Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy New Year

Thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South and visiting with Bev and I this past year.  Blogger buddies are special and I look forward to sharing 2016 with you.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Cinnamon Raisin French Toast Souffle For Christmas Morning

For Christmas breakfast, we had this French Toast Souffle and since it can be made the day before, it was the perfect meal for the occasion.  We got the recipe from a friend who has served it twice at our wine club and we both really enjoyed it (Bev raved about it) – this was her first time to make it.  I found the recipe on line but it did not specify a type of bread so I will credit Susan with the recipe.

Cinnamon Raisin French Toast Souffle (make the night before) – Susan Hussey

2 loaves Pepperidge Farm Cinnamon Swirl Bread, chopped with crusts removed.  Enough to fill a 9 X 13 greased dish.
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
6 oz. butter, softened
3/4 cup maple syrup, divided
10 eggs
3 cups half and half
Cinnamon Sugar

1. Placed chopped cinnamon raisen bread in a well buttered 9 X 13 dish. 
2. Mix cream cheese, butter and 1/4 cup maple syrup until smooth and spread on top of bread, leaving some openings through which to pour egg mixture. 
3. Beat eggs, half and half and 1/2 cup maple syrup, pour over bread and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. 
4. Cover and refrigerate overnight. 
5. Bring to room temperature (about an hour of sitting out uncovered)
6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 - 55 minutes (cover with foil if it gets too browned). 
7. Cut into squares and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Serves 8 to 12.

Note - Bev made the recipe in two dishes so the shot below is a half recipe.

We topped with a little maple syrup and served it with Swaggerty’s breakfast sausage patties and Usinger's Smoked Breakfast Sausage.  It was a delicious way to start our day and if you like French toast, I’m confident you will really like this dish.

It has been really different from a weather standpoint and while I've spent some rainy Christmas days, this was the first one with temp of 70 - supposed to be 76 Saturday.

Final knee update:  I continue to be beyond well pleased with how this process has gone.  Thanks to good therapy, my knee is totally straight in one direction and I've reached the magic number of 125 degree bend.  Now it's just a matter of continuing to improve muscle strength and maintain the flexibility.  Last week I was walking limp-free without support and I began driving so Bev doesn't have to haul me around anymore.  I see the doctor on Jan 5 and will see if the left knee can be scheduled for late February.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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


12/25/15 event date

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

As I did last year, I'm posting our Christmas Newsletter here for my blog friends.

Holiday greetings to our family and friends, we hope you’ve had a great year and here’s a little info about ours.  Last year we reported that we had had no big events but this year is a little different.

Things with our children are pretty much the same with the kids being in the same locations and jobs and the grandkids are growing like weeds with one of them now driving.  The major family change has been Madison’s moving back to live with her parents after nearly three years with us and we are hopeful this will be the best move for all of us – especially her.

From a travel standpoint, we made pretty good use of the motorhome with a four week trip to three places in Florida in January and spring trips to nearby Douglas Lake for a club rally then on to Charleston SC.  We then made a 69 day trip western trip with the primary goal of visiting Washington and Oregon.  It took us three weeks to get to WA with major stops in Cody, WY and Coeur d’Alene, ID.  We spent 18 days at three stops in WA and 14 days at two places in OR.  In both states, we visited wine country, the beach, the mountains, and many other attractions and bucket list places.  We then spent 16 days driving home with multi-day stops in Grand Junction and Denver, CO.  In addition to visiting places, we were once again able to meet up with several blogger buddies, which is always a major highlight.

It was a great trip but Larry hated that he was so limited by his knees which brings us to another major event.  In late November Larry had his right knee replaced with the intention of doing the left one as soon as practical.  The surgery went very well and so far so good – now it’s just a matter of following the rehab plan and getting ready for the next one.  We are really going to miss spending some time in the deep South over the winter but hopefully we can get this knee stuff behind us and be in much better condition for future travels.

The other big travel event was Bev and Pat’s annual two week trip to Marco Island along with four of their girlfriends and from what I here, they had a great time while I held down the fort and looked after the dogs.

Other than Larry’s knees, we continue to be blessed with good health and really are thankful for our lot in life.

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

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Few Tasty Chicken Dishes

We had some leftover chicken a while back and Bev decided to turn it into pot pie.  Since my favorite part of pot pie is the bread (crust), she used frozen biscuits on top.

It was delicious comfort food but since the biscuits were a little soggy on the bottom, next time we’ll just bake them separately and spoon the filling over them – it won’t be a pot pie then but it will still be delicious.

We rarely ever roast a chicken in the oven (I don’t think I’ve ever done one) so I was surprised when Bev came home with a big hen and announced she wanted to have roast chicken.  So I went on line, found Ina Garten’s recipe (who else would I go to), and cooked my first ever roast chicken.

It was very good and we had lots of leftovers for the next dish she wanted to make – chicken broccoli casserole.  So I went to the web and found a recipe that contained rice and measured the chicken by volume rather than number of pieces.  I turned it over to Bev and, of course, she worked her magic on it to come up with this recipe.

2¼ cups cooked chicken
3 cups cooked rice (1 cup uncooked)
2 cups chopped broccoli
1 large carrot, diced (mostly for color and will use two next time)
1 (8 ounce) can cream of chicken soup
8 oz French onion dip (for a little more flavor)
3/8 cup butter
1 cup or so of chicken broth or water (see note)
1⁄2 cup chopped onion
6 ounces shredded cheddar cheese - divided

Note: Bev used our rice cooker and after mixing everything together, decided it was too dry so she mixed in a cup of chicken both).

1. Boil broccoli till tender; drain.
2. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 casserole dish.
3. Melt butter in large frying pan and saute onions till glassy. Add soup and dip and stir well. 
4. Add most of the cheese and mix till melted. Remove from heat.
5. Add all ingredients to a large bowl, mix well, and add broth if mixture is too dry.
6. Pour into the prepared dish.
7. Sprinkle more shredded cheese on top – Bev used Pepper Jack, Cheddar, and Mozzarella - I think we like cheese.
8. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbly (Bev made it ahead of time so it was cold from the fridge – she baked it for 50 minutes covered with foil and 10 minutes uncovered).

The casserole was very good and will definitely go on the keeper list - I especially liked the use of the French Onion Dip.

Quick knee update - All seems to be progressing on schedule.  I walk with no aids around the house, but use the cane when I'm going for walks.  Everything I do to rehab my right leg I also do for my left leg so it should be much better prepared when it's turn comes for a new knee.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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


12/17/15 event date

Monday, December 7, 2015

Two Weeks And Counting

My knee replacement was two weeks ago today and I thought I’d provide a little update but first I wanted to say thanks for all of the words of encouragement from you.

After my first therapy session, I was experiencing some swelling and pain in my right foot which took us a couple of days to determine was a gout flare up most likely brought on by the surgery.  The pain from it made the knee pain seem like a minor ache but I finally got some meds and after a few of days I was back on track, but it definitely slowed down the recovery.

At this point I am really pleased with my progress and how well it has gone and can say it has not been as bad as I expected it would be and I’m having no reluctance to proceeding with the left knee as soon as I’m able.  The doctor removed the staples on Friday and said he didn’t need to see me for another month.  So now it’s just a matter of continuing with rehab, working on the left knee to get it ready, and losing some weight – only six pounds so far but I can tell my face is a little thinner.

Other than put my right sock and shoe on, I can do about everything for myself which feels very good and I’m getting excellent care from my live-in nurse – she’s really glad I’m more self-sufficient.

One of the things that has hurt the weight loss is the fine meals Bev kept making (sympathy food) like this pan fried pork chops and pan gravy over mashed potatoes which was delicious.

We have now backed off to more healthy fare.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Knee Therapy

Since the surgery, I've been doing exercises in my chair but today was the first day of real therapy - DAMN IT HURT :-)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Home From The Hospital

Well the easy part is over with and I came home Friday with a brand new knee and now begins the hard part - rehab.  This process is composed of three parts beginning with being active and walking as much as possible.  The second part is the eleven exercises that are done three times per day and the last part is going to a rehab center three times per week for more intensive therapy.  The first two items were started in the hospital the day after surgery although we only did the exercises once per day.

This is my home set up which contains most of what I need to function.  If you didn't know otherwise you might ask "what knee surgery?"

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Knee Replacement

Hi Faithful Readers - As of Monday morning, I have a brand new right knee and the doctor said everything went very well.  When I came back from recovery, I went very quickly from the bed to a recliner and they actually took me for a short walk mid-afternoon.  After a night of very little sleep (checked my vitals every two hours and my machines kept alarming) I went off to my first therapy about mid morning and I really enjoyed it - NOT.

I now really know how spoiled I am eating Bev's cooking as the meal for lunch today reminded me of high school cafeteria food - all part of their plan to help me lose weight.

I'll keep you posted when something eventful happens and I can do a food post if anyone is really interested in what I'm eating here.

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


11/23 & 11/24/15 event date

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Basil Garlic Chicken Breasts With A Tomato Basil Sauce Ala Pam

We had three chicken breast languishing in the fridge waiting for a recipe when Pam over at For The Love Of Cooking posted this one and we knew it was for us.  I followed her recipe with a few changes – used canned tomatoes and all dried basil.  Plus we used an extra breast and still had plenty of sauce.  Please check out Pam's blog for the original recipe and her photos.

Basil Garlic Chicken Breasts With A Tomato Basil Sauce – Slightly adapted from For The Love Of Cooking

1 tbsp olive oil, divided
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Dried basil, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
½ small sweet yellow onion, finely diced
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups fire roasted canned tomatoes (15 oz. can)
3 fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and diced
Heaping 1/8 cup of Pepperonata Sauce*
1½ tbsp butter
1 tbsp dried basil
S&P to taste

*Bev bought a jar of this sauce in Florida and we've been adding it to our tomato sauces to kick them up a little.

Pound the chicken pieces until 1/2 inch thick and cut in half if too large.

Heat pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to pan. Season both sides of the chicken pieces with dried basil, garlic powder, salt, and freshly cracked pepper, to taste.

Place into the hot pan, and cook until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Flip the chicken over and continue to cook, until the chicken is cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Salmon Omelet

I had some salmon left from my baked salmon meal the other day and decided to turn it into an easy breakfast.  I looked at our go-to recipe for salmon cakes and used the basic ingredients from it – the fish was already seasoned.  I sautéed some chopped onion and red sweet pepper with about a tbsp. of rough chopped capers until the veggies were about soft.  I than added some chopped salmon and cooked until it was warmed through.  

In the meantime I had three beaten eggs cooking in a covered 10” skillet until the eggs were about set.  Note the bright yellow color from the farm fresh eggs that we're still getting for $2.50/dz - I almost feel like I'm stealing them.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Our Coach And My Knees

Our Coach
I think I now know how this RV thing works.  We go on an extended trip or several short trips and when we arrive home, we do three things.

1.Call Karen to give it a thorough top to bottom cleaning, especially if we’ve been to the dusty West.

2.Call the RV repair guy to come down and deal with the issues that cropped up during the trip(s) (I do very little work on the coach myself).

3.Take it by the auto body place to get an estimate to repair the dings I put on it – this is only the second time for #3 and hopefully the last – both in a fuel station.

Of course I damaged the doors with the most complicated paint scheme.

My Knees
As for my knees, they are the main reason that I do very little on the coach.  If you’ve actually seen me, you know I’m an over-weight, out of shape old guy who barely hobbles around on his bad knees.  They’ve been this way for several years and I’ve been avoiding doing anything about them in hopes of a miracle cure that would prevent replacement – both of my knees are bone-on-bone and nothing seems to help anymore.

I realize I have to do something or resign myself to only enjoying what can be seen from the road on our RV trips – which I did this last time and am no longer willing to accept.  So I made my second visit to the surgeon and after convincing me not to do both of them at the same time, I have scheduled the right knee for Nov. 23 and to say I’m concerned is an understatement.  First reason is that I’m a big baby when it comes to pain and secondly I’ve been through therapy two times (right knee scoped) and it was hard when I was in better shape.

So I have one month to lose some weight and build my knees up as much as possible – fortunately I have stairs and a Bow Flex to help.  If the first knee goes well and I think I can stand the process again, I’ll do the second one and hopefully have this behind me by pretty weather.  I’m sure my blog posts in Nov will include a significant amount of whining.

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


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Baked Salmon and Cauliflower Steaks

I keeping with my bacheloring plan to make dishes that generate leftovers, I cooked a 1¾ lb. wild sockeye salmon filet that we had purchased in Anacortes, WA during our recent western trip.  After reading Angela’s recipe for Cauliflower Parmesan on her Spinach Tiger blog, I decided to give it a try as the side dish.

Since it was cool here and the A/C was off, I decided I wanted to bake the entire meal in the oven – a one pan meal.  I looked on the web and settled on a recipe for baked salmon from Natasha’s Kitchen since I had all of the ingredients on hand.  I used the same ingredients (except my salmon weighed 1¾ #) and I amended the directions slightly.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

French Onion Tater Tot Casserole Ala Steph

Bev, Pat and two of their friends are off to Marco Island, FL for their annual two week trip to the beach and I’m minding the store and looking after the pups.  Starting in 2016, we’re scheduled to go later in the year and I may be willing to go with them, but I still refuse to go during the hot FL October when the cool weather I’ve been awaiting all summer is finally in East Tennessee.

Since I’m cooking for myself, my preference is to make simple dishes that generate plenty of leftovers so I can cook less often and this dish is a good example.  We had made this dish once before and decided it was a little overwhelmed by the French Onion Dip so I modified it this time by adding more potatoes and cheese.  Check out Steph's Plain Chicken blog for the original recipe and her shots.

French Onion Potato Casserole – Adapted from Plain Chicken

1½ (30-32oz) packages frozen tater tots
1 (10 3/4oz) can Cream of Chicken soup
1 (16oz) container French Onion Dip (Kraft)
12 oz shredded cheddar cheese
6 slices pepper jack cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9x13-inch pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, mix soup, dip and cheddar cheese. Then thoroughly mix in potatoes.
3. Pour into prepared pan and top with sliced pepper jack.
4. Bake for about 60 minutes, or until bubbly.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Homemade Chili/Salsa Verde

When we travel out west, Bev’s favorite thing to eat is green chili on just about anything – usually a breakfast burrito.  After a lot of looking at recipes I think I understand the difference between Salsa Verde and Chili Verde with the former being made mostly from tomatillos with a couple of hot chiles and frequently used as a dip.  The later includes pork chunks, and about equal parts mild green chiles and tomatillos and like most chili, it’s eaten with a spoon.  You experts feel free to correct me here.

While we were in Denver on our recent trip, fellow blogger Heather (Rocky MountainCooking) gave us several quart bags of roasted Hatch green chiles and we decided to turn some of them into a green chile sauce.

What we were looking to make was more of chili verde but to be used as a sauce (like we get in western restaurants) without the big chunks of meat so after reading many recipes, I decided to just amend Lea Ann’s (Cooking On The Ranch) recipe which we had made and loved. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

2015 Western Trip – Wine From Our Trip

When we planned the trip one of our goals was to visit some wine producing areas and we knew that WA and OR both had some very good ones and were surprised that Colorado’s western slope also produced some quality wine.

We didn’t taste or buy as much as I expected but we did end up with 41 bottles when we got home and we probably drank another 10 on the road, so we bought around four cases.

The 41 bottles I’m sorting through are from nine different wineries with our biggest purchases being a case each from Carlson Vineyards near Grand Junction, CO and Paradisos Del Sol Winery near Yakima, WA.  Our best purchase was sparkling wine from Argyle Winery in Dundee, OR – would have bought more had it been a little cheaper.  The biggest surprise for me was that we bought a case of fruit wine from Carlson – peach and cherry (it didn’t taste like cough syrup as they often do).  Bev bought it to use in three drink recipes we tasted at the vineyard and really enjoyed.

Carlson Cherry Lemonade
2 bottles Carlson Cherry Wine
12 oz can frozen lemonade
Mix in pitcher and serve. If you have time, make ice cubes with some of the wine blend for even more flavor (yes it will freeze).
Optional - add fruit, like orange slices or a handful of blueberries or raspberries.

Hot Peach Cobbler In A Mug – my favorite
1 bottle Carlson peach wine
4-6 T. pure maple syrup
¼ t. cinnamon
¼ t. vanilla
Add all ingredients to a pan and heat without boiling – serve warm.

The third one was to dip about ¼ of the rim of a glass ¼” deep in good dark chocolate, fill the glass with cherry wine and drink it over the chocolate.

All I can say is we needed more wine like we needed a you-know-what – I guess this will mean we’ll just have to drink more of this good stuff and less Almaden from a box.  If you’d to sample from our replenished wine cellar (not really a cellar), just drop on by.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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


10/10/15 event date

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Store List – Which One Are You

For years I’ve known there was a major difference between how Bev and I go to the grocery store but I never completely understood it until today and it boils down to the role of the store list.

For me the store list is the plan and when I go in the store I forget everything else and move through the store picking up the items on the list and buy nothing else except the rare impulse buy from the stuff blocking the aisles.  So for me the list is pretty much the maximum buy list.

But for Bev, the consummate shopper, it's just the opposite and the list represents the minimum amount of items to buy and those that should not be forgotten.  So she goes from aisle to aisle buying those items she knows we need (even though they are not on the list) but being sure she gets those items that are on the list.

This explains how we can go to the store with the same list and I get ten items while she gets a cart full – can’t believe it took me 30 years to figure this out.  I'm not sure if it’s a left brain/right brain thing, being the person responsible for meals showing up on the table, or something else that accounts for the difference.

Which type shopper are you and what do you think makes us so different.

Ain’t it great to be re-tared and have nothing better to do than contemplate and write blog posts about something like this.  Life is good here at Almost Heaven South.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


10/7/15 event date

Sunday, October 4, 2015

2015 Western Trip – Recap

Since I'm sure you've read every word of every post during this entire trip I'll keep the recap fairly short J

First a few stats:

Departure Date:  Jul 24
Return Date:  Sep 30
Duration:  69 days
Distance in the RV:  5828 miles plus a couple thousand more in the car – no wonder our butts were sore.

States we stayed overnight:  KY, MO, KS, NE, WY, MT, ID, WA, OR, UT, CO

Friday, October 2, 2015

2015 Western Trip – Days 68 & 69 – The Final Two Days

Our final two days for the trip began in Oak Grove, MO and we got on the road a little before 10am.  First let me say that Kansas still wins the I-70 road condition prize and like CO, MO was working to get it better.  For the whole trip I never complained about delays due to infrastructure repair – it’s direly needed.

We took I-70 east, then I-64 & I-270 around St. Louis and finally I-55 to Sikeston (good road and light traffic).  We arrived at our overnight stop at Hinton RV Park, for our third time there, and once again found it perfect for an overnight stay.  The site was level and long enough to not require unhooking, the utilities, cable, and WiFi all worked fine – it's convenient to I-55 and a service station with big vehicle pumps - definitely recommend this place.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

2015 Western Trip – Day 67 – Hanging in Oak Grove, MO

Our plan was to pull out of Oak Grove on Mon, but I was still very tired on Sunday and my foot was acting up so we decided to stay an extra day.  Basically, we just hung out and I took some anti-inflammatory pills that Pat just happened to have with her.

For supper we opted for take-out from a locally famous place called PT’s Family Restaurant which is known for its breaded pork tenderloin and onion rings.  Since ours was take-out I didn’t get any shots so I lifted some from their website and since we had also eaten there our first night, I know they are accurate.

These are their famous huge onion rings – about 6” diameter x 1” thick and very good.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

2015 Western Trip – Day 65 – Whoop De Do #2

We first met Dave and Jackie when they drove all the way from Kansas City to attend our 2012 blogger Party (Louisiana crawfish boil) and on the way home from our 2013 Western Trip, they suggested we stay in KC for a couple of days and they would throw a Whoop De Do (whatever that was).  Turned out, it was when they invited a bunch of people over and laid on a real feast with these dishes: Jack Daniels BBQ Sauce, BBQ Turkey, 30 Garlic Peppercorn Beef Roast, Cranberry Sauce & Salmon, Baby Back Ribs, Stained Glass Jello Salad, Corn and Pepper Succotash, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Garlic Potatoes and Green Beans, Mac and Cheese, Chorizo Sausage and Apple Stuffing, Cowboy Pork and Beans, Chocolate Pecan Pie, Apple Cheddar Pie.

So on our way west this trip, we had lunch with them as we past though KC and they invited us to come to another Whoop De Do on our way back home, to which we quickly said yes.  This menu included appetizers of bacon wrapped apples and bacon wrapped sausage.