Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Today and tomorrow: Brownie receipes

For the next couple of days I will be sharing a couple of brownie recipes. Brownies are almost always a big hit, and these recipes begin with mixes so they are also easy to make.

I buy my mixes when they go on sale "Buy one, get one free," usually at Publix, and I always use a coupon. That gives me around a dollar off on two boxes. The total for each brownie mix is usually less than a dollar. I just can't resist the price and brownie mixes can be so tasty. My favorite kinds are the Betty Crocker Supreme varieties. They are always good, especially then used in this recipe.

I make this recipe for holidays and to take to reunions and family gathering. It is very rich and you can cut down on some of the fat by using skim milk to make the pudding and use Cool Whip Lite or Fat free Cool Whip for the whipped cream layer.

I often make whipping cream to use in this recipe, because I know it doesn't have hydrogenated fat -- which is a problem for some people. I try very hard not to eat anything with trans fats but that can be hard to do with mixes and pre-packaged desserts.

This trifle is made using Hershey's Heath Milk Chocolate bits. I can only find them at Kroger. Without the milk chocolate toffee bits, this recipe wouldn't be nearly as good.

Brownie trifle

1 boxed brownie, cooked according to directions
2 small boxes Jello chocolate pudding
4 cups milk
1 large container of Cool Whip topping, thawed
2 packages Heath milk chocolate toffee bits

Make a brownie mix according to directions. Allow to cool.
Mix 2 small boxes of Jello chocolate pudding with milk. Chill until firm.

Layer ingredients in a trifle bowl in this order:
Crumble 1/2 of brownie and place in bowl.
Pour 1/2 of chocolate pudding over brownie.
Sprinkle on almost all one of the packages of chocolate toffee bits. Put aside 2 Tablespoons of the bits to use on the top of the trifle.
Cover with a layer of cool whip. Make sure the cool whip covers all completely to the sides of the trifle bowl.

Repeat all layers and top with the remaining chocolate toffee bits.

Allow to chill for at least 4 hours.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Surviving a very rainy day

I snapped these photos during the weekend rain. It was sunny that morning but in the afternoon the showers began. Above, you can see the ground my husband tilled up and my sister planted. (Previously, it was our unfortunate corn garden.) It is all greens now. I think the rain was a real blessing for this patch of soil.

We were in the garden, picking green beans, when the rain began to fall. We had to run to the house so we wouldn't be drenched. It really didn't work because the drops were so huge that we were quickly soaked. We decided to wait a bit on the breezeway to see if it would get better. It didn't.

We soon decided it wasn't a day for working in the garden, so I went shopping. It rained even more there. Have you ever walked through a parking lot when the rain was above your ankles? Very unpleasant.

I went home and the ball game I was planning to watch was delayed by lightening for an hour. At least my team won!

I hope our garden loves lots of rain because we have really been getting it. I would think, as long as we don't have standing water for days, it should be fine and maybe even very good. It would be helpful to have some sun in between those rain showers!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Recycling a teapot

A couple of years ago I went to a thrift shop and purchased this nice little teapot. It was the perfect size for me and I really liked it and used it almost every day.

Then, about 6 months ago, my teapot began to crack. It had a little crazing and then just formed a little crack. The crack wasn't really so bad, but the teapot developed a leak and rather than throw it away, I decided to re-purpose it.

I thought it would make a perfect flower container, but there was that leaking to contend with. I solved that problem by putting the flowers in a small plastic cup and then lowering the cup into the teapot opening.

I love the finished result. It looks beautiful to me, especially on the old English sideboard in my entrance.

Do you have something you have re-purposed? If so, let me know and I will share it

Friday, September 25, 2009

Herbs in jar

Fresh herbs are so tasty in foods that I love having them on hand. One of my favorite ways to keep them ready for use is either to grow them right outside my kitchen to pick as I need them, or cut stems to place in a glass or vase of fresh water. Basil and parsley keep really well this way for several days to a week. Snip as much off as you need and add to your dish. Just make sure you change the water every day.

Herbs will keep even longer if you put them in water, cover with plastic wrap and place the entire container inside a plastic bag, seal and store in the refrigerator. You also can just put herbs inside a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. They won't be as green and may wilt a bit, but as long as they don't turn black or moldy, the herbs are still good.

Keep the leaves dry. Make sure you wash just before using them. If you store the leaves while wet, they will not last very long.

Another way to keep herbs is to dry them. You can hang bunches of them upside down until dried and store in in plastic bags in the freezer. I plan to dry some herbs soon because even though most herbs will come back each year, they will die down after the first frost, then flourish in the spring.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A day of hard work

After a day working in the garden, I think it really looks great. The butter beans and green beans are still producing. The peppers are really coming in and I think our garden, overall, looks great. We are beginning to weed the new growth and adding mulch. The mulch should make a huge difference in the coming days. That grass in relentless.

I was a little concerned about the rain. We had so much of it, but right now, the garden seems to be doing just fine.

Above, in the foreground you can see the pea pods peaking out of the mulch and the collards are coming up, but not enough to mulch ... but no garlic yet. You can see a pumpkin plant in the front and the leeks are doing well on the left hand side. The broccoli, cauliflower and parsnips are up but not enough to really see.

The green peas look good above but we are missing a spot. I don't know what happened. It's hard to see the lettuce and spinach, but the kale and turnips are looking good. On the left side of the photo is a brown spot where I am hoping to soon see our potatoes sprouting up.

We ended the day by picking peppers and spraying for insects. We have tons of peppers. The end of my day will be spent pickling peppers.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A simple recipe for cleaning

This seems like such a boring blog post, and cleaning is not the most exciting topic for anyone. It is necessary and a good thing to think about healthy and environmentally-friendly chemicals. For those of you who want to think about these kinds of things and want to save some money, too, this post is for you.

Mix up this simple formula and it will take the place of harsh cleaners. Use on hard surfaces. This is not for wood.

1/2 cup white vinegar
1 cup of water
A squirt or two pure Castile soap
A few drops of essential oil

Optional: 5 drops of grapefruit seed extract to make it antibacterial

Pour all into a spray bottle and shake occasionally to keep it mixed. This will take care of most cleaning needs.

A couple of other tips: Clean soap scum with washing soda and a scrubby sponge.

For windows: Put equal amounts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle and use like any window cleaner.

Boring, yes, but cheap.

What to do while waiting for sunshine

We have now had at least five days of rain so there is certainly not any garden news. I think I need to concentrate on things I can do inside. I have two choices: one is preparing and canning peppers and the other is cleaning my house. After a summer of gardening, food preparation and work, my house is certainly in need of a good cleaning.

I know I am probably the millionth person who has recommended this book, but it is the best one I have ever seen on the topic. Some might ask why this book is necessary, because everyone knows how to clean, but I have to disagree. There are so many helpful tips and useful guides included. I think it is the most helpful book I have ever purchased. If I would go by this book, chapter by chapter, I would have a perfectly organized and clean house. I don't do it, but I do aspire to have the perfectly clean and organized home.

I think one of the best things I have learned from this book is that I really don't need to use harsh chemicals. I should start with something more gentle on my furniture and kinder to my health. It is better to use vinegar and water and, if necessary, use something harsher if that doesn't work. I have too often coughed and sputtered, while using bleach when mild detergent would have been better,

I can't really even begin to explain all the hints and tips in this book. It is one of the best reference books I have ever seen for household chores. I even used tips to remove an ugly white spot on my dining room table, made from hot tea seeping through a tablecloth. I don't think I have even scratched the surface of the help I could find in this book. It is not a new book but it is just as relevant as when it was published.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My new robot friend

I am always looking for new ways to keep my house cleaner. Sometimes I win and my house looks pretty good, but often the dirt and clutter get the best of me.

That is why I want to introduce you to my favorite cleaning tool. It is my Roomba, cleaning robot. I love this little machine. I just got a new one and it is even better than my old one. This one gets over area rugs, is a little quieter and I am very happy to have it. It is like a little friend I let loose on a new room each night.

We have a two story house and the upstairs is only used when we have company. I will admit I have closed it up and not even ventured up there for weeks. It can get very musty between cleanings. With the Roomba, that doesn't have to happen.

I just take it to a new room each evening and press a button. I still need my regular vacuum cleaner but this really helps to keep things clean. I also use it in my bedroom. It cleans the room while I take a shower. I love it.

If you don't have one, you would probably love it -- unless you are a person who always gets to everything in a timely manner. I on the other hand need all the help I can get.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Time out for tea

Today was just the perfect day to try the new tea room in town. Really any day would be a good day to go. It is not just a tea room, but a real experience. Newnan really needed a good tea room and Linda Rivers, has done a wonderful job with her authentic English tea room. This one has everything -- atmosphere, good tea and good food. I think one of the best things is that Rivers is an authentic English woman herself.

My friend Angela has been a few times and has talked it and featured it on her blog, so I was really anticipating my visit. When she suggested we go today, I was really pleased and she didn't have to ask me twice. Our friend Debby agreed to go, too, and we really had a wonderful lunch. Soon I would love to go for afternoon tea.

I was so excited that I forgot my camera. I had to take cell phone photos, so I don't have any inside shots but take my word for it. You have to go. It's not just for the ladies either. There were several gentlemen there, too and the menu is versatile enough for any appetite.

I loved the teapots with their cozies, the tea was excellent and my gourmet lunch (I chose the light lunch with soup and salad) was just perfect.

I can't wait to return. It really brightened an otherwise dreary day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Early peas and greens

We've spent the last few days waiting for the rain to get to us. According to the weather reports we should be getting the same rainy weather that Texas has been getting the last few days. We did see a little bit of rain, but not quite as much as we need.

Even without the rain we are seeing some positive progress. In the center, above the kale is doing well and there are some turnip and spinach coming up, though you can't tell what is spinach and what is grass. On the right, next to the butter pea row is a row of English peas. It is hard to see the broccoli and cauliflower on the right side of the butter peas.

The turnips above will certainly have to be thinned.

I am very excited about the beets, above. I have never grown beets before.

As I finished taking these photos, the rain started falling again so, hopefully we will get enough to make everything spring up.

Tomorrow evening, I will be picking the grass from the rows. I will have to do this until things grow tall enough to mulch. I really hate that grass.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A walk through the past

I knew I would love this Grantville store before I ever visited. (A couple of years back it was a feature in Newnan-Coweta Magazine and I always meant to go but never made the time.) I couldn't wait to see it and take a nostalgic walk through the past. The store is named Reuse the Past and the goal of the Palmer's of Grantville is to reuse and restore things that would normally be destroyed.

Palmer salvages and sells things he finds from old homes that are being demolished to make way for new things. Talking to him, you can tell he is on a mission. He feels it is a shame to trash all these vintage items. It is also enjoyable to hear him talk about the history of all the old objects.

The building itself is an old hosiery mill that is filled to the brink with all kinds of things that are waiting to be restored or re purposed. Today I want to take you on a pictorial tour.

Outside there was huge prickly pear cactus. Most don't know that the fruit, growing nicely on this cactus, makes tasty jelly. Mr. Palmer offered me a cutting and I thought about taking him up on the offer but, cactus and I just don't get along. If I go anywhere near a cactus, the thorns seem to jump out and attack me. It is uncanny.

There are so many things that can be reused, like these old doorknobs.

If you go, don't wear your nicest clothes because you may need to dig a bit to come up with what you need.

There are frames, signs and old light fixtures.

And great windows and old shutters. These windows are really wonderful.

Many of the old, solid wooden doors are from local demolitions.

Old fireplace mantels, molding and wood are stacked everywhere.

Old stained glass, dishes and piles of windows line one side of the building.

Spindles and spools that may be from the old hosiery mill.

There were photos and mementos from old Newnan homes.

Old tiles with examples of how they can be reused.

Palmer also collects pottery from Georgia and Alabama.

Can you see why this is my favorite place in Grantville?

Monday, September 14, 2009

A visit to Grantville

The other day I was asked to to come along on a visit to Grantville, a town in my county. I might have been there once, a very long time ago, but I didn't remember it at all. After seeing it with fresh eyes, I honestly thought it is a place with great potential.

Coming into town, there was evidence of growth with subdivisions, businesses and potential businesses popping up along the highway. Turning off the highway, we saw plenty of vintage homes surrounding a downtown area that was larger than I expected. There were a number of businesses downtown and I thought there was a special charm about the quaint town.

We had an enjoyable lunch at Nick's Pizza (I forgot to take a photo!) and then had a tour of the town. They have a number of events going on periodically, including events for Halloween and Christmas. There is a newly renovated antique theater, a newly constructed ball park and a number of new businesses.

We visited a gift/antique furniture store, and walked past a couple of unopened thrift stores and a downtown convenience store. There were even a few shops that had opened this summer and which sounds promising in this economy.

I felt this town should do well after the new grocery store (slated to begin construction after the economy improves a bit) and health clinic are opened. I would think it would keep the folks in town for shopping. With the antebellum homes and old store fronts, it is worth a bit of your time just to visit.

Tomorrow -- my favorite shop in Grantville.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Preparing for fall with tea

I don't want to rush cool weather, but I think it is time to get out my favorite fall dishes and things. I know I am not the only one who enjoys the pleasant weather that fall brings. I also love the beautiful leaves, football games, and wearing cozy sweaters, but I think my favorite fall treat is tea. Tea is always a good idea, but it is even better on a cool day.

The one tea I must keep in my cupboards is Celestial Seasoning's India Spice Chai -- not because it is my favorite, but because it is my husband's favorite. I like to mix up my tea choices and will drink everything from a good strong black tea and flavored green teas, to herbal tea, but my husband always says, "Make me some of that chai." He really loves it. I also keep a selection of Republic of Tea brands and I must have Tazo teas. Something I can't stand are teas made with anise.

As far as fall china and dishes go, I really love to get out my Old Mill, Johnson Brothers tea cups and saucers. I don't have a whole set, but they just look like fall to me. I love to use them and I love the deep saucers. I really like the size and the way they feel. I enjoy making a pot of tea in my brown Betty and sip several cups in the evening.

Last year I forgot to get out some of my fall serving dishes and I don't want to repeat that. It's probably why I may be getting them out a little earlier than necessary, but I really want to enjoy them longer this year. I have some colorful leaf-patterned serving dishes that need to be used.

I also need to make a trip to the grocery store because I am sure I will need some more Chai.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Continuing the havesting

In addition to planting for fall, we are in the process of gathering the end of summer bounty. We only are getting a few tomatoes from time to time, but we really have the peppers. We are still picking some green beans and our butter beans are coming in, not quite as plentiful as I thought they would be. We are getting a few squash from our new squash plants, too but not very many -- maybe a couple a week which is not very good. We still are getting okra, too, more since we put up the fence.

Our peppers are beginning to turn red. Our sweet peppers are very sweet and flavorful while our hot peppers seem to be getting hotter as the summer progresses. We are still getting some good things from our garden but the summer harvest is almost done.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Finally -- fall planting

Lately, we have been waiting for just the right conditions to plant our fall garden. Work schedules and rain have interfered, but I am so happy to report that we were finally able to plant a fall crop.

We planted green peas and pea pods, spinach, leeks, broccoli, cauliflower and parsnips ...

turnips, carrots, beets, radishes and lettuce ...

collards, mustard greens, garlic, potatoes and you can see our pumpkin plants that are growing nicely. Will all these things grow and produce before frost? I don't know but I sure hope so. I think it is certainly worth a try. Fall vegetables are really great. We are especially excited about the root vegetables, greens and leeks. Right now it just looks like rows of dirt.

Since we were late in getting things planted, we had to forget about planting some more winter squash, but I think we have enough to keep us busy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Halloween magazine

I have enjoyed this special issue magazine of Martha Stewart Halloween for the last couple of years, so when I received an email with a coupon enclosed, I had to go out and buy my copy before they were sold out.

I don't think I like it quite as much as the dark and scary Martha/light and ethereal Martha that had two front covers. That one was especially good. This one has Martha and her horse on the cover and my favorite thing has to be all the great ways to carve pumpkins. I really love the pumpkins with carrot noses. There is also a great, candle-free way to light up your pumpkin -- wrapping lights around a jar and placing it inside the pumpkin.

This one does have some great decorating ideas, creative recipes, costumes and party hints and tips. It is worth the price, especially if you get the $2 off coupon.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Labor Day greetings

Traditionally, Labor Day is a day to celebrate jobs and working people -- but the message has been lost since it has become a day to celebrate the end of summer. Many use it to spend the last warm days at the beach or at the pool. I remember that it used to be the day we switched from white shoes to brown or black.

I plan to spend today planting greens, carrots and leeks in my fall garden and I might even take in a movie. I want to keep in mind how thankful I am to be among those who have a job on this Labor Day and while I am doing this, I plan to say a prayer for those who have lost their jobs because of our economy.

Have a great day. Be blessed, count your blessings and don't work too hard.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Needed: a book called "Fertilizers for Dummies"

Fertilizing my garden is very confusing. I wish I could go to the library and buy the latest copy of "Organic Fertilizers for Dummies," but I don't think it has been written, yet.

When we received the copy of our soil samples from the extension office with their recommendations, it was really over my head. I thought if you were trying to use organic fertilizers, like manure, it would be enough, but manure doesn't necessarily provide all the nutrients in the right quantities your plants need. I am intrigued by the science of plant care and even though we had a pretty good garden this year, it could have been much better. The plants would be healthier and more resistant to pests and disease if we could get the science right.

Our recommendations were for 16-4-8 fertilizer, (the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium in the fertilizer) but when I checked on the bags at the store, we couldn't find any organic fertilizer with those numbers and even though I like to use manure, I quickly found out that the numbers on the manure bags just didn't add up.

My solution was to get three bags of organic fertilizer to mix together to roughly get the correct nutrients needed to amend the soil. One was an organic lawn fertilizer 11-2-2, a bulb fertilizer 4-3-4, and a chicken manure fertilizer, 2-3-2. It just didn't quite add up, but it is better than just using manure alone.

I hope this makes sense and I will let you know if this works. I am looking for a place that will mix fertilizer for me, but I don't know if I can get it in small quantities. Meanwhile, if you find that book I need, just let me know. I am sure I will still be scratching my head trying to figure out just how much fertilizer to mix together before my poor plants starve to death!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

An old-fashioned relish recipe

The other day, we had to get rid of a few of our tomato plants to make room for our fall garden. There were still some sad-looking green tomatoes on the vines. My mother suggested I make some green tomato chow chow.

I do remember eating chow chow, which is a relish made with cabbage and green tomatoes. I looked at some old recipe books my mother gave me, and in the book called, "Canning for Your Family," by the Cooperative Extension service at "the University of Georgia College of Agriculture, 1961," I found a few recipes that I adapted into what will be my family relish recipe.

What did my mother think? Delicious. My husband agreed.

Chow Chow

6 cups cabbage, finely chopped
24 green tomatoes, chopped
4 large bell peppers, chopped
6 jalapeno peppers, chopped with seeds removed
2 onions, chopped
4 cups cider vinegar
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons ground mustard
2 tablespoons turmeric
1 tablespoons celery seed

Makes around 6 pints.
Put all ingredients in a large stockpot and let it come to a boil, stirring every few minutes. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Fill jars and follow all the normal procedures for pressure canning, to process for 15 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure.

If you decide NOT to pressure can, you should simmer until it is the consistency of relish and put in jars. At this point it can be frozen. I know it will last for at least a month in the refrigerator but this recipe doesn't have any preservatives so be very careful not to save it too long without canning or freezing.

This relish is great on hot dogs and with vegetables, especially beans.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Joys of coupon shopping

I really hate to clip coupons but I must admit they can really save me money. My main problem is that it takes so much time to clip and arrange them so they are easy to find when I shop.

Since it is still rainy and I can't get out and do anything else after work, I am using this time to update my coupon stash. It is painful because it is so boring but I can sit in front of the TV, clip and sort. If you have a better way to do this, please let me know because I could use some pointers.

One thing I do that saves time -- I go to websites that list what is on sale and also have links to online coupons. My favorite is and another is I don't have to spend too much time on sales flyers because they have it all listed for me. You can even find out what the penny item at Publix will be if you look after church services on Sunday. That is very helpful because it lets me know if I need to go there while the special is on or if I can wait.

Other tips: Buy in bulk when it is on sale and try to use a coupon for everything you possibly can.

Don't clip out a coupon if you aren't sure you will use it. I used to save ALL coupons but later I found I was throwing so many coupons away. Now I clip the ones I want and then give the rest of my coupons away to family members.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Harvest greetings

This morning I woke up to rain and cooler weather. I would like to report on all the things I am doing for my fall garden, but I can only tell you I am waiting for it to dry out.

So, in honor of the harvest season, I turned this photo of mine into a pseudo-painting and decided to offer it as a note card you can download and use as a fall greeting, invitation or note card.

Just download here, print it on card stock on your color printer and cut in half, horizontally. Each page makes two cards. All you have to do is purchase invitation-style envelopes and you have some note cards on me. Enjoy, and enjoy the harvest season!