Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Okra: The Misunderstood Vegetable

Ah, okra. I think it gets a bad rap. People think it's slimy. (um, slimy doesn't have an e. weird) It isn't. People think it's only good for thickening soup. Not true. Some people, like my husband, have never heard of okra. So sad. He was born in California and moved across country to the DC area when he was 9 - and he had never seen okra until he headed South to college and saw it in Winthrop's cafeteria. For some strange reason, they always paired it with spaghetti. Maybe they got a BOGO deal on pasta and okra. At any rate, he learned to like it, but still wouldn't touch grits. His loss. Recently I made some fried okra - which reminds me of vegetarian chicken poppers - and our son Chase said, "Oh, I thought okra was an Indian vegetable." Haha, you can tell our family eats a lot of Indian food.

So then I had an okra epiphany. I had some fresh okra and tomatoes from the garden and was wondering what I could make and I happened to turn on Food Network. Who should I see but Paula Deen and one of her sons? I can never remember which son is which, but it was one of them. Guess what they were making? Paula Deen's Mama's Okra and Tomatoes! And I had all the ingredients - see, an epiphany! (Don't ask me how I first pronounced that when I became an Episcopalian.)

I spent this morning making it and it is worth making, yum! Here's how, so easy once you have everything cut up:

The okra, onions, red and green peppers (from our backyard garden), and garlic, all chopped up and ready for the party:

Seeing that it's Paula Deen's recipe, there's some bacon and a little butter. That's a given, right?

Once the bacon is cooked and veggies are translucent, you add some seasonings and then the okra and...


Then you cook it for about 30 minutes. Okra is so cool once it's sliced. Brianna says it's spoke-like, but it reminds me of Geometry. Okra: The Geometric Veggie

Here it is on its bed of basmati rice. Basmati rice is our favorite, so fragrant and flavorful - time to head back to the Indian grocery store in Greenville, since I used the last of it tonight. Maybe this did turn out to be an Indian meal after all, Chase! (Sorry about the blurry picture. I was in too big a hurry to eat.)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summertime Supper

I decided to try this recipe for a Tomato Pie in the new Southern Living magazine. I was amazed at how flavorful it is! I'm lousy at any kind of pie crust, so this one didn't look so great (might help if I had an actual lovely pie dish) but it was tasty. I did add a little sour cream to the cheese mixture - I'm not a big fan of mayo (What?? And I call myself a Southerner??) but the finished product didn't taste like mayo at all. I also used a 6 cheese mixture instead of just parmesan because that's what I saw at the store today. Tomatoes were from my SIL, Leanne - is there anything better than an all red summer tomato? I think not. Also, fresh basil from our herb garden. My very, very favorite herb.

To go along with the tomato pie: fried okra, picked fresh this morning, butterpeas, and my grandmother's Hot Sauce. Once again, I wish I could ask her why she called it Hot Sauce - it is most definitely sweet, even though I cut the sugar in the recipe in half.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dinner, AKA Supper

My Yankee children refuse to refer to the evening meal as supper. This leads to much confusion in our home especially now that we're back down south and I'm surrounded by normal people who know the meaning of supper. Anyway, tonight our evening meal consisted of: marinated and grilled chicken tenders, fried okra, butterpeas with Granny's hot sauce, sliced tomatoes, and bread. This morning the okra, butterpeas, and tomatoes were still in the garden. You just can't beat fresh summer produce.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Stroll Around the Backyard

Since this heatwave is making it no fun to actually be outside in the yard, I have a little time to post in the nice, cool AC. Here are a few random shots around the backyard this summer.

Some extra oregano and rosemary, hiding out under the huge fig bush. In Maryland, we had a big, round herb garden that started out as a pizza garden. At this house, we have herbs scattered all over the yard.

Scout's little obsession: figs. Busted!

A few New Guinea impatiens right outside the back door.

On the other side of the back door, some mint - especially delicious in that Southern staple, sweet tea.

Two different types of thyme.

Brick patio + Scout. 4 pots of basil plants to bring in at the first sign of cold weather. Something has been chomping on my basil plants this year, I have declared war!

Brick patio - Scout

Garden gone wild! Tomatoes, peppers, echinacea, black-eyed susans, butterfly bush, etc.

A few black-eyed Susans (Maryland's state flower) in an old bottle we found in the backyard.

Cement planter with more New Guinea impatiens. This picture makes me think of what the yard might have looked like 100 years ago.


Why, yes, that IS a wheelbarrow full of corn and a watermelon sitting in my kitchen. Thanks to the Arnold 5, the corn has been shucked and de-silked and thanks to Mom and Dad Arnold is now cut, cooked, and tucked safely away in the freezer for some cool winter evenings. Watermelon has been sliced and eaten, although not by me (see previous post).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Out and About in Charleston

Today we went into downtown historic Charleston. I remembered my camera for once. We started out at the Battery, showed the children where we stayed for our anniversary, headed down by Rainbow Row, to the pier, where a lovely cruise ship was blocking our view of the bridge, onto the area around College of Charleston where we found my Great Aunt Lizzie's house and Episcopal (!) church, to the open air market - which has been partially enclosed since our last visit, then on to Magnolia Cemetery where we unsuccessfully looked for Aunt Lizzie and her husband's graves. We'll have to come back when the office is open and can show us. Back to our cottage and on to the highest climbing wall in South Carolina - Jacob conquered 2 of the walls there, he was wayyyyy up there!

Here are a few photos. I believe we have found our new Solomon's!

Jacob on the 50 ft climbing wall:

He made it to the top right after this picture!

Hey! Move over cruise ship, we want to see the bridge!

Not sure what was so funny, swinging on the pier:

Now that's a fountain! Not sure what my children are doing....

On the Battery:

At the Market

Tree growing out of Lauryn's head at the College of Charleston

Family lore: This house was built by my Great Aunt Lizzie and her husband Henry. My grandparents visited this house on their Charleston honeymoon in the early 1930s. It's now a sorority house for the College of Charleston. Nobody appeared to be home today, so we'll have to come back when school is in session to see if we can get a tour like my brother did. My brother: The Sorority Sister Sweetalker.

In this picture, if you look carefully to the right of the house, you can see the steeple of Grace Episcopal Church, where Aunt Lizzie attended. This seemed ironic to us, since you can see our church, Grace Episcopal, from our house on the other side of the state. Who knew I had Episcopal relatives? Apparently every few generations in my family, somebody marries an Episcopalian.

Speaking of Episcopal churches, this is St. Philip's. Chris and I attended a service here on our anniversary back in October.

We went to Magnolia Cemetery to see if we could find Aunt Lizzie's grave. The office was closed and we didn't have any luck finding it on our own, but we did find a fascinating cemetery with some very interesting tombstones. Also, some fascinating trees, especially this one. It was huge, with limbs that went from the tree, into the ground, and back out again. One large limb had broken off from the tree, but must have then rooted where it fell because it was still living with new limbs, weird! There were ponds around the cemetery - and I don't think I'll ever get used to the signs around here that say, 'Please don't feed the alligators." Yikes!

Friday, July 15, 2011


I'm terrible about taking pictures when we're on vacation. So far, I have two, taken today at Kiawah Island:

We're having a great time - tomorrow we're headed into downtown Charleston, where Chris and I just were in October for our 20th anniversary. So far, we've been to the Isle of Palms and Kiawah, the Water Park, the Splash Park, and to the activities (like an ice cream social, who doesn't love that??) at James Island County Park, where we have a cottage. We've put a ton of miles on our bikes - great bike trails here! but our kayaks are still in the back of Chris' truck. We've seen 2 alligators since we've been here, plus lots of 'Alligators live here' signs, so we decided to save the kayaking for Lake Hartwell. Yes, we are chickens. But we are not alligator lunch.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes - Not Just a Movie

Fried green tomatoes are a true Southern staple. I didn't like tomatoes when I was little - silly me. One night for dinner my mother presented us with this mysterious dish - mysterious because she would not tell us what it was until we tried it. The serving plate was full of round somethings that had been fried and looked like summer squash. I tasted it, I liked it, my mother said, 'Aha! It's tomatoes! You ate tomatoes!' Ok, maybe it wasn 't quite that dramatic but I had been tricked. In my defense, fried any-vegetable tastes pretty much the same.

Recently I had a craving for some fried green tomatoes. I actually saw some in the produce department at Publix - for $2.49/lb. Uh, no. I asked my aunt if they had any green tomatoes in their garden and what do you know, she did and had just fried some up herself. So we headed on over and picked a few for ourselves. They are easy to make.

You slice some up and then you get out 2 bowls - fiestaware makes the preparation quite..uh...festive. Beat up a couple of eggs, add some salt and pepper in one. Mix some flour and cornmeal in another, with your choice of seasonings. You can even give them an Indian twist with some garam masala and cayenne pepper (this is not my idea, I saw it on Food Network's Aarti's Party).) Dip the sliced tomatoes in the egg mixture, then the flour/cornbread. You can repeat this process for a heavier crust.

Freshly ground salt and pepper is always the best.

Here they are, frying away - albeit sideways. Have I mentioned how much we love cooking with gas? First time we've had a gas stove.

Flash-less shot that won't hurt your neck.

Here they are, ready to eat. Delish!

Not long after these photos were taken, I found myself in an ambulance on the way to the ER. My little adventure had nothing to do with the fried green tomatoes, though.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Today would have been my grandmother's 100th birthday. I could write a novel about her, in fact there's so much I'd like to say about her that I don't know where to start.

She was born on July 3rd, 1911. 7 years later, her father died in the great influenza epidemic of 1918. He left her mother with 7 young blue-eyed children to raise alone. She did a good job. My grandmother met my grandfather when she was young, he was 4 years older. His father had also died when he was little, just 4 years old. They fell in love, got married near Thanksgiving one year, but were worried about telling his older brother. So she went back home to her house and he went back to his family's large farm. They didn't tell anybody they were married until Christmas. Their first child, a son, was born at home in the middle of the Great Depression. There was a problem with his oxygen and he suffered brain damage that affected him for the rest of his life. My grandparents went on to have 5 more children. I consider that the definition of bravery. They had 3 sons, then there was a gap of 6 years, then they had 3 more children. This is how I ended up with aunts and uncles who have always been like big sisters and brother to me.

They didn't have a lot of money (who did during those times?) and they raised their children on the farm that had been in her husband's family since around the time this nation became a nation. They raised cotton, then soybeans, and always had a large garden. My grandmother was a master cook. Her fried chicken was legend in our family - partly because it was the freshest ever and had been running around the yard earlier in the day. She cut it up herself, always with the special wishbone breast piece that was my grandfather's favorite. None of us dared to reach out for that piece of chicken, that's for sure. She made the best homemade biscuits ever - in a wooden trough-shaped bowl. She could make them with one hand while she did all kinds of things with her other hand. Those biscuits were light as a feather. She made freezer junket ice cream, shelled peas on the front porch, made clothes for me (the only grand daughter), and sent us children out in the fields with mason jars full of ice water for my grandfather, who was plowing with his mule Mandy. Every summer for 2 weeks, my brother Randy and I got to go to our grandparents' farm without our parents. We lived for those 2 weeks - I imagine our parents did, too. We had city grandparents and country grandparents. We could see our city grandparents' house from our house and we loved to spend time with them, too. But something about those 2 weeks in the country, probably that we were 2 hours from home, was extra special. We fed chickens, we fed the hogs, we climbed the trees in the apple orchard and ate apples that never made it 5 feet from the tree. We helped (kinda) in the garden, we hung out on the wrap around porch every evening, trying to catch a breeze, waiting for the ghosts that would almost always come around the corner and disappear into the fields (this is an entirely different post), and in the afternoons we waited impatiently on the porch swing for our aunt Beth to come down the road in her Ford Mustang from work. It wasn't a classic then, it was just a really cool car.

When it came time to choose my college, I chose Anderson College, in large part because I had learned to love that part of the state. My fellow dorm mates were jealous when I would go to my grandparents every Tuesday for a homemade meal and to wash my clothes without having to fight for a dryer. My grandfather would come outside and watch me wash my car - always pointing out when I missed a spot. I cherish those memories now.

My grandfather died on my 23rd birthday. We all gathered around my grandmother, trying to shelter her from grief - an impossible task. In the months after he died, she told me, "I love you children, but it's just not the same without your grandfather." I remember thinking, 'aren't we enough?' but now that I've been married for 20 years, I better understand what she was saying. My grandmother died in 1985, from ovarian cancer. She died 4 years before I met my husband, and 7 years before my first child was born. I hate that they didn't have a chance to know her. She was something else. You will never read about her in a history book, I never saw her in a suit with a briefcase heading to her high powered job. But make no mistake, women like my grandmother are the backbone of this country. Her job WAS high powered and she was quite excellent at it.