Thursday, August 28, 2014


      Ah for summertime, fresh veggies and fruits. What a wonderful treat they are, whether they are grown in your garden, a gift from the neighbor, bought fresh at a roadside stand, or bought in the market on sale as so many of these things are right now. Corn, tomatoes, grapes, cherries, melons, blueberries, cucumbers, green beans, color bell peppers, all fresh, are just some of the mix of beautiful colors the grocers are putting on sale. And this time of year. Many of your veggies are being brought in quite locally, as opposed to from South America or such. Every week I am more tempted when I get the sale paper to get more fruit, tho’ I have oodles of jam already and cannot eat it all fresh myself.

    There are a few fresh corn recipes I hope to get to and share with you, and other fresh veggie ideas. And yet as often is the case, one cannot eat all you can buy on sale really cheap, find, be given, or grow. So what do you do? This is the time of year when you "CAN" things. You make tomato sauce, can green beans… etc… stock up for use later this winter, with what you can get now. Late summer is the time to can the large quantities of those fruits and veggies.


When I was a child we had three very prolific peach trees, 2 plums, an apple, a pear and a fig tree, as well as two huge “paper-shell ex-long” pecan trees. So there was always plenty of stuff to use and to can for the winter. Peaches seemed to be the thing, however, that we would be giving away pecks of. In June/July when they would begin to ripen, fresh peaches would be such a juicy and sometime messy treat right off the tree. Not to mention homemade peach pie, shortcake, cobbler, ice cream and more. Then my mother would “put up” jars and jars of peaches for winter. And she would make peach preserves, and one of our favorite treats, peach, and fig tarts! 

     As winter wore on, and  fresh peaches were no more, we’d have the canned ones often for dessert as we had PLENTY. There would come a time when we got sort of tired of the canned peaches for dessert, but it always seemed about that time we’d run out. So by summertime we were again excited for the return of the fresh peaches.

     Other things my mother used to do was make pickles, as cucumbers are easy to grow a lot of. And she'd can tomatoes. This recipe I’m about to give you though, came about when my own kids were growing up. One year with so many tomatoes and zucchini from our garden, the children’s mom and I decided to can them together. And it was such a success that we forever after did this and enjoyed them through the winter. We used to use Italian seasoning, and sometimes fresh herbs. This way the canned tomatoes and zucchini were perfect for Italian recipes.
     Now days I have a very good herb garden so I use fresh herbs in my canning and making tomato sauce, where I simmer a cheesecloth bag of herbs in the sauce.

   Below is a method that while a little time consuming is still simple and so worth the time taken. It seems I had some tomatoes and a little squash on hand, Roma pears and zucchini. Then the around the corner neighbor brought me over a bunch of tomatoes and greyzini and zucchini squash from his garden. So… time to can!

I started with about 5 lbs of tomatoes and approximately the same amount of squash.
-5 lbs tomatoes
-5 lbs zucchini squash
-3  or 4 fresh lemons and the same of limes
-2 bulbs of garlic
-Various fresh Italian herbs, or Italian seasoning mix. Fresh herbs I used were oregano, both 
       regular and purple hot-oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, mint, sage, and lemon balm., 
       of course the dried mix works fine.
-dried hot Thai peppers, or fresh. Optional!
-sea salt or kosher or pickling salt, I used a combination of smoked Mexican sea salt and red
      Hawaiian sea salt, combined with white Mediterranean, but its surely not necessary.
-freshly cracked black pepper or pepper corns, I used black and Peruvian red pepper 
     corns…again not necessary to use both I just had these things on hand and thought 
     it would be fun.


Now for the process. Many folks boil their jars to sterilize them. I actually just run them through the dishwasher, the water in the dishwasher is heated way beyond what your hot-water heater does, and it does fine to sterilize. As well I have the washer on heated dry, and continue to add more time there if needed, so as I work it is keeping the jars hot and clean until the moment I take each one out to can with. 

     Most of the canning is quick and I usually get it done in one cycle of heated dry. So plan accordingly as to the timing of your dishwasher so it hits the dry cycle about the time you are ready for jars.

     If you don’t wish to use this method, or have no dishwasher, boil the jars for 10 minutes on full boil. Drain and set on a rack to use. Use them hot if you can.

   I will say if you can get a canning jar lifter tool, you need it. For both the sterilized jars and the hot processed jars later.

     You will want to prepare your ingredients and your work space. First wash the tomatoes and zucchini of course. Also wash the herbs and set in a strainer. Place a pot to boil on the burner and blanch each tomato for about 12 seconds so they will peel easier. Peel and place these tomatoes whole in a bowl of cold water. Now empty your pot and refill it with water to boil. Place all your jar lids and screw bands in a glass Pyrex or other deep bowl. When the water boils pour it over the lids to sterilize them. 

While the water is boiling take all the leaves off the herbs. it seems tedious yes, but you don’t want the stems, because these herbs will be eaten later not just simmered in a bag and tossed. You can strip an herb stem by simply running your fingers along the stem from the top end to the bottom… going against the grain of the direction of the leaves. This works well for oregano sage and thyme, and maybe mint. After you have all the clean herbs in piles of leaves, chop them fine. And place them in a small bowl, just large enough to hold them all. Small is better for the space in your work area.

     Now peel the garlic bulbs into individual peeled cloves and cut each clove into 2 to 3 pieces. Place these into a small bowl. With a mortar and pestle crush your dried Thai peppers and black pepper corns, or use a grinder. Place the crushed/cracked peppers in a ramekin.  I combined my salts next into a little ramekin. If using just one king of salt place some in a ramekin anyway, you will need about ¼ cup. Next cut your lemons and limes in half then into quarter sections.

   Next chop all your zucchini into large chunks. Place these into a streamer basket and steam them for about 4 to 6 minutes. If you have no steamer microwave them for about 3 minutes and toss and then 3 minutes more. You want them to just be steamed through but still crisp. If you have neither a steamer or microwave steam them by placing a bit of salty water in the bottom of a large stock pot, add zucchini and bring to a boil with lid on, after a few minutes remove lid by lifting the side away from you first, directing the hot steam away from you. With a large wooden spoon toss the chunks of zucchini and return to boil with lid on.. While they are steaming or after set up your space with all you have just prepared

     A cutting board is a good surface as you will need to cut your tomatoes some, plus you will be setting a hot jar down to work. I set myself up as follows you should do similar. First my dishwasher is just behind where I work, handy for me to grab one jar at a time from the heated dry cycle. 

     I had a large cutting board in place. And a good knife I will need for tomatoes. To the left I had my “drained”, steamed zucchini still in the steamer basket, and had a slotted spoon or large fork for spooning them out. To my right I had the peeled tomatoes now drained of the water. Just right of that was my sterile lids still in the water (have some tweezers/tongs if water is too hot to get lids out.) and also my lemon and lime quarters. You will need a small strainer for these.

   Behind the cutting board, at say 12 o’clock, I had my herbs, garlic, salt and pepper, and 1 or 2 tablespoons and 1 or 2 teaspoons for measure.


Cut about 2 to 3 raw peeled tomatoes into large pieces. Preserve the seeds and watery pulp, do not lose any of it if you can by placing your tomato pieces cut side up like a little bowl. You will need the seedy watery pulp for the canning to have enough liquid.

    Next take a hot jar from the dishwasher or rack. Place it on the cutting board and place chunks of alternating tomato and zucchini in the jar, packing them down with a spoon as you go. When half way full, add -1 tbsp. chopped herbs, -2 or 3 garlic pieces, -1 tsp of the salt, and -½ tsp of the pepper. Next squeeze through the strainer -the juice of one of the lemon sections. Continue to pack tightly, the tomato and zucchini pieces. When the jar is fully packed add the same amounts of each herbs, garlic, salt and pepper. But this time squeeze a lime section through the strainer. You may have to add a few more chunks of veggies to have them packed tightly (without being mashed), to the top. There should almost be enough liquid in the jar from the zucchini and tomatoes to already cover the veggies at least half way up. Processing is going to release a lot more liquid.


Now making sure the lip of the jar has no debris what so ever on it, so you get a fine seal take one of your lid seals and place on the jar, next take one of the screw bands and screw it down very tight to push the seal in place. You will probably need a pot holder to hold the jar while you do this.

     Now complete the above steps with the remaining jars until all the veggies are packed in jars and sealed. The next step is processing. Normally you need only about 10 minutes processing time in a boiling water bath to do tomatoes, but considering I added zucchini, and especially the garlic, herbs. I want to cook into the mix a bit, we will process them more. 


     Place your jars in a large stock pot or some such pot that has a nice fitting lid. Fill with very hot tap water until the jars are covered with the water. Place on the heat to start boiling. You can set the lid to the pot on to build up heat. Once the jars start to boil time for one hour, with the lid on. Note you should check after 30 minutes because some of the water will have escaped as steam. Have a large container you can fill with very hot tap water to gently pour into pot until the jars are submerged again. Replace the lid and return to boiling. You needn’t take time off the hour s measured time for this step as it reduces the water temp for just a tiny amount of time. Use this time to clean up everything else.

        When the jars are done turn the heat off under the pot or take it off the heat. Take the lid off and let them set in the water for 10 minutes. Next using your jar lifter take each jar out and place it on the cutting board. Let them cool for about an hour then screw the lids on the jars even tighter if you can. This sometimes is possible after they cool the band has contracted, and you want it to be tight. After the jars are well cooled wipe them off and label them.

     These jars of Italian tomatoes and zucchini are ideal for adding to spaghetti sauce or to lasagna. They are already seasoned and salted. Another good use is to pour it over to cook cuts of meat like pork chops or chicken breasts, or to use anyway so see fit. Blessings mes amis

Sunday, August 24, 2014


Summer Cooler
Infused Water

      If you are a water drinker like I am, or maybe because you are not, this idea may prove to be a refreshing cool down hydrator.

      A few years back at this same time of year. My family and I went to a little restaurant that was getting quite a reputation for its good food. It was in small town and in a small store front. Which meant because the food WAS good. That there was a waiting line, and most of the line was outside. Where I live we have 100° days in the summer. So even at supper time its HOT outside. This restaurant had a huge water cooler in the front of the tiny lobby, inside it they had a whole watermelon and basil sprigs and large blocks of ice in the water, and paper cups, and a help yourself sign. So we did. The infusion of basil and watermelon flavor into the chilled water was unusually more refreshing than just plain water.

 Last year at the community market in my town folks were selling jars of chilled water with pieces of fruit in them. It was the same idea and just as refreshing.

   So here’s what you can try. I have a gallon pitcher, so we are going to go with a basic gallon recipe, of course amounts of additions to the water aren’t really vital, and can depend on how mush infusion you want in the taste.

Here’s a nice basic:
½ cucumber cut into chunks
1 large sprig of mint, about 12 -16 leaves
1 lime cut into pieces
1 lemon cut into pieces
1 sprig of fresh basil about 8” long or so.

    Simply put all the ingredients into a gallon of water and chill in the fridge over a 24 hour period. Then if you have, like I do, a pitcher with a straining lid. Just pour your water and enjoy. Or do what I do and fill some water bottles and place in fridge for later.

    Any of the above ingredients are good. Cucumber really gives a nice quality so I tend to put it in most of my waters, but you can add such things as whole cherries, strawberries, grapes and watermelon pieces, even just the rinds. Basil or rosemary, and lemon balm, or even dried anise stars are good. Celery, and bell pepper are fun too.

    I end up with about 4 bottles of water from a gallon. That takes me about through a day, and I’m always disappointed when I have to shift back to regular water. So try it and see if you don’t agree that it just makes the cold water seem colder and more refreshing and thirst quenching.

    As well there is an added benefit supposedly, but I cannot testify to it. Infused water is supposed to detox your body, help you lose weight, and keep your belly flat… hum… that last one must suppose your belly was flat in the first place. No mater it’s cool, fresh, tasty, and thirst quenching

Blessings mes amis.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


          Here are a few side dishes you can add to one of those Summer Sunday Afternoon Dinners.  I added them to a meatloaf dinner I made with gravy and homemade biscuits, but they would go with any good meal to complete a starch and vegetables.
     I make four kinds on mashed potatoes, regular, garlic, three cheese, and this dish I call Homey Baked Potato Mash. As well below I’m going to give a recipe for Summer Creamy Fresh Vegetables.

     We’ll go with potatoes first:

  One first tip is when making mashed potatoes folks often ask, “How many potatoes should I use?”
The rule I’ve gone by for years is always start with 5 medium size potatoes to serve 2-4 people. After four people, count one potato for each person, plus one more…up to ten guests, then count one potato for each person plus two. So say you are serving 7 people (remember to include yourself in the count) you start with 8 potatoes …7+one more = 8.  Say you are having to serve 12 people, start with 14 potatoes… 12 +two more since its over ten=14. And then if you have one particular person who just loves mashed potatoes and always takes a lot, like my son, add one more for him.
 I’m going to make a recipe using 8 potatoes.

-8 medium potatoes
-smoked paprika, salt, and pepper
-1 small onion
-1 garlic bulb, about ten cloves… plus two or three extra cloves to toast
-4 tbsp. margarine, plus 4 to 6 more when mashing
-1 tsp flour
-sage, salt and pepper to taste
-about 1 cup of lukewarm milk

This is best made with an electric mixer. And you will need foil for wrapping the potatoes. Instructions will follow below for potatoes in red and for veggie dish in green.

And now for the  Fresh Summer veggies list:

-  ½  of each a red and orange bell pepper
- 1 small onion
- 2 stalks of celery
- 2 serrano peppers seeds removed, or jalapeno
- about 1 cup of fresh green beans, cleaned
- about 2 cups of fresh cut from the cob, or frozen corn kernels
- 2 small tomatoes
- 1 cup of chicken bouillon
- 1 cup milk
- 4 slices of bacon
- 1 tsp (heaping) of prepared mustard
- 4 tbsp. butter
- 3 tbsp. flour
- fresh ground black pepper
- possibly salt to taste

Instructions below:

     First scrub all your potatoes well.  Pierce them a few times with a fork. While they are wet roll them in a plate which you have sprinkled well with paprika salt and pepper. Then wrap each one in foil. After they are all wrapped place them to bake in a 400 degree oven. Baking in foil in the oven is preferable for this recipe as the peels are used and need to be tender the way this method makes them, as opposed to any microwave method. They will bake for about one hour till they feel soft enough to squeeze with a potholder and your hand.

     Next chop your small onion. Peel all of the cloves of your garlic, and set two, or three if they are small, cloves aside. Cut the others in half. Melt 4 tbsp. of margarine in a small sauce pan that has a lid. Add the onions and halved garlic to the pan and cover. Put over a very low heat. You want them to cook for about 30 minutes, but not brown. For the other two or three, you will slice very thin and toast them as per the method in my Garlic Knots recipe.  After they are toasted, mince them small and set aside in a little ramekin.

     Now for the creamy fresh vegetables. Fry 4 strips of bacon in a large cast iron or other skillet that has a fitting lid. While that is starting to chop your onions and celery and add to a bowl. When bacon is done drain it on a paper towel. Turn the heat off under the skillet, reserve the oil, adding to it 4 tbsp. of butter. Put lid on and let it sit to melt the butter. 

     Continue chopping the bell peppers. Mince the Serrano peppers quite small. Add these both to the bowl of other chopped veggies. Have your corn measured out in a bowl, and your green beans (you may wish to cut the green beans a bit to keep them from being too long). Slice the tomatoes very thin and cut the slices into quarters.

     Crumble the bacon into a small ramekin. Set all the veggies neatly within arm’s reach next to the skillet. Get a medium size sauce pan out for another burner. Measure your cup of bouillon, and milk and set them next to your cooking area. Have mustard and pepper grinder handy. having everything at arms reach and handy is called MISE EN PLACE. after setting up cooking areas you can clean off cutting boards or areas and straighten up before going on to next step. this way there is no clutter in the way and cleanup is easier, cooking is neater.

                                     Your garlic and onions should be done now, just slightly browned if at all. Take them off the heart and add the tsp of flour. Puree this mixture then set in a little dish for adding to the potatoes later.

     Back with the veggies, turn the heat on under the skillet and add the green beans. Cook them until they slightly have brown places on them. Draining them well but reserving the grease, place them in the medium sauce pan. Add the milk and bouillon to the beans and start them to simmer with a lid on.

     Back at your skillet, have on high heat and add the chopped onion celery and peppers and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add then the fresh corn and sauté for another five minutes. Add the tsp of mustard and mix in. Ground the fresh pepper into the skillet to taste. Add in the bacon crumbles. Add three tbsp. of flour to skillet and mix in. now pour your green beans and their liquid into the skillet mixing well. It should thicken just right.  Check for salt needs and add any if needed. I find the butter, bacon, and bouillon give enough saltiness for my taste. Now disburse the thin sliced tomato quarters over the skillet contents, but DO NOT mix in. cover the skillet and turn the heat down low for another minute then turn off the heat. You want the tomatoes warmed but not cooked.

     Returning to the potatoes they should be baked soft by now.  First warm your milk and have 4 to 6 tbsp. of butter in a container close at hand, and also the garlic onion puree from earlier. Unwrap each one in a plate and cut slightly to break them up. Add them all to the mixing bowl, you are including the peels

     With beaters, or for stand mixers, use the whip attachment, whip on low until the potatoes are well broken up. Have sage, salt, pepper, and toasted garlic at hand as well.  Add the 4 – 6 tbsp. butter to the hot potatoes and whip on high.  Turn off beaters and scrape the sides down. Add the garlic onion puree, toasted garlic, sage to taste (about 1 tsp), and salt and pepper to taste while blending with mixer on low. Scrape down sides as needed. Now with mixer whipping on high pour the warm milk into the middle a little at a time till potatoes are getting creamy. Scrape down as needed to blend all well. Continue to add the milk until the potatoes are a light and creamy texture. Serve warm with or without gravy.

     As I said I had these sides with my meat loaf and homemade biscuits (with honey butter) and a fine gravy. They also go well with fried chicken. I will probably give my biscuit recipe at some later date. 

     Meanwhile add these sides to your own Sunday Summer Dinner, whatever the main course. Blessings mes amis.