Be Italian

All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey.

Mammas and the Pappas

I voted early. I’d requested a mail-in ballot but decided it was best to drive it to Pinecrest Gardens, in the pouring rain last Wednesday, and hand-deliver it to a person who put it in the ballot box. They check your driver’s license with your signature on the ballot and easy, peasy, my civic duty’s done! And you can track it online, to make sure it arrived.

I voted!

I also ate my first Stone Crabs on Saturday, two days after the season opened on October 15th. The weather wasn’t great so Zeke and I just lay on our boat, docked at the Sanctuary and listened to music. Around sunset, we took it out for a short jaunt, anchored and toasted to our first sunset cruise with Prosecco and cheese and crackers. After we returned, we went home to a feast of cracked Stone Crabs, hash browns and Joe’s tomatoes.

On Monday, my tennis match got rained out so I took the extra time to make a light and healthy lunch of a Sweet Potato, Egg and Broccoli “Rice” Bowl. Rice bowls are all the rage, but this one was made with “Riced” Broccoli. Since I didn’t have broccoli, I used the Riced Cauliflower that’s been lingering in my freezer from Trader Joe’s. It was actually very tasty and I would definitely make this recipe, from People magazine of all places, again.

I decided to make it easy on myself Monday night and picked up a Publix rotisserie Chicken (Peruvian?- must be a new flavor). I served this with Salsa Verde and smashed potatoes and a tomato and mozzarella salad. Delicious and easy. Tuesday I picked Wyatt up from school and did a Fall photo shoot with him at the entrance of Miracle Mile. They are trying to get people back to the Mile and have an old school truck, with bales of hay and decorations set up that made the perfect backdrop. As we walked down the street to look at the scarecrows, it started pouring so we made a beeline to my Mini Cooper and hopped in to listen to the Monster Mash, Men In Black and the Adams Family on my Halloween CD.

We came home and made Candy Apples. I couldn’t find the kit (normally located in the Produce section by the apples) so made them from scratch. Wyatt helped me make them and then wanted to taste one “for a treat”, which he did as I carved two pumpkins. One was a large one he’d picked from the grocery store. He also picked the design (kind of looks like Phantom of the Opera) and drew a face on his little pumpkin, which I also carved. I couldn’t let those pumpkin seeds go to waste, so roasted them with olive oil, salt and cumin. Next, we read some Halloween books, so by the time Zeke came home with Miami’s Best pizza, I was ready for a break.

California Dreamin’ is our favorite pizza at Miami’s Best- artichoke hearts, goat cheese and spinach and I was hoping Wyatt would like it, but according to A.J. he’s “very picky about his pizza”, vegetables on it are no bueno, so we scraped them off for him. He then wanted to play Candyland (beat me twice) and then it was time for The Bachelorette. I turned a show on for Wyatt, as Zeke and I watched our inane show, then came upstairs and said “Ok Wyatt, it’s time for bed.”

Scary Pumpkins, picked by Wyatt.

“Oh fine, I’ll watch your boring show,” he said so I turned on The Bachelorette. Claire, the Bachelorette, was on a one-on-one date with Blake where they’d been instructed to write down every bad thing that people had said about them. As they read their lists to each other, Blake said “I have a lot of demons.” Claire said: “That doesn’t scare me. Nothing scares me.” To this Wyatt said: “What if a bear ate you? Would that scare you?” And, at this, we both cracked up for a while. The next Group date was Strip Dodge Ball. “What does strip mean, Gigi?” And it was time to turn off The Bachelorette (which is becoming stupider by the minute) and go to bed.

Speaking of scary, Coronavirus cases hit an all time high last Friday, with 83,000 cases being reported. Experts are worried about the winter, with cooler temperatures sending people inside and at greater risk. We’re lucky in Miami that this isn’t as much as a factor as it is in other states, but it’s still troubling. Didn’t we all think it would be over by now?

I met A.J. for lunch Wednesday at Lan Pan Asian, in Dadeland Station. It was the first time I’ve been since the Pandemic began and there was a wait to get in. It’s already a very small restaurant, so with Social Distancing, even more so. The menu was a scan-able one on your phone and we both ordered the Lunch Special with Salmon for $11.95. It comes with miso soup, a green salad of soft greens, a bean sprout salad, California roll and your entree. Although I don’t like baked salmon normally, I love the one at Lan Pan, which comes in a teriyaki sauce with pineapple chunks. I also like the Tamarind Shrimp and Chicken Dumplings for lunch special at Lan Pan. The lunch specials are big servings of fresh food for a good value. They also offer curbside pick-up and weekly specials.

Wednesday night I turned my leftover chicken from the rotisserie into Chicken Enchiladas with an easy recipe called Easiest Chicken Enchiladas Ever by Stephanie Wilson. The recipe called for flour tortillas, but I was curious to see how they would taste with different tortillas and besides that, I had a hankering for corn tortillas. So I made the batch with three different kinds of tortillas- flour (100 calories), corn and wheat (90 calories) and Carb-savy Whole Wheat (45 calories). The flour tortilla was my favorite, but the other two were also good and once you stuff the tortillas with chicken and other fillings and smother them with enchilada sauce and cheese, who really cares? I served it with a simple avocado salad. It made enough for 10 so I froze the rest for another dinner.

I’ve been having political discussions with my son Christopher (always a mistake) and as he makes one point after the other, I tell him “a tuna fish sandwich”, “as in I will vote for a tuna fish sandwich over your candidate.” Which, truthfully, is a disservice to tuna fish sandwiches everywhere, which are a very tasty lunch. My sister Kelley claims she could eat a tuna fish sandwich for lunch every day. I wouldn’t go that far, but paired with a cup of soup, it is one of my favorite lunches. The beauty of a tuna fish sandwich is the ingredients are usually on hand- tuna, mayo, celery, onion- so whipping one up is always an easy and filling option.

For the occasion of my tuna fish sandwich, after a tennis loss on my first Beta team, I tried Tuna Salad Sandwich, Julia Child Style. The recipe was conveyed by Dorrie Greenspan, a women that helped her write Baking with Julia, a cookbook my Dad got me for Christmas signed by Julia herself. The woman said Julia liked to make this tuna salad for lunch and served it, either with Pepperidge Farm sandwich bread or, open faced, on a Bay’s English Muffin. I served it in half a pita bread with soft lettuces and a slice of Vidalia onion. It was perfection- the salty capers, chopped onion and celery mixed with the creamy tuna. I would’ve changed nothing about it, not even the chopped cornichons in place of my normal sweet relish. Yum!

That night was the last Presidential Debate. I drank too much and yes, those two statements do have a relation with each other. Since Zeke and I are supporting different candidates, watching the debates together is never a good idea and usually ends disasterously, with us screaming at each other. I sometimes doubted we were watching the same debate. “Can you believe he said that?” I ask. “What? I thought that was a good point,”answers Zeke. Oh brother. This election can’t be over fast enough.

Before the Debate. Life was all so simple then…

I made Salted Caramel Popcorn Bars, a recipe out of Oprah magazine, which plugged it as a “grown up version of a Rice Krispie Treat.” It had air popped popcorn, marshmallows, caramel sauce (homemade), chocolate chips and Maldon salt. It didn’t turn out great (the caramel didn’t completely coat the popcorn) and was a pain in the a**, making it a recipe I wouldn’t repeat. I do find, in general, Oprah’s magazine has good recipes. I sent a tin of it with niece Allison when she went to visit her Grandpa Dick at an Assisted Living Facility and he said it was the “best popcorn he’s had in 90 years”, so I guess it was worth making it after all.

I played a fun tennis match on Friday and, on the way home, ordered Shorty’s take-out. I don’t eat Shorty’s that often, but sometimes, I really get a craving for it and, on this day I was starving. Shorty’s has tables set up outside, under tents and inside they are Socially Distancing, blocking off some tables, so it seems quite safe. My order was ready so I paid and took the steaming styrofoam container into my car. I opened it, dumped some salt on the crinkle-cut fries and frantically dipped them into the Shorty’s Bar-B-Que sauce and munched away as I drove home. They were delicious, as was my Pork Sandwich and coleslaw. If I ever moved away from Miami, Shorty’s is one restaurant I would truly miss!

I got to babysit my Great Niece Gracie Friday, who didn’t have school. We colored, did puzzles, played with play dough and when I took her to do an errand in my Mini Cooper, she asked me why my car was so little. “This is the littlest car I’ve ever seen in my life,” she commented. “Well, it’s usually only me and Wyatt in this car,” I told her. But soon, I am going to need a bigger car. Courtney and Chris’s baby is due in November and A.J. and Justin are expecting a little boy next April. Three grandsons! If I have all these babies in my two-door Mini, it’s going to look like little clowns coming out of a circus car. I need to start looking at four door options and trade in my ten year old car.

We went to the Keys for the weekend. After tennis and Gracie, I was so wiped out on Friday night we ordered take-out from The Key Thai and Sushi; I could barely move from the couch. On Saturday, we sat under the chikee hut for sunset with other owners, enjoying a cocktail. The subject of kitchen remodeling came up and someone mentioned granite as a surface and how hard and impenetrable it is. When we designed our kitchen five years ago, I found a marble that I loved but was warned it would chip, stain and scratch, as it is a soft stone. “But in Italy, they believe all those imperfections make the stone more beautiful,” the stone guy told me. Well, maybe he was making a sales pitch but, nonetheless, I decided to “Be Italian” and got the marble. I mean I am 13.9% Italian, but I needed to think like an Italian in relation to my marble countertop.

On CBS This Morning, my favorite show on Sunday mornings, one of the segments discussed how patience and resilience were important qualities to possess when dealing with the Pandemic. The resilience part made me think of my Aunt Josie, who was 100% Italian and lived to be 99. She had to watch as each of her sisters and many of her friends passed away, leaving her behind. But, she always found a way to bounce back and found things in life still engaging. Like the movie said, she believed “Life is Beautiful.” As proof of this, my transplanted rose bush from my neighbor Maggie’s house bloomed for the first time this week. I will take this as a good omen.

No matter happens in this election, I have to still believe life is beautiful and, with resilience, we can bounce back from anything. Please vote!

Up Next: Orange Crush Cocktail

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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