Easter is right around the corner! Yikes! How did that happen?
I have been traveling a lot lately so want to make it easy on myself for Easter. I bought a Spiral Cut Ham from Whole Foods (on sale) and some Asparagus, which I will roast. Sides will be Scalloped Potatoes (possibly store-bought, depending on my energy), sliced Pineapple and a Garbanzo Bean, Carrot and Mint Salad I will make ahead. My friend gave me frozen Croissants for Christmas from Williams Sonoma she says are amazing, so I will serve those to go along with dinner, along with some Mango Jam.
For an appetizer, I will make some Whipped Feta spread and serve it with baby carrots I have from Empower Farms and pita chips. Dessert is Angel Food Cake (from Publix) sliced and filled with lemon curd mixed with whipped cream and topped with berries and mint leaves. This idea for a Semi-Homemade Dessert comes from Sharon’s sister Sandie, who made it recently. It looks spectacular and should be pretty easy.
I’ve already set the table, an Easter Woodland theme, with pink napkins and green and white plates. I folded the napkins into a Garden Party design from a book I’ve had forever. I like to fold napkins for Special Occasions and this one is easy and also leaves a little space for a flower, silverware or a place setting.
It’s easier to fold the corners in on the diagonal and then put it squared off when folding under the two sides. You can also flip it up or down, depending on how deep the item you want to tuck it in is and I found it worked better turning the napkin inside out to start.
So, I submitted two stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone. The one on my Improve Class called Yes, Please! is on to the final round. The other one, about the first time I tried oysters in New Orleans with my Dad, didn’t get chosen, but it is near and dear to my heart. So here it is.
“He was a brave man that first ate an oyster.” Jonathan Swift
A Most Unusual Dessert
My Dad was an airline pilot for National Airlines, based in Miami, Florida. Sometimes, he would take my younger sister Kelley and I on his trips, especially if he had a layover in a fun city. One such trip he took us on was to New Orleans, when we were 10 and 13 years old.
We visited during Mardi Gras and, as we stood on the on the side of the street, decorated floats drove by, throwing colorful beads out into the screaming crowds. Bands went by as well, strutting and swaying down the street, playing brassy, joyous music. They played everything from traditional tunes to Stevie Wonder’s latest hit. It was a party like none I’d ever been to.
After the festivities, we stopped at a crowded restaurant for lunch. We sat down and ordered; my sister Kelley ordered a hamburger.
“Kelley, we’re in a city with some of the greatest food in the world and you’re ordering a hamburger?” my dad asked, incredulously.
I can’t remember what I ordered, but, after that rebuke, it definitely wasn’t a hamburger.
We finished lunch and proceeded to walk around New Orleans, taking in Bourbon Street- the houses with beautiful, wrought iron balconies, gas lit lanterns and the crowds of rowdy people. My Dad led us down a side street.
“Oh, come on,” he said. “We have to go in here.”
Here was Felix’s, one of my dad’s favorite restaurants in New Orleans.
We entered the dark space and sat down on metal stools in front of a long, marble counter. Behind the counter was a man hard at work, shucking oysters with an oyster knife. As he finished opening each oyster, he set the frilly shells on metal trays filled with chipped ice.
“You guys need to try an oyster,” my dad said.
It was kind of a weird dessert and I had never even seen- much less eaten- an oyster before, but my dad wasn’t someone you argued with, so I agreed. I put the grey blob in my mouth and swallowed; it was cold, slimy and mushy. Not the best thing I’d ever eaten, but I didn’t die.
My sister Kelley wasn’t so easy to convince. She had absolutely no desire to try this food, that admittedly, didn’t look particularly appetizing. My Dad doctored the oyster up with cocktail sauce and a squirt of lemon juice, placed it on a cracker and handed it to her.
To her credit, she did try it.
“Yuk! That’s disgusting,” she said.
To this day (at age 60) Kelley still doesn’t like oysters. I, on the other hand, love oysters and eat them any opportunity I get, especially if I’m in an area where they are local.
But the thing I remember about that day was how my dad was always trying to introduce us to new experiences, new cities and new foods. He was a type-A, adventurous personality, always wanting to try whatever local food the city he was in featured, no matter how strange and different it was. He was bold and brave and that inspired me- a shy little girl who loved reading about adventures but rarely had them- to try and be the same.
I returned to Felix’s many times since that first time my dad took my sister and me. It’s the first place I stop when I visit New Orleans and I always order a dozen raw oysters. While I sit there and slurp the cold, briny delicacies, I think of my dad (now gone) and how if you try something different- even something you think you might not like- it just may become one of your favorite things.
So, I always do visit Felix’s every time I visit New Orleans and get the raw oysters. Zeke suggested trying the Chargrilled Oysters on one visit, as he’d heard about him on the Food Network. I pooh-poohed him, thinking nothing could beat raw but we got them and OMG! I’ll never give up my raw oysters, but these Chargrilled Oysters from Felix’s are amazing and served with some garlic toast to sop up the buttery goodness. Here’s the recipe.
Felix’s Chargrilled Oysters
Recipe by Felix's Oyster BarCourse: EntreeCuisine: CajunDifficulty: Medium
16 ounces liquid margarine
2 ounces olive oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon granulated onion
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
Crystal Hot Sauce
Bread Crumb Topping Ingredients
8 ounces Italian bread crumbs
8 ounces Parmesan cheese
Combine sauce ingredients.
Open oysters and place on a metal cookie sheet. Put bread crumb topping on top.
Place oysters on a medium-hot grill and grill for one minute.
Pour sauce over oysters.
Remove from grill, place in bowl and serve with toasted french bread.
I used butter (and less of it) instead of margarine.
This recipe is for a lot of oysters, so feel free to cut it down. Or save the sauce for another bunch of oysters.
It seems like a lot of ingredients for the sauce, but it comes together quickly. Enjoy!
I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord. And I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh lord.
I don’t know what’s been going on lately, but I feel there’s a cosmic shift in the universe. Things have been changing and developing at lightening speed. When I saw the Astro Twins headline “Why are so many changes happening?” it was confirmed for me, in a planet sense. Apparently Saturn has entered Pisces, disturbing the status quo and causing havoc. They noted that April might be the most pivotal month of 2023!
On the home front, we’ve had a bit of bad news. The person whose been building the “small house for her parents” that’s turned into a mammoth monstrosity, is now moving into the house herself. She got an offer “she couldn’t refuse” for her house, so she’s decided to take the house off the market and move in next door with her family. Ugh! Positive thoughts.
As you may recall, my last dealing with her was over a survey that showed OUR property was infringing into HERS. There were two other surveys showing the opposite, so Zeke decided to end all the speculation and paid someone to do a survey for us. It showed (drum roll) that we were on her property, but not 5 feet all the way across (as her contractor had said), but 5 feet at one point and then tapering down.
It’s “mostly shrubbery”, as she had dismissively said when I first met her, but there’s also a fence (next to my meditation garden) involved that will need to be cut. Zeke seems to believe they are still too close to our property in certain areas and that they will need a variance to get the final inspection of the house approved. You can bet I will appear at the hearing to protest loudly. They’ve been building this house for the last 1 1/2 years!
In my family, there are matters pending which have brewing for years which will hopefully soon be coming to an end. That includes my husband, two sisters and son Christopher. Fingers crossed the outcomes will go the way they’re hoping. I think the hardest part is the waiting (like Tom Petty said). If you get bad news or good news, you can handle it but being in limbo sucks.
And people are moving!
My friend Ellen who I met with Sherida through tennis is moving next month to a 55+ community with her husband and I am so sad! She was a nice friend to have and we three always celebrated our birthdays together, as well as getting together for Happy Hours and movies. Ellen is on my B-1 tennis team (one of the reasons I joined) and we would play tennis together every couple weeks at her courts. She moved down 12 years ago to help her daughter with the grandchildren and has been very involved in their lives. But they are both getting to be teenagers, with lives and friends of their own, so she feels it’s time to move on. Plus, the stairs in her house have become an issue for her husband.
In happy news, Emma is moving to a small house with a yard in West Miami. She’s been wanting to move for a while, since her apartment in the Gables is small, and she wanted a yard for Lucy. She made quite a few offers on other houses, had a couple contracts fall through. It’s been an exhausting process; the housing market in Miami is crazy. But she finally found a house in her price range that meets her needs and she closes Monday. Yipee!
For me, on the work front, I’ve gotten some good news lately. An article I wrote about Morris Lapidus in Coral Gables awhile ago is finally getting published in Coral GablesMagazine’s next issue. It’s the longest article I’ve ever written for them and it was a passion project of mine. It took more than a year to research and write so I’m very glad it’s seeing the light of day. It’s already available online, under latest issue. It’s titled “Lapidus Legacy.” They even used one of my photos (of the Law Library) in it.
And a story I submitted to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Get out of your Comfort Zone months ago, has made it to the final round. It’s titled “Yes, Please!” and is about taking an ImprovClass at OLLI at UM. That book comes out in July 2023.
In the saddest news (for me), A.J. and her family, including my grandsons Wyatt and Phoenix are moving to Saint Augustine this summer. I don’t want to even think about it now, because I can’t imagine my life without them. I’ve babysat Wyatt at least once a week since he was born and of course I got to see him grow up when they lived with me (which I loved). I still pick him up from school once a week and take him to tennis lessons and, of course, see him and his brother at other times during the week. And now…
I bought my Mini Countryman to fit all three grandsons; it will now be empty, at least of grandchildren. I have used it to drive Wyatt and Phoenix home from school, but I’ve never had all three grandsons at the same time. At a dinner at Apocalypse BBQ (in the Killian Greens Golf Course) to celebrate Justin getting the contract for the job, I played Hangman with Wyatt, who had never played the game. I picked an easy word (cars) but his was long.
Why did you pick such a long word?
He just shrugged and I could see him sounding out the words in his head, to figure out where they went. I left the game to take Phoenix outside to run around and A.J. finished it with him. When I came back, he told me his Mom lost. I asked Wyatt what the word was.
I’ve been trying to eat a Mediterranean diet lately- more seafood, less red meat and more vegetables and grains. Processed food, like most desserts, are frowned upon. Fresh fruit is encouraged. I was on a raspberry kick a couple weeks ago but I went to Publix and they were $7.99! For raspberries! So I tried blackberries, which I normally don’t care for because they can be sour, but these were sweet and delicious. So blackberries are in, raspberries are out and, of course, strawberries are in season right now.
Speaking of desserts, I made wreath shaped cookies for the Villager’s Garden Tour, which was in Pinecrest this year. I decorated them with lavender, butterfly pea flowers, dried cranberries, poppy seeds, candied rosemary and dried citrus peel. I wrapped them up in cellophane and they were a hit at the Villager’s boutique in Pinecrest Gardens.
I picked up a few treasures of my own from Sallye Jude’s estate (a brooch and some plates) and then had a hot lobster roll from Cousins Maine Lobster food truck at PinecrestGardens. They are there on Sundays, during the Farmer’s Market.
Since I had an abundance of organic lavender, I made some Honey Lavender Ice Cream (from Scooped) for a Birthday Dinner for my sister Elise at Kelley’s house last week. She had grilled steaks, mashed potatoes (Becky’s Party Potatoes), mushrooms and onions, salad and Challah bread. My Mom made her famous chocolate cake, which we served with my ice cream. I feel more than ever, we need to celebrate every day.
And so… life goes on.
You know its not the same as it was, as it was, as it was.
If you happen to find yourself with an excess of fresh oysters, as we did recently, you might want to consider making this easy Oyster Stew. We’d had the oysters raw on the half-shell and grilled with garlic butter and cheese, but I still had a couple dozen left, so what to do?
I turned to a cookbook I’d just purchased at the Estate Sale of Sallye Jude called TheWoman’s Eastern Shore Society of Maryland Cookbook. Sallye was from Maryland and I love this kind of cookbook, compiled from housewives favorite family recipes. They are local, and normally, tried and true.
This recipe was called Super Oyster Stew for Two by Sarah K. Crew of Kent, which seemed perfect to make for Zeke and I, plus I had all the ingredients called for. I actually shucked the oysters myself, since Zeke was at work and it was surprisingly satisfying. Also, some were rather difficult to open, which gives me a new appreciation for 50 cent oyster nights! Should you not want to shuck them yourself, grocery stores sometimes sell them already shucked.
Oysters are low in calories and high in many vital vitamins and minerals, including: B12, Vitamin D, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Copper, Maganese, Selenium. Ms. Crew ended her recipe with “Serve to two lucky individuals.” Indeed! I served mine with Saltine crackers, but of course, oyster crackers would be quite appropriate.
Oyster Stew for Two
Recipe by Sarah K. CrewCourse: SoupsCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy
A perfect stew for a chilly night. Serve with a green salad and garlic bread.
1 large pint oysters
2 tsp. butter
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup oyster liquor of water
2 Tbsp. paprika
1 13 oz can evaporated milk
salt and pepper to taste
2 pats butter for garnish
Put oysters, oyster liquor, butter, lemon juice, paprika and Worcestershire sauce in deep saucepan.
Stir over low heat until edges of oysters begin to curl.
Add evaporated milk, rinse can out with water and add to saucepan.
Bring milk just to a boil quickly and remove oysters into two deep bowls.
Pour hot remaining liquid over oysters and top each bowl with butter pat.
Half and half can be substituted for the evaporated milk.
I added a healthy amount of hot sauce, as this soup was a little bland for my palate.
So, as mentioned in my previous post, the anniversary of our first date was February 7th.
When Zeke proposed to me on Christmas Day in 2003, he invited me to New York on this date to go pick out the diamond for my engagement ring. The weather was freezing and I remember walking home from the Rainbow Room in bitter cold (like 20 degrees) with no cabs in sight. My old Air Florida pea coat didn’t cut it in New York City and I was not a happy camper.
We kept returning on that date, but after one memorable visit where we had to clomp through the snow to get breakfast, got stuck in our hotel for days and our flight cancelled due to a blizzard, I told him that, as romantic as it was, we didn’t really have to go in February.
But this year, unbeknownst to me, Zeke booked a trip to New York in February. Again. I read an article in the New York Times about how unpredictable the weather can be in February and the weekend before we left it was a mere 6 degrees! But we lucked out and the weather was fine. It was also Fashion Week in New York and, more importantly New York Restaurant Week. It’s like Miami Spice, but instead of trying to get diners to eat out in the sweltering summer in Miami, its fickle February in New York.
Our first stop, after deplaning, was Grand Central Station to have lunch at the Grand CentralOyster Bar. It was my Dad’s favorite restaurant in New York and is now a must-stop on every visit there. We often stop there first, as we did this time. We ordered a dozen of his and hers oysters. I always mark down the oysters we like for the next trip, but then invariably forget the list so this time we just asked our server to give us what was best.
I’ll get you a nice selection.
said our server.
We also ordered a cooked Oyster Special, which was good. We toasted to being back in New York with a glass of wine and beer and then it was time to check into our hotel.
Grand Central Oyster Bar Recommended Dishes: Bloody Mary Oyster Shooter, A Platter of Raw Oysters, Oysters Rockefeller, Oyster Pan Roast Stew
Dinner that night was at Vestry in Soho. Many years ago, we had one of the best dinners of my life for my birthday at a restaurant called Juni, so Zeke tracked down the chef. His name is Shaun Hergatt and he’s now at Vestry which is why we went there. It’s attached to a hotel and has a very cool, young vibe with high ceilings, lots of plants and fur-covered chairs.
It won Wine Spectator of the Year Award for 2022, but all the wine was tres expensive (like more than $100 a bottle) so I opted for The Vestry, a gin drink that was very refreshing. Zeke got a Japanese beer. While the restaurant touts itself as a seafood restaurant, it had a definite Asian vibe, with sushi as well as caviar options; we were here for New York Restaurant Week, so we ordered from that menu.
Zeke ordered all the recommendations from our helpful server, while I ordered other options, as I like to sample both, but I was having buyers remorse.
So you’re telling me, everything he ordered was a Home Run and what I ordered isn’t as good?
I asked the waiter.
“Pretty much, yes,” he said.
TheCeleriac Soup Zeke ordered was presented before him with a Honeycrisp Apple and Black Truffle Panna Cotta quenelle in the soup bowl. The soup was poured by our server; it was garnished with a celery leaf and Parmesan tuille.
The Celeriac Soup at Vestry was the best soup I’ve ever eaten. It was smooth, rich and luscious, with the apple and truffle panna cotta lending a contrast in flavor and texture, along with the crunch of the baked Parmesan tuille. I got a Hamachi appetizer, which was fresh, light and flavorful. It was good, but it was no Celeriac Soup.
One thing this chef does beautifully, besides deliver delicious food, is presentation. He is known for his “painterly” presentations, which is what I remembered from Juni. My main course wasOrganic Chicken, which came as two bald pieces of chicken breast and one roulade of chicken thigh meat in a brown sauce. It was good, but the best part was the flattened out chicken skin, which was crisp and lovely and shattered in the mouth.
The chicken was good, but that little skin thingy- I could’ve eaten ten of them.
I said to the waiter.
“You’re funny,” he answered.
I wasn’t trying to be funny. I was dead serious. Zeke got the Sea Bass with Spaghetti Squash and potatoes for his entree which he enjoyed. It was a large portion but his Cheesecake for dessert took the cake!
It came out on a light blue, ceramic plate, looking like a piece of Swiss Cheese, with a little grated apple mouse with hazelnut ears, lurking nearby. So adorable he almost didn’t want to eat it, but it was smooth, creamy and without a crust, unlike any cheesecake I’ve ever had. I got the chocolate dessert- a Guanaja Chocolate dessert, served in a martini glass and topped with gold flake. Again, very good but no Vestry cheesecake.
So when I go out to eat, I do so in the unlikely hope I can be wowed and shown something new. It’s the same reason I read books, attend plays, go to art galleries. It doesn’t happen often, especially at my age, but I have to say Vestry wowed me. I would definitely come back, but probably for New York Restaurant Week, because it is quite pricey.
The next morning we had tickets to see The View. Long story short, didn’t happen. I went to drown my sorrows in Chinatown at the oldest Dim Sum restaurant in New York. I can’t say Zeke went to drown his sorrows because he didn’t even want to go to The View. We had seen a long line of people out the door the last time we visited Chinatown, which is why we wanted to try Nom Wah Tea Parlor, Chinatown’s first Dim Sum restaurant.
Luckily, there wasn’t a line out the door, but it is a small, rather cramped place. Let’s just say you make friends with your neighbors and see what they’re ordering as you eat there. I “Yelped” the popular dishes here and we ordered a variety of dim sum.
The OG Egg Rolls were unlike anything else I’d ever seen- huge, with a puffy, crunchy shell encasing vegetables within. On it’s own, they didn’t have much flavor, so I added sweet and sour and hot sauce to it. The Rice Roll with Spare Ribs was interesting, but the spare ribs were a little fatty and boney for my taste. More successful was the House Special Roast PorkBun– steamed white dough, fluffy and filled with sweet roast pork. Very good, but I always wish there was more pork in the pork buns! My favorite dim sum was the steamedShrimpand Chive Dumplings, which came out green in color. Delicate dumpling skin, savory interior. Delicious!
We both got beer, but the teas they offered varied from Jasmine and Chrysanthemum to Earl Grey. If I’d known I would’ve ordered dessert, which they are known for, particularly their Almond Cookies and steamed Lotus and Red Bean Buns. Also the table next to me ordered a soup that looked intriguing. Next time!
Nom Wah Tea Parlor Recommended Dishes: Steamed Roast Pork Bun, Steamed Shrimp andChive Dumplings, Almond Cookies
That night we had the play Funny Girl with Lea Michele (of Glee fame) so we ate in TimesSquare at an Indian Restaurant Zeke had found which offered New York Restaurant Week named Saar. I was totally stumped as to what to order for dinner (and still a little depressed about missing The View) so I asked the waiter what to get. I always ask the servers what they recommend at restaurants, even if I’ve already made up my mind. Because sometimes I change it.
I got the Beetroot Cutlets for my appetizer, which came with a Tamarind Aioli. I believe it was fried but it was delicious! Zeke got Prawn Balchao, a spicy shrimp appetizer that was very good, in a nice glaze. For my entree I got Pistachio Chicken, that came with a green cilantro sauce, with a little kick. Zeke got the RoganJosh, tender lamb in a spicy red sauce. The entrees came with rice and we ordered a Chili Naan as well.
Zeke overdid the spicy dishes so luckily got Rice Pudding for dessert to cool it down. I got RasMalai, a dessert with softened cheese with thickened milk. Kind of strange and not my favorite, but I did like Saar. Our waiter was very friendly and they offer 3-course dinners for $45, so you don’t have to wait for New York Restaurant Week.
Saar Recommended Dishes: Beetroot Cutlet, Prawn Balchao, Pistachio Chicken
Lunch the next day was at Le Rivage, before we went to see A Beautiful Noise, which was a play about Neil Diamond. I’m always looking for good restaurants in Times Square, which is known for its Broadway Plays but not so much its restaurants. I was happy to find Le Rivage, which is a charming, cozy French bistro with excellent service and delicious food.
While they did offer a New York Restaurant Week menu, the every day Prix Fix Lunch Special offered more variety, for just a couple dollars more, so that is what we got. We ordered a bottle of wine and I got the Baked Seafood Crepe, which was amazing! A fluffy, light crepe, stuffed with scallops, shrimps and mushrooms and blanketed in a velvety sauce- I loved it! Zeke got Escargot, which came in the traditional manner, with butter and garlic, perfect for dipping the slices of French baguette in.
My entree was the Truite Almondine, which was a large and delicious portion with toasted almonds in a lemon butter sauce and a side of Haricots Verts. Zeke enjoyed his Boeuf Bourguignon, a perfect lunch for a chilly day and it reminded us of our trip to Paris. Dessert for me was the Tart du jour- an Apricot Tart served with whipped cream. Zeke got our favorite dessert, Creme Brulee. Of course I had to try a bite, but I was worried about staying awake for the play after all that food and wine!
I will definitely keep Le Rivage in mind next time we have a play date in New York. The waiter also highly recommended their Roast Duck, which they are known for.
Le Rivage Recommended Dishes: Baked Seafood Crepe, Truite Almondine
I really enjoyed A Beautiful Noise and we stopped into Junior’s after the play to pick up one of their famous cheesecakes for a friend. What I wasn’t excited about was our dinner reservation. It was for a one Michelin star Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn. I was tired of Ubers and rushing and fancy meals, so we ended up eating Italian at a restaurant near our hotel called Serafina. More relaxed and enjoyable.
We split an order of meatballs and I got Truffle Ravioli, which was rich and delicious but I couldn’t finish. Zeke got Lasagna and we went back to our hotel, happy and full. Now that Global Warming seems to have taken effect, perhaps New York in February isn’t so bad! And there’s always New York Restaurant Week to tempt me to return. We already have our list of things to do in New York for next year.
The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it.
Up Next: Cheap Buys at the Grocery Store and Oscars Week!
So Zeke and my first date was February 7th, 2003. It was supposed to be a “one date and one date only” deal, since I was dating someone else, but I forgot my sweater in his car and he brought it over the following Monday. We started talking and made future plans for that weekend. A week after our first date, on Valentine’s Day, he called me and said he’d be right over for his “heart-shaped creme brulee”. I was slightly panicked, as I had plans with the other guy I was dating that night, but he was just kidding.
At any rate, I eventually dumped the other guy and for our three-month anniversary, I did indeed make him a heart-shaped Creme Brulee. I remember I had a hard time finding the heart-shaped ramekins, since I’d just moved into my grandmother’s house and they were stashed away somewhere. I’m sure some people thought it was silly celebrating a three-month anniversary, but after having survived a bitter divorce (me) and the loss of a spouse (he), we decided to take every opportunity to celebrate any happy occasions life offered up.
Thus, Creme Brulee became “our dessert”, just like “Can’t Help Falling In Love” became “our song”. We ordered it out on dinner dates and tried many different versions. The recipe I made was from Joy of Cooking and I liked it because the crunchy candy topping could be made ahead and it would stay hard for up to 12 hours. It’s kind of the Viagra of Creme Brulees!
But Zeke got me a propane torch for Christmas, so this year I made the topping with sprinkled granulated sugar, which I caramelized with the blow torch. Much easier than the original, but it has to be done at the last minute, as it doesn’t stay crunchy for long.
I made these Creme Brulees for Valentine’s Day this year, but you don’t need to wait for a special occasion to make them. Celebrate every day! Here’s the original recipe I used, without the Caramel Glaze I. Please note you need some time to make these, as they have to sit in the fridge for at least 8 hours.
Celebration Creme Brulee
Recipe by Joy of CookingCourse: DessertCuisine: FrenchDifficulty: Medium
2 cups heavy cream
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
Heat heavy cream until almost simmering.
In a medium bowl, stir eggs and sugar with a wooden spoon, just until blended.
Gradually stir in the hot cream.
Strain this mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup with a lid or a bowl.
Pour into six to eight 4 to 6 ounce custard cups or ramekins and place in a water bath.
Turn oven on to 250 degrees and bake until the custards are set but still slightly quivery in the center, about 1 hour.
Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or up to 2 days.
Shortly before serving, blot any liquid that has formed on the surface with paper towel, then caramelize the surface.
Sprinkle a fine layer of sugar over the surface and caramelize with a propane torch until the sugar melts and darkens.
To make a water bath, put a rack or dishtowel on a rimmed cookie sheet. Place ramekins on a rack or dishtowel, without touching each other or the sides. Pour custard mixture into ramekins, place in oven and pour scalding-hot water onto the surface of the cookie sheet. See video above.
Zeke and I used to go to a Horseshoe Party around Thanksgiving each year. There were teams assembled, there was lots of beer (and other drinks) consumed and everybody brought a dish to share. Most of all, it was a good excuse to see old friends you didn’t get to see the rest of the year and a fun kick-off to the Holidays. One year someone brought a Corn Dip that I loved and I got the recipe. I wish I could credit them, but I can’t remember who made it.
Here it is, just in time for the Superbowl with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday. Once again, I have no idea who to root for (the Miami Dolphins are not in it) but I do know what I’m bringing to the party and it’s this dip.
Super easy- open a couple cans of corn, a jar of salsa and add some sour cream, mayo, and grated cheddar cheese. To make it easier, buy pre-grated cheese, but make sure it’s finely grated. The beauty of this dish is it’s better when made a day or two ahead, so no last-minute fuss. Serve with corn chips (either Tostitos or Fritos) and dig in! No matter who wins the Superbowl this year, you will be a winner at the party with this dip!
Superbowl Corn Dip
Recipe by UnknownCourse: AppetizerCuisine: SouthwestDifficulty: Easy
1 cup mayo (Hellmans preferred)
1 cup sour cream
3 cans Mexicorn, drained
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
Salsa, to taste (1/2 to 1 cup)
cayenne, to taste
pickled jalapenos, to taste
Mix all ingredients together.
Garnish with cayenne pepper and jalapeno slices.
Serve with corn chips.
Better after one day in the fridge to let flavors meld together.
Sometime I add a little of the pickled jalapeno juice for an extra kick!
If I was staying on “theme” for Superbowl LVII, I would make mini Philly CheesesteakSandwiches (for the Philadelphia Eagles) and some Bar-B-Que Pulled PorkSandwiches (for the Kansas City Chiefs), but this Corn Dip will have to do!
The front page of the New York Times Food section last week was “Hot from the freezer Aisle”, all about how Artisan pizzerias are striving to produce store-bought pies that taste delicious. These aren’t your typical Tombstone, DiGiorno or Red Baron pizzas, but pizzas that are wood-fired and made with Italian and organic ingredients.
Sales of frozen food surged during the Pandemic, according to research by marketing firms. There was a similar article about the popularity of frozen pizzas in the newsletter Taste, so it’s definitely a trend. The traditional pizzas in the freezer section made by industry giants like Nestle, are filled with additives, dough conditioners and processed cheeses. The new Artisan pizzas are trying to elevate the frozen pizza market by using slow-rise dough and quality ingredients.
I’m loving my Ooni Pizza Oven. The one we made last Monday was BBQ Pizza. I pulled some pulled pork out of the freezer and went to work. The base on the Publix pizza dough was barbeque sauce. I then piled on the pulled pork, some corn kernels, sliced red onion and jalapenos and sprinkled the top with Cheddar Cheese. It was a very hearty, sweet (bbq sauce) and savory pizza we both enjoyed.
Inspired by the Lunar New Year (still going on, btw) I made a Peanutty Dumpling Salad for lunch that day. It was based on a recipe in Real Simple; I used Trader Joe’s Chicken Cilantro Mini Wontons for the dumplings and their Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette for the dressing, instead of making it from scratch. Other than steaming the dumplings, it was super simple- chopping carrots into matchsticks, chopping peanuts, scallions and thawing out frozen edamame.
I love dumplings! Like Will Rogers- I never met a dumpling I didn’t like- but just dumplings aren’t a very well-rounded lunch, so adding them to a salad is genius. Now I am getting my fill of fiber and vegetables, plus the little treat of the dumplings and, I’m not starving an hour later. The dumplings are only 50 calories for 4 (I used 5) and the dressing is 70 calories for two tablespoons.
A sad zucchini was lurking in my vegetable drawer, so I sliced it into batons, dipped it in whipped egg whites with garlic powder and dredged them in Italian bread crumbs. Sprayed with olive oil spray (also Trader Joe’s) I put the zucchini sticks in the air fryer for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees. I served them with a Ranch dressing and Marinara Sauce and they were a perfect savory treat to eat with a glass of wine before dinner Tuesday night.
There was an article in The Miami Herald that day about how how Crust restaurant on the Miami River serves THE best Chicken Parmesan in the United States. Their secret is using chicken tenders, instead of breasts and panko, instead of regular bread crumbs for more crunch. I tried the chicken tender idea, but mixed panko with Italian bread crumbs and cooked the chicken partway in the Air Fryer, instead of pan frying it.
A note on the Air Fryer. I am pretty much against gadgets in the kitchen, so was very reluctant to try the Air Fryer, plus I’m running out of counter space! But, I have to say, the Air Fryer really lives up to the hype, giving you crunchy food without the calories of frying. It’s infinitely better than trying to “fry” food in the regular oven, probably because of the basket it sits in, where the heat can circulate around the food. And our air fryer is part of our toaster over, so it’s not taking up more space.
I put the cooked chicken tenders in a greased casserole dish and topped it with sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil leaves. It went into the oven at 350 until the cheese melted. My secret was using my grandmother’s Pasta Sauce., leftover from Spaghetti Sunday. I served it with a simple salad. My Chicken Parm was good, but not fantastic, so I would like to try Crust, which also serves other Italian dishes like Beef and Turkey Meatballs, Pasta Dishes and Pizza. According to Foodie in Miami’s dining spy (Tami), Crust is coming soon to South Miami on Sunset Drive.
There’s another Krust we tried in the Keys that John and Kelley had been raving about. It’s truly a Mom and Pop restaurant, with a Miami-based couple that drive up to Tavernier each day to make fresh, Chicago-style pizza.Michelle Bernstein and the pizza reviewer Stoole Presidente (Dave Portnoy) both posted on their Instagrams about Krust, so I wanted to see if it lived up to the hype.
It did! A cozy spot in an old building, the interior was decorated with colorful graffiti; it had a well-lit interior and chill atmosphere. The pop was helming the oven, the mom taking our order at the counter. John got the Classic, we ordered Pepperoni with Hot Honey and a Greek Salad. The salad was made with arugula instead of the traditional iceberg and was enough to share, which we did.
The difference in Chicago-style Pizzais it’s cooked in a metal pan, so the cheese from the top melts down into the edges of the pizza, making for a cheesy, crunchy edge. The crust itself is fluffy and airy, but not at all heavy. The Classic had just tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil. It was very good, but I really loved the Pepperoni with Hot Honey- little pepperoni saucers with oil puddled inside; the heat and sweetness of the honey really made for an interesting combination that exploded in your mouth. Fresh basil leaves and grated Parmesan were sprinkled on top.
I will definitely be back to Krust. The only downside to this restaurant is that it closes at 6 p.m. (so the couple can get back home to their kids), so you can’t eat here for dinner or get take-out. The other downside is, sometimes they sell out. This happened Saturday after we left. They are closed Monday and Tuesday; it has five stars on Yelp.
Saturday night we got treated to delicious Stone Crabs for dinner at John and Kelley’s. We started with cocktails and John’s famous Conch Fritters. The sides were Joe’s Tomatoes, Joe’s Cole Slaw,Hash Browns and, of course, Joe’s Mustard Sauce and melted butter. Dessert was Key Lime Pie from Publix. Oh! Krust also sells pies. The husband makes the pizza, the wife the pies. Anyway, we watched The Fabelmans, the latest movie by Steven Spielberg about his family, after dinner.
It was a very relaxing weekend and nice to be down in the Keys, since our place has been rented for three months. Since we’re not running down to the Keys every weekend, it’s given us the opportunity to spend time fixing things up around the house, as well as cleaning up the yard, which desperately needs it. And, I can also finish projects, like my Vision Board, which I’ve yet to complete.
I think I’ll put Pizza Party on it, as I think that would be a really fun Dinner Party idea. I will get dough and a bunch of toppings. Everyone gets to make their own pizza and then Papa Zeke will cook it in our Ooni Pizza Oven. Mama Gina will make the salad and desserts and all will be well. I can see it now- our own Mom and Pop pizza shop at Casa Guilford.
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
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
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
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.
Thoroughly mix together soup to incorporate the miso.
Up Next: A week of Seafood and new restaurants in South Miami.
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!