Posted in appetizers/snacks, Food, Gardening, Salad, salads

Fresh Broccoli Salad

Looking over the side items in the deli case this week, I spied a tasty looking broccoli salad that I’d never purchased before. Although, I had tasted a similar salad during the county fair a few years ago. I had judged the 4-H home food preservation project and a kind group of volunteers had brought lunch in for those of us judging throughout the day. I told one of the volunteers that the broccoli salad was delicious and she replied, “It’s from Walmart, the best!”
This Father’s Day, I’m making my own version of this salad as all of the kids are home to celebrate and the steamy hot temperatures remind me to fill the table with cold salads, fresh fruit, grilled chicken, and icy beverages.
Happy Father’s Day to my sweet hubby, J. A wonderful father to our 3 children…

Fresh Broccoli Salad

For the salad: 6 cups broccoli florets
⅔ cup raisins
½ cup cooked and crumbled bacon
½ cup sunflower seeds
⅓ cup onion, diced finely 1 cup bow tie pasta, cooked, rinsed and cooled 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded thick


For the dressing:
¾ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
1 ½ Tablespoon vinegar
3 Tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper


In a large bowl, combine broccoli florets, raisins, bacon, sunflower seeds, onion, pasta, and shredded cheese. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper until well combined. Pour dressing over broccoli mixture and toss well. Keep refrigerated until serving.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Chicken, Dinner, Main Dish, Salad, salads, Uncategorized

Chili Lime Chicken Salad

There’s a wonderful Mexican restaurant that I often visit when I head down to Purdue University for a day on campus. This salad is meant to mimic the delicious chili lime salad that is offered on their daily menu. The flavors are amazing as the mixture of the sweet mango and the chili garlic sauce play with the acidity of the lime to combine for a burst of flavor. I often make this at home for a week night meal. While we enjoy this recipe, I sure wish I had the original … it’s just so good!

Chili Lime Chicken Salad

For the salad:

In a large bowl, mix together:
3-4 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1 large mango, diced
1 avocado, diced
3 green onions, chopped
1 cup English cucumber, diced
3 Roma tomatoes, diced and lightly salted

For the dressing:

Using an 8 ounce mason jar with a tight fitting lid. Add 1/3 cup light olive or canola oil and mix in the following items:

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 ½ teaspoons chili garlic sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Combine all dressing ingredients in the mason jar. Shake until completely combined; taste. If needed, add more of any ingredient to suit your tastebuds. Refrigerate before pouring over salad.

To add a bit of crunch, crush 1 cup of tortilla chips to sprinkle over the dressed salad. Serve cold.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, breakfast, Food, Toppings

Homemade Farmer Cheese

When my children were young, I used to watch all of the PBS cooking shows during their afternoon nap. I’d fold clothes, wash dishes, clean-up the toy rooms, or catch up on laundry while some of my favorite TV cooking personalities demonstrated current techniques along with new and unique recipes. When I saw a recipe that I wanted to try, I quickly jot down the main ingredients and search the library for similar recipes to combine and develop. One such recipe, Homemade Farmer Cheese…

I recently ran across this hand-written recipe in my recipe binder and decided to revisit the idea of making my own cheese. I had pots of beautiful fresh herbs that needed to be trimmed and used before the cold weather made its way to the Midwest. The result was a creamy, flavorful, spreadable mixture that beats the flavor of any store bought variety.

A word of caution… Don’t use ultra-pasteurized milk as it will not curdle as needed for this easy recipe. Also, use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the milk.

Homemade Farmer Cheese

1 gallon whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup lemon juice or vinegar

Pour the milk into a large pot, and stir in the salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the milk from scorching on the bottom of the pot.

When the milk begins to simmer and then reaches 190 degrees, turn off the heat. Stir lemon juice or vinegar into the milk. The acid will make the milk curdle. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Line a sieve or colander with a few layers of cheesecloth, and pour the milk through the cloth to catch the curds. The solid within the cheese cloth is the cheese (curd) and the liquid released from the mixture is the whey. Gather the cloth around the cheese, and squeeze out as much of the whey as you can. Tie up the cloth to form a cheese ball or disk, refrigerate in cheesecloth for several hours. Remove from cloth and wrap in plastic, or place in an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator.

Before serving, drizzle with good quality olive oil, sprinkle with course salt and fresh chopped herbs of your choice. I usually use basil, rosemary, and oregano. You can also use crushed red pepper flakes or chopped green onions. Serve on toasted Italian bread or hearty crackers.

For a sweeter flavor, drizzle with honey and serve with bagels, jam, and fruit.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, Baking, Pizza, Uncategorized

Spicy Garlic Chicken Pizza

I found this recipe many years ago as I sat in the dentist’s office waiting for my children to finish up with their annual checkup. When I read the ingredient list and noticed how simple the recipe appeared, I walked to the reception desk to see if I might be able to take the magazine home with me. This was an old edition and I thought they might let me have it. The receptionist was quick to agree as she said they just threw out a number of old magazines and this one must have been overlooked. Here is the original recipe as pictured in the magazine several years ago:

You can see that it’s been well used over the years… Sending along a thank you to Better Homes and Gardens and the contest winner, Kelly for a delicious weeknight recipe.

(I often add a teaspoon of fresh minced ginger to the recipe to add an Asian flair.)

Spicy Garlic Chicken Pizza

12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

½ cup sliced green onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking oil

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper or 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking oil

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 16 ounce (12-inch) Italian bread shell (Boboli)

½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

2 tablespoons pine nuts or sliced almonds

½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Cut chicken into 1/2-inch pieces. In a large bowl combine half of the green onion, the minced garlic, rice or white wine vinegar, soy sauce, the 1 tablespoon oil, the crushed or ground red pepper, and the black pepper. Add the chicken pieces; stir to coat. Cover and let stand 30 minutes at room temperature or for 1 hour in refrigerator. Drain, reserving marinade.

Heat remaining oil in a large skillet; add chicken pieces. Cook and stir about 3 minutes or until no longer pink. Stir cornstarch into reserved marinade. Add to skillet. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Spoon evenly atop bread shell. Sprinkle with Monterey Jack and mozzarella cheeses. Bake, uncovered, in a 400 degree F. oven for 12 minutes. Top with remaining green onion and nuts. Return to oven for 2 minutes more. Makes 6 main-dish servings.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, Uncategorized

No-Bake Snacking Crackers

While enjoying the 4th of July holiday with family, we took advantage of all of the festivities happening around town. Local vendors celebrated by keeping shops opened late on Friday evening while providing live music, street food and a festive atmosphere. I love supporting local vendors so we headed over to the town square to visit all of the unique boutiques, bakeries, and kitchen shops. One of the shop owners had a few taste testing stations and a selection of dry mixes that could be combined to make various snacks and dips. I purchased one of the packets but I felt I probably could make a similar mix on my own. So when I returned home, I scoured some of my cookbooks and settled on a recipe that I changed up to work with ingredients that I had on hand. Boy oh boy, these crackers didn’t last long! Everybody loved the mild spiced flavor. I’ll certainly be making these again!

No-Bake Ranch Snacking Crackers

1 – 1 ounce package ranch dressing mix

2⁄3 cup canola oil

1 tablespoon dried dill seed

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 (10 ounce) package oyster crackers OR 1 box Ritz crackers OR 2 boxes Premium Minis crackers

In a small bowl, combine ranch dressing mix, oil, dill and garlic powder. Mix well.

In a large air-tight container (Tupperware), pack crackers. Then, pour oil mixture over crackers and toss well until coated. Cover.

Flip mixture every 10-15 minutes for 2 hours. Store in the air-tight container.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Desserts, Food, Kids in the Kitchen

4 Ingredient Fruit Pops

As the temperatures rise and children return to outdoor play, this simple recipe provides a healthy dose of potassium, vitamin C, folate, and dietary fiber. Adding a few tablespoons of local honey makes for a sweet and nutritious summertime treat.

If your family is anything like mine, these fruity popsicles won’t last long in the freezer!

4 Ingredient Fruit Pops

1 ripe banana, peeled and sliced (frozen bananas work best)

12 strawberries, cleaned, trimmed, and halved

1/2 cup pineapple chunks

2 tablespoons honey

Combine fruit and honey in the food processor. Purée until smooth and creamy. Fill and cap popsicle molds. Freeze for four hours. Loosen popsicle molds by briefly running under warm water. Serve immediately.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, Baking, Chicken, Dinner, Food

Spicy Chicken Roll

On Sunday afternoons, I often set up my crock pot to cook several pounds of chicken to be used for various meals during the work week. I load up my slow cooker to let the chicken simmer away for 8 hours and then chop or shred the poultry for chicken salad, chicken lasagna, spicy buffalo chicken sandwiches, or to be used as a green salad ingredient. This is a complete time saver when trying to juggle a full work day and a lengthy commute, while working to get a decent meal on the table in a timely manner.

I usually serve this Spicy Chicken Roll with a fresh green salad. My children will often take a slice for their lunch bag, to be eaten cold or heated. The mild spicy flavor is a family favorite.

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 1/2 cups chicken breast, shredded

1/2 cup hot sauce. (I use Franks brand)

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 cans crescent rolls

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In small saucepan, mix cream cheese, hot sauce, chicken and shredded cheese. Heat on medium-low until combined and cheese has melted. Cool.

Unroll both cans of dough; separate into 16 triangles. On cookie sheet, arrange triangles in ring so short sides of triangles form a circle in center. Use a small oven- safe bowl to guide and maintain a circle. Dough will overlap. Dough ring should look like a sun.

Spoon cream cheese mixture on the half of each triangle closest to center of ring. Bring each dough triangle up over filling, tucking dough under bottom layer of dough to secure it. Repeat around ring until entire filling is enclosed.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until dough is golden brown and thoroughly baked. Cool 5 to 10 minutes before slicing into serving sized pieces.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Canning, Crock pot, Gifts, holiday, slow cooking, Toppings

Slow-Cooker Bacon and Onion Jam

Every year, I try to identify a unique recipe to give to friends and relatives for the gift-giving season. I’m always looking for a recipe that highlights the deep rich flavor of our own homemade maple syrup. This year was no different… I found a great, sweet and savory recipe that sautés delicious ingredients that are eventually added to the slow-cooker, then left to reduce for several hours. Mix this delicious jam with a bit of cream cheese and spread on hearty crackers. Or, warm the jam to top a protein like a chicken breast or a beef burger for an extra boost of flavor. The bacon, grilled onions, maple syrup, and coffee combined together in the slow-cooker add a depth of delicious flavor. This is so good!

You can find this exceptional recipe here:

https://www.marthastewart.com/326881/slow-cooker-bacon-jam

Slow Cooker Bacon and Onion Jam

Adapted from the above recipe…

1 ½ pounds sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces

2 medium yellow onions, diced small

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 heaping tablespoon pure maple syrup

3/4 cup brewed coffee

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet (reserve for another use); add onions and garlic, and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, and coffee and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet with a wooden spoon, about 2 minutes. Add bacon and stir to combine.

Transfer mixture to a 6-quart slow cooker and cook on high, uncovered, until liquid is syrupy, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Transfer to a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Let cool, then refrigerate in airtight containers, up to 4 weeks.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Canning, Food, Home Food Preservation

Garlic & Dill Refrigerator Pickles

This is one of our absolute favorite pickle recipes. I make them year round, using pickling cucumbers during the growing season and English cucumbers during the winter months. Recently, I started adding a mild spicy pepper to the jar for an added kick. When making pub burgers, potato salad, or a vegetable tray, these pickles are always a great accompaniment to the dish.

Garlic & Dill Refrigerator Pickles

Note: The ingredient amounts listed in this recipe are for a single one quart jar. Make as many quarts as you like by doubling or tripling ingredient amounts to fit your need.

3-5 pickling cucumbers or 1-2 English cucumbers per jar

1 mild flavored pepper, sliced

1 1/4 cups water

1 cup vinegar

1/4 teaspoon mustard seed

1/4 teaspoon whole allspice

1/4 teaspoon celery seed

1/4 teaspoon dill seed

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon whole cloves

1/4 teaspoon whole pepper corns

2 crushed fresh garlic cloves

Several small sprigs of fresh dill – to taste

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

Prepare jars by washing in warm soapy water. Also, wash rings and bands; let air dry.

In a medium saucepan combine water, vinegar, salt, and sugar. Heat on high, stirring until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Turn off heat; cool completely.

To prepare cucumbers; wash, trim ends, and slice to desired size. Crush garlic and add to jars with dried spices and fresh dill. Firmly pack cucumbers and pepper slices into jars, leaving about an inch of headspace.

Add cooled liquid to jars until the spaces surrounding the cucumbers are filled, leaving 1 inch head space. Place the jars in the refrigerator and let sit for 5 to 7 days; each day giving the jars a light shake to redistribute the spices. After 7 days, enjoy the crispy crunch of these delicious pickles. These will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Food, Home Food Preservation, Kids in the Kitchen, lunch box, Uncategorized

Strawberry Fruit Leather

  
When strawberries are in season, I usually try to make several batches of fruit leather for my family. Rolling strawberry fruit leather on wax paper strips makes for a delicious, nutritious, summer treat.  

On my daily drive home from work, I pass a local strawberry farm so I usually stop by to pick up a few buckets of fresh berries. There are lots of recipes for fruit leather, many encourage the addition of sugar and lemon juice. For me, I’d rather find the sweetest, freshest berries possible, pulse them in a blender, and pour them into trays to dehydrate. Simple and sweet, a pure delight. Here’s what I do…

Start with sweet fresh berries… Mine are freshly picked

  
Puree 6 cups of fruit and evenly pour onto fruit leather dehydrator sheets.

   
 Dry at 135 degrees for 4-8 hours. Using your finger, press to make a small indentation in the fruit leather. It should not be wet or sticky. It should be tacky. Check in a few areas around the fruit leather disk. Peel the disk off of the silicone sheet while still warm.  Lay on a sheet of waxed paper.

   
 
Using a scissors, cut into strips and roll up tightly. Store in a lidded container in a cool, dry place.

   
   
Make plenty because they disappear fast! 

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While I used 6 cups of strawberries, here are a few adapted recipes recommended by Nesco Dehydrators:
3 cups applesauce
3 cups strawberries

Or, try mixing:

2 cups applesauce
2 cups bananas
In a blender, puree all ingredients. Pour onto Solid Fruit Roll Sheets.

Place on dehydrator trays. Dry at 135º F for 4 to 8 hours, or until leathery. 

Remove from sheets while still warm. Let cool, slice and wrap.

Roll and store in dark, dry, cool place or in freezer.

  
Of course, It’s always fun to make a very berry smoothly with the leftover purée.