Category Archives: Recipes

Sweet Tea

Sweet tea, southern-style

I’m working hard today and it’s time for a break. Of course my #1 drink-of-choice is always and has almost always been iced tea. Here in the South, folks prefer SWEET TEA. In fact, they swear by it!!! Any eaterie will serve it. It will be sweet, really sweet. When you visit somebody, you will be offered SWEET TEA. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes lemonade or a beer will ALSO be offered, but you can betcha that in the South you will be drinking sweeeet tea sometime during your visit! So don’t turn up your nose at it. And if you move to the South, then you had better learn to like it! Oh, by the way….it is very often served in a Mason jar! Somehow it enhances the flavor (the opinion of a lot of us, haha). Many folks like it with lemon, some like it with mint. I normally drink it with mint simply because I usually have 3 or 4 types of mint growing in my garden.

I’ve been picking a few strawberries and blueberries out of my berry patch, trying to get to them before any of the’nuisance‘ critters do. I’m getting ready for a road trip so I need to tend to my gardens as much as possible before leaving. The blackberries and raspberries may or may not produce while I’m gone but there’s not much that I can do about that. Next up is my herb garden and all I can do is to pinch the tops off the basils so that they’ll grow fuller, as from past experience here in central Florida I do know that most types of basils can last 18 months or more! I’m putting 7 large pinwheels in my main garden to try and ward off some of the birds and squirrels that have been munching on my tomatoes (I have 12 plants already) and peppers and squashes and beans. I don’t know if they will keep ALL of the critters away but they surely do look pretty twirling in the breezes. We do have plenty of winds here in our part of the Sunshine State, and I’m hoping that they will at least keep away SOME of those varmints. I suppose I am the only one that can keep our puppy away from the pinwheels though!

When I was growing up, in Indiana (not the South!), my Mama served us iced tea EVERY night with our supper. I do mean every night: summer, fall, winter, spring. It wasn’t a choice, it was just a part of our meal. She cooked it in a saucepan on one of the 2 burners that was on the long island in our big kitchen while she was making the supper at the stove. Then she’d let it ‘steep‘ awhile. Right before supper, she’d have one of us kids pour the tea through a strainer into a large pitcher and add water and sweetener. We had to put the exact number of ice cubes into each glass and fill them with that beautiful amber-colored liquid beverage. Mama used Lipton loose tea and it always tasted perfect. When any of us had supper at somebody else’s home, we kinda missed having our iced tea. It was a tradition, I reckon, that you don’t even realize until later.

Nowadays I have diabetes and cannot add the sugar so I USUALLY sweeten my gallon-jug of tea with Truvia and Equal. Every once-in-a-while, I make it the old way with real sugar and then cringe as I take my blood-sugar reading the following day! It’s worth it occasionally if I don’t make it a habit! I also have made the switch to green teas. I also need to learn how to make hibiscus tea because I’ve got half-a-dozen gorgeous hibiscus bushes and my Hawaiian pals tell me that I oughta being making my own tea. I do like Jasmine tea. My daughter and I drink a gallon per day. Sometimes I make peppermint tea, or regular plain mint tea, or REAL tea (nowadays that seems to make me hyper and make frequent trips to the loo) but I do soooo love my SWEET TEA immensely! Well, I am thinking that I will go and have a jar right now!

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Apple Dumplings

Apple Dumplings

My Mama makes the best APPLE DUMPLINGS in the world! This is my opinion & it’s undisputed. Nobody can change my mind tho many have tried. Nope….won’t happen; can’t be done….hers are best! No room for discussion! Yes, I am a very good cook too, and, yes, I probably COULD prepare them just about the same as Mama does (I’ve watched and assisted numerous times since I was a young girl) but that just wouldn’t be the same, now would it???

This time of year brings the falling leaves in the top half and middle of our country. Friends and kin like to ask me the same thing every year at this time, and that is whether or not I’m missing the changing of the seasons and the beautiful, splendid, colorful, and ever-changing scenery. I always emphatically answer a resounding “NO”! I don’t like the cold in any way, shape, or form! As for the spectacular changing colors….viewing their lovely photos on social media is plenty enough for me. I do NOT need to be there physically in order to admire my Lord’s awesome handiwork.

Autumn DOES bring ‘apple harvest’ tho, which means APPLE DUMPLINGS, apple pies, apple cider, homemade applesauce and/or apple butter in the crockpots, and caramel or candied apples; and also bobbing-for-apples at get-togethers! I grew up in northern Indiana where there were always plenty of apples to pick. The school kids would be taken by the busloads to a particular apple orchard for a special day of being educated about the apple harvest, and would then be treated to apple recipes to try and bring home, as well as having fun and games before being taken back to school. I remember chaperoning when my youngest son’s class took this ‘field trip’ and enjoyed an amazing day with his classmates. My biggest surprise of that day was the gigantic jar of Apple Blossom Honey that I bought. It was the tastiest honey that I have EVER had in my entire life! Just the thought of it makes me want some RIGHT NOW! But I’m not willing to drive all the way to Indiana just for honey! Florida’s Orange Blossom Honey comes in 2nd place, so I settle for that.

Now, at this time I will add a tiny note to mention that the Cracker Barrel restaurant does indeed offer a rather yummy dessert that they TRY to pass off as an Apple Dumpling, however it is actually more of an Apple Cobbler or some kind of an Apple Dessert Casserole. Anybody that knows me will attest that I’ll use every excuse to dine at Cracker Barrel because I feel that their ‘Southern cooking’ reminds me the most of my own Gramma’s cooking. Biscuits and gravy for breakfast OR fried catfish with turnip greens and dumplins are my ‘go-to’ meals that I could enjoy every week, much to my children’s dismay (since they are the ones that take me)! IF I’m lucky….or perhaps it’s ‘if my daughter is feeling sorry for me’….I’ll get her to share one of those big desserts with me. It’s delicious for sure, but usually just tends to create a hunger for Mama’s APPLE DUMPLINGS even more!

Late September of last year we drove to Indianapolis to attend my beautiful niece’s perfect wedding. (believe me, my love for her is one of the very few reasons that I’ll return to that cold climate!) We stayed a couple of days with my Mama and I didn’t even realize until a few months later that I’d totally forgotten to ask her to bake some APPLE DUMPLINGS for me! When I called and mentioned it to her, she got a kick outa that….HA! I’m getting sooooo forgetful that I’m having trouble remembering things, even requests of my fave desserts that ONLY MAMA can make just the way I like it! But AHA! Next spring at the end of April I certainly hope that I remember to ask for them when I go to visit Mama for her 80th Birthday Celebration! I realize that apples will be out of season and I know that it’ll be her birthday but I still want my treat!!! And only Mama can make it for me….and that’s just the way it is! This time I’m getting my APPLE DUMPLINGS!

Shrimp & Grits

Shrimp&Grits

I am definitely NOT understanding why these Southerners have such a fascination with one of their favorite dishes: SHRIMP & GRITS. Separately, my tastebuds find each of these absolutely delicious. But put them together, and NOT SO MUCH! Last year I posted the following short paragraph on Facebook before after having tried this dish for the 1st time. What followed was a deluge of recipes that astounded me! Here’s what I wrote last year:

“OK, so what’s the big deal about SHRIMP & GRITS? It’s supposed to be something special in the south…..I kept avoiding it even tho I’ve been making grits for my kiddies ever since they were tots & I love shrimp in any way, shape, or form that I’ve ever eaten it. Since I’ve lived in 8 cities in Florida plus 2 cities in Georgia for a total of approximately 20 yrs., I figured maybe it’s time to finally try some of these ‘shrimp & gritstogether…..so I chose a famous restaurant & had my 1st & ONLY taste……YUCK! I’ll stick to eating them separately! So much for that particular so-called ‘southern delicacy‘!!!”

I was surprised that many of the recipes actually came from several of my northern friends! Some even came from pals overseas! And you had better believe that most of my followers that commented were extremely adamant about their LOVE of SHRIMP & GRITS! I had no idea that I’d started such a ruckus. Yes, I did indeed try many of the recipes.

Shrimp is my 3rd-favorite meat, following Salmon and Scallops. I’m a seafood-lover. I probably enjoy preparing each of these at least 2 dozen ways on a regular basis. Cheesy Grits has been a favorite of my children since they were young’uns. It can be the breakfast or lunch meal alone, or served as a side dish at supper. When we were stationed in Hawaii, I knew to pack several boxes of grits. A decade before, as a college student at Chaminade University in Honolulu, I’d been saddened to learn that no grits were to be sold on the island of Oahu. The entertainer Al Harrington (who played Dr. Ben Kokua in the original ‘Hawaii 5-0‘) used to tease in his stage show to the tourists “What…you no like our POI? Well, we Hawaiians no like your Grits either!” This delighted the Mainlanders and caused a wave of laughter and applause (every time) throughout the audience. By the way, I DID like the poi, but I never could get Al Harrington to let me make a bowl of grits for him! (he used to chat with me in Waikiki as I sold tickets to his show)

This photo is of the SHRIMP & GRITS that were my supper tonight. Yep….I’ve tried everybody’s recipes. I still don’t have a particular fondness for them and would prefer them separately! But I was gonna have Shrimp tonight anyway and my daughter was hungry for Grits so I figured that I may as well make up my own recipe and write about it!

Sprinkle Cheese

 

TMNT pizza

Put this under the category ‘DID I REALLY SAY THAT’? My daughter & I tried the new Cheesy Bites Pizza for lunch at Pizza Hut. This is their latest promotion in connection with sponsorship of the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ movie. This photo is of our leftovers that we’ll be taking home. Of course, my daughter’s is the portion without meat since she has a been a vegetarian for 17 yrs! Not me, I love pepperoni on my pizza. Anyway, the Parmesan cheese shaker was empty and I cannot believe that I asked the server for more SPRINKLE-CHEESE!! Good grief! How old am I again? That’s what we called it when the kiddies were little….now they’re 29, 30, & 32! We both got a good laugh outa that, so did the waitress! A slip of the tongue perhaps? Or maybe it’s ME that’s entering MY 2ND CHILDHOOD.

There aren’t many pizzas that my family DISLIKES, come to think of it. For home delivery, Papa John’s is my favorite. Mellow Mushroom is probably the yummiest in Orlando, Jacksonville, and Atlanta….so that kept us happy during our last couple of decades. My adult kiddies enjoy this all-you-can-eat cheap pizza buffet called Cici’s that I rather detest so they usually go without me! It’s popular though. Between my house and DisneyWorld there are actually more Cici’s Pizzas locales than there are McDonald’s and I find that unbelievable, plus the kids get a hefty Castmember discount. My daughter also enjoys stopping at Little Caesar’s on her way home to order pizza-to-go. I still prefer Pizza Hut. So if I’m paying for my family, then it’s gonna be Pizza Hut! However, there is a major exception. If we’re in my small Hoosier hometown then we’ll be going to Pizza King! No doubt about it!

Cheese, cheese, cheese, and more cheese please! I learned that cheese can make soooo many things much more delectable. When my children were very small and wouldn’t eat their veggies, of course I would add a bit of cheese to trick their tastebuds! They’d eat just about anything if cheese were on it or in it. I taught other parents the same ‘helpful hint’ too, also with successful results. My kiddies are now adults and do enjoy trying all kinds of cheeses and usually have a varied assortment in the fridge. I may not hear a “Thanks, Mama” but that’s okay….I take responsibility anyway!

Well, I notice that I need some more SPRINKLE CHEESE here at home, so I’d better put Parmesan-Romano cheese on my shopping list (even my ‘shopping list’ is on my phone nowadays, I’d never have guessed that a decade ago!). Nobody in the grocery store will know what I REALLY call Parmesan cheese, eh? Hmmm, maybe my daughter better not take me to Kentucky Fried Chicken….I might absent-mindedly order ‘chicken-with-a-handle‘ (what the kiddies called drumsticks)!!! Oh, and by-the-way, that new pizza at Pizza Hut was yummy!