Welcome to my F-ing life!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Experiment #1: The Krispie Khronicals

If you eat Rice Krispies with chocolate milk, would it taste the same as eating Cocoa Pebbles with regular milk?

Good question!  Let's find out, shall we?

Yeah, I get bored easily.

In order to be all 'scientifical' and stuff, I will require no fewer than three objective test subjects.



Bueller? (Yeah, you could see that setup a mile away, couldn't ya?)

Well then, while I yank three unsuspecting, er...I mean willing volunteers from my living room audience, let's take a moment to consider the full scope of this experiment....

Someone has to conduct, hypothesize and document this whole bru-ha-ha. I nominate myself, but I feel I should explain exactly why I not only want to find out the answer to this burning need-to-know question, but why I can not simply be the said 'tester' myself.

I want to know the answer to this question because:

A)  I'm bored out of my skull and it's something fun to do with the family.
B)  If I am ever on a trivia-genre game show, I am certain this would be the question between me and that case of Turtle Wax (not to mention a copy of their home game!)
C)  Questions much like this one pop into my oxygen deprived brain all the time and I rarely get the opportunity to follow through with finding the answer.

As for why I can't be the test subject? Well, there is something rather shocking you need to know about me.

Yes, I love food. All kinds. But, like most of you eaters out there, there is a small percentage of things I am not fond of and won't eat very often or at all.

Sugar cereal is one of those "things". Ick.

In fact, I really don't care for cereal of any kind at all. If I had to eat it, it would be granola, Grape Nuts, or Shredded Wheat. Yeah, I can hear you all now: "Booooring!" I know. Believe me, I've tried the sugary stuff, and I'm just not into them. I didn't even really like them when I was a kid. I did like Quisp and King Vitamin though. In the third grade, my teacher used to pass out "Mouse Cookies" as a treat or reward for good scores or good behavior in class. I was all kinds of excited to receive my first Mouse Cookie! I could imagine the mice, all decked out in chef gear making cookies, just like the Keebler Elves!!  I ate one and spit it right back out. They turned out to be Cookie Crisp, and I promptly handed them back to the teacher and told her she lied to me and I didn't appreciate that one bit. I then spent some quality time in the chair in the corner.

I also have an aversion to milk, which doesn't help my cereal dislike. I'm not allergic or lactose intolerant; I just don't like the taste of milk. This goes for all varieties, flavors and brands. I am totally fine with milk being  incorporated into a recipe though.

However, I will let you in on a little known secret.  Once, maybe twice a year or so, I can be found late, late at night in the dark sitting on the couch with a bowl of Rice Krispies with a few tablespoons of sugar and very little milk (enough to get them wet).  I have also been spotted once or three times with a bowl of Corn Pops, sans milk, eating them like popcorn. But I will deny it if you call me on it.

Actually, for being such an adventurous eater, I have more food hang-ups than I probably should. To name a few, I despise (most) pizza and am extremely picky with how I will eat it, I can't stand peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and (sit down! you may not like this one...) I can, in fact, live and even survive quite well without chocolate.  Those will all probably be addressed/discussed in future posts.

The Krispies are calling...let's begin!

We have Exhibit A - one 12 ounce box of Rice Krispies, and Exhibit B - one 15 ounce box of Cocoa Pebbles. 

We have Exhibit C - Chocolate Milk, and Exhibit D - regular 'ol milk. And yes, that milk is powdered milk we make, hence the pitcher.

I can hear what you're saying right now, you know.

"Well, doofus, no wonder you don't like milk! That powdered stuff is GUH-ROSS!"

I would agree with you there, but only because I think milk, powdered or not, is indeed gross.  Papa Bear, Drama Queen and Little Lawyer are religious milk drinkers, and they say it's fine and it tastes just like the almost four dollar a gallon stuff at the grocery store.  About 7 or 8 years ago we started buying the big boxes of instant non-fat dry milk that makes 80 one cup servings per box because I wasn't kidding in the least when I said they were religious (think Hare Krishnas at the airport with glasses of milk instead of flowers, ok? If you have ever seen the movie Airplane! you know what I am talking about.) milk drinkers. Plus, it's way cheaper, too. And if the Milk Mafia in my house says it tastes okay, I take their word for it and don't ask questions...

Because I wanted to be as scientific as one could be (um, okay...) I noted the suggested serving size on each cereal boxes.

One serving of Rice Krispies is 1-1/4 cups....

....but Cocoa Pebbles are only a 3/4 cup serving?? Maybe because these are more calorie laden?

Ah, but for once we are not interested in calories! In fairness for our experiment, I decide to use approximately one cup of cereal per bowl instead of the suggested serving size.

There was the same serving size dilemma with the milk, so all three of my 'testers' voted to an even ratio all the way around.  One cup of cereal to one cup of milk it was!

We began with creating our testing bowls: One bowl with one cup of Rice Krispies and one cup chocolate milk, one bowl with one cup of Cocoa Pebbles and one cup regular milk, and just for the fun of it, one bowl with 1/2 cup each of both cereals that we plan on putting 1/2 cup of each milk into as well.

....and set the timer for one minute for thorough milk and cereal "fusion".

Little Lawyer waits oh-so-patiently for that minute to be up...

I will, in the interest of...well, interest of too much information, leave out the play-by-play, sound effects and whatnot of the consumption of the cereal bowls. Each tester tried a few bites out of each bowl and were asked to rate:

A)  The Taste (with 1 being Yuck and 5 being Yay)
B)  The Chocolaty-ness (same scale as Taste)
C)  The Favorite of the Three
D)  The Least Favorite of the Three

The testers were very cooperative, hungry and willing to finish all the bowls. However, I will share with you that they did have an American Idol moment. When they realized there were three of them and there were three judges on American Idol, hilarity ensued. The phrases "Dawg!", "But you're soooo pretty!" and "That was a complete and utter nightmare." were thrown about, and I'm fairly certain no Krispie or Pebble in any of the bowls will move on to Hollywood, baby! Those are the brakes, I suppose.

Here's what we've all been waiting for....the results are in!! Let's Snap Crackle & Pop our way to it, shall we?

Results For Bowl #1 - Rice Krispies with Chocolate Milk
Unanimously Voted 'Least Favorite'
Taste/Chocolaty-ness Scale:  PB gave it a 2, DQ gave it a 2.5, LL gave it a 1

Results For Bowl #2 - Cocoa Pebbles with Regular Milk
Not nominated for 'Favorite' or 'Least Favorite'
Taste/Chocolaty-ness Scale:  PB gave it a 3, DQ gave it a 3.5, LL gave it a 3

Results For Bowl #3 (dubbed the Zebra Bowl) - Half of each cereal/Half of each Milk
Unanimously Votes 'Favorite'
Taste/Chocolaty-ness Scale:  All testers gave this bowl a 5 without hesitation

So there you have it folks! The worldwide mystery has been solved, more or less. Run out and get the fixin's for your Zebra Bowl and tell me what you think! Are my taste testers off their rocker or did they nail it head on?

What other kind of weird and wacky food experiments would you like to see?  Leave me some suggestions in the comments and I will see what can be done!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Confessions of a Scallopaholic


You know I love seafood, right? I can't imagine life without it.  Fish, shellfish, caviar...just about anything that comes from the sea. For me, it beats any kind of red meat, pork, chicken, pasta...anything.

One of the most under-appreciated forms of sea-worthy goodness is my longtime friend, the scallop. I think the scallop, be it the bay scallop (the teeny tiny tender variety) or the sea or diver scallop (the big mamma jammas) are extremely versatile and can adapt to just about any recipe, are easy as pie to prepare, and are a nutritionally sound choice to boot. 

I have made numerous dishes with scallops, finding any way I can think of to incorporate them into many a menu. I've put them in pastas, stir fry, soups, risottos, stews, side dishes and (one of my absolute favorites) ceveche. Scallops are sweet and tender and are just as good raw as they are cooked. Their mildness lends a compliment to just about any dish.

Now, I have a confession to make. Let me 'splain... There is one dish that is a simple, perfect way to eat scallops that I have eaten many, many times at various restaurants. Let's just say if I see it on the menu, I always order it. It is available at most restaurants and is usually orderable in an appetizer form, or in an "add-on" side. If you have never tried scallops, this dish is the perfect introduction to them:  Bacon Wrapped Scallops.  Say a hearty "Hello!" to your new favorite. Not only does it have scallops, but they're wrapped in bacon...c'mon! There are quite a few variations on this dish, but simple will win out every time.

But what is my confession you ask? Well, I will tell you now.

I have never actually made Bacon Wrapped Scallops myself.


Yes, I know. Calm yourself. I am rectifying that right now.

A lot of people, and in certain cases myself included, are a tad intimidated to attempt to make certain dishes. Scallops don't frighten me at all, but there are things that do - which we will get to in other posts, as I shall attempt complete and utter humiliation in front of the masses in hopes of confronting my fears and making it not so scary so maybe you will give it a try! I know lots of people who won't try to cook scallops themselves because of the myths floating around about these little beauties.

Myth #1:  They are fishy smelling and tasting! Yuck!!

If you have had scallops that smell fishy, you're buying bad scallops! And they so do not taste like fish. If they taste like fish, either (a) you're eating surimi - a fish based food product (shudder!) made from white fleshed fish intended to mimic the texture and color of certain shellfish, (b) you've purchased bad, bad scallops, (c) you need to have your taste buds checked out STAT, or (d) you don't like any seafood and will not budge..."Everything from the ocean tastes like fish! Eww! I already know I won't like it because it will taste like fish!" If this is you, my advice is to grow a pair and try them. You might surprise yourself.

Myth #2:  Scallops are too hard to clean! No matter where I order them, how they are prepared or how much I try, I always get that grit between my teeth. Yuk!

Yes, these little creatures love sand. Picture a puppy rolling around in the dirt and grass, happy and playful. That's what scallops do on the ocean floor. They're just not as cute as a puppy.  Now ask yourself, "How am I ever gonna get that puppy clean? It's filthy!" Think of your scallops as a puppy. Heck, name them if it helps. You'd really wash that pup, right? Well, the same approach applies to the scallops, just without the perfumed dog soap.

When you "wash" a scallop, there are a few methods that I have heard of that you could choose from. I will share with you the method I always use and works great for me every time. When you buy scallops, you have two choices: fresh or frozen. If you have fresh available to you, always opt for that. If not, frozen will work too. Looking to the frozen kind, you also have two choices: dry packed or wet packed. Scallops that are without any additives are called "dry packed", while scallops that are treated with a chemical called sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) are called "wet packed". STP causes the scallops to absorb moisture prior to the freezing process, thereby getting a better price per unit of weight. I always try to find dry packed, but both types are workable.  Dry packed or Diver (hand harvested by divers) are of a higher quality and will generally have way less sand and grit to begin with. Whatever you get, take them home and thaw them in the fridge for about 12 hours.

After they are thawed, take a plate out and stack several sturdy paper towels on it. Please do not use napkins - trust me on this.  Rinse the scallops really well under cold water while removing the little piece of meat on the side that connected the scallop to the shell. You can't miss it...it looks freezer-burned and slightly shiny. Just pinch it between your thumb and first-finger, and tear it away. Don't worry too much if you can't find it on all the muscles. It often gets dislodged and washed away during the harvesting process. Those little skin tags are really tough and chewy, so you want 'em gone. Shake off the excess water and lay the scallops on the stack of paper towels. Stack several more paper towels on top of the scallops (and yes, you can do this in layers of scallops and paper towels on the same plate. Just end the tower with paper towels). Top with another (same-sized) plate. Use a can of soup or can of something and place it on top of the top plate to add some weight to the tower. You want these puppies dry, and the paper towels will help suck out most of the moisture.  Place your tower-o-scallops in the fridge for 20 minutes. Take them out and rebuild the tower with fresh paper towels. Put everything back in the fridge for another 20-30 minutes. Prepare according to whatever recipe you choose.

Now, I can't promise you that you won't collide with a grain or two of sand ever, but it is a very few and far between occurrence that you will. Hey, nobody's perfect, especially me.

Myth #3:  Scallops are way too easy to overcook! I don't want to end up with rubbery balls of ick!

Scallops can be seared, grilled, poached, or even eaten raw if they're very fresh. They do cook very quickly and become tough and chewy if overcooked, much like shrimp. In my opinion, it's better to under cook them slightly, rather than cook them too long.  My favorite way to prepare scallops is to simply melt a little butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and sear the scallops. We sear them for about two minutes on both sides, just enough to get a golden crust and barely cook them through. To get a really crispy crust, make sure the scallops are dry as possible before going into the pan and salt them only at the very last second. The same goes for grilling.  As long as you don't walk away or get sidetracked while cooking them, you'll be fine.  If you can cook shrimp, you can cook scallops.

Now back to my regularly scheduled confession...

I can be somewhat slow when it comes to certain realizations...like the real reason they nail coffins shut. Zombies, dude! When it dawned on me that I had never attempted to make Bacon Wrapped Scallops, I hopped right on it!

I made my special seasoning mix, which is loosely based on Emeril's Bayou Blast spice mix, but with my own twists. I will include the recipe below.

I made the bacon ahead of time in a 350 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and load 'er up! I used thick cut applewood smoked bacon for this. Eating this bacon will change you...

After the scallops have their day at the spa and are dried, I season both sides with my spice mix.

After the bacon cooled,  I cut the slices in half vertically. Some slices I actually had to cut in half horizontally because the pieces were so wide.  Then I just wrapped a piece of uber-yummy bacon around the scallop and speared it with a bamboo skewer that I soaked in water for about 30 minutes.

Heat a nonstick pan to about medium high heat (I added some butter and a smattering of olive oil too) and sear on all 4 sides so the scallops and the bacon cook. Since the bacon was 75% cooked in the oven, you're just looking to crisp it up a bit.

And voilĂ ! I call it perfection on a stick. But you can call me for dinner when these are ready.

My Special Spice Mix

This can be used on anything...fish, beef, pork, chicken...anything you want to make a smidge more flavorful.

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly grated nutmeg
Combine all ingredients thoroughly. You can store this in any airtight container for up to 3 months.
Yields about 2/3 of a cup.

Bacon Wrapped Scallops

You'll need:

6 slices of applewood smoked bacon (or another thick-cut bacon)
12 sea scallops, washed & dried
Special Spice Mix
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for about 30 minutes

Now do this:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Honestly, I can't live without parchment paper!!  Place the bacon strips on the parchment paper and bake until just beginning to get golden around the edges but still pliable, 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Season the scallops on all sides with the spice mix. Cut the bacon in half vertically so that you have 12 slices. Wrap each scallop in 1 piece of the bacon, securing it through the center with a bamboo skewer. Repeat with the remaining scallops, putting three scallops on each skewer.

Preheat a large skillet (or can be done on the grill) to medium-high heat.  When pan is hot, add the butter and olive oil. If grilling, make sure to brush the grates lightly with oil so they don't stick.

When the pan is hot and the butter has completely melted into the oil, place the scallops in the pan and cook, turning frequently, until just cooked through about 7 minutes total. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Not all Superheros wear Spandex...


Today is Mothers Day.

Happy Day to all those Moms out there (you all know who you are...and if you don't know who you are, we need to have a sit down!) who tirelessly brave every day hurdles and hassles to make the world a better place for our children.  Moms get the job of 30 done. You can always count on Mom.  They wear their hearts on their sleeve, always have a tissue if needed, a band-aid and a kiss to make it all better, and the best shoulder to cry on. Moms rule the world.

Moms, go put your feet up and catch up on your favorite hobby for a moment or two...I need to have a word with the children.

Hey kids!! C'mere...lean in closer...I want to clue you in on something...

I don't know if anyone has hipped you to this tidbit or not, but have you ever noticed that there is no such thing as Childrens Day, Daughters Day, Sons Day or anything like that? Do you know why?

Let me clue you in as to why there is no such day....m'kay?

First, let me start by pointing out you all get more crap (nowadays more than ever) for your birthdays and major conglomerate holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, etc.) that your parent(s) go utterly broke getting you the latest "iWhatever" is on the market. How many ways do you need to connect to the internet? Really? Well, you don't need yet another holiday to get the latest gadget. 

Second, and most importantly (and should be the most obvious...but it never is sadly) Moms (and Dads too, but that's another post) need a day to be revered. Most children really have no idea how much Mom does, what they sacrifice, and how much they love.  To be honest, you won't know...until you have kids. Yeah, it's an insider parent thing. Your Mom is literally a part of you - and you are literally a part of her. You can't say that about very many people...except for blood relatives and organ donors.  There is no relationship as pure as the relationship between a Mother and her child.

Deciding to have children, planned or not, is a continually momentous thing - it's like having a huge piece of your heart walking around on its own.  One of my favorite quotes about Mothers as from Washington Irving, author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. I think it sums it up quite nicely:

"A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity       takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us when troubles thicken around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts." --Washington Irving

 My theory is that the moment a child is born, so is a Mom. The woman existed before, but never the Mom. A Mom and her children take this incredible journey together, which creates this incredible bond that is (almost) impossible to tear or break. I say 'almost' because there is no way to be a perfect Mother...but there are five million ways to be a good one.

Honestly, who else do you know that has magic spit that can can clean anything? Nobody else can make everything better with one kiss, one sentence, or one look into your eyes. And who else can know what you're going to do before you do it? (okay, Moms can do that simply because we've been there, done that and are still wearing the T-shirt...) Having said that, you must know that Mom can help you with any problem or situation that comes your way, because they have been there and can help you through almost every trial and tribulation you can get into.

The most amazing thing is that Moms do all this for free.  They do it 24/7, 365 days a year. All a Mom needs is the love of her child to make it all worth it.  And it is all worth it, trust me.

So kiddies, I think you know where I'm going with this.  Be good to your Mom. She's the only one you'll ever have. You should treat her like you do on Mothers day every day. Tell her you love her...and why. Tell her every day, every chance you get. Trust me, she will never, ever tire of hearing it. Hug her often and tightly.

So.....GO! Do it! Now!

Sadly, if you can't...just remember that she is always with you in your heart and memories, and her love and devotion to you is still here with every bit of strength as a hurricane.

All you Moms out there, let me leave you today with some wisdom you may be able to use. I hope it proves useful to you one day...

There are three ways to get something done.
1.  Hire someone to do it.
2.  Do it yourself.
3.  Forbid your kids to do it!

By the way, the number 3 method usually works the fastest.

I awoke this morning to roses, cards, kisses and hugs. And coffee. Strong coffee.

What do I do for my Mom on Mothers Day? I am making a special dinner for my Mom tonight, of course. I stick to what I'm good at....

Our Mothers Day Dinner Menu:

Steak au Poivre
Fingerling Potatoes with Aioli
String Beans with Shallots
Creme Brulee

I will post pictures and recipes later today for drooling purposes.

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!! I love you, Mom. Thanks for loving me enough to not kill me. I don't ever want to be without you.

I truly hope every Mom out there as a wonderful day that is filled with laughter and love.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

If a fork were made of gold, would it still be considered silverware?


I love it when my kids take an honest-to-goodness interest in what I like. It makes me happy. It thrills me to no end when they ask me how to do something (hopefully that I know how to do...), when they actually want my advice with a problem, or when they just want to sit next to me, hug me, or tell me about their day. These are the moments I live for.

Yes, I want them to be independent and have interests of their own! But nothing compares to that special, private, in-the-know inside joke we share because of time spent doing something together. It literally makes my heart sing. Granted, my heart only sings 80's pop music - which my kids absolutely love, by the way - but it sings, nevertheless.

So when they say "Mom, can I help you with dinner?" my heart goes into overdrive and does a medley of the best of the 80's...and yes, 'Jessie's Girl' is (always) in there. Why? Because Rick Springfield rocks, that's why. Don't pretend you haven't sung it in the shower either. Besides, who couldn't love the only song known to mankind with the word 'moot' in it? It's an English major's dream...not to mention the man is damn easy on the eyes...

Drama Queen wanted to cook dinner the other night. By herself. Cue Oingo Boingo's Dead Man's Party...

Turns out, she had a really great day at school and some really exciting things had happened to her and she wanted to talk about it all.  So as I instructed her on how to make what was for dinner that night, which happened to be Shrimp Fritters, she told me bits and pieces about what happened to her that day. She even brought out her iPod and I listened while she sang (which I love to listen to her do).  Her latest favorite is the 'In The Heights' soundtrack from the Broadway production. We saw it in Orlando in March as one of her birthday presents/bribe.*

*I call it a bribe simply because I told her a month or so before her birthday that I would get tickets to the show if she agreed to have a full eye exam and get glasses if she needed them.  Dangling theatre tickets to her current favorite musical in front of her was a sure bet that she would overcome her (irrational) fear of air being puffed into her eyes or drops being put in her eyes and just get it done. She is deathly afraid of doctors, needles, and foreign items in her eyes, ears and throat. When she was younger, she was a barrel of freakin' monkeys at the pediatrician... Oh, and the rite of passage getting your child to upgrade from a bath to a shower? I still haven't recovered from that trauma.  On a side note, she did get glasses and looks absolutely smashing in them.

Sneaky? Uh huh. Underhanded? Certainly. Wrong? Hell, no! She got what she wanted and I got what I wanted and everyone is happy. Works for me...and I shall continue to do so as long as it remains beneficial to both parties involved in said bribe. Let Doctor Spock put that in his pipe and smoke it...

Drama Queen did all the prep work herself and even took my basic sauce for the fritters to a different level. She added a few ingredients (when I wasn't looking!) and the results were wonderful. She was so proud of herself, too. Her face was so completely lit up throughout dinner that I believe we may have suffered third degree burns. I love to see her that happy! Cue ABC's The Look of Love...

But her biggest accomplishment...the one where she should get the key to the city...was the fact that Little Lawyer ate every bite.  I repeat:  Ate. Every. Bite.  Unless she is eating something covered with chocolate, caramel, whipped cream and sprinkles, or unless her meal comes with a toy - she never, ever finishes everything on her plate. In her nine years of life (eight and a half if you count from when she started eating real food), I think I may have accomplished this miracle of miracles....maybe ten times?

Drama Queen knocks it outta the park on her first attempt...what the?

At this point, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I hate to cry, so I'll just laugh and go with it.

Dinner that night was amazing. Drama Queen and I hung out in the kitchen, I taught her a few cooking techniques, we laughed, talked, sang and had a fantastic time. Little Lawyer consumed her entire meal. Triumph! How could it get any better? Really? Cue Andrew Lloyd Webber's Any Dream Will Do...

A knock at the door from Publishers Clearing House with a huge check? No....

A phone call from a lawyer of a long-lost filthy rich and now deceased relative leaving me their vast fortune? Nah...

A letter in the mail from Food Network offering me a dream job and the authority to fire Sandra Lee? Nope...

Drama Queen told me she has a...a...a boyfriend.



Cue Aerosmith's Get A Grip...

                                             SHRIMP FRITTERS WITH SESAME LIME SAUCE

You'll need:

1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, tails removed
1 egg, beaten
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 to 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
3 tsp of your favorite seafood seasoning blend
2 limes
1/3 cup mayonaisse
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp dark sesame oil
1 tsp garlic powder
Baby spinach (or any greens you prefer)

Do something like this:

Coarsely chop the shrimp, and try not to pop too many in your mouth while performing this task or there won't be any left and you'll just have fritters. I always have this problem, so I usually buy extra shrimp to compensate.  Grab a big mixing bowl and add the chopped shrimp, beaten egg, green onions, flour and 2 tsp of the seafood seasoning (I use either Old Bay, which I almost always have, or Weber Grill Creations Mango Lime Seafood Seasoning). Stir it all together and check the consistency before adding any breadcrumbs.  You're looking for the mixture to lightly hold together while it cooks, so start with the 1/4 cup and go from there. I know you've heard it before, and I will always repeat it because it is so true: you can always add, but you can't take it back out!!  When you reach the consistency you're looking for, let the mixture chill in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, zest and juice both limes into a medium sized bowl. This is particularly hilarious if you let your kids do this part! Then add the mayo, the remaining tsp of seasoning, honey, sesame oil and garlic powder and whisk! Ta Da! You have sauce!

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat - that's number 8 on the dial to me. Add about 1/4 cup of oil (your choice - for this I prefer veggie oil). When oil is heated (which I test by a toothpick tip in the center of the pan. If it starts to bubble around the toothpick, you are good to go), drop mixture by 1/3 cup portions into the oil and flatten slightly with a spatula. Cook about 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until you get that golden color we all dream about on fried food. Drain fritters on a paper towel and keep warm if frying in batches.

Serve fritters nestled in a bed of baby spinach (or greens of choice).  You can serve the sauce on the side, or if you are a sauceaholic like me, drizzle the sauce over the top. Hey, they are shrimp and they were born to swim in something, right? If you are really like me, you'll have some extra limes on hand that you can cut into wedges and serve alongside, because you thought to yourself while standing over the bin of limes at the grocery store that two little limes look so lonely in the produce bag, and they're so tiny...why not throw in 5 or 6 more? Yeah, me too.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Wicked Garden Project - Phase Two

Well, May is certainly upon us. This means two things to me:

1.  School is almost out for the summer (5 more weeks!)

2.  Summer is pretty much here - Florida heat blows. I despise heat for many reasons...

Now I can add a number three to this list...

3.  Gardening sucks when it is unbearably hot outside.

We have accomplished a lot in the last two weeks. We've transplanted four varieties of beans, corn, peppers, okra (which we planted solely to pickle - we love pickled okra!) and four different kinds of berries in the Wicked Garden. The structure is up and completed, and Papa Bear even made me a sign for the door:

How cool is that?

But the heat...ugh. Now, believe me when I say that I am fully aware of my personal physical limitations, but when I need to (not have to, but need to) stop every ten to fifteen minutes or I am sure I will fall down dead, it tends to put a damper on the days activities.

Give me air conditioning or give me death!

We all ended up with a little bit of sunburn after last weekend. I believe that even my retinas were burned because my eyes didn't stop burning until this morning.

Here's the progress so far:

The Berry Patch (which is to the left of the cage structure).  We planted Blackberries, Raspberries, Blueberries and Strawberries.

All of the beans planted: Tendersweet, Purple, Soy (edamame) and your garden-variety (ha!) string bean.

We planted some sweet white corn in this corner.

Three pepper plants are in the ground: A 'mixed' variety, a red bell and a yellow bell.

In my exhaustive internet research, I discovered that certain lettuces grow better in containers. So I bought two big windowsill type planter boxes and filled one whole box with a mix of spicy and sweet mesclun greens. The other is half arugula and half baby spinach.

We transplanted five cherry tomato plants. I can eat a pint of grape or cherry tomatoes like popcorn...

I believe I have planted every herb I could get my hands on.  I love fresh herbs. This part of the whole garden thing is what excites me the most. I even found -are you ready?- Cinnamon Basil! The aroma coming off of this plant is incredibly amazing...I can't wait to eat it!

There are still tons of itty-bitty baby plants not yet ready to be transplanted into the big old scary garden. These baby plants will go into the garden in stages, but in the meantime, they are guarded by the ferocious and terrifying Twinkie. See the all-body block maneuver she's perfected? Nothing gets past our Twinkie...unless she's napping.

Which is what she (and Papa Bear) did after all was said and done:

Heat does that to a person....

We did find some interesting things whilst digging in our little Eden out back. 

                              Item #1:
                                               A little Fisher Price Finger Puppet Lego thing...

                              Item #2:
                                                                     A Throwing Star? 

                              Item #3:
                                A super-powered mega magnet...or a strong magnetic hockey puck?

I have deduced that toddler ninja scientists once resided on this property...and if there are more magnets like that one underground, that might explain the paranormal activity...hmmm.

Even though there is still quite a bit left to be planted and then protected, we are all steadily anticipating seeing our efforts in the garden hit full swing. We can't wait for our first meal from the garden!