Celebrating Nature's Bounty

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When I recently visited Mesa for Mother's Day it was a double treat. We surprised Mom with the tribute I wrote for her in the Payson Roundup and enjoyed Mother Nature in bloom.

Earlier in the spring, wild flowers in orange, yellow, pink, lavender and purple were in full bloom, and on this trip we found the cacti were beautiful. The females remind me of fairies with white floral garlands on their heads and the males stand tall, like soldiers guarding the dessert -- an amazing sight for the imagination, a photographer's delight, a gift from the Creator and Mother Earth. You can almost hear nature saying, "Take good care of me and I will take care of you -- Always."

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The bounty of summer's fresh vegetables can be celebrated with unique side dishes or using vegetables in a non-meat main dish.

What to cook this week? Well, with so many vegetables available to us, let's try four recipes to accompany any meat or fine as meals on their own: Stir-Fried Hot and Sour Cabbage, Sugar-Browned Potatoes, Mexican Succotash and Sautéed Mushrooms-Mexican Style.

Stir-Fried Hot and Sour Cabbage

1 medium head cabbage, about 1 pound

3 green onions, with tops

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon cold water

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup catsup

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon red pepper sauce

1/2 cup chicken broth

Cut cabbage into 1-1/2-inch pieces, set aside. Cut green onions into 2-inch pieces, set aside. Mix cornstarch and water, set aside.

Heat wok until 1 or 2 drops of water bubble and pop when sprinkled in wok. Add oil and gently move around wok to coat. Add cabbage and garlic, stir-fry 1 minute. Add catsup, salt and pepper sauce and stir-fry 1 minute. Stir in chicken broth and heat to boiling, add cornstarch mixture and cook until thickened, about 10 seconds. Stir in green onions.

Makes 3 servings.

Sugar-Browned Potatoes

2 pounds new potatoes, boiled in a cup of water with a teaspoon of salt

1/4 cup margarine or butter

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons water

Boil water for potatoes, add potatoes, bring to second boil, and then reduce heat. Cover and cook until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain, discarding water.

Put margarine, sugar and salt in 10-inch skillet and cook over medium heat until mixture begins to turn golden brown. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Stir in water until blended. Add potatoes. Cook over low heat, turning potatoes to coat.

Makes 4 to 6 servings and is especially good with pork tenderloins.

Mexican Succotash

3 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch slices

2 ears fresh corn kernels, cut from cob (or 1, 10-ounce package of frozen corn)

1 medium onion, chopped (approximately 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1, 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

Dash of pepper

Put oil in 10-inch skillet and add onion, stir and cook until tender. Add zucchini, cook and stir for 1 minute. Stir in corn and remaining ingredients. Heat to boiling, reduce heat. Cover and simmer until zucchini is tender, about 15 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Sautéed Mushrooms-Mexican Style

2 slices of toast

Margarine or butter, softened

1 small onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)

2 tablespoons margarine or butter

2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

16 ounces mushrooms, sliced

Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash of pepper

1/4 cup snipped parsley

Spread toast with first margarine. Remove crusts from toast. Cut each slice into 4 triangles.

Melt second margarine in 10-inch skillet with oil, add onion and cook, stirring over medium heat until tender.

Add remaining ingredients, except toast and parsley. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes. Stir in parsley and serve over toast triangles.

Makes 4 servings.

Bonus recipes from Good Housekeeping.

Summer Squash With Herbs

Fresh mint, oregano and lemon accent tender summer squash.

Preparation time: 15 minutes; cooking time: 15 minutes. Makes six side servings.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

3 small zucchini (about 6 ounces each), cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick pieces

3 small yellow summer squashes (about 6 ounces each), cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick pieces

1 garlic clove, crushed with garlic press

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon peel

Fresh oregano sprigs for garnish

In nonstick 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add onion and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until onion is golden, stirring frequently.

Increase heat to medium-high. Add zucchini, yellow squash, garlic, chopped oregano, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon mint; cook 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender and golden, stirring often.

Transfer vegetables to bowl and toss with lemon peel and remaining 1 tablespoon mint. Garnish with oregano sprigs.

Corn and Zucchini Sauté

Sweet sun-dried tomatoes and their packing oil give zucchini a tangy bite in this fast and healthful side dish.

2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes in oil

1 teaspoon sun-dried tomato oil

2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons

2 cups (about 4 ears) fresh corn kernels

1/2 teaspoon salt

From jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, sliver enough tomatoes to equal 2 tablespoons.

Transfer 1 teaspoon of the oil to nonstick large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, and cook 4 minutes.

Stir in corn, the slivered tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender-crisp. Serves 6.

For thousands of triple-tested recipes, visit our Web site at www.goodhousekeeping.com/recipefinder/.

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