5 Essential Positives

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These 5 positives really struck me; I had to share them:

5 Positive Things

1) Don’t let someone else’s opinion of you become your reality.

2) Never let a bad day make you feel like you have a bad life.

3) It’s never too late to be what you might have been.

4) If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.

5) Begin each day with a grateful heart.

We saw these at Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen from a trip to Chicago a while ago.  (As a side note, the food we had was excellent and recommended.  I had one of the bowls- spicy Thai brown rice with tiger shimp, along with the butternut squash soup.)

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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(But be careful with the name!)  Celebrate with the history and some green, as well as favorite dishes (even though they may not be historically Irish).  Of course, there is nothing like a glass of Guinness.  Visit a local Irish pub, and don’t forget dessert!  I’m not Irish (but I’m adopted Irish through my wife).

We didn’t go with the typical dishes this year; instead, I made a sweet pea and asparagus risotto to celebrate with green.  I’ve made a basic (somewhat healthy) risotto recipe for a while now and have found ways to adjust it to tasty effect.  I have a couple of cooking adjustments so it is not so heavy (1% milk instead of cream, butter added just before the end, olive oil to start).  Enjoy!

Sweet Pea and Asparagus Risotto

olive oil

1 large white onion

2 cloves garlic

2 c white wine

1 tablespoon parsley

1 tablespoon thyme

1 tablespoon marjoram

1 tablespoon coriander

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups risotto rice (Arborio or another kind)

1 cup milk

6 cups water (added one at a time)

chicken-flavored stock granules (or veggie, if desired)

1 small bag frozen peas

1 bunch fresh asparagus, chopped into pieces (tough part of stem removed and discarded)

2 tablespoons butter

8 oz fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded

I cooked this using a wok, but a medium-large non-stick saucepan should work.  Add olive oil to pan and set heat to low-medium.  Chop onion and add to pan.  Saute for a few minutes.  Add garlic using a garlic press (or mince).  Cook for about a minute (don’t let garlic burn), and add white wine.  I added the herbs at this point.  (I tend to like a lot of seasoning, so my herb and spice measurements were more along the lines of 2 tablespoons each.)  Add the rice, and cook so the wine bubbles and starts to reduce.  Add peas and asparagus.  Add milk, and then add the water 1 cup at a time (as the water cooks away and evaporates).  (Add chicken, chicken-flavored, or veggie stock granules according to the package directions.)  Keep heat at about medium so the mixture is bubbling, and keep stirring frequently to prevent burning/sticking and to build the creaminess with the rice.  Taste the rice as you cook so it does not get completely soft (you may need to add additional cups of water if the rice is not yet done, though).  Add the butter just before you are done.  Allow it to melt and stir it into the mixture.  Remove the risotto from the heat and add the shredded Parmesan (while stirring).

A note- fresh peas may be better, but we did not have any available.  The frozen peas we had seemed starchy, but we did enjoy the flavor of the peas, so frozen baby peas may be the way to go (more sweetness, less starch).   Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Cuban Food in Key West

El Meson de Pepe on Map

As part of our trip to Key West, Florida, we wanted to visit as many local restaurants as we could.  One of our stops brought us to El Meson de Pepe.  We wanted to try a little of everything, so we opted to split a #80- a plate that had three different dishes: Lechon Asado (pork), Ropa Vieja (shredded beef), and Picadillo Habanero (ground beef).  I tried a bowl of the black bean soup, and our meal came with both sweet plantains and the yucca.  We also split a piece of their Key Lime Pie (Torta de Limon).  We are also fans of Tres Leches cake, but could not pass up Key Lime in Key West.

I had not had Cuban food before (just hadn’t had the opportunity yet).  My wife had Cuban food previously, and she felt the flavors and tone of the restaurant were consistent with her previous experience. They had musicians playing outside, and had set up heat in the covered outdoor dining area since it was a little cooler that night (though still plenty warm, as back in Wisconsin it was nearly below zero!)  Overall, it was relaxing, yet invigorating atmosphere.

The food was delivered super-quickly.  My black bean soup was quite delicious, and a great way to start off the meal.  My wife is not much of a fan of pork, so I had that dish to myself, and it was excellent.  The shredded beef was just as tasty.  I was the most excited to try the ground beef dish due to the combination of “tomatoes, onions, garlic, bell peppers, cumin, bay leaves, oregano, olives, capers, and raisins”.  I was perhaps a little surprised that the flavors on the dish weren’t a little stronger given the ingredients, but it was tasty nonetheless.  We both loved the plantains, and I had never had yucca before, but it was also good- a unique flavor.  The Key Lime Pie was a refreshing way to end our meal, as well.  All considered, we would certainly go back, and recommend that you do too, if near Key West.

The Keys to Eating in Key West

Mr. Z's Logo

Mr. Z’s Logo

Well, I’m back to the frigid northlands… I mean… Midwest… after a much appreciated surprise trip to Key West from my wife to celebrate my birthday.  It took me a little bit to get accustomed to signs showing ‘January’ being in mental juxtaposition with the warm weather.  It was my first visit to Florida, and I truly enjoyed it.   We hope to return to catch even more of the things we missed.  It was a long weekend trip, and we visited several museums and, of course, had to visit Duval Street.  I’ll be posting some food highlights of the trip, in the event they may be useful in your travels.

First up was Mr. Z’s: a restaurant that offers cheesesteaks, pizza, and stromboli.  We were wandering Duval Street and trying to decide what we were hungry for.  We ran across Mr. Z’s, partly due to the enticing aroma that reached us on the sidewalk through the open window screens.  It’s not a very large place, with a main counter and some seating on stools along the wall.  This might make it easy to overlook amid all the food options available, but it was certainly worth our time and easily handled our hunger.  I ordered the sausage and (sweet) peppers sandwich for a very reasonable $7, with an extra $1 for fried onions and cheese.  It’s a sandwich that I will get hungry for from time to time, and this one did not disappoint.  Coupled with a tasty red sauce, it was flavorful and satisfying.

My wife ordered a small veggie and four cheese stromboli, and they are not kidding when they say it will serve two people- my wife had leftovers.  Again, it was a very reasonable price – $10.  She let me try some, and it was prepared well.  There was a good mix of vegetables complemented with the perfect ratio of cheese to the vegetable ingredients.  The crispy crust held all the ingredients together well, also.  They do advise it takes a while to cook, but it didn’t take too long to get our meals.  I would certainly recommend Mr. Z’s in Key West if you’re looking to satisfy a craving or get a delicious meal for a reasonable price- just make sure not to miss it!