Garden Salad

IMG_2461After our weekend family gatherings with meals that inlcuded a Saturday dinner of smoked pork tenderloin, roasted corn, roasted green beans, a lunch of sausage,vegetables, and rice, baking (and eating) breakfast scones, root beer popsicles, ice cream treats, and our Memorial Day feast of grilled hot dogs, Kielbasa, smashed potatoes and all the trimmings – we were more than ready to have salad for a meal.  All the food was pretty healthy, there was just alot of it!  If you begin to feel that way as summer arrives, there is no tastier choice than a fresh vegetable salad.

If you are going to avoid a long session of prepping, remember to save those small amounts of leftovers that sometimes get tossed.  Of course you can always make soup, but think salad and stash those left behind cooked vegetables – green beans, corn, beets, asparagus, Grilling and roasting vegetables is very popular, and nothing tastes better topping your fresh ingredients. Quantities suggested below will vary according to what is in your own frig. I love it when I have a few things from my own garden. The combination of colors, textures, and flavor make this crunchy salad a feast!  Top with make-your-own or bottled Balsamic Vinaigrette, recipe below photograph.

Garden Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 cups mixed leaf and Romaine lettuces

2 carrots, sliced

4 -5 radishes

2 ears roasted sweet corn, cut from cob

1 cup roasted green beans left whole or cut into pieces

1 small yellow squash, sliced

1 small green pepper, chopped

2 tomatoes, chopped

chopped red onion (optional)

Prepare all vegetables and place on top torn lettuces in large bowl.  Add Balsamic Vinaigrette and toss.  Serve with a crusty baguette.


Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil

Put all ingredients in a jar, tighten lid, and shake!   Taste and adjust amount of vinegar or seasoning as you wish.

Tuscan Salad

IMG_2238I like to make salad or side dishes that can be stored in the refrigerator and dipped into for quick suppers. This is one that I tried last week and it has been named one of our “Kitchen Keepers” – quick and easy to prepare, and even tastier in the next few days as the ingredients soak up flavors.  Canned cannellini from the pantry along with Kalamata olives and sundried tomatoes from the refrigerator tossed with Italian dressing make a perfect accompaniment to roasted or grilled meats and fish. I found a similar recipe on Epicurious that also added chopped fresh spinach.  That would be good, but the fresh greens would not keep well.  I like my version because we can have it later for lunches or dinner later in the week.

Tuscan Salad

1/4 cup olive oil

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives

1/4 cup (more if you wish) bottled Italian vinaigrette

shredded fresh basil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a skillet, add the onion and cook and stir until slightly brown, about 5 minutes, turn off heat. Toss the beans, onion,, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives in the skillet with the vinaigrette until just combined. Season with salt and pepper. Top with shredded fresh basil leaves.  Serve at room temperature.

Melon, Mango, and Mint Smoothie



Summer means cold watermelon slices in Texas – just one of the ways we try to beat the heat. Holiday get- togethers ,family gatherings, or simple suppers often include cantaloupe or watermelon as a side.  Cool, sweet, and juicy, there is no better way to eat melons than sliced and eaten fresh.  Some like to add a dash of salt.  We love a squeeze of lime juice.

Often, there are a few slices of melon leftover which are fine stored in the refrigerator for a quick, cool snack.  We also like to use melon in smoothies, so I thought I would post a simple recipe for a wonderful summertime breakfast smoothie.


Melon, Mango, and Mint Smoothie

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 mango, seeded and scooped out

1 cup (or more) seeded watermelon pieces, or substitute any melon

1 sprig of mint, leaves stripped

1 Tablespoon honey

juice of 1/2 lime

Place all ingredients in blender jar and pulse until smooth.  Pour into a pretty glass and garnish with a thin slice of melon.




Mexican Chicken Stew



I once received this recipe in an email from my friend of many years, Julie. She labeled it “heavenly!” Don’t let the long list of ingredients fool you. The hearty stew is very easy to assemble, and goes together quickly, particularly considering the large quantity.  It is one of my favorite meals to prepare for sharing with a family who needs a meal brought in.  This week I took a crockpot full to our son and daughter-in-law who just brought their beautiful new baby Nora home. As stated in the recipe directions, it reheats beautifully and freezes well. It is a delicious one pot meal, good with a pan of cornbread or warmed corn tortillas.

Note:  When I make this, I preheat the oven to 400 degrees and begin roasting the lightly seasoned chicken breasts, then put the rice on to cook (1 cup equals 3 cups cooked). While these two ingredients are cooking, I assemble the other ingredients and chop the fresh veggies. By the time all other ingredients are in the pot, the rice is done and the chicken is ready for shredding. If you wish, buy a rotisserie chicken to bone and shred.

Mexican Chicken Stew

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion,  chopped

4 large cloves garlic,  chopped

l large green pepper, chopped

2 jalapenos, seeded and minced

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried cumin

2 (28-ounce) cans petite chopped tomatoes

3 cans black beans, drained

3 lbs. chicken breasts, roasted and shredded (about 4 large chicken breast halves)

1 bag frozen sweet corn

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 (32 oz) boxes chicken stock, 2 quarts total

2 limes

3 cups cooked white rice

Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Optional:Sour cream, for garnish
Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Extra lime quarters

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Add green pepper, garlic and jalapeno and continue sauteing until soft. Add spices and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant and aromatic. Add tomatoes, beans, chicken, corn,Worcestershire, and stock.

Bring to a simmer and cook 20 minutes.

Cut the limes in half, squeeze juice into the pot, and then add the juiced halves as well.

Add rice and cook 5 minutes longer to warm rice through. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Ladle into bowls and serve with lime quarters for squeezing at table. Pass sour cream and cilantro for desired additional toppings.  This is wonderful reheated and freezes well.






Sweet Potato Biscuits


Christmas dinner at our house was patterned after country Christmas dinners that I remember having as a child:  baked ham, candied sweet potatoes, home canned green beans, fruit salad, and biscuits.  For our family gathering this year, the ham was from HoneyBaked, green beans were bundled up and wrapped in bacon, fruit salad was several kinds of sliced citrus with pomegranate seeds and spiced honey, and the sweet potatoes and biscuits joined hands and showed up together! We added a family favorite, Cheese Grits.  All the side dishes will appear in coming weeks, but today I hope you will be inspired to try Sweet Potato Biscuits. My youngest son, Ben, and 11-year-old granddaughter, Skye helped cut and place all the biscuits on parchment lined baking sheets – we had a real assembly line going!  Recipe found in the December 2013 issue of Southern Living.  

                                                         Sweet Potato Biscuits
5 cups self rising flour
1Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato
Parchment paper
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1. Preheat oven to 425. Stir together first 3 ingredients in a large bowl.  Cut butter cubes and shortening into flour ixture with pastry blender or fork just until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Cover and chill 10 minutes.
 Whisk together buttermilk and sweet potato.  Add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.
3. Turn dough out onto a well floured surface, and knead lightly 3 or 5 times.  Pat or roll dough to 3/4 inch thickness; cut with a 2 inch round cutter, reshaping scraps once. (Do not twist cutter)  Place rounds on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
4. Bake at 425 for 18 to 20 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.  Remove from oven, and brush tops of biscuits with melted butter.  Serve immediately.
  Makes 3 dozen
Note:  Using the 2 inch round cutter provided lovely dainty biscuits (with plenty leftover after our meal for ham and biscuit sandwiches.)  For larger, heartier biscuits, use a 3 inch cutter, or the rim of a drinking glass.
These were a hit with our family, and I will make them again soon.

Roasted Cauliflower and Kale Soup

016Roasting is now my favorite method for preparing almost all vegetables and we love roasted cauliflower.  I love the super food kale, and use it in a variety of dishes. This recipe combines the two in a nutritious, creamy soup.  Add some kale chips and toasted pine nuts for texture and extra flavor. Yum!

I adapted this recipe from one found in a Williams-Sonoma catalog.

Roasted Cauliflower and Kale Soup 

  • 1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
  • 5 Tbs. olive oil  (If you have it in your pantry, garlic infused olive oil works great here)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1  bunch Tuscan kale, stems removed, leaves torn into bite size
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks,chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 7 cups  chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

Preheat oven to 450°F  Line a baking sheet with foil.

In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with 2 Tablespoons. of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on baking shee and roast, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender and the edges are browned and crisp, about 20 – 25 minutes. Lower oven setting to 300°F

In a bowl, toss half of the kale with a drizzle. (about 1 Tablespoon) of  olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place on a foil lined baking sheet and roast, stirring occasionally until the kale is crispy, 25 to 30 minutes.

Heat remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil in large soup pan. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 6- 8 minutes. Add  garlic and saute for another minute. Season with salt and pepper. Add cauliflower and broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the rest of the  kale and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Using an immersion blender,blend soup until smooth.  Ladle into bowls.and top with the crispy kale and pine nuts.  Serve hot. Leftovers can be refrigerated and can be reheated or cold, in mugs.

Braided Pastry with Chicken, Cheddar, and Broccoli


007I have used cans of crescent roll dough for many recipes, including one that looked like this but was filled apples.  I don’t usually plug brands, but I particularly like Immaculate Baking Company’s baking products because they contain non-GMO ingredients, so this braid is made with Immaculate Crescent Rolls.  It looks difficult, but really isn’t, is quick to prepare and a very creative way to use leftover rotisserie chicken and those leftover bits of broccoli in the crisper!  Why not try it with kale instead of the broccoli, different cheeses, or with all vegetables?   There are many variations of this recipe online.

  • 2 cans Crescent roll dough
  • 2 cups chopped chicken
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups fresh broccoli florets cut in bite size pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon Mayonnaise
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten and set aside for brushing the pastry before baking
  • fresh rosemary
  • cracked pepper
 Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread both cans of crescent rolls  length wise side by side, making a long rectangle. Press each of the seams to form a single layer of dough. In a  bowl, combine chicken, cheese, broccoli and mayonnaise. Spread mixture down the center of the dough as evenly as possible.
Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut horizontal strips 1 inch apart down each side of the crescent dough. Beginning at the top fold the dough strips over the top of the chicken mixture, alternating left and right to create a braided pastry top. Brush the top of the braid with  beaten egg yolk and sprinkle fresh rosemary on top. Finish with a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper. Bake for 25– 30 minutes until golden brown. Slice and serve.  This is a meal by itself, but especially nice with a tossed green salad or seasonal fruit.


Winter Green


The green things that grow in my Winter garden are stars in my kitchen as well as popping in the browns of the outside landscape. Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli grow so well through the ups an downs in our South Texas “cold” season that it is well worth planting only a few of each just to watch them thrive. These are one of the few vegetables which intensify in color as you cook them (when done properly) and some of the best nutrition we can put on our tables.  The simplest cooking techniques produce flavor and color on the plate.  Above, small broccoli bunches broken into flowerets and sautéed with garlic in olive oil taste best when cooked only until stalks are tender crisp. I finished this skillet of broccoli with the last of our Meyer lemons. A squeeze of fresh orange is delicious, too.

IMG_0045Swiss Chard is one of my favorite leafy greens, although it vies with kale for first place.  It is a garden champion for persistence  I have cut leaves from this large plant over and over, and it responds with new ones quickly.  It is immensely satisfying to just go out and get the amount I need for a quick side or ingredient.  I rinse it, pat it dry, remove the tougher part of the stem end, then either rough chop or roll up the leaves and slice them into strips.

IMG_0046Then I swirl a bit of olive oil into my big copper bottom pan, sizzle 4 or 5 garlic pods briefly, and add the chard. All this uncooked chard barely fits into the big pan, but after sautéing with the garlic, it really is dinner portions for two people.

IMG_0049Drizzle some balsamic or sherry vinegar over the top, and it is ready to serve. Mustard greens, kale, and spinach can be prepared in exactly the same way, although I like to toast a few whole mustard seeds to add to mustard greens

Leftover bits of greens are a great addition to omelets or as a bed for fish or chicken.  Last night I used sautéed chard to make some stuffed pasta shells in a recipe which called for spinach.  Hardy in the garden, hearty on the table – Winter Greens are lovely.

Salmon Hash


Mary Ann’s Salmon Hash

 This is a great way to use leftover baked or grilled salmon and leftover baked potatoes!

4-5 ounces baked or grilled salmon, skin removed and coarsely shredded

1 small baked potato, peeled and diced

5 green onions, chopped

¼ cup green pepper, chopped

2 Tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

1 lemon, cut in half

1 Tablespoon butter

salt and pepper, to taste

Melt butter and olive oil in non-stick skillet.  Add green onion and green pepper, followed by salmon and potato.   Season with salt, pepper, dill and juice from one of the lemon halves.

Slice remaining lemon half to use as garnish at serving time.

Lovely Leftovers, or Still Thankful

One of the joys of preparing a family holiday meal is having leftovers.  OK, I know not everyone enjoys putting them away and then figuring out what to do with them.  And I do have a husband who does not complain about eating leftovers.   I really do like Thanksgiving leftovers, and thought it might be fun to look at some before pictures and then talk about how the remains were revisited. Some of the “leavings” went home with guests, but here’s how we took care of ours.

First, the bird!  I am the first to admit, the turkey was in the roaster a bit too long.  This was my first time using an electric turkey roaster but it won’t be the last.  No basting, shorter cooking time, and even though it was falling off the bone the meat was tender and moist. I rubbed it with olive oil and a Texas salt rub that had plenty of cayenne and paprika and stuffed it with slices of orange, Meyer lemon and fresh bay leaves, rosemary, and basil straight out of the garden.  I glazed the turkey with pomegranate jelly.  Honestly, there was not alot leftover.  We had enough for turkey sandwiches.  But usually I make turkey tetrazinni and turkey noodle soup.  Any that remains after a couple of days gets chopped up and stored in Ziploc bags in the freezer.  This can be used in just about any chicken recipe.

Fruit salad with cooked dressing is one dish we included this year that I remember my Mother always putting on the table for holiday meals. Our cornbread dressing is another.  In the 40’s and 50’s we never had turkey or pumpkin pie.  We had baked chicken and cornbread dressing and sweet potato pie.  We had alot of this leftover because the recipe makes alot and since it competes for dessert as a sweet, I think people “saved for dessert.”  That is OK, because I love it.  We have eaten it as a side with sandwiches but my favorite way of eating this leftover is for breakfast!  I will include this recipe.  The dressing is delicious drizzled over fresh fruit.  I included the cherries and marshmallows because that is the way Mother made it, but I prefer to omit them.

Our sons and their wives are good cooks, so we are fortunate to have their great contributions to our family gatherings.  My son Ben made our mac and cheese, green beans amandine, and the cranberry sauce, which he tells me he cooked by adding honey and some garam masala to fresh cranberries.  This was tasty spread on toast to make a bacon and egg breakfast sandwich.  The last 1/4 cup of cranberry sauce got whirled in the blender with Greek yogurt and orange juice to make a cranberry smoothie.  Son Sean made a beautiful berry pie and his wife, Teion, made Paula Deen’s pumpkin pie. And although we didn’t get to taste, son Jeremy made campfire turkey and dressing which they called from their camping spot to say turned out great.

Fruit Salad with Cooked Dressing   (just like Opal made it)

8 or 10 oranges, peeled, sectioned, each section cut into bite size

2 cans pineapple chunks, drained

1 jar Maraschino cherries, drained

1 cup of miniature marshmallows

1/2 pint whipping cream, whipped

Toss with cooked dressing and whipped cream and let set in refrigerator to chill.

Cooked Dressing

2 Tablespoons vinegar

4 Tablespoons sugar

2  whole eggs

2 Tablespoons butter

Combine and cook, stirring, until thick.  Cool before adding to fruit.