Thursday, October 31, 2013

Looking Forward to Cuba

My two boys and I will be traveling with the NC State Alumni Wolftrek Group to Cuba in about a week.  I was looking through the literature from the tour company, Chamber Explorations, and decided to check out the hotel in Havana, The Melia Habana, that will be our accommodation for the week we are there.  
Photos of Melia Habana, Havana
This photo of Melia Habana is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Photos of Melia Habana, Havana
This photo of Melia Habana is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Photos of Melia Habana, Havana
This photo of Melia Habana is courtesy of TripAdvisor

 Photos of Melia Habana, Havana
This photo of Melia Habana is courtesy of TripAdvisor

 Photos of Melia Habana, Havana
This photo of Melia Habana is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Photos of Melia Habana, Havana
This photo of Melia Habana is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Photos of Melia Habana, Havana
This photo of Melia Habana is courtesy of TripAdvisor

It looks as if it is a modern hotel with all the conveniences.  We leave a week from today. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Easy and Perfect Lamb Chops

I bought some wonderful lamb chops at Costco over the weekend, and found this recipe from Giada De Laurentis of the Food Network.  If you like lamb, and we do, this is a fool proof way to prepare delicious lamb chops. 

Grilled Lamb Chops   Prep Time:
5 min
Inactive Prep Time:
1 hr 20 min
Cook Time:
5 min

 8 servings


2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Pinch cayenne pepper
Coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 lamb chops, about 3/4-inch thick


In a food processor fitted with a metal blade add the garlic, rosemary, thyme, cayenne, and salt. Pulse until combined. Pour in olive oil and pulse into a paste. Rub the paste on both sides of the lamb chops and let them marinate for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator and allow the chops to come to room temperature; it will take about 20 minutes.
Lamb chops ready to marinate in fridge.

Heat a grill pan over high heat until almost smoking, add the chops and sear for about 2 minutes. Flip the chops over and cook for another 3 minutes for medium-rare and 3 1/2 minutes for medium. 
Sear for two minutes on one side.
Flip over and cook 3.5 minutes for medium.
We like ours medium.  You don't want to overcook lamb.  It should be a little pink in the middle when done.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Zach and the Aussies (Part Two): The Aussies in Raleigh

Claire's relatives in Australia were such wonderful hosts to Zach that it was a pleasure to be able to host them recently during their visit to Raleigh.  Michael and Meredith (Zach's Mom and Dad)  hosted a dinner for them---Southern fare: BBQ and hushpuppies with all the trimmings, Jeanette (Claire's Mom) made Smithfield ham rolls, and I baked pies: pumpkin and pecan.
BBQ, hushpuppies and trimmings, real Southern fare.
Jeanette's sister Diane and husband Bob, Diane and Bob's daughter Claire and husband Daniel and their seven-month-old son Lachlan made up the Aussie contingent,  Zach's Claire was named after her cousin Claire.

Back row left to right: Daniel and Uncle Bob  Front row left to right.: Jeanette, Claire, Lachlan, Cousin Claire, Aunt Diane. 
Everyone enjoyed Lachlan who was a good little traveler on this trip.  Grace even brought Briggs, their cat, down from upstairs to meet Lachlan who was fascinated with the feline.  I must say Briggs was pretty patient too.Check out this video of Lachlan meeting Briggs :    Briggs and Lachlan

Zach and Claire with Lachlan.
Michael seemed to be enjoying the evening.
Michael enjoying the party.
Jeanette chatting with Dan.
Uncle Bob and Claire ready for dessert.

Pound cake, pumpkin pie, pecan pie.
Brooks and Aunt Di; Dan and Jeanette in background.
Brooks got home late because of basketball practice, but he got there in time to visit with Aunt Di and to have some dinner---there were plenty of leftovers.

 It was a great party and fun for everyone. And it was especially nice to meet Claire's Aussie relatives.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Zach and the Aussies (Part One): Zach in Australia

Zach and Claire with hats and books at  the Bon Voyage Party.  Ready for the Aussie trip.
This past summer grandson, Zach, had the wonderful experience of traveling with Claire and Jeanette (Claire's mom who is from Australia) to Australia.  About half the time was spent visiting family and the other half as tourists.  Jeanette is a seasoned world traveler and did a wonderful job planning their itinerary. 

On the way they spent a few days in California before departing for Australia.
Zach and Claire in California on way to Australia.

Their first stop was Sydney where they rented an apartment looking out over Sydney Harbor.
Arriving in Sydney.

Zach and Claire with Sydney Harbor in background.

They visited the zoo in Sydney.
Claire and koala.
Claire and kangaroo.

From Sydney they visited relatives in Canberra.
Zach and Claire's little cousin playing the piano.

Then off to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef for several days.
Zach, Claire and Claire's mom, Jeanette on Great Barrier Reef.
Their hats came in handy.
Enjoying the beach at Great Barrier Reef.

Visited more relatives in Melbourne.
A night out with relatives in Melbourne.

Claire with little cousin Lachlan.  Zach and Uncle Bob look a little "too happy".
Uncle Bob's MG.

Zach drives Uncle Bob's MG. Uncle Bob had to instruct Zach on use of straight shift.
Uncle Bob and Zach with Australian football.  They went to an Australian football game.
Chrismas in July dinner.
Fourth of July at Aunt Di and Uncle Bob's.
Zach and Claire went to the Edge in the Eureka Tower in Melbourne.  Eureka is the second highest building in Australia.  'The Edge' - a glass cube which projects 3 meters out from the building - with you in it - is suspended almost 300 meters above the ground on the 88th floor.
Zach and Claire in the Edge 300 meters above the city in Melbourne.
Zach and Claire flew home from Melbourne when Zach had to attend Orientation for Freshman at NC State University where he is now a Freshman.
Flying home out of Melbourne. 
Several of Claire's family are currently visiting here in Raleigh, so stay tuned for Zach and the Aussies (Part Two):  The Aussies in Raleigh

Photos by Jeanette Salisbury.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

It's Soup Weather

Senate White Bean Soup.

Fall brings these cool, cloudy days like the one we are having today.  That just reminds me that it's time to make some soup.  Senate Bean Soup is a favorite at our house and that's what I made today. This soup dates back to the early 20th century according to Wikipedia. "U.S. Senate Bean Soup or simply Senate bean soup is a soup made with navy beans, ham hocks, and sometimes mashed potatoes. It is served in the dining room of the United States Senate every day, in a tradition that dates to the early 20th century". (Well, I wonder if it is served during the government shutdown.  Are the cooks on furlough????)

I use a slightly different recipe omitting the mashed potatoes and adding carrots, celery, a potato, onions and garlic.  

Senate Bean Soup
Serves 4 to 6

1 pound dried small white beans, rinsed and picked over for stones
12 cups water
1 ham hock
1 bay leaf
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup shopped carrot
1 potato, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Soak beans in a large bowl.  Cover beans with water and soak for 8-10 hours (overnight) and drain.

Alternatively, place beans in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and tightly cover pan with plastic wrap. Let beans sit for an hour.
Beans and ham hock in Dutch oven.
Stir in 12 cups of water.

In a large heavy pot, combine beans with ham hock, bay leaf (I didn't have a bay leaf today, but I usually do have.) and 12 cups of water. Bring to boil and reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour or until beans are just tender.
Add onions and garlic.
Add potato, celery, and carrots.

Stir in onion, celery, carrot, potato and garlic. Simmer for another hour or until soup is
very  thick. Remove ham hock and strip meat from bone, discarding the rind and fat. I usually puree about 2 cups of the soup and add it back to the pot.  Stir meat into soup and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley (Optional)  Serve hot.  
Ready to eat on a cool, cloudy, rainy day.

This soup is perfect for a cloudy and chilly day like today.  And it freezes well. We enjoyed this for supper tonight, and  I have enough for a couple more meals. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ladies Night Out in Baddeck, Cape Breton

Yellow Cello Cafe in Baddeck.
Ladies night out on Sunday night with friends Wendy, Catherine, and Linda over in Baddeck was a lot of fun.   On the way over we stopped at a little deli and bakery, the Herring Choker.  It's right on the Trans-Canada at a little place called Nyanza.  They are known for their good bread, soups, sandwiches and the wide variety of spices they offer.  (Note to myself:  add to my "bucket list" stopping for lunch at the Herring Choker next summer.)
Catherine at the Herring Choker.
Wendy and Linda buying bread at the Herring Choker.

Baddeck is one of my favorite places in Cape Breton, and on Sunday it wasn't that crowded.  In the summer it is a popular place for tourists and quite often rather crowded.
                                                      Beautiful Landscaping in Baddeck.

Our destination was a little restaurant called the Yellow Cello, a clever name, no?  I had been there before for brunch or maybe an early lunch but never for dinner.  Like the town it was not crowded, and we were served very quickly.
                                                                  The Yellow Cello Cafe.

We each had a rather light meal in order to save room for dessert.
                                                                 Linda perusing the menu.
                                                                I had the vegetarian chili.  Yummy.
                                                        Catherine's choice the chicken salad.
                                                    Wendy and I each had the blueberry crisp for dessert.

I enjoyed the dinner, but most of all I was glad to have a visit with these three before Dan and I head back to North Carolina later this week.