Italian Marinated Vegetable Salad

IMG_6668You know that feeling, right?  You go to the store and see the marinated vegetables sitting in the olive bar and think how awesome it would be to have some of those.  You start remembering the antipasti you’ve had at that great little family run Italian restaurant.  So you give in to temptation and buy a pint or a quart along with some olives and maybe a little prosciutto from the deli.  Once at home, you assemble a beautiful plate of food and then wind up completely disappointed with your first bite of vegetable salad when it is too oily, isn’t tart enough and has no flavor.

The solution to drab, tasteless grocery store offerings is to make your own marinated vegetables.  This is a super easy recipe but does require a little time for prepping the vegetables and allowing them to cool to room temperature in the brine.  Once made, however, the salad will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.  This also makes alot, and I do mean lots and lots of marinated veggies.  It will easily serve 10-12 people as a side dish and makes a great addition to a picnic or to a pot-luck table.  Feel free to use whatever vegetables you like and to leave out the one’s that you can’t stand.  You can also cut the recipe in half to make a more reasonable amount for a small family gathering.

Buon appetito!

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Orange & Thyme Marinated Olives

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Bring a taste of Spain to your next pot luck or dinner party.  This tapas recipe is fast and easy.  It literally takes no more than 10 minutes to put together.  However, it really needs some time to marinate, at least 12 hours but 24 would be so much better.  Use whatever olives you prefer: mixed, all green, kalamata or whatever floats your boat.  It is amazing how good olives can taste after a nice long bath in citrus, garlic and thyme. ¡Buen provecho!

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Barbecue Cowboy Beans

BBQ Cowboy BeansBeans, beans the more you eat, the more you….well you know the old saying.  Luckily if you are a bean fanatic like my husband you can develop a tolerance to the not so nice after effects of a bowl of beans.  Seriously, if you eat beans regularly your body will become accustomed to the complex sugars which cause the gastrointestinal distress associated with beans.  Soaking dried beans, either overnight or by the quick-soak method, also reduces the amount of complex sugars, especially if you thoroughly rinse the beans after soaking.

This is a really simple recipe and only requires a few ingredients.  The most important of which is the barbecue sauce.  You really want to use a quality sauce, either store bought or homemade.  Whenever we drive to Dallas to visit family, we always wind up in east Texas at dinner time.  Luckily, there are two great barbeque restaurants near Kilgore to choose from.  Crazy Bob’s BBQ is a bit of a dive but has the best barbeque sauce and pinto beans.  Bodacious Bar-B-Q has excellent brisket and really good sauce that you can buy for cheap.  For this recipe I used sauce from Bodacious Bar-B-Q.  For those that aren’t in the know, Texas barbeque sauce is smoky and slightly spicy with only a minimal amount of sugar.  But feel free to use your favorite sauce, just remember that a sweet sauce will give you a sweet side dish.  This recipe can also be made easier by substituting canned beans.  You will want to use 3 (15.5 ounce) cans of rinsed and drained pinto beans.

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Broccoli Slaw

Tired of the same old coleslaw?  Broccoli slaw is a nice change when you need a cool and creamy side dish for a barbeque.  The dried cranberries really make this dish with their sweet yet tart bite.  This recipe is easily adaptable for your taste, if you don’t like bell pepper then leave it out.  Use chopped pecans or walnuts instead of sunflower seeds.  Like a tart dressing?  Use an additional tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or substitute with sherry vinegar which is more assertive.  Want it sweeter? Add a few teaspoons of sugar.  Like lots of dressing?  Double the amount of mayo, water and vinegar.  Make this your own creation.  Of course, I think it is pretty awesome just the way it is written.

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German Red Cabbage

Red cabbage has always been one of my favorite German side dishes.  When dining at German restaurants I often decide what entree to order based solely on the fact that red cabbage is listed as one of the sides.  I love the sweet and sour flavor with a hint of warmth from the cloves and cinnamon.  My Oma also makes wonderful red cabbage.  She prefers to use duck or goose fat for sauteing the vegetables which is wonderfully decadent.  However, it is not a very practical ingredient to list as I don’t know many people who keep either on hand.  She also uses white sugar and caramelizes it in the hot fat before adding the onions and apples.  I use brown sugar which gives the same flavor and lets me skip a step.  Traditionally red currant jelly is stirred into the dish at the end of cooking to give the cabbage a nice glossy finish and add another layer of flavor.  You can substitute with plum, black currant or lingonberry jam or leave it out all together.  If you omit the jelly, you may need to slightly increase the amount of sugar.  Red cabbage is the perfect side dish to accompany a pork roast.

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Slow Cooker Collard Greens

Collard GreensCollard greens are a true Southern favorite.  This recipe calls for 4 bunches of greens which looks like you are buying a farm.  However, once they are trimmed, cut and wilted down they easily fit into a 6 quart slow cooker.  Collard greens are tough and take a long time to cook which makes the slow cooker an ideal way to make them melt in your mouth delicious.  Don’t be scared off by the pound of bacon, either.  Rendering the fat out of the bacon before adding it to the slow cooker preserves the flavor and keeps the greens from being greasy.  Substitutions that can be made include turnip or mustard greens for the collards and a ham bone or 2 ham hocks for the bacon.

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