Peanut Butter Cookies

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My dad is visiting and these are one of his favorite cookies. It’s funny because he would never eat a peanut butter sandwich or have peanut butter on his toast or on an apple. And a Reese Peanut Butter cup has never crossed his lips. But peanut butter cookies he loves. It was also opening day for deer hunters and my non-hunting husband goes to opening day deer camp fish fries every year so I always send cookies.

Peanut butter, chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin are my standbys. I like to freeze cookies 3-4 to a zip lock bag after they are cooled (unless of course they are all going to deer camp). They always taste fresh and I have something homemade on hand to serve with coffee or as a little dessert.

Preheat oven to 375

Cookie dough:

1 cup butter at room temperature

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

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Cream together butter, peanut butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla.

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Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together.

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With a wooden spoon stir the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture.

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Once the dough is thoroughly combined use a cookie scoop and put on an un-greased cookie sheet. Use a fork dipped in white sugar and press to make ridges on each cookie.

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Bake for 11 minutes. Remove to cooling racks. Enjoy!!

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You can use smooth or chunky peanut butter, it’s a matter of personal preference.  But I don’t recommend substituting oleo for the butter. Ever.

Everyone has their own favorites but I always use airbake cookie sheets. Especially when baking, it’s a good idea to have a thermometer in your oven to make sure the oven is at the proper temperature.

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Barbecued Beef Brisket

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I had a beautiful beef brisket from my organic farm and decided that would make a perfect Monday night dinner. My dad is spending a couple of weeks with us and he is pretty much a meat and potatoes kind of guy. I make a rub for my brisket, sear all sides and then make a wet sauce that has a little bit of a kick.

A friend once told me that her daughter and son-in-law were gourmet cooks and I asked her what exactly that meant. She said gourmet cooking means smaller portions on larger plates. There is a little truth to that I think. I looked up gourmet in the dictionary and one definition was “a connoisseur of fine food and drink”.  A gourmand can also mean “one who enjoys food in great quantities or even a gluttonous eater”. It’s all subject to interpretation. I consider my brisket fine food and the IPA I enjoyed with it fine drink. And we are all pretty full if that constitutes gluttonous eating. You be the judge. But if someone asked me I would call our dinner tonight “plain home cooking”.   Barbecued brisket, smashed potatoes and butter roasted carrots…it’s what was for dinner tonight.

Start out with a nice beef brisket.

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Rub ingredients:

1/4 cup paprika

1 T chili powder

1 T cumin

1 T brown sugar

1 T kosher salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

fresh ground black pepper

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With a little whisk or a fork thoroughly mix all of the rub ingredients together in a bowl. Rub spice mix on all sides of the meat.

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Heat 2 T of olive oil in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven and sear all sides of the meat.

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Preheat your oven to 325. Now you’re ready to make the barbecue sauce.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups ketchup (I always use Brooks)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup chopped onion (or more if you like)

3 T cider vinegar

3 T Worcestershire

2 chipotles in adobo sauce finely chopped (or more if you like)

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp black pepper

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Chop your onion and chipotle peppers.

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Combine all of the sauce ingredients and whisk together to combine.

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Pour the sauce over your beautifully seared brisket, put the cover on your Dutch oven, and put it in the oven for approximately four hours.

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You will want to flip the brisket over from one side to the other a couple times during the cooking process. Once it’s done remove it to a platter and let it rest a few minutes before slicing it against the grain. Serve with the barbecue sauce.  We all had seconds!

If you’d rather be less “gourmet” you could make really awesome barbecued brisket sandwiches and serve them with chips and cole slaw or a little potato salad.

Citrus Vinegarette

A friend generously shared some salmon with us that he caught on a charter in Lake Michigan and I decided to cook it for dinner tonight. I prepared it very simply. I always soak fish in milk for 30 minutes or so. I dried the fish off, tossed it in a zip lock bag with a little flour, cornmeal, and lemon pepper and pan fried it in a cast iron skillet with a little canola oil and butter. Fish cooks very quickly so make sure the other components of your dinner are near ready when you start cooking your fish. But this post is about the citrus Vinegarette that I decided would be light, refreshing and would add a little interest to the salmon.

Vinegarette Ingredients:

1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

1 T honey

1 medium shallot minced

2 T fresh parsley chopped

5 T olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

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Combine the orange, lemon and lime juices in a small sauce pan and simmer until reduced by half.

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Pour the citrus reduction into a bowl to cool. Meanwhile, mince the shallot and parsley.

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Once the the reduction has cooled whisk in the honey, shallots and parsley and salt and pepper.

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Slowly pour in the olive oil while whisking.

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Drizzle a tablespoon of the Vinegarette over each piece of salmon and put the Vinegarette on the table so you can add more if desired.

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Oven roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts and pan fried salmon with citrus Vinegarette. It’s what was for dinner.

Any left over Vinegarette will be great served as a dressing for salad.

Rigatoni with Goat Cheese, Sausage and Summer Squash

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This pasta dish has few ingredients but the flavor combination is perfect.  The goat cheese and spicy sausage give this dish a very rich grown up taste. It’s a dish that will impress guests when served with some good bread and a nice crisp salad. I have made this a couple of times and it’s received rave reviews. And if there are leftovers they reheat nicely.

Ingredients:

1 pound dried rigatoni noodles

3 T olive oil

1 pound hot Italian sausage

1/3 cup thinly sliced shallots

3-4 cloves of garlic minced

4 zucchini and/or yellow summer squash diced

6 oz goat cheese crumbled

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1/4 cup asiago cheese shredded

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Cook pasta according to package instructions.

In a heavy skillet heat 1 T of olive oil. Remove the casings and break up sausage and cook over medium heat until no longer pink.

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Remove the sausage to a strainer over a plate and allow the fat to drain off. Remove most of the fat from the skillet. Add 2 T of olive oil and and cook the shallots and garlic over medium low heat until tender, 1-2 minutes.

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Increase the heat a little and add the cubed squash and cook 3-5 minutes. Add the sausage back into the skillet and keep warm.

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Set aside 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and stir into the sausage, squash mixture. Over medium heat toss the pasta and sausage. Add the pasta water a little at a time…continue adding to keep the pasta moist. Heat for 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the goat cheese and parsley. Toss until the cheese melts and coats the rigatoni. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the grated asiago.

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Voila!  It’s that simple. Isn’t that a beautiful dish!  I served this and a red pasta dish together. Always trying to make sure there is something for everyone. Everyone choose BOTH dishes.

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You could use penne pasta for this recipe if that’s what you have on hand. I think the next time I make this I will add some mushrooms along with the squash. Both of my pasta dishes had generous amounts of garlic. No vampires in our house!  But you can rein the garlic back if you’d like. I always consider recipes, particularly for savory dishes, as a template that invites us to make modifications and personalize the dish.

Rigatoni with goat cheese, it’s what was for dinner last night AND tonight.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

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My brother and sister-in-law and her parents were visiting this weekend to celebrate her birthday. I wanted to make her something special and different from a typical birthday cake. I looked through my stash of recipes torn from my cooking magazines and came across Emeril Lagasse’s Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon Spiked Cream. Well, I love pumpkin, I love cheesecake and I love bourbon so I’m thinking this looks promising. This looks like something my sister-in-law would love as much as me. And she would love me for making it for her. It’s definitely a day before recipe which is a good thing when you’re having guests. It was relatively easy to make. The instructions have you mixing most of it in a food processor but if you don’t have one a good stand mixer would work fine. Pumpkin cheesecake, it’s what was for dessert tonight. Happy birthday sister!

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups of vanilla wafer crumbs (about 45 crushed wafers)

1 cup of pecans, ground

1 stick unsalted butter

For the Cheesecake:

2 pounds cream cheese, cubed and at room temperature

1 cup packed light brown sugar

6 large eggs

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup all purpose flour

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups canned pure pumpkin

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Preheat at the oven to 350.

Combine the crumbs, ground pecans and melted butter in a bowl. Press into the bottom of a 12-inch springform pan. (I happen to have a square springform pan that I love.)

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In your food processor fitted with the metal blade mix the cream cheese until smooth.

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Add the brown sugar and process until blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, processing until fully incorporated. Next blend in the heavy cream. Add the flour, salt, cinnamon and vanilla and blend until smooth. Add the pumpkin and blend until smooth. Pour the filling over the crust in your springform pan.

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Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the cheesecake is just set. Remove from the oven. Use a knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan to prevent the center from cracking. Let the cake cool completely before slicing. I refrigerated mine when it had completely cooled.

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Now for the bourbon whipped cream.

2 cups of heavy whipping cream

dash of bourbon

2 T sugar

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Stir the dash of bourbon into the cream.  Whip the cream until soft peaks form gradually adding in the sugar as you whip. I think my “dash” was a little heavy handed but please “season to taste.”

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A piece of good cheesecake is a thing of beauty. Happy birthday!

Candy Bottles

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These make simple, inexpensive and fun gifts for any occasion. When we empty bottles of adult beverages  I remove the labels and thoroughly wash the bottles.  I use painters tape to define the area I want to paint and paint it with chalkboard paint. The quart of paint I bought goes a LONG way. Share it with a friend.  It usually requires two or three coats. Once the paint is completely dry remove the tape. Fill the bottles with candy (m&ms, skittles, jelly bellies, Reese pieces…you get the idea). Write on the  chalk board!  A love note, the name of the candy, “happy birthday.”

Your friends and family will love this “homemade” gift!!

Split Pea Soup

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Split pea soup is something you either really like or you want no part of. It’s a soup I really like. I usually make mine with pork hocks but have made it with a ham bone. I remember my mother making pea soup and it remains one of my dad’s favorites. I’ve ordered pea soup in restaurants and been disappointed…either the soup is so thick you can eat it with a fork or watered down and tasteless. I also like mine with croutons or a slice of good bread. I’ve never been a soup and crackers person and especially am not a crackers in my soup person. Split pea soup. It’s what was for dinner tonight.

Ingredients

Pork hock or ham bone

8 cups water

16 oz package split green peas (sorted and rinsed well)

3-4 cloves of garlic minced

1 large onion diced

3-4 carrots peeled and diced

2-3 stalks of celery diced

1/2 sweet red pepper diced

4-5 small gold potatoes diced

3 cups diced tomatoes

salt and pepper to taste

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In a large heavy kettle put your pork hock (or ham bone) and water over high heat and bring to a boil. Once it starts to boil turn heat down to low and simmer for about 2 hours. Add the split peas and minced garlic and simmer for 1 hour. Remove the hock to a platter and add all of the diced vegetables.

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I had orange, purple and yellow carrots so I used one of each. But ordinary orange carrots would be fine.

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Remove the meat from the bone. My organic farm has awesome, meaty pork hocks.

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Stir the meat and the tomatoes into the soup and continue to simmer for 30 minutes until all of the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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I made some croutons for our soup with some day or two old sour dough bread that I had. I lightly buttered a few slices, sprinkled on a little garlic salt, and grated a little Parmesan cheese on top.

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Cube and spread out on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the croutons in the oven another 15-20 minutes.

Ladle some soup into a bowl and enjoy.

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This soup is like many soups that taste better the second day. This soup will also thicken up. If it becomes too thick thin it out with a little chicken or vegetable broth.

Macadamia and White Chocolate Cookies

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Yesterday, while doing my every Tuesday grocery shopping with my friend Jane, we discovered macadamia nuts in the baking aisle. I never see macadamia nuts at my grocery!  This is something new in our fairly rural Michigan grocery… I’m thinking…I must make some cookies. So we both bought a couple bags. I used the cookie recipe that was on the package. I’m sure I will find another creative use for the second bag of nuts or I may make another batch of cookies another time. Who knows.   They are very good. A nice texture; a little crispy on the edges and soft in the center. It’s what’s for dessert tonight.

Cookie Ingredients

1 cup butter at room temperature

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla

3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 cups white chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)

6 oz (1 1/2 cups) macadamia nuts chopped

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Preheat oven to 350.

In mixing bowl cream together butter and white and brown sugar until fluffy.

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Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.

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In a smaller bowl whisk together dry ingredients.

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With a wooden spoon blend in dry ingredients. Stir in white chocolate and nuts.

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Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet. I always use a cookie scoop for uniform baking and uniform cookies.

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Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool.

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I thought I had white chocolate chips but I did not. I did, however, have large white Ghirardelli pieces so I chopped those into smaller pieces and substituted them for the chips. They worked fine. My mother used to say “necessity is the mother of invention.” She and Plato both said that. I think Plato said it first.

May you all find something new in your grocery and bring it home to whip up  something you’ve never prepared before.

Shepherds Pie (aka White Trash Supper)

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This is is a dish I’ve been making for years and we always called it “White Trash Supper”.  Everyone loves the two major components in this dish…mashed potatoes and ground beef (or lamb or pork or a combination of ground meats). I take back saying everyone loves mashed potatoes. I happen to know several people who don’t like potatoes at all and one who just does not like mashed potatoes.  So this would suit 95% of the people I might cook for. This is traditional British pub food. Not spicy. Not fancy. Just a very simple comforting dish. Kids like it. Grown ups like it. Picky eaters like it. In this recipe I’ve added a few more vegetables (which picky eaters might want to cross off the ingredients list).  This is another recipe that works well with whatever you have on hand in the fridge. There are two components… the potato and the beef.

Potato

2 pounds of potatoes peeled, diced and rinsed

2 cloves garlic (optional)

1/3 cup half and half

4 T butter

1 egg yolk

salt and pepper to taste

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Put the potatoes and garlic in a sauce pan with water, cover and bring to a boil. Uncover and simmer over medium low heat until the potatoes are tender for mashing. In the meantime start working on the base.

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Meat

2 T olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

2 leeks sliced thin, white and pale green part only

2 cloves garlic

2 carrots peeled and small diced

1 cup mushrooms chopped

1 pound ground meat (beef, lamb, or pork)

2 T tomato paste

2 T flour

1 cup beef, chicken or mushroom broth

+ 1/2 cup of the water the potatoes were cooked in

1 T Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup frozen corn

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Prep all of your vegetables.

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In a large heavy skillet heat the oil. Sauté the onion, leeks and carrots over medium heat for 4-5 minutes.

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Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook for 1-2 more minutes. image

Add the ground meat and cook until no longer pink.

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Add the herbs and salt and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle the flour over the meat mixture and stir until incorporated. Add the tomato paste, the broth and the potato water and simmer stirring frequently until mixture thickens. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce. Stir in the peas and corn. Remove from heat.

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Put the meat mixture into an 8×11″ casserole dish or evenly distribute into 4 individual serving casserolettes. I used the single serving oven proof dishes.

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Your potatoes should be done. Drain off the remaining water and put in a bowl for mashing.  In the potato pot, over low heat, melt the butter and warm the half n half.

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Add warmed butter and half n half, the egg yolk and salt and pepper to taste to the potatoes and mash. I used my hand mixer and whipped the potatoes. I rarely whip potatoes because my daughter has always preferred them smashed by hand. But she isn’t here for dinner. If she were I’d be using my masher. Once you’ve mashed or whipped your potatoes you have the top layer for your pie. Spread it out to the edges of the dish like you’d do if you were icing a cake. I sprinkled the top with a little paprika.

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Bake on a baking sheet covered with foil or parchment paper in case of bubbling over messing up your oven incidents. Bake for 25 minutes until potatoes are golden.

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Enjoy this simple, hearty dish with a little salad and bread and butter.  I enjoyed an adult beverage with mine and pretended I was in a British pub.

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I sometimes kick up the mashed potatoes a bit with some prepared horseradish but I didn’t have any today. You can also add a little cheese. If your family dislikes peas or corn you can substitute other vegetables. Also, I made a cup of broth from Mushroom Better than Bouillon but you could use chicken or beef broth.

 

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad

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This is a favorite salad recipe that a good friend shared with me. It has so many flavors that I love…basil, mint, lemon, garlic. How can anything with those components not be good!!  I have increased the “greens” in her recipe but other than that it remains as shared.

Salad Ingredients

10 scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced

1 cup ripe cherry or grape tomatoes halved

1 cucumber seeded and diced

1 16-oz can of chickpeas rinsed and drained

1 cup fresh parsley

1 cup fresh mint

1 cup fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

5-6 cloves of garlic minced

kosher salt and black pepper to taste

8 oz feta cheese in 1/2 inch dice

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Wash all the herbs well. I like to use my salad spinner.

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Remove all of the stems. I use a few pulses of my food processor to chop the herbs.

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Diced the the cucumbers and halve the tomatoes. I used small salad cucumbers so I diced three of them.

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Rinse and drain the chickpeas.

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I had no green onions on hand so I diced some red onion. Either works well in this salad.

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Combine all the minced herbs, vegetables and chickpeas in a large bowl. Mince the garlic, squeeze the lemons for 1/2 cup of juice, and measure out a half cup of olive oil. Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil and garlic together and pour over the salad. Gently toss to coat the vegetables.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Dice the feta cheese and toss in the salad.

This salad is perfect served with warm pita bread or on lettuce leaves. Or just sit down with a fork and a bowl and enjoy. I served it tonight as a side with sweet potatoes and smoked pork chops. It’s what was for dinner tonight.