July 4th Menu Planning

With the 4th of July celebration sneaking up on us this week I have seen all kinds of yummy and sometimes really cute menu items.

redwhiteblue marshmallows
From the website Real Women of Philadelphia comes these cute little marshmallow pops that feature a Tub of SNACK DELIGHTS Dark Chocolate.  Occasionally I post recipes on this site and I love all the recipes featuring various Philadelphia cream cheese products.

fruit pizza half red blue
Fruit pizza is one of my favorite celebratory treats featuring the summer’s bounty of fresh fruits! Besides that, it is very easy to make!

Monkey Bread Caramlized

I can’t pass by a holiday morning brunch without including Monkey Bread! I made this batch recently for my visiting sister-in-law.  She liked it so much I made another before she left! 🙂  If you have kids that want to join you in the kitchen monkey bread is easy to make and perfect for little hands to join in.


Last year I came across this layered jello from Our Best Bites. I adore this picture!  I printed out the recipe and have had it in my to-do pile of recipes for over a year.  Sadly, I haven’t gotten it made it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it this year for the 4th!  Click on the picture for the link to the recipe!

baked roast chicken
My plans for the holiday include this Beer Can Roasted Chicken, a Fried Green Tomato Casserole, with a Fresh Strawberry Cake chaser!

strawberry cake finished
A festive food-feast!  Happy Cooking,

P.S.  If you are serving up corn-on-the-cob, don’t forget to check out my blog post on getting the silk off fast and easy!




DIY Homemade Dill Pickles

Dill Pickle Pintes
My Chief gardener started bringing lettuce from the garden a couple of weeks ago.  This past week he brought in the first basket full of yellow squash and cucumbers.  Today, I received my second BIG basket of cucumbers.  It is time to start pickling! Last summer our cucumbers caught a nasty bug and died on the vine.  So no pickles for us.  I know, I know I could have actually bought cucumbers and made pickles last year, but that isn’t nearly as fun as growing the produce, picking it, washing it, and canning it.  I digress.

sliced cucumbers
I don’t have one jar of home canned dill pickles in my pantry.  Months ago I opened the last jar, canned in the summer of 2011.  Honestly, they weren’t very good but they were all I had.

Fresh Dill
So, this year I vowed to buy fresh dill and try again to make crispy dill pickles.  Buying fresh dill isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Yesterday I went to the local farmers market bright and early to buy the best choice of dill.  To my surprise I heard from the growers, “we just don’t grow dill.”  Then one grower gave me the name and phone number of the local “dill man.”

Turns out the local “dill man” doesn’t have any dill right now.  Probably won’t have another crop of dill until August.  Ugh, way past my pickling season! Then I received a call from our Aunt Mattie Lou whose sister owns a local truck farm. Voila’ — fresh dill!  I was back in business of making dill pickles today!

Mrs. Wages Pickles

Aunt Mattie also told me her sister only uses Mrs. Wages seasonings and that her pickles turn our wonderful.  I researched several dill pickle recipes and decided to try one batch using Mrs. Wages seasoning and the second batch using minced garlic, fresh dill,  and red pepper flakes. The brine for the second batch was made from vinegar, water and pickling salt.

Chief pickler

The Chief gardener turned Chief slicer and the pickle making was off to a great start. My sous-chef dish-washing mom made up the trio of workers in our busy kitchen!  The family who pickles together …. 🙂

Dill pickles

I will attach two different recipes at the bottom of this post.  But, a couple things I have learned about making pickles.

  • Pickles are a great way to get started canning, they are relatively easy and need only a water-bath method to seal the lids.
  • Soaking the cucumbers in ice water for at least 2 hours before canning helps to crisp them up.
  • Cold-pack the pickles in hot, sterilized jars.
  • Time the water bath precisely from the moment the jars are placed in the boiling water.

Please refer to the website for National Center for Home Food Preservation for more information about safe home canning. Another of my favorite canning sites is Pick Your Own.

Happy Pickling!

DIY Homemade Dill Pickles
Mrs. Wages pickle seasoning makes for the perfect dill pickle! Adding fresh dill puts these pickles right over the top!
Serves: 7 quarts or 14 pints
  • 10 lbs. pickling cucumbers (about 25 to 35 depending on the size, smaller the better)
  • 3⅓ cups White distilled vinegar
  • 7⅓ cups water
  • 1 package Mrs. Wages Dill Pickles Mix
  • 7 to 10 Fresh dill tops, divided
  1. PREPARE and process home canning jars and lids according to safe canning practices.
  2. WASH cucumbers and remove blossoms; drain. Slice into ¼" slices. Place in ice water bath for up to 2 hours.
  3. COMBINE dill mix, vinegar, and water into a large non-reactive pot. Do not use aluminum. Bring mixture just to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture dissolves.
  4. PACK cucumbers and ½ piece fresh dill top into sterilized jars, leaving ½" of headspace. Evenly divide hot pickling liquid among the packed jars, leaving ½" of headspace. Remove air bubbles and cap each jar as it is filled. If more liquid is needed for proper headspace, add a mix of 1 part vinegar and 2 parts water.
  5. PROCESS pints for 5 minutes, quarts for 10 minutes, in a boiling water bath canner. Test jars for airtight seals according to safe canning practices.
  6. Product is ready to eat after 24 hours, but waiting several weeks will enhance the flavor and crispness.
If jars do not completely seal, refrigerate and consume within 2 weeks.

Please refer to the website for National Center for Home Food Preservation for additional information about safe home canning. Another of my favorite canning sites is Pick Your Own.org

DIY Homemade Dill Pickles
Pickles are easy to make and delicious to eat -- especially when you make them yourself.
Serves: 4 pints
  • 16 - 4" long cucumbers, sliced into ¼" slices*
  • 12 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 heads fresh dill with stems
  • 2 hot red peppers or 1 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes
  • 2½ cups white vinegar
  • 2½ cups water
  • ¼ cup pickling salt
  1. PREPARE and process home canning jars and lids according to safe canning practices.
  2. Chill clean cucumbers in the refrigerator overnight, if possible. Remove, slice into ¼" slices and place in large pan of iced water. Leave for about 2 hours, replacing ice as necessary.
  3. Make the brine: Mix vinegar, water, and pickling salt in a stainless steel saucepan (not aluminum) and heat to boiling point.
  4. Pack the chilled cucumbers into 4 hot sterilized jars. To each pint, add 3 whole peeled cloves of garlic, 1 head of dill, and ¼ teaspoon pepper flakes.
  5. Pour hot brine over the cucumbers in the jars. Leave ½" space at the top. Seal and place in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Mark the time as soon as you put the jars in the boiling water. Boil for only 5 minutes, leaving the jars in the boiling water bath any longer will soften the pickles.
  6. Store processed pickles for several weeks before using.
If jars do not seal, store in refrigerator and eat within a couple weeks.

Please refer to the website for National Center for Home Food Preservation for additional information about safe home canning. Another of my favorite canning sites is Pick Your Own.org



Friday’s Soul Food

rock mt

I absolutely love this quote by Oswald Chambers.  He is referring to John 4:11 which says, “The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? ” 

The woman at the well came to draw water at the hottest part of the day, instead of the usual morning or evening times, because she was shunned and rejected by the other women of the area for her immorality.  Jesus knew her history but still accepted her and ministered to her.

I am comforted that Jesus meets us exactly where we are and even knowing all about us he offers living water.  What a blessing filled with grace and mercy!

Have a good Friday,

Blessings, Catherine


Stay Cool With Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pot Roast

Pot Summer plated

You may not think “pot roast” is a very exciting or blog-worthy recipe.  But when my sous-chef dish-washing mom came home from her visit in Kansas City earlier this month I wanted to greet her with some down home comfort food.  I was picking her up at the Nashville airport at 3:00 p.m. and would arrive back home about 5:30 p.m.  I wanted the house to smell like “dinner” as we walked in.  PLUS my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and my sister-in-law’s granddaughter were all here visiting!

pot roast slices

With all that criteria for the evening meal, I turned to my crock-pot and I assure you no one was disappointed that I had been gone all afternoon. A nice chuck roast with or without bone works well but a rib roast is also outstanding for this recipe.  I like to sprinkle mine with salt, pepper, and garlic seasoning and then place on the BBQ grill for about 15 minutes total.  I turn it every 5 minutes or so to brown it evenly.  This is much less mess than browning in a dutch oven on the stove top.  Plus the BBQ adds a really nice flavoring!

onions first

While the meat was browning on the grill I mixed together beef broth, balsamic vinegar, red wine, minced garlic, smoked paprika and pepper.  I poured a small amount of this mixture into the bottom of my crock-pot and turned the it on low.  I chopped one big onion and added half of the onion rings to the bottom of the crock-pot.

pot roast add meat
Once the meat came off the grill I sliced it into chunks about 1 1/2″ thick.  I usually cut one piece for each person I am serving.  Some will eat the whole piece others will take a smaller amount.

pot roast sun dried tomatoes

The next layer is a 3 ounce package of sun-dried tomatoes.  These can be cut either in half or Julienne-style.  I used both and they work equally well.

pot roast mushroom sauce

One 8 ounce package of sliced baby Bella mushrooms are added to the broth and vinegar mixture and the whole thing is then poured over the meat.

Top layer onions

Another layer of onions and this pot roast is ready to cook on high for 1 hour and on low for as many hours as you’ve got.  A minimum of 5 hours is needed to get the meat cooked and tender but 8 or 9 hours creates a pot roast that will fall apart as you retrieve it and melt-in-your-mouth as you eat it!  Carrots and potatoes can be added 3 hours or so before the meat is done.

pot roast plated upclose

This summer you can still cook up a plate of comfort food that will warm the heart but not the kitchen!  I encourage you to experiment with different combinations of liquids and spices.  For a 4 lb roast you will need 2 to 3 cups of liquid and 2 to 3 teaspoons of spice.  Water, red wine, beef broth or stock, vegetable stock, or beer are excellent liquid choices.  Garlic, rosemary, thyme, paprika (sweet or smoked) all make wonderful seasonings along with salt and pepper.

I like to remove the meat and carrots, strain the liquid and make a quick gravy.  The flavor is really quite amazing!

Here’s to delicious start to your summer menu planning!

Happy Cooking!

Stay Cool With Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pot Roast
This crock-pot roast beef will warm the hearts of your family without warming up the kitchen!
  • 3½ to 4 lb. chuck roast
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 (8 oz.) package sliced baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 (3 oz.) package sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef broth or stock
  • ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¾ cup red wine
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Preheat BBQ grill. Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper and any other favorite seasonings. On medium heat cook the roast for 15 minutes, turning at 5 minute intervals.
  2. Mix together beef broth, vinegar, red wine, garlic, and paprika. Slice onion.
  3. Pour a small amount of the broth mixture into the bottom of a crock-pot. Add one half of the sliced onion rings.
  4. Remove roast from the BBQ grill and slice into chucks the width of the roast and about 1" to ½" wide. Place pieces of meat in the crock-pot on top of the onion rings.
  5. Sprinkle sun-dried tomatoes over the meat.
  6. Add sliced mushrooms to the remaining broth mixture and pour over the meat.
  7. Top with remaining onion slices. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Bake on HIGH for 1 hour then turn crock-pot on LOW for an additional 7 to 8 hours.
  9. Remove meat and drain off the juices to make gravy or ladle juice over the meat to serve.
Carrots and/or potatoes can be added 2 to 3 hours before serving.
Try experimenting with different combinations of liquids and spices. 3 cups of liquid and 2 to 3 teaspoons of seasoning is a good rule of thumb for a 4 lb. roast. Water, red wine, beef stock or beer are excellent liquid options. Garlic, rosemary, thyme and paprika make wonderful spice additions to your roast.
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