Braille Monitor                          March 2020

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Recipes this month were contributed by members of the National Federation of the Blind of New York.

Chicken Mac Salad with a Twist
by Bernice Bird

I am always trying to think up different things to feed my friend who comes once a week to help with mail and other sighted tasks. I had chicken already cooked and came up with this combination. I served it with cool ranch tortilla chips and fruit for dessert.

8 ounces of cooked chicken, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, chopped
½ each sweet bell pepper, green, yellow, red, and/or orange, seeded and diced
8 ounces rotini pasta
8 ounces monterey jack or pepper jack cheese, grated
2/3 cups mayonnaise
1½ cups salsa of your choice
Salt and pepper to taste

Method: Boil the pasta with a pinch of salt and a dash of olive oil until al dente or fully cooked according to your preference, drain, and cool. Cooking hint: if you are in a hurry and don’t have time for the pasta to cool, just put a couple of handfuls of ice cubes into the colander with the hot pasta, then stir it around gently so as not to break up the pieces of rotini too much. Combine all ingredients in a large serving or mixing bowl and toss gently. Cooking tip: select a bigger bowl than you think you will need as pasta and other salad types tend to grow larger than you would expect as you add ingredients into the mix. Serve and enjoy, with corn or flour tortilla chips of your choice on the side or crumbled over the top.

Extra salsa or mayonnaise can be added if you find that you want or need more moisture, especially after the salad has had time to rest. Mild salsa and monterey jack cheese make for a kid-friendly dish, or hot salsa and pepper jack cheese can kick it up a notch. Sour cream can be substituted for the mayonnaise for those with soy allergies, or ranch dressing can be substituted for even more flavor. Let your creativity guide you to customize this versatile and delicious dish.

Pizza Pasta Salad
by Bernice Bird

I provided this very large bowl of pasta salad at our state convention. When the bowl was empty, we were asked if we had more. I guess that is how it should be: leave people wanting more. My daughter and I developed this particular salad together over a number of years. We each added or subtracted items from this recipe according to our likes or dislikes and/or dietary needs.

Pasta Salad Ingredients:
1 pound rotini or fusilli pasta, or another shape of your choosing
8 to 12 ounces pepperoni, sliced
12 to 16 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 to 12 ounces aged Italian cheeses: parmesan, romano, asiago, grana padano, or a combination of these, grated
1 each red, yellow, orange, and green sweet bell peppers, seeded and diced (Tip: many grocery stores sell 3-packs of the red, orange, and yellow bell peppers for convenience, and all four colors have slightly different flavors and nutritional profiles.)
½ large seedless cucumber, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
8 to 12 ounces packaged grape tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
1 cup black or green olives, sliced in half, if desired
1 small head fresh broccoli, cut into florets
2 large carrots, peeled
1 cup Vidalia, red, Spanish, or another onion of your choice, diced
1 cup each frozen corn and peas

Dressing Ingredients:
1 cup olive oil
2 cups balsamic vinegar or another vinegar of your choice such as apple cider vinegar or red wine
¼ cup to 4 tablespoons dried basil
1/8 cup to 2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
¼ cup to 4 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
¼ cup to 4 tablespoons dried chives
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder (Flavor tip: three cloves of fresh garlic, or two of black garlic, or one of elephant garlic can be put through a garlic presser or finely chopped, and each has a unique flavor and nutritional benefit.)
1 teaspoon dried paprika
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
3 teaspoons dried savory
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Pasta Salad Method: Boil pasta with a pinch of salt and a pat of butter until al dente or fully cooked, according to preference, then drain and cool. Cooking hint: gently toss the hot pasta in a colander with a couple handfuls of ice cubes to cool it quickly if you are in a hurry. Rinse all vegetables and drain on paper towels or in colander before cutting to avoid a bland or watery salad. Dice the peppers, onion, celery, and cucumber. Slice tomatoes, and olives if you choose to include them, in half. Peel the carrots and discard peels and one slice off of each end, then use your peeler to produce thin carrot strips to include in the salad, or grate on a box grater. Cut broccoli florets into smaller pieces. Place pepperoni slices into small stacks, then cut each stack into quarters, producing small quarter circle wedge shapes. Thaw corn and peas in the microwave, defrost setting can be helpful, and drain. Combine all ingredients, including the cheese, meat, all vegetables, and pasta in a very large mixing bowl. Cooking tip: This salad is most cohesive and flavorful when prepared a day ahead. If you will be doing so or if there will likely be leftovers, then double the dressing recipe and add additional dressing prior to serving as the pasta will absorb the initial dressing application, making it more flavorful, but also drier. This was the method I followed when transporting the salad to our state convention.

Dressing Method: Use a mortar and pestle to finely crush all herbs; if you do not own one, then you will want to run the dressing through a blender. Combine herbs, spices, oil, and vinegar in a blender bottle and shake well to combine. Refrigerate any additional dressing, but allow it to come to room temperature by removing it from the refrigerator several hours before adding it to and serving the salad. Shake the dressing well before each use if using this dressing for other salads or recipes. If you intend to use this dressing in a cooked dish such as a marinade for meat, substitute avocado oil for the olive oil as EVOO is damaged at high heat and avocado oil has a much higher smoke point. This bulk recipe is great for events but can be reduced in size for other occasions.

Variations: The homemade dressing is the rock star of this salad. You can substitute a bottled dressing, but making your own gives it the standout quality at any party or gathering. Let your creativity and tastes shape this recipe by adding or substituting a variety of cooked or raw vegetables or even fruits, such as: mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash, artichokes, etc. We conceived this as a “pizza pasta salad,” but substitutions or additions could change the character to suit other tastes, such as adding sweet pickle relish, salsa, soy sauce, or substituting chicken, shrimp or tuna for the pepperoni, or selecting other cheeses or spices from a different culture and cuisine. This recipe is a road map for a journey where you are encouraged to take side trips, not an absolute road map.

Peanut Butter Cookies
by Linda Kaminski

Linda KaminskiLinda has been active in the Buffalo Chapter for more than 25 years. She has headed the communication the entire time. Linda also runs a support group for blind persons in the Buffalo area, is active on many committees, and attends every meeting associated with the Buffalo Chapter.

1 large box yellow cake mix
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 eggs
1/3 cup water

Method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add half of cake mix to bowl. Add peanut butter, water, and eggs; mix well. Add remaining cake mix and mix well. Roll into balls the size of walnuts. Press with fork. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes.

Carrot Cake
by Angie Robinson

Angie RobinsonAngie has been an active member of the Buffalo Chapter for thirty years. She has served in many positions within the chapter and is the extremely supportive spouse of the New York affiliate president, Mike Robinson. The recipe below has been prepared for the New York State Convention and has helped create funds for the affiliate.

Cake Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups shredded carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts

Frosting Ingredients:
1 box confectioner sugar
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1/2 stick butter

Method: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine and mix oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. When mixed, add grated carrots and nuts. Bake 50-60 minutes. Cool and frost.

Tator Tot Casserole
by Angie Robinson

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
16 ounces Tator Tots
1 can Durkee Onions
1 bunch broccoli florets or a frozen package
1 can cream of celery (or chicken or mushroom) soup
1 teaspoon garlic salt
½ cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Method: Cook chicken and cut into cubes. Cook broccoli (if fresh) until tender. Line a large greased casserole dish with Tator Tots (sides and bottom). Bake lined dish at 450 for approximately twenty minutes until crispy. Mix cooked broccoli, half can Durkee onions, and cooked chicken; pour into Tator Tot shell. Mix soup, a half-cup milk, garlic salt, and half-cup cheese. Pour over top. Cover and bake at 450 for twenty minutes until cooked through. Uncover, add remaining cheese and onions. Bake eight minutes more until golden brown. Recipe note: This can be made and frozen ahead. Kids love this recipe!

Cheesy Artichoke Pasta
by Caleb Jonas

Caleb JonasThis was one of my son Caleb’s favorite dishes when he was a toddler and preschooler; he still really likes it, and it’s healthy. I wrote the recipe in his voice, because blind people cooking is a great thing, but blind kids cooking is a fantastic thing. Caleb really enjoys helping me make this and now needs very little help to do so safely; he just turned six years old. And whenever kids get excited about a fruit or vegetable, artichokes in this case, then do a happy dance and get excited right along with them. When he heard me typing up the recipe to submit, he wanted to contribute. When I asked him what to do for the one he picked, his instructions were filled with the little teachable moments, nonvisual techniques, and fun kid comments that I just had to write it his way. “Maybe sighted moms will read this to their blind kids, then they’ll have to cook with them, but the blind kids will keep bugging them until they let them cook stuff.” Caleb Jonas, age six.

1 cup dry acini de peppe pasta, 100 percent whole wheat, orzo is an acceptable substitution
A sprinkling of sea salt 
2 ounces organic ricotta cheese
2 ounces Boursin cheese, garlic and fine herbs flavor is best
1 fresh lemon
1 tablespoon capers
1 can of artichoke hearts
2 ounces Italian cheese blend or salad cheese blend; usually contains three or four of: parmesan, romano, asiago, provolone, fontina, grana padano, etc.

Caleb’s Method: Mom says that blind people get to touch all the food, but we have to wash our hands before we cook and every time we touch anything but the food or the utensils, like our face, the fridge door, or raw meat or eggs. Shake a sprinkle of sea salt into your pan then put in water so the pan is at least half-full. Put the pan on the stove, and make sure it is in the middle of the burner, then ask your mom or dad to turn it on to medium hot if you are a kid. You can hear it go “fwump” when it lights. When the water is boiling, that means bubbling, and steam can make your hand wet when you hold it about a foot above the top of the pot, then you are ready to put in your pasta. Fill up your measuring cup with pasta, and pour it in over the middle of the pan slowly so it doesn’t splash. Let it cook until the pasta is half softened, my mom calls it al dente, which means “to the tooth, in Italian.” Stir it to keep it from sticking to the bottom. Turn off the heat and put a colander into the sink, then have your mom or dad take it over and pour it into the colander to drain, or you can do it yourself. Just practice with a pan of cold water first, and see if you can do it without touching anything but the handle or getting any of the water on you, because it will be hot when you do it for real. Do not rinse the pasta because the sticky stuff called starch on it helps the sauce stick to it better.

Pour the hot pasta into a medium big mixing bowl, then put in the ricotta and Boursen cheese and stir it up until it makes a sauce out of the cheeses. The hot pasta will melt them together. Juice the lemon, hold it carefully and cut it with a really sharp serrated—that means jaggidy—knife in half, and put each half into a juice press, then squeeze it hard over a small bowl. You can pick out any seeds with your hands and throw them away. Or you can throw them at your big brother. Mom says put the peels down the garbage disposal to clean it and make it smell nice. Put the lemon juice into the pasta, and then add the capers. They are little salty things, and they are actually berries, weird, and cool! Open the can of artichokes and turn it upside down over the sink with your hand over the top and let all the water drain out. Put the artichokes in a bowl, use the one from the lemon juice, and take the artichokes apart, just peel off the petals and throw them into the pasta, like pulling a flower apart, then toss the tops in too, they’re good. Stir in the lemon juice, capers and artichokes, then put the cheese blend on top, and serve. Don’t tell your friends there are vegetables in it. Be careful with the sharp things and the hot things, and have fun freaking out the sighted people who watch you cook—that’s the best part.

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