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The Chart House Happy Hour

If you're looking for a great spot to sit outside by the water, enjoy a cold beverage, and consume some AMAZING (and beautiful) appetizers...then you'd better give The Chart House in Fort Lauderdale a try.
Friends Debbie and Toni took us there last night...and check out the food we enjoyed!



The appetizers included Prime Rib Sliders, Spinach Dip, Calamari, Firecracker Shrimp and Fish Tacos...

Toni looks sad...I think she's feeling guilty for all the calories she is about to consume!!
(You GO Girl!)

It's safe to say "A good time was had by all"...and the food was delicious...as always!  (Thanks again Debbie!)  And thanks to servers Patty and Shane for ALWAYS being the best at what they do!!!

The Chart House Happy Hour is from 4pm to 8pm Monday through Saturday...and ALL DAY on Sunday!



Life's a BEACH...




My Beach Bum Hubby...
(Shaving is highly over-rated!)


A Kid In A CANDY STORE...

Some women LOVE to shop...for clothes, shoes, purses, etc. etc. etc.

I am NOT one of those women.

But I was like a kid in a candy store the other day when we made a stop at MY kind of store...called CULINARY CONVENIENCE...South Florida's Chef Supply Store.  (Yes...it's even open to people like me who simply LOVE to cook.)

Several weeks ago, I read an article in the Sun Sentinel about the owners and founders of the company, Aaron Michaels and his wife Limor.

Owner Limor Michaels and staff member Vincent
We were lucky enough to meet BOTH owners, and before Aaron left for a meeting, he spent some time telling us how they developed the concept for their business. As former chefs,both Aaron and Limor knew first-hand how hard it is for chefs to get away and "shop" for all the items needed to run both the kitchen and the front of house in a busy restaurant...so they decided to "take their show on the road" and take the needed supply to the restaurants...in a van!

A Traveling Chef's Store
That way, the chefs only have to run out the back door and climb into the back of the truck to "shop".  So whether it's a chef's knife, aprons, bowls, silverware or anything else...they have it at their fingertips and ready for tonight's dinner service.  A GENIUS idea!

Their business was so successful, they decided to open a store front to stock even more items...so of course I wanted to check it out.  And what a FUN shopping trip it was!

A Pot for EVERY Occasion

A Chef's Best Friend...A GOOD KNIFE
I had a BLAST sharing cooking tips and talking with other "Foodies", and I know I'll want to go back next year.  What an AWESOME place...run by people who love to talk about cooking as much as I do!

Make Your Own POWDERED SUGAR

Have you ever baked a cake and then realized you were out of powdered sugar to make the frosting??  NO PROBLEM!  MAKE YOUR OWN!  Thanks to Chef Carla Hall on The Chew for this easy recipe.

POWDERED SUGAR

Combine in a blender:
1 Cup regular granulated white sugar
1 tsp. Corn Starch

Blend for about one minute...and you've got POWDERED SUGAR!


An Easter Egg Hunt To Remember!

This morning, I decided to head to the beach for my very own personal Sunrise Easter Service.  (Hubby was still sleeping!) Forget the crowds and the sermons.  This was MY beach.  And I was the only person there...and it was AWESOME.



When suddenly...two young women on four-wheelers came FLYING up the beach.  They rushed past me, and after I finished my time of solitude, I walked up the beach to the place they had stopped. I had a feeling I knew why they had come.  They are part of the Turtle Patrol team in Fort Lauderdale.


Calling for Back-Up
A Special Job
They showed me the spot where a HUGE leatherback turtle had laid her eggs!  And unfortunately, she picked a site too close to the ocean...so in two hours (when high tide rolls in) the eggs would all be washed away.  So it was a race against time to dig up the eggs and save them from disaster.  These creatures are on the Endangered Species list, and the penalties for disturbing their nests or eggs are serious...including huge fines and jail.

Charting the Nest Location for Scientific Studies...
(See how HUGE the turtle was...based on the sand indentation!)
Beginning to DIG...
And DIG...
And DIG!!!!!
Leatherback Sea Turtles date back to dinosaur days.  They are the largest of all living sea turtles, and can weigh up to 2,000 pounds, and they range  from 4 to 9 feet long!  Their estimated life span is between 40-45 years.   The average nest contains about 80 eggs (about the size of billiard balls).  The ridges in the sand are the places where the turtle's flippers form a "butterfly" stroke to propel her back to the water after laying her eggs.  The most amazing fact I discovered online was that the sex of the baby turtles depends on the temperature of the nest when the eggs are laid!  

I went online and downloaded this magazine photo of one of these amazing creatures...just so you can see what they look like, since they usually only come ashore during the night to lay their eggs.  

I downloaded a photo including a human...
so you can really get an idea of how BIG these turtles are!
In fact, here in Fort Lauderdale, we have strict  laws against lights at the beach from May to October, since lights can confuse the turtles during their march to the shore to nest.  The city installs shades on all the streetlights near the beach, and beachfront hotel guests are even required to keep their curtains closed at night while lights are on in their rooms! 

Yes...This was a special Easter Sunday...And it was an Easter Egg Hunt I'll NEVER forget!

Substitute For Buttermilk...Easy!

How many times have you started to make a recipe...and then realized you are missing a key ingredient?  It certainly has happened to me...and more than once!
Buttermilk is an ingredient I sometimes need...but I rarely remember to buy it to have it on hand.  So here is an EASY way to substitute for it.
In a ONE CUP measure, put 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar (I've even used apple cider vinegar if I'm also out of the white vinegar.)  Obviously, if you need more than one cup of buttermilk you will need to adjust the amount you make.
Then fill the measuring cup with milk-whatever kind you have in your refrigerator.  Let these two ingredients sit for at least five minutes, and then stir.  You will notice that some curdling has occurred.  That's a GOOD thing. The mixture is ready to use to replace the buttermilk called for in your recipe.
Now...if there was only a replacement for...

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms


When I found out some good friends were going to be in our neighborhood later in the day, I invited them to stop for a glass of wine.  And I CAN'T have company without FEEDING them too!  So I rummaged through the frig and cupboards to see what I could make...without going to the store.

I succeeded without a grocery run (except for a bakery loaf of French bread) in pulling together the following:

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (store bought) and Veggie Platter
Bruschetta with Homemade Tomato-Garlic Topping 
And these Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms...

Here's how I made them:

SAUSAGE STUFFED MUSHROOMS

  • 2 boxes fresh crimini mushrooms (that's all I had-but makes enough filling for at least FOUR boxes!  And you can substitute white button mushrooms if you'd like.)
  • 1/2 lb. mild Italian sausage (use whatever kind YOU like!)
  • 1 8 oz pkg cream cheese
  • 1/2 yellow onion-finely diced
  • 4-6 cloves garlic-minced
  • 1 egg yolk (discard the white)
  • 1/3 Cup  White Wine
  • 3/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Fresh Parsley, Thyme, Sage or whatever herbs you like

METHOD 
Wipe mushroom caps with a damp paper towel to remove dirt.  Remove and reserve stems, and set mushroom caps on a baking sheet lined with tin foil and set aside.  Chop mushroom stems finely and set aside.

In a regular (NOT NON-STICK) skillet, brown sausage and break up with a fork to create a very fine crumble of meat.  When cooked, remove from the pan onto a plate to cool.  In the SAME skillet (DON'T WASH IT!) dump in the finely diced onions and minced garlic and cook, stirring, for several minutes to "sweat".  Then add about 1/3 Cup of white wine and stir to release all the delicious brown bits (a.k.a. FOND) from the skillet.  Stir until the "winey" smell is gone.  (That's when you know the alcohol has evaporated.) Then add the finely diced mushroom stems and cook for several minutes until any liquid in the stems is released and evaporated.  Remove this mixture to a plate to cool.

In a bowl, combine the block of cream cheese and the egg yolk.  Then stir in the Parmesan cheese and combine well.  Then add in the sausage and the onion mixtures, salt and pepper, and whatever fresh herbs you want.  Stir to combine.  REFRIGERATE for a few minutes to firm up the filling...if you have time.  (I stuck my bowl in the FREEZER for 15 minutes.)

Then, using a teaspoon, fill each mushroom cap with a heaping "glob" and bake at 350-375 degrees for about 25-30 minutes.  Serve warm...or even good at room temperature.  (I LOVE appetizers that don't require trips back and forth to the oven during a party or cocktail hour!)

FRIENDS AND FOOD...A Winter of Memories...

Roasted Roma Tomatoes With Garlic and Basil

As many of you know, I love to entertain.  And the past two nights we've enjoyed the company of friends here in Florida.  So I decided to make some appetizers that would allow me to use up items left in our refrigerator, freezer and pantry as our Winter season winds down.

So here is the recipe I created to use up some Roma tomatoes...in a VERY tasty way!

COOKING TIP:  Hubby HATES the smell of roasting garlic.  (He thinks it smells like an electrical fire...LOL!)  And I've discovered by inserting the garlic cloves INTO the tomato flesh there is MUCH less of that smell for him to hate.  I'm not sure of the science behind that, but it is kind of amazing, I must say...

ROASTED ROMA TOMATOES WITH GARLIC AND BASIL
This tomato dish would work well as a side dish...maybe served with a grilled steak.  Or try what I did.  I turned the roasted mixture into a Bruschetta appetizer.

The Dish...BEFORE Roasting...
Roma Tomatoes (as many as you'd like)
whole garlic cloves
Fresh basil
Salt and Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (About 4 Tablespoons or so.)
Fresh or dried basil and/or oregano if desired (just a sprinkle)

Slice tomatoes in half and place in a casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray
Slide whole, peeled garlic cloves into the flesh of the cut side of the tomatoes
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper
Scatter some sliced fresh basil into the dish and roast at 400 degrees for approx 25-30 minutes or until tomatoes start to blacken and garlic is soft.  Top with more fresh basil and serve...or make bruschetta!

BRUSCHETTA...MY Style!

Slice a baguette thinly on the diagonal.  Brush with the olive oil from the bottom of the dish of roasted tomatoes and bake on a cooling rack placed on a cookie sheet for about 8 minutes or until crispy.  (By placing the bread on a rack, it allows both side of the bread to become crispy.) Remove the bread from oven.  Mash the tomato and garlic mixture with a fork.  Top the toasted bread with the mixture and add a slice of fresh mozzarella.  Bake about 5 minutes or until cheese melts.  Remove from the oven and top with more shredded basil and a touch of coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.  ENJOY!!!


The Italian Flag...On A Plate

What is FOND?

Have you ever wondered why chefs cook with REGULAR pans that are NOT non-stick?  I'll show you why.  See this pan?  I fried sausage in it...and then I fried onions and garlic...and it looks like a burned on mess!


The BROWN you see in the pan is actually called FOND.  Now watch what happens when I DEGLAZE the pan with a little white wine...


All that YUMMY GOODNESS (a.k.a. BROWN BITS) are absorbed into the onions and garlic...and the results are MAGICAL.

I only wish you could have tasted the results...

I'll share the recipe (SAUSAGE STUFFED MUSHROOMS) another day...

And HERE is the pan after the deglazing process...hardly ANYTHING left to wash!  (A Non Stick pan would NOT give you these flavors...BELIEVE ME!)


Viva La FOND!!!!

Vivino...Simply AMAZING

It's amazing the things you can learn when you eavesdrop in a restaurant.

Several months ago, when we were eating breakfast at the beach, I overheard a man telling his dining companions about an amazing App he downloaded to his smart phone.  It's called Vivino.  It allows you to take a picture of the label on a bottle of wine...and immediately learn the cost, rating, and reviews of that vintage!  I found his comments hard to believe...but now let's just say I'm a BELIEVER!

So go to www.vivino.com   and check it out.

Or go to your App Store and download it...and give it a try.  And, best of all...IT'S FREE!!!

Cheers!

Applesauce Raisin Nut Cake

I'm beginning to survey my pantry here in Fort Lauderdale...and I'm looking for ways to use up what I have left in the cupboards and the refrigerator.

So today I noticed a half-empty jar of applesauce in the refrig.  Then I found a partial container of raisin and nut trail mix in the cupboard...and the wheels in my brain began to turn.

How about an Applesauce Raisin Nut Cake?

I found a recipe online, and then I started to "tweak" it...based on what I had on hand...and the ingredients I thought would taste good when combined.  And here is the finished product.



APPLESAUCE RAISIN NUT CAKE


2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
Approx. 1 cup nuts and raisins...nuts chopped

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla


METHOD
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Mix together all dry ingredients and set aside.  

COOKING TIP:  When adding nuts or raisins to a recipe, stir them into the flour mixture to coat them.  It will help to keep them from falling to the bottom of the cake as it bakes!

In another bowl combine vegetable oil, applesauce, eggs and vanilla.  Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix well and pour into  baking pan.  Bake until done...approximately 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Serve WARM with ice cream or whipped cream...or COOL and  top with my favorite icing (since I also found a half-block of cream cheese and part of a stick of butter in the refrigerator during my earlier search)

CREAM CHEESE ICING

WHIP TOGETHER:
4 oz. softened cream cheese
2 or 3 Tablespoons softened unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla

STIR IN
2 cups powdered sugar (approximately...I don't measure!)
If needed...some half & half

Mix well with electric mixer.  If icing is too stiff, stir in 1 Tablespoon half & half...and add more if needed.

Spread on cooled cake.  Refrigerate until served...especially if you've topped it with the icing.

Easy Avocado Prep 101

Here is the easiest way to prepare an avocado...

Cut it in half and twist apart.  The large seed will probably remain stuck in one half of the fruit.  Strike the seed with the blade of your sharp chef's knife, and the blade should be stuck in the seed.  Then simply twist the knife and the seed should come out--still stuck to the knife blade.  Discard the seed and then follow these simple steps to remove every last bit of deliciousness.  Enjoy!

Stick the knife blade into the seed and twist...the seed will pop right out

Scoop around the avocado flesh with a large spoon

After flesh is loosened from the shell, slice across flesh

Then scoop contents from shell

Voile!  All that remains is the empty shell!

Sally's Rice Pilaf

Today I heard a knock on our door...and there stood neighbor Sally with her recipe in hand for her DELICIOUS Rice Pilaf.  I promised to share it with you...so here goes.

Sally says you can double, triple, etc. this recipe with great results.  (It's delicious as written, but I'm also going to experiment several times by adding fresh herbs and mushrooms...You know me-always thinking outside the box!)

This recipe, as written, serves 3 PEOPLE.

SALLY'S RICE PILAF



1 C. white, long grain rice
1 or 1 1/4 C thin style egg noodles
2 C chicken broth (or 1 can and the rest water to equal 2 cups of liquid)
1 stick unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

METHOD:
Place rice in a strainer.  Rinse, drain and set aside.

In a saucepan, melt butter and stir in uncooked noodles.  Stirring constantly, brown noodles until they reach a deep, golden brown color.  DO NOT BURN.

Place rinsed rice into butter/noodle mixture.  Add chicken broth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Let mixture come to a boil.  Then turn heat to simmer. Cover with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes, covered.  Do not stir or lift the lid.

COOKING TIP FOR FLUFFY RICE:  After 20 minutes, turn off heat and PLACE A DOUBLED THICKNESS OF PAPER TOWEL BETWEEN THE LID AND THE PAN.Let stand for at least 10 minutes.  Stir pilaf to distribute what has settled to the bottom of the pan.  Serve and ENJOY!

Thanks Sally!!

Wine Glass Polishing

I watched with HORROR last night as a waiter polished a wine glass before allowing the bartender to fill the glass.  First, he stuck his FINGER into the glass to pick "something" off the inside of the glass.  (I wonder where his fingers had been before that moment!)  And then he BLEW into the glass before continuing to polish it with a paper napkin.

After what I saw...I think I'll stick to BEER...unless I'm pouring the wine myself!

Does this waiter look like he's happy to be at work?  (He's probably wondering how many glasses he'll have to polish!)
HELPFUL HINT:  Use a paper coffee filter to polish your wine glasses.  (And keep your FINGERS out of the glass...unless it's your own!)