Friday, December 15, 2006

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Mmmm... Don Pancho's...

Back in college my husband and I enjoyed a tiny Spanish-Caribbean restaurant in Oxford, Mississippi called Don Pancho's. Mr. Don made some of the best food ever!. We would eat there every Tuesday for their yummy, fresh chicken soft tacos and many Sundays for the always delicious lunch buffet. The black beans and rice were to die for and my husband craved their subtly sweet rice pudding.

Cabbage Rolls were on the menu and on the Sunday buffet. I'm not sure why as they are not a traditional Spanish or Carribean dish, but these babies were they good. With the weather getting colder, I thought I try to make them.

I tried a recipe on the Food Network website, courtesy of Mr. Tyler Florence, with just a few minor changes. I added a bit of cinnamon to the tomato sauce and I browned the meat just a little bit before adding it to the filling. The Food Network classified this recipe as "Easy". Ha! This was one of the most difficult recipes I've ever tried to make. And it turned out waaay to salty. (Notice the recipe says to generously season raw meat with salt and pepper, so there is no way to know if it is salty enough.)

Other than the salty filling, they turned out ok. I may not make this again. It took to long for a weeknight meal. This is more of a Saturday or Sunday night dinner.

Later in the week, I used the left over filling to make my version of Koosa, Lebanese stuffed squash.

2 large butternut or spaghetti squash
1 cup uncooked rice
1 1/2 pounds ground beef, lightly browned
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
16 oz diced tomatoes, drained
2 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves
28 oz crushed tomatoes
Splash dry red wine

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash the squash, cut off necks (if needed), and scoop out the seeds.

Stuffing: Combine rice, ground beef, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and drained tomatoes. Mix well and use this mixture to stuff the squash. Do not pack too tightly to allow rice to expand. Place stuffed squash in a baking dish. Fill baking dish with 1/4 inch water. Continue to add water to the baking dish, 1/4 inch at a time, as the koosa are cooking. Cook for about 35 minutes, or until the squash is soft.

Sauce: While the koosa are cooking, make a sauce to go over the top. Coat a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and place over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and a splash of wine. Simmer until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Serve over baked koosa.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Smoky Mountains in late Fall

A friend and I met in the Smoky Mountains over the Veterans Day weekend hoping to catch the tail end of the fall foliage peak. We were about a week or two too late. According to The Foliage Network, the leaves hit their peak around October 28th and were past peak by November 8th. Leaf drop was high in the Smokies, but my drive up through Alabama and Tennessee was really gorgeous. Here are a few pics from the trip.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Perennial Corner

In the old house, I had a great little perennial bed with rose, shasta daisy, echinacea, daylilly, and gladiolus. I loved that bed because it brightened up the whole front yard. I wanted to do the same thing in the flower bed here at the new house, but there wasn't a good place to do it. The randomly placed junipers in the front bed made everything difficult. Over the past few months I've dug and moved 5 or 6 junipers to one corner of the garden. If you've ever tried to move a mature juniper plant, you know how difficult it is. Every Saturday my arms would look terrible. All red and patchy where they stuck me. I moved the last two junipers on Saturday morning to make room for a perennial bed! I'd already placed the shasta daisy and one echinacea in April. I moved the other plants out of the way, and here is the new bed.

Back row (circled in yellow) : two Russian Sage

Middle row (circled in red) : two Shasta Daisy

Front row, from left to right ( circled in blue) : Echinacea Sundown, Echinacea Twilight, Echinacea Ruby Giant

This is what they'll look like all together. Beautiful! I can't wait until next spring!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Semi-Circle Bed

Back in August, I wrote about my nutgrass battle in the semi-circle bed. In September I devised a plan to make that my rose and annual bed. On Saturday, we decided to add a crape myrtle 'Natchez' to the bed for height. I want to plant two new rose bushes in the same bed next spring. I plan to keep the top of the crape myrtle fairly thinned so the roses can still get some muddled sun. I have my heart set on Pat Austin and a companion yellow rose: Golden Celebration or Graham Thomas.

Here are shots of the bed in July (top) and the bed in October (bottom).

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Friday, September 22, 2006

Clematis in the Triangle Bed

My, oh my how this bed has grown! From left to right: June 30th, August 30th, and today (September 21).

I love it. My plants are doing a good job covering the ugly vent pipe! The Purple Heart is gorgeous. It does so well in my yard that I'm thinking of using it a few more places in the garden. The Desert Petunia attracts hummingbirds, and I love hummingbirds. I think it has gotten a bit too big for this area. The size was better suited for the bed on Aug 30th. Time for a trim.

And... the clematis!! My first bloom.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Paula Deen's Granite Steps Country Blueberry Coffee Cake

This week on Paula's Home Cooking, Paula Deen made a delicious blueberry coffee cake. My husband adores blueberries, so I thought I'd give the recipe a try. Boy, was it good! This has to be my favorite Paula Deen recipe so far. We ate it for breakfast all week. I tweaked the recipe just a bit to cut down on the butter (a must for most of Paula's recipes).

Country Blueberry Coffee Cake

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (12-ounce) can buttermilk biscuits
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease a 9-inch square baking dish. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon and mix well with a fork. Separate biscuit dough into 10 biscuits. Cut each biscuit into quarters, and dip each piece in melted butter and coat with brown sugar mixture. Arrange in a single layer in baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the oats. Combine blueberries and sugar in a bowl and toss to coat. Spoon over oats and biscuits and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup oats. Bake for 20 minutes or until cake is golden brown and center is done. Cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Story of Three Palms

When we first moved in, I truly hated the trio of palm trees in the backyard. The picture to the left is from February, right before we bought the house. Yes, we had an inground pool, but I thought the palms looked really ordinary and expected. Everyone plants palms by the pool. The previous owners hadn't taken very good care of the plants. They were puny. The spent fronds had obviously been peeled down the trunk instead of cut with a sharp blade. I thought they were ghastly, and I wanted to cut them down and dig them up immediately. My mom talked me into keeping them for at least one summer, just to see if I ended up liking them. My mom likes palms and has quite a few sagos in her yard.

Guess what? They've grown on me. I've given them lots of TLC and they've grown tremendously! They are of the sabal, or cabbage, variety. I took a picture today so I could see the before and after. What a difference a summer makes! The smallest one on the left had the worst trunk damage, and it has grown very little. The one in the middle has grown a good bit. And the largest one on the right looks fantastic! The fronds are tall and plentiful. I'm keeping these babies!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Easy Peel Shrimp

I've recently discovered "easy peel" frozen shrimp at the grocery store. They come in a 2 lb bag for about $9.50. They take about 10 minutes to thaw in cool water, and I can peel the entire bag in under 10 minutes, which I think it great. They come deveined, so all I have to do is pick up a thawed shrimp, pull of his tail, and then pinch off his legs and shell. I only have to pinch once, as the cut at the top makes the shell really easy to remove. If you've ever deveined and peeled 2 lbs of shrimp you'll be able to tell right off how easy this makes it.

I've been making shrimp dishes about once a week since I discovered them. I was on the treadmill on Friday watching Giada on the Food Network (deadly combination) and she made a shrimp dish that looked fabulous. I immediately went to the store and bought stuff to make it. The dish was fabulous! Even better the next day after the shrimp had time to soak in the garlic and lemon juice. I hope you make this dish!

Scampi on Couscous
Photo courtesy the Food Network
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed, plus 2 garlic cloves minced
2 (8 ounce) cans chopped tomatoes in their juice
1 (8ounce) bottle clam juice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup water
2 cups plain couscous
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
Chopped parsley leaves, for garnish

In a large pot, heat 1/4 cup olive oil. When almost smoking, add onion, carrot and 1 clove smashed garlic and saute until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes and their juice, clam juice and white wine. Bring to a boil and simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes, uncovered. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Carefully pour tomato mixture in the bowl of a food processor and puree. Add a couple of tablespoons of water if needed - you want to end up with a broth. Check for seasoning.
Return broth to the pot. Add 1 cup of water and 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add 2 cups couscous. Cover pot and remove from heat. Let rest for 10 minutes, allowing the couscous to absorb all the liquid. Fluff with a fork and season with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet, add the remaining 1/4 cup oil and the 2 cloves of minced garlic. Heat the oil, making sure not to burn the garlic. When the oil is hot, add the shrimp and stirring occasionally, cook the shrimp until they start to turn pink, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp or they will become tough. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, red pepper and chopped parsley. Check for seasoning.
To serve, mound the couscous in the center of a platter and top with the shrimp.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Nutgrass Battle

My battle with nutgrass began in April when the weed started poking its nasty little head out of the ground. I didn't have a nutgrass problem in the old yard, so this was new territory for me. I faithfully plucked it out of the ground for a few weeks, but that got old very quickly. The nutgrass would pop up again only days after I'd pulled it up. In May I decided to give the nutgrass in my front bed a chemical blast. I bought Image and Roundup and gave the nutgrass a spray of each. I waited a few days for the chemical to sink in. Then I covered the bare areas with 3 to 4 sheets of newspaper and topped the newspaper with mulch. This method has worked really well to control the nutgrass. A few places it has poked out of the newspaper, mostly where sheets overlap and I left a hole, but it is much more manageable than when this nutgrass battle began.

I have this bed on the side of the house that I've had major trouble with. Apparently someone tried to remove a crepe myrtle from the bed a few years ago because crepe myrtle suckers were coming up all over the place. In addition to the suckers, the bed contained two ugly palm trees and plenty of nutgrass. A few weeks ago I dug up the palms and potted them in containers that I could wheel around the pool in the back yard. I did my best to remove all the crepe myrtle roots/suckers and the nutgrass, and I attempted to improve the soil with some compost manure I bought at Home Depot. I wanted to avoid spraying the bed down with chemicals, so I covered the bed in black plastic to try to kill the nutgrass. Well, it didn't work. As soon as I removed the black plastic, the nut grass came back. On Sunday, I sprayed the nutgrass with Image and Roundup. I've covered it in black plastic again. Lets hope it works this time!!

Thursday, July 27, 2006


I love the lantana in my front bed. I wasn't sure about it at first. When we moved in (March 06), it looked terrible because the previous owner just left it after the frost got to it instead of cutting it back. But, wow! It has really become one of my favorite plants at the house. I get lots of butterfly and bee visitors. The purple desert petunias on the side of the porch attract hummingbirds, but I haven't seen any in the past few weeks. Maybe hummingbird season is over? I was hoping to be able to snap a photo of a hummer. I snapped some photos of a pretty butterfly today. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I gave a birthday party for my mother a few weekends ago. It was so much fun!! The party had a Luau theme. I made a few dishes from Paula Deen's "smokehouse" menu and I gave them my own twist. I also added a few things that my family likes.


  • Coconut Shrimp with Spicy Mango Chutney Dipping sauce


  • Pork Chop and Pineapple Pie
  • Zucchini and Green Bean Bundles
  • Corn on the Cob


  • Ambrosia
  • Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Out of all the things I fixed that night, I was most impressed with the strawberry cake. It was three layers tall with a fabulous cream cheese frosting, garnished with fresh strawberries. Yum yum!! One warning: this makes a VERY LARGE CAKE. Here is the recipe I used:

Strawberry Cake

2 (18.25 ounce) packages yellow cake mix

1 (6 oz) package strawberry flavored gelatin mix

6 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1 cup water

1 1/3 cups vegetable oil

8 eggs

16 oz fresh strawberries, pulsed in a blender or food processor until pulpy

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round pans. In a large bowl, stir together cake mix, gelatin mix, and flour. Make a well in the center and pour in water, oil, and eggs. Stir in the fresh strawberry pulp. Beat mixture on low speed until blended. Scrape bowl and beat on medium speed for 4 minutes. Pour batter into the prepared pans. Bake in the preheated overn for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 (16 ounce) package powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat cream cheese and butter a medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffly; gradually add sugar, brating well. Stir in vanilla. Makes 4 cups. If mixture is too runny, add and blend in powdered sugar 1 Tbsp at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.

Building the Cake

Level and trim the cake layers with a cake leveler or a large, sharp serrated knife. Fill and frost the cake. Garnish top of the cake with whole and sliced strawberries.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Fish Tacos: Southern-style

I made fish tacos this weekend. Man, was my husband happy! We love this California favorite even though we are both southerners. What makes these puppies southern-style is that I use catfish. To me it tastes just as good as red snapper or mahi mahi, and it isn't nearly as expensive or hard to find. Because my hubby doesn't like fried foods, I usually make a batch of baked fish for him and a batch of fried for me. I like to make the white sauce and fish batter about 4 hours ahead to let the flavors meld together. I just wrap them and place the bowls in the fridge until I'm ready to cook.

1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
fresh lime juice to taste (I like about 1 small lime, or 1/2 of a large lime)
1/4 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Whisk together the yogurt and mayo in a bowl. Gradually stir in the lime juice until the mixture just reaches a "runny" consistency. Blend in the oregano and cayenne. Lastly, fold in the chopped cilantro. Chill for 4 hours.

3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp crushed oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
salt & pepper to taste
1 egg yolk
6 oz beer (I like an ale such as Newcastle or Fat Tire)
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and spices. Now add the egg yolk and beer. The mixture should be thick enough to coat the fish - a heavy cream consistency. Chill for 4 hours.

2 lb catfish filets, cut into 2-inch pieces

If you want fried and baked fish, decide how much fish you want to fry and how much you want to bake.

To make the baked fish, preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the catfish pieces on a broiler pan lined with foil and oiled with cooking spray. Sprinkle the fish (each side) with the herb mixture:
1/4 tsp crushed oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
salt & pepper to taste
Place in the oven and bake for 12 minutes.

To make the fried fish, preheat a fryer or a deep pot halfway filled with oil to 375 F. Dip the fish into the preparered batter to coat it well. Deep-fry the pieces for 5 about minutes, or until golden brown, turning half way through cooking.

warm tortillas (flour or corn)
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 ripe avocado, sliced
lime for squeezing

Place the cooked catfish on the warm tortillas, top with cabbage and avocado, drizzle with white sauce, and squeeze on some lime juice. Yum Yum!

Thursday, July 06, 2006


A couple weeks ago I bought a rosemary plant at Kroger. They were selling the plants for a good price, and I've always wanted a rosemary plant. The plant sat on my sunless kitchen counter in its original wrapper for at least a week before I realized it looked really bad. I'd been watering it too much and it was getting no sun at all. On Saturday I moved it out to the deck where it could get some sun and hopefully recover a bit.

Finally this morning I replanted it in a large clay pot outside. The pot still needs a bit more potting soil. I didn't have enough on hand to fill it up. I hope this little rosemary tree lives! If it does, I think it will be gorgeous in this pot.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Back in April, I ordered two clematis vines from Wayside Gardens. I hoped they would grow to cover an ugly vent pipe. My Grandma Frankie has such beautiful clematis vines that I couldn't see myself going another summer without their blooms. I ordered HENRYI (white blooms) and FRANZISKA MARIE (large purple bloom). The photos above are directly from the Wayside Gardens website. I received the plants in April, built a tepee trellis out of bamboo and twine, put the plants in the ground, and hoped for the best. Two-and-a-half months later, they've barely grown a lick.

Here is the vent pipe and my homemade tepee trellis:




I've been trying to figure out why these vines won't grow! I water them regularly. Franziska Marie gets about 4 hours of direct sunlight each day. Henryi gets about 2 hours of direct sunlight. The rest of the day, it is shady. At first I thought this spot might be too shady. Then I found this link on GardenWeb. Basically, if you want a vine that flowers in the first year, don't plant clematis. I love clematis vines and I'm going to baby these plants until I see some blooms. However for same season blooms, I should have gone with a morning glory.

In other news, have you ever wondered the true definition of a glade or a portico? I came across this link today, a glossary of Landscape Gardening and Architecture terms. Enjoy!