Blackened Cajun Corn

>> Friday, August 26, 2011

Even though this summer's corn harvest hasn't been as good as usual, there's still plenty of good fresh corn out there. Joe makes this side-dish if he is cooking meat blackened Cajun-style. If you aren't serving this with pan-fried blackened meat, use some butter or olive oil and cook the ingredients until brown.

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 medium finely-chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • Blackened pan drippings, or 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun Spice Mix

Warm the drippings, butter or olive oil.  Add the onion cook until brown and caramelized. Add the red pepper and corn and cook until tender. Add the spice mix and stir well before serving.

Makes 4 1/2 cup side servings


Tzatziki Sauce

>> Monday, August 22, 2011

This Greek cucumber/yogurt sauce is one reason gyros taste so magically delicious. July and August are the months when gardeners are drowning in cucumbers, so it's a great time to make a big batch of this sauce. Best of all, it's really easy to make.

In this picture, I used the tzatziki sauce as a dressing for a cucumber salad. It can also be used as a dip for veggies or pita wedges, or a condiment for any kind of sandwich.


2 (8 ounce) containers plain yogurt
2 cucumbers - peeled, seeded and shredded
1 tablespoon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
salt to taste


In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Stir until well-combined. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.


GumballHead Beer

>> Thursday, August 18, 2011

This summer beer recommendation comes from my step-daughter Jessie, a beer aficionado and Chicago bartender extraordinaire. It is a light, fruity wheat brew from Three Floyds brewery. By the way, a few years ago wineries were adding gimmicky names and labels to their products - and beer is following along. This one's a little much, don't you think?


Panzanella - Cucumber, Tomato, and Italian Bread Salad

>> Monday, August 15, 2011

Panzanella is a traditional summer salad in Italy and a thrifty way to use up bread that is getting dry and hard. This fresh and light salad is perfect for the dog days of summer, when you don't feel like cooking and it's too hot to eat something heavy, anyway.

When we honeymooned in Tuscany, the midday sun was fierce and most people observed the very civilized custom of closing everything down for a few hours, lunching and napping, and then going back about their business later in the day. Night was a time for socializing. Everyone turned out on the streets and parks to visit, have a drink, and play games with their kids. Lovely.

This salad was one of the refreshing ones we tried before our midday siestas, and we've made it many times since we came home. One of the most wonderful things about having a backyard garden is that we can go out and pick our own lunch or dinner any day of the week. Now that tomatoes and cucumbers are weighing down our vines, dinner is ready in less time than it would take us to run to the store for produce.


4 cups coarse hard bread, such as ciabbata, baguette, or French loaf
4 plum tomatoes
2 medium cucumbers (we like the seedless ones the best)
1 small red onion
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. Immerse in warm water for two minutes, and then allow to drain in a colander. 

Cut the tomatoes and cucumbers into 1-inch pieces. You can peel cukes if you like, but we like the skins on as long as they are not too scarred or dark green and bitter. Peel and cut the onion in half. Thinly slice each half. Place these vegetables and the bread in a serving bowl and toss them until mixed. 

Chop the basil and olives and put them in a small bowl. Pour the olive oil and vinegar into this bowl, along with the salt and pepper. Mix well and pour it over the salad, tossing it well to coat. Serve at room temperature.

If you have leftovers, eat them within the next day or two, before the bread gets mushy and unappealing.

Serves 2-3 as main-dish meals, or 4-6 as side salads.


French Bread Pizzas

>> Friday, August 12, 2011

This is about the quickest, easiest way to enjoy a pizza. It also contains cheap and easy-to find ingredients. These factors together make it a perfect recipe for our daughters who are out on their own, and hopefully not starving because they don't have any twenty-something-friendly recipes. Below the basic recipe is a bunch of ideas on how to jazz them up if you're not 20 or prefer something more interesting. These pizzas, cut into small pieces, also make a quick and easy appetizer.

1 24-inch french bread loaf
1 10-oz. can of spaghetti or pizza sauce
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese (and/or any other cheese you like)
Garlic salt
1 tsp. dried or fresh oregano

  1. Turn on the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut the bread loaf in half. Cut each half lengthwise down the middle so you have 4 pieces. 
  3. Put the bread slices on a baking sheet.
  4. Spread the sauce on the cut surface of each quarter.
  5. Sprinkle the bread with mozzarella cheese.
  6. Sprinkle the garlic salt and oregano over the pizzas.(Note: any cheese that lands on the pan instead of on the bread is likely to burn, so scoop it up and put it back on the bread.)
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the bread is warm.
Serves 2-4 people.

  • After spreading the sauce, add thin slices of tomato to the bread. Top with grated parmesan cheese and garlic salt before baking.
  • Add pepperoni slices, cooked Italian sausage bits, chopped olives, mushroom slices, green pepper, pineapple bits, ham or bacon, if desired. Note that olives and meat will make the pizza more salty so you might want to go with plain garlic powder rather than garlic salt.
  • Sprinkle the bread with red pepper flakes, chopped fresh basil, or parmesan cheese before cooking.


Jalapeno Dill Pickles

>> Thursday, August 11, 2011

If you're like us, the beginning of August is the time you're drowning in cucumbers and tomatoes. Like generations before us, we have begun canning our produce, and enjoy the fresh taste of summer in the middle of winter. This recipe is featured in Angela's book, "The Complete Guide to Food Preservation: Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Freeze, Dry, Can, and Preserve Food."


4 lbs. small pickling cucumbers
8 cups cold water
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 tsp. pickling spice (if desired, remove extra allspice and coriander)
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
4 Tbsp. dill weed, or 2 to 3 heads of dill, chopped
6 peeled garlic cloves, crushed
4 jalapenos, thinly sliced length-wise


1. Sterilize canning jars.
2. Scrub cucumbers well. Slice off the ends of cucumbers and cut cucumbers lengthwise into spears.

3. Place layers of cucumbers and salt in a large bowl, and cover this with a layer of ice. Place in the refrigerator for two to three hours to make the cucumbers crisper. Drain well.

4. Mix together the spices and vinegar in a medium pot or saucepan. Bring to boil and stir well.

5. Place half of a garlic clove in each jar. Pack cucumber wedges vertically in jars, alternating with slices of jalapeno, leaving little space between each spear. Ladle the brine over cucumbers, leaving a 1/4 inch of headspace. Slide a knife or spatula inside the jar to remove air bubbles; adjust headspace if necessary. Dampen a kitchen towel and wipe around the rims of the canning jars. Screw the canning lids onto the jar just until finger-tight.

6. Process in a boiling-water canner for 20 minutes.

Yield: About 6 pints

The Complete Guide to Food Preservation
You can find other canning and preserving recipes in my book, The Complete Guide to Food Preservation: Step-by-step Instructions on How to Freeze, Dry, Can, and Preserve Food


Herbal Teas

>> Sunday, August 7, 2011

This year our herb garden is overflowing more than ever, probably due to the long stretches of hot sunny weather and occasional downpours. We're cutting and drying all sorts of herbs, and some of them make great teas. Here are a few combinations to try. If you don't grow the herbs yourself, you should be able to find them at a farmer's market or local Asian or Latino grocery store.

To make iced tea, follow the directions and refrigerate before serving over ice.

Lemon Verbena Tea

1 cup lemon verbena leaves
3 tablespoons lavender flowers
1 teaspoon dried lemon peel

Pour the herbs into an airtight container, cover, and shake until thoroughly mixed. Place the lid tightly on the container. For a cup of tea, use 1 tablespoon in a cup of boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes and strain out the leaves and peel. Add sugar or honey, as desired.

Peppermint Tea

8 oz peppermint leaves
1 teaspoon rosemary leaves
8 oz lemon balm leaves
8 oz fennel seeds

 Pour the herbs into an airtight container, cover, and shake until thoroughly mixed. Place the lid tightly on the container. For a cup of tea, use 1 tablespoon in a cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes and strain out the herbs. Note: this tea aids in digestion and stomach pains.

Soothing Chamomile Tea

3 teaspoon marjoram
3 teaspoon chamomile flowers
3 teaspoon bergamot leaves
2 teaspoon dried orange peel

Pour the herbs into an airtight container, cover, and shake until thoroughly mixed. Place the lid tightly on the container. Bring the water to a boil; then remove it from the heat. For a cup of tea, use 1 tablespoon in a cup of boiling water and allow them to steep for 10-15 minutes. Remove herbs.


Tofu with Bonito and Ginger (Hiyayakko)

>> Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tofu with Bonito and Ginger (Hiyayakko)

We've enjoyed this dish as an appetizer at one of our favorite Japanese restaurants, and finally decided to re-create it at home. This is also a great dinner for a hot night when it's unthinkable to even turn on a stove. Experiment with the size of grater you use so that the ginger root doesn't get all tangled in the teeth, as it did on Angela's first attempt. Alternatively, you can buy a jar of grated ginger at many stores.


1 pound extra firm cold tofu, drained
1/4 cup scallions, green onions, or chives, finely chopped or sliced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, finely grated
1/4 cup dried Bonito (fish) flakes
Soy sauce

Cut the tofu into 1 inch cubes and place in a serving dish. Place a dot of grated ginger on top of each cube. Immediately before serving, sprinkle the bonito flakes carefully on top of each piece of tofu, then top with the scallions or chives. Serve with soy sauce for dipping.


White Summer Sangria

>> Monday, August 1, 2011

We made this refreshing punch for a BBQ party for Joe's birthday. It went so fast that I didn't get the time to take a photo!

1 cup whole strawberries
1 bag frozen sliced peaches
1/2 cup white rum
1/2 cup Triple Sec or Grand Marnier
1 orange, sliced
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups lemon-lime soda
1 1/2 cups white grape juice
1.5 liter bottle of Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc wine
Ice cubes

Place the berries and peaches in a  large pitcher or punch bowl and pour the rum and Triple Sec over the fruit. Let it marinate in the fridge for an hour. Add the orange slices. Pour the wine, grape juice, lemon juice, and soda over the fruit. Stir and pour over glasses of ice cubes to serve.

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