Post #485 A “New” Diner to Add

June 29, 2016 at 8:59 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #485 A “New” Diner to Add

With the varied work schedules we enjoy, it rare when Partner/Spouse and I have the same time off.  We intersect often, but seldom have a full day or two off together.  When we do, we usually have a list of errands that must be taken care of before we can do much of anything else.  And typically, once the list is complete, so is our energy level, so naps, reading, and television will finish the day out.  The only real solution to that, of course, is to turn our backs on “the list” and do something fun together like take a drive.

We love driving around the peninsula.  We’re constantly finding the treasures and gems hidden on small country roads.  Sometimes, it’s a little village with a country fair going on that’s celebrating something like tomatoes.  It might be an heretofore undiscovered antique store where we find the perfect chair for that spot in the living room for only ten bucks and a little elbow grease.  The thing we’re always keeping our eyes peeled for are the diners.  We love us some diner food, and a diner with atmosphere will pull us back time after time.

So one day last week, we were driving around playing the game of “If we owned that house . . . . ”  We saw some breath-taking houses and could only cringe at the guessed-at prices.  We were about an hour and a half away from home, it was after noon, and we were both getting hungry.  The road sign said there was a town about five miles ahead of us so we decided to check it out.  We drove five miles, then went through the four blocks of houses and businesses, but found no eateries of any kind.  Another mile beyond, we realized first, that had been the “town”, and second, we were in another state.  The second thing didn’t bother us at all.  We’re always winding up somewhere else when we drive.  But we were actively hungry, so after a brief discussion, we turned the car around and headed back where we came from.  Partner/Spouse had spied a small restaurant attached to a gas station several miles back.  It being the closest that we knew about, that’s where we were going, a little leery but keeping our minds open.

What we found was JR’s at Molly’s and it was a total delight.

Molly's

The picture doesn’t do it justice.  There is a gas station on one side of the large building, but there is also an outdoors/sports store in the middle, and a convenience store to service the gas station.  The restaurant takes up the lion’s share of property space.

We didn’t see all the seating area, but the area we were in easily had three dozen tables.  The staff were friendly and attentive.  The menu ranged from breakfast to dinner with all of available all day.

Since it was a new restaurant for us, I ordered one of my standards, a BLT.  Partner/Spouse ordered a hamburger with bacon.  Since he didn’t specify, they automatically served him a double.  He had fries and I had fresh made potato chips.

The menu had several items proclaiming themselves to be so good “It’ll make you slap your granny!”

I almost went for the grilled cheese with bacon and tomato, but decided I didn’t want the cheese.   A little too heavy for the time of day and later plans.  All the meat was locally produced, the kind of thing we love.

The food arrived fairly quickly, but not too quickly which spoke of it being fresh made rather than reheated.  And the homemade chips were EXCELLENT!  I’m a big fan of fried potatoes of just about any kind, but these were really good.

The restaurant was decked out in stone and wood while the tables and chairs were “rough hewn” affairs.  Most of it was bench seating rather than chairs, though there were several chairs and chair pillows.  I took the bench in deference to Partner/Spouse’s back issues.

One thing about the place that struck me was their support for not only the military, but for emergency personnel, too.  Firemen, policemen, EMTs, etc. all got a discount.  We didn’t mention the ER nurse standing we had, but if we had, I’d bet they’d have given us the discount.

Our waitress was a slightly older lady with a sense of humor that rose above the tired air she projected.  Her smile was genuine rather than forced, and she seemed truly interested in talking with us for the few minutes she could.  It was nice.

So this is another hidden gem we’ll be back to over time.

Enjoy

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Post #484 Caprese Again?

June 27, 2016 at 11:50 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #484 Caprese Again?

Summer just started and we’re already inundated with farmer’s markets and roadside vegetable stands.  Part of that is to pull in the tourist traffic on the weekends.  But we love it since we don’t have to actually grow anything and still get cheap vegetables and fruit that taste amazing.  We’re at the beginning of the tomato season which will stretch through September or October depending on weather and the huge number of varieties.  Green beans are good now, too, and lettuces of various kinds are showing up.  So salads are on the table a lot.  Sometimes they’re what I call chunk salads where there is no lettuce but a lot of veggies cut into large-ish chunks.  Other times, they’re the basic salad greens with other veggies nestled inside.  And then, there are the ones I call theme salads.  Theme salads typically have a special name that means that salad made the same way every time and no other.  A good example is a Ceaser salad.

ceaser salad

I had a Ceaser salad last night, matter of fact.

Sidenote:  Whenever I see a salad with croutons on it, I remember a story my younger brother related to me when we were in our early twenties.  He’d been assigned a construction job at a city two hours away from home, so his company put him and his crew up at a hotel and gave them a per diem rate so they could eat every day.  He told me on their last night they went to a really nice restaurant (nice for them, it was probably IHOP) rather than their normal fast food.  He said when they brought his salad “it had dried up, old, stale bread crumbs all over it.”  I laughed and explained those were croutons and were supposed to be there.  His reply was classic.  “I don’t care what they’re called.  I made them take it back and take them off!”

Yesterday at work, a lady came through my check out line with several fresh ripe tomatoes and two balls of mozzarella cheese, among other things.  We got to talking about Caprese Salad, since that’s what she was making that night.

“I just slice the tomatoes and cheese and arrange it in a circle and top it with fresh basil, oil and vinegar, and a sprinkle of salt.”

I thought, “Yeah, that’s how to build a Caprese  salad.”

Caprese Salad

To make a successful Caprese salad, all the ingredients have to be a fresh as possible, and as ripe as possible.  The dressing should be simple to allow the flavors to shine.  If the tomatoes are very fresh and ripe, a light drizzle of olive oil and a very light sprinkle of salt will be all that’s necessary.  I’ve also added a flavored vinegar lightly, usually a fruit flavor like pear or raspberry to add a counterpoint.  Occasionally, I’ll add a few croutons (dried up stale bread crumbs) or nuts/seeds to add a light crunch element.

About a year ago, I posted about this:

tomato stack 01

It’s a Stacked Caprese salad.  You layer the tomato and cheese on top of each other and drizzled the dressing over it all.  It’s different, entertaining, and appealing.  It’s still a Caprese salad because it’s tomato, mozzarella, and basil with dressing, but it’s a twisted version of it.

In my latest cookbook acquisition from ATK called “Essential Recipes”, I found another twist on the Caprese salad.  For the record, I haven’t completed reading all the way through this book, and certainly haven’t tried the salad, but it looks and sounds good, and ATK is reliable so why not?

I’ve included page scans of the picture and recipe.  It’s their recipe; I’m not profiting from it; I’m sharing it to improve the lives of other cooks.  Hope you like it.

Avacdo Caprese.jpg

ATK Pasta Caprese Salad

It says to serve the salad warm, but in summer I prefer chilled salads so I’d chill it for an hour before serving, but only after the cheese had melted a bit, etc.  But that’s just my take on it.

Enjoy

Post #481 Three Wonderful Summertime Cheese Delights

June 22, 2016 at 10:52 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #481 Three Wonderful Summertime Cheese Delights

It’s been a couple of weeks of emotional highs and lows not the least of which is the tragedy in Orlando, the fiasco we call our congress, and another shooting incident.  I’ve been working hard, both on writing and at the store.  Schedules with Partner/Spouse aren’t synching correctly so we have very little time together.  The dogs miss me, and I miss them.  I seem to be sleepy all the time.  I’m constantly thinking about writing and the projects I want to get completed.  I’m constantly thinking about food and writing about it.

Something new is coming in the next couple of weeks.  I’m not going to hint about it, but something is coming.

I’ve been reading recently about “new” recipes involving “old” ingredients.  One of those is feta cheese used in a new way to create a really good appetizer.

I love cheese as an appetizer.  Heck, I love cheese as a whole meal.  One of my favorite sandwiches is a grilled American cheese sandwich with a pickle spear on the side.  I like it plain, and I like it embellished.  I also like crackers and cheddar.  On the weekend, my sister always puts out a spread of various cheeses, crackers, and breads about 3 pm for anyone to nibble on until dinner is ready.

About six months ago, I posted about a restaurant here in our little town that made a great appetizer that’s a nice twist on a baked brie.  Baked brie is simply a wedge of the cheese (which is a semi soft cheese) that’s been wrapped in puff pastry and baked until the pastry is crispy and golden.  It’s served warm and gooey with the pastry providing a nice counterpoint to the melted cheese.

Baked Brie

This restaurant baked a large wedge of brie in homemade puff pastry.  Just before serving, they drizzled a balsamic glaze over the top and added seasonal berries.  It was served with crackers and as we found out, it could feed three people comfortably.  So good!!

Another wonderful cheesy appetizer I’ve posted about in the past is Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken and Swiss.  This one has many steps, but is easy and so delicious!

First, grill two large chicken breasts until cooked thoroughly.  Allow to cool completely then cut into bite-sized pieces.  Cut a block of Swiss cheese into pieces the same size as the chicken.  About half an hour before serving, preheat your oven to 375 and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Place a piece of cheese on top of a piece of chicken and wrap with half a slice of prosciutto.  Make 3-4 per person unless it’s your main dish, then increase to 6-8.  Place on the baking sheet and put in oven.  Bake until the prosciutto is crispy, about 10-15 minutes.  Start checking at 10 minutes.  Serve warm.  Trust me, you will never make too many of these unless your guests are very polite.

However, the recipe I’ve seen floating around the ‘net recently sounds truly phenomenal.  I’ve copied it directly from the site I saw it at (Cooking.com and kudos to the author!), so this is not my recipe and I lay no claim to it.  BUT I can’t wait to try it.  I’ve already started planning ways to dress it up differently.

Feta-master675

Baked Feta with Honey and Berries

  • 1 8-ounce slab Greek feta, blotted dry
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Greek thyme honey, or other honey
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Greek-style pita bread, toasted and cut into wedges
  • Various seasonal berries or vegetables as desired on the side
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Select a small oven-to-table earthenware dish or a small ovenproof sauté pan lined with aluminum foil to help transfer the cheese to a plate after roasting. Place the feta in the dish and cover with the olive oil. Bake until the cheese is soft and springy to the touch but not melted, about 8 minutes.
  2. Preheat the broiler. Heat the honey in the microwave or over a pan of simmering water until it is fluid enough to be spread with a pastry brush and then paint the surface of the feta with it. Broil until the top of the cheese browns and just starts to bubble. Season to taste with black pepper. Serve immediately with pita wedges and, if desired, fresh berries, cherry or grape tomatoes, or any relish or jam or marmalade, sweet or otherwise.  Pickles would be good too.

Enjoy

 

Post #482 Toxic Green Apple Drink

June 20, 2016 at 6:37 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #482 Toxic Green Apple Drink

Dunkin Donuts opened up next to our store a few months ago.  For me, it’s no big deal.  Many of my colleagues have taken to it like gang busters.  They like the coffee and they like the donuts.  But since the weather warmed up, everyone has been drinking an ice slushy style of drink called a coolata.  They come in various flavors and the corresponding day-glo colors.  I’m not kidding, these things would light up under a blacklight.

Dunkin-Donuts-2016-Summer-Coolattas

Like I said, the people at work love these things.  I haven’t tried them, but I’m reasonably certain they’re pretty good.  On a hot day, what’s not to love about fruit flavors and ice?

The first time I saw one, I was on break and sitting outside.  One of my colleagues walked over with the green one.  It was so distinctive and so unusual, and so green, I had to ask.

“What in the flying freak is that?!”

He laughed.  “It’s a sour apple coolata.  Want a taste?  It’s really good.”

I declined.  But last night, I was talking to another colleague and she had the blue one.  I told her about the green one, saying it reminded me of something I couldn’t quite place my brain-finger on.

Then I had it and told her about it:

Years ago, my ex-wife and I lost our cocker spaniel, Shasta, to old age.  It took some time but we were finally ready to get another dog and decided to adopt another rescued animal.  We went to the web page for the cocker spaniel rescue society for cockers in Virginia where we were living at the time.  (Big Shout Out to Oldies But Goodies Cocker Spaniel Rescue.  Yay you guys!!)

We wanted to be responsible doggy parents so we went nuts getting all the right things for our new dog, Sporty, who looked amazingly like the one we’d lost.  One of the things we got, a chew toy, was about the size of a small skillet, made of vegetable material instead of pig’s ears, and was dyed green.

So there we sat like a happy domestic family.  I had a glass of wine; she had a bloody mary; the dog had his treat.  The radio was on some light music; it was a late spring Saturday afternoon.  All was right with the world.  Even dinner plans were just right.

I glanced down at the new dog and exploded with cuss words.

“Where the heck is the chew toy?” I finally asked.

In just a few minutes, he had eaten the entire thing, including the crumbs.  It was an omen for things to come in later years, but we didn’t know it then.  He was a garbage gut.  He ate everything.  I watched him do it.  We chuckled and thought no more about it except to laugh about it occasionally.

The next morning, still feeling like virtuous responsible doggy parents, we decided to take him for a long walk at a nearby park.  We had a brand new leash, a brand new harness, and a brand new dog.  We even had a pocket full of doggy bags in case he had an accident on the pathway.  We were walking six feet off the ground, pride and happiness filling our souls.  Sporty was having a great time sniffing every tree, every bush, every blade of grass.  The few people we met along the path “oohed” and “aahhed” in just the right proportions.  Our smiles would have lit the forest at midnight.

The Sporty squatted to poop.  He was off the path, not quite into the woods, but near enough so we didn’t take out the doggy bags.  Then some toxic green sludge that looked like it was the by product from a nuclear plant came out of his butt.  And we freaked!

“What is that shit?” I asked no one in particular, not unaware of the pun

“What happened?” she asked.  “Is he sick?”

My mind was already thinking about the Sunday vet, their hours, and their hourly cost.  I was hastily racing through everything that had happened since 3 o’clock the previous day when we’d brought him home.

“It’s that chew toy!” I said with relief.  “Remember?  That vegetable one, it was green.”

“It wasn’t that color green.” she replied.

I shrugged.  “Who knows what happened to it inside his gut.  Let’s just not give those to him anymore.”

We walked on, happy to have figured it out and knowing that our dog wasn’t sick or nuclear toxic.  We had him for years after that and he ate his way through several pairs of my expensive cross trainers, multiple rolls of paper towels, and dozens of books and magazines.  And gaining weight along the way.  He was a great dog.

By the time I was done telling the story, we were both doubled over in laughter.

“And that toxic sludge,” I gasped, “Was the same color as that sour apple drink from the other day.”

It was, but I don’t think it was meant to.  Bet it still tasted good.

Enjoy

Post #481 A Day After Another Tragedy

June 13, 2016 at 10:56 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I’ll apologize in advance as this will not be the standard food-based fluffy post I’d intended writing today.  Today, I’m just not feeling it.  What I’m feeling is angry, saddened, and disheartened.  Yet another senseless attack by a gun-wielding terrorist and 49 people are dead and scores of others are wounded.  Families are ripped apart and a community has to rebuild all because one person listened.

gay_pride_flag

We all grew up hearing the cutesy poem “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  In one sense that’s true.  I’ve had people call me the vilest things they can think of and try to crush my spirit but I let the words pass by with hardly a ripple.  I get angry but let the anger pass (although sometimes it takes a while.)  In another sense, though, that poem is wrong.  When the wrong person listens to the words, and believes them, and acts on them, words can hurt.

We now live in a country where people in a public and national forum can say the most irresponsible things about whatever they choose and not have to take responsibility for those words and the havoc they cause.  We now live in a country where it’s okay to kill children in a classroom rather than try to enact responsible laws to control the weapons being used.  We now live in a country where it’s considered normal to incite the populace to murder our leaders then act surprised when people listen.

I’m not pointing fingers at any single political candidate, or political party, although I could.  I’m pointing fingers at myself, and my fellow citizens for allowing this to happen.

Words have power.  As a writer, I know this.  This has been true since Man first learned to communicate.

Someone listened to irresponsible words and took action.  That action resulted in death, carnage, and sorrow.

Is that what we’re about as a nation?  As people?  Aren’t we always told that we’re here to help each other?

In these situations, most people feel helpless.  What can they actually do?  Most of the time, we’re so far removed from the actual event, either by distance or experience, we don’t know what would be best.  So many people offer “thoughts and prayers.”

To those few people that I know who truly act their religious beliefs, I accept those thoughts and prayers.

Yesterday’s tragedy was not a “senseless act of violence”.  It was a very targeted attack on a group of people for a very specific reason.  To those who have spent their lives adding fuel to the fires of hatred against that group of people, against me, I say keep your thoughts and prayers.  They are meaningless.  They are less than nothing to me and my bothers and sisters.  Give me, instead, your actions.  Give me the laws that will protect me from these attacks.  Give me the respect as another human being on this planet that you would accord yourself.  Give me more than platitudes.  Give me something real.

For those who don’t know what to do for those in Orlando, give your time, your money, your blood.  Give your hugs.  Give your love.  Most importantly, give your vote.

Words have power, so I’ll leave you with the final words one victim texted to his mother as he waited in a bathroom in the club.

“He’s coming.”

” I’m gonna die.”

It’s taken me several hours to write these few words.  I get angry as I think about all we could have done to prevent this.  I get angry as I think about how some people are trying to turn this from its homophobic attack aspect, as though homosexuals weren’t the targeted victims.  I get angry as I see people trying to turn this to their advantage, or into something it’s not.  I get angry as I see people turning judgmental.  I start going off track when I’m angry and the words become jumbled, almost incoherent.  So I read back until it stops making sense and delete everything after that.  I try to remember what it is I want to say and get out a few more words before the anger comes back.  I don’t like being angry.

I’ll have a food post on Wednesday.  Till then I’ll leave you with some powerful words,

No More Hate

 

 

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