Saturday, March 14, 2015

Key West - Let's Party

Looking at the photo below, you'll see that our weather is far from tropical. We can pretend that is white sand ;-)  Made a quick trip to Hobby Lobby and Aldi's for a few palms and hosted a Key West themed dinner for our family last weekend. We've been wanting to do this since returning from Key West last February, and chose several menu items from the cookbook "My Key West Kitchen".
The menu consisted of several dishes from the cookbook I picked up in Key West and others I found on the internet after doing some extensive research and reading reviews. I love reviews and they were spot on.
Key Lime Pie Martinis
Skip and Go Naked Drinks (Susan Branch)
Coconut Shrimp
Tuna Cakes
Candied Bacon Pineapple Wraps
Pork Havana Key West Style*
Oven Roasted Mojo Chicken*
Dinosaur BBQ Honey Corn Bread
Yellow rice*
Black beans*
Sunshine's Key Lime Pie*
Cuban Coffee

* = menu items from "My Key West Kitchen" by Chef Norman Van Aken

I used a recipe from one of the establishments in Key West for the Key Lime Pie martinis and they  taste just like key lime pie in a glass. I'd love to pour one for you ;-)

Key Lime Pie Martini
Graham cracker crumbs, for rimming the glass
2 lime wedges
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) vanilla flavored vodka
1/4 cup (2 ounces) key lime liqueur (recommended: Ke Ke Beach Key Lime Cream Liqueur)
2 tablespoons pineapple juice
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Ice cubes

Pour the graham cracker crumbs in a shallow dish. Rub a lime wedge around the edge of a martini glass and roll the edge in the graham cracker crumbs. Chill the glass for 30 minutes or until ready to serve.

Combine the vanilla vodka, key lime liqueur, pineapple juice, and cream in a shaker. Fill the shaker half full with ice and shake until well blended. Pour into prepared martini glass, garnish with a lime wedge and serve immediately.
What’s so special about Key West?
The weather, architecture, food, music and flowers blooming in the full moon light, especially in February for me. And for anybody else that wants it ;-) Key West lies 150 miles south of Miami and 90 miles north of Cuba. This little spit of land, four miles long by two miles wide, hosts weather that is consistently beautiful thanks to its subtropical climate, with temperatures of seventy-five to eighty degrees year round.
“Over the years, what used to be a funky little out-of-the-way, stuck-in-time place, has evolved into a sophisticated island resort. The little Conch houses have been bought up, remodeled, and often resold. And although the gentrification of Key West is celebrated by some residents and opposed by others, the fact remains that people who have the means to go anywhere in the world keep coming back to this place, just as my husband and I have returned again and again.”
Leslie Linsley "A Tropical Lifestyle"
A Tommy Bahama tablecloth from the Christmas Tree Shoppe, margarita glasses, tea light candles in blue mason jars with a label I printed from the computer, star fish, sea shells, mini palm trees from Hobby Lobby and bottles of Fiji water. 
Several items on our menu were gluten free including these tasty crispy coconut shrimp. They were a bit hit served with homemade pineapple salsa.
One of our entrees was an eight-bone rack of pork prepared Key West Style. The rub was made with olive oil, black peppercorns (bruised), Old Bay seasoning, garlic and red onion. The glaze was olive oil, butter, garlic, sweet onion, orange, toasted cumin seeds, sherry wine vinegar and orange marmalade.  
Our second entree was Oven-Roasted Mojo Chicken that was marinated overnight in Sour Orange Mojo (a class Latin-American sauce) which consisted of garlic, Scotch bonnet chiles, kosher salt, toasted cumin seeds, EVOO, fresh sour orange juice, sherry wine vinegar and pepper. I couldn't find sour oranges, so the recipe said to use equal portions of lime and orange juice.

Some Key West Table Ideas:
Cuban bread
Fiji Island Water
Shell dishes
Crushed shells from Michaels
Jimmy Buffet music
Beachy cocktail napkins
Mile Marker 0 sign
Key West Motto is "Come As You Are"
Don't we all look like we are in the tropics?  We felt it was still too chilly to wear tank tops and flip flops.
 You may have seen "THE TRAVELING TOTE" logo on my side bar.
We are a group of five that are fond of the MacKenzie-Childs tote bags. Throughout the year, we will each write a connected post about the places our tote bags have taken us. They might include business trips, shopping adventures, weeklong vacations or simply every day escapades! 

 My bag, Miss Aurora, begged to go to Key West in her dreams. She enjoyed it so much, that she had another dream about Key West

The bags were named by their owners :-)
My bag is named Miss Aurora and my non-blogging friend Colleen  has Miss Mackenzie Joy 
We have Linda and Miss Rosie @  More Fun Less Laundry
Patti and Miss Kenzie @  Pandoras Box
Sarah and Miss CC @  Hyacinths for the Soul

Miss MacKenzie Joy made her debut on 2/28/15 to celebrate birthdays with a group of friends at Zeina's. 
I don't leave the house without a tote bag. Just call me the BAG LADY. During the week, I have been known to use my bag like a brief case.

Do you have a favorite tote bag? You should see how large my purse is. I put everything but the kitchen sink in it. Always good to be prepared ;-) 
Thanks for stopping by! I will be joining Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday and Rattlebridge Farm for Foodie Friday.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Happy March and Garden Vegetable Quinoa Chili

According to our local meteorologist, we officially survived the coldest month on record since 1857. The official average temperature for February 2015 was 7.2 degrees, crushing the old record of 9.2 degrees set back in 1857.  Not only was it the coldest winter ever on record, February 2015 came in at the third snowiest winters with 40.4" of snowfall. The ski resorts are very happy.
I welcome March with open arms.

We have been trying to eat healthy {and stay warm}. I've been using Bob's Red Mill products forever, especially the dried garbanzo beans (chick peas).
We make hummus twice a month using the recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook, and we love it on these Greek salad sandwiches. I soak the garbanzo beans before going to bed, and make the hummus in the food processor in the morning. Easy peasy.

When I was asked if I would like to review Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook I immediately said yes since my good friend Donna has celiac disease. 

I've been cooking gluten free for our dinner parties with Donna for over eight years, and am always interested in trying new gluten-free recipes.

The recipe I chose from the cookbook included quinoa which I use on a regular basis. It is classified a super-food by nutritionists and a “super-crop” by the United Nations. The National Academy of Sciences calls quinoa “one of the best sources of protein in the vegetable kingdom.”

{This recipe will be on our menu on a regular basis. It was that good.}

Garden Vegetable Quinoa Chili, page 129
Courtesy of Bob’s Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook by Camilla V Saulsbury, 2015 © Reprinted with publisher permission.
Makes 8 servings

112 tbsp vegetable oil                 
2        zucchini, diced                   
1        red bell pepper, chopped        
1        green bell pepper, chopped       
112 cups chopped onions               
4        cloves garlic, minced            
3 tbsp   chili powder                  
112 tbsp ground cumin                  
1 tsp    hot pepper sauce              
2        cans (each 14 to 19 oz)
         red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1        can (14 to 19 oz) black 
         beans, drained and rinsed
1        can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes 
1        can (14 to 15 oz)
         tomato sauce
112 cups hot cooked quinoa
         Fine sea salt and freshly ground
         black pepper
Suggested Accompaniments
         Plain Greek yogurt
         Lime wedges
         Fresh cilantro leaves
         Chopped green onions
         Chopped radishes

1.   In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, red pepper, green pepper and onions; cook, stirring, for 8 to 10 minutes or until softened. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin and hot pepper sauce; cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
2.   In a small bowl, coarsely mash half of the red beans with a fork. Stir mashed beans, whole red beans, black beans, tomatoes and tomato sauce into the pot; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, for about 30 minutes to blend the flavors. Stir in quinoa. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with any of the suggested accompaniments, as desired.

If using the larger 19-oz cans of beans, you may want to add up to 12 cup water to thin the chili.

Storage Tip
Store the cooled chili (without any accompaniments) in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or in the microwave using the Defrost function. Warm chili in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.

Now it's time to choose a menu for our Key West Party.  Thank you for stopping by! I am joining Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Some of My Favorite Things


It's a balmy 28 degrees here today, and I just cleaned my mirrors and windows with club soda and a lint free cloth. Works great.

My mom's Pyrex bowl {my favorite} is being used to bake bread.  

I have been using this tin container (for bread flour) for a decade.

My favorite green glass measuring cup takes up residence in the flour.

A geranium in bloom! I brought it indoors for the winter and it has started blooming. Spring is just around the corner.

I use this when I forget to wear gardening gloves :-)

I found this on AOL this morning....

We will paint flowers on the snow to get us through this long winter in New York!

Sweet gerber daisies from my son for Valentine's Day.

I made a few of these mason jar vases for our upcoming Key West dinner party to warm up our friends :-)

MacKenzie-Childs has done it again.
I ADORE these new cupcake containers.

Yes please!!!

Sweet, sweet paper napkins ;-)  I think I'll be tucking one in my lunch tote from time to time. 

I love this idea. Three of my friends and I will be sharing our travels with the "Traveling Tote Series."  {soon}

Thank you for stopping by! I am joining Share Your Cup Thursday.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

 I am still swooning over these heart shaped sugar cookies with my favorite Magnolia Bakery buttercream frosting that I make every Valentine's day. If I could keep only one buttercream recipe, this would be it. Every time we go to New York City, I have to stop at the Magnolia Bakery for a cupcake ;-)

World Famous Paradise Bakery Sugar Cookies with Magnolia Bakery Buttercream Frosting

Cookie Ingredients:

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
2 cups vegetable shortening
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg, beaten
3 1/3 cups cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1) Preheat oven to 375°.
2) In a medium bowl, cream together the sugars and shortening using an electric mixer.
 3) Mix on slow speed 30 seconds, then scrape down the bowl with a spatula.
4) Increase speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes.
5) Slowly add vanilla and beaten egg while mixing.
6) In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl, mixing on slow speed until just blended. Do not overmix.
 7) Scoop with an ice-cream scoop if decorating with sugar only
8) Place directly on cookie sheet.
9) Bake at 375° for 9-10 minutes. Cookies are done when small cracks appear and are pale golden. Ideally, the edges do not brown.

If making cut out cookies form dough in to two balls, chill dough in refrigerator for at least two hours covered.

Roll out dough on floured surface and cut out cookies with desired shaped cookie cutters.
Place directly on cookie sheet. Bake at 375° for 9-10 minutes. Cookies are done when small cracks appear and are pale golden. Ideally, the edges do not brown.

Decorate with Buttercream Frosting or Sugar (See recipe below).

Magnolia Bakery Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 to 8 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Thank you so much to all of you who have sent kind condolences on my mother's passing. It is truly appreciated. My creative spirit will be back soon.

I am joining Rattlebridge Farm for Foodie Friday.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A January Wedding

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
We attended a beautiful January wedding (East Coast) for my cousin's son, and even though it was my first January wedding, I hope it won't be my last. Loved everything about it, and the temperature in the room at the reception felt tropical. LOL I think they wanted to make sure the bride was warm. 
Loved the bride's pine cone wedding bouquet! Don't worry, she didn't didn't toss it ;o)
My cousin's daughter made the wedding cake, and I loved the bride and groom topper made of pine cones. 
The winter white candles and pine branches made a stunning centerpiece for each table. 

Thank you for stopping by!