Dirty Shirleys

I’m a sucker for a food trend, or in this case, a cocktail trend so when I read in the New York Times Food Section that 2022 was going to be the Summer of Dirty Shirleys, I had to try it! A Dirty Shirley is basically a Shirley Temple with vodka in it. That’s it.

Apparently, this super-sweet and nostalgic drink is in reaction to the rather tasteless, low-calorie drinks that are all the rage these days. Think Ranch Water (Topo Chico Sparkling water with lime juice and tequila), Vodka and Sodas and that awful canned beverage our kids love, White Claw.

Also, there’s the natural regression the Pandemic caused (anyone care to climb under the covers in their PJ’s and watch Bewitched with me?) and a regression to childhood pleasures, such as that classic childhood drink, the iconic Shirley Temple. And, with the (maybe?) ending of the pandemic, there’s that feeling of euphoria- let’s pop the cork and celebrate! Apparently, it was a perfect storm for the invention of the Dirty Shirley.

When I went to make this drink, my Rose’s Grenadine (the most popular type sold in the U.S.) was semi-solid and hard to pour out of the bottle, as apparently I hadn’t used it in years. Grenadine in a non-alcoholic drink, typically made with Pomegranate, sugar and water. Rose’s is made with high fructose corn syrup, water, citric acid and Red Dye#40, among other ingredients. It is VERY SWEET, so I only used half of what was called for.

As was this drink. I couldn’t bear to use regular Sprite, so used sugar free and only half the grenadine it called for. I lost a cherry at the bottom, so put a second on a drink umbrella to keep it afloat. As I choked down this concoction, I tried to imagine a scenario where I would actually enjoy this drink. Maybe if I was really drunk and someone sent a tray full over for the table? Or, if I was out with my grandson and wanted to drink a similar drink as his, but with a kick? I’m not really sure, but I don’t think I need to try this recipe again.

But that shouldn’t stop you from trying the “Summer Drink of 2022″. You may want to invest in a new bottle of Grenadine, however. The New York Times describes the taste of the Dirty Shirley as “syrupy, verging on the sickly sweet.” I couldn’t agree more.

Dirty Shirleys

Recipe by New York TimesCuisine: CocktailDifficulty: Easy
Servings

1

servings

Here’s the recipe for a Dirty Shirley, a Shirley Temple with a kick.

Ingredients

  • Ice

  • 2 ounces vodka

  • 1 ounce grenadine

  • 8 ounces lemon-lime soda (7-Up or Sprite)

  • 1 (or 2) maraschino cherry for garnish

Directions

  • Fill a highball glass with ice. Add the vodka and grenadine to the glass. Top with soda and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Notes

  • You can use Sugar Free Sprite, as I did, to reduce the sugar overkill.

Up Next: My New Favorite Cocktail

Wyatt’s World

My Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.

Forrest Gump

Which is how I ended up seated next to a Professional Mermaid. But more on that later…

Last weekend was a busy one with the Kentucky Derby and Mother’s Day. I went over to my Mom’s Sunday to drop her off a gift and some leftover Burgoo (Kentucky stew) and Biscuits with A.J., when we saw Kelley and Elise’s car in the driveway as well. We had all arrived (coincidentally) at the same time to drop off gifts, so we had to get a photo (taken by my Mom’s boyfriend Bob) to commemorate the occasion. Wyatt and Grace were there as well (in the back). A very happy coincidence!

As for my Mother’s Day, I just didn’t want to cook, so Zeke Grilled Sausages for appetizers, Meat and Bone’s Dry Aged Steaks for dinner, and made Double-stuffed Potatoes, Grilled Asparagus and Texas Toast. It was all delicious. I made a Rainbow Radish salad for something fresh and we had leftover Derby Pie for dessert. A.J. came over with Wyatt and Phoenix and they went swimming. Justin made a brief appearance, but had to leave before dinner as he got called into work.

The following week, I had tennis Round Robins two days in a row and then the Pinecrest Garden Club’s Field Trip to the Keys on Wednesday. I was going to take the bus the garden club had rented, but when a friend offered a ride in her car, I jumped at the chance. I thought it was just going to be the two of us, but two other ladies- Maria and JoJo- were with us.

I offered to sit in the back seat, since I’m short, which is how I ended up next to Maria. She was wearing a Lily Pulitzer dress, high heels, vintage jewelry, with jet black hair swept to the side and perfect make up. She looked like an interesting person to get to know, but I wasn’t prepared for one of her introductory sentences.

I’m a professional mermaid.

she said.
Mermaid Marial.

Wow!

I didn’t even know there was such a thing, she handed me her card. She does special events, birthday parties etc… either in the water, or on dry land. She showed me photos of her dressed as Mermaid Marial, The Ocean Gypsy; she has the most beautiful, custom-made, iridescent aqua and rose gold mermaid tail. She’s also totally into all things Tiki, has two tiki bars at her home and does her own shell art, including amazing headpieces she wears while mermaiding.

Our other passenger, JoJo, sporting blonde hair, a striped shirt with pink palm trees, white slacks and a pink visor, got a call while we were in the car. She answered it, then said.

That’s my neighbor Guta. She’s cooking and needs a cup of soy sauce.

she said.

She explained they are the kind of neighbors who can go next door and borrow a cup of sugar from each other, which we all said was a nice kind of neighbor to have. But, as she kept talking about her neighbor, where they lived and her neighbor’s daughter who lived in upstate New York, I asked her a question.

Wait a minute, it’s not Guta B****, is it?

I asked.

Because it was an unusual name, I had wondered in the beginning, but with more and more details being revealed, it sound like a woman in my Book Club. And, yes, as a matter of fact it was. So her Guta was my Guta. I FaceTimed Guta and she answered. We chatted for a minute and then I put the phone to her neighbor JoJo in the front seat and she was like: “What? Where are you?” “On the way to Key Largo with JoJo for my garden club.” She couldn’t believe it. We all had a good laugh.

Anyway, it’s a very small world and I do feel like these strange coincidences are happening more to me lately, like I’m in sync with the universe. As I talked to Maria, the mermaid, she said she hit all red lights that morning on the way to her destination. I, on the other hand, had hit all green lights when I was driving.

Our field trip was to the Coral Restoration Foundation in Key Largo where we had a very informative and interesting talk from an energetic intern. Did you know that 50% of the coral reefs in the world have perished in the last 30 years? Coral reefs are a critical habitat for 25% of ALL MARINE LIFE. Of course it’s partly because of Global Warming, but also boaters, divers and sunscreen are to blame. The Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) manages the biggest coral reef restoration effort in the world. For more info go to http://www.coralrestoration.org. They are doing great and important work.

After that, we had a delicious lunch in Tavernier at Co-President Barbara Pareira’s house. Barbara really knocked herself out with homemade Conch Fritters, Stuffed Mushrooms, Shrimp Cocktail, Roasted Veggies, Sauteed Yellowtail, Caesar Salad, Roasted Cauliflower, Green Beans, Key Lime Pies and Sangria. It was a very lovely lunch and day at her beautiful home on the bay.

Me, Maria, JoJo and Cynthia, our fearless driver.

That night I had a kick-off party at Fiola’s (one of my favorite Miami restaurants) for the Wine Auction benefiting the Coral Gables Community Foundation. This year it’s back at Venetian Pool in Coral Gables. I was talking to one of the Sponsors of the event and Mary Snow and said: ” What great timing! I met a professional mermaid today.” I think Mermaid Marial would be a perfect addition to The Wine Auction taking place on Friday September 23rd, 2022 at Venetian Pool. Mark your calendar!

Even though Mercury Retrograde started Tuesday and will continue until June 3rd, it’s a perfect time to use your RE’s- Review, Renew, Refresh. Mercury Retrograde tends to mess up communications and you aren’t supposed to start new things or sign contracts at this time, but it is a good time to tie up loose ends.

I got to watch Phoenix Thursday morning and picked up Wyatt from school that afternoon and took him to tennis. As he was sitting in his booster seat in my Mini Cooper, with his cold lemonade in his cup holder, eating a large sugar cookie and listening to his Kidz Bop radio station, he said:

It’s just Wyatt’s World and you’re living in it.

Wyatt said.
Wyatt, living large.

This cracked me up and I said “Where did you hear that?” “My Mom,” he said.

We had Emma’s Nursing Pinning Ceremony that night, with Riviera for dinner after. She was all dressed up, with her orange and green pinning ribbon around her neck. Strangers and staff came up to her to congratulate her and we toasted with Prosecco. She finished U.M.’s Accelerated Nursing Program, which is a big accomplishment and her Dad and I are very proud of her.

The next day was the actual U.M. Graduation Ceremony at the Watsco Center. It was actually a pretty fun and entertaining graduation. As Emma said: “It was lit.” We took a family photo, as we are all now UM Alumni and celebrated that night with dinner at Ruth Chris Steakhouse. Lauren had flown in for the occasion and we met Emma’s boyfriend’s parents at dinner.

But Saturday, slightly exhausted from all the activity, I gathered my week’s worth of Miami Heralds, stacks of Real Simple and Oprah magazines and my Atlas of the Heart book for Book Club and headed down to the Keys to be alone. Time to renew, refresh and review. It’s Gina’s World and I’m living in it.

Up Next: Dirty Shirley

Yum Yum Shrimp

This post was supposed to be for Josie’s Pickled Eggplant, but I already posted that recipe on February 10th of this year. I am working on improving my Foodie in Miami website and one of the things I want to do is have an index of recipes, so they are easy to find and access. Thanks to all my faithful Foodie in Miami readers who filled out my survey and answered the questions to better improve my site and your experience.

Sometimes I want to cook elaborate meals and sometimes I just need to get dinner on the table. The elaborate meals normally are cooked on the weekends and even those, are much less elaborate than they used to be in my “Bon Appetit” days. This shrimp recipe is for those days that you just want to get dinner on the table, but it also could be used for a dinner party as it tastes more special than the minimum effort required.

Most proteins- be it beef, poultry or seafood- basically taste like they taste, once you account for Prime vs. Choice, Organic vs. non or Wild Caught vs. Farmed. The only way to add flavor is with a marinade, seasoning or rub and a sauce to serve it with. This shrimp recipe uses all three of these techniques to really amp up the flavor! I would serve this shrimp with rice pilaf or couscous and a green vegetable, like asparagus. This shrimp has SO much flavor, you really don’t need much else!

I used the Trader Joe’s Large Argentinian Shrimp in the freezer section for this recipe, but any frozen shrimp will do. These shrimp are red in color, come 20-25 per pound and cost $11.99. The Trader Joe’s Honey Aleppo Sauce ($3.99) is a “sweet, savory, tangy and slightly spicy” sauce, with a base of olive oil and honey. It’s delicious on a lot of things and to keep it simple, I use it to make the Bang Bang Sauce to dip the shrimp in. I call this recipe Yum Yum shrimp, because it is really yummy!

By the way, this photo isn’t of the shrimp in this recipe (note the dill), but was the best I could do! This is a four ingredient recipe and you can get it on the table (after marinating) in 10 minutes. As Ina would say, How Easy is That?

Yum Yum Shrimp

Recipe by Gina Guilford
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

58

minutes
Cooking time

5

minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 jar Honey Aleppo Sauce

  • Lemon Pepper Seasoning

  • 1 Bag of Frozen Shrimp (20-25 per pound)

  • Bang Bang Sauce
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

  • 1/4 cup Honey Aleppo Sauce

Directions

  • If you get the Large Argentine Shrimp from Trader Joe’s, they are already peeled and deveined. If not, peel and devein shrimp. Lay the shrimp in a large, non-reactive flat bowl or pan and cover with Honey Aleppo Sauce.
  • Let the shrimp marinate from 1 hour to up to 8 hours. There isn’t acid in this sauce, so it will not “cook” or degrade the texture of the shrimp. Remove shrimp from marinade and thread on skewers. If you use wooden skewers, you will need to soak them in water at least an hour so they don’t burn on the grill.
  • Preheat your grill to medium heat (between 350 and 450 degrees).
  • Generously sprinkle Lemon Pepper Seasoning all over shrimp skewers.
  • Make your Bang Bang sauce by combining mayonnaise with Honey Aleppo Sauce with a whisk until smooth.
  • Spray grill with Pam! Important or shrimp will stick. Grill shrimp skewers 5 to 7 minutes, flipping over half way.
  • Remove shrimp from grill when the flesh inside is white and opaque. Serve immediately with Bang Bang sauce and desired sides.

Notes

  • You can also buy Bang Bang sauce at the grocery store if you don’t want to make your own.
  • You could also make this recipe by broiling the shrimp, instead of on the grill.

Up Next: Wyatt’s World

Grace, Frankie and Gigi?

Have you heard about the Coastal Grandmother lifestyle trend? Think Diane Keaton in Something’s Got to Give, where she has a fabulous beach house, dresses in neutral, natural fabrics, takes long walks on the beach, drinks freshly ground coffee, sips good wine, cooks simple but delicious food, listens to French music and, overall, enjoys traveling and living in the moment. Sounds good to me!

I feel like I check a lot of the boxes for this trend. Grandmother- check (times three!). Condo in the Keys- check. Likes to cook and have a cozy house- check, check. I don’t normally wear bucket hats or sweaters, however. It’s too hot for sweaters in Miami; my normal grandmotherly vibe when I pick up Wyatt from school is a long sleeved t-shirt, Lululemon leggings and a straw cowboy hat. Luckily, he’s too young to be embarrassed by my bad fashion choices.

This Coastal Grandmother trend was started by Tik Toker Lex Nicoleta and she notes the thing about this trend is you don’t need to be a Grandmother or own a Beach House to adopt the lifestyle. Anne Hathaway recently posted a photo on Instagram of herself wearing a bucket hat, big sunglasses, a white button-down shirt and khakis with the tagline: “I have been ready for coastal grandmother chic since before Tik Tok was born. May this moment never end.”

Elements of Style blog describes the trend as people who enjoy “relaxation, simple luxuries, free time, long lunches, farmer’s market, cold glasses of white wine and cashmere sweaters at a beach picnic.” Once again- the last part, not in Miami- but I like the rest of it. Lex Nicoleta even created a Spotify playlist for the trend at lexnicoleta. The decorating vibe is a “comfortable, lived-in space that is light and bright.”

Speaking of Coastal Grandmothers, I’ve been loving Grace and Frankie, the longest running Netflix series, starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. It’s like the Odd Couple, but with women who have been left by their husbands to marry each other. It’s hysterical and I’m on Season 4 of 7 Seasons. The last Season starts now and has an appearance by Dolly Parton (remember the three of them in 9 to 5?) in the final episode.

I was happy I had the Keys and our boat, ‘Bout TIme, to quarantine to when I had Covid. The hardest part of having Covid was the isolation! I missed people, I missed human interaction, I missed my grandsons. Once I got it, Zeke and I hung out together. The only after effect I’ve noticed was being extremely tired. We both went to bed earlier than usual and took naps. This week I played tennis four days in a row, so I guess I’m back in business. It was hot out there though!

I read The Paris Apartment while quarantining for my Book Club. I don’t really recommend it- found the writing a little lazy- but it was a page-turner (or page clicker, as I read it on my Kindle.) Elizabeth in my Book Club had a lovely French meal at our Book Club meeting, with French wines, cheeses, a salad with berries and a delicious Coq au Vin du Blanc (with white wine instead of red), mashed potatoes and a Pineapple Upside Down cupcake for dessert. Tres bien!

Our next book is Atlas of the Heart, by PHD and TED talk speaker Brene Brown. It’s a large, pretty-cover book which touts: “Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience”. That’s quite a mouthful to be put on a cover! It seems to be an encyclopedia of human emotions. I’m not quite sure about it yet as I’ve just started- it is a New York Times bestseller. Stay tuned.

Emotional Roller Coaster.

The day I tested negative, I read in the New York Times that more than half of all Americans have had Covid. This was discovered by finding the antibodies in their blood, so some who’ve had it never even knew they were positive. Most of the people I know have now had Covid at least once and more people are getting it daily. According to my sister Elise, a nurse, there is a new wave that is rapidly rising throughout Miami. I really thought we would be done with this by now, but sadly, we are not.

I cooked a lot when I had Covid, mostly out of boredom. I turned leftover ham into Ham Croquettas. A major project, but I froze the excess. I used the ham bone to make Split Pea Soup- my favorite. And I turned the Arugula from Empower Farms into Pesto. Did you know, you can use other greens to make pesto? Spinach, cilantro and parsley, for example, can all be used to make pesto. Changing the green, will of course change the taste. I love the traditional Pesto with basil, but it’s nice to have alternatives. I used the eggplant from Empower Farms to make my Josie’s Pickled Eggplant, something she always kept in her fridge to serve as an antipasto and sauteed the cute pittypat squashes for a side dish.

Since I was bored, I applied to be on Check Please! It’s a show with Chef Michelle Bernstein on PBS where three people from South Florida pick their favorite restaurant and the other two people on the show visit and eat there. After they’ve all tried the recommended restaurants, they get together at the end of the show and give their opinions. I recommended Shriver’s Bar-B-Que in Homestead, Island Grill in Islamorada (home of the Tuna Nachos) and Hobo’s Cafe in Key Largo. Fingers crossed I get picked.

We ate at Hobo’s Cafe in Key Largo last week because I craved a hamburger. It was a funny thing with Covid, my body told me exactly what it wanted me to eat. It wasn’t junk, carbs or sweets but iron (specifically beets) and protein (specifically red meat), so hence the burger. I wish my body would tell me what to eat on a Daily Basis, not just when I’m sick. I’m all ears, body!

I got the Sloppy Hobo Burger at Hobo’s; I cut it in half and took half home. It was a really good, but huge, burger that came with delicious, waffle fries! It normally comes with coleslaw, onion rings, sauteed mushrooms, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and potato straws on the burger and BBQ sauce on the side. I got the coleslaw and onion rings on the side, as it would have been enormous and too sloppy to eat. Our waitress told us there is a little old lady who comes in once a month and gets that burger and when she lifts it up to her face, you can’t see her anymore! She said she takes her a half hour to eat, but she finishes the whole thing.

And that is why she only comes in once a month!

said our waitress.

Another place I would recommend in the Keys is Avenue Subs, where we got our subs to take out on the boat. We got a Roast Beef Sub and an Italian Sub and they were both excellent. The roast beef was sliced thin and the meat was piled on thick! The only thing I would say is to get the sliced tomatoes and onions on the side if you’re not eating it right away, so as to not make your sub soggy. No one wants a soggy sub!

I heard from the editor of Coral Gables Magazine about my Morris Lapidus in Coral Gables article. It took me six months to write and involved a lot of research. He said it was “very interesting and very thorough.” He invited me to a Coral Gables magazine’s 4-year anniversary party at the Coral Gables Museum last Thursday. When I saw him, I asked if “very thorough” was code for “boring”. He said no and that he liked the article. I still have to write a Driving Tour to go with it and it’s an “evergreen” article, meaning it can be run at any time, since the information isn’t time sensitive. Fingers crossed again. Thanks to Jeanette Slesnick for the photo!

Covid survivors.

For those of you watching the Kentucky Derby, I hope your horse wins. Fingers crossed. And to all the mothers out there, Happy Mother’s Day!

We all live in a Yellow Submarine.

The Beatles

Up Next: Josie’s Pickled Eggplant

Pasta, Josie’s Way

When I mentioned to Kelley I had Ham leftovers, she told me Josie, my late, great aunt, had a pasta recipe that used ham. Of course I had to have her text it to me; I’m so glad we were able to get Josie’s recipes before she passed away. She liked to enter her recipes in contests and that was how, with a chicken recipe she invented, she won a Weber grill that the four sisters would grill steaks on Saturday nights.

With Josie, making Eggplant Parmesan.

This recipe, originally titled, Spaghetti, Josie’s Way, was marked Prize Winning- National. I can only assume she won the prize for a Ronzoni contest, as the first ingredient was Ronzoni Spaghetti. This recipe is similar to all amatriciana, which uses salt pork, onions and white wine, but with the addition of ham and sliced mushrooms. For all amatriciana, a pasta with a hole inside called Bucatini is used, so this is what I used to make this dish. I also added peas, which wasn’t called for but added color and freshness to the dish.

In the Keys. Josie’s Pasta on a Sunday night by myself.
Whenever I see this, I buy it. It’s like spaghetti with a hole in the middle.

Pasta, Josie’s Way

Recipe by Josie SmithCourse: EntreeCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Moderate
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
20

20

minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Ronzoni Spaghetti

  • 1/4 lb. salt pork, diced

  • 2 T. Oil

  • 1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced

  • 1/4 lb. Ham, chopped

  • 2 T. parsley, chopped

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (pinot grigio works)

  • 1/4 lb. butter

  • Grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions

  • Cook the spaghetti as directed on package to al dente and drain. DO NOT RINSE.
  • In a large skillet render salt pork in oil for about 5 minutes, then add onions and cook until onions are slightly browned.
  • Add mushrooms, ham and parsley and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add wine and simmer 5 minutes.
  • Add butter to the cooked and drained spaghetti and toss in the skillet with the sauce.
  • Serve immediately and add parmesan cheese to taste.

Notes

  • Salt pork is traditional for this dish. If you can’t find it, you can substitute bacon (not smoked) or pancetta.

In Good Company

My sad version of a cartoon.

So for two years, I avoided it like the plague.

I washed my hands for 20 seconds, stayed six feet apart from my fellow man, hand sanitized my hands raw, wiped down groceries, sprayed disinfectant on the mail, Instacarted groceries, Amazoned everything, had shoe washing stations outside my front door, wiped down all surfaces with Clorox wipes, wore a mask, took Vitamin C and D, went on endless walks and I prayed. Still, apparently my luck ran out on a recent trip to New York, which lit up like Rudolph’s nose on a map of Covid hot spots in the U.S.

I’d had fair warning as Matthew Broderick and then his wife, Sarah Jessica Parker, tested positive for Covid, which is why the play we’d gone to see- Plaza Suite– was cancelled. While we wore masks in the airport, on the plane and at the plays we attended, we let our guard slip in other places. We didn’t always mask in Ubers, ate indoors (it was cold) and walked the crowded streets of New York and into stores, like we were immune to contracting the dreaded Coronavirus. We were not.

Zeke felt bad first.

He took a Zyrtec and another allergy medicine, thinking he had allergies, and when he tested for Covid, it came back negative. The next day, however, it came back positive. The following day, I had a slight headache, which I attributed to being out in the sun during a tennis match, but I tested negative. The next day I had a nasal drip and thought “Oh no!” but I tested negative two more times, with two different brands of tests. Still, given the circumstances, I avoided people at my grandson Phoenix’s 1st Birthday Party, which took place at our home.

I’d already made my Mom’s Baked Beans and S’Mores Ice Cream a couple days before. I was supposed to pick up the Guava and Cheese Birthday Cake from Gilbert’s Bakery, but declined as I didn’t want to be around anyone. My sister Elise, a school nurse, advised me if I was planning on being around people at the party to wear a mask, to be on the safe side. I decided to just stay upstairs and watch the festivities down below. Despite complaining about how our house is too big, it actually worked out as Zeke and I were in separate bedrooms upstairs. And, it was kind of nice to be at a party where I didn’t have to do any work. People brought us plates of food from the party, so we didn’t starve to death.

Easter was a very small affair. While we were going to have an Easter Egg Hunt for Wyatt, my daughter had a big event for Earth Day and didn’t want to take a chance on getting sick. Wyatt and Phoenix’s Easter baskets are still sitting on my credenza, waiting to be unwrapped. Emma came over for dinner and we ate outside.

Monday I tested positive for Covid. I immediately texted my tennis partner and captain, as I’d played Thursday and I was, obviously, closest to my partner, even though we were outside. These last days, I’d hoped against hope what I had was just a cold and a strange coincidence that I’d gotten it the same time as my husband had Covid, but now there was no escaping the two pink lines on the test. I’m not sure what I felt. Not panic, or relief. Perhaps just resignation?

After SO long of avoiding Covid, it finally caught up with me. Of course, I’m vaccinated and boosted, so it was a very mild case. It just felt like a head cold and certainly not the worst I’ve ever had in my life. I took Advil in the day, Nyquil at night, Vitamin C & D and slept a lot. I finished my Book Club book (The Paris Apartment) and watched feel-good shows on Netflix (Something’s Got to Give). I finally sent in an article to Coral Gables Magazine I started six months ago.

I guess there is some kind of shame involved with getting Covid.

Of not being smart enough to out-smart it, of letting our guard down on our trip to New York, of not being super immune. My resident nurse thinks my husband got it in New York and I got it from him. But, in the end, does it matter where we got it? People telling me I now had Super Immunity meant well, but it really didn’t cheer me up. And, seeing how different people reacted to my diagnosis was enlightening, to say the least.

A woman on my tennis team (who wasn’t even at the tennis match!) called my mother and insisted I e-mail my whole tennis team and tell them I had Covid. My mother called me, reluctantly, and I told her I’d told my tennis captain and partner, so felt I’d done my duty. My mother felt uncomfortable being stuck in the middle and then, this lady started campaigning my tennis captain relentlessly.

I called my captain and we decided she would send out an e-mail saying someone on the team tested positive for Covid and if anyone had any questions to contact her. It seemed a moot point, as I think everyone knew it was ME. And the woman so concerned about the whole team getting Covid from me? Never heard from her inquiring how I was doing. I truly felt like a pariah; like I had a scarlet C emblazoned on my chest.

My sister Kelley brought me Matzo Ball Soup and magazines, my Mom dropped off a book. My daughter A.J. stayed away, as she didn’t want to get sick since she was hosting an Earth Day event. My son Christopher made an unexpected visit to Miami from Colorado. I told him about my status and that maybe I should go to the Keys to avoid exposing him.

I don’t care if you have Covid, I’m going to give you a big hug when I see you.

said Christopher.

“Ok,” I answered. “But only with my N-95 mask on.”

He called me “Covid mama.”

One person, besides my tennis partner, on my tennis team texted me saying she hoped I was ok. An older lady, she’d taken a test to make sure she didn’t have it. It was negative. And, as if to make matters worse, I found out that a text group I’m a part of held a birthday party where everyone, sans me, got invited. So I already felt icky and this made me feel ickier.

I realize I’m lucky to have had a very mild case of Covid, but I came to the unremarkable conclusion- Covid is boring. Not to make light of people who have experienced serious Covid, been hospitalized or died, but this was my experience. Yes, I could read, write, watch movies, garden, cook and take walks, but it’s a very isolating and lonely experience, not to mention the unspoken shame involved. Meanwhile, my husband tested negative after seven days, giving me a time-frame of what I could expect.

A lunch I was supposed to attend Friday obviously wasn’t happening for me, so I drove to the Keys. We went out on the boat Saturday and we both agreed, as we ate our Roast Beef Subs from Avenue Subs in Key Largo (delicious!) at Nest Key, we were glad we bought a boat in 2020. It’s the perfect place to socially distance and the fresh air and salt water are just what the doctor ordered- Vitamin Sea.

So many people- friends and family- have had Covid; I know my experience is not unique. I’m joining a big club I never wanted to be a part of. At least I have comfort I’m joining a club people like Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Prince Charles and Camilla and, of course, Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker have joined. We’re in good company. And it’s something else my husband and I have gone through together, although nothing we ever wanted to. I guess when we’re old and gray we’ll say “Remember when we got Covid after that trip to New York?”

I’m a firm believer in trying to learn something from whatever calamity occurs. So, what did I learn from Covid? Certainly, that no one is immune. And also, empathy for people that get it. I would certainly reach out to friends and family that have it to check up on them by texting, phoning or e-mailing, drop them off soup, magazines, books. I would do something to make them feel like they’re not so alone.

But for now, I’m ready to put this in the rear view mirror.

Up Next: Spaghetti Josie’s Way

Ham-o-lot

If you’re like me, you have a lot of leftover ham from Easter. I’m not a big ham fan (say that three times fast) but leftover ham does come in handy for many dishes. I got a spiral cut Smithfield Ham from the grocery store, but I do think Honeybaked Hams are better in terms of quality and taste.

Easter Dinner with Ham, Mac ‘N Cheese and Sliced Tomatoes.

The first thing you can do with leftover ham, is of course, ham sandwiches. While they are perfectly fine as a plain ham sandwich or on a hot biscuit, you can also think outside the box and make a Cuban with Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on Cuban bread. The only thing missing is the Roast Pork. Or try a Monte Cristo, with ham and Swiss cheese piled on a thick bread, which is dipped in egg and fried in butter. Add the traditional sliced turkey if you have it, otherwise, this is still a hearty sandwich and delicious served with a berry jam on the side.

I loved scrambled eggs with diced ham, but it’s also perfect in Omelettes or in a Breakfast Burrito, with sauteed onions, peppers and shredded cheese. If you’re into that kind of thing (some think it sacrilegious) you could make a Hawaiian Pizza with ham, pineapple and mozzarella cheese. Ham Salad is another option, made with hard boiled eggs (might have some of those leftover), mayo, relish, onion and mustard. Ham salad can also be served as a dip with crackers and veggies.

Oh Sam I am, oh Sam I am, eating eggs and ham.

Chef’s Salad is another option for a lunch or light dinner. Iceberg lettuce, sliced radishes, celery, wedged tomatoes, quartered hard boiled eggs and turkey completes this salad, with French or Russian dressing served to dress it. Swiss cheese seems to be the most common denominator of cheeses served with ham, but Cheddar or Monterey Jack also works well.

I used some leftover ham last night in a Quiche, which was a twist on Quiche Lorraine. Instead of bacon and Swiss-like Gruyere Cheese, I used ham and Cheddar, with some sliced green onions thrown in for good measure. I served it with an arugula and tomato salad with a mustard vinaigrette. There’s an easy and adaptable quiche recipe I used from the Serve It Up! cookbook by Kimberly Tabor.

Pasta is a blank slate, so ham works perfectly in it. It’s great in Mac ‘N Cheese, but I turn to my old friend James Beard for other inspiration. He suggests using ham in a cold Orzo Salad and Spaghetti Carbonara, where prefers Smithfield ham to the traditional bacon. And how about this easiest of recipes?

Ham and Peas

Very simple. Pour a cup of heavy cream into a saucepan. Let it cook down and thicken slightly and add some peas and bits of ham. Pour over hot noodles and sprinkle on quite a lot of grated cheese.

From Beard on Pasta by James Beard.

The leftover ham bone is just dying to get used, as it’s full of flavor and shouldn’t be wasted. My favorite way to use it is in a Split Pea Soup, where you can also utilize any bits and pieces of ham leftover. I use the recipe in the Fannie Farmer cookbook. A ham bone also works well as a flavoring for other bean and green dishes.

Wash those peas before you make soup!

Croquettas are also an option for leftover ham, albeit a complicated one, but I cut out a recipe from the New York Times Food section for croqettas from Isla Canaria in Miami I made recently. Although labor-intensive, the recipe makes a lot and the croquettas can be frozen for future consumptions, if you don’t want to be a glutton.

Croquettas are made by grinding leftover ham in the food processor, then adding a bechamel sauce to it. After letting it sit in the fridge a couple hours, you cut the mixture into rectangles and shape it into cylinders, then freeze. Lastly, dip the cylinders into an egg wash and bread crumbs and freeze again. Finally, fry in hot oil and eat. with saltine crackers, lime wedges and hot sauce.

Making Bechamel Sauce, a primary ingredient in croquettas.

The good thing about leftover ham is there are endless ways to use it. These are just some ideas.

Ham held the same rating as the basic black dress. If you had ham in the meat house any situation could be faced.

Edna Lewis

Up Next: A Close Call

Best in the Big Apple

New York is a very special city for Zeke and I.

It’s where he took me to pick out the diamond for my engagement ring on the anniversary of our first date, February 7th, the year we got married. Ever the romantic, Zeke insisted on continuing to visit New York on that date. I have to admit, watching snowflakes fall amid the twinkling lights while we ate dinner at Tavern on the the Green was very romantic, as was walking in Central Park when flurries fluttered down.

But, after a couple times of freezing our tushies off, clomping around in the snow to get breakfast and once, being unable to fly home due to a blizzard, I told him that while I thought it was extremely romantic, it really wasn’t necessary. I’m a romantic too, but cold is cold and I’m a Miami girl at heart.

So, this year, after a two year break (thanks Covid!), we returned to The Big Apple, but this time in (slightly warmer) April. This was my Christmas gift from Zeke and when I saw that Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick were performing in Plaza Suite together for a limited time, I knew we had to go and see the play! We bought tickets, A.J helped me pick an outfit that channeled my inner Carrie Bradshaw and off we flew on Thursday, with the play that night.

Alas, it was not meant to be.

Even before we left for New York, we got news that Matthew Broderick tested positive for Covid, so wouldn’t be in the play, which was half of the reason we wanted to go, to see the actual married couple play a married couple onstage. Then, hours before the play (as I was getting dressed for our pre-play dinner) we got a text that Plaza Suite was cancelled for that night. Sarah Jessica Parker had tested positive as well. Apparently, New York City is a hotbed of Covid, the new, more contagious, subvariant version.

I took off my little black dress, sat on the couch and let myself be sad for a bit. Then I called to make sure I could get a refund (I did) and we went to dinner at the same Italian restaurant in Times Square where we had reservations, pre-play cancellation. It was ok, no place I would run back to, but white tablecloths, excellent service. But there were some places I would definitely return to when I go back to New York, so if you’re going any time in the near future, you might want to as well.

Best Drink- The Rum House 228 W. 74th Street

So, we got tickets to Six– a musical about Henry VIII six wives. We decided to check in early and get stamped before we got a drink but unfortunately, Zeke’s Covid card only showed the booster, not the shots before, so we were removed from the line to go talk to a manager. Stressful! Luckily, he was able to show the manager an email confirming his vaccination status, so we were fine. I told her we were going to go get a drink and she recommended The Rum House, for a an “Old School” place to get a drink.

It was cozy, not noisy inside and obviously, they specialize in rum drinks so I got an Old Havana.

Is it like a Mojito?

I asked the bartender.

He said it was, but better than a mojito, and he was right. It has light rum, champagne, lime juice, floral bitters and mint leaves, so like a Mojito but without simple syrup and with champagne instead of club soda. It was refreshing and delicious. I could have totally had another one, but we needed to go see Six, which by the way, was great!

Best Breakfast- French Roast 2340 Broadway

We went to go get bagels at a place Zeke found on Yelp, but it was packed and there was no place to sit down, so we ducked into a restaurant called French Roast, to sit down and have a proper breakfast. It was fortuitous, because shortly afterwards, it started pouring. I got the Quiche of the day- cheddar and bacon and Zeke got the French Toast. The coffee was good (one would hope so at a place called French Roast) and my quiche was creamy and flavorful, with a delicate crust and a little salad on the side, to make me feel healthy. Zeke’s French Toast was coated in cinnamon and came with a berry compote and maple syrup- delicious! After that, we were ready to face the rest of our day, rain or shine!

Best Lunch- Russian Tea Room 150 W. 57 Street

We were split on our best lunch, but I thought our lunch at the iconic The Russian Tea Room, was the best. First of all, it’s right down the street from Carnegie Hall and it looks exactly the same as it always has, at least from the scene in Tootsie from the ’80’s. Hunter green walls, red tufted booths, white tables that slide out for diners, gold-encrusted decor, bedazzled chandeliers and brass coffee urns all over. There were so many vodkas to choose from, I didn’t know where to start. Our server recommended a horseradish vodka, made in-house. It was served ice cold, tasted like horseradish and was quite smooth. It went well with our appetizer caviar. The Caviar Tasting came with three kinds of caviar- Salmon, Trout and Whitefish, served on large blinis with creme fraiche and chopped red onion. They were all delicious, but the trout was my favorite. We then ordered their two signature dishes- Chicken Kiev and Beef Stroganoff– for our entrees. My Chicken Kiev was a large piece of crusted chicken that burst with butter and herbs when I cut into it, served with mashed potatoes and vegetables. Super juicy and delicious. The Beef Stroganoff was a deconstructed version, with fresh egg noodles, twirled around, with tasty mushrooms, a hint of truffle and a tender short rib accompanying it, on the side. By the way, The Russian Tea Room states on its website, it stands in allegiance with Ukraine and against the invasion by Russia.

Best Ethnic Lunch- Sala Thai 307 Amsterdam Avenue

This restaurant just happened to be by our hotel and I’m so glad we tried it as, it’s honestly, the best Thai food I’ve ever had. It’s a quiet and beautiful restaurant, with plastic sheets separating tables, leftover from the Pandemic, I guess. I got the Crispy Duck in Curry sauce with lychees, pineapple and coconut from the Winter Menu. The duck had a crispy skin, the curry a kick and the lychees and pineapple added a bit of sweetness to the dish. The coconut- thick slices of white meat, was a revelation. Not sweet, but with a meaty texture that was infused by the spicy curry. Zeke got the not-too-spicy Massaman Curry with Chicken and white rice. He ordered a German pilsner that went perfectly with the complex flavors of the dish. Other popular items here are the Crispy Spring Rolls, Pad Thai and Pad Se-Ew. Service was efficient and they bring the credit card thing to your table for easy payment. I will definitely note this in my New York Journal as a place to come back to on future visits.

Best Bagel- Bagel Talk 368 Amsterdam Avenue

I was starving after our flight to Newark, train ride to Penn Station and Uber ride to our hotel, so we asked the front desk person for a bagel recommendation. She recommended this place as a place to get homemade bagels with homemade spreads. I got a toasted Sesame Bagel with cream cheese; it was huge, with a ton of cream cheese and hit the spot. Zeke got the Nova Bagel with lox, cream cheese, tomato and onion and it was heaped full of nova and delicious. This unassuming neighborhood joint on the Upper West Side was filled with locals and they bake their bagels every hour to ensure freshness. A great first bite in New York City. I was so hungry, I forgot to take a photo!

Best Dessert- Babka from Zabar’s 2245 Broadway

I’d definitely heard of Zabar’s as a good place to get bagels, so we had to visit their store on Broadway. It’s a huge store that’s been around since 1934 and was founded by Louis Zabar, a Ukrainian immigrant. It’s a gourmet specialty store known for its smoked fish, cheeses, olives, caviar, coffee and kitchen goods (second floor). On the Saturday we visited it was packed, which kind of gave me the heebee geebees after avoiding crowds for two years. While watching Something’s Got to Give recently, Diane Keaton’s daughter walks in with a Zabar’s bag to bring a treat to Harry (Jack Nicholson). As they say on their website “New York is Zabars…. Zabars is New York.” There is a little food service pick-up spot next to the main store where you can get bagels, coffee, knishes, rugelach and other items. I decided to get two slices of Babka– one chocolate and one cinnamon. My plan was to save it for dessert after our play, but when I picked it up and it was warm, I had to try a bite, and then another and another. Let’s just say it was moist, sweet & delicious and there was nothing left for the after-the-play dessert. You can also get it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which would be heavenly! As Babs would say, it melts like buttah in the mouth!

It’s up to you New York, New York!

Frank Sinatra

Up Next: What to do with Leftover Ham

Best Mac ‘N Cheese

So it’s a very busy week this week, cooking-wise, for me. There’s Easter, of course, but also Passover and Phoenix’s First Birthday Party on Saturday. The inspiration for his party was “The Ants Go Marching One by One”, his favorite song and it’s a Camping Theme. So, there will be my Mom’s Deviled Eggs, Smoked Meats, My Mom’s Baked Beans, Shorty’s Coleslaw, Birthday Cake (of course) and a special S’Mores Ice Cream I made for the occasion.

Since I have to host one party and turn around and pivot to Easter the next day, I wanted a super easy meal. I considered getting Honeybaked Ham with the sides from there, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. So, I got a Spiral-Cut Ham, Asparagus I will Roast, Fresh Tomatoes I will slice and I made Mac ‘N Cheese ahead and froze it.

This is my favorite Mac ‘N Cheese recipe and it’s very adaptable. Although it lists Cheddar and Gouda cheeses, it could easily be subbed for whatever cheese you have on hand, even blue or goat (assuming you like them). It is from cooking teacher Carole Kotkin and came from an Ocean Reef newsletter. For me, it has saved the day many a time when I didn’t know what to make, but had plenty of little remnants of cheese and pasta around.

This also reminds me of a meal my Mom used to make when my Dad was away on trips, but she would make Kraft Mac ‘N Cheese, with ham patties (out of a can) she fried and sliced tomatoes. The recipe has breadcrumbs on top, but I have skipped that step as I don’t want anything getting in the way of me and that beautiful cheesy topping. Enjoy!

Best Mac ‘N Cheese

Recipe by Carole KotkinCourse: MainCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Moderate
Servings

6

servings
Prep time

20

minutes
Cooking time

30

minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups milk

  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour

  • 5 tablespoons butter

  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

  • 2 1/4 cups grated cheddar cheese

  • 1 cup grated Gruyere (or Swiss) cheese

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 pound elbow or penne macaroni

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

  • Heat the milk, either on stove top or in microwave.
  • Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring 1 minute.
  • While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
  • Remove pan from heat and add salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne, 1 cup of Cheddar cheese and 3/4 cup Gruyere. Set cheese sauce aside.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt to water and add macaroni. Cook 2 to 3 minutes less than package instructions.
  • Drain pasta in colander. Stir macaroni into reserved cheese sauce.
  • Pour mixture into a 9 x 13″ buttered baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheeses over the top and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until top is browned.

Notes

  • Note that the cheese is divided, so don’t dump it all into the cheese sauce as you need some to top the Mac ‘N Cheese.

Up Next: Best in the Big Apple

No Spring Chicken

So we had a great time visiting our friends Brooks and Sharon in The Villages, a 55+ community. We left them early Sunday, in order to get home to do Yard Work (Zeke) and to watch The Academy Awards and Pre-Pre Shows (me). I’ve always loved movies and as someone who got their Masters in Screenwriting, I feel almost obligated to watch. I usually try to see all the movies nominated for Best Picture, but this year I only saw one!

On our trip home, we were doomed to Florida Turnpike eating, so stopped and got Wendys. My go-to order there is a Single Burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard and extra pickles, but they were advertising a New! Hot Honey Chicken Sandwich, so what the heck? I tried it. I have to say it was pretty good, but I was surprised a fried chicken sandwich, with Monterey Jack cheese and bacon, was almost the same amount of calories as my normal Single.

Back at home, I made Pizza out of Flatbreads I’d gotten at Trader Joe’s for dinner, since I figured we’d be tired from our trip and would want to do something easy. It was also an homage to Wolfgang Puck, the Austrian-American Chef who popularized Wood-Fired, Gourmet Pizzas in the ’80’s when he opened Spago’s in Beverly Hills. I actually met him at Spago’s a couple days before the Academy Awards were to take place., years ago. He caters one of the big Oscar after-parties, so I asked him how it was going.

Oh, that’s so far away.

Wolfgang Puck

It was actually in three days! If I was hosting a small dinner party in three days, I’d be freaking out, but I guess he’s done it so much, he’s got it down pat. Alas, I didn’t get a photo with Wolfgang Puck, but did get one with Sidney Poitier that day, who passed away this year and was honored at this year’s Oscars In Memoriam tribute.

One pizza we made was inspired by Miami’s Best California Dreaming, which has tomato sauce, goat cheese, spinach, artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes. The other pizza we made had fresh tomatoes, burrata cheese, garlic and basil. I added the burrata and basil after the pizza was cooked. The verdict? We liked the Burrata Pizza better, but I wasn’t crazy about the Flatbread aspect of it and would just stick with a regular pizza crust next time.

I guess I was one of the 7 people watching the Oscars when the slap heard round the world occurred. Although two friends I was texting with just said “What just happened?” It was hard to focus on anything else after that.

While I went for a walk the next morning, I ran into my old neighbor Maggie, who was in the neighborhood and decided to “torture herself” and come look at the huge monstrosity of a house being built, where her cute little cottage used to be. I took her around in my backyard to see it.

It’s big.

she said.

Kind of an understatement. “She told me she was going to build a small house for her parents,” Maggie explained about the buyer. This is definitely NOT a house for her parents.

Zeke measured where her future house is from our property and it’s less than 11 feet. It’s supposed to be 15! He’s written the Miami-Dade Zoning Board about this, so we’ll see. We figure she’s just going to build it and ask forgiveness later. Oy Vey!

Maggie is now living in Coconut Grove, where she can walk everywhere and she loves it. I told her we were thinking about downsizing as well, but as of right now, my house has become a storage unit for multiple adult children’s stuff. Speaking of which, Chris and Courtney, after much back and forth, are staying in Colorado, at least until the summer.

We met a relative of Zeke’s at Versailles Monday, on their way to the Everglades for a family vacation. There was a wait, so we put in our name and I got a Cafe Con Leche and a Ham Croquetta as we waited. I didn’t have milk for my coffee that day, so hadn’t had coffee and I don’t think a coffee has ever tasted as good. And the ham croquetta- big, creamy and delicious. Versailles is one of those Miami Institutions I would be devastated if it ever closed. As would most of Miami, I’m sure!

Versailles, a Miami Institution.

I had a bunch of chicken backs in the freezer (weird, I know), so decided to make Chicken Broth with them. I got this book called Simple to Spectacular, by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman, where they take one simple recipe and elevate into three, progressively more complicated ones. The one I’ve used the most is One-Hour Chicken Stock. It’s easy, fast and delicious. It could be a base for other soups, but I love it just the way it is.

Phoenix loved it as well, and it’s just a homey and comforting broth for anyone.

I also made a Corn Chowder from Joy of Cooking, because I had corn cobs on hand. I served it with Broiled Shrimp and Ciabatta Bread. It was less successful, as I felt it needed a little oomph. I added some Korean hot sauce- Gochujang- which I mentioned in an earlier post, to spice it up.

I also tried a Roasted Cauliflower with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts Recipe, which sounded interesting. I’m always on the search for new cauliflower recipes and this one, clipped from The Miami Herald, sounded promising, but I was unsure about one part. While you roasted the cauliflower, you sauteed onions and leeks in olive oil to add on top. I felt this would uncrisp the crispy cauliflower and I was right, so this recipe goes in la garbage. I have too many to try, too little time!

Since I had sauce leftover from Sticky Chicken (see previous post), I tried it again, but this time seasoned the chicken thighs with Chinese Five Spice and marinated it in Teriyaki Sauce. It made all the difference and was delicious. The rest of the week, I basically ate out, including a Poisson, which is, I discovered, a Spring Chicken. Kind of like a Cornish Hen, but smaller and quite delicious. So, it was a very chicken-y kind of week!

I listened to a Podcast while I walked with Author and Researcher Brene Brown, where she talked about trying to control ones partner. This was on Glennon Doyle’s podcast We Can Do Hard Things. They discussed why when we feel our partners are trying to control us, it makes us feel like they don’t trust and respect us. At which time, I came home from my walk and told Zeke I thought he was trying to control me; he turned the tables and said I try to control him. I denied it and asked for an example.

Like yesterday when you told me the Pad Thai I wanted to order was 1000 calories.

he said.

“I’m trying to educate you, in case you weren’t aware of it,” I said. “I care about your health.”

Or when we go out to eat and you try to change my order.

Zeke said.

This one I am completely guilty of. But, in my defense, it usually comes when Zeke says he’s going to get one thing (like Spring Chicken) and when the server comes to take our order, he’ll change it to something completely different, like Crab Cakes. Then I will say “But I thought you were going to get the Spring Chicken”, which isn’t controlling his decision, it’s just stating a fact.

Because what he orders affects what I order. If there are two things I want to try on the menu and he orders one, I’ll order the other so I can taste both. I don’t see any point in us getting the same meal, especially with dinners like Miami Spice, where I want to try as many delicious dishes as possible. So I defend my behavior as selfish and self-serving, but not controlling.

Two people who seemed to have worked their control issues out are Claudia and Joe Greenberg, who were honored last Saturday night at the Temple Judea’s Springing Forward Gala. During the celebration at Riviera, they also renewed their vows after 54 years of marriage. Mazel Tov!