Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Seafood and Such

*This post is based on my own opinions and is non-sponsored.*

Over the past week my cousin Sherma and I have been on a road trip to Myrtle Beach celebrating her retirement as a school librarian. Any way you map it, Myrtle Beach is about a 14 hour drive from our hometown in Arkansas. We wanted to enjoy the drive as much as possible, so we took a northern route through Knoxville on our way to the beach and a more southern route through Savannah on our way home.

We did our best to stimulate the economy of South Carolina with some intense shopping during the week we vacationed there, but some of the restaurants we visited were the real highlight of the trip. In Myrtle Beach, Benjamin's Calabash Seafood came out as our #1 favorite seafood buffet. Any kind of seafood your little heart desires will be found on that buffet, and every morsel is delicious. The dessert bar was about a mile long with irresistible cakes, pies, cookies, and other sweet treats. The atmosphere is complete with their own resident pirate.

Some other great dining we enjoyed in Myrtle Beach was the Mexican food at Banditos and the peel and eat shrimp at Pier 14, just behind where we were staying on the beach.

Sunrise at Myrtle Beach

After our week of wonderful food we weren't willing to leave the experience behind, so we headed down the coast toward Charleston for some sight-seeing, then up to Savannah to find Paula Deen's The Lady & Sons Restaurant. When we arrived in the historical city and located the restaurant, we found that there would be an hour wait, so we spent the time on a walking tour viewing the beautiful downtown area.

Sherma at The Lady & Sons

Our meal was traditional southern country cooking, complete with fried chicken, turnip greens, sweet potatoes, and all the trimmings.

You can bet when you dine with Paula Deen, the sweet tea will be done right.

The last leg of our trip was up through Atlanta, then Chattanooga, then on to Nashville were we spent the night with my son and sweet DIL. They have just recently built a new home and this was my first chance to visit them since their move. I love that their home is designed to be in keeping with the style of period homes in the neighborhood.

Before we departed Nashville for home, we enjoyed a noteworthy brunch at a European inspired cafe, Marche. This is a place not to miss in East Nashville.

We all had something different from the menu, and everyone loved the food. I had the traditional eggs, bacon and grits, and the portions were much too large to finish. 

Most trips mean a new cookbook for me. This time I found my treasure in a used bookstore in Nashville.

This is a very old cookbook compiled by the Junior League of Charleston, and I was interested in it because of the many seafood recipes. Those visits Sherma and I made to Benjamin's Seafood buffet in Myrtle Beach have me craving more seafood, so I'll have to see if I can find something in this cookbook to satisfy me until the next beach trip. I'm betting that the ladies of Charleston know how to cook seafood.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Playing With My Food

During the past week I have been away from home and learning some new things about cooking. First of all, my sister gave me a lesson at her house on decorating sugar cookies with royal icing. There are so many possibilities for using the techniques that I learned from her, and of course, I had to buy some new cookie cutters in anticipation of future cookies I want to make. I have already made and decorated another batch of sugar cookies since I have been back home.

The second adventure of the week was attending a cooking class. After playing in the cookie dough and icing for a couple of days, my sister and I went to the Viking Cooking School at The Woodlands, Texas, to learn about pizza cooking. I had attended a Viking class once before on baking Artisan Bread, so I was excited to be able to go to another one of their classes. I was not disappointed with the tips I picked up there.

The class was a three hour hands-on workshop, and we baked several different varieties of pizza, including dessert pizza.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Sweet Welcome Home

Yesterday I came home to a sweet surprise. I had been gone to Texas for a couple of family celebrations over the weekend. I drove down with my mother last week so we could attend a baby shower for my niece Jena and a 30th birthday party for my nephew John.

When I am at home I typically pick up my grandson Landon after school each day and bring him home with me until his mother comes home from work. While I was out of town his granddad filled in as the after school ride.

Landon has spent a lot of time helping out in my kitchen after school and during the summers, so he knows his way around the pantry. While granddad was watching TV on Friday afternoon, Landon decided that he would make up a surprise for me. I'm not really sure how many ingredients he found to use in his original recipe, but he had this creation in my refrigerator for me when I returned home on Sunday.

I was quite impressed with his attention to detail and making a nice presentation! I believe that at age seven Landon may be well on his way to creating some unique dishes. I can't really give Landon's recipe, because only he knows the ingredients, but I'm told there was part of a loaf of bread missing with the crusts cut off on the counter, and I can see that underneath the marshmallows are mini chips and chocolate syrup, then he has garnished with a few candy melts and made a border with suckers.

That was a very sweet welcome home, Landon!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Holy Mackerel!

Our family recently traveled on vacation to Orange Beach, Alabama. We were able to get all three of our children and their spouses, as well as the three grandchildren together in one place for a whole week. We stayed at beautiful Turquoise Place on the beach, and enjoyed the pleasant temperatures there after our summer heat and drought at home. On one of the days this little fishing party set sail for some gulf fishing.

Their luck was quite good at catching mackerel as you can see in this photo.

My son Daniel will attempt most any cooking challenge, so he took over the chef's duties when it came time to prepare the mackerel for dinner. He used two different methods to cook the mackerel and both were excellent. Some of the fish was dipped in a tempura batter that Daniel made with flour, cornmeal, garlic, soy sauce, and freshly grated ginger, then deep fried - super yummy! He also cooked up some by pan frying in butter, then he made a sauce to pour over the fish using the butter, minced garlic and red wine vinegar - also wonderful! We consumed all the fish we could eat, but with the many pounds that our fishermen caught, a large quantity remained to be cooked.

We also tickled our taste buds at some of the local Orange Beach restaurants. One of the places we visited was Calapso Joe's Caribbean Grill. I had a great Cuban Pork Sandwich with the trimmings and my husband dined on the Rib Eye Steak and Mashed Potatoes. While we were waiting on our orders, the grandchildren were invited to watch the crab races.

Cosmos was another restaurant worth mentioning that we visited on this trip. Fortunately, we arrived early enough that our wait wasn't too long, but it filled up quickly. I had a salmon salad that was topped with julienned apricots, and it was not your ordinary salmon salad. My husband had his usual rib eye steak, and the grandchildren were happy to find edamame and sushi on this menu.

But then, what to do with all that mackerel still left in the refrigerator? No one was now in the mood to eat it, and we were told by the men who dressed it that it did not hold up well when frozen. It seemed like there might be no choice but to trash it, when Daniel came up with the idea to cure it. Apparently curing fish is not a new process and has been done successfully for hundreds of years, but this was to be my first experience with "the cure." The recipe that I used has been modified slightly from the original.

Print Recipe

Gravad Mackerel
2 pounds mackerel fillets
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
5 tablespoons finely chopped dill

In a bowl, combine sugar, salt, caraway seeds, and dill; mix well. Sprinkle the bottom of a large dish with a handful of the mixture. Place a layer of the fish in the dish, then sprinkle with more of the sugar mixture; repeat layers until all fish has been covered in the cure. Cover the dish and place in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. Serve by slicing thinly.

Sugar, salt, caraway seeds, and dill make up the cure. Fresh dill would be nice, but being away from home I used what I had with me.

Spread a layer of the mixture in the bottom of a large dish.

Place a layer of mackerel fillets on top of the cure.

Sprinkle the fish with another layer of the sugar mixture, then repeat the layers until all the fish has been covered. Refrigerate for 1 - 2 days.

The texture of the fish changed considerably after 24 hours. The fish becomes stiff and what I would call "pickled." Instead of being soft and floppy this piece of fish is now completely stiff.

Now that the fish was cured, it could travel home with Daniel and Tiffany to Tennessee. We drained the liquid that had formed in the dish, then mixed up another batch of salt/sugar cure and repacked the fish in layers, this time in zip top bags, then the bags were placed on ice in a cooler.

Our Gravad Mackerel was a success, because I received this picture of the appetizers that Daniel and Tiffany had made after returning home. They sliced the fish to serve on Ritz crackers then topped it off with a Yogurt Dill Sauce that Daniel even included his recipe for.

Print Recipe

Yogurt Dill Sauce

1 cup Greek yogurt
Fresh dill, chopped (about 2 inches of a sprig)
Zest of one lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, combine yogurt, dill, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper; mix well.

Our family vacation this summer was a lot of fun. I forgot to mention the beach, the boogie boards, the crab catching, the swimming, and the souvenir shopping. It's just that trying out new food and cooking ideas are the real adventures to me!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mission Organization: Week 24 - Road Trip Tote

Summertime usually brings more road trips for most everyone. Kids have time off from school, and whether your trip is to the beach or to grandma's house, it oftentimes involves some driving time. Since I have been retired, my road trips are not just limited to summer any more. Families seem to be scattered all over the country now, so just getting together to visit or for holiday time can mean a long drive too. My son lives five hours away from me, one daughter lives three hours away, and my favorite sister lives eight hours away. I spend a lot of time on the road, and that's what brought about my mission this week.

There are certain items that I have found I need when I travel. Number one, I always need hand wipes. I usually carry a container of wipes like this in my car.

This seems like it would be an adequate solution, but the problem for me was that I could never find them. They were always rolling around somewhere in the car, and I couldn't reach them when I needed one. I decided to make it my mission to organize a tote for keeping up with my hand wipes and other items that I need when I travel.

I chose a lidded tote with a handle for the car. The first items that I thought of for traveling were of course my hand wipes, along with paper towels and small garbage bags. These seem to be the items I really need the most on a road trip, but after thinking about previous trips, I came up with a couple more that I wanted to include.

One of those is extra drinking straws. Maybe I'm just unlucky or something, but it seems like every time after I stop in at a fast food drive through, then pull back into traffic there are no straws included in the bag of food that I just purchased. Having extra straws in my tote will come in handy, I'm sure. Another item that I added to my tote that others may or may not need is eye drops. Along with my prescription eye drops, I use over the counter eye drops all throughout the day because of a problem I have with limited tear production. I need eye drops with me where ever I go, and when I'm driving my eyes seem to be extra sensitive.

This is how I filled my road trip tote, and I think it will be very helpful to me on the front seat beside me, especially when I'm traveling alone.

And with the lid to the tote securely latched there will be no more hand wipes rolling around in the car floor! If you want to make a road trip tote you may have other items that are helpful to you when traveling. I'd love to hear any ideas you have for making travel easier.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Texas Blueberry Festival - Been There, Done That, and What I Did With the T-Shirt

Last weekend I traveled to Nacogdoches, Texas, to attend the 23rd annual Texas Blueberry Festival. The festival fills the oldest town in Texas with visitors and vendors for a day of hometown fun for the kids, and there are so many unusual sights to see. Fresh local blueberries are sold by the truck load, and people come from all over to celebrate the little berry.

The festival is held on the town square, where the brick streets are lined with many local shops. A number of the shops stay open on festival day. I don't know about you, but I don't travel many brick lined streets, and how did that toe get in my picture?

I was out early enough to catch some of the entrants in the pet parade this year, among them this fluffy  blue dog.

I believe this goat is wearing blueberries.

These pretties were the ones I could catch with my camera, but there were so many more.

My grandson Landon headed straight for the kids' area where he kept cool on the water slide and with lots of other fun activities.

The local heroes manned the Lost Children and First Aid area in case their services were needed. 

These two lovely SFA University theater students braved the heat in full costume to promote their afternoon performance.

I'm pretty sure it's a law in Texas that a barbecue wagon must be provided at any gathering.

And of course I had to buy the T-shirt. I was buying several for the grandchildren, so I bought one for myself too. My sister commented that she didn't believe she had ever seen me wear a T-shirt. Well, I don't usually wear them, but I could carry one.

I had an idea that by adding some ribbon, this beautiful purple T-shirt could be transformed into a cool tote bag to carry to the pool or beach. I used a similar method to the one I used when I made place mat tote bags, but with a few modifications.

I cut the sleeves off the shirt, then used a place mat to measure about how big my tote should be. I allowed for seams and also some extra height. I planned to add some ribbon around the top of the bag for stability. I cut the back and front separate because I wanted to preserve the logo on the back for a pocket.

I pressed under a small hem at the top of the front and back of the tote bag, then stitched across the pressed hem.

I then stitched wide ribbon across the top of the tote bag over the hem. To make the pocket on the back, I cut out a rectangular piece from the T-shirt back that was 6 x 9 1/2 inches.

I matched the center back of the tote to the center of the pocket for placement, then stitched the pocket to the upper back of the tote. The next step is to add the handles, and those directions can be found here.

Finally, I stitched the tote together at the sides and the bottom, then matched the side seam to the bottom seam and stitched across about 2 inches down from the point. This has to be done on both sides to give the tote shape on the bottom.

I had a great time at the blueberry festival. Many people will be wearing souvenir T-shirts from the festival, but I'll be proudly carrying mine.

Friday, April 20, 2012

An Evening With Ann B. Ross

Recently my two friends, Tammy and Judy, and I traveled to a nearby town for a dinner and book signing with Ann B. Ross, author of the Miss Julia series. Her 13th book in the series, Miss Julia to the Rescue, had just been released. The event was held at That Bookstore in Blytheville.

We were treated to a barbecue chicken dinner complete with baked beans and coleslaw. This was served up with lemonade to drink and with red velvet cake for dessert. After our meal we were entertained by the lovely Ann B. Ross.

She talked about writing and how she came up with ideas for her books. I was intrigued by what she told us. She said that some of her best ideas came from the beauty shop or from visiting with people at formal functions like teas. She said ideas can come from the news or even from overheard conversations, so if you habitually speak loudly enough in public for others around you to hear your conversations, beware, an author could be lurking nearby. She said a particular part of one of her books was spun off the overheard conversation of a group of ladies in a restaurant in New Orleans.

Some of the attendees had questions about her characters. Miss Ross said that all her characters are fictional and were "seen" in her imagination. She said with a wink that one thing a writer can do is to create a "man" to be anything you want him to be.

Her writing is done on a laptop at her dining table, and she writes every day, except when she is traveling. She doesn't fly, so her travel is always by road trip. She said for the trips of great distance from her Hendersonville, North Carolina, home her publisher would provide her with a car and driver.

Miss Ross has previously turned down offers for movie rights to her book series. She was not comfortable giving up control of the material for others to change the content of her story and characters.

She currently is under contract to complete two more books in the Miss Julia series, and she did not rule out additional books after those two.

So here we three are with the gracious Ann B. Ross. I considered editing myself out of this picture because of my prednisone face, but then decided to post it anyway, since this is the only face I have. My vanity couldn't overshadow the wonderful evening I had with my good friends and the opportunity to meet an entertaining author. If you haven't read the Miss Julia series, be sure to start it from the beginning; this is a series that progresses and needs to be read in order.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Stopping in at The Stackhouse

My taste buds had forgotten what a real hamburger could taste like until I was in Dallas this weekend and had lunch down on Gaston Street near the Baylor Hospital. My sister took me to a place called The Stackhouse, a restaurant owned by her step son Ben and his business partners, and I was reintroduced to hamburgers the way they were made before fast food became the norm.

I had a freshly made beef hamburger trimmed with lettuce, tomato, and red onion on a toasted bun with sweet potato fries on the side. It was unbelievably tasty. My sister had the same great hamburger, but she opted for homemade onion rings on the side.

I also saw some beautiful salads coming out of the kitchen as well as other kinds of sandwiches. I didn't get a chance to try their homemade potato chips or fries on this trip, but I hope to be back for another sampling in the future.

They serve lunch and dinner every day at The Stackhouse and the atmosphere is casual. You can choose to dine inside in the dining room or enjoy the fresh air with friends outside on the deck.

Note: I was not compensated in any way for writing about The Stackhouse restaurant. I enjoyed having lunch there.

Friday, June 24, 2011


After more than 500 miles and 9 hours of driving yesterday, we finally pulled into our own driveway late in the afternoon. We had a great trip in Gulf Shores with the kids, but it felt good to see the familiar house waiting for us. Home, sweet home. I had worried about leaving my plants in the heat of the summer, so my friend Tammy came by and took care of them while we were gone. One of the first things I did after arriving at home was to go outside and check on the fate of all that I had left behind. Tammy had kept everything watered, and the porch petunias were flourishing.

My little sago palm had even opened up some lacy new fronds.

Everything that I had worried about shriveling in the heat was green and thriving.

The nicest surprise, though, was in my refrigerator. Tammy had sent me a text one afternoon while we were away about picking ripe tomatoes. I really wasn't expecting them to look so good when I opened the refrigerator though.

These are the first ripe tomatoes of the season from my tomato plants. Thanks, Tammy, for taking care of them, and the other plants, and the mail, and the newspapers. You kept the whole place running while I was away.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Grilled Sriracha Burgers

Daniel spiced up dinner the last night of our vacation in Gulf Shores with some grilled sriracha burgers. He used dried minced onion, soy sauce, salt, pepper, and sriracha hot chili sauce in the ground beef for those who were willing to submit. He also made some ordinary burgers for the not-so-brave of the taste buds.


In 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef, Daniel used about 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce, about 3 tablespoons sriracha sauce, about 1 tablespoon dried minced onions, and salt and pepper to taste.

He mixed all the ingredients together well and made 6 spicy patties.

Daniel, his dad, and Spencer had the charcoal grill fired up. They put the burgers on the hot grill to cook.
Daniel's condiment of choice for spreading on the hamburger buns is a mixture of blue cheese dressing and hot chili sauce.

He used about half a cup of blue cheese dressing mixed with 2 tablespoons sriracha sauce.

There were also sliced tomatoes and arugula to dress the burgers.

The burgers were finally done, and he made some with American cheese and some with Swiss cheese.

They were truly awesome.

After the sriracha burgers, we celebrated a couple of birthdays. Both Daniel and Landon have birthdays coming up soon, so we wanted to celebrate them while we were together.

Happy 29th to Daniel and happy 6th to Landon!