Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Thanksgiving at Manatee Springs State Park

Last week we enjoyed Thanksgiving at Manatee Springs State Park.  It's been a long time since we camped there but it was so enjoyable that we will be going back again soon.  We'd forgotten the deer walk right up to your campsites.  


We also saw a group of 11 manatees slowly moving down the river.  There is a long wooden bridge and dock that goes from the kayak and boat ramp on the spring to the river.  At the end of the dock you can view the river and luckily for us, there was a large group floating along.  The baby was sticking close by it's mother, there was also a large older one with propeller scars on it's flanks.  Do manatees have flanks?


Lots of birds.

Lots of good meals too.  For Thanksgiving day Doug grilled fillets and asparagus while I did the easy stuff like making stuffing and opening a can of cranberry sauce.  Long time past I had made fresh cranberries and carved little crowns out of oranges, placing the hot berries inside.  Pretty presentation.  But turns out we like the canned stuff better :-)


Another night we had pecan crusted trout and I'll tell you, that was very good.  Light meal to prepare for feasting.

ma8 ma5

The concession stand offered good BBQ so we treated ourselves to that for lunch one day.  You can sit and look at the spring while you eat.  Some folks were brave enough to go in the water (which is a steady 72 F) but we didn't swim this trip. 


The concession stand is also the only place you can connect to WiFi so we'd walk down there twice a day to see if we had any texts. There wasn't any phone service but you could connect to the WiFi for a bit.  It was rather nice to be disconnected for the most part and we spent our time reading, enjoying walks and eating. 



We had a fire every evening.  So nice.

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Sharing with Beth Fish Reads for the Weekend Cooking Series with all the foodie events.  

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Skink Soup
{ not the lizard!}

Somewhere I managed to pick up a head cold.  Yikes!  It's almost Thanksgiving and we have plans to travel so I need to heal and NOT be contagious pronto.  I am combating this with the best method I  know.  Stay warm, get rest and eat soup.

This lovely book called The Complete Irish Pub cookbook has many good recipes as well as photos of the Irish countryside.  It's fun just to look through and will make you wish for a trip to the Emerald Isles.


 The photo in the book looks better than mine but it's taste that counts!


 It's a quick soup to make if you have some chicken already cooked. We happened to have leftover rotisserie so I shredded two thighs for the soup. 


Skink Soup

"Skink" is an old Irish Scots term meaning broth. This version, sometimes called Irish Chicken Soup, is made with diced chicken and colorful vegetables.

2 celery stalks, diced
4 small carrots, thinly sliced
1 small leek, halved lengthwise and sliced
3 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 cup cooked chicken
1/2 cup peas
4 small scallions, sliced
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup cream (I used 2% milk)
salt and pepper

Put celery, carrots and leeks in saucepan with stock, bay leaf and salt and pepper.  Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes until veggies are tender.

Add chicken, peas and scallions.  Simmer about 8 minutes.
Remove pan from heat.  Lightly beat the egg yolk and cream together, stir into soup.

I can recommend this as a healthy, hearty soup for those who need a warm meal.  Serve with warm bread and that's a nice meal.

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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Slow Cooker Potato Soup

Recently I have been wanting to use my slow cooker more so dinner could be simmering away while we enjoyed the day out. Or just sitting around reading or errands. You get the idea. I had lots of potatoes which I feared would go too soft if they weren't used soon so I decided on a potato soup.

A few weeks back I did a baked potato soup using a Skinny Taste recipe.  This one is a somewhat healthier version I found online.  I said somewhat because the way it's prepared and some of the ingredients are lower calorie.....but then it states you can bump it with crumbled bacon and cheese and cheese,  Funny.


 I had made a baguette earlier that day so it was a treat to sop up the comfortingly hot soup.


Slow Cooker Potato Soup

  •  2 tablespoons unsalted butter*
  •  1 small yellow onion — diced
  •  2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes — peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  •  1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  •  1 teaspoon salt 
  •   chicken broth
  •  1 (12-ounce) can 2% evaporated milk
  •  3 tablespoons cornstarch
  •  1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese — plus additional for serving
  •  1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt — plus additional for serving

  1. Lightly coat a 6-quart or larger slow cooker with nonstick spray. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently and adjusting the heat so that the onion does not crisp or turn dark brown. Add to the slow cooker.
  2. To the slow cooker, add the potatoes, Italian seasoning, salt, and 3 cups chicken broth. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or high for 3 to 4 hours, until the potatoes are completely tender.
  3. While the vegetables cook, in a medium bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk and cornstarch until no lumps remain. During the last 30 minutes of cooking, add the cornstarch/milk mixture. Continue cooking for 30 additional minutes.
The original recipe may be found at Well Plated here. I pretty much followed it but, as usual, a recipe is more like a set of guidelines.

Sharing with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking series and Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for Souper Sunday.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Roasted Acorn Squash and Caesar Salad

Happy Friday.....this seemed like a long week.  A very nice thing I did today was finalize my retirement papers at work.  All signed and delivered, final dates established and looking forward to a new chapter in my life when I walk out the door in December.  

I know I've mentioned the upcoming retirement before but now, filling out those papers and giving my office away makes it so real. Cooking and baking lunch at home is something I am looking forward to very much.  Spending all my time with Doug and Aja and planning trips.  Yes! 

So.  Speaking of lunch at home let me share a very simple meal. It's that time of year acorn squash is available and what's easier than chopping one in half and roasting it.  This time I added a tablespoon of butter and some maple syrup to melt inside.


As for an accompanying salad, it doesn't get much easier than a Caesar. Lots of toasted breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.  Yes, I did have tomatoes to toss in but that's just an extra I wanted.


This upcoming weekend I hope to use the slow cooker, make some soup and bread and if the weather is good....sit by a fire.  Hope life is good for you too.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Chicken and Rice

Chicken and Rice.  Comforting warm food for a chilly day.  I have been making this Cook's Illustrated recipe of French Roasted Chicken for years.  It's an easy meal prepared in the Dutch oven and leaves just enough leftover chicken to make a soup or stew.


I linked the recipe for the actual dinner above (click on French Chicken) so I won't repeat it here.  For this soup/stewy version I took the leftover chicken and vegetables and added sauteed onions and garlic.  Then I poured a little more broth in the pot as well as a quarter to half cup of milk.


This was one of those days I was inspired to make bread as well so a freshly baked baguette was a rich accompaniment.  Rachel ray would make what she named Stoup.  Thicker than soup, thinner that stew.  that's what this was.  We try and make the most of our leftovers and not waste anything.

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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Lake Seminole Georgia and camping

We are just back from one of the nicest camping trips we've had in a while. The campsite was right on the lake at lake Seminole in Georgia. The great thing is it's only about an hour from our home.

I took a chance on pointing the phone at the blazing sun and just snapping.  It turned out alright! This was just before Doug fired up the grill.


We saw two alligators in the lake cruising along so we kept good watch on Aja.  It was cool enough one day for jackets.  Fairly nice weather for October,


Here's a snap of the camper in our site, #14 for reference in case you stay there.  There are quite a few places right on the lake but the winds are more severe down there.


I didn't get photos of all the meals and I wish I had for the grilled sausage, it was excellent, but the grilled wings, grilled potatoes, homemade Cole slaw (Nigella's recipe) and sugar kiss melon was very good. Love eating outside.....we did an excellent breakfast fry up too with those leftover potatoes. 


This might be hard to see but we saw five Army helicopters pass by one day.  It was far away and i only have my iPhone for photos so, not a good picture.  It was pretty cool though.


  I like these snaps of Aja sitting by the fire.

IMG_0631 IMG_0636  

The sunsets were lovely

That's all I have for now.  Getting over blogging burnout or laziness so I did want to post something for my online journal.

Bye for now!


Sharing with Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking series.


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Camping, watching, improvements and reading

Seems ages since I did an update type post. Our meals have mostly been repeats of favorites or lots of grilled fish so....nothing exciting to share on that front.  I have taken a short hiatus off Instagram so if you noticed I disappeared, that's why.  Instagram is sleeping right now.

Watching/ Not a lot of TV for us lately.  We did get two non fiction space programs which we enjoyed very much. Apollo was great and used real footage from the missions.  It even has that clip with Walter Cronkite speechless. Astronaut Pam looks like a children's video but it isn't.  It focuses on retired USAF colonel Pam Melroy and she does an excellent job of explaining about the training involved to be an astronaut.  It was very interesting.  Watching them train underwater was amazing.

mov3 mov1

The library also had a series called The Rookie. We are fans of Nathan Fillion so that was fun to watch.


Repairs and improvements/ Our upstairs tub and shower has needed replacing for a long time. Finally - it's done. It's very nice too.

The Before photo....well, it didn't look like this when we were using it.  This is mid way during the tear down stage.


The After photo.  Wow - so much room!


Speaking of repairs, our electrical power pole fell over. Actually it rotted and fell after a heavy rain. The pole is about 40 years old (our house is old) and it gave out.  The lines were on the ground so the local electrical company came out and attached those a tree for now.  Otherwise they'd have to cut the utilities as it wouldn't be safe. Niiice.  An electrician is supposed to come give us an estimate for the new pole and burying the lines.

power line

Camping/ We are meant to be heading to Henderson State park near Destin Florida but we will see what goes on with the tropical system headed our way.  Hopefully it will pass.


That's it for now.  Hope all is well in your world.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Espana Chicken and a Caesar Chicken salad

I sure love chicken. I could probably eat chicken as my exclusive choice of meat/poultry for the rest of my life. Not that we have it every night, mind you, but we do enjoy a good chicken meal. It's so versatile.

A few weeks ago Beth Fish Reads featured the book The Forest Feast. Once I saw the Mediterranean theme and the gorgeous artwork in the book, I immediately thought about this Mediterranean cookbook on my shelf.


Here is Espana Chicken served with brothy rice and field peas.  I like the olives quite a bit but they can be too salty, depending on your taste and of course, how much do you like olives.


It's an easy baked meal, dumping the contents of the chicken and marinade into a casserole dish.


More chicken is a Caesar salad with crisp Romaine and grilled, sliced chicken breast.  That's a filling lunch and fairly healthy.  A bit of red onion and Parmesan cheese made a nice blend of flavors.


Chicken Espana


½ cup pitted California olives

¼ cup Extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 TB dried oregano leaves
3 cloves garlic minced
1 cut up chicken, about 3 pounds (I used wings and thighs)
¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup dry white wine
2 TB chopped parsley


Mix olives, oil, vinegar, oregano and garlic in a freezer bag. Put chicken in bag, seal and marinate 2 hours or overnight.

Arrange chicken and marinade in shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Pour wine into pan.

Bake at 350 F for one hour or until cooked, basting every 20 minutes or so. Sprinkle with parsley.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Baking time: 1 hour

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Saturday, September 28, 2019

Irish Beef and Root Vegetable Stew

I was told this is a very easy recipe and prep. Oh. My. I wish I could share the aroma of this stew as it brewed. Incredible. I highly recommend this Irish Stew.  This was prepared in the Instant Pot but I'm sure it could be adapted to a Dutch Oven....not sure if it would be as tender though.


There are loads of root vegetables in this recipe but I think Doug will add more mushrooms next time.  I know they aren't everyone's cuppa tea but we love them. The combo of the Dijon and herbs and all of it melding together will make your mouth water as the aroma wafts through your kitchen.  

It's been a while since I made bread so I started back with an easy loaf of French. Four ingredients, messy as heck because I think I used too much water. While it didn't brown or rise as I am used to, it tasted fine. 


Our weather isn't cooperating in regard to sitting outside to enjoy a hearty stew like this one but I am hopeful that will change soon. This is one for the cold winter months that I'm sure Doug will make in the future.

Irish Beef and Root Vegetable Stew
The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook

1 and a half pounds boneless stew beef, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or avocado oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
8 ounces button or creaming mushrooms, quartered (next time we’ll use more)
1 cup Guinness (we used Maduro beer)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 bay leaf
3 large carrots, peeled an cut in 1/2 inch thick slices
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch slices
1 rutabaga, peeled, quartered and sliced in 1/2 inch thick pieces
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

Sprinkle the beef all over with salt and pepper. Select the sauté setting on the instant pot and heat the oil. Add onion, bar and mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes, until onion is soft and translucent.

Add Guinness, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, tomato paste, rosemary and bay leaf and mix well. Bring the mix to a simmer, then stir in beef.

Secure the lid and set Pressure Release to Sealing. Press the Cancel button to reset cooking program, then select Meat/Stew setting and set the cooking time for 30 minutes at high pressure.Let the pressure release naturally for at least 10 minutes, then move the Pressure Release to Venting to release any remaining steam. At this point you can leave the stew on the Keep Warm setting for up to 10 hours. (As if!!)

Open the pot and stir in carrots, parsnips and rutabaga. Secure the id once again and set the pressure release to Sealing. Press the Cancel button and reset the cooking program to, then select Manual setting and let cook for 3 minutes at high pressure.

Perform a quick release by moving the Pressure Release to Venting.

In a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and water, mixing well. Open the pot and quickly stir the cornstarch mixture into the stew. Recover and let thicken for 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls and stir.

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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Vacation and birthday week!

It is vacation week as well as birthday week celebration at our house.   It’s going to be so hard to return to work next week and tough out my remaining 2 months, 26 days as a government drone....but who's counting......

Eat, drink and be merry. Here are the particulars.

A breakfast on the patio because the weather was cooperating. Scrambled eggs, cheese grits, fried tomato and bacon.


Grilled Scamp, baked sweet potatoes and green beans. The scamp was a treat. We’d never had it before and we heard from a fisherman friend that it’s the absolute best. So good that he said it’s the one fish he never shares.
 It was indeed all it was rumored to be and we want more.


For the actual birthday meal Doug grilled a New York Strip steak and asparagus. We also had our sweet potato fix.


Plus a nice Bordeaux Supérieur and a gooey soft triple cream cheese, Le Délice Bourgogne.



Besides enjoying be off together and doing things without a schedule, Doug was able to get some solar observation in, we had a new shower stall put in to replace a tub, did some reading, listened to a new ( to us) John Mayall and Eric Clapton Cd and watched a National Geographic DVD about Apollo missions to the moon. That was very good.


! Doug said to post the warning to always use caution and the proper filters and gear when looking at the sun.  No one wants instant blindness !

Fun week and it’s not completely over. Yea!


Thanksgiving at Manatee Springs State Park

Last week we enjoyed Thanksgiving at Manatee Springs State Park.  It's been a long time since we camped there but it was so enjoyable th...