Archive for February, 2011

Spring has Sprung

Monday, February 28th, 2011

How do I know this, you ask?  Well, we’re all sneezing, for one. 

For two, the orchids are throwing spikes left and right.  The dormant Bay Tree (bush, actually, I brutally whacked it back last fall as it was being eaten by scale) is starting to push some new leaves, and the Tropical Peach, which is semi-deciduous, is also budding (it has pretty pink flowers).  Here is a pathetically overgrown cattleya, I’m going to have to give in and repot it once it’s done blooming. 

c. aurantiaca ~ Pink Starry Night

Its parents are the purple cattleya bowrigiana, and the very tiny laelia milleri, which is orange and waxy and star shaped.  Hence the very odd orange-purplish color, for which I know not the name.  Anyone?

Third, I’ve had to turn on the air conditioning three days in a row.  A certain indication that the worst of winter is behind us, and in no time at all, we’ll be staring at *ack* Hurricane Season.

~ Blonde Gator

Toney’s BBQ sauce

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Here’s the recipe for my BBQ sauce (big batch) This is perfect for baby back ribs.

I’ll put the directions for BBQing the Ribs next week.

In a blender blend 1 large onion and 2 bunches of cilantro (about 5 oz)  into a puree.

In a big pot put all the ingredients together, bring to a simmer, then cool it off, and store it in the fridge.

  • 1 Gallon Ketchup.
  • 2 C. Red wine vinegar.
  • 3 Tbsp. Liquid smoke.
  • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire.
  • 8 oz Beef Base.
  • 2 pounds Honey.
  • 2 pounds brown sugar.
  • 3 Tbsp. Black pepper.
  • 1 tsp. celery salt.
  • 1 Tbsp. Thyme (dry).
  • 2 Tbsp. Garlic powder.
  • 1 Tbsp. Cumin.
  • 2 tsp. Cayenne.

Tourism is Alive and Well (and Safe) in Costa Rica

Friday, February 18th, 2011

I received the following (and had to share) from my Junquilal acquaintances, Jeanne & Paul today:

Costa Rica’s Liberia Airport Breaks January Record For Tourist Arrival

The Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR), located in Guanacaste, recorded the highest number of tourists in its history during the month of January this year.

Data from the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería  (Costa Rica’s immigration service) reports that in the first month of 2011 there were 31,637 foreign visitors, this represents a 28.2% increase over the same period of 2010 when there were 24,677 foreign visitors.

The spike in visitors this January broke the previous record from March 2008 of 29,206 arrivals. Most of these visitors were from the United States(17,278), followed by Canada (11,013) and England (1211).

The number of commercial flights has also increased this year in Liberia.

Data from the Civil Aviation Technical Council (CETAC) confirms that in January there were 42 flights a week, 6 more than in 2010 representing a growth of 14 percent. February is similar with 53 flights a week, 13 more than the same period last year, meaning 25 percent more.

The Ministro de Turismo (Tourism minister), Carlos Ricardo Benavides, welcomed the news and added that “This is the result of a good strategy to attract international airlines to the Daniel Oduber International airport and first class hotels and unique boutique hotels that the area of Guanacaste offers.”

During 2010, the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) – Costa Rica Tourism Board  – announced new direct flights to Liberia, a product of alliances with international airlines and wholesalers, including: TUI (from Düsseldorf, Germany), Apple Vacations (Chicago), First Choice ( London), Air Canada (Montreal) and Taca (El Salvador).

“This movement at the second most important airport in the country encourages us to think that 2011 is shaping up to be a good year for tourism,” said Minister Benavides.

Previously known as Tomás Guardia Airport, the now Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, Guanacaste began operations in 1995 . The first commercial flight from abroad was from Delta Airlines in January 2002, and then it was followed by American Airlines and Continental Airlines, among others.

The Liberia Airport is the best gateway to the Guanacaste Peninsula, where we spent such a lovely summer.  As much as I adore Mexico, for now, my preferred vacation spot must remain in the most lovely and picturesque Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

~ Blonde Gator

More Cool Stuff

Friday, February 18th, 2011

After yesterday’s killer French Onion Soup, I realized my blog has become too much food, not enough “stuff”.  So….

This is from our second trip to Costa Rica (and yes, major whining was involved):

Costa Rican Boruca Mask

I fell in love with this mask, it represents so many of the native flora and fauna of Costa Rica.  Jaguar, Monkey, Toucan, Snake, a Motmot (we loved these birds), and of course, the Shaman.  These masks are produced by the Boruca tribe, who live in southwest Costa Rica. 

The jaunty feather behind the jaguar’s right ear was given to me by my beloved neighbor, Dominic, it is a tail feather of the most lovely and amusing bird, a Squirrel Cuckoo (see prior posts).

The mask is about 16″ tall, and 6″ wide.  It is one of my treasures.  Here is a pretty cool YouTube video about Boruca masks.

Although it is an absolutely beautiful, perfect day here in lovely South Florida, I am missing Latin America.  Alot.  Must make plans to return, soon.

~ Blonde Gator

French Onion Soup

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Well, today I gave French Onion Soup a whirl.  I have been jonesing for FOS for a long time, remembering fondly L’Hotel Sofitel’s offering.   I looked up some recipes on Food Network, and picked a couple that had oodles of 5 Star reviews.  I ended up with Tyler Florence’s and Anne Burrell’s recipes, but they differed somewhat.  I liked Tyler’s use of beef stock and red wine, instead of Anne’s chicken stock and sherry, but Anne’s use of really carmelized onions appealed.  Iguana Man, as always, was a great help as he took the time to find the Gruyere Cheese (I must say, I wasn’t impressed with the taste of it when I opened it…but grated and melted….it DOES make the soup).

French Onion Soup...Almost Ready for the Broiler

As I was cooking, I didn’t like the look of any of it, actually, so I kind of improvised, and WOW!  Best tasting French Onion Soup I ever did have.  (It would probably be better if I had a working broiler, but the nuclear cooking device sufficed quite well).  My take on it:

6 Large Sweet Onions (Vidalia); 4 Bay Leaves; 2 tsp. dried thyme; 3 cloves garlic, chopped; 4 tbsp. butter; 2 tbsp. vegetable oil; 1 1/2 cups Red Wine, 1 Qt. Beef Stock; 1 Quart Water; 1 1/2 tbsp. Beef Base; 2 tbsp. Flour; 1 Baguette French Bread; 1/2 lb. Gruyere Cheese, grated fine, Kosher Salt & fresh ground Pepper to taste.

Slice thin (used my new mandoline, WOOT!) 4 onions.  In a large soup pot, melt the butter, add oil, bring to almost smoking hot and add onions, season w/about 1 tsp. salt and two dozen turns of the pepper mill.  Stir to coat, reduce heat to low medium, cover and cook for 1/2 hour.  Remove lid, add thyme, and continue to cook on medium low heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, to remove moisture and carmelize the onions.  Be patient, this takes time…almost an hour.  All moisture should cook off, if not, turn up the heat, stirring constantly, until onions are mostly dry.  Again on medium low heat, add flour, stir well, for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and the wine, continue to stir for another ten minutes or so, until the mixture is kind of  a mushy red paste. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the beef broth, water, and beef base.  Pour into soup pot, and add the bay leaves.  Turn up the heat, stirring occasionally, until boiling.  While doing this, peel and slice into narrow, fine slices, the remaining two onions.  Add to the pot, bring back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for another 45 minutes.  Correct the seasoning (but I thought the salt was just right).

When ready to serve, preheat the broiler.  Slice the Baguette into diagonal 1/2″ slices, 2 – 3 per serving, depending on the size of your bowls.  Toast the slices in the toaster or a grill pan.  Ladle the soup into oven proof bowls, top with the French Bread croutons, and sprinkle generously with the shredded Gruyere.   Broil until cheese is melted and slightly brown (this is where I used the nuclear cooking device).

Bon Appetit!

~ Blonde Gator

(Pictures to follow)….Gosh, my travel blog has turned into a foodie blog…go figure.  Now that I’m not road tripping, I have to do something fun!   Did I mention I made Eggs Benedict for the troops today, homemade Hollandaise (a tad overthickened, live and learn, but Yum-O)?  I put the delicioso Costco smoked salmon on Mom’s, I suppose it wasn’t really Benedict, but she was happy with it, so I was too.   Urbie Moocher thought he should have some, he squeaked like a broken spoke, the little rat fink beggar kitten.  NO BEGGING IN MY KITCHEN!

WE love FOOD

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Just for you Blonde.

Actually anybody can do this.

My recipe for Stuffed Chicken.

Warning this is in no way shape or form to be considered Healthy.

Warning 2 if made correctly it will be one of the best things you have ever eaten.

Warning 3 when heavy cream boils it can overflow quickly, use a deep pan and watch it carefully, if you are stirring it, it doesn’t expand too much.

End of Warnings.

Sorry, I don’t use measurements, you will have to figure it out on your own.

What you will need.

Boneless skinless chicken breasts. (1 per person)

Shrimp, bacon, parmesian cheese (fresh grated, not the powdered stuff), flour, egg, milk, panko, garlic, heavy cream, pepper, season salt (I prefer Lawrys)

When choosing bacon, choose the fattiest that you can, the more grease you can get the better.

First chop the bacon into small pieces, 1/4 inch to 1/2 an inch wide. Chop the shrimp into small pieces, about 1/2 inch also. And since you’re chopping stuff, the garlic too.

From the side of the chicken breasts, cut a small opening and cut out a cavity in the breast, be careful not to make holes on the other side.

Saute the bacon until lightly cooked, drain off grease and put to the side (leave a little  in the pan with the bacon bits). DO NOT THROW AWAY BACON GREASE EVAH, It is the holy oil of cooking! Add the shrimp and a bit of pepper, cook for a few minutes, till the shrimp is done. Place in a bowl and add a bunch of parmesian cheese. Mix.

Take the shrimp, bacon, cheese mixture and stuff the breasts. Use a toothpick to seal the opening.

In three dishes prepare 1)flour with season salt and pepper 2)egg wash (egg and milk)  3)panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

Take the stuffed breasts and bread them 1,2,3.

Reheat the bacon grease and add oil (if needed) to make the oil 1/2 inch deep in a pan. Brown the breasts on both sides, place on a oven safe pan and finish in the oven at 375, should take about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the size of the breasts. (D cups might take a bit longer, sorry couldn’t resist)

Next is the sauce, (this is the part that isn’t very healthy)

First take some of the bacon bits and grease that I forgot to tell you to reserve, saute that with the garlic until the garlic if browned, add the heavy cream, reduce until it’s at a light sauce consistency.  See warning 3. Add black pepper (fresh ground is the best) and parmesian cheese until you get a medium thick sauce. If the sauce is too thick or breaks, add more cream. You can also add a little season salt, but be careful, there is already salt from the bacon and the cheese, taste the sauce before adding ANY salt. (If it’s too salty, you can thin it down with cream)

Now that the breasts are done cooking, remove the toothpick, and with a very sharp knife (I use a bread knife) slice into 3/4 inch slices and lay them on the plate. Top with the sauce. For added delight, sprinkle some more cheese and chopped parsley for color.

Enjoy and make sure that the defibrillator is close at hand!


Your unhealthy chef,


Happy Valentine’s Day (A Week Early)

Monday, February 7th, 2011

It was such a beautiful day yesterday that we sat out on the patio in the late afternoon/early evening.  I still have up my Christmas icicle lights (I leave them up all year)….as it makes the orchid house and patio very festive.  As we were sitting there, Iguana Man pointed and said “what’s that?”. 

Well, an orchid, of course, coming into bloom.  This is the time of year when many of them “pop”…sorry for the pun.  I’d sort of forgotten about this little beauty, but there it was, just coming into its own.

SLC Tutenkahmen "Pop"

An “SLC” is a complex hybrid orchid, with a mixture of Sophronitis, Laelia, and Cattleya parents.  This plant is considered to be one of the more compact cattleyas (unlike my Thanksgiving orchid, which is almost 3′ tall)….although it’s a bit bigger than some of the other compact cats.  It’s not a big bloomer like the Cattleytonias….but I love the deep, rich red and waxy texture of the blooms.  I’ll take another picture or two when the other two buds open.

Anyhoo…..Happy Valentine’s Day!

~ Blonde Gator

<edit>  Bonus Picture….one of Blonde Mom’s favorites…a garden variety phal from Home Depot.  Great stuff!

Blonde Mom's "Polka Dot" (actually nameless)

Blonde Mom's Double Apricot Hibiscus