Pea Salad

Pea Salad is one of those great side salads that you often see on salad bars in these parts. I’ve always been a fan but then I’m also a fan of peas. And salad. So pea salad is just right up my alley.

I’ve heard people say that they don’t like peas because they are “mushy”. Well, just as Sheriff Andy Taylor said that little old ladies ought to never clank, peas should never be mushy. Sadly, many folks’ pea experience is with canned peas which are on the mushy side. Frozen peas deliver a much crisper, fresher taste that is just almost-but not quite-as tasty as a fresh garden peas. And much easier to come by, too.

Peas are an early spring vegetable. Growing up, I looked forward to the spring crop of peas. Back then, my dad didn’t have his trusty tractor so we were dependent on our farming neighbors to plow our garden each year. Some years, they’d come by early enough for a pea crop, other years they didn’t. Even as a small kid, I LOVED garden peas and was amazed at how much better they were than peas from a can. And though I now live in a town with multiple farmers markets, it’s still difficult to find fresh peas.

A few summers ago, I spotted an elderly couple selling peas out of the back of their truck at my local CVS. I bought from them a couple of times that year then cruised the lot the next year looking for them, and lo behold, eventually they showed up.  That’s right you all, I HAD A PEA DEALER! Sadly, I haven’t seen them in a couple of years.

So, this recipe…it’s based loosely on the Pioneer Woman‘s and my mom’s which are basically the same. I subbed Greek yogurt for the sour cream and left out the parsley that Ree (I call her Ree) used, and omitted the bell pepper that Loretta uses (I call her Mom). I made this for my Easter lunch.  I prepared it on Saturday so that it could set overnight and all the flavors could mix together. It’s delicious, and a great way to eat your veggies.

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Pea Salad

1/3 cup Greek Yogurt
1 Tablespoon Mayonnaise
Salt And Pepper
1 Tablespoon White Vinegar
4 cups Frozen Green Peas, partially thawed*
8 slices Bacon, fried crispy and chopped
1/2 whole Small Red Onion, diced small
6 oz Cheddar, American, or Colby cheese, diced into small cubes

*I put peas in a colander and let them thaw at room temperature for about a half hour. You want them to not be ice balls but not totally thawed either. This will keep you from heading into the dreaded “mushy” zone.

Mix the Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and vinegar together to make the dressing. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if needed. For a true Southern taste, add in a dash of sugar.

Stir dressing into the peas until the peas are well coated. Stir in the bacon, onion, and cheese until all combined. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 to 4 hours before serving.

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Mardi Gras Recipe Round Up!

  Our office tries to do fun potluck meals on occasion. One idea that we came up with last year was to try a combined Fat Tuesday/Valentine potluck. We originally called it Beads and Beaux but decided to change it to Beads and Bows after a couple confused looks. We’d been collecting recipes on Pinterest for a year so we were definitely prepared. I’ve decided to do a round up of the recipe links rather than a recipe post. For one thing, I want to be able to capture several of the recipes at one time, and second, my dish (Cajun Shrimp Dip) wasn’t very photogenic.

In choosing recipes, we joked that to make something Cajun just add Cajun seasoning and to make something Valentine themed, add red food color or cut it in a heart shape.

Here’s what we came up with:

I made Cajun Shrimp Dip. To me, it was just ok. The recipe calls for a pound of salad shrimp and the biggest bag I could find was 11 ounces. And honestly, I felt that was too much shrimp. If I were to make this again, I’d probably use an even smaller bag and cut the shrimp flavor down a bit. Or maybe use shredded or canned chicken.

Candace made Red Beans and Rice Salad. She would be the first to tell you that she overcooked her rice. Slow cookers can be fickle. Nonetheless, I thought this was a really tasty dish. I had an extra container on hand so I boxed up a portion for the next day’s lunch and I think it was even better because everything a chance to blend together.

Shelia brought in Valentine Blondies. She cut hers in a heart shape. They were very yummy and my 2 year old very much enjoyed the one I brought home to him. He loves chocolate chip cookies and these were like a thick cookie. Yum!

Rita made Maque Choux which was a new experience for all of us.  She made two versions: one with sausage and one without for the vegetarians. I liked it a lot and I think it would be really good in summer when there’s fresh corn available.

And last but not least, Sherry provided Southern Pecan Praline Cake. As one taster said, “Lord have mercy!”. I think that sums it up pretty well.

It was a good meal and gave us a chance to step out of our culinary comfort zones and try some new recipes.

 

Bulgur Wheat With Veggies

Exotic grains are all the rage in many cookbooks and magazines these days. The most mainstream of these new trendy grains is quinoa which seems to pop up everywhere. I remember a couple of years ago trying to find amaranth because my husband had read about it in Men’s Health. I ended up having to buy some at a Whole Foods several miles from where we live. Now, you can find it in some of the organic baby food pouches.

Honestly, I haven’t cared for most of these trendy grains. The very thought of grains conjures up thoughts of lumpy, gray porridge that takes forever to cook. So, I haven’t branched out much in the grains area.

Last week thought, my friend Candace and I participated in another Cooking Club as part of our university’s wellness program. (You may recall our previous adventure making a tofu stir fry, if not you can read about it here.) Each cooking team received a recipe to try along with a grain to prepare. Our grain was bulgur.

Bulgur was definitely not something that I was rushing out to try. It doesn’t even sound good. Say it….bul-gur. Doesn’t inspire a lot of interest, does it?

However, I soon found I had misjudged this grain. It cooked quickly, and the end result reminded me a lot of a fried rice dish. In fact, I can see me sautéing some onion, tossing in some peas and carrots with a splash of soy sauce and broth, and making sort of a Mock Fried Rice. Reading up on bulgur later, I found that it’s high in protein and fiber with a higher nutritional content than rice. So, it’s definitely worth subbing in for rice when you can. I’ve already pinned a couple of bulgur recipes, and look forward to trying more of this healthy grain.

 Bulgur with Veggies

1 onion (medium, chopped)
1 cup broccoli (chopped)
1 cup carrot (shredded)
1/3 cup fresh parsley (chopped, or 2 Tablespoons dried)
1 teaspoon coconut or canola oil
1 1/2 cups bulgur (dry)
2 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
8 ounces chickpeas (canned, drained)

Directions

Wash and chop fresh onion, broccoli, carrots, and parsley (if using fresh parsley).
Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onions and cook until soft.
Add bulgur and stir to coat. Add 2 cups chicken broth to the skillet, bring to a boil.
Lower the heat, add remaining vegetables and chickpeas. Cook for 10 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.
Add parsley and stir. Serve warm or cold.

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Honey Roasted Roasted Brussels Sprouts

If there is a list somewhere of the most hated and feared vegetables, I would venture to say that the Brussels sprout is on the list. And in my opinion, it’s very undeserved. I didn’t grow up eating Brussels sprouts; in fact, it was only a few years ago that I event tried them. Shortly after that fateful first meeting, I introduced them to my parents who liked them as well. Now, they have become an occasional side dish at my annual Christmas dinner.

My go-to method of preparing them was to simply toss them in some olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast them. I think any veggie is tasty fixed like that. But when I saw this recipe on Money Saving Mom, I knew I had to try it. The dried cranberries give a festive look that is perfect for your holiday meal or any meal of the year.

I prepared this dish this year at my Christmas dinner and it was the first time that a couple of family members had tried Brussels sprouts. And guess what? They asked for the recipe. Yep, they are that good.

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Honey Roasted Brussels Sprouts
1 lb. Brussels Spouts, trimmed, cut in half and washed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. honey
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 350.

Put the Brussels sprouts in a bowl. Pour the oil over and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat and season.

Put a single layer on a cookie sheet, cut side down. Roast for about 35 minutes at 350 degrees — until tender and edges are starting to brown.

Take cookie sheet out of the oven and drizzle  sprouts with honey and sprinkle with cranberries and almonds. Return to oven and bake for another 5 minutes — or until warmed through.

Serves 4 to 6.

“Oh, Toodles! Salad” (Spaghetti Salad)

My son turned 1 yesterday. It’s such a cliche, but time truly does fly by! He loves Mickey Mouse so I knew pretty early on that I was going to do a Mickey Mouse themed party for him. And I knew there would be a pasta salad involved because I really wanted to call something “Toodle Salad”. I had Pinned a creamy, mayo based salad but decided instead to make this spaghetti salad which came to me courtesy of my friend, Starr. It’s much a like a traditional Italian dressing pasta salad but the spaghetti noodles make it a little more fun to eat. Plus, the tomatoes make it red like Mickey.

I omitted the cucumber since I don’t like it. Zucchini would make a good substitute in the summer when it’s so plentiful.

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Spaghetti Salad

1 Box of spaghetti – 1lb
1 large green pepper (or 1 small red and 1 small green for color)
1 small sweet onion
1 English cucumber
1 – 16oz bottle of zesty Italian salad dressing
½ bottle of McCormicks Salad Supreme Seasoning
1 tomato

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. While the noodles cook, chop up the pepper, onion, cucumber and tomato. Drain spaghetti, rinse with cold water until the pasta has cooled. Drain again and pour into a large bowl. Add vegetables, salad dressing and seasoning. Combine well. Store in refrigerator in air tight container until ready to serve. It’s best when it sits all night.

Greek Chickpea Salad

It’s not often that you find culinary inspiration in a college dining hall, but that’s exactly where this recipe came from in a roundabout way. I first tried a Greek chickpea salad at our university cafeteria and liked it so much that I started looking for a copycat. I ended up piecing together several recipes to come up with this one. Cucumber is a popular component of Greek salads but it’s one vegetable that I just do not care for so I substituted zucchini. I also added in a few sprigs of chopped mint from my herb garden.

This salad is both light and hearty and I enjoyed it as a main dish for lunch.

Greek Chickpea Salad

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1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup reduced fat crumbled feta (2 ounces)
1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh parsley leaves

Toss it all together in a bowl and serve immediately; or serve chilled.

Quick Corn Pudding

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season. Ours was obviously special since it was our first with our baby boy. I didn’t cook as much as I normally would due to having the little one to take care of but I certainly didn’t go hungry. We hosted a dinner on the Saturday before Christmas for my side of the family. I served baked ham, mashed potatoes, green beans (home canned by Mom), rolls, homemade pecan pie, sweet tea and this corn pudding.

Corn pudding was not a dish that I grew up with. I don’t remember where I first tried it to be honest. I do remember how I came upon my recipe for it. For a long time, I subscribed to a recipe card collection called “Grandma’s Kitchen”. Although I have a ton of the recipe cards, I really have not tried many of the recipes. An exception was the recipe for corn pudding which I made many times. In fact, I made it so much that rather than keeping it in its recipe box with its other recipe brethren, I kept it out on the baker’s rack “where I could find it”.

You know what’s coming right…after remodeling the kitchen, moving my cookbooks to the office, giving away the baker’s rack, cleaning out the cookbooks to make the office a nursery..I could not find the recipe. However, it’s so simple that I pretty much knew it by heart so after a few quick glances at other recipes online, I felt like I had a reasonable idea of how to make it. It turned out great so my memory served me well.

This is a thick almost bread like dish and really not a “pudding” in my opinion. I have seen the recipe called a corn “casserole” or “dish” in other places so perhaps it’s not corn pudding in the traditional sense. It’s always popular though when I make it! And like the broccoli casserole, I love it at room temperature when it’s left over time!

Quick Corn Pudding
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1 (15 ounce) can creamed corn
1 (15.25 ounce) can whole kernel corn
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 box of Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 cup of sour cream
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 1 1/2 quart baking dish with nonstick spray.

Drain whole kernel corn. Combine with butter, cream-style corn, sour cream and corn muffin mix in a medium bowl and mix well.

Add the beaten eggs to the mixture, and mix until all ingredients are moistened.

Spoon batter into prepared baking dish. Bake until set, about 45 minutes. Serve immediately.