Kay Wheeler Moore

Welcome to my blog

Hello. . .

The Newfangled Country Gardener is for anyone who has a garden, would like to have a garden, or who simply enjoys eating the garden-fresh way. I don't claim to be an expert; in this blog I'm simply sharing some of the experiences my husband and I have in preparing food that is home-grown.

About the author

Kay Wheeler Moore is the author of a new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden, that features six generations of recipes that call for ingredients that are fresh from the garden. With home gardening surging in popularity as frugal people become more resourceful, this recipe collection and the stories that accompany it ideally will inspire others to cook the garden-fresh way and to preserve their own family food stories as well. The stories in this book center around the Three Red-Haired Miller Girls (Kay's mother and aunts) who grew up in Delta County, TX, with their own backyard garden so lavish that they felt as though they were royalty after their Mama wielded her kitchen magic on all that was homegrown. Introduced in Kay's previous book, Way Back in the Country, the lively Miller Girls again draw readers into their growing-up world, in which a stringent economic era--not unlike today's tight times--saw people turn to the earth to put food on the table for their loved ones. The rollicking yarns (all with recipes attached) have love, family, and faith as common denominators and show how food evocatively bonds us to our life experiences.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The benefits of backyard gardening all personified in one cereal bowl

No, I’m not being a blog slacker by posting for today’s entry a photo of my breakfast cereal.

I have plenty of good recipes yet to share with you. Even as recently as last night I was preparing from garden-fresh ingredients an amazing recipe—a concoction I can’t wait to feature in this spot.

But nothing communicates the joy of gardening as much as does this gorgeous assemblage shown in the photo at left. Two fresh just-from-the-tree peaches and two plump blackberries, straight in from the vine, symbolize the greatest aspect of walking right out my patio door and instantly bringing breakfast indoors. Absolutely nothing like it!

All the way home from our trip out West, Hubby and I speculated about what would be ready to pick after we had been away for a period of time. Would the birds already have had a feast with our peaches and left none for us to enjoy this year? Would the tomatoes already be beyond the pale? Would we be arriving too late and thus miss out on some goodies that peaked while we were away? We didn’t even discuss our new blackberry and blueberry vines that we had planted brand-new this year, because we figured we were at least a year away from enjoying any of their yield.

Yet even in under the cover of darkness that overlay our garden as we prowled around during our evening arrival we could see spots of blushing pink literally covering our closest and best peach tree. Picking a couple revealed a healthy crop that, if we got busy and hustled, hadn’t been discovered by birds yet. We brought in a handful of peaches and promised to bring in the rest on the morrow.

But wait! What was that on the blackberry vines on which we expected nothing? Several plump blackberries almost the size of walnuts already had burst forth—and we hadn’t thought this was their year. Wahoo! So the next morning—the cereal bowl shown above. Peaches and black-berries over my shredded wheat cereal with skim milk poured all around—I was like a proud parent. I savored that freshness all the way to the last cereal bite.

The experience was satisfaction personified—the perks that await those who wait . . . and those who garden. Count me as one happy newfangled gardener!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mango-cilantro salsa makes terrific topping for Grilled Chicken Tacos

Trying to clean out the refrigerator before the trip back home to Texas from visiting our son and his family in the West always is a challenge. I struggle to gauge our time that remains in our stay with what foods I can’t leave behind and need to use up before we travel. We have a “grandparent” house that we occupy during our regular visits. Deciding what foods will keep in the fridge throughout the next few months and what definitely is perishable always is a juggling act. The fresh mango and fresh cilantro absolutely were in the “perishable” category.

In my recipe folder was an entrée for Grilled Chicken Tacos, which I believe would make a fabulous Memorial Day dinner menu item, if you still don’t have yours picked out yet for today. The chopped mango and cilantro, added to a container of already prepared salsa and chipotle hot sauce, provided a wonderful, tangy topping for the grilled chicken tenders that were encased by the flour tortillas. Toppings were Mexican cheese, shredded spinach, fat-free sour cream, and avocado.

You’ll never sample a more healthy or more unusual taco stuffing than this one from the pages of a recent Southern Living magazine. This recipe made just enough for a couple of meals before we packed up to say goodbye to loved ones and headed home.

The whole process of preparing, cooking, and assembling occurs lightning-quick (we served with some fresh corn on the cob), so print this one off and head to the grocery right now! You still have time to let Grilled Chicken Tacos make you a super-star for your Memorial Day evening get-together!

Grilled Chicken Tacos

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
4 teaspoons salt-free chicken grilling seasoning (I used Mrs. Dash brand)
1 1/2 pounds chicken breast tenders
1 (8-ounce) container fresh salsa (your favorite brand)
1 large mango, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons chipotle hot sauce
6 (6-inch) fajita-size flour tortillas, warmed
toppings: shredded Mexican cheese, shredded spinach, chopped avocado, fat-free sour cream

Preheat grill to 300- to 350-degrees (medium) heat. In a zip-top plastic freezer bag combine first three ingredients. Add chicken and turn to coat. Seal and chill for 10 minutes; turn once. Meanwhile combine salsa and next three ingredients. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Grill chicken, covered with grill lid, for 6 minutes on each side or until done. Serve in flour tortillas with mango salsa and toppings. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Always on the hunt for creative ways to prepare carrots—found one!

Imaginative, quick ways to prepare that healthy but prosaic side dish—the carrot: I’m always on the lookout for them. As I’ve blogged about before, I’ve had a passion for carrots ever since I was a wee sprout propped up on seat cushions to dine at Dallas’ Wyatts Cafeteria on its legendary carrot-raisin-pineapple salad. 

Everyone knows the nutritive benefits of this bunny food—beta carotene, which benefits the eyes; helps for diminished risk of heart disease; boosts to healthy skin, hair, and bones; great source of fiber, to name just a few plusses.

In other words, if your mother said eat them and you did everything possible to avoid her counsel, you were WRONG. We grow too soon old and too late smart.

But how to add diversity to the orange veggie? The Chickasaw Nutrition Services, ever on a quest to help people dine more healthfully, gave me a recipe card for Balsamic Roasted Carrots. I love the simplicity of the plan: roast some sticks of quartered carrots in the oven; toss the carrots in an olive oil-and-balsamic vinegar mix before roasting. Roasting about 15 minutes in the oven leaves the carrots cooked to a slightly crunchy/tender but not overly mushy stage.

Actually, these tasted as good chilled as they did warm. I can imagine making these in advance of a picnic and refrigerating them to serve as you would a marinated carrot salad alongside chicken nuggets. See, I’ve returned to my roots: carrot salad—the food that got this whole carrot thing started for me in the first place!

Balsamic Roasted Carrots

8 carrots, medium, peeled, cut in half and then quartered lengthwise (3 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cover a roasting pan with foil. In a bowl combine all the ingredients; toss to coat. Place coated carrots in the pan and roast for about 15 minutes. Toss occasionally until caramelized and slightly tender. Makes 4 1/2-cup servings.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A-A-A-A, what begins with A? Asparagus-Avocado Soup saves a hot-weather day

Ah, asparagus! The vegetable of the month in Prevention magazine—and me with a goodly handful of asparagus recipes to try. So look forward to even more green (besides what’s posted from earlier this week) in this and future blog postings.

Prevention touts asparagus as supplying insulin, a special fiber that helps the “good” bacteria in the digestive tract. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits and is considered to be one of the world’s healthiest foods. Prevention featured seven quick recipes to showcase this wonder veggie; I chose recipe #7 (the perfect number) to prepare—Asparagus-Avocado Soup, because it called for two of my faves and sounded as though it would be a wonderful combination.

Into the food processor went 8 ounces of cooked asparagus and a chopped avocado, along with cold water, fat-free sour cream, fresh lime juice, and chopped cilantro. The resulting soup had the texture of gazpacho, but the addition of asparagus made the dish a little more mellow than that cold soup.

 Served with a scoop of fat-free sour cream and a sprinkling of cilantro on top, it was a delicious hot-weather lunch treat with a few chips on the side for munching.

Asparagus-Avocado Soup

8 ounces asparagus
1 chopped avocado
1 1/4 cups cold water
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Cook asparagus. Add to blender with chopped avocado, cold water, sour cream, chopped cilantro, and lime juice. Puree until smooth. Season to taste. Ladle into 4 bowls and top each with 1 tablespoon sour cream and a few sprinkles of chopped cilantro. Makes 3 1/4 cups.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

First a chicken bit, then a . . . what? Do grapes belong on kebobs? Yes!

“Why don’t we ever grill outdoors?” has been Hubby’s complaint for a long time now. Seems as though grilling items end up being cooked atop the countertop grill—or we simply choose some other grill-less entree. Finally a food item that intrigued me required him to shake off the dusty cover of the patio grill and fire that baby up.

The recipe called for the combination of skewered grapes and chicken bits. I’ve grilled many combos that have seen many veggies as well as fruit slices lined up in rows alongside chicken on skewers—but never grapes. Plus this called for a flavorful overnight marinade—lemon and garlic mixed with other spices. The recipe, from “Celebrating a Healthy Harvest”, specified large green grapes. My produce section had only the smaller ones; I believe this would have been more tasty with the substantial, large grapes—I also am not sure why green grapes were specified, since I think red one would be terrific as well.

Nevertheless the outcome of this recipe was wonderful. Marinated overnight the skewered items had time to absorb the citrusy-garlicky flavor of the marinade. Best of all Hubby’s grilling itch was scratched for the moment, although the experience prompted both of us to ask ourselves why we didn’t do this more often.

Well, we’re off and running now. After all (approaching summertime) and outdoor grilling go hand-in-glove like . . . well, like grapes and chicken bits.

Grape and Chicken Kebobs

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 3/4 cups large seedless green grapes
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 tablespoons reduced sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
freshly ground black pepper

In a resealable bag or container mix marinade ingredients. Slice chicken into 3/4-inch chunks. Add chicken and grapes to marinade; refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours or overnight. Preheat a grill to medium-hot (375-degrees). Soak 8 eight-inch bamboo skewers in water for 15-20 minutes. Alternate chicken pieces and grapes onto skewers. Start with a chicken bit and end with a grape on each skewer. Grill the kebobs until the chicken is cooked through; turn them every 2 minutes. Makes 8 pieces, 4 servings.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cabbage, Leeks, Limas, Lemons? A star is born with this winning, fresh combination

Not easy being green? At least EATING green is easy when you help yourself to this recipe for Cabbage with Lemons and Limas (and Leeks, too). This suggestion sprang from our hometown newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, in its food feature section, which recommended to readers, “Paint your plate with produce.” 

Cabbage, the star of this dish, is high in vitamins A, K, and C, and is rich in fiber and folate. Cabbage has calcium for sturdy bones, antioxidants to keep cancer away, and even contains protein. Best of all, one cup of cooked cabbage contains only 33 calories. Who can argue with that? 

Combining the green all-stars of cabbage, limas, and leeks (I used the leeks in place of onions in a recipe because I had some leeks on hand) was most unusual; adding the lemons for seasoning was a good idea (remember that I’m still rich in fresh lemons from my visit to the West). Since lemons are bright with acidity, they bring up the good flavor of the cabbage and banish the “cabbage-gone-bad” taste and aroma. In other words the lemony-fresh aroma is all you smell when this dish is cooking.

I like the touch of grated Parmesan on top—makes it seem like more of a veggie casserole in its little casserole dish. Best of all was the addition of the sprig of fresh thyme.

Anyone who thinks cabbage is flavorless will have another thought after digging into this tasty, easy-to-prepare menu item. We loved it and were sorry to see the last bite disappear from our serving bowl.

Cabbage with Lemons and Limas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion sliced fine (I substituted 2 leeks, sliced fine)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups cabbage, shredded or thinly chopped
juice of 2 lemons
2 cups cooked large limas, well-drained
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (roughly 1 sprig)
salt substitute and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan for garnish

In a large stock pot heat oil over medium-high heat. Add sliced onion and minced garlic. Stir to coat vegetables in oil; cook for about 3 minutes until garlic and onion just soften. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes to let vegetables carmelize. Raise heat to medium. Add shredded cabbage and lemon juice. Toss gently; allow cabbage to wilt. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes or until cabbage is tender. Add limas, zest, and thyme, Stir and heat about 5 minutes. Season with salt substitute and pepper; serve with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan. Makes 6 servings.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Little bites of carrot-cake heaven in this "lighten-up" recipe

I adore carrot cake but know the gooey cream-cheese frosting that’s part-and-parcel of it somewhat defeats the purpose of all the carrots’ nutritional value. I loved the fact that in its “Lighten Up” feature recently Southern Living produced a lighter version of a traditional carrot cake recipe; this included a frosting utilizing the 1/3-less-fat (such as Neufchatel) cream cheese. But it still seemed too much. Besides, who needs a whole cake sitting around as a temptation? 

This same magazine feature also offered this option: carrot cake muffins—identical recipe but in a muffin format that included the addition of pecans (and golden raisins, too, which I opted out of). Muffins could be enjoyed and then frozen and reheated for later dining. The recipe called for three cups of grated carrots and an 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple, drained.

I wondered whether the muffins without the frosting would be stand-alone good or a little bland. I shouldn’t have been concerned. The muffins were majorly moist and sweet and were like dining on mini-carrot cakes. By themselves they made a great Sunday-morning breakfast or as an add-on to my usual breakfast cereal. 

Southern Living tub-thumped its recipe with the headline, “You can thank us later, when your mouth isn’t full.” Via the Internet I can tippy-type my thanks even with my mouth full, which it indeed was this weekend as I enjoyed these bites of carrot heaven.

Carrot Cake Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar (I used sugar substitute)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1 (8-ounce can) crushed pineapple in juice, drained
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs (or egg substitute)
2 egg whites (or egg-white substitute)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place about 15 paper baking cups in muffin pans; coat baking cups with cooking spray. In a large bowl combine first 5 ingredients; in the center of mixture make a well. Whisk together pineapple and next 4 ingredients; add pineapple mixture to flour mixture. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in carrots and pecans. Spoon batter into baking cups. Fill cups about 2/3 full. Bake as directed. Cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes about 15 muffins.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fresh-squeezed lemon continues to wow in this Spicy Salmon with Corn Relish

The recipe for Chunky Guacamole and Serrano Peppers from two days ago’s blog had used the first of my giant lemons from our son’s back yard, but I still had plenty of the giant yellow orbs left over. I had become a nut-case about how just-off-the-tree lemons inspired a dish. I mean, nothing like walking out to one’s own (or a relative’s own) citrus grove, plucking the larger-than-life fruit, squeezing some juice into a bowl, and creating something delicious.

From the Chickasaw Nutrition Services I had a recipe card for Spicy Salmon with Corn Relish. I still had some salmon steaks left over from the earlier guacamole dish—and had some fresh corn from a previous grocery run. Spicy Salmon with Corn Relish sounded as though it would be a dinner entrée that was meant to be!

To prepare the salmon steaks I squeezed the fresh lemon over the salmon and sprinkled some salt-free lemon-pepper seasoning atop it (I used Mrs. Dash). Although the recipe said to roast the steaks for 10-12 minutes, I actually roasted the 1-inch-thick steaks for about 10 minutes a side to insure doneness. (As they cooked I periodically squeezed more lemon on them to keep them from drying out.)
The relish involved assembling a potpourri of fresh items—minced red onion, a red Bell pepper cut into 1/2-inch pieces, a cup of fresh corn cut off the cob, 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley, and 2 tablespoons of the fresh-squeezed lemon juice, along with honey and black and red pepper for seasoning. I served the relish atop the salmon—just as a few nights ago I had topped the fish with Chunky Guacamole and Serrano Peppers. 

The fresh lemons had done it again! What a delicious dish this turned out to be—with some relish left over (although the salmon’s gone) for today’s lunch.

Spicy Salmon with Corn Relish
4 (4-ounce each) salmon steaks
salt-free lemon-pepper seasoning (I used Mrs. Dash)
1/4 cup minced red onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red Bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup fresh corn cut from the cob
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper
1/4 cup fresh minced parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Sprinkle salmon steaks with salt-free seasoning. Place steaks on foil-lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Roast steaks in oven for 10-12 minutes (or longer depending on thickness of steak. Steaks can be turned with seasoning sprinkled on both sides). While salmon is cooking, saute´ onions in oil over medium-high heat. Add peppers; cook 1 minute. Add corn; turn heat to medium. Cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add juice, honey, black pepper, red pepper, and parsley. Mix well. Serve relish atop salmon. Makes 4 servings.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Healthy Tex-Mex appetizer as close as one’s stovetop

Some days a body would almost walk as many miles as necessary to eat a few bites of of Tex-Mex cuisine.

Fortunately when that occurs today, the nearest Mexican-food eatery often is as close as one’s neighborhood street corner. But such was not always the case, especially outside the “Tex-Mex Belt” (the Lone Star State and environs). In the late 1960s when Hubby and I lived in Louisville, KY, for him to attend graduate school, our desperate hunt for enchiladas and tacos and guacamole yielded sad results. The city was without Hispanic cuisine. That’s how I learned to make my favorite guacamole and Mexican-fried rice and homemade enchiladas—totally in self-defense. We knew we couldn’t live without our regular Tex-Mex fix, so we invented our own until such time as Mexican-food eateries spread eastward.

Today those almost-manic cravings for dining on Tex-Mex still seize me. I still cook my standby favorites as well as add new ones to the collection. The one featured in today’s blog arrived a few months back in my mail in the form of a Kroger grocery-store flyer, often the source of some terrific recipes. Cheese, Mushroom, and Corn Quesadillas are easy and diverse. Originally featured to inspire pre-Super Bowl 2011 food preparation, this recipe is versatile for any occasion and, as in our case, was served as a meal and not just as an appetizer. 

The combination of fresh mushrooms and fresh corn topped with cheese made an extraordinary flavor and a very healthy dish.

Today local Tex-Mex offerings exist from sea to shining sea and even in foreign countries (Hubby and I got the shock of our lives when we encountered some of the world’s best Tex-Mex in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in West Africa. Really. The Lebanese owner of the restaurant had married a Texas gal, who had to have her Mexican cuisine even on the Dark Continent. This place probably served the best salsa I’ve ever experienced.) They can also exist from one’s own stovetop, thanks to the likes of Cheese, Mushroom, and Corn Quesadillas.  

Cheese, Corn, and Mushroom Quesadillas

3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup fresh corn kernels, cooked
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon each salt (or salt substitute) and pepper
8 (7-inch) flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups Mexican-blend cheese

In skillet over medium heat melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add onion; cook for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, corn, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook 5 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Melt remaining butter; brush one side of each of 4 tortillas. Arrange tortillas, buttered-side down, on baking sheet; top with 1 cup cheese, mushroom mixture, and remaining tortillas. Brush tops with butter. Bake at 450 degrees for 6 minutes. Top with remaining cheese; bake 1 minute or until cheese is melted. Top with salsa. Served as an appetizer, serves 8 to 10.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Unique guacamole recipe relies on lemons, serrano peppers, chunky avocado

On arriving in the West at the home of our son, we were escorted to his backyard citrus grove and invited to pick from the trees. Lemons practically the size of basketballs spilled from our arms as we plucked the fruit and toted them away. I’ve never hacked into a single lemon and procured enough juice from one to make an entire container of lemonade, but such were the properties of these monster yellow orbs. Texas isn’t the only state in which things grow king-sized.

To find usages for these whopper lemons I pulled out a recipe from a recent Prevention magazine. It featured cooking ideas from actress Eva Longoria. Her pet recipe for Chunky Guacamole with Serrano Peppers called for lemon juice instead of the traditional lime juice for guacamole. To create the 1/2 cup of lemon juice for this guacamole dish I was amply supplied.

Native Texan Longoria was quoted as saying that avocados left chunky instead of mashing them up smooth makes a better salad and that serrano peppers give it a greater kick than the usual jalapenos do. No mayonnaise or sour cream are added, as sometimes occurs with guacamole. The flavors of the avocados, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, serrano pepper, and lemon juice stand on their own.

A tip: leaving one peeled avocado pit pressed into the center of the salad mixture prevents the guacamole from turning brown. I tried this; it really works! The next morning after having been left overnight in the fridge the avocado chunks still were bright green.

This lemon-spiked treat is wonderful with tortilla chips as an appetizer or as a garnish on top of a steak or (as we used it) atop grilled salmon.

Chunky Guacamole with Serrano Peppers

6 avocados, roughly chopped
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 large white onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt (or salt substitute)
1 cup chopped cilantro (from 1 bunch)
1 serrano chile pepper, finely chopped
enough juice squeezed from fresh lemons to make 1/2 cup

Into a large bowl put avocados, tomatoes, onion, salt, cilantro, pepper, and lemon juice. Stir gently until ingredients are well combined. Makes 8 cups.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fresh mango, warm bacon dressing gives this salad its Southern sizzle

I just can’t seem to put down that page of recipes that featured “God’s Bookmark”—the nickname that in its recent Bacon Boot Camp feature Southern Living applied to bacon. I’d already prepared Cantaloupe Bacon Relish for Easter 2011 lunch and BLT Benedict with Avocado-Tomato Relish for Hubby's Birthday Brunch. But now another recipe in the collection beckoned: Mango-Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette. How good that sounded! Just had to try it.

I don’t think I ever had eaten a mango-and- spinach combo before, but the mix of fruit and spinach seems to be a resilient pairing (spinach/strawberry and spinach/orange salads are popular). The dressing of lime juice, honey, and red-wine vinegar combined with drippings from the bacon and the sautéed red onion was a charmer. The sprinkling of Mexican cheese made a perfect topping. The Southern Living recipe suggested that this would be a great partner for grilled fish and fresh, crusty bread. Hubby and I dined on it solo as a main-dish dinner salad (along with a few bites of warmed-up pasta left over from a lunch out.)

This is a very special salad that will get sent to my idea-list for my next bring-a-dish to attend. I can’t imagine guests not going nuts over it. Now the question is: will I prepare the final recipe on the “Southern Sizzle” page: Springtime Pasta with Bacon? Time will tell.

Mango-Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

4 thick bacon slices, diced (I used turkey bacon)
1/2 medium-sized red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 (9-ounce) package fresh spinach
1 mango, peeled and diced
1/3 cup shredded Mexican-blend cheese
salt (or salt substitute) and pepper to taste

In a skillet cook bacon over medium-high heat 6 to 8 minutes or until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels. Reserve 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet. Sauté onion in hot drippings for 2 to 3 minutes or until onion is soft. To the skillet add vinegar, lime juice, and honey; cook 2 minutes. Stir to loosen particles from bottom of skillet; stir them into the dressing. Place spinach in a serving bowl. Add warm vinaigrette and toss to coat. Top with mango, cheese, and bacon; season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately while dressing is warm. Makes about 2 1/2 cups salad.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Creating a delicious side couldn’t get more simple than this

Recently when I made that odd but amazing Brussels Sprouts Salad, I had about half a package of the fresh sprouts left over. Across the page from the salad recipe was a recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts. I was tempted but thought Yawn! How prosaic! Since the recipe was from my “Celebrating a Healthy Harvest” booklet, however, it was worth a gamble. I haven’t yet encountered any losers from that source.

Once again I’m not sure how the magic happened, but the results were terrific. Oven-roasting the Brussels sprouts under a canopy of aluminum foil made the sometimes-tough little vegetable tender and edible with a fork (no knife needed). The mixture of oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and water that formed under the sprouts while they roasted made an amazing sauce—just enough to brown the Brussels sprouts and provide a flavorful glaze for them. A great side dish was born!

I present this recipe in my blog on this date in honor of my dad because I never will serve these without thinking of his description of them—“scared cabbages”. Brussels Sprouts’ appearance as miniature cabbages fascinated him. Daddy patiently endured through many of my apprentice meals when I was in high-school home economics classes—a serving of “scared cabbages” being among them. Today marks the 18th anniversary of his passing. Wish he were here to sample this new and delightful twist on this dish that often was the object of his good-natured jest!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup water

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Combine garlic, oil, salt, and pepper. Pour over sprouts and toss. Place this mixture in a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan; spread sprouts into one layer. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for 12 minutes; then stir. Roast for another 12 minutes or until sprouts are tender when you test them with a fork. Pour water into pan to loosen the flavors; stir. Pour Brussels sprouts and sauce into serving dish. Makes 4 servings.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Bucket (or Birthday) List includes old-fashioned favorite with healthy veggies inside

If Hubby had a Last Meal plugged into his bucket list, it would, of course, be Chicken Pot Pie. So in planning what dish would be a fitting finale to his birthday “season” which concluded this week with, finally, the Big Day, the choice was a no-brainer—Chicken Pot Pie, except this time I went for the gold. Southern Living recently featured a pot-pie recipe that was to be cooked “Mama’s Way”—usually this means from scratch as opposed to “Your Way”, which might contain convenience foods and other time-savers to prepare the recipe. Mama’s Way was a little time-consuming but worth it.

It involved making a two-crust pie crust recipe (my standby, “Easy Pie Crust” from my Way Back in the Country cookbook). With this ready I prepared the stuffing: leeks sauted in butter and then removed, with flour and broth added to the base to make a creamy sauce. Into the sauce went matchstick carrots, the sautéed leeks, shredded chicken, fresh parsley, and frozen cubed hash browns with onions and peppers. Once the top pastry crust was added and edges sealed and fluted, a wash of egg and water was brushed on the top to ensure good browning. Headed into the oven the pot pie looked as though it had the potential for being awesome, but time (almost a full hour of baking, actually) would tell.

All I can say is, Hubby was one happy camper when the entree for his Birthday Supper was brought forth and set in front of him. He’d never had a Chicken-Pot Pie that called for leeks and fresh parsley; he believed that these definitely made the difference in creating a tasty pie.

Hubby was ready to turn 65 all over again just so he could have this dish. Dynamite!

Double-Crust Chicken Pot Pie

1/2 cup butter
2 medium leeks, sliced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 (14.5-ounce) can reduced-sodium chicken broth (or homemade broth)
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 1/2 cups frozen cubed hash browns with onions and peppers
1 cup matchstick carrots
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
ingredients for 1 (2-crust) pie recipe
1 large egg (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet over medium heat melt butter; add leeks, and sauté 3 minutes. Sprinkle with flour; cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Whisk in chicken broth; bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Remove from heat; stir in chicken and next 5 ingredients. Roll out pie crust; fit 1 crust into a 9-inch deep dish pie plate; spoon chicken mixture into pastry. Place remaining pastry sheet over filling in opposite direction of bottom sheet; fold edges under, and press with tines of a fork to seal. Whisk together egg (or egg substitute) and water; brush over top of pie. Bake at 375 degrees on lower oven rack for 55 to 60 minutes or until browned. Let stand 15 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Amazing brunch dish combines two classic favorites

What a combination of two favorites—BLT and Eggs Benedict! Southern Living magazine seemed really to have scored a coup when it featured a recipe that combined the classic flavors of a bacon/lettuce/tomato sandwich with the New Orleans-popularized egg dish.

Now if I could just pull off this creation to help make Hubby’s birthday celebration (which officially ended yesterday, to his relief. I mean, how many times does one want to be reminded about turning 65? I think he’s saving up his arsenal for me now when I roll over that grand age—many years hence, of course) memorable.

We started off the day with our promised run both ways across the Two-Mile Bridge over Lake Ray Hubbard (four miles total). Then, back home, I thought the BLT Benedict with Avocado-Tomato Relish sounded great for birthday brunch. For the base of this concoction I used some thick slices of homemade wheat bread that I toasted and spread with mayo on top. Over that went a layer of spinach (subbing for lettuce) and a layer of crisp bacon (turkey bacon for us). The next layer was to be the poached egg.

Now, that created an interesting dilemma. For health’s sake we’ve almost totally switched to using egg substitute when egg is called for. In fact I'm not sure I remember the last time I purchased a dozen actual eggs at the grocery—may have been several years at least. But for this recipe only a poached egg—the real thing—would do, so six actual eggs were poached in a little red-wine vinegar/water mixture and flopped atop the spinach and bacon layer on the bread.

Now for the crowning glory—the avocado-tomato relish, to which I added a smattering of orange bell peppers I had left over from a previous meal. Diced avocados and tomatoes had been marinating in a dressing of basil, garlic, olive oil, and red-wine vinegar. This was a divine, flavorful topping. This whole process was quick and easy to throw together. The Southern Living recipe says sunny-side up or sliced boiled eggs would work just as well for this dish, which could be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner as well as for brunch.

This little treat certainly wasn’t something we’d feast on every day, but then a 65th birthday isn’t an everyday kind of day—a perfect time for God’s bookmark (that popular term for bacon in the South).

BLT Benedict with Avocado-Tomato Relish

1 cup diced Roma tomatoes
1 avocado, diced
1/2 orange Bell pepper, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt (or salt substitute) to taste
pepper to taste
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar, divided
6 large eggs
1/4 cup lite mayonnaise
6 (3/4-inch-thick) bakery bread slices, toasted
3 cups fresh spinach leaves
12 bacon slices, cooked (I used turkey bacon)

In a small bowl combine tomatoes and next six ingredients and 2 1/2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar. In a large saucepan or skillet add water to depth of 3 inches. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and maintain at a light simmer. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon red-wine vinegar. Break eggs and slip them into water, one at a time, as close as possible to the surface of the water. Simmer 3 to 5 minutes or to desired degree of doneness. Use a slotted spoon to remove. Spread mayonnaise on one side of each bread slice. Layer each slice with 1/2 cup spinach, 2 bacon slices, and 1 egg. Top with tomato relish mixture. Makes 6 servings.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

With every bite Pickled Okra and Shrimp Salad with Gouda Grits says "Southern"

For the next round of Hubby’s birthday “season” (we’ve finally arrived at THE day, by the way. Happy Birthday today, sweet Hubby), I wanted to make something distinctly Southern.

Besides his being a card-carrying (literally. His card hangs framed on our wall.) citizen of the Chickasaw Nation through his paternal heritage, Hubby has roots in the Deep South. His maternal forebears evacuated Georgia after Sherman’s destructive march to the sea at the end of the Civil War. (Think all those carriages stampeding away from burning Atlanta in Gone with the Wind.)

So for this Southern gentleman, who’s 65-years young today, I borrowed from the pages of Southern Living magazine and prepared Pickled Okra and Shrimp Salad, which I served alongside Gouda Grits (mentioned in an earlier blog). Now if okra, shrimp, and grits don’t bespeak of the South, I don’t know what does. Pickled okra, by the way, will be something fun to make from our okra crop once it materializes in the garden; for now I used a jar from the condiment shelves at the grocery store.

The recipe combines red onion, sliced pickled okra, pimiento, and shrimp that has been boiled in a purchased, packaged boil. Tossed with a mixture of mayonnaise, lime juice, and lime zest, the salad is chilled for a few hours before serving. The recipe suggests accompanying this with sliced avocado, which I did as a presentation for the above photo before I dished up the warmed Gouda Grits as an accompaniment.

If I were making this dish over, I would have chosen a less spicy shrimp-and-crab boil for the shrimp. The package I inadvertently picked would have raised the hair on a dog (speaking of Southern sayings). Spicy, spicy—so you tended to get overwhelmed by the seasoning on the shrimp and lose the flavor of this unique salad mixture.

Southern Living touted this dish in its “What’s for Supper? Quick-Fix Meals” section. I agree with the tout: it was quick to prepare and most unusual. After Hubby paused from putting the fire out (spicy shrimp!) long enough to speak, he extolled the dish. I wanted to make sure this would be a birthday he’d not be forgetting for a long time; even with advancing age (just had to get my 65-rib in somewhere). I feel certain he’ll be remembering this one.

Pickled Okra and Shrimp Salad

1 (3-ounce) package boil-in-bag shrimp-and-crab boil
1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined, medium-size raw shrimp (31/40 count)
1/2 cup sliced sweet-hot pickled okra
1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimiento, drained
1/3 cup lite mayonnaise
3 tablespoons minced red onion
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
3 large avocados, sliced

Bring 8 cups water to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan; add crab boil and cook 5 minutes. Add shrimp; cover, remove from heat, and let stand 10 minutes or just until shrimp turns pink. Drain and cool 10 minutes. Meanwhile combine pickled okra, diced pimiento, and next 6 ingredients. Add shrimp; chill and serve with avocado slices. Makes 6 servings.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bell pepper for Unstuffed Pepper Bake goes in and not around the healthy insides

We’ve spent so many of our gardening years exulting in the arrival of our green Bell peppers so we can make stuffed peppers, I never thought of exulting in the lack of them.

Yet in this interim between the time we’ve run out of the chopped, frozen ones that we put away last fall and the time we’re waiting for the summer crop to arrive, I found a dandy recipe that capitalizes on the (made-healthy) stuffing and makes the green part nonessential.

Thanks to the periodic Kroger grocery circular for being the source for this delightful meal. After browning ground beef (we substitute ground turkey, of course) and onion, the recipe adds 1 1/2 cups diced yellow and red Bell peppers, so Bell peppers actually are stirred into the recipe rather than being the outside container for the stuffing.

Tomatoes, instant white or brown rice, seasonings, and cheddar cheese are added; the mixture is spread into a 13-inch-by-9-inch baking dish, to be topped with tomato sauce and the remaining cheese. Cooking time in the oven is only 20 minutes (compared to one hour with traditional stuffed peppers); the mixture stands 5 minutes before serving.

Instead of piling everything into the large 13-by-9 glass dish, I divided mine into a 11-inch-by-7-inch pan and then a small casserole, so I could save the small portion for a later dinner. The Kroger circular billed this dish as kid-friendly and a good way for parents to sneak bunches of healthy peppers past the unsuspecting. The grownup kid at my house (about to celebrate his 65, remember?) was pretty fond of it, too.

Unstuffed Pepper Bake

1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey)
1/3 cup chopped onions
1 1/2 cups diced red and yellow Bell peppers (about 1 1/2 peppers)
2 garlic cloves, minced, or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes (no-salt-added), drained
1 1/2 cups instant white or brown rice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 (8-ounce) package shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sauté ground turkey, onions, peppers, and garlic for 10 minutes or until beef is browned and vegetables are tender. Drain off excess fat and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the tomatoes, rice, Worcestershire sauce, and Italian seasoning. Remove from heat; stir in 1 cup cheese. Spread mixture evenly into prepared 13-inch-by-9-inch baking dish; top with tomato sauce and remaining cheese. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes until dish is heated through and cheese is melted and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator. Serves 4-6.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Clever Brussels Sprout Salad akin to coleslaw but with crunchy nuts topping it

Next item on the Hubby Whirlwind Birthday “Season” of recipes: Brussels Sprout Salad. Earlier I mentioned that instead of tossing a giant party with a big cake and lots of eats, we were spreading out the joy for his milestone birthday, which actually is on the calendar this week. An earlier blog mentioned the Maple-Roasted Pineapple, which kicked off his season of birthday treats.

This next one I knew he’d like because it originated with the Chickasaw Nutrition Services—and he is a Chickasaw through and through (and a very proud one after The Dallas Morning News on Sunday ran a front-page story on the tribe’s development, particularly in the area of health services).

As usual, when I prepare recipes from this source, I couldn’t imagine exactly how things were going to turn out, although I had high hopes. I’m not sure I ever had eaten Brussels Sprouts in any other way except boiled and warm. This recipe called for the Brussels Sprouts (or “scared cabbage”, as my dad used to joke and call them) to be sliced thin and served uncooked.

Ultimately the outcome resembled something akin to coleslaw. The Brussels Sprouts tossed with fresh parsley and sunflower seeds was a delicious combination, especially with the oil/vinegar/honey dressing over it. I served this with another planned treat, Gouda Grits, which originated with a recipe from Southern Living magazine. Hubby said to fix again even after the birthday observance is history—a good sign it was a fitting choice.

Brussels Sprout Salad

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 garlic cloves, skinned and crushed
1 tablespoon honey
salt (or salt substitute) and pepper to taste
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1/3 cup shelled sunflower seeds

Put the oil, vinegar, garlic, and honey in a bowl; whisk mixture until smooth. Put the spouts and parsley in a large bowl; add the dressing and half of the sunflower seeds. Mix well. Sprinkle the remaining sunflower seeds over the top of the salad. Serve. Makes 4 servings

Friday, May 6, 2011

Graham-cracker topped pineapple rings a healthy treat for birthday “season”

We are in the midst of what I have termed Hubby’s birthday “season”. Instead of one giant, bombastic party or activity planned to help him celebrate his “Welcome to Medicare” birthday next week, he preferred a “season” of small events to help underscore this milestone day.

Already we’ve held the first one—a visit to see members of his family in Oklahoma and a joint lunch in which his sister’s grandkids and one-third of our grandkid contingent could get together for a viewing (some new babies in the midst). That was a fun time.

Now I’ve begun another part of the series—preparing certain foods and treats that would be special to him and help commemorate his eligibility for all the over-65 discounts that fall to one of his advanced age. Hubby hasn’t been at such an ideal weight or so physically fit since he was in college, so for him, turning 65 is just another day on the calendar, but I did want to plan some key surprises for this auspicious “season”.

One of those recipes is the dessert that’s pictured—Maple-Roasted Pineapple, borrowed from the March 2011 Prevention magazine that featured pineapple as its superfood, since pineapple is at peak availability from March through June. This made a dandy dessert, with slices of fresh pineapple dredged in low-fat graham cracker crumbs and drizzled with sugar-free maple syrup and then roasted in the oven for 15 minutes or until brown. Served with sugar-free ice cream (in Texas, that’s always Blue Bell) this is an absolutely fabulous way to pack in some vitamin C and manganese (a trace mineral that promotes bone health).

You can serve it either with the center ring cut out or left in. After roasting and then broiling briefly, as the recipe specifies, the center portion was tender in some pieces and still tough in others, so if you leave it in, it might need to be cut around as you eat. Instead of being stuck with a sicky-sweet birthday cake that lingers around for days (and lingers around the waistline a lot longer), Hubby felt a guilt-free festive after dining. Even better, he had some leftover (unroasted) pineapple rings to use for his smoothies.

Maple-Roasted Pineapple

8 thick slices of fresh pineapple
1/4 cup sugar-free maple syrup
1/4 cup low-fat graham cracker crumbs
1 pint sugar-free vanilla ice cream

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Put pineapple on pan, drizzle with syrup, sprinkle with crumbs, and coat with cooking spray. Roast 15 minutes or until brown and remove from oven. Turn on broiler, brush pineapple with any dripped-off syrup, and place under broiler about 5-inches from heat. Cook until charred in spots, about 2 to 5 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream. Serves 4.

* * * * * *

And now a brief clarification about yesterday’s featured recipe, Japanese Pasta Salad. A thoughtful reader helped raise my awareness that rice, the key element in the salad, doesn’t actually fall into the pasta category and is considered a grain. However, my original recipe from the Chickasaw Nutrition Services actually suggested macaroni instead of the rice, so the pasta title technically would be correct if the dish were made with macaroni (or bow-tie pasta, which also would be good). So let’s just say that if you choose the rice route, tell folks you’re serving Japanese Rice Salad; if you go with the macaroni, stick with my original title. I think the term Japanese is derived from the fact that oranges are called for; the original recipe also suggested using Mandarin oranges if you don’t have any fresh ones around. Any way you title it, you have a winner with this great dish.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Crazy-healthy pasta salad with amazing combo ingredients is all-time fave!

If Hubby can have his all-time faves, then I can, too! Hubby is always proclaiming that some new dish is the “best-yet!” He does that several times a week (and has ever since we’ve been married—42 years). So his affirmations don’t always signify the greatest discernment, although I’d a whole lot rather have them than constant naysaying as some husbands do.

But this week I prepared a recipe that honestly had my tastebuds dancing in amazement and exclaiming “best-yet!” also. (Need I say that the source was the ever-clever Chickasaw Nutrition Services?) Just look at this combo in Japanese Pasta Salad: cooked brown rice, green onions (proudly from my garden, I might add), fresh apples, cucumber, oranges, and ham, with a mayo/mustard dressing. Pure craziness (not sure why it’s called Japanese), but look at all that health in one dish!

To add to that, you can serve it over a bed of spinach, if you desire! Things just keep getting better!

This salad, which is a meal in itself, can be served the minute you’re finished preparing it or left to marinate for several hours overnight—good either way. It keeps beautifully and improves by the day. We must have stretched it out for lunches and dinners over three-days’ time and were sad to see the last morsel consumed.

Topping this one will be difficult, although I’d like to prepare it sometime with whole-wheat macaroni (also suggested in the recipe) and by adding a little celery (added crunch) or small bits of cut-up cheese.

Japanese Pasta Salad

2 cups cooked brown rice
5 green onions, chopped fine
2 Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples, small, chopped fine (skin on)
2 fresh oranges, sectioned and chopped fine
1 cucumber, skinned, remove seeds and chopped fine
1 pound ham, cubed
3/4 cup mayonnaise, light or fat-free
1 tablespoon mustard
dash of cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Place in refrigerator overnight or eat immediately. Can serve on individual plates alone or over spinach. Make 12 1-cup servings.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

This salad’s “color brigade” springs straight from the garden

A blog (that has nothing to do with food or gardening) that I enjoy following promotes the concept of “The Color Brigade”. A fashion-forward Dallas woman who, like me, is short in stature daily posts solutions to fashion challenges that we height-restricted individuals face. She demonstrates how we mini-people can tastefully wear numerous eye-popping colors at the same time (a real no-no for the short, who are advised to dress monochromatically).

Well, today’s featured recipe certainly wins in “The Color Brigade” of foods category. Ginger Asparagus Salad glows with a multitude of colors—and health.

Deep, green asparagus and baby spinach leaves form the base; atop go chopped red and yellow peppers and chopped chives. A ginger dressing of lemon juice, oil, and finely grated ginger ties it all together. Red and green peppers have killer price-tags on them in the grocery produce department; that’s why I’m eyeing our red and yellow pepper plants with great hope. I’d like to think we can harvest the yield of these and chop them and freeze them for use during the year, just as we have done for years with our profuse green-pepper plants.

I made a bowl of Ginger Asparagus Salad and left Hubby at home with it on Sunday night when I went to a ladies’ dinner. All that color—and those healthy ingredients—got his attention. He was so enraptured with the salad, I don’t think he even noticed I was away!

Ginger Asparagus Salad

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and halved
1/2 cup chives, coarsely chopped
8 ounces (6 cups) baby spinach leaves
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

Ginger Dressing:
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons finely grated ginger

In a small bowl mix ginger dressing. Spray with cooking spray a small, shallow skillet. Cook asparagus in skillet over medium heat until the asparagus is cooked through. Place asparagus, hives, peppers, and spinach in a large salad bowl. Pour ginger dressing over the top of the salad; toss gently to combine. Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Vegetable skillet supper a hearty comfort food

Nothing like a good ole hearty, healthy skillet supper; my wonderful, ready sources at the Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services provided the recipe for one of the best.

Hubby and I recently went up across the Red River for one of his routine health exams, so I wasted no time in bouncing over to the adjacent nutrition center to see what was new in the recipe department.

The very next night I was needing a dinner idea, so I cooked one of those new infusions—Hearty Vegetable Skillet, made with ground beef (we always substitute ground turkey), whole-wheat noodles, and mixed fresh veggies (whatever was on hand. I had corn, okra, green beans, carrots, and green peas.) The recipe also suggests you can use frozen veggies or even one (15-ounce) can of low-sodium mixed vegetables, but I always try to utilize fresh wherever I can.

I like this recipe because it relies on ingredients I likely always would have around. Besides what I’ve already mentioned it calls for low-sodium cream-of-celery soup, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and Cheddar cheese.

Here in Texas we’ve had a bit of a cold snap lately, with folks temporarily bringing out their hoodies and firing up their space heaters while we wait for springlike temps to return. A Hearty Vegetable Skillet dinner would be a great accompaniment to cooler evenings, which we need to cherish before summer heat blazes down.

Hearty Vegetable Skillet

1 pound ground turkey
1 (10 3/4-ounce can) low-sodium, fat-free cream-of-celery soup
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups mixed vegetables (fresh, frozen, or canned)
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat noodles, cooked (1 cup dry)
1/2 cup reduced fat shredded Cheddar cheese

If vegetables are fresh, steam them for a few minutes until they are tender. In a skillet over medium-high heat brown the ground turkey until it is well-browned. Drain meat. Leave in skillet. Stir in the soup, water, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and vegetables. Heat to a simmer. Stir in the noodles and sprinkle with cheese. Makes 6 1-cup servings.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Good job, cantaloupe and bacon. You brighten up what otherwise would have been a most ordinary salad.

Something had to be done with the cantaloupe half that remained after I made melon balls for Ruby Fruit Salad and its dressing (earlier blog) that I had served at Easter.

A recent issue of Southern Living magazine had featured bacon as its “wonder” dish and demonstrated scads of ways to use this Southern food staple. But Cantaloupe-Bacon Relish? Whoever heard of pairing cantaloupe with bacon (as well as with cucumber and mint) as the magazine suggested?

Guess these cooks figured that if you ever had eaten fruit alongside bacon and eggs for breakfast, you would have ingested this type of mixture anyway. The magazine suggested that the relish be served over fresh salad greens topped by sliced grilled chicken. I had set aside some romaine lettuce from our garden and thought this would be a great way to use it. The recipe also suggests that you could try the relish as an appetizer and serve it atop grilled crostini with goat cheese.

The article from which I borrowed the recipe said pork-lovers playfully refer to bacon as “God’s bookmark” and notes that its sweet-salty-smoky flavor lends a heavenly touch to a variety of foods. Even turkey bacon, which we always use, still qualifies in the “bookmark” category.

Bottom line was, we adored the salad. The flavor combination was intriguing. To quote Hubby, “I’ve never had a salad like that before.”

Better yet, three of the 10 recipe items were plucked straight from our garden (make that six in a few more weeks when our cucumber and cantaloupe crops are ready for harvest). And all the rain we’ve received lately is making that happen sooner than later!

Cantaloupe-Bacon Relish with Grilled Chicken and Salad Greens

1 1/2 cups finely diced cantaloupe
1/2 cup seeded, diced cucumber
5 turkey bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
1 green onion, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 3 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon pepper and pinch of salt
6 cups romaine lettuce, torn
1 1/2 pounds (about 3) boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, grilled and sliced into strips

In a small bowl combine first eight ingredients. In a salad bowl place torn romaine leaves and grilled chicken strips. Top this with relish. Toss and serve. Serves 4.