A Tale Of Two Christmas Trees

A Tale Of Two Christmas Trees began as I looked around our sunny Florida home with its open concept design and I realized it was going to be a challenge to decorate for Christmas. The warm December weather, windows looking out at towering oleanders and palm trees, tropical fabric on the throw pillows…no nothing made me want to sing “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas“.

Open Concept Home In Florida

Tropical Designed Open Concept Home In Florida

If you have followed my blog over the years, you know that Christmas is my favorite time of the year and that I decorated almost every room in our former 1730’s farm house in New Hampshire for this lovely season. Knowing we were downsizing, I sold all of my Christmas trees and decorations to a dealer the week before we moved to Florida. I only kept one special tree that has a real cedar tree trunk and is flocked with snow. I thought that it would remind us of our wonderful years in New England. You might remember that it was the tree we had in our kitchen that was featured in Country Woman magazine last year, you can read the article here if you haven’t seen it before.

Knowing that the tree would now take center stage in our great room, I took a good look around to figure out if I wanted the tree to have a Florida or beach theme. No, I totally rejected the thought of seashells, starfish and sea turtle ornaments which are very popular in our little beach town. I also felt we needed a different look from the reds and burgundies that I’ve used in the past but I didn’t want the tree covered in varying shades of sea foam blue that I’m seeing everywhere here in Vero Beach. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen gorgeous trees decorated that way but I believed the look wouldn’t have worked with our color scheme that uses green as an accent color.

Decorating An Open Concept Home For Christmas

Decorating An Open Concept Home In Florida For Christmas

Instead of the simply decorated traditional tree that I’ve done in the past, I decided on a more contemporary look. I wrapped the Christmas tree in chartreuse green ribbon and then draped it in bronze and gold beads. I used ornaments in various shades of green, gold and silver which picked up the colors in the carpets that lie on either side of the tree and the accessories throughout the room.

While the top of the tree had to be bent down to fit in our New Hampshire kitchen with its low ceiling, our eleven foot ceilings presented no such problem. I was able to use a star made of beautiful gold paper that I have had for years as a tree topper. To keep the tree from looking too dinky in our large room with its tall ceilings, we place the tree on a wooden box for additional height. I covered the box with a skirt made from a new round tablecloth that bends with our tile floors.

My husband and I found two wonderful light boxes wrapped as Christmas presents when we were out Christmas shopping recently. Their bows match the chartreuse ribbon I had used to wrap the tree….needless to say we had to have them. They look so pretty sitting under the tree, especially at night when the Christmas tree is lit.

This is the same tree that once stood in our New England country kitchen but it now has a very different look. By simply changing the ornaments, I believe that this year’s tree fits in well with our new Florida decor. Would a taller, fuller tree be better suited to our great room? Definitely but I’m very happy with it because the tree comes with memories of Christmases past that will always be with us no matter where we live.

Our Christmas Tree

Our Decorated Christmas Tree

Yes, you do see a palm tree in the corner of the room. I guess that is just part of living in Florida that I’m going to have to get used to…palm trees and Christmas trees together.

Tell me my dear friends, have you ever given your Christmas tree a totally new look, a makeover of sorts? Have you started from scratch like I did this year out of necessity? Perhaps you are like I was in the past, keeping your treasured ornaments for years. I do hope you enjoyed my tale of two Christmas trees, the same special little tree but with two totally different looks.

 

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Tortellini With Butternut Squash, Brown Butter And Sage

Tortellini With Butternut Squash, Brown Butter And Sage is a simple but savory pasta dish that you must try. The nuttiness of browned butter and the subtle flavor of fried sage leaves both complement the caramelized sweetness of oven roasted butternut squash that is tossed with cheese stuffed tortellini. It is so easy to prepare that you really don’t need a recipe but I’ll share how I like to make this delicious pasta.

Tortellini With Butternut Squash And Brown Butter Sauce

Tortellini With Butternut Squash, Brown Butter And Sage

One of the stand out flavors in this pasta dish is the sage. Sage can be pungent and even harsh when tasted fresh, so many people only use powdered sage in stuffing recipes. Italians have known that the fresh leaves change to a subtle crispy goodness when fried in butter or olive oil and use them in many of their famous food preparations.

Tortellini With Butternut Squash, Brown Butter And Sage

This recipe serves two, adjust the recipe accordingly.

  • 1  9 oz. package of fresh cheese tortellini
  •  1/2 of a peeled and cubed (1/2 in.) butternut squash, about 2 cups
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 – 6 Tbsp. butter, according to how much sauce you like
  • about a dozen small sage leaves, cut into pieces
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, grated to serve along with the pasta

Butternut Squash                                                                                                                             Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Peel and dice the butternut squash. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a lined baking sheet (I use nonstick foil but you can use parchment paper) and spread out evenly. Roast, turning about half way through until the squash is tender and caramelized at the edges, about 15 to 25 minutes depending on size of cubes. Remove from the oven and keep warm.

Tortellini                                                                                                                                    Bring a large pot of salted water to a gentle boil over high heat. Once the squash is cooked and you’re ready to make the brown butter sauce, add the pasta to the water and cook, stirring occasionally, until they rise to the surface and are tender. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water to be used later if needed.

Brown Butter Sauce                                                                                                                    In a sauté pan large enough to hold the cooked pasta, melt the butter over low heat. Once butter has melted, add the sage and continue to cook until the butter stops foaming and is golden brown and the leaves are crispy. Remove the pan from the heat to stop the cooking and place the leaves in a small bowl.

Transfer the pasta with a slotted spoon to the brown butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the roasted butternut squash and return the pan to low heat and gently turn the ingredients in the butter sauce to coat. If the pasta looks dry, add a little of the reserved cooking water. Place the pasta in individual bowls and top with the fried sage leaves. Serve the pasta with grated Pecorino Romano cheese at the table.

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When butternut squash is available in your area, I believe that you would enjoy this sweet and savory pasta. If you have the time and inclination, delicate homemade pasta stuffed with either butternut squash or cheese would be a terrific choice but at this busy time of the year, I chose fresh three cheese tortellini from my local market. In the past, I have also used fresh ravioli stuffed with pumpkin which is equally good…actually there are numerous pastas and even potato gnocchi that could be substituted for the tortellini. While simple enough for a weeknight meal, it is also nice to serve to your friends over the upcoming holidays. If you want to impress your dinner guests, you can top the pasta with some pine nuts or chopped hazelnuts that have been sautéed in butter as a tasty garnish. Buon appetito!

 

 

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Farmer’s Market Fresh Salad

Early Saturday morning, people head over to Ocean Drive in Vero Beach, Florida to purchase Farmer’s Market Fresh produce and spend a day at the beach. Directly across the street from Humiston Park and the beautiful Atlantic Ocean, the little outdoor ocean side market was recognized by Clean Living Magazine as one of the top 50 true farmer’s markets in the country.

Atlantic Ocean At Humiston Park, Vero Beach, Florida

Atlantic Ocean At Humiston Park, Vero Beach, Florida

Vero Beach Farmers Market

Vero Beach Farmer’s Market

The farmer’s market has a small but good choice of local and seasonal produce, citrus, fresh seafood, grass-fed beef, farm fresh chicken and eggs, landscape plants, orchids and crafts. Vendors also sell baked goods, foods straight off the grill, freshly made guacamole and salsa, and beverages such as smoothies and kombucha. There is even live music by local musicians to enjoy while shopping.

Pleasant beachside shops and restaurants line this section of Ocean Drive so I keep a cooler in the back of my car for any perishable items that I purchase at the farmer’s market. After my shopping is complete, I enjoy having breakfast or lunch while sitting at an outdoor table at one of the nearby restaurants, listening to the crashing waves.

Enjoy Breakfast Or Lunch Watching The Waves Crash On Vero Beach

Enjoy Breakfast Or Lunch While Watching The Waves Crash On Vero Beach

Upon returning home later in the day, the fresh produce that I purchased was inspiration for a simple salad of green beans, tomatoes and gorgonzola cheese sprinkled with a few micro greens for garnish…all farmer’s market fresh.

Farmers' Market Fresh Green Bean, Tomato And Gorgonzola Salad

Farmer’s Market Fresh Green Bean, Tomato And Gorgonzola Salad

Green Bean, Tomato And Gorgonzola Salad

Wash and trim off the ends of 1 lb. of very small green beans. Cut into little pieces about 1/2 inch in size. Add to a pot of salted, boiling water and cook until just tender. Transfer the beans with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and water to stop the cooking and keep their bright green color. Drain and dry on paper towels, then place in a salad bowl.

Cut about a dozen grape or cherry tomatoes in half and place in a small bowl, add salt to taste, toss and let sit for about ten minutes to bring out the flavor of the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes to the salad bowl and retain the accumulated tomato juice in the small bowl. Then add approximately a 1/2 tsp. of Dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp. sherry wine vinegar and 2 – 3  Tbsp. olive oil to the small bowl and whisk. Taste and season with pepper and additional salt, if necessary. Pour the vinaigrette over the green beans and tomatoes, toss gently and taste for seasonings. Add about a 1/4 c. of crumbled gorgonzola to the salad and very gently toss and serve. (I topped the individual servings of salad with a small amount of micro greens as a garnish but that is optional). If preparing the salad ahead of time, refrigerate the cooked green beans and tomatoes separately. When ready to serve, prepare the vinaigrette, add the cheese and toss. This way, you will keep the green color of the beans.

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Being a local in Vero Beach has its advantages such as weekly shopping for farmer’s market fresh produce needed to prepare your meals. If you happen to be a visitor, you too can enjoy a day of shopping and dining along Ocean Drive. You could start the morning at the market with a freshly baked pastry, buy a pretty seagrass container or wood carving to take back home with you, enjoy sitting under an umbrella on the beach or paddling a kayak in the ocean, then have lunch before you head back to your hotel.

Whether a local or a visitor, try to stop by the farmer’s market located on Ocean Drive in Vero Beach, Florida that’s held every Saturday from 8 A.M. to Noon at Humiston Plaza.

 

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Prayers For Paris

My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the terrible tragedy in Paris.

Arc de Triomphe

Paris, France (Arc de Triomphe)

Words cannot even begin to express the sorrow caused by the terrorists that have affected so many, you are in my prayers. May the love of those from around the world help you through this difficult time.

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Breakfast At The Airport – C. J. Cannon’s Restaurant

People very rarely associate airports with good food but walk into the small Vero Beach Regional Airport terminal on a Sunday morning and you will probably find people waiting for a table at C. J. Cannon’s Restaurant. Knowing that no commercial flights have taken off from the airport in years, you might wonder why the restaurant has a waiting list for a table.

C. J. Cannon's Restaurant At The Vero Beach Regional Airport

C. J. Cannon’s Restaurant At The Vero Beach Regional Airport

The Vero Beach Regional Airport

The Vero Beach Regional Airport

This popular restaurant describes its decor as “vintage”. If you are an aviation enthusiast, take time to look at the kitschy lobby decorated with large model airplanes hanging from the ceiling, retro aircraft memorabilia and photos of famous people hung on the walls of the restaurant.

Flight Attendant Mannequin In Old Phone Booth

Lobby Of C.J. Cannon’s Restaurant With An Old Phone Booth And Flight Memorabilia

C. J. Cannon's Restaurant Is Decorated With Model Planes and Memorabilia

C. J. Cannon’s Restaurant Is Decorated With Model Planes And Retro Aircraft Memorabilia

While lots of airports have vendors selling fast food, C. J. Cannon’s has been serving its customers reasonably priced, homestyle southern cooking for breakfast, lunch and dinner for just over 30 years. Regulars are called by name and come in often for the good food as well as the restaurant’s views. Large windows in the main dining room look out at well manicured, palm laden grounds and the runways of the airport. As you watch the takeoffs and landings of airplanes at this small airport, you can appreciate the short wait it might take for a booth next to the windows.

Large Windows Look Out At The Airport Runways At C. J. Cannon's Restaurant

There Might Be A Wait For A Booth With Views Of The Airport Runways

For our early morning breakfast this weekend, my husband enjoyed sunny side up fried eggs, crispy corned beef hash, grits and rye toast, one of his favorite morning meals.

Crispy Corned Beef Hash, Fried Eggs And Rye Toast

Crispy Corned Beef Hash, Fried Eggs And Rye Toast, My Husband’s Favorite Breakfast

Florentine Eggs Benedict With Grilled Tomatoes, Sautéed Spinach And Hollandaise Sauce

Florentine Eggs Benedict With Grilled Tomatoes, Sautéed Spinach And Hollandaise Sauce

I had a delicious Florentine Eggs Benedict…perfectly poached eggs on top of toasted English muffins with grilled tomatoes, sautéed spinach and topped with a light Hollandaise sauce. Our coffee cups were frequently refilled by our pleasant waitress. It was a perfect breakfast as far as we were concerned. For lunch, my husband can’t resist ordering the Ruben sandwich with sweet potato fries while I have ordered the chili topped with shredded cheese, some of the homemade soups and their Cobb salad on previous visits.  We’ve not had dinner at the restaurant but I’ve heard people like their fish fry and prime rib dinners.

Many pilots fly their own airplanes here for breakfast or lunch, especially over the weekend. While my husband and I were having breakfast, several small private planes and jets were parked just outside the restaurant windows. One couple came in wearing flight suits and helmets, had breakfast and then walked back out to the tarmac, climbed into their ultralight aircraft and flew off towards a beautiful view of Vero Beach.

Ready To Take Off On A Ultralight Aircraft After Breakfast At C.J. Cannon's Restaurant

Ready To Take Off In An Ultralight Aircraft After Breakfast At C.J. Cannon’s Restaurant

During the winter months, the airport runways can be very busy and when looking out the windows of the restaurant you’ll see Gulfstream, Bombardier, Citation, Challenger and Falcon Jets, ranging in size from 6 seater to 16 seater, taking off and landing. Vero Beach is reported to have the fourth largest concentration of wealthy residents in the U.S. Many of the passengers arriving and departing from the airport are the wealthy seasonal residents that live in the private communities on the barrier island that is divided from mainland Vero Beach by the Indian River Lagoon.

The airport has certainly changed over the years. In the 1930’s, the small municipal airport was used by Eastern Airlines and then it became the Vero Beach Naval Air Station in 1942 where it trained both men and women from the Navy, Marines, and WAVES. It was also used as a Marine Air Squadron Base and training facility for pilots.

Historic Marker In The Gardens Of The Vero Beach Regional Airport

Historic Marker In The Gardens Of The Vero Beach Regional Airport

After your meal at the restaurant, walk out into the well manicured gardens and you will find a historical marker dedicated to the memory of the men and women who trained at the airport to help keep our country safe. There is also a memorial courtyard detailing history of the airport, including a plaque listing people who died during training at the former World War II Naval Air Station.

Historical Marker

Historical Marker

The last commercial flights from the airport were in 1990’s when American Eagle flew for less than one year. Besides being used for private and charter flights, today the airport is also home to Piper Aircraft and the Flight Safety Academy, one of the world’s leading flight training schools. We have seen lots of young pilots at the restaurant having lunch, many of them speaking languages from around the world.

Elite Airlines Will Fly From Vero Beach Regional Airport To Newark, NJ

Elite Airlines Will Fly From Vero Beach Regional Airport To Newark, NJ

It has been almost 20 years since regular commercial passenger service was offered at Vero Beach Airport. Now Elite Airways is going to start regularly scheduled passenger service this month between Vero Beach, Fl and Newark, NJ a couple of times a week. One of their planes has been sitting near the restaurant while the terminal is being  altered slightly for passenger check in and security. One thing that won’t change in the terminal building is the 1935 Piper Cub airplane suspended from the ceiling in the facility. If the new passenger service proves successful, perhaps my husband and I will use the airline next year to fly from Vero Beach to Newark and then on to Europe.

1935 Piper Cub Suspended From The Ceiling Of The Vero Beach Airport Terminal

1935 Piper Cub Suspended From The Ceiling Of The Vero Beach Airport Terminal

Wealthy or not, whether living on the barrier island or the mainland, we all get to enjoy the mild climate and small town charm of Vero Beach. Part of that charm is having a nice meal at the casual C. J. Cannon’s Restaurant while watching airplanes take off and land. With its large and reasonably priced menu and friendly service by a wait staff that welcomes you back each time you return, you realize you can indeed have a good meal at an airport, at least at the Vero Beach Regional Airport.

This is the first article in a series that I will be writing about my town of Vero Beach. As a new resident, I’ll be discovering all there is to love about this small city located on what is called the Treasure Coast of Florida. I hope you will follow along.

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Grilled Calamari, Shrimp And Arugula Salad

Grilled Calamari, Shrimp And Arugula Salad is based on dish you will find at many restaurants all along the Mediterranean coastline of Italy and France. During our travels to this region, my husband and I try to order fresh seafood as often as we can. It is often simply brushed with fruity olive oil, sprinkled with a little sea salt, seasoned with herbs and grilled. Hot off the grill, it gets a spritz of lemon and then brought to the table.

Seafood Salad On A Bed Of Arugula

Grilled Calamari, Shrimp And Arugula Salad

One of our most memorable lunches in this area was at the well known Ristorante Puny located right on the small harbor of Portofino, Italy. The restaurant prepares Ligurian seafood specialties, one of which is a starter of calamari and shrimp, simply dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. That first course was the inspiration for my seafood salad.

Seafood Salad At A Portofino Restaurant

Seafood Salad At The Famous Puny Restaurant In Portofino, Italy

It is a quick and easy dish to prepare and doesn’t require much time in the kitchen. When I say easy, I mean letting your fish monger or seafood store do most of the work for you. I always buy heads off, deveined, easy peel shrimp. More importantly when purchasing calamari, I buy already cleaned small bodies about 3 or 4 inches long. The seafood may cost a little more that way but I believe it is worth every penny. A quick rinse under cold water and dried, they are then ready to be cooked.

Grilled Calamari, Shrimp, And Arugula Salad

Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly

Marinade

  • 2 – 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano or 1/4 tsp. dried
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)

Seafood

  • cleaned calamari bodies about 3 – 4 inches long (2 to 3 per person)
  • peeled and deveined shrimp, (2 to 3 per person), depending on size

Salad

  • 7 – 8 oz. arugula or greens of your choice
  • a light dressing of 3 Tbsp. of olive, 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped parsley, for garnish
  • lemon wedges

Combine the calamari, shrimp, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, herbs and seasonings in a bowl. Cover and let marinate for 15 to 30 minutes. Remove the seafood from the marinade and drain off excess.

Heat the grill, ridged stove top grill pan or broiler until very hot. Grill the shrimp for about a minute on each side until they turn pink. Remove and place in a bowl. Grill the calamari for a minute or two on each side until they get grill marks (be careful not to overcook or they will be rubbery). Remove to a cutting board and slice into small rings and place in the bowl with the shrimp. Drizzle with a little of the dressing and toss. Add the arugula to a bowl and drizzle with the rest of the dressing. Divide the salad between two plates and spoon the seafood on top. Garnish with some chopped parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

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The peppery flavor of arugula goes very well with the subtle flavors of the grilled seafood. This salad, enjoyed with some good bread to soak up the juices, makes a wonderful first course or a light lunch.  All that is needed is a glass of chilled white wine, such as Pinot Grigio, and you will be foodie heaven.

Sit Under The Green Awning At Puny Restaurant In Portofino, Italy

Sit Under The Green Awning At Puny Restaurant In Portofino, Italy And Enjoy The Harbor Sights

Portofino Harbor

Fishing Boats And Yachts In The Portofino Harbor On The Ligurian Coast Of Italy

If you prepare this seafood salad, pretend that you are sitting under the green awning of the landmark Ristorante Puny watching the large yachts maneuver their way between the small fishing boats into the tiny harbor of the picturesque Italian Riviera town of Portofino, Italy.

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Was It Love At First Sight?

Was It Love At First Sight? When it is number 12 or is it 13…I’ve lost count, love isn’t that important. Wait a moment, I hope you don’t think I’m talking about my marriage. Heavens no! I haven’t been married a dozen times and my marriage to my husband is perfect.  No, I’m talking about buying a new home. And not a home in the same town or even state but over 1400 miles away.

Buying A New Home, Was It Love At First Sight

Buying A New Home, Was It Love At First Sight

After living 20 years in a restored 1730’s home with a 250 tree apple orchard in a small town in New Hampshire, we were contemplating moving back to Florida where we once lived and raised our children. Considering this would be a major move, we took our time weighing all the decisions. We looked at the pros and cons of staying in our home in New England or relocating south somewhere in Florida. I thought that sharing our experience might be of help if you are thinking of buying a new home in another area of the country.

Last year’s weather in New England was brutal. In the month of February, we had more than a 100 inches of snow on the ground and the temperatures were 10 to 15 degrees below normal. While Florida’s hot and humid climate will take some getting used to, not having to deal with snow and ice for extended periods is a real plus.

New Hampshire doesn’t have a state or sales taxes but has very high property taxes. Florida has a 7% sales tax but property taxes are low. While food and gasoline prices are higher in Florida, in the long run our cost of living will be a lot less in Florida.

Our home in New Hampshire had 13 acres of land with 250 apple trees that needed to be cared for throughout the year. When I wasn’t pruning trees or picking apples, I was on my tractor mowing for days at a time. In the community we were considering in Florida, landscapers takes care of everything for you.

As you might guess, Florida won out. We found a builder that had one lot left in a gated community of 48 homes in Vero Beach, a small beachfront city on the Atlantic Ocean. While I would have loved to have built a new home where I could have been involved with all the design choices, I believed I could work with the options we were given by the builder. The process was kind of like ordering from a Chinese restaurant where you chose one from column A and two from column B. Some of the choices weren’t ones I would have considered but were certainly ones that I could easily live with in the home.

The new house was finished in April, we put our New England home up for sale in June and it sold in September. The biggest difference between our historic home and the new home is size. Downsizing from about 6500 sq. ft. to just under 2400 sq. ft. was one of the decisions we made to simplify our life but figuring out what we would take with us was daunting as the style of the two homes were so different.

The Fully Restored 1730 Georgian Colonial Farmhouse

Fully Restored 1730 Georgian Colonial Farmhouse

We sold our truck and tractors to friends, most of our furniture to the new buyers, gave lots of our treasures to friends and charity then pack up all the rest. My husband stopped counting after 72 boxes were packed. It was hard to believe how much still got loaded into the moving van. We then packed our car and drove south to Florida.

Moving Boxes Waiting To Be Unloaded…Oh No, Where Will It All Go!

Moving Boxes Waiting To Be Unpacked…Oh No, Where Will It All Go

Moving Boxes For The Kitchen Waiting To Be Opened

Moving Boxes With Items For The Kitchen Waiting To Be Opened

In the past, I’ve fallen in love with homes that I’ve just had to have no matter how much work was needed before my husband and I could even move into them. I just knew that if we could buy the house, I could turn it into the perfect home for us. This time was totally different as we were looking to simplify our life and decided on buying a newly built house for practical reasons.

We have moved in now and are in the process of unpacking boxes each day and buying new furniture. While it was not love at first sight, the house is slowly evolving into a home where we will feel comfortable and secure. Entertaining new friends, having family get togethers and making memories over the years will make our new home one we will love over the years.

I know that we are not the only ones who has been in this situation or will be someday in the future. Sometimes in life, we have to be practical and let our head rule and forget about love.

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Summer Strawberries…Sweet And Savory

Sweet, succulent berries are one of the pleasures of summer. In New England, blueberries are probably the most popular summer berry but my personal favorite is strawberries. Strawberries have been in the market for months now but with white tops and no sweet smell, it is easy to see that they have been shipped in from across the country. I’ve been patiently waiting for some local, just picked deep red berries…their sweet aroma making them irresistible.

Sweet Summer Strawberries

Sweet Summer Strawberries

We all know that strawberries are great in desserts such as strawberry shortcake, ice cream and pies but their sweet juicy flavors are also perfect in savory dishes. I made two savory recipes using strawberries as part of our evening meal…both quick and easy. The first is a fresh strawberry salsa but if you have family or friends who don’t care for peppers and cilantro, you can serve them the other dish, a green salad with balsamic marinated strawberries and candied pecans. They both go very with chicken, pork or even a mild fish like the pan sautéed sole that I served them with. If you happen to find strawberries like the beauties we discovered at a farm stand, please do try one of the recipes I’m sharing with you.

Filet of Sole With Strawberry Salsa And A Strawberry Salad

Filet of Sole With Strawberry Salsa And A Balsamic Strawberry Salad With Candied Pecans

Strawberry Salsa

  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and finely diced
  • half of a small sweet onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed and finely diced
  • a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste

Add all the ingredients to a bowl and toss gently. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to meld. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. If the salsa isn’t spicy enough, add a few shakes of your favorite hot sauce, I like Tabasco Jalapeño. Serve as a side with chicken, pork, fish or with a big bowl of crispy chips.

Marinated Balsamic Strawberry Salad With Candied Pecans

Serves 2 to 4

  • 1 pint sliced hulled strawberries
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 – 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 c. of salad greens
  • a large handful of candied pecans

Add the first three ingredients to a bowl and gently toss. Let stand at room temperature until there is lots of juice, at least an hour. The berries can be used “as is” to top ice cream or pound cake. If making a salad, strain the juice into a small bowl, drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Taste the vinaigrette and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Drizzle the vinaigrette, as much as needed for the amount of greens you use and top with the marinated strawberries and candied nuts. If you want to serve the salad as a main course, you might want to add some crumbled goat cheese for a more substantial dish.

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Both of these accompaniments were so simple to prepare that I almost hesitated sharing them with you but the sweet and savory flavors of the summer berries were too good not to let you know how much I enjoyed them. If you are lucky enough to come across really ripe strawberries, I believe you will enjoy these quick and easy recipes.

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I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone for all your kind words concerning my broken foot, which happened eight weeks ago. I can’t tell you how very much they have meant to me. I’m slowly returning to a somewhat normal routine and making a presence back in our kitchen. Even though my bones are just now starting to show signs of new bone growth, I no longer need crutches and have traded the big air cast in for a smaller shoe cast.I am now happy to say that I can share grocery shopping duties with my husband, using an electric riding grocery cart when needed. I have quite a way to go but life is a lot easier but very hectic. We have a closing on our home in New Hampshire scheduled in two weeks and are very busy with packing up our household. I appreciate your patience concerning my blog. I’ve read your comments but unfortunately have not had the time to answer all of them or visit all my blogging friends. Life will get back to normal soon, I promise.

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“It’s Just Steak” – Not If It’s A Bacon Wrapped Filet

You might think “It’s Just Steak”, But Not If It’s A Filet. This meal is all about a well seasoned filet mignon that is wrapped in applewood smoked bacon that adds both flavor and moisture, then pan seared for a nice crust on the exterior and finished in the oven to achieve a perfect pink and tender center.

Pan Seared Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon With A Baked Sweet Potato And Parmesan Crusted Asparagus

Pan Seared Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon With A Baked Sweet Potato And Parmesan Crusted Asparagus

Served with baked sweet potatoes, parmesan crusted roasted asparagus and a side of what my husband calls “melted steakhouse onions”, this meal should please almost every steak lover. It is a wonderful restaurant style dinner that can be prepared at a fraction of the cost of eating at a steakhouse.

I’m still recuperating from my broken foot so my husband continues to do all the cooking for us. While shopping at our local grocery store, he got two steaks that our favorite butcher hand cut for him from the center of a certified Angus Beef tenderloin. Later that evening when I saw what he had prepared for us, I told him that I wanted to take a photo of his meal. His comment was, “why, it’s just steak”. I thought otherwise. The filet, which is my favorite steak. was cooked to perfection, nicely plated and the steak was delicious.

Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon

In this recipe, the steaks are started on the stove in a heavy oven safe skillet and then finished in the oven. When you start cooking the steaks, the meat needs to be brought to room temperature, so you will want to take them out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook them.

Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until it’s just starting to brown but still pliable. You can also microwave the bacon between paper towels until it is partially cooked. When the bacon is cool enough to handle, wrap 1 or 2 strips (depending on the size of the filet) around each steak and secure with tooth picks. Then season the steak very well with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. *My husband calls this mixture SPOG.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. When the oven comes to temperature, heat an oven safe  skillet over high heat until the pan is hot. Add about 1 or 2 Tbsp. of peanut oil and when oil is hot, add the steaks and cook without moving for about 2 to 2-1/2 minutes. Turn the steaks and cook an additional 2 to 2-1/2 minutes. Place the steaks in the oven for about 5 to 6 minutes (depending on thickness). Make sure to use a timer, you wouldn’t want to overcook these wonderful steaks.

Check the steaks with an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat. If you like your steaks rare, they should register 120°F and be deep red. If medium-rare is more to your liking, wait until they register 125°F or are deep pink or 130°F for medium. If the steaks aren’t ready, put them back in the oven for 1 or 2 more minutes and then test again. Let them rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving (the temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees after they are removed from the oven).

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Sliced Filet Mignon Drizzled With Extra Virgin Olive Oil Served Room Temperature With Sautéed Baby Eggplant And A Basil And Tomato Salad

Sliced Filet Mignon Served Room Temperature With Sautéed Baby Eggplant And A Tomato And Basil Salad

The steaks were large and we ended up having enough meat left over for a second meal from this delicious (although expensive) cut of meat. It was a simple dinner of sliced steak drizzled with extra virgin olive oil served at room temperature with sautéed baby eggplant and a tomato and basil salad. Simple but oh so good!

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While this isn’t something you’ll be cooking on a weekly or monthly basis, it is a wonderful meal to show someone just how much you care. While my husband could have cooked rib eye steaks which are his favorites, he treated me to these great tasting bacon wrapped filets which I love. They took me back to my early life in Texas where a good filet mignon was never thought of as “just steak”.

 

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Arroz Con Pollo “His Way”

Arroz Con Pollo is one of the most popular chicken dishes in Cuba, Latin America and Spain. The flavorful rice is the star ingredient and is allowed to take prominence over the chicken in this traditional meal. While there are many very good versions of arroz con pollo prepared at home, if ordered in a restaurant it can often be bland and boring with gummy rice, overcooked chicken and dried up peas. Not so…the way my husband cooks arroz con pollo, “his way”.

Arroz Con Pollo, Delicious Rice With Chicken

Arroz Con Pollo, Delicious Rice With Chicken

“His way” of cooking is not to measure anything…he just adds a pinch of this and a little of that. I love his version of arroz con pollo because it has more kick than what I’ve tasted in many of the Cuban restaurants in South Florida where we once lived. He has made this meal for me for years and it is a real favorite of mine.  I asked him if he could pass along how he prepares his quick and easy version of arroz con pollo.

Arroz Con Pollo

This recipe serves two, adjust accordingly.

  • One (3.5 oz.) bag of Success Boil-in-a bag rice *, which makes 2 cups of cooked rice

*Success Rice is a boil-in-a bag rice that can be prepared either on the stove or in the microwave. Cooking times and the amount of water you need to use can vary slightly, depending on the brand. Using less water and reducing your cooking time will result in a firmer rice. If you want a soft rice, add more water and increase the cooking time.

  • 3 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into bite size pieces (1 large breast cut into pieces may be substituted)
  • garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper to taste for seasoning the chicken
  • 2 Tbsp. more or less of olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 1 – 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 c. more or less of chicken broth
  • 1/4 C. or to taste of Goya Mojo Criollo (You can find my recipe for mojo here)
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • a couple of shakes of Tabasco or to taste
  • approximately 1/4 tsp. each of garlic powder, onion powder, and dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 packet of Goya Sazón Azafrán Seasoning
  • 1/2 c. frozen peas

Prepare rice according to package directions except cook it for only 6 minutes. While the rice is cooking, season the chicken with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat, and cook the chicken pieces until brown and almost done, about 2 to 3 minutes. Be sure to not overcook at this point as the chicken will be cooked more later on. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the onion and peppers and cook until soft, add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, mojo, lime juice, and Tabasco. Season with garlic powder, onion powder, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 5 minutes, until slightly reduced then remove pan from heat. Once the rice is ready, return the pan with the vegetable mixture to the heat, add the chicken back to the pan and cook for about a minute. Add the rice, sprinkle with the Sazón seasoning and frozen peas,  mix well and cook a few minutes more. If it looks a little dry add more broth, if it looks soupy, cook for a few minutes more. Taste and adjust for seasoning, if necessary. When serving, you can garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley and serve with lime wedges on the side.

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My husband says this is a quick and easy recipe and wishes you good luck if you try it. Since he doesn’t measure, he wanted to let you know that he gave me this recipe from memory and the ingredient amounts are approximate. He is sure that if you taste your dishes as you are cooking, you should be able to prepare a good version of arroz con pollo or a reasonable facsimile thereof.😀

I’ve always considered it a special treat when my husband says he would like to prepare our evening meal. With my broken foot, I can no longer cook so he is now in charge of cooking all our meals. While I’m not happy about being in a cast and on crutches, I have to say that I’m very happy to be eating the delicious meals he has been putting on our table each night. If you get a chance to prepare arroz con pollo his way, I believe you will agree with me that I’m a lucky woman to have a sweet husband who is also a good cook.

**This is not a sponsored post and I am not being compensated in any way for mentioning specific products in this recipe. They are just products my husband likes and finds convenient for many recipes.

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