The Heat of Summer is Here!

Yay! I’ve been very busy getting my husband to put in my garden, fix my flowerbeds, and do the mulching. 8 cubic yards of dirt later I have 2- 10×10 raised garden beds. There are 20 bags of red mulch ready to go. My outdoor pots are filled with beautiful flowers and lush green plants. There is still a lot of work to do, but it’s coming along. My back does not permit me to do any of the heavy stuff, but my amazing husband is doing it for me!

Ok…. hot weather, sunny days, picnics, cookouts, days at the beach….. all of these call for a giant plastic pitcher of lemonade! Not the powder… not frozen in a can…. but real, freshly squeezed lemonade!

I have an electric citrus juicer (yes of course it is a Kitchen Aid!) but I also have a hand juicer. I only use that when squeezing one or two lemons. In this case, we will be squeezing 20 to 25 lemons. Makes ya pucker just thinking about it!

First you need to make some simple syrup. I squeeze my lemons and put all of that in one pitcher, make the syrup and put it in another pitcher, and refrigerate overnight. The next day you put everything together and it’s icy cold, ready to go. I have a 2 gallon plastic jug with a spigot on it, which is perfect for carrying the lemonade wherever I need to go.

To make simple syrup, all you have to do is dissolve 4C sugar into 6C water in a saucepan and heat gently, stirring, til all the sugar dissolves. Let it cool, pour it into a pitcher, cover it in plastic, refrigerate, and Boom! Simple syrup!

Now, get out whatever citrus squeezing device you have. My Kitchen Aid does 25 lemons in 10 minutes, strains seeds and as much or little pulp as you want. It really can’t be beat. If you are doing it by hand, strain it well, and add some pulp back in as you like. Pour it in a pitcher, cover with plastic, and refrigerate.

When ready to serve, I half-fill my 2 gallon container with ice. Pour in all the lemon juice. Pour in 8C water. Now, add about 3/4 of the syrup. Gotta taste it! If it’s too puckery, add more syrup. You can add a bit more water if it’s strong, but melting ice should take care of that.

Alrighty then! You just made a pitcher of homemade lemonade! Once you taste it, the fake stuff will never again suffice!

Happy Summer!

Love, Grammy ❤

Rack O’ Ribs!

Hello hello! Not that I’m done with the whole ethnic food thing, but tonight the hubby and I grilled ribs. I had pulled them out of the freezer this afternoon with the idea that I would Crock Pot them all day tomorrow. But they thawed pretty quickly, and I decided to grill them.

Ok… truth… I decided Doc would grill them when he got home. I am not the griller. The only point at which I tried to help him, I burned my pinkie so bad it has a huge blister on it and I had to soak it in cool water for an hour. So. Not. The Griller.

I am the dry rub and sauce maker, though. So we will start there.

In a bowl, dump the following: 1/4C brown sugar, 1T smoky paprika, 2t chili powder, 1t dry mustard, 1t onion powder, 1t garlic powder, 1t Kosher salt, 1t black pepper, and 1/4t cayenne pepper. Mix well to thoroughly combine. Open the ribs, rinse the rack under cool water and pat dry. Lay it on a baking sheet. Coat both sides and the edges with the dry rub, massaging it into the meat. Shake off excess and let it sit for 30min.

Now make your sauce: in your awesome Kitchen Aid mini-processor, put 1 small, peeled and quartered onion. Pulse to mince, and add 4 peeled garlic cloves and 1-2T water. Pulse to puree. Heat 2T olive oil over medium heat, then add puree. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. During that 5 minutes, dump the following in a bowl and mix well: 2C ketchup (my absolute fave is Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup) 1/2C brown sugar, 1T apple cider vinegar, 1T tomato paste, 1T Worcestershire Sauce, 1t dry mustard, 1/2t cayenne pepper, 1/2t black pepper, and my secret ingredient: 1/4C hot pepper jelly. When well mixed, add to puree in pot. Cook and stir til bubbling a bit, and turn down heat. Simmer 10-15 min and let cool.

Ok, you will be grilling this rack o’ ribs on indirect heat. Fire up one burner and cook on the opposite side. Preheat to about 375. Set the ribs bone side down and close lid. Adjust heat so it falls to about 300. Don’t open the lid for 30 minutes.

Now open the lid! Hubby lifted the ribs while I laid down a large piece of foil… and burned my pinkie! I was dismissed from the grill! Doc set the ribs on the foil, slowly poured 1/2C apple juice on them, and quickly sealed the foil. Close the lid for another 30 minutes.

Open the lid, open the foil (but leave underneath) and brush the whole top with that yummy sauce. Close the lid for 5 minutes. Turn the ribs, brush with sauce, close the lid for 5 minutes. Repeat this process 6 times, 3 times per side.

Cut, serve, and enjoy! This recipe left enough sauce that I am going to use it on baked chicken tomorrow!

The only thing I made to go with the ribs tonight was a small pan of cornbread. It was a wonderful meal! Happy eating!

Love, Grammy ❤

Continuing The Ethnic Recipes… Let’s go to Poland!

This is a tribute to my Nana (Maciejewska) Murphy, who was one of the true great cooks of her time. She could make something out of anything. I guess that’s where I get it from! Even though I was young when she died, there are two things I clearly remember: her spaghetti and meatballs, and her stew.

Bigos Stew is a very popular dish from Poland. As long as the seasonings are right, you can play fast and loose with the veggies. My Nana often had to use whatever was available from the market.

This is the relatively standard recipe for Bigos. It is rich, hearty, and delicious, and it reminds me of my Nana.

Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a large Dutch oven. Add 1 lg sliced onion and saute over medium heat til soft. Sprinkle in 1t crushed juniper berries (got them on Amazon!) and 1/2t caraway seeds. Then add 3/4 lb cubed pork and stir it around. Sprinkle in 2T brown sugar. Increase heat to med-hi and brown the pork. Rinse and drain thoroughly 1 bag sauerkraut (about a pound) and add it to the pot. Add 1/2 head shredded white cabbage and 2 large chopped tomatoes. Pour in 2-1/2C beef stock. Bring it to the boil and turn down the heat. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Finely chop about 5 white mushrooms, slice 1 ring Polish sausage, and grate 1 lg apple. Add all these to the pot and stir well. Bring it to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer 90 minutes, covered.

You can serve it at this point, but putting the pot in the fridge when it’s cool and reheating the next day makes it incredible!

So celebrate your Polish roots, or make it because you wish you were Polish…. either way, Bigos is a delicious stew you will enjoy often.

Thanks, Nana.

Love, Grammy ❤

GREEK SALAD….The Best of the Salad World!

I love a good Greek salad. The problem is, a really good one is hard to find.

In my experience, most places give you way too much greens, and not enough of everything else. Especially not enough feta cheese, or olives, or dressing.

There is a great way to fix that, though. Make your own! Serve it with toasted pita, or garlic bread, or a buttery yeast roll. But put in lots of whatever ingredients you like best, and eliminate what you don’t like. Say, the slices of green bell pepper. You won’t find a single slice of it in my Greek salad.

A bit of personal history: my first husband’s mother was half Greek and half Irish. Her father Aristotle was a cook in a Boston Hospital, and did the cooking at home. In an effort to please my new mother-in-law, I learned to make several Greek dishes and discovered I love Greek food. Moussaka, an eggplant and ground lamb dish, is a personal favorite. My mother-in-law was impressed, so that was good.

Anyway, back to the salad. This, like most things I make, has been amended a bit to reflect my tastes. You can certainly do the same! You can even put slices of green pepper in there if you like. Just don’t skimp on the good stuff. The following makes a large bowl of salad. You keep the dressing separate so your guests can have as much or little as they want. It also keeps for 3 days.

The Greek Dressing: In a clean jar with a tight fitting lid, squeeze the juice of 1 lemon. Scrape about 2t of lemon zest and add that too. Pour in 1/4C apple cider vinegar. Raw is best, but you can use regular. Add 1t sugar, 1t black pepper, and 2t dried oregano. Slowly pour in 1C olive oil, whisking the whole time until emulsified. Now add 1/2C feta cheese crumbles and 1/4C chopped Greek kalamata olives. Put the lid on, shake very well, and refrigerate. Oh my, I could just drink that stuff! 😀

For the salad: Get out a really big salad bowl. Wash and chop 1 head Romaine lettuce and put it in the bowl. Wash and slice 8 Roma tomatoes and throw ’em in. Wash 3 large cucumbers, and peel every other strip, so they are striped. Cut in half the long way, and cut into 1/4″ slices. Toss them in the bowl. Wash and peel 1 red onion. Cut it in half and slice thin. Separate the slices and drop in the bowl. Get 2 carrots, wash and peel them. Use your peeler to make long carrot curls into the bowl. Now, add 1C pitted Kalamata olives and 1 to 1-1/2C small cubes of feta cheese. Oh. My. Goodness.

Use big tongs or salad spoons and toss well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Since the dressing is chunky, I give it a good shake and put it on the table in a gravy boat with a small ladle.

This is my hands down favorite way to make Greek salad. I find it a meal all by itself, but it is also a great starter before Moussaka, or Souvlaki, or Lamb Kabobs. As you might imagine, I have my way of making those, too!

So, turn on your inner Greek and enjoy this fabulous, fresh summer salad. Since you didn’t pour the dressing on the whole thing, leftovers keep well. The veggie lovers in the family (for me, daughter-in-law Samantha is about it!) will love it!

Happy Almost Summer!

Love, Grammy ❤

Making Something You Don’t Like Into Something You Do!!

With all my new playing with recipes to make new ones of my own, one challenge has been dealing with the dreaded foods I don’t like. There are some things that with some tweaking would probably be a lot more to my liking. I cook things for my husband I don’t care for because he does.

I was thinking about that very thing and poof! Salisbury Steaks! They always tasted kind of high school cafeteria to me. I think I’ve tweaked it enough to create a delicious week night dinner everyone will enjoy!

First make sure you are boiling potatoes to mash!

In a large bowl, crumble 1-1/2 lbs ground beef. Add 1/2 C breadcrumbs, 3T minced onion, 1 beaten egg, 1/4C ketchup, 4-5 shakes Worcestershire Sauce, 1t basil, 1t thyme, and salt & pepper to taste. Dig your nice clean hands into that bowl and mix everything til really well combined. Form into 4 equal sized oval patties.

In a large pan, melt 1T butter in 1T olive oil over med-hi heat. When sizzling, set patties in pan. Cook 6 min per side, or til desired doneness. Remove to a plate and cover with foil.

Add 2T butter to pan. As it melts, stir up brown bits on the bottom of pan. Add 1C sliced onions and 8 oz sliced mushrooms. Stir and cook 3-5 minutes. Whisk in 2C beef broth, 2T ketchup, 4-5 shakes Worcestershire Sauce, and salt & pepper to taste. Stir well to combine, cook and simmer 5 min, stirring occasionally.

Whisk 2T cornstarch into 2T cold water. Stir into gravy. Over medium, cook a few minutes til thick and bubbly. Add patties back to pan, spoon gravy over meat.

To serve, plunk a nice scoop of mashed potatoes on a plate. Put a patty on top of the potatoes, and spoon gravy over all. Oh. My. My. This is absolutely amazing! I sure do like Salisbury Steak now!

This is a quick, easy recipe for a comforting, delicious, hot week night meal. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Love, Grammy ❤

Potatoes Anyone?

Tonight’s dinner was mainly leftovers. It had to be. I had to get these leftovers eaten.

I also had potatoes I needed to do something with, and so, to go with the cold roast beef sandwiches we had a big pan of scalloped potatoes. It was dee-damn-lish, and you too can make it!

The hardest part of this is slicing the potatoes thin enough. I have a mandoline which is the ideal tool. It cuts paper thin potatoes, onions, any veggie you want to slice thin. It is all manual, and comes with all different blades and cutters to make all shapes and sizes. I got mine on the cheap from Amazon. Don’t you just love Amazon? I do!

If you don’t have a mandoline, use a very sharp knife to cut slices as thin as you possibly can. If the slices are too thick, it will take forever to cook.

Ok, let the games begin! Peel 5-6 medium to large potatoes and slice them absolutely as thin as possible. Do the same with a large sweet (Vidalia) onion. Butter or spray a 2 qt square/ rectangle casserole dish. Layer half the potato slices, then all of the onion (separated into rings) and the rest of the potatoes into the dish. Season with salt and pepper.

In a saucepan, melt 1/2 stick of butter. When melted, sprinkle in 4T flour (again, Wondra is best) 1t pepper, 1/2t salt, and a good pinch of cayenne pepper. Whisk continuously til thick and bubbly. Cook and stir another minute. Slowly pour in 2C whole milk, continuing to whisk and incorporate. Continue til thick and bubbly. Cook another minute, and remove from heat. Stir in 2C shredded cheddar cheese. Stir til all melted and incorporated. Pour over potatoes and onions in dish. Cover with foil and bake at 400 F for 1-1/2 hours, til potatoes pierce easily with a fork and mixture thick and bubbly. Return uncovered to oven for 5 to 10 minutes to brown it a bit. Ta-da!

I served this, as I said, last night with sandwiches made from leftover roast beef. A-mazing and Dee-damn-lish!

Enjoy!

Love, Grammy❤

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderful Moms out there! I hope you had a fantastic day!

I decided to have an Eye of Round roast for dinner. A good cross-section of kids and grandkids visited today, but only my son Joe could stay for dinner. For a special dinner for the four of us, I bought the roast (on sale) and tried to come up with something new and exciting to do with it.

Traditional Beef Wellington is a filet mignon roast, basically, wrapped around the roast, mushrooms, and liver pate. I didn’t have any mushrooms and I don’t touch liver in any form, but I did have a box of puff pastry. I planned and plotted and what I came up with was fabulous. Really! Everyone loved it, it was easy, and I honestly impressed myself!

I am going to call this beef in puff pastry, because, well, that’s what it was! I don’t claim to be fancy; I’m just trying to achieve delicious. And boy, was it ever!

First, take a 4 lb eye of round roast, pat it dry, and season it with Kosher salt & black pepper. Melt 3T butter over med-hi heat in a heavy pot and thoroughly brown the roast on all sides. Set it aside to cool.

Line a roasting pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 450 F.

Roll 1 sheet of a 17.5 oz pkg of puff pastry dough, thawed, on a lightly floured surface, to a size capable of wrapping the roast. Put the roast in the center, fat side up, and fold the long sides in, sealing at the top by moistening with a bit of water. Fold up the ends and enclose the whole thing, sealing all edges. Brush with a beaten egg. Use a fork to poke several holes in the top.

Place in the preheated oven. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 425 F, and bake 15 more minutes. Take it out and let it stand for 10 minutes.

Remember, cooked this way it is meant to be very pink in the middle. The ends will be more done if you like that sort of thing.

Slice and serve. My family really loved it. We had mashed potatoes and peas & corn with it. Amazing!

So again, Happy Mother’s Day! Have this next Sunday for dinner. It’s sure to impress!

Love, Grammy ❤