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Fascination with food headed to the Web

Mine was a childhood without peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

My parents did not deprive me of this childhood staple. I deprived myself. I was a fussy eater and did not like to combine flavors. The sweet and salty concoction was way too adventurous for my tame tastes.

My sister ate restaurant subs loaded with meat, onions, tomatoes and lettuce. All I could stomach was a homemade ham sandwich.


Eventually I gave up this wanton disregard for flavor. It took some work, but as a teenager I made myself learn to like a wider variety of meals. Food became exciting and I discovered I loved eating it and eventually cooking it.

The girl who could only order fried chicken strips or french toast at restaurants can now enjoy just about anything on the menu.

While increased ordering options are fun, cooking at home is even better. Recipes are rarely rules set in stone. The cookbooks and loose recipes stuffed in the cupboard above my stove are open to my own interpretation. Baked goods are about the only area where precision is required.

Over the years I've developed some favorites. In college I prepared many helpings of lemon pepper chicken and vegetable fried rice. Spinach frittatas and a variety of salads and paninis have been some of my favorites over the years. My cooking is pretty simple. I'm not a 10-course-meal kind of gal.

My modus operandi usually involves raiding my fridge and pantry at the end of a long work day and creating meals with what I have. Chopping vegetables is very relaxing, although I hate the tear-inducing gases onions release.

Apart from the onions, it's fun to cook this way. The only problem is these haphazardly composed meals are hard to recreate if they turn out good.

I decided to create a food blog as a way to share the kind of food I love and to get me to write down the recipes I create. It will be on and can easily be accessed by scrolling down the right side of the PJ Web site at

I'm calling it "Counter Culture." My favorite meals don't always fall in line with the traditions of the Midwest.

While I have the utmost regard for classic Minnesota fare like tater tot hotdish, cream-of-something soup is an ingredient I tend to avoid, particularly when it's used in excess. Recipes that call for three cans of condensed soup, a tub of sour cream and a stick of butter mystify me.

One of the only areas where I remain fussy is that I prefer to cook healthy meals. A meal without vegetables is a very sad sight indeed. It doesn't make sense to me to put time and expense into creating food that isn't nourishing. Anyway, we need to leave room for dessert, especially ice cream, which is a regular inhabitant of my fridge.

The first recipe I plan to post is for a roasted vegetable salad. I've made many variations of this dish over the winter, but the version I'm sharing features asparagus because I am in the mood for spring.

I've tried my best to approximate the amounts of the ingredients. But when it comes to vegetables I don't really expect anyone to measure out cups of chopped carrots. You know what you like. And keep in mind, I make humble meals, not spectacular, complicated Sunday dinners like your grandma used to make.

So check it out and also look for Kyle Schulz's "In the Garden" column in the PJ this week. She's back and she's ready for spring too.

It won't be long before fresh garden vegetables start popping up on our dinner tables and in my blog. I can hardly wait.