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Cherry Tomato Provencal By Ina Garten

I love tomatoes and I do not eat them in the winter.  I only eat fresh tomatoes in the summertime and I am always super excited about that first taste of the tomato in a wonderful sandwich on white bread with Duke’s mayonnaise.  I do have to admit that by the time August arrives, we are getting a little tired of tomatoes. I was browsing through one of Ina Garten’s cookbooks recently and saw this recipe for provencal cherry tomato gratin.  I made it for us recently and it is so good.  The cherry tomatoes I purchased at the farmers market were larger and so I only needed two pints of the tomatoes.

I love the wonderful flavors of this dish and it is a little different as we usually pair basil with tomatoes.  I know this is a recipe that I will continue to make in the future.




This recipe is in Ina Garten’s cookbook Foolproof.  I always chose Ina when I want to use a traditional ingredient and make it a little differently.  She is such a master of that.

Thanks for stopping by.  (Oops sorry about the little green strip in the title of the recipe.  That was my sticky note to mark the page.)


Fried Okra

On one of my previous posts I mentioned that I was going to try to fry okra this summer.  I have tried it in the past and had disastrous results.  Surely a southern girl that loves to cook would be able to master this task.  As I have been seeing okra at the farmer’s market weekly, I decided it was time to give it a try.

I searched through my cookbooks for the best recipe.  I chose one from The Glory of Southern Cooking Cookbook by James Villas.  I love the cookbook and it is such a wonderful collection of southern recipes from all over the South.  The recipe I am sharing seemed very traditional and I love James comment about how the fried okra could be served as an appetizer.  Mr. D and I have wondered many times why people in the South and restaurants in the South do no serve fried okra as an appetizer.  I think that is a great idea.IMG_4443

Above is a picture of the fried okra I prepared.  I used an electric skillet instead of a cast iron skillet.  I have a hard time regulating the heat on my stove and that is how I messed up my fried okra the last time I gave it a try.  If I was going to improve on this first attempt at this recipe, I would try for sure to make my pieces of okra a more consistent size.  I also used the fine grain cornmeal and I did not like the texture.  It was almost gummy.  I would try to find the old fashioned corn meal to use.  Also,  when I placed the okra in the batter, I think I should have left it in the batter for a couple of minutes as that seemed to help to coat the okra. By the way, I don’t cook with lard so I used vegetable cooking oil.

I had never heard of parboiling the okra first.  I did that and I think it helped to make the batter adhere to the okra.

Here is the recipe.




We were very happy with the results.  I know many people think okra is just gross; however, if it is prepared correctly that isn’t necessarily true.  I do plan to make this recipe again before the fresh okra disappears at the farmers market.

Thanks for stopping by.

Char-Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad

IMG_4438When I started corresponding with my California cousin, I requested summer salad recipes that included fresh vegetables.  I wanted to make a fresh vegetable salad recipe but so many that we use in the South include mayonnaise and are actually quite similar. Now being a Southern girl, I am not bashing mayonnaise at all.  A fresh tomato sandwich with Duke’s mayonnaise is a southern tradition.

I received this recipe from my cousin and loved it.  I prepared it for us and it makes a huge portion.  I used the whole wheat penne pasta and I gave Mr. D the task of grilling the vegetables while I prepared the pasta so it was a fairly easy recipe to make.  The blending of the olive oil, pesto, lemon juice and spices in the salad is exceptional.  The charred vegetables and corn gives it a little crunch.  It will definitely be something I will make again.

Char-Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad

1 box whole penne pasta

½ cup of olive oil/divided

1 each:  yellow squash, zucchini, large bell pepper, 1 ear corn, l large tomato

1 Tbsp. pesto sauce

1 lemon juiced and zest of one lemon

1 pinch salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne and garlic powder.

Handful of chopped parsley

Cook pasta until el dente, drain and toss with ¼ cup of olive oil

Using a grill pan on stove or outdoor grill:  grill squash, zucchini and bell pepper.  Let cool.  Meanwhile shave corn off cob and then dice all vegetables including the tomato.

Toss vegetables and pasta together in large bowl.  Add pesto, lemon zest, lemon juice and remaining ¼ cup of olive oil and spices.  Toss all together and garnish with parsley.

You can add diced chicken or ham to the dish to make a great meal.

I think this would be good for any summertime meal and I am so thankful to my California cousin for inspiring me to try new things.  Is it Southern? Probably not but he does live in Southern California.

Thanks for stopping by.

Watauga Lake

Mr. D and I like to go on road trips.  As we both had a holiday for July 4th, we wanted to go somewhere nearby and to a place that wouldn’t be very crowded.  As he travels around all over the western part of North Carolina delivering tires, he knows of places I have never heard of.  He kept telling me about Watauga Lake.  Boone, NC is about 45 minutes to an hour away from our home here in Conover.  I have been there many times and it is located in Watauga County so it amazed me that I had never heard of  Watauga Lake.  We decided we would make a visit to Watauga Lake our July road trip.


The lake is located west of Boone and I was really amazed at how beautiful and peaceful it is.  There were boaters around but at the same time there was a lot of peace and quiet.  There are very few restaurants and I only saw one hotel.



The Information below is from the Tennessee Trip Advisor and gives more detailed information about the lake.


Watauga Lake, nestled in the Appalachian Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest in northeastern Tennessee, enjoys the most stunningly beautiful lake and mountain views in the ‘Volunteer State’. Started in 1942 and finally dammed on the last day of 1948, Watauga Lake is the TVA’s highest-elevated reservoir in Tennessee. Surrounded by densely forested mountains in the “high country”, Watauga Lake sits 1,959 feet above sea level at “full pool” (full summertime elevation). At Watauga Lake, it’s usually a few degrees cooler than similar locations closer to sea level.


Watauga’s surface covers 10.05 square miles of two mostly-rural Tennessee counties: Johnson County and Carter County. Watauga Lake is accessible only by winding mountain roads. The Appalachian Trail crosses the southwestern tip of Watauga Lake. The lake is located south of Mountain City (Tennessee), west of Boone (North Carolina), east of Elizabethton (Tennessee), southeast of Bristol (Tennessee), southwest of Damascus (Virginia), and northeast of Johnson City (Tennessee).

We started our trip in Boone and had to stop at Stick Boys Bakery.  Then we proceeded on to Tennessee and saw the lake from many different angels. We ate lunch at a seafood restaurant overlooking the lake and the food was very good.  We returned how through Banner Elk and past GrandfatherMountain.

We stopped and took pictures of the mountain laurel that are so pretty so I am sharing one of those pictures with you here.


As you can see, we had a very enjoyable road trip.  Thanks for stopping by.


Fried Steak – Chicken Fried or Country Style

A summer tradition at our house is country style steak with mashed potatoes and fried okra.  Several months ago my California cousin forwarded the following chicken fried steak recipe.  It seemed very similar to the country style steak that I make.  However, I had never tenderized my steak in a brine.  I gave this recipe a try and it had to be the best country style steak I have ever made.


Chicken Fried Steak

2-3 Lbs. of Tenderized Cube Steak ½ inch thick

2 Tbsp. Table salt for Brine

Tenderize meat, place in shallow pan or baking disk, cover with cold water.  Add table salt to create a brine solution.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

For Breading:

2 cups self rising flour  1 tsp. Paprika 1 tsp. garlic powder 1 tsp onion powder, 1 Tbsp. Kosher Salt, 1 tsp. black pepper, 1 scallion (green part only, finely chopped)

Heat 4 inches of oil over medium heat at 350 degrees.  (deep skillet)

In a shallow bowl, stir together flour, paprika, garlic and onion powder.  One by one lift steaks out of brine and drop into seasoned flour.  Coat well, shake off excess, repeat – dipping steaks back into the solution and then flour again.

Drop steaks (two at a time) into hot oil for approximately 10-12 minutes on each side.  (until brown and crispy).  Remove and rest for 10 minutes.

As I was reading through the recipe, I realized he had not shared his gravy recipe with me.  I make country style steak and it is not white gravy but brown gravy.  It is my understanding that chicken fried steak has white gravy.  I do plan to ask my California cousin for his recipe.

Here is how I make my gravy:

Reserve two tablespoons of drippings from frying the steak and add two tablespoons of flour.  Blend together on low heat until it starts to brown.  Add two cups of water or chicken broth, blend together and turn the heat up to medium.  Let cook for 5 or 10 minutes until thickened.  I usually use the two tablespoons of the seasoned flour from breading the steak.

Until I tried this recipe I had never double floured my steak but it made it so crispy on the outside and so tender on the inside.  There was so much flavor from the paprika, garlic powder and onion powder.  The green onion just gave it that little burst of flavor that made it extra special.

I think the most amazing thing about this is that my friend was sharing his grandmother’s recipe.  He lives in California and grew up in the west but the recipe is so similar to the country style recipes I have seen in the South. I think grandmothers of the past had a special network of preparing comforting foods that their grandchildren would remember forever.  Sadly, I don’t see that happening with future generations.

I do plan to make fried okra from scratch and that will be a challenge as I have not perfected that task yet.  I will let you know what happens.

Have a good weekend and thanks for stopping by.





Confetti Corn – A Summer Favorite

One of my favorite summer recipes is Ina Garten’s Confetti Corn from her back to basics cookbook.  On Saturday we purchased fresh corn at the Farmer’s Market.  Even though I was having a busy weekend, we had to have the confetti corn on Saturday night.  Ina uses herbs and onion to enhance the flavor of the corn and it is just delicious.

Here is her recipe.


2 tablespoons good olive oil
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 small orange bell pepper, 1/2-inch diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kernels cut from 5 ears yellow or white corn (4 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil, minced fresh chives, and/or minced fresh parsley leaves


Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes, until the onion is soft. Stir in the bell pepper and saute for 2 more minutes.
Add the butter to the pan and allow it to melt. Over medium heat, add the corn, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the corn just loses its starchiness. Season to taste, gently stir in the basil or other green herbs, and serve hot.
2008, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, All Rights Reserved

I love all the fresh fruits and vegetables of Summer but I have to say that fresh corn has to be a favorite. I hope it is available for you to enjoy too.

Thanks for stopping by

From Our House To Yours – Happy July 4th

Today, I am wishing for you a very Happy July 4th.  I hope you are able to spend it with those that are near and dear to you.  God Bless You and God Bless America.


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