Dilly Beans

Dilly Beans are basically a pickled green bean.  I prefer to pickle the young, tender beans from the plants’ first harvest because the beans are nice and straight, making them an easier fit for my pint jars.  (Subsequent harvests tend to have beans that curl more.)  I usually leave the ends on my beans before pickling, which makes a nice little “handle” for pulling them from the jars when they’re ready to eat.

I would think that any dill pickle recipe could be used with green beans, but this is the one I typically use for mine.  When I have access, I will also add half of a seeded jalapeno to my jars.

2 pounds (ish) green beans, washed well
1/4 c. salt
2 1/2 c. vinegar (white or apple cider)
2 1/2 c. water
4-8 cloves peeled garlic
4 heads dill

Combine salt, vinegar and water in large pot; bring to a boil.

Pack beans lengthwise into hot, clean pint jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.

Add 1-2 cloves garlic and 1 head dill to each jar.

Ladle hot liquid over beans, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Remove air bubbles.  Adjust lids and bands.

Process pints for 10 minutes in hot water bath.

Makes 4 pints.

As you can see, I have pickled all manner of veggies when I have them available. I especially enjoyed these pickled carrot sticks!

 

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Zucchini Pinwheels

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Zucchini pinwheels may not be pretty, but they sure are yummy!

The yearly avalanche of zucchini is in the near future at our place.  Right now, we’re getting about one every other day, but we will soon be finding six or eight every time we walk by the garden!

So, to battle Zucchini Boredom, I am always on the lookout for new recipes.  Plus, variety is the spice of life…right?

4 zucchini (6-7 inches in length), sliced lengthwise as thinly as possible
salt & pepper to taste
1 bar cream cheese, softened
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
a smattering of your favorite herbs, fresh or dried
oil for brushing on zucchini
toothpicks (if desired)

Brush zucchini with oil, then sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Grill or roast until very soft (but not falling apart).

Put cooked zucchini slices on towel so that moisture is absorbed while zucchini cools completely.

Combine cream cheese, garlic and herbs.  Spread along length of one side of each zucchini slice.  Roll into pinwheel and secure with a toothpick.  Or, if you’d like to skip the toothpicks, just pop them into your mouth as soon as they’re rolled (like my friend, Sarah, and I did last night).

 

Chili-Glazed Green Beans

I recently tried this tasty recipe on a group of women in my house.  By the time my husband got home to give ’em a taste test, there was not a bean left in the skillet.  So, I made them for my family this week, and they were a hit.

I found the recipe in The Happy Cook by Daphne Oz.  I’ve adapted it for our family, and I am listing the recipe as I made it.

1 T. Asian chili sauce
2 T. soy sauce
1 T. honey
1 T. grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs. green beans, ends trimmed
1 T. sesame oil
1/2 c. roasted, salted peanuts

In small bowl, combine chili sauce, soy sauce, honey, ginger and garlic.

Bring medium saucepan of water to boil and blanch beans 4-8 minutes, depending on how soft you like them.  Remove beans and put in ice water bath to stop cooking.

Heat large skillet over high heat for 2 minutes.  Add oil, heating until it shimmers, then add beans.  Cook on high, shaking the pan often, until the beans begin to color and blister (about 3-5 minutes).

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The blistering and coloring will give the beans added flavor.

Add sauce mixture to the skillet and toss beans to coat.  Cook for about a minute, then transfer to serving dish.  Top with peanuts and serve hot.  (I served them from the skillet for my informal gathering, and we discovered that they’re quite tasty even when not piping hot.)

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Several weeks ago, it came to my attention that my children had never had a tuna-noodle casserole.  I don’t know that I’d ever made one, and I don’t remember that my mom did, but I had certainly eaten them at friends’ houses when I was little.  It seems as though they were even part of school menus in my early years of public education.

I remember that tuna noodle casseroles definitely made it on the menu of my babysitter, Jana.  I don’t know how old I was when she kept me–maybe three or four years of age–but I remember that she would sometimes begin her supper preparation before my mom came to pick me up.  I would watch her make a tuna noodle casserole for her family, even volunteering to help crunch up the potato chips for the topping.  She would set the casserole on the table to await its turn in the oven…and I would watch for my opportunity.  Potato chips were a rare treat in my house, so as soon as Jana’s back was turned, I pinched some of those salty crumbs clean off the top of that unbaked casserole!  Can you imagine my nerve?!  I never gave a single thought to how disappointed her daughter, Nikki, would be to not have crunchy potato chips on the top of her portion of tuna noodle casserole!

I was a sneaky kid.  (And I loved junk food.)

Anywho, when my younger two children expressed an interest in trying out this Midwestern comfort food, I searched out a recipe.  While I made some changes to suit our family’s preferences (and my on-hand ingredients), this recipe is based on one that I found in one of my favorite freezer cooking cookbooks, “You’ve Got it Made” by Diane Phillips.  It’s a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to stock their freezer without stocking up on the usual high-sodium, preservative-laden canned soups and convenience foods.   

The recipe received 5 thumbs up at my table, even from the thumb that belongs to the daughter who does not like tuna.  Hope you enjoy it as well!

Oh, and Jana, if you ever read this, please accept my sincere apology.

6 T. butter
1 onion, chopped
a stalk or two of celery, chopped
1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
2 c. milk
4 dashes hot sauce (you will not taste the spiciness, but it does add flavor)
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb. egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
2 6-oz. cans tuna, well-drained and flaked
2 c. frozen peas
1 c. crushed potato chips (or more, if you have a sneaky chip thief in your house)
3 T. grated Parmesan cheese

Melt 4 T. of the butter in large skillet over medium heat; add onion and celery, sauteeing until they begin to soften.

Sprinkle flour over veggies and stir until flour disappears.  Cook veggies 2 minutes, then gradually add broth and milk, scraping up any bits that stick to the bottom of the pan.  Add the hot sauce, salt & pepper.

Coat a 9″ baking pan with butter or cooking spray.  Spread thin layer of sauce over bottom of dish.  Combine noodles with 1 1/2 c. of sauce in large bowl, stirring until well-mixed.  Stir in tuna and peas until evenly distributed.

Transfer noodle mixture to prepared pan; cover with remaining sauce.  Combine crushed potato chips and Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over casserole.  Drizzle remaining 2 T. melted butter over top of chips.

Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to a month.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling and topping is golden brown.

NOTE:  If frozen, thaw completely before baking.

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.

Chicken Enchilada Dip

This easy appetizer is great with or without the chicken.  It can also be paired with a salad and eaten as a meal.  It’s a great make-ahead, because it refrigerates and freezes well.

 

2 c. cooked, shredded chicken
2 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 c. shredded cheese
1 t. minced garlic
1 ½ T. chili powder
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. oregano
cayenne pepper to taste
1 can black beans, drained (Feel free to leave these out if you don’t want them.)
4 green onions, chopped
10-oz. can chopped green chilies

Mix cheeses together; add seasonings & mix well.

Cover & refrigerate overnight.

Heat in slow cooker, in microwave, in oven or on stovetop until ingredients are warm and gooey.

Serve with tortilla chips or sturdy vegetable dippers.

Tomato-Basil Soup

For the cooking classes I teach at the Mooreland Free Fair each summer, I always try to highlight some fresh, in-season produce since Indiana has such fantastic garden fare in August.  Even though our overall harvest has been a bit lackluster so far this season, our basil has been beautiful.  I am not sure how many times I’ve made this soup (or a version of it) this summer, but it’s been quite a few.  Today’s batch was generously garnished with some yummy queso fresco.  Mmmm!

2-3 T. oil or butter
1 sweet onion, diced
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes (or 2-ish cups fresh, diced)
1/2 c. fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
1 (15-oz.) can chicken broth (about 2 cups or so)
1/2 t. freshly-ground pepper
1/2 c. half & half or whole milk

In oil, saute onion until translucent.

Add tomatoes, basil salt and pepper; bring to a simmer.

Add broth and pepper; stir.

Blend until smooth.  (Make sure to cool mixture adequately if pouring into a blender with a plastic pitcher.)

Stir in half & half; add more salt and pepper if needed.