Judi Leaming: New recipes ... that’s what friends are for

Judi Leaming

We recently had dinner with our church friends. Once a month, we get together for an evening of good food and fun.

Our hosts really out did themselves, beginning our meal with a delicious cold strawberry soup. This was followed by a Crunchy Tossed Salad, and almost before that could be whisked away, they were serving a pork roast, green beans and a sweet potato casserole. They topped this all off with a Doctor Bird cake for dessert. No one left that table feeling hungry. 

I immediately asked for the recipe for the Crunchy Tossed Salad. (Those who know me well will be shocked to hear that I actually ate a salad, but this was too good to pass up). They graciously shared their recipe with me, saying they found it long ago in a Taste of Home magazine. With the early arrival of warm, sunny weather this year, we planted several varieties of lettuce in our small garden, and I took great satisfaction in plucking lettuce and spinach leaves from our own garden to make this.

We also recently said goodbye to our dear friend Hazel Higgins. Following her funeral, family and friends returned to First Baptist for a light lunch. Dottie Gampp contributed Summer Macaroni Salad for this buffet. She found the recipe in the 1970 edition of Betty Crocker’s “New Picture Cook Book.”  The recipe calls for cooking and draining the peas, but I simply placed the frozen peas in a colander and poured the hot boiling water from cooking the macaroni over the peas. Then I rinsed both the macaroni and peas in cold water and proceeded with the recipe. To make this more of a main dish meal, you can stir small cubes of ham in with the macaroni, peas and cheese.

In snail mail, I recently received a copy of a recipe for Gooey Mixed Nut Bars from our longtime friend. She even called to make sure that I had gotten it, and I was so excited about the recipe that I promptly made it for the tennis team. Betty had let me know that she only used pecans for this and, since that was what I had on hand, I did too. The tennis coach declared these to be his favorite treats of the season so far.

Crunchy Tossed Salad

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1 large head iceberg lettuce, sliced

6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled (*)

1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted

4 green onions, sliced

3/4 cup chow mein noodles

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine oil, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Shake well to mix ingredients and chill for at least one hour. Just before serving toss together the lettuce, bacon, almonds, sesame seed and onions in a large bowl to mix well. Add dressing and toss again. Top with chow mein noodles and serve immediately.

* Remember that you can purchase small bags of crumbled, pre-cooked bacon from Oscar Meyer in the salad dressing aisle of your grocery store.  I always keep a bag in my freezer for last-minute needs.

Betty Crocker’s Summer Macaroni Salad

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni

1 cup cubed Cheddar cheese

1 cup sliced sweet or dill gherkin pickles

1/2 cup minced onion

1/2 cup Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise (NOT “light” or “with oil”)

1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas, cooked and drained (see note in context)

Salt and pepper

Cook macaroni as per package directions; rinse with cold water. Add remaining ingredients and toss together to mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill for several hours before serving. Serves 6+.

Gooey Mixed-Nut Bars

1 (18-ounce) box yellow cake mix

1/2 cup butter

4 eggs

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups mixed nuts, coarsely chopped (or 2 cups pecans, broken into pieces)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Grease foil and set pan aside. Make the crust layer by emptying the dry cake mix into a large bowl and cutting in the 1/2 cup butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press evenly into prepared baking pan and bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes until crust is lightly browned and set. Meanwhile whisk together eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup, 1/3 cup melted butter, vanilla and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir in mixed nuts. As soon as the crust is baked, pour this mixture evenly over the hot crust and continue baking for 30 minutes more until golden brown and bubbly around the edges. Cool in pan on a wire rack then, using the overhanging edges of foil, lift uncut product out of pan and cut into bars.