94%

August 14th, 2015

That’s my degree of agreement with Marco Rubio’s positions.

marco-rubio

Which, of course, I already knew, but it was interesting to actually answer these questions and see exactly WHICH issues, and how important each issue was as a qualifier for me.

Try it yourself.

Let me know your results.

~ Blonde Gator

Chocolate Chocolate Cake ~ Best Ever

August 5th, 2015

Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) makes the most delicious super-duper chocolate cake in the world, called Beatty’s Chocolate Cake.  It has become our “go-to” birthday cake.  Merrion made it last year for Mason’s birthday (she’d never made a “scratch cake” before), and her comment was “it’s so EASY!”.  Give it a try…..highly recommend!

It seems a little strange when you’re making it, the addition of hot fresh coffee (we use Starbucks’ Komodo Dragon, as always) makes the batter seem very loose and liquid.  You’ll think “no way” this is going to work, but the recipe for the cake is absolutely perfect!  The only thing we do differently is to use 9″ pans instead of 8″ pans.  They come out of the oven so rich, and dark, and moist, that they almost look black!

Right out of the Oven

Right out of the Oven

If you rotate your pans half way through baking, the cakes will be so nice and even that you won’t even need to trim your cake before icing it.  Speaking of icing, we always make a double batch.  Because there is no such thing as too much chocolate buttercream!

Melting the Chocolate for the Buttercream Icing

Melting Chocolate for the Buttercream Icing

After letting the cake and icing cool for a bit, it’s time to put the icing on the cake.  Then sit back, and enjoy the kudos you’ll get from the birthday boy or girl!  (The picture of our cake is from a rather low angle, the cake is much taller than it looks in the photo).  Island Girl & I made this one for our friend, Gloria….who told me it didn’t even last one whole day!

Chocolate IS Love

Chocolate IS Love

The addition of coffee in the batter is barely discernible, it just seems to enhance the flavor of the chocolate.  The instant coffee (we use Starbucks’ Via) in the buttercream icing is more apparent, and so delicious you won’t believe your taste buds!  Give this recipe a try, I promise it will become an instant hit with all of your chocolate lovers.

Bon Appetit!

~ Blonde Gator

How Spectacular is Your Summer?

July 20th, 2015

Pretty damned GREAT!

Florida Mango

Florida Mango

That, sports fans, is a MONDO mango from my friend’s next-door neighbor’s tree, which happened to fall in her yard about a week ago.  My pal brought it over….and I was thrilled, even though the mango wasn’t ripe, it was HUGE!  Such anticipation!  So, I put it in a paper sack, and checked each day for progress on ripening.  Patience pays!

(CAUTION:  If you are allergic to mangoes, which are related to poison ivy…don’t do this at home, find a pal….like me!….who isn’t in any way affected by the sap).

An unripe mango goes from solid as a rock, without any fragrance, and not much color…to a sweet-smelling, firm, and colored up (depending upon the variety) ripe fruit in a few days to a week.  On our trip to Costa Rica, we saw ripe yellow mangoes, red mangoes, orange mangoes, and even purple mangoes….so one can’t really rely upon the color.  Rather, use your nose to detect the sweet mango smell, and use your fingers to gently detect ripeness in the fruit….it should still be firm, but a little bit on the soft side…somewhat like a well ripened melon.

When your mango achieves the perfect delicious smell and texture, it’s time to carve it up.   There are many ways to do this.  I find it makes the most sense to either peel first (w/a huge fruit), and then slice/dice….or to slice first, cross hatch, and then remove from the skin, with a smaller fruit (perhaps I’ll do a mango tutorial another time).  Mangoes are extremely slimy to hold on to!  So a sharp knife is essential….but beware, you can cut your fingers off if you’re not careful!  You can learn more on how to peel a mango, and also find commercial mango seed corers online, search on “mango peelers”.

Today’s mango, as you can see, was almost 7″ long, and weighed in at 2 lbs., 2 1/2 oz!  After I’d peeled, sliced, and diced it, and threw away the seed and skin, I was left with 1 lb., 10 oz. of perfectly sliced fruit (which I promptly put into sandwich baggies, and froze).  Net loss on the pit and skin was 8 1/2 oz.

What to do w/mangoes?  Eat them cold, with a squeeze of lime.  AND, if you like, sprinkle with some salted chili powder…I prefer a bit of ancho & chipotle, with a bit of added Kosher salt.  Or just sprinkle with a bit of lime juice and salt.  Mix them with a little bit of booze (rum, Cointreau, or Triple Sec) and serve over home-made vanilla ice cream…a favorite at my house.   Mix them in a blender, with ice, a bit of OJ, for margaritas or daquiris, or a virgin smoothie.  Make a delicious fresh summer fruit salad with the other fresh fruit you adore.  Or make a salsa, with fresh hot chiles! The possibilities are endless.

My absolute favorite way to eat a mango, though, is on a boat, hanging over the bow rail….merely peel the fruit, and just eat out of hand, all the while dripping juice all over yourself, and the boat.  When you’re done, jump in to rinse off, climb back in the boat…don’t forget to grab a pail of water to rinse off the boat….and then wait for a fish to hit your trolled baits!  Fruit is supposedly bad luck on a boat….but I’ve always found the opposite to be true!  Eat a mango….Fish On!!!!!!!  (And hope you have a mango ready for salsa to go with your delicious, freshly caught fish)!

I somehow ALWAYS forget how delicious the first fresh mango of the season is.  It shocks me with a super zap of unexpected flavor, every single year.  Even if you don’t live in Florida (where mangoes are more or less free)….NOW is the time to shop for fresh mangoes, reasonably priced, because NOW is the season.  Then….slice, dice and enjoy…or cut them up for your freezer (they freeze beautifully) for use throughout the year.  Most of all, ENJOY the reason for the season.  SWEET!

~ Blonde Gator

Beach Day

July 17th, 2015

Today was the last day of “Surf Camp”, so we all went over to the beach this morning.  It was an absolutely beautiful day.  Surf Camp is at “our beach”, which is kind of a local hang out.  We noticed the Summer Surfers about six years ago, and this year, we enrolled the grandson for a week of surfing, skin diving, tubing, etc.  He had a blast.

"Our Beach" spot, looking North @ Hillsboro Inlet (old photo)

“Our Beach” spot, looking North @ Hillsboro Inlet (old photo)

Hidden Entrance to "Our Beach"

Hidden Entrance to “Our Beach”

Sometimes the Yachts Make the Waves

Sometimes the Yachts Make the Waves

Paddling Practice ~ Out to the Pylon

Paddling Practice ~ Out to the Pylon

Kowabunga, Dude!

Kowabunga, Dude!

The Sea Oats are Making a Comeback

The Sea Oats are Making a Comeback

Even a Bee Was Busy at the Beach Today

Even a Bee Was Busy at the Beach Today

Our Happy Surf Camper at the End of Surf Camp

Our Happy Surf Camper at the End of Camp

We are quite pleased with the experience at Surf Camp.  There were probably 40 – 50 kids there, but lots of adult supervision, and the camp was very professionally run.  There were some really wee ones there, too…all participating and having a ball.  It’s funny, we live about 1/4 mile from the beach, and haven’t been there in almost five years.  That’s going to change, I forget how beautiful it is to just hang out, catch some rays, take a dip, and see someone walk up to your umbrella…and recognize an old friend!  We’ll be back, and soon, too.  The little guy is enamored with skin diving, and I know a couple of other good spots.

See you on the beach!

~ Blonde Gator

How to Perfectly Roast Chile Peppers

July 16th, 2015

Since meeting the Iguana Man, I’ve learned how to cook with both dried and fresh chile peppers.  But, until today, I hadn’t quite mastered the art of “roasting” of fresh peppers.  I don’t have a gas stove, so I’ve been scorching them on my grill.  And in this summer heat, suffering to the point of heat stroke every time I’ve roasted them!

I used to just turn the flames up, and let the chiles cook, standing in front of the grill and turning, and turning, and turning.  Sometimes they’d be burned, to the point that the flesh under the skin had disappeared.  Other times, the peppers weren’t cooked enough to easily peel off the skin.

Here’s the perfect method:  Start all four burners on your grill, turn down to medium, and let heat up for ten minutes or so, until the internal temperature reaches 425 degrees.  Place the chiles on the grill, putting the largest chiles on the hottest parts of your grill.

Close the cover, and set the timer for 4 minutes.  Here’s what your chiles should look like…note there’s some char, and blistered skin, but not overcooked chiles.  This photo was snapped right after the first turn.

Roasting the Chiles

Roasting the Chiles

Turn all of the chiles, and reset the timer for 3 minutes, again cooking with the cover shut.  Remove the chiles, to a big bowl, taking off the most charred chiles first, and moving any that are still not slightly scorched to a hotter heat source while removing the well charred chiles.  Cover the chiles with tight fitting plastic wrap, and let them steam for about 25 minutes.  Once they’re cool enough to handle, it’s time to peel and de-seed them.

The easiest way I’ve found to peel them is to use my lasagna pan, and put a small bowl of water in the middle of the pan to rinse off sticky skins and seeds.  Be sure to use latex gloves…or your hands will tingle from the capscasin for a day or two!

Ready to Peel

Ready to Peel

Just get comfortable (I sit on the sofa and peel & remove seeds as I watch TV).  Try to remove almost all of the skins, and most of the seeds.  Use the water to clean your gloved fingers off….don’t dip the chiles in the water if you can help it.  Some seeds are good!  Save the yummy juice in the bottom of the bowl, too!

A Whole Bowl of Chili Peppers, Ready to Bag & Freeze

A Whole Bowl of Chili Peppers, Ready to Bag & Freeze

I’m so thrilled that I finally found THE easy way to prepare the chiles, that I just roasted off 14 lbs. of Anaheims, which Walmart is conveniently carrying!  That’s about 1/4 of the cost of ordering them (and having them shipped) from New Mexico.  The final weight of the roasted/peeled chiles is 5 1/2 pounds!  I put between 7 – 7.5 ounces of roasted, peeled & seeded chiles (and 2 tbsp. juice) in each ziplock sandwich bag, removing all of the air in the bag, then froze the baggies on a flat surface for easy storage later.

A baggie or two is perfect for Green Chicken Chili (depending on the size of your chili batch, of course), or use one baggie of chiles, chopped, to make a delicious salsa for eggs, enchiladas, etc.  I also am fond of making “green cream”….about a cup of heavy cream, whipped with a 1/2 tsp. salt, and a baggie of chopped green chiles.  Be careful….that stuff is totally addictive!

Bon Appetit!

~ Blonde Gator

 

#RubioCrimeSpree

June 12th, 2015

You know you’re over the target when you start getting flack.  Twice this past week, the New York Times put out obvious hit pieces of oppo research, aimed at Marco Rubio, both of which backfired spectacularly.

Rubio's boatThe Twitterverse had a blast with #RubioCrimeSpree, gleefully mocking both the Old Ladies (the Gray one, as well as that other old hag who is breaking all kinds of traffic laws in her Scooby Van).

So Marco, when are you going to take me fishing on that great little boat?

~ Blonde Gator

Now We Know

May 27th, 2015

We’ve been wondering for a while why there was such a commotion whenever the food bowl approached the half empty mark.  Now we know.  And….we’re totally sick of the “Song of My People”.

~ Blonde Gator

Do You Miss Him Yet?

May 16th, 2015

I do.

~ Blonde Gator

Carnivorous Pitcher Plant

May 16th, 2015

My little garden genie has been such a help (“Did you buy any more much, Grama?”) that I bought him a carnivorous pitcher plant a couple of weeks ago.  It’s been growing like a weed (somehow, I always thought they were hard go grow!).  I have it in total shade, but in a bright location on the patio.  I move it out from under cover when it rains, as chemicals of any sort are a buzz kill for the carnivorous plants (a Venus Flytrap is on our list to find).

Mason checks it diligently, and carefully waters it (and partially fills any empty pitchers) with distilled water if it’s dried out.  Yesterday, we discovered a stealthy little baby pitcher, growing in the soil under the plant, instead of hanging off a branch at the end of a long leaf.

Baby Pitcher ~ about 1 1/2" tall

Baby Pitcher ~ about 1″ tall

We also spent a little bit of time learning about the difference between a picture and a pitcher.  And then I had to take a picture of the pitcher.  So that everyone can see Mason’s happy pitcher plant.  Enjoy!

~ Blonde Gator

Foreign Policy

May 14th, 2015

Enough of this “Leading from Behind” Nonsense….

~ Blonde Gator