Swimming for Potatoes

Rain, rain, go away… We’ve got work to do in our garden and getting drenched while doing so isn’t our idea of fun.  Okay, the kids might disagree with me there, but you get the idea.  Sending them back to class with mud on their bodies and smiles on their faces is not how to make friends with the teacher.  And I love teachers!

So we keep them on our good side, and reschedule our “swim.”  Thank goodness we have a few classes where we can stagger the harvest.  Middle schoolers had a ball digging through the dirt (never too old, are they?) and since it was their last class for the day, no problem.  Teaching them the finesse of hunting for potatoes was another story.

harvesting taters

You see, when you harvest your potatoes, you must do so with some restraint.  Dive-bombing your shovel into the dirt is not helpful, because you will likely tear the skin of your hidden gems before you ever see them.  And torn, ripped up potatoes do not store as well as clean, bruise-free, stab-free ones do.  So tread lightly, proceed with caution.  Use your tool to loosen the dirt around the potato plant and then gently dig through with gloved hands.  Middle schoolers opted to go glove-free.  Go figure.

But they were successful!  “Throw me another one for the bucket!”

“Ack!  Don’t throw it–don’t you remember me telling you to be gentle?” More

Southern Cornbread

After my sad post about giving up on corn, I needed something to boost my spirits, a little pick me up, if you will.  And there’s no better way sometimes, than with a spot of comfort food.  Southern Cornbread, anyone?

This is a recipe I devised through trial and error, not to mention the help of my daughter’s taste buds.  I’ll warn you, she’s a sweet one.  Sweet on the outside, sweet on the inside, plain everything in her world is sweet—including her preference in food.  Which leads me to a disclaimer:  this is NOT my mother’s recipe.  (We don’t want to tarnish her reputation in any way, particularly “guilt by association.”)

To be completely forthright, we took her basic recipe and modified from there.  Frankly, I prefer her recipe, only not oven-baked as she directed, but pan-fried, with lots of yummy butter to make it a beautiful golden brown.  My apologies to my healthy friends—this recipe is anything but.

But it’s oh-so-delicious.  And simple–the best part of all!

Southern Cornbread

Southern Cornbread

2 cups yellow cornmeal

2 cups buttermilk

3 TBSP melted bacon drippings, extra to grease pan

1 egg

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup vanilla pudding mix (optional – to add moisture)

2 TBSP sugar (optional – for the sweet tooth!) More

Ladd Springs

Ladd Springs_Book1-LGLADD SPRINGS

“Ladd Springs was one of those books that I couldn’t put down – at first because it drew me in with a ton of questions to be answered about the pasts of the characters, and a great story. Second because of how heart pounding it gets towards the ending!” ~~ Debbie Jean’s Blog

A deathbed promise and a mysterious find in the Tennessee forest bring Delaney Wilkins and Nick Harris together in a dramatic fight for the rights to Ladd Springs.

Delaney Wilkins finds herself at odds with hotel developer Nick Harris over a deathbed promise and a mysterious find in the forest.  Both are after title to Ladd Springs, a mecca of natural springs, streams and trails in the eastern Tennessee mountains, a tract of land worth millions.  But Ernie Ladd, current owner of the property and uncle to Delaney, is adamantly opposed to them both.

Felicity Wilkins, Delaney’s daughter, deserves to inherit her family’s legacy, but neighbor Clem Sweeney is working against her, ingratiating himself with Ernie Ladd.  Clem is also harboring a secret that will make him a very wealthy man—unless the others stop him before he can bring it to fruition.

Complicating matters is Annie Owens.  Ex-girlfriend to Jeremiah Ladd, Ernie’s estranged son living in Atlanta, she declares her daughter Casey is Jeremiah’s, making Casey every bit as entitled to the property as Felicity—only Annie hasn’t proven this claim.  Yet.

All are fighting to get the property, but only one will walk away with the gold.  Which will it be?  Find out in the first installment of Ladd Springs…

pan-frying cornbread

While reading this novel, don’t be surprised if you get a hankering for some good old-fashioned southern cooking.  Take my cornbread, for instance.  Delaney Wilkins makes some of the best and her hero agrees.  Try it and see what YOU think! 😉  Check out my recipe section for full details!

***This is book #1 in a series of 5

Visit my website for a complete listing of my books.

Pulling Sweet Babies from the Ground

In my kids’ garden world, there’s nothing better than harvest time–unless, of course, we’re tilling.  My son loves tilling and tearing through the dirt.  (Doesn’t every boy? :)) And we’ve waited so long for the sweet onions to mature, it’s time we get digging. 

Planted back in the fall, these sweet delicacies take time to fill out and ripen to perfection, about six months or so.  You’ll know when they’re ready when their tops brown over.  As you can see, we didn’t wait that long.  Besides, we could clearly see the rounded tops poking up through the soil surface, these onions were calling our name…

“Hey, you–come and get me!”

Pulling onions

Didn’t take much to distract my daughter from her chore of weeding carrots.  With the recent cold snap, she’s been craving French onion soup, so we pulled a little early. Simply wedge the onion back and forth from its position and gently pull. Voila!

pull it easy...

Your very own fresh sweet onion!  Hmmm…can you smell it?  VERY fragrant and oh-so-sweet when freshly harvested.  While not quite round in shape, this one is plenty fine to eat.  Again, we can be impatient gardeners and this is the fruit of our labor. My son prefers them raw, but my daughter likes them baked, broiled and caramelized. 

If you’ve never tried growing onions yourself, give them a whirl, if only for the fact that they taste like “butta” when eaten FRESH from the ground.  Try the Baked Sweet Onion recipe or perhaps the Onions Au Gratin.  Both are divine

Holiday Gifts of Love Blog Hop

Welcome to my corner of the Holiday Gifts of Love Blog Hop where you can win TONS of prizes.  Check these out!

And it doesn’t stop there.  Here at BloominThyme we LOVE the holidays and of course with us, it’s all about growing and cooking and getting creative.  So in addition to your chance for one of the three grand prizes, you can also win this gorgeous gift box, filled with Organic Sweet Pepper and Herbs (Basil & Cilantro) Mix. More

Hungarian Wax Beauties

Wahoo~my Hungarian Wax peppers are ready to be canned!!  It’s the moment my son has been waiting for.  He can’t wait to get started harvesting–well, in between entertaining the neighbor girl peering at him through the chain link fence, that is.  In between introducing him to all 100 of her imaginary brothers and sisters, her fleet of horses, her real life dogs…

Well, you get the picture.  The boy was distracted, but still managed to snip this bounty of peppers.

Beautiful.  From red to yellow (and a few green we’ll chalk up to the distraction factor), my son has given me quite the beginning for a canning fiesta.  Mind you, he didn’t lug this basket up to the house himself.  I did.  He was busy impressing the young girl with his digging abilities, creating a hole deep enough to step in clear up to his thighs!  Needless to say, she was thrilled. More

Sydney’s Sangría

To celebrate the release of my new novel, WHISPER PRIVILEGES, I’ve decided to share this recipe for Sangría.  Why?  Number one, Sangría makes for a great celebration tool and number two, it’s one of my character’s favorite drinks. 

 Miami is hosting the Special Olympics and Clay Rutledge’s son is competing in the games.  He’s a sure bet to win the gold—until an unexpected turn of events jeopardizes everything. Lured by Clay’s sexy confidence, event planner Sydney Flores is tempted to mix business with pleasure, but is he worth risking her job?  Read full blurb here.

It’s the assignment of a lifetime, only not the one she’s expecting.  Part romance, part women’s fiction, this book is a passionate chase and part of the fun? 

Yep.  Sangría.  And I have the perfect recipe for this Spanish punch, but let me forewarn you:  it’s potent stuff.  Delicious, but powerful, especially if you get a little liberal with the brandy.  You probably don’t want your husband coming home for lunch the day you whip up a batch, either.  I can hear it now

Hubby walks in the door and spies you whisking fruit through a pitcher of Sangría and checks his watch.  “Everything okay?”

“Yes, honey, why would you ask?”  When his eyes drop to the pitcher, you realize the misunderstanding.   “I’m making Sangría for my blog.” 

He raises a wary brow.  “You have a garden blog.  I don’t see the connection.”

“Yes, but this is for my novel.”

He holds up a quick hand.  “Never mind.  Forget I asked.”


But I know what—it  was the same reaction my daughter gave me when she discovered dumping a bottle of soda into a pitcher full of wine.  “Are you getting drunk?” the teeny-bopper asked in disbelief.

I laughed.  While I do like my wine, I don’t like it before 5:00pm.  After reassuring her I was okay, I returned to my concoction.  And this recipe is easy.  All you need is some leftover red wine (if you have that at your house), or maybe that wine gift you received from your non-wine-drinking friend.  Yes, you get the picture.  Any red wine will do.

Next up becomes a matter of preference.  For basic Sangría, you add fruit juice and whole fruit.  For mine, I use orange juice.  For added pizzazz, I like to add a splash of brandy, too.  One of my most memorable experiences with this drink was during a trip to Spain with my brother.  It was years ago, but memorable for so many reasons.  One of the most noted was his claim to a mastery of the language to which I replied, “Just because you live in Miami, doesn’t mean you speak Spanish.”

“Don’t worry (dude), I speak Spanish.  I’ll get us around.”

Or lost, forcing us to walk miles out of our way, our sole human sighting an elderly couple walking along the winding country road with a basket on their heads.  They didn’t speak his Spanish, either.

But I digress.  Once we arrived at our intended destination, the restaurant served a Sangría that was absolutely wonderful.  Ever since, I’ve compared Sangrías and come to realize that I prefer the brandy version.  And to sweeten the mix, many folks add sugar, but I use a can of ginger-ale soda, instead.  Bubbles make for a nice addition, too. 🙂

And that’s it.  Red wine, orange juice, soda and brandy.  Some of the variations I’ve seen include rum instead of brandy, club soda instead of ginger-ale.  Same goes for the chopped fruit.  I used orange and apple, but you can use lemon, limes, mango, peaches—you name it!  Let your taste buds be your guide.

Above all, enjoy.  Sangría is a sumptuous indulgence.  Check my recipe section for full details.

Visit my author website for a complete listing of my books.

Cooking Up Some Comfort Food

Not that we need comfort food in Florida this time of year, but it is practically St. Patrick’s Day and with that comes corn beef and cabbage.  Corn beef and cabbage?  Yum.  Count me in!

In my opinion, the best part about this dish happens to be the cabbage.  Not only does it come from garden this time of year–always and added plus–it takes on a whole new personality when sautéed with sweet onions.  Granted my sweet onions aren’t ready yet (still “bartering” with gardeners from other parts of the world at the moment for my onion supply), but thank goodness for the grocery store, right?  I mean, I don’t raise beef, either but it doesn’t prevent me from enjoying the taste every now and again.

Back to my cabbage.  This is one of my husband’s favorites.  Born and raised in Ohio, his family has been making this comfort food for years.  But being from Miami, I never heard of it until I met him.  We ate mangos and plantains, fried chicken and grits.  (That’s what happens when you transplant a Georgia family to South Florida–cra-zy!)  All good food and comforting to a degree, but this dish has fast become a favorite of mine, too.   How can you not like a dish with three simple ingredients?

It’s perfect.  The only challenge comes in the fact that you have to “work” this dish and by that I mean actually stand stove-side and stir, flip, rotate–you know, cook!  That’s where I tend to have issue.  What requires a golden butter brown saute ends up caramelized quickly in my kitchen.  I could blame it on the high heat of my electric stove (real cooks use gas) or the fact that I multi-task while cooking.  Who can ignore the buzzer on a dryer full of warm wrinkle-free clothes?  Not me!

But truly it’s all good.  My cabbage dish turns out sweet and delightful and more importantly–edible.  Never good to mess up hubby’s favorite dish (if you know what I mean) so I do try to pay attention and caramelizing is a good thing.  If it works for French onion soup, it can work for cabbage and onions.  And just look at these results.

Are you salivating, yet?  Thought you would be!  Now head on over to my recipe section for complete details on how to conjure up this gourmet delight in your kitchen tonight!

Kids and Cabbage

Both cute as buttons, we brought them together in the kitchen to eat what they grew! How fun is that? When kindergarteners are involved, believe me—it’s WAY fun.  First we had to harvest the cabbage from our garden and these two girls really have it down to a team sport.  When the cabbage is large and round, simply twist and pull.  Twist and pull and snap to one side if necessary.

Ta da!  Cabbage for coleslaw!  And what a beauty! 


So on the menu this week?  Coleslaw:  a mix of cabbage, cucumbers, sweet onions—all of which we are growing in our garden. Goodbye, grocery store! These kids are growing their own meals now. 🙂

And making coleslaw is EASY. Simply chop up a head of cabbage, 1 sweet onion and 1 cucumber then toss them together with a little bit of red wine vinegar, mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste.  And “to taste” is key, because as you know, taste buds run as different as kids on a playground—every which direction, to be exact.

So “add a little, taste a little, add a little, taste a little….” It’s how old southern women make their coleslaw (and this recipe came from my mother—an old southern woman). But the results? Just ask the kids—oh wait, their mouths are full!

For those who didn’t “prefer” the coleslaw, no worries! We’ll compost it and make dirt. Now that’s what I call self-sustaining! And totally organic.  The plants love us for it.

So how about it? Follow our lead and plant cabbage, cucumbers and sweet onions in YOUR garden and you too, will have all the ingredients for the best coleslaw EVER.

Thanks, Jack Frost!

Because you were kind enough to delay your visit to Florida this year, my tomatoes are blooming, producing quite the bounty!  Why, just look at these gorgeous babies…

Aren’t they fabulous?  And better yet, they taste delicious–especially in sauce form.  But before we get to the kitchen, I wanted to share a few things I learned this season with regard to growing tomatoes.  Number one:  sturdy triangle towers are your BEST bet.  This round contraption with the adjustable vertical supports was no good.  Actually collapsed beneath the weight of the plant!

Sure, I could have manipulated the positioning of these supports and in fact did so several times–but is that how I want to be spending my time in the garden?  Nope.  I’d rather stroll down to the garden and admire my sturdy triangle tomato towers, and then pluck ruby-red tomatoes (or nearly so) from my plants.  I mean, that’s the reason I’m gardening, right?  The harvest?

Yes.  And once I gather a basket-full of San Marzanos, it’s off to check on the others.  My Lincoln tomatoes are doing well, but why are some of them yellow?  In fact, they look amazingly similar to the Lemon Drop variety I saw in one of my seed catalogs.  Hmph.  I don’t remember ordering those, let alone planting them!

But stranger things have happened.  I guess.  Right?  No worries.  It’s all fun. 🙂  Wandering still further, I noticed this little beauty.

Don’t ask me how it ended up in my tomato cage.  Blame it on the fact that I expanded the garden into the wildflower field, coupled with unseasonably warm weather…  Not really sure.  Like I said–strange things are happening around here.  Yet wonderful things are about to happen in my kitchen!  C’mon, I’ll show you! 

Now making tomato sauce is an easy task.  Easier when using canned, but we’re gardeners and a little extra effort to use fresh doesn’t bother us in the least bit.  So first things first, we need to remove the skin and seeds.  I call this “blanch and push.”  You’ll find full instructions on how-to in my recipe section but for now, we’ll cover the basics. 

Next up is the cooking process.  First you’ll want to saute onion and garlic in olive oil and then add your tomatoes.  Mush ’em up real good (helps them cling to the noodles).  Add the seasoning of your choice, bring to a boil and then simmer on low for 20 minutes to several hours. 

Wow.  That’s vague. 

Yes.  And so are most Italians when you ask them how to make tomato sauce.  Some may slant you the evil eye while others will simply smile yet remain mum.  You see, tomato sauce is akin to the family jewels when it comes to Italians and they won’t share (other than with their firstborn) the recipe for their tomato sauce.  Shoot–some won’t even eat another’s sauce let alone tell you how they make theirs!

Blasphemy, pure and simple.  But since I’m only Italian by marriage, I’ll share with you what I’ve learned along the way.  Sauce to Italians is like gravy to Americans and everyone’s taste buds run different.  You know, some like it lumpy, others don’t.  Some like it dark while others prefer it light.  Salt, no salt…  Which pretty much sums up tomato sauce.  Fiddle with the recipe until you tweak it just right to suit YOUR family and call it a day.

You’ll never please everyone so worry about those who matter.  Same goes for meatballs (but were not even going to GO there).  When it comes to sauce, think “taste and cling” and above all, enjoy the process. Buon Appetito!