Guacamole and Salsa

Most avocados are grown on family farms in California.  It is good farming to support, and the results are a tasty treat.  I adore avocados prepared in many ways, but often revert to the simplest way imaginable: halved, pitted, sprinkled with good salt and doused with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.  Grab a spoon and have a snack!


Guacamole is a favorite of mine.  Actually anything with avocado suits me just fine.  Give me a big bag of crispy, crunchy tortilla chips and a big bowl of guacamole and I am one happy camper.  I can call it lunch, dinner, snack, whatever.  Guacamole, like so many things in life, is so much better when you make it at home.  Forget about that weird bright green goopy stuff you see in plastic tubs at the grocery store or the so-called homemade in the plastic bags.  That stuff, is just wrong!  Make the real thing and I promise, you won’t regret it!!

guacamole ingredientsjpg

Really, it can be as simple as mashing up some avocado with fresh lime juice, salt and pepper.  I like to add in some fresh cilantro for an extra bit of deliciousness.  My favorite renditions are ones that have a bit of tomato and bacon or that have a little bit of a Thai flair going on: fish sauce, shallots, Thai chili, lemon juice and lots of freshly cracked black pepper.  Of course, if you aren’t the adventurous type, you can do a straight up classic guacamole.  I’ve included three different variations here.  Go guacamole friends and be spicy!!

Guacamole and Salsa
Classic Guacamole
Recipe type: Appetizers
Cuisine: American/Mexican
  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted (I prefer California Haas avocados)
  • Juice of 1 lime, or to taste
  • ¼ cup finely diced red onion
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Place avocados and lime juice in a bowl and roughly mash with a fork
  2. Stir in onion, cilantro and jalapeno
  3. Season with salt and pepper
  4. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed

If you’re adverse to spice but want a little bit, just de-seed the jalapeños.  The membranes (white parts) and seeds of a pepper are the hottest.  Some people just do not like cilantro (something I just don’t understand) but you can substitute Italian (flat-leaf) parsley for the cilantro if necessary.

As I have stated, I love, love guacamole and this southern version keeps it pretty simple – when you hit that toasty goodness in the pecans, it just plays up the rich, fresh flavor of the avocado.

Mississippi Guacamole
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Southern Mexican
Serves: 2 cups
  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ¼ cup finely diced red onion
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • ⅓ cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Place avocados and lime juice in a bowl and roughly mash with a fork.
  2. Stir in onion, cilantro, jalapeno, pecans, salt and pepper.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Thai-Style Guacamole
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Thai Mexican
Serves: 2 cups
  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 to 2 Thai chili peppers, seeds and membranes removed, finely diced
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly coarsely ground black pepper
  1. Place avocados and lemon juice in a bowl and roughly mash with a fork.
  2. Stir in shallot, cilantro, mint, chili peppers, fish sauce, salt and black pepper.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.


Tomato Salsa Cruda

Fresh salsa, or salsa cruda, is an excellent way to showcase the natural sweetness of raw summer tomatoes.  Fresh, chunky salsa emphasizes the tomatoes, not the add-ins.  To limit wateriness and concentrate the flavor, drain tomatoes in a colander.  To combine the ingredients, simply layer them on top of the tomatoes while they drain.  Once the tomatoes are ready, the salsa needs only a few stirs.  Salsa can be made 2-3 hours in advance, but hold off adding lime juice, salt, pepper and sugar until just before serving.  A great accompaniment to grilled steak, chicken or fish.

Ladies, good news about salsa – it’s figure friendly!  The tomatoes contain fiber and water, which helps you stay fuller longer.  They are also loaded with lycopene, which helps build strong bones and protect your skin from the aging rays of the sun.  It takes grilled salmon and chicken breast to a whole new level.  When served with veggies, it’s a dieter’s dream.

Tomato Salsa ingredietns

Salsa Cruda
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Appetizer, Condiment
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 2 cups
  • 1½ pounds fresh tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • ½ cup finely diced red onion
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 large jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1 small clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lime juice, plus extra for seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  1. Place tomatoes in a colander over a bowl and let drain for 30 minutes.
  2. Layer onion, cilantro, jalapeno, and garlic on top of tomatoes.
  3. Shake colander to drain excess juice. Discard juice; wipe out bowl and transfer ingredients to bowl and toss gently to combine.
  4. Add salt, black pepper, and ½ teaspoon sugar and toss gently.
  5. Taste and add additional lime juice and/or sugar, if needed.
  6. Serve at room temperature or chill and serve.
  7. Amounts of lime juice and sugar depends on ripeness of tomatoes.


While fresh tomato salsa with tortilla chips is one of summer’s greatest pleasures, corn salsa is an excellent alternative (or addition) to the norm.  Corn salsa is nothing new, but most versions taste wan and under seasoned compared to lively tomato salsa, and the corn can be soft and unappealing.  Deep flavors and crunchy texture is what you should strive for.

Toasted corn has a deeper, more concentrated flavor and crunchier texture, both of which contribute to a superior corn salsa.  Corn’s high sugar content makes toasting it in a nonstick skillet an easy and quick preparation.  The following recipe features red bell pepper for more crunch and garden-fresh flavor, half of a jalapeño  gives just the right amount of heat, fresh lime juice adds brightness, cumin contributes warmth, cilantro and scallion provides a fresh finish.

Spicy Corn Salsa (1)

Toasted Corn Salsa
Prep time
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Total time
Recipe type: Appetizer, Condiment
Cuisine: American Mexican
Serves: 2 cups
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ears fresh corn, kernels removed
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed, fine dice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 scallion, sliced thin, white and light green parts only
  • ½ jalapeno, seeds and membrane removed, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Heat olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high until shimmering.
  2. Add corn kernels and cook, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool slightly.
  4. Add bell pepper, lime juice, cilantro, scallion, jalapeño, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper to corn and toss gently to combine.
  5. Tase and adjust seasonings if needed.
  6. Cover and chill for 1 hour before serving.
  7. Just before serving stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil.



When a heat wave hits, few things taste as good as a wedge of ice-cold ripe watermelon.  Make it even more irresistible with a sprinkle of homemade herb-sugar and a squeeze of lime.

Watermelon Herb Sugar

Watermelon with Herb Sugar
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Snacks
Cuisine: American Southern
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup fresh herbs (basil, mint, cilantro)
  • Fresh lime slices
  • Basil pairs perfectly with watermelon.
  • Add jalapeño pepper to the processor with the sugar and herbs for a spicy kick.
  1. Put sugar and herbs in bowl of food processor fitted with a metal blade.
  2. Pulse until herbs are finely ground and mixture is well combined.
  3. Squeeze lime slices on watermelon slices and sprinkle with herb sugar.

There is nothing more refreshing than watermelon granita at the end of a meal, or on a hot summer’s afternoon rocking on the back porch or stretched out on the deck in a hammock or on a chaise lounge.

You can use this recipe for any fruit or vegetable juice.  Make a cucumber or carrot granita to serve with shellfish – an unexpected twist, but one that absolutely works!

Watermelon Granita
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 2 cups
  • 4 cups watermelon cubes, rind and seeds removed
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  1. Place watermelon, sugar and lemon juice in the container of a food processor or blender.
  2. Process until pureed and smooth.
  3. Pour into a shallow pan or dish and freeze for 2 hours.
  4. Remove from freezer and using a fork or spoon, rake the granita.
  5. Return to freezer and freeze for 2 hours.
  6. Repeat process.

Remove the pan from the freezer and gently scrape the top layer with a spoon or fork.  Return to freezer for a couple more hours.  Repeat this process until it’s all scraped.  The great thing about granita is that the light, scraped ice on top stays perfectly frozen int he freezer.  It never clumps up or crystallizes.  It’s always light, cold and perfect.

Summer is the season that doesn’t take itself too seriously, so the moment is right for equally lighthearted, easy-drinking (and inexpensive) thirst quenchers like the following Watermelon Martini.

watermelon martini

Watermelon Martini
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Beverages
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6 servings
  • 5 cups watermelon cubes (rind and seeds removed)
  • ¾ cup lemon vodka
  • 6 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons orange liqueur
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  1. Place watermelon cubes in container of a blender or food processor and process until pureed.
  2. Add vodka, lime juice, orange liqueur and sugar and process until combined.
  3. Pour into a pitcher and chill for 4 hours or place in freezer until very cold.
  4. Stir before serving.
  5. Rim martini glasses with lime sugar, if desired and chill until ready to serve.


Today’s Wisdom

We all have crummy days and seasons of life, ones in which we’d prefer to float over instead of linger; but every great story needs conflict.  Just remember that those hard and depleting parts of our lives make the sweet parts sweeter.

“I believe that if life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade…..And try to find somebody whose life has given them vodka, and have a party.”    Ron White

“Happiness is life served up with a scoop of acceptance, a topping of tolerance and sprinkles of hope, although chocolate sprinkles also work.”  Robert Brault


Being Southern

Mother and daddy both came from families of 10 and 11 children, so I had lots of cousins to play with growing up.  Even though my parents didn’t have a lot, they knew how to enjoy their lives and how to appreciate all the little things that made life worth living.  They were honest, hardworking and grateful and taught us to be the same way – and that’s a recipe for a very happy and contended life.

Let me tell you little bit about my childhood.  We lived two houses up from my maternal grandparents, Granny and granddaddy and boy did I love them.  When I was 2 our house caught on fire and we lost everything.  However, it didn’t seem to bother me because as they were fighting the fire, I sat down in a mud puddle and exclaimed, “Oh, goody, I get to stay with granny all the time”.

Ideally, the love of a grandmother is pure and unconditional, spoken uniquely throughout her life with countless gestures – often by what she created with her hands and heart. Some of us have tangible keepsakes handmade by our grandmother – quilts, blankets, dollies, etc. – yet for most of us the real keepsakes are intangible, built on years of rich memories made at the table with loved ones around it. There will always be certain foods, scents, sights and sounds that can transport us right back to our places at our grandmothers’ tables. Our senses can evoke such sweet thoughts of those incredible southern dishes that have become our favorites – it’s no wonder then that this cuisine is best described as comfort food!

Daddy, granddaddy and a couple of my uncles built us another house – 2 bedrooms, living room, kitchen and a room that served as a bathroom.  And when I say bathroom, I mean we used it for bathing in a round, aluminum tub filled with water that was heated on the stove.  The bedrooms were never heated so we slept under loads of quilts in the winter.  Many times, I would sit so close to the heater that I would singe my eyebrows and lashes.

Daddy worked in the coal mines and we didn’t have much in the way of material things but that never mattered.  We had the love of family and togetherness and that meant more than anything you could buy.  I never once heard my granny or granddaddy say a curse word or an unkind word about anyone.  They were devoted Christians and trusted in God and they loved each other and their family.

When I was almost five, my brother was born premature.  He was such an ugly little baby, no fingernails, gray hair and wrinkled skin but I loved him just the same.  What the doctors didn’t tell mother and daddy was that he had a heart condition because they thought he would outgrow it by the time he was five or six weeks old.  Well, he was six weeks old when he had his first episode – he passed out and turned blue.  They had to rush him to the hospital and that’s when they found out about his condition.  He could not be startled or frightened in any fashion or he would pass out and turn blue.  He was such a tiny little boy and I was very protective.

I attended Hopewell Elementary School, which only went through the third grade.  It was a two room school with a coat room between the two rooms.  Half of the third grade was in with the first grade and the other half was in with the second grade.  We ate lunch at our desks because there wasn’t a lunchroom.  The meals were prepared in a small area off the second grade classroom and had a cutout where they gave you your lunch.  You ate what you got or you went without – most families couldn’t afford to provide a separate lunch so no one brought their lunch to school.  When I was born, I had six blood transfusions by the time I was six weeks old.  The doctors finally discovered that I was allergic to milk.  School lunches came with a pint of milk and nothing else to drink.  For the first week, my teacher would make me drink the milk.  I tried to tell her that I couldn’t but she just thought I didn’t want it.  Needless to say, I would have to leave school shortly after lunch because I was sick.  Finally, mother talked with the teacher and told her that I was allergic.  Not a very good experience for a six-year-old just starting school.

I walked to and from school almost everyday with my two best friends, Nancy and Gail, and a couple of other kids.  There were seldom any fights among the kids at school, we all played together and knew if we misbehaved, we would get a spanking when we got home.   We were taught to respect our elders, not to talk back, and to not interrupt adults talking to each other.  Too bad kids aren’t taught the same values and principles that we were taught back then.

Family is a very important element of the south.  However, we have a tendency not to think about family a lot because they are always there.  And then one day ….. they’re not.  I also find that spending time with family isn’t as important among the younger generations.  Back in the day, we all gathered together at least once a year and spent the day together as one big, big family – all of my cousins, aunts and uncles – with lots of delicious, homemade food, good music, games and wonderful memories.  We still do this on my daddy’s side of the family.  For more than sixty-five years, on the Sunday closest to the Fourth of July, we have a family reunion.  The tradition started with a huge ice cream supper Saturday night – everyone brought a different flavor of ice cream in old crank ice cream freezers.  Granddaddy had killed and dressed a pig and goat earlier in the day and put it on to cook.  A pit was dug and an iron grate was placed over the hole.  A fire of hickory wood was started and the embers would be spread around the outside edges of the pit all night long.  The pig was placed on the grate and a piece of tin was laid over the pig so that it would get a concentration of the smoke and heat from the hickory embers.  The result was always succulent, juicy and tender meat.  Granddaddy’s special mopping sauce was put on the meat during the last couple hours of cooking.  Extra sauce was served along side the meat.  On Sunday, everyone would come, bringing their family favorites and spread the food on homemade tables connected to trees.  This tradition has continued with the exception of cooking the whole pig – about 7 years ago, my father bought a huge smoker and began cooking Boston butts.  The meat is still delicious but I do miss that whole pig.

Oftentimes we like what we like because it’s what we know.  And what we know is based on the experiences and traditions that we learned growing up.  So many of our best memories and time-honored traditions are wrapped up in food and time spent with loved ones around the table.

Whether you’re lucky enough to still be invited by your grandmother or if you’re now part of the next generation doing the inviting, it’s important that we continue to come together and celebrate when we can – both to showcase our time-honored rituals and traditions for younger generations and to create new experiences for stories yet to unfold.


Summer Corn and Crab Chowder

Finished Dish

My way of eating in the summer is usually just a simple reaction to what’s already in my kitchen.  If I have ripe tomatoes, I slice them, sprinkle on some salt and line them up on a mayo-swathed slice of fresh bread.  It is a reaction to the heat and humidity.

Farmers markets abound for us in June, July and August.  They are plumb full of tomatoes, peas, beans, corn, squash, okra, cucumbers, plums, peaches, blackberries, blueberries and so much more.  it makes the long summer days bearable.  It is a time to preserve early in the morning, when it’s cool enough in the kitchen without overworking the air conditioning.  It’s time to jam and jelly that fruit for the perfect biscuit or toast in September, to pickle the okra for a future Bloody Mary, to can those vegetables for a winter’s feast.  It’s also a time to make that feast of many vegetable-rich dishes and celebrating the family you love and the friends you adore.  So get cooking, because the summer bounty lasts only so long.

My Corn Chowder recipe is a rich but not heavy chowder bursting with corn flavor.  It’s a soup you’ll want to enjoy again and again until the season ends.

Summer Corn and Crab Chowder
A rich but not heavy chowder
Recipe type: Soups, Stews, Chowders
Cuisine: American Southern
Serves: 6 servings
  • 10 ears fresh corn, shucked
  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • ½ pound slab bacon, diced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped well-washed leeks (white and some of the light green part)
  • 3 medium celery ribs, chopped
  • ¾ cup diced red bell pepper
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups small dice yellow potatoes
  • 1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat, picked
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, garnish optional
  1. Cut close to each ear of corn and slice all kernels off by holding an ear of corn with the small end in the center hole of a bundt or tube pan; set kernels aside.
  2. Combine milk and chicken stock in a large stockpot on medium-high heat. Add corn cobs and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp; remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Pour off most of fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon bacon drippings.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons butter to skillet and melt over medium heat; add leeks, celery, bell pepper, garlic, salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 7 minutes or until softened. Transfer to paper towel lined plate to drain.
  5. Remove cobs from broth and cool. Carefully scrape all of the residue from the cooled cobs with the edge of a knife. Discard cobs and add scrapings to the broth.
  6. When vegetables are well-drained of fat, transfer them to the broth. Place stockpot over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer.
  7. Add potatoes and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  8. Add reserved corn kernels and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 6 minutes or just until corn is barely cooked.
  9. Remove 2 cups from pot and place in a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process to a thick puree. Pour puree back into the chowder and gently stir in the crabmeat. Simmer for another 5 minutes; remove from heat and stir in reserved bacon. Taste, and if necessary, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.


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Cooking corncobs in milk and stock infuses this chowder with an intense corn flavor, making the most of the season’s sweet bounty.  If you would like to add a little heat to the chowder, add some shopped chili pepper along with the leeks and bell pepper.  The crab is not necessary, but it adds some heft and sophistication to what is  normally a home-style soup.  You can substitute 1 pound of large shrimp for the crab or use a combination of both for a heartier chowder.  Left over soup can be pureed and served chilled with a swirl of heavy cream or yogurt.

Summer Sips

Known as the signature drink of the region, a tall glass of iced tea in the South goes with just about every event- church suppers, family meals, ladies luncheons, and it’s just perfect for porch sitting on a sizzling summer day.

Summer Sips Iced Tea

Southern Sweet Tea


2 cups water                                                                                                                                                                   3 regular size tea bags or 1 family size (Lipton recommended)                                                                       1/2 cup granulated sugar                                                                                                                                            2 cups cold water

Directions                                                                                                                                                                    1.  Place 2 cups water in small saucepan or tea kettle and bring to a boil.                                                                                                                  2.  Turn off heat, add tea bags and steep for 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove tea bags and discard.                                                                                      3.  Add sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Pour into pitcher.                                                                                   4.  Add 2 cups cold water and stir; cool completely.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serve over ice and if desired, with a slice of lemon.                                                                                                                             Yield:  4 cups

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with the finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon.  Let sit at room temperature until slightly dry, about 1 hour.  Spread sugar mixture on a small plate.  Moisten the rim of glasses with a lemon wedge, then dip in sugar mixture before filling with ice cubes and iced tea.


Great for picnics and family reunions, homemade limeade is the perfect summer beverage.  Freeze it for frozen pops or slushies.  Recipe can be halved.

Summer Sips Limeade


Ingredients                                                                                                                                                            2 tablespoons fresh lime zest                                                                                                                                 1 1/2 quarts fresh squeezed lime juice (approximately 20 juicy limes)                                                                                                                       3 3/4 cups granulated sugar                                                                                                                                       6 quarts cold water

Directions                                                                                                                                                                   1.  Add all ingredients to a 2 gallon container and stir until sugar is dissolved.  (You can make a simple syrup by heating the sugar with an equal amount of water, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Cool completely.)                                                                                                                                                                  2. Chill thoroughly before serving over ice with lime slices.                                                                        Yield: 2 gallons


Hot Southern summers are perfect for refreshing infused water.

Ingredients                                                                                                                                                                     1 Granny Smith apple, cored and seeded, thinly sliced into rounds                                                                   1 medium cucumber, thinly sliced                                                                                                                            4 to 6 sprigs fresh mint                                                                                                                                                1 gallon water

Directions                                                                                                                                                                      1.  Place all ingredients in a gallon container                                                                                                         2.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before enjoying

I love to keep this water in the refrigerator all summer.  Sometimes, I change and put berries in the water.

I’m not the biggest indulger of alcoholic drinks, but when summertime hits, all I want to do is sit on a shady porch or under a tree, with a good book and a deliciously iced boozy drink in hand.  These are a some of my go-tos:

Watermelon Spritzer

Ingredients                                                                                                                                                                    8 cups seeded and cubed watermelon                                                                                                                      1 cup good vodka  (I prefer Grey Goose)                                                                                                               1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice                                                                                                                          1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar                                                                                                                                Ice cubes                                                                                                                                                               Lemon-lime soda

Directions                                                                                                                                                                   1.  Place watermelon in the container of a food processor or blender and process until smooth.  Pour through a fine wire-mesh strainer and discard solids.                                                                                         2.  Stir in vodka, lime juice and sugar.  Chill until ready to serve.                                                                       3.  Pour over ice in a tall glass three-quarters full and top with lemon-lime soda.  Gently stir.  Garnish with a watermelon spear and lime slices.                                                                                                                                                 Yield: 8 cups

Summer Sips Pepper Jelly Margarita

Pepper Jelly Margarita

Kick back with this potent yet smooth Mexican cocktail that’s the perfect balance of tangy, spicy and sweet.

For a festive look, zest the lime and add to the salt before dipping the rims of the glasses.  Store salt rimmed glasses in the fridge or freezer for up to an hour before serving.

To coat the rim of a glass: cover the surface of a small plate with a shallow layer of rimming salt or sugar (a cocktail rimmer is a great tool to use instead).  Moisten the outside edge of the glass rim with a wedge of citrus.  Holding the rim down at an angle, slowly rotate the outside edge through the coating ingredient, taking care not to get the coating inside the glass.  Gently shake off any excess coating.

Ingredients                                                                                                                                                           1 cup white tequila                                                                                                                                                         1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice                                                                                                                                 1/2 cup orange liqueur (Cointreau recommended)                                                                                               1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar                                                                                                                                      1/4 cup green pepper jelly

Directions                                                                                                                                                                       1.  Stir all ingredients together in a pitcher until sugar and jelly is dissolved.                                                                                                      2.  Fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes and pour desired amount of mixture into cocktail shaker.  Cover with lid, and shake.  Serve immediately.                                                                                                             Yield: 3 cups


COOK’S NOTES:  Always add the sparkly ingredient last to keep the carbonation as fresh as possible.  Give the concoction a gentle stir to mix the flavors without overdoing the bubbles.

It’s not just for looks – garnishing adds fragrance and flavor to any cocktail.  Go beyond lemons and limes, and use fruit, vegetables and fresh herbs.

Decorative ice cubes are easy to make and add both color and flavor.  Filtered or bottled water will produce the clearest cubes.

*Citrus Cubes:  Using a paring knife, peel and segment lemons or any other small citrus fruit.  Place the segments in ice cube trays, leaving a little of each segment exposed, then fill with water and freeze.  Use with drinks that include lemon or other citrus juices.

*Zest Cubes:  Cut long, thin shreds of lime, lemon or orange zest or a mixture.  Arrange a few shreds of zest in ice cube trays, then fill with water and freeze.  Use in margaritas or other citrus-accented drinks.

*Melon Cubes:  Scoop balls of watermelon, cantaloupe or other melon.  Place the balls in ice cube trays, then fill with water and freeze.  Use in tropical-themed drinks or in drinks made with melon or melon-flavored liquer.


Sunday Lunch Tradition

My family has a tradition of always coming together for Sunday lunch and this has been the norm for as long as I can remember.  When I was growing up in Alabama, Sunday lunch was either at my Granny’s or at our house.  After we moved to Mississippi, Mother continued the tradition and cooked lunch every Sunday.  After she passed away, my sister-in-law, Cindy and I take turns.  It isn’t always fancy or a big meal but it’s the being together that’s important.

Sometimes the simplest meals are the most scrumptious, the ones that evoke memories of the soul- warming fare enjoyed around Mother’s table.  The recipes might have been fairly basic, but the flavors were positively heaven sent.

“My tastes are simple: I am easily satisfied with the best.” Winston Churchill

This past Sunday was my turn to cook and I turned to some old family favorites: roast beef, creamed potatoes with gravy, fresh green beans, stuffed eggs, fresh sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.  For dessert, the fresh peach and blueberry pie I posted earlier.  Of course, no southern lunch would be complete without cornbread and sweet tea, the staple of every good southern meal.

Sunday Lunch

Southern sweet tea is pure pleasure in a glass – black tea, sugar and water.  I like my tea sweet with lots of lemon.  General rule of thumb is 1 tea bag and 1 tablespoon of sugar per cup of water.  I use Lipton most of the time, but Luzianne is another great brand.  You can be fancy if you want — and by all means, feel free — but good old-fashioned honest-to-God Southern sweet tea is made with one of those 99% of the time. Boil desired amount of water in an appropriately sized pot.  Remove pot from heat and toss in your tea bag(s).  Steep for 5 to 10 minutes for medium brew or 15 to 20 minutes for strong brew.  Remove tea bag(s) and sweeten it while it’s hot, stirring until it all dissolves.  Chill it until it’s cold.  Serve over ice with a wedge of lemon on the side.

So let’s talk a little bit about green beans.  I cook mine the old southern way with smoked pork necks, water and salt.  Many Americans associate green beans with a holiday casserole or canned, mushy side dishes.  But, if you’re lucky, you get to taste these crispy, juicy delights at their finest mid-summer peak.

2015-07-18 Green Beans

The green beans referred to in Southern nomenclature are pole green beans, bunch beans and half runners.  Pole green beans, or flat beans, are 6 to 8-inches long and 3/4-inch wide, often referred to as Kentucky Wonder, my all time favorite.  they require diligent stringing and are tougher than other green beans.  Traditionally cooked long and slow with the peas inside being larger and more prominent.  Boy, could my Granny cook a mean pot of these!  Bunch beans are the typical green beans found in the grocery store, commonly known as Blue Lake.  Half runners are about 4-inches long and 1/3-inch wide with the peas inside barely visible.  My family never cuts the ends of the green beans; we always snap both ends, referred to as “tipping and tailing”.

Now that you probably know more about green beans than you really wanted to know, let’s talk about cornbread.  Good old southern cornbread, not that sweet cake-like thing the north calls cornbread and eats for breakfast.

Sunday Lunch cornbread

When making cornbread, you must use a cast-iron skillet, muffin tin or stick pan.  The cast-iron gives you the crisp crust that we southerners enjoy so much.  Crisp on the outside and moist on the inside.  To my family, you must use bacon drippings (grease – the rendered fat left over after cooking bacon.  No true Southern kitchen is complete without it stowed away.  we use it for all kinds of things but especially to season vegetables and making cornbread) to season your skillet and your bread.  One easy recipe is as follows:


Ingredients                                                                                                                                                      1/4 cup bacon drippings                                                                                                                                              2 cups self-rising cornmeal mix                                                                                                                              1/2 teaspoon baking soda                                                                                                                                           2 large eggs, lightly beaten                                                                                                                                          1 1/2  cups buttermilk


1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees                                                                                                                                 2.  Pour bacon drippings in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet and heat for 5 minutes in the oven                                                                                         3.  Combine cornmeal mix and baking soda together and make a well in the center                                                                                                  4.  Mix eggs and buttermilk together                                                                                                                          5.  Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened                                                                                                        6.  Pour hot drippings into batter, whisking to blend                                                                                               7.  Pour into preheated skillet and bake for 27 minutes or until golden brown                                                                                                     8.  Turn onto a wire rack to cool slightly before putting on a serving plate

Just remember that food should always be welcoming.  I tend to cook things that are mostly uncomplicated yet rooted in tradition and full of flavor.  Cooking should be fun and enjoyable!




Summer Canning

Halleluah!  Jelly and jam making is finished.  At least until the pears come in then I will be making Pear Preserves.  Ended up with 19 jars of plum jelly and 12 jars of peach jam.  Today was my canning day (“puttin’ up” day – typical southern phrase) using the freezer method of crowder peas and butterbeans.  There are numerous types of peas grown in the south – field peas, purple hull, pink eyed, lady, just to name a few.  My family’s favorite is the silver crowder so that’s all daddy grows.   As far as butterbeans – there are green and speckled – we prefer the green but would never pass up a helping of speckled with cornbread.

I am grateful to have come from a family of canners.  Over the years, I have kept that family tradition by stocking my shelves and freezers with everything edible that stood still long enough to be shoved into a jar or freezer bag.  I’m sure my mother and granny would approve of my bounty.

Summer Canning Peas

I remember one time on a visit to Greg’s family in Plymouth, MA, we went to lunch at a little cafe downtown. There was a blackboard with the daily specials and it had peas, just peas.  The waitress comes over to take our order and I asked her what kind of peas they were; she looked at me like I was crazy and said “There’s only one kind of pea and that’s green peas.”  I knew then that they didn’t know or understand anything about good old southern food.  And no, I did not order the peas!

Summber Canning Butterbeans

If someone goes out of their way to find beautiful, seasonal field peas, like the crowder, the pink lady or the zipper cream, it usually means that they have been cooking form scratch in a family kitchen that never stopped cooking from scratch.  This is a really important distinction in the south!  While most of the population succumbed to the ease of Jell-o and instant gravy, many others are hell-bent on keeping their culinary traditions alive.  And that be me!!

Summer in the South

When I was growing up in Alabama, summer meant working in the garden, shelling peas and beans, canning, making jams and jellies and fresh fruit cobblers.  My grandmother, “Granny”, made absolutely the best peach and blackberry cobblers – and to this day I haven’t had a cobbler as good as hers.

Preserving the gardens bounty fed the family all year long.  Granny’s method was water-bath canning.  She had a pantry off the back porch and all the shelves would be full by the end of summer with everything from chow-chow to sauerkraut.

Mother chose the freezer method and was the jelly and preserve maker of the family.

Granny and Grandaddy also had a root cellar under the front part of their house where all the root vegetables, like onions, potatoes and beets were stored.  My brother, cousin and I always liked playing in the root cellar, especially in the summer, because it was always cool.

One of the beauties of the south is that we have two to three growing seasons and a cuisine that is as wide and deep as the south itself.  That is one good reason why vegetables have long been the stars of the southern plate.

I continue to carry on this family tradition of preserving the produce from my daddy’s garden and making homemade jams and jellies.

Daddy is 89 and continues to raise enough vegetables to feed us through the fall and winter months.  He grows Kentucky Wonder snap beans, silver crowder peas, green butterbeans, corn, okra, squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes.  He also has plum, apple, persimmon and pecan trees, blueberry bushes and muscadine vines.  He keeps me busy with his bountiful harvest.  And I love him for that – even though it is a lot of work.

I absolutely love and I mean love making jelly and jam!

Plum Jelly

Daddy’s plum trees have produced like crazy this year.  The first picking, he brought me 10 gallons and I had to make jelly.  The funny thing is that after I made the jelly, I gave him a jar and asked if he wanted more – his reply, “I have to try it first and if it’s as good as your mother used to make, I will get some more”.  Needless to say, he was back for another jar before the week was out.

Plums ripen from late May to early summer.  Using the fresh fruit gives a more concentrated and flavorful jelly.  Jelly is basically the same as jam except the cooked fruit has been strained to give a clear spread.  I use the basic recipe for making jelly that comes in the Sure-Jell premium fruit pectin package.

Stone fruits are at their peak in June and July and we have some wonderful peach orchards around here.  I am constantly going to the peach stands to pick up peaches and other goodies they may have.  Quiet often they have homemade peach ice cream for sale.  Yummy!!  Most often I enjoy a peach immediately, eating it in the car on the way home.  I usually end up with juice dripping off my chin, running down my arm and on my clothes as I sink my teeth into its sweet flesh.

Juice, pectin, lemon juice and sugar combine to create a classic peach jam.  The fruit is usually chopped very fine or mashed.  When making jam, always make sure the sugar is dissolved before bringing the mixture to a boil.  If not, the result will be grainy.

Peach Jam Summer

Whether you are making jelly or jam, use the exact amount of sugar called for because sugar affects how pectin works.  It bonds to the sugar for its thickening power.

Delectable spreads made from jellied or preserved fruits, herbs and peppers are irresistible additions to breakfast, tea, appetizers and entrees.  Jams and jellies can be spread on toast, English muffins or the southern favorite, biscuits with no added butter necessary.  The burst of flavor added with a dollop of a sweet or spicy seasonable spread can make your meal more delicious and memorable.

Store in the pantry, give to a friend!  A gift jar of homemade jelly or jam is always appreciated.

Remember to refrigerate the jelly or jam once the jars are opened.

In the next blog, we will talk about those famous, delectable southern biscuits.

Happy jamming and jelling!!



Bodacious Peach Blueberry Pie

“Heavens no – I couldn’t possibly!  Well, maybe just a little slice……..”

Bodacious Blueberry & Peach Pie

Why bodacious?  Well, according to Websters’ it means “very good, impressive, and unmistakable” and Peach Blueberry Pie is definitely those things, but the lemon/cinnamon double punch in this particular recipe it what satisfies Websters’ second definition – “voluptous.”  Just don’t get caught staring.

I have to admit, I love desserts.  But when peaches are at their peak and blueberries picked fresh from my own bushes – give me fruit desserts.  Warm, juicy fruit baked in a pie or topped with a crisp flavorful crumble – my oh my – one happy girl I am.

Blueberries and Peaches

Baking fruit, which condenses its sugars and reduces its liquid, is as old as time.  Fruit baked between two crusts is the most common pie found in the United States today, and apple is the most common fruit in use.  Pears, cherries, berries, grapes, raisins and stone fruits are baked into pies.  The varying sugar and water content in fruit means it requires both a sweetener and thickener in order to make a good baked pie, usually sugar and either cornstarch, flour or tapioca. With few exceptions, fruit pies are baked inside traditional American pie dough.  Pies are often categorized as single-crust pies (wherein there is only a crust on the bottom, or in case of a deep-dish pie, there is only a crust on the top); and double-crust pies, where a crust lines the top and bottom of the filling.  Decorative elements such as lattices or cut-outs are simply more beautiful forms of the double-crust pie.

This pie will rock your ever-loving existence.  I really don’t trust myself around this pie.  Nothing is better than growing and harvesting your own dessert!  Soooooo good!!!

Bodacious prebake


Ingredients                                                                                                 6 cups peeled fresh peaches, sliced 1/4-inch thick                                    1 cup fresh blueberries                                                                                 1/4 cup light brown sugar                                                                                  1/4 cup granulated sugar                                                                                            1/2 cup all-purpose flour                                                                               1/2 teaspoon kosher salt                                                                                   3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon                                                                      1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract                                                                   2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice                                                                        2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest                                                                          1/4 cup cornstarch                                                                                            1/2 (14.1-ounce) package refrigerated piecrusts                                    1 egg white, lightly beaten

Topping                                                                                                       1/2 cup all-purpose flour                                                                             1/2 cup granulated sugar                                                                              1/4 cup packed light brown sugar                                                                  1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon                                                                             1/8 teaspoon kosher salt                                                                             4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced                                                 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Directions                                                                                                   1.  Immerse peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the skins peel off easily.  Immediately placed peaches in cold water.  Peel the peaches, slice them into 1/4-inch thick wedges and place in a large bowl.                                                                                     2.  Add blueberries, brown sugar, granulated sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, vanilla,, lemon juice, zest and cornstarch.                                3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie dish and set aside.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.                                                                                                         4.  Unroll the pie crust and place in pie dish.  Brush the inside with the egg white.                                                                                                5.  For the topping: Pulse the flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, butter and pecans in a food processor until small chunks form.                                                                                                  6.  Pour peach mixture into the crust.  Sprinkle the topping over the filling and turn edges of pie crust over the topping.                                 7.  Place pie dish on the parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes or until top is golden brown.  Check after 30 minutes of baking to make sure crust is not browning too quickly.  If it is, cover the edges with strips of foil or a pie shield.                          8.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 30 to 40 minutes before serving.

Make sure to enhance the intercontinental dance with a heaping scoop of cool vanilla ice cream.

Remember – “Life is short, Eat the Pie!!!”