Historical Baking: Gingerbread from American Cake

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One of our wedding shower gifts was this amazing American Cake cookbook given to me by my awesome bridesmaid Becca. I have quite a collection of cookbooks now thanks to my generous family and friends. I definitely have a high bar for cookbooks – I want narrative, drama, personal stories! And of course great recipes. What rocks about American Cake is the history the book presents of cake in American culture. The author, Anne Byrn, writes about cakes in a chronological order, updating some early American recipes to make it easy for a modern cook to replicate. Each recipe contains more little side bars with interesting historical facts or chef’s notes. It is a pleasure to look at, to read, and to cook from.

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Most everyone who has eaten my food has tasted my ginger molasses cookies at some point (the recipe for which I still owe you), so I naturally gravitated toward the American Gingerbread recipe in the first chapter. According to Anne, this recipe is the second of seven versions of gingerbread provided by Amelia Simmons who wrote the first American cookbook in 1796. This version is not the kind of gingerbread you roll out and cut for cookies or press into a mold; this gingerbread is more cake-like which I found immensely intriguing. My ginger-molasses cookie is also softer and more cake-like than normal ginger cookies.

And just like my version of ginger cookies, this cake was amazingly easy to pull together. The only advance prep is softening the butter to room temperature and dissolving the baking soda (which I have a huge appreciation for after reading Anne’s historical account of how it revolutionized baking) in water.

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Pretty-kitty was dying for a taste

Anne suggests blending the first few ingredients with a wooden spoon to, I suppose, mimic the way it was made in early America. I, however, used the stand mixer which worked out perfectly. 35 minutes at 375 and a 20 minute rest = one delicious gingerbread-cake. By itself the cooked molasses flavor is a bit strong, but Anne suggests serving each slice with a bit of cream poured over it. Since all we have is French Vanilla (for coffee!), that is what we used. The combination was heavenly. It was soft and spongey, spicey and warm. The cream softened the strong flavors and turned this treat into a comfort dish.

This would make a freaking delicious breakfast pastry, afternoon tea-snack, or dessert. Winter’s coming! And this dish is worth every minute.

No. 2 Gingerbread (American Gingerbread) by Anne Byrn

1 tsp baking soda

1 Cup boiling water

1 Cup molasses

2 large eggs

1/2 Cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp

1/2 Cup white sugar

2 Cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

Butter a 8″ x 9″ baking pan and preheat the oven to 375. Boil 1 Cup of water and dissolve the baking soda inside it. Set aside.

(This is a deviation from Anne’s directions) Put softened butter, molasses, eggs, sugar, flour, ginger, cinnamon, and allspice into the stand mixer and mix together on low until combined (scrape sides if necessary). Then add in the baking soda water and mix on low for a full minute.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. Let rest on cooling rack for 20 minutes. Serve with a bit of cream if you like.

Chicken and Waffles

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I already wrote about how spoiled Mr. Foodie and I were by our friends and family at the wedding shower last week, but I didn’t say that one of our special gifts was a waffle iron! I love pancakes and all, but they are the trickiest thing I ever make, and my mom still makes better pancakes than I. Waffles, on the other hand… I’m pretty good at those. If I were to write a culinary memoir, moving to the south from the west would feature my introduction to Chicken and Waffles as a dish. I remember the first time I saw it on a menu at Next Door, the Northeast DC restaurant next door to Ben’s Chili Bowl. I balked at the combination, but it dawned on me that the sweet bready waffle would pair perfectly with the crunchy, salty chicken. And a love affair was born. Now this is by no means a healthy dish, but I did my part to “lighten” it as much as possible.

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I used whole wheat panko bread crumbs on the chicken and oven-“fried” it instead of deep-frying it. I bought the healthiest pancake mix I could find – 1) yes I use pancake mix for waffles because I find it browns better than the beefed up waffle mix and 2) no, I did not make them from scratch because I have yet to find a recipe I like. Since I’ve never owned a waffle iron as an adult, I’m still working on finding recipes I like, and I’m open to suggestions!

The chicken is an adapted version of Cat Cora’s “Crispy ‘Fried’ Chicken” in Cooking from the Hip (a cookbook I LOVE btw). She uses buttermilk, mustard, and corn flakes to bread the chicken. I used whole wheat panko crumbs and egg/mustard for a similar effect. I am also low on spices, but she calls for adding cayenne and paprika depending on your tastes. What I love about her version is the combination of the tangy mustard, the tickle of spice, and the sweet corn flake. Her recipe uses bone-in chicken, so I adjust cooking time for chicken fingers w/out bone.

I put the chicken on top of the waffle and add a simple maple syrup and a basic homemade gravy (3T butter, 3T flour, Can of stock, salt/pepper). The combination is amazing. The rich gravy and sweet syrup play so nicely with the spicy chicken and soft waffle. Mmmmmm. It’s stick-to-your-ribs comfort food at its finest and a good way to stretch chicken. In the past, I’ve cut up the waffle and made smaller portions. Mr. Foodie and I wolfed ours down and proceeded into a mini-food coma for an hour. Good thing we ate early. Now we can take a walk before dark.

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Chicken and Waffles Recipe (serves 2 w/ some leftover chicken)

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

7 strips of chicken breast (1-2 breasts depending on size)

1 Cup All-Purpose Flour

Salt and Pepper

2 Eggs

2 Tablespoons Spicy Brown Mustard

1 Tsp Cayenne Pepper

1 Cup Whole Wheat Panko Bread Crumbs

Waffle Mix (2 Cups dry – makes two good sized waffles in reg iron)

3 Tablespoons butter

3 Tablespoons flour

1 Can Stock

Maple Syrup

Oil a baking sheet with the olive oil and preheat oven to 425 F. Dredge the chicken strips in flour, salt, and pepper mixture, shaking off excess. Dip floured chicken into egg, mustard, cayenne pepper mixture. Finally, dip floured, egged chicken into panko bread crumbs. I recommend doing this one strip at a time and using one hand to dip the chicken into flour and one to dip into egg and panko crumbs (to reduce mess). Put breaded chickens on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Lower heat to 375 and bake for another 5-7 minutes (depending on your oven – look for crispy edges and clear juice when cut).

While chicken is cooking, mix pancake mix according to box instructions (or use a favorite recipe). Get waffle iron good and hot before pouring in the mix. Spray with a light coat of butter/oil spray. Pour in the mix and wait to turn for a minute or so. Don’t worry, steam will escape as the waffle cooks. Be patient and you will have nice, fluffy, but crispy waffles.

Just before serving, melt the butter and then whisk in the flour, stirring constantly over medium heat to cook the roux. After two minutes, pour in the stock while whisking. Cook, stirring often, over medium-low heat until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon.

Assemble your waffles and chicken, pour on the syrup and gravy – enjoy!

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Camping, Eating, Boating

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All my blogging ambitions fell by the wayside upon returning home with Mr. Foodie because I’ve been having *SO* much fun! First my wonderful bridesmaids took me on a dream bachelorette weekend to our college town where we drank beer and wine and gossiped late into the evenings. Then we had my bridal shower which was held on a Tuesday night (#unconventionalbutawesome) where we drank *MORE* wine and Mr. Foodie and I were spoiled ROTTEN with the most amazing presents (including my dishes and dining table which I whined about earlier – and nearly all cooking-related gifts ;)). Finally, this past weekend, we went camping with the family and friends – a thing we used to do regularly, but not for many years.

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Let me tell you, when we camp, we camp it up. On the one hand, we sleep in tents, in sleeping bags, on the ground (well on an air mattress -who are we kidding? #toooldforthatshit), but on the other hand, we bring a HUGE smoker and make amateur foodie dream-meals. One time we had a tent the whole purpose of which was to be the “bar.” This year, Mr. Foodie and I volunteered to make the first night’s dinner. Knowing that we’d be setting up the first day and half our crew wouldn’t be arriving until late in the evening, we wanted to make it as easy and delicious as possible. We arrived at chicken/veggie foil packets with rice. I tried to replicate my future-mother-in-law’s rice because it is amazing, but ended up with only normalish rice, but still tasty. We cooked the rice ahead of time and sealed it in a plastic bag. We also opted for precooked, but frozen chicken strips which we paired with sliced zucchini, squash, onion, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. It was a gamble, but we were betting that the veggies would cook and chicken would defrost at around the same time if we popped them on the grill off direct heat. It worked! Everyone said our packets were delicious and I can confirm. It was also super easy and a great alternative to the old hotdog camping standby.

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My mother volunteered the first breakfast, and I thought I’d share her solution to feeding 20+ people breakfast while camping – freezer bag omelettes! To make it easier, she used egg beaters so folks could pick up a bag, pour their desired amount of egg inside, add toppings, and seal it. Then you add up to 8 bags into a boiling pot of water for approximately* 13 minutes. The hitch in this version was boiling the water on the smoker – the pot got so hot it started to melt the bags when they touched the sides. We also had to adjust the cooking time significantly – *13 minutes works well if you only have the equivalent of 1-2 eggs in the bag, but most folks poured more than that (plus I suspect egg beaters cook up differently than fresh eggs). So it took longer, we had to watch the bags so they didn’t melt, etc. but eventually we got our omelettes. The toppings were definitely the best part, and in theory I am a fan of the whole omelettes-by-the-dozen concept, but next time I’ll be using real eggs, portioning them exactly, and using a regular camp stove to boil the water.

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All in all, a great weekend of camping, eating, and boating! What camp-meal tricks do you like to use? Please share with us!

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Lake Anna

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Zucchini Boat Lasagna

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Mr. Foodie and I are currently operating without a dining table and with only four sets of dishes – not problematic in the big scheme of life, but for people who love to cook, eat, and generally enjoy one another’s company over a table before and after work, it is something of a hardship. These days I’m washing dishes frequently and finding dinners that you can easily eat with one hand while perching on the couch. Enter Zucchini Boat Lasagna! We already shared with you our recipe for Zucchini Noodle Lasagna, but this time I decided to do boats. The upside of this version is twofold: 1) It takes way less prep time and 2) You can eat it with just a fork in one hand (whereas the noodle version benefits from the use of a knife).

Mr. Foodie is not generally a fan of zucchini, but he likes the way I prepare it. In his family, they make these delicious cored, stuffed, and cooked zucchinis with a rich tomato sauce. Someday I will ask his mom to show me again how to make it so I can share it with you! In the meantime, you must be satisfied with this easy, light lasagna dish. In our preparation, the zucchini boat itself is cooked, but still al dente – it would not do to overcook it so it becomes a mushy boat. It is also, as with lasagna in general, a very adaptable dish. We used ground turkey this time, but any ground meat (or even shredded chicken) would work well here. We used ricotta and mozzarella, but you can change that up to include your favorite cheeses, like we did using goat cheese last time we made the noodle version of this dish. You can make your own tomato sauce, but we used a local jarred favorite.

Our version is inspired by Jacklyn from Cooking Classy. To make the boats, cut the stem end off the zucchini and stand on the cut end. Slice the zucchini in half length wise, being careful to keep both halves roughly the same size. Then using a small spoon, scrape the seeds and flesh from the inside of each half, being careful to leave 1/4 inch of flesh inside the zucchini halves. Don’t scrape too vigorously or you’ll end up ripping the skin or taking too much flesh away. I did this while Mr. Foodie cooked the ground turkey. He added some Italian seasonings and poured the sauce in on top to warm it. I also made the cheese mixture (details below).And that is all the prep you need! We did it together in 15 minutes flat – just enough time to warm up the oven. I love having someone who loves to cook as much as I do. Dinner prep is so much more fun, we can chat about our days while we do it, and in the end we can share a meal that we both worked on.

The boats were delicious and absolutely easy to eat with one hand. The thin cheese mixture layer added just enough salt and tang to brighten up the cooked zucchini, and the ground turkey with sauce was garlicky and juicy. Two boats each were more than enough and very satisfying  for us, so we had the added bonus of leftovers for lunch the next day! Don’t be intimidated by the prep work for these -they really are the easiest version of lasagna (and the healthiest) that I’ve ever made.

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Zucchini Boat Lasagna Recipe

Four medium sized zucchinis, stemmed, halved, cored

1 lb Ground Turkey (or other ground meat)

Salt and Pepper

Pinch Italian Seasoning (and/or garlic powder)

1 Jar Tomato Sauce of choice (or homemade)

1/2 C Light Ricotta Cheese

1/2 C Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

1 Egg

Preheat the oven at 400 degrees. Cut the stems off zucchini, slice each in half to make even halves. Core each half with small spoon, leaving 1/4 inch of flesh in skin. Place all halves in a lightly greased baking dish with high sides, cavity facing up. Cook ground turkey over medium heat, seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning (a little goes a long way). When meat is cooked, drain off any excess liquid, add tomato sauce to the pan and warm through. In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cups of mozzarella and ricotta with egg to form a cheese spread. Begin by dropping tablespoonful of cheese mixture into each zucchini half, then spreading it out in the cavity. Top this layer with some of the meat/sauce mixture. The mixture will over-fill edges of the boats, but that is okay, as a little shrinking happens in the oven. Do this for all zucchini halves. Pop in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Pull out, sprinkle with a little more mozzarella and either put back in for a few more minutes to melt, or let it melt on its own while it rests (you will want to let it rest a bit because it will be HOT at first). Enjoy!

Do you have a twist on traditional lasagna that you like to make? I would love to hear about it – lasagna is one of my favorite flavor combos!

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Kale, Cannellini, & Chicken Soup

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In case you missed it on instagram, we are finally moved in to our new/old home and gearing up for more cooking and eating adventures. We miss the keys already (mostly the water!), but are so happy to be back among family and friends. I wish I had a picture of it, but all our kitchen equipment arrived safely in two enormous plastic bins. I even got a bonus kitchen treat upon arrival – my mother’s Hummel spice rack! There is a mysterious lid to a missing jar (that probably broke during one of our 17 moves from my childhood), and I cannot for the life of me figure out which spice it might hold.

In any case, I break into a smile every time I see my little rows of spice jars. I can’t wait to fill them all up. Mr. Foodie and I have only just re-started to cook for ourselves in the kitchen, having hooked up the gas (omg, I missed my gas stove SO MUCH) and procured basic groceries. We still have occasional hang-ups that remind us we are not fully back to normal – and it is amazing how much I take for granted having certain things on hand all the time (tin foil, tape, olive oil, flour). Because we purged before leaving, we have the added issue of having some things, but not others. I am probably the only woman on the planet who still has her citrus zester while lacking a toaster. Whereas I am used to settling a house in three days or less (my mom was very good at the moving thing), Mr. Foodie has had to reign me in – we can’t go buy all new stuff right now, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I kind of like starting over a little. I had been living with the same things I had since college for years. Now we can take our time, comparison shop, read reviews, etc. It also feels more like “our ” home this time around. Before, it was *my* home into which Mr. Foodie brought clothes and games. Now when we get something new, we decide on it together.

As I scroll through my instagram and remember the crazy, wild year we’ve had, I’ve also made a resolution to transplant some of the enthusiasm I had for Kansas or the Fl Keys into my life here. It is easy to feel curious and excited about a new place, but I want to try to feel that way (even just occasionally) about my old/new home. I guess one upside of traveling this year has been to snap me out of my rut. I’m back in the game, and it feels great!

I’ve already shared with you our weekly ritual of making homemade chicken stock, but below I offer the recipe to our Kale, Cannellini, and Chicken soup. The first version I made included mild italian sausage instead of chicken, which I prefer, but #weddingdiets. The beauty of this soup is you can mix it up – have ground turkey instead of chicken? good! prefer black eyed peas instead of cannellini beans? go for it! You can change the greens too, although I’d recommend staying in the family of tough greens that stand up to time -this soup is good even three days after I make it, and the Kale keeps its crunchy, bitter bite even then. A sprinkle of parmesean on top and some cracked pepper sends this soup over the top. Pair with some white wine and crusty bread (if you’re not on a #weddingdiet) and enjoy!

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Kale, Cannellini, Chicken Soup

2 Quarts (8 C) of Chicken Stock (homemade or store-bought)

2 15 oz Cans of Cannellini Beans with juice

1/2 Bunch Kale Leaves, chopped

2 Cooked Chicken Breasts, shredded (or less if the breasts are large – mine are smaller as they come from the chicken whose bones I use to make the stock)

salt and pepper to taste

garnish of parmesean cheese

Bring stock to a boil and add beans, kale leaves, shredded chicken, and pinches of salt/pepper. Boil for 4-5 min until Kale leaves have darkened and wilt (they will keep their texture for the most part, but boiling softens their bitterness). Ladle into bowls, add garnish and taste for seasoning. You can substitute the chicken with ground turkey or sausage and the kale for other bitter greens if desired.

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A FL Keys Farewell Treat: Key Lime Pie

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It is perhaps fitting that the last thing I make in my beloved Keys this year is a Key Lime Pie. I didn’t plan it that way. I just thought that after 9 weeks it was time to test this iconic dish, so I grabbed the shockingly few ingredients required to make it and set forth, only half paying attention as the mixture was whipping away, while we began packing. You see, dear readers, Mr. Foodie and I are moving back to VA in the coming days. Back to our small, but pretty little condo and our friends and family. I am torn between sadness and excitement because I will miss so much about living here. The water most of all. But I am also looking forward to so much back home. Seeing my loved ones. Cooking in my kitchen. Shopping at a grocery store with more than one kind of fresh herb for sale at a time.

I’m almost finished reading As Always Julia: The Letters of Julia Child & Avis Devoto and I’m struck with how resilient Julia was through all the moving and the major disappointments she faced with her cookbook, and by her dedication to her work nonetheless. Her letters to Avis do not, perhaps, reflect those nights she woke up sobbing with anxiety and despair, but these two friends were as open with each other as they could be separated by so much distance. As I stood over our two long, large plastic bins trying to get all my kitchen equipment to fit properly, I was reminded of Julia and it fortified me. This will be our fourth two-day car ride this year. We’re both looking forward to returning home. And yet, I’m so glad we came here because it gave me this blog. I have always wanted to have one like this, but a nagging voice always said it was a waste of time. I had more important things to do. Moving here gave me the excuse – “our family and friends will know what we’ve been up to lately.” And it helped me fill some lonely hours. It inspired us to try new adventures. It forced us out of the house to meet new people and eat good food. It made me fall in love all over again with Mr. Foodie.

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I won’t let it go, even though I will cease to be a resident of the fl keys. I’m having too much fun! And all I can think about is how many cool places and good eats I want to share with you from my hometown. And all the recipes I still owe you. And all the new things I have yet to try. With that I will give you the recipe for this beautiful Key Lime Pie that I made. I was proud beyond measure with the texture of the custard – firm, but light. And the flavor! Tart, but creamy and made whole by buttery graham cracker and sweet whipped cream. Victoria Shearer provides an excellent history of key lime pie in her book, but I’ll just briefly say that this pie evolved here because of how few fresh ingredients it required – canned condensed milk for instance -and of course because of the abundance of key limes that grow here.

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Key Lime Pie

Crust (we bought a baked crust from the grocery store, but I might make my own next time for a better texture)

  • 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs from 9 (2 1/4-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh or bottled Key lime juice (if using bottled, preferably Manhattan brand)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together crust ingredients and press into a pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool on a rack. In a stand mixer bowl, combine filling ingredients and whisk on medium for 4-5 minutes or until the mixture has thickened slightly. Once the pie shell is cool, pour the filling into the pie shell. Tap if necessary to even it out. Bake in 350 oven for 15 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours (I let mine sit overnight). Garnish with whipped cream (we used store-bought, but homemade is soooo much better) and a lime wedge if desired (note: if you put whipped cream on the pie, it will dissolve after a few minutes, so make sure you wait until ready to serve to do this).

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We’ll be on the move and unpacking in the next few days, but you will still be able to find us here cooking and blogging about our new food adventures. Have you made key lime pie before? Did you play with this basic recipe? If so, how?

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Kickin’ It In Key West

[Warning: this is a long post full of borderline food porn deliciousness. I cannot be held responsible if it inspires you to spend all your money coming  to paradise just so you can stuff your face]

I’ve already written about how much I like when the Keys get their moment in the spotlight because I want everyone to love these islands as much as I do. Being a foodie, I am especially excited when other foodies take note of the offerings down here. To my delight, Paula Deen is just the tip of the iceburg! Bobby Flay has also filmed an episode in the keys, hitting Cheeca Lodge and Spa in Islamorada, The Fish House in Key Largo, and, my favorite, the Little Palm Island Resort brunch which I blogged about not too long ago. “Man v. Food” was also filmed here in 2011 and Vanilla Ice was featured (you know I saw him in “concert” in college? It was $1 to get in!).

But in 2014, Food Network star Guy Fieri’s show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives showcased three Key West joints. Being a major fan of this show and this chef, I was more than a little excited to see if Guy’s recommendations held up. Below is our evaluation of each of the three places featured in the Kicking It in Key West episode.

Bad Boy Burrito

Mr. Foodie and I were in this part of town running errands, so we decided to pop in and see if the burritos at Bad Boy Burrito were as good as Guy thought when he was here. There is a tiny (two space) parking lot in front of the joint with some surrounding street parking. The burrito ordering window backs up against a bar which luckily allows you to use their tables inside and out to eat your burrito. The bar itself was dark, divey, and definitely had a keys vibe. IMG_20160819_114225.jpg

As a number of reviews note, the lady at the window was not particularly friendly, but she was efficient and fast, so we were satisfied. Our burritos came out fairly quickly and we chose to eat them from inside the bar since it was a hot day. 20160819_114731.jpg

As you can see from my rather blurry picture, the burrito was packed with the carnitas we had ordered as well as sliced radishes, rice, cheese, verde and black beans. There were a number of toppings you could have added, and Mr. Foodie went with sour cream, cheese, and peppers. The tortilla was grilled, but not homemade. The ingredients were full of flavor, but needed to be mixed inside the burrito more. I could see what some people were saying about the burrito not having a “wow” factor as they were expecting. Perhaps the hype is just too high. We found it overall satisfying and priced reasonably ($8), but not as good as the carnitas bowl at Amigos, for example.

Garbo’s Grill

Every so often Mr. Foodie and I like to pop down to Key West for a few hours and see the sights (otherwise known as “stuff our faces with food“). The last weekend in August was Museum Weekend during which you could get free or BOGO museum tickets (kids are almost always free on this weekend) which is a screaming deal considering that most Key West attractions are $15/adult, so Mr. Foodie and I decided to take advantage and go to Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum because he had never been. Most people have never heard of Mel Fisher let alone the reason he might have a museum, but my family has known him/known about him for years. Mel is credited with discovering the Atocha shipwreck – a Spanish galleon ship laden with treasure that sunk on a reef in the early 1600s. It has a fascinating history, and the museum does an outstanding job telling both the history of its cultural past as well as its artifact present. It also does an excellent job of showcasing the discipline of underwater archaeology and Mel’s life. My mother tells me about how she used to see Mel walking the streets of Key West with a large gold chain dangling from his neck, mingling with the locals. He found the wreck on July 20, 1985. Years later in 1998, she was both saddened and lucky to catch a glimpse of the clipper ships heading out during sunset to scatter Mel’s ashes over the site after he had passed away. He is definitely a fixture in the local lore.

Before heading over to Mel Fisher’s Museum, however, we stopped to grab a bite at Garbo’s Grill to see, again, if Guy’s hype was worth it. It was. This little grill is housed in a silver retro-looking camper behind a bar named Grunts. In a pretty courtyard with Edison light bulbs strung overhead you can wait for your order while sipping a cola or head inside the bar to knock back a beer.

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Mr. Foodie ordered the Umami Burger which cost $10.50 and was worth every penny. The burger is 80/20 angus beef with bacon, tomato, and a chipotle gouda – a seemingly basic/classic combination, but man what a burger! It was juicy, rich, and bursting with flavor. If I was the type to say “mouth feel” I would say that my mouth felt good.

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I didn’t quite have meal envy, though, because I chose the Kogi Dog ($8.50) and almost wouldn’t let Mr. Foodie have a bite – it was that good. In the first place, it doesn’t even look like a hot dog when it comes.

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Can you see a dog in there?! The complete list of ingredients includes: National deli quarter pound dog, house made kimchi fried cheese, sesame mayo, napa cabbage, carrots, daikon scallions, citrus soy dressing and sriracha. That impressive line-up does things to your soul as you dive in to savor the juiciest hot dog you’ve ever tasted with bright pops of spice and cool slivers of slaw. Forget about being lady-like. You will go through 10 napkins before you’re through and still have sauce all over your face. And yet, it isn’t heavy with sauce or moisture, but balanced on a perfectly toasted bun wrapped in that kimchi fried cheese. Um, you had me at kimchi.

Let’s just say that it lives up to the hype and more. I will be dreaming about this dog for years to come. It was so good that even though it started raining on us, Mr. Foodie and I kept eating. It was only when lightning struck so close as to make our hair stand on end that we pulled up from the deliciousness and sought the shelter of the Museum.

DJ’s Clam Shack

We finally made it around to the third location included in Guy’s Triple D show about Key West – DJ’s Clam Shack. As the name suggests, it is a tiny shack-like structure sitting open to the street on Duval (the main drag) with street-side as well as backyard seating.

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The staff was clearly having a good time, and we found their energy was contagious! We chose street-side seating and ordered the Garlic Steamed Middle Neck Clams and Crab Cakes with a sangria and beer. Mr. Foodie never met a crab cake he wouldn’t at least try, being a lover of all things involving crab meat, so I wasn’t surprised when he ordered them. My crab preferences extend to the juicy leg and claw meat, but not often to crab cakes which I find to be either too full of breading or too fishy tasting. But man did these ones blow. me. away. Those delicate round patties were melt-in-your mouth good with a creamy, perfectly seasoned flavor. Despite being packed with meat and only lightly held together by breading, it did not taste fishy at all. The sweet thai chili sauce that came with them amplified their goodness, lending the creamy patty a sweet-hot pat on the back. They were hands down the best I’ve ever had, and even Mr. Foodie was impressed.

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We are both huge fans of mussels in broth, so we were eager to taste the clam version that DJ’s offered up. The broth was a garlic base with a stimulating jalapeno kick, but mellowed throughout with a sweeping hand of herbs and lemon. The clams themselves were perfectly cooked, flavored fully with the gorgeous broth, and accompanied by a crusty, also garlicky, bread to sop up the remaining broth. I scooped. I sopped. And then slurped straight from the bowl.

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While our whole meal was a little pricey for what is essentially street eats, we felt it was more than worth it – as was the Triple D hype. It’s right on Duval. You have no excuse to miss it and every reason to run there from your hotel or cruise ship.

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Selfie w/ Guy’s Autograph!

This concludes our evaluation of the three locations featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Not a bad line-up! I have a few more FL Keys diners and dives that Guy could add to the list, but these three didn’t disappoint. If you did your own Triple D episode, what diners, drive-ins, or dives would you include?

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Cooking Together: Soft Pretzels Part Duex and Yellow Rice

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Yesterday as I was chopping onions and Mr. Foodie was rolling dough, I thought of how wonderful it was to have found someone with whom my soul sings. While Mr. Foodie is not as crazy obsessed with food as I am (reading about it, going *way* out of the way to eat it, cooking it even when we’re dog tired, etc.), he is always game to go along with my schemes and is responsible for more than his share of culinary inspirations. It was his idea to re-do the soft pretzels because we were still unsatisfied with the yeasty taste of our last batch. I was throwing together an easy enchilada dish and trying to make yellow rice for the first time. He had patiently steered the cart through the “foreign” aisle and spice aisle in our limited grocery store while I was looking for annatto (or poor-man’s saffron) to make the yellow rice. He picked up some more yeast thinking he’d like to retackle the pretzels sometime.

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No time like the present! When I came up from my first swim in days (thank you hurricane-like weather), he had just finished the first rise. This time Mr. Foodie adapted the recipe from The Kitchn, adding garlic powder and a bit more flour than was called for to make the dough less tacky. As you can see from the photo, the “skin” of the pretzels did not come out as brown as the last batch, but man were these delicious. No yeasty-flavor this time. Just light, flaky bread with the tiniest hint of garlic at the back and the perfect amount of salt on top – provided by this excellent seasoned salt that my mom brought back with her from our trip to Austria a couple years ago. I didn’t miss the brown crust or baking-soda taste it can often have. These were, perhaps, closer to dinner roles, but they still held up perfectly to a bit of mustard. Beauties they are not, but I found myself sneaking bites off the rack all throughout my dinner prep.

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The enchiladas I made are the most basic recipe – cooked onions and 1/2 green pepper w/ shredded chicken meat I pulled off our roast chicken for the week, canned red enchilada sauce (I wanted green, but they were out), and regular shredded jack cheese. Assemble, bake for 30 min at 350 or until bubbling. Because I was using all the meat from a roast chicken, it made a LOT of enchiladas – a whole 9×13 casserole of them. That’s okay as Mr. Foodie and I like to take breaks from prepping dinner to just eat leftovers sometimes. To make them more filling (and because we prefer the flavor) we used whole wheat tortillas. Don’t they look delicious?

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Yellow rice is something I’ve had for years in restaurants all over the place, but never once tried to make at home. My rice is basic – stove top, fluffy, white. Mr. Foodie doesn’t *love* rice or pasta as much as some people do (me), but he will eat it as the bed of whatever entree I’m making. I’ve decided that 2016 is the year I learn how to make different rices to expand my repertoire. I have this recipe from the FL Keys foodie authority Victoria Shearer whose recipe book on Keys cooking inspired me to start this blog! I have been very pleased with the recipes I’ve made from her book, although for many of them I use substitutions because of the number of expensive or one-off ingredients she calls for (had I a walk-in pantry and a small fortune I’d invest in these, but alas).

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In this case she asks you to cook a cup of chopped onion and a cup of green pepper until softened, then add water, annatto, salt and pepper and chopped two plum tomatoes. Bring to a boil, add rice, and simmer for 25+ minutes to cook the rice. It cooked up beautifully and I loved the onion/pepper to rice ratio here. The only critique I had was about flavor. Supposedly the annatto does more than color the rice, flavor wise, but I found the rice was significantly underseasoned. I would have replaced the water with stock, maybe thrown in some chili powder, at least put a bit more salt and pepper than was called for. We both had to add salt at the table, which pains me. The color and texture were perfect, though.

All in all, not a bad night in the foodie department. And I got to test and retest dishes with the man I love. The man who brings me coffee in the morning. The man who cleans all the dishes after our epic cooking feats. The man who patiently holds the cart while I practically body-check an old lady trying to get to the annatto. 🙂

Recipe for Yellow Rice from The Florida Keys Cookbook by Victoria Shearer

1 C Vidalia Onion chopped

1 C Green Pepper, chopped

1 1/2 C Water

2 Plum Tomatoes, chopped

1/4 teaspoon annatto

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 C Rice

Cook onion and green pepper until softened. Add water, tomatoes, and spices and bring to a boil. Add rice and stir until boiling again. Turn down heat and simmer for 25-30 min until rice is fully cooked (ours took 25 min and even had a little crust on the bottom which was tasty). I would recommend the following amendments: replace water with stock, increase salt and pepper and/or add 1/2 teaspoon chili powder if you like a bit of heat.

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