Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blogger Party - Final Reminder

So far, we have 17 adults and 4 kids signed up for our Blogger Party coming from Tennessee, North Carolina, Kansas, Florida, and New Jersey - sounds like a great group to me.  Double click for a blow up.
Remember - Jun 1 is the deadline as we have lots of plans to make and things to do.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.
Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Different Slaw For The Dock Party


During our trip to New England, we had a Blue Cheese Slaw with dried currants or cranberries from the Margarita Grill and Bev wanted to take a shot at replicating it. So I found an Ina Garten recipe for Blue Cheese Cole Slaw for her to start from.


1/2 small head green cabbage
1/2 small head red cabbage
4 large carrots, scrubbed or peeled
2 cups (16 ounces) good mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) crumbled Roquefort blue cheese
1 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

Cut the cabbages in half and then in quarters and cut out the cores. Set up the food processor with the slicing blade (according to manufacturer's instructions) and place the pieces of cabbage, one at a time, lying horizontally in the feed tube. (If they don't fit, cut them to fit lying down.) Place the feed tube pusher on top and turn on the processor. Don't push on the feed tube pusher or the slices will turn out too thick! Continue with the remaining red and green cabbage quarters. Transfer into a large bowl, discarding any very large pieces. Before you pour the dressing on the salad, save a handful of the grated vegetables to decorate for serving. Change the slicing blade for the large shredding blade and cut the carrots so they also lie down in the feed tube. Since the carrots are hard, replace the feed tube pusher and press firmly with the food processor on. Transfer to bowl with the cabbages. In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, both mustards, vinegar, celery salt, kosher salt, and pepper. Pour enough mayonnaise dressing over the grated vegetables and toss to moisten well. Add crumbled blue cheese and parsley and toss together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to meld. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Bev amended it by omitting the parsley and mixing yellow raisins, and Craisins to taste with the dressing – we had no dried cranberries or currants. Then she split it into two batches and left one as is (not everyone likes blue cheese) and to the other, she added Salemville Amish Blue Cheese Crumbles (milder than many) to taste. I thought the slaw was outstanding and it will be a requested version from now on. The dressing made a nice slaw without the blue cheese, although it was more mustardy tasting. If you like blue cheese, I have to believe you'll love this - one of the dock party attendees liked it and he doesn't care for blue cheese.

The next day, she made cornbread salad from the Mexican cornbread leftovers. We’ve been a fan of this dish since we first tried it and Mary over at Deep Dish South posted a great picture of hers the other day. But to my recollection, Bev has never made it from Mexican cornbread and I thought it kicked the salad up several notches – another dish to be requested for the future.

Sorry, I didn't get any photos.

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

One year ago:  Pasta Bolognese


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Finally - Serious Seafood Shopping In Portland

One of the things I wanted to do on our New England trip was bring home some good, fresh seafood so Friday was dedicated to it plus a little touring around south of Portland. We talked to a few folks, including a restaurant owner, and Harbor Fish Market, in Portland came highly recommended. First, we went in, looked around, and asked some questions then went off for lunch and to prepare our shopping list.

Bear in mind that I love seafood and it was so fresh, they were cutting it up in one room and selling it in the next. I could not pass up this opportunity, even if it meant leaving for home a day early – it was supposed to be raining on Saturday anyway.

Here are some shots of the retail market which is a small part of their business.

This is the very helpful and friendly fish monger, Dan.

These are the tanks for live crabs and lobsters.

He did a great job packing it up and when we got home, the ice packs were still frozen and the fish was odorless = fresh.

After unloading the car and a few minutes to just relax, I tackled bagging and storing the seafood.

We had 4 pints of chopped clams, 2 pints of crabmeat, and 2 pints of steamer clams that went directly into the freezer.

Next up were the fishes and this is in order of the pictures. I cut them as necessary for meal sized packages, sealed in vacuum bags, and froze. First was haddock, hake (a local favorite similar to haddock, but milder), and cod.

Then it was swordfish, salmon (one of two), and halibut – for the grill and smoker. I’ve noticed Atlantic Salmon in the market is always farm raised and according to the fishmonger, it’s because it’s a protected species.

Finally, the scallops which I froze prior to bagging.

I feel a serious seafood platter coming on in the near future.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

One year ago:  My First Jerk Chicken


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bojangles Leftovers For Breakfast

I eat very little fast food, except when on the road, but there are a few places I actually make an effort to go to and Bojangles is one of them. I believe I’ve had chicken and biscuit from every fast chicken place in America and I really enjoy both at Bojangles – as does Bev. So, when we went to Walmart in Lenoir City the other day, about lunch time, a stop at the local Bojangles, located just across the road, was in order and as usual I enjoyed my lunch.

Since we had both chicken and biscuits leftover, I decided to see what I could make for breakfast. As with most fried chicken, it’s all about the coating on the skin and it just had to be used in this dish, but it was no longer nice and crispy. So the first order of business was to remove it, chop, and sauté in a little oil to re-crisp – I tossed in some chopped green onion as well.

While this was cooking, I removed the meat from the breast and diced it, and beat up a couple of eggs with a little half and half and a few shots of Cafe Noche Chipotle Hot Sauce (from our trip to New Hampshire). The trip to Walmart had been to get these eggs, which we believe are the best around.

When the skin was crisp, I added the chicken to the pan.

And when it was warm, I added the eggs and scrambled.  I had split the biscuit, added a little smoked Gouda, and warmed in the toaster oven until almost melted.

I topped the biscuit with the eggs, a little more green onion tops, and got this.

Most of my breakfast creations are pretty good, some are very good, but this was OMG good, with the chicken skin and coating, and the smoked cheese being critical elements – so don’t try and make this healthy.  It's hard to believe I went this long without a breakfast post - I appologize to my breakfast readers.

From a nature standpoint, when we returned from New England, we believed the Cicada's peak had passed and boy were we wrong.  This last week, they were so noisy during the day, we had to raise our voices to talk outside and they often made us think a nearby home alarm was sounding.  They are everywhere and thick in the trees - both the leaves and the trunks.

I'd mentioned before that they were considered food in some cultures around the world and discovered the same is true at Almost heaven South.  As he accompanied me to get the papers, our old man dog, Cody, pretty well cleaned the driveway of them and he didn't care if they were dead or crawling around, he just gobbled them up.  They don't seem to be hurting him so perhaps they are just another source of protein.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

One year ago: Breakfast From The Frig


Friday, May 27, 2011

New England Day 5 – Portland And South

The things on my New England Bucket List to start this day were eat fried clams and a lobster roll, check out the Portland fish markets and drive down the coast south of Portland. We did them all this day and after filling 2 coolers with fresh seafood, we decided to head back to Tennessee a day early – other than drive up Mt. Washington, we’ve done everything I wanted to do.

I took a few shots in North Conway of the older homes that had been turned into inns and their version of an early 1900's hotel like the Mt. Washington Hotel.

This in a very unique motel.

I decided to take a different route to Portland to avoid the 15 minute dead stop we experienced for road work the previous trip and I’m sure glad I did. Even though it was more of a back road, it was in no worse shape than the other route and it went by some beautiful little lakes (ponds) – I’ve never seen so much water as there are streams, lakes and bogs everywhere we went. Here’s a few lake shots.

We headed directly to the Portland Harbor area and went to the highly recommended Harbor Fish Market to check it out, unbelievable – separate post still coming. Upon saying we needed to get our shopping list together and I wanted a lobster roll for lunch the fish monger said the Portland Lobster Co about a half block away had the best in town, so off we went along the wharf.

No trouble finding a seat on a mid-May weekday.

I had the lobster roll and Bev had the fried clams, items 1 and 2 on todays list.  They were both good, but once again, I was underwhelmed by the lobster and preferred the clams.  It was a toasted hotdog bun, and the cold meat from a 1# lobster that had been brushed with butter - I thought a little mayo based sauce mixed in would have made it better.  The Native Americans used lobster to toss on their fields for fertilizer and the early European settlers gave them to the servants, but we pay outrageous prices for them - hum.

After lunch and a two-coolers-full fish purchase, we headed for Cape Elizabeth, which had been recommended by Mary at Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes. She also recommended several restaurants and we saw three of them, but we had already eaten – thanks Mary.

At Cape Elizabeth we visited the light houses and the shore – notice that I didn’t say beach as the coastline was rocky – quite a departure from the southern beaches we’re used to. The shore was beautiful none the less and here are a few shots including a lighthouse, of course.

Since we needed to get packed for the trip home, we headed back to the NH resort rather than driving on down the coast for more scenery and to drop by for a visit with the Bush’s at their Kennebunkport compound – maybe next time.

When we got back, we checked out a few menus and decided to try the very close Mexican place – Margarita Grill, thinking we were seafooded out but we were shocked.

It was a fantastic combination of New England and Mexican and other -we each had a scallop dish. I forgot pictures, but Bev had the baked scallop and mushroom appetizer and I had the Cajun scallop special which came with a super good slaw of cabbage and dried cranberries and sweet potato fries. Bev commented that she could have eaten there every night for our week. And to top it off, the margaritas were excellent and the service was outstanding – and we brought home a bottle each of their homemade hot sauces – I think that made 7 for the trip.

When we got back to the resort, this little guy was looking around for a meal.

Then it was pack up the car and hit the sack for an early start to the trip home.

REMINDER: The dead line for the blogger party is June 1 and so far we have 15 adults and some kids, so it looks like a good party in the making.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

One year ago:  A BBQ Plan That Works Well For Us


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gardening Thursday – Protecting Your Plants, Part 2

A Maine pond.

By far, the biggest challenge in dealing with pests (Ps) and diseases (Ds) comes in the warm months when both flourish and use my garden in support of their reproductive cycle.  My plan for this post, which could be a month long, is to hit the highlights for the crops that many home gardeners grow - tomatoes, peppers, beans, corn, cukes, and squash.

In our area, fungal diseases (early & late blight and anthracnose) attack tomatoes, beans, potatoes, peppers, and cucumbers and they are all treated the same way. The key to success is prevention and once a leaf or branch has the disease, it cannot be cured and must be removed from the plant and disposed of away from your garden. Fungal diseases, like other fungi, such as mushrooms, propagate via tiny spores that can be in the ground or the air and grow in warm moist areas – such as plant leaves.  When working with plants, such as tieing tomatoes, it's best to do it when the leaves are dry to avoid spreading any fungi with your hands or tools.  To avoid the heat, I do mine in the evening and if I know my plants are infected and I'm removing those branches, I continually wipe my hands and tools with Chlorox Wipes from a pop-up container.

For me tomatoes are the most susceptible and I spray them with a listed fungicide every Saturday and following a rain. I also remove any leaves that contact the ground and mulch with straw to prevent soil from splashing on the leaves during rains. I never water over head, which wets the leaves, I make sure enough foliage is removed from multi-stem caged plants to allow for air circulation and leaf drying, and I inspect them daily and remove any infected leaves. It is still a major issue for me and can quickly kill the plant if left alone. I don’t have as big a fungal problem with the other plants except beans which get the same spraying as tomatoes if needed.

Another normal problem with tomatoes and peppers is blossom end rot which is not a disease but a calcium deficiency. While I add gypsum as a source of calcium at planting time, the most common cause of the problem is allowing the plants to get so dry, they cannot bring up the calcium which is dissolved in the soil moisture.

Corn can also be infected by blight and rust fungi and are treated the same as the others.

From a pest standpoint, I have several to deal with, but the Colorado Potato Beetle is the most difficult especially since it preys on all four of my nightshades – tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes. I pick off the adults when I find them, but once the larva appear, I resort to a listed insecticide as they are voracious eaters.

The squash vine borer (SVB) is my biggest threat and it kills the plant by hatched eggs out on the plant making their way back to near where the stem emerges from the soil and boring a hole into the inside. From there, it eats the stem inside until one day the healthy looking plant you had yesterday is dead today. I spray the entire plants with a listed insecticide until blooms develop, then I spray the first couple of feet of stem and ground once a week thereafter, as prevention is the key. Once the borer gets into the stem, it is pretty much doomed.

Aphids can be a problem, but aren’t much of one for me and when I’ve seen them, they were usually being dined on by Lady Beetles.

Flea Beetles are a problem for me as they eat small holes in the leaves that can actually kill the plant, especially small young ones. They attack my potatoes, but usually after they are too big to inflict serious damage, but they are out in mass, when I plant my eggplant. If I don’t spray them with a pesticide the day I plant them and keep them sprayed, I will get no eggplant.

Finally there is the corn ear worm which craws into the developing ear and begins feeding as the kernels develop, usually eating the top few rows. When developed, they bore a hole and exit to become a moth – so the hole you see is the exit, not the entrance. I’ve tried everything from mineral oil to chemically spraying the silks to spraying the entire plant and I still get them. I’ve discussed this with a local grower of sweet corn and he advised they spray theirs every few nights with permethrin (pyrethrin is the naturally occurring product made from chrysanthemums) and I’ve found very few worms on the many ears we’ve bought from them. As a kid, nearly every ear I shucked (this was my job) included a worm and if I were selling it to today’s urban-raised society, I’d have to prevent them, but since it’s just for me and they don’t eat much, I do nothing to prevent them.

Other than aphids and potato beetles, the other pests I see on my tomatoes are the horn worm and stink bug and you just need to inspect your plants regularly to find them. If you find an area missing significant foliage, start looking for the hornworm. While they are about the size of a little finger and extremely ugly, they blend in with the plant very well and can be hard to find, but you need to look until you find one as they can eat a lot of plant in a short time. You’ll know stink bugs are feeding on your tomatoes when you see little yellow spots on the tomatoes that are white when you remove the skin. I control them by spraying if they get too bad.

The big pest for beans is the Mexican Bean Beetle and I deal with them by chemical spraying if they begin to significantly harm the plant. They will become obvious as the little yellow larva eat the underside of the leaves and leave a nearly see through skeleton.

For more info and a picture on any of these just do a quick web search and remember, the later the year goes, the worse they nearly all become.

The following is copied and amended from last weeks gardening post.

Here's the menu for the publications dealing with Ds and Ps in the home garden, incluging trees, schrubs and lawns - a real wealth of info - from University Of Tennessee Extension. Since I'm dealing specifically with Ps and Ds control in the vegetable garden, here are the specific manuals for them:

Disease Manual - the back of this manual has controls by crop by pest.

Pest Manual- the back of this manual has controls by by crop by pest.

Then there are also many specific manuals such as these for the Mexican Bean Beetle and Foliar Diseases of Tomato.

One source for organic products is Gardens Alive.

The Extension manuals cover most common garden pests and diseases, but your State Extension Service will have them specific to your area. If you do any type of gardening or landscapping, I strongly urge you to get familiar with the available publications for your state extension service - learning about their existence may be the most important thing I got from my Master Gardener training and the most important thing you'll get from my blog.

My garden is coming along.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

One year ago:  Escape To Serenity Falls


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pork Rib Taste Test

A Maine pond.

We normally have a dock opening party earlier in May but we were out of town and so we had it a little late. Also, for my May BBQ day, I cooked a slab of ribs for friends Ron and Nancy and he reported they were the best I’d done. Since I’m a big fan of taste tests, we decided to combine everything and invite some friends over for a rib tasting at the dock as the season opener.

For the test, I cooked four slabs of similar weight, similar aged, from-the-freezer, loin back ribs at 230* for 6 hours. I rotated them within the smoker to provide equal heat and smoke exposure. The four slabs were treated as follows:

Slab 1 – My pork rub then glazed with Tennessee River BBQ sauce (my usual process)
Slab 2 – My pork rub then glazed with Pioneer Woman’s BBQ sauce
Slab 3 – Head Country Championship Seasoning then glazed with Pioneer Woman’s BBQ sauce
Slab 4 – My pork rub then glazed with Gates Classic Original BBQ Sauce

The glaze was brushed on both sides of the slab at the 5½ hour mark, then again to the top side only when removed from the smoker (except Slab 4, which got a single, top side coat of Gates just before slicing, so it had about 1/3 the sauce of the others). They were then wrapped in foil and placed in a cooler until supper time (about an hour and a half).

At serving time, I sliced the slabs into individual ribs so each person could have one of each.  I put an A, B, C, D on each plate so the tasters could keep them organized and the plates of ribs were also labeled.  I asks them to sample a bite or two from each rib and rank them before proceeding with the rest of the meal.  Here is rib plate "A" and my plate.

Here are the somewhat surprising results and nearly everyone commented they were all very good, so the number difference doesn't mean last place was bad, just the others were preferred. When I tasted, I had no trouble deciding my number 4, but a lot of trouble separating 1, 2, & 3.

BBQ Rib Taste Test - 5/11

RATE RIBS 1 - 4 WITH 1 BEING BEST (lowest total is best)

                Rib A  Rib B  Rib C  Rib D

TOTAL     33       37       19        21

The winner was the same one I'd cooked for Ron and Nancy on the May BBQ day - I'll pay careful attention to their opinions from now on.   Note there was a big difference between the first two and the second two, which surprised me since B & C had the same sauce on them - shows the importance of the rub and sauce working together.  Another surprise was that what I'd been cooking, and thought was really good, came in last - even from me.  I didn't show the individual results, but friend Joe was the only one who matched up with the final groups rankings - I'd better pay attention to his opinion too. 

So I guess I'll be placing an order for the Head Country rub and making a bigger batch of Pioneer Woman's sauce, but with a little more heat.

The remainder of the meal included some very cheesy mac & cheese (a favorite recipe for a crowd), regular and Mexican cornbread, blue cheese slaw (more later on this) and several delicious desserts brought by the guests.  Here's a few more shots of food and folks taken by guest photoghapher Laurie.

Check out Sweetie Pie (seated white dog) while I sliced the ribs - her Mama didn't raise no dummy.

While in Zeb's in North Conway, NH, my one puchase was this Redneck Wine Glass which I bought to be able to serve Yankee import friend Laurie - be sure to blow it up.

It also includes a lid and ring and no self respecting Southern household should be without one or some.  We topped the evening off by sending everyone home with a pint of the maple syrup we brought home from New Hampshire.

I've tried to comment to many of your blogs, but for some reason when I have to select and enter Google as my profile, then sign in with Google, then publish my comment, it takes we back to the Google sign in and I'm in a do-loop.  Any help appreciated.  No problem for those I don't have to select a profile.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

One year ago:  Restaurante Italiano