I tried this recipe months ago from a Food Blog I follow called Frugal Hausfrau and loved it so much, I’ve made it several times since. It is supposedly Keto-friendly if you make it with monk fruit, but I didn’t have any monk fruit, so I used honey. Also, one time I didn’t have any dried blueberries around, but did have fresh so used them and they dried up and worked perfectly.
The hardest part of this recipe is gathering the nuts, but it’s Fall now, so make like a squirrel and gather! I find the easiest (and cheapest) place to get nuts is my favorite TraderJoe’s. As a plus, they also carry the unsweetened coconut chips and dried blueberries called for, making it a one-stop shop.
Blueberry Nut Granola
Recipe by gleeguilfordCourse: Breakfast/SnackCuisine: American/KetoDifficulty: Medium
1 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut chips
1 1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 to 1/4 cup monk fruit (can substitute honey or agave)
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/3 cup dried blueberries or 1/2 cup fresh
Preheat oven to 325. Adjust rack to middle rack and rack above.
On two large, light colored sheet pans covered with parchment paper, mix together all ingredients except the dried blueberries. If using fresh blueberries, they can be added at this time.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes and rotating trays top to bottom and front to back.
Watch very carefully, especially the first time. Ovens vary in heat, intensity and circulation, which can affect timing.
Turn oven off, crack the door open, using an item to keep it open and inch or two. Once cool, remove trays from oven and remove the granola. Transfer to airtight container (I use big Mason jars)
If kept for any period of time, keep granola in fridge or freezer.
If using monk fruit as sweetener, don’t use aluminum foil or it will stick.
This granola is perfect as is, but can also be served with milk of your choice and fresh berries, such as strawberries, raspberries or more blueberries. It is also great on yogurt and ice cream.
(I realize this title could taken a couple ways. It’s not that we’re easy girls, it’s about how easy my last girl’s weekend was to plan and execute.) I recently had my 3rd Girl’s Weekend at my condo in the Sanctuary in Key Largo with my sisters Kelley and Elise and our childhood friend Chrissy Wells.
I would say it’s our Third Annual, but the first was 2019 and we didn’t meet in 2020, due to Covid. In 2021 we launched our toilet seat in the Toilet Bowl in the Bay with the words “Girl’s Weekend 2021, because 2020’s Been a Real S**t Show”, complete with a poop emoji. Last year, we couldn’t swing Girl’s Weekend since Chrissy had just started a new job as a Pickleball Pro in Naples and couldn’t take the time off.
But we were able to do a Girl’s Weekend this year- 2023- at my condo in Key Largo. In years past, I knocked myself out a bit with prepping, cleaning and cooking, so this year I was determined to plan a Girl’s Weekend as low-stress as possible. It’s my Girl’s Weekend too, after all! It came on the heels of my Book Club Meeting, so I already had some delicious Chipotle Rosemary Nuts, Summer Sangria and Key Lime Shortbread to bring to the weekend.
Girl’s Weekend started Friday around Happy Hour.
I’d gone down the day before to get things ready. I shopped, changed sheets, set fresh towels out, put little soaps and shampoos in the Guest Bathroom and set out a coconutpatty on each bed. Flowers from my Book Club Meeting were brought down and put in vases to spruce up the dining and living rooms, with white twinkly lights and shells adding to the ambiance. Pool toys and floats were unearthed, ready for play! I set the table with raffia placemats , tropical napkins and flower napkin rings. Pandora was playing Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, of course.
Since I’ve been on the hunt for the Best Conch Chowder in the Keys, I picked up pints of Conch Chowder from three restaurants to have a taste testing and choose our favorite. I picked up some Sourdough Bread you bake at home, at Publix to go along with it. I offered a Welcome Cocktail of Summer Sangria, Rose Prosecco and Sparkling or Still Water and set out an easy Charcuterie Platter.
*A note on cheese. I’d heard a new Trader Joe’s cheese- Fromage Pave Red Chili Pepper-was good so bought it, along with my beloved Toscano in Syrah. I tried a small slice the night before- cold and straight out of the fridge. It tasted like a cold, peppery bandaid. So Friday, I took the cheeses out an hour before serving and it made all the difference. Always let your cheeses come to room temp before serving. It lets the flavors ‘bloom”, especially with this type, a soft-ripened French cheese (like Brie) that’s flavored with jalapeno, cayenne and bell peppers. If you like soft cheeses and you like spicy, this is your cheese.
I served the cheeses with plain water crackers, strawberries, Chipotle Rosemary Nuts, dried apricots and truffle honey. Truffle honey makes anything better, as far as I’m concerned. We sipped, snacked and chatted, since it’s been two years since we were all together. We had our Conch Chowder Taste Testing, which I served in little cups for us all to taste, one by one, with sherry on the side. All the Conch Chowders were Award-Winning, so I was curious to see which one we liked the best.
Between Mrs. Mac’s, The Conch House and Key Largo Fisheries, the overwhelming favorite was Key Largo Fisheries Conch Chowder, but, ironically, it isn’t even made on sight! I served the Conch Chowder with warm Sourdough Bread and butter and a Green Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette.
After dinner, we went down to the chickee Hut to have a drink and watch the sunset. Back at the condo, dessert was a delicious Key Lime Pie Elise had made. We chatted for a while, hit the sack pretty early. I was the first one up the next day, so I set up breakfast.
Coffee before everything (of course!), Orange juice, water with sliced strawberries and cucumber, three kinds of berries, yogurt, Homemade Granola, Blueberry Banana Bread and Eggs, Bacon and Bread for anyone that wanted it with butter and homemade Mango Jam.
Since I love doing yoga, especially in the Keys, I’d requested everyone bring their yoga mats and we did an easy Beginner’s Yoga (Boho Beautiful) in the Living Room. Everyone enjoyed this healthy wake-up to our day and then we got dressed and went Thrifting, another one of my favorite things to do in the Keys (much to my husband’s dismay).
We hit a couple stores I like to visit in the Keys- ReStore and Salvation Army– first. Chrissy, who was totally unsure about the thrifting idea, found a tureen and platter to match her sister’s very hard-to-find china pattern, for twenty bucks. Sweet! We also visited Jolene’s, which I’d never been to before. It’s a consignment store, with new and used things. Thrifting was fun- we all came home with treasures- and we’d worked up an appetite for lunch.
Lunch was the very easy “Make Your Own Sandwich.” I love sandwiches, so got the makings for a variety of options, with Sourdough and Whole Wheat Bread, mustard and mayo. I’d cooked some bacon that morning and had tomatoes and lettuce, in case anyone wanted a BLT. I also got sliced Boars Head Turkey Meat and Swiss cheese, with a slice avocado from my tree, creating a wide range of sandwich possibilities. Cape Cod Potato Chips and HomemadePickles were the sides, with Iced Tea and Sparkling or Plain water to drink.
The afternoon was left for Free Play– Paddleboarding, Swimming, Reading or Napping (I choose the latter) and then we were off to dinner at the newly remodeled Marker 88. Dinner was good (I opted for sushi) and we were back home and in bed relatively early. This Girl’s Weekend was not a wild one! Maybe we’re too old to do wild.
The next morning, Kelley and Elise went Paddle Boarding, while Chrissy went to do WaterAerobics in the pool and I stayed home and read. For our Farewell Meal, Kelley had made an Eggplant Parmesan for lunch. I’d done a whole Spaghetti Dinner the first year of our Girl’s Weekend and it almost wiped me out, so thought I’d be easy on myself and pre-make the Eggplant Parm. Kelley volunteered to make it (our Aunt Josie’s recipe) making it even easier on me! Elise made a salad with avocado, tomatoes and red onion and I made garlic bread with the leftover sourdough bread. As my mother always says: “Many hands make light work.”
Doggy Bags (for husbands and boyfriends) were packed up, hugs were had and we all said goodbye for another year. Or two. We’ll see. I do know this was the easiest Girl’s Weekend I’ve ever had. Here are my tips to stress-free entertaining.
*Girl’s Weekend Tips*
Send out an invite or Evite with the Time, Place and Activities planned. This lets your guests know what to expect, what to bring and gets them excited about the weekend.
If possible, arrive at the location one day early to shop, clean, prepare and decompress. Doing it all in one day is exhausting.
Pre-cook as much as possible, so you’re not spending time in the kitchen. I made the Chipotle Rosemary Nuts, Blueberry Banana Bread and Granola ahead.
Don’t forget the special touches. Folded towels next to fresh soap, fresh flowers, scented candles and a coconut patty on the bed all make your guests feel pampered.
Eat out at least once or twice during Girl’s Weekend. You don’t want to spend the weekend in the kitchen!
Let people help. If someone offers to bring something you need, say yes. Elise supplied dessert Friday night, Kelley made the entree for Sunday. This made it easier on me and let my guests feel engaged and appreciated.
Do activities you enjoy. While none of my guests had done Yoga recently, they all enjoyed it and Thrifting was a hit as well. The weekend is about catching up with old friends, but also about introducing your latest hobbies, activities and passions to friends.
Make it easy on yourself. For breakfast, I set out a variety of items and Make Your Own Sandwich was a hands-on, easy-peasy lunch. Since I wasn’t sure of what people could eat (last time we gathered Chrissy ate no meat) I wanted to have options available.
Go with the flow. One never knows what the weekend will bring. While you want to have a schedule, also be open to the chance to go off on a tangent and explore.
Don’t forget to-go containers for your guests to take leftovers. They will appreciate it and their S.O. will be more inclined to let them attend the next Girl’s Weekend!
I just realized maybe I should be less worried about anyone mistaking us for “easy girls” than the fact that I’m calling us “girls” at all, since most of us are past 60 (except Elise). But my Grandmother and Aunts called each other girls till the day they died, so I’m going with that philosophy. Girls forever! Born to be mild.
I like to try out new recipes at least once before serving them a parties, so I tried this Ina Garten recipe, from her Make It Ahead cookbook, for Zeke and I for dinner a week before I served it to my Book Club. In the book, The Five Star Weekend, the hostess serves a Squash and Goat Cheese Tart with Mint, so I figured this Zucchini and Goat Cheese Tart of Ina’s was close enough. I’ve never tried and Ina recipe I didn’t like, although some are better than others.
I made the recipe exactly as is, except for the fact I substituted the fresh thyme leaves with fresh mint leaves. While I usually use Pillsbury pie crusts in the red package, this tart dough – made with vinegar and ice water- was actually quite easy to make and it tasted delicious.
There are many upsides to this recipe:
1) You can make it ahead and bake at the last minute.
2) It looks beautiful, but isn’t hard to make. Your guests will be impressed!
3) It tastes delicious.
I tried to have a “Summery” meal for the Book Club and zucchini is definitely one of the “Vegetable Stars” of Summer (along with corn and tomatoes). While it says it serves 6, I cut it into smaller portions since we had Shrimp Salad and bread to go with it. It’s Summer until September 23rd, so enjoy these last couple weeks with this summery dish.
Zucchini & Goat Cheese Tart
Recipe by gleeguilfordCourse: EntreeCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Medium
1 1/2 pound zucchini, unpeeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
2 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
8 ounces plain creamy goat cheese at room temperature
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Place flour, 3/4 teaspoon salt and the butter in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse 12 to 14 times, until butter is the size of a pea.
With the processor running, pour the vinegar and ice water through the ffed tube and continue to process and pulse until the dough just comes together.
Dump out on a floured board, form into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the zucchini in a colander set over a plate. Toss it with 2 teaspoons of salt and set aside for 30 minutes.
Spread the zucchini out on a clean dish towel, roll it up and squeeze gently to remove some of the liquid.
Put the zucchini slices into a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
With a fork, mash together the goat cheese, thyme, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll the dough out onto a floured board to a 11-inch circle and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
Spread the dough with the goat cheese mixture, leaving a 1/2 inch border.
Lay the zucchini slices in tightly overlapping circles, starting at the very edge of the pastry. Continue overlapping circles of zucchini until the whole tart is covered.
Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the dough is golden brown. Cut in wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
Choose zucchini that have similar diameters so the slices will be uniform. Slice by hand or with a mandolin.
To Make It Ahead: Roll out the dough and assemble the tart. Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Bake.
To make an 11-inch circle, roll the dough to 12 or 13 inches in diameter, fold in quarters and trim the edges with a sharp knife. When you unfold the pastry, it will be a circle.
Looking back at this recipe, it’s a lot of steps but the tart comes together quickly. You could make the dough the day before, assemble in the morning and bake right before serving, which is what I did for my Book Club Party. The other nice thing about this dish is you can serve it cold, hot or room temperature.
Summer may be endless in Miami, but Miami Spice is not.
There are three weeks left to get your Spice on and despite my best intentions (paving the way to hell) I’ve only been to ONE Miami Spice. That was Beauty & the Butcher in South Miami at the very beginning of August with friends. I am running out of time, but determined to do at least one or two more, before Miami Spice is over! Eating House is on the top of my Miami Spice Wish List.
The reason I haven’t tried more is being out of town- to D.C. for a lovely wedding and San Antonio for a long-delayed trip from 2019 to see the Alamo. Throw in a couple Girl’s Weekends in the Keys and U.M. football games and time is running out. I did have the most delicious dessert at a restaurant named Lutece in Georgetown, which I tried to replicate at home for dinner guests. Below is the original and my attempt at home.
Our server recommended it, with the caveat that it sounds weird but works and he was so right! It was a semi-fredo (like soft-serve) vanilla ice cream with Honeycomb crumbles and shaved Comte cheese on top. It does sound weird, but it was darned delicious, one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten! The smooth, creamy ice cream, was topped with crunchy, gold honeycomb, which shattered into sticky shards; the silky and nutty shavings of the cheese added a bit of unexpected lusciousness and funk.
My attempt to re-create it at home was quite successful. This is a dessert I could eat all day. The ice cream I made was a simple vanilla custard (with vanilla bean) and my husband proclaimed it his favorite of all the ice creams I’ve made, but he is a vanilla guy.
Speaking of ice cream, Salt + Straw is coming to Miami Beach with a special ice cream served at the opening called Pistachio Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich! It’s pistachio gelato and dark cherry buttercream with an olive oil and chocolate pistachio cookie. To gild the lily, it’s topped with truffle fudge and gold leaf bourbon caramel. It’s a limited edition.
I’m also on the mailing list for Sweet Melody Ice Cream in Coral Gables, which has amazing-sounding rotating flavors, such as “I’ll Be Baklava“- a Rose Water and Marscapone Ice Cream with brown butter, toasted phyllo dough and honey-covered pistachios and almonds. Wowza! Azucar is another Ice Cream option with a new location in Pinecrest. Gourmet Ice Cream shops are flourishing in South Florida, while good old Dairy Queen on US-1 just closed. Whip ‘N Dip is hanging in there.
In other restaurant news, Harry’s Pizzeria in Coconut Grove is back with their CubanSandwich Pizza. This was a special pizza which Harry’s owner Michael Schwartz teamed up with Versailles in January 2019 to create; it was only available for one month. It was so popular, they are bringing it back. It’s a white pizza topped with Roasted Pork, glazed Ham, Bread and Butter Pickles, Fontina and Gruyere cheeses and mustard sauce. It’s topped with a croquetta and is quite delicious. It’s available September 1st through September 30th. Maybe, if it’s a hit, they’ll put it on the regular menu.
We attended the first U.M. Game against Miami, Ohio last Saturday. Luckily, we won and I always love the excitement of the first game. We took Subby’sSubs to eat in the car before the game at 7. Subby’s is a new Sub shop, with Hot & Cold Subs, located in South Miami. They have Chicken Subs, Steak Subs, Hot Subs and you can make any small sub a wrap, which I did with my Roast Beef and Cheese Sub. You can also customize your sub, order online and they deliver. My wrap was very good and they don’t skimp on the meat. Served daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
We finally went to check out a house for sale in Pinecrest, near my friend Christian. It was a two-story that reminded me of the Brady Bunch house, down to the lack of bathrooms and a major need of an update. The yard and pool were nice but the Master Bedroom was tiny, with a miniscule closet and a one-sink bathroom. I can’t see myself living there. Even Mike and Carol Brady might object.
I, like most of the rest of the world, was shocked to hear Jimmy Buffet died. A speaker at a meeting for South Florida Writers I attended Saturday blasely mentioned it and I was like: “What? I didn’t even know he was sick.”
But I think that is quite like Jimmy Buffet to not want people to treat him differently because he was ill. He always wanted to keep the party going, not end it, so he dealt with his diagnosis privately. Jimmy Buffet’s music is synonymous with the Florida Keys, so of course, we often turned our Pandora in our condo to Margaritaville. And most any restaurant in the Keys that has music will feature some Jimmy Buffet tunes.
While best known for his music, he was quite the Renaissance Man. A pilot, boater, writer, philanthropist, poet and businessman, he was that lucky guy who was blessed with creative and business smarts, a combo not easy to find. He turned his “laid-back” persona and extensive song list into an enterprise that made a boatload of dinero. But, it was his fun-loving, optimistic & generous vibe that came through on stage. With all the tributes from fellow musicians and regular people flowing in, he was truly loved and not just by Parrot Heads. He was, in the end, a person who valued his family and friends above all the rest.
I gave my parents tickets to one of his concerts in the ’80’s at Miami Marine Stadium for their anniversary. They had a great time. There were Parrot Heads galor, in the stands, on boats and in the water at this concert by the bay, singing along to his songs. Nine years ago, Zeke and I attended a Fundraiser forthat very Miami Marine Stadium at the Coral Gables Museum. Jimmy Buffet played a private mini-concert there with a couple tunes and it was a blast. Gloria Estephan joined him to sing Margaritaville as his last song. Pictured below is a photo of his daughter at the Fundraiser, with me behind her a friend sent. And a Margarita!
It still doesn’t seem like he’s gone, but I guess as long as we have his music he’s never really far away. As for me, I can’t wait for my travels to end so I can go to my “happy place” in Key Largo, make myself a Margarita, look out at the bay and listen to some Jimmy Buffet tunes. Dear Jimmy: “I hope you’re enjoying the scenery, I know that it’s pretty up there.”
And now I must confess I could use some rest I can’t run at this pace very long Yes, it’s quite insane Think I hurt my brain But it cleans me out, then I can go on.
Jimmy Buffet, Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season
So, this was a definite keeper from my Five-Star Weekend Bookclub Meeting. These roasted nuts are sweet (from maple syrup), savory (from chipotle powder), with a hint of citrus (from orange juice) and a bit of piney herb (from the rosemary). They are glazed to a glossy finish, sticky, sweet and addictive.
Roasting is the process that brings out the most flavor in the nuts, and serving them warm is a particularly nice touch.
Serving them warm would be a nice touch, but I just served them room temp, as I’d made them the day before. As they sit, they stick together so you may need to break them apart a bit before serving. The hardest part about this recipe is assembling the variety of nuts. I recommend shopping at Trader Joe’s for the nuts, as they are fresh and relatively inexpensive.
*As I mentioned in my previous post, check the nuts roasting after about 18 minutes. I found the instructions for them to roast 25 minutes to be too long. I also made half a batch for my Bookclub’s 10 members. You can make the full recipe for bigger crowds and the leftover nuts keep well.
Chipotle & Rosemary Roasted Nuts
Recipe by gleeguilfordCourse: AppetizerCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy
These easy-to-make roasted nuts from the Barefoot Contessa’s How Easy Is That? Cookbook are addictive.
Brush a sheet pan generously with vegetable oil (I used Parchment paper to avoid clean up mess).
Combine the cashews, walnuts, pecans, almonds, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, the maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice and chipotle powder on the sheet pan. Toss to coat evenly. Add 2 tablespoons of the rosemary and 2 teaspoons of salt and toss again.
Spread the nuts in one layer. Roast the nuts for 25 minutes, stirring twice with a large spatula, until the nuts are glazed and golden brown.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 2 more teaspoons of salt and the remaining 2 tablespoons of rosemary. Toss well and set aside at room temp, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking as they cool.
Serve warm or cool completely and store in airtight containers at room temperature.
Check the nuts at 18 minutes to see if they are done.
This recipe can be cut in half.
These nuts were so good, everyone at the Book Club asked for the recipe. I had leftovers, so I served them at my Girl’s Weekend in the Keys the following weekend; Kelley liked them so much, she made them at her Girl’s Weekend in the Keys last weekend. Like I said, this recipe is a keeper!
I hosted my Book Club earlier this month for a book we read by Elin Hilderbrand called The Five–Star Weekend. Personally, I think it’s rather cruel to require members to read during the summer at all, so I picked a Beach Book. The Five-Star Weekend is light, fluffy and is best read by the water, with a fruity drink in hand. Umbrella optional.
Having said that, I’d never read one of Hilderbrand’s books before and was impressed with how she developed the characters, their voices and the complex relationships between them. The story is about a Food Blogger whose husband dies unexpectedly, so she throws a weekend with four friends, all from different stages of her life, to cheer her up and distract her from her grief. There’s also a twist in the story that makes it more interesting. It’s a page turner!
Anyway, since she’s a Food Blogger, there were many delicious recipes mentioned in the book, but unfortunately, no recipes! Not to worry, I interpreted my version of the recipes she mentioned and, for most of them, turned to my old friend Ina (as in Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa) for help.
So her Bacon and Rosemary Pecans became Ina’s Chipotle & Rosemary Nuts and her Summer Squash Tart with Goat Cheese and Mint became Ina’s Zucchini & GoatCheese Tart. And, while I was on an Ina kick, I made her Summer Rose Sangria, that was in the same Make It Ahead Cookbook as the tart, and it was the hit of the party. Or at least the drink that everyone wanted. I wanted a Summery menu to go with the theme and what is more summery than sangria?
I like to test recipes at least once before I serve them, so I made the Chipotle & Rosemary Nuts for friends coming over before we went to dinner one night. Or, I should say, I attempted to make them. I prepared them (1/2 the recipe), put them in the oven and gave Zeke instructions to take them out when the timer went off. I then left to take a quick shower. When I got out of the shower, there was a text from Zeke saying “the nuts are burnt” and went down to find a blackened mess on the cookie sheet.
Didn’t you smell them burning?
Many times I smell things burning, before I see them, but apparently he smelt nothing. I dumped all the nuts into the garbage and lit a candle, feeling mad and frustrated. What a waste of time, energy, money and food! I did learn something from this very minor disaster however.
The first time you make a recipe, set the timer for less time than required and check it early. Oven temperatures vary.
The first time you make a recipe, babysit it. Do not take a shower and rely on your husband’s defunct nose to smell it burning.
If you pull something out of the oven, which is on the verge of burning, quickly take it off the cookie sheet or pan, so it doesn’t keep cooking! My nuts were black by the time I arrived, post-mortem.
Other lessons I’ve learned in cooking from Ina:
Always taste a dish before you serve it. It might need a pinch of salt or a squeeze of lime or lemon juice.
Make it easy! Nobody wants a stressed-out hostess.
Ina’s tag line and the name of one of her cookbooks, in fact is: How Easy Is That? I love this philosophy!
I did make as much ahead as I possibly could. The nuts were made ahead, the Sangria about an hour before the Book Club Meeting. The Goat Cheese Tart was assembled ahead and cooked right before people arrived. I also made ahead Ina’s Roasted Shrimp Salad, which used to be a staple for our Girl’s Weekend in the Keys (before a bad shrimp spoiled the bunch). I baked Key Lime Shortbread Cookies about a week ahead and froze them and had the ice cream base in the fridge, ready to go into the Ice Cream maker. The raspberry mixture that got swirled into it was marinating in sugar and vodka.
The hostess in the Five Star Weekend has an ice cream truck come to her house in Nantucket for dessert on the last night of the weekend. I”m not that extravagant, but do have my own Ice Cream Maker, so made a Raspberry/Vanilla Swirl Ice Cream that was to die for. This is the one thing I did do kind of last minute, because I wanted a soft texture to the ice cream, not a hard-as-rock brick.
I set up a large table in the Family Room, which is everyone’s favorite room in our house and decorated it “beachy”- with shells, flowers, candles in sand-filled vases and aqua napkins tied with twine and garnished with a little yellow flower. The music I chose was Yacht Rock.
As usual, our Book Club members spent about 15 minutes talking about the book (in the Living Room), the rest of the time catching up on our lives! But, for a light and fluffy book, there was a surprising amount of meaty conversation at this Book Club, mostly about the characters we liked and didn’t and the choices they made. It was a story about female friendship- some from childhood, others recent- and how important they are for well-being.
I did a lot of my shopping at my favorite grocery store- good old Trader Joe’s.
Here’s my complete The Five-Star Weekend Menu:
Drinks: Still Water with Cucumber, Sparkling Water, Lemonade, Summer Sangria, Rose Wine, Prosecco.
Appetizers:Chipotle & Rosemary Nuts, Roasted Onion Dip with Truffle Potato Chips and fresh vegetables.
Entree: Goat Cheese Tart with Mint, Roasted Shrimp Salad, “Make Your Own Salad” with Arugula, Roasted Corn, Sliced Hearts of Palm, Cherry Tomatoes, Sliced Avocado (from my garden), Pickled Blueberries, Vinaigrette, French Baguette with Cracked Pepper Butter.
Parting gifts were avocados from my garden (I had a ton this year!) and cellophane-wrapped Key Lime Shortbreads. I love entertaining. As corny as it sounds, I guess it’s my “love language”; how I show people I care about them. But, I have to say, I enjoy entertaining the most when it’s easy on me and I don’t have to knock myself out. That way, everyone has a good time and you can say, like Ina: “How Easy Is That?”
So, August is almost over and I’m just now writing about Miami Spice!
I’ve been busy, but I would be remiss to mention one of my favorite times of year and that of other foodies- Miami Spice. There are over 200 restaurants participating in Miami Spice this year, but not all Miami Spices are created equal. You want to get the most bang for your buck and stay away from the predictable choices of salad appetizers, chicken entrees and cheesecake for dessert. I also avoid up-charges like the plague, as what’s the point of a prix fix menu if you keep adding extra charges to the ticket?
It also never seemed completely logical to charge the same price for dinner (it used to be $39) for Casual and Ultra-Expensive restaurants; now there’s two possible price points for dinner- $45 or $60. Lunch and Brunch are also options at some restaurants, for $30 to $35, making it perfect for ladies who lunch (or brunch). For that price, however, limitless mimosas are not included.
Here are my top picks for Miami Spice restaurants to try this year.
Eating House Coral Gables Lunch $35, Dinner $60
I haven’t been to Eating House since it moved to its new location on Giralda. Supposedly, it’s more sophisticated and grown up, but I just love Giorgio Rapicavolli’s food in any form. There are 3 choices for appetizers, 3 for entrees and 2 for dessert, including the famous (not so grown up) Dirt Cup.
Joe’s Stone Crab Miami Beach Lunch $35 or Dinner, $45 or $60
Wow! Joe’s, one of my favorite restaurants and a Miami institution, has never been on Miami Spice before, so this is a historic moment. I’m skipping lunch (no stone crabs) and the $45 Dinner (ditto) and heading straight for the $60 Taste of Joe’s. With their two most famous entrees- Fried Chicken and 3 Stone Crab Claws- how can you go wrong? You also get one yummy side and, of course, you have to top it off with their famous Key LimePie.
Komodo Downtown/Brickell Dinner only $60
I’ve always wanted to try Komodo and Miami Spice is the perfect time to sample this Pan-Asian hot spot. I would get the Korean Chicken Salad for an app and the Wild Mushroom Lo Mein or KoreanFried Chicken for an entree. For dessert, it’s hard to choose between Miso ChocolateTemptation and Japanese Cheesecake with Berry Compote, so I would kindly ask my companion to order the one I don’t get, so I can have a bite.
Marygold’s Brasserie Wynwood Dinner $60
Chef Brad Kilgore’s latest restaurant is located in the Arlo Hotel in Wynwood, cooking modern American cuisine. The appetizers, like Corn Mousse Angolotti or Jerk Oxtail Beignets sound amazing and hard to decide between Short Rib Vacca Frita and Ricotta Pillows for an entree. After all that rich food, I’ll opt for the Sorbet Trio.
Cafe La Trova Little Havana Dinner $45
I’ve been dying to try Michelle Berstein’s Michelin-recommended Restaurant and Bar for a while. Miami Spice offers the perfect time to go and dinner will only set you back $45, but I’m sure I’ll have to try one of their famous cocktails. Empanadas or Croquettas for apps, Skirt Steak or Fresh Catch for entree and Michy’s Bread Pudding with rum-soaked raisins for dessert is my vote.
LPM Restaurant and Bar Downtown $60
I had lunch here one time for a birthday and the food and service was amazing; it feels like you’re in Europe. At a recent dinner party, we all agreed this is one of the most consistently good restaurants in Miami. Serving light French fare with a Mediterranean twist, this restaurant would be perfect for a date night. I would get either the Sweet Corn Salad or SeaBass Croquettes to start, the Salt-baked Snapper with artichokes and tomatoes for my entree and for dessert, the French toast with Spiced Ice Cream. Ooh la la! Viva la France.
Le Jardinier Design District Lunch $35, Dinner $60
This one-star Michelin Star French restaurant, has a modern, light-filled garden vibe and is veggie-forward. I prefer the lunch, with Salmon Crudo with cucumber vinaigrette, crispy quinoa for appetizer and either the Duck Confit Pave with fennel-apple puree or Couscouswith Squash Blossoms for the main course. For dessert, Espresso Tres Leche with vanilla ice sounds refreshing.
Brasserie Laurel Downtown Brunch $35, Dinner $45
This is Michael Beltran’s (executive chef at Ariete) newest restaurant, located in the Miami World Center. For appetizer, I’m going for the Escargot, entree is French Onion Agnolotti (pasta) and the Blood Orange Granita with Lavender Ice Cream is dessert.
27 Restaurant Miami Beach Dinner $45
I try to avoid Miami Beach and I’m not a big fan of communal dining, but this restaurant might be worth the trek and it is Michelin-recommended. Another plus, their Miami Spice dinner is a deal at $45, hard to find on the Beach. Griot + Pikliz of Haitian Pork Shoulder with Spicy Slaw and Green Plantains sounds delicious for an appetizer, as well as Jerk SmokedShort Rib and Panna Cotta with granita, for entree and dessert.
Avra Estiatoria Sunny Isles Dinner $60
This sophisticated Greek restaurant is a hike, but it’s on many lists for recommended Miami Spice to try, so maybe the hike is worth it. Billed as “refined Greek food, with pure ingredients and simple preparation”, the interior is beautiful with muted colors and cozy banquettes. I would try the Three-spread Trio or Salmon Tartar to start, Branzino for a main course and OliveOil Cake with Greek Yogurt for dessert.
My name is Gina Guilford and I have a problem. I must confess, I’m a Travelholic. I realize this is a problem most likely born of the loneliness of my two grandsons moving out of Miami. In order to fill the void of an empty house, I have fled. Over and often. Of course, it’s not the worse disease to have, but when I review my year in 2023, I’ve traveled every month this year and sometimes twice.
January found us at The Villages and down to Islamorada, to celebrate a friend’s 70th Birthday and visit John and Kelley, while our condo in Key Largo was rented. February, we flew to New York (which was luckily not too cold) to celebrate the anniversary of our first date, see Funny Girl and try new restaurants. In March, we went to visit Lauren for her 29th birthday in San Francisco, taking her to the famous House of Prime Rib for her Birthday Dinner.
April found us going on a Road Trip to Tallahassee (Chris and Courtney) and Tuscaloosa (Doug and Heidi). May was truly a month for the record book as I flew to Louisville, Kentucky with my Mom and sisters for the Kentucky Derby. Later that month, we flew to Seattle and embarked on an Alaskan cruise with friends to see my last of the 50 states.
And this was all before Wyatt and Phoenix left town!
They left in June, after school was out and I absolutely, positively wasn’t going to go anywhere but down to the Keys, but I found myself getting bored and feeling a touch of travel lust. I’d promised Zeke a trip to Las Vegas for his 60th Birthday last year and when his birthday was approaching and I had no idea for a gift, I thought “There’s no time like the present” and booked an impromptu trip to Las Vegas for his birthday.
We had a great trip to Las Vegas, starting with his birthday dinner at Giada’s in the Cromwell, which was perfect! I got the tasting menu, letting the Birthday Boy taste my items and they gave us complimentary Prosecco to celebrate. We stayed at The Wynn which is my favorite hotel in Vegas- classy, quiet and at the end of the strip.
Why I thought visiting Vegas in the middle of the summer would be a good idea, however, is a mystery. Vegas in the Summer is HOT! Like 111 degrees hot and that was the day I decided we should walk up and down the strip. Going into the casinos offered some respite, but that dry heat sucks the life out of you! Give me the sticky heat of Miami any day over that. One thing about traveling, it makes you appreciate home.
Zeke hadn’t been to Vegas since he was 11, on a Road Trip with his brothers and Dad. The hotel they’d stayed at- The Frontier– had been demolished (for The Wynn Encore), but we did walk down Freemont Street, where the original strip was located. It was a blast from the past and worth seeing, but once again- hot! We also did a Food Tour, saw a Concert (Carrie Underwood) and a Cirque Du Soleil show (O) at the Bellagio. We even saw impersonator Rich Little at the Tropicana (soon to be torn down), but that’s another story. And we went out with a bang with the Buffet at The Wynn.
Our trip to Vegas took us into July and then I did an around-the-state trip to visit Chris, Courtney and Liam in Tallahassee and Justin, A.J., Wyatt and Phoenix in Saint Augustine. Justin is the captain of an 80 foot yacht called “Takin’It Easy” (after the Eagle’s song) and we got to go out on it and play with “the toys” the day I was there. I picked up Wyatt and brought him home for Gigi Camp, which was great and lasted about 10 days. It always coincides with Shark Week, so we watched Jaws our last night. He loved it.
We went to the Keys last week for Mini Season, where Zeke went out for the first time and caught some lobsters for dinner. Delicious! We have one trip planned for August- a wedding in D.C.- but we’re mostly home, which is good because it’s Miami Spice. This is the perfect time to try out restaurants (especially expensive ones) for a fixed price.
There’s no problem with being a Travelholic, I suppose, except for, of course, it’s an expensive habit to have. Although it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Zeke says I’ve never met a trip I didn’t like, even if its going to Homestead to eat tamales, and he’s right. The more pressing issue I need to confront is, traveling prevents you from doing things you say you want to do- like selling your house and buying a smaller one and revising your FoodieIn Miami website.
I need to remember Dorothy’s mantra.
There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.
So, I reported about Food Trends in January of 2023, but I’m doing another one- midway through 2023- because the nature of Trends is they change quickly.
During the Pandemic the one thing I really missed was dining out. The thrill of getting dressed up, being seated at a table, enjoying the ambiance, anticipating a good meal, being waited on! All were so missed, I told myself I would never take Dining Out for granted again. So many things have changed because of the Pandemic and that, of course, includes DiningOut.
So these first five trends have to do with that exact topic.
Needing a Credit Card to hold a restaurant reservation. I’ve encountered this over and over again and while a little aggravating, it makes sense. Restaurants, especially high-end ones, need to know how many diners they’ll be having in order to purchase food and secure staffing. The margins are so close for profits for many restaurants, that the more information they have, the better.
Charging for Bread. The first time I had to pay eight dollars for Bread (and the table ordered two!) I almost choked on it. That was a year ago and now, I barely blink, when I see Bread on the menu as a charge. In fact, when my husband and I went to an Oyster Bar (The Walrusand the Carpenter) in Seattle and I saw a bowl of whipped butter, next to some thick slices of sourdough bread on the front counter, I insisted we order it. Bread, while not inherently expensive, is labor-intensive. Anyone (including moi) who attempted to make Sour Dough Bread in the Pandemic can testify to this fact. It’s worth every penny!
3. No more QR Codes. According to an article I recently read in the New York Times, QR Codes are being shown the door. While they were a life-saver (literally) during the Pandemic, I still craved a real, paper (or leather or plastic), honest-to-goodness menu. I don’t think there’s a death knoll for these yet (I still encounter plenty), but they are falling out of favor, especially with us old timers, the Baby Boomers.
4. Automatic Gratuity. While some restaurants have always routinely charged automatic gratuity, it seems to be happening more and more frequently. Unfortunately, servers don’t always give you the heads-up on this little fact. So the moral of this story is: Check your bill, carefully.
5.Buffets are Back. I remember a time during the Pandemic when I wondered if the free-for-all that are Buffets, would ever return. They seem so… vulnerable and susceptible to germs. But Buffets are back and in a big way. I just returned from Las Vegas, where we sampled the Buffet at our hotel- The Wynn. It featured everything from stacks of crab legs and Asian dim sum, to a ferris wheel of ice cream flavors. A glutton’s delight.
6. Freeze Dried Candies. Maybe it’s the survivalist mentality of having survived the Pandemic, but apparently Freeze Dried Candies are in vogue. Think your favorite sweets (like Peach Gummy Rings or Skittles), but freeze dried. I tried some I got for my grandson; they are hard, crunchy and void of moisture. Kind of like a candy cheese doodle. I don’t get it, but he liked it.
7. Hot Honey. This has been trending for a while, but picking up steam with more than Mike’s Hot Honey available. I’ve seen Hot Honey at Seattle’s Pike’s Market, as well as at local Farmer’s Markets. Hot Honey is good on Pizza (especially Pepperoni), drizzled on cheese, put in salad dressings or on whipped feta dip.
8. Crispy Rice. While I’ve always found this dish delicious (at Nobu and Makato), it’s now trending as a make-it-home dish. The crunchy rice, contrasts with the creamy tuna or salmon, to make for one yummy bite-full. Apparently there’s a Tik Toker named Zachary Neman (@cheffinwithzac), that shows home cooks how to accomplish this culinary delight.
9. Pistachios. There always seems to be a “Nut Du Jour”, and that nut now is Pistachios. Whether in Pesto, on Pizza or in a myriad of desserts, this little, green Mediterranean gem is having it’s close-up. We’ve made a pizza at home called the GOAT, which has Goat Cheese, Pistachio Pesto, Mozzarella, fresh Rosemary and Truffle Honey with chopped Pistachios on top. It’s to die for and the pistachios make it truly, the greatest.
10. Dirty Martini Everything. While we’ve all heard of Dirty Martinis, this trend has jumped to Pastas, Salads and Dips. The secret ingredient, of course, is olive juice. Why not?
11. Tinned Fish. This Tik Tok trend is so popular, Tinned Fish is selling out a grocery stores. On Tik Tok, Danille Matzon offers 2-3 ingredient recipes with tinned fish like tuna, anchovies and sardines. And Ali Hooke posted a Tik Tok on Tin Fish Date Night that went viral. I don’t normally think of greasy fish and date night together, but ok.
12. Girl Dinner. This trend may have started on Tik Tok but it’s transitioned to mainstream consciousness. Even KFC is offering Girl Dinners on its menu and it’s all sides. To me, it’s something I might eat when I’m alone and want to put zero effort into dinner. Recently, for Girl Dinner, I “made” sliced Toscano Cheese with truffle honey drizzled on top, bread slices, whipped butter, pepperoni slices, dried apricot, fresh blueberries, sliced mango and nuts, with a glass of Rose wine. In my mind (and taste buds)- perfection! Girl Dinner could be anything low effort, but trends toward the charcuterie-style meal.
13. Tequila and Mescal Tequila is having a moment. It’s had significant growth in bars and restaurants, due to the fact that it’s Natural and Low in Calories, two things consumers appreciate. Although drinks like Margaritas and Palomas are known for using tequila, it’s also shaking up drinks like Negronis and Old Fashioneds. Drinking it neat or with soda water are two other easy options. Tequila, by the way, is a type of Mescal.
This is the recipe I made from my recent deluge of mangoes. It calls for nuts and raisins, but you can omit either or both. Dried, chopped mango might be a nice substitute for the raisins if you want to “mango” it up. For the type of nut, I would use walnuts, pecans or even macadamia nuts. Using oil, instead of butter, makes for a very moist cake with good staying power that can easily be frozen.
The recipe is from fellow Villager Marlin Ebbert who recommends making it in smaller pans- one for keeping and two for sharing. I used my mini Bundt pans, which made six small mango breads. If you just make one big loaf, or use a larger container, adjust the cooking time. Test by putting a wooden skewer in the center of the loaf and pushing halfway down. When it comes out clean, it’s done.
Best Mango Bread
Recipe by Marlin EbbertCourse: BreadCuisine: FloridaDifficulty: Easy
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup oil
3 eggs, room temp
2 cups chopped mangoes
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Combine first 5 dry ingredients.
Combine vanilla, eggs and oil.
Add egg mixture to dry ingredients.
Stir in mangoes, raisins (if using) and nuts.
Combine all ingredients (don’t over mix) and let stand for 20 minutes.
Pour into 3 7″ x 2″ greased loaf pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40- 45 minutes.
Cool 10 minutes, then turn out loaves to finish cooling.
Up Next: Food and Dining Trends, Second Half of 2023