Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jonah's Fish & Grits - Review

We headed up to Thomasville, Georgia to Jonah's for dinner on the actual day of my birthday, and then had birthday dinner with very sweet friends the next night at Decent Pizza. We hadn't eaten at Jonah's before but had heard good things, and they turned out to be true!

We shared a complementary plate of hush puppies and the Cyclone Shrimp (cornmeal battered, deep fried and tossed in a spicy citrus aioli sauce) for an appetizer. C also enjoyed a cup of grouper chowder. For dinner, he had blackened Shrimp & Scallops with grilled veggies for his side:

I had their signature dish, Shrimp & Grits. Not only was it chock-full-of-vegetables amazing, it was enough to feed an army. I had two lunches from the leftovers!

The staff was welcoming and down-to-earth, the prices reasonable and the food very good. Bottom line: it's definitely worth the trip to drive up for a meal at Jonah's. One caveat - they don't serve wine or beer (or any alcohol) - next time, we'll stop at the Sweet Grass Dairy Retail Shop for a drink and appetizer first!

Jonah's Fish & Grits
109 East Jackson Street
Thomasville, GA 31757

Monday, January 30, 2012

Chinese New Year Dinner

A week ago Sunday, at T's request, we prepared a "take out remix" dinner from Guy's Big Bite. We even invested in a wok, which we have never used before. Here's the recap (I'll include the recipe at the end):

stir frying the marinated chicken

out goes the chicken, in go the veggies (onions, celery, carrots - somehow we forgot the red bell pepper!)

add snap peas and shiitake mushrooms

serve with sauce over the Hong Kong noodles

Our only trouble is the grocery store didn't have true chow mein noodles (only the crunchy kind used for toppings) so we substituted spaghetti, which didn't crisp up the way it should have. Next time we'll try Mike's Seafood and Oriental Market, recommended by our friend Sara! In any event, this was really delicious and didn't last long; T loved the sauce - hoisin being barbecue sauce it was not a surprise! 

Hong Kong Style Noodles with Chicken and Vegetables
1/4 cup soy sauce, divided
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons chili garlic paste
4 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
2 cups chicken breast, cut 1/4-inch slices, skinless
16 ounces chow mein noodles
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup 1/8-inch julienne white onion
1/2 cup 1/4-inch strips red bell pepper
1 cup 1/4-inch sticks cut carrot
1 cup 1/2-inch bias cut celery
1/2 cup 1/2-inch strips shiitake mushrooms
3/4 cup 1/2-inch strips snow peas
1 cup mung bean sprouts
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup strips green onions

In a re-sealable plastic bag add, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, ginger, garlic, chili garlic paste, 2 tablespoons cornstarch and mix thoroughly, then add chicken and marinate for 1 hour.

In a medium stock pot boil water and cook chow mein noodles until al dente, remove and shock in ice bath, shake dry and toss with 2 tablespoons oil to keep from sticking.

In a large saute pan or wok, heat 2 tablespoons oil to almost smoke point and add chicken, separating each peace upon entry. Cook until browned on all sides. Remove and hold warm.

In same wok, add 2 tablespoons oil. Heat until almost the smoke point, then add the onions, bell peppers, carrots and celery., Saute for 2 minutes then add mushrooms, peas and bean sprouts. Cook for 1 minute, then add chicken saute for 1 minute, add hoisin, 3 tablespoons soy sauce and sesame oil, toss and remove.

Heat a 12-inch nonstick saute pan, add 3 tablespoons oil, heat to almost smoke point, and add chilled chow mein noodles. Cook on one side until crispy light golden brown. Flip noodles and another 2 tablespoons of oil and cook other side. When done, remove and let drain on paper towels, while holding warm.

Mix 2 tablespoons cornstarch and chicken stock, and deglaze hot wok with mixture and let reduce by one-third.

Place noodles on a rimmed serving platter, top with chicken and vegetable saute, and pour chicken reduction over top. Garnish with green onions.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

This Week's Veggies and Fruit

 LOTS of great stuff this week: (clockwise from upper left corner) two kinds of lettuce, Napa cabbage, carrots, sweet potatoes, grapefruit and baby butternut squash.

look at that gorgeous Napa cabbage!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sweet Pea Cafe - Review

Our 'localtarian' group of Twitter friends met for dinner Thursday at a vegan restaurant that opened last year, Sweet Pea Cafe. It's a little place that sources many of its ingredients locally and specializes in sandwiches and brunch items. After you order at the counter, your food is delivered to your table. Extra points if you bring your own water glass or coffee mug (or take out container, if your order is to go).
Cute, right? Photo from the restaurant's blog
There are a few tables inside and a large patio with covered seating outside. It was a cool night so I doubled up on my hoodies and wore my coziest scarf and was able to share my scarf with a chilly friend. 
John's photo he tweeted to Paula from dinner (she was in Orlando for work)
clockwise from bottom left - Jenn, Marc, Chris, Britain, Barbara, Jon, Bill, me, C, Abe (and Sara)
For dinner, I had a salad and the soup of the day which was Potato Bisque. The salad was great, very fresh with homemade croutons. The soup was warm and cozy and interesting - different from any potato soup I've had before. The secret ingredient may have been tahini. 
my soup and salad
A friend had the Buffalo Fried Tofu (Panko fried tofu tossed in buffalo sauce with lettuce and tomato on multigrain oat bread) with poutine on the side (fries with chz and gravy). The fries are hand-cut and were delicious. Even the gravy and cheese tasted like they should (pretty impressive considering there are no dairy or meat products in either). 
buffalo fried tofu
Chris R had the quesadillas (Cheddar chz in a whole wheat, white, or gluten-free tortilla, w/ salsa & sour crm) with poutine on the side:

Bill had the Reuben (Sautéed tempeh (Artie's- Gainesville, Fl), house ruby sauerkraut, melted mozzarella chz & million island dressing on toasted Rye) and really enjoyed it. He is a big Reuben fan and said that once you let go of the fact that it had no meat that the textures and flavors were really great together. (Sorry no pic of that one but it was pretty with red sauerkraut.)

One of the highlights of the evening (besides the great company) was the amazing carrot cake. It was so good I asked if it was really vegan! Chock full of carrots and raisins - and the slices are giant.
yummmm. photo from the restaurant's facebook page.

Besides encouraging their customers to bring their own cups, Sweet Pea Cafe also composts pretty much all of its garbage. The farm that delivers their produce picks up the compost while they're there! 
My first thought was, "Thomas will love this!" Thanks Abe for the photo!
The owners/chefs were lovely and answered all our questions with patience and good humor. I definitely recommend this not only for our vegan and vegetarian friends but for anyone who wants a good meal in a friendly atmosphere. 

Sweet Pea Cafe 
832 West Tharpe Street
Tallahasseee, FL 32303

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I admit I have not seen these advertised, but we received Eggies "As Seen on TV" as a holiday gift and thought it would be fun to test them out and report on how it went.

The idea behind Eggies is you can make hard boiled eggs without the shell. It's not quite as fast and easy as the packaging would have you believe. First you wash all the pieces-parts. Each Eggie has 4 pieces times 6 Eggies equals 24 pieces-parts. Next dry and then coat the inside of 2 big pieces-parts with oil. Last you assemble the parts, leaving off the cap. 

Finally you're ready to put the eggs in the Eggies. It takes a little skill to get the whole egg inside the hole without breaking the yolk. After putting on the caps, you put the filled Eggies in a pot of water, deep enough to float them, and turn on the heat. There are specific instructions on how long to cook them (the count down starts when the water starts to simmer). 

The interesting thing is the Eggies are pretty big so there is a lot of air space. That means the yolk can float to the top - which means it has less contact with the heat - which means it takes longer than you expect it will to completely cook through. It also means they look interesting when they're cooked!
Like half a giant egg, right?

We had some egg whites leftover after making custard the day before so we tried making hard boiled egg whites. They were supposed to take less time to cook through (whites cook faster than yolks?) but we had the same trouble - where the top center of each one could have been cooked longer. We also had a small leak that sealed itself once the egg started to set up. It looked pretty cool though:

Overall it was a pretty interesting experiment - and the no-peel eggs tasted fine. If you really hate peeling eggs, give them a try. Otherwise, they are probably more work than they're worth!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Making our Study a Study

If you've been to our house, you know that we treat the room meant to be our formal dining room as a study. It is chock full of bookcases, books and puzzles. We had a small computer desk that was inevitably covered in what we affectionately call "my crap" - magazines, old mail, pictures, newspaper clippings, office supplies, there it all was. I spared myself and didn't take any "before" pictures.

As a surprise, while his dad was running the Relay in south Florida, Thomas and I put together a new desk and file cabinet for the space (and cleared out all the crap too!). There is a second desk coming that will give us lots of room to spread out and work. 
We put a power strip on the window sill to make it easy to plug in laptops, etc. 
Our next project is to trim the bush outside the window!

The second desk will go right along the wall to the right of the file cabinet.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

An Unquenchable Thirst

When I saw this tweet it piqued my interest. I'm always looking for a good book to read and am partial to memoirs.

An Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service, and an Authentic Life is fascinating. I am about half way through - her story is so compelling. If you've ever wondered what it's like to be a nun, or to take vows of chastity or poverty, this is a glimpse into the convent.
“Readers . . . will find themselves transported into another world by this powerful, revealing memoir. An aspirant to the Missionaries of Charity at age nineteen, the author spent twenty years living a life both extraordinarily simple and heart-wrenchingly complex. Johnson skillfully demonstrates this juxtaposition through her writing—mundane events, such as gathering eggs or learning to play the piano, often have tragic or miraculous implications. . . . [Johnson’s] memoir is exceptional.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

This Week's Veggies and Fruit

sweet potatoes, acorn squash, green peppers, tupelo honey and oranges

(frost last week took out some of the greens)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Loving Local Citrus

Our Twitter friend John, who knows about T's love of juicing fruit, invited us over so T could pick some oranges from his trees. We stopped by last Tuesday and were so impressed by John's generosity - he let T pick a whole tree clean! T is not known for doing well in new situations, but give him a good farming task, and he is right in his element. He picked so much the bag was almost full!

After all the picking (and saying, 'thank you,' he reminds me as I write this), T practically could not wait to get home and get to work.

Special juice deserves a special glass, right?
Yes, T keeps fancy glasses in the freezer for occasions like this!
In the background, more goodies from John: a grapefruit and 2 tangerines

T picked two kinds of oranges: Chinotto and navel. Chinotto is a cold-hardy variety that comes to the US from China via Italy. There is a kind of chinotto that is sour but these are pretty sweet. In the photo of the bag, the chinottos are the smaller guys, the navels the larger ones.  

We split the grapefruit for breakfast Wednesday - delicious!!
Thanks, John!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Flashback: 2004 Trip to St. Joe State Park

In January 2004, we spent a couple days in a rustic cabin at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, just a few miles north of where we drove on the beach last week. Being back there again in the winter reminded me of how the white sand looks like snow - though of course this was diminished this visit by the 70 degree weather! The upper end of the peninsula has big sand dunes (not present at Cape San Blas). They are reportedly some of the highest in the US.

When we visited in 2004, the weather was cold with day time temps in the 40s. Climbing up and over the sand dunes to get to the beach in our winter jackets made me do a double take - in that kind of winter mindset the sand really looks like snow:

Here is a view of the dunes from the beach. I love that you can see my foot prints, though it definitely looks less like snow from this angle. 

Look how little a 5 and 1/2 year old T was! 

 We saw lots of wildlife at the park, including this buck (above) and doe (below), who were just wandering in and near the road near the park entrance on our arrival.

Another great feature of the park is access to beautiful sunrises and sunsets - here is the sunrise over the bay:

T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park
8899 Cape San Blas Road
Port St. Joe, Florida 32456
(850) 227-1327
Camping/Cabin Reservations

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's Eve Feasting

For New Year's Eve, rather than a traditional dinner, we had an evening of snacking with a variety of meats, cheeses, fruit and other goodies. Here are the highlights:
homemade pretzels (working on perfecting the recipe here)

fancy sausages and salamis and mustards 

Vermont Creamery chevre (goat cheese) with fig-walnut confit, 
Point Reyes blue cheese and a nice aged cheddar with grapes and raspberries

These are peppadews - Guy Fieri loves them so we had to try them! Spicy and sweet at the same time, I found them on the olive bar at Fresh Market. We also had stuffed banana peppers. 

Some of our favorite accompaniments to the sausage - yummy handmade beer-thyme mustard (a gift from our friend Brooke) and 2 kinds of horseradish. (In case you're wondering Atomic is the truly hot one; the good-n-hot is hot but won't make you pound your fist on the table!)

A few other goodies we tried for the first time and loved: L'Epicuriun Fig and Walnut Confit (a fancy word for jam! super delicious with goat cheese, just like the label says), Edmond Fallel Seed-Style Mustard (nicely balanced with a hint of horseradish-y spiciness) and Stonewall Kitchen Caramelized Onion Mustard (perfect for pretzel dipping). 

Hope you all had a happy New Year's Eve with lots of good eating!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Year in GOOD Things

Last month, when I voted for Crescent City Cafe* to win a $5000 grant from GOOD, I signed up for the daily email. I've really enjoyed their positive messages.
Our once-a-day email, The Daily GOOD, explores and amplifies the best in grassroots initiatives, up-and-coming organizations, and inspiring ideas making small steps toward a big impact—if you haven't signed up yet, you're missing out. This year, The Daily GOOD unearthed hundreds of "good" things, but we've scaled that down to a few favorites on a variety of topics we love—like food, design, and giving back to the community.
I wish I could embed their "top good things of 2011" slideshow (which you can see here). Since I can't here's an example of the goodness:
This year saw the sustainable food movement taken more seriously than ever by big players in the private sector, most notably supermarkets. One rising star in the industry is BrightFarms, a startup that plans to open three greenhouses on the rooftops of chain supermarkets by the end of next year. The greatest part of this concept? Food miles are reduced to zero when you buy produce where it's grown.

See also:
In.gredients, one of the world's only packaging-free grocery stores, opening soon in Austin, Texas.
Photo courtesy of BrightFarms
See the full slideshow here.
Sign up for The Daily GOOD at http://www.good.is/

*I learned about Crescent City Cafe on Twitter. One of the founders is an Alpha Chi Omega sister from Loyola University in New Orleans. And, yes, they won the contest and the $5000 grant!
The mission of the Crescent City Cafe is to serve breakfast to New Orleans’ homeless and low-income residents with dignity and to connect young adults together in service to our community.... Founded in February 2009, the cafe simulates a restaurant, complete with breakfast specials that change each month.... The Crescent City Café serves people who are homeless with dignity. We greet them, seat them and request their food and beverage order. We demonstrate respect. We transfer hope. And we hope that through our actions, homeless stops being a brand and starts being a circumstance – a real crisis that a real person is currently experiencing.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Getting a Beach Driving Permit

A few quick tips from us on getting a permit to drive on the beach in Gulf County.

When you go to the Gulf County Courthouse, you'll need your license and registration. Note there are metal detectors at the entrance so leave your change in the car!

The drivers license office in Room 100 handles the permits. (The website says it's Room 147 so ignore that.) There is a little bit of paperwork to fill out - the forms are not online; you'll have to take care of that in person.

Gulf County Court House
Port St. Joe, FL 32456
(850) 227-5628
Monday - Friday 9:30am - 4:30pm EST
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