Saturday, April 30, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper Crab Quiche - No Frittata

I made a tour around the grounds yesterday and other than a few small tree limbs and some washing from the 4 1/2" rain, we seem to have made it through Wednesdays storms okay. I feel bad for those that sustained damage and especially those who lost loved ones - the planet seems to be waking up.

We made a potato crusted dish some time back and every time I mention it Bev comments that it was too bland. I’ve seen several lately on the blogs I read and began thinking about how to overcome Bev’s objection. When Katherine over at Smoky Mountain Café posted hers a while back and commented that crabmeat could be used, an ideal was born.

I remembered the crab meat I still had in the freezer from our seafood shop-a-thon, the recent crab cakes we’ve made, and the burrito I made from leftover stuffed crab, and a quiche was born. I began with a half recipe of Cathy’s Fire Roasted Pepper Crab Cakes over at Wives With Knives.

This is the crust I had planned and will make sometime, but Bev did not want the extra carbs, so we compromised on a frittata.

For the crust: (If I had made it)
3 cups frozen hash browns, thawed and drained
½ stick melted butter
½ tsp Old Bay
1/8 tsp each salt and pepper

For the filling: (I made it like this)
- 2/3 pound crabmeat
- 2 green onions, small dice
- ½ tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- ½ tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
- ¾ teaspoons Old Bay seasoning, divided
- ¼ cup jarred roasted peppers, diced
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- ¾ cup half and half
- 4 chopped asparagus spears – just because I had them
- 1 cup shredded cheddar
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- Several dashes of Tabasco Habanero Sauce - Bev added more to hers
- Salt and pepper to taste

In a 10” porcelin skillet with a little butter and olive oil, I sautéed the veggies, crab, herbs, and half of the Old Bay until the asparagus was a little tender.

Then I added the cheese and allowed it to begin to soften.

In a bowl I whisked together the remaining ingredients and poured them over the items in the pan and stirred around for a couple of minutes to get things evenly distributed.

I reduced the heat to low and cooked until the bottom was set, then put it under the broiler to finish.  Here's the finished product after the addition of just a little grated parmesan.

It was roll your eyes back delicious and Bev whipped up a salad using our garden salad greens, radishes, spinach, and green onion plus some other stuff and topped it with homemade 1000 Island and it was just about as good. 

Real men definitely eat quiche (or fritatta), even for supper - here's my plate.

Bev loved it and I'm so happy to be moving beyond being just a recipe follower - the next time I'll make individual ones and put a potato crust in mine.  Also, it was almost too moist so I'll reduce the milk to 1/2 cup.  Tune in a few days for the rest of the pound of crab.

I know I'm in the minority, but I'm sure glad this wedding is over.  I don't know whether the media wore me out more with it or the Charlie Sheen debacle :-).

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

One year ago:  Taters and Eggs


Friday, April 29, 2011

Reuben Sausage Sandwich and a Birthday Dinner.

It finally worked out that we had some homemade 1000 Island Dressing, good rye bread, and Reuben sausage at the same time. I’ve had the sausage with mustard but this was the first time with the dressing.

I just browned the sausage in a pan, sliced it in half, and made this sandwich.

It was awesome.

Bev’s birthday was last week and while I made several dinner suggestions she wanted her new favorite seafood dish – grilled shrimp – along with some fresh from the garden asparagus.

She thought the meal was very good and hers was the only opinion that mattered.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

One year ago:  Wings And Hoecakes Ala Mary


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday Gardening Day – Watering

We had at least 5 strong storm cells pass thru here yesterday evening all with tornado warnings, but as far as I know, we are undamaged - I won't have to water the garden for awhile.

Just like we humans, plants cannot survive very long without water and the amount will depend upon the time of year, your weather, your soil, and mulching, so I’ll have to make this about here, where we have clay soil and hot dry days in the summer.

Also, since there are often many ways to achieve good results, in these gardening posts, I will generally be describing how I do it, as with the tomatoes, but in some cases there is clearly a best way and I’ll state it that way.

Most un-mulched plants in this area need 1½ inches of water per week, either from rain or by irrigation – I have an accurate rain gauge to keep up with what Mother Nature provides and I provide the rest. The best test for whether or not you need to water is to use your finger – I just stick my index finger into the soil as far as it will go and if it comes out moist, no water is needed. Another indicator is wilted leaves in early morning – many will look droopy in the heat of the day, but droopy leafs in the early morning is a sign of some type of a problem.

I’ve heard many folks say they water every day, but this is a bad idea as it encourages the roots to stay close to the surface where they can cause plant stress if a few watering days are missed. It is much better to water deeply as few times per week as your soil will allow. This forces the roots to go deep and chase the water as it percolates down into the soil. In dry times, I water twice a week and deliver around ¾ inch each time to get my 1½”.

Supplemental water can be applied in a number of ways – bucket, hose with a wand, overhead sprinkler, soaker hose, drip tape, flooding, etc. In our area, with a high incidence of fungal diseases, overhead watering is the worst choice as it wets the foliage and provides good conditions for fungal growth – warm and moist. If you must water overhead, do it early in the morning so the foliage will have all day to dry. This is especially important for tomatoes where blight and anthracnose are serious issues.

For areas too large to hand-water but too small for drip tape, soaker hoses are a good choice – Bev has many of them meandering around her flower beds - they meander well. Be sure you buy good ones and take care not to over pressure them which will often result in a rupture – just open the water valve enough to get it dripping.

To determine how much water you’re getting from your sprinkler or hose, just set a bucket under the sprinkler or hose and see how long it takes to get ¾ inch or whatever is required for your area. In general, sandy soil requires more frequent watering as it drains out of the soil quicker, but you can just use the finger test to determine what schedule you need to be on.

I water with drip tape which is what the commercial row crop folks around here use. It works similar to a soaker hose but is much cheaper, but it does not like to make curves so it doesn’t work as well in flower beds where plants are growing in other than a straight line. I now have my garden set up to use it in straight runs. I turn the water on and go to bed and since I’m watering only the soil, it is very efficient.  Here are four end-to-end beds in my garden - beans, tomatoes (I have a few more to stake), peppers, and tomatoes with two runs of 1/2" drip tape, 3' apart.

The tape (really a thin wall tubing) requires a pressure regulator and since I use lake water, I also have a strainer on mine.

Finally, consistent access to water is very important and allowing the soil to become too dry then providing a big slug of water can result in such things as split tomatoes where they have been growing at a certain rate based upon the available moisture, but the influx of water can cause the pulp to out-pace the skin and therefore split open.

One of my gardening philosophies – The seeds and plants know what they’re supposed to do and my role is merely to provide them a safe and healthy environment in which to do it.

If at any time you have a gardening question, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

One year ago:  Azaleas - The Main Event


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Dinner At Almost Heaven South

This is a liitle long so I appologize in advance.  Since I had a packer bag full (six) of tri tip roasts that had been wet aging in the fridge for a month, we decided a couple of them would make a good Easter meal for the ten of us. I know - not a very traditional Easter meal except in perhaps Santa Maria, California.  Here they are trimmed and ready.

I once again used the process and recipe from John over at Patio Daddio as we thought it was great last time. I followed his recipe and process except doubled the recipe for our 5# of meat.


1 Tri-tip roast (2-3 pounds)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins, of course)
2 Tbsp Montreal steak seasoning (I recommend McCormick's)
1 Tbsp Plain yellow mustard (I use French's)
2 tsp Chili powder (I recommend Gebhardt's)
2 tsp Beef base (I recommend Better Than Bouillon)
1/2 tsp Garlic salt


Combine all of the ingredients, except the Montreal steak seasoning, in a small mixing bowl. Mix well and set aside.

Then trim up the meat, slather with the marinade, put in a plastic bag, and store in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight. I was up early and started the process at 5:30am for a 9 hour soak.

The two to be cooked for dinner.

I removed them from the fridge at 1:30 to warm up prior to cooking.

I used my gas grill (it’s bigger) and cooked them indirect to an internal temperature of 125* adding red oak chips in foil pouches. In order to collect the pan juices, I cooked them on a rack in a foil lined jelly roll pan to a temp of 125*, which took just over an hour, but there were no pan juices.

Since they were done earlier than I expected, I wrapped them in foil and put in a preheated cooler until ready for carving.

I made up a little mushroom sauce for it using a recipe from cdkitchen. The recipe was for a pan roasted tri tip, but I just used the sauce part and also added the items that went in with the meat (wine, butter, beef broth) and made adjustments to taste.

For side dish number one we used our favorite Brussels sprout recipe by steaming them until just tender in the morning then just before serving we reheated them by tossing in a butter, garlic, lemon sauce and topped with crumbled bacon.

Side two was leftover Orzo Salad Ala Velva, which we re-tossed with additional olive oil and added more feta and tomato - we intentionally saved it for this meal and it was still very good.

For side three, we had a Bev invention which we’ll call Easter Salad which was home grown lettuce tossed with Caesar dressing and parmesan then topped with regular deviled eggs, chunked pickled beets, and deviled pickled eggs (the eggs spent about a day soaking in the beet juice).  Bev just mixes her egg filling until it tastes right, but this time it wasn't tangy enough (wrong vinegar) so she addedd some green tomato relish which I didn't care for it in the plain ones, but worked very well in the deviled ones - a suprise as I'm not a sweet relish fan.

And finally there were homemade yeast rolls.  Here’s my plate and the table.

For dessert, Bev made her mom's famous sweet rolls, which are made using her regular bread dough which is rolled out and topped with sugar, cinnamon, and chopped pecans.  She then rolled them up, slices into rolls, and allowed to raise.  After baking she topped them with a new Paula Deen icing recipe (Bev used half of this recipe shown) and she thought these may have been her best ever - they got rave reviews from our guests.

Glaze Ala Paula Deen

4 tablespoons butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-6 tablespoons of hot water

Mix butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Add hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until the glaze reaches desired consistency. Spread over slightly cooled rolls.

They were gone before I got a photo and I intended to take several more meal shots but got too busy with cooking and socializing - just having too must fun - I may need a designated photographer.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

One year ago:  Blackened Crappie Ala Dave


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Reheated Smoked Chicken and Orzo Salad

Header - The salmon's are open a little more.

When I smoke meat, I usually do up several chicken breasts and thighs for us, as Bev likes to use them for many dishes and we had already decided to have them for dinner this night. One of the things I love about blogging is having your recipes show up at just the right time.

As I was reading this am, Pioneer woman posted a recipe for oven baked chicken legs with a BBQ sauce using adobo sauce. While I’m not a big sauce user, I really like adobo so I decided to make up a batch to put on our chix. I made it up in the morning so it would have all day for flavor marrying.

Then the very next blog I read was from Velva at Tomatoes on the vine which was a recipe for Summer Orzo Salad. It had all these things we like, so we decided to have it rather than the planned wilted lettuce. As it turned out we had all of the ingredients on hand but since Bev is not a big fan of chick peas and wanted something with more contrasting color, we used black beans (I grabbed and opened a can of kidney beans by mistake, so I tossed them in as well). So our recipe became:

Summer Orzo Salad
Adapted very little from Velva Knapp

1 cup orzo
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup Kalamata olives
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1- 14 ounce can artichoke hearts (not packed in oil), drained
1-14 ounce each black beans and dark red kidney beans
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
2 cups chopped vine ripened tomatoes (about 2 large)


In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water until cool. Press to remove excess water. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with olive oil.

With a chef's knife, mash garlic and salt into a paste. Transfer to a small bowl and whisk in lemon juice and pepper. Set the dressing aside.

Gently squeeze excess moisture from artichoke hearts, and cut length-wise into eighths. Add to orzo along with chickpeas, onion, olives, feta, dill, mint and reserved dressing. Toss gently to combine and follow the part about use a large bowl - I had to move up a size before tossing.

Add tomatoes and toss again.

For the chicken breasts, I let them thaw to room temperature, wrapped in foil with a little water and heated it the little oven at 250* to an internal temp of 150* - took about an hour. I then took it to the grill cooked on medium heat for about 10 minutes to get a nice coating of the BBQ sauce. We grilled up an eggplant as well. Hot off the newly reworked gas grill.

And here’s my plate.

We all really liked the BBQ sauce and I'm glad I made up the whole recipe so I can try it on some pork and beef, it was good on the eggplant too – it reminds me of a Kansas City style sauce. We also thought the pasta salad was delicious, especially since we’re big fans of Mediterranean flavors. All in all it was an excellent meal after a hard day of gardening.

I took this shot from the deck while I was grilling.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

One year ago:  Living High On The Hog In St. Maarten


Monday, April 25, 2011

We Need A New Gas Grill - Or Not

“Why in the world would he blog about cleaning up his grill?” you might ask. “Surely he doesn’t think we readers are interested in this”, you might say. Blogs seem to be used for all sorts of things such as recipe sharing, as a travel log, for a photo album, etc, but for me it’s more of a diary. Since I have a bad case of CRS, it’s a way I can keep track of our travels, family, recipes, weather, etc. all in one place and occasionally go back and even find it.  I'm very flattered that you take the time to read it.

Our gas grill had gotten to the point that four of the five burners were just putting out yellow flame at the back but not much heat and Bev suggested we should consider a new one. But I decided I had to determine what the problem might be first - spiders in the burner orifice for example. Since it was a Ducane and all stainless, I assumed the burners were fine.

I’m always envious of how Cowgirl Jeanie keeps her fleet of cookers looking so good - her smokers even look better than my grill.  So I decided I needed to see if mine could be salvaged and, if so, give it a good cleaning – here’s the outside and it has been neglected.

When I got inside I found it to be horribly dirty and the burners had failed.

So I went on-line and found a source for replacement burners at $30 each, and decided for $150 I could have a fully functioning grill, so I ordered them. In the meantime I went about cleaning it up and was surprised at the amount of rust on the metal. I know all stainless is not created equal, but would have thought such a reputable grill maker would have used a higher quality metal – this must have contained just enough chrome to look good in the showroom.

I cleaned the inside as best I could without getting too serious about it – it’s just going to get dirty again with the first cook. I gave the barely functioning igniters a good wire brushing and they all work fine now.

When I got the new burners, I adjusted the air intake just like those removed and the flame was awful. I ended up moving it from all the way in one direction 2/3 of the way in the other direction. This may have been why the burners failed and why I never thought it got as hot as it should.

For the outside, the lady who cleans our house was available and since she is a pro, more agile than me, and will work harder at it, she got the job. She cleaned the underneath storage area and outside and did a super job – if it’s still on there, it isn’t going to come off.

After it was all cleaned, I laid in the grill grates, cranked it up to full blast for grate cleaning and it hit 500* for the first time ever.  The grates still need a little work but it looks real good compared to where it started - but still bad compared to Jeanie's, oh well.

The lessons – don’t assume it came from the factory right, keep the cover on when not in use, give it a good cleaning at least once a year and the grates often.

Let the grilling begin.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

One year ago:  Sweet Taters and Eggs and Tuscan Tuna, White Bean and Avocado Salad (I had a lot to say that day)


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Leftover Sloppy Joes

I try to keep my blog secular and free of politics and advertising, but today is just too important not to wish you a HAPPY EASTER.

I had some Sloppy Joe left from dinner the other night and I got two meals from it. The first one comes under the category of “sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”  - reheated the meat and taters.

It was actually very good. This was the second one, for dinner a day later, and I decided to kick it up with some smoked Gouda and pickled jalapenos. I had a little too much meat for a regular sandwich so went with open faced.

Outstanding again and if you like Sloppy Joes’s you really should try Katherine's recipe.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

One year ago:  Deep Fried Asparagus and Stuff  (haven't had any yet this year but need to)


Saturday, April 23, 2011

How I Plant Tomatoes

Tomatoes are by far the most widely grown item in the home vegetable garden and with good reason – they taste better if allowed to ripen on the vine and those from the store are picked mostly green or they could not be shipped in baskets without turning into juice.

One of the unique features of tomato plants is that all parts of the stem that touch the ground will put out roots rather than rotting like many plants, so the stem can be buried when planting. I plant mine pretty deep so they will have access to more water, which they require a lot of when fruiting.

This is certainly not a requirement and totally impractical for large numbers of plants, but I dig my planting holes with post hole diggers to plant them deep for water and for more root development. Notice I have a piece of drip tape (irrigation) laid out to ensure the plants get the correct spacing - right at the water emitter.

Next I add a handful of compost and a heavy pinch of gypsum (use lime if your soil tends to be acidic – pH in the 6.5 range).

You do not want to add a fertilizer at this point (just the compost) and tomatoes never like much nitrogen as you will get great plants but few tomatoes. While most soils have plenty, I add the gypsum (or lime or crushed egg shells), to ensure a source of calcium to the plant. Blossom end rot is due to a lack of calcium, but I’ll cover this later – right now we just need to plant them.

Next, I pinch off all but the top 2 or 3 sets of leaves and tease the roots (rough up those around the outside), if they are root bound – this applies to all planting and encourages the roots to grow outward rather than continuing in a circle around the stem. I once had a tree that achieved 6” diameter but kept falling over because I failed to do this – had to cut it down.

Then mix some soil with the compost and gypsum in the hole, move it to the side, and set the root ball in the bottom and firm the mix around it.  I then fill the hole half way with soil, firm (not pack) it and water, which will ensure any trapped air will bubble out. It’s important to water-in the plants as trapped air will dry out the roots - I got a liitle too much in this one.

I add soil up to the original ground level and firm some which will create a small well to catch and hold water to feed the roots – a mound will feed the water away from the plant. Don’t pack it too tight as you want the water to easily penetrate the top layer, then water it again.  The stick along side the stem is up against it to prevent cut worms from wrapping around the stem and eating it - the wood or plastic plant ID stick works well also.

Finally I mulch with straw for water retention, weed control, and disease control – many diseases live in the soil and I don’t want the leaves to touch it nor rain water to splash soil onto them.

Later I’ll cover the various aspects of growing maters (and other plants) – staking/caging, fertilizing, pruning, disease and pest control, etc. Bear in mind that much of what I cover is generic and applies to all plants – teasing the roots prior to planting for example.  One final comment - it's always best to transplant of an evening or on a cloudy day so the plants don't have to immediately stand up to the sun's full heat - remember, we've just disturbed the roots.

When you go to buy plants, you will often find large plants that already have tomatoes on them – buy them if you must but…  Bev kept after me to plant one and I resisted, but I finally agreed, just to show her the outcome. So I planted one – gallon pot size - and right beside it I planted my normal size plant of the same variety. The large plant ripened the fruit it had on it, although they didn’t get much larger, it grew very little, and in a few weeks the other one had shot by it - it produced very few tomatoes.  The larger the plant the less it likes being transplanted.  If you can’t resist the urge plant one, remove all of the fruit and blooms for a couple of weeks so the plant will devote its energy to root development, which will be critical for the remainder of the season, or you will likely get what I got.

Thanks to Bev and neighbor Pat doing the actual planting while I laid things out, dug the holes, and watered, we got our 38 maters and 18 peppers in the ground in a couple of hours on Tuesday- ahead of the in-coming rain.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

One year ago:  Fields Of yellow


Friday, April 22, 2011

Sloppy Joes, Burgers, and Taters

Header - The whites and reds are in, the salmon is just opening.

I can’t remember if I’ve had a Sloppy Joe since I was a kid and definitely not in the 26 years I’ve been married to Bev as she doesn’t care for them. But when I saw Katherine’s recipe for Death By Sloppy Joe over at Smoky Mountain Café, I knew I’d waited long enough. When I mentioned them to Bev, she said she’d rather have a plain ole hamburger (she needs a regular burger fix) so I decided on both and made just a half recipe of the Sloppy Joe’s.

Since I followed Katherine’s recipe as written, you can just visit her site to have a look.

I have also been trying to work Jo Jo Potatoes into a meal since they were posted by Jenn from Jenn’s Food Journey. Again, Bev followed the recipe as written, so just stop by her place for a look.  This is my plate of a Sloppy Joe and taters - I probably should have added a piece of lettuce to make it health food, but I did add a slice of smoked Gouda.

The burgers were just your basic 5 ounces of ground chuck with a heavy coat of Montreal Steak Seasoning and grilled to pink over charcoal and topped with smoked Gouda. What makes them special is what Bev does once they’re off the grill, but she also raved about the burger taste.  I also did the garlic butter grilled buns for the burgers per Katherine's Sloppy Joe recipe.  This is Bev's plate using fresh from the garden lettuce - there's meat in there somewhere.
First let me comment about the Sloppy Joe's.  I can't imagine that I ever had a Sloppy Joe with more than a half dozen ingredients and Katherine's had 21, as best I could count, and it was worth every one of them - I thought they were outstanding and by far the best I ever had - dinner guest Kathy had a little on her burger and loved it.  I won't wait 26 more years for the next one and I won't make just a half recipe.

We all thought the potatoes were very good as well and will definitely make them again.  Bev decided to make a double recipe so I'd have plenty of leftovers but there were only 5 wedges left - but lots of coating remains.

Both the Sloppy Joes and the potatoes had some nice heat to them and my mouth was a little warm by meals end.  This was definitely an excellent meal and I thank Katherine and Jenn for posting the recipes.  My shots don't come close to doing justice to how good it was.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

One year ago: Next Stop - Korea

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Let’s Talk Vegetable Gardening and Some Other Items

A few times a year, I get the opportunity to speak to a group (garden club, Master Gardener Training, nursery, etc) about gardening – it’s a way to give back to the community for the training I received. This past Saturday, I spoke to a group of about 30 folks at the Meadow View Nursery in Lenoir City, Tn. on a cool, blustery Saturday morning. More and more people seem to be getting interested in growing their own food and it gives me some piece of mind knowing I can do it, plus I really enjoy helping others learn how. Here I am heading for the nursery and wearing the traditional paste-tomato pants I always use for these talks - damn I'm looking old.

The day before I took some shots of our yard as the spring bloomers are hitting their peak – we have continuous spring color from the time the crocuses pop up until the azaleas fade, then the summer items kick in.  The white Azaleas are full and reds are opening, even the BBQ area has a little color.

Also did a little close-up practicing, but still using auto focus.

And finally, it’s strawberry time in Tennessee, which means the pick-your-own farm a few miles up the road is open for business and this is a small part of their total crop. It was a very windy day – notice the white flags in the back.

The early ones are not quite as good as those that come later, but they’re still way better than those available in the store. When she first started doing this, Bev always picked way more than we could eat and many ended up on the compost pile. Now she just picks enough that we’ll eat, knowing that she can just go again when we run out.

Many of these were dipped in chocolate for dessert and they went down very easy.

A CHANGE - I've decided to change my blog a little and rather than just random topics as they come up, I'm going to have at least one day and maybe two devoted to a specific topic as many of you already do.  To start, each Thursday will be be gardening/ landscapping related at least through the fall and I hope to include a how-to in most of them, except since it's now time, I'll post tomato planting Saturday rather than wait a week.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

One year ago: Off And Planting