Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Joy of Orchids

Here in N FL our heat and humidity has really stressed most gardens in our area. It has been so intense with triple digits and no rain that I have even lost some heirloom roses that I have had for years. I do have a water system that I use a couple of times a week but there is nothing like the water that falls from the heavens.

I am a collector of orchids and usually have a few blooming at all times thus the title The Joy of Orchids. When the garden is looking stressed and parched these beautiful blooms bring me such joy.
These are hanging in my outdoor garden room, my screened porch. The one on the left is called a Vanda orchid and is not potted in any planting medium. It does however, require watering every day. The one on the left off the top of my head I'm not sure what it's called without looking it up in my reference book but it is very fragrant.

I have two blooms open now and several more coming so I will be able to enjoy this for several weeks. These were taken this morning with the early morning sun peaking through the mosaic piece. The mosaic piece is an artwork done by a local artist and this particular piece was given to me many years ago by my husband as an anniversary gift. I have since purchased many more of this artists work that I have hanging throughout my house.

The fragrance from this bloom is breathtaking and I love this color.

Vanda orchids are so interesting to me because they grow without any potting medium. The roots just hang and are exposed which is why they must be watered frequently just as they grow in their natural habitat in a Rain Forest of South America.

The Vanda's will bloom a couple of times a year and I have three. Each a different color but they are fascinating to grow. I have lost a couple a time or two but I never give up.

The Vanda's I keep outside hanging in trees since they need filtered sun when outside and all my other orchids I keep on an a two tiered iron tea cart which is quite large. When our temperatures drop below 50* the whole tea cart is brought inside. When in bloom though I always bring them inside to enjoy.

Even though these orchids hang on my screened porch I can still enjoy the view from inside. All of my exterior doors are glass doors like this one leading to the screened porch.
Here is another orchid that is blooming right now and I brought it indoors to enjoy.This particular orchid has a very long stem and makes for a very dramatic statement I think.

It is still so very hot here in our area and I prepared a wonderfully refreshing drink, a Strawberry Lemonade and it comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Seasonal Recipes From the Garden by P. Allen Smith. This is a new book for Allen written because of his use of his own home grown foods at his country retreat just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas. He is best known as a trained Landscape Architect and he was trained in England. I receive his weekly newsletters and enjoy his blog as well. Allen is a wealth of information.
Strawberry Lemonade
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1cup fresh lemon juice
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
2 cups chilled sparkling water or club soda
Fresh mint sprigs, for garnish
Whole strawberries, for garnish

Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is bubbling, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon zest and juice, stir and then remove the pan from the heat. Let the mixture cool completely, and then pour it through a strainer into a clean pitcher.

Puree the pint of strawberries in a blender and add the puree to the lemonade. Stir well to combine, and refrigerate until nice and cold.

Just before serving, add the chilled sparkling water and stir well. Pour into glasses filled with ice, garnish each one with a mint sprig and a strawberry, and serve.

This is a wonderful summer refreshment but it makes for an excellent evening cocktail too. I added some Lemon Vodka, FABULOUS!!!!!

Today I am linking to Outdoor Wednesday. I hope you enjoyed my orchids and I hope it will inspire you to try growing them yourself.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Reprise~The Absolute Best Pound Cake

Today is a special friend's birthday, Becky Turner, Random Musings of a Decolady. She had been ill for a very long time but fought a good battle. About four weeks ago she lost her battle and passed. She leaves behind her husband, two daughters, a new son in law and many other family members. I know her family misses her dearly as do so many whom she touched. I had never met Becky face to face but met her about ten years ago on a food message board and we had communicated ever since. She was one special lady and I learned so much from her in so many ways. We also shared the fact that we both have a farm as a second home. Mine is in S GA and hers was in Tenn. We often communicated back and forth about some of the things we did at our farms, some of the things we grew on our farms and we both had ponds and enjoyed the pleasures and relaxation of fishing. She was a wealth of information and I intend to plant a fig tree in rememberance of Becky at our farm. She had fig trees at her farm and we often talked about her favorites.

I am sharing her recipe for Pound Cake which has become my favorite. She changed it up many times when she would share it but basically it is the same and this is the way she shared it with me.

Today was her birthday and we shared that date as well, it is also my 42nd anniversary. Dear Becky, you are missed so much so in honor of her I am reposting her recipe for Pound Cake.


I have been married for 40 something years and therefore have made many Pound Cakes. I thought I could bake a really special Pound Cake and most often would bake a Sour Cream Pound Cake. Not long ago a very dear friend shared her tried and true Pound Cake recipe. I baked it for Mr. "H" and he declared that he loved this better than any other I had EVER baked. That was good enough for me.

Now I know this sounds so very simple but I think everyone should have an excellent Pound Cake recipe in their repertoire and this one is definitely different. There are endless possibilities when serving. I also picked up another little trick that I will share as well.

Becky's Pound Cake

1 1/2 cups butter
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups unbleached or all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Grease and flour a large tube pan. Or use Baker's Joy.

Cream butter and sugar till perfectly smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add flour a little at a time. Slowly add milk, flavoring and salt. Add baking powder last. Pour batter into prepared pan and place in COLD oven. Turn temperature to 325*F and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool slightly and remove from pan.

My notes: If using loaf pans you can use two or two smaller bundt pans. Check with a cake tester after 55 minutes since they will cook more quickly.

Now the little trick I wanted to share, welllllllllllll it was new to me and I absolutely treasured this little piece of advice. I was visiting in Jackson, MS last August and had gone by to surprise a very dear friend who works in a kitchen shop there. While there she showed me the smaller bundt pans and told me that one larger bundt pan recipe would fit these two smaller ones (I actually had never seen or maybe not noticed them before). Well, I loved the idea especially since there is just the two of us here at home and we often get tired of the cake before it's all eaten. I had always just made two loaf pans and loved the idea of a more decorative pan. The other thing is that I used these two little bundt pans repeatedly at Christmas for Christmas presents for friends. Who knew??????? Well I didn't but I am so glad that my dear friend shared that little tidbit of info. It has become invaluable

This recipe makes a nice little crunchy crust on the bottom after it's inverted also.

This has now become my new favorite Pound Cake recipe and just goes to show, you can teach an old dog new tricks. From sharing a new recipe to showing one some new items out there that really work for me. A SPECIAL thanks to both of my friends.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Marie-Helene's Apple Cake

Chari at Happy to Design is hosting her blogging party Sunday Favorites. I posted this recipe last November and I thought this cake was outstanding. Since Fall is just around the corner I felt it was deserving of reposting. Dorie Greenspan is one of my most favorite cookbook authors.

This is a recipe from Dorie Greenspan's new book Around My French Table. This is an excellent book and I have enjoyed preparing many of the recipes. I highly recommend this book.

The most recent recipe that I have prepared from this book is Marie-Helene's Apple Cake and it certainly is a keeper.

It is a simple cake and very easy to put together but I think that even the children would love this cake. Even though there are 3 tablespoons of Rum.

Marie-Helene's Apple Cake
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 large apples (if you can, choose 4 different kinds)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons dark run
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (1stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8-inch spring form pan. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and put the spring form on it.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.

Peel the apples, cut them in half, and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1-to2-inch chunks.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they're foamy. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. Whisk in half the flour and, when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it's coated with batter. Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it evens.

Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.

Carefully run the blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the spring form pan. (Open the spring form slowly, and before it's fully opened, make sure there aren't any apples stuck to it.) Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the spring form pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.

Note: I did sprinkle confectioners sugar over the top of the cake.

This is a moist cake filled with lots of apples and would make a perfect dessert after a heavier dinner. It is light and oh sooooooooo good. It would also make a perfect tea time nosh.

Thank you for visiting my blog and please do come again.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cheesy Shrimp and Grits Casserole

I am sharing a dish that I prepared recently, a Cheesy Shrimp and Grits Casserole. The recipe was given to me by a very dear friend and I can honestly say that it is probably the BEST Shrimp and Grits dish I have ever had. Being the Southerner that I am I have eaten lots of Shrimp and Grits dishes at some fine restaurants along the Gulf coast. This is so good that I wouldn't change a single thing.

We are so fortunate living here along the Gulf Coast of North Florida to be able to enjoy lots and lots of fresh seafood. Thankfully our area was not affected by the Gulf spill last year either.
 Cheese Shrimp and Grits Casserole

4 cups chicken broth, reduced sodium
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup regular grits
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar Cheese, divided
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with peppers
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
6 green onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 to 1 1/2 pounds of large shrimp, peeled, deveined and cooked
1-10 ounce can diced tomatoes
1-4 ounce can chopped green chiles, drained
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Bring 4 cups chicken broth and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a large saucepan; stir in grits. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

Stir in the grits 3/4 cup Cheddar cheese and the Monterey Jack cheese.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add green onions, bell pepper, and garlic and saute' for 5 minutes or until tender.

Stir together the green onion mixture into the grits mixture, add shrimp and next 3 ingredients Pour into a lightly buttered 2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle top with the remaining 1/4 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes.

This will serve 10 to 12 people as a side but stands alone as an entree' as well. Pared with a Mixed Green Salad and you have a mighty fine dinner.

My Notes; I used 1 1/2 pound of extra large shrimp and I lightly sauted them in the same pan that I sauteed the green onion mixture.

This would be very impressive dinner party fare and to serve I gave it a light sprinkle of paprika.

I thought this was an excellent dish and one I will make again and again.

I am sharing this recipe at Michael Lee's blogging party, Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Guest Bedroom

For the past couple of weeks I have been busy getting some new drapes up and shaping up my guest bedroom.
Some time ago when we repainted I painted most all the rooms in my house, with the exception of the dining room and my husband's office, a khaki colored paint. I wanted to keep this bedroom very neutral with the khaki, black, white and a few touches of pink.
I have always wanted an iron bed and when I first began redoing this room I knew a black iron bed was exactly what I wanted.

I had to special order the mahogany pine cone finials and brackets. This was something that held up my project. I also had found this fabric for my drapes and pillows with the khaki leaf print on it and it worked perfectly.
I also used some embroidered pillow here as well. The Euro sham is by Martha Stewart.
I love different fabrics and textiles and these were perfect.
The wing chair is very old and covered in an antique toile. The black and white plaid was not an old fabric but there was not enough to cover the seat cushion with the toile and the plaid worked very well.
A guest bedroom would not be complete without a TV so I found this mirrored table for it.
I am still looking for some things to hang on the walls and I am on the look out for some really good looking large baskets to go underneath this mirrored table. I need to hide some of what is underneath. I am looking for a dark brown basket and hope to find something compatible in a trash basket as well. As you can see, it still needs some work.

But as night falls it is still a charming room for guests even if still unfinished.

I have to add here because it is so dear to my heart, the oil painting of the little girl to the right of the dresser was painted by my mother whom we lost 20 years ago.
It's Tuesday and I am joining Marty at a Stroll Thru Life for Tabletop Tuesday.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reprise~Field of Sunflowers

Today I am joining Chari at Happy to Design for Sunday Favorites. This was a post I did two years ago. We have not planted our field of sunflowers since because at our farm in N GA we rely mainly on the rain and in our area for the past two years we have had some extremely dry weather. Another reason I am reposting this particular post is because it reminds me of a very dear friend whom we lost a couple of weeks ago. She was a blogging friend and we often would communicated with each other about our weekend retreats, our farms. She had one in Tennessee and had hoped to retire there one day. Her name was Becky and her blog was Random Musings of a Decolady.
I miss our chats about what was going on during the year with our farm getaways. This is my first time I have joined this blogging party.

We have a farm which is a second home in South Georgia and it is a weekend getaway. Last year we purchased the property at the end of our road and also the property directly across the dirt from us which allowed us to shut off the dead end road and put up a gate. After which we had this property cleared and my husband promised me a field of sunflowers which is what I want to share with you today.

Last week we went up to the farm to see how our sunflowers were coming along.

We found a few blooms but also had lots and lots of blooms coming along. We knew it would not be long.

We drove into our gate yesterday just for the afternoon and what an amazing site we saw. To the left of the gate, our field of sunflowers was in full bloom.

This is the view from the back of the field looking at our quaint little cabin. We have a rocking chair front porch with rocking chairs and a swing on it so we have an unbelievable view.

This is the view from the porch. This is the most relaxing site. The beauty of these sunflowers are absolutely incredible.

We were not the only ones enjoying the beauty of the sunflowers. As we drove up through the gate some turkey's with their babies were scurrying from the field. The field was also feeding lots of birds and the butterflies were enjoying them as well.

This coming weekend we will be taking a long weekend at our getaway farm to enjoy the splendor of our field of sunflowers because it won't last too long. Hopefully, I will get some photos of other wildlife enjoying our field.

I hope you have enjoyed my sunflower field as much as I have enjoyed sharing it.

Enjoy your day.