Wednesday, June 20, 2018

RV Travel – Toqua Campground Rally – Part 1

As the Wagon Master (trip coordinator) for our Tennessee Travelers FMCA Chapter, I’m always well pleased when one of our members volunteers to host a rally (Rally Master) and when the Lusk’s volunteered for June, I jumped at the offer.  After a little discussion we thought that Toqua Campground in Vonore, TN would be a good location as the attendees would be there for the short drive to our annual meeting on Wednesday.  The Lusk’s are very familiar with the area so many good events had been planned.

The campground is on the shore of Tellico Lake about 20 miles from the dam and is run by TRDA (Tellico Reservoir Development Agency) which is the group set up to control the development of Tellico Lake.  They have 78 total spots and we utilized seven of them.  While most of the sites are occupied by return seasonal campers each year, they are required to keep 25% of them available for short term use. 

We took our coach to the campground, even though it’s only a 13 minute car ride from home as we can more fully participate this way.  However, I did like being able to run home for a shower rather than using the dinky one in the RV.  It also made it possible to take the pontoon boat up to the campground for group rides.  Here is our site, the view from the front of our site, and down the road.

While I’ve been past this campground many times, I’d never really seen it and I have been well pleased with what we found.  The sites were level and well spaced, the utilities were all convenient and worked well, and the WiFi was one of the better ones.  The campground is gated for security, has it's own boat dock and a small store with a few basic items.  The manager was super nice and very helpful at accommodating us.  I would definitely recommend the campground if you are looking for a place in the area and want somewhere must quieter than the Sevier County area.

More to come in the next post.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and the blue words are links.

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


6/18/18 Event Date

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Happy Father’s Day

Here’s hoping all you Dad’s out there have a terrific day.

 According to their local newspaper and Wikipedia - "After Anna Jarvis' successful promotion of Mother's Day in Grafton, West Virginia, the first observance of a "Father's Day" was held on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia, in the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, now known as Central United Methodist Church.  Grace Golden Clayton was mourning the loss of her father, when in December 1907, the Monongah Mining Disaster in nearby Monongah killed 361 men, 250 of them fathers, leaving around a thousand fatherless children. Clayton suggested that her pastor Robert Thomas Webb honor all those fathers."

Fairmont is my hometown and if I ever knew this I had forgotten.

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


Monday, June 11, 2018

Air Fryer And English

I’ve posted before that I am not a fan of specialty kitchen gadgets and as I walked into the room recently there was a commercial on TV for an air fryer so I watched a couple of minutes.  Then, I went online to do a little research on them and discovered they work by having a fan circulate hot air around the food. 

I, then, realized I already have two of them on hand – a full-convection kitchen oven and a full-convection toaster oven, so no air fryer needed - $100+ saved.

Also, I continue to be concerned about the degradation of the English language and it’s no wonder we have communication issues as the meaning of words keeps changing (and this doesn't even count the new text shorthand).  In my younger days when mom said we were having fried potatoes, I knew they would be cooked in a pan (usually cast iron) with some type of fat (usually bacon) and I never had to ask if they were to be cooked in the oven or in the air fryer.  Per Webster – fried: to cook in a pan or on a griddle over heat especially with the use of fat.

So when you read about a dish coming from Almost Heaven South, you can usually assume the following:

Fried – in a pan with fat
Baked – in an oven
Nuked – in a microwave
Griddled – on the flat griddle
Grilled – over an open flame device (gas, charcoal, wood)

But wait, there are obviously some exceptions such as a grilled cheese sandwich which is cooked on the griddle or in a skillet and to make it more confusing, as a kid, we called them toasted cheese sandwiches even though they were cooked in a pan and not the toaster.  So if everyone will just start calling them fried cheese sandwiches I think all will be fine.  Hopefully this brought a little grin to your face.J

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


Friday, June 8, 2018

Mediterranean Salmon & Fresh Veggies

Even though I haven’t been gardening lately, we are still spoiled when it comes to vegetables and will try to find good fresh ones, so today we made the 60 mile round trip to the farmers market run by the Englewood Mennonite Community and we came home with a car load.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Snapper Veracruz & Grilled Tuna

It was time for fish and while freezer diving, I found a piece of tuna for Cindy and a package of snapper for the rest of us, both from our trip to the Florida panhandle last winter.

For the snapper, I used the following Bobby Flay recipe for Snapper Veracruz and followed it as written except we only had three pieces of fish and I cooked the sauce to nearly done before grilling the fish.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day

While many have served, thankfully, our family has not lost anyone to a war, but many have and I am thankful for those sacrifices that have protected this great country in which we have the privilege of living.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Reece Graduates – Three Down

This past week, we made the six hour drive down to Sumter, SC to attend the high school graduation of Reece Walker, our son Rhett’s middle child.  There were two events involved with the first one being an awards ceremony where Reece received several honors but a very special one – a four year ROTC scholarship to the University of Tennessee.  After spending most of her life in a military family, she has decided she wants to be a physical therapist in the US Army.

Needless to say, her parents were beyond happy with the size of that check.

The next night was the actual graduation ceremony and here she is with her mom’s parents – didn’t get any with us.

I believe her dad is very pleased that she wants to follow in his footsteps with a hitch in the army and also attend is alma mater for college plus it will be good for her to have us only 40 miles away from UT.

We are now one third of the way through the grands graduations and the next one will be in Texas in 2019.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and the blue words are links.

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


5/20 - 5/23/18 Trip Dates

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Another Bratwurst Meal – Yeah I Know

Bev has been doing some serious freezer diving lately and came up with another package of brats and this time from Kamps Meat Market in OKC, OK.  She suggested our usual of brats with peppers and onions on a roll but I wanted to do something a little different so I made a dish that included some potatoes and cheese as follows:

4 bratwurst links (six would have been better)
5 medium red potatoes – par boiled and medium dice
1 green bell pepper, ¾” squares
1 ripe bell pepper (we used red), ¾” squares
1 large onion or two medium, 3/8” slice and halved
8 cheese slices (5 hot pepper jack and 3 American for us)
Lawrey’s Season Salt (to taste) & pepper

1. Simmer the brats in water seasoned with Lawrey’s and black pepper for about 25 minutes, cool a little, then slice into ½” thick rounds.
2. Coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil, heat to shimmering, add potatoes, and cook until browned on several sides.
3. Remove potatoes to a dish, add brats and brown on both flat sides.  Remove and add to potatoes.
4. Add peppers and onions to skillet along with more oil as needed.  Cook until just getting soft and return potatoes and brats to pan along with cheese – stir well.
5. Cook for a few minutes until cheese is completely melted, vegetables are cooked as desired, and everything is evenly distributed.
6. Plate and enjoy

I thought this meal was delicious especially for a quick throw together.  It could have used two more brats and, of course, you can use your favorite cheeses – I just used what we had on hand that would melt easily.  And to make it even better, the leftovers were reheated and topped with eggs for breakfast.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and the blue words are links.

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


5/17/18 Meal Date

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sprouts, Taters, & Steak

Bev had some Brussels sprouts that she wanted to grill along with some par boiled potatoes and we opted to side them with a piece of beef.  While we have a couple of pans for grilling smaller food pieces, they were not quite large enough for this as I wanted them in a single layer.  So I went looking through our collection of flat pans and discovered a pizza pan that we only used a time or two and should have been trashed.  The reason we rarely used it was because it was full of holes and very difficult to slide off a pizza.

However, it worked great for this application and has now been repurposed as a grill pan and being aluminum, it distributes the heat pretty well and the oil dripping trough the holes created some nice flavor enhancing flare-ups – here it is in action.

We also grilled up a piece of beef steak that had been marinating in The Best Steak Marinade In Existence most of the day.

These two components made up our entire dinner and with protein, starch, and green vegetable, it was pretty well balanced.  We have realized lately that rather than having several dishes, we like to have just one or two we really want then we fill up of them – we had nothing but chicken wings one night and only salmon for another meal.

And while the food was good, this post is not about food but rather about finding a new role for an unused kitchen device – perhaps you also have a couple of these around and I have to believe this isn’t our only one.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and the blue words are links.

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


5/17/18 Meal Date

Thursday, May 17, 2018

It’s Grilling Season – Brat’s

Let me begin by saying that my grilling season is 365 days long and while my blog may make it sound like I plan all of the meals and do all of the cooking, this is definitely not the case – I am the full time kitchen cleaner though.  Bev had purchased several sweet peppers that she decided we needed to use and her favorite use for them is brats.  She went freezer diving and came back with a package of four Jalapeno Cheddar Brats from Yoder Meats in Shipshewana, IN that we had picked up during the Thor Rally last October.  We really enjoyed Yoder's and their large selection - 12 brat flavors - so we loaded up the RV freezer before heading home.

Since I do most of the grilling and Bev worked out in her flowers much of the day I was the cook for this meal.  I cooked the brats in water with onion and some white wine – boxed Chablis – until they were done then headed for the grill.  I cooked the brats to get a crust on them and used the side burner to sauté the peppers and onion to get some caramelization and keep them slightly crisp – so high heat and frequent tossing – I love that I learned how to do that.

I plated mine on a slice of French bread to get this.

They were delicious with just the right amount of heat.  Grilled good brats with peppers and onions is just plain hard to beat and we have this way more often than I post about.  Want an easy week night meal that doesn’t heat up the kitchen, this is it or if you live in the Denver area and need an excuse to brush the snow off the grill in January for a quick grilled meal, this is it.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and the blue words are links.

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


5/14/18 Meal Date

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mother’s Day At Almost Heaven South

We had a little MD get together at our place that included our newest mother Wende, her daughter Eliza, her friend Ralph, SIL Pat, Bev, and me as chief cook and bottle washer for the day.  Wende and Bev both thought that grilled shrimp should be the meal for the day and I added some par-boiled and smashed potatoes, and some fresh picked asparagus that the neighbors had given us the previous day.  And since we didn’t have enough shrimp to go around, I added a piece of Swordfish that we had bought fresh from Skip One Seafood’s in Fort Myers during our winter trip.  We considered having a salad but decided we had plenty to eat without it or dessert.

First, I got everything ready throughout the day as follows:

Shrimp – We had thirty Royal Red Shrimp that we bought from Joe Patti’s Seafood during our winter trip.  Look at that tuna and swordfish in the bottom pic.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Parmesan Fish Ala Pam

When I saw Pam’s post and recipe for Parmesan Halibut on her For The Love Of Cooking blog, I knew it had to be tried but with the grouper I had in the freezer, rather than halibut.  However, when we went to get it out all we could find was red snapper but I thought Pam’s recipe would work with any white fish.

Here's a finished shot of Pam's Halibut but please visit her site for more how-to pics.  

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Thai Beef With Peppers

Bev saw The Pioneer Woman make this dish on TV and really wanted to try it so we bought the steak, fresh ginger, and some Thai Stir Fry Rice Noodles – we had everything else on hand.  Bev was tired from a day in her flower bed so I made the dish by Ree's recipe.  This is a shot of her dish from the web.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Chicken & Andouille Spanish Rice Soup

When I saw this recipe from Kelly on her Wildflour Kitchen blog, I knew I wanted to try it and Monday’s all day rain seemed like an ideal soup day.  I adjusted the recipe for our taste and to use on-hand ingredients as neither of us wanted to make a trip to the store.  Please check out Kelly’s blog for the original recipe and plenty of pics I borrowed this first one from her blog.

Chicken & Andouille Spanish Rice Soup Adapted from Wildflour Kitchen

4 Tbl. real butter
6 oz carrots, ½“ dice
1 large rib celery, sliced
1 medium-large onion, chopped
2 roasted red peppers from jar, medium dice
3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, ¾“ dice
12 oz andouille, sliced - we used Usinger’s 
1 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. coarse ground black pepper
3-4 large cloves garlic, finely minced
5 cups chicken broth, homemade
20 oz Rotel Original with liquid
1 Tbl. Chicken base
1 large bay leaf
1 (6.9 oz.) box Zatarain's® Spanish Rice mix
3 Tbl. cornstarch mixed with 3 Tbl. cold water

1. In stock pot, add butter and melt over medium/medium-low heat. Stir in celery, onions, peppers, chicken, sausage, chili powder and pepper. Sauté, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes. *Add minced garlic during last 5 minutes.
2. Add rest of ingredients except rice and seasoning packet (and cornstarch/cold water), bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
3. Add rice and seasoning packet, stir well, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 25 minutes until rice is tender. Remove lid and stir, keep at a simmer over low heat.
4. In mug, add cornstarch. Add cold water and stir until well mixed. While soup is still simmering, add slurry mixture. Stir in well and let thicken for one minute. Remove pot of soup from heat, and let rest for at least 15 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally.
5. Stir, ladle into bowls, and serve piping hot.  

My Bowl not such a good shot.

We thought it was very good and just the right spice for me but a little too hot for Pat and Bev.  I left out the Slap Ya Mama and chipotle powder but the Rotel made up for it heat wise.  Next time, I’ll use the recipe as written and see which we prefer.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and the blue words are links.

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


4/23/18 Meal Date

Friday, April 27, 2018

Tennessee Travelers Rally – Hiawassee, GA – Part 3

The original Thursday plan was to go to Bell Mountain and Brasstown Bald (BB) but since we were passing near the bald on the way back from Helen on Wednesday, we decided to stop on the pretty day.  BB is part of the Chattahoochee National Forest and we therefore got in for free with our Senior Passes – one of the very few good things about being old.  

The road up the bald rises 2700 feet from the valley floor to an elevation of 4783 feet making it the highest point in Georgia – the road is pretty steep and curvy but easily doable in a car.  The first stop is at the parking lot from which a shuttle takes you up to the top where there is an exhibit hall, a theater, and 360 degree viewing platform – it is uniquely built from wood rather than the normal stone in most Federal Park structures.  Shots from the parking lot.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Tennessee Travelers Rally – Hiawassee, GA – Part 2

We began Tuesday with breakfast at Mary’s Southern Grill and it was another hit with the group.  So we enjoyed both Mary’s and Sundance Grill for breakfast but chose Sundance for a return trip later in the week.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Tennessee Travelers Rally – Hiawassee, GA - Part 1

After the brief camping trip with our kids in Sevierville, TN, we made the four hour drive into the north Georgia mountains and passed within 3½ miles of home.  Going to Sevierville, I went thru Maryville and took US-411 to Seymour where I got on US-441 to Sevierville.  I didn’t like going thru Maryville nor the curvy US-411 so I came back by going from US-441 over to US-129 via John Sevier Highway (TN-168).  While this route was a little longer, it was a much easier drive, by-passed Maryville, and was about 15 minutes quicker so it will be my go-to route from now on.

Getting from Maryville to Hiawassee, GA, we took US-411 south to Ocoee, TN where we picked up US-64/US-74 east.  This route runs thru the Ocoee River Gorge to get through the mountains and it is pretty curvy for about 20 miles, but fortunately there was little traffic that I had to get over and let pass and we didn’t meet a single big truck heading the opposite way.  From Murphy, we took US-64 to Hayesville, then NC-69 to US-76 into Hiawassee.  A nice, uneventful trip and the road surfaces were all in good condition.

We got in to Riverbend Campground just south of Hiawassee, GA on Saturday afternoon, got set up, and went out to look around town and go to the store. 

This is our nice site by the Hiawassee River, which is pretty small at this point.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

RVing With Our Kids – Sevierville

We were headed to a club rally on April 14 and as it turned out our son, Rhett, and his family (less college student Madison) were headed to Sevier County for their annual participation in an ROTC fundraising 13K walk.  Since we see very little of our kids who live away, we decided it would be a good opportunity for a meet up and to camp together for the first time, so we just left a few days early for the rally, then we passed within three miles of home to get to the rally from Sevierville. 

Rather than the Walkers usual Gatlinburg campground (too tight for us), we agreed to meet at one of our favorite spots, River Plantation RV Resort between Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, and were able to get sites on the river – I heroed with Bev here.  While they bill themselves as a resort, the gravel sites, lack of full campground wifi, general grounds condition, etc get River Plantation a rating of a nice RV park from me, but it is still our go-to place in the area.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Free Stuff

Hi blogger buddies – I’ve been trying to find homes for items we no longer use and all of these are like new.  Since they are food items, thought I would offer them to you first for free if you’ll pay the shipping.

First is a food grinder and stuffing tips that attaches to a Kitchen Aid mixer.

Second is a grain mill that attaches to a Kitchen Aid mixer and it also includes a counter mounted stand that allows it to be used manually.

If you are interested in them for your own use (not resale), send me an email with your name and shipping address and we’ll work out the shipping cost.


Friday, April 6, 2018

Easter At Almost Heaven South

Bev decided she wanted to cook turkey breasts for Easter dinner and as we discussed cooking and serving options she said “ let’s have Kentucky Hot Browns” to which I heartily agreed – not quite your classic holiday meal.  If you are not familiar, a hot brown is basically an open faced, hot turkey sandwich with cheese sauce rather than gravy plus some other stuff.  We’ve made them several times but opted for a little difference this time, especially after seeing the original made at the Brown Hotel (on TV), reading several recipes on line, and trying a different version at a restaurant.  The biggest difference in the various versions appears to be in how they are assembled.  Here is a shot from the Brown Hotel’s version where they were invented.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Southwestern Night At Our Place

We had a couple of friends over for supper and since I have been wanting to make Tex-Mex we offered them that option and they readily agreed with a menu of fajitas.  My thought was this would be simple as all we needed to do was grill some meat and vegetables but boy was I wrong and in hindsight I wish we had gone with a pan of enchiladas or similar one pan dish.

Bev and table before any arrivals - note the amaryllis on the table.  The wooden holders are for the cast iron plates

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Spicy Creamy Shrimp Pasta - Ala Chef Lea Ann

Pat almost never asks us to cook a special dish for her so when she requested SpicyCreamy Shrimp Pasta from Lea Ann’s Cooking On The Ranch blog, we said you bet, especially since it’s from Lea Ann and it’s shrimp and it's pasta.  Be sure to check her site for the original recipe and some great shots of her dish.

This request presented another surprise – Pat reads blogs – I need to asked her if she ever reads mine.  I reproduced the recipe here as I changed it just a little for our diverse palates.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Chicken Adobo Ala Pam

I have been wanting to cook something with Asian flavors but not the normal stir fry and when Pam posted the recipe for Chicken Adobo on her For The Love Of Cooking Blog, I knew it would fit the bill.  Please check her site for some great shots of the dish.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Couple Of Fine Breakfasts Meals From Leftovers

We've been doing quite a bit of cooking lately and had leftovers from two recent meals – the Grilled Pork Chops and Root Vegetables and some Posole Ala Lea Ann (No new post for this meal).

I'm not sure how it has happened, but Bev used to cook most of the suppers and I made most of the breakfast meals form leftovers, but somehow this has been reversed.  I think it could be that she is more willing to start working earlier then I am.

For the first breakfast, Bev cut up the leftover chop, made the veggie pieces smaller, added a couple pieces of cooked breakfast sausage and made hash from the pork and root vegetables.