Friday, September 28, 2012


 Billy played in a golf tournament that took us to the exclusive (it’s not that exclusive, cuz they let the Lindsays in!), Ocean Reef Club, in North Key Largo.  It's about an hour and a half drive south of our home.
The Ocean Reef club was established by Minneapolis developer, Morris Baker, as a fishing camp and lodge in 1945.  It has grown over the years into the family friendly, self-contained community it is today.  Morris' family was bought out and now it's the property owners who operate the club.  
The guys say the  golf course is impecable.  Their is also a marina,  church, shops, restaurants, and an airport (for those of you who have your own jet). 

This is our room at the Inn.
Yes, that is the giant hat that I wear to the beach. Firstly; I burn.  Secondly; I look great in a big floppy hat.  Just sayin'.
Look what they left in our room! 
Apparently they think I should work out while I am enjoying my relaxing weekend.  Not a chance! 
I’m not even turning the ipad on this weekend!


Our room has views of the Atlantic…
Yes it is overcast, but it's still hot!
And the lagoon.
There are tons of fun things for this kids to play on at the lagoon.
I thought it prudent to leave my camera in the room while taking a guided kayak tour through the mangroves that are seen across from one of the pools.  

To get to the pools at Buccaneer Island one must cross the toll bridge.  The little toll taker's fee is a pat on the head and a scratch under the chin.  I'm not superstitious, I pay the fee.
Hmm...wonder how the superstitious people get to the pool?
I have proof that I was up before sunrise!  No, really I took this picture!

I wander around the beautiful hibiscus before it’s time to leave.

Sebastian came to see me off.  Good-bye little friend.  Hope to see you next year. 

Billy’s team came in at a close second place, so that meant shopping in the pro-shop with his winnings, woo hoo!

I sure hope this wasn’t a friend of Sebastian’s.

Liberally coat the fish fillets with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.  My fish has the skin removed, but if your fish has skin, that is fine.
Sauté the fish in a hot pan for 3 minutes or so.  The fish becomes opaque as it cooks.  Look at the side of the fish, this is ready to turn if you like your fish done to medium.

You can see that one of my pieces of fish did not have enough oil on it, and it stuck to the pan.  I show you my mistakes so that you won’t do the same.
When the fish has cooked about 2 minutes on this side, add the chicken broth, and squeeze the juice of half a lemon in the pan.  Reduce the liquid by half.

Turn the heat off, remove the fish and add the butter…(I should have removed my fish first, it is easier to incorporate the butter.)

And the watercress.
Pour the sauce and the watercress over the top of the fish.
I served my sea bass with Roasted Tomato Orzo Pasta, and Oven Roasted Asparagus.



Serves 2

12           oz           Sea bass fillet, or another meaty white fish such as halibut fillet; cut into two portions
1             Tbsp       Olive oil
                              Salt and pepper
½            cup         Chicken stock, low sodium
½                           Lemon
1             Tbsp       Cold butter
½            cup         Water cress (or 2 Tbsp. of flat leaf parsley) 

1.        Heat a heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat.
2.       Coat both sides of the fish liberally with the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
3.       Put the fish in the hot skillet. If the fish has the skin on it, then put it skin side down into the skillet to cook first.  Cook for about 3 minutes.
4.       Gently turn the fish over to cook about another 2 minutes.
5.       Add the chicken stock to the pan, and squeeze the juice of ½ a lemon into the pan.
6.       Allow the stock to reduce by half, this happens quickly.
7.       Turn the heat off; remove the fish from the pan.
8.       Whisk the cold butter into the sauce.
9.       Add the water cress.
10.    Pour the sauce over the fish.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


We have had a week of cloudy weather, which is actually a relief! I don’t know about you, but this kind of weather puts me in the mood for making soups, stews and to bake!!! Stay tuned for more cool weather inspirations.
So I have all the Home Made Chicken Stock that I made yesterday (which was a cinch by the way), for a quick and easy, not to mention yummy dinner I am making homemade chicken soup (also a cinch).
Say whaaaat?  You don’t have any Homemade Chicken Stock?  I don’t think you can make this then.  Just kidding!  This is Weeknight Chicken Soup; a use what you have kind of soup. Don’t have homemade chicken stock; then store bought chicken stock will work just fine, just be sure it’s low sodium.    If you don’t have green beans then add broccoli.  Toss the leftover chicken from last night into the soup.  I had leftover rice in the refrigerator, so I added that to my soup.
Here goes…

Remember this beauty?

I froze the rest of the stock, but kept this to use for tonight’s soup.  If you don’t have homemade you can use a low sodium, store bought chicken stock.

Cut about half of an onion into a large dice…

And a couple of pieces of celery…

I only had baby carrots in the fridge; so I cut them in half on the diagonal, so that they would look pretty.

Bring the onions, celery, carrot and chicken stock to a simmer.
*If you are using uncooked rice add that to the pan as well.  
Once the liquid comes to a simmer, cook for about 20 minutes. 


I always like to pound out my chicken breasts, just to an even thickness.  This allows every bite to be equally juicy, because the chicken cooks the same all the way through.

Season the chicken with Old Bay seasoning.


Sauté the chicken with a couple of teaspoons of oil.  Any oil will do.


**If you don’t feel like getting the skillet out; then don’t bother pounding the chicken out, just cut the raw chicken into nice strips and add it to the simmering soup at the beginning of the recipe. BUT sauteing the chicken will add more flavor to the soup. It's your call.

I use a splatter screen to keep my cleanup to a minimum.  I’m lazy like that.

I also had just a few green beans left in the crisper, so this was a perfect use for them. 
Add them to the pot along with…

2 tablespoons of flat leaf parsley for freshness...

*The leftover rice... 

And the cooked chicken. 

Shredding the chicken gives the soup a more rustic look. 
Cook for about 8 minutes.  Until the beans are cooked but crisp, and the rice is hot.
Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.


Can you believe this soup was made in less than 30 minutes?



Serves 4 

             cups       Chicken stock, low sodium, or homemade
½                             Medium onion, large dice, about a ½ cup
2              stalks     Celery, large dice, about a ½ cup
2-3                          Carrots, large dice, about 1 cup

1/2          cup           *Uncooked rice

2                             Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
                               Old Bay seasoning
2               tsp          Oil
1              cup         Green beans cut into about 1 ½ inch pieces
2              Tbsp      Chopped flat leaf parsley, or cilantro
                              Salt and pepper to taste
* or use 1 1/2 cups of leftover cooked rice . 

1.       In a medium saucepan add the chicken stock, onion, celery, carrot, and rice.  Bring to a simmer and cook the soup until the veggies are tender, and the rice is cooked, about 20 minutes.  
     **If you are using raw, cut chicken, add that to the pan as well (see the note at the end of the recipe).
2.       Meanwhile; season the uncooked chicken breasts with Old Bay seasoning.
3.       Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat, sauté the chicken until it's cooked through, about 4-5 minutes on each side.
4.       Shred or dice the cooked chicken into big, bite sized pieces.
5.       Add the green beans, chopped parsley, and the cooked chicken to the soup for the last 8 minutes or so of cooking.
      *If you're using leftover cooked rice, add that in this step. 
6.       Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.

      **Browning the chicken gives the soup an added depth of flavor. If you want to skip that step; then cut the raw chicken into strips, and add the chicken to the pan to poach, in step 1.
      *** Even easier; add some leftover rotisserie chicken that has been shredded.
Serve with a good loaf of bread and enjoy.

Monday, September 24, 2012


I’ve been reading my fellow bloggers as they are transitioning into fall.  They speak of cooler weather, changing leaves, the donning of sweaters; they’re making soups and stews and all kinds of things pumpkin.  While that all sound cozy, and I can see it with my mind’s eye, that’s not my reality.
I live in South Florida; it’s still in the 90’s here and probably will be until Halloween.  Then in November we will drop into the high 70’s and low 80’s for the most part until the mid-May with a week of cold weather interspersed here and there.  We really only have two seasons, dry and rainy.  Us silly Northerners still imagine that we live in four seasons.  Some miss the seasons, but I don’t (living 7 years in Northern British Columbia was enough winter for me), however; I do like the idea of seasons.
This is how I pretend that Florida has transitioned from summer into fall.  I have changed the color of my nail polish from bright pinks, to more plums; my tank tops from brights to jewel tones.   I have switched my Bath and Body Works candles over from Palm Leaves, to Spiced Cider (smells like I’ve been baking all day).  Finally I make a big pot of Chicken Stock!
It only takes moments to get the stock on the stove.

 Cut a large onion into quarters.  Leave the skin on, that skin will contribute to the stock being a richer color.

Cut the celery into big pieces.

You can see that I only had baby carrots so I used about 16 of them.  If you have whole carrots, cut them into 3 or 4 pieces.
Add about 10 whole black peppercorns.

Tie the flat leaf parsley, fresh thyme, and bay leaves into a bundle. 

I like to buy whole chickens and cut them into pieces myself (it’s much more affordable than buying pre-cut chicken), usually I am left with the backs, necks and wings; so I put them into a freezer bag and freeze them to make stock with.

I put my chicken carcasses into the pot frozen, so I simmered the stock for five hours instead of four.  This is okay because there is very little meat on the carcasses.

 * If you use a whole chicken, remove the chicken from the stock pot after about 2 hours.  Remove the meat from the chicken, put the meat into the refrigerator to save for soup or another use, and return the carcass to the stock to simmer for another 2 hours.  Do not put a whole chicken in frozen!
It will be tempting to stir the stock while it simmers, but don’t; do so will make the stock cloudy.

When the stock has finished cooking, use a spider or a slotted spoon to remove the chicken and vegetables from the stock.

Discard this, it has done its job and given its flavor to the stock.

 Strain the stock into a couple of large vessels,

  using a fine mesh strainer, or a strainer lined with paper towels.


Liquid gold!


I put my stock into the refrigerator overnight and then skimmed the fat off of the top.  If you don’t want to refrigerate it, skim the fat off of the top any way.


Then portion the stock into containers to put into the freezer. 


You may want to leave 8 cups of stock in the refrigerator to use for Weeknight Chicken Soup.  I’ll share that recipe my next blog!


I have to say, it is very comforting and cozy to have a big ol’ pot of stock on the stove, the aroma wafts through the house, and lingers until morning.  This makes it officially the kickoff of the “fall” season for me! 

Yields about 4 quarts 

4              lbs          Chicken carcasses, such as back, wings, neck; or a 6 pound whole chicken
1                              Large onion, quartered, no need to peel
3                              Celery stocks cut each stock into 4 pieces
3                              Carrots cut each carrot into 4 pieces
8 or 10                   Whole black pepper corns
1 handful                Flat leaf parsley
12           sprigs      Fresh thyme
2                              Bay leaves
7            quarts   Cold water 

1.       Put the onion, celery, carrots and chicken in the bottom of the stock pot.
2.       Add the peppercorns.
3.       Tie the parsley, thyme and bay leaves into a bundle using kitchen twine; drop the bundle into the stock pot.
4.       Cover the chicken and vegetables with cold water; the water should cover the chicken by about three inches or so.
5.       Put the pot on the stove at medium high; until it comes to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to between medium low and low, (depending on your stove), and keep at a simmer for 4 hours.
6.       You may need to skim any impurities that come to the top, but whatever you do, do not stir!
7.       When the stock is done simmering, gently remove the chicken and vegetables from the pot, and discard them. 
8.       Using either a very fine mesh strainer, or a strainer lined with paper towels, strain the stock into one or two vessels.  Allow to cool slightly so that any fat will rise to the top.  Skim that fat off the top.  You can allow the stock to cool in the refrigerator overnight, and it will be even easier to remove the fat. 
9.       Put the stock into storage containers and refrigerate what you will use in the next couple of days, or put it into the freezer for future use.

Friday, September 21, 2012


 I have just typed my recipe into Word, word!  The first blog I ever wrote, I wrote directly in Blogger; well I lost all my work when I went to publish. Lesson learned!  Now I enter everything into Word, copy and paste into Blogger.   
I was thinking that maybe I should come up with a prettier, more alluring title for these artichokes.  I went to; entered “shortcut”. 
Shortcut, verb; to avoid having to comply with (something) especially through cleverness
Synonyms beat, bypass, dodge, get around, shortcut, sidestep, skirt
Follow me to the end and you will see why I chose not to change the title.   (Notice the italicized words.)
I know there are a lot of photos, but I also know there are some of you who have not cooked with whole artichokes.  I hope the photos show that it’s not that big of a deal.

First you have to see how pretty these globe artichokes are; I couldn’t resist them!

Unfortunately there is no shortcut to cleaning the artichokes.
Cut the tops off, about ¼ of the way down.  You must rub all the cut surfaces with a lemon to keep them from browning.
The traditional recipe leaves the artichoke whole, but by cutting them in half, we will beat the clock in cooking time. 
Shortcut, verb; to avoid having to comply with (something) especially through cleverness.  I think this is pretty clever.

Use a small spoon to scrape out the choke, and carefully pull out the tough inner (purple) leaves being sure to dodge the prickles on said leaves.

Use a paring knife to get around the base and the stem of the artichoke, to reveal the soft green flesh.  Don’t cut the stem off, it tastes just like the artichoke heart!

Once you have cleaned an artichoke place it into a bowl of acidulated water while you clean the remaining artichokes.

Put the artichokes and the lemon into a large pot of salted boiling water.  Cook 10 to 15 minutes, if you pull a leaf it should come out easily.  Boiling the artichokes bypasses some of the cooking time.
In a large skillet over medium heat sauté the onions, mushrooms and garlic in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil; until the onions are translucent.

My artichokes have finished cooking so I removed them to an oven proof baking dish.  You can see I didn’t add the liquid, but if you follow the directions and put the liquid in first, you will side step the issue of soggy bread crumbs at the end.

Add the pine nuts to the skillet to toast for a minute or so.

I had a loaf of Ciabatta bread, so I cut some of it into fine cubes.

 Add another tablespoon of oil and some butter; when the butter has melted, add the fresh bread crumbs, grated Parmesan…*If you use the pre grated Parmesan from the super market, it will be more dense, so reduce the amount of cheese to ¾ cup.
…the chopped parsley, salt and pepper.  Sauté for a couple of minutes.

Add 1/3 cup of stock to moisten the bread crumbs.
Now hoist up your skirt, cut we’re going to stuff the artichokes. 
My Italian friends put the stuffing in between each and every leaf (actually they get the kids to do it), while I admit it makes for a delicious stuffed artichoke, it is time consuming!  
We’re just going to mound the stuffing in nice little cup that the artichoke half makes. 
Shortcut, verb; to avoid having to comply with (something) especially through cleverness.   I would say this is non-compliance.  
Top with a little more cheese if you want.

Put them in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the bread stuffing is golden brown.

You could use the buttery cooking liquid to dip the leaves into….or make an aioli while the artichokes are in the oven.

Here’s what you need.

In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, egg yolk, mustard, salt and pepper.

Slowly stream in the oil while whisking continuously.

Once it has thickened…

Add the garlic and refrigerate until ready to use.


So I know the title of the dish “Shortcut Stuffed Artichokes” is not pretty or alluring; but because I avoided complying with tradition, and using what I think are a couple of clever tricks to make stuffed artichokes in a quicker and easier manner, the title is perfect!

Billy eats a whole artichoke, while I only eat half; that's why it serves 2 to 4. 

Serves 2 to 4

2                              Large artichokes,
1 1/3      cups       Vegetable or chicken stock
¼             cup         Dry white wine *optional
3              cloves   Garlic, smashed
2              cloves   Garlic, minced
3              Tbsp      Butter, divided
3              Tbsp      Olive oil, divided
¾             cup         Onion, about ½ of a large onion, diced small
1 ½         cups       Shitake mushrooms, about ¼ pound, stems removed and diced small
1/3           cup        Pine nuts
2              cups       Fresh bread crumbs
1              cup         Fresh grated Parmesan cheese, *if using the Parmesan cheese that has already been grated from the supermarket, then use about ¾ cup of cheese.
1/3         cup         Flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
                                Salt and pepper to taste
1              cup         Aioli, recipe follows 

             1.        Pre heat oven to 400 degrees.

2.       Cut off the top ¼ of the artichoke.  Rub the cut surface with the lemon.
3.       Pull off the outer layer of artichoke leaves, and use a paring knife to trim the fibrous covering from the stem.
4.       Cut the artichoke in half.
5.       Use a small spoon to scrape the choke out of the center, carefully pull out and discard the prickly, purple leaves.
6.       Put the artichoke into a bowl of water and lemon.
7.       Repeat with the other artichoke.
8.        Put the artichokes and the lemon in a large pot of salted boiling water.  Cook for 10 to 15 minutes.  Until, when you pull on a leaf, it easily comes out.
9.       You will need an oven proof baking dish that will fit the 4 artichoke halves comfortably.  In that dish combine 1 cup of vegetable or chicken stock, white wine, salt to taste, 3 smashed garlic cloves, and 2 tablespoon of butter.  Set to the side, until the artichokes are done cooking.
10.   When the artichokes are cooked, remove them from the water; and put them in the baking dish containing the stock and wine, in a single layer, cut side up.  Set to the side, until the stuffing is ready.
11.   Meanwhile; sauté in a large skillet over medium heat, with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the onions, shitake mushrooms and the garlic.  Cook until the onions are translucent.
12.   Add the pine nuts and toast for a minute or two.
13.   To the cooked vegetables add another 1 tablespoon of olive and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.
14.   When the butter has melted, add the fresh bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, flat leaf parsley, salt and pepper to taste.  Sauté just a couple of minutes.
15.   Add 1/3 cup of vegetable or chicken stock to moisten the stuffing.
16.   Fill the cavity of the artichokes with the bread stuffing.  The stuffing will be slightly mounded. If you want to, top with a little more grated Parmesan.
17.   Roast the artichokes in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the stuffing is golden brown.
18.   Serve with aioli, for dipping the leaves into.

Yields 1 cup
1                              Egg yolk
1/2                         Lemon, juice only
1              tsp          Dijon mustard
¼             tsp          Salt
1/8         tsp          Pepper
½             cup         Extra virgin olive oil
½             cup         Grape seed oil
1              clove     Garlic, mashed into a paste.  Use a small garlic clove. 

1.        In a small bowl whisk together the egg yolk, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper.
2.       In a slow stream, while continuously whisking, add the oils to the egg mixture.  If the mixture starts to separate while streaming the oil, stop the stream, whisk until it comes back together, and then continue.
3.       Once the oil is incorporated and the mixture is thickened; whisk in the garlic.
4.       Refrigerate until ready to use.