On this edition of “summer, please don’t go,” we’re talking about peaches (again). And bourbon. Because as much as I love pumpkin, well, everything, I’m just not ready for it to invade my life quite yet. Of course, this is influenced by the fact that one of the hottest weekends of summer just happened. It just doesn’t feel or look like fall outside, so I think I’ll hold on to summer just a little bit longer. Also, there’s this drink, which is a good enough reason for me to enjoy summer while I still can.
Eric is our cocktail maker, so this recipe is all him. I will occasionally have an idea for a drink, usually one inspired by a fancy cocktail I had at a restaurant, but Eric is the real brains behind our drink recipes. It all started with a bottle of bourbon I bought for this bourbon chocolate bundt cake (which I made for the first Big Summer Potluck we attended). What was leftover after I made the cake became the first Old Fashioned I ever drank.
Now, I know some people think muddling fruit into an Old Fashioned is some type of sacrilege. I don’t really care because this drink is awesome, so call it a whiskey cocktail if it makes you feel better. This drink takes advantage of fresh summer peaches and the mint we’ve got growing on our back deck. The mint and peach pair so wonderfully with the bourbon, with neither overpowering it. It’s easy to make and even easier to drink. If that’s not the description of a perfect summer cocktail, I don’t know what is.
This recipe is easily increased to make more than one. Also, we prefer ours without the club soda, but we’ve included it in the recipe since many people prefer it with.
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Our summers tend to end with a mad dash of canning and preserving food. It’s hard to beat having a pantry stocked with preserved summer produce and opening up a jar of homemade strawberry jam well after peak strawberry season has ended.
Tomatoes are one of those foods that people are often wary to can, but the method is pretty much the same as any other. The key is acidifying the tomatoes, which we did using bottled lemon juice. That’s really the only major difference. Though I’ve read a pressure canner is the better option for canning tomatoes, we didn’t have any problems using the water bath method.
This particular batch of tomatoes is Rotel-style. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, Rotel tomatoes are diced tomatoes mixed with green chiles. Rotel was a staple in my house growing up and was usually eaten in the form of “queso” made with it and a block of Velveeta. My favorite was when it had ground sausage, too. That was my go-to party recipe in high school and college. These days, we use it in things like this southwest pasta or these chicken enchilada pinwheels. And with tomatoes this good, you can bet a version of that childhood dip I loved so much, sans Velveeta, is in the works.
If you’re new to canning, check out my post on the basics of water bath canning to get you acquainted with the process. I promise it’s not as intimidating as you might think!
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We’re quickly approaching the end of summer/start of fall, and this time of year is my favorite, mostly because of the crossover of my favorite foods. Tomatoes and okra are still plentiful, but pumpkins start showing up at the farmers market, too. We’re grilling out and baking with pumpkin in the same weekend. It’s kind of awesome.
Since a lot of you will be enjoying a long weekend in a few days, I thought I’d share a burger recipe to help you celebrate. These hamburgers just scream summer to me. The sauce for these burgers is a combination of peach chutney and sweet onion. Fresh peaches, bacon, goat cheese and basil make this burger feel gourmet and add so many layers of flavor and texture. I don’t want to be annoyingly descriptive, but just think about all these burgers having going on – crisp bacon, tangy cheese, sweet peaches, spicy chutney, fresh basil. Seriously, how could these burgers be anything less than fantastic? We all loved them, though we left the chutney off Clara’s burger since it was super spicy (that happens when you make chutney with a whole habanero when the recipe only calls for half, oops). If you want to change up standard burgers, this recipe is a great way to do so.
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Casseroles and I have had a long relationship with a lot of ups and downs. I grew up loving them, and they were a part of every family gathering I ever attended. I’m guessing anyone that grew up in the deep south would say the same. Squash was always eaten with cheese and crushed Ritz crackers. Hash browns? Those had cheese, too. Basically, if it was a casserole, it involved some type of vegetable smothered in something creamy and/or cheesy. You know, anything to negate the vegetable-ness of it.
As I got older, casseroles started to kind of gross me out. Too many similar textures and not enough flavor. I didn’t eat them for a long time, but then I got turned on to them again, thanks to some awesome recipes that showed me it’s possible to have casseroles with loads of flavor and texture.
This casserole takes advantage of the abundance of produce available during summer – some of my favorites like corn, zucchini and tomatoes. The vegetables are roasted to bring out all their flavor, then they’re mixed with rice and chicken before being baked. This recipe calls for cottage cheese to make the sauce that holds the casserole together, but don’t worry if you’re not a fan of cottage cheese. I certainly am not, but it works well in this recipe. If you want to make this vegetarian, simply leave out the chicken. It works great as a vegetarian main dish or even as a side to something else.
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A few months ago, we got to spend the night with my friend Josie. We were on our way home from Alabama and stopped at her house for the evening. I was obviously thrilled about being able to hang out in the kitchen again with one of my best friends. Josie picked this recipe, and we all loved it. Eric and I have made it a couple times since then, and it’s a hit every time. Of course, whenever we make this, I think of Josie and her awesome family and how much fun we all had together – the two of us cooking, Eric and Joey talking about craft beer and playing outside with all the kids. It was one of those perfect moments, where everything just felt right. I love how food can create memories like that, and I only wish we lived closer together so that we could make them more often!
This recipe calls for a cut of meat I had never used before – country-style pork ribs. They’re tender and quick cooking, which means you can get this meal on the table faster than you might think. The meat is marinated with a fragrant spice mixture before being grilled, and it comes off the grill moist and delicious. Some of the marinade is mixed with honey and butter to create a sauce for the tomato relish, which, combined with the juice of grilled lemons, makes the relish bright and flavorful. Simply put, this recipe is an all-around winner. There’s still plenty of summer left, so make the most of it and enjoy this meal before tomatoes are out of season.
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