On Aug. 19, 1998, I submitted my first food column to The Daily Times. Twenty years later I’m still submitting recipes. I have you, fellow cooks, and Life Times Editor Melanie Tucker, to thank. You’ve tried my recipes. Ms. Melanie has saved me from my errors and translated what I said into what I meant to say or what I should have said.

Recently, she and I sat down for a visit and cookin’ talk. You may have guessed she is an excellent cook. She has shared several recipes with this column over the years and every one was delicious. Roasted vegetables is my new favorite side dish. If you add meat, it’s a one-dish meal. I’ve enjoyed her recipe for salted nut squares for almost 18 years. You must try it. It’s quick and easy to prepare, hard to wait til it’s chilled to eat and way better than a store bought Payday candy bar.

Roasted Vegetables with Pasta

Compliments of Melanie Tucker

1/2 cup Kalamata olives, well drained

1 can artichoke hearts, well drained

1 pint of cherry tomatoes

2-3 inch lengths asparagus tips from one pound bundle

12-16 whole button mushrooms,

2 cups baby kale, washed and dried (optional)

1 red onion or sweet, cut into thin wedges

Pepperoni

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Basil, garlic, oregano or your favorite spices

1 (16-ounce) box pasta of your choice, cooked al dente according to the package directions.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a large sheet pan with cooking spray or olive oil. In a large bowl, gently toss all of the vegetables and place on the pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the basil, oregano, garlic or other favorite spices. Add pepperoni. Drizzle again, lightly, with olive oil. Roast until onions are crisp tender, tomatoes have popped open, most of the mushrooms are golden and the pepperoni is crispy. Stir gently about every five minutes. Serve over hot pasta.

Pasta in Alfredo Sauce

16 ounce box pasta of your choice, cooked al dente according to the package directions

1 cup butter

1 cup heavy cream (may use half and half, but why?)

2 cups shredded parmesan

Pinch each of nutmeg, white pepper and salt, optional

Make sauce whilst pasta water comes to boil. In a medium sized, heavy saucepan, melt butter. Add milk and stir until the mixture begins to steam. Do not boil. Add cheese and stir until smooth. Remove from heat. Finish pasta. Drain pasta well and combine with the sauce. Season as desired. Pour over pasta; toss to coat. Serve hot.

Acini de pepe salad/dessert

1 cup acini de pepe, cooked al dente according to the package directions

Rinse and drain. Chill. Toss occasionally to prevent it all sticking together.

1 (20 ounce) can pineapple tidbits, drain and reserve the juice.

1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drain and reserve the juice.

1 (15-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drain and reserve the juice.

Cover pineapple and oranges; refrigerate

I cup shredded coconut

2 cups miniature marshmallows

1 (8-ounce) container Extra Creamy Cool Whip, thawed

1 1/2 cups reserved juice. (Add water if necessary to make full measurement)

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 egg yolk

In a medium sized heavy saucepan, whisk together egg, sugar and cornstarch. Add juice and whisk until smooth. Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture thickens and bubbles gently. Chill. Add all the remaining ingredients to the chilled sauce. Refrigerate until serving time.

Salted Nut Squares

Compliments of Melanie Tucker

3 cups skinless, salted peanuts, divided

3 tablespoons butter

2 cups peanut butter chips

1 (14-ounce) can Eagle Brand sweetened, condensed milk

2 cups miniature marshmallows

Place half the peanuts in an ungreased 11x7x2 inch baking pan. Set aside. In a large, heavy saucepan, over low heat, melt butter and peanut butter chips. Add milk and marshmallows; cook and stir until melted and smooth. Pour mixture evenly over the peanut layer. Sprinkle remaining peanuts evenly over marshmallow layer. Cover and refrigerate. When thoroughly cooled, cut into bars.

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