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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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.

Corn and Zucchini Medley

Yum, yum and YUM!

2-4 sliced bacon, sliced
2 c. diced zucchini
2 c. corn
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1/4 c. shredded cheese
pepper to taste

Fry the bacon in large skillet until cooked.  Drain and set aside, reserving  1 T. of drippings.

In reserved drippings, saute zucchini, corn and onion until tender-crisp.  Add garlic and saute for additional minute.  Season with pepper, if desired.  Top with bacon and cheese.

Rainy Season

It has been approximately 60 hours since it last rained here at Country Haven.  According to our informal calculations, that’s the longest stretch of dry weather we’ve had since mid-June when our three-week drought broke.  We’ve received over 20 inches of rain in 6 weeks.  That’s a lot of water.  A couple more inches are forecasted for tomorrow morning.

Blah.

We have repeatedly mowed between the rows in our gardens to keep the weeds down until it was dry enough to actually run the tiller through.  Potatoes are rotting in the ground, green beans are molding on their bushes, pepper plants are yellowing, squash plants are wilting.  I mowed down our first two plantings of green beans yesterday; the leaves were the color of lemonade.  Poor things were probably glad to be put out of their misery.  I usually have more than 120 quarts of green beans canned by now.  This year, I’ve put up twenty-seven.

And our pepper plants!  To get a better look at a growing pepper, I gently moved aside some of the spotted, yellow leaves on one of the scrawny plants, and three of its leaves dropped to the ground, reminding me of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.  Poor, pitiful thing!

Fortunately, we planted way too much of almost everything, so it will be enough to have something every week until the first frost hits.  We keep re-planting, too, using next year’s seed that we bought to save shipping costs on next year’s garden.  I don’t know if this amounts to optimism or foolishness; time will tell.

In spite of the tendency to focus on all of our loss this year, I cannot help but be thankful for all that we have.  In some parts of the world, these conditions would have a direct and possibly dire effect on the nutritional needs of the growers.  We are so fortunate that this is not the case with us.  Even without having the extra produce to can and freeze for the winter, we can rest assured that our bellies will be fed nonetheless.  And, without the extra income that we hoped our abundant harvest would bring, we know that our bills will still be paid.

What a blessing.

Better-with-Bacon Summer Squash

Summer squash is often the gift that keeps on giving in our neck of the woods.  And, even though I have dozens of tried-and-true recipes on-hand, I find myself looking for new ways to prepare it.  This is especially true because one of my kiddos pretty much loathes the stuff.  She will eat it when it’s served, but only because she’s hungry.

Since so many things are better with bacon, we’ve added it to our summer squash this year in the hopes of finding another recipe that we can all get excited about.  Even if it doesn’t pass muster with her, I look forward to having this with some fresh corn on the cob and thick-sliced heirloom tomatoes.

You can use any type of summer squash in this recipe:  zucchini, yellow squash, patty pan or even 8-ball zucchini.  It really doesn’t matter.  This can even be served with rice or over pasta if you want to bulk it up a bit.

4-6 strips bacon, diced
2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
2 small yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, if desired

In large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp.  Remove bacon and carefully drain grease, keeping 2-3 tablespoons in skillet.

In the bacon drippings, saute summer squash and onion for 6-8 minutes or until crisp-tender.  Add minced garlic and stir for 1-2 more minutes until garlic is cooked.

Sprinkle with cheese if you want (and why wouldn’t you?).

Shredded Zucchini Saute’

6-ish c. shredded zucchini
1 T. cooking oil
1 T. minced, fresh basil
salt & pepper to taste
2 t. butter
2 T. grated Parmesan cheese

Squeeze moisture out of zucchini by wrapping in a cotton towel and twisting to remove moisture.  Scrape zucchini into a bowl.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add zucchini, basil, salt and pepper.  Saute’, stirring often until crisp-tender–maybe 5 or so minutes.

Dot with butter and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.