everything about sushi is such an art, the presentation, colors, textures, and flavors. I love sushi made with white rice, but I wanted to bump up the nutritional value a little bit in these rolls, by making them with brown rice. These were such a treat tonight, on this perfect warm August evening. I tried to use as many locally grown ingredients as possible, but many of the ingredients just aren't stuff you find growing in Maine. I planted the cucumbers myself, the Thai Basil is from my garden as well, and the carrots from the Wednesday Portland Farmer's Market at Monument Square. If you are cooking for young children, Zsuleikah, my picky daughter, loved these rolls!  

    I made three different rolls, and am not going to give explicit directions for each, but will list all ingredients.  The first was a veggie California Roll, with cucumber, carrot and avocado. The second was made with canned tuna. I mixed it with about a tablespoon and a half of mayonnaise and the juice from one lemon. I then cut a nice crunchy celery stalk into thin sticks. The last ingredient was thin lemon slices.  The third roll was a Shitake Mushroom roll, same as the California roll, but with shitake mushrooms, sliced and sautéed with a little bit of garlic and EVOO. There are so many different rolls you can experiment with and try with sushi.  Use meat or seafood, sweet potato or asparagus. You can even try to make a sweet roll with coconut, mango or other fruit.  So get creative and have some fun!

    Ingredients--makes 6 rolls

    • 1 cup of short grain sweet brown rice  (you should cook the rice 2 hours before preparing the rolls, so that the rice is cool)
    • 2 cups of water for cooking the rice
    • pinch of salt
    • 1 tblsp. rice vinegar
    • 1 large carrot, washed peeled and cut into matchsticks
    • 1 large cucumber, washed, peeled and cut into matchsticks
    • 1/2 avocado, sliced thin
    • toasted seaweed Nori sushi paper
    • Pickled ginger
    • wasabi powder (This can also be bought in a tube, premixed. If you use the powdered kind, just follow directions on the can)
    • Soy sauce for dipping

    Alternate ingredients for other rolls

    • 4  shitake mushrooms,washed, sliced and sautéed in 1 tblsp. of Extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 can of albacore tuna (Trader Joe's sells pole caught canned tuna, happier for the sea) 
    • 1 1/2 tblsp. mayonaise
    • juice of 1 lemon
    • 4 thin slices of lemon, seeds removed
    • thai basil leaves
    • 1 stalk of celery, washed and trimmed cut into matchsticks

    Step 1:

    Place the dry rice in 2 cups of water, add rice vinegar and a pinch of salt. When the water begins to boil, turn flame down so that rice is barely simmering. Cook for 30 minutes, or until there is nearly no water on the bottom. At this point I turn off the heat, and leave the cover on to let the rice continue to steam. After about another 10-15 minutes, remove cover and let rice cool. Fluff with a fork, so that the rice doesn't get too sticky. Refrigerate. 

    Step 2: 

    As the rice cooks, you can prepare the veggies, and any other ingredients you want to include in your rolls. They can also be refrigerated until you are ready to make the rolls. 

    Step 3: 

    For a smaller roll, use less rice
    When you are ready to make the roll, let the rice sit out of the fridge for 10-15 minutes. Arrange your ingredients so that they are easily accessible. Have a small bowl of fresh water nearby. Take one sheet of the Nori, being careful not to tear it. Layer a thin layer of rice on 1/4-1/2 of the seaweed sheet. Take it easy with the rice, as it is easy to use way too much, and end up with a ridiculously fat roll. Then layer your ingredients at the edge of the sheet. When all your ingredients are placed on the sheet, take care to roll the seaweed tightly, leave a flap of about 1/4 inch at the end, and using your finger, place it in the bowl of water, then run your wet finger along the edge, as if it were an envelope, then complete the roll, this will seal the seaweed together. 

    Step 4: 

    Rolls before slicing
    Once you have made the rolls, it is time to slice them. Using a sharp knife, slice across roll. Arrange on a plate, and serve with wasabi, pickled ginger and soy sauce. 

    Thursday, August 7, 2014

    Caprese Chicken with Chipotle-lime Corn on the Cob

    True Experimentation with Happy Results  

    This morning before bringing my daughter to preschool, she asked me if we could invite our good friends Tim and Claire over for dinner. So while wandering around the Farmer's Market at Monument Square, I gave Claire a ring to see if they were available. Fortunately, they were! Now where to begin, where would my inspiration lie today? Lots of colorful veggies at the market. I was in the mood for a little meat protein. There was a lot of fresh basil in my garden at home and I had been pondering the idea of pesto the last couple of days. However, Tim wasn't able to eat pesto with nuts, so I was now inspired to create a nut-free pesto. Okay, pesto, chicken…I knew that I wanted to get some fresh corn, since like every season in Maine, with the exception of winter, that of corn on the cob is short-lived. Juicy, sun-ripened tomatoes were also on the docket, as the ones  growing in my garden are still all as green as emeralds. With these ideas floating around in my head, I still couldn't quite figure out what to make. How was I going to fit each of these ingredients together in a way that would go?

    I began with the pesto. Parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, garlic. Would these give me the consistency that I wanted and the right flavor? I whirred the olive oil, basil and pressed garlic up together, using the ice-crush button on my blender. Then added in the cheese, and it was just too green. I added a little more olive oil and some lemon juice. No, I thought to myself, this just doesn't taste right. Oh no, this is going to be a disaster. After an hour and a half of tutoring, 2 cups of coffee and no lunch, I was feeling like I had bitten off more than I could chew for this humid afternoon. The pesto was a wonderful color, so I set it aside, thinking I should add this, that or the other thing to it to get it the right flavor, texture, not so garlicky. No, I said to myself, just leave it. Kind of like art, often when you add too much, it becomes ruined. 

    After the pesto, I was on to the Chipotle-lime butter for the corn on the cob. Again, I felt that I just
    couldn't get the flavors right, and who serves chipotle-lime flavors with pesto! Italian and Latin cuisine…ugh I though, as I sent Claire a stressed out text message, forewarning her of the possible dinner disaster. I now set aside, the chipotle butter and washed up the dishes before running out to pick up Zsuly. When we got home, it dawned on me, exactly how I was going to pull this off. Scratch the cucumber tomato salad, or the Caprese salad. Caprese chicken…its going to be perfect I thought. The colors, the textures, the clean, fresh flavors. 

    It turned out, thankfully to be a success and both my dinner guests and my daughter, as well as myself, were all satisfied with the results. With lots of gratitude and mmm's everyone ended the evening with a happy belly. 

    This recipe will serve 4 hungry adults and at least one child. 
     The three parts of the recipe are…



    • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
    • 3/4 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
    • 2/3 cups extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
    • juice of 1 lemon
    • 2 cloves of garlic minced

    Step 1: 

    Grate the parmesan cheese until you have about 3/4 cups (tightly packed). 

    Wash and pat the basil dry. 

    Step 2:

    In a blender (if you use a food processor, you will not need to pre-grate the cheese) combine the olive oil, and half the basil. Also add in the garlic (either mince with a knife before adding to blender or use a garlic press). 

    Use the Ice-crush button of the blender to pulse the basil leaves until chopped. Then add the remainder of the basil. When all basil is chopped add in the cheese, pepper, and salt. Again use the ice-chop button to pulse until desired consistency is reached (pretty thin). Add in the juice of 1 lemon and mix on high. The lemon will take away some of the bitterness or greeny flavor of the basil. 

    Remove from blender and set aside. 

    Chipotle-lime Butter


    • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
    • 1 lime
    • 1 tsp. fresh cilantro, chopped finely
    • 1 tsp. fresh jalapeño pepper, chopped fine with no seeds
    • 1 heaping tsp. chipotle chili
    • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • pinch of chili powder
    • pinch of paprika
    In a small bowl, combine the butter, jalapeño, cilantro, chipotle, and mix well. Add in juice of the lime, and a tiny bit (1/4 tsp.) of lime zest. Mix well. Add in remaining ingredients and mix well. Keep in mind the chili and the paprika are more for color than flavor. Cover and refrigerate. 

    Putting it all together


    • 1.5 pounds of skinless boneless organic free-range chicken breast 
    • 6 ears of corn, husked
    • 3 large tomatoes, I used orange and red
    • a couple sprigs of rosemary
    • salt
    • 8 oz of fresh mozzarella cheese

    Step 1: Cooking the corn

    Fill a large pot with 2 inches of water. Place corn in the pot and put over a high flame. When the water begins to boil, keep over high flame for 12 minutes. Then turn off heat and drain water. 

    Step 2: Tomatoes and Mozzarella   

    While corn is cooking, slice tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices. Lay on plate, alternating colors. Set aside. Slice mozzarella into 1/8 inch slices and set aside. 

    Step 3: Cooking the chicken 

    Slice each chicken breast in half lengthwise, to make a thinner cut. Heat about a teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet or frying pan. Add in rosemary sprigs and as many chicken breasts as will fit, leaving space to flip. As the edges of the chicken begin to whiten, they will also be browning. Sprinkle with salt. Flip breasts every 2 minutes or so. Total cooking time for the chicken breasts will be about 5-7 minutes. Pan cook until lightly brown on each side, and cooked through. Turn off heat, and put a slice of the fresh mozzarella on each breast. Cover and let sit 5 minutes. This will melt the cheese and lock in the juices for assure chicken is tender and not dry. 

    Step 4: Serving the meal

    Take 4-5 slices of the tomatoes and lie on plate, fanned out. Remove chicken breast from pan, lying one breast per plate over tomatoes. Mix pesto well, then drizzle over the chicken breast and tomatoes. Remove corn from pot and place on plate. Slather with the Chipotle-lime butter. 

    Serve with a lovely, fresh green salad and either a dry, crisp white wine or full-bodied red. Enjoy! 

    Tuesday, August 5, 2014

    Piñacoolada Pops

    Mini Nutrition Lesson 

    Hot summer days mean its time to eat cool treats. One of my favorite fruit combinations is pineapple and coconut, the famous pina colada. Coconut has gotten a lot of hype lately, with the sales of coconut water and oils skyrocketing in recent years. There is now some conflicting evidence being revealed about some of those amazing cure claims and health benefits. I won't go into that, you can do your own research. If you are looking for a low-fat, low-calorie treats, these aren't them, but don't let that stop you from indulging in these satisfying pops!

    Coconuts have an extremely high saturated fat and caloric content. Generally speaking, you want to stay away from foods high in saturated fats and stick with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as research has shown that these fats actually lower bad cholesterol and risk of heart disease. According to the USDA website listing nutritional value data, 1 cup of raw shredded coconut has 24 grams of saturated fat! Nevertheless, some studies have shown that the type of fatty acids, and composition of the fats in coconuts actually help to maintain a healthy cholesterol level! And the serving of coconut contained in these popsicles contain, 285 milligrams of potassium and 7.2 grams of fiber.

    So indulge in these creamy, tropical,  naturally sweetened Piñacoolada Pops. After all, summer only comes but once a year!


    Makes 2 cups unfrozen
    • 1 cup light coconut milk, (this is canned, shake well before opening)
    • 8 oz can of sliced pineapple (I was using what I had in the cupboard, I am sure crushed or fresh would work wonderfully)
    • Meat from half a coconut, with brown skink removed. 
    • 5 dates, pitted (because these are popsicles, I made them a little sweeter than I would a drink, so that sweetness comes through when frozen)
    • pinch of salt

    Step 1: 

    Drain the coconut water from the coconut, by piercing a hole in the eye. Crack open the coconut with a hammer, remove meat. 

    Step 2: 

    In a blender combine the canned coconut milk, pineapple including the juice, and the dates. Blend on high until smooth, about 1 minute. 

    Add coconut meat to blender, blend about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add a pinch of salt. 

    Step 3: 

    Pour blended mixture into popsicle molds and freeze. 

    When frozen, enjoy with a smile. 

    Sunday, August 3, 2014

    Chilled Four Bean Salad

    Chilled Four Bean Salad--a satisfying memory

    In honor of the first weekend of August, I would like to share my recipe for one of my favorite chilled summer salads. The first weekend of August as a kid, meant it was time to head to Mooselookmeguntic Lake, located west of the town of Rangeley, for two days and two nights of swimming, canoeing, volleyball, campfires and live music. My mom would always make Four Bean, Tabouli, and Potato Salads, and pack them into the giant cooler. This along with tents, sleeping bags, sparklers, and many other camping items, would get stuffed into my dad's Ford Ranger truck. In the bed of the truck, we would lie down camping mats, where my two best girl friends and I would squeeze ourselves among the belongings for the exciting ride full of girl talk and giggles.  The canoe would be tied on the roof, and my parents and younger brother would squeeze in up front, and off we went for the hour or so trek, where moose often hid in the shallow, mosquito-filled bogs at the sides of the road.  

    When we would arrive to the glacier cut lake, where rocks the size of vehicles scatter the shores, everyone would load onto the "barge" boat, and be ferried across to Toothacre Island. Hours would be passed in the summer sun, as our fingers and toes would morph into raisins, diving off of mermaid rock and attempting to swim to the enchanted mystery island, which always appeared to be closer than it was. When the inky night would stain the sky, and stars would twinkle their distant light, the air would fill with the sweet-scented smoke of hard and softwoods burning in the fire pit; whose flames hosted the perfect heat to bronze your marshmallows, and just enough light to press them between the richness of a smooth chocolate bar and and two crunchy graham crackers.  The notes of banjos, harmonicas, guitars, mandolins, and drums would chime along to the sporadic cracks and pops from the fire, as lyrics from songs of The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan would rise above the silhouetted treetops.  At the break of day, morning would greet your ears, with the sound of water lapping the shore and the solemn sound of loons calling from their wavy roosts, enticing you to come and indulge in another days activities. 

    So three cheers to childhood memories, summer salads, and the many beautiful lakes of Maine. 

    The recipe


    • 1 -1 1/2 pounds of green and yellow beans
    • 1 can organic garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    • ¼ cup of thinly sliced onions (red or sweet)
    • 2 cloves of finely minced garlic
    • ¼ c. parsley, chopped
    • Leaves of 2-3 sprigs of fresh oregano, chopped
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • ¼ tsp. freshly ground  black pepper
    • 3 tsp. organic raw sugar
    • 2 tsp. organic brown sugar
    • 6 tblsp. red wine vinegar
    • 6 tbsp. lemon juice (three lemons)
    • ½ tsp. dijon mustard
    • 5 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

    Step 1:

    Boil 3 cups of water.

    Wash and trim green and yellow beans.  Steam for 5-8 minutes until tender but not soft. Remove from heat and rinse with cold water, so they will not continue to cook.

    While the beans are cooking, thinly slice about ¼-½ of a sweet onion. Transfer slices to a colander, slowly rinse onions with 3 cups boiling water. This will tone the flavor of the onion down, so they are not so strong.

    Step 2:

    Drain and rinse garbanzo and kidney beans. Place them along with onions in a large mixing bowl.

    Step 3:

    In a two cup measuring cup, combine the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper, garlic (I use a garlic press, or you can finely mince the cloves with a knife), oregano, sugar. Mix well with a small whisk, when sugar has dissolved add the EVOO. Mix well.

    Finely chop leaves of fresh parsley, either curly or flat leaf. You want about ¼ cup chopped leaves. Add parsley to bean mixture.

    Step 4:

    Transfer green and yellow beans to the large mixing bowl. Pour the oil and vinegar marinade over the beans. Toss well to coat all beans. Take care as not to mash the kidneys and the garbanzos.

    Cover salad and store in fridge. Let chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Keep in mind that the longer they chill in the fridge, the more flavorful the salad will become. Be sure to toss the salad to coat with marinade before serving.