Creamy Cucumber Salad

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Everyone has their favorite side dish to bring to, or expects, at a barbecue. Summer is the time for potato, pasta, garden, and veggie based salads. What I love about these well loved side dishes is that they usually are all pretty similar, just slightly tweaked from family to family and generation to generation. Each family holding on to their favorite as the best.

This is my family’s cucumber salad. You wont hear anyone calling it “Creamy cucumber salad,” but since I make a few that are vinegar based, like this Japanese Cucumber Salad, I had to differentiate. This Creamy Cucumber Salad has passed through the ranks of my family and of course I find it as “the best.” It has a creaminess that outshines those others that tend to be watery. It has just the right amount of sweetness, without being sugar laden.

Throughout the summer I am always collecting produce to have enough to make big salads like these. I usually make a double batch at least, or am collecting enough cucumbers to make pickles for canning. What usually happens is me panicking because I am afraid the produce will spoil before I get to use them.

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Did you know that more than 25% of the fresh fruits and vegetables purchased by U.S. consumers are wasted annually before being consumed. That equates to more than 226 pounds per the average U.S. family! Why do we waste so much produce? When you bring produce home, you usually keep it in the plastic bags or the container it comes in. Storing your produce like this is actually causing it to go bad faster — this is the reason you often find rotten and slimy lettuce when you go to make a fresh green salad.

There are three main reasons produce rots and spoils:
– Ethylene Gas: Fruits and vegetables give off ethylene gas. Exposing produce to ethylene gas speeds up the ripening process, causing it to over ripen and go bad.
– Improper Airflow: When produce rests against the walls of containers, bags or crispers, moisture can build up and cause rotting.
– Uncontrolled Humidity: Fruits and vegetables require the perfect balance of humidity to keep them crisp and prevent wilting. To make things more difficult, different kinds of produce require different humidity levels.

I was asked by OXO to try out the 5qt GreenSaver and I was excited to put it to the test. I bought these large slicing cucumbers and left them in the GreenSaver for over a week. Slicing cucumbers from the market are typically already on their way out, but these stayed nice and crisp and weren’t spoiled at all. Perfect for someone like me who buys a lot of produce in the store and gets busy later on in the week. I loved how I could change the settings to accommodate all kinds of produce and what I liked best is I took this uni-tasker and turned it into a multi-tasker by using the inside as a colander for all of my sliced cucumbers. Then, I used it to sweat the cucumbers and allow the water to drain into the main compartment!

OXO provided me with the OXO GreenSaver, but as always the opinions expressed here are solely my own.

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Creamy Cucumber Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 cucumbers, sliced thin
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 qt water
  • 1 medium Vidalia or sweet onion sliced thin into rings
  • 1 cup thick mayo or salad dressing
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk**

Add cucumbers, salt and water to a large bowl and let soak for two hours.*

Dry cucumbers on paper towels, pressing gently to squeeze excess water out.

Combine remaining ingredients and let sit for a few hours. Serve cold.

Source: The Way to His Heart

*We tweak it each time, but the end result is usually the same. Feel free to tweak as you go as well, adding a little more vinegar or sugar to your liking. Instead of soaking, you can also sweat the cucumbers and then do a quick rinse and dry.

**You can omit the evaporated milk, but that is what makes this so nice and creamy.

A Pony Party ~ Caroline’s 5th Birthday

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Caroline turned the big “5” this year and we decided that we would host the party somewhere outside of the house this year. It’s a big occasion and we wanted to celebrate this milestone birthday. Also, we really liked the idea of not having to clean the house twice and have a ton of kids inside this year as well!

I was looking forward to actually having a break from all of the decor I usually do and realized that I would only need to bring a cake and some ice cream. Maybe even a few snacks. No big menu items for me this year! Things would be easy. Ha! Well, they were easy compared to the usual parties I host for her and I definitely took some sort cuts, but as always I have a tendency to go further than needed. Most of it came together pretty easily since we had a lot of things already and I worked smarter this year. I’m learning!

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We hosted a Pony Party this year and invited everyone to the stables not too far from our house. We love the venue because they have pony rides and a play area for kids while they are waiting their turn. The kids loved the pony and even little George and his buddy took a turn on Sassy on the pony. It was one of the first nice days here in Maine so the kids also had a lot of fun playing outside on the swingsets.

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Afterwards, it was time for cake and ice cream. While we were getting everything ready the kids dove into the snacks. We sang Happy Birthday and quickly dished out cake and ice cream to everyone. We had so much fun this party and I can’t wait to host another party there as well. George, want a cowboy party? Every year I say I am going to go smaller for birthdays but every year I see that smile on her face and know that I’ll do whatever it takes for her and her friends to have an awesome time, fill their bellies with yummy food, and go away with smiles.

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 *I believe I have listed everything here, but if you see anything I’ve forgotten to note or have a question, leave a comment. The party may have ended, but I love talking parties and ideas!

Recipes

Favor Cookies ~ Sugar Cookies and 10 Second Royal Magical Icing

Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats

Popcorn ~ Good ‘ole stovetop popcorn!

Ice Cream ~ Vanilla Bean, East Mint Chocolate Chip, Ben’s Chocolate Ice Cream

Cake ~ Magnolia Bakery’s Vanilla Cake, Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake, Easy Vanilla Buttercream, Marshmallow Fondant

 

Sources

Cake Inspiration

Invitations & Favor Tags ~ Little Paw Prints

Favor Bags ~ Bags ribbon, and craft dollies from Michaels

Caroline rope sign ~ Pinterest, made my husband (Picture in house is unfinished, we added some horseshoes to the top)

Snack bags ~ lunch bags cut smaller with wavy scissors with horse stamp

Birthday Ribbon ~ Party City with embellishments made by me

Cowboy hats ~ hats from Party City with embellishments made by my mother and I

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I’m still on a lemon kick and apparently, a pasta kick as well. Basically, I want fresh flavors but I also want to appease the masses at the dinner table. Some night I would throw anything down on the table if everyone would eat it without complaint. While this recipe didn’t get the entire family’s approval I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t that no one disliked it, I just didn’t receive the “You have to make this again soon” comments.

What I love about this pasta dish is that it can be whipped up in no time and is light, with plenty of flavor. I’ve never used chives with pasta before, but I really loved the way they complimented the lemon and will definitely be experimenting with those again.

*Since Myer lemons are only in season for a short time, use regular lemons but be sure to add a splash of orange juice to tone down the citrus.

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Linguine with Meyer Lemon Cream and Chives

Ingredients

  • 8 oz uncooked bucatini or linguine pasta
  • 2 tsp Meyer lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 oz part-skim ricotta cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated (about 1/4 cup)

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta over a bowl; reserve 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cooking liquid.

Place 6 tablespoons cooking liquid, lemon rind, juice, cream, and ricotta in a blender; process until smooth.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add ricotta mixture to pan; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Add pasta, chives, salt, and pepper. Add remaining 1/2 cup cooking liquid as needed to make mixture creamy. Remove from heat; stir in grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Source: Cooking Light January 2015

Slow Cooker Chicken Philly Sandwiches

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Spring time is always so busy because we are trying to hurry and get everything ready for summer. Summer is so short here in Maine that we have to make the best of every second. So, while we’re busy (mostly my husband) staining the decks, bringing out the furniture, putting the screens in I don’t have time to cook dinner. I still want something good though. We are starting to use our grill more and more but even that takes some time so I love tossing in some meat and veggies into the slow cooker and leaving it. Coming back at the end of the day and serving an easy salad and chips and these delicious sandwiches!

The original recipe called for Dale’s Steak Seasoning. We don’t have that here in Maine so I checked the comments and sure enough, someone had posted their own copycat. I tweaked the copycat a bit because I felt the chicken needed some more seasoning and the result is below.

Slow Cooker Chicken Philly Sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced
  • 2 green bell peppers, sliced
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced
  • 4 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Mozzarella cheese slices
  • sandwich rolls

Spray slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray and turn heat on to LOW.

Add butter, onions, and green peppers.

Toss chicken with soy sauce, honey, vinegar, ginger, garlic powder, salt, and pepper and add to slow cooker.

Cover and cook for 5 hours or until chicken has cooked.

Serve on rolls with cheese melted on top.

Adapted from Food Family & Finds