Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chicken Tenders 'n' Linguine Béchamel

We revisited (link) béchamel sauce, tonight. Not to worry 'cause I only cooked about two-thirds a pound of linguine. I added chicken tenders to the mix and slightly altered the original recipe, linked above for referral. Here's what to do:

Melt half butter/half coconut oil in sauté pan.
Add garlic, paprika, pepper and chicken. Cook chicken gently till almost finished and remove from pan.
Add flour to make a roux and pour in about half the warmed coconut milk; bring to a simmer.
Return chicken to pan; continue to add milk. Season further with nutmeg, parsley and a pinch of salt.
Stir gently and allow to simmer on lowest heat possible, while linguine cooks.
Serve with a salad.


Good Shrimp - Bad Shrimp

Georgetown Shrimp Boats '14
As you know, our recent vacation brought us to Murrells Inlet, a place that touts itself as the fish capital of South Carolina. Surely, my mercury level shot up with all the fish I consumed while there. Ahhh, delicious. And a day spent in Georgetown brought us to the pier where the morning's catch of fresh shrimp was just being unloaded. I was impressed enough by that to have blogged about it, ironically commenting on the source of the shrimp we have access to. Nonetheless, when Joe came in the other night with a bag of frozen shrimp and a piece of goat cheese, my culinary mind was spinning in delight. We both love shrimp, tomatoes and goat cheese over pasta.
(Super Bowl Sunday IS coming, you know.) I tossed the crustaceans into the freezer and forgot about them, till last night.

"Joe, where did the shrimp come from, do you know?"

"No," responded he, "because I didn't have my reading glasses, so I couldn't see. But they're from a reliable store, so they should be okay."

NOT! Farm raised and packaged in Vietnam.

"UGH," said Joe and I in unison.

They are going back for a refund of over twenty smackers. Don't be duped. It's not just salmon that is being farm-raised in deplorable conditions and sold for our consumption. Please read this article
Here's an excerpt:
Consider this info the next time you want to order a shrimp dish at your local haunt.

Grossed out and uninspired in Monti...

Here In My Cucina and Elsewhere, Too

Y'all know by now of the endless virtues of coconut oil. A couple jars - one in the kitchen and another in the bathroom - come in handy for purportedly healthier consumption and maintenance. Just Google it and take your pick from scores of uses. Trader Joe's offers a great product for a fair price.

Then there's coconut milk of the unsweetened and enriched variety. I use enough to warrant its purchase in bulk, online. With its creamy texture, it is irreplaceable when it comes to smoothies, soups and sauces. Try it. But remember our New Year's Eve béchamel fiasco?? Not to worry, though. We've got the pasta poundage in check and I always add at least one green ingredient to justify its being on the menu.

With all that said, you'd be risking the loss of an arm or two, dare you take away my EVOO. It shall forever rank in first position, when it comes to oil. Joe and I are both in the habit of buying it whenever and wherever we see flavorful versions of the Italian or Spanish variety.

Buon Appetito - It's All ♥-Healthy!
But watch those calories!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Thinkin' of M♥M

The other night, Joe, Bri and I were reminiscing about Mom's amazing après ski dinners. Kell smiled the whole time. Mom, aka Nan, would cook all day on Sundays and then present us with multi-course, soup/pasta-to-nuts meals fit for royalty. We'd arrive at The Best Restaurant In Town at about 4:30 p.m., cold, tired and somewhere between exhilarated and cranky. But then we'd perk up and dine for a couple hours, all the while telling snow stories that Mom seemed delighted to hear. I'm thinking that perhaps fond memories subconsciously prompted me to whip out the Bisquick, this morning.

Bisquick. A product I've not used in decades, mainly because of its resident trans fat. But for reasons unknown, Joe recently purchased a Sam's Club-sized box. 

Bisquick. Back in the day when Ronnie and I were kids and before ingredients mattered, it was Mom's go-to for biscuits and dumplings. Yum. I can picture the ginormous pot of bubbling stew, topped with those gooey globs of deliciousness. I digress…
A couple minutes to mix (I used unsweetened coconut milk) and a quick run in a hot oven… voilà!

Memories are made of this.
Missing Mom.

Usher and The Biebs

Justin Bieber is STILL only 19. Hard to believe. Haven't we been hearing his name forever? We relished his success. So what is it about human nature that savors the downfall… seemingly any downfall?
It's wrong. 

He's still a man-child, tryin' to work it all out. Imagine what a world it would be if the media reported on all kids struggling at that age. Is there a number? Or are they countless?

I'm with Usher and still rooting for his awakening. How tragic it would be to toss away such a valuable and promising life. 

"I am hoping for the best. I don't look at it as a negative though. I look at it as a teenager. A teenager having to live his life in front of a camera. Imagine if you had to do that as a teenager. " USHER

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Revisiting the Raptor - A Double Standard?

Murrells Inlet Eagle Searching For Prey
The upstairs bathroom is a favorite perch with a bird's eye view, all puns intended. From there, we can see action at the feeders, as well as in the yard and all the way to and through the surrounding woods - that is during the barren wintertime. Peachy, eh?
Just laying a little foundation here…

So, Friday morning's first glance for me framed four mourning doves huddled on top of the snow beneath one of said feeders.
They looked quite plumped out with poufy feathers, as they tried to ward off zero temps.

Not five minutes after my sighting, Joe let out a screeching "Niiiiiiiiick!" He scared the bejesus out of me. WTF??? 

"The hawk just swooped down and took ANOTHER bird!! I'm gonna get that SOB!"

Now, you might recall the window-washing episode, last time Joe caught Big Bird in action. With that said…

My husband takes issue with this particular hawk 'cause his hunting grounds happen to include our turf. I reminded Joe that he'd just eaten a big bird of his own, the previous night. Yep, a chicken. And he'd recently hunted poor Bambi, with no conscience whatsoever.
Additionally, he derives great pleasure from seeing an eagle, pelican, heron, egret or duck capture its prey.

"But these are MY birds," says he.

You don't want to read my response. But hey, is this a double standard, or WHAT??? Meanwhile, Big Joe kept reporting on said Big Bird.
It seems he or she went behind one of our hemlock trees and spent about a half hour enjoying rewards of the hunt. The nerve!

As for Joe? He continues to challenge the food chain, as he yearns for a nice steak dinner. But we're going vegan, tonight.
Buon Appetito!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Drumming Day

So what to do when it's too cold (12 degrees) and too windy 'n' snowy to ski? That's right…
you hang with G'ma 'n' G'pa and pound out a beat, 'tween games of this 'n' that.
Then, you think to send a pic to Vick, in honor of the power of her suggestion. And what do you get in return?
Why a return-pic and note: "We're doing the exact same thing, Aunt Nick!"
It seems impossible that it's two and a half years since Vickster started us on the drumming craze…
but see for yourself

SCRABBLE Lovers - Buy This!

This is fabulous!

For their January birthdays, I found "smart" non-toys for Hunter (10) and Gavin (9). This one in particular was a huge hit. Inexpensive, challenging and portable in a plastic box that comes with the tiles. I've just ordered another for the Old Homestead. 

Recommended for Ages 8 and Up, Up, Up!!

FYI - I Almost Killed MAC

MAC and I have a special relationship. No joke. See the ? He's completely converted me into an unbearable Apple addict.
For this I apologize. But nothing shall change. So be it.

My second admission? I'm a bottled-water addict, as well. I know, I know. The landfill. Sure, we own a Brita and I do pour quite often.
But mainly, there's a bottle in hand.

Combine the two addictions and what do you get? 
Apple Addict drinking Bottled Water next to MAC

This, my Friends, has become a dangerous combination. Yes, I've read all the warnings about consuming food and drink over delicate MAC. But after all, here sits a meticulously careful human being.
Doesn't matter. Not one iota. Consider this:

Amusing myself while immersed in the editing of a vacation blog, I grabbed for the bottle. Crush. Splat. Need more? Before I could blink, a black screen was staring me in the face. What to do? Quickly Google the symptoms on my phone, of course. Oh, dread.
Black Screen = Death By Water

But I got lucky, Friends. Very, very lucky. After several attempts at a reboot, finally there was success. For several hours, though, all I could see were $$$$$ signs floating about my retina, as well as the loss of photos I've not yet committed to an eternal save.

Lesson learned. Don't buy the crappy, crushable bottles… invest in sturdier ones. Ahem. What's the problem? Not the right lesson?
Just livin' on the edge...

Friday, January 24, 2014

Gav's Birthday Boy Breakfast!!

What a perfect morning for school to be delayed, 'cause look who's NINE!! We needed a man-sized breakfast celebration.  JANG'S was in full swing for the special production of pancakes, apples 'n' bacon. We had a lot of catching up to do. Thankfully, "smart" gifts were a hit. We had fun trying them out.
Smart, funny and full of personality, Gav has the distinction of being our best cuddler. Long overdue hugs felt so good, so good, so good. 
♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡ + ♡ to grow on!
We love you to pieces, precious Gavin. Happy Birthday!!!


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

French Bâtard

Thanks to Kelly 'n' Bri who gifted me a Romertopf clay pot for Christmas. After three vacation weeks of not so much as boiling water, I was rarin' to go in my cucina. Less than a week in and we've had Romer lemon chicken with rice and carrots, Romer meatloaf with potatoes, and for tonight, a fresh loaf. Come on, admit it… this puppy is a thing of beauty.

After all the no-knead breads I've been making the last couple of years, it was fun to work this dough and shape it as a bâtard, which actually translates to "bastard". Go figure. Used here, though, it references the long(er), narrow(er) shape of the loaf.

It's hard to believe that ¼ ounce yeast dissolved in ⅓ cup warm water, 4-5 cups flour, 2-or-less teaspoons salt and 1 ¼ cups warm water can produce such an amazing product. Mix, knead, rise to triple - punch, knead, rise again - shape, rise a tad, slash and bake. Be sure to follow specific Romertopf instructions. Clearly a recipe for success.
Now, where's the sweet butter??

Can't Help Myself

Long abolished is my plan to resist talking "weather". Impossible. It commands. Rules the day, so to speak. Consider the above. Right now, at 8:00 a.m., it is -5 degrees. But look at the wind-chill factor. That's right, it feels like -25. 

On the bright side? We were spared the heavy snowfall our brethren downstate suffered. Long Island was slammed. 

So I'm wonderin'… where's Al Gore, today? I support global warming and covet its return.

Stay warm, Friends.
"Sure, I'm Russian. Seriously, though, the beach is better! Woof."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Monday, January 20, 2014

MLK Day - Meet Caroline

So many of the places we enjoyed in and around Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, are described by the words, "This used to be a rice field…" What a history. It should never be forgotten, but rather learned from.

One of the girls employed by the housekeeping staff where we stayed lives on an island inhabited by Gullah people.
 Descendants of slaves. Determined to keep their culture intact. 

So, today I took seventeen minutes to watch, listen to and learn from Caroline White. Her voice and intonation remind me of another great teacher, Maya Angelou. Either speaks and one listens. Maybe we'll get to hear a story in person, next time we visit Georgetown.

Honoring Dr. King and all he stood for.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Soup du Jour - Pumpkin, Pepper, Turkey 'n' Orzo

Upon our return from the beach, I found packages of this, that 'n' the other long forgotten food items in the freezer… all perfect for putting up a huge pot of soup. It was such a mishmash of ingredients, but Joe kept commenting on its deliciousness. So, here's the deal:

Into my largest pot went a meaty turkey breast frame, baked pumpkin, a roasted red pepper, two fresh sweet onions, bay leaves, salt, pepper, garlic, ginger and enough water and chicken broth (also from the freezer) to cover. Simmer, simmer, simmer till all levels of your abode smell good. Meanwhile, cook up some orzo; cool. 

Remove frame from pot and pull all meat from it. Shred or chop. Remove bay leaves and purée remaining ingredients with immersion blender. Season with lemon, tarragon and pepper; allow to cool. Add meat and orzo; refrigerate overnight to properly blend flavors.

Back to Snow means Back to Soup. Enjoy! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Seamless Segue from Lowlands to Mountains

Journey from Sub-Tropics to Snow
The guy above us decided to use his hot-tub at 2:30 a.m., Thursday morning. It sounded like a tornado was going through our suite.
I shot up like a bolt to Joe kinda slurring his words, "Wassa matter?" What the hey. Might as well consider departing earlier than planned, even though we'd only had a few hours sleep…

Long story short, we were on the road by 4:30 in the morning. Turns out the middle-of-the-night bather did us a favor. We landed in Washington's "loop" by early afternoon, when traffic was already heavy but moving. Not the case on our trip down, when we spent hours getting from DC to Fredericksburg, VA, only 35 miles away.
Maryland Horse Farm sans Mr. Ed
Oooh-kay. Next up was Maryland and its truly gorgeous farmlands, with heavy concentration on horses and black angus cattle. I was bound and determined to stop for the night, before we hit Pennsylvania. We crashed in Frederick (no joke), MD, at a Hampton Inn that was pet friendly. Chinese food by 5:00 p.m. and asleep within the hour… till the next morning at 6:00, with just one interruption...

We both awakened before midnight, thinking it was morning. Talk about the early-bird special, eh? Before dozing off again,
I had a laughing fit, thinking about the 30-pound pet limit. There was Mambo - all 140 pounds of him - sprawled out on the rug. Seems that Alex at the registration desk forgot to tell us this little detail, instead looking the other way when Big Dog pranced through the lobby.
I must digress here for one more Mambo story:

Joe stopped at a cooperative carwash, after the beach on Wednesday. By "cooperative", I mean that about 20 guys were scrubbing tires, vacuuming interiors and polishing paint. They pointed me towards an area in which to wait. Joe stuck with the car. I took a seat. Big M, like the good boy that he is, plopped himself right next to me. When I looked up, all 20 were in a semi-circle, snapping cellphone cameras like crazy to capture our adorable pooch. 'Tis a pity, but I don't have a pic of THEM. Next came the explanations about the
Black Russian Terrier breed…. too funny. Now…
RealTime: Home, Sweet Home
Back to our trip from sub-tropics to snow. We were home by mid-afternoon on Friday (yesterday). Bri had taken great care of the Old Homestead and all's well. What an awesome time we had! Now, though, we've a long wait till it's time for al fresco dining in our neck of the woods.
Georgetown Al Fresco

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Time To Go Home

It's true, it's true… we're heading back to the Old Homestead, tomorrow. But we're not the only ones returning to our natural habitat.
Check out Peli and his pals, all rehabilitated here at Huntington State Park after sustaining serious injuries in the wild. As perfect timing would have it, they were being placed back into the water just as we left the area, earlier today. Two meandered in willingly, but one was quite reluctant to navigate the rocky shoreline, in spite of the ranger's guidance. After wandering amongst spectators, he eventually spread his wings to hop and skip over the barrier, thus successfully joining his friends.

Kudos to devoted lovers-of-all-creatures-great-and-small. They name many of the "regulars". Consider Radar, the Great White Egret.
This guy is quite the showman, always nearby when birdwatchers choose to relax on the bridge. What we learned today, though, made him even more intriguing. Can you see the small gray spot on his back? That's a tiny transmitter and wire. Yes, Radar is on the park's radar. Thing is, he has chosen not to migrate. How hilarious is that??!! Seems that he prefers hanging out right here. What's that saying? Yes… Home is where the heart is.
And so, we depart early tomorrow morning. Today, though, we inhaled as much salt air as humanly or canine-ly possible.
We hiked far enough to need a rest. We found more shells… a live crab… pretty sea foliage. It's never enough. But three weeks shall have to sustain us till our next visit. We love it here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

After The Rain - Sunset On The Marsh

What amazing views on both sides of the bridge that crosses Huntington State Park marshlands!!
Timing is everything and ours was perfect for sunset captures.
While some birds were still feeding, many others flew into the grasses to settle down for sweet dreams.
The array of colors in the sky was breathtaking, as were intricate reflections on the water.

"August: Osage County" - The Movie

We needed one more rainy day to catch a movie at the mega theater in Market Commons. We got it and chose to see Julia and Meryl, along with an amazing supporting cast. What a film. It's hard to fathom the level of human dysfunction that unfolded in this story, albeit accompanied by endless laugh-aloud moments to enhance the touching tale. Each diva gave an Oscar-worthy performance.
Please see it.
Travinia, an upscale Italian restaurant in the Commons, came highly recommended to us. There are well over a thousand restaurants in this neck of the woods and we've not hit a bad one yet. I must say, though, that my choice of capellini and shrimp at this particular hotspot possibly bumped all others dishes, earning the position of Number One Favorite. And Joe. Hilarious! I think he sighed after each bite of his meaty pasta creation. It's gonna be tough to go back to a chicken salad sandwich from the Miss Monti diner, when the mood to go out to lunch strikes.

After all this, the sun broke through the clouds, just in time for an exquisite sunset (next post). We're ready for our last day here, before departing on Thursday. It promises to be another beach day. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Taste Of Today

This morning, we awakened to yet another gorgeous beach day. Our reward for arriving at Huntington early was soaring high, in search of breakfast. After two nosedives, though, Baldie came up empty-taloned. Nada. So, he sailed away on the breeze, but not before I seized the moment by way of a photo shoot.
We hung out on the bridge for a long while, simply enjoying the vast marsh and its gorgeous variety of birds. The most comical was a little duck that kept diving underwater. He scored big-time!
Then, it was time to hit the sand for a hike. 
A lovely gentleman with the tiniest of pooches was interested in making friends with Mambo. How hilarious the study in contrasts.
Large or small, though, our pets are the best catalysts to the nicest of encounters.
No sooner did we plunk down into our sand chairs when a school of dolphins went swimming by.
How lucky for this capture...
My shadow and I watched as Joe took another short stroll...
Smile! You're on Candid Camera.