This month The Recipe Redux is hosting a challenge to create a healthier version of one of the all-time favorite barbecue side dishes, potato salad! According to the United States Potato Board, a medium potato has only 110 calories, contains more potassium than a banana, and half your daily value of vitamin C. Seems like good ol’ potato salad is already on the right track to being healthy, so I helped it along by giving it an even bigger helping of vitamins and minerals (such as potassium, vitamin E, folate and vitamin B) from one my favorite nutrient-dense foods, avocado.

This potato salad is a good accompaniment to anything from the grill and, because it has no dairy, won’t spoil as quickly like regular potato salad, so you can bring it on a picnic and not worry about keeping it ice-cold. It has chunks of creamy avocado instead of mayonnaise, a sprinkle of fresh tomatoes, chopped cilantro, and is infused with a hint of smoky spices. The firm texture of earthy red potatoes brings all this creamy goodness together. If you love barbecues, you’ll love the smokey flavors of this potato salad!

Smokey Potato-Avocado Salad

Smokey Potato-Avocado Salad

1 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1″ chunks
1 ripe, firm avocado, pitted and cut into large cubes same size as potato
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 ripe tomato, seeds removed and diced, reserving 1 tablespoon for garnish
fresh cilantro or coriander sprigs


Fill a large pot halfway with water. Add 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Add potatoes, making sure they are covered with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and bring to a low boil on medium/medium-high and cook 7 minutes more or until just tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and cool for 15 – 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 teaspoon salt, chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika. Set aside.

Cut avocado in half, remove pit and cut into 1″ pieces. Place in a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon lime juice. Sprinkle half of seasoning mixture and toss gently with a fork. Add potatoes and mix gently (the mixture will get creamier, but keep some chunks of avocado.) Sprinkle in half of remaining seasonings, adding more to taste. Fold in diced tomato. Top with remaining chopped tomato and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Added note, 6/28: avocados tend to brown, so be sure to serve this within 4-5 hours of preparation. One trick you can do is garnish with fresh diced avocado right before serving, so even if the salad is a few hours old, it will look nice and fresh! (Thank you, Emily, for asking me about this! )

 By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the United States Potato Board and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

A quick and easy dairy-free, gluten-free potato salad

I have been blogging for almost three months now and am very grateful to all you readers and fellow bloggers who take the time to come by and visit. I always enjoy your comments and suggestions, and especially love hearing your feedback on any of my recipes that you’ve tried out! I also just started a Facebook page (my mother-in-law made a good suggestion that I get one!) so come on over and “like” me to keep up-to-date on the latest cooking adventures, Flavor of the Week, and of course, the Peas and Crayons-sponsored What I Ate Wednesdays!

Today I didn’t exactly go along with this month’s theme of Sensible Snacking because last week was barely over and I was already anxious to post today’s featured recipe, which is something special I made for my second wedding anniversary! My husband and I met 4 1/2 years ago, under which any other circumstances I would never have met him, and not a day goes by that I am not happier for having him in my life. :)

In celebrating our special day, we decided to have lunch at our favorite restaurant. I was excited about going because we tend to eat in most of the time (my fault, I’m the extremely picky one!) and because of the anticipation, I didn’t have much of an appetite in the morning. Breakfast was just a cup of coffee blended with a tablespoon of coconut oil. This great suggestion is from Gabby at Veggie Nook, and I was blown away at the delicious creaminess, even though I’m a ‘black with sugar’ kind of person. Gabby presents some very interesting information on the benefits of coconut oil, so check out her post for some (coco)nutty facts!

Blending the coconut oil with coffee makes it creamy without being ‘watered down’.

Lunch was at the Lost Dog Cafe in Binghamton, where I enjoyed a French press pot o’ coffee and indulged in their Voodoo Ahi Sandwich with sweet potato fries (and extra sweet-hot sauce & mustard on the side for fry-dipping!) I couldn’t handle dessert, this was more than enough for me, and I was snacking on leftovers when we got home…so I guess my lunch leftovers fit this month’s theme of “Sensible Snacking” after all!

Their sweet potato fries taste like there’s a teeny bit of Parmesan cheese…delicious!

Dinner was a specially planned home-cooked meal to celebrate our second anniversary last Thursday. I saved two bison steaks from last Christmas for a special occasion, and this was it! I wasn’t sure of what exactly I wanted to season it with, but definitely knew I wanted something different, something I never tried before. I liked the idea of using a coffee rub, but wanted to jazz it up with something a little exotic,  like a warm, fragrant spice that would evoke memories of a sumptuous meal fit for a king…and his queen!

Putting all these ideas together I decided to use the vanilla my parents sent me, some instant espresso powder, and…(get ready for it)…Chinese Five Spice! The espresso powder and vanilla mellowed out the intense and slightly bitter clove and anise of this aromatic blend. The spices left over in the pan after cooking the bison steaks were enough to season the red wine reduction, and a few dried cherries gave it a nice punch of sweet-tart flavor.

After his first bite my king husband said, “You know what this taste reminds me of? Pepernoten!” Haha, maybe next year I’ll make pepernoten-crusted chicken. :)

Bison Steak with a Spiced Vanilla Rub and Cherry-Shiraz Reduction

Bison Steaks with a Spiced Vanilla Rub and Cherry-Shiraz Reduction  (serves 2)
This seasoning will be perfect on your Father’s Day Steaks, and can also be grilled…hint, hint!


1/2 teaspoon Spice Islands Chinese Five Spice (decrease to 1/4 teaspoon if you prefer it less prominent)
1 teaspoon Medaglia D’ Oro  instant espresso powder
4″ vanilla pod, split and scraped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 buffalo steaks (or beef steaks,) 3 ounces each
1/2 cup shiraz
10 dried cherries
2 teaspoons natural sweetener of your choice


Combine spices and rub on buffalo steaks. Store in a sealed container in refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight.

Soak the cherries in the wine, set aside. In a large frying pan, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-low to medium heat. Cook steaks until edges look done, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to dish and keep warm while you make reduction.

In the same pan, add wine and cherries, drizzle in natural sweetener and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook over medium-high heat until sauce is reduced by about half and is maple syrup consistency, about 5 minutes.

Put a steak on each plate, drizzled with half the reduction, and serve with your favorite side dishes. Enjoy immediately!

This tasted great with my favorite wine, a sparkling Shiraz.

I really enjoyed the blend of seasonings, so I also did the same thing to a venison loin:

Venison Loin with Spiced Vanilla Rub and Cherry-Red Wine Reduction

The entire venison loin was too much for just me and my husband, so I cooked only half and saved the other half for…

Pizza Margherita with Venison Rosettes and Mushrooms

This is a lot of meat for me to have within a week’s time, and I usually am pretty happy with mostly veggies on my plate.  But I do enjoy certain types of meats like venison and buffalo, and usually have them in small quantities…except on special occasions (like my anniversary!) Father’s Day is coming up soon, so keep these recipe ideas in mind for that special man in your life!

So how do you celebrate a special occasion? Are there any tried and true recipes you make  for birthdays or anniversaries? How about the meal you had on a special first date? :D

What kind of “leftover meal” snacks do you think are the best? (I like anything take-out!)

Welcome to What I Ate Wednesday, another presentation of everyday eats and tasty treats sponsored by the awesome Jenn at Peas and Crayons!

Today I’ll be continuing with the “Flavor of the Week” presented to you in Monday’s post. I’ve been experimenting with several drinks and desserts using lemon sugar, and in addition to Monday’s Lemon Coconut Macaroons, I think a lot of you will enjoy reading about today’s featured recipe which can be the perfect finish to cool you off on a warm summer’s evening.

The past few days presented us with some great weather once again, so we were able to enjoy more super-casual outdoor dining. Breakfast was peanut butter and raspberry jam on sprouted grain toast, scrambled egg with Gouda cheese & onions, German bratwurst from Aldi (mini-sausages with a strong nutmeg taste, I didn’t like them at all!) and coffee w/stevia:

Lunch was a colorful salad with Gorgonzola cheese and some Tostitos chips leftover from the Frito-Lay Gluten-Free Challenge (please check it out, folks!) Now usually I like the tangy taste of chevre with my salads but today I wanted to try an Il Giardino Mountain Gorgonzola I picked up the other day from Sam’s Club (they have a good selection for great prices.) It’s a lot softer and sweeter than other blue cheeses, and not exactly what I was hoping for…but it was okay:

Colorful salad with dots of soft Gorgonzola: there, there….here, and there.

Snack time consisted of more (unphotographed) Tostitos chips and couple of these chewy indulgences. It’s got tons of peanuts and a deep rich caramel, much tastier than the stuff you’ll find in a candy bar:

Two of these are enough to satisfy my sweet tooth…well, maybe three.

On Sunday, my sister made some great barbecue chicken and panko crusted walleye her husband caught the day before. We ate it with potato salad, buttered salt potatoes, and I topped the fish with mayo and soy sauce. We had the leftovers for dinner the next day, and I added some diced pineapple, celery, lettuce, avocado and tomatoes.

Barbecue chicken and a mish-mash salad

Now, on to dessert! After making a couple batches of macaroons I wanted to try another coconut and lemon-infused dessert. I thought a cream pie would be great, something nice and cool to enjoy on a warm evening. I have a favorite chocolate banana cream pie recipe I make every Thanksgiving, so decided to change it up by giving it a light lemon taste in a luscious coconut cream pie. The result was surprisingly good.

The cookie-like crust is flecked with lemon zest and shredded coconut and tastes great on its own. It will stay nice and crisp even after a couple days in the refrigerator. The cream filling had just enough coconut milk to create a luxurious base for a smooth balance of coconut and lemon flavors. Topping it off is a whipped coconut cream sweetened with lemon sugar and sprinkled with lightly toasted coconut and lemon zest.

With the contrasting textures and flavors supporting each other so wonderfully, this dessert is definitely worth a try.

Lemon Coconut Cream Pie
Freeze the pie for an additional 30 minutes, it will taste just like frozen custard.

Gluten-Free Crust (based on “Tart Shell Crust” recipe from Gluten-Free Baking Classics):

1 cup Brown Rice Flour Mix (2 parts brown rice flour, 2/3 parts potato starch, 1/3 part tapioca starch)
1/4 cup lemon sugar
1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
2  tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 teaspoon coconut or vanilla extract
5 tablespoons coconut oil or unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Position rack in center of oven. Spray an 8″ round pie pan (or 8″x8″ square cake pan) with cooking spray, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Add coconut oil and sprinkle in extract. Mix with a fork until well combined and clumpy. Sprinkle crust mix into pan then gently press evenly over the bottom, but not up the sides.

Bake in center of oven for about 14-16 minutes or until lightly golden. Set aside while you make filling.


3 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup low-fat vanilla soy milk
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

Combine cornstarch through soy milk in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and cook 30 seconds or until thick. Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Beat cream cheese until light (about 30 seconds). Add lemon juice and beat well  to incorporate. Add about 1/3 cup hot custard to cream cheese, and beat just until blended. Stir in remaining custard and blend well.

Pour into pie crust and cover with plastic wrap, pressing to surface of filling. Cool on counter for about 10 minutes, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.


1-2  cans coconut milk
1 tablespoon lemon sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream or coconut cream
1/4 cup toasted coconut
1 teaspoon lemon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Refrigerate coconut milk overnight. Open can(s) and scoop out cream at the surface, reserving rest of milk for later use. With an electric mixer beat coconut milk, sugar and heavy cream or additional coconut cream at high speed until thickened. Spread over pie. Mix toasted coconut, lemon sugar and lemon zest and sprinkle on top before serving.

Not too sweet, not too heavy, but just right

Mini Turkey Bean Burgers - skip the buns and eat it salad-style. Sammy looks on wistfully.

Whenever we’d get together with friends for a barbecue or potluck, I’d usually bring one of my favorite easy-to-make dishes: turkey burgers. For those who may have had bad experiences in the past, I would like to reassure you that delicious turkey burgers do exist, and, with the right seasoning, anything is possible!

Basic Turkey Burger Mix

1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1/3 cup diced onions, sauteed with 1 or 2 garlic cloves (omit for Turkey Bean Burgers)
1 piece of bread, cut into small cubes
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil or ghee
Add-in seasoning (below)

Directions: In a bowl, add sauteed onions, garlic, bread cubes, and salt, if using. Toss with fork to distribute evenly. Add the oil or ghee, toss with fork to mix well. Crumble raw turkey into bread & onion mixture and add in one of the seasoning options below. Mix gently until combined. Refrigerate for 2 hours before cooking.

Asian Style Turkey Burgers (most unique) – Omit salt from basic turkey recipe. Add 1 tablespoon nampla (fish sauce); 1″ piece ginger, peeled and grated; 1 stalk lemongrass, white part chopped finely (discard the green part or save to make tea); 1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes . You can serve this with a cole slaw tossed with nampla, fresh lime juice and cilantro.

Indian Spice Turkey Burgers  – 1 tablespoon Indian seasoning mix such as Garam Masala or your own special blend. I like to use  “Chef Johnny’s Korma Powder” from the cookbook, Eat, Taste, Heal. It’s a fragrant blend of cumin, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, fenugreek, mustard, cardamom, poppy seeds, ginger and tumeric.

Italian Seasoning Turkey Burgers – 2 teaspoons basil, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes or 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning. Add 1/3 cup finely diced or shredded Parmesan cheese.

Bean & Turkey Burgers (my favorite) – 1 cup cooked & drained beans (I use a black & pinto mix), 1/4 cup finely chopped celery, 1/4 cup finely chopped & sauteed onion, 1 teaspoon chili seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Mash everything with a potato masher or mix in a food processor or blender just until beans are smashed and mixture is still chunky (if you over-blend, it’ll turn into a refried bean paste consistency. Still tasty, but the texture will be very different.)