Vegetables For Valentine's Day

IN THE KITCHEN

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More often than not, vegetables in my house consist of opening a can or tearing open a frozen bag of something and putting the contents in a pan on the stove.

Still we have some favorite vegetables, so finding different ways to fix them is something special I can do for Valentine's Day ... Nothing like the old heart-shaped meatloaf in the Alka-Seltzer commercial though.

I am not an asparagus fan, but at least one member of my family is, so I found this:

White Asparagus in Ham Sauce

(2) 14 1/2 ounce cans white asparagus

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup reserved liquid from asparagus

1/2 cup milk

4 ounces cooked, lean ham, cut into thin strips

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

Drain asparagus, reserving a half-cup of liquid. Heat butter in saucepan, add flour and blend. Gradually pour in asparagus liquid and milk, stir constantly over low heat until sauce thickens and bubbles. Add ham and seasonings. Gently stir in asparagus, heat through, but do not boil. Serve in pre-heated dish.

Carrots are something everyone in the family enjoys, so here are two different recipes making use of them.

Bacon Carrots

1 pound bag small carrots

1 cup boiling water

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter

White pepper to taste

4 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled

Cook carrots rapidly in covered saucepan with boiling water and salt until just tender-crisp; drain. Stir in butter and pepper, then bacon. Serve at once.

Carrot Casserole

2 cups milk

1 cup cooked rice

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

5 medium carrots, shredded

2 eggs

3 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup bread crumbs or wheat germ

Combine milk, rice, sugar, salt, carrots and eggs; pour into well-buttered casserole.

Melt butter in pan, stir in bread crumbs; sprinkle over casserole. Bake in pre-heated 375 degree oven for 40 minutes or until top is lightly browned.

One of my favorite vegetables is cauliflower, I like it raw or steamed, and served with cheese sauce. A different way to fix it gives a slight Oriental flare to it.

Cauliflower with Water Chestnuts and Mushrooms

1 small cauliflower

2 tablespoons oil

8 mushrooms, sliced

1 cup hot chicken broth

1/4 cup sliced water chestnuts

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with cold water

Trim and wash cauliflower; break into florets, if large, slice florets.

Heat oil in pan and gently sauté cauliflower. Add mushrooms and sauté about 30 seconds. Add broth, water chestnuts, soy sauce and salt. Bring to boil; cover. Simmer until cauliflower is tender but still crunchy.

Mix cornstarch with enough cold water to make a smooth paste. Slowly add to cauliflower mixture, stir constantly until thickened.

Cucumbers are another family favorite, usually just eaten raw in salads, or chopped up with some onions and marinated in a vinegar and sugar mixture.

Sweet-and-Sour Cucumbers

4 medium-size cucumbers

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup half-and-half cream

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

Peel cucumbers. Using a potato peeler or food processor, slice paper-thin. Sprinkle salt over cucumbers, then squeeze with hands to remove juice. After juice has formed, let cucumbers set in juice, at room temperature, for an hour. Add cream, vinegar and sugar, mix well and chill.

Spinach is also popular with my family, but usually it is just heated up and served, with seasoning left up to the individual diners. My preferred condiment with it is a splash of vinegar, along with some pepper.

German-style Spinach

1 or 2 tablespoons butter, margarine or oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 cup water

(1) 10-ounce package frozen spinach

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter in large frying pan. Add onion, cook until tender. Add flour, cook and stir until mixture begins to thicken. Add water and mix until smooth. Add spinach, cover and cook 15 minutes, stir occasionally as spinach thaws. Season with salt and pepper.

Squash, in its many forms, is another favorite vegetable in my house, however, it is rarely used.

Acorn Cabbage Bake

2 large acorn squash

1/2 pound sausage meat

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 medium onion, chopped

1 small apple, pared and chopped

2 cups shredded green cabbage

2 tablespoons slivered almonds

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried leaf thyme

1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried leaf sage

Cut squash in half lengthwise; scoop out seeds and fibers. Place in baking pan, cut-side-down; add half-inch of water to pan and bake in an oven, pre-heated to 400 degrees, for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook sausage meat in skillet until browned. Drain off excess fat, add butter to pan. Add onion, apple, cabbage and almonds, cook until vegetables are tender. Add seasonings, mix well.

Turn squash halve with the cut side up, fill centers with sausage and cabbage mixture. Bake for another 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

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