Spring Rolls – during Spring. Duh!

My husband and I dearly adore spring rolls. No cooking involved. Just assembly. Quite of bit of it in fact. But so worth the effort.  A friend asked me how we make ours, so I thought I’d post the process here.  Don’t really have a recipe so will try to make up one and post later.

First off, spring rolls are eaten by several oriental cultures – Chinese, Vietnam, Korea and Indonesia.  I guess the ones I make are probably more Vietnamese in nature – with a little southern twist occasionally.  Today’s demo has no southern influence except for the f2016-06-06 18.02.21act the mint came from my very southern garden.

Note – at least for me, the kitchen becomes a very busy place with everything set up to make the rolls.

Next, I quickly boil some shrimp and reserve the hot water to soften the spring rolls – which come in a package and feel like course paper.2016-06-06 18.02.26 They are very delicate so some people double them up when making the rolls.  2016-06-06 18.03.24The photo shows a package of them next to lettuce which I use to help hold the rice noodles.

Before I get started, I take a handful of rice noodles and cover them with boiling water to soften them. 2016-06-06 18.02.35-2 I drain them before placing them in the rolls.

I shred some carrots and find some mint from the garden.  I also add in bean sprouts because I like the crunch.  2016-06-06 18.02.29


Next I start assembly. I put the shrimp up at the top of the roll on top of the mint. The idea is to have the stuff all show through the transparent rice paper. I think you get the idea.2016-06-06 18.11.31

I then make a peanut sauce – there are bunches of recipes out there – but peanut butter is the key ingredient.

Spring rolls, yum!

Spring rolls, yum!

The finished product is then served with the sauce – no cooking, very fresh tasting and you can experiment with what you build in your creation.

2016-06-06 18.03.16




Recipes with “hm” directions

First off, it’s been a while and I promised my very few readers I’d start blogging on my cooking and crafts site again. So, here we go, the first article for 2016.

A friend of mine asked me for my lamb dressing recipe and when it came to the part of putting in the cinnamon, I said “till the rice turns brown.”  Or in other recipes, as my friend Anne says, “until it looks right.”  One of my favorites is sprinkle the salt starting from the back of the pot towards the front, keeping your hand level to the pot, and jiggling it just a bit.  Yes, really. That’s how my grandma taught me to add salt to a pot roast.  LOL.

Now I am trying to put together a cookbook for my family and I realize many many of my recipes are done a certain way, that I remember and was taught, and are not written down.  It’s going to take me hours of trying these recipes I’ve made for years, making  note of how much I am using, so I can put together a recipe for someone not near enough for me to show the “shake from the back to the front” technique and others as well.

This made me wonder how many other recipes have been lost to families because we were distributed all over the place and no one was left to show us just the right motion, just the right amount of seasoning, just the right touch.

The same applies to how long something cooks.  For me, many recipes are when it “smells right.” You know, those of you who bake, that the oven emits just the right smell at just the right time, and even if you have set a timer, that has not gone off yet, you know, and your nose knows, that the tasty item is done. You just know.

For those of you who cook “the way grandma or your mom taught you” my challenge to you is to go put those recipes down on paper. Especially if you are the last one standing who knows the secret wiggle of the hips, or motion of the arms, that make that traditional recipe come out right.  Your family will thank you!

Science experiment – herbs, spice or how to really annoy a cat

We have cats.  We love our cats.  Our cats love us.  However….one of them is having some serious ‘sharing’ issues and his response is to spray everywhere in the house.  And he is our favorite cat. So, removing him is not an option.  I’ve tried every trick in the book to get him to stop but none have worked.

guiltyoreoThis has inspired tonight’s science experiment.  After spending quite a bit of time searching on Google for home remedies I came across several that talked about creating a spray made from vinegar, spices and herbs.  The herbs of “choice” are lavender, rosemary, and lemon grass, and the spice is cinnamon.

Taking several cuttings of the herbs from my garden and about 3 tablespoons of cinnamon, I boiled about 2 cups of water and poured it into a container with the herbs and cinnamon.

At this point, I performed an experiment.  I walked up to all the cats (we have 4 – don’t ask why so many – we are house sitting my mom’s cat) and showed them the container.  Always hopeful for a treat, they all walked up to the container and immediately raised their head and moved away very quickly.  Winner winner, we have a winner.

After straining the mixture through cheese cloth into a spray bottle, I added 3/4 cup of vinegar and will go around the house, spraying the baseboards and areas of repeated attacks by my annoyed male cat.

By the way, it doesn’t smell bad to humans at all.  In fact my husband thought I was making a curry. LOL.

I will report back later as to whether or not my humane treatment to deter my cat’s spraying worked. Or not.

Google Inspiration + Frugalness = Awesome Dinner

2015-03-30 17.07.41How many of you use Google for dinner inspiration? I bet a bunch.  We own our own business and when 5:00 comes around I have already been making so many decisions that figuring out what’s for dinner is the last thing on my mind.  So, I turn to Google.

Tonight’s dinner was no exception.  Hubbie had pulled out a package of sliced pork tenderloin.  This is the first part of the “frugal” pieces of this blog.  We like to buy the huge pork tenderloins at Costco and cut them up into either slices or chunks.  This was one of those packages – 4 small slices.

This week, hubbie had brought back some amazing cheeses (we are certified rats) so I went to the internet and Googled “pork and cheese” to see what kind of inspiration I could find out in internet-land.  I found a great site (I’ve put the URL below) that talked about pork medallions stuffed with sun dried tomatoes and cheese. Winner winner.

Here’s what I did with that “inspiration” because to me, that’s typically what a recipe is anyway.  I took the pork slices and pounded them out and marinated them with some olive oil, garlic, salt and oregano.  Then, I went to the fridge and realized I no longer had my jar of marinated sun dried tomatoes.  But…I did have a package of my home grown tomatoes that I had dried.  I needed to re-hydrate them but I wanted to do it with olive oil.  Also in the fridge was a jar of mushroom stems that I had left over from mushrooms caps, that I had put in a jar with olive oil and a little vinegar because I don’t throw away anything.  The olive oil was congealed, so I put a couple of teaspoons of this mixture in with the sun dried tomatoes and microwaved them.  The smell was amazing.

Next, I took out the Mobier cheese hubbie had bought (soft cheese with Ash) and crumbled it together with the tomatoes and some fresh chopped parsley from my garden.  I rolled this mixture inside the 4 pounded tenderloins and closed them with some small wooden sticks.

Next I browned them on all sides, placed them in a 375 degree oven in the same skillet and roasted them for about 20 minutes.  I removed the skillet, put the tenderloins on a plate to rest and deglazed the pan with some sherry.

OMG – what an amazing dish.  I must be candid and say I am blogging about this tonight so I will remember what I did. The flavors were spectacular.

I used Google for the inspiration and frugalness to have the pork, sun dried tomatoes and mushrooms to add to the mixture.  Inspiration – not perspiration. My favorite way to cook.


Being Frugal – Part one of a trend of articles

Several of my friends who follow my personal blog have been gently and not so gently nudging me to be more regular in my posts.  I’ve been really tied up with family and business issues so I have been neglectful so I’m going to rectify that now.

I want to start a series of articles about being frugal by using things that are typically available in a household.  Today I used one of the tips I recently heard about and thought it would be a good start to the series.

As for being frugal, it goes back in our family a long ways.  Before the Civil War, my family was quite prosperous.  There was a large family Antebellum home in Louisiana and my grandmother was raised like a princess.  She never quite forgot that, but when the war depleted the savings, and money went out the door, the family had to buckle down and learn to do things more efficiently, while still maintaining the level of civility they were used to.  In other words, we had to learn to be poor but not trashy.  Chuckle.  My grandmother never quite got over that part of it.  She instilled in me a sense of “princess-ness” which means I appreciate the finer things in life, but know how to get them without spending a fortune – unless  I really want a good glass of wine – then money is no object.

But more about that later.  Today’s post is about being nice to yourself, but frugally.  I LOVE a nice pedicure.  It is a form of decadence to me to have someone wash and scrub my feet and give me an amazing leg massage.  But, they are expensive so I usually only get them done on cruises.  I figure, heck, I am relaxing on the ocean, why not.  Since I don’t cruise as often as  I like the pedi’s equally don’t happen as often as well.

But, I walk around barefoot probably more than I should and over the winter wearing closed shoes means my feet get really dry, so when summer comes around, and I want to have pretty feet for sandals, my feet don’t cooperate.

Well, today I tried something that still feels amazing, a good 2 hours after the project was completed.  My mom told me about something she saw on Facebook.  She raved about how wonderful it worked.  I, being the skeptical person I am, went to Google to research the process.  Basically, it’s a Listerine and vinegar foot bath.  The idea is it will remove dead skin easily and your feet are supposed to feel even better than after a professional pedicure.  Humpf, I thought.  Wrong, I was.

The instructions are 1/4 cup of Listerine and 1/4 cup of vinegar in a warm water foot bath.  You soak your feet for 15 minutes or more and then the skin rubs right off.  It turns out it actually works.  It’s tingly and the Listerine has an interesting smell.  Some of the posts said to use the blue kind, but other posts said it stained your feet. Since I wasn’t interested in looking like a Smurf, I voted for the plain Listerine I had in the house.  I also choose to use apple cider vinegar, well, because I use that for so many other things, I felt what the heck.  In addition,  I have this nifty wooden foot scrubber that is covered in two kinds of sandpaper.  A really nice manicurist on one of the cruise ships bought me one when we were in port in Jamaica.  At $5,00, it really is a frugal find.  They are not allowed to use them anymore on the ships, so I am really fortunate that I got it when I did.  Included at the end is a picture of this nifty device.  I may have to figure out how to make one when this one wears out – or go on a quest the next time we are in Jamaica.

To finish it off, I used my Dr. Scholls Cooling peppermint foot lotion and now, 2 hours later, my feet still feel amazing.  I am not sure if it’s the foot lotion or the Listerine or the vinegar.  But who cares.  It was inexpensive, and just the right thing to do for a relaxing Sunday afternoon.  Cheap.  Easy.  Frugal.  Satisfying.

So, that’s the first of what I hope to be several blog articles on other frugal things we do around here all the time.  Today’s frugal adventure was a new one, but I am adding it to my list of things I will do often.  If you have any frugal tips, please share them as well.

Ciao, y’all.


Spring means fresh new grape vine leaves and Dolmades

Homemade Dolmades - stuffed grape leavesI love Spring.  It’s finally warm enough for me to get back into my garden and get my hands dirty.  It also means I can start growing fresh vegetables again.  I love saying “I am heading out to the market – and open my back door to my herb and veggie garden.  Nothing tastes better than fresh herbs and vegetables.

In the same area as my herbs is my one and only grape vine.  I don’t have a lot of garden space so I use it judiciously.  My vine produces just enough grapes to share with us and the wasps – although I hope to deploy a strategy on that soon.  The other thing my vine produces is grape leaves.  And that means Dolmades – stuffed grape leaves.  Today is dolmade day around here and I thought I’d share some photos I took a couple of years ago of this process.  The only thing different from the photos is I am using ground lamb today for more of a true middle eastern flavor.

Here’s the link to the photos and below is a recipe I like – although like most things I cook – this is more of a suggestion.


INGREDIENTS:Makes about 50 dolmades
● 1 jar preserved grape leaves, drained 
- I use fresh – just pick young leaves, remove stem, soak in hot water a few minutes)
● ½ cup longgrain (Basmati) rice
● ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
● 1 onion, finely chopped
● 3 cloves garlic, minced
● ½ pound lean ground lamb
● 1 teaspoon dried oregano
● Salt and freshly ground black pepper
● 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled finely or grated (I tend to leave this out – not sure why, just do)
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
● 1 teaspoon sugar (I leave this out – and instead use cinammon)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 lemon sliced, for garnish
● Mint leaves, for garnish


Carefully separate the grape leaves, place in a large bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Let the leaves soak for 20 minutes, then drain and rinse to remove excess salt.
  2. Drain the leaves, snip off the stems (reserving stems), and lay the leaves on a towel to dry.
  3. In a saucepan, bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil, and stir in the rice. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook rice until water is absorbed, about 17 to 20 minutes.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet, add the onion and saute until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute one more minute. Add the lamb and cook until the meat is well browned, breaking it apart with a fork while cooking, about 15 minutes. Add the oregano, cinammon and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the feta and remove from the heat. Stir in the rice, parsley and mint.
  5. Place one leaf on a flat surface, vein side up, shiny side down. Place a rounded teaspoon of filling in the center of the leaf, near the stem edge. Fold the stem end over the filling, then fold both sides toward the middle, and form into a roll. Squeeze lightly in the palm of your hand to secure the roll. Repeat process with remaining leaves and filling.
  6. Line the bottom of a 3 quart heavy saucepan with reserved stems, trimmings and any leftover or torn grape leaves, and arrange bundles seam sides down, packing them close together in layers.
  7. Combine the remaining ¼ cup olive oil with 3/4 cup water, the sugar, and lemon juice, and pour over the stuffed grape leaves.
  8. Place a small, heatproof plate on top of the stuffed leaves, cover the pan and simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until leaves are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
  9. Serve warm, or at room temperature, garnished with lemon slices and mint leaves
Enjoy. Ciao y'all.

Spring is here – time to get dirty

Growing up in Miami Florida we basically had two seasons – rainy and not rainy.  Well, that’s not totally true because it would occasionally get cold.  But it didn’t stay cold which meant certain plants simply won’t grow there.

When I moved to Tennessee almost 20 years ago I brought some of my favorite plants and watched them shrivel and die overnight after a freeze.  Ok, lesson learned.  Along the way I discovered perennials – real ones – not the ones that just kept growing in Florida because there was nothing to kill them.  In addition, I learned that one must either mark the ground where these plants live or suffer having them removed by kind and helpful Florida family.  After all, dead twigs and things are to go away.  Well, not really, if they are perennials. Another lesson learned.

After learning those lessons I have fallen in love with seasons and spring is my favorite.  Plants start budding.  The dreary drab colors of winter give way to reds, yellows, whites and eventually green as everything living rejoices and buds away.

Spring also means it’s time for me to move away from my computer and go outside and get dirty.  Time to remove the dead leaves and limbs and old mulch.  My hostas have little spikes sticking up out of the ground with a promise of more to come.  The forsythia, the first thing to bloom in my yard, is a beautiful yellow.  My two fruit trees bloom white, red and pink.  It’s really a glorious palette of color.

And… the bugs come back.  This last winter was pretty much non-existent so the insects have arrived in force.  The good ones are welcome – bees, lady bugs, some moths.  But today I found one of the unwelcome ones.  Digging in the dirt means ticks.  No winter to speak of means more ticks.  And they slowly inch their way up your leg on their mission to get under your clothes to dig in.  And this is not a good thing – around here it can cause Lyme Disease.  I’ve done everything I can to try to keep them away but to no avail.  So, after every dirt digging foray it’s a check of all body parts, including hair.

Even with ticks, and occasionally finding sleeping snakes (yes, snakes) I still await my spring digging with pleasure.  I am pretty frugal, and each year I allow myself one new plant for the yard.  I reserve most of the funds I allocate to gardening to my vegetable patch.  But some of it is earmarked for a new addition.  I don’t have the biggest yard so I have to be selective in what I plant.  This years addition is a Pomegranate tree.  With any luck we’ll have fruit in 3 years.  And Pomegranate martinis. Yum.

Spring means fresh to me.  That includes food.  By this time, I am over the hockey puck tomatoes in the stores.  All the vegetables we have eaten  have been either canned or frozen because the fresh is usually too expensive. I really like it when I can grow my vegetables.  And sometimes it is possible to grow them away from dirt.

Over the weekend when I went to get seeds for the vegetable garden, I stopped by the local Oriental market which is right nearby.  They had packages of mung beans.  A lot of you may know this, but mung beans are used to make bean sprouts.  Two jars are now in process on my kitchen window.  It’s very easy.  You need a jar, a screw on top (without a center – like the ones used for canning) and some screening material.  You cut the screen to fit inside the screw top.  Into the jar, pour enough dry mung beans to cover the bottom.  Cover the beans with water and let them soak overnight.  In the morning, empty out the water by inverting the jar – that’s the reason for the screen and also so the beans can breathe.  Pour in more water, swirl around and pour that water out.  You want just damp beans in the jar.  Repeat this process every day.

Here’s some photos of my two jars.  One of the photos is a bit blurry but the idea was to show you the screening.sprouts1sprouts2

That’s it for now.  I will add some follow up photos when the sprouts start happening along with one of my favorite recipes for sprouts – spring rolls.

Happy spring everyone.  Go get dirty. Ciao, y’all.