Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lovely Little Penguin

Monday night at our garden club meeting Charlotte Nelson delighted us by making these cute little penguins. We all thought they were adorable (who wouldn't!) and she said she got the idea online.

How did she make them? Two black olives (pitted), softened cream cheese, dry ranch dressing mix, a carrot (sliced into rounds) and one of those cute umbrellas.

Cut one of the olives in half. Take one carrot round and slice out a "beak" leaving the rest intact (about a sixth of the carrot). Mix cream cheese with ranch dressing mix to taste, then pipe it into the center of the divided olive. Place the other half on top and use the carrot round for the base. Stuff the carrot "beak" into the hole of the other olive. Place it on top of the body and secure with the umbrella. These are great for a party and children will LOVE them!

I took one home to my husband and he had eaten the little sculpture before I could say, "Save this for photos."

He then said "Yum, this is really good!"

I wasn't surprised. It is cute, too!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Super Bowl and chicken

I will start off by saying that I like chicken wings, but they are not my favorite. Obviously, I am in the minority on that. Judging from the amount of email newsletters I have received so far this week--especially from the Southern Living, Martha Stewart and Better Homes and Gardens people-- with every conceivable recipe for chicken wings known to man--there will be tons of chicken wings served during the Super Bowl weekend.

Most of the recipes have been either Barbecued or Sweet and Sour, but I have also received recipes for Thai, Jerk, Buffaloed, Crunchy Sesame and the most unusual, Citrus Caramel. I can't imagine what kind of wings people will be eating by Sunday, since each recipe seems to be trying to best the other. The obvious choice for Sunday is chicken.

In our family, we usually go to Publix and pick up some of their fat, tender, juicy wings--that come in a number of flavors.

I do however have a greater appreciation for chicken tenders and I have a couple of options that I prefer to cook on Sunday. One of them is the bacon-wrapped chicken bites, above and the other is Gluten-free chicken bites, below, with agave-mustard dipping sauce, a healthier version--though I may try baking some bacon wrapped wings. Frying them was too messy for me.

I think part of my lack of enthusiasm is due to the fact that our local team, the Falcons didn't make it for the last game. Since our season ended last week, this Sunday is definitely bittersweet. That doesn't mean everyone else shouldn't kick back and enjoy their wings and chicken tenders--either home-cooked or from Publix or Chick-fil-A. It is, at least always fun to watch those Super Bowl commercials.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Crossroads Garden Club Meets tonight at 7:00 pm

Tonight's speaker for Crossroads Garden Club will be Denise Best, a Master Gardener from Coweta County. Her topic is Winter plants. Our meetings are at 3072 Highway 154, Newnan, Ga and begin at 7:00 pm sharp. We have open meetings. Everyone is invited. Denise Best, originally from South Africa, moved to Sharpsburg's Kripple Kreek subdivision in 1998 and has turned her plainly-landscaped yard into an amazing garden. Soon after moving to Coweta county, Best became a Master Gardener and has become a popular speaker in our area. Best's garden was on the cover of Coweta Living in 2007/2008. You can learn more about Best at 
We will begin our meeting with the presentation by Denise Best and have a short business meeting, followed by refreshments.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Taste of Lemon Restaurant

Back before Christmas, before working on the January/February issue of Newnan-Coweta Magazine, Angela (the editor) and I made a short road trip to LaGrange, Ga., to do a little Christmas shopping. We wanted to look for unique gifts in the downtown area and also say a big "Thanks" to the local merchants who advertise each year in our Christmas issue.

The photo above is a not so beautiful photo of the main square in LaGrange, reminiscent (to me) of Savannah with a big central fountain and public area surrounded by shops and public buildings.

We enjoyed our visit, though many of the stores we were planning to visit that day (Wednesday) happened to be closed. We were able to shop at the Marketplace shop where we looked at all of the vintage, antique and other items in a nice, multi-level shopper's delight. I found several presents there and I would love to go back. (It's sad that I didn't realize my reflection was in my photo!)

After shopping we found a real treasure when we stopped for lunch at A Taste of Lemon Restaurant. It is a true gem that was once a historic church, purchased and moved just outside of the main shopping area and across from the parking deck.

In fact, the outside of the main restaurant area looks very much as it once did as you can see in the old photo, below that Angela found of the building when it was a church. It looks like a kitchen was added to the back--I am sure more improvements were made, but the owners were true to the original architecture. I love that.

 As we walked in, we were directed to find a seat in the busy restaurant. We sat in an area I think could have been the choir area and a friendly waitress quickly came over to take our order, as we admired the atmosphere. The interior was bright and cheery and decorated for Christmas. I loved the atmosphere and I am sure it is a popular spot for residents.

I ordered the vegetable plate which, if I remember correctly, was a small serving of all their vegetables. I think there were around ten items and a small square of cornbread. Everything was SO GOOD! I think I ate almost everything and washed it down with a nice glass of tea.

The meat and three was what Angela ordered and her plate was brimming with delicious vegetables, cornbread and quiche--which she couldn't finish. It was all so delicious.

It was one of the best southern cuisine restaurants I have been to in a while. Good food. Nice people. Great atmosphere. It is a true gem. I want to go again.

In a pamphlet on the LaGrange website I noticed that the Taste of Lemon Restaurant was described as the best kept secret in town. I can't see that. I am sure everyone in the surrounding area has gone there for a taste and I am sure, found it very good.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Making a babygate: a weekend project

As I arrived at my daughter's house this past weekend, she flashed a list of projects for us to complete before the weekend was done. I am happy to say we almost completed her list.

One of the listed items was a nice-looking baby gate for her stairs. Her nine-month-old is constantly crawling to the stairs and pulling up, threatening to start climbing. Last week, she caught him beginning the climb so she had to either go out and purchase a gate, or we had to make one, pronto.

One of the problems with baby gates--they can be very expensive, they aren't usually attractive and you don't usually have any choice about designs. Most baby gates attach with hardware which means putting ugly screw holes into sheet rock and for her, the sheet rocked wall doesn't begin for a few stairs and you can't let the baby climb several stairs before coming to a gate. Other walls can be attached to spindles but the spindles can unfortunately become marred or scratched.

My daughter came up with a design for a gate made from low-cost materials that included 1/2-inch PVC tubing, PVC joints, super glue, material, thread and industrial strength Velcro.

She had the Velcro, the material and thread (bought from a dollar counter at WalMart some time ago), and the super glue. She had to purchase the PVC tubing and the connectors. All the materials came to a cost of approximately ten bucks! Much cheaper than what she could have bought ready-made.

When we asked the lady for helping in finding a tool to cut the PVC, she said, "Just borrow my PVC cutting tool and bring it back when you are done." Thanks Greta at Home Depot. You are the best!

The tool was easy to use and we quickly constructed our frame.

 On each vertical side we added a strip of industrial self-sticking Velcro around the PVC.

The next step was gluing the top and bottom horizontal "rod poles" together.

Then my daughter sewed the fabric and made pockets for the top and bottom. She decided to sew flaps on each side to which she placed the industrial, spiky self-stick Velcro. She ripped out a small T-shape in the seam to insert the vertical poles, then inserted the top and bottom rods and the center poles (that had to be bent a bit to insert). The material holds the vertical poles tightly so there is no give and no need to add glue. The gate was then ready to use.

There is no set way you have attach the Velcro. This was the way my daughter decided to do it and it worked quite well. Ties could also work but might not be as sturdy as the industrial Velcro. Another idea was Velcro-ed straps but she really didn't want the straps to show and she wanted to hide the piping as much as possible.

I think this was an ingenious plan and execution which proves again that you can do almost anything with a little determination. Now the baby will have to learn to climb on something else.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why I love this cookbook

One of my presents this Christmas (from my daughter) was the relatively new, The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond. I am really enjoying it not only because it has great recipes but I love the step-by-step illustrations. I think photos are one of the best things you can add to a cookbook, especially for a novice cook. I don't consider myself a novice, but as a blogger who puts recipe after recipe on her blog, this book is like a primer for me. It shows exactly what a cook needs to ensure the recipe is followed correctly--and I have at times been confused with recipe directions.

For instance, take this recipe for pizza. (A dough recipe is also given.) The description is good, but to know just how the recipe should look and how much of something needs to be used, well as they say, a picture IS worth a thousand words.

For someone who has never cooked at all, a few of the recipes might be simple but the photos can tell you the little secrets behind what a good does to give a dish a little extra--finesse.

There are some time-saving recipes as well. The make-ahead muffin melts look easy and we all need recipes for those really busy days.

The PW recipes I have tried so far are always good. I'm not saying they are always healthy but they are great for entertaining and, well--everything is easier when you follow along with the photos.

At this time of year, when we are looking to shed pounds it might not be a great time to make the desserts. They are very good and too tempting but I might suggest making one of the desserts for special company, a birthday or to celebrate after you reach your weight goal. I am sure if you lived on a working ranch, as does this cookbook's author, it would be easy to work off extra calories. Need I say more?

I also love the recipes for pickles and jam. I think canning and putting things by is a lost (domestic) art, but that's another topic.

For a new bride or new cook and for trendy, food recipes--this is THE book.

Friday, January 11, 2013

For Valentine's Day: More Oreo Pops

After I posted a blog on Oreo Pops that made great Christmas favors, my friend Charlotte Nelson sent me these photos of the pops she made to give out at a Christmas party. I loved the way she put them on long sticks and turned them into Posie-Pops! Cute basket!

Her photos started me thinking about how versatile these pops could be. With no cooking and a not too much effort, you can make these pops into favors for almost any occasion.

 I really loved the way Charlotte made these her own by using crushed Oreos to garnish her pops as I did. (See mine pictured below.)

These would make great Valentine pops just by changing up one or more things. You could use pink candy coating, available at craft stores or pink hearts, especially if you could find some small, red hearts. I did find one photo with pops made for Valentine's Day.

This one uses chocolate coating with red hearts and crushed candy and can be found at If you have a Pinterest account, just log in and type in Oreo pops and you will be amazed at the ideas there.

Here is the link to my blog post giving the details of how to make them and happy pre-Valentine's Day favor-making. Your friends will love you for these yummy treats.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Broccoli and broccoli salad

On the last day of the year we went to our winter garden and picked a nice head of broccoli. We haven't harvested as much as we expected when we planted, but since we weren't able to water this season, we were very thankful to get it. We actually picked a few more heads and odds and ends to go with this nice one.

The best thing about fresh broccoli like this is that the flavor is the best. Even heads with loose flowers are just delicious. I think we will have a little more since we have been getting more rain. We still haven't had the best year for our winter crops. Last year was much better than expected and it seems that every season brings its successes and failures. It sure is good when it comes straight out of the garden into the pot.

We usually like our broccoli steamed. We wash it and cut it into smaller pieces and put it in a double pan steamer. We let it steam just until tender but still nice and green. Then we add salt and pepper. It is so tasty and healthy that way.

The other broccoli recipe we have enjoyed lately is one my daughter-in-law found. It's a Broccoli Salad recipe borrowed from Paul Deen. It is a yummy mixture of broccoli, bacon, cheese tomatoes, onions and dressed in a simple mayo-vinegar mixture that would also make a main course. I don't think Paula could make the dish any better than our Holly does. It is really a tasty treat.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Low-fat twice-baked potatoes

Last night, we tried a recipe for twice-baked potatoes and we loved them. I don't know how it is at your house but we always make too many potatoes, especially at this time of year when people are watching their carb intake! It happened again this past weekend when we had six potatoes left after a family get-together/birthday party.

My husband who really hates wasting food asked if we couldn't do something with all those potatoes because he was just tired of throwing them away. He asked if we could make some of those "mashed-up-and-put-back-together potatoes." It only took me a minute to realize he was asking for a twice-baked potato recipe.

I told him I would find a recipe but couldn't guarantee I would have time to make them and he said he would be SO happy to make them, especially if it meant we didn't have to throw away any more potatoes.

This is what he did: For 6 small already baked potatoes, he split them in half lengthwise and scooped out the potato centers leaving a thin layer of white potato inside each potato half . The insides of each potato was placed in a bowl. To this he added 6 tablespoons of buttermilk and 3 green onions, finely chopped. Salt and pepper was added, to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper). He grated 4 ounces of cheddar cheese and set it aside.

The potato, buttermilk, onion, salt and pepper were all mashed and blended together. (The cold potato will remain a little lumpy.) The mixture needs to be relatively smooth. He spooned the mixture into each potato skin and topped each potato half with lowfat cheddar cheese. The potatoes were baked at 375 degrees until the cheese was melted and browned and the potatoes are toasty, about twenty minutes. Our potatoes were baked on a stone cooking sheet.

We sure did enjoy them and to make it an even better night, we warmed up leftovers. These potatoes made it seem like a fresh, new meal and they are the light version!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Crockpot Red Beans and Rice

I love this time of year because it's a time for easy cooking. The easiest is crockpot cooking and I intend to make good use of my crockpot in this new year--especially while the weather is cool and damp.

The first crockpot recipe of the new year was one my husband prepared, Red Beans and Rice. The stew is added to the crock pot in the morning and in the afternoon you have a hearty and easy meal that is perfect for cool weather.

In 1984, my parents spent some time with a great-aunt in New Orleans while going to the World's Fair. (Do they even have those any more?) My mother had a wonderful time and one of the things she brought back was a recipe for Red Beans and Rice. A friendly neighbor of our relative invited them over for the classic NOLA meal and my parents prepared in on busy, chilly days.

My mother told us the story (if you can call it that) behind the famous dish the neighbor related to her about why New Orleans families loved to cook this dish. Evidently, it is an easy and filling meal usually made on Mondays, the traditional wash day. Cooks would put it on in the morning and have plenty of time to deal with the large chore of washing, drying and ironing for the rest of the week. When they were finished with the washing, the meal was finished.

The crock pot is the perfect place for cooking beans of any variety and the red beans are always good served this way.

My crockpot recipe based on my mother's is:

Crockpot Red Beans and Rise
1 pound of red beans (kidney is the usual bean used but all red beans are good in this dish)
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 pound of turkey sausage
1 tablespoon of Creole seasoning (or to taste)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
6-1/2 cups water

Add all ingredients to a crockpot and cook for 5 hours on high or 7 hours on low. Taste and add seasonings to taste. Serve over a bed of rice.

Friday, January 4, 2013

...And a cranberry cobbler in a skillet

... And continuing with delicious recipes from the Everyday Foods magazine. I made this very, very easy cranberry dessert and used up my leftover cranberries from the holidays. I always buy cranberries and then don't always use them before New Year's Day. You do have to pick out the awful mushy ones and wash the rest but this makes a deep dish dessert that is really a treat--moist and delicious.

You hand mix it in a bowl, dump it into a greased iron skillet, top it with cranberries dredged in sugar and bake it for about 25 minutes until it springs back when touched and it is so moist and delicious! And it really is that easy.

Here is the link for the recipe.

It was perfect because I am really tired of baking and I always need a recipe to finish up my leftover cranberries. I really love cranberries. My husband likes them if they are in a cake so this recipe makes both of us happy.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year's finger foods

Last week I became a bit nostalgic because I found out that Everyday Foods, one of Martha Stewart's publications (and one of my favorites) would soon be no more. Apparently, it will cease production as a stand-alone magazine and be rolled into Martha Stewart Living, the flagship publication.

I really enjoyed this little digest-sized publication and will really miss it. It was very creative and took into consideration that many women work and want to have really good food with less ingredients and usually less time.

The dish above is a finger-food version of an Everyday Foods recipe, and was called something normal like Chicken Wrapped in Bacon. The original was full sized slices of bacon wrapped around chicken fingers and I adapted it to a finger food dish with smaller pieces of boneless, skinless chicken breast wrapped in vertically-halved bacon strips with sage from my garden tucked into the bacon.

It is an ingenious recipe because the bacon shrinks and tightly holds onto the chicken by the time cooking is done--and everything is better with a little bacon. Right?

It is a good recipe I will make again. Frying is always messy but I will make it again. I will also take out my saved copies of Everyday Foods and reread them to find more gems like this recipe. Sigh!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Southern Living Contest

  • One of the best things I have seen lately is this contest on

  • The South's Ugliest Heirlooms Contest
    Show us your hidden treasures! Do you have grandma’s bedroom set in the attic or a pair of chairs in your basement begging for a new life? Enter now for a chance to win a furniture-makeover design from Furbish Studio’s Jamie Meares and $500 to make it happen.

    I think I may have a few "winners" in my basement. I don't know if they would beat the entry above but I will be looking! Check it out.