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Springtime at My House

I think Spring has finally arrived in the foothills of North Carolina.  Here in Conover we have been experiencing beautiful Spring days.  There has been quite a few rainy days but I always treasure the rainy days in Spring because I know in late July and August I am usually praying for rain.  Today I am sharing with you the flowers blooming in my yard at the moment and giving you a glimpse of Spring time in North Carolina.

Chives starting to bloom at my back door

Chives starting to bloom at my back door

One of the hostas that I recently divided and transplanted.

One of the Hostas that I recently divided and transplanted.

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An Azalea that is starting to bloom

The lilac bushes below were here when we bought this house almost nine years ago.  I love them and the fragrance is wonderful.  The purple iris were some that have been transplanted twice from my Mother’s yard.

My side yard with Iris and the lilac bushes in bloom - That is my neighbor's Lab, Scooter in the background

My side yard with Iris and the lilac bushes in bloom – That is my neighbor’s Lab, Scooter in the background

The purple Lilac that came from my Mother's yard

The purple Lilac that came from my Mother’s yard

The Iris below is in my front yard and you can see the trunk of my crepe myrtle tree on the left.  My sedum and daylillies are in the background.

Iris starting to bloom in our front yard

Iris starting to bloom in our front yard

Azaleas are so pretty and grow so well in the South.  This one was already established in our yard when we purchased the house.

A closeup of the azalea in bloom

A closeup of a large azalea in my backyard

 

Azaleas in Bloom in our side yard

Azaleas in Bloom in our side yard

Over the past few years I have begun to love different colors of foliage and the Japanese Maple is one of my favorites.  Below I am sharing a few pictures of the Japanese Maples in our neighborhood.  The one growing in our yard was given to Mr. D as a Father’s Day gift almost nine years ago and it has really grown beautifully.

 

Japanese Maple in our side yard

Japanese Maple in our side yard

 

Another neighbor's Japanese Maple that I admire so much

A neighbor’s Japanese Maple that I admire so much – The neighbor and the beautiful trees

A dwarf Japanese Maple in a neighbor's yard

A dwarf Japanese Maple in a neighbor’s yard

I don’t plant many annuals in my yard anymore but I plant them in containers and they are portable and can be used anywhere in my flower beds.  I visited the garden center at our local Home Depot yesterday and I will share my potted plantings when I finish.

Happy Spring and thanks for stopping by.

Closeup of Japanese Maple foilage

Closeup of Japanese Maple foliage

A New Cookbook – Hungry For Home by Amy Rogers – Killed Lettuce and Onions – Mast General Store

Entrance to Mast General Store

Entrance to Mast General Store

Yard sale season is approaching and on Saturday there was a yard sale at a local church and we bought a few things.  I was extremely happy when I saw the Hungry For Home Cookbook by Amy Rogers so without hesitation, I bought it.  Amy is a food essayist for public radio and a founding editor of Novello Festival Press.  This book shares recipes from the Carolina mountains to the Lowcountry.  Some of our state’s most prolific writers are contributors.  I enjoy reading the stories that are written about the recipes of home cooks all over North Carolina.

Even though I wasn’t able to attend on Saturday, I was also super excited because the Hickory Farmer’s Market opened for the season.  One of my favorite vendors at the market is a lady that has wonderful fresh salad greens.  I have never been disappointed with any of the fresh lettuce I have purchased from her.

Goods For Sale At Mast General Store

Goods For Sale At Mast General Store

When I saw the recipe for Killed Lettuce and Onions by Sheri Moretz, I knew I wanted to share it with you.   I remember my Mother and Grandmother making this in the Spring.  As a young child, I just remember the smell and with the cooked onions I thought it smelled very unappetizing.  Later on, I was brave enough to give it a try and instantly loved them.  The combination of the onion, lettuce and bacon when it is blended perfectly together is a wonderful combination.  Sheri gives specific instruction on killing the lettuce and I think that would be the key in having the best results. She recommends this as a side for pinto beans and cornbread and I think I would be a happy girl with the killed lettuce and onions and fried cornbread.  YUM!!!

 

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Sherri lives in Boone, N.C., the town where she was born and attended Appalachian State.  She currently works at Mast General Store in Valle Crucis.  The pictures are from one of our recent visits to the historic store in Valle Crucis.  So does it mean I am Southern because I love Killed Lettuce and Onions?  I certainly hope so.

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Restaurant Quality Dishes – Let’s Start With Ina Garten’s Truffled Mashed Potatoes

truffle potatoes 2Last week Mr. D and I went to Applebee’s for a meal.  We don’t eat out a lot and that is one of our favorite restaurants.  As I was sitting there, I began to realize our eating out had just become a habit and a part of our routine.  I enjoy going out to eat but I love to cook too. When we got our check I told Mr D who has always treated me to this meal that this has to stop.  I really surprised myself when I told him that.  Being a foodie, I love to try new ways of preparing food.  I would never be a person that would eat Octopus or something strange but I do like new cooking ideas and techniques. However, I think our eating out has become routine and a little mundane.  Mr. D and I talked about it and decided that we would make more meals at home and concentrate on making something really special at least once a week.

I wanted to share an extra special dish with you today and I thought of Ina Garten’s truffled mashed potatoes that I made for Easter.  After reading several of Ina’s books I have become a fan of truffle butter and so the mashed potatoes sounded wonderful.  They were easy to make and Ina’s directions in her recipe were easy to follow.  Mr. D loved this dish and I think if you follow Ina’s philosopy of having one or two special dishes at a meal they will really shine and you can serve basic recipes with them.

I will give you one hint in preparing these and that is when you add the hot truffle cream do it very slowly and stop and see how thick it gets before you add more.  I did add to much at one time and it was a little soupy.  It did thicken up as we warmed it for leftovers.  This is definitely a family favorite now and it is fairly easy to make.  I would say it is definitely restaurant quality.

truffle potatoesI will continue to write posts as we experiment with preparing restaurant quality meals at home.  I think going out to eat will become a special occasion for us and hopefully preparing meals together at home will become special occasions for us too.

I hope you have a special weekend and thanks for stopping by.

Summertime, Vegetables and Corn Griddle Cakes

Summer is my favorite time of the year.  In the South, I know we can become drenched in humidity but I really think that is a trade off for the idea of not having to bundle up in a coat to go outside.  One of my favorite things about summer is the vegetables.  I subscribe to a blog by another North Carolina resident, Arthur, and he is preparing his vegetable garden.  Just reading about the preparation makes me think of the wonderful summer tomatoes, cabbage, zucchini, cucumber, peppers and I could just go on and on.  Here is a link to Arthur’s blog and I think you will enjoy it:  http://arthur-in-the-garden.com/

I think corn bread served with fresh vegetables is just the perfect addition to a wonderful summer meal.  I saw the recipe I am sharing with you today and it is from the cookbook, the Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock.  In the introduction to the recipe they mention other recipes in the cookbook that would be great with the corn cakes.  Unfortunately, I chose this cookbook from the library and did not save the recipes they referred to.  However, I think the comments just prove that homemade corn bread will go with just about anything. I think you can substitute store bought baking powder for the homemade that is referred to in the recipe.

corn meal patties

 

I am aware of the Southern tradition of serving corn cakes made out of corn meal with cane syrup; however, I have never tried it.  It does sound good and especially if you are having breakfast for supper.  I love to do that sometimes.

I love to plant flowers in the Spring and Mr. D and I worked in our yard on Saturday and moved some plants and shrubs around that needed to be divided or would thrive in a different area of our yard.  We don’t garden at all but we certainly enjoy going to the Farmer’s Market and buying all the wonderful bounty of fruits and vegetables of Summer.

Thanks for stopping by.

Orange Chicken With Broccoli – Sort Of

As I reflect on growing up in the South, I remember how my Mother would complain about fixing the same old meals all the time.  Add to that the fact that my Daddy was a meat and potatoes man and would not eat any dish that was combined such as spaghetti, etc.  Thinking about that, I now realize the ingredients and options were so limited for my Mother’s generation.  When I started to write this post, I thought of growing up and never hearing of stir frying anything.  Wow, I do believe my Mother had a legitimate complaint and I now understand why so many dishes were repeated.

The recipe I am sharing today is from the local Hickory Living magazine and is credited to Bird’s Eye frozen vegetables.  I prepared this last week as I was also preparing for Easter.  Needless to say, I didn’t want to make another trip to the store so I am showing you the ingredients that was called for in the recipe and then show you how I adapted the ingredients to what was available in my kitchen.

breaded ckn stir fry2As I read through the ingredients, I realized I did not have an orange so I substituted with three of the small mandarin oranges and used the juice and zest from them.  I did not have any frozen broccoli but I had frozen mixed vegetables that included carrots, broccoli and cauliflower so I used that package.  I did not have any fresh ginger so I used a teaspoon of dry ginger powder.  I did not have any rice wine vinegar and don’t think I would use it for any other recipes so I did not include it in my mixture.  I was so happy about the results of this recipe because the chicken is breaded and is crispy and I liked the texture of the chicken.  I did not use bread crumbs for my chicken but I used panko crumbs that has become a favorite for me.

Here is what I did.

Blended orange juice soy sauce and cornstarch in a small bowl:  set aside.

Heat oil over medium high heat and cook chicken, turning once.  10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, Remove from skillet and keep warm.

In the same skillet add the broccoli or selected frozen vegetables, mix and cook, stirring occasionally.  5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender.

Add garlic and ginger and cook for one to two more minutes.  Stir in orange juice mixture, orange zest, chicken stock  and rice wine vinegar.  (The rice wine vinegar is the ingredient I left out of my dish.)  Cook stirring occasionally for three minutes or until sauce is bubbly and starts to thicken.  Add cooked chicken back into the pan and let flavors combine for 1-2 minutes.  Sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

Mr. D and I really enjoyed this dish and I was so happy with the crispy chicken.  We will definitely have this again.  I am very thankful that we have so many options for preparing meals for our family now.  Just imagine not having Mexican, Chinese or Italian restaurants.  When I was growing up in the 60’s in a small town in North Carolina I didn’t even know what take-out pizza was.

Thanks for stopping by.

Easter Monday and Egg Nests

Today is Easter Monday and when I was growing up in North Carolina, we always had Easter Monday as our holiday for Easter instead of Good Friday.  I only had one day off from school and had never heard of Spring break and having a week off for Easter.  Of course, at the time, we only went to school for nine months and our school year started around the first of September and ended around the first week of June.  We did not have end of grade scoring either and experiencing that one time with kindergarten kids made me realize how stressful that is for educators.

Today I am sharing two weekend experiences.  First of all, I blogged about the Easter Bunny cake on March 26 and I did make one for Easter.  Here is a link to that post:  http://sodoesthatmeaniamsouthern.com/2015/03/26/bunny-cake-or-pancakes-for-easter/  I used sugar free yellow cake mix and sugar free white frosting.  I learned how to tint coconut for the first time and really was happy with the results. See what you think!

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To tint my coconut, I placed it in a zip lock bag and diluted the desired food color into one teaspoon of water. I put the food color mixture into the zip lock bag and shook the bag until the color was even and placed it on waxed paper to dry.

I made egg nests for Mr. D because it is so hard to find sugar free Easter candy.  I saw this recipe in a local magazine I saw at the gym the other day. It is from Nestle and includes Nestle Nest Eggs.  I have never heard of those and when I made the nests I formed them into the nests shapes and placed them in the fridge.  Here is a picture of my nests.

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Here is the recipe from Nestle and I used only the chocolate morsels.  I know Easter is over but I think this would be a great treat for earth day or for children learning about birds, eggs and nests.  The only hint I have as far as preparation is that as you add the noodles to the morsels, add a small amount at a time as I had a few noodles left over after tossing them with the chocolate mixture.

egg nests

These choices were good options for Mr. D and he does eat his desserts sparingly so that is a good thing.  I hope you had a great Easter weekend and Happy Easter Monday Y’all.

Thanks for stopping by.

A Not So Boring Potato Salad

When I started to prepare my menu for Easter, I was browsing through my Ina Garten cookbooks.  As I read one of her recipes for potato salad she stated that most Potato Salad was boring.  That really surprised me and if you have read this blog often you know that I love Ina Garten but I didn’t agree with that statement.  I loved my Mother’s potato salad and I loved my Mother-in-laws potato salad.  Most of the time, I love my potato salad too. Last weekend, I made potato salad for us and that is something I usually include in my holiday meals.  However, Mr. D and I are being quite unconventional as far as our Easter meal is concerned.  However, I was craving potato salad.  As I was making it I kept thinking of what Ina said and I think I included everything I could think of in my potato salad.  I asked Mr. D if it was boring and he said he that it was very good.  Here is how I made it.

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Not So Boring Potato Salad

4 russet baking potatoes

1/3 cup of sour cream

1/2 cup of mayonnaise

2 tablespoons of mustard

2 tablespoons of durkee’s sauce

1/2 cup of chopped purple onion

1/2 cup of chopped sweet colored peppers

1 medium size jar of  chopped pimento drained

2 tablespoons of sweet pickle chips

2 tablespoons of celery seeds

2 tablespoons of taragon

I to 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon of black pepper

I baked the unpeeled potatoes in the oven at 400 degrees until done.  I let them cool and then I peeled them and cut them into small cubes.  I put them in a large mixing bowl and added the other ingredients. If the potato salad does not seem creamy enough, you can add more mayonnaise or sour cream.

Usually, I am inspired greatly by the recipes in Ina Garten’s cookbooks and we will be having her truffle mashed potatoes and argula salad with her homemade dressing as sides for our Easter meal.  However, this time I think I was inspired to make a very tasty potato salad from the one comment I read in Ina’s cookbook.  Maybe Ina hasn’t been lucky enough to taste a Southern cook’s potato salad.

For our Easter meal Mr. D and I will have the following:

Steaks on the grill prepared by Mr. D  (they are always a favorite for me)

Argula Salad with homemade dressing of lemon juice and olive oil

Truffle mashed potatoes

Deviled eggs

Blackberry cobbler for Mr. D and I am going to make the bunny cake I blogged about earlier.  It will be a nice break from the many years of preparing so many traditional Easter meals and will be a very relaxing day for us after church services.

I am including a special note for my Southern soul sister and fellow blogger, Seasweetie.  I know the NCAA tournament is this weekend and Duke University is in the final four.  Just for you, I will say, “Go Duke.”  I hope you know how special you are because I can promise you I haven’t ever uttered those words before.

May each and every one of you have a Blessed and Happy Easter.  Thanks for stopping by.

 

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