Activities, featured, Parenting

Ice Age Rescue

Most parents would agree that having a routine is really vital for kids. Yes kids are resilient, but they truly thrive when they have a routine. They know what to expect and what is expected of them. I try my best to keep a fairly basic routine with my little one on both a daily and weekly basis. As I mentioned last week, the two of us spend Tuesdays together. I do a lot of housework, but I always make sure we squeeze in some fun activities, and cook dinner together. One of the fun activities that I have had as part of our routine for well over a year now, is SCIENCE EXPERIMENT TUESDAY! I’m a science nerd at heart, and certainly want Neyland to enjoy it too! Science Experiment Tuesday allows both of us to do a fun activity that also has educational value. I have a blast researching and preparing, we both love actually doing the experiment, and then I try to tie it in to some other learning opportunities throughout the week to reinforce the idea.

Finding fun experiments to do with your kiddos isn’t a difficult task. A quick internet search, or even just thinking about some of the activities that stood out from your childhood can yield great results.

This particular experiment is super simple, but a LOT of fun. It’s great for toddlers and preschoolers, and even elementary school kids. There are a lot of learning opportunities for different age groups.

Ice Age Rescue

Supplies

  • Water safe/freezer safe container (Decent size)
  • A bunch of cheap/plastic/water safe toys (you likely have plenty laying around the house)
  • Water
  • Blue Food coloring
  • Plastic utensils
  • Squirt bottle
  • Salt
  • Sponges

The basic idea for this project is to fill the water safe/freezer safe container (I found a random plastic storage box at Goodwill) with water (about 3/4 full.) Add a few drops of blue food coloring and mix. Don’t skip that step, it really does add to the effect. Place a variety of different plastic toys in the colored water. It helps them spread out evenly if some sink and some float. This is a great time to let your little one see the water and touch it. Explain to them the differences between liquids and solids. Let them see you/help you place the container into the freezer. Check on it every hour or so. It’s important to let them feel how cold it’s getting and feel the ice start to form. Eventually (depending on the size of your container,) you will have a solid chunk of ice FULL of plastic critters that need your little one’s help to break free!

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At this point we moved our project to the bath tub to contain the imminent watery mess. I freed the giant cube from the plastic container and offered Neyland several options/tools to try and free the animals. I offered plastic eating utensils for her to chip away at the ice, sponges, salt, and a squirt bottle of warm water. We tried each item individually so that we could observe what effect it had on the ice.

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After trying each tool, I let her decide which item she thought was most effective. She quickly decided that the warm water squirt bottle was the best option! As the ice melted, it was really beautiful. The warm water carved out all kind of cool little passages through the ice, and made breaking the critters free even more fun.

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*As a side note- Not long after I first did this, a friend of mine tried it with her son. She added another educational aspect by waiting until winter and allowing the block to freeze outside over several days! Her son really enjoyed checking on it each day, and it was great to connect the actual weather outside with the experiment!*

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This is seriously simple and seriously fun. It’s a great sensory activity for toddlers and learning activities for preschoolers. You can teach each child as much or as little as they are capable of absorbing for their age. I guarantee they will be asking to do it again!

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featured, Food

Why Korean food is everything missing from your life

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Whew! The last two weeks have been busy ones! Unfortunately, my little one has been away for the past week, so I made it a point to keep myself very busy. I am lucky enough to have many fantastic friends who were kind enough to occupy my free time. One such friend, who shall be known on my blog as “Raul,” is my general cooking buddy and partner for all things food related. Raul has greatly broadened my horizons since we became friends. I really have to give him major props in the cooking department. He busts out recipes that most people wouldn’t even attempt.

Some time back in the fall, he made me aware of a “life changing” Korean chicken recipe that he had recently made. Raul was kind enough to make a batch for me, AND share the recipe with me! I have made this chicken a few times since then, and it does NOT disappoint. I will go ahead and warn you that it is a bit spicy. If you don’t like heat, this may not be for you. It has spice, sweetness, some tang, everything a good sauce needs in my humble opinion. This is a great sauce to make and add to store bought fried chicken. In fact, every time we’ve made it, we’ve added it to Bojangles fried chicken. I will say that the surface area to sauce ratio is VITAL. I would definitely recommend smaller pieces of chicken/ dark meat to make sure you get adequate sauce in each bite. Legs & thighs are my favorites for this recipe. If you want to be super fancy and make your own fried chicken, that would work well too! Just make sure to get adequate breading for the sauce to stick on. I love this chicken recipe SO much, that I now affectionately refer to it as PDC. No explanations on that name, but bonus points if you figure it out!

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Spicy Korean Chicken

Ingredients

  • Appoximately 8 pieces of fried chicken
  • 1 Tbsp Canola oil
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup tomato ketchup
  • 1/3 cup Karo syrup
  • 1/4 cup hot pepper paste (Gochujang)
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Sesame seeds

Put the oil & garlic in a small sauce pan on low and allow it to heat up a bit. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk lightly to mix them all together. Allow the sauce to heat on low for 7-8 minutes. Make sure to keep the heat low, so it doesn’t burn. Turn off the heat. Place the fried chicken in a bowl and pour the sauce over it. Toss the chicken gently until covered. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and enjoy!

 

The other Korean treat we enjoyed with our chicken was a Kimchi Pancake. Would you believe that before last year, I had never had kimchi? I didn’t even know what it was! As I mentioned, Raul has been a culinary gold mine! If you are in the same sad boat I was once in, and you have no clue what I’m talking about, allow me to enlighten you. Kimchi is a delicious spicy fermented cabbage. You can find it in most markets in the refrigerated vegetarian/vegan section. Because it is fermented, it contains bacteria that can be beneficial to your gut health. Delicious AND health benefits??? SIGN. ME. UP. I use kimchi all the time now. It is super tasty, and kicks up any number of dishes.

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Enter the Kimchi Pancake. I love when foods take a turn from the way we traditionally consume them. When you think of a pancake, you likely get images of fluffy syrup covered breakfast items. This is a crispy and savory 180 degree change from the pancakes you know and love. In many Eastern cultures, pancakes include any number of ingredients that are pan fried and served as a side dish. You may never look at pancakes the same way again. Before embarking on your new pancake adventure, I would recommend making a dipping sauce. Raul was a bit reluctant to fully disclose the exact ratios of dipping sauce ingredients, but this should be fairly close.

Dipping Sauce

  • 1/4 cup good soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Mirin
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-3 scallions, minced
  • Splash of sesame oil
  • A few shakes of sesame seeds
  • A squirt of Sri racha

Mix well and set aside.

Kimchi Pancake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped Kimchi
  • 3 Tbsp kimchi juice
  • 2 Tbsp chopped Onion
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Flour (all purpose flour)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Vegetable Oil

Directions

In a bowl, place chopped Kimchi, kimchi juice, chopped onion, salt, sugar, flour, and water. Mix well with a wooden spoon.

Heat up a 12 inch non stick pan over medium/high heat. Drizzle in about 2 Tbsp vegetable oil. Spread the kimchi batter out evenly in the bottom of the pan with a spoon. Cook it for 1 to 1.5 minutes. Until the bottom gets golden brown and crispy. Turn it over with a spatula or flip it. (Raul did this, and it looked pretty cool.) Lower the heat to medium, and cook for an additional 1.5 minutes. Turn it once more, and cook for ~30 seconds, before transferring to a plate for serving. Cut into bite sized pieces. Use chopsticks to pull apart pieces and dip. Serve hot.

 

Recipe cred to Maangchi (Be sure to check out more of her awesome recipes!)

Well, there you have it! All the tools you need for an awesome evening of Korean deliciousness! These recipes are packed with flavor, and will fill a culinary void you never knew you had! I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

If you try these recipes, let me know what you think!

 

Activities, bigfoot, featured, Trips

The Great Outdoors

Neyland and I were fortunate enough to meet up with an amazing group of ladies for a little get away this past weekend! A short trip away was just what the doctor ordered!

It is so easy to forget the beauty of the mountains when we live in this amazing area, and the mountains are our back yard. I realize that I often drive around and overlook them completely even though I adore them!

As I have mentioned previously, I do a bit of bigfoot reseach in my spare time. I have made some of the most amazing friends that share my passion for nature and mysteries. We have just “clicked” ever since we first met. It is a rare thing to find friends with whom you can truly just be yourself. I have laughed with  these ladies, cried with them, traveled with them, camped with them, tick checked them, had midnight forest raves with them, eaten an unhealthy amount of cinnamon rolls atop a mountain at 3am with them, and much much more. I believe it suffices to say that we have a great history together with fantastic memories doing what we love to do. It seems that all of us have walked some deep valleys over the past few years, and have been unable to get together as often as we would have liked. This weekend we were thrilled to not only have a reunion of the “beaver squad,” as we often call ourselves, but to bring our two newest members along for initiation! We decided that since the two little ones were so small, we would stick to a cabin this time rather than though it out in tents.

Neyland and I were the last to arrive Friday evening. A quick game of “being shy” lasted all of 5 minutes, and the girls quickly became best buddies. It was so great to see all my favorite ladies! We enjoyed dinner and a dip in the hot tub out on our amazing deck. Check out that view!

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After a quick bath and a ton of play time, the little ones were off to bed. We enjoyed catching up for a few more hours before a wonderful night’s sleep. The AC was certainly more pleasant than the 90 degree temps outside!

In the morning, true to form, Ronie was up making enough food to feed an army.

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Breakfast tacos and hashbrowns….and lots of coffee!

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We got the girls dressed, packed up a picnic lunch, and headed up to our favorite spot on the mountain. An area affectionately known as “camp scream.” As it’s name suggests, we’ve had some pretty exciting sasquatch activity there in the past. It is WELL away from where most people go, and we’d certainly like to keep it that way. We were surprised to see that the camp area we had used in the past, was almost completely covered in fallen trees. Thankfully, we were still able to hike back and let the girls play in the creek for a bit. They had a blast clacking rocks and playing in the water.

 

We then had our picnic lunch and hiked for about 2 miles. The girls did great & had so much fun! Check out the video of them practicing their squatch calls!

 

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Perhaps we were even interesting to some forest spectators, as we did hear a few interesting sounds on our hike!

We continued to another location where the girls could play in the creek again. We were able to catch some salamanders and crawdads, and even saw some rainbow trout.

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On the way back to the cabin, we stopped at our favorite spot for ice cream. The picnic tables where we were eating were right by the water. We got to watch a few guys fly fishing, and even got to see an osprey! Between the guys and the osprey, only one was successful catching a fish. Hint: it was not the humans.

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When we returned Ronie cooked ANOTHER delicious meal complete with her famous homemade doughnuts for dessert!

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The master at work!

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We ended the day out on the deck DESTROYING these little jewels. The girls were COVERED in sugar. We were fortunate enough to hear an owl, and attempted to call back. Our owl calls quickly escalated into tiny squatch calls again. I’m quite certain the neighbors thought we were insane. These are the things that memories are made of.

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We said our goodbyes Sunday afternoon, and the drive home was bittersweet. It got me thinking about how I’m so thankful to share this life with such amazing people. Every day is an adventure if you chose to make it so.<3

 

Activities, featured, Food, Parenting

Princess Dinners

Tuesdays are generally “Mommy + Daughter Days” at our house. We only have one routine commitment, and the rest of the day we spend together. I generally use this time to catch up on housework that I can keep going while playing with my little one. I also do my best to keep a basic routine that she can look forward to. Each Tuesday she can look forward to Science Experiment Tuesday and it is also a night that we try to make dinner together. I want Neyland to enjoy cooking as much as I do, and to be independent and able to cook for herself in the future. She certainly already has the independence part down. She is constantly wanting to help me do the parts of the cooking that still aren’t safe for kiddos her age. To try and help bridge the gap between what she can and can’t help with, I got her some fun kitchen items for her birthday!

First, I purchased her a set of kid safe plastic kitchen knives. I was kind of skeptical about how much they would actually cut, and if they would really be useful. The price was pretty low, so I figured we would give them a try.

You can check out the set I got here.

Before I gave them to her, I ran them back and forth across my hand to see if they were, in fact, skin safe. No issues there at all. Neyland proceeded to try them on several different foods, and they worked great! I even used them a few times tonight, and I was pleasantly surprised. I guess my only gripe is that the 5 colored knives are exactly the same thing, just different colors. I thought perhaps they would have slight differences, but they don’t. I guess I can use the different colors to help teach her food prep safety?

Needless to say, she felt like a pretty big deal getting to use a knife like a big girl. She cut up butter, ham, and some veggies.

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I also purchased her a Princess Cook book. I loved the idea that the recipes were simple, and that each recipe is attached to one of the Disney princesses. She was STOKED to flip through the pages and pick  which recipes SHE wanted to make. I can tell that she will be more willing to try these recipes, simply because they are tied to a princess. If it gets her to branch out and try new things….I’m ALL FOR IT.

Check out the Cookbook here!

Tonight she chose to make Rapunzel’s Ham & Cheese Biscuit Braids. She helped me from start to finish. She did have a bit of trouble braiding the dough, but who wouldn’t? I found them to be a bit bland for my tastes. Solution: Cover in mustard. Yellow mustard works well for Rapunzel’s magic golden hair anyway, Right??? Lol.

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We ate our Princess dinner, watched Tangled (obviously,) and even ended our night with a surprise visit from a prince disguised as a frog. 😉

God certainly has a sense of humor when he graces us with his creation.

A hysterical game of Twister before bed, was the end to another lovely Mommy + Daughter day. Check out the recipe below to make Rapunzel’s Ham & Cheese Biscuit Braids with your little ones!

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Ham and Cheese Biscuit Braids: 

(From The Disney Princess Cookbook)
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 tbsp cold butter, cut into several pieces
  • 1/2 cup diced ham
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • 1 cup milk

 

Directions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Stir together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Use your fingertips to pinch the butter into the flour mixture until the bits are the size of peas.
Stir in ham and cheese.
Add milk and work the mixture with your hands until it starts to look like dough.
Sprinkle some flour on a cutting board or counter and place the dough on top. Sprinkle a little more flour on the dough to keep it from sticking. I also floured my rolling pin.
With your rolling pin, flatten the dough into a 12 inch square. The dough should be between a 1/4 and a 1/2 an inch thick.
Slice the squares into quarters, and then slice each quarter into 12 strips, each about 6 inches long.
Braid the dough like you would braid hair – gather 3 strips and pinch them together at the top. Take the right section and cross it over the center section so they switch places. Then, take the left section and cross it over the center section. Keep going until the whole strip is braided.
Pinch the strands together at the bottom.
Repeat until all the strips are braided.
Place each braid on a cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.
*They don’t really turn as golden brown as you’d expect, so check the bottom after about 10 minutes.

 

 

Activities, featured, Food, Trips

It’s Up to you New York, New York…

Ok…ok….My family is NOT from New York City. Not at all. Not even a little bit. But that doesn’t stop me from blasting that song every time we drive north! Everyone always assumes that when you say “I’m from New York,” you clearly mean the city. Nothing could be further from the quiet country truth my family grew up in.

My family is rooted so far north that we’re practically on the US/Canadian border. I absolutely love it. It’s quiet, sparsely populated, and everything just seems simpler up there. Despite all of this, there are still some GREAT places to visit and eat! I will highlight a few of my favorites in case you ever get the opportunity to visit.

My family lives on Black Lake, but as I mentioned before, we’re almost on the Canadian border. The St.Lawrence river is just a few miles away. There is always a huge amount of boat traffic, and the river is a pretty popular tourist area. Places like Alexandria Bay get TONS of visitors each summer. While Alex Bay is nice, and going to visit Boldt Castle is pretty much a requirement, it is not my “go to” spot on the river.

*Read about the Castle & the tragic love story that left it unfinished

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Boldt Castle
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A pic of Neyland and I headed out on the tour boat to see Boldt Castle.

A bit closer to Lake Ontario you’ll find a hidden gem, and my favorite spot on the River.

Clayton, NY is the beautiful, well-kept, quiet, artistic town that Alex Bay certainly is not. It is full of amazing restaurants, super cool shops, and breathtaking views.

Without question- My Number 1 FAVORITE spot is Bella’s on the River.

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This place is a restaurant and bakery. They locally source all their produce off of the nearby Islands. I have been there numerous times, and have never been disappointed. In fact, my mother just returned from a trip up north bearing gifts that I specifically requested….

A Box of giant chocolate dipped coconut macaroons. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE.

Here are a few pics from meals we’ve enjoyed at Bella’s!

Check out their Website Here

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The view from their dining area on the porch ❤
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My Mom enjoying brunch last time we were there.

After an amazing meal at Bella’s, we typically stroll down the main street in town and poke around in all the neat little shops. We always find the most amazing treasures! One stop along the way that we simply must make, is to one of our favorite wineries in the area. Coyote Moon Winery is right in the heart of Clayton. They carry a wide selection of wines and various products made with wine. As with Bella’s, the riverside views simply can’t get much better. They also have a room dedicated to live music and entertainment. It is certainly #2 on my “must visit list” in Clayton.

You can check them out here: Coyote Moon

I feel comfortable saying that my Mom would highly recommend “Twisted Sister.”

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Yay for “artsy” photos that turn out well!
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My Mom in her “natural habitat.”

From Coyote Moon, we continue to check out shops along the main road until the road finally ends here….

The Clayton docking area has a lovely park with beautifully colored Adirondack chairs allowing you to relax and watch the water. The cool breeze that blows in off that river is like NOTHING you’ll find in the south. It’s a little slice of heaven.

Welcome to the Yankee heart of this Southern girl. ❤

Activities, DIY, featured, Parenting, Uncategorized

The Simple Things

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Gardening

I can’t recommend gardening enough. It is therapeutic for the soul, and a GREAT learning tool for kids. Each spring, Neyland helps me clean out the plant skeletons from our small raised garden out behind our pool house. She plays in the dirt, digs, sifts, and creates a huge mess. More importantly, she has a blast. Last year she was too small to really distinguish between weeds and the plants we were growing, but this year, she is doing a great job helping me keep the weeds pulled. Gardening is such a great illustration for kids to show them what hard work and patience can bring! We live in a society where everything is instant. We want what we want NOW. Instant gratification is the name of the game. While this is very convenient, is this all we want to teach our kiddos? I want to remind mine that good things take time, effort, and a lot of patience. Working to grow food helps them see value in what you buy at the store. It’s so important for them to know where food comes from.

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We start seeds off in the spring in old cardboard egg containers and toilet paper rolls. She waters them carefully until they are big enough to be transplanted into the garden. This part can also be a fun biology lesson. It’s a great time to try the “place a Lima bean & a moist paper towel in a ziplock bag and watch it grow” experiment.

In addition to growing seedlings, we also recycle a lot of produce when we can. I usually purchase at least a few boxes of hydroponically grown artisan lettuces and some romaine to use in cooking. As I use the lettuce, I simply save the stem, cut the tip to freshen it’s ability to take up water, and place them in a shallow dish of water in the window until roots sprout.  It begins growing and producing more lettuce remarkably fast. I personally use the lettuce so much and so quickly that I leave the constantly growing batch right in the window. Occasionally I have transplanted them into the garden once the roots were growing. I’ve done the same with scallions, and other herbs. My only issue is that my cats want to graze on the greens if I keep them on the counter for very long!

We get to go out and check the garden daily. This is something she always looks forward too. She is super independent and always wants to water by herself. She gets to watch the plants grow and change, and finally to harvest what they produce. It’s also a GREAT way to get her to try some veggies that she might not sample otherwise. Growing it yourself always makes her more excited about trying things.

We also have a special “root garden” just so that Neyland can watch the veggies grow in the soil. We made our own, but there are a lot of commercially available ones on the market these days. The basic idea is similar to an ant farm. Create a thin garden, using plexiglass for the sides, so that curious eyes can watch all the growing action. (See below) We planted radishes, carrots, and scallions in it this year!

What are your favorite gardening projects to do with your kids?

Check out our harvest! It’s not a lot, but plenty for the two of us & loads of fun & memories!

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featured, Food, Uncategorized

Fried Green Tomatoes

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So last wednesday I got home from work a bit later than usual. I was somewhat at a loss about what to cook for dinner since the majority of my week had been spent cleaning up an recovering from Neyland’s Circus birthday party. I poked around in the fridge, but nothing seemed to jump out at me. Neyland had already informed me that she just wanted leftovers, but I was in the mood for something more exciting.

I walked out to toss some chlorine tablets into the pool and just happened to peek over the fence and glance into the garden to see if anything needed my attention. My tomato plant that was stunted by a late frost, had recently decided to “earn” his keep, and start producing. Upon closer examination I noted 4-5 medium sized tomatoes looking big and beautiful hanging from the vine. Only 1 problem- They were completely green. Then it hit me…..FRIED GREEN TOMATOES!

For the record, I have never made fried green tomatoes before, and it had been some time since I had eaten any. I shrugged off the uncertainty. After all, how hard could it be?

Neyland helped me harvest 4 of them and I got to work searching for a quick recipe. The one thing I KNOW about fried foods is a complete necessity to “double dredge” and get a good crust. I found a recipe that included this vital step, it was pretty highly rated, and seemed relatively simple. Hmmm…maybe too simple? It seemed like perhaps I could kick it up a bit in the flavor department. I quickly gathered the ingredients, with the exception of buttermilk (which I didn’t have on hand.) Thankfully if you ever find yourself in a pinch (which this certainly was) there is a handy way to make “cheater buttermilk” using regular milk with a splash of vinegar.

I prepared my dry dredging ingredients that I kicked up with extra flavor along with my “buttermilk” + egg mixture and got my pan/oil preheated while I sliced the tomatoes and coated them. Always make sure and let your pan/oil get up to temp before attempting to fry anything. If it isn’t hot enough, it will just cook the food slowly and make it mushy rather than crispy.

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When the oil is hot enough, you quickly get a nice golden brown crust that forms. It helps keep the inside from getting too soft, while creating a magnificent crunchy shell on the outside.

I fried them in batches to prevent overcrowding and slowed cooking. After they were all done, I drained them on a paper towel to absorb excess oil and simply sprinkled them with some Himalayan pink salt. Most FGT that I’ve had in the past needed some type of dipping sauce, but these were simply fantastic straight from the pan. I was astonished when Neyland agreed to try one and she LOVED IT!

For a great southern recipe, give this one a try!

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Fried Green Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (or “cheater buttermilk”- see post above)
  • 1/4 cup All purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp Smoked paprika
  • 1/8 – 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper (depending on if you like heat)
  • 3-4 medium sized green tomatoes, sliced in 1/4-1/3 inch slices
  • Vegetable oil- for frying
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Combine the egg & buttermilk in a shallow bowl and set aside.

Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne pepper in a shallow bowl and set aside.

Dredge the tomato slices first in the dry mixture, then dip into the egg mixture, and follow again into the dry mixture.

Pour oil into pan (preferably cast iron skillet) to a depth of 1/4 inch. Heat on medium heat until hot. Approximately 375 degrees. Drop the slices in batches into the hot oil and cook 1-2 minutes per side, or until a crispy golden brown crust is formed. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and enjoy while hot.

*For an extra “southern” experience, eat these guys while watching Fried Green Tomatoes the movie!