Monthly Archives: August 2014


TBT with an old-fashioned treat …

Friday nights could be a treat in my house growing up. Once a month or so, my parents would hire a responsible teenager from the neighborhood to babysit so they could go out with other like-minded adults. Our bribery was a Totino’s pizza and root beer floats and TV. Confession: I still buy the occasional Totino’s for the flavor memories. And I still enjoy the occasional root beer float.

So on a recent Friday night, while watching a movie with someone of the under-10 set, I got a hankering for a float of some sort. I spied home-made blackberry syrup in my fridge and some peach frozen yogurt in the freezer. And of course I’ve always got seltzer around. There really is nothing to this — as long as you’ve made the syrup ahead of time!

SAMSUNGBlackberry-Peach Float
Serves 1

One large-ish scoop peach frozen yogurt or ice cream
1 – 2 tablespoons blackberry syrup (recipe follows)
Seltzer water
Fat straws

Plop a healthy scoop of your desired frozen delight in a medium-sized glass.


Drizzle with the blackberry syrup.


Add the seltzer … C A R E F U L L Y … it’s gonna foam like crazy!


Add your fat straw and stir gently. Guzzle to your heart’s content!


Note: SOMEONE happened to buy Harris-Teeter-branded fat-free peach frozen yogurt. I am not usually a fan of fat-free, since the fat usually gets replaced with more sweeteners and a bunch of gums, but this was actually pretty tasty. Full-on product endorsement? Maybe not, but I was pleasantly surprised by the texture – creamy and non-icy. I’d buy it again.


Blackberry Syrup
Yield varies

Blackberries, at least a cup or so
Star anise, optional
Cinnamon stick, optional
3 whole cloves, optional

Rinse your blackberries and toss into a non-reactive pan (no need to drain). Add water to cover. Add the whole spices, if using. Simmer gently until the blackberries are mush. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Use a spatula to gently press liquid through — you’ll get a little cloudiness in your syrup but it’s worth it for the flavor!

Rinse your pan. Or dirty a fresh one — your call.

Rinse the star anise and cinnamon (if using) and put them into the clean pan. Discard the cloves and other solids. MEASURE the liquid and put into the pan. Measure an equal amount by volume of sugar and add to the pan. That means, if you had 2 cups of liquid, add 2 cups of sugar :)

Bring the sugared solution to a gentle boil, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Boil gently for 1 to 2 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature. Discard the star anise and cinnamon. Store covered in the refrigerator. Excellent in cocktails or to make your own blackberry soda!


Blackberry Soda
Serves 1

2 tablespoons blackberry syrup
6 ounces seltzer

Put the ice in an appropriate-sized glass. Add the syrup. Pour the seltzer over. Stir gently. Consume with gusto!

Watermelon Sangria

August in a pitcher!

For me, summer isn’t summer without watermelon. I know for some it’s tomatoes. For others, peaches. But for me, the hot hot days of summer go hand-in-hand with icy cold watermelon. I like big cold chunks on a plate, lightly sprinkled with kosher salt. And preferably seedless from Swann’s in Calvert County, MD.

Last year I developed a pretty amazing watermelon cocktail. It’s fresh and fruity and just right for summer, but it’s also potent and I make each one individually. So when my dear (beach) friends Sue and Steve invited me over for Sunday dinner with a (new) friend Cookie, I wanted to make something a little lighter and in a pitcher, but still rely on the luscious local watermelon. Why wouldn’t watermelon work in a sangria? I drew on the flavors of the previous year’s cocktail – grabbing mint and lime and some flavored rum. I had a bottle of white wine ready-chilled. Even though I typically do a spice-infused simple syrup to start a sangria, I knew the fresh mint leaves didn’t require that (in fact, I prefer the fresh flavor to a steeped flavor). And we were off!

Watermelon Sangria
Serves 4 happily

SAMSUNG2 – 3 cups cubed seedless watermelon
scant 1/4 cup sugar
scant 1/4 cup lime juice
Big handful of fresh mint leaves
6 tablespoons strawberry rum
2 tablespoons orange liqueur
1 bottle dry white wine (I used a pinot gris from Oregon)
12 ounces (1 can) ginger ale or lemon-lime seltzer

Cube your watermelon. You can see in these pictures I took a different approach to peeling — it seemed safer this way. And yes, those are fossils in the background. They are pretty much found on every horizontal surface in our beach shack.


Muddle the sugar, lime juice, and mint leaves in a large pitcher. Add the rum and orange liqueur, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Add the watermelon and stir gently, trying not to break up your cubes. Put this in the fridge to percolate for a couple of hours (just before serving, I pulled the mint leaves out — I don’t mind them in a mojito but they looked a little spent for the sangria).


When ready to serve, add the white wine. Taste at this point — if it seems balanced in terms of sweet to acid, add your ginger ale. If it tastes a little too sweet (because wines can vary so widely), add seltzer water instead. Stir gently. Serve over ice, garnished with a little mint.


This was definitely a less-boozy version of sangria. Flavored rums tend to be quite a bit lower in alcohol than the usual brandy. The watermelon soaks up some of the rum-and-sugar mixture, so it’s really delightful to eat that as you empty your glass. Strawberry complements the watermelon, but I think passionfruit rum would as well. I would stick with a fairly neutral white in this — a riesling or heavily oaked chardonnay is going to fight with the watermelon. Pinot grigio is the same grape as pinto gris, just a different style of wine, and that would work nicely as well.

Selfie Fail

Back in the saddle …

SAMSUNGSo even though the blog was on hiatus for over a month (a month ?!?), I was still hobbling around the kitchen. Sourcing ingredients (shopping) is still a challenge — I just don’t have it in me to walk up and down every aisle in the store, or to visit multiple stores in a day (I have to pace myself). The CGP has done most of the marketing, but I’ve been trying to keep it pretty basic for his sake. But there was ONE thing that kept me from regularly ordering take-out or subsisting on Pop-Tarts: Fresh produce every Wednesday from Backyard Produce. I talked about this several months ago in a previous post, and it really did come in handy. It’s all familiar produce — things like kale and summer squash that are always welcome in our house. Knowing a few days ahead of time what was coming helped me plan upcoming meals and direct the CGP’s unsupervised trips to the grocer.

SAMSUNGIt also let him help out in a major way by cooking entire meals on the grill. Yes, grilling the meat is a no-brainer. But we made an effort to cook ALL the sides on there as well. I would do the prep work inside and just hand it all over to him for execution. We put diced new potatoes with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary in a foil packet and cooked it alongside the meat. We did something similar with beets (no rosemary). Try eggplant, thinly sliced length-wise (I use a mandoline at 1/4″ or 5/16″) and brushed with olive oil. Corn in the husk. Baby tapas peppers on a rosemary skewer. Zucchini sliced length-wise into quarters (less likely to fall into the fire!).

So, a friend-of-a-friend is an established chef and cookbook author (as well as a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier). I had the honor of testing five recipes for her upcoming cookbook. So there were a couple of weekends in there that I was working on those. This cookbook will be geared to a specific dietary/health concern, so my testing was very analytical. I had to weigh my vegetables beforehand (just how much DOES a medium zucchini weigh?) as well as measure volumes (cups/tablespoons) of the finished product, so they can do nutritional analyses and describe serving/portion sizes. It was a blast and a very different style of cooking for me, because I had to follow the recipes to a “T”. I’ll keep you posted when the cookbook comes out — for now — I have to keep it all Top Secret :).

I also managed to put up a couple more small batches of jam. The blueberries and blackberries are really awesome this year. Shout-out to Twin Springs Fruit Farm and Westmoreland Berry Farm for my berries!


It’s NOT just because of the name

Every so often I’ve purchased a bottle of something out of Washington State’s Chateau Ste. Michelle. NOT just because of the name. I remember liking whatever I bought, but since it was pre-blog, I didn’t take notes :). I’ve always felt that if I had to pick a bottle for a hostess gift, I probably wouldn’t be embarrassed to bring something from Chateau Ste Michelle. And the wines generally get good reviews from people who know more about wine than me.

SAMSUNGTheir wines are typically priced above my self-imposed ceiling of $10, so when I saw a bottle of Riesling on sale at Giant for less than that, I grabbed a bottle (I think I paid $8.99). It was a really nice little weekday wine. I’d characterize it as off-dry — a hint of residual sugar but not cloyingly so. A medium body — this has more oomph than a pinot grigio — but not overly heavy. It’s a nice before-dinner wine — would probably pair well with fairly assertive cheeses. I think it would make a nice sangria as well — cut back on the sugar a little.

This is also my first post since my little bathtub accident. I’m on the mend, but I walk like a pirate. People are really nice to you when you are on crutches — drivers even encourage you to jaywalk. I just need a better story than “I fell into the bathtub.”

Standard caveat: This is a personal recommendation. Chateau Ste. Michelle does not know I exist and has provided neither product nor compensation for this endorsement. In fact, they’ll probably sue me if this ever gets in a search engine.