Picnic Island & the Best Fried Chicken in the Keys

So Mr. Foodie and I decided to take some vacationing friends out on the boat to picnic island – a couple of tiny uninhabited islands joined together by a low sandbar. My parents used to take my brother and I there to play on the sandbar when we were young. Back then, my mom tells me, no one really knew about it and only locals would drop anchor there on the weekends. Now, it is well known and often packed with boats on any given weekend. Yesterday it was relatively sparse with just a few boats and, of course, Captain Jack’s house boat which is always there.

Picnic Island

This is the first time I’ve met Captain Jack, although he has had his residence floating there for a couple years now. We don’t always see him when we visit the island, but yesterday he was sitting on his porch, tanned and white-bearded, holding court, if you will, while strangers and friends climbed up his slippery wooden steps to say hello. He told us that people often come by on the weekends with tons of food and they cook it up right there on the house boat. He likes the company, he said, and the rest of the week is usually pretty quiet. We asked what happens during storms and he said that is boat weighs 100,000 lbs, so the most that happens is the fans on his porch lose their blades. He has a fascinating history which you should ask him yourself when you come to visit.

Just be careful – the path to picnic island is challenging because of the shallows – I’ve been there plenty, but even I had a couple dicey moments driving out there yesterday. Our friends enjoyed the heck out of it, though. We floated in the shallow water and had a few cold beers. John and I also brought the best fried chicken in the keys – Dion’s friend chicken. Apparently there is a debate about the best friend chicken (Dion’s or Publix), but my vote is with Dion’s. The breading is perfectly seasoned and crisp. The meat is tender and juicy – it’s everything you want fried chicken to be. If you like to boat, bring good fried chicken with you – it is the perfect entree for boating since you don’t have to worry about soggy bread sandwiches and you can always dump the bones in the ocean without harming the ecosystem.

On the way back to shore, we ran across a gorgeous pod of dolphins jumping the waves. I slowed down and circled of course for our friends to take photos. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that this was Mr. Foodie’s first dolphin sighting! He thought they were just beautiful. You never know what delights the oceans of the keys have in store for you. All in all an awesome day of fun, sun, and fried chicken.

Want to follow along with my keys foodie adventures? Use the follow field on the right or check me out on instagram @flkeysfoodie

Marathon Grill and Ale House – Review

I wish I had a beautiful header picture of this place, but whereas I have gotten better about snapping pictures of my food before I eat it, I have yet to master taking pictures of the exterior before driving away. I also assume there will be a photo online, but I have yet to find a decent looking one of the Marathon Grill and Ale House – probably because it is tucked away in the corner of a strip mall (!). Yes, I was warned by Cory who recommended this place that I will ask myself, “am I in the right place?” when I went to look for it and that is exactly what I did as I passed nail salons and pet stores. But Cory, who plays with his band up and down the lower keys in restaurants (live music being a huge feature of key life), told us that they had BOGO entrees and ridiculously good drink deals between 4 and 6 pm.

I hesitated to order their happy hour white wine (although it is always encouraging when the menu lists the different types of wine instead of “house white”), but the bartender talked me into it and soon enough I was sipping a delicious white chardonnay for $3! Mr. Foodie tried three beers and loved them all, but his favorite was a Bells Amber. I ordered the chicken marsala which came with mashed potatoes and creamy carrots. Mr. Foodie ordered the seafood fa diavolo because he loves the mussels version at the Wharf on Summerland. This one had clams, lobster, mussels, shrimp, and scallops – all on a bed of perfectly cooked pasta. It was the show-stopper dish of the night. The sauce was incredibly addicting. I kept reaching over to taste it again and again. Mr. Foodie indulged my love of lobsters and mussels by putting morsels on our bread plate for me to try. With all this mini-lobstering going on, I have been craving lobster like a son of a gun, but Lobsterfest (which takes place in Key West) doesn’t happen until August.

My dish was good for the wrong reasons – namely the sides were the best part. The carrots were so creamy and rich that I only ate half and the mashed potatoes were freaking delicious. I was more than happy to polish those off. My chicken, on the other hand, was rubbery and the sauce was just too thick – not being an expert on marsala, I couldn’t tell you what it lacked or had too much of, just that it tasted like eating drapes on a rubber ball. Whereas the sauce flavor wasn’t bad, the texture was problematic. Still, the other dishes made up for that and our stuffed-mouthed exclamations of pleasure drew the attention of our bar seat-mates with whom we struck up a conversation about the food there (they were locals) and a myriad of other things like comparing the weather in the mid-Atlantic to here. Throughout the whole experience our bartender was attentive and pleasant. My seatmate told us that the place becomes a disco at night.

All in all it was another fun Marathon key foodie adventure. We’re off to taste the best fried chicken in the keys and for another boating adventure, so stay tuned!

Want to follow along with my keys foodie adventures? Use the follow field on the right or check me out on instagram @flkeysfoodie

Marathon Key Staycation

Morning! So Mr. Foodie and I are on a staycation of sorts for a long weekend in Marathon Key just up US-1 from home. We are staying a chain hotel which is not my preference (especially in the keys where you can often find quaint little “resorts” and b&bs), but we had points so free nights = awesome. Plus, look at our view!

We got here late last night because of work, so all we really did was crawl to the Tiki hut restaurant near the hotel property, have dinner, read, and then pass out. We did not have terribly high hopes for the restaurant Tarpon Creek Bar and Grill because it looks like giant tourist trap and it is right next to a bunch of hotels, but we were pleasantly surprised by some things.

We ordered an appetizer of Cuban rice balls which were probably the best thing we had – the rice-bean mixture inside was spicy and creamy, the fried outer shell was perfectly crisp and the sauce was tangy and delicious. It was altogether a great pairing with our pale ales and the ocean breeze.

Mr. Foodie ordered fried catch of the day (mahi mahi) and fries. He reported that the fries were good (I can confirm), but that the fried breading on the fish tasted burnt – someone needs to change out their fryer oil. The mahi itself was cooked well. I ordered the pulled pork sandwich and plantain chips mostly because of the promised key lime sauce that the menu mentioned. The sandwich was indeed good and so was the sauce. The chips were also good if a little bland. We decided that it was a little steeply priced for what amounted to pub food, but the water view was pleasing, our waitress was attentive but mellow (perfect for two exhausted diners), and the beer was cold. All in all, a good evening.

Luckily Marathon is teeming with restaurants – I believe a bartender I was talking to a few days ago said 72 restaurants in total on the island, so we will have no shortage of good eats while staying here. We already raved about the cuban sandwhich shop down the road, so I have high hopes for this place.

Want to follow along with my keys foodie adventures? Use the follow field on the right or check me out on instagram @flkeysfoodie

Mini-Lobster Season is Upon Us: Cleaning out the Pantry

It is with slight sleep deprivation that I write this post as Mr. Foodie and I were woken up five times by lightning and thunder while we slept. You think you’ve seen an awesome storm? Well so did I until last night. The lightning strikes so close that it sends a blinding light into the room and then the thunder shakes the whole house. Luckily our power did not go out, but Mr. Foodie plans to buy a surge protector for our electrical panel asap!

Yes, she is really covered w/ spiny lobsters.
Photo Credit: Youtube user deermeatfordinner

In other news, it is officially mini-lobster season down here in the keys, which for locals means tons of tourists, water traffic, and jacked up grocery prices. It’s okay, though, much of the Keys’ economy depends on such things. Mini-lobster season is a two day affair where anyone with the right gear, a license, and a boat can catch the region’s spiny lobsters up to a per person limit (and only if they are the right size and not bearing eggs). Basically it gives the populace a crack at it before the major lobstering companies set their traps. What was once a rather low-key couple of days has turned into a massive undertaking. I’ve seen boats going out days ahead of time to scout locations to hunt and copters flying overhead – whether for tourist rides or scouting for lobster hidey-holes, I don’t know, but it is intense. Mr. Foodie and I have been warned, and we are not participating even though the prospect of catching my own lobster appeals to me immensely. But come August 6 we will be allowed to try it again and all the tourists will be gone.

To catch a lobster, you need a net, a tickler, gloves, and measuring stick – this is the only equipment with which you can catch one. This video gives you a pretty good idea of how it’s done.

Perhaps in August I’ll have some pictures of Mr. Foodie and I with our own lobsters in hand!

The theme of this week was: Clean out the Pantry. Mr. Foodie and I are staying in Marathon for five days starting today, so we had to get through our perishable items and avoid buying even more groceries than we had before packing up to leave. On Monday I took stock and then built a meal plan around what we had so I only needed top pick up a few things from the store this week. We already had a box of pasta and a crazy amount of feta cheese, so I decided to make an adapted version of The Tasty Cheapskate’s Feta Alfredo. I did not include bacon or broccoli because I a) did not want to buy a pack of bacon just for this and b) had other plans for my broccoli. Other than those items, my version is very similar. Instead of cream I used milk since I had it on hand, but the effect was similar (if a little leaner). It was incredibly tasty. Mr. Foodie (who doesn’t care for pasta dishes usually) loved this one. We put a lot of peas in ours because we had them so why not? I sadly do not have a picture because we ate a lot and then packed up the leftovers for lunches before I thought about it. Just trust me that it was a very fun use of the feta and peas.

We also made stir-fry to use up the broccoli and some chicken stock I had. Plus, Mr. Foodie LOVES Asian dishes in general and my stir-fry in particular. I use a recipe adapted from this easy stir-fry sauce. This time, I cooked up four thin fillets of beef, set them aside, and poured in the sauce, added veggies, cooked them a bit, added the beef, and sprinkled a little flour to thicken off the heat until the rice was ready. This is because I did not have any veggies that required cooking this time – just leftover broccoli and canned bamboo shoots. Normally, if I have fresh veggies to cook (like green beans, broccoli, sprouts), I saute/steam them, add the sauce, then proceed with the steps I listed. I use a plastic container with a lid and handle to shake up the sauce before adding it to the veggies. Clean, easy, and delicious!

Post-dinner pic – I need to get better
at remembering to take pix first!

Mr. Foodie and I do not own a rice cooker, although we can definitely appreciate the fluffy rice that those gadgets produce. I make mine on the stove top which I know is intimidating for some, but honestly I just follow the directions on the rice bag in most cases. Typically it states a 2-1 water to rice amount, bring to a boil, simmer for 20-25 minutes with the lid on (no peeking). Because it normally takes me at least this long to cook everything else and because I don’t have to keep an eye on it, I don’t see it as a burden to make it this way and I’ve only screwed it up twice since I started cooking rice on the stove.

Operation clean the pantry was a success, and now we’re off to Marathon for a few days of fun, work, and more eating adventures.

Want to follow along with my keys foodie adventures? Use the follow field on the right or check me out on instagram @flkeysfoodie

Mango Season!

Mango Tree – Photo Credit: fas-tgrowing-trees.com

One of my gardening goals is to plant a mango tree in our yard in place of some of the more useless bushes (that have grown to be tree-like) which shed leaves all over the place. I figure shedding fruit would be more fun. My mother tells me that my grandparents had a mango tree in their backyard when they lived here – and why not? Mangoes are amazingly delicious – fragrant, juicy, sweet, and tangy. I didn’t grow up eating them like I did other fruits, but when I did snag some, I loved them. Some folks are hesitant to like mangoes because of the meaty texture and the huge inedible core at the center. I know I was puzzled as to how to eat them initially – do I slice the skin off and then slice what meat I could from the core? Do I just munch on it after the skin is removed? Since I learned most of my knife skills from TV cooking shows, I did just that for years – slicing the skin off and then cutting the fruit from the core (and then sucking on the core for what I missed with the knife). It was a messy process. Then I moved to the land of mangoes. Here you can find a mango for 50 cents in the grocery store or for free from your neighbor’s tree (with their permission of course). And while mangoes are technically in season most of the year, their peak is right now! Let’s just say I have mango visions dancing in my head.

I also learned a better way to handle them since coming here thanks to a family friend who handed me two glorious mangoes a few days into living here. Since then I have cut all my mangoes this way (yes, there have been many mangoes consumed since arriving). Essentially, you cut them like you would an avocado. Slice the mango in half all the way around the fruit without piercing the core. Once the cut mark meets itself, grasp the two halves and twist in opposite directions. One half will pop off leaving the core in the other half. Then using a knife or your fingers, pry the core out of the other half. Now you have two cored halves of a mango, scoop the meat out with a spoon, cut it out with a knife, or like an avocado, dice inside the skin and scoop out for little cubes.

You can freeze these up right away and use them in smoothies, eat them as is, or add them to a delicious mango salsa! I wanted to make a smoothie right away with mine, so I bypassed freezing them and used ice instead.

Making smoothies is challenging for a lot of folks who feel like they need a specific recipe and every ingredient in that recipe in order to make a healthy, tasty smoothie – and while it is true that you can botch them easily, you are also defeating the point of smoothie making if you have to be so rigid in your approach to making them. All you need to have is: fruit (frozen or fresh), liquid (milk, yogurt, OJ, etc.), greens (kale, spinach, etc.), and ice (unless your fruit was frozen to begin with). You can add other things like protein powder and sugar/agave/etc. to sweeten if you like, but there’s your basic formula and even that can stand a lot of tweaking.

 A few things I’ve learned from making smoothies – a very ripe banana is a great binder fruit that makes your smoothie thick without making it taste like banana. You know how so many smoothies from a shop just taste like banana smoothies with a hint of mango? Well that’s because they use under-ripe bananas which are pungent and will dominate your smoothie. Pop half of a very ripe banana in and it will be magic. Protein powder can also add a thickening component and of course its a handy meal substitute. I rarely feel the need to sweeten my smoothies, but a little agave or syrup goes a long way in a smoothie with good fruit. My best piece of advice is to play around! Follow a recipe if need be, but once you have the basics, use whatever you have on hand.

In my case, I needed to use up the rest of my Kale from the casserole I made last week, the last bit of milk, and my mangoes – et voila! A delicious mango smoothie was born. One last piece of advice for smoothie making that is really applicable to almost all kinds of cooking: you can always add more of something, but very rarely can you take out what you’ve already added.

Breakfast smoothie with a view!

Recipe for Kale Mango Smoothie
1 Cup chopped Kale
Flesh of two Mangoes
1/2 Cup milk
1 Cup ice

Blend until smooth. Enjoy!

Want to follow along with my keys foodie adventures? Use the follow field on the right or check me out on instagram @flkeysfoodie

Magic Brunch

So Mr. Foodie and I finally got around to booking brunch reservations at Little Palm Island Resort – otherwise known as Magic Brunch. Not long ago it was our birthdays and my wonderful parents gave us $$ specifically to go have fun here. The first thing you should know is that this brunch is pricey (around $100/person not including tip – was closer to $75/person during the recession). The second thing you should know is that it is worth. every. penny. I am no amateur when it comes to brunch. My former urban home region has a very active brunch scene, and thanks to my amazing friends, I have sampled many fine brunches on many a Sunday. I’ve even had brunch at the noteworthy Wynn hotel (years ago now) in Las Vegas which, if I remember correctly, was similarly priced at the time to this brunch. And yet the experience at Little Palm blows all of these brunches out of the water. While at the Wynn you get an amazing spread, you are packed in a hotel restaurant with bajillions of other people, spending half your time trying to get another drink out of the waiter, and tripping over folks along the buffet (at least that is how it felt years ago). At most brunches you might have an extended buffet with delicious eats or a hot menu to choose from. You might get bottomless mimosas or have to order specialty brunch cocktails. The brunch at the Kennedy Center in D.C. is a great example of a luxurious brunch in a unique setting. But it still isn’t as great as Little Palm.

I’ve already described how a trip to the island begins – in one of their gorgeous wood boats which leaves from their gift shop on Little Torch Key. Typically you arrive at the main dock and are escorted to your table by a host. This time we landed on the back dock near the overnight resort part of the island due to the wind which was roaring on the other side from a passing storm. This was fun because we got to walk through more of the island on the way to the dining room. We spied a life-size chess set and the gorgeous pool as well as a bocce court.

We were seated on the front patio near the piano with a lovely view of the ocean. All tables will have a view of the ocean, but our was extra lovely as we were the only people in our part of the dining room. There are a few tables inside with A/C, but most are out on the porches with fans running. You can start right away or order something from the wonderful wait staff there. Everything, the buffet, the hot menu items, the drink bars is included in the flat rate. You can gorge yourself on the buffet and never order from the menu, but that would be a mistake. The menu has small plate portions and you can order as many as you like or the same ones over and over for as long as you want. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We usually head for the bar and get either a Bloody Mary or mimosa – they have DIY bars set up for both drink types. Mr. Foodie tried his first Bloody Mary, but he is not a fan of tomato juice, so I ended up finishing that one. I made a delicious mimosa with cassis and raspberries. Then we hit the buffet and specifically the seafood – all the delicious shrimp and oysters your heart could desire. In season they have crab legs also. We dabbled in the other items too – cheese, bread, cold salads and veggies, but we went back for the seafood.

Off the hot menu we ordered their famous french toast. While the items on the menu are switched out regularly, this item is always there. I will admit that this was the only small disappointment I had while brunching. The french toast used to be one of the highlights of my trips there, but the past couple visits, it tastes tired. It used to be smaller, taller, and piping hot when it reached the table – with a little butter/cream melting on top and an almond berry flavor in every bite. Now it is still good, but it tastes more like a pastry one has with coffee instead of the decadent thing it once was.

The other menu items were wonderful. My favorite by far was the pork belly ravioli which was actually fried so it was crunchy on the outside. The crunch was great next to the soft and delicious pork belly meat. We also had Jerk Shrimp which was lovely and the pork tenderloin dish was melt in your mouth wonderful. We had seconds of some things. And Mr. Foodie went back in to the buffet later to continue eating shrimp because he loves it so much.

We took breaks which is another great aspect of having brunch here. If you want to get up and walk around the beach or down the dock, you can. You can go stretch out on the beach chairs or dip your toes in the water. You can grab a paper off the piano and read for a bit. No need to rush. The table is yours until you are done and you never feel as though you are tripping over others to enjoy the space. We ended up being there for three hours, but I’ve stayed as long as four (the boat back leaves on the hour). The island itself offers up many visual delights. We’ve seen dolphins feeding off shore, there are always birds flying low, and there is always a key deer sighting. Key deer are unique to the Florida Keys – endangered and protected. They made their way down here and from island to island when the water was so low they could cross easily. Little Palm deer are the friendliest of the bunch often because they anticipate being fed. We don’t feed them, unless the staff offers us their favorite island vegetation to give them, but they come anyway. This little guy jumped up on the patio and tried to nuzzle his way into getting food. The staff eventually got him off the deck and back to his habitat. Don’t be frightened – they are harmless, curious creatures.

Just when you think you couldn’t possibly eat anything more, they bring dessert. You don’t order off a menu, but they bring a large plate with four desserts. If you have a large party, they bring multiple plates, but for us they brought just the one (thankfully). And because we told them it was a birthday present from my parents, they made our plate special. On it we had a meringue puff with berries, a dense chocolate cake, key lime pie, and cream puff with chocolate. The key lime pie was our favorite. We also had their black coffee and it was amazing. I wanted to drink the whole pot. So good.

Eventually we made it back to the boat and back to our island where we promptly took a nap and emerged later to do some yard work before slipping into the pool to cool off. All in all, a great day. If you’re interested in stopping in to Little Palm for brunch, make a reservation here – Sunday is brunch day, but I’ve heard they do Saturday brunches only “in-season” so you might ask. There is a dress code: men need to have collars (but I’d recommend no long sleeves or long pants as it can get warm on the porches). I am in no way affiliated with Little Palm, just a big fan!

Want to follow along with my keys foodie adventures? Use the follow field on the right or check me out on instagram @flkeysfoodie

Mailbox Monday – 3rd Edition

Continuing with my Monday tradition of showcasing another adorable Keys mailbox – because even checking your mail should bring you a bit of happiness in paradise. This week I am excited to finally share all the details of Little Palm’s magic brunch experience and the discovery of a wildly sought-after fruit growing in my own back yard! For sneak peeks and more FL Keys Foodie fun, check us out on Instagram @flkeysfoodie.

A Summerland Saturday

My blog routine was disrupted yesterday because Mr. Foodie and I decided to put his new fishing licence to use. We were also pleasantly surprised to wake up to gorgeous sunny weather since they had been calling for storms all weekend. The water was fairly calm with a slight breeze, so we loaded up the boat and made our way out to open water. Except for the one backtrack to the house because we forgot the bait (still getting the hang of this jump in the boat and go thing), it all went fairly smoothly. Mr. Foodie loves to fish and I’ve been fishing all my life. My father was a big fan of fishing – saltwater and lake fishing. My grandpa was also a fan and would take us out on deep sea fishing trips often. I always caught the most, of course 🙂 

Cute little Yellowtail and Mr. Foodie
When I was eight years old we lived in SoCal, but my parents clearly missed the keys. So they took us on a vacation – a few days fishing the keys and a few days in Disneyworld. Being the peculiar kids we were, we probably liked both activities equally. It became a family joke that I caught everything but what could actually be eaten on that trip. I caught a sting ray, a puffer fish, a lizard fish, and believe it or not a starfish ended up on the end of my hook at one point. 
I’m fairly certain Mr. Foodie fell in love with me all over again when he saw me expertly hook a piece of shrimp and cast for the first time – he likes a lady that can fish. Before we knew it we were getting bites left and right. At first we felt like all we were doing was feeding the fish, but after I started baiting the hooks, we ended up catching the little buggers – emphasis on little. All the fish we caught were undersized. We saw one red snapper, one little hogfish, and a bunch of little yellowtail snappers, but none long enough to take home and grill which was my heart’s desire. Later on, after a trip down google lane, I learned that we were not in deep enough water and didn’t have nearly enough chum to get the big yellowtails. Though we’ve been fishing a lot, we still have a lot to learn about the keys. Even though I didn’t have the pleasure of cleaning and filleting a fish last night, we still had fun fishing and ended up with a tasty dinner designed to use up the remainder of our fresh produce. 
You can see our kitty in the background –
Onyx is loving the keys
We began dinner prep with a little vino in our fancy glasses – these were gifts to my mother from her friends. Each stem has an adorable tropical figurine incorporated. I chose the sharks this time, but my favorites are the mermaid and the octopus. Our object was to use up the remaining zucchini leftover from Italian night and the kale from our Kale-Turkey soup. I hate seeing produce go to waste, but you know how much kale is in a bunch? A lot. I *still* have some leftover that I plan on crisping in the oven to make homemade kale chips later today. To my delight I found this zucchini/Kale casserole recipe for which I already had all the ingredients I needed. This dish is perhaps a little more complex than I’d like for a weeknight meal, but for a weekend one, it was perfect. There are basically three things that need to go on before you pop the whole thing in the oven: steaming the zucchini, making the roux (or cheese sauce as the recipe calls it), and cooking up the ground turkey. 
If you don’t have steam basket (which I don’t), covering the zucchini wheels in a microwave safe dish and zapping them with a little water is the best way to get them steamed – I kept a little bite in mine because I knew they’d continue to cook in the oven. 
You might feel intimidated by a roux – sounds so fancy, right? It is actually incredibly easy for what it offers you – a thickening agent that you can flavor however you like. I use this same recipe when I make my famous mac and cheese (only more of it) and it works for a wide variety of dishes. Just melt 1/4 cup of butter, mix in 1/4 cup of flour and whisk for a couple minutes until it is golden brown (this helps get the flour taste out of it), then add 2 cups warmed milk slowly, mixing as you go – you’ll end up with a creamy sauce to which you can add cheese (off the heat) or, as this recipe suggests, you can pour the sauce and add the cheese in the casserole by hand. 
Finally, when you cook up the turkey, start with sauteing the onion/garlic together, then add the meat, cook, drain (you don’t want excess moisture in a casserole), and you’re done! Layer the ingredients as the recipe suggests and pop in the oven, covered, 30 min at 350 and 10 min uncovered. 
Just look at that beautiful casserole – so cheesy and good
This was absolutely delightful. The cheeses and the veggies were a perfect compliment to one another. It was warm, comforting, and satisfying while also being nutritious and low-carb if you’re into that sort of thing. It was a tasty way to use up our produce.  
Well I’m off to finally enjoy a birthday gift from my parents to Mr. Foodie and I – brunch at Little Palm Island! I’ve been promising you a description of this magic brunch. Want a sneak peak? Pop over to @flkeysfoodie later today. 
Want to follow along with my keys foodie adventures? Use the follow field on the right or check me out on instagram @flkeysfoodie

Stock, Eggs, and Leftover Dinner

T.G.I.F! Yes, even in paradise we can get excited about the weekend. This weekend in particular is a celebration of Ernest Hemingway down in Key West. Yesterday was his birthday! Didn’t know Hemingway was such a fixture down here? Well he is. Writers and artists don’t only flock here for the beauty and light but in hopes that a little of his genius will rub off on them. Touring his former home with one of the knowledgeable docents is a highlight of visiting here. Even if you aren’t a fan of his writing or the man himself, his home gives a unique glimpse into Key West’s history and the impact that man had on its culture. 
While there are many Hemingway-related events planned for the festival, the one that might baffle you the most if you happen to stumble upon it unawares as I did years ago is the Hemingway Look-Alike Contest held down at Sloppy Joe’s. Imagine casually strolling up Duval, rounding a corner, and being surrounded by 50 men in white beards and kakhi shorts. I was take aback to put it mildly. Then I found out that this is a yearly contest and you can see the photos of all the winners hanging on the wall at Sloppy Joe’s all year around. Mr. Foodie and I are determined to spend some time in Key West this weekend, so I might get him a glimpse of that spectacle. 
It might seem silly to end the week with a post about how I usually start the week, but I thought I’d share with you how Mr. Foodie and I usually launch our culinary adventures each week with some routine. I am by no means the first to advocate for doing some food prep on Sunday so you can eat more healthily and save money throughout the week. My prep is not perhaps as comprehensive as some because I have the time each night to do a little prep and cooking (plus I just enjoy it), but if you are strapped for time and/or hate cooking during the week, there are many ideas for prep that will save you time, money, and cooking headache. For us, I like to prepare for the week by hard boiling some eggs and making a chicken stock. 
This might seem silly to most of you who probably love the convenience of picking up a few cans of stock at the grocery store if you are the type to use stock in the first place, but I love making my own. In the first place, having a roast chicken (whether you make it yourself or buy it at the store) to start the week is awesome. You can use the breast meat for soup, salads, and sandwiches. You can munch on the chicken legs anytime or make it part of an informal cheese, bread, chicken leg dinner. You can use the meat to make burritos or casseroles, the list is endless. Then you’re left with this chicken carcass – why let it go to waste? Pop it in a large pasta pot, cover with 8 cups of water, salt and pepper. Peel one medium-large onion and slice in half, put halves in the water. Throw in a handful of baby carrots and the leafy tops and root bottom of a celery bunch. Make sure to toss in any liquid that pooled at the bottom of the chicken roast container (good flavor there). Bring to a boil and then simmer for 40 minutes while you do something else. Use tongs to remove as much of the stuff as possible and a handheld sieve to scoop any other bits from the stock. Et Voila! You have a delicious homemade stock for the week. Upon tasting it you might think it doesn’t taste salty enough because you’re probably used to store-bought, which, like most processed foods, has a lot of salt. Feel free to add more to taste, but know that you will probably be adding it to something or adding something to it that has salt down the road. 
What to do with this stock, then? Sometimes I save it and use it a bit at a time in stir-frys and casseroles (you can also freeze it in bulk or in ice cubes for dashes of flavor that will last you months, but often I go ahead and make a soup for Mr. Foodie and I with the stock. Chicken noodle is, of course, a good choice since you will have leftover carrots and celery from your prep and the chicken breast meat from the roasted chicken. All you need is noodles – this is btw a great way to use up any leftover noodles you have in the pantry, but my favorite noodles to use are whole-wheat spaghetti or egg noodles. The other soup I love making is Kale, bean, turkey soup. Cook up your ground turkey (or mild Italian sausage if you want more flavor) and put it in the stock, add chopped Kale, 1-2 cans of either chickpea or cannellini beans, heat together and serve with fresh pepper and a sprinkle of Parmesan.
While I’m making stock, I always boil eggs using the method my grandma taught me: put eggs in pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, boil for desired amount of time (for hard, 8-10 minutes). Once they are done, drain, add cold water, toss in ice cubes to stop the heating process, pop in egg carton and put in the fridge (or eat! Slightly warm boiled eggs are the best). Since I add mine back to the carton with fresh eggs, I take the onion peel leftover from my stock prep and add it to the water – this dyes the eggs naturally and helps Mr. Foodie distinguish between the boiled and fresh ones in the carton when he goes for a snack.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Leftover Dinner                                                                                                                         Remember those leftover celery and carrots you have? I put them in ziplock bags and we use them for hummus dipping throughout the week! So nothing gets wasted and everything is yummy. This past week I made the Kale soup instead of chicken noodle, so I still had some leftover noodles and meat from the chicken. With that we made a quick angry pasta (saute chopped garlic and red pepper flakes in a little olive oil, add cooked noodles to coat, take off heat and sprinkle with parmesean cheese), microwave-steamed whole green beans (I don’t like microwave veggies usually, but we had them leftover from guests, so I improve them by tossing with hot oil and flavoring like pepper flakes or garlic), and of course chicken breast meat. This dinner took 15 minutes since we were using leftovers. 
Chicken, Angry Pasta, and Green Beans

What do you do to prep for the week? We’ve been thinking about adding prepped salads to the repetoire, but I could use some suggestions for making that work. Feel free to leave comments below. 

Want to follow along with my keys foodie adventures? Use the follow field on the right or check me out on instagram @flkeysfoodie

Galley Grill – Review

One of the mysteries we faced when we first came here was where to have breakfast if we wanted to go out. In the past, we would make elaborate breakfasts at home because we were on vacation so why not? And then we could slip into the pool and digest. No need to wander out. Except for Little Palm brunch (this transcendent experience to be described very near future!). But we were pleased to discover the existence of this little joint Galley Grill right on our own small island! How many times have I driven by this place? Its lot is always full in the mornings, but empty at night, and we learned this is the case because they only serve breakfast and lunch. I like to imagine that they clean up from lunch, hang a sign on the door, and spend the late afternoon/evening fishing.

Biscuits and Gravy
(Btw it is VERY hard to make
this dish look appetizing in a photo)

A friend took us here when my family was visiting because he swears by the place and especially by the biscuits and gravy. Now I am a lover of biscuits and gravy. Everywhere we’ve been on our wild summer of travel so far, I’ve stopped to taste the B&G to see if they know the way to my heart or not. This place definitely does. The biscuits are light, buttery, and the perfect consistency – not crumbly, but flaky. The gravy was the best damned gravy I’ve ever tasted. Not a hint of flour taste which so often creeps in even the best made gravies. The perfect balance of salt, pepper, and sausage. It was creamy without being lumpy or watery. At the risk of sounding like Goldie Locks, it was just right. I ate every bit of that large plate (which only sets you back $6 – also one of the most affordable places I’ve found down here to eat).

Mr. Foodie shares his parfait w/ me

In an effort to be healthy, Mr. Foodie ordered the parfait which was a spectacular display of fruit and granola. It was also quite tasty. The yogurt tasted homemade although I cannot confirm if it was. We of course swapped dishes, so he could try the heavenly gravy also.

The place itself was bright, clean, and decorated with adorable fish and ocean items. The wait staff was prompt, attentive, and friendly. Even the mimosas were tasty (and plentiful). If you happen to be passing through Summerland Key one morning or afternoon (around mile marker 27), look for this happening local favorite and do yourself a favor by stopping in.

Want to follow along with my keys foodie adventures? Use the follow field on the right or check me out on instagram @flkeysfoodie