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.

Stuffed Zucchini

About this time every year, I am looking for new ways to use zucchini.  This recipe is easy and tasty, and it uses another veggie that I have plenty of right now–Swiss chard.  If you don’t have Swiss chard, feel free to use spinach.

6 smallish zucchini, halved lengthwise
4-5 c. Swiss chard, sliced and packed
1/2 c. onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. oil
1 T. fresh basil (or 1 t. Italian seasoning blend)
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
2 T. dry bread crumbs (or cracker crumbs)
4 T. grated parmesan, divided
2 T. butter

Scoop out the pulp of the raw zucchini halves.  Chop the pulp coarsely.

Cook the Swiss chard, then drain and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Saute the onions and garlic in the oil until soft.  Add the spinach, zucchini pulp, herbs, salt, pepper, bread crumbs and half of the cheese.  Mix well.

Place the zucchini shells in a baking dish and stuff with spinach mixture.  Melt the butter and drizzle over the top.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

NOTE:  These can be completely cooled, wrapped in plastic wrap or wax paper, then placed in a freezer bag for freezing.

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.

Easy Tomato Soup

Grilled cheese sounds good to me right now.  And, when I think of grilled cheese, I sometimes think of tomato soup.  This yummy version can be made with canned tomatoes or fresh, so it’s a great recipe to have on-hand in the year-round.  I’m even thinking of making enough of this to can this summer.  Soup always tastes best to me during the winter months.

2 cans (14.5 oz. ea.) diced Italian tomatoes, undrained (or about 4 c. of diced fresh tomatoes plus some basil, oregano and garlic to taste)
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. chopped onion
2-3 garlic cloves, pressed
6 T. flour
4 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable broth
parmesan cheese

In a blender, process tomatoes until pureed; set aside.

In a large-ish saucepan, heat butter over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook until tender, then add garlic and cook about 60 seconds.  Remove from heat.  Stir flour in until smooth.  Return pan to heat and cook about a minute or so.

Gradually whisk in broth.  Add pureed tomatoes; bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes to allow flavors to become lovely.

Serve with grated parmesan cheese on top…and a grilled cheese sandwich on the side.

Flour Tortillas

My friend, Tisha, introduced me to this recipe several years ago.  Homemade tortillas seemed like quite a hassle at the time, but once we made them, we were hooked.  Instead of just being the vessel for the “real food” in a taco, the tortillas become center stage to whatever other tasty ingredients you add.  I find myself especially hungry for these when we have ripe, flavorful heirloom tomatoes in our garden.  Mmmm!

When we make tortillas, we make a huge batch to last for at least three meals.  We eat the first round fresh that day and put the rest in the freezer for later.

These tortillas are best served warm, so take the time to heat them before proceeding with your tacos.  They are also really yummy when brushed with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.

2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
2 t. oil
3/4 c. warm milk

Mix the first four ingredients until well-blended.  Slowly add warm milk.

Stir until a loose, sticky ball forms.

Knead for two minutes on a floured surface until dough is firm and soft.  (You can do this part in your KitchenAid, if you have one.)

Place dough in a greased bowl and cover for 20 minutes.

Divide dough into 8 equal parts and roll each part into a ball.  Cover and let rest 10 more minutes.

After dough has rested, pat out each ball into a 4″ circle and roll out until 6-8″ in diameter. (Keep tortillas covered until ready to cook, because they dry out quickly.)

In DRY skillet (as in, without oil), cook tortillas on high 20-30 seconds per side.  The tortilla will begin to puff a bit when it’s done.  Keep cooked tortillas covered until ready to eat.

Use as you would any other tortillas.  Store in fridge, tightly wrapped, until ready to eat.

Parmesan Cauliflower

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I’ve been on new recipe kick lately.  Does anyone else ever go through these phases?  I bet I’ve tried 10 new recipes so far this year.  I don’t know why.  It isn’t like I don’t have enough solid recipes to pull from as it is.  Oh, well.  It’s a relatively harmless pasttime, I guess.

Our family was blessed with an abundance of broccoli and cauliflower from a friend’s farm the week before Thanksgiving.  I hurriedly blanched and froze it, getting over a dozen quarts of cauliflower and about half of that in broccoli.  I like cauliflower just fine, but it’s not a veggie that I particularly crave.  I thought that surely I could find some new ways to prepare it that would really knock my socks off.  I don’t know that this recipe quite does that, but it really is tasty.  And super, super easy.  With the practically free cauliflower in my freezer, this hearty side dish costs us pennies per serving.  Nice.

Wash your cauliflower and cut it into bite-sized florets.  I used a quart bag of blanched, frozen then thawed cauliflower, but you could also use a head of fresh.  You just might want to blanch or steam it first to soften it a bit.

Combine the following into a paste:

1/4-1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 t.(ish) mayo
1 t.(ish) yellow mustard
dash or two of hot sauce or a pinch of cayenne pepper
black pepper to taste

NOTE:  You might think you want to salt it at this point.  Keep in mind that parmesan is already fairly salty, so you may want to skip the salt or at least give it a taste first.

Stir the cauliflower into the paste, coating as much of the veggie as possible.

Bake in a small casserole dish, uncovered, at 350 for about 35-40 minutes.  The cheesy part will get kind of brown in the oven.  Feel free to cover it with a piece of foil if you’re afraid it will get too dark.  When the cauliflower is crisp-tender, it’s ready.  Cool for a bit before eating.

Preparing Okra

I think okra has been given a bad name, and I’m not sure why.  It may have something to do with the sliminess of the pods once they’re cut open.  To be honest, I generally have a pretty steadfast aversion to slimy food.  I’ve learned to get around this with okra by not cutting into it at all.

My absolutely favorite way to eat okra is to grill it.  I also like it roasted or sauteed.  Either way, the preparation is just about the same:

Wash the whole okra pods well and drain them.

Toss them with a little bit of oil.

Sprinkle them with seasoning of your choice.  (Cajun spice blend is my favorite.  The recipe is on this website under seasoning mixes.)

Grill until pods are slightly browned and begin to look withered…

OR roast in the oven at 400 degrees until pods become darker in color and begin to look withered…

OR saute in a hot skillet until pods begin to brown and look withered.

Eat down to the stem.