Cucumber-Onion Salad Encore

This recipe for cucumber-onion salad was passed down from Grandma to Mom to me and my siblings. It's easy, inexpensive, non-dairy, healthy, and keeps well.Thanks to our weekly CSA share, the vegetable bin is overflowing with cucumbers. So cucumber-onion salad is gracing our table almost daily.  Because today is my birthday and I’m celebrating by not experimenting with a new recipe, I’m rerunning this one that was first featured on Down the Gravel Road in July of 2012. It’s easy, it’s tasty, it’s non-dairy, it’s low-cal, and the longer it sits in the fridge, the better it tastes. No wonder this recipe has been consistently discovered and repinned on Pinterest since the day it first appeared there.

Cucumber-Onion Salad

1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly
1 onion, sliced into thin rings*
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper

Place vegetables in a small serving bowl. In a smaller bowl or measuring cup, mix vinegar, water, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir well and pour over vegetables so they are completely covered with liquid. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to serve. This salad can be stored for several days or a week in the fridge.

I try to make it at least 8 hours before serving so the flavors can meld and the vinegar has time to pickle the vegetables a little. Also, more cukes and onions into the brine after the original veggies are gone. I usually do that once before discarding the brine and making a completely new batch.

*I used red onions, which is why the salad looks so pretty in the picture, but any type of onion is fine.

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Three Thoughts for Thursday

Yellow watermelon, red sweet corn, and colorblind tomatoes in this week's three thoughts.

Last week’s CSA share included a yellow watermelon. (It was a whole one, but I forgot to take a picture of it so what you see above is a supermarket shot.) It’s presence led to these three thoughts.

  1. Our yellow watermelon smelled wonderful, but it was disconcerting to look at. So I had to close my eyes and pretend it was red for the first bite. It was so indescribably delicious, I ate the rest with eyes wide open.
  2. In the interest of full disclosure, please know that if served an ear of red sweet corn, closing my eyes for the first bite would become necessary again.
  3. The same rules do not apply to yellow tomatoes in place of red ones. They are completely interchangeable. Don’t ask me why.

What horse-of-a-different-color foods are hard for you to eat? Leave a comment.

Slow-Roasted Grape and Cherry Tomatoes

Do you have more cherry and grape tomatoes than you can eat? Oven roast them to shrink them to more manageable proportions.

Tomato season is here. Every week since mid-July our CSA share has been packed with delicious slicing tomatoes and pint boxes of cherry and grape tomatoes. I’ve kept on top of the slicers, but the smaller ones were piling up faster than we could eat them. So last week, I took a recipe for oven-roasted Roma tomatoes and adapted it for cherry and grape tomatoes. About two-thirds of the roasted tomatoes found their way onto pesto pizza (just leave off the cheese to make it dairy-free) and the rest are in the fridge waiting to be used as one of many ingredients in pesto pasta. I liked the roasted tomatoes on the pizza. The Man of Steel wasn’t quite so sure.

The recipe is very easy, though the tomatoes have to roast a long time, so be sure to start them early or prepare them a day or two in advance.

Slow Roasted Cherry and Grape Tomatoes

3 pints of cherry or grape tomatoes, or a combination of the two
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

Heat oven to 200 degrees. Wash tomatoes. Remove stems. Slice tomatoes in half and put in a large bowl. Mix remaining ingredients together in a smaller bowl. Pour mixture over halved tomatoes and toss until all are coated.

Spray 2 large cookie sheets with cooking spray. Pour half of tomatoes into each cookie sheet. Turn tomatoes so cut side is facing up. Like this:

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Put in oven and roast for 5 hours. Take trays out and remove tomato halves that are well-dried. Continue roasting the others for an hour to hour and a half, checking them every 30 minutes. Use immediately in other recipes or store in the refrigerator.

Top Ten June Blessings

To fight fighting discouragement and a tendency to dwell on what's wrong in my world, I'm counting June blessings this week.Life’s been rough at our house lately. So I’m fighting discouragement and a tendency to dwell on what’s wrong in my world by giving thanks for the small and good blessings that are part of each day.

10. The weather’s been so pleasant, we’ve hardly needed to turn on the AC.

9.  The propane company sent a letter saying our bill will go down over $100 in September.

8.  At this moment, the weeds are pulled and the housework is done.

7.  The herb garden provided fresh parsley, basil, and cilantro for several meals this week.

6.  Our first CSA produce pick up is today.

5.  But the CSA strawberries started early so we feasted our way through 2 delectable quarts…and I took some down to Mom last week, too.

4.  Revisions on my mystery novel are moving along and the escape therapy is just what the doctor ordered.

3.  The Man of Steel and I will take Mom to a family reunion in Minnesota this coming weekend. She will complain during the whole trip and then thoroughly enjoy being queen for a day in the presence of her nieces and nephews.

2.  My daughter held the phone close to our 2-month-old grandson’s mouth so we could hear him coo. Happy tears!

1.  In the last week, God arranged encounters with 2 dear friends and a sister who understand my current struggles and the time spent with them was soothing balm to the soul.

What blessings are you thankful for this week?

Three Thoughts for Thursday

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  1. Encouragement = 1 day when 2 nieces from different sides of the family ask for advice. They have no idea how much that means to their old auntie.
  2. Tuesday was the last day to pick up produce through our CSA. Oh, fresh melons, tomatoes, sweet corn and much more, you will be dearly missed!
  3. Could there be a correlation between this year’s early frost and the early appearance of pumpkin spice lattes in coffee shops? What do you think?

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Strawberry Shortcake Season Is Here!

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Strawberry season is here! In honor of these few weeks strawberry lovers dream about most of the year, (and because I’ve been traveling and haven’t had time to test a new recipe or write a post) here’s the dairy-free version of Grandma Josie’s recipe for strawberry shortcake. (The dairy version can be found here.)

We’re having the dairy-free version for dessert tonight, along with the last of our CSA fresh strawberries. Definitely a night to remember!

Grandma Josie’s Original Strawberry Shortcake Recipe

1 small cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking power
1 egg
2 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks

Stir in rich milk substitute of your choice until semi-stiff. Bake at 350 degrees until golden and toothpick comes out clean. Top with fresh strawberries. Recipe can be doubled to fit in a 10 inch pan.

Grandma Josie’s Strawberry Shortcake

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup softened Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks or coconut oil
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup almond, rice, or soy milk
1 quart strawberries, washed, hulled, sliced and mixed with 2 tablespoons sugar

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Cut in shortening. Add eggs and milk substitute. Mix with a fork until all ingredients are moistened. Pour into a 9 inch square pan. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Top with fresh strawberries.

Ode to Kohlrabi

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Today’s post isn’t so much a recipe as an ode to kohlrabi, the latest, most fashionable darling of the healthy eating movement. But it’s been a garden staple on Mom’s side of the family since the 1930s. Since our CSA share for the week included this most delightful of brassica vegetables today’s post is dedicated to the proper eating of it.

Our family has always served kohlrabi raw, though it can be cooked, too. In my opinion, cooking it is a waste of not only the cook’s time and energy, but also the vegetable’s crispy, sweet flavor. That said, here’s a picture tutorial about how to prepare raw kohlrabi for snacking or as the prima donna on a relish tray.

First, cut off the root and leaves. (FYI, most kohlrabi are the size of a medium to large apple.)kohlrabi 2

Second, peel off the outer skin, which is tough and a little thicker than an apple peel, to reveal the lighter, tender flesh below. Sprinkle it with a little salt and eat as is, like an apple or raw potato,

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or sliced into 1/4–1/2 inch rounds,

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or cut into sticks.

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However you serve it up, if you plan to eat kohlrabi around me and my cousins, be prepared to fight for your fair share. We consider unclaimed slices or sticks fair game!

Noodle Stir Fry

Noodle Stir Fry

Vegetable season is here, and I’m constantly looking for recipes that can be easily adapted to use whatever produce is in our weekly CSA share. When sugar snap peas, my favorite stir fry veggie of all time, I pulled out a recipe for Noodle Stir Fry that was in the Hy-Vee Season’s Magazine and gave it a try.

The original recipe is gluten-free, as it calls for soba noodles, made with buckwheat. Since that’s not an issue at our house, I used thin spaghetti noodles and vegetables on hand. The original recipe made 8 1 1/4 cup servings, but this one makes about half as much. We liked it, especially the heat provided by the crushed, red pepper flakes.

Noodle Stir Fry

6 ounces thin spaghetti noodles
4 tablespoons almond butter
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, divided
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
1 pint sugar snap peas, strings removed
1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, cut into bite-sized cubes
2 cups cabbage or bok choy, trimmed and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain. Rinse with cold water. Drain again. Set aside.

For sauce, put almond butter, water, vinegar, soy sauce and red pepper flakes in a gravy shaker. Shake well and set to the side.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil in very large skillet or wok. Add broccoli; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add peppers, peas, and cabbage; stir-fry 4 to 5 minutes or until crisp tender. Pour vegetables onto a large platter.

Add remaining oil to pan. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until no longer pink. Add vegetables, noodles, and sauce to skillet. Cook and toss gently 2 to 3 minutes or until heated thoroughly. Serve immediately.

Top Ten Reasons I Love Summer

strawberries

10. Summer feels like a series of weeks when playing hookey from school is perfectly okay.

9.   Walking by the city swimming pool in the morning and smelling the chlorine.

8.   Road trips.

7.   Leaving coats and jackets in the closet for weeks on end.

6.   Watermelon.

5.   Sleeping with the windows open at night.

4.   Waking up early to the eastern sky already lightening with the dawn.

3.   Birdsong.

2.   Hanging clothes on the line which allows me to a) save electricity, b) feel virtuous about doing it, c) make the laundry smell wonderful, and d) work on my tan all at the same time.

1.   Enjoy the fruits (see strawberry photo above) and veggies that come in our weekly CSA share on Tuesdays.

What do you like best about summer? Leave a comment.

Peanut Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes

Today’s recipe was born of desperation. Desperation to find a new way to use the abundance of cherry tomatoes in our CSA bag every week. Apparently, since several other gardeners have mentioned plentiful supplies of the little things, this summer’s heat was perfect for a bumper crop for gardeners who watered their plants.

Those of you in that predicament may want to give this dish a whirl. It’s not a new recipe, but the latest twist on one of our favorite stir fry dishes, Joni’s Cashew Chicken. Consider serving it over brown rice, our newest bow to healthier living, but put the rice pot on the stove earlier than regular rice. Brown needs at least an extra 10 minutes of cooking time or the end result will be watery and unpleasantly chewy. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)

Peanut Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes

3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons peanut butter
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons peanut sauce
4 tablespoons sesame or peanut oil
1/2 cup raw peanuts
1 whole chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 cups onions, cleaned and quartered, with layers separated
2 cup peeled carrots, sliced into thin, one inch pieces
2  cups sweet red pepper, washed, seeded, and cut into half-inch pieces
2 – 3 cups cherry tomatoes, washed and halved

Sauce: Combine soy sauce, peanut butter and honey in a 1 cup measuring cup. Heat in the microwave for one minute on high. Stir until peanut butter is mostly melted. Add peanut sauce to mixture and set it aside.

Turn burner to high and heat 1 tablespoon of oil in large frying pan or wok. Add peanuts and stir for one minute, until they begin to brown. Spoon them onto paper towels to drain.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in pan. Add vegetables, except for the tomatoes, one kind at a time, at one minute intervals. (Add the thickest first and work down to thinnest. In this mixture, the order was carrots, peppers, onions.) Pour cooked vegetables into a large bowl.

Heat final tablespoon of oil in pan. Turn burner to medium high and add chicken. Stir until meat is completely cooked and begins to brown.

Add vegetable mixture and stir for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and stir for 1 more minute. Pour sauce over all and stir until the stir fry ingredients are coated and sauce is bubbly.

Spoon mixture onto a bed of rice and sprinkle with peanuts. Serve hot.