My Pal Joey

The only thing better than making a new friend is making a new friend who cooks. Yesterday I met Joey Santos a welcome addition to my circle of friends.

Last night he cooked a family recipe of “arroz con gandules,” the national dish of Puerto Rico. Gandules are pigeon peas and along with seasoned pork, onion, garlic, roasted red peppers and green olives made an incredible side dish to a fabulous meal with old friends. Joey also made a  grilled marinated flank steak and another family recipe for flan with cream cheese. Wow!  I’ll get this recipe also.

When I get back to my kitchen I’ll prepare the arroz con gandules and share the recipe.  In the meantime here’s Joey in his own words talking about his recipe.

Posted by Funny Motivational Speaker Vinny Verelli

Mint Jelly a Success

My mint jelly was a success, a work of art. Hence the beautiful water color inspired by the jelly.  My first attempt at canning and my first attempt at dry brush painting… in PhotoShop.
My recipe is below.

Mint Jelly in Water Color

Prepare your canning jars. I suggest you go to the “Ball” canning site.  You’ll find a series of pdf files about canning basics. This is were I started. Also searching YouTube will give you some videos you can follow.

Recipe for Mint Jelly

  • 1 and a half to 2 cups of firmly packed mint leaves
  • 4 Tbls. fresh lemon juice.  I like my jelly tart, you may want to use only 2 Tbls.
  • 3 1/2 cups organic fine cane sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 1  pouch (3oz) Certo liquid fruit pectin.

Strip the leaves from the mint shafts and wash. Chop coarsely and place in a sauce pan. Muddle the mint leaves with a potato masher to release their essence. Pour the boiling water over the leaves and bring back to boil. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand 10-15 minutes.  Strain the liquid.

Pour 1 3/4 cups of the mint infused liquid back into the sauce pan. Add the sugar and lemon juice.  If you want your jelly to take on the artificial color of store-bought mint jelly, add a couple of drops of green food coloring. Yick.

Bring the heat back up to dissolve the sugar. Bring the mixture to a full boil and then add the pectin quickly and return to full boil.  Continue to boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and using a spoon, skim off the foam that collects on top.

Ladle mixture into the prepared jars, (four, 4 oz jelly jars or 2 pint size canning jars). Fill to 1/8 or 1/4 inch to the top.  Clean off any spilled liquid from the mouth of the jars. Place the two-piece lid onto each jar and twist tight.

Now you’re ready to process the jelly. For more information about this process refer to the Ball site.  Basically you now place the jars into a hot water bath. Lower each jar with a jar lifter or on a rack that is lowered into the pot.  Water must cover the jar lids at least one inch. Bring water to a gentle boil and “process” for 5 minutes. If your higher than 1,000 feet. Altitude that is, you need to adjust the process time. There’s and Altitude Chart on the Ball site and usually there’s one included with the pectin.

After the jelly has processed remove the jars and let cool at room temperature for 24 hours. It’s a good idea to place the hot jars on a dish towel.  Placing them on a cold counter top could cause the jars to crack.

Sealed jars are good for a year kept in a cool dry place. Once you open a jar, keep it in the refrigerator.  It should last and stay fresh for a month. Remember there are no preservative in this jelly.  It does not have a Twinkie shelf life.

Spread on toast or biscuit with sweet butter or serve with your favorite lamb dish.

Can It

Mint Jelly
Mint Jelly Made From This is Volunteer Mint. 

Most people here in North Georgia have gardens and this time of year most gardens are quite prolific. You eat as much as you can and give away what you can and can the rest. This will be the first year trying my had at canning, which is a strange term since everything is put into glass jars.  It should be called, “Jarring.”

The “locals” will often say, “I’m puttin’ up a mess o beans this year.” Putting up is the same as canning or jarring.  You can can just about anything and I started out simple. We have a mess o mint and I made some mint jelly and made a mess of the kitchen.  Hope things are more organized today with I put up the cucumbers to make some pickles.

I’ll post the recipe for the mint jelly after I’ve tasted it, tweaked it and am happy with it.

There’s a great blog I found called, “Putting Up” that has a mess o recipes and instruction for canning.

Beat the Heat with Cold Cucumber Soup

This time of year I tend to cook whatever is most prolific from our garden. Today it was cucumbers. This is an incredibly easy recipe and a great way to beat the heat and stay cool as a cucumber.

  • 4-5 cucumbers, peeled, sliced, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 of one of the above cucumbers chopped fine for garnish
  • 2 (8 oz) containers of sour cream or yogart
  • 3/4 cup 1/2 & 1/2
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 scallions, white and green part chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill chopped
  • 1/4 fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TLB salt (start with less and adjust)
  • 1 TSP fresh ground pepper
  • 24 medium cooked and chilled shrimp (optional)
  • SERVES 6-8
In a large mixing bowl add the sour cream/yogart with the 1/2 and 1/2, salt and pepper, lemon juice, and fresh dill.  Stir together then add the chopped cucumber, onion and scallion.
In small batches puree the mixture in a food processor with steel blade. Process until the cumbers are corse. Transfer to another bowl and continue processing the rest of the mixture. Stir all the batches together, taste and adjust seasoning. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
I like to use raw shrimp.  If they’re frozen, thaw under cold running water. Peel and saute the shrimp in a little olive oil with some garlic salt sprinkled over. Do Not Over Cook!! You want to stop cooking when the center is still a little fleshy. Place the shrimp in  a bowl and chill.
Before serving stir the soup again and check for seasoning. Serve in soup bowls and garnished with a dollop of sour cream, some chopped cumber, some shrimp and fresh dill.

Life Liberty and the Pursuit of the Perfect Hot Dog

On this the anniversary of our country’s birth I suggest that we all learn to be tolerant, tolerant of the person cooking your hotdog over a hot grill. If your dog doesn’t have the amount of char or too much… remember, you’re in America!

Grilling is not my favorite thing to do as it’s hotter than most types of cooking. Add to this that you’re outside and it’s 94 degrees in the shade. Regardless a hotdog off the grill (OVER CHARCOAL) with whatever degree of “char” you like tastes much better than a dog from a frying pan or off a gas grill.

Since moving to XXXXX in Georgia, I’ve met with friends for a BBQ in Atlanta and then gone to Turner Field to watch the Braves and fireworks.  This year the clouds and breeze were a welcome relief when grilling.  Due to operator error (people showed up late and I started drinking early) I wasn’t able to capture much of the event. However, I did put together this short video trailer.

Southern Comfort Food as 4th of July Side Dish

Pimento cheese along with deviled eggs are two staples you’ll see at any pot luck dinner in the South. As a child I don’t have very fond memories of pimento cheese. That’s because in the North no one really cared about making decent pimento cheese. It was something cheap to spread on white bread that kids would eat.

But like any food there are ways to make it better. And by better I mean something that you find more palatable. Don’t give up on a food until you’ve had a chance to tweak it.  Of course this doesn’t work for brussels sprouts.

Vinny’s Pimento Cheese Recipe
Amounts are approximate

8 oz Sharp Cheddar
4 oz Pepper Jack
12 oz jar of High Quality Pimentos — or fresh roasted red peppers
2 medium sized dill pickles

Grate the cheese and chop 2/3 or the pimentos into small pieces. I eyeballed this so the end product has enough red pimento showing in the spread. Also chop one medium dill pickle into small pieces. Combine the above ingredients, folding everything as not to mush the cheese.

THE SAUCE
¼ of an 8 oz block Cream Cheese, I guess that means 2 oz
Remaining pimentos from the 12oz jar
2 big table spoons mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Horseradish (or to taste)
1 medium dill pickle
Garlic and onion powder, salt and fresh ground pepper – to taste

Put all the above ingredients in a food processor. Blend until smooth and adjust to taste

Fold the sauce into the grated cheese, chopped pickle and chopped pimento. Cover and place in refrigerator for several hours to blend the flavors.  Sever with Ritz crackers if you want to appear authentic South.