This was our first time at the Hampton Inn in Laurel. It really is one of the less-nice Hamptons that we've been to (due to some cleanliness "issues" in the shower, and oddly the maid leaving us a 1/2-full bottle of lotion on the sink counter).
Originally, I meant to cook some nice Gulf snapper for supper last night, but the place where I buy fish was out (I think there's something going on right now with the snapper market) and it was suggested that I try my recipe with Hawaiian Sunfish, which I think is a nice way of saying 'tilapia'. I love snapper and for some reason I have this idea that tilapia is a boring fish, but it tasted really nice anyway, and supper turned out great.
1 c. dry grits
5 c. water
2 tbsp butter
Also for this recipe:
ramekin dishes (butter them)
First, I started the grits (the ones I got from the Kymulga mill) - one cup of dry grits takes a little over an hour to cook. For every one cup of grits, add them to five cups of boiling water and a couple of tablespoons of butter. Add salt and pepper.
Bring it all to a boil, then put the heat down to medium-low and let cook for as long as it takes (generally about an hour or so), stirring pretty often.
Here they are, almost done:
Once they're ready, butter some ramekins (we only needed two, but 1 cup of grits makes enough for six or eight ramekins), fill with grits to about 3/4 full, and set the filled ramekins in an ovenproof dish with water to reach half of the way up.
Preheat the oven to 375* and bake 20 minutes covered with foil, then another 25 or so minutes with the foil removed. This will give the top of the grits (which will be the bottom once it's served) a nice crust.
In the meantime, I just sauteed my green beans, added some teriyaki sauce to them, and put the heat down to medium-low. This let the beans soak up the teriyaki flavor while I started the fish.
Pecan Encrusted Hawaiian Sunfish/Tilapia (or Snapper)
This recipe is based on, but isn't exactly, the recipe in the Prejean's cookbook.
2 c. pecan meal (I get mine from Priester's Pecans in Fort Deposit, but it's just as easy to make it yourself by processing pecan halves in a food processor)
3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. cumin
salt, black pepper
3 tsp. cayenne
1/3 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp each: dried thyme, oregano, basil
few dashes (as much or as little as you like) of Rex Blackened Seasoning
2 fish filets (tilapia or snapper)
butter for sauteeing the fish
a little warm, clarified butter to dip each of the filets in for breading
Mix together all the dry ingredients. Dip each of the filets in warm, clarified butter, then dredge in the breading to coat both sides well.
Melt butter in large pan for sauteeing.
Add the fish and cook on medium-high, depending on thickness of the filets, about 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 minutes on each side.
Once the baked grits were ready, I took a knife and went around the inside of each of the ramekins to loosen the grits. I inverted one ramekin on each of the plates, and the grits came out with no problem!
Then, I placed each filet over the baked grits, and surrounded that with my green beans.
Av and I also visited the Kymulga Mill and Covered Bridge on Sunday. It's sooo beautiful.
Inside the mill, the gentleman who runs the mill park took us for a little tour and explained the history and the entire process of how everything at the mill worked, from start to finish. The person who had the mill built was Confederate Army Captain Forney, and the contractor was G.E. Morris, who was building three other mills at the time (a little more about him here). Captain Forney died before it was completed (it was completed in 1864), and after his family there have been three or four other owners since.
The covered bridge is it's 105' long, and cars can't go over it any more. It goes across the Talladega Creek, and was built in 1861.
All the pics are here in my Flickr set.
This weekend we went to the 192nd anniversary of the battle of Horseshoe Bend, which is not too far from Alexander City, AL. This is going to sound silly, but I grew up hearing about Horseshoe Bend and it never dawned on me that it happened in Alabama, or what the consequences were (for instance, 800 Upper Creeks died defending their property here, that Sam Houston fought and was wounded here by an arrow, that afterwards the Creek Nation surrendered 20+ million acres that helped form Alabama and Georgia, that it was this battle that helped catapult Andrew Jackson's political career, that although the battle ended March 27, 1814 that it is still considered part of the 'War of 1812').
At the festival, there were people who were teaching crafts like basketweaving (above), and demonstrating weaving (below), another who was showing how arrowheads are made. There was always a crowd around him - he taught himself how to make arrowheads, and made one while we were standing there. I don't really know anything about arrowheads, but his demonstration was just really interesting.
This was nice to do once - but another thing we did on Sunday (even better) was a visit to the Kymulga mill and covered bridge. I'll post that tomorrow. All the pics from Horseshoe Bend are here in my Flickr set.
Above: a (not-so-great) pic I took of the Beverly Drive In in Hattiesburg.
Av and I were talking this weekend about how much fun it would be to watch a movie at a Drive In. We both went to drive ins when we were little, but it's been since we were kids that either of us have been to one. I did a little research, and this website has a listing of all Drive Ins (open and closed), state-by-state. There are eleven open in Alabama, six in Georgia, none (!) in Louisiana, and three in Mississippi.
We're going to try to get to one of them soon. Fun!
Oooooh...I am *so* ready for Spring! We've made a list of tasks to do around the house - I always like to get into the 'Spring Cleaning' thing really big. Av's been doing some painting, and I took a bit of a break from organizing closets and that sort of thing to design my own Spring-y welcome mat. Here's how it went:
I bought one welcome mat with no design on the top. My other materials were:
Spray paint primer in white
Spray paint in pink
Spray paint in lime green (of course, use whatever colors you like best)
Painter's masking tape
Newspaper to put underneath rug and protect the grass from getting painted (this is an outside project)
First, I just laid newspaper out on the lawn for the mat to sit on top of:
Then, I sprayed the white primer all over the mat:
Once the primer was dry (about two hours in the sunshine), I took the painter's masking tape and made stripes for my first color. I didn't want them to be all the same size, so I taped off different widths:
I sprayed my first color - pink:
Once that was dry (another couple of hours), I lifted the tape - it looked really nice already!
Once that tape had been removed, I taped off the mat for my second color - the green. I did it so that between every green and pink stripe, there would be a stripe of white. In other words, I covered all of the existing pink stripes I had *plus* a little. This made sure there was a stripe of white between the two colors, so it would look neat in the end:
Then, I just sprayed the whole thing with the green paint:
After a couple of hours, I lifted the last of the tape, and here it is!
Tonight I made a really yummy green curry chicken. One of my favorite Thai restaurants does an *amazing* green curry chicken that I always order and I wanted to see if I could get it to be similar cooking it at home.
This recipe was based on (but isn't exactly) the one at Epicurious, which can be found here.
(My version) Ingredients:
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small strips
Just a little olive oil for cooking the chicken
2 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp. green curry paste (Epicurious suggests 2 tsp, but Av and I like it *really* spicy - so it can go anywhere between these two amounts)
2/3 c. chicken broth
1 c. coconut milk
1 c. cooked basmati rice (although if I had this recipe to do over, I think I would have made it 1-1/2 c. rice. All the other quantities would remain the same, even with the increased rice.)
Cook basmati rice - get this started early, because this kind of rice takes 45 - 60 minutes to be ready.
Heat the olive oil in a wok, and add the chicken. Cook until just almost done (because it's going to finish cooking at the end).
Put the chicken on a plate for later.
To the wok, add the curry paste and green onions. let that cook/stir together for a couple of minutes at medium-high heat:
Add chicken broth and coconut milk to the wok, and let this get up to temperature before going any further:
Add the cooked basmati rice, and let that cook at medium-high for three or four minutes so that the rice absorbs the flavors:
Now add the chicken, and let the whole thing cook for another 4-5 minutes so that the chicken gets nice and hot and completely cooked:
This turned out *really* nice - we both enjoyed it a lot. Yay!
We finally got to visit Black Belt Treasures...it's another shop that sells items from Alabama artists. I Tivo 'Alabama at Work' on APT, and they did a feature on it a few weeks ago (I think I've seen it in Southern Living, too). It's a really nice shop with all kinds of things from clothes for children to pottery and other fine art. Here's a pic of the inside of the shop:
One of the things we really liked were carved ducks by John Sheffey...it takes him at least four weeks to finish one of his ducks, and they're priced between $450 and $1500, depending on how elaborate and large they are.
They had a nice selection of books, and Av got a couple. I got this wisteria vine piece:
It was in the children's section as being a canopy bed for baby dolls, but I thought it would be really different as a stand for books (for now).
Av and I visited Joe Minter, Sr. a couple of weeks ago....I would have posted this sooner, but I wanted to finish his book, 'To You Through Me: The Beginning of a Link of a Journey of 400 Years' first.
We spent a little over an hour in Joe's yard, and about an hour more talking with him and getting a tour of other pieces he is working on currently.
Okay. Joe is a straight-up genius visionary artist.
Joe Minter is a very different, very motivated person. His message isn't 100% about "salvation" like so many other visionary artists, but rather it's more about the American experience of Africans who came to this country. This is part of how he explains his art's mission in his book:
G-d gave me the vision of art, to link that 400-year-journey to the Africans in America, link that truth to the children who are turning away from us, and I decided to name what I create 'The African Village in America.'
A few years ago, Av and I met Lonnie Holley and bought one of his pieces of art. I don't remember if Av asked him what it was all about or if Lonnie offered, but he turned the piece around in his hands and explained what every single thing represented. Each angle was different, and it showed a different aspect of the story he was telling.
Joe is this same way. It's very sincere, and it's very understandable, and it's many-layered. Sometimes it's very obvious and sometimes not so much. Either way, what Joe does is pure genius.
I've got a few pics of his yard/art environment here and over a hundred more pics at my Flickr set here. He and his wife invited us to come back whenever, especially when the plants start blooming, to see everything again. We will.
I started a new group Friday on Flickr called 'Land of Cotton' to pool all the great pics there of cotton from all over the world. I'm really happy with the way it has just taken off already! All the group pics can be found right here.
We bought a few small things - nothing huge, but I was just wide-eyed at how great everything is, and want to go back really soon.
The whole thing is just amazing. Not only their facility, but their purpose.
Outside this building is this sign:
Other items that are sold in the shop include everything from pine needle baskets to pottery, music boxes to quilts - made by people who aren't well known, to people who are - like Charlie Lucas, Gee's Bend quilters, and Jerry Brown. And more.
The Center's brochure lists their six basic goals:
* To preserve and celebrate our rural heritage
* To protect and demonstrate diverse cultural contributions to our rural heritage
* To provide opportunitites for cultural enrichment
* To encourage economic development which enhances the lifestyle of rural citizens and small-town America
* To conserve, develop, and promote the unique handicrafts of rural life, exhibit and market handicrafts, and assist groups and individuals who wish to produce crafts
* To improve and enhance the quality of life for citizens of small towns and rural areas.
How could you not love a place like that!? Their director, Gayle - well, she is the exact right person for that job. Just wonderful. I told her that I've thought a zillion times about how much fun it would be to have a shop of Alabama-made things, and she and her foundation have really done it. I'm going to send off for us to become members, and I'm going to try to help them however I can.
They have a website here, but really it's something to be seen *in person*!
Last week, Av and I went to the Old Monroe County Courthouse in Monroeville, Alabama. One of Av's friends helps runs the museum, and she was surprised to run into us! We had a great time - Av's been there several times, and I've been outside, but never inside the building.
The really interesting thing about Monroeville is that not only is Nelle Harper Lee from there, but right next door lived Truman Capote...how neat would it have been to have grown up on their street!?
Anyway, I took *lots* of pictures, and they're in my Flickr set here. Some of my favorites are below:
The night Av and I were in Livingston last week, we decided to go to the Sumter Theater (Smitty's, 116 Franklin St), which is by the courthouse downtown.
Smitty's is really different, which I love. When you walk in, you place your order for supper - they have *lots* of things on the menu. Av got fish and fries, I got a hamburger with a side of fried okra. We also paid for our movie tickets there at the counter...I think they were $5.50/ea. After we ordered and paid for the movie - Eight Below (which wasn't really something I was really wanting to see, but I really wanted to just go to the show) - we sat down in the theater ON A COUCH.
Yes. We watched a movie in a real theater on a couch. They have plenty of the regular seating, but for whoever wants to pretend they're at home with a really big tv and twelve other people they don't know, there's the couch. So neat!
Everyone at the movie, it seemed, also ordered supper - because when it's ready, one of the people that works there steps into the theater, says the orderer's name, and when they figure out who it belongs to, it's served.
Anyway, it was sooooo cool to be there. How many other people in America, like the people and students at Livingston, get to watch a theater movie on a couch while munching on okra? I love it!
Lobby: A little nicer than the average HIX.
Food: We just walked by their breakfast counter on the way out...it looked okay but wasn't anywhere close to even the Hamptons we've been to lately.
Our experience is this: Demopolis really only has this HIX, plus a Windwood Inn and a couple of other lower-end hotels, so there's not a lot of choice - but this hotel was just fine and I wouldn't mind staying here again.
Once a week or so, I'll go to Wikipedia and put in today's date and click over to the dates of the upcoming week, just to see what holidays are being celebrated around the world. Today is Pi Day. Why? Because today is March 14th (3.14). Um, yeah. I know...
Ordinarily I'm not sure I would do anything for Pi Day, but then I remembered that when Av was in elementary school, he for some reason memorized the first fifty or sixty or so (I'm not sure, but a *bunch*) digits of pi. He *still* remembers them. Then a while back, his mom saw a 'pi plate' (in a pic below) - and no kidding, she bought it and gave it to us. Well, this was the *perfect* opportunity to use it.
Av had a board meeting to attend tonight, so I decided to surprise him with one of his favorite pies - Pawleys Island Pie, which I change up just a little bit from the original. He had no idea about Pi Day, but sure did like coming home to a house that smelled like a giant pie, even over in the garage!
pie crust, baked and ready for filling (I use a deep dish pie crust)
1/2 c. all-purpose flour (I use White Lily)
1 c. white sugar
2 large eggs
8 tbsp. butter at room temperature (you can melt it in the microwave & cool it if you like)
a little salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. peanut butter chips
1 c. pecan pieces
Preheat the oven to 325*
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and pecans.
In your Kitchenaid, mix together the butter and eggs, then add the vanilla. Slowly (and with the beater going at its slowest speed) add the dry mixture of the flour/sugar/chips/pecans/etc.
Take a spoon and put your mixture into the pie crust (be sure to put the pie crust on a baking sheet lined with foil - this pie is sometimes bad to run over if you get it the teensiest bit overfilled).
Bake it at 325* for about an hour (I used a deep-dish pie crust. If you use a shallow pie crust, your time will likely be more like 45-50 minutes).
All set - I had a teeny slice and it was sooo yummy.
(This is so geeky, but.....) Happy Pi Day!!
Since I had all my materials out to make figures out of felt, I decided to try to make an ice cream cone (not sure why!). Anyway, I think it turned out really cute.
Tan felt for the ice cream cone
Colors of felt in sheets for your ice cream colors (I used minty green and pink)
Embroidery floss in a beige or white color, plus embroidery needle
Rotary cutter, self-healing mat
Bowls for circle template
I took a sheet of the tan felt and just rolled it from one edge to the other to make a cone shape:
I sewed up the edge and along the top (I just tucked inside all the extra material - that comes in handy later):
Then, cut out two circles for each ice cream scoop - one will make the scoop, and the other will make a little ruffle under each scoop:
Do a running stitch around the border of one of the circles, then start pulling to close it up, but put in plenty of the cottony stuffing to make it poofy:
Then just sew it up:
Next, take the other circle of the same-color felt, and use the scissors to make a scalloped edge, and sew it to the bottom of the sewed-up scoop:
Here's how it looks from above now:
Now, untuck the extra material from the cone, and push some of the stuffing down in it, up to almost the very top:
Once that is done, push all that extra material back down into the inside of the cone, and it will be this extra material that you use to fasten the first scoop to the cone...
Then, just make as many other scoops as you like, and sew them to the top of the one below it.
I didn't have a good way to stand this up at first, but my cruet worked perfectly!
I think this works really neat - maybe even with a little felt cherry on top!
Since Purim comes this week, I made a couple of felt hamentaschen.
Materials (for two hamentaschen):
One sheet dough-colored felt
One sheet jam-colored felt (I used a nice blue/purple)
Tan embroidery floss, needle
Round shapes (I used bowls) to be a circle template
Take the sheet of tan/dough-colored felt, and cut two circles from it. I just used a bowl as a template to use with my rotary cutter:
Here they are, all cut out:
Next, I cut a square of my jam-colored felt to fit inside the circle. I glued it on three sides to the tan felt:
Once the glue had dried, I put some of the cottony stuffing inside:
Then I started folding it up to make the triangle shape. I made a fold, then took my embroidery thread and needle and sewed up each of the corners:
Next, I just used a tiny dab of glue to make everything nice and snug on the three corners:
I could have left it as-is, but I decided to make this one into a refrigerator magnet - I just hot-glued a magnet to the back, and voila!