Friday, February 26, 2010

Love those old cookbooks

I love old cookbooks produced and sold by churches and civic groups as fundraisers. I have a number of them and frankly, I don't think I could have enough. I can understand why people collect and treasure them.

Today I was in a second-hand shop in Newnan, What's in Store, and found this cookbook for $3.00. I snatched it up in a hurry. I think this one was so unusual because it is all hand-printed, presumably by the person who submitted the recipe.

There is also a section of peanut recipes, as you might expect from a Plains, Georgia publication. Peanuts are this farming area's biggest crop and there is also a section for the Carter family, the regions most famous residents.

The recipes are old, southern favorites, just as I would expect. Really I thought the recipes were really good for a 1977 publication.

I immediately liked the pickle and relish recipes included in this cookbook.

I also liked the cornbread and Hoecake recipes -- and don't you trust Floy Bagwell to be a great cook? I do. Just her name makes this recipe promising to me.

I know I will be making relish with the peppers from my garden this summer and the recipe above. It looks like a great recipe. There are quite a few vegetable recipes in this cookbook, perfect for a person who likes gardening. In fact this cookbook is packed with interesting recipes -- some I remember from my childhood. I know I will get my three bucks worth, at least.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Do you believe in magic?

This past weekend we decided to try something new to save money -- the magicJack. I know it's one of those infomercials products like Ginsu knives, the Snuggie or Sham Wow. I spent a number of years working in direct marketing, and I admit to being naturally negative about those products. I know firsthand just how little they pay for stuff that is purchased dirt-cheap by the container load, from China, Thailand and Hong Kong.

I will admit I was highly skeptical about the magicJack. I just couldn't get over how we could save at least $450 a year -- and that is without having long distance. If we had had long distance, we would have saved even more. With magicJack we will have long distance -- which is an upgrade of services for us. We knew we would just have to hook it up to a computer, left on all the time.

We went to CVS and found one hidden on one of the shelves with other infomercial products. The price was $39.99. We took it out of the box and hooked it up to the phone and to the computer -- and -- it worked immediately. We just had to log in online, choose an area code and the first digits of our phone number, and we were ready for the 30 day free trial.

The down side: 1) We can't get our old phone number. If the Internet goes out, our phone goes out. 2) The yearly $19.95 fee could possibly be raised sometime in the future, but I can't imagine it would be raised enough to make it more expensive than our old land line fee. 3) I hate the screen (in the photo above) which includes an perpetual ad -- very irritating. I guess the money I save could make me feel better about such an ugly screen.

The up side: 1) It was SO easy to install and set up. It started working immediately. 2) The sound quality was good -- now we do have a very powerful computer but the sound quality is just as good as our old phone line. 3) We can call anywhere in North America with no long distance fees. 4) The price for the first year was $39.99 rather than $450. Our price for next year will be $19.95 instead of $450. That is about the price of a pretty good computer. 5) I did like that it displays your number all the time and also the list of recent calls. 6) You can dial on your computer and talk though your microphones or even headset, if you prefer. You really don't need a phone to use your magicJack. Pretty cool, huh?

We are going to try it for a couple more weeks and then we will be giving up our home phone number. We will always have our cell phones, which we use most often anyway.

If this works out, I guess I will have to try the Snuggie!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Still finding seeds for our spring garden

Today I was able to stop by Arnall's Grocery to pick up a few more seeds. I really like to get the seeds I need in larger quantities at Arnall's because the larger quantities are cheaper and they are really good seeds. They carry the old reliable kinds of seeds that work in our climate. If you go to the University of Georgia website and look at the Extension office recommendations for which varieties to try, you will see what I mean.

I found collards, greens and English peas today. My basket of seeds and onion sets is getting full.

Instead of an amount the size of a quarter for $1, at Arnall's you get about a quarter to a half cup or more for $2.25 or $4.95, depending on the type of seed. You can also get larger quantities for as much as $8.95 but that is way too many seeds for my garden. I rarely need anything larger than the smallest or medium size.

Yesterday I received the Gurney's seed catalog and I loved that it included a $25 savings certificate. The deal is, if you order at least $25 worth of seeds, trees, flowers, plants, fruit trees or bushes, you get $25 of merchandise free. That is a great deal. I just had to share that news. Just sign up online for their catalog at and you will have until the middle of May to get the deal.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On seeds and seeding

Today's post is late because I stayed up late watching the Olympics and planting seeds. Yesterday was a good day for finding some fairly good deals on seeds and accessories.

Surprisingly, or maybe not surprising at all, I found my best deals at WalMart. They had racks of seeds, all well-priced. There was a seed display, priced at 20 cents per pack. On another aisle, there was a larger display for $1 per pack and the organic seeds were $2 per pack. They also had onion sets and potatoes that were well-priced.

I do prefer organic seed but there usually isn't as much to choose from, so I am OK with using some non-organic seed. I just treat them organically from planting to harvesting. I don't know what others do, but leave me a message below, letting me know why I am right or wrong about this.

Also, the starter peat trays were on sale. They were just $6 and I haven't found any this cheap at other local stores. I really love them, too. I used them last year for some tomatoes and they worked really well.

Back to planting seeds. What you are supposed to do with these trays, and what I will do in the future is pour warm water on the little discs until they are soft and then put in the seeds, from 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch deep, according to the package directions. I didn't do that because I wanted to pour in the seeds on top of the peat openings in front of the TV (watching ice dancing) and then take the trays into the bathroom and pour the water in. I didn't want a mess on my carpet.

This didn't work quite as well as I had hoped, because the seeds floated and I then had to catch them and poke them down into the peat after it had softened. I am sure I will have a few seeds coming up in the trays rather than the peat but I do have some extra seeds to replace the ones that floated away. I really did make it harder than it should have been. The last time I did it I think I read the directions -- not so this time!

I put the trays in my bathtub because I have plenty of wonderful light there. It is kind of nice being able to wash the mess out of the tub, too. Then I covered the trays with the plastic covers and I will water them in the mornings and evenings. I will have to keep them quite moist until they come up. Then I will have to take care not to over or under water them. At some point I will either move them to the basement or the garage, depending on the weather.

I am thinking many of the plants will take four to six weeks before they can be planted. I may have to transfer the tomatoes to some larger pots but I know seeding the plants will save me so much money and I will get the kinds of tomatoes and other plant I want.

I did find this little garden helper at Tractor Supply. They really didn't have very much else. It was disappointing, really.

Last year we looked for an owl to place in our corn garden to scare the crows away. We have heard it is very effective and believe me, after our corn disaster last year, we really need all the help we can get. The crows devoured our seed each time we planted.

We went several times to look for a garden owl at Lowe's or Home Depot but they were sold out. Watch out crows, this little guy is going to be protecting our corn this year. I think this little fellow looks very determined which mirrors the way I feel about having corn this year.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Where to find good seeds

At the recent Southeastern Flower Show, I stopped by the Landreth seed booth and purchased some packets of seed that I will be starting this week inside. Seed companies are a great way to find the seed you can't always find locally. For instance, I looked for Roma tomato plants last year, but couldn't find even one at the local places. I will just have to start them from seed. I was happy to find seed at the show for large leaf basil, dill, black cherry tomatoes and spaghetti squash.

Some seed, like cilantro, I purchased because I want to plant plenty of it and the plants are SO expensive in the store. This weekend, the herbs at Lowe's were being sold for $3.48 each! I said no thanks to that. I thought that was way too expensive -- I just plan to start my seed until I can find them on sale. I might pay that much if it was a very rare plant but I am sorry, I can't see charging that much for a tiny container of rosemary or mint.
You can find great seed catalogs online. That's where you can find so many unusual and hard to find seeds. I have had great success from online ordering and I think the seeds are probably cheaper than buying from many of the large chain stores that carry seed. I have registered online for many of the seed catalogs and have received a number of them but they don't all come immediately.

I think having them in your hand is better than viewing them online. They usually include more detail and I like to read what they say and then order online. To find them, I did a web search for seed catalogs and feasted my eyes on dozens of online choices, ordering every catalog I could. They are a great resource for me.

My favorite place to buy seed locally is from Arnall Grocery Company in Newnan. They have large packs of seed and even though they don't always have everything I want, the seed they carry always comes up for me and they are the seeds that work well in our local climate.

I didn't have time because of work to stop by last week, but I did drive by and notice they have some plants outside already. I am sure that means they also have some great things inside. I plan to stop by as soon as I can -- but it will have to be tomorrow because they are not open on Mondays. They told me last fall that they plan to carry a larger inventory of organic products this year so I just can't wait to see what have will have. I am sure they will be getting things in from now until April or May.

Tractor Supply could be an interesting place to check out. I have heard (from my cousin Evan, who is an employee) that they have some plants in their seasonal section, so I hope to check them out today. They would have to be better than Lowe's over the weekend!

Please let me know if you find a great place to purchase seed and I will post it.

Next week, I hope it will be time to start planting cool weather crops.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Making your own garden containers -- in this issue

Last week the March issue of Martha Stewart Living came in the mail and I put it away because I just didn't have time to read it. I finally got it out a couple of days ago and found it contains some really useful tips I know I will use this spring.

My favorite is a how-to guide for making containers from cement, peat moss and perlite. I saw a similar how-to article in Southern Living a couple of years ago. I tried making one at that time but found the containers were too heavy. Maybe I didn't make them exactly right. I do intend to try again using the new directions. I liked the way these containers looked -- especially the ones made in baskets that have a woven look. The perlite should help this version to be lighter. We'll see.

I liked the tomato primer. Being southern, I really love tomatoes and plan to grow a number of varieties this year.

I always like tips on preserving food and there were some included. Of course I just loved the gardening articles. I really find them inspiring, especially in a colder than normal winter. I am sure I am not alone, but I want to be out planting my garden. This issue just intensified that desire. I sure hope I can get in the garden soon.

A tip: If you go to the Martha Stewart Living website, you can download a coupon to save $1 on this issue.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Broccoli and Friends

This morning I was making a salad for my lunch and as I topped it with the nice sprouts I mentioned in an earlier post, I knew it was time for an update.

My first batch of sprouts was just alfalfa. Very tasty but I was itching to try the "Broccoli and Friends" mix. As I mentioned the "friends" are crimson clover, china radish and alfalfa. I think what surprised me was that the sprouts were very fresh tasting. I expected them to have a strong flavor but they really don't. I like them a little better than the alfalfa sprouts. These sprouts are not all one size and I like that, too. If you notice in the photo, some are a little pink and I don't think the photo shows how nice and green these sprouts are.

I used 1-1/2 tablespoons of the sprouting seeds, soaked them overnight and washed them every morning and evening. They were ready after four days and I have really been piling them on my salads. Healthy and tasty, much better than in the grocery store and economical when you grow them yourself.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Healthy snacking

For the past few days I have been fighting a nasty cold. This morning I thought of that old saying, "Feed a cold, starve a fever." I definitely wanted to "feed my cold" something healthy. I didn't have any canned chick peas to make hummus at home, so I decided to try to look for some healthy hummus at Publix on my way to work. I half expected to find only hummus with a list of unhealthy ingredients as long as my arm, most of which I couldn't even read. At first I was right, I couldn't pronounce the ingredients! I couldn't eat that stuff!

Then I spotted these snack-size hummus cups filled with ingredients I could read. Actually there were only a few ingredients -- the same I would put in my homemade hummus. I knew this was my lunch. I have heard of Tribe products before and was glad to find them at Publix.

For lunch I filled a whole wheat pita with lettuce, sprouts and hummus. It was great. The price was about $2.00. Not wonderful, but good since I didn't have time to make it from scratch.

I also bought this fresh fruit. They were just putting it out and I was feeling a little dizzy and shaky because of all the cold medicine I had taken in the last several days. I snacked on this in the morning and it really did help. No shakes and I felt better the rest of the day. I will remember this the next time I am running a bit late or run out of things at home.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Grilled Salmon Salad

OK. If you saw the title for this dish you might ask if I really grilled a salad. The answer is -- not the salad, but I did grill the salmon before I made the salad -- or at least my husband did.

I am of the opinion that if you grill something, it will make almost any dish better. In this case, it really does make this dish. So try it. It also doesn't smell up your kitchen when fish is grilled outdoors -- that is, if you can find a day when your grill isn't covered with snow!

It is easy to grill salmon. Just salt two salmon fillets and place them on a baking pan. You may want to cover the pan with tin foil before you put the salmon on the pan. Don't use your best baking pan because the grill will not be kind to any pan you grill with. Grill on medium heat until the meat is flaky, about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and flake fish into a large mixing bowl. I always search carefully for bones. I really hate it when I leave a fish bone. I search through each piece.

Add to the fish:
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped red pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise (I try to use as little mayonnaise as possible, but you need to add enough to make the tuna stick together but don't overdo. I prefer Dukes mayonnaise.)

Stir all together and serve with crackers. I really like this dish with the Firecrackers, you may remember from a previous post.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Kids with allergies: Mac and "Cheese" for you!

My daughter called the other day to tell me she has finally gotten a few good recipes for her son who can't drink milk at all and seems to have trouble with wheat. To top it all off, he is a little picky, too (like most kids). He loves Kraft's Mac and Cheese but she has tried over and over to come up with a gluten and milk-free way to make it. Until now.

Mac and No Cheese

2 cups water
1 cup raw cashews
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/2 large red bell pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1-1/2 tablespoon arrowroot powder (corn starch will work as well)

Blend first seven ingredients in blender on high for at least two minutes until completely smooth. Pour into pan and heat at a medium heat stirring frequently. When close to a boil, mix arrowroot powder with a little of the mixture. Add back to the mixture and stir well. Allow the mixture to come to a light boil and thicken. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Stir over cooked brown rice noodles.

It looks like the packaged Mac and cheese. The nutritional yeast is the ingredient that makes it taste like cheese. It is very surprising but this is the good kind of yeast. Find it in health food stores or grocers.

The verdict? He LOVES it. Finally!

Friday, February 12, 2010

You requested it: Soul Food Gumbo

Thanks to my good friend, Kim Riggs, I now have the recipe (along with her permission to share) for Soul Food Gumbo Bowl Sunday luncheon we cooked at that I mentioned earlier in the week. It was part of our SouperSonRise Baptist Church for donations to our Benevolence fund. All of the soups were amazing but this one really stood and and as soon as I posted it, I had requests for the recipe, so here goes.

Soul Food Gumbo

1 large onion, chopped (I use 2 onions)

1 lb. smoked sausage

2 cans navy beans

1 can Rotel tomatoes (I use 2 cans)

1 large can diced tomatoes

1 can whole kernel corn, drained

1 large can greens, (I prefer collards)

48 oz. chicken broth

1 cup elbow macaroni pasta

Cut the sausage into quarters, and slice.
Cook until sausage is browned. Add onion and cook until tender. Add broth and other ingredients, except pasta. Bring to small boil, reduce heat and cook for app. 20 minutes. Add pasta, cook for 8-10 additional minutes.

I usually use Eckrich skinless sausage. I have used other kinds and it is fine, I just kinda like the skinless. Sometimes it's harder to find at the grocery store.
I also use 2 cans of Rotel tomatoes because we like it with that extra flavor. Some may not want that extra heat. I usually cook mine a little longer too but I don’t know if it really makes a difference. I think it’s even better left over.(Kim is a wonderful cook.)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Truffles for my Valentine

My husband's favorite candy is truffles. He likes them plain, no fruit flavorings -- just plain chocolate/chocolate. I used to buy him a box of truffles every Valentine's Day but they changed the recipe and now he doesn't like them. I thought this year I would try to make my own.

I looked at the Bakerella website and used the basic recipe there for truffles. First I made a devil's food cake from a mix.

The next ingredient is a can of cream cheese frosting. I didn't use that because I don't like to use products with trans fats so I made a half recipe of homemade cream cheese frosting. 1/2 package of cream cheese, 1/4 stick of butter, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla flavoring and 1/2 box of confectioner's sugar. I mixed it all until it was creamy.

I then crumbled up the cake mix into the frosting -- looks pretty messy. I put this mixture into the refrigerator until it was chilled and firm.

OK. So far, so good. That was easy. This is where it does get a little harder. I didn't show you the next step because it was too messy and I just don't like to show embarrassingly messy things. I took around a teaspoon of the cake/frosting mix which is the filling and rolled it into a ball. I then melted two bags of chocolate bark. You can get this where you find candy making supplies. It comes in wafers and I used two bags. I microwaved it on medium, one minute at a time until it was melted.

I then dipped each ball into the melted chocolate and place it on parchment paper until the chocolate was hardened. If I missed a place, I re-dipped it. I had to microwave the chocolate a number of times because it kept getting too cool

After they are nicely covered and hard, I decided to decorate them.

I placed melted pink, vanilla-flavored candy into a piping bag and drizzled a little pink candy onto the top. I then allowed them to dry.

I loved the boxes I found to give away the truffles. I plan to tie on a pink bow. I hope my husband loves them. These weren't that hard but a little time-consuming and messy when dipping all the truffles in chocolate.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sprouts and a souper sunday

My sprouts were wonderful. I gave them an extra day because I wanted them to stay on the windowsill for the only sunny day we have had recently. Sometimes sprouts can have a musty flavor. These were mild and delicious. It is better to eat them when they are as fresh as possible and you can't get any fresher than this.

After they drained, I stored them in a plastic container and immediately made a fresh green salad. They were great!

This past Sunday was a great Super Bowl Sunday but at our church, SonRise Baptist Church, it was a Souper Sunday. Our home group at church sponsored a soup luncheon to raise money for our benevolence fund.

The soup above was particularly great -- it is Soul Food Gumbo. A great southern treat in a bowl with collards and sausage. Delicious.

And this Santa Fe soup was very popular.

We had two tables filled with soup. There were Vegetable Soups with beef, Potato Soup and Chicken Corn Chowder. We planned to feed around 300 people and I think we fed close to that number. We also served cornbread, crackers and for dessert, cookies and brownies with tea and lemonade to drink. I couldn't photograph everything because some of the soup was cleaned out before I got to it!

There was a Game soup.

And a couple of pots of chili.

It was a very successful luncheon. No one actually "paid" for the food. It was all donated and we accepted donations for the benevolence fund. We made a substantial amount that will help a number of people. We all agreed it was a great time to be helpful and I think not only was it a success but everyone had a great time.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More about the flower show

There were quite a few things about the Southeastern Flower Show I really liked. I can't imagine that anyone who likes gardening couldn't find something to like.

I loved the small terrariums. This was my favorite.

This was a front door design I liked from an Atlanta Garden Club. I love the decorative tree frog.

I think it is such a great idea to put herbs into landscaping beds.

The aquaponics were fascinating and I love the title, Farm in a Box. I plan to look into this. It would be wonderful to grow a garden in my basement.

This looked much prettier for real than in a photo. A very pretty dish garden.

The exhibits were a little scarce for the entire southeast and flower exhibits like these can be a bit disappointing after being on display for several days -- kind of wilty.

I did like the blooming apple trees with apples underneath -- at least I think they were apple trees. The forced blooms and red apples made for a pretty display.

I loved this grill featured in an award-winning exhibit. This company is located in Douglasville, pretty close to where I live. If I had the money, I would love to have this outdoor cooking station -- not for me but for my husband. He does really well with a normal grill, just think what he could do with this one.

Orchids. Enough said.

This vendor is from right down the road in Peachtree City. She hand makes these pretty glass and metal art objects that would be pretty in any garden.

I signed up for newsletters from a couple of tool and garden manufacturers. I also signed up for a fertilizer newsletter and an interesting mulch company in Atlanta.

Snapdragons -- always lovely.

Water features. There were quite a few.

Calla lilies are always beautiful, too.

The vegetable and herb plants were green and beautiful.

The tomatoes in the photo above already have small green fruit.

Can you imagine having such a beautiful daffodil? This has to be the prettiest one I have ever seen. Of course daffodils are a favorite.

And this award-winning flower sculpture was really one of the prettiest arrangements. Are you as ready for spring as I am?