20160312_144026[1] (1600x1060)My bun-fu is improving!  It helped that I went with 12 instead of 16 like the last batch.  I went with a different forming method after watching a few Youtubes to get a better idea of how to proceed.  I rolled the dough flat in a roughly 6″ x 4″ rectangle, and then folded it like I was folding a letter to go into an envelope – top third down, bottom third up and over that.  Pinch the seam and ends and lay them on the tray with a bout a 1/2″ gap between so they rise to touch.DSC_5444 (1600x1060)We grew mint is this pot last year, and left it out all winter.  It lasted a long time before the cold weather burnt everything above dirt level.  We noticed new growth so I gave it a haircut the other day.  Mint is tough, we had mint growing wild in Mrs J’s flower garden and it took several years to eradicate.  Last year she told me to plant that nursery seedling as far away from her dirt as I could.20160315_092451 (1600x1060)Kimchi!  There is a Chinese buffet that we hit whenever we are close during meal time that has kimchi on their line.  I usually get some, I like it a lot.  I’ve made it before and had good luck but I made so much it was really getting sour before I could eat it all.  Mrs J refused to help.  This is one head of Napa cabbage, plus the carrots, daikon radish, and the rest.  I adapted this recipe.20160316_132316 (1600x1060)I left it overnight, covered, in the big bowl on a counter to give the fermentation a start and then put it all in this gallon jar to finish in the fridge in the basement.


Primary day in Illinois last Tuesday, this is the little township meeting hall where we cast our votes.  One nice thing about living out in the boonies, there is hardly ever a line.

PICT5658 (1600x1060)Random wildlife!  This is a young buck that has dropped one of its antlers.  They are shed every year but it’s rare to find them in the woods – they are quickly gnawed down by little woodland critters.PICT5692 (1600x1060)One more – at first glance I thought that the bird standing behind the deer was a crow but a second look showed it to be a hawk:PICT5692I’m no expert on bird ID but I think this may be a juvenile red shouldered hawk.  I don’t know for sure why it is standing there at the pond but we often see wood ducks right there, either in the water or ashore looking for the corn Mrs J leaves down there.

The Art of Granita

Watermelon Granita

Relaxing after a long, busy day, watching Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. I’m a sucker for anything Whedon, well, except Dollhouse, which I bailed on after the first few months. The locusts are competing for my attention, singing their late summer song. They always bring back childhood memories of sitting on the porch swing, reading a book in the evening, trying to stay cool.

Went out to dinner with friends earlier and told them I made Watermelon Granita and their response was similar to mine, watermelon is perfect on its own, why mess with it? Why indeed? Partly because it is so pretty, partly because it is nice to have something cold, not too sweet and easy to make during the heat of summer. Granitas can be made with many flavors, I just happened to have a large seedless watermelon on hand this week.

Strawberries, lemons, oranges, a mix of berries, even coffee can be made into granita. Just substitute for the watermelon in the recipe below. Perfect, light and a burst of sophisticated flavor to top off any meal.

Watermelon Granita

  • 4 cups seedless watermelon, cut into large chunks
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
  • fresh limejuice from 1 large lime or 2 small limes
  • dash of lime zest
  • mint leaves for garnish

blender, shallow dish

Blend together the ingredients (except mint) until smooth. Start with 1/4 cup sugar and add more as desired. 1/2 cup is the standard recipe, but I preferred less to let the watermelon shine through.

Pour into a shallow dish and place in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove and with a fork, scrape the mixture into small ice crystals. Place back into the freezer for another hour and repeat scraping. Freeze for additional hour, scrape again and serve with mint garnish. You can also top with fresh blueberries for a very pretty dessert.



DSC_5399 (1600x1060)Mrs J had a mint plant that got away from her several years ago and it started spreading and taking over before she declared war on it – aggressively spraying with Roundup wherever sprouts appeared.  I used it to garnish gyros, and a little of it went into my tzatziki sauces.  Her eradication effort succeeded last year, I looked and looked and couldn’t find any, so I bought a seedling this spring just for garnishes.  She told me to keep it well away from her garden!

Weekly Dinner Menu: Seared Ginger Tuna with Mint-Papaya-Pineapple Salsa

I love tuna steaks. I live in a land-locked state. This is when it’s good to have a relationship with your butcher, because he’ll let you know when some really good tuna arrives.  I don’t make this every often, but enjoy it when I do. It very simple. I’ve also grilled it instead of pan-searing, which adds a depth of flavor. Remember to preheat the grill and oil the grate well before placing steaks on to cook.

On the board tonight:

  1. Seared Ginger Tuna
  2. Rice*
  3. Mint-Papaya-Pineapple Salsa
  4. Tossed Salad
  5. Sliced Apples w/Caramel dipping sauce

Seared Ginger Tuna

  • 4-4oz tuna steaks
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fresh minced ginger, or 2 tsp dried
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste


Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat. While pan is preheating, rub tuna with 1 tbsp lemon juice, season with a little salt & pepper. Cook tuna for 1-2 minutes on each side, depending on thickness, and remove from pan. This will cook it rare (it will be cool pink in the center). Remove and place on serving platter. Turn heat down to medium and add remaining lemon juice & the rest of ingredients to pan and cook for 1 minute.  Season with salt and pepper. Pour over tuna and serve immediately.  Serves 4

Mint-Papaya-Pineapple Salsa

  • 1 papaya, cut in small cubes
  • 8 oz pineapple chunks, canned or fresh
  • 1 cup fresh mint – chopped
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • chili pepper flakes to taste

serving bowl

Combine all & stir well.  I know it’s called salsa, but it’s a nice fruity side, or serve it over the rice. Serves 4

*Rice:  Change things up a bit and try a different style of rice – Jasmine, Aborio, Basmati or Brown rice, each one brings its own flavors.

Shopping List:

  • 1 lb tuna steaks
  • 1 small fresh ginger root
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 small white or yellow onion
  • 1 papaya
  • 8 oz pineapple chunks, canned or fresh
  • 1 bunch fresh mint (enough for 1 cup)
  • 1 oz white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup rice
  • Salad fixings of your choice
  • 4 apples
  • Caramel Dip

Also: olive oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, chili pepper flakes

Originally posted September 2009


Food Pr0n – Gyros and Tzatziki

DSC_6840 [1600x1060]We found some ground lamb the other day in the huge market in the neighboring town.  We get over there once a week but don’t stop in for the groceries too often.  When we do stop in, I try to make a quick survey of the goodies they stock.  Usually a better selection of cheeses there, and I’ve grown fond of their antipasto bar.DSC_6847 [1600x1060]

I usually go with Alton Brown’s recipe for the gyro meat but looked for something different this time, not that this recipe is all that much a a change.  It worked well.  I didn’t use any ground beef with the lamb for mine, and added some ground coriander as per a suggestion in the comments to the recipe.  The tzatziki sauce was the usual, cucumbers, garlic,yogurt, chopped fresh mint, a splash of red wine vinegar, a bit of olive oil, salt, and the juice of half a lemon.  Be sure to drain the yogurt, and squeeze the water from the cukes.  Greek yogurt is better than regular but it still has plenty of extra water.  The tzatziki wants a little time to come together but you can eat it freshly made without a significant taste penalty

Sammich Pr0n – Gyro Dogs!

DSC_6274 [1600x1200]I just could not resist doing this.  I thought about it yesterday when I noticed how sausage like those ground lamb kebabs looked.  These sport a dollop of the tzatziki sauce and a sprinkle of chopped tomato and onion, garnished with a chiffonade of mint.

Frozen Treats: Blueberry Sorbet

Blueberry Sorbet3

This week I’m doing frozen treats. Vanilla and Strawberry Ice Cream began the series here.  This is the next treat.

The sorbet was by request and I’m so glad they voted for it. It was terrific. Cool, light, tangy and slightly sweet. The lemon is the perfect addition to the blueberries, giving it a nice depth. Easy to make. Perfect for a warm summer day.

Blueberry Sorbet

  • 1 cup water (3/4 cups if you’re using frozen blueberries)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (you can use half sugar, half honey if you prefer)
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 5 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • a few blueberries and fresh mint for garnish

saucepan, blender, ice cream maker

In the saucepan, add water, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a low boil and stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved. To blender add blueberries and slightly cooled sugar mixture and puree until smooth. I have a vitamix, so I got a very smooth puree, you may need to run the blueberry mixture through a cheesecloth or fine sieve to remove any remaining skins or stems.

Let mixture cool in the refrigerator for at least an hour and then process in your ice cream maker according to directions.

Remove to an airtight container and let freeze solid. I actually covered the top with wax paper to keep it from getting a dry crust on top. It worked well.

Stay tuned, tomorrow there will be another treat.  Until then….


Honey, You Don’t Look a Day Over 99

Happy 100th birthday to Oreos.  I suppose I could post a recipe on how to make your own Oreos (there are a bunch out there), but why bother? These are perfect the way they are. I eat them rarely, but when I do I love them dipped in milk. I don’t separate them, as I like the combination of textures and flavors.  I love Oreo ice cream and using Oreos for pie crusts.

So, while I prefer homemade desserts most days, nothing beats* an Oreo for a quick junk food fix.  How do you eat your Oreos? And are you going to celebrate today with a tall glass of milk and a sleeve of Oreos?

*Except maybe mint fudge cream oreos or chocolate covered mint oreos (which I’m not sure they make anymore are limited editions).