Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Potato Salad

It's time to say goodbye.

I have one more week until school starts; one more week until summer ends.  It seems like it wasn't that long ago that I was writing about how I had only one more week until summer would begin.  How did those seemingly endless three months pass so quickly?

As a farewell gift, I am giving you one last summer dish:  Potato Salad.  The name itself just conjures up images of backyard barbecues under swaying palm trees, chubby babies in watermelon juice stained overalls, and colorful beach balls.  That's how my mind works, anyway.

Summer.  Potato salad makes me think of summer. 

Even with a carbo-comforting dish like Potato Salad, it certainly doesn't make it any easier to say goodbye to something so good as this summer.  I'm going to be corny and cliché and just say it because it's true and it's the only way to say it: This summer was the best summer of my life.

So long, Summer 2012.  You will be missed and reminisced.  

Potato Salad

Yields: about 10-12 side dish servings


6 medium russet potatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup Kraft Mayo with Olive Oil
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
about 1 tablespoon white sugar
5 hard boiled eggs, roughly chopped
1/3 cup chopped green onion


Place potatoes in a large pot with enough water covering them.  Add 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Bring water to a boil and reduce heat.  Simmer with the pot covered for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender.  Drain the potatoes and allow to cool enough for comfortable handling.  Peel potatoes and cube them.

To prepare the dressing, stir together, mayo, mustard, salt, pepper, vinegar, and sugar.

Add chopped eggs and onion to the potatoes.  Pour dressing over the mixture and toss lightly to coat.  Avoid over tossing or the potatoes will become mashed.  Sprinkle potatoes with paprika.  

Cover bowl and chill for 6 hours up to a day in advance before serving.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

White Chocolate Chip & Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

These are dainty cookies.  These are cookies you eat while wearing lace gloves at a tea party in a quaint English garden.  In just a few polite bites, you can eat one (or two or three) of these cookies without looking like a glutton.  You can look like a proper, fancy lady.

Unless you're me.  I eat one of these cookies and end up with powdered sugar on my nose and white sugary dust all over my black pants.  "Why yes, I did just finish plastering that house over yonder."  

A small price to pay for several bites of a sweet and satisfying, bejeweled oatmeal cookie.  

These cookies allow me to indulge both my sweet tooth and my fantasy life as a fancy lady.  In my imagination, I can eat dainty cookies like these because I myself am a dainty lady.  In reality, I'm kind of a klutz:  

"No, those are not marks of abuse on my legs.  I just ran into that ________ (insert inanimate object of your choosing) for the umpteenth time."

Running, running, running along the bluffs overlooking the ocean--"Hey, look at that pelican over there."  Trip. Ow.

"I'll eat with the fork in my left hand because that's what classy Europeans do."  Do classy Europeans also manage to toss their sautéed squash into their laps? Fancy ladies like this girl do.

Eat a cookie, dream away, use a napkin.

White Chocolate Chip & Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from Ocean Spray

Yields: About 50 small cookies


2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup white chocolate chips
Powdered sugar, for dusting


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium sized bowl, cream together butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract using.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, oats, baking soda, and spices.  Gradually add this mixture to the egg mixture, a cup at a time.  Blend well with an electric mixture.

Stir in cranberries and white chocolate chips.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a slightly greased cookie sheet.  Optional: gently flatten dough with a fork dipped in flour.  Dough will not flatten much on its own.

Bake cookies at 375 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove cookies from cookie sheet immediately and cool on a wire rack.

When cookies have completely cooled, dust cookies with powdered sugar.  Add several spoonfuls of powdered sugar to a wire mesh strainer and gently shake and tap strainer to make it snow.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

BLAT Pasta Salad

When I was nine or ten years old, I watched Miss Congeniality for the first time.  I loved the make-over scene where Agent Gracie Hart transforms from a tom-boy who never grew up into a beauty queen strutting her stuff--until she falls over her high heels onto the asphalt.  I would laugh, and rewind and laugh again.

Still, when I was a kid, I didn't understand why Gracie needed a make-over in the first place.  She had the straight hair that my frizzy-haired self longed for.  In fact,  I remember my childhood prayers for a month or so after watching the movie being along the lines of, "Dear God, please make me look like Sandra Bullock, especially my hair."

I chased after this dream for several years.  Momma became my accomplice, taking me to an African American Hair Salon on the north side of town when I was in sixth grade to see if they could relax my hair.  The hair dresser gave one look at my hair, and fearfully shooed us out of his salon.  "I might make it fall off."  

One day, somebody did straighten my hair.  It took 8 hours.  I ate a mini-pizza in the barber chair as the hair dresser put a third coat of straightening goop onto my soggy curls.  At the end of it all, I finally had my Sandra Bullock hair.  I was happy--until the humidity hit.  

Five years after the first straightening, I realized that I didn't want Sandra Bullock hair.  I wanted curls, glorious crazy exploding cascading boinging curly-q curls.  

Make-overs can be fun, but they can never beat the original.  Take BLAT pasta salad, for example.  A   make-over of an already perfect sandwich becomes a refreshing and light salad great for summer.  Creamy avocados sauce it up with some colorful pasta, cherry tomatoes, and of course, bacon.  We're not necessarily making-over (the original is fine as it is), rather, we're paying homage and cutting out the lettuce.

BLAT Pasta Salad

Yields: 6-8 servings


1 12 ounce box of tri-color rotini
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 avocados
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
black pepper
6 slices bacon, crumbled
1/4 cup parmesan cheese


Boil pasta according to package directions in salted water until cooked al dente.  Rinse in cold water and drain well.

In a blender, puree 1 1/2 avocados with olive oil, salt, garlic powder, and pepper until creamy.  Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time until "sauce" reaches desired consistency and thickness.

Toss pasta and cherry tomatoes in pasta sauce.

Before serving, mix crumbled bacon and parmesan cheese into the pasta.  Top pasta with avocado chunks from the remaining avocado half, and sprinkle extra parmesan over the top.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Best served cold.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Summer Bucket List 2012 - Checking In

It's good to have a goal.  At least, when starting out it is good to have a goal.  But, the thing about having a goal is that when you realize that you have yet to reach it, and you have to face the reality that you probably won't reach it, well, that's kind of depressing.

About two months ago, I ambitiously outlined by bucket list for the summer.  A normal summer bucket list might include goals such as "get tan," or "read a new book."  The 7th-grade-overachiever within me would not allow such insipid items to fall upon the list.  Maybe I should have though, because now 7th-grade-overachiever me is cringing as I look at my bucket list from the beginning of the summer and see that I've pretty much failed.

Time to own up!

Summer Bucket List 2012 - Checking In

1. Love People

"I want to hand out compliments left and right, and maybe a hug or five."

Have I done that?  Not exactly.  I have loved people, though.  I have loved people who I never would have thought I would love and received love from people who I never thought would have loved me back--if that makes any sense.  I'm giving myself half-credit on this one.

2.  Love Jesus...really Love Jesus.

"Why wouldn't I want to spend more time then with the God who loves me so much that he sent his son to die for me so that I could be in relationship with him and experience that love?"

Precisely.  And what does it mean to love-really-love Jesus?  To be obedient, to trust, to have faith despite distractions, despite life.  It is hard, but it has become easier, especially when He fills my thoughts when I wake and when I rest.  

But this still is not from anything I have done, it is the power of His Holy Spirit dwelling within me that continuously pulls me near the Father's love.  God has grown me this summer, and while I cannot claim achievement of this second goal upon my list, I can claim that it has been achieved--achieved by Him.

"Now all glory to God, who is able, through his might power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think" Ephesians 3:20.


"This summer I will work on my novel."

Nope.  The notes and drafted passages of my cheesy-but-deliciously-fun-to-write love story still sits upon the shelf, untouched.  I'm writing this post though, and I've written in my journal quite a bit (even if I may still be a month behind as far as recording significant life events is concerned). Third-credit?  Quarter-credit?  Have mercy.

4. Blog.

Half-credit.  courtneyhlebo.com still lies dormant, but I have at the very least updated this beast regularly.

5. Read.

"I plan to finish reading ... this summer."

At least two-hundred more pages to go.  Why is this so painful?  I like parts of it, but.  I have read though--and edited for my internship.  I suppose I'll let that count.

6.  Bake, cook, eat, and share.

"I will be making a fruit tart when I go home in the next week and a half (Gma's favorite)..."

That still hasn't happened, and I somewhat doubt it will.  I did make a decadent dessert though. See here.  So, once again, half-credit.

FINAL SCORE: 3.75/6 = 63%

Oh dear, and I only earned that because of my full credit on the second item, credit that I didn't even earn really but received by the grace of God. 

 But if summer is meant to be a time of vacation and laziness, I'll allow myself to believe that barely passing is OK.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Quadruple Chocolate Cake

Let's talk about equations.  I'm not a math major, but I miraculously passed Calculus, so I suppose that gives me some authority to discuss these things.

Chocolate cake = yum.  (Chocolate cake) ^ 4 = exponential yum

Here are some other important equations you should memorize:

100 x [(hours before 8-page research paper is due) - (hours spent on Facebook) x (hours spent watching funny cat videos on Youtube) x (hours spent watching laughing baby videos on Youtube) = percentage screwed

Price of a small cup of your favorite herbal tea + a sunny late afternoon + a good conversation with a friend = a lot more than the price of that cup of tea

(Some big and important number) x (depth of laugh lines around the mouth (in millimeters) + depth of laugh lines around the eyes) = a number indicating life's joy (note: this number does not signify, as some wrongly believe, ounces of anti-aging cream to be applied to the face).

(number of swipes of homemade frosting eaten off your finger from the bowl) / (number of baby carrots and good green things eaten) = who's counting, right?

That's enough math.  A piece of cake to cheer you up, perhaps?

Quadruple Chocolate Cake (chocolate cake ^ 4)
Slightly adapted from allrecipes.com

Yields: about 16 slices


1 (18.5 ounce) package Devil's food cake mix
1 (3.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
2 scant cups sour cream
1 cup butter, melted
5 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips

3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-5 strawberries (optional)
powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 10-inch Bundt pan well.

Stir together cake mix and pudding mix in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix together sour cream, melted butter, eggs, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Make a well in the center of the bowl with the dry ingredients.  Pour the egg mixture into the well and beat with a mixture on low speed until well-blended.  Scrape the bowl and beat mixture on medium speed for about 4 minutes.  Mix in chocolate chips.  Pour batter into Bundt pan.  

Bake cake at 350 degrees F for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool the cake in the pan for about 10 minutes.  Then, carefully loosen cake from the side of the pan with a small spatula, invert, and gently shake to remove cake from pan.  Allow cake to cool completely on a wire rack.

For glaze 

In a small saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter and 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips with honey and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Stir until chips are completely melted and the mixture is smooth and satiny.

Dip strawberries in glaze.  Drizzle glaze over the top of the cake and use it to "glue" the strawberries onto the top of the cake.

Dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar just before serving.  

Cake stores well for up to a week when covered with aluminum foil.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mashed Taters

[Prettier words to follow this hideous photo, I promise and apologize.]

Comfort food.  That's all well and good, but sometimes it is good to be uncomfortable.  

No, I'm not suggesting that you eat a salad instead of this pot of creamy, buttery, starchy goodness.  By all means, skip green stuff from time to time (although, if you are thinking a salad sounds better than spuds during these hot summer months, might I suggest you try this sweet and tangy Chinese Napa Salad or a creamy, bacon-studded Broccoli Salad?)

When I want to feel numb, I could eat comfort food.  I could also stay put in my comfort zone.  In my comfort zone, I don't have to feel scared or awkward.  I can just bundle up, hunker down, and exist.  

That's what I used to think, anyway.  Except, sometime within the last six months, I realized that existing comfortably is pointless.  Plants exists.  You know, like weeds.  Here are some other things that exist: dust mites and mongooses (mongeese?).

Do I really want my existence to be lumped in with that of a rodent-like mammal?  Not really.

Yet, the days that I choose to exist uncomfortably prove to be the most rewarding days of my existence.  Uncomfortable days are days with stories because they are not of the norm. 

 Harry Potter--for example--his life was so uncomfortable (but awesome) that it was worth seven books of stories.  And then there's Jesus.  Jesus lived upon this earth for a mere thirty-or-so years, and yet his story was so out of the norm each day of the thirty years that he lived that over 2000 years later, it is a story still being told.  A God who became man to die so that all who believe in the truth of this sacrifice for their redemption can know Him personally and live for eternity saved from the results of their sin?  That definitely sounds uncomfortable, but it also sounds extraordinary.  

So, I want to live extraordinarily, abnormally, uncomfortably because then I can actually be alive.  And I will do so while I eat some mashed taters.  Join me?

[And because I feel sorry for you, a pretty taste from my summertime, and a hint at what I'll be discussing next week.]

Mashed Taters

Yields: about 8-10 servings


6 or 7 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-2" sized chunks
1/4 cup butter
about 3 tablespoons milk (add more for thinner potatoes)
salt and pepper to taste, or seasoning salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder


Add chunks of potato to a large pot of salted water (enough to cover the potatoes well with water).  Bring pot to a boil, and allow potatoes to cook for 20 to 25 minutes until easily pierced with a fork.

Drain potatoes and return to the hot pot.  Add in chunks of butter and begin mashing with a potato masher.  Add in milk and desired seasoning.  

Continue mashing until potatoes reach desired consistency.  For creamier potatoes, add milk a tablespoon at a time and alternate between mashing and stirring with the masher.

Serve with extra butter, of course.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Broccoli Salad

There are some things in life that are inherently good, easily appreciated without any frills, exemplary from existence.  Allow me to provide some examples:

A sunny summer's day is wonderfully warm and relaxing.  But, a sunny summer's day with ice cream dripping from its cone down the side of your hand, and not having to care about the sticky trail it leaves as you indulgently lick your skin clean, that is summer perfection.

Reading a long book while curled in bed after noon in your favorite flannel pajamas is a nice treat.  But, reading in bed while a warm kitten sits atop your stomach and kneads the dough of your flabby abs is a lazy morning at its finest.

Getting a new job--and a job you actually love--is like winning the Grown-up Award of the Year Ever.  But, wearing a spiffy new outfit to a new job, feeling like you're moving in the right direction, knowing that you're walking down the life path that you're (probably, hopefully, Lord-willing) meant to take, that's not good, it's great.

And so, broccoli.

Broccoli is good.  Well, broccoli is good for you, at least.  But, Broccoli with bacon is best.

This broccoli salad takes a good vegetable and makes it goooooood.  This transformation easily comes about with some bacon, and other goodies.  But, best of all?  It's ridiculously simple to make and tastes too good to be so easy.  Best just became bestest.

[On a side note, can I just say that I love how Trader Joe's makes me feel like I'm being a classy lady and buying a bottle of red wine instead of, well, vinegar.  That's something good--an adorable bottle--made better--a catalyst to imagine a fantasy life].

Broccoli Salad

Yields:  about 14 side-dish servings


6-7 cups of broccoli florets (about 3 crowns of broccoli, chopped)
1 cup mayonnaise (I like Kraft mayo with olive oil)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup roasted and salted, shelled sunflower kernels 
8 slices applewood smoked bacon, crumbled


Chop and rinse broccoli, set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, and sugar with a whisk.  Stir in chopped red onion.  Add broccoli to bowl and toss until broccoli is well-coated in the dressing.  Refrigerate bowl for 2 to 24 hours.

Before serving, cook bacon until crispy and allow to drain.  Stir raisins and sunflower seeds into the salad.  Crumble bacon on top of the broccoli just before serving.