New Grill On The Way….

Hubby’s birthday gift was easy this year. The grill needed a replacement part not long ago. When the wrong part was accidentally ordered and received, it then became a question of was it better to just replace it? I pointed out birthday was coming up, so voila!, question answered. The next question was whether to stick with the same brand or change. Let me say I’ve never owned a grill nor cooked more than I think one thing on a friend’s grill. I may have posted before that I know a few women who have mastered this type of cooking and I have very occasionally, and briefly, considered it.

Hubby, like many, started with a hibachi when he was on his own and then moved up as he had the space. I don’t know when he swapped from charcoal to gas. We have friends who prefer the old-fashioned method or who simply don’t like to mess with propane, but Hubby enjoys the ability to come up to temperature faster and the control of gas. He almost always buys a grill with the side burner too, even though he doesn’t use that often. He has had multiple brands over the years, to include a Weber, and he’s decided to go again with the Charbroil (or whichever main brand Lowe’s carries). The fact is he grills at least twice a week, often three and sometimes more, so the “life” of the grill for him is measured more in service than time.We do also have a smoker which I think could use replacing, but he rarely takes the time for smoking so that may not happen. As I have posted before, the turkey fryer gets used a few times a year and that is quite the process.

Anyway, new grill is scheduled to be delivered tomorrow, the day before his birthday. We haven’t had fish yet this week and the plan is to inaugurate it with a tuna filet for him and swordfish for me. (This is one of those situations where we happen to have one of each left from a three-pack)

Louisiana Trip, Day 5…..

Birthday arrived yesterday and Daddy made it for over an hour before he tired and needed to return to his room. He enjoyed cupcakes, ice cream and the lady who does his hair every few weeks brought by some treats as well. One was an unbaked cookie ball rolled in coconut that tasted a great deal like a lemon tart. We had about nine of us there and a couple of the residents also stopped in the activity room. Through a very strange situation, my sister and brother-in-law didn’t make it after all and the step-sister in Texas had previously said they couldn’t come. The idea is both those sets will try to coincide a visit in a few weeks. The youngest whose name I have forgotten meant we had four generations represented; not unexpected when the oldest is 97. The rain did stop prior to everyone arriving and with the sun out, it was a bit steamy although we  were inside so it didn’t matter.

Brother and I went to my favorite Mexican restaurant last night. Not that we have a shortage of Mexican restaurants in Homestead, but my sister-in-law doesn’t care for the cuisine so it was what he wanted to do. There are actually four good Mexican restaurants in Minden/Dixie Inn; three of which serve alcohol. (One does have to have one’s priorities). My favorite doesn’t have quite as much atmosphere as the one downtown, however, they have a signature dish I really like. It’s a “Ranchero style” with either chicken, steak or shrimp, and has a little tomato, roasted green peppers, onions, all in a cheesy sauce (not heavy). The flavors are well balanced. Oh, and when they put the basket of tortilla chips on the table, they are often still warm from the fryer. And yes, the salsa is homemade.

Louisiana Trip, Day 3…..

The motel complex where I stay in Natchitoches is out on the I-49 exit where seven different motels are and multiple food and fuel options. I took an early morning walk through adjoining parking lots watching a variety of vehicles getting their start. Not surprisingly, there were several trucks with bass boats, plenty of 18-wheelers, and numerous classic cars parked as their events weren’t starting until later in the morning.

I met my high school friend and her husband for lunch at El Rio, a fairly new Mexican restaurant on the north edge of town away from downtown which was being closed off for the car show. It was a pleasant place, good food and they had tales of their recently completed (as is Wed) 4,000+ mile trip. They basically did the “Lonesome Dove Trail” going from Texas up into Montana, Dakotas, etc. Lots of photos to go through and her husband made detailed notes of places stopped, time between points and so forth. My friend’s daughter has now returned and is working in the library so we swung by to see her, then went to their place for coffee.

I made it over to Many about 3:00. Only two of my cousins were able to come around, but at times that’s better than the whole group as we were able to get all caught up. I did manage to get in before the downpour that lasted almost an hour. With just my aunt and I for dinner I drove her the 20 minutes to Toledo Bend Lake and the restaurant close to the big bridge. She had fried oysters and I did the catfish/shrimp combo. We talked for a while longer after we returned and then we had breakfast together this morning. My cousin who lives next door came over for a bit before I headed back to Minden. My brother and I went to lunch a bit ago and will leave for the “party” in half an hour.

Louisiana Trip, Day 2…….

Some emotional content. Day 2 was good. Checked out of the motel and verified will have room when return there tomorrow to meet up with sister, brother-in-law, and brother. Arrived at the assisted living facility and met the woman brought on to sit with Daddy from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., either three or four days a week. She works independently and has the right kind of personality for caring for older patients. Many of whom she has of course “lost” over the years. I would imagine she treats them all in the way she seems to treat Daddy. There were actually only a few faces I recognized from previous visits and the two other gentlemen that used to sit at the same table are no longer there. Okay, enough of that. Daddy was asleep in his chair in his room when I arrived and it took him a couple of minutes to “orient” after he woke up. Part of it was he didn’t know I was coming for a visit. I caught him up on everyone although did not tell him about the planned party tomorrow. I don’t think he would remember if he was told, however, I followed the request to keep it as a “surprise”. He did want me to go get catfish for lunch and we sat in the dining room where he also enjoyed the lemon pie on the regular menu as well. It turns out they have started serving catfish sometimes there, too. I didn’t stay as long as in previous visits because he was tired again after lunch and needed another nap.

The trip down to Natchitoches was easy and as I passed the small ranches (beef cattle, not dairy), there were Texas longhorns in one pasture. They are impressive animals. The annual classic car show is this weekend down on the riverfront and there were a few in the parking lot of the motel. Most will arrive today. I was here one year for it and people come from lots of different places. The first of my high school friends are redoing their kitchen and it will be really nice when they finish. The new granite countertops are in place, most of the tile for the backsplash, the fabulous new gas stove that also has an air fryer in the oven and the kitchen island is almost completed. We went to a new restaurant downtown; Mayeaux’s, which is supposed to have really good steaks. Although I was planning to try one, I the saw one of their redfish specialties. Despite the great seafood we get at home, redfish is not one of them. It was lightly fried then topped with a creamy sauce that included shrimp and crawfish. I mean, how would I pass that up? We went back to friends’ house for coffee and more conversation. They missed seeing Hubby and perhaps next year we’ll work the schedule to both come.

Virginia Trip, Day 4…..

As I think I explained, this trip was family-time heavy. The State Plaza Hotel is a pleasant place and Hubby did take his camera and walk extensively yesterday to get down to the Mall and some of the monuments. I had work to do plus make sure the logistics for the evening were on track. I walked the five blocks to the Founding Farmers restaurant to see how their delivery timing was and had a light lunch as we would be eating dinner very early. Across the street from them was a place where I should have had lunch. Duke’s Grocery and Pub looked really interesting and I almost did go in there first, but waited until after. They definitely have more a sandwich-type menu and were not what we were looking for from a dinner perspective, yet had at least three great-sounding sandwiches. Anyway, Founding Farmers is part of a regional chain that started up in Minnesota (or somewhere like that) and has grown into three or four different versions. Founding Farmers | A Farmer Owned Restaurant (wearefoundingfarmers.com)

They use Door Dash for their main delivery and it worked perfectly. Mini cheeseburgers and fries for granddaughter, fried chicken salad for daughter-in-law, slow roasted pork chop for me, shrimp and grits for Hubby. I knew son would be starving after the very long day so ordered him the honey-thyme roasted chicken to have late. (Thanks for  invention of the microwave)

The dance program was the longest and most complex in the tribute to Bowen-McCauley’s 25 years. There were also a presentation from the State of Virginia for her/their contributions to arts and community outreach. I’ve previously explained Lucy was the first to adapt Dance for Parkinsons therapy in this area. She had mentioned she was going to continue with the program through another venue. What she didn’t know was the founder of the program from New York coordinated with the Kennedy Center for the program to continue there. He came on stage and made the announcement as part of acknowledging Lucy. By the way, in the string of accolades, she said she would not be making a speech. She thanked everyone and said she was  “an emotional wreck”. Closing out 25+ years of your life usually does come with intense emotion. During the after-party gala, Lucy did speak with different people about selected projects (yet to be disclosed) she’ll be involved with.

Our friends from North Carolina were able to make the trip. Even though we weren’t able to have dinner together because of the timing situation, we did get caught up with them.  It was a little after 11:00 when we headed to the hotel, then a bit for unwinding. Breakfast at the hotel at 9:00 this morning to let everyone sleep in for a bit. We’ll see how the trip home goes.

Virginia Trip, Day 3……

This was the long day, well – not as long as today will be – as a scheduling conflict meant we did extra “grandparent duty” instead of resetting into the hotel near the Kennedy Center. We did have a late morning business meeting, then discovered an interesting place not too far away. The Blue Iguana featured a mix of Southwest theme, yet a slight Cajun flair as well as standard fare. Good food, enjoyable ambience and of course there are lots of craft beers in the area. We came on into the city for yet another new experience as we are staying at the State Plaza Hotel very near the Kennedy Center. It’s sort of a “boutique” hotel which is also close to the Foggy Bottom Metro station. Unfortunately, they are only serving breakfast instead of the usual full service bistro with a bar. This affects us for tonight as well, but more of that tomorrow.

Anyway, we got semi-settled and returned to Falls Church for the experience of picking granddaughter up from school as they still don’t have enough drivers to resume bus service. There were no great academic first-grade achievements to report and we made it back to the condo for a round of “Minecraft” with Grandpa. Not that he’s skilled in the game, although he did manage to maneuver a bit with practice. We later were given a tour of the property – a short tour considering the size – then walked over for dinner at the nearby Dogfish Ale restaurant. Wood grilling is their signature in addition to craft beers even though I did opt for crab cake again. Hubby had salmon and we did take wood grilled pizza back for mom. Then it was ice cream at home followed by curling up on the sofa with Grandpa to read two books. The change into nightshirt came next with only a little while Mom made it home about 8:30 and bedtime. Son was still at tech rehearsal, not expected in for at least an hour.

Virginia Trip, Day 2…..

Okay, it was a pleasant park we took granddaughter to while the kids went to see whatever that latest Marvel Comic movie is; apparently lots of great special effects. The Dogwood Tavern last night was very nice; the kind of place that has something for just about every taste. That included some Cajun dishes so Hubby had shrimp and grits. The sauce was excellent and he said the dish was delicious. I did a build-a-burger with blackening seasoning, bacon, caramelized onions and Monterey Jack cheese. Son did almost the same except smoky gouda. Daughter-in-law did a tuna poke bowl and granddaughter has basic grilled cheese. There was the warm brownie sundae shared for dessert. In a moment of amusement, granddaughter has at least temporarily become enamored of another nearby restaurant, The Beach Shack. Daughter-in-law thought it was too close to what we usually get, however, there is one difference. I think I have mentioned previously that despite great seafood around us, almost no one does crab cakes well. If it is one culinary items you can be assured of in this area, it’s crab cakes. We will, however, forgo key lime pie for dessert.

Tomorrow is going to be a bit tricky as we will be picking granddaughter up from school because mom has to work late and dad will be stuck at the Kennedy Center in tech rehearsal. We don’t mind of course although we were supposed to re-set to hotel near the Kennedy Center tomorrow so won’t be able to get there until pushing 10:00 p.m. Ah well, it’s for a worthy cause.

Virginia Trip, Day 1…..

Okay, flight out of MIA had a few delays, but not too bad. Airport services are definitely better than last year although still not back to pre-COVID. The Centurion Lounge was open with less seating, although we did get settled. The lack of logic of course is the “social distancing” everywhere, then you sit in coach virtually shoulder-to-shoulder. Anyway, we meet the kids this evening for dinner and are taking granddaughter tomorrow so mommy and da can have a date day.

Hampton Inn for the first two nights is nice, also with some limits. Indoor pool is open though. Plan for tomorrow is take granddaughter to one of her favorite parks in morning, lunch wherever, then pool in afternoon. It will be me again so Hubby can relax with football. NASCAR X-Finity is on right now, Cup is tonight. With us dining early, he’ll get to watch the latter part of the race back here. We’re meeting the kids at a place we haven’t been to before, the Dogwood Tavern. Menu is not extensive, yet looks good and Hubby may have a hard time choosing. They have shrimp and grits which I suspect is the way he will go. Several really nice beers on tap to include a porter. Report to follow tomorrow.

On a more serious note, our route from the airport did bring us past the Pentagon, and as with MIA, there was a notable local and state police presence. Many of you who follow this blog know we were in D.C. on 9/11. Hubby was scheduled to go with a few others to the Pentagon that morning for a meeting. They were gathered before going over discussing what they would be presenting when word came in of the attacks. My sister was visiting from Houston and I was taking her to Baltimore for her flight home. We didn’t have the TV on or the radio in the car and so didn’t hear until we were on the way up and she called her office to check on something she was scheduled to do the next day. It took her three days I think it was to be able to arrange a flight back.

Tried An Oven Version, Plus…..

We had friends over last night for their last time to dine with us as they are moving tomorrow. Probably not last time forever because they aren’t going that far away, but those, “of course we’ll visit”, plans do seem to get tangled in our busy lives.

Anyway, as I’ve posted before, one of Hubby’s specialties is risotto and neither of them cook that. We decided on the three-onion version for a side dish and I wanted to do an oven dish which could finish baking while he managed the risotto. I found a version for chicken cacciatore where you do the browning and initial sauce stove top, then a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or 45 if the chicken is bone in. I was going with boneless as I didn’t want to bother with the mess of bones while eating even though bone-in does add extra flavor. The other reason for me to do an oven dish was Hubby also decided to do his Italian green beans with onions and sun-dried tomatoes. In explaining the chicken was tomato heavy, he reluctantly agreed to use only onion as I thought of an alternative. I can usually find pancetta at Publix although it’s never a guarantee. The plan was I would render the fat from the pancetta to add to the olive oil for browning the chicken and set the crisped pancetta aside to then add to the green beans. That satisfied Hubby and gave me the extra flavor boost for the chicken. The recipe I found also used carrots which I don’t normally include in cacciatore, but went with it.

The only drawback is I do like one-pot cooking when possible and I no longer have a large enough dutch oven to pull that off as I was making six chicken breasts in case anyone was really hungry. I did the stove top part of browning the chicken, removing it from the skillet to saute the thinly sliced carrots, chopped sweet peppers, onions, and minced garlic before adding the tomatoes, wine, chicken stock, and seasonings. I did let the sauce simmer for about ten minutes (my preference) before placing the chicken in a casserole dish and covering it with the sauce. I also don’t have a cover for that size casserole and used foil instead.

New Sauce for Fish….

Even though fish is not a particularly Memorial Day topic (unless it’s a crawfish/crab/shrimp boil or lobster/clam bake)  I thought I’d posted this already. I also am not hung up on fish dishes; it’s merely that Hubby once again brought home fillets not really suited for grilling. I intended to do the Everglades sauce we like and when I turned the package over there was a recipe on back that we both agreed sounded really good. It does include pork though as it is a Chorizo and Tomato Sauce. Incredibly simple and I’m sure a chicken or turkey sausage could be substituted.

Okay, for two 6-8 ounce fillets of any firm white fish, season the fish on both sides with your favorite seasoning and set them aside. Take 4 ounces chorizo, chopped; 1 shallot minced (or equivalent amount of red onion); 1 medium to large tomato, chopped; 1-2 Tbs capers depending on your taste; 2 tsps Italian seasoning; 1/4 cup white wine or chicken/seafood/vegetable stock; 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Heat skillet to medium; brown the chorizo for approximately 4-5 minutes. Remove from pan, but leave the fat. Turn heat to medium low. Cook shallot until soft; 3-4 minutes; add tomato and cook another 3-4 minutes. Thoroughly stir in chorizo, capers, seasoning, and wine or broth. Nestle fillets within the sauce and cover the skillet. Check at 6 minutes to see if done. If not, cook 2-3 more minutes. You may need to add a little more wine or broth.

This is a nice flavor profile and doesn’t take long, plus it’s one-dish cooking. Once you’re comfortable with the recipe, you can adjust the level of spiciness or play around with different types of seasoning.