Experimenting With “No Crust” Pizza…..

Carnivore Alert! Last year when we were in Chicago, it turned out we weren’t close to any of the famed pizza houses. One that had been recommended was further than we wanted to bother with, although I did look at their menu on-line. I was intrigued by the description of a “Low Carb” crust which was essentially made from sausage. I’ve been playing around with it lately and am getting close, I think.

I suppose I could go on-line and get some tips as well. What I’m trying is a multi-step process because I’m taking the bulk sausage and cooking it first. Then I cool it and mix in a little shredded cheese. Right now I’m using a 6-inch oven-proof skillet instead of a pizza pan because I’m working with a smaller size. I think 400 degrees for 8 minutes to “crust” it is correct. I’m wondering though if grated Parmesan would work better than shredded cheese. After the 8 minutes, I take it from the oven, put more cheese and veggies on top, then back in the oven for 6-7 minutes and sit for 3 minutes after taking it out. The taste is fine, but if you don’t use a knife and fork, it’s basically messy in the same way ribs are. I am using turkey sausage and reduced fat cheese. You could add more meat as a topping although you use quite a bit of sausage, so for my taste, I’ll stick with veggie toppings. I’ll continue to tinker with it and see what happens.

Another Piece Added to the Culinary Landscape……

The Capri Restaurant in Florida City/Homestead is approaching their 59th anniversary. It is the longest serving family-owned restaurant in the area and for many years was the primary restaurant with a full bar, special event capability, etc. Third and fourth generations still gather and swap stories of their first meal at Capri.

The restaurant has been remodeled a few times and this week’s unveiling of Pub 935 brings another new “Foodie” experience. It’s a completely different menu and look, and is in the “King Richard” Room – that’s the room to the far left as you are facing Capri. Small plates, “farm-to-table”, craft beers and small batch bourbons are featured. The menu is limited, but of the four dishes we have now tried – they are all excellent. The Cajun-spiced pork rinds they bring to nibble on are delicious if that’s something you like.

The shrimp and grits is a big hit, although again, it does have spice to it. The short ribs with polenta were terrific. The fried green tomatoes had a wonderful crunch and the crab bites are fried. We haven’t made it to the sliders menu yet and Hubby definitely plans to try the “From the Garden” selection of mushrooms, caramelized onions, and manchego. Unlike so many places, the portions are such that you are not likely to have leftovers. Sampling multiple dishes is what we enjoy though.

The ambience is terrific with rustic reds, beams, the original terrazzo floor brought back and more. “Sandy”, originally from Tuscany, joined Jimmy Accursio at Capri several months ago and she’s been on a roll ever since. Pub 935 will not suit everyone’s taste, but for those who have longed for a “gastro-pub”, your wait is over.

Lazy Lobster in Key Largo….

We’ve never made it down to Lazy Days restaurant, although a number of people have recommended it. The owners have now also opened Lazy Lobster in Key Largo, Bay side. (MM 102, 102770 Overseas Hwy, 305-451-0565; http://lazylobsterinthekeys.com)

A couple of weeks ago I needed to make a run to Key Largo and asked a dear friend if she had half a day open and we’d go down for errands and lunch. Since she didn’t have a particular favorite place in mind she wanted to go to, I suggested we give Lazy Lobster a try. As most people here know, there are lots of restaurants in Key Largo and it’s one of the toughest businesses to be in. It’s not really a surprise they opened in a previous restaurant that wasn’t able to sustain. Another absolute in Key Largo (well, throughout the Keys), is there is only so much waterfront. If you’re not on the water, you really have to focus on food and Lazy Lobster does so. The decor is pleasant, there are some tables on the front porch (okay, you overlook the highway), and more outdoor seating is on the patio.

The food is fresh, well-prepared, a nice variety, and the staff is friendly. Prices are in line with places like the Fish House. If you’re in the mood for raw bar fare you won’t be disappointed and if you have a non-seafood person along, he or she will have plenty of choice as well.

 

Coffee Time…..

I didn’t really start drinking coffee until I was in the Army. I always liked the aroma, but didn’t care for the taste. In fact, I’ve posted before about as much as I now love coffee, I still don’t care for coffee-flavored things and do not hand me an iced coffee. In general, I drink three to four mugs in the morning and then might have “social coffee” later in the day as part of a meeting. Coffee after dinner if we’re out is also the norm. With that said, this has turned out to be far busier week for both of us than anticipated. The detailed ins and outs of that aren’t important. A few days ago though the coffee maker starting having problems. Either the pump that sends the water through the basket with the grounds isn’t working or the internal line isn’t clear. In the time the entire pot would usually be made, I barely had one mug’s worth as the machine was gurgling as if all was fine. This, by the way, isn’t something you want to face without the benefit of having had that first mug.

At any rate, after determining the heating element seemed just fine, the obvious solution was the old fashioned method of heating water in the kettle and manually (slowly) pouring the water through the basket. As an aside, as much as we enjoy a French Press, we don’t have one because it is so much easier to hit the button on the coffeemaker and walk away until the coffee is ready. However, this was a semi-emergency. (We do have some packets of instant coffee for all-else fails situations). The solution worked quite well, but neither of us have had time to go and buy a new coffeemaker. If nothing changes, that will be a high priority “to-do” for tomorrow.

A Soup Kind of Day….

We do get spoiled in the Sunshine State. When we have rain, it generally comes in bands mixed with partial clouds and sun, but we do have days like today with overcast and little break between rain. Although it’s not pounding rain, it is winter and our temperature did drop. No threat of ice or snow of course, which still puts us in far better shape than having to deal with that. Not to mention it will all clear up within a couple of days and return to our “normal”.  We had already decided on the Spicy Mediterranean Seafood Stew for tonight (I’ve posted that recipe before). Chili will be next week naturally as the Superbowl meal.

In continuing to work on lower carb soups, I thought to try a version of cream of vegetable. I was going to do cream of broccoli and saw we had a bag with a mix of broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. We also had some extra Pecorino cheese since I had accidentally grabbed that instead of Parmasean not long ago. What I hadn’t realized was the silken tofu I was going to sub for cream was past it’s “use by” date. However, it wasn’t too much of an impediment.

So, the bag of vegetable mix (4 cups) into 8 cups of vegetable stock; some salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, cook on medium heat for 20 minutes. Turn to low heat, use the stick blender to “cream” the veggies. Add 1/2 tsp of each: dried red pepper flakes, oregano,basil, thyme. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Stir 1/2 cup (happened to be the amount left in the container) finely grated Pecorina cheese and cook another 5 minutes.

It’s obviously low in fat, although I didn’t do  a calorie count. It comes in at 17 carbs per bowl, which in this case held four ladles full (standard soup ladle). Granted, that’s higher than the turkey and sausage soup I previously posted, but it’s also packed with veggies. It just depends on what you’re in the mood for.

You Really Can’t Always Tell By Appearances……

Carnivorous alert! It’s funny how your memory is sparked at times. Hubby was prepping rib-eye steaks for dinner last night and it reminded me of Joe Allen’s BBQ in Abilene, TX. That was where I had my ROTC assignment and as always, restaurants were high on my list of places to identify. It didn’t take long to hear about Joe Allen’s, but it wasn’t on a direct route for me getting back and forth to work. One day I drove past at a time when it wasn’t open and sort of shrugged. It was the ramshackle side of rustic and I wondered if maybe the reputation was overblown. Then a friend who was helping me get acquainted with the area took me there for dinner.

As a longtime, multi-generational resident, she explained.  Food was what mattered at Joe Allen’s, not ambience. There was BBQ and steak, and a big galvanized tub of ice for the long-neck beer bottles. The point about the steak though was it was rib-eye with a secret rub then grilled over mesquite. Period. The deal though was the steak was cut according to what you chose – from 1/2 inch to 4 inches thick. You wanted sauteed mushrooms or peppercorn sauce – go to another restaurant. You wanted a nice wine list – go to another restaurant. You wanted one of the best steaks you would ever eat and an icy cold beer – sit down and enjoy yourself. I have no doubt the BBQ was excellent, but I admit I never had anything except the steak – my friend and I usually went for the 1-inch.

Other places with stuccoed walls, timbered ceilings, good steaks, and a larger menu were closer to where I lived and where I usually met with friends. That didn’t prevent me from going to Joe Allen’s though and I was always quick to recommend it to newcomers.

Ah, Computer Woes….

As I’ve mentioned before, we have become such a connected world (well, many of us anyway), when we lose those connections, it can really upend our schedules. I’ve returned from my trip where I was plagued with multiple computer and electronic issues. Now, in all fairness, most of those were my own fault. The mishap that knocked out my travel computer was totally on me and I’ll see today if it is recoverable. The second issue of not being able to have access on my I-phone while at the hotel was probably my fault. (I haven’t told Hubby about that one yet so he can explain what I was doing wrong.)

Anyway, I returned late last night and did in fact get catfish and hush puppies in during the trip. Th cold snap that descended was only going to last a few days, but 40 degrees and mist was distinctly uncomfortable. I do realize there are plenty of other places where that would be quite welcome at the moment. On the other hand, if you’re planning a ski vacation, lots of snow is on the wish list instead. Today and the weekend will be catch-up for me with multiple tasks. Ah well, it works that way at times.

 

No Turkey Leftovers……

The only real drawback to traveling away for Thanksgiving is you don’t have turkey leftovers – especially the picked over bird to use for stock. I remember years ago when my maternal grandmother was in a nursing home (that was before my parents converted their living room/dining room into a bedroom and moved her in), my uncle came up to visit. He called as he always did and was of course invited to have late lunch at the house. Daddy told him we were having turkey leftovers. He arrived expecting turkey sandwiches, but I had prepared tetrazzini instead. That’s always been one of my favorites, although I do genuinely like making pot pie and of course killer turkey soup. Until recently, I pretty much stuck with two varieties and if I go the turkey rice path, I use brown and wild rice to give a different flavor dimension. In trying to watch carbs though, I have converted to the turkey and sausage recipe I previously posted.

The odd thing of course, if you can get turkey all year round in about any form you want it and yet, like so many people, we tend to only buy it around the holidays. We eat chicken a lot, and therefore, not choosing turkey more often isn’t really logical. What say you, readers? Who all does turkey on a regular basis? (Yes, I do remember I do have some vegetarian followers.

Note: I actually thought I finished this post on Wednesday. That was the intent anyway.

Safe Travels Ahead…..

Tomorrow will be a travel day for us as we make the annual trip to Georgia to be with Hubby’s family. I gather an actual cold front is supposed to sweep in, so I’ll need to find a couple of sweaters or at least a jacket to pack and go with layers. Fortunately, we’re at the stage of our loves when we can travel on Tuesday and return on Friday and we always have a handy housesitter available. Travel on the Wednesday of Thanksgiving is a hassle we don’t deal with unless it’s absolutely necessary.

I’m not certain of which “cycle” his family is on though. Like many of us who marry, you have to decide which sets of parents you spend which holiday with. In Hubby’s case, the younger generation has “aligned” their visits so the “distant” cousins can be together with the nearby ones every other year. Since all the younger generation also have children, that means in the “aligned year”, the holiday crowd goes from around 12 to around 30. One of Hubby’s first cousins hosts almost every year and embraces the cheerful chaos. They do live in a perfect place for spreading out and especially for the youngsters to be able to run around, plus there is the dining room and the dining table as part of the large kitchen. Her husband is great with frying turkeys and by the time everyone adds their “special” dish in, you can’t possibly eat with less than two trips to the buffet. With my mother-in-law in assisted living, we aren’t certain if she will be up to joining us and have been told they do a wonderful event at the place where she is. We’ll be flexible on that since I imagine she won’t really know how she’s feeling until Thanksgiving morning.

So whether you are traveling, staying close to or at home, have a special holiday tradition or prefer to have a quiet day, may it bring you pleasure.

The Performing Arts You’ve Been Waiting For…..

You don’t always get an immediate full package when it comes to downtown revitalization. It’s nice when the resources are available for that, but more likely, there will be incremental steps. Like a garden though if you can’t bring in a landscape designer and move forward with every flower, shrub, tree, etc., you might have the design and a few “anchor” pieces, then add to it. What’s important though is to carefully tend to the initial steps and not lose the early plantings as you wait for the rest.

The Seminole Theater in downtown Homestead has kicked off their second season and for every person who has said, “I wish we had performing arts here”, the answer is, “We do.” While the first season was heavily weighted to concerts, that was primarily because it was the easiest approach to get started. This year, however, a variety of programming is available and there really is something for just about everyone. There is the Showcase Series – major events booked by the Seminole – then there will be different events continually added. These are often local organizations that book the Seminole as a venue for music, dance, theater, etc.

I’ve previously posted about the delightful WLRN Radio Theater plays we’ve attended and there are three more performances this season – Miracle on 34th Street, Casablanca, and Treasure of the Sierra Madres. Yesterday, we had a bit of a “Ladies Afternoon” as five of us attended the one-man play, Vincent. The essence of the play was mixed media with the role of Theo Van Gogh, Vincent’s brother, in a script written by Leonard Nimoy (Yes, “Mr. Spock”). The production, from Starry Nights Theater Company, has played around the country. As the character of Theo spoke of the larger truth of the brother whose paintings were not appreciated in his lifetime, he also read excerpts of letters and images of famous and less-well recognized pieces were projected behind him. It was a moving script, wonderfully produced, and superbly acted. It’s the quality of performance we no longer have to fight traffic for or search out parking.

Dining options are close by as well with restaurants such as the Capri (M-Sat), on Krome only a few miles away; Chefs on the Run on adjacent Mowry Dr (Tue-Sat). along with Hotel Redland (M-Sat & Sun brunch). Or you can drive a few streets north on Krome, turn on 7th St and find The White Lion Café (Tue-Sat). El Toro Taco is across from the theater (Tue-Sat) as is Casita Tejas, and Lucky’s Saloon is two buildings away. (Tejas and Lucky’s are open seven days a week). Mamma Mia’s, a short drive to Washington Ave, is open seven days a week, too (until 11:00 p.m. Fri & Sat).

You can keep up with what will be playing at http://seminoletheatre.org or for the wider arts and culture scene, check Homestead Center for the Arts, http://homesteadcenterforthearts.com