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

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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