Tag Archives: summer

Ready for the Forth?

Before I get started, it looks like someone may have hacked into this account. If you received a post about a new recipe for homemade Marinara, that post didn’t come from me! I’d like to know if you did receive it.

Anyway, every year, our Forth of July menu stays pretty much the same, just as do Thanksgiving and Christmas. You know, ribs, potato salad, cole slaw, and corn on the cob. Same old, Same old. Maybe it’s time to change things up a bit.

Let’s start with the protein selection. Grilling is still a requirement. After all, it is the Forth of July! Do your kids love their hot dogs? Make those hot dog buns do double duty with Bacon Cheeseburger Rolls. No need to buy a second bag of hamburger buns. The way these all-in-one burgers fit right into those hot dog buns help your condiments stay put. No sliding off the bun.  And besides, this presentation is kind of fun!

Not a fan of red meat?  How about trying Grilled Bruschetta Chicken? Fresh basil and home grown tomatoes are both coming into season about now, so use them to pack fresh flavor into not so boring chicken breasts.  For the juiciest chicken, take it off the grill just before it’s done and tent it with foil.  Carry-over cooking will take care of the rest.

Now, about that potato salad…Gotta have it, right?  Let’s twist it up a bit and cut out some of those carbs with UnPotato Salad. While this salad still has that old fashioned potato salad taste, the base of it is actually cauliflower, but you’d never know it. Amp up that potato taste and texture by mashing one boiled potato into the dressing. If you’re a mustard fan you can add that, as well.

And now for the kid’s favorite Mac ‘n Cheese. Let’s twist that up a bit, too by serving Mac and Cheese in a Bacon Bowl. Any recipe for mac and cheese will work here, but I like my Low Guilt Mac and Cheese. It’s super creamy, but stands up well in the bowl, Bacon bowl, that is.

Cole slaw?  Turn it green by serving a crispy Broccoli Salad in creamy sweet and sour dressing instead.  Crumbled bacon and dried cranberries or raisins add interest to the palate.  I think the key to this salad is cutting the broccoli into small bite sized pieces. Larger florets are difficult to manage without a knife, and who wants to cut their salad?

If you prefer your broccoli hot, try Grilled Broccoli.  The slightly caramelized florets carry a subtly smokey flavor, punched up by a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon.  You just can’t get this flavor out of your oven!

That corn on the cob?  Try using grilled corn cut off the cob instead of the canned corn called for in a batch of Southern Caviar. This addictive appetizer recipe does make a large amount, but it stores well in the fridge IF you have any left. Try using diced homegrown tomatoes instead of the recipe’s canned “Ro-Tel” for a wonderful fresh taste.

Of course, no Forth of July celebration would be complete with out dessert! The possibilities are endless. One of our favorites is Fresh Fruit Custard Ice Cream. I make it with whatever seasonal fruit looks the best at the farmer’s market. Dark cherries are available at the grocery this time of year, too. Finely dice or puree the fruit for the best result, and don’t forget the secret ingredient, vodka! Just a tablespoon doesn’t change the taste or make the ice cream alcoholic, but makes a dramatic difference in the texture. Your ice cream scoop will thank you!

Have a happy and safe Forth of July, and don’t forget to be thankful for what life gives you.

Zoodles anyone?

I have a new toy to play with, a spiralizer! These gadgets have been around awhile, but it’s new to me. I’ve had tons of fun playing with recipes that use it.

My first experiment was oven baked sweet potato curly fries. Let’s just call that a learning experience. Those fries were too skinny and turned out like tasteless potato chips.  I think I used the wrong sized blade. My second effort, Zoodles, or zucchini noodles, was much more successful. I can see those noodles as a replacement for traditional pasta in any number of recipes.

After gaining some confidence with the Zoodles and researching plenty of recipes on the web, I branched out a bit with Zoodle Tomato Pie, another success. Somewhat quiche like, this dish would work as a light vegetarian main dish but would also be good as a side. I might be tempted to sneak in some cooked, crumbled bacon or Italian sausage the next time.

Once I start playing with new recipe concepts I have a hard time stopping. It does take a little repetitive refinement to get a new recipe just right. My second cut at Zoodles turned up as a side to one of my favorite dishes, La Marina. La Marina combines grilled chicken with shrimp in a creamy mushroom sauce. I usually serve a side of grilled veggies and some sort of rice with this entree, and I have to admit I prefer that combination. Zoodles are jut too light and don’t carry the sauce like rice does.

And speaking of new recipes, how about some Maple Pecan Ice Cream? This one started out to be Butter Pecan, but the maple syrup just kind of jumped out and into the pot.  I let it stay.  The maple flavor isn’t overpowering, but it’s definitely there. I’ve got a secret ingredient that I put in all my ice creams…vodka! Since alcohol doesn’t freeze, the ice cream has a creamy but firm texture that is easily scooped. The vodka is undetectable, no boozy flavor or effect.

I try as hard as I can to cook seasonally, and made one more trip to the farmer’s market this week.  I almost missed the boat on summer squash for the year.  Only one stand was selling any, and the 10 pounds I purchased cleaned the guy out.  After I prepared this year’s batch of Summer Squash for the Freezer, I made some Squash Fritters for dinner. I suppose that recipe name is misleading. Most fritters are fried, I bake these. I just prefer to skip the mess of deep frying, but they would probably be more flavorful that way.  The recipe wouldn’t have to be changed, just the preparation.

The night we had the Squash Fritters I also made a pot of Southern Seasoned Green Beans, cooked with onions and a little bacon grease. Isn’t everything better with bacon? It seems that here in the South it is!  I do depart from the Southern ways with this recipe though.  My mother in law would have cooked the beans until they were very, very soft.  I prefer to leave a little bite to my beans.  It’s a fine line.

Michael got lucky this week. No, not THAT kind of lucky! I mean that instead of his usual one dessert for the week, I made him two. The grocery stores were all featuring sweet cherries, so I took the time to bake a Little Fresh Cherry Pie for Two. When you are only cooking for two a standard sized pie can often go bad before you eat the whole thing. That’s often the case here, since I rarely eat sweets. Scaling down recipes solves that problem nicely. I need to try to do that more often.

Before I go, I have a question for you. Where does a big dog sit to watch the news?

Anywhere she wants to!

Be thankful for what life gives you.

Where the Rabbit left off the Squirrel took over!

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I can’t win for loosing! It finally rained a little bit, the blueberries kicked in and the tomatoes grew higher the that Momma Bunny could reach. I thought maybe, just maybe, we would harvest some of our own produce. Silly me. Did you know squirrels like tomatoes too? Well, ours do! Or at least they like to torture us, and we even hung a corn cob out there as a peace offering, or maybe a bribe. Nope, stealing tomatoes is more fun than eating corn. And taking a page from Momma Bunny, don’t eat the tomato, just render it unusable. That darned squirrel even had the audacity to pitch a tomato down out of a tree at us. Now that takes guts! I would like to trap the little bandit and relocate him, but Michael won’t let me. He says there are more squirrels where that one came from. I suppose he’s right. We’ll just keep supporting the farmer’s market. (If all this makes no sense to you, read last week’s post)
I’ve been playing with my new toy, an electric pressure cooker. In all my 50 some years of cooking (yes, I started as a child) I never before now used a pressure cooker. In fact, I was never even exposed to one. Back in the olden days, when we walked to school in blizzards, (we really did in NY state!) pressure cookers were scary things. Unless you knew what you what you were doing and did it just right,  pressure cookers would blow up with horrible consequences. Luckily, today’s version’s are much improved with built in safety features. You still have to pay attention and follow the instructions, but as long as you do, I feel you can cook with confidence. Anyway, Sunday I tried a Pressure Cooker Pot Roast. The recipe came with the machine, and turned out reasonably well. The only thing that I would change, and you know I always change every recipe, is to brown the roast ahead on the stove. The pressure cooker scorched and was hard to clean. I also think I would add more veggies.
Monday’s Veggie Pizza was a near disaster. I was working with frozen pizza dough and sauce which most of the time is fine, but this time I was pushed for time and didn’t give the dough enough time to rise. It stuck to the counter and by the time Michael helped me peel it off it looked more like an ameoba than Domino’s pizza.
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Tuesday we were supposed to feast on Italian Sausage Burgers, but I got a wild hair and skipped the buns. I served them over tortellini with marinara, instead. A menu plan is just a guide line, right?
Wednesday’s leftover pot roast worked out well over broad egg noodles. It didn’t seem like we were eating leftovers at all. The only problem was we still had more than we could eat. That happens frequently when you’re cooking for two. It’s hard to cut recipes down sometimes, and you can only reheat those leftovers once without them tasting off. Divide and conquer. And then I wonder why my freezers are full.
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Thursday was another change of plan. Since I used the tortellini on Tuesday night, the chicken wound up in Chicken and Bacon Hoagies . The spinach makes them healthy, right?
Friday night we got tired of being good and headed out you-know-where…Mexican of course!
Be thankful for what life gives you.

Peaches!

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Mother Nature always has her own way of making things right, and one of the best rewards for living here thru our hot and humid Southern summer days are her sweet and juicy peaches. I don’t believe you’ll enjoy these same lucious jewels anywhere else. There is something almost mystical about sitting in the shade with a bowl of homemade Peach Ice Cream, but eat it fast before it melts!  If you eat it quickly enough, you might even be able to get a second bowl.
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One long forgotten treat is this Fresh Peach Pie. The recipe came from my husband’s family. It’s a unique single crust pie in a custard base, truly something different and refreshing.
It was a quiet Forth of July weekend for us. We used to go all out with crazy fire works battles and the whole nine yards, but since Bella came along we can’t do that anymore. Lizzie doesn’t care a bit, but Bella is deathly afraid of all the noise and spends the whole holiday shaking in fear. We just can’t contribute to that. Oh well, we save a lot of money by skipping the fire crackers!
Since the Forth fell on Monday this year, we made Sunday’s meal meatless with a version of Quinoa Confetti Stuffed Zucchini stuffed into poblano peppers instead of the zucchini, which were wilted.  When one veggie doesn’t look so good, just move on to the next.  I could have used eggplant, too.
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Monday, The Forth, was celebrated with our obligatory Smoked Ribs and a new to us side dish, corn roasted on the grill. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t impressed with the corn.  We eat corn frequently, but I haven’t tried grilling it before.   I probably didn’t do it right.   Anybody have a good recipe for grill roasted corn to share?
Tuesday’s dinner was much better. We enjoyed Mississippi Roast for the second time. This is a recipe I originally saw on “The Pioneer Woman” and it’s unbelievably simple. You just throw whatever cut of beef is on sale into the slow cooker with an envelope of au jus seasoning and a few pepperoncini peppers with a little of their juice and let it rip!
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The leftovers made deliciously messy open faced french dip sandwiches for Thursday night, no cooking involved. I just shredded the leftover roast into a smaller slow cooker and let it do its thing till it was time to eat.
Friday night was one of my favorites! It’s a dish I’ve copied from Applebee’s restaurant for Tequila Lime Chicken and Shrimp with Avocado Cream . Oh gosh, I love that stuff! I’ve been working on copying the recipe for a while now,and I think I’ve got it pretty close. You don’t taste the tequila much, it just marinates the chicken and shrimp. I suppose you could substitute something else if you prefer not to use alcohol.
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Well, that finishes it up, except for one more peach recipe, Peach Turnovers. These are incredibly easy to throw together, and you can make the turnovers with what ever fruit you have on hand. The only catch is, you do need to eat them right away. They don’t keep well. What a hardship!
Be thankful for what life give you.