Monday, January 31, 2011

Birthday Dinner For Wende

Our baby daughter turned 35 on Friday and she came down for a special request dinner – seafood. I wish it weren’t such a weak spot in my cooking skills. I decided on mussels for an appetizer and grilled shrimp and salmon for the main course. So the menu was as follows and we ate each course before preparing the next one - it was a leisurely 2 hour dinner:

Salmon spread taste test for a pre-appetizer

Moules Mariniere (whatever that means) for an appetizer

Salad – Strawberry spinach or Caesar

Grilled shrimp & salmon and hasselback potato

Ghirardelli chocolate squares for dessert

I posted the salmon spread the other day and like the others so far, Wende prefered the dill or caper added versions to the plain. For the mussels, I used Mary’s recipe, from One Perfect Bite.

We hadn't had mussels in a long time and had always just steamed them and dipped in butter, but I like this better as they were delicious.  It would take a very big bowl of them to make a meal of though.

I did the shrimp the same as the shrimp the other day, which was olive oil brushed on, a light sprinkling of Emeril's Essence, with added cayenne, on both sides and two applications, per side, of the butter sauce, below, while grilling.

Butter sauce:
1 ½ sticks butter
Juice from 3 lemon wedges
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

I decided to try this same process on the salmon, but gave it a heavier spice coating - not quite as heavy as I would for blackening in a pan.  While I flipped an buttered the shrimp 3 times, I only flipped and buttered the salmon once.

Since this was to be a special meal, I broke out the charcoal grill and cooked everything direct over a single layer of coals - which cooked faster than my under-functioning gasser. 

The shrimp tasted similar to the other day, but everything had a nice smokiness provided by the butter hitting the coals - it got so smoky, I could hardly see what I was doing.  The salmon had a similar taste to pan blacked, but not as strong and I'll definitely do this again.  This was my first hasselback potato and I thought it was a nice change, but I believe I prefer a plain ole baked potato and they're easier.

The menu was unknown to Wende until she got here and she said we'd hit some of her favorites and was hoping for mussels.  Since we hadn't fixed them in such a long time, it must have been mental tyelepathy.

I wish all of our children were close enough to come over for birthday dinner.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Dirty Ole Man Joke

A friend sent this to me and if I didn’t know it was a joke, I would have thought it was written by this dirty old man.

“I was in Lowe's the other day pushing my cart around when I collided with a young guy pushing his cart.

I said to the young guy, "Sorry about that. I'm looking for my wife and I guess I wasn't paying attention to where I was going."

The young guy says, "That's OK. It's a coincidence. I'm looking for my wife, too. I can't find her and I'm getting a little desperate.

I said, "Well, maybe we can help each other. What does your wife look like?"

The young guy says, "Well, she is 24 years old, tall, with blond hair, big blue eyes, long legs, big boobs, and she's wearing tight white shorts, a halter top and no bra. What does your wife look like?

I said, "Doesn't matter --- let's look for yours."

Most of us old guys are helpful like that.”

Have a great day and thanks for visiting Almost Heaven South.


Homemade sausage At Almost Heaven South

I’ve made sausage in the past by buying the ground meat from the local grocer, but I’ve really wanted to grind my own. I was reluctant to buy a pricey grinder for fear this would be a passing fad and I knew I could buy a grinder attachment for our Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I’d heard a lot of negative comments about them on the BBQ forums, then I saw Chris, at Nibble Me This, making sausage with one. So I gave him a call and he advised it worked well for small sausage making operations like I would be doing, so I bought one from Kitchen Aid.

I had a pork butt in the freezer with sausage written all over it and I decided to make two kinds – Italian and breakfast. For the Italian, I started with a recipe I’d picked up on a BBQ forum and I used Hi Mountain’s Country Maple Blend for the other. There are many good sites around for sausage making and Mister Meatball has a nice one on his blog and he uses the KA grinder.

I first deboned the butt, sliced it into 1” thick steaks then into 1” cubes. If I were making a full batch of one sausage, I would have mixed the spices with the pork cubes atg this point - before grinding. Since I was planning to make two different flavors and I wanted to insure even fat distribution, I ground it all through the large die, mixed well, and put it in the freezer for about 45 minutes. I removed the 2 ½ pounds needed for the Italian, mixed in the spices and stuck it back in the freezer for several more minutes. I then ran it thru the grinder using the small die and mixed in the liquids per the recipe.

I fried up a little patty to test and we decided it needed more fennel and maybe an herb, so I ground up ½ tsp of fennel seeds and ½ tsp of dried oregano, mixed it in, and fried up another test patty. We decided it may still need fennel (my fennel may be too old), but we decided to let the flavors marry overnight and try it in the morning .

For the breakfast sausage, I had a little over 5# of meat, so I calculated the amount of Hi Mountain spice mix required, mixed it in, and stuck it in the freezer for 30 minutes. I then reground it and fried up a test patty. It had just a nice maple flavor and pretty well nothing else, so we decided to turn half of it into more of a traditional breakfast sausage. I went to Len Poli’s sausage site, found a recipe for a Jimmy Dean clone and doctored mine by adding black pepper, sage, thyme, coriander, parsley, and red pepper flakes.

I was real pleased with the performance of the little grinder and while I wouldn’t want to be in the sausage business using it, my needs will be well served. At the end of the day, I ended up with 2 ½ lbs each of Italian, maple breakfast, and doctored maple breakfast. We had a plan for dinner, but after the sampling, we were full.

Since the meat must be kept very cold to grind properly, I was in a hurry and all of the other shots turned out blurry. I thought all of sausages were ok when tried the next day, but none were great and I believe the major culprit was spice freshness – I will use only new ones from now on. If you have a kitchen aid mixer and want to try making your own sausage, I would recommend the grinder attachment for about $60 and now I’m going to buy the little stuffer attachment( $14) and try my hand at link sausage, which is what Mister Meatball shows.

We had a real highlight yesterday, our first phone call from son, Rhett, who deployed to Afghanistan the first week in January.  He works with a group of soldiers training the Afghan police and so far said he's enjoying the job and the vast cultural differences - he's in a provence that borders Pakistan.  Modern communications amaze me - he's in nowhere Afghanistan and the clarity was like he was calling from across the street.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Beef And Broccoli Stir Fry

Bev advised we had some broccoli we needed to eat and I had just saved a recipe for Beef And Broccoli from Cathy over at Wives With Knives. We had some flat iron steak in the freezer and all of the other ingredients on hand, so we were ready. We followed Cathy’s recipe as written except Bev decided she wanted the steak grilled. So after removing from the marinade, I grilled it to an internal temp of 110* and put on a cutting board to rest while I heated the wok. After about 5 minutes, I sliced it thinly cross grain.

Bev had blanched the broccoli earlier in the day and decided she wanted to add some water chestnuts to the mix. Rather than beginning with the meat in the wok (since it was grilled), I started with the onions and ginger, then the sauce (to which I added 2 tbsp of the marinade), and finally the meat, broccoli, and water chestnuts. I stir fried this mixture for a couple of minutes and we served over rice.

I rarely want to cook Chinese because I don’t have the recipes to make a really good dish, but I have one now – thanks Cathy, it was delicious.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Grilled Shrimp With Spinach And Strawberry Salad

The very restricted phase of Bev’s diet came to an end, which means she still can’t eat carbs from grains or beans, but she can have a little dairy and fat, so she requested a special dinner. She wanted grilled shrimp basted with a butter sauce so it would flare up and char them a little – “like I had at Ye Olde Steakhouse” and seasoned with blackening seasoning.

So I peeled the shrimp, dried them well, lightly sprayed with Pam, gave them a nice dusting with kicked-up Emerils Essence, which is what I use for blackening seasoning, and into the fridge for about 30 minutes. I made a simple butter sauce of:

½ stick butter
Juice from 1 lemon wedge
Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Bev never thinks I get her shrimp done enough, so I cooked them 2 minutes on side one, flipped and brushed on a coat on butter sauce, then did it again for a total cook time of 8 minutes. When I took them off, I flipped onto the plate and gave them another coat of the butter sauce. Each buttering created the required flare up which put a nice little char on them. I believe I’ve discovered a key to good grilled shrimp – throw the butter to them - we all thought they were very good.

The other day, Bev wanted to make a strawberry spinach salad and asked me to find a dressing, but they all contained oil, which she couldn’t eat yet. I finally found and made one from berries, which I was skeptical of (I lost the website address):

1 cup chopped strawberries
2 tbsp red wine vinegar (will try balsamic next time)
1/8 tsp black pepper

I tossed it all into the mini-food processor and gave it a long spin in hopes of reducing the size of the seed pieces and I thought it was pretty tasty. When Bev came home, she sampled and added another ½ - ¾ tsp of vinegar and half a packet of artificial sweetener. She liked it so well, she plans to eat it regularly, diet or not.

She likes her meat on her salad and this is her plate – she added a few chopped pecans and bleu cheese crumbles.

I’m not a fan of the strawberry salad, so mine was just greens and bleu cheese dressing – with crumbles of course.

Even though these were 15 count shrimp, I would still normally eat several more, but my little Phentermine bill ensured I was plenty full with this meal.

I finally found out how to shoot close up shots with the camera, so my pictures should improve some, as soon as I learn to steady the camera and not cast a shadow that is - these were my first two.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Smoked Salmon Spread

Our friends and neighbors (up on the hill), went RVing last summer in Alaska and were kind enough to bring us a few things, one of which was Smoked Salmon Spread from Copper River Seafood. I just recently retrieved it from the freezer and it was delicious. After eating it all by myself (Bev doesn’t like it – yeah), I decided I had to try and make some.

There are lots of recipes on the web using a variety of ingredients, but in reading CR's ingredients list it was smoked salmon, cream cheese, onion, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon pepper. I decided to start with these and add more if needed – I looked at other recipes to give me a sense of how much of the last three ingredients go with the salmon weight.

Living where we do, wild-caught-three-days-ago-smoked-for-two-days-and delivered-to-the-market-today salmon is not readily available, so I bought 8oz of alderwood smoked, farm raised, coho salmon – which I thought was pretty good. Many recipes I looked at had more dairy than salmon, but since the first ingredient on the Copper River spread was salmon, I started with an even amount, giving me this initial recipe:

8 oz smoked salmon
8 oz softened cream cheese
2 tbsp finely diced onion
½ tsp worstershire sauce
1 tsp lemon pepper

After mixing, I thought it was so stiff it would break the cracker when spreading, so I added 1 cup of sour cream, which many recipes already contained. I thought it was very good right then, but decided to let the flavors marry a day, then play with it some more.

As you might expect, it was even better the next day. But, I decided to add 1 tbsp of drained and rough chopped capers to one cup of it and 1 tsp of dried dill weed to another cup. After tasting the next day, I thought the capers were about right but the dill was too strong.

I had previously made a smaller recipe and for it I added the salmon at the beginning of the mixing process. Due to the heavy mixing required to blend in the cheese, I got the uniform appearance of pink cheese - the one from Copper River had little pieces of the fish in it. So for this batch, I mixed everything but the salmon and then added it and mixed until I had the appearance I was looking for.

This is the plain, dill, and caper versions.

Since Bev's not available to me as a taste tester, I called on the neighbor who gave me the Copper River spread and had tasted several in Alaska. She tried all three and thought: the ones with dill or capers were better than plain, the dill one was just right, and the caper one needed more - obviously different than what I thought.  Then we decided to mix the dill and caper versions and she liked it best.  Unfortunately, I'm going to have to eat more experimentation, but all of these are delicious.

After I get the spread recipe I want, the next step for me, as you might guess, is to find some good salmon and smoke it myself. In the meantime, if you have a recipe/process you like for hot smoking salmon, I’d sure appreciate an email with it to

Thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chicken Saltimbocca

I’d never heard of this dish but after seeing it on three different blogs so far this month, I decided it was a must try, and with the low fat meats, Bev thought it would be okay for her diet. I was originally planning to side mine with pasta using the same sauce as the on the chicken, then I saw a post containing polenta, of which I'm a fan. As it turns out, I’d been thinking of cooking some grits or mush for frying up for breakfast, so the pasta got swapped for the mush – I think cornmeal mush is American speak for polenta, which obviously sounds better.

If you’ve never cooked grits, mush, polenta, etc, it's a dish that requires constant stirring or it will stick. I’ve found that a spoon with a flat side on it works well for this.

For the chicken, I used the process from Ann over at Thibeaults Table because it finishes the chicken in the oven where I could insert a probe thermometer to ensure I get the temp I want and I could make the sauce while it finished cooking. For the sauce, I used the one that seemed to be standard for this dish and made double so I’d have enough for the polenta. Rather than buy pretty ones, I just used the sage leaves we had in the herb bed, but they’re small in the winter, so I had to totally wrap the breasts with the prosciutto to keep them in position. I served it up with the cheesy mush and a wedge of lettuce with homemade 1000 Island. Totally wrapping it didn’t make for as pretty a picture as the others, but it was tasty.

We all enjoyed it but thought we'd cut back on the lemon in the sauce next time.

A couple of weeks ago Catherine over at The South In My Mouth, posted about using an old wooden mallet as her meat pounder and I thought I needed one of those. We have a small mallet with teeth on both sides that is good for tenderizing a piece of beef, but sorta of shreds a chicken breast, so I'd been thinking we needed to buy a smooth faced one. A few days latter, the little light bulb flashes in my mind, and I remembered the hard rubber mallet laying down in my toolbox that’s only been used a couple of times in 20 years. So I washed it up real good and it worked perfectly for these chicken breasts - it’s now the new kitchen meat mallet.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Breakfast Po Boy

This might not really be a Po’ Boy, but I did use a French baguette for the bread and it sounded like a good title. Remember a few days ago when I posted scrambled eggs and Kielbasa, well I still had a 2” piece of kielbasa and the baguette needed to be eaten. I sautéed the meat and some chopped onion, then added 2 eggs which had been beaten with S&P, garlic powder, a little Tabasco, and diced cheddar cheese. I folded them slowly to create more of an omelet than a scramble – hoping it would stay on the sandwich better. I slid it onto the bread, which had been warmed and mayo’d – most of the Kielbasa ended up hidden.

I don’t know why I can’t remember to add a little chopped greenery for pretty – maybe because it was 6:30am and I’d been up since 3am and was hungry - or some lettuce and tomato would have made ot more authenic. With the toughness of the baguette crust and the softness of the eggs, I only went two bites before realizing the eggs would soon all be squished out onto the plate, so I used a knife and carefully cut off bites – it tasted just as good. I considered eating it open-faced and should have. Lesson learned, soft stuffing requires soft bread.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Pasta with Feta and Kalamata Olives Ala Kevin

Every day, I read Kevin’s blog, Closet Cooking with 5000 followers, but have never made one of his recipes as they are generally too Korean or too unique for me, but when he posted this recipe, it seemed right in my flavor profile. I’d been grocery shopping the other day and bought 3 packages of Buitoni fresh pasta, one of which was Quattro Formaggi Agnolotti, what ever that is – I think it was half moon ravioli stuffed with cheese.

I made the pesto recipe per Kevin’s directions early in the day to let the flavors marry. My package of pasta was 9 oz, which doesn’t increase much like dried pasta, so I used a quarter cup of the pesto and a half recipe of the other ingredients, which was perhaps a little heavy. Here’s the result.

All I can say is don’t make this unless you want a flavor explosion in your mouth and don’t waste your money on a stuffed pasta, as the sauce will overwhelm whatever the stuffing flavor might be. I was surprised at the small amount of sauce for a whole pound of pasta, but trust me it's plenty.  I’m glad I have most of the pesto remaining and I will definitely pay closer attention to his dishes in the future. Can you tell I liked it.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bean And Sausage Soup

I really like soup in the winter - I like it so well that I had a little soup business last year to force me to make it once a week. Even though Bev can’t eat this on her diet, I really wanted to try the Bean and Sausage Soup posted by Chef Dennis over at More Than A Mountfull. You know I’m a recipe follower and I went by the recipe except for a couple of things. Bev has managed to train me a little and when the recipe called for the veggies in a fine dice, as much of a knife guy as I am, I used the food processor and it took about 10 seconds – maybe I’m not too old of a dog after all. I like my soup to be pretty hearty and after the 30 minute simmer, I decided it could use another can of drained beans. My homemade chicken stock was delicious in the soup, but I also thought it needed a little more flavor, so I added a tsp of dried Italian spice. My shopper, Bev, couldn’t find escarole so we used a bunch of kale, which worked perfectly.

It would have been absolutely delicious had I changed nothing, but it was perfect for me as amended and I’ll sure make it again. Also, I liked it equally well with and without the Romano cheese. I gave a quart to my neighbors who also thought it was great.  I've had it for lunch for the last three days and it is just as good, if not better reheated.  My only disappointment was not being able to use the escarole – never had it cooked. Thanks Dennis – this guy can cook.

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


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Crappie And Rotel

I'm going to have to find a new header picture - this one (snow covered dock) makes me cold just looking at it.  Joanne suggested a spring one might hurry it along so I'll look for one.

We are big fans of Rotel and use it in many dishes – I wish I had invented it. With Bev’s restrictive diet, it is one of the things she can eat and it goes well with most things, including fish. For this meal it was a marrying of the two.

We order from Penzey’s Spices on a regular basis and each order is accompanied by some type of free spice to try and I found we had some Salsa Salad Seasoning, which, after reading the ingredients, seemed like it would go well with the Rotel and make southwestern crappie. To make this as lo-cal as possible, I thought poaching the fish in Rotel made sense.

I added a can Rotel to the skillet along with 1 tsp of the spice. While it was heating, I sprinkled the top side of the fish with it and S&P. When the Rotel was hot, I nestled the fish down into it, covered the pan and cooked for 5 minutes.

We served it up with a salad and a little grated parmesan on everything. For diet food, it was real tasty.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Friday, January 21, 2011

It's Garden Time In Tenneessee

Hard to believe it's already time to get started gardening, but I sowed the seeds for transplants the other day for peppers and the cool season stuff (cabbage, lettuce, etc).  I'll try to get the early stuff planted in the garden the first of March and the warm season items in mid -April - earlier for the peppers.  Our temps have been getting hotter sooner and the peppers don't have time to set a good fruit crop, then they pretty well quit blooming for the hot summer months, so I'll plant them earlier and deal with frost if need be.  For the same reason, I need to get the cool season items planted earlier, so I can harvest them before they bolt.

My normal sowing method is to fill the tray cells 90% full of Miracle Grow Potting Soil, add the seed and top with a little sphagnum moss (stays dry on top to prevent damping off), and set the tray in water to get the soil pretty wet, and mist the moss to be sure the seed is wet.  The potting soil isn't sterile, but I haven't had a problem so far and it provides some early nutrients.

The peppers are hard to get to germinate, so I'm trying something different this year - after sowing and getting the soil good and moist, and misting the sphagnum moss on top, I wrapped the seed tray in plastic wrap and put it in my dehydrator at 90*. 

I'll know within a week if this works as germination normally takes about 2 weeks.

The cool season items just got the normal treatment - covered with a clear plastic dome and set on a heating coil in the green house.

Here's what I'm growing this year and I think it will keep me plenty busy.

Garlic - 4 types for a test (planted last November)
Spinach - Local seeds
Radish - French breakfast (Jung)
Cabbage - Green Local plants
Cabbage - Red Ruby Dynasty (Stokes)
Cauliflower - Cheddar hybrid (Johnnys)
Kohlrabi - Kohlrabi hybrid (Jung)
Peas - garden Thomas Laxton (OH)
Peas - Snow - Snow Sweet (Johnnys)
Potatoes - Red norland (Co-op)
Potatoes - Yukon Gold (Co-op)
Potatoes - Kennebec (Co-op)
Kale - Vates (S. Exp)
Chard - Bright lights
Lettuce - bib - Merveille des Quatre Saisons (SSE) - reddish
Lettuce - loose leaf  - Slobolt (SSE) - light green
Lettuce - loose leaf - Red velvet (SSE) - deep red
Lettuce - romain - Romain (SSE)
Lettuce - romain - Red leprechaun (SSE)
Onions - bulb Co-op plants
Beets - Cylindra
Pepper-swt - Spanish spice: 5 plants (TT)
Pepper-swt - Giant marconi: 5 plants (Tomato Growers)
Pepper-swt - Super heayweight hybrid: 5 plants (TT)
Pepper-swt - Paprika
Pepper-swt - Melrose
Peppers-hot - Chichimeca (TT)
Peppers-hot - College - anaheim type
Peppers-hot - Poblano
Eggplant - Florida high bush (Tomato Growers)
Eggplant - Antigua (Tomato Growers)
Eggplant - Cloud nine (Tomato Growers)
Tomatoes - Kada (Totally Tomatoes)
Tomatoes - Quimbaya (Totally Tomatoes)
Tomatoes - Brandy-Sudderths
Tomatoes - Yellow brandy (Johnny's)
Tomatoes - Better Boy (TT)
Tomatoes - Persimmon
Tomatoes - Cherokee purple
Tomatoes - Green Zebra
Tomatoes - Cherry - sugar snack hyb (TT)
Squash - Italiano largo hybrid (Park)
Squash - Gold rush zuchinni (Parks)
Cucumber - White from Charlotte
Corn - Ambrosia (Co-op)
Corn - Silver Queen (Co-op)
Corn - Indian (Hopi Indians)
Beans - Peanut (Coop)
Beans - Green filet
Beans - Blue ribbon (saved seeds)
Okra - Clemson spineless (local seeds)

That takes care of gardening for a month, then I'll sow the tomatoes.  Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Baked Potato Filled With Egg, Cheese, And Bacon

When I saw the recipe for this over at Thibeault’s Table, I new I had to try it soon - Cathy over at Wives With Knives blogged about it yesterday. Ann used ham in hers, but since I had no ham, I substituted bacon (my very favorite meat) and if you know me at all, you know I made it for breakfast.

When I went to the potato basket, I had a choice between a very small Yukon gold and a pretty big russet potato, so I opted for the russet and cut it in half for two meals. After scooping out the potato, I put the white part of the scallion, some cheese, butter, and crumbled bacon in the hole. I added the egg, topped with more cheese and bacon and baked until the egg was set, then topped with green onion (I forgot the cream).

I thought it was delicious with the only hard part knowing when the egg is just right. Next time I’ll make sure I season the tater prior to adding anything to it.

And what did I do with the other potato half and the scoopings from the first half. Same ingredients, different presentation plus a few drops of garlic Tabasco.

Potato, cheese, bacon, egg - need I say more.  Thanks Ann for a delicious start to two days.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ye Olde Steakhouse For Breakfast

Before reading any further, please head over to Big Daddy Dave's blog and read his post to set the stage for mine.

Prior to the holidays, friends Laurie and David mentioned that Ye Olde Steak House in Knoxville was one of the places on their go-to list and since Bev and I haven’t been in years, we made a post-holiday plan. It’s a place that has been in business since 1968, burned and rebuilt, and still serves a very good steak. If you look at the menu, you’ll notice it is indeed a steakhouse with only a few other options. It has even been featured on The Travel Channels Man vs. Food.

I ordered the medium rare porterhouse with salad and fried potatoes & onions all along planning for the next days breakfast - surprised aren't you?  I brought home half the potatoes and the filet side of the steak (and of course the bone for the dogs) and had this.  Not much for presentation, but it was real tasty.

Just another basic breakfast meal at Almost Heaven South. I would have doctored the taters with some cheese, bacon, and such, but I’m cutting back a little.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chicken Chow Mein

When I was a kid, Chow Mein was from a can (La Choy I think) over dried noodles from a can, except the one time I remember my aunt making it fresh and how much I liked it. Over the years, as we’ve eaten at Chinese restaurants, there was always something on the menu I wanted more, so it’s been well over 25 years since I’ve had it. I saw a recipe for it several months ago and have been wanting to make it since, but kept wanting other things more.

Then I saw an article on the web and the desire was rekindled, and it seemed like something we could make to fit in with Bev’s restrictive diet. I'd saved the recipe from cdkitchen and decided I could adjust it a little and omit as much oil and starch as possible. Following is what I made, but the original can be seen by clicking on the link. I used the canned chow mein noodles as they were one of the favorite parts from my childhood.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoon soy sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste

3/8 cup low-sodium chicken broth (I used our homemade)
1 1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 1/2  tablespoon soy sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in
4 tablespoons water

1 cup chicken broth (I added it 1/4 cup at a time when needed to cook the veggies in lieu of more oil)
2 medium ribs celery, 1/2" pieces
1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 bell peppers, chopped
1 # broccoli in small florets
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 green onion, sliced (I didn't have any)
2 cans water chestnuts, drained
1 can bamboo shoots, drained
1 cans bean sprouts, drained (Bev's not a fan or would have used 2)
2 tbsp vegetable oil for frying and stir-frying
Canned chow mein noodles

1. Cut the chicken into thin strips or bite sized pieces and marinate for 20 to 25 minutes.
2. Prepare the sauce by whisking the chicken broth with the oyster sauce, soy sauce, salt, pepper and cornstarch and water mixture and set aside.
3. Wash and prep the vegetables.
4. Heat a wok or frying pan over medium-high to high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and the chicken. Let the meat brown briefly, then stir-fry until the redness is gone and the meat is nearly cooked through. Remove the cooked meat and onion from the pan.
5. Cook the rest of the vegetables separately, except for the green onion, seasoning each with a bit of salt while stir-frying if desired, and adding broth (or oil) as needed. Remove each of the vegetables from the pan when finished stir-frying.  I added the bean sprouts, water chestnuts, and bamboo shoots together and last.
6. Add all the removed ingredients back into the wok, making a "well" in the middle of the wok for the sauce.
7. Give the sauce a quick stir and add the to the pan, stirring quickly to thicken. Mix everything together. Stir in the green onions.

8. Ladle over the noodles and have extra Soy and Oyster Sauces available.

It turned out pretty good, but I believe it need more of the sauces.  Next time I'll be very careful with salt additions so more soy and oyster sauce can be added without getting it too salty.  We gave it a 3.5 out of 5 and it satisfied my chow mein craving - or it will have after I eat the leftovers.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Scrambled Eggs And Kielbasa

We had some kielbasa in the fridge that's starting to get some age on it, so I decided to toss a little of it in my morning eggs.  I just sauteed it with some onion in a little olive oil and added a couple of eggs and diced smoked Gouda.  Sided it with a couple of toasted slices off of a mini bread loaf.

Very good.  For those of you who may be new to my blog, I eat eggs almost every morning for breakfast and I try to get a little creative, although basic, with them.. This is a leftover from my college days, when I used inexpensive eggs as the basis for most of my meals, then doctored them with other items - it's all I could afford.  To this day, I still love to do it.

Sunshine finally returned to East Tennessee - shot into the woods behind the house, from the deck.  My dock is down over the hill to the left and the second hill in the left background is across the cove from it.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hodgepodge Sandwich

Man does not live by diet food alone.  I chopped up the last of the pulley-ham, and sauteed with some green onion, then added a beaten egg and cheddar.  When the eggs were done, I slid them onto the last of the homemade sandwich rolls, with a little mayo.  Click on the photo to blow it up (and if your cursor has a + on it, click on the photo again), look at it for 10 seconds, and see if it makes your mouth water a little.

It was outstanding.  The best part is that I was hungry and just went through the fridge to see what was there.  No way I could have intentionally created something this good.

I try to keep advertizing, religion, and politics off my blog, but thought this was cute and generic enough to be ok, and from my perspective, applies to whatever party holds the White House. It came to me from daughter Kathy.

This year, both Groundhog Day and the State of the Union address occur on the same day.

As Air America Radio pointed out, "It is an ironic juxtaposition of events: one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication, while the other involves a groundhog."

I didn't know either:  Juxtaposition

1.  an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, esp. for comparison or contrast.
2.  the state of being close together or side by side.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Spanish Omelet Ala Mika

Every since Mika posted a Spanish Omelet recipe on her Mikas Pantry blog, I’ve been wanting to try it. With Bev’s restrictive diet, I’m on my own for breakfast and she doesn’t really care for potatoes in an omelet, so this is the perfect time to make it.

I went on-line and looked at several recipes for a Spanish Omelet, including one called "The Authentic Spanish Omelet", and the three consistent ingredients were potatoes, onions, and eggs. I’ve heard of Spanish omelets as long as I can remember and probably eaten a few, but I didn’t know this – isn’t the internet a great tool?

Another thing that inspired me to make it now was a small, leftover, baked potato laying in the fridge, so that was the amount of potato I used.  Then I halved the remaining ingredients and added a clove of garlic as I’d seen it in some of the recipes, and I like garlic. I sautéed the veggies a little to warm them up, then added the beaten eggs, to which I’d added a little half and half, and the shredded cheddar. I like to always add dairy to my eggs for the creaminess and lift it seems to provide. I wanted to use our non-stick skillet with the plastic handle, that I doubt is broiler proof, so I just cooked it slowly on the cook-top with a lid until the top was set and slid it on the plate top-side up. I guess what I may have here is a Spanish Fritatta, but whatever it was called, I sure enjoyed it and with no meat and just a little olive oil and dairy, it wasn't terribly bad for me.

Several folks have recently posted their top ten recipes or favorite posts and I wondered how they kept up with it, then I noticed this tab called “stats” at the top of my signed-in page. Remember, I’m techo-challenged and have only been looking at this page of my blog for a year and a half. So I decided what the heck and clicked on it – WOW – there was all this information about my blog. Why didn’t somebody tell me about this? My all time most read post was Country Ham For Supper And Breakfast on Aug 11, 2010 – I had no idea. As for our best meal of the last year, the prime rib in my previous header picture, from Christmas Day, would be hard to beat.

I've noticed two things - I've been producing some pretty long blogs and I'm more likely to read the shorter ones from others, so I'm trying to shorten mine and hold them to one topic.

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


Friday, January 14, 2011

Some More Snow Shots

As the header shot shows the dock is not as inviting as in the 90* summer heat.  Here's a few more snow shots  - remember this is a major snow event for here.  Click on them to enlarge and again if your cursor has a + on it.

Our neighbor on the hill sent me this shot of our place.  It's a little hard to see unless you enlarge, but the house is to the left of the tree and the garden plot is to the right of it.

And here's one back up the hill of his house.

I took a few shots as I walked down to the dock to be sure it was okay.  It was really just an excuse to go out and play in the snow.

And this is Sweetie, the snow dog on the way back up the hill - she loves to play in the snow.

Here's a couple views of Bev's flower garden asleep.

It's hard to imagine how much color will be around in a few months from the snowball and azaleas hiding under the snow.

Sure am glad I didn't have to go anywhere and could just sit by the fire and enjoy the view - Cody's liking it too.

It's amazing how relative everything is.  We thought the major storm that passed thru here dropping 7" of snow was a really big deal, yet they're measuring it in feet in New England and probably faring better than we did.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Flat Irons On The Grill

You’ve probably noticed that many of my posts lately (and in the near future) have been breakfasts with the occasional sandwich, which is because we’ve been eating very light in the evening and nothing to write home about. But I got an email the other day from Allrecipes that included their best recipes for 2010 and one of them was called “Best Steak Marinade In Existence”, and we had some flat iron steaks in the freezer.

Flat iron lovers call it a very tender and well-flavored steak at reasonable prices while others see it as the meat industries way of charging steak prices for chuck roast.

From, "The Flat Iron Steak (also know as a Top Blade Steak, now appearing in grocery stores and on restaurant menus was developed by teams at the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida. The problem that presented these researchers of the cow was what to do with a waste cut of beef from the shoulder of the cow. Though a flavorful and relatively tender cut of meat, the top blade roast has a serious flaw in the middle of it; an impossibly tough piece of connective tissue running through the middle.

So, after developing a method for cutting and presenting this steak, these friendly scientists have presented to us an amazing cut of beef. More than that, they have developed a nearly perfect steak for the grill. The Flat Iron (supposedly named because it looks like an old fashioned metal flat iron) is uniform in thickness and rectangular in shape. The only variation is the cut into the middle of the steak where the connective tissues have been removed."

Like many folks, we use them in dishes where flank or skirt steak is the norm. I like it better than flank and rarely ever see skirt in the market – I guess it all goes to restaurants that serve fajitas.

We were planning to have the meal a day earlier, but were short on Soy and Worsey sauces, so I made sure I went to the store before the snow got here and we made up the marinade the day before, using this recipe, but with only half the oil shown – it’s a no-no on Bev’s diet.

· 1/3 cup soy sauce
· 1/2 cup olive oil
· 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
· 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
· 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
· 3 tablespoons dried basil
· 1 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
· 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
· 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
· 1 teaspoon dried minced garlic (optional)

1. Place the soy sauce, olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, basil, parsley, and pepper in a blender. Add hot pepper sauce and garlic, if desired. Blend on high speed for 30 seconds until thoroughly mixed.
2. Pour marinade over desired type of meat. Cover, and refrigerate for up to 8 hours. Cook meat as desired.

We marinated the steak for about 7 hours and grilled it on the Weber over charcoal.  Here they are waiting for the grill.

I got about a chimney full of lump charcoal going and dumped the snow off the grill lid.

I grilled them to 125* and rested about 5 minutes.  Here's one ready to be cut.

Note a fancy presentation, but here's my plate.

I don't know if it was the best ever marinade, but it was very good and we both thought it should become our go-to version.  And to top it off, the veggie side was just as good.  Bev sprinkled the broccoli and cauliflower with salt,  garlic Tabasco sauce, and Carribean Mango Majic from Home BBQ (which had been in the pantry forever), and steamed until just tender, then tossed it in a pan with a little melted butter & garlic.  This was quasi-diet food and a very tasty dinner on a cold snowy night - I could be on this diet.

Have a great day and thanks for visiting.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ham & Cheese Sandwich

Seems as though I’m forever trying to clean out the leftovers and with three recent holidays, it’s been a big challenge. For today, before she left for the big city (Maryville), Bev reminded me of the sandwich rolls she’d baked for me awhile back and I went off in search of the makings. What I found was some thin sliced deli ham, smoked Gouda cheese, Duke’s mayo, and homemade mustard. The rolls ended up being pretty thick in the center, so I whacked off the top part of it, not needing the extra bread.

I put mayo on the bottom bread slice and mustard on the top, layered on the ham and cheese and nuked it until the cheese melted a little. Then added a little lettuce and got this:

It was delicious, but I forgot about the onion and dill pickle that usually goes on my sandwiches – that’s what I get for not having the “sandwich queen” here to instruct me. As with the Ham Reuben the other day, I could only eat half, so I’ll remember the onion and pickle for the other half when I eat it.

I was poking fun at my son the other day for clearing the snow from his entire driveway, then after looking at the weather forecast and noticing the slush in the bottom of the tracks we’d made, I decided to shovel mine.

I don’t have to go anywhere in the car - and have 4WD if I do, but I do want to be able to get my morning paper without busting my a$$ - assuming the paper gets here that is. Shoveling my entire driveway is a tractor job – at least for me.

The idea is to shovel it down to the concrete and hope it dries as the temperature drops rather than freezing. This will work so long as it doesn’t get so warm as to melt the adjacent snow and cause a little river in my path, which will then freeze into a narrow ice rink.

If I were so inclined, the snow was perfect for snowman building, or snowball fighting, or snow fort building – almost sounds like the voice of experience doesn’t it? I did enjoy the exercise and needed it to offset some of my breakfast meals – and I didn’t have any heart pain, which supports the doctors opinion that it’s in good shape.

If I added right, this is post number 500 and I just want to say thank you for reading my ramblings, being part of our life and letting me be part of yours. I wish I could just get in the car and drive around America until I've met each of you.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.