Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Celebration Dinner

Today I decided to make some ice cream for my sweet baby.  As I rounded a corner in Publix, I heard a kid say, "hey Mrs. Brown" and it was in fact one of Viv's kindergarten teachers, Mrs. Brown. We chatted and she clued me in that Viv had been chosen as today's "Student of the Day."  She swore me to secrecy and I headed to the dairy aisle.

Armed with the necessary ingredients, I headed home to complete this ice cream mission.  My child is one of those who actually loves and chooses vanilla over crazy, wacky, chocolaty, gooey flavors.  But, to jazz it up a little, I used my expensive vanilla and mini chocolate chips.  I was so excited about this little surprise I could hardly contain myself!  Oh yeah, that mom of the year trophy is gonna look good on my bookshelf.

After an excited recount of the Student of the Day activities, she had a kick-ass karate class (no pun intended.  Well, ok, maybe I intended that.)  Then we came home and made coconut chicken, mashed sweet potatoes and steamed green beans.  I gotta tell you...I am a sucker for coconut food.  Shrimp, curries, pina coladas, you name it.  This is so easy to make so I decided I'd share it with you.  It can be done very quickly which makes weeknights a little less hectic.  

Coconut chicken (or shrimp)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded coconut, toasted
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 egg whites, slightly beaten
Cut chicken breast meat into chunks or peel and devein your shrimp (about 24 jumbos).  Mix coconut, cornstarch, salt and sugar together in a shallow dish.  (If you're not cooking for kids, adding a little cayenne here provides a nice little kick.)  Dip meat into egg white and then into the coconut mixture, pressing to adhere. 

Add 2 Tbs veg. oil to a baking dish.  Place prepared chicken in a single layer.  Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and the coconut browns up.  Yum, yum, eat 'em up.

My mom cooks better than your mom
 As you can see from the Vivver, she was diggin' her meal and I'm pleased to report that she ate it all.  Afterwards, we had our homemade chocolate chip ice cream which then sent her off into a sweet dreamland.  Try this recipe when you want to shake up dinner with something new and easy.  I hope you like it as much as we do!  Bon Appetit!

School Lunch Uncertainty

We're in Week 3 of Kindergarten.  The wunderkind is loving life.  She comes home so pumped about her day.  What's really sweet is that she keeps citing "making new friends" as her favorite part of kindergarten.  So far it's all going just swimmingly but I wonder about lunch.

I've been packing lunches since she was two years old.  When I was a kid, we always ate the school lunch and for the most part, we liked it.  So, I went into this expecting that Viv would like having a hot lunch instead of a ham sandwich everyday.  Some days she tells me that she only ate the bread. Other days, she reports making a "happy plate."  I went to school on Monday to visit her during lunch; she polished off her whole Sloppy Joe, tater tots, an apple and some spinach salad.  I was so encouraged.  Then, yesterday she let us know that she didn't even try the chicken alfredo because she could "taste it on the bread" and didn't care for it.  I suppose what we're talking about is the sauce.  

So we had yet another talk about the importance of not wasting food and being thankful for what we're given.  I don't want her wandering around hungry either.  I've learned that she, like yours truly, gets headaches when we haven't eaten.  I'm hopeful that she's just adjusting to new things and this will get better.  Really hopeful...I don't want to have to go back to packing lunch everyday!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Utopia has grown!

Utopia had very humble beginnings.  Very. It was first located in the tiniest building in Columbia (I bet).  But Kathy Siokos had a dream and a vision and she packed it into that tiny little building.  Here we are several years later and she's relocated down the road into a larger, more comfortable and more useable space for her dream and vision.  We first met Kathy years ago when she worked for the Rockaway's folks. Before I had my baby, we went to either Rockaway's or Pizza Man so often that one day in the bank drive-thru I heard a familiar voice say to me, "so what do you want for dinner?"  There was Kathy in the car next to me.  I went home that day and told Neil "we are eating out way too often!"

Kathy and me

Tonight we finally had the opportunity to check out the new location. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

One Man's Junk...

I love to crab, which is good because I also love to eat crab.  I've crabbed in the surf, in the boat, in the creek, from a pot, off the rocks.  Because I know a good crab when I see one, don't even try to talk to me about crab with a "k", surimi or whatever else people try to pass off as crab.  I'll eat, and enjoy, Alaskan crab but it's just not in the same league as a "real" crab...the blue crab that adorns our waters here in the South and all up and down the East Coast.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tales from the "Blue Cookbook"

I have a cookbook whose actual title is Land O Lakes Treasury of Country Recipes.  It was published in 1992 and I bought it off a roving, door-to-door book saleslady who came into my office one day.  It's a huge book filled with pretty easy recipes from dinner rolls all the way to homemade pies.  My younger sister fell in love with it and used it often.  It became simply known as "The Blue Cookbook."  We had a supper club when we were in our 20's and many a dish from the Blue Cookbook graced the palates of our friends.  We both consulted that book at almost every turn.  Then, it was taken away...

Friday, August 19, 2011

My Thai

Heavenly ingredients!
Thanks to Neil's Asian market shopping-trip-on-steroids, I was able to whip up an awesome green curry this week.  Having good curry paste on hand makes this such an easy task.  Tasting Thai curries in a restaurant probably makes most people think it's impossible to make at home.  But, trust me, find some good curry pastes, keep them in your pantry and on busy weeknights you can gather up whatever veggies and meats you have available and crank out a delicious and different meal.  If you're anything like me, different is important.  I get bored very easily!

Here's one little trick. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dropped by Drip for a Drink

I like coffee, but do not consider myself an aficionada.  My buddy The Hungry Lady however, is a coffeenista.  After reading her review of Drip and several others on Urbanspoon, I decided it was time for me to check out this new locally owned addition to Columbia's scene.  Yesterday I needed to prepare a contract for a client, so I decided I'd go to Drip, have a coffee and do the paperwork.

First, I love the look of the place.  It's got that same comfy vibe that Adrianna's had and that's good.  It has the rustic qualities that you find in an old coffee house in the big cities and in Europe.  I noticed that the man who runs the place knew the guy in front of me by name.  That's cool when business people take the time to get to know their customers.  They also offer customers a coffee know, get a stamp and after you collect so many, free coffee.  

There were three coffees listed and described on the board.  I chose the El Salvador.  I only had to wait a couple minutes before it was ready.  It was served in a real coffee cup and saucer (no paper with the sippy lid).  I appreciate this because, you know, most of the time I feel responsible enough to handle a real cup.  And a spoon too instead of a little wooden stick or mini-straw. The excess coffee is given to you in a little glass pot to take to your table to freshen up your cup.  The El Salvador was a nice rich tasting coffee, kinda cocoa-chocolatey but not chocolate flavor.  I'm not sure if that makes sense to you or not, but it's the best I can do!  

Anyway, it's all good, but for one detail.  My coffee wasn't hot.  It was warm, but not a steamy cup like I like.  I'm going to chalk this up as (hopefully) just a stroke of bad luck on my part.  I will go again and try it out.  I want local business to thrive in this town, so I am eager to support them.  But, I hope on my next visit I get hot coffee.  

Drip on Urbanspoon

I won!

About a month ago, my mom called to tell me she'd heard about a blogging contest.  Lexington Medical Center was looking for women to serve as guest bloggers on their "Every Woman" blog.  I found some information on Facebook and then on the hospital's website.  I thought, "hey, I can give this a shot, right?" So, I shot a little video in my kitchen about my blog, which you, my faithful friends, read hungrily ;-)

Well,  the deadline for submissions came and I waited patiently to hear who they had chosen.  Then, I began to notice others who had submitted an entry calling for friends to vote for them on the hospital's website.  So, I thought, "hmmm, I haven't been contacted about needing votes from the public, guess I didn't make the cut."  I was perplexed by this too because I didn't recall reading anything about the winners being chosen by anyone other than the LMC folks. Oh well, I tried.

This past Friday was the day that the hospital was to announce the winners of the contest.  As I sat in a lobby waiting for an appointment, I scrolled through the list on my iPhone.  Wonder if I know any of the winners?  I recognized one or two names, then I got to the last name on the list.  It was mine!  It was misspelled, but it was my name.  How about that?  

So now I await more info from LMC about my new job as a guest blogger.  I can't wait to find out exactly what they need and want from me.  And, I can't wait to meet the other bloggers as well.  I have a feeling that it will be a diverse and eclectic mix of cool women.  For all of you who read me, I appreciate it greatly.  Once I get started on the "Every Woman" assignment, I'll be calling on you to click over there and have a read!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I ate a BLT & lived to tell about it!

This summer marks a monumental event in my taste bud evolution.  I have conquered the raw (red) tomato. The other day I bought one that was just beautiful.  It's a giant one, bright red, like as red as the background of this page, and once I squeeze the seeds outta the slices, add a little salt, I'm chowing down.  Now, anybody who has known me for any length of time is probably thinking I've been abducted by aliens and replaced with this tomato craving automaton.  In fact, I bet my sister is placing wagers on what type of anomaly is causing this:  stroke, demonic possession, one of those chips in my neck from the X-Files.  Whatever it is, I'm not only liking these big ol' summer tomatoes, I find that I'm craving them and am excited to try them.

Today, I stopped into a little sandwich shop that I learned about last week.  Zack's Sandwich Shack and Blue Plate Specials.  I love that they have such a long and specific name!  (You can "like" them on Facebook). 

This is Zack
You'd never expect to find a sandwich shop where these guys are located.  They are down a slope off Bush River.  They are surrounded by the American Legion, a batting cage facility, a towing service, a detective agency and two Christian ministries.  But right there in the middle is Zack's.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Po Girl

Shrimp is one of my all time favorite foods.  Those little babies are so versatile and tasty and they are a cinch to cook. Great for breaking up any mealtime monotony too. 

I got a craving for a shrimp sandwich.  One thing I'm always looking for is the perfect remoulade.  There are as many variations as there are people on Earth.  I've made it using a recipe, winging it, trying to recreate something I had in a restaurant.  Mixed reviews on my concoctions, so I continue to look for just the right one.  Well, I may have found one I can stick with.  I looked around the Food Network's site and modified one of Tyler Florence's recipes.  Here's what I did:
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced dill pickle
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced capers
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped parsley
  • 3/4 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
I mixed it all together and refrigerated for awhile to blend the flavors.  Then, I fried up some shrimp, sliced one of those big, red tomatoes we've been talking about, tore up some romaine and made myself a fantastic Po' boy, I mean, girl.  I got these really nice hoagie rolls from the Publix bakery that were perfect for this type of sandwich.  Slathered on the remoulade and piled in all the yummy ingredients. Success!
That's just a work of art, as far as I'm concerned!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Excellent Service

Going out with friends is always high on my list.  As I've said before, going out to a restaurant is a really good time in my book.  Last night we were able to combine the two.  Our friend Aaron is serving in Afghanistan right now, but just got home for a visit.  So, to celebrate his being home, a bunch of us planned to meet at Saki Tumi.

I've blogged before about how much I like Saki Tumi.  But, today, the purpose of this post is to tell you about our waiter.  But before I get started, I'll tell you the Fire Island roll that I ordered is my new favorite and was outstanding.  My friend Laurin had the Giant Spider roll which was also terrific.  Neil went with the Samurai roll.  I didn't get a taste of his, but he was quite pleased with his selection. Jason went with seared tuna while Aaron hit up the crabcakes.  I just can't remember what Robin mind has gone blank.  But, suffice it to say, that no one had any complaints about their food. (Here's the menu.)
Escolar (butterfish) sample

Fire Island roll
Our new favorite waiter
On to the waiter.  His name is Russell.  If you find yourself heading over to Saki Tumi, I strongly recommend that you ask for this guy.  Wait for a table in his section if you have to.  Neil and I are very persnickety about service and when it's excellent, we get very excited.  That can make the entire experience for us.  We ordered a drink and just started chatting.  That led to talking about this blog, a new restaurant that just opened (more on that later) and Russell introducing us to the "Columbia Originals" card.  Let's start there...

How have I NEVER heard of this card? You present it whenever you eat at participating locally owned & operated restaurants.  They swipe the card and you accumulate points for every dollar you spend which then turn into money you can spend in the restaurants.  Brilliant!   I am now a card-carrying member.

Back to the service aspect.  Russell is a genuinely friendly guy.  He really knows the menu and offers meaningful suggestions.  As we waited for our friends to arrive, he brought us a sample of the butterfish sashimi.  See?  That's a small detail by a really good waiter that made a very big impression.  Our drinks arrived quickly and Russell not only puts a napkin under your glass, he replaces them after they get soaking wet!  This is a biggie for me.  I absolutely HATE it when I am served a drink without a bev-nap.  This is SC...our drinks sweat all over the table.  Bev-naps are a critical component that most servers seem to be unaware of.  It's a little tiny napkin that does a huge job.  Don't diss the bev-nap.  Don't pretend the bev-nap isn't important. Revere the bev-nap.

If you check out some of the reviews on Urbanspoon, you'll see some bellyaching about Saki Tumi's prices.  I actually compared three items from 3 different restaurant menus.  S.T. is pretty much right on with the competition's prices, with a couple of exceptions.  But, Neil and I both will tell you emphatically that we'll spend a couple extra bucks if we know we're going to get outstanding service as well as outstanding food.  

Saki Tumi Grill & Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon
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Friday, August 5, 2011

Delicious Delucca's

It seems that all I'm blogging about lately is eating out.  I do still cook, I promise.  It's just been one of those out on the town kinda weeks.

Today I was having lunch with my mom and dad.  Since mom and I work together and my dad is retired, the three of us lunch together quite often.  As we went through the "what are you in the mood for" conversation, Delucca's came up.  

We hadn't been there in awhile, so off we went.

I love tamales...most of the time

I've been in a class all week on the St. Andrews side of town, so I've been hitting the restaurants over there.  Wednesday, I tried to go to my fave Real Mexico, but I couldn't get a parking place.  I mean, I'm happy to see that business is booming for them but I gotta be able to get in!   Since I'd already gotten my head wrapped around Mexican, I headed over to Taqueria Jalisco instead.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Thai Lotus..uh,hmmm

Ok, so I know that Thai Lotus is not new.  In fact, it's been around for quite awhile. Since I haven't lived on that side of town since I graduated high school (that would be 1986 folks...can you believe how terrific I look?), I've never actually darkened the door of this restaurant. I've meant to; it just hasn't come to pass.  In fact, years ago, I had a real estate closing in Camden (y'all do know I'm a Realtor(r) right?  And a damn good one, I might add.) and the buyer was a military guy whose mom was Thai.  He told me back then that Thai Lotus was the most authentic Thai food around.  I've remembered it all these years, but once again, just hadn't made it over there.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Indian Feast!

I have described myself countless times as an "ethnic eater" mainly because I love cuisines from all over the globe, but I'm also one of those people who has to have variety.  HAVE TO HAVE IT.  As a kid I had someone describe Hell to me as being sentenced to eternity doing exactly what you hate the most.  Hate snakes?   They're everywhere.  Hate mushrooms?  Fungi a-plenty.  Hate opera?  You see where this is going.  For me, having my week go by with terms like "sandwich night," "tuna casserole day" and "Friday night steaks" would be my Hell.  Gotta change it up and I gotta do it often.


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