Monday, October 13, 2008

Let's Take A Dip!

It's the Fall Season, although you could not tell that here in Key West, and time for one of my favorite Sunday pastimes - Football! We have football games on our TV from noon on Sunday till 10 pm Sunday night. I do not necessarily sit in front of the TV for all of it, but I do keep my eye on the games. So every Sunday I try to think of a good football meal. Sometimes we have chili or BBQ ribs, but one of the fun things is the appetizer before the big football meal. I want to share one of my favorite "crowd pleaser" dips that I whipped up yesterday. This dip is so good and only takes about 10 minutes to assemble. It holds well in the fridge so you can make it way ahead of serving.

Mexican Layer Dip

I use a pie plate to serve this in as it is easy to pass since it has handles on the sides and it seems to be just the right size!

Just layer
1 half a can of refried beans
About 3/4 cup of guacamole
About 3/4 cup of salsa
About 3/4 cup of sour cream
Sprinkle over this about 1/4 cup of sliced black olives
Sprinkle over this about 3/4 cup of shredded cheese
Then sprinkle one or two chopped tomatoes
And lastly I put about 4-6 chopped green onions on top
Serve with your favorite tortilla chips

Notice I say "about". It is up to you to decide how much you would like your layers to hold. If you need more dip, use a bigger dish and increase the quantities of layers. Also for your fans who like it "hot", you could add some hot chili peppers into one of the layers and also sprinkle some hot sauce over the dip. See how versatile this dip can be. Best of all it is fast and flavorful!


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tis' The Season - Soon!

OK, maybe I am rushing the season a bit, but so are the stores. Could not resist this peal and stick on your window snowman at Home Depot the other day. They were getting ready for Christmas so I thought I might as well also!

Speaking of seasons...winter is not far off and that is tomato season here in Key West. This beauty is "off and running"! I usually do not put in my tomatoes until November, but maybe this year I will get a head start on my crop.

Hope all is well with everyone!


Monday, September 29, 2008

Key West Afternoon

Off the back deck on a Key West afternoon!

Waterspout in its glory!


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New Addition

Hi Everyone! Yep it's me. Sorry I have not been much of a blogger lately as I still am suffering Blog Block. I do want you to know that I visit all of you every week and you guys still rock with all that wonderful food you are preparing! Hopefully I will get back into the food groove again soon!

Meanwhile, we have had a busy storm season so far with Fay, Gustov and last week Ike. Needless to say, I just keep cleaning up. You would think after Fay and Gustov there would not be much else to come off of the trees, but not so. Ike did a number on my little side garden as he took my two big shade ficus trees down. So now my little shady retreat has turned into a sauna. Time for a "redo" of the side garden. I have also been spending quite a bit of time at the garden club I belong to as the storms have done a number there also.

Yes, another abandoned cat has found a new home. Guess where!!!
When they look through the door, as you can see below, I cannot resist!
So our new stray tenant is called Ollie and Ollie loves to EAT! We lost both of our cats, Fang and Hobo last year so Ollie is a very welcome new addition.

Hope all is well with everyone and I will be back soon!


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Green Hat Lady In Key West

Paul Klee said that he knew when a painting was finished - when he stopped looking at it, and it started looking back...

Hope all is well in your world!


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Back Into The Creative Mode

Hello to all! Well the "creative juices" have leaped into action, but not in the food department. I am into being creative with my paint brush instead of a spatula. After almost 2 years, I picked up my brushes, paint, and canvases and I am back painting. The lady with the green hat has been the focus of my attention this past week and is taking shape. Hopefully I will be finished with her within the next week or so and will gladly introduce you to her at that time.

The garden is surviving our summer sun so far with 88 degree days and nights getting down to 82. That sun is HOT! Some of the herbs and peppers are loving the bright, hot and long days of summer, but not much else in the veggie department. I am sure though that the rest of you up north are starting to reap the rewards of your gardens about now. Would like to hear what is ready in your garden!

Speaking of gardens, I must go for now as I think I hear quite a few of my residents shouting for a bit of water!


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Jake In The Key West Garden

Just in case you all do not remember, this is my best pal in the garden, Jake. Jake disappeared during hurricane Wilma a fews years ago. I was extremely upset when I went out after the storm to clean up to find that Jake was gone! Mysteriously, while cleaning out a closet in the hall a while back, I found Jake in a computer box in the closet! Not sure how he got there, but I guess he headed for safety some way or another during the storm. Jake is my magical man!

Jake cannot decide whether he wants to get all the way into the rosemary pot or not.

He does finally makes up his mind and starts to make the climb.

Jake is now thrilled that he decided to get all the way into the pot of rosemary, as he can view the whole garden from this vantage point!

Learning some lessons from Jake.
Still regrouping...back to you all soon!


Friday, May 16, 2008

Time For A Blogging Break

Things have been a bit hectic around here this week. All of the tomatoes have been harvested, in fact pretty much everything has been harvested except all of the herbs and hot peppers. They love the heat! So it has been a busy week with the garden. Our son Chris is packing up and getting ready to head to Maine next week, as he is going to be the chef at an artist retreat! This whole deal sounds wonderful to me and I wish I was one of the artists! Chris has been occupying our VERY small kitchen the past few weeks working on new meals so I have not had the opportunity to cook like I usually do. I am not complaining, as we are the lucky recipients of these great tasty new dishes he is creating! So, needless to say, things are busy around here. Therefore I have decided to take a blog break. I need to regroup and will be back in a couple of weeks with some more cookbook reviews, much neglected wine reviews, and some new dishes for your summer picnics!

Cheers to all and I will see you in a couple of weeks!

Monday, May 12, 2008

"Serious" In The Garden

It is another Monday, another beginning. At the REAL beginning of the day, like before the sun shines it's beautiful warm rays down upon us, this gem shines down on us.

This graceful bloom belongs to the "Night-Blooming Cereus" cactus. But to catch it's smiling face, you must be up at the break of dawn. This charming cactus resides at the edge of our property in the back where on warm summer nights it dances!

Another gem that shines is among our blogging community! I want to thank Gloria over at Canela's Kitchen for giving me this award! Visit Gloria's site and you surely can feel the love that she shares with all of us! "Thank You Gloria"!!!!


Friday, May 9, 2008

Key West Garden Prize Winner ?

What is smaller than an M&M ?

How about the latest ripe tomato in the garden! I must say, it takes ALOT to make a salad!

Have a great weekend! Get out there and plant something in your garden!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Super Supper Sides!

A few weeks ago Peter at Kalofagas-Greek Food And Beyond decided to do a few posts on side dishes since lately he seemed to be concentrating mostly on main dishes. Good idea Peter since BBQ and picnic season is upon us! Even Marie at Proud Italian Cook jumped on the bandwagon with her suggestions for a few sides. Hop on over and check on these super sides! Too yumptious guys!!!

As you can see, Mike fired up the smoker again this weekend and smoked a beef brisket that was tender and mouthwatering. He even threw a couple of our cayenne peppers on to smoke! So, I thought I would share with you the side dishes that worked well with our smoked beef brisket and would be great at any outdoor BBQ or picnic!

The first tasty side is Succotash Salad With A Creamy Basil Dressing

½ lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup of frozen baby lima beans
1 15 oz. can red kidney beans rinsed and drained
1 cup of frozen yellow corn thawed or you could use fresh corn, say about 2 large ears
½ cup chopped green onions
1 chopped seeded cayenne pepper
For the dressing:
¾ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
½ cup plain Greek nonfat yogurt
¼ cup light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Bring a large pan of water to a boil and add the lima beans. Cook them for about 2 minutes then add the green beans and cook about 4 minutes longer. Drain and rinse under cold water, drain well. Transfer these to a large bowl and add the corn, beans, onions and cayenne pepper.
Puree your basil, yogurt, mayo and vinegar in a blender. Add this dressing to your bean mixture and toss well. Salt and pepper to taste.
This is so easy and flavorful. I make mine a little ahead of time so the flavors can really get a hold of each other!

Next up is a Summer Black Bean Pasta Salad

¾ cup uncooked elbow pasta – cook this, drain and rinse under cold water, drain and set aside.
1-1/2 cups of halved grape tomatoes
1 cup peeled and diced avocado
1 cayenne pepper chopped
½ cup chopped cucumber
1/3 cup chopped red onion
2 heaping tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
1 15 oz. can of black beans rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons of lime zest
2-1/2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon of cider vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon of bottled minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl add your tomatoes, avocado, pepper, cucumber, onion, cilantro, beans and pasta, toss.
Combine your lime zest, juice, vinegar, garlic and oil in a bowl and mix well with a whisk. Add this dressing to your veggie bowl, toss well.
I let this one set also and WOW, those flavors are a real picnic in your mouth!

Last, but definitely not least, have on hand for a real treat, fresh cherry tomatoes from your own garden!!!! What a harvest those have been this year for me and, of course, they all come ripe at the same time! But, these little gems are just wonderful to snack on while you are firing up the grill!

Hope everyone is enjoying Spring !!!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Smokin' Chicken

Bummer! Due to “inclement” weather, mainly THE WIND, no kayaking this weekend. Saturday’s winds were 25-30 mph and Sunday in the morning we had rain, of which we could use as it has not rained in weeks but, it has to do it the day we plan to head out on the water! So instead, we fired up the ol’ smoker again! We cannot kayak, but we sure can eat!

I must tell you, if you do not have a smoker, you might just want to think about investing in one. They are very inexpensive and put out some pretty darn good food. The nice thing about them, they can be used as a grill or smoker! One of my favorite books to go along with my smoker is “Smoke and Spice” by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. They have lots of great recipes for rubs, mops, marinades, side dishes, desserts and a few good drink recipes to sip as you are smokin’ your dinner!

I wonder what these two birds are saying to each other before the lights go out and the heat cranks up? Whatever it was must have been good as these birds were terrific!

I was reading “Smoke and Spice” the other night and came upon “Chicken on a Throne”! This is a classic recipe as you grill or smoke your chicken atop a can of beer! Now how cool is that! The night before smoking the birds I made a rub from paprika, black pepper, salt, sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder and a nice heap of cayenne pepper. Next I made an injection liquid from beer, coconut oil, cider vinegar and some of the rub. I injected the birds and then rubbed them down with the rub mixture, sealed those guys in plastic bags and into the fridge for the night.
Next afternoon we cranked up the smoker with charcoal and hickory wood blocks that we soaked for a few hours, opened 2 beers, drank one and then divided the beer between the two cans. To that I added a chopped onion, chopped garlic and a bit of cider vinegar. Placed chickens “on their thrones”, lid on and lights out for the birds, for about 4 hours.

Birds are complete and resting on their thrones in the kitchen awaiting the platter where they will rest and then be consumed! These chickens were smoky, but not heavily, and so moist and tender. No dry chicken at all!

With the smoked chicken I served a simple potato salad, a cucumber salad and a warm dish of:

Black Eyed Peas & Tomatoes

1 Can of Black Eyed Peas, rinsed and drained
1 Medium onion chopped
2-3 Cloves of garlic chopped
2 Tablespoons of coconut oil
2 Teaspoons of dried thyme
1 Heaping tablespoon of fresh thyme (optional)
1 Bay Leaf
1 14 oz. can chopped tomatoes with juice
½ cup of white wine
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1-2 Cayenne peppers chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat adding the onion and cayenne pepper. Sauté for about 4 minutes. Add garlic, bay leaf, and thyme and stir for another minute. Now add the tomatoes and wine. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 25 minutes. Add the black eyed peas and parsley, cook until heated through. Discard bay leaf, add salt and pepper to taste.
This is a tasty easy side dish that goes well with any of your favorite BBQ recipes.

Now our week moves along with plans to attempt kayaking again this weekend! We will get there!!!!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mapping Out The Route!

It has been an uneventful week in the cooking department, except for this beauty!

Mike over at Mike’s Table featured on a post last week the most handsome and succulent looking duck – I had to have one! But, instead of roasting ours, we pulled out the smoker and smoked this baby for about 4 hours. Need I tell you how it tasted!!!

Now the eventful part of this week has been planning a kayak trip for the weekend. It is the time of year that is perfect for kayaking as the water has warmed up and the daytime temps are staying comfortable so you do not feel like a duck being roasted out there in the full sunshine! The only thing we are watching is the wind. It is quite a challenge to try to paddle with 25 mph winds slapping you in the face. Great if your back is to the wind and you are only going one way, but the trips are out and back so you will be facing the wind at some point. Yes I know, don’t be a wimp, but I am. I go for the pleasure, not the exercise! So today I am keeping my fingers crossed that the winds lay down tomorrow so we can head out early. The weather is so great here this time of year that I find it hard to stay indoors!

Not only have I been studying my kayak book, but have directed my attention to the native trees and shrubs in the Florida Keys. I have a wee bit of space on our property so I plan to plant some natives. Also, since I am heavily involved with the Key West Garden Club, I am attempting to learn all about keeping the native foliage in our area!

So there you have it! I plan to be back in the kitchen again this week with cookbook in hand and, hopefully, a successful recipe and book review to share with you.
Have a great weekend and do not forget to have a nice glass of wine to start the end of your day!


Monday, April 21, 2008

My 10th Book Review With A Bowl of Soup!

A favorite book of mine for many years, as it is all about gardening AND cooking, is “The Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden, Creative Gardening for the Adventurous Cook” by David Hirsch. David’s book is well rounded as it gets you involved in the entire process of cooking from planting to putting the food on the table. David’s first encounter with the restaurant was as a gardener who supplied them with fresh basil. David eventually began cooking at the restaurant but still supplied the restaurant with herbs, flowers, and rare specialty produce as organic gardening is one of his passions.
In his chapter on vegetables, he has a section for each veggie. In that section he tells a bit about that veggie, how to start it from seed or planting, cultural requirements, harvest, and culinary tips. He has a wonderful chapter on herbs sharing with us how to grow, culinary tips, and some interesting ways to use herbs besides in food, such as potpourri recipes. His next chapter focuses on edible flowers. It is packed full of information on how to grow these flowers and culinary tips on how to use them. David’s next chapter delves into the design of your garden. Lot’s of great info in this chapter on patterns, plant selection, and maintenance. Chapter 5 gets into the technique portion, such as soils, mulch, seed starting, buying the plants, transplanting, bug and disease control and much more.
One of my favorite chapters, of course, is the one that has the recipes. I want to share with you one of the soups that I adapted from David’s selection.

Portuguese Kale Soup

1 can of great northern beans, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1 medium onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 fresh cayenne peppers, finely chopped
1 medium potato chopped
1 large carrot chopped
1 parsnip chopped
1 can of chopped tomatoes, drained
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 large bay leaves
2-3 tablespoons fresh oregano chopped or 1 tablespoon dried
10-12 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil drained and chopped
1 bunch of fresh kale (about 4 cups) chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat your oil in a pot, add the fennel seeds and stir for a minute, then add the onion and cayenne pepper. Sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic stirring for another minute. Now add the potato, carrot and parsnip. Sauté these for a couple of minutes then add your tomatoes, stock, bay leaves and oregano. Simmer all of these for about 10 minutes.
Now it is time to add your sun-dried tomatoes, kale and beans.
Simmer all of these for 10-15 minutes. Taste and add your salt and pepper to your liking.

This is a very simple wholesome soup that would be great for a quick lunch or perfect for dinner adding a crunchy side salad and a loaf of crusty country bread with dipping oil on the side. And hey, don’t forget a glass of your favorite wine to make this dinner complete!

For all of you spring gardeners and adventurous cooks, I highly recommend picking up a copy of David’s book to kick off your spring and summer growing season!


Friday, April 18, 2008

What Is This Dish, With Wine!

Can you guess what this is??? No, not pizza, which it sorta looks like. OK, I will tell you. It is the best vegetarian lasagna that I have ever made! No kidding! I know, I know, another lasagna dish. But you have to see the ingredients! Mike said, “This even has beans in it!” I was having a non-exciting afternoon and was contemplating what to have for dinner. I am tired of red meat, already had my fish fixes for the week, I needed a boost of fresh veggies. So I headed to the market and picked up fresh veggies! Result:

Vegetarian Lasagna

Loads of garlic, chopped
1 onion chopped
Coconut Oil
1 small zucchini chopped
1 small yellow squash chopped
8 oz. (one pack) of cremini mushrooms, cleaned, sliced, and sautéed in butter
1 can of white beans, I used Great Northern, drained and rinsed
1 bunch of kale, chopped and cooked in veggie broth till wilted
1 small bunch of asparagus tuff ends cut off and cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
1 big bunch of fresh oregano or 1 heaping teaspoon of dried
2 cayenne peppers chopped
1-2 carrots chopped
A splash of white wine
Lasagna noodles
Lots of mozzarella cheese
Grated parmesan cheese
A nice hunk of Manchango cheese grated
Salt and Pepper to taste
Your favorite tomato based pasta sauce

Heat a nice glug of oil in your pan; add the onion, garlic and cayenne pepper. Sauté a few minutes, add the carrot and asparagus and sauté about 5 minutes. Then add the oregano, zucchini and squash. Salt and pepper to taste. You want to cook all of these veggies until almost done, but still a bit crunchy as they will cook again in the oven. If they seem to be getting dry in the pan, like mine did, I added about ¼ cup of the wine I was drinking while preparing!
Cook your noodles
A bit of sauce
½ of the Kale and beans
Manchango Cheese
A bit of sauce
Your sautéed veggies
A bit of sauce
Rest of the kale
Loads of mozzarella cheese
A hefty sprinkling of parmesan cheese

Pop that baby into a 350 degree oven for about 35 minutes or till the cheese is nice and browned. Remove and let rest for about 5 minutes before cutting.

Oh my gosh, heaven from one dish! I served a small Caesar salad aside, as this is Mike’s favorite and a loaf of 7 grain bread with bowls of olive oil to dip.

I know this sounds like a lot of work, but actually it is not. I was surprised that I had it all together and in the oven in under an hour. Well worth it! Just look at that kale and beans!

What did we have to drink with this delicious dish? Some delicious wines! Mike had his favorite Cabernet, Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon and I had a thirst quenching crisp Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Monkey Bay! Both wines were great to sip before dinner and paired well with the lasagna!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Has Spring Arrived In Your Garden?

We come from the

earth, we return to the

earth, and in between

we garden.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Wine, Crab Cakes, All In Key West!

Warning! The photos you are about to view are real. I did not even get to use any fancy props like bowls, napkins or perfect lighting. What you are viewing is a mighty tasty dinner that we had last night that I would like to share with you.

Crab Cakes! Spotted them on the front cover of Cooking Light Magazine this month. So, of course, I got an immediate craving for them. I dug into my recipe box and found my favorite way to prepare them. Most recipes are pretty much the same and I guess mine is also. But…they are delicious!!!! Just look how those cakes flaked apart with the crab pieces still intact!

Debs Crab Cakes

I use the crab that is not in a can but in a container at the fish counter of your favorite store. Warning! It is not cheap, but if you are going to make good crab cakes, it is well worth the investment!

8 oz. of crab meat
¼ cup of mayo
1 heaping teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons of Old Bay Seasoning
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
A generous couple of shakes of your favorite hot sauce
1 egg white
1 heaping teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
2-3 green onions finely chopped
Panko (Chinese Bread Crumbs)
Coconut oil for frying

Mix together all but the crab and panko. Carefully mix in by hand the crab. Yes, use your hands as any utensil seems to kill the crab! Then take about 2 heaping tablespoons full into your hand to see how it holds together. That is when you need to start adding the Panko little by little. Your goal is to add enough to keep the patty together but not dry it out. Now you are on your own.
Shape crab mixture into patties, place on a plate, cover and put in fridge for about 45 minutes. This keeps the patties from falling apart.
Heat about 3 tablespoons of coconut oil in your frying pan, medium heat.
Add more Panko crumbs on a plate. Take your crab cakes and dip each side in the crumb mixture, then add to skillet.
Cook until nice and crispy brown on both sides. Serve warm.

Last night I made a couple of sauces to go with the crab cakes. The sauce on the right is:

Chipotle Pepper Aioli
Mix in a bowl
One or two canned chipotle peppers, seeded and chopped with a little adobo sauce added
¾ cup of mayo
1 clove of garlic minced
1 generous tablespoon of chopped cilantro
Lime juice to taste

The sauce on the left is:

Remoulade Sauce (This sauce is also great with grilled shrimp)
Mix in a bowl
1 cup of mayo
3 chopped green onions
1 heaping tablespoon of capers, drained
2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 heaping tablespoon of horseradish
1 clove of garlic minced
A few generous shakes of your favorite hot sauce
1 tablespoon of finely chopped parsley

Make these sauces ahead of time so they can chill in the fridge to mix the flavors.

To accompany the crab cakes I had a fresh salad of arugula and spinach with a:

Fresh Lemon Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons of finely grated lemon peel
1-1/2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
1 finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon Agave Nectar or honey
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and quickly whisk in the olive oil.

The Lemon Vinaigrette marries well with the crab cakes. In fact, you could use some of it drizzled on the cakes!

The rest of our dinner consisted of roasted baby potatoes in coconut oil with a dusting of cumin and salt and pepper. I also made a black bean and corn salsa, which we just ate as a side dish.

My beverage of choice was a wine that I posted on during the holidays, Le C Faux Frog 2005 Chardonnay by Toad Hollow. This is a wonderful Chardonnay that is not oakey, has a touch of lemon and a bright refreshing finish. It was a perfect match with the crab cakes!

I want to thank my blogging friend Gloria for the E Award that she presented to me. Gloria resides a bit south of me and if you have not visited her site, stop on over and say Hi. She has a wonderful blog, Canela's Kitchen, and writes about the delicious dishes that she prepares and great stories about her family and the places she visits near her home in Chile. Thank you Gloria!

The weekend is upon us once again so everyone enjoy!