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Monday, February 27, 2012

Our Anniversary Week-end

Mr. Flip Flop and I have been married for 19 years now...together for almost 22 years...but Sunday was the official anniversary.  He was lucky enough (or maybe skilled enough - cause he's a darn good nurse) to finish up his ACLS renewal exam in a brief amount of time and they gave him the rest of the day off...and he headed home for a 4 night week-end.  We had a really nice time staying cozied up on Friday - a brief outing for some Mexican food to clear my hubby's sinuses.  We tried to go to Manuel's in Port Isabel- we do love the chips and salsa there, as well as their delicious food - but it was so packed there was no place near to park and I knew that meant standing and waiting for a table.  It was rainy and cold so we just rolled on by.  We opted for Mexiquito instead - which was excellent for me.  I had most delicious and really steamy hot beef enchiladas with beans and rice.  He had chicken fajitas...I don't think he thought they were fabulous - but he said they were good.  They have these monster sized tortillas and he really liked them.  The salsa was appropriately sinus-opening so mission accomplished there!

Stopped by the library in Laguna Vista and picked up a book for me and a couple of movies...then went home to doze and read the afternoon away.  When the teen got home he was happy the week was over.  It had been quite the long week for him.  He retired to the man cave until we rustled him out to make some homemade pizza for dinner.  We had another wonderful pizza nearly identical to the one blogged about previously.  I'll just link it here - no photos necessary.

Most of this week-end, I didn't carry my camera around snapping photos - it was very low key.  I'm blogging about the entire week-end, because we had some nice re-visits of previous restaurants, and updates are nice to have from time to time.  I'll add these to the Restaurant Reviews page so there is current info.

Saturday morning we had to be on the island at 10:00 to drop the teen off at Island Wheelies rentals and The Salty Seagull.  This venue will be opening for business on March 3rd, 2012 at noon and they have employed the teen to help them during Spring Break.  The Island Wheelies part refers to some very cool Trikkes they will be renting to Spring Breakers.  A fun alternative for those who don't want to spend the bucks for wave runners or para-sailing, but want a bit of fun.  They say "the more you wiggle the faster you'll go".  Sounds like fun to me! Here's a link to their Facebook page as well as their website.  It is still partially under constructions...it is a very new business!  The Salty Seagull, as I understand it, will be a Mexican Snack Bar.  I'm not clear on the offerings there - but if you like Mexican Snack food, it might be a place to stop in if you are in the area for Spring Break...and hopefully, if successful, during the summer.

While the teen was meeting with his co-workers (half of which are hearing impaired like he is - LOVE IT!), Dad and Mom moseyed on over to the Grapevine Cafe on that cold and rainy morning.  I had a big glass of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice (OMG so delicious), a big bowl of warm oatmeal, a side of bacon and a side of toast.  Papi had migas.  We were both ultimately happy!  A huge improvement in service compared to the last visit.  They were crowded and busy...but everything was running very efficiently and smoothly.

After that we went to SPI Market Days and shopped, and visited with a few folks we knew.  It was PACKED with Winter Texans!  Nothing much better to do on a wet and cold Saturday morning so I know it was good for their business.  I like the Market Days...lots of stuff to look at and good deals to be had.  I found some stainless large tweezers just like the ones I pay $10 bucks for online.  I use them for placing dragees on my cookies...and other detail work.  I grabbed all they had - 3 for $5!!!!  I brought them home and compared them...I think these must have been slight "seconds"...because they sure were not very different...and perfectly fine for what I needed them for!  Score!  We also both got some sun glasses and looked longingly at some of the beautiful artwork by Guy Morrow, who has given classes at SPI ArtSpace.

We picked the young man up at 12:00 as instructed.  We ducked into BadaBing Bagels and grabbed 3 bagels for our Sunday morning breakfast.  The teen was ready to return to the man cave after a fast stop at Wally World for some broccoli and potatoes.  He grabbed lunch at McD's while we shopped...no gastronomical highlights from that experience I expect. 

I had, before leaving Saturday morning, popped a Rump Roast, on top of some sliced onions and carrots, into the slow cooker...sprinkled a little thyme and garlic and pepper - very simple.  When we returned home, the house was smelling really good.  Later that evening, the broccoli was steamed, the potatoes boiled and mashed...some crescent rolls were baked - and supper was delicious and "comforting".  My hubby's first words were "look at all of this good comfort food"...and then there was silence as everyone dug in.  No pictures there!

Sunday morning brought a return to lovely weather.  I fixed bagel sandwiches for the hubby and me...the teen turns up his nose at bagels.  (I'm shaking my head - who could not love those BadaBing bagels?)  I made him some bacon and egg breakfast tacos and he was happy as a clam.  My husband said "I'll take that other bagel if he's not going to eat it"...so I asked if he wanted another bagel sandwich or just toasted with cream cheese?  "Cream cheese?  You have cream cheese?"  I replied affirmatively (does he not know who he is married to?) and he said he'd like that.  When I served him the halved and toasted bagel with a ramekin of cream cheese his response was "are you sure you don't want to open a restaurant?".  Ahhh, nice to be so appreciated.  Response, however, was "hell no, that's hard labor!"

Sunday afternoon we left the teen to his laundry and anime youtube addiction, and we drove around for a couple of hours looking at all the back roads of Port Isabel.  A small town with a surprisingly circuitous road plan - finger inlets and waterways, once the shrimping capital of Texas, now filled with old and rusty shrimp boats at every corner.  We used the GPS to meander up and down just about every single road in town.  We crossed the "swing bridge", just because we never had done so, stopped in the Port Isabel DQ for a French Vanilla Moolatte (fattening but delicious - it was our lunch).  Drove by the old cemetery, watched the birds on the bay, watched boats and fishermen.  A lovely and interesting day.

FINALLY, it's time for the Anniversary Dinner.  I opted for Sea Ranch Restaurant...it was Cafe Kranzler all the way to the crest of the bridge...then the evening was so lovely, I wanted the view available at Sea Ranch.  I also decided I wanted a steak!  We concurred before we hit the island (it's a long causeway) that we were both interested in surf and turf of some sort.  We felt certain Sea Ranch would be able to accommodate that desire.  When we arrived we were told it would be a 30 to 45 minute wait.  It seems like many people were looking for the good food and excellent views offered at Sea Ranch!  Fortunately for us, we didn't mind a wait.  Our neighbor was the hostess and she said she'd "see what she could do".  I led the way to the bar to wait and fortunately there were two tables available.  I grabbed the one by the window and we both ordered Mexican Martinis. 

We were perusing the appetizer menu when our beeper went off to say our table was ready...15 fast minutes after arrival!  Guess it was a plus that our neighbor was working that night!  John paid the bar tab while I went to the front hostess station where I was told we had a nice table by the window overlooking the water and to please enjoy our anniversary dinner.  Yee-HAW!!!  John and the waitress from the bar followed shortly with the Mexican Martinis in hand.  We had a most lovely evening!  Sorry for the cell phone photos - it was all I had and it was a fairly dark room.


We started our meal with the most delicious Artichoke, Parmesan Cheese Dip packed full of whole shrimp...served with crusty toasted slices of baguette.  I don't know if it was the lack of lunch, the euphoria of the Mexican Martini, or what...but that was some damn good dip!

The room was dark and all I had was a cell phone camera to
to photograph this awesome dip!
Our dinner was fabulous.  John had a Filet Mignon, grilled shrimp, and grilled scallops.  I had a 14 ounce boneless rib eye steak and it was like buttah in my mouth.  After salads and with a big baked potato on the side...I could only eat half of the steak.  Needless to say, the teen was most happy to receive the doggy bag and had it inhaled within moments of it landing on the kitchen counter! 
Served on a sizzling platter - my steak was delicious,
but way too much to eat in one sitting

What a wonderful week-end.  Probably more information about my goings-on than you ever wanted to know...but, hey, I've not blogged for a week...I had lots to say!  I had happy little flip flops dancing around all week-end.  Unspoiled by rain and cold, redeemed by sunshine and warmth - it was a week-end to remember!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!StumbleUpon

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

I hadn't made cupcakes in quite awhile... and as I sat on the couch, nibbling on a handful of Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Chips, I decided it was time to melt some of those chips and experiment with some frosting for cupcakes.  I wanted something stiff enough to pipe, but I didn't want to use shortening to hold it.  I dug into my box of chocolate in my baking cabinet and found a half bag of semi-sweet chips and I grabbed them and headed to the kitchen.

I had baked some basic white cupcakes - just plain old cupcakes.  They were cooled down and now it was the frosting I was after.

I had set out a stick of butter earlier when I was going to make a butter cake - and decided against it.  I set the butter to creaming in the stand mixer bowl.

In a small saucepan, I poured 3/4 cup of heavy cream and put it over medium heat.  I poured 6 ounces of the Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate into a metal bowl and when the cream was just coming to a simmer, I poured it over the chocolate and stirred until smooth.  I gave it a little taste.  Nope, needed some milk chocolate added (I'm a milk chocolate freak)...so I grabbed approximately 4 ounces of milk chocolate drops (I admit I didn't measure them, but I'm pretty sure it was about 1/3 of a 12 ounce bag) and dropped them into the cream and chocolate concoction.

While I waited for them to get soft from the heat, I added 10 ounces of powdered sugar to the creaming butter and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and continued the beating.

Back to the chocolate, I mixed it until almost all lumps of chocolate were gone but it was cooling down fairly rapidly by now so I went ahead and mixed the chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture.  Sample taste said it had the right flavor, but not the right amount of texture.  I needed more confectioners sugar and added 6 more ounces bit by bit until I had exactly the texture I was looking for.  Not so stiff that I couldn't easily pipe it, but stiff enough that it would hold the lines of a large star tip when I piped circles onto the cupcakes. 

I loaded up a large piping bag and the frosting volume was exactly enough to pipe frosting onto 24 cupcakes.  (and Goldilocks said "this one is jussst right")

The teen arrived in time to sample one, and his arrival for a second assured me it was as tasty as I'd hoped. 

He likes it when Momma goes into the kitchen to experiment with cupcakes...he thoroughly enjoys the taste testing role...just so long as it's not vegetables.  Good thing he doesn't read my blog and realize how many times I sneak pureed veggies into our sweets.  Tee hee hee!

So, there we go, now I have a shortening-free buttercream that will stand up to piping.  It could have been made even more stiff if I'd wanted to add some more sugar and pipe more detail...but that wasn't the point for this particular exercise.

Mission accomplished!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine Brownie Cake

This is not really a cake...yet, it is more than just a brownie.  It is so decadently sweet it just screams Valentine's Day.  I served it Sunday evening after a very filling meal...and it was almost a struggle for each piece to be totally consumed.  We needed a cup of coffee or a glass of milk.  It was rich!

I did use a boxed brownie mix - I really only planned to make some brownies for the week-end, then I got this idea to make it in a  round glazed pottery dish my Mom had given me for Christmas...and then, I got the idea to bring cream cheese frosting into play...and then I got the bright idea to cut the brownie to make it two layers (that was not the best decision I will say - it was hard to accomplish).

All-in-all, it is a holiday-worthy dessert.  I am no cake decorator that is for sure, but a very large star tip made everything either very easy or challenging, depending on which part I was working on.  The family thought it looked good and tasted good.  The teen forwent second servings of dinner to make sure he had room for dessert.  It was a satisfying result but quite the challenging endeavor.

Here's how I did it.

I prepared a box of Betty Crocker Fudge Brownie 13x9 Family Size, per package directions.  I wish I'd used 3 eggs instead of 2 to make it more cake-like.  I used a 10 inch round pan and I sprayed the bottom of that pan with vegetable oil spray, laid a round of parchment paper in the bottom, and then sprayed it too.  In went the batter and it baked for 36-37 minutes.

I allowed the brownie to cool overnight, on a rack, loosely covered with plastic wrap after it was cool to the touch...you don't want condensation under the plastic wrap.  The next morning I used a sharp knife to run around the edges to loosen the brownie from the pan.  I flipped it onto a "cake turner".

I then had to decide how best to cut the brownie into two layers.  My Wilton cake leveler was too tall and not sharp enough anyway.  I ended up with the cake on the cake stand on top of a cake decorating lazy susan.  I realized a serrated knife was going to be my best bet...even then, I had a slightly fudgy center which caused all sorts of problems.  I was able to cut it, then take the same cake lifter and lay it on top of the cake and lifted the cake plate and began a slow tilting motion.  I realized what I hoped for was indeed happening!  The bottom of the brownie was sticky enough to stay on the cake plate allowing the top layer to plop onto the cake lifter upside down.  Whew.

I had prepared some light pink Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below) and placed it in a 16 inch piping bag with a large coupler.  I piped a filling of frosting on the bottom layer using a Wilton 1M Star Tip, leaving a border so the filling doesn't squish out. 

Next, I flipped the top of the brownie back onto the filled bottom.  A minor amount of cracking occurred but I was able to sort of squeeze it back into position since the brownie was really closer to fudgy than cakey.  I did have one spot where the filling seeped out to the edge.  I covered that with some piping on the sides. 

I did a few stars and swirls on top (again, I am not good with cake decorating so don't judge my inconsistent piping :-) and finally piped a heart in the middle. Standing back, it wasn't too bad. I could see all the booboos...but I knew the family probably wouldn't!


It was outstanding - but the slices should have been half the size I cut.  We will enjoy nibbling on it a bit more...and I'll need to share a slice or two with a neighbor to get it out of the house.  Eating it all would be a bad, bad thing!



Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter softened to room temperature (1 stick)
8 ounces cream cheese softened to room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla bean paste
1 pound sifted powdered sugar (confectioners sugar)
1 teaspoon heavy cream - more if needed to get to spreading consistency
4 drops liquid red food coloring

Method:

Beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla bean paste until incorporated.
Add powdered sugar, beat on low until powder no longer flies, then increase beating speed and add cream and red food coloring to desired color and consistency.



Happy Valentine's Day to everyone.

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!StumbleUpon

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pork Medallions Milanese

Our Valentine's Dinner


I really didn't know what to call this dish.  It was served on top of cheesy polenta...and it was topped with a Cheesy Tomato Sauce with Onions and Mushrooms and Basil.  The pork tenderloin medallions were "sort of" in the Milanese style.  They were pounded with a mallet and coated in Italian style bread crumbs...but not dipped in egg - and fried.  So I don't know if it qualifies.  I don't really care either. I suspect I'm mixing regions... I just know it was really, really good!  I'm calling it Pork Medallions Milanese and that's that.

It came together so quickly I had no time to take preparation photos.  All I have are a couple of photos of the finished product ready to take to the table...and there was so much it was almost overflowing the platter.  It was attacked with gusto by the family as we had not had lunch...just the Sunday morning breakfast tacos and we were all starved.  We had a simple side of steamed asparagus...and a lovely brownie cake waiting for dessert.  (More on that tomorrow)

This was our Valentine's Day celebratory meal.  There was no patience for photos at this table...no nicely set up plated meal...hell no.  They were on it like dogs on a plate of rib bones.  I didn't know whether to laugh or pull my hands back for safety.

The sounds of enjoyment were my rewards.  After a few bites, there were the appropriate ooohs and ahhhs and "honey this is good" which always warms my heart. 

Here's how I pulled it together.

1.  . Before starting the pork, clean and slice 1/2 pound of mushrooms and dice 1/2 small or 1/4 large sweet onion. Saute in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add large pinch of salt once they are in the oil as well as 1/2 teaspoon dried basil. Once onions are translucent, add your favorite marinara or pasta sauce. I used Bertolli 5-Cheese Sauce. Stir and leave on low to use on top of the medallions. (if you haven't already prepped your side(s) - do that now.  Once the tenderloin and polenta get going, it goes fast.

2.  Trim a pork tenderloin of all silver skin and white stuff (that's a technical term).  Slice into about 1 inch medallions, placing each piece between pieces of plastic wrap, and pounding thin with a mallet.

3.  Place pounded medallions into a bed of seasoned bread crumbs, flipping back and forth to coat.  I used Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs.

4.  In a small amount of oil in a wide bottomed fry pan, over a medium high heat, begin browning the pieces of pork.  They go fairly quickly.  Remove browned pieces to a paper towel coated rack and lightly salt.  Put in another batch.  I had about 6 batches all together.

5.  Prepare your favorite polenta - I used Colavita fast cooking polenta for the first time - holy smokes, they weren't kidding that it only took 5 minutes - I had to hustle to stir with one hand and flip medallions with the other.  I must say, here, you really need to whisk from the start.  The directions say "stir" but whisk if you don't want any lumps.  And, when they say slowly pour in the polenta, they mean slowly...if you don't want lumps.  My addtion:  Add 1/2 cup cream, 1/2 cup grated Mozzarella and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan to the thickened polenta right before serving.  Stir until melted.

6.  Pour the polenta into a large serving platter, top with fried pork tenderloin medallions, and ladle the mushroom and onion tomato sauce over the top...and serve!

Okay, here's the other picture...looks pretty much like the other picture.  That's it!



Bon Appetit, Y'all!

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Breakfast Tacos With a New Product...new to me anyway!



When planning for our week-end meals, I try to at least make a family breakfast one of those mornings.  We all get up at different times, so making breakfast falls to the individual wanting to eat at that particular moment.  This Sunday morning, I nibbled a banana with my coffee and waited for my husband to get up.  The teen had already eaten (but with a teen-age appetite, I figured he would likely accept an offer of a second, late morning breakfast).

This week-end I wanted to try a product that I saw on the shelves before Christmas but had not tried.  I went looking for it, and found another "new to me" product available.  That product was Jimmy Dean fully-cooked seasoned Turkey Sausage Crumbles. 

I grew up a Texan girl with the regular week-end breakfasts including either Jimmy Dean or Owen's Country Sausage and/or bacon with eggs - fried, scrambled, baked...never an omelette....never a frittata.  Basic Southern fare...sometimes sausage gravy and biscuits, sometimes fried pork chops...it was the base of my cholesterol problems of today.  I love that food.

However, if I can find something that tastes good and is somewhat better for my innards, I'm willing to give it a whirl.  The front of the package touts 60% less fat than pork sausage.  I decided to give it a go this week-end in our breakfast tacos.

Breakfast tacos are everywhere now...but when I was younger, you only found them in Tex-Mex venues and were often called breakfast burritos.  You sure never found them at the local McDonald's or other fast-food restaurant.  I think I became aware of them in the early 80's...maybe the late 70's.  They almost always had chorizo, potato, and egg with some muy caliente salsa ...and sometimes cheese.

As they evolved to common availability in Texas, in our household they became a staple breakfast for when we had overnight company...you can basically cook them up in one pan, slap the ingredients onto a tortilla, sprinkle some cheese and breakfast is done.  You can offer salsa, guacamole, and sour cream on the side for individualization.  I don't make them as often...for some reason the teen didn't like them.  Now, however, the teen has definitely acquired the taste for them - preferably bacon and egg wrapped in a tortilla and nothing else.

This morning I made the breakfast tacos with egg, green onion, Jimmy Dean turkey sausage crumbles, grated Monterrey Jack cheese, avocado, and salsa.  The teen had one with just egg, green onion, and sausage...and loved it.  Came back for more (after everything was all gone) and I was telling him how easy they were to fix...and that he could make one himself if he wanted more.  When he saw the words Turkey Sausage I thought he was going to gag.  Funny how the mind plays tricks on you.  He has the idea that he wouldn't like turkey sausage and had to wrap his brain around the fact that it was good.  He didn't make another one so we'll see how this all shakes out in the future.


It is so easy to make - I whisked some eggs with green onion slices, a dash of cream, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. 


I scrambled them in a pan prepped with a small amount of butter.


I added the sausage when they were almost done just to bring the sausage to temperature.

I warmed the tortillas in my microwave for 45 seconds, laid down a line of egg ingredients on one of those warm tortillas, quickly sprinkled with cheese so it would melt, and topped with avocado slices.  Served with a side of chunky jarred salsa that I had on hand.

My husband reports they were deeelicious.  I second that emotion!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!StumbleUpon

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pier 19 Revisted...and Better! Followed by New Treasures!

My reviews of Pier 19, in the past, have been up and down.  It's always a nice place for a good bay-front meal...view-wise.  However, I've had a few problems with service and quality... mixed in with good.  Last time I decided I would not be returning.  My husband, however, not having experienced as much of the bad, requested to go there today for lunch while we were out and about doing errands.

I'm happy to report, that today, being a gorgeous sunny day for the first time in dayyyssss, we decided to take that chance (it's been over a year since I've been there).  I must say the service was exceptional (our server Sheila was very attentive), the shrimp baskets, which we all ordered, were filled with deliciousness, and the dessert they were showing around looked scrumptious.  Since I'll be baking this afternoon, I waived THAT away!

A manager stopped by the table to ensure all was well (yay), and I was happy to report it was delicious.  Still, in my opinion, one of the best places EVER for onion rings!  Additionally, the shrimp they are using are MUCH improved over the last time I had a shrimp basket there. 

They have added a bowl of coleslaw to the basket and it was surprisingly quite good.  It had broccoli in with the cabbage and carrot, which I thoroughly enjoyed and the mayo-based sauce had just enough sweet and tart balance to make me a happy girl.  A couple of hush puppies rounded it all off to make an excellent Shrimp Basket.  Our sodas were kept refilled, I got extra tartar sauce quickly, and the place was packed!

We get tired of shrimp (what?  Yes, it's true, living on the coast, we get tired of shrimp) but today we all ordered shrimp baskets.  We all walked out stuffed, and not one of us could finish it all.  I'm glad my hubby convinced me to give it another go.  I was pleased!

Like us, I bet visitors, locals, and obviously lots of Winter Texans were out enjoying the sunshine and the lovely bay views, pelicans, ducks, and shore birds surrounding Pier 19.  Their location on the bay, on a pier jutting out into the bay, provides a really nice place for a meal or a drink.  They often have live music, although not at lunch today.  We really enjoy when they do.

Good job, Pier 19, for bringing the quality up to what I had enjoyed back when you first opened and it was one of our favorites.  I'll be back soon to make sure it's not an anomaly...but it seems like a good team at the restaurant is making for a successful venue once again!

Yay!


Now, for the treasures...
When we were leaving our condo complex, my husband says "hey, look at that bird"...there was a good-sized egret walking, almost stalking, behind the condos by the parking lot...I've seen them fly into the center of the complex before, but had not seen one hunting in the grass...and that is what it looked like he or she was doing.  Sure enough, the bird went behind the shrubs and caught a lizard!  Well, that hacked my husband off...and he was holding the camera (on my cell phone) and he didn't shoot the photo where the egret lifted its wings in triumph and shook the lizard and started the swallowing.  We nearly had a fight over it.  He likes lizards.  They eat bugs.  Oh brother.  I said I was okay with a few less lizards because in the summer we have some that look like they are from Jurassic Park - they jump and lunge when you go by and they have literally raced me up the stairs trying to get into my condo.  I like the ones on my deck but the Jurassic Park dudes are way too fast and too many.  I hope the egret ate one of those!  I count this encounter as a treasure, because I love these birds!
The bay is on the other side of this building


Got it...
Tenderizing before swallowing

Next, we went to get Mr. Flip Flop and the teen a haircut with James at Virginia's Hair Salon.  With all the Winter Texans in town, you have to get an appointment in advance!  I dropped them off and shopped for a bit at The Rusty Pelican.  I bought some birthday cards and a little sign to add to the rest of the signage in the hallway by our entry door. 

The teen doesn't like the sign - he says "do you have ANY IDEA how hard it is to get sand out of your shoes Mom?  Why would you think that was good?"  Uh, no, smarty pants, I have NO IDEA how much trouble it is to get sand out of your shoes...I wear freaking FLIP FLOPS 99% of the days of my life now.  I just wash them off at the outside faucet :-)))))

My final treasure comes from Etsy.  I was looking online for some sea horse cookie cutters and wanted to see if Etsy had listed any decorated sea horse cookies for sale.  I'm always shocked at how much people will pay for decorated sugar cookies!  No sea horse cookies to be found...but when I broadened my search, I found these gorgeous earrings that I just fell in love with.  I don't often buy jewelry for myself.  It's a real rarity in fact.  These stole my heart.  They are an artistic rendition of a mermaid riding a sea horse in the ocean...and it has beautiful filigree around it and a scallop shell hanging off the bottom.  The back of the earrings are almost as beautiful as the front, lots of filigree there as well.  So, anyway, and I hope no one is offended by this comment, my husband looks at them and says "for you that's like wearing the Virgin Mary on your ears I guess".  I knew what he meant - the ocean is magical and mysterious to me and gives me a spiritual feeling of well-being when I'm near it.  So, yes, I guess that is true to an extent.  Whatever, I just love them!

Hard to get a clear shot on my ears...but you get the idea.
Better shot of front and back of earring on my hand...I just LOVE them!!!!

OK - that's it for today.  Hope everyone is having a wonderful Saturday before Valentine's Day.  I'm sure enjoying it!  Now, off to the kitchen for baking...both my men are having an after-fried-food-lunch nap.  I'll have to do some kitchen Zumba to keep my motor running!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!StumbleUpon

Friday, February 10, 2012

We "Heart" Pizza!


My honey is home - it's Friday night - homemade pizza always on the menu...it's a teen requirement!

Used my favorite dough recipe - shaped a couple of sweet hearts - toppings galore (bacon, ham, pepperoni, black olives, green olives, green onions, mozzarella, asiago, parmesan).  Ta Da!

Early Happy Valentine's Honey Bear!  "Awwww" he said.  I'm happy :-) I thought to myself.  Groannnnn said the teen.  All is normal in our world!



Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!StumbleUpon

Monday, February 6, 2012

Turtle Cookies and a Book Signing



A couple of weeks ago I received a Facebook event invitation to a Meet the Author Series at Paragraphs on Padre Boulevard.  If you've read my blog for a while, you've picked up on the fact that I love our indie bookstore on the island and am very fond of owners Joni and Griff.   I have, for one reason or another, been unable to attend any function there for several months but this particular event was drawing me in as I am fascinated by Allison the Sea Turtle!  I clicked "yes", I would attend.  I clipped the following from the online event invitation from Paragraphs.

“Allison: The mostly true story of a one-flippered sea turtle”
Book discussion, reception and signing with David Cromwell

Allison is a Green Sea Turtle living at Sea Turtle Inc. on South Padre Island. Greens are endangered. They are considered to be the second-largest ...
and longest lived of the sea turtle species. Allison was found on the South Padre beach June 16 2005, one of 73 sea turtles that stranded that year. She was missing three flippers thought to have occurred with a shark encounter. Weighing a mere .73kg (1.6 lbs), she was taken to Sea Turtle Rescue for evaluation and medical care. Her story of survival and rehabilitation is chronicled in this book by David Cromwell. Combining a fictional story and the true rescue of Allison, the book is an entertaining and educational work that is appealing to all ages. 

Event scheduled Monday, 2/6/2012, from 1:00-3:00.  Come if you can!

Much of what I've come to love about living on the bay and near South Padre Island, are the wonderful people who love the wildlife and sea life of the Gulf of Mexico, the Laguna Madre, and the land between and around.  Whether it be sea turtles, our tribe of dolphins, year-round shore birds and sea birds, the migratory birds who stop for a breather and renourishment on their way south or north, the butterflies, the fish, and the plants and flowers....it all bonds together to make an amazing interdependent ecosystem that has grabbed my heart and held firm.
I've visited the Sea Turtles, Inc. facility many times and enjoy watching the rescued sea turtles via the live cam powered by the wonderful folks at South Padre Travel Lodge and SouthPadreLive.com.  I have that one and the live cam at The Sea Life Center on my favorites bar.  The teen and I enjoyed to the depths of our souls observing a hatchling release of sea turtles.  A great pleasure of mine is viewing the birds on the bay and the lovely flora outside my door, but equally so at the South Padre Island Convention Center's walkway.  I get to enjoy the lovely butterfly garden there as well. Not much beats the beaches here.  The waves and solitude of off-season are glorious.  The tourists and happy families of high season bring financial sustenance to the island and the Winter Texans bring their enjoyment of the sub-tropics and birding during the winter months. 
We moved here to facilitate the teen going to a small high school where he could grow more independent... and found, in addition, a place that makes my heart sing with joy. I don't know if I'll live here forever...but my heart tells me that it wants me to.  I hope it is what my future holds...but who knows?
So, anyway, I really digress sometimes!  I decided to make some turtle sugar cookies and take them to the book signing.  It's been lovely the past few days.  I baked two dozen cut-out turtle cookies on Saturday and prepared to lower my a/c thermostat to clear out the moisture on Sunday so that I could get the royal icing to dry appropriately.  The weather ceased cooperation Saturday afternoon when the big rains began to fall and by Sunday morning the cold front moved in and the temperature dropped to the upper 40's (brrr, not very tropical) and the rain continued to fall.  Hmmm...I was not going to be able to use the a/c to remove the humidity and my well-insulated home was maintaining a low 70's temp, so I couldn't really turn on the heater to accomplish the humidity removal.  I think that makes it the cross-my-fingers-and-say-a-prayer play.  So, here goes the tale of my frustrating attempt to decorate sea turtle cookies to take to the Meet the Author event!

From the beginning the royal icing thumbed its nose at me...first too thick, then little clumps of stuff clogging my tips, despite well beaten, well sifted, and appropriately covered at every point.  Grrrr, the frustration mounted.  The green icing separated to different shades on several cookies - the colors not consistent. Dang humidity.  Big sigh...but, I told myself, turtle shells aren't a smooth consistent color either.  The brown was lighter than I thought it would be when it was time to use that color - it became more "tan" than brown.  Again, I gave the "oh well", it is what it is talk to myself.  Overall, they still turned out "okay".  Not my very best work - but not my worst!  Here are pictures of the process - warts and all!

Baked 25 cut-out sugar cookies.  The teen ate one.
First, outlined the green and filled.  Allowed to dry several hours.
Then, outlined the head and flippers in "brown".
Filled in the head and flippers and allowed to dry
Drew my interpretation of the shell markings on the green surface
Finished up with an edible food marker and gave some eyes and flipper detail
(none of the markings are anatomically correct just fyi!)
The turtle on the left shows the mottling that occurred on some of the cookies.
A few of the turtles I'll be taking to Paragraphs on Padre today - I ended
up with two dozen and expect most of them to arrive intact as
my offering at the event!
BON APPETIT, Y'ALL!

Tuddles...just love them.  Sea Turtle, Inc. does good work - rescue, rehabilitate, release when they can.  Educating the public and helping to conserve these glorious creatures - all started by The Turtle Lady, the late Ms. Ila.  It's a wonderful thing to see her work continue.  If you have spare dollars - a contribution to their cause would be awesome.  They have cool things in their online shop as well.  Take a look - order the book, a calendar, or other cool turtle themed items.

Kemps Ridley Hatchling Release June 2011 - it was awesome!
Maybe one of the most moving events of my life...
certainly an unforgettable highlight!
Update after the book signing event.
The staff and volunteers from Sea Turtle Inc. brought a pool and Allison to visit at Paragraphs.  It was wonderful to see her - it's been over a year since I last saw her and I swear she has grown a lot.  I realized that the first time I saw her was the year she was rescued when she was so small she would have fit in both of my hands together.  Look at her now!  Her prosthesis has evolved and they are planning a new pool for her which will help the staff get the prothsesis on in shallow water and allow her to have a few hours of swim time in deeper water with the prosthesis on.  Good folks at Sea Turtle, Inc.  I enjoyed visiting with the author, David Cromwell, and the others from Sea Turtle, Inc.  It was a great afternoon.  Here are a few photos of Allison in her portable pool!





Thank you Sea Turtle, Inc. and all the many volunteers and financial donors who make the work they do possible!


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