Saturday, December 29, 2018

Our Christmas Meals

As I mentioned in my Thanksgiving post, I’m trying to steer us away from the traditional holiday meals (turkey and ham) to something I know we all like better.  Since Wende could only come down on the 23rd, we decided to have two Christmas meals with the same menu for each - grilled steak, baked potatoes, veggies, and rolls – our grill gets used year round thanks in part to a covered patio and living in the south but I have used it in the snow.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Sausage & Grits Casserole

While organizing the pull out pantry recently, I discovered that we had several containers of quick grits in addition to the stone ground ones in the freezer and when I began thinking about another breakfast casserole, I wanted it to include grits.  I looked through my saved blogger recipes and sure enough found just what I was looking for in the form of Sausage & Ranch Grits Casserole from Steph’s Plain Chicken Blog but since I had no ranch dressing, I decided to make a southwestern version.  I did another search and found a recipe for Mexican grits so I used both recipes and things I wanted in it to get the following.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Bev and I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years.  Below is our annual newsletter should you want a summary of our 2018.

"It seems like only yesterday that we wrote the 2017 newsletter but here we are again.  We hope all of you have had a good 2018 and here are a few comments about ours beginning with our family.  Wende continues to do well in her duel role as bread winner and new mom and seems to be very happy with both – Eliza turned one in early November.  Rhett and Beth continue to reside in SC where he works for SKF bearing maker.  Eric and Ann are still living near Chicago and the big change for them has been Eric’s acceptance into a doctoral program for ministers.  The biggest change for the kids was that Kathy’s long divorce process is finally over but some of her kids are having a difficult time with it.

And speaking of the grandkids, were now have three in college with Reece’s attendance to University of Tennessee while her sister Madison is a sophomore at South Carolina and cousin Katelyn is a sophomore at Texas A&M.  The others are spread between junior and high school and all are doing fine.

We continue to spend some time on the road in our RV and began this year by finishing up a trip to west and north Florida, ending up near Penasacola where we filled the freezer with fresh seafood to bring home.  After that, we attended two spring rallies with our travel club then made our big trip of the year to Michigan and Wisconsin from late July to early September.  We basically made a trip around Lake Michigan hitting the major tourist areas near Traverse City, MI and Door County, WI and while we enjoyed the trip, we don’t feel the need to return.  We did make a stop near Chicago on the way home to visit with the Doolittle’s and fill our freezer with sausage from our favorite maker in Aurora, IL.  It went very well with the old fashioned, real deal kraut from our local Amish Market.  Our final trip of the year was another club rally in at Sevierville, TN. And now, we are finalizing plans for a two months visit to the southwest beginning in January.

We continue to enjoy cooking and making new dishes and we even had a Tex-Mex Thanksgiving meal of burritos, enchiladas, and beans for a group of 11 diners and it was a big hit.

Kathy and her kids and a couple of the Walker girls came in for their annual summer visit where we all had a good time but after being kept awake much of the first night, we slept out in the RV for the remainder of their stay.

The major event here at the ranch was getting a new metal roof on the house.  We got 25 years from the initial shingle roof but decided painted steel was a better option for the new one.

Bev, Pat, Cindy and others will be off to Marco for their annual two week visit during mid December, while the dogs and I hold down the fort.  Speaking of Cindy, it continues to go very well having her live with us and she is now just another member of the family.

As always, if you want to check in on us occasionally, you can do so via Larry’s blog:

So that’s all from our piece of the world and we wish you a very Merry Christmas and your best New Year ever.

Beverly and Larry"

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Cheese Steak Omelet – Sorta

When I was 16, my dad was transferred to southern New Jersey and I was soon exposed to my first cheese steak sandwich from the Giant Sub Shop.  They used great bread from the local Italian bakery and meat similar to Steak-Um’s quick cooked on a flattop grill then topped with provolone cheese and caramelized onions, if requested.  It wasn’t until years later that I discovered on TV that these were not the normal Philly Cheese Steak sandwich (ala Geno's or Pat's) which is made with chopped, thin sliced rib-eye and usually topped with Cheese Whiz or white American cheese, and onions are an option.  Other than the better meat of the Philly version, I still prefer the South Jersey version - no Whiz.

So when Bev reminded me that we had some cheese steak meat in the freezer, I decided to use it while she was away and during my early morning drive to the dog groomer, I decided on a South Jersey Cheese Steak omelet for breakfast.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Italian Sausage Pasta Bake & A Short Rant

While Cindy was here for three days between her trips (now in FL with Bev), we had fish every night and I had it another night so I got my fix and then I ate the last of my casseroles so I was ready to move on to something else and pasta is always a favorite.  So after a night of chili, I went freezer and came up with a package of sweet Italian sausage from our favorite Wurst Kitchen and since I like the idea of casseroles to eat on for several meals I went in search of baked pasta dishes and found several that were pretty simple so I used them as a guide and made up my own.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Walleye and Baby Limas

Well, the two casseroles are gone after a week and it was time for something else to eat.  Since Bev is not a fan of lake fish, other than crappie, and I was eating alone and working on the freezer, I opted for a meal of deep fried Walleye, from Michigan, and baby lima beans – Bev doesn’t like them either.

For the fish, I just salted and peppered the skin-on fillets then dusted them in House Autry Seafood Seasoning, which made for a light breading on the fish – note how finely the breading is ground.

I cooked them in 350F oil a couple of minutes per side until golden brown – they were pretty thin so it didn’t take long and I hate overcooked fish.

For the beans, I used a recipe from the web for Cracker Barrel Baby Limas and sort-of followed the recipe.

1 cup water
1 chicken bouillon cube (Larry used chicken base)
2 slices bacon (Larry used a tsp of bacon grease)
1 clove garlic, peeled and lightly mashed (Larry used ½ tsp of garlic powder)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon sugar (Larry omitted)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen baby lima beans

1. Bring water, chicken base, and bacon grease to a boil in a medium pot.
2. Add remaining ingredients. Stir and cover. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer.
3. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring every now and then and adding a little more water if needed. (There doesn't need to be much liquid, but you do need some.)
4. Season to taste with salt.

The fish was delicious and the beans were very good – I didn’t even need to add butter to them.

I only ate 1½ pieces of the fish and knew what I would be having for breakfast the next morning.  I nuked the fish for a minute then put it in the toaster oven with the English muffin to crisp up a bit and I added a couple of sunny-side up eggs for an outstanding breakfast.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and the blue words are links.

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


12/15 & 12/16/18 Meal Dates

Monday, December 10, 2018

A Couple Of Casseroles For A Bachelor

It’s that time of year when Bev, Pat and various friends of theirs head to the time-share condo for two weeks on Marco Island, FL while the three dogs and I hold down the fort at home.  During these times, I’m faced with the situation of cooking for a single and one of my strategies is to make casseroles – fortunately I like reheated leftovers and don’t mind eating the same things several times in a row such as this piece of breakfast casserole.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

New Roof At The Ranch

At 25 years on a 30 year roof, we had spots with very little gravel and we decided it was time for a new roof (it was more important than the new flooring we’d been considering for this year).  The two major decisions were using painted steel or shingles and which roofer to use.  After researching it and considering our wooded location, we decided on painted steel with a 40 year warranty so I went to the local company that makes the roofing and got the names of three installers they would recommend.  They each gave me a bid for both metal and 40 year shingles (about $1000 cheaper) and some homes we could look at to see their work and look at colors – we knew we did not want one of the bright ones and it’s better to see a whole roof rather than just a small sample.

Of the three bids, which were pretty close, we opted to stick with our metal decision and go with the middle bidder (Valley Vista Construction) as I felt the best about him personally.  If you are considering a metal roof, our cost to remove the old roof, clean up and haul off, replace any damaged wood, and install felt and roofing with a two year installation warranty was $272/square or $2.72.sq.ft.

So they showed up at 9am on the coldest day of the fall at 22F (8 degrees below normal) and began the removal process – note the frost.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Heuvos Rancheros Ala Larry

As I understand it this dish is basically a tortilla topped with beans, eggs, and sauce and while I’ve eaten them out many times, I can’t recall ever making them at home, but that changed today.  My construction of them was based upon using what we still had left from our Tex-Mex Thanksgiving meal and I made a single for Bev and a double for me.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Chicken Tetrazzini

When I saw Steph’s recipe for Chicken Tetrazzini on her Plain Chicken blog during my morning blog reading and knowing that Bev was planning a trip to the store and could get the supplies, we decided it would be perfect for an easy meal on a cold rainy day.  Please check her blog for pics and the original recipe as we adapted it just a little.  

One of the things I picked up from a BBQ buddy back it the day was how delicious it was to add the chicken skin to the pulled BBQ chicken after chopping it and rendering the fat so I did that for this dish and Bev wanted to add some mushrooms so we did that as well.  

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Tex Mex For Thanksgiving

I believe I've mentioned this before but I’m not really a fan of plain roasted turkey but Bev is a traditionalist so I was surprised when she readily agreed to serving Tex-Mex for our Thanksgiving meal – it helped that it’s one of her favorite foods and we were eating on Wed.  This seemed to fit well with a visit by Kathy (daughter) who lives in San Antonio which claims to be the home of the cuisine.  A big highlight of the day was getting to meet Kathy’s new fellow and see how happy she is.  Kathy likes to talk and here she is with a captive group.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Not Exactly Poutine

I like fries and I love cheese but even more so, I love gravy so when I first saw poutine on a TV food show, I knew it would be right up my alley.  I’ve never made it but while on our trip this past summer I had some at a restaurant in Michigan's UP and as expected, I really liked it.  For those who may be unfamiliar with it, the dish consist of fries topped with cheese curds and then brown gravy – how could anyone not like that.

I had some leftovers from a couple of meals and while they will not make real poutine, I did have some rich beef broth from a recent batch of Italian beef, some cheese (not curds), and some potato gnocchi left from making Pam’s delicious Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup (For The Love Of Cooking blog).  Since we just followed Pam's recipe except we used kale, I didn't post about it but our soup looked like this shot of hers and I highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Cindy Makes Quiche

I don’t want to debate the Real Men issue here, but I do love quiche and similar dishes so when Cindy offered to make a couple for supper, Bev and I immediately responded YES.  Since she is rarely here, she usually just eats what we cook for supper (except red meat) but a job was cancelled and she was off for the week and had time to plan, shop for, and cook a meal.  She pretty well spent the whole afternoon in the kitchen, but at mealtime I understood why.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Errands, Day Trip, and Fish

Since we live out of town, we like to consolidate our errands and such to maximize the 20 mile drive and Thursday was such a day as Bev and I each went to the dermatologist and the hair dresser plus I went to the bank, cell phone store, and wine store then we both went to Walmart.

Friday was a similar situation but more of a day trip centered around early voting early so Pat, Cindy, Bev, and I headed out late morning with the first stop at the Amish Farmers Market in Englewood for veggies, more kraut, and baked goods – they are now only open on Fri & Sat until Nov 24 when they close for the season.They are still getting a few summer items like tomatoes, peppers, and beans but it is now more fall produce such as winter squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and greens.

From there, we went to Sweetwater Valley Farm (Cindy’s first trip) to sample and buy a few of their cheeses – but they won’t be making cheese again until January.  I think we bought about 10 pounds between us.

The cheese making operation is on the other side of the wall and can be observed through the large windows.

Then it was a short drive up to the Loudon County election offices where it took us no more than 10 minutes to complete the voting process.  Now if could only tell the TV we have already voted so the mud-slinging attack ads could stop.  They seem to be everywhere and it would not shock me to find them on PBS and the Home Shopping Network J

Our next stop in Loudon was a couple of block drive to Z Fish House for lunch - 4½ stars on Trip Advisor and Yelp.  We’d been there a couple of years ago and it has gotten even better with more menu offerings and even fresh tuna.  Z’s is a small restaurant in a small, unassuming building and you must be looking or you’ll miss it.  The meals were all huge (the dishes must be about 12" across) beginning with Cindy’s catfish.

Pat and Bev each add Jumbo Fried Shrimp.

I was going to order the catfish until I spotted the Rainbow Trout which I had deep fried.  It was both sides of the fish but deboned and laid out flat - I took half the fish and the slaw home with me.

Everyone thought their meals were delicious, including the sides, and for such a great price ($11-$12).  I can easily imagine paying much more for food not nearly as good and I'm looking forward to our next visit.

From there, it was a quick stop at Food City and home after the four hour loop made for a fun day for me and my girls.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and the blue words are links.

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


10/26/18 Event Date

Friday, October 19, 2018

2018 October RV Rally – Sevierville, TN

As I mentioned in my previous post, we came to River Plantation RV Resort two days early for the Tennessee Travelers Rally and as it turned out, two other coaches also came in a day early and Pat drove up to join us – she had not gone with us to get the coach serviced.

We had planned to have grilled brats (from the Wurst Kitchen of course) with kraut and mashed potatoes and since we had seven sausages, we invited the other early arrivals to join us – I had planned to cook all of the sausages anyway so we just made more potatoes.

Four this meal, I like to dress my potatoes just like the brat with kraut and mustard and some other the others were pleasantly surprised when they tried it.  Sorry but I took no meal shots.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Coach Maintenance and RV Rally

After a month at home doing various fall chores, we got back on the road for a two stop trip.

I get the RV chassis serviced once a year following the Freightliner service recommendation and since it was due for a big five year service which includes transmission and coolant system I decided to take it to the Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp (FCCC) service center in Gaffney, SC.  I figured these folks are likely to do a fine job since they service these chassis all day, every day.

This is the service center with six bays (three on the other side) and the coaches lined up for the day with us in the last shot. 

Our appointment was for 8am on Friday so we drove over to Gaffney on Thursday and pulled into one of their 20 camping sites with 50 amp electric but no water or sewer which was no issue. 

That evening we went to Daddy Joe’s Beach House and Grill for supper where we got large portions of good food and at reasonable $10.95 price.  

I had a combo of chopped BBQ and Calabash Chicken with sides of baked beans and wedge fries along with hush puppies and while I didn’t get a shot my meal looked like this one with chicken in place of the wings.

Bev said she enjoyed her Calabash Chicken and Calabash Shrimp with potato salad and slaw – Calabash Style means lightly breaded but it seemed like a normal amount to me.

After servicing on Friday, the coach was returned to the site and we spent another night before heading to Sevierville, TN on Sat.

The service cost was $1368 + tax with labor to service the chassis and generator being $650 at $100/hr (actually cheaper than taking it to a dealer) and materials account for the rest of the cost (fluids were $438). 

So we are all serviced for a year but unfortunately they found a small oil leak from the engine which we’ll need to attend to when we get home. 

Since we stayed both the night before and after the service, we had an entire day to kill and several hours with no coach, so we opted for a factory tour.  Gaffney is not only home to the service center but also the factory for FCCC, where they assemble chassis for school buses and delivery vans (think UPS) as well as motor homes for several brands - about 50,000 chassis/year.

FCCC is a sub-division of Freightliner which is owned by Daimler, the German company that also owns Mercedes Benz and Smart Car.  The factory uses very modern and highly efficient manufacturing practices to make their high quality products and as an old plant guy I found the tour very interesting and even Bev said she enjoyed it.

Then we drove about 10 miles north to the site of the Revolutionary War Battle Site at Cowpens.  It is a National Battlefield Park requiring no admission.  It is basically just a visitors center and a field with not much in it that I saw and while it was an important battle for the Americans, I don’t quite see the need to spend money on a place that seems to slowly be taken over by trees.

The main reason for scheduling the service appointment when we did was that we would be part way to Gaffney anyway to attend a Tennessee Travelers rally in Sevierville the following week so we just showed up two days early.  The Saturday drive back from Gaffney took us an extra hour due to a four car wreck on I-26 and the heavy traffic from I-40 to Sevierville (Saturday of fall break). 

We checked into River Plantation RV Resort (our forth visit) and were assigned site 122 for two nights – we added the extra days too late to get the same site as for the rally.  I really don’t consider this a resort yet as they have gravel roads and sites and WiFi only in a couple of central locations.

The highlight of the day was getting set up in time to watch the second half of the Tennessee – Auburn game in which UT pulled off an upset and gave first year coach Jeremy Pruitt his first big win.  The low point of the day was watching my WV Mountaineers flounder around in a loss to Iowa State and after watching several previous games I was not at all surprised.

That’s it for now from Sevierville and I'll have more updates about our rally.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and the blue words are links.

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


10/11-10/13/18 Event Dates

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Naan Bread Pesto Pizza

We had been recently talking about pesto and Bev began looking for recipes that use it and she came up with Pesto Pizza from All Recipes so during a recent Sam’s club visit, she picked up a jar of Member’s Mark Pesto.  We all thought the jarred pesto was very good but care must be taken as it is a little salty.

The four of us each built our individual pizzas selecting from the available toppings and beginning with a generous layer of pesto.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Sausage & Kraut Flatbread Pizza

I’d seen this pizza made on TV and since I had some really good ingredients on hand, I wanted to give it a try and serve it to sausage fan (ex-Chicago) friends Laurie and Dave.  I decided to use our favorite Lithuanian Sausage (from the Wurst Kitchen)  but wanted to cook it first too make it easier to slice later and be certain it got done on the pizza.  Since I didn’t want it to cook too much, I cooked in Sous-vide in 140-150F water for six hours (this was the temp my stove would hold the water at and in the range I wanted).  Here it is in the vacuum sealed package with a probe thermometer monitoring the water temperature.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Back Home and Cooking Brats & Stuffed Chop

While in Sycamore, IL, there was a little dive looking place at the end of the road entering the campground that Bev found totally fascinating and insisted we check it out.  It’s somewhat hard to describe so we’ll use their words – “A butcher shop that cooks.”  

All of the meat cooking and smoking is done over charcoal on outside grills and the eating is at picnic tables also located outside.  The inside contains a case full of good looking meat, homemade salads of all kinds (slaw, potato salad, pasta salad, etc), deli meats.  They serve hot and cold sandwiches along with plate meals from the meats they cook. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

2018 Summer RV Trip – Days 44-46 – Last Day In Sycamore & Trip Home

Our original plan was to go from Illinois to Ohio Amish Country (Holmes County) then on to West Virginia for an 11 day, two stop rally of our RV club, but when the rally dropped down to just three coaches, we decided to cancel it.  My girls had already been saying they were ready to be home, so we cancelled out Holmes County as well and made plans to head south.

We were due to leave IL on Sunday of Labor Day weekend and not surprisingly, a suitable campground site was not to be found in the area we needed to spend the night so we stayed another day in Sycamore and had no problem getting into the Monday night place we wanted.

So Sunday, we made preparations for departure and watched a Shania Twain concert on TV and all I can say is that she is spectacular and then she starts singing and becomes even more so. J

Monday, September 10, 2018

2018 Summer RV Trip – Day 43 – Historic Roundhouse Restaurant & Sausage

Saturday was our day to visit with the kids and stock up on sausage and at Ann’s suggestion, we met for lunch at Two Brothers Roundhouse in Aurora, IL.  Eric was out of town so it was Ann and Matthew & Sophia who are growing like weeds.

The restaurant is in an old railroad roundhouse and here is an excerpt for Wikipedia – “The Two Brothers Roundhouse, formerly the Walter Payton Roundhouse, America's Historical Roundhouse, and Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Roundhouse and Locomotive Shop is a historic building converted to a restaurant in Aurora, Illinois. It was originally constructed in 1856 as a roundhouse for the Chicago & Aurora Railroad (later Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad) and served in this capacity until 1974. It was abandoned until 1995, when a group of investors led by Walter Payton purchased it and converted the building to an entertainment complex. Its most recent tenant is Two Brothers Brewing. The building is the oldest limestone roundhouse in the United States and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.”

Two Brothers is a restaurant, brewery, and distillery and it is amazing how they have made use of this fine old building which is made of stone and wood – huge beams can be seen supporting the roof on the inside.

Then the outside area where the turntable was located is set up for events.

Our lunches were burgers, wings, stuffed poblano, and a reuben and they were all just warm by the time we got them so the food gets a C but the location was a winner.

From there, we headed over to The Wurst Kitchen to stock up on some great sausages to take home – we bought at least 30lbs of frozen ones and the RV freezer was completely full.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and the blue words are links.

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


9/01/18 Event Date