No Florida Fare During a Polar Vortex ~ beet soup (Winter Borscht)

Winter Borscht

With temps in Jacksonville dipping to 32 degrees at night (not good for the orange groves), I wanted something warm and comforting to eat. Shrimp ceviche, chicken salad with white grapes,  or Caesar salad with roasted chicken pieces  wasn’t as appealing as it was a week ago.

So, I fell back on the Slavic food of my heritage and a couple of days ago whipped up a pot of vegetarian winter borscht. I didn’t eat it vegetarian. I sprinkled a healthy dose of uncured real bacon bits on top and added the dollop of light sour cream you see in the photo. I never use fat-free sour cream. It’s got imitation everything. But I often has as a staple in my fridg uncured bacon or light (reduced fat) sour cream.

I don’t give recipes any more because I don’t use them. I chopped up two stalks of organic celery and threw it in because I had it on hand, wanted to use it, and celery is healthy eating. My mother and grandmother didn’t use celery in their borscht, but I’ve found it in some recipes. Of course, to me, these are simply guidelines. I like cooking without a net.

Speaking of cooking without a net…as it hadn’t gotten any warmer, yesterday I made a pot of brats with cabbage, canned tomatoes and tomato paste, carrots, onion, celery…totally without a net. I use little to no oil and the Johnsonville beef brats were lean. So, I threw in some organic apple cider vinegar to add flavor. It was only partially successful. During the next Polar Vortex, when I make it again, I’ll also add cubed Granny Smith apples. I think that would make it absolutely yummy.

I cook without a net, however, I don’t recommend living without one. If my recipe is only semi-successful, I can improve on it the next time. In life, sometimes there is no next time. When we make a mistake, we might have to live with the consequences for years. Jesus is my net. I believe in intentional living based on biblical principals without being legalistic, and it works for me.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29: 11 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

There are many excellent winter borscht recipes. Here’s a simple one from Eating Well Recipes that looked really good to me and doesn’t have exotic ingredients my Ukrainian grandmother never heard of and doesn’t require a culinary degree to prepare it.

Eating Well Borscht

 

 

Christmas Day ~ in northeast coastal Florida

IMG_2863After my daughter Vicky made a 117 course Christmas breakfast oozing with cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar, as well as homemade sweetbread and fresh blueberries, we had to walk some of it off before dinner. Yes, we had seriously over indulged, thus we we had to intentionally burn some calories off. My body is the temple of the Living God, and I have to treat it as if it is.

We headed for the public boat slip on a cove of the St. John’s River located at our local city park. Duval County is gorgeous in December. Here I’m with Sophie the Wonder Dog.

IMG_2872We sat on the dock and watched the sailboats, deep sea fishing boats, kayaks, paddle-boats, and jet skiers go by. Those jet skiers are hearty folk. Even though it’s Florida, the water is cold. I want to encourage those over 50, as well as “seasoned citizens” to get out and do. Go for it. Live life.

IMG_2869A nearby boat-slip…just beyond the dock.

Merry Christmas to all. The Savior was born over 2000 years ago in Bethlehem and He dwells with us. Emanuel, God with us.

May you all be blessed in the new year.

 

 

Cream of Brocolli Soup ~ on a cold Florida day

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I’ve attempted posting recipes with moderate success. That’s because I don’t cook with a recipe. I’ve tried measuring a 1/2 C of such and so and typing that in the blog article next to the photo, but then as it cooks, I say to myself, “Self, that doesn’t look right,” and I throw in some more. So, how much of that ingredient did I use? I don’t know!!! Just enough to taste good. I taste as I cook, look at the colors of the ingredients, and smell the aromas to know. Do I make mistakes? YES, but all cooks make them, and you can make a mistake following a recipe to the letter. Trust me on that one.

So, It was in the low 40s last night in northeastern coastal Florida. I had to bundle Sophie the Wonder Dog up when I took her for her morning walk. Not to mention, I actually put on a pair of socks, and I never wear socks. May I digress…I was without socks yesterday at the Post Office to mail a Christmas gift. I noticed roughly half the women were in jeans, a sweat shirt and a hoodie or jeans and a heavy cable knit sweater, and over-sized clunky sandals (not the dainty, pretty kind you see all summer) with socks on. This is Florida in winter.

Sophie Winter Coat 2011

Well then, after Sophie, the cats, and I had breakfast, I realized I had a small container of half ‘n half in the refrigerator I had to use. Now, my doctor just reminded me I’d put on weight since my last visit three months ago (Thanksgiving will do that) and my blood pressure had gone up. No alarm siren, but it had gone up. So, I wanted to use the half ‘n half, but not in a super high-cal way

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Light bulb moment…cream of broccoli soup. So, I cut my broccoli florets up into soup-spoon size pieces and covered them with water in the pot and started them simmering on a medium heat? How much water? Enough to cover them. I had red onion (I always do), carrots, and two white potatoes. So, I chopped those up and threw them in. Added parsley flakes, garlic powder, a couple of bay leaves, some jarred seasoned vegetable base, and pepper. (I put some base in, tasted and put some more in…so don’t even think about asking me how much.) No salt. Remember my blood pressure had just gone up. Besides, the veggie base has salt.

I tasted it as it simmered and added more pepper and lowered the heat to low-medium. If I’m cooking only for myself, I taste with the same teaspoon. If I’m cooking for others, I go through all my teaspoons. After about twenty minutes, I tasted again and wanted to thicken it. I often have some Campbell’s turkey gravy on hand and did this time. I added some by eye, stirred and tasted, and added some more. I let it simmer again on low to have the gravy kind of amalgamate with the other flavors. Then I tasted and turned it off. When it cooled off substantially, I added the entire container of half ‘n half, stirred, and tasted. Very good, but it had to cook with the half ‘n half just a bit. Besides it had cooled too much, so I turned on the heat to low and got it to an edible temp. Then I scooped it into a bowl, sprinkled on mozzarella cheese I had on hand and some Parm/Romano… and then I sat down to eat lunch. Good, very good.

I cook by the seat of the pants, and I write by the seat of the pants.

 

European Street @Park Street in Riverside ~ a restaurant review

 

 

I’m late writing this review since I went to the European Street Cafe on Park Street/Riverside  in the winter. I was cold that day and immediately asked for coffee. The very nice waitress brought it right away with half and half. I don’t know if I wasn’t thinking due to the cold, but I wanted plain milk. So, I asked and she brought that. The coffee was very good, warmed me. [I must note, having once been a New Yorker, cold in Jacksonville, Fl is anything below 50 degrees.]

For lunch, I ordered the Smoked Pastrami Reuben sandwich on black bread with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing, which was excellent. There certainly is plenty of meat between the bread slices. The chips were crispy. I finished the meal with carrot cake, which for some reason I didn’t photograph. I probably simply devoured it as it was yummy. My friend ordered a huge cookie with whipped cream. I also didn’t photograph her lunch selection. As I said I was cold and probably grumpy that day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part of the fun of European Street is browsing the cake display and bottled beer offerings after eating. I’m not a beer aficionado and didn’t purchase any but looking added to the experience

This is an American cafe with a definite German twist.  Casual dining. A good place for robust sandwiches and/or German beer. Frankly, I’m all eyes for their cakes. The prices are very reasonable.

Gator’s Dockside, Baymeadows, Jacksonville ~ restaurant review

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This big boy is their mascot, a chalkboard with specials is behind it.

My author friend and I had business in Baymeadows. We were hungry so we stopped in for lunch. She’s a great fan of the Monte Cristo sandwich which she first had near Buffalo, NY. She said it’s hard to find one in Jacksonville. I’d never had one, so we both ordered it and it came with fries. It’s American and Swiss cheese stacked between wheat bread, and then batter-fried golden brown. It’s covered in powdered sugar and served with raspberry preserves for $11.99. It was very good, filling, and not on my diet.

We were seated in a booth in which the cushions were placed in a wooden frame that was uncomfortable to get in and out of. Once seated, it was very comfortable, but I wanted to limit getting in and out. Next time I’ll sit at a table. Our server was attentive and warm. All of the staff was courteous as far as we could see. When we arrived the place was pretty empty. Two guys were at the bar, a large family was about to leave. About half way through our meal, a few more families came in and sat at tables.

The ladies room was very clean. We weren’t there to watch a game, but it seems it would be a good place to do so.

This review first appeared in Yelp.

8650 Baymeadows Rd, Jacksonville, Fl 32256

904-449-0500

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High-top tables

Joseph D. Chillemi ~ honoring my husband on the first year of his passing

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Joseph on New Year’s Eve several years ago.

I’m aware of several widows’ groups in my area, one of them for Christian widows. For some reason, I’ve avoided them. As it turns out, I’ve attracted to myself a small group of Christian women friends: some widowed, some divorced, and one is even married. So, I’m far from alone.

As the anniversary of Joseph’s death approached, I became super aware of conversations about the first year “date” of the passing of a husband. It seems, at this point in time, there’s a great deal of counsels to avoid the word “anniversary.” They’re calling it “marking” the death of a spouse. Popular culture is saying widows should not celebrate the death of their husbands, though, I’m sure there are some who for their own very personal reasons do just that. So, it certainly isn’t one-size fits all. For me, I look to the Bible on how to handle this monumental date.

 

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Christmas season at Houston’s Steak House (now closed) in the Roosevelt Field Mall, Long Island. I have no idea what I was reading. I’m a notorious planner, so it could’ve been a notice about a Christmas event. He probably said something like, “Get your nose out of that paper, woman, and give me a kiss.”

 

 

So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. ~ Ephesians 5:33 [New Living Translation]

 

 

 

As a Christian wife, I honor the life of my husband, the years he had on earth, the people he touched and the positive impact he had as a husband, father, son, friend, co-worker, social worker. Christian wives celebrate the passing of a spouse who has gone on to be with the Lord, I know in my heart, Joseph is joyful beyond what I could ever imagine.

 

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On my birthday at Clemente’s Maryland Crab House in Brooklyn. I’m sure I was 39 — again.

 

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Joseph on his birthday with Beauty. She’s 11 now and still lives with me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Joseph and Victoria in St. Augustine, FL. The sun worshippers. LOL

 

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Joseph and Alyssa (L) and Delayne (R) in Boca Raton, FL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:17 {New American Standard Bible]

 

 

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Boca Raton

 

 

Fall in Florida ~ a simple pleasure

They say Florida is one place where the rule ‘You can’t wear white after Labor Day is null-and-void. In general, attitudes and lifestyle are more relaxed here…and that’s a huge reason why I moved here from The Big Apple. I love the simplicity of the lifestyle in Florida.

This year, after the hot summer months, and debilitating hurricanes, the nip in the air that comes with autumn has been welcome. I couldn’t wait to put away my summery outdoor decorations. Yes, I admit, I had pink flamingoes out allIMG_2452 summer…but only in my backyard near my fire pit. I’m all in for colorful, fanciful, Florida-friendly objects ‘d art in the front, but don’t go wild with pink Flamingoes. Truly, I don’t.

So, I hauled the bin out of my sheld where I store fall decorations. I put up a swag of fall leaves over my front door and some harvesty colorful fake flowers in a small flower pot along with the smiling face of a little girl scarecrow.  My fall decorating is a work in progress and I’ll add a few pumpkins to the stoop. I love scarecrows and I’ll put out the ones I’ve collected over the years in the house.

So, how do Floridians dress for Fall? It’s safe to say, folks add rust, gold, and ruby tones to their wardrobe. But, yes, we still wear shorts, short sleeves or no sleeves, and flip-flops. In fact, flip-flops are the official shoe of Florida.

But seriously, I find simplicity dovetails beautifully with my spiritual life.

2 Corinthians 1:12 [ESV] ~ For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.