Last Call!

If you want to be entered into the Cookbook drawing, leave a comment on that post. Sunday I’ll be picking three comments using random.org and plan to get the cookbooks in the mail as soon as I have addresses from the 3 lucky winners.

Sorry for the long hiatus, which was totally unplanned. I thought I’d post about a few of the things I made for the gatherings we have hosted lately as well as a picnics and other things we’ve done, but the blog has been neglected in the flurry of activity.

I read a post sometime in the last couple of months in which the author was amazed that their family of 4 ate *sooo* many eggs, nearlyย  a dozen per week. I just laughed. One week recently I used 4 dozen — two dozen whites went into angel food cakes and some of the yolks were used in a key lime tart, pictured above. I think I could employ a small henhouse full time!

On another occasion I made the gluten free angel food cake pictured above. I’ll come back with a recipe for that later. In the mean time, here are pictures from our vacation:


Better than Hallmark, Mother’s Day wishes in the sand.


Crab Trap dinner for Mother’s Day. The kids especially love the buckets and shovels.


Some crabs we found, but did not eat.


Fun at the beach.


Sunset walks every evening.

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Overnight in St. Louis

I mentioned before that we spent a night in St. Louis between Christmas and New Year’s and we had a fabulous time.ย  Now, it’s probably true that if you let us get away for a night sans Tartlets that we’re bound to get a little giddy, and it’s true that there were a few special things about the trip, like getting to pick out a new sofa in a style and color that I like after 14 years with a sofa that I intensely dislike, but even after you consider those factors the hotel/restaurant had it’s own contribution to the excellent night out.

The Husband specifically picked this Drury Inn for it’s Jacuzzi Suite, which we enjoyed immensely ๐Ÿ˜‰ The staff were the most friendly, happy, & helpful hotel staff that I think I have ever encountered. (Shout out to Aaron, et al!) We were given a voucher for 3 free drinks from their guest happy hour (I think it was 5:30 – 7:00 PM, but I’m not sure). The Husband had two Tequila Sunrises and I had two Margaritas and we enjoyed the snack bar filled with various salty snacks, chips & salsa, as well as carrot and celery sticks. They also have free unlimited fountain drinks and popcorn from 3:00 – 11:00 PM. The hotel was nearly empty during our stay so there were only a few other people in the common area and it was a nice start to the evening.

We had decided earlier in the evening, while driving to find a furniture store, that it wasn’t going to be worth it for us to get lost in St. Louis trying to find a restaurant when I hadn’t done any research ahead of time, so we opted for the hotel restaurant, not expecting a lot out of it.

Bartolino’s Osteria was far better than we had anticipated. The staff were very friendly, although The Husband and I were a little surprised to be touched on the shoulder so much when spoken to! There was a little mix-up with the menus as one of us was given an old menu and what we ordered from doesn’t match their website and it’s been long enough that I can’t remember specific details — I had an orecchiette tossed with olive oil, Italian sausage, and sprinkled with cheese and served with broccolini that was very good and The Husband enjoyed his pasta dish that neither of us can remember very clearly. After the pre-dinner snacks in the hotel lounge we were quite full and didn’t have any dessert.ย  The food was good and reasonably priced, the decor was what I think of as typical for an Italian restaurant, and the wait staff were courteous, making it a very pleasant evening.

Before we headed out in the morning for our day of furniture shopping, we took advantage of the free breakfast — not your typical day old donuts and dry cereal, rather a buffet of Belgian waffles, biscuits and gravy, sausage patties, scrambled eggs, and hash browns, as well as muffins, danishes, bagels, and other breads, yogurt cups, and possibly even dry cereal available. There were also the standard orange and apple juices, milk, tea and coffee.

I would heartily recommend a stay with Drury Inns & Suites and/or a dinner at Bartolini’s Osteria if you find yourself in St. Louis, not far from the St. Louis Zoo. I hope to return myself!

Drury Inn & Suites near Forest Park
2111 Sulphur Avenue
St. Louis, MO, 63139
(314) 646-0770

Bartolino’s Osteria
(314) 644-2266

Back From The Beach


Tartlet 4 walking along Navarre Beach where we picked up great shells

We had a good time in Florida, resting or swimming most of the time. We thought we would make like Boy Scouts this time and be prepared. So, rather than purchase the traditional souvenir bottle of aloe after we were burnt to a crisp, we took several half-empty bottles of sunscreen from last year *and* a bottle of aloe with us. Our first full day we lathered up with sunscreen and went for a bike ride (not long, about 5 miles). When we came back to the condo we basted ourselves in a cocoa butter scented sauce again before setting out for the beach — we were so proud of ourselves for being so smart. When we got back to the condo for lunch it seemed several of us had reddish splotches that looked amazingly like sunburn. What? but we had used sunscreen! That night I decided that maybe our old sunscreen had gone bad and ran out to the store for a new bottle. The next day we could all tell the difference when we put on the new stuff and it worked great. All the old bottles went in the trash, but we were glad we brought our aloe along! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Lemonade Mix Blueberry Muffins

We bracketed our stay in Destin with dinners at The Crab Trap, a beach-side open air restaurant with super cool ceiling fans, great crab, grouper, shrimp and anything else we’ve eaten there. It’s our favorite place to eat. And they serve a decent mango daiquiri. One of the things the kids love best about it is they serve kids meals in a plastic pail with a little beach shovel. They get a lot of use, actually.

The condo had the basics for the kitchen and I bought groceries that I planned for us to use entirely before we left and packed very little, about as close to camping as I like to get (especially with the nice bed and warm shower, toilet, and washer/dryer) . I made blueberry muffins one day but didn’t have lemons or lemon extract on hand and was using the last of my 2 lb bag of sugar, so I added a couple of tablespoons of lemonade mix to the batter and reserved a little sugar for the tops of the muffins. They turned out decently enough. It’s not what I would do all the time, but it worked in a pinch.

Brownies

We had a great dinner of grilled chicken, saffron rice from a package mixed with frozen peas, salad, and a mixture of strawberries and mangoes one night. I didn’t take a picture. That was also the night I cut my little finger with the crappy knife in the condo when the mango slipped out of my hand. The Husband did a great job finishing up dinner for us that night while I sat on the sofa flipping between HGTV and the Food Network, holding my finger in a paper towel. Maybe I didn’t watch at the right times during this trip, but I was really unimpressed with the Food Network this time. I don’t have cable at home so these trips are my only exposure and last year we didn’t have cable so it’s been two years, but I wasn’t as inspired as I was in the past.

Another day I tossed together a brownie/cake-ish dessert — I mixed flour, baking powder, sugar, melted butter, half a bag of melted chocolate chips, vanilla, a little yogurt, and a couple eggs and then stirred in more chocolate chips and baked it for 20 min or so. I made a frosting by heating a little butter, milk, and sugar in a pan and after it came to a boil I stirred in the remaining chocolate chips until they were well melted. It was pretty tasty. Now that I’m back to my fully equipped kitchen, we’ll have to see what I can whip up . . .

SHF #33 — Tropical Paradise

I almost missed another Sugar High Friday b/c I didn’t see the post until this afternoon! Whew! Thank you, Tartelette, for keeping a list of sweet food events on your blog or I would have missed it. ๐Ÿ™‚

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(Illinois. Not tropical. Not paradise.)

When you think of Illinois, a number of things may come to mind . . . corn, soybeans, flat, flooding, tornadoes, etc. . . . but no matter how optimistic or magnanimous you are, ‘tropical paradise’ just does not come to mind. I’ve never lived in a tropical place. PA, MD, WA (east side, not even the coast), NM, and now IL, none of them could be considered tropical. I have had the opportunity to visit two tropical places while on vacation, however — St. John, USVI and Hawaii.

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(Kaena Point State Park, Oahu)

For Christmas 2001, The Husband’s Parents very kindly gave us the gift of watching Thing 1 and Thing 2 so we could get away for a week’s ‘honeymoon’ for our 10th anniversary (Sept 11, 2002, in the days before we had a digital camera, so no pictures). After much debating, we settled on the Caribbean and went to Caneel Bay for eight lovely days. It was actually hurricane season and it was the one year anniversary of the notorious 9/11 terrorist attacks so there weren’t many other people there with us. It was delicious. When I think of St. John, aside from the great time I had making out with The Husband and swimming with sea turtles, the *next* thing that comes to mind is the mangoes. I know I’ve said a million times before and I’ll say it again — I LOVE MANGO.

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My next tropical experience was Hawaii. The Husband had a microscopy conference in Honolulu — how the man suffers for his work! Once again, I was able to join him, sans Tartlets, for a few days of beach fun. We had a great time walking along the beach, snorkeling in Shark’s Cove, and driving around the island. During the conference we stayed in the Renaissance Ilikai which was featured in a Hawaii Five-O story and a shot of Jack Lord standing on the balcony of the penthouse suite is in the opening credits of the series. After the conference we spent the last two nights in a much cheaper place, Makaha Resort. It was near the end of the road going to the northwest of the island and was a golfing destination (neither of us golf) and the quality wasn’t like Ilikai but neither was the price AND when I got home and realized I had left my dress hanging in the closet and called them, they shipped it home to me without charging me a cent. When I think of Hawaii, I remember the wonderful smell as we drove through the pineapple plantations during the harvest. That and going to a cheesy place for dinner where we met all the people there — the bartender from IL, the girl from PA, the guy who sang karaoke and could perfectly sing every old country and western song they had — and drinking Lava Flows. It was fun.

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(harvesting pineapples in Hawaii)

So, when I read that Mary at Alpineberry had selected ‘Tropical Paradise’ as the theme for Sugar High Friday 33, I was flooded with thoughts of mango and pineapple and that was swiftly followed by coconut, macadamia, lime, and a few other things that all jumbled together in my head to produce, what else? A fruit tart. I ended up not using lime and picked orange instead. The crust has coconut and macadamia nuts, the filling has orange and pineapple, and the top has mango, kiwi, mango, and while blueberries aren’t tropical, they are in season and go beautifully with mango and more mango! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Tropical Paradise Tart

Crust:
1 c. flour
1/3 c. finely ground macadamia nuts
1/3 c. brown sugar
10 Tbsp. cold butter
1/3 c. coconut

Mix flour, nuts, and sugar. Cut in butter. Add coconut. Press into the bottom of a greased and floured tart pan. Bake at 400 F for 10-15 min or until golden brown. Cool completely.

Filling:
4 oz. Neufchatel cheese
1/2 c. pureed pineapple
2 Tbsp. frozen orange juice concentrate
1 t. vanilla
1/2 – 3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. custard powder
1 c. whipped cream or Cool Whip

Beat cheese until smooth. Add pineapple, orange juice concentrate, and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy. Add powdered sugar and custard powder; mix well. Stir in whipped cream. Spread into cool crust.

Top with mango, kiwi and blueberries.

Jiggety Jig

We’re home again from the northeast. We swept through Niagara Falls (I tried waving to Bri on the other side, but I’m not sure she could see me ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and the Adirondacks and then spent a few days in Acadia National Park before descending like locusts on the BIL and SIL in Boston and finally coming home. I’m sure their house seems much larger now that we’ve gone! ๐Ÿ˜€

No major food experiences to report. I had a lobster roll in Maine which was nothing like what I was expecting . . . somehow I was picturing a bread/pastry wrapped around a lobster filling, not a New England hot dog bun (and yes, they ARE different there) filled with seasoned lumps of lobster. It was tasty, just not what I was expecting for $10.95. If you go to a Lobster Pound, just go with the lobster dinner. The SIL made some lovely salads — greens with orange flavored dried cranberries, green onions, pistachios, walnuts, and feta cheese. Very tasty and pretty.

The Husband now has the oven fixed again and I made a batch of muffins this morning, but they were repeats, so no recipe there either. Instead, I’m going to share an old favorite. Back when I was a grad student in the Northwest, a college buddy came to visit for a weekend. She was of the more adventurous and high class type so she took me to a local winery, something I probably never would have done in my three years there. I am forever grateful for that little afternoon excursion.

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We went to Camas Winery in Moscow, ID. It’s not the stereotypical winery out on a lush hillside; it’s in the downtown of a rather small college town. There I was introduced to mead. I bought a couple bottles of their ‘Palouse Gold’ and drank them in the evenings with some crisp Granny Smith apples — a decadent treat for a grad student! On my most recent trip to the Northwest, I came home with a half case of bottles — some were Palouse Gold and others were Huckleberry mead. Tonight I opened our last bottle of the huckleberry mead. There is one bottle of Palouse Gold remaining for another day.

Shameless unpaid advertising: If you happen to live near Moscow, ID drive over and try out their wines (they have lots of things other than mead) and take home a bottle of mead. If you live where you can get it shipped to you, order a few bottles.

I’m Back With Fake Foods

We’re back from the beach and, while the car is cleaned out, the house is strewn with laundry in all stages and misc “stuff”.

Two years ago when we made the trek to FL, with the brand new trailer the Husband had spent weeks building and had just finished the morning we left, we were in a horrible crash in Hoover, AL on the return trip which totaled the car and the trailer (although, thankfully, no one was seriously injured). Now every time we pass from Cullman, AL (around mile marker 300) until about mile marker 240, I’m a jittery mess. The Husband wishes I’d just pass out for the entire length of AL. I have a loathing for all things ‘Bama since that trip. I’m sorry if you are from AL and like it there . . . my experience seriously tainted my view.

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This time we witnessed an accident in TN on the way down. Crazy Man in a little Dodge Shadow was weaving back and forth, driving fast and erratically. I pleaded with the Husband to NOT pass Crazy Man b/c I didn’t want him lodged in my door so he dropped back and let another car get between us. We watched him run off the road on one side, jerk the car back on the highway and then weave his way to the other side. He spent a considerable amount of his driving time riding on the dividing lines. Suddenly he was weaving on the center line and BAM! he ran into the back corner of a semi. But he hit on the corner and, when the semi slowed, the car slid sideways and got under the trailer bumper tangential to the trailer and traffic. Amazingly, no one else hit him or was hit as the truck skidded to a halt and the Shadow’s tires went up in a black cloud and everyone on the road slammed on their brakes to avoid colliding. Crazy Man got out of the car and we pulled over. Another couple pulled over and said they had called 911 a few miles back to report the Crazy Man’s driving. He was seriously impaired. He immediately grabbed a cigarette and started smoking it . . . what’s that you’re trying to cover, Crazy Man? The Hispanic truck driver and his wife seemed to *believe* Crazy Man when he started saying that his brakes didn’t work — Hello? If your brakes don’t work it doesn’t affect your ability to *steer* and you certainly don’t have to drive 75 mph *uphill* and you could certainly get off at an exit and slow down and use your emergency brake to stop. Not buying it, Crazy Man. After 45 min of waiting, the other couple came back to say they were going on — the police had their cell phone number and info . . . still no police on the scene . . . but they pointed out that the truck had only a little black smudge on the bumper to indicate it’s involvement in the accident while Crazy Man’s car was totaled — hood smashed in nearly to the windshield, etc — and the man says — Now that there, *that’s* justice. We waited for the police for another half hour or so. By the time the police arrived, Crazy Man was trying to say the truck driver was changing lanes and hit him. Urgh! We finally got back on the road and made it safely through AL and to FL. Whew!

We stayed in Cape San Blas this time. We’ve been to the Destin area about 5 times (I can easily recommend both the Southern Resorts rental company and the Maravilla condo/beach house complex) , Seagrove once, and decided this time we wanted to be further away from people even in the off-season. Unfortunately, that also meant being away from the Food Network and HGTV, which was somewhat disappointing but we had a great beach and, due to so few people and the lay of the land, etc, there were TONS of seashells on the beach.

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We had lots of beach to ourselves to build mermaids:mermaid.jpg

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and to check out the wildlife:

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like this grumpy looking fellow, whom we disturbed during sandcastle construction:

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Unfortunately, I misunderstood the meaning of ‘our only store in town’ and decided to drive 20 miles further to get groceries the first day we were there and ended up in a tiny Piggly Wiggly that had NO SEAFOOD — in FL?! A few yards from the beach?? Also, I couldn’t find any sunscreen in the store . . . ?!? I was a little grumpy when I got back to the condo b/c it was Sunday and the little seafood shops were closed so you couldn’t tell if they were closed just for Sunday or if they weren’t open for the tourist season yet. A few days later I tried the store that was closer only to find out that it was a different store than I thought and was a much larger Piggly Wiggly that did, in fact, have fresh bay scallops, fresh shrimp and fresh red snapper. Aaaahhhh! That’s more like it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Because our family numbers six and the car has finite space, I try to pack very lightly and get what I need there and then be frugal as regards to using it all up before we leave, etc. The first few times I took along flour, sugar, baking powder, and about half the kitchen, or so it seemed. Some condo kitchens are more well-stocked than others but this one was particularly Spartan. Just the basics (not even salt and pepper in the cabinet). I only packed our 1 gallon pitcher and two-burner griddle to supplement. So the cooking was exceedingly simple. One night I wanted some biscuits to go with dinner but didn’t just want plain white fluffy Bisquick biscuits so I added about 1/4 c. shredded colby/jack cheese and of the 1 c. of liquid, I used about 1/4 c. Italian salad dressing and the rest milk. I bought a garlic pepper grinder and a pizza seasoning grinder and added a few twists of each to the batter as well. Not quite the Red Lobster cheddar biscuits, but they were tasty.

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Another night I wanted to make a dessert but didn’t want to really bake so I made a Faux Frozen Mousse or Frozen ‘Cheesecake’ or some such Fake Food. I filled a Piggly Wiggly graham cracker crust with a mixture of a small tub of Lite Cool Whip and two Yoplait containers of blueberry yogurt. Then I froze it until dinner time. It was tasty, popular, and a nice light flavor to follow the seafood dinner.

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Beachin’ Good Time

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We’re packing up today for our road trip to the beach.ย  I’ll be back in a little over a week.ย  I may come back with some recipes to post . . . or not ๐Ÿ˜‰ย  I’m looking forward to flopping on the beach and eating fresh seafood and watching the Food Network and HGTV during naps and at bedtime — since we don’t have cable, it’s the only time I see it.

Until I get back, I leave you with a super simple treat:

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I melted some dark (60%) Ghirardelli chocolate chips with dried cherries, white raisins, and filberts.ย  YUM!ย  I hadn’t purchased dried cherries before b/c I figured they were expensive and probably didn’t have all that great of a taste — boy, was I wrong!!ย  The taste is totally worth the price.ย  Like I needed another food to love . . .ย  In fact, if I had tried the cherries first, I wouldn’t have added any raisins at all.

Adios, Amigos!

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