Thursday, January 27, 2011

A wonderful dinner for Trout's birthday

Last evening, we celebrated The Trout's birthday by going with friends to Tampa, to a restaurant we have long been wanting to try.  In fact, we had reservations for New Year's Eve, when I came down with the worst cold, so we had to cancel.  Last night, we made it and enjoyed every moment. 

Bern's Restaurant  in Tampa, is well worth the drive.  From the moment you walk in, you know you are in a special place.  If you care to do so, check the menu at their website.  It is a large book and the waiter explains everything with a great sense of humor. 

Prime steaks are what we wanted last evening.  They are sold by the ounce and by thickness and cut.  You choose. The kitchen guide told us that they trim the steaks and it takes 4 pounds of meat to get to the 1 pound of steak they find acceptable for serving.   Along with this you get French onion soup, two side vegetables, their signature deep fried onion rings, a baked potato with all the toppings you want, and a salad with a wide choice of dressings.
They grow their own vegetables on a 14 acre farm.  It is the job of the newest, young employees, to keep the farm producing.

The wine list is a very heavy book, but a condensed version of the most popular wines is available.  After dinner, we got a tour of the kitchen.  Can you imagine?  What restaurant lets you tour the kitchen and explains each station and what is going on? 

And then a tour of the wine cellar.  They have the largest wine cellar in the WORLD.  Attached to the restaurant is a cellar kept at 50 degrees F holding 100,000 bottles of wine.  Across the street in a separate building, 900,000 bottles are kept at ideal temperature.  Some of the wines are old and well-aged, including a Madeira from 1907.  Bottles from the 1950's.  Our guide said that even wine connoisseurs from France come to their restaurant for wine that is no longer available in Europe.  I should add, the wines are very fairly priced.  The price at time of purchase holds and no mark up after that. 

Do you think this is the end?  Far from it.  Now we are escorted upstairs in the restaurant, to the dessert room.  Rounded half barrels with a table and chairs and a lot of privacy invited us to rest.  On the wall was a music selection where we could push a button and listen to classical music, jazz, you name it. 

Then came the dessert menu.  We decided to share a Framboise Macadamia Decadence.  Chocolate cake, raspberries, macadamia nut sorbet, raspberry sorbet.  Well, you get the picture.  Coffee and the birthday boy had an Armagnac. 

A lovely evening and a birthday to remember.  As usual, I get too involved in taking everything in, so the only picture I remembered to take was the French onion soup.  Not a large bowl, but just the right size.  No bread except for thin spelt cracker bread and Parmesan toasts.  I liked this idea, because it is so easy to fill up on good, warm, bread and not be able to enjoy the rest of the meal. 

I hope if you are near Tampa one day and feel the urge for something out of the ordinary, you will remember Bern's Restaurant.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fish and Shrimp....everyone is happy!

I have a new blog to which I have become addicted.  I found Chef Dennis some weeks ago.  Actually, he found me.  I received an email from him asking permission to use one of my photos.  I had no problem with his request and got very interested in what his blog looked like. 

Chef Dennis is the Chef director of dining services at Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Pennsylvania.  He cooks for 560 girls every day, and I think he is amazing.  I have emailed him with questions about blogging, specifically photos, and have always gotten an immediate response.  He is definitely worth reading.  Please go to   More Than a Mountful and check out his great food blog.

This evening we deviated from one of his recipes slightly, but still found it delightful.  A change because monk fish is impossible to find around here, we substituted cod.  Instead of broccolini, we switched to spinach.  This dish is very, very nice, and I know we will make it often.  Thanks, Chef!!

Monk Fish Scampi

12-14 ounces of cleaned monk fish
6 Jumbo shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
splash of white wine
2 oz. chicken stock
1/2 cup canned plum tomatoes, chopped
1 cup broccolini cooked and chopped
1/4 cup cooked linguine
2 tbsp Romano cheese
1 tbsp butter

Cook monk fish with olive oil and sea salt and black pepper to taste.  Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 18 minutes, depending upon thickness of fillet.  In a saucepan, add olive oil, chopped garlic and gently saute garlic and then add shrimp and plum tomatoes.

Saute shrimp until almost done, remove from pan.  Add splash of white wine to stop cooking and deglaze pan.  Add chicken stock and Romano cheese.  Remove 1/3 of sauce from pan and add to shrimp on the side.

Now add chopped broccolini to the pan and continue to saute.  Then add cooked linguine and toss to mix and remove from heat.

In another pan reheat the shrimp and sauce as soon as the monk fish is done.  Add one tablespoon butter to the scampi sauce while reheating and top sauce with shrimp over the monk fish.  Serve with the pasta.

In addition to switching to cod and spinach, we also used Parmesan instead of Romano.  Next time I would add red pepper flakes for an extra kick. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

A doll, a wedding dress and a story that continues

We gave our only granddaughter, Rachel, an American Girl Doll for Christmas.  This is Rebecca.  I sewed a few clothes for her, but being the season, I did not accomplish as much as I had wanted to.  I also found it more difficult than expected.  The pieces that you are sewing together are quite small and can be frustrating.  That being said, I did sew this outfit; a top and denim jeans and an over the shoulder purse. 

Rebecca also got a visor.  I sewed a nightgown out of flannel that I had made crib sheets out of for Rachel when she was a baby.  The bathrobe was an old nightgown of mine, pink and silky.  I never did wear it much as I tended to slide out of bed.  There was also a sun dress that all went into the box and was mailed for Christmas.  I took careful measurements of the doll as I had planned to make one more outfit without having the doll around. 

So, my model is my own teddy bear.  I really don't have that much attachment to the bear; he just belongs to me.  I bought the fabric for the wedding dress, and lace over skirt, but the beads that I sewed on the dress came from my daughter's own wedding gown.  I knew I had saved these for a reason at the time she got married and had alterations made to her dress.  I just had no idea at the time what I was saving it for.

The veil just fell into place also.  The beads on the headpiece were also from my daughter's wedding dress.  They just fit perfectly onto a barrette.  The veil...well that actually comes from my own wedding veil from 1966. 

The veil had been in my mother's house and I had totally forgotten about it.  It was in a white box and my mother had written on the box that it was my veil.  Fast forward 34 years.  After my mother passed, my brother and I took what we wanted from the house.  The rest was going to be auctioned off.  Now imagine this.  My mother's house, the house where I grew up, had a full basement, two full floors, and a completely and fulled packed attic.  Unless we would have spent 2 or 3 months going through everything, I might have found the veil.  In fact, I did not even know my mother had saved it.

So a few years ago, my dear childhood friend, Connie, said that at the auction (which I did not attend) she had seen the box with my veil and she won it at the auction.  And then, bless her heart, she gave it to me. 

So, of course, part of that veil was perfect for Rachel's doll.  And so, history carries on.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

50 years ago today


I was carefully watching John F. Kennedy's inauguration on January 20, 1961, on television.    Not only was this a very exciting and very new step in our country, but my brother was also there and I was hoping for a possible glimpse.

My brother, at the time, was a cadet at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  He was in the select group that was in Washington, D.C. this very cold day.  He and his classmates marched past President Kennedy and extended a respectful salute.  No, I did not glimpse my brother that day, but I knew he was there.

Fast forward two years and 5 months.  I was a guest at the Air Force Academy Graduation on June 6, 1963.  My brother was graduating as a Lieutenant in the Air Force and President John F. Kennedy was the commencement speaker.  It was a proud day with lots of joyful tears and excitement.  No one at that time ever dreamed the horrible tragedy that would follow the following November.  It was a part of history that affected me very strongly. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hubert's Relish

Do you know of Hubert Keller?  As a Foodie, I am sure you have come across his name.  He is such a cutie!!  A French chef born in Alsace, France.  He has two restaurants named Fleur de Lys;  one in San Francisco and one in Las Vegas.  I love watching him on television.  He is so calm and soft spoken, and what a chef!!  One recipe of Hubert's we have made before is Double Salmon Burgers.  Once again, today, we were not disappointed. 

Yesterday at the seafood store, we debated between a piece of grouper or this piece of swordfish.  I'm glad we took the swordfish.  The Trout found his recipe for Lamb Burger with Roasted Red Bell Pepper Relish.  The lamb burger will be definitely tried in the future, but today, The Trout made the red bell pepper relish to go on the fish.  Good choice.  In fact, Trout said he could even see this relish on a pizza, burgers or chicken.  You name will taste great.  Possibly just change out the herbs as we did today.

Our basil is hurting from all the cold weather, so we just bought some new and planted it this morning.  So, since we had lots of tarragon and marjoram, this was used and it tasted very good.

Red Bell Pepper Relish
by Hubert Keller, chef

1/4 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 plum tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and diced
1 large bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
6 basil leaves, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

The Trout did not roast the red pepper.  Because he omitted this step, it left a little crunch which was very nice.  As I said before, he substituted marjoram and tarragon for the thyme and basil.  Any herb would do nicely.

Heat saute pan over medium heat.  Add olive oil, onion and garlic.  Saute for 3 minutes or until translucent.  Add in the sugar, bell pepper, tomatoes, thyme and salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes.  Stir in the fresh basil.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mussels, Clams and Shrimp in Spicy Broth

I can't believe that I have never blogged about one of our very favorite dishes.  We found this on the Food Network way back in 2003.  We have made it often, but in my opinion, not quite often enough.  I could eat this at least once a week.  For heaven's sake, why don't we?

Because we are trying to cut down our portions and this dish serves 6, and we all know, The Trout and I can eat it all, I halved the recipe for us, but will print the recipe as suggested, for 6 servings.  If you love seafood, like shrimp, clams and mussels, do try this.  It is very easy to put together and so very, very tasty.

Mussels, Clams and Shrimp in Spicy Broth
Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

Yield 6 servings (this could be true or not)  (wink, wink)

1/4 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper (feel free to adjust)
1 cup dry white wine
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
24 small Littleneck clams  (about 2 1/2 pounds, total) scrubbed
24 mussels (about 1 1/2 pounds total) debearded
20 large shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled, deveined and butterflied
1/2 cup torn fresh basil  (tonight we used flat leave parsley)

Warm crusty bread...if you dare

Heat the oil in a heavy, large pot over medium heat.  Add the garlic, bay leaf, and crushed red pepper.  Saute until the garlic is tender, about 1 minute.  Add the wine and bring to a boil.  Add the tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer.  Simmer until the tomatoes begin to break down and the flavors blend, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the clams (in the shells).  Cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Stir in the mussels (also in the shells).  Cover and cook until the clams and mussels open, about 5 minutes longer. 

Using tongs, transfer the opened shellfish to serving bowl.  DISCARD any shellfish that do not open.  Add the shrimp and basil too the simmering tomato broth.  Simmer until the shrimp is just cooked through, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Divide the shrimp and tomato broth among the bowls.  Serve with warm bread.

I usually put all of this dish into a serving bowl and we just serve ourselves out of the larger bowl.  It can be messy, but I guarantee it that you will love it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A survival story

It might not look like much, but this herb garden has survived several frosts.  Even a Roma tomato plant in the back is doing well, blossoming and it has green tomatoes.  You also see curly and flat leaved parsley, cilantro, tarragon, marjoram, a puny basil plant, thyme, dill.  It is just too cold for basil.

I would have to say that what saved us was a new purchase.  This year instead of covering the herbs with ugly bedsheets (you've seen those in yards, I know you have) or blankets, we bought a green frost blanket from Lowe's.  We hammered in some stakes and made a tent over the herbs.  I think we have used it at least 4 times this winter.  In fact, tonight is the last night, but I have faith we will get through tonight also.

In another area of the yard, we have our large rosemary bush and oregano.  Those two herbs are the hardiest of all.  Never have to worry about them or replant.

This week has been busy.  I was without my laptop for 3 days.  We are changing from a Dell to an HP.  Lots to learn with the change, but I did want to try to see if I could import a photo from the camera and post this blog.  I now need to catch up with everyone.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Perhaps, a new tradition

Reading all of your blogs in the last week or so, I see that many of you have new year traditions, especially when it comes to food.  Being that I had a sinus infection as we entered the new year, I did not eat any kind of a tradition, but I did think about my childhood.

I grew up in the Amana Colonies, in Iowa, and my father's parents lived in the same house with us.  We were upstairs and they were downstairs.  My Oma was a great baker.  Traditionally, in Amana, on the 31st of December, the ladies were in the kitchens making a New Year's Pretzel.  The Neu Jahr Bretzel was not the typical hard pretzel that you slather mustard on.  You find those in Germany.  These were specific to our villages and they were made with a sweet yeast dough.  After mixing, the dough was raised and then broken into 3 or 4 individual pieces.  Each piece was formed into a long rope and twisted into a pretzel shape.  After baking, they were at least 10 to 12" in diameter.  My Oma made the best frosting for them with an added touch.  She would go the pharmacist in the next village and request a small bottle of rose water.  Gently the drops of rose water were mixed into the powdered sugar icing and spread onto the pretzels.  I can remember the taste to this very moment.  These pretzels just begged to be dunked in a cup of coffee or hot cocoa. 

I believe I attempted making pretzels about 30 years ago.  They just weren't the same as I remembered and I never tried again.  Nonetheless, I always think of my Oma and the fantastically delicious New Year's Pretzels she made every year. 

Then I have been reading about black-eyed peas.  Living in the South now, they are easy to find.  So, today is January 6, I am feeling somewhat better, so tonight we are having "Black-Eyed Peas."  A little late, but if there is still some luck to rub off, I'll take it.

Black-Eyed Peas in a slow cooker
 original recipe from Bonnie at "From a Writer's Kitchen"

6 cups chicken stock
1 - 16 oz can diced tomatoes
1 pound black eyed peas, looked over and rinsed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, finely diced
8 ounces diced ham
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all in the slow cooker.  Start on high for 30 minutes.  Turn to low and simmer 6 to 8 hours.

Happy New Year again to all.

Addendum:  I have to add another comment.  The photo was taken before dinner.  Now that we have eaten, this is absolutely delicious.  It will definitely be made again, especially 1/1/12

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Alas, no food to blog about today

While all my blogger buddies are posting wonderful foods for the new year, I am taking another avenue today.  So, have you heard of a Netti pot?  I found found it spelled neti and Netti.  Not sure at this point which is right.

I have been coughing and sneezing with a cotton-filled head feeling for 3 days now.  A friend of The Trout called and when I answered the phone, he asked how I was feeling.  Then he said, "have you ever used a Netti pot?"  I told him I had not, but I had one that is probably over 100 years old.  He convinced me to check it out further.

So, I got this baby out of the china cabinet (of all places) and cleaned it up.  Made my solution of salt water and tried it.  Actually, I expected more of a drowning experience, but it actually felt very comfortable.  I did watch a YouTube video on this first, because the last thing I needed was an ear infection on top of all this. 

I hope it worked.  My nose is actually feeling a lot better.  So, have you ever used a Netti pot?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A gift for the family

I just couldn't let the day slip away without posting.  It is 1/1/11.  I just love the combination of numbers.  I suppose it has something to do with my birthday.  I was born 2/3/45.  So Happy New Year to everyone.  

I also want to show you what The Trout and I worked on for quite some time.  Every year, after a vacation, we make a hard back album of our photos.  We have always chosen Shutterfly as they do a great job and they do it quickly. 

As I am getting more and more into family genealogy, I realize how much simpler it could have been if my family had written down a lot of the information I am now finding.  So, I have been going through photos for over a year, finding subjects that would be representative of our families and deciding where to end it also.  Once you crawl into a family tree, the branches just go on and on. 

So, we had three books made for our family.  Our daughters each got one and one for us.  The book ended up being 26 pages.  We start out on a text page of The Trout's family, where they lived in Norway, when they came to get the picture.  Then, in as much order as we possibly could, we proceeded through the pages.  Then we started on my family photos and information and ended up with our marriage, the places we lived, the children, the pets.  We did stop after the birth of our grandchildren. A couple of pictures of us with the grandkids and then a final text page.

I wrote how I hoped that someone in the family would someday take the reins and continue down the tree branches.  I think our daughters were very surprised.  We included dates of births, deaths and weddings. 

This is a photo of the beginning of my family page.  The castle where my ancestors last stayed before coming to America.  They were not royals, but had taken refuge from religious persecution in this castle.  I have visited it quite a few times, and feel history soaring through my veins as I walk the cobblestones, touch the walls, and eat in what has become a most wonderful restaurant in the castle.  I certainly hope it is still there.  The castle is found in Leiblos,  near Frankfort, Germany, and it is called The Ronneburg.

So, the sun has risen on a new year, I am feeling somewhat better, and The Trout was out playing golf at 7:30 a.m.  Still eating light today, but eating well.  Mary, from "One Perfect Bite" shared her most wonderful clam chowder recipe this fall, and we are making it once again.  Must be about 4 times now, Mary.  Just love it. 

I am also so thrilled to mention that two readers of my blog have climbed out from behind their screens and commented.  Sandy and Linda P., welcome and please stop back often.