Monthly Archives: July 2014

Peach Cobbler via I-65

Peach Watertower at Exit 212Pin
Peach-zilla at Exit 212

If you have ever traveled in Alabama you more than likely have spent some time on Interstate 65. This well traversed corridor connects the tippy top of the state all the way to nearly its southernmost point (which is Sand Island Light off the coast of Dauphin Island).  Dauphin Island was once my hometown so I have spent quite a bit of time traveling across the state.  I-65 basically bisects the state at the largest cities, Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile.

Just south of Birmingham, in Clanton is a landmark that delights all the children who see it, and can cause quite a stir with adults as well.  It is the big Peach Water Tower.  Although it is a novelty for most on the road, it is actually the X on a treasure map and the prize is peaches, of course.

We stopped at a little fruit stand just underneath the peach and bought a few peaches and some green tomatoes and I was in Little Ol’ Southern Lady Heaven.  You know you are in for a treat when the peach in its natural state smells good and fills your car with the promise of good things to come.  So it was just plain sinful to make them into Paula Deen’s Peach Cobbler.  I usually doctor recipes or change things a bit according to my own tastes or that of my family but this one needed no changes or substitutions.

It was warm, bubbly and not too sweet.  The peaches balanced out the sweetness of the cobbler itself and even with vanilla ice cream wasn’t as sweet as some cobblers I have had in the past.

So if you are looking for a great peach cobbler recipe, Paula Deen’s is worth a try.  It certainly worked for me!

 

 

Best Summer Toy

When summer comes, keeping the kids entertained without allowing marathon TV watching or breaking the budget can seem daunting to near impossible. We have taken many trips to the dollar store as a result and while we do get many fun items, most of the toys do not last the riggers of active children for very long. My kids can break even the most indestructible toys. It seems like they are playing a game called “Titanic” and they are the iceberg.
Thankfully, I have found a fantastic toy that the kids love and is relatively inexpensive. When the neighborhood kids come to visit they love it too, and it provides large blocks of time for me to read without interruption clean.

This wonderful toy is the Gazillion Bubble Hurricane Machine.  It seriously produces a ton of bubbles! For $9.99 plus tax, each summer I can get anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour of the kids playing outside everyday without constant parading back and forth inside the house.  They really enjoy running through all the bubbles and play together nicely in the process.   An added bonus is that the kids don’t play with the machine itself, just the bubbles it produces so the likelihood of it breaking is decreased.  You see I said decreased, because my kids will find a way.  It think it is one of their superpowers.

A strong word of caution, use Gazillion Brand Bubbles and don’t refill with cheap bubble solution. Like many other things it pays to buy the real thing.  I will never be convinced that the generic version of toaster pastries tastes as good as the Pop Tart brand and similarly, not all bubble solutions are the same.  We used up the 4oz bottle that is provided in about 30 minutes and I added some cheap bubble solution from the dollar bin and was surprised at the difference in the production of bubbles.

Also, it does require 6 AA batteries that do not come included.  Either have some on hand or be sure to pick up a pack at the same time so that you don’t have disappointed kiddos.

Bubbles! 004 editedPin

I do need to replace it every summer because we leave it out on the back patio all year. The bubble well is open and I don’t want it carted through the house.  After awhile of sitting out in the elements the innards get a bit goopy.   Plus, it collects bugs like a pitcher plant and who wants that mess in their house?  That is just crazy talk.
Bubbles! 012 editedPinAs you can see, this bubble machine works for me and my kiddos! Check out those gazillion bubbles!

 

 

What Summer Tastes Like to this Southern Girl!

It is officially here…summer! Olaf from Frozen is probably twirling in a field of dandelions singing of the virtues of great combinations. In his case, hot and cold. For southerners, it is food pairings usually only found in the summer. One of my favorites is fried green tomatoes.  Even my vegetable avoiding husband feels the rumbling in his Georgia born belly when I serve up a plate of Beer Battered Fried Green Tomatoes!

I buy tons of red tomatoes all year long but there is something wonderful about the firmness and tartness of local tomato encased in the crispy blanket of fried batter.   As a native Alabamian (although I did have a brief 8 year stint in North Carolina), I grew up less than 10 miles from Irondale, the home of the Whistle Stop Café from Fannie Flagg’s book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.  Fannie Flagg also has a cookbook available with the official Whistle Stop Café recipe which I recommend as well.  Perhaps it was my geography that gave me a special place in my heart (and tummy) for fried green tomatoes.

Batter recipes can be as varied as BBQ sauce recipes in the south and sometimes can similarly be based on geography.  North Carolina is known for it’s vinegar and pepper sauces while Alabama tends to favor ketchup based sauces.  Tennessee likes mustard based and ketchup based depending on what side of the state you find yourself.  I have found the same applies to fry batters.  While I was a student at Auburn University (War Eagle!), a wonderful little eatery called Veggies-To-Go offered fried green tomatoes (seasonally) in a cornmeal batter.  My mom, from Birmingham, used the most simple and delicious recipe I have come across of flour, salt, pepper and beer.  Her fried green tomatoes always came out crisp and light.  In Texas, they sometimes add sugar to the batter and in Louisiana the tomato dish isn’t complete without remoulade sauce.

I found this recipe on food.com and doctored it a bit to come up with my own Frankenstein’s Monster of a delicious batter.   I added two different kinds of bread crumbs, some spices and omitted the lemon.  To me, the green tomatoes have enough tartness not to need any added to the batter.

Here is my recipe!  I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!

Caren’s Beer Battered Fried Green Tomatoes

3 Large Green Tomatoes, thinly sliced; less than 1/4 inch is ideal

1 Cup All Purpose Flour  ( I used King Arthur.)

1/2 cup of seasoned bread crumbs

1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs

1 tsp of salt (plus extra for season the tomatoes before dipping)

1 tsp of pepper (plus extra for season the tomatoes before dipping)

1 tsp of baking powder

1/2 tsp of baking soda

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp of chipotle chili powder

Almost one entire 12 oz bottle of beer ( I used Shock Top Honey Bourbon Cask Wheat)

vegetable oil (enough to coat your cast iron skillet; it will need to be added to at the start of each new batch)

Slice the tomatoes and lay them out on a piece of wax paper.  Salt and pepper each slice on both sides.  Add all the dry ingredients in to a medium sized mixing bowl and reserve 1/2 cup of the flour and bread crumb mixture.  Lightly coat each slice of tomato with some of the reserved dry flour mixture.  Add beer to the bowl of flour/bread crumbs until it is the consistency of pancake batter.  Dip each floured tomato slice into the wet batter mixture until it is nicely and uniformly covered.  Fry in a skillet set on medium high heat until each side is golden brown.  Let drain on a paper towel covered plate or cookie sheet.   Enjoy!

Leftovers can be refrigerated in an air tight container between sheets of parchment paper. Reheat in the oven at 350 degrees on a cookie sheet so they crisp back up.  Just as good the second day!

Fried Green Tomatoes editedPin

This recipe certainly worked for me!