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presents and potatoes

Recipe: potato salad

I have a small 8-hour window where two of my three anti-nausea meds from yesterday’s chemo are still doing their good things (along with those awesome steroids which end today) and I don’t take the bad delirium-inducing, drugged out of my mind, anti-nausea med until this afternoon… So I am managing to squeeze in another post before all systems go down.

We sent our Mother’s Day packages earlier this week because Jeremy is bad at those things and I tend to plan ahead. I actually dislike just about any holiday that Hallmark shoves down our throats, because my preference is to send random tokens of love on any day, not on some designated Day of Guilt. And tokens they are because both of our mothers can pretty much afford whatever they want (and we generally cannot afford what they want). It would be just as silly for me to endeavor to shop for high-end jewelry for my mother as it would be for her to shop for an avalanche beacon or ice axe for me. I’m not a “I spent this much money on your present” type of person anyway. Gift-giving ought to be personal, from the heart.

This was really brought home to me after Kris passed away, leaving a 4.5 year-old son and a 10-day old baby girl. You can just imagine the presents that poured into that house on every possible occasion from family, friends, and even mere acquaintances. It made us both cringe: all of the extravagant, over-the-top, minimal-attention-span, Wall-Mart toys piling up as if a dump truck had just paid a visit. Ben literally ran from one toy to the next in such a frenzy that he developed little to no personal attachment or value to any of it. I started out making presents for the kids, but my talents are limited and how many hats, blankets, quilts, space-ship and flower pillows can you make before they get old? Eventually in the interest of time and sanity, we started to shop around for gifts – especially after my diagnosis. We wanted to select fun and educational toys to promote creative engineering juices, curiosity about nature, ties to their mother’s Chinese culture, problem solving skills. And of course, each of them has their very own plush black lab toy… a Kaweah. I must admit that we are tempted every time we pass the Mars Rover Lego set – not for the kids, but for us! Obviously, the best gift I could give those kids is the gift of time and attention, but that’s not really possible for a myriad of reasons.

My mom actually yelled at me and Kris anytime we sent gifts. She’s funny that way. She loved what we sent (flowers, whatever), but she hated the thought of us spending money on her. Her instructions were explicit, “Just send me a card and I will be happy.” When I sent her large matted photographs of backcountry wildflowers I had taken, she scolded me for the cost of materials and shipping! But then she delighted in selecting a frame and deciding on where to hang it in their house.




I have to admit that MIL is much easier to select gifts for because she has more hobbies that I can relate to like crafts and baking rather than… one of my mom’s favorites: finances. Oh, but my folks do a ton of entertaining – they are after all, excellent cooks. Ever since their retirement a few years ago it has been non-stop Wine-and-Dine groups, cocktail parties, travel, luncheons, yacht club functions… And they even complain to me about how busy they are! As long as they’re happy – they busted their asses in their prime years for this. So this year I hit upon something that had about a 70% chance of being 1) small enough to pass under the “cost” radar and 2) something she’d never get for herself and 3) delightful enough for her to use.

cute decorative chopsticks



The ones I got for my mom were less flowery and cute, and more elegant like the wood, darker colored, textured chopsticks. I got an email from her this morning (while I was wired from my steroids at 4 am) thanking me for the “adorable” chopsticks with no reprimand. She can’t wait to entertain with them. Score!

And before I let this recipe languish in my archives… This potato salad made a guest appearance alongside the grilled turkey burgers I posted earlier.


i start with yukon gold potatoes



Most potato salads are either mayonnaise-y or vinegar/oily. Jeremy is a fan of neither. Well, there is some (gross) back story to this. My guy has an aversion to mayonnaise and it’s because of his childhood. When he was a youngin’, he would microwave a slice of bologna until it curled into a bowl, fill it with mayonnaise, and it eat. Ewwwwww. I can understand the mayonnaise aversion, can’t you? Adult supervision has its place.

green onions and diced ham



I like to buy a slice or two of 1/2-inch thick smoked ham to dice up for my salad. There are many flavors available and I’m fine with all of them (honey, black forest, smoked, Virginia smoked). I think my favorite is probably country ham – you know, the kind from Virginia that is so salty you get your entire year’s sodium allowance in one serving? Yeah, that one! I’ve never had a chance to try it with the potato salad though…

chop some boiled eggs

dump everything in a big bowl



Back to Jeremy’s mayonnaise-aversion, I found a happy compromise between the two types of salads which also answered my desire to reduce the amount of fat. I use a teensy bit of mayonnaise and sub out the rest with non-fat plain yogurt. The yogurt is tangier, which we both prefer and I like to up that tangy with a dash of vinegar and then salt and pepper to taste.

mix it together



It’s such a simple recipe, but Jeremy loves it and I don’t have to worry as much about the fat-to-my-ass danger when I eat it. Perfect summer-time accompaniment for grilling, burgers, or sandwiches (mmmm, love the sandwiches).

synonymous with summer



Potato Salad
[print recipe]

2 lbs. yukon gold potatoes
4 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and chopped
1/2 – 1 cup green onions, minced
1 cup boiled ham, diced
1-2 tbsps mayonnaise (to taste)
1-2 cups non-fat plain yogurt (to taste)
1-2 tsps vinegar, white (to taste)
salt to taste
pepper to taste

*I know, all of the quantities are so hand wavy, but it’s really a matter of your own preference, so start on the low end and add as you see fit.

Set a large pot of water over high heat to boil. Peel the potatoes unless you prefer the skins on (then wash them thoroughly). Cut the potatoes into large bite-size chunks and place them in the boiling pot of water. Cook until potatoes are soft, but not mushy. Drain. Place the potatoes, egg, green onions, and ham in a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Refrigerate if not serving immediately.

32 nibbles at “presents and potatoes”

  1. Jeni says:

    A wonderful post on celebrating the ones we love. It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the frenzy that surrounds holidays and worrying about pleasing everyone. I wish you well and I always enjoy reading your blog. Your photos really make me miss Colorado.

    Oh and my man has an aversion to mayonnaise as well so I’ll definitely give this recipe a shot! Thanks!

  2. Mrs Erg├╝l says:

    I hope you will still feel okay after the 8-hour window and I believe you will with the strength you get from Jeremy.

    You’ll be just fine, take lots of care Jen!

    I’ve got tons of potatoes which I can’t put to good use in this new place due to the limitation imposed on cooking :( But I think I shall try this recipe with my heapload of P-O-T-A-T-O-E-S… Xie xie!

  3. manggy says:

    Ooh, yum! Speaking of mums, she adores potato salad, especially mine– we don’t like mayo all that much either, and I don’t like adding oil. It has some mayo spiked with mustard, pickles, and vinegar :) I love having potato salad with hotdogs especially! Egads, I’m hungry again. Thanks, Jen!

    BLEARGH on Jeremy’s childhood snack. I do recall some vile recipe in a 60′s cookbook about broiling bologna (baloney?) with an egg inside. Suddenly the egg doesn’t seem so vile anymore, compared. I have to admit, though, that Jamie Oliver’s homemade mayo, pale golden with only the yolk and some mustard, looks really good. Tangy is better, always :)

    My mom is still young enough to like girly dresses and shoes (my whole family has freaky genes that make us all look 10 years younger than our actual age)…. So yeah, I’m no good at shopping for her. I ask her exactly what she wants (it’s usually makeup) and I just get it. I’m horrible, but I have a bad track record with gifts I buy independently. On the other hand, a mini-Kaweah sounds sooooo cute! The chopsticks are to die for, too!

    Now get some rest and I can’t wait to hear from you when you’re feeling better :)

  4. Mollie says:

    I’m not big on the mayonnaise-y or vinegar/oily potato salads either. We’ve started making a loaded-baked-potato potato salad that is delish. Bacon, cheese, scallion and cayanne pepper, with no fat sour cream as dressing. Yummmmm. I think we’re going to have to give this one a shot too!

    We’ll be having your stir-fry flank steak again (3rd time in a month?) for dinner tonight (and the flank steak stash is now depeleted, sadly!) and be thinking of you. Can’t wait to see you on the other side of this trip…

  5. Bridget says:

    Wow, the bologna and mayonnaise thing is totally disgusting, you’re right.

    I like the idea of yogurt replacing the more fatty ingredients in potato salad. I use it for the sauce for my fish tacos, and it really works. I happen to love mayonnaise, but I’m interested in trying this idea anyway.

    Those chopsticks are really beautiful, and sound like the perfect gift for your mother. I feel the exact same way about Mothers Day as you described, but unfortunately, my mother would prefer to receive Stuff. I try to find a compromise between thoughtful-gesture and materialism.

    Last chemo!

  6. Joyce says:

    hi Jen

    My man is not a lover of mayo, either. We both love country ham! This sounds like a great idea! Maybe I’ll cook some up and use it in the potato salad. Lovely chopsticks. Nice taste, as always. *smile Thinking of you!!!

  7. Shoshanna says:

    I didn’t think to use yogourt! good idea…i’m not a fan of loads of mayo…i always feel so sick afterwards.

    my fiance and i aren’t very good about writing cards and etc. i guess i should send one out today to my fiance’s mom (she’s more into the card receiving). still have no idea what to get either FMIL and my own mom… *sigh*…

    Anyhow, take care, rest up! I was pleasantly surprised that you posted! :D w00t.

  8. peabody says:

    My mother HATES for us to buy her things. Especially now. She says she is at the time of life when she is down grading things. So she makes it pretty hard. Plus like your mom she doesn’t like us to spend our money on her. Oh moms.
    I usually have to have bacon in my potato salad as well as sweet pickly juice…though I would gladly eat yours!

  9. Laura @ HungryAndFrozen says:

    “designated Day of Guilt” Wow, you just succinctly described what I dislike about Mother’s Day. I may feel differently once I have been in labour for ten hours with a colicky bairn (as my mum likes to remind me whenever possible) but I don’t really do anything for it. Usually send a text or email to say hi.

    That potato salad looks gorgeous. I like the idea of adding yoghurt to it. The ham and onion photo made me think of Wicked, “pink goes good with green…” I can’t really snark at the microwaved bologna because my idea of happiness used to be bread and cheese microwaved till stiff and bubbling and covered in tomato sauce, or microwaved golden syrup sandwiches with loads of butter…

    Feel better soon! :)

  10. Graeme says:

    Beautiful – It comes with a Sandwich, so I’ll love it no matter what’s in it. :-)
    I always use Yoghurt for these kinds of things anyway, since I can’t stand Mayonaisse.

    Enjoy your rest, you’ve earned it – And you can take that as genuine from me. Don’t listen to anything Mark says. He sucks. You suck Mark!

  11. Erika says:

    I have never been a fan of potato salad, but I want to try your recipe! The pictures look amazing and not just a big bowl of mayo!

  12. Gretchen Noelle says:

    10 days old? wow.

    Great salad. I am also a mayo hater. Your salad just looks so fresh and tasty.

  13. Tartelette says:

    Both my mom and my MIL hate that we spend money on them on mother’s day. I try to give something creative that they will both enjoy. MIL loves wooden thing and since I make collages on wood I have started a collection of storage boxes for her. Mom frames prints and paintings for as a hobby/living so I get her a bunch of prints that will challenge her craft. The trick is to remember that M’s day in France is the last sunday in May!!
    I love the chopsticks! Grest gifts
    I am having the in-laws for dinner sunday and MIL loves potato salad….I’ll make yours to go with the pork tenderloin. Thanks!
    I am thinking about you after your chemo and wish that you feel better soon. Hugs!

  14. Christine says:

    Jen – I’m making a picnic this weekend and just as I was thinking of potato salad, I find it here on your blog :) It’s too bad Jeremy doesn’t like mayo – I laughed out loud about his microwaving bologna – that’s awesome fun stuff.

    I’m most definitely with you on the designated day of guilt. Oh, the controlling grip of Hallmark on our lives. I’ll never get it. But, those chopsticks are so super cool :)

    Is that columbine in the first photo? It’s beautiful.

  15. White On Rice Couple says:

    I can’t see my screen right now, my eyes are too wet. I’ll come back later ….

  16. Eileen says:

    My mother is also difficult to buy for. I rarely get it right. Your sour cream coffee cake from mid-March, made with real butter of course ;-) , is virtually the recipe she made for us growing up, and brought back such great memories. Well, this week I made a mini-bundt of it, wrapped it well, and mailed it to Mom (who is 80) with a sweet note. She and my Dad like their afternoon tea with a little something sweet on the side, but more than that the cake is a trip back to the past. She is delighted, even got a tear in her eye.

    My thanks to you for the inspiration for the perfect Mothers’ Day gift this year. And my thanks to you for capturing the essence of what we all feel, but can barely express, when you talk about important relationships.

    A lot of us are lending you courage — grab hold with both hands. One more round! w00t!

  17. Vicky says:

    I hope you’re feeling well. A lovely post and a fantastic low fat recipe. I’m going to try this out, you can’t beat a good potato salad in the summer!
    Lots of love, Vicky xxx

  18. Maya says:

    It is not easy to buy presents for my mom. Can’t put pearls and rubies in the mail ;) I sent her a package a few weeks ago and hopefully she got it. Will call her tomorrow.

    Jen, I really admire your honesty and openess that you express in your blog. I hope you have a great weekend!

  19. Kevin says:

    Nice looking chopsticks. I really like the use of the ham in the potato salad!

  20. aforkfulofspaghetti says:

    Now THAT’S what I called a potato salad. Best of luck getting through the ‘systems shutdown’ period…

  21. White On Rice Couple says:

    My eyes are dry now. I totally laughed out loud about your mom scolding you for spending money on her because my mom does the exact same thing. Maybe it’s an Asian thing, because all my Viet female staff say the same thing to their kids.
    Being that all of us 6 kids are older, have income and are more stable that those teenage years, she’ll still comment about us spending too much money on her. But as she complains and rants about all the waste of money spent on her, she’s collecting all her gift cards that we gave her and heading out the door to spend it on the Mother’s day sales at the mall! She confuses us!

    Your tribute and Aquilegia photograph are beautiful. Merci beucoup.

  22. SallyBR says:

    I hope you are not feeling too sick right now – I hate to write you about food if you are feeling all nauseated…

    but just wanted to let you know that I made the Chinese scallion pancakes on Saturday… they were delicious, and much easier to make than I thought – your explanations were crystal clear, as always. THe original post is a little ways down, so I decided to write here.

    next time I will roll my pancakes a little thinner – but for a first time attempt, I have to brag: they were great!

    Get a virtual hug, I am glad this is your last chemo ordeal!

  23. Brittany says:

    Yummy potato salad! I must try this (thinking about going with half yogurt/ half sour cream ’cause I like to be all fattening like that….)
    amazingly enough, I am still hungry for it, being that the bologna/mayo story made me throw up in my mouth a little. Men will do anything for quick satiation.

    By the way- made your chinese stir fry flank steak a few weeks ago, then again night before last. My husband now kind of worships you. It will now be a regular menu item around here….so EASY!

  24. Seth says:

    Hang in there. My thoughts are with you.

    My dad just had a stem cell transplant and he’s in that same boat of nastiness.

    I bought my mom one of those ceramic knifes you have for mother’s day.

    Feel better.

  25. Carmen says:

    That potato salad looks so good – can’t wait to try it out. This is unrelated, but I cooked your hot & sour soup for Mother’s Day dinner last night and it was such a hit with my in-laws – they had seconds! They are very traditional and I’m very Americanized, so they were so impressed. Thanks for sharing that (and all your) recipes.

    Did you order those chopsticks online? I’m in the market for some new chopsticks and love the look of those..thanks!

  26. Bri says:

    Jen, I finally had a bit of energy to come over to your blog again and read some recent posts. Hang in there! You are almost through the worst of it. I’m starting a new pill form of chemo this week and hoping it will have all the effects I want with none that I don’t. I have a team of great practitioners I trust. I hope you do as well. If you ever want to chat more in depth, feel free to drop me an email.
    By the way, your yogurt idea for the potato salad is a great one. Way to make it tangy without being overly vinegary. I love decorative chopsticks too. If I had lots of money, and was the collector type, I’d have a ton of gorgeous chopsticks. They are such a joy, and usually way more interesting than most silverware. Blessings with all the tough meds. Neulasta was always the worst for me.

  27. Anita says:

    I have to chime in and say I think it’s a Asian mom thing too because my mom is the exact same way! She is absolutely impossible to buy anything for. I think one of the subconscious reasons I took up baking was so that I actually make her something she couldn’t refuse!

    Btw, just beautiful photos! I visited Colorado for the first time last summer and now I realize how much more there is to see!

    I hope you are feeling better! Kisses and hugs from San Francisco!

  28. jenyu says:

    Jeni – thank you! I hope your guy likes this non-mayonnaisey version. Jeremy can be picky, but he quite likes this one :)

    Mrs. Ergul – thanks for the good vibes :) I think it may have helped make this round a tad less sucky! Good luck using up the potatoes!

    Mark – mmmm, pickles and mustard! I like that kind of potato salad too. Actually, I like most kinds of potato salads, but I am definitely a vinegar/mustard/pickle type :) Yeah, Jeremy has to defend himself on that bologna bowl thing, because that is narsty… At least he doesn’t do that now! Shopping for my mom is hard because she is the ultimate bargain hunter. So even though she likes things like big sapphires, she will get the absolute best deal on it and I don’t even know where to start looking!

    Mollie – oh, that sounds really good. ANYTHING with bacon is good! :) Isn’t that flank steak a great recipe? I should cook it more often, but there are just so many recipes to try! Thanks for the kind words!

    Bridget – I like yogurty/lime sauces on fish tacos. Oh god, fish tacos… it’s been a while. *sigh* Gift-giving is hard when the culture promotes so much materialism and equates it with… of all things – love. I think it’s a crock. Good luck on ya.

    Joyce – hello my dear! I am sure there is no shortage of good country ham where you are. When will you post more mouth-watering pics of your daily eats? You really need to start a blog :) Sending you hugs and thanks for that beautiful card!

    Shoshanna – thank you :)

    Peabody – I actually think moms like yours make life easier. Besides, she sounds so cool anyway :) I quite like potato salads with sweet pickle relish… I like all potato salads, but like you – I have a guy who is a little more “selective” about what he’s eating. One day we’ll go out for a meal together and we can ditch the boys and just enjoy whatever we like ;)

    Laura – yup. I just wish people would get their heads out of their asses and realize what really matters. A last minute box of chocolates is not going to matter nearly as much as an impromptu and heartfelt “I love you”. Ha ha, we all have our gross foods that we love. Yours is hilarious :)

    Graeme – we should start a sandwich whore club, because you would be the president! You are such a riot. xxoo

    Erika – thanks!

    Gretchen – thank you :)

    Tartelette – oh, I have no doubt that you give the most creative and heartfelt gifts, Helen. The people who have you in their lives are very lucky, indeed. I especially love the relationship you share with your mother – it’s very sweet, very touching. I hope that potato salad went over well. Thanks for the hugs :) xxoo

    Christine – ha ha, Jeremy is probably thinking that I’m divulging a little too much personal information about him on my blog ;) I think you and I feel the same about corporate America shoving consumerism down our throats as a pathetic substitution for genuine caring. Girl, I could go on and on ;) One day we’ll have to sit down and have a bitch session! Yup, it’s the blue columbine (which Diane knows by scientific name because she’s a plant geek!).

    WoRC – oh, you are such a crier!! :)

    Eileen – that is such a sweet idea! I’m really happy to hear that she liked it. I just provided the recipe – you did the whole act of making and sending her a really wonderful gift, from the heart. Good on ya. Thank you for your words of encouragement. I really appreciate it and a lot of you make the ride a little less harrowing for me :)

    Vicky – thanks so much!

    Maya – aw, you’re very sweet. Thank you.

    Kevin – dude, you need to score some of these to go with all of that Asian food porn you post on your blog!

    forkful – thanks :)

    WoRC – back again? You silly girl ;) I think Asian moms really do like that we send them things, but there is the constant struggle against spending money that they have to overcome. As long as you don’t FORGET your mom, then you probably can’t go wrong (no wait, I know some guys who go very very wrong on Mother’s Day). xxoo

    SallyBR – ooh, great! I am happy to see that the scallion pancakes are easy to reproduce. They are so simple and good! Hurray for you! Thanks for the hug :)

    Brittany – yeah, I’ll never understand that bologna/mayo thing. Gross. A lot of the recipes I love are super easy with great results. Glad to share :) And yeah – men love the flank steak recipe (it’s a beef thing, I guess?) :)

    Seth – thank you! I hope your Dad is recovering and without much discomfort. Best of luck to him. Wow – you know how to shop for your mom. AWESOME present :)

    Carmen – terrific! I love that recipe – it’s so chock full of goodies. I know what you mean about being Americanized… but if you stick with Chinese cooking, it really impresses the elderly Chinese :) ha ha. No problem sharing – we’re all in it together! I actually purchased these chopsticks at a local gourmet store in Boulder called Peppercorn. Depending on where you live, you might try to hunt down a Japanese grocery store/mall. They usually have them in the little dish shops that sell norens, tea sets, gifts, etc.

    Bri – hello dear. I sincerely hope the new treatment works for you. I will definitely drop you a line soon. You have been on my mind a lot. Thanks so much for dropping by :) My HMO is too cheap for Neulasta, so I get to use Neupogen, which works – except it creates all sorts of unbearable pain in my bones and muscles… Oh well. I only have 2 more injections left! Thinking of ya xxoo.

    Anita – Asian moms! What can we do with them?! :) It’s a fine art, being the Good Asian Daughter. hee hee. I am definitely feeling better, thank you :) xxoo

  29. 4th essential « FP Daily says:

    [...] Tags aww nuts! baked blogger-love breakin’ the fast BURGERS! cake cheesy cherry chocolate chocolate-love cookies! delicious dessert eat your vegetables eco-eating eggy fishy food gods fruity gettin’ hot in here gotta pea happy meat herbacious how-to imbibe meaty New York Times pasta photogin’ pretty things salad savory seafood sexy sexy-nutritious shopping with care shroomin’ soup soup soup! spicy strawberries summa’ sweet tasty verdant whole grains are so hot right now 4th essential July 3, 2008, 8:05 am Filed under: Use Real Butter | Tags: 4th of July, creamy, i wanna marry a potato salad, poh tate toes What could go better with a big ol’ slab of meat than potato salad? [...]

  30. wonderment » Blog Archive » Lightening Linkfest: Potatoes says:

    [...] Potato Salad [...]

  31. Hannah says:

    My mum uses Mascarpone, a teeny bit of mayo and some good dijon!

  32. jenyu says:

    Hannah – oooh, mascarpone sounds great!

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