QUINCY -- Don't expect Tracee Farmer to take the sweet route in the kitchen.
"I've always liked salty and savory over sweet," she said.
She's much more likely to make a salad, a main dish or a soup rather than a dessert -- partly because she's been gluten-free for more than 20 years.
"Salads are easy because you can make them gluten free," she said.
Her California Club Blue Cheese Chop Salad "has a homemade dressing. It's really good," she said.
Friends enjoy her Muffaletta Salad, and the light and fresh Quinoa Tabbouleh "is a whole meal by itself," Farmer said, and even though not a fan of leftovers, she'll even eat the salad for a couple of days.
Key to cooking is "being willing to try something new. I've never had this, but thought it looked good, so here we go," she said. "One year I decided everyone should like quinoa, so everywhere I went, I made some sort of quinoa salad. I got a lot of converts."
Quinoa takes on flavors it's paired with like any other grain or rice. "It adds texture," she said. "All the recipes say use water. I always use broth -- vegetable broth, chicken broth. It gives it more flavor to start with."
The Wisconsin native grew up watching her mom and her grandma in the kitchen then started cooking while teaching in Oregon for two years and Alaska for 11 years. "A lot of socializing was having people to dinner. You didn't have a lot of places to go, so I started to cook more for social reasons," Farmer said.
Indian Chicken "makes the house smell good, but I use less chicken and more garbanzo beans," Farmer said. "Three Bean Hot Dish has five beans and always has. I don't know why it's called Three Bean Hot Dish. It can be a side dish if you want. I like it more in winter when it's cozy and warm with the hamburger and bacon."
Wanting to be closer to family, she found Quincy on the internet 14 years ago. "I wanted hills, trees, unfrozen water and Reading Recovery, and here it was," said Farmer, who recently moved to Lisle for a new job as a trainer and assistant professor at National Lewis University, site of the Reading Recovery Center serving Wisconsin, Illinois and parts of Minnesota and Florida.
Spicy Chicken is a favorite of Farmer's mom, Balsamic Chicken Thighs cook in the crockpot and Italian Soup has become a tradition when the Unitarian Church decorates for Christmas. "It's one thing I make that I can't eat," Farmer said.
"I don't repeat a lot of recipes. I feel like once I've had it, there's something else I could have," she said. "There's not many things I make over for myself except for a few recipes I grew up with or from friends."
She'll follow the recipe for a new dish, then if she makes it again, adds more or less spice along with different ingredients.
"Baking's too precise, but with cooking, you can add more or less of something and it's not really going to mess it up," she said. "I like to read cookbooks, though, and I like old cookbooks. It's interesting to see how things were made, how foods changed."
California Club Blue Cheese Chop Salad
1 large romaine heart, washed and chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
¼ cup blue cheese crumbles
1 ripe avocado, diced
¼ cup rinsed and drained black beans
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of half a large lemon, about 1 ½ tablespoons
1/3 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss all ingredients for salad together, and set aside. For dressing, whisk all ingredients together, and toss with salad. Serve immediately.
In a large bowl, whisk together:
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon thinly-sliced green onion
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½ cups green olives with pimentos, halved
1 cup coarsely chopped giardiniera
½ cup coarsely chopped picked beets
½ cup pitted Greek olives, halved
1/3 cup roasted sweet red peppers, chopped
¼ cup finely chopped celery
1 tablespoon drained capers
Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least eight hours, stirring occasionally. Add diced ham, salami and/or potatoes if desired.
1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
1 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups beef broth
2 cups tomatoes, chopped
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon oregano
1 (eight-ounce) can tomato sauce
½ cup zucchini, sliced
2 cups tortellini
Parmesan cheese, grated
Brown sausage in Dutch oven. In 2 tablespoons drippings, saute onions and garlic until tender. Add beef broth, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano, tomato sauce and sausage; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and let simmer 30 minutes. Add tortellini and zucchini; simmer an additional 30 minutes. Garnish with cheese
Balsamic Chicken Thighs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons dried minced onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ cup balsamic vinegar
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 24 ounces)
fresh chopped parsley
Combine the first five dry spices in a small bowl, and spread over chicken; set aside. Pour olive oil and garlic on the bottom of the crick pot. Place chicken on top. Pour balsamic vinegar over the chicken. Cover, and book on high for four hours. Sprinkle with fresh parsley on top to serve.
2 tablespoons margarine
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (three-pound) fryer, cut up
2 medium onions, chopped
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup honey
¼ cup soy sauce
3 cups chicken broth or bouillon
3-4 cups cooked, drained chickpeas (garbanzos), optional
Heat margarine and oil in a large skillet. Flour chicken, and fry until browned. Remove from skillet, and place in a casserole dish. Add chickpeas to casserole dish.
In remaining fat, saute onions until golden. Combine flour, curry powder, ginger and salt. Add to onions, stirring to blend well. Combine honey, soy sauce and chicken broth, then add to onion mixture. Cook over high heat, stirring, until sauce thickens. Pour sauce over chicken, and bake, covered, at 350 degrees for about one hour. Serve with rice.
NOTE: Farmer uses chicken breasts in place of a whole cut-up fryer.
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large English hothouse cucumber or 2 Persian cucumbers, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ cup chopped fresh mint
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Bring quinoa, ½ teaspoon salt and 1 ¼ cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low cover and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand, covered for five minutes. Fluff with a fork.
Meanwhile, whisk lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
Spread out quinoa on a large rimmed baking sheet; let cool. Transfer to a large bowl; mix in ¼ cup dressing. Add cucumber, tomatoes, herbs and scallions to bowl with quinoa; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle remaining dressing over top.
NOTE: Quinoa and dressing can be made one day ahead. Cover remaining dressing and quinoa separately; chill. When ready to serve, add cucumber, tomatoes, herbs and scallions; toss to coat.
2 whole chicken breasts, about 2 pounds, or boneless, skinless breasts
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon white pepper
½ cup water
¼ cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1 cup chicken broth
¾ cup vinegar
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons chili paste
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 ounces cellophane or rice stick noodles
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, optional
Remove bones and skin from chicken breasts, and cut chicken into 2 x ½-inch strips, or cut boneless, skinless breasts into bite-size pieces.
Mix together egg, flour, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 2 tablespoons water, salt, 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, baking soda and white pepper; stir in chicken. Cover and refrigerate 20 minutes.
Mix together ½ cup water and ¼ cup cornstarch
Heat sugar, broth, vinegar, soy sauce chili paste, 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and garlic to boiling. Stir in the cornstarch mixture; cook and stir until thickened. Remove from heat; keep warm.
Heat 1 ½ inches vegetable oil in a wok to 350 degrees. Pull noodles apart gently. Fry ¼ of the noodles at a time for five seconds or until puffed, turning once; drain on paper towels.
Heat oil to 350 degrees. Fry about 10 pieces of chicken, adding one at a time, three minutes or until light brown. Remove from oil, using slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining chicken.
Heat oil to 375 degrees. Fry about one-third of chicken one minute or until golden brown. Remove from oil, using a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining chicken. Place chicken on heated platter.
Heat sauce to boiling; pour over chicken. Sprinkle with sesame seed, optional. Arrange cellophane noodles around chicken.
Three Bean Hot Dish
½ pound hamburger
½ pound bacon
1 large can pork and beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can lima beans
1 can butter beans
1 can white beans
3 tablespoons vinegar
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup ketchup
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Brown together hamburger and bacon. Add pork and beans, kidney beans, Lima beans, butter beans and white beans. Mix together vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, onion and dry mustard. Pour over meat and beans. Bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees.