You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl! I grew up on a farm in Iowa, and we had a large garden in our backyard. My husband is also a farm boy, and while we live in a small town now, we still enjoy tending a backyard garden.
There’s nothing like running out to the garden just before dinner and harvesting ingredients for a salad or a side dish. Each spring we grow a variety of greens such as fresh spinach, romaine lettuce and leaf lettuce.
Since lettuce is a quick growing cool weather crop, it is one of the first crops we plant each year. Besides using it for simple salads, it comes in handy for entertaining. One family favorite recipe is this Layered Salad for a Crowd. It serves a bunch and it looks so pretty on the table.
I also like to serve layer salad in individual portions in small mason jars. I start with the dressing first and end with the lettuce. You can make these ahead and store, covered, in the refrigerator. When it’s time to serve, simply invite your guests to invert them on their salad plates and enjoy.
Layered Salad for a Crowd
“This salad is a favorite of my three sons,” writes Lisa Ashley of Leesburg, Georgia. “I took it to a luncheon honoring our school district’s food service manager. She was very complimentary and even asked for the recipe. I like to make the dressing the day before for the flavors to blend together,” she adds.
20 Servings Prep/Total Time: 20 min.
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons dill weed
1/2 teaspoon seasoning blend
1 bunch romaine, torn
2 medium carrots, grated
1 cup chopped red onion
1 medium cucumber, sliced
1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas, thawed
1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
8 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
For dressing, in a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, milk, dill and seasoning blend.
In a 4-qt. clear glass serving bowl, layer the romaine, carrots, onion and cucumber (do not toss). Pour dressing over the top; sprinkle with peas, cheese and bacon. Cover and refrigerate until serving. Yield: 20 servings.
Editor’s Note: This recipe was tested with Morton Nature’s Seasons seasoning blend.
Nutritional Facts: 1 serving (2/3 cup) equals 151 calories, 13 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 16 mg cholesterol, 216 mg sodium, 5 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 4 g protein.
Another one of our favorite early season garden crops is peas. Each spring we plant cool weather crops first, and once those produce, we change over to summer favorites. Our space is limited, so we try to make the most of what we have.
I like snow peas that can be eaten in the pod and used for recipes such as stir fry. I also love peas shelled from the pods. My theory is that if the ingredient is fresh and flavorful, you won’t need a lot of extra ingredients to dress it up. Let the produce be the star of the show.
In general, cook fresh peas in a small amount of water in a covered pan for about 10 minutes. I like mine to be crisp-tender and still bright green in color. For me, there’s nothing worse than mushy peas that are faded and bland.
Here is a simple recipe for Herbed Peas. It is perfect for upcoming spring holidays, such as Easter. This dish is sure to add great color and fresh flavor to your menu.
Fresh herbs produce peas that please! Here’s a great dish I love serving with my favorite meat dishes.
8 Servings Prep/Total Time: 25 min.
1/3 cup butter
6 cups fresh or frozen peas
3/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
3 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
In a large skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add peas and green onions; cook and stir until tender. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
Yield: 8 servings.
Nutritional Facts: 3/4 cup equals 161 calories, 8 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 20 mg cholesterol, 283 mg sodium, 17 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 6 g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 1 starch, 1 lean meat, 1 fat.