Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Lunch On The Riverboat

Our Tennessee Travelers Chapter of FMCA (motorhome club) recently had a little summer get-together for a lunch cruise aboard the Star Of Knoxville riverboat - a 325 passenger paddle wheeler.  The boat headed downriver from downtown Knoxville for a two hour round trip cruise.  This is the docking area with the boat behind it, then out on the river.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Creamy Feta Dressing

I’ve found that I like virtually no bottled salad dressings as most of them seem have this unusual flavor that I call a “wang” that I don’t care for – since so many have it, I assume it might be a preservative.  We usually keep a bottle around for when we run-out , but otherwise I prefer homemade or semi-homemade dressings.

I really like Greek flavors including Feta Cheese on salads and I have always used a vinaigrette with crumbled cheese.  Unfortunately for my waistline, I also really like creamy dressings, such as Bleu Cheese, so I went in search of a recipe for a creamy Feta and my search led me to this one from Food.com.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Limoncello Follow-Up

Back in May, I posted about our first batch of limoncello and commented that the next batch would be made with Everclear but I ended up using 100 proof vodka instead and I made a larger batch using 2.5 liters of the liquor and scaled the other ingredients to get this.

25 lemons
2.5 liters of 100 proof vodka
6 2/3 cup sugar
8 1/3 cups water

I added everything to a gallon jar and let it macerate for 3 weeks then added the sugar water (it took two containers) and let it set another month before bottling (it was delicious).

For our third batch, I used 1.75 liters of vodka and 750ml of Everclear and I look forward to seeing if there are any differences (in about six weeks).  If mine looks like it has less lemon peel than others, that's because it contains all of the liquor. 

Thanks Velva for getting me started with making this.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


5/12/17 Finished Date

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Fried Green Tomatoes Ala Roz

I’ve always loved fried green tomatoes and when I was growing up, my family often had them in simple fashion – sliced about ¼“, S&P, dusted with flour, fried in Crisco, eaten as an open faced sandwich on a slice of white bread.  They’ve come a long way since then and are now featured on many restaurant menus as appetizers, side dishes, and sandwiches usually with much more sophisticated coatings than mom’s simple flour.

I’ve tried many versions in restaurants and enjoyed most of them but have never been able to create a satisfactory coating at home so I decided to give Roz’s “The Best Fried Green Tomatoes With Garlic, Bacon, And Buttermilk Sauce a try from her La Bella Vita blog.

I won’t reprint the recipe here but encourage you to stop by her blog for the details and some great photos – you really need to see her shots – then you’ll likely be heading to the store to pick up some green tomatoes.  I borrowed one of her pics to whet your appetite. 

The only change I made to her recipe was in cutting the tomatoes about 1/3.”

Her blog also includes a dipping sauce recipe and a photo of tomatoes stacked with pimento cheese.  Since we had some smoked gouda pimento cheese on hand, I opted to try them both ways.

The tomatoes were delicious without any toppings so I have found my coating recipe and will make this the go-to version.  I deep fried them at 350 degrees but after reading this in Wikipedia – “Shallow frying is preferred, as the tomatoes do not float in the oil, which allows the weight of the tomato to press the cornmeal to the underside of the tomato.  This negates the need for a wash” – I’ll still use Roz’s wash but I’ll try pan frying next time to see which I prefer.

I followed the sauce recipe as written and next time would make two changes – First, I thought the bacon was a little overwhelming so next time I will use half as much and second, the sauce was overly salty, which may have come from the bacon so next time I will mix and let it set a while then salt to taste.  While I enjoyed the pimento cheese stack, I preferred the dipping sauce.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


7/09/17 Meal Date

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Pork Chop (Chicken)/ Hash Brown Casserole and French Toast

I had a craving for chicken thighs so I picked up a package during a recent store visit and I had saved this recipe from Coupon Cravings which sounded very good, so I decided to marry them and just substitute chicken for the pork chops.

6 chicken thighs (we used bone-in)
1 T. oil
1 c. sour cream
10¾ oz. can cream of chicken condensed soup
½ c. milk
28-32 oz. pkg. frozen hash browns
1 c. onion chopped
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese

1. Brown the pork chops on both sides in the oil in a pan and drain on paper towels.
2. Combine all other ingredients (hash browns last) and spread in a 9x13 baking dish.
3. Top with browned chicken (mine could have cooked a little longer).

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Visit With Our Kids and Grandkids – Part 4 – Wrap-Up

All-in-all, I think it was a great visit and everyone seemed to have a fine time, some are already looking forward to next year.  From a food standpoint, we had the low country boil, hot dogs & Dutch oven fried potatoes (a Kathy must), Lasagna, Sloppy Joes, scrambled eggs (a Matthew must), pancakes, and French toast casserole.  Here is my hot dog plate – grilled wieners, homemade hot dog sauce, potatoes fried is a large cast iron pot.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Visit With Our Kids and Grandkids – Part 3 – Off-Site

In addition to playing on the lake, the kids did several off-site things while here, beginning with a visit to Bald River Falls in the Cherokee National Forest near Tellico Plains, TN.  Only part of the gang went and they got to see some good water coming over the falls and play in the pool at the bottom.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Visit With Our Kids and Grandkids – Part 2 – Karaoke (Humorous)

Our good friends Carol and Joe are big time Karaoke fans and have a real set up for doing it including some big speakers and hundreds of fully cataloged songs on CD’s.  Since many of our family are singers, we decide it would make for a good activity following the Low Country Boil on the dock and as I found out later several of them were expecting a boring evening.

As is usually the case, folks are reluctant to get up to the mic but since I’m the worst singer in the group and don’t worry about what they think, I went first with brave granddaughter Katelyn.  Here is a shot of the audience with several looking through the song lists.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Visit With Our Kids and Grandkids – Part 1 - Lake and Low County Boil


Our Texas (Roden’s) and Illinois (Doolittle’s) families came in for their annual lake visit and they were joined by two of the Walker (South Carolina) kids and the two older grandkid’s boy friend’s for a total of nine kids ages 10 thru 20 and three adults – had Madison been able to come, all eight of the grands would have been together for the first time in I can’t remember when.  All twelve of them slept here along with Cindy and us so we had the RV and beds full plus several on couches and recliners but they found a way to make it work.

In addition to being with each other, the main purpose of the visit is to play at the lake, especially riding a tube behind the jet ski.  Here are some shots of them in action.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Mt. Airy, NC Rally – Part 3

Thursday was an on-your-own-day and Bev and I decided to make it a wine day as the Yadkin Valley has a blooming winery industry.

We began downtown at a wine shop called Uncorked In Mayberry, which we thought was a tasting room for multiple wineries but it turned out to be a wine shop and bar where you could buy glasses or bottles of wine from several local wineries as well as beer.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mt. Airy, NC Rally – Part 2

Wednesday was Mt Airy day for our rally group where we spent the day downtown seeing the sites and having lunch.  Like many older manufacturing towns, Mt. Airy has become a tourist destination themed around Mayberry and it seems to be prospering with lots of newer places south of town (Walmart, fast food, restaurants, car dealers, etc – most towns seem to have this area).  The historic downtown, basically one street and about four blocks long, also seemed to be doing well and while one place was having a “going out of business” sale, all of the buildings were occupied by a shop or restaurant, such as Barney’s café and Floyd's Barber Shop.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Mt. Airy, NC Rally – Part 1

Our chapter of FMCA held a small rally near Mt. Airy, NC and since Bev and I had both wanted to visit there at some point, we couldn’t let the opportunity go by.  As usual, the rally was during the week so nothing was crowded even though it was mid-June.  Mt. Airy is noted for being the home town of Andy Griffith and it has morphed itself into a tourist location centered around the TV town of Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show.

We had a choice of two primary routes to get there – I-40 then I-40 or I-81 then I-77 and since they were about the same distance and I’m not a big fan of the curvy I-40 through the mountains, I opted for the I-81 route knowing I would still have to go over The Blue Ridge on I-77.  Traffic on all three interstates was reasonably heavy as it nearly always is but we had no delays, the road surface was generally good (except for the bridges in VA), and crossing the mountain was uneventful – it is not a steep grade.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Maiden Voyage For New Grill

Bev had bought an eye of round roast and we decided to cook it on the rotisserie for our first cook on the new grill.  She bought it at our local Vonore store which has a real butcher shop and the roast was well trimmed but unfortunately, their beef is all select.  To help with this less tender beef grade, I ran the Jaccard over the entire thing to cut some of the muscle fibers and provide an inlet for the marinade – a couple of shots from the web and a tool every kitchen should have – IMHO.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Finally, A New Grill

Many years ago, we bought the Home Depot version of a Ducane grill, which at the time had a reputation for making pretty high end grills.  Of course some corners were cut on the Home Depot version, which was less than half the cost of the normal Ducane.  We used it for at least 10 years and put new burners in it twice, but it now won’t stay lit and I’m not working on it anymore.

Bev’s view on grills is buy a cheaper one, toss it when it quits working and rusts out, then buy a new one, which is what we have been doing up until now.  But this time, I decided to spend some of the kids inheritance and I got a Weber Summit which is not a real high-end grill but well above our normal.  With the 10 year warranty on most parts, it will hopefully be the last grill we have to buy.

Since I could not find this model at one of our big box stores, I bought it from Amazon for less than the list price and with no shipping cost – I’m one of those online shoppers whose behavior is unfortunately resulting is the closure of many brick and mortar stores.  I had to spend about an hour installing the side shelves and a few more parts to end up with this, including many of my fingerprints.

It has some bells and whistles, such as lighted burner control knobs and a lid-handle mounted light, that I don’t really need but I like that there is a place to store the rotisserie items and the motor is always installed on a flip up mount.  It also has a searing area and a smoker box which will allow some bbqing without using my big smoker.

I have fired it up using a normal propane bottle and now I just need to put it in place on the patio, hook it to our home’s propane system, and commence to cooking.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


6/7/17 Event Date

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Our 2017 Graduates

When I got the date for the graduation of granddaughter Katelyn Roden (our oldest daughter Kathy’s child), I immediately thought in terms of an RV trip to Texas.  But before making any plans, I checked with our eldest son, Rhett, about the date for Madison’s graduation and sure enough it was the day after Katelyn’s.  Since Bev and I could not both be at both graduations without an airplane trip we decided that Bev would go with her sister, Pat, to Madison’s and daughter Wende agreed to go with me to Katelyn’s.

Since I have developed a real aversion to the hassle of flying, Wende and I made a quick driving trip to Shertz, TX – two days down, 2 days there, and two days back and as it turned out spending four days in the car together was very good for our relationship and some DVD books made the trip pass pretty quickly.  Bev and Pat had an easier six hour drive over to Sumter, SC and that was relieving for me.

Both granddaughters graduated from large public schools with about 600 in each graduating class and both were in the high honors category, which I thought was excellent.  Since I went to Texas, I’ll begin with Katelyn’s graduation from Samuel Clemens High School, which may have been the best organized one I’ve attended.  Here are some pre-ceremony shots of Katelyn and Kathy taken at home.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Muffaletta Pasta Salad & Grilled Chicken

Remembering Those Who Have Made The Ultimate Sacrifice To Provide Our Freedom

I can’t remember the last time we had it and I have been craving grilled chicken with BBQ sauce (not to be confused with BBQ chicken which I slow cook in a smoker).  We had this regularly as a kid and I don’t know why it’s been so long since we’ve cooked it, so it was on tap for tonight. 

Following a trip to NOLA, I found that I really liked a muffaletta sandwich in large part due to the olive salad on it.  Since I had also been wanting to make muffaletta pasta salad, we decided it would side well with the chicken.

I  found this good sounding recipe  for both the olive and pasta salads from the Slow Roasted Italian and decided to give it a try.  I made the olive salad about an hour before the pasta salad.

Olive Salad

¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 (6 ounce) jar Italian mix giardiniera, chopped
½ cup chopped roasted red peppers
½ cup pimento stuffed olives, sliced
½ cup sliced kalamata olives, halved
½ cup sliced black olives, sliced
2 tablespoons capers, drained

Note:  The Hot Joey’s Mild Giardiniera was picked up during our Chicago trip.

Prepare the olive salad: In a medium bowl combine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, oregano, parsley and black pepper.  Whisk until well combined.  Set aside.  Cut up remaining ingredients according to ingredient list.  Add remaining ingredients to bowl.  Toss well until combined and coated.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes (up to overnight).

I thought the olive salad was outstanding.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Corned Beef Hash – My Last Post – Promise

Well, this is my last post about corned beef hash at least this round.  I decided to but the previous breakfast shots on here so we could compare them.  In my first post about the corned beef, I showed these shots of the hash.

And then I posted about my Reuben-Like hash.

Which leads me to today’s post.  While I enjoyed the hash with larger pieces, I prefer the more traditional smaller pieces that can generate a crust when fried so I ran the entire batch of leftovers through the food processor to get this.

For my first meal, it was the traditional (at least for me) hash topped with eggs. 

Since I was not cooking on a flat top with one of those giant Waffle House spatulas, I had to half it for flipping.

Then plated and topped with two over easy eggs.

It was outstanding and I still had enough leftovers for a couple more meals which I packaged up and froze.  I definitely achieved my original goal of making enough corned beef for plenty of leftovers.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


5/15/17 Meal Date

Monday, May 22, 2017

Easy Meal Like Mom Might Make

Bev had bought a box of Members Mark Frozen Crab Cakes from Sam’s Club and they were taking up space in our freezer plus our neighbors had given us some fresh picked asparagus and we had some red potatoes that needed to be cooked.  This sounded like the ingredients of an decent easy meal and one like my mom might have made – no Sam’s back then, of course.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Reuben-Like Sandwiches and Reuben-Like Hash

First, a short rant about our food language and the liberties people continue to take with it – soon we won’t know what others are actually talking about.  I call mine a Reuben-like sandwich because it contained some of the key ingredients (corned beef, Swiss cheese and kraut) but not the other two (Russian dressing and rye bread) as I used a white bread roll and 1000 Island Dressing.   When I order a Reuben in a restaurant, I expect to get the ingredients in parenthesis and if not, it’s only a Reuben-like sandwich although it could be argued that 1000 Island Dressing is totally acceptable.

On Wikipedia they show several variants such as a Grouper Reuben, a Lobster Reuben, and a Walleye Reuben to name a few.  I assume they just substitute a different meat for the corned beef but I wouldn’t know without asking.  I would call it a Walleye sandwich with Swiss cheese, Russian Dressing, and kraut or slaw.  

Having said this, I know it will change no one’s behavior and restaurants will continue to offer Chicken Fried Chicken – chicken fried like fried chicken makes zero sense to me.  Chicken Fried Steak (steak fried like fried chicken) makes perfect sense to me and is descriptive of what I will get.

Thanks for reading this far or just skipping the rant to get here, so now on with my sandwich.  We didn’t have any rye bread or other sliced bread so I used a white Kaiser roll and sliced off the top and bottom crust to get a grill-able surface.   I sliced enough corned beef for three layers and nuked them for a minute then I partially assembled the sandwich, as a fully assembled one is hard to flip.  So the sandwich initially got just meat and cheese – outside of both bread pieces were buttered.  When the bottom was about browned, I removed the top bread piece, added the dressing and flipped.  Then I removed the top bread piece (the cheese and one layer of meat came with it) and I added the pre-warmed kraut.  This is what I ended up with:

This may not have been Bev’s favorite corned beef, but it made for a delicious sandwich and I know it would have been super with a good rye bread.

Then for breakfast thought I, if kraut, cheese, and 1000 Island dressing go well on a sandwich, why wouldn’t they work on the hash I had made, so I whipped this up for breakfast but I forgot the cheese.

After the shot I mixed it all together and it was very good but perhaps not as good as just the hash with a couple of fried eggs, but then again what is better.

PS. Rant continued - a classic martini is made with gin and vermouth and served in a martini glass.  A Godiva Chocolate Martini is made chocolate liqueur, Cream de Cacao, vanilla vodka, half-and-half and served in a martini glass - no martini ingredients.  So if I drink my morning coffee from a martini glass I guess I'm having a coffee martini.  The ingredients make a martini not the glass.  I'm done now :-)

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


5/13 & 5/14/17 Meal Dates

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Homemade Limoncello Two Ways

For a few years I’ve read about some of you making limoncello but had never drank it so your posts provided little motivation.  Then we went to a meeting of our wine group and a bottle was brought out to sample and Bev and I both loved it.  Then we went to Napierville and sampled some supposed high-end  stuff and decided we had to buy the $72 bottle and it was great.

I then began remembering the previous blog posts and decided we would give it a try to make our own using two different recipes for comparison.  The first was from Velva at Tomatoes On The Vine who actually harvested the Meyer Lemons from her own tree.  I won’t recopy Velva’s recipe since I made it as she did but halved it.  Check her site for the details and many shots.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Home Made Corned Beef

For St Paddy’s day, we had a store bought corned beef and Bev just loved it with the only problem being they are usually so small we don’t have enough leftovers for the things I really like – hash and Reubens.

So I decided to take matters into my own hands and bought two nice, big, top choice whole briskets from Food City (except part of the deckle was removed) to turn into corned beef then smoke one into pastrami (more about this later).

I trimmed them up and since the deckle was just a thin slab, I removed it to get rid of the big layer of fat between the deckle and the flat muscles.  Here they are in the pan. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Spanish Rice With Meat

I don’t know about you but I often read a recipe, think it sounds delicious and file it away for later, which seldom seems to come.  So when I saw Tricia’s post for Spanish Rice over on her Saving Room For Dessert blog and realized we had all the ingredients, I opted to make it that day.  Check out her blog for the original recipe and some really good shots of her dish.

Rather than use it as a side dish, I decided to add some meat and call it the main dish, plus I changed the ingredients a little for our taste and changed the directions some as well to include the meat.

Spanish Rice With Meat – Adapted from Saving Room For Dessert

6 slices of bacon 
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 small  green bell peppers (or one large), seeds and ribs removed, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 lb. lean hamburger
28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes, cut up (do not drain)
1½ cups water
1 cup long grain rice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon ground cumin (rounded)
S&P to taste
½ tsp sriracha sauce
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1. Chop bacon into about ½“ pieces and cook until crisp in a large skillet, remove and drain on paper towels. 
 2. Add the onion and peppers and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes, using the moisture in them to de-glaze the pan.  Add the minced garlic and quickly sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.  S&P to taste
3. Remove onion mixture from the pan and drain on paper towels.
4. Add a little olive oil if needed and brown the meat, breaking into small pieces and S&P to taste.
5. Add the onion mixture, tomatoes and any canned juice, water, rice, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, cumin, Sriracha.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the rice is done.  Most of the liquid should be absorbed but don't let it get dry. 
6. Adjust seasonings and stir in the chopped parsley, and serve topped with crumbled bacon and shredded cheese is desired (I used white cheddar & hot pepper cheese on mine).

We all thought it was very good and a definite keeper meal – maybe as good as Mom used to make.  I also liked that it was a one pan meal.  Thanks Tricia. 

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


5/1/17 Meal Date

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

RV Rally – Dillard, GA – Part Two

And to wrap up our RV rally in the North Georgia Highlands, this covers our afternoon museum visit which followed our morning stop at Goats On The Roof.

Some of you may remember the Foxfire books from the early 70’s that depicted life in the Southern Appalachians.  The “Foxfire Project” began when a teacher at the Rabun Gap Nacoochee School initiated a project to engage students in writing by publishing a magazine based on students' interviewing their relatives and local citizens about how lifestyles had changed over the course of their lives and dealt with traditions in the rural area.  The magazine began in 1966 and is still being published.

In 1972, the first of the twelve Foxfire books was published and in 1974, book royalties were used to purchase 106 acres for the museum.  Students relocated donated buildings to the museum where they were reassembled in a village like setting and they built others, such as the chapel, from period materials (last shot).  Unlike most museums that are in a building, this museum is the buildings located out in the woods.  The tour begins at the welcome center then proceeds up the hill to the village area.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

RV Rally – Dillard, GA – Part One

We attended the first rally of the year for the Tennessee Travelers chapter of the FMCA last week in Dillard, GA.  The “Spring Fling”  went from Monday through Friday at the RiverVista RV Resort just north of Dillard and we had nine coaches participating.

I chose to take the shorter route to Dillard which meant driving though the mountains on two lane roads.  I went down US-411 to Ocoee, TN then east on US-74 which included the curvy drive through the Ocoee River Gorge.  I took US-64 out of Murphy, NC then NC-69 down to east on US-76.  I knew what to expect on the road through the gorge but was surprised that US-76 was such a curvy mountain road and while this West Virginia boy was comfortable driving this road, it wasn't much fun.  So I came home via I-40 and while it was a good bit longer, it only took about 15 minutes more time-wise.  I would take the pretty drive through Murphy again in a car but not in the coach.

River Vista is a mixture of RV sites for sale and rent and cabins for sale and rent.  The sites were level and spacious.

We were in the pull thru sites in the bottom center of the overhead shot.