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8/14/2011 - The rainy season is upon us...finally.  We haven't seen enough to completely mitigate the serious drought we have been having since last summer, but it has been raining enough to quell the brush fires.  And of course with the rainy season comes the heat.  Interesting thing about north Florida during the summer is that we are rarely as hot as the other Atlantic states (including New England) when the heat waves arrive. 

I remember when I lived in NE hearing the weather people talk about what causes the heat waves in the first place.  It is usually  a high pressure system off the Atlantic coast whose clockwise winds scoop up warm, moist air from the gulf and "pump" it in a north easterly direction up into NE and easterly Canada.  Well the same clockwise rotation pushes cooler ocean air inland from the Atlantic ocean.  The net result is that New York can be 100° while St. Augustine is but a balmy 92°.

But enough meteorology...on to the culinary stuff!

London broil can be the center piece of a budget friendly dinner, but it can tough and chewy if not done right.  My Brandy-Marinated version certainly won't be "ribeye" tender but it is quite tender especially if it is sliced thin, and across the grain of the meat.  Serve this with Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes and a crisp salad and everyone's going to be happy.

These Wine Braised Pork Chops are the result of dear wife's inspiration and they are absolutely delicious.  It may sound like a fancy dish but it really is quick and easy to prepare.  Another pork-based favorite of ours takes a bit more effort but this Pork and Fennel Ragout is so worth the extra effort.  Serve this on noodles with some crusty fresh bread and you have a wonderful dinner.  My Country Sausage Quiche is a perfect match of good luck and inspiration.  The recipe may read like breakfast in a pie shell but this will work for any meal of the day.

Lastly, from darling daughter #2 come these deliciously spicy Indian delights.  Dal is classic Indian comfort food.  DD and hubby serve this as soup, but I prefer it a bit thicker and served over basmati rice.  I've always thought of black-eyed peas as a dish from the American south.  Growing up in Florida they would be found on my families dinner table at least once a week.  So when DD passed along this recipe for Curried Black-Eyed Peas I had to give it a try.  The flavors here are distinctly Indian, and quite spicy, but absolutely delicious.

That's it for now.  Enjoy your summer, and I'll be back in the fall with more delights from Big Daddy's ranch.

Cheers,
Big Daddy

5/7/2011 - Spring in St. Augustine has been absolutely beautiful this year.  It usually is but this year has been a gem.  Here we are, well into May, and the temperatures are perfect (mid-70s) and the humidity has been staying away.  I'm sure that it's going to heat up soon what with June right around the corner and all, but I'll take it.  With the wonderful weather however the drought remains; the pond behind the ranch is at an all time low.  La Nina they say.  So spring has been great, but here's hoping for a wet, wet summer.  One nice tropical storm will help a lot.

Sure 'nuff, with the shop closing down I am finding a lot more time to spend in the kitchen.  There's lots of goodies to pass along so let's get started.

If someone asked you what the national dish of England is what would you say?  Yorkshire pudding maybe?  Fish and chips?  Both good answers, but you'd be very wrong.  Try Tikka Masala.  This is a marvelous, Indian inspired, full flavored dish that's bursting with goodness, especially when served with Basmati rice.  A tip of the hat to Cook's Illustrated.  Keeping with the poultry theme this recipe for Roasted Lemon Chicken produces a very intense lemon flavor due to the use of the zest as well as the juice.  When you're spreading the zest under the skin make sure to spread it as evenly as possible lest you wind up with little "lemon grenades" exploding in your mouth when you're chowing down.

One more chicken recipe is this one for Grilled Asian Chicken Patties.  It's not just a great alternative to traditional grilling, it's also really, really good.  Fix 'em up just like you would a hamburger or just have the patty without the bun.  Either way they're great!

For an easy-to-prepare side dish you can't beat this  recipe for Slow Cooked Potatoes with Butter and Thyme.  The potatoes are melt-in-your-mouth tasty, or for a crunchy alternative you can't go wrong with Garlic and Basil Roasted Potatoes.  Mmmm, mmmm good!

I've discovered a long dormant sweet tooth recently, and I've been doing my best to pacify it.  Carol's Pumpkin Bread has always been a family favorite, and it's easy to prepare.  This recipe make two loaves so you can pop one in the freezer for another time (say 1:00 in the morning:)  Another uber easy recipe that always impresses at a get together is Nat and Vin's Dump Cake.  Nat and Vin are old friends from our New England days and when they brought this to a club social we had to have the recipe.  Everyone always asks why it's called a "dump" cake.  The recipe answers the question.

Lastly is this recipe for magnificent, no-bake, no-name goodies that I simply call Ooey Gooey Chocolate Deliciousness.  One bite of these little treasures and you'll heartily agree that the name fits :)

So that's it from the ranch.  I hope your spring is as beautiful as ours has been.  The next time I send you an update we'll all likely be in the swimming pool :)

Cheers,
Big Daddy

3/20/2011 - So, there's good news and there's bad news.  We'll start with the bad news.  Right around the time of my last update in "What's New" life on BD's ranch began a terrible downward spiral.  Everyone knows about the toll the economy has taken on so many people's lives, and just about everyone has either been a victim or has close friends or family members that has. So it has been for us.

Around the time of my last entry business at my shops began the expected summer drop-off, but this summer was going to be different.  We were already, and had been for many, many months, experiencing revenues way, way below pre-2007 levels, and summer was always the doldrums.  In 2010 though business, for all practical purposes, screeched to a halt.  It was almost like someone had thrown a switch.  Customers just stopped spending money on anything that wasn't necessary.  And art simply is not necessary for most of us.  The real killer, however, was that business didn't recover in the fall as is usually the case.  So a business that was just paying it's own bills could no longer.  Sadly, very sadly, we had to close one of our two shops the beginning if this year.

The good news?  Well now that I have only one shop to run instead of two I'm going to have a lot more free time on my hands, and that means more attention can be paid to keeping Big Daddy's Kitchen up to date.

Even though I have been remiss in updating the website I have still been cooking and perfecting new recipes like this Grilled Thai Chicken, served with Coconut Rice (from my Impress Your Friends collection) and Buster's Rum Runners to wash it all down.  This is a great summertime meal.

Another great combination starts with Medallions of Pork in a Mushroom Cream sauce served with Alton Brown's Baked Brown Rice.  Awesome stuff.

For dessert this recipe for Blueberry Crisp is easy and scrumptious.

That's it from the ranch on the first day of spring.  I've got lots more recipes to tell you about so keeping checking back often.

Cheers,
Big Daddy

 

6/15/2010 - Wow!  Based on my last entry that sure must've been a long Super Bowl game since it took me 4 months to get back to this.  Ah, well...working 6 days a week trying to keep a small family business afloat in this economy does tend to wear one down.  I'm in my shop right now and the only reason I'm working on my website is because business is so slow.  But we are still open for business, and sadly that's a lot more than I can say for many of my friends.  But this economy will improve.  No doubt in my mind.  And while I haven't been keeping my website up to date I have been spending more time in the kitchen so lets talk about that!

Dear wife has been after me for a long time to fix Chicken Cordon Bleu (she said that veal would do as well but given the difference in price I thought chicken was much better for experimentation.)  One of the things I learned while researching this is that there are about a thousand variations of this dish.  This is due in large part to the fact that contrary to popular belief this is not a classic French recipe, and so is wide open to interpretation.  The one I settled on is based on a Tyler Florence recipe, and it passed the wife test with flying colors.

Staying with the poultry theme I heartily recommend my Chicken Stew with Peanut Sauce.  I hadn't had this for the longest time due to DW's aversion to peanut sauces, and when I finally got around to it I decided I had to give it a little promotion.  This island recipe is creamy yet robust; the flavors just explode in your mouth.  It's unlike any other recipe I have, and well worth the time it takes.

And on a much lighter note this Lemon-Basil Chicken Salad is bright and tangy.  A wonderful diversion from traditional chicken salad.

Lastly let me finish off with a desert that is everyone's favorite - Key Lime Pie.  A friend brought over a key lime pie recently when we were having guests for a cookout.  She had picked it up at a supermarket bakery and it was, well, really, really boring.  But it did inspire me to master "original" key lime pie and so the quest was on.  This recipe is the real deal (sweetened condensed milk is a must or the pie is a fraud) and simply delicious.

Until the next time...

Cheers,
Big Daddy

2/7/2010 - Talk about dejavu!  Note the introductory lines in my last "What's New" entry - almost one ago.  I was complaining about the "coldest winter in 20 years,"  well let me tell you that last year in northeast Florida can't hold a candle to this one!  Over a two week period last month we had 10 nights below freezing.  This truly was the coldest winter in over 20 years.  Our only blessing was that all of y'all north of the Georgia line had it so much worse.  But spring is almost upon us, and it can't arrive too quickly for me. 

If you haven't noticed by the date of this entry today is Super Bowl Sunday.  In about 2 hours the Saints and the Colts square off;   friends are beginning to arrive so I'll likely end up finishing this later this evening.  We have some delightful eats ahead of us.  Potato chip with a spicy dill dip, tortilla chips and an assortment of crackers and cheeses to munch on.  Dear wife has smoked sausage wrapped in bacon coming out of the oven shortly.  A little while later there will baby backs coming off the grill and hot bowls my own Texas Red.

3/1/2009 - After the coldest winter here in over 20 years (according to the old timers) spring is about to, well, spring!  But it's going to be a slow start.  Usually by this date temperatures are hovering in the mid-70s, humidity can't be found, and the breezes are gentle.  I awoke today to a 70+ morning, but by mid morning a very rainy front moved through followed by chilly, windy weather.  Brrrr!

So it's been a lazy day around the ranch with much attention paid to the kitchen.  After preparing a scrumptious chicken soup for my under-the-weather better half, I've been splitting my time between quick snoozes on the couch, and prepping for a big Chinese feed tonight.  Before sending our house guest back to New England and the latest 16" snowfall I plan on stuffing him with my Sichuan Beef and Broccoli, Veggie Lo Mein,  and slow roasted ribs with Honey-Ginger Teriyaki sauce.  Sooo good!

But that's all old stuff, so on to the new goodies!  Christmas season just passed produced a couple of culinary surprises.  They couldn't be more different, but each is wonderful.  From the kitchen of darling daughter #2 and her husband was this versatile and delicious recipe for Indian Dal with Spinach.  I love this stuff served over Basmati rice.  On a completely different note good friend Paul and his guest joined us at the ranch for a feed one weekend and contributed his fantastic Homemade Cranberry Sauce.  I tell you what, if you try this you'll never go back to the canned stuff.

Another wonderful dish to be served with Basmati rice is this one for Thai Green Curry with Shrimp.  Finding myself in the mood for curry, and also feeling creative I did some research followed by a bit of trial and error and came up with this fairly authentic concoction.  These days most of these ingredients can be found at large supermarkets, or online.  Lemongrass can still be hard to find though unless you are fortunate enough to have an Asian market near by.  Lastly, if shellfish isn't your thing this recipe would work equally well with chicken, pork or beef.

Finally, when those of you still locked in by cold, winter weather at last get the urge to break out the grill, try this blast from the past.  I developed this tasty recipe for Grilled Fiesta Chicken a few years ago, and it remains a south-of-the-border family favorite.  It's guaranteed to shake off any lingering residue of winter.

Cheers from St. Augustine,
 
Big Daddy

12/7/2008 - Fall arrived in northeast Florida pretty much on schedule.  The dew point tumbled out of the upper 70s down to the 50s around the end of September ushering out the humidity and high temperatures.  Oh, we had a few more hot, humid days before fall settled in for good, but for the most part we're looking at many months of gorgeous weather.  AC off, house opened up to all those beautiful breezes.  But this isn't a travelogue, so...

Quality kitchen time is hard to come by when you're a small business owner during a recession, but we did manage to cook up something good a time or two.  Starting with my version of Minorcan Chowder.  This is a local specialty with every non-chain restaurant chef putting his or her own on the menu.  If you like authentic conch chowder, or even Manhattan-style clam chowder you must give this a try.

Of course, were you here with us in St. Augustine you could have joined us at the annual chowder debate.  Held every year at the Conch House (a local marina at Salt Run) to the delight of about 3000 guests, over 30 of our finest restaurants compete in four distinct chowder categories for the chowder braggin' rights of the town:

  • Minorcan Conch Chowder

  • Minorcan Clam Chowder

  • New England Clam Chowder

  • Seafood Chowder

When you arrive (people start showing up around noon) you buy tickets at $.50 each (all proceeds go to the Shriner's Children's Hospital) and each ticket gets you a small cup of chowder from any vendor.  Ten bucks of tickets will assure that you're absolutely stuffed when the reggae band unplugs around 4:00ish.  It's truly an event we all look forward to every year.

With darling daughter #2 constantly singing the praises of Indian cooking I am always on the lookout for an Indian recipe that I think DW and son will like (neither being big on Indian cooking.)  I struck gold with this version of Tikka Masala, the accidental national dish of England. This is easy to prepare and very, very good!

A number of years back I managed to get hold of many of my paternal grandmothers' recipes.  Among them was one fondly remembered from my childhood:  Grandma's Stuffed Cabbage (fondly known to the family as Grandma's Pigs in a Blanket.)  To my dismay the original recipe was quite bland ,and not up to the standards to which I had become accustomed (sadly we all grow up.)  So dear wife recently took it upon herself to recreate this wonderful dish with robust seasonings and style.  Upon serving this new, "kicked up" recipe, my son and I couldn't get enough - simply terrific!!!

Thanksgiving was a real treat this year.  Joining our family were 2 friends that work in our frame shop in St. Augustine; great guys with no family close by with whom to share the holiday.  The weather was gorgeous so we charcoal-grilled the brined turkey on an outdoor rotisserie, and it was, perhaps, the best ever.  I added honey and thyme to the classic brine  and the resulting flavor was awesome.  The rest of table included dressing, whipped potatoes, creamed peas and onions (with Boursin added to make it really special), pan gravy and orange-Dijon green beans.  Our guests also contributed sweet potatoes, cheese balls, a wonderful homemade cranberry sauce and dessert.  Soon I hope to have these wonderful creations added to the cookbook.  Stay tuned!

Well, helloooo Christmas.

Cheers from St. Augustine,
 
Big Daddy

 

6/21/2008 - This afternoon we have a 60% chance of thunderstorms as were getting pounded most every afternoon now.  Yep, the dry season is over.  Here is St. Augustine the humidity starts rolling in big time around the beginning of June. and with it the ritual mid-afternoon thunder boomer.  Summer is the rainy season in north Florida and it is generally served up daily - 2" in 30 minutes or so.

Another lazy Sunday around the ranch.  Friday was my son's 28th birthday and he asked for a very simple birthday present - a standing rib roast for Sunday dinner.  So after a trip to the bank where I took out a home equity loan, I went to local butcher shop.  There was joy in the butchers eyes as he watched his kids college tuition walking in the door, and after much crying, wailing and gnashing of teeth I finally bit the bullet and headed home with a gorgeous prime rib.

So it should come as no surprise if I lead off the parade of new recipes with this one for Perfect Roast Beef with Au Jus.  As I say in the lead-in to the recipe I'm surprised it has taken so long for this to find it's way onto my website, but here it is and it is awesome!

DW planted some wonderful herbs in garden this year, and I took a spot for a couple of tomato plants.  These are paying huge dividends already as I put together this wonderful snack of English Muffins with Cheese, Fresh Basil and Tomatoes the other day.  Simply fantastic!

A couple of new creations have come to the kitchen recently.  Wanting to do something a bit more adventurous than sautéed or broiled fish I tried this Alton Brown recipe for Baked Stuffed Flounder after seeing it on his cooking show.  With some good crusty bread and a salad with my Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette this made a terrific dinner. Alton's recipes really are about as fool proof as they come.  Another fabulous meal can be built around this recipe for Golden Noodles with Pan Seared Chicken.  This is simply incredibly delicious.

My son is becoming increasingly active in the kitchen since we've moved, and has recently come up with a couple of winning recipes.  Marking his debut on this website he offers his Kicked Up Deviled Eggs, and his Datil Pepper Beef Jerky.  Both of these are simply fantastic.  Shoot!  It's enough to make a dad proud

One last entry for now, and it's a retro.  It was in "What's New" a long time ago, but after guests raved and raved at the dinner table last night I decided it might be worth including again.  I use this recipe for Honey-Ginger Teriyaki Sauce when I grill pork tenderloins and it is absolutely as good as anything you can do with a pig.  Please do try this if you haven't already.

Cheers from St. Augustine,
 
Big Daddy

 

4/20/2008 - Hello from St. Augustine, Florida where it's another beautiful day in paradise!  Temperature is supposed to hit 80 degrees today, and it won't be long before we'll need to crank up the AC.  Air conditioning in Florida summers is a curse akin to heating a home during the winter in the north country.  But in northeast Florida the weather is moderate enough that we only need AC about 4 months out of the year.  The rest of the time you just open all the windows and let that gorgeous sea breeze stream through the house.

DW is outside working in her gardens, so I thought I'd touch base with everyone before I retire for a nice afternoon nap. There's a lovely chaise lounge out on the patio with my name on it :)  And speaking of gardens, let me tell you about my Datil pepper plant.  I planted this puppy within weeks of our moving into our new home - so that would be the summer of 2006.  It has now survived the frosts of two winters after which it dropped all its foliage, and appeared to be deader than a doornail.  On both occasions it came roaring back as soon as spring sprung (which occurs in late February around here).  It is now chest high and judging by the flowers I would say I'm going to be harvesting around 300-400 chilis in about a month.  And that will be the first of about 5-6 harvests before winter again puts it into hibernation. Dude!  That's a lot of Datil pepper sauce !

The last time I posted I mentioned the possibility of acquiring another picture framing shop. Well, it happened!  We are now the owners of Mikee's, a frame shop that's has been in business in St. Augustine for over 25 years.  My son, Jeffrey,  was working there when the owner announced that he was retiring.  It didn't take us long to strike a deal.  Now Jeff is the shop manager, while DW and I continue to operate Picture Perfect Frames, and hopes are high.  Of course now that Dubya has run the economy into the ground it's hard to be overly optimistic, but we are keeping our fingers crossed.

Okay, enough of the chit-chat - how about some recipes!!  Let's go southern right away with this recipe for Sweet Onion Vinaigrette.  I've had this recipe for a while, but I don't think I ever posted an entry for it here.  This is fantastic stuff.  Use Vidalia's if you can get them, but if not the sweets from Texas are very good! 

Here's a great party recipe, very good and easy to make.  The secret to these Holiday Rum Balls is to let them rest.  Don't be hasty about scarfing them down.  Really!  These are tons of fun. 

Okay, everyone loves green beans.  Good, solid side-dish stand in.  But here's a very, very tasty variation, and incredibly easy to make.  Orange-Dijon Green Beans is a huge favorite around the ranch.  The key is in the first step, if they are blanched properly the rest of the recipe comes together perfectly and easily.

So here's what was for dinner last night - Stir Fried Pork - and was it delicious.  Marvelous flavor, and a perfect compliment to my   Vegetable Lo Mein.  Thinking dessert?  Think very easy.  Old friends from the north country passed along this recipe, and it's disgustingly delicious to be so easy to fix.  Nat and Vin's Dump Cake was a staple at our Townsend Community Couples Club get togethers, and is has found a way into our hearts and onto our table.  Don't tell anyone how easy it is -- they will never know!

Cheers,
Big Daddy

3/1/2008

Wow! Has it really been that long since I update this journal? Oh my!  Well what can I say?  Not much I guess except to catch everyone up on life around Big Daddy's Ranch.

Life has been incredibly hectic since we relocated our life from the frozen tundra of New England to warm, wonderful, delightful St. Augustine, Florida.  We are settled into our new home, and we are now the proud proprietors of Picture Perfect Frames in Palm Coast, just a short hop south from here.  Our shop is a small but beautiful art gallery and frame shop. We have been owners for well over a year now, and are having a ball being shopkeepers, picture framers and art dealers, so much in fact that we are considering buying another similar business in St. Augustine (more on that soon).

In the meantime I have rededicated myself to this website.  I may not have as much time to dedicate to cooking, and developing new recipes, but I do promise to keep this journal current, and to respond to your e-mails. It may not be the rapid response characteristic of my previous life, but I will respond.  In the meantime here are a few goodies that I have had time to perfect since I last checked in so many moons ago.

It seems as though darling daughter #2 has been passed the cooking baton and is no longer the protégé, rather she has become the master. Her creations are marvelous, and far more inspired than mine ever have been.  This recipe for Thai Red Curry Fish Cakes is a wonderful example of her talent as a cook, and her ability to ferret out great new ideas!

This past New Year's dinner we all feasted on this fabulous City Ham.  We've all been eating ham for years, but with this recipe it was like the tasting ham for the first time. The slow cooking resulted in a ham that juicy and tender while the ginger snaps created the perfect flavors to compliment the meat.  This is a must try folks - simply fabulous.  For a very creative side dish serve the ham with this Red Wine Risotto with Parmesan.  It is creamy and bursting with flavors.  It is the first risotto I have created that dear wife (never having been a big risotto fan) loved.

On a more traditional note please try Big Daddy's Beef Stew.  Beef stew has always been one of those dishes that I've always taken for granted, but no longer! After dear wife set me on a quest for truly out-of-the-ordinary beef stew I made an effort to create this American classic that was full of deep, rich beef flavor. The kind of flavor that only comes from using the right cut of beef and, most importantly, beef that's well browned with lots of fabulous fond at the bottom of the skillet.  Add a side salad and a loaf of crusty bread and this is a wonderful meal.

To add a couple of St. Augustine originals to the mix I highly recommend my St. Augustine Honey-Mustard Dressing and Brian's Datil Pepper Sauce. Both of these recipes benefit from the presence of the prodigious Datil Pepper bush growing in my back yard. I planted two small plants about a year and a half ago and they are now waist high and are already responsible for cranking out hundreds of Datils since they matured.  So many, in fact, that I've had to invest in a dehydrator lest they all wither on the vine.

So much for now. The hour is late, and I'm due at shop tomorrow morning. It's wonderful actively working on this website once again, and I look forward to hearing from all of my old cyber-friends.

Cheers,
 
Big Daddy

 

   

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