Archives for August 2011

silent sunday



gone fishin’

I’m taking a week off for some family time, some beach time, and some much deserved relaxation. There’s no wifi and no cell coverage where I’ll be (which is, by the way, the best way to FORCE yourself to relax). But rest assured there’s a farmer’s market, delicious wine and a boat. Not much more you can ask for.

Back soon with more deliciousness.


summer grilled cheese

This post was going to be about the glory of summer produce; beautiful corn, fresh basil, tart limes. I was going to tell you how I created this sandwich on soft brioche with melted sharp cheddar, tangy lime mayo, crisp basil and crunchy corn and how it brings the classic comfort food to a whole new (summery) level.

But I haven’t had time to write that dreamy, descriptive post. I haven’t had a serene moment with a cup of coffee and the quiet click of the laptop keys. And I haven’t had it because of all the screaming. Hours of screaming. From two little girls. Two little girls with four big lungs.

The baby is getting teeth. Two teeth, to be exact, and the poor thing just wants to chew through the table. If you’re a parent you know that there’s nothing more feared than the word teething (other than maybe blow-out) and that the little babes just go through hell to pop those little pearly whites out of their gums. You also know that no matter how long your baby sleeps at night, during teething those rules don’t apply. Needless to say, I’m tired.

The non-baby has decided that waking up halfway through every nap and every night is totally fun, especially when it means she gets to scream for mom and dad. She seems scared but can’t tell us what of. We ask her if she had a bad dream and she nods and cries, although I don’t think she has the foggiest idea what a dream is (her standard answer when I ask what she dreamed about has always been “monkeys cutting pizza!” which actually sounds like a delightful dream to have). She wants to sleep in our bed and then she doesn’t. She wants to sleep on the couch and then she doesn’t. She wants to sleep in the guest room and then she doesn’t. She does want to yell like there’s no tomorrow, and not go back to sleep for hours, and not nap, and be a tired cranky-pants all the time. So I’m a tired cranky-pants all the time who only has time to cook grilled cheese and not to blog about it.

But I digress. I have this moment now, where both children are sleeping, and I have a can of Diet Crack and the sun coming through the windows. So now I have time to tell you that to make this heavenly sandwich you’ll need bread (I used brioche, which is pretty much as good as it gets), mayonnaise (I like the olive oil-based stuff), a wedge of lime, cheese (I used sharp cheddar, but any cheese that melts nicely will do), one clove of garlic, and a ton of fresh basil.

Begin by squeezing the lime into the mayo. You would think that all that citrus would curdle the dairy, but if you stir quickly, there’s nothing to worry about. Cover & refrigerate until ready to use.

Mince the garlic…

…and slice the corn from the cob.

Saute the corn and garlic in a tablespoon of butter for just a few moments—sweet summer corn hardly needs any cooking at all.

Butter one side of 4 slices of bread…

…and spread the lime mayo on the other halves.

Layer on the basil…

…sauteed corn…

…and cheese.

Place sandwiches butter side down in a cold skillet with a tight fitting lid. Place skilled over medium heat. When first side is crisp, remove lid, flip sandwiches, and cook uncovered until crisp. This lid trick is great for allowing the cheese to melt (especially with thicker bread) while not burning the bread. Perfect grilled cheese, every time.

The melted cheddar wraps around those tender corn kernels creating tiny bites of sweet crunch. The basil adds brightness and the lime mayo creates a creamy tang.

Classic winter comfort food redesigned for summer. Whip up a batch of these crispy grilled cheese sandwiches, pour a glass of sauvingon blanc and sit out on the patio with your sweetie.

Ahhhhh. Summer.

And there goes the screaming again. At least I can dream of quiet moments.

Summer Grilled Cheese Sandwiches     printable recipe

This sunny version of the classic comfort food wouldn’t be complete without a cold beer or a glass of crisp white wine. Makes 2 sandwiches. 

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 5-10 minutes

  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 wedge lime
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 ear sweet corn, shucked
  • 1 tbsp butter, plus more for bread
  • 4 slices bread (I like brioche)
  • 4 slices sharp cheddar (or whatever cheese you prefer)
  • several leaves fresh basil
1. Juice the lime wedge into the mayonaise. Stir and refrigerate.
2. Mince the garlic. Slice the corn kernels from the cob. Melt the butter in a skilled over medium heat. Add the garlic and corn and saute for 1-3 minutes, just until corn brightens in color. Remove from heat.
3. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Turn and spread lime mayonnaise on opposite side of bread. Layer on the basil, corn and cheese. Place sandwiches butter side down in a large, cold skillet covered with a tight fitting lid. Set over medium heat and cook until bread is crisp and lightly browned. Remove lid, flip sandwiches and cook uncovered until cheese is melted and bread is crisp. Slice and serve.

raspberry cheesecakesicles

Remember in high school when you were forced to take a career aptitude test? You had to fill in little bubbles with #2 pencil, answering questions like “Do you enjoy completing the same task repeatedly?” and “Do you put others’ needs before your own?”
A few weeks later you were handed a list of possible careers. While my friends ooohed and aaahed at the prospect of becoming doctors and legal aides, I stared down at my own results list.
Jenny Puckett
Score: 0
Possible Career Matches: none
Likelihood of living in a van down by the river: 100%
“Well, shit,” I thought. “I guess I’m not suited to do anything.”
Yes, it’s a crap test. No, it won’t actually tell you what you’re going to do with your life. Because if it had any powers of prediction it would have said:
Jenny Puckett
Score: Awesome
Possible Career Matches: One Billion and a Half
Likelihood of crafting fabulous desserts: 100% 
Take my newest creation, for example. It combines the creaminess of cheesecake with the chill of ice cream. It has a crunchy graham cracker crust, requires no baking, and is so easy to make a toddler could do it (mine did).
All you’ll need are a few waxed paper cups and popsicle sticks, along with sugar, whipped topping (Cool Whip), raspberries, cream cheese, butter and graham crackers.

Place the graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse several times until fine crumbs form.

Melt the butter, pour it over the crumbs and squish together with your fingers until the crumbs are thoroughly moistened.

Scoop one heaping tablespoon into the bottom of each cup (or have a tiny helper do this part. It got messy but she was in seventh heaven).

Press the crumbs down firmly into the bottom of each cup. The more compact, the better. Lucy’s tiny pink “wine glass” was perfect for this step (yes, I find it weird that my 2 year-old has pretend wine glasses, too. I have no idea where they came from).

Stick them in the freezer for at least 15 minutes or until the crust is set.

In the meantime put the cream cheese, raspberries and sugar in a large bowl.

Blend with an electric mixer until smooth.

Fold in the whipped topping…

…and use a large freezer bag with the tip cut off to squirt the filling into each cup.

Insert the popsicle sticks into the center of the filling, careful not to push too far and break the crust. This is such a fun dessert to make with kids. Lucy was so proud of herself.

Stick ’em all in the freezer for at least an hour before serving.

When you’re ready to eat, simply tear away the cup and you’re good to go.

These are so creamy and light, with fresh raspberry flavor and great texture from the crust. They’re such a fun, easy dessert—we’ll be making batches for the rest of the summer with blackberries, peaches, cherries and nectarines. They would be so fun for a party, too, as an alternative to cupcakes or ice cream cake.

Take that, career crap-titude test. I’m a dessert genius.

Raspberry Cheesecakesicles        printable recipe

This is a fun, easy summer dessert that’s great for parties. Substitute your favorite fruit or combination of fruits to make your own flavor! Makes 8 popsicles. 

Prep Time: 15 minutes Freeze Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

  • 7 graham crackers to yield 1 c graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 8 waxed paper cups, 9 oz size
  • 8 popsicle sticks
  • 1 c raspberries
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 8 oz whipped topping (Cool Whip)

1. Pulse graham crackers in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Using your fingers, mix crumbs with melted butter until thoroughly moistened. Pour one heaping tablespoon of crumb mixture into each cup and press down very firmly. Freeze cups for 15 minutes or until crusts are hardened.

2. In a large bowl beat together raspberries, cream cheese and sugar using an electric mixer. Fold in whipped topping. Pour mixture into large freezer bag, cut off tip, and squeeze filling into cups. Insert popsicle sticks into center of filling, being careful not to pierce crust. Freeze for at least one hour before serving. Carefully tear away paper cups and eat.

orzo with red cherries & basil

Summer produce is in full swing. We’re in that magical sweet spot where raspberries are bountiful, blackberries are just beginning to make an appearance, peaches are getting sweeter, nectarines are juicy, and there are even a few straggling strawberries left to be picked.

And then there are cherries. Sweet, juicy cherries with that gorgeous blood-red color that screams summer. But what to do with them that’s new and inventive? I recently had a mind-blowing orzo salad at my Aunt’s house that I couldn’t stop thinking about. I thought it would be fabulous with a few red cherries and tons of sweet basil. A savory use for cherries? It’s just what August ordered.

To make it, you’ll also need balsamic vinegar, olive oil, good quality grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (throw that green can of Kraft out the window. Please.), and some pine nuts. Most better grocers carry orzo (a rice-shaped pasta) on the pasta aisle.

Bright red cherries are truly summer in a bowl.

And sweet basil? My favorite herb, hands down.

To begin, cook the orzo according to package directions. Drain and place in a heat-proof bowl.

Stir in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Let cool, then place in the refrigerator to chill.

Right before you’re ready to eat, pit the cherries and chop into sixths.

Chop the basil. Your kitchen will smell heavenly.

Toss the cherries, basil, pine nuts and cheese into the pasta. Stir, and adjust the seasonings to taste (I added a few pinches of salt and a little extra vinegar).

Serve. It’s such a pretty summer salad, and would be fantastic next to grilled pork, chicken or salmon.

So easy to make, so flavorful, so summery. Happy August!

Orzo with Red Cherries & Basil adapted from Bon Appetit      printable recipe

This summery pasta salad can be made in advance and pairs well with grilled pork, chicken or salmon. Prep time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes plus time to refrigerate.

  • 1 lb orzo
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar, plus more to taste
  •  1/2 lb red cherries
  • 2 oz basil to yield roughly 1/2 c chopped
  • 1/3 c grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 c pine nuts
  • salt and pepper to taste
1. Cook the orzo according to package directions. Drain well and place in a heat-proof bowl. Stir in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, stir well and allow to cool. Cover and place in the refrigerator until chilled.
2. Pit the cherries and cut into sixths. Remove basil leaves from stems and chop.
3. Right before serving, toss the chilled orzo with the cherries, basil, cheese and pine nuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper and additional vinegar if desired.