Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Summertime Staple: The Best Classic Potato Salad

I wasn't always a fan of my mom's potato salad.  In fact, I wouldn't touch the stuff when I was a kid. Thing is, I don't know if I even tried it back then. I probably did what my own kids do whenever they see something new on their plates: assume it's gross before even trying it. Another reason I might have avoided it was that I didn't really like eggs when I was a kid, especially the hard-boiled ones.

Fast-forward to my later teenage years when I overcame my prejudice and tried it. When I did, I finally understood why everyone else was heaping it onto their plates at family picnics and barbecues. Mom's potato salad is simple but delicious, balanced in its flavors, and even kind of colorful. I may be just the teensiest bit biased, but I think my mom makes THE BEST classic potato salad. And I won't even go into how it's superior over the store-bought stuff in the deli section of the grocery store or in tall tubs at Costco. I mean, that just goes without saying.

The recipe was my grandma's first (it's actually her birthday today). Even though my grandma passed away many years ago, whenever my mom makes this recipe, it's like part of her is back at the gathering. Last year, when my mom planned a picnic with a few of her brothers, they all requested that she make their mom's potato salad.

I've asked for the recipe a couple times, but my mom doesn't have it written down. She makes it from memory, eyeballing the ingredient amounts and consistency of the salad, tasting it all as she goes. This past weekend she made it again for a Father's Day picnic, so I took notes.  I figured I should write it down, you know, for posterity's sake -- and yours.

Grandma Erickson's Potato Salad, aka The Best Classic Potato Salad 
5 lbs. potatoes (my mom uses Yukon Gold, but you can use any variety), boiled, peeled, and cut into bite-sized cubes
2-3 ribs celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup chives (or green onions), finely chopped
8 large eggs, hard-boiled, finely chopped
1/2 cup sweet pickles, finely chopped, with some of the pickle juice reserved (we used these pickles we canned, but the store-bought sweet pickles work fine, too)
1/2 cup peppers, finely chopped  (we used these pickled peppers, but you can use pickled peppers, pimientos, or fresh red bell pepper)
1 tsp. yellow mustard
1 cup mayonnaise (Mom swears by Best Foods/Hellman's mayo)
2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1 tsp. ground pepper

Boil potatoes until soft. My grandma always boiled them with the skins on -- makes them easier to peel. Peel potatoes then chop into bite-size cubes

Boil the eggs. Be sure that the eggs are thoroughly cooked. Word to the wise: before you peel all of them, check one of them first. You wouldn't want to boil a dozen of your chickens' lovely eggs, peel them all, realize that they weren't cooked through all the way, and have your mom tell you that they can't be used. Not that I would know from experience or anything. (ahem.)

Perfectly cooked eggs have a tender white and the yolk is pale yellow, fluffy but firm. Undercooked hardboiled eggs (like the one on the left in the picture above) have a damp yolk that is more dark-gold than pale yellow. Be careful not to overcook them, though, or the yolk will have a harmless-but-ugly grayish-green ring around it  (Helpful tutorial for hard-boiling eggs can be found here.)

Cut the eggs up well, so that they're almost crumbly. My mom likes to use a paring knife to cut the egg up in her hand. I helped her out and did the same, holding it as I cut it the way I would an onion.

IMPORTANT: let the potatoes and eggs cool completely before you make the potato salad. If you don't, it will turn into this hot, mushy mess instead of a cool, refreshing salad. Who wants that?

Put the chopped potatoes in large bowl. Drizzle with reserved pickle juice (and the juice from the pickled peppers, if you're using them), about 1/2 cup (if you're using the juice from pickled peppers, too, do 1/4 cup pickle juice and 1/4 cup pickled pepper juice).

Add salt, pepper, and chives. Stir gently so the potatoes don't get mushy. For the best results, stop at this point and let the mixture chill overnight. This lets the flavors really seep into the potatoes. This step isn't completely necessary, though.

Add the chopped pickles, peppers, celery, eggs, mustard, and mayonnaise. Fold these ingredients in gently, too. Taste the salad and add more salt and pepper, if needed, depending on your preferences. You can also add more mayonnaise, too, if you want a creamier consistency.

Keep the salad chilled until served -- and be prepared for future requests.

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Round-Up of Random Reuses

My grandfather grew up during the Great Depression. As you can imagine, during that time he learned some pretty thrifty habits, ones that stayed with him for the rest of his life. One of those habits was reusing things before he threw them out. He definitely took the mantra "waste not, want not" to heart.

My family and I always joke that my grandpa was green without even knowing it. He was ahead of his time! We kids would drink out of washed-out plastic yogurt cups instead of glasses when we needed water.When we wanted to draw, he would pull out a big tin of broken crayons (probably from when my mom and uncles were kids), which we would use to draw on the back of paper that had already been printed on. He had a bar of soap at the sink in the bathroom made exclusively out of saved-up soap slivers (you know, that little slip of soap that remains when you're almost finished with it) -- I just thought it was rainbow soap and he bought it that way. He had a specific drawer in his kitchen where he stored plastic grocery bags and bread bags and every doorknob in his house had rubber-bands around them. The guy didn't throw anything out unless it had been very thoroughly used.

When I first started blogging as the Parsimonious Princess years ago, some of the very first posts were about reusing things that others would throw out. I call these "random reuses" (what can I say? I'm a sucker for alliteration.). Maybe it's in the genes, but I love finding a second life in things; it's a sort of challenge. Today, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite reuses, the ones that I either use the most, the ones that I have benefited most from, or the ones that simply would have made my Grandpa proud.

Find out how I've reused household items like empty gallon jugs, old t-shirts, mesh onion bags, bread tabs, plastic lids, and tomato cans in my monthly post over at The Green Phone Booth!

(This post is linked up to Simple Lives Thursday and Little House Friday DIY Linky..)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Lovely Links: The Return of Summertime Edition (+ Some Thoughts on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day)

I love every season but, oh, summer! I love the freedom of it and the simple joys that come along with the season. Simple joys like flowers from the yard. The other day, I gave myself a bouquet of two dozen roses. Not only are they gorgeous on my kitchen table and smell heavenly, but they were free! The rosebush in my yard is exploding with blooms right now, as well as many of my other flowers: yarrow, Jupiter's beard, lilies, bachelor's button, salvia, lamb's ear, sage. My house feels so much cheerier with all these flowers, both inside and out. I always try to keep fresh flowers in my home. I tell you, they're good for the soul and I heartily recommend giving yourself a bouquet today, whether it's from your yard or from the grocery store!

Here's a mish-mash of summery links to celebrate this first week of June!

Summer Goals...with a Plan :: 71 Toes
I don't know about you, but I've been seeing all sorts of blog posts about summertime lists: bucket lists, to-do lists, checklists. I'm not the most organized of people, but I do want a little structure for my kids, especially my older son, this summer. This post at 71 Toes is pretty amazing (seriously, these people are super-parents). If I'm being honest, their summer goal-setting, checklists, and plans may be a bit too structured and organized for my brain, but the post is still giving me some good ideas on how we want to organize and plan our summer.

It's Okay to NOT Have a Summer To-Do or Bucket List :: Life As Mom
Then again, summertime is supposed to be about freedom and relaxation, too. One of my best friends and I were just talking yesterday about easy it is to feel overwhelmed by bucket lists and the feeling that you alone are responsible for making summer perfect, magical, and memorable for you and your family. While I plan on making some goals and plans, I believe I'm more in favor of the fluidity of the approach in this post.

Old Fashioned Lemonade Recipe :: Making This Home
Lemonade and summer are pretty much synonymous. I like this recipe because of its simplicity and because it sounds likes it's more on the sour side. I believe a truly good glass of lemonade should make your lips pucker a little.  (I'm totally going to try this lemonade in my other favorite summertime beverage -- you can find it here.)

10 Creative Ways to Make an Outdoor Oasis for Kids this Summer :: Apartment Therapy
I want to do every single one of these.

How to Build a Water Balloon Launcher :: Frugal Fun for Boys
Making this soon. My boys (as well as their neighborhood friends) will LOVE it.

Strawberry Sorbet Recipe :: Andrea's Notebook 
This recipe sounds super simple and delicious. Plus, it doesn't have that much sugar in it. I'm totally counting a bowl of this sorbet as a serving of fruit.

On a more serious note...

I couldn't write a post today without mentioning the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Years ago, while I was visiting the Special Forces Museum at Fort Bragg, I came across a quote from John Stuart Mill that really struck me and that I think of often when I think of the military:
"War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he cares about more than his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
This quote offers such an interesting perspective and insight into the character of those who do fight our wars. That's what really humbles me about the picture above, why it is so moving -- in that boat sit men, all of them having lives and families back home, ready to head onto the shores of Normandy seventy years ago, knowing full well they might not survive. I wonder how many in the picture did. And if they did survive, they most likely survived with painful memories of that horrific but tremendously important day in history. I'm willing to bet that each one of those men in that photograph were afraid as they sat on that boat, but their courage lies in the fact that they went ashore anyway.

I come from a military family -- my grandfather fought in the South Pacific during World War II and my dad served a full military career during many conflicts, including Vietnam. I have a particular soft-spot in my heart and deep respect for the military. Yet, more than ever, days like today strike a little closer to home because I have a brother currently deployed and serving in Afghanistan. I understand the cost of freedom in a way I haven't fully appreciated before. There are no words for my gratitude for the brave men and women who have served and serve our country today, who are willing to pay the ultimate price to defeat tyranny and defend freedom. On this 70th anniversary of D-Day, I remember and honor the bravery of them all.

Note: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have disclosed.
Related Posts with Thumbnails