Blue Cheese Dressing

Years ago, when Dave and I were in college, we occasionally took advantage of some of our long weekends to head over to see his aunt, Mary, who lives in a log home in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.  There is always lots of beautiful sunlight streaming in through the windows, and her front porch offers a perfect place to chat while inhaling the pungent fragrance of the dozens of evergreens that fill the property.  Although I don’t have the opportunity as often as I’d like, Aunt Mary’s house is one of my favorite places to visit.  It’s a little piece of heaven with its beauty and tranquility.  Even more amazing than the mountain setting is Aunt Mary herself.

From the moment I met this tiny, independent woman, I knew she loved me.  Her acceptance of me was made immediately apparent by the warmth in her eyes and the smile on her face.  She was genuine and comfortable, and I count her among the great benefits of marrying my husband.

Along with Aunt Mary being an all-around delightful person, she is a gracious hostess.  Her homemade crescent rolls and hot cross buns were such a treat for Dave and me.  She was the first person I ever knew to serve fresh, minced garlic in her tossed salads–which was quite a surprise to me the first time I tried it!  Not wanting to hurt her feelings, I agreed to also try her homemade blue cheese dressing during our first visit.  I was pretty sure that I did not like blue cheese dressing, but she seemed so sincere in her offer that I didn’t have the heart to refuse.  Let’s just say that I was an immediate convert.  I have been enjoying blue cheese ever since.

I was recently gifted with a 5-lb. bag of blue cheese crumbles.  My first thought was, “Yum!  I’m going to treat myself to some of Aunt Mary’s blue cheese dressing!”.  I’ve made it three times since then, because I keep sharing it with other people who find they like it as much as Dave and I do.  Just in case you want to give it a try, I’m passing Aunt Mary’s recipe along to you.  It’s not as amazing as she is, but I think you’ll like it just the same.

1/2 c. blue cheese crumbles
1 c. mayo
1/2 c. sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1-2 cloves minced garlic
2 T. finely-diced green onion (or regular onion)
1 T. wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1 T. lemon juice
1 t. sugar
I also often add a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce.

Mix well, cover and chill.

Use it as a vegetable dip, a salad dressing, a topping for your burgers or whatever else suits your fancy. This recipe is very forgiving, so don’t worry about getting all of the measurements exact.

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Parmesan Herb Crostini

With all of our garden greens, we’ve been eating a lot of salads around here.  There are so many ways to make a salad that my hubby and I really don’t get tired of them.  Some of my kids, however, quickly tire of any salad which does not have lots of bacon–which is almost every salad we make around here!  I thought that serving these crunchy little crostini on leftover French bread with our next salad might be a good way to hold off their total salad burn-out.

1/2 c. olive oil
2 T. freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
1 t. fresh oregano
2 t. fresh basil
1/2 t. fresh thyme

Combine cheese and herbs; set aside.

Brush slices of French bread with oil on both sides.  Bake slices at 350 for 5 minutes.

Turn slices over and spread herb mixture on soft side of bread.  Return to oven and bake another 7-10 minutes.

Yum!

Coleslaw Perfection

Okay, I understand that perfect coleslaw is a matter of opinion.  I can accept that.  However, I want to add that I get lots of compliments from folks when I fix this–sometimes from people who don’t even really care for coleslaw!  So there must be something lovely about this recipe.

I sometimes add finely-diced sweet peppers or cucumbers to this before dressing.

scant 1/3 c. sugar
3/4 t. salt
1/2 c. mayo (the real stuff, please)
1/2 t. pepper
1 T. vinegar
2 T. lemon juice
small sprinkling of celery seed, if desired

Combine above ingredients and let sit while you chop the following:

1 medium head cabbage
2 normal-sized carrots
1/2 onion

Pour dressing over veggies and stir well.  Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of four hours, or even overnight.  Stir well before serving.

Serves 12 or so.

Bacon Ranch Broccoli Salad

Not too long ago, my friend, Jimmy, made this salad for his family and me for dinner.  I thought that kids across America would enjoy broccoli more if it tasted like this!  I asked for the recipe and was told that it was just broccoli and ranch dressing.  Hmmm.  “Surely it’s more complicated than that!” I thought.  I finally gave it a whirl yesterday, and no, it’s not complicated in the least.

Incidentally, this would be good with cauliflower, carrots, peas and many other garden veggies.  What an easy lunch to pack for the job!

1 bunch of broccoli, raw or barely blanched, cut in bite-sized pieces
bacon, cooked and crumbled (I think I used 4 or so slices.)
cheese, grated (I think I used about a cup.)
ranch dressing (from the bottle, from the packet or from scratch–your choice, as much as you want)

Combine above ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tomato-Basil Salad

1heirloomtomatoesDuring the summer months when I have basil and tomatoes at their best, this is happy food for me.  I can eat this for any meal of the day and be satisfied.  As a “skeleton recipe”, there is a lot of wiggle room when it comes to measurements and ingredients, so relax and enjoy!
perfectly ripe tomatoes, diced
fresh basil, cut in ribbons
a clove or two of fresh garlic, minced
a handful or so of cubed mozzarella, fresh or cured
salt and pepper to taste
a drizzle of olive oil
a splash of vinegar (apple cider, balsamic or whatever you have is fine)

Mix and serve at room temperature for best flavor.  Then, enjoy the leftover later over toasted crusty bread.  Mmmmm!

Avocado Salad

There are a blue million ways you can make a tasty avocado salad, but this is one of my favorites.  It’s so incredibly flexible that you can put all manner of odds and ends in it and have a scrumptious result.  I call this a “skeleton recipe” because it can be followed so loosely and still turn out great.  The measurements are pretty much up to you, so grab an avocado or two and check what you’ve got in your “graveyard” (aka crisper drawer) and go to town!  If there’s anything on the list below that you don’t have or don’t like, skip it.

I eat this as a meal, but it also makes a nice side dish especially with grilled chicken, pork or fish.  You can also wrap it up in a homemade tortilla and be very happy about that decision.

avocado, diced
cucumber, diced
onion, diced
tomato, diced
bell pepper, diced
clove or two of garlic, minced
piece of jalapeno, minced
1-2 T. lemon juice
drizzle of olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Combine and eat immediately.

Zucchini-Basil Salad

I love, love, love this summery salad!  Unfortunately, my family does not.  Hopefully some of YOU will enjoy it as much as I do!

1/4 c. olive oil
1 med. onion, chopped
4 c. zucchini, diced
Saute’ onion in oil for a couple of minutes, then add zucchini and saute’ for a couple more.  Remove from heat.
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 T. fresh basil, sliced into ribbons

Gently stir tomatoes and basil into onions and zucchini.

Salt & pepper to taste.

Eat warm or serve chilled.  My family prefers it warm; I like it cold.  It’s yummy with pasta.