Sunday, July 31, 2011

Greek Pizza

We had some Naan bread in the fridge that Bev wanted to turn into pizza and I’d been wanting something Greek, so Greek pizza it was.  She built the pizza in the following order:

Olive oil
Red and yellow tomatoes
Fresh oregano, rosemary, and thyme
Grated parmesan
Onion and roasted red peppers
Kalamata olives
Jalapenos (had no pepperoncini’s)
I noticed when I wrote this up that we forgot garlic - drat
I preheated the grill then turned off the three middle burners and added the pizzas.  I cooked them like this until the veggies had softened, then added some feta and mozzarella and turned the burners under the pizzas on low to crisp the crust.  I ended up putting them under the toaster oven broiler to finished the cheese melt.
They were very good and took care of my Greek craving – Bev pointed out it was a meatless meal.
All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.
Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pork Rib Experiment

Let me start with an apology - I had my camera, knew which pictures I wanted to take and didn't take the first shot, but still wanted to tell you about the experiment.

Wednesday was BBQ day at Almost Heaven South and I needed to cook some things for us and I’d been wanting to do a little rib experiment.  I cooked 11 slabs of BB’s and a choice beef rib roast for friends and a pork butt, a few chicken breasts, and the ribs for us (Bev was pulling the pork butt as I typed this during a little break).

I nearly always cook loin back ribs (pork back, baby back all mean the same in the grocery store) and I do it for the best of all reasons – that’s what Bev prefers and I’m getting much wiser in my old age.  But for today, I wanted to see how I would do with spareribs and try three different rub/sauce combos to boot.  I’d seen Jenn’s post for Spice Rubbed Ribs with Chipotle-Honey Glaze over at Jenn’s Food Journey and while she grilled hers, I wanted to try the flavor profile in the smoker and finish on the grill, so I did a whole slab.  I split the other slab between Mike Mills’ award winning Magic Dust rub and Apple City BBQ Sauce and my current formula of Head Country Championship Seasoning and The PioneerWoman’s sauce.

Both slabs were cooked the same and spent about 6 hours in the smoker at 225*- 240* using Stubbs Charcoal and chunks of hickory.  At the 5 1/2 hour mark, I applied a coat of sauce to both sides of all ribs then another coat to the top upon removal.

I then wrapped them in foil and we headed to the lake for dinner.  Since I don’t normally finish my ribs on the grill and neither does Mike Mills, I laid that slab on the grill warming shelf, still in the foil, to keep them warm while I cooked Jenn’s slab over direct heat for a couple of minutes per side.

The remainder of the meal included some fresh from the garden boiled corn and some broiled tomatoes from a recipe I’d just seen from Mary over at Deep South Dish and knew we had to try – Bev handled this part and I loved them.  Check out the recipe and pictures at Mary's site.

We all agreed that my normal and Jenn's version were the best and I preferred Jenn's but would modify my process next time as they came out too salty.  Since they spend much longer cooking in the smoker than on the grill and less of it washes off, I will use  much less of the rub and only put it on an hour before cooking as is my norm, but I will definitely use it again, maybe on pork chops, as the flavors worked very well together - good job Jenn.

Bev is always hounding me to cook ribs to a falling off the bone state for her, which I did with these and the best part of the day was when she said "these ribs are a little dry."  I'm guessing she has seen the light and the whinning will stop.

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

One year ago:  Broken Bradford Pear


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Reverse Seared Rib Roast

I know it's Thursday and you're asking about the garden post, but I just haven't had time to put it together, so give me another week.

I discovered a small 2½ year old rib roast while freezer diving the other day and decided to thaw it out for a look.  It was double wrapped in butcher paper and had no obvious signs of freezer burn, so we decided to give it a try - on company no less.  Friends Joe and Carol and Bev’s sis joined us for dinner at the lake.  I think we're making more use of the dock for meals this year than ever.

First, I sliced off a thin piece over the entire surface of the roast.  I was out of my normal prime rib rub so I gave it a coating of Head Country Championship Seasoning and a sprinkling of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt and dried parsley.

This was another cook-at-the-dock meal and while I considered putting it on a spit (didn’t want the center of it blemished), I ran the grill burner on each side on low and it gave me a grate temperature of 285*.  I used a remote probe thermometer to tell me the grate temp and another to monitor the meat internal temp.  Here it is at about 118* internal temp and I just turned off the burners and let it rest in the grill until we were ready to eat it – about 45 minutes.
While the meat was cooking we started the meal with an appetizer of salmon cakes left over from the night before.  Since I’d had so much difficulty handling them before, I made them up in the morning and put them in the fridge, then stuck them in the freezer for about 45 minutes before frying – made them firmer, less sticky, and much easier to handle.  I then fried them as before using a properly pre-heated stainless steel pan (did a how-to demo for Carol) and served them on a lettuce leaf with choice of tarter or remoulade sauce - as you can see, I tried mine three ways.
It was hard to say whether I preferred plain or with remoulade, but the tartar sauce was a distant third.
Next up was a fancy, Bev specialty salad bar and homemade dressings – 1000 Island, Bleu Cheese, Italian (Good Seasonings).  It took two shots to get it in.
This is my go-to Bleu Cheese recipe:
8 oz Maytag bleu cheese, divided
4 oz cream cheese
4 oz sour cream
Pinch garlic powder
Buttermilk to thin

Put half the bleu cheese, the sour cream, cream cheese, garlic powder, and a splash of buttermilk into a deep bowl and blend with an immersion blender, adding more buttermilk as needed to achieve the desired consistency.  Crumble and fold in the remaining bleu cheese and store in the fridge for a few hours to allow the flavors to marry. 

This is very blue cheesy, but it can be weakened by cutting back on the cheese amount.  Here's my salad and it was outstanding.

After the salad and a rest, I went back to the meat and turned two burners on high and let them get hot.  I then cooked it over direct heat for a couple of minutes on all 6 sides to add a crust and raise the internal temp to about 130*.

Since it had been resting for 45 minutes, no need to rest again for more than a few minutes.  After the salmon cakes, the big salad, and dessert to come, the main course was just a slice of meat and a homemade roll containing chives, rosemary and cheese - see salad photo. This is my piece.
Somewhat to my surprise, the meat was still excellent and our friends quickly said yes when I offered them the leftovers.  I’ve posted before about using the reverse sear on my smoker and adding the crust in the oven, but as you can see from the evenness of color across the roast with very little well done on the outside, it works equally well on the grill.
After a nice wait, we finished the meal with a slice of Carol’s outstanding coconut cream pie.  I forgot to get a shot but I quickly said yes when offered the leftovers and took this photo the next day.

Once again it was a terrific evening and fairly pleasant as the dock cools down more quickly in the evening than up at the house.  Its tucked against the east side of some tall trees so the sun gets off of it sooner and of course the water helps keep the area cooler, as does its location in a bowl (cooler air will collect there).
All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.
Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Salmon Cakes

I’d seen this recipe when Mary at One Perfect Bite published it and put it on my try-list then Diane at Voice In The Garden published it, but I was ready.  Just the previous night, we had grilled a whole sockeye salmon filet and ate less than half so we had the remainder lounging around in the fridge awaiting this recipe.

Since we had more than enough, we invited Bev’s sister and neighbor Pat to join us for dinner on the dock.

The recipe is available on the other sites, but I decided to post the ingredients list to show how we made it (in parenthesis ) – joint effort between Bev and I.  First I had 10 oz of salmon, so I scaled everything up to match.

1/2 pound fresh salmon (10 oz.)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (5 tbsp salted butter)

¾ cup small-diced red onion (1 cup of our sweet white onion)
1 ½ cups small-diced celery (1 ¾ cups)
½ cup small-diced red bell pepper (5/8 cup of our Sante Fe Chili)
½ cup small-diced yellow bell pepper (5/8 cup of our Sante Fe Chili)
¼ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley (1/3 cup)
1 tablespoon capers, drained (1 ¼ tbsp.)
¼ teaspoon hot sauce (1/3 tsp)
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (5/8 tsp)
1 ½ teaspoons crab boil seasoning (1 tsp Zatarains Pro Boil)
3 slices stale bread, crusts removed (1 cup store bought bread crumbs)
½ cup good mayonnaise (5/8 cup Dukes)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (2 ½ tsp)
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten (3 eggs)
½ tsp salt (zero)
½ tsp black pepper (1/2 tsp)

Bev did the veggie prep by removing the ribs and seeds from the peppers then chopping everything together in the food processor and it made them just right.  Since my salmon already had a good coat of Emeril’s Essence on it, I reduced the crab boil addition.  Also since the crab boil was real salty, I decided to wait until the veggies were done to add salt and they didn’t need any, then I tasted again after mixing everything and it still required no additional salt. I went ahead with a third egg, but then I ended up with a mix that was too wet, so I’ll stick with 2 next time.  We just used the veggies we had from the garden and they all worked fine so we were able to make the dish without a trip to the store.

Before the entree, we began the meal with a Caprese Salad using a recipe from Pioneer Woman via
We've had this a few times and although it was tasty, we like other salads much better.  While the whole basil leafs make for a nice presentation, I believe it would be tastier and easier to eat to chiffanade the basil and build as a tomato slice-basil-cheese then repeat ending with whole basil like Bev did. 

Not able to pass up a taste test opportunity, I cooked one  cake with a Panko coating and one without then I added some remoulade to mine again for a taste test.  Here’s my plate with included some Blue Ribbon green beans cooked with a ham hock and some of our potatoes.
Just as the previous posters found, we all thought the crab cakes were delicious - even Bev who had said earlier that they contained too much other stuff that would overwhelm the salmon.  I liked them equally well with or without the sauce.  This is now the go-to recipe for salmon cakes and sure beats the canned salmon, oats, egg, and onion, topped with ketchup, version I grew up on.  With three strong endorsements now, you may want to give these a try if you like salmon cakes.

Since we have varieties of blueberries that bear at staggered times, we are still getting lots so Bev decided to whip up a little dessert of blueberry turnovers.  She used this recipe from Giada Di Laurentis.
Blueberry and Mascarpone Turnovers


1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/3 cup fresh or frozen and thawed blueberries (Bev used 1/2 cup)
2 (9-inch) refrigerated pie crusts (Bev used 1 sheet of refrigerated pie dough)
1 egg, beaten
Vegetable oil, for frying

Special equipment: a 3 1/2-inch round cookie cutter
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together the cheese, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and lemon zest until smooth. Stir in the blueberries.
Using a 3 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut the pie dough into 12 circles. Place the dough on the prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the edges of the dough with the beaten egg. Place about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cheese mixture in the center of the dough. Fold the dough in half to enclose the filling and pinch the edges to seal. Using the tines of a fork, gently crimp the sealed edges. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
While the pastry is chilling: In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour enough oil to fill the pan about a third of the way. Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted in the oil reaches 375 degrees F. (If you don't have a thermometer a cube of bread will brown in about 3 minutes.) Fry the turnovers for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes until golden. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with sugar while still hot. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
I was cooking in the semi dark and had no device to tell me the oil temp so I’m not sure what it was but here they are cooking on the grill side burner.  Note the dark spot in the center from laying on the pan bottom – next time I’ll deep fry they to eliminate that.
Rather than let them cool, we topped with some good vanilla ice cream let over from our dock dinner party and they were very good.
Just another nice evening at the dock and I only had to go for two swims to cool off although the water temp feels the warmest I’ve ever seen it – more like diving into a warm bath.  It takes a dive down about 5’ to hit some cooler water.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

One year ago:   A BBQ Send-Off


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Texas Sausage Sandwich

We’d done two runs of tomatoes, worked outside in the near 90* heat, and gone to pick up our RV which required an hour wait while they charged the battery, so by supper time I was done.  We’d been discussing meal options all day but hadn’t settled upon anything and I pronounced a sandwich or cottage cheese and tomato would work for me, but Bev had in fact settled in on a grilled sandwich using stuff we had on hand.

I’d made some Texas Czech sausage for the blogger party and still had some in the fridge along with the peppers Bev had used for the table center piece recently – after removing the ribs and seeds, they were quite mild.  So she headed for the kitchen to prep things which also included some of our onions.  She brushed or tossed the veggies in Italian dressing and here it is ready for the grill guy.

I put the veggies on first and when they were about half done on side one I added the sausage to warm up and the buns to toast.
When the meat was about ready, I topped with some Guggisberg Baby Swiss Cheese and here we are about done.
Bev added mayo to the toasted buns then I added the sausage, onions, and peppers.  I kept the onions together and peppers in large pieces so they would stay on the sandwich better.
It was delicious and I’m sure glad she made me go to the grill and cook and we have some onions and peppers left over for another meal. 
 We did wait until 7:30pm when the sun was down and it had cooled off a bit – I’d had all of the heat I could stand for the day.

As for the leftovers - same ingredients sauteed lightly to warm, then scrambled with a couple of eggs and put over two pieces of cheese toast made from thin slices of French bread and Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar.
I may have liked this even better than the sandwich.

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

Monday, July 25, 2011

Salmon And Quinoa

We eat a lot of less than healthy meals here at Almost Heaven South, but every now and then we do better and this was one of them, except for the butter.  This meal consisted of grilled salmon and Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad.  Even though we have salmon in the freezer, Bev couldn’t pass up a good deal on wild caught sockeye salmon in the store the other day – hard to believe how red it is.

I just oiled the salmon all over then added some Emeril’s Essence (with extra cayenne) to the top side.  I grilled it over medium high heat until I could remove the skin and flipped it.  To the skin side, I brushed on some melted butter and sprinkled on more Essence, but rather than let this side cook completely, I flipped again and brushed with more butter, then repeated.  I cooked it to about 140* and removed.

Awhile back, several of you had posted recipes made with quinoa and I bought some, which has been in the pantry for a couple of months.  Bev found this recipe in one of the newspapers and decided this was the night to try it.
Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad
1 cup pre rinsed Quinoa
2 cups chicken broth
3 tomatoes, diced
¼ cup fresh minced parsley
¼ cup fresh chopped mint
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
¼ cup red onion, diced
3 tbsp olive oil 

Place rinsed quinoa and broth in a heavy saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Chill about an hour before serving.  Toss once or twice while it’s chilling to distribute flavors.  We were concerned about the mint flavor so she omitted it and used double parsley.

Here’s my plate and I thought both were delicious – this won’t be the last quinoa dish.

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

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pasta Salad – It’s What’s For Breakfast

Remember Mika’s Mediterranean Pasta Salad I made the other day, it was very good and so I had to do try it for breakfast.  I made a patty of some of it and sauteed it in a little olive oil.  

 It was difficult to keep it together while flipping but I finally got it over, topped with some sharp cheddar, and added a lid to help melt the cheese.
I then plated it and quickly cooked an over easy-egg in the same pan and ended up with this very good breakfast.
I’d already tried the pasta salad warm while I was making it so I knew it was good that way and I had no doubt adding the cheese and egg would be a winner.

And for supper at the dock that night it was an all salad meal of more pasta salad with chipotle hot sauce, leftover bean salad from our recent Surf & Turf dinner party (it wasn't nearly as good leftover), and cottage cheese and tomato.

 It was a good meal for a hot summer day.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

One year ago:  Stoneground Grits


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Surf & Turf At The Lake

Friends Laura & Dave (Big Daddy Dave) and Laurie’s sister Bonnie and brother-in-law Bill, visiting from St. Louis, came over for dinner at the lake and we decided on a poor man’s surf & turf meal.

We started with crab cakes using a recipe we’d tried before as a taste test and enjoyed from Judy at Free Crab Cake Recipes.  I made them up that morning using the terrific Maine crab we'd brought back from our May trip, covered and stored them in the fridge, then about an hour before cooking, I removed them to warm up a little - a mistake as I had trouble keeping them together.  I preheated the pan, coated the cakes in panko, and fried until golden brown in Canola oil. 

We served them on a bed of sautéed spinach topped with some grated parmesan then topped the crab cake with Mary’s Remoulade and once again, they were delicious - I took two shots and they were both blurry but here's one that Laurie took .

The next dish was a Green Bean, Tomato, and Mozzarella Salad using this recipe from

2 cups fresh green beans, cooked til tender
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cubed (we used fresh)
1/2 cup Italian dressing
4 tomatoes, cut up
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil 

Mix all ingredients together and chill for an hour before serving.
Bev made it using some of our green and yellow filet beans, basil, and tomatoes (Yellow Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, and Green Zebra).  It was a different kind of salad for me but I thought it was delicious and would definitely serve it again. 

For the main course, it was grilled pork tenderloin, grilled shrimp, and small potatoes boiled then fried in butter.  For the tenderloin, after trimming, I brined it for 7 hours in this brine:

1 ½ cup water
½ cup orange juice
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup Kosher salt 

I removed it from the brine an hour before cooking and gave it a coating of Head Country Championship Seasoning.  I grilled them indirect to a temp of 120*, then moved to direct heat and took them to 140*, turning and basting several  times with a Maple Ancho Glaze from John Dawson over at Patio Daddio BBQ.  After a 10 minute rest, I sliced and served with some additional basting sauce. I got too busy cooking and forgot to take pictures and didn’t have a designated photographer.

I thought it was cooked just right but for the second sweet dish in a row, it just didn’t match up with my taste.  Had I not added the additional glaze to the sliced meat it may have worked fine for me, based on the leftovers I had the next day for breakfast. 

While the pork was resting, I grilled the shrimp using our normal process of: spray with Pam, sprinkle with Emeril’s Essence, and baste several times with butter while grilling over high heat to ensure flare-ups and the charring this creates. They were served with a small ramekin of melted butter and seemed to be a hit with everyone.

For bread it was drop cheese biscuits using the recipe from Red Lobster and they were very good as always – plus very easy to make.  She added about 1 1/2 tbsp of minced fresh parsley to the dough as well as 1/2 tbsp to the butter for the top.  They can also be made as rolled and cut biscuits, but these are much easier.

Here’s the disappointing shot of my plate but by this point I was just ready to eat and not too worried about presentation - sorry about that.
We finished the meal off with delicious brownies and ice cream brought by Laurie and Dave.

Laurie got much better shots than I did so please hop over to Big Daddy Dave's blog for a look at them.

I know this is long, but I have to mention Bev's Sangria which she made to taste from white wine, peaches, limes, lemons, blueberries, simple syrup, peach brandy, and vodka.  It was a little sweet for me but Bill and Bev sure seemed to like it - Bev liked it a little too much.

All-in-all it was a very nice and liesurely evening helped in part by preparing and serving each course before moving on to preparing the next one - although I did have the pork cooking indirect while we ate the salad It's always fun to meet new people and while it was very hot, being on at the lake and under high preformance fans made it fairly comfortable.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mediterranean Tuna Pasta Salad Ala Mika

I love pasta salad as a side dish or as the entire meal and when I read Mika's Mediterranean Tuna Pasta Salad over at Mika’s Pantry, I knew I had to make it.  For a long time I was reluctant to make an entire recipe of something new and while it still happens on occasion, now I can usually tell if I’m going to like something after reading the recipe.

Seems as though there are two methods to make a dish – get everything prepped then assemble or assemble as you go.  I am more of the first one and Bev is more of the second so I proceeded to prep everything while the pasta cooked, dumping the items into a bowl as I went.  However, Kitty showed up about the time I opened the tuna so I put it in a separate bowl, hid it in the cabinet, and went back to prepping until it was time to drain the pasta (I used bowtie and elbow to make up the needed one pound).

When the pasta was drained, I assembled the dish and was disappointed that it was not as good as I expected – then I remembered the tuna – hard to be great when the main ingredient is missing.  So I mixed in the tuna and it was indeed better and I decided to look at the recipe one last time, only to notice the mayo was missing as well.

I stirred it in after washing the spoon for the third time and decided I’d better have one more look at the recipe – can you believe it, no oregano.  I got the spoon back from the sink and mixed one more time, hoping the pasta wouldn’t turn to mush with all the mixing.

After tasting, I thought it could use more salt, but decided to wait until the flavors married for a few hours before adding any, plus I was afraid to mix it any more.  I guess you would call this a blend of method one and method two although it wasn’t my plan.  Am I the only one loosing it?

Anyway I really liked the dish eating it atop some lettuce and tomato for lunch then I added crumbled feta cheese to my supper plate, which I thought was a nice addition.  When Bev got home from shopping, she really liked it as well, especially after adding some chipotle hot sauce, which she often adds to things. 

For another picture and the recipe, pop on over to Mika’s blog – I just had to share this story.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

One year ago:  Pork Tenderloin Salad


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gardening Thursday – Planting Your Garden – Step 9

Finally, its spring time and we’re ready to plant.  We prepared our soil well in the fall and put our garden to bed properly, then spent the winter fine tuning our garden plan procuring our seeds and transplants.  The weather has cooperated and allowed us to till the garden early and we have our seeds and carefully selected plants in hand and ready to put in the ground.

Before we plant anything though, we need to look at an important date – the average date of the last frost for your area.  Notice it isn’t the absolute last frost date but the average, so there could be frosts after this date in any given year.  Some cool weather plants say to plant them as soon as the ground can be worked and that’s what I do – sometimes I even plant them before the ground can be worked.  For the tender plants, however, you’ll have to decide how much risk you’re willing to take to get an earlier harvest and will you be able to protect things if a frost comes?

LAYOUT GARDEN PER YOUR PLAN – So the first thing you do after tilling is to layout the garden according to the plan and layoff the rows.  I like to use a string to achieve straight rows as everything else works better when they are.  If you are on much of a slope, you should use contour rows across to slope to minimize erosion.
FERTILIZE – Once I have a row laid out for seeds, I apply the appropriate fertilizer along the row – if you’re not sure what else to use, 6-12-12 is a good general purpose blend.  Apply synthetic fertilizer at rates recommended on the container or you risk over fertilizing.  Organic fertilizer is more forgiving as the plants just use what they need.
PLANT SEEDS – After I’ve laid out and fertilized the rows, I use my hoe corner to make a row of the appropriate depth and work the fertilizer into the soil.  The furrow depth is an important point as most seeds only have enough stored energy to emerge from a specific depth and in general they should be planted 2-4 times the seed diameter.  Some, such as corn, can be planted deeper while other such, as lettuce, can be on top of the ground.  If you get poor seed germination using seeds from a reliable supplier, they were likely planted too deep.
PLANT TRANSPLANTS – Before planting, I inspect the plants one last time to be sure they are healthy and free of bugs and disease.  Then I dig a hole of the proper depth, mix in a handful of compost and any other amendments I want to make, then plant them just a little deeper than they were in their pot – except for tomatoes which I covered earlier.  I then put a ring of the appropriate fertilizer around the plants 3-4" from the stem (none yet for tomatoes and peppers).
Some plants, such as tomatoes, respond well to transplanting while others, such as cukes, squash, etc., do not like to have their roots disturbed.   For them I have better luck and earlier harvests just planting seeds, but if you must use plants, the peat pots work best as the root disturbance is minimized – just remove the pot bottom before planting and make sure none of it sticks out of the ground as it will wick water and dry out the roots.  I ran an experiment where I grew some transplants and when I planted them, I planted some seeds from the same packet and the seeds delivered first.
MULCH – Mulch is generally used to control weeds and hold moisture in the soil.  I’ve used black plastic, newspapers, and straw and I prefer straw.  Any non-organic material must be taken up at seasons end and disposed of where the organic material can just be tilled in and help to improve the soil.  I prefer straw to newspaper as it stays in place much easier without having to be anchored in some way and it seems more durable to me.  I would not use hay as it will be full of unwanted weed and grass seeds. I don’t mulch everything but probably should, but it’s really a personal choice – a good garden can be grown without mulching.
PRE-EMERGENT HERBICIDE – This is another personal choice issue and depends upon how you want to garden.  Pre-emergents can be synthetic, such as Preen, or organic, such as corn gluten.  I’ve not used the corn gluten but regularly use Preen in places that are difficult to maintain, such as asparagus.  Generally they only work for about 3 months and must therefore be applied three times during the growing season for full control.
In summary, plant good seeds and plants at the proper time to the proper depth with the proper fertilizer and you’re off to a great start.

Bev made a table center piece of some of our peppers for a recent dinner party and it generated a humorous event. 

All but one of the peppers are a new variety for me called Sante Fe and are described in Wikipedia as " The Santa Fe Grande is a very prolific variety used in the Southwestern United States. The conical, blunt fruits ripen from greenish-yellow, to orange-yellow to red. The peppers grow upright on 24" plants. Santa Fe Grande's have a slightly sweet taste and are fairly mild in pungency."  Somewhere else they were described as having a Scoville rating of 500-700 making them similar to the mild Anaheim variety. 

One of the diners, Bill,  decided too try one and said it was pretty hot and when tried by Tabasco-on-everything Dave, he also proclaimed them pretty hot.  Well I knew what I'd read and thought they must be mistaken so I took a bite, which I immediately spit into my hand and tossed into the lake, to much heckling from those who had at least swallowed theirs.  I had great plans for using them as stuffed peppers but will now have to rethink this.
All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.
Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tomato Juice And Dolly

Bev and I had planned to can tomato juice on Sunday, but I worked hard to beg off.  Finally she asked if I’d make the juice if she picked the tomatoes and prepped them – I just couldn’t say no.  She picked a little over half bushel and got them all ready to cook which took about an hour.  I used our normal juicing process and got 8 ½ quarts, seven of which I canned and the rest went into the fridge for the next batch.

We had 7 quarts left from last year which will be used first.
I’ve lived in East Tennessee since 1969 and now live about an hours drive from Dollywood.  Even though three of our four kids worked there, I think I’ve only been two or perhaps three times and I’ve never seen East Tennessee legend and all around great ambassador (and personal fantasy) Dolly Parton in a live concert.  When it came out that she would be performing in concert in Knoxville for the first time in 25 years and we believed that since we are now senior citizens, including Dolly, this may be are last opportunity.  So we bought tickets and headed for Knoxville for a concert that started just before my bedtime.
This was the first stop of her Better Day World Tour, which contains 39 performances in the US, Europe, and Australia between now and Nov 26 with the proceeds from the Knoxville stop going to her ImaginationLibrary.
The concert began at 8pm with a 20 minute intermission at 9:25, resumed at 9:45 and went until 10:30.  Dolly sang every song, played at least 8 different instruments, including a sax and harmonica, and sang a variety of new and old songs.  She danced, waved, wiggled, and in general was high energy nearly the entire time.  She put on an outstanding show for a person of youth but for a 65 year old, I was flabbergasted.
I took no pictures and our seats were not too good, but it was a fantastic concert put on by a group of obviously talented professionals and if it comes near you, you’d be doing yourself a big favor by attending – dates on the tour link above.  I had no trouble staying awake past my bedtime.  Here's a shot from The Knoxville News Sentinel - she was sharp enough to wear orange and sing RockyTop.
Where else but America could a poor country girl, one of 12 children, from up in the holler in the East Tennessee Mountains take some talent, some ambition, some plastic surgery and parley it into becoming a Brand?   She is truly the All American Success Story and has done great works for her home area.
All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.
Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Will Work For Steak

We have an electrical issue at the dock, a friend who is a retired electrician and likes steak, and the ability to cook a steak (or so I thought) – sounds like a plan.  Our electrician friend is a very picky eater liking only beef (medium well) and some vegetables, so we had filet and rib eye steak, green beans, fried okra, tomatoes, and grilled corn.

One of my favorite outdoor cook’s is Jeanie over at Cowgirl’sCountry Life and she often grills bacon wrapped corn so I decided to give it a try.  She usually cuts her ears in half, but I decided to leave them whole.

I quickly learned that they need to be cooked over lower heat than high.  While the bacon imparted some flavor to the corn, I believe I prefer using compound butter and grilling in it the husks.

In my effort to get his steak medium well, I managed to over cook them all for the rest of us medium – medium rare folks – I think I need to check the accuracy of my Thermo-pen as this is two times in a row that a 125* reading gave me a slightly pink rather than a red steak.  It was still good and here’s my plate.
I did, however, get his cooked perfectly and he now plans to come over and handle the problem – I love the barter system.  Later I checked my Thermo-pen in boiling water and it registered 196* in 212* water which explaned the overcooked steak, but upon close inspection, I found something on the tip and after cleaning it worked fine for the retest.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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

One year ago:  Alex The Model


Monday, July 18, 2011

Leftover Eggplant For Breakfast

After weeks of nearly unbearable heat, the predicted high for this day was a cool 81* and I had many outside chores to accomplish – I decided I’d better start with a good breakfast.  We had some leftover fried potatoes and onions and a second fried eggplant from the eggplant parmesan dinner.  Due to the mess involved, we decided to fry up both eggplants and eat one as leftovers – we like leftovers you know.
I re-heated the eggplant in the toaster oven at 325* for 10 minutes to re-crisp the coating and I added a slice of sharp cheddar (all I had) at the 8 minute mark.  The potatoes were re-heated in the micro-wave having also been topped with some cheese.  This is how it looked at that point.
I then topped this with a couple of sunny-side up eggs, sided with sliced tomato and sprinkled chopped chives on everything.
I didn’t know what to expect, but the eggplant topped with the egg was delicious – it is eggplant after all (I had it again the next morning). 

Ever wonder why this purple veggie is called "Eggplant" - here's some info from Wikipedia.  "The eggplant, aubergine, melongene, brinjal, or guinea squash (Solanum melongena) is a plant of the family Solanaceae (also known as the nightshades) and genus SolanumThe plant is native to India It has been cultivated in southern and eastern Asia since prehistory, but appears to have become known to the Western world no earlier than ca. 1500.  The name aubergine, is from the French, a diminutive of auberge...  Aubergine is also the name of the purple color resembling that of the fruit...  The name eggplant, rather than aubergine, is used in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, and refers to the fruits of some 18th century European cultivars which were yellow or white and resembled goose or hen's eggs."

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

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan

We picked our first two eggplant the other day – a small white one and a small black one and decided parmesan was the ticket – we love it but only make it when we have our own fresh eggplant.  We first sliced and salted them so they could give up some of their moisture while lying in the colander.  Next Bev dried them with paper towels and we used the same breading as on the fried green tomatoes for supper the other night.

I cooked them in a cast iron skillet in olive oil on the grill side burner and grilled some Italian sausage patties that Bev whipped up using Italian spices, fennel seed, and some ground pork I’d discovered in the freezer.

When the eggplant came out of the pan, I added some mozzarella cheese slices so it could begin melting and set it in the grill to stay warm.  Bev heated up some of our homemade marinara from the freezer, cooked up some linguini and we had this.

We added sauce to everything, grated on some parmesan and dug in.
I could only eat half the pasta and one sausage patty, but it was all delicious and I would happily serve this to you at our table.  The only bad part is there are blooms but no more fruit on the plants – I’m hopeful though and will have something to look forward to.
All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.
Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blueberries At Almost Heaven South

Earlier this year, I showed some pictures of our blueberry bushes loaded with blooms and they are now loaded with berries – more than we can use on cereal and casually eating.  So the family baker decided to take matters into her own hands and whip up a strudel.  As is normal for her, she used the following recipe from as a guide.

1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1 package (16 ounces) frozen peach slices, thawed and well drained
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet), thawed
2 tablespoons coarse sugar or granulated sugar 

·         Heat the oven to 400°F.  Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork.  Stir the peaches, brown sugar, flour, pecans and vanilla extract in a large bowl.
·         Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface.  Roll the pastry sheet into a 14x12-inch rectangle.  Spoon the peach mixture lengthwise down the center of the pastry.  Cut slits 1 inch apart from the 2 sides of the pastry rectangle to within 1/2 inch of the peach mixture.  Starting at one end, fold the pastry strips over the peach mixture, alternating sides, to cover the peach mixture.  Brush the pastry with the egg mixture.  Sprinkle with the coarse sugar.  Place the pastry onto a baking sheet.
·         Bake for 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.  Let the pastry cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
That’s the recipe, but here’s what she did – she used two fresh peaches and the blueberries which ended up being 1 ¼ lb of total fruit and omitted the nuts.
It was delicious and suited my taste perfectly.  Unlike many desserts of this type which are thick, gooey, and super sweet, this was barely thick and lightly sweet – more like eating warmed fresh fruit.  It wouldn’t be thick enough to use in a pie, but should be perfect for turnovers.

Since then she's picked about another gallon and they went into the freezer.
All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.
Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.
One year ago:  Growing Blueberries