The Gull Reef Club

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7/12/2017 · 4:22 pm· Trouble · Half of Us Are Wrong or in the Alternative, Half of Us Are Right
I've been following the saga and cataloging links of interest that contain more than mere rhetoric.... | Read More

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11/8/2014

Flying Through Fall

Filed under: — Jaime @ 5:37 pm

October, as usual, proved to be a very busy month, and November is starting out the same. I’m not complaining, but it’s left me with little time to keep up on writing and sharing the minutia of my life.

First, let’s backtrack all the way back to my birthday dinner. This year was one of the best yet, not only for the quality of the food, but because it provided Mike with a whole new level of challenge. I opted for a strip steak (quality ribeyes not being available). The challenge for Mike was that it was to be sous-vide. As expected, he met the challenge, successfully made a sous-vide machine, and we feasted on some of the best, and most accurately cooked, medium rare steaks ever tasted. I should add that after we removed the steaks from their bags, we used our handy blowtorch to fire the sides of the steak, giving it the needed grilled char. Thanks Mike! I have no idea what is in store for next year.

The rest of the month included Mike’s birthday, which he intentionally keeps low key (which continues to befuddle me). Then it was prepping for a camping trip.

Earlier this week, Mike and I returned from said camping trip at the Stephen C. Foster State Park in the Okeefenokee Swamp. It was a short, but wonderful journey. I highly recommend going – if you can find it. It is extremely remote. GPS doesn’t work so well out in the swamplands. Learn to read maps, kids. It may be your only back up.

The wildlife was in abundance, but bugs at a minimum since it was cooler. It struck me at some point on the trip that the last time we camped in a swamp (Big Cypress, Y2K New Years), we returned home and vowed to move south, which we then did. Having been living in the coastal south now for so long, I’m wise enough to know it is the bugs in the summer that would prevent me from running away to live in the swamps. I can say it has inspired me to pick up my mandolin again (it’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve bothered with it). The reality is that I can’t bring my bass rig to a campsite. Well, at least not without a ridiculous amount of effort. New strings are on their way.

The highlight of the trip was our self-navigated boat trip into the swamp. Feel free to check out our pics from that boat trip. We journeyed about ten miles in, in one direction. It was pretty intense at times with the waterway being only slighter larger than our low riding john boat and alligators on all sides, who like to plunge into the water at the boat as you near them. I wish we were able to take more photos of the birds, but they were so fast. The large birds were in abundance, though – storks, cranes, herons, hawks. Overall, a fantastic trip, and one I would like to make again, maybe next fall.

Upon my return to civilization, I did what any modern American would do, and checked my email. In the three days I was away, Facebook had emailed me six times to let me know that it had been awhile since I last logged in and there were notifications and messages waiting for me. Twice a day for three days? Really, Facebook? Holy crap, kick it down a notch you needy baby. Of course, I’ve turned this into an experiment and have not logged into FB for over a week. I’m still getting about two messages a day. I assume eventually FB will start threatening to leave me, or suspend me, or whatever is the equivalent of a person-needy social media website break up. I won’t let it get that far. I won’t be able to resist cross-posting this very post to my wall. FB will be pleased it has lured me back. Unfortunately, I now have to go through the bother of figuring out FB’s intentionally confusing preference settings in order to not receive anymore of these notifications. I do refuse to be harassed by a bot.

Next up, Thanksgiving prep. The grandest meal of the year. Planning begins next week.

9/28/2014

Was Kuchen

Filed under: — Jaime @ 10:35 pm

Cool weather means cinnamon. What better way to indulge than a little, er large, struesselkuchen? Never tried this recipe, and I’m still learning my way around the bundt pan (though, truly, there’s not a lot to learn but grease, grease, grease that pan). I anticipate it will be pretty good. Especially with some hot cider.

3/5/2014

Ghost or Gravity?

Filed under: — Jaime @ 7:13 pm

In preparing to share the following story, I searched The Gull Reef Club to determine if I had ever shared my previous, one and only, ghost-in-my-old-house story, and apparently I have not. So I owe you that one. I’ve already committed to the title of this post, therefore, you get the second ghost story first.

While I’ve not been convinced ghosts are real, I like the creative, sci-fi speculation ghost stories provide. Now, for your own edification and speculation: A few nights ago, Mike and I were in the kitchen preparing dinner. I went to the cabinet where we keep croutons to get them for our salads. I open the cabinet and a single item falls out, nearly on my head – the croutons. I joked that it was the ghost of the former lady of the kitchen who must have also been short of height and felt sorry for me. I then said out loud to the kitchen generally, “Thank you, Esther Neidlinger!” (Mrs. Neidlinger was one of the many former residents of my home, approximately from the late 40s/early 50s through late 60s).

As soon as I did that, the salad dressing sitting on the prep cart falls to the ground. I remarked to Mike, “Less skeptical people would have been sure we were visited by the ghost of Esther Neidlinger just now.” Of course he piles on, “Or maybe you named the wrong ghost and now he or she is mad at you.” Uh-oh! Or maybe we just had a strong surge of gravitational pull localized solely to our kitchen.

I really don’t know what happened there. Probably just a series of nicely timed coincidences. I promise to post my other ghost-in-my-old-house story and then you can decide if we are haunted.

12/4/2013

Post Gobble

Filed under: — Jaime @ 10:51 pm

The Christmas tree is already up and decorated. The lights are strung outside, and tourist season in Christmas Village is nearly underway. So, before I get too engrossed in Christmas enchantments, I want to revisit Thanksgiving and share the run-down of yet another wonderful meal.

Mike, as usual, went above and beyond what normal humans should be capable of doing and created some amazing dishes. If I can ever figure out how he can go three days on a total of about 5 hours sleep, I’ll let you know.

Of course, we had the traditional dishes:

Turkey – We had two this year again. Despite this fact, we only really had one day of leftovers. Big thanks to my sister and brother-in-law for use of Kitchen North. For those of you who don’t know, they live only about 800 feet to the north of our house. They also happen to have an oven that is only a month or so old. That’s where we cooked the turkeys, freeing up our kitchen, aka Kitchen South, for everything else. It was a fabulous arrangement, but I think we may need to get a wagon for next year.

Gravy – This is a major production, and truly the most important part of the meal. Family fights have been known to break out when there is no or not enough gravy (See: the Pork Loin incident, circa 1999, and the Counter Gravy incident, circa 2005). Mike started the stock for the gravy (and stuffing) on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and let it go for over 48 hours. It was as dark as beef gravy and so delicious, I could have eaten it as soup. We still have a little left if anyone needs some killer, concentrated stock.

Ancillaries – Stuffing, Mashed potatoes (I overcooked them, and they were rather dry, sorry everyone), two dishes of Sweet potatoes, one with pecans, one with nutstitute (for the nut-allergic), Green Bean Casserole, Rolls, Collard Greens, Cranberry sauce (homemade of course!), and hot, mulled apple cider. The static dessert courses of homemade vanilla ice cream, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie (complete with homemade crusts) were on the table as well. I feel like I’m forgetting something…

Every year, we have also have rotating courses (meaning they are different every year, not spinning on your plate). This year, like most others, the rotators were the soup and dessert courses. For the soups, Mike did a hot and cold. The hot soup was a corn gumbo, complete with a nearly-brick roux. This was supplemented with a little white rice, green pepper and habanero purees (separate purees, they were not combo’d), bacon bits, and parmesan twills. The cold soup was similar to one we did a few years ago in that it was served parfait style. There were alternating layers of maple syrup/acorn squash and of apple/lime purees, each layer being separated by a quasi-crème fraiche. Quasi because it would not set right and we had to cheat and add a dollop of sour cream to get it rolling. They both turned out quite well. I particularly loved the apple-lime puree and could have eaten it like it was apple(lime) sauce. Tangy!

The other rotating course was dessert. If I could give awards for brainstorm of the year, Mike gets it. He opted to go with a ‘Cranberries Three Ways’ theme. Way One was that he used some of the ice cream and made mini (shot glass size) cranberry shakes. Way Two was that he raised dough and made sugar-rolled donuts filled with cranberry jelly (yes, he made the jelly too). They turned out a bit like Chinese donuts but soooo much better. Way Three was probably my favorite, and it seemed to be the favorite of most of our guests. For Way Three, he made traditional Southern-style banana pudding, but (wait for it….) he replaced the bananas with cranberries. Oh yeah! The tartness of the cranberries perfectly off-set the hyper-sweetness of the pudding (yes, again, homemade) and Nilla Wafers (store bought). Oh! Almost forgot the meringue. There was that on the pudding, too. I absolutely will be demanding he make the cranberry pudding again, but probably without the meringue, which is a little too sweet for my tastes. I really want some right now, in fact. Miiiiiike!

Before I wrap up, I do have one complaint. Well maybe not a full-on complaint, but more of a minor mystery combined with slight annoyance. We have a new(ish) refrigerator. We got it this spring. During the holiday, it started flashing the six-month reminder light that we needed to change the filters in it (there are three). One of our dinner guests reset the light and it is no longer flashing to remind us that we need to change the filters. So anyone want to fess up? Are you the one who is so anal, so pedantic, that you simply had to push buttons that were not yours? I’m mostly just curious – you will not be uninvited next year if you do confess.

It was a great Thanksgiving, with great company. Despite all the work and lack of sleep, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Gobble, gobble, beachcombers!

12/26/2012

Orange Christmas

Filed under: — Jaime @ 3:14 am

Another Christmas has pretty much come and gone. This was a quite a good year. I’ll try to get around for for reflection before come as we close upon the year. For now, I really just wanted to show off some of the delicious orange harvest Mike and I were part of on Christmas Eve Eve, right here in Savannah:
Savannah Oranges
Thanks to Jen and Mark for letting us join in.

Yet more affirmation on why I live on the Southeast coast. Hope your holiday was as orange and bright.

Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, Peace on Earth (and other nearby planets).

12/4/2012

In Memoriam of Gobbling

Filed under: — Jaime @ 3:11 am

It’s December and Thanksgiving is now the farthest thing from most of our minds. However, I can’t let this year go without posting the menu. So, without further ado –

We had the usual line up: roasted turkey, gravy (based on stock started nearly a week prior), stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes (with pecans or nutstitute), green bean casserole, cranberry sauce (homemade, with homegrown calamondins), collard greens, and rolls. We also continued our traditions of pumpkin and pecan pies with homemade crusts.

The bonus courses this year were dual duets of hot and cold soups, as well as an apple-based dessert. I’ll do my best to describe all of these, however all credit for not only conceptualizing but executing goes to Mike. The cold soups were served side by side in the same dish separated by homemade crème fraîche. On one was a granny smith apple with lime soup garnished with a candied cranberry; on the other side was an acorn squash, maple syrup soup, with walnut dust. The hot soups were a roasted green pepper puree served in a mini parmesan bowl which was served in a larger parmesan bowl of roasted corn chowder with peppered bacon, all with a slice of lime. The soups were stunningly-good, my favorite being the corn chowder (but not by much).

After the killer meal, we saved just enough room to finish off our stomachs and top off our esophagi with dessert. In addition to the aforementioned pie, we also carried on a more recent tradition of homemade ice cream – vanilla. Along with the ice cream, Mike served us up with some filo dough cinnamon-sugar-walnut cigars, and cinnamon/stewed/diced apples, nearly neon green apple syrup, and cinnamon syrup (both syrups being homemade). I’d highly recommend cinnamon syrup. It was like liquid french toast.

There we have it. Thanksgiving for all its posterity. Save room for next year!

11/27/2012

Plate Full of Leftovers

Filed under: — Jaime @ 4:15 am

Some weeks are so much more worthwhile than others. Of course, those same weeks tend to be the ones spent in a lack-of-sleep induced stupor, such as Thanksgiving week.

As many of you know, we host the feast here. This year was the biggest blow out yet. At our table were 10 of our friends and family members. Mike did a bang up job in taking the lead in the kitchen, and I had a blast helping out. I plan on posting the menu in a subsequent post. This one’s more for some ‘leftovers’.

I was reminded that I am thankful for two things (above and beyond the usual thankful-yada). First, I am thankful for not owning a cellphone. Moreover, it makes me thankful for real face time and with people who can still converse. Second, I am thankful for being smarter than the retailers want me to be. Like most years, I spent $0 on Friday (unless you count my utility consumption). I don’t get the draw, and doubt I ever will (try).

To kick off my Christmas season, I opened my new Christmas village sets. I’ve not set it up or anything. I have, however, took out all the pieces, removed all the ‘made in China’ stickers, organized the pieces, and left them in a precarious way on the table, tempting to the furry godzillas that wander about The Gull Reef Club. I also took it upon myself to ring in the season with some timely, as it were, OTR. I loaded 3 episodes each of The Jack Benny Show and Fibber McGee and Molly, as well as one The Saint – all holiday themed. I usually listen to these at work since Mike has shown no interest thus far into getting into OTR. Big thanks to Internet Archive for making these available.

If you’re still reading after all this, I’ll quickly insert that I’ve been recommended to have gum surgery to ensure my teeth do not fall out of my head. This sucks in a major way. So much so that I don’t want to dwell on it and move on to something slightly less painful.

Since we are in the downer portion of this post, I guess I can roll out my latest family history finds. It is a foreclosure notice on 80 acres in Minnesota from 1860, arising from an unpaid note by my 4th great grandfather and his wife. They owed $137.82. The nice part about finding this is that I already knew the outcome. Prior to finding the foreclosure notice, I knew this same great grandfather had gone onto work for the Hudson’s Bay Company, and then onto being a respected steamboat mechanic/inspector, working on some of the famous boats that cruised the Red River Valley. Not bad overall, despite the foreclosure. I also located a community visit notice in a St. Paul newspaper for this same great grandfather, as well as re-sourced a book excerpt where he is cited as being the first appointed inspector of steamboats for the Manitoba area for the HBC. Way to make that lemonade 4th great grandpa!

Finally, I’ve saved the coolest news for last. The film Killing Winston Jones began filming in Savannah today…in my neighborhood! We rode our bikes over and watched the crew do…something. Not really sure what. It was a lot of photographic/lighting equipment. We believe they were taking exterior shots of a house that will be used in the movie. I sort of had the urge to bring them cookies and hot chocolate. I love it when movies are filmed in Savannah (even if I never watch them). Having one that will have shots from a place in my very own neighborhood is bonus cool.

Enough. Congrats if you made it to the end. Pat yourself on the back for being better than the all of the ritalin dependent twitterphiles out there. I like you best.

8/22/2012

Thanksgiving

Filed under: — Jaime @ 3:08 am

The forecast for November is beginning to looking delicious. We had two friends confirm their spots at the dinner table this weekend. Another contacted us to finalize plans today. I love that people like our Thanksgivings enough to think about them in August. On top of the guest list taking shape, Mike’s dental needs are (finally) being met, meaning he can enjoy all the fabulous food he makes. I’m already looking forward to my favorite holiday. Now we just have to finalize the menu – a process almost as much fun as the cooking itself. Gobble! Gobble!

7/29/2012

Climate Controlled Chocolate Chip Cookies

Filed under: — Jaime @ 9:08 pm

Like any good American, I love me some chocolate chip cookies. In fact, next to apple pie, I like chocolate chip cookies just a little bit more (subject to change based on my proximity to fresh baked apple pie, of course). Try as I might, I couldn’t find a good recipe to suit the subtropical climate of Savannah. My cookies all turned out flat and oily. It made no sense, as I am a self-proclaimed fabulous cookie baker.

I’ve been experimenting over the last few years to get to a recipe that works, using the Nestle Tollhouse recipe as my control formula. Last night, I got pretty close. For my own memory’s sake, here is what I did:

First – the ingredients as called for by Nestle and my edits:
*2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour – I used 2 1/2 cups
*1 teaspoon baking soda – I made this a heaping teaspoon
*1 teaspoon salt – I made this 3/4 teaspoon
*1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened – Over-butter alert! I used 1/2 cup shortening and a 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of butter
*3/4 cup granulated sugar – I shortened this by about 2 tablespoons
*3/4 cup packed brown sugar – I didn’t pack it very hard
*1 teaspoon vanilla extract – doubled to 2 teaspoons
*2 large eggs
*2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels – I used 6 oz of milk chocolate and nearly 6 oz of 60% or 70% dark chocolate (what we had leftover)
*1 cup chopped nuts

Next – the steps as suggested by Nestle, as altered by me:
*Combine flour and baking soda;
*Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until very creamy. If you like using your mixer, do it at this step. Avoid over-mixing the remaining steps;
*Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just mixed in after each addition;
*Stir in about 1/2 of the nuts;
*Steadily beat in flour mixture. Mix only until the white of the flour disappears. It is really important not to over mix at this step;
*Stir in morsels and remaining nuts;
*Chill dough for at least a half hour, preferably more (but it was already midnight and I had to get a move-on);
*Heat oven to 375°F;
*Drop by domed tablespoon, flat side down, about 1 1/2 inches apart, onto single-layer metal baking sheets covered in parchment paper. Keep dough chilled between batches;
*Bake an upper and lower rack for 5 minutes, then swap the levels of the racks, turn each pan around 180°, and bake 4 more minutes (Nestle says ‘or until golden brown’);
*Cool on baking sheets for a minute or so;
*Place on wire racks to finish cooling.

Oddly enough, the high-altitude directions more closely mirror what I did here at about 45 feet above sea level.

Overall, the cookies came out quite good. Next time, I’ll use fresher chocolate, and possibly even a bit more baking soda. I’d really like them just slightly more chunkier than these came out. Excuse me now, while I go participate in the sampling of the experiment yet again.

10/29/2011

Dinner Menu

Filed under: — Jaime @ 7:13 pm

Lest I forget, Mike DID make me my birthday dinner last weekend. For posterity’s sake –

Fresh, wild-caught Georgia shrimp poached in butter/lemon/garlic, served with a white wine/homemade stock/parmesan sauce over fresh linguini. Fresh poppy seed bread to accompany. Quite delicious.

I actually did the dessert – that strawberry jello/cream cheese/pretzel dessert – the one I’ve owed to Mike for his birthday for two years now. I finally didn’t screw it up.

This weekend, I’m making peanut butter cookies. Not to brag, well actually yeah to brag, I make the best peanut butter cookies in at least Georgia, if not the eastern half of the US. Come to think of it, mine are just the best period.

Thanks Mike!

12/17/2010

Let the Baking Begin!

Filed under: — Jaime @ 5:45 pm

Just as it finally starts to warm back up in Savannah, we embark on our 3.5 day weekend of cookie baking. Mike has details here. He’s the dough maker, I’m the baker. Up first – chocolate chip.

Coffee’s brewed and I’m about to have my third cup – it’s going to be a long night!

The Gull Reef Club