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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Sunday Afternoon Tomato, Basil, Cream Pasta

Sunday lunch, it always sneaks up on us right after church when the children are blood sugar vampires and there is no simple food in the house.

Today, I pulled this little gem out of thin air, and it was phenomenal. And easy; which seems to be my anthem lately. Yummy and easy.

1 box of thin spaghetti

1 small can of tomato paste

1 /8 to 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1 T. butter

3/4 t. garlic powder

1 t. oregano

1/4 t. black pepper

1/8 t. crushed red pepper

Salt to taste

3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup fresh basil

Boil and prepare one box of thin spaghetti noodles (or any pasta you have on hand, really).

In small saucepan open one can of tomato paste, and add two cans full of water. Whisk until it is well combined. Now add 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (I didn’t measure, just drizzled it in), and 1 T. of butter. Then add 3/4 t. of garlic powder, 1 t. of dried oregano, 1/4 t. of pepper, 1/8 t. of crushed red pepper, and finally salt to taste. Allow to simmer while whisking lightly, then let it simmer on it’s own for several minutes over medium heat. Once it is well heated and combined, add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese (not grated like Kraft). Whisk and allow the cheese to melt. Once melted, allow to keep warm over low heat.

Walk out front to your basil patch…unless you don’t have one, then you have to be prepared and buy some fresh basil leaves. You will want about 1/4 cup fresh cut basil. Clean the leaves and then using some scissors cut little ribbons of fresh basil.

Once the pasta is done, toss it with the sauce and sprinkle with fresh basil and more Parmesan cheese. This is going to knock your socks off. So easy, so good.

I’ve learned to keep heavy whipping cream on hand because a little bit works wonders in dishes like this, and I usually want it on a whim. You can buy a mini carton for about $1.50 and keep it for almost a month. It does great things for pasta sauces as well as cream soups. The flavor enhances well with very little cream added, so don’t stress out too much about the caloric content.

This dish is good hot or cold, and would be yummy with meat or sauteed veggies if you want something heartier.


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.


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.


Chicken Dijon

This is a favorite from my childhood that relied on “cream of soup,” which I try to not use anymore. I decided to make this recipe over for dinner tonight, with great success.

Back in our low carb days, I searched for a good substitute for flour in creamy sauces.  In doing so, I discovered a new best friend. Maybe you’ve met her. Her name is cream cheese.

Here we go:

1 onion, diced

1 cup sliced mushroom

1 T. butter

2 T Dijon mustard

1/2 t. dried parsley

1/4 t. marjoram

1/4 t. white pepper

1/4 t. black pepper

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed

8 oz. cream cheese

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup sour cream

salt to taste

egg noodles

 

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 1 T. butter, then toss in the onion, mushroom, herbs and spices and when the onion is soft, add in the chicken and saute until cooked through. Add the cream cheese, and stir until nice and creamy. Once creamy, add in the cream, and when warmed, add the sour cream, then salt to taste. Serve over warm egg noodles.

 

*You could easily make this meatless by making the sauce and ditching the chicken.


Tomato Basil Tapas

There are very few things in life more delightful than the tomato, basil, fresh mozarella combination. I came up with this simple little summer treat a few days ago, and I cannot stop thinking about how yummy it was. Next time I have an appetizer assignment, this is going to be the one.

1 package fresh mozarella
2 cloves fresh garlic
4 Roma tomatoes
4 T. Pesto
2 T. Balsamic vinegar
1 loaf Italian Pugliesse bread

Evenly slice the Italian bread and toast at 400 degrees in the over for about eight minutes. Set aside to cool.

Using an egg slicer, slice the fresh mozarella into small dices. This is simpler than it sounds. Quarter the fresh mozarella log into four chunks, then softly slice it into even slices with the egg slicer. Next turn the slices to slice into strips, then turn once again to slice into tiny cubes. Easy.

Next, slice the tops off of the tomatoes and squeeze the guts and seeds out. This will keep your topping from being overly runny. After you have gutted the tomatoes, finely dice them and toss them into the bowl with the fresh mozarella. Press the garlic cloves into the mixture, then sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Add the pesto and balsamic vinegar and gently toss it all together.

Scoop healthy spoonfuls onto the toasted bread and enjoy your light summer treat.


Italian Cream Pasta Sauce

Do you love cream sauces with pasta? This is for you.

2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 C. Whole milk (or cream)
1/2 C. Mozarella
1/2 C. fresh Mozarella, diced 
1/2 C. Parmesan Cheese
1 diced Roma tomato
1 T. Pesto
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1/4 t. crushed red pepper
1/2 t. Kosher salt 

1 Box penne pasta, cooked per package instructions

In large skillet, melt butter with garlic, then whisk with flour to make a thick paste. Slowly whisk in milk (or cream).  Once whisked in, add the Mozarella, Parmesan, tomato, pesto, vinegar, crushed red pepper, and salt. Allow to lightly boil until a nice smooth sauce forms. Toss with cooked penne pasta.