Welcome to Grasshopper Cottage which journals the remodeling, food, gardening and life in a 1930's Alabama cottage. The name came from the paint color, not from an infestation of grasshoppers. There are 287 homes on tree lined streets surrounding a central grassy mall. This historic district has been listed on the National Historic Register in Washington, D.C. Most of the lots were created to be large enough for a sustainable garden and a carriage house for a cow, chicken and wagon/carriage in additional to the main cottage.
Monday, May 20, 2013
My daughter recently found the recipe collection of her husband's grandmother. Agnes is featured in the March 23, 2013 post called Happy 91st Birthday. There are 100's of handwritten recipes! Most are written on recipe cards or scraps of paper. She wrote them on the back of bills, envelopes, and birthday/Christmas cards just anything that was handy. Grandmother Agnes was born and raised in the deep South so these recipes are somewhat different from my family"s recipes from the Midwest.
Many of the recipes contained recipes for "casserole-type" entrees made with canned creamed soup, such as, pork chops with canned Cream of Mushroom soup or boneless chicken breasts with canned Cream of Chicken soup. These were mostly clipped out of magazines, newspapers. or came from women's club/church newsletters. Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup, Cream of Celery soup, Cream of Mushroom soup all came on the market in 1934. In order to promote these soups, recipes were freely run with soups for advertising. I think women rushed to make these recipes as they were quick to prepare/cook and only involved one pot which went into the oven, plus they were tasty and you could stretch a meal to accommodate extra people.
There are numerous variations of ambrosia, fudge, divinity, hash brown potato casserole, meatloaf and an old calendar with the hunting dates. Lots of jello recipes, several handwritten recipes say Momma's chocolate cake, Momma's Cajun shrimp...so if these are her mother's recipes they are quite old as she is 91 years old. Many times on the index card/recipe she wrote the family member or friend's name so she would remember who gave her the recipe.
This was also a time when housekeeping involved a lot of manual labor. Several recipes are paper clipped together and said, "Wash Day Recipes, Ironing Day Recipes." Some recipes used equipment not as popular today like "Chafing Dish Recipes."
My mother kept her recipes (she cooked most of the time without a recipe) in a small metal index card box she kept in the cabinet right next to the range. I now have her recipes since she has passed on. I am happy my daughter has Grandmother Agnes recipes. I am an extreme clipper of recipes myself and that gone through several ways to organize them. I got the Cook'n Recipe Organizer software for Christmas and a small portable scanner. That is an ongoing project as tons of recipes have been collected over the last 50 years.
Friday, May 10, 2013
The in-wall vacuum came to a premature death...when I called the vacuum cleaner repairman, you know what he said..."Lady, the motor is burnt up." Without asking any more questions you just instinctively know it will be expensive. Of course, the second thing he says is "Sorry, but this company went out of business in 2004." And, the third thing he says..."I can sell you a new more powerful vacuum." Above is the photo of the new unit that he swears will lift a 100 lb golden retriever off the floor...which is what we have, except we have TWO 100 lb golden retrievers. I may be stretching the truth a bit but saleman assured me it was more powerful and had two motors in it and easier to clean filter. So now what could go wrong?
The vacuum fits outside the house in a compartment my husband built because we originally had it in the laundry room inside the house and it was too noisy and I needed the space. The box the old vacuum fit in of course does not fit the new vacuum. It is much larger. Therefore, my husband has to tear off the roof of the compartment and the wall, plus length it and put on a new door...all while it has rained every day and he is working a lot of hours at his regular job.
Needless to say, you can imagine how my house looks inside with no vacuuming going on for a week or more with grandchildren, us living in it and two large hairy dogs running around. Tonight it is nearly dark, rain clouds are approaching and my hubby is frantically trying to build a new box and attach vacuum. It won't all happen tonight and it is supposed to rain all day tomorrow.
Sunday is Mother's Day and that would be a great Mother's Day gift!
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Asparagus needs a well-drained sandy soil that is sunny most of the day. That is one of the reasons we plant it in a raised bed. We have a lot of old hickory, oaks, sugar maples and sycamore trees in our yard so it is difficult to find a sunny place to garden. Once you have planted the crowns you really can't ever move the aparagus bed so be sure where you would to grow it for years to come.
We really don't have a lot of room for asparagus so have a long narrow bed. The edible part of the asparagus is the shoots which if not picked quickly turn into tall fern-like plants. Even a day without picking will find that they have gotten away from you and began to spread quickly. Asparagus can grow 10 inches in just 24 hours. It takes 3 or 5 years after planting the asparagus to establish the bed so you can begin harvesting and the bed should produce for at least 15 years without being replanted. But when the harvest begins you are either freezing or eating a lot of asparagus. If freezing remember that asparagus is one of those vegetables that have to be blanched before freezing.
The season is March through June but this year with the cold wet spring they were a little behind schedule sprouting. In the photo above you can see them sticking up out of the soil. I usually pick them when they are 6 -8 inches tall and the heads of the spears still tight. Early in the season they will be thin and later in the season they will get thicker in size. Do not cut down the ferns of the asparagus until it turns brown in the fall, it is the ferns with the red berries that feed the crowns for a harvest in the spring.
The thin spears I usually steam just for a couple of minutes or they will get mushy quick...the thicker later season spears can be put on the grill and usually hold their shape. I use a slotted grill pan on the BBQ so they don't stick or fall through the grates. While you are waiting to get enough for a meal, store them upright in a glass with some water in the bottom in the refrigerator.
Last night we had the asparagus just steamed, grilled pork chops, butter/garlic rice and cooked apples. You can use asparagus in salads, angel hair pasta dishes, pizzas, soups, quiches, etc. It is very healthy as asparagus is a very good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
The azaleas are beginning to bloom and flood the yard with their brilliance. In a mass on the corner of the cottage is the pink-purple George Tabor Azaleas and the white Mrs. G.G. Gerbing Azaleas. They are beautiful mixed together in a wave of color.
These are large blooms and you can see I have mixed some ferns in with them and the fronds are peeking through the blossoms.
The pansies in front of the azaleas will be replaced with Vinca as the weather heats up.
Around the sunroom and screened porch in the back yard is a mass of Pride of Mobile Azaleas. There are gardenias at the other end of the azaleas and at the far end of the yard is Formosa Azaleas massed near a large Shagbark hickory tree.
Monday, April 15, 2013
My driveway, yard, street and everything outside this morning is absolutely covered in "Catkins" or the long flower clusters from oak trees. This is an old neighborhood with canopies of oak trees up and down every street and many around the homes. We have three huge oak trees that are 80 years old in just the front yard. These catkins remain closed all winter and then in the spring magically open, relying on the wind to spread the pollen on every surface outside...plus tracked inside on shoes and dogs. Mid-April is the height of the season when every allergy sufferer goes about sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and itching. Some days it appears like a giant paintbrush dabbed yellow pigment and clouds of yellow pollen float like a haze over the hills and valleys.
You can almost scoop them up with a shovel and a broom is needed on the porches and patio. This is a view down my street after the wind blew yesterday.
If this afternoon I run through the car wash...tomorrow morning it looks just the same. Welcome to spring in the South.
Monday, April 8, 2013
Finally, after a very wet and cold winter...planting time is here! It seems that spring has reluctantly arrived and escaped the grip of winter. Gone is the broccoli and straw bale from Halloween...turned over and over into the soft soil. The only things remaining in the garden now are winter onions, asparagus and the strawberries.
The garden is then raked and ready for seeds and transplants. Our garden isn't huge, but each year we have green beans, peas, corn, tomatoes, several types of squash and lettuce, spinach, pumpkins, melons, asparagus, onions, potatoes, etc. We eat most of it fresh and freeze the rest for later.
Several different kinds of tomatoes are planted including small cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes and large tomatoes.
Gardening requires lots of water - most of it in the form of perspiration. (Lou Erickson)
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
This is broccoli in the garden from last year that wintered over. This weekend we will plant new transplanted broccoli plants for spring harvest and pull up the old plants that have bolted. Bolting happens when the broccoli "buds" that are edible open up and yellow flowers appear. When the weather gets the soil too warm or the plants are old like the ones above the bolting occurs. Broccoli is a cool weather crop and likes temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
By leaving the plants in the garden over the winter we were able to use the pretty yellow flowers as filler in floral arrangements. Last weekend we needed a vase of mixed flowers and the only things blooming in the yard were a few daffodils, some iris...glad we had the "bolted" broccoli blooms.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
We are used to seeing squirrels dart from one tree to the next with their gray or reddish-brown coats blending in with the brown tree trunks and limbs. But I have never seen a "white squirrel" in all my years of observing nature and living in four different states. My son, in South Carolina, sent me this photo from his backyard yesterday of a snow white squirrel cracking nuts in a tree. We both thought it was an albino squirrel but that can't be substantiated without checking out the eye color. There are regular white squirrels with brown eyes and then there are albino white squirrels with pink or blue eyes. Hopefully, he will see it again with a closer view.
Many locations with white squirrel populations have a legend behind the colorless rodents...they escaped a circus truck, they came as a pair from Europe, or other folklore. There are town ordinances to protect them, festivals to honor them, and some have developed tourist followings. One town in North Carolina, about 30% of their squirrel population is white.
I've discovered there is a whole line of merchandise promoting white squirrels from candles, earrings, t-shirts, suncatchers, mugs, ornaments, plush toys, books, and notecards.
Perhaps I will yet see a white squirrel...have you seen one?
Monday, April 1, 2013
Birmingham, Alabama is near the end of the Southern Appalachian Mountains where berry crops are native to the wilderness. If you haven't had Southern Blackberry Cobbler with homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream I feel sorry for you or large sweet juicy blackberries on your morning cereal. So what is a "Blackberry Winter?" Old-timers in the Appalachians call the last cold snap that happens late in the spring "Blackberry Winter" as the cold is needed to set the blooms of the blackberry brambles. Usually it comes without warning, just as you have broken out your flip-flops and shorts on the first 80 degree day in spring. You never set out your tomato plants until after "Blackberry Winter."
A tour around the other berries in the garden today see the strawberries (left) and blueberries (right) both blooming. The blueberries are very sensitive to late cold snaps and some years our harvest is cut in half because of it. I have tried covering all the bushes (which are very tall) with either blankets or tarps but sure enough if it is cold, it is windy and the coverings knock off the blooms.
I think we are ready to plant in the garden. Any frost or freeze this week I feel will be north of Birmingham, Alabama and a late frost or freeze after April 10th is extremely rare. I am ready for planting the garden and spring. This has been a cold, wet winter here in the South so onto spring!!
Monday, March 25, 2013
Happy 91st birthday to my son-in-law's grandmother. My daughter and son-in-law hosted a wonderful lunch for her on Saturday at their home. Her nieces, nephews, friends and both my grandchildren attended. My daughter made the Southern Living recipe for Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole, Cream Cheese mints, fresh rolls, fruit salad, cake (from the bakery) and lemonade/iced tea.
The poppy seed chicken casserole is one of those basic casseroles you can take to friends and relatives that need a prepared dinner or use for a lunch/dinner. Just grease a 9 X 12 pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together 1 can of Cream of Chicken soup, 1 can of Cream of Mushroom soup, 1 cup of sour cream and 1 cup of chicken broth. Now put in any seasonings you like...I use pepper, paprika, fresh thyme, several dashes of Tabasco sauce and no salt if using regular soups. You'll need about 4 cups of shredded cooked chicken. I use chicken breasts with skin on to keep in moisture...rub with olive oil and pop them in the oven about 40-50 minutes. Cover when they come out of the oven...cool and then shred. Put the shredded chicken in the bottom of the pan and pour soup mixture over chicken.
Now before you do this you can use your imagination and add some of the following ingredients if you want to...frozen peas, rice, sauteed onions/mushrooms/celery, sliced almonds, water chestnuts, etc. to the soup mixture. I usually put in the sautéed onions, mushrooms and frozen peas but you do what you like. Add about 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese on top before adding the topping. Then in another bowl make the topping. My daughter used crushed saltines (about 1 1/2 sleeves) and about 1 1/2 tsp of poppy seeds. I have used Ritz crackers, fried canned onions, bread crumbs, etc. or whatever you have on hand. Add 1 stick of melted butter to cracker mixture and spread on top. Bake until bubbly or 40 minutes. This can be served by itself like we did for lunch or for a more hearty dinner, spoon it over rice.
The mints only contain three ingredients...powdered sugar, cream cheese and peppermint extract. A double batch (you will want to make a double batch as they are addicting) is creaming 6 oz. of cream cheese with 1 tsp. peppermint extract with the mixer until light and fluffy. We left ours white but if you want a color just add food coloring at this stage. Then slowly add 6 cups of sifted powdered sugar, scraping down the sides until well blended. Spread wax paper on cookie sheets. Sprinkle the wax paper with sifted powdered sugar so they don't stick. Using a teaspoon drop the mixture on the waxed paper the size of a small round melon ball. Just press the tops gently with the tines of a fork like we did or use a candy mold/stamp. Let the mints dry over night on the counter...turn over after about 12 hours so both sides dry completely. If not using them that day...store in an airtight container unrefrigerated. These are very popular and disappear quickly.
Set up the beverages water, iced tea, lemonade, etc. to the side and let everyone serve themselves.
Grandmother A is a very active lady whether it is playing cards with friends, shopping, going out for Sunday lunch or doing aerobic water exercises. She enjoyed the lunch with family/friends.
Posted by Linda at 5:35 PM
Monday, March 18, 2013
My daughter-in-law loves making cupcakes for her family and friends. I think she has cornered the market on holiday cupcakes. She is holding the cupcakes she made yesterday for St. Patrick's Day. This Irish cupcake is known by several names but all have similar recipes (Drunken Irish Cupcake, Jameson Cupcake, Guinness Cupcake), because it was developed from an Irish cocktail made of Irish stout, Irish cream, and Irish whiskey. It has a Guinness chocolate cake, Jameson chocolate ganache filling, and Bailey's Irish Cream frosting...decorate the top with green sprinkles or tiny shamrock green sprinkles.
My grandson loves to lick the beaters (just plain chocolate cupcakes for him) while Mom makes frosting. He was the big helper in the kitchen.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Last night was a panini and soup night. This cream of chicken noodle soup is very hearty especially since yesterday was a cold, rainy day. You need 1/2 lb of boneless, skinless cooked chicken. I used about 3/4 - 1 lb of boneless, skinless chicken thighs but you could use chicken breasts or rotisserie chicken. Put them on a shallow pan, brush with olive oil and season well with salt/pepper on each side. Bake about 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Drain on paper towel. Bring 6-8 cups of chicken broth with a bay leaf to a boil. Add one package of Reames Homestyle frozen egg noodles and simmer 20 minutes. Stir frequently.
Cut up a handful of fresh parsley or use dried (1 tsp), 1 cup chopped carrots, 1 cup chopped celery, 1 cup chopped onion (I use less onion)...add to chicken broth with 1/4 tsp thyme or some fresh thyme and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Simmer another 10 - 15 min. Check noodles and vegetables that they are done. In small skillet melt 4 Tb butter and 1/4 cup flour...cook and stir about 2 minutes but don't brown. Add 1 cup heavy cream or half and half to broth mixture stirring continually and simmer. Add flour mixture, cook and stir another 2 minutes or so. Discard bay leaf...Add cut up cooked chicken (remove any fat from chicken) and 1/4 sherry if desired. I didn't have any sherry. Simmer for a few minutes...then serve.
My daughters have been kidding me about using all the chicken broth I have on hand and this was a tasty way to clean out my pantry. This recipe was on the back of a Reames package a long time ago, not sure if it still is on the package. You can leave out the cream and flour mixture for a clear broth chicken noodle soup.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
The cottage garden would not be complete with an old standby...Forsythia. We are using these bushes as screening along the backside of the BBQ at the end of the porch. This location gets lots of western sun so they should be spectacular in the spring. The variety is Lynwood Gold which has an abundance of large yellow spring blooms. Across the driveway the Forsythia will be looking at the perennial garden and the old-fashioned Bridal Wreath Spirea bushes.
Today it was beautiful outside but tomorrow rain returns. I am definitely ready for spring so hopefully the Forsythia will get me in the mood. Hubby was busy today, planting the bushes, fixing the roof and doing all those outside tasks as the weather warms up. Happy Spring!!
Thursday, March 7, 2013
I brown 1 lb of ground sirloin in a skillet, drain on paper towel. If you want you can saute some sliced mushrooms which if I have them I do. Set aside to drain. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Stir together in a large bowl...4 cups of ricotta cheese, 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 2 eggs (beaten), 1 Tb. chopped fresh parsley or 1 pkg of chopped frozen spinach (thawed and drained/squeezed dry) which I did in this dish, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, and 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg.
In a 9 x 12 baking dish (sprayed with Pam if you have it), use 2 jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I use Newman's Marinara sauce). Spread 1 cup of sauce in bottom of pan, fill each cooked shell with about 1 1/2 Tb cheese mixture, layer 1/2 of filled shells in pan, spread with 1/2 remaining spaghetti sauce on shells in pan. Then do another layer and finish with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup). Cover with foil, bake 35 minutes until hot and bubbling. About 8-10 serving. If you froze it...cook about 2 hrs at 350 degrees and if in refrigerator about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. If you take it to someone, take it refrigerated so they can cook it.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
The closet chests are finished! There are two matching chests on either side of the elongated octagon window in the master bedroom closet. It is really nice to have something to put your underwear, socks, PJ's and other clothing in drawers for a change. The solid brass hardware looks fantastic on the chests. The chests match the king-sized bed and nightstands that hubby also built a few years ago.
Now to have a stained glass insert made for the window between the chests. The octagon window is a feature of all the historical homes in this district. Each house has one octagon window somewhere in the plan visible to the street. The closet has hanging rods on each end for clothing. A chair and cedar chest also occupy the space. It is more like a dressing room than closet.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
This chicken mushroom entree only takes a few minutes prep, then pop into the oven while you change your clothes, let the dog out, look through the mail and unwind from the day. Saute boneless chicken breasts that have been seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika until lightly browned. Set them aside...
Saute sliced portabella mushrooms, garlic and sliced onions in a small amount of butter. Add about 1/2 cup of red wine and 2 cups of beef broth or au jus. I use 2 packages of prepared Knoor Au Jus. Simmer for a few minutes and add chicken back. Cover with lid or foil, bake 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.
I serve it over rice, but you can do mashed potatoes or noodles with a green vegetable or salad.
Friday, February 22, 2013
This 3" solid brass drawer handle has disappeared from the marketplace. Why did it get pulled off the shelves? Now the new closet chests are done except for the hardware and it is no longer available. We have these handles on other pieces of furniture my hubby made for the master bedroom several years ago. They are made in England. This style of handle is called a "Pierced Griffin Chippendale." Pierced because of the cutouts...Griffin because the top on each side has griffins and Chippendale because it is a classic colonial style. You would think it would be a common style with lots of companies manufacturing them, but no...there are handles where the griffin heads are turned out and not in...some that are solid with no cutouts or piercing and a few that aren't solid brass.
Finally after many hours on the Internet, one company had them but they were antique brass and not polished brass. Another day and more searching...we found something similar, not exact...placed the order for 12 handles and 12 knobs and lo and behold came an email back saying they were out of stock for 4-6 weeks.
Don't you want to just finish a job sometimes...
Sunday, February 17, 2013
I have made another version of this on an earlier blog called Portabella Mushroom Pot Pie. It is under "Comfort Foods." This is a very quick and tasty dinner but not exactly inexpensive. You can put whatever you like in it and serve it over rice or noodles. If I put sour cream in it...I usually put it over noodles and if leave as brown sauce I put it over rice. This and a tossed salad or fruit is a favorful dinner.
Saute 1 small onion and minced garlic or whatever you like with some olive oil in a large skillet. Remove after browned...I probably got this slightly too brown.
I use a very tender meat that does not need cooked long. My grocery store sells beef tenderloin tails in a package, usually 3 or 4 to a package. This is the ends of beef tenderloins about 5 to 6 inches long. I cut them thin using my Santoku knife. It doesn't take much meat as you are cutting them thin, but this is your expense. Season and toss them in a large skillet with some olive oil and sear them on each side quickly and remove.
You can use homemade beef broth or whatever you are used to but for quickness/taste I like Knoor Au Jus. I use 2 packages for enough sauce...it is about 2 cups of broth. Then saute 2 packages of sliced Portabella mushrooms in some olive oil and I add some butter for taste. Then add 1 to 3/4 small bottle of any red wine or just about 1 cup of red wine you have open. Let that simmer.
I usually use these small bottles of wine for cooking. Just choose any brand you like.
Add the beef back to mixture and reduce sauce by slow simmer, no lid.
If you decide to add sour cream at this point...take it off the burner so the cream doesn't separate. Meanwhile make your vegetable, salad, bread, rice or noodles and ready to serve. The whole thing won't take 30 minutes.