Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sometimes you just have to be unsinkable...and laugh

I had a day this week that would have been perfect in a screwball comedy romance.
It started with a late-to-work, crappy hair day. Copier ate my originals a couple of times, banged my knee against my computer stand twice, spilled some lunch on my shirt - but I was OK. It's Christmas time! I am Happy!
I go home, the newspaper is wet, mail damp but I go into the house to meet the kitties inside and let others in so the feeding can begin.
My nose twitches. I feel like Will Smith in 'Independence Day:' "WHAT the hell is that SMELL????"
Charlie left our bedroom door open in spite of a warning not to since we've had some bad behavior regarding inappropriate poops in there.
That's where my nose led me and I discovered that several kitties had urinated in the same place, ON THE BED, to the point that the comforter, both blankets and top sheet were wet.
My mood has suffered a crack, but I am still chipper and I strip the bed, go open 15 cans of wetfood for the horde,and start sorting the bedding. Sheets go in first.
Did I mention several calls from corporate on an emergency of their own making? Yah.
The washer has begun to fill and I wipe up catfood spills but the water sounds odd. Sounds close, smells fresh, like it is hitting air..OH MY GOD OH MY GOD THE WATER IS SHOOTING FROM THE CLEAN-Y PLACE-Y SPOUT!!!!!!
I turned the machine off, figured out the problem and looked at a wet litter box rug, wet laundry room floor and decided I'd been a good soldier long enough.
I poured a glass of wine, called my husband and told him he was bringing supper home because I would not be cooking it!

If I had continued on my Pollyanna day, supper would have been Ham Pie since I had brought some good, salt cured country ham home from my mother's house.

Ham Pie

2 slices salt cured country ham
water to cover
3 boiled eggs, chopped fine
big batch of biscuit dough

This is so easy it ought to be taught to girlscouts!

In a heavy-bottomed pot bring the ham slices and water to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cook until you have a dense, hammy broth. Remove from heat, fish out the ham and cut into bite sized pieces. Just put those into the bowl with the diced eggs.
Add about 3 cups of milk ( I prefer organic) to the pot with the ham broth and bring to a high simmer (watch it, milk can scorch). Turn it up to a boil and as soon as the bubbles start begin dropping teaspoonfuls of biscuit dough into the pot. 5 or 6 is good for a small ham pie.
Turn the milk back down to a high simmer and let the dumplings cook while you grease an 8x8 glass pan and preheat the oven to 350.
As soon as the pan is greased, pour in the milk and dumplings, add the ham and egg dice, make biscuits with the rest of the biscuit dough (flatten the biscuits a little) to form a cover.
Bake for about 30 minutes until the top biscuits are done.
I always serve this in bowls and any left over I add milk to for re-heating. Use whole milk!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Shades of Age and food for life

I saw someone today whom I have loved for many years and he has become a shadow of himself. He was once a robust man full of ideas whose very presence brightened a room and wooed all within that room to his way of thinking.
As far as I can tell my beloved friend is not ill, just confused about the best path to a long and healthy life.
He is not the first person I've known or heard of who believed that nearly starving oneself will lead to longevity. As for me, the only really old people I've ever seen who were in their full senses and in control of their faculties had some meat on their bones. Not fat, just not ascetic.

I love food and love to cook and love knowing that I can orchestrate meals that are good for us.

I hope to convince my friend that good eating is good for him - and I may start with some of these recipes.

Sausage Gumbo

I know, that just sounds awful, but the lycopene in the tomatoes, cayenne and chili in the seasoning, and the general goodness of onions, peppers and celery are all good for a body.

1 bag cut okra or one pound fresh, cut into 1/2 slices
1 pound sausage links, country sausage preferably
1 red onion, diced
2 diced bell peppers
3 diced celery stalks
1 can chicken broth
2 32 oz cans petite diced tomatoes
9 tbl Wondra flour
7 Tbl Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Seasoning: Chili powder, thyme, garlic salt, paprika, sage and a bit of cayenne - sea salt and ground pepper OR just get some good Creole seasoning, like Tony Cachere's and add to it.

Pour the oil in a big pot over medium high, add flour when the oil shimmers and begin whisking the flour into the oil. Make a nice roux, I've never had it take more than eight minutes of steady whisking when I use Wondra and olive oil.
Pour your diced trinity into the roux and stir to cover and cook for a minute, add the sausage, tomatoes and broth and stir again. Add enough water to cover everything and add an inch.
Now the waiting starts - simmer and stir, add Okra, then simmer and stir some more, then taste and season.
The gumbo should be done and delicious after an hour and is usually better the next day as the flavors love up on each other:)
Serve over Jasmine rice and feel good about eating good food that has lots in it that's good for you!

I just took a pot of this to my son and daughter-in-law this afternoon to keep them nourished as they celebrate their first week as parents. The scent of my gumbo gently re-heating on their stove wafted my way when I kissed my little grand-infant farewell.
I left knowing they would eat well and that my tiny Pixie infant would get the benefit of it later when her Mama nursed her.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tuna Poke!

Tuna Poke, pronounced "Po-Kay," is a Hawaiian dish that I tasted at Cafe 30-A last Saturday night and decided that I had to learn to make!
I bought some sushi tuna from the sushi chef at Publix that he had packaged with toothpick cuts of cucumber and carrot for some thing or another (they won't just sell it to you), freshly picked oak leaf and frisee lettuce and had the rest at home.
If you try, you can buy good tomatoes out of season. The ones on the vine are good after a week on the counter - by the way, never refrigerate tomatoes unless you've cut them.
My attempt came out well but will be different next time. I had bought some pretty, picked-this-morning oak-leaf and frisse lettuce and used it as a base topped with thinly sliced ripe (really!) tomato, toothpick cucumber and carrot and then a timbale of the raw tuna in small chunks with diced avocado dressed in lime juice, sea salt and pepper.I made a dressing to dip into of good EVOO, parsley and lime juice with a splash of red wine vinegar.
There was just too much greenery and the whole dish was enough for two.
Next time, thinly sliced baby or English cucumber, sprinkled with sea salt and topped with thin slices of the tuna. Small dice of the tomato and avocado dressed with ground pepper, sea salt and lime juice along the side and a drip of good EVOO on the edge of the plate for the occasional dip.
That should work:)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

asses, elbows and longing

It is common for me to lose and/or forget passwords. It is also common for the retrieval process to frustrate my patience-deprived soul something fierce. I am always grateful that I have enough sense not to have to go around my ass to get to my elbow (as the saying goes) which does shorten the process a little.
My patience is especially short now because my Sweet Darling is several time zones and thousands of miles away.
I miss him not because of the big things, not for sex or the afternoon kiss hello and morning kiss goodbye; but the tiny things I can still see out of the corner of my eye.

I was setting a new frequency on my car radio and my mind unreeled an old movie of him setting all of the buttons on my '86 Fiero, those deft fingers dancing across the face of the tuner. He is so talented with those hands and fingers and agile mind that his engineering skills are in demand in places and circumstances far from our small town.
Back then watching him set those stations was like watching a concert pianist favor a child with a rendition of "Alley Cat" on a tiny spinette.

Carrot, our littlest kitten, likes to sit on Charlie and sharpen his claws on Charlie's jeans.
I was washing my face before bed the other night and heard the sound of claws on denim and my heart jumped for a moment - but no, Carrot had found a pair of mine to scratch. Another little thing, a vision of him stroking that tiny orange head and blue eyes meeting blue for a conversation on what a big boy Carrot is becoming.

I miss the sound of him breathing.

I was feeling very bereft yesterday since I had not heard from him in 24 hours. He'd been calling a few times a day until then but had left Honolulu for Midway and patchy communication opportunities. He called late today, almost 48 hours since the last time I'd heard his voice.
He was slightly out of breath; he'd had to ride a bike from the side of the island he was working on to the side that had communication capability. He was nearly giddy with exhaustion and happiness in the hobby that took him so far from me, that was the recreation to his vocation.

My happiness at his joy makes things bearable.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Food, fragrances, and fall draws nigh

The temperature is no longer 80 degrees before nine am and I can walk from my office to the main campus (about 1/5 mile) without breaking a sweat. The heat that is in the air is no longer quite as liquid which makes things feel just a pinch cooler.
I went to one of those precious little stores that carries Vera Bradley and many other pretentious and unnecessary things to get a gift for a retiring colleague. There are always wonderful fragrances in these stores and my nose led me to India Hicks Island Living Spider Lily.
I am in love - even though I hate the name. It is beach sand between my toes, sun on skin, a lightly floral, citrus and green spicy-things smell.
The precious little store got more of my money than I had planned to spend:)

Last Saturday night was all about the kids' favorite restaurant and I wish I had eaten a bite of everyone's food and made notes right away! I was unimpressed with the truffled macaroni and cheese but the asparagus and onion cheese souffle was so good I had to figure out how to make it myself.
The recipe was not on line and I am not an experienced souffle maker, but I pulled it off with help from the Husband. I made the mistake of beating the egg whites by hand while my cheesy-yolky sauce needed stirring so he stirred while I beat.
We had the souffle with Spanish Soup (see July 18, 2009).

Asparagus/Onion Souffle, apologies to Cafe 30-A

1 cup of fresh asparagus, rinsed and snapped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 cup organic milk
6 tbl grated Swiss cheese
3 tbl butter
3 tbl Wondra
3 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
dash Worcestershire sauce
Paprika, Cayenne, dry mustard (about 1/4 tsp each)
Sea Salt, white pepper to taste

Sautee onion in about 1/2 tsp butter, set aside and allow to cool. Grease straight-sided 1.5 L Corning ware round casserole dish with butter. Nuke asparagus with a tsp of water for 45 seconds, drain any water off, all to cool.
Pre-heat oven to 350.
Once the onion and asparagus are cool, arrange in the bottom of souffle dish.
Melt the 3 tbl of butter on medium heat in a non-stick skillet, whisk in Wondra. Once the mixture is smooth, whisk in milk and seasonings. Remove from heat.
Beat the egg whites, WITH A HAND MIXER, 'til stiff.
Return milk/butter mixture to heat, stir in egg yolks. Now it gets tricky. Fold the egg whites carefully and thoroughly into the mixture in the skillet, then pour into the souffle dish.
Put an inch of water into a 9x11 glass pan and sit the souffle dish inside, pop it into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.
Cool a little before serving; we loved it with soup but it would be good with a light salad too.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Summer winds down

Nice weekend but summer is ending and that saddens me. The only good thing about it is the change of foods available and the resultant menu options.
We spent this evening at the home of dear friends, floating in the salt water pool and eating far too much. I brought a very basic Queso dip with a twist that those of you preparing for tail-gate parties might want to consider.
We had eaten tacos the night before, I had had a craving:)
We had leftover taco seasoned meat, about 3/4 cup, that I had seasoned with Chili Powder, Season-all and a pinch of Cayenne. I mixed that with a can of Ro-Tel mild, 16 oz of Mexican Velveeta cut into cubes and zapped for five minutes in high - 2:30, stir , another 2:30 and done.

The neighbors got my mother's Peach Cobbler - a cup of SR flour, cup of sugar, cup of organic milk, tsp vanilla and about a cup and a half of freshly cut peaches mixed and poured into an 8x8 glass dish in which a stick of butter has been melted while pre-heating the oven to 350. Baked for about an hour and nummy!

We'll be going to Epcot's International Wine and Food Festival and that always gives me ideas but I have already started thinking of fall food.I want to find a way to make sweet potatoes into a more savory and less sweet dish and try to make my favorite snack (broccoli on triscuits with Swiss and sea salt and a 20 second zap) into a pretty side dish.

Monday, July 27, 2009

What Makes Us "Us?"

Last Thursday my Darling and I drove south to Cape Canaveral for a short vacation and to attend a party with some people I only know on line.
Before that strikes you as totally odd, compare it to meeting people at a Sci-Fi Convention or book convention that you've only known through your list-serv. Same thing. We started by sharing an affection for a radio show out of Orlando and ended up liking each other for who we are.
The Darling and I touristed around a bit before the day of the party and generally enjoyed one another's company. On the night before the event I executed what I thought (at the time) to be a good plan - shower, exfoliate, moisturize and have Darling apply fake tan to my white person. After all, brown fat looks better than white fat, right?

I was browny-orange the next morning. Browny-orange, overweight and only know two people who will be at the party and met them just the day before. Of course, I knew them on line so I'd be OK, right?

This is when I knew that I had finally grown into the me I am supposed to be. I was "Ok" with it. With streaky orangey-browny fat, jello shooters that splashed out of their cups and into the trays that held them, making a salad in a hotel room, showing up at a party of sixty-plus people, I was OK. I've finally reached that place where I can see my flaws and foibles clearly and not allow them to cover me with embarrassment.

I had to take off the shirt I'd bought as a swimsuit cover because my fake tan was sweating off into it, leaving browny-orange horizontal streaks on its pretty lime sherbet surface. I bounced my plump patoot through the party , talking and laughing, riding on a boat and jumping into the Atlantic, cooling down in an inflatable kiddy pool, kissing my husband often and hugging old friends who were new faces.

All the while I didn't worry about the 'outer me' others saw. I laughed at my orange streaks, rinsed out my shirt, gave my skin a scrub before immersion into the kiddy pool to avoid polluting the waters, and talked to people who were all beautiful to me. I could see what made them who they were without giving much credence to what their appearances "said."
Their voices were the reflection of the people they were in the little world we cohabit because of our hobby.

Although I won't be able to think of Christine and Molly without thinking of halos of red or blond cherub-curls framing dancing eyes, or Mo without her tilted teal eyes, if I had to paint them the resultant pictures would be swirls of color that spoke of their souls. Billy would be the shape of swirling, high clouds and the blue he loves to fly through.

Being totally comfortable in my own skin - flaws and all - just ONE advantage to aging.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Well, here I am trying relationship marketing again.
I really like the stuff this time and especially like the price and low environmental impact.

I had tried Monavie before for health and to try to make little $$ but man, it was expensive and shipping costs were high.
A friend of my husband's (who can touch straw and turn it to gold) told me about this new stuff that has great anti-oxidant levels, low environmental impact, low shipping and lower cost so I had to try.
Husband and I like it and drink it daily - you can dump the powder into a bottle of water or do what we do and mix it with water and Sobe Life Water zero calorie Acai Fruitpunch.
I actually feel better than I did when I was slurping Monavie but that's just me. MV is a fine product and if you are using it or considering using it, you are contributing to your good health.
Zoelife is made of high-anti-oxidant, high nutrition vegetables and fruits distilled into a pure powder that you add to water or juice or whatever suits your fancy. I mix mine with the Sobe and drink it in the morning, Husband likes his at night.
Go look at and check the product out.
Let me know if you're interested and I can tip you to saving money (at least $25) on your first order and further orders if you want more.
If you have picky eaters who don't get their fruits and veg every day, this is one way to be sure it happens for a family of four for about $140 a month.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fun with Facebook - Gourmet Sandwich Supper

Well, I finally created a Facebook page for myself.
I had missed my 30th class reunion and thought perhaps some of those kids might be on Facebook and went at it!

I've assembled a nice little handful of friends from then and now and my homepage has a mix of updates from the now-conservative people with whom I went to high school and the free-thinkers who are now a part of my life. I wonder what life experiences took some of these light-hearted teenagers and turned them into their parents...but then again, I've become my mother to some degree as well. Thank God!

I had been in Port St Joe one day last week and ate lunch at a charming little restaurant that mainly caters. I had a Guadaloupe's Steak Sandwich and decided to try to add my own twist and replicate it at home. I had also been thinking about our visit to the Columbia in Celebration last year and their Spanish Soup. Here are my versions; they came out wonderfully and made for a good supper on this rainy Saturday night.

Grilled Veg and Beef Sandwich

2lb pot roast or other roast, tenderized and marinated in Publix' balsamic vinaigrette dressing for at least half an hour

1 small eggplant, thickly sliced long-ways
2 zuchinni, 2 yellow squash, sliced same
1 large red onion, sliced thickly
1 5oz pkg sliced fresh portabella mushrooms

Drizzle vegetables with a little good olive oil, season with a sprinkle of Cavendar's, sea salt and oregano. Grill all over low heat until done.

Let the meat rest, then slice very thinly against the grain. Layer grilled vegetables, meat and a few slices of mozzerella on a piece of flatbread, drizzle with olive oil, top with second piece of bread; repeat. Warm in a 300 degree oven for about ten minutes.

Spanish Soup
This is a variant of the Spanish Soup at the Columbia Restaurant.
2 cans garbanzo beans, or more
2 medium white onions, finely diced
2 can chicken broth - use a 32 oz can
3-4 medium-large potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks (1/2 inch)
1 ib or s of country sausage, sliced like fat pepperoni
1-2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp Cavendar's

Tablespoon or so of good XV olive oil

Increase any ingredients to suit your taste!

Put sausage slices into heavy bottomed pot on medium high, begin cooking, add onion after sausage begins to brown. Cook, stirring, until onions are translucent. Add rinsed garbanzo beans, chicken broth, cup of water, potatoes, salt, paprika and Cavendar's and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add olive oil, cover and cook stirring occassionally for 15 minutes. Add garlic, stir, taste for seasoning and cook for another 20 minutes or until potatoes are falling apart a little.
Adjust everything to your taste - I find the most important things are the quality of sausage and seasonings. If you can't get good quality country sausage buy smoked turkey legs or a smoked ham hock and start working some rubbed sage, thyme and Vigo ham base into the soup.

Cut the sandwiches into quarters, serve with soup. Good stuff!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Short Post - cats

My sweetie kittens have grown enough to become interested in toys and no longer depend on my lap for adventure.
They tumble around over each other and the stuffed mice and tiny scarecrows full of catnip. They play until they drop - and they drop in a furry pile of gold, brown, grey and white stripes.
I am tired and so are they so I'll retire and cuddle with the big cats. The babies aren't ready to sleep with people yet:)

Just a short post on comments

If you try to post comments, you have to enter that weird letter thing AND select a profile. To make life easier, select the Anonymous profile from the drop-down box and sign your comment if you wan me to know it's you:)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The heat and the sun, they free me - and in my mother's presence, I am renewed...

Thursday I left my west Florida town to drive to my mom's house on the farm, south and east of here in a part of the state where the earth is rich and palms grow alongside oaks.

I was tired, mentally and physically, and just needed to be with my Mama. Anti-anxiety pills, visualization and meditation can only do so much. I've watered my garden, talked to my plants and sung to my kittens and cats. Even the solid comfort of my husband's company can't polish the rough spots of my soul that are smoothed and soothed by being in my mother's presence.

The further east I go the richer the fragrance of the soil becomes and the healthier the shade of green of the wild growth along the roadside. I take the back way to the farm down two-lane roads to avoid traffic and see the water-meadows, full now of reedy weeds with yellow pom-pom heads, and the road-side stands selling tomatoes and melons. The last of the two-lane roads before US 19/27 is used so little that the asphalt has shifted and cracked along the pollen-yellow center line and allowed a tiny patch of grass to sprout.

The road leading to Mama's bright, happy house winds over a hill and past a pond, often past pigs grazing on the right of way under the watchful eye of a billygoat. They belong to my uncle and are probably the most relaxed livestock in the Southeast.

She greets me in the driveway and we drag all of my pack-for-two-weeks-for-three-days stuff into the house, passing the stinky black lab and lazy farm cats up the garage stairs and into the kitchen. A little tiny grey kitten is staggering across the floor of the garage and Mama says that it is the only surviving member of Princess' last litter; Princess is a long-limbed black and white beauty who has been (up to this point) a very good mother. Princess won't nurse this baby.

We bring the baby in and take turns holding and feeding her with a small syringe, talking all the time of what we'll do next, where we'll go, what is happening with family, all comforting topics and I feel my neck muscles loosen for the first time in weeks.

We spend the next few days tumbling from the farm to town to my favorite aunt's house, feeding the kitten (who sleeps in a snuggie bed at the bottom of my bed), talking and laughing. Mama is so easy to be with, open and loving and sharing. Her grace is everywhere and she believes that Princess will go back to being a good mother and at least groom the baby. She will groom, but roughly so we bring the little thing back into the house.

The sun is high and strong everywhere we go and the heat in some places is stifling. We go to a place Mama and Aunt KayKay call "The Place with Pretty Stuff." I don't think it even has a real name. It is a couple of acres just off the highway with a blacktop apron full of cement statuary and metal sculptures and two large metal buildings with no A/C or fans but stacked with fascinating merchandise.
Mama wants me to pick a sink from the vibrantly patterned collection in the first building. The sinks are from Mexico and painted ceramics; most are a palette of flowers, some are dominated by sunflowers or tropical fish. I am drawn to one with pale blue calla lillies on a darker blue, a simple pattern with touches of matte gold and buff. Peaceful.
Mama and KayKay are clearly surprised, it almost seems as if bets were taken as to which I'd choose:)
KayKay pushes the sink I've mentally dubbed "flowerpower" for the rainbow colored flowers and their flow from one to another. "I thought you'd like this one, it looks like your plates from your first wedding!"

I say, "No, that's who I was then. This is who I have become."
And that's true. I was once a wild melange of red and orange and purple and green and a yellow that would hurt the eye. I've changed, found who I should be, and I am much more peaceful. There is still some yellow in me but it is the soft yellow of fresh butter, sometimes even the icy yellow of a cut lemon, but I am mostly blue and green.
When I am feeling best I am the color of a richly blue summer sky wrapped around the deep green of spring pine-needles. I had dulled down to the occasional fitful grey-blue of February skies and no green at all before I went to see Mama.
We walked across the lot, Mama in her sun hat and the rest of us bare-headed and only me fair enough to be in danger of burning or fainting from heat. At least as far as Mama is concerned. I am still her baby even on the shady side of 40 and that is a comforting thought at any time.
The salesman wants to show me everything and talk the whole while. He knows where every breeze pops in the complex. Mama catches him talking to me at the back of the first building, me between a power pole and the building's corner. He said there was always a breeze there and the prevailing winds proved him true.
The wind snatched my damp hair from my neck and sent it out like a flag behind me.
I was still growing redder from the direct sun and I think Mama could feel my skin heating even from ten feet away. I was happy - hot sun overhead, heated air around and a breeze to keep my hair moving.

"Sweetheart, you need to come into the shade before you faint."
It was so very hot, and her words were sent with the warmth of love, but they splashed on me like the cool water from the porch spigot at the old farm house.

I love the heat, its depth and thickness; the wealth offered by the sun to my skin and my self, and the cool places my mother provides when the heat is too great for me, when being a grown-up is just too hard.

We kept sharing the feeding and petting of little Possum kitty, so named for her genrally odd appearance and, in my case, in hope that an ugly name would drive the bad spirits away from stealing her. She can't hold her head up too well and walks like a drunk so she needs as much Mama attention as she can get.

I drove back west today with a full heart and a smooth sould. My fingers always want to add a 'd' to "soul" so there must be a reason. Maybe I have a 'sould,' a sun-soaked vitamin-d soul instead of the garden variety white bible toting soul:)
I came home with the happiness I'd been missing.
It's the stuff that lets me do laundry with a good attitude, read deadly dull work crap so I can get to the good stuff that makes me think (it's like shelling nuts, the work to get to the good).
I am happy, peacefully happy. I plan to walk in the sun again tomorrow and to talk to my mother on the phone to soak in some extra food for my heart.

Sometimes a girl just needs her Mama.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Scallops and braised endive

I stayed at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando back in April and had a wonderful meal at the Old Hickory Steakhouse that involved scallops and a vegetable puree. I've been watching a lot of Gordon Ramsay lately and some of the simple dishes he pulls together look divine.

Darling Husband was at Field Day (an event I'll address later) this weekend so it was a prime weekend to experiment with my cooking so I decided to try my hand at the scallops and a Ramsay dish.
I did my shopping Saturday and ended up not making my experiment until tonight so it is a good thing it worked out since husband had to eat it!

Pan-Seared Scallops on Vegetable Puree' with caviar

Dozen Large Sea Scallops
Bag Broccoli and Cauliflower florets (10 oz or so)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Chicken bouillon
1/2 tsp Oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt
2-3 grinds fresh black pepper
salty caviar

Steam the vegetables in their bag in the microwave, put in blender or food processor with about a half teaspoon of bouillon and salt. Puree. This may take a few tries, add a little water if necessary to "move" the vegetables. Leave in the blender to stay warm.
Rinse scallops, pat dry and season both sides with oregano, salt and pepper. Heat 2 tsp olive oil (use good oil) in a skillet over medium high heat. Add scallops when oil is hot enough to sizzle a drop of water.
While scallops cook, prepare braised endive,
Turn scallops over when you can see the sides become opaque, finish cooking.
Remove pan from heat to prepare plate.

Braised endive

3-4 heads of endive, washed and discolored outer leaves removes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt

Trim bottom of each endive head, slice length-wise in half and then quarters and then eighths. Some pieces will fall to the side, that's OK you'll cook them too.
Pour enough oil in a medium skillet to cover the bottom, heat on medium high. Add endive and a sprinkling of the sea salt. Cook the endive until crisp tender, don't over cook. It should still be a pretty green and white and hold its structural integrity.


Put about a tablespoon of puree for each scallop on the outer rim of a serving platter. Place each scallop on puree, garnish each with 1/2 tsp of caviar. Put endive in the center of the platter.

Serve with a green salad dressed with olive oil and red wine vinegar.

When I had the scallops at the Old Hickory they clearly used expensive caviar and that flavor showed. I bought the cheap $8.99 caviar at Publix since if I failed with this dish I didn't want to have too much invested in it.
The flavor, when I ate a scallop with caviar on it at Hickory, was very reminiscent of lobster. The cheap caviar didn't give that same flavor. I think the main thing that gave it that richness was the saltiness and fishiness of the caviar so the next time I do this I am going to add anchovy fillets wrapped around capers to see how that shakes out.

The endive could not have been better even if Gordon himself had been in the kitchen - but I would not have kicked him out of the house!
La, a handsome man who can really cook - how lucky is Mrs. Ramsay, eh?

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Smell of the Gulf, the smell of the sun

There were a few patches of shade today in the parking lot at the former motel restaurant I stopped for lunch. The old bay side hotel had been converted to housing for Visa workers who did house-keeping and other jobs at the beach side hotels the man owned.
He's a lot better than other resort owners who stack Eastern European workers in three bedroom rat-holes six to a room and charge them for the pleasure.
The parking lot is rumpled blacktop and I found a pinch of shade beneath a scrub oak.

Today was nice. It was only 91 and the breeze from the bay was steady so I never broke a sweat. As I crossed that lumpy asphalt the smell of salt water and someone's bait and a hint of Coppertone covered me for a few seconds and I wanted to be ten again.
I remember riding on the beach in the back of somebody's daddy's truck, feeling the effects of the sun on my shoulders and knowing my hair was a big tangle and looking into the rear-view mirror to see how bad it was.
I was beautiful. My pond-scum green eyes were full of fire; sparks of gold and bright green with the colors made bolder by the savage island child color of my face. My hair was a big tangle of white sand-colored strands mixed into the usual pine-straw red.
When I left the restaurant a skinny laughing woman in a floppy t-shirt and shorts passed me on her way in with her man. She looked like my youngest aunt for a second with long hair hanging over her shoulders like a girl on a 70's album cover.
I wanted to call my aunt and see if I could drive down right then to go to the beach and go crabbing with her and collect the best sunburn we could in a few hours.
I let that daydream tumble behind my eyes from the restaurant back to the office, never trying to work the logistics, just enjoying the vision.

I'll be going to spend the weekend with Mama soon so I have decided that we'll snag my aunt, a cooler, a net or 3 and some chicken necks and head to the beach. We'll get too much sun and wear our hair down so the wind can tangle it in knots and lighten it up. We'll smell like Coppertone and beach sand and I know my skin will nearly glow in the dark and feel warm even in the coldest air conditioning.

I'll be happy leaving footprints on the ancestral beach sand with these women who are so important to me. I've always looked at them as ethereal critters whose toes barely touch ground; faeries who dance across flower tops and hardly ruffle a petal, women who are so grounded and deep in what being a true woman is that they ascend the mundane world that I inhabit when I'm not looking.
One day, with much effort, I may be like them.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Changes in the Market - People Making their own Jobs

Avon has used national TV to advertize products and for representitives for a long time - but now they are really recruiting sales reps in a big way!
So are Amway and Mary Kay.
Why? Because although product sales are generally down, personal health and beauty products are not - and people are going to these other sources instead of the Department stores and specialty stores for their lip sticks, facial care, vitamins, etc.
The trick, apparently, is to select mid/low-range cost vehicles to sell. I doubt Arbonne and other high-dollar MLM businesses are doing well. I imagine that if Avon didn't have some lower price-point items that they'd be suffering, too.

Anyway, after being a failed Monavie operative, I am going to try something with similar effects that is lower cost and more eco-friendly. My husband has a friend who makes anywhere between a few hundred thousand to a million on MLM products that he believes in, so I am getting on board to see if I can make some "up" in this down market and maybe make some property investments before land prices increase again...I guess this time I should set myself some goals and really understand the compensation package and stop waiting for the stuff to sell itself as soon
as I buy the cute little shot glasses with the product logo etched on them (which this doesn't have, BTW).

I think that on some level I am lazy when it comes to me. I work my ass off for my regular job because it interests me, I want to make my boss happy, and my work makes peoples' lives better. This kind of work is basically just for me, requires me to step out of my comfort zone and do something that seems selfish.

When I was young and in college I worked part-time for a department store in the Bridal and Designer Fashions salons. I loved it. The store had just changed it's policies so part-time workers weren't eligible for commissions. Perfect. I sold the hell out of dresses because I liked doing it and liked helping people look nice - and got to do that without the pressure of needing to earn a commission.

I think if I knew my paycheck depended on a commission that I would have felt too guilty to sell the dresses. Weird, I know. My husband's friend says to not think of it as sales, but as telling people about something that I like, making referrals, like telling them about a restaurant that I love.

I am the world's worst network marketer so we'll see if I can do this. Or end up with cases of the crap gathering dust in my guest room:)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Baby, it's HOT Outside!

I live in Florida, pretty much always have and probably always will, so I get it - it gets hot here.

The last few days have been scorching, though, and unbearable I would think to people not genetically prepared to survive it. The lighted time and temp sign on the credit union read "+100" today when I drove past it. Panicky warnings are being issued by the TV news people to drink lots of water, stay in the shade, along with the tutorial on recognizing signs of heat stroke and what to do should it happen to you.

I hope you were paying attention to the phrase "genetically prepared."
As I stated in my introduction, my family has been here pretty much since dirt. In spite of my fair skin, light hair and eyes, the Florida heat is my friend. The air is rich with water, a humidity that my thirsty skin and lungs embrace, and sometimes I feel like I am walking through an invisible pool of warm Gulf water. Especially here, where I live close enough to the Gulf to smell the beloved scent of salt, sun, and sealife. Inland the thick air is a blanket that smells of grass, farm animals and growing crops.

Today, as the sun was cooking tourists on the beach, I was making my way across asphalt parking lots to secure items needed and wanted in the household. As others walked past me in the parking lots I noticed labored breathing, sweat-soaked faces and general discomfort.
Secure in my native superiority, I sailed across the black top into the air-conditioned comfort of the stores and accomplished my tasks with no more than a bit of a healthy pink glow added to my skin. It was a nice reminder of how lucky I am to have been raised in this atmosphere of wet heat, regular sun-showers and the breeze that cools the sweat on your brow just before you get grumpy.

Have you ever opened a 450 degree oven, got a little too close to the door and breathed in that air? That hot, hot, dry, arid air? That's the way the air feels in places without humidity. Santa Fe and Albuquerque, lovely places to visit as long as you can stay inside. A walk-about for me lasted ten minutes before I sought out the nearest watering hole.

So, tomorrow when you look out at your beautiful day, love it for what it is - and just deal with whatever kind of heat you have and be glad it isn't cold.

I'm going to go outside now and gulp a drink of air-water.

Friday, June 19, 2009


We are raising two sets of kittens; one set six weeks old, the other almost a month old.
My six- 6 week olds have been eating big food, trying to use the box (with mixed success, today was bad) and socializing happily with us humans.
The tiny ones are mothered by a kitty who really doesn't like humans and only tolerates us for food so it was important to get the babies away and petted.
I was worried about trying to do that since I felt that there was a toss-up: move the babies and have Stripey Butt reject them or move them so they can be adopted.
Stripey Butt solved this for me by beginning to ignore the babies. There were only three, two grey stripes and one orange kitten and after weeks of hiding them she allowed them to walk around the house by themselves.
She waited too late.
She managed to starve the runt of her litter before I could save him.
He was a striped gray and black kitty who looked far younger than his brothers.
I found him when we got home from dinner, doing baby-kitten stagger and mewing, while his mother flirted with one of our neutered males.
I scooped him up and set up my feeding station of water and cat milk. He wouldn't take the food and his mother wouldn't nurse him so I held him close to my skin. He slept a little and then stopped breathing. I did everything I knew to do but the tiny one was dead.
Stripey and Pinky are twins, yet Pink is the good mother with her brood of six while Stripey can't keep her 3 alive much less be nice to the food source.
I am putting her into a cat carrier and sending her to the shelter sooner than I had planned. Pinky can nurse Stripey's remaining babies (they've shared that duty in the past with Pinky doing most of the work). The shelter here is no-kill and I just can't have a cat that won't accept petting and who won't try to keep her babies alive.

I am very bitter because I held this kitten while he cried for food his mother wouldn't give (and apparantly had not for some time) and he wouldn't take from me. He is wrapped in a small towel now and will be buried in a secluded corner of the back yard

We'll fix Pinky and keep her and I hope to place all but one of the kittens. There is one little golden boy who wants nothing more than to climb my shoulders and hide in my hair. Have to love a baby with good taste!

I am not at my best now so this is probably shitty writing. I haven't lost a cat in many years and losing one, especially a baby, is very hard.
I keep looking at him and wondering if I could have done something, if I should have just taken him from Stripey Butt before things reached this point.
I haz a sad.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Kittens Discover Litter is Not Food

The kittens have been old enough to leave puddles and little poops around for us for about a week and a half now. I have grabbed them when they gave signs and rushed to the litter box only to be stymied by their conviction that Fresh Step is food. The tell-tale grumpy meows and pacing come to an end once their paws touch the scoopable and their bobble-heads fall forward in order to acquire a tongue-full of litter.

I don't know if it is the sparkly blue odor-killing crystals or the general belief that I wouldn't put them anywhere that wasn't food, but as soon as I placed the babies in the box they assume an eating position. And I would spend the next few minutes scooping the stuff out of their mouths, much to their dismay.

Tonight my furry darlings had milk and wet food, dry food made for babies and some water. After playing and napping a few got up from their nest on the couch with me and trotted to the place that litter boxes live, the laundry room.

I followed to be sure this wasn't going to be another "we wanted to go for a walk and you weren't there and we were lost YOWL" event. That happens due to the drama even the youngest kitten enjoys. It is fun to them (I gather) to scoot away from a known safe place and then scream for rescue. I fall for it every time.

My darlings didn't stop to cry for rescue, they went straight for the box, heaved their plump kitten bellies over the edge and assumed the position. Tee-tee accomplished and no litter eaten.
It was a good day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On Mandolines and realizing that there is sometimes a point

I've owned a mandoline for several years now and used it with the same impunity that I use serrated knives for tomatos and sharp paring knives for cucumbers. I cut towards myself because I am uncoordinated and cannot make a decent slice otherwise.
I've paid for this flaw as proven by the scars on my pinky fingers, forefingers, and the occasional loss of a finger nail. The mandoline has caused me the odd knuckle bruise or scrape, nothing serious. Until now.

I have never paid as dearly for my insolence towards sharp edges as I did Saturday slicing red potatoes for a new recipe.

See, the mandoline has a food-holder that is designed to protect your fingers from the very, very, very sharp blade that cuts the food. I simply never bought into the design of that food holder, especially for shorter foods like round red potatoes and figured I'd be slicing more food by hand than by machine if I used the holder.

As my first red potato became smaller I put the palm of my hand on it to guide the last bit through the slicer. Pinky finger first. I promptly lost an eighth of an inch of meat and skin from that little finger and began bleeding professionally. You know, like it was my job to pump out AB positive into a paper towel.

I still had the better part of three pounds of potatoes to slice and couldn't really use my right hand completely so I had to trust the food grabber of the mandoline. It worked perfectly. PERFECTLY.

I have the unfortunate habit of experiencing events before they happen - envisioning how tools should work on product, seeing the landing gear tuck up into the plane after becoming airborne, dissecting why cilantro and mango are Just Wrong, and deciding that mandoline food holders will waste food.

Sunday night I ate a mango salsa with scallops and it was good. My mandoline wound is on the mend. Although I will continue to picture landing gear sliding into its little place on every plane I travel in, I will also try to remember that other people MAY know what they are talking about.

More Party Food- Sliced Red Potato Salad

After some fruitless web searches I developed this myself!

I wanted a red-jacket potato salad with the potatoes in slices but not crumbly which to me meant no cooking before slicing. Slice first, boil quickly and ice down seemed to be the way. So, I did. My trusty mandoline did the slicing and my favorite pot was used for the boiling in three batches so the potato slices had plenty of room to circulate and cook without sticking together. After I took each batch up I put them into a large bowl with about two cups of ice cubes and 8 cups of water to stop the cooking process.
The potatoes should maintain their structural integrity after cooking which means that cooking must be monitored carefully and the potatoes taken up as soon as they are cooked but still firm and immersed into the cold water. Only allow them to stay in the water until they've cooled down, transfer to a colander to drain.

3 pounds red potatoes, prepared as above
3 sliced celery stalks
two tablespoons sweet pickle relish
3/4 cup good quality mayonnaise
1 tsp prepared yellow mustard
1 8 oz can sliced black olives
1 12 ounce package good quality salsa (not the room temp stuff at the market, spring for the good refrigerated stuff!)

Mix the mayo, mustard, relish and salsa together. Put a layer of potatoes into the bowl, sprinkle with black olives and celery, add some dressing. Sprinkle with sea salt. Repeat until everything is in the serving bowl. Now, mix gently to be sure everything is coated with dressing. Add a little more mayo to taste if needed.
This is best if it can sit all night. I suggest tasting it for more needed salt or pepper. The salsa will add a lot of seasoning itself.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Grown-Up Birthday Party Food

We just had my darling husband's birthday party Saturday night and, true to form, he insisted that people only come equipped with hunger and thirst.

He is known for his baby-back ribs and top shelf bar, I am known for...being his adoring wife:)
Among other things...

I wanted to make sure that this year there were side dishes for people like me who only want a little meat. However, I wanted to make side dishes that weren't boring or crappy but that would hold up through hours of grazing.

I did it - three salads from scratch that held up and got eaten up. I made sliced red potato salad, Oriental Cole Slaw and my newest creation, Florida Girl's Italian shrimp salad. I'll start last first:

Florida Girl
8-10 ounce salad shrimp, thawed (this is one of the few things that tiny cocktail shrimp is good for)
3 lemons, juiced and zested
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
2 large cucumbers, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch chunks - seeding them is important!
2 cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained
2 cans salad sliced hearts of palm, drained
1 can Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 tbsp Italian Herbs*

You can make this part* easy or hard. I go easy and buy the tube of Italian herbs in olive oil at Publix. Otherwise, chop a handful of flat-leaf parsley, a bunch of basil and bash up a couple of garlic cloves.
Make sure all water is drained off of everything before the next step.

Whisk herbs with olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice and salt and pepper. Dump everything else into a bowl; I chop the artichoke hearts up a little to make it more fork friendly. Pour dressing over the salad and stir gently to coat. You may need a little more oil or lemon juice, just taste to see.
Let this sit refrigerated at least two hours, bring to room temp before serving.

So that's salad one. I don't make anything I won't eat and I loved this. My guests seemed happy too since they ate it all up:)

Perfect Rapport

A long, long time ago I had a boyfriend who was a concert promoter. In those pre-cell, pre-push to talk days, we needed less clunky ways to communicate with backstage and other workers so a shopping trip through Sharper Image found us the proud owners of very spiffy walkie-talkie sets with head sets.
I formed a company and leased the sets to his company and voila, Perfect Rapport was born.

Well, here some 27 years later that boyfriend and I have married other people and lost touch but Perfect Rapport is still mine and still means the same as it did then.
It is just an old fashioned way of saying "we grok." We have an understanding of one another, not a surface understanding but a deep compatibility.

It is my hope that if you've turned up here you'll reach a level of rapport with me that will make what I write, in some way, meaningful to you.
For me, this is an opportunity to write about fluffy things and escape a lot of the unpleasantness of our current realities.
I love food and drink and creating both, cats and flowers and raising both, and I want to write a few books one day so there is no telling what this blog may contain.
Welcome to my happy little place.