Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Florida Trip - Finally RVing Again

After six months of sitting in the driveway, our coach said if we didn’t make a trip, it was going to go without us, which was too hard to turn down.  And since we now have a person who can house and Madison sit, we had nothing holding us back.  Here is a classic senior moment – plan a trip that includes spending the weekend after Christmas on I-75 and totally forgetting about the traffic.  Talk about dumb.

The first day trip was really nice while we were on US-411 between home and Cartersville, GA but once we got on the interstate, we were soon in a 25 mph slowdown for a few miles north of Atlanta.  This was nothing beside the 12 miles of stop and go south of Atlanta – 70 minutes for this leg.  So the trip to our first stop at Twin Oaks RV Park just south of Perry, GA took us about an extra hour, but we arrived safe and sound so all was well.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas at Almost Heaven South

Since we were leaving two days after Christmas and we were in a bah humbug frame of mind, we did zero decorating for Christmas except for the pine center piece and Poincettia that we received as gifts.  But Bev did want to make pully-ham and invite a few friends to drop by for drinks, ham sandwiches, and a visit.

The recipe came from a co-worker about 40 years ago and is pretty complicated, so I’ll go slow.

1 ea    Ham, cured and cooked
24 oz  Good beer (I used Yuengling)

Put ham and beer in a covered roaster and cook at 250F 10-12 hours.  Baste once/hr last four hours.

As you can see, it’s called pully-ham because it is too tender to slice and chunks are just pulled off of it.  This is after a person or two had attacked it.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Homemade Pasta

Our good friend Ashley was in at Thanksgiving from school and asked if she could come down and make pasta when she came back for Christmas and we replied you bet.  So she came down along with her mother and grandmother and the ladies had a not so traditional (at least for us) Christmas Eve pasta making party.  The recipe we used was a combo of several basic recipes which makes six good servings.

Pasta Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/3 tablespoon olive oil
1-1/3 tablespoon lukewarm water

Insert the metal blade of the food processor.  Place all of the ingredients in the bowl.  Pulse until the mixture begins to come together and form a ball, adding more water if needed.  Remove the dough and knead lightly until is smooth and elastic.  Divide the dough into 4 balls, cover, and let rest 30 minutes.

From this point, we used the pasta machine and followed the process from this link.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

We normally only include our annual newsletter with our Christmas Cards, but this year it's pretty short so I decided to post it here as well.

Holiday greetings to our family and friends, we hope you’ve had a great year and here’s a little info about ours.  Things continue to plug along here at the ranch and we’ve had no especially big events since our last newsletter, which we believe is a good thing.

We used the motorhome to spend our first ever wintertime away from home as we stayed in Florida for six weeks in early 2014.  We were originally planning to stay for only a month, but every time we got ready to come home, it snowed here.  We enjoyed this experience as well as the three weeks we spent in Charleston, SC in May, where we also hosted a week long RV rally for our club.  On the way home we experienced an engine failure that, after a tow to Knoxville behind one of those giant wreckers and six weeks in the shop, resulted in a nearly new engine being installed to the tune of $21,000, all covered by warranty, thank goodness.

The coach spent the rest of the year parked for a couple of reasons – we had too much to do over the summer months and Madison decided to go back to regular school (from on-line) which tied us to the school breaks beginning in mid-August.  We now have a Madison/house sitter that will give us more flexibility so we’re planning another winter trip.  An additional reason for not traveling might be Larry's fear of heading out on the road and experiencing another calamity, as we’ve had more than our fair share.

There have been a couple of changes with our kids beginning with Rhett retiring from the army after 23 years and taking a job with a bearing manufacturer in Sumter, SC.  The other change is the move of Eric and Ann to Napierville, IL where Eric is the new chaplain at North Central College and Ann can continue at her same job but work from home.  All of the grandkids are growing like weeds and doing well in school and other activities.  Madison’s move back to regular school is so-far-so-good as she is making new friends and doing well academically.

After another year of trying to survive living with a teenaged girl, I will repeat this from last year - now I remember why young folks raise kids.

We continue to be blessed with decent health and the ability to do many of the things we enjoy, although Larry’s knees continue to give him problems and he keeps putting off doing something about them – replacement required, pain involved, procrastination likely.

That’s all to report from Almost Heaven South and our wish for you is a Very Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year. 

Beverly & Larry Doolittle

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Country Steak – ALA Beverly

When I was a kid, my mom called this dish Swiss steak, which I later learned was actually made with a tomato gravy.  I’ve heard the dish called Country Style Steak, Country Fried Steak and Gravy, Baked Steak and Gravy – What is your name for it?  It should not be confused with chicken fried steak which is fried and usually topped with gravy but not baked in the oven.

At any rate Bev wanted to make it using her normal recipe, for which there is no actual recipe and it is a semi homemade version.

Her ingredients were:

Six pieces of cubed steak
Flour for dredging
Lawry’s seasoning salt
Some mushrooms she had in the fridge
Half an onion, chopped
One can cream of mushroom soup
Two packages of Pioneer Brown Gravy Mix, made per package directions.

1. Preheat oven to 325*
2. We added S&P to one side of the steak and Lawry’s to the other, dredged them in flour, and fried in oil until browned.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Veal Marsala Ala Karen

We never buy veal for our table as Bev doesn’t think it is beefy enough and it’s usually pretty pricy, but when it becomes available for free and it can be used in a flavorful dish, now that’s a whole nother story.  I’ve mentioned on here many times that our neighbor across the street raises cattle and when he had a calf that was seriously injured and had to be put down, he had it butchered and put it in his freezer.  The neighbors are also not big fans of veal and I think it’s the same beefy issue that Bev has, so when I saw Karen’s recipe for Veal Marsala on her Back Road Journal blog, I thought this might be the perfect way to use some. 

While we have a Marsala recipe that we have used for both chicken and pork, we decided it would be nice to try a different one – check out Karen’s blog for the original recipe and a tempting photo.  I amended the recipe for five servings and the meat we had and that is the recipe I’ve shown below.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mediterranean Chicken and Potatoes

We had five large chicken thighs left from a package of ten and I wanted to try one of the recipes I’d been saving from Pam’s, For The Love Of Cooking blog – her Mediterranean Chicken.  Since the oven was being used, I also wanted to try the Pizza Potato recipe from Cathy at Noble Pig but since I wanted everything to be Greek, I didn’t use the pizza seasoning.  I also wanted to keep both dishes simpler by using Cavender’s rather than the herbs and spices in the recipes.  Please stop by their sites for the original recipes and good photos.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Steelhead Trout with Pasta Alfredo

We had a couple of pieces of Steelhead Trout in the freezer and a half jar of Alfredo sauce in the fridge and decided to combine the two into a meal – Steelhead are related to Rainbows and similar to Salmon in taste.  Bev also found a bag of shrimp and some mixed vegetables in the freezer to add to the dish.

The trout and shrimp (on skewers) were given dusting of Old Bay and grilled over high heat and basted with melted butter after flipping.   The pasta and vegetables were cooked together in water, drained, returned to the hot pan, and the Alfredo sauce was stirred in.  We plated the pasta mixture and topped with the trout and a few shrimp then added some fresh grated Parmesan.

This made for a very tasty and easy semi-homemade dish – perfect for those of you who need a quick weeknight meal.  Of course, it could be gussied up by using fresh vegetables and homemade Alfredo sauce.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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


12/4/14 event date

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Humor - Why Beer Is Good For You

I'd never heard this explained so well prior to Cliff Claven's version.

"Well you see, Norm, it’s like this . . . A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Now, as we know, excessive intake of alcohol kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. And that, Norm, is why you always feel smarter after a few beers."

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


Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving Turkey

Since we have only one oven (a source of irritation for Bev), Thanksgiving meals generally challenge us in oven usage as we always have homemade rolls that require it just prior to mealtime.  To solve this, I have adopted Chris’ (Nibble Me This) spatchcock cooking method and last year I cooked the bird in the smoker over low temps and I did the same this year but used the grill at a higher temp to get a crispy skin.  Bev bought a 14¾ pound Food Club fresh turkey from Food City which contained no artificial ingredients which means it was not injected with a flavoring solution.

I used a combo of recipes and practices from Chris beginning with his brine which I made per his recipe but with regular oranges and less the bourbon.  I spatchcocked (butterflied) the turkey using Chris' method (link below) but prior to brining to make it easier to find a brining container, it fit more easily in the fridge, and it provided the brine more access to the breast meat

Friday, November 28, 2014

Kitty, South Carolina, And A Rail Or Two

As you likely know, we have a cat, Kitty, whose job it is to keep the house free of mice and she is very good at it.  On this day, she sat on a chessboard without moving a man and peered out the window as though she was looking for her next victim.  She is wearing her pretty winter coat.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Cabin In The Mountains – Final Day - Model RR

We awoke Sunday morning to a cold rainy day, instead of the snow I was hoping for but we had a good plan for part of the day.  We waited until late morning to eat and headed over to LaCosta MexicanRestaurant for lunch.  They are rated well on the web and it’s obvious the place is popular as it soon filled up with the after church crowd.  It’s located in a strip mall and decorated very tastefully.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Cabin In The Mountains – Day 3

The entrance road to Cumberland Mountain State Park crosses the man made dam and bridge which is pretty awesome as seen in these two shots from the web and our shot from the bridge as we headed out to lunch.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Cabin In The Mountains – Day 2

We began our first full day on the Cumberland Plateau by going to Sister’s Café in Crossville for brunch as it came highly recommended and it was my favorite kind of place – a hole-in-the-wall serving good home cooking to the locals.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Cabin In The Mountains

I really needed to get away from it all, so rather than make the RV trip south with two women and four dogs, I elected to book a cabin in Cumberland Mountains State Park for just Bev and I and we left Madison and the dogs in the hands of our house sitter.  As it turned out, this trip matched up with the arrival of the cold snap that moved into the area and the temperature dropped five degrees from the valley floor (where we live) as we went up on the Cumberland Plateau – the Cumberland mountains are the southern name for the same range called the Allegheny’s in the North and along with the Blue Ridge (and Smoky’s) to the east of the valley and some others in New England, they make up the Appalachian Mountains.  The state park lies just a few miles south of Crossville, TN along US-127.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Southern Breakfast & Sandwich Experiment

For those of you who know Bev is in Florida and may be worried about me surviving, fear not.

Two fresh-from-a-local-farm eggs, Benton’s country ham, and Bev’s homemade biscuits from the freezer.  After I took the shot, I split the biscuits, cut the tomato in half and added them and some country ham to get two delicious breakfast sandwiches sided with scrambled eggs.  It got the day started right and lasted me til supper – I just love breakfast.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thanks Vets

A Big Thank You To Veterans And Those Who Now Serve

The last sentence in our National Anthem includes the words “land of the free and the home of the brave!” 

But the American Hero’s Channel has been running an ad that says the “home of the free because of the brave.”  

These could be the most true words I have ever heard.

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


Friday, November 7, 2014


In spite of a desire to eat more fish, my two favorite Colorado cooks keep putting up recipes that must be tried.  When I saw this dish on Lea Ann’s blog, “Cooking On The Ranch”, I thought it sounded very good and when she mentioned using smoked paprika, I decided I could just use smoked meat from the freezer and adapt it, similar to what I’d recently done with Heather’s Carne Advovada

This is a shortened version of Lea Ann’s recipe because I used already cooked pork barbecue, so I adapted the recipe to maintain the same basic ingredients, but made changes to the cooking process and amounts of liquids – I knew the pork had lots of flavor and liquid so I used less and only added it as needed.

Pork Stew with Paprika and SauerkrautAdapted from Cooking On The Ranch
1 tbsp.oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup sweet paprika
½ tsp cayenne
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (I used the garlic press)
4 small yellow bell peppers, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
½  750-ml bottle red wine (I used a nice merlot and poured out the leftover – yeah right)
2 pounds pulled pork BBQ
12 oz. sauerkraut, drained (I didn’t have the required 16 oz.)
2 cups water
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 bay leaves
2 red Cubanelle peppers
1 teaspoon black pepper
Cooked and buttered egg noodles, for serving
Sour Cream, for serving

1. Heat oil in a pot, add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until lightly caramelized, about 2 minutes. 
2. Add the paprikas and cayenne and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. 
3. Add the garlic, bell peppers and onions and cook for a few minutes until the onions begin to look translucent deglazing the pan as needed with the wine.
4. Add the pork, sauerkraut, water, marjoram, bay leaves, cubanelle peppers, salt and pepper.  
5. Bring to a hard simmer, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, and cook until everything is hot, about 30 minutes - taste and re-season as needed.

Since I only cooked it for about 45 minutes, I made it a couple of hours ahead of time, covered, and allowed the flavors to marry, then re-heated to serve.

I really liked the idea of serving it over buttered egg noodles and I just cooked them to package directions.

I mixed it all up together and it was delicious both for this meal, the next two leftover times, rolled up in a tortilla, and as a sandwich.  Definitely a keeper recipe - thanks Lea Ann.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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


10/30/14 meal date

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Buckwheat Pancakes Ala Reona

Buckwheat is not wheat at all; it’s not even a grain, but rather the seed of a plant that has been mostly grown as a nitrogen providing cover crop and is related to rhubarb.  Here is a field of it in Bhutan and some drying seeds.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Fried Peppers

Pan fried sweet peppers are a pretty common Italian dish and Bev and I both love them on a sandwich – With peppers growing in the garden, I can’t believe we haven’t had one all summer.  Thin walled, elongated frying peppers, such as Cubanelle, work best as they fry up quicker.  Here is a shot from the web.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Carne Advovada Ala Heather

Heather, over at Rocky Mountain Cooking, recently posted her recipe for Carne Advovada and it sounded too good to pass up, especially since I’d found adaptable ingredients while freezer diving - check out her site for the recipe she used.  According to Wikipedia “Adobada is generally pork marinated in a "red" chilli sauce with vinegar and oregano, …” and after looking at several recipes on-line this seemed to be accurate, but since Heather’s use of green chile sauce is the part that appealed to me, I decided to stick with hers. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Chicken & Peppers for Supper and Breakfast

Due to our travel plans, we didn't really have a garden this year but we did plant a few tomatoes and peppers to eat on.  As usual, we have a large fall pepper crop and while we’ll freeze a few, we are planning dishes around eating them fresh - like in the old days when folks ate whatever was ready in the garden.  For this meal, we decided on a recipe from Allrecipes for Chicken and Peppers with Balsamic Vinegar.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saturday Humor - Three Contractors Bid On The White House Fence.

This would be hilarious if it wasn't so likely to be reality.

Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence at the White House.

One is from Chicago, another is from Kentucky, and the third is from New Orleans.

All three go with a White House official to examine the fence.

The New Orleans contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works some figures with a pencil.

"Well," he says, "I figure the job will run about $9,000. That's $4,000 for materials, $4,000 for my crew and $1,000 profit for me."

The Kentucky contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says, "I can do this job for $7,000.  That's $3,000 for materials, $3,000 for my crew and $1,000 profit for me."

The Chicago contractor doesn't measure or figure, but leans over to the White House official and whispers, "$27,000."

The official, incredulous, says, "You didn't even measure like the other guys. How did you come up with such a high figure?

"The Chicago contractor whispers back, "$10,000 for me, $10,000 for you, and we hire the guy from Kentucky to fix the fence."

"Done!" replies the government official.

And that, my friends, is how the Government works.

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


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Little Trip To WV and Swordfish

Now that Madison is back in school, we are pretty tied to her schedule and for her fall break we made a short trip to WV where we visited with my relatives in Fairmont and she stayed with her mom’s family in Wheeling.  In addition to visiting, we did the normal Fairmont things that included some hot dogs from Woody’s and pepperoni rolls from Colasessano’s and we checked out the Stonewall Jackson State Park campground for its ability to accommodate our RV.

A couple of unusual’s for our trip:

It’s not often my cousin gets to mow his grass shirtless in mid-October.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Crockpot Barbecue Beef Ribs

Say what, you asked?  If you know me or have read my blog for very long, you likely know I am somewhat of a BBQ purist and subscribe to this definition – BBQ is meat cooked slowly over low heat (preferably indirect) in a smoky environment.  I know that this is the minority opinion in America so nuf about that.  I used this title because it will probably be the only time I use the words barbecue and Crockpot in the same sentence and I just had to do it to see how it felt.

In my continuing and seeming lifelong effort to clean out our freezers, I discovered a rack of beef ribs that had been there for a couple of years and were not vacuum sealed so I suspected they might be in bad shape or at least old tasting.  After thawing, removing the foil and plastic wrapping, and rinsing they looked and smelled fine and with no freezer burn.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

OMG Dill Sauce

Bev had bought some salmon just to have with dill sauce and I went about a web search to find a recipe and ended up with one from Taste Of Home for both the salmon and the sauce.  The recipe is for baked fish but I did it on the grill - given a choice, I always choose the grill as my grilling season is 12 months a year.

This is the recipe for the dill sauce and we made it the day before to allow the flavors to marry well.

Dill Sauce:
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
3/4 teaspoon dill weed
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
Pepper to taste

Combine the sauce ingredients until smooth.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Leftovers Breakfast - Garage - A Senior Moment

Perhaps the best part of our Wine Club party food was a bunch of the practice biscuits still in the freezer and gravy left over from the party to which we added a couple of scrambled eggs, and picked-that-morning tomatoes with cottage cheese.  I'm pretty sure tomato and cottage cheese did not originate locally, but it still seemed like a delicious southern breakfast to me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Taste Of East Tennessee for our Wine Club - Part 2

In my last post, I discussed the September meeting of our wine club with the theme of “Food and Wine from East Tennessee” where each couple brought a bottle of wine from our area for the tasting and a small plate dish from this area or the southern mountains. 

Our selections were wild boar sausage gravy with buttermilk biscuits and a peach wine from Chestnut Hill Winery in Crossville. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Taste Of East Tennessee for our Wine Club - Part 1

We hosted the September meeting of our wine club and selected a theme of “Food and Wine From East Tennessee” so each couple was asked to bring a bottle of wine from our area for tasting and a small plate dish from this area or the southern mountains.  The photos are courtesy of Big Daddy Dave and should give you a sense of the evening.

We began with appetizers of pickled watermelon rinds, pickled beets, and Bev's pimento cheese stuffed celery washed down with some wine and margaritas.