Friday, May 25, 2012

The River Rats

This is my favorite week of the year. We'll be spending a little time chilling at the river. Internet access will be limited, so I'll be seeing ya' in a week or so! Have fun and be safe!


You know us, there's no telling what we'll get in to, so I may have to jump in the boat and get in the middle of the channel to pick up a signal!


This Memorial Day we'll be fishing, cooking up some good food and hanging out with family and friends. Tell your family every day how much you love them...you never know what life will bring.


Life is Good!!

Cleaning Lettuce From The Garden

We have really enjoyed all the lettuce coming in. I'm hoping it'll continue to produce until our tomatoes start getting ripe. Every time I fix a salad, I love surprising Andy with a new combination of ingredients. The other day we had baby carrots, lettuce, spinach, hard boiled eggs, Vidalia onions, and Parmesan cheese. I believe the only thing that would have made this better was some sliced black olives. I'm counting down the days until we're eating fresh-picked home grown tomatoes!

When I pick lettuce, I like to clean it like I do when I fix turnip greens. I clean my sink out and fill it with cold water, lettuce and a big  handful of salt. If there are any bugs, the salt helps them rise to the top. Pick out anything that doesn't belong in your salad! Our garden has been relatively weed-free, so it's pretty easy. Soak and rinse two more times. Remove the drain stopper and let the lettuce sit for several minutes. Shake off the excess water and drop into a salad spinner. This kitchen tool is a must-have if you have a lot of leafy greens.

My little buddy Brody was a big help with the salad spinner! He has been officially trained in salad preparation and said he would help his Mom and Dad fix their salad.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cheesy Vegetable Soup



After the welcome rain we had the weekend before left a cool nip in the air, I fixed some Cheesy Vegetable Soup to knock the chill off. Plain old crackers just won't do with a soup like this. I fixed up some hoe cakes to eat on the side. I prefer them over cornbread any day. 


In a large pot, add:
  • 1 1/2 quarts water
  • 6 tsp. Better than Bouillon chicken base
  • 1 cup diced onion (1 medium)
  • 2-1/2 cups diced potatoes
  • 20 oz. bag of frozen vegetables



 Let the potatoes, onions and vegetables come to a boil and cook for 20-30 minutes or until tender. 

To finish:
Lower the heat on the stove.
Add 1 can each of cream of chicken and cream of celery soup. Mix until blended well. 




Adjust heat to low and add 1 lb. cubed Velveeta cheese. Stir until smooth.





Wednesday, May 23, 2012

White Sangria

Watching the Food Network on the weekend can be dangerous. It gives me too many ideas. Saturday, before everyone woke up, I was watching Big Daddy (Aaron McCargo, Jr.) and lo and behold I had to do some rewinding.  He put together a white sangria that had me drooling. He mentioned Orange Liqueur. You know I love all things orange, so I had pad and pen in hand and ready to take notes. Since I'm not a morning person, it didn't sink in until later that I could have just looked it up on the internet. That came to me about one cup of coffee later.

Andy and I received this drink dispenser from Terry and Vicky when we got married back in the fall and I believe it will be the perfect vessel to be floating some fruit in come Monday! I'll be sure to post some action pics and update the post with any variations when we get back.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bottle good quality fruity white wine, like pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur
  • 1 medium peach, washed, pitted and sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
  • 1 orange, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup green grapes, sliced
  • Ice
  • 1 liter soda water, for serving


In a large pitcher, mix the white wine and orange liqueur. Add the peaches, strawberries, orange slices and grapes. Stir all to combine. Refrigerate, about 20 minutes. Serve over ice with a splash of soda water.



UPDATE:


When I took a count of who would be showing up to help me drink Sangria on Memorial Day, I realized there was no need to bring the 3 gallon drink dispenser to the river.  I opted for the 1 gallon glass jar I keep hidden under the counter for these occasions. It was hot, hot, hot and several of the people coming didn't drink alcohol at all or went for beer.


I used Flipflop Moscato (750ml) and Triple Sec. This combination wasn't excessively sweet; for me it was just right. If you like a really sweet drink, just go with the recommended wine. We had record temperatures this weekend and this drink was really light, cool and refreshing. I'll be doing it again!


Source: Big Daddy

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Melissa's Hot Slaw

Memorial Day means outdoors eating! Between Hot Slaw, Cole Slaw, Cole Slaw Dressing and this one...Melissa's Hot Slaw, you're bound to find one that meets with your idea of ease of preparation. With flavors ranging from mild, but good to hot and hoo weee, your crowd will be asking YOU for your recipe!  I'll be fixing a vat of the  Hot Slaw for Monday no doubt, but this is a very close second when I want a little spice.


This slaw recipe is one of Melissa's specialties. The first time I ate it we were attending her husbands "frog leg" fry. I'll spare you the details of the other meats prepared. Let's just say life on the farm can run towards the "different." I'd like to say the slaw was the most memorable part of the night, but you'd have to know this group of folks!


INGREDIENTS
  • 1 head cabbage, chopped*
  • 1 vidalia onion, chopped (or purple onion for more color)
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large red delicious apple, chopped
  • Palm full of sugar
  • Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
  • Slaw dressing

    DIRECTIONS

    Mix all ingredients and add cole slaw dressing. Melissa recommends T. Marzetti’s and I’ve also included a homemade slaw dressing in the “Miscellaneous” section.


    *For quick and easy, use a bag of shredded tri-colored cabbage and carrots.

    Cole Slaw Dressing

    I'm pretty picky when it comes to cole slaw. However, from time to time I will veer and try a few variations. Marilyn gave this recipe to me about 14 years ago. She brought a bowl of slaw to a party I attended and I just had to have it. It's got a nice "wang" to it with that bite of apple cider vinegar, and I normally don't touch a vinegar based slaw. With Memorial Day weekend just around the corner, this dressing and a bag of slaw are a quick and easy fix and everyone will love the flavor!

    INGREDIENTS

    • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
    • 2/3 cup water
    • 2 tbsp. prepared mustard
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 3/4 tbsp. salt
    • 1 tsp. black pepper
    • 1 1/2 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
    • 1/3 cup evaporated milk

      DIRECTIONS

      Put all into a quart jar and shake well. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

      Monday, May 21, 2012

      Andy's Special Recipe Meatloaf

      When it came to meatloaf, my kids wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole. They never could tell me why they hated it so much, but there was no amount of cajoling that would make them eat it. This was heart-breaking to me because meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas was my favorite home-cooked meal. And leftover meatloaf sandwiches? Get outta here!!! Love them! A former co-worker Leatha brought meatloaf to work just to make sandwiches one day. We all went nuts over them.

      Years down the road Andy and I were fixing supper for our blended group and he wanted meatloaf. I knew if we had mac and cheese, the boys wouldn't starve. They tried the meatloaf...a tiny bite...and went back for more. We finally figured out what they disliked so much: the ketchup baked on top! From that point on, I always put ketchup on the side.

      There is an art to fixing meatloaf. You want it firm and cooked, but not dry.  One thing he does differently is to form it on a small aluminum wrap baking sheet instead of cooking in a loaf pan. It seems to cook so much more evenly.


      Mix all the ingredients below and form on a pan like above. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes and check the firmness and temperature. I let it bake for an additional 20 minutes, moved it to the counter and covered it with aluminum foil. The inside was cooked perfectly, and it was moist but firm when we ate..

      INGREDIENTS:
      • 2 lb. hamburger meat
      • 2 cups Quick oats
      • 2 eggs
      • 1 tsp. salt and pepper
      • 1/2 cup ketchup
      •  Medium chopped onion
      • 3/4 of a 10 oz. can Rotel, drain extra juice

      Sunday, May 20, 2012

      Fried Breakfast Tenderloin

      Fried breakfast tenderloin with or without dipping in flour? We like both equally!

      By now you all have heard me go on about vacuum sealing meats bought in bulk and repackaging them for meals. When Andy buys whole pork loins, he will cut 1/2 inch pork chops for grilling and 1/4 inch for breakfast chops. If you've bought a pork loin, you know you will end up with a bunch of odd ball pieces. They're the perfect biscuit size. He'll put about 10 pieces per pack and the three of us can pretty much take care of them.

      When the weekends roll around, we love to get up and fix a huge "country" breakfast. This morning we opted for the flour dredged variety along with fried country eggs and biscuits with honey. Man, that stuff was good!

      Preheat your skillet on medium heat. Barely cover the bottom of the skillet with oil.

      While the skillet heats up, put about 1/2 cup four in a quart size ziplock bag. Drop meat pieces in and shake. Make sure all sides get covered.

      Do not overload your skillet! I like to cook the thickest pieces first. Place them in the skillet and season with a little salt and pepper. After 4-5 minutes, check the bottom of one of the pieces and see if it's turned a nice golden brown. If so, turn and cook until the next side is done (about 3-4 minutes). Place on a paper towel lined dish as they are done. Be careful to not overcook. You don't want them to be tough.

      If you have to add a little oil to the skillet after cooking the first batch, add the least amount you think you may need in slowly and let it reheat before adding additional meat.



      Friday, May 18, 2012

      Homemade Hummingbird Nectar

      Andy I love to watch the birds. Relaxing on the back porch or the carport at the "cottage" will remove all the stress we incurred during the day. We keep feed out for bluebirds, cardinals, finches and all the other songbirds who frequent the feeders and birdbath. The hummingbirds, on the other hand, offer plenty of entertainment and can get just a little crazy sometimes. Below you'll find a few pictures and some video we captured some time ago.


      Until the past year, I always bought pouches or containers full of red sugary stuff to mix up for the hummingbirds that visited us on a yearly basis. I always worried about the "red" in the pouch and wondered what long-term effects it had on our winged little friends. Now I mix my own "clear nectar" and they love it! Within minutes of a refill; they are out and fighting off the dominant males!



      HOMEMADE HUMMINGBIRD NECTAR
       4 cups of water
      1 cup sugar


      Bring water and sugar to a boil. Stir so the sugar dissolves. Let it cool completely. This will fill the style feeder shown in the pics.


      Be sure to clean your feeder before you fill it




      Broccoli and Rice Casserole


      This easy casserole is also known as green rice. Every holiday, my brother-in-law Mike's mother Betty brings this dish to Momma's. It's always so good it makes me wonder why we feel like it has to be a  holiday before someone fixes it. I like to add a small can of mushroom stems and pieces when I'm not making this for "picky" eaters.

      INGREDIENTS


      • 1 c. Minute rice
      • 3/4 c. chopped celery
      • 3/4 c. chopped onion
      • 1 box chopped broccoli, thawed
      • 1 small jar Cheese Whiz
      • 1 tsp. salt
      • 1 stick butter, melted
      • 1 can cream of chicken soup
      • 1 can cream of mushroom soup

        DIRECTIONS

        Mix all ingredients, except cheese. Place in greased baking dish. Top with Cheese Whiz. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.

        Thursday, May 17, 2012

        Andy's Quick Sauteed Mushrooms and Gravy


        When you need a quick gravy to top your steak or hamburger steak, or just like to eat sauteed mushrooms on the side, this recipe can serve both purposes with minor adjustments. When Andy makes this to go on hamburger steaks all I need is a baked potato to make it a meal. When he fixes them to serve as a side; he uses a large container of fresh whole mushrooms and doubles the rest of the ingredients.

        INGREDIENTS:
        • 1 small can sliced mushrooms (or 1 8 oz. container sliced mushrooms)
        • 1/4 cup Good on Anything (or Dale's) sauce
        • 1/2 tbsp. garlic
        • black pepper
        • 1/2 cup chopped onion
        • 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
        • 1-1/2 tbsp. cold water
        • 2 tbsp. butter


        Heat skillet and melt butter. Saute onions and garlic. Pour Good on Anything sauce on top; mix in mushrooms.  **If using fresh mushrooms, add them when you saute the onions.

        Dissolve cornstarch in cold water. Add to skillet and stir until gravy starts to thicken. If it gets too thick, add a little water. If it's too runny, use minimal equal parts cornstarch and cold water until it's the consistency you like. 

        Tuesday, May 15, 2012

        Grisham Garden Part 2

        Here's an update on the state of the garden. First of all, the rain has done wonders for our plants! It looked like they all jumped overnight. Now if we can keep the bunny rabbits and deer out of it, we'll be doing good. Andy never had a problem with deer in his garden until he moved to town. I'm sure the deer that wiped out our okra were like the people who come to the house and eat. You know they're thinking...Man, That Stuff is Good!

        We have been enjoying fixing salads several nights a week. You just can't beat fresh!! We finally have a few onions and radishes big enough to pull. The cherry tomatoes are starting to bloom so hopefully it won't be too long!


        Sunflowers

        Spaghetti squash, cantelope, watermelon

        Squash, zucchini, cucumbers

        Okra

        Green Beans

        3 varieties of tomatoes

        Sweet potatoes (came back from the freeze!), rutabagas, spinach, 2 varieties of lettuce

        Beets, onions

        Red potatoes






        Hoe Cakes

        When it comes to making bread with cornmeal, hoe cakes are my favorite, hands down. I love to pour pinto beans over them, dip them in chicken stew...you name it. It's hard to believe that these three ingredients could taste so different coming from the oven or the skillet.

        INGREDIENTS:

        • 1 cup self-rising cornmeal
        • 1 egg
        • Enough milk to make batter the consistency similar to pancake batter. 
        If it's too "watery" add a little extra cornmeal to thicken it up.

        I normally mix my batter in a 4-cup glass measuring cup so I can pour out the size hoe cakes I want. Andy likes to use this little 2" ladle I have. He thinks it makes them the perfect size. He is right, and I even told him so. 

        Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet on medium. Drop the batter onto hot skillet. Roll the oil around so all sides of the hoe cake are sizzling.

        When the bottom starts to turn a nice golden brown and bubbles form at the top, it's time to turn them.Cook until the second side is golden brown and set on a paper towel lined plate.


        Monday, May 14, 2012

        Mushroom Swiss Burgers

        When it comes to eating hamburgers, a mushroom swiss burger is my second favorite. We don't fix burgers very often, but when we do, we do them up right. My all-time favorite has a light amount of Hellman's mayonnaise and mustard on both sides of the bun, a bed of lettuce, vidalia onion rings, grilled burger with melted Provolone or Swiss cheese, two slices of homegrown tomatoes with a little salt and pepper, and topped off with dill pickle stackers.

        Last night I was in the mood for a mushroom swiss and a plate of oven baked fries. If you overlook the butter involved in preparing these, they are a quite healthy alternative. The ingredients below will serve four...and then some.

        INGREDIENTS:
        4 half pound burgers
        8 slices Swiss cheese
        8 oz. baby Portobella mushrooms
        8 slices Texas toast
        Salt, pepper to taste
        Good on Anything (or Dales) seasoning

        DIRECTIONS:
        Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

        Line the bottom of a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray the rack with cooking spray. Prepare your oven baked fries on another sheet and set to the side.

        We found this huge baking sheet (rack measures 13" x 18") at Academy Sports. It's one of my favorites to bake with.
        Tear off a sheet of aluminum foil to cook the mushrooms in. Pour mushrooms in and top with tabs of butter. You can season with Good on Anything and a little salt and pepper if you'd like. I just stuck with the butter. Wrap the packet up and set on the front corner of the rack. 

        Wrap and prepare a vidalia onion just like you would if you were fixing a baked onion. Place it in the back corner of the rack.

        Set the four burgers on the other side. Brush Good on Anything seasoning and salt and pepper burgers. Place this sheet on the top rack. Place the fries on the bottom rack.

        Bake the burgers for 30 minutes. (Adjust time based on thickness of burger...these were pretty thick) Remove from the rack, place on a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Remove mushrooms and set to the side. Move the potatoes to the top rack; place wrapped onion on the baking sheet; bump up the oven temp to 450 degrees and bake until potatoes are golden and the onions are tender.

        Heat a small skillet to medium heat. Butter one side of all the Texas toast. Put the bottom slice in the hot skillet. Lay one slice of cheese on the bottom, layer with mushrooms and onions. Place burger and another slice of cheese on top and finish with the other slice of Texas toast. Let sandwich cook until lightly browned on the bottom; flip to grill the other side (may take two spatulas to not lose your fillings!). A panini press would be the easiest way to grill these, but we just haven't made that change yet.



        Sunday, May 13, 2012

        Jug Fishing with Andy and Denise Part 1

        Last weekend, we were watching the sun start to set from our rocking chairs on the landing and noticed a couple of men jug fishing for catfish in the channel. Well you know we were sick we had left all the jugs back on the pontoon boat in Pulaski. At that point, I knew we'd be back next weekend. By Thursday, the weather men were calling for rain all weekend, enough for flooding at home, but Athens was looking pretty good. So we took off bright and early Saturday morning to the river for a day of jug fishing. OK. I know this is a little on the redneck side, but I have a blast every time we do this. Plus, we eat pretty darn good!

        The first catfish we caught wasn't very big, but it sure was fun when it got on the line and tried to take off with the jug. 


        Here's video one with Andy rebaiting the hook and ready to catch some more fish. You can't hardly hear half of what he says, but we were fishing with nightcrawlers 10 feet deep.



        Half gallon milk jugs, heavy duty line and hooks that are guaranteed to hang
        on to whatever you catch were the perfect combination.

        We were fishing with eight jugs. When they start biting, eight will keep you
        busy especially if it's windy, like it was Saturday.  




        Jug Fishing with Andy and Denise Part 2



        The month of May is the best month to catch catfish. They go on bed typically around Memorial Day, so Andy has it in his head that we will be out every possible minute fishing this month. 


        Jug fishing isn't a guaranteed way to catch a catfish, but it's a fun way to spend the day while you attempt to do so. A hard-core sport fisherman wouldn't waste his time doing this. However, if you like to eat catfish like we do, it's pretty hard to beat. There were some nice stretches of time in between catches. It seemed like when one hit, you barely had time to get him in before another one was hitting. Memorial Day weekend, a couple of years ago, we jug fished and just about worked our selves to death.


        During the down time, I enjoyed listening to and watching the wildlife. This bird perched a few feet away from us and enjoyed the show.










        Jug Fishing with Andy and Denise Part 3

        OK. After watching the video, I realize I get just a "little excited" whenever we get a fish on the line, but what a great way to get rid of stress!!


        This one will definitely be supper tomorrow night!! Nothing's better than fresh caught  fried catfish, slaw and hushpuppies!

        I sure am glad Andy doesn't mind removing the hooks from catfish. A catfish is just about the only river fish I can't make myself handle. If you don't know what you are doing and aren't careful, they will "spike" you.






        Jug Fishing with Andy and Denise Part 4

        The last catch of the day!

        You might be a redneck if you use the words "dude,"  "freaking," "awesome" at least three times, "dang" and "let me get the live well open" in less than 45 seconds and still post the video. Yes, I am referring to myself. What can I say? I'm easily amused!

        Toward the middle of the morning, we noticed several of what appeared to be White Heron's or Egret's.These beautiful white birds were perched everywhere...on logs, in tree tops, you name it. I'll have to get Don and Debbie to let us know which one for sure the next time we're down. All winter we enjoyed watching hundreds and hundreds of pelicans and Don knew the black birds congregating with them were Cormorants. 

         What a beautiful way to end the day!