Garden Therapy

Spring is here! I love this time of year. Plants and trees are blooming. Birds are singing. The forsythia is bright yellow-gold. The fragrant purple lilac blooms are opening up. The buttercups are standing at attention. The raspberry and blackberry canes are waking up from their long winter’s nap. The grass is greening up. The cherry, magnolia, redbud and Bradford pear trees are in full bloom. The dogwoods are starting to wake up. The azaleas and rhododendrons are coming alive. You can smell the sweet fragrance of spring onions as the lawnmowers start to get fired up the neighborhood. In the woods behind our house, there is starting to be a very light splash of light green as the new growth begins in the forest. Our Meyer Lemon and Banana trees, our Bougainvillea bush and Frangiapani plant that spend the winter in our sunroom are longing to get outside for some fresh air. It’s springtime in Middle Tennessee. It’s time for some garden therapy!

I’ve always enjoyed watching things grow. In the years past, it was our children. Now it is our grandchildren. Turning the soil and setting out seeds and plants has always had a therapeutic effect on me. Not only mentally and spiritually, but also physically. I consider myself physically and mentally strong and I take no medications with the occasional exception of ibuprofen once in a while for an ache or pain. I contribute that in part to my “garden therapy” and the wonderful organic vegetables that the therapy helps produce. Tilling the soil, loading the compost in the garden bed, pulling the weeds in the bright sunshine with a slight breeze? There is nothing quite like that feeling – Mother Nature at her finest.

We do not have a farm, but I recall fondly of going to our grandparents farm in the summers while growing up in Iowa. I guess this is where my love of gardening came from. I loved picking the fresh vegetables as a kid and eating them for dinner the same day. We have less than an acre but make the best of it with a small raised bed plot that provides just enough vegetables for our small family during the growing season.

Most of Middle Tennessee is in gardening zone 7. Most seed packets will tell you the correct planting dates for your zone. It’s not too early to plant cool season plants such as potatoes, greens, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, peas, carrots and beets and radishes. Radishes come up in a matter of weeks.

I have set cauliflower and lettuce transplants out, planted seed potatoes beets and carrots in the garden. I started celery, broccoli and shallot seeds in the compost bin because conditions in there with the lid on seem to be ideal for sprouting seedlings. By the time the cool season crops are harvested, it will be time to set out tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash and corn for a summer harvest.

We use only GMO free and organic seeds and transplants and garden organically using natural fertilizers like compost and pond water. We have just a small 30 gallon pond that has been full of leaves and clippings and lots of natural organic bacterias throughout the winter. For insect control, we make natural insecticidal soap from red pepper, vinegar , garlic and soap.

From now until fall, I look forward to my daily “garden therapy” routine of watching the young plants grow and blossom while keeping them watered, weeded and fed.

How do you get your daily therapy? I highly recommend this approach. Try it – you’ll like it!

Now if I could just figure how to get rid of those damn pesky moles in our yard!

Grilled Chicken Teriyaki Skewers

Grilling season is finally here! Here is a delicious recipe for Grilled Chicken Teriyaki Skewers that will melt in your mouth…

You will need 5 – 6 skewers. If you are using the wooden ones, be sure to soak them in water before you start preparing the chicken. You may substitute breast meat for thigh meat but the thigh meat works better for this recipe because the thigh meat is more juicy and tender.

Servings 3-4

Cook / Prep Time – about 2 hours


  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 – 6 oz. can pineapple juice
  • 1/3 cup mirin
  • 1/4 cup sake or a dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp. grated citrus peel, orange or lemon
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp water

If using wooden skewers, soak them in water. Cut the chicken thighs into 1-2″ strips or cubes. In a bowl, whisk the pineapple juice and the next 8 ingredients together to make the marinade. Divide the marinade in half. Put half the marinade in a sauce pan. Soak the chicken pieces in the other half of the marinade. Place the marinated chicken in the refrigerator and soak for 1 hour.

If you are using a charcoal grill like I did, get the coals started. When the chicken is done marinating, put the chicken on the skewers securely by weaving them. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. When the coals are white place on grill turning frequently so that they won’t burn. Grill them until they are browned well on all sides. Don’t worry if they are not completely done because we will be finishing them off in the oven.

Pull the skewers off the grill and place them in the oven. Bring the marinade that is in the saucepan to a boil. Dissolve the cornstarch and water together and pour into the marinade to thicken into a glaze. Remove from heat and brush the glaze onto the skewers and cook for about 10 minutes. That’s it! Serve with your favorite rice dish.


Suggested music for your listening pleasure while preparing these skewers…

Since the “super worm equinox moon” appeared last night, let’s go with the album “Equinox”, the fifth studio album by Styx featuring “Lorelei” released in December 1975.

And since it is his Birthday today, how about “Take Me Home Tonight” by Eddie Money from his album “Can’t Hold Back” released in August 1986. The song features Ronnie Spector on the chorus vocals that mimic “Be My Baby” , the hit song from 1963 on which she was the original vocalist with the “Ronettes”.

Click on the link below to view the Lodge Cast Iron Hibachi Grill that I used on Amazon….,B00006JSUA,B00063RXQK&lp_mat_key=lodge&lp_query=lodge%20hibachi%20grill&linkCode=ll2&tag=joynts55-20&linkId=d6b60948daeea215cf1f135df41285f6&language=en_US

Easy Key Lime Tarts

Looking for an easy dessert to make for St. Patrick’s Day?These mini key lime pies are very easy to make and have the perfect combination of sweetness and tartness!

True key limes are more yellow than green when they ripen so if you see large green key limes, run from them – they are are fake news! I happened to see some real key limes some at our local Publix and I immediately started craving key lime pie. Here’s the traditional type recipe….

Servings – 6 mini pies or 1 large pie

Cook/Prep time – About an hour

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup key lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp grated key lime zest
  • 6 small graham cracker tart shells
  • whipped topping

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Pour the can of condensed milk into a mixing bowl, using a rubber spatula to get it all out. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Juice the key limes until you get 1/2 cup of juice and zest the limes to get 1 1/2 teaspoons. Add the juice and zest to the egg yolks and mix well. Add the egg yolk mixture to the condensed milk and blend together with a rubber spatula. Pour the mixture into the pie shells and place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the tarts from the oven and let them cool. Refrigerate or freeze them. When cooled, top them with whipped cream and garnish with a slice of key lime. That’s it! Easy Peasy Key Lime Squeezy!


Suggested music for your listening pleasure while preparing these key lime pies…

“Key Largo” by Bertie Higgins from his album “Just Another Day in Paradise” released in September 1981.

“Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins from his album “…But Seriously” released in 1989.

Practically anything by Jimmy Buffett.

Homemade Pasta

It’s been a while since I have made fresh pasta, so I thought I would try it again. Fresh pasta can be very tricky because it just will not work if the dough is too wet or too dry. That’s why it’s very important to sift the flour for this recipe.

For this recipe, I used a KitchenAid pasta maker attachment that I’ve had for years. You can actually use the meat grinder attachment if you have the pasta plates. In fact, they don’t actually make the plastic plates anymore that I used, but you can find them on EBay, or use the stainless steel attachment that KitchenAid makes now. You can still make plain egg noodles with this recipe without a pasta maker. Simply roll the dough out to desired thickness and cut the noodles with a pizza cutter! Here’s the recipe…

Makes about 1 1/2 pounds of pasta

Cook/Prep Time – about 2 hours


  • 1 cup Semolina Flour (sifted)
  • 1 cup Bread Four (sifted)
  • 1 tsp.salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 oz. dry white wine

Place the sifted flours and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk the eggs, wine and olive oil together in another bowl. Using a dough hook mix the dry ingredients on low speed. Slowly add the egg mixture a little at a time until the flour has absorbed the liquid. The dough should be somewhat dry and should pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Pull the dough out of the bowl and knead it for a few minutes. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Put the pasta attachment on the mixer, using any plate you would like. The options were large spaghetti, small spaghetti, egg noodles, macaroni, or flat pasta. I used the large spaghetti plate first.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it set for 20 more minutes at room temperature.

Pull the dough into pieces about the size of tater tots. Using a small bowl of flour, roll the pieces in the flour add add them to the hopper (on high speed setting) a few at a time. (NOTE- I started to put the dough in the hopper without dipping the dough pieces in flour, but the dough seemed a little bit too wet. The flour helped make the dough just a little bit drier.) You should not have to push the dough through. Let the machine do the work.

Instead of cutting the pasta off at the desired length, I found it better to turn the mixer off and gently pull the pasta off.

Hang the pasta on a pasta drying rack, or if you don’t have one, (I don’t) you can use plastic coat hangers like I did.

Continue the process until all the dough is gone. Right at the end, I changed the plate to a noodle plate to try it out. It worked. So I made a quick lunch…

Cook the pasta in boiling salted for about 8 minutes. You may store the pasta in the refrigerator for a for about a week or in the freezer for a few months.


Suggested songs for your listening pleasure while making pasta….

“Everybody Eats When They Come to My House” By Cab Calloway and His Orchestrareleased by Columbia records as a 78 RPM in 1948.

“Italian Girls” by Hall & Oates from their album “H2O” released in 1982.

“Lasagna” by “Weird Al” Yankovic from his album “Even Worse” released in may 1988. It is a parody of “La Bamba” popularized by Richie Valens and Los Lobos.

To search pasta makers on Amazon, click on the picture below…

Composting Basics

With spring coming soon, I’m excited to start gardening again, and I have a big fat pile of compost to put in the garden! Here are some composting basics to get you started…..

What is compost?

Compost (or Black Gold) is just decayed organic materials that become a natural organic fertilizer.

First, you will need a compost bin. There are several different kinds of affordable bins available at hardware/garden stores, and even some pricier tumblers that are easier and can speed the composting process. You can even start with a five gallon bucket, a trash can, or a plastic tub.

We start by using a kitchen composting container like the one pictured above. We dump all of our kitchen scraps (veg and potato peels, egg shells, etc.) into the kitchen compost container and when it’s full, we take it down and dump into a compost bin outside. Most of the composting containers have a charcoal filter to prevent odors. You can also just refrigerate the scraps until you are ready to dump them into the compost pile.

Here are some of the things that you can put in a compost pile….

  • Food scraps from fruit and vegetables
  • Cardboard
  • Egg shells
  • Newspapers (shredded)
  • Paper
  • Leaves
  • Grass and yard clippings
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea bags
  • Coffee and tea filters
  • Nut shells (except walnuts)
  • Sawdust (not from treated wood)
  • Straw/Hay
  • Wood chips
  • Fireplace ashes (not charcoal grill ashes)
  • Dryer lint
  • Vacuum cleaner lint
  • Plants
  • Paper napkins/towels
  • Stale bread
  • Paper egg cartons
  • Hair clippings

And here are some items you shouldn’t compost…

  • Meat or meat scraps
  • Fat or grease
  • Dairy products
  • Fish or fish scraps
  • Glossy or laminated paper
  • Large limbs
  • Dog/Cat manure
  • Diseased plants
  • Plastics
  • Used cat litter

A compost pile does best with a combination of green and brown items and it will need nitrogen and water.

Be sure to turn the compost at least weekly.

A fine chop or shred on the items put in the bin will speed up the composting process.

You only need one bin, but we like to have three. I find that when the pile gets full, it gets very hard to turn, so it is easier for me to turn the pile from one bin to another and use the empty bin to start a new pile. We use the third bin for the more mature compost that starts to look like dark soil. Black Gold, Texas Tea, if you will!

So get growing!

Happy Composting!

If you need some compost turning music to listen to, check out Neil Young’s classic album “Harvest” released in February 1972.

To search for compost bins on Amazon, click the image below…

Can Yeast Donuts Be Air Fried?

That was the question I asked myself and I have to admit that I was very skeptical. That’s why I only attempted to make a very small batch of donut dough. I did not want to waste a whole batch of dough if they didn’t turn out right. Read on to see if the experiment worked ……

“It’s Time to make the donuts”

Fred, The Dunkin’ Donut baker
Photo courtesy to the world wide web

The answer to the title question is of course you can! Here is the recipe….

Servings – 1 1/2 dozen doughnuts

Cook/Prep Time – About 2 1/2 – 3 hours

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 6 oz lukewarm milk
  • 2 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tbsp butter (softened)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp orange peel
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • Butter flavor cooking spray

Add 2 1/2 cups flour, the granulated sugar, yeast, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and orange peel to a mixing bowl and blend together. Add the lukewarm milk and butter. Mix well, using a dough hook on low speed. Add the egg and keep mixing until the dough comes away from the side of the bowl, adding more flour if needed. Pull the dough from the bowl and knead for a few minutes to shape the dough into a ball. Place dough ball in a greased bowl and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and set it in a warm place until it doubles in size, about an hour.

Note – At this point, I cut the dough in half and placed the other half in the refrigerator to use later in case the air frying experiment failed.

After the dough has doubled in size, punch the dough down, cover with a towel and let the dough rest for about 15 minutes. After the rest, roll the dough out to about 1/4 thickness. Place the air fryer rack on a cutting board and spray the air fryer rack with butter cooking spray. Using a biscuit cutter, cut the dough into rings and place them on the air fryer rack.

Spray the donuts with more butter spray. Cover lightly with greased plastic wrap and place in a warm draft free place until they double in size again, about an hour.

When they have doubled in size, place in air fryer and air fry at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes for donut holes or 8 minutes for the donut rings. I cooked them together and removed the donut holes after 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let them cool. Mix 1/4 cup powdered sugar with a tablespoon of water to make a glaze. Dip the donuts in the glaze or roll in dry powdered sugar and devour them. That’s it!

  • Synopsis – They turned out pretty darned good. They are still better when deep fried in a big vat of fat, but no mess of grease to clean up, and they are a lot healthier air fried.
Suggested music for your listening pleasure while making the donuts…

“Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith from their “Toys in the Attic” album released in May 1975.

“Sweet Thing” by “Rufus featuring Chaka Khan” from the album “Rufus featuring Chaka Khan “released in November 1975

“Sweet Surrender” by Bread from their album “Guitar Man” released in November 1972.

“Love is Like Oxygen” by “Sweet” from the album “Level Headed” released in January 1978.

  • Note Not all air fryers cook the same. To see the air fryer I use on Amazon, click the image below.

Sous Vide and Cast Iron Seared Ribeye Steak

A very easy way to fix a tender, juicy ribeye steak while dreaming of grilling season….

Sous Vide (soo VEED) French for “under vacuum” sous vide is a food packaging technique pioneered in Europe whereby fresh ingredients are combined into various dishes, vacuum-packed in individual portion pouches, cooked under a vacuum, then chilled. Souse Vide  food is used most often by hotels, restaurants and caters, though it’s expected to become increasingly available in supermarkets.

That is the definition of Sous Vide according to The New Food Lover’s Companion  third edition published in 2001. The New Food Lover’s Companion is a culinary dictionary that is like a food lover’s bible and a must have for all foodies.

In the last few years, Sous Vide immersion circulators have become widely available and affordable for the home cook, and many of them come with wireless capabilities and apps so that you can set them and turn them on and off remotely. Fresh vegetables cooked Souse Vide style retain their moisture, nutrients, firmness and color because they are “dry cooked” so the nutrients are not being lost in the cooking water.

Servings – 1-2

Prep/Cook Time – 2 hours


  • 1 one pound ribeye steak 1″ thick
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • salt
  • pepper
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder

Equipment needed…

  • A Sous Vide Immersion Circulator
  • A Pot or Vessel to attach the Immersion Circulator to for the water bath
  • Vacuum Seal Bags
  • Vacuum Pump

Note – you can use any ziplock style bag if you want to. Just set the bag in the water bath before sealing it, but I highly recommend the sealable bags with the pump. The pump will work with any bags that have the little dot at the top. You can also find vacuum sealed steaks in grocery stores these days, and you can just drop the whole package into the water bath.

Fill the water vessel 3/4 full of water. Attach the immersion circulator and set it to 129 degrees for rare, 132 for medium rare, 136 for medium or 154 for well done. (but why would anyone want well done?) I set mine to 131 degrees. Season the ribeye steak with salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder. Add a rosemary sprig and seal in the vacuum bag. When the immersion circulator gets to the desired temperature, set the vacuum sealed steak into the water bath and set the timer for one hour. Don’t worry if you cook it longer, you can go for up to 2 hours.

Pull the steak out and remove from bag. Pat dry with a paper towel. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium high. Add the rosemary, garlic and steak to the pan. Add the and butter to the pan and sear each side of the steak for about 2 minutes.

That’s it! Let the steak rest a couple of minutes before searing.

Note – when I pulled the steak out of the water bath, I set the temperature to 180 degrees and put a vacuum sealed bag of asparagus seasoned with salt, lemon pepper seasoning and olive oil into the water bath for 10 minutes.

Suggested songs for your listening pleasure while preparing this steak…

Since an immersion circulator regulates the water temperature, how about “Regulate” by Warren G. featuring Nate Dogg from the album “Regulate…G Funk Era” released in April 1994. It is also featured on the “Above the Rim” soundtrack. The track makes heavy use of a four bar sample of the rhythm of “I Keep Forgetting’ (Every Time You’re Near)” by Michael McDonald.

“Beef and Biscuits” by Chet Atkins from the album “Superpickers” released in 1974. The album featured Chet Atkins and some of Nashville’s top recording session players.

To see immersion circulators with bags and pump on Amazon, click the image below…

To get a copy of The Food Lover’s Companion, click image below…

Review – Hill Family Farm White House, Tn.

Do you know where your food comes from?

Sumner County’s own Hill Family Farm

This is from the Hill Family Farm website, and it poses a good question. Do you know where your food comes from? Well, I know where a good portion of what we eat comes from because this little local jewel of a place is within walking distance of our residence – about one mile. And we usually stop by on Saturdays before going to the grocery store for some other staples. They have a large selection of pasture raised meats, along with fresh eggs and during the season, a large variety of fresh produce. Below is a list of the pasture raised meats available. (Not all the items are always available because they tend to sell out sometimes while waiting on more of their meat to get processed.) There meats are all natural, with no hormones and they use non-GMO feed. Our favorites are the pork chops, whole chickens, eggs and bacon.

I made these Cast Iron Fried Pork Chops with Balsamic Cherry Glaze using Hill family Farm Pork Chops.

  • Whole Chickens
  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • Chicken wings
  • Ground Chicken
  • Bacon
  • Jowl Bacon
  • Jalapeno Cheddar Brats
  • Pork Tenderloin
  • Pork Chops
  • Tenderloin Pork Chops
  • Boston Butts
  • Breakfast Links
  • Ribs
  • Breakfast sausage (mild & hot)
  • Chorizo
  • Bratwurst
  • Irish Bangers
  • Andouille sausage
  • Sweet Italian Sausage
  • Bacon Ends
  • Livers
  • Soup Bones
  • Pork fat
  • Ground Beef
  • Tenderloin Medallions
  • Top Sirloin Steaks
  • Sirloin Tio Steak
  • Skirt /Flank Steak
  • Leg Quarters
  • Chicken Feet
  • Chicken Livers
  • Chicken Hearts
  • Bone Broth

Chris and Sherri Hill operate the farm. During produce season, they visit several local farmer’s markets with their products. They have their own Farmer’s Market at their farm every Saturday between 10:00 am-Noon and they also sell breads from Laurel Mountain Farm http://laurelmountainfarm.comand Elderberry syrup from Harbin Hollow.

Image courtesy of Hill Family Farm website

The Hill’s are always very courteous, helpful and friendly. Their Saturday Farmer’s Market may be held inside or outside depending on the weather. Visiting their farm is a treat for children or grandchildren because they may get to see the pigs and chickens roaming the grounds.

If you are lucky, on some Saturdays you may see a truck from ABSeafood out of Elizabethtown, Ky. on the grounds selling fresh oysters and other fresh seafood. I highly recommend the large Royal Red(frozen) Shrimp!

Their Pasture Raised Meats, Produce and Eggs are amazing! If you get a chance to get over there, you won’t regret it!