A Light at the End of a Tunnel

“I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord. And I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life.”

Or, at least, for two months. Can you feel it? There’s something in the air that offers the possibility of Hope. It started with the Flower Supermoon that emerged last Tuesday night. Supermoons, when the moon is closest to the Earth’s surface, are not only a beautiful sight, but cause us to shift, evolve, heal and recharge. It is a time of transformation.

Flower Super Moon

On Friday, May 8th, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, announced that certain Miami businesses will be able to reopen, starting Monday, May 18th. He hinted that this opening, after 2 months of closure, would include Miami restaurants. As a punctuation mark to the transformational week, the Blue Angels flew over Miami last Saturday in support of Health Care workers. This display of airborne solidarity gave many Miamians cause for encouragement, appreciation and hope. Not quite celebration yet, but one can sense it coming.

I texted my housekeeper the next day to inform her of Miami’s reopening and asked if she would feel comfortable coming back to our house to clean. She said “Whenever you need me.” I wanted to say “Yesterday!”, but she’s coming this week, so that’s great news. I also got a mani-pedi at a friend’s house on Saturday. The Nail Lady was set up in the backyard, with a tub of hot, soapy water. She wore a mask, I wore a mask and brought my own tools and nail polish. As another participant noted: “A good mani-pedi can make you feel like a new person.”

I spent the week in the Keys and saw two manatees (mom and baby), a sting ray and a dolphin while out on a paddleboard ride. Dolphins are known to be a symbol of good luck and, right now, we can all use as much good luck as our superstitious hearts can conjure up. Being on the water or just out in nature, always makes me feel better, despite the circumstance.

Zeke rejoined me in the Keys Thursday and we went to dinner at Bayside Grille, near our condo. How was it? Suprisingly normal, although we appreciated a meal out at a restaurant about ten times more than usual. We walked upstairs where the masked host (sounds like the name of a game show) said: “Anywhere you want.” We chose a table on the balcony, near the water, to watch the sunset. A paper menu was brought to us by a gloved and masked waiter, along with a plastic covered wine list. As we toasted our first meal out with a bottle of wine, we couldn’t help but notice we were the only ones in the place. It felt like our own private dining room.

“Are we the first ones dining here?” I asked the host.

He said we were the second. Although it was a limited menu (I assume they don’t know how many people to buy food for) he told us they could make pretty much anything on the menu. I finally got my seafood meal by the water I’d been craving, while Spanish jazz played in the background and the sun set over Buttonwood Bay. One other table entered at the end of our meal, seated far away from us. We paid with a credit card and sanitized our hands throughout.

It all seemed very safe, but as we left and walked downstairs the bar was quite full with people sitting close together without masks. Sigh. So, one step forward, two steps back.

It was nice to be in the Keys for the week. Number one, there’s a lot less cases of COVID-19 and it always feels like we’re on vacation when we’re down here. Or is it up here? I never remember. Zeke left Monday, so I was on my own till Thursday.

Monday night, I made Shrimp-Stuffed Peppers, an improvised version of a Food and Wine recipe but mine was made with leftover shrimp. I served it with an avocado salad and rice and beans. Tuesday, was Cinco de Mayo. For lunch, I got take-out from Tacos Jalisco, my favorite food truck in Key Largo. I ordered three different tacos (shrimp, Al pastor and their special), but it wasn’t an original idea; many people called ahead for pick-up so I had to wait. Not to worry, I had no place to be. That night, I made myself a delicious pineapple-jalapeno margarita for Happy Hour and toasted with my Coronavirus go away text group. For dinner, I made an easy Quesadilla with leftover steak and Monterey Jack cheese and used leftover beans and rice for a side dish. Just call me the Leftover Queen!

Wednesday I made a trip to the local Kmart and found two boxes of yeast! Yeast has been a very rare commodity lately, since everyone has been baking in the pandemic. I was tempted to buy all of it (I now understand that instinct to hoard), but restrained myself and got three packs. I picked up Crispy Duck with rice and vegetables for lunch, take-out from Num Thai and Sushi. I asked the lady inside when they would be opening. She said she wasn’t sure, maybe in a week. There are a lot of restaurants in the Keys open for take-out, but not many open for dine-in. I assume it’s a process to restock and call back employees, etc…

That night I made Fried Rice (again with leftovers!) and Thursday was our dinner out. Friday, we grilled Scallops and Shrimp and served it with pureed garlic cauliflower (Zeke’s specialty) and a Caesar salad with garlic bread.

Saturday we returned to Miami for Lauren’s Graduation dinner. She was supposed to graduate from UM Law School Saturday, Zeke was going to hood her at the ceremony and we were going to have a Graduation Party for Lauren and Emma. Instead, we ordered Moon Thai take-out and picked up a beautiful chocolate cake (Ebene) from Cecile’s Bakery on Sunset Drive. Lauren likes chocolate, so it was a brownie crust, chocolate spongecake middle with chocolate mousse on top. We got green and orange balloons to decorate and reinflated Emma’s Graduation balloons. Since Lauren had gotten into University of Florida a couple weeks ago, but just got accepted into Georgetown Law School (yippee!) this week, Emma had gotten her a UF Law School t-shirt.

“There’s a 50% chance you’ll use this,” Emma explained to Lauren.

Emma “hooded” Lauren with a napkin as we laughed and played Pomp and Circumstance on our I-Phone at our Coronavirus Graduation celebration. We talked about how when, for Lauren’s birthday when this all started at the beginning of March, we’d jokingly given her a mask, hand sanitizer and gloves. These were all things she actually has now used. No joke.

Sunday was Mother’s Day. Not only did I not get breakfast in bed, we were out of coffee!- a mortal sin in my house. I made my own breakfast and lunch, but Zeke made up for it by making dinner; he even set the table. We had mango-glazed Cornish Hens stuffed with wild rice, with sides of Roasted Brussel Sprouts (made by Emma and Lauren) and a radish salad. A.J., Wyatt and Justin joined us for dinner. We watched the Disney Sing-a-long after dinner and as Wyatt sang enthusiastically to “A Whole New World” from Aladdin, it took on a whole new meaning.

Zeke had miraculously found Bread Flour so I attempted to make Sour Dough Bread with my Sour Dough starter. It turned out like a Sour Dough brick. Oh well! The instructions for making it have to be weighed in grams on a food scale, so it is quite complicated and precise. Also, I believe I didn’t have enough starter to make it rise. Good thing I found yeast!

I did make a recipe that turned out excellently and was relatively easy. My Mom likes Peanut Brittle, but when I saw this Miracle Peanut Butter Crunch recipe by Food and Wine (can you tell I’m on a Food and Wine kick?), I knew I had to try it for a Mother’s Day treat. I thought I had all the ingredients, but when I came to a crucial part, realized I didn’t have Baking Soda. We’ve been out of the condo for 4 months, so are just re-stocking. I called a friend who lives in our community and she picked some up for me. The really cool part of the recipe is when you add the baking soda and vanilla to the caramel mixture it bubbles up into a puffy, foamy eruption, like a tasty, volcano science experiment. The end result, bite-size, peanut squares, was delicious.

As Zeke and I tried one, he said “This tastes like a candy I’ve tasted.” I agreed and then realized it tasted exactly like the inside of a Butterfinger. So, if you want to drizzle melted chocolate chips on the top, all the better. My Mom really enjoyed these.

Miracle Peanut Butter Crunch Food and Wine

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup light corn syrup

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups natural peanut butter

1 cup coarsely chopped roasted peanuts

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Step 1

Line a 9 inch square pan with foil. In a medium saucepan, stir the sugar with the corn syrup and water. Add the butter and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan and cook over moderately high heat (medium high) until the caramel reaches 285 degrees, about 10 minutes.

Step 2

Meanwhile, in a large heatproof, microwave safe bowl, combine the peanut butter with the peanuts and salt. Heat the peanut butter in the microwave at high power for about 1 1/2 minutes.

Step 3

In a small bowl, whisk the vanilla with the baking soda. As soon as the caramel reaches 285, carefully stir in the baking soda mixture; the caramel will foam and bubble up.

Step 4

Immediately pour the caramel into the melted peanut butter mixture and, using a heatproof spatula, fold together as quickly as possible. You want the mixtures to be combined but not homogenized; the candy will come together very fast.

Step 5

Immediately scrape the hot candy into the prepared pan and press into a flat, even layer. Let cool completely. Peel off foil and cut the candy into squares.

Also, regarding Netflix suggestions, I’ve been watching “Dead to Me“, a series from last year with Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini. It’s about two women who meet at a grief group and become fast friends, joined by a surprising secret. There are a lot of twists and turns, it hooks you in; I do occasionally find both main characters annoying- Jen for her intense anger issues, Judy for her constant need to people-please, but I have enjoyed it. There’s also the plus of James Marsden (who plays Judy’s ex boyfriend), who isn’t hard to look at. The second season just started.

I now have Wyatt down in the Keys for “Gigi Camp”, so it’s hard to write at all and Netflix, except for kids shows, isn’t happening. I presently have him watching Paw Patrol in Spanish; I consider this Homeschooling. I am praying for reinforcements (Zeke) to assist me at “Gigi Camp”. My Wish List of Meals this week is: Grilled Chicken with Chile Lime Sauce and Coconut Rice, Green Curry with Mushrooms and Chickpeas, a Turnip Chirizo Quiche and some fat Honey Dijon Pork Chops with Mashed Potatoes. But since I have Wyatt, it will more likely be Spaghettios and McDonalds Happy Meals for him, leftovers and frozen pizza for moi.

“Remember when old ones died and new were born And life was changed, disassembled, rearranged We came together, fell apart And broke each other hearts Remember when…” Alan Jackson

Up Next: Spring Meals to Savor

Published by gleeguilford

Born and raised in Miami, the daughter of a pilot and stay-at-home Mom, I love food in all forms. My great grandfather opened the first Italian restaurant in Miami in the 20's, The Boathouse on the Miami river. I love exploring my heritage and linking food and recipes to personal stories. I've been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love and wrote restaurant reviews and news as the Miami Dining Examiner for three years. I love exploring Miami's latest hot spots, hole in the walls and institutions. I'm always looking for innovative ways to use the plethora of tropical fruits and vegetables South Florida offers, especially from my own garden.

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