07 December 2010

Thanksgiving in Oriental

Oh, is it halfway through December?  I think I'll blog about Thanksgiving...

We went to Dick and Jackie's house, because the delicious food can only be beat by the wonderful company.  We always meet new people when we stop at Dick and Jackie's, and they are always some of the best people one could meet.

Thanksgiving morning started out aboard the Wild Haggis, where we kept up Jim and Beth's tradition of oyster stew for breakfast.  Some of us couldn't quite handle such rich seafood for breakfast...(oyster stew is made of butter, milk and oysters).

After that, it was home to work work work!  I've never helped prepare a Thanksgiving meal before.  It is pretty intense.  Mostly the timing of everything that needs to go in the oven and figuring out when to start each dish.

Kyle and Dick worked on peeling potatoes, while Jackie and I compiled the candied yams and stuffing balls and all the other delicious things that went into this meal.  And drank some wine.  And entertained the guests as they arrived!

Dinner was a huge success, and the laughter could be heard for miles, I'm sure.  There were a lot of new faces, and some faces that I'd apparently met before but forgotten.  As you may recall, when we first met Dick and Jackie, it was a week before Easter, and the second thing out of Jackie's mouth was "Would you like to come over for Easter dinner?"  I think they take in all the strays during the holidays.

After everyone was in a food coma, Jackie herded us all up and dressed us as pirates.  We were going pillaging!
Except what we actually did was bring desserts to a neighboring party, so it was more like reverse pillaging.  All in all, and excellent way to spend a holiday.  It was so nice to see our Oriental friends, and it's always great to meet new ones!

23 November 2010

From Moyock to Portsmouth

We had a gorgeous day for traveling.  The first bit was a little windy but after we made it out of the Currituck Sound, things calmed down.  This is starting to be a familiar sight - leaving the colony - although it's never been quite this pretty.

Once underway, we discovered we'd had a prowler aboard.  And yes, I'm completely comfortable with showing the whole internet how dirty the dodger is.

After navigating some "submerged danger!" we found the fall colors to be quite lovely.

 It was my first time going through locks.  Kyle wasn't nearly as excited about it as I was.  I was pretty disappointed by the whole thing, actually.

Tall tugboat!  Just doesn't seem ocean-safe...

The most exciting thing that happened all trip was a railroad bridge that held us up for a while.  We were concerned we wouldn't make it to the Jordan Bridge until 3:30 and then we'd be stuck there til 5:30 because it doesn't open for rush hour.  Apparently our fears were unfounded (and our guide books out of date), because this is the remains of the Jordan Bridge.

Suddenly, Norfolk!  And Portsmouth!  And our new marina.  That is a naval ship in the dry dock - it is so skinny and streamlined.

And that completes the last few miles of the ICW that I had never been on.  We still have a few miles left to cover in Florida, but we'll save that for another trip :)

16 November 2010

Some Easy Favorites

Since we're getting ready for a move, I wanted to prepare some food that would be really easy - heat'n'eat meals.  So I spent just about all of yesterday cooking.

The first thing I made was stromboli.  It isn't really stromboli, I just keep calling it that.  I think it might better fit the definition of a calzone.  Basically, a hot pocket without the sauce (and with REAL food inside...).  I got a box of bread mix because it usually works out better than bread from scratch.  For the filling, I cooked up some chicken, green peppers, jalapenos, mushrooms and mozzarella.  One box yielded eight stromboli/calzone buddies, which is quite a stretch.  I think they were mostly filling, which is tastier anyway :)

I always have some leftover filling, and I decided to make a pot of white chicken chili with it.  I cooked up more chicken and sauteed the peppers with some scallions.  I used the pressure cooker to cook some Great Northern beans.  Throw it all in a large pot, add a couple cups of chicken broth, simmer forever.  What else did I put in it...a handful of mozzarella, and a spice packet I bought (I could have done the spices better myself though - I won't use one of those again). 

Also, in between easy meals I used the last of the pecans - the last of them?  How did we go through them so quickly?  They are actually a really great snack, just sit down with a bowl of pecans and a nutcracker.  Perfect for late at night when I got home from work, hadn't eaten dinner, was really hungry but didn't want a full meal.  Anyway, I used the last of the pecans to make Pecan Sandies!  This is one of the weirdest cookie recipes I've ever followed.  The main ingredient is butter, which meant that you refrigerate the dough to make a brick of butter, then break off pieces to bake.  And the baking time is very long - I needed 20 min for bitesized cookies.

Toss in powdered sugar for a perfect cookie.  They really are "the best I've ever had!" as the recipe quotes.

So finally, I got done with all my cooking and thought a bowl of soup would be the perfect lunch.  I was somewhat surprised to find that I wasn't even hungry.  I guess I'd been "sampling" my work a little more often than I thought.  I still had a small bowl, and it was delicious.  Kyle took a stromboli buddy to work today, so I'll get the reviews on that one tonight.

Stromboli and white chicken chili are from my go-to recipes - the things I would make in college so I didn't have to cook again that week.  Also in that group is manicotti, fajitas, regular chili and fried potatoes.  Between those recipes, I don't think I really ate much else in college, except for when I occasioned to buy some bread, lettuce and lunchmeat.

Good luck to all my hunters out there!  Someone shoot me a deer, please, I'm running low on venison.  And stay safe!

15 November 2010

We're Moving!

Kyle and I rented a slip in Portsmouth, VA.  We actually signed the lease for the beginning of November, but this week is the first time the Southern Cross has been floating all month.  This means that Kyle is skipping work on Wednesday (with his boss's permission, of course) and we'll be taking a boat trip up those last few miles of the ICW.

Stay tuned because big things are happening :)

12 November 2010

Southern Adventure Leads to Amazing Dinner

This just in:  pecan-encrusted fish are the hot new food.  And I am loving this new trend, especially with my latest acquisition (pecans!).  So I spent my yesterday browsing the internets for the most intriguing pecan-encrusted salmon yesterday.  A huge thanks to Brad for the salmon - those fillets were so big that one easily fed both Kyle and me.

And here it is, the most intriguing recipe I found:

  • 8 (4 oz) salmon fillets
  • 2 c. pecans
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  1. Put the pecans in a food processor and chop until fine.
  2. Add garlic, salt and cayenne pepper to food processor and process just till mixed well.
  3. Brush the salmon fillets with olive oil and roll in pecan mixture.
  4. Heat a large non-stick fry pan and lightly saute the salmon on one side until browned.
  5. Turn and saute until done (approximately 5 to 6 minutes per side). 
 Yes, you read that correctly.  The pecans are mixed with garlic and cayenne pepper!  Note:  fresh pecans are pretty difficult to chop with a rolling pin.  They were so moist and oily that I basically made a bunch of tiny pecan pancakes.  But after that they crumbled, so it turned out okay.  In addition, I also baked my salmon because I just didn't see pan-frying turning out that well because the pecans weren't really sticking to the fish.

Also, since I only had two fillets (actually, two halves of one monster fillet), I had to cut the recipe in quarters.  Except for the cayenne pepper, which I doubled, because I love cayenne pepper.  The salmon ended up spicy and delicious.  The pecans added more texture than flavor, but the flavor that they added wasn't out of place or weird.  Also, I served my salmon with asiago dill potatoes, which are always a huge hit.  Love dill.  Love asiago.

Look at how spoiled I am.  I didn't even have to do dishes afterward.  Hey Kyle, if you don't want me to post weird pictures of you, then don't make weird faces at the camera :)


10 November 2010

Northern Girl Goes on Southern Adventure

At Christmas-time, Gram and Grandpa always provided a bowl full of various nuts to entertain the kids.  It sounds pretty corny now, but a bunch of us kids would sit in front of the fireplace and crack nuts of all kinds.  Brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds galore!  My favorite were always the hazelnuts.  We'd eat them until the bowl was empty, and then ask Gram to refill it.

Now that I'm in the South (ish), there is a whole new world of produce opening up to me.  And with PickYourOwn.org, fresh from the garden is just a drive away.  Back when I was in the market for blueberries and blackberries, I made a phone call to a pecan farm (knowing nothing about when pecans were in season).  I was advised to call back in November, sometime after the first frost.  On Tuesday, Kyle had to scrape his windows before going to work.  That's my cue!

I was the only one at the farm this morning, but the woman whose backyard I was in told me exactly what to do.  The nuts have just started falling off the tree.  She said if I were looking for 20 pounds of pecans I should come back after a big wind storm.  Who on earth gets 20 pounds of pecans?  Anyway, she also told me that the black ones had fallen off before they were ripe and I should avoid them.  Go for the lovely light brown ones!  Most of them were out of the husks, so the whole thing was like a giant Easter egg hunt.  Joyous.

At first I was going along a path like a little kid, grabbing every pecan I could find on my way to the Tree That Had Not Been Picked Yet.  And once I got to that tree...I'd say I resembled more of a squirrel.  There were pecans everywhere!  In no time at all I had much more than what I'd planned on picking.  I was gathering handfuls and bringing them back to my grocery bag.

For some reason, I'd expected the trees to look a lot like fruit trees - small and gathered in a grove.  But this really was just a backyard full of very large, normal looking trees.  I keep comparing them to the black walnuts we played with when we were little (they turned our hands black and made Mom mad :P ).  These were much nicer than that, although I did try to scrape the husk off a green one and now my thumb is a little black so it looks like they are pretty similar.

As you can see, this tree is still loaded with green pecans.  The proprietor did tell me that I could continue picking until Christmas, though, so they must have a pretty long season to ripen and fall off the tree.

Unlike blueberries and blackberries, you can't taste-test the pecans as you pick them, which was pretty disappointing.  When I got done picking, I made sure to ask to borrow a nutcracker so I could taste what I'd gathered.  I was surprised to see the nutmeat was a gorgeous golden color with pale insides.  They taste as good as they look - I've eaten a handful already.  Being labor intensive makes them the perfect snack because then it's hard to eat too many at once.

And there you have it!  Four pounds of pecans for $10 - what a steal.  I really want to see how much a pound of shelled pecans compares to the same de-shelled.  I don't think the bathroom scale can handle such subtleties of weight though.

20 October 2010


In a little forgotten village in northern Michigan, there is a secret place - a magical place!  It is the Amish store of damaged groceries, where food is practically free (and usually expired).  The A-man will put weeks of food on your table for a mere $20.  He will also relabel things like m&ms and try to pass them off as his own home-made "candy coated chocolate bits."  But nonetheless, this grand little group of Amish is near and dear to my heart because of the one food I could not live without:


From some mystical source, the Amish get deli-style logs of cheese (6-7 lbs) and resells them for $15 - a relative steal compared to grocery store cheeses.  If you want the cheddar, you have to be there on Friday or you might get stuck with a bland colby or colby jack.  Alas, I was only fortunate enough to find a colby during my last visit to the backwoods of Michigan.

After shipping my precious cheese back to NC, I set about preserving it in a way that would not take up a quarter of the already-full fridge.  That's right, friends, I waxed it.

Now, since I've already blogged about this I'm not going to repeat myself.  But I will tell you about some problems I encountered with the colby that cheddar did not present.  For one thing, the cheddar was rectangular block, whereas the colby was cylindrical.  When I cut my little serving-size cubes, they didn't fit in my tin can so I had to cut them a little more squarely as shown in the photo.

The second problem was that I was reusing the wax that I'd used on the cheddar.  That in itself is a common practice (the wax peels cleanly off the cheese), but under normal circumstances one is supposed to melt the wax and strain it through some cheesecloth to ensure cleanliness.  I didn't do that, and I should have.  That still worked out.  The bigger problem was that I had less wax, and so I didn't give the colby as many coats as I should have.  I still gave it three coats of wax but I would have preferred one more.

And lastly, the colby was full of air bubbles.  So the wax didn't stick as well on the first coat.  Then later when I peeled one open, the combination of trapped steam and these little air bubbles in the cheese made the exterior of the blocks a little bit spongy.   Still completely edible, but not the prettiest to look at.

So that's waxed cheese.  It doesn't need refrigeration, and after it is waxed it continues to age.  Store in a cool, dry place and turn the blocks every couple of weeks because cheese wax is slightly softer than paraffin and may start to "flow" if left in the same position, especially in a warmer area.

11 October 2010

I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food...

I seem to have neglected to inform my favored readers of my acquisitions from the trip to Michigan.  While up north, I decided I wanted to go salmon fishing.  Sadly, the salmon didn't start running until a week or two after I returned to NC.  Happily, a good friend let me go "fishing" in his freezer for some of last year's catch.

After getting up at 4am on Saturday to open locker rooms for small children who were playing hockey at an ungodly hour, I came home and slept.  But when I woke up, I was ready for some gourmet fishes - something simple, like a nice lemon pepper recipe.  Here is how I find recipes:  I decide about what I want (in this case, "lemon pepper baked salmon") and then I do a Google image search and pick out the tastiest looking photos.  Then I read the recipes and choose the one that I like the best.  There is nothing scientific about it, if the picture is pretty then it has a good chance.

This recipe came from lifesambrosia:

Baked Salmon with White Wine Dill Sauce

  • 2 (5 ounce) salmon fillets, bones removed
  • fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  1. Preheat your oven to 450.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray.
  3. Place salmon fillets on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle fillets with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Place 2 lemon slices on top of each fillet. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and tent with aluminum foil for 10 more minutes. Fish will continue to cook during this time. It will flake easily when done.
  4. While salmon is baking, melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add minced garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in wine. Cook for 5 minutes or until sauce reduces by 1/3. Stir in fresh dill and remove from heat.
  5. Remove lemon slices from the top of the salmon and discard. Gently slide a turner or serving spatula between the skin and the flesh of the fillet to remove the skin, it should separate very easily. Transfer to a serving platter and spoon white wine dill sauce over the top.

I was a little confused about the tent but Kyle handled that one.  The result was by far one of the best fish recipes I have ever tasted. I love dill.  Kyle and I agreed that the mix of flavors was perfect - we could taste each ingredient, and nothing was overpoweringly flavorful.  Being the good Food Network fan that I am, any time I use lemons or lime I use the zest as well.  Adding the lemon zest and dill to the wine-butter sauce was fragrant and fabulous.  I cannot recommend this recipe enough.

Today I still had some dill left over to use, so I fried up a couple potatoes with mushrooms (and cumin, my all-time favorite spice) and then sprinkled them with dill and asiago.  I have to say, dill is a top contender for my favorite herb.  I have fond memories of spending my summers in the garden, where dill grew like a weed.  I would crush the leaves in my hand just to smell them.  Asiago is also one of my favorite cheeses.  I think it's pretty clear that lunch today was delicious.

In other news, if anyone wants a liveaboard chef, I'd be willing to try my hand at it.  Oh, also, I'm expecting visitors from Michigan this week - my mom and my cousin will be stopping here on their way south for a wedding.  AND my favorite boaters are gathering in Oriental, so it ought to be a nice social week.

01 October 2010

Nicole, the Tropical Storm that Wasn't

Nicole was officially named as a tropical storm in the Caribbean, and fizzled out soon after.  So much more harmless than a Category 4 Hurricane Earl, right?  Wrong.  The fundamental difference between the storms was that Earl caused northern winds, which drove our water out.  Nicole cause south winds on top of four days straight of rain.  Water has been in places this week where water has never been seen before.

Nothing illustrates this better than photos, and lucky for you, there is nothing I love more than taking photos.  The first thing to go was the community dock.  It was underwater before the water made it near any other dock that I saw.
The wind was blowing all the pine needles in by our dock early Thursday morning.
Right before I left for work I noticed that a present had blown in from the main canal.  A log about half the size of a telephone pole.
Southern Cross was loving it.  Compare the Nicole photo to the Earl photo.  Look at the difference in water level!  

Then I had to leave for work.  I had a school bus testing the waters for me for a while.  The road I work on was about 2' under water when I left at 11pm (I found an alternate route).

The water was highest while I was at work, but I had my camera with me.  Kyle took some photos from last night, I'll see if I can get my hands on them.  It was still a scene this morning.  It's weird seeing the boat reflection above the dock.

Right now the sun is out, so I'm crossing my fingers that the drive to work won't involve crossing too many rivers.  The water has already gone down a few inches since this morning.  I can almost see the very tops of the posts on the community dock.  Hope everyone else is faring well!  Friends of ours have water in their garage and I saw a house that had turned into an island.  Also, Virginia Beach underpasses get pretty deep in rain like this - a semi ran right into one yesterday.  We're expecting a north wind this weekend that ought to bring our water levels back to normal.

20 September 2010

Foodies - Stuffed Pretzel Bites

Awhile back (Fernandina Beach?), Kyle and I picked up a copy of Gourmet magazine that someone had donated to a boater's lounge.  It was filled with many delicious recipes, but there was one that really caught Kyle's eye.  Homemade stuffed pretzels and some jalapeno dijon mustard...it took me some time to come around to it, but Kyle really likes salty things so today I dove in.  

 I must be losing my touch, because I completely forgot to take photos of the first part.  I made some basic bread dough (this recipe called for brown sugar instead of white, and more milk than water) and let that rise.  Then I divided it into four parts.  Each part was rolled out to about 12"x4" and then I put some chicken, cheese and jalapenos on that and rolled it back up.  Then I cut the stuffed dough log into 12 pieces and sealed the stuffing in.  I did leave one log "unarmed," because Kyle's dad isn't a fan of jalapenos.  

The next step is boiling each pretzel guy in a solution of water and baking soda for about 20 seconds.  You can see how much they puff up in just a few seconds of being in the water.

Next, time to bake!  Fifteen minutes at 400 degrees F, they turn a nice golden brown and start smelling amazing.  Then brush with a little butter and top with some pretzel salt.  I'm not really sure what pretzel salt is, I'm assuming it is just a coarser table salt, so I think coarse sea salt works just fine.

Last but not least, the mustard.  It is just .5 c. dijon mustard (I used whole grain) with 1 jalapeno and a tbs of honey.  Very simple - very spicy.  Since the ratio of jalapeno to mustard is so high, I removed the membranes for the most part (the lighter green stuff inside).  Even so, it still had some decent heat.  Absolutely delicious.  I think it's more like bread than pretzel, but I've never tried making pretzels before.  The pretzel bites with the mustard, however...to die for.  You get the full flavor of all the ingredients, and then the pleasant burn starts to tingle on your tongue.
 In other news, I am now working part time at the ice rink in Chesapeake.  I retrieved my skates from Michigan, so Kyle and I went to go try out the ice a week ago, and while we were there I asked if they needed any help.  To my surprise, I started work on Wednesday.  It's only part time, but I get to skate for free :)  It still seems weird that there are ice rinks in the south though.  I suppose Virginia isn't that far south.  It was much more shocking when I lived down in New Bern.