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.


Herb Butter

This is a tasty addition to corn on the cob, grilled steak, seafood, broiled fish, crusty bread or even scrambled eggs.  It is so simple to make, and you can adjust the herby-ness to your preference.  I use salted butter, but you can use unsalted if you would like.  It really doesn’t matter.

Another benefit to this yummy butter is that it can be made in large batches, rolled into a log and frozen for another time.  Then, you can just cut off whatever amount you want whenever you want it.  Or, you can press the butter into chocolate molds for “pretty up” your meal on a special occasion.  One of my grandma’s was so good at making food special just by adding that little extra touch, and I think of her when I see pretty little pats of butter like this.

1 stick butter, room temperature
1-2 T. herbs of your choice (Rosemary, sweet marjoram, sage, thyme, basil and oregano in any combination are all good options.)

Mix thoroughly and enjoy!

Victoria (or Rhubarb) Sauce

I love this sauce plain, warm or cold.  We have also been known to stir it into our oatmeal, spoon it onto fresh biscuits or serve it over vanilla ice cream.

1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
4 c. chopped rhubarb
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt

Heat sugar and water to boiling in 2-quart saucepan, stirring occasionally.

Stir in rhubarb; reduce heat to low.  Simmer uncovered about 15 or so minutes, stirring occasionally until rhubarb begins to fall apart.

Stir in cinnamon and salt.

Easy Chili Dog Sauce

My oldest daughter, Rachel made this super-easy and relatively quick chili dog sauce one year for Father’s Day, and it’s become a tradition.   It is much tastier than any prepared hot dog sauce I’ve ever had, plus it is a good deal healthier and relatively inexpensive to make.  It would also be a good one to make extras of for the freezer.

1 lb. ground beef (the leaner, the better)
2 onions, chopped (Or, use onion powder.)
1 c. ketchup
1 c. water
2 T. chili powder
pepper to taste

Brown ground beef and onion.

Add ketchup, water, chili powder and pepper.

Mix together and simmer for 30 minutes.

Turkey (or Chicken) Casserole

This is yet another recipe that demonstrates how handy it is to know how to make a basic white sauce.  Not only can this save you the cost of buying canned cream soups, but it can also provide healthier options since you can control the level of salt, sugar and preservatives.

This is what I call a “skeleton recipe”—a flexible recipe that can be a fabulous way to keep those odds and ends in the fridge from going to waste.  When you throw away food, you throw away money.  Plain and simple.

White Sauce (to use in place of two cans of cream soups):

¼ c. butter
¼ c. flour

Melt butter over medium-low heat, then add flour, stirring constantly.  Once bubbles form, cook and stir for another minute or so.

Slowly add the following to the butter mixture, whisking constantly:

3 c. milk (preferably not skim) OR broth.

Stir until it comes to a simmer, then allow to simmer for about half a minute or so until thickened.  Remove from heat.

Season to taste with:

salt & pepper
a couple of dashes of hot sauce OR 1 tsp. ground mustard or yellow mustard

Now comes the creative part!  Check to see what you have on-hand, then combine your white sauce with the following:

3 or so cups of cooked pasta or rice
3 -4 c. cooked turkey or chicken
1 c. or so of cooked veggies of your choice
1 c. or so of grated cheese, if desired

Pour into a buttered 9×13″ baking dish.

If you want a crunchy topping, combine the following:

1 c. fresh bread crumbs, cracker crumbs or even crushed potato chips
1-2 T. melted butter

Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes, or until bubbling around edges.

NOTE:  This will freeze beautifully before baking.  Just allow it to thaw completely after you’ve pulled it out of the freezer and bake as directed.

Garlic Mac & Cheese

My daughter, Rachel, and I just made a batch of this as a practice run for tomorrow’s IndyStyle cooking segment, and all we want to do is eat it.  Since we don’t have enough time to make it and bake it on the air, this one is supposed to show the finished product toward the end of the segment.  I’m going to have to start smacking hands to keep my kids out of it!

It really is super yummy, and not hard at all to make.  This makes a huge batch, so feel free to halve it if you don’t want leftovers for a second (or third) meal.  Or, you can make two 8×8″ pans and put one in the freezer before baking.

In salted water, cook one 16-oz. package of elbow macaroni according to package directions; drain.

Cheese Sauce:

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. flour

Melt butter over medium heat, then add flour.  Whisking constantly, cook until bubbly; then, cook (still stirring) for another minute.

2 c. milk (preferably not skim)

Slowly add milk to butter mixture, whisking constantly.

Then, add:

couple dashes hot sauce
1 tsp. yellow mustard (or ground mustard)
2 cloves minced garlic

Stir until combined, then bring to a low simmer (sauce will be thickened, slightly less than a pudding).

Remove from heat, then stir in:

3 c. grated cheese (sharp cheddar is my favorite)

Stir until cheese is melted.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour over pasta; mix well.

Pour into buttered 9×13 baking dish.

Top with cracker crumbs, if desired.

Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes–or until bubbling around edges.

Pasta with Tomato-Garlic Sauce

Pasta is pretty cheap, so it’s a great place to start when you’re building a meal.  This is also a great way to use that leftover handful of mozzarella you may have in your deli drawer.  It’s a healthy dish that can use all kinds of other goodies (mushrooms, bell peppers, even broccoli) you may have on-hand.

This sauce is really quick and easy, and it might be worth your while to make a double or triple batch so that you can tuck some into the freezer for another day.  It’s always nice to have homemade convenience foods on-hand.

8 oz. rotelle pasta (or any other shape)
4-6 cloves garlic, minced  (or more, if you want)
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp. olive oil
1 15-oz. can tomatoes (I use a quart.)
1 T. tomato paste
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
¼ c. grated Parmesan cheese
½ c. mozzarella, shredded

Cook pasta & drain; set aside.

Cook garlic and onion in olive oil over medium heat, being careful not to burn garlic.  When onions are tender, add tomatoes and next six ingredients.  Cook for five minutes.

Add cheeses, stirring until they melt.  Pour over cooked pasta.

NOTE:  If you’re only using part of a can of tomato paste, put the rest in a freezer bag or container to freeze until you need it.  Just make sure you label it or you’ll wonder what in the world is in there in a couple of months.