Mango Pineapple Hammock Island Salsa

 

A few weeks ago I put this teaser photo on our Hammock Homemade Facebook Group page.  Of course, the chips were particularly intriguing for their cheerful colors.  However, it was the mango pineapple salsa that I had just created that was my inspiration.

I used to whip up fresh salsas when we were in the mood.  You would think with the extra time we are all spending at home that I would still find the time and energy to keep doing that.  Well, first of all, I don’t keep fresh jalapenos or serrano peppers in the house as often since whatever I make is just for the two of us.  Also,  my husband seems to prefer a sweeter, smoother salsa.

We both have an aversion to storebought bottled anything even though the convenience of a bottle off a shelf is undeniably easier.  More than a decade ago I tried to start a little business that I called Mango House.  I wanted to sell my Mango Chutney and a Jalapeno Pickle that I made.  My chutney was very popular with friends and family.  I even sold 12 cases of it to colleagues at work.  Food licensing in Georgia was very involved at the time so I never made the final leap.  While I was selling the chutney I had a request for bottled mango salsa.  I made a batch for a friend but seriously, I didn’t think it was all that great.

Six weeks ago we finally ventured out for an hours’ drive into our pandemic world.  We put our masks on, kept our 6 feet plus of distance from other foragers, and visited a Trader Joe’s in Jacksonville.  Of course, we threw some beyond the usual items into our cart while on this extraordinary shopping adventure.  The most memorable and worthy was Trader Joe’s bottled Island Salsa.  You can see by the photos that I kept to the ingredients, really only substituting vinegar and lime juice for my preserving acids.  Tricks I knew well from my many conversations with bottle suppliers and blog writers  The result?  Serendipity.  You will not be disappointed.  Excellent salsa always on hand in the pantry?  Wonderful.

This recipe will make nine 8 ounce jars of salsa.

No Pectin Pepper Jelly by Demand

No Pectin added Serrano Pepper Jelly

You need pectin to set jellies and jams. It just doesn’t have to come out of a packet. During these days, we especially don’t need to be running to the supermarket for that one additional item, especially one that isn’t essential. At least it isn’t essential in packet form. Serrano peppers, apples, and citrus fruits provide exactly the right amount of pectin for a soft and flavorful jelly that is lovely on any cheese or used as a glaze on meats.

So there you have the explanation of “No Pectin”. Now you need the meaning of “by Demand”. My jellies, marmalades, and chutneys make great hostess gifts. It so happened that I had given a jar to my sister that lives nearby. She served it at one of her book or quilting club meetings and everyone asked for the recipe. Oh, oh. It was one of my “just add stuff from the fridge and we will eat it if it works” recipes. I felt like a fraud when I told my sister that I didn’t have the recipe–like I was too mean to share if you know what I mean.

My own version of America’s Test Kitchen was about to take place. I vaguely remembered that I had used apples or oranges and of course lemons, as they are necessary to set my marmalade. Peppers? Which peppers? I knew I had bought them at the Asian Market next to Taco Bell on Palm Coast Parkway. A trip to the market showed me the label of the size and shape of hot pepper I remembered–Serrano and not Jalapeno. I also picked up a bag of Gala apples as they were there and the price was right. Granny Smith are loaded with pectin and almost always available at the supermarket, they just often cost a bit more. Since it was March when I made my last batch (yes, I have procrastinated in writing this post), I was able to use a couple of Honeybell oranges that I had in the fridge and a large Meyer Lemon picked from a neighborhood tree. Any large oranges or large lemon or a couple of lemons will suffice since we are now out of both of those seasons in Florida.

I use Serrano but either will work

What follows is the actual recipe that I took care to write down as I went along in case it worked. And it did!

Serrano Pepper Jelly

INGREDIENTS:

2 large Honeybell or other oranges, cut in quarters peel and all
1 large Meyer lemon or 2 smaller lemons, cut in quarters peel and all
3 lbs Gala or Granny Smith or any apples you might find or have on hand, quartered, skin, seeds and all
1/2 lb Serrano chiles, whole
3 Cups vinegar–I used half cider and half white as that is what I had. All cider would be best if you wondered.
3 1/2 Cups sugar (7/8 Cup per cup of juice)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Boil and mash all except the sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Use a potato masher to mash then strain through cheesecloth and a sieve for several hours or overnight. Don’t squeeze or you may get cloudy jelly. You should have 4 Cups of juice. If you don’t have enough, add water. If you have more, increase the sugar. (Remember: 7/8 Cup sugar to each cup of liquid)
  3. Add the sugar to the strained liquid. Heat gently to dissolve. Bring to a boil. Cook for 10-15 minutes and skim any scum that appears. Continue to boil until a digital thermometer reads 222 degrees. Check for set on a cold plate or by rolling the spoon and the drops join to one. It will take longer than just reaching 222 degrees.
  4. Pour the hot liquid into jars that have been sterilized in the dishwasher or in a 200 degrees oven for 10 minutes. Leave about 1/8 to 1/4 inch at the top. Tighten lids and turn upside down overnight. This together with the vinegar in the recipe helps to preserve and seal for cupboard storage.
  5. Check the set when cool. If it is still too liquid, you can reboil until the right set. Redo the sterilized jars the same way. This keeps without refrigeration until it is opened. It makes about 4 half-pint jars.

So there you have it, sister and friends. I was going to say, make it now for your next book club or gettogether. I think I better say, make it for yourself, you deserve it!

Made in the Shade–A Garden in the Hammock

Shades of green on a rainy day

Both of the last two month’s second Saturday Plant Sales at Washington Oaks Park in the Hammock of Palm Coast brought me within hearing of the following question: What plants grow in the shade? There once was a time that I also wondered the answer. Now I pipe up with my two cents worth and add: come take a look at our house–our garden was made in the shade. Better yet, for you that is, we frequently have self-setters that are yours for the asking.

6 years of trying to grow Bahia then Bermuda grass and at one time only celebrating success with 6 months of winter ryegrass are a testament to our effort. No more. Now we live surrounded by shades of green with intermittent splashes of color. Mother nature provided her share of help with the 7 trees she reclaimed from our neighbor’s backyard during Hurricane Matthew. A little sun is indeed important, but just a little lest you fear I have nothing more helpful to share. If you enjoy grass in some areas, don’t worry, centipede does very well in our oak hammock soil that is 9 parts sand and enjoys at least 6 hours of shade per day.

Try Centipede grass seed in the shade

Our Hammock garden is comprised of several categories of plants. These are not categories you will find in any botanical record, but rather how they made their way to our shaded Hammock home.

In Situ

Live oaks, Sabal palms, Turks Cap, shrimp plants, a few red spikes, ginger and of course ivy and ferns were well established on our vacant lots when we purchased the land for our future home back in 2004. Even with the clearing necessary to allow for our house, we retained a quantity of each.

Sabal Palm
Turks Cap

Shrimp Plant
Red Spikes

Neighborhood Gifts

The second category and the one that seems most appropriate are those plants that came from the surrounding Hammock. Some were self-setter gifts from neighbors and some were liberated from vacant lots scheduled for clearing. In all cases, some of the mother plants were left to continue to grow and multiply. It is only logical that plants thriving in conditions similar to ours (the shade) would have a decent chance at survival.

The easiest to transplant are the Bromeliads. They are actually air plants that only need the support of soil. They take their nutrition from the air. They do best in the shade. This row that lines our drive is a little light in leaf color as they were actually getting too much sun at one time. Be careful some have spikey foliage!

Bromeliads with too much sun
Just the right amount of shade

I have found that all types of lilies and irises like the shade. Even your potted Peace Lilies feel at home out of their pots. Walking Iris make for great potted plants and although ours first came as a gift, they could just as easily make it into several of my categories.

Swamp Lily
Flax Lily
Peace Lily
Walking Iris
Walking Iris Specimen

I love Peperonia. It is actually a type of miniature rubber plant. It really does not like the sun. Believe me, I tried. The glossy leaves in the photo below are the Peperonia. They never receive sun. The white blossom is Star Jasmine sometimes referred to as Confederate Jasmine. It also does very well in the shade and covers one of our boundary fences.

Peperonia with Star Jasmine

Lest you get annoyed looking at all my neighborhood gifts, I am going to finish with just 2 more. They look and sound the most exotic: Devil’s Backbone and Oakleaf Hydrangea. The Oakleaf came to us as two small pups. They took quite a few years to feel at home, but this year they rewarded us with lush foliage and flowers.

Devil’s Backbone
Oakleaf Hydrangea
enjoying its 1 hour
of morning sunlight

Home Grown

The fourth category belongs to our very own nursery plants–those raised from seed or cuttings. Some from the more tropical clime of Key West. What an awesome feeling of success, like watching a child grow from a helpless infant to independent adult. Jacarandas, Papayas, Avocadoes, Ponderosa Lemons, and Powder Puffs are trees in addition to the above mentioned plants. You may gather the seeds as we did or take cuttings to raise your own. If you are lucky, I may have some started that you are welcome to.

Garden Center Varieties

Every once in a while we actually buy plants, Ha! The best ones fall into all of the other categories. Some we have had the most success with are philodendrons, snow bush, White Bird of Paradise, Fiddle Leaf Fig.

White Bird of Paradise

All ferns do well but I must offer my personal warning about two ferns that I have found invasive and one of them is painful to remove. We bought a $5 Macho fern and were thrilled with the value. That is, until it took over a 20 by 20 foot bed. We moved some to a 5 x 40 foot border and it also enveloped that! At first it seemed like a great ground cover that saved on buying pine bark mulch. Then we started to wonder what else might be lurking amidst it. Fortunately, it was easy to pull out, but no more Macho Ferns for us! The painful and invasive fern is the hothouse variety Asparagus Fern. I had received a pretty potted gift of mixed greenery.

The Asparagus fern was one of two that survived being pot bound. A move to the garden was a huge mistake. They are not only invasive but painfully full of thorns when you try to pull them out. They also resist being pulled. We still battle them a couple of times a year. In addition, they are toxic to dogs and cats. Do you think you might pass on them now?

Self-Setters for You

My final category is dedicated to you, the reader. These plants join with the plants above that are waiting to be shared with you. Some create pups that can be divided once they reach a certain number in their litter.
Elephant Ears, Loquat fruit trees and several varieties of Ginger all thrive in the shade. The birds and bees also lend a hand to Mother Nature along with Sister Wind with her semi-tropical breezes that broadcast the paper-sleeved ovules. Afternoon storms help the rotting fruits to release their grasp. These are our gifts, just call or stop by. We the parents are proud to see our once infants take their leave to flourish in the wider world amidst the shade of gardens near or far.

Elephant Ears

These ears got really big last summer with all the rain we had. The loquat trees are the perfect tree to me. They have glossy evergreen leaves that don’t drop and leave a mess. They provide a tasty peach-like small fruit that makes a lovely compote or liqueur if you can get to them before the squirrels do. You will have to ask my husband for that liqueur recipe.

Loquat Fruit
Loquat Tree




Seriously folks. We have so many plants that we dig them up and put them in the landscape recycling. Give me a call and come and get them!

Scottish Shortbread Better than Best

Better than Best Scottish Shortbread
Meyer Lemon Zest and Rosemary Optional

Never believe you have the best recipe. I thought my earlier blogpost recipe on lemon and rosemary shortbread was very good. It made great use of Hammock ingredients to one-up your basic butter, flour and sugar recipe for the same and it was fairly simple to prepare as well as tasty. The best? That is always a matter of opinion.

I get daily email reminders of National Days in the United States. It started as a fun way to keep in touch with past clients if it was appropriate. It so happens that January 6th of 2020 was National Shortbread Day. I had a lot on my plate that day (pun intended) and didn’t have the time to pull out another oldie but goodie recipe in my collection. In fact, this entire week wasn’t looking good with more than the average number of work and social commitments. I decided I could mix them up this morning, and bake them this afternoon after Floor Duty at my Real Estate office, touring a new in-house listing and before meeting friends for dinner before the ballet.

Weeell, my day didn’t quite work out like that. Dressed and ready to go, I reached down for the plastic wrap for the shortbread dough and I couldn’t get up. I should’ve known not to move our dining table by myself yesterday, but it was only about a 10-inch push. Drat! All work and social commitments canceled and two hours of on-and-off icing down of my painful back and I felt ready to stand up for a few minutes and cut out my shortbread.

Last week, on a stroll around our Hammock neighborhood, we spotted the Meyer Lemon tree on the still undeveloped vacant lot a couple of blocks away. I took a few and left many for the possible owner or other amblers. Still, those babies are big and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do with all of them.

It turns out that our potted Rosemary bush also needed a prune. Top that with a unique gift from one of my sisters along with the inspiration of this week’s National Shortbread Day and I was ready to bake, photograph and serve.

I give you the following recipe that came from my British husband’s British Columbian Aunt Gertrude. Why is it better than best? One entire pound of butter is probably the answer! You need to be aware that this recipe makes a lot of shortbread cookies. The 3-foot serving platter holds less than half the recipe.

A really long serving tray with half a recipe of
Aunt Gertrude’s Scottish Shortbread

Aunt Gertrude’s Scottish Shortbread

Ingredients:

1 pound butter, I use unsalted.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup rice flour
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind (Meyer or other optional)
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary (optional)

Instructions:

Cream the butter and sugar well. Add the all-purpose and the rice flour, grated lemon zest and rosemary if using and knead by hand or on the slow speed of a large mixer. At this point, I divide the dough in half as it is easier to roll out. You may also freeze half to bake at a later date. Roll out to about 1/8 inch and cut into shapes. Decorate with holes from the tines of a fork. Place on baking sheets lined with silicone mats or parchment paper. Bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool on the baking sheet.

Move over Walkers Shortbread. These are a contender!

Come Cruise with me to Greece and Italy

Every cruise has to begin somewhere. Ours departed from Civitavecchia, the port of Rome Italy. It is located appoximately 40 minutes from the Fiumicino Airport, by car.

Civitavecchia

Civitavecchia Port of Rome, Italy

I have always said to friends and relatives that there is nothing wrong with Italy. That sounds like a backhanded compliment, but you name it: coffee, ice-cream, wine, pastries, pasta, history, scenery, clothing, style–Italy has it all in spades. A night and a morning to hangout before our cruise departure was a joy in this small seaside town.

Before you get too far along, I have to give a shout out to the camera on my Samsung Galaxy 10+ phone. The photos on my videos are unedited and all used the ambient light. Gotta love Samsung!

Jewel of the Seas

Our Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship–Jewel of the Seas

I had been on a Carnival Cruise of the Bahamas a few years ago. Hands down, no comparison. This ship was first class all the way. I think the photos do it justice. What do you think?

Crete

After a day and a half at sea we arrived at the island of Crete. Our docking was not immediate. In fact, our booked tours were delayed by an hour. This was no fault of our captain. Our tour guide told us that the ship that had been in our berth was short 6 passengers. After an hour, it finally left Crete with 4 of those passengers. The other 2 would have to find their own way to Athens, Greece! Note to self and others: Always carry your passport and credit card!

Crete, Greece our first Port of Call

In my opinion, this is an island worth visiting for more than an afternoon. The tour I booked with the ship was called The Treasures of Cretan Culture.

We visited a family business that used recipes from their grandmother to make organic soaps and creams from olive oil. You will have to check back in a few months to see if the Anti-wrinkle Olive and Rose Cream I bought has worked.

We next spent an enjoyable hour at an olive and wine producer:
https://anoskeli.gr/ . We sampled their olive oil and honey with generous tastings of the delicious wines. While verifying the link to their site I discovered that World Market carries the olive oil! Cretan olive oil is said to be the best in the world together with their thyme honey. I, of course bought some of both. Due to restrictions about bringing alcohol onto the cruise ship, I didn’t purchase any of the wine. It was quite the best wine I had throughout the cruise. It looks to be available in the US for a reasonable price. I will have to do more research.

Mykonos

I was relieved to be back on my normal early rising schedule the next day when we made port at Mykonos. A quick trip on the Seabus from our cruiseship birth took me directly to the end of the harbor closest to Little Venice. The early morning light combined with most tourists still asleep gave me the opportunity to take some delightful photos. By the time the shops opened I was full speed ahead to start my search for a version of the leather sandals I had bought in Greece some 40 years ago.

I found the sandals and celebrated with my first real Greek yogurt. It was light, creamy and flavorful. Made of full fat milk from goat, sheep and cow’s milk. Oh, yes, it was really, really good!

The harbor front became very busy by mid-day but I was ready for my first ouzo in Greece, some grilled sardines and a chance to relax in the shade next to the water.

I experimented with the ship’s alcohol policy by purchasing a 200 ml bottle of ouzo in decorative packaging. It made it! I really did purchase it to bring home and not consume on-board. I just didn’t want to deal with claiming my bounty before our 6 am departure for the airport on the last morning. I added 3 more bottles before the cruise ended.

Rhodes

As we drew into port I was wishing that my husband were with me. He has read so much about the Knights Templar and this was their stronghold. I was gifted with another early morning docking. I managed to get lost a couple of times, try my hand at making a REALTOR video and follow some people to the morning market outside the city walls. I also got to have some more of that delicious Greek yogurt when it was time for a rest.

Later, while looking for a place to have lunch, I was greeted in German. In all fairness, being tall and blond, I can pass. I also speak German so carried on in that language of choice, asking for a restaurant recommendation. I was taken to Yannis restaurant and had their special of the day a slow cooked lamb casserole.

Rhodes, Greece–Land of the Knights Templar

Santorini

What is blue and white and very crowded? The picturesque Santorini village of Oia (pronounced Ia). There is only one spot to get the iconic photos and crowds of tourists wait to get them. I got them.

This had always been my mother’s favorite travel destination. Of course, she was there some 50 years ago, before the age of the whole world’s bucket lists.

I was told that if it was very windy that you would not be allowed to leave your ship. We were able to but the next day they were not. Enjoy the photos in case your ship is one of those, one of these days.

The Iconic Blue Domes of Santorini

Athens

The Acropolis of Athens is another place that had more than its share of tourists, especially compared with 40 years ago. Being tall allowed me to get the photos that I missed all those years ago when taking photos and looking like a tourist was not cool–along with not wearing tennis shoes. At least I was glad that this time I had on some chunky but gripping TEVA sandals. It was pretty dangerous walking up and around the Acropolis while all of the cruise ships were in.

The Plaka was still enjoyable and a good place to get in my last ouzo and a piece of Baklava.

Athens, Greece Then and Now

Naples, Last Port of Call

It was the last port, but the options of where to go once you got there were endless. Pompei? The Amalfi Coast? Capri? All sounded familiar and some of them were, from my youthful travels. This time I decided on something a bit off the normal cruise passenger path. I went to the Island of Ischia. The city of San Angelo is known as the Positano of Ischia. My real reason was to visit the volcanic thermal baths. My husband and I had thoroughly enjoyed the thermal springs of Papallacta in Ecuador a few years back and I was looking forward to a similar experience. These were different. Some 28 pools of different temperatures. Of course, the first one I chose was the hottest at 40 degrees Celsius, yikes! A freezing cold pool was right next to it and there were several others of different temperatures up and down the mountainside. There was even a sauna, as if you needed it! In case you didn’t bring a baseball cap to contain your hair of any length, those charming swim caps were provided.

Remember we were back in Italy so the food was outstanding–a plate of 5 different mozzarellas and oh, oh, oh: Don’t miss the Delizia al Limone and a perfect cappuccino.

I wish you your own Bon Voyage!

Why Ecuador?

“Why Ecuador?” That’s what everyone asks. We first visited Ecuador 6 years ago. Not that I have a bucket list, but Ecuador probably wouldn’t have been on it at that time. It’s not a country that people talk about much. Sandwiched between the pre-Colombian ruins of Peru and the newsworthy drug cartels and the long-advertised mountain grown coffee of Colombia, not much had been said to me about Ecuador other than Darwin’s adventures and discoveries on the Galapagos Islands.

It is the Middle of the World, but after you’ve been there, done that, then what?

Good friends of ours said they had booked a tour to Ecuador for that summer of 2013. “Going to the Galapagos?, I asked. “No”, they replied. Why Ecuador?, I thought at the time. Then they told me the cost of their Gate 1 Tour. My next question was, “Can we come with? I don’t think we can afford to stay home at that price!”

Our first visit to Ecuador was very enjoyable. The cost of the tour aside, I finally got to visit the Otavalo market that I had read about since I was 12 years old but never thought I would see myself. It was my 3rd visit to the Amazon Basin, a watery world and rain forest that I never tire of. The Andes, the youngest and longest mountain range in the world did not reach quite the same altitude as locations I had visited in Peru that caused me to succumb to “el soroche”, a very unpleasant altitude sickness.

But still, you ask, “Why Ecuador?”

Volcanoes–Ecuador including the Galapagos has 33 potentially active volcanoes. The northern part of the Ecuadorian Andes was formed by volcanos, the southern part by shifting tectonic plates. Who doesn’t need a little excitement in their life?

Chimborazo Volcano

Roses–Ecuador is the third largest exporting country. They purport that theirs are larger than those of Colombia and the Netherlands.

Preparing for Export
When roses are $3 per dozen locally

Waterfalls–Devil’s Cauldron was the scene of Russell Crowe’s jump in the movie Proof of Life with Meg Ryan.

Cost of prescription drugs and no prescription required–My eardrop prescription with insurance in the US costs $260. In Ecuador, they cost $8 for twice the volume. I bought two.

Worth the cost of the trip

Organic chocolate–A visit to the Cacao plantation was enlightening. Natural fallen fruits of other tropical plants create the fertilizer. The producer provides the cacao for Pacari Chocolate that has won numerous International awards. He also packages some of his own. I bought unsweetened cocoa powder and chocolate discs for baking. Check back later for some of the recipes that I will try them out in.

Mountain and Amazon grown coffee beans–So good, we brought some back to gift, but oh well, you will have to receive a brewed cupful when you visit us. #toogoodtogiveaway.

Eduardo Vega Ceramist–We bought cups and saucers of his design. You can have your cupful of coffee in one of them!

Indigenous markets–The photos say it all, We didn’t visit any this last trip, but saw these in 2013.

Crafts are also sold in the Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal and by indigenous ladies near the cathedral in Quito. I managed to find just a few (ha! ha! my husband says) things to buy.

Jewelry and Textiles–Wonderful quality and selection at great prices.

Just a small display of jewelry and textiles

The Amazon Basin–Like out of a novel or a movie, whether Peru, Brazil or Ecuador, I have enjoyed them all. A return to Punto Ahuano on the Napo River and Casa del Suizo was anticipated and not disappointing. This time around we skipped the 2 hours rain forest hike with chair zipline and balsa raft float down the river. We opted for a swim at the pool, a pina colada, reclining in the hammock and time for photographing tropical plants.

Hotel Image
Hotel Image
Hotel Image
Hotel Image

Hummingbirds

Iguanas–So many and so big in the park across from our hotel.

Iguanas in Guayaquil

Ceviche–We tried Ecuador’s renowned ceviche for lunch. Theirs is different as the fish or seafood is precooked and has clam broth added. Helpful for those squeamish of eating raw fish. It is even served on breakfast buffets.

Octopus Ceviche

Thermal Springs–Papallacta has thermal pools right outside your room and also larger pools and spa with eucalyptus waterfall steam baths.

Termas de Papallacta

US Dollar as currency–This is great for tourists as you won’t get exchange rate charges on your ATM or credit cards. It is not equally great for Ecuadorians as they are not able to devalue their currency to make their export products more competitively priced.

History–How about Simon Bolivar’s last residence before arriving to liberate Quito? (Simon, that is, not us)

Hacienda La Andaluza–Can you see that I was there?

Gate 1 Tours–There are many tour companies, but quality for the price it would be hard to beat Gate 1. A National Geographic tour participant made the comment to me at our hotel bar that NG only used the best hotels–HELLO–we were at the same hotel!

All I have left to say is, “Why Not Ecuador?”

Meyer Lemon Love

Meyer Lemons with 1 Persian Lime

My love for Meyer lemons was not instantaneous. In fact, other than seeing them in Hammock yards, I wasn’t impressed. As they were so abundant, my only thought was that they must be like a weed tree since no one seemed to be picking them.

Each year I would receive a small bag from a friend of a neighbor and gradually use them up in the way of regular lemons: salad dressing and chicken marinades. This year was different. My own grown from seed Ponderosa lemon tree had its best year ever with 32 lemons! Unfortunately, as it is on the edge of the road, passers-by took off with half of them. I complained to a colleague about this taking-without-asking and was rewarded with a bag of his Meyer lemons. I mixed them with a couple of my Ponderosas and made up a batch of Limoncello and some preserved lemons for my Moroccan recipes and salads. Hmm, pretty good.

Preserved Lemons

Ingredients
Cut and Squeezed
Salted and Preserved 

A couple of days later, my husband and I took a walk in the Hammock and came upon a freshly cleared lot. At the back were a couple of fruit trees with fruit half on the ground. Lo and behold it was a Meyer Lemon tree and a Persian Lime tree. We waited a day or two then went back to see if the owners had claimed their bounty. More lemons had found their way to the ground. Joy! We picked two grocery bags full.

My Mom’s Lemon Bars

I made up a batch of My Mom’s Lemon Bars. Most of you probably have your own recipe so I won’t include it here, even though these are the best I have tasted. If you need the recipe just let me know.

When I got up yesterday I realized that I had a refrigerator full of those yellow orbs that weren’t getting any fresher. I also had a half cup of yogurt that needed to be used up or tossed. To my memory came a lemon yogurt cake recipe of an English friend. When our boys were little I used to bake this cake every week, or a version of it with chocolate or vanilla. When you see how easy it is you will be baking it yourself.

Meyer Lemon Yogurt Cake

This recipe was originally made using a small yogurt cup as the measure, thus the 5/8 Cup amount. You can use a half cup and just round it up a bit. I’m also going to admit that I was short on the yogurt and used some low-fat sour cream to make up the 5/8 Cup yogurt measure.

Ingredients

5/8 Cup low-fat yogurt
5/8 Cup canola or other vegetable oil
2 Cups self-raising flour
1 1/4 Cup sugar
3 eggs
grated rind of 1 or 2 Meyer or other lemons

Just throw all of the ingredients into a bowl and stir them up with a wooden spoon. Pour them into a really well-greased bundt pan and bake it at 375 degrees F. for about 35 minutes. Remove and poke it through with a long skewer. Pour over a glaze made of 1/4 Cup of the Meyer lemon juice and 1/2 Cup of sugar that were warmed to dissolve the sugar. Cool and then turn it out. Yum!

The refrigerator, in addition to the remaining lemons, now contained several lemons with their zest removed. I squeezed up a nice batch of lemonade. Perfect with a slice of lemon cake.

My mother-in-law would often say of me that I never wasted anything. That comment reminded me of one of her tricks. She had a large collection of decorative English brass ornaments that she only ever used lemon juice and salt to clean. Aha! Zested and squeezed lemons with a further purpose. It also gave me a rewarding if a longer-than-expected activity of cleaning our heavy gauge copper wine cooler.

Ready to polish
After and Before Polishing with lemon and salt
All polished

Truthfully, you can use Meyer lemons just about anywhere that you would use regular lemons. However, because Meyers have such a small amount of white pith, you can make use of the whole lemon minus the seeds in my most recent hankering.

Meyer Lemon Gremolata Sauce

This is super tasty on cheese, steak, sandwiches, chicken, stirred into warm pasta or on the side of just about anything else you can think of. Caution, it is moreish (British term for wanting more). Let me know how you like it best.

Ingredients

1 clove garlic, finely chopped (may substitute a small shallot)
1 1/2 Tablespoons good vinegar: champagne, infused garlic, basil, etc.
1 bunch fresh basil or parsley, finely chopped (may use a food processor)
11/2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons small capers rinsed well and chopped finely
1 Meyer lemon, sliced thinly then cut into small triangles, discard seeds
1/2 Cup good olive oil

Stir all ingredients together. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to one week. It never lasts that long at our house.

Key West Krawl


US Hwy 1 begins or ends, as the case may be, in Key West.

It may have been Carl Hiassen, or if not then another Florida writer, who wrote something like: “People come to Florida to reinvent themselves–people from Florida go to Key West.”

Key West is definitely one of our happy places. It never fails that we discover something new each time we visit. Perhaps we are not reinventing but rather finding our carefree selves of old that encourages new experiences while retaining our love of the known ones.


Roosters abound in Key West

Years ago when we had first moved to the Hammock, Damian, the original owner of the Hammock Wine and Cheese Shoppe, said that she had to go to Key West to get new sandals. I wondered why on earth she needed to go all that way. And so began my own unremitting love of Key West Kino Sandals. My colleagues at work will confirm that I am not making that up. Every time they see me I seem to be sporting a different color of my beloved Kinos.

Kino Sandals

Our krawl, therefore, had to begin at Kino Plaza. What a tragedy! Their machine had broken down and they didn’t have my favorite style in the 2 colors I wanted. I wasn’t even able to cajole them into custom making them when it was due to be up and running the next day. Time to try a different style in the one color. I vowed to check back each day of our visit to see if they might have made the other color that I wanted in my size.

Oh, oh, not my size or color
I bought the green ones, not my customary style

Just in time for the sunset at Mallory Square.

After a predawn rain, we were able to see that our top floor hotel room actually had a pretty decent view.

Crowne Plaza La Concha

We also discovered that our hotel, the Crowne Plaza La Concha,had the best happy hour food in town, no kidding. Dishes delicious at 3 times the price with free hotel drink coupons for 2 brought our dinner bill to $13!

Hemingway Rum Company

Time for another discovery–of the alcoholic type. Hemingway Rum Company’s charming tasting room and divine sipping rum. Of course, we bought a bottle. I finally have a use for our brandy snifters as I only use brandy to cook. Anecdotally, I investigated their bathrooms when I overheard a customer come back to the hostess and remark on how nice and clean they were! You can also take a distillery tour here. We had been on the tour at the St. Augustine Distillery numerous times so we didn’t partake.

Hemingway Rum Company Bar
Rum Pilar named after Hem’s boat

I was reminded of Florida Distillery laws when purchasing a bottle to take home. You are required to give your phone number as you are only allowed 12 bottles per person per year of a given type. You may only purchase 6 at a time. Don’t worry, you can buy as many as you like at the liquor store. Total Wine in Palm Daytona Beach carries it.

Petronia Street

Across from Mam’s Best Food

Krawling on, we made our way to the Bahama Village. We found handsome ladies shops and you will also find the Blue Heaven Restaurant a few blocks off Duval on Petronia Street. We had eaten there before and enjoyed it, but we were looking for somewhere a little out of the Key West ordinary of fancy cocktails and brunch items.

Mam’s Best Food

We certainly found a different sort of place. If I had an Israeli mother or grandmother I can only imagine she would be like the proprietor of Mam’s Best Food. Pinching our cheeks, feigning misunderstanding, alternately scolding us while squeezing our shoulders she delivered delicious middle eastern cuisine in an open-air family setting complete with fabric patterned tablecloths and plastic utensils. We agreed it was one of our favorite Key West experiences.

Cuban Coffee–It is Cayo Hueso after all.

Cafe Cubano also called Colada

Key West, originally named Cayo Hueso by the Spanish, is only 90 miles from Cuba. It was named for the bones of the Calusa Indians found there and Key West is what it sounded like to English ears. Our visit to Key West is never complete without our favorite “colada” that we always get at the Floridita Bar of El Meson de Pepe just off Mallory Square.

La Floridita
El Meson de Pepe

Back at our hotel happy hour, we met the man who makes most of the ubiquitous t-shirts and caps that we all buy in Key West. He let us in on a local Cuban coffee favorite called 5 Brothers. It is about 9 blocks up Southard Street from Duval. One good thing is that it opens at 6:30 am as we are usually up with the roosters. The price is also right at $1.70 for a perfect cup of cafe con leche.

5 Brothers Grocery and Sandwich Shop

The bench outside was complete with Conchs (locals) who had sat there most mornings for the last 30 years. A fellow visitor posed the question about the old homes and whether they were built to withstand hurricanes. From my realtor’s perspective, the response was especially interesting. Since the wooden frame homes were all built without insulation, the homes can breathe. Therefore when the pressure changes the houses do not blow off their roofs, but rather they let the air pass through.

Talk of work made me realize that it was time for our krawl to end. It also meant going back to the beginning with a return to Kino’s. Success! They had managed to make the light brown sandals in my size!

Kinos at home and ready to krawl

Calico Scallop Cookies

If you think you have seen these before on my blog, you are right! I brightened them up with 12 drops of red food color to resemble my favorite Calico Scallop seashell. My original recipe can be found at Cookie Stamps of Approval

I have loved the Calico Scallop since I found a pendant in a St Augustine shop about 10 years ago. I had always admired a similar pendant that a friend had bought in the Southwest, not a real shell but a real beauty done up in turquoise, coral and silver.

The Calico Scallop is actually fished along the coast of our Eastern Atlantic Florida shores. I have never found an intact shell, but another type of shell should work just as well as a cookie mold for you–just dust the shell well with flour. Or, you can read my earlier blog to find out where to purchase stamps. Or, there is always our friend, Google.

I have to admit that these cookies look much better than my original ones without the added food coloring. I believe they needed the extra liquid to help the dough stamp and even hold their design better.

Pre-baked design

This recipe couldn’t be easier as all of the ingredients are just added to the food processor this time and baked using a silicone liner on your baking sheet. Here it is again with the addition of food coloring.

Calico Scallop Cookies based on Three Churches Shortbread Cookies
PREHEAT OVEN TO 325 F
• CREAM TOGETHER in a food processor
1 cup butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
• ADD
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1 tsp. pure almond extract
12 drops red food coloring

Baking Instructions
Use a 1 1/2 inch ice-cream scoop to form into 1 1/2″ balls and place 2″ apart on a silicone lined cookie sheet. Dust cookie stamp in a saucer of flour, then press the cookie ball, leaving a clear impression. Repeat, remembering to flour the stamp each time. Bake at 325 F for 20-25 min.  Makes approximately 2 dozen.

I managed to get mine baked in time for Valentines Day, but there is nothing stopping you baking them any time of the year since the Calico Scallop is always a happy reminder of Florida whether you live here or just wish that you did!

How about a Honeybell Biscotti, Honey?

After a successful whirlwind week of showing properties to my sister and brother-in-law, I am ready to unwind with a little baking. My freezer is also saying “yes, please” as we managed to get through the fruitcake scones, potato scones, cherry scones and the sourdough English muffins. Oh, and the anis cookies, pfeffernusse, almond bars and the Dutch speculas which filled in the gaps between meals. With two half Danish sisters in the same house, it is a dead cert that baked goods are on the menu. We also made a dent on the sourdough rye-bread, rosemary sourdough French bread and a sourdough boule.

Welcome to Honeybell orange season in Florida. Now that winter in Florida (January) has come and gone, the honeybells are here. Their season always seems to be even shorter than our winter–and a lot more enjoyable. If your Florida friends tell you not to visit in January, heed them. The one month that you don’t prefer being outside here leaves us all challenged as to what there is to do. Fortunately for us, we were busy househunting in Palm Coast and Ponte Vedra. Palm Coast provided the winning entry and next year my sister will not be visiting us in Florida, but living here!

The Honeybell is also known as a Minneola Tangelo. A cross between a Darcy Tangerine and a Duncan Grapefruit, it is a mixture of sweet and sour with juicy flesh and a loose peel. What’s not to like?

Honeybells otherwise known as Minneola Tangelos

If I were to choose an orange to eat, this would be it. However, I tend to use it more for its beautiful orange zest in recipes as diverse as baklava, orange and carrot soup, orange liqueur and my offering for today–Orange and Almond Biscotti. You can find my recipe for orange liqueur first mentioned as Limoncello with a lemon variation in my post: Can’t Stop Those Lemons

I’ll include it again here as it will make an awesome treat combination with the Honeybell Biscotti recipe that will follow.

Orange Liqueur Recipe

Oranges, vodka and sugar—that’s all it takes!

4 oranges, Honeybells will give the best color (and flavor, in my opinion)
3 Cups Vodka
1 ½ Cups sugar

  1. Use a carrot peeler to remove the zest from 4 oranges.  Pat the zest with paper towels.
  2. Place the zest into a large, wide-mouthed plastic or glass jar.
  3. Pour over 2 Cups of really inexpensive vodka.  Seal and leave in a dark place for 3 to 4 days.
  4. Remove and dispose of the zest.
  5. Add 1 ½ Cups sugar to the vodka.  Stir well to dissolve as much as possible.  Stir in 1 more Cup of vodka.
  6. Leave in a dark place for 1 week, checking daily to dissolve any remaining sugar.
  7. Put in decorative bottles, label if desired and place in your liquor cabinet.  Lasts until it is gone.  I like to keep a bottle in the freezer or you can pour it over ice cubes to enjoy. This is also the perfect liqueur to use in your Margaritas.

Honeybell Biscotti

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Tablespoon grated Honeybell orange zest
1 1/2 Cups sugar, plus 1 Tablespoon for sprinkling
3 large eggs
3 Cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 Cup whole almonds, lightly toasted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have silicone baking mats which I highly recommend that you order today, then butter and flour a large baking sheet.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and orange zest until well blended. Gradually beat in 1 1/2 Cups sugar. Beat in 2 of the eggs, one at a time.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add them to the mixer and stir until well blended. Use your hands to knead in the whole almonds.

Divide the dough in half and shape into 2 logs 15″ x 2.5″. Beat the 3rd egg and brush it over each log. Sprinkle the logs with the remaining Tablespoon of sugar. This is what they will look like when ready to hit the oven.

Unbaked Biscotti

Remember that “biscotti” means twice baked. You will bake the logs for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees then remove the tray from the oven and allow them to cool for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees before the second baking.

After first bake

Now you need to move the warm logs to a cutting board and cut them on the diagonal with a serrated knife in about 3/4 inch thick slices. Arrange the slices flat side down for the second baking. at 325 degrees for 8 minutes. Then you have to flip them over and bake them a third time for 5 to 8 minutes. I am not Italian, so don’t write to ask me why they are called twice baked when they are actually baked 3 times. You may, however, write me about anything else!

This recipe makes about 40 cookies. I keep them in a glass jar or in the freezer until I need them.

Right now I’m going to enjoy a couple with some Honeybell Orange Liqueur.