Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I Know You Want One Of These German Chocolate Cake Bars!

Yesterday we did healthy, today not so much.  This has been a two dessert recipe week.  Why?  Because it just seems like that kind of week and Labor Day Weekend is coming up.  You may be celebrating that last big hurrah of summer with family and friends and you need dessert for a celebration.  Right?  If you don't want to try the Apple Pie Bars from earlier in the week, try these over the top fabulous German Chocolate Cake Bars.

This dessert is going to knock your socks off if you've never made it.  It's got all the good stuff like chocolate, coconut, nuts, chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate.  Did I mention chocolate?  Just in case I forgot, it's got chocolate and is it ever good.

Blame Pinterest, friends, it's all their fault.  I start looking through all the posts late at night and there is one good recipe after another and I am just happily pinning away.  What's the use of pinning if you don't make some of these delectable treats.   It just becomes a past time.  Me, I am all about jumping in with both feet and giving these recipes a try.

There have been a couple that were not keepers, but for the most part they have all been really good.  These German Chocolate Cake Bars are the bomb.  Seriously, the bomb.  The only flaw I can find is that the recipe uses a Devil's Food Cake Mix and next time I might use a German Chocolate Cake mix just to get a more German chocolate taste.  Don't get me wrong, the Devil's food is really, really good.  It was just not really German chocolate.  If you don't know, it's really not German chocolate, but German's chocolate which is a brand name.  Through the years, it has come to be known as German chocolate.  Just a bit of trivia for you.  You can buy German's chocolate at the grocery in the baking aisle of you want real German's chocolate.

This recipe originally came from your friend and mine, Paula Deen.  Now we all know Miss Paula knows a knockout dessert and they are always worth a try.  Try it I did and it is definitely a keeper.

Here is what you need:

1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix (or German Chocolate Cake Mix)
1/2 cup melted butter
1 large egg

1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips  (I used 1 cup, cause why not?)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 pan.

Mix cake mix, butter and egg.  Press in bottom of pan.  Do not press up the sides of the pan.  Bake 7 minutes.

While the base is baking, mix the filling.  Mix sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, egg and nuts.  Pour evenly over warm crust .  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Use 1 cup if you really like chocolate (and we do)!

Bake 24-30 minutes until light golden brown.

Cool completely before cutting into squares.
I mean, look at all those chocolate chips!  Who wouldn't want that many?  If you only want 1/2 as many, that's your choice, but the full cup made it really awesome.  Of course, we all had a little scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on ours just in case you want to give that a try.

Thank you Paula Deen.  You did not fail to deliver one more decadent, totally unhealthy dessert for our enjoyment.  Give these a try, you will be glad you did.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.” 
 Charles M. Schulz

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Roasted Squash, Tomatoes, Onions, Peppers, and Parmesan Cheese

Recently, I have been volunteering in the kitchen of a homeless shelter planning and cooking healthy and nutritious meals.  The shelter is in a food desert and they have a community teaching garden where interested people can come and learn how to grow fresh organic food in their own yard.  There are dedicated volunteers who give of their time and energy to help friends and neighbors learn how to better their health through the food they grow and eat.  Our director said as many as 50% of the people who cross our threshold are diabetic and do not have access to healthy food.  We are working to change that statistic.

We also have a pantry that is stocked by Second Harvest every Monday.  Shoppers are allowed to come 3 times in a 6 month period to get food for their families.  The need is great and supplies do not always meet demand.  It is very heartbreaking indeed.   The shelter has been in operation since 1965, but is expanding their community outreach with their main emphasis being food - healthy food.

Our next goal is to teach families how to prepare the food that we have in the pantry.  It is amazing how many people have no idea how to cook fresh vegetables because they have never had access to them.  Last year, the garden volunteers went to a neighborhood school and taught them how to grow vegetables in raised beds.  The children were amazed that food came from the ground.  They thought it only came from the grocery store.  It's time to change these concepts.

I love to cook and spending my mornings preparing a meal for people who sometimes may not have eaten for several days, is the most gratifying thing I have done in my life - hands down, bar none.  The smiles on their faces after a warm, delicious, nutritious meal means more than to me than any job or accomplishment in my life.  Watching strangers and neighbors talking, enjoying good food is a beautiful sight.  Everyone is warm, sharing and caring.  There is no one hoarding or piling their plate up like you sometimes see at a buffet.  The concern for their neighbor, wanting to make sure everyone gets something to eat is so soul satisfyingly wonderful, that I have to keep myself from breaking into tears many times.  Selfish is a word that does not even cross the threshold.  Seeing the little children eating good nutritious food is all I need to make my day.  A smile, kind words, a pat or hug and good food could change the world's attitude one meal at a time.

We make every effort to make the food taste good, look good,  and serve things that many have never eaten.  If you make food look and taste good, it's amazing what people will eat and really, really like it.  Last week, we made this roasted squash dish (in the picture above) that was so delicious.  Several people said they had never eaten squash, or they didn't like it.  Squash can be one of the most bland foods on the planet, so we encouraged them to try it prepared this way and every one, to a person, said they loved it and would eat it again.  That's why bland food will turn anyone away from even trying it.  We eat with our eyes first, so preparation and presentation is very important.

This is the way we made the roasted squash.  We are serving about 100 people a day, so I will give you the recipe for home preparation like in the picture above.  Actually, I made this for our family on Sunday.  It's easy and sooooo good.  I forgot to take a picture after it was done.  Oops.

Use a 9x13 pan and  6-8 medium sized yellow crook neck squash.  Wash and dry the squash.  Cut the tips off each end and cut into circles about 1/2 inch thick.  Add several cups of grape tomatoes, cut a shallot (or onion) into rings and scatter over the squash.    Dice a red bell pepper and scatter over the squash.  I also used a green banana pepper that is a little spicy for a little extra color and flavor.  Drizzle all the vegetables with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  Mix together with your hands and place in a 350 degree oven and cook uncovered until all the vegetables are just getting soft.  Add 1 1/2 cups of fresh grated parmesan cheese to the vegetables, return to the oven and cook until the cheese melts.  Remove from the oven and serve.  The flavor of the parmesan just kicks this dish up one more notch.  We also drizzled it with some balsamic vinegar.  I didn't do that at home, because Dan would not eat it otherwise.  The balsamic is your choice.  Personally, I think it's fantastic.

This is a really easy dish to prepare, it is beautiful to look at with all the bright colors and is super nutritious and healthy.  It's an excellent side dish to just about any entree, or you could serve it over rice or pasta.

Cooking doesn't have to be hard or take all day.  This dish can be prepared in less than an hour and there are so many benefits to having fresh vegetables roasted in olive oil.  The more colorful the fruits and vegetables, the more vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants they contain.  The more vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants they contain, the better you will feel and your health will improve.  That is a worthwhile goal.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Food made with love and shared could change the world.  There is so much abundance and waste in our country, it is heartbreaking.  Time for a new direction.  donna

Monday, August 27, 2012

As American As Apple Pie Bars

Good Monday to you one and all.  Hope your weekend was enjoyable.  Here were are in the last few days of August already.  Where has the time gone?  Seems as though it was just the beginning of summer and we are now in the waning days.

This summer has been an amazing year for peaches and we have certainly enjoyed our share of wonderful desserts made with them.  When I was at the Farmer's Market last week, lo and behold, apples are starting to come in.  Big, beautiful Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples, oh my.  I know that Granny Smith's are supposed to be better for baking, but our favorite is Golden Delicious.  Slightly tart, slightly sweet, and much better for eating if you just want to enjoy a nice juicy apple.

Needless to say, I had to buy a basket of these beautiful apples.  They were huge, so I shared them with our daughters because the grandsons love a good apple too.  The remaining apples were destined for a dessert that I have been making since 1990, when I purchased a little cook book published by Land O Lakes  - you know the butter right?  It's a collection of favorite cookie recipes and they are outstanding.   My favorite recipe in the book is for apple pie bars which may be better than any apple pie I have ever eaten.  Dan is not a fan of apple pie (I know, I know), but he really likes these.  He is a bit averse to cooked fruit (the texture) and these are not as thick as apple pie.  I think that is why he likes them, that and all the wonderful cinnamon flavor.  Yum, yum.

They do take a little more effort than some cookie bars because you make a crust like apple pie, but it is really worth the effort!  They are baked in a 15x10x1 inch jelly roll pan, so you have to roll the crust to fit the pan, but that is the most difficult thing about the recipe.  Here is what you will need.



1 egg yolk (reserve egg white)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup Land O Lakes butter, softened


1 cup crushed corn flake cereal
8 cups peeled, cored, 1/4 inch sliced tart cooking apples (about 8-10 medium)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 reserved egg white
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  For crust, add enough milk to egg yolk to measure 2/3 cup; set aside.  In medium bowl, combine flour and salt.  Cut in butter until crumbly.  With fork, stir in milk mixture until dough forms a ball; divide into halves.  Roll out 1/2 of the dough, on lightly floured surface, into a 15 x 10 inch rectangle.  Place on bottom of ungreased 15x10x1 inch jelly roll pan.

For filling, sprinkle crushed cereal over top of rolled out dough in the pan.  Layer apples over cereal.  In small bowl, combined 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon.  Sprinkle over apples.
Roll remaining 1/2 of dough into a 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 inch rectangle; place over apples.  (It will be lumpy, but will smooth out when apples cook down).  In small bowl, with fork beat egg white until foamy; brush over top crust.  In another small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; sprinkle over crust.  Bake for 45 - 60 minutes, or until lightly browned.

For glaze, in small bowl, stir together all glaze ingredients.  Drizzle over warm bars.  To make drizzling easy, put the glaze in a small zip lock bag, snip off a corner, and drizzle by squeezing the bag.
Cut into bars and enjoy.  I cut them more into a square than a bar because we like a nice dollop of ice cream on ours.  If you cut into bars, you will have about 3 dozen.  It's your choice.  These are so extraordinarily good, that you won't mind the effort to make them one little bit.

The awesome thing is, you can eat them without a plate or fork, unless you are enjoying them with some ice cream!  It's so much easier than eating apple pie.  If you want to make your family, friends or co-workers super happy, make a batch of these bars and share!   They are a party in your mouth that will make everyone happy and they make your house smell heavenly while they are baking.

Give this wonderful autumn dessert a try.  You will be so glad you did.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

As American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet - 1970-s marketing jingle.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What I Did With A Pair Of $7.00 Shutters

In yesterday's post, I wrote about making the book page wreath and my love for shutters.  This is my $7.00 purchase from the Habitat Re-Store.  It is 52 inches tall and appears to have lived in someone's kitchen for some time.  How do I know?  By all the grease and goo on it and the way it smelled - as in not pleasant.

This is how Mr. Shutter looked upon purchase.
It had been professionally painted at some point.  How did I know?  By the beautiful, smooth finish on the paint.  Excellent paint job really.  But poor Mr. Shutter had not been well maintained.  See all the grease spots on it?  If you can't see them, here is a close up.
I know, gross.   Alas, this shutter came home with me for some love and attention and the perfect spot for it to reside.    I purchased the Annie Sloan Chateau Grey paint just for this project.  It is  gray with a very green undertone - quite lovely.
I set up my paint station on the deck because it was a pleasant, sunny day and I could paint AND enjoy the out of doors all at the same time.  That is the perfect painting scenario.  I used a 1.5 inch angled brush because I knew that painting shutters is no easy task, since you have the tops and bottoms of all those little louvres that have to be painted.  Then, there is the little rod in the middle that moves the louvres up and down.  That was a real trip to paint on the back side.  With lots of patience, the mission was accomplished.  I painted the top side of the bottom set of louvres, turned the shutters upside down and painted the top half of the louvres.  They had to be turned again and painted from the opposite side in order to get all the flat surface and edges.  The thin brush made it easier to reach through and paint the back side of the rod and all the little narrow edges around the louvres.  Whew.  Was I glad when that job was finished.  Fortunately, I wanted a rough paint job and not a nice, profession job like the original one.  

After the shutters dried, I brought them in and sat them on top of the cabinet that is inside the front door.    I can't tell you how long I stood there looking at them, enjoying them, admiring them, drinking in the beauty of one of my favorite things - shutters.  I know, it's crazy.  Don't judge.  
They are the perfect height for the space.  (I wish I had not turned that lamp on for this picture.  Too late now).  I knew the book page wreath was going to hang on these shutters, so I put a push pin in the wood where I wanted the wreath to hang.  Ta da!
My daughter's neighbor has a beautifully landscaped yard that is full of hydrangeas, in pinks, blues, and late summer green, plus oak leaf hydrangeas.  Early summer hydrangeas like the blue and pink varieties do not dry as well as the late summer white and green ones.  She very generously cut me a huge bunch of the green hydrangeas and the oak leaf variety which are a beautiful combination of creams, browns and bronzes.  The oak leaf hydrangeas are oblong rather than round.  They are perfect for fall arrangements.  I let them dry for a week, and pulled a few to arrange in this orange peach basket that I found at Michaels.  Just two big green hydrangeas, and three of the oak leaf variety was all that was needed.  
Dried hydrangeas will last for years if you don't mess with them and cause them to shatter.  This arrangement will work all the way through Thanksgiving.  Thank you Susan for your generosity.  There is a friend who will enjoy the wreath I am making them from some of these beautiful hydrangeas.  

I found some beautiful candles that are green, brown and tan in various sizes marked down at Michaels and I used one of them in this vignette.  Because of the lamp, it looks yellow on the top, but is actually ivory.  A nice fall accent to add to the look.  The final touch was some burlap ribbon which I draped across the top of the cabinet and through one of the shutters and the basket handle.  Stepping back, I have to say I was very happy with the total look.  I will find some small gourds at the Farmer's Market this weekend to sit next to the basket and this entire arrangement is complete!  

So let's add this up.  I have $7.00 in the shutter, $.75 in the book page wreath, plus the styrofoam form that was $6.99.  The hydrangeas were free, the basket was $8.00.  The candle was $3.99 and the whole bolt of burlap ribbon was $9.00 and I used a couple of feet which came to about $1.00 total.  The most expensive part of the project was the paint at $37.50 a quart.  I barely used any of the paint and plan on using the rest of it to paint a spindled bed frame that I have had since 1967. Yes, it is practically an antique.  (I will let you see some pictures if and when I can face painting all those spindles after dealing with all these louvres).  Let's say I used $4.00 worth of paint.  The total for this project was under $32.00 and we will enjoy it all the way through Thanksgiving.  The shutter will be useful for years and years to come.  It may live in many different locations in the house and serve different purposes, but it will always make me smile.

Think of ways to use inexpensive items to redecorate or change a look for the season.  Nature provides so many things to use.  Now is the time to cut and dry hydrangeas if you want to use them.  You can lightly spray them with some gold or silver Design Master paint and put them in your Christmas tree or make baskets or wreaths for gift giving and you have practically nothing invested money wise.  Look around and think how you can use things in your home or for gifts that are available at little or no cost.  The book page wreaths and other book page decorations will cost mere pennies.  For gift giving,  the important thing is the gift came from your heart, your hands and your creativity.  There is no price on that!  Or, give your self a gift by creating things for your home.  Create something.  It makes the world a better place.  Everyone is creative because we come from a creator.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How To Make A Book Page Wreath That Looks Like A Dahlia

Do you have things in your life that make you happy and you have no explanation why?  I have a list of such items and one of them is shutters.  Old wooden shutters and I cannot tell you why.  Perhaps it's because they make me think of dreams and possibilities.  The louvres are like eyelids that open and close, looking out on the world.  When you are tired of the world, you can close them and find solace in your own inner world.  I like their roughness, the hinges, the fact that they can be painted and changed - just like a life.  Don't call the men in the white coats - I'm just trying to explain and it makes no sense I know.

I found a great pair of shutters recently on a trip to the Habitat Re-Store, one of my favorite places to go.  Another great place of possibilities.  I knew they were coming home with me because they were only $ 7.00.  They were a dirty, dingy yellow and smelled like someone's kitchen disaster.  But, I was in love.  They needed paint, so I headed to my favorite store in Brentwood called C'est Moi.  They carry Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  Do not be confused with chalkboard paint.  This paint has chalk in it and will cover any surface without priming which is outstanding.  It comes from England and the color choices are all historical in nature.  Beautiful, rich colors that can be waxed upon completion with clear and dark waxes and it just makes my heart warm to look at all the ways this paint can be used.

While I was there purchasing paint, I noticed several book page wreaths on the wall.  One of them looked like a big dahlia (one of my favorite flowers) and I knew I would have one of those and it would hang on my shutters once they were painted.  I just needed to figure out how to make one like it.

I went to JoAnn's and purchased a 12 inch styrofoam wreath that is flat on the back and curved on the top.  I knew I needed something that would give the wreath depth instead of something flat.  Then, we made a trip to McKay's Used books so I could find some old books with yellowed edges at a good price.  Shakespeare's Complete Works for 75 cents was it!  Lots of pages because I didn't know how many I would need for the project, perfect aging on the pages, and the book pages were the size I wanted.  Forgive me Will.

The first thing I did was remove the pages from the book cover.   I opened the book and used scissors to cut away the cover.
Do this on the front and back cover where it attaches to the pages.  (This was so hard to do, I LOVE books).  This is what you will end up with.
Those are all the glued together pages on the top and the spine on the bottom.  Now, you have to tear apart all the pages which must be done carefully since they are all glued together.  I used a ruler and placed it against the spine and pulled gently from top to bottom, so the pages did not tear.
As I tore pages, a ridge of glue would develop that would make the pages tear, so I cut it away with scissors, continuing to do so all the way to the bottom of the 1000 plus pages.  It will make things easier if you do this and your pages won't be a ragged disaster.  You want smooth edges.

Next, I started rolling cones.  Lots of cones.  I don't know how many cones I rolled, I just filled a box with them.  Start at the bottom right corner and roll to the top left corner.  I rolled the cones tightly, then loosened them until I had a big, round cone.  I did not want tight cones for this project.  Then, I stapled them at the bottom.  Do I have a picture of these?  No, I forgot.  Sorry.  You can see how they look as I started to put the wreath together.

Start on the back of the styrofoam wreath on the inside.  You will have to adjust the size of your cones for the opening in the wreath by making them smaller. You want the tips of the cones to touch.   Hot glue them at north, south, east and west.  Then, fill in between those.  Next, start at north, south, east and west on the outside edge and fill in between, leaving about a finger's width between each cone.  After you finish one layer of cones, go back and fill in between the first layer of cones, then repeat with a third layer.  On the inside of the wreath, do the same.  It will look like this on the back of the wreath.
Put the hanger on now just because it is easier.  I cut a piece of ribbon and pinned it through the cones to the styrofoam with a greening pin, then covered it with hot glue to hold it in place.  This wreath is light as a feather, so it doesn't take a big hanger.

When the glue is dry, flip the wreath over and begin working on the front.  It should look like this when you start.
First, you want to fill in the inside of the wreath.  You may have to re-staple your cones about half way up because you are going to cut them almost in half.  Flatten all the cones on the inside and start by gluing a round of cones to the inside edge of the styrofoam, starting at north, south, east and west, then fill in between.  Glue another round to the inside of these cones, only off set them between the first round of cones.  Continue until the center is filled in.
You want the center cones to stand straight up.  Next, cut a couple of inches from the bottom of the cones you are going to use, staple them, and put hot glue on the front side of the wreath so that the point is on the bottom, opening on the top, and place them under the outside edge of the styrofoam, off set between the layer of cones that are there.  You will want them to be the same length as the cones on the top layer.  Next, do a layer of cones that you have cut almost in half around the inside of the center hole, offset between the cones that are standing up.  Continue alternating from outside edge, then inside edge, until the entire wreath is filled in.  It will make much more sense as you are putting it together.  When you are finished, the wreath will look like this.
The hardest part is rolling all the cones.  Putting the wreath together is fairly simple.  It is definitely an inside wreath because it is paper and so very light.  I hung it with a push pin.  But I must say, I LOVE the way it looks.  The wreath on the shutters is extra special in my book (no pun intended).  The finished wreath is 24 inches across, so don't start with a big wreath form or your wreath will be enormous!  Just thought I'd warn you in case you don't have room for an enormous wreath.

Tomorrow, I will show you the finished vignette with the shutters and the wreath.  It is really lovely and I am so very happy with it.  Give this project a try and remember, Christmas is only 4 months away.  These could make lovely, inexpensive gifts.  Yes,  I had to go there, because it's time to start thinking about projects if you intend to do any for gift giving.  Have fun with this one, you will find yourself reading the pages as you roll the cones.  It is an enlightening experience.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

A good book has no ending.  ~R.D. Cumming

Monday, August 20, 2012

Transition To Fall Wreath

Greetings friends!  Hope your weekend was enjoyable.  The weather was absolutely stunning this weekend.  I am ever so ready for some cooler days and fallish nights.  You can tell by the position of the sun that summer is waning.  It gets dark just a little earlier and the evening is just a bit cooler which tells us autumn is on the way.  For that, I can say hooray!  School is already in session even though a bit of summer remains.  Things are so different now, since we didn't go back to school until after Labor Day and that was the official end of summer.  It must be hard to know there are still warm summer days remaining when you could be swimming and biking and skating and playing to your hearts content instead of sitting in a classroom.  Yep, I'm showing my age.

The moment the last sky rocket faded in the closing ceremonies of the summer Olympics, I was ready to be done with my summer Americana theme.  I truly enjoyed having the red, white and blue decorations in and on the house, but it was time for a transition to fall.  For me, it's not quite time for pumpkins, gourds and colored leaves, but I wanted late summer colors that could transition to all the glorious colors of fall.  I happened upon some dark red silk hydrangeas at Old Time Pottery and I decided that would be my transition "base".  I didn't want to spend a lot of money for this wreath, so I found some sun flower bushes in yellows and oranges and some dark red poppy bushes at the Dollar Tree that would blend very nicely with the dark red hydrangeas.

There was a piece of natural colored burlap in my fabric stash left from another project that I used to wrap a 14 inch straw wreath.  I cut 2 inch wide strips and pinned the burlap to the wreath with greening pins, wrapping it around until the wreath was completely covered.

There were a bunch of fuzzy green carpals (the pods that fall off magnolia trees) under the magnolia tree that added a nice natural look to the arrangement.  All that "weedy" looking grass you see in the picture is actually from a piece of bamboo that had been growing in our daughter's yard.  They had cut some of the bamboo because it grows very rapidly and can become very invasive.  It was laying in a pile and I was very attracted to the weediness of the leaves, so I brought some home.  Those dried leaves were the perfect addition to my late summer wreath.  Don't overlook anything in your yard this time of year.  Most of it dries nicely and can be used for many projects and the cost is perfect - free!

I cut all the flower stems and arranged them as I wanted them on the wreath and proceeded to glue them down with hot glue.  The bow was made with remaining burlap strips.  Easy peasy.

As soon as it was finished, I hung it on the front porch.  Ahhhh, so refreshing to see something different.  Bye bye USA and Americana Star.  I enjoyed you for the summer, but it's time to move on.  Now, I am in the process of changing everything in the house a little at a time as I complete each project.  Wait until you see the next project.  I have to tell you, I am in love with it!  Hope you'll check back tomorrow.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Summer days driftin’ away-  
song Summer Nights, Grease

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Perfect Barbecued Pork Chops

Yes, I know, it's pork again.  But, here is the reason why.  We had family over for Sunday dinner.  When I went to the grocery, ham was my choice for the menu except, the hams they had were outrageously expensive.  Pork chops, on the other hand, were super extra specially priced.  So, guess what we had?  You guessed it!  Pork Chops.

I purchased two packages of chops, each containing 9 chops, for a total of $14.00.  When you are feeding 9 people, that is a spectacular deal.  Actually, the packages were half price, so I saved an additional $14.00.  Yes!  That is what I'm talking about.

I have to say that barbecued pork chops are one of my most favorite meats cooked on the grill - especially if they are prepared with a good rub and barbecue sauce.  What's not to love?  I like bone in pork chops because then you have that super tasty bone to gnaw on after you finish the chop and the bone adds more flavor.  Perhaps Emily Post would not approve, but if you've never tried it, don't knock it.  Mm mm mm is all I have to say.  Anybody else like to chew on that tasty bone?

Barbecued pork chops were always a favorite meal when all our children were at home.  When our son John was about 14/15 years old, he was almost impossible to fill up.  If you have or have had sons that age, you understand what I am saying.  If you have young sons, this is your warning.  Be prepared.  Learn to fix mass quantities of food when your sons become teenagers.  The reason I say this is one night we had barbecued pork chops.  The girls were both in college and I had fixed a lot of them hoping to have left overs.  Dan ate one, I ate one, Tyler (our youngest son) ate one and John ate 9 pork chops.  Yes, count them Nine, nInE, NINE, pork chops at one meal.  There were no left overs.  Start saving your money now mothers.

This is how I prepared the pork chops for Sunday dinner.  First, I let the chops sit out until they come to room temperature.  About an hour before cooking the chops I put this rub on them.  (I will be making a huge jar of this rub and keeping it on hand).  I found the recipe in a conversation thread about barbecuing and I would give credit where it is due if I had written down the person's name, but I didn't.  So, whoever you are here's a great big THANK YOU!  This rub is fantastic and this recipe covered all 18 chops.

Barbecue Rub Recipe

3 Tbsp Paprika
2 Tbsp Chili Powder
2 Tbsp Cumin
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp black pepper
1-2 tsp cayenne (I used 1 tsp so it would not be too hot for the little ones)

Mix all this together in a bowl using a fork.  With your hands, massage the rub into the chops on both sides.  We have a gas grill, so the grill was heated to medium high.

We did the chops in batches since the grill would not hold all 18.  We placed 9 chops on the grill and let them cook on the first side about 4 minutes.  Flip the chops and let cook another 3 minutes.  These chops were less than 3/4 inch thick so you want to cook them high and fast so they don't dry out.  Take the first batch of chops off the grill, place in a pan and cover with aluminum foil while you cook the second batch.  This allows the juices in the meat to flow through the chops which keeps them super moist.

After cooking the second batch of chops, we put those in a pan covered with foil and let them sit.  Uncover the first batch of chops and using a basting brush, brush one side of the chops with your favorite barbecue sauce.  If you are a frequent reader, you know we love Sweet Baby Ray's original.  When all the chops are coated with sauce on one side, place them sauce side down on the grill while you baste the side facing you.  It will only take 1-2 minutes for the chops to brown, flip them over and let the other side get nice and brown and quickly remove from the heat.  Return to the pan and cover with the foil while you repeat the process with the second batch.  I mean look at those chops in the picture - doesn't it make you want one?

By cooking the chops at a fairly high heat and quickly, they do not dry out and become overcooked.  We all thought these chops were fantastic!  Our son in love was talking about them again last night, about how good they were.  He said his mom always cooked pork chops until they were so dry, and many of us grew up with moms who did the same thing.  Not these chops.  Uh uh, they were outstanding.

I think you will find using this cooking method will give you a really juicy, tasty pork chop that everyone will love!  We actually had left overs this time and we enjoyed them reheated the second night.  They were just as good as the first night!

Even if you don't make these chops, make the rub and keep it on hand for other meats you grill.  It would be outstanding on chicken and other cuts of pork, even steak.  We will definitely be using it often.  Good luck with your pork chops.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

“There is poetry in a pork chop to a hungry man.”
Philip Gibbs (NY Times 1951)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Tip To Keep The Pesky Flies Away While Eating Outdoors

You are probably wondering just what that is in the picture above?  Let me give you a hint.  It is a lemon studded with cloves.  Does that help any?  Do you have any idea what it's for?  Let me give you another hint.  It is sitting on a table out of doors.  Have an idea yet?  Here's the answer.  It is to keep flies away while you are eating.  Really.  Seriously.

Now you are very skeptical I know.  How do I know?  Because I was extremely skeptical.  For years I have been trying to find ways to have a pleasant meal out of doors and not be accosted by flies.  I really, really, rally DISLIKE flies.  I mean, who doesn't?  They are some of the most annoying creatures on earth and there is nothing appealing about looking at food with flies all over it.  Ugh.  Even worse is spending time swatting them away from your face and arms.  It will make you temporarily insane - at least that's the excuse I use.  You'll have to pick your own excuse, but you're welcome to use mine.

We had family over for dinner Sunday evening and it was so beautiful outside, I wanted to enjoy the weather.  I knew all the grandsons would want to spend their time in the yard, so why not kill two birds with one stone?  We'll eat in the yard and watch them play.  They don't like to take much time to eat when they are all together.  If we are inside, they all want to go outside and no one gets to enjoy their food.  We live on a corner and the yard is not fenced.  Get the picture?

So, the issue was how to keep the flies away.  I looked up some things on the internet.  You supposedly can fill zip lock bags with water, lime juice and pennies, but most everyone said it doesn't work so why bother?  Another suggestion was putting vinegar in bowls and setting it on the table.  Now that is supposed to work well, but there would be no way Pawpaw Dan would sit at the table if he could smell the vinegar.  Which is worse, flies or vinegar?  He would say vinegar.  So, I nixed that option.  Another suggestion was to spray the area with hydrogen peroxide and needed to be reapplied with regularity.  Sounded like a lot of work, so that one went by the wayside also.

Next, I went to good old Pinterest where you can find a suggestion or tip for just about anything.  (Oh why did I not think up Pinterest?  It's a genius site for sure and what did we ever do without it?).  Anyway, I typed in "how to keep flies away" and up came this suggestion and let me tell you, it really works.  The tip came from a blog called My Creative Time and the writer said she and her husband had spent time in San Diego years ago and ate at as many outdoor restaurants as they could to enjoy the beautiful weather.  All of the restaurants had these cut lemons with cloves on their tables and she finally asked why.  Their server said it was to keep flies away and she commented how there weren't any that bothered them.  She said she has been using this tip for years.  That's when I knew I was on to something.  Also, said using lemons, oranges and cloves as cleaning agents helped keep flies away.  Aha!  This is the one.

Fortunately, I had lemons in the fridge and some whole cloves.  I cut the lemons in half and studded them with the whole cloves like she said.  I would have used more cloves, but I was at the bottom of the bottle.  The lemons in her picture had a few more cloves which probably would work even better!  I have some small red ramekins that I used to put the lemons in and simply sat them on the table.
They are unobtrusive and somewhat decorative actually and they really did the trick!  I saw one fly make a fly by and he landed on the lemon.  It was a touch and go landing, he quickly left.  That was it. So, the next time you are going camping or want to have a pleasant meal out of doors, give this easy tip a try.  They actually should last for several days if you are camping.  It's an inexpensive way to keep those pesky little critters away.  Now, if we could just come up with a real solution for chiggers, we would all be happy campers.  My grandparents used kerosene rags tied around their ankles and wrists.  That's really not an option for me.  Have you ever worn essence of kerosene?  Just sayin'.

Here's a special thanks to Emma, writer of My Creative Time blog for one of the best tips ever.  Give it a try, you will be glad you did.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

“Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.”  Groucho Marx

Monday, August 13, 2012

The East Nashville Tomato Art Fest 2012

Hola friends and neighbors!  How was your weekend?  Hope it was wonderful.  The weather here in Nashville took a wonderful turn from blistering heat to the low 80s.  Now that's what I'm talking about!  It was so lovely we spent most of the weekend outside.  The downside to that was I have the worst case of chiggers I have ever had in my life!  If you don't know what chiggers are, look them up.  They are evil little critters.  I understand the food chain and the need for it in our world, but I do NOT like being at the top of their food chain.  I will tell you this, there may be nothing that itches worse, except poison ivy.  Yikes.

The big event of the weekend in East Nashville was the Tomato Fest.  What a truly fun event.  It happens the second Saturday in August and celebrates all things tomato.  As you can see from the poster, the tomato is a uniter, not a divider and brings together all fruits and vegetables.  You just have to love that philosophy!

History of the Tomato Art Fest

The Tomato Art Fest was founded by Meg and Bret MacFadyen, owners of East Nashville’s Art and Invention Gallery. In 2004, the gallery hosted an art show celebrating the tomato in late summer, and planned a few neighborhood events to promote the show. The Tomato Art Fest proved so popular that it immediately turned into an annual, signature event for the hip, urban neighborhood of East Nashville.
The Art and Invention Gallery, and Garage Mahal, is a really cool place located at 5 points in East Nashville.  They show original art by local artists and it is open year round.  
This  "tomato" decahedron in the background was created by a local artist and you could have your picture taken inside.  There was a constant flow of people in and out.  I thought it was hilarious.
The sign says "uniting nightshades and polyhedra".  Awesome!  
The tomato sculpture had 29 vertices and 12 faces, and the bottom sign declared 2012  the year of the tomadodecahedron.  Clever!

There were hundreds of booths set up in the closed streets manned by artists and food vendors.  Lots and lots of people attended since the weather was spectacular.  Usually, it is like  a sauna, so hot that it is unbearable.  Mother nature totally cooperated this year and we thank her heartily.  I heard there were as many as 35,000 people in attendance Saturday afternoon.  That's a lot of people for 5 Points.  

There are all kinds of activities, lots of live music - I mean, really, it's Nashville, home of country music - but there were all kinds of bands playing.  There was a vintage fashion show at one of the vintage shops, a Tomato King and Queen, 3 Crow Bar made bloody mary's and tomato margarita's all day.  Pied Piper ice cream shop has tomato ice cream (and it's really good), and then there is I Dream of Weenie, our local weenie wagon.  If you ever come to East Nashville, it is a must to visit I Dream of Weenie.
If you look very closely, you will see that I Dream of Weenie is made from an old VW van with a porch attached on the front.  It is so darn cute!  There were so many people waiting in line, I couldn't get a really good picture.  Adorable!

Here is a street view of vendor's booths and lots of people checking out all their art work.
Look at the color of the sky!  Such a beautiful blue and not a cloud in it.  What a great day for being neighborly.

The grandsons were enthralled at the man on top of the building making the biggest bubbles I have ever seen.  He had two big sticks, with some kind of rope tied between that he was obviously dipping in bubble solution of some kind and he would hold the sticks up and huge bubbles were released  by the wind into the sky.  The little guys squealed with delight and so did we.  I really need to find out how to do that!  I wish the picture was better, but I was too far away.  

There was even a tomato street prophet wearing a sandwich board wanting to save the tomatoes and the humans AND the rest of the ecosystem.  Yes!

And, there were tomato balloons.  Of course, the grandsons had to have some.  I named them toothy tomato.  
How cute is that?  You can see Pawpaw on the right, corralling another balloon.

There are some incubator businesses next to Garage Mahal that are such a great idea.  All different kinds of cute places to shop.
There is also Wonders on Woodland and Rumors which is a lovely wine bar and restaurant.
I took a tour of The Art and Invention Gallery and checked out all the tomato art.  There were some amazing pieces to choose from.  I know, when you think of tomato art you wonder how many ways can you draw a tomato?  There are many, many ways and they are so clever and lovely.  Here is the blue ribbon winner.
These are rain barrels painted like tomato soup cans.  I LOVE these.  Very creative indeed.
Here are a few more pictures to enjoy.  This is a huge place and it was packed with people, so I couldn't get as many pictures as I wanted, but it will give you an idea of all the creativity done around the simple tomato.

The clerk let me take a picture of her awesome hat that was created by a local fashion designer.  I did not get her name because I had to take the picture in a hurry, but the hat was awesome.  There are lots of people wearing tomato inspired hats and clothing at the festival.  East Nashvillians love to have a good time!
There were sparkly winged tomatoes on a black top hat and a big, sparkly red heart on the front.  If you know me, you know I am a sparkly kind of gal and I fell in love with her hat!
This is one of my favorite buildings in East Nashville.  Love, love, love the mural art on the wall.  
We had a great afternoon strolling, eating, people watching and enjoying the beautiful weather.  The idea of using the tomato for a festival theme was perfect.  You know, some people think a tomato is a fruit and some think it is a vegetable.  Next time you eat a tomato, look at it differently.  The tomato is a uniter, not a divider - bringing fruits and vegetables together.  It's kind of a  metaphor for life don't you think?  Something we all should strive for - uniting, not dividing.  We're already looking forward to next year's festival.  Perhaps you should mosey on down and check it out.     
Everyday Donna
Things to Remember:
"It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato." - Lewis Grizzard

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pork Loin With Bacon and Brown Sugar Glaze - YUM!

You are looking at a picture of the very last piece of one of the best pork loins I have ever made.  I was in such a tizzy trying to get everything ready for dinner with starving grandsons running everywhere - some were crying they were so hungry - that I forgot to take a picture of that beautiful roast when it came out of the oven.  I was VERY sad.  Everyone had been served when I realized I didn't have one single picture of the finished product.  Fortunately, when I looked in the pan there was one glorious piece left, so that is what you are looking at.  See that glaze?  Amazingly delicious!

The grocery had a special on pork roasts and I got a 5 pound roast for the outstanding price of $9.00.  Wowza, I was excited.  I like to fix dinner for the "in town" family and sometimes it is a challenge to come up with something that will feed everyone without breaking the budget.  Do you ever have that problem?  We have 6 adults and 6 children eating, so it takes quite a bit to fill everyone up, especially the men.

Consider pork loin.  It is delicious, easy to prepare, feeds a lot of people and can be found at a good price if you watch the ads.  There are lots and lots of ways to fix it.  I happened upon this recipe online and didn't write down where I found it.  I think it was at and let me tell you, it's a keeper.  First, you make a rub for the pork loin and then cover it with bacon.  I mean, that should be enough right?   But, you also make a wonderful brown sugar glaze to go over it and that just puts it over the top!  The meat was so tender and juicy, just heavenly.  And then the glaze, well you'll just have to make it to find out.  Yummmmmo!

Here is what you need:

1 5 pound pork loin (or somewhere close)
about 5/6 slices of bacon, cut in half
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon

Let your pork loin set out for about 1/2 hour to come to room temperature.  Mix all the spices and rub over the entire pork loin.  Place in a 9x13 baking pan or dish, fat side up,  and cover the pork with the bacon slices.  Try not to overlap the bacon too much so it will cook.  Place in a 350 degree oven and cook for about 1.5 hours.

I did remember to take a picture of the roast just as I put it in the oven.  It was a crazy day.
While the pork is cooking, make the glaze.  Here is what you need:

1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 TBSP flour (I used 1.5 tsp. corn starch so it is gluten free)
2 TBSP cider vinegar
1/2 tsp dijon mustard

Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and stir until the sugar has melted and everything is combined.  Simmer for one (1) minute.  Remove the loin from the oven after 1.5 hours.  Pour the glaze over the entire roast and return the pan to the oven.  Continue to cook for another 15 - 30 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.

Remove the pan from the oven and let it sit for a few minutes before slicing and serving. (if you can wait that long)  One look at that crispy bacon on top and you will want to dig right in.

This dish is so fantastic that it could be served at the most elegant dinner party or for a simple family meal.  Oh my, it is so good.  It made me hungry just looking at the picture.  Everyone in the family loved it.  We will be having this again.

Add this recipe to your repertoire.  You will have requests to make it again.  I know if there had been any left, it would have made fantastic leftovers.  Maybe next time.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

There is nothing like sitting around the dinner table with family enjoying good food, laughing, talking and making memories.