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Italian Nut Medley

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When looking for a salty snack, I usually reach for a jar of nuts on the pantry shelf. Recently, I scoured my cookbooks for a recipe that might change up the taste of my everyday snack staple. Most recipes I found included a good dose of sugar which was definitely not the direction I was headed. I stumbled on a recipe in my Best of Country Cooking Cookbook from 1999. I had all of the ingredients on hand so I whipped up the quick recipe. What a yummy, crunchy, surprise! The four ingredient recipe calls for a mixture of Italian spices, a bit of butter and soy sauce mixed in with a few cups of quality nuts. After tasting this flavorful crunchy mix, I’m sure this will become a staple recipe in my snack folder.

Italian Nut Medley

2 tablespoons butter
4 cups quality mixed nuts ( cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 envelope Italian salad dressing mix

In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add nuts; cook and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Stir in soy sauce. Sprinkle with salad dressing mix, stir to coat. Immediately transfer to a baking sheet and spread thinly to cool. Store in an airtight container.
Adapted from The Best of Country Cooking – 1999.

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Bountiful Blueberry Bread

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As the steamy months of July and August set in, blueberry season is upon us. Farmers all over the Midwest have sent out postcards to local residents reminding them to stop by the farm for a taste of the season’s best.
Several farms in our area sit just a few minutes from our home. Making the daily drive back from work, I usually stop by for a large 5 lb. box of fresh picked berries.
Years ago, our family used to picnic at the local blueberry farms as we would spend the early morning hours picking blueberries that would be eaten or frozen for future use. As my children grow older and our days a bit more busy, we have difficulty finding the time to pick berries as we once did. None the less, we still seem to find time to enjoy the flavor of these beautiful little gems.

Bountiful Blueberry Bread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups blueberries, coated with 2 teaspoons of flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spry with cooking spray a loaf pan.
Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir yogurt, milk, oil, egg, vanilla, and almond extract into flour mixture until batter is just blended. Gently fold blueberries into batter; pour into prepared loaf pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Farmer’s Market Pasta Salad

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It’s always fun to use up fresh garden veggies by throwing them into a big bowl of tender, herb-spiced pasta. While I have a variety of fruits and vegetables planted in my summer garden, it will be a while before they are ready for harvest. In the meantime, I just love heading out to the local farmer’s market to pick up a healthy dose of garden fresh vegetables for some of my lite warm-weather recipes.
This recipe couldn’t be any easier. Use your favorite vegetables, cheese, or meat to mix into this cold pasta salad. A tall glass of iced tea and some whole grain crackers can round out the meal as the sun shines, the heat sets in, and we welcome the lazy days of summer.

Farmer’s Market Pasta Salad

14 ounces pasta, uncooked
1/2 cucumber, chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
5 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 red pepper, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, parsley, and oregano, finely chopped
1 cup zesty Italian-style salad dressing
3 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

Fill a large pot with lightly salted water, bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Stir in pasta, return to a boil. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has cooked through, but is still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain and cool by running cold water over the pasta in a colander set in the sink. Coat with a small amount of dressing to prevent pasta sticking together. Cool completely.
2. Combine pasta, vegetables, and herbs in a large bowl. Pour the remaining Italian dressing over the salad and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours. Sprinkle on Parmesan cheese before serving.

M’s Simple Whole Wheat Pizza

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It’s that time of year again, tomatoes are sitting plump and pretty on the vine and the fresh basil is ripe for the picking.
While shopping at the local Costco this week, I ran across a tub of Formaggio Fresh Mozzarella Cheese. I immediately threw it in my cart… I just couldn’t resist. This cheese is soft, tender and absolutely heavenly. For the past two days, I have been preparing a little bruschetta lunch salad consisting of chopped vine ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and plump leaves of fresh basil. YUM!
Today, M arrived home after a week of house sitting and she too, could not resist the sight of the fresh cheese. Within minutes, she had whipped up a tasty pizza made with fresh garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzerella. Boy oh boy, the aroma in the kitchen was unbelievable as that pizza baked in the oven. Oh, how I love the bounty that a midwest summer can bring.

M’s Rustic Whole Wheat Pizza

1 Boboli Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
5 balls fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
4 large leaves fresh basil, chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare pizza by brushing olive oil over crust. Sprinkle minced garlic over olive oil. Evenly distribute tomatoes and cheese over crust. Sprinkle half of the basil over the toppings. Place pizza on baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. After removing from the oven, sprinkle remaining basil over the pizza. Serve immediately.

Shrimp Bruschetta

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Recently, I bought some raw shrimp at the local market. Because of our crazy busy summer schedule, I needed to prepare the shrimp in a way that was quick and easy. Basil has been growing like mad in my garden so I thought it best to whip up a fast sauté with tomatoes, basil, shrimp and Parmesan cheese. As many of you know, I try to stay away from white flour and high carbs, so this fit the bill for a light Sunday brunch dish.

Shrimp Bruschetta

1 lb. shrimp, shelled, cleaned, and deveined
2 medium tomatoes, washed and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat; add olive oil and garlic. Sauté until garlic is lightly browned. Add shrimp and cook quickly until shrimp is pink and cooked through. Remove from pan. In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients and toss in the shrimp. Season to taste. Serve as a salad or pour it over lightly toasted crusty bread for a tradition bruschetta appetizer.

Teriyaki Lo Mein Noodles and Veggies

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For years, we’ve been visiting Disney’s Polynesian Resort and O’Hana’s Restaurant for their well attended dinner show. This family-friendly dinner event includes generous helpings of Polynesian inspired delicacies with a bit of entertainment provided by a ukulele playing woman (or gentleman) dressed in island themed clothing and singing (Disney-style) Polynesian tunes. All the while, the friendly waitstaff scurries around the dining tables offering guests various grilled meats, sweet bread and family-style fixings. Children are invited to come to the center of the dining room floor to play games and celebrate special occasions. It’s a festive evening and we always look forward to our annual visit.
The sweet and savory aroma that fills the dining hall just can’t be beat as Ohana’s food is absolutely fabulous. Pot stickers, Hawaiian sweet bread, a scrumptious salad, chicken wings, bread pudding and a variety of grilled meats are delivered to the table with gusto and are unlimited. One of our favorite dishes is prepared with low mein noodles, pineapple teriyaki sauce and veggies. I’ve tried to duplicate the flavor of this dish at home and in a simplistic way. This recipe is a close second to the original and eating it brings back fond memories of our time spent at Disney over the years. We look forward to celebrating our vacation with the staff at Ohana’s for years to come.

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Teriyaki Lo Mein Noodles and Veggies

1/2 package of Low Mein Noodles
1 (9oz.) package frozen teriyaki vegetables
1/2 cup Lawry’s Pineapple Teriyaki Marinade
1/4 cup prepared sweet and sour sauce

In a medium saucepan, prepare noodles according to package directions. Drain and return to saucepan. Microwave vegetables according to package directions. Mix in remaining ingredients and heat thoroughly. Serve piping hot.

Sweet and Creamy Fresh Fruit Dip

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Several weeks ago, my husband and I joined his extended family for a beautiful country club brunch. We had decided to plan the event without all of our children because their busy schedules seemed to foil all of our plans for actually getting together. Some kids were away at school, others had scheduled sporting events, and still others had obligations to employers and had to report to work. After days of shuffling schedules, we decided to have a quiet brunch, parents only.
Just before the day arrived, I headed out to the local kitchen store and picked up a few fresh new kitchen towels, wrapped them in tissue paper and popped them in gift bags to share with all of the woman attending the brunch. It seems we’ve adopted the custom of bringing little gifts to this annual event. We often bring flowers, or inexpensive jewelry, the latest gadget, etc., just to share some fun and celebrate Easter and the arrival of spring.
This year, one of the gifts that I received was a gadget called a Ratcheting Pineapple Slicer and I can’t tell you how wonderful this kitchen tool has turned out to be. The instructions that accompany the tool are fairly easy to follow and in no time at all, you’ve got a perfectly sliced pineapple with very little waste and cleanup is a snap.

Here’s how it works:

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As warmer weather begins to make its way up into the Midwest, communities welcome local farmer’s market vendors as they dust off their aprons and set up their wares in the bright weekend sunshine. Sweet colorful berries of every kind brighten the booths of local farmers.
This Sweet and Creamy Fresh Fruit Dip recipe is a nice addition to a plate of freshly washed and prepared fruit. The unique mix of brown sugar and honey make for a tasty brunch treat or after school snack.

Sweet and Creamy Fresh Fruit Dip

1 cup non-fat vanilla or plain Greek yogurt
1½ teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon brown sugar
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Chill until ready to serve.
Plate with assorted fresh fruit.

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