Monday, August 18, 2014

Sassy Pimento Cheese Spread

My mama and I have been in Charleston this weekend, celebrating my graduation from nursing school.  And, while I've been thoroughly enjoying the fabulous low country cookin' down here, it's the pimento cheese that had my mouth watering all the way from Virginia!  There are a handful of things that all Southern cooks are expected to know to make, and have the ingredients on hand to whip up in a jiffy, and pimento cheese spread is one of them.  In fact, the just other day I had nothing on hand for lunch, so I put together a bowl of this creamy, cheesy goodness in under five minute (and that was with a three-year old helping!) and had lunch in no time!

8 ounces cream cheese

3/4 cup mayonnaise
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 ounces shredded colby-jack cheese
6 ounces chopped pimentos, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon sriracha
dash cayenne

Mix all together in a stand mixer on low speed until well combined.  Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve over toast, Ritz crackers, as a dig for sweet peppers or celery, or even over a patty melt!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bourbon Slush

This summer, my husband and I made a pact that we'd spend more time out back enjoying the patio we had installed last summer.  And what better way to enjoy the fireflies lighting up the night and the crickets singing their summer lullaby than by enjoying a refreshing drink out by the fire pit?  I've seen recipes similar to this floating around the internet lately, and needed to try my hand at this Southern cocktail.  I did a little research, found a few different versions, but none worked really well for a sour-of-the-moment happy hour on the deck.  I came up with this version that doesn't require squeezing fresh fruit or overnight freezing before it's ready.  Not only would this drink be fabulous served as a signature cocktail at your next cookout, but it's a great tailgate drink too.  Make it to go by serving in a Mason jar!  Cheers!

2 1/2 cups water
2 tea bags (black tea works best)
1 12-ounce can frozen orange juice concentrate
1 12-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate
2 cups bourbon
crushed ice
fresh mint

Bring water to a boil and steep tea bags about 5 minutes.  Combine brewed tea, frozen juice concentrates, and bourbon in a large pitcher.  Stir until concentrates are thawed and ingredients are combined.

Fill glasses completely with crushed ice.  Garnish with mint and cherries.

Makes nearly half a gallon.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Sautéed Flounder with Garden Vegetable Ratatouille

When "they" tell you to eat from the rainbow, I imagine that rainbow looks a little like this ratatouille!!  We just got  back from a weekend of painting our rental property.  Several days of manual labor, and a family celebration mixed in, made for 96 hours of binge eating, junk food, and no time for the gym.  When we got back home, we decided we needed a little "detox" to resurrect our good habits.  One quick trip to your favorite farmers market and fish monger and you can whip up a colorful, healthy, and delicious summer meal perfectly paired with a glass of crisp white wine and enjoyed with the fireflies on the back porch!  

2 tablespoons olive oil (I used herbed)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 eggplant, quartered and chopped
1 purple onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 zucchini, sliced into thick medallions
2 yellow squash, halved and sliced into thick half-moons
1 red bell pepper, sliced
10 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
salt and black pepper to taste

4 6-ounce flounder fillets
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon cayenne
olive oil, for sautéing

Make the ratatouille.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot.  Add the scallions, eggplant, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring, about 3 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent.  Add the zucchini, squash, and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes.  Add the basil and season to taste.

Make the flounder.  While the veggies are sautéing, rinse the fish and pat dry.  Season with salt and lemon pepper to taste.  Mix the flour, cayenne, more salt and paper in a shallow bowl.  Pour enough olive oil into a second non-stick skillet to just cover the bottom and place over medium-high heat until hot.  Dredge the fish in the flour mixture, coating evenly on all sides.  Sauté the fish, about 3 minutes per side, until golden brown and cooked through.

Serve the fish over a bed of ratatouille.  Goes great with quinoa, wild rice, or even just herbed brown rice!

Serves 4.

Recipe adapted from Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen, by Sara Foster.

Friday, August 1, 2014

This Month: Summer in the Garden

I just love the flavors of summer.  Bright colors at the farmers' market, fresh crisp produce, flowering trees and plants, and an abundance in my herb garden (the only thing I can grow!).  Of course, Virginia has hot summers, so heating up my kitchen and slaving over the oven or stove isn't so appealing, so I turn to grilling outside or a quick sauté so I don't break a sweat as I try to get supper on the table.  Living on the coast, I also love the selection of fresh seafood at my local grocery, allowing me to make a tasty and light meal...after all, it is bikini season!  Pull up a chair and help me chop some fresh veggies for this fabulous summer meal!

Lemon Buttermilk Sherbet

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tilapia with Salsa Verde

This super fast and super delicious dish is perfect for a summer night with a south of the border or Mediterranean flavor!  I serve it with a side of my favorite gazpacho, sautéed summer veggies, and a crisp green salad.  Not only is it flavorful, but it's light and healthy and easy on the waistline, a bonus during bikini season.  Try the salsa on other fish, like grouper, red snapper, or ocean perch.  It's equally tasty over chicken or pork, or even stirred into rice.  No matter how you try it, it's sure to be a hit on your dinner guests!  

9 ounces canned diced green chiles
1/2 small onion, cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic
1/2 fresh jalapeño
4 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/3 cup cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
4 6-ounce tilapia filets

Combine all but the fish in a blender and puree until smooth.

Heat a non-stick skillet or grill pan to medium-high.  Brush the fish with olive oil and season with salt.  Sauté or grill until just cooked through and flakes with a fork, about 5 minutes.

Transfer fish to a plate and top with the salsa verde.

Serves 4.

Recipe adapted from The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook, by Arthur Agatston.

Monday, July 14, 2014


Nothing says fiesta like a pitcher of refreshingly fruity sangria!  In fact, we just relaxed on the back patio (after spending my husband's birthday in the ER with two toddlers with pink eye and then no pharmacies open at 8:00 on a Saturday night, and after driving all over to no less than 15 pharmacies finding one that was sold out at the medication we needed, and then finding another a few towns over that was open, had the drug, but didn't take our insurance so we just bit the bullet and paid out of pocket and will deal with insurance later).  Anyway, I digress!  When I was in Spain, I bought a cookbook with nothing but paella and sangria recipes.  I had no idea there are so many variations!  This is a traditional recipe, but feel free to mix things up, altering the wine  and fruits used, adding mixers like brandy or vodka or even fruit juices.  Bring out a pitcher of this potent concoction with a plate of your favorite tapas and you're sure to have a fabulous time!

1 750 mL bottle dry red wine
1 tablespoon sugar
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lemon
1 large orange, thinly sliced
1 large lemon, thinly sliced
2 medium peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into chunks
1 cup club soda

Combine all except club soda into a large pitcher, mixing well.  Refrigerate overnight.  Immediately before serving, mix in the club soda for added fizz.  Serve over ice.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

I've been to Spain a few times now, and there's nothing I love more than a refreshing bowl of gazpacho.  The spiciness is contrasted with the cool cucumber and tomato, and, as my dad would say, the flavors explode in your mouth!  My husband isn't one for chilled soups, but I'm a big fan.  That's fine, because the longer these flavors meld together in your fridge, the better it tastes.  Perfect for a summer lunch, appetizer to a Spanish-themed party, or a snack to have on hand after a day of soaking up sun and sand at your favorite Mediterranean beach.

2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, roughly chopped, plus 1 contrasting color for garnish (or use red and yellow grape tomatoes)
2-3 cloves fresh garlic
1 large cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/3 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 small red onion, roughly chopped
1 small jalapeño, seeded and chopped (more or less to taste)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
V-8 juice as needed (no more than a cup or two, I like the spicy kind)

In a blender or food processor, combine all except V-8.  Puree until smooth (but not completely liquid, you want some texture).  Taste for flavor and adjust ingredients as needed.  Add V-8 as needed to adjust heat and/or color.  This soup is prettiest when it's a bright red, but depending on the colors of your vegetables, it may look rather pale without the extra tomato juice.

Transfer gazpacho to a covered container or pitcher and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Just before serving, cut remaining tomato into small dice.  Divide soup among shallow bowls, or even juice glasses as I did above.  Garnish with diced tomato and extra cilantro.  Serve cold.  Equally delicious sipped directly from the glass!

Serves 4.

Recipe adapted from The South Beach Diet Taste of Summer, by Arthur Agatston.
Miz Helen’s Country Cottage