Baby It’s Cold Outside!

Or at least it was last week, a refreshing change from Miami’s usual 80 degree weather.

Since it was perfect tree-decorating weather, I invited Emma and Guillermo over for dinner Monday to trim the tree. It had been a long day and I had taken out one lobster tail and two steaks to cook for Zeke and I, not enough for the five of us, so I started pulling stuff out of the freezer. Two elk steaks, two bratwurst… I decided to make it like an Argentenian parrillero, where all kinds of meats are grilled. Zeke grilled the lobster, which we served as an appetizer, sliced in chunks and served with melted butter.

I was making a complicated Brussel Sprouts dish from the New York Times, which involved labneh and pickled shallots. I also heated up some mashed potatoes and made grilled pita bread. After all that, we were both exhausted and we hadn’t even gotten the ornaments out of the upstairs bedroom. Plus, the tree was only three-fourths lit since Zeke ran out of lights, so we decided to give a rain-check for the next night.

I was also busy that day setting the table for the Pinecrest Garden Club’s Holiday Decorating Contest, which we had on Zoom Tuesday at 12. Earlier in the day, Kelley and I had been at Pinecrest Gardens distributing meals from Honey Baked Ham for members who requested lunch. Each member who came got a small poinsettia as well. It was our way of trying to keep connected to our Pinecrest Garden Club members.

The theme of my table was “2020- It’s Been Bananas.” It was inspired by some monkey plates I had and, of course, the craziness of this year. The other tables were wonderful- all different and creative in their own ways. There was “Shaken, Not Stirred”, “First Hanukkah”, “New Years Eve”, a Mother’s Birthday and beautiful outdoor table with silver palm fronds and black and white gingham from Christian Armstrong. We ended the meeting by singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel.” We were off-key and definitely not in-sync, but the Holiday spirit was there!

Tuesday night was a very cold night (50’s), perfect for the Beef Chili I made for dinner, which had been my original idea for a Tree-Decorating dinner. It was a Williams Sonoma recipe I’d cut out of their catalogue (they have good recipes!), a basic chili with ground beef, onions, crushed tomatoes and spices. I didn’t follow it exactly, however, so don’t know if I could ever replicate it. I didn’t have beer, so used red wine. I added cocoa powder and cinnamon, reminiscent of a Mexican mole and Zeke said it “needed more cumin and smokiness” so I added more cumin and smoked Spanish paprika. I used red kidney beans because Zeke said not to use any of those “weird” beans I usually do (who knew garbanzo beans were weird?) and served it with jalapeño corn bread. Everyone enjoyed it. After dinner, we lit a fire in the fireplace, trimmed the tree and made s’mores.

Please and Thank you are the magic words

I picked up Wyatt from school Wednesday. We went to the playground where he ran around and to the library at Pinecrest Gardens to get some new books. We came home and made sugar cookies in the shape of Christmas trees. Wyatt insisted that he roll out the cookie dough all by himself and he’s become a really good baker!

Dinner was Homemade Mac ‘N Cheese, because I had all the ingredients. Zeke came home, complained the kitchen was a disaster (it was) and said “Pizza would have been easier.” Really? That’s gratitude for you. As Tami Gautier told me her Father-in-Law instructed his sons about wives making a homemade dinner, the appropriate response to this effort is a simple: “Thank you.”

Thank you indeed.

I had a lovely Birthday Lunch (outside of course) at Fiola’s in Coral Gables. They have a three-course Prix Fix lunch that’s a great deal for $29. I can highly recommend the Ceviche as a starter and my Roast Chicken entree with Fall Harvest vegetables was very good as well. Their bread is delicious, dipped in a little olive oil; it made repeat appearances at our table. My fellow diners all got the Grilled Skirt Steak with mashed potatoes and endive, which they enjoyed; dessert was Tiramisu and a Chocolate Marchesi with pistachios on top and two MORE desserts (white cake) for the birthday girls. In a year like 2020, there’s no such thing as too many desserts.

Thursday night I headed down to the Keys. I’d been trying to participate in a Screenwriting/Acting workshop for the last three Thurdays and finally decided to go to the Keys and barricade myself inside to join the Zoom call. As I arrived, took a walk and relished in the peace and tranquility that is the Sanctuary, I wondered why I hadn’t thought to do this before. It was wonderful! Unfortunately, we’re renting our place out for three months so my little Thursday get-aways will have to wait till April.

For months I’d been craving the Drunken Noodles at The Key Thai and Sushi restaurant in Key Largo and Friday, I finally got my wish. The slick, flavorful noodles come with chicken, red pepper, onions and basil and it’s delicious. The lunch special includes a salad or potsticker and is a deal at $8.95. Zeke came Friday afternoon and we met friends Doug and Heidi at one of our favorite local dives- The Pilot House. We ordered the Margarita Flatbread, Coconut Shrimp, wine (for the girls) and beer (for the guys) during Happy Hour. I was celebrating Liam finally getting out of NICU and coming home with his parents. Yea!

Drunken Noodles. I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!

Perhaps I celebrated too much, because I didn’t feel so great the next day. Chris and Courtney had dressed Liam in the cutest UM outfit on Saturday for the game, with a little Turn-Over Chain his Aunt Allison had made. Unfortunately, it didn’t help UM who lost big to UNC. As Christopher said “We got bludgeoned.” Dinner that night was Grilled Grouper (I’d got from the freezer), Butter Beans (also from the freezer), marinated artichoke hearts and leftover couscous. We are trying to eat things out of the freezer, so we have less to transport when our renters come. Dinner was okay; it was a freezer meal.

I finally finished Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born To Run. I love the Boss, but it took me a LONG time to read this book. Next up, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, the book for my Book Club. After that, I have a small stack of books I got for my birthday, including Ina Garten’s new cookbook, Modern Comfort Food to plow through. On T.V., we’ve been watching Schitt’s Creek. We average about three episodes a night. I want to finish it, because I’m dying to see The Crown, and the Princess Diana season. I’ve also heard The Queen’s Gambit and The Undoing are worth watching and I want to see Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, starring an almost-unrecognizable Viola Davis.

The two new colors of 2021, named by Pantone are Ultimate Gray and Illuminating, a color that reminds me of a Whipped Lemon Meringue Pie. This makes sense, seeing as how, at least in the beginning of 2021, most of us are going to still need to hunker down, social distance, wear masks and generally, avoid life as we once knew it; but after being vaccinated, we’ll be reveling in the “optomistic promise of a sunny day.” If we can hang in there for 4 to 6 more weeks, we can finally get to the other side of this s**tshow.

Whether or not to get vaccinated with the new COVID vaccines seems to be a big question. I recently talked to a friend who was able to get vaccinated this week through their work. They turned down the vaccination, wanting to see how the vaccine effects other people first. I originally felt that way, but after reading up about it and talking to nurses (Elise) who talked to Doctors, I would take it right away if I could. I don’t, however, fall into the necessary categories of Health Care Worker, Elderly, Essential Worker etc… It’s 95% effective, with no known (short-term at least) side effects, so why not? Life could finally go back to normal.

The one purchase I’ve made for myself, in my mini-spending spree, that I recommend would be the weighted blanket I bought online. I need something heavy to be covering me when I sleep, or I toss and turn all night; this blanket fits the bill. I’ve slept more soundly and deeper than I have in a long time since I’ve been using it. It was worth the investment. They range in prices from $50 to almost $300.

Sunday was a beautiful day in Key Largo- sunny and calm seas.

Should we go out on the boat?

Zeke asked.

I noted that it was a beautiful day, but that I also knew it was a lot of work cleaning the boat after our “three hour cruise”. We decided to go out anyway, found Nest Key (where locals like to anchor and swim) and were headed to lunch when I realized I’d forgotten my mask. You would think bringing a mask (and I usually wear the gator in the Keys) would be second nature, but apparently not. We made a quick pit stop to the dock and I ran up to get my mask and then, we were on our way to Señor Frijoles.

It’s kind of cool to be out on the boat listening to Christmas music and it made me think of a time when my Dad, Butch Rice, entered the Boat Parade in our neighborhood of Gables By The Sea. Our boat, The Wild Rice, had been decked out in lights, my Dad was dressed in a Santa outfit, pillow under the suit for his belly and all the kids were there, including Chris and A.J., who were young. We set off, singing Christmas carols and all was well until my Dad tried to maneuver a rather tight canal corner. Then, the expletives started flying right and left, as my Dad frantically tried to reverse the boat and avoid crashing into the seawall.

A.J. and Christopher with my Dad, their Pop Pop.

Dad, you’re dressed as Santa Claus. You’re going to scar the kids.

I said.

My kids knew it was their grandfather (Pop Pop) underneath the Jolly Old Elf’s (ha!) red suit, but I still didn’t think it was appropriate for Santa to be cussing up a storm; my thoughts were on the therapy needed to erase this not-so-merry experience. Every time I go out on our new boat, it reminds me of my Dad. We grew up on the water and one of his favorite things to do- that we both loved doing- was going out on the boat. I like to think he’s up there, looking down on me, happy that I’m happy.

Sunday night, we came home and I made latkes. It started from a NYT latke recipe with grated potato, but I added some mashed potato, egg and bread crumbs to it. I’m not Jewish, but I’ve always loved latkes. I fried them, sprinkled them with salt and served them with sour cream and smoked salmon for our dinner. Zeke and I noshed away, as I drank chilled Prosecco and he his Pinot Grigio. L’Chaim – to life!

I read a New York Times article that stated “The fundamental value in human existence is communion with others.” The article spoke about the fact that we find meaning in life through acts of mutual acknowledgement. Different than Descartes’: “I think therefore I am”, Jewish philosopher Martin Buber believed in the philosophy of Dialogue, a form of existentialism. In a time, and during a Holiday, when we long to be with others, but cannot, I feel this communion with other human beings is essential. Even if we have to achieve it through Holiday cards, phone calls, texts, e-mails or, God help me, Zoom.

Please keep in mind local restaurants, especially Mom and Pop’s, when thinking of Holiday gifts for friends and family. So many great restaurants have already perished due to COVID restrictions and we need to support them at this time. Also, if you’re looking for a beautiful and unique gift for the Holidays, my daughter A.J. of Ashley Jordan Events has a Pop-Up on Miracle Mile in the Gables. She’s selling succulent arrangements, Moss Walls and other unique items, at different price points so you can find that perfect gift AND support a small, female-owned and operated local business. You can find her info on Instagram at Ashleyjordanevents.

I’m waitin’, waitin’ on a sunny day Gonna chase the clouds away Waitin’ on a sunny day.

Bruce Springsteen

Up Next: Jambalaya Quiche and Favorite Dishes, Drinks and Desserts from 2020.

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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