And so, I’m back. Back from outer space. With that sad look upon my face, but I will survive. Sorry for taking that mini-blog vacation for the last few days, but I hope that you enjoyed the picture show. We are back in Saint Louis now. Anne, Dan and I, having driven yesterday across the foggy Midwestern plains. The new Toy Yoda handled like a dream. The Force was definitely with us. David had jetted off to Rochester the day before. He is spending New Years with Maren’s family. With his new job, he has limited vacation time. Technically he is a writer now too. I guess you could say that I am also technically a writer, but don’t say it very loud or too often. It might go to my head. Britt lands in the Lou today. Dan will pick her up in his “new” Prius. Before Dave took off, Anne and I and the boys luncheoned at Zola Bistro, which is across Washtenaw from Chez Harry’s place. Both Anne and I had the pictured Shakshuka. Zola was a very impressive establishment, in an interesting, if too crowded upscale strip mall. It came complete with a My Urban Toddler store, for future yuppies of America. The next day, on our way out of town, Jane joined us at Mark’s Mid-Town Coney Island for more conventional breakfast fare. There, I think that I am all caught up on all the news that you need-to-know. I’m ready to slide into 2020.
Jingle bells, Santa smells, ah hell, bah humbug!
I slaved, literally slaved, over a hot stove, to make these imitation Samoas cookies. They may be homely, as well as homemade, but they tasted finer than those much more manufactured Girl Scout originals. Think of theirs as attack of the clones and mine as true Jedi warriors. Available in Star Wars themes? Not.
Imagine molten caramel and bubbling hot, boiling chocolate, all layered with toasted coconut on top. Double boiled, because, heaven forbid, you can’t scorch your sweets. And as I learned after snapping my first two donut shaped wafers:
If the caramel-coconut mixture thickens too much at any point while pressing it onto the cookies, return it to the double-boiler and warm it until it’s spreadable again.
That was an understatement. Spreading caramel is best done directly from its molten cauldron, preferably with a too hot to handle metal knife. Otherwise the stuff will freeze mid-spread.
Making this “easy” to create recipe was way more difficult than advertised, but that’s not my main complaint, not by half. Its purported preparation time was less than twenty minutes. The seven pictured cookies represent just one hour’s production rate. I made 35 cookies. Which means I performed five hours worth of backbreaking labor and I now have the sore back to prove it.
Still, I persisted. All of this work was for a Christmas cookie party that we annually attend. Anne and I worked right up until the last moment. They were a big hit! I felt so pleased with our afternoon labors that I felt no compunction to make cookies at the party. Every party has a pooper, that’s why you invited me.
David and Maren made it into town last night. Their flight was on time. In fact the only delay came with our pickup. The line of cars trying to get into arrivals was so long that we ended up diverting to departures, where there was no line. Maren and Dave had to schlep their bags upstairs, but other than that everything else went fine and we were on our way in no time. Since then it has been nonstop cooking. Our new stove is getting its baptism by fire, as they say. Speaking of fire, the crème brûlée was a big hit, but not near as much as the little blowtorch that I have that turns sugar into brûlée. Six of us were standing around in the kitchen last night, taking turns at browning the contents of our ramekins. I think that some people enjoyed doing that a little too much. At least we didn’t burn the house down. I’m thinking of bringing the blowtorch with us this summer, when we go camping. Most of the parks don’t allow open fires, because of the constant fire danger. We have a stove that cooks fine, but last year I saw another camper cooking hotdogs with his portable flamethrower. I was green with envy. I guess a blowtorch or even a flamethrower is not considered open fire. Now if I can only talk Anne into letting me do something like that too? Maybe asking for forgiveness would be easier than permission.
Eight sticks of butter, three pints of cream, whatever does this mean? Separated eggs, yolks from whites. Sugar, lots of sugar, some white some brown. Crème brûlée for dessert tonight. Along with a variation of Jane’s chicken enchiladas. Vegetarian, so sans chicken. Anne is rolling tomorrow’s pie crusts. Croissants to set out tonight, letting their dough rise, for early morning baking. Trying to get as much done as possible today, because tomorrow will be a very busy day in the kitchen.
Dave and Maren are due in tonight. Hippity hopping southwest from Boston on Southwest. A couple of Beantown buckaroos brought to us by aeroplane, hippity hopping home, here in the Lou. Could be a late night though, what with weather.
As usual, I dropped Anne off at school first thing this morning. I then headed to the grocery store. Pictured is most of today’s haul. I later shopped two other chains, supplementing our grocery goods. I beat the Thanksgiving crowds, but I didn’t exactly have the aisles all to myself. Vendors and stock boys were busy restocking the shelves, in preparation for today’s rout. Pallets littered the aisles. The checker was amazed that I had managed to fit as much as I had into one of the smaller carts. In addition to shopping, I laundered, made beds and cleaned the bathroom, making for quite the demolition domestic derby.
All of this domesticity got me my steps for the day, but one of my errands should reap even more steps in the future. As part of our Medicare coverage, we are also covered by something called Silver Sneakers. This program grants us access to numerous fitness centers. In particular the one closest to us that is run by our city, The Heights. I got my swipe-able key fob and come the next rainy, snowy or just plain cold day (It’s 68 °F today.), I will have no excuse to still not to get some exercise. Unfortunately, the pool at the Heights is undergoing major renovation and is closed into next year. Not to worry, there is also the YMCA. Once all this recently purchased food is eaten, a lot more exercise will be in order. So, shop ’till you drop, but then drop and give me twenty.
As we wade into Thanksgiving, the menu is set and our guests are schedule to arrive. Some grocery shopping still remains, but that can wait until an off-peak hour. Our guests will have to battle not one or two, but three winter storms to get here and once home, a rainy wet weekend will greet them. A triathlon of cooking awaits us and is sure to test both our culinary skills and physical endurance. Anne and I are both looking forward to this holiday with the kids.
We went out to dinner last night. Mayo Ketchup is a new restaurant, located off of Lafayette Square. It got a big write-up in the paper, which is what attracted us. It features Caribbean cuisine, in particular a mix from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba. This fast-casual restaurant gets its name from the place’s go to condiment. Squeeze bottles of a mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise adorn all the tables and comes in regular and spicy varieties. I got the reporter’s favorite, a roasted pork bowl. While, Anne had a chicken bowl. Anne was able to talk food with the hostess and recounted some of Harry’s Puerto Rican dishes, which seemed to impress her.
As they say, “winter is coming.” I don’t know what came first, the chicken or the egg or in this case Mayo Ketchup or our next snowbird getaway. I spent most of the day surfing for winter beach vacations and just barely avoided all of those dog surfing videos. We finally hit upon St. John in the American Virgin Islands. I booked flights and an Air B&B in Cruz Bay, the island’s main port. This will be the third year in a row that we have headed south. Unlike the past two trips, on this one we won’t be driving. In the first summer of my retirement, we tested international travel, by driving to Quebec City, the most European city in North America. Since that went well, the plan here is somewhat similar. Being a US territory, St. John is technically not international. No passport is required, but since they drive on the wrong side of the road, it should still have that vibe. It seemed like a good place to get our feet wet, sorta speak.
We’ll fly into the neighboring island of St. Thomas, taxi across it and then ferry to Cruz Bay. Most of St. John is a National Park, on land originally purchased by the Rockefellers. It is less crowded and less touristy than its bigger neighbor. There are plenty of fine beaches, coral reefs and tropical nature around to see. We’ll likely walk, taxi or take the bus to get around. There are still lingering effects from 2017’s Hurricane Irma and crime is an issue on the islands, but we’ll do our best, not to suffer Death in Paradise. Apparently there is more truth to that show’s murder rate than you might believe. We’re trying to see as much of the world as we can, before our final fossilization.