Flower Arranging 101

Something that always brightens my day is a beautiful vase of flowers.  I feel like sometimes I get tired of the decor in my kitchen or dining room, but once I get a vase full of flowers it already feels warmer and prettier.  We usually had flowers growing up somewhere in our house and my mom was very creative with arranging them.  She took a floral design class while a student at Virginia Tech and taught me the basics of creating an arrangement.

I was able to test my floral design skills around age 12 when I entered some arrangements in the Culpeper Farm Show  (yes, there is such a thing as a “Farm Show” and believe it or not I entered lots of things in it!).  I think I entered about 4 arrangements my first year and won best of show for one of them.  Growing up we got our flowers from our back yard, DaGa’s yard, or along the side of the road.  Some of my favorite flowers to use were Queen Anne’s Lace and Butterfly Weed which would require us to grab a bucket of water and clippers, pile into our Jeep, and drive up and down the country roads with our heads out the windows trying to spot a patch of these flowers in the ditch without getting hit by a car.

When I got to college I took the same floral design class as my mom (and I’m pretty sure I had the same professor my mom had… he looked ancient) mainly because I wanted a fun class and we got to take the flowers home.  I ended up not really liking the class because I felt we made more funeral-looking arrangements that were too structured and not very natural looking.   I think I learned much more from my mom than that professor!

Anyways, this past Saturday I was making my weekly stop at the NC State Farmer’s Market and decided to pick up some flowers.  There are always several cut flower stands to choose from and they generally have similar flowers and prices.  The bouquet above is one I got on my first trip to the farmer’s market when I moved to Raleigh, NC back in October 2011.  It contained sunflowers, fresh basil, and some small purple flowers similar to clover.  The best part is that it was only $5!  The flowers that I got Saturday were $10 and consisted of Zinnias, Oriental Lilies, Sedum (I think?), and some other flowers I have not yet identified. Zinnias are my favorite because they are easy to grow from seed, come in beautiful colors, and look super cute in an old mason jar.

What you need for a good flower arrangement are the following:

  • A tall, dramatic flower
  • Medium-sized flowers of similar or contrasting colors
  • Smaller flowers for a “filler”
  • Greenery (or leaves)
  • Clippers
  • A vase or container (I got my vase as a wedding gift from Crate and Barrel… it’s the perfect size!)

First Important Tip  – cut all stems to length at a 45 degree angle.  This increases the surface area so the flower can absorb more water and ultimately last longer! Even if the stems have already been cut at this angle, cut them again!

Second Important Tip –  Remove the lower foliage from the stems that might be covered in water when you put the stem in the vase.  If you don’t, it will start to rot and most likely decrease your arrangement life by a few days.  You don’t want to remove all of the foliage, just what might be sitting in water.

Third Important Tip – I think this is the most important tip, so listen closely.  Think in terms of ODD numbers.  For instance for your taller flower, use one or three , or five of them to get your shape.  If you use even numbers it just doesn’t look right… I’m not quite sure but it doesn’t!

So here I have my 3 flowers of visual interest – the sedum, lilly, and dahlia.

I put them in my vase and then add in the zinnias, using 5-7 throughout the arrangement.  Since this arrangement is for the middle of my dinner table and will be seen from all sides.  I want it to look good from ALL sides, not just the front.

Then I add in my other smaller flowers to fill in the arrangement.  You might be thinking at this point, “Wow this really looks terrible, maybe I should have just gone to the florist and spent the 50$ for an arrangement!” but DON’T!  It will look better I promise you, you’re not done yet!

Then add in the filler flowers.  Use as many as you like or have.  I still recommend using odd numbers.  You want to fill in the holes in the visual space of the arrangement and give it some type of shape.  Do not cut all the flower stems the same length.  What makes an arrangement interesting are when there are different textures and depths to the flowers.

Finally, add in your greenery, but not too much.  You want to add just enough to give the arrangement some depth and shape.

Once that’s finished, take a final look from all sides and trim stems that might be sticking out too far.  Add water to the vase if you haven’t already, usually lukewarm is preferred because it stimulates the flowers to open up more.  For best results change your water daily and the arrangement will last much longer.

Enjoy your beautiful arrangement!  Your family and friends will be super impressed and your bank account will thank you for saving money on this DIY project!


Corn Puddin’

Last weekend my friend Amanda and I drove up north to Philadelphia, PA, to visit our friend Mallory.  Both Mallory and Amanda are two of my bridesmaids and good friends from graduate school.  It was my first time in Philly and I loved it!  Our trip was filled with American history, delicious food, and fun!  Our last stop before leaving the city on Sunday was Mallory’s local farmer’s market.  I was excited to see what Philly had to offer (I can never pass up the opportunity to check out a farmer’s market).  It certainly did impress with gorgeous displays of fresh fruits and vegetables. I ended up going a little overboard with my purchases…but as you can see below…..everything looked so delicious!

I bought tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, lettuce, onions, and corn, which got me excited about making corn pudding.  Corn pudding is a dish that both my maternal (Daga) and paternal (GG) grandmothers would make.  It is a necessary side-dish at Thanksgiving, cookouts and  family get-together’s.

Although both of my grandmothers made corn pudding, a recipe from my paternal grandmother Frances Floyd (aka GG) steals the cake.   After growing up on her delicious meals, I was shocked to find out  during a recent visit with GG’s nephew (Aldwin Hight), that during my grandparents engagement, GG was often worried she would not learn to be a good enough cook for her young groom (my grandfather).   I’d say my grandfather Pop got lucky….cooking should have been the least of her worries!

For Corn Pudding you’ll need:

Print Corn Puddin’ Recipe

4 ears fresh sweet corn

3 heaping tablespoons of sugar

1 tablespoon flour

2 eggs (well beaten)

1 1/2 cups milk (skim)

4 tablespoons melted butter

First, start by shucking all of your corn and rinsing.  Fill a large pot (large enough to fit 4 ears of corn) with water and bring to a boil.  Once the water starts to boil, add your corn.  I cooked mine for about 8 minutes.

Once your corn is cooked, remove immediately from the pot and place it on a plate to cool.  Once corn is cool enough, begin slicing off the cob.  You will need about 2 cups of kernels.  Set corn aside and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a glass or ceramic casserole dish.

Pour your 2 cups of kernels into a bowl.  Mix together the sugar, corn, and flour until the kernels are evenly coated (this prevents the corn from floating on top once the liquid is added).

Set the dry mixture aside.  Beat 2 eggs in a separate bowl.  Add the melted butter to the eggs, beating well.

Gradually add milk to the mixture, continuing to mix well.

Add the egg mixture to the corn.  Mix together evenly, then pour mixture  into greased casserole dish.

Place in the oven  and bake for 45 minutes on 350 degrees until golden brown.  Let the dish cool slightly before serving (allow time for dish to “set”).  Enjoy!

Print Corn Puddin’ Recipe

Chilled Gazpacho

So I might have gone a little overboard again at the farmer’s market, but everything just looked so darn good!  I do have to say that I really do enjoy supporting the local farmers and they are all so nice, so I end up buying one type of vegetable from each… it’s hard to pick just one stand!  I am proud of myself because I got all of this for only 32$.  Most of it is pesticide free and organic… you can’t beat that at Whole Foods or Harris Teeter!

So one of my absolute FAVORITE summer dishes is gazpacho!  I love how cool and fresh it is. It’s also very healthy and perfect for a chill summer lunch.  This is just another delicious tomato recipe that I love to make!  I remember I had my first bowl of gazpacho in Madrid, Spain while visiting with my family.  Since then it has been a favorite of ours to make to cool off during the heat of the summer.  I don’t really think this Spanish dish was well-known in the US when my great-grandmother and grandmothers were alive, but boy if it was they would have loved it!!  Here’s the recipe for this cool concoction:

Chilled Gazpacho

Print Chilled Gazpacho Recipe

For this recipe you will need:

  • 5 Roma tomatoes
  • 3 cups tomato juice (I used organic w/ no salt added from Whole Foods)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 medium cucumbers
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • a food processor, blender, or hand-held immersion blender

To start, make sure all of your vegetables have been washed.  Start coarsely chopping the tomatoes.

Then add them to your food processor or blender.

Peel the cucumbers…

and coarsely chop 1 1/2 of them. Dice the other 1/2 cucumber and set aside (this will be used as a topping).

Then peel and coarsely chop the red onion…

and add it into the food processor along with peeled and coarsely chopped garlic cloves

Then measure 1 1/2 cups of the tomato juice… I went a little bit over, ooops!

Add the tomato juice to the food processor.

Pulse the food processor until the vegetables are chopped. Don’t forget to put the cover on and DO NOT OVERPROCESS!!!

You want it to be a little chunky, not completely pureed like vegetable juice.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of tomato juice.  Stir to incorporate. Add 3 Tablespoons of red wine vinegar.  If you only have white wine vinegar or cider vinegar, by all means throw that in instead!

Add a little salt to taste…

and some black pepper and mix.

You can eat the gazpacho right away (like I did, I just couldn’t help myself) or you can let it chill for an hour.  Serve chilled in a bowl topped with the remaining cucumber diced and a little leftover red onion.  I also added fresh cilantro which made it even more amazing.  You can also do as the Spaniards do by topping with fresh croutons, finely chopped black olives, or carrots.  Whatever your heart (or stomach) desires!  Store in the refrigerator or put in ziplock bags and freeze.  Remember, the longer you let it sit, the more time the delicious flavors have to incorporate.

Print Chilled Gazpacho Recipe

It’s a family tradition!

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Much of our knowledge about cooking, baking, sewing, gardening, and entertaining has been handed down over four generations.  We thought we’d take some time to introduce you to the key players who taught us what we know. Margaret Priddy AKA “Ginnie” We’re not quite sure where the name came from, but it just seemed to … Continue reading

Don’t Let the Heat Squash You!

Last weekend my fiance, puppy, and I got the opportunity to go to Culpeper, Va (my hometown) for the weekend. We, like many others in the area, were without power for three whole days. When the power went out Friday night we were planning on waiting it out, but when the weather neared 100 degrees on Saturday we couldn’t bare it in our little, second level, apartment. Let’s just say it was hot enough in our place that the butter and cheese started melting in the refrigerator! Luckily, my sweet aunt Susan was nice enough to offer her cool home for us to stay. Not only did it provide air-conditioning, but a beautiful retreat from the hustle and bustle of Northern, VA, and a great time visiting with family. The view from her front porch is one of the best mountain views around.

Before we arrived Saturday, she had made a trip to the Culpeper Farmer’s Market to get some fresh fruits and veggies. One vegetable in particular…….. squash. Sunday night Susan suggested making Ginne’s (my great-grandmother’s) squash casserole for dinner. This dish is one our family would make throughout the summer because it tastes delicious with fresh squash from the garden, it’s easy, it freeze’s well and it’s just as good as a leftover as the first time you make it!

After this weekend, my fiance and I decided we hadn’t quite gotten our fix. We were dying to make it this week for dinner. Being the dietitian, I decided to play around with the recipe a little, trying to make a slightly healthier version. At our local grocery store, throughout the summer they have a “Farmer’s Market” display where they feature local farmers and their vegetables. This way I was able to buy local squash, since I wasn’t able to make it to the Reston Farmer’s Market this weekend.

For Ginnie’s Squash Casserole you’ll need:

Print Ginnie’s Squash Casserole Recipe

  • 7-8 medium squash (or 1.5 pounds)
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 pkg Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (or you can use cream of celery for all of the vegetarians)
  • 1 cup sour cream (I used plain, non-fat greek yogurt…it saves you 380 calories, 40 grams of fat for the dish)
  • 1 stick of butter (I used 5-6 scoops of “I can’t believe it’s not Butter-Light”)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Begin with washing all of your vegetables. Cut ends off of the squash and thinly slice. Once all of the squash is sliced, place in a large pot. Fill the pot with water to cover the squash, place on burner and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, cook for 20-25 minutes or until tender.

While the squash is cooking pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Pull out your white onion and dice into small pieces.

Set the onion aside for the time being and combine cream of chicken soup and greek yogurt (or sour cream). Whip together until well blended. Pull out a glass casserole dish (mine is 5″ x 14″) and spray with cooking spray.

Once squash is finished cooking, drain in colander and add squash to cream of chicken soup and yogurt mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste, then take a fork and mash the squash. The goal is to break up the squash so it is no longer in circular pieces. Once you are finished mashing the squash, mix in the onion (raw), stirring until mixed well.

Set squash mixture aside and pull out the butter. Since I used the tub butter, I used about 6 spoonfuls of butter. Put it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, or until melted. Have your dry stuffing in a separate mixing bowl ( I used a little more than 1/2 of bag). Once the butter is melted, pour over top the stuffing and mix until lightly coated. Place a thin layer of the stuffing on the bottom of your greased casserole dish.

Pour the casserole mixture on top, and then top with the remaining stuffing mix. Place in pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.

I hope you enjoy this squash casserole as much as our family does!

Print Ginnie’s Squash Casserole Recipe

Happy 4th of July from Home Grown Hand-Me-Down!

Happy 4th of July!

Me and my yellow lab Airlie

The 4th of July brings back so many memories of my childhood.  I think about spending all day at the pool, cooking out with family and friends and then watching fireworks that were pretty good for our small town.  I think this holiday truly helps me appreciate growing up in a small town – we definitely went all out!  There’s nothing more American, in my opinion, than homemade peach ice cream.  I remember making it with my grandmother DaGa and Aunt Susan in an old-fashioned ice cream maker.  Luckily we had an abundance of peaches growing up because there was a peach orchard near Aunt Susan’s house.

This past weekend I went down to visit my parents in Wilmington, North Carolina and my mom and I decided we had an itch for some peach ice cream.  She had just picked up a huge basket of juicy white peaches from the NC State Farmer’s Market and I love any excuse to use my ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer!  While I do love true old-fashioned ice cream, I attempted to make it slightly healthier (especially since it’s bathing suit season!).

To make Perfect Peach Ice Cream you’ll need:

Print Perfect Peach Ice Cream Recipe

  • about 2 pounds fresh peaches (I recommend very ripe peaches for more flavor)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup fat-free half and half
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • an ice cream maker

First, peel your peaches and cut them into chunks,taking the pit out (obviously).  Once you have about 2 cups of peaches…

Use use an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor to chop up the peaches a bit more.  I like a bit of chunk so I did not puree it.

Next, add the 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1 cup half and half, and 1 cup milk to the peaches and mix.

Then for some sweetness add in the 1/2 cup agave nectar.  If you do not have agave nectar you can do 1 cup sugar or even 1/2 cup Truvia if you’re trying to be healthy.

Add in the 3 teaspoons of vanilla and stir the mixture.  Then let ice cream mixture sit in the refrigerator for about 1 hour to chill.

Finally, add the mixture to your ice cream maker.  The amount of time you let it run will depend on the ice cream maker you have.  I did about 20 minutes.  It will still be somewhat creamy, so put it into a plastic container and chill for about 1 more hour in the freezer.  Serve and enjoy!

Print Perfect Peach Ice Cream Recipe

New Feature added to Recipes!

Hello everyone!  It was requested that Home Grown Hand-Me-Down provide a feature to make it easier to print recipes.  I have finally learned how to add this and now you don’t have to worry about printing 15 pages of blog (although I know you just love our pictures!)  You can now find a link at the beginning and end of the recipe that will allow you to print it and add to your recipe box! Thanks for the feedback and we hope you find this new feature helpful!