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!