Lime, Mint and Aniseed Dressing

Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born. Anais Nin

Friday was our monthly Girls Games and Giving event.  There were a few ladies who were there for the first time.  I think one of the things I love best about this group is that, at almost every meeting, I walk away having made a new friend or two (or even three!).  Our group was small and we had so much fun.  We like to play Catch Phrase and if you haven’t played, it’s hysterical.  Someone told me it’s similar to the game Taboo, but what it reminds me of is the show/game Password. Basically you have to get your team to guess a word without saying the word or giving any obvious hints (like “sounds like” or “starts with”). 

The kicker is that the game makes the most horrible loud beeping noise – it’s basically a timer.  The game itself is a round electronic widget that is about 6″ in diameter.  Your team has to guess the word and the game has to be in the next person’s hands before the timer goes off. As you’re holding the game, the beeps get closer and closer together – Beep!……Beep!…..Beep!…..Beep!…Beep!…Beep!…Beep!…BEEP!..BEEP!BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPHONK. There you sit with the game in your hands looking pathetic. When the beeping starts to get really close, the person who is next line will often delay taking the game – because even if your team has guessed the word correctly, you CANNOT be holding it when the timer goes off. The best is if you pass it to the next person and the timer goes off immediately.

The charity chosen by our hostess was ALS – or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. What an awful disease.  Essentially you end up with a body that doesn’t work and a fully functioning brain – trapped.  Two of the girls in our club are cousins and they’ve had 5 people in their family who either died or are dying from this disease. It’s always amazing to me how I can so easily feel like I don’t have enough in my life; yet hearing about a disease like this really makes it clear how blessed I really am.  The hostess showed us a before and after picture of the latest family member who has been struck with ALS – in six months she looked like she had aged 30 years. A good thing to think about when I feel like I’m somehow deprived!

I had this bright idea that I was going to can peaches this year.  This was brought on by my friend  and co-worker, Annie, who is this truly amazing woman – she can do anything.  She’s an outstanding cook, baker, quilter, sewer, accountant, just name it.  She brought in these peaches she had gotten at a local produce market.  They’re called Colorado Mountain Gold and oh my goodness – I’ve never had such a good tasting peach.  So I went to the market and bought an entire box. And before I could get them canned, we ate them all!  I have three left. And now, sadly, they’re not available anymore.  So, I’ll try again next year.  But, I did use them in some very creative ways.  Last weekend I made a salad with peaches, blueberries, and strawberries, and I topped it with a mint lime dressing that was used in a different type of fruit salad by my cousin Sue.  It was outstanding.  And even though the peaches were wonderful on their own, I also tried them alone with the dressing – yummers. And, it’s simple to make and keeps well. One thing I want to point out – I DO NOT like black licorace.  In fact, I would eat something with raisins in it before I would eat black licorace.  But don’t let the aniseeds in this recipe scare you.  The flavor is so subtle and adds so much to the final product – I promise you it will be good!

Just a few simple ingredients.  Those are the anise seeds on the bottom left. 

Mix together the sugar, finely diced mint leaves, anise seeds, lime juice and water. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.  Cool completely.

Here it is still warm from the stove.  If you’re going to make this a couple days ahead of time, you can leave the mint out when you boil it and add it in when the syrup is cool. Let it steep for a couple of days and it will have a wonderful mint flavor, and the mint pieces will stay bright green instead of losing their color (when they’re cooked they look a little like basil).

So good drizzled on fresh fruit (the last of the peaches!).  For more intense flavor, soak the fruit in the dressing for a couple of hours before serving.  So far my favorite combination is peaches, orange slices (from either mandarin or Cara Cara oranges), strawberries and blueberries.

Lime, Mint and Aniseed Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon anise seed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a small heavy saucepan over high head, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and boil for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat, and cool completely. May be used immediately after cooling or store in the refrigerator.

Alternative: Follow directions above, but do not add mint until mixture has cooled.  Allow to steep in the refrigerator for at least one day before using. This method keeps the mint leaves a nicer green.

 

You Say Tomato I Say Tomahto

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2

I get a real kick out of cooking for people.  It gives me such joy to prepare a beautiful meal or a special treat for the people in my life and watch their faces light up if they like what I’ve made.  And I really appreciate honest comments about what I’ve made – I want to know if it needs work.  I also love cooking for my husband, who is an awesome cook in his own right. He’s an interesting fellow, to say the least. He’s older than me, and he’s kind of an old hippie (and trust me, I mean that in the most loving way).  He’s certainly taught me a lot about reusing stuff (possibly we have gone too far in that particular direction).

Here he is in the ’60s on a bike he built. Do you see what I mean about hippie? I love it.  Wish I had known him then!

Jim, I think, would eat dog food if I used enough onions and garlic.  But on the same token, he can be really picky. He gave his Mom a load of grief one morning while we were all up at the cabin  – she had made the mistake *gasp* of using margarine to cook hashbrowns.  Jim’s discerning taste buds realized the deception immediately (actually, he saw the margarine box on the counter). Now, his mama was small, but she was feisty.  I loved her to death and still miss her terribly. But, back to the story.  So Pat (his mom), tells Jim she’ll make a new batch just for him with BUTTER and the rest of us will torture ourselves with the horrible margarine hashbrowns.  He watches while she puts a big dollop of butter in the pan and starts cooking the hashbrowns, then he heads outside to do something or other with the boat while he waits for his breakfast to get done. The second he’s out the door, Pat dumped in a big dollop of margarine along with the butter (and then looked at me and cackled).  He never had a clue (that is until now!). 

And for goodness sakes you DO NOT want to be at a restaurant with this guy when he starts quizzing the waitress about whether or not they have “real” butter. “Do you serve real butter here?”.  “Yes, we do.”. “Not that stuff that’s whipped, but real butter”. “Well, our butter is whipped but it is real butter” (this said with a sort of question mark at the end because now he’s confusing her). “No, I want the butter that comes in pats – real butter”.  “Let me check and see if we have any”(at this point she’s nervously edging away from the table as subtly as possible), then, “Do you serve real maple syrup?”. You get the picture.

One day I made Swedish meatballs and I’d doctored up the recipe a bit because I was trying to recreate a recipe from a restaurant we used to go to when I was a kid. Jim gets home, and starts eating them (and the man can eat – he’s rail thin and tall and I have truly never seen anyone who can pack it away like him – I would love to have his metabolism). He literally ate about 40 of them (they were pretty small, but still) and raved about how good they were.  About a month later I told him I would either make homemade chicken pot pie or meatballs, and he said, “Not the meatballs, I didn’t care for those that much”.  I had to explain to him that it’s okay to tell me if he doesn’t like something, preferably WHILE HE’S EATING IT, not weeks later. At least it was good for a laugh!

I love almost any recipe that includes tomatoes (fresh, cooked, sun-dried, roasted, it simply doesn’t matter).  Sometimes I make a deconstructed BLT – using croutons, mayonnaise (with a little lemon for a pop of flavor), crumbled bacon, lettuce, and of course, tomatoes!  Lovely tomatoes!

A while ago I found a recipe on the Williams-Sonoma website (www.williamssoma.com) and just slightly modified it.  It has a similar feel  to my deconstructed BLT salad, but I’m sure it’s miles healthier. Well, maybe not because it can involve fried chicken.  Also, I almost always add nice crispy crumbled bacon to this recipe because it’s so yummy!  I made this one the other day and I was out of bacon (can you imagine!) but it still tasted fab.

Start with this stuff – you can certainly make your own croutons, but I really like this Texas Toast brand. The basil is missing, but Jim (again) went to the store for me.  He is so good about that and I am such a dork. Also, I didn’t take a picture of the oil, but you’re going to want to fill a large pan with about 2″ of oil and heat it to about 350°.

You’ll also need chicken and bread crumbs.  Does anyone else get a little yuckked out with chicken?  I don’t know, I love to eat it but it’s icky to handle.  To quote Owen Meany, “It gives me the shivers”.  But once it’s cooked – yes ma’am.

Cut the tomatoes into bite size or slightly larger pieces.  Do you know we’ve already had a tomato from the garden? That’s a reason to be grateful for hot summer nights! (* I know there are other reasons but this is G rated blog, kids). Add some rough chopped basil to the tomatoes.  Mix up the dressing and pour about 1/2 of it on the tomatoes and mix well.

Cut the chicken up into uniform cubes, about 3/4″, and roll them in the bread crumbs. Cook them in the hot oil until golden brown – I did about 1/3 at a time so they would cook evenly. I didn’t take a picture because I’m not tall enough to hold the camera high enough over the pan, and I didn’t want to get oil on it.  And there is no way I’m going to balance on a chair over a pot of boiling oil.  I’m just sayin’.

The original recipe mixes everything together, but I like it separate like this.  Pour additional dressing on it before eating it.

Here it is all mixed up!  Like me!

 Tomatoes and Bread with Chicken Bites*

*If you’re in a big hurry, you can use cut up fried chicken from the deli counter

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups croutons, homemade or ready made
  • 6 large tomatoes, cut into bite size pieces or slightly larger
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 6 slices crisp cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • Plain bread crumbs
  • Vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Pour 2 inches of vegetable or peanut oil into a deep frying or saute pan. Preheat to 350°.
  2. Mix together the red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and sugar.  Shake or stir well.
  3. Pour half the salad dressing over the tomato basil mixture to marinate.
  4. Add bacon if using.
  5. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces, about 3/4″ cubes, and roll in the bread crumbs. If you like, you can season the chicken first with a bit of salt or seasoning salt. 
  6. Fry the chicken in 3 batches in the heated oil until golden brown.  Drain on a paper towel lined plate.
  7. Either mix the chicken, croutons and tomatoes together in one bowl or serve as a deconstructed salad with a pile of each on the plate.  Drizzle additional dressing on the croutons and chicken.


Keen on Quinoa

“I tell you the truth. If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you”. Matthew 17:20

Yesterday I spent the day with two dear friends, Kim and Jen.  We had a blast going to garage sales and antique stores and lunch; and of course ended the day with a big old ice cream cone from this fabulous little Mom and Pop ice cream store called “Nelson’s” in Stillwater, Minnesota. These two girls are so much fun – intelligent, kind, encouraging and also a couple of goofballs.  It’s amazing.  Toward the end of the day we regrouped at Jen’s house and sat out on the deck and laughed and talked for a long time.  It was a terrific way to spend the day, and to top it off, I found a gorgeous plate at an estate sale for two bucks! 

It was crazy hot yesterday but even hotter this morning. Whew. The glass on the doors and window of the house and car are running with moisture – I believe the dew point or humidity today was close to 80%. Now I really know what the term “hot mess” means although, actually, sweaty Betty is probably more apropos to how I’m feeling.  We are so blessed to have air conditioning.

Sometimes Kim lets her little dog Twiggy stay with us.  Twiggy is part terrier and part whippet or greyhound and she is the funniest dog. She’s like a supermodel in the dog world.  All muscle and gleaming fur, with bright white teeth and shiny button eyes. And can she jump, holy cats.  My two dogs love the Twiglet, and my husband adores her.

Note the size difference between my “little” dog, Keats, and Miss Twiggy.  My other dog, Lou, is about half again as big as Keats (about 65 pounds vs Keats at 40 pounds), but when Twig tells Lou to jump, his first question is “How high?”.  Twiggy also has perfect pitch.  A police car went by one day while she was visiting, and the siren was going.  That little girl stuck her nose in the air and howled right along with it – a PERFECT imitation.  I almost fell off the chair laughing.  And of course the windows were all open that day, which I completely forgot about later on when I was howling at the top of my lungs trying to get Twigs to give a repeat performance.  She just shook her head sadly and walked away. So did my neighbor who happened to be out watering her flowers.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that most all Sunday afternoons are reserved for Dinner and Dominoes with my Uncle Dave.  Luckily he was inclined to come over here today (he’s such a good guy), because I truly wasn’t able to go out in this heat and survive. In the summer I really crave salady (I know that’s not a real word but I like it anyway) stuff, and being with Jen yesterday reminded me of this fab salad her husband makes.  I was able to score the recipe from Jen a while ago, and it turned out to be the perfect hot summer day salad. 

The main ingredient is called quinoa. It looks like it should be pronounced “kin-no-ah”, but it is actually pronounced keen-wah, emphasis on the “keen”.  And it is a pretty keen food. It’s not a true grain – it’s related to the beet family (thank you so much, Wikipedia!).  It’s a really great source of protein – very filling, and unlike a lot of foods that are good for you, it is quite tasty. It comes in several different varieties – I’ve tried white and red and find that I like the taste of the red best. You can eat it hot, cold or room temp (one caveat, you do need to cook it first or it really gets stuck in your teeth), and the texture reminds me of cous cous (love cous cous), but it’s a healthier food choice.

Here’s almost everything you’ll need except mint and garlic (Jim had to run to the store to get me some fresh mint and I just dorked out on the garlic)

Here’s some red quinoa.  Teensy little round seeds.

Here it is wet. “Why wet?” you may ask.  Or maybe not.  But it is important to rinse it well before cooking.  It’s coated with a natural substance called saponins which are awful tasting.  This keeps birds and animals from eating it while it’s growing.  It would likely keep humans from eating it as well (except for humans who can gag down wheat grass) if we couldn’t just wash it off.  So I just put it in a colander and run it under cold water for a couple of minutes.  It’ll foam up a little at first – probably the saponins protesting.

Put it in a nice heavy pan with water – use a ratio of 2 to 1 – 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa.  Bring it to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer and cap it.  I’d start checking it at about 10 minutes, and it shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes.  It will absorb all the water and the germ will release from the seed (it’s a little white curvy piece). I think quinoa is really pretty, both cooked and uncooked. If you happen to have a rice cooker, you can cook it the same way you’d cook rice.

After the cooked quinoa is cooled (say that 10 times fast!), mince some red or purple onion (I bet shallots would be awesome) mint and cilantro,  and dice some red pepper, and cucumber.

Mix all the veggies and herbs into the cooled cilantro. Now mix up the dressing – red wine vinegar, minced garlic (yum!), olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Mix this into the salad and either serve immediately or chill until you’re ready to eat.  This is a great vegetarian meal as well.

Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups quinoa
  • 1/2 cup diced cucumber
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons diced red onion (I use a bit more)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

 Directions:

  1. Mix cooked and cooled quinoa and all veggies and herbs together in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Mix olive oil, sherry vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.  Whisk briskly to combine, and pour over quinoa.  Stir thoroughly.  Enjoy immediately or refrigerate for later use.

 


Big Chicken Salad

Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly father feeds them. And are you not worth much more than they? Matthew 6:26

June 21st is long gone, and that means we are losing daylight bit by bit, which I’ve started to notice – especially in the morning.  It isn’t much, but when you get up very early in the morning like I do, it’s definitely noticeable.  My favorite part of spring and summer is the early sunrise coupled withe the sound of the birds chirping like crazy in morning.  It reminds me of all the summers I’ve enjoyed and it’s a wonderful way to wake up.

My least favorite sounds are thunder and fireworks.  Now don’t get me wrong – I love a good thunderstorm (although I almost always sleep right through them if I’m not disturbed by someone else) and fireworks are just a fabulous part of warm weather fun. That is, unless you happen to have a big hairy dog who is terrified of storms!

We adopted Lou from Midwest Border Collie Rescue – a great organization.  Lou was about a year old and he’d had a rough time of it.  It took a long time for him to come around and feel confident, but he’s never gotten over his fear of storms.  He’s a little hard of hearing which is a bit of a blessing when we’re dealing with storms or fireworks.  And every city around here has some kind of “days” – Duk Duk Days; Crystal Frolics; Whiz Bang Days…you get the picture.  And they all shoot off fireworks.  We can deal with that, because they’re always done by about 10:30 and we can keep Lou occupied with a tennis ball.

Let me get off track here and tell you a little about Louie’s almost complete OCD obsession with tennis balls.  Anyone who has a border collie probably knows exactly what I’m talking about – there aren’t any sheep to herd so they have to find a substitute.  But even among border collies, Lou’s tennis ball obsession is legendary. Shortly after Lou came to live with use, the rescue organization had a get together/fund raising event for everyone who wanted to attend.

One of the things they did to raise money was to sell numbered tennis balls.  The idea was that they wrote down your number, and then all the balls were spread out in a field.  Then you send out a border collie to get one and bring it back, and whoever owned that ball won a prize.  The obvious choice for optimal tennis ball retrieval was Louis.  So I sent him out into the field of tennis balls, confident he would be back very quickly with a winner.  What no one counted on was Lou’s reaction to being in a field of over 200 tennis balls!  He’d pick up one, drop it, pick up another, drop it, pick up another, drop it – I think you see where I’m going here.  After about 20 minutes it was obvious we had cleverly laid a trap to drive the poor bugger completely nuts!

My point is, that no matter how scared Lou gets, we can always get him to ignore the scary stuff if we play ball with him.  The trouble is, there is no one in my house who wants to toss a tennis ball to a strung out border collie at 3AM! So, we drug him.  I give him Benedryl.  Now, before you get freaked out by this, I have the blessing of the vet and I have done extensive research on it – it’s very nearly impossible to overdose on Benedryl, and I only give him 2. It just takes the edge off a little bit so he can go to sleep.

So today I was thinking about what a big chicken he is and how glad I am he’s here, because he’s also a big cuddly guy who loves to be loved. So in honor of Louie, I made a yummy chicken salad.  Now I need to warn you, this is one of those recipes that I’ve been making forever and it changes based on the ingredients that I have, so the recipe is not super precise.  But I’ll try.

These are the ingredients I decided to use this time. To cook the chicken, I drizzled some really good olive oil over it, and added a little salt and pepper.  Then I baked it for about 50 minutes at 350°.  Delish!

I chopped up some green onion and celery, grated some Jarlsberg cheese, and mixed it with some Marcona almonds and some dried cranberries. Now, you may wonder why I would use dried cranberries considering I hate raisins. I believe the only thing that cranberries and raisins have in common is that they are both dried. Raisins are yucky, dried cranberries are not. Also, just for the record, I’m not particularly fond of fresh cranberries but I do love grapes – especially frozen grapes!

  Then cut the chicken up into bite sized pieces.  Mix some mayo with lemon juice (fresh is always better and you can add some zest, too but I was out of lemons so used the kind that comes in a bottle).  Add some basil – again, fresh is better but I was out, so I went with the dried kind. Make sure to crush it in the palm of your hand before you put it in the mayo – this helps release the oils and makes it more flavorful.  By the way, I just want you to know that as I’m typing this we are having a very loud thunderstorm.  I have to keep pushing the ball off the table to keep Lou occupied. In the meantime, brave little Keats just casually went outside for a few minutes.

Okay, this is really good.  Really really good.

Here’s a close up – mouth watering!

Chicken Salad

Ingredients (all are approximate, adjust to your personal taste):

  • 2.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (or whatever parts you prefer)
  • 1 bunch of green onions
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 3/4 dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup Marcona almonds (substitute whatever nut you prefer, or leave them out entirely)
  • 1-1/2 cups grated Jarlsberg cheese
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice (if using fresh lemon, add some zest, too)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons crushed dried basil; or fresh basil – chiffonade
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook chicken – drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and cook at 350° for about 50 minutes or until the juices run clear.  Let cool completely, and cut into bite size pieces.
  2. Mix together onions, celery, cranberries, almonds, grated cheese and diced chicken.
  3. Mix mayonnaise with lemon juice, lemon zest (if using), basil, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly with the chicken mixture.
  4. You can enjoy this right away, or refrigerate it for an hour to allow the flavors to blend.  This is wonderful with a side of fresh fruit.


Hot Summer Days and Cool Lemon Pasta Salad

It was You who set all the boundaries of the earth; You made both summer and winter. Psalm 74:17

You know what they say about Minnesota – if you don’t like the weather just wait 5 minutes.  And you know what?  I love that.  We had snow in May, and then a few weeks later broke a warm weather record when we had a 103° day. Yes. In Minnesota (also known as Minnesnowta).  The past two days have been HOT. Crazy hot.  When I got into my car this afternoon the temperature gauge showed it was 105° degrees outside (okay, it SAID that, but I think it was closer to 98° or 100° – my car has an odd sense of humor).  And when the weather gets that hot, you can almost bet there’s going to be an intense storm. 

Plus, in this kind of weather, I really crave cold salads.  I don’t want to eat anything hot, even if it’s grilled – but I want something filling.  So of course I got a craving for one of my favorite summer salads – Lemon Pasta Salad. I got home and I was really beat so I decided to take a nap and then go grocery shopping.  This turned out to be a big mistake adventure.  Right before I left for the store we had 60 MPH (yes, that’s not a typo, I said sixty) wind gusts. 

Then things seemed to settle down, so off I went to our local store which is about 1/2 a mile away. When I got near the store I noticed some of the traffic lights were out. Then I got in the store and the overhead lights were flickering (let me tell you, a bunch of fluorescent light bulbs flickering gives me a major eye twitch).  Then I realized that the staff was busily putting up big sheets of plastic over all the cold stuff (deli counter, veggies, cheese, yogurt, etc.). The power was out so they were covering everything so the generators would keep it cold – but that meant you couldn’t buy anything that was covered.  The craving I had for my special salad had taken control of my body, so I beat cheeks and whipped around getting everything I needed before anyone could plasticize it – and I got everything but the ham. I was pretty impressed with myself. 

Then I got up front and the lines were tremendous because there were only a few register open.  But I waited. And waited. And waited. And read a magazine. And waited. And FINALLY it was my turn!  And there were some sweet young men there who were offering to pack groceries (you can give them a donation and it funds their football team).  These kids were about 14 or 15 and so polite and they did an outstanding job of packing my groceries.  I didn’t have any cash, but I wasn’t worried – I figured I could use the cash machine.  Which of course wasn’t working because of the power outage. There’s the kids, smiling at me, and there I am with literally 2 pennies and useless debit card in my purse. I was so embarrassed!  I slunk out to my car.

Now I had everything but the ham.  Luckily there’s another grocery store about a mile away.  I looked at sky and it had some pretty scary clouds, but I was pretty sure I could make it to the store and get home before the storm hit.  I never was very smart that way. I did make to the store, ran in, got the ham, and made to my car just as the first drops starting falling.  As soon as I got out on the highway, it was deluge.  You could see the wind pushing the water across the road (that’s always a fun sight when you’re out driving around).  And then the hail started. 

I made it home pretty fast, but it was raining so hard that I just sat in the car for about 20 minutes until the storm passed. It was actually pretty cool to be in the car, so sort of in the open, and watch the rain and lightening.  I was just listening to the weather report  and I guess there were funnel clouds, too!  But the very best part was that I put the salad together and it tasted so good – it was the perfect dinner.

Here’s part of what you need.  Now remember, I had just survived a massive storm, so ignore the celery and pretend it’s the sugar canister. 

 

Here’s the rest of what you need. Those are frozen peas in the front there.  I really like peas, as long as they’re IN something. 

I don’t have a picture, but start a pot of water boiling for your pasta, and a second pot for your asparagus.  Then clean your asparagus and snap off the woody ends.

Steam the asparagus for between 2 and 3 minutes.  As soon as you take it off the stove, throw it in a colander and run cold water over it to stop the cooking.  You want it tender crisp. When your pasta water starts boiling, add the pasta. You want to cook it al dente because it will absorb the dressing and it’s icky if it’s too floppy.

Dice some pretty red pepper and some green onion, and finely chop some basil.  Chop up the asparagus, too, and thaw the peas by putting them in your colander and running cold water over them.

Mix all these gorgeous veggies together in a big bowl. By this time the pasta should be about done.  Put it in the colander and run cold water over it.  If you’re really organized, you can dump the peas in the colander and then pour the pasta in.  The hot pasta water will thaw the peas and the cold peas will help cool down the pasta – but you’ll still need to run cold water over the pasta to make sure it stops cooking.

Cube some ham and mix it in with the veggies. If you’re not a ham lover, you could use chicken instead.  I really like the ham in this salad. Add the cooled pasta. Now, at this point you could also add some shredded cheddar cheese.  This is very good but sometimes I like a lighter version so I leave the cheese out.

In a smaller bowl, mix buttermilk, mayo, lemon zest, sugar and fresh lemon juice.  Stir this up and then pour it over the ham and veggie mixture. Mix it up really well.

You can eat it right away and it’s delicious – and it just gets better overnight.  I like to add just a touch of salt and nice amount of fresh ground black pepper to mine. I think this is a perfect summer salad. One thing to note, I cut the recipe below in half since there are only two of us eating it.

Lemon Pasta Salad with Ham

Ingredients:

  • 1-12 ounce box of bow tie pasta, cooked al dente and cooled completely
  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1” piece
  • 4 cups diced ham, turkey or chicken (I prefer ham)
  • 1 medium red or green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
  • 1 – 16-ounce package of frozen baby peas
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (if desired)

 Directions:

  1. Cook the pasta al dente and then run cold water over it to cool it off.
  2. Clean the asparagus, discard woody ends, and steam for 2 to 3 minutes until tender crisp.  Chop into bite size pieces.
  3. Thaw the peas by running cold water over them.
  4. Chop the basil.
  5. Dice the red pepper and the green onions.
  6. Mix veggies, pasta and ham together in a large bowl.
  7. In a smaller bowl, mix lemon zest, lemon juice, mayo and buttermilk until well blended.
  8. Pour dressing over salad and mix well.
  9. You may also add 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese to the mixture if you like.