Mimi’s Potato Salad is, of course my favorite- though I have to admit that any Southern cook worth her salt generally has a recipe that is her family’s favorite too! And, it’s crazy, yet many southerners add potato salad to their meals almost all year round! Mimi didn’t. She considered it a Spring and Summer side dish or even put a scoop on a plate and with a few extras like tomatoes and crackers, she considered potato salad to be a light lunch or a cool supper. Here’s the thing. Mimi was particular about her food and the way it was prepared and for what reason and why. She instilled things like this into my brain- I can still hear her now…
‘ Now, grate that onion! Who wants to bite down on a big chunk of onion in their potato salad!’ Then later she would say- ‘Grate those boiled eggson the coarse side of the grater!’ Why? Boiled eggs can look unattractive if they aren’t perfect and especially unattractive all mixed up ‘with a mess of potatoes’. Also Mimi simply liked the look of the coarse grated boiled eggs! Don’t ask me why. I was just a simple soldier and followed my orders.
Mimi’s Potato Salad was singularly simple with few ingredients. Many southern cooks add other things to theirs, which is fine and also tastes wonderful. Still. If a recipe is the flavor from your childhood or family- I believe we tend to enjoy our own version the best! Mimi used russet potatoes, in spring, she sometimes combined new potatoes and russets, making sure they weren’t peeled yet were cut to approximately the same size. There’s an art to it- unpeeled potatoes hold their shape better, then it’s easy to slip the skins off after they’ve been brought to fork tender, definitely not overcooked! Cut the cooked and peeled potatoes into approximately the same size for the potato salad. (If thepotatoes were overcooked? Start over. You don’t want mashed potato salad.)
While the potatoes are cooking, grate the onion and mix up the dressing of good mayonnaise, yellow mustard and spices. Now, Mimi’s rule for the celery was to either do a fine dice or thinly sliced. You might not want to bite down on a big chunk of onion, yet the celery gave her potato salad a subtle flavor with just the right amount of crunch and a pretty color. Again, I followed orders. My mother did too! Mimi boiled her eggs alongwith the potatoes- claimed the calcium from the egg shells made potato salad healthier. Who knows? I do it too. Gently mix the potatoes into the dressing and chill. This made the potatoes firm up and gave the flavors time to develop. Here’s how you make Mimi’s Classic Potato Salad:
Boil potatoes with skins on until fork tender, not over cooked. Allow potatoes to cool slightly, slip skins off of potatoes and dice into approximately 3/4 inch cubes or slightly larger. Finely slice or fine dice celery. Grate onion reserving juice as well. In a large bowl, mix together mayonnaise, yellow mustard, grated onion and cayenne, until combined. Add diced potatoes, grated boiled eggs and celery, toss gently so as not to break cubed potatoes, gently to combine. Chill. Flavors will develop. Serve with a sprinkle of paprika if desired. This recipe doubles well.
With the spring and summer get togethers in full swing, I think you’ll enjoy Mimi’s Potato Salad, feel free to put whatever you want to in it. Some like pickles or olives. I personally will still be following orders… I sure wouldn’t want to think Mimi was rolling over in her grave if I didn’t! Oh me…
Love y’all, Camellia *all photographs are obviously mine!
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?
‘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.’
Eggs 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!
‘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…
‘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!
There may be no Spring layer cake that’s as welcome as Cottage Strawberry Cake. I’ll admit my skills as a cake decorator are few- yet decorating this cake with fresh strawberries makes it look so appealing and beautiful! I sort of went overboard and pulled some wild and domesticated strawberry leaves and runners (washed well mind you! Then kept them fresh in damp paper towels until time to decorate the Cottage Strawberry Cake.
Whole strawberries may be served alongside the slices and provide a welcome tang to the sweet cream cheese frosting. Not being a proficient Cake baker either, with few exceptions. I used a name brand good quality cake mix and enriched it with milk, melted butter, pure vanilla extract and an extra egg to make a denser more flavorful cake.
I think anytime you use a boxed cake mix of any kind, it’s a good idea to enrich it and also to make homemade frosting! This frosting has fresh strawberries in it- which changes the texture a bit- the recipe has a few suggestions if you prefer the smoother texture. Here’s how you make Cottage Strawberry Cake–
A beautiful 2 layer cake with cream cheese icing and sugared strawberries. Impressive showing for Spring- especially if fresh strawberries and if you can find wild strawberry leaves and stems!
1BoxDuncan Hines Strawberry Cake Mix * made according to our swap outs
3/4 CupWhole Milk (reduced by 1 Teaspoon)
7 Tablespoons Melted and cooled ButterPlus more unmelted butter for pans
1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
1 Cup Fresh Strawberries- hulled and choppedSprinkle sugar over berries and cover
12OuncesCream Cheese Room temperature
2Sticks ButterRoom Temperature
1 TeaspoonPure Vanilla Extract
1-1 1/4 PoundPowdered SugarSifted
1 Quart Fresh Strawberries- whole for decorating the cake
For Cake- prepare 2 - 8 inch cake pans: grease with butter, then flour lightly. ( Lining pans with parchment paper rounds is also a good idea) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (If using dark coated pans- reduce oven temp to 325 degrees) Blend cake mix, milk, melted and cooled butter and 4 eggs(3 eggs unless you want a denser cake) in a large bowl until moistened. Add vanilla extract. Blend well. (Do not mix according to box Directions!) Divide the batter equally between prepared pans. Bake cake layers on center oven rack for 26-30;minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. (Check after 25 minutes) Cool layers in pans on a rack for 15 minutes! Turn out of pans and cool completely - this is important!
For Frosting- In a deep bowl or your stand mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment- not whisk! Blend together cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract. Add powdered sugar until thick consistency. Drain Room Temperature! sugared strawberries very very well. Fold into frosting. * Frosting may change texture when strawberries are added, you may add more powdered sugar if needed. Chill frosting until slightly firm before frosting cake layers. decorate with whole strawberries and greenery- if you don’t have wild strawberry leaves, mint leaves work well. Chill cake before serving. 8-10 slices.
Feel free to add a few drops of red food coloring to Frosting, though strawberries should add the color you want. If concerned about the texture of the frosting, you may substitute up to 1/2 cup of strawberry jam.
Our Cottage Strawberry Cake reminds me of a sweet and dear friend every time I make it, and isn’t that what any dish we make supposed to do? Good memories of sweet folks we’ve known and loved is the best reason I can think of to bake or cook anything! Hope you’re enjoying this Spring weather and dreaming of all the good things ahead…
Tomato Soup is iconic, especially when it’s homemade and if you use fresh tomatoes or … like I did last summer, I halved small Roma Tomatoes, then a quick freeze in a single layer on a sheet pan, bagged and kept them in the freezer, for such a time as this! Camellia’s Tomato Soup is almost as easy as opening a can and my oh my! Far more delicious! Served simply with a grating of Parmesan Cheese or any Cheese you please served with crisp oyster crackers or the equally iconic Grilled Cheese, you have an easy delicious meal!
Spring is a wonderful time of year to make this Camellia’s Tomato Soup since some days are still cool. And, let’s face it, who wants to spend hours in the kitchen when you can be outside! Okay, I know the pollen is coating everything with sneezy yellow powder. Still. You can’t beat warm spicy tomato soup for seasonal allergies either! Here’s how you make- Camellia’s Tomato Soup!
Perfect all year round, especially in the spring and fall, when the weather may be cool. Serve with the classic grilled cheese sandwich or for a fresh cool taste- serve with grated cheese- your choice, a bit of red pepper flakes, celery sticks and crisp saltine or small oyster crackers.
Course: Main Course
4-6 CupsSmall fresh Roma tomotoes/ halved May use large cherry tomatoes
2 Cups Chicken Stock
1Tbs Fresh Thyme leaves- chopped Reduce amount if using dried Thyme
1TbsChopped GarlicFinely chopped
1 LargeOnion sliced thicklySeparate into rings
2TbsChili Sauce or Tomato Paste* chili sauce is a prepared product similar to ketchup
Fresh cracked Black PepperTo taste
Red Pepper FlakesTo taste
Kosher or sea salt To taste
In a large covered pot place halved Small Roma Tomatoes, add 2 cups of chicken stock, drape piece of bacon across tomatoes- begin on medium high heat to bring stock to a boil, add chili sauce or tomato paste, sliced onions, chopped garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, thyme and cracked black pepper. Stir gently to combine. Cover pot and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to medium high and simmer for up to one hour or until soup has thickened
If you prefer, the skins of the tomatoes may be removed or blended into a smoother consistency. I’ve found this unnecessary as the skin is very thin and tends to add a rustic delicious quality to the soup. The bacon fairly melts into the soup also. And, if the fresh thyme leaves only are used...there is also no need to remove the stems.
Here’s a beautiful version of a Grilled Cheese to go alongside Camellia’s Tomato Soup. Tip: Feel free to get creative, with grilled cheese sandwiches almost anything goes- Here, I used two types of cheese, American and Swiss, put a few slices of pickled jalapeños, dipped the whole sandwich in a mixture of whisked egg, topped with grated Parmesan, then fried in melted Butter!
A plain grilled cheese works too! Also, the Tomato Soup practically begs for garnishes, I have topped this soup with crumbled bacon and made cornbread croutons; or a drizzle of pesto for an Italian version. For a TexMex version- add a dollop of salsa and one of sour cream, add chopped onions and chunks of avocado is delicious with crisp corn tortilla chips- umhm soo good! I hope you’re enjoying Spring, filled with hope and good food!
Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese is a wonderful memory in my life. Southern food is like that. Southerners have a strong emotional attachment to the methods, the flavors, the ingredients in our heirloom food. My grandmother’s recipes surprised me. As I became more aware of the cultural influences on Southern food, I realized her heritage influenced her food choices. Depending on where our ancestors came from, who their people were and the food that was available to them in this country. It depended on who raised the food or who cooked the food, too. If you look at the ingredients in her Macaroni and Cheese, you might note that her family probably had lots of chickens and probably raised dairy cattle too. There’s lots of eggs, butter and cheese, she always used these in her version.
I also know her uncle managed a large family farm. Mimi knew that French Huguenots were part of her ancestry. Her cooking, whether she knew it or not, is decidedly similar to rustic French cooking. The method for making Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese is like a soufflé made with eggs rather than with a cream sauce. Béchamel is a more refined sauce of French cuisine, heavier I would insist.
Look at the close up- Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese is light…almost fluffy from the eggs- yet with deep flavor of strong cheddar cheese and includes the spiciness of cayenne pepper, even red pepper flakes if you choose. The spicy heat in this recipe is also found many southern recipes, especially in the Coastal South. Okay. I’m sorry to be getting into a primer on the history of southern food! Without further ado, here’s how you make Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese-
This version of the classic Macaroni and Cheese has a light, spicy cheesy quality almost like a soufflé and is in fact best baked in a soufflé dish.
2CupsFreshly Grated Sharp Cheddar CheesePlus more for topping
1 3/4CupsCooked Pasta (Elbow, Linguine, Small Shell)
1/2 -1TeaspoonCayenne PepperSpice is to taste
Red Pepper FlakesOptional
1/2StickButterMore for buttering the baking dish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter an 8 inch soufflé dish or 8x8 glass baking dish. In a deep mixing bowl, whisk eggs lightly with whole milk and cayenne pepper. (May add cracked black pepper and a pinch of salt also). Gently add shredded sharp cheddar to combine. Add cooked pasta, combining well, but with a light hand. Pour mixture into a buttered soufflé dish. Bake for 45 minutes or until puffed and golden. (less time for a more shallow baking dish) Serves 6 generously.
It must be said, Macaroni and Cheese was never served as a main dish. Our famous vegetable plates usually included Macaroni and Cheese, it was served along with Baked Ham and fresh Green Beans too. Macaroni and Cheese is an iconic southern dish. I love Mimi’s version of Macaroni and Cheese- it’s loaded with cheese, it’s low on pasta and doesn’t have the creamy texture many modern recipes do. I won’t argue you down if you prefer your family’s version of Macaroni and Cheese. Though, I do hope you will try Mimi’s version!
While you’re at it- hold on to the recipes of your memories. Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese and other Heirloom Recipes were a motivating factor-when I began writing this blog! Good food, good memories and gracious southern living. You know, in the South- we never say ‘goodbye’ – We say… ‘Y’all come back.’ I think the southern food, was always the reason they did. Now, let me know how your mommas and grandmommas made theirs!
These 10 Beautiful Ways to Stay Hydrated have given me the motivation I needed to meet one of my goals this year, and I’ve got 10 tips to help you get started too! I’ve challenged myself to stay hydrated and… and well, drinking all that water is healthy and all…for a few weeks, it was going great. Still. As Igot into this whole staying hydrated thing, I needed a bit of incentive. Here’s what happened- I was taking part in something else- a food photography challenge. For that, I needed a photograph of citrus fruits. Running out of time…no time to bake, no time to cook – a deadline was looming. Here’s what happened-
I made up a pitcher of pretty water. In fact, I thought it was beautiful. The kind I recall seeing in luxury spas and fine hotel lobbies. Beautiful ways to stay hydrated. Yes, I could do that! Just the incentive I needed. Tip 1: It’s easier if you make up a whole pitcher, similar to Spa Waters I’ve seen! With lemon, mint and cucumber! Let’s just say it’s a refreshing combination!
One thing led to another. I figured out that- Tip 2: Staying hydrated isn’t just water, it’s cranberry juice, apple juice, citrus juice and weak tea too. So I included those too. Thin slices of cucumbers or apples are easy and a refreshing snack too! This one is a re-run of Apple in Glass which I’d tried last Fall- the rerun was wonderful again!
One of my favorite ways to stay hydrated was an iced tea with lime and mint. Beautiful don’t you think? This time, I made a simple sugar syrup infused with mint. Mint Tea was a beautiful way, my grandmother made iced tea. All the best Sweet Tea in the South starts with a Simple Sugar Syrup– which is – Tip 3: One cup of water simmered with One cup of sugar…until the sugar has dissolved. With Mint Tea, the process is the same except fresh mint is infused into the sugar syrup. Kept chilled, sugar syrups last a long time. See that little jar sitting next to the glass of Iced Mint Tea? That’s the simple syrup made with mint! Which we seem to grow prolifically! Tip 4: Mint Simple Syrup is also wonderful to pour in your morning coffee!
If you want an extra treat- Rim the glass! Tip 5:For the Iced Tea, I cut a lemon or lime in wedges, mix a bit of sugar and a bit of salt in a bowl, rim the glass with the citrus wedge, then dip the rim in the salt and sugar mixture for a refreshing and beautiful glass of tea..or juice.. or water.
Here I did that with orange zest, a bit of salt, a bit more sugar and believe it or not- I grated a dehydrated strawberry too! Tip 6: Dehydrated fruit is wonderful grated for rimming a glass or mix with powdered sugar and decorate almost anything! The glass above, with oranges, strawberries and a rim of sugar, orange zest, a bit of salt and grated dehydrated strawberry was my beautiful glass of water this morning! Tip 7: Adding a bit of salt to the rim or the glass, makes me thirstier!
Tip 8: Add flowers to your water! Here and the opening photograph, I’ve used flowers- little violas or rose petals are so beautiful, just make sure they are pesticide free! Not just for your water, they sure look pretty floating in a cup of hot tea!
With spring and summer headed our way, it seems the garden is springing up weeds- these dandelions and yellow flowers all came from ‘weeds’ Here is another tip I love- Tip 9: Add leaves or tiny berries to Ice Cubes ! Look at these with shamrocks and wild strawberries!
We’re talking good luck here! Tip 10: To make pretty ice cubes, try anything small that you wish! Here’s how you make them- pour a bit of water in the bottom of the ice cube tray, in each section place clean leaves or berries, make sure they fit. Put in the freezer for a bit- to stabilize the leaves. Then fill the tray up and freeze. Okay, truth? If you’re in a hurry… just fill the tray up and insert a leaf or berry, but if presentation’s important? Do it my way! Now, I know you want to see that pretty glass of water with a viola again- So here it is!
We all want to look and feel our best, you’ve read the science and seen the articles about how important it is to avoid getting dehydrated… So! I’ve been on a mission! The result was 9 Beautiful Ways to Stay Hydrated! Now, make yourself some of this pretty water! And, I’d love to see how you’re staying motivated too!
Love y’all, Camellia
*Here’s another shot of my morning glass of water… I couldn’t decide which was prettier!
* All photographs are obviously mine! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram- we’re posting almost daily!
As soon as I see little wild strawberries springing up in the yard, I start thinking about making a Strawberry Cobbler! Now, you know I love almost any kind of Cobbler, though in the Spring, it just seems festive to bake a fresh Strawberry Cobbler.
There was a Strawberry Pie, famous in the 60’s that was basically a pie crust, a thick glaze with big fresh strawberries and loads of whipped cream, that will always hold a sweet place in my heart, just like fruit cobblers evoke certain memories that are always good! Well, this Cobbler, is a bit different from the other cobblers I make, because it does have a glaze-y looking filling very similar to the aforementioned restaurant pie.
The difference is…when it’s baked, the glaze acts as a thickener and the strips of pastry act like dumplings- which gives it that juicy cobbler look- the glaze makes it richer gives the Strawberry Cobbler a brighter, prettier look! And…the sugary buttered pastry top- makes it pretty and gives more texture to the Cobbler!
Here’s how you make- Camellia’s Strawberry Cobbler…
A beautiful and easy spring dessert, filled with a thickened sauce and fresh strawberries- topped with a sugary crust! Perfect for any occasion! Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it’s a dream...
4CupsStrawberries Cut in chunks and slices
1 Pie CrustFor single crust
2CupsGranulated SugarDivided, plus more for topping
Hull and cut strawberries into slices and chunks, discarding ant bruised areas. Add 1 cup of sugar over the strawberries, set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat water, cornstarch and strawberry preserves whisking and bringing to a low boil,. Add 3/4-1 cup of strawberries , 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 stick of butter into the cornstarch mixture, lower heat and stir often until the mixture is thickened. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a square glass baking dish. Roll out pie crust, cutting the sides off to make a square roughly the size of the baking dish. If desired, with a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut a heart shape in center of crust. Working quickly, add fresh strawberries to cornstarch mixture and toss lightly to coat berries. Pour into prepared baking dish. Dot with butter. With the strips of pastry, mix into the berry mixture like ‘dumplings’. Taste mixture for sweetness, if needed, sprinkle more sugar over filling before topping with large square pastry, which has been buttered. * do not crimp pastry edges- it will cook freeform on top of the cobbler. Sprinkle pie crust with more sugar. Bake at 375degrees for 45- one hour. Allow to cool, filling will be very hot! Serve with a good quality ice cream, if desired. 6-8 generous servings.
Right now, grocers are beginning to get in the smaller spring strawberries- Look for them, they make almost every dessert extra special! Spring Strawberry Cobbler was on my list to test when I realized it was Pi Day too! Well, for all you mathematicians out there, in this case, Pi R are Square!
And… think you aren’t a math whiz? If you’re a baker, believe me you are! So, Happy Pi Day, from someone like me- who could eat pie every day! Especially, Strawberry Cobbler with a big ol’ scoop of ice cream!
Three years ago, when I first started writing – I was sorely lacking in photographic skills. Not much better now, but have learned a thing or two… Anyway, award winning photographer Jeremy Miniard took pity on me and provided some stunning photographs, then generously offered to let me use them! One of the first groups of photographs I asked him about were Doors; Jeremy has a treasure trove of photographs taken during his ramblings throughout Alabama. The doors he sent to me were amazing. They still are! I posted ‘Doors of Alabama’ using some other photographs offered to me- also out of pity I’m sure. This time… a poster worthy collection of Doors of Alabama are all Jeremy Miniard’s work… be prepared to be impressed!
Doors of Alabama
Thank you Jeremy! This journey just wouldn’t have been the same without you! Now. Y’all. I hope you’re inspired as I was by Jeremy’s photography – and also the beauty and history that surely was behind these old doors…peeling paint and all! Now….on your mark, get set and.. Get out there and take some photographs wherever you are! I’d love to see what you come up with! By the way, can you believe we’re still around after three years? Me either. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for your support, for following this blog and for your kind words; and yes! the funny comments too! And as always…
Love y’all, Camellia
And I saved one of my favorites for last!
*All photographs are the sole property of Jeremy Miniard, please respect this and do not use them without his express permission. You will find his work at Remy Photography- jeremy.miniard.fineartamerica.com
I’ve said it before- the closer you live to a Tomato Vine, the better your life will be. As soon as the weather begins to warm up, southerners start dreaming of summer tomatoes. Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart is an early start on summer- while we wait for our tomato vies to bear. Tomato sandwiches are on our minds. Simple sliced summer tomato slices make an appearance on almost every southern plate. We do everything we can, to preserve the taste of summer as long as we can. I think planting cherry tomatoes offers a head start on the taste only a fresh tomato offers, and yes- the closer you live to a tomato vine the better your life will be.
I believe that fresh tomato pies are a distinctly southern dish. When colorful heirloom cherry tomatoes showed up in my grocery store last week… well, after a bit of testing, we came up with a spring version of Tomato Pie- here’s how you make- Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart.
Using cherry tomatoes, this Spring version of the classic southern favorite, Tomato Pie, is light refreshing and delicious. Served with a mixed green salad and crumbled bacon for a luncheon or as a side for Spring and Easter Dinners, Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart is a beautiful addition.
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
1 9 inchPrepared Pie CrustRolled, not in pie crust pan.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Unroll prepared pie crust in a lightly buttered springform pan. * the pie crust should come up the sides about an inch or less. With a fork prick bottom of crust. Bake 15-16 minutes or until lightly browned. While crust is baking, combine grated Gouda, cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Sprinkle a teaspoon of red pepper flakes and 1/4 cup of green onion tops over cheeses and toss to combine. Place on warm crust and allow to sit until filling is ready. *Do not put filling on cheeses and warm pie crust. Mix mayonnaise, sour cream, softened cream cheese, chopped garlic and pesto until combined; mix in more red pepper flakes, 1/2 of remaining green onion tops, dry basil and cracked black pepper. * Salt is not added until Tomato Tart is served. Complete melting cheeses in tart Shell by returning to 400 degree oven for 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven. Allow to cool slightly. Smooth Filling over melted cheese while still in springform pan. Carefully remove filled tart and top generously with halved cherry tomatoes, * Discard an juices from tomatoes before topping tart.Top tart with additional green onion tops, a sprinkling of dried basil and cracked black pepper. Cut in wedges with serrated knife. Serves 4-6 generously.
We found - a 10 inch springform pan is the best and easiest to use for this tomato tart. The tart shell may be baked in a shallow 9” baking pan, however, this tart does not lend itself to a deep dish pie.
Perfect for Brunch, a ladies luncheon or even as a side dish on the Easter table, Spring Tomato Tart is great on its own for a meatless meal, however, ours was served with a mixed green salad with lots of crumbled bacon. Also wonderful alongside ham, roasted fish or shrimp-this tart is beautiful, cool and delicious. Easy enough to assemble that you’ll find time to get the ground ready for those summer tomato plants! Welcome Spring with an early Tomato Tart!
Love y’all, Camellia
* All photographs are obviously mine.
*Tip: For easy, quick assembly, we decided to use prepared pie crust, prepared pesto and pre-grated cheeses may be used as well. It makes an easy weeknight meal, if you blend the cheeses and the filling ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. You may, of course, make your own piecrust or grate your own cheese. Here’s another photograph of how ours came together- .
I 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-
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.
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.
When 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.
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.
Trees 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.
Little 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.
If 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.
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.
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!
So! 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.
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!
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.
Last 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 greatlove.’ 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.
Now, 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.