Easy Miso Soup

This is a super easy recipe I cut out of the paper which was titled “Late-Night Dish” Instant Soup; it ties into the Lunar Chinese New Year theme, but luckily, no rabbits were harmed in its making. It’s quicker that Ramen noodles out of the package and hits the spot when you want something warm and healthy. Hopefully, you have the ingredients on hand, but I did have to go buy tofu.

If you want to make it Vegetarian, you could use vegetable broth and it’s an easily adaptable soup, so mushrooms, edamame or other soft vegetables can be added. You could also add dumplings or cooked chicken, but the beauty of this soup is its simplicity. I added a squirt of Sriracha and chopped scallion greens to the top for color. It calls to microwave it but if you’re microwave-averse, you could heat it up on the stovetop just as easily.

Easy Miso Soup

Recipe by Miami HeraldCourse: SoupsCuisine: AsianDifficulty: Easy
Servings

1

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

2

minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

  • 2 teaspoons red miso

  • 2 ounces firm tofu, cut into small cubes

  • 1 big handful fresh baby spinach leaves

  • 1 green onion, sliced into long thin slivers

  • 1 cup chicken broth

  • Soy sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Directions

  • Stack: In a large soup bowl, pile up, in order: ginger, miso, tofu, spinach and green onion.
  • Drizzle with sesame oil.
  • Douse with broth.
  • Zap: slide bowl into the microwave and zap until hot, 2 minutes. Stir.
  • Drizzle with soy sauce.

Notes

  • Thoroughly mix together soup to incorporate the miso.

Up Next: A week of Seafood and new restaurants in South Miami.

Old Dog, New Tricks?

The new year is fully upon us.

Can you believe it’s almost February? I’m fully embracing 2023, drinking my green smoothies, doing yoga, taking long walks, eating out at new restaurants and socializing like a little butterfly! Fun, fun, fun. Also, I’ve discovered my “sweet spot” re: drinking alcohol. Two drinks = feeling good that night but also good the next morning. More than that, and I’m toast. Drinking less wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution, but it’s always a goal, although I didn’t go “all in” with Dry January. Cudos to those who did.

Sunday marked the Chinese New Year. Leaving behind the ferocious and unpredictable Tiger, we transition into the Year of the Water Rabbit. From last year’s predator to this year’s prey, the Rabbit is the luckiest of 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac. Rabbits represent serenity, abundance, creativity, affection and bonding. A social and communal animal, the Rabbit Year represents a peaceful, patient energy; 2023 is predicted to be a year of Hope.

We’ve already kicked off the year with a short trip to The Villages in Wildwood, Florida to surprise our friend Brooks on his 70th birthday on January 13th. We stopped at a place Zeke had read about for oysters (Oh Shucks!) on the way there, then sat at the high top Sharon had reserved and waited in eager anticipation for Brooks and Sharon to walk into Blue Fin restaurant. Brooks was so eager to score a stool at the bar for Happy Hour, he walked right by us- I think he was surprised!

Ignore my aggravating laugh!

We had a good time at The Villages. Zeke and Brooks played golf (although it was cold that weekend!), we all went to an Art Show Saturday and then to dinner with Sharon’s sister Sandie and Mom Connie that night.

Monday has turned into our Pizza Night and we are experimenting with different pizzas in my Ooni pizza oven. Monday night we made a Pesto, Artichoke Heart, Sun dried Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella Pizza for dinner. It was delicious and we ate it, with a glass of vino, by the fire.

Tuesday night I returned to Sushi Garage with friend Sherida and ordered a couple new items- the Korean Pork Tacos ($9), Crispy Avocado Rice ($9) and 1/2 Salmon Avocado Roll ($5.50). The Pork Tacos were delicious; I would definitely order them again, along with Shishito Peppers and Tempura Shrimp Bites. Happy Hour is from 6 to 8.

Wednesday, stumped for what to eat for lunch, I baked a Sweet Potato and served it with Miso Butter (just 1/2 butter, 1/2 miso) and sprinkled it with Feta Cheese. A delicious, nutritious and easy lunch! Another lunch was Split Pea Soup (my favorite) and a little Ham and Cheese Sandwich in a Hawaiian Roll, sprinkled with Everything seasoning. Yummy!

Thursday Mercury turned direct (so no longer retrograde); in fact no planets are currently retrograde. So, green lights, make plans, sign contracts and go, go, go! Communication is back on track.

I babysat Wyatt and Phoenix Sunday from 5 a.m. (!) until about 3 p.m., as A.J. had a big event at Patch of Heaven Sanctuary. Wyatt was sick (it turned out to be strep) and Phoenix, as usual, was a little hurricane of energy. Child-proofing was invented for this kid and while I did my best to remove all breakable items, he still crawled on the coffee table and unceremoniously flung everything off in his path. I’d moved my glass candlesticks away from the edge of the table, but he stood up on the couch and tried to get them from the other side. Luckily, I was able to intercept him before disaster ensued.

There’s never a dull moment with Phoenix and, when I took him outside to water my ferns, he attracted dirt like a magnet. I gave him a bath, then fed him Spaghettios while Wyatt drank Gatorade and sipped chicken broth in bed. They were supposed to stay for dinner with their parents, but since Wyatt was sick, they got picked up early.

Emma and Gui came over to help us install the T.V. they’d gotten us (with Laurent and Eric) for Christmas and stayed for dinner. Besides the Meatballs, Sausage and Rigatoni Pasta, I also made Lemon Chicken Thighs, French Peas, Italian Salad with White Beans and crusty Italian Bread. Quite the feast, but no dessert. I’m just not into dessert these days.

One thing I am into is White Lotus, which we watched on our new T.V. in the Family Room. I’d already watched both seasons, but Zeke hadn’t and the first one takes place in Maui, right near where we stayed for our honeymoon. The second season takes place in Sicily and the third (not out yet) is set in Greece. It’s addicting and I can’t wait for Season 3.

First Lady Jill Biden has a great idea for entertaining, since her family gatherings are large and she often needs help. She puts Post-Its on dishes with instructions (like slice lemons, fill with water, chop vegetables) so everyone can assist with the meal. That way guests can pick their task and do it without having to bother the hostess. I think it’s brilliant and plan to use this idea for future large gatherings. People normally offer to help anyway and this takes the guess work out of it.

The Coral Gables Farmer’s Market is now open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. until the afternoon. They’re only open for three months out of the year, so take advantage while we have this nice weather. The raspberries I’ve gotten at Publix lately (Driscolls) have been delicious, sweet and flavorful. In other grocery news, eggs have gotten super expensive, up 49% from November of last year to this one. This is due to the Bird Flu, which wiped out a lot of chickens, as well as other issues. Ironically, sometimes the Organic or Cage-Free eggs may be cheaper than the regular ones, so check the prices when purchasing.

The Villagers had a Member Appreciation Party last Saturday. Our President- the hostess- served Paella, and members were asked to bring an appetizer or dessert. I tried to think of what appetizer to bring for the Spanish theme; I settled on Dates, filled with toasted almonds and wrapped with prosciutto and a Warm Spanish Bean Salad with Smoked Paprika by Serious Eats cook J Kenji Lopez-Alt. Alas, I forgot to take photos of my dishes.

Both were hits, however, for the EASIEST solution to what to bring to a Tapas Party, I would head straight to Trader Joe’s. Serrano Ham, Manchego Cheese, crackers, fruit and Marcona Almonds would make a lovely Tapas Platter that would be welcome at any party. Make it easy on yourself!

I’m looking forward to the South Beach Food and Wine Festival next month, from Feb 23rd to the 26th. I got tickets to A Taste of Italy with Giada De Laurentis , where you walk around the Miami Design District tasting items from a dozen chefs using Wood Fired Ovens. The other event I signed up for was a Master Cooking Class for Pork Rolling Cakes hosted by Hy Vong at The Real Food Academy. I can’t wait!

So gather your cuddle bunnies, friends and family around you and enjoy the new, peaceful and happy vibe of the Year of the Water Rabbit.

Up Next: Inspired by Ina: Five Favorite Soups

Speakeasies, Secret Bars and Rooftops- Oh my! Food Trends 2023

So, a new year is upon us which means it’s time for Foodie in Miami to look into her crystal ball and decide what new Food Trends are happening in 2023. Without further ado…

  • Pizza Ovens are HOT!

I got an Ooni pizza oven for Christmas, as did my niece’s husband Tug, but it’s not just us! Ooni’s revenue increased 264% in 2021. Could it be a Pandemic hangover of wanting to cook your own pizza or just an interest in making the best and hottest pizza at home?

  • Chili Crisp

This condiment, a hot sauce made with red chilies fried in hot oil, is all the rage and ranges in price from a couple dollars (Trader Joe’s) to $47 (Momofuku). I’ve seen it in many recipes, including one I tried with homemade gnocchi from the New York Times. It can also be used on eggs, noodles, tacos and fried chicken sandwiches. Is Chili Crisp the new Siracha?

  • Mushrooms

I’m not just talking about using mushrooms in recipes, which is popular right now, as part of the Plant-based revolution, but also medicinally- in drinks, supplements and in gummies. Mushroom supplements offer a variety of claims- to help you focus, relax and sleep better. Are mushrooms the new CBD?

  • Gummies

Gummies are big right now, filled with all kinds of ingredients. CBD Gummies have been around for a while, but now there are also Mushroom Gummies (see above) and Alcohol Gummies. What’s the advantage of taking these ingredients through gummies? They’re sweet, fun and make you feel like a kid again. “Just a spoon full of sugar, helps the medicine go down.”

  • Miso

This ancient Japanese Condiment, made with fermented soybeans, has been trending for a while now, but shows no sign of stopping. A little miso- whether it be in a salad dressing, a glaze for fish or in vegetable dishes- adds that je nais se quoi that will leave your guests wondering what other tricks you have up your sleeve. It lends umami and depth of flavor to dishes in an easy manner.

  • Low or No Alcohol Cocktails

Another trend that seems to be getting bigger each year. My cousin Stephanie who works for Yelp in San Francisco started a side hustle called Better Bar, catering to this exact need. She told me it’s very popular on the West Coast and her company offers drinks such as the Lowgroni and the Lesspresso Martini. This trend is for people who don’t drink, but also for those who want to cut back on their drinking or just mix it up. Sober curious?

  • Old Fashioned Cocktails with a twist

Old school cocktails are back, but likely now served with a twist, so maybe not your grandfather’s Martini. Also the very Italian Negroni Spagliato is super popular now. It’s all alcohol with vermouth, Campari and Prosecco, but the prosecco lends some fizz and subs for the traditional and higher-alcohol gin. Sours- Whiskey Sours, Margaritas and Sidecars are big, as are agave-based spirits. Lastly, according to bartenders ( and Martha Stewart) 90’s era drinks are back in style. Long Island Ice Tea, anyone?

  • All Kinds of Boards

Of course we all know about the classic (and now ubiquitious) Charcuterie Board, but there are other boards fighting for their time in the spotlight as well. Butter Boards are the obvious Golden Girl of the Board Battle, but there are also Breakfast Boards, Burger Boards and Dessert (like Smore’s) Boards. While boards are a fun way to serve, they seem to be getting more and more elaborate, with salami and strawberry roses, cut out cheeses, truffled honey. Truthfully, I’m a bit over them. I guess you could say I’m bored with boards.

  • Speakeasies, Secret Bars and Rooftops

At least in Miami, this seems to be a trend. At Coyo Taco, you enter a door that says “Employees only” to discover a secret bar with a DJ and plenty of liquid fuel to keep you dancing into the night. At Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in the Grove, enter a Port-a-Potty entrance to get into a Speakeasy offering Happy Hour and Late Night (until 5 am!) fun. Also, Miami finally got the memo and is taking advantage of our year-round great weather and spectacular views by offering Rooftop drinks and snacks at various restaurants. Mamey has a great happy hour on the 5th floor and Amal’s rooftop (called Level 6) has been getting rave reviews.

  • Crazy Restaurant Bathrooms

I noticed this at Sexy Fish, with their over-the-top Men’s Bathroom. It features James Bond (Daniel Craig) dressed in Scuba gear taking a whiz, amid a bathroom with an enormous pink octopus and a beautiful, sea-inspired decor. It’s one way for dining spots to distinguish themselves from other restaurants; photos are encouraged.

The last thing I will say about Dining Trends for 2023 is that the hike in prices diners experience Post-Pandemic is not about to abate. Higher prices are here to stay, unfortunately. But diners, hopefully, are more grateful than ever to be able to dine out freely after the couple years of lock down, even with sticker shock menus. Happy Days are here again!

Up Next: What to bring to a Tapas Party

New Year, New You?

That’s what the magazine covers always say in January. Time to reinvent yourself- eat healthy, exercise, get organized. Organize your home, your business, your finances. It all sounds good to me, but I really didn’t make any New Year’s Resolutions this year.

I do try to eat healthy and exercise on a normal basis, but I would like to try and mix it up this year. Try some new healthy foods (made easier by my subscription to CSA Empower Farms) and try some exercises beyond my walking and tennis. I’ve already done Yoga once this month and went Swimming as well. Maybe I’ll even try Pickleball! Doing exercise that’s fun means it’s more likely you’ll keep doing it. So, maybe my New Year’s Resolution for 2023, is simply More Fun.

Trying New Restaurants is also fun and I’ve already tried two this year. I ran into food blogger Pat Mackin at the Villager’s Home Tour (check out her Instagram at patmakincoconutgrove) and asked her for restaurant recs for the Grove. She recommended Sushi Garage, in the newly redone Coco Walk, for their Happy Hour so I tried it.

Coco Walk is a happening place these days! And Sushi Garage (we sat outside) is in the midst of it all.

Happy Hour goes from 5 to 8- quite a long Happy Hour- and features 1/2 off drinks. I tried the Lychee Mule and then the Fat Cucumber, both delicious. The bites offered for Happy Hour are $4, $6, $8 and $10. For some reason, our server recommended all the $10 bites (hmm), but everything we sampled was good and a great deal. In particular we liked the Hamachi Serriole (Yellowtail Roll), the Tempura Shrimp Bites and the Chili Shrimp Dumplings. We also got Shishito Peppers, Edamame and 1/2 Bagel Roll.

This new year, I also ate at The Bayshore Club, in the former Scotty’s location. It’s a beautiful venue and the night we ate there it was a Full moon and they had live music. Luckily, we sat away from the music (it was a little loud) for dinner. The drink The Slip ($16), with vodka, Elderflower liqueur and dill, was quite refreshing.

The Conch Fritters ($16) were very good, as was the the Coral Reef Ceviche ($18) I ordered for my entree, with Rock Shrimp. My friend’s Mini Ahi Tuna Tacos, in fried won ton wrappers and topped with caviar, looked delicious and she loved them. Others at the table ordered Fried Chicken Sandwiches ($15) and Fried Fish Tacos ($18). I sampled the French Fries. They were a tad underdone and just so-so. Prices were a little high, but not outrageous.

The Bayshore Club is part of The Grove Bay Hospitality Group, which also has Glass & Vine and Root & Bone, among other restaurants. The food was decent, definitely better than Scotty’s. I wouldn’t run back for the food, but I would run back for the location and ambiance. They also have specials, like $2 oysters on Monday nights and 1/2 off bottles of wine Wednesday, as well as Happy Hour Monday through Friday (4-6) and Live Music Wednesday through Sunday.

I got a pizza oven for Christmas! It wasn’t on my list (Zeke went rogue) but, ever since we visited Kuleto Winery in Napa, where they had a homemade Wood-fired pizza oven, I’ve longed to get one. This one is by Ooni; pizza ovens are very hot items (pun intended) these days.

Cooking a Margarita Pizza in the Ooni.

Our first pizza, a Margherita, was a total success. Zeke said it was the best pizza he’s ever eaten. We kept it simple with Publix pizza dough, Rao’s red sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil, crushed red pepper, Parmesan and olive oil. It was truly delicious and, at 900 degrees, only took about 3 minutes to cook. It does take 30 minutes for the oven to come to temp.

The second pizza I attempted- a Hawaiian Pizza with Ham, Pineapple and Mozzarella- was a total disaster. The pizza dough had gotten sticky in the fridge and when I tried to slide the dough off the peel (the metal tray with a handle) the toppings slid into the oven, while the dough stayed behind. What a mess! I ended up throwing the sticky dough away and using the toppings to make English Muffin pizzas for dinner. Live and learn.

It’s a learning curve and I’m sure, in no time, we’ll be making all kinds of delicious pizzas. I envision Shrimp Pizza with Pesto, Breakfast Pizza with sausage and egg and Potato Pizza with Truffle Oil. The possibilities are endless and it’s a great way to use up leftovers.

One thing I do want to do (that was on my list of things to do last year) is revamp my Foodie in Miami website in order to put the recipes into an index. This was a suggestion by several Foodie in Miami readers and I’m determined to do it in 2023. I may need professional help, however, as Foodie in Miami is not a Technology Whiz.

So, stay tuned… and Happy New Year! New Year, new you?

And now we welcome the New Year. Full of things that have never been.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Up Next: Food Trends 2023

Best Miami Bites of 2022

It’s fun to look back at the year that’s about to end and remember all the wonderful meals eaten. Not all my meals were eaten in Miami, as we traveled to Charleston, New York, Hawaii and San Francisco this year, but this article is centered on food from my hometown- the 305- since this is a “Foodie in Miami” post.

These are in chronological order of when I ate the dishes, starting in January of 2022. No descriptions given, as a picture speaks a thousand words. Here are my Best Bites in Miami for 2022.

  • Spicy Chicken Ramen from InRamen (January)
  • Filet Mignon Sandwich from Josh’s Premium Meats on the Tour of Kitchens (March)
  • Fried Bird’s Nest Cake with Roast Pork and Green Tea and Duck Dumplings from Kon Chau Chinese (April)
  • Passionfruit Creme Brulee from Lan Pan Asian (June)
  • Papaya Salad from Lung Yai Thai Tapas (June)
  • White Truffle Garlic Bread from North Italia (June)
  • Sourdough Pancake with Honey Miso Butter from Zitz Sum (August)
  • Truffle Rakakat with Roasted Grapes from Amal (October)
  • Spinach Croquetta from Tinta Y Cafe (October)

Ghee Roasted Plantains and White Truffle & Brie Sandwich at Mamey (November)

  • Alambre Hawaiano from Morelia Taqueria (December)

Price was not a factor in picking these Miami Best Bites. Some of the more expensive restaurants I visited were very enjoyable, with an inviting atmosphere, but didn’t serve any stand-out dishes that linger in the memory at year end. Others, like this last dish, were inexpensive, but left a lasting impression. This last dish, Alambre, is a Mexican dish served in a restaurant that was actually attached to a gas station in Florida City!

Up Next: The New Year!

The Best Macaroons

This is a bold statement, I realize, but I didn’t proclaim these Macaroons the best; several people in my Improv Class, where I brought them to be shared, did. Macaroons are the cookies made with coconut, not to be confused with the brightly colored disks made from egg whites, the French Macaron. Macaroons have two O’s, Macarons, only one. I like both but decided to whip these up as a quick treat for my last class in Improv and my fellow students went wild for them, including ones who don’t like coconut!

Having said that, if you hate coconut (there are a lot of coconut haters out there!) you can skip this recipe. I’ve tried several Macaroon Recipes and this one was the easiest and came out the best. It takes about five minutes to stir together, 15 minutes to bake, making them an easy Holiday treat to make at the last minute. If you want to get fancy, you can dip the bottoms in melted chocolate, which would be lovely, but not necessary.

For some reason, I forgot to take a photo of the finished product! Oh well.

The Best Macaroons

Recipe by Louise AllenCourse: DessertCuisine: ChristmasDifficulty: Easy
Prep time

4

minutes
Cooking time

14

minutes

This recipe was clipped from the Miami Herald Food Section. It said ” Louise Allen modeled these macaroons after ones she enjoyed as a child from Andalusia Bakery in Coral Gables. The egg whites are not beaten; all the ingredients are just stirred together- Incredibly easy!”

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

  • 3 egg whites

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • pinch kosher salt

  • chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • Mix sugar, coconut, egg whites and salt by hand in a large bowl.
  • Spoon dough 1 tablespoon at a time, onto cookie sheet.
  • Bake 15 minutes, or until brown.

Notes

  • The recipe calls for chocolate chips as optional. I didn’t opt for it, but you could.

Up Next: Best Bites of 2022

Cleaning Up, Clearing Out

We are renting our condo in Key Largo next year for three months, so, in the midst of Holiday preparations, we’ve also been getting our condo ready to rent. This gives us the opportunity to look at our condo with fresh eyes and see it as a renter would see.

As such, we’ve gotten a new washer and dryer. Yes, we finally were able to get it up the spiral staircase. I should say the Maintenance Men in our condo- Ray and Luis- were able to get it up, as well as get the washer down the stairs. Zeke waited around all day on a Friday for the Plumber, Appliance person and Electrician to hook everything up. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to get a Washer/Dryer in my life!

But things that we normally ignore- the white carpet that has turned a spotty beige, the garbage can with unidentified smudges, the shed with dirt and spiders lurking in every corner- are being cleaned in preparation for our renters. Also the rusty front door frame, worn furniture and shed door are all getting a fresh coat of paint. We replaced batteries in the Smoke Alarm and doorbell, so our tenants will know if there’s a fire or they have a visitor.

I’ve also realized I have four white towels, but they don’t match, so I’ll make a Home Goods run to replace them and also get brand new sponges, because ours are disgusting, growing something that’s not Christmas cheer. Our stove and oven are ancient- from the 90’s- so Zeke ordered a new one. It was supposed to be in December 9th, now they’re saying January 3rd. We’ll see. I gave the tenants the option of using the old one or getting the new one. They opted for new.

Many religions and cultures have traditions centering on cleaning out spaces. In the Jewish religion, Spring Cleaning takes place before Passover, to make sure all yeast bread and products are removed from the house. Kind of like ridding your pantry of junk food before a diet.

In the Chinese Culture, the house must be cleaned thoroughly before the Lunar New Year begins. Families undertake a total home purge, making sure every nook and cranny is scrubbed, the house is organized and everything spotless. This is to sweep out bad luck from the last year and prepare for the good things coming in the new year.

At my friend Martha’s house, where we often celebrate New Year’s Eve, she makes sure to get a pot of water and throw it out the front door before midnight. She’s Cuban and this is a tradition, apparently to get rid of the bad juju in the house.

In the Keys, I will also go through all the food in my pantry, my spices and all the drawers and give them a thorough cleaning, throwing things out along the way that need to go and packing away items (like booze and photos) that I don’t want to leave for our renters. Although it’s kind of a pain having to deal with this cleaning in the middle of the Christmas Holidays, it also feels like a good time to do it, at the end of the year, before a new year begins. Out with the old and in with the new, as they say.

Besides that, I’ve been going to lots of Lunches, Holiday Parties and eating rich and delicious food. I finally decorated the Christmas tree! Even though Zeke said it looks awful, I think it looks cheerful with the red bows I hung. I don’t have the energy or the inclination to drag out every Christmas ornament I own and hang it on the tree. I’m also trying to decorate the house in a Kid-Friendly way, anticipating two toddlers- Liam and Phoenix- coming over for Christmas Eve dinner.

On T.V., we’re watching the last season of The Crown. Once again, they’ve changed the whole cast, something I’ve gotten used to by now. And I started streaming White Lotus on HBO Max, after hearing so much about it. The 1st Season takes place in Hawaii and they shot at the Four Seasons, right next to the hotel where we stayed for our Honeymoon. The White Lotus isn’t at all Christmassy, but it is good.

And I’m trying to take a deep breathe, to relax and enjoy the merriment the Holidays offer, and not get swept up in the shopping frenzy, craziness and stress. My favorite thing to do is have a glass of wine with Zeke, in front of our Christmas tree and listen to Christmas music. I hope you find the thing that makes you happy during the Holiday, and do it as much as you can. Before you know it, it will all be over and we’ll be welcoming 2023.

Up Next: The Best Macaroons

Favorite Christmas Movies

My all-time favorite Animated Christmas Movie is Charlie Brown Christmas. That movie is my childhood, including the Hostess commercials in between, but here’s a list of are my favorite non-animated Christmas movies. I love watching one of these movies, while wrapping Christmas presents, thus multi-tasking through the holiday season.

shallow focus photography of red bauble
Photo by Todd Trapani on Pexels.com
  1. It’s A Wonderful Life It’s a classic for a reason. Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed star in this 1946 movie directed by Frank Capra. It’s the story of George Bailey, a boy determined to see the world but an unfortunate series of events force him to stay in his hometown. He gets to see what life would have turned out like if he hadn’t been there and he discovers, he did actually have a wonderful life. I never fail to cry at this movie!

Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.

Zuzu

2. A Christmas Story

This movie used to show 24/7 on TBS on Christmas Day (maybe it still does), which is how I first watched it with my kids, who fell in love with the story of Ralphie, a little boy who wants a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas. Set in the 40’s, it’s nostalgic without being syrupy and, anyone with a family can relate to this family’s struggles and triumphs. It’s also a reminder of those special toys at Christmas we coveted as children and the joy of actually receiving them.

You’ll shoot your eye out!

Ralphie’s mother, teacher and even Santa about the Red Rider BB gun.

3. White Christmas

I’ve loved this movie since I was in High School, especially the scene where Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye perform “Sisters”. Their romantic interests are Rosemary Clooney and the ultra-skinny Vera-Ellen and it was directed by Michael Curtiz, of Casablanca fame. I love the ambience of the Vermont Inn, World War II theme, the costumes, musical numbers and Irving Berlin music. The ending scene, where all the old soldiers come to honor their general at his Inn, always makes me cry. And then, for the finale, it snows, making it a White Christmas at last.

Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! It won’t be long before we’ll be there with snow.

White Christmas

4. Elf

This is my sister Elise’s favorite Christmas movie, without fail. She even had a party revolving around it one Christmas with a huge cutout of Will Ferrell in full Elf mode. Made in 2003 by Jon Favreau, it’s the story of a human, raised by elves, who travels to New York City to try and find his biological father (played by James Caan). Will Ferrell plays Buddy the elf, with Bob Newhart playing his elf father and Ed Asner playing Santa. This is a heartwarming movie that is also hysterically funny. Every time we watch it, Zeke asks me “Is that Zooey Deschanel?” It is, but she has blonde hair in the movie. She plays Jovie, an elf at Macy’s. As added Christmas treats, the actor who played Ralphie in a Christmas Story, plays elf Ming Ming & there are a ton of references to Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer.

You sit on a throne of lies!

Buddy to the fake Santa at Macys.

5. Love Actually

I actually love this movie, set at Christmas time, which has nine interwoven plot lines. Emma Thompson and the late Alan Richman are marvelous, and, as complicated as it seems, it all works so well. The cast is a Who’s Who of actors, with Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant each nailing their respective parts. While Hugh Grant hated it, I love the scene where he dances through 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister to Van Halen’s Jump. It starts and ends at Heathrow airport, with people greeting loved ones with hugs and kisses.

If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love, actually, is all around.

Narrator of Love Actually

Honorable Mention goes to Home Alone and Miracle on 34th Street (Zeke’s favorite). What’s your favorite Christmas movie? I’d love to know.

Up Next: A Clean Sweep

Babysitting and Birthday Lunches

I watched Wyatt and Phoenix last week, as their parents were out of town.

Wyatt arrived dressed in his school uniform, but had been sick all night, so stayed home from school with me. I ran between my bedroom, where I gave him Gatorade while he watched T.V. and my den, where I was writing some of the house descriptions for The Villager’s Home Tour this Saturday. The deadline was the next day and I thought I’d have all day to write it, but…

Phoenix got delivered by the Nanny later on. Luckily, I’d made Turkey Tetrazzini ahead, so I just heated it up for dinner. Wyatt couldn’t eat, but finally had some broth that night and went to school the next day. I asked him about getting Phoenix to bed- did I just put him in his Pack ‘N Play?

Oh no! You have to walk him up and down, up and down, up and down until he falls asleep.

Wyatt said.

Funny, his Mom didn’t mention this fact to me. It was his first time sleeping over at my house and, luckily, he just fell asleep on his own. Until about 1 a.m., when he woke up crying for his “Mama”.

This is when I did walk him up and down, up and down, up and down the hall, before bringing him upstairs to my rocking chair to rock him back to sleep. It took a couple tries until I was able to lay him back down and it didn’t last long. He ended up in bed with us, kicking and squirming all night. We got an awful night’s sleep.

As I was rocking him to sleep, tired as I was, I thought about how it was nice to be spending this time with him, with his little blonde head smelling sweet, rocking him in the same chair I rocked my own children (including his Mom) to sleep when they were babies. Those days went by so slowly and yet so fast. As a mother to young children, the moments drag on interminably, but the days fly by and you wonder what you did all day.

At any rate, I was tired, to say the least, by the time they left. As my sister Kelley said:

There’s a reason 60 year olds don’t have babies.

Kelley

In the meantime, I also had Birthday Lunches.

The first was at Sadelle’s in Coconut Grove at the old Tigertail and Mary location. It’s a Brunch spot, but they also have Sandwiches, Salads. and Caviar. I felt like breakfast, so got coffee and the Salmon Benedict. It was delicious, the eggs cooked perfectly. I also tasted Leonor’s french fries, which were skinny, crunchy and really good.

Service was excellent, the food came out quickly and everyone enjoyed their meals. They also presented a Donut Extravaganza (complimentary) for the Birthday Girls that was quite impressive. The Birthday Cake Donut was my favorite and the donuts tasted very fresh. The only caveat was the parking was a little troublesome, but they do have Valet.

My other lunch was at North Italia in Dadeland. I’d dreamed of their Burrata and Tomato Salad I’d had a Book Club at Guta’s, but they didn’t have it on the menu. They had instead Burrata di Stagione ($15), which came with Butternut Squash, Fuji Apples and Hazelnuts, which is what I got. It was good, but needed more arugula, a dressing and toasted bread to scoop the burrata onto. If I got it again, I would order the Grilled Bread ($6) on the side.

My friends both got salads that they enjoyed. The dessert the server recommended was delicious; it was especially nice to spend time with old friends I haven’t seen in a while. But parking in Dadeland was almost as difficult as the Grove. The Holidays, I guess.

Down in the Keys, we had a major dilemma. Home Depot had delivered our new Washer/Dryer but refused to carry it up the spiral staircase to install. I called a mover I’d used in the past, who had brought up a bedroom set to the second floor, but he said the liability wasn’t worth it to him. We were getting desperate as we have renters coming in January.

Saturday, our friend Jim Armstrong helped Zeke carry down the old dryer from upstairs. I didn’t think the idea of two sixty-year-olds carrying appliances down a spiral staircase was a good idea, but luckily, they were able to do it. The washer, which is heavier and bulkier, was a different story.

Zeke was on the bottom, Jim was on top, holding a moving blanket to slide it and he couldn’t get a good grip on the washer. I smelled imminent disaster in the air, and begged them to leave it to the professionals, so they moved it back upstairs. Disaster averted, dilemma still intact.

We got our tree and the lights are on it, but I just can’t get motivated to decorate it. I posted this on Facebook and, so many people agreed with me, it must be a common Christmas ailment. I even watched Elf to put me in the mood.

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

Buddy, in Elf.

But I feel more like Charlie Brown in a Charlie Brown Christmas (my favorite animated Christmas movie, by the way).

I think there must be something wrong with me Linus. Christmas is coming but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.

Charlie Brown

I’m hoping Holiday inspiration will strike soon.

I was going to recommend The Villager’s Home Tour today (10 to 4) if you’re not doing anything, but it Sold Out! But if you’re going, I will see you and if you stop by the Boutique at St. Phillips School, I baked the Zucchini Bread and the Applesauce Date Cake. They are available for purchase, as are many other items. The Villagers is a great cause, helping with Historic Restoration in Miami.

And the songbirds are singing, Like they know the score. And I love you I love you I love you, Like never before.

Christine McVie

Up Next: Best Holiday Movies

Mom’s Famous Deviled Eggs

When I asked my Mom for her Deviled Egg recipe for the Serve It Up! cookbook, she really had to think about it. She said something about why you don’t ask old people for recipes, but it’s actually exactly why you should! She had nothing written down, it was all in her head and if we don’t get these recipes now from our loved ones, they might be lost forever. That is one of the main reasons why I write this blog.

Anyway, my Mom has been making these deviled eggs for ages and they are always the first appetizer to go. You could, of course, jazz them up with caviar, candied bacon or even lobster chunks, as fancy deviled eggs seem to be a thing these days, but my Mom just sprinkles them with paprika or maybe some parsley sprigs.

Now if you have the Serve It Up! Ace for Autism Cookbook, you already have this recipe. You also have a great recipes for: Guacamole, Tuna Nachos, Caviar Pie, Pickled Eggplant, Buffalo Chicken Dip, John Schild’s famous Conch Fritters and my favorite Grilled Shrimp recipe. And that’s just in the Appetizer sections alone. P.S. I have one left if anyone’s interested.

Another secret my Mom taught me is to use my InstaPot to hard boil the eggs for this recipe. It’s pretty much the only thing I use my InstaPot for! So, put your eggs in the steamer basket, add 1 cup of water and cook on high for 5 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes, run under cold water and peel. These eggs (I’m guessing because of the pressure inside the egg shell) peel like a dream!

Mom’s Famous Deviled Eggs

Recipe by Lyla RiceCourse: AppetizersCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy
Servings

24

servings
Prep time

15

minutes

Ingredients

  • 12 hardboiled eggs, peeled

  • 1/2 cup Hellman’s mayo

  • 1/4 cup Miracle Whip

  • 1 1/2 tsp. hot dog mustard

  • 1 tsp. grated onion

  • 1/4 tsp. salt

  • 3 Tablespoons sweet pickle relish

Directions

  • Peel eggs and slice in half, removing yolks to a small bowl.
  • Mash yolks and other ingredients, until mixture is smooth.
  • Use a pastry bag with star opening for nicer presentation.
  • Decorate with paprika, parsley or pimento.

Notes

  • You can keep the egg halves and the mixture in the fridge for a day, if doing it ahead.

Up Next: Birthday Lunches and Too Many Dilemmas!