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Mary Jane from MJ’s Kitchen

Since I had discovered Mary Jane from MJ’s Kitchen, I have been avidly following and reading about her life in her New Mexican kitchen. MJ’s blog is a treasure cove for homemade, healthy and from scratch recipes! Seriously you can find all kinds of recipes on her page, from Black Bean Corn Quesadillas to a flavorful Orange Tarragon Chicken breast Recipe, you will be mesmerized by the different cuisine styles that she has mastered over the years. However, MJ is mainly an expert in southern and southwestern cuisine, so therefore you will recognize some classic gems in her published recipe collection.

MJ grew up in Louisiana, married her high school sweetheart in the 70s and soon enough the two love birds moved on and found their way to New Mexico, the land of enchantment. Both, MJ and her husband Bobby, fell in love with the beauty of the land, the people, the weather and of course the food. She confessed that mostly the green and red chile were to blame, they are just irresistible and completely addictive. Who can blame them?

Before MJ inaugurated her blog, she had been working for over 25 years in a community college as an instructor in a variety of technology programs and in 1995 she started an instructional design business and further MJ has been working on a couple of grants developing educational materials for micro and nanotechnology for the past 8 years. Yes, MJ is a super tech geek lady my friends and this woman can even cook like a goddess!

Apricot Jam

Apricot Jam

Mary Jane has been cooking for 30 years, 5 days a week from scratch recipes and you know what, she has been cooking with her own home grown produce for many years. Early on she earned herself the title peach lady. The reason for that is because MJ and her husband owned a whole orchard of fruit trees, including peach, apple, apricot and plum. The trees had a gorgeous climate and life and produced massive amounts of fruits. Of course the first thing one does in this case is to share the bounty with neighbors and friends.

The Peach Lady - Mary Jane

Mary Jane in the 80s

When I asked if her family had influenced her cooking, she explained that she wasn’t so sure. Of course she enjoys food that was influenced by both cultures of Louisiana – fried foods, grits, and biscuits and gravy from the north and Cajun and creole dishes from the south, yet the moment she moved to New Mexico she found the cuisine that she would love forever. What’s MJ’s food style?

I strive to use fresh, seasonal ingredients in my dishes and every week I make at least two vegetarian meals. I call it healthy comfort food!

Over the many years food trends have been introduced and the same had been forgotten quickly or they are still cherished by us foodies. MJ personally thinks that her food habits barely changed in the past 50+ years. She grew up with home grown organic produce and she explains that processed foods have never been part of her diet. However, we do know that processed foods had become a major part of the American diet in time but as MJ explains, she thinks that the people’s food habits are changing and more and more people are moving back to eating whole foods and fresh vegetables as opposed to prepared foods.

Mayan Chocolate Iced Coffee

Mayan Chocolate Iced Coffee

Mj’s husband actually talked her into starting a food blog (thank you Bobby!). Before MJ’s kitchen was born, she had been toying around with the idea of a cookbook but her husband, a professional photographer, convinced her to publish her best recipes from her 30 year long food discovery quest and so to write a Food Blog instead.

In addition to sharing my recipes and hopefully helping people learn that cooking is fun and not a chore, it has also allowed me to share some of my family stories and many years of cooking and living. I really believe I am having more fun with the food blog that I could have with writing a cookbook. Of course, it wasn’t after I got started that  I realized that I’m the old lady of food bloggers, but that’s o.k., it has been fun!

A food blogger learns one lesson early on, to measure everything that you throw into your dish. Seasoned cooks normally don’t measure every ingredient detailed but when you want others to be able to cook the food you love, then of course measuring exact spoonfuls turns into a requirement and that MJ had to learn for herself as well.

Blog readers might often underestimate the work involved in creating a delicious recipe post, in fact it’s a whole lots of work for a food blogger to develop the recipe, cook it, take the snaps, write and edit the post. I for example sit for hours writing and fixing a post and MJ puts about as much time into her passion for her food blog. MJ takes about 2 to 4 hours to take the pictures and do the post-production. Writing and creating the post usually takes her about an hour or two, depending on the story or the complexity of the recipe. Then of course she will proofread and re-edit it at least 3 times over the next couple of days so to catch mistakes or at times, do a complete rewrite. So that’s a total of about 6 to 8 hours per post! The biggest challenge in all for MJ is the food photography, not the technical aspect but rather the food styling.

Trying to shoot anything bigger than a plate and having a lot of props is just too stressful mentally for me. Props? You mean a fork and a napkin, right? 😉

Homemade Mexican Chorizo Sausage

Homemade Mexican Chorizo Sausage

Her perfect kitchen needs to be welcoming with lots of workspace, it needs to have a quality cooktop, lots of storage and color. “Welcoming” because MJ loves hanging out in the kitchen with friends and family. What are Mj’s favorite tools in her kitchen that survived time? Immersion blender, good knives, bamboo cutting boards, rubber spatulas,a good two burner griddle, quality pots and skillets and her old pressure cooker are her most important kitchen gadgets (and definitely mine as well, just that I don’t own an old pressure cooker!)

MJ’s mother was always making potato salad because potatoes were plentiful and potato salad was easy to make for a family of 7. The recipe below uses many of the same ingredients, but the process of cooking the potatoes and the dressing are different. So that is why Mj called her luscious gorgeous salad her “not my mama’s Potato Salad”. My little Austrian heart skipped a beat when I saw the recipe ingredients and the tempting picture. Mayo, Dill, Tarragon, Celery, pickle…. this is a perfect summer time Barbeque salad and in my case my soon to be Indian Monsoon salad.

MJ's "Not my Mama’s" Potato Salad

MJ’s “Not my Mama’s” Potato Salad

 

5.0 from 6 reviews
Not my Mama’s Potato Salad
 
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: American
Ingredients
  • 1 pound of mixed potatoes (sweet potato, russet, red, purple) – scrubbed and cut into ½ inch (1.25 cm) pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. oil (chile infused if you have it)
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup onion, diced
  • 1 large celery stalk, diced
  • 3 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish
  • 2 hardboiled eggs (separate after cooking. Use the cooked yokes in the dressing.)
  • ¼ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp. chile powder (Ancho, sweet paprika or New Mexico red)
  • ½ tsp. dried tarragon, crumbled
  • ½ tsp. dried dill weed
  • Fresh parsley (add before serving)
Dressing
  • 2 cooked egg yolks from the hard boiled eggs
  • 1 tsp. Dijon
  • 2 heaping Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • Juice from ½ lemon
Instructions
  1. MJ usually roasts the potatoes on the stovetop, but you can also roast them in the oven.
Roasting on stovetop (One to two batches depending on the size of your skillet)
  1. Add 1 Tbsp. oil to large skillet over medium low heat.
  2. When hot, add half of the potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
  3. Spread the potatoes out into one layer. Cover and cook 5 minutes.
  4. Flip the potatoes over, spread into one layer, cover and cook 5 minutes.
  5. Increase heat to medium, flip potatoes again, cover and cook another 5 minutes.
  6. Check one of the larger pieces to see if they are done.
  7. Cook for another 2 to 5 minutes, uncovered, until done nicely toasted.
  8. Transfer to mixing bowl and repeat with the other half of the potatoes.
Roasting the potatoes in the oven
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. Place the cut potatoes in a large oven dish. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp. oil and salt and pepper. Mix well to coat the pieces.
  3. Roast in oven about 35 to 40 minutes until tender and brown.
The dressing
  1. Mash the yolks with a fork.
  2. Mix in the other ingredients and whisk until smooth.
Assembly
  1. Put all ingredients including the dressing in a large bowl and combine well.
  2. Taste. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
  3. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.
  4. Right before serving, stir in the parsley.

MJ also suggests for newbie cooks to try out her Red Chile Enchilada recipe.  With the red chile sauce around, you can have restaurant style, delicious enchiladas in less than 30 minutes.  Of course Mary Jane always encourage one to make the red chile sauce from scratch, especially if they have access to New Mexico dried red chile pods. Also my MJs Kitchen insider tip is her no fail Buttermilk Cornbread recipe. Check it out and you ll know what I mean. 😉

New Mexico Red Chile Enchiladas

New Mexico Red Chile Enchiladas

You can easily follow Mj’s kitchen happenings by subscribing to her feed or follow her via Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Helene
Helene is the author behind MasalaHerb.com and shares FoodWriterFriday with Maureen from OrgasmicChef.com. She is originally Austrian/French but moved in her very early twenties to the beautiful coastline state Goa, India. She loves to discover new exotic ingredients and she enjoys developing Indian/European fusion dishes and of course you will find her also cooking traditional Austrian, French and Goan dishes.
Helene
Helene

Latest posts by Helene (see all)

Helene

Helene is the author behind MasalaHerb.com and shares FoodWriterFriday with Maureen from OrgasmicChef.com. She is originally Austrian/French but moved in her very early twenties to the beautiful coastline state Goa, India. She loves to discover new exotic ingredients and she enjoys developing Indian/European fusion dishes and of course you will find her also cooking traditional Austrian, French and Goan dishes.

44 Comments

  1. I’m in love with your potato salad, MJ and I’d never tell your mother. 🙂 I’m so glad this interview was done because I’ve always wanted to know more about you. I had no idea you were a geek AND a clever cook. 🙂 I find your dishes always intriguing.

    • Thank you so much Maureen! Actually, I think my mother would be tickled to death to see this. 🙂 Oh yes – I’m definitely a geek, and ongoing subject of amusement for Bobby and me. Thank you for such nice compliments and for making this opportunity possible. You and Helene have done a great job with FWF!

      • I had a clue that MJ was into nanotechnology because she had mentioned it but I had no idea for a while that she is and had been active in so many tech fields.

        MJ thank you for your kind words about FWF. Glad you like the page and I am happy to hear that you are satisfied. =)

  2. I love MJ’s blog and she’s such a wonderful person (and cook). I’m so pleased to see her being featured here today. She truly deserves every bit of praise she receives – plus a whole lot more! It’s wonderful to learn more about her and thank you for sharing…

  3. MJ is one of my absolute favorite bloggers! There are a ton I want to meet, but she’s way up there on my list. Every recipe she makes, I think: I need to make that too! And I totally love her potato salad method – brilliant! I gotta do this (see what I mean?). And I echo your words, Helene: thank you Bobby for encouraging MJ to write her blog!

    • Thank you so much John!! You must know that you and Mrs. KR are up there on my list as well. I’ve already planned it out – we’ll put Bobby on the grill, I’ll make the sides, Mrs. KR will be in charge of dessert and YOU my dear, will shake up as many of your wonderful cocktails as we can drink. 🙂

      • LOL
        …and I, my husband, Maureen and John will be enjoying the meal right? =P
        Sounds like an excellent plan!

  4. How exciting to trip across this story about one of my favorite bloggers – Great Job!

  5. What a fabulous feature ladies! I always feel like I’m being transported to a wonderful, warm world when I read about MJ’s orchards… peach, apricot, apple, plum dancing through my head ;-). As a Canadian, this is just so foreign to our daily experience, that it’s both wonderful and fantastical. I love MJ’s approach and simplicity. Her style is warm, relatable and friendly and her recipes are downright delicious! The sweet pickle relish is great here MJ! Thank you to your mom & aunt :).

    • Oh Kelly your words hit the nail, I completely agree with whatever you have said about MJ and herb fabulous blog.

  6. Why have I never, ever, ever considered putting sweet potatoes in a potato salad? I love roasted sweet potatoes. I think of them as being as different from regular potatoes as brussel sprouts and sweet peppers. Can’t wait to try this recipe. Then there are MJ’s mother’s sweet pickles… maybe she could ask her mom about them the next time she sees her? 🙂

    • I never got the idea idea (and otherwise I am the one who comes up with unusual things). Yes MJ is an inspiration and she is such a sweet person on top of that. Thank you Su Anne for passing by. =)

  7. Such fun getting to know a bit more about MJ! And loving this SW twist on a classic…it looks delish!

      • Yes I agree with you ladies, the south – southwestern style food is new to me too but I realized it comes a bit close to the Indian food in certain ways, or let’s say the goan food that I am used to here, so therefore I can recreate many of MJ’s dishes in ease.

  8. Oh oh MJ is super-cute!
    And I love the potato salad recipe, from the variety of potatoes to the pickle relish and smoked paprika.
    LL

  9. Love M.J.’s site and I enjoyed getting to know her a little better here. Thanks!

  10. MJ is one of the most sincere and kind ladies around… I have loved getting to know her better. Her New Mexican cuisine is always a feast for the eyes. I wish she was my neighbor so we could swap the actual dishes and not just recipes. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this wonderful interview of a great lady with us all. 🙂

  11. I have known and eaten with MJ since +- 1972. I have truly enjoyed growing up with her, playing football, camping with her and Bobby, eating her inspired delicious well thought out menus the whole time. She is an inspiration to all of of us “home chefs” that try to put great local food on the table for our family every night. We will keep reading and using her receipts as long as we are alive. It’s fun to see what she has in store for us every week. We have a whole cookbook in a binder that has been assembled from MJ’s receipts over the years. Thanks MJ!!!

    • Jeff it is so nice to meet somebody who has known MJ since ever, and again it confirms my respect for MJ’s admirable cooking style and massive delectable recipe collection. Thank you so much for coming by and leaving a comment, we appreciate it!

  12. Love MJ’s blog and her scrumptious recipes!This potato salad looks so good and I love the idea of roasting the potatoes!Bookmarking this recipe 🙂

    • Isn’t MJ the best in her cuisine field? 😉 Roasted potato salad is a must make in my kitchen too.

  13. I am like you, when I found MJ’s blog, I immediately started follow and I’ve been following since then! She’s a sincere and charming lady and she’s been a wonderful friend. I love reading her detailed recipes and stories. I really appreciate her quality of work which shows well on her blog. Thanks for featuring her. She deserves a nice story of her and you wrote very well in this post!

  14. Fantastic! I came here from MJ’s blog, which I’ve been following for a while now. However, I feel like today I got a fantastic overview of her, and some recipes I’d missed along the way. Thanks for sharing, and I love MJ’s potato salad!

  15. MJ’s Kitchen is one of my favorite blogs! I love MJ’s cooking style and gorgeous food photography. Lovely potato salad recipe!

  16. I just got back from vacation and am in tears reading all of these sweet and kind comments. My sincere thanks to everyone for the comments and the constant support. I love you all!! 🙂

  17. MJ is a fabulous cook! I love her blog and her delicious recipes, especially when they are spicy hot. I always enjoy reading her great posts that not only give me a great new recipe to try, but a interesting story as well. I love MJ’s Kitchen, and MJ is best!

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