Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

Early  October and only a light frost here so far. Everyone is saying it’s been their best garden season in a long time. Dry, hot summer days with lots of watering this year. We were rewarded with a glorious harvest. Today after I finished cleaning out the seasonal beds, and setting next years garlic bed, (yes, Jimbo it’s time) I picked the last of my hot peppers for some of my hot pepper jellies, relishes and  hot sauces.


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My name is J… and I am a recipe addict! Or I should say.. was.

A few months ago, after a recent move I made the decision that it was time to sell a rather large cookbook collection I’ve had for over 25 years. Why was I saving recipes from twenty five years ago? Cooking styles have surely changed over these years that more than half of the bookmarked recipes were for things I would never make any more. I was thrilled to find a wonderful cookbook dealer who assured me, my library of 900 treasured books would all go to good homes.. Of course before I made my decision I had to go through them all one more time because there was one favorite recipe that I couldn’t be without. Enough already! Admittedly, this is how a recipe addict thinks, but in addition to my favorite recipes.. I got into the habit years ago, of sticking family recipes into my books as well, along with family pictures that were very special to me. They just brought an instant smile or warm remembrance of a special event or special person, that called for a certain recipe, whenever I reached for my books.



My daughter came to visit in the midst of all this madness and suggested that I put my favorite recipes on to the computer, but I couldn’t even begin to fathom the length of time that would take, and what if I forgot to do backups? Well it ended up taking me 3 weeks to go through each & every book, sort the keepers and separate the ones I would part with.

Yes, I still have a very nice collection, but now actually manageable, and space in my new kitchen. I’ve been slowly putting some of them into computer files.. but it’s just not the same for me. I actually prefer having a book with my hand scribbled marginal notes from years ago in it.. There definitely are memories connected with them and as I gazed at my faded writing and that smudge of cinnamon and butter encrusted on the pages, I’m transported back to that time years ago when I baked my first apple pie for my own daughters during the holidays. And yes, what about all those hand written recipe cards with recipes from my mom’s collection, my Nonna’s recipes brought from Naples? My sister’s famous Leg of Lamb, Uncle Pete’s famous lobster pie recipe? Auntie Ella’s arancine or baccala salad, Jimbo’s fabulous Prime Rib.. or his famous Guiness Beer Brats.  I’ll always hang on to those. Whenever I make Ma’s delicious apple pie I get out that recipe card, even though I know it like the back of my hand… and many of my favorites are up on my cooking blog or in my journal for safe keeping. 🙂

My newest cookbook, a birthday gift from my daughter, Top Chef-The Cookbook, with an inscription.. ‘this will just be a start to your new collection of cookbooks 🙂 Bon Appetit’. So whether old or new, collecting cookbooks and recipes .. like dear old friends, will always remain in this addicts life!

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They cleaned me out at farmers market this week, so..its gonna be a dilly of a morning.



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Well I guess it had to happen–summer is drawing to a close.  And though we’d never know it today on this perfect eighty degree day, I’ll be reminded in a few short months of how great a summer it’s been.  The garden did flourish..the yields just fabulous!  My cupboards are well stocked with pickles,  salsa’s, preserves, jams and jellies, relishes and more than enough tomato sauce to feed an army.  The freezer is well stocked with frozen berries and fruits of the season gone by.

Gorgeous apples are just plentiful this year, so that will be the next outing for us.  I’m thinking of all the pies and crisps I will prepare with my larder.

But by far, my favorite fruit of the summer is–the peach.  Freshly picked, so wonderfully juicy– You know the ones I mean–the kind that when you first bite into them, those scrumptious juices drip down onto your chin. Those mealy, impenetrable fruits that you pay a small fortune for during the winter just can’t possibly compare.   So I’ve put you into jars  and we’ll be remembering the good times  of another great season when our north winds blow.  Sigh–  See you again next summer.

Summer in a jar

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Want to go down memory lane with me? Close your eyes and come with me, on a trip down memory lane to the place where red and white checked dreams come true. Many of us from the older generation can remember going to the local soda fountain for a burger and a shake or to have a burger and fries after school.

Many were decorated with red bar stools and black and white floors and if you were lucky enough those miniature juke boxes just ready for you to plunk your coins in to listen, while you waited for your orders. Two plays for a quarter no less that featured old 45’s that I know I haven’t heard in years. Our local soda fountain was in the ‘square’ of town, in a corner drugstore–Halls Drug.

Every afternoon as school let out Mr Hall readied for the slew of kids that would be pushing their way into his store just about 3 o’clock every weekday afternoon. Two of my favorite items were lime rickey’s and rootbeer floats. It’s funny the way our minds sometimes work– remembering the little things, we sometimes can recall from back in those good old days. One thing that stands out in my mind was looking down the row of spinning bar stools to see so many pairs of dangling saddle shoes and poodle skirts swirling around. You do remember saddle shoes don’t you? Nope, they weren’t specialty fit shoes for the equestrians. And also how Mr Hall would always serve your orders–first he’d re-wipe off the counter in front of your seat, and then neatly place a paper napkin followed by your order placed on top. He was such a quiet, yet sweet old gent who seldom forgot to ask ‘would you like ‘jimmies’ on top’ regardless of whether you ordered a milk shake, ice cream soda, or banana split! It was just one of his little quirks.

Many of the great recipes for our best frozen confections have been lost to us and, since I just love ice cream, and just made a new batch of coffee brandy a few weeks ago, I decided to try a new twist on an old favorite– So this is my recapture the nostalgic flavor of childhood but with a grownups-only version of the root beer float. With the heat wave we’ve all been having these  past weeks, this was a deliciously thirst quenching treat. Don’t forget to put a scoop of your fave ice cream on top before serving and cool off! Autumn’s just around the corner.

Coffee Brandy Ice Cream Float

* ¼ cup of milk
* 3 TBLS coffee brandy – recipe follows
* 1 scoop coffee ice cream
* club soda

Mix milk and coffee brandy together in a tall glass. Then pour club soda over top to fill the glass about ¾ of the glass full, and then top off with a scoop of coffee ice cream & cool off! Enjoy.

Homemade Coffee Brandy

3 cups water
2 1/2 cups sugar

Bring to a boil and simmer 15 minutes.

1/2 cup instant coffee – I used Colombian
1/2 cup boiling water

Dissolve and add it to the above mixture.

Cool all and pour into a half gallon canning jar. Then add 2 bourbon vanilla beans split lengthwise, and 3 cups of brandy and 1/4 cup quality vodka. Cover and store in a cool cupboard 3-4 weeks.

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I am a desultory gardener.
In late January when the holiday madness is over, when the light is low in the sky, when the days are shorter and quieter, I sit with a pile of seed catalogs envisioning colors in my garden.  Then, I am a diligent gardener.
My garden is beautiful.  It is full of healthy vegetables, herbs and flowers all happily thriving and feeding us. Weeds are just a flickering shadow of an idea.  Everything is well watered, planted in succession, thinned to the proper spacing, mulched.
Spring always begins with the best of intentions for me.  Beds are lined with rows of seeds. Weeds are kept in check.  With the first of the spinach, salad greens and fresh peas come the flush of satisfaction. We really can grow our own food.

Garden 2011

But late July and into August, well that  is a different story.  I start to slow down on harvesting by late July. I mean really,  just how many types of squash can two people possibly eat?  The heat of the summer sun is the perfect foil for my laziness.  Things get a little out of hand.  We try and stay on top of the pole beans but inevitably some get missed only to be discovered later, pods just bursting.  Zucchini.  Need I say more? 🙂  Tomatoes, if we are so lucky as to have fruit ripening at this point (which we do this year), are begging to be picked.  The garden is looking tired, or maybe it’s just me.  I’m finding out that all that llama, chicken and cow manure that went into the garden in early spring appeals to many weeds as well as veggies..  ugh ugh the weeding!  This is when I discover the bumper crop of cucumbers/zucchini/beans that need to be dealt with.  We have eaten our fill for the moment and need to find another outlet for this plenitude.  So that’s when I haul out my recipe box and the canning books.  Pickles. Dilly beans. Italian giardiniera,  Zucchini relish. Hello winter stash!

Bread & Butter Pickles


Dilly Beans



In spite of the bean beetles, we’ve had the greatest bean season ever this year. How have your gardens been growing?



Edible Nasturtiums



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Tomato Basket

Don’t you think this is a good reason to slave in your gardens all season long? LOL Yumma! Fresh plum roasted tomatoes–love em!

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