Wednesday, May 22


With Spring officially on the back burner and Summer taking its seat at the head of the table, grilling enthusiasts across America are dusting off their grills and tidying up their backyards for what is sure to be the best grilling season EVER! But, before the first brat is dropped onto the flames you better be certain that your grill is in tip-top shape. Mr.P has informed me on more than one occasion that all of the grime on our grill makes for more flavor. Well fellow OCD-ers, my Germ-o-Phobe heart just ain't buying that and I'm sure the AMA or the CDC would surely agree! There’s nothing worse than a broken down filthy grill to get your Summer off to a rocky start.  With Memorial Day just around the corner and your first backyard shindig on the calendar, you need to pencil in some time to get your grill in mint condition. Here are a few easy steps to follow.
  • Turn The Grill On - Close the lid and get it super hot. Burn off the gunk left from the previous year. Let it run for a good 15-20 minutes. As it heats up, old food and residue will burn off the grill making it easier to scrape the remains.
  • Scrub The Grates - Remove the charred residue from the grates with a semi-flexible stainless steel brush. If the grates undersides are greasy, remove them and wipe them down with a wet, soapy sponge. Once your finished with the above, be sure to rinse the grates and them dry them off.
  • Attack The Burners - Pricier grills often have burner protectors, V shaped metal guarding the gas jets from food dripping. Remove the protectors, and use a putty knife or something similar to scrape the grease off. If this isn't doing the trick, get some hot soapy water and scrub away. Then as above, rinse and dry.
  • Attack The Burners Part II - Clean the burners with a stainless steel brush. Are the gas jets open or clogged? If clogged, use a thin wire, a clothes hanger may work to poke a hole through the center of each one. If the holes are rusted, its time to replace the burners. Now remove the burners in preparation for the next step.
  • Hit The Walls Of The Grill - You want to remove carbonized grease so it doesn't affect the taste of the food. If scraping it off isn't working, again revert to dish soap and water.
  • Show The Outside Of Your Grill Some Love - We all know it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but don’t let your grill be an eye sore in an otherwise well groomed backyard. A little bit of elbow grease will go a long way. Take a wire brush to any rust and scrub it down. Wipe away grease with a dedicated stainless steel cleaner and semi-soft sponge. Make your grill sparkle.
  • Turn The Grill On Part II -  Close the lid and get it super hot. Burn off any residual soap or germs that might leave a bit of a taste on the first burgers you cook. Let it run for 10-15 minutes. This is oh so not necessary, but it will ensure that you have put your grill back together properly....and it does calm my OCD spirit. When it has cooled off be sure to cover it well to keep it clean and debris-free all Summer long.
  • Clean The Area Immediately Around The Grill - Eliminate fire hazards and move any ill-placed furniture or lawn accessories that might cause future problems. The hose you forget to move today will be the one you trip over tomorrow...and you may be carrying a plate full of burgers when you do! Give yourself room to work. When there’s an open flame involved it’s important that you stay focused AND safe. If you're interested in keeping your eyebrows this Summer, here's a great link for grill safety.
Yes fellow grillers, with a little elbow grease it IS possible to restore your grill almost to it's former glory! SO, ON YOUR MARK, GET SET, READY....GRILL!

I do hope you found these easy tips useful and will help you make the most of the upcoming grilling season. With a clean grill you’ll be able to give ample attention to a calendar full of backyard parties. If nature cooperates soon we'll all be enjoying the sweet smells of our neighbor's grills, as well as our own. Fill your Summer with that heavenly smoked-filled air that only a grill creates.....'ll be glad ya did!

What times dinner??

Tuesday, May 21

Travel Tuesday: Parisian Picnics

While travelling in France during the Summer Mr.P and I indulge in one of the favorite past time of many Parisians: Le Pique-nique! Picnic season is in full swing in Paris and the possibilities are endless, from benches and bridges, to parks and promenades. When the weather is warm, you’ll notice everyone from schoolchildren to businessmen grabbing a sandwich and a spot on the nearest bench to mellow out for a bit. Join in by gathering an assortment of delicious things to sample and wile away a Summer afternoon picnicking with the French. Here are a few places to enjoy the perfect Parisian Picnic…

As hard as it may seem to believe this little patch of green is right smack-dab in the middle of Paris and it's definitely worth a stroll. The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont sets high up in Belleville and often missed by weekenders keen not to stray too far from the tourist loop, this 19th arrondissement gem is one of the city's most unknown magical spots. 
When the city's boundaries were expanded in 1860, Belleville, once a village that provided Paris with fruit, wine and weekend escapes, was absorbed and the Buttes-Chaumont was created on the site of a former limestone quarry. The park, with its meandering paths, waterfalls and towering cliffs was opened as part of the celebrations for the Universal Exhibition in 1867. If  you can't make it to the Parc  des Buttes Chaumont for a picnic head to Rosa Bonheur. Set in the park, this mysterious tavern, heritage listed, takes its name from a famous painter of the nineteenth century. While it has retained its traditional appearance, this wonderfully jolly restaurant becomes one of the epicenters of the Parisian hip crowd at night. LOCATION: 1 rue Botzaris M Buttes Chaumont; metro line 7a

The institution of the picnic dates back to medieval Europe, when outdoor feasts were served before hunting, so what better place to have a picnic than where it all began? The medieval-inspired gardens beside the Musée National du Moyen Age, right in the heart of the Latin quarter, offer a tranquil haven from the bustling Boulevard Saint Germain. Split into three sections, the names of the gardens sound like something straight out of King Arthur. Past the ‘carpet of a thousand flowers’ and through the ‘sunken lane’ you come to a courtyard headed by a silver reed fountain.
Within lie a quartet of square gardens with period-inspired themes: a medicinal garden, a celestial garden, a vegetable patch and a garden of love. When it comes time to unpack your basket, head beyond the courtyard to the shady glades of the ‘unicorn forest.’ Hidden behind a woven wicker fence, medieval plants like hazel, elder, holly and medlar reign supreme here. Through the ‘forest’ you can even glimpse the ruins of the only remaining Roman baths in Paris. LOCATION:Latin Quarter, the 5th arrondissement; at the corner of St. Germain Boulevard and Boulevard St. Michel; Metro: Cluny la Sorbonne; bus line 10.

Round up your crew and head to one of Paris’ most idyllic public spaces.
While most of the grass is off limits, ah, the French, there is a wide swath on the south side where you can relax without getting covered in limestone dust. Great spot for people watching. The French ride horses here, run and walk on the park’s winding trails and children sail boats in the central pond. LOCATION: Boulevard Saint-Michel, rue de Vaugirard, rue Guynemer, rue Auguste Comte, rue de Médicis; 5th and 6th arrondissements; Metro: Odeon; Bus Lines 4 and 10. Enter on rue Auguste Comte for easiest access to this spot.

Romantics and first-time visitors would do well to set up on the vast Champs de Mars at the base of the Eiffel Tower.
This park extends from the École militaire to the Eiffel Tower and is accessible day and night. There’s plenty of grass to spread out on and it offers a wonderful view of the capital’s most famous monument. If you picnic at sunset you can watch the tower sparkle with lights, and romantic Paris just doesn't get any better than this.  LOCATION: Avenue Gustave Eiffel, Avenue Charles Floquet, Avenue de la Motte-Picquet, Avenue Emile Deschanel, Avenue Elisée Reclus; 7th arrondissement; Metro: Ecole Militaire; Bus Line: 8.

As the city’s highest park, this off-the-beaten path refuge has one of Paris’ most breathtaking views. 
Filled with forest boughs, grassy patches and wildflowers, it's the type of park you don't see in the center of Paris, untamed, modern and breathtaking. The trek to the 20th arrondissement is well worth it, especially if you come in the evening to watch the sun sink behind the Eiffel Tower. LOCATION: rue des Couronnes, rue Piat, rue Julien-Lacroix, rue Jouye-Rouve, 20th arrondissement. Metro: Pyrénées, Bus Line 11.

With its statues, bushes, and trees, the garden has become a favorite meeting place where Parisians and visitors alike can relax right in the heart of the capital. 
Just steps from the Louvre, this lovely manicured park is a wonderful place to eat a bite, catch your breath and bask in the beauty of this very Parisian flower garden. The backdrop of great architecture and modern art is a delightful added bonus. LOCATION: Métro: Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre; open 7:00a-11:00p June-July-August; until 8:30p other months. 
Of course, you don’t need to plan a “destination picnic” to enjoy the outdoors in Paris. The city’s little squares, hidden gardens, sprawling staircases and winding riverbanks provide perfect places to spontaneously settle in for an unplanned afternoon of relaxation. And isn’t that what a Parisian Summer afternoon should be? Eating, musing, lounging, making sense, not making sense, and practicing the ever-important art of doing nothing. 

If you find yourself in Paris this Summer, SLOW DOWN! Grab a basket; fill it with all things French, find your own patch of green and ENJOY Paris' backyard...'ll be glad ya did!


Sunday, May 19

Chicken, Mushroom and Gruyère Grilled Sandwiches

Many years ago as we were traveling through  France the language barrier, for once, actually worked in my favor. As I was ordering a ham and gruyère  sandwich, our young waiter asked me several questions that I did NOT understand. Mr.P, in his infinite wisdom, pulled out his Berlitz guide and attempted to translate for me. The waiter smiled kindly, shook his head in 'understanding' and retreated to the kitchen. Mr.P was grins from ear to ear and I was dully impressed with my husband's - however limited but helpful - knowledge of the French language and the patience of this gracious waiter. As Mr.P and I sat back enjoying our café au laits and the scene around us, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves and I'm sure the waiter was having a good laugh with the cook. When our lunch arrived Mr.P's steak frites looked divine and what I thought would be a simple ham and gruyère sandwich turned out to be a divine looking grilled sandwich with the added ingredients of arugula and juicy peaches. I look from the sandwich to the waiter and back again and as Mr.P began trying to 'fix' the situation, I just held up my hand and smiled to our waiter...I figured it was better to leave my sandwich as is and try something new. It quickly became clear this was one of the best misunderstandings I had ever had with a Frenchman on the subject of food. This golden and crunchy sandwich of warm ham, melted gruyère, arugula and juicy peaches was unexpectedly wonderful. As peach juice began to run down my chin in delightful embarrassment, I realized this was, at that time, the best food experience I had ever had. Up to that point the only 'grilled' sandwich I had ever eaten was a simple grilled cheese sandwich. I had accidentally discovered paninis and there was no looking back. When we returned home, I looked for a panini press but was having difficulty getting past the sticker shock. In desperation for an alternative, I pulled out my tried and true George Foreman grill and it was magic! I was on the road to making my own original panina. I found the recipe below back in the 90's and it soon became a Porter favorite. I hope you enjoy it as well....but make it your own. Add your favorite ingredients, there are no mistakes here and even if there were.......who's to know??

This sandwich is best done as leftovers, as it would be a heck of a lot of prep work and cooking just to make a grilled sandwich. My recommendation is to do the whole deal: roast the chicken for dinner the night before, then use the leftovers for the sandwich the next day.

Chicken, Mushroom and Gruyère Grilled Sandwiches

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 6 fresh cremini or white button mushrooms,
     brushed clean and thinly sliced, about 1 cup
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 oz. Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
  • 4 slices firm-textured sandwich bread
  • 5 oz. sliced roasted chicken, about 1 cup
  • 2 Tbs. mayonnaise

  • In a large nonstick fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they give off their juices and the liquid evaporates, about 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  • Sprinkle half of the cheese on 2 slices of the bread. Top with equal amounts of the chicken, the mushrooms and the remaining cheese. Top each with one of the remaining bread slices. Press each sandwich gently. Spread 1 Tbs. of the mayonnaise over the tops of the sandwiches.
  • Wipe out the fry pan with paper towels. Heat the pan over medium-high heat until hot. Place the sandwiches, mayonnaise side down, in the pan. Spread the remaining mayonnaise on the tops of the sandwiches. Cook, turning once, until both sides are golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. I use my GF grill! Serve hot. 
  • Serves 2.
Variation Tips: Here are other great combinations for your grilled chicken sandwich. Thinly sliced apples with sharp cheddar cheese on whole-wheat bread; provolone cheese, fresh basil leaves and olive paste on thinly sliced Italian bread; sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and fresh oregano leaves on semolina bread and of course the tried and true gruyère, arugula and fresh peaches on country bread.


Saturday, May 18

SOME LIKE IT HOT: Jamaica's Succulent Jerk Barbecue

                                                                               Mr.P and I first experienced 'Jamaican Jerk' at Blue Heaven  while vacationing in Key West, Florida. I thought I knew what the culinary word 'jerk' meant before we set out for Jamaica. I was ready to indulge once again on that wonderful spicy barbecue. Oh Boy! Was I ever wrong! Mr.P and I were in for a real shocker, we learned the true meaning of jerk at Scotchies, an unassuming barbecue restaurant in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We learned fast to keep the jerk in one hand and a bottle of water in the other! It wasn't just spicy it was down right hot, but truly a wonderful food experience that we will NEVER forget. 

You know you're getting near Scotchies by the irresistible smell of sweet smoke in the air. You'll find friendly cooks tending marinated meat over the fire pits. They specializes in 'jerk', in fact that's about all they serve, along with the local beer. Jamaican Jerk is considered to be a succulent, spicy style of barbecue. I'm from TEXAS folks and it's like no barbecue I have ever eaten before. But self-proclaimed jerk lovers line up for this special Jamaican food wonder, dousing hunks of hot, fragrant meat in blistering hot, piquant sauce, and devouring it quickly.
The key to jerks tremendous appeal lies in the unique way it's prepared. The meat is cooked atop wood set over charcoal on long trough-like grills. The white smoke from local branches is captured beneath sheets of galvanized steel that are laid on top of the grill, so that the jerk steams as it smokes, resulting in moist, tender meat. Allspice, ginger, cinnamon, and thyme lend fragrance to the complex paste in which the meat marinates before it's cooked; scallions and citrus give it sharpness and tang; and plenty of black pepper and Scotch bonnet chile add heat. Now a days, the jerk meat of choice is chicken, though the technique is also applied to sausage, seafood, goat, beef, lamb, the original jerk meat, pork and of course fish. Dating back to the time of slavery in Jamaica, this cooking technique was developed as a method for runaway slaves to cook food without being caught. Traditionally, they would dig a pit, light a fire of sweet wood, then lay the meat on top, covered by a piece of tin, then bury it. They hunted feral pigs, which were abundant in 18th century Jamaica. What ever spices they could forage were rubbed into the meat before cooking. This method allowed little smoke to escape, but made the meat falling-off-the-bone tender. Not only did this preserve the meat making it portable, but, as later visitors discovered, it also tasted wonderful. Some visitors to Jamaica find jerk to be more delicious than American barbecue, full of fiery chiles and fragrant spices.  If you visit Jamaica it should be on your 'not to be missed' list. Get ready for your upper lip to sweat!


Lining up at the order window.
Montego Bay, Jamaica
¾ cup packed light brown sugar                
¾ cup ground allspice
¾ cup minced scallions
½ cup peanut or canola oil
⅓ cup ground black pepper
¼ cup kosher salt
¼ cup minced ginger
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles,

stemmed, seeded and minced
2  3-4-lb. chickens, each quartered


1. Combine sugar, allspice, scallions, oil, pepper, salt, ginger, juice, soy sauce, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, garlic, and chiles in a bowl. Add chicken; toss to coat in jerk marinade. Cover with plastic wrap; chill at least 6 hours, or overnight.

2. Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill orheat a gas grill to medium. Add chicken, skin side down; cook, turning once, until marinade forms a crust on the outside, about 8 minutes. Cover grill; continue cooking until cooked through, about 40 minutes. (Alternatively, transfer chicken to a foil-lined baking sheet; bake in a 350° oven until done.)

For jerk, it’s hard to beat Scotchies. The open-air restaurant features an exposed “kitchen,” which is more like a staging area for smoking meat, and the authentically seasoned chicken, fish and pork is served with a side of Scotch Bonnet pepper sauce. We were allowed to go back to the grill area, where a cook named Shorty makes all the magic happen.
If you happen to be in the land of the Rastafarian, stop in at Scotchies and try the jerk. It's the best island food bar none! Those who cook this zesty fare take pride in using their own special blends of seasonings, often kept secret. But one thing is universal when it comes to jerk: Nothing meets the heat like a well-chilled local Red Stripe beer, or for those non-drinkers like me, a huge bottle of ice cold water! Sample jerk dishes at Scotchies, a rustic place just a few miles north of Montego Bay that's adored by locals and travelers alike. It is something to see and is one of Jamaica's most powerful sensory experiences. At least that's legal.....


Relaxing under a palm tree, listening to the sounds of the water 
and land, eating a jerk smoked chicken leg........IT COULD WORK!
How about you??

Thursday, May 16

Blueberry Muffins with A Tangy Lemon Sauce

This Blueberry Muffin recipe has been with me since 1983. At the time, I worked for a wonderful couple that were and are great friends of our family, Bill and Christine Chaney. Ms. Chris was old school...which I happen to think is pretty terrific. There are several standing facts I know to be true about this wonderful woman. She LOVES the Lord. She LOVES Mr. Bill and her family. She LOVES that business..... and at 9 am every Saturday morning Ms. Chris is gettin' her hair "done" at the beauty parlor. Meaning only one thing... she would be late to work and she would be packing a box of her homemade Blueberry Muffins. To be sure, Ms. Chris was a lover of recipes. ALL RECIPES. She loved to pour over magazines looking for new recipes, she talked about recipes and she asked others for recipes when she ate something she really liked. In general she was looking for that next inspired recipe. She was and still is an amazing cook and friend....thanks for the INSPIRATION Ms. Chris and keep on cooking!

Yields: 1 dozen
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  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1-1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries*
Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl; set aside. Combine the egg, oil and milk, mixing well. Add to dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. 
Fold in Blueberries. Line your muffin tin with paper cups and fill about 3/4 full with batter. 
I use an ice cream scoop, it's just easier and you are assured that all of your muffins will come out about the same size. 
I also add just a few extra berries on top of my muffins before putting them in the oven, it makes for a pretty muffin...if you are into that sort of thing. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  
Serve HOT out of the oven! Sauce or no sauce, these Blueberry muffins are hard to beat.



Mainly because I am Ka-RAZY about lemons and I firmly believe everything is better with lemon on it, I usually make a simple tangy lemon sauce to brush or drizzle on my muffins while they are hot. With minimal effort and maximum results, it's hard to beat my FAVORITE muffin sauce of all time! Once I pop my muffins in the oven, I add these few ingredients to my smallest sauce pan and I let my sauce cook slowly as I'm picking up my kitchen. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, your family will be thrilled. It's the little quiet things that make life sweet.

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream 
1 stick unsalted butter
Zest and Juice from a large lemon
1/4 - 1/3 granulated sugar {I use only 1/4 cup sugar...I like tart}

Add all ingredients to a small saucepan. Bring to a low boil; immediately turn down your heat to low. Stir occasionally as sauce simmers 5 minutes. When the muffins come out of the oven,  remove them from the muffin tin and place on a cooling rack. While muffins are hot brush or drizzle with the Tangy Lemon Sauce, letting it soak into the muffins.  YUM! * I use Dole Frozen Blueberries during the winter months, they are great.


Monday, May 13

My dearest Elizabeth,

I knew this day would come. Today you are 18 and with this birthday you are one minute closer to leaving us. You are an adult and in three short months you will be off to follow your dreams. I must have blinked hard Elizabeth because just the other day we were bringing you home from the hospital…all bundled up in pink. 
At the time, Daddy and I wanted another son, did you know that? But then you were born and we wondered how we had made it all of those years without you. I remember standing by your crib, just looking at you, watching you sleep. I was in awe that such a precious, perfect little baby girl was ours. Nighttime quickly became my favorite time of day. It was our special time alone. I read and sang to you, talked to you just like you knew exactly what I was saying and eventually had the joy of rocking you to sleep. 
As you grew, we were just plain  fascinated by you. You WERE our entertainment! What can you say about a girl that can ride a pony with one foot and comforts and reassures her bear that all will be fine in the washer and not to be afraid of the dark dryer because she would be waiting for him when he came out. I tell you Elizabeth, you are a wonder.
We watched you learn to crawl, walk, jump and run. At times we have listened to you cry, giggle, talk and sing. We have held you when you were hurt, confused and frustrated. Daddy and I watched as you discovered, learned and eventually fell in love with the new things God brought into your life. Somehow we have survived the teen years with only a few eye rolls and a minimal degree of sass. 
We learned to give you space, and you rewarded us by making good choices and becoming a young woman of grace and faith. You bear an amazing strength of conviction, honesty, and most of all, incredible self-confidence. You know who you are, what you want and more importantly, what you do not. You have a heart for Jesus, social justice, friends and family and helping others. You know no prejudice, selfishness, or greed and you have often taught me life lessons along the way. Girl of mine, you are incredible.   
Your high school years have gone far too fast… sweet silly girlfriends, Friday night football games, a driver’s license, a steady boyfriend, and college plans. I’m not sure how to slow it down, but I wish I could do so. I cherish all of those late-night talks we had about choices and consequences, feelings and decisions and well, 
I told you what you wanted to hear and sometimes what you did not. I told you what you needed to know and checked up to make sure you were listening. There were times when Daddy and I told you “yes” and “no” and “absolutely not!”  We hugged you, trusted you, believed in you, and loved you unconditionally – and always will. Your eyes see beauty and the best in others, your fingers are busy with creativity and your smile brightens the world around you. You, my dear, are magical.
I have no doubt that you are ready for this world. For you are already a smart, talented and  focused young woman with a level head and faith that will carry you through any tough roads ahead. You have always been mature beyond your years and Daddy and I have complete confidence that you will conquer this world with your grace and wit. Although I never did sell you on the virtues of a tidy room and clothes on a hanger, I feel I have been successful as your mom. I worked hard at it, but I made mistakes too. I owe any real success to God’s grace and your forgiving spirit. Being your mother is truly one of the greatest blessing of my life. If God’s love is greater than a mother's love, then I am awestruck by how immense that love must be.  For I love you more than you could ever know. Elizabeth, you are my heart.
Happy 18th Birthday Sweetie Pea. You make US proud and happy and blessed beyond measure.