Family Favorites: Green Bean Casserole with a Homemade Crispy Onion Variation

I love “Green Bean Casserole.” With a creamy sauce and topped with crunchy French’s® Crispy Fried Onions, it is hard to resist. Although it wouldn’t be a Thanksgiving holiday meal without this dish, the casserole is really great any time of the year. Recently I noticed a recipe for this dish which included homemade fried onions rings for a topping and I recalled how much I liked the dish. This recipe author also took the extra effort to use fresh green beans and make a sauce from scratch. That’s alot of work as the original recipe uses just three main ingredients. I liked the idea of the homemade crispy fried onion rings and decided to add it to my variation. Although the verdict is still out on the homemade onions rings, my husband and I sure ate alot of “test runs” of “Green Been Casserole.” So, here is my casserole using French’s® Crispy Fried Onions.

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Family Favorites: Old-Fashioned Scalloped Potatoes

Mrs. Grossnickle made the best recipe of “Scalloped Potatoes” that I can ever remember. The dish was probably loaded with cream and butter. Not healthy by today’s standards, but very tasty. When I was growing up, the Grossnickles lived across a cow pasture which we could see from where we lived on a small hill. “Scalloped Potatoes” was served at almost every Sunday dinner after church and especially at holidays such as Easter. I am guessing that we were invited to the Grossnickle’s home for some of these meals and this is where I ate the “best” dish of “Scalloped Potatoes.” I consider this to be an old-fashioned “comfort food” and still like the dish after all these years; although with slightly less cream. For nostalgia, I’m making this dish again on Easter Sunday.

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Let’s Eat Fruit: “Kitchen-Counter Fresh Fruit Bowl”

The 2020 – 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released to the public on December 29, 2020. These guidelines are updated every five years. Panels of nutritional scientists and researchers meet to review the latest nutrition research on how to keep Americans healthy — what foods and nutrients do we need to eat. Their reports then undergo scrutiny by anyone who wants to make a public comment. (This amounted to more than 62,000 comments!) After all the comments are considered, a policy report is released to the public. The report is important because it dictates how government funds are allocated and spent, especially for food programs. As expected, one of the conclusions state that Americans don’t eat enough fruit. And this, unfortunately, is often true at our house. Although we always have fresh fruit around; sometimes it gets skipped. When I make a “Kitchen-Counter Fresh Fruit Bowl,” the fresh fruit seems to quickly disappear. Here’s a little more about the Dietary Guidelines and also how I make my fruit bowl.

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“Oven-Fried Okra Poppers” in the Wintertime

Here is a way to enjoy “Southern Fried Okra” all year long. “Oven-Fried Okra Poppers” is an adaptation of a recipe which I posted in the summer for traditional fried okra. That recipe uses fresh okra which is available in the summer months. We love fried okra and so I adapted the recipe as a way to enjoy home cooked okra in the wintertime, too. Plus, this okra is baked in the oven rather than frying cutting down on the calories and fat.

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Jazzed Up Cauliflower

Here is a good way to begin the New Year. This vegetable dish takes “Roasted Cauliflower” and adds a few additional ingredients to make a “Jazzed Up” version. Yum. I love cauliflower. Add in bacon, jalapeno peppers, whole garlic cloves and onion. Now we’re really cookin’. The result adds a “surprise” element to rather ordinary cauliflower dish and makes a nice recipe for the new year. Cauliflower is a cool seasonal vegetable — now is time to find the best ones in produce markets.

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Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish aka NPR Cranberry Relish for Thanksgiving

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving dinner without Roast Turkey and all the fixin’s. Cranberry Relish turns a rather bland piece of turkey into something really tasty — and if you have never tried a bite of turkey with cranberry relish on the same fork — you really should. Several years ago, my brother-in-law brought a very unique version of “Cranberry Relish” to our family’s traditional Thanksgiving meal. You either really liked the dish which includes a “secret ingredient” or thought that these cranberries should never be served again.

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Oven-Fried Cauliflower Bites with Ranch Dipping Sauce

Cauliflower happens to be one of my most favorite vegetables. Of course, I have many “most favorite vegetables.” But cauliflower has a unique flavor and, when properly prepared, it loses all of the obnoxious sulfur tones. It is a vegetable which grows on you — the more you eat it the more you like it. I learned to like cauliflower when fried cauliflower was served on the cafeteria lime at the hospital where I worked at in Flint, Michigan. That was in the heydays of the auto unions and Flint was the ultimate “auto town.” Autumn and winter are the seasons for cauliflower when you can pick up some really nice ones. I decided to see if I could make an oven-fried variation of the fried cauliflower bites that I used to like so much using this really nice cauliflower which I purchased recently.

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Molded Lime Fascination Salad with Walnuts

“Lime Fascination Salad with Walnuts” is a soothing pineapple and jello salad for the the hot summer months. Bonnie made a small recipe of the “Carrot Salad with Golden Raisins & Pineapple” which I featured in April. She had crushed pineapple left over and asked for suggestions to use it. Of course, I like to think of ideas and remembered that we ate lots of jello salads with fruit when growing up. One of my favorites was lime jello with pineapple. It also contained cottage cheese and heavy whipping cream. I decided to update the recipe for a more healthy version and substituted Greek yogurt in the recipe. The fruit salad is just as delicious as the ones I remember from my youth!

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Marinated Cherry Tomatoes & Herb Croutons

If you have a generous supply of cherry tomatoes and like croutons, this salad is for you. It is an adaptation of a dish we ate at a quaint sidewalk cafe while visiting Hamburg, Germany, two years ago in August (well before the Covid-19 virus). Recently, I found a similar recipe on a German food blog, “Mediterraner Brotsaladmit Tomate-Mozzarella,” which roughly translates to “Mediterranean bread salad with tomato mozzarella.” Who else would think of naming a salad, “bread salad”? I am renaming the salad with emphasis on the tomatoes. It is a great way to jazz up cherry tomatoes by adding in flavorful croutons (with Mediterranean-type herbs) made with New Orleans-style French bread. Here is my recipe variation.

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Cool Cucumbers with Sour Cream & Mint with a Yogurt Variation

I’m always looking for ways to use the endless supply of cucumbers growing in my garden. This recipe is just right on a hot summer day. It combines slices of cucumbers and white onions with a sour cream dressing. I added in just a little dried dill and fresh mint from my garden. And finally, a way to use my garden mint. For a variation, I made the recipe using non-fat plain yogurt for a healthy alternative.

Growing Mint in Louisiana Garden

Mint grows very well in a Louisiana garden; I have both peppermint and spearmint. In fact, mint is sort of like a weed and grows without any attention. The plants spread along runners and can quickly overtake a garden bed and everything in its way. On the positive side, mint grows best in a shady area of the garden–and I have several shady gardens. It is nice to step outside and pick a few aromatic leaves to add to a half-gallon of ice tea.

I don’t run across many recipes which use mint as an ingredient — cucumbers and sour cream is a good one and the mint adds a surprising and refreshing flavor. This is some of the spearmint growing in my garden.

Cucumbers

Cucumbers also grow well in Louisiana. I planted these in early April and the began to get ripe cucumbers in May. (The cucumbers are the plants in the foreground of this photo.) I always get carried away and purchase too many seedling plants — but I want to make sure I have some to harvest. Most of these cucumbers became pickles. And we pick a few every night for salads.

Recipe Ingredients

This recipe is very easy to make. Here are the ingredients for “Cool Cucumbers with Sour Cream & Mint.” I like to use smaller cucumbers, if possible, in this salad. And an onion? I like to add a small, sweet white onion. Why? Well, I love onions and this adds a flavorful contrast to the cucumbers.

To make the recipe, slice the cucumbers and onion. A mandoline slicer makes this task much easier and the cucumbers come out evenly sliced. I especially like the hand holder on the slicer — it prevents your fingers from getting nicked, too. How many times has that happened?

Should you peel the cucumbers? Cucumbers purchased at a grocery store are sometimes waxed for longer preservation. These should definitely be pared (or peeled). And for cucumbers from a garden or farmer’s market, peeling them is optional. Towards the end of the season when the cucumbers are larger with many seeds, I prefer to peel them and hollow out the seeds. I find that paring also helps remove the bitter taste which is sometimes found with cucumbers late in the season which were subjected to dry growing conditions.

Yogurt Variation

I made a tasty variation to this salad using non-fat plain yogurt replacing the sour cream. I added a little olive oil to the dressing. It makes a very healthy and low-fat alternative and tasted just as good. Couldn’t tell the difference.

Here’s “Cool Cucumbers with Sour Cream & Mint.” This is a flavorful way to use cucumbers. In the summer months, when cucumbers are easily found in farmers markets and grocery stores, its a good time to use fresh vegetables.

Cool Cucumbers with Sour Cream & Mint with a Yogurt Variation

  • Servings: 4 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 2 medium cucumbers (12 oz or 2 cups peeled and sliced)
  • 1 small sweet, white onion
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain non-fat yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (omit if using sour cream)
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely torn, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tsp dried dill seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Method and Steps:

  1. Wash the cucumbers and remove any rough nubs. Cut off about 1/4 inch from each end and discard., If desired, pare skin from cucumbers and hollow out removing seeds.
  2. Using mandoline slicer, slice cucumber into thin slices. Place in medium size bowl. Set aside.
  3. Peel onion, slice thinly using mandoline slicer, separate into individual rings and add to cucumbers, alternating layers.
  4. In small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients–sour cream, dill, finely minced mint and salt. (If using non-fat plain yogurt, add olive oil.)
  5. Pour dressing over cucumber and onion slices, carefully toss to combine.
  6. Cover with lid or plastic wrap, place in refrigerator and chill for several hours.
  7. Prior to serving, remove from refrigerator and garnish with fresh mint.