Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

09-12-2016 Journal – The Big Easy Finale!   Leave a comment

This will be the last of the New Orleans postings.  It’s been a lot of fun reviewing the pictures and writing about all of our little adventures.  As you can tell I really love the place and plan on returning as often as possible in the future. Todays post will be nothing more than a few random pictures of the French Quarter that I failed to use this week. You must remember that between my better-half and I we took more than a thousand photographs in our six day visit.

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A balcony used by the bead throwers.

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Artists displaying their wares in Jackson Square.

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Everyone needs a little Voodoo in their life.

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St. Mark’s Cathedral

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How about a little truth in advertising.

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And some Day of the Dead skeletons.

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And finally a stop at Café Du Monde for cafe’ au lait and beignets. Absolutely delicious!

So ends my reminiscences of a truly wonderful vacation.  I should mention that on my last night in the Quarter I made my way to a local tattoo parlor and purchased one as a memento of our trip.  I was going to post a picture of it but my better-half thought that might be a little to much information. Just let it be said that I brought some permanent New Orleans voodoo home with me.

I hope any of you who would love to visit there get the opportunity to do so.

YOU WON’T REGRET IT

 

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09-10-2016 Journal – The Big Easy-6!   Leave a comment

Our vacation began to wind down a little as we entered our fourth day in NO. We decided to spend the final day and a half just roaming around the French Quarter and shopping, people watching, drinking, and eating.  It was a dirty job but someone had to do it.

My first suggestion to my better-half was a required visit to a NO must-see, Pat O’Brien’s Bar.  During my first visit to NO many many years ago I was taken first to Bourbon Street and then directly to Pat O’Brien’s Bar.  I loved the place so much I couldn’t wait to introduce it to my better-half.

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It’s a nondescript hole-in-the-wall or so you think at first glance. You walk through the entry way into a dark tunnel with a barroom on either side.  That leads directly into the terrace filled with tropical plants and tables for patrons.

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Directly in the middle is a fountain that is somewhat famous.  During the day it doesn’t look like much but at night it’s on fire.

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It was difficult trying to capture the rising flames in a photo. This was my best attempt.

We took a seat in the bar and ordered dinner. Since O’Brien’s is the actual home of the famous Hurricane cocktail we ordered two. They were huge as was expected and strong enough to give you a glow after drinking only one.

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My entrée was something I’d been waiting for for years.  This is something the locals call “crawfish etouffee” and believe me it was the best I’ve ever had.  It was hot and spicy and effing delicious.

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It was a fun night spent people watching and just enjoying the atmosphere of the French Quarter.  Vibrant, crowded, and as much fun as any person could handle.  We retired to our hotel and the secluded pool to cool down a little before bed.  Another terrific day in the Big Easy.

WE’RE REALLY GONNA MISS THIS PLACE.

09-04-2016 Journal – Big Easy-3!   Leave a comment

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Day two began with a walk through the French Quarter to the Toulouse Docks where the steamboat Natchez was moored.  My better-half has always wanted to ride the Mississippi River in an old steamship and we made that happen. We signed up for a three hour river cruise (hopefully better than Gilligan’s) that would take up south on the river through the busy port of NO. It was a brunch cruise and we had a great meal sitting on the main deck with a fantastic view of NO and the river.. It had been fully restored and was just like you would expect it to be minus the gambling tables and card cheats.

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One of the m0ost interesting sights was the massive amount of damage caused by Katrina.  There were huge section of docks and buildings that had been totally destroyed in the storm and had yet to be repaired or replaced.

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On the upper deck we checked out the gift shop and of course the bar. Their specialty drink was the Jazz Punch which was delicious and wickedly alcoholic. I wanted to have a second one but wasn’t sure I could off the boat without injury.  The views were incredible.

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We made a U-turn an hour later and proceeded back north to NO which was a sight to behold from the middle of the river.

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Another great day of relaxation to help us prepare for day three of the vacation.  Day three was on the top of my wish list and it meant an airboat and trip into the bayou’s.

HOPING FOR LOTS OF GREAT PHOTO’S

 

09-02-2016 Journal – Big Easy-2!   Leave a comment

The first day in NO was coming to an end and we decided to just hit the streets and roam around to get a better feel for things.  It was just getting dark and we were both starving. That airline food really is a joke.  We stumbled on a place on the north end of the French Quarter called Coops.  It’s one of those places with a questionable first impression and it was filled with mostly local residents some of which were way out there.  Of course we immediately went in to sample some good old Cajun food and we weren’t sorry.

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My rule #1 for eating in NO. Go local!

I ordered my usual ice cold Chardonnay while my better-half discovered a new love. She ordered a Big Easy IPA that’s brewed locally.  She fell in love with the brew which meant I would have a few more of them on my credit card in the coming days. . . AND I DID!  She ordered some sort of shrimp dish while I stepped outside the box once again. I dined on rabbit and alligator sausage jambalaya.  I hate to say this about the rabbit but if cooked properly it tastes just like chicken. No eye rolling please. We were finally cooled down by the air conditioning and decided to continue our walking tour.  Temps were still in the low nineties at dusk.

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We stopped at a number of small shops when we saw something interesting and to use their air conditioning. I’d already sweat through my clothes and would do so many more times during our stay.

NO is known as an artist colony and one of the reasons I love this place so much. We saw murals and sculptures just about everywhere we went. Here are two samples from our first night.

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We spent a lot of time looking at art work displayed in galleries and also on the street in Jackson Square.  Some of it was really good, some just OK, and others that were unbelievably bad.  To each their own I guess.  We continued our walk into Jackson Square where the line of horse drawn carriages were waiting for customers.

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We were at the end of a very long day and headed back to our hotel for the night.  That little pool in the courtyard I posted about earlier was the best thing that happened to us the entire day. Off with the clothes, into the swim suits, and into all of that lovely cool water.  We chatted with some new friends from Germany at the pool, finished our drinks and went off to bed. Our room felt like a refrigerator and thank god for that.

MORE TO COME

08-20-2016 Journal – Another Salsa Day!   Leave a comment

If you follow this blog you already know I love all forms of salsa and make many versions of my own.  One of my favorites has always been Roasted Corn & Black Bean made with varying degrees of heat.  I love getting feedback on what I make especially from my son-in-law who loves salsa.

I made a batch a few months back and for the first time he made a request for the next batch.  He said it was delicious and hot but it needed more corn and more beans.  Many people feel that putting beans in a salsa is just wrong. It may be wrong but I do it anyway because it tastes so damn good. Yesterday was once again salsa day with many more beans and a lot more roasted corn.

I first collect the canning lids and rims and the jars and heat them up in a hot water bath.

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If you decide to try this be sure to wear a thick pair of kitchen gloves to save yourself a lot of pain from the hot peppers. Plain latex gloves are too thin unless you double them up.  Add your ingredients into the pot and cook for approximately 15 minutes and then it’s time to fill the jars and return them to the water bath.

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Looks good and tastes even better.

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After a nice boiling hot bath for fifteen minutes they’re removed from the pot and allowed to cool for a few hours.   I always recommend waiting at  least a week or two before eating. It’s been my experience that over time the salsa gets a little hotter and a little thicker.  Then it’s corn chips (Yellow) all around the table for a sensational Mexican pig-out.  Top it off with everyone’s favorite beer or wine and you’re good to go.

MY MOUTH’S WATERING AND BURNING AT THE SAME TIME

I LOVE IT!

08-18-2016 Journal – Summer Cooking!   Leave a comment

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Fresh and delicious shrimp.

Do these shrimp look good to you?  They were just as delicious as you might think or so says my better-half.  She’s a shrimp junkie going back many years and considers herself an expert.  I tried just one and really couldn’t disagree.

Summer time meals are something special around here and are to be enjoyed and relished whenever possible.  While I’m not a big fan of shrimp or lobster I do love just about everything else that the ocean has too offer.  I experiment when possible to come up with new flavors and textures with my seafood.  This week we picked up those shrimp and a large haddock fillet just for me.

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To make things a little more interesting I poached the fillet in habanero wine.  I made this wine a few years back and it carries with it a delicious flavor and heat. Once the poaching was completed the fillets were dropped onto the grill to give them a little crispiness.

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Just sooooo good.

Then it’s off to the table with a side of fresh corn-on-the-cob and a glass of Chardonnay.  Cherry tomatoes picked just before the meal and chilled are a perfect addition.  That beer in the picture belongs to my better-half.  She considers any beer she drinks as her Chardonnay.

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The garden continues to flourish now that we’ve had a few days of rain to help perk things up.  I picked this collection of hot peppers (Serrano, Fresno, jalapeno, and Anaheim’s) today because tomorrow is salsa day and I want them as fresh and hot as I can get.

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I’ll be slicing and dicing all of the other salsa ingredients this evening in preparation for tomorrow.  This is the best part of Summer for me without a doubt.

OLE!

08-08-2016 Journal – August in Maine!   Leave a comment

I have to say that the last week of weather has been as good as it can get for Maine in August.  Temperatures during the day have been in the mid-80’s and dropping into the mid-50’s at night. Just perfect.  Since it’s been so nice we decided to take our visitors for a day trip to Portland.  A hot and sunny Sunday in August means lots of tourist and thousands of people to watch.  Finding parking is usually a problem but we got lucky, parked the car, and headed down Commercial Street into the Old Port.

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Commercial Street runs right along the length of the harbor and always has some nice shots available of the boats.

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The ladies were in and out of a dozen shops and buying, buying, and buying. I spent most of that time people watching and taking a few pictures for future use.

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We returned home tired and hungry and began the preparation of our dinner. Shish-kabobs, salads, pies, cakes, and a growler full of Goat Island Light beer. Since it was my birthday my better-half bought me the only beer I like. and it was wonderful.  After dinner we made our way to the beach located in Scarborough, Maine. A cool breeze was blowing and the water was perfect for wading and relaxing.

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The clouds just kept getting darker and darker but it never rained.

It didn’t take long to tire us all out and we returned home to relax for the rest of the night.  Another great day and an even better birthday.

 

 

 

07-31-2016 Journal – The Garden Jungle!   Leave a comment

It’s the last of July already. It’s a little hard to believe that summer is more than half over.  This dry spell we’ve been having for the last month is a minor annoyance but without nightly watering the garden will be burnt out.  That little bit of water accomplishes miracles as you will see in the following pictures.

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These Mammoth sunflowers will eventually reach 8 or 9 feet tall.

The sunflowers will be absolutely shredded by the hundreds of birds we feed regularly.  They wait all summer for the sunflowers to go to seed and then it’s a bird free-for-all.   This large bushy clump of plants in the next photo is, believe it or not, asparagus. The plants must be left alone for three years until they are firmly established before we can start harvesting the spears. Next Spring we’ll finally get to eat some delicious home-grown asparagus.

 

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Sautéed in butter . . . there’s nothing better.

These last three photo are just  general photos of the entire garden in three sections.  As you can see in this first one the herbs are plentiful and I’ll be drying them steadily starting in about four weeks.

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This next photo is one of the large frames. This will be the last year we grow veggies here. Starting next Spring it will be converted to nothing but herbs.

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This final photo is a large frame filled with cherry tomatoes, green beans, rhubarb, asparagus, and a selection of hot peppers.  The jalapeños are thriving this year.

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That’s the update for the month of July. Here’s one last photo in my continuing war with the yellow-jackets, This nest was found under our deck after both of us had been stung as we walked by.  I won this battle but the war will continue.

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There you have it. Another month gone so quickly.  I can almost smell Winter and the snow that will follow.

07-25-2016 Journal – Summer Gardening!   Leave a comment

We’re in the heat of the summer and the garden is flourishing.  Even though the amount of rain has been a little less than expected the nightly watering is paying off.  We don’t water too much each day, just enough to keep the plants from wilting.  It seems to be paying off big-time.

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The sunflowers are already 4 feet tall.

As you can see the garden looks healthy and green.  Even the pepper plants I was so worried about a few weeks ago have recovered and are producing what appears to be a record number of peppers.  These hot days and night are exactly what they needed.

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These jalapenos will help make some delicious salsa.

My better-half has already made a number of loaves of zucchini bread and I’m anticipating a lot more in our future.  The zucchini plants as of this morning have an additional fifteen zucchini’s ready for use in breads and stir-fry’s.

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This big fat one will be on the dinner table tonight.

If the rest of the summer goes as planned we’ll be celebrating one of the best gardens in recent years.  In another week or so I’ll get really serious about drying and storing many of the herbs we’ve grown.  We should easily be able to have enough on-hand for the entire winter and then some.

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It’s time for me to get to work in the garden for an hour or so.  Even with fabric laid down to eliminate weeds they still manage to grow in every little crack and crevice.  It’s annoying but they must be removed as quickly as possible because they steal a lot of the nutrients needed by the vegetables and herbs.

WE JUST CAN’T ALLOW THAT

 

07-23-2016 Bread & Butter Pickle Day!   Leave a comment

Today begins my summer chore of making the first batch of Hot Bread & Butter Pickles.  Over the course of each Summer I normally can at least four batches of pickles. Each batch is usually 14-15 pints and I make both Dill and B&B versions.  All of my pickles are Hot which means slices of jalapeno and red pepper in each jar as well as a shot of ground habanero for good luck. Today I’ll walk you through the process but without giving up my secret pickling mix recipe.

The first thing this morning I prepared the jars and canning supplies by sanitizing them with boiling water.

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Once the jars, lids, and rims are boiled I then wash the cucumbers thoroughly.

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They are then sliced along with the red pepper and jalapenos. All are set aside until I’m ready to fill the jars.

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I  return to the stove to prepare the B&B syrup. It consists of my secret spice mix, 7 cups of sugar, and 7 cups of distilled white vinegar.

 

Packing the jars is my least favorite part of the process but still very important.  The jars are carefully packed, the syrup added, and the lids and rims tightened down. The jars then take a boiling hot water bath for a full fifteen minutes.

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Getting the first batch of the season completed is always a good feeling. Here’s the finished product . . . 15 pints of very hot and sweet pickles. They’ll be ready for eating after they sit for a few months to absorb all of the flavors.

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