Grayton Beach, March-April 2018

Thursday, March 29

Courtney, Sophia and myself left home at 6:30AM happy to be going back to the beach. We arrived at Decatur AL at 5:30PM. It rained the entire drive but wasn’t too bad.  We stayed at the same Doubletree on the river as last year – in a nice big suite. We had dinner at Big Bob Gibson’s – our favorite north Alabama BBQ spot. I had Brunswick stew, pulled pork, greens and baked beans. Courtney and Sophie each had good platters and all was great. I had iced box lemon pie and Sophia had peanut butter pie and bought three bottle of their white BBQ sauce.  I was asleep by 8:30PM.

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great stuff at Big Bobs
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lemon ice box pie
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chilly evening in Alabama
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signs of spring

Friday, March 30

We left the hotel at 7:30AM and arrived in Grayton Beach around 1:30PM. We headed directly to Red Bar as we had a couple of hours to kill, and the place was hopping.  We had a few beers at the bar waiting for a table which is just fine! I had fish and chips for lunch, Courtney had some delicious smoked tuna salad and Sophia had a chicken sandwich.  We stopped at house to drop off some stuff and then went to Publix to stock up for the week and checked into our house right at 4:00PM.  They were very particular about check in time.  We liked the house. Perfect.  We moved stuff in and then I took of to pick up Claire and Corey at Panama City Beach Airport – 35 minute drive.  Their flight was on time and made it back in no time and had late dinner of pan fried burgers, tater tots and key lime pie – of course.

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chillin at the red bar
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first of many sunsets

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Claire, Corey and Courtney went to the bakery that we like around the corner as well as stopping at the grocery store again.  We had cinnamon rolls, scones and some GF goodies for breakfast.  We headed down to the beach where it was sunny and nice and started our daily routine: beach, lunch, beach.  Tough life.  Courtney and went to Goosefeathers during lunch break and got some nice looking grouper for dinner as well as shrimp and smoked tuna dip. The kids headed to Seaside for pickles pre-dinner which was super crowded and taken over by teenagers.  It stayed that way unfortunately all week.  Our house had a great patio looking over the state park land looking west so we got the late afternoon sun and sunset – excellent cocktail hour spot that we enjoyed all week.  We had grilled grouper for dinner that was fabulous.  We played dominoes after dinner to finish a great first day.

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full moon in the early morning

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Sunday, April 1st, 2018

We had chocolate and jelly beans for breakfast to celebrate Easter – and a few other things.  Sophie and I biked into Seaside after breakfast.  The bike path between Grayton and Blue Mountain was under construction which forced us onto the road in that section which was a pain.  But it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be.  Amavida line was way too long so we just walked around enjoying the sunshine.  The rest of the day was all beach on a beautiful Easter Sunday.  We steamed shrimp and grilled chicken for dinner enjoying the patio in the evening and not eating until late.  We caught the second half of Jesus Christ Superstar on TV that I thought was really well done.

Our favorite courtyard in Seaside

Seaside redid the main walkway down to the beach
at a little shop in Grayton Beach

a beautiful day on the beach

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Courtney and I biked to Seaside early morning.  Stopped at Amavida and walked around.  We biked all around Watercolor.  Claire and Corey biked later in the morning and went out to lunch at the Oyster bar.  Otherwise it was another beautiful day on the beach.  We went to the burger bar for dinner which was packed.  We were waiting at the bar for a table and ended up just ordering food and ate at the bar which was fun.

assuming the position
I love vacation
good sand castle day

sunburned knees
telling secrets at the burger bar

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

It was a foggy morning but cleared up pretty quickly and turned into another beautiful day.  The previous days sand castle was still there so we added on for another good showing.  Just another perfect beach day and stayed down until 6:00.  We had tacos for dinner and tried to go out for ice cream but everywhere was too crowded.

love the beach this time of day…
…so does Sophie

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

A strong storm blew through early morning and it rained pretty steady all morning.  We decided to go to the Destin outlets around 10:00. So did everybody else.  Big mistake.  The traffic was horrendous and the outlets were packed.  We tried to stop for lunch at Stinky’s and Perfect Pig but both were too crowded. We ended up at Black Bear, a new place in Grayton Beach which was very good. Courtney and I split carrot soup with shaved beets et un sandwich du jambon. Sophie’s friend from school whose family was staying a few miles down the road met us at lunch and spend the day and night with us.  Miraculously it cleared up in the early afternoon and lo and behold it was a great afternoon on beach.  We had a great dinner of grilled rib eyes, baked potatoes and more key lime pie.

another beautiful evening on the patio

perfect

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

It was a chilly morning. Courtney and I went for bike ride around Watercolor, through the back ending up at Publix and going back through a crazy busy Seaside. Way too crowded.  We didn’t go down to beach until 11:30 or so. Another nice day. Super calm and hot even though it was in low 70s. We stayed down beach until 4 and then went to Seaside for shrimp, oysters and fried pickles. We had late night dinner of boboli pizzas and then played cards against humanity.

my favorite blanket

one of or favorite spots at Seaside
oysters were small but tasty
Claire getting one more sunset in

Friday, April 6th, 2018

Courtney and I went on an early walk on the beach.  It was a beautiful morning once again.  Clear water and blue sky.  We spent the whole day down the beach with a quick break for lunch. We drove Claire and Corey to the airport around 4:00.  We ended up going to dinner at a place called Boon Docks off the bridge by the airport just following a sign that was there.  It turned out to be nice – on the harbor with nice view and lots of seafood.  We had fried shrimp, oysters, grouper and more fried pickles.  It was a good find.  We got home and packed everything up as we were planning to leave at 3:00AM for the long drive home.

beautiful light in the early morning

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

We left Grayton Beach at 3:00 AM and drove all the way.  16 hours.  Harsh but we did it with no troubles.  It was another great stay in FLA.

this about sums up the drive

 

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A Piece of the World; Christina Baker Kline

p9_book_c_piece_of_the_world_300Biographical Fiction (is that a genre?) of the story of Christina in Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting “Christina’s World”.  Going back and forth from the time Wyeth painted the painting to the back story of Christina’s family.  Original, intriguing and hard to put down.

PJH rating: ****1/2

 

 

 

 

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“Christina’s World”; Andrew Wyeth, 1948

Cinnamon Baked French Toast

A good take on french toast casserole.  We just used skim milk with a little whole milk we had leftover, a loaf of Italian bread that was getting stale and we didn’t have any blueberries …and it was great.

Cinnamon Baked French Toast; Ree Drummond

  • Butter, for greasing
  • 1 loaf crusty sourdough or French bread
  • 8 whole eggs
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup whipping (heavy) cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Topping:
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces, plus more for serving
  • Warm pancake syrup, for serving
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, for serving

For the French toast: Grease the baking pan with butter. Tear the bread into chunks, or cut into cubes, and evenly distribute in the pan. Crack the eggs in a big bowl. Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Pour evenly over the bread. Cover the pan tightly and store in the fridge until needed (overnight preferably).

For the topping: Mix the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and some nutmeg in a separate bowl. Stir together using a fork. Add the butter and with a pastry cutter, and mix it all together until the mixture resembles fine pebbles. Store in a re-sealable plastic bag in the fridge.

When you’re ready to bake the casserole, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the casserole from the fridge and sprinkle the topping over the top. Bake for 45 minutes for a softer, more bread pudding texture or for 1 hour or more for a firmer, crisper texture.

Scoop out individual portions. Top with butter and drizzle with warm pancake syrup and sprinkle with blueberries.

 

I had a bad year in 2017 in terms of reading.  I only read 21 books which is pretty bad.  I blame Donald Trump you MFer.  2018 will be better.  My Absolute Darling has been on many top lists for 2017, has been on my waitlist forever but I found a copy at the library.  I read it in one day which in itself results in a good rating.  Any book you can’t put down is good in my book.  But the subject matter is so awful and so violent I second guess myself.  It’s also pretty amazing that it is the first novel for this author.

PJH Rating: ****1/2

Mussels Stuffed with Spinach and Parmesan

We did seven fishes for Christmas Eve this year.

Menu:

  1. Smoked salmon platter
  2. House smoked tuna dip
  3. Lobster bisque
  4. Caesar salad with anchovies
  5. Mussels Stuffed with Spinach and Parmesan
  6. Shrimp with mayo, lemon and red onions
  7. Crab Cakes

The smoked tuna dip and mussels were new recipes and both were great.  Here’s a couple Xmas Eve photos and recipe for the mussels – great because you can make them totally ahead, pop them under the broiler when ready to serve and they’re super tasty.

Xmas eve mass… church asked everyone to take photos before mass started
posing girls

Owen was the Xmas Even entertainment

opening presents

Xmas jammies 2017
girl power

Mussels Stuffed with Spinach and Parmesan

Fine Cooking Issue 14

  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4 Tbs. finely chopped shallots
  • 1 tsp. cracked black pepper
  • 4 sprigs parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (omit if fresh isn’t available)
  • 28 medium mussels (about 2 lb.), sorted and cleaned

for the stuffing:

  • 2 Tbs. butter or olive oil
  • 2 cups lightly packed, washed, stemmed, and chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 Tbs. chopped parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine the wine, 2 Tbs. of the shallots, pepper, parsley sprigs, bay leaf, and thyme in a pot (with a lid) large enough to accommodate the mussels when their shells have opened. Bring to a boil, add the mussels, cover, and steam until just opened, 2 to 3 minutes. Try not to steam the mussels longer than necessary, because they’ll be cooked again later. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon and set aside. Strain the cooking liquid through a strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth and reserve.

For the stuffing—Heat the butter in a heavy-based pan. Add the remaining shallots and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the spinach, cover, and cook briefly until the spinach wilts. Uncover and cook until the liquid from the spinach evaporates, another 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the strained mussel liquid and cook until the mixture is almost dry, about 5 minutes. Add the cream and again cook until the mixture is almost dry, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper; the mixture should be quite peppery.

Heat the broiler. Remove the mussels from their shells. Make a bed of rock salt or crumpled foil on a baking sheet (to steady the shells) and arrange as many half shells as you have mussel meats. Put a mussel meat on each half shell and spoon a teaspoonful of the spinach mixture over each. Top with the grated cheese and broil until golden and bubbly, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve with small forks and bread to soak up the rich juices

12/2017 note: I made a double batch – with about 4 lbs of smallish mussels – way over 100 – and two reg bags of fresh spinach.  I ran out of spinach for the last bit so would make more spinach next time.

Peanut Sauce

A good dip for crudites.  We especially like it with blanched cauliflower.

  • 1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts (abbout 2.5 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 T creamy peanut butter (do not use old fashioned style or freshly ground)
  • 2 T fresh lime juice
  • 1 T (generous) seeded minced jalapeno chili
  • 1 T honey
  • 1/2 t chili powder

Grind peanuts in processsor

Add remaining ingredients and process until well-blended

(Can be made 2 days ahead.  Cover and chill.  Serve at room temp.)