Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2013 Blogger Party Planning

With March approaching and summer activities being planned, Chris Grove (Nibble MeThis), Katherine Aucoin (Smoky Mountain Café), and our spouses met at Almost Heaven South to make preliminary plans for our 4th annual blogger party.  We could have done it by email or on the phone, but it’s still winter and every excuse for a party needs to be utilized.

It took us about 5 minutes to do our preliminary planning and about 5 hours to catch up with one another and have fun. 

We each provided an appetizer, we had some adult beverages, and Bev made the dessert of Molten Lava Cake.  For our appetizer I considered several, but Kentucky Hot Brown Bites recently posted about by Steph at Plain Chicken kept coming to the top of my thinking. 

I believe Steph may be the queen of appetizer, tailgating, and sports watching foods and I have several of hers saved.  I used her recipe for the most part but added some onion and garlic to the Mornay Sauce to make it more like the one we use on regular hot brown’s (it came from Chris).  Thanks Steph.

2013 Blogger Party
As for this year’s blogger party, it will be May 26, which is the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend (same as last year) and we’ve chosen a Hawaiian Luau as this year’s theme.  We still have the details to work out and will publish them in April, but for now we hope you’ll add the event to your calendar and plan to join us to eat, drink, and get lei’d.

Photos best if enlarged by clicking on them.

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


2/23/13 event date

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Back-up Power At Last

During our nearly 20 years of living down in the country, we’ve been without power a lot, once for 5 days following a 30” snow storm and we’ve just suffered through it.  I bought a small portable back-up generator at one point but it didn’t last very long and I think it’s still setting in the garage.

Then several weeks ago, Marjie, at Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet, posted about getting a back-up generator and it inspired me to take action.  I shopped around and found that a local electrical contractor that I was familiar with was the dealer for Kohler Generators and we bought one.  It is 20kw (85 amps) at full load and while it won’t run the entire house all at one time, it will run the things we really want power to – water well, refrigeration, HVAC, main TV, portable telepnones, alarm system, water well, water well – it’s the pits to be without water in addition to power.

The circuits that the generator will supply run through an automatic transfer switch which senses when power is lost, disconnects from the power grid, starts the generator, and furnishes power to the circuits wired into it.  When the power comes back on, it reverses the process plus it starts up and runs by itself on a regular basis to be sure it is working.

This is the area where it is to go - under the deck.

As it turned out, a new larger line needed to be run from the propane tank to the generator requiring a ditch thru Bev’s flowers and damage to 3/5 buried water lines for the sprinkler system.  Cute little shovel they had to dig it with.

All finished and ready to keep us powered up.

We may never lose grid power again but at least now we can travel with more confidence that we won’t come home to a frozen up house and freezers full of spoiled food.

Photos best if enlarged by clicking on them.

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


2/18/13 event date

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dinner For My Valentine

Bev was in Gatlinburg at our time share with her sister on Valentine’s Day and when she came home the next night we had a meal of sautéed scallops, prosciutto wrapped filet mignon, and Spinach Maria (from the freezer).

The nice sea scallops were given a light coating of oil then Emeril’s Essence and grilled while being basted with melted butter.  The steaks got a coating of oil and Montreal Steak Seasoning and were wrapped in Benton’s prosciutto which I’d soaked a little to remove some of the salt and soften it a bit.

The scallops came out just right and I nailed the steak cooking (Thermapen wins again) but will stick with bacon when wrapping in the future.  We all preferred the bacon flavor (no brainer for me as it’s my favorite meat on the planet) and the prosciutto was too dry to be wrapped without breaking – but it was worth a try.  We washed it all down with a bottle of good red wine and called it a successful valentine’s date.

Photos best if enlarged by clicking on them.

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


2/15/13 meal date 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Comment Responding - THE RESULTS ARE IN

After hearing from many of my regular commenters, it seems that the follow up visits to read my responses to comments are a very low percentage, so I believe a change is in order.  My new plan is as follows for the comments left by you:
When a question is ask I'll respond via email or if I think others will be interested in my response, I will leave a response in the comments section and send the asker an email.
When a comment is made that I want to respond to, I'll do it via email - it's not like I get hundreds of comments per day :-)
If I don't have access to your email, I'll leave a comment on your blog.
Thanks so much for your candid response to my question.  Larry
Hi Readers - For the last several months, I've been responding to your comments and my blog says that I do - now I need a little info to help decide if I want to continue this in the future.  Please comment and let me know if you go back to read my responses with an often, usually, or rarely.  If it's rarely, it won't hurt my feelings.

Thanks .  Larry

Friday, February 15, 2013

Italian Hash Ala Big Dude

A couple of weeks ago, Roz, over at La Bella Vita, commented on my Beef Filet Hash post that she and her husband had never eaten a bite of hash.  I sent her an email suggesting a possible Italian version and it sounded so good, I decided to try it myself.  Following is what I sent to her and below that is what I did.

“1. Grill or fry some Italian sausage then slice and halve or quarter slices - depends on the size you make the other ingredients.
2. Dice and fry some potatoes - add some garlic and/or onion and/or sweet peppers.
3. When 3/4 done add the sausage and maybe some artichoke hearts.
4. Plate and top with some grated cheese (soft or hard) and a couple of runny yolk eggs and you have a feast. “ 

Italian Hash Ala Larry – serves 4 
1 ea. link of mild & hot Johnsonville Italian sausage (or all of one kind if you prefer)
2 cups large diced potatoes – waxy varieties work best (I used yellow and purple)
5 cipolline onions – quartered after parboiling
1 clove garlic, minced
A few grinds of Italian herbs 
S&P to taste
½ cup artichoke hearts – more or less to taste
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp butter (makes for a golden potato crust)
¼ cup  Mozzarella cheese per serving (would have preferred Fontina)
½ tsp. grated Parmesan cheese per serving
Chopped fresh parsley, optional 

1. Grill one each Johnsonville mild and hot Italian sausage link, cut in half lengthwise then into half-moons – I wanted a chunky hash and cooked them the day before then set out of fridge an hour before cooking.
2. Dice (large) 2 cups of potatoes, peel 5 cipolline onions, and parboil until just tender,  then cool (best if done the day before and set out an hour before making the hash).  After seeing the purple juice on the knife while cutting the purple potatoes, I decided to boil them separately after the white potatoes and onions and sure glad I did as they turned the water green.

3. When ready for the meal, fry potatoes, onions, and garlic in oil/butter along with a few grinds of Italian spices and S&P – I used a 10” skillet but 12” would have been better.
4. Cut the artichoke hearts to match the size of the other ingredients (I halved them crosswise) and add to the potatoes along with the sausage and cook until both are warmed through – flipping (stirring) often.

5. Adjust seasonings, then plate and top with shredded mozzarella, grated Parmesan, and two sunny side up eggs – sprinkle on chopped fresh parsley for pretty.

I rarely create an original recipe but this was roll-my-eyes-back good and would definitely be on my restaurant menu.  Roz – if you ever plan to make hash, this is the one.   Ingredients can be chopped smaller to suit your preference and this recipe made enough hash for 4 meals.  I used the cipolline onions as they needed to be used, were sweet, and I hoped they would stay together in chunks, which they did pretty well.  I decided not to add sweet peppers as it had plenty of ingredients already.  Want to make it Greek - just use lamb and Greek herbs;  German – use brats and perhaps a German potato salad recipe, etc.

I'm now responding to your comments and hoping you will stop back by - photos best if enlarged by clicking on them.

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


2/14/13 meal date

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Split Pea Soup

Good friend David from Big Daddy Dave had his right hip replaced and we asked what we could do to help and his wife, Laurie, suggested Thick As Fog Split Pea Soup.  After researching, most recipes I could find began with a soup mix of the same name from Bean Cuisine, which Laurie confirmed is what she used then added some ham and potatoes.  Unfortunately Bean Cuisine is out of business so I went in search of recipes, found four that sounded promising, then narrowed it to one with some help from another.  Those for thick as fog and regular split pea soup seemed the same to me.

The recipe I used was Peter Parker's Pea Soup from Ina Garten Recipe which I found on cookeatshare.com then double and modified to end up with the following.

Thick As Fog Split Pea Soup Ala Larry – adapted from cookeatshare.com – Judy Fisher
2 T. olive oil
2 onions, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 t. oregano
2 bay leaf
3 t. kosher salt
2 t. freshly ground pepper
2 lb. of green split peas, covered with water, soaked for 4 hours, drained
5 carrots, diced
4 stalks of celery, diced
8 - 12 cups chicken stock, divided (original recipe uses 16 cups)
1 piece smoked country ham hock (Benton’s)
2 cup yukon gold potatoes, diced (all we had was russet)
2 lb. center slice ham, diced

1. In soup pot, heat oil and saute onions, garlic, oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper for 5-10 minutes, until onion is translucent.

2. Add diced vegetables (except potatoes), peas, hock, and 8 cups stock, stir and bring to a boil.  This is the pieces of hock.

3. Simmer uncovered for 50 minutes, skimming off foam and stirring occasionally to keep from sticking to bottom of pot.

4. Add potatoes and ham and cook for 30 minutes.

5. Add additional stock as needed to get desired thickness (I added 2 more cups for a total of 10). Adjust seasonings before serving.

This is my first of two bowls - I needed to add the whole 12 cups of broth as it was a little too thick.

To my knowledge, I’ve never made split pea soup and only eaten it once when my son made it.  I’d bought the peas several months ago in anticipation of making it and Laurie’s request finally provided the impetus and I’m glad it did.  I don’t know if the Thick As Fog mix contains other flavors or if it’s just thick soup which is what I assumed.  I can’t say for sure this is really Thick As Fog Split pea Soup but what I can say is that it is thick split pea soup, I loved it, and will make it again - Bev said not to bother for her.  Laurie advised they added a little Hot Shot Pepper Mix to theirs, which I believe I’ll do to ours as well. 

One of the recipes I looked at topped their soup with a couple of Gouda Crostini’s which sound like a great idea but we had neither the bread nor the cheese - next time for sure.

I'm now responding to your comments and hoping you will stop back by - photos best if enlarged by clicking on them.

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


2/2/13 meal date

Monday, February 11, 2013

BBQ For Our Guests - Good Tomatoes

Madison’s visiting grandparents requested BBQ during their visit with us, so after the breakfast frittata, we served pulled pork and ribs for supper along with slaw and Potato Casserole Yum Yum from Drick’s Rambling Café.  Check out Drick’s site for the recipe which I followed and used Benton’s bacon.

The BBQ came from the freezer and had to be thawed and reheated prior to serving.  The pork butt was actually still in one piece so I slowly heated it in a 205* oven (the original final cooking temp) to an internal temp of 170* then we pulled it. 

For the ribs, I let them come to room temperature, added a little liquid to the foil wrapping and cooked them in a 250* oven for about an hour.  When they came out of the oven, I brushed on some Cranberry Delight BBQ sauce from Tennessee River, and sliced them into individual ribs.  We served the meat on a platter along with some buns and variety of sauces.

Bev made up a batch of her delicious slaw and along with Drick's yummy potatoes, I believe our guests walked away with a pretty good BBQ experience - I sure enjoyed everything, and I believe we’re turning Madison into a BBQ lover.

This was our first time to freeze the pork butt without pulling and I thought it was just a bit drier than when we pull it first, then freeze and reheat.

Good Wintertime Tomatoes - Finally
As you know, I grow tomatoes but what you may not know is that Bev is a raw tomato-o-holic and knows what good ones taste like.  She brought home some maters from the new Publix in Knoxville and has raved about how good they are for this time of year, so I did a little research. 

They came from Red Diamond Tomatoes in Wimauma, FL and are a new variety called Tasti-Lee.  Per the Tasti-Lee website "Tasti-Lee brand tomatoes have been bred to stay on the vine until fully ripened by Mother Nature, yet remain firm all the way to the store shelf and your kitchen counter!" 

Being able to ripen on the vine and still be shipped is, of course, the key to their better flavor as most tomatoes are picked and shipped while still mostly green.  Keep a look out and give them a try if you find them.  They make a great BLT with a little crispy Benton's bacon.

I'm now responding to your comments and hoping you will stop back by - photos best if enlarged by clicking on them.

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


1/30/13 meal date

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Saturday Humor - Curtain Rods

After 37 years of marriage. Jake dumped his wife for his Young secretary.

His new girlfriend demanded that they live in Jake and Edith's multi-million dollar home and since the man's lawyers were a little better he prevailed.
He gave Edith his now ex-wife just 3 days to move out. She spent the 1st day packing her belongings into boxes crates and suitcases.
On the 2nd day she had to movers come and collect her things.
On the 3rd day she sat down for the last time at their beautiful dining room table by candlelight put on some soft background music and feasted on a pound of shrimp a jar of caviar and a bottle of Chardonnay.
When she had finished she went into each and every room and stuffed half-eaten shrimp shells dipped in caviar into the hollow of all of the curtain rods. She then cleaned up the kitchen and left.
When the husband returned with his new girlfriend all was bliss for the first few days.
Then slowly the house began to smell. They tried everything cleaning mopping and airing the place out. Vents were checked for dead rodents and carpets were cleaned. Air fresheners were hung everywhere.
Exterminators were brought in to set off gas canisters during which they had to move out for a few days and in the end they even replaced the expensive wool carpeting. NOTHING WORKED.
People stopped coming over to visit. Repairman refused to work in the house.
The Maid quit.
Finally they could not take the stench any longer and decided to move.
A month later even though they had cut their price in half they could not find a buyer for their stinky house.
Word got out and eventually even the local realtors refused to return their calls. Finally they had to borrow a huge sum of money from the bank to purchase a new place.
The ex-wife called the man and asked how things were going. He told her the saga of the rotting house. She listened politely and said that she missed her old home terribly and would be willing to reduce her divorce settlement in exchange for getting the house back.
Knowing his ex-wife had no idea how bad the smell was he agreed on a price that was about 1/10th of what the house had been worth, but only if she were to sign the papers that very day. She agreed and within the hour his lawyers delivered the paperwork.
A week later the man and his girlfriend stood smiling as they watched the moving company pack everything to take to their new home.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Spinach Artichoke Pizza

Bev had a bag of spinach and a big jar of artichoke hearts and decided to make a pizza using a ball of pre-made store bought dough.  We looked up several recipes then she decided to make a warm spinach and artichoke dip for the sauce using a recipe from cooks.com.

Best Spinach And Artichoke Dip

1 pkg. frozen spinach thawed
1 jar marinated artichokes, chopped
8 oz. Philly cream cheese
8 oz. sour cream
3/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
8 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 onion finely chopped
1 stick butter
Red pepper flakes to taste

Sauté onions in butter, adding ingredients while mixing and blending well after each addition. Add ingredients in this order: Spinach, Cream Cheese, Sour Cream, Parmesan Cheese, Artichoke Hearts, Crushed Red Pepper Flakes.

We used the grill and our normal process of mashing out the dough, brushing the top with oil, and flipping it onto the gas grill with burners on low.  The top side was brushed with oil and when the bottom was crispy, I flipped it and just cooked until it wasn’t sticky.

The crispy side was then topped with the dip, some warm grilled chicken pieces, shredded mozzarella cheese and it went back on the grill, with the burners under it on low and the others on high.

I cooked it until the bottom was crisp and by then the cheese was melted.

It was delicious but next time Bev said she would add some roasted red peppers or sun-dried tomatoes for color.  We really love pizzas cooked like this, but the way we do it, the toppings need to be warm and/or partially cooked as the top part of the grill isn’t hot enough to cook raw ingredients before the crust bottom gets done.

As it turned out, she made them again before I got this posted and below is the next version headed for the grill - she used the leftover spinach/artichoke dip and she got more color on this one.

While she was at it, she made a Greek one as well with tomato sauce and feta cheese.

I'm now responding to your comments and hoping you will stop back by - photos best if enlarged by clicking on them.

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


1/26/13 & 2/6/13 meal dates

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bison Sausage & Cheese Steak Sandwiches

The header is of Madison's three ferrets (Mitchell, Roscoe, Lilly) and this in normal for them. I don't know how the Lilly is not being mashed.

Bev bought a bag of hoagie rolls and went about ways to use them and came up with two sandwiches over a few days.  The first one was grilled bison sausage which she purchased from Mother Earth Meats at The Market in Maryville.  Their beef is grass-fed and free of hormones and antibiotics and their sausage is hand made and I assume by them.  They have a farm in Sunbright, TN and may buy from other farmers as well.

We just grilled the sausage, split it lengthwise and top it with brown mustard and sautéed onions and peppers.

The second meal was a cheese steak sandwich – notice I didn’t say Philly Cheese Steak as I believe they can only be had in Philly using special bread and usually topped with Cheese Whiz (some offer provolone or white American) and fried onions as an option.  My introduction to the cheese steak came when we moved to South Jersey in the early 60”s (yea I know I’m a geezer).  It was on a great roll from the local Italian bakery and your two options were provolone cheese and fried onions, so I  grew up on authentic Bridgeton, NJ cheese steak because everyone in town made them the same way.

However, mine can only be called an authentic Almost Heaven South Cheese Steak for this meal, as the next one will likely be different.  I began by slicing some partially thawed strip steak (it was available from the freezer) sliced to a thickness of a quarter to half-dollar.

The cooking began by sautéing some onions and sweet peppers (from the freezer) and when they were about done I cooked the meat in another pan.

The rolls were nuked under a paper towel just to warm and soften so they could be sliced and opened up without breaking apart on the other side.  Then, they were lined across the unbroken side with sliced provolone cheese - nothing else will do here, especially not Cheese Whiz.  Next was the meat and finally the onions and peppers.

I thought mine was outstanding and Bev said it would have been even better using a screaming hot pan so the meat would get a little crust on it.  I have to agree with her but I was afraid of over cooking it and my goal was to have it pink in the middle – also a departure from both Philly and S. Jersey.

NEWS FLASH - Major Snow Storm Hits East Tennessee

Fortunately, it happened on Saturday so schools did not have to be closed for this 1/4" dumping of snow J

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


1/22 & 1/26/13 meal dates