Friday, May 30, 2014

Simply Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp topped with Vanilla Ice Cream

I absolutely love apple recipes!  The apple crisp is a favorite of mine since you can have it for breakfast or dessert.  Who am I kidding?  You can have it at any time of day or night.  I have to admit to sometimes waking up at 2am and stealing a snack from the kitchen.  Anyhow, I think you'll love this recipe for it's simplicity.


10 cups of peeled, cored and sliced apples (your choice, but granny smith's are great for cooking)
1 Cup - White Sugar
1 TB - Flour
1 Tsp - Allspice
1 Tsp - Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup - Water
1 Cup - Quick-cooking Oats
1 Cup - Flour
1 Cup - Packed Brown Sugar
1/4 Tsp - Baking Powder
1/4 Tsp - Baking Soda
1/2 Cup - Melted Butter

Ice cream topping is optional, but highly recommended!

1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Place the apples in a 9x13 inch casserole dish.  Mix the white sugar, 1 TB flour and Allspice together and sprinkle over the apples. Combine the water and vanilla extract and pour evenly over apples. 

3. Combine the oats, 1 cup flour, brown sugar, baking powder and soda with melted butter.  You will then crumble them over the apple mixture.

4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 - 45 minutes.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!  Have a great weekend and check back with us on Sunday, when we will let you know what events/festivals are happening around Tennessee for the next weekend. If you missed this weekend's list, you can find the post on our blog from this past Sunday, May 25, 2014!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Simply Cast Iron Cookware Care

Cast Iron Cookware
I remember my grandmother cooking everything in her cast iron skillet.  She cooked cornbread, scrambled eggs, vegetables and even hamburger patties with her skillet!  I don't see many people doing much of this nowadays.  It seems that everyone needs the new non stick pan which isn't always so non stick or even safe if they are heated above 500 degrees, which is actually easy to do when cooking on the stove top.  Of course, they say that you won't necessarily be exposed to the harmful effects long enough to warrant any issue, but how many times do they tell us one thing and come back 5 years later to tell us another.  For me, it doesn't really matter since I don't use them anyhow since I prefer cast iron.  The only issues that most people face are the weight and cleaning of the cast iron.  The cookware is heavier but more durable.  However, you can't pop these guys in the dishwasher either since it will hurt the nonstick coating and begin to rust.  So, how do we take care of this heavy and picky cookware?  Well, it's not as difficult as you may think.

First off, let's take a look at the seasoning of the cast iron.  When you buy the cookware from the box store, it will already be seasoned and ready to go.  However, if you are like me, then you go out and hunt down all the different types from yard sales or antique shops.  The ones you get from these areas will need to be cleaned and seasoned.  Before seasoning, you want to make sure to clean off all the rust and possible food build.  I simply use a steel cleaning ball brush to do this.  You can buy them at your local grocery store.  Once you have scrubbed the surface clean, you will need to season the cookware.  Place a thin coating of either shortening or lard on the inside bottom and sides.  You will then place them into a 450 degree preheated oven for an hour.  After an hour, you will remove and let the cookware cool.  After cooling, you will want to see how well the seasoning has set.  If it has a slick or slightly greased feel, then you are finished!  If not, then repeat the seasoning process.  It may take a few time before it is seasoned properly, so don't worry if it doesn't seem to work the first time.

Finally, you will need to make sure you are cleaning the cast iron correctly, or else you will end up re-seasoning all the time.  We don't want that now do we?  Besides all the time seasoning the cookware, you will also be feeding your electric or gas company way more than you should be. The first thing that may seem a bit annoying is the fact that you can no longer let your dirty dishes sit after cooking.  Why?  Because the food will harden on the cast iron which will cause us to scrub and mess up the seasoning.  So, once you are finished with cooking, you will simply use water and paper towels to wipe the cast iron clean before any build up occurs.  Do not use any soap unless the dish you used was particularly stinky or bad tasting.  Remember, part of the flavor of cast iron is directly tied to the foods that have been cooked in it.  You will want to use a soft sponge when using soap and do not scrub! Once you clean off the cookware, you will dry it with a dish cloth or paper towel and apply a thin layer of shortening or lard (the same way as if you were preparing to season).  By doing this, you will help extend the seasoning life of your cast iron.  You do not need to heat the cookware again since we are not re-seasoning.

And that's it!  It may take a little more time to use cast iron cookware, but I believe it's worth it.  You don't have to continuously replace them since they tend to last more than a lifetime and you can even use them over an open fire if you want.  So, you can get many uses out of the same pan or pot. How awesome is that?  A one stop shop or "pot" is sometimes a good thing.  Have a great rest of the week and we'll see you on Friday for the Recipe of the Week.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Get Out & Explore: Events and Festivals for the Week/Weekend of 05/27 - 06/01

I hope everyone is having a great Memorial Day Weekend! We have compiled a list of festivals and events that are happening around Tennessee for the upcoming week/weekend. You will find that the listings below are divided into three categories based on the areas of the state. I hope you find the list useful. Please feel free to leave a comment if this was beneficial for you. If you have an event you would like for us to post, please let us know! We will see you on Wednesday, when we post about CIC aka Cast Iron Care. Have a fun and safe week! :)

West TN
  • May 29 - June 1,  Memphis Italian Festival
          Marquette Park, Memphis, TN

Middle TN

  • May 27 - 31, 2014 Tennessee State HOG (Harley Owners Group) Rally
          Downtown Cookeville, TN
  • May 28 - June 1,  American Experience
          Pucketts's Grocery & Restaurant, Franklin, TN
  • May 30,  Brew at the Zoo
          Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, Nashville, TN
  • May 30 - June 1,  17th Annual Latin Dance Festival
          Global Education Center, Nashville TN
  • May 30 - 31,  Main Street Lawrenceburg Heritage Festival
          Public Square, Lawrenceburg, TN
  • May 30 - 31,  Pick-It Fence Barn Sale - Vintage Marketplace
          Events at East 96, Lascassas, TN
  • May 31 - June 1,  Wilson County Spring Expo
          Behind Wilson Bank & Trust, Lebannon, TN
  • May 31,  Musicians corner w/ k.s. Rhoads, Lucie Silvas & Jason Eskridge
          Centennial Park, Nashville, TN
  • May 31- June 1,  Music City Sports Festival
          Music City Center, Nashville, TN
  • May 31, Richland Trails Festival
          Milky Way Farm, Pulaski, TN

East TN

  • May 31, Front Porch Concert Series
          Harrow Road Cafe, Rugby, TN
  • Now - June 8, Dollywood's Barbeque & Bluegrass
         Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, TN

Friday, May 23, 2014

Simply Sinfully Chocolate Lasagna

Chocolate Lasagna

How sinful is this recipe?  So much so, that I wish I had 9 lives (souls) to sell.  I could use Jason's cat, but I don't think he'd appreciate it and I suppose neither would I.  Sigh.  I suppose I'll just have to take out a second loan on my soul this weekend.  Anyhow, I was extremely pleased with how this dessert came out.  I am already thinking of all the other little changes that can be done to make it even more sinful, if that's even possible.  It's very easy to make with no baking necessary!


36 - Oreo Cookies (for base)
12 - Oreo Cookies (for topping)
6 TB - Butter
1 - 8 oz package of cream cheese (softened)
1/4 Cup - Sugar
2 TB - Milk
1 - 12 oz containers of Cool Whip
2 - 4 oz packages of Chocolate Instand Pudding
1 1/2 Tsp - Vanilla Extract
3 1/4 Cup - Milk
1 1/2 Cup - White Chocolate Shavings

First, you will crush the 36 oreo cookies into small crumbles.  You will then thoroughly mix the crumbles in a large bowl with the butter.  Once you finish the mix, you will place it into a 9x13 inch casserole dish.  Press the mixture into the bottom of the pan to create the base crust and then place into the refrigerator while you perform the next step.

In a mixing bowl, you will combine the cream cheese, 2 TB milk, sugar and vanilla extract.  Mix well and then stir in 1 cup of Cool Whip. You will now spread this over the base crust.

Next, combine the chocolate instant pudding with 3 1/4 milk and whisk until the pudding begins to thicken.  Once it thickens, you'll pour this over the cream cheese layer and place back into the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes to allow the pudding to firm up. 

Finally, you will put the topping on this tasty dish! Spread the rest of the Cool Whip over the pudding.  Crush up the remaining 12 oreo cookies and sprinkle over the Cool Whip.  Now, you will sprinkle the white chocolate shavings.  The white chocolate shavings are nothing more than taking a small block of candy coating you can buy at the grocery store in packages.  Just take a knife or grater and shave off as much or as little as you like!

Mamma Mia!  That's one sinful dessert!  Ok, that phrase may be over the top, but it's out there now.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend.  Be careful and be safe.  If you missed the events and festivals list for this weekend, you can just go back to our posting from this past Sunday on the blog and check them out.  Till next time!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Simply Pear Tree Care

I have always thought of the pear as a forgotten fruit.  You never really think about it most of the time. Many other fruits, such as apple, orange, cherry, peach or banana are all very common place around our kitchen tables.  It is fairly common to have apple or cherry pie, banana pudding or just a plain orange as an afternoon or after dinner treat.  The pear, however, seems to be hiding in the dark.  I never had a pear cobbler or pear pie which actually sounds a little odd now that I mention it, but I have had pear cinnamon jam which is awesome.  By the way, we will have a posting for that recipe in the future. 

Now back to the subject at hand, the pear tree care post.  We have recently planted a couple of pear trees at our home and are very anxious to get fruit this year, but it will probably be another year or two.  Just like any other fruit tree, it may take a few years before any blossoms or fruit bear on the tree.  Pear trees can take 5-7 years before you get your first blossoms for fruit, so be patient.  Depending on your local climate, the pear tree type will be important to consider.  Here in Middle Tennessee, I chose to use the Asian Pear and the Ayers Pear tree. We have some friends that have a fairly robust Asian Pear tree close to us which confirms that they do well around here.  The fruit on the tree is juicy and sweet with a round shape like an apple which is one of the reasons why it's also called an apple pear.  The tree can grow from 15 - 20 feet tall. The other tree is an Ayers Pear which does great throughout the southeast.  They also grow to be fairly large and can top 30 feet tall!  The medium sized fruit is sugary and even more sweet than the Asian Pear.  Both trees are also partially self pollinating so you don't have to have another pear tree to cross pollinate. However, if you want a large production of fruit, it's best to have another tree to pollinate with.  These two trees will typcially bear 15% fruit by themselves with no cross pollination, which is usually good enough for one household.

After you have selected your trees, follow the usual instructions provided for planting.  As with all fruit trees, you don't want to have grass and weeds growing around the base, so be sure to mulch the area.  It will also help to control weeds and retain moisture in the soil which is needed for any growing tree.  If you have planted the tree in the spring, go ahead and use a fruit tree fertilzer to help with the first year establishment phase.  If you have planted it in the fall and the tree is preparing to go dormant, you can wait and fertilize in the spring about 2 weeks before blooming.  Once the tree begins to grow and blossom, make sure to keep an eye out for aphids, blister mites and caterpillars. If you begin to see these critters, or any sign of mildew or large areas of black spot on the leaves, be sure to stop by your local nursery and ask about the best organic control spray they have available.  We use Bonide's Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew for the critters and Bonide's Copper Fungicide for the mildew and black spot. 

The pear trees we have selected don't need much pruning either, but they do need some guidance.  Pear trees tend to grow straight up in the air and stretch their branches to the heavens if you let them.  You do not want this to happen since it creates very weak limbs that will break more easily when they do develop fruit. So, what is the solution?  Well, you will need to train the branches to grow out instead of up! Just put some stakes aroud the tree and use string to stretch the branches back towards the ground. The best format would be to use the Christmas Tree look.  The lower branches stick almost straight out and then taper back in as you go up.  You want to have one main trunk that all the branches will spread from. However, since the Ayers Pear will grow very tall, we are going to have 2 main trunks for better stability.  

I hope you decide to "bring the pears out of darkness" this year or next, and plant some trees at your home!  If not, it's ok.  We will have plenty more posts about all kinds of trees that may interest you more so than fruit trees.  Join us on Friday, when we share our Recipe of the Week!  Have a great day!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Get Out & Explore

Events and Festivals for the Week/Weekend of 05/20 - 05/25
We have compiled a list of festivals and events that are happening around Tennessee for the upcoming week/weekend. You will find that the listings below are divided into three categories based on the areas of the state. I hope you find the list useful. Please feel free to leave a comment if this was beneficial for you. We will see you on Wednesday, when we post about Pear Tree Care. Have a fun and safe week! :)

West TN
  • May 24,  Big Sandy Spring Festival
          City Park, Big Sandy, TN
  • May 24,  Sunset Symphony
          Tom Lee Park, Memphis, TN
  • May 24, Exit 56 Blues Fest
          West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, Brownsville, TN

Middle TN

  • Every Weekend in May, Tennessee Renaissance Festival
          Castle Wynn, Triune, TN
  • May 20-24, Festival on the Rocks
          Rock Creek Park, Lewisburg, TN
  • May 21,  Spring Outing 2014 at the Hermitage
          The Hermitage, Nashville, TN
  • May 22,  Absolute Chef Challenge
          Cathedral of the Incarnation, Nashville, TN
  • May 22-24,  Spring Fun Show
          Calsonic Arena, Shelbyville, TN
  • May 23-24,  Middle Tennessee Sheep Wool & Fiber  Festival
          Dickson Co. Fairgrounds, Dickson, TN
  • May 23-25,  Nashville Flea Market
          Tennessee State Fairgrounds, Nashville, TN
  • May 23-24,  Annual Memorial Day Festival
          Lake Tansi POA, Crossville, TN
  • May 24,  Music City Mudbug Festival
          Mercy Lounge, Nashville, TN
  • May 24-25,  Fairfield Glade Memorial Day Arts & Crafts Show
          Fairfield Glade @ the 4way, Crossville, TN

East TN

  • May 22-25, Jammin at Hippie Jacks 2014 Spring Music Festival
          Hippie Jacks Farm, Crawford, TN
  • May 23-25, Thirty-Fourth Quilt Show & Competition
         Cooper Athletic Center, Maryville, TN
  • May 23-25, Antique Tractor and Arts & Crafts Show
         Heritage High School, Maryville, TN

Friday, May 16, 2014

Simply Baked Spaghetti

Baked Spaghetti with Fettuccine Noodles

Need a new dish for your next church or family gathering?  Why create the same ole thing? Try our spaghetti dish with a twist!  I usually make this for my lunches throughout the week.  I don't mind leftovers, so this is perfect for me.  The recipe is not heavy on the sauce, so it sticks together more than regular spaghetti.  But you can always add in a bit more sauce if you like it runny and messy!


1 lb - Ground Beef
1/2 lb - Sausage
2 - 14.5 oz cans of peeled and crushed tomatoes (undrained)
2 - 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes (undrained)
2 - 7 oz cans of mushrooms (undrained)
1 - 10.5 oz can of cream of mushroom
2 TB - Italian Seasoning
1 TB - Garlic Powder
1 TB - Sugar
1/2 stick of butter  
2-3 TB - Cornstarch
1 Cup - Water
1 - Onion
2 - Bell Peppers (any color)
1 lb - Cottage Cheese
1 Cup - Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 lb - Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/2 lb - Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1 1/2 boxes or 18 oz - Fettuccine noodles

First, you will need to brown your ground beef and sausage in a skillet or suitable pan.  While the meat is cooking, go ahead and dice your onion and peppers to your liking and set to the side. You will then drain the grease and move the meat to a larger pan which will hold your sauce also. Next, mix together all of your tomatoes, mushrooms, cream of mushroom, italian seasoning, garlic powder, sugar and butter into the pan with meat. Whisk the cornstarch with the water until dissolved, then pour into the pan. Bring this to a boil while stirring occasionally and then reduce to a simmer. You will now add in your onion and peppers. I add them last so they don't become too soft and squishy. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Next, you will boil the noodles according to the instructions on the box while the sauce simmers. When the noodles are finished cooking, you will drain the water from them. Take the casserole bowl, I use an 11" x 15" glass dish, and lightly butter or grease the dish.  Place half the noodles on the bottom, then pour half the sauce over the noodles, spread half the cottage cheese over the sauce, sprinkle all the mozzarella over the cottage cheese.  You will then repeat the process by placing the remaining noodles in another layer, topping with the remaining sauce, the remaining cottage cheese, then sprinkle all the cheddar cheese and parmesan over the top. Place the uncovered dish into the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes. Remove and let cool.  It's that simple!

Check back with us on Sunday when we will let you know what events/festivals are happening around Tennessee for the next weekend. If you missed this weekend's list, you can find the post on our blog from this past Sunday, May 11, 2014!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Simply Cutworm Control

Cutworm Protection for Tomato Plants
It's that time of year again!  We go out and start planting our tender gardens with high hopes of a plentiful harvest.  After careful consideration, we select the perfect tomato and pepper plants to grace our gardens.  We plant them perfectly in their rows and wait patiently for them to grow.  However, on our next visit to the garden, we find them cut down at the base as if they are in a lumber yard.  What happened?  Well, the culprit is non other than the dreaded cutworm. A ferocious tomato and pepper plant killer.  Acutally, they are a type of caterpillar, but who cares? They just dashed our dreams of having juicy tomatos and peppers! 

Eggshells around a Pepper Plant
The cutworm stays underneath the soil during the day and comes out at night to cut down our plants. Then, if that wasn't     bad enough, they barely even feed on them before moving on to another.  The good thing though, is that there are easy and nonexpensive ways to stop these pests from harming our plants.       I use two different methods that have worked great since I was visited early in the season by these evil critters.  I have used paper cups with the bottoms cut out, so I can place them around the plants (As seen in the photo above). The cutworms are not able to climb up the cups so they just keep on moving.  Another way is to use egg shells around the plants.  Since the cutworms have a soft underbelly, they will not want to crawl over the sharp edges, so they will avoid them.  Also, the eggshells are a bonus since they add calcium to the soil which helps our plants! However, it would be more beneficial if the shells where mixed with the soil, but that is not our main concern at this time.  We just want to stop the slaughter of our precious plants!

The Evil Cutworm

After all the hard work of setting up our defenses, we should not have any further issues with the cutworm.  We have put up our walls and set up the barbed wire, or eggshells, to cut them down! I hope you don't have any issues with these pests, and you have a great tomato and pepper growing season!  Check back with us on Friday for our Recipe of the Week.  Till next time!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Events and Festivals for the Week/Weekend of 05/15 - 05/18

We have compiled a list of festivals and events that are happening around Tennessee for the upcoming week/weekend. I know the posting is a day earlier than previously stated.  However, after much consideration, we believe that Sunday would be better than Monday for this posting.  An early post is always better than no post, right?
You will find that the listings below are divided into three categories based on the areas of the state.  I hope you find the list useful. Please feel free to leave a comment if this was beneficial for you.  We will see you on Wednesday, when we post about garden cutworm control. Have a fun and safe week! :)

West TN

  • May 15-17,  World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest
          Tom Lee Parks, Banks of the Mississippit, Memphis, TN

Middle TN

  • Every Weekend in May,  Tennessee Renaissance Festival
          Castle Wynn, Triune, TN
  • May 15-17, Franklin Rodeo
          Williamson County Expo Park, Franklin, TN
  • May 16-18,  Goodguy's Nashville Nationals (Car Show)
          LP Field, Tennessee Titans Stadium, Nashville, TN
  • May 16,  Third Friday Night Concert Series
          Cannonsburgh Village, Murfreesboro, TN
  • May 16,  Hip Donelson Farmers Market 2014 Concert Series
          Hip Donelson Farmers Market, Nashville, TN
  • May 17,  Bellevue Community Picnic
           Bellevue's Red Caboose Park, Nashville, TN
  • May 17,  Urban Gardening Festival 2014
          Ellington Agricultural Center, Nashville, TN
  • May 17,  Musicians Corner with Jon McLaughlin, Tristen & 18 South
          Centennial Park, Nashville, TN
  • May 17,  2nd Annual Flea Market and Crafts Sale
          Hamilton United Methodist Church, Antioch, TN
  • May 17,  Artisans On the Square
          Downtown Bell Buckle, TN
  • May 17,  Charity Tractor Ride for St. Jude's Children Hospital
          Nicholson Farm, Clarksville, TN

East TN
  • May 16-18,  Sevierville's Bloomin' BBQ & Bluegrass Festival
          Historic Downtown, Sevierville, TN
  • May 16-18,  Rugby Village Festival (British Isles & Appalachian Heritage)
          Village Site, Rugby, TN
  • May 16-18,  Knoxville Flea Market
          Knoxville Expo Center, Knoxville, TN
  • May 17-18,  Twentieth Iris Festival
          Historic Downtown, Greeneville, TN
  • May 17,  A Day for Raising Hope, Disability Ministry Fundraising Festival
          Louisville Town Hall & Community Center, Christian Churches, Louisville, TN

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Simply Tennessee Update!

Greetings everyone!  I certainly hope your week is off to a great start.  I wanted to let you know that we are making a new commitment to this blog and all of our followers. What is that commitment you may ask?  Well, we have not been keeping up with our posts for the past year and this has been a huge let down for you and ourselves.  For that, I do apologize tremendously and hope you will stay with us.  Now on to the good news update!

Starting next week, we will have a minumum of 3 themed posts every week.  The first one will start on Monday.  The posting will let you know off all the great events and festivals that are going on around Tennessee that week and weekend.  On Wednesday, we will let you know of all the latest tips for gardening and homesteading.  Topics will include vegetables, flowers, trees, bees, chickens and many more.  To end the week, Friday will be our weekly recipe post.  We will share our favorite dishes including appetizers, main dishes, side dishes, deserts and drinks! 

In conclusion, I am very excited to bring you a more reliable blog for you to enjoy.  Please tell a family member, friend or co-worker about us and share the simple things of life in Tennessee.  You can even leave a comment or send us an email about what you would like for us to post.  All ideas and people are welcome here at Simply Tennessee, so don't be shy!  Thanks again for your views and have a great week!  Till next time.

J. Darrick Gatlin

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