Tuna Salad with Homemade Italian Dressing

Double batch!

Right after I graduated from college, I made this salad quite often because it is very economical. Also I was a terrible cook then. I have redeemed myself on that score. Now I make this dish because it is something quick to eat if I am spending a lot of time in my garden. And  it’s economical.  I used to make the salad with Newman’s Own Italian. Now I make my own dressings. The store bought ones, even the more expensive ones, are filled with soybean oil, vegetable or canola. All of those oils are terrible for your health. I don’t even buy the individual packets to which you add oil, water and vinegar.  The ingredient list on those packets is like reading a chemistry lesson. Citric Acid, xanthan gum, guar gum, maltodextrin, sugar. I don’t want those things in my salad dressing.  Naturally occurring citric acid does come from the peel of citrus fruits, but more commonly it is produced from black mold or corn. This type is cheaper to manufacture. Most companies will use the cheapest ingredients. The store bought salad dressings also may contain GMO or bio engineered  ingredients. I don’t want to consume those either.

This is my mix recipe. Feel free to tweak it to your taste. You can also use more black pepper or cayenne for a zesty version.

Italian Dressing Mix

  • 2 tsps Garlic Powder
  • 1 tbsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tbsp Italian Seasoning  
  • 1 tbsp dried Parsley
  • 2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 tsp Black Pepper
  • ½ tsp dehydrated Red Bell Pepper powder or flakes
  • ¼ tsp Thyme
  • ½ tsp dried Celery Flakes or Celery Seeds

Mix together and store in a jar.  To make the dressing put .7 ounce of the dry mix into a jar. Add ¼ white vinegar or apple cider vinegar, 3 tablespoons water and ½ cup oil. I use extra light olive oil. St aside to allow the flavors to meld.

Tuna Salad

  • 1 12 oz can Tuna packed in water, drained
  • 1 15 oz can Chickpeas, drained (I freeze the bean liquid to use in my vegetable soups)
  • 1 15 oz can Dark Red Kidney beans, drained
  • 2 Carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 medium Red Onion small dice
  • 2 Celery ribs, small dice

Mix together in a large bowl. Add the Italian dressing. Place in a storage container and chill for at least an hour. Make a double batch. This is devoured quickly.

Posted in emergency cooking, herbs and spices, main dish, salad, sides | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Cheesy Potato Cauliflower Soup

This soup came about, as usual, from my quick sale produce. I bought two 10 pound bags of russet potatoes for $1.00 each and a head of cauliflower for $2.00. The cauliflower was a bit more expensive than usual but I bought it anyway. I cooked and mashed the cauliflower as a side for some mini meatloaves several days ago. I used the leftover mash in the soup.  I had a gallon bag of chicken bones and skin in my freezer that I would simmer to make a chicken stock as the soup base. Yesterday was a little cool. A perfect day for a big pot of soup.  

  • 6 cups Chicken Stock, store bought or homemade
  • 6 ozs Bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 large Onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs Celery, diced
  • 5 cups peeled, cubed Potatoes
  • ½ head Cauliflower broken into bite size florets
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 8 ozs softened Cream Cheese
  • 1 cup Whole Milk, Half and Half or Heavy Cream
  • ¼ cup All Purpose Flour
  • Shredded Cheese, chives or sliced Green Onions to garnish

In a Dutch Oven or heavy bottom soup pot cook the bacon until well crisped. Remove from pot and crumble. Set aside in a large bowl.  In the same pot add onions and celery and sauté over medium low heat for about 10 minutes. Allow the mix to slightly brown. Remove from pot and add to the bowl with the bacon.

Add the chicken stock to the pot. Leave any fond in the pot. It will dissolve in the chicken stock and add more flavor. Season with salt and add potatoes and cauliflower. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.  When the potatoes are fork tender add the onion celery and bacon mixture, cream cheese and milk. Stir to melt the cream cheese.

Put the AP flour into a soup bowl and  add ½ cup soup liquid  to the bowl. Whisk the flour into the soup liquid. Set aside.  When the cream cheese is melted add the flour mixture to the soup pot. Simmer for 10 minutes to cook the flour and thicken soup. Season to taste.

Serve and garnish with cheese, chives or green onions.

Posted in cast iron cookery, main dish, soup, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Asparagus Bacon Mushroom Quiche

This recipe came about because I harvested asparagus from my neglected asparagus patch. I had a quick sale crumbled Chevre goat cheese in the fridge. I had a package of bacon in the deep freezer and today I scored a small package of quick sale button mushrooms. Yup, today was the day to go into town. To date I only spent $30 in diesel for the month. I am driving a one ton dually diesel. I try to only go into town once a week since it is a 44 mile round trip. I would try to go into bi-weekly but I do have to pick up mail at the post office. The pie edge is not perfect but it will eat good! Anyway….I hope you enjoy the recipe. It is yummbly.

  • 1 store bought or homemade Pie Shell
  • 4 slices Bacon, sliced into one inch pieces
  • 8 ozs Asparagus sliced on a diagonal into one inch pieces
  • 4 ozs Mushrooms, quartered
  • 8 Eggs, beaten
  • 2 ozs crumbled Chevre Cheese
  • 2 ozs your choice Cheese, grated
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Place the pie shell in a deep dish 9” pie dish. Set aside. Cook sliced bacon in a heavy bottom skillet for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and asparagus. Cook until the bacon is browned and crumbly. Salt and pepper to taste, but remember if you are using Chevere cheese it is salty. As is the bacon. Spoon the mushroom mixture into the pie shell. In a medium mixing bowl beat the eggs. Add the Chevre cheese to the beaten eggs. Pour the egg and cheese mixture into the pie shell. Top with grated cheese. Bake for 35 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Posted in breakfast, main dish | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Expanding Okie RanchWife’s Garden

Seed starts enjoying the sun

Wow, have you seen the headlines regarding food scarcity, food production facility accidents, lack of fertilizer? Not only have they been in the alternative media, but also they have gone mainstream. Tucker Carlson and Dan Bongino have talked about it. Azure Standard HQ, one of the largest organic food distributors was destroyed by a fire. The Honeyville Company has more out of stock than in stock items. Now just this weekend Indonesia has banned the sale of edible oils i.e., palm oil and probably coconut oils to foreign countries. It is concerning. Not in a hair on fire, what am I going to do fear filled way? But in a calm quiet I am going to get even more self reliant way. OHH and bonus I have little tender lambsquarters coming up. More foraged salads!

Now that I am retired and I have loads of time to work my garden I have decided to expand my garden. Right now it measures 20 feet by 50 feet. It will be 50 feet by 50 feet when I have enclosed the additional ground.  As usual, I went shopping in my outbuildings. I found a roll of four foot high wire fence. It must have been leftover from the first garden fence 12 years ago. Thankfully, it was out of weather and is in great shape. Other than dirt dabber nests which are easily washed off when I unroll the wire, it is in perfect condition.  I also found several T posts to support the new length of fence that will run east/west. I will reuse the existing fence and T posts that currently run north/south. I found wire clips from our barb wire fence fixing activities. I’ll use them to attach the wire to the T post.

We had rain all day yesterday so the next couple of days will be the best time to get the T posts out of the soft ground. That is on my To Do list for this week. I am also able to use rainy days more efficiently since I know I will be at home on the sunny week days to get outdoor chores complete. Just yesterday when it was rainy and cold, I sewed new curtains for my living room. I had that fabric for about six months. The new curtains are hanging and the old curtains are on the west window in my bedroom. Yea! I finally have curtains on that window. It wasn’t a real concern. The closest neighbor is a mile away.

Onion and garlic rows one month ago

I have been working the existing part of my garden for about a month already. I am trying to push the season.  A 10 foot row of garlic plants are about 7 inches tall. Twenty feet of sweet onions are taller since I bought onion starts instead of just bulbs.  The onions are planted four across. Fingers crossed, I will have a lot of onions in the fall. Currently I am hardening off my seed starts on my back porch. It faces south and it is warm for the starts snuggled up against the house. Last Saturday I weeded 32 feet of welded wire cattle panels I use for pole beans. The yard long green beans and yard long Chinese red noodle do really well on the panels. I top dressed that row with donkey poop (Gomez makes a lot for me), crushed egg shells and Epsom salts. The rain on Sunday did a nice job of watering the additions into the soil. I don’t till the soil. Rather I loosen the ground with a pitch fork and pull the weeds. I haven’t committed to no till yet. I am reading up on that technique. I have 10 feet weeded for my okra plants but I won’t put them in the ground until the end of May or mid June. I need to weed 10 more feet for the okra. Gumbo, fried okra and pickled will be in my future. Okra like very warm soil to flourish. White and blue potatoes are pushing a lot of leaves. I have three 20” pots three fifty pound horse feed sacks with white and blue potatoes. I add more soil to the pots and sacks as the leaves grow up. Some sweet potato slips are on the kitchen window sill growing roots. I should have enough in a couple weeks to get them in the ground.

The asparagus patch needs some of my love. I harvested enough to make a quiche. That is an accomplishment because I have neglect that patch for the past two years. Now I have to put on overalls and denim jacket to cut down the dewberry vines. Ohhhh, I hate those sticker vines. I let a mound of them grow along my driveway. I do like the berries in pies. Unfortunately, they will take over wherever they can.

Two books I have been reading are “Gaia’s Garden, 2nd edition” by  Toby Hemenway dealing with permaculture and “Biodynamic Gardening” by Monty Waldin. I also blew the dust off “The Edible Flower Garden” by Rosalind Creasy. I have no connections to any of these authors and I do not have any affiliate links on my blog.

My front porch where I relax and read gardening books. My late husband’s cow dog keeps me company

I will keep you updated on my progress. My gardening activities has had a negative influence on my cooking and posting recipes but it will work out in the end.

Posted in Around the ranch, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Foraging in My Yard for Spring Salads

Flowers from dandelion, violet and henbit for my salad.
Wild Onion Grass that grows my my front porch.

Food is freedom. Control the food, control the people.

Wild onion grass, violets and Dandelions! It is Spring in Oklahoma.

And my hens are producing more eggs since the daylight lasts longer. I have 10 dozen in my fridge right now. When I was working I would take eggs for my co-workers, now that I am retired I use a lot of eggs. They are a great protein to add to breakfast frittatas or quiches and when hardboiled,  they are a quick snack. But back to my yard.  

Even though we had a mild winter a Spring tonic salad is just what the herbalist ordered to get your body cleaned out.  

I don’t spray anything on my yard so everything I forage is pesticide free. When I am gathering for my salad I use a plastic veggie bag from the grocery store. I fill it with a variety of large and small dandelion leaves some blossoms, violet leaves and violet flowers. I have cleaned wild onion grass in my fridge so no need to gather more. Unfortunately, I have not seen any lambs quarters yet. There is a lot of henbit taking over parts of my yard, but the leaves are a little too old for a salad now but I can probably use some flowers for color. I will make this salad again for Easter Sunday lunch.

After I have washed and dried the greens I toss them with the chopped wild onion grass, flowers and dandelion petals in a large bowl. I posted a recipe for PA Dutch hot bacon dressing back in August 2011. It was one of first blog posts. I’ll summarize the recipe here. This is a wonderful dressing for a slightly bitter Spring salad.

  • 3 slices of Bacon (or more to your taste) well cooked and crumbled
  • 1 Tbsp all Purpose Flour or Wondra
  • 1 whole Egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar
  • ¼ cup Apple Cider Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar
  • 1 cup Water

Cook bacon and remove from skillet and set aside. Keep the bacon fat in the skillet. I like to use a cast iron skillet for this recipe. In a small mixing bowl mix the dry ingredients together. Add beaten egg, vinegar and water. Whisk until well blended. Cook in bacon drippings until the liquid thickens. Pour over your salad. This is a great dressing to use for crisper greens like frisee, radicchio and dandelions. Serve while still warm. It can be reheated in the microwave but is best fresh.

I do hope you have food in your yard! Happy foraging.

Posted in emergency cooking, salad, sides | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hrudka – Eastern European Easter Cheese

Easter Dinner 2021 Hrudka cheese is between the deviled eggs and ham slices

My family is from Eastern Europe. My mom always made this egg cheese for Easter. And I have been making this for more than 20 years. It is an easy cheese to make at home no special procedures or rennets.  If you have backyard chickens the cheese will take on a wonderful orange color if you let your chickens free range. All you really need is milk and eggs with only a couple additions.  The photo is from last Easter. I will make my cheese this Friday. Most of it will remain for Sunday lunch.

You will need cheese cloth and twine to complete this recipe. You can also use a leg from clean pantyhose or knee high stockings. I use cheese cloth.

  • 12 large fresh Eggs
  • 1 quart Whole Milk
  • 1 Tsp Kosher Salt (use ½ Tsp if you use fine salt)
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar
  • 2 Tsp Vanilla

Using a heavy bottom 2 quart pot, add all ingredients and beat thoroughly. Cook slowly over low heat. Stir constantly. This will take at least 20 to 30 minutes. Don’t hurry the process. You will appreciate the end product. The egg mixture will separate into what looks like yellow cottage cheese curds and liquid whey. Keep the liquid. You can use it place of milk in waffles or pancakes.

Line a sieve or small colander with the cheese cloth. The sieve should be over a large bowl to collect the whey. Be careful to keep the edges of the cheese cloth above the lip of sieve so you don’t lose the egg curds. Gather the edges of the cheese cloth to form a ball and tie off with twine. Suspend the cheese cloth ball over the bowl and allow to drain. I tie the ball off one of my cabinets. Let it drain for about 2 hours. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate overnight. To serve, remove the cheese cloth and slice. This fresh cheese will last about a week in the fridge.

Posted in gluten-free, sides, snacks | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

OkieRanchWife Chicken Rice Soup

So I had a lot of leftover basmati rice from a previous meal. Since I never want to waste anything, I went shopping in my deep freezer this morning. We are having a cool rainy day and I thought soup would be great.  I found a gallon baggie of chicken leg quarters I bought in July 2021 for $5.99 for 10 pounds of chicken.  A baggie of quick sale grape tomatoes. Don’t know when I froze them because I didn’t put the date on the veggies. Six homegrown sweet banana peppers from the deep freeze. Frozen in September 2021. A baggy from the deep freeze of my own home grown  yard long green beans. Freeze date August 2021. I had a half head of green cabbage and a baggy of baby carrots from quick sale veggie tray in my crisper drawer. Just the other day I bought 10 ounces of baby spinach for 39 cents. I love an inexpensive meal and this one was made for pennies.

  • 4 Chicken Leg quarters, skin on and bone in (or a whole chicken)
  • Water or Chicken Stock to cover the chicken
  • 1 small Onion, diced
  • 3 Celery Ribs, diced
  • 1 cup Grape Tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 cups fine sliced Green or Red Cabbage
  • 2 cups Green Beans, sliced into bite size
  • 1 cup Carrots, sliced in rounds
  • 6 Sweet Banana Peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 10 ozs Spinach
  • 3 cups cooked Rice
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Using a large stock pot, put the chicken leg quarters or whole in the pot. Add water or stock to the pot so it covers the chicken by at least an inch. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about an hour. Remove chicken from the pot and set aside to cool.

Add the ingredient except the spinach and rice. Season to taste. When the chicken is cool, shred the meat off the bones and add meat to the soup. I keep the bones and skin in the freezer to make stock. After I cook the all of the saved bones and skin, I give what is left to my barn cats. They do love it.

Let the soup simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Then add the spinach and rice. Simmer until the rice is heated. I served the soups with croutons I dehydrated from everything bagels. So good.

Posted in soup | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Balsamic Pork Bites with Rice

I found two quick sale family packs of boneless pork chops during one of my recent grocery runs into town. I used both packs for this meal but it will stretch over several days. I do like to cook in bulk and eat leftovers. I have a Zojirushi rice cooker that I love. I rinse the rice in the rice pot add that appropriate amount of water for the amount of rice I use. Hit the cook switch and forget about it until I need the cooked rice for my recipe. It automatically switches to keep warm setting when the rice is cooked. So much easier than stove top.

  • 3.5 pounds Pork chopped in bite size pieces
  • 2 tbsp unsalted Butter
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 3 Garlic cloves, minced or peeled and pressed
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh Rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried Thyme
  • 2 cups Chicken Broth, homemade or store bought
  • ½ cup Balsamic Vinegar, dark or light
  • 4 cups cooked Rice, I like long grain Basmatti
  • Fresh thyme or parsley for garnish optional

Cook rice according to your preferred method.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a heavy Dutch oven. I like an enameled cast iron one for this recipe because of the acidic balsamic vinegar.  Brown the pork bites in batches. Set each batch aside. Season with salt and pepper to taste as needed. Return browned pork bites to the Dutch oven. Add the garlic, rosemary and thyme to the pork. Mix well. Add the chicken broth and balsamic. Simmer over medium low heat until the liquid reduces by one quarter approximately six to ten minutes.

Serve over rice and garnish fresh thyme or parsley as an option.

Posted in main dish | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Pasta with Bacon Mushroom Cheese Sauce

This is such as easy dish to make on a Sunday because it will keep wonderfully in the fridge and can be used as leftovers for the rest of the week. I didn’t have fresh mushrooms but I had dehydrated sliced mushrooms from my quick sale purchases. I grabbed two handfuls of the dehydrated ‘shrooms, (yeah, precise I know) I put them in hot water and let them hydrate for at least an hour.

  • 8 ozs Bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 medium Sweet Onion, diced
  • 4 ozs sliced Mushrooms, white button or Baby Bellas
  • 1 sweet Bell Pepper, diced, use red, yellow or orange
  • 4 Garlic cloves, minced or peeled and pressed
  • 1 tsp dried Thyme
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • One 16 oz package of Spaghetti, break in half when it goes into the boiling water
  • 2 tbsp unsalted Butter
  • 2 tbsp of All Purpose Flour or Wondra
  • 2 cups of reserved Pasta water
  • ½ cup Half and Half
  • 8 ozs of grated Cheese that melts easily ( I had 4 ozs of Colby Jack, 2 ozs of crumbled Blue Cheese and about 4 ozs of Garlic Dill Feta left over from a cheese board)
  • ½ cup dry White Wine

In a heavy cast iron skillet, cook bacon, onion and bell pepper over medium heat until the bacon is crispy about 10 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and salt and pepper. Turn off heat. In a large soup pot cook pasta. Cook about two minutes less than package directions. The pasta will finish cooking with the residual heat from the cheese sauce. Drain, but keep two cups of the pasta water. Put pasta in a large bowl.

Using the soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. When melted whisk in  the flour. Whisk until smooth. This is actually making a blond roux. Whisk in half and half and ½ cup of the pasta water. Simmer and stir until smooth. Add the cheese. Stir until melted. Add the remaining pasta water and stir until smooth. Turn off the heat. Stir in the spaghetti. Mix until the pasta in covered in the cheese sauce.

Reheat the mushroom mixture in the skillet over medium high heat. The mixture should start to sizzle. Heat the mixture for about 3 to 4 minutes but don’t let the mixture burn. Add the dry white wine to deglaze the skillet. It might smoke a little. That’s okay. Stir the wine to deglaze the fond from the bottom of the skillet. Take off the heat. Stir in the mushroom wine mixture into the pasta and cheese sauce. Mix thoroughly making sure the pasta is not clumped together. You can garnish with fresh or dried parsley when serving. Enjoy! 

Posted in cast iron cookery, main dish | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Peasant Cooking for Modern Day Home Cooks

Cookbooks from my collection

By peasant cooking I do not mean porridge gruel three times a day. I mean thoughtfully using ingredients to stretch meals. Many home cooks do this instinctually to feed the family.

I am certain that everyone has experienced sticker shock at the grocery store lately. Meat prices across the board have increased. Also fresh produce prices are crazy. My local stores still have mostly stocked shelves. What I have noticed during my grocery and sundries runs are the lack of choice in sizes of various items. While not a food product, I looked for the small three ounce bottle of contact lens solution that I use.  Nope. Nothing. I had to buy the vastly more expensive 12 ounce bottle. That’s enough to last me a whole year. I suppose in the end I saved money. SIGH.

To continue my grocery odyssey. I was blessed with a very productive garden last year. My two deep freezers are stuffed with my own home grown produce.  I do shop quick sales in the meat department so I have meat protein in the freezers. And I want to stretch that meat as far as I can. Several years ago I may have made individual steaks. Now I would forgo the steaks and grind up a couple sirloins to make a large pot of chili. Where I would have one meal for two people, now I have three, four or more  meals per person depending on the amount of other ingredients. I use a grinder attachment for my KitchenAide mixer but I don’t always grind. I also cut meat into chunks or shred the meat after cooking it. It all adds to increase the amount of meat available to feed a crowd. Recently, my meals have been a great New England Clam Chowder and yesterday I made a wonderful spicy Taco Soup. I will post those recipes soon.

I have 160 acres that I call home. I forage, garden and keep chickens right now. Presently I do not hunt but if the SHTF I would to feed us. My chickens live out their natural lives. When they do not continue to lay eggs they just keep on pecking on my property. 

Anyway three books on peasant cooking in my library are “Peasant Cooking of Many Lands” by Coralie Castle, “European Peasant Cookery” and “The Old World Kitchen” by Elizabeth Luard. I also learned peasant cooking from my mom and my Baba (grandmother) in the Northern Blue Mountains of the Northeast.

Posted in cooking tips, emergency cooking, main dish, soup, stew | Tagged , , | Leave a comment