Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday Recipes: Fourth of July

I apologize for my absence this week. Brenda has been taking up the slack posting her Monday Gardening Tips and Wednesday Reader's Questions. I on the other hand have been working feverishly on a different project that has consumed all of my time.

However, this weekend in the US we celebrate American Independence Day. I just couldn't bring myself to pass up the opportunity to share some of the amazing recipes that Old Fashioned Living has to offer. Traditionally, we Americans tend to cook out on the 4th, whether it be at a park over a charcoal grill, or at home on the gas grill surrounded by family and friends. 

I've already posted some recipes such as Summer Herb Drinks, a variety of Fruit Salads, several for Iced Tea, and some really great recipes for the grill.

So this week I'm going to focus Pasta Salads and Desserts. I hope you and enjoy them. Brenda and I wish you a happy and safe 4th of July weekend! 

Tuna Macaroni Salad

3 cups uncooked macaroni
2 cans light tuna in water, drained
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 small red onion, chopped
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Cook macaroni, drain and rinse with cold water. Place in a large bowl. Add the drained tuna, celery and onion. Toss gently to mix. In a small bowl mix the mayonnaise, juice and seasonings. Add to the macaroni mixture and toss with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Chill and serve.

Seafood Pasta Salad

1/2 pound medium or small pasta shells
1 cup salad shrimp, precooked type
1 cup chopped crabmeat, fake is okay
1/4 cup diced celery
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 can sliced mushrooms
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 can artichoke hearts, diced
1 8 ounce bottle Italian dressing (light or fat free)
Optional: chopped olives

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water and chill. Add the chilled pasta to a large bowl and mix well with salad dressing. Add the shrimp, crab, celery, onions, mushrooms and artichoke hearts. Chill again until ready to serve. Just before serving add the eggs and cheese; mix again.

Spicy Macaroni Salad

1 pound elbow macaroni 
4 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
2-1/2 tablespoons wine, herb or cider vinegar
3 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black or red pepper

Cook pasta according to pkg. directions, rinse in cold water and drain. Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl until well blended. Add cooled pasta and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

Cilantro Tomato Pasta Salad

1 cucumber
1 cup ripe red tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, fresh
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup dry small shell pasta, cooked and drained

Peel the cucumber and cut in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to gently scrape away the seeds. Cut in half again lengthwise and dice the cucumber. Place cucumber, tomato, red onion, lime juice, cilantro, sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl with pasta Toss gently. Transfer to a serving bowl; chill at least 15 minutes before serving.

Bean and Pasta Salad

2 cups cut green beans
1 1/2 cups garbanzo beans
2 cup cooked pasta, macaroni or shells
2 T. red onion (minced)
1 cup Italian salad dressing

Toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste and toss again. Refrigerate several hours. Toss right before serving.

Garden Pasta Salad

2 cups pasta of your choice
1 cup Italian or Caesar dressing
1 cup cubed mozzarella or provolone cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
3/4 cup mushrooms
1/2 red onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped smoked ham
1 firm fresh tomato

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside. Cube the ham into medium size cubes. Chop the green pepper. Mushrooms need to be rinsed if canned, or washed and sliced if fresh. Seed and chop the tomato. The red onion should be sliced then cut in half again for smaller pieces. The cheese should be cubed very small. Place the vegetables and meat in a bowl with the pasta, add both cheeses, pour the dressing over and gently mix with a wooden spoon.

Note: If you ask at the deli counter they will give you a section of ham by weight, instead of slices. This recipe should take only about 1/2 pound. You can then chop it at home. You may substitute chicken, turkey or pepperoni.

Italian Rotini Salad

1/2 of a one pound package of Rotini Pasta
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup diced pepperoni
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 large green onions, sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Cook Rotini according to directions, rinse and drain. Combine Rotini, mushrooms,pepperoni, cheese, and green onions. Blend oil, vinegar and spices. Toss dressing with salad. Serve immediately or chill. Makes 6-8 servings.

Low Fat Potato Salad

10 small New (red) potatos baked in slow cooker with a little water until soft, and then sliced (don't peel) 
1-3 cloves garlic, crushed and sliced
1/4 cup sweet pickles, diced, or relish
1/4 cup firm tofu, diced
Chopped chives, to taste
1 small radish, diced
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
1/8-1/4 cup mayo
Red pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients the day before serving, chill, and enjoy.

Herbed Potato Salad

1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 cup wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
4 anchovies, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram
3 cups green beans, trimmed
2 pounds potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup red onion, sliced thinly and chopped

Mix olive oil, vinegar, minced shallots and the minced anchovies in medium glass bowl. Whisk in 1 teaspoon each of parsley, basil and marjoram. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside. Cook beans in boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain. Rinse under cold water; pat dry. Boil potatoes until just tender. Transfer to large bowl. Heat dressing in microwave just until warm, about 30 seconds. Pour half of the warm dressing over potatoes and toss to coat. Place potatoes on a very large platter in the center. Toss the beans and remaining dressing in same bowl. Arrange beans around potatoes. Sprinkle with onion and remaining herbs. Serve warm or at room temperature. Note: You can mix together all the leftovers after the meal to store and eat the next day.

Banana Split Squares


1 large package (21.5 or 23.7 ounces) fudge brownie mix

2 bananas, thinly sliced, dipped in lemon juice and drained

1/2 cup crushed nuts

2-3 flavors of your favorite ice cream

Chocolate topping, whipped cream, extra nuts, cherries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare brownie mix as package directs; spread in a 9x13 pan. Bake 20-25 minutes; cool. On brownie, layer bananas, nuts and four cups one flavor ice cream, then 2 cups another flavor and 4 cups another. Cover and freeze for 6 hours or until firm. Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving. Cut into squares; offer additional toppings. Serves 12-16.

White Chocolate-Mint Tart with Strawberries & Blueberries

Makes One 9-Inch Tart; 6 to 8 Servings
5 tablespoons unsalted butter 
2 tablespoons sugar 
1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs 
4 ounces white chocolate 
1 1/2 cups heavy cream 
1/4 teaspoon pure mint extract 
1 pint fresh strawberries
handful of blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in the butter warmer or saucepan. Combine the sugar and graham cracker crumbs in the medium-size bowl and stir in the melted butter. Press the graham cracker mixture evenly across the bottom and all the way up the sides of the tart pan, packing it tightly with your fingertips so it is even and compacted. Bake until crisp and golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside to let cool.

2. Finely chop the chocolate and place in a large bowl. Heat the heavy cream in the saucepan until almost boiling. Whisk the hot cream into the chocolate until smooth. Whisk in the mint extract. Refrigerate until completely cooled.

3. Whip the chocolate mixture with the electric mixer until it holds soft peaks. Refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 3 hours. Spoon into the cooled tart shell and smooth with the spatula.

4. To serve, slice the tops off the strawberries and slice thin. Place wedges of the tart on 6 individual dessert dishes and spoon some strawberries and blueberries alongside each wedge.

Patriotic Swirl Cake

1 box French vanilla or white cake mix
1/2 can cherry pie filling
1/2 can blueberry pie filling
Frozen whipped topping, thawed

Mix the cake as directed on the box, pour into a 9x13 pan that has been buttered or sprayed well. Open the cherry pie filling and dot on tablespoons full of the glaze/liquid part of the filling in 3 or so spots on top of the batter. Alternate pattern using the blueberry pie filling. Using a butter knife run it through the batter and the filling to swirl it together. Bake according to the box directions. When cake is done and cooled add the remaining cherry and blueberry pie filling over the top of the cake evenly. Cut and spoon out pieces of the cake onto plates and top with a spoonful of whipped topping.

Variation: You can frost the cake with the whipped topping and spoon the filling over the whipped topping.

Tip: Save the remaining 1/2 cans of pie filling to spoon over pudding or ice cream!

Sponge Cake with Raspberry Sauce

6 eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon or orange peel
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup cake flour
2/3 tsp. salt

1 cup fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease and flour the bottom of a 10 inch tube or Bundt pan. Sift flour and salt. Set aside. Break eggs into a large bowl. Add lemon juice and grated rind. Beat at high speed with electric mixer until soft peaks form, 12-16 minutes. Add sugar to egg mixture in a fine stream while beating eggs for about 2 more minutes. Change to lowest speed and add flour mixture. Scrape sides and beat for 30 seconds. Pour batter into pan and bake 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Place pan upside down on cooling rack, but do not remove cake until cooled.

Sauce: Combine cornstarch with 1 tablespoon cold water; stir to make a smooth paste. Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in sugar, raspberries, and cornstarch mixture; bring to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Cool. Cut the cake into slices and top with sauce. You can sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and top with chocolate shavings for an extra touch.

Amazing Fruit Salad

1 pint fresh blueberries
1 pint fresh hulled strawberries or raspberries
2-/12 cups fresh pineapple chunks
2 cups seeded watermelon chunks
2 bananas, sliced 1/2"
2 tbs. lemon juice
2 kiwifruit, peeled and sliced
1 small can mandarin oranges, drained
2 pkg. (3 ozs. each) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar
1-1/2 tsp. fresh lime juice
1 cup whipping cream, whipped
1/4 tsp. grated lime peel

Toss bananas and lemon juice to keep from browning. Place in a glass bowl. In a layering effect, place the pineapple, blueberries, one half of the strawberries, oranges, kiwifruit, watermelon, and the remaining strawberries/or raspberries.

In a bowl, with a mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar slowly and continue beating. Add lime juice and incorporate; then the lime peel. Lower speed, and add one-half of the whipped cream. Mix until blended. Lower speed again, and add the remaining whipped cream. Pour dressing over fruit allowing it to drizzle inside the bowl. Chill for at least 1 hour.

Patriotic Poke Cupcakes

1 (18.25 ounce) package white cake mix 
1 (3 ounce) package strawberry or cherry flavored gelatin mix 
1 cup boiling water 
1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed 
1 (3 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 cup milk
fresh blueberries, red and blue sprinkles, nonpareils or colored sugar

Prepare and bake cake mix according to package directions for a cupcakes. Poke holes in cupcakes while still hot with the round handle of a wooden spoon. Be careful not to poke all the ay through to the bottom. 

Make gelatin with only 1 cup of boiling water. Pour gelatin over cupcakes while warm. Cool the cupcakes. Beat together whipped topping, pudding mix, milk and vanilla extract. Frost mixture over cooled cupcakes and refrigerate until ready to serve. Easy but good!

Decorate with fresh blueberries, red and blue sprinkles, nonpareils or colored sugar.

Visit our recipe section and our holiday section for even more!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Reader's Questions: Herbs and Composting

You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear as young as your hope, as old as your despair. ~Douglas MacArthur

Today I have more readers' questions today.

I have one cilantro plant and by reading your article, once it flowers it becomes bitter and should not use anymore. So, do I just cut everything away? Will it grow back? or do I need to replant another cilantro plant? ~Sue

The article Sue referred to is on OFL here:

You have a couple of choices. You can pull up the plant and sow seeds again or you can let the plant flower and form seeds. The seeds can be used to grow more plants or they can be ground and used as a spice. The seeds are actually known as coriander.

Many people sow cilantro seeds every 2-3 weeks so they have a steady supply. Once cilantro "bolts" or shoots up flower stalks, the plant is done. No matter what you do-- cut it back etc.-- it won't grow more of the foliage needed for cilantro. The herb basically changes. The foliage still has flavor and some people use it though its flavor is different and it has a ferny, thin appearance. Also, the hotter it is, the faster cilantro will bolt.

I have a question for you that I have not been able to resolve myself. My son laughs at me because I won't put rhubarb leaves in the compost pile - but we know rhubarb leaves are poisonous! It may sound silly to you too, but we are so carefully organic, and conservative with everything we use in the house and garden, it just seems wrong to put something poisonous back in to our garden. Can you tell me the real story? I would really be grateful. ~Fran

I don't think it's a silly question at all! I had a gut feeling about this, but did research to be sure, and according to good sources it's okay to put rhubarb in your compost. Remember, when we talk about "poisonous" plants, it's much different than toxic chemicals, which are man made and often don't even break down. The Colorado State University Extension website had this explanation:

"What actually occurs when rhubarb is added to a compost pile is that the oxalic acid is decomposed and pH balanced rather quickly. Thus, rhubarb leaves tend to break down to non-toxic components quickly in the average composting situation."
~Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

I really think you are safe in adding the rhubarb. One thought is that oxalic acid is also in potato plants and a few others, but we add those-- I wouldn't go so far as to put in poison ivy, oak or sumac though:)

Some of our lilac bushes or trees did not bloom this year. This is a new house to us and we discovered the trees behind some very large pine trees so the lilacs do not get any light. We plan to cut the trees down. But is there something else to do for the lilacs to help them for next year? ~Mary

Lilacs need full sun, so cutting down the pine trees would help a lot. Lilacs form next springs blooms soon after they are done flowering. Do not prune during the summer. In early spring you can prune off any dead wood--but leave the other branches alone.If you need to "shape" your bush, just be aware that any branches you prune will not have blooms the next spring. There are a few other things you can do to give your lilacs a little boost.

In the fall and spring sprinkle 1-2 cups of Epsom salt around the bush. Make sure if you are using lawn fertilizers that they don't get on or near the lilacs--it's meant for encouraging grass/foliage not blooms. You can also work wood ashes and/or bone meal into the soil around the lilacs in the spring and fall.

How do you harvest your seeds?


Monday, June 29, 2009

Nasturtium Tips and a Recipe

At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope that it can be done, then they see that it can be done-then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago. ~Francis Hodgson Burnett

Nasturtiums are one of my favorite edible flowers. If you haven't grown them before you can still sow them and have blooms before fall. They are gorgeous!

Nasturtium seeds can be pickled and used much like you would capers. In 'The Joy of Cooking' by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker (Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., New York, 1975) they give a nice recipe for preparing the seeds.

After the blossoms fall, pick off the half-ripened Nasturtium seed pods. Continue as your crop develops to drop them into a boiled and strained mixture of:

1 quart white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Pickling Salt
1 thinly sliced onion
1/2 teaspoon each allspice, mace and celery seed
3 peppercorns

Keep refrigerated and use as a variation for capers.

How do you know if your potted herbs have become too large for the pot they are currently in? The roots will start growing out the drainage holes of the pot, and you'll notice that the pot dries out very quickly, though it didn't used to. Both of these symptoms tell you that the herb needs to be moved to a bigger pot and placed in new soil.

On OFL I have more tips on growing and using nasturtiums: