3 Natural Fall Wreaths…

49A3F03F-BE30-4796-8C1E-933AEF3BB261Here at the Cottage, I don’t change out front door wreaths for every season or holiday; however: in the fall when the ferns are shriveled up from the heat, the chrysanthemums sit and sulk and refuse to bloom and… let’s face it, it’s still hot and flowering pants in the border are beginning to wane… so! a wreath seems to be a good way to freshen up the front door as we transition from summer to fall. And let’s face it- when the garden starts to look tired, and it’s hot and dusty; shining up the front door for a bit of curb appeal, even perking up the screen porch makes things feel like fall even if it’s still hot as the hinges on devil’s back door!

5FF5A447-644E-4BFB-8196-1109CCDF5427Then, there’s this- I think it’s fun to forage for blooms, vines and quirky things. I wind them up into a pretty wreath (see those pretty things above!).  Now…. Fresh and dried materials won’t hold up forever, so… It’s better to enjoy the wreaths for a season, then put all except the base material in the compost pile.

Here’s another thing to think about, sometimes a fresh wreath is for a special event or party and isn’t expected to be everlasting, in fact it’s beauty is for the occasion like a flower arrangement.  *Please note I didn’t mention a wedding wreath because let’s face it, in the South- football season and hurricane season aren’t considered optimal times for a wedding, which is a shame since there’s such a bevy of beautiful blooms! If a couple does decide to tie the knot in fall- they check the football schedule or offer a room where the game can be watched, they ask the officiant which his favorite team is and! The couple should have alternate evacuation routes  in place if a tornado or hurricane interferes with the festivities! And don’t get me started on booking a honeymoon during storm season! Well…I’ve gotten off on a tangent… Here’s two wreaths we’ve made this Fall and one I’ve kept from year to year. They are 3 of my favorite natural fall wreaths!

All three are done on a form. I generally on a wire frame, a straw form or a grapevine wreath. D26F917D-763D-4884-A430-0EFC92310ABA

One was a purchased form and the other two are on a ‘native’ grapevine called muscadines- which grow wild here and we also have cultivated muscadines which we grow… both vine types make excellent wreaths on their own with lots of tendrils and even little clusters of dried muscadines; these and nothing more make a wonderful free form wreath. Just start winding it up and leave on the curlyques!  Please don’t worry about perfection, the charm of a natural wreath is the imperfections!

7EACE68D-90C1-4233-AAA1-004D5D4E49B1One wreath is made simply of Annabelle hydrangeas which usually dry to a pale green, then tinged with pink or if picked early will dry to a delicate pale cream.  Here’s a close up of how mine dried this year- though sometimes they turn a light tan sort of like a paper bag!

DDF96A28-B85F-49AB-99E1-43D5D5D35AFBThe mixed hydrangea wreath at the top and below is a foraged wreath with vines, wild flowers, fading roses and ferns. The first round of foraged flowers were too droopy by the time I made this wreath- so I just went out and snipped a few more things! Use your imagination and what you can find!

E2E3230B-60BC-4310-8D43-99981B673E23This foraged wreath is one of my favorites- yet I don’t expect it to be an everlasting one. I would mention, the fresh additions like the ferns generally don’t dry well- yet they could be refreshed and replaced. Feel free to remove anything past it’s prime and replace with some new things! And now for the natural fall wreath I’ve kept- drumroll please…

7D109C83-00DD-4892-8580-29C7B38D7318The other wreath is made of Alabama grown Cotton- this is the one I’ve kept from season to season- it’s very special to me. The cotton was grown at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens in the George Washington Carver garden, planted to honor this famous Alabamian whose work to enrich the soil with primarily peanuts, in depleted cotton fields through crop rotation. His research and work is legendary. This particular cotton was being pulled up at the botanical garden in the fall, so I asked the head gardener, who was about to discard the cotton stems and bolls-

‘Could I have some of that Cotton?

He graciously gave all of it to me! I wouldn’t take anything for this special wreath! Cotton is still a cash crop here and is occasionally grown for the floral trade and I hope this practice will continue! Even with it’s sad history, there may be nothing prettier than a field of cotton pushing up out of the red clay soil of Alabama is a sight to see!EB9CB100-2FA2-4A50-A4F7-6E6DA4D7F779

Please don’t let perfectionism get in your way! Just get started…with a walk in the woods, around your neighborhood and even your own garden! Pick way more than you think you’ll need! I keep stuffing material in as tight as I can around the wreath form, then occasionally secure with cotton butcher’s twine or fine floral wire! The main thing to remember, is that the more wreaths you make the easier it gets! Here’s to a great Autumn made fun and beautiful with Natural Fall Wreaths!

Love y’all, Camellia

*all photographs are obviously mine!

Puttin’ Up the Garden…

88720A63-524D-4A26-A6F4-B2F025138F29It’s that time of year when everything planted in the spring seems to be ripe now! Folks used to say- ‘everything’s comin’ in at the same time!’ When it comes to Puttin’ Up the Garden’ if you get a minute to sit down, you’re shellin’ beans or shuckin’ corn or lookin’ through bushels of fruits and vegetables to cull out the ones with bruises or bad spots! Those bits and pieces are used to make up meals during ‘Puttin’ Up the Garden’ time… And every single able body is put to work!

Why, my mother used to go to a beauty parlor where while the ladies’ waiting to get permanent waves or get a cut and curl… were snapping green beans or shelling lima beans! And… the men weren’t off the hook either! Years ago, my husband’s barber must have had a bossy wife because the men were also pressed into shelling peas service! They wanted everything ‘right ready to put up’ ! When someone bought a deep freeze,  it was an occasion and if you had more than one? Well… it would be full too! Canning and freezing were necessary chores! More than one lady would have a horror story about a pressure cooker explosion or a canning disaster… yet they pressed on. One of my favorite things about ‘everything’s comin’ in at the same time!’  is how creative folks got with the bits and pieces of vegetables-EF54ADD3-9EA8-4F51-ABD4-140551DAE2EC

  • Mixed fruits were either canned together, or my favorite frozen!
  • Thick soup mixes were made from extra corn, beans, onions, okra and tomatoes; onions and bell peppers were diced, bagged and frozen;
  • Let’s not forget all kinds of vegetables were either processed into Pickles or Refrigerator Pickles- cucumbers, green tomatoes and even Peaches!
  • Some things were dried too!  I have a friend who told of a bumper crop of peaches… the kids would either have to stand over the peaches laid out on big tables and fan the flies or they’d spread a sheet in the back of her daddy’s big station wagon! Don’t you know that car smelled like heaven?
  • Pecans are often shelled, then frozen (I keep them in my freezer all the time! They stay fresh much longer!) When pecan are needed- I toast them with butter and salt to bring out the flavor. Delicious!
  • Peanuts are either boiled.. yes! or dried in an even layer then ‘parched’  which is another way of saying…roasted in the shell.

Anyway, the point is, nothing was wasted- if something stood still long enough it was gonna be used up in one way or another!   Generally, because the season is warm and we don’t get heavy frosts, folks plant leafy greens and root vegetables to be harvested in the fall. I know I’ve got some spring lettuce seeds that I’ll be sowing as soon as the mornings are cool.66E21BDD-14CF-4E99-8DF2-521DFDEB8B89

Now, keep in mind- with all of summer’s flurry of activity – meals still had to be put on the table! As hot as it always is… cool salads and sandwiches are often made up for the midday or evening meal. Potato Salad stuffed scattered with cherry tomatoes along with saltine crackers is still one of my favorites; cool and easy pimento cheese, egg salad, chicken salad or our famous tomato sandwiches were easy to prepare and eaten quickly. Even soups or salads topped with Crumbled Bacon is quick and easy with no long cooking time to heat up the kitchen or take up valuable stovetop space!35CD2C7C-CA07-4DD2-8ED9-534B04E9E5D4

 

55A44958-63F9-4523-90DB-9DC8384D3029Combinations of extra vegetables were cooked, roasted or used for toppings. Grilled meats nestled with roasted and fresh vegetables are a new take, still with the thought of making use of every bit of garden goodness!

To this day I love my grandmother’s quick and easy combination of Zucchini, tomatoes and onions. She was ahead of her time using zucchini- her favorite vegetable stand was run by an Italian family- I recall the very day he convinced her to try zucchini! Here’s how she made Mimi’s Zucchini and Tomatoes

  •  One or two small zucchini, a tomato or two and thick slices of onions layered in a skillet or a glass bakcing dish with no water
  • Just covered loosely with a lid or foil.
  • Steamed with salt and pepper, then topped with shredded Cheddar Cheese while it’s hot-
  • You will not believe how this simple dish is so loaded with flavor!
  • This is a family favorite and one of the best examples of using small amounts of garden vegetables while the big lots are processed for the winter months.

I do love to make a batch of pico de gallo, yet my favorite mix might be an Italian style mixture made of basil, tomatoes, green onion and bell pepper with red pepper flakes for a bit of heat-mixed lightly with red wine vinegar and olive oil.. Top a warm batch of spaghetti and meat sauce with this mixture seems to cools it down for fresh flavor and summertime eating!  56A31DA8-D2FD-443E-B394-6BB755FDAC13

And while I’m at it- we generally have a bumper crop of hot and mild peppers. I make up pepper sauce with the slender hot types yet also love to dry them for my own red pepper flakes! E86E4D33-A76C-45C7-8B52-B7076A637023

And! If you love Stuffed Bell Peppers try this-

  • Don’t blanch the peppers-
  • Rinse and pat dry. Seed, core and slice them in half lengthwise…
  • Fill with a fresh ground meat mixture, similar to meatloaf – or any mixture you enjoy- an all vegetable mixture with rice would be wonderful too!
  • Place the uncooked stuffed peppers in a single layer on a sheet pan and freeze them! Place the frozen Stuffed Bell Peppers in a freezer safe bag and store for a few weeks.
  • No need to thaw, place them in a baking dish- at 350 degrees…
  • When the juices are flowing and the filling seems almost done- a squiggle of tomato sauce or ketchup on the top finishes them off.
  • From freezer to oven,  in less than 45 minutes you have a wonderful meal!
  • Hint: I often shred cabbage into the bottom of the pan and nestle the stuffed peppers in so they stay upright while cooking …the resulting cabbage is amazing!

EDD7042D-FD0B-4547-901D-B602B167B97F  And last but certainly not least is Shoe Peg Corn Salad… Simply made with several ears of corn cut from the cob, chopped or cherry tomatoes, purple onion, bell pepper and cucumber all small diced is a no cook salad that’s sure to please anyone! 3C813151-0A79-4973-A1A2-3F2FD7A9D150

Dressing Mix is easy-

  • Six or eight ounces of sour cream
  • Several tablespoons of mayonnaise with the zest and juice of a lemon
  • Cracked black pepper and salt to taste.

You can make up the dressing made right in the bowl- it’s a cool and easy side dish or even on it’s own with saltine crackers… it’s amazing! And the best part is- you don’t even have to turn on the oven to make it!

Here’s hoping while you’re putting up the goodness of your vegetable gardens, you’ll enjoy cool, fresh meals along the way! I know we are!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine!

Summer Tomatoes in the South…

70853A62-5688-42A3-8CFD-C0DAE8E348BFWe wait all year long for summer tomatoes. We long for them all year. There’s no end to what we do with summer tomatoes-

  • We put them in canning jars, freeze them and preserve them any way we can think of for winter soups, warm red sauces and hearty stews, so of course we’re trying  keep the memories of summer tomatoes alive.
  • And yes, we make fresh tomato soup with thin slivers of cool cucumber, snips of green onion, crumbled bacon and a drift of shredded cheese.6450DC56-D19F-4397-BB09-69BDFD262117
  • We consume vast quantities of summer tomatoes alongside Fried Chicken, Pork Chops and a personal favorite- Fried Catfish.
  • Who would turn down a vegetable plate of butter peas, steamed yellow squash, corn muffins, macaroni and cheese alongside thick slices of summer tomatoes?
  •  We stuff summer tomatoes with shrimp salad, egg salad, tuna salad or chicken! And it must be summer tomatoes or the taste just isn’t there!
  • There may not be a better savory pie than Summer Tomato Pie, my sister’s is the best I’ve ever tasted- a flaky pie crust oozing with fresh summer tomatoes, a sour cream and onion filling topped with thick and melting sharp cheese- well, I’m drooling just thinking about it!A2E3C53C-B1DF-4E1F-8726-FF4FE037F9F3
  • Let’s not forget mile high Club Sandwiches, grilled Hamburgers and of course the all time favorite Bacon, Lettuce and Tomatoes… as long as there’s a summer tomatoes on there- any of these are near perfection!E38C9809-2B2C-46E9-8DDB-338336A88517
  • Of course, we love Fried Green Tomatoes- now you may be able to get hot house green tomatoes all year round…yet, if they’re made with summer green tomatoes they’ll have that extra special flavor!E2C9EC81-455C-4901-89C7-EB479A3E1320

We consume all of these wonderful things and more… almost any mixed green salad is elevated by summer tomatoes, even the humble potato salad with cherry tomatoes is a cool refreshing lunch! 6A0BF5E2-9057-46E1-9489-B0B7C797DA8BBereavement buffets almost cry out for scalloped tomatoes and tomato aspic which are amazing made with summer tomatoes!

C5B80D0A-75AB-4CCC-9716-B9E97D59347BNow, if you’re from the South… and I mean truly from the South- there’s one particular delicacy which is the real reason we wait all year for Summer Tomatoes… Tomato Sandwiches! If you add anything more than loaf bread, mayonnaise, summer tomatoes with salt and a bit of black pepper- then you don’t really have a Southern Tomato Sandwich! I’ll let you all fuss and discuss which mayonnaise is best- to me as long as the ingredients include lemon juice on the label you’ll have good mayonnaise and no, we don’t call it mayo – say that and it might put you under suspicion!

0CC775ED-48DD-488F-98E7-CFCCDCBC6CF8Now, if you’re a true believer in a pure Tomato Sandwich- then you’ll know there’s a secret wish we all have had from time to time… to have one beautiful slice of tomato which will cover the whole slice of bread… Big Boy Tomatoes move over.. the new one to try is – ‘Mater Sandwich’ ! Of course it is! I’m here to tell you this one is a winner… never mealy or bland tasting… the ‘Mater Sandwich’ variety of home grown tomatoes is one you’ll want to try!  We’ve been picking and eating these for weeks! Now, if you’ll excuse me- I’m gonna fix me a Tomato Sandwich!

Love y’all, Camellia

All photographs are obviously mine! *Mater Sandwich tomato plants may be a registered trademark!

The Glory Bower…

22B6237F-FFBE-463B-8F4A-1D051176A07FJust when the heat of summer slows me down to a southern drawl… a miracle happens. It sneaks up on me every year. When hydrangeas blossoms look like tight pincurls, and roses sit and sulk- fed up with the humidity; the porch ferns whine for church fans and ice water, even the impatiens lay down their heads and weep… that’s when the Glory Bower Trees quietly begin to bloom.

Hummingbird wings whir around her. Butterflies flitter on her pale green shoulders. Fat Bumblebees stir slowly around like plump fairy godmothers- coaxing the lacy summer ballgown onto Glory Bower. Her ladies in waiting, the crepe myrtles, have on raspberry or shocking pink corsages. When every other flowering thing closes up shop for harvest, the Glory Bower is just getting started; dabbed with a faint honeysuckle fragrance. Glory Bower is the real southern belle, never breaks a sweat, not one bead of perspiration. Glory Bowers put down deep roots- they’re my sweet homebodies, staying close to my windows so I can chaperone and gaze as the miracle unfolds.7E302FAB-3BE8-4229-9FF8-189F4DB356BF

If you ever find yourself wondering if Mother Nature stills performs miracles, just look to the Glory Bower- which blooms as fresh as spring, cool as a cucumber, sweet as honeysuckle in the scorching heat of summer. Wishing you a day filled with sunshine, the faint fragrance of gardenias, magnolias and honeysuckle and if you’re really blessed a faint whisper of butterflies, bumblebees and hummingbirds circling around a Glory Bower and who knows? Maybe an evening’s worth of a gentle rain…

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. This post in a very edited form was first published as ‘Glorious July Miracles…’ right here on Camellia’s Cottage in July of 2016, photographs for this version have been edited as well and new ones added from this year’s Glory Bower. The proper name for Glory Bower is Clerodendrum, which we pronounce ‘Clair O Dendrum’. Since I live in St. Clair County, it seems to me… as much as I love this precious tree that it should be the official tree of my home county! The lacy blooms which attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees in the heat of summer… fruits in the fall as a dark blueberry seed surrounded by magenta petals literally cover the Glory Bower then provides much needed food for the birds during our hot dry late summer and early fall. My original tree was rooted and given to me by an old gardener and I wouldn’t take anything for the ones who have sprouted around the cottage.

2E54E24D-A800-45F0-AD06-31F7BF2B987D

3 Lessons of Spring…

We’ve posted 3 Lessons of Spring and one strong suggestion on Instagram in the last few days. I thought you might enjoy them too!

This rather humorous photograph of a planter we have here at the cottage, was about to be planted with a few bedding plants… I decided to snap a photo of her first! She’s inspiring don’t you think?

B21EFFCA-536B-4BAF-A5F1-DC5ED4E7390C ‘The mind is a wonderful thing! It’s where creative ideas begin, where we learn, where emotions form and where we make decisions. Deciding to use ideas, knowledge and emotions for good is the highest form of humanity.’


30C47988-A6F4-40E4-A463-38FEDA229E84Eggs might be the ultimate food form of Potential. This photograph inspired us. ‘Potential, that’s one of the wonderful emotions I feel in Spring… nothing says it better than a basket full of eggs by my front door. Little Johnny Jump Ups aren’t really Spring flowers here, but they seem to rejuvenate themselves right now- and they have the potential to re-seed. now, that’s a lesson too! I hope your Spring brings you an awareness of potential all around you…not to mention the marvelous potential you hold within!’


These bearded irises were passed along to me by my grandmother many years ago- the deep purple is amazing and thrills me every year! This was shared with a lesson I think of every year!

A8A57D14-8713-4E66-BCE4-FDBC60D796B2 ‘Bearded Irises are standing tall in all of their glory…what a lesson they are! Standing up, not afraid to show the world who they are and own their unique beauty. And! Despite an unfortunate name, bearded irises welcome the day with gladness!’


Those 3 Lessons of Spring speak volumes without saying a word…

  • Deciding to use our minds for good, like the planter, it looks like a brilliant idea is sprouting.
  • To see potential in our world and within ourselves…whether it’s at the end of life’s cycle or like an egg- at the beginning!
  • To stand tall, like the regal Iris, despite an unusual name and short bloom time is a lesson to us all… to seize the time we have, bloom where we’re planted and in our own unique way.

Now, here’s a strong suggestion…it’s Time to Spring Clean… we can get sidetracked and buy things we don’t need! So, here it is! Shades of Blue…DDFFEC62-7066-49D5-8847-862AF386BB87

‘Shades of Blue… natural dyes, indigo, prints and stripes, chambray, madras, Oxford cloth and denim. Blue is beautiful year round, especially in Spring and Summer! I’m Shopping My Closet first- then checking the choices with my favorite catalogs- for updates this season!’ It’s a spring closet clean out and a money saver too!

I love Spring…pollen and all..lt inspires me with its beauty and lessons all around! What will you do this Spring? I’d love to hear! I’ll be back soon with good tips, good thoughts and yes, good food!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. Follow @brendawyatt_ on Instagram for more tips and ideas! I’ve found new friends and seen the astounding things so many are doing! Happy Spring, yall!

8 Tips for Creating Memory Gardens…

006CD037-D4B8-4F22-84E0-D092A1D064D4I didn’t set out with Memory Gardens in mind… though the idea began to form when my grandmother shared some Hosta and Spiderwort, then an old gardener sent Daffodil bulbs and another shared Bearded Irises. My father in law, sent a few Redbud saplings from the family farm and my mother showed up one day with a sapling called Glory Bower, which blooms in the dead of summer when nothing else will. The Glory Bower is in bloom near one of our daughter’s birthday and always reminds me of her, beautiful and generous. Each year it seemed, I had memories of my family and others who had generously shared plants. Here’s a closeup of Spiderwort-C85AFD07-43D8-4885-BDF0-61350C33BC6F

Tip #1 Memory Gardens can be scattered throughout the landscape or in a designated place. I do both.

I had an idea of purchasing a tree or a shrub on special occasions or in memory of a loved one…So, a memory garden was forming as I was learning about where, what and when to plant. On several occasions I gave a living plant instead of sending flowers and often bought one to be planted here at the cottage. Without really planning a Memory Garden, my garden was making memories for me.E2A910D2-F038-42C2-830C-21D87D3833BF

Tip #2 Think perennials. Memory Gardens aren’t just about trees and shrubs- Herbs, like Rosemary- for Remembrance, Lavendar for Love and Devotion,Sage for Long Life and Wisdom- are great memorable additions. The bearded irises weren’t given to me by my grandmother yet, she loved them, so they remind me of her, always. Bulbs, Ferns, Hosta, Shasta Daisies are wonderful and can be planted in the garden, near a loved one’s birth date. Perennials as bereavement plants which die down but return year after year are a hopeful reminder of the resurrection.

E5345747-53BA-4FBC-ACD5-07CE39E9AA4CWhen we re-did the front yard- a parking area in front of a picket fence changed things.  A family member gave me two heirloom roses- New Dawn, they are the ones at the end of the fence. Every year, I’m reminded of her beauty, her thoughtfulness and her kindness. The pale pink roses still grow proudly at each end of the picket fence, And they bloom close to her birthday! A tiny gardenia shrub was bought on sale… it reminded me of a dear friend, who had loved a fragrance with a distinct gardenia note, the shrub is now so big- it has to be cut back!  I planted a hedge of holly, that was perfect behind a garden bench given to me by my sister, it reminds me of her everyday.   On and on it seemed, I was given plants or buying plants that evoked memories.  The garden began to mature… What I found as the years went by… is that Light changes everything.82EF6299-6536-4585-89C5-B974EEE7B2D6

Tip #3 Even if you have established a specific area as a Memory Garden- be prepared to divide, move or even replace plants. When this occurs, I try to use memory plants in another more appropriate site, especially with adequate light.

1040EFD8-827B-426C-AFEA-DDB9B4429969Trees grow. Sun loving plants find themselves in the shade. Trees fall. Shade loving plants shrivel in the sunlight. Trees even age and die. The soil is disturbed or other trees crowd them out. And, these elements affect our yard to this day. So! It became important to me to establish areas where my memory plants had the best chance of survival. And some memory plants need dividing.  I didn’t want to lose the old heirloom plants, so I divided them and spread them throughout the garden areas; still purchasing memory plants along the way.

Tip #4 Memory Plants are all occasion! Births, Milestones such as graduations, Weddings, Anniversaries, in addition to the Loss of a Loved One, are the perfect opportunity for memory plants. The main criteria is choosing a plant which evokes a memory of the occasion and the loved one.

CA33CF63-8BCA-4BE3-989D-E998FD69019BLittle Gem Magnolias were planted in memory of my Aunt Iva and my precious grandmother, Mimi. Yet the occasion when the magnolias were purchased commemorates our daughter’s wedding. They were used as a large display in urns at her wedding reception.  I like to call these Little Gems- my ‘Steel Magnolias’; which Mimi and Aunt Iva certainly were, as were other southern ladies for whom I purchased the same small magnolias.  Those magnolia trees and a few camellias I had purchased evoked to wonderful memories throughout our garden, not to mention the beautiful large blooms!

Tip #5 For very special occasions you may choose to plant a specimen tree or large shrub. Be sure to site the tree for its own specific needs for soil and light.

10FF4451-1BCD-467B-A5AF-7B652D5ED689If you’re getting the idea that my memory plants were placed at whim, you wouldn’t be far from the truth, I planted for the conditions the plants and trees required. A freeform Memory Garden was more like it… until 2006.My mother in law died. I was devastated. I worked furiously in the garden in the days following her death. Being on my knees, seemed the right place to be; brought to my knees by this blow of her death- I could be alone, I could dig, yank weeds, weep over the least tiny bloom- gardening helped. Have you ever felt like that? Immersing yourself in a hobby or physical tasks that free the mind? Gardening was therapy for me. Shortly after her death, to honor her , we were given a piece of statuary, an angel.

10A4D15A-1A5D-453F-96FF-7F7D6AC6325B It seemed too large to put on prominent display in the front of our house…. as I continued to work out my grief- a spot toward the back of our yard, kept catching my eye… it was a clump of dogwoods, they were in bud.  It seemed to be the perfect spot! So, that’s where she is…my angel and my first attempt at a specific Memory Garden. At the base of the angel, were planted miniature daffodil bulbs from a funeral basket of spring flowers my sister gave our family. They have multiplied over the last decade. In the Spring since the Angel was placed, it still surprises me-  if anyone glances this way, passing the cottage- down the side yard toward the dogwoods… there is an Angel. The spot for her Memory Garden was somehow, by some miracle- chosen for me, not the other way around. We have since lost some dogwoods, planted some roses and crepe myrtles. 4AB961E2-804F-48FC-AAAE-DCFCB15FF953

Tip # 6 Be careful buying statuary. Use it sparingly. Place it appropriately, so that it’s shape and size work with your garden. Sometimes your site will tell you where it needs to be placed!

B2760811-B63E-4AED-BF05-FB6A0C0567C1So! I have continued my practice of buying memory plants. In 2017, I planted a camellia for my friend, Denis who died that spring.(photo above) I planted ten azaleas when my mother died, also in the Spring of 2017. Five azaleas for her grandchildren and five for her great grandchildren- she adored them all! Those were interspersed in the existing garden. Still. She has her own specific Memory Garden.F2F581E9-7D70-4B27-8336-7A6B4D6BDD6F

Friends and family bought hydrangeas for my mother as well, she loved hydrangeas and I do too! They are in shades of pink, white, green and blue that can only be called ‘hydrangea blue’. I planted them in groups by color, not mixing them so it’s more pleasing to the eye. There were a good many, so- for my mother… there is a hydrangea garden along a side yard and around the back deck- areas which  were never intended as a memory garden. Yet it seemed to chosen for me. I plan to add and add to it until the hydrangeas say- ‘No more, please’.  Memory Gardening has been a source of great joy to me.  I tend to name the plants- Denis, the Camellia delighted me, when she was full of blooms this year!2F91DB41-12F4-4A73-AA67-A60391CE5160

Tip #7 Add to your memories all at once or, perhaps a better plan is to gradually add to it, as I am doing with the hydrangeas and camellias.

C72C813D-0039-4267-BD1D-FEA018DD4E86Last fall, my beloved Walter, a Himalayan cat who had graced us with his presence at this cottage, died. I had to do something for Walter, I was almost inconsolable.  My sister had given me a statuary cat, more than a decade ago, it had never found a permanent site. At age 17, I suppose, Walter had lived a long life- I never imagined the grief I would experience when he died. So, I created a very small Memory Garden for him… under one of the azaleas planted for my mother, the statuary cat was placed, with an engraved stone which epitomized Walter…it says, ‘Do no great things, only small things with great love.’ Rose petals fall on this small piece of statuary, it isn’t visible from the street, but I see him every day as I go to my car. Somehow it comforts me.  I have recently planted a few scraggly violas near him hoping they will re-seed. There are lamb’s ears nearby too. Each one seems to be a bit of those small things only a family pet is able to bring to a household.

B4A154E7-B044-424C-8ABD-14285FFE8CA7Now, I’ve gone all sad sack on you and I don’t want you think Memory Gardens are just for bereavement- they aren’t! Plant memories for any occasion- name them or not, but as you plant- you are putting down roots, you are making a garden, you are making your home, your neighborhood, your world a more beautiful place!

Tip # 8 Don’t be afraid to ask for advice! Your local garden shop is a wealth of information. Ask them to suggest plants to use, what the plant will require, and how large it will get. You may need to have specimen plants installed, sometimes a garden center will be able to suggest a service. Ask for help- your plants willlove you for it!

Like I said, I didn’t set out to create a Memory Garden… now, that I have, the memories make me a better gardener. When a baby is born or a beloved friend passes on… I hope you will visit your garden center and pick out a special plant. And if the notion strikes or if there is a space in your garden, perhaps you will plant it and start a Memory Garden of your own… now, if you excuse me, I need to go outside and plant a Leyland Cypress named Wayne…

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. The quote near the statuary cat is attributed to Mother Teresa. My husband’s dear friend, Wayne died right before Christmas, an evergreen was given to the family and the Leyland Cypress is to be planted here at Camellia’s Cottage.

The Fine Art of Doting…

Have you ever heard of Doting? Here’s what I think most folks believe it means….

  • She’s always doted on that child.’
  • ‘Well, you know his momma was always delicate, he’s doted on her especially now that she’s in her dotage.’
  • ‘ I tell you now, she doted on  that man, always making him his favorite foods, keeping him neat as a pin and making sure everything was just so.’ ‘
  • He loved that car, doted on it like it was a crying child- why he kept that engine so clean you could eat off of it.’
  • ‘Well, she was the baby of the family, so everybody doted on her.

Now, we’ve all heard of doting or I guess most folks have. When anybody talks about doting, we basically think it means –

  • ‘She waits on him hand and foot.’
  • ‘Works himself to death trying to keep her happy.’
  • ‘That child is spoiled rotten, I tell you- when she grows up- she’s gonna expect the world to be handed to her on a silver platter.’

Yet, that’s not really what doting means at all. The fine art of doting actually means … To care for tenderly, to habitually bestow fondness and love;  to regularly treat or speak to a loved one with kind devotion and gentle affection.9471982A-D073-455D-A8D8-E27596B7E00E

It’s a harsh world we live in- extreme sporting events, conversations or workouts. Flashing lights, loud music and never ending communication. We’re bombarded with products, information and technology. Calendars are packed, schedules overlap,  being overwhelmed is the rule not the exception. It’s time to bring back the Fine Art of Doting. Oh yes, it will take a bit of being unplugged and slowing down- however, these suggestions take very little time or effort.

Perhaps, due to our religious upbringing- phrases like ‘self-love’ are overridden by teachings about being selfless and thinking about others first. Still. How can you ‘love your neighbor as you love yourself’ if there’s not a certain amount of taking care of yourself? Here’s a few ways that aren’t selfish at all, and are also great for sharing with others!

  • Did you know that spending 15-30 minutes outdoors everyday is recommended for all round good health? I find just walking around my garden to see what I can see is my favorite way to get in some time outdoors. To my delight I recently found Ice Folly Daffodils and the precious- Snowbells! 
  • I love to garden, I think it’s a wonderful pastime- yet- to give a living plant, shrub or even a small tree to a bereaved family may be one of the most comforting things you can do. Here at the cottage, a memory garden was started after my mother in law died over a decade ago. We also have several living things planted to honor loved ones. Just as my grandmother’s spiderwort and hosta remind me of her every year- so do these bereavement plants.
  • My favorite apps on my iPhone are the calendar and timer! It’s one way I dote on myself- since I work at home… I set alerts for small tasks to get up from the laptop- or set the timer for 15-30 minutes to sit and read a book. And by all means set a bedtime alert- to get those hours of sleep everyone so desperately needs! Limit exposure to LED lighting, either by removing them from where you sleep or my favorite- wearing a sleep mask! I’ve also tried the app called Calm…it’s a short meditative pause. And since, we’re all told to limit screen time- and I’m loving the notification of how much time I’ve spent online!
  • Make a habit of putting the phone down when eating family meals or meeting friends- it’s so much better to create the habit of talking person to person! While you are online, learn something new, while spending the time wisely, I’ve been taking a free Winter Photography Workshop on Instagram offered by @thelittleplantation. I’m low end when compared to the amazing photographers in the class- but my oh my! What gorgeous photographs! Beauty in any form feeds the soul! Here’s one of my entries:
  • It’s no secret I love to cook- but what I appreciate even more than the cooking is gathering around a table of good food. Somehow, folks who might disagree on almost everything become agreeable and companionable around a table. Dote on yourself and your family by making simple meals, but don’t forget to set aside a time to load up the table with good food to be shared with others. Grazing boards are a wonderful simple way to eat at home or entertain- FBE7ECF6-4633-4B8C-875A-D9CE61D66E85
  • I’ll be sharing more skin care tips soon- yet I think we all can agree, winter takes it’s toll on everyone’s skin! Here’s a few things that help tremendously- Stay hydrated and get more water (I’ve a challenged another food blogger to make ‘pretty water’) It’s been a fun wsy to entice myself to drink more water… I find when it’s pretty I certainly drink more of it! Here’s a few of my entries. Adding citrus or fruits and vegetables flavors the water slightly and takes very little time. The best thing is-  I’m enjoying it.
  • Switching over to a ‘milk soap’ is a good move… When I worked for Oscar de la Renta fragrance and cosmetics, we had a product that always had a waiting list! It was Oscar’s Bubble Bath, which was non-skid and also had powdered milk granules in it- the lactic acid in milk products is one of the best skin softeners! You can certainly benefit from dissolving about 1/2 cup of dry milk while you run very warm bath water. Test adding granular milk for yourself and see whether your skin feels softer!  Goats Milk Soap is another way to soften skin, this one I found at www.sparrowssoap.com A7E96E71-09FC-4A40-9800-65A4AB01F5F0
  • And,  a new skin treatment that I’m loving… Its called- Dry Brushing it’s a whole body treatment that rids the body of flaky skin while also stimulating the lymph glands! Can’t wait to tell you more about it!8611396A-D832-427A-A45C-DC05C93C7F0A
  •  Now, I know we all love shopping, however, it’s a good practice to shop your closet first! Most people buy the same new things that they already have in their closet! This is good advice- especially since we’re in a transition season,  instead of clothes shopping- accessorize! If you’ve got the itch to buy? Shop for accessories. Here’s a few I’m loving lately! The ribbon badges were found on Amazon and the pearls…oh always pearls! Those pearls were a gift- and came from JCrew! EB3C8154-C3C6-4626-B2F9-BDE25A20A25D
  • Make a habit of dreaming a little… plan a household project or a vacation! Right now, I’m in the middle of making reservations and have an itinerary of all the things we hope to do in beautiful Colorado Springs! We’ll be staying at the beautiful Broadmoor Hotel. For sure, we’ll enjoy eating those mile high donuts atop Pike’s Peak! Who knows? Maybe we’ll even break out in a rendition of ‘America the Beautiful’ while we’re there! And I hope to take a short road trip to Garden of the Gods- with its amazing huge red rock formations.FD35DA87-FE43-4F5A-9515-55125F191638
  •  And..the dreams and plans don’t stop there… of course, I’m looking at a few dates and places to stay at the beach! Looking forward and making a plan for family beach time this summer, kicking off our shoes and feeling the sand between our toes!
  • Make a plan to update a corner, a tabletop or even a room. It’s always helpful to our mental health to look forward! My plan starts this spring with installing striped outdoor curtains, which were on sale last fall, in black, gray and white cabana stripe….to finish up a household project- our tiny screen porch!2316253C-581A-4ECD-AF65-EAE72D92C347
  • And finally, one of my very favorite ways to dote on others… Sometime, somewhere- when they least expect it- Send a surprise note or gift for no reason at all! This is truly the fine art of doting. A small plant plopped in a waterproof plastic bag then covered with a small burlap bag or even a lunch sack- tied with a pretty ribbon, is doting in many different forms- a small gift for a co-workers desk, a tiny reminder to a friend that she’s appreciated or even dote on yourself a little bit! The main thing is to surprise! Now, wait for it- you know, I have to give you something homemade!988986C5-5E7A-4524-B7C5-A0DA2310EB6E
  • I recently made a batch of homemade marshmallows for a much loved family in upstate New York- hopefully they will enjoy many cups of hot chocolate to chase away the chill! And – be surprised to get them! Don’t they look wonderful?
  • Now don’t forget to read below the recipe. A bit more on the Fine Art of Doting! Here’s how you make our very own Cottage Marshmallows! Though, it’s not much different from most marshmallow recipes, there is one tip you won’t want to miss! And these are easy enough to surprise your family too!

Cottage Marshmallows...

Homemade Marshmallows, a confection that’s fun to make and will delight - especially in winter to top a cup of hot chocolate! 
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 3 Packages Unflavored Gelatin
  • 1 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Light Corn Syrup
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt Preferably Kosher
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • Confectioners Sugar Mix with..
  • Corn Starch Ratio 1:4 with confectioners sugar being the 4

Instructions

  • In the bowl of stand mixer, combine gelatin with 1/2 cup of cold water. Allow to sit undisturbed while making the sugar syrup. In a small heavy saucepan combine granulated sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 cup of water. Blend corn starch and confectioners sugar in a bowl and set aside. On low heat, stir until sugar is dissolved, then do not stir anymore. Clip on a candy thermometer. Raise heat to medium high increasing heat gradually, until candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees. Remove from heat. The stand mixture should be fitted with a whisk attachment. Very carefully pour the hot sugar syrup, with whisk on low speed,  into the gelatin mixture. Raise speed to medium high, then higher as the mixture is incorporated. Mixture will become light and airy, generally tripled in volume after 12-15 minutes of continuous whisking. While mixture is whisking- prepare an 8x12 inch glass baking dish with a sieve dust confectioners sugar/ corn starch blend generously Slow mixer speed and add vanilla extract, blend well. Pour marshmallow mixture into pan, smooth top and dust generously with more of the confectioners sugar/ corn starch blend. * Corn Starch added to confectioners sugar helps marshmallows dry out better. Let mixture stand overnight uncovered to dry out. Turn out onto a marble surface or a board and with a serrated knife cut marshmallows into squares- whatever size you prefer ! But at least 1 1/2 inch squares. Toss in more confectioners sugar to coat all sides. * marshmallows can be tinted during the whisking process, however, I tend to think the classic white is the prettiest ! 

Marshmallows are best stored flat, covered with foil until ready to package. I prefer cellphane bags instead of plastic.

     

     

    852428A2-126A-4B61-BB99-199CACDDC185Now, you know I have a story… when I first began making homemade marshmallows… I was just tickled with myself and decided to take them to a holiday gathering… when I explained what this confection was… someone said- ‘Why bother?’ Actually the answer is in the handcrafted marshmallow- it’s soft and sweet, it melts in a cup of hot chocolate like a cloud and let’s face it- If anyone ever makes you a batch of homemade marshmallows? Well! that’s the Fine Art of Doting!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    *All photographs are obviously mine, with the exception of the opening photograph which was found on Pinterest with no attribution- if it’s yours? please let me know so I can give you credit! Amazon and JCrew are registered trademarks and this is not a compensated post for anything you see here!

    *Advertisements on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of Camellia’s Cottage.

    *Check out what we’re doing on Instagram, we’re posting everyday!

     

    Camellias,Chocolate and Love…

    If there’s one thing about February that always delights me- it’s that camellias are in bloom, chocolate is on the menu or in a heart shaped box and love seems to be in the crisp cool air. This year, the red camellias are showing out, a bumper crop of ruffled blooms, and this tickles me because they’ve taken their own sweet time about getting to a point of consistent blooms- the shrub was chosen for it’s double ruffled petite blossoms- in honor of my mother in law- who I loved with all of my heart- who was petite, beautiful and …well, it just seemed fitting to plant a camellia to honor her life with our state flower, the Camellia.

    Valentine’s seems to be an oddly conflicting  holiday. Oh yes, it’s supposed to be all about flowers and chocolate and romance, yet it’s often a disappointing holiday, even with all of the gift ideas, hearts and beautiful sentimental cards- disappointment often stands in the shadows. Still. Love itself comes in many forms- romantic love, yet also love of family, love of friends and yes, love of place. Other than my own home- there is possibly no place on this earth that I love more than a beautiful historic hotel in Point Clear, Alabama which combines all kinds of love… camellias bloom profusely and a certain form of chocolate stole my heart many years ago.

    The Grand Hotel is her name. Close by is Mobile Bay and  a quaint town called Fairhope; just down the road is a beautiful small town named Magnolia Springs…now if fair hope, beautiful sunsets, camellias, magnolias and a grand old lady doesn’t give you a clear point of view… I don’t know what possibly could. The pace is slower, Afternoon Tea is served every afternoon, the grounds are filled with huge live oaks that have long gray beards of Spanish moss- under their spreading branches- camellias, azaleas and all manner of distinctly southern plants bloom in profusion around a mossy lagoon. I have visited there during every season of the year, yet February is the time of year I’ve probably enjoyed most- in the lower coastal south- it might get chilly but never so cold as to discourage the camellias or the guests. I’ve been there in formal dress several times in February- it seemed to me, the most glamorous place anyone could be!

    Yet, my best memories of the Grand, are of the ones when my children were young and truly learned the exquisite art of dining and dressing for the occasion at a champagne brunch with live music playing softly- tunes like ‘Stars fell on Alabama’ or the more lively- ‘The Alabama Jubilee’. And if there is ever a place on earth for ‘jubilee’ it’s on the shores of Mobile Bay where that amazing phenomenon happens when it’s least expected!

    The first time I ever tasted- Flourless Chocolate Cake was at the Grand Hotel, and I recall thinking- ‘What an elegant dessert! Surely, someone could have come up with a more decadent name!’ Somehow, over the years- I was given their recipe for this decadent chocolate dessert. For years, I’ve thought I couldn’t recreate it- and the truth is? Without the backdrop of the Grand Hotel it would no doubt ever taste the same. So! I took the recipe and tweaked it to make the recipe my own – and while our camellia’s are blooming their fool heads off? I decide to try my hand at making it and decorating it with those festive red blooms! So, it was only  appropriate to name it- Camellia’s Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake. It’s way easier to make it than I’d ever have thought- and decorated with red camellias grown right here at the cottage- it was downright gorgeous and…well, it took me back… Here’s how you make it-

    Camellia’s Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake...

    A dense rich dark chocolate cake, made with baking chocolate and cocoa, a mere 1 cup of sugar, no flour at all, and- to deepen the flavor- espresso powder is added. A small slice garnished with whipped cream is an elegant dessert. 

    Ingredients

    • 2 Sticks Butter Cut in pieces- plus more for pan
    • 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder More for dusting pan
    • 2 Teaspoons Instant espresso or coffee granules
    • 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
    • 8 Ounces Unsweetened Baking Chocolate Chopped
    • 5 Large Eggs
    • 1 Cup Granular Sugar
    • 1/4 Cup Powdered Sugar As needed for dusting
    • Whipped Cream
    • Fresh Mint Leaf, Berries or flowers For garnish

    Instructions

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 9 inch springform pan (or a 9 inch cake pan lined completely with parchment paper) Butter pan and dust with cocoa powder. Set aside. In a heavy medium saucepan, melt butter on medium low heat, add baking chocolate pieces and carefully stir until melted. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together large eggs, add granulated sugar, espresso powder and cocoa powder until fully combined. Carefully incorporate melted chocolate and butter until th batter is blended well. Pour batter into prepared pan lightly smooth batter. Bake at 350 degrees on center rack until puffed and set, approximately 35 minutes. Allow cake to cool for a full hour in the pan. If needed run a knife around sides of pan (if a baking pan is used, lift out of pan and fold down parchment ) unmold cake on serving platter. (Cake may be wrapped well after cooling and stored for up to 2 days before serving.) When ready to serve, dust with powdered sugar, add whipped cream and  garnish as desired. This is a very rich dense cake, small slices are preferable. 12-16 slices. 

    And while we’re talking Camellias, Chocolate and Love… here’s a few ideas to make Valentine’s special:

    • Give or plant a camellia shrub, a special rose even a gardenia to honor a loved one or to beautify your landscape.
    • Bake a special dessert, cookies or a cake to give to friends and loved ones.
    • And, since the Grand Hotel has a spa that has been named one of the best in the country- why not make Spa Water for yourself and loved ones- decorated with rose petals?
    • Or give a spa certificate to a loved one, a friend or even treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure? Maybe find some seasonal flowers (like Camellias) and give a bouquet?

    I know. I know. We tend to think of Valentine’s Day as just for couples in love…. I’ve come to believe- love, the sweetest kind is love that’s spread around a bit… so my best idea this year- Determine in the next few days to find folks who could use a hug or a bit of extra love and care- make a card, send a goofy text, write a note, give a call or just visit for a while? Sometimes the best thing of all is to say-

    . Love y’all, Camellia

    *All photographs are obviously mine. *The photograph of that gorgeous sunset was taken by me at the Marriott Grand Hotel several years ago- I’ve been reassured the sunsets are still glorious! *Choose flowers to decorate food or water that are organically grown or that you know the source. *The dark chocolate flourless cake can be made ahead two days before it’s served- so you’ll have plenty of time to make it this week!

    Health and Beauty tip: Tea Tree Oil is an amazing oil for skin treatments and comes from the same family as the Camellia. And did you know? Dark Chocolate has been known to soothe a cough more readily than hot tea or chicken soup? Of course, that a bite of dark chocolate that slowly melts in your mouth! And, if the weather permits at all- the best health advice I can give you this week- is to try to spend 15-20 minutes outside everyday- it lifts the spirits and fresh air is a total body treatment!

    Southern Pecan Pesto…

    3B6B2351-DEC0-47E3-B82E-63610434FED8We seem to have had a bumper crop in most of the things we’ve planted in the garden this year… I love to plant some basil to use in cooking, to dry and I’ve even been known to cut a big bunch and put in a vase just to enjoy the fragrance. This year, while vacationing in Virginia- we went to a restaurant on the York River- fittingly called Riverwalk Restaurant. Though it was terribly warm for most of the trip, on this particular night- with the breeze coming off the river out on a patio, it was pleasantly cool.  We watched a tall ship taking it’s own sweet time sailing by and could hear the sounds of a festival getting geared up. The restaurant was busy, our server brought our orders of iced tea and water… and to our surprise she also presented us with a platter brushed with Pesto and a whole loaf of fresh bread- our table of five finished it off quickly and it was one thing I knew I’d want to try to recreate later.

    Recently, we were about to watch an Alabama Football game- we’d decided to get a pizza. I thought, why not make a salad, spin up some Pesto, bake a loaf of bread and present it just like we’d had on vacation!

    5C020523-CD91-45C2-8AF0-450F4066CF7EI had all of the ingredients I thought I’d need…lots of basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, olive oil and …oops! no pine nuts or even walnuts. I literally put a Southern Spin on the Pesto. If I do say so myself, it turned out very well- I substituted Pecans. (Okay for all you non- southerners, please don’t say PEE-Cans… nope, that’s not how to pronounce it! For goodness sake who would even want to eat something that sounds so dreadful? Slow down now… here’s how you say it… Pah- cahn.  Don’t even think of making a long E sound!) Alright let me get right down to how you can make Pesto with a Southern Spin!

    Camellia’s Southern Pecan Pesto 

    You will need 3-4 large handfuls of fresh basil leaves- rinsed and shaken or spun dry. Just the leaves now- not the stems. Fill up the bowl of your food processor, generously.

    74413BE2-4BF9-4D7F-A18F-ABE91915702BOne reason I love making pesto is that it is a recipe that isn’t precise! Spin the basil leaves until they are a rough chop, add one or two or three garlic cloves- I used one large clove and one small. Add a pinch or two of salt and spin again. Add 1- 1 1/2 cups of grated parmesan cheese. Spin again. Add at least 1 cup of chopped pecans- I added 1 and 1/4 cup. Spin again.

    3D38E6F6-647F-47F6-A2C2-88D2F690378ANow remove the spout cover of the food processor and pour in enough good olive oil to make a paste, then add about 1/4 cup more! Pour Pesto in a sealed container and chill unless you plan to use it right away. It seems to keep fresh in the refrigerator for a good while.

    70C96E0F-D8D0-47EE-B824-6970047F40F1I brushed a long platter with a generous amount of Pecan Pesto and topped it with a loaf of fresh baked bread (Now that is the important part- make or better yet, make it easy on yourself and do like I did- buy frozen bread dough and bake it yourself! It really does make a difference!)

    52F225E4-4A87-4D53-A924-244AA5AFA5FBThe presentation is lovely and just like the pesto and fresh bread in Yorktown- this too was a hit! For an appetizer, an accompaniment with a platter or Italian sliced meats, cheese and assorted fresh fruits and vegetables, you know one of charcuterie boards- Pecan Pesto would be beautiful alongside one of those and…of course it’s great alongside a spaghetti supper or as an addition to a spread of tailgate food even if it’s at home!  Southern Pecan Pesto is a new Cottage favorite. Okay- if you have pine nuts or walnuts- that would be great too! Here are few Annabelle Hydrangeas from down near the York River- quite a beautiful spot! 4D324BC7-B05A-49A9-AB7C-7C77AC5597C1

    For more photos of some of our trip to Yorktown and Williamsburg check us out Instagram (just tap that little icon at the bottom of the page) Right now, we have an historic vegetable garden with heirloom vegetables and a bee skep! I would highly recommend any part of Virginia for a nice Fall trip!  And of course there’s nothing like watching SEC Football! Hope your team wins unless they’re playing mine!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    *All photographs are obviously mine. *You can find out more about Riverwalk Restaurant at www.riverwalkrestaurant.net.

    Stuffed Peppers…

    4999EA0F-E943-4858-BCF6-0BDF3A460741Southerners love their peppers, most tuck at least a few plants in their gardens even if it’s in among flower beds. Peppers generally love the Southern climate- some old timers say the hotter the weather- the hotter the peppers! I’m not sure about that, I do know that we once planted mild banana peppers close to jalapenos and those highly prized for their pepper sauce- long skinny cayenne pepper pods; well, I’m telling you those sweet banana peppers were hot as fire! I loved them. Usually our Bell Peppers are small, mainly good in salads or chopped along with onions and celery for our trinity to begin making jambalayas, gumbos, even tomato sauces.

    f6e4696a-57d5-4cd7-86fe-525312f45f27.jpegThis year we planted a few plants of Poblano peppers- they’ve been seriously good and a bumper crop of the big beautiful peppers are just the right size for Stuffed Peppers. I’ve eaten stuffed peppers all of my life and loved them.  I have to admit- Before I learned to cook stuffed peppers- I tended to think they were an exotic dish because southern cooks which can be on the eccentric side, had a way  of  majestically saying… ‘Ah’m makin’ Stuffed Peppers’…   it just seemed like a special treat and -they truly are. Now, let me get real here- if something sits still long enough a southern cook will figure out a way to stuff it!

    • Stuffed Eggs, Stuffed  Shrimp, Stuffed Pork Chops even Stuffed Squash Blossoms- now that’s an adventure!

    I’m running on and on- though I do want you to know, it’s not hard to make Stuffed Peppers.  The beauty of this dish is, of course presentation and taste- Still. Feel free to stuff a few or enough to feed a crowd, which we all know is the real beauty of any recipe.  Cook Stuffed Peppers right away or prepare, seal and freeze. Stuffed peppers always call for good ingredients- but the real secret to cooking stuffed peppers is the same for meatloaf- I think… low and slow. If you don’t have time, I’d say don’t make them! Okay, still there might be a way to overcome this.  If you have an oven with a timer- it is possible to take stuffed peppers from the freezer, put them in the oven, set the timer  and heat at 325 degrees allow for 2 hours before your meal and you might get away with it. So here’s how to make –

    Camellia’s Stuffed Peppers

    • You will need Unblemished fresh and clean – 4-5 large Bell or Poblano Peppers   – carefully cut peppers in half, Remove seeds and membranes without damaging the pepper halves. *I think Stuffed Peppers make a wonderful presentation if the stem portion remains intact on at least one half and also keep the filling intact.
    • For the Filling you will need: 1-1/4 pounds of ground chuck mixed with diced onion, 3/4 cup of crushed saltine crackers, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder and a pinch or two of black pepper-you may use bread crumbs, instead of crushed crackers- if so- add a pinch of salt. If you dare and I do! add 1/2 teaspoon or more of red pepper flakes and one beaten large egg.
    • *Note: some folks add small diced celery and even carrots- I do not. The mixture will be moistened by the pepper shell, therefore it doesn’t need the extra moisture.
    • Carefully combine ground beef mixture. Do not overwork the filling.
    • To stuff: Each pepper half will use approximately 3/4 cup of filling spooned in and pressed down a bit.   *Optional: I had some fresh oven roasted tomatoes preserved in oil- so I drained them and topped the uncooked stuffing. *You may wrap tightly and freeze at this point. C7F89F23-89C9-4A9A-80A0-9139EF8EBBB3
    • This is not optional: Cut uncooked bacon into one inch pieces topping each stuffed pepper with 1-2 small pieces.
    • Now, this is important! Before baking- preheat oven to 325 degrees. Very low oven temperature is key.
    • Top each Stuffed Pepper with a generous amount of good ketchup. Bake low and slow- mine were done in 2 hours.
    • Allow to stand a few minutes, then skim off fat and juices. Serve. Makes 4-5 generous servings, allowing 2 pepper halves each.

    It’s actually wonderful to serve Stuffed Peppers on a buffet- they taste good even at room temperature. I also think Stuffed Peppers can be changed up with different spices- such as an Italian mixture served simply with garlic bread and a green salad. If you have the patience, stuffing Baby Bell Peppers would be wonderful appetizers. Of course, one of my favorite combinations for Stuffed Peppers includes the Three Sisters – Corn, Beans and Squash. Corn supports the Bean vines, Squash are planted at the base in a ring around the corn- each has a purpose. Comically and practically- prickly squash leaves deter varmints like raccoons since they don’t like stepping on the leaves. Native Americans taught us how to companion plant these ‘three sisters’  which are a wonderful combination of sides for Stuffed Peppers.

     

    Since the weather is still very warm here- I chose to make cool Shoe Peg Corn Salad, a cheesy Squash Casserole and Speckled Butterbeans cooked with bacon drippings, a bit of hot vinegar-y pepper sauce and crumbled bacon on top.

    In the winter, Stuffed Peppers are so good cooked amid a bed of shredded cabbage and onions- of course cornbread and dried beans  are also so good. Now, before I leave the fresh vegetable sides, I’d say there’s almost nothing as satisfying as shucking fresh corn, picking fresh summer squash and shelling butterbeans… Well okay- unless it’s feeding your loved ones a meal  like this.

    Love y’all, Camellia

    *All photographs are obviously mine.