Summer Cucumber Salad

Do you have a food that causes your mouth to water at the mere passing thought? A food that you think of as you drift off to sleep and your taste buds start sending flavors to your brain? 

I do. It is this salad. I’m not sure when I first wanted this salad. I’d seen it around, but have never been a HUGE fresh tomato fan, so defying all logic one day I just knew that this salad and I could have a long term relationship if I would just take a chance…so I went for it. Like all good romances, it did not disappoint.

1 English cucumber (or 2 regular cucumbers, seeded), diced

3 tomatoes on the vine, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

2 cloves of pressed garlic

1 cup feta cheese

1 lemon, juiced (nearly 1/4 cup) 

2 t. olive oil

1 t. dried oregano (or 1 T. fresh oregano)

Salt 

Pepper

In a large bowl combined the diced cucumber, tomato, onion with the pressed garlic and Feta cheese. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil, then sprinkle with oregano. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss and coat well. Allow to chill for a bit in the fridge.

I like to eat this plain. It’s that good. It is also amazing tossed with chopped romaine lettuce, on fresh grilled fish, on juicy steaks, over baked chicken breasts, with cottage cheese…you really can’t go wrong with this cucumber salad. It’s crunchy, tangy, spicy, fresh; it’s summer on a fork.

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Not-from-a-can Biscuits

I was going to make a salad for dinner tonight, but then I thought, “Why?” So I made biscuits instead. Obvious decision, right?

Mmmm. Biscuits are one of the simplest, most delicious breads you can make. No really, everyone should make biscuits at least once. If you are up for a little excitement, bake up one of the can biscuits, and one from scratch and have a little beauty pageant. Homemade biscuits are big and fluffy and sweet and salty and can biscuits are flat and have a weird after taste and an off yellow color.

One reason biscuits are so simple is that they don’t require any unusual ingredients. Most home cooks, even the most inexperienced will have the ingredients on hand, which makes them perfectly convenient.

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 t. salt

1 T. sugar

1 T. baking powder

1/2 cup softened butter (or margarine, or shortening)

3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large mixing bowl (or kitchenaid bowl) combine dry ingredients…flour, salt, sugar, baking powder. Once combined take the softened butter, cut it in half, then in half again, then toss it into the dry ingredients. Now, cut the butter into the flour. The point of doing this is to create little balls of butter (or shortening or margarine) that are coated in the dry ingredients, then when you smash it all together and roll it out, you will have a very soft dough, which will translate into fluffy biscuits. Cutting is simple. take two knives and simply start cutting the butter into lots of little pieces until you get a grainy texture throughout the mix. In a kithenaid, you can put your paddle attatchment to work and have the right texture on low speed in just a couple of minutes. Now, drizzle the milk over the flour and butter mixture, and toss then, press into a soft ball. Remove from the bowl and roll out on a lightly floured surface. You want it to be rolled to about 3/4 -1  inch thickness. then, take a round cup, or biscuit cutter, whatever, and cut biscuits into the dough. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes.

Easier than pancakes. Now, blend up a stick of butter and 1/4 cup of honey. See? Now I’m your best friend. You just made honey butter and your life will never be the same again. Slather it on a biscuit. Plan to serve this for your next birthday it’s better than cake.


Mashed Potato Bake

I dont’ really know what to call this one. It’s a version of something my mother in law makes, that my dh loves. Tradition calls it sour cream potatoes, but I don’t feel that really fits well enough. It’s a spin off of the traditional funeral potatoes Utah Mormons are famous for, or potato crap as my grandmother calls it. So with that off the wall introduction, on to the ever evolved mashed potato bake.

 

6 large red potatoes, scrubbed and boiled until tender…skins on

1 bunch green onions, sliced

8 oz. sour cream

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1 1/2 t. garlic powder

1 t. dried parsley

1/2 t. pepper

2 t. kosher salt

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or more, if you like it smothered)

 

In large bowl, mash potatoes with a potato masher. Toss half of the green onion into the bowl and combine. Sprinkle all herbs over potatoes, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper as well. Top off with sour cream and stir well. Layer half the potatoes in a baking dish (8×8 or equivalent round pan), top with half of the cheddar cheese, layer the remaining potatoes and top with remaining green onion and cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.


Blueberry Dreams Muffins

I’m in love with blueberries. There I said it. I have lots of blueberries in my home, due to this unhealthy fetish, and when afternoon hits, it’s time to play.

And our love child was born. Blueberry muffins. Big, soft, fluffy, sweet, delightful blueberry dreams.

 

Ingredients:

4 eggs

2 cups white sugar

2 sticks of softened butter

1 t. vanilla

4 cups of flour

1 t. baking soda

1 t. salt

1 1/2 c. sour cream

1/2 c. heavy whipping cream

2 cups of blueberries

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, and butter until soft and creamy. Add the vanilla and stir until combined.

Next, add the flour, soda, and salt, and gently fold together. Once slightly mixed in, add the sour cream and whipping cream and fold until just combined, toss in the blueberries and once again, gently fold them in.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Slather with butter spread and eat them all. Say a prayer of thanks for blueberries. I did.


Chicken Broccoli Cheese Casserole

We all have them, those favorite cream of soup recipes. This is one from my childhood that I remember and love, the only problem is that I really don’t care for cream soups. I hate the way they glob out of the can, I hate the strange ingredients on the list (mehcanically separated chicken anyone?) and so I have worked hard to replace them in my cooking.
Tonight was a huge success.

Ingredients:
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1 1/4 lb. of chicken breasts, cubed
1 small white onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
4 cups of chopped fresh broccoli
1 t. salt
1/4-1/2 t. pepper
1 T. chicken base
1/4 t. allspice
1/2 t. rubbed sage
1/4 t. marjoram
1 t. dried parsley
2 T. flour
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
2 t. cholula
2 to 3 cups of shredded medium/sharp cheddar cheese
1 package stove top stuffing
3 T. butter

I know that seems like a long list of ingredients, but once you start adding things to the pan, it’s quite simple, plus you are cutting back on the processed foods by cooking from scratch and gaining a knack for using spices in freestyle cooking.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

First, heat a large frying pan over medium high heat with the butter and olive oil, once hot, toss in the chicken, the onion, and the garlic and saute until the chicken is cooked through. Once cooked, add in the broccoli and top off with a small amount of water to saute the broccoli. Now, chicken base, the herbs and spices, salt and pepper, and flour, stir briskly to make a thick roux in the pan. Once the flour is mixed in, add in the whipping cream and whole milk, allow to heat, then add the cheese. Stir and add in the cholula. Once done, grab a spoon and check the flavor for salt and pepper.

Pour the mixture into a large 9×13 and set aside.

In a large microwave bowl melt the last butter, toss with the stuffing mix until evenly coated, then bake for about 20 minutes.

Pat yourself on the back and enjoy your lovely dinner.


Dilled Chicken Salad

This is a great stuffing for a croissant, and if have a can of Pillsbury croissant rolls this is a great filling to stuff them with prior to baking.

2 cups shredded crockpot chicken
1 red pepper, diced
1 cup broccoli chopped
1/3 cup mayo
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 T. dried dill
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Combine all of the above in a large mixing bowl and stir until well combined. At this point you can roll out a can of the Pillsbury crescent rolls and fill the center of the rectangle with the filling, then fold the sides up and over and score the top to let steam escape. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Other times I have made this mixture and rolled it in bread crumbs then sauted in butter like a crab cake, which I really enjoyed. You could also serve it cold on a bed of lettuce with a fresh roll like classic chicken salad.


Waffles

These are a very simple and very gratifying comfort food. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, good waffles are a great way to fill an empty tummy.

2 cups of flour
1/2 t. salt
1 T. brown sugar
4 t. baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup (one stick) of melted butter
1 3/4 cup of whole milk

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. (Generally when baking anything, this is a good first step), then to the bowl add the eggs, butter, and milk and whisk until smooth.

Pour into a hot (HOT) waffle iron.

One mistake people seem to make with waffles, pancakes, even meats is to attempt to bake or cook them in a cool or warm skillet. The hot skillet, or waffle iron, will seal the outside of the food and help to keep it moist. It will also make pancakes and waffles less likely to stick and fall apart and keep your meats fresh and moist rather than tough and dry.  

Once the waffle is cooked through, pull it and top with butter, syrup and fresh fruit. I like blueberries.