Thursday, December 22, 2011

Break Time - Christmas Time - Cook Time

Hipolite Fudge

It is finally here...Christmas Break!!!  It is one of my favorite times of the year.  Sarah and Jonathan are both here and in the Christmas cooking mood.  So what are we going to do?  COOK!!!  They are starting with my mother's recipe for Peanut Butter Balls.  It is a family favorite!

I started with Hipolite Fudge ( a recipe from my childhood) and will moving on shortly to White Cranberry Bark with Walnuts.  So what is "Hipolite Fudge" you might ask?   It is a rich chocolate fudge made with marshmallow creme, chocolate, sugar, butter and nuts.  The Hipolite family made candies and confections and their marshmallow creme was called Hipolite.   My mother's recipe card is dark brown and barely legible.  Here it is...hope you enjoy!

Hipolite Fudge

2 sticks of butter
4 1/2 cups of sugar
1 large can of Carnation evaporated milk
1 large jar of Hipolite (of course they don't make this brand anymore...I used Kraft Jet Puffed Marshmallow Creme)
3 bags of chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
1 pound of walnuts

Bring butter, sugar and milk to a rolling boil.  Cook for 6 minutes stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and add marshmallow creme, chocolate and nuts.  Pour into buttered pan (9 x 13 glass dish).  Cool completely and cut into squares

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thank you Mr. Two Week Break!!!

I am just finishing a wonderful two-week fall break.  This is probably my favorite break of the year.  The first nine weeks are usually hard.  After the summer break, it takes a few weeks to get my body accustomed to the daily schedule and demands of teaching.  Just when my body and brain is just about ready to crash....along comes Fall Break!  This year, I spent several days completing home projects and was able to spend a few glorious days in the mountains.  Hiking, resting and listening to Sarah sing in the Ladies Chorale at UT Knoxville were all part of our wonderful mountain time. 

With this being my last day before my break ends and all lesson plans and rehearsals completed for the upcoming week, I decided some time in the kitchen would be fun.  With cooler temperatures forecast for the end of next week a great soup recipe sounded good.  After searching through several recipes, I decided to combine a couple of recipes and make my own soup.  The soup is loosely based on an Italian Sausage soup that I made a couple of weeks ago.  Since my homemade vegetable broth was already in the fridge, putting a tasty soup together was easy.

Just a quick note....homemade vegetable stock is super quick.  I use three carrots , three celery stalks with leaves, the bottom of the celery stalk washed and cleaned, red - sweet pepper, one yellow onion and one bunch of green onions all chopped into chunks.  I add a tablespoon of course sea salt, 2 tablespoons of peppercorns, 1 teaspoon of thyme and 1 bay leaf.  Cover with 6 quarts of water and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 30 minutes then cool and pour through a strainer.  This is a wonderful NO FAT stock base for soups.  I usually substitute vegetable stock for chicken stocks in soup recipes.


Quick Soup Recipe

Saute 1 yellow onion, three large chopped carrots and three celery sticks in a large pot.   When vegetables are soft, add one chopped turkey kielbasa and 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic. 

When kielbasa is browned add one large can of diced tomatoes (28 ounces) and two cans (15.5 ounces) of cannellini beans.  Pour vegetable broth over veggies and bring to a boil.  Turn to a simmer for 30 minutes and add a small bag of baby spinach.  This is a wonderful, low-fat soup that is great for quick dinners and to reheat for lunches.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Weekend Pleasures!!!

What a whirlwind of a weekend!  Thank goodness it is fall break and I have some time to relax and catch my breath.  It is football season around here and with that comes Friday night games and Saturday marching contest.  These are wonderful memory makers but do tend to make this body tired.

This weekend, we played Franklin County.  Great game and we pulled out a win in double overtime.  The band looked wonderful as they marched during halftime. Then on Saturday, we traveled to Nashville for the John Overton contest.  The band was great.  We are very proud of those talented young men and women and what they accomplish.  We were also lucky to have our daugher Sarah home for the weekend.   I am glad Sarah was able to see Jonathan "do his thang."  Her comment was "HE IS GROWN." fast it has happened.

Since we have not had time to get to the grocery store, I had to improvise breakfast.  I decided to make my Mama's Homemade Biscuits.  I remember her making biscuits every Saturday morning and how much fun it was to help her.  She could throw together a wonderful breakfast very fast.  In a few minutes she would have her dough ready and turned out onto her wooden board.  Soon the biscuits would be cut and popped into the oven.  We always had a gas oven and stove.  Mama didn't care to much for an electric stove.  "Gas is easier to cook on" she said.  We always had gravy and her homemade grape jam to go with the biscuits.  I even remember her pear preserves.  They were the best.

So this morning, while everyone was still asleep, I put together my rendition of Mama's biscuits.  I did measure my ingredients and the biscuits were quite good.  Enjoy!

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
4 tablespoons of shortening or butter
3/4 cup  buttermilk

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Make a "well" in the middle and add shortening.  Crumble mixture with hands or pastry blender to cut the shortening into the flour.  Add buttermilk and mix with hand.  Form dough into a loose ball and turn onto lightly floured surface.  Kneed dough and from into disc.  Roll biscuit dough to 1/4 inch thick.  Cut biscuits and place on baking sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Green Tomato Relish

Middle Tennessee has been extremely hot lately.  On top of the heat, we have had no rain.  If you combine high heat and no rain you get a tomato crop that is going south quick!   I watered my plants but continued to get lack-luster results.  The vines were beginning to die so the inevitable happened on Saturday....I pulled the green tomatoes from the vine....about two gallons of tomatoes and everything else was tidied up and readied for fall plantings.  However, what was I going to do with two gallons of green tomatoes? 

I remembered a recipe that Momma had tucked in the green box.  She called the recipe "Green Tomato Relish."  I think the recipe was similar to one she had tried at a local restaurant.  This was not an old recipe, but one that she had copied down in the last few years.  I am pretty sure that she never had the opportunity to make this relish.  She would have liked it.

So here is the recipe....when you decide to cook beans and greens this will want this!

Green Tomato Pickle Relish

1 gallon green tomatoes
6 onions ( I used Vidalia Onions)
3 green peppers ( I used red pepper and the color difference is great)

Chop the tomatoes, onions and peppers in chunks.  Place ingredients in a large plastic bowl and pour 1/2 cup of salt over vegetables.  Mix well, cover and let set overnight.

The next morning, rinse the salt off (1 time only) and set aside.

In a large dutch oven ( I think 8 quart) mix the following:

3 cups vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of celery seed
1 tablespoon of mustard seed
2 tablespoons of pickling spice (tie in cheese cloth and drop in liquid)

Bring ingredients to boil and add the tomatoe mixutre.  Cook until crisp tender.  I was able to get 8 pints of relish.

The other gallon of green tomatoes are being readied for a Green Tomatoe Cake with Brown Butter Icing.   Looks like a great cake to take to the mountains this weekend. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Barbecue Fried Chicken....The REAL Way!!!

It has been a few years since I have taken the time to cut up an entire chicken and fry it.   We do not eat traditional pan -  fried chicken.  With the busy schedules around here, we buy pre-battered frozen chicken breast (probably chicken parts)  and pop them in the oven.   It has not been customary to fry a whole chicken at our house.  Many of you remember that chicken did not come in nicely packaged containers with two split breast.  Chicken came one way....WHOLE!   Since it has been offered in the grocery store already butchered, we have purchased chicken pre-cut!  My children do not know how to cut up a whole chicken (I think it is time for a cooking lesson)!
As a child, fried chicken was a staple in our diet (the whole kind...including the gizzards and livers).  Momma fried chicken at least once a week.  When we got older, she started buying Banquet Fried Chicken and baked it in the oven.  Every now and then we would get the "Pièce de résistance" .....her Barbecued Fried Chicken.  It was a sweet and tangy sauce that was poured over the chicken and simmered for an hour.  It was a recipe that Momma carried to family get "togethers", dinner on the ground at Rowesville church and other special events.  I still remember the flavors today.  It is funny how you can remember certain foods from your childhood.  I certainly remember this dish.

I learned how to cut up a whole chicken by watching Julia Child.  I watched Julia's cooking program on Saturday mornings on public television.  I didn't watch it all of the time, but was able to catch enough shows along the way to learn how to cut up a chicken....thank you Julia.

As I opened up the Green Box (my Mommas recipe box), the first recipe I found was the Barbecue Chicken.  I knew I had to give it a try.  Although, I will state up front.....this is NOT a Weight Watcher recipe!  The wonderful flavor and aroma of fried chicken and barbecue filled the house today.  Enjoy!

Homemade Barbecue Chicken

One 4 pound fryer cut into pieces

Place chicken in a shallow dish and cover with buttermilk and let set overnight

Next day
Fried Chicken Batter

Batter 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Chicken Dip
2 eggs
1 cup milk
Dip chicken in egg and then dredge in flour.  For extra crispy chicken...dip and dredge twice.

Frying the Chicken
I fry my chicken in a large black cast iron skillet.  I filled the skillet 1/3 full of vegetable oil.  Heat oil and and place battered chicken in skillet.  Do not overcrowd.  Let pieces cook 10 - 15 minutes on each side (depending on size).  Wings and drumsticks (10 min)  breast and thighs (15 min).  Drain on paper towel.

Barbecue Sauce

1 cup chopped green pepper
3/4 cup chopped green onion
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 cup of tomato ketchup
1 1/2 cup of water
2  tablespoons  Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Place fried chicken in a dutch oven.  Pour sauce over chicken and let simmer for one hour.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Green Box

Some of my first memories in the kitchen were the recipes pulled from "the green box."  This box held a treasure trove of Momma's tried and true recipes.  Momma would clip,  cut and stuff every little recipe that she wanted to try into that little box.  She had index cards in the box with recipes written on them.  Each card had a letter on the tab written in black bold print.  I never had the opportunity to ask her why the recipes were written in such a random order and didn't correspond with the correct letter.  It didn't really matter, Momma new exactly where every special recipe was located. 

I was the lucky one to receive "the green box" and many of my Momma's recipes.   Sometimes I just open the box to see her handwriting.  I get such a sense of peace flipping through and looking at her handwriting.  Each recipe seems to say "Chris...remember when I made this?"  It took several times of opening the box before I stopped shedding a little tear each time I opened it.  Tucked far back in the box was her Jam Cake.  This cake was the centerpiece on the Christmas table (along with her fresh Coconut Cake) every year at our house.  Sandra made the recipe last year for our family get-together and flooded our home with the sweet smells of childhood.  It was a three layer dense cake with caramel icing...which I might add...turned out perfect every time.  She scoffed at humidity and was never a timid baker.

Today I found her recipe for Black Eye Pea Dip.  It was one of those recipes that she quickly wrote down on one of her writing pads.  Often she would be listening to "Talk of the Town," a local talk show on WTVF in Nashville, chatting with a friend on the phone or copying from the newspaper.  I knew that I had become a pretty good cook when Momma started asking for my recipes.  I found several of those recipes in "the green box."  When I saw them I smiled and tucked them back in with the other countless recipes.  Thank you Momma for keeping that box.....

Black Eye (Eyed) Pea Dip (enough for Coxey's Army)

4 cans of black eye peas with juice
2 cups of chopped green pepper
1/2 cup of chopped onions (Vidalia works great)
1 cup of chopped green onion
1/2 cup of chopped green chilies
8 oz of pimento
1/2 to 1 full cup of Italian dressing (I use fat free Zesty Italian)
1 tablespoon of garlic salt

I added 2 tablespoons of sugar (never hurts)
Juice of 1 lemon (the brightness really brings out the flavor)

Mix together and let sit overnight. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Best Pork Loin - Yay for Me!!!

OK...I am not a huge fan of pork loin.  I have never felt that it was a recipe that was my friend in the kitchen.  My first pork loin was a teriyaki pork loin that I cooked for my family in my first apartment almost 30 years ago.  I even cooked the same recipe  again for my future wife just a few weeks later.  She remembers that it was good...well good enough to take the leftovers  on a picnic the next day.  I guess that love is blind (at least blind for the stomach). 

Over the years, I have tried several recipes and have garnered the same results....a dry tasteless pork loin.  Usually the marinade for the loin was two heavy or the meat didn't cook properly or....the list goes on.  Needless to say, I signed off using pork loin a few of years ago....until this weekend.

Our local grocers had pork loin on sale this weekend and of course I volunteered to give it another shot.  Now, I do most of the weekly dinners around my house.  My wife ( the same lovely wife that bragged on my pork loin almost 30 years ago) usually loves my cooking.  My son, the picky eater, will try most things but keeps very few dishes in his permanent food repertoire.  My daughter that is a junior in college always eats whatever I cook as long as she can share her daily activities over dinner.  Seriously, they generally love my food and are great fans.

After reading several recipes, I knew the key was a great marinade and proper cooking.  I created my own marinade and decided that long and slow cooking was my best opportunity for success.  IT WORKED! The pork loin was incredibly moist and the flavor was delicious.  I baked the pork loin on Sunday, took it out and let it rest.  We decided to wait to eat it until Monday dinner.  I was worried about the re-heat but I was not disappointed.  It was still super moist and very flavorful.  This recipe will become a staple in my repertoire for family dinners or even guest.  Everyone liked it and I think momma Jane (who passed away three years ago and was my biggest food fan and the greatest teacher ever) would love this pork loin and might even call and ask me to bring her a little for a snack.   Of course right there!!!

Roast Pork Loin (3 - 4 pound)

1/4 cup of Worcestershire
1/4 cup of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of honey
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of orange juice
2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar (great mild taste)
1-2 cloves of garlic
2 tsp of freshly grated ginger
1 tsp Dale's Sauce (every kitchen needs this chicken, pork, steak marinade)

Combine all ingredients and pour over loin which has been placed in a sealable plastic bag. Place in refridgerator over night.

Remove loin and discard marinade.  Place in roaster pan and cook for 2 hours at 325 degrees.  Take the pork loin out and cover.  Let the pork loin rest for 30 minutes before slicing.    

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Homage to Miracle Whip

Saturdays are always full around our house.  It usually means getting up early, weighing in at Weight Watchers, groceries, cooking, cleaning, catching all know the drill.

Today was not much different.  I have been making every dish I can think of with the bounty of tomatoes that I have had this summer.  Just in the last week, the tomato production has slowed and for the first time in a month, I had to buy tomatoes.  I have several smaller tomatoes that will be ready in a few weeks, but the big initial harvest has passed.

After buying tomatoes at the local fruit market, it was off to go "Krogering."  Oddly enough, this is a Saturday ritual that Sandra and I enjoy.  We actually love it.  Being a food junkie like myself, it is kind of dangerous.  However, I have been a Weight Watcher for 6 months and as of today, I have lost 56 pounds.  It was a necessity due to a health emergency or health crisis I should say.  Diet and exercise has made Mr. Gregory a new person and for that I am truly thankful.

Today as we were walking through the grocery store trying to think of meals for the upcoming week, we decided on Tuna Salad for one of our meals and to take to work for our lunches.  I always try to make something on the weekend that will work for lunches and for  a couple of meals.  With tomatoes, other veggies, tuna and fresh mozzarella for homemade pizza in hand, we headed home.

Tuna salad has been a staple in my recipe repertoire since I was a teenager.  I can remember my Mother making tuna salad all the time.  She would take a couple of cans of tuna, pickle relish, boiled eggs and Miracle Whip and a meal would be made.  Yes Jane was a Miracle Whip kind of gal.  It was a  staple around our house.  Probably just as much as the five pound box of  Velveeta.  Her sandwiches, potato salad and even her fruit salad could not be made without Miracle Whip.  I will even admit to my Nannie's favorite sandwich of white bread, a pineapple slice and Miracle Whip.  What a treat on a summer day.  Now since I have married, I have not seen much Miracle Whip in my house.  Sandra is a mustard kind of gal.  We usually keep light mayo for recipes but for sandwiches, hot dogs or burgers, we  choose mustard. 

My recipe for tuna salad is somewhat different from my mothers.  I like the "everything but the kitchen sink" variety.  I usually add several cans of tuna, eggs, shredded carrot, celery, boiled eggs, capers, pickle relish, grape tomatoes and sometimes cucumber.  My dressing usally consist of mayo (the light version with olive oil for my Weight Watcher buds), Grey Poupon and lemon juice.  I put the recipe into my Weight Watchers recipe calculator and you can have one cup of my tuna salad for 5 points.  That's pretty good for a light meal. 

Before I started writing this blog, I decided to look up some informaiton about Miracle Whip.  Come to find out  it happens to have 64% less fat than mayo.  Who would have "thunk" it?  I guess Miss Jane knew what she was doing.  You have to find somewhere to cut calories when you use a five pound block of Velvetta.....her way to cut was Miracle Whip.   I just might have to stop and get a jar next week.  Don't tell anyone if you see me with some white bread and a can of sliced pineapple.  Weight Watchers doesn't have to know!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Taming the Mane

About five years ago, we purchased a cat.  She quickly became a part of our family and now....well let's just say that we couldn't live without her.  Our family member is Weezie.  She is our black smoke Persian cat.  She has beautiful long hair that is black tipped and as it gets closer to her skin it turns white.  

We all love Weezie...especially our daughter Sarah.   But since Sarah has been away at college for two years, Weezie has become a "Mommy and Daddy" kitty.  She is always around us and we are definitely her parents.   We love Weezie  BUT hate her shedding all over the house.  We especially despise the floating little tufts of hair that are found under chairs, tables and on the rugs.  Not only does it make our allergies go is just disgusting. 

Thanks to a dear friend, we have remedied the situation.  Weezie now has a spa day about every two months.  Her spa day includes a wonderful bath and a hair cut.  This hair cut is reminiscent of a lion.  She has a wonderful mane around her face with close shaved hair on the body.  She also has a pom pom on her tail with hair on the bottom of her legs that look like Ugg boots.

When Weezie came home after her first spa day, she was a little shy.  But after a little coaxing, she started prancing around the house and has not stopped.  We love our new little is almost like we have a new pet.  For all of you folks that have a long haired cat and the fur balls make you crazy.....try the Lion won't regret it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tomato Marmalade

Hot off the stove...just finished 12 1/2 pints and one full pint of Tomato Marmalade.  The process took most of the day but was so rewarding in many ways.  Of course, the finished product itself is delicious. But more rewarding was the flood of memories from my childhood.  As I said in my "Cooking with Momma" blog, canning with my Momma was something that I treasure.  The time spent with her and the memories I hold in my heart will be with me forever.  The recipe is easy and I adjusted things to my taste.  Here is the basic recipe:

12-14 medium yellow or red tomatoes coarsely chopped
2 seeded jalapenos - seeded and membrane removed (leave a little for the heat)
1 large onion chopped (I used Vidalia)
Juice and zest of four lemons
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 - 3 cups of light brown sugar
1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 tablespoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of course black pepper

Combine all in a large pot.  Cook over medium heat for two and a half hours.  The consistency should be thick like a jam.  I kept one jar to put in the fridge and the rest of the batch was canned for later use.  I put them in the boiling bath for 18 minutes.  

I can't wait to discover the many uses of this decedent tomato treasure.  I think it would be great with beans, on burgers or dogs or spread over cream cheese as an appetizer.  I will probably just eat it with some great crackers and hard cheese.  Happy eating!

Cooking with Momma

So, I have two days before I start the school year.   This time of year brings sadness and excitement.  I will soon be relishing the crazy and lazy days of summer as the new school year starts.  No longer can I stay up until midnight watching a cooking show or "The Golden Girls."  I will have to hit the sack by ten and get up at five - least Monday through Friday.  I am always excited to start a new year.  I love the beginning of school when children are refreshed and ready to be back.  And quite honestly, I love the routine....creature of habit I guess.

Usually with two days of vacation left, I am already working in my room.  I am a neat freak and truly believe "a place for everything and everything in its place."  However, this year is different.  I planted several tomato plants and they have decided that now is their time to put on their big show.  I have already made Tomato Pie, Texas Hot, fresh salsa and still have three windows full of tomatoes.  I could not let these beautiful fruits spoil...that would be sacrilege to most southerners including my Momma.

To make sure and save my bounty, I started looking for recipes and decided to try Tomato Marmalade (recipe and pictures later).  Of course, to "do a little cannin" you must be prepared.  I would need several items to complete the project.  I immediately thought of Momma.  My summers as a child hold sweet memories for me.  I remember the summers in our kitchen.  It of course meant fresh vegetables that included beans, corn, tomatoes, squash, okra and cucumbers.  We always had a garden and always had a lot of extra to can or freeze.  Freezing was my Mommas preferred method.  It was much easier, but if the recipe called for it, she would pull out the "big gun."  The "big gun" was her huge canning pressure cooker.  Whenever Momma decided to make her "Ripe Tomato Pickle" the cooker was always on the stove.  I distinctly remember the process of placing the jars and lids in boiling to water to maker sure they were sterile.  Next, when the recipe was ready, the jars were filled and the lids tightly turned.  They were then placed in the pressure cooker and boiled to seal tightly.  The finished product was placed on shelves in our laundry room and was treasured throughout the year. 

Even as a child, helping with this process was always something that I loved.  Standing beside Momma in the kitchen was how I learned to cook.  Whether it was canning, baking cakes and candies at Christmas or making biscuits, I loved cooking with Momma.  My children have grown up in the kitchen with both Sandra and I and with "Grandma."  They still make her Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls.  It makes me so happy that my children enjoy working in the kitchen and enjoy the bounty of the garden.  Hopefully they will want to pull out "the big gun" and try some "cannin" when they have their own homes....Momma would be happy!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

First Fruits

I have just picked my first Jalapeno peppers.  They have a beautiful shape and beautiful green color.  This is my first attempt at growing peppers and the process was super easy.  I am now busy searching for great recipes to feature the newest  fruits from the garden.  No pictures yet, but I have been harvesting basil and flat-leaf parsley for a few weeks.  They have been featured in many of our summer supper dishes.  I especially "loved me some" fresh Bruschetta with basil.  Even our picky eater sampled this wonderful dish.  Now....I am patiently waiting to pick our first tomatoes.   I already know that I will make some Texas Hot (a recipe from my sweet mother in law), fresh salsa (using my hot Jalapenos) and I want to try some Tomato Marmalade....I will let you know how it turns out.  "Chow" for now!

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Room with a View

Just happened to look out the window of our dining room this evening.  WOW!!!  The sky was beautiful.  I took a quick picture with my Verizon phone.  Not a great phone camera, but a beautiful picture of the sky.  I know the people at the Air Show/Fireworks must have truly enjoyed the sunset.  It was a show in itself!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gazpacho....It Doesn't Get Much Better!!!

Well today was a great day.  A planned trip to visit our dear friend Diane Bearden turned into a wonderful worship experience at West End United Methodist Church in Nashville and a stop at the Nashville Farmer's Market.  The worship service was filled with beautiful music and an incredible sermon.  The market was full of every variety of fresh fruit and vegetable imaginable.  I was drooling and coveting all over the place  (good thing I went to church).  I wanted so many things but settled for home grown tomatoes and green peppers.  As I bought the veggies, I already knew what they would favorite summer treat. 

We tramped through the rain to the garden shop (it does have a name but it escapes me right now).  Once again, my drooling and coveting took over (still glad I went to church).  Plants and planters of all kinds that needed to come with me but I decided to just walk away.  This is very hard if you have a plant addiction.  I am trying to cut back.....

After the market, we visited with Diane and her new beau (what a great guy) for a couple of hours...all I can say is "Viva Las Vegas."  You will have to ask Diane for the details...

After returning home, I changed clothes and put on my cooking clothes.  I quickly grabbed my food processor, cutting board and my favorite knife and began  throwing things together like a mad scientist.  After a quick trip to the herb bed for some parsley, I chopped up my tomatoes, cucumbers, green pepper, celery and red onion.  I seasoned the gazpacho with sea salt, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce (glad I only had to spell that word and not say it), fresh lemon juice and first batch of the season was done.  Quickly, I put the precious cargo into the "fridge" for cold, cold temperatures makes for a much better product. 

After a small sample (to make sure it tasted just right), I now have a one gallon picture full of summer's bounty. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Girl in the Garden

Several years ago, Sandra and I took a trip to Savannah, Georgia.  We were captivated by the history, the beautiful squares, the massive amounts of Spanish moss hanging from the trees, the federal architecture, the food and last but not least Bonaventure Cemetery.  Our trip was part business and part pleasure.  Not long before the trip, I had read the book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt.  I was captivated by the statue on the front of the book.  We discovered that the statue at one time had been placed on a grave in Bonaventure but in 1997 had been placed in the Telfair Museum in Savannah.  I think it had been stolen several times from the cemetery.

Over the years, we have returned to Savannah....even taking our children when they were young .  We thought that July 4th in Savannah would be fun.  We had a great trip but sweltered in 100 degree plus temperatures with about the same percentage of humidity.   We hauled the children all over that town and even out to the beach.  They had a great time and still to this day are ready to go back.

I found a cement replica of the Bird Girl statue and hauled the 4 foot solid concrete statue in the back of our old van and placed it in our garden.  She has been with us since we moved into our current home.  She has held pots of flowers in the summer and has been a centerpiece in our garden.  This year, I planted Sunbeam Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata)  around the base of the statue.  Hopefully, these beautiful yellow flowers will return for many years.  I enjoy watching our Bird Girl through every season.  After talking with the family today, I think that a trip to Savannah will be in our future very soon.  I am sure it will include a trip to Tybee Island, the Pirates House Seafood, Paula Deen's restaurant and will probably end with a trip to the Byrd Cookie Company before we leave.  Savannah and the Bird Girl....thanks for being a part of the Gregory family.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Project Complete

I am not a great handyman around the house.  I attempt many projects and after much frustration and several trips to the local home improvement store, I usually finish the project.  Over the years I have learned that the old adage "measure twice and cut once" is a rule that I have to follow.  This has saved me many times and with the tools that I have aquired over the year, I have just enough to be dangerous. 

So, today I decided to replace the light beside our backdoor.  The old fixture was dirty, scratched and had become the home of several dead bugs.  Before this morning, I had never replaced an outside fixture.  But it didn't seem to dangerous, so I decided to give it a try. 

My favorite new tool is watching installation projects on YouTube.  The step by step directions was perfect.  I first found the correct breaker to turn off at the Breaker Box (this step is a MUST).  I removed the old fixture and installed the new one within thirty minutes.  As you can see, the fixture looks great and works perfectly!  On to another project....after the rain is gone!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Nemesis!!!!

Look at this picture.  You probably say awww..... how sweet...what a cute little bunny.  However, this little creature is beginning to tick me off.  Jonathan and I have worked hard planting, watering and nurturing our plants.  This sweet little fella decided to chomp on our new plants and leave only a few stems.  NOT HAPPY!!!!   I chose these plants for the bright red color  my friend you are my enemy.  I will protect my plants and promise not to let my garden become your smorgasbord.  I will be seeking ideas from all of my friends and we will win...just know that...we will win!!!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

View from Kingsridge

This is a picture that I took standing on my front porch on Monday, June 20, 2011.  The sky was beautiful and I just had to get this shot.  The actual sky had a little more   red-orange than in the picture.  Just a beautiful sight.  By the way...I heard my first fireworks of the season.  The fourth will be here soon!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Beauty in the Storm


We were driving through the Roaring Fork Motor Trail in the mountains (The Great Smoky Mountains) this weekend.  Everywhere we looked, we found these beautiful rhododendron plants.  Some were solid white but some had this beautiful pink shade. We had planned on hiking to Grotto Falls but the weather (STORM, HAIL, THUNDER and LIGHTNIING) derailed our plans.  We survived the storm and enjoyed are drive/ walk through the trail.  The rhododendrons were beautiful at every stop.  I hopped out of the car and took this shot beside a bridge.  There happened to be another family that had stopped.  One of the children in the group had brought their flute and began to play "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee."  What a moving experience.  I believe that Charles Kingsley said "beauty is God's handwriting" and what beautiful handwriting it was!

Wears Valley on Father's Day June 2011

Wears Valley

I was most blessed today because I got to spend Fathers Day with my family in my favorite place The Great Smoky Mountains.  This picture was taken in Wears Valley.  It is a cove or valley area outside of Townsend and Pigeon Forge.  This is just a "ridonkulously" beautiful place that has become one of our favorite places in the mountains.  Granny's Kitchen is a little restaurant that serves Cat Head biscuits.  The name comes from biscuits that are home made and really large....yes...I have tried one ( alright a couple maybe even a few) and they were delicious.  Another favorite place in Wears Valley is a little produce stand that serves incredible barbecue, funnel cakes and an assortment of other things.  I must also mention Wears Valley United Methodist Church.  It is a wonderful little church that just celebrated their 125th anniversary.  Someday, we will visit for services.  In the meantime, I guess we will just stop and enjoy the cat head biscuits and a little hot chow chow from the produce stand.  You might even find me checking out the fried pies...oh my goodness!!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Oh the Stories They Tell today we are in the Great Smokey Mountains walking and riding through the Roaring Fork Trail area and we came upon a clearing with some buildings.  We had planned to hike to Grotto Falls but the moth ball size hail, rain and high winds kind of stopped us.  So anyway....we turned the curve and in a beautiful clearing was three weathered old buildings.  I stopped the car and we immediately jumped out and walked to the buildings.   To get to the clearing, we had to cross a bridge over a beautiful flowing creek with mountain rhododendrons everywhere (more on that later).  We entered the clearing to find three abandoned old buildings.  I saw this door and had to take a picture.  I stopped and wondered what kind of stories this door could tell.  I am sure there were joyous times and hardships endured.  Oh the mountains.....thank you God for your majesty and beauty and for helping me to see the glory of your hands.  I am blessed.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I'm About to Go ALL MAMA on yo' Butt!!

Well there you have it....straight from La'Sarah herself.  Every time we meet with her, we learn some new "college" colloquialism.  After hearing the context of her story, I think the phrase fit the circumstance rather well.  We are lucky enough to be able to spend some precious time with her and Jonathan.  This father will have a complete set of children this year for Father's Day...YAY ME!!!! 

So the next time the occasion arises I will definitely repeat "I'm about to go ALL MAMA on yo' butt!

Saving grace.....

Forever and Ever Hydrangea
Just the other day, Sandra and I headed to Lowe's to find some hydrangea plants.  I like the "underdog" plants.  These are the plants that need a home that will give them love and take care of them.  We found three little plants that needed a home.  I must interject at this point that Jonathan helps me to take care of the plants.  We planted the trio of plants and with a little love, fertilizer and watering, I think these plants are gonna make it.  I love to save these underdogs.  

Welcome My Friend Summer!

Well hello....I am just starting this blog and am new to this.  I am a blog "newbie" but think this is something that I will enjoy.  I am a teacher and I am on summer break.  OK all is one of things we live for. If  we didn't have this time to renew and re-charge.....i don't think we could make it through the year.  I have been completing many projects around the house this summer.  These projects are things that have needed to be done but I have procrastinated on doing them. out garage (this is something I especially despise).  I am slowly checking them off one by one.  Things are looking better.  Hopefully after finishing these projects, I will be caught up for another year...until next summer when I start dragging everything out of the garage and wonder where did all of this crap come from!