St Clair County Garden Club Belleville, Illinois

St Clair Garden Club of Belleville, IL. Founded in 1929, it is the oldest garden club in Illinois.

Speakers are invited and we learn about subjects from the birds to the bees, the flowers and the trees (& the moon up above), and share information through “Show & Tell”.

 

There is a youth outreach, from elementary to high school age.

And anyone is welcomed to show off their floral arrangement skills, which reflect the season.

 

We have a flower show which is a great learning experience.

The summer months are spent on field trips to other gardens.

There is an Afternoon Tea at a member’s house and tour of her gardens.

We meet at Crehan’s Irish Pub (5500 North Belt West) in Belleville, IL.  A warm lunch is served for the price of $13 to $15.  We have a 50/50 drawing and if you win, it usually pays for the lunch.  Meetings are the first Tuesday of the month from January to May, breaking for summer. We start meeting again in August thru December.

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Our meetings are open to the Public and we always love getting new members.

Dues are $17.00.

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How To Use Leftover Steak.

 

49589633_1576100789200385_507917669874270208_nWho would have steak leftover? I mean, wouldn’t we eat the entire thing it’s so good? Probably.  But lets just say you have some strong self control and determination to make a steak last for more than just one meal. What would you do with it?

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How about breakfast the next morning? Steak added to leftover roasted potatoes, with added bell peppers & green onions next to a sunny-side up egg would hold you until lunch time.

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Or, put that steak on a bed of greens (spinach/lettuce) with tomatoes, blue cheese, croutons, green onions and make a Black & Blue Salad. Don’t forget the dressing.

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Salad isn’t your thing? How about beef tacos?  I use my griddle and sear onion & bell pepper along with that leftover steak until heated through. Throw on a flour tortilla and you are good to go. Look in the fridge for cheese, sour cream, tomatoes and maybe a chili pepper.  This was served with a side of pinto beans with added canned tomatoes w/chilies, chopped onions and quartered zucchini.

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Maybe you only have only a little bit of steak left. Chop it up and make Spicy Rice with Beef.  Dinner or lunch – it will fill you up. Serve with green beans and peppers.

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Then there is Beefy Vegetable Soup. Start with carrots, onion, celery and add some tomatoes, fresh or canned and if you have a summer squash, throw that in too. Add the beef with beef broth/stock and bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Perfect on a cooler day.

And if you ever find steaks are on sale, buy 2, cook both and put one aside to make several meals from breakfast, lunch & dinner on the cheap!

Ringing in the New Year

Belleville has a tradition of ringing in the New Year at the Clock on Main Street in the town square.

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All you need to do is bring your own bells.  This was something the husband and I could do! So off to Hobby Lobby to purchase 2 bells and then keep ourselves awake to go to the town clock at midnight.

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But where is everybody?  Did they cancel it?  Nope- we (me) read the time wrong. It wasn’t going to happen at midnight! It was tomorrow AFTERNOON!!  We were 11 hours early.

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So we rang in the New Year by ourselves!  And then we kissed – because that is what married people are supposed to do. Next year, we’re going to lift our left leg, so we’ll start the New Year on the right foot!  (groan)  So after we rang our little bells, we decided to walk Main Street and look at the gingerbread houses the local businesses and elementary classes  made. They are in the windows of Main Street businesses.

What a fun time we had looking at original gingerbread houses!  We’re going to do this next year too. Midnight, even if it means we are by ourselves.  Feel free to join us!

 

Old Fashioned Biscuit Doughnuts

Growing up, my mom used to make sugar doughnuts from biscuit dough. And we loved them!  There’s some tricks – but they are easy, cheap and toppings are only limited by your imagination.

First: Get a tin of refrigerated biscuits.(you can make your own biscuit dough later once you master the heat and timing of the FLIP)  Size doesn’t matter. Not being the “Flakey” kind- DOES. So don’t get those. They will soak the grease.  Use the solid kind, and “buttermilk” works well.  The local Aldi’s has a tin for under .50 cents, and you get 8 doughnuts!  Eight doughnuts for under .50 cents!!!

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Tools:  A cutting board, apple corer and a skillet.  I prefer to use my cast iron #10. A cooking rack with paper towels spread over the top of it to soak up the grease.

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Ingredients:  Biscuits, cooking oil and toppings such as sugar, cinnamon, Nutella, jam/jelly or a fruit glaze.

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Pour vegetable oil into your skillet. I use just enough to cover the bottom, and than a little more – to a depth of about 1/4 inch from the bottom. Your doughnuts don’t need to float. Slowly warm your skillet that already has the oil in it.  My heat is about medium high. Cast iron skillets should NOT be placed over the highest heat. AND, the oil should NOT be smoking.  Turn your heat down before you burn your cabinets.  While your oil is heating……

Open your tin of biscuits, separate and cut out the center with the apple corer. If you don’t have one, you can use the wide side of an icing tip. Another blogger used the cap of a soda bottle.  You are going to drop one center into the oil first.  You are testing the oil to see if it’s hot enough.  It should fizzle some and you’ll notice the bottom of the center getting wider. It won’t take long- so flip that center and see how brown or black it became. Now you’ll know whether to flip earlier or not.  Place it on your cooling rack with the paper towels.  Add the rest of the centers. By the time you’ve flipped #7, which has the perfect color and doneness, you now know how much time those biscuits need. Remove the centers to the cooling rack and start the biscuits!

Don’t crowd them and never leave them. Don’t even go to your sink to wash something! Because as you place the 4th biscuit in the oil, it may be time to turn the first one over. At least, that is MY experience!   Once done – place on the cooling rack and let the paper towels soak up any excess cooking oil. (grease)

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Next batch- watch closely. Your skillet & oil is probably hotter so adjust the heat (lower) and time (less). Once they are finished and cooling on the rack, turn the heat off, remove the skillet from the burner and cover with a lid. I tend to leave what little cooking oil is in there, because once you eat these biscuit doughnuts, you get HOOKED. You’re going to make some for breakfast the next day. Oh yes- you are.

In a baggie or two,  place sugar in one and a combination of sugar/cinnamon in the other. I am a diabetic, so one bag gets SPLENDA instead of sugar. (cinnamon can be beneficial for diabetics!)   Drop your biscuits in- two at a time and coat them.   OR, spread them with jelly (they are biscuits after all) or Nutella.

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Soon, you’ll be making these little doughnuts for the husband while he is on the computer in the evening, with a cup of coffee or big glass of milk on the side. (and you may get lucky tonight!)  Your picky eater will ask for them when they get home from school, before bed or in the morning instead of a bowl of cereal.  It’s all good!  Throw some bacon and fruit on the plate with them, or a hunk of cheese & nuts. (that is if they aren’t allergic to any of those things!)  It’s a way of having doughnuts without the guilt.

 

 

 

 

An Afternoon Tea with the D.A.R.

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Welcome !  I’m so glad you could join our lovely group of ladies for an Afternoon Tea!

The Daughters of the American Revolution, in Belleville hold an annual tea at Goose Grove. Dues are collected, wonderful food eaten and the meeting ends with a garden tour.

4C216948-98DF-4EFC-A439-D5C5F41D9751We all pitch in by bringing various tasty dishes to share. 7EF4AB4D-4D5A-4E0B-95FC-5976D8BD13E5Yes, we wear our hats inside. I do believe that is acceptable for ladies.

 

Lavender tea bread, chicken salad tea sandwiches, savory appetizers such as tomato & cheese and delicious desserts. Many different tastes to choose from.

4F275980-9487-4498-AF63-EE8891F4C3CFNot to brag, but we looked wonderful!!

 

Does the food make the party…………………………

08C02796-B011-4212-AF73-A15C1CC3A46BOr the ladies?

I believe the ladies win by a white gloved hand!

After the tea, we enjoyed a garden tour of Goose Grove and picked pears.

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And stopped for another photo……….

 

Relaxed Italian Tablescape

Blame the place-mats.  They set the mood, dictated the plates and even the meal that followed!IMG_1565

I have been guilty of matchy-matchy, but this Tablescape is anything BUT. IMG_1634

Large white plates made in Portugal were what I had been looking for, for months.  Adding a blue glass salad plate and the Ricamo Fitz & Floyd plates polished the look.  They are listed as appetizer plates, but could easily be used as a bread plate.IMG_1581

A centerpiece of fruit on a blue cake plate made for a wonderful dessert.IMG_1584

Tealights were surrounded by fresh herbs clipped from the garden. IMG_1574

As they warmed from the heat, they released a wonderful fragrance.IMG_1591

What is an Italian meal without bread?IMG_1588

Or olives & cherry peppers?IMG_1632

Or wine? Green water glasses worked well with the colors in the mats. IMG_1616

This Italian table setting was perfect for casual dining!

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White Plates & Place-mats:  Home Goods (this year)

Blue Salad plates: Internet – Mosser Glass

Appetizer/Bread plates, Olive holder, Blue cake plate:  Macy’s

Green Goblets: Old Time Pottery (several years ago)

BETWEEN NAPS ON THE PORCH: http://betweennapsontheporch.net/noritake-xavier-gold-perfect-for-an-autumn-holiday-table/

 

Cast Iron Cook Off

There is this Facebook page called “The Original Cast Iron Hellraisers”. There’s even a “warning” on the page.  Once you start reading the comments- you understand why.  F-Bombs everywhere.  If that doesn’t bother you, or you can overlook it – you’ll find some good cooks and great people who have a love of food and cast iron.   Started by James Ortiz, he gathered quite the following (& members) on a page that shows how to care for your cast iron cookware and what & how to cook in it.  Every 2 weeks, a food item is identified as the required ingredient in the cook off. It must be cooked in cast iron and not just used as a garnish. There are prizes worth $50.  One time, James gave away a mixer for the winning dish!  I’ve entered 13 times.  One time I came in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th and last place several times.  The time I came in 3rd- was happy until I found out last place got an apron because we hit 30 entries. Missed it by a week! (I should have cooked chicken beaks and duck’s feet)   But as my husband likes to advise me- “baby, most people don’t eat like we eat.”  I’m usually beaten by a delicious comfort meal with tender meats &” taters”.  I still like to participate as it forces me to think of non-traditional ways to use ingredients. Would have never made these meals without the cook-off.  It’s a challenge eagerly accepted!

So what have I entered?

There was the French Toast cook-off.  I used slices of French bread topped with cream cheese & a drizzle of habanero  jelly.  Added fried Yukon & sweet potatoes, a sunny side up egg and chorizo sausage & bacon. I thought the sweet, spicy & savory worked together.  Last place.   Pretty sure I lost because I didn’t do more with the toast. Like stuff it, or crust it, or covered it with something like gravy.

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Carrot and Mushroom cook-off. I baked a portobello mushroom filled with butter and pesto sauce and filled it with cooked ribbons of zucchini, carrots and cheese tortellini in an Alfredo sauce. Made creamy carrot soup and a mushroom tart.   In the bottom with this one.

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Orange cook-off.  This is orange chicken piccata.  As you can see, it’s on a bed of oranges you can eat to cleanse your palette along with a strawberry & orange salad and a wonderful orange jello.   The chicken was floured & pan seared and then cooked in a reduced white wine & orange juice sauce. The husband loved it.  The cook-off- right in the middle.

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Fish.  I fried salmon & shrimp patties loaded with fresh herbs, served with zucchini fries and a refreshing tangerine.  4th place.

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Soup & Bread.  This is potato & corn chowder with a rosemary skillet bread.  Not quite last place.

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Anything Stuffed.  I stuffed a chicken breast with cream cheese & poblano peppers. Made a corn souffle and avocado toast. Added a heirloom tomato salad with a cilantro lime dressing.  This was one of my favorite meals.  6th place.

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Peppers.  Third place. A pork chop is pan fried and placed on a bed of tri-colored sauteed peppers.  A creamy poblano pepper sauce is added. A cheese fill jalapeno is baked inside a red bell pepper filled with Spanish rice, corn & cheese. Jalapenos are cut in half and filled with cornbread and baked. The heat (400) of the oven decreases the heat in the jalapeno making it a great appetizer. (you can add bacon to the mix and top with your choice of cheese in the end)

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Super Bowl cook off.  I think I should have won this one, but the other dish won by a landslide.  Second place for me, with my votes not even getting half of the winning dish. Oh well- we enjoyed eating it! Drumsticks were buffalo and paprika flavored. Loaded macaroni bites,  Sonoran hot dogs, Hasselback potatoes with cilantro butter, crab dip and fried cinnamon doughnuts. Everything could be eaten with the hands,  so no one would get a fork in the eye as their team made a touchdown!   2nd place.

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Thanksgiving Leftovers.   I expected this one to do better, but it didn’t. Was in the bottom again.  The turkey was made into a mini-turkey pot pie. The sweet potato leftovers were made into a quick bread and cooked in my cast iron duck mold. My cutest duck in the world was swimming in cranberry sauce and leaving a wake of toasted marshmallows.  This was fun to eat and make.

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Christmas Leftovers.  This was great but didn’t translate to great in the contest. I was in the middle with this one. The leftover turkey was rolled into a crescent with cranberry sauce and cream cheese.  The mashed potatoes were combined with the cauliflower goat cheese au-gratin and fried into patties. The creamy soup was made with leftover carrots & sweet potatoes and then garnished with beets & butternut squash. I ended up using ALL of my leftovers and it was delicious.

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Fish.  Brussels sprouts with carrots, cheddar biscuits and potatoes were delicious next to a rich salmon covered in herbal butter. Last place.

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A Birthday Celebration.   Birthdays are special occasions so I used a leg of lamb and made an herb crust and baked it to medium. Butternut squash had a sweetness and roasted kale added an earthy flavor. Made a herbal cream sauce and it really put the meal over the top with flavors.  My favorite meal so far.  Got one vote.  (but not dead last)  The leftovers?  A Shepard’s pie coming up!

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Hot dog.   My least favorite as I don’t eat hot dogs. Had to be an ordinary wiener dog and no bun. At first I entered the potato, onion, pepper, kale & hot dog skillet meal.  But then after eating everything in the skillet (except the hot dog) I did a BLT style hot dog with a corn & bean salad.  Made a slit in the dog and stuffed with jalapeno, wrapped it in bacon (cooked it) and then wrapped it in a lettuce leaf with tomatoes & mayo.  I think I got 1 vote for this one.

 

So far, I have yet to win although I have come close a couple of times. If I can get the votes of the chefs who are members, that is good enough for me.  Of course, when you lose to a worthy dish- it doesn’t sting at all. Chances are, I voted for them too.

Sandy’s Back Porch

There is a wonderful plant nursery in our town of Belleville called Sandy’s Back Porch. It’s not a huge place- but you will find just about everything you need.  How do I know this? Because the husband and I love visiting plant nurseries in our area as well as in the neighboring states. Oh yes, we’ve driven hundreds of miles just to visit the place we get a catalogue from. It’s like Disney Land to us!

The first clue you are in the right place will be Sandy’s Pink Jeep.  How can you miss it?  How can you not want one yourself?!!IMG_5264

Sandy’s shop is filled with garden needs and wants. From seeds to sprays and getting rid of that mole who is tearing up your yard.

This is Jasper. He is Sandy’s mole catcher and the celebrity of the nursery. Look at that face!  He is a serious mole catcher. (and a serious lover of people!)

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I love the wind decorations. Not only are they pretty, but they help keep the birds from eating my berries with their movement. IMG_5265

Not that I don’t like birds. I just want them to eat from the feeders and not from the bushes that provide the ingredients for pies.

Look at these whimsical pots for plants.

Right now, there are seasonal decorations (like Easter Bunnies) that will make your porch the envy of the neighborhood!

 

And of course-  PLANTS.

Healthy, well formed, well cared for plants.  Sure you may pay a little more than the big box stores like Lowe’s & Home Depot, but Sandy’s plants are going to be bigger and healthier as she & her cheerful crew are the ones doing the planting & pruning.  It’s still early in the year- so what you see here will be knock-your-socks off gorgeous in a few months. Don’t worry- I’ll have pictures when they are overflowing with color and texture.

Rotary Charity Dinner

The husband and I attended the local Swansea Rotary Club’s Enchanted Dinner, Auction and Wine Discovery on February 25th.   This was an event to help raise money for needs in the local community.  Their motto: “Service Above Self” was apparent as many attended and gave money for continued support of local children to receive free health care, immunizations, dental and eye exams for school as well as a food program to help over extended holiday breaks. Some children’s only meal, is what is received in the lunch room cafeteria. Many other needs are met through the Belize Children Program, High Mount Community Garden, college scholarships funds, and dictionaries for local third graders.

The event was held at the Regency Conference Center in O’Fallon, IL.  img_5383

Tasty appetizers were available……..

 

A silent auction from donated items by Rotary members and supporting businesses.

David and I donated an “Office Luncheon for 15” on a Friday. Someone paid $70. I’m waiting for the email to let me know who, where and when! I will provide two soups, fresh quick bread, a large salad and dessert.

There was a  Wine Pull in which you paid $20 for an unknown bottle of wine worth at least that much……..img_5375

Tickets for 50/50 and a Lottery Tree were sold. A wooden tree covered in $500 worth of scratch off tickets.

We didn’t win. Neither did the television personality who had enough tickets to go around his neck!

We enjoyed a lovely dinner of salad, chicken with potatoes and chocolate cake!

 

And finally, the live auction in which the Old Fashioned Southern Shrimp Boil, provided by David and I went for $325.00 !!  It was exciting- because we were sitting at the second to last row of tables holding up our phone recording it and the auctioneer kept pointing and saying “way in the back- I have $275!” A little panic came in because I was scared we were going to buy our own item! It turned out, the table behind us- was bidding on it and won! $325 smack-a-roos is what they paid ! So we are going to make it a lovely meal for them and 6 of their friends in the summer.

It was a lovely evening and lots of money was raised for great causes!

The Edge (Laser Tag & Movies)

In our great town of Belleville, there is a wonderful place called “The Edge”.  It is home to the WORLD’S Largest Laser Tag!  I know- hard to believe our town has the biggest one!

look at all of those places you can hide and sneak!   It also has arcade games…..

and prizes from tickets or fuzzy animals from “the claw”.  Lots of room for kids & teenager parties…..

and 5 movie theaters.  Two of the theaters are Bistro- where you can put your feet up in their comfortable recliners and a server will bring you drinks & snacks. How can you not love that?img_5558

Or you can go old school and just come for the drinks & food in the bar.img_5551

because grown ups need a place to hang out while their kids are playing & shooting lasers at each other!

This place has everything for folks of all ages. You could spend an entire day here, and not feel like you did when you sat with your younger kids watching Pokémon movies.  Great for a date night too.  Dinner and a movie- at the same time!

Link: https://www.edge618.com/movies

#thingstodoinBelleville                #lasertag             #movies    #Bistro